We are thrilled to announce that Thursday, October 9th from 6-9 pm is our Fall Mixer! We are holding it at fabulous new beer bar Judy and Punch on 30th Avenue in Astoria! This is a great opportunity for you to mix and mingle with your fellow Queens artists! No RSVP necessary, but if you want to let us know you’re coming,email us! All artists are welcome – so please invite friends. We expect a great turnout, and we will be represented by many of our Propulsion Lab Writers.
Every Mission to (dit)Mars mixer guest (check in with us at the door) gets a wristband, which includes an extended Happy Hour: -$4 well drinks
-select $5 drafts/shot and beer specials
We are so excited to be in this gorgeous new space – check out their Facebook page and spread the word!
MtD Fall Mixer!
Thursday, October 9th
Judy and Punch
34-08 30th Avenue
N, Q to 30th Avenue
R to Steinway Street
Mission to (dit)Mars, a theatre arts collective serving Queens artists, is excited to announce the selection of nine new members to The Propulsion Lab, a Queens’ writers group serving emerging playwrights from the borough.
Tyler Rivenbark – taken at Martha’s Bakery in Astoria
Kristine M. Reyes – Taken under the Hell Gate Bridge in Astoria Park
Amy E. Witting
Jason Tseng (Long Island City)
Ray Yamanouchi (Astoria)
Nat Cassidy (Astoria) Photo by Alex Tursh, Prospect Photography
The nine new members are Jonathan Alexandratos (Astoria), Scott Casper (Astoria), John Caswell (Astoria), Mrinalini Kamath (Astoria), Elizabeth Seldin (Astoria), Mac Rogers (Astoria), Amy Witting (Sunnyside), and Tori Keenan-Zelt (Forest Hills) with returning members Lisa Huberman (Woodside), Kristine M. Reyes (Astoria) and Tyler Rivenbark (Sunnyside). Rounding out the group are inaugural members August Schulenburg (Forest Hills) and Mariah MacCarthy (Astoria), who will serve as “Writers in Residence.”
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-weekly at the Secret Theatre in Queens.
On what excites her about the new members, Kari Bentley-Quinn explains “they are as diverse as they are accomplished…in style, ethnicity, and approach – much like the residents of our beloved borough.” Laura Pestronk adds “The new members excite me because of their amazingly different voices. Such a diverse group of stories are going to be told this season!”
Commenting on the surprisingly rapid growth of the lab, Meredith Packer suggests “The amount of submissions we had this year and the amount of talent we were given the opportunity to read meant that after three years this lab is what we have been preaching all along- that Queens has a vast amount of talented artists that are looking for a community in their own back yard. And that we are doing our job at Mission to (dit)Mars to bring them together.” Don Nguyen adds “the meteoric rise in members of the Propulsion Lab is a direct reflection of the immense growth of artists living and working in the borough and, in general, the increasing desire of making Queens a profound place to make theatre. We’re excited to help foster both.”
On its ongoing relationship with The Secret Theatre, Don Nguyen adds “Richard Mazda (Artistic Director) has been extremely supportive of new work in Queens and particularly of our group, where his generosity has been overwhelming on all fronts. Our relationship with has proven to be a rich one and we look forward to continuing and deepening our alliance with Richard and The Secret Theatre 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-weekly meetings, the year will include industry meet and greets with Artistic Directors and Literary Managers, three Launch Pad readings of full length plays, and All Systems Go!, an evening of excerpts from the new Propulsion Lab plays.
Meet our current Propulsion Lab writers
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 is a Hunter College graduate with a degree in film and theatre. He has written numerous short plays and four full-length plays (Mercy Killing Kids, It’s Our Kitchen, Tha Chink-Mart, and Impact) which have been workshopped all across NYC. Tha Chink-Mart was a semi-finalist for the 2016/17 New Dramatists Princess Grace Award. He is a member of Working Title Theatre Co. Playwrights Collective (wttheatre.com) and currently works at the Lucille Lortel Theatre when he isn’t at the local bar.
Jason Tseng Long Island City
Jason 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.
