Profiles of Profiles : “The Prize, a twisted horror play”

Artists can be the most interesting people in my lives. When I put them together in one place, bearing different abilities and mediums, from a variety of experience levels – it’s a wonderful excursion into a chaotically controlled creative process.

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Recruiting the motley gang for The Prize was a real treat, especially considering the fact that I like to solicit artists that are not separated by many degrees. While like most directors, writers, choreographers and composers have a true hunger for fresh meat every once in a while – there’s nothing like the comfort of having a muse that never ceases to amaze you and always comes through for you. It is this precious symbiosis I’m able to achieve no matter what I’m working on that keeps the inspiration flowing.

Here’s How I met the cast/crew for the work going up tonight:

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I’ve known Benjamin for almost 20 years. Funny enough – we didn’t like each other very much when we first met. We were both outsider high school kids and we had two mutual friends (from totally different circles) who were also budding photographers. I met him during a day trip to New York City and we just didn’t get along. I found him a bit cynical though nowadays I find it to be his greatest quality.

We’ve worked on SEVERAL projects since then, including an ongoing cultural study of various subway systems the likes of which won me an award in Prague for a contest to blend art and technology.

He has a knack for creating very striking exercises for the eye through his architectural work – and he does a bang up job when I push him out of his comfort zone and ask him to shoot actual humans.

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Phillip is the reason why I wrote this show. We met at a catering gig where I think ONE out of a few dozen of us wasn’t an actor or a writer. He just had this certain disarming charm about him and when I found out his interests in film, theater and television I knew he had good taste. He told me about a web series he was involved with and we started exchanging past work. I was thrilled to see his acting chops and wanted to bring out a different side of him.

“The Prize” originated as a one act, episodic piece, originally planned to be part of a series. Phillip read it and told me he loved it (this is after we worked together several times on shows in different venues in New York). This helped me to turn it into a longer pieces, and of course cast him in it.

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I met Jamie through Philip, they were acting partners at Total Theatre Lab with Caroline Thomas. I was working on an episodic piece about a polyamorous woman. He suggested Jamie, I met her for coffee and we really hit it off. Turns out she was a dancer with an injury and switched to acting because she couldn’t stand to not perform anymore. It’s funny because she was such a deer in headlights when we first started working together and now her diligence has paid off over the past year and she has become a phenomenal actress.

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I met Stephanie at a restaurant job. She had this light illuminating her – and we had a nice working relationship together. She didn’t buy into any of the typical hospitality drama, and I asked her the age old question about what she wanted to be when she grows up and she gave that lovely answer about wanting to be with a repertory company, just performing different plays every season.

Because she’s quite luminescent, my director’s instinct was to bring out the dark side in her a little bit. This is the third time I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to do that.

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Caity is a very special addition to the cast because we worked together indirectly in another venue for Exquisite Corpse Company. She was an actress in two different plays that I wrote – one where she gets tricked into performing a ritual with a coven of witches and another I co-wrote, a period piece melodrama about a family fighting over an inheritance.

Both times her natural ability shined through and I am so glad she agreed to bless me with her raw talent for three complicated roles for “The Prize”.

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I worked with Carlos co-writing for the latter play aforementioned. He was nerdy and kind of awkward (just like me) and we managed to bang out a pretty funny/groovy piece in a matter of hours over a couple of beers. I like his point of view, and he’s been instrumental in helping me bring this show to life.

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I saw Vince in another festival of plays while I was working with Jamie and Phillip. He was kind of hilarious and when I went to see him performing/hosting at the famous Dangerfield’s comedy club, I knew I had to have him on board to help me with some much needed comic relief.

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I met Jeffrey during his last actor performance at Fordham University. I was there seeing one of his classmates who I met during one of the performances of one of the pieces I co-wrote with Carlos. He was a great performer and I asked him if he would understudy for the main role in this piece in the event that it’s produced again. He’s been kind of doing some method acting – watching how I work and getting into the pith of the story. It’s great having him on board.

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I had a few actresses in mind for the role of MARLA but they were unavailable. Then I saw Christin perform a very striking and powerful role at Hi-Arts about a month ago and I stalked her online and asked her to join the cast. I saw her perform again and now she’s performing for me – and I couldn’t be luckier. She has this sweet coolness and calms me down when I get cray.

