City Gate Productions Presents One-Woman Show in Astoria

By Stephanie Meditz

The set for “Crooked Shadows” consists mostly of real items that belonged to Rowe’s grandmother, including her wedding dress.

Actress and playwright Shawneen Rowe will honor her late grandmother Rosa by showing modern audiences the relevance that her story still has in their lives.

She will travel back in time and experience her grandmother’s story firsthand in “Crooked Shadows,” a one-woman show directed by Erin Layton on June 2 to 4 at The Broom Tree Theatre in Astoria.

In the opening scene, Rowe describes her grandmother as “the best book [she’s] ever read” and takes the audience on the journey of her life, including the first influenza pandemic in 1918, WWII and the Great Depression.

I think we sometimes forget that there are individual stories that make up these major events, so [I hope] to kind of put a face on what those experiences were like,” she said in an interview.

She also said that her grandmother’s loss of her father at an early age and her mother’s remarriage to an abusive man were common threads throughout most of her experiences.

There are a lot of bridges and parallels to things that we have all experienced over the past three years,” Layton said in an interview. “Our first pandemic of the century and understanding a little bit more about how domestic violence presents itself, and family dynamics, family structure, generational sin, how all those things are as…relevant today as they were when Rosa was growing up.”

With two daughters of her own, Rowe finds it important to tell women’s stories of abuse.

One prop in “Crooked Shadows” is a radio that belonged to Rowe’s father.

Before her grandmother’s death, she collected recordings of her grandmother telling these stories, thinking she could use them someday.

It was a matter of recording the story, recording the laughter and the joy that I felt or the pain that I felt when she told me the story and sewing it together in a compelling way for the audience,” she said. “And I feel like it’s a project that may never be finished.”

Rowe began writing “Crooked Shadows” before the Covid-19 pandemic, but after living through it, she included more details about the pandemic that her grandmother lived through.

That’s where the conversations really start with audience members. It’s ‘I can see myself reflected there,’” she said. “So I feel like it’s this kind of amoeba of a story that continues to grow with the core of it always focusing on my grandmother.”

Layton, who is a solo performer herself, will make her directorial debut with “Crooked Shadows.”

Having the opportunity to be on the director’s side of the table as opposed to the performer’s side, I not only selfishly see how much I know and understand as a performer and a storyteller, but really have an opportunity to put on an objective lens about storytelling structure,” she said. “I feel very privileged to be in the position of director for Shawneen’s piece…Shawneen is very adaptive. She is herself a seasoned actor. She’s also an excellent writer.”

Crooked Shadows” is also Rowe’s debut with City Gate Productions.

[Layton] has really been a wonderful sort of theater angel to shepherd me through this because I hadn’t had a director before,” she said. “I had performed it all over the place, but I had only been doing it with my own eyes…it doesn’t really work that way when you’re inside the play and you can’t see inside.”

Layton said that audiences are generally drawn to extravagant, flashy productions and often miss out on the powerful storytelling that can come from a single performer.

It’s a gift. We have an opportunity to really engage with this one person and to listen,” she said. “And I think listening is altogether lost in our society, just really leaning in and actively engaging with someone’s story.”

The play’s set consists almost entirely of real memorabilia from Rowe’s grandmother, including her wedding gown, bed linens and all the handkerchiefs that she gave her granddaughter as a child.

During the play, Rowe pulls items and story starters from her grandmother’s “hope chest.”

Throughout the play, Rowe will pull items out of her grandmother’s hope chest.

Things like that can resonate with an energy that adds to the flavor of something,” she said.

Rowe hopes that audiences will leave the show with a “warm, fuzzy feeling,” but also the desire to have conversations about women’s place in society.

Writing the play allowed her to “[generate] conversations as an activist regarding domestic abuse or women not having a voice or all of these things that…we think are so much better, but we seem to be backsliding a little bit.”

Tickets for “Crooked Shadows” are available for $15 at

The June 2 and 3 shows will begin at 8 p.m., and the June 4 show is at 3 p.m.

