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May 12, 2017
Q&A: Artists of the Downtown Urban Arts Festival, Part 2

The Downtown Urban Arts Festival brings six weeks of multi-disciplinary cultural offerings to lower Manhattan, including theater, film, music and poetry. We caught up with the theater artists whose work will be featured this week at Cherry Lane Theatre.

Nako Adodoadji, The Protest

Tuesday, May 16 at 7:00 p.m.

Tell us about your show.

Featuring live music that fuses together jazz and hip hop, THE PROTEST is a mash up of physical, devised and testimonial theatre that explores the economic, political and social landscape of an America on the cusp of revolution.

What have been the most exciting things about seeing your show jump from the page to the stage?

Working with the cast and musicians in rehearsals has been an amazing experience.  Because of the devised nature of the show, there are certain sections of music and choreography that were not pre-set before rehearsals, so we are literally creating orchestration and choreography during each rehearsal with the cast.  It makes the show extremely unique to the actors and musicians, and the personal archives they each bring to the development process.  This is a very special and intuitive group of artists, and I'm excited to continue discovering the world of this show with them.

What famous line do you wish you’d written?  

This is a hard one, but if I can only pick one:  "We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep." (The Tempest, Shakespeare)

What director’s career would you most like to emulate?

I very much consider myself a multi-discipinary artist and have an interest in film and interdisciplinary theatre, so I'd like to have a career that blends the best of Sam Mendes, Denis Villeneuve and James Thiérrée.


Cyd Charisse Fulton, Educated and Still Trapped

Tuesday, May 16 at 7:00 p.m.

Tell us about your show.

Educated and Still Trapped -- an elderly woman's subconscious expression flamed by oppression and marijuana captured in one act. 

What have been the most exciting things about seeing your show jump from the page to the stage?

Character development has been the most exciting aspect of seeing my art leave the page and scale the stage.

Who are your favorite playwrights, past and present?

My favorite playwrights past and present are  Zora Neale Hurston, August Wilson and Danai Gurira because they understand that culture and character go hand-in-hand.

What would you change about the current state of theater?

I don't know what I would change about the current state of theater. I guess I'll find out when my art does some damage.

What famous line do you wish you’d written?  

"Any man ain't sure where he belong gotta be in a whole lotta pain."  -- A Soldier Story

What director’s career would you most like to emulate? 

As a director, I would like to emulate the artistic reality of George C. Wolfe.


Mario Golden, Father God Mother Death

Wednesday, May 17 at 7:00 p.m.

Tell us about your show.

How does one say good bye to a loved one? Playwright Mario Golden attempts to answer this question in his beautifully poetic autobiographical solo Father God Mother Death. By combining evocative language, music, movement sequences, and video imagery Mario not only exposes his heart-stirring emotional process the week immediately after his mother's death — he also upholds the sharing of grief as a deeply humanizing experience. 

What have been the most exciting things about seeing your show jump from the page to the stage?

I wrote this piece in honor of my mother. I wanted to acknowledge her history and legacy as a Mexican woman confronting the deep-rooted patriarchal values that inevitably impacted her life. I'm lucky to be guided by my director and husband, Andreas Robertz, whose insights have made it possible to stage my solo in the first place, and my very good friend Nancy Ferragallo, who has enriched the story I'm telling by means of simple but essential movement sequences. In seeing my solo come to life, I've understood how important it is to share one's grief for a loved one, and in that sense to embrace millenary traditions that validate doing so through myth, theater, and other art forms.

Who are your favorite playwrights, past and present?

Sophocles, Shakespeare, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, August Wilson. 

What would you change about the current state of theater?

I believe commercialism (with its gender, racial, national, and many other hierarchies) destroys the spirit of the theater, so if there is something I'd change about the theater it would be removing it entirely from the system of profit that's been imposed on humanity.


Juan Ramirez, Jr., Honor Among Thieves

Thursday May 18 at 7:00pm

Tell us about your show.

A group of thieves watch over their latest stolen car that so happens to be filled with money. When information comes in, the crew must figure out if the car is a gift or a curse.

