Manhattan Shakespeare Project
September 19, 2012, 7:18 pm
Filed under: New York City, Theater | Tags: , , ,

ImageThis week on Citywide we are happy to feature a conversation with Sarah Eismann of the Manhattan Shakespeare Project. Eismann founded the company, which is one of the few all female Shakespeare companies around today. It is one of the few all female theater companies as a matter of fact. In our conversation, Eismann makes it seem that the all female approach is not meant to necessarily amplify the role of women in Shakespeare (though it is a goal of hers), but to neutralize gender in theater. She points out that when a female gives a monologue for a male character, audiences are given the ability to forget about the gender of the actor and character and instead to notice how Shakespeare’s characters possess both feminine and masculine elements, both good and evil, pride and insecurity.

Eismann and her company travel through the boroughs performing works of Shakespeare to “underserved” communities for little or no cost. The Manhattan Shakespeare project feels that the works of Shakespeare provide an excellent platform for communication. They want to educate NYC youth and less-visible communities to the universally relatable themes Shakespeare provides. New York City is hardly the stopping point though. Eismann is taking her philosophy and love of Shakespeare to Palestine to teach Palestinian actors Shakespeare workshops. She has found that Shakespeare inspires people universally and resonates far beyond the Western context we are accustomed to seeing it in. Visit for more information, or listen to the interview below.

To support Sarah Eismann and the Manhattan Shakespeare Project visit their indiegogo page.

Lucas Green

Calypso, a literary performance by Paul Rome and Roarke Menzies
May 3, 2012, 9:23 pm
Filed under: Art, Literature, Theater | Tags: , , , ,


While I wish I could give this show the original write-up it deserves, I regret that school has sapped all my time away. Alas! Fortunately my interview with Paul Rome and Roarke Menzies, two original artists living and working in Brooklyn speaks for itself. It is evident from the way they speak about it that their new collaboration comes from deep thought and deep emotion. From talking to them, they got me excited for the deep thought and emotion I will feel as an audience member when they stage their performance of Calypso from May 9th to May 12th at The Bushwick Starr (207 Starr st.).

Calypso, written by Rome with music by Menzies and performed by both, weaves a narrative of modern romance in New York City evoking the classic myths in Homer’s The Odyssey and The Aeneid by Virgil, which have endured as Western Culture consistently finds itself confronting the same preoccupations they address. The ‘literary performance’ distills the art of oral story-telling in the way these ancient myths originally proliferated with the modern adaptations to the art we now see in popular story-based radio broadcasts like This American Life. Rome and Menzies present the rare opportunity for audiences to sit together and react together to live drama in a space that is designed to facilitate a quality listening experience without the awareness of the outside world. It stands apart from traditional appeal as the two performers present an extremely aesthetic that gives room for the spectator to imagine a drama in the most subjective way possible. If you love listening to stories on the radio, or podcasts, or having someone close read to you, imagine an environment that allows you to completely dive into and get absorbed by the story you’re hearing. Imagine also the added energy of the people around you sharing the same experience and the people on stage focused into delivering that experience in the best way possible. It’s a real treat.


Image Paul Rome(above) and Roarke Menzies(below)

Further details about the story and the performance can be found on both Rome’s and Menzie’s websites. Listen to my talk with them to get even more interested-


Also, if you are interested in “The You Trilogy” which they mention in our conversation, you can listen to it here. I highly recommend it and it might just tell you what you have in store for you at Calypso.

Calypso – a literary performance by Paul Rome and Roarke Menzies

May 9-12, 2012 at 8:00 PM
Tickets: $10 in advance; $15 at the door

The Bushwick Starr
207 Starr Street (btwn Wyckoff and Irving)
L Train to Jefferson Ave.

Calypso – a literary performance by Paul Rome and Roarke Menzies

May 9-12, 2012 at 8:00 PM
Tickets: $10 in advance; $15 at the door

The Bushwick Starr
207 Starr Street (btwn Wyckoff and Irving)
L Train to Jefferson Ave.

Arts and Gentrification in Bushwick, Brooklyn W/ Modesto “Flako” Jimenez

Gentrification from the perspective of a recent Bushwick resident-

Gentrification is a subject usually approached with the utmost trepidation. The discussion is ambiguous and laden with guilt prone to implicate anyone who walks through the minefield this conversation is. It’s hard to fault anyone involved-

-Who can blame the gentrification for trying to find a cheap place to live?   Who can blame them for trying to open up businesses in the area in order to make a living?

