Thursday, April 24, 2014

A staged reading to remember

Tuesday night's performances of the staged readings of the winning plays in the Unchained Love Playwright Competition exceeded my wildest expectations! As the producer of the competition and founding president of Open Love NY, it was my privilege to have a front-row seat for the plays and say a few words by way of introduction, so I will repeat those remarks here.

For those who don't know me, I didn't come to New York to be an activist for GLBT people or for polyamory and open relationships. I certainly didn't come here to get involved in independent theater production. Like many people, I came here because I fell in love with someone. Unlike many people, the target of my affections was (and still is) married to someone else. And the struggles we went through figuring that out is a big part of why I was one of the original group of eight leaders who founded Open Love NY in 2009.

One of our original goals for Open Love NY was to promote the awareness of polyamory through artistic and creative works, and this is our first major initiative in this area. I tell people all the time that I've never read a single book about polyamory. It's not the way I choose to learn about relationships, and I suspect that holds true for a lot of people. My theory is that the vast majority of us learn relationship rules and expectations from what we see on TV and in the media from a very early age. We were all influenced to some degree by Disney movies telling us one day we'll find our "one true love" and fireworks will ensue.

What I like to say about polyamory is that I define it as any worldview that doesn't hold to the "one true love" philosophy, the idea that everyone has one and only one ideal mate that we are supposed to love to the exclusion of all others. While that may be true for some people, I don't believe it is true for everyone. What we advocate is not to turn the world poly, but simply to foster relationship choice, and an end to the expectation that we must spend our lives seeking the convention of monogamy and the societal assumption that if we don’t find it we can’t really be happy.

So in a nutshell, the primary purpose of this competition is to show that, while fairy tales can come true, not everyone's happily ever after looks like what we see as the proscribed "happy ending" in the entertainment world.

From my perspective, this competition has been a resounding success, not only because we received over 75 entries from all around the world, and our winners are truly outstanding plays and everything I had hoped for when I started this competition. But more importantly, we are spreading the word outside our established community to the people in the entertainment community, those of you who will go on to create future generations of plays, TV shows and movies, and letting you know about the work we're doing at the front lines of the next big culture shift. [Of the 50 or so attendees Tuesday night, most had never been to an Open Love NY event before]

This project would not have been a success without the participation of all the talented directors and actors who performed that night. Melissa, Katherine, Jeff, Colista, Azizi, Anna and Chelsea - you are all such talented actors and amazing people - thank you for the privilege of watching you work and for sharing your gifts with us. Special thanks go to our celebrity judge, Joan Kane, the creative director of Ego Actus Theater Company, not only for judging the entries, but also for introducing us to Melissa and Anna. And my personal thanks go to director and co-judge Kacey Stamats, who has been with me on this project from the very beginning and continues to inspire me year after year.

It was at this point in the evening that we went off-script and a surprise birthday cake appeared as we sang "Happy Birthday" to Kacey, who was spending her birthday with us as the director of the short play winner.

After the play readings, Buck Lawrence, treasurer of Open Love NY, presented our award-winning playwrights - Tamara Rose and Marjorie Conn -  with their prize checks of $750 and $250 before the playwright talk-back, moderated by Open Love NY leadership team member Gette Levy.

Additional thanks go out to the Open Love NY leadership team for their sponsorship and support, and especially to Gette and Buck for their active participation, and to my dear friend Piper Hill for her assistance during the course of the evening.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Tomorrow's reading

On the eve of the reading, there are still things to do but I'm taking the day off work to get everything done before the event. A producer's job is never finished!

Some people have asked if the readings will be recorded for later viewing and unfortunately, Actors' Equity Association rules do not permit any recordings of readings. I know not everybody can make one specific date of a performance so I wish we could commit to additional readings. Depending on the reception we get tomorrow night, maybe we will be able to make that happen.

My real hope is that we will find a way to actually produce one or both plays as a showcase, but we would definitely need a sponsor who knows the theater business a lot better than I do to make that a reality. But lest we put the cart before the horse, I'm just staying focused on doing the best job we can do tomorrow - the rest will unfold as it should.

Whatever happens, this experience has been tremendously satisfying, working with talented and creative people and bringing such wonderful plays to life.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Directors and actors announced!

We have assembled an amazing group of talented directors and actors for the staged reading of our two award-winning plays, "A Relationship's Beginning in 10 Acts" and "The Three of Us." Both are currently in rehearsals for the Tuesday, April 22 event at Manhattan Theater Club, 311 W. 43rd Street, 8th Floor, Studio 3. Doors open at 7:20 p.m. and we'll start promptly at 7:30 p.m.

