Monday, June 6, 2016

Trans-forming the stage

Read the feature article about The Trans Theatre Festival from Time Out New York!
Trans characters have become a growing presence in the arts over the past few years, from award-winning television shows like Transparent and Orange is the New Black to cinematic Oscar bait like The Danish Girl and Dallas Buyers Club to big Broadway productions like the recent revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.  But increased visibility doesn’t always translate to more accurate representation.  In fact, sometimes it can do the opposite, an issue Trans Theatre Festival cofounder MJ Kaufman and Maybe Burke hope to address with the pioneering fest at Williamsburg’s Brick Theater.

“Right now, a lot of writers are writing trans characters,” says Burke.  But sometimes the writing can have a lot of assumptions and problematic stuff.  My last four auditions, I’ve been told to act more timid and shy.  There’s a huge need for trans people to be authors of our own work.”

The Trans Theatre Festival includes 12 live productions, a documentary, visual art displayed in the theater’s lobby and even a brand-new web series debuting during its run.  There will also be a live panel discussion on trans experiences and a workshop on gender pronouns.  All of the work either features trans artists, is produced by them or both.

“We wanted to showcase a whole range of trans talent and address a whole gamut of questions relating to the trans experience,” says Kaufman.  “The show topics vary: Pass/Fail takes on the idea of passing and the privilege of that, Queer Heartache explores questions of love and family, and Maybe’s show, Love Letters to Nobody, or Insignificant Others, looks at desire, sex and trauma.”

The festival launches with a free cabaret preview that features short works from trans artists—excerpts from this year’s shows.  Shows, Burke is quick to note, that are meant to tell specific truths to wide audiences.

“It’s important to see yourself represented accurately onstage and that there’s not just one way to be trans.  But it’s also important for cisgendered people an allies to look outside of their own lived experience, which they’ll be able to do at this festival.” Will Pulos

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Q&A with Myth Keeper's writer/performer Katharine Scarborough

Now playing at The Brick through January 9th!  Click here for more!

Q: What is it like to look back at 20 years of family letters? 
A: These letters were often written during difficult times between me and my Dad, so on the one hand it's painful to relive some of that, but with that amount of distance, I've been able to also recognize the humor and absurdity in them, and even the wisdom. And I can also see how much he wanted to connect with me, and there's guilt there. And some of them are just funny. Rediscovering the letter he wrote to me and my brother about learning to drive was hilarious. His advice to assume that everyone else on the road is drunk, jerking off, and smoking dope all at the same time was a particular gem, and actually, it has served me well! I'm a very defensive driver!

Q: Tell us about your father.

A: I truly don't know anyone like my Dad. He is a true misanthrope. He shuns social convention, and he acts irrationally on purpose for his own amusement. He used to let me and my brother loose in shops or public places, let us misbehave, and then pretend to be our grandfather so he wouldn't be held responsible for our terrible behavior. He's also very smart, and witty, and he's very giving. He's nearly 80, but he drives a motorcycle around the country and camps in campgrounds, he's got bear spray and everything. It's always an adventure with him.
Q: What would he think of this play?

A: I think he would like it, he was thrilled with the idea of me immortalizing him, and I think it would be hard for him to see. We tried to protect him from the panic we felt when he was in jail. It was all positivity, you know? We felt like we had to keep his spirits up. I think it would also be hard for him to relive the difficulties we had in our relationship. We kind of have a "the past is the past" thing in our family, we don't talk about it a lot, at least directly. But I do know he's proud of me, and he's happy that I've written it.

Click here to learn more!

Friday, December 19, 2014

2015 at The Brick!

Resident Artists

The Syndicate
Written and performed by The Syndicate
Directed by Emily Spalding
January 8 - 17, 2015

The Listeners 
The Brick Theater, Inc.
Written by Matt Freeman
Directed by Michael Gardner
February 1 – February 14, 2015

The Temple, or, Lebensraum
photo by Nat Cassidy
Tin Drum Productions
Written & Directed by Nat Cassidy
February 15 – February 28, 2015

photo by Hunter Canning
Little Lord
Written by Michael Levinton & Laura von Holt
Directed by Michael Levinton
March 1 – March 21, 2015

