Coni Koepfinger & Dan Carter: LIVE FROM THE BARDO: My Dinner With Mary

The Greeks believed that theatre was threefold: to entertain, to educate, and exalt the human spirit. And if we’re going to exalt the human spirit we’re gonna have to understand that we can only do that through love. ~Coni Koepfinger

Coni Koepfinger, a 2021 recipient of the Olwen Wymark Award by the Writer’s Guild of Great Britain, is currently playwright-in-residence at both Manhattan Rep and Cosmic Orchid and has worked with several other notable NYC companies such as Theatre for the New City, The Secret Theatre, the New York Unfringed Fest, Broadway Bound Festival and Pan Asian Rep. She has connected hundreds through her virtual programs Airplay and Determined Women. She is a member of the Dramatist Guild, a former board member of the International Centre for Women Playwrights (ICWP) and a chair for the League Professional Theatre Women (LPTW) and currently sits as Media Advisory Board of the Lifeboat Foundation. As a very prolific indie artist, Coni’s work has been published and produced all over the globe.

Dan Carter served over thirty years as a university theatre administrator at Penn State, Florida State, and Illinois State, also serving as Artistic Director of Pennsylvania Centre Stage, Producing Director of Illinois Shakespeare Festival, and co-founder and Artistic Director of Appalachian Theatre Ensemble. He is Past President of the National Theatre Conference and the National Association of Schools of Theatre and is Immediate Past Dean of the College of Fellows of the American Theatre. He served Actors’ Equity Association for four years as Area Liaison from the State of Florida and is a recipient of the Society of American Fight Directors’ Patrick Crean Award. As a long-standing member of the National Theatre Conference, Dan Carter can be seen in the video archive of their Living Legacy Project.

Ever since I was a little girl, I felt that there was more to the story.  That a curtain would lift and, well, something more would be revealed.  My sister swore that I used to go into my bedroom closet and disappear, then show up again several hours later. As I grew up, I continued the practice, but localized my travels in dreams.  It wasn’t until college that my waking life and fantasies began to merge… And thus, my quest became clear- the theatre of the awakened dream. Walking into your dreamlife, can be risky… so I decided to bring my dreams to life.

Writing plays became my way of communicating with all life-  from the ordinary people to the sublime consciousness… all of which seemed to operate on the same plane for me.  It was clear that we are all human life forms that can conform, reform or deform to the energetic stimulus around us-  but when we PERForm- we are able perfect the form, taking it to a higher creative state. I was always surrounded by art. My sister, my cousin, my uncles… Music, painting, drawing was like bread and water. Passion, yes. Madness, yes. But I wanted to know more…  What was   beyond the curtain?  Why is art so important to the human experience? 

It was not until this play, LIVE FROM THE BARDO: MY DINNER WITH MARY, with the help of my brilliant co-author, Dan Carter, that I now have an answer.

The search for the inexplicable and metaphysical began influencing my playwriting in the early 1990s… In the play CANDLEDANCING, about the voice of St. Julian of Norwich, a medieval anchoress, there is a line… “ When you ask God to be your dance partner- the music never stops.” Well that sure makes life simpler but where exactly is God when I am in question? In 2019, I began to explore the concept of the Bardo-  a Tibetan Book of the Dead term that explains the Christian notion of purgatory, the place in between this life and next. It became clear to me that there in the Bardo, existed THE BARDO THEATRE, the place where the scenes of life were crafted by the ascended artists for those still living on Earth. So what does this have to do with Art here and now.  Hmmmm…

LIVE FROM THE BARDO: My Dinner with Mary is a new, provocative show that dares to peek beyond the stage doors of death. In this evolutionary look at life, death, memory, and imagination, two veteran actresses are now mysteriously reunited over the brainchild of creating art from their real lives. Revisiting their separate and disparate memories, they weave a tale worthy of their upcoming appearances in eternity at The Bardo Theatre, just beyond the veil in the Great Hall of the Players Club. As conduits of Divine Destiny, the spirits of legendary actors Joseph Jefferson, Helen Hayes, Katharine Hepburn, and Jose Ferrer emerge from their portraits to inspire these actresses as they move into their next incarnations onto a higher stage of existence and offer us a refreshing look at what’s beyond the stars. Written by Coni Koepfinger and Dan Carter, starring Mary Ellen Ashley and Mary Tierney, and directed by Dan Carter, this exciting new play will be presented by Theater for the New City January 13-23, 2022.

