Blog30

Celebrating the members of the League of Professional Theatre Women

Week in Review, February 25 – March 2, 2013


LPTW’s Blog30 was created to highlight the diversity, passion and brilliance of the individual members of the League of Professional Theatre Women in celebration of the organization’s 30th Anniversary. Today, the women featured in the previous five days receive a little more attention, a second chance for readers to learn about them. The Week in Review gives our readers the opportunity to experience a week’s entries in one easy sitting.

Theatre’s been in my blood since I was a kid stage actor in Pittsburgh, PA and
continued through to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London. — Zanne Hall, February 25

There is something truly satisfying in being able to haul your own body 25 feet
up into the air on nothing but fabric, knowing that you have the strength to
hang on as you perform complicated wrapping patterns and poses, falling and
twirling and spinning through space. — Talia Pura, February 26

Unconditional love does it all the time. — June Rachelson-Ospa, February 27

When I looked around on opening night at the diverse sea of faces in the
audience, I knew this was not like any audience I had seen in any other Boston
theater. — Margaret Fofonoff, February 28

I love to park it for a few hours in the Drama Bookshop and read whatever is on
their wall of Staff Recommended plays. — Jennifer Lane Bustance, March 1

I adore social, emotional, and impersonal math — the adding and subtracting of items that actually can’t be quantified. — Jenny Lyn Bader, March 2

Jenny Lyn Bader

JennyLynBaderPlaywright
New York, New York USA

When I was a child, most of the stories I encountered were written from a male point of view, so when I began writing, I too wrote stories from a male point of view! Remarkable to think about now, at that time it was the default setting for fiction.

Default settings do change and not always for the better. These days if you order coffee with milk you are asked if you want skim. When did skim become the default? That has to do with dieting trends and is perhaps a subject for another day…

But the shift from the inevitable male narrator must be seen as auspicious. What a breakthrough that in our times we don’t have to take a male pseudonym or masquerade as men in a fiction. When we do, though, it still helps, which feels sad. Yet at least today we have the privilege of airing and hearing a rich variety of female voices.

Wendy Wasserstein was my mentor for seven years, and before that I was her assistant for seven years. I admired how she approached the page without hesitation, even as she frequently repeated the Zen koan, “Plays are hard.”

I must confess that answering a question like “What is the one thing nobody knows about you?” is utterly confounding: there are so many.

Other things you are unlikely to know about me:

I adore social, emotional, and impersonal math — the adding and subtracting of items that actually can’t be quantified.

Against the advice of close loving friends, I wrote a full-length play in verse.

For a long time, I harbored fantasies of having a pet turtle.

In a recent interview, I revealed for the first time my early use of boy narrators. The interviewer, upon hearing this quirk of mine, responded that she had done the same thing. I wonder how many voices have developed by trying on other voices first.

My guilty pleasures are vintage port and vintage humor.

Jenny Lyn Bader co-founded Theatre 167, serves as Director of Artistic Development and co-authored the Jackson Heights Trilogy. Plays include Mona Lisa Speaks (Core Ensemble), None of the Above (New Georges), and Manhattan Casanova (Hudson Stage). A Harvard graduate, she contributed frequently to the New York Times “Week in Review” when it existed. jennylynbader.com.

Jennifer Lane Bustance

JennyPlaywright, Arts Administrator
Astoria, New York USA

Where do you look for inspiration? Travel! Nothing inspires me more than visiting a new city (favorites include Prague and Barcelona) but barring that, I love to park it for a few hours in the Drama Bookshop and read whatever is on their wall of Staff Recommended plays.

What’s your favorite movie: All About Eve Song from a Musical: “Finishing the Hat” from eSunday in the Park with George  Cocktail: I’ll take a glass of white wine over a cocktail any day. Book: Crime & Punishment, or Jane Eyre, or The Unbearable Lightness of Being or The End of the Affair or Revolutionary Road or… I could keep going (I love to read.)

What play or production changed your life? Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses and the SoHo Rep production of Sarah Kane’s Blasted. But really, other theatre artists have changed my life much more dramatically than any individual production. Sarah Ruhl, Chuck Mee, Kelly Stuart, Lucy Thurber, Stuart Spencer — these remarkable writers are also wonderful mentors and teachers. They’re the ones who have changed my life.