Sea Fraud
photo by Hunter Canning
Written by Zoë Geltman
Directed by Julia Sirna-Frest
April 5 – April 11, 2015

Emily Climbs (Machine Méchant)
photo by Matt Andrade
Nellie Tinder
Written & Directed by Julia May Jonas
April 12 – May 2, 2015

MAMMOTH: A De-Extinction Love Story
Buran Theatre
Written & Directed by Adam R. Burnett
May 3 – May 23, 2015

Poor Sailor
photo by Hunter Canning
Tugboat Collective
Based on the comic book by Sammy Harkham
From the short story “At Sea” by Guy de Maupassant
Written by Chloe C. Brown and Tugboat Collective
Directed by Eben Hoffer
May 24 - June 6, 2015

Slumber Party '84
Bruise Colors
Written and Directed by Joshua Conkel
August 2015

Never Odd or Even
Directed by Theresa Bucheister
September 2015

Written by Mariah MacCarthy
October 2015

Mainstage and Festivals

Bonedive Scrounger
Obvious Volcano
Written by Fred Backus
Directed by Maggie Cino
January 22 - 31, 2015

A Star Has Burnt My Eye:
The Strange Case of Connie Converse
 Written and Performed by Howard Fishman
Directed by Sarah Huges
March 26 - April 3

a sextival
For more, visit
June 2015 

Game Play 2015
For more, visit
July 2015

The Collisionworks 2015
Gemini Collision Works
November 2015

And more to be announced!!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Intoducing The Brick Resident Artist Program

The Brick Resident Artist Program offers new and established experimental theater artists exclusive use of The Brick for one or more weeks and the encouragement to reinvent the theater space with surprising environments. A BRAP Residency also includes full staff support, full use of The Brick's non-profit umbrella for The Costume Collection and Materials for the Arts, active press representation, ticketing services, free space for fundraising events, a pre-Residency photo & video shoot at the theater, audience development support, a dedicated production intern and a production grant fundraising advisor.

The Brick is currently adjudicating applications for Residencies from March 2015 through May 2015.

BRAP artists will be marketed as part of The Brick's first Spring Residency Season.

The Brick is also adjudicating applications for months and years beyond May (with the exception of June, July and November months).

Applications for Spring 2015 are due by July 7th.

Lineup will be announced July 14th. Early application is encouraged. Some applicants will be chosen prior to July.

To apply and to learn more, please click on the application page.

For more information, please contact info [at]

See below for examples:

Monday, April 29, 2013

In Beck We Trust

A few months ago The Brick hosted a night of Beck songs with artists performing selections form Song Reader, Beck's sheet-music-only album he released back in December 2012.

It was a magical night filled with laughs and melodies from wide variety of artists, many friends of The Brick and some new to the space and community.

I'll let the videos below speak for the night. I'll update this page as new videos trickle in. Or jump over to The Brick's YouTube page.


Just Noise:
A Concert Recording Session for Beck's Song Reader
January 11, 2013

Trav S.D. performing "Old Shanghai"

Supermajor performs "Don't Act Like Your Heart Isn't Hard"

Ben Williams performs "I'm Down"

Killy "Mockstar" Dwyer & Joe Yoga perform "Do We? We Do!"

Maria Dessena performs "Eyes That Say 'I Love You'" 

Bobby Oahu performs "Last Night You Were a Dream"

The Starr Kendall Experiment performs "Saint Dude"

The Roly Polys perform "The Last Polka"

More to come...

Friday, April 12, 2013


I like to draw. I used to draw a lot as a child. Anytime something was delivered to the house in a cardboard box, I'd flatten it out and go crazy. My characters and scene-scapes were always impressions of my surroundings. People had big, round heads and really long feet. My grandmother would laugh because I always drew a cat's paw off to the side. You never saw the full cat, just the paw entering frame as it walked by. Even with that enthusiasm and fun, I never thought to become an artist. I was just a kid who enjoyed interpreting my world through color and lines (which, yes I guess, is an artist). But I never had the opportunity to develop into one. My East Texas school didn't offer an art program, which was a shame because several people in my class had a knack for drawing. Yet another reason I wish there was more money for the arts in public schools. And so when I was older, my grandmother asked why I stopped drawing. I blamed it mainly on not having that art program. Sure I could have kept at it trying to improve the rudimentary skills I had, but after a while I couldn't paint or draw with the detail that I could see in my head. And so my attention wandered to other things like music or theater or what out-of-town girl I could make out with on a school field trip.

