Our Artists

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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.

Jenny Lane
Jenny Lane

TitleOccupation
Playwright
Administrative Director for the League of Professional Theatre Women
Literary Manager for the Astoria Performing Arts Center

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
I live in Astoria, and I’ve been in this apartment for 2 years. But I lived in Long Island City/Astoria for many years before grad school brought me to Harlem, as well. So all told, I think I’ve lived in Queens for about 6 years. I love it here.

How did you get involved in theater?
I was lucky to have parents who loved the theater, and they began taking me to the Broadway shows that toured through Detroit at a very young age. I knew all of the words to Les Miserables before I understood what all of the words meant.

What do you love most about Queens?
I find it so unpretentious and refreshingly family-oriented, with a vibrant and committed arts community. And also, the food.

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

Mosaic, for the wine list.
Via Trenta, Brick Cafe and Ovelia for the food.
Sissy McGinty’s, because that’s been our local haunt for about a decade.
Astoria Park, for the pretty.
Club Fitness, for the Zumba.

Tell us a little about the play you’r developing in the Propulsion Lab?
Right now I have only the beginning of something brand new, and presently untitled. It begins in the mundane rhythm of naturalism and then sort of disintegrates into something dreamier. It’s at once a deeply personal piece, and a response to some frustrating and horrifying current events. I don’t know much about it yet, but I’m super excited to have a place to hear it and get some feedback.

Current/Upcoming projects?
I had an excerpt of a play go up in April in Washington, DC, a short play going up in Seattle in June, and my play Harlowe will be produced in the fall as part of the Alec Baldwin Fellowship at Singers Forum.

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Nathan Brisby
Nathan Brisby

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.

Nathan Brisby
Nathan Brisby

TitleOccupation
I wear a lot of hats.  I’m an actor/singer, but also a writer in the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop, and the founding producer of Broadway Gives Back.

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
I’m in Astoria (aka “Actoria”) and have been here since 2005.  I’ve been in NYC since 2002.   I’m old.

How did you get involved in theater?
I was Scrooge in A Christmas Story.  I got bit by the bug and never looked back.

What do you love most about Queens?
It’s not a concrete jungle, but it also doesn’t shut down at 9pm.  It’s the best of both worlds.

Do you have any “only in Queens” moments you’d like to share?
Well, as you may know, the census said that Astoria is the most diverse neighborhood in the entire US of A.  I love taking the train home late at nightwith dozens of languages being slurred by drunk people around me.

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?
So many!!  For food, I love Vesta, Sparrow, ordering late night Thai from Bangkok Tasty, and Sugar Freak.  Astoria Performing Arts Center regularly puts on shows that are better than most of what happens on Broadway.  How they transform their space every show is the stuff of legend.  And if you’ve got a dog, like I do, he loves nothing more than a nice walk in Astoria Park.

Current/Upcoming projects?
 I just finished a bunch of readings, and have a few coming up.  I’m working on a new tween musical with my writing partner, Lizzie Hagstedt, called “Camo Girl,” based on a novel by Kikla Magoon.  Broadway Gives Back held a benefit concert recently at Le Poisson Rouge called “Broadway Charity Songs,” and it was a HIT!  We are being asked to do it every year.  There should be press coming out about it on the theatre websites very soon.

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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.

Liz Nieves
Liz Nieves

TitleOccupation
Photographer – Event Organizer

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
Astoria for 12 years with a 2 year break in Sunnyside Gardens

Tell us more about your work.
I am a photographer that focuses mostly on environmental portraiture but I love a good landscape, especially anything with inclement weather.

Are there any favorite places in Queens that you like to photograph?
 I have one spot that a friend showed me that is an oasis of greenery and trees in the center of these large urban apartment buildings. It’s so quiet and unexpected.

What do you love most about Queens?
I love that you are immersed in a million different cultures and that it’s filled with such a variety of ethnicity. Everything feels authentic and each neighborhood has something to offer.  I love that no matter how many times it’s declared so that it will never be tragically hip.

Do you have any “only in Queens” moments you’d like to share?
I had dinner at a restaurant last night called Annam Brahma in Jamiaca.  It’s a vegetarian restaurant that is operated by the followers of the late famed guru Sri Chinmoy.   I didn’t really know much about it before I went (we were there to photograph and interview a writer that lived nearby). The place was so interesting; the entire place was a shrine to Sri Chimnoy. There is one wall devoted to his progress as he went on to train in weightlifting and lifted 7,000 lbs with one hand.  The staff all had the enlightened look of hardcore meditators (much less stressed looking than the typical Ny’er), the food was delicious and everyone was very kind. Yet after doing a bit of googling you see that Sri Chimnoy was accused of running a cult that prohibited its members from dating, eating meat, alcohol, socializing outside the circle and owning pets.   The entire thing is so random and so queens to me.

