Embarking on a journey from beloved local landmarks to overseas to inside the Boston Ballet studios, Boston Ballet’sreSTART amps up the excitement of their highly-anticipated return live onstage in time for the holidays.
With a versatile lineup that includes recently filmed jazz-infused contemporary dance, classic tales, traditional dance, and a season preview as well as a full range of costumes including street wear by Yin Yue and Jens Jacob Worsaae and Judanna Lynn’s spectacular royal fashion, Boston Ballet’s virtual reSTART, available through November 7, delivers an elegant and dynamic show for dance lovers everywhere. Click here for more information and for Boston Ballet’s full season.
Over the past year and a half, the renowned Boston Ballet has become much more than a force onstage. It has been inspiring to see this sophisticated and athletic company in various settings, using creative and unconventional methods to evoke their passion for their extraordinary work. Lighthearted, romantic, and refreshing, Boston Ballet’s season premiere reSTART demonstrates a brilliant new season to come.
Boston Ballet delves into a classic tale with fantasy flair featuring Soo-bin Lee and SeokJoo Kim, a stunning duo as they perform a deeply romantic Pas de Deux in an excerpt from Romeo and Juliet. Angelically adorned in a halo of ribbons and flowing gown by Song Bohwa and Hanna Kim, Lee is a vision in an idealistic dark forest. Despite a hint of foreboding, Prokofiev’s score is uplifting and glorious as Lee and Kim enchant each other building into bursts of joy, seeming to move as one into an embrace.
From classic tale to classic dance, another highlight of reSTART features Bach’s soothing, piano-driven rhythms as Addie Tapp and Lasha Khozahvili perform a tender and delicate dance as Khozahvili quite literally sweeps Tapp off her feet.
Muses take on full form as Paul Arrais beguiles inspiration as bold and fresh faced Apollo in a pivotal classic work which first brought choreographer Balanchine and composer Stravinsky together. What is particularly captivating about Balanchine’s choreography is the mechanical synchronization between muses Lia Cirio as majestic Terpsichore, Viktorina Kapitonova as mysterious and foreboding Calliope, and Chryrstyn Fentroy as jubilant and charismatic Polyhymnia. Their dance is meticulously precise as they rhythmically pivot in unison, at one point forming a beautiful silhouette until each have a chance to portray their own distinct chemistry with Arrais’s mesmerizing Apollo. They join together, hinging onto each other and one might wonder who is in control.
The Boston Ballet kicks off their new season with virtual reSTART continuing through Sunday, November 7. Click here for more information and a closer look at Boston Ballet’s new season.
Two peculiar overachievers meet. One is a precocious, well-read, well versed and outspoken college student and another a well versed, well-read and well-spoken middle-aged Yale professor. It is a meeting of the minds as they surprisingly challenge each other when seemingly the only thing that challenges each of them comes in literary form.
Immediately engaging, shrewdly written, and oftentimes bleak, The Sound Inside is quite capable of rendering the audience speechless. It is jarring, reflective, and moving and from what is learned about these characters, one cannot help but hope for the well being of these two lost souls.
Directed by Bryn Boice, SpeakEasy Stage Company opened their new season with Adam Rapp’s Tony-nominated play The Sound Inside continuing at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts in Boston through Saturday, October 16. Presented for the first time in Boston, The Sound Inside contains mature themes and some difficult topics. It is 90 minutes without an intermission. Click here for more information and for tickets.
Much of The Sound Inside is about hope. It’s about looking for hope when the light is dim and the quest for finding hope is rarely a comfortable journey.
Cristina Todesco’s minimal set does well creating depth and dimension, but does not take away from the primary focus of this character driven study. Devorah Kengmana’s lighting lends to each character’s loneliness as shadows are created at pivotal moments.
Jennifer Rohn as prominent Yale professor Bella Baird unleashes a no holds barred look into her psyche. She is an avid reader which seems to help her escape past trauma and the crisis she is currently facing. Her keen intellect is immediately obvious and she is unfiltered, blatantly unfettered, and undeterred as she shares her life up to this point. Rohn is as captivating a storyteller as she is in exhibiting Baird’s loneliness.
Set in the fall in New Haven, Connecticut, Baird has a surprising encounter with Christopher Dunn, portrayed with a mix of arrogance, intuitiveness, and inquisitiveness by Nathan Malin, and they share a distinct, intangible connection. With similar dry senses of humor, a shared love of the written word, and a mutual social awkwardness, they understand and encourage each other to live life boldly. However, Rapp’s script is full of detours and twists that don’t always land perfectly, but lead to a tense and incalculable ending. Just when the show seems to tow the line, the tables turn.
SpeakEasy Stage Company presents The Sound Inside at the Calderwood Pavilion in Boston through Sunday, October 16. Click here for more information and tickets. Click here for upcoming events and more at the SpeakEasy Stage Company.