I feel most like myself when I… am writing. Or, more accurately, I feel most like myself when I have just finished writing: in that moment when I am satisfied with the work, before the dark cloud of self-doubt has a chance to descend.

What is your best escape? Video games. I think I enjoy them because they tell me stories and offer me small, meaningless tasks to finish, so I feel like I’m engaged but it couldn’t possibly matter less whether or not I’m good at it or I finish at a certain time, etc.

What’s the one thing nobody knows about you? I don’t know how to admit this, I think it’s going to out me as a bad theatre nerd, but… I don’t like Chekhov. There. I’ve said it. It’s out there. Please don’t judge me too harshly.

Jennifer Lane’s work includes Harlowe (developed under the mentorship of Sarah Ruhl, winner of the Alec Baldwin Fellowship at Singers Forum); and The Seer and the Witch (developed in the terraNOVA Groundbreakers Playwriting Group). Jenny is the Administrative Director for the LPTW and the Literary Manager for APAC. BA: Sarah Lawrence; MFA: Columbia University. jennifer-lane.net.

Margaret Fofonoff

meg's photo 2Executive Producer/Artistic Director/Writer
Boston, Massachusetts USA

What is your favorite line from a play?
“What are we crazy or something?” from Guys and Dolls characterizing those wonderful and stressful moments in our theater world that we would not trade for anything.

What play or production changed your life?
A production of Ragtime at The Strand Theatre in Boston. It was a show that I always dreamed of doing since I love the score, story and imagery. It was the experience of a lifetime to do this show where it really meant something in the heart of inner city Boston. We also made an important political statement just before the 2012 election that was heard far and wide. It is not often one has partners like the American Civil Liberties Union and The City of Boston, who both really care about making a difference. We all are on the same mission to make the world a better place for everyone. It is rare one has the opportunity to give back.

When I looked around on opening night at the diverse sea of faces in the audience, I knew this was not like any audience I had seen in any other Boston theater. At intermission I remember a lovely older African American patron, unconnected to anyone in the production, approached me, grabbed both my hands and said, ”Thank you so much for doing this, it means so much.” I will never forget that moment as it embodies why we all do what we do.

Is there anything you still dream of doing?
So many things! A production in NYC, writing a new work, collaborating with my son writer/filmmaker, changing the world for the better in as many ways as I can.

What is your best escape?
Ballroom dance. It takes me away from everything else and the music and steps fill my head and make me smile.

Margaret Fofonoff (Executive Producer & Artistic Director, Fiddlehead Theatre Company) founded Fiddlehead theatre in 1993 and continues to produce and direct all shows and drive the artistic direction. Fiddlehead is a medium professional IRNE and Broadway World award-winning theater. She has a BA from Boston University with honors.

June Rachelson-Ospa

-2Book Writer, Lyricist, Producer, Educator
New York, New York USA

Where do you look for inspiration? I look at my family and friends. I love
writing for kids. Making them feel good about who they are in the world.

What’s your favorite movie / pop culture guilty pleasure? My favorite movie is Casablanca. I love the Eagles. And I adore old black and white horror films. Homicidal by William Castle is the best!!!

What play or production changed your life? Hair on Broadway when I was a teen. My Dad took me and Fluffer hopped off the stage and pulled me up to sing Let The Sun Shine In. At that moment I knew that THEATRE WAS FOR ME!!!

Is there anything you still dream of doing? I dream of having something that I’ve written getting published and touring all over the world!

I feel most like myself when I ….am hanging out with my two sons Jon (20) and Jake (26). Unconditional Love does it all the time.

What is your best escape? Horse Back Riding in the mountains.

What’s the one thing nobody knows about you? How shy I was when I was a kid. I used to avoid people and walk with my head looking down at my shoes.

June Rachelson-Ospa’s company is Bozomoon Productions. Writing and Producing musicals with Partner Daniel Neiden over 15 years. Tourettaville, the first musical we wrote about my son Jon’s struggle with tourette syndrome, went to the Kennedy Center. Jon is a film major in college, son Jake is an animator and husband Jerry designs Macy’s Parade!