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

So many good restaurants have opened in Astoria lately-

I love Queens Comfort for the brunch, I need to get there early enough for their creative take on donuts (and it’s BYOB), Queens Kickshaw is great to eat at anytime but I love the Friday night music series, eclectic and always good. Il Bambino is classic. Olde Prague just opened by the Brewhouse- I’m looking forward to more live local music coming from there.  Gian Pierro bakery is amazing. I just got these sugar donuts filled with cannoli cream. Soriso’s deli makes everything delicious- I always wind up leaving with items I have never had before. Via Trenta is great for dinner too. Antika – the grandma square shaped pizza is unreal. Might be the best pizza I’ve ever had. Ha, I’m making myself hungry.


Current/Upcoming projects?
Audrey DiMola and I launched glitter and doom last month (glitteranddoom.com). We are hoping to have a launch party in a few months with live music and limited editions of G & D in print. I am working with Queens Council on the Arts as their coordinator for the Queens Art Express Block Party on June 22. I’m also photographing their featured artists throughout the process. Come fall, the collective I work with (inbloomcollective.com) are going to have the 2nd Annual Astoria Art Festival.

For more information on Liz, please visit http://glitterunicorn.com/home.html

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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.

Greg Cicchino
Greg Cicchino

TitleOccupation
Managing Director of Variations Theatre Group, Resident Artists of the Chain Theatre and a freelance director.

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
I’ve lived in Astoria (right across from the ORIGINAL Bareburger) for 5 years.

How did you get involved in theater?
My first play was in preschool. I played a bear. I was mad the zookeeper didn’t bring the popcorn to our cage. After that was 6th Grade. I played Dracula. I went to Syracuse University for acting, luckily for everyone I don’t do that anymore, but it is there I stumbled into directing.

What do you love most about Queens?
The variety. You can find anything within a few blocks. Whether its food, or different kinds of people, a busy street with cool stores and bars or a park – it’s all in walking distance.

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?
Astoria Park or Socrates – especially in the summer when the farmers markets are in season.


Current/Upcoming projects?

I will next be directing What’s In A Name, a work that came through our Minor Variations Project at the Chain Theatre, written by Tim Nolan. I am also developing and directing Garbo Dreams, a one-woman show about the life of iconic film star turned recluse, Greta Garbo.

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Nora Vetter
Nora Vetter

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.

Nora Vetter
Nora Vetter

TitleOccupation
Actor/Playwright

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
Astoria – 6 years in June

How did you get involved in theater?
It all started in public school in Kearney, NE. I got the writing bug when I wrote (and co-performed) a puppet show for a talent show in 1st grade and the acting bug when I was cast as the Queen of Spain in a Columbus Day play in second grade. I will never forget the names of Columbus’ ships thanks to that role – “You may have the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.” (My only line.)

What do you love most about Queens?
The first word that popped into my head was “genuine”. I like that Queens isn’t Hipster Central and that it’s the home of the Mets. You don’t love Queens because it’s the cool, trendy thing to do. You love Queens almost because it isn’t the cool, trendy thing to do.

Do you have any “only in Queens” moments you’d like to share?
I was using a Queens-Based Car Service (Olympic) to get to LaGuardia and the driver was asking me about where I was going. Then he told me about his travels and said that I needed to go to Greece. Adding in his endearing Greek accent, “You’ll fall in love.” Alas, I have not been to Greece yet so I’ve yet to see if he’s right. 😉

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

Site (http://sitenyc.com/) – Love, love, love their Queens/Astoria inspired goods!
Soho Cafe & Grill (http://www.sottocafegrill.com/) – I’ve yet to find a better place than here for selection/quality of a “make your own” salad bar.  Astor Room (http://www.astorroom.com/) – The History! The Cocktails! The Brunch!
Greater Astoria Historical Society (http://astorialic.org/) – Worth stopping by to see their small display of artifacts and historic photos (some of which Soho Cafe has copies of on their walls) and then get on their email list as they host lots of great events throughout the year.  For the vistors to Queens I always recommend – Neptune Diner (although sadly some of it’s Neptune-themed charm was lost when they remodeled), Museum of the Moving Image (http://www.movingimage.us/), Bohemian Hall Beer Garden (http://www.bohemianhall.com/en/Index.php), Flushing Meadows Corona Park (http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/fmcp), Queens Museum of Art (http://www.queensmuseum.org/), Astoria Park (http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/AstoriaPark/history) and Gantry Plaza State Park (http://nysparks.com/parks/149/).
And that is merely the tip of the iceberg of things to do and see in Queens…