I loved my grandma so much,” Rowe said. “It’s about her life and how we can look at people’s lives through the lens of our own and what we can learn.”

Arthur Miller’s “The Hook” to make American debut in Red Hook

By Stephanie Meditz

BNW Rep held a staged reading of “The Hook” on the barge at The Waterfront Museum in 2019. Photo by Jody Christopherson.

For the first time, Arthur Miller’s unpublished screenplay “The Hook” will be staged at the same geographic location as the true events on which it is based.

On weekends from June 9 to June 25 at 8 p.m, Brave New World Repertory Theatre will present the screenplay’s American premiere as adapted for the stage by Ron Hutchinson and James Dacre onboard the barge at The Waterfront Museum in Red Hook. The show will also host a preview on June 8.

A Brooklyn Heights resident, Miller penned “The Hook” after he learned the true story of Pete Panto, a longshoreman and activist who worked the docks of Red Hook in the 1930s and was killed by the Mob for fighting corruption in his union.

The titular hook thus refers both to the literal hooks used by longshoremen to hoist crates and goods onto ships and to the neighborhood of Red Hook.

At the beginning of the Red Scare, Columbia Pictures insisted that Miller ascribe corruption on the docks to communism rather than the Mob, and he refused.

“Miller never wanted it to be produced. It languished for seventy years in the archives of the University of Austin, Texas until…an English set designer went to Texas and got the archives,” director and BNW Rep co-founder Claire Beckman said.

When Miller scrapped the screenplay and director Elia Kazan used his idea in the film “On the Waterfront,” they moved it to Hoboken, New Jersey rather than Red Hook, where Pete Panto lived and worked.

“The Hook was Miller’s idea. That really would’ve been stealing his intellectual property because he’s the one who went down to the Hook and did all of the investigation and interviews,” she said. “What I’m trying to do as…the founder of a Brooklyn-based theater company and a Brooklynite myself is right that wrong and bring the story back to the community, literally…where it took place.”

Although there was a strong shipping industry in Hoboken, it was far from the actual docks on which Panto fought corruption.

“He really mobilized men and stood up against this machine, and that happened in Brooklyn,” Beckman said. “Pete Panto was born in Brooklyn, he was the son of immigrants. And it’s important to me, especially because he finally, just recently got a tombstone because his body was in an unmarked grave for many, many years… and he’s sort of being celebrated this year,” Beckman said.

Beckman first read about “The Hook” in Miller’s autobiography, “Timebends.”

She had been waiting for the rights to “A View from the Bridge” until, in 2017, Waterfront Museum captain David Sharps connected her to designer Patrick Connellan, who had just designed the set for the UK production of “The Hook.”

Connellan then connected her to Ron Hutchinson, an Irish playwright and adapter of “The Hook” who was coincidentally moving to Brooklyn.

“We met in Brooklyn and we read the play on the barge in the middle of the winter around a pot bellied stove,” she said. “And I cast the show with actors randomly…just so we could hear it. And it was the first time it had ever been read in America. And on the water, no less.”

The American premiere of “The Hook” will take place in the same location where Pete Panto fought corruption in the 1930s. Photo by Jody Christopherson.

They held a staged reading of “The Hook” in 2019 and were set for a full stage production in 2020 until the COVID-19 pandemic struck, followed by the Omicron variant in 2021.

“This has been a long time coming and we’ve had many, many very devoted supporters waiting patiently for this production, so everybody’s really excited,” Beckman said. “As an industry, theater has been hit really hard by the pandemic.”

The barge at The Waterfront Museum will leave doors open during performances of “The Hook” to ensure a safe, well-ventilated environment.

Beckman has also directed and acted in several Miller plays, including the role of Catherine in “A View from the Bridge” and later Beatrice, protagonist Eddie Carbone’s wife.

“He’s probably my favorite American playwright,” Beckman said. “I’m absolutely in love with his work.”

