Sunday, September 25, 2011

Writer/Performer Cyndi Freeman Captures Wonder Woman in Her Lasso of Truth

"I did some soul searching and discovered it was both the anti-Nazi sentiment and the sexiness that really seemed to get to my core."

Two-time, FringeNYC award-winning writer/performer Cyndi Freeman's latest solo show traces her journey from a little suburban Jewish girl obsessed with Wonder Woman to a fabulous burlesque Queen in NYC.

How did you get into performing?

As a kid I was just always reenacting TV shows with my friends and staging little plays for my poor parents. When asked at age 5 what I wanted to be when I grew up I said, "a movie star". As I got older, I realized "Movie Star" is not what it's cracked up to be - that the bug I always had was in creating my own shows. So I am still doing what I was doing when I was 5 - just for a larger audience.

What is your show about?

I became obsessed with Wonder Woman when I was 12. Although I have "grown up", I am still influenced by the icon. So many of my choices are connected to my love of Wonder Woman and what she symbolizes. The show weaves personal stories of discovery and empowerment with trivia about America's favorite female superhero.

What was the inspiration for it?

For my 40th Birthday, I bought myself the DVD of Wonder Woman, Season 1, just for fun. I started the pilot on my computer, expecting to find it too childish for my adult sensibility, but as I watched it, I found that chills went up my spine. It was the same feeling I had when I was 12 watching the show -like a giant hug.

I did some soul searching and discovered it was both the anti-Nazi sentiment and the sexiness that really seemed to get to my core. I decided there would be a great show in this when I started looking into who created her, William Marston. From there I became even more inspired to move forward with it. Wonder Woman has an amazing history. The show has been slowly coming together for 7 years.

What was the development process of the material from inspiration to stage to this stage?

I am a storyteller in NYC and have a show of my own that I co-produce with my husband, Brad Lawrence. It is the perfect place to try out new ideas. All my stories were worked out before an audience. Meanwhile, I worked with my director, David Drake, on shaping and structuring the show, choosing which stories were best for the show and coming up with the perfect words. He is a very, very funny man and many of my best one-liners came from him.

How did you find your director?

Through a mutual friend, theater producer Paul Lucas, who was a doll and helped me find not just a director but a photographer who came to a rough draft staging and gave notes. As for David Drake, I am so lucky to have worked with him.

This is a one-woman show but not a one-woman effort by any means. David really helped me find the core themes that I was working with. The stuff hidden in my subconscious that I would not have been aware of without his keen eye. He is also just a lovely guy and a lot of fun. Alas, he is out of town at the moment. In the meantime, I am receiving additional coaching on the show from Peter Aguero, who is one of the best storytellers in NY.

Who or what inspires you?

Stories from the heart. I love "This American Life", "The Moth", and I read memoirs. I also have a love of camp and over the top bad books and movies, so I have a huge collection of pulp fiction with crazy covers that I read for kicks. I am also fascinated with cryptozoology. My current read is a book entitled "The Great Sea Serpent of New England." And I also love burlesque performers- the scene in NY is so creative and fun. My favorite TV show is Dr Who.

What's your writing schedule like?

I go through phases where I am prolific and then I am dry. I had a teacher once tell me that part of the creative process is "listening" so I guess I have my "listening phase" and then my "saying something phase."

What do you do when you get a block?

I make myself go into listening mode. I cruise the Internet for what ever might interest me. For example, I knew very little about Napoleon. So one day I started at Wikipedia, went next to a documentary from PBS and discovered that, during his final exile on the island of St. Helena, he met a 13 year old girl, Besty Balcombe, who became a very special friend.

She wrote a memoir about her time as his pal with the long title Recollections of Napoleon During His First Three Years of His Captivity on the Island of St. Helena. Published in 1844, the book has a similar style to Little House on the Prairie but it stars Napoleon. Boy, did this get my mind moving in new directions! It is available for free at

What shows/performers are you excited about right now?

Sept 27 (Tue) My storytelling show, The Standard Issues, is at Pacific Standard Bar in Park Slope Brooklyn next week. It is always a great line up and a great clubhouse feel. The show is every 4th Tuesday of the month @ 8pm

Oct 5 (Wed) And I Am Not Lying - This is a great line up of talent! Story Telling Burlesque and Side Show - at Union Hall in Brooklyn 8pm

Oct 14 (Fri) & Oct 15 (Sat) Epic Win Burlesque (Nerd Burlesque at its finest) Presents DC vs MARVEL - I am going to do a burlesque act as Wonder Woman - it’s at TADA! Youth Theater - 9:30

What's next?

See the above shows and take Wonder Woman on the road to festivals in the US and Canada.

Wonder Woman: A How to Guide for Little Jewish Girls is playing 2 shows Oct 4 & 6 at Stage Left Studios in NYC, part of their Women At Work Festival. You can lasso some tix here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Pillar(s) of Our Community : The 2011 NY Innovative Theater Awards Celebrates the Tenacity and Audacity of Off-Off Broadway

"That's right. HIV jokes on the same stage Lincoln used to orate."

And thus began the 2011 NY Innovative Theater Awards, hosted by the hilarious and adorable comedian, Harrison Greenbaum at the Cooper Union.

(Cheerleaders courtesy of The Passion Crest Violators Fictional Cheerleading Squad.)