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I met Melissa when I lived in Berlin from 2011-2014. She took one of my dance classes and was an illustration student at the time. She stopped creating after I left Berlin (not because of me, but she found her purpose in the realm of yoga training and becoming a brand ambassador for Adidas) and I asked if she could design another logo for a play of mine (she had before) and she was game. It was a funny coincidence in that I hadn’t seen her in years and all of a sudden when I contacted her about the logo – she had already planned a visit to NYC the next week. Serendipity!

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Taylor was a last minute addition who came full throttle into the show by way of a suggestion from the producer of the show I co-wrote with Carlos of which Caity performed in. His accent, look, style and everything else really melded into the piece as a whole in a vey auspicious way. Best pinch hitter I’ve ever had!

 

FULL DETAILS

Louis DeVaughn Nelson
Facebook : Hokum Arts

The Prize, a twisted horror play in 4 acts

Crew & Cast Biographies

 

Louis DeVaughn Nelson (WRITER/DIRECTOR) : is a multidisciplinary artist and founder of Hokum Arts. He studied dance and playwriting at DeSales University and Drexel University. Nelson was named Best New Choreographer by Philadelphia City Paper and has been recognized internationally for his theatre, dance and video work that delves into cultural and movement research. Credits Include : The Peekaboo Revue, English Theatre Berlin, The Berlin Music Video Awards, Tanzbad 4, CTM – Festival for Adventurous Music and Related Arts, CIANT Festival for Film and New Media, Dark Matter Productions NYC, Exquisite Corpse Company NYC. More info at Facebook : Hokum Arts

Carlos E. Rojas (SCRIPT SUPERVISOR) : is a playwright from Queens, NY. He interned with 13th Street Rep. They produced: Love Was the Thing that Time Forgot, Fear of Falling, Our Love is a Dream Song, and a monologue, Post-Graduation Panic. Fear of Falling was also featured in the 10×10 NYU Alumni Reading Series.    

Maren Woodward (ASSISTANT DIRECTOR) : is a Film Writer and Director who completed her film studies at the International Film School of Paris and The London Film School.  Maren moved to New York in 2013 and recently completed her first professional short film, “Encounter.”  She is currently writing her first feature film.

Jeffrey Buck Wright Jr. (STAGE MANAGER) : hails from The Bronx, New York and is truly proud of it! With recently graduating Fordham University with a BA in Acting, he is ready to set the world on fire with his passion and craft! Having acted in plays such as The Labyrinth of Desire and The Luck of the Irish, he looks forward to another wonderful opportunity and is grateful being apart of the creative process of The Prize and growing from the cast, crew, and L. DeVaughn Nelson moving forward. Special thanks to God, his parents, family, and friends.

Christin Eve Cato (DARLA) : is a native New Yorker with a background in performing arts, playwriting, and production. She is a graduate of Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for Music and Art and the Performing Arts, and of Fordham University. You can usually catch her at INTAR Theatre, as a member of Unit52. Christin is also a member of the Hip-Hop Theatre Company, Rhymes Over Beats. Heavily active in the Theatre community, she is also Co-Chair of Diversity of the YPAC-board of Theater Resources Unlimited, and is one of the Co-Founders of La Co-Op (La Cooperativa of New York Latinx Artists) a collective of theatre artists created to bridge the gaps existing in the Latino Theatre Community. She is also a member of New York Women in Film & Television. For more info: www.christinevecato.com

Vince Chang (MITCHELL) : of Jamaican-Chinese heritage (a Blasian to most), has been
conquering the comedy stage since college. Chang’s style of comedy is vibrant and
energetic. He has been seen performing shows at Stand Up NY, Broadway Comedy Club, and as a host at Dangerfield’s. Chang’s acting career consists of web series such as “No Sleep til 40”, “Roomies”, “Freedom” and “100% Percent Comedy Sketch Show”.

Taylor Harlow (HOLGER) : is a Kansas City native and an alumni of Pace University’s School of Performing Arts. Off-Broadway: Massacre (The Sheen Center). Regional: Hairspray (Quisisana), Narnia (KC Starlight) Chicago (MTKC). Other: Drop Dead!, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Forbidden Broadway, Constellations, Into the Woods, The Connection. Love to Emily.

