Celebrating the members of the League of Professional Theatre Women

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

Tisa Chang

Tisa Chang, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenTheatre Director
New York, New York USA

Where do you look for inspiration?
From my past in China and to areas that have unsung stories such as Tibet, Vietnam and the Cambodian genocide in the 70’s which we made into the music play Cambodia Agonistes.

What’s your favorite movie?
Roman Holiday starring Audrey Hepburn, who is my role model in terms of elegance and classiness and a yearning for the unknown.

What play or production changed your life?
Seeing Martha Graham dance in Clytemestra which had such power and earthiness that shaped my artistic directions; have studied dance and piano since age 6 and this was a revelation to see her perform.

Is there anything you still dream of doing?
To act again maybe with Robert Redford (I was at Sundance in 1984) or George Clooney.

What is your best escape?
In Cannes by the beach

What’s the one thing nobody knows about you?
That’s a secret of course but salacious.

Tisa Chang acted on Broadway in The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel starring Al Pacino, the films Ambush Bay, Year of the Dragon and Escape From Iran on CBS TV. Directed at LaMama; founded the Chinese Theatre Group which led to founding of Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, celebrating its 35th season in 2012.

Lenore DeKoven

Lenore DeKoven, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenDirector, Educator, Author
New York, New York USA

What play or production changed your life?
The Eternal Road, a monumental historical morality play, written by Franz Werfel, directed by the famous Austrian director, Max Reinhardt, with music by Kurt Weill.

As a very small child I often accompanied my mother when she went to see a play my father (Roger DeKoven) was appearing in or went to meet him backstage after the matinee to go to dinner. This epic production was the very first one I remember visiting and it was particularly significant because one of the members of a huge and impressive cast of men and women was a small, nice looking boy of about eight or nine. The play was a Biblical spectacle with an impressive set of risers and shifting drops, together with odd, colorful costumes and haunting music. The storyline held little interest for me, but what did impress me was the boy. How clever he seemed. How much fun he seemed to be having!

Backstage, while waiting for my father to change, I was allowed to play on the steps of the risers on stage and I actually remember trying to duplicate the moves of the boy who in my eyes was so lucky to be able to do this every night and have such a good time. The stage seemed huge to my small body and surely a better playground than any I had ever visited. The combination of light, color and sound had created a magical world that I wanted to make my home. So this is where Daddy went when he wasn’t home with us. I was told that the boy’s father was also an actor in the play and I made a secret promise to myself that I was going to figure out a way to go to the magical world every night with my father. Dad brought me to the boy’s dressing room so I could meet him. It was awkward. I was very shy and didn’t know what to say, but I found out that his name was Sidney Lumet.

Lenore DeKoven has produced and directed on both coasts in theatre, film and TV and has been on the film and theatre faculties of UCLA, NYU and Columbia University. She has had two books published: Changing Direction: A Practical Approach to Directing Actors in Film and Theatre, and Twilight Man. Artistic Director: Our Workshop East.

Billie Allen aka Billie Allen-Henderson or Wilhelmina A. Henderson

Billie Allen, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenActor and Director
New York, New York USA

Where do you look for inspiration?
To myself and the many things that the universe sends me.

Favorite Book:
The Warmth of Many Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Favorite Movie:
I don’t really go to the movies. Maybe movies will be in my future.

Favorite Line:
“I would like to lie and say I love Raymond. But I do not. He is a poet and is Jewish. He is very interested in Negroes.” Funnyhouse of a Negro by Adrienne Kennedy.

Pop Culture Guilty Pleasure:
My MacBook Air – love It!

No alcohol.

What play/production changed your life?
Funnyhouse. Had me looking at life through a whole a new prism. The language, the particular kaleidoscope. Because I’ve encountered so many people tipped in the direction of Sara, toward self-loathing.

Is there anything you still dream of doing?
Oh yes. Big time. Can’t wait.

I feel most like myself when I……hear good music. Classical jazz, classical music. Bruckner, Mahler.

What is your best escape?

What’s the one thing nobody knows about you?
(Well, three people actually know this; my cleaning woman, my niece and me): For the past 20 years or so I always have 36 pairs of underwear – white cotton knit from Marks and Spencer (London); my niece Candace, who lives in London, is my procurer. This is my security blanket. I feel perfectly calm and secure about anything I might encounter.

Billie Allen: Born January 13, 1925, in Richmond, Virginia, I always knew I would be involved in theatre. I began as a classically trained dancer. First Broadway show: On the Town. As an actor, Mamba’s Daughters with Ethel Waters was my first play. More Broadway, including A Raisin in the Sun. A natural progression — I became a director.

Ruth Mayleas

Ruth Mayleas, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenFoundation Arts Program Officer OR Foundation Arts Executive
New York, New York USA

I believe strongly in government and private support for the entire nonprofit sector of all the arts, and have worked in both sectors — with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ford Foundation — to further those beliefs and convictions. In all, the grant programs I developed in both sectors, the two guiding principles were the quality of the arts being produced and attention to representation of minorities and women.