-Who can blame the people who grew up in the area for feeling resentful as they watch their culture slip away, their rent and grocery bills skyrocket, the physical features of their neighborhood morph into something new?

-Who can blame the city government for sending more police to a neighborhood with high crime rates?

-Who can blame the business owners and the real estate owners for charging higher prices as a more moneyed population enters their realm? (…lots of people probably, still a grey area though)

Each of these groups have righteous reasons to perform the actions I just enumerated and are some of the more broad and most recognizable features of gentrification. We may also suspect that each of these groups have more dubious agendas. However, it is unproductive and possibly damaging to the question of gentrification to project any agenda (especially the suspicious ones) to categories of people because they are formed by individuals with unique motivations in life and moral values.

Still, we can identify trends and attempt to understand its causes and effects in order to learn our own personal role and, from there, consider what can be done and avoided to minimize the negative effects and capitalize on the positive potential gentrifiers like me can bring to a community.

Low rent attracts the “gentrification,” in part formed by non-natives looking for the cheapest place to live that still has a connection to the larger city they came to work and exist in. These might include college-grads, students, young professionals, artists who can’t afford to live in Manhattan. They make the neighborhood a hip and exciting destination for artists and musicians who are followed by chic coffee shops and brunch cafés, pop-up galleries and yoga studios, which come with people who have money. At least, this is what I gather as a member of the gentrification who (like almost everyone else in the same boat) has trouble feeling comfortable with it. This blog post is written from that general perspective. I love the artistic environment Bushwick, my home for now, provides and its potential for something even greater. First though, the problems this exciting art scene brings with it are very real, but, based on conversations with individuals such as Modesto “Flako” Jimenez, they are not insurmountable and will only prove to be truly damaging if the complexity of gentrification continues to prevent us from addressing it. There is  little I can say about rising living costs except that I am grateful to have an affordable place to call home. I can also attempt to contribute to the economy of the community by buying my goods and groceries at local stores rather than carting them in on the L train. There is however a powerful social dynamic which each person living in the community has a place in regardless of choice.

A quick glance at Bushwick’s history informs that, like most any neighborhood in New York, its majority population has at various times been composed of several different ethnicities. Italian, African-American, Mexican, Caribbean. The relatively small area has indeed been gentrified several times. While there is certainly a racial element to the current gentrification, characterizing the issue as “white” people coming in and taking over an “hispanic” neighborhood is only partially true in this case and does nothing really other than contribute to the Us&Them mentality that slows down progress and creates barriers between people that don’t need to be there. We (any member of the community) see who people who dress and speak in unrelatable ways and we prescribe them as ‘the other.’ Whenever these barriers grow up, two things can happen. For some the other becomes invisible. People pass each other on the street without making eye contact, goods are exchanged at the bodega, but not words. The alternative is that the other is seen, but as a threat. Eye contact occurs, but it is intimidating or suspicious. This is the more unfortunate scenario because it involves a certain volatility. Sooner or later contact has to be made between people who co-exist, if we address these issues, this contact could be one of acceptance and appreciation and not intimidation or dominance.

I just can’t reconcile that scenario.

I’m simplifying a portion of one of the problems in order to start working toward a solution. This isn’t to say that the problem is in fact simple, just that we can start resolving it if we work hard to figure out what it is. It might take a while, even if we all determine to be understanding and welcoming to each other. I’ll close my part with something that happened to me weeks ago that I can’t stop thinking about. I was walking out of the bodega after grabbing some beer and some popcorn (probably) and I nearly bump into a man coming into the store. Instinctively I said “permiso” as I passed him. I sometimes try to use Spanish in the deli both for practice and out of consideration. But I was taken aback when I heard a nearby woman ask the man, “why did you let him speak to you like that?”

I felt terrible. Then the man said “Noooooooo, he was being respectful.” I’m still confused about that and still worried about offending the people who live around me who I have no reason to offend. It seems that, though we may sometimes treat one another like we’re invisible, nobody ever is.