Stephanie Israelson (NARRATOR) : is a graduate of NYU/Tisch CAP21. NY Credits: NY Premiere of John Cariani’s LOVE/SICK, Rock and Roll Refugee. Regional Credits: Val in A Chorus Line, Mamma Mia!, The Addams Family, and A Christmas Carol.

Phillip Pineno (MARKUS) : is a New York based performer that studied musical theater at Point Park University. He’s performed in as well as written various stage and film productions including the comedy Web series PLANNERS, which was part of The Peoples Improv Theater’s first ever ClickFest that showcased some of the best emerging web content. He also performs frequently with the Hudson Vagabond Puppet Company, and is a part of the Total Theatre Lab with Caroline Thomas. http://www.PhillipPineno.com

Caity Urquhart (MARLA) : is a production stylist for a photography studio in Brooklyn. Caity moved from Boston to New York in 2013 and dabbles in photography, comedy, dance, and most recently, acting. She has written three and performed in two short plays for Exquisite Corpse, a small theater company in Brooklyn.

Jamie Ragusa (SUSAN) : is an actress and VO artist. She is a student of Caroline Thomas at Total Theatre Lab, studying Method and Meisner-based acting techniques. Jamie recently played the leading role as Jennifer Tanner in the independent film, ‘Nefarious’ by Silent Envy Productions and recently played a supporting role in “Into The Valli” from Always Right Productions. She can also be seen in Episode 5 of the web series “In Our Back Yard” as The Mayor’s Wife. http://www.jamieregusa.com

 

 

Profiles of Profiles

I’ll be sharing stories about how I’ve met each of the collaborators for The Prize, a twisted horror play in four acts – written/directed by yours truly.

The staged reading performance will be a part of the LGBT HOT! Festival at Dixon Place : Thursday, July 20th @ 10:00PM (The lounge is open before and after the show and you can bring your drinks in the theatre!)

More info/tickets HERE

The Cast of “The Prize”


I’ve spent the past year handpicking the talented folks involved and each person bears a unique story about how we met.

The Crew of “The Prize”


Facebook : Hokum Arts

Twitter : @TheHokumArts

Stay tuned…

Process : Proposals

I was afforded a bit of tumult and relief this month in the realm of submissions and proposals that is typically both the bane and life force of a contemporary artist’s existence. On one hand, I’ve done the dirty deed of selling myself so many times over, appropriating my intent to fit the needs and desires of arts presenters. The other hand, now duly washed, has happily waved goodbye to the tedious task of exposing my soul in the hopes that it may be interesting enough to make some cold hard cash for somebody else.

Case(s) in point:

I’m officially vehemently opposed to exposure of the words “however” and “unfortunately” (the former more than the latter). It is commonplace for writers to loathe certain words for one reason or another – particularly because of spelling or phonetics (heightened even more so by polyglots). These aforementioned atrocities are derivative of that necessary constant onslaught of rejection that comes from accosting resources with which to show your work.

We appreciate the opportunity to read your work. However, after careful review of all submissions, we are unable to include your piece in our Spotlight series this year.

While we loved reading your play, we have decided not to move forward with it as part of our series. However, we would be happy to consider your work for future productions.

HOWEVER, your work has been deemed as “very promising”; we would love to acclimate you to the Festival and the panel as an attendee.

I want to flip the bird at the word.

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There’s so much work and research (and disgusting mathematics) that goes into writing a proposal that you are so exhausted afterwards that you feel as though the grant or opportunity or residency or whatever it is you’re applying for should be awarded to you just for the amount of extraneous effort you’ve exerted. But that is not ever the case unfortunately.

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At the beginning of the month I received a record 5 rejection notices within the span of 48 hours. It wasn’t that devastating of a blow considering the fact that I made a consorted effort to spike the number of proposals I would draft over the past few months in order to broaden my chances of getting produced sooner than later.

This was also cushioned by a rather favorable acceptance letter into the long running LGBT HOT! Festival at the reputable Dixon Place in lower Manhattan, a famous arts incubator that allows a platform for works-in-progress. I’ll be doing a staged reading of another twisted horror play of mine entitled The Prize come July 20th.