When she met Miller and he autographed her copy of “A View from the Bridge,” he wrote “I hope you did it good.”

“I feel that I had his blessing, in a way, even though he never lived to find out that I was going to do this American premiere,” she said.

Beckman believes that the Miller estate granted BNW Rep the rights to “The Hook” precisely because the production would take place in Red Hook.

“They know that that would mean a lot to Arthur Miller, who is now gone,” she said.

“The Hook” remained unpublished and unproduced for seventy years.

Now entering its twentieth anniversary season, Brave New World Repertory Theatre’s mission is to make theater more accessible to Brooklyn communities, including actors, writers and audiences.

“It’s very important to me to celebrate both our favorite 20th century Brooklyn playwright and this Brooklyn hero, Pete Panto, who has gone unrecognized for a long time because his story was overshadowed by a story that became about Marlon Brando and Hoboken,” Beckman said.

Beckman said that “The Hook” is the culmination of the twenty years of work in BNW Rep to build a closely knit community of artists with experience working together.

“Part of the mission of our theater company is to examine plays of social justice,” she said. “I have a diverse cast, and I have had to address and figure out how to address issues of race within the context of his play.”

Despite the different social context in which Miller lived and wrote, Beckman considers him a social justice writer of his time.

“I share a kinship with [Miller] I think, because I also am somebody who is driven by a desire to right social wrongs, to address social inequity, to address social justice issues, and to be able to do that in the borough I live in,” she said. “It’s an extreme privilege and a joy.”

Tickets are available for $35 or $18 for students and seniors at

Fort Greene theater group breaks barriers for disabled and neurodiverse performers

By Stephanie Meditz

EPIC Players prepare for opening night of “Into the Woods” during rehearsal.

At a time when Broadway begins to make strides towards accessibility and amplifying diverse voices, EPIC Players is already steps ahead.

From June 8-18, Fort Greene-based neuro-inclusive theater company EPIC Players will perform James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim’s iconic musical, “Into the Woods” in the Mezzanine at A.R.T./New York Theatre in Midtown.

Aubrie Therrien founded EPIC, which stands for “Empower, Perform, Include, Create,” in 2016 when she saw a need for disabled and neurodiverse artists to express themselves onstage.

She worked with her mother, a special education teacher, on plays for students based on their assigned reading and saw them blossom as performers.

Students who had trouble reading and speaking memorized lines and stood up in front of their entire school to perform, and their confidence and skill inspired her to continue working with disabled and neurodiverse individuals.

I think overall at EPIC we presume confidence. We presume, not only that our actors can do what we’re asking them to do and rise to the challenge…but they also can grow. And that, I think, is the No. 1 thing that other companies perhaps don’t do,” she said.

Therrien said that disabled and neurodiverse performers often have to self-advocate instead of being in supportive environments in which their needs are met without question.

They are also commonly infantilized, she added, and the roles written for disabled individuals are stereotypical, inaccurate and typically written by able-bodied, neurotypical writers.

You can’t be what you can’t see,” Therrien said.”Representation is very, very important. Just because you’re born with a disability doesn’t mean that you’re also not born with other things that you like to do, that you’re talented.”

Into the Woods” music director Shane Dittmar’s first role in a musical was FDR in their high school production of “Annie.”

The director put them in a wheelchair so that, as a blind performer, they would not fall off the stage.

The EPIC Players surprised their audience at 54 Below with a number from “Into the Woods.”

After catching the theater bug in high school, Dittmar fell in love with the music side of musicals and began writing music and music directing.

They hold a degree in music education and taught music at the Washington State School for the Blind for four years before moving to Midwood.

Dittmar first heard about EPIC from Sarah “Sair” Kaufman, whom they met on a Zoom pertaining to Roundabout Theatre Company’s virtual Reverb Theatre Arts Festival for disabled theater makers.

We started writing together, and they told me all about working with EPIC and being part of it and sort of invited me to shows,” Dittmar said. “And then once I was here especially, it was a thing where Sair and I worked together as much as we humanly can.”