In  MY DINNER WITH MARY, two estranged friends, Mary and Mary Ellen, reunite.  We ask why?   I say to Dan, “Maybe Mary is dying?” He says, “Write the scene.”   I do and it starts to work. Then he says, “What if Mary Ellen is already dead?” Perfect! And of course, I imagine her in the Bardo. She’s auditioning for the “role of a lifetime” at The Bardo Theatre. But how does she communicate with these great, eternal artists?  What do they sound like to us?  To the audience. Where is this voice of the great beyond? The play is set in a dream, a fever dream, but dinner begins at THE PLAYERS CLUB. Here we are surrounded by memory of the actors whose portraits don the walls of The Great Hall.  And once again Helen Hayes, Jose Ferrer, Katharine Hepburn, Joseph Jefferson begin to speak beyond the walls of time… As they speak to us through Art.

DONATE TO “MY DINNER WITH MARY” https://theaterforthenewcity.net/donate/

In  MY DINNER WITH MARY, two estranged friends, Mary and Mary Ellen, reunite.  We ask why?   I say to Dan, “Maybe Mary is dying?” He says, “Write the scene.”   I do and it starts to work. Then he says, “What if Mary Ellen is already dead?” Perfect! And of course, I imagine her in the Bardo. She’s auditioning for the “role of a lifetime” at The Bardo Theatre. But how does she communicate with these great, eternal artists?  What do they sound like to us?  To the audience. Where is this voice of the great beyond? The play is set in a dream, a fever dream, but dinner begins at THE PLAYERS CLUB. Here we are surrounded by memory of the actors whose portraits don the walls of The Great Hall.  And once again Helen Hayes, Jose Ferrer, Katharine Hepburn, Joseph Jefferson begin to speak beyond the walls of time… As they speak to us through Art.

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Jessica Wu: Open Access Paths to Success

Actors Equity is opening its doors. I think this is one of the most exciting things that’s happening in my almost two decades as a Union member. It shifts the way people can become members. . . It is now OUR choice to become a member and that’s incredible.

Jessica Wu is an award-winning NYC-based playwright, director, songwriter, educator, and actor. Performance credits include the Broadway revivals of A Chorus Line and Miss Saigon, and she is the writer of numerous theatrical works including several full-length musicals – YOU, ME, I, WE (O’Neill Conference Semi-Finalist, Live & In Color Finalist, Winner of NAAP’s Discover New Musicals), and Poupelle of Chimney Town (debuting in Tokyo, Fall 2021; NYC, Summer 2022). In addition to her writing, Jessica is an Adjunct Theatre Professor at American University in Washington DC, and a Lyricist-Mentor with the Harvard-Radcliffe G&S Players. After spending several years running a Times-Sq non-profit theatre as Associate Artistic Director, Jessica is now is the owner/operator of her own consulting and development company Inspirate Creative. 

More than writing, directing, dancing, or producing my own projects – I love helping other creatives find their voice. 

In these past 2 decades, I’ve worked with a lot of creative people, on a lot of creative endeavors, in a lot of different stages of creative development. I’ve witnessed some incredible successes, but I’ve also seen innovative concepts fail to launch and brilliant ideas buried in mundane works.

I can 100% say: the most successful artists I’ve met are those who are truest to their own voice and the story they have to tell. 

While this may seem simple to the non-artist – believe me, I know from first-hand experience how impossible it can be with hundreds of other people’s influences, opinions and demands (not to mention your own hyperactive ideas and intense self-doubt) swirling around you. 

And, even though it is more-than-often single-minded, lonely work – I sincerely believe you shouldn’t have to be on that creative journey alone. 

That’s where I come in.

Through open-hearted collaboration, we can work together to help you and your work soar. 

I’m here to amplify your creativity and I can’t wait to connect with you.

Everything is storytelling and you are the storyteller. Your story and how you tell it has no choice but to be unique.

But I’ve worked with too many directors, producers, dramaturgs, and so-called ‘artist-mentors’ whose version of guidance is to impose their ideas, their ego, upon your work. 

So, I’m here to help you find your voice. Not their voice. Not my voice.

Your voice. 

Open Access  · Actors’ Equity Association (actorsequity.org)

As actor and delegate Jessica Wu (she/her) said, “To open up access to, especially, these communities who have been historically excluded from our industry through systemic racism, opening up that one pathway to be able to be seen, is a big step. It does not do anything to make more jobs, specifically for BIPOC artists. But it opens the door.”

#OpenAccessEquity #AsianActor #AEA #JessicaWu #BaayorkLee #Actor #FirstOnlineWithFran #Arts Advocacy

FB/Instagram: @woohoojwu

Yiqing Zhao: Would-be-doctor-turned Actor/Writer/Creative Life Coach

Everything is connected. Everything, all these things, becomes a part of YOU. But then this journey does not stop. Some people stop from manifesting what they want because they understand the importance of training and then they let the training stop them…I’m not going to wait until I get the certification [to become] a certified coach. I know training is part of the journey…but that’s not a pre-requisite for me to do something.

