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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Raising awareness of our civic responsibility: KILL SWITCH

Raising awareness of our civic responsibility is a mission of The Arts.

Jaclyn S. Powell’s prescient screenplay KILL SWITCH is a story about a well-liked, but self-absorbed and politically ambivalent Manhattan doctor who becomes sucked into the politics of money when he discovers he’s unwittingly the heart of a government conspiracy to control health care costs – and they’re playing for keeps. It’s a cautionary tale of what happens when we abdicate our civic duty to participate in the political process. Please attend a staged reading Wednesday. October 30th 6 pm at The Poets House. RSVP www.francesmcgarry.com
#killswitchthemovie

The lead roles will be played by Joe Feldman-Barros, Dominique Nieves, Frances McGarry, Richard Jordan, Jillie Simon, Richard L. Smith and Susan Lynskey. Directed by Carol Dorn

The New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) New Works Lab was formed to give writers helpful critiques for their full length screenplays, plays, shorts and web series. The 4th Annual New Works Lab Showcase will feature scenes from Chasing the Dream by Corrine Frances-Pijuan, Kill Switch by Jaclyn S. Powell and Koko and Friends: Born to Play- Destined to Win! by Denise West.

All About Image/We Are The Elite

All About Image

Marcina Zaccaria’s All About Image/We Are The Elite

Directed by Tony Tambasco

 

A drama written in the present time, taking place in New York City and other parts of the U.S., All About Image/ We are the Elite is a journey of the people who make images. In the process of capturing and making these images, the characters explore their personal relationships while re-affirming their aesthetic principles.

What they see is under critique. What they present is a complete outpouring of their entire vision.

Part of the New York International Fringe Festival

Photos courtesy Steven Pisano

Kraine Theater

85 East 4th Street

New York, NY 10003

View Map

October 3 @ 7:00pm

October 4 @ 7:00pm

October 5 @ 5:15pm

October 6 @ 5:30pm    

Featuring:

David Arthur Bachrach *

J. Dolan Byrnes *

Frances McGarry *

Jeff Burchfield *

Don Carter *

Catherine Luciani

Milton Lyles II

Nana Ponceleon

Akin Salawu

Lourdes Severny

Kelsey Shapira Katy Wilson
* Appears courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association


Further details at Fringe BYOV.

Tickets available through Eventbrite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a Good Time Call Old Ringers at the Ridgefield Theater Barn

Published on Thursday, 14 February 2019 14:37

Brewster’s Hamlet Hub

Written by Christine S. Bexley

Our protagonist is played to authentic perfection, down to the just-right Bronx accent and lilt of a seasoned day-drinker, by McGarry. Her throughline is natural no matter what wacky situations or daring costumes she is put into.

.fran on phone mouth open

Diane (Frances McGarry) gets more than she expected when she answers the phone in Old Ringers, playing through February 23rd at The Ridgefield Theater Barn. Photo Credit Paulette Layton

In the words of George Michael, “Sex is natural, sex is good. Not everybody does it, but everybody should.” And some people find it lucrative to do it over an untraceable phone attached to a PayPal account in order to pay the electric bill.   Making its Connecticut debut, the Ridgefield Theater Barn’s first offering of its 53rd season, Old Ringers, by Joe Simonelli, finds women of (mostly) an advanced age in that very spot, to often absurd outcomes.    When Diane (Frances McGarry) finds her Social Security check drastically diminished, a wrong number to a sex hotline opens the door to an adventurous financial opportunity. Joined by her friends–the frisky Verna (Linda Seay), the trepidatious Kathy Ann (Stefanie Rosenberg), and the sensible Rose (Laurel Lettieri)–and her carefree boyfriend Harry (Mark Rubino), Diane and the group must navigate worldly challenges and personal discoveries while maintaining their sense of humor and avoiding the judgmental gaze of Diane’s pious daughter Amanda (Sarah J. Ahearn) and a roving Detective Rumson (Joshua Adelson).   The playwright defines these characters through, at times, heavy handed dialogue and slapstick-driven motivations, but the actors bring humanity and genuineness to such two-dimensional archetypes with guidance and adjustments from director Carol Dorn, who freshens the material a bit for the present era of technology, sex positivity, and elder visibility.

Our protagonist is played to authentic perfection, down to the just-right Bronx accent and lilt of a seasoned day-drinker, by McGarry. Her throughline is natural no matter what wacky situations or daring costumes she is put into. McGarry is matched in energy and ease by Rubino as Harry (who has some fun costuming moments of his own).    You could not ask for a better trio of friends than Diane’s to join her on this romp. Verna’s cliche “tramp” label was navigated well without unnecessary over-sexualization by Seay (who somehow did not come off as intoxicated despite double fisting a flask and a screwdriver. Impressive.). Lettieri’s Rose emanated grace and maturity (and a convincing bum hip), especially when espousing the customary “old lady wisdom,” despite the actress being no senior citizen.   Simonelli’s characters have some clunky and immediate transitions to make, and the cast worked diligently to make them seamless. Rosenberg’s Kathy Ann telegraphed her coming out moment from her first line, however, her distinct voice and pacing shifts were necessary for her bombastic reveal and she thrilled audiences in the process. Ahearn’s Amanda had to do some equally difficult personality gymnastics with the introduction of Tony Rumson, a detective played by newcomer to the craft Adelson. Ahearn jockeyed between over-wrought, teetotaling Christian and relaxed, inebriated flirt with speeds to induce whiplash. Adelson’s depiction of Rumson was a bit of a paradox as the actor’s earnestness clashed with the character’s reported bravado. For an acting debut, he rose to the occasion.