Since then, the two have made a name for themselves as a duo, “They & Them.”

Their major project is entitled “The Reality Shaper: A Musical Podcast,” an adaptation of several fantasy novels that Kaufman wrote during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NonBinary Song”from the musical received more than fifty thousand likes on Kaufman’s TikTok account, and gained over half a million views across posts.

Kaufman joined EPIC during the pandemic and will play the Witch in “Into the Woods,” which has been three years in the making.

We chose this show because…our actors never get the opportunity to play these classic characters and sing a score like this. Either they’re told they can’t or it’s too difficult…or that there’s no role for them,” Therrien said. “I think our actors really find levels that I didn’t even know existed in this show prior. I understand this show much more than I ever have, doing this production with our company.”

They’re not explicitly written to be able-bodied or neurotypical either. We just assume anyone we don’t know is disabled, isn’t disabled,” Dittmar said. “Part of what’s cool about our production, too, is just allowing ourselves to explore adding that dimension to a thing that was just written by people who weren’t imagining a diversely abled world.”

As music director, Dittmar taught all seventy-one musical numbers in the score to the cast and rearranged harmonies to ensure that cast members sing in a comfortable range.

They did so with the help of assistant music director, EPIC player and fellow Brooklynite, Eric Fegan.

At the performances, they will lead the five-person pit band, play piano and conduct.

I feel like I can achieve in storytelling and musical theater at the level of anybody else,” Dittmar said. “And that has been so good for my self-esteem. And when I got into doing these things…I found a community of people in theater because it was a group of people that I got along with and shared interests with that had nothing to do with my disability.”

I have a visible disability. It’s very obvious. I have a big black dog with a harness that says ‘Guide Dog for the Blind’ or I have a big white stick,” they continued. “It is the first thing most people know about me. And getting to do theater and getting to do art stuff allows it to not be the most interesting thing people could know about me.”

Shane Dittmar plays piano onstage at 54 Below during “EPIC Sings for Autism: Let’s Duet.”

EPIC has formed its own community – it had 20 members when it began in August 2016 and now boasts around 80 members, plus a growing waitlist.

It has also expanded its classes since its founding and now offers over 100 classes to its players.

Earlier this year, it introduced EPIC Jr., a free training program for students ages 12-17 with developmental disabilities.

Now we’re kind of a sought-after resource for casting directors and other production companies who are also interested in…casting authentically and working with the disabled community,” Therrien said.

She also noted that several actors have received jobs in TV, film and on Broadway.

Ethan Homan, who plays the Steward in “Into the Woods,” was recently cast on CBS’ “Blue Bloods.”

My hopes are that every theater is a neurodiverse theater,” Therrien said. “I also hope to see more neurodivergent and disabled artists represented on elevated platforms and start getting awards and validations for their work, which I think is really difficult with some of the obstacles in place to that.”

Tickets for “Into the Woods” are available at and range from $35-$65.

Sunday performances will begin at 2 p.m, while shows from Wednesday to Saturday are at 6:45 p.m.

When you look at something like this, it’s really easy to see it as a human interest thing… and assume what the quality of it is going to be based on who it’s inclusive of and how it’s been designed to represent a community,” Dittmar said. “And if you make that assumption, you’re incredibly wrong. Our cast is legitimately fantastically amazing at their roles…it’s a really high quality production and I think in addition to being inclusive…it’s also just really good. Like, objectively good.”

Craic Fest to host annual spring fest in Astoria

Loah made her NYC debut at Craic Fest four years ago. Pictured with Craic Fest founder and director Terence Mulligan.

By Stephanie Meditz


“Craic,” an Irish slang term meaning a good, fun time, is exactly what Craic Fest brings to each of its events. 

On April 28 at 7 p.m., Craic Fest will host a Craic Session as its annual spring festival at The Wolfhound in Astoria. 

