Celebrating the members of the League of Professional Theatre Women

Archive for the month “January, 2012”

Cindy Cooper (Cynthia L. Cooper)

Cindy Cooper, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenDramatist, Producer
New York, New York USA

I managed to get myself to The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe on Broadway more than once. After first being dazzled by Lily Tomlin’s character portrayals, I paid closer attention to Jane Wagner’s script — especially an amazing moment at the end that still comes to me when I question why I ever bothered with theater.

Trudy, a central character, reports her space alien chums’ curiosity about the “goose bump experience.” It turns out that the phenomenon is critical to their earthly explorations, and Trudy hits upon the idea of sending them to the theater. The sensation occurs as they stand in the back: the space chums discover ecstasy and art – but not in the expected place. “It wasn’t the play gave ‘em goose bumps, it was the audience,” says Trudy. “Yeah, to see a group of strangers sitting together in the dark, laughing and crying about the same things … that just knocked ‘em out.”

The audiences:  that, for me, is the essence and the allure of theater. When I touch audiences – with an insight by a woman in sports, the strength of a victim who finds reconciliation, the unknown story of a fighter for rights – I experience elation, too. I see the possibilities of growth, exchange, and, sometimes, maybe sometimes, transformation.

Where ideas generated by television and newsprint and blogs can readily fade, the arts have eloquence and power. Pundits could not match the visceral embrace of An American Rendition, a dance-theater piece by Jane Comfort and Joan La Barbara that draws audiences into the interplay of government torture and “reality” television. The live performance is riveting.

As foolish as it may seem, I hold out the hope that stories and words and bodies in motion can give us nourishment, inner guidance, fortitude — that theatre can make a difference in the drive for universal human rights and equality. The theater, after all, is about humanity, and all of us have it. And the theater, it seems, can even cause goose bumps. Perhaps it is all an allusion, but — isn’t it worth trying?

Cindy Cooper is an award-winning playwright, journalist and author. How She Played the Game was produced at the Women’s Project, Primary Stages, 80 more. Words of Choice traveled to 20 states; other plays in Chicago, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, L.A., Israel. A two-time Jerome Fellow, her plays are in 15 books.

Harriet Slaughter

Harriet Slaughter, member of the League of Professional Theatre Women

Retired Arts Administrator, former Co- President of the League of Professional Theatre Women, 30th Anniversary Co-Chair
New York, New York USA

Always inspired by the work of other women and their accomplishments. I am currently working on the League’s Photographic Exhibition – Celebrating Our Legacy which opens at the New York Public Library on March 7th. I have been printing out the photos of the numerous women we have interviewed and each one in her own right deserves special recognition. Our recent Edith Meiser Oral History with Donna Murphy was a joyous evening of her recollections in the theatre. Thanks to funding from the New York State Council on the Arts and the Edith Meiser Foundation these tapings can continue. It’s so great to have our member Jackie Davis at the Library as a supporter of this endeavor and Betty Corwin who so diligently finds the women most suited to be interviewed.

Harriet Slaughter has been in the performing arts all of her life, first as a performer, then transitioning to Director of Labor Relations for the Broadway League. Since her retirement, she has been pursuing her creative journey through painting and writing poetry.

Paula McFetridge

Paula McFetridge, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenArtistic Director – Kabosh, Director

My favorite book is ‘Grace Notes’ by Bernard McLaverty – a superb piece of work about a creative Belfast woman.

Amongst many theatrical experiences the memory of seeing the work of Welsh theatre company Brith Gof whilst at university is still inspirationally clear; it was site-specific, political, live and a multi-sensory experience. I had never seen anything like it before.

I still dream of doing a major site-specific multi-artform project on the former Maze/Long Kesh prison site on the outskirts of Belfast. I hope to create a unique theatrical event that will challenge preconceived ideas about the space and help people imagine new possibilities for this contested location.

I feel most at myself cradling a glass of red wine on the sofa after a creative day in the rehearsal room. In the company of my husband of course!

My best escape is in the company of my nephews and nieces – they have energy to burn and imaginations to enjoy.

Paula McFetridge has been Artistic Director of Kabosh, the only site-specific theatre company in the north of Ireland, since August 2006. She has directed a range of premiere productions in unusual locations including a moving black taxi, a synagogue, a barge, working city-centre shops, a spiegeltent and a former workhouse.

Michelle Haines

Michelle Haines, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenAdvertising/Marketing, Directing
New York, New York USA

Where do you look for inspiration?
Inspiration usually finds me in unexpected ways. I feel it’s one of those things that you can’t force; you just have to let it happen to you. Even when I’m deep in research for an upcoming project, I just try to stay open instead of having a pre-determined idea of what will be the source of inspiration. Being tuned in to the environment around you can open doors to new ideas, whether it be a song that catches your ear, an amazing piece of art, the way the sun hits the water, an incredible performance or production, a link to an interesting article on Twitter, good TV like Mad Men, bad TV like anything on E!, coffee with a friend, deliciously prepared food, the lights of a city, the quiet of the country, a deep sleep – really anything can be the source of inspiration. Like great theater, the best things happen when you live in the moment.

