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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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