Craic Fest began in 2004 as an extension of Film Fleadh, an organization founded in 1999 by Terence Mulligan to showcase Irish cinema in New York City.

Since then, the festival has been renamed Craic Fest, and it spotlights the best of both Irish music and film. 

Craic Fest has hosted many celebrities over its 22 years of operation, including Liam Neeson, Jim Sheridan and Cillian Murphy. 

Craic Session will be a one-night music festival to spotlight Irish artists, and it is a smaller scale version of the larger festival. 

“The initiative and the agenda for Craic Session is to get people out from Astoria and Long Island City,” Terence Mulligan, Craic Fest founder and director, said in a phone interview. “It’s not just an Irish cultural music fest. We’re reaching out to a diverse audience in Queens, and specifically in the Astoria area.” 

Headlining the Craic Session will be Irish singers Loah and Aoife Scott. 

Loah is an Irish-Sierra Leonean singer-songwriter whose music crosses genre boundaries with a mix of Afro-soul. 

“She’s Irish, but she also crosses over to other music genres because of her act,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons why we chose her…there’s a lot of Irish in Queens. But also it crosses over to people who like world music in general.” 

Loah has toured in the U.S., Ireland, the United Kingdom and Sierra Leone.

Four years ago, she performed to a sold out show at Craic Fest at the Mercury Lounge.

“That’s actually one of the best shows we had, with Loah,” Mulligan said. “People still talk about her set from four years ago.” 

Aoife Scott is an Irish folk singer-songwriter with soulful lyrics. 

She uses her heritage as a form of self-expression, and she often sings about history, political topics and parts of the world she has visited. 

“I sing songs that I think are important stories to tell, as any other folk singer would do,” she said in a Zoom interview.

She also tells stories in between songs to provide context. 

Aoife Scott is an Irish folk singer-songwriter who will perform at the Craic Session.

Since she comes from a family of musicians, Scott was hesitant to write her own music until her early twenties. 

“It took me a long time to get to become a performer and a musician. I kind of had told myself because of the weight of coming from such a musical family, that I was trying not to be in their business anymore at all. I wanted to go and do my own path,” she said. 

She will perform a set at the Craic Session with her partner Andrew Meaney. 

“It’s a bit of craic, a bit of madness,” Scott said. “My main aim is if I can make people laugh, make people cry by the end of my show, then I’ve done my job pretty well.” 

Scott frequently visits New York – last month, she performed a show at the Irish Center in Long Island City, and she visits the U.S. roughly twice a year on tour. 

Last year, she performed nearly 120 tour dates, only ten of which were in Ireland. 

“Performing for me is the main reason why I’m a musician. I love performing, I love telling stories and I love singing songs and connecting with people,” she said. “During COVID…I really realized how much it is part of my identity to be able to be a performer, to be traveling to places and to be sharing Irish stories with everybody else.” 

Scott will release her new album entitled “Selected” next month.

Craic Session was funded by the Cultural Immigrant Initiative and Councilmember Julie Won. 

This is the second year that Craic Fest has received funding from this initiative. 

“[Loah and Aoife Scott] are major headliners. They play at festivals all over the world,” Mulligan said. “We’re in a really fortunate position to showcase these two acts. Normally we wouldn’t be able to do that, because this grant gives us the opportunity to show two world class musical talents.” 

The Craic Session will also include a surprise musical guest as the opening act. 

“The opening act is a solo male performer who has a strong following on Instagram and he’s definitely going to be the next big thing out of Ireland. So people will be treated to an opening act who’s on the way up,” he said.  

The Craic Session is a free event, but it requires RSVPs at

CraicFest will also host an LGBT film fest on June 15 at the New York Irish Center. 


Helping Dreams Come True in Nicaragua

After being sponsored by former SJNY President Sister Elizabeth Hill, Elizabeth Diaz followed her childhood dream of becoming a doctor

By Sam Miller


At 12 years old, Elizabeth Diaz knew that she wanted to be a doctor when she grew up.

