Friday, February 10, 2012


By Van Dirk Fisher

Sometimes life imitates art and sometimes we discover how to be true to ourselves through our art.  When Shantell Cargle came across an ad for The Video Diaries Project, she had recently got out of an unhealthy relationship, which caused her to put a lot of her dreams and aspirations on hold.  She had decided it was time for her to get back to doing the things that she loved to do like acting and filmmaking.  She grew up in Detroit, Michigan and spent her whole adulthood living in New York City.  She fell in love with the city and never left.  Acting was her first love and she grew to love making films as well.  So combining the two worlds was very exciting to her.
As an actress she discovered that she wanted to have more control of the stories that were being told and the type of characters she was auditioning for, so she decided to go to Hunter College, where she received a B.A. in film studies.  After graduation she just picked up a camera and started shooting.  “I made a bunch of mistakes, but I also learned a lot in the process just by jumping in head first!  As for inspiration I think its everywhere, on the subway, walking down the street….there are so many places where you can study people and situations, through that you discover art,” says Shantell.
Working on the documentary FINDING PERFECTION THROUGH ART with Christina Weathersby, her co-filmmaker, has been amazing.  “I try to let the subjects mold what the story will be,” says Shantell.  “Sometimes you have to shoot a lot of footage before you find your angle, which is different from scripted films.”
“The Video Diaries Project is exciting to me,” says Shantell.  “Because I can personally relate to many of the struggles that the playwright, Rebekah L. Pierce addresses in her play Perfect.  I am a female who is at war with my feelings toward family and husband versus career.  I think many women have similar concerns and issues in our society that is never really addressed by the public at large.  I wanted to be able to understand the characters as well as the actors in the play.  This allowed me to get some really good insight on how to approach the documentary.”
In addition, working on the project will hopefully shed some light on these issues and in time help to bring some resolve to many people who struggle with the choices they make concerning their career and relationships.  You shouldn’t have to choose.   But I think Ms. Cargle said it best when she said, “I just want people to know that you should never give up on your dreams, but that you also have to put the work, time, and effort into bringing them into fruition.  If you focus on what you really want, you will start to see progress and change in your life.  I am very grateful to have a wonderful business partner and best friend, as well as an amazing family that continues to encourage and push me to always be the best that I can be.”   In a perfect world isn’t that what we all want?
FINDING PERFECTION THROUGH ART:  A Documentary by Shantell Cargle and Christina Weathersby
Featuring:  Rebekah Lynn Pierce, Gene Hughes, Kyle P. Carter, Lamar K. Cheston, Vanessa Lovestone, Shaunta Macklin, Dawn Speaks, Clarivel Ruiz and Robert Wright
February 22, 2012 at 8PM - Admission: FREE
The Launch Party for the Strawberry One-Act Festival
Ripley Grier Studios, 520 Eighth Avenue, 10th Floor, Studio 10D, NYC
RSVP for Tickets at

March 3, 2012 & March 4, 2012 at 9PM; Tickets: $15
Hudson Guild Theatre
, 441 West 26th Street, NYC
Between 9th & 10th Avenue
For tickets go to

IT’S ABOUT TIME: A Reflection of Life. An interview with filmmaker Miguel LaCruz

By Van Dirk Fisher

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression:  “What doesn’t kill you in life will only make you stronger.”  There’s something liberating about that---the circle of life---the evolution of life.  A seed is planted.  A flower grows.  It endures changes in the weather conditions and eventually dies, but there is a rebirth and another seed is planted and the cycle continues.  Through time man has discovered that in the end everything will be all right.  Life goes on.
Filmmaker Miguel LaCruz, a native of Caracas, Venezuela, who has been living in Brooklyn for the past 5 years remembers always being really interested in still pictures.  “For me the idea of freezing a moment in time, its magic,” says Miguel.  “In high school I had the opportunity to make a fiction short film and from that moment I fell in love with video/film making.”
A graduate of Santa Maria University in Caracas, Venezuela, Miguel received a degree in Social Communications.  In New York, he attended The School of Visual Arts to take a course in “Creating A Documentary Film.”  I asked him where does he get his inspiration to make films and he said, “My inspiration usually comes from life itself and its injustices.  I love the whole idea of documentaries.  Some of my favorites that have inspired me are:  FOOD, Inc, Gas Land and Dirt, The Movie.
Every job experience has shaped the type of filmmaker he is today; from the technical aspects to the human side of his career.  Working on the Video Diaries Project has been exhilarating for Mr. LaCruz.  He’s no stranger to making documentaries, but this is the first time he has had the freedom to make all of the decisions.  What drew him to work on the VDP is his desire “to look deep into the life of this group of young artists rehearsing the play IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING by Liz Magee, and to show their personal life from another point of view.”  Would he do it all again?  You bet!  “It was a great experience,” says LaCruz.  “The relationship between the cast and me was very organic and the flow of the production was amazing.”
That’s the beauty of it all---the process.  Sometimes we can miss out on the little things in life by not living in the moment and relishing the experience from beginning to end.  When the film is over and the credits have rolled, LaCruz hopes to leave his audience “with mix feelings; this documentary it’s a reflection of life,” says LaCruz.  “When you go through beautiful moments, but also very sad ones.  But the most important message is that every situation you confront in your life makes you stronger.”  And I’m sure we will all agree after seeing his film it was well worth the journey.
IT’S ABOUT TIME A Short Film by Miguel LaCruz
Featuring:  Liz Magee, MIchael Kinnan, Brittany Molnar, Sam Finger, Courtney Macneil and Thomas Heddrick.
February 22, 2012 at 8PM - FREE
The Launch Party for the Strawberry One-Act Festival
Ripley Grier Studios, 520 Eighth Avenue, 10th Floor, Studio 10D, NYC
RSVP for Tickets at
March 3, 2012 & March 4, 2012 at 9PM Tickets: $15
Hudson Guild Theatre, 441 West 26th Street, NYC
Between 9th & 10th Avenue
For tickets go to

Friday, February 3, 2012

From the Page to the Stage: Exploring the Director’s Task By Jane Rubinsky

The best plays reveal their significance gradually, like life: unfolding layers of complexity and meaning that shift and grow as they move toward a denouement, resonating long after the curtain has fallen.  Directors whose own lives are multi-layered have an advantage as they set out to probe the subtleties of these plays, whether their own work or someone else’s.

