Thursday, April 26, 2012

Where's MoM? On the Road. MoM - A Rock Concert Musical

"MoM is about ... the age old conflict between behaving responsibly and wanting to jump off the deep end. It's just not a mom thing."  - Richard Caliban, Playwright and Creator 
What was the inspiration for MoM - the Rock Concert Musical?

The inspiration for MoM was seeing the trend towards rebellion expressed through rock and roll and sex. Web sites for Moms Who Rock, Rocker Moms, and on and on are all over the internet. And it's different then middle aged dads playing in garage bands -- there's a feeling of asserting oneself, redefining roles, etc.

 And then in the main stream shows like Desperate Housewives were responding to what seems like a general trend towards sexualizing middle aged married women. A lot of it's silly and exploitative but where there's smoke there's fire and it seems like middle aged women, moms in particular are going through something of a revolution. The days of Donna Reed are over.

Dana McCoy
What is MoM about?

MoM is about doing what you think you have to do vs. doing what you want to do -- the age old conflict between behaving responsibly and wanting to jump off the deep end. It's not just a mom thing. Everybody can relate to it. We can all second guess ourselves for choices we made. 'Maybe I should have written that novel.' 'Maybe I should have run off to Europe with that lover.' 'Maybe I should have stuck with the saxophone.' In MoM they get a second chance.
MoM is Stefanie Seskin, Jane Keitel, Donna Jean Fogel, Bekka Lindstrom and Dana McCoy
How did you find your collaborators?

Casting MoM was incredibly difficult. It took months. Casting a normal musical you have to find people who can, of course, sing and act the parts -- but with MoM they also had to be able to play as a band. Harder than I thought. Sometimes I'd find a really great musician but she couldn't act. Or the perfect actress but she couldn't play an instrument.
MoM having a bad day.
How do you like to collaborate?

 I like to collaborate, especially with something like this, by giving ownership of the material to the actors. Perhaps it's a result of my hippie beginnings in ensemble theatre, but I think of the cast as co-creators, not as mercenaries hired on to carry out my grand plan. I rarely tell them what to do and am more likely to ask them what feels best to them.

As a result, I tend to get performances -- in MoM and in other works of mine, where people ask me if I wrote the part for that actor. For instance, people are often surprised that I wrote the songs for MoM -- and I think that's because the cast has had the freedom to personalize the songs, to adapt them and mold them to their own inclinations and strengths.


MoM - A Rock Concert Musical plays through Saturday April 28th at The Barrow Group Theatre, 312 West 36th Street, 3rd Floor. (Between 8th and 9th Ave) NYC. 8pm. To get your tickets, rock out here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Filling the Well Artist Retreat: Where Play = Product


"Expect to get a lot of shit done. Expect to cry. To laugh. To get close with the other artists there. To step out of your comfort zone..."
- Diana Oh's Filling the Well

When did the idea to start Filling the Well come about?

The idea of Filling the Well came about when I sought free counseling during my thesis year at grad school at NYU. I sat in the therapist's office after my very first panic attack, which fell upon me after a year of feeling like anything I created was only meant to fall on its ass and fail real hard. Her response to me was 'a) you're depressed and b) Maybe you just need to fill your well. Go see a movie'.

It suddenly clicked and made so much sense to me. You can't create something when you're barren, when your resources are depleted, when you're inspiration is dull and dried out. You have to experience life in order to create something out of it. I'm a true believer in that.Playing is as important as hunkering down and spending those wee into the night hours banging out that first draft of your magnum opus. Playing is not the enemy. It is the disciplined artist's friend. I wanted to create an environment that welcomed that mindset, and that surrounded individual artists with other like-minded people in a highly intensive and very focused setting. Filling the Well is also greatly influenced by the time I spent at National Theatre Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center, which was a 7AM-11PM, 7 days a week,14 week-long theatre arts immersion. You wrote, you acted, you Russian acrobatted, you African danced, you sang, you cried, you directed, you costume designed, you drew yourself naked. You did it all. I realized past the collegiate level, there wasn't an environment for artists to run to engage in that kind of crazy as shit behavior. I essentially created an environment and curriculum I wanted to experience. And also a setting that served as a catalyst, as a place to help bring ideas to life.

What is your background as a theater artist?