The real trick in this business is taking that inspiration and applying it to your work in a productive, clear and compelling way. My current theater experience comes down to focusing on two disciplines – theater directing and working as a marketing professional in the industry. I dive into projects for both with an open mind to whatever the material inspires, but it is only the relentless and dedicated work behind it that can ultimately recreate the same inspirational response for audiences when they interact with the material, whether it is as an audience member attending a play or the media that inspires them to buy a ticket to the play.

I feel most like myself when I …
When I’m collaborating with a group of people on anything that requires our collective creativity. I feed off of the energy of the process and really come into my own in that environment.

What is your best escape?
I do love spending time in anywhere that can be defined as wine country, though the Northern Sonoma region and Walla Walla Valley are my favorite retreats.

Michelle Haines, currently Sales and Marketing Manager at DreamWorks Theatricals, recently moved to NYC from Seattle, where she worked for various organizations including Theatre Puget Sound, Empty Space Theater and Broadway Across America. She also ran her own theatre company –Burnt Studio Productions — during her twelve years in the Emerald City.

Sherry Eaker

Sherry Eaker, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenEditor, Writer, Producer
New York, New York USA

Collaboration is the key to working and being successful in this industry, and perhaps that’s what makes the theatre world so attractive to me. For every event and production that I work on, I look forward to working with a team that I can count on to inspire me to do better than I would ever imagine.

Producing an event or a play or musical is very similar to being an editor of a newspaper: Someone comes to the editor (aka producer) with an idea, and the editor puts together a team that will help develop and nurture this idea (copy editor, research editor, photo editor, graphic artist) and make it read and look its best when laid out on a page, just as a producer would collaborate, perhaps, with a dramaturg, director, and set, costume and lighting designers to bring a stage project to its fullest potential. It’s the developing of a project that I love best, seeing something develop from just a mere idea……

Is there anything that I still dream of doing? Attaining the “dreams” that I have is my goal….. making them into a reality.

I feel most like myself……when I’m on the dance floor! Music and dancing…a great escape!

Sherry Eaker is the producer of the annual Bistro Awards show, now in its 27th year, and is the former Editor-in-Chief of Back Stage (1977-2008). She compiled and edited the four editions of the “Back Stage Handbook for Performing Artists” and the “Cabaret Artists Handbook.” She serves on the board and/or is an advisor to a number of theatre-related organizations.

Paula Ewin

Paula Ewin, member of League of Professional Theatre WomenActress, Singer, Producer
New York, New York USA

Where do you look for inspiration? The beach

What’s your favorite book / movie / line from a play / pop culture guilty pleasure / cocktail? “Women in Love” D.H. Lawrence / Movie of the same title by Ken Russell / don’t really have a favorite line…/ manicure/pedicure with massage / Manhattan straight up…but only on special occasions…otherwise good old cabernet.

What play or production changed your life? A Taste of Honey. I played Jo in my senior year at Rhode Island College and was nominated for the ACTF Irene Ryan Award and won the Alternate for the New England scholarship in 1978. It was a bittersweet moment. I was so pleased to be acknowledged and yet would have loved to have won first prize…the scholarship. Then I realized that the real thrill was the rehearsal and performance of this play…it resonated with me on a very deep level. I had something really genuine that I could take with me as I went through my career.

Is there anything you still dream of doing? Traveling to Spain and Portugal and perhaps one day owning a dog (don’t tell my cat!)

I feel most like myself when I ….Sing! Even in the shower, but especially for an audience.

What is your best escape? Sleep. I have outrageous dreams!

What’s the one thing nobody knows about you? Oh you’re clever…not today!

Paula Ewin is a Founding Member of the award winning Off Broadway theatre 29th Street Rep, performing leading roles in 27 NY and World premieres since 1988.  Recently, the National Tour of “On Golden Pond” and “Tea at Five” (as Katharine Hepburn) at The Pasadena Playhouse.  Artistic Director of The Hive – The Women of 29th Street Rep.

Glenda Frank

Glenda Frank, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenTheatre Writer, Playwright, Educator
New York, New York USA

Three decades ago, Bertolt Brecht changed my life. I had always considered myself a realist, but Epic Theatre mystified and intrigued me. When my career ladder vanished in a reorganization, I decided to reorganize my life. I returned to graduate studies to work on Brecht for my doctoral project. My weak German skills made American theatre a wiser concentration. I earned my Ph. D. in 1992 and had found a passion for all things theatre.

Eight years ago Ibsen changed my life. After trying for years to write a full length play, I decided to update Hedda Gabler. I titled my first full-length play about a computer start-up company Tarazed Gamma. At the end my Hedda, protagonist and villain, is alive, ambitious as ever, and in her ninth (reluctant) month of pregnancy. For my second and third plays I experimented with different writing techniques and am approaching my fourth play from a new perspective. I haven’t written anything close to Brechtian yet.

