Sunday, September 21, 2014

LEAP OF FAITH CHOREOGRAPHERS Talking About Their Relationship to Islam

Indah M Walsh 

I grew up traveling and living in many different countries with my
family. While my upbringing did not entail any religious denomination or teaching, my mother was raised Muslim and I was exposed to the
culture while living in Indonesia and spending time with my mother’s side of the family. I remember being a young girl, living in Pennsylvania, surrounded by Amish and having my Indonesian grandparents visiting and staying with us in our home. I used to watch my grandmother while she prayed because it fascinated me. She always looked so peaceful and beautiful performing her daily prayers. Through my eyes it was a ritualistic dance performed for no one except herself and her God.Last year, my mother and father moved to Saudi Arabia, where I was able to visit with my brothers and husband last December. Being immersed in

a culture where religious laws are enforced with extreme consequences
was a shock to say the least. After my initial discomfort and confusion, I began to experience a shift in perception and saw the beauty in each individual’s devotion and manifestation for connecting with Allah. My visit sparked a lot of curiosity and growth in my thought process surrounding differences in cultures. I believe this experience has left me having more questions than answers, but I am grateful to have this platform through LaGuardia Performing Arts Center to explore these thoughts through my art.

Hala Shah 

A few moments after I was born, the first clearly audible words I heard were the Islamic Call to Prayer that my father whispered into my ear. My American mother taught me the core values and principles of Islam and my Egyptian father showed me how to pray and recite several Surahs, which are passages from the Qur’an. Even at a young age, I felt a deep connection to my faith that was not defined by specific modes of practice. It was simple – I believed in God not because I was told to believe in God, but because I knew God was *there*, in my soul, communicating with me. 
It wasn’t until I attended college and later married a Pakistani man that I truly discovered what it ‘meant’ to be Muslim and observe the five pillars. It was an exciting time for me, but it was also a turbulent one. Like a pendulum, I swang from one belief to the next, but eventually found my way to back to the middle. During that time, of exploring and ‘trying on’ so many ideas, I realized that my beliefs and my ways of practicing Islam are only sincere if they come from that pure inner call to God that I felt so strongly as a child.  My soul is shared with God and God only, and it can be difficult to remember that in my daily activities as I jet around the city going to work, dancing, choreographing, and writing. So I strive to keep my ears open to the call to prayer, the call to faith, that God whispers in my ears. It is always there; I just have to listen for it and *hear* it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

LPAC LAB recognized in Wall Street Journal.

Turns out New York Community Trust is working with CUNY on a new dance initiative inspired by the LPAC LAB residency program! More….

Friday, March 21, 2014

Actors Make A Play

Actors read Dan McCabe's Play for 1st time
Actors. They play an integral role in teaching the playwright what is clear or convoluted, dramatic or flat in her script. This past month at LPAC Dan McCabe 
heard his play, Christina Martinez for the first time with student actors including John Cosentino, Marisol Demonte, Marcus Barjon, Isabel Maradiegue and Toni Ryan. The actors were electrifying – bringing Dan’s words to life for the very first time.  The experience was also illuminating.  After the reading Dan asked the actors pointed questions; he learned where his audience empathized with or distanced themselves from his complicated heroine…

We also read Babies Just Roll by Kathryn Hathaway. Katie worked differently - opting for an in-office casual reading with actors and staff members including Caryn McCormick and Handan Ozbilgin! Katie stopped the action periodically to consult with me about specific sections of dialogue.  We asked questions about clarity and less about character. We also learned that Katie’s play produced much bigger laughs than expected. Katie left with a clear ideas of what to work on and very excited for the staged reading at the end of the month.

Keep posted as we are finalizing our director choices. Next week rehearsals will begin!

The above blog entry was written by curator of the LAB residency program Francine Volpe

Monday, March 17, 2014

He'll 'Say Anything": 5 Facts with Tyler Rivenbark

Fri, Mar 28, at Rough Draft Fest, writers/artists Audrey Dimola and Tyler Rivenbark create immersive theatre in site-specific locations throughout the LAGCC campus. This ambitious all day installation aims to peel back the onion of the writer's process and produce plays in real-time.