Flako Jimenez

These thoughts and feelings have been developing inside me since I moved to Bushwick almost two years ago. For the past few weeks I’ve focused a couple Citywide episodes on the neighborhood because of the amazing work that takes place there and its astonishing diversity. I didn’t really consider the meeting point of arts in the neighborhood and gentrification until i saw this video-

This is a visual rendering of Modesto “Flako” Jimenez’s poem “Bushwick, Brooklyn” from his new book of autobiographical poetry ¡Oye! Para mi querido Brooklyn or Listen! For my Dear Brooklyn. It is a lyrical collection of experiences in English and Spanish he had growing up as an immigrant in Bushwick and what he saw change after he spent a short time a way. For the release of his book two weeks ago, Flako and some of his fellow artists arranged a reading as “an ode to Bushwick in all its richness, a night of music, theater, film, and art on the themes of immigration, gentrification and survival..” at the Bushwick Starr. It took me off guard in a really good way. That night longtime Bushwick residents and more recent residents performed on that stage both in English and Spanish for a crowd composed both people who grew up in Bushwick and people who had moved there. Everyone laughed at the same time, shared the same silence, ate and drank the same dishes together afterward and celebrated what they had shared together. It was just happy.

Flako later met me in Maria Hernandez Park and gave me his impression on the change taking place in his home. Flako moved into the neighborhood at a very young age and grew up in a much grittier Bushwick than exists today. He grew up on a deeply rooted gang culture, when drugs brought the danger of violence, disease, addiction, and police officers. He saw many of his peers and classmates falling into this dangerous lifestyle as a means of survival. Flako may have been destined for the same, but he says that a school teacher named Steven Haff, who operates Still Waters in a Storm, singled him out and introduced him to a world of literature and theater. Flako found a passion that took him to university in Vermont where he found a world that looked nothing like the one he had always lived in. By the time he came back to Bushwick a little over ten years ago he was shocked to see that the undergraduate culture he’d become accustomed to in Vermont had found its way into his own neighborhood.

After seeing his performance and talking to him for nearly an hour, I started to get an idea of some of the things he had noticed. That the fear people have of others in this neighborhood comes from very surface differences. And that if we can find common ground in the arts the way Modesto was able to facilitate at the Bushwick Starr, maybe the fear can start to fade and a strong community begin to develop. We can be thankful to people like Modesto and the people who operate the Bushwick Starr that they are raising interest for arts in the community that can be shared by everyone. We can also be grateful to organizations like Still Waters in a Storm and El Puente that inspire children to appreciate the arts, to discover the world and their own potential along with it. You can help.

Please let me know if I’m off base.

This is my conversation with Modesto “Flako” Jimenez. Hear him tell his story in his own words. They’re much more interesting than my words-


Lucas Green

Into The Soldier’s Tale
April 19, 2012, 1:59 pm
Filed under: Dance, Music, New York City, Theater

Left to right: Niall Powderly, William Vaughn and Chuck Furlong

We’re often told that starting a business with your family is a dangerous thing. Work brings out the best in us, but the worst pokes its nasty head out just the same. So we turn to working with our friends whenever we can afford to, because the bonds between us aren’t as loaded, and it’s a logical step towards what should be guaranteed fun. It’s like a family without all the strings attached.

Niall Powderly, William Vaughn and Chuck Furlong, who met as freshmen at NYU, put that plan into action pretty early on in their friendship. Now that their NYU careers are ending, they are putting on a production of Igor Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du soldat, or The Soldier’s Tale, from May 3rd to 5th at Access Theater in Tribeca, as the 100 Proof Arts Collective.

Originally a Russian folk tale, The Soldier’s Tale they’re producing brings the narrative to the present and combines a seven-piece orchestra playing Stravinsky’s complex music, with acting of C.F. Ramuz’s text and dancing to tell the story of a soldier returning home from deployment in Afghanistan. The three of them have had to learn the ins and outs of how each other’s fields worked (Furlong is a musician, but Vaughn and Powderly are actors) but in the end, it seems they’ve managed to make it work.

The Soldier’s Tale will be performed May 3-5 each night at 8pm at Access Theater, located at 380 Broadway (2 blocks South of Canal) on the 4th Floor.For more on this production, visit 100 Proof’s website,, where you will find information about tickets and all the other ways in which you can support the collective.

An Interview With Mykki Blanco Who Thrives on States of Change

Underground art in the little town of New York City has a natural propensity to become mainstream art for the big old World. There are two very important reasons for this. The first lies in the intrinsic material make-up of the city. Anyone who lives and works in this city has almost immediate access to the majority of what man-kind can make or could ever make. In this way the city itself is a canvas as well as a bottomless trove of resources and materials. The city harmonizes beautifully with artists because almost any landscape, any tool, any surface, and (most importantly) any person can be found here. This is the second reason. Though I am reluctant to bring humanity down to the mathematical model we can apply to the physical world, it might help in this sense. In addition to every combination of artificial creations, New York City also houses nearly every permutation of the nature of individual human beings that has existed to this point and whose constant interaction perpetually produces new interests and new goals for the individual. Here we find all the billions of combinations of interests, levels of ambition, ethnicity, gender, will, identification, and pure brilliance. There are countless other factors into the emotional/physical/intellectual composition of a human being and most of them haven’t been placed together thus far. But people have a strong proclivity for detecting corresponding elements in others and it is this tendency which leads to the greatest work, expression, and fulfillment. It is what motivates us to know people and also to know about the world. This is why New York City is one of the greatest places to produce art today; because these things happen. Any person with an idea they want to see manifested, if they have enough will, can go to New York City and find nearly everything they need to make it happen and nearly all the people who will dig it enough to help.