Michael Hammond may change the way you look at life. Are you afraid of the audition? He’ll show you a way to succeed. Having a bad day? He’ll show you a way to lift your spirits. As the new Director of Development at the Company Theatre, a role he calls a lifelong dream, his positivity may help others the way Company Theatre has helped him since childhood.
The Company Theatre, located at 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts, joyously held their first indoor production since their absorbing musical, Fun Home early last year. Rock of Ages was an edgy and energetic rock jukebox musical that took place last month. See Rock of Ages review here and click here for Sleepless Critic’s full podcast.
Sleepless Critic: Please tell me what it was like to be back in the indoor setting for Rock of Ages.
Michael Hammond: It’s so fantastic. It’s emotional, exciting, and the energy in the air was just electric. You were there. You saw it. People were cheering and screaming.
The show starts with Sally Forrest’s voice doing her standard announcement which we are all accustomed to hearing. It was such a welcome back and to hear her voice and I think people cheered over her entire announcement. Just to be back inside, hear that familiar voice, and to know we’re about to see a really fun and exciting show was just great.
SC: I know this was the opening weekend for indoor theatre, but you did have some outdoor theatre experiences like Avenue Q before this show.
MH: Avenue Q was incredible. The kids were so talented. Their commitment to what they were doing and their characters were dynamic. It was Broadway-type quality coming out of these kids on the outdoor stage of the Company Theatre out back. We have had other things like Divas with a Twist and Donny Norton’s band,The New Band there. That’s been a really nice addition to the Company Theatre as well as now being back inside.
SC: So getting back to Rock of Ages, you had your opening weekend and you felt like everything went as smooth as can be?
MH: Absolutely! So many new people in this show and as is typical of the Company Theatre, they are already saying this is my new home. It’s this overwhelming feeling that you’re home and you found your family at the Company Theatre even if you did one show and you never come back, it still feels that way. I’ve been involved since I was 19 years old.
SC: I was going to say that you are familiar with that feeling.
MH: I’m very familiar with that feeling. I don’t know what my life would have been like without Company Theatre. I would have taken a completely different path.
SC: It’s hard to replicate the kind of friendly and welcoming atmosphere you have when you’re in theatre.
MH: Absolutely! Such a nice group of people too that do theatre especially the teens. They just stay out of trouble. They have a common goal they are working towards and they enjoy each other’s company and make lifelong friendships. I can’t say enough about it.
I’ve just seen so many kids, even this summer just come through the doors and they leave just completely changed and confident and more themselves. It’s just a beautiful thing to witness.
SC: When you said you had been with Company Theatre pretty much your whole life, you said it was a lifelong dream to do something like this as the Director of Development now. I’m really excited for you.
MH: Thank you! Like a lot of people during the pandemic, you start to question ‘Am I doing what I want with my life? Is this fulfilling and rewarding?’ Like many people, I came to the conclusion that what I was doing was not for me anymore.
It had run its course and I needed something new and Jordie Saucerman, one of the founding partners of the Company Theatre, had passed away and that really accelerated my thought process because her wake was attended by so many people. I thought ‘Look at all the lives that she touched.’ The impact that Jordie had on people is immeasurable. Even if I make just a little sliver of that impact on people, I would feel great about my life. That set the wheels turning.
I approached Zoe one day and said, ‘I will be your janitor. I basically don’t care what you have me do, if there is a spot for me here, I am coming.’ That seed was planted awhile ago and it sort of blossomed into Director of Development. I’m so excited to try new things and just give back what I got from this theatre.
SC: Not only that, but you have a similar positive way about you like Jordie had. Where do you get your positive outlook from? Where do you draw it from considering I’ve also seen videos of you on social media?
I’m not attempting to fill Jordie’s shoes in any way. That’s not a task that anyone could accomplish. She is a unique individual who I feel is still around in the atmosphere and in the joy of the theatre. If I’m upset or have a bad day, it makes me feel better to brighten someone else’s day. That is such a nice feeling to buy someone in line a coffee or just compliment someone or encourage someone to do something they didn’t think they could do. I live off of that. If I am having the worst day of my life and I do something nice for somebody, I instantly feel recharged. I think that’s how I basically go through life.
SC: I hear that from a lot of comedians as well. It makes them feel better to make someone else laugh even if they are upset or having issues.
MH: I tried standup comedy once. I did it more for the writing aspect, but I did perform. It was an interesting experience because you come out onstage and you look at a sea of faces who want you to succeed because if you succeed, they have a fantastic time. You have an overwhelming amount of support that you just want to hold onto and it was an incredible feeling.
SC: What did you did before this that you wanted to walk away from and join the Company Theatre?