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I was also informed that the Hearts on the Wall Artist Collective sponsored by Dark Matter Productions recently gained a residency at Dixon Place – and after being accepted into their program during their inaugural event where I did the first staged reading from my The Annals of Sharon series (an episodic theatre piece about polyamory), they invited me back to do present another work.

It was a nice break to bypass the whole proposal process – another feat I was afforded last month when I was asked to once again take part in Exquisite Corpse Company’s Drunk 24. It’s a fun festival where writers are paired together, given a theme and the directors and actors have 24 hours to stage each play written – and furthermore, the audience has the opportunity to offer shots for the actors that they must incorporate into their performance. I had already written a proposal for them this past fall and worked on a piece about witches, this time I co-wrote a period piece melodrama dealing with the theme of “water cooler confessions.”

As much as I adore persuasive writing, I very much look forward to making a name for myself so I’m invited rather than trying to make a list. No longer will I have to make grandiose statements that attest to my abilities such as:

My dance composition inspiration stems from the techniques of Erick Hawkins, Merce Cunningham, Matt Mattox, Alvin Ailey and Bob Fosse. Fluid old school Jazz and Modern Dance is juxtaposed with contemporary technique, utilizing extensive isolations and lateral movements and stretches. Combined with natural movements inherited from autonomic reactions to changing environments, vaudeville inspired sexy burlesque, “club style” dancing (with special attention to voguing motifs), my choreographic works tend to be relatable and innovative in their execution, revealing the pith of the story at hand. Elements of my quirky style also include animal movements to depict the overall themes associated with the carnal topics I love to embrace. Having a background in theater and writing, I enjoying using text along with movement indicative of the work of Pina Bausch. Domestic violence, racism, sexuality, discrimination, stigma, bigotry, misogyny and the marginalization of class/social systems are frequent themes of my dance theater work.

I recently visited an old friend (a painter) who was amidst another artistic breakdown – tears running down her face and she explained to me “No one understands.” She eluded to the fact that she was having so much of a hard time trying to get her non-artist friends to understand her turmoil, how not easy it is to create something wonderful on a regular basis and how impossible it can be to believe in yourself let alone rely on the acceptance of others.

I said, “When we are ‘successful’ and we create a good work of art, we don’t ever allow ourselves the chance to enjoy it. The SECOND it is finished we wallow in that chasm thinking to ourselves that we’ll never do anything again and that nothing we ever did mattered. We live in that pocket of uncertainty when we are not creating – and it is a wretched place. Never do we celebrate or become optimists about the things we’ve done or are going to be doing – it’s only when we are in the moment is our time well spent.”

She shook her head and cried some more. “See! You know exactly what I’m talking about!”

It’s been a gift to be accepted with having already proven myself. These last two presentations I felt free and unfettered by the whole am-I-good-enough clause. They knew me, they wanted me, and they celebrated me for me. I got to spend more time with the work and the tremendous talent I’ve been fortunate enough to solicit, making sure the merit was intact the way it was intended, and that is worth everything to an artist.

I haven’t written any poetry in awhile

I am the black jelly bean in the bag;
Be, be, see – who you want me to be…
Everyone tries to scrape off the burnt toast,
And shake off the soot from the chimney.

Am I alike the darkness that blankets you in the night?
Can I compare to the untrusted lack of light?

I am not The Angry Black Man,
I was born with bitter blood in hand
Inherent of my affected ancestry,
Against the will of willingness decreed.

When the flesh is completely gone –
It is not the color of licorice or tar
Or the remnants at the bottom of the barrel,
It’s closer to you and yours by far.

So I pine to try to disagree…

If you don’t see color –
You don’t see me.

-LDN

Process : Collaboration

It happened on a Tuesday and by the time I peeled myself out of despondency on Friday, I knew that this horrible news would be good for me. No, No, No November sparked the start of the first of many a Yes I had thought would maybe never happen again.

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http://www.craftjr.com

My search and submit process had been waning and then I saw a posting searching for playwrights to contribute to a 24 Hour play festival. My interest was initially piqued because I thought it would be a very demanding exercise. On top of the time constraint, the writers would be paired up and have to write a play based on a topic picked out of a hat, and the actors performing would have to drink a certain amount of shots of alcohol  bought by the audience during the play.

