Celebrating the members of the League of Professional Theatre Women

Archive for the category “Educator”

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.

Zoe (Corell) Kaplan

Zoe Kaplan, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenProfessor, actor, writer
New York, New York USA

The plays and productions that chiefly inspired my theatrical passion were GB Shaw’s Heartbreak House, where I played Hesione Hushabye when I was 19,and The Barretts of Wimpole Street where Ii played Elizabeth at 20. (Both were college productions, with such professionals as a young Barnard Hughes, doing the men.)

I played featured roles in Joe Papp’s Shakespeare in the Park in earlier days, and acted in several Off Broadway theatres – and Fringe Theaters in London – as well as the “Play of the Week” on TV, and a few other TV shows.

I still participate in readings, the latest being at Jonathan Bank’s Mint Theater in a short DH Lawrence drama.

I was fortunate in growing up in Manhattan in a very intellectual and artistic household, as well as in having an uncle who was the Music and Drama critic of a NY newspaper From the age of 4, I was taken to theater, opera, ballet and concerts – in press seats – till I was a late teenager. As I always say, I’m the only person I know who went from the best seats to the gods, instead of vice-versa, as in the normal course of events!

I still hope to have some success in playwriting. I translated Alfred de Musset’s Lorenzaccio from the French, and Harold Clurman, at the end of his life, liked it so much that he opted to direct it but died before this could happen. The Guthrie also was interested in producing it, but it never materialized. As a lyricist, I wrote the lyrics for a projected musical version of Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard – which I retitled The Trees of Silence. (Some famous composers were interested – George Kleinsinger, John Duffy – but considered it too operatic, being on the cusp of Sondheim’s capitalizing and popularizing of that form.)

The theater still beckons and remains a passion.

My biography of “Eleanor of Aquitaine”- a most dramatic lady-was published in the late 1980s.

Zoe (Corell) Kaplan, native New Yorker, attended Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London; has acted here in and in London. PhD in Dramatic Literature, History and Criticism from CUNY; taught for many years at CUNY, NYU and Marymount Manhattan College. Published poetry, short stories, lyrics, and working on plays.

Asmaa Yehia Eltaher

Asmaa Yehia Eltaher, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenAssistant Lecturer / Actress
Cairo, Egypt and New York, New York USA (til Feb 2013)

I’m in love with performances. When I saw an experimental play on Hamlet in a festival in Sweden 1996 performed by one Canadian actor for all rules and with only some cubes as the set, I fell in love with extra-ordinary performances. Also when I attended a performance from Swaziland performed in Egypt 1999 about the Odessa performed by only two actors for the multiple characters in the epic, I felt the power of the Actor. And whenever I see the powerful popular or folkloric performances in Egypt I dream of using my body as an instrument to be the storyteller, the dancer, the musician and the dramatist. My ultimate feeling is when I tell a story to audiences to be the master of my own body and sound. My lovely escape is belly-dancing when I dance I read the words with my body I feel great and love being a woman. I believe in what Grotowski said “the important thing is not the words but what we do with these words…”. I dream of making a theatre experience in Egypt- as we are a body-languaged people- to release our bodies from borders and tell what we really want to tell about ourselves.

Asmaa Yehia Eltaher is an Egyptian Visiting Scholar at the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center/CUNY Graduate Center, and working on her Ph.D. thesis on African theatre. Assistant lecturer in Theatre at Egypt’s Helwan University. BAs insociology & drama and criticism, and MA in drama and criticism. Also an accomplished actor in Egyptian television, film, and theatre.

chandra thomas

chandra thomas, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenActor/Writer/Producer/Youth-Arts Advocate
New York, New York USA

What play or production changed your life?
i actually kind of bookmark my life by plays…

like BIG RIVER, the first play i ever saw when i was just a wee one. My mom took me to see a play at a “big theatre” (her way of describing a Broadway show). i remember it being one of the first times that i got to pick out my own outfit — my first step to what i perceived as womanhood.

There was THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES — the first play i ever performed in. After a year at a new school, it was my performance as Lady-In-Waiting #4 where i finally discovered a space and air and expanse that welcomed me just as i understood myself to be.

i learned how to balance embarrassment and purpose as i pranced around the stage in very little clothing in SWEET CHARITY in front of my Physics/Calculus teacher, Mr. Book (who was as by-the-book as his given name would indicate).

