Our Artists

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Matthew J. Nichols (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.

Mathew J. Nichols (Astoria)
Mathew J. Nichols (Astoria)

TitleOccupation
Actor, Director, Producer

Where were you born?
I was born in Atlanta, but mostly I grew up in the small village of St. Simons Island, GA.

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
Astoria for over 10 years! Near Broadway station.

What was your experience like attending All Systems Go: Mission 3?
Fantastic! For this last one, I was an audience member, and I thoroughly enjoyed taking in the work of both new and familiar voices, especially at the APAC which is just 10 minutes from my apartment! There’s a lot of talent that lives in the Queens community, so it’s truly great that Mission to Ditmars is making it their mission to foster support for art and artists within our borough. Also, it was great to chip in and help strike and grab a beer in the neighborhood after the show!

How did you get involved in theatre?
By getting involved in my local community theatre troupe in the town where I was raised.  They’re called The Island Players, and they are still very active.  I got started as a kid doing their summer children’s theatre with the whole canon: Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, etc. Then, I graduated to their regular season shows and just kept on going!

What do you love most about Queens?
The vibe is relaxed, the people are friendly, and I’ve always felt welcome. Plus, you don’t need to schlep to Manhattan to have a great time!

Do you have an “only in Queens” moment you’d like to share?
I was jogging around the track at Astoria Park and a helicopter landed right in the center of the track lawn.  I still am not sure what that was about!

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?

Most of my picks are food and drink related:
For a great sandwich and some truly excellent craft beer: Astoria Bier & Cheese.
http://astoriabierandcheese.com/
My favorite bar with roughly 25 beers on tap (I love beer): Sunswick.
Finally, I’ve had a couple epic nights out, making an absolute fool of myself with friends at Karaoke Shout.

 

Current/Upcoming projects?
I just finished acting in a play called Women & Children that performed as part of the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity.  Now, I am looking for the next project and developing some material for a possible web series or short film.  Why, you got somethin’?

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Tara Pacheco (Jackson Heights)

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.

Tara Pacheco  (Jackson Heights)
Tara Pacheco (Jackson Heights)

TitleOccupation
Actor, Director

Where were you born?
New York, NY

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
I grew up in Jackson Heights and have loved every second of it.

What was your experience like working on All Systems Go: Mission 3?
Working on All Systems Go was wonderful and crazy. There are so many artists working together to put together one night of fabulous theater – it’s a whirlwind. You’d think i’d be mayhem but the team is so top-notch and professional. Everything runs like clockwork.

Tara in All Systems Go: Mission 3
Tara in All Systems Go: Mission 3

How did you get involved in theatre?

I went to Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in LIC for high school. While there, I swapped majors from dance to theater and was hooked. I had some really supportive teachers and they really took a personal interest in helping me learn. I fell in love with theater because of them. Then Bruce Willis spoke at our graduation and was totally unprepared and awkward. It was a mess. I remember thinking – if this joker can be an actor so can I.   I got B.A.s in theater performance & psychology at Columbia University and then joined the Flea’s Resident Acting company (The Bats).

What do you love most about Queens?
It’s like a secret garden.
We have beautiful parks, historic neighborhoods, awesome beaches (none of my non-NY friends believe Rockaway is Queens), and amazing food! And until everyone else catches on, we have it all to ourselves.

Do you have an “only in Queens” moment you’d like to share?
I once walked by Tina Fey and her crew filming a scene for 30 Rock and onto a subway car where a homeless man was pooping. I’m not sure if that’s an “only in Queens” or more of an “only in NY” moment but, either way, it’s definitely something.

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?
Food:
Queens really is heaven for a foodie, you just have to be adventurous. But here are some of my staples.
Uncle Peter’s (mix of cuisine but they have amazing steaks)
Pio Pio (there are Manhattan locations now but it’s definitely a Queens thing)
Bohemian Hall (the original cool beer garden)
SriPraPhai (great thai!)