Read today's press release and RSVP (optional) on the Facebook Event page.

THE THREE OF US explores the relationship among a librarian, her boyfriend and the neurotic grad student who falls in love with them both. The play begins with a mysterious accident that shatters the reality of three happy people. In flashbacks, we learn how the love story began and all the intricate machinations it takes to get to being happy in a multi-partner relationship. But then, fate takes a hand on a rainy day and those left behind are left to wonder how to pick up the pieces of their shared lives.

Jeff House* (Louis) has performed in many New York stage productions. Favorite roles include Shannon from “Night of the Iguana” and Joe from “Days of Wine and Roses.” Jeff recently returned from a year in San Francisco where he took advantage of the Bay Area's abundant improv opportunities. While he trained and performed in several forms, he found greatest satisfaction in the long-form dramatic style - which he discovered belies its name by often generating even deeper laughs than the more common short-form variety. He is glad to be part of this rich, honest and touching play.

Katherine Alt Keener* (Joan) has performed on television, in film, commercials, webseries, and her best-loved – onstage. Her favorite roles include Amanda in “Private Lives,” Beatrice in “Much Ado About Nothing,” and Renee in “The Smoking Diary.” Her most recent gig was doing the female lead voiceover in the new documentary for Alex Gibney, Oscar-winner in 2007 for Best Documentary Feature. Katherine’s company, Country Girl Productions, produced “Dance With Me” at the West End Theatre. Her most cherished roles are wife to Jim and mother to Samantha! AEA, SAG-AFTRA,

Colista K. Turner (Ruby) is an award nominated stage performer, voice actor, and dancer. This is her second project with Melissa Skirboll. Colista holds a B.A. in Theatre and Africana studies from Cornell University; she has trained at the British American Drama Academy, GeVa Theatre Center and with Magis Theatre Company. New York Credits include: “Desdemona” (Emilia); “Shakuntala” (Aditi, Januka, Gautami); “Oedipus After Colonus” (Chorus); and “A Raisin in the Sun” (Ruth). Colista is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Social Work. Colista is thrilled to be working with such a talented cast on such an interesting play.

Melissa Skirboll (Director) is a director, writer, actor and producer. Most recently she directed “NOLA: Three Plays About Home” by Vivian Neuwirth for the Estrogenius Festival in NYC. Her work has been seen at the Planet Connections Theater Festivity for the past three years where she won Best Director (Short Form) for her work on “The Closet” by Amy Gray Piper in 2012, and was nominated for her direction of “Straight Faced Lies” by Mark Jason Williams in 2013. Her play “Hell is where the Heart Is” was nominated for four awards and took home two prizes in 2010. She directed her own plays “Blood is Thicker” as part of the 2013 SWAN Day celebration at the Abingdon Theater, and “Pizza for Life” as part of Ego Actus NYC Icon Play in November of 2011. She is proud to have directed readings of 14 different 10 minute plays as part of Abingdon's Benefit Challenge Series since 2011. She also directed and produced “Girlfriend Experience” by Paul Tarantino at the Next Stage Theater in Hollywood, CA.

A RELATIONSHIP'S BEGINNING IN 10 ACTS is a non-chronological, episodical short play of two women, Miriam and Catherine, who are falling in love with each other. Each act is a snippet of those delicious and poignant early days of getting to know each other.

Anna Van Valin* (Catherine) is a wing-eating native of Buffalo, but has cried on the subway enough times to make her a real New Yorker. New York Credits: ”Othello” (New York Shakespeare Exchange), “The Feminism of a Soft Merlot” and “Throat” (Primary Stages), “The Degradation Play” (Rising Phoenix Rep), “What the Wall Does” (Red Fern Theatre Co.), “Courting” and “All Alices” (undergroundzero festival), “BIOLIFE” (terraNOVA), “Pussyfest” (CAPS LOCK Theatre). Regional credits include: “Blithe Spirit” (Trinity Rep Co.), “Jane Eyre” (Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theater) and “Henry V” (Rites and Reasons). She wrote, produced and starred in the award-winning short film “Take it Off.” Her writing has appeared on Indiwire’s Women and Hollywood, Theaterspeak, and New York Theatre Review. Anna is a 2012 Primary Stages Rockwell Scholar, a proud member of Actors Equity Association and New York Women of Film and Television, and the Head of the New York Madness Acting Company. She holds a BFA with honors from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (Stella Adler Studio and RADA) and a Masters of Fine Arts from the Brown University/Trinity Rep program.