Actor, writer, singer, songwriter, uke player. I've performed my whole life. I was in my first professional Theatre gig at the age of 12 playing some kid in a cokehead's dream with The Cornerstone Theatre Company. Studied Theatre at Smith College, attended London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, National Theatre Institute, and then sorta accidentally went to graduate school at NYU's Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program as an Elphaba Thropp Fellow.

I'm an artist-in-development with The Fullstop Collective, co-writing and performing in a musical adaptation of Ryunosuke Akutagawa's "Hell Screen" and have just wrapped two shows, DICTEE and MAGIC TRICK with Culture Project, recently worked with The Living Theatre on HISTORY OF THE WORLD, and about to open my next show, Mariah MacCarthy's THE FOREPLAY PLAY.My background is always continuous as I live to connect with artists, to connect artists with one another, to have dance parties with them, to say ef you to the system even if it's just for a temporary moment. I believe that is our job as artists--to be the ones who act out, who live with at the least 73% more vitality than what other people live with. We kind of have to. Because we suffer, we feel, then we create awesome stuff out of it--that takes at least 73% more energy than your average Joe takes to go to work and call it a day. However, don't get me wrong--we need the Joe's to enjoy our work. Go Joes!

What is your vision for Filling the Well? What are your future goals?

Big dreams. I want to build on the land. I want to build a blackbox space for people to perform in, or paint in, or rock out in with their bands. Eventually, there will definitely be a performance of the work that has been made there. Because I gotta tell ya, when you let artists do their thing, amazing work comes out. I want grants so artists can come for free (but til then you have to pay a verrrry minimal amount), I want to continue what we're doing at The Well. Even when I'm rolling in the bills as an independent artist, my home will always be The Well. I think the artists who come here feel that way too. The sky is the limit as far as who else comes. If Beyonce needed a break, she could totally come to Filling the Well. You've had two retreats so far (I've been lucky to be a part of one of them). What was your experience like doing them?

FUCKING AMAZING. First group of people were my friends--I didn't mean it to be such a big group (I originally intended it to be for 4 artists total) but people were interested so I opened it up to more. Most of the people on the first group went to National Theatre Institute so they were all used to the intensive schedule and workload.

The second group were pretty much all strangers to one another and myself--and that was the true test--and guess what? We all passed. We all passed real good. I also had an Ayurvedic chef, Soraya Broukhim on the last retreat. She cooked our delicious mind blowing meals and I'm going to keep having her come on the retreats. So far, we've had actors, musicians, writers, dancers, directors, photographers, renaissance men and women.

What has the feedback been like?

I'm kinda speechless about it. The feedback has expanded my mind entirely. It's been unbelievable really. The day we got back from our first retreat in November 2011, the next three retreats filled up within 3 weeks. And people still write to sign up. I think we're all hungry for this kind of experience to connect with ourselves and others. This precious, once-in-a lifetime chance to have a giant sleepover with artists. I think The Well opens us up in an unexpected ways. I really don't think there's a way for you to go on one of these retreats and not come out changed, inspired, or moved.

One retreater called it one of the most incredible experiences of her artistic life, a game changer. Another says, "Filling the Well breathed much needed life into my creative soul. There, in that house, with amazing other artists, I remembered how to play again. It delighted me, inspired me and rejuvenated me...The weekend is structured in a way that shakes out the weight of the world we all place on our own shoulders, opens up your creative mind and gives your permission to soar. I will be back it again, and again!"

And another says, "If you live in New York, and even if you don’t, I recommend this retreat above anything else right now. Above the latest apps, above Florence + The Machine’s new album, above chocolate, above spending your week’s paycheck on new clothes and booze. This retreat will do so much more for you than any of those items. It will open your mind and help you remember a version of you that you knew years ago. It will get you to branch out, scream, sing, dance, leap, jump, write… always writing."

And another retreater, "This is a playground of hope, renewal, and inspiration for artists to create art and community and shrug off the world. A truly magical place. I'm excited to go again and again this year."

You can read more here.

How do you organize the retreat? What is the schedule like?

I thought about the schedule for months on end once I realized how much of reality it could all be. You are given an assignment a week before the retreat, your work is presented the night you get there, and then you are given 2 more assignments over the course of the weekend. Saturday goes roughly like this: we all wake at 7AM for a group warm up, then do morning pages, present work to another, introductions, then we jump into the "courses:" Spontaneity, Negative Space, Hat Writing, Snowflake Method, Depiction. It all kinda wraps up around 8-9PM, then you work on your assignments. Sunday is a similar schedule, except with the added Filling the Well activity, which is a basically an adventure we all go on to fill our well. Sunday night is a big night of presenting our work to one another.