MH: I was the station manager at a local cable television station. I was so grateful because it was also a non-profit. I probably learned so many skills that I could apply to this job I didn’t necessarily have before. Just the behind the scenes stuff, the QuickBooks, the budgets, and managing a non-profit was extremely helpful and then also applying my video experience to the job as well. Filming and creating events and learning special effects.
So all of that which at the time was a perfect job for me, but nine years later I felt like I needed a change and so I am going to apply what I learned there and bring it to the Company Theatre. We can offer acting for camera classes and improv for camera classes.
I’ve been on auditions and in commercials. We want to provide those skills to kids who like to act and be on camera. We want them to be able to go into an audition and know how to slay what they are going to be asked to do and be prepared for anything.
I actually started with a class over the summer. Some of the kids were auditioning so they got immediate training for those auditions. When they came back, they would tell the other students that they did just what Michael showed us. I asked if they felt more prepared. Did you do a better job with the audition? Their faces lit up and they said, ‘Absolutely!’ That was a nice thing.
We want to get in touch with the local casting agencies which we already have a good relationship. We want to create a talent database where you can see video auditions and we can send those out so we kind of want to be a bridge between the local movie and theatre scene. We’ll provide students with the training. They’ll have the skills to go out and nail professional auditions and maybe get cast in movies and commercials. We just really want everyone to have new and exciting opportunities to excel in a career in film and theatre if that is something that they are interested in.
SC: Let’s face it – the audition process is the most nerve-wracking and hardest part I think to convey right off the bat because in your head, you are saying,’ I know what I can do for you’ but then you get up there and it is not exactly what you picture.
MH: Having directed before, people come in and they are nervous. The reality is the casting company is nervous and they have roles to fill. So, the second you come in, put them at ease, and they know they have options, they feel better. I always say in my mind when I got into an audition, ‘Here I am! You can relax. I am going to be that person you need.’ I think it’s an interesting way to keep yourself calm to think I am exactly what you need instead of I hope I’m what you need.
SC: I never really thought of it like that.
MH: Think about it. You have a reputation. You have a project. You want to cast the right people because that makes you look good as well. If you find the right people not only are you confident about the project, but it brings excitement.
When I direct a show, I’m not very excited about it until I know who is in it and then I can tailor their performances to their talents. It is such a thrill to watch people blossom.
Please tell me about the projects you are working on now and upcoming projects.
I don’t think I’ll be directing anything for a little bit. I’ll probably take on some projects here and there. I definitely can’t leave that part behind. I’m really going to focus on the video classes. I’ll be working with Christie Reading. She is extremely talented with anything video related. So, I will be teaming up with her teaching improv for camera, acting for camera, and getting people ready for auditions.
We want to nurture and encourage that. That is kind of my goal. It’s to really push people to excel in any way that they can.
SC: You can’t forget about Boston Casting. How convenient is that! There are all kinds of films going on in the state.
MH: Exactly and literally a mile down the road they are making motion pictures. So how can we not be a part of that? They are working on the new Jon Hamm movie in Cohasset. I know Angela at Boston Casting who is an incredible woman and I don’t know how she does everything she does, but with all those films going on, eventually they will run out of actors.
We get casting notices all the time and I’m forwarding them off to everybody I know that I think fits. For example, I sent a buddy of mine a notice yesterday. They were looking for an actual butcher with acting experience and I happen to know a butcher with acting experience. I’m thinking he might get it.
SC: I know. Some of the requirements are so wild.
MH: It’s so specific, but every once in a while I’ll say, ‘Wait a minute, that is me.’
Company Theatre is offering theatre classes in the fall. Click here for the full schedule and upcoming events.
It is not difficult to see why A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of Shakespeare’s most performed and beloved plays. It is everything but tragic. It features magic, mischief, romantic comedy, action, and under a harvest moon, a haunting twist perfect for October and Halloween.
This particular play holds historical significance to the Company Theatre because it was the first show they ever produced 40 years ago when they were working with very little money. Company Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is an opportunity to transform the production into what they have always hoped it to be and what a dream it is.
Cleverly directed by Steve Dooner, Company Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream continues through Sunday, October 20 at the Company Theatre in Norwell, Massachusetts. Click here for a closer look at show and here for more information and tickets.
Samantha McMahon as Queen Titania and fairies Photo courtesy of the Company Theatre
Under a gigantic moon, Ryan Barrow’s enchanting set design and Zoe Bradford’s beautiful art design unleash a picturesque, woodland world full of frolicking fairies, sword fights, romance, and more surrounded by a moving and glittering landscape. The show’s fanciful Ravel and Mendelssohn-infused soundtrack, some high flying special effects, Paula Ninestein and Anna Splitz’s authentic costumes with a bit of a contemporary edge, and Ethan R. Jones’s stirring lighting design seamlessly combine to enhance this captivating work.
