Up Next: Honor

August 11, 2016

I’m sure you’ve heard of Shakespeare’s classic comedy As You Like It, but have you heard of Peter Mills’ and Cara Reichel’s Honor? The musical, presented as a concert this September at the TimesCenter in partnership with the National Asian Artists Project, sets the 17th Century play in feudal Japan.

In case you are not familiar with the plot of As You Like It, here is a quick summary (taken from http://www.nosweatshakespeare.com):

“Orlando, the youngest son of Sir Roland de Boys, is ill treated by his brother Oliver. When he responds to the general challenge issued by the Duke’s wrestler, Charles, Oliver tells Charles to injure Orlando if he can manage it. The Duke’s daughter, Celia, and her cousin, Rosalind, watch the match and Rosalind falls in love with Orlando. Orlando wins but the Duke gets angry when he discovers that Orlando is the son of his old enemy, Sir Roland de Boys. Rosalind gives Orlando a chain to wear and he falls in love with her.

The Duke unexpectedly banishes Rosalind and she decides to find her father, the real Duke, who has been overthrown by his brother, Celia’s father, Frederick. Duke Senior lives in the forest of Arden. Together with the court jester, Touchstone, the girls set out, disguised as a country boy, Ganymede, and his sister, Aliena. Co-incidentally, Orlando, fearing for his life, has also left home, accompanied by his father’s servant, Adam.

In the forest, the group from the court encounter a young shepherd, Silvius, and watch him being rejected by a shepherdess, Phoebe, as he declares his love for her. They meet an old shepherd, Corin, who is looking for someone to take over the sheep farm. Ganymede, who wants to settle in the forest, buys the lease.

Duke Senior, unaware that his daughter is looking for him, is living a simple life with some courtiers and huntsmen. One of them is the melancholy Jaques, who reflects constantly on life. Orlando and Adam arrive and the outlaws welcome them and feed them.

Orlando hangs some love poems that he has written to Rosalind from the branches of trees. Rosalind and Aliena find them. Ganymede helps him to cure his lovesickness by wooing him, Ganymede, as though he/she were Rosalind. A country girl, Audrey, falls in love with Touchstone and abandons her faithful William because of her love for the fool.

Oliver is searching for his brother. He has an accident and Orlando saves his life. Orlando is slightly injured and when he tells Ganymede about it she faints. Oliver and Celia fall in love. Phoebe falls in love with Genymede. It all becomes very complicated. Hymen leads a masque; Rosalind re-emerges as a woman and her father gives her to Orlando; Phoebe accepts Silvius; Orlando’s older brother returns from university with the news that Celia’s father, Frederick, has retired as Duke to become a hermit; Jaques goes to join him. There is a joyful dance to celebrate the four marriages and the happy ending.”

As all Shakespeare tends to be, As You Like It has enough drama to transcend time and place. Add a few musical numbers, and the characters only become more interesting!

Honor was first produced in 2008 as a full musical production, and this concert will bring back several of the original cast members along with a full choir to illuminate the music.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks for information on the NAAP, the history of Honor, interviews with the cast and creative team, and more!

Archetype opens tonight! In celebration (and anticipation), here are some photos from this great show! I was lucky enough to observe a rehearsal yesterday, and we are definitely in for a treat with this show! It’s a ton of fun, and just a little glimpse into the huge amount of talent we have in this city. Enjoy the photos!

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Lighting really has a way of giving life to an empty stage!

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Is it an execution? Is she asleep? What could be happening?

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(see above for the same question)

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Construction workers or food?

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You’re never fully dressed without a smile! (and a cute little purse!)

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A party onstage? Whaaaaat??

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What a fierce group of party people!

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What’s he thinking about?

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So much love!

More Archetype!

July 26, 2016

To round out the Archetype hype, I’ve also interviewed some of the wonderful actors in the production! These guys are tasked with learning multiple roles in only a few weeks, and are ready to knock your socks off this week at the show!

First up, Chandler Reeves!
Chandler

-Who do you play in Archetype?