The columbian bakeries in Jackson Heights (I’m not even referring to one specific one. Some of the best cakes I’ve ever had have come from those bakeries.
Entertainment / Sights:
Flushing Meadows Park (It’s a beautiful park! take a ride on the 7 train and enjoy the grass)
PS1 (a bit of MOMA in our corner of the city)
 

Current/Upcoming projects?
I’ve been working on a show called Kapow-i Gogo at the People’s Improv Theater with a great group of people. The clearest way to describe it is as epic geek theater. It’s a completely original, live-action anime that draws on video games, and cartoons from the 90s. It’s a must see for anyone who enjoyed things like Pokemon or Final Fantasy but also it’s so accessible and hilarious that anyone and everyone will fall in love. It chronicles the story of a girl named Kapow-i Gogo and how she wants to become the worlds greatest fighter. Our next performance is August 29th.

I have a couple of other things brewing but nothing ready to be official. Check out my website for updates.


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Kit Goldstein Grant
Kit Goldstein Grant
Kit Goldstein Grant
Kit Goldstein Grant

Neighborhood: Woodside

Kit Goldstein Grant is a musical theatre composer, lyricist, librettist, and teaching artist. She has studied at Juilliard, the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Writing Workshop, Union College, and the Einhorn School of Performing Arts at Primary Stages. Musicals include black comedy The Wrong Box, finalist for London’s Burbage Productions New Writing Prize, and works for young audiences include It’s Raining Tamales!, a prize winner in the Jackie White Memorial National Children’s Play Writing Contest and finalist in the Mountain Playhouse International Playwriting Contest, published by YouthPLAYS. Recordings of It’s Raining Tamales! and The Wrong Box are available on iTunes and Amazon. www.kitgoldstein.com.

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Katharine Lerner (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.

Katharine Lerner
Katharine Lerner

TitleOccupation
Actor, Teaching Artist, Associate Company Manager (S.T.A.R. at The Directors Company)

Where were you born?
Washington D.C.

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
Astoria, 8 years

How did you get involved in theatre?
I was 10 years old, and I signed up for a drama summer camp. I fell in love with being on stage immediately and I haven’t stopped.

What do you love most about Queens?
I love that moment I am on the train and it goes above ground into queens. I feel like all my problems of the day are sucked back into Manhattan and I can breathe and relax. I also love the community and the food!

Do you have an “only in Queens” moment you’d like to share?
The beer gardens in Queens are amazing. I took a friend from out of town and Questlove was the DJ, everyone was dancing and having a great time, and we could see the skyline of Manhattan. I feel like I can’t find places that have a great vibe and also a good community in the city, only in queens I find these places.

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?

My favorites are

Brunch:
Sugar Freak sugarfreaknyc.com
William Hallet http://www.williamhallet.com/

Date Night: Astor Room http://www.astorroom.com/

Drinks:
Sek’end Sun sekendsun.com
Sweet Afton http://www.sweetaftonbar.com/

Pizza: http://www.sacsplace.com/

 

Current/Upcoming projects?

Looking for my next project, love collaborating on new scripts 🙂

Check out my reel at
http://youtu.be/giHC0X2iIi0

And my website www.katharinelerner.com

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Don Castro (Sunnyside)

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.

Don Castro
Don Castro

TitleOccupation
Actor

Where were you born?
Manila, Philippines.

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
I’ve been living in Sunnyside, south of Queens Blvd., for 2 years now.

How did you get involved in theatre?
A mime came to visit my sixth grade class in Chicago.  He did the classic routines like “pulling the rope,” “invisible wall,” and “walking in place.”  Afterwards, he made us walk around while imagining we were clouds.  That was it.  That was the bait.  I then auditioned for the school play and got cast as a Lion in a not-quite-The-Wizard-of-Oz type of play.

What do you love most about Queens?
I love that Queens residents just do what they do: go to work, raise their families, live their lives.  They’re not trying to be a part of a “scene” or to be “seen.”

Do you have an “only in Queens” moment you’d like to share?
Only in Queens have I seen food move on a plate.  You won’t see food that fresh in Brooklyn!

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?
I’ve enjoyed going to Queens Museum, Museum of the Moving Image, and the Queens Zoo.  Going to Citi Field is also a treat.  If you can attend a wedding at Terrace in the Park, go.  That building is unique.  For food, I like to go to Ihawan in Woodside for soul food Filipino.  I also frequent a Wendy’s on Queens Blvd., mainly for childhood nostalgia because it was once McDowell’s in Coming To America.

