Heather E. Cunningham, Gina Femia, Chad Anthony Miller, & Ben Schnickel of “We Are a Masterpiece”

Retro Productions presents WE ARE A MASTERPIECE, written by Gina Femia, directed by DeLisa M. WhiteListen in as Retro Productions Producing Artistic Director (and “Joan” in the show) Heather E. Cunningham, along with fellow performers Chad Anthony Miller & Ben Schnickel and playwright Gina Femia of We Are a Masterpiece, discuss multiple lenses, levity in the midst of suffering, what makes a play “aggressively contemporary” (and where that fits into the “retro” of Retro Productions), “the cyclical nature of prejudice,” healing through art, universality through specificity, what we’re capable of, and making the choice of love.

“…there’s always hope. Hope is always the way through tragedy, and despair. Yes, this is a very sad story, and yes, you will cry, and we cry. But there are beautiful things that happen when people, in the face of adversity, step up to the plate and do what’s best for their fellow human beings…”

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Heather Cohn, Corey Allen, Alisha Spielmann, & Isaiah Tanenbaum of “Am I Dead? The Untrue Narrative of Anatomical Lewis, The Slave”

Flux Theatre Ensemble presents AM I DEAD? THE UNTRUE NARRATIVE OF ANATOMICAL LEWIS, THE SLAVE written by Kevin R. Free, directed by Heather Cohn, at The 14th Street Y

Listen in as director Heather Cohn of Am I Dead? The Untrue Narrative of Anatomical Lewis, The Slave, along with actors Corey Allen, Alisha Spielmann, and Isaiah Tanenbaum, discuss feeling free to laugh through a very dark comedy, learning your Egyptian myths, the history and legacy of violence against black bodies, developing a play with the playwright, what we can learn as people through the artistic process, first noticing the costume changes of your cast-mates during a performance (“subtle, yet effective!”), the effects of an individual audience’s energy, and the necessity of having sticky, difficult conversations in the theatre.

“…I think what Kevin gives us the canvas to discuss is the ways that denial functions for a variety of people…how they choose to view their own reality, accept it or deny it […] and I think the audience is forced to decide, ‘which approach do I take?’…”

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TALKBACK: David Stallings & Heather Cohn of “Dark Water,” with Robin Madel & Kyle Rabin

Manhattan Theatre Works presents "Dark Water" by David Stallings, directed by Heather CohnDavid Stallings‘s play Dark Water is the tale of a mother turtle as she and her son negotiate the sea along with a host of other animals — like a land-loving dolphin, a vain heron, and a gluttonous gull — to save her daughters, who have been trapped by the titular menace. Director Heather Cohn‘s production features a colorful (and largely recycled!) set, music, puppets, and inventive projections to tell the moving tale of these animals.

Don’t let that description fool you — this isn’t a kids show.

Rather, it’s a righteous statement about the damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon blowout, the largest off-shore oil spill in US history. And sadly, although it comes almost four years after the initial tragedy, it can still be considered timely, because the environment is still dealing with the fallout.

At the performance on March 20, Robin Madel and Kyle Rabin of Grace Communications Foundation were on hand to lead a talkback on the environmental issues of the show. It was a great way to follow up the performance, and GSAS! was there to record it — it’s presented here in its entirety.

Don’t worry if you don’t remember just what happened in the Gulf in April of 2010; a brave audience member sums it up nicely in the discussion, before Robin & Kyle discuss the effects of this and other oil spills, what prompted David to write the play, and Heather’s fear (and ultimate triumph) of directing this “impossible to direct” play.

“Don’t eat bluefin tuna…BLACKOUT.”

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