I play a stick of butter in “Good Butter” and the ‘right hand vamp’ to the president of a vampire sorority in “The Pledge.” 

-What is your favorite part of the show?

I am so in love with the last number from “Little Bird.” It’s an uplifting gospel number about the power of acceptance. I swear, I get misty every time we go through it! 

-What was your favorite moment from rehearsal?

I know this may sound general and cheesy, but I honestly don’t know if I have one! Everyday is an adventure with these people. It’s almost as if Prospect accumulated all of the nicest and funniest people they knew and asked them to do this thing! We have such a good time in the room together. 

-What’s your dream role?

This is a tough one! I have a mad obsession with Sunday In The Park With George, so playing Dot someday would be incredible! 

-What is your favorite archetype? If you could play any archetype in a play, which would it be?

Some of us sat around in rehearsal one day and took a Jungian archetype quiz. I got The Caregiver — which is scarily accurate. That’s who I have always been, and I am so unashamed! So, while I am The Caregiver in real life, I feel like playing The Magician would be the most interesting! As The Magician, it would be fun to come up with different solutions and make some magic happen. I feel like their wheels are always spinning, which is always exciting to play with! 

-What’s the hardest thing about being in multiple musicals at once?

Believe it or not, memorization isn’t the issue here— it’s clarifying the different stories and making the archetypes we are representing clear for the audience. Each one of us is assigned a specific archetype. It’s out job to justify the actions of our characters by using these archetypal traits  as a sort of guideline for our arcs within the story we’re telling. Since we don’t come right out and say “Hi, I’m Chandler and I will be playing The Lover,” it’s important to make our choices very clear.  

-What do you want audiences to take away from this production?
I think the whole idea of these Jungian archetypes is really fascinating. I want the audience to leave our show learning a little something about themselves. I want them to look at these different characters and be able to identify their own archetypes. Understanding our own archetype helps us understand why we do and react to certain things the way we do. To be able to teach an audience about that is really exciting.

Next up, Austin Ku!

Austin

-Who do you play in Archetype?

I play a hairdresser named Kelley that is one of the central characters in one of the six pieces, as well as other smaller roles in some of the other pieces.

-What is your favorite part of the show?

I can’t tell you without giving too much away!

-What’s your dream role?

Ali Stoker had a great response to that same question in this month’s Diversity-themed issue of Equity News, which is something like: A new role on Broadway. As much as I have enjoyed many of the roles I’ve played in the traditional theater canon, none of them have that closely reflected my own personal experience (primarily for me in terms of being a contemporary, three-dimensional Asian American). It would be thrilling to get to bring to Broadway (or TV or film) a major part that I myself have helped create and that has been tailored over the development process to my unique strengths and personality, and will forever be associated in some way with me.

-What is your favorite archetype? If you could play any archetype in a play, which would it be?
Well I took an archetype quiz online, and it said I was The Hero, which is kind of ironic because in my piece Kelley is The Hero, even though it’s not apparent at first. Hopefully I didn’t just give too much away.
-What’s the hardest thing about being in multiple musicals at once?

It’s actually really fun! Right now each of us is a lead in one of the six scenes, and then supporting and ensemble in a couple of others. It’s not like we’re all on stage, all the time. I actually think it would be even more fun if all of us were in all of them, like a little ensemble company doing variations on a theme. I would like that challenge.

-What do you want audiences to take away from this production?
That there are talented writers out there, established and undiscovered alike, who write great, new material about contemporary, DIVERSE subject matter; and that there are talented, DIVERSE actors who want to and can perform that DIVERSE material! …And I’m not using DIVERSE as code for “ethnic”–I truly mean DIVERSE its correct definition, meaning SHOWING GREAT VARIETY.
And now, Hana Slevin!

Hana

-Who do you play in Archetype?

The Magician

-What is your favorite part of the show?

Getting to play 4 completely different characters. I can’t pick a favorite! But playing beer pong as an initiation rite in a vampire sorority is pretty great.😉

-What was your favorite moment from rehearsal?

