What a…Trip!


L-R Lisa Shepherd, Patricia Wallace- Winbush, Vicki Thompson Saunders, Deborah Macklin.

PAST Productions Columbus presents The Trip, written by Chrystal Rhodes and directed by Truman Winbush.  The show, a one night only event, will be a part of the ‘Backstage at The Lincoln’ series at the historic Lincoln Theatre in Columbus, Ohio on October 8th at 7pm.

What could possibly happen when four friends set out on a cross country road-trip?…It won’t be boring, that’s for sure. The Trip stars Lisa Shepherd, Patricia Wallace-Winbush, Vicki Thompson Saunders and Deborah Macklin. 

We’ll be there front row center! Make sure you check our site, or visit http://lincolntheatrecolumbus.com/ for ticket information.

Inspiring Women: Abi Zakarian

Recently, we had the pleasure of interviewing our friend, London based playwright Abi Zakarian.  We met Abi whilst in London in December of 2013 for the So and So Arts Club Women in Art event, where her intricate and brilliantly written piece, LuLu 7 played to great acclaim.  Thank you Abi, for being this months Inspiring Woman.

Abi’s plays include: THE BEST PIES IN LONDON, produced by Rift Theatre and YourAreMine, as part of the immersive Shakespeare in Shoreditch Festival; THIS IS NOT AN EXIT, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company for The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon and transferred to the Royal Court; LULU7, produced by So&So Arts at the Tristan Bates Theatre, SWIFTER, HIGHER, STRONGER, produced by Roundpeg Theatre at The Roundhouse; LITTLE FURIES, commissioned by and rehearsed reading at Soho Theatre, and A THOUSAND YARDS, which was produced by Feast Theatre at Southwark Playhouse.

Previously a writer on attachment at Soho Theatre and a current member of the RSC’s writers group, she was also one of the writers involved in the playwright-in-residence Schoolwrights 2014 scheme in East London schools; the two plays created with the students were showcased at both Soho Theatre and Rich Mix.

Abi is currently under commission for theatre companies TREmers and YouAreMine.

Represented by www.alanbrodie.com

abizakarian hs5Tell us about yourself

I’m an Armenian-British writer living and working in London. Married to a theatre set designer and have a dog called Monty.

Tell us a bit about the work you do, both artistic and otherwise. What sort of projects do you work on?

I work on a combination of commissions and my own projects which my agent sends out on spec. I write plays mainly but am interested in musicals, TV and film writing too.

What have you written?

I’ve written seven full length plays (four produced), two produced short plays, two plays written as playwright-in-residence in two east London schools, and a TV comedy-drama series (as yet un-produced but fingers crossed).

                                                               Tell us about the best part of your work.

this is not an exit1

This is Not an Exit

Writing. Writing. Writing. Then seeing it change and grow when other people get involved; and then seeing an audiences reaction. The tiny silence just after the last line of a play.

Is your work strictly local, or do you have a national/international reach?

Well, since I live in London that’s ‘local’ to my work; I am working on new commissions for a regional tour and Edinburgh festival and I hope to get my work on overseas soon too.

Tell us a bit (more) about what you stand for.

I am a feminist. I don’t write as a feminist however, writing has no gender as far as I’m concerned, but many of my plays do explore gender politics.

How do you manage your day and career?

With discipline. When I first started writing I was also working full time as a picture editor for a national newspaper. I would come home, have dinner, then go and write for at least one hour each night. It took me a year to write my first play, but it taught me to be disciplined. And to not talk too much about what you’re writing. The more you talk about it the less you write it.

What do you hope to achieve with your work?

To make people question their beliefs, their views. To provoke. As long as there is a abizakarian hs 2residue, a tiny thought that lingers, then I’ve done my job.

What is the long-term vision for your writing? Do you partner with other creatives/companies locally or in other areas?

I want to keep writing plays but also hope to develop TV and film scripts. And I’m really keen to get my musical projects up and running. I am a huge fan of musicals and love the work of Stephen Sondheim.

Who were you most excited about meeting/working with?

I’ve loved working with all the directors, actors, creatives and crews on each project. It’s all about collaboration and seeing what happens when you let your work go and be grown.

When you’re not busy acting as a fabulous writer, what is your daytime job? (If you have another)

I’m lucky enough to write full time. I occasionally contribute to a design and lifestyle blog (I love art, design, architecture) though.

For you, what is the hardest thing about writing? What is your favorite written piece of work?

Hmm. I think the hardest thing about writing is completing a piece; as in, I don’t know that anything I write is ever truly ‘finished’, if that makes sense? I can finish a play, but quite often, the thing I’m writing about is still changing, developing and playing out in a wider sense of the world. My favourite piece of written work is my first produced play ‘A Thousand Yards’; it was such a purely cathartic play for me to write and it feels the most honest and immediate still.

If you could meet anyone in the world dead, or alive, who would it be, and what would you say?

Oh man, this is difficult…I think I’m going to have to recreate the first act of Caryl Churchills Top Girls and have a dinner party with five women: Artemesia Gentileschi, bell hooks, Septima Zenobia, Emmeline Pankhurst and Mary Shelley. An eclectic bunch; I think we’d all drink a lot of fine wine into the early hours and set the world to rights. Or take it over.

Who is your inspiration/role model? What or who has inspired you to write? Do you have a

Best Pies in London

Best Pies in London

favorite quote?

Many people inspire me: from my mother to friends to people I work with. I also take great inspiration from many writers and artists; I studied art history and architecture at university and love wandering around the National Gallery or the two Tate’s in London; art inspires me. In particular the painter Paula Rego – her work is very allegorical and dreamlike, the artist Louise Bourgeoise’s work is extraordinary and rich in visual metaphor, and I love Cindy Shermans self-portraits; the constant reinvention of the self is a particular fascination of mine. In terms of writers there’s just too many to list! But I am a huge fan of Samuel Beckett. In fact my favourite quote is from his prose piece ‘Worstword Ho’: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” I have this printed out above my desk and it never fails to keep me going if I’m blocked or doubting my work. It also reminds me that it’s OK to fail; that there’s no shame in it.

What are your upcoming projects? Where can we see you next?

I’m currently working on two new commissions; the first is a one woman show being produced for a regional tour of the UK during summer 2015, the second is a new play for Edinburgh Festival 2015. I’m also collaborating on a site specific immersive piece and developing a new musical.

This is Not an Exit

This is Not an Exit

What are your passions?

Working for change. Art.

Define yourself in one word.


Thank you Abi. It has been both an honor and a privilege speaking with you.



It’s time to say Bye Bye Birdie

Kathy Taylor (as Mrs. Mae Peterson) from left to right, Justin Labelle (as Albert Peterson), *Nicolette Montana (as Rose Alvarez) *Appears by permission of Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States.

From left to right: Kathy Taylor (as Mrs. Mae Peterson), Justin Labelle (as Albert Peterson), *Nicolette Montana (as Rose Alvarez)
*Appears by permission of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States.

Standing Room Only Theatre Company in association with Music Legends Live presents Bye Bye Birdie. This musical production will be staged October 24 – November 2, 2014 at the Shedd Theatre, Columbus Performing Arts Center, 549 Franklin Avenue, Columbus, OH 43215.

Ricky Locci (as Conrad Birdie), Kelly Hogan (as Kim MacAfee)

Ricky Locci (as Conrad Birdie), Kelly Hogan (as Kim MacAfee)

Bye Bye Birdie, directed by David Bahgat with musical direction by Jeff Hamm, and choreography by Zoe Lathan, tells the story of Rock ‘n Roll legend, Conrad Birdie (loosely based on Elvis Presley), who receives a draft notice to serve in the army. As part of a publicity stunt, he travels to the small town of Sweet Apple, Ohio to sing one last song and plant one last kiss on a lucky member of his fan club. This musical with book by Michael Stewart, music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Lee Adams, It has been adapted into a 1963 film, a 1995 TV-movie, and a recent 2009 Broadway revival.

Show times and dates are 8:00 p.m. on Friday, October 24; 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 25; 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 26; 10:30 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Friday, October 31; 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 1; 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 2.

Tickets for all shows are $20 for adults, $17 for seniors (55+), $15 for SRO members, $10 for students, and $15 for adults and seniors for the 10:30 a.m. Friday, performances. Tickets can be purchased by going to the website at www.srotheatre.org. Discounted group tickets (10+ people) are available. For group sales, or further information, leave a message at 614-258-9495.

Avery Bank (as Helen) from left to right, Harriet Brennan (as Suzie), Madeline Bolzenius (as Alice),  Katie Wagner (as Margie), hanging upside down is Cara Corrigan (as Deborah Sue) , Margaret Hall (as Nancy),  *Cherish Myers (as Ursula Merkle) *Appears by permission of Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States.

From left to right: Avery Bank (as Helen), Harriet Brennan (as Suzie), Madeline Bolzenius (as Alice), Katie Wagner (as Margie), hanging upside down is Cara Corrigan (as Deborah Sue), Margaret Hall (as Nancy), *Cherish Myers (as Ursula Merkle)
*Appears by permission of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States.

Happy Birthday, Lorraine Hansberry!

Photo credit via: broadwayscene.com

Photo credit via: broadwayscene.com

Before her untimely death from cancer in 1965 at the age of 34, writer, playwright and inspiration for Nina Simone’s song “To Be Young, Gifted and Black“,  Lorraine Hansberry left us with perhaps one of the most poignant plays of all time, A Raisin in the Sun (We were lucky enough to see its most recent installation during a 14 week run on Broadway this past April.  Check back soon for our blog post on that fabulous experience).  Lorraine Vivian Hansberry, the first black woman to write a play performed on Broadway, attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and, in 1951, began her illustrious writing career as a member of staff of the black newspaper Freedom, which was edited by Louis E. Burnham and published by Paul Robeson.  At Freedom, she worked with W. E. B. Du Bois and other Black Pan-Africanists.  This experience undoubtedly set the stage for the rest of her career.

A Raisin in the Sun, which was loosely based on her family’s struggle against segregation and the legal efforts to force the Hansberry family out of their predominately white neighborhood, and which culminated in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in challenging a restrictive covenant and eventually provoking the case Hansberry v. Lee, has become one of the most reproduced African American plays in history. The title, taken from the Langston Hughes poem Harlem, is easily recognizable and quickly associated with Hansberry’s masterpiece.

Hansberry, the youngest of four children born to a school teacher mother and real-estate broker father, grew up on the South Side of Chicago.  Her parents, both supporters of the Urban League and NAACP in Chicago were also active in the Chicago Republican Party.  This political involvement undoubtedly helped shape young Lorraine into the civil and basic human rights activist she would become.  

While widely known for A Raisin in the Sun, her other works include Les Blancs, Toussaint, (a fragment from a work in progress, unfinished at the time of Hansberry’s death), The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window (her second and last staged play), The Drinking Gourd and What Use Are Flowers?, just to name a few.

Today, we salute you Lorraine Hansberry.  Happy Birthday.