Dan Kelly as Theseus and Sarah Dewey as Hippolyta Photo courtesy of the Company Theatre
A Midsummer Night’s Dream has multiple story lines, but the cast translates Shakespeare’s work with gravitas and humor. For those hesitant about understanding Shakespeare’s work, this production is lively, lighthearted, and manageable to follow.
Part play within a play, part intrigue, part comedy, and part mystery, A Midsummer Night’s Dream essentially explores love in all of its forms from unrequited to true love to romantic comedy to love potions. This production is the source of some of Shakespeare’s most famous reflections on love such as “True love does not see with the eyes, but the mind,” and “The course of true love never did run smooth.” The show’s witty dialogue is a wonderful reminder that Shakespeare’s story lines are timeless and can translate into any contemporary story line.
Though A Midsummer Night’s Dream boasts a dignified and dynamic cast, it also excels at improvisation, hilarity, and absurdity. Dan Kelly is a regal and charismatic Theseus and Sarah Dewey a radiant Hippolyta. They glide onstage like today’s royal family. Declan Dunn delivers a remarkable performance as wild, mischievous, and mighty Puck and his conspiring moments with Jermaine Murray as King Oberon make for a clever and cunning pair.
The women in this production are strong, beautiful, and fierce. Ariel Wigfall portrays sympathetic, yet courageous Hermia while raven-haired Joan Raube-Wilson is virtuous and stunning as Helena. Samantha McMahon is as glamorous as she is amusing as Queen Titania.
‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ also has a wealth of wonderful, improvisational moments. Suraj Ranhbhat as headstrong Demetrius, Bryant Marshall as Lysander, and especially Marco Zenelli as the energetic, bombastic, yet benevolent Nick Bottom along with his group of madcap, merry Mechanicals all demonstrate some excellent physical humor, improvisation, and zany comic relief. Where would today’s humor be without these classic comedic moments which stand as the foundation of what we are all laughing about today.
From L to R: Marco Zanelli as Nick Bottom, Declan Dunn as Puck and Caroline Kautsire as Peter Quince
Company Theatre’s classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream continues through Sunday, October 20 at the Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts. Click here for more information, tickets, and how to support Company Theatre’s future. Also follow Company Theatre on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to learn all about their upcoming events.
The Boston Film Festival presented US Premiere of indie film, ‘JoJo Rabbit’ Photo credit to Fox Serachlight Pictures
The Boston Film Festival took place for the most part at the stellar Showplace Icon Theatre. Located at the Boston Seaport and conveniently located at the Courthouse stop on the Silver Line, The Showplace Icon Theatre features state-of-the-art stadium seating with plush reclining chairs, a beverage holder, and a place for your popcorn. Click here for a closer look at this amazing theatre and here for more information and tickets.
Showplace Icon Theatre, located at Boston Seaport. Photo courtesy of Jeanne Denizard
The Shorts Program I took place on day three of the festival on Saturday, September 21 and featured a dynamic group of films that ranged from heartrending to hilarious to the macabre. It was a selection likely to appeal to everyone.
Alex Salsburg as Mom and Harley Harrison as Mike Photo credit to the Boston Film Festival and Class of 84
Directed by Alex Salsburg and Joe Andrade, Class of 84 is a narrated animated short film that offers an amusing and clever angle on helicopter parenting. Dr. Katz’s Jonathan Katz is involved in the project. Through clean, colorful, and two dimensional animation, Class of 84 delves into the life of a teenager living with his constantly hovering, overprotective mother. From eating raw cookie dough to crossing the street, Class of 84 has its share of silly moments, but overall a fun and interesting look at the virtues of listening to your mother.
Directed by Jon Bloch, Waiting Game takes a darker turn exploring a tough and complicated relationship between constantly worried and well meaning Kenny, portrayed by John Patrick Amedori and his ailing, frustrated father, portrayed by Bruce McGill as Mel. It doesn’t take long for this meaningful short film to cause a lump in one’s throat.
‘Waiting Game’ Photo credit to Boston Film Festival and ‘Waiting Game’
Waiting Game is a relatable tale about how family can have the best of intentions and those intentions can end up getting misconstrued in the worst way. John Patrick Amedori Bruce McGill deliver powerful and moving performances that can sometimes be painful to watch as they build a fragile, tension-filled chasm between them. Waiting Game balances a few lighter moments between Kenny and sweet waitress Alyssa, portrayed by Dilshad Vadsaria.
On a lighter note, director Barbara Elbinger directs You Need Help, a heartfelt look at a retired married couple. Featuring a fitting soundtrack, Fred, portrayed by Edmund Dehn, is a depressed husband who longs to put vitality and fun back into his life with his all too practical wife, Doreen, portrayed by Eileen Nicholas. These two have a wonderful chemistry even when they do not see eye to eye and there is much more to these two than they seem. To witness Fred’s unconventional antics in recapturing the joy in their marriage is worth the price of the ticket.