“There’s a wonderful essay by Harold Clurman in a book called Directors on Directing, says Laurence C. Schwartz, who will direct his play Vengeance Once-Removed to open the Riant Theatre’s season of the Strawberry One-Act Festival on March 1, 2012 at 7PM at the Hudson Guild Theater, 441 West 26th Street, NYC.  “The essay explores the potential traps a playwright can fall into, should he or she direct his own piece.  Sometimes when you’re writing, you can hear the voices in your head; you can hear the intonations, picture the dramatic arcs and the emotional roller-coaster.  And that’s okay.  But to bring that to rehearsal already in your mind, without letting the play grow naturally in rehearsals, is something you need to watch out for,” he says.  “Directing someone else’s play, you can bring a fresher perspective; you don’t have as many preconceptions.  It’s easier to be more spontaneous in rehearsals.”

Schwartz has plenty of experience doing both, not to mention acting and writing.  He got his Equity card (and a good review in the New York Times) barely a year and a half out of Boston University, where he studied theater performance.  Schwartz’s first full-length play, Artaud for Awhile—an edgy work imagining an encounter between the French aesthetician Antonin Artaud and the rock musician Jim Morrison—ran at the Wings Theater in 1997 and was one of the Village Voice’s picks.  For last summer’s Strawberry One-Act Festival, Schwartz directed Rick Charles Mueller’s With the Assistance of Queen Anne, but his association with SOAF goes back all the way to 2000, when he first appeared in several plays before submitting his own.  “I think Standing on Ceremony is the most well-rounded and satisfying so far; it all came together,” he says.  The work, which he wrote and directed for the Winter 2011 season, dealt with old-fashioned schoolyard bullying.

His current offering is Vengeance Once-Removed, about a young man falsely arrested who visits his accuser after the charges against him have been dropped.  “I’ve always had a good ear for dialogue,” says Schwartz, who earned a master’s degree at Hunter and now teaches cultural theory and speech communication at Medgar Evers Collge, Mercy College, and Touro College.  “But what separates this play from the others is that it's less about the words and more about where the action is, what the dramatic stakes are,” he says. “I think it says a lot about sexuality, as well as interracial relationships.  It's a disturbing piece ... and my hope is that it will be very difficult to watch, and very suspenseful.”

Liz Amadio, who directed George Cameron Grant's play Push for SOAF last summer, returns to direct his Foreclosure this season (March 1, 2012 at 9PM at the Hudson Guild Theatre), exploring how choices resonate and sometimes come back to haunt us.  “We all have circumstances in our lives where we need to make decisions that are really spiritual catharses we have to work out,” she says.  “We don't have the script in life; we don't have the whole picture or know what happens on the last page.  All we can do is look over the situation, make the best choice with the information we have, and hope that we've made a good decision.”

Studying psychology and dance at Temple University, Amadio intended to pursue a career in dance therapy before she turned to acting, writing, and directing.  “People who resonate toward psychology are really interested in the psyche, emotions and spirit, in what makes you tick,” she says.  “It's not really very different, whether you're an actor exploring a character, or a director guiding actors to explore the characters they're going to play.”

Amadio, a playwright herself, spends “a lot of time with exploration and backstory, to feed the actors as many layers as I can.  I don't believe in minor characters; everyone has an arc,” she says.  The main challenge of a director is creating “a safe and trusting environment where the actors are free to explore their own internal life” to find the motivations of a character.

Foreclosure is a play that will be meaningful for everyone, believes Amadio.  “It's so timely in terms of what's happening with the global economy.”  But the one thing she hopes people will take away is the notion that it's impossible to interpret what's good and bad in life.  “Some of the worst things that happen to us often turn out to be catalysts for the most growth and development,” she says.

The Riant Theatre’s Strawberry One-Act Festival
Vengeance Once-Removed by Laurence C. Schwartz
March 1, 2012 at 7PM;
Foreclosure by George Cameron Grant
March 1, 2012 at 9PM;
Hudson Guild Theater
, 441 West 26th St, NYC
Tickets:  $22 online; $25 at the Box Office or 646-623-3488

The Video Diaries Project: A Series Of Short Films About The Artists In The Strawberry One-Act Festival

The Video Diaries Project: A Series of Short Films About The Artists In The Strawberry One-Art Festival; Wednesday, February 22, 2012 at 8PM.  FREE Admission. At Ripley Grier Studios, 520 Eighth Avenue, 10 Floor, Studio 10D, NYC. Between 36th & 37th Street.  RSVP at For the VIP Cocktail Reception at 6:30-8:00PM Tickets: $20 Online; $25 at the Door. Buy Now at


THE ENCORE SERIES:  3 POWERFUL PLAYS from the Strawberry One-Act Festival Season 20. March 2nd @ 9PM, March 4th @ 5PM at the HUDSON GUILD THEATRE, 441 West 26th St, NYC.
For Tickets go to