Of course, there’s THE LARAMIE PROJECT where i stepped onstage for opening night minutes after breaking up with a longtime boyfriend. Or A RHYME FOR THE UNDERGROUND where i gave myself permission to bring together all of the creative worlds that i so adore like multi-character performance, rapping, performance poetry, singing, dancing, writing, revising, producing & plain-ol’-makin’-it-happen.

But the game changer (or perhaps better called the “play changer”) was seeing the original Broadway production of RENT. This production was the first time i experienced people, stories, lives that i knew and recognized… and in a “big theatre” no less. Before my eyes and ignited in my spirit was a validation that what i had to say (and what people like me from where i called home had to say) had a place in the global discourse and in the professional theatre world. That what we had to say mattered.

Originally from New York, chandra thomas performs on stage and screens small & large, writes plays, performance poetry, screenplays and Twitter updates, produces performance and film projects and is continually inspired by the young women of viBe Theater Experience, the non-profit, arts-education organization she co-founded.

Saviana Stanescu

Saviana Stanescu, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenPlaywright / Professor
New York, New York USA

Inspiration, perspiration, persuasion (with an accent)

Inspiration? In newspapers, magazines, TV/radio shows (yes, even reality shows), books, blogs, subways, trains, planes, streets, cafes, conversations, confessions, my own imagination, and that ambiguous and magic place of ideas floating around above streetcars named desire.

Guilty pleasure: I watch “American Idol”, “The Voice” and “Fashion Star” for the thrill and suspense of eliminations and the joy of seeing people in the process of becoming famous, before the celebrity veil obscures their genuine qualities.

6 main ideas that haunt me when writing (since I moved to NYC in 2001):

Immigration – I am obsessed with people living in that inbetween space between two worlds, having to negotiate permanently between the old culture and the new culture.

Power – I am fascinated by the ways in which people’s lives are shaped by the social, political and geographical circumstances of their birth and by the power dynamics between countries. I dramatize the convoluted relationships between the West and the East (if the dichotomy is still relevant) and the confrontations among people of various backgrounds. What is the root of violence? Almost always – the lack of love.

Love – I never get tired of analyzing various forms of love

Humor – All my plays walk a (hopefully meaningful) tightrope between comedy and drama.
“If you’re going to tell people the truth, you’d better make them laugh. Otherwise, they’ll kill you.” George Bernard Shaw

People – I find the human spectacle endlessly fascinating. Flawed human beings, the underdogs who dream of becoming topdogs, are my favorite characters. I never underestimate the discrete charm of losers and slackers.

I learn something from each person.
I’ll never cease learning.
I’ll never stop believing in creativity.
I’ll never stop believing in kindness.
(I’ll never depend on the kindness of strangers :))
I hope.

Women – Yes, women are people, I know. But I gotta close my notes on inspiration by re-emphasizing the need of complex women protagonists in our “small” plays and on their big stages. Let’s keep telling our hi/stories, describe our e-motions, and persuade/seduce/force male artistic directors to produce us! 🙂

Saviana Stanescu is a Romanian-born award-winning playwright. Plays include Aliens With Extraordinary Skills (Women’s Project, published by Samuel French), Waxing West (La MaMa, 2007 New York Innovative Theatre Award). Member of: LARK’s artistic cabinet, NYTW’s Usual Suspects, EST. Saviana teaches at NYU and ESPA – Primary Stages.

Wendy Barrie-Wilson

Wendy Barrie-Wilson, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenActor, Potter, Teacher, Director
New York, New York + Ohio USA

What play or production changed your life?
From Stoppard’s Arcadia I learned what life was all about. If we could define a leaf mathematically, then we could define a tree, then a forest, and then the earth. And does that mean it is all predestined? And the answer is… we may never know — so Dance.

From Doubt I learned empathy is a long hard continuous road — learning how to walk in another’s shoes.

From summers watching the Stratford Shakespeare Festival – I learned what acting was about.

What’s your favorite play?
A Streetcar Named Desire –which I have had the fortune of working on 5 times. And Cyrano de Bergerac that I have done several times and played nearly all the women in it- just waiting to do the Duenna.

What’s your favorite line from a play?
“Sometime there is God so quickly”- Tennessee Williams
“I am in mourning for my life”- Anton Chekhov

What’s your favorite movie of late?
I had one of those deep cathartic desperate cries after watching Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go”. And filled with furious anger after seeing Rachel Weisz in “The Whistleblower”.