Born and raised in Warsaw, North Carolina, Tyler Rivenbark is an accomplished playwright and theater maker.  In 2009 Riverbark was the writer-in-residence at the Louis Armstrong House Museum. He is the co-founder of Oh, Bernice! writers collective and founder of the Oh, Bernice! Reading Series. He is also the co-founder of The Hammer & Pick Collective. Tyler is a member of the Dramatists Guild.

In his own words, 5 facts w/ Tyler Rivenbark 

1. When I was in college I hitchhiked through the Argentinian countryside, which turned out to be one of the most vivid memories I have of my time there.

2. My family used to own turkey grow-out houses in North Carolina, which my brother and I worked at most evenings when we were younger. When I was about 12, while walking the house and singing a song I had recently written, I decided to learn how to play guitar so I could better accompany the lyrics.

3. At my college graduation I gave a speech that quoted John Cusack from Say Anything.

4. When I was in elementary school I used to tell everyone I was originally from California. I still have not visited California, though it and my home state often make their way into my writing.

5. During my first two years after having moved to New York City I busked in the Times Square station. It's amazing what you can experience with a bit of music, eye contact, and openness. That time performing in the subways of the City has informed the theatre I now create.

Fri, Mar 28  
Unstaged: A Playwriting and Performance Experiment, 3-9pm, Various Locations  
Co-curators Audrey Dimola and Tyler  Rivenbark
For more details go to:
All performances are FREE and followed by Q&A
For reservations, please email:

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Spend World Theater Day with LPAC

What does it mean if you attend the Rough Draft Fest Kick Off party, March 27th?  You will be virtually connected to participants and theater makers from all over the world. This year, LPAC is featured on TCG's international Map of Events for World Theater Day! We will be live tweeting with theater makers from all over the world (amongst everything else) and projecting videos of international theatre artists reading translations of playwright Brett Bailey’s words. (This year, in honor of World Theatre Day's 52nd Celebration, South African playwright, designer, director, installation maker and artistic director of Third World Bunfight, Brett Bailey, will write this year's annual International Message). #WTD14

Festival page: 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Are you ready for Rough Draft Fest? "10 Facts" Returns w/ Audrey Dimola (or is it Audrey Leopard?)

A window into the creative process, The Rough Draft Festival is a showcase of exciting new work currently under development by LPAC and other companies. "For one week, we're essentially turning the performing arts center and community college spaces into a lively pop-up theater venue," says Handan Ozbilgin, LPAC's Associate Artistic Director.

Leading up to Rough Draft Fest '14, various Rough Draft artists, curators and participants speak here in a series of posts we call "10 Facts":

Audrey Dimola and Tyler Riverbark pictured on the image on the right. 

Fri, Mar 28, co-curators Audrey Dimola and Tyler Rivenbark will create immersive theatre in site-specific locations throughout the LAGCC campus. This ambitious all day installation aims to peel back the onion of the writer's process and produce plays in real-time.  Since they are both a creative team and individual artists we divided their "10 Facts" into two portions. First up Audrey:

In her own words,  5 Facts w/ Audrey Dimola (or is it Audrey Leopard) 

1. I've been writing for as long as I can remember, but the first thing I ever wanted to be was a trapeze artist. I still love doing "circus-y" things - climbing, leaping, twisting, spinning, hanging from things.. I can jump over chairs, too. Good party trick!

2. I was born and raised in Astoria/Long Island City and I've been crusading for Queens culture since my college years. I went to school for Media Studies and my first job in the field was Associate Editor (and subsequently Managing Editor) of a glossy arts magazine called Ins&Outs based in Long Island City. So many of the artists, musicians, business owners, and local friends I still have are ones I met through working there.

3. When it comes to "fashion" (huge air quotes!), I am a notorious pattern clasher and almost have no solid-colored clothes at all. Leopard print is my go-to (some people still call me "Audrey Leopard") and I usually always have a flower in my hair.

4. I am a huge admirer of street art and graffiti artists and my personal take on it is a guerrilla poetry sticker project I've been doing on and off for a few years now. I love the idea of sticking words in unexpected places - I also like leaving inspirational messages around town in Sharpie, but don't alert the authorities..