 

I thought I was open minded and completely ready for the challenge – I really wanted a new and different experience working with someone rather than for someone or others working for me. I’ve produced/directed so much of my own work and I’ve been fortunate enough to seek out and choose the folks I’ve worked with. I thought that this would be a valuable experience adapting to a collaborative environment randomly chosen.

 

We were all a bit grim and jubilant at the meeting. We all wrote down possible topics, voted on the best (The Wrong Party) and we were off.

I was paired with a young man working on his MFA.

He was the exact opposite of me in almost every way.

He wasn’t much of a note taker or an outline maker and he was more of a big picture guy than a detail oriented one. He liked to just write without much planning, and initially suggested that we take turns writing dialog from virtual locations utilizing a Google spreadsheet.

I swallowed heavily.

He was more plot driven – I’m all about characters…but in the end, I was proud of our piece.

He was a big old nerd, so we had that in common. He wanted to write about witches – and that was great because that’s my geek genre.

I decided to be the dramaturg/editor, like I always am, because at one point I was making him a little claustrophobic with all of my incessant demands on specifics.

I took some notes while he wrote some dialog:

WRONG PARTY

 

Theme: Comedy – Certain discomfort that the third party is feeling when approached by two others to join a specific group.

 

2 people competing for one spot.

 

Animal Rescue workers – community service..

 

Main character indulges in stereotypical representation of witches.

 

Time: Present Day

The Place: Sue’s Backyard in the suburbs of Michigan.

 

The Scene : Two Chairs, One Table

 

Props: Plant, Bowl of Water. 4 Candles. Bowl of Salt. Incense. Small Knife.

 

Dramatis Personae:

 

Lilith – Main Witch/Priestess – Cat Rescuer – Owner (has roommate cannot host witch rituals)

 

Sue – The Other Witch – Rescuer (host of witch parties/second hand woman to Lilith)

 

Joanne – The Volunteer/Intiation – “Works in Development Office” – really a telemarketer. “You can’t buy single tickets, only subscriptions. Used to be a dancer. Takes classes there. Works at night.

 

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Max – Joanne’s cat.

 

The Place : Sue’s Back Deck Outside

 

Rebecca, Rachel, Renee The Bitch Witches

 

Culmination: Joanne Realizes Discomfort -???

 

Resolution : ???

 

Conflict: ???

 

How they met: At the Cat Rescue where they work/volunteer.

 

Party: Witchy Party/Ritual – Potential

 

Background/Exposition: Joanne has lost a cat/finds comfort in helping others adopt.

 

Suburban Michigan

 

Lilith & Sue + Joanne

 

Cat death anniversary

 

She has it in her she’ll be on board – you’ve seen the way she’s talked to (cat’s name) – and the other day, the way (cat’s name) and her were getting along.

 

Pass me the salt – hand me the candles – spit in this. That dirt – plant over there

 

Pet Cemetery reference

 

Did you bring the object we asked you about?

 

Dedication ritual.

 

Replacing the 13th witch

 

Recruiting Joanne for the coven.

New coven??? Can’t place craigslist ad.

 

Abandoned old coven??? Starting new one?

 

Bitter about the other coven – need to do magic/spells…to change the world? Help the cats?

 

Lilith was kicked out because she

 

I didn’t have an R name. Vendetta against them – and is vengeful.

 

Rival business in town trendy Cat café.

 

OPENING SCENE –

 

Backyard of Sue’s place – LILITH and SUE and they looking at the moon. – waxing for dedication ritual.

 

Perfect timing! Death of cat.

 

Reassurance – “you’re not nervous are you?” – it’s all going to work out.

 

This will be really good for Joanne. What time will she be here? She said – ???

 

(get ready – preparation)

 

Remember the plan. We’re just here to help her through this hard time, to support her in the grief of her loss. Blah blah blah.

 

Yeah – I know.

 

This is so exciting. We’re going to have our own coven, finally,

 

(mention bitch witches???)

 

(minimal dialogue before entry – with exposition)

 

Blessed, be my dear. Welcome. It’s going to be a very special night.

 

We’re here for you.

 

Glad you made it – found it okay.

 

It’s a little bit chilly out tonight.