Chelsea K. Vance (Miriam) has been acting on the stage and screen her entire life. She made her debut at the age of two and a half as Dorothy in a home movie version of The Wizard of Oz in which the Wicked Witch of the East was crushed by the garage door rather than the entire house. A woman of many talents, Chelsea is also a dancer, artist, poet, author, composer, designer, and occasional sound "guy." She is currently working on an adaptation of Shakespeare's infamous Scottish play filled with gratuitous spectacle and gore.

Kacey Anisa Stamats (Director) is a multidisciplinary artist with work branching into theatre, fine art and cinematography. Her upcoming projects include stage manager/assistant director of the fairy-tale-style gender reversing verse play “The Tragedy of Dandelion” with Ego Actus at Urban Stages, May 22-June 8, and cinematography/co-direction for the short film “Things Fall Apart” and cinematography for the upcoming film "And in her it Danced: An Inheritance." Her photography has been featured in Time Out New York, Edinburgh Evening News, and Whimsy. Her past directing work includes “The Consequences of Happiness” at the 2011 D.C. Black Theatre Festival, and “Next Year in Jerusalem,” a site-specific anti-romantic comedy.

Azizi Bell (Stage Direction, both plays) is excited to be working among such talent! She is learning the craft of acting while working at the Signature Theatre. Azizi has worked with the Classical Theatre of Harlem as actress and stage manager and performed in readings here in the city. Her previous credits include Mrs. Pinchwife in “The Country Wife,” Moll in “The Roaring Girl,” and Lady Croom in “Arcadia.” She is also a member of the Coney Island Screenwriting Contest.

* Member, Actors' Equity Association

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Playwright talk-back discussion on April 22

I am pleased to announce that we will be having a playwright talk-back discussion at the April 22 event, following the staged readings. Marjorie Conn and Tamara Rose will offer additional insight into their award-winning plays and answer questions from the audience.

For those of you on Facebook, here is a link to the public event and the text of event information.

Fans of theater and modern relationships are invited to join us for the staged readings, award presentations and playwright talk-back discussion for the two winning plays in the 2014 Unchained Love Playwright Competition on Tuesday, April 22 at 7:30 pm!

Manhattan Theater Club
311 W. 43rd Street, 8th Floor (just west of Eighth Avenue)
New York, NY 10036
Subways to PABT or Times Square

For those who wish to attend just the play readings, admission is FREE!

Those wishing to stay for the award presentations and playwright talk-back discussion following the readings can opt to pay a $10 admission at the door ($8 for members with 2014 bracelet). All $10 admissions include an Open Love NY membership bracelet for future discounts.

Open Love NY practices safe space rules for all people and everyone is invited to come experience these groundbreaking plays.

Full-length Play Winner ($750)
THE THREE OF US explores the relationship among a librarian, her boyfriend and the neurotic grad student who falls in love with them both. The play begins with a mysterious accident that shatters the reality of three happy people. In flashbacks, we learn how the love story began and all the intricate machinations it takes to get to being happy in a multi-partner relationship. But then, fate takes a hand on a rainy day and those left behind are left to wonder how to pick up the pieces of their shared lives.

Tammy Rose is a NYC based playwright, artist and blogger and has identified as polyamorous since 2000. Her work tends to shine a light on exquisite ideas which are usually excluded from the spotlight in modern society. Her most recent visual art series includes The Mousetrap Project. Different large pieces have appeared in various uptown venues consisting of abstract landscapes painted on the backs of dozens of mousetraps mounted in different orientations. Her most popular blog, about Rock & Roll and the 1960’s, is called “Six Degrees of Monkees.” As far as she is concerned, beauty is where you find it, and should always be celebrated.

Short Play Winner ($250)
A RELATIONSHIP'S BEGINNING IN 10 ACTS is a non-chronological, episodical short play of two women, Miriam and Catherine, who are falling in love with each other. Each act is a snippet of those delicious and poignant early days of getting to know each other.

Marjorie Conn made her acting debut with the late, great Ethyl Eichelberger as his leading man playing Aegisthus to his Klytemnestra with her lover, the late, incomparable Katy Dierlam as Electra. She was given an award by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force for her contributions to theatre in Provincetown. Marjorie is most known for her portrayal of Lizzie Borden (ax murderess) and Lorena Hickok (Eleanor Roosevelt's lover). These plays are published in LOST LESBIAN LIVES (available on eBay). She founded the Provincetown Fringe Festival in Provincetown, MA in 1994, which relocated to Asbury Park, NJ in 2007. She also rescues & is rescued by Greyhound dogs & special needs dogs and cats.