Originally, I was strongly influenced by my family, which provided me with extensive exposure to the arts and particularly the theatre.

I was present at the flowering of the Off Broadway theatre movement in New York and have remained strongly attached to the work of its pioneers and, very selectively, with exponents of experimental work. Though no play or production changed my life, I was certainly strongly influenced by productions seen in Europe during a seminal trip there in the early sixties — and later by theatre in the then Soviet Union transitioning to Russia — and still later by performing arts (theatre, dance) seen in Asia, particularly Asia and Indonesia.

No really favorite book, though I could read and re-read many 19th century novels, and Henry James, and The English Patient—and am mesmerized by the books of W.G. Sebald (there are all too few of them).

I dream of more travel, mostly to unfamiliar places, but also to Italy which will never be familiar enough. The other thing I dream of doing is finishing Proust!

Ruth Mayleas was first Director of Theatre Program, NEA: 1966-78; subsequently Director, Arts Program and International Consultant, Ford Foundation: 1982-1994. At NEA shaped national program for nonprofit theatres throughout the country. At Ford Foundation work encompassed support for all performing arts, including theatre and visual arts. Work emphasized minority arts organizations, commissioning, development of new work.

Elsa Rael

Elsa Rael, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenPlaywright, Lyricist, Book Writer
New York, New York USA

Some ideas, themes, books, films get lodged in our heart’s memories for ages, and one such for me was a novel, The Leopard, by a brilliant Sicilian, Giuseppe Lampedusa, written in the 1880s. Much later, the material was filmed in Italian, with Burt Lancaster (probably dubbed) and happily faithful to Lampedusa’s painful vision.

The character understood he had little choice but to live with the societal changes which were developing, causing him great distress. However, his family, wife, mistress and even his servants accepted the inevitability of what was happening, adding to the Leopard’s pain. The work, oddly, foreshadowed the dire events of The Cherry Orchard.

Within the past few weeks, I wrote a much updated outline — my version of the story, taking into account how we, in our time, are accepting of our society’s immoral greed and lack of caring for those on whom we trod. Whether the material will become a play or a novel I don’t yet know, but I feel I have a date with the idea.

Elsa Rael wrote 9 plays produced off Broadway and at major regional theatres, and special material for Walter Cronkite, Kaye Ballard, Marsha Mason,and Beatrice Straight. As an arts advocate, she co-produced with Joseph Papp at the Public a festival of 30 plays by women with roles for women over 50. Gov. Mario Cuomo honored her with a special citation.

Julia Miles

Julia Miles, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenArtistic Director
New York, New York USA

I don’t think anyone knows I was a farm girl from Pelham, Georgia. The one thing I learned there was to get away as soon as possible. I went to boarding school and then Northwestern University for a Theatre Arts Degree, got married, moved to New York City and eventually had three wonderful daughters…Stacey, Lisa and Marya.

Acting, producing plays and helping women playwrights was my work. We were always trying to raise money, it seemed. More resources are still needed to encourage women’s creativity.

Going to theatre and movies with my daughters and friends makes me feel most like myself.

A nice vodka tonic or glass of Merlot is a treat now and then…and chocolate is always welcome.

I am extremely lucky and most grateful for my family, colleagues and friends who have helped me along the way.

Julia Miles is the founding artistic director of Women’s Project and Productions. Julia was the Associate Director of the American Place Theatre in the late sixties. It is there, in 1978, that she founded the Women’s Project, which became an independent producing organization in 1986. She is a founding member of the League of Professional Theatre Women/New York.

Week in Review, March 19 – 25, 2012

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. As theatre artists, administrators, and crew, we often work on productions that morph, develop and/or change mid-stream; Blog30 is no different, and so was born the Week in Review.

Every Sunday, the women featured in the previous six days, as well as three others from our first two months, will receive a little more attention, a second chance for readers to learn about them. Sunday is often a day for reflection, offering the opportunity to catch up on the previous week’s activities. Now, the Week in Review gives our readers the opportunity to experience a week’s entries in one easy sitting. We hope you enjoy the latest addition to Blog30.

I feel most like myself when I …. Dance.  (Especially to The Commodores’ She’s A Brick House.) – Alisa Matlovsky, March 19

That picture is 6 years old. But that’s me now, and I’m sticking to that.Gabriele Schafer, March 20

Finding the connections between the past and the present makes me feel like I’m part of a continuum of human experience, and that’s inspiring. – Cara Reichel, March 21

Anywhere near the matchless sound of geese or wildlife inspires me. – Catherine Gropper, March 22

Never mind the cocktails, bring on the champagne! – Amy Stoller, March 23

I love the movie My Favorite Year because it makes me laugh, makes me think, and touches my heart. – Tricia McDermott, March 24

From the Archives
Seventy? The play doesn’t give a damn. – Robin Rice Lichtig, January 5

Ladies & Gents, an Irish play which I produced in the public toilets in Central Park! We had five hundred people on the waiting list when we closed! — Georganne Aldrich Heller, January 12

I have been accused of being a romantic—and I probably am. – Melody Brooks, January 19

Tricia McDermott

Tricia McDermott, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenDirector / Producer / Consultant
New York, New York and Long Island, New York USA

Where do you look for inspiration?
I’d like to say it came from beauty or some munificent place. But in truth, I think I find it in conflict, danger, and injustice. I find the need to address injustice and to try to bring peace out of conflict. Of course it could also be why I love comedy because the best comedies are about danger but we address it through laughter. A pratfall, someone caught in a compromising position…comedy does the same for me.