 

Yes! The coolness is divine. Great for this sort of thing.

 

Did you bring the object we asked you about.

 

Yes, this was (cat name) favorite toy. I remember the day when I bought it for him. As soon as I brought it home he –

 

Well, yes yes, that’s nice. Could you do me a favor and pass me…

 

Talking about the cat????

 

What’s that? It’s called an athame.

 

Do we have to sacrifice something to bring Max back?

 

No no – nothing like that. It’s just a tool to summon…don’t worry about that.

 

I purify you o earth (air/fire/water) in the blessed and mighty names of the spirit of the God and the spirit of the Goddess.

 

Bring forth the reborn in exchange for our mighty blessings as children of the Earth and starry Heaven – fill the void with your magic energy. Bestow us with your enchanted gifts, we beseech you

 

I say so be it and so it is.

 

I say so be it and so it is.

 

I say so be it and so it is.

 

Blessed be o mighty Gods. We invoke thee – we invoke thee – we invoke thee.

 

 

By the end of the 2-3 hours we worked on it I was exhausted. I was trying my best not to be too much of the bitchy boss, but for some reason that’s me at my best.

The play went over well, and the actresses did a bang up job. It was a fun festival to be a part of – and I got to flex some writer muscles I don’t use on a regular basis. I also learned a lot about myself in the process.

 

 

 

 

The Berlin Years

Much an impossible chapter to close in my life – I’ve made great strides to at least archive most of the visual art projects of my yesteryears from my European stint.

When I arrived in Berlin for the first time in 2010, I was an American. Before long I became an expat. And then I was an artist – hearkening my suffocated passion, and I found myself in a dance studio again, teaching. I learned quickly that Modern dance was outdated in Contemporary driven Berlin – and so I forged a path to invade the landscape by delving into multimedia art.

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From “The Pursuit of Happiness : Berlin 2011 – 2014”

I had already started my Self = Portraits project when I returned to Berlin in 2011, and after Art Connect Berlin caught wind of it and it was presented at their grand opening event, I decided to do more film work. It all started with the first film of the series entitled “Banana” that secured me my Josephine Baker Moment.

 

I was also actively using my smart phone and laptop computer for projects satirizing social media and involving social experiments. And when a photographer friend I met allowed me to borrow his SLR for a few projects, I ended up with several visual art presentations that I’m now putting to rest. That ran the gamut of fine art inspired pieces, doing video portraits (inspired mostly by Tyler Shields) and technique inspired landscapes and compositions. My film work encompassed so much of what I wanted to express in writing and dance, but with much more abrasive force like so:


 

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Many photos of this series were taken by a friend in Charlottenburg – an actress who I spent a lot of time with sitting at a fountain, clumsily rolling cigarettes, crying and celebrating our woes and wins together.

“Can you take a picture of me?” is not such a foreign phrase – though it is, especially in a city that mostly survives because of its tourism. I’ve never documented the differences between when I asked my friends to take the photos and when I asked strangers – though I will say that I gave explicit instructions for each photographer to try and get a shot of me when the smoke was coming out of my mouth and covering my visage. The strangers were less frustrated by this request than my friends.

See the full collection here: Up in Smoke

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Many instances of love were transient entities who were powerful, fleeting members of my story. This particular bed was were I felt the most comfortable and heartbroken.

There was a large variety of places where I woke up in Berlin. I documented them.

See the full collection here: Morgen

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This is the very first apartment I rented just steps from Nollendorfplatz. It was the beginning of…

I also took photos of buildings that served as monuments where very monumental activities took place.

See the full collection here: Old Haunts

 

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This was a place I visited many many times. I learned a lot about myself here.

The most difficult to publicize is the most raw collection of photography that started off as a collection of pictures taken pre and post coitus (and sometimes during). I narrowed down the vast selection to a few snapshots that were the highlights of my experiences in this realm.

See the full collection here: The Pursuit of Happiness

I have always steered towards taking portraits of the body rather than the face. The face (while it tells a longwinded expository story) is too complicated for me and as a choreographer I’ve always read people through movements. Of course many of the portraits I took of artists were scoffed upon by the subjects for obvious reasons, but this perspective gives a very vicarious point of view of how I am inspired by them.