Seeing the other pieces I’m not in for the first time in our first stumble-through.

-What’s your dream role?
To get in a time machine and be on Gilmore Girls.
-What is your favorite archetype? If you could play any archetype in a play, which would it be?
The Explorer
-What’s the hardest thing about being in multiple musicals at once?

Perhaps keeping lines/music/blocking straight in my head and switching gears so quickly. But I like the challenge. It keeps things fresh and exciting.🙂

-What do you want audiences to take away from this production?
“I remember who I am.”
Last but not least, Sherz Aletaha!

Sherz

-Who do you play in Archetype?

I play Gail, the rebel, in “A Guy And A Girl”

-What is your favorite part of the show?

We all close the show together in one of the pieces and the song is so gorgeous and sweet. 

-What was your favorite moment from rehearsal?

The day we all finally got to watch each other’s pieces! Also, the day Chandler Reeves and I hugged each other like robots during “Little Bird” because we were overcome with awkwardness.

-What’s your dream role?
Fanny Brice in Funny Girl
-What is your favorite archetype? If you could play any archetype in a play, which would it be?
The Ruler, obviously! Who doesn’t want to be the boss?
-What’s the hardest thing about being in multiple musicals at once?

Well, I go from being a normal girl who’s breaking up with her boyfriend to a vampire in literally 15 seconds so that’s kind of weird and fun!

-What do you want audiences to take away from this production?
How versatile musicals can be. We have so many different styles and themes. It’s really cool to see the variety in one show.
Are you intrigued yet??? I most definitely am! Don’t miss Archetype this week!

Show Week!

July 26, 2016

Archetype runs this week, so amidst rehearsals and the general craziness of everyday life, I was able to learn more about the show and the Musical  Theater Lab in general from the director and co-curator herself, Dev Bondarin!

Dev got involved with Prospect in 2005 as a part of her graduate school studies. Meanwhile, the Musical Theater Lab began in 2008 with Museum Pieces, a production comprised of eight short musicals that were each based upon a work of art. Prospect encourages collaboration and supports emerging artists, and the Lab does just this. As Dev recalls, “The event got such a wonderful response from audiences and participants that Prospect decided to bring it back again and again…and again.”

As for her initial involvement, she asked Cara (that’s Cara Reichel, the Producing Artistic Director of Prospect in case you didn’t know) if she could direct one of the eight Museum Pieces, and Cara agreed. By the time the Lab came back the next year, Dev was ready to take on the entire project, and she has been directing it herself ever since!

Since 2008, Dev notes some changes in how the Lab is run: “Cara and I have continued to hone the ideas of the assignments and also how we engage with the writers and facilitate the writers connecting with one another. It’s really important that the writers are connected from the start and don’t just meet at the dress rehearsal.” This mentality has cultivated a rewarding program that artists really enjoy.

So how does Archetype factor in?
The theme of each year’s Lab comes from a variety of things ranging from the time of year to any constraints based upon the venue. Each year, they “look to come up with something that is open ended enough so that writers can make their mark but also clear enough that the pieces will be connected.” Archetype was picked because of the characters’ multi-faceted natures; Dev and Cara were interested in doing a character-driven production rather than a visual-based production, and “archetypal characters are present onstage almost all the time.”
In terms of how the writers get picked, it’s generally an application process – although sometimes they reach out to writers they are interested in working with. Writing teams usually apply together (“unless of course they are what we refer to as a “team of one” which is someone who writes book, music, and lyrics”).
 Dev suggests definitely applying to the lab to meet people and share your work if you are pursuing a career in musical theatre writing! She also suggests checking out programs like those at NYU and BMI. As for her favorite part of the lab, she has a bunch! “I love the first rehearsal where everyone comes together for the first time and hears about all of the pieces. I also love the moments right before that rehearsal when I am the one person who knows what all the shows are about. Sharing the evening with an audience is also particularly special as viewers always have different moments and shows that they like the best.”
I hope you come join us this week for Archetype and experience the show as your own!