5. I run a reading/live writing series called "Nature of the Muse" - participants read their previously written work, but then also write LIVE on the spot from prompts written by the audience and selected randomly. The first time we did the show, the prompt I randomly got was "SEX" and my parents were front and center. My dad pretended to walk out (!) but I wrote a classy poem. Gotta make your folks proud!

We'll post Tyler's 5 facts later in the week.

Fri, Mar 28  
Unstaged: A Playwriting and Performance Experiment, 3-9pm, Various Locations  
Co-curators Audrey Dimola and Tyler Rivenbark

For more details go to:

All performances are FREE and followed by Q&A
For reservations, please email:

Monday, February 24, 2014

"Some of These Daze": The Play About Alzheimer's

"Some of These Daze" written by San Francisco-based playwrights, Vin Zappacosta and Douglass Christensen is about the relationship of a modern family... a mother, her son and his partner. Add Alzheimer's into the mix you have quite rich material for the stage. "Some of These Daze" is based on Vin and Doug's real life experiences as caregivers. Vin's active social media presence, coupled with his snappy, tender blog, "Dementia Mama Drama", has made him a mobilizing voice for caregivers. After living the real drama, Vin and Doug's theater light bulbs went on and they said, "let's write a play."

The two fresh voices behind "Some of These Daze" were nice enough to do a quick interview before Friday's staged reading at LPAC (click here for details).

Q: How did you find out about LPAC?

A: A few years ago, we heard that LPAC was doing two versions of "The Cherry Orchard." We were excited to see the experimental version called "Cherry Orchard Project" and took the subway out. We were impressed with the production and the theatres. We continue to keep them on our Social Media radar. The upcoming "Rough Draft Festival" seems really great.

Q: Is it harder getting a play produced in SF or NY? What is the difference in terms of theater? Obviously we have quality and quantity :)

A: Well, we're still working on getting our play "produced". Our play was at The Fringe Festival in CA and we did all the work! Which is great because we had total control, but we look forward to taking it to the next level and having other creatives involved. As far as SF vs NY, both cities have a lot of opportunities for playwrights. We wouldn't say one is easier than the other if you want to get your work out there, but ya gotta do the work no matter where you are. For us the bar is higher in NY, but then again, we're a little biased. 

Q: "Some of These Daze" is based on your experience as a caregiver for your mother. What prompted you to take this material and create a piece for the stage?

A: It was a case of life imitating art. We started to write about it in a blog as a form of therapy for the three of us dealing with Alzheimer's in our own way. When we started to video and photograph Mama we saw a big difference in her mood, it was theatre! It helped us deal with the nightly visits which were overwhelming. Mama was such a larger than life character to begin with, and we both have a background in theatre, so it seemed like a natural transition to develop our experience into a play. 

Q: I understand you are a writing team. What is the writing process for you? Do you write together or apart?

A: Oh yeah, we're a team alright. We couldn't really do it any other way. We've been together forever and we finish each other sentences... sometimes. We compliment each other because we are so different. Vin gets his ideas at night and often blabbers to Douglass as he's falling asleep. The next day Douglass "massages" the ideas and together we makes sense of it all. It's a good balance - Vin sees things visually and Douglass sees things more linear.

Q: What do you do for fun when you're not creating theater?

A: Is there anything else but theatre? Well, that's one of the reasons why we miss NYC so much because there's an unlimited amount of theatre here. We love to eat and meet friends for drinks at our fav restaurants - they don't close early here! But when we're home we're always working on some kind of project whether it's in our place redesigning or out in the garden - we love that!

Q: What's next for "Some of These Daze" after the reading at LPAC?

A: Of course we're continuing to develop the play! Our goal is for it to "grow up" and mature into a full length 90 minute piece. And actually we just booked another reading coming up on March 21st at The LGBT Center in Manhattan. A lotta work to do, but we're loving every minute of it.

Q: Anything else? 

A: Not really, the play says it all.  We're trying to break down stereotypes about Aging, Alzheimers and Gays... isn't that enough?

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