 

Current/Upcoming projects?
Currently, I am in Don Nguyen’s Red Flamboyant with Firebone Theatre until May 16 (go see it before it closes!).  I will be starting rehearsals very soon for a play called Yes is a Very Young Man by Gertrude Stein for Target Margin Theater’s Lab series.  I also have a couple of TV appearances coming up this May: in an episode of The Following and in the season finale of Louie.

Flushing Town Hall with Pan Asian Rep
Flushing Town Hall with Pan Asian Rep
The Chocolate Factory in LIC
The Chocolate Factory in LIC

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Elizabeth Seldin

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.

Elizabeth Seldin
Elizabeth Seldin

TitleOccupation
Actor/ Writer/ Energy Healer/ Corporate Stage Manager

Where were you born?
Ithaca, New York

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
Astoria

How did you get involved in theatre?
Wow um…. i dont know if I even started forming memories yet. Oh wait! Okay. There was this group that came to our school and they were called Beauty and the Beast and the guy was beauty and the woman played the beast and they used to tell stories and put on two person plays and I would look forward to it all year.  And finally when I reached the third or fourth grade they came and did a workshop and taught us to tell stories and put on little one and two person shows… Since then I couldn’t get enough. 

What do you love most about Queens?
That you can be right next to Manhattan, a simple fast train ride in and yet there are mansions and haunted houses and gorgeous parks and I feel like I am in small town USA sometimes. So its this incredible retreat full of unique secrets if you find them.  Also the fact that Astoria Kaufman and Silvercup studios reside right in Astoria makes me feel as if its mini Hollywood without the Hollywood.

Do you have an “only in Queens” moment you’d like to share?
Walking home, I live near astoria park, I heard this crazy music and turning the corner there was a FULL carnival … just chillin in the park. Needless to say I stopped what I was doing called some friends to join me and rode the crazy rides while eating cotton candy. BOOM. Only in queens.

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?
BARE BURGER! Also Astoria Park and the New Solstice summer ceremony in Socrates Sculpture Park with Mama Donna.

 

Current/Upcoming projects?
Currently work on creating a new musical called ‘Shadows’ as well as a new play called “Shelter In Place” Upcoming workshops to be announced. 

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Criena House (Elmhurst)

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.

Criena House (Elmhurst)
Criena House (Elmhurst)

TitleOccupation
Actress/Dancer
website: crienahouse.com

Where were you born?
I was born in San Diego, California; but I spent a big chunk of my life in the Philippines.

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
ELMHURST! I’ve been here for 4 years.

How did you get involved in theatre?
Through dance mainly. Got trained in ballet, gymnastics, my mother was a ballroom dancer. In college, as I was planning to be a journalist, I met an acting teacher from Julliard that exposed me to the world of theater. She gave me the courage to admit to myself that I really wanted to be an actress. So I traveled to NY to achieve it. (Or maybe deep down inside I just need attention, I don’t know… either of the two)

What do you love most about Queens?
It’s vibrant immigrant communities. I guess since I immigrated myself, it’s nice to see cultures from varied parts of the globe making Queens their home.

Do you have an “only in Queens” moment you’d like to share?
There’s a park near me – Clement Clarke Moore Park, that is SO Queens. In the mornings, you’ll be greeted by falun dafa meditationers, kungfu masters, line dancers, and monks (yes, monks). At noon, you have an assortment of gamblers catching up with their buddies. After 3pm, shirtless teens from different parts of Queens compete in handball and basketball.  Around it are the smells of barbecue stands, taco trucks, and fried dumplings. Yup, that’s Queens.

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?
Ihawan in Woodside for homestyle Filipino food
Museum of Moving Image in Astoria for film buffs and Queens Museum in Flushing for NY history
Looking at Tudor-style homes in Forest Hills Gardens (day dreaming)
For good eats, get off Elmhurst off the M or R train. So many options!

 

Current/Upcoming projects?
I’m in this show you’ll never expect to find off off Broadway called Red Flamboyant. It’s written by Don Nguyen (um I don’t know, one of the founders of Mission to Ditmars), directed by Laura Savia, and produced by Firebone Theatre. It’s one of those rare opportunities where my passions for acting and movement combine in one awesome show. It’s about the struggles of 4 women living with HIV/AIDS in modern day Vietnam compared to the epic battles of 2 female warriors in 40AD. It is quite exciting because I will be FLYING. How? Watch to find out. Showing now tillMay 16. Firebontheatre.com 

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Kim Wong (Woodside)

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.

