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Saturday, April 24, 2010


Victoria Libertore debuted her solo workshop performance to a sold out space at the Brooklyn Art Exchange (BAX) last night, and received a standing ovation from her audience. The show lasted about sixty minutes but had us talking into the wee hours of the morning. I have distilled our discussion about what the piece is now, and what it can become with time. Portraying Countess Bathory, a notorious mass murderer from Hungary who died in 1614, Libertore takes on the most challenging role of her career. We meet the Countess in the last moments of her life as she is walled into a room in one her many castles. Aided by magnificent costumes, props and sets by Jeff Studivant and Jono Lukas respectively, Libertore has a bit of fun with the gruesome, gory details of Bathory's legendary cruelty. In so doing she dominates an entire audience. In the end this sad tale is about a woman who is the prisoner of her desire to be beautiful forever. Narcissistic vanity may be the driving force of her fury, but a keen sense of our place in history here and now allows Libertore to bridge centuries of myth with laser like accuracy. "I have eye like hawk," she says. With those eyes she communicates present day themes of lust and greed, along with the irresponsibility of those in absolute power using graphic depictions of torture and abuse. Rosalie Purvis directs.

Friday, April 16, 2010

American Bard Theater Company Presents:

Review*: Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare presented by the American Bard Theatre Company, Flamboyan Theater at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center April 16-May 1st 2010.

*This review based on a final dress previews for the next three performances and opens Wednesday, April 21st.

In the neighborhood of a Perfect Blue Building and a hot-bed of Cultural Diversity that is 2010 Lower East Side of Manhattan, the American Bard Theater Company has chosen to stage its debut full length Shakespearean production.

Let me first say this is no troupe of wanna-be amateurs. The production values of their Much Ado About Nothing are extraordinarily high; and when you are talking about Shakespeare that means a spotlight squarely and firmly on the language. Directed by Jefferson Slinkard and loosely set in post Spanish Civil War Italy, this Much Ado comes most alive when that loose setting becomes background to the formidable story telling by wonderful actors. Shakespeare in America is almost always a crap shoot, but with The American Bard, you see a group that has been through those tedious stagings of classics and the work they have done in preparation for their own production is immediately apparent. The only laughs to be garnered here are in all the right places.

Like the Public Theater’s recent staging of Othello, there is some interesting non-traditional casting taking place. Unlike the Public, American Bard Theater uses this device to great effect. Damon Kinard as Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon, and Marcus Denard Johnson as his companion Claudio, are both African American actors of impressive stature and verve. They both infuse their characters with life that leaps from the stage. The non-traditional casting comes in the form of Cheri Wicks as Antonia, the Duke’s sister (instead of brother Antonio). When she confronts The Prince and his friend for having shamed Hero at the altar, her use of the word “boy” carries a not so subtle racial insult as befits her rage, yet makes one cringe in our era of political correctness.

Andrew Eiseman has some stellar moments as Benedick. His comic timing is most fun to watch at a hilarious opening to the second act. Natalie Doyle Holmes as Beatrice is caustic with her wit and wisdom, and beautiful to behold as is Tara Henderson as Hero. Bryan L. Cohen is Constable Dogberry, a part he was born to play. He embodies the buffoon of a civil servant to the hilt. Almost a bit over the top, to say he plays a mean trumpet is an understatement. Erin Gilbreth as a guard on Watch is just delightful with her fluffy gray mustache, tin-pail helmet and rolling-pin for a weapon; she embodies the spirit of play for which Shakespeare is famous.

This is not to say the production is without flaws. Costuming the Bastard Don John in a period Fascist Uniform and having him hold a copy of Mein Kampf complete with red cover and black swastika is a bit heavy handed especially when there is no obvious political symbolism in counter point. Aptly played by Clint Morris, John and his co-horts played by Jack Herholdt and Evan Scott Schweitzer reek of maliciousness by virtue of their spot on delivery of the text. Schweitzer, Betina Joly and Garciany Miranda prove the old adage “there are no small parts” by playing their bits with skill and the enthusiasm required of a successful ensemble.