We are so glad you left Harvard to pursue not law or business-shmizness, but the far-loftier goal of bringing laughter into the hearts of the world, especially the off-off Broadway theater scene which celebrated it's own Monday night, wearing its heart on its sleeve, its tongue in its cheek and, in true off-off Broadway form, a pillar right in front of the podium. PILLAR SHMILLAR!

"It's going to be a night of 'Hey! That's the guy from that thing... No, not that thing, the other thing. Yeah!" joked Greenbaum. And NYIT celebrated so many awesome things done by awesome guys and gals creating awesome inventive, DIY theater magic. (But hey, we need more gals!)

Fun Fact That Will Floor You
Out of 13 awards given to individuals, 9 went to the mens and 4 to the womens; out of 10 playwrights nominated, 2 were women. So really, women, you better start learning yourselves how to write more better.

Another (more cheerful) fun fact: This year's awards had the most individual nominees than in any previous season, with over 169 theater artists and 80 members of ensembles acknowledged by NYIT, "the only organization that gives awards to stage managers." (Congratulations chick-a-licious stage manager, Laura Schlachtmeyer!)

Flux Theatre Ensemble received the Caffe Cino Fellowship award and summoned the Goddess of Indie Theater to answer the nascent cries for creative control and DO IT YOURSELFism...

while also giving a nod to all that that entails: the temp jobs, the exhaustion, the money (or lack thereof) for lumber (Flux: "Why does it cost so much? It's just wood!")


Go Flux!

Horse Trade Theater Group won the Ellen Stewart Award for supporting and creating a vital community and home for independent theater artists. In accepting the award, Horse Trade announced they had just negotiated and signed a new lease for Under St. Marks Theatre and are moving towards its purchase.

Playwright Robert Patrick (whose first play The Haunted Host was produced in 1964 and premiered at the Caffe Cino) won the Artistic Achievement Award presented by actress and luminary Shirley Knight, commenting that Parker "gave us that magical thing of floor" and added, "it's so nice to be at an awards show where the awards are given for the quality of the work..."

Of the twenty awards, The Drowsy Chaperone by the Gallery Players cleaned up with four including Outstanding Ensemble, Outstanding Choreography / Movement (Christine O'Grady), Outstanding Costume Design (Ryan J. Moller) and Outstanding Production of a Musical.

To present the Outstanding Production of a Play (Balm in Gilead/T. Schreiber Studio) was the beloved, born-in-the-Bronx bad-ass, John Patrick Shanley who sauntered out asking, "Do you still want to continue the struggle? Are you still willing to ruin your lives and the lives of others to follow your dream?" The answer wasn't so much applause (which there was) but laughter because any other option is, well, laughable.

For a complete list of winners and nominees, click it like you mean it here.

For additional inspiration and excitement, you're just going to have to get your cute little bootie to the 2012 NYIT. Seriously, it's worth way more than the ticket price. Bring friends, wear a boa or bondage or nothing it all, but go. (It's rumored that the All-Mighty Pillar brings good luck to all who attend because, frankly, without obstacles and the insane urge to overcome them, where would off-off Broadway or any dramatist, actor, artist worth their salt be?)

Theaterspeak congratulates and thanks ALL of the off-off Broadway nominees, winners and otherwise for a spectacular season. We look forward to more.

The New York Innovative Theatre Foundation is a not-for-profit organization recognizing the great work of New York City's Off-Off-Broadway, honoring its artistic heritage, and providing a meeting ground for this extensive and richly varied community. The organization advocates for Off-Off-Broadway and recognizes the unique and essential role it plays in contributing to American and global culture. They believe that publicly recognizing excellence in Off-Off-Broadway will expand audience awareness and foster greater appreciation of the New York theatre experience. BOOYA!

NYIT Photos: David Fletcher
Robert Patrick Photo courtesy of the Interweb God
All Other Photos courtesy of My Crappy Little Camera.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Sneak Peak at J. Stephen Brantley's Eighty three Down

Playwright J. Stephen Brantley's gave Theaterspeak the first look at some new pics of his sizzling new play Eightythree Down (directed by Daniel Talbott) now playing at Under St. Marks.

It’s New Year’s Eve 1983 and Martin’s plan for a quiet night in his parents’ basement is thrown into chaos when his old friend Dina and her hooligan roommates arrive with a gun, a bag of stolen books, and a dangerous idea.


You can see we need you. I need you. It’s nearly midnight and I’ve no one to kiss. Be a shame to waste the moment, a couple of blokes like us.


What are you doing?


I’m not doing anything, am I.


You don’t work, fuckers like you. The whole world works around you. Building your tennis courts. Cleaning your toilets. Repairing your stereos and installing your cable and stuffing your Care Bears and you don’t even notice. You contribute nothing. You have no craft. I hate people who have no craft.



We’re all insane, really. It’s just a matter of perspective. If you were to suggest I spend the rest of my life in somebody’s basement reading books about birds, I’d say that’s totally raving crazy. Most people would.


I’m not spending the rest of my life-


How do you know?




Well, how do you know you won’t be dead tomorrow, scooby-doo? What if tonight is the rest of your life?

Eightythree Down runs until September 17th and stars Melody Bates, Ian Holcomb, Bryan Kaplan, and Brian Miskell. Under St. Marks is located at 94 St. Marks Place between Avenue A and 1st. Tickets can be purchased through Smart Tix. Photographs by Hunter Canning.