Broadway For All

July 18, 2016

One of the wonderful cast members of Scheherazade, Osh Ghanimah, is part of the NYC-based organization Broadway For All, and the group brought some students to see the show on Sunday!

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Some Broadway For All students and Scheherazade cast members after the show!

Broadway For All was established in 2012, and today the program is a not-for-profit that offers tuition-free, world-class conservatory training to middle and high school students from across the country. The organization was created to provide young artists the opportunity to practice and enhance their talents, regardless of their ethnic or economic backgrounds. Their tuition-free program offers participants the opportunity to fine-tune their skills in acting, writing, and music with Broadway professionals.

Their mission is “to transform the American stage and screen to reflect the diversity of America. We train young artists from all income levels and all ethnic backgrounds in a world-class conservatory—led by professionals from the Broadway, television, and film industries—in order to shape a new generation of artists, leaders, and advocates who are impassioned to create inclusive work FOR ALL.”

The students stayed for a talk-back after the performance on Sunday, and had some insightful and well-developed thoughts on the production. We are thrilled that programs like this exist that challenge young people to think critically about theatre!

To learn more about Broadway For All, visit their website or their Facebook page!

Coming soon: responses from the students about Scheherazade!

Source: https://www.facebook.com/Broadway-For-All-124226954386130/

With Sheherazade right around the corner (it opens tomorrow!!!), I figured it was about time for a little sneak peek! Here are some rehearsal photos that do not give the cast, choreography, or musical any justice – but hopefully it’s enough to inspire you to come see the show! For more information, don’t forget to check out our website (prospecttheater.org), or the Facebook event (https://www.facebook.com/events/766646210143090/).

Enjoy the photos!

IMG_2264Is there a love story in the play?

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So much drama!

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What are they doing??

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Beautiful and evocative choreography!

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What is happening???

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Gorgeous vowel shapes – I can almost hear the perfectly formed sounds!

If this wasn’t enough to make you want to come see Scheherazade, then I don’t know what will be! Don’t miss this captivating production, opening tomorrow at the 14th St. Y!

The title is not a joke. My life generally revolves around food and theatre, so naturally I was thrilled at the opportunity to sit in on a rehearsal for a show about singing food.

Good Butter is one of the six short musicals included in Archetype, this year’s Musical Theater Lab. Last week, I attended a rehearsal for this short work, and interviewed the writers about their creative process.

Good Butter, in 25 words or less, is about “When a stick of butter learns that her purpose in life is to be food, she creates chaos for everyone around her while trying to fulfill her destiny.” Didn’t think a stick of butter could have feelings…? Think again! Everybody can relate to this piece, from the Butter’s desire for something new to the Fridge Motor’s reliance on tradition.

Based on the archetypes The Lover and The Creator, Good Butter (written by Liana Stillman, Nichole Jackson, and Yoonmi Lee) “was a fun challenge because we had no idea what archetypes we would pick, so we were excited to go in with a blank slate and create something from scratch…We had so many ideas that we wanted to incorporate into the piece, but the 10-minute structure made us think hard about exactly what moments were vital to the story.”

How did they get the idea for their show? ” Having picked The Creator and The Lover, we started by asking ourselves what are some things that a creator might create? When we brainstormed, we threw out a lot of interesting ideas, but one we kept coming back to was a butter sculptor at a county fair and her sculpture. As this idea began to form, the inanimate objects around these two characters began to take on a life of their own, our human ‘creator’ morphed into a mechanical one, and the rest of our story fell into place from there.”

How exactly did the show evolve from a butter sculptor and her sculpture? That’s something you’ll have to see to discover! And if there’s one thing Yoonmi, Nichole, and Liana want you to take away from this funny project, it’s to have fun!

Six Archetypal Shows

July 13, 2016

As I mentioned, the 2016 Musical Theater Lab surrounds the 12 Jungian archetypal characters. Now that you have a layout of how the full production will run, here’s some information about a few of the shows!

I’m always interested in how writers come up with ideas, and how their ideas blossom into full-fledged productions. I interviewed several pairs of writers from the MT Lab about their projects, and here’s what I learned!