Kim Wong (Woodside)
Kim Wong (Woodside)

TitleOccupation
Actor and Artistic Director of Accidental Shakespeare Company

Where were you born?
Sunnyvale, California

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
Woodside for 8 months, but Astoria for 5 years before that.

How did you get involved in theatre?

My parents sent me to Shakespeare Camp when I was 8. I think they sent me there because they thought it would help me academically… boy did that backfire! I got hooked on theater and Shakespeare. We did a 20 minute production of Twelfth Night, and I got to play Viola — though whether that casting was due to natural talent or the fact that I had a terrible third grade bob cut is up to you.

Now, 20 years later, I’m running my own Shakespeare theater company out of Queens. Accidental Shakespeare Company is an ensemble dedicated to promoting PLAY and spontaneity in classical theater. Founded in 2011, we have become most well known for our Hit & Run Shakespeare series. We’ve produced 14 of Shakespeare’s works so far, and we are continuing to work our way through the cannon. What gratifies me the most about the work we do is that we often get audience members who hate Shakespeare, who think it’s boring, who rarely go to the theater, and they will come up to me after a show and say, “I loved that! I totally get it now!”

Please check us out at: www.accidental.nyc. And if you feel like supporting the arts in Queens and making Shakespeare accessible, consider donating at: http://igg.me/at/accidentalshakespeare

What do you love most about Queens?
It’s the perfect blend of city and residential. There’s a great energy, awesome restaurants, places open late, but there’s also a great sense of community and of coming home.

Do you have an “only in Queens” moment you’d like to share?
I love riding the 7 train home, right around sunset, the moment it comes above ground and you can see the New York skyline lit up in gold and pink. When I’m feeling discouraged or the actor life is getting me down, it’s the perfect reminder of the fact that I’m living my dream in the city of my dreams.

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?

The taco truck on 30th Ave. It’s the thing I miss most about living in Astoria. Take it from this Cali girl, they’re the best tacos in the city.

The Yoga Room in Astoria and LIC. They have the BEST teachers, and the studio is so tranquil — you’ll feel like you’re at the spa!

Leli’s Bakery on 30th Ave. Order anything. Order everything. You can’t go wrong.

Matsu Sushi (the friendliest service I’ve had in NY), Seva for Indian food, Sweet Afton, Queens Kickshaw… can you tell I like food?

Current/Upcoming projects?

The world premier of a new play, RED FLAMBOYANT, by fellow Queens resident Don Ngyuen, runs until May 16. I’m super excited about this show because not only has it been a great challenge to bring to life Don’s very complex and deep characters, but I’ve also learned how to fly through the air on an aerial bungee.

I still remember the first time I read the script. There’s a stage direction that says:

“Two women hover high above… The women fly onto the stage.

Yes, they fly.”

That tells you the kind of show you’re in for!!

But awesome theatricalities aside, I’m so honored to be a part of sharing this very, very important story. It is a story that needs to be told, that DESERVES to be told. The stigmatization of AIDS in Vietnam and the ignorance around the disease means that most HIV+ men, women, and children cannot get the treatment or help they deserve. Currently, the real Pham Thi Hue (who the play is based on) is looking after 50 children who have been orphaned due to HIV/AIDS is Hai Phong. She wrote to us on opening night: “I hope the image of faithful, heroic and resourceful Vietnamese women will be recognized throughout the world.”

Red Flamboyant
April 24 – May 16
The Olmstead Salon
61 Gramercy Park North

Tickets: redflamboyant.brownpapertickets.com

This poignant, moving, imaginative piece blends realism and fantasy to tell the true story of Pham Thi Hue, the first woman to open an HIV/AIDS support group in Vietnam. Her story is interwoven with the folk tale of the Trung Sisters, two magical warrior women who lead an army against the invading Chinese. The staging combines aerial arts, martial arts, music, and shadow puppetry to support humorous, lyrical, and powerful dialogue. This is a story of true heroism, and what it means to be remembered.

*10% of all ticket sales will go to support the real live Mrs. Hue’s efforts in serving victims of HIV/AIDS in Vietnam*

See you at the theater!

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Jonathan Alexandratos (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.

Jonathan Alexandratos (Astoria)
Jonathan Alexandratos (Astoria)

TitleOccupation
Playwright

Where were you born?
Knoxville, TN

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
I live in Astoria, and have been in that neighborhood for about three years.