Current/Upcoming projects?
A one-act I wrote, “The Note” will be a part of the LIC One Act Play Festival at The Secret Theatre, April 18th-21st and may advance to the finals but it will need your audience vote! 🙂  https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pe/9768893

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Mariah MacCarthy

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.

Mariah MacCarthy
Mariah MacCarthy

TitleOccupation
Caps Lock Theatre Producing Director

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
Astoria, for three and a half years (right around the corner from the beer garden).

How did you get involved in theater?
I went to a performing arts school growing up, and I just never got rid of the “bug.” My first role was as Baby Jesus in a Christmas pageant. I don’t remember that.

What do you love most about Queens?
I never get catcalled in Astoria. Like, ever. You can also eat (and drink) REALLY well for way less than you would in Manhattan. My favorite part, though, is probably my neighbor Kiki. She’s exactly the sort of neighbor you want to have when you lock yourself out of your apartment. It seems like she’s always giving stuff away, like wine and filet mignon.

Do you have any “only in Queens” moments you’d like to share?
I guess I hadn’t seen Kiki in a while, but I was hugely pregnant and exiting my apartment and she saw me. She called after me, “Excuse me! Do you have a baby in there?” As though I was smuggling the baby under my shirt, or like I was going to say, “No, I just had a big lunch.” I guess it wasn’t so much a “Queens” moment as a hilarious neighborly moment, but I seem to have only had those hilarious neighborly moments in Queens..

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

Brooklyn Bagel. Pretty much all the food at Sparrow, Sweet Afton, and Sugarfreak. Mosaic is chill, beautiful, generally pretty empty, and has lots of amazing beer and wine (and is literally less than half a block from me). Also, if you’ve never seen a show at the Secret, it’s an AMAZING venue. APAC does awesome work as well. Astoria Park is gorgeous and, if you go all the way to the water, you have an AMAZING view of Manhattan. I’m not really a runner, but Astoria Park makes me want to be one so I can go running there.


Current/Upcoming projects?

I’ve got a play being workshopped at the Players Theatre, called LYSISTRATA RAPE PLAY, in which American women decide to stop having sex with men until rape is eradicated. It’s a black comedy, probably my most ambitious play to date (which is saying something for me), and my cast and director are incredible. The workshop runs April 11-13. $15 tickets are available at https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/920402/prm/ttpLRP.
I’ve also got a couple of amazing projects coming up with Caps Lock Theatre that are on the verge of being officially announced; sign up for the Caps Lock mailing list at capslocktheatre.com to keep up!
Mariah MacCarthy

Playwright

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Rich Ferraioli
Rich Ferraioli

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.

Rich Ferraioli
Rich Ferraioli

TitleOccupation
Artistic Director of Variations Theatre Group

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
Long Island City – Since 2008

How did you get involved in theater?
I began my theatre career at the age of 4 when I played John Wesley in a church play where my shining moment was being carried out a window of a burning building. I knew at that point that theatre was and always would be a passion of mine. I went to college for acting and quickly discovered that I needed to direct instead. I have been directing ever since.

What do you love most about Queens?
I love Queens and especially LIC. Not only is it a city that is about to blow up but is one of the most convenient, eclectic, and energized neighborhoods. It has the hipsterness of Brooklyn with the convenience of Manhattan. I truly believe that LIC/Queens has some of the best restaurants and best residents in the 5 boroughs.

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?
Entertainment – Obviously The Chain
Food – I love Manducatis Rustica on Vernon an Fresco Tortilla on 36th Ave
Bars – LIC Bar will always have a special place in my heart as will The Shannon Pot
Sights – Nothing beats the Gantry at anytime especially before one of these reoccurring Hurricanes…just beautiful.


Current/Upcoming projects?

So many to count….visit www.chaintheatre.org for more information

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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.

Rachel Dart
Rachel Dart

TitleOccupation
Freelance director and occasional playwright

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
I’ve lived in Long Island City since September of 2009.  So, three and a half years.  Math!

