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C. A. Johnson (Astoria)
C. A. Johnson (Astoria)

Neighborhood: Astoria

C. A. JOHNSON (playwright) is a Louisiana native currently living in Queens, New York. Her plays include GOSSAMER, MOTHER TONGUE, THE CLIMB, WAITIN’ ON THE MOON, ELROY LEARN HIS NAME and THIRST. C.A. is The Lark’s 2016 Van Lier Playwriting Fellow, a member of 2016-2017 R & D Group at The Civilians, and a 2016-2017 Dramatists Guild Fellow. Her work has been developed at NYU Tisch, The Lark, Open Bar Theatricals, UC San Diego, and The Fire This Time Festival. In addition to her playwriting, C.A. was a Mellon Mays undergraduate fellow, a winner of a Legacy Prize from The Creativity Foundation, and a creative writing instructor at her alma mater, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, DC. BA: Smith College MFA: NYU

ALARM by Scott Casper

Mission to (dit)Mars is thrilled to continue the Launch Pad reading series with ALARM,  a new play by Scott Casper.  This free play reading will be performed on Monday, February 13th at 7pm at The Broom Tree Theatre located at 23-35 Broadway in Astoria, NY.

Scott Casper

ALARM is a Groundhog Day social commentary, where everyday obstacles to equality are examined as the inescapable cycles of violence they really are.

The cast includes Kevin Rose, Lesslie Dodge Crane, Al Nazemian, Arlyn Mick, and Chello Solaperto with direction by David Castro.

Co-founder Meredith Packer states “The Mission to Ditmars team has been very excited about this piece since it’s inception. It’s themes and the discussions it will bring about could not be more relevant to the times we find ourselves in.”

“With Alarm, Scott has created a piece that holds your attention and pulls you in from the opening scene.” explains co-founder Kari Bentley-Quinn. “The slow buildup of dread and absurdity is irresistible, and it is also a sharp examination of how humans interact in desperate situations.”

Co-founder Laura Pestronk adds “Alarm will get you trembling in fear on the edge of your seat and then knock you off your seat laughing in one seamless move. The world Scott creates and then slowly unravels is a nail-biting riddle of a mystery you won’t be able to look away from.”

To attend the reading, please make a reservation.

The Broom Tree Theater at Astoria First Presbyterian
23-35 Broadway,
Astoria, NY 11106

Directions: Take the N/Q to Broadway.

About the Launch Pad Reading Series

The Launch Pad is a free reading series of new plays by Queens playwrights.  The mission objective of The Launch Pad is to serve as a testing ground for Queens based playwrights who need to hear their plays out loud.  Because Mission to (dit)Mars was co-founded by playwrights and directors, we understand implicitly how to answer those needs.  Through this program, the utmost care is taken to foster a safe and productive environment in order to propel the play forward.

PRESS CONTACT: Don Nguyen, 718-839-0424, missiontoditmars@gmail.com

This reading is made possible (in part) by the Queens Council on the Arts with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Mission to (dit)Mars is thrilled to kick off this year’s Launch Pad reading series with THE WORST MOTHER IN THE WORLD,  a new play by Kari Bentley-Quinn.  This free play reading will be performed on Monday, November 14th at 7pm at The Broom Tree Theatre located at 23-35 Broadway in Astoria, NY.

In THE WORST MOTHER IN THE WORLD, Nina is a new mom with an infant son, battling crippling anxiety attacks that are keeping her from being the mother she wants to be. When she decides to seek therapy, she makes an unexpected friend in the pregnant daughter of her therapist, who may or may not be a pathological liar.  

The cast includes Kara Young, Jennifer Gordon Thomas, and Alisha Spielmann (All Systems Go 4, Blast Radius) with direction by Kristin McCarthy Parker (All Systems Go 2 & 4, Puffs, Hold onto your Butts)

In describing the selection of this play, co-founder Don Nguyen explains “This is the first time in the four years of our reading series that we’ve selected a play written by one of our co-founders.  We were struck with Kari’s deep exploration into the fragile bond between mother and daughter, therapist and patient, as well as two strangers.  Kari’s dedication to frequently examining the decay and dissolution of the bond between parent and child is admirable and comes through so clearly in this play.”

“Kari dares ask a question we may ponder but never say aloud: ‘What happens if I don’t love my child?’ The answer is explored with both fortitude and grace.” explains co-founder Laura Pestronk.  “The compassion woven through this play for parent, child, and even bystander, is a testament to Kari’s strong command of the language of our innermost demons and a deep awareness of what it means to be human, flaws and all.”