See the collection here: Lebenskünstler 


 

Though I haven’t been able to finish editing the biggest project that I started, a film entitled Muse, due to my old MacBook Pro crashing – I still have some of the rough cut edits in the following films.

I was setting out to find some editors to review and edit the footage artistically and juxtapose them together for a gallery showing, but that wasn’t in the cards for me. Each actor/artist in the films was an extremely special person in my life who influenced me to keep creating during my time in Berlin.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m really proud of all of these works though I really hate editing (as duly noted in my Cubist style layering in my film work) and I never do any retouching or editing of my photography.

Perhaps if I can find a cinematographer and an editor – I’ll get back into filmmaking again, but I will only be doing it with a pen and paper. The camera is not my best tool, but I made the most of it and it kept me afloat as a relevant artists while I was in Berlin.

 

 

 

 

 

Process : Directing

I’ve met a bevy of artists since I’ve come to New York in November.

They are not hard to find. When not on stages, screens or crisp white lit walls – they are serving cocktails, slinging trays, walking dogs, burping babies, selling stilettos, teaching teenagers and so on and so forth.

It is no wonder then that I’ve met new impressionable and inspirational talent through one of the several hospitality jobs I have to survive in the Big Apple.

 

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Acute Reflections performance at “With This Ring” event at Punto Space in April – where I met several artists from a reputable catering company.

 

I am always looking for that special something – and after having lost all of my muses in Philadelphia and then Berlin due to relocation – I knew very well it wouldn’t be too much of a challenge on the account of my desperation and desire to find new ones. Furthermore, to be in this epicenter of creativity was my primary motivation (if not instinct) when I came back from Europe. I had the crème de la crème of artists at my disposal when I was across the ocean, so my burgeoning palette became hungry for better, more, perfection.

When I first saw Phillip – his smile was infectious. I wanted to bring the dark side out of him. Not one to harp on emotive proclivities, our introduction was brief and I spent much of the rest of the evening keeping a peripheral eye on him, going through my mental Roladex of scripts wondering what characters he might fit into or if there were any ideas on my back burner he’d be appropriate for – like any writer/director spends most of their time doing everyday.

We were working a catered event for about 100 luxury cruise line professionals. They were a spritely, boozy bunch, and I was of course surrounded by a plethora of front of the house professionals slash artists, but there was something about Philip.

All of us were talking about film and television and theater, like the art nerds that we were – and the adrenaline of competition versus camaraderie was leaving a sweaty stench in the air. We told the forever-the-same tales of the woes and wins of New York Shitty, and how no matter how hard it gets, there is no option to bail out.

Philip and I (along with a few others) ended up huffing it to the subway instead of splurging on an Uber we couldn’t afford, as true artists are prone to do. Like a good writer, I had some Polish Vodka in my bag and started to swig to quell and coerce the creative energy brewing inside of me.

When we were the last ones to transfer off and away from the borough of Manhattan. We got to talking about or respective and specific passions and he had mentioned to me that his past primary project was a web series he wrote and starred in entitled “Planners”. I asked him to take a picture of me (this weird affectation of Narcissism artists sometimes get when they haven’t gotten any work in awhile) before he left. “I hope to see you again,” he motioned with a wave “so long”, as he too transferred off to another train with another hundred people.

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The next day I took a look at his web series and then found my way to his other work and I knew that there was something there…

Previously, I had already declared a perfunctory muse. She’s run the gamut with me in varying velocities of interaction. She works with me at my primary gig – a bistro restaurant on the Upper West Side that is famous for the entertainment elite it caters to.

The staff is made up of a cast of characters, mostly actors and the writers who adore them. I’m lucky in one way to be surrounded by so much drama, as exhausting as it is – but more than that there is this precious dichotomy of feeling like you’re on the wrong side of the equation. You can’t help but iterate those classic show business adages about making it on Broadway and singing those musical songs in your head as you serve expensive omelettes and steak frites to Tony winners. It’s better and worse than you can ever imagine.

There, I met Stephanie. A veritable chameleon that has a special draw not only for her unique and amicable visage, but her demeanor strikes you as coming off as the perfect blend of sweet angel and little devil.