How did you get involved in theater?
I went to a high school for artsy weird kids that had a very adventurous theater department.  We did The Laramie Project and The Mystery of Edwin Drood and a weird interpretation of The Wizard of Oz where Glinda was some kind of swami and the Munchkins were baby chickens.  I acted (I played the Jim Norton role in Edwin Drood–OBVIOUS typecasting!) and stage managed and wrote plays and directed and it was all awesome.  Our drama teacher was very encouraging but also made us be professional, which I think held us all in very good stead.

What do you love most about Queens?
You can basically do anything in Queens: you can go to the beach, or go to a movie, or go to a play, or go to a beer garden, or go to a graffiti museum, or go to Costco.  And you never have to leave Queens!  Also, the 7 train is the subway line that feels most like the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride at Disneyland, once it goes above ground.

Do you have any “only in Queens” moments you’d like to share?
My boyfriend and I read the New York Times’ “36 Hours in Queens” and decided that we needed to try the Uzbek food they mentioned.  So we went to Forest Hills one night to a place called Cheburechnaya and had these amazing fried dough empanada-like things filled with potatoes and meat, and huge kebabs on skewers.  I think we were the only non-Uzbek people there.  And the TVs were playing YouTube videos of MMA fighters.

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

There are just so many good restaurants.  In LIC alone we have a bunch of favorites, including Cyclo (Vietnamese), Cafe Enrique (Mexican), Sage General Store (it was on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives!), Manetta’s, Manducati’s (both old-school family-owned Italian), and the Transylvanian Chimney Cake place (seriously, this exists!).  I recently went to Sik Gaek in Sunnyside (amazing Korean food in giant pots, and soju in a carved-out watermelon), and I love SriPraPhai (Thai food) as well.  Try the ribs.


Current/Upcoming projects?
I’m currently rehearsing a show for The 52nd Street Project: it’s a ten-minute play in an evening of one-acts written by ten-year-olds entitled Stand By Me: The Reliable Plays.  The play I’m directing is called Death of a Million, and features an FBI agent and a 9-year-old ghost.  The shows are fabulous and free!  And in April I start work on There’s a Light on Yonder Mountain, a brand new play at Under St. Mark’s produced by aMios (www.amiosnyc.org) and co-written by four amazing playwrights.

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Audrey Dimola
Audrey Dimola

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.

Audrey Dimola
Audrey Dimola

TitleOccupation
Journalist, editor, poet, and arts event curator.

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
I’ve been living in Long Island City and Astoria for my entire life!

Can you tell us a little more about Newtown Literary and the reading series you curate?
Newtown Literary (http://newtownliterary.org/) is Queens’ own literary journal – my fellow writer Tim Fredrick founded it, and I’m just an enthusiastic supporter 😉 The Queens literary community is really pushing forward, and it’s so exciting to me – there are now readings in Astoria, Sunnyside, Jackson Heights, Kew Gardens, and LIC popping up, and both writers and curators are reaching out, becoming so much more aware of each other, what exists here, and what has the potential to exist here. My “Nature of the Muse” reading and live writing events will be every couple of months – they play with the nature of inspiration and what moves us to write. Thus far – the writers I feature read their previously written work but then have to write live from a random prompt written by someone in the audience! It’s been such a fun and outrageous experience – the second edition of the event is on April 4th and you can find out more about it here: http://audreydimola.com/tag/nature-of-the-muse/.

What do you love most about Queens?
I’m a local girl through and through. Queens is in my blood – I love it, am proud of it, and will continue to crusade for arts and culture here for the rest of my life. I love the diversity, the mix of city life and beautiful public spaces, the hidden gems, the diversity of the people, the voices, the neighborhoods. The arts here are incredible! Spoken word, live music, theatre, visual arts of all sorts… And overall – there’s just a different feeling here. That sense of authenticity, “realness,” that many people ascribe to Queens is absolutely true, and I feel that more and more.

Do you have any “only in Queens” moments you’d like to share?
Just being able to have such special, one-off experiences – the first thing that comes to mind happened at Espresso 77 in Jackson Heights. I was interviewing my longtime pal, musician/curator Gus Rodriguez, for a magazine article, and he mentioned the kind of culture-blending experiences that are only possible in Queens. A little while afterwards, during the show he was playing at Espresso – he and his fellow musician, Jonny Meyers, who were playing rootsy rock and roll, spontaneously started jamming with African musicians playing traditional hand drums and a stringed instrument called a kora – they had randomly stopped in from a gig down the street! I was so happy to be there that night – it was just so classically Queens.