First up, Miss Metcalfe Goes to College
Book and Lyrics by Sarah Mucek, Music by Karl Hinze
Which archetypes did you pick?
The Magician and The Explorer
Did you have any ideas going in?
Karl: We went into this process pretty open to whatever—but once we saw our archetypes we had lots of ideas!
How did you get the idea for your show?
Sarah: We brainstormed a bunch of possible conflicts between magician-types and explorer-types. Because the explorer, by nature, needs to explore, we wanted to find a way that the magician (magical, but controlling) could get in the way of exploring. We had some fun ones we couldn’t use, including Astronaut vs. Astronaut’s Wife and Sea Captain vs. Siren. I sincerely hope someone on the subway saw me writing these phrases.
Describe/explain your show in around 25 words
High School Senior Laura Metcalfe is packing to leave for college the next morning when her mother reveals a weird and important secret.
What are you most looking forward to in this experience? / What was the most valuable part of this experience?
Karl: It’s been wonderful to work with Sarah, who is a friend and writer I’ve admired for years. Also the entire Prospect team has been great about letting us just be writers on the piece (as opposed to writer/producer/SM/director/etc.), which is a rare and valuable thing.
Sarah: What Karl said, but about Karl instead of me.
What do you hope audiences will take away from your show?
Sarah: That people of all ages deserve an adventure.
What was the biggest challenge of writing this type of show (a short, thematic, workshop)?
Karl: I think telling a complete story in a short piece can be challenging. Lucky for me, Sarah has an extensive background in improve and sketch comedy so she was totally prepared to help assemble our story beats into something that I think really works.
Sarah: It’s easier to impress the audience when they know you’ve just made it up. When you have time to write, the challenge is to make sure it has the fun and the polish to warrant 10 minutes of their time.
Next up, Salon, A Cautionary Tale
By Barbara Anselmi and Mindi Dickstein
Which archetypes did you pick?
The Hero and The Caregiver
Did you have any ideas going in?
We knew, before we picked our archetypes, that we wanted to do something political, something to do with the current race for the presidency. But we didn’t know which players would become the focus of our story. We figured that would become clear once we knew our archetypes.

How did you get the idea for your show?

As soon as we picked our archetypes we batted around some ideas about Hillary, Bernie and Trump via text. Here’s a slightly edited version of the initial text conversation we had:

MINDI: Could do Bernie and Hillary – but leave people guessing which is which (caregiver or hero)?
BARBARA: Interesting.
MINDI: Or maybe do Trump as false hero and Hillary as one who cares. Or what if Trump is secretly the caregiver… just kidding.
BARBARA: Although he does care for his hair.
MINDI: I love that. Caregiver to his hair and his image.
BARBARA: Oh, interesting.
MINDI: Set it in a hair salon.

After thinking it over, we took it from there.

Describe/explain your show in around 25 words
A cautionary tale about hair and politics? If we say more, we give it all away. Come see it!

What are you most looking forward to in this experience? / What was the most valuable part of this experience?
Working with Dev, Greg, Austin, and Daniel on our piece and being a part of the Prospect Company process as a whole has been a real pleasure. We look forward to the continuation of that as we draw nearer to public performances. It’s wonderful to exercise the creative juices on something short like this and to write on a subject matter we don’t often get to address.

What do you hope audiences will take away from your show?

A call to action.

What was the biggest challenge of writing this type of show (a short, thematic, workshop)?
Working very fast and scheduling.

Sounds exciting, right????? I know I can’t wait to see these shows, as well as the other four! See you there!

This morning, I headed over to Bryant Park with the Prospect Summer Musical Theater Intensive! We watched the spectacular show, and I learned more about Prospect’s Summer program.

The Summer Musical Theater Intensive is one of Prospect’s annual programs. It offers students ages 12-17 the opportunity to build their performance skills by working with a professional director and musical director to present a new musical revue, premiering original songs and monologues written expressly for young people by some of NYC’s emerging composers and lyricists.