Jonathan Alexandratos Astoria
This is what Jonathan Alexandratos does when he’s a playwright: (1) writes DUCK, a full-length animal allegory about abuse, as a 2014-2015 member of Mission to (dit)Mars. (2) Submits DUCK to Nashville Repertory Theatre’s Ingram New Works Lab, and becomes an Ingram New Works Playwright for the 2015-2016 season. (3) Writes WE SEE WHAT HAPPEN, a full-length immersive theatre piece about his grandmother’s immigration to the U.S. in 1951, as performed by superhero action figures. He writes this for Nashville Repertory Theatre, who will perform the piece as a staged reading in May 2016. This play is also workshopped at Mission to (dit)Mars’ Propulsion Lab. (4) Attends a production of DUCK in Strasbourg, France, put on by PEACE Productions in June 2016. This is what Jonathan Alexandratos does when he’s not doing all of that: (1) writes academic essays on action figures for the book he’s editing, tentatively titled POINTS OF ARTICULATION: ESSAYS IN ACTION FIGURE STUDIES. (2) collects action figures. (3) co-manages Denver Comic Con’s literary conference. (4) awaits your email at email@example.com.
Scott Casper Astoria
Scott Casper is an actor, director and playwright living in Astoria, NY. As a writer, his short plays have been produced as part of the Asolo Conservatory’s Late Night Series, Firecracker Productions’ Red Light Nights, and Left Hip Productions’ From the Hip Festival. Scott is also the Artistic Director of taxdeductible theatre, and he has had several plays produced as part of The Dare Project (world-premiere ten-minute plays, written on a dare). The Dare Project also provided the starting point for his full-length play #hero, which was authored in collaboration by taxdeductible theatre. #hero received its world premiere in 2013.
Mrinalini Kamath Astoria
Mrinalini Kamath’s plays have been performed around the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Australia and India. She has been a semi-finalist for both the O’Neill and Seven Devils Playwrights Conferences, a finalist for the Actors Theater of Louisville Humana Festival and was Fluid Motion Theatre and Film’s inaugural Start the Story commission recipient. She won first place in the first East West Players (Los Angeles, CA) Got Laughs? Asian-American Comedy Play Contest and a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Several of her short plays appear in various Smith and Kraus anthologies. She is an alumna of Youngblood, the emerging playwrights’ collective at Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York City and a current member of the Ma-Yi Writers’ Lab.
Lisa Huberman is a New York-based playwright and a third-generation vegetarian from Youngstown, Ohio. She received her BA in Theatre Performance at Bradley University and an MFA in Playwriting from Rutgers, where she developed the full-length play, Egyptology. Her full-length play, Sex and Charitable Giving, was developed in the New Light Theatre Project Darkroom Series and the Mission to (dit)Mars Propulsion Lab. The play was then produced in the inaugural F*ckfest at the Brick Theatre and recorded as part of the HeRD Podcast at The Tank. She is the author of several one-act plays, including Under the Rainbow(Regional Winner, Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival), Health Nuts(Semi-finalist, Little Fish Theatre Pick of the Vine Competition), Sub-prime (Winner, KNOW Theatre Playwrights and Artists Festival) and High and Uptight (Mile Square Theatre 7th Inning Stretch Festival). Her work has also been featured in multiple installments of CAPS Lock Theatre’s Pussyfest and the New Jersey One-Minute Play Festival. In addition to her playwriting, Lisa has recently begun to to explore the world of solo performing, and has performed at The Astoria Bookshop Storytelling Show, Monologues and Madness, QED, The Dump at the Creek and the Cave, and Jerusalem’s Comedy Basement. Lisa is a member of the Mission to (dit)Mars Propulsion Lab, The Drawing Board, and the Passage Play Lab.
Kristine M. Reyes is a playwright raised and based in New York City. Her plays have been performed in NYC, Chicago, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and include Lily in Love (Mission to (dit)Mars Launch Pad Reading Series; Queens Theatre’s New American Voices Reading Series); Queen for a Day (Diverse City Theater Company’s First Draft Fellowship) and Stage/Mother. She was a 2014-15 Fellow at The Dramatists Guild, where she is also a proud member. She has been published on Indie Theater Now and has contributed as a guest blogger on Howlround. www.kristinemreyes.com
Tyler Rivenbark Sunnyside
Born and raised in North Carolina, Tyler Rivenbark received his MFA in Playwriting from the MFA program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation at Queens College, CUNY in 2010. Currently, he is an Adjunct Lecturer in the English Department of Queens College. Select plays include hands (The Bushwick Starr, Brooklyn), The Wild Papers (Latimer House, Flushing), This Woman Must Be My Wife (Gantry Plaza, Long Island City), Monosyllabic (Mellow Pages, Brooklyn), Silence (Dixon Place, NYC; Artists’ Bloc, Washington, DC), and Inside the Rain (Dixon Place, NYC). He co-curated the site specific theatrical experiment Unstaged as part of the Rough Draft Festival (LaGuardia Performing Arts Center). He has received a Poetry Society of America commission to adapt Rita Dove’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book of poems, Thomas and Beulah. He was a writer-in-residence at the Louis Armstrong House Museum, a residency he now oversees. He is the co-founder of The Hammer & Pick Collective and the Queens Writers’ Collective. He is a member of the Mission to (dit)Mars Propulsion Lab and the Dramatists Guild.