And I did eventually become an "artist". Instead of canvas I chose the bare stage to paint with my intentions and body movement. Although I tend not to call myself an artist because it's usually a little confusing to the outside observer. "Oh, you mean you're an actor?" Kind of like how I wouldn't raise my hand if someone asked if there was a doctor in the house even if I had a Ph.D in theatre. But yes, I'm an artist in the grand sense. And I like to think that I am contributing to the many artful dialogues that play out in bar discussions, social media and my own head.

But what makes an artist? What makes art? Is it the physical thing or simply the idea? Do you have to create something to be an artist? Or could I just brood around a gallery telling people that I'm still "working" on something? "Something BIG!" Those questions seem to never have a straight forward answer (especially if you're talking to artists). But all that has once again lead me to The Brick and the upcoming performances of Mass, the new rock opera from writer and Brick co-founder Robert Honeywell and directed by the wonderful Leah Bonvissuto. I sat down with them recently to discuss the show which goes into previews Saturday April 13th and opens Friday April 19th.

First off, they wanted to definitely say that this musical is very loosely based on the life events of Vincent Van Gogh, his brother Theo and contemporary Paul Gauguin. Especially since it stars an all-female cast and is set between 2015-18 in New York, Vancouver and Shanghai. Go figure. Ultimately, Mass is a love story of two artists. Because if art alone wasn't confusing enough, adding love into the mix makes it even messier.

Making sense of this mess of love and art are three very gifted artists of the stage: Esther Crow (Francoise/Gauguin), Moira Stone (Mary/Vincent) and Rebecca Gray Davis (Kate/Theo).

Photos by Joe Kolbow, triptych by Sarah Lippmann
Inspired by themes of their real life counterparts Mass throws us into the passionate tale of two artists (Francoise and Mary) and questions if two artists can be together if their art differs. And what effect does a relationship do to the artist's view of reality? What effects do money, family (Kate) and religion have on the creative process? What happens when the ones you love pull away? And in the process of artistic breakthroughs, does the mass of these questions hold you back or cause you to go off the deep end? Questions I ask myself every day and am unable (and sometimes unwilling) to answer.

If the Wiki rumors of the time between Van Gogh and Gaugin are true, I fear for what Mass has in store for Francoise, Mary and Kate. And with the talent behind Crow, Stone and Davis I know I won't be disappointed when the lights go down at the end.

And making this show even more massive is the rock band backing up our artful ladies, lead by the wonderful Maria Dessena, who was musical director for Honeywell's Ich Liebe Jesus this past December, and comprises an awesome rhythm section that includes Electric Mess bassist Derek Davidson and Auto Bonfire drummer Sparkie Sandler, both bands fronted by Crow, and which you may have seen providing psychedelic overtones in the Piper McKenzie/Trav S.D. Charles Manson inspired musical Willy Nilly (Fringe Festival 2009). But all this isn't just for show, the creators have been careful to make sure that the songs are tied to the emotions and thoughts as the characters experience it and helps to express the the ideas instead of just telling. As a professor in college once told me, songs should be reserved for when you can no longer express what you're feeling with words. The music must burst out of you in a flurry of emotion. So I look forward to seeing this tale of love and strife burst forth from these wonderful artists.

Also, a story about art wouldn't be complete without a little art as well. You may walk into a blank, white canvas by set designer Lianne Arnold but you'll be dazzled by video projections by Daniel McKleinfeld and lights by Joe Levasseur, with some stylish costumes provided by the lovely Iracel Rivero.

And if you want to convert this into more scientific terms let's take the mass (m) of talent in this ensemble of actors, singers, musicians, writer, director and design team, multiplied by the square of electrical transmission of ideas/light in their brains (c2) and the energy (E) released will surely blow people out of their seats at The Brick and prove Steve Martin's theory between art and science.