What can people expect when they go?

Expect to get a lot of shit done. Expect to cry. To laugh. To get close with the other artists there. To step out of your comfort zone. Expect to be with nature in the middle of nowhere (a 2.5 hour bus ride from Port Authority). Expect to see stars, pack a sweater. And also, it's a dry retreat--no alcohol or drugs.

How do people apply?

Through the website.

How can people help?

I AM FUNDRAISING LIKE A FIEND. The house takes money to keep up. The retreats cost money to run--freaky expenses always pop out of nowhere. I love this place. I love doing it. I love fighting for it. If you are able to donate to my fundraising campaign, I will feel the impact so hard because as of late, expenses come out of my pocket. Plus, if you donate, you are definitely going to be a part of some history in the making. The artists who come are real artists whose work is getting done. So by supporting The Well, you also support them.

To support the artists and their work:
http://www.indiegogo.com/Filling-the-Well?a=364803Photos by Brian Hashimoto.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Caroline Rothstein's New Play "faith" Directed by Alex Mallory at Women's Center Stage

" 'faith' is about my experience with and recovery from a decade-long eating disorder..."
-Caroline Rothstein
Playwright, Poet, Activist

What is "faith" about?


CR: The play begins at the onset of my eating disorder when I was 11 years old, and ends now - when I am 28-years-old and seven years recovered.

What was the inspiration/motivation for writing the piece?

I've always incorporated my experiences with eating disorders and recovery into my writing and performance work, and I have been publicly speaking about and sharing my experience since I was in high school. Over coffee this past August, my director asked me if I had ever considered writing a one-woman play, and I had in fact been toying with the idea of turning my eating disorder and recovery experience into a piece for the theater - thus began the creation and development of "faith."

My motivation with "faith" is the same as with all of my artistic and advocacy work regarding eating disorders, body image, and recovery - to spread awareness, offer prevention, and encourage and inspire recovery.

Tell us about your video blog...

My video blog on YouTube is called "Body Empowerment." I have been posting episodes for the past four years, and I now post new episodes every first and third Monday of the month. I offer stories about my own recovery and body empowerment experiences, as well as videos responding to viewers' requests and questions. It's been an incredible journey and I am so grateful to all of my loyal viewers from the past several years. I've connected with people all over the world, and I feel committed to continuing to spread awareness and body empowerment through this medium.


What has the development process for "faith" been like?

CR: The development process has been very fast, but tremendously rewarding and encouraging. I couldn't have done it without my director Alex Mallory, who has been there every step of the way from the piece's inception, to of course it's presentation on stage. My performance background and training is in theater, but I have spent the last decade specializing in and performing spoken word poetry. "faith" is my return to theater, and also the first full-length play I've ever written. Alex was a brilliant guide in helping me shape my writing for the stage, versus spoken word, poetry, nonfiction, and journalism - the media in which I have been writing until now.

ALEX MALLORY: Caroline had never written a play before, so this was an exciting and collaborative process. The first draft of the play was written in two weeks in September, and it is nothing like the version you will see onstage next week. We pulled poems & journal entries from various parts of her life and threw them into the mix, some of which are performed verbatim in the play and others of which provided a backdrop to draw from in the play's creation.

Having seen Caroline perform dozens of spoken word poems over the last year I knew the depths of performance she was capable of reaching, and at one point we went through a version of the script and assigned poems from her repertoire to each section, giving her an emotional basis to draw on for each scene. At this point, Caroline is the performer, and the text is set, although occasionally we still change things that help the flow of the performance in a significant way.

Alex, how do you approach feedback and development?

AM: I am very opinionated about what I think makes good theater, and writers who have worked with me know that I am going to tell them exactly why I think a moment doesn't work. I always approach feedback from the perspective of the audience - if you're writing for the stage, the play's success depends upon the journey of the audience. I see myself as the ideal audience member - I am easily bored, easily distracted and hard to make laugh. So I constantly push and pull with a writer to develop a performance that I can't stop paying attention to. I've been very lucky to work with incredible writers who trust me and are willing to take a few leaps of faith.

Caroline, what's your writing schedule like?