  • Lucy Liu’s savviness + Kimiko Glenn’s bubbliness
  • I did real surgeries on real people, twice, as an assistant
  • Must-haves: 85% dark chocolate & kale
  • Half-marathon runner, yogi, home chef, dog mom
  • An untethered spirit. INFJ, Enneagram Type 8, Rebel. 

I spent my mid-teens to mid-twenties dwelling in the “Woe is me” kind of emotional pain.

And I was living in those nightmares in my mind over and over again, making myself a victim of my memories.

Until one day it dawned on me: My past is just a story I tell myself.

💥I choose to move forward.
💥I choose to be led by love, not fear.
💥I choose to believe it before I see it.

Then one day I looked back and was surprised to find how grateful I am for my past:
IT MADE ME WHO I AM.

🌱What kind of stories are you telling yourself?
🌱What kind of memories are you holding onto?
🌱What kind of future would you like to create?

Everything is connected, and things are always working. I just believe the universe has a way for me. That’s the belief behind every decision I’ve made and will make. I don’t wait to get ready. I’ve seen so many talented people stuck because they gave their power away to the training, thinking they have to have A before they can do B. That is a very common limiting belief. I got my first few paid acting gigs without any acting training. I signed my first high-ticket coaching client without a coaching certificate. I came to this country by myself with no family or friends, only two suitcases adding up to my body weight. All you need is you, your commitment, and willingness, and you will know what training or support you need and you’ll go get them along the way

A question my audience often asks: How do you do that? How do you coach? Hop on a call with me! Let’s brainstorm and create your next chapter together. DM or click on website link

#NYWIFT
#yiqingzhao
#creativelifecoach
#embraceyourpast
#createyourfuture
#chooseyourself#investinyou
#entrepreneur#artist#loveislove
#leadwithlove#victim#minddrama
#thoughtleader

Jenny Lynn Stewart: A New York Spirit

It makes me feel happy. I feel happy when I sing. People who hear me sing tell me THEY feel happy; that I make their hearts happy. It’s the most joyful thing that I can do, I feel, for me and for others.

Photo:  Bill Westmoreland

JENNY LYNN STEWART, dramatic soprano, is a performer of uncommon versatility.

In 2021 Jenny officially became a member of the New York City Artist Corps when she received a $5,000 City Artists Corps Grant from New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA)

Ms. Stewart was recognized for The New York Spirit, a musical program of uplifting and inspiring songs targeted for the 55+ senior audience together with stories of success during the pandemic intended to lift the audiences’ spirits and inspire them for their lives going forward.

Lincoln Center’s Library for the Performing Arts was Jenny’s original participating partner for The New York Spirit for a performance on September 18, 2021 that was free and open to the public, a requirement of the grant. Due to Covid restrictions, the New York Library system decided to postpone all in person performances.

Jenny contacted the City Artist Corps and told them about the development.  She was told that The New York Spirit must have a performance that was free and open to the public by October 31, 2021 or she would have to return the grant money.

After spending countless hours searching for a participating partner who would host The New York Spirit for a concert that was free and open to the public, Jenny found Bruce’s Garden.  www.Brucesgarden.net.   There, she met the Artistic Director, Aaron Scott who agreed to host a performance of The New York Spirit  that was free and open to the public on Saturday, October 23, 2021.  Aaron Scott in addition to being the Artistic Director of Bruce’s Garden, is a well-known jazz musician and played drums with the McCoy Tyner Trio.

The New York Spirit has come full circle and is now scheduled for a performance at Lincoln Center’s New York Public Library on Saturday, April 30, 2022 at 2 P.M. The concert is free and open to the public.

The New York Spirit

An upcoming performance will be at:
Lincoln Center’s New York Library for the Performing Arts
Bruno Walter Auditorium
Saturday, April 30, 2022, at 2:00 PM
The concert is free and open to the public.
Free tickets required.

The Eventbrite link

This program is made possible by the New York City Artist Corps.

Jenny will be accompanied by Matthew Martin Ward, piano and Ritt Henn, bass.  The performance is directed by Ira Siff. 

Jenny has toured in the United States and internationally in such Rodgers and Hammerstein classics as Carousel (Nettie) and The Sound of Music (Mother Abbess) with fellow artists including Marie Osmond, John Davidson and Patrick Cassidy.

Ms. Stewart’s performance of her one-woman show “Give a Little Bit More, Richard Rodgers Revisited” at Don’t Tell Mama in New York City received amazing reviews including John Hoglund of BackStage saying “I believe she sounds most like a combination of a very young Barbara Cook and the late opera great Eileen Farrell. Her luminous sound fills the room with vocal magic.”  Audiences left the club full of joy and passionate about the performance.

Her classical music career includes solo performances at Carnegie Hall and the title roles in Aida and Tosca.