Shahana Goswami as Sheetal in ‘The Seal’ Photo credit to Boston Film Festival and The Seal
Directed by Richa Rudola, The Seal takes a look at Shahana Goswami as Sheetal, a woman haunted by her past when she receives a mysterious, sealed package. Though the story is fictional, Director Richa Rudola was inspired to create this tale based on events she witnessed and experienced as a woman growing up in India.
The Seal delves into the struggles that keep people stuck in their pain, unable to move on with their lives. As the haunting phrase, ‘Remember what Mama used to Say’ permeates Sheetal’s thoughts, she seeks comfort in caring, but shady Daquane Cherry as Ruben. However, some of The Seal’s best scenes are in the unspoken moments, allowing the audience to draw their own conclusions.
Photo credit to the Boston Film Festival and ‘Boy Eats Girl: A Zombie Love Story’
Director Sarah Gurfield puts a little love in a zombie’s heart in Boy Eats Girl: A Zombie Love Story. Zombies seem to be all the rage and a love struck zombie picking flowers can be humorous, but found these seven short minutes all too dark and grisly to muster adoration.
The Bigonia Garden, directed by Ron Goldin and based on Goldin’s own experiences, is a foreign short film that explores an unexpected connection between neighbors in war torn Ashdod in Tel Aviv. As missiles are launched over their heads, Sound Producer Adam and neighbor Bar retreat to the stairwell in their building, the safest place during a crisis. It is a snapshot into the lives of people who have no choice but live in the moment during a tumultuous time.
It is a beautiful, personal film and loner Adam, portrayed by Adam Hirsch and Bar, portrayed by Bar Ackerman, have compelling chemistry with an unpredictable conclusion.
Directed by Joel Marsh, A Valley explores a couple of adventure-seeking risk takers as they go on a camping excursion together. It is based on a short story called The Marsh. They make each other laugh, wax philosophical, and the film gives the impression that all they have is each other. The film was a bit ambiguous and would have liked to have delved more into their relationship to give the film more emotional weight.
Boston Film Festival’s Shorts Program I also featured American Life and Heirloom, but were not reviewed. Click here for more about this year’s festival and future updates.
Bursts of orange, green and yellows adorn a landscape of huge pumpkin patches on a chilly night. Vivid mums, harvest wreaths, festive decorations, and fall colors fill the night sky in a special, nightly fireworks celebration. No, this is not fall in New England, but the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, a hidden gem for all the flavors of fall from the end of August through November. Featuring Disney’s most infamous villains, enchanting characters, and seasonal activities for the entire family, attendees are encouraged to dress up in costume for trick or treating throughout the park. Click here for more information on Disney’s extensive activities.
Epcot’s annual International Food and Wine Festival Photo courtesy of Jeanne Denizard
Key Lime Wine and a dish from Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival food and wine Photo courtesy of Jeanne Denizard
Epcot’s Botanical Gardens Photo courtesy of Jeanne Denizard
A topiary character gardens Photo courtesy of Jeanne Denizard
Fall is also widely known for amazing food festivals around the country. Taking that idea and expanding it in Disney’s own unique way within Epcot’s famous World Showcase, Epcot is proud to offer their annual International Food and Wine Festival kicking off Thursday, August 29 through Saturday, November 23. While Epcot’s World Showcase features the rich cultures of 11 countries from Mexico to Tokyo, Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival exponentially expands on this idea for a limited time, offering enticing cuisines and beverages from 30 marketplaces. Explore and dine on fare from the Caribbean Islands, Africa, Australia, Brazil, and more. Cooking demonstrations from famous culinary chefs, exclusive wine and beers from around the world, concerts, and cultural demonstrations take place throughout the park. From sweet and fruity Hurricane Class 5 wine and key lime flavored wines sold exclusively in Florida to international wines that suit any palette, attendees can try them first with wine tastings throughout the day.
This way to more of Epcot’s World Showcase Photo courtesy of Jeanne Denizard
While the festival takes place, enjoy the classic and new attractions such as Norway’s popular ride, Frozen, Soarin,’ Test Track, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, and Mission Space. Canada and Mexico are among the most popular attractions featured within Epcot’s World Showcase. With the holidays and the summer months among Disney World’s peak times, attendees can see a bit more without a bigger crowd, though FastPass is always recommended for optimal time saving and planning.
At Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, the sun shines a little brighter than most places around the world. Having thrilled families for almost 50 years, enjoy shopping, family activities, and spectacular attractions within each of the four parks. Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom all offer exciting adventures throughout the year. Click here for more information about Walt Disney World, rates, exclusive offers and more. It’s never too early to start planning a trip to Disney World, no matter what time of year.