CR: What routine and schedule! Just kidding! I've been touring for most of the past seven months performing spoken word poetry at colleges and poetry venues, so I would find huge hour and day chunks of time to focus on writing "faith," and other projects. Because I'm my own agent, manager, and creative talent, it's hard to have a set routine. Some days are spent sending out press kits, others responding to emails, others editing video content for "Body Empowerment," others on the road performing. The only constant is keeping track of deadlines and priorities for each day and week!

Alex, how do you collaborate with writers?

AM: It is a new process every time, and depends on the state the play is in when I first read it. I only work on plays with writers and writing that move me, so my job is never to "fix" the writing, only to make it more exciting and transcending on the stage. The writing process almost always continues into the rehearsal process, when we can discover how something actually feels and sounds in space. When the writer is not performing, I prefer to have them out of the room for these discoveries, so that they won't try to over-edit when something doesn't work but learn to trust the small tweaks that I suggest. With "faith", because Caroline is performing, it is possible for her to step out of her writer shoes and trust me as the director. That has been a wonderful part of our collaborative relationship.

How did you meet Alex and Poetic Theater Productions?

CR: I met Alex through Jeremy Karafin, with whom she is Co-Artistic Directors at Poetic Theater Productions. We first worked together when she offered to run some poems with me last year in preparation for two separate events and shows. I really loved working with her and her directing approach. I'm thrilled that we've been able to work together in this capacity for "faith."

Alex, what kinds of work do you gravitate towards?

AM: I gravitate towards work that is simultaneously personal and political, that uses language to layer meaning on top of the basic story. I didn't think to call this kind of work "poetic" until I met Jeremy and discovered Poetic Theater Productions. I gravitate towards work with a conscience, and work that starts a conversation.

How did you come to writing/performing and theater?

CR: I have been writing poetry and nonfiction stories since I was in elementary school. I have been performing since I was three, when I began dancing as a ballerina. Throughout elementary school I was a dancer, singer, figure skater, and writer. In middle school, I began acting and embraced theater in full. I'd always loved musical theater - and singing - so actually diving into acting was a natural transition. I've been performing and writing in multiple media ever since.

Alex, how did you come to theater and directing?


AM: Birth. My parents took me to a Unitarian Church when I was very little, where I was part of the choir and in a little kids ensemble of The Music Man singing "Please Support Your Local Pool Hall" in a pinstripe vest and a visor. I only found out last year that the musical was the reason they started going to church at all (I come from a family of entirely secular German Jews).
I think directing came out of being around a lot of theater and having strong opinions about what I did and didn't like. I developed strong ideas about what I wanted to see onstage and how I wanted to be affected by what I saw onstage. And I have never really seen a reason to be held back by waiting for people to offer me opportunities - my philosophy of theater is to make things happen. I was really lucky to be offered that opportunity in high school - I wanted to direct a show and I was given rehearsal space & the theater and just did it, and that's pretty much what I've been doing ever since.

Alex, You have a lot of balls in the air being the director of "faith", Co-Artistic director of Poetic Theater Performance and Associate Producer of Women Center Stage. How do you manage it?

AM: This is probably the most I've ever tried to do at one time. It can be crazy - 8am rehearsals before work means I have to be vigilant about getting enough sleep the night before. I started taking a karate class in February, which has been a huge blessing because whenever I go, I don't have to think about anything else for an hour - so I try to slip in a couple of those every week. I think at the end of the day I manage it by being passionate about everything I'm working on and having an incredible Co-Artistic Director who keeps me sane.

What or who is inspiring you right now?

CR: Right now, I am very inspired by Marina Abramovic, Adrian Piper, and Karen Finley. I have been a huge Abramovic fan since my senior year in college, and regularly think about her work when I consider what it means to be a female performance artist. I recently had the pleasure of seeing Karen Finley perform at my alma mater. The way she blends, merges, and intertwines multiple media in her performance work is incredibly inspiring. I also think about Adrian Piper on a regular basis, especially her older works like Catalysis I, and how she pushed boundaries, not only in performance art, but in our dialogue about race relations in the United States.
Too often our feminist conversations neglect to consider race, and we alienate multitudes of women/womyn and miss opportunities to explore and understand the necessities of and reasons for womynism. I feel we need to have more cross-cultural dialogues amongst women/womyn - across race, nationality, gender-identity, sexual orientation, religion, and more. I think about these three artists so frequently because they help me keep these things in mind - how nationality, race, and gender directly affect our conversations and work as artists.