“Kari’s ability to tap into the darkest corners of our hearts and minds and bring them into the light on stage is nothing short of inspired” adds co-founder Meredith Packer.  “She allows for understanding and catharsis while never trying to give a cookie-cutter solution. Her work allows conversation and thought for both actors and audiences alike.”

To attend the reading, please make a reservation.

The Broom Tree Theater at

Astoria First Presbyterian

23-35 Broadway,

Astoria, NY 11106

Directions: Take the N/Q to Broadway.

About the Launch Pad Reading Series

The Launch Pad is a free reading series of new plays by Queens playwrights.  The mission objective of The Launch Pad is to serve as a testing ground for Queens based playwrights who need to hear their plays out loud.  Because Mission to (dit)Mars was co-founded by playwrights and directors, we understand implicitly how to answer those needs.  Through this program, the utmost care is taken to foster a safe and productive environment in order to propel the play forward.

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This reading is made possible (in part) by the Queens Council on the Arts with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

new-labbies

Mission to (dit)Mars is excited to announce the selection of three new members to the 2016-2018 Propulsion Lab, a Queens based writers group serving emerging playwrights from the borough.  In addition to the new lab members, three returning members have been named Writers in Residence and two have been named Orbiting Artists.  

The three new Propulsion Lab members are Nat Cassidy (Astoria), Jason Tseng (Long Island City) and Ray Yamanouchi (Astoria).   For the Propulsion Lab, each playwright will focus on writing a new full-length play over the course of the year.  The new members were selected by Mission to (dit)Mars co-founders Kari Bentley-Quinn, Don Nguyen, Meredith Packer and Laura Pestronk.  The writers group meets bi-monthly in Queens.     

In addition to the new lab members, Mission to (dit)Mars has named Lisa Huberman (Woodside), Kristine M. Reyes (Astoria) and Tyler Rivenbark (Sunnyside) as our Writers in Residence and Mac Rogers (Astoria) and Tori Keenan-Zelt are our newly created Orbiting Artists.  Returning Propulsion Lab members are Jonathan Alexandratos (Astoria), Scott Casper (Astoria), Mrinalini Kamath (Astoria), and Amy Witting (Sunnyside).

On what excites her about the new members, Kari Bentley-Quinn explains “Each has a distinct voice and point of view, not to mention a ton of talent, and all three are a wonderful addition to our already exciting and diverse group of talented playwrights.”  

Laura Pestronk adds “The talent pouring forth from the new labbers blew us all away, and we’re so happy to get to work with such diverse and lively new voices!”

Commenting on the returning lab members, Meredith Packer states “It’s such a privilege to meet with this group of writers each year. I am so excited to get in the room with our familiar and fresh faces and see what worlds we will explore together this year.”

The Propulsion Lab was created to meet the needs of like-minded theater artists who wanted to have a way of developing new work locally in Queens on an on-going basis.  In addition to bi-monthly meetings, the lab will include industry meet and greets with Artistic Directors and Literary Managers, three Launch Pad readings of full length plays, and All Systems Go! 5, an evening of excerpts from the new Propulsion Lab plays.

Writers in Residence positions are a way to address the growing needs of certain lab members who have been with us for some time by offering additional developmental support custom tailored to them. In exchange, our writers in residence act as artistic associates on Mission to (dit)Mars’ behalf and help our organization in certain capacities, such as reading script submissions.

Orbiting Artists are informal positions that allow current lab members whose availability has changed due to unforeseen reasons the chance to continue participating in the Propulsion Lab on a limited basis.

 

BIOS OF THE NEW PROPULSION LAB MEMBERS

Nat Cassidy (Astoria)

Nat Cassidy is an award-winning writer, actor, director, and musician.  He’s appeared in television shows such as “The Following” (Fox), “The Affair” (Showtime), “Red Oaks” (Amazon) “High Maintenance” (HBO), as well as numerous productions and workshops both Off- and Off-Off-Broadway. Nat’s plays have been nominated for a combined total of 17 New York Innovative Theatre Awards, including 3 times for Outstanding Full-Length Script (which he won in 2009, and in 2011 for Outstanding Solo Performance). His work has been seen throughout the country and is published by Samuel French, Smith & Kraus, NYTE, Applause Books, and Indie Theatre Now (where he is a bestselling playwright). In 2012 Nat was commissioned by The Kennedy Center to write the libretto for a world-premiere opera; and in 2014 his play Any Day Now was chosen to be part of Primary Stages’ ESPADrills (The Duke Theatre, directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel). He’s an inductee in the Indie Theatre Hall of Fame, an NYTheatre Person of the Year, and was a finalist for the Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award. www.natcassidy.com