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

The Yoga Room in LIC and Astoria is my second home. I always go to LIC’s Socrates Sculpture Park to clear my head and sit by the river. LIC Bar is so classy with its tin ceilings and of course the amazing carriage house with the fireplace out back, and Waltz-Astoria also always feels so cozy and welcoming to creatives of all types. I’ve been going to Sanfords Restaurant on Broadway in Astoria for years, and I truly believe Samaria Pizza (also in Astoria) is made in heaven. Terraza 7 in Jackson Heights is one of my new favorite places – the First Tuesdays reading series (http://jacksonheightspoetryfestival.wordpress.com/) is held there, and not only do they have a “floating” stage on the 2nd floor where incredibly diverse talent can share their words and works – but there’s also hammocks!


Current/Upcoming projects?
Writing and doing readings – always! I’m constantly connecting with creatives, art enthusiasts, local business owners, and anyone passionate about Queens – I love finding out about their passions, spreading the word about what’s going on in the borough, and helping to connect people and promote their efforts. Lately I’ve been working on interviewing Queens creatives for my longtime friend/collaborator Liz and I’s webzine Glitter and Doom (http://glitteranddoom.com/), curating and hosting more local events with fun and unexpected themes, and editing my second book of poetry and prose, “Traversals.” See you all ’round town – say hi!  Check out Audrey’s next reading event.

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Courtney Lauria
Courtney Lauria

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.

Courtney Lauria
Courtney Lauria

Title/Occupation
Playwright

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
I moved to Astoria in February ’07.  For the first five years, I lived with my best friends off of Astoria Park. On New Year’s Day of 2012, I moved with my fiancé to a new apartment off of Steinway.

How did you get involved in theater?
As a kid I had always loved musical theater.

I sang Annie all over the house and demanded a VHS copy of Fiddler on the Roof for an Easter gift. I was a strange little thing. In high school I joined the drama club and loved going on trips to NYC to see shows. As far as writing goes — that didn’t happen until I was in college. I was a theater major, but with every play I acted in, I would get more and more frightened to go on stage.  I took a playwriting class on a whim and fell in love with my professor, Anna Dolan.  We would do a “free write” before each class and I had such a hard time with it. She would constantly wave her hand in my face and say “stop thinking.” To this date, I still do that exercise; it really helps my brain expel the clutter.  In her class I wrote a play called “Someday You’ll Find It,” which got me a summer apprentice position with New York Stage and Film at Vassar.  After that summer it was time to make the move to NYC.

What do you love most about Queens?
Well, first, we have to start with how you get there. I love the N/Q train. I love that I can get a seat.  I love the guy that coaches basketball and asks, “If you don’t have change, at least have a smile.” I love that I am 20 minutes to midtown and 20 minutes to Citi Field.  Astoria is a real neighborhood. It is such a cozy place to live. I love that no matter what time of day it is you can always smell baked bread.

Do you have any “only in Queens” moments you’d like to share?
I used to sit on the roof of my old apartment and watch the Astoria Park 4th of July fireworks and it felt like it was a private show.

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

Love:

Sweet Afton for Deep Fried Pickles

Sugar Freak for EVERYTHING

Monday night summer movies in Astoria Park

Walking along Steinway during Christmas to see all the lights and hear the music 

What was your inspiration for your play Bridges and Boundaries?
I started Bridges and Boundaries years ago when I lived between the RFK (then Tri-boro) and the Hells Gate Bridge. Those homes in that 6 block radius between the 2 bridges, it’s an interesting little niche. It’s a very sweet, safe, and pretty little neighborhood.   I stood outside on my stoop and noticed all of the different ways I could go.  Take the RFK by car; take the Hells Gate by Amtrak; take the short walk to 31st Street and jump the train to Manhattan.  All these different ways to get going and I could see all of them.  It’s a unique place to live — you can actually see every route available to get out of town.  At this same time my father was starting to develop a fear of driving over bridges.  This is a man who grew up in New York — first in Brooklyn and then various places on Long Island before moving down south.  He is a New Yorker. He never had a problem with bridges, and then one day, white knuckled as he drove over some bridge – he declared he is not driving over bridges anymore. It got me thinking, what if you let that fear take over you while you lived somewhere where you had to go over bridges or through tunnels to get anywhere.

Current/Upcoming projects?
I have just become a member of the Queens-based writing group The Propulsion Lab, which is very exciting. Bridges and Boundaries is getting a reading at the Chain Theater in Long Island City on April 1st.