She too told the story we all share about New York and her dreams and the struggle and the victories – and I was enthralled. She spoke openly (like a soliloquy) about her passions when I asked, and I mentally took notes on her diction, intonation, inflection, projection, physicality, emotional slants, her gait – like any writer/director spends most of their time doing everyday.

I told her I wanted to work with her some day. Her oblige wasn’t so much of a blush but rather a figurative wink. It came in the form of a nod and verbal agreement; I knew we were a match.

About a month ago after seven months in New York, for the second time, after a slew of proposal and application writing – one of my works was chosen for a new artist collective entitled Hearts on the Wall from Dark Matter Productions.

I sent Phillip the script that was chosen and he said he was interested. Two of the actresses I had in mind (whom I met through other catered events) were indisposed, and eventually Phillip suggested that I get in touch with his acting class partner, Jamie.

I met Jamie for a meeting/audition/rehearsal – though after reviewing her work, and being turned on by the idea of working with two actors who work together regularly, I knew she was already my girl. We got along swimmingly. She sat next to me at the café where I typically meet everyone, where by chance there was another meeting/audition/rehearsal going on right next to us.

 

 

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I focused intensely on Jamie, noting that she must’ve been a dancer by the way she used movement as an expressive tool. I also watched her eyes, the muscles on her face, the nature of her personality, the tones of her voice, the weight of her hair, the concentration of her spirit – like any writer/director spends most of their time doing everyday.

The logline and synopsis of the play was as followed:

“Bed” is a brief exhibition of an intergenerational interlude
 
Workaholic Sharon and her much younger lover, Bill, are holed up in a hotel room together fighting over business versus pleasure. Not until a rousing discovery of a secret is revealed do they come to a compromise.  

I had a casual couch rehearsal with Philip and after we dug into the character, we conferenced in Jamie via Skype and read through all together. I am a big fan of using technology for working in the arts, many times I record rehearsals and send links so my performers can study virtually.

 

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I sent notes and references to the entire cast and went through the costume requirements. I was always taught to wear all black at auditions, and I prefer actors to do this during readings so you can have a “clean slate” visually, though we did go through what I call The Parker Posey Method of Acting. I once saw her in an interview say that the first thing she does when she is playing a role is pick out what the character would wear. I added a bandana and glasses to the characters’ accessories.

And then we met on the day of the show at the aforementioned café and I nearly shit a brick of glee having finally attained 3 malleable actors to paint my piece.

One of the biggest challenges for me as a Director was that I only had 3 weeks to put the pieces together. It was a staged reading, but me being me, I was very zealous about making it a performative piece as much as possible, though the actors were to stay on-book. I typically do not like the actors to get too involved or familiar with the text before the first rehearsal, but time did not permit that and I had to make some changes to the script posthaste.

I asked them all the same questions about their characters – and I eagerly acclimated myself with their contributions. I even made the narrator of the play an actual character, to further the complexity of the presentation.

 

 

I do get a little sadistic when directing, and I believe that that is the true mark of a great artist. It comes from the passion but also to instill discipline in my performers (perhaps that comes from my pious upbringing, my families’ military background, my stint with athletics, and from being trained in dance).

I got out of them what I needed, but not what I wanted. This was in fact a work-in-progress, so there was room for error, but make no mistake, they all impressed me and I consider them to be high caliber actors. The material was engaging not only to the audience but to the readers, and I knew this dynamic would be fun to navigate.

Here are my notes I sent to the actors:

-Remember to project!
-Make the most of Happy Accidents, that’s what drama is all about! Especially at readings/rehearsals, this gives you the opportunity to give the playwright/director a new perspective and perhaps make viable changes to the script/production.
-Typically comedy needs to be FAST – hit them hard with the punchline. When working with tragicomic material, the tragedy comes slow and easy. This cadence was just a little bit missing in the performance.
-Relish in audience reactions! 
-Keep digging and being awesome. Find a way to relate  to and disconnect from your characters.
Thanks again so so so much. This was so rewarding and special to have you all involved and I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure I work with you again.
It was an expertly curated event and I highly recommend you attending the next one and/or submitting your work in progress for [Monday, August 22].
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Courtesy: Dark Matter Productions #HOTW

Maybe I’ll see you there, if I can get my shift covered at the restaurant.
-ldn