NYC actress, writer, filmmaker, and casting assistant Stephanie Iscovitz is no stranger to a competitive festival, having been on the winning end and a participant. She is taking her expertise to a whole new level running the upcoming New York New Works Theatre Festival, kicking off Tuesday, October 3 and continuing through Saturday, Oct. 21 at New York City’s Duke Theatre with the final gala on Monday, Nov. 6 at Theatre 80.
With a wide spectrum of diverse, carefully chosen theatre productions from hundreds of submissions and created by Gene Fisch, Jr., the New York New Works Theatre Festival is a give back project to help the arts community. It’s an exciting, annual event as award-winning representatives from Broadway and beyond judge the next generation’s promising talent. Click here for the full theatre schedule, tickets, and here for panelist information.
Stephanie Iscovitz delves into her journey as a film festival participant, what to expect at the New York New Works Theatre Festival, and the message she hopes to convey through her work. Click here for more on Stephanie and her upcoming projects.
Sleepless Critic: Starting October 3, you are leading the management team at the New York New Works Theatre Festival.
Stephanie Iscovitz: Yes, I’m managing the New York New Works Theater Showcase and am very passionate about including as many powerful, female and diverse voices as possible.
The New York New Works Theatre Showcase is a theatre competition that provides aspiring writers the opportunity to present their work in a top tier theatre while being mentored by a group of Broadway, television producers, and industry leaders. The distinguished panelists are Broadway producers, Tony Award-winners, Emmy Award-winners, or industry executives that volunteer their time to help aspiring writers. Performances take place in the 199-seat Duke Theatre on 42nd and Broadway from Tuesday, October 3 through Saturday, October 21 with the final gala on Monday, November 6.
I’m eager to take all the wonderful parts of my film festival experience while bringing some great new ideas to the New York New Works Theatre Showcase. As an actor and writer, I know what kind of opportunities I would benefit from and am humbled and excited to provide that for the participants in this year’s showcase.
SI: With only eleven students in the conservatory, it was an extraordinary, life-changing experience. When you’re part of an intense, raw, and emotionally-challenging program like that, the people you experience it with become your family. I still study there as part of their on-going scene study program continually challenged with roles I’m afraid to do. I was most recently working on a character affected with brain damage.
T. Schreiber Studio and Theatre graduate Stephanie Iscovitz T. Schreiber Photo Credit: T. Schreiber Studio & Theatre
SC: What do you think is the most important thing that T. Schreiber has taught you as an actress, filmmaker, writer, and producer?
SI: Terry Schreiber notoriously says that you must give yourself the permission to let yourself happen, which has become my mantra. The first couple of short films I made as an actor, writer, and producer had potential, but they weren’t great. However, I wouldn’t be where I am today or learned as much as I did had I not made those short films, which I consider beautiful stepping stones. Give yourself permission to fall flat on your face and be patient with yourself on this creative journey because in this business, it’s more about the journey than the destination.
SC: Having attended a number of festivals in your career, you have firsthand experience participating in what can be incredibly competitive festivals. What was your first film festival you attended?
SI: The first film festival I got into was for my first film, Ladies Night, presented at a great festival I return to annually, the 2014 Big Apple Film Festival. It’s a comedy held in a karaoke bar and I’ve learned a lot after that first film, like avoid writing a film where music rights are imperative. To my surprise, it was very well received and screened alongside Jerry Stiller in the festival program. I had no idea what I was doing at the festival and was so nervous during the Q&A I could feel my shortness of breath while I was speaking. It’s a comforting thought that no one really knows what they’re doing and just trying to do the best they can with what they’ve got.
2014 Big Apple Film Festival – Stephanie won for her first film, which screened along Jerry Stiller. It was a comedy called ‘Ladies Night’ Photo Credit: Stephanie Iscovitz
SC: Recently, you went to Long Beach Island for a film festival not long ago. What is it like for you to attend a festival where your production is featured?
SI: Lighthouse International was the best film festival I’ve attended. Each year, the festival champions a selection of new, often unrecognized films from the US and around the world to compete in the festival and for audience award categories, which screen alongside award-winning spotlight films from Sundance, Cannes, SXSW, Toronto and Tribeca. I saw pre-released films and met other NYC filmmakers, sparking collaboration for future projects.
After the screenings, there were Q&A’s with the filmmakers. We had our world premiere of Bruce Loves You where the shorts programmer, Chip Parham, ran a stellar screening. It was wonderful to have a captive audience interested in knowing more about our film making process and about of course, Bruce the ghost.
‘Bruce Loves You’ team at the 2017 Lighthouse International Film Festival Photo courtesy of Darin Quan
SC: As you attend these festivals, do you feel like you get better at the process or is every festival different? What was it like to win at the festival?
SI: Every festival is different. We’ve started to call it ‘Game of Festivals’ where you win or die and 99% of the time you die. It’s all so subjective and such a gamble, depending upon who’s watching your submission if your submission was actually watched, at what time of day, and what the viewer’s own personal values and tastes are. When you are actually accepted out of thousands of submissions, it feels like a real lottery win.