Talia Pura

Talia-Pura-200actor, aerial dancer, playwright, filmmaker, educator
Stonewall, Manitoba, Canada

Inspiration comes from every aspect of life: snippets of conversations, interesting news articles, even from dreams. Once, I dreamt the entire plot of a feature-length drama. As I dreamed, I knew that I wasn’t in the story, just watching it unfold. It was right there in front of me when I woke up. All I had to do was write it down. If I knew how to make that happen again, I’d do it every night! I’ll even admit to taking notes when certain friends call me to chat. Sometimes reality makes the best fiction. I’m also very interested in writing about historical women who should be famous, but are largely forgotten, like Emilie du Chatelet, Voltaire’s brilliant mistress. She deserves to have her story known.

When I want to write a relationship play, you can’t beat the advice columns in the daily newspaper for all the myriad ways in which people mess with each other. Sometimes, you just can’t make this shit up! After shaking my head and having a chuckle, I’ll imagine the ‘what if’ moments between the characters described in the column, and another play is born.

I feel most like myself when I am doing what I love: Writing something truly satisfying, seeing my students make discoveries in class, performing on camera or stage, and physically – when I am climbing silks. As an aerial dancer, I experience the pure joy of flying. A side benefit is the thrill of hearing audience members gasp when they’re sure you’re plummeting to the ground, when I know that I’ve made a knot that will catch me just in time. Another benefit is being more fit than ever before in my life. As a dancer on stage, I was always slender, but there is something truly satisfying in being able to haul your own body 25 feet up into the air on nothing but fabric, knowing that you have the strength to hang on as you perform complicated wrapping patterns and poses, falling and twirling and spinning through space.

Talia Pura is an independent theatre artist. Her book, STAGES: Creative Ideas For Teaching Drama, is available on Amazon. Her five shorts have screened at various film festivals. She also loves performing on silks, producing her one-woman plays and teaching drama at the University of Winnipeg. www.taliapura.com

Zanne Hall

Zanne photoPlaywright
Kew Gardens, New York USA

I look for inspiration by keeping my eyes open, my ears clean and unwavering concentration on life around me. It’s not always easy because we all get wrapped up in the problems of daily living and lose focus on activities around us, whether it be the sunlight streaming through a window, our pets, the grocer down the street – whatever. We get scared and worry far too much. It’s not good to primarily focus on the self a majority of the time because then we lose our perspective of how ever-changing life is. Look at how a child sees everything around it as new. So do animals. How many times have I said to myself – “I don’t remember seeing that before?” – but it was always there. I just wasn’t paying attention.

What hones my day-to-day inspiration and helps me plug it into my creative writing process is music. I think that music is the purest artistic discipline because it directly connects to our emotions. The music I listen to or even just the sounds of everyday living (perhaps hearing distant wind chimes) helps me to create worlds inside my head and then influences them to manifest theselves outside of my head.

Favorite Movie – “Fasten your seatbelts…” What else? A movie about theatre: All About Eve!

One Thing Nobody Knows About Me – If I told you, then you’d know!

Zanne Hall: Theatre’s been in my blood since I was a kid stage actor in Pittsburgh, PA and continued through to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London. I began writing plays later in life because I had such fun creating characters and putting them in unusual situations that surprise and inspire.

Week in Review, February 18 – 22, 2013


LPTW’s Blog30 was created to highlight the diversity, passion and brilliance of the individual members of the League of Professional Theatre Women in celebration of the organization’s 30th Anniversary. Today, the women featured in the previous five days receive a little more attention, a second chance for readers to learn about them. The Week in Review gives our readers the opportunity to experience a week’s entries in one easy sitting.

I dream of living to be 114 years of age, like a woman I heard about on TV. – Laurie James, February 18

I am quite metered and even keel. When I see the blitz and buzz of Futurism, I find a forward momentum.– Marcina Zaccaria, February 19

Cocktail: Gin Martini, stirred, not dry, not dirty, straight up, olives on the side. – Cecilia Copeland, February 20

I started acting at age 40 so I have to say the play that changed my life was Getting Out by Marsha Norman. – Susan Wallack, February 21

As a theater director, I want to open the question of participatory art and audience engagement. – Mahayana (Yana) Landowne, February 22

Mahayana (Yana) Landowne

yana_landowneTheater Director
New York, New York USA

I am inspired by you, women of the theater. By how we find our path and realize our vision. By how we grow and support growth in others.