Twelve years later, the Nicaraguan woman made her dream a reality — in part due to former St. Joseph’s President S. Elizabeth Hill ’64, CSJ, J.D., who helped sponsor Diaz’s education.

“An infinite thank you to S. Elizabeth for giving me her support during all these years,” said Diaz, 24, of León. “She was a blessing in my life, allowing me to know a new panorama. The level of education she afforded me while I was growing up prompted me to want to be better and set new goals — great goals that today are a reality and that I managed to achieve thanks to her support.”

Diaz is just one of hundreds of students who have been sponsored by members of the St. Joseph’s community since 2010, affording them a better education and more opportunities for a brighter future.

Connecting with Students in Nicaragua

A partnership between St. Joseph’s and the community of Sutiaba, in León, Nicaragua, began taking shape in January 2007, when Thomas Petriano, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Religious Studies, and the former modern languages chair Antoinette Hertel, Ph.D., developed an interdisciplinary course that connected international study with service (one of the University’s five pillars). This became known as the Nicaragua Project.

“The program began with the idea of creating an interdisciplinary service-learning course that would allow students an opportunity to travel to Latin America,” Dr. Petriano said. “Over the years, the program has proved to be as impactful on the lives of our students as it has been for the people of Sutiaba.”

The program worked on smaller projects, such as building and repairing homes, to more sustained commitments, such as providing support for a preschool and children’s scholarship program. The program has been on hold since 2018 due to political unrest and then the pandemic, but there are hopes to return in the future.

“Many of our students who took part in the program have described the experience as transformative for them,” explained Dr. Petriano. “Several returned two and three times, and a number of students chose their career paths based on their experience in Nicaragua.“

Growing a Scholarship in Nicaragua

The scholarship program itself began in 2010, when Dr. Petriano invited Tom Travis, Ph.D. — current special assistant to the president and then-vice president for planning and dean of the School of Professional and Graduate Studies — to join them on a trip to Nicaragua.

“One of the activities on that trip was to take the kids to the movies — a big treat for them,” Dr. Travis said. “We were all assigned a child to monitor, and I met this young girl named Miurett. Later, I met her mother and saw where she lived. I was taken back by a humble domicile with mud floors and no indoor plumbing.

“I wanted to do something to help the child, and decided the best way to do that was by paying her tuition to a private school, the Colegio Santa Lucia (a Catholic primary/secondary school),” he continued. “When I returned to St. Joseph’s, I told some folks about what I was doing, and they wanted to sponsor a child as well.”

Faculty, staff, students and student clubs, alumni, and members of the Board of Trustees have since joined in on sponsoring students.

“We have sponsored scores of students at the Colegio,” Dr. Travis said. “And as the students graduated, we worked with Hope for the Children Foundation, Inc., to support their attendance at universities in León, Nicaragua. At the current time, we are sponsoring 20 students at Santa Lucia and 40 at University.”

Those who would like more information about the sponsorship programs can direct questions to Tom Travis at [email protected]

“The students’ and their parents’ appreciation is probably my biggest reward,” Dr. Travis said. “That, and to see the children progressing in their education from youngsters to young adults graduating from University.”

Becoming a Doctor with Support from St. Joseph’s University

Diaz felt drawn to the medical field from a young age, but growing up in Nicaragua, her family couldn’t afford to provide her with a higher level of education.

“The vocation of service is what led me to choose this career,” said Diaz, who now works as a general physician after graduating from medical school in Nicaragua in December. “Since I was a child, helping others has been important to me, even if the action is minimal. I believe that everyone has a calling, and mine was to be a doctor.”

S. Elizabeth is honored to have been a part of Diaz’s journey to becoming a doctor.

“I am delighted that she has worked so hard and has reached the goal she set for herself many years ago,” S. Elizabeth shared. “I wish her great success in her career and life.”

Diaz expressed her extreme gratitude for the support she received from S. Elizabeth, and to the sponsors from the St. Joseph’s community who are helping make children’s dreams become a reality.

