Off-Broadway Review: ‘The Lady Liberty Theater Festival’ at Urban Stages

New York Theatre Guide Posted By: Jacquelyn Claire on: September 10, 2016

LLTF promo poster June 24

“The Lady Liberty Theater Festival,” presented by Aizzah Fatima and Monica Bauer, comprises three short punchy plays and a song in praise of freedom and against Islamophobia. As I arrived in the theater, the soundtrack was blasting out music with American themes. I got into the mood as Neil Diamond sang, “they’re coming to America.” As a recent immigrant to the shores of the Land of the Free, I felt the need to sing along, quietly.

. . .deeply satisfying. . .

The scene setter was a quirky comedy called “Lady Liberty’s Worst Day Ever,” written by Monica Bauer. Lady Liberty (Frances McGarry) has been summoned to her agent Vinnie’s office (J.Dolan Byrnes), and if she can stay off her cellphone for long enough, he will tell her the shocking news that Trump is about to rebrand her in his image and do away with the Emma Lazarus poem on her pedestal.

Cheryl King directs this comedic sketch, where she crafts a pithy little satirical stab at the “Orange” man who has literally forgotten where he comes from. Byrnes and McGarry charge around the stage with enough energy to set the Lady’s torch on fire. They have great stage chemistry together and seem to really enjoy their volleys of dialogue, served forcefully at each other.

Dolan Byrnes soulfully covered the scene change with a rendition of the Irish traditional folk song “No Irish Need Apply,” beautifully setting the context of bigotry and exclusion through the ages in Manhattan. We segued into the next movement, “No Irish Need Apply,” written by Monica Bauer and directed by Cheryl King. Joan Fitzgerald (Frances McGarry) is a shop owner looking to hire a new employee. Ahmed Famy (Ali Andre Ali), a Shi’ite Muslim, enters to apply for the position. He takes one look at the image of the “Bleeding” Christ on the wall and decides he would not be welcome.

What follows is a very clever job interview which exposes prejudices and cultural assumptions in a refreshing way. Ali is powerful as the defensive and stoic academic. He has a wonderful command and ease on stage, which makes him extremely watchable. McGarry was lovable and charming as the irreverent and open-minded Irish widow. It feels like this sort of situation is happening all over the city on a daily basis, but I am not sure that the outcomes are as congenial and generous as this pleasant oasis.

The final element of the theatrical Lady Liberty hat-trick was “Dirty Paki Lingerie,” brilliantly written and performed by Aizzah Fatima, with direction by Erica Gould. This was more of a standard one-woman show length, so it was deeply satisfying. The other performers had joyfully served up the appetizers and entrees so that we could sink our teeth into this delicious main course. Fatima and her transforming piece of green fabric weave a tale of various Pakistani women living in the U.S. who are torn between cultural expectation and their personal desires. She inhabits mothers, strong independent woman, children, teenagers, and traditional girls who show the diversity of experience of being a woman in their community and in the United States. The six Muslim-American women were drawn from real-life incidents and interviews, which lends a truthfulness to the production that is spellbinding.

Gould has ensured a piece that has flawless transitions between characters and situations, allowing Fatima to excel in birthing this wide range of distinctive female Pakistani dreamers. Fatima is an extraordinary performer with a vocal range that is impressive, and she is enormously funny. This piece will definitely have a long life ahead of it!

“The Lady Liberty Theater Festival” celebrates freedom of speech, the power of artists to defy oppression, and the ability to heal after traumatic life events. On the eve of the 15th Anniversary of 9/11, this festival is a perfect way to honor the past by submerging oneself in the shadow of Lady Liberty to remind ourselves of our glorious freedom.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with one 10-minute intermission.

Advisory: Adult language makes this production inappropriate for some audiences. Recommended for ages 16 and up.

“The Lady Liberty Theater Festival” plays through September 25, 2016 at Urban Stages in New York City. For more information on this festival, click here.

Continuing the Conversation with. . . Marisa Vitali: Part II

 Marisa Vitali returns home to Northport, LI to show the premier screening of her movie, GRACE at the John W. Engeman Theater.  To raise awareness of the plight of recovering addicts Marisa shares her film and her courageous story of recovery in order to donate funds for the Northport-East Northport Drug & Alcohol Task Force. Listen to  interviews about the debut of GRACE:  Marisa Vitali (Actor, Producer, Writer GRACE),, Kevin O’Neill(Managing Director John W. Engeman Theater), Scott Norcott (Public Relations Coordinator, Npt.-E Npt Drug & Alcohol Task Force), Gabriel Manzueta (Sra NY Natl. Guard Counterdrug Civil Operations), Carissa A Cantone (SSG, NY Natl. Guard, Counterdrug Civil Operations), Irene McLaughlin(Asst. Supt. Human Resource Npt-ENpt School Dist), Darryl St. George(HS History Teacher Npt.-ENpt School Dist) and Anthony Ferrandino(Chariperson, Npt-ENpt Community Drug & Alcohol Task Force).