Ray Yamanouchi (Astoria)

Ray Yamanouchi was born in Queens, raised on Long Island, and received a BA in film and theatre from Hunter College in Manhattan. His plays include Tha Chink-Mart (PlayPenn 2018), Impact (Semi-finalist, National Playwrights Conference 2017), andThe American Tradition (New Light New Voices Award 2018). He has developed work with WT Theatre, Mission to (dit)Mars, The Blank Theatre, Rising Circle Theater Collective, Ars Nova, and Playwrights’ Center. You can find him online @NotoriousYAMs, or as the host of RE:, a NYC theatre talk show (www.retheatre.nyc).

Jason Tseng (Long Island City) makes plays, comics, illustrations, and games — mostly about queer people and people of color. Most recently, his play Rizing received its world-premier in New York City with Flux Theatre Ensemble. His work has been featured in GeeksOut’s LGBT comics anthology Power, Sub Rosa magazine, and Nonprofit Quarterly. He also produces the podcasts Play x Play –featuring the best plays you’ve never heard of– and Queer and Present Danger, a queer nerd pop culture podcast. Find more at JasonTseng.com.

To view bios on all our Propulsion Lab members, please visit: http://missiontoditmars.com/2014/08/25/the-2014-2015-propulsion-lab/

Made possible (in part) by the Queens Council on the Arts with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

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Yvonne Hartung in Astoria Park

This is a series of posts featuring our artists who are making things happen in and around our great borough of Queens.  Please check back weekly for new posts.

Yvonne Hartung in Astoria Park
Yvonne Hartung in Astoria Park

TitleOccupation
Managing Director for Team Awesome Robot. Stage Manager, Director, Producer, Helpful Theater Hands

Where were you born?
I was born in Daytona Beach, Florida, and grew up in the woods of Ormond Beach.

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
I’ve lived in Astoria off of the Ditmars stop for four years (with a brief intermission in Harlem for one year).

How did you get involved with Team Awesome Robot?
Christopher Diercksen (Artistic Director) and I have been working together for the past three years in various working relationships (director-stage manager, director-assistant director, producer-director) and realized we wanted to have more agency in the projects we were working on and wanted to build on our collaborative natures within our own theater company. Thus, Team Awesome Robot was born.

 

What do you love most about Queens?
Queens feels like an escape from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, but you’re still able to find anything and everything you could possibly need or want.

Do you have an “only in Queens” moment you’d like to share?
One day I was at a grocery store off of Ditmars, across from an Orthodox church, minding my own business when a nun mutters something to me and does the sign of the cross towards my face. I must have looked startled so she leans in and asks with a deep voice, “Are you Greek?” I say, “No, I’m not.” She replies, “Ah, must be Russian then. The Lord’s Blessings to you,” and then left the store without another word.

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?
Food:
Queens has the best food and there’s always something new! Alright, so if you’re in my neck of the woods, you have to try SingleCut Beersmiths for beer and barbeque. Then head to QED on 23rd Avenue to see a storytelling show or stand-up (or anything really, check their website for whatever you might be into). And if you have a sweet tooth like me, get some gelato or pie to seal your evening from Martha’s Country Bakery. Perfect night without even leaving the stop.

Current/Upcoming projects?
Team Awesome Robot is holding a fundraiser tonight called Drinking and Dragons.

Drinking and Dragons is when we get playwrights together to play dungeons and dragons live on-stage for you. There is also drinking, and opportunities for the audience to affect gameplay, Hunger Games style. It’s going to be supremely silly and a great great time.
Our playwright adventurers are:
Berlings Beard wrote an original dungeon module for us,
Ross Wade will be acting as our Rules Wizard
And our Dungeon Master is none other than Daniel John Kelley, playwright to our next production in the Spring.
Tickets are $20 and all drinks are suggest donation.
7pm, tonight, at the Gene Frankel Theatre
24 Bond Street, Manhattan.
If you can’t come, but would still like to support us, you can always donate through Fractured Atlas.

Making notes

Sit, Breathe, Write: Mindfulness and Writing Workshop

Taught by Emily Herzlin, organized by Mission to (dit)Mars

In this 2 hour workshop, we will learn basic mindfulness meditation practices to calm the mind, open up the senses, and meet our creative blocks with kindness. There will be periods of guided meditation and writing prompts, as well as time at the end of the workshop to share writing.