She has received reviews in “The Boston Globe,”, “Backstage,” “The Greenville News,” and “Press Focus” to name just a few.  “The Boston Globe,” for instance wrote “As the Mother Abbess, Jenny Lynn Stewart turns in a very successful “Climb Every Mountain.” Outside “Sister Act,” where else could a nun get such an emphatic standing ovation?”

Some of her tailor-made programs include a “Tribute to Barbara Cook,” “On Broadway:  The Forties and Fifties,” “The Sixties:  On Broadway,” “Lift Your Spirit (That’s The Spirit)” “Sondheim, Rodgers and Kern,” and “Magical Musical Moments,” a potpourri of Jenny’s unique offerings featuring moments from Broadway shows, popular songs and classic opera arias.  Her shows have been described as “classy, elegant, and fun-filled and holds great appeal for audiences of all demographics.”  She specializes in preparing programs for unique purposes such as fund-raisers, political events, and corporate events.

Ms. Stewart also has estimable opera, concert and recital experience. Her operatic repertoire includes the title roles in Aida and Tosca, Amelia in Un Ballo in Maschera, Leonora in La Forza Del Destino, Leonora in Il Trovatore, Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana and Magda in The Consul. Also, Ms. Stewart has performed the roles of Anne Coleman and Abigail Clark in the opera Mary Dyer by American composer, Richard Owen with New York Lyric Opera. She has sung with the Fort Worth, Arlington, Brooklyn Lyric, il Piccolo Teatro dell’ Opera and Surry, Maine opera companies, the Interlochen Opera Theater and Mid-America Productions. Ms. Stewart made her Carnegie Hall debut as the soprano soloist with the Manhattan Philharmonic in the Dvorak Requiem.

Adding to her credits, Ms. Stewart was a Finalist in the Center for Contemporary Opera’s International Opera Singers Competition and was honored to be the soloist for a special veteran’s memorial service at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery, in the Memorial Amphitheater.

Ms. Stewart is a frequent and acclaimed recitalist with a deep and varied repertoire. Her recital appearances include Ann Arbor, Dallas, Detroit, Lenox and New York as well as Busseto, Italy and Graz, Austria. She has been featured as the opening recitalist for the prestigious Morning Music Club’s recital series in Nyack, New York and has presented recitals at New York City’s Donnell Library to warm and enthusiastic audiences.

Ms. Stewart holds degrees in television and radio from Michigan State University and in voice performance from the University of Michigan. She continued her education in Europe, first at Karl-Franzens University, in Graz, Austria, studying the German language and then in Busseto, Italy where she worked with Renata Tebaldi and Carlo Bergonzi. She has explored the Wagnerian repertoire with Mr. Jean Cox and Anna Reynolds in Peesten, Germany. Her voice teachers and coaches include Nancy Stokes Milnes, Sherrill Milnes, Gene Cline, Bill Lewis, James de Blasis, Ira Siff, Gustav Meier, Leona Witter, Laurel Miller and Charles Riecker.

Holly Savas: Mom, Artist, VP Creative Action Network: An Artists’ Conduit for Change

I needed to use what I knew about working with big companies, my own company . . . to spread the word that art can change the world. . . Having something to do that spreads good in the world that makes me not focus on [my children] so much [so] that they can go out and do their own thing so they can become more autonomous in the world.

Creative Action Network (CAN) is the go-to online marketplace for social impact art and merchandise that supports independent artists and worthy social causes, via the products we sell on our website. We believe art can change the world, and it’s our mission to keep spreading that message while giving back to organizations we care about. 

Holly Savas is a mom, artist and VP of Brand, Art & Community at Creative Action Network. She’s a passionate supporter of artists and of universal arts education in schools and makes it her mission to raise awareness and give back to her community whenever possible. Her job at CAN is the perfect combo of all of those things rolled into one.

ART CAN CHANGE THE WORLD…

Creative Action Network doesn’t keep their opinions to themselves, and neither should you! When it comes to speaking out about important issues like gun reform, racial justice and gender equality (just to name a few) they’re getting louder by the day.

Raising our voices together means we can create lasting change, and their global community has put together a beautifully designed collection of activist posters that gets our messages across, all the while supporting hardworking social organizations like The Dream Corps. Head to their shop for the latest and choose from thousands of posters depicting the causes you care about! ~ Team CAN

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Latest product (here are two): Mother’s Day 20% off sale starts 4/2  Green New Deal poster book that gives back to Sunrise MovementFeminist Socks including a new “Thanks Mom” variety 5-pack of famous feminist moms for Mother’s Day, with sales supporting UltraViolet organization

 Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 9th! Head to Creative Action Network for a collection of meaningful gifts that celebrate mom, including feminist socks (think RBG!) books that are chock full of beautiful activist art and so much more. Every gift supports a worthy social cause like women’s rights, the environment and civil justice. Take 20% off everything at CAN + free shipping over $50 until Mother’s Day.”


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