What’s your favorite book / movie / line from a play / pop culture guilty pleasure / cocktail? 
I don’t have favorites per se but I do have things I love. I love the movie My Favorite Year because it makes me laugh, makes me think, and touches my heart.

What play or production changed your life? 
For me it isn’t a full play or production but moments across a spectrum of doing and viewing theatre.

There have been so many. A few when I worked at the Asolo in Sarasota; one that gave me insight into my relationship with my with my father, another that jolted me back to the memory of my grandmother. Then there was the time during a friend’s production of Last Of The Formicans in grad school. The second act of the play was so relevant to my life at the moment that I couldn’t help but weep openly and I couldn’t stop. Needless to say those around me were a bit freaked out.

Is there anything you still dream of doing? 
My biggest dream is still my theatre. Airmid still doesn’t have a permanent home yet. While we’ve done some amazing work so far, I’d like to do more year round. I’d like to give more people jobs on a regular basis. If I can be a good employer and a good artist, who tells stories that affect people’s lives at the same time, I think I will have done something important with my life.

What is your best escape? 
I could really use a best escape so if someone has some suggestions, please email them! A glass of wine or shot of Jack Daniels will do in the meantime.

What’s the one thing nobody knows about you?
Nobody knows… and no one ever will!

Tricia McDermott: founder/producing artistic director, Airmid Theatre, which recovers & produces classic works by women. Previous: Executive Director, Shakespeare Globe Centre USA; literary manager, Primary Stages; various posts at regional theatres in the southeast. Member, Society of Stage Directors & Choreographers; MFA in Directing, Illinois State; BA in Theatre, Florida State.

Amy Stoller

Amy Stoller, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenDialect Design/Coaching, Dramaturgy
New York, New York USA; global via Skype

Where do you look for inspiration? I don’t look for it; I let it sneak up on me.

What’s your favorite book / movie / line from a play / cocktail? I never have only one favorite of anything!

Book: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; Pride and Prejudice

Movie: Casablanca; Some Like it Hot

Line: “We’re actors! We’re the opposite of people!” (Although I probably quote “Sometimes there’s God so quickly” and “Are we all met?” more often); also pretty much anything from Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz, The Cocoanuts, and any other early Marx Bros. film

Cocktail: Never mind the cocktails, bring on the champagne!

What play or production changed your life? All my firsts. In the audience: the original production of My Fair Lady (first Broadway show); Peter Brook’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (first Shakespeare on stage). On stage: The Crucible. As a dialect designer: An Ideal Husband.

Is there anything you still dream of doing? Dialect design for Broadway. Breaking into feature film. Directing the first revival of a virtually unknown seventeenth century comedy by a woman (yes, I have one in mind).

What is your best escape? Reading.

Amy Stoller. Resident Dialect Designer/Coach (and occasional dramaturge) at the Mint. Other New York and regional includes world premiers by Athol Fugard, Paula Vogel, Anna Deavere Smith. Television: children’s animation to documentaries. Current/Recent: Let Me Down Easy, Rutherford and Son, A Moon for the Misbegotten. Officer, Voice and Speech Trainers Association.

Catherine Gropper

Catherine Gropper, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenPlaywright; artist; producer; eco activist
New York, New York USA

I look to re-writing for inspiration. Anywhere near the matchless sound of geese or wildlife inspires me, too.

Favorite book: just bought it; it’s called Quiet. Usually Rebecca Gilman’s works change my life. Other Desert Cities changed my life. Hughie with Al Pacino. Any production of Salesman or any Miller for structure.

I dream of doing things all the time! Painting or writing develops that intuition!

I feel most like myself when I’m re-writing or watching rehearsal; I love the process!

My best escape is climbing boulders or re-writing.

What many do not know is how active I am for wildlife since the Gulf oil spill and the Guardianship Awards that I created. I dream of making a difference there. (Also that I sang on a cruise ship.)

All woman writers can make a difference somewhere; in their way on the page for the stage and through their passions for the planet!

Catherine Gropper: Miss Crandall’s Classes; Guild Hall; 2011; Drama Bookstore (A. Marcovicci); Mead Theatre, DC (Salome Jens 2010). Embers premiere; (Jens) completing extended Off-Broadway run following Four Star review; The Scotsman (2001-02, Rowand). Currently: Concessions; Summer Rental. Dramatists Guild. WI Co-Founder. Produces tri-state plays. CTI (2012). Columbia, MA Phil. 1978; NYU; 1976. Awards in literary perception; Yale Directing Intensive.

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