Writers of all genres and experience levels welcome. Composers, dancers, performers, and visual artists are also welcome to attend. No previous experience with mindfulness or meditation necessary.

Sunday August 14th

4:30pm-6:30pm

$5 class fee, cash at the door. Please bring something to write with and on. Visual artists, feel free to bring your own supplies.

Broom Tree Theatre (at Astoria First Presbyterian Church)*

23-35 Broadway

Astoria, NY 11106

*note that the church building looks like an apartment building! There is a white awning out front with the sign for the church

Reservations recommended

About the teacher:

Emily Herzlin is a writer and teacher with a particular love for memoir, playwriting, and poetry. She received her MFA in Nonfiction from Columbia in 2012. She began practicing meditation in 2003. In college she found her way to the Interdependence Project, where she now teaches meditation courses and retreats. Emily trained in MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She has been teaching meditation since 2011 to groups and individuals. She is the founder and lead teacher of Mindful Astoria, a meditation community in Astoria, Queens. She is thrilled to have another opportunity to practice and create with Mission to (dit)Mars.

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Lori McNally (Woodside)
Lori McNally (Woodside)
Lori McNally (Woodside)

Neighborhood: Woodside

Lori currently resides in Woodside with her actor/playwright husband Seth McNeill. By day she’s an executive assistant to a bunch of (you guessed it) executives. By night she’s feeding her actor habit by working on some play/artistic project or another. Lori and Seth are big fans of Thai Kitchen in Woodside so if you are looking for a great Thai restaurant she highly recommends you go. Her favorite dinner is fried chicken and a martini. If you’ve never tried that combo, go ahead give it a whirl. Your life will change forever. www.lorimcnally.com

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CALLING ALL PLAYWRIGHTS!

Apply to the 2016-2018 Propulsion Lab!

The Application process is now open closed.   

Applications are now open for the 2016-2018 Propulsion Lab. The Propulsion Lab is a bi-monthly (every other Monday) writers group for Queens-based playwrights.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES:

  • Please submit one full length play (60 pages or more) in PDF format. Please choose the play you think represents you best as a writer. It doesn’t matter if it has been produced or if it is a first draft.
  • Please submit a brief cover letter using our online form.  You will be asked to supply the following information: Name, Neighborhood/Address, Phone/Email/Website/Twitter (if applicable), Productions/Awards you would like us to know about, how you heard about the lab, and also what you hope to gain from being a part of the Lab. This is not an artist statement so PLEASE don’t be formal, we just want to get to know you!
  • You must currently reside in the borough of Queens (any neighborhood), and have been a resident for at least 6 months. In order to be part of the lab, you must live in Queens during the course of the lab. Please make sure you have no immediate plans to relocate if you apply!
  • Willing and able to attend bi-monthly meetings.  Labs are held every other Monday usually from late August to mid-June.  Regular attendance is very important to the continuity of the work and to support your fellow writers.
  • Must commit to working on one full length play during the course of the lab.

The deadline to apply is July 1st!

Application is now closed

Participants will be notified at the end of August with labs beginning in September. 

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Nat Cassidy (Astoria)

This is a series of posts featuring our artists who are making things happen in and around our great borough of Queens.  Please check back weekly for new posts.

Nat Cassidy (Astoria)
Nat Cassidy (Astoria)

Title/Occupation
Actor, writer, director, musician, job security eschewer.

Where were you born?
I was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, but we moved to Phoenix, Arizona a few years later, which is where I was raised, FORGED BY THE HEAT OF THE DESERT SUN.

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
I live in Astoria. I am a trailblazer.

Actually, my girlfriend and I just moved to the neighborhood (and the borough) about six months ago. Before that, I was all over Brooklyn for about 12 years – Williamsburg, Bushwick, Bay Ridge, Lefferts Gardens, Midwood, Ditmas, you name it (provided you just name those neighborhoods).

How did you get involved in theater?
I started acting around 5 years old, first in some school stuff and then community/regional type stuff. I became obsessed with Shakespeare in first grade (no kidding: he was introduced to me by my teacher in an effort to try to stem my class-interrupting, curse-shouting, fire-starting tendencies) and made the decision to dedicate my life to theatre around that time. Once I started producing my own work and realizing how little money was to be made in the medium, however, the curse-shouting and fire-starting tendencies started to come back.

What do you love most about Queens?
Ugh. It’s just so goddamned nice. Across the board. It’s so friggin nice it actually makes me mad. I spent so much time fighting the idea of ever moving to Queens. I mean, most of my family is from Queens (my mom was born in Astoria and raised around Deepdale), so it never felt exciting to me. And I always felt a much more visceral connection to Brooklyn–I think because I was young and thought that being angry and miserable all the time somehow validated one’s city living experience.