I met one of my closest friends and collaborators at a film festival where our film, Catslaughter had been rejected. After speaking with her, it turned out we had the same exact film except hers was about a sweater and ours was about a cat. She had submitted early and was already accepted when we submitted late. Timing is everything. A rejection doesn’t necessarily mean your film was bad. There are a number of factors involved and in this case, they had already programmed a similar film. However, it turned out to be a huge blessing because she and I clicked creatively and have gone on to work together on multiple projects.
Filmmaker Cinder Chou at 2016 Big Apple Film Festival Photo courtesy of Stephanie Iscovitz
SC: What is the message that you hope to deliver through your work?
SI: I really want to drive social change through storytelling and that begins with representation on film, particularly through the female lens and experience. I hope to enlighten while helping audiences feel a little less alone.
Tickets are still available to this year’s New York New Works Theatre Festival. Click here for more information and tickets. New York New Works Theatre Festival is also on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Click here for more on Stephanie Iscovitz and her upcoming projects.
Stephanie Iscovitz’s new project Photo courtesy of Rutledge Customs
From a southern city to the Big Apple, actress, writer, filmmaker, producer, casting assistant, and T. Schreiber Studio and Theatre graduate Stephanie Iscovitz learned it takes a quick study to make it in the big city. Working on a variety of diverse projects, Stephanie continues to inspire and entertain through her unique storytelling. She will run the New York New Works Theatre Festival this October. Click here for more information on entering the festival and further details. Submit for free by August 15.
Film submissions are free through August 15. Festival with Broadway panel takes place in October. Photo courtesy of New York New Works Theatre Festival
Stephanie talks about finding home, her current project, her most challenging and rewarding experiences as a woman in film, and who she would love to work with in the future.
Sleepless Critic: You are from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, but you decided to pursue your career in NYC. What do you love most about the city and what ultimately inspired you to stay?
Stephanie Iscovitz: I knew I wanted to move to New York when I was 12. Oprah calls them ‘Ah-ha!’ moments. I visited the city with my family and it wasn’t the bright lights or tall buildings that enticed me, but truly the first time I felt home. I felt connected to the city unlike anything else. Nine years after moving here, I still love the energy, the urgency, the constant inspiration, and creativity.
T. Schreiber Studio and Theatre graduate Stephanie Iscovitz with class of 2011 Photo Credit: T. Schreiber Studio & Theatre
SC: You have delved into a wealth of projects as an actress working in New York City, always with enthusiasm for the next project. Please tell me what it was like when you first arrived.
SI: I really had to get it together when I first arrived because the competition is too fierce. I awakened to the reality of what it actually takes to be an actor and to stay afloat in the industry. Coming from Florida, I thought I would audition, book this role, and be rich and famous before I’m 30. It’s so hard. So many steps on the ladder and hoops you have to jump through to succeed and as a woman, a glass ceiling. You have to be somewhat naive to get into the business and then an ultimate bad-ass to stay in it. The first time I felt like I got it right was an audition for a role portraying a very complex, troubled stand-up comedian. I never felt more alive and was still reeling from the audition when the producer followed me out of the room and thanked me for my work, which never happens. I didn’t book it, which is a lesson that talent sometimes has nothing to do with who gets the job.
SC: You have delved into a variety of female driven projects. What has most surprised you working on these productions?
SI: What surprised me most was the real, systemic issues preventing women from rising through the ranks. Women graduate from film school at 50 percent, the same rate that men do, so there are no lack of trained, qualified, and willing female directors. Women are held to a much higher standard than men before they are considered qualified. There are countless examples of male directors who were snatched up by the studio after having only directed a very small micro-budget film and literally handed the opportunity of taking on a multi-million dollar studio movie. That kind of risk has almost never been taken on by a female director. I was never aware of these greater challenges until I got into the business which is why it’s imperative to have these conversations about the revolution of women in film.
SC: Of the various jobs you do, what has been most challenging and rewarding for you?
SI: Though every role has its own set of challenges and triumphs, the most rewarding is being able to collaborate with other independent female filmmakers to create something that grows organically. I’ve learned that the film you shoot will be different than the film you write and the film you edit will be different than the film you shot. It’s movie magic to nurture this idea with a team you respect, admire, and have a final product you never could have created on your own. Each learning experience gives me the confidence to guide me through to the next project.
2014 Big Apple Film Festival – Stephanie won for her first film, which was screened alongside Jerry Stiller. It was a comedy called ‘Ladies Night’ Photo Credit: Stephanie Iscovitz
SC: You have taken on thrillers, dramas, comedy, and other genres in your work. Just a couple of the comedies you are a part of is OK, Cupid and the web series, Third Wheel. I understand Third Wheel is doing well and was nominated for an award.