“From the moment I began to receive support, my whole perspective changed,” she said. “New opportunities opened up to help me be able to achieve my proposed objectives, and to be where I am today is thanks to a collective effort. It is something incredible. There are no words to describe the gratitude. Thank you all for opening doors and giving these kids a light of hope, just like you did for me.”

To S. Elizabeth directly, Diaz says: “My mom and I will be forever grateful to you. I hope in some way to repay what you have done for me. I thank God for putting in your heart and that of the other sponsors the desire to support students in Nicaragua. It is a blessing, since whoever receives it has the opportunity to discover new horizons and set new goals. Thanks for believing in me.”

Dr. Diaz with her mother.

Sam Miller is a Content Developer for St. Joseph’s University, New York. All Rights Reserved.

Woodside couple presents play at Queens Theatre

“Eight Tales of Pedro” to open on May 5

“Eight Tales of Pedro” is a thought-provoking testament both to the Latino experience and the immigrant experience.

By Stephanie Meditz


Just in time for Cinco de Mayo, Queens Theatre will present a thought-provoking story about Latino identity and the immigrant experience. 

On May 5, Mark-Eugene Garcia’s award-winning play, “Eight Tales of Pedro,” will begin its run with music by Luis D’Elias. 

The play will feature music by Luis D’Elias, who has been with the play since its inception. 

The cast consists entirely of Latino actors, four of whom were part of the original cast at the play’s 2018 premiere. 

That same year, the play won the UnFringed Festival Best of the Festival Prize. 

Most recently, it won the 2021 Jerry Harrington Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Musical Theatre. 

“Eight Tales of Pedro” includes two settings that ultimately converge: Pedro and his companions traveling to Veracruz in 17th-century Mexico and six scared, uncertain immigrants in a van as they travel from Mexico across the border. 

“The stories are a series of folktales that take a storyteller from one side of Mexico to another in search of his love,” playwright Mark-Eugene Garcia said in a phone interview. 

The play has themes of Latino pride and honor in oneself. 

Garcia has always loved the Latino folktales of Pedro Urdamales and Juan Bobo, and he knew that he wanted to write a play based on them. 

He worried the stories would not be relevant at the time, so they remained on the shelf for years. 

However, the recent uptick in anti-immigration sentiment in the United States inspired him to stage them.

“It’s a very funny play and then it quickly turns into something that is now, and something that is personal and sometimes sad,” he said. “Really, what I want people to do is think and feel.” 

“Eight Tales of Pedro” follows two connected storylines: one from 17th century Mexico and one in the present day.

A California native who never learned Spanish, Garcia often felt like he did not live up to people’s expectations of him.

“I started thinking about how we have this identity as…people of color who are kind of caught between two worlds,” he said. “It was about finding pride, but also about talking about the situation that Latinos in this country face…I’m brown enough for him, the guy who was just judging me on that, but often not for the people in my life.” 

Garcia hopes that “Eight Tales of Pedro” humanizes immigrants for the public and sheds light on the commonalities between people. 

“Sometimes when you look at the news or you look at people’s rhetoric or so on, we hear about numbers…but we don’t think of them as people,” he said. “For me, the important part of this story was looking at people first and then their immigration status or where they’re coming from or where they’re going.” 

Garcia is especially excited to present “Eight Tales of Pedro” in Queens, where he has lived for the past sixteen years. 

“I had no idea what diversity was until I moved to Queens,” he said. “I met people from countries I’d never known about and I learned about cultures I’d never even thought about…Queens Theatre is that center of it all. It’s just a beautiful, beautiful place that centers on humanity and storytelling, and that’s something that I feel my show does.”

The play’s cast consists entirely of Latino actors.

Garcia was thrilled to work on this project with director Rodrigo Ernesto Bolaños, his husband. 

“Something I joke about is that he’s in the business of making my dreams come true, because I put everything down and he’s like, ‘Okay, this is how it’s going to happen,’” he said. “We’ve been really lucky to have this experience with this show. I feel that it’s kind of a love letter to each other and to what we do.” 