AM: The incredibly talented women who are a part of Women Center Stage. I get to see a performance (sometimes two) every night in March - over a dozen different shows over thirty days. I love having the diversity of styles and constant influx of new minds - it is going to be a large void to fill when it's over! I suppose I will have to start seeing other people's projects again. :-)

What's next?

CR: More spoken word poetry shows, more writing, hopefully more "faith," and exciting new projects in other media I have yet to work with! Much on the table!

AM: Goliath returns for two weeks May 23-June 3! I am also working on developing a play written by four incredible women spoken word poets (including Caroline) about LGBT violence & oppression across race & class lines, and have been talking to a couple of those poets about working on new projects with them.

Anything you'd like to add?

AM: "faith" is a play people should see. It is very essentially about self-doubt, the way a person can warp her view of the world, and empowerment. Caroline is a stunning performer with incredible command of body and language and I am very honored to be working on this piece - join us!

"FAITH" is part of Culture Project's Women Center Stage Festival. You can catch ir Tuesday and Wednesday, April 3rd and 4th at The Living Theater, 21 Clinton Street between E. Houston and Stanton Street. Tickets are $18. You can purchase tickets online or call 866-811-4111.

Poetic Theater Productions - the Company Behind Two New Moving Plays at Women Center Stage Festival

Who is Poetic Theater Productions?

I'm Jeremy Karafin, the founder of Poetic Theater Productions and Co-Artistic Director with Alex Mallory. Poetic Theater Productions' is an award winning theater company committed to working with poets and playwrights to create a visceral, poetic theater. Since our founding in 2010, we've worked with over 150 artists presenting work by over 25 poets and playwrights, creating work that addresses social justice causes, and developing a community of artists and audience inspired by this powerful art form.

How did you come about?

JK: I founded and produced the first three years of a major spoken word festival in California called the Kinetic Poetics Project which is now in its 10th season. I moved to New York to work in theater again and connected with several of the poets I had previously worked with who had also moved to New York. We started the company by presenting spoken word showcases, and after adding Alex Mallory as Co-Artistic Director, made our leap into producing full poetic plays including our award-winning and critically-acclaimed production of Goliath by Takeo Rivera and directed by Alex Mallory.

How can people/artists get involved with PTP?

Email us at submit@poetictheater.com! We love finding a way to work with anyone who is enthusiastic about poetic theater. This summer we are continuing our "Poetic Theater Productions Presents..." series of short poetic theater pieces and excerpts from longer plays and all submissions are welcome! We love hearing from actors who have a background in spoken word or poetry, and we are currently looking to expand our administrative and marketing team so we definitely would love to hear from anyone interested.

What are your backgrounds?

JK: Other than the Kinetic Poetics Project, I studied theater directing and producing, and American identity, culture and politics at the University of California, Santa Cruz before working on political campaigns and advising students in television broadcasting and student media. I moved to New York to dive back into social justice driven theater. I've worked in development or administrative support with Houses on the Moon theater company, the Penguin Repertory, Intersections International, Co-Lab Arts, InProximity Theatre, Page 73, Play Co., and Culture Project. I am also the Assistant Manager at the Wild Project.

AM: I am a director, although my favorite work has always been self-produced as well. Perhaps appropriate for someone who loves theater that plays with language, I have worked in the literary departments at The Public Theater, Berkeley Repertory Theatre and Magic Theatre. I've developed work at the Lark Play Development Center, New Georges, the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Short Play Festival, Primary Stages and the Wild Project. I am also the Associate Producer for Women Center Stage with Culture Project. While at Stanford, I founded the Stanford Theatre Activist Mobilization Project, studied Drama and sports fandom, and surrounded myself with rocket scientists.

We're both California transplants, which means that we're really good at making other people think we have everything under control. :-)

What's next?

May 23rd-June 3rd, we are bringing back our award winning production of Goliath and our new hip hop theater production of Underground by Edward McWilliams at the Wild Project theater (195 East 3rd St.).

Anything you'd like to add?