As for inspiration, plots and characters continually interrupt my reading. There I am on a lazy Sunday morning, looking over the New York Times Book Review, and a plot leaps into my head, one I will need to tweak and twitch into workable shape. Or in the middle of a news article, a character insists on chatting — but leaves out whole sections of the dialogue, which I have to research to fill in. Or I’m correcting student papers, when, bang, I’m in the middle of a scene in an unfamiliar setting. People used to call this daydreaming. I’m still learning to stop what I’m doing and write everything down before finishing the article or grading the next paper. I’m trying to clear my calendar to make more time for reading and writing.

After I write a scene, I’m happy. I may tear it up a week later, but I am alive in the process. Sometimes the pleasure lasts two days and people tell me I glow. I feel lucky to have found a new passion in my 60s — and the support of the League.

Glenda Frank has just completed her third full-length play; holds a Ph.D. in Theatre; teaches at FIT, SUNY; and reviews for Plays International (a British mag)and The Fourth Estate, her series of short plays about endangered journalists, was a critical success at the 2010 NY International Fringe Festival.

Richarda Abrams

Richarda Abrams, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenActress / Singer / Educator
New York, New York USA

Upon touring the Ukraine as a member of the Yara Arts Group, a resident theatre company at La MaMa, I was very taken with how well theatre was revered in Ukraine. We were a multi-cultural theatre company that was comprised of Americans, Ukrainians, Chinese, and Japanese performers. We were part of an international theatre festival taking place in Ukraine. We were privileged to witness wonderful productions performed in many languages that spanned the globe. As well as performing our play, we also did workshops with Ukrainian actors where we learned that after they complete their university training in theatre, they graduate and are accepted into a theatre company, where they are employed and receive free healthcare for the rest of their lives. That made a great impression on myself and many of my fellow actors.

Another thing that impressed me is how every person that attended the theatre festival sat with rapt attention. Parents brought children as young as eight years old to our performances. Those children were fascinated with the theatre. During this festival, I felt a shift in myself as I observed theatre, my first love, held with such high regard and respect, as if it were the life blood of the people. I thought how wonderful it would be to have such reverence in our home country of the U.S.A. Since that experience, even with the fast-moving pace of technology, I strive to realize as much of that as I can with each production, performance, and character that I am honored enough to bring to life. My respect continues to grow for the work, the craft, and each artisan’s contribution to create this esteemed world of work we call theatre.

Richarda Abrams B.F.A. Acting (NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts), M.A. Ed. Theatre (NYU’s Steinhardt School of Education). Memberships: The Actors Studio, LPTW, NYWIFT. Performances: ABC, CBS, LIFETIME, SESAME ST., SHOWTIME, Acting Co., Cherry Lane Theatre, Crossroads Theatre, Kennedy Center, La MaMa, Multi Stages, Public Theater, 2nd Stage, and Yara Arts Group.

Mari Lyn Henry

Mari Lyn Henry, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenEducator, Talent Manager, Career Coach
New York, New York USA

I feel most like myself when I teach a group of young actors audition skills.

Everyone knows me, because I’m an open book.

I look for inspiration from great works of art at the Metropolitan Museum.

The RSC’s NICHOLAS NICKLEBY changed my life because of Trevor Nunn’s imagination and the core work of the ensemble.

My favorite line is from the movie CASABLANCA: “Round up the usual suspects.”

My favorite cocktail is the Pasha Martini from the Pasha Restaurant (70 W. 71st Street) with sour cherry and lime juice. They also make great Turkish food.

My best escape is a biography.

I still dream of going to Paris to pay my respect to Sarah Bernhardt’s grave.

Mari Lyn Henry is the co-author with Lynne Rogers of five editions of HOW TO BE A WORKING ACTOR. More info:

Orietta Crispino

Orietta Crispino, member of the League of Professional Theatre Women.Director, Performer, Artistic Director
New York, New York USA

* Where do you look for inspiration?  Mostly life, dreams and books.

* What’s your favorite book / movie / line from a play / pop culture guilty pleasure / cocktail?  Barry Lyndon, any Cronenberg. I am not a cocktail kind of gal, but lately I have been enjoying Margaritas!!!

* What play or production changed your life? Einstein on the beach (Bob Wilson), Café Muller (Pina Bausch), La Vita che ti diedi (Pirandello/Castri), Kinkan Shonen (Sankai Juku).

* Is there anything you still dream of doing?  Playing the cello. King Lear (playing the king!).

* What’s the one thing nobody knows about you? I can fall asleep stroking my ears.

Orietta Crispino born in Italy, is a graduate of the prestigious “Piccolo Teatro” School in Milan, where she worked with the major Italian directors Strehler and Castri. She taught acting and directing there. She is co-founder and artistic director of Theaterlab in NYC. Her most recent production is Three Sisters Come and Go.

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