Ross Hewitt plays a credible Governor and while Mary Riley sings beautifully and is stunning decked out in her red dress as Margaret, there is no costume change for her, other than a period hair net, when she switches roles to play the local judge. The set by Sheila Phalon is simple; I especially love the center fountain with what appears to my failing eyes as a green frog with a crown on its head. Costumes were most effective when not trying to evoke a specific era; I loved them for the most part except for the fact that the Prince had private-first-class stripes on his sleeves. The players were well lit at all times thanks to lighting designer Jeffrey Whitsett. Overall, this is an effort worthy of attendance by those who love Shakespeare and an auspicious start for this company.

Monday, April 12, 2010


GIRL MEAT is the provocative creation of Victoria Libertore appearing as part of the Air Festival at BAX. In this solo tour-de-force, Libertore channels the infamous Countess Erzsebet Bathory who, over four hundred years ago, gave Count Dracula, Caligula Caesar and Jack the Ripper a major run for the money as the most blood thirsty human being on earth. Possibly the world’s most prolific female serial killer, Countess Bathory of Hungary has been the source of legend about incredible beauty and wealth as well as unspeakable cruelty. They say she actually bathed in the blood of some 650 people she murdered in a bizarre ritual designed to keep her looking young.

Written and performed by Libertore, directed by Rosalie Purvis with dramaturgy by Jennifer-Scott Mobley Ph.D., GIRL MEAT taps into our great American hunger for sex and violence. With archetypal set design by Jono Lukas and stunning costumes by Jeff Sturdivant, this captivating portrait of the Countess will come to life April 23, 24, and 25 at the Brooklyn Arts Exchange, 421 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn New York 11215.

Check out the promotional video:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Reunion: Me and My Old School

I was right in predicting there would be cousins I never met waiting for us there in Baltimore. Tanya was a complete surprise and I am so glad I met her and her two lovely daughters. The great thing about “family” is no matter how long you’ve been apart, when you finally get together, you pick up where you left off. I showed Jen my elementary school and the path I walked to where we once lived on Mayfield Avenue. I had not seen that route in years. That, in and of itself, does not compute. I don’t feel like I’m that old. I was very moved and touched at all the attention generated by my first book. It was great to see my sisters all in one place, my mother, her sisters and brothers, their children, and their children, first cousins and second cousins…in all four generations of the clan gathered for the best cookies on Earth!

Lots of theater news in the coming week including reviews of "Much Ado About Nothing" by the American Bard Theater and I am very excited to see "Girl Meat" by Howling Vic at the Brooklyn Art Exchange.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Not Out of the Woods

Pay up
Pay down

They own you
Wild Tiger
Captured and caged
Put on display
Poked and prodded
Teased into being ferocious
Not too ferocious
Or precocious

No, that will not do
Not for us
Not for you

We like you in the rough
Prowling the sand
Stalking the green

But take more than your
Share of white women?
Oh, that is simply

And we won't have it
Not from the Tiger we tamed
If you want to indulge
In the treasure of the

Go play another game
These hypocrites
Don't swing that way.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Silence is Blissful

Cobble Hill is very quiet at the moment. It is Easter Sunday, and the church bells have just chimed calling the faithful to mass. I am here at my alter, the writing desk, meditating on the bliss and horror of our world.

Today it feels as if the Earth has renewed itself in an especially palpable way. I have sensations in my chakras that I’d almost forgotten over the long winter. Grief and sorrow colored, like fancy eggs, with joy and fulfillment now co-mingled as one. We have prevailed through darkness, ice, snow and rain to a rebirth of leaves and grass, sun and blue sky. The deluge has passed. It is a time for sowing. Therefore, I sow warm and loving thoughts in your hearts with this missive in hopes we may soon reap laughter and good times together, soon and through out the year fulfilling the Bacchanalian traditions of wine and song. Happy Vernal Equinox to my Pagan sisters and brothers. Happy Easter to my Christian Fellows. Happy Passover to the descendants of Abraham. Blessings upon the followers of Muhammad, Buddha, and all the deities great and small who encompass our love of life and mother Earth.

Also today I pray for TJ on his 4th birthday. This little boy is going through some rough times with his health. Please take a moment to send him good thoughts and well wishes.

At times such as this I reflect on how very fortunate I have been in my life to have met and known such awesome, wonderful people, and to have fallen in mad passionate love with all of you.

Wishing everyone the best Spring and Summer...