Garcia described a scene in which two characters pull a blanket out of a backpack and it becomes a mountain that people climb. 

Although it was a difficult task, Bolaños found a way to bring that scene to life onstage. 

“It’s a really cool moment of magical realism that I can’t think of anyone else being able to pull off other than the two of us,” Garcia said. 

Tickets for “Eight Tales of Pedro” are available for $20 or 4 for $75 with code 4FOR75 at or by calling (718)-760-0064. 

The May 5 performance will include open captions in Spanish, and the May 7 performance will be audio described. 



Pol Position: Jamaica Estates Man Indicted

Indicted! Or as Trump erroneously said it on his social media platform Truth Social, “Indicated.”

After multiple investigations, Donald Trump has become the first U.S. president to become charged with a crime. Last week, a grand jury indicted the 45th president and former Jamaica Estates resident on charges from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office reportedly relating to alleged hush payments to cover up an affair with porn star Stormy Daniels.

On Tuesday April 4, Trump is expected to turn himself in and be arraigned but will most likely be held without bail.

While Trump has been indicted, critics of the 45th president should be wary of the overall usefulness of the charges. If the former president isn’t convicted, the charges will only play to drive out his base both in the primary and general election as it seemingly will fit into Trump’s narrative of political persecution.

Many Trump supporters and political supporters have actually been happy about the indictment, knowing how they will be able to campaign off of the charges heading into the 2024 season.

When the Mueller investigation failed, Trump was bolstered by his supporters and was able to double down on his message of personal political persecution.

Alvin Bragg had a difficult decision in moving forward with the charges. If successful, it will certainly raise his profile to the national stage but if it fails, the case will reek of an over zealous prosecutor.

There are still several other investigations into Trump: ranging from the national level, to the state of Georgia and civil litigation against him in New York State.

Porcelli: The Other Side of Education (4/5)

CTE Shop Class: Now It’s High-Tech

Modern CTE is Amazing

The New York International Auto Show opens this week at the Javits Center. What does a show displaying the latest in wheeled vehicles have to do with Career & Technical Education?

Tour the show with that question in mind, and you’ll understand that CTE is the key to what schools will need to teach future generations of students, to keep all the new gadgets and high technology on the show floor working.

The show’s theme this year is – Be Amazed. By that, I suppose the show’s producers intended that you’ll be really impressed by car makers’ latest automotive engineering and styling. But there is more at the show that you should find not only amazing, but also fascinating and disturbing. As in previous years, the wide variety of colors and styles offered by all the manufacturers is most remarkable.

But the shiny surfaces of those vehicles conceal some of the most advanced technology on earth. Cars today are composed of amazing, space-age materials, interconnected and propelled by highly sophisticated engineering that was not even imagined in the early days of NASA.

How is all this technology-on-wheels related to the mission of this column? Consider this: the vehicles at the show were designed, built, transported, and put on display by people with skills they learned in Career & Technical Education programs that have sadly been defunded and disbanded.

More significantly, as you visit each manufacturer’s display, and listen to their product specialists tout the impressive features of their amazing vehicles, particularly the electric and autonomous models, think about this: Who is going to maintain and repair all this new technology? Where will we find the technicians to keep this amazing new technology working, without new CTE programs?

That’s the question I ask the experts each year at the World Traffic Safety Symposium, taking place at Javits the day before the car show opens. It’s also the reason I teach technicians, advocate for more trade education everywhere – for every trade, and the purpose of this column.

With that in mind, as you tour the car show this year, don’t just look at the cars and the attractive models, also be on the lookout for two things central to this column each week – training and employment opportunities.

Some of the displays will feature classes on new electric vehicles and charging systems. Take advantage of these classes before buying an EV.

There will also be at least one automotive trade school offering training for vehicle technicians. Training that can lead to rewarding, profitable, and amazing careers servicing the vehicles on display.

In addