Sunday, February 27, 2011

"So you wrote it AND you performed it?"

I've been asked a lot of questions about the process I went through for my one-woman show, A Woman In Progress, which recently had it's world premiere at La MaMa E.T.C., regarding script conception, writing, revising, workshopping, rehearsing and ultimately production and performance. I can say without reservation that this was one of the most daunting projects I've ever created/ been a part of, so inevitably, I learned A LOT along the way. I'm happy to share some of that here. I'll break it up into two parts: Writing- Workshopping and then Rehearsals-Performance.

This was my first full-length play. I had written shorter pieces before that I hadn't shared with anyone, and had begun a few other pieces, but hadn't seen them through to completion. I've been writing literally since I learned how, though my forms of choice have usually been short story, essays or journalism. I have no formal training in writing other than what I learned in high school and a few basic courses in college. In the fall of 2009, I enrolled in a Playwrighting Independent Study at SUNY ESC as a part of my bachelors degree. I was assigned to write either two shorter plays or one full-length play. I began to revive a piece I had started years earlier, and quickly lost interest... I was plagued by this nagging voice (which I'd later learn was that of Helen from AWIP) who was insisting that I tell HER story, regardless of where it fit in the piece I was currently working on. Mid-semester, I completely changed gears, and set out to write Helen's story. Initially, she addressed the audience while interacting non-verbally with a series of characters who only spoke through her. I fell into a strict formula for the unfolding of events, and fortunately realized that this would yield a terribly boring play. I re-worked the play frantically during the remaining two weeks of the semester and turned in a solid foundation of a play that was by no means ready to perform, but was well on it's way.

I forgot the play existed, for a while. It sat, untouched, on my computer for several months. I had shared it with a few members of my company, Mind the Art Entertainment, and got some encouraging feedback, but life got in the way and the piece was pushed to the back burner. I began thinking about the play again this past summer and after a few days of reflection, decided to crack it open and have a look around. It was quite refreshing to have completely stepped away from the piece for a period of time and revisiting it with fresh eyes  allowed me to re-envision what needed to be changed structurally while valuing the character and pieces of dialogue that I was quite proud of. I did some extensive editing and re-working on my own, before enlisting the help of my fiance, Joe Kurtz (also a writer and actor). I'm a lucky girl- Joe's writing instincts are usually spot on and I trust him and his feedback. His suggestions were instrumental in getting the piece to a point where I was comfortable sharing it again.

The next few steps in this process took place rather quickly- in the fall of 2010 I re-sent it to my colleagues at Mind the Art, including my dear friend Alessio Cappelletti, with the request that he look over the piece, give feedback, and decide if he was interested in directing it. We had no real plan of when or where the piece would go up. I received a phone call from Christian DeGre asking permission to present the piece to La MaMa E.T.C. as a part of Mind the Art's next Anthology Series and two days later on October 31st, 2010, we received the green light to produce A Woman in Progress on January 21st and 22nd, 2011 at La MaMa E.T.C.. Joy and panic quickly set in- the piece was NOT ready to begin rehearsals, and I was still looking for feedback to do my final edits. Alessio agreed to direct and jumped right in with critiques and ideas. Alessio is another artist who I respect and trust and his background in film shed a whole new light on the potential of the piece. He took the small instances of projected video that I had written into the stage directions and turned them into a vital and dimension adding secondary character. I had two short weeks to produce the final version of the script.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


As promised, here are some photos from the world premiere of my one-woman show, A Woman In Progress, at La MaMa E.T.C., compliments of the talented Rachel Esterday.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


This will be brief (potentially)- just a quick update on where I'm at and what's happening in my life. January was AWESOME. My one-woman show, A Woman in Progress, premiered at La MaMa E.T.C. with a really enthusiastic reception from La MaMa and the audience (pictures to follow). I was thrown a beautiful surprise bridal shower by my amazing bridesmaids. One of my best friends visited from New Mexico. The Brightest Star Awards were a huge success. I started auditioning for MFA Acting programs (NYU, USD Old Glove and FSU Asolo Rep). I made the final 25 in NYC Midnight's Tweet Me A Story Contest. I applied for a few playwrighting residencies. My mom and my sister Kieren both got wonderful new full-time jobs!

February thusfar has been pretty slammin' as well. I've continued my MFA Acting auditions (UC Irvine and Yale). My sister, Kieren, won Miss Fulton County. My one-woman show has been submitted to the NYC Fringe Festival. My students at two separate schools (PS 209 in Brooklyn and PS/MS 279 in the Bronx) have their mid-year performances this week. My entertainment company, Mind the Art Entertainment, has extended it's run of Storytime with Mr. Buttermen: Fables for Adults Living in a Modern World (in which my fiance, Joe, has written and performs). In my spare time, I'll be wedding planning (I'm getting married in 2 months)!

The next few months will be equally jam-packed, but I'm READY.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Miss Fulton County 2011

Brace yourselves- this is going to be a long one...

This local holds a special place in my heart. In my senior year of high school/ freshman year of college (I was an early admissions student at FMCC, so I did both at the same time), I competed at Miss Fulton County- my introduction to the Miss America Organization. I was 17 and quite honestly had no idea what I was doing. I did know that I loved community service (I was doing a lot of work with the Ronald McDonald House at the time), I loved dancing and I could really use some financial assistance for college. The Miss Fulton County Organization ran several workshops encompassing paperwork, on stage presentation, mock-interviews and even wardrobe assistance (lending out wardrobe pieces to girls who haven't been able to secure outfits for each phase of competition). It was a crash course in what would become a huge part of my future, and I was very grateful for the encouragement I received. I placed third runner up and walked away with a $750 scholarship and a tremendous confidence boost. 

My sisters Kieren and Courtney both attended FMCC and had the opportunity to compete at Miss Fulton County. In 2009, my youngest sister, Courtney, competed in and won Miss Fulton County- her first MAO local pageant! In addition to their impressive scholarship offerings (Courtney received $4,000 for winning), the Miss Fulton County Organization provided her with tremendous support in her preparations for Miss New York, along with the backing of the entire county.

Kieren competed several times in Miss Fulton County as a student at FMCC, and improved each year, but never placed. When my family relocated to Fulton County last fall under stressful circumstances, it was difficult to maintain a positive outlook. A silver lining to what was a trying and difficult time for my family was that Kieren would be eligible to participate in this wonderful program in her last year of age eligibility in the Miss America Organization. 

 I took the late train Friday evening after work to Albany so I could be there Saturday AM to do Kieren's makeup for her interview!

Looking beautiful before her interview!

Once Kieren was on her way to her interview, my mom and I began a baking frenzy for the MFC bakesale! I named these Snow-Capped Cupcakes, because I'm a nerd, and I name EVERYTHING. Kieren returned home to relax for a bit after her interview.

In true MFC tradition, the weather was RIDICULOUS immediately preceding the pageant, so I volunteered to do the shoveling/ clean off the cars (partially because I'm a fool, but also because I'm nice and didn't want Kieren ruining her fake tan in the snow)! Before we knew it, it was time to head over to the Gloversville High School for the pageant!

I was joined by my longtime friend (and Mr. Greater NYC 2010), Daniel Cimino!

The ladies rocked out during opening number!

The lovely Heather, Miss Fulton County 2010, talked about her year.

Kieren in On-Stage Question.

During intermission, I caught up with some friends!

Amy Valenti- Miss Finger Lakes 2010, Courtney Sheridan- Miss Empire Rose 2010, Claire Buffie- Miss NY 2010, and myself.

Kieren in Evening Wear.

My homegirl Colleen in Evening Wear!

Isn't she gorgeous? Congratulations, Heather, on an amazing year!

Former Miss Fulton County's line up on stage for the 40th Anniversary!

A 3-way tie for Miss Congeniality! Congratulations Kieren, Colleen and Misty!

Congratulations Amanda- Talent and Interview Winner and 2nd RU!

Congratulations to Danielle Trumbull- 1st RU! Way to go, girl! 

And the winner of a $5,040 scholarship and the new Miss Fulton County 2011 is...

(Special Thanks to Amy Valenti for the video- I get horribly nervous watching and always forget to film this part). 

KIEREN SHERIDAN! WAHOOOOOOO! (Insert screaming, tears and cheering here)

Kieren is one of the hardest workers and most dedicated individuals I know (of course, I'm biased), and will make an AMAZING Miss Fulton County.

(I stole this photo from Connie)

Shawn had the best weekend ever- Kieren won Miss Fulton County and the Packers won the Superbowl...

Kieren and my super proud parents!

My favorite photo of the evening! Coming home after the after-party!

As always, the Leader Herald provided great morning-after coverage of the pageant! Check it out here.

Block Institute's Brightest Star Awards!

Last weekend we celebrated the culmination of months of work and preparation. The 2nd Annual Brightest Star Awards were a complete success, and the caliber of the finalists was astonishing! I can only imagine how difficult the judges' jobs were!

Before the show we got to spend some time with some of the finalists, including Lois Koegan- one of the individuals I work with through Block's Expressive Arts Program!

I got to escort Barry- one of the awesome people I work with in the Expressive Arts Program!

Our esteemed panel of judges certainly had their work cut out for them!

The crowd was so enthusiastic and supportive!

Thank you to my beautiful friends, Alison Stroming- Miss New York's Outstanding Teen, Claire Buffie- Miss New York 2010, Jackie Holmes- Miss Manhattan 2010 and Christina Moore- Miss Brooklyn 2011 for helping us make this event so special!

Jackie sang "Not For the Life of Me" from Throughly Modern Millie!

And Christina danced for us!

Giving Aman his hard-earned sash!

Todd Adelman (one of my dear friends/ staff contacts at Block Institute), Aman and myself!

Congratulations Aman Khaja, the Block Institute Brightest Star 2011! I've worked with Aman as the director of the Expressive Arts Program at Block, and I couldn't be prouder! He's an all around terrific guy!

Aman with all the finalists!

Aman with his wonderful parents!

The perfect end to the perfect evening- an AMAZING performance by FLAME!