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THEATER REVIEW: “WTC View” at 59E59th

Brian Sloan’s WTC View is a post 9/11 drama that reveals the individual traumas and experiences of New Yorkers (and others), after the towers fell. Already produced as a film in 2005, now the show is given an airing as dramatic theater at 59E59th. (For those interested in such things, the original film starred Ugly Betty’s Michael Urie in the central role, played here by Nick Lewis.

Sloan has a keen ear for language, and the actors allow his dialogue to roll easily over the audience. The set, a simple wooden floor with a window at one end and a doorway at the other – plus a few scattered boxes – is laid out between two rows of audience members; you can see your fellow attendees on the other side of the action.

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“Getting” the Internet: The CDC and the Zombie Apocalypse

When people think of social media jobs, they might consider pop-culture commentary and corporate representation – but what about social media in public service? Last week, the Center of Disease Control’s (CDC) Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response used a darkly fictional twist – and a keen understanding of social media’s strengths – to tap into the hive mind’s love of all things undead, sparking a global viral sensation of Zombie Apocalypse humor (and educating the public) in the process.

Many companies use social media without really “getting it,” so seeing a government agency set such an excellent example, particularly in a way that acknowledges the foibles of internet culture, is really exciting. Curious to know more, I reached out to the CDC, and the lead for the Emergency Web and Social Media Team, Catherine Jamal was generous enough to answer some questions regarding the process of seeing Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse go viral.

So sit back, and prepare to be infected…with knowledge.

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THEATER REVIEW: “New Works 4: International Short Play Festival” at the Richmond Shepard Theatre

On its last evening at the Richmond Shepherd Theater, the New Works 4: International Short Play Festival presented its program without an intermission. A collection of six short works presented as bare-bones staging’s presented pieces both amorphous and direct.
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Words, Emotions, and How Your Audience is Feeling

Many’s the time I’ve sat in readings and development workshops and been asked, “Who is your audience?” It’s one of my least favorite questions. What am I supposed to say? “People with good taste”? How do I choose to experience my entertainment? Based on what I want to feel. I suspect I’m not alone in this. When you pick up a novel, what makes you choose Bridget Jones instead of H.P. Lovecraft? (Or vice versa?)

I don’t know the traditional demographic features – age, gender, race, hair color – of an audience that will like my work. I have a pretty good idea of the kinds of books they read, the characters they enjoy, the stories and themes that stir their emotions. But their salaries? The number of kids they have? Isn’t that why market research was invented?

“Who’s your audience” is a reductive question. It assumes that once an audience is identified, the play will change to suit that audience. I would argue that during the development process, the goal should be to create the strongest work possible – then decide how to market it to the public.
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The Donners are Deaded: Discussion of a Work in Progress

Cara Marsh Sheffler and Luke Cissell in "Guide" and "Infinite Progress."

How does one reconstruct and learn from a man who died over a hundred years before one was born?

In “Guide” and “(The Myth Of) Infinite Progress,” an intriguing little double-bill-in-development at Williamsburg’s The Brick theater, Cara Marsh Sheffler and Luke Cissell have pieced together a series of verbal and aural interpretations of the life of Lansford Warren Hastings, Esq. Who was Mr. Hastings, you ask? Only the man who sold the Donner party the shortcut that landed them in the mountains during the worst winter in California History, in 1846. Fans of the macabre will know how that worked out. For the rest of you, hie thee to Wikipedia!

How did Hastings influence the Donner party and their travel route? He was a raconteur and writer, in a style that, as portrayed, suggests Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) – with less of a conscience. He traveled West – and later, to Brazil – and wrote guide books to each with a mind to inspire people to emigrate westward. He also sent the Donner party a letter, adjusting his original recommended route to include the shortcut they took…to their doom.

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Now Online: Review of “The Sphinx Winx” at Theater Row

Previously removed due to gun-jump publishing on my part, my review of “The Sphinx Winx” is now once again available for your reading pleasure:


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Theater & Activism: The Working Theater Company’s 2011 Annual Awards Gala

The Working Theater Company’s gala evening was a breath of fresh air on a musty May evening in New York City.  A friend had invited me to join her table, providing an opportunity for exposure to this inclusive, politically-aware company (mission statement available on their website).

The evening’s speakers were eloquent and their words obviously heartfelt. The company’s dedication to providing a voice for working Americans in the theater was clearly articulated, and they displayed their working process and its results to attendees through a series of short scenes, performed during the meal.

This entertainment included selected scenes from Clifford Odets’ Waiting for Lefty, and hearing the work discussed reminded me of hearing Scottish theater activists talking about John McGrath’s The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black Black Oil.

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THEATER REVIEW: “The Sphinx Winx” at Theater Row

There’s very little to recommend The Sphinx Winx over traditional B-movie fare, available at a lower price (and higher camp factor) from Netflix and local indie movie stores. Fans of Egyptian paraphanalia and themes can take a pass, since this show owes little aside from pop-culture references to Egypt. All this could be forgiven if the show were funny; alas it is not.

(l-r): Ryan Williams (Soothsayer), Erika Amato (Cleopatra), and Bruce Sabath (Doctor) in the Off-Broadway musical THE SPHINX WINX at Theatre Row's Beckett Theatre (410 West 42nd Street).

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THEATER REVIEW: “Teeth of the Sons” at the Cherry Lane Theater

Teeth of the Sons by Joseph Sousa, at the Cherry Lane Theater, examines family and faith from the perspective of two brothers, each vying to be the one regarded as successful by the rest of their family – and in one’s case, his God.

Jacob, played by Sousa, is the younger of two Jewish brothers. Jacob looks after the family house, studying Torah and being pursued by all the families at temple with girls of a marriagble age. His older brother is the family fuck-up, or so we are shown throughout the character’s familial interactions. It turns out that Sam, who has a habit of disappearing on his family for extended periods of time, has re-connected with the boys’ estranged father and his side of the family – who are Greek Orthadox. Meanwhile, Sam’s fallen for – and knocked up – a Polish girl, and now they want Jacob to let them stay for a while.
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