April 13 – 30, 2013
The Brick, 579 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11211

Music, book and lyrics by Robert Honeywell 
Directed by Leah Bonvissuto 
Music direction by Maria Dessena 
Set design by Lianne Arnold 
Lighting design by Joe Levasseur 
Video design by Daniel McKleinfeld 
Sound design by Emma Wilk 
Costume design by Iracel Rivero 
Choreography by Sarah Doudna 
Special effects by Stephanie Cox-Williams and Melissa Roth 
Assistant Dir. & Stage Management by Raffaela Vergata

Featuring: Esther Crow, Rebecca Gray Davis, Melissa DeLancey, Kaitlan Emery, Amanda LaPergola, Tracy Shar, Phoebe Silva,* and Moira Stone*

And the band of: Derek Davidson, Maria Dessena, Ryan Ferreira, Michael Rafalowich and Sparkie Sandler

*Appearing courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association

Tues & Thurs–Sat @ 8 pm; Sun @ 3 pm
$18 ($10 for previews on Apr 13, 14, 16, 18)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fool for Love

I tend to stay away from "show" relationships. I convince myself that I should keep things "professional." The "work" comes first and my "feelings" a distant second or third place even if one of my cast mates is so beautiful that my heart melts every time I see her. Maybe I'm afraid that something "weird" might happen during the dating process and we have to deal with all that awkwardness for the rest of the run. Maybe I'm waiting for the show to end to make my "move," using all that rehearsal time and performance to see if a) she's available in the first place and b) interested in me in the slightest. Most times this approach backfires on me and that special someone starts seeing someone else, completely unaware of my affection. And maybe I'm afraid of the rejection. Maybe I just don't want to get burned again. I once asked a cast mate out and her only response was, "Ooohh, that's cute..." After a few seconds of silence waiting for a more concrete answer from her I walked off embarrassed.

There are many questions that we artists face throughout our life and times. The last couple of shows this year at The Brick have tried to answer some of those questions. Dealing with plagiarism (Buran Theatre's Nightmares), government/artistic entitlements (Lamb Lays with Lion's Entitlement) and the love/hate relationship our families have with our artful career choices (New Saloon's William Shakespeare's Mom). And now Dangerous Ground will expand this unintentional theme and explore the questions of love that arise with on-stage/screen relationships with L’Amour Fou, a stage adaptation of the Jacques Rivette's 1969 film (not to be confused with the 2010 Yves Saint-Laurent documentary of the same name)

Jacques Rivette and Bulle Ogier on the set of L'Amour fou, photo by Pierre Zucca
The movie/play centers around the production of Racine's Andromaque with the lead actress and director's marriage falling apart  while a film crew documents both the rehearsal process and a crazy love-chain that rivals the Greeks. Thanks to Dangerous Ground and director/designer Doris Mirescu, this play within a movie is now a play within a play within a movie within a multi-media landscape, dramatically altering The Brick's stage, that looks to explore the dialogue between the original movie and this adaptation. Where Rivette switches between 16 and 35mm film to capture his saga, Mirescu switches between live staging and video projection. 

This dialogue exchange is very timely, given the circumstances of when the movie was shot. Filmed in the wake of the failed 60s revolutions, Mirescu sees plenty of parallels between then and some of the failed revolutions we've recently experienced in the last few years like the Occupy movement. But the hope is still there to make those things happen (we hope). And with this production, Mirescu hopes to continue the questions of what it means to be an artist/creator. Are we allowed to be free and be innovators? And how does love interfere with all of it? And so, where Rivette left off, Dangerous Ground looks to pick up and run with it, in what Mirescu hopes to be the beginning of a trilogy

L’Amour Fou
February 14 – March 10, 2013

Written by Jacques Rivette and Marilù Parolini

Conceived, designed and directed by Doris Mirescu

Set/Clothes/Art Direction: Doris Mirescu
Lights: Kira Davies
Set & Technical Supervision/Video & sound installation: Marshall Miller
Live Cameras: Craig Newman, Doron Bloomfield, Suzannah Hoffman
Live Guitar: Gabriel Stranahan
Assistant to the Director: Doron Bloomfield

With: Sarah Baskin*, Brooke Bell, Kira Davies, Penny Folger, Gayle Greene*, Susannah Hoffman*, Melissa Hudson, Bree Merkwan, Craig Newman, David Skeist*, Mickey Solis*, William Paul Smith, Gabriel Stranahan

*Appearing courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association

For tickets visit or OvationTix.

Until next time...choo, choo, choose me!