Amy Witting Sunnyside
Amy E. Witting finally admits she is from New Jersey although now resides in Sunnyside, New York. Beyond owning three crockpots she is a semi-retired actor, producer, teaching artist, and playwright. Some of her plays include The House on Top of the Hill (Atlantic Theater Commission, Abingdon Theatre New Play Reading Series, Semi-finalist O’Neill National Playwrights Conference), There’s Never A Gavin: The True Story of a Disco Roller Skater (Atlantic Theater Amplified Reading Series, nominated 2016 Weissberger Award, Finalist The Ground Floor at Berkeley Rep 2016 ), The Midnight Ride of Sean & Lucy (Roundabout Underground Reading Series, Finalist SOURCE Festival), A BAD NIGHT (2015 Jerome Foundation Emerging Artist Fellowship), Day 392 (Kennedy Center ACTF/NNPN MFA Playwrights Workshop, Honorable Mention Kilroy’s List), Victor (Cabrini Rep, winner 2013 Thespis Festival), 36 Hours (Frigid Festival), FALLING (NY International Fringe Festival), G.I. Joe Jared (Edinburg Festival Fringe and 59E59) and Create Me Pegasus (finalist, The Sam French Festival). She was a 2015 finalist for the Leah Ryan FEWW award and nominated for the 2014-2015 Susan Smith Blackburn prize. She received an inaugural 2015 LAUNCH Commission from Atlantic Theater Company. Her plays have been developed at Tofte Lake Center, The Lark Play Development Center, The Kennedy Center, NNPN and Space on Ryder Farm. She received her MFA at Hunter College and is a member of PIPELINE PlayLab, Mission To (Dit)mars Propulsion Lab, and The Dramatists Guild.
Mac Rogers Astoria
MAC ROGERS’ plays include SOVEREIGN (New York Times and Backstage Critic’s Pick), BLAST RADIUS (New York Times Critic’s Pick), ADVANCE MAN (winner of the New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Premiere Production), FRANKENSTEIN UPSTAIRS (NYIT nominee, Best Premier Production), LIGATURE MARKS (CityBeat Critic’s Pick), VIRAL (winner, Outstanding Play at FringeNYC 2009), UNIVERSAL ROBOTS (nominated for four New York Innovative Theatre awards), and HAIL SATAN (Outstanding Playwriting Winner at FringeNYC 2007. Mac’s plays have earned acclaim from The New York Times, Backstage, The Wall Street Journal, Time Out New York, New York Post, Flavorpill, io9.com, Tor.com, NYTheatre.com, and many others. Also an audio dramatist, Rogers wrote the sci-fi podcast thriller The Message, which has been dowloaded over 4 million times worldwide.
Mariah’s work has been developed and presented at Ensemble Studio Theatre, Rattlestick, Primary Stages, Culture Project, New Dramatists, La MaMa, HERE, Dixon Place, The Brick, Atlantic Stage 2, Fringe NYC, various New York apartments, and Paris. Indie Theater Hall of Fame (“Person of the Year” 2012), PoNY nominee. Plays includeBaby Mama: One Woman’s Quest to Give Her Child to Gay People (winner of the Dr. Robert J. ThieraufProducer’s Pick Award; viewed over 41,000 timeson YouTube), Honors Students (Kilroys List Honorable Mention; EST/Youngblood Unfiltered),Safeword (Dixon Place), Magic Trick (FringeNYC and Theatre Row; winner of the Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award and Lotos Foundation Prize in the Arts and Sciences), Mrs. Mayfield’s Fifth-Grade Class of ’93 20-Year Reunion (“sweet and boisterous…a lot of fun” –The New York Times), The Foreplay Play (two NYIT Award nominations), Ampersand: A Romeo & Juliet Story (twenty Looking Glass Forum Awards, FringeNYC “Outstanding Performance”), andThe All-American Genderf*ck Cabaret (“f*cking brilliant” -Kate Bornstein; performed in Baltimore, Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, and New York). Mariah is aFriend of Flux, a writer-in-residence ofThe Propulsion Lab, a member ofYoungblood andLather, Rinse, Repeat, Executive Artistic Director ofCaps Lock Theatre, and Associate Artistic Director-at-Large ofThe Brick.