What have been the most exciting things about seeing your show jump from the page to the stage?

I am always amazed by how good actors can make my characters come to life. I like to collaborate with artists to the point where my story is as much theirs as it is mine. It's also a good education to figure out what works and what does not. The whole process is a mental exercise. You show up to rehearsal and find solutions. You challenge your actors, the script and the production for honesty. It's here where the audience finds the connection to the play. It's also where you find the connection to yourself.

What director’s career would you most like to emulate? 

Elia Kazan. This is where I first learned about using directing as a means of turning psychology into behavior. As an actor's director, I want my actors not to follow the character but follow their character's objectives. This way they will discover for themselves an honest experience and an opinion that they can connect to. The most boring human being is one who doesn't have an opinion.


Marcus Scott, Malaise

Friday, May 19 at 7:00pm

Tell us about your show.

Returning from a disastrous commute on the MTA subway system, college boy Oscar finally arrives to his destination—the bachelor pad of an old neighborhood friend, Eduardo. When the news is announced, both men get more than what they've bargained for and are pushed to answer questions that erode away at their prejudices, sexualities, reputations, machismo and responsibility, or lack thereof, as two men forced into a coming of age.

What have been the most exciting things about seeing your show jump from the page to the stage?

Since penning the play, in a café in Harlem no less, I have been astonished by the amount of actors who came forth to tell this story, either in readings at my apartment or in a theatrical setting. Most of these actors come from various different cultural and economic backgrounds and approach the play from a more logical or investigational mindset, which I am always surprised by. Yet there have been rare instances where an actor will approach the work from a lived experienced and the play become an operation of therapy for them. I am also marveled by this. Neither one of these approaches is wrong either: To see the colors of frustration the actors paint with always puts me in a state of awe.

Who are your favorite playwrights, past and present?

As a playwright, I am huge fan of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, as a theatre maker, I feel that he truly understands the necessity of live theatre and really understands both the structure of a play and how to use the space of a theatre. As a musical theatre writer, I have a crush of Stew, whose breakthrough, Passing Strange, changed my perception of what musical theatre and black narratives can be. I’m also a fan of George C. Wolfe, Lynn Nottage, Katori Hall, Danai Gurira, Yukio Mishima, José Rivera, Nilo Cruz, Tony Kushner, Larry Kramer, Arthur Miller, Joe Orton, Simon Stephens, Fred Ebb, Suzan Lori-Parks, Aurin Squire, Kirsten Childs and James Baldwin.

What would you change about the current state of theater?

I’ve written full-length exposés, articles and periodicals about this, but in short, I’ll say that I’d change this perception of who gets to monopolize a certain narrative. For example, most American family dramas that get produced are cast with mostly non-diverse white actors and stories that focus on LGBT persons, particularly those who suffered from the AIDS/HIV epidemic, are often centered on non-diverse white gay men. Regardless of lived experience, as writer-artists our mission is first and foremost to write people and their circumstances as authentically. Regardless if we are writing a NutraSweet romantic comedy or a harrowing melodrama, if we are writing outside of our experience, our job is to act as a dramaturge: to research, investigate and report to get to the truth of the matter.

What famous line do you wish you’d written?

This gem from August Wilson’s Fences: “Like you? I go out of here every morning… bust my butt…putting up with them crackers everyday…cause I like you? You about the biggest fool I ever saw. It’s my JOB. It’s my RESPONSIBILITY! You understand that?”


Tommy Jamerson, Eternal Flamer! The Ballad of Jessie Blade

Friday, May 19 at 7:00pm

Tell us about your show.

In this neon-coated, campy tribute to the 80s, pretty-boy Jessie Blade leaves his small Minnesota home for the bright lights of the city that never sleeps (...with the same person twice) only to get mixed-up in a labyrinth of plot twists, drag queens, sex, drugs, and open dance calls!

Who are your favorite playwrights, past and present?