Of course it’s important to stress the “nearly” because there is a third reason that people either like to hide or to forget. One way or another it tends to get obscured. Inspiration. New York has a lot of it, but only because the city attracts it. It is the most essential cause for any artistic environment that has ever developed. It cannot be quantified, predicted, or contrived. It can only be harnessed.

This week, Citywide featured Michael David Quattlebaum Jr. (aka Mykki Blanco). Mykki is a person who creates art taking full advantage of what I just said makes New York City a great place for artists. Mykki possesses the faculties to channel inspiration in a very pure way and then express it with fervor. In the interview, Mykki tells me about growing up knowing who he was and that he was different from others and not caring. He’s had the very unique opportunity for most of his life to be honest with his family and peers and therefore be honest with others in his artistic expression.

At this point I should be describing Mykki’s body of work, but,as he brings up in the interview, it’s not something you can define as a body because it takes extremely varied forms. In fact, I’m not even sure if I should be using male or female pronouns to refer to Mykki since he performs dressed either as a man or a woman. That’s sort of the idea though. I can’t think even of a reason to assign a title to Mykki’s gender, which for most people is a basic factor of identity. Similarly, you can’t say that Mykki is a writer, rapper, singer, visual artist, poet, stylist, or actor. He’s all of those and especially a performer.

Mykki became known after publishing a book of poetry under the name of Michael David Quattlebaum Jr. entitled From the Silence of Marcel Duchamp to the Noise of Boys. He also performs his/her poetry and raps under the name of Mykki Blanco. His work takes many more forms and is continuing to grow in the arenas of music and video.

This is what I mean about him taking advantage of New York City’s resources. It’s very hard to take part in so many different forms of expression, but the city facilitates it for those who are motivated. It’s inspiration that makes it possible though. Mykki is also lucky to be working a community of people who get it.

The interview has him talking about his development as in artist, entering the New York art world and observing it’s changes, and the experiences of producing art in New York. It’s really good!

This is a sample of Mykki’s rapping:

But you should also listen to the interview-


Lucas Green

The Year 2011 in review by Sedera
December 22, 2011, 12:59 am
Filed under: Art, Exhibition, Film, Life!, New York City, Theater | Tags:

Taken inside WNYU, courtesy of Talia Kazarian @ WSN

I can’t believe 2011 is already ending. I know that’s what everyone says whenever a year ends, but I think the speed of time has hit me harder this year because the stakes at the end of the day are higher: now, I’m half-way through my senior year, meaning that I’m only a few short months away from having to start a real job search and being a financially responsible adult in a market that doesn’t seem to really be able to take me in at the moment. I’ve never been too scared of time passing but the closer I get to reaching that end-of-college milestone, the more reasons I find to freak out.

So it was nice to take some time to look at the year past and remember the new things I learned, the awesome people I met and the great conversations we had, which may all start with art, but all end up touching upon other seemingly distant subjects and social issues. As the fatigue of this hectic semester finally starts taking its toll on my body and energy, this exercise was a nice reminder that I better continue making the most of the months ahead of me.

To a wonderful new year!

For these interviews in full, you can click here, here, here and here! But, we have many many more shows for you to listen to if you search around the blog…

Little Did I Know, A Novel By Mitchell Maxwell
October 6, 2011, 3:53 pm
Filed under: Literature, Theater | Tags:

 Producers don’t generally have the greatest reputation in my experience. Often people seem to refer to them as greedy and only interested in money rather than the art. The common notion seems to be that they manage and package the talent, but really don’t have any talent themselves.

Speaking to Mitchell Maxwell, and reading his novel Little Did I Know (Prospecta Press), should stop anyone from thinking that. Both he and his young protagonist Sam August show that being a successful producer and getting a show rolling as that overseeing force is a creative process in and of itself.