No one wants to visit you when you live in Brooklyn, it takes 45 extra minutes to get anywhere from Brooklyn (including other neighborhoods in Brooklyn), the landlords are all faceless monsters, you’re essentially stranded wherever you are on the weekends, rents explode so exponentially that the only way to find a place you can afford is to move farther and farther out and keep displacing others who are worse off than you, everything you love is taken away from you, and your joy turns to ashes in your mouth (served to you out of a mason jar in your paleo coffee shop that just kicked out a family restaurant that had been there for 9 generations).

Now I’m in Astoria, where the buildings are nowhere near as tall so I actually get to see the sky, there are trees everywhere, there are restaurants and museums and parks, everyone doesn’t act like they’re auditioning to be on GIRLS all the time, I’ve actually had conversations with my landlord, and my commute went from sometimes 90 minutes to usually 30 or under. I mean, no neighborhood is perfect (living in NYC is still an insane thing to do), but so far I’ve just been able to relax more in Queens.

It’s almost … it’s almost like when I switched from an Android phone to an iPhone. I realized that almost the only things I really liked about the former where the things that were trying to mimic the latter. Queens is the Apple Products of New York City boroughs. There are just fewer bugs. (Unless you live off the 7 train, which I hear is like still having an iPhone 3G or something.)

Do you have an “only in Queens” moment you’d like to share?
Not gonna lie, in the six months I’ve lived in Astoria, I have run into SO MANY people I know that I’m actually starting to think that maybe I died and my life is just slowly flashing before me. Over a decade in Brooklyn, I think I unexpectedly ran into maybe three people TOPS. I run into that many people in Astoria DAILY. It’s like the freaky flash-sideways final season of LOST. I run into best friends. I run into people I did shows with a thousand years ago. I run into people I just met the week before at a reading. It’s insane. Seriously. Did I die? Is Astoria actually some sort of purgatory? Is it like Down Town in Monkeybone?

(Do you know where I got that reference? WHEN I RAN INTO A FRIEND OF MINE ON THE STREETS OF ASTORIA THE OTHER DAY AND HE REMINDED ME ABOUT THAT MOVIE. HE DOESN’T EVEN LIVE IN QUEENS AND YET I RAN INTO HIM IN QUEENS. R.I.P., ME HE DIED DOING WHAT HE LOVED: NOT COMMUTING FROM BROOKLYN)

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?
Food:
There are so many restaurants and places I want to try that I actually get a little bit of a panic attack thinking that I’ll never get to try them all. The Sparrow Tavern (http://thesparrowtavern.com/) and The Bohemian Beer Garden (http://bohemianhall.com/) are essentially our downstairs bars, so we go there a lot. Mosaic is also great (http://www.mosaicastoria.com/). I’m in love with Astoria Park. We also walk over the Kaufman Astoria movie theater when it’s nice, as well as the MoMI (http://www.movingimage.us/). Off the Hook (http://www.offthehookastoria.com/) is a fantastic raw bar we like to go to. Bubba’s Bistro is my preferred Southern joint (http://www.bubbasbistroastoria.com/). QED is also fantastic (http://qedastoria.com/) and I want to start spending more and more time there, ’cause they have a ton of storytelling/open mic things. And speaking of open mics, I’m in the process of producing/writing/directing a webseries all about people who play at open mics and the amazing folks at Albatross Bar (http://www.albatrossastoria.com/) has been invaluable making that a possibility–everyone should go there and buy many, many drinks so they stay in business forever.

Oh, and the Guitar Center (http://www.guitarcenter.com/) on Northern Boulevard is really nice.

Current/Upcoming projects?
At the moment, nothing too specific. I’ve been working a lot more on film/TV projects lately as an actor–I just went through my first pilot experience, which was wonderful and super fascinating. Besides the webseries I just mentioned, I’m also working on a serialized radiodrama project that I’m really excited about, as well as starting my first novel in like 15 years (so, hopefully, my first one that isn’t terrible). I just finished my newest playscript, too, which I’m very happy with. For those that don’t know, I mainly write horror and, based on the reaction this script has gotten so far, I think I might have topped myself a little bit. Appropriately enough, the script is based VERY loosely on our experience moving to Astoria. See? Moving here has paid off already.  Nat Cassidy can be seen in our upcoming Launch Pad Reading All Systems Go: Mission 4