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.

FACEBOOK:https://www.facebook.com/theaterforthenewcity/videos/676985693261876
https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=10158862481639425&set=a.10151202450204425

https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=10159635787121092&set=pcb.10159635878786092

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/p/CUYSrQAlYJd/

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

Jeannie Moon: Isn’t It Romantic

I write about relationships and I write about the ability of love to heal…We call the genre the literature of hope because we’d like to see it’s not just about that happily-ever-after; it’s about giving a hopeful optimistic view of how things can go. It doesn’t always mean it’s perfect, but it means like that idea: Love always wins.

Award-winning and best selling author Jeannie Moon is a native Long Islander and imagines that conjures an image of big hair and a nasally accent, but that’s not the Long Island that she knows. Raised in a north shore town that once would have been called bucolic and now people call trendy, she married her high school sweetheart and her children were born in the same hospital as she was. She has deep roots here, and it gives her a history.
A strong sense of home which reflects in her fabulous stories.

Like most women, she wears a lot of hats. When she was in college, she planned on becoming a famous sportscaster. However, never being objective, she leaned more toward the publicity side of the business, doing work for local papers and local teams. But the plan took a detour and she found herself in the front a classroom, teaching English. Teaching was in her blood, and she was hooked.

Jeannie’s books have received a number of honors. In addition to multiple starred reviews, Jeannie has been a finalist in the Bookseller’s Best and the Holt Medallion contests. In 2018, Jeannie’s novel, Then Came You, won the Bookseller’s Best Award for best long contemporary romance. Jeannie was the recipient of the 2018 RWA Service Award presented by Romance Writers of America for outstanding service to the romance community.

Her latest book Christmas in Angel Harbor is out now and to find out more about Jeannie, connect with her on her website, Facebook, Instagram and Book bub.

Readers can keep in touch with Jeannie on social media, as she’s a regular on Facebook and Instagram. Visit her website http://www.jeanniemoon.com for a complete listing of her books, social networks, and special appearances and events. If you’d like to book Jeannie to speak to your library patrons, book club or writers’ group, please check her Extras page for a list of available workshops.

Joan Kane & Gary Morgenstein: Taking a Bite of a Sweet Divide

I believe we’re broken. Everybody is broken in some way. Everybody has a story to tell. There are cracks in us…Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken objects by highlighting their cracks with golden powder. . . the original object is even more beautiful than before it was broken…America is going to be even more beautiful; we’re looking at our brokenness. And I really believe with my heart and soul that we’re going to be even more beautiful after this. ~Joan Kane

GARY MORGENSTEIN’S
A BLACK AND WHITE COOKIE
 IS A NEW OFF-BROADWAY COMEDY/DRAMA
ABOUT AN AFRICAN AMERICAN NEWSTAND OWNER ENCOURAGED TO FIGHT HIS EXORBITANT RENT INCREASE BY AN ECCENTRIC JEWISH RADICAL  

DIRECTED BY JOAN KANE, THE PRODUCTION NOW PREMIERES
THURSDAY, JANUARY 21 AT 7:00PM/ET AS PART OF TFTNC’s ON THE AIR SERIES
&  SUNDAY, JANUARY 24 AT 3PM/ET ON THE EGO ACTUS WEBSITE

Incorporating the pandemic experiences of the past eight months into their production that Covid-19 brought to a halt in March, the award-winning Ego Actus Theatre Company will still present Gary Morgenstein’s new drama A Black and White Cookie, but in an updated version that is set against the backdrop of New York City reopening, post-pandemic. The play’s schedule has been updated. The premiere will air as part of Theater for the New City’s virtual On The Air series. It is now slated for Thursday, January 21 at 7:00PM/ET, with an additional performance on Sunday, January 24 at 3PM/ET.
 
Directed by Joan KaneA Black and White Cookie was originally scheduled to premiere at the Pulitzer Prize-winning Theater for the New City on March 26, 2020. There are plans to stage the show at TFTNC when in-person performances are again allowed in New York City. 

The cast features Morry Schorr (Modern Family/ABC-TV), Roslyn Seale (The Color Purple/National Tour), Julie T. Pham (The OA/Netflix), Chris Collins-Pisano (Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation/Off Broadway) and Mansoor Najee-ullah (Mulebone, G.R. Point, The Mighty Gents/Broadway).

Harold Wilson, a gruff, conservative African American senior, has finally reopened his East Village newsstand following the coronavirus lockdown. Then an exorbitant rent increase forces him to close after 30 years and reluctantly retire to Florida with his niece. Enter Albie Sands, an eccentric 1960s Jewish radical, who persuades Harold to fight the landlord. Overcoming their many differences, Harold and Albie form a powerful and unlikely friendship to confront corporate greed – and prejudice. 

Said Gary Morgenstein: “For this new production, it was important to update A Black and White Cookie by layering in the terrifying burden of the pandemic to portray a city struggling to come into the light. While the play reflects hard truths about fear, disease and bigotry, it’s ultimately positive and uplifting. What the world needs now more than ever is love and understanding, and faith in ourselves, and each other. If these two stubborn old guys can come together, so can all of us. You just gotta believe.”