This year, the performance material centers around the history of the East Village. The musical draws from the landmarks, food, culture, and events that have shaped the East Village through time. For ten days, the 15 students work to learn the music and blocking for this production. In their spare time, they do fun theatre things (like watch Broadway in Bryant Park)!

IMG_8669When I got there, Wicked was performing!

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And then Matilda!

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The Color Purple went next – wow!

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Broadway was full of surprises, as always, and sang the Orlando song! Go acceptance!

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Some of Prospect’s performers enjoying the show!

I got to speak with some of the students about their experience so far with Prospect’s program – most of them had never done it before, and were excited for the opportunity! It’s the third day of the intensive, and they are already well on their way to learning the music for their show (which is 7/15 and FREE, in case you were wondering). Violet, a veteran of the program, likes working on new material and enjoys the ensemble feel of the program (there are no “leads” in the show). She and Cali, who go to a performing arts high school in the city, both love musical theatre and hope to pursue it as a career one day. Eliza, who is spending the Summer in the city, finds working with the writers to produce a new show exciting!

Ren, who has gone to theatre camp at the 14th St. Y for a few years, is a newcomer to the Prospect program. This is the first Summer that Prospect has held the intensive in the 14th St. Y, which (as I mentioned in an earlier post) is a great space!

After the show, the students headed back to the Y to get started rehearsing! I can’t wait to see what they put together! The show is July 15th at 5pm at the 14th St. Y, and it is free!

Sounds kind of science-y, doesn’t it?

(It’s not).

The Prospect Theater Company Musical Theater Lab gives up-and-coming musical theater writers the chance to do what they do best! Each year, teams of writers are chosen and challenged to write a 10 minute musical surrounding a certain theme. They then have a month to write, three-four weeks to rehearse and workshop the material, and then several nights to present the pieces to the public. Not a science lab, but interesting and challenging nonetheless.

As I mentioned, this year’s theme concerns the twelve Jungian archetypes. Archetype, the culminating performance, will consist of six original pieces. Interested already? Just wait til you hear what the new musicals are about!

  • Good Butter
    • Written by Nichole Jackson, Liana Stillman, & Yoonmi Lee
    • Archetypes: The Creator and The Lover
    • What’s it about? A stick of butter and a refrigerator motor have different goals in life.
  • The Pledge
    • Written by Chris Staskel & Nikko Benson
    • Archetypes: The Innocent and The Ruler
    • What’s it about? A girl rushes a sorority, only to find out its full of vampires!
  • Miss Metcalfe Goes to College
    • Written by Sarah Mucek & Karl Hinze
    • Archetypes: The Magician and The Explorer
    • What’s it about? A young woman and her mother find out they are about to embark on the same journey: college!
  • Salon, A Cautionary Tale
    • Written by Mindi Dickstein & Barbara Anselmi
    • Archetypes: The Caregiver and The Hero
    • What’s it about? Donald Trump is in for a treat the next time he gets his hair cut!
  • Little Bird
    • Written by Sukari Jones & Troy Anthony
    • Archetypes: The Orphan and The Sage
    • What’s it about? A young boy at an inner city school gets chosen to perform a solo at a school performance, but faces some adversity in the form of bullies.
  • A Guy & A Girl
    • Written by Cheryl Davis & Jonathan Portera
    • Archetypes: The Jester and The Rebel
    • What’s it about? You’ll have to come see to find out!

These wonderful shows feature Renee Albulario*, Sherz Aletaha*, Latoya Edwards*, Heslens Estevez, Donell James Foreman*, Lydia Gaston*, Greg Horton*, Austin Ku*, Billy Lowrimore, Chandler Reeves, and Hana Slevin. The pieces were curated and directed by Dev Bondarin, and musically directed by Daniel Sefik.

Archetype runs July 27 -July 31 (Wed & Thurs at 7:30PM, Fri at 8:00PM, Sat at 3:00PM & 8:00PM, and Sun at 2:00PM) at the 14th Street Y Theatre (344 East 14th St. @ 1st Ave).

*member, Actors’ Equity Assocation

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