Where do you look for inspiration?
When those strange, synchronistic, wonder-filled moments happen in life that let you breath and see the world a little differently… even if only for a short time.

Is there anything you still dream of doing?
Everything. Travel to the Grand Canyon, The Dakotas, Angkor Watt, Bali, Samoa, and see Venice, Santorini and Kauai again. Learn Flamenco dancing, write a book, work on more feature films.
I’d really like to build a home. Put a pool in. Make a lot of money. The usual stuff.

But for now I will continue to caretake my mother who has Dementia (without any help from my family) and rest when I can while I wonder what life will put before me later on.

I feel most like myself when I …. working on a show, rehearsing and discovering.

What is your best escape?
Working on a show. Or getting a long massage.

What’s the one thing nobody knows about you?
A psychic told me I had three past lives. Russian, Victorian England and Native American. I think she was right.

Wendy Barrie-Wilson: Actor: Over 100 plays, including Sister Aloysius in European premiere of Doubt in Vienna, Austria. (SALT Award &  DayTony Award for subsequent productions of Doubt.)  Broadway: Our Town (Paul Newman) and All My Sons. TV: Mrs. Chitwood on The Guiding Light.  Director: “Einstein and The Roosevelts”. Professor: Acting – Denison University.

Natasha Lee Martin

Natasha Lee Martin, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenActress/Director/Playwright/Professor
Jersey City, New Jersey USA

Where do you look for inspiration?
Children/ The absurdity of everyday life / People in high power positions who do not take themselves too seriously.

What’s your favorite line from a play?
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken” – Oscar Wilde

What play or production changed your life?
Hidden A Gender by Kate Bornstein. I played Al/Kate in it about 10 years ago and since a mentor of mine, Dr. Noreen Barnes, had worked with her in the first production at Theater Rhinocerous in 1989, I had the good fortune to interview her about the role. She is a fantastic inspiration for artists of what it is to be a human, regardless of self-imposed/societal identities, and to truly persevere in life. More about her work:

Is there anything you still dream of doing?
Turn our country’s artistic commerce away from this eco-capitalist system.

I feel most like myself when I ….
Am onstage exploring other psyches.

What is your best escape?
Sailing and teaching it to young people. The only time we are truly free of technological chatter and imposed media; to breathe and just be…

What’s the one thing nobody knows about you?
I am obsessed with unicorns (yes I admit I had those pastel and medieval posters all over my room when I was younger). If I am alone at night I will sleep with the corner of the blanket rolled up over my head from when I was a child and afraid of whatever “thing” would get me. I still do it out of habit because the blanket has magical protective powers — obviously.

Natasha Lee Martin holds an MFA in Performance Pedagogy, and has enjoyed performing and teaching for the past 15 years. She has appeared in television and film roles on FOX, TLC, DISNEY, NIPPON TV JAPAN & stages throughout the USA. She is a Guest Artist / Asst Professor of Performing Arts.

Andrea Caban

Andrea Caban, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenDramatist, Actor, Acting Teacher, Voice & Speech Coach
New York, New York USA

Play that changed my lifePinocchio, don’t smoke that Cigarette. I was the only 1st grader cast in the production. Had a crush on Pinocchio, a 5th grader. Been an actor ever since.

Is there anything I don’t still dream of doing? I have to edit my to-do list all the time! Here are some:

  • I would like to continue traveling the world performing my work and helping other women create their own work.
  • I would like to do a season in a Shakespearean rep company…I like being part of a theater family and I love love love the bard.
  • I’d love a university position teaching voice and speech. I’m at home teaching. And helping someone connect to her breath is a privilege.
  • I’d like to spend every January through March somewhere sunny.
  • I’d like to become a mom.

I feel most like myself when I’m in rehearsal. Rehearsal is my favorite part of making theater…where my creative process gets to hang out with others’ creative processes for art-makin’ fun times! I also feel a lot like myself when I’m performing my solo shows. I “play” myself so that makes sense.

Favorite cocktail:  ginger martini.  It’s a very very rare treat.

Best Escape(s): Baths. And Mexico.

Andrea Caban, NYIT award-winning solo artist, has performed her work in New York, regionally, and abroad. This spring, Questions My Mother Can’t Answer tours to OSF, Boise Contemporary, and several UC schools. Dialect expert,, featured in over 35 accent videos. Affiliations: Dramatists Guild, VASTA, AEA, & SAG/AFTRA.,

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.

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