SI: I enjoy all genres and hope to continue to create a diverse body of work. As an actor, I tend to play darker, troubled characters but also have extensive improv experience having completed The People’s Improv training program. I was on two indie improv teams performing in comedy clubs throughout the city for a few years and loved it. Improv is a reminder to stay in the moment and inspires a ‘yes, and’ attitude for life. It’s where I met my close friends Sarah and Darin who are part of the Third Wheel team. On Third Wheel, Sarah plays the lead character, ‘Lu’ and Darin directed, shot, edited and scored the entire project. We were nominated for Best Ensemble at the NYC WebFest. Third Wheel got distribution through SeekaTV, a streaming platform for the independent filmmaker. See the complete first season here.
Stephanie Iscovitz in her latest film, ‘Bruce Loves You’ Photo Credit: Darin Quan
SC: Tell me about your latest film, Bruce Loves You.
SI: I reconnected with Sarah and Darin after Third Wheel to film Bruce Loves You. Chris Roberti of HBO’s High Maintenance and Comedy Central’s Broad City is Bruce, a charismatic and handsome ghost in a complicated relationship with a young woman who happens to be alive. When he begins to compliment her roommate’s speaking voice, it becomes clear he is not a one-woman ghost. I portray the roommate. The inspiration behind Bruce focuses on improbable or ridiculous stories and how they can help alleviate the inevitable problems of time and money in film production. A blender was also always breaking down, so this story was a natural expression of all those elements in a true ‘indie’ spirit. See the trailer here.
‘Bruce Loves You’ team at the 2017 Lighthouse International Film Festival Photo courtesy of Darin Quan
SI: I am so grateful I got the job through my best friend. Every actor should have an opportunity to work in a casting office. You learn nothing is personal and the best person for the job doesn’t always get it for reasons beyond anyone’s control. Once we were casting for a luxury eye-wear company and the model they wanted to book had a small cut on her finger and lost the job even though it would have been healed and completely unnoticeable by the shoot date. Another time we were casting a commercial and booked an actress in her mid-40s. The client changed their mind and wanted the role to be for an 80 year-old actress. So even after booking it, that actress didn’t get it. You’re not in it ‘til you’re in it.
SC: Please tell me about projects you are currently working on and who you would like to work with in the future.
SI: I’ve been working on a virtual reality (VR) project in narrative form for the past year. VR experiences have an unprecedented potential to elicit empathy, which makes it perfect for a story I’m exploring about unconventional love and “otherness.” It’s the first time I’m focusing more on myself and creating a role that showcases my acting range instead of a more ensemble piece where all my friends have equal screen time.
Key Lime Wine and a dish from Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival 2016
Cinderella’s Castle in October
Spaceship Earth at Epcot
Epcot’s annual International Food and Wine Festival
Bursts of orange, green and yellows adorn a landscape of huge pumpkin patches on a chilly night. Vivid mums, harvest wreaths, festive decorations, and fall colors fill the night sky in a special, nightly fireworks celebration. No, this is not fall in New England, but the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, a hidden gem for all the flavors of fall from September through November 2016. Featuring Disney’s most infamous villains, enchanting characters, and seasonal activities for the entire family, attendees are encouraged to dress up in costume for trick or treating throughout the park. Click here for more information on Disney’s extensive activities.
Fall is also widely known for amazing food festivals around the country. Taking that idea and expanding it in Disney’s own unique way within Epcot’s famous World Showcase, Epcot is proud to offer their annual International Food and Wine Festival from September 14 to November 14. While Epcot’s World Showcase features the rich cultures of 11 countries from Mexico to Tokyo, Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival exponentially expands on this idea for a limited time, offering enticing cuisines and beverages from 30 marketplaces. Explore and dine on fare from the Caribbean Islands, Africa, Australia, Brazil, and more. Cooking demonstrations from famous culinary chefs, exclusive wine and beers from around the world, concerts, and cultural demonstrations take place throughout the park. From sweet and fruity Hurricane Class 5 wine and key lime flavored wines sold exclusively in Florida to international wines that suit any palette, attendees can try them first with wine tastings throughout the day.
While the festival takes place, enjoy the classic and new attractions such as Norway’s new ride, Frozen, Soarin,’ Test Track, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, and Ellen’s Energy Adventure. Canada and Mexico are among the most popular attractions featured within Epcot’s World Showcase. With the holidays and the summer months among Disney World’s peak times, attendees can see a bit more without a bigger crowd, though FastPass is always recommended for optimal time saving and planning.
At Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, the sun shines a little brighter than most places around the world. Having thrilled families for over 45 years, enjoy shopping, family activities, and spectacular attractions within each of the four parks. Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom all offer exciting adventures throughout the year. Click here for more information about Walt Disney World, rates, exclusive offers and more. It’s never too early to start planning a trip to Disney World, no matter what time of year.