How did you get involved in theatre?
In sixth grade, I wrote a spoof of *Star Trek: The Next Generation* that my friends and I filmed.  We created fly-bys of the Enterprise by attaching a hastily-built model to fishing wire and wooshing the contraption past a camera in a darkened bathroom, lighting the ship with a flashlight.  The Bridge was my living room, and we ignored questions of why birds were chirping by the “viewscreen” (a.k.a. my living room window).  We all wore socks in most of the interior scenes because my parents wouldn’t let us wear shoes in the house.  It was probably one of the best things I ever wrote.  We taped over my friend’s sister’s dance recital in making it.  That convinced me I probably shouldn’t film anything else, but I was hooked on the writing.  (And, Dear Friend’s Sister: sorry about the tape snafu…)

What do you love most about Queens?
I love that, when I take the 7 each day on my way to Queensborough Community College (where I teach English), I get to see Gemini Titan II and Mercury-Atlas D rockets out the south windows of the train.  Some days, usually days when it’s cold, I think of how I’d like to blast off in one of those suckers and see what’s out there.  Other days, I think of that *Star Trek* spoof, and how, like (hopefully!) my writing, my spaceships have also grown from plastic Crazy Glue blobs to something more real, more versatile.  But I mean, all metaphor aside: there are spaceships in Queens.  Actual spaceships.  More than the NASA ones, if you count those saucers that were in *Men in Black*.  I think we’re the only borough with spaceships.  I’d like to see Brooklyn compete with that.

I also want to add that I love the Secret Theatre, and I love that I get to do theatre there.  If the Secret Theatre were a rocket, they *wouldn’t* be the Titan, because those are now out of date.  They’d be one of those Ares rockets NASA is currently developing – new, mighty, and out of this world.  (See how I tied that back to the outer space stuff?  You didn’t think I could do that, did you?  Yeah.  I *earned* that MFA.)

Do you have an “only in Queens” moment you’d like to share?
The other day, I watched a *Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers* marathon.  I have the whole series on DVD and all the action figures to go with it, so I’m able to pick my favorite episodes and act out the coolest parts.  Technically, that could happen anywhere, but, because all my stuff is in Queens, it actually could’ve only happened in Astoria, realistically.  I don’t know.  I wish I could tell a funny story about Citi Field or something, but I can’t.

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?
The reason I knew I’d be at home in Queens – Astoria, specifically (and it’s not because of the Greek thing!) – is because I found a place that’s dead center in the Bermuda Triangle of a Best Buy, a Toys ‘R Us, and an amazing bar called DiWine.  If I’m not at work, chances are I’m at one of those three places.  And if I’m not there, there’s another place on Steinway called Toys & Variety.  The “Variety” basically means gloves and luggage, but I never really explore those options.  The guy who runs that place is a toy god, and he gets the best Marvel superhero action figures before anyone else.  That’s really all I ever wanted: to live in the center of toys and movies, with some booze to help me with the shock of living in the center of toys and movies.

Current/Upcoming projects?
I’m working on a comic book-y, action figure-y, animal allegory-y play called *Duck* with Mission to (dit)Mars, a group that I’m so grateful to be a part of.  I’ve also got an excerpt of my update of the Ancient Greek satyr play *The Cyclops* being read in June (June 2nd!) in Wide Eyed Productions’ *The Winks* series.  In addition, I’m putting together a collection of academic essays that analyze action figures as academic texts, and co-programming the Page 23 Literary Conference, which is an academic conference on comic books that is attached to Denver Comic Con.

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Michelle Karst (Astoria)

 

Michelle Karst (Astoria)
Michelle Karst (Astoria)

Neighborhood: Astoria

Michelle has lived in the Ditmars area for the past 5 years. She has worked with several Queens companies to develop new plays including “Sweating Bullets” with the Ophelia Theater Group, and “Kit and Dabney” with the Secret Theatre. Other directing credits include “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead,” “The Pawn,” and “Radical.”

She has also been the assistant director  for “Suddenly Last Summer” with White Horse Theatre Company, “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” with 5th Floor Theatre Company, and for the Off-Broadway production of “Alphabetical Order” with the Keen Company.

She is currently starting to jump into the film world by developing and directing a new web series.