My goal as an artist is to inspire creative thought – I want to dive into and mine the past to replenish a jaded cultural community. As a theater director, I want to open the question of participatory art and audience engagement. I want to encourage empowerment of all involved in the process of making an artistic experience.

Here is a clip of the Picasso Project – I want to develop it into Enter- art- ment (working title) – a play/movement piece about activating and inhabiting fine art. Using paintings by modern and contemporary artists as storyboards, we will create a series of scenes; which will intertwine opening up meaning and the permission of diverse interpretation for performance company and the audience. Each individual scene explores excerpts from an artist’s body of work and is sculpted by the rhythm, visual world, and energy of the artist’s work.

When first starting to explore this idea with Picasso’s Blue Period, I was amazed by the depth of plot and visual meaning that could be mined by physically exploring the painting. Now I’d like to experiment with a variety of artists such as Goya, Toulouse Lautrec, Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol, and Salvador Dali. Any suggestions of artists would be fantastic.

I want to make a piece that can perform locally and tour. The tour performance will include an interactive audience workshop, so they can experience inhabiting paintings too. I can see this piece performing at museums and performing arts centers around the country and the world. It expands definitions and is a playful way to encourage engaging in Art.

And then there are the streets and taking performance and radical transformation ;) that is a different side of the story.

Mahayana (Yana) Landowne‘s projects include: Impossible Country (MudBone), Fairytale Experiment (Rubulad), MIXED (Baruch), Beyond My Remote Control (Wild Project), Picasso Project (Luna Stage), The Heiress, (Mint), Machinal (Rochester). Favorites include Skriker, Seagull, brass logic, Streetcar, Obgynt, Lear, and Mud. Collaborator- Lush Vally. NYU-BFA-acting YSD-MFA-directing. Creativity Workshops – Radiant Axis (Radiantaxis.com). yana.landowne.org

Susan Wallack

Susan WallachActor
New York, New York USA

I’m inspired by theater and film. After seeing a wonderful play, either new or a revival I think “how amazing”. I saw Joe Egg 3 times and the 1 with Eddie Izzard was unbelievable. 4000 miles, Other Desert Cities, One Man Two Guvnors I thought were great.

I don’t have a favorite movie, but genres. I love black and white films from the 30′s and 40′s-comedies and dramas ranging from the Marx Brothers, The Thin Man, The Shop Around The Corner, Breakfast at Tiffanys, Katherine Hepburn films, The Third Man, Shadow of a Doubt and most Hitchcock movies. Just saw Argo and it was wonderful.

I started acting at age 40 so I have to say the play that changed my life was Getting Out by Marsha Norman. It was in DC where I lived and it was my first real play. Got rave reviews so I knew I was doing what I had wanted to do my whole life. The reasons I never started are too long and complicated to write about.

I then commuted from Maryland to New York every week to study with the best teachers as there was no place in my area to get a theater degree. It was tiring – 2 kids and 1 husband at 1 end and studying and rehearsing at the other.

I do mostly off, off and indie films so my dream is Off Broadway, but at my age the competition is tremendous because all the well-known actresses work in all the theaters no matter how small. It’s often the name that counts.

I feel most like myself when I’m rehearsing and performing. You’re in other times, places, worlds that are not really in your life.

I read a lot to escape. I go on mystery binges – all the Scandinavian ones and others and then more serious ones. I have to read before I go to sleep.

I love what I’m doing and will stop when I die or when I can’t memorize whichever comes first. I’m trying for 100.

Susan Wallack. Getting Out, Merry Wives.., 3 Penny…, Good Doctor, Starting Here…, Jacques Brel…Columbia Stages: Crucible. Three Sisters, Barbarians, Baal, Ghost Sonata, Bacchae, Walkabout Yeolha, Uncle Vanya. New plays: New Georges, Abingdon, Algonquin, Fringe. Outstanding Performance -Turnip Theater; Best Supporting – Planet Connections 2010. Indie films; all unions; NYWIFT, ARTC, WORKSHOP, MTWorks.

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