But as a graduating senior, I can’t help but feel jealous of this character who feels free enough to just run off and do what he wants to do after graduation. As a foreign student who came here lured by the promising “land of opportunity” label of the United States, the closer I get to the official start of a career, the more it seems ruled by administration, paperwork and other pre-requisites. Running off to run a theater for a summer is a much more attractive plan…

Sedera Ranaivoarinosy

Emileena Pedigo and the Midtown Theater Festival
July 7, 2011, 12:00 am
Filed under: Theater | Tags:

There’s no imagining New York without picturing the bright, shining lights of Broadway and its polyvalent superstars. But if you live in New York long enough, the Broadway superproductions are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to theater in New York.

Although the names Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway can sound gimmicky and almost seem to imply that theater that isn’t on Broadway isn’t as good or important, it’s a much livelier scene in numerous ways.

Created by John Chatterton of the Off-Off-Broadway Review, the Midtown Theater Festival gives the spotlight to Off-Off-Broadway theater for the second half of July. And if we’re to believe Emileena Pedigo, who I spoke to for this interview just as the staff was loading into the festival venue, it’s a fully-packed concentrate of what the variety of theater in New York City. And to my surprise, the interview turned into a discussion of what it’s like to be a theater producer; it’s always fun when conversations take unexpected turns.

The Midtown Theater Festival runs from July 11th to July 31st in the different theaters at 312 W. 36th Street. For more information, visit

Sarah Eismann, Reesa Graham and the Manhattan Shakespeare Project
June 22, 2011, 11:59 pm
Filed under: Theater | Tags:

I don’t generally have much energy at 8 am on Fridays. But doing this interview with Sarah Eismann and Reesa Graham to talk about their all-female production of Shakespeare’s famous history play Henry V made me forget how early my day had started. That made me even more excited about their project and their performance; if these women can transmit that much energy before most offices open, their rendition of Shakespeare couldn’t possibly be boring.

It’s an added bonus that they’re performing in the parks of New York. In his interview with me a few weeks ago, Antonin Baudry of the French Embassy called them “the heart of the city” and I couldn’t agree more. But I’ve also always loved this city for the variety of performers it houses. Marrying these two fundamental characteristics of New York just feels right, like a reminder that art is for everyone to enjoy everywhere.

Here is where you’ll be able see Manhattan Shakes’ 90 min All-Female summer production Henry V:

June 23, 24 – 6pm – Central Park, Summit Rock

June 19, 25, 26 – 2pm – Central Park, Summit Rock

July 6, 7, 8 – 6pm – Harlem, St. Nicholas Park

July 14, 15 – 7pm – Brooklyn, Sunset Park

July 17 – 2pm – Brooklyn, Sunset Park

And if you want to see them perform new work, here are the dates for their upcoming production, Highway Blue – A Play with Music, by Caroline Prugh. It’ll go up at the Steve and Marie Sgouros Theatre on MacDougal St:

July 21, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30 8:00pm

July 23 2:00pm

August 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 8:00pm

For any other info you desire about the Manhattan Shakespeare Project, go to

Isaiah Sheffer and Eilin O’Dea about Bloomsday on Broadway!
June 9, 2011, 12:01 am
Filed under: Literature, Theater | Tags:

There’s probably one James Joyce novel on every high school literature syllabus. I had to read Dubliners (and subsequently learn it by heart to graduate high school).

Had I read Ulysses, I would have known about the multitude of celebrations that go on in honor of the novel and its protagonist, Leopold Bloom, long before preparing for this interview. On June 16th every year, a day known as “Bloomsday,” people gather all around the world and celebrate the novel and Joyce.

I already thought not having read Ulysses was a shame–I loved Dubliners and always thought I should read more of Joyce’s works–but now that I know about how much love it, I really feel like I’ve been missing out.

For any ignorant New Yorkers like me or established Joyce connoisseurs, I reckon Symphony Space’s 30th Bloomsday on Broadway event at the Peter Jay Sharp theater is the place to be. Isaiah Sheffer, along with 85 actors, including fellow guest Eilin O’Dea, will be presenting 13 hours non-stop of Ulysses. Though not all 18 episodes will be read in their entirety, all will be sampled for those who want to dive in and bask in Irish culture.

Eilin O’Dea will also be performing her own one-woman show, “Hello, Molly!” which features Molly Bloom’s musings from the end of the novel a week earlier, Thursday June 9th at the Leonard Nimroy Theater.

From speaking to both of them, it was obvious their knowledge of Joyce and their love for his work will shine through the performances. And although the Bloomsday performance might seem long, it’s possible it will suck you in.

For more information on both performances, visit