 

 

Take it Away! GRACE, the movie at the John W. Engeman Theater

 

The premier of the movie GRACE at the John W. Engemann Theater was held on June 7, 2016 to raise funds for the Northport-East Northport Drug & Alcohol Task Force.  Here are some of the reactions audience members”Took Away” with them after seeing the movie.

 Max Fulton-Peluffo, Video Editor

Former Northport teacher impacts students decade after retiring

League of Professional Theatre Frances McGarry taught English and theater in the Northport-East Northport school district until 2004. Her former students include Tony and Emmy winner Edie Falco, a graduate of Northport High School and a star of “The Sopranos” and “Nurse Jackie.” Photo Credit: Blanche Mackey image[1]

Updated June 18, 2016 10:18 AM
By Joe Diglio  joe.diglio@newsday.com

The biggest piece of advice Frances McGarry gave students over the course of her 30-year teaching career — take risks and don’t be afraid of failure — was crystalized in one young man who overcame his fears and found his voice.

McGarry said an eighth-grade student she once had was terrified of a public speaking assignment because of a speech impediment. His mother asked that he not participate, but McGarry refused. She worked with him to overcome his barriers.

“By the end of the year, he was speaking freely and confidently,” McGarry said. The student had revealed himself to be “a bright kid who had a lot to share and was eager to voice his opinions.”

McGarry, who taught English and theater in the Northport-East Northport Union Free School District until 2004, said she was fortunate to come across many students with whom she could share her passion of literature and the arts. Often, the roles between McGarry and her students reversed.

“The honors English classes’ literary discussions kept me on my feet and taught me to listen and guide their queries and observations,” McGarry said.

A decade after retiring, though, McGarry still is heavily involved in both teaching and theater. She continues to work as an actress, most recently performing in the off-Broadway musical “Votes.” As a board member of the League of Professional Theatre Women, she serves as a mentor to young actresses. McGarry also runs an arts advocacy blog called “First Online with Fran.”

She said it’s been rewarding to see her impact on those she taught.

One former student went on to become a famous actress of stage and screen. In a 2013 Broadway.com interview, she said McGarry was the teacher who inspired her to pursue acting.

High praise for the teacher, but to McGarry, she was still Edie Falco, the shy teenager who graduated from Northport High School. McGarry said she maintains a relationship with the former “Sopranos” star to this day and attends many of her performances.

“She’s just ‘Edie’ to me,” McGarry said.

Other students have reached out to her over the years, submitting testimonials on her blog about how the arts — and McGarry — have transformed their lives. Considering her continued involvement in theater and the lasting connections she has maintained with her students, it’s no wonder McGarry said she doesn’t miss teaching.

“I’m always amazed at the lives I’ve touched,” McGarry said. “There are so many paybacks to being a teacher.”

Editor’s note: This story is part of an ongoing series on the careers of retired Long Island teachers and where they are now. If you are a retired Long Island teacher and would like to share your story, click on the Newsday  link.

 

League of Professional Theatre’s NETWORKING MONDAYS; Meet the Music Makers!

In our continuing effort to develop and promote women in the professional theatre  we invite you to . . .

Networking Logo

NETWORKING MONDAYS

 Insights, Information, and Inspiration

Join your colleagues, expand your networks, bring a potential new member!

Monday, October 5, 2015, 6pm-8pm

Meet the Music Makers: Composers & Lyricists and

Special Guests discussing the Creative, Legal, and Financial Aspects of Songwriting


 Ripley Grier Studios 520 8th Avenue, Studio 16T

 Panelists include GEORGIA STITT (Snow Child, My Lifelong Love); DONNA MOORE (Cougar The Musical); JUNE RACHELSON-OSPA & ALLISON BREWSTER-FRANZETTI (The True Colors of Weedle); CARMEL OWEN (Asylum: The Strange Case of Mary Lincoln); PAMELA GOLINSKI (Entertainment Attorney FGR & S PLLC); and TED CHAPIN (President, Rodgers & Hammerstein)

Light Refreshments Available

RSVP: Networking@TheatreWomen.Org

SAVE THE DATES

Monday February 29, 2016, 6pm-8pm

Unsung Heroes:  Backstage Professionals

Monday, May 9, 2016, 6pm-8pm

New Wave:  Young Members and their Projects

LPTW Members: FREE                   Non-Members $15                        Non-Members with Theatrical Union Affiliation $10

An interview with…Cheryl Navo, Playwright LIE OF OMISSION, World Premiere Play

“As a female playwright I believe strongly that I need to concentrate on writing good, strong roles for women.  For each play I write, I’ve made a personal commitment to myself to never allow the male roles to outnumber or outshine the female roles.  I hope that inspires other women to advance the roles of women in all aspects of theatre.”

APCherylNavo

It just does not get any better for an actor than to not only have the opportunity to be cast in the world premiere of a play, Lie of Omission, but also get to meet its playwright.  As arts advocate/host of First Online With Fran featuring ordinary people who do extraordinary things in The Arts and proponent of advancing the work of women through my membership at The League of Professional Theatre Women I felt compelled to share with you the arc of this fascinating woman’s journey from soldier to storyteller.

Here are some clips of our conversation…

How did your career in the military evolve from soldier to playwright?  