We are extremely excited to be presenting Foreign Bodies and Faith with Culture Project as part of the Women Center Stage 2012 Festival. Caroline Rothstein has been with Poetic Theater Productions since the founding of the company and her work has always been inspirational. Her personal story has become a powerful voice supporting the effort to draw more attention and resources to address this deadly and often ignored mental illness. Eboni Hogan is one of the first poets I saw perform after moving to New York and I am thrilled to finally have this opportunity to work with her. She has written a beautiful play that Alex saw a reading of in September - Alex immediately called me and said "we have to do this play". We are extremely proud to be producing it as part of Women Center Stage!

FOREIGN BODIES and FAITH are part of Culture Project's Women Center Stage Festival. You can catch them Tuesday and Wednesday, April 3rd and 4th at The Living Theater, 21 Clinton Street between E. Houston and Stanton Street. Tickets are $18. You can purchase tickets online or call 866-811-4111.

Performance Poet Eboni Hogan and Director Nicole A. Watson Inhabit Foreign Bodies

In the play, I describe myself as Evel KeNegro in platform wedges. Mania will make you feel super-human. I thought I was above death...
-Eboni Hogan
Performance Poet, Playwright and Teaching Artist
Eboni, how did you come to theater, writing and performance?

EH: I've always been a bit of a ham. I come from an artistic family and as a child, my love of acting and dancing was always supported. I also loved to write. My father gave me a book of Langston Hughes' poems when I was 10 or so and I would memorize his work and recite it to anyone who would listen.

I stuck with theater all through high school (I was president of the Thespian Honor Society at my school...Drama nerd-dom, for sure) and was later accepted into the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU to study at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. While at NYU, I started toying with performance poetry, and writing became my sole focus for years.

And Nicole, how did you come to theater and directing?


NW: I've always loved theater and like many artists, I came to NYC straight out of college with the dream of becoming an actor. I had studied history in undergrad and interestingly enough, I accepted a "day job" as history teacher. I taught history for several years, directed the school musicals and then went back to acting and did a lot of teaching artist work.

Even though I had been directing my students, I did not consider myself a "director" because it was just so much fun. A few years ago, I was getting tired of acting in plays that were not satisfying and really wondered if I would continue to purse acting. At the same time, I didn't want to give up on theater. I thought to myself, I wonder if I can direct adults? So I made a big change, I gave up my UWS apartment that I could barely afford, moved back to my parents house, went to the LaMaMa Directing Symposium in Italy, and when I returned to NYC, I took on every project I could and started telling people I was a director. I guess people believed me.

What is Foreign Bodies about?

EH: Foreign Bodies is the true account of a six month trip I took to Ghana, West Africa in 2006 shortly after being diagnosed as bipolar. I was in a total manic state for most of the trip and, as a result, made plenty of questionable and dangerous decisions because I hadn't yet come to terms with my own mortality. In the play, I describe myself as Evel KeNegro in platform wedges. Mania will make you feel super-human. I thought I was above death. A number of events, including a major surgery while in Ghana, caused me to face the reality that I am breakable. And also, fixable.
What was the inspiration?

EH: At first, the inspiration was simply Ghana. I came back home to New York and immediately began writing poems and monologues and short stories about the experience. I desperately missed Africa. It was a way to place myself back there.

Fast forward to 2010 (yeah, it took me 4 years to write this script), and I started to realize that the play isn't just about Africa, or falling in love for the first time or missing home. It isn't just about being a foreigner in a strange land but a foreigner in your own body. With the help of some outside editors, I recognized that I had the opportunity to tell the story behind the story and touch on issues of mental illness which is something that is not often discussed in the black community.

How do you write?

I prefer a good ole fashioned notebook and pen to a computer any day. Especially when I'm just beginning to work on something new. I'm less likely to end up on Twitter if I stay away from a computer. Much of this play was written in coffee shops everywhere from Brooklyn to Chicago. I like to people-watch while I write. New York is the perfect place for that. It balances out the madness in my head.

Nicole, how do you approach working with writers?

That depends a lot on the writer and where the individual writer is in her process. I think the question is always, "What is this story you want to tell? What is most important to you?" and from there, the goal is to help any writer see if what is on the page reflects the answer to those 2 questions. In the world of new plays, I think there can be this tendency to want to rush in and "fix" things. Sometimes the moments that people think "don't make sense" are often golden opportunities to bring something to life, and those are the moments that I find really excite directors and actors.

What is your approach to giving feedback?