Indicated by the pre-show music, this world of women was raised on Diana Ross, Lesley Gore, and Sonny and Cher in the sexual revolution 60s, and came of age in the self-improvement 70s. That these ladies would be so hung up on the morality theories of others was a convenient if implausible plot device, and the use of the detective as the literal as well as figurative voice of the law fell flat. Someone needs to tell these folks to relax: as long as everyone’s over eighteen years old, phone sex hotlines are not illegal. Sorry Tony.   Setting the actual stage, kudos to set designer and builder Nick Kaye. The verisimilitude of the Bronx abode was not only impressive to behold, but grounded the farcical nature of the action in a world that could be realistically inhabited, and where the coffee was hot enough to see the steam from the last row. While the comedy benefits from the low-hanging fruit of scantily- (or comically)-clad seniors, costume designer Will Heese outfitted each character in garb that fit personalities and situations naturally and completely (although Kathy Ann could use a longer coat to support her character’s presented modesty, as her costume is still visible to the audience and cheats the reveal a little).

This is a show to take advantage of RTB’s cabaret style seating. Bring your favorite noshes, libations, and snacks to marvel at the riotous and resolute journeys these seven characters take. This brassy offering is anything but subtle as it raises laughter the to the rafters from sold out audiences.    Old Ringers runs until February 23, 2019 at the Ridgefield Theater Barn, 37 Halpin Ln, Ridgefield, CT, 06877. Doors open one hour prior to curtain, which is 8PM evenings and 2PM matinees. Tickets are $35 for adults, and $28 for seniors, students and veterans, and available at ridgefieldtheaterbarn.org or by calling the box office at 203- 431-9850. For more information, email  info@RidgefieldTheaterBarn.org.

Recommended for mature audiences.

 

Theater Review: Theater Barn Cast Definitely Not Phoning It In

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A wrong number leads to some interesting possibilities for Verna (Linda Seay), Kathy Ann (Stefanie Rosenberg), Diane (Frances McGarry) and Rose (Laurel Letteri), in a scene from Old Ringers, playing through February 23rd at Ridgefield Theater Barn.
(Paulette Layton photo)

By Elizabeth Young

February 07, 2019 at 07:00 am

The Newtown Bee

Frances McGarry is a brave scene stealer. A gifted comedic actor, she takes hold of her character and plays her at full tilt.

RIDGEFIELD — The phones are ringing off the hook at Ridgefield Theater Barn, and for good reason. They are being answered by crafty women of a certain age who provide a certain kind of comfort for lonely souls. Joe Simonelli’s Old Ringers is on stage for a full-on hilarious evening of theater.

A group of New York women gather frequently in the Bronx apartment of one very sassy and bawdy Diane (played by Frances McGarry). Diane lives in the home she shares with her religious and uptight daughter, Amanda (Sarah J. Ahearn). Constantly at odds with the other’s concept of a good life, they exasperate each other.

Diane is well fortified by her drop-in lover, Harry (Mark Rubino), her cadre of likeminded friends, and vodka. Amanda is appalled.

Sexually charged Verna (Linda Seay) has not been active for some time and is highly motivated to end this drought. Rose (Laurel Lettieri) suffers from a sore hip and rejection. Rounding out this posse is Kathy Ann (Stephanie Rosenberg), a youngish widow with a naïve charm, until she gets the hang of her calling.

Financially fragile, these women gear up to earn some cash in a modestly illegal immodest manner. With support from Harry, in chaps, the calls for their services just keep coming, until Police Officer Tony Rumson (Joshua Adelson) starts stopping by to woo Amanda, with whom he is instantly infatuated.

This adorable play is a very funny in the hands of this comedic cast, who appear to be enjoying every minute of the ribaldry. The direction of Carol Dorn allows the determination and unity of this group of sisters in kind to shine. The laughs are as easy as the action is unforced.

Frances McGarry is a brave scene stealer. A gifted comedic actor, she takes hold of her character and plays her at full tilt.

Linda Seay is gorgeous as the long tall wannabe seductress, Verna.

Rigid and demanding, until she is not, Amanda is wonderfully rendered by Sarah J. Ahearn. She energetically lets her character loose with expert timing.

As a shy and very innocent Kathy Ann, Stephanie Rosenberg is sweetly befuddled. The reticence of her character is the perfect contrast to her enthusiasm as she gets the hang of her new job.

Laurel Lettieri is lovely as the older and more worn out Rose.

Playing the sidekick to Ms McGarry, Mark Rubino is a hoot. He is gleeful in this role and super fun to watch.

The soulful performance by Mr. Josh Adelson, as his Tony falls in love for the first time, is authentic.

The set, designed and constructed by Nick Kaye, is wonderfully cozy and worn. The design provides large spaces for the actors to gather and move, yet retains a small-space feel. Much credit to Will Heese for fabulous and funny costuming.

The Barn is the absolute perfect venue for this light-hearted fare that pairs excellently with a snack and beverage. Make the call, ring the bell, and get yourself a ticket.

Performances continue weekends through February 23, on Friday and Saturday evenings as well as the afternoons of Sundays, February 10 and 17. Visit ridgefieldtheaterbarn.org for full performance and ticket details, directions, and reservations.