Navo Uniform2

The military and military life has been a huge influence on me.  My husband works for the Department of Defense and Germany is where we are stationed.  I’ve actually lived in Germany more than half my life as I came here as an active duty soldier in the early 80s.  After spending three years as a soldier, I worked for the Department of the Army as a civilian until I took an early retirement from government service almost a year ago.  I now spend my time in creative pursuits.

I first became involved in community theatre in 2009, playing Sister Margaretta in a KMC (Kaiserslautern Military Community) Onstage production of  The Sound of Music–which was my first show since I was a child, playing one of the children, in The King and I.  Theatre, on the second go-round, proved addictive.  I have spent the last six years experimenting with being an actor, costume designer, set designer, scenic painter, director, and finally, playwright.

I never considered writing a play until a chance conversation at the theatre snack bar where I was volunteering during a KMC Onstage production (I’ve truly dabbled in every possible onstage and backstage job).  Over a drink order, an actress friend mentioned that someone she knew had written several plays.  I (naively) said that I thought it would be fun, after all “how hard can it be?”  I still remember her pitying look as she explained that writing a play that someone will actually produce is exceedingly difficult.  We moved on to another conversational topic, but I filed the idea of writing a play away in my head, thinking “I bet I could do it.”  Several months later, the artistic director for the theatre offered their first-ever playwriting class and I signed up.  I discovered very quickly just how difficult writing a play can be, but I love it.

I have written four plays to date.  My first one-act play, Parade of Queens, was produced by the Baumholder Hilltop Theater for the IMCOM-Europe AACT 2012 One Act Play Festival.  My second one-act play, Hotline, was produced by Thoreau, NM—A Production Company for the 2013 Pittsburgh New Works Festival and by the Baumholder Hilltop Theater for the 2013 IMCOM-Europe AACT One Act Play Festival.  Hotline was subsequently published by Dramatic Publishing Company in 2014 and is available in their current catalog.  My 10-Minute play At What Price was produced by the Boiling Point Players in Houston, Texas; by the Towne Street Theatre in Hollywood, California; for the Equity Library/Piney Fork Theater Summer Festival in New York; and will be part of the Minnesota Shorts: A Festival of Short Plays in Mankato, Minnesota this month.

Lie of Omission is my first full-length play.  I wrote it specifically for AACT (American Association of Community Theatre) New Play Fest 2015, where it was selected as a top fourteen finalist.  Then, Studio Theatre of Long Island offered a production contract, so I withdrew it from the AACT competition, signed a contract, and here we are.

 Share with us how the germ of the play came to fruition and how it translated to the page.

Lie of Omission began as a one-act play, but the story quickly expanded beyond the one-act format.  The idea began with a newspaper article about an American doctor who was kidnapped in the Middle East.  During his rescue, a soldier was killed.  I tried to put myself in the doctor’s place.  How would that feel–to know that a stranger lost his life saving mine?  I wondered what kind of psychological impact there would be.  After reading the initial article, I purposely departed from the details of the true-life case and started throwing in complications of my own.

I have a real heart for soldiers.  Deployments are a daily reality for military families and that’s the community where I have spent more than half my life.  My husband is a retired Medical Logistics Army officer and a current Department of the Army civilian working in medical logistics.  I also worked for the Army Medical Department in medical logistics, and although I personally never deployed, my brother spent several years driving trucks for the military in Iraq.

What is your vision for the play?  What will be your next play?  What other plans do you have for your future? 

Lie of Omission is scheduled for its next production in September 2016 at the Baumholder Hilltop, a military community theatre in Baumholder, Germany.  Naturally, I’d like to see the play produced in as many theatres as possible.  As a playwright, one of the hardest things for me to do is let go and allow actors and directors to bring their individual points of view to my story.  And, that is also one of the most rewarding parts of playwriting.  Different people bring different perspectives to the work and often teach me things I didn’t know about my own play.

I’ve begun work on a new full-length play about a psychic, but it’s early in the process.  I’m also working on a young adult novel.  Also, in early 2016, I’ll be directing Death of a Salesman for KMC Onstage.

Who and/or what do you hope to inspire with this work?  

As a female playwright I believe strongly that I need to concentrate on writing good, strong roles for women.  For each play I write, I’ve made a personal commitment to myself to never allow the male roles to outnumber or outshine the female roles.  I hope that inspires other women to advance the roles of women in all aspects of theatre.

AND a First Online With Fran question:  The Arts are so vitally important to our society; yet, it remains to be perceived as an amenity.  What would you say to challenge that perception?

I’d challenge anyone who sees The Arts as an amenity to spend some quality time in the theatre.  Seriously.  My theatre involvement during the last few years has taught me so much.  I’ve developed a huge amount of confidence in myself and I’ve gained skills in almost every area.  If theatre can do this much for me, just Imagine the effect on a child.  I see kids who participate in theatre develop physical skills and talents beyond that of their peers.  More importantly, they develop invaluable social skills such as how to take direction, work as a team, and get along with others.  What other area of education encompasses so much?

Don’t miss your chance to experience this dynamic dramatic performance of Lie of Omission at Studio Theatre of Long Island.  September 4 – 20.  For performance schedule, tickets, and directions click HERE