Thursday, February 14, 2013

MIND THE ART ENTERTAINMENT in the Bronx

In five days, the on-line world will be treated to twelve straight nights of a digital festival featuring theater, music, and dance. These performances will be streamed live by Wired Arts Fest from February 19 to March 2, 2013.  Tickets are just $2.50 and can be purchased on-line from this url: http://virtualarts.tv/

First a disclaimer:  In making this announcement, I am not promoting any close friends or family members.  I simply encountered a troupe of young actors who will be part of this festival and who have been rehearsing in a space adjacent to my home in the Bronx.  This troupe, calling itself Mind the Art Entertainment, is one of twelve groups selected to present at the festival.

I hardly know these actors, but their work is compelling, and I am always interested in the work of young artists and in supporting their creative endeavors.

The future, after all, is theirs, and they deserve our support and encouragement.   I also know that this future will look and feel quite different from the one I entered when I was their age, and that future will be defined by their sensibilities and values.


And so, I here introduce you to a few of the members of Mind the Art Entertainment and to the play that they have been rehearsing, Die: Roll to Proceed.

Clearly, my experience of theater differs from what they will be presenting.  I go out to a theater which is located in an actual building other than my living space.  I also expect to watch a play that is tightly scripted, that I may have read previously, and whose trajectory I already know.

In contrast to my theater experiences,  Die: Roll to Proceed has been described as “a play with 240 different outcomes, an adventure comedy where the audience chooses how the story plays out every night.”  And then, as part of the Wired Arts Fest, this play may be watched in our homes, on our computer, or on our mobile device as we walk down the street (although I wouldn’t advise this latter option).




Justin, Christian, Amanda seen from my window in February, 2012, Mott Haven, The Bronx
Looking out my window last year, I saw these three young people taking a cigarette break on Vic's fire escape balcony.  My neighbor, Vic, who is 86, lives on the second floor and operates his sign shop out of the first floor.  He uses the top two floors for storage and, on occasion, to lay out very large signs.  Otherwise, the top floors are unoccupied.

These three are members of Mind the Art Entertainment and they were using Vic's 4th floor to rehearse Die: Roll to Proceed before performances in March and April, 2012 at the La Mama Experimental Theatre Club.  Because Vic's grand niece, Ariana, is also a member of the troupe, Vic has given them free run of the floor for rehearsals and set-building since 2010.


Vic (owner of the sign shop), February 2013,  Mott Haven, The Bronx
Here is Vic, sitting in his living room on the second floor, making a painting of the Brooklyn Bridge.  He is one of the truly generous and long-time residents of Mott Haven, and has become a good friend.  He is also a walking repository of local lore and full of wonderful stories of growing up in the Bronx.


Ariana (in Vic's room), February 2013, Mott Haven, The Bronx
This is Ariana, Vic's grand niece, taking a break from rehearsals upstairs in order to work on her responsibilities as the creative producer of Die: Roll to Proceed:  setting up future rehearsals, locations and scheduling issues, as well as going through a tech check list.  

A graduate of Marymount College in Theater Studies and Theater Education, Ariana has been projects manager and lead producer for Mind the Art Entertainment since 2009.  She also is a writer and actor for the NiteStar Program, and a recording artist and jazz singer.  She lives in Queens.


Vic's sign shop, 4th floor storage area, February 2013, Mott Haven, The Bronx
Here we see the rehearsal space with Vic's material piled up in the foreground so Mind the Art can clear space and build sets.


Vic's sign shop, 4th floor storage area, Mind the Art in rehearsal,  February 2013, Mott Haven, The Bronx
Mind the Art taking a break.


Mara, Vic's sign shop, 4th floor storage area, February 2013, Mott Haven, The Bronx
Mara was not in the scene being rehearsed when I went up to see them and, as you can tell, she is freezing.  Free rehearsal space it may be, but it also is unheated.  As Mara remarked to me yesterday in an e-mail, "It was crazy cold in that studio! Yikes!"

Mara studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, as did several other members of Mind the Art.  They also had worked for NiteStar Program, a New York community based organization which focuses on sexual health education theater for young people and at-risk audiences.


Scene set, Vic's sign shop, 4th floor storage area, February 2013, Mott Haven, The Bronx
I am told that this set of a candy shop is left over from January 2012 when Mind the Art used Vic's space to film a web series  called I am Schmuck.  It was created by Jason Friedman-Mendez & Thomas Zaccheo and written by member Joe Kurtz, who also is the writer of Die: Roll to Proceed


Christian & David, Observing a scene, 4th floor storage area, February 2013, Mott Haven, The Bronx
Christian (seated) is directing Die: Roll to Proceed and is also the president and artistic director of Mind the Art Entertainment.  He is a native of Mexico City, where he was born, and has worked extensively, internationally as well as in New York, as a producer, actor, writer and composer of film, theater, television and music. He studied acting and theater at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

David (standing) is a poet, actor and educator and a graduate in Theater Arts from Florida State University.  He also worked with the NiteStar Program and is an active performer in both theater and poetry.  He lives in the Bronx.


Joe, Justin & Christian, Scene rehearsal, 4th floor storage area, February 2013, Mott Haven, The Bronx
Briefly, in Die: Roll to Proceed, Joe (right) plays George, a man who opts to allow his future life to be determined by the roll of a die, and at three pivotal times in the play, an audience member is invited to roll a big die.  Justin (center) plays George's roommate, Rob.  Christian (right) looks on as the play's director.


Joe & Justin in rehearsal, 4th floor storage area, February 2013, Mott Haven, The Bronx
Because of a die roll, this is the moment in the play when George and Rob consider male prostitution as a way to raise rent money.  As Joe remarks, rehearsals are particularly challenging because each actor must know six hours of scripted material, even though the show only runs one hour, so that "no matter what the die decided, the play still flow(s) smoothly."


Robb in rehearsal, 4th floor storage area, February 2013, Mott Haven, The Bronx
Although I have no biographical information on Robb, I did find a review of the play by Amanda Mactas in which she notes that Robb "as the oh-so-lovely Grizz is hilarious and plays a manly woman quite well...maybe cause, well, he is a man."


Justin in rehearsal, 4th floor storage area, February 2013, Mott Haven, The Bronx
Justin, playing Rob, talks on the phone.  I love the telephone prop.


Christian watching a scene, 4th floor storage area, February 2013, Mott Haven, The Bronx
Christian describes Die: Roll to Proceed as "in the vein of Shockheaded Peter, The Royal Tenenbaums, Nightmare Before Christmas, the majority of Christopher Durang’s work, and even Family Guy, we lead you through a series of misadventures....to peer into the lives of six people trapped in a contemporary world of unfortunate circumstance."

To the play's audience, he says:  "Tonight you get to relish in the sheer pleasure of making someone else’s choices for them with no consequences whatsoever to yourself.  Our characters tonight rely on you to decide their destiny.   So cast off the pressures of your own life choices and play someone else’s game.  Tonight it’s their fate… your hands… Roll the Die."

And with this, I remind you, readers of Wassup This Week, to go on-line to VirtualArtsTV and participate in the live streaming of Die: Roll to Proceed, starting next week.


3 comments:

  1. A wonderful story. Thank you so much for visiting us!

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    Replies
    1. You are most welcome, Joe. Had I time to get to know you, I could have made it much more personal (and compelling, I imagine). Good luck next week with the streaming.

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