NW: I wish I were better at it. In the sense that I think I am too nice sometimes. (Maybe you should ask one of the actors this question). I try to be as positive as I can. In rehearsal, there are so many choices that an artist can make. If I think something is not working and if I don't have something specific in mind, I will ask the performer to try something else "just to see what other road we might go down."

Again, I try to ask as many questions as possible so I can understand where a particular artist was coming from before I step up and change or refine things. In Foreign Bodies, there was a lot that we needed to discover as going from a solo show to an ensemble piece required a new understanding of an older text. We didn't want to change the text but we did need to look at what was happening on stage.

Ebony, how do you navigate feedback?

EH: I was so terrified to share this work for so long because it's so deeply personal and confessional to me. It's hard to hand someone a piece of your life and ask them to dissect it, chop it up and judge it. I try my hardest to always be open, though by nature I am the most stubborn person you will ever meet. But I'm also a perfectionist. I refuse to present wack-ass work to the public. So I had to learn to trust the opinions of others.

Nicole, how can playwrights help the director in their process?

NW: I find it challenging to work with playwrights who want to co-direct or are very hands on in the rehearsal room. My thought is sometimes, I don't stand over you while you are writing. . . Everyone--playwright, director, designer, and performer needs a space to work. My space is the rehearsal room and while I love having playwrights in rehearsal, it is important to me that the rehearsal room is the space where the performers can work. We are going to have questions, we are going to make mistakes, we are going to create things that might not work- but it is all for the purpose of discovering the best way to tell your story and it's the way in which we get to know your story.

Eboni, how can directors help playwrights in their process?

EH: There's a certain sensitivity to the work that a director has to have especially when working in the same room as the playwright. And even more so when the work is autobiographical. I'm not going to run out crying if something doesn't look how I imagined it, but I appreciate being consulted along the way.
How did you meet Nicole and Poetic Theater Productions?

EH: Jeremy and Alex have been creating new work with all my favorite New York City poets for a while now, so it was inevitable that we would eventually join forces. Alex came to the first staged reading of Foreign Bodies and later Poetic Theater offered to produce it. They were the ones that introduced me to Nicole as a potential director. I work well with directors that are willing to play and Nicole is all about creating as we go along.

What was Foreign Bodies development process like?

EH: I wrote, wrote, wrote and wrote for years. I looked at journal entries and emails I'd sent during that time. Since writing it was such a long process and memory is fallible, I found myself consistently having to re-immerse myself in these stories. I listened to hip-life music. I looked through photos and watched Youtube videos of the man I had met and fallen in love with in Ghana. I always had to find ways to return to that moment. That became especially important since I spent so much time running around Accra like a madwoman, chasing boys and chugging palm wine, that I had to collect the pieces of my memory and sort them out in this play.

NW: In terms of working with Eboni, turning this into an ensemble piece was really about looking at the journey she was taking in the play and finding ways in which the ensemble could create those images. I think the idea that really allowed us to break open the piece was when we decided to cast someone as the narrator's younger self. Being able to tell the story and go through the story at the same time. Given the poetic language and imagery in the play, it was exciting to me to find ways to create those images and move through the story in a way that honored the poetry but still kept the story alive and moving.

Who/What inspires you?

EH: I'm pregnant with my first child so preparing for him has been my primary focus. I've written so much about this little person I haven't even met. It is fascinating and inspiring to witness what the human body is capable of. Yesterday, I put my hand on my stomach and for a brief moment I could feel his pulse through my skin. I could feel my own heart beating and then his smaller, quicker one. If that ain't poetry; if that ain't a reason to adore this life and dance in the streets and write love songs, I swear I don't know what is.

What's next?

NW: I am directing a show at the 52nd Street Project. I have a 10 year old playwright who wrote a play about a monkey who wants to be a chameleon. I am also a co-producer/curator for the Working Theater Directors Salon. In May, I am directing Veil'd by Monet Hurst-Mendoza with Rising Circle, then, in June the Women's Project Lab is putting up our production of We Play For the Gods.

EH: Foreign Bodies on Broadway. Then an international tour. You hear that, Universe?

FOREIGN BODIES is part of Culture Project's Women Center Stage Festival. You can catch it Tuesday and Wednesday, April 3rd and 4th at The Living Theater, 21 Clinton Street between E. Houston and Stanton Street. Tickets are $18. You can purchase tickets online or call 866-811-4111.