A few of my favorite contemporary writers included Topher Payne, whose off-Broadway hit, Perfect Arrangement, has really been making a splash in the regional market. I also quite enjoy Philip Dawkins. His show, The Homosexuals, is one of my top-ten favorite plays of all-time. Steve Yokey’s works (The Wolves, Octopus) really strike a chord with me, as well as my idol and personal hero, Charles Busch.  As far as classic writers go, I am of course a fan of the greats; Chekhov, Ibsen, and Williams. Edward Albee is one whose work I respect greatly. He had the ability to not only craft insanely good – and relatable – dialogue, but at the same time deftly unspool exposition with a simple turn-of-phrase. He could break your heart, make you laugh, and challenge the way you view society all within the blink of a monologue.

What would you change about the current state of theater?

Three words: Open. More. Doors. While I think it’s wonderful that repertory theatres and producers across the country are loyal to a select group of established playwrights, and are willing to mount almost anything bearing their name (regardless of quality), I can’t help but feel aggravated for insanely talented yet criminally underrated artists whose work deserves to be seen and heard. By continuing the tired tradition of showcasing only a select few points of view and ignoring the rest, the industry is doing a disservice to both the artists that make it up, as well as the audience they’re attempting to entertain. This medium of theatre will only progress if boundaries are continued to be pushed and new voices are given the chance to speak.

What famous line do you wish you’d written?

So many. I don’t know how famous this particular line is, but it’s one of my favorites. “You’ve slipped into my life as easily as vermouth into a glass of gin: Quickly, and just a bit too smooth. Your life is a locked file cabinet of dark, ugly secrets. I have it on excellent authority, by way of every hair-burner in West Hollywood, that the favors you receive are not only courtesy of the ladies, but les garçons as well.” – Charles Busch


Augusto Federico Amador, The Book of Leonidas

May 20 at 7pm

Tell us about your show.

Lenny, Afro-Dominican, hustles loosies on a Queens street corner that his father once ruled over as legendary crime lord. Caring for his vindictive mother, he finds escapism working on his graphic novels until he stumbles into love with a pretty white girl, careening him to the predestination he no longer can avoid.

What have been the most exciting things about seeing your show jump from the page to the stage?

Seeing a play that centers around an Afro-Latinos on stage thrills me because it’s a demographic you don’t see often portrayed on the American stage.

Who are your favorite playwrights, past and present?

Arthur Miller, Anton Chekhov, Sophocles, August Wilson, David Mamet, Federico Lorca, Lynn Nottage, Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams to name a few.

What would you change about the current state of theater?

Well it goes without saying that there isn’t enough plays being produced by playwrights of color, women and LGBT to mention a few. It’s really challenging to know in advance, that before I begin writing a new play, it’s chances of being produced will be kneecapped right off the bat, because of the lack of serious attention a play of color is faced with by American theaters. And yes, there are some very well intentioned theaters out there but good intentions will get you shit. It’s time the American theater takes a long look in the mirror and produces more plays that reflect the growing diversity of this great nation.

What famous line do you wish you’d written?

“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

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Q&A: Artists of the Downtown Urban Arts Festival, Part 1

By Hanna Oldsman

The Downtown Urban Arts Festival brings six weeks of multi-disciplinary cultural offerings to lower Manhattan, including theater, film, music and poetry. We caught up with the theater artists whose work will be featured this week at Cherry Lane Theatre. Joe Gulla, Garbo Tuesday, May 9 at 7:00 pm Tell us about your show. Garbo is the story of Joe, a Gay New Yorker, who happens upon a tiny, hidden, candle-lit bar (called “Garbo”!) during his visit to Rome, Italy. An emotional journey begins when he finds himself in an “unrequited love affair” with the establishment’s bartender/owner. It’s a true story and, um, you may have noticed…. my name is Joe! Ha! What have been the most exciting things about seeing your show jump from the page to the stage? Things got pretty heavy for me over in Rome! It excites me to tell my story and have others potentially relate to the intense emotions I experienced. Who are your favorite playwrights, past and present? I am a gay playwright. I am proud of that! Tennessee Williams, Terrence McNally and Harvey Fierstein have had a huge impact on me. And, c’mon, I have to include Mart Crowley for his seminal The Boys in the Band!  What would you change about t …Read more

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