Gary Morgenstein’s (playwright) novels and plays have been featured in national media from the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Parade Magazine, the New York Post, Sports Illustrated to NPR. His sixth novel A Fastball for Freedom, the sequel to his critically-acclaimed dystopian baseball-science fiction A Mound Over Hell (“1984 Meets Shoeless Joe”), will be published by BHC Press on March 25, 2021. In addition to A Black and White Cookie, he is the author of the stage dramas Saving Stan and A Tomato Can’t Grow in the Bronx, and the off-Broadway sci-fi rock musical The Anthem.  Morgenstein is developing the scripted television series Joyland, set during the tumultuous 1960s, with veteran network executive Russell Friedman and the award-winning Broadway performer and director DeMone Seraphin, who will direct the pilot episode on Zoom in early 2021.
 
Joan Kane (director) is the founding Artistic Director of Ego Actus and directed I Know What Boys Want at Theatre Row, Six Characters in Search of an Author in Oslo, Norway and Kafka’s Belinda in Prague. She also directed both Safe and what do you mean at 59e59 Theaters and in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, getting four star reviews for each. Kane was awarded Best Director in the 2016 United Solo Festival was named to the Indie Theatre Hall of Fame by nytheatre.com. She has also directed plays and readings for the Lark, Ensemble Studio Theatre, the NY Fringe Festival, Theater for the New City, Urban Stages, Workshop Theater, Nylon Fusion, Abingdon Theatre, Oberon Theatre, the Samuel French Short Play Festival, the Midtown International Festival and The Actors Studio. Joan has an MFA in Directing from The New School, an MS in Museum Education from Bank Street College. She is a member of The New York Madness Company, the Dramatists Guild and the Society of Stage Directors & Choreographers. Kane recently directed two plays during the Ego Actus Survival is Insufficient 10-play reading series.
 

KINTSUGI is the Japanese art of repairing broken objects by highlighting their cracks with golden powder.  Often undertaken as a form of art therapy to encourage resilience, the art of kintsugi follows a slow and painstaking process that requires patience and concentration. Day after day, week after week, step after step, the object is cleaned, gathered, cared for, mended and celebrated.  The object becomes even more beautiful then it was before it was broken. Its about accepting and celebrating our brokenness.

ABOUT EGO ACTUS
The award-winning international production company Ego Actus (Latin for “My Way”) was founded in 2009 by Joan Kane and Bruce A! Kraemer, who created an independent theatre company dedicated to creating art for art’s sake. Since then their shows, which have been presented in New York City and Europe, have been nominated for 61 awards, winning 21. Ego ActusOff-Broadway shows have included Play Nice! at 59e59 Theaters, I Know What Boys Want at Theatre Row and Sycorax, Cyber Queen of Qamara at HERE, with other critically acclaimed productions at Theater for a New City, Urban Stages, and the WorkShop Theater. The European productions included Safe and what do you mean at the Edinburgh Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Kafka’s Belinda and The Telegram in the Prague Fringe festival, while The Metamorphosis was performed in Prague and Budapest. Their two reading series have included Off the Page, seven scripts read to live audiences at TornPage and Survival is Insufficient, 10 scripts seen on Zoom.

Iman Aoun: Breaking Down Walls &Cultivating Hope Through Theatre

For over thirty-five years, Iman Aoun, a theatre-maker from Palestine has dedicated herself to advancing her mission of “breaking down walls” that exist as both physical and psychological phenomena by “cultivating hope [and creating] beauty and change” through her art.  Refusing to compromise her commitment to stripping both visible and invisible walls, Iman’s work has become a source of healing not only for her Palestinian communities, but also global populations.

Iman 2020

Iman Aoun (Actress, Director, Producer) began her career in 1984 with the internationally renowned Palestinian Theatre Company El-Hakawati. In 1991 she co-founded ASHTAR Theatre and serves as Artistic Director . Aoun holds a Bachelor Degree in Social Studies and a Diploma in Psychodrama and has written and published many theatre studies; devised many plays; and directed nationally and internationally. She is a recognized international trainer of the Theatre of the Oppressed technique, an Award winning actress and director for the stage in more than 60 productions, and has appeared in national TV series and international movies. Aoun has received numerous commendations for her work from different countries, international organizations and festivals, and has served as a Panelist for various world congresses and international conferences.

Among her most notable global projects is The Gaza Monologues.

Please visit the link below to become a patron of ASHTAR Theatre:  contributions could be as little as 5$ a month. Your support grants our continuation https://www.patreon.com/ashtartheatre

Global Giving at https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/ashtar-online-performances/photos/?fbclid=IwAR0-ihQ-TXfHKZZPNd16vTocB-eyCve4lY97WdX1BfdMkwwC3o7Glynh_fw#menu

iman@ashtar-theatre.org

https://www.facebook.com/iman.aoun.18

March Hare Media + Wheatsheaf Studio Productions marchharemedia.com

“Keep The Light On For Me” vocals, music and lyrics by Yuri Turchyn yuriturchyn.com