August Schulenburg Forest Hills
August’s plays include Carrin Beginning, Kidding Jane, Rue,Riding the Bull, Good Hope,Other Bodies, Honey Fist, Dark Matter, Jacob’s House, DEINDE, Dream Walker, Denny and Lila, Dark Matter, Jane the Plain and The Lesser Seductions of History. His plays have been produced and developed at the Lark Play Development Center, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Chelsea Playhouse, Theater for the New City, Portland Stage Company, Dayton Playhouse, Colonial Players, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Contemporary Stage Company, Abingdon Theater Company, Gideon Productions, New Amerikan Theatre, Penobscot Theatre, Impetuous Theater Group, Decades Out, Soundtrack Series, Reverie Productions, Wolf 359, Blue Box Productions, Piper McKenzie, Boomerang Theatre Company, Adaptive Arts, Hall High School, Nosedive Productions, MTWorks, Purple Repertory, Valley Repertory Company, The Brick Theater, CAPS LOCK Theatre, Chameleon Theatre Circle, Retro Productions, Elephant Run District, TheatreLAB and Flux Theatre Ensemble, where he is the Artistic Director. He is a member of the Propulsion Lab for Mission to (dit)Mars. His work has also been published in the New York Theater Review, Stage and Screen, Indie Theater Now, Midway Journal, NoPassport Press and in two issues of Carrier Pigeon. He also writes for film and television with MozzleStead Productions.
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.
Where were you born? Saugus, Massachusetts (a small town in the North Shore of Boston)
Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long? Astoria. I’ve lived here off and on for 12 years. I’ve been in my current apartment now for 2 1/2. I’ve lived all over the Burroughs….but I always come back to Queens.
How did you get involved in theater? Hm. Well, I was a dancer and thought I’d be a choreographer one day. Truth be told, that wasn’t my dream. Dancing was just something I did well, like my Mom. She was a beautiful dancer. So I was 17 years old, and I was all set to go to Emerson College on a big dance scholarship, when I blew out my left knee in the middle of a performance. I had to undergo reconstructive knee surgery and I was looking at about a 2 year recovery time. I lost my dance scholarship, and my folks couldn’t afford to send me to Emerson without it, so I went to Salem State College and auditioned for their BFA program as an actor. I figured, “I can’t dance for 2 years, but I’d like to be on stage. So I’ll try this.” To make a long story short – I fell in love with acting when I was 18, and that was it.
What do you love most about Queens? I love coming home at the end of the day from the loud ass City to a quiet neighborhood with lots of artists and families. There’s something really cozy about Queens. I haven’t found that feeling in any other neighborhood of New York.
Do you have an “only in Queens” moment you’d like to share?
Every night I go to the deli on my corner and get a sandwich. And every night the owner (an old man in an apron) says, “You gotta work, right kid?! You gotta work to pay bills!” And every night I say, “I know! Thank God for work!”
So one night he asks me what I do for a living, and I say, “I’m on Broadway”.
There was this huge, awkward pause. And he blinked, about 10 times. Then finally he replied, “…the street?” I laughed and said, “Yes. I work over on Broadway.”
Writers of all genres and experience levels welcome. Composers, dancers, performers, and visual artists are also welcome to attend.
The Noguchi Museum is one of our borough’s magical spaces. The space, designed by the late Japanese-American sculpture artist Isamu Noguchi, includes an open-air sculpture garden and several galleries, each with its own feel and family of Noguchi sculptures. The works of art and the spaces in the museum are mysterious, evocative, and playful. In short: this is an awesome place to spend a day creating.
The workshop will begin with a brief contemplative exercise to open up the senses, and will continue with a silent walking meditation around the galleries of the museum, followed by writing prompts and discussion to get the ideas flowing. Participants will then have time to explore the museum independently and create writing about or inspired by specific works of art. The workshop will conclude with a sharing circle where writers can share their work from the day aloud.
Please arrive at 12:50pm and meet us at the entrance. We will enter the museum as a group at 1pm. Bring something to write with and on. $20 total- $10 museum admission and $10 for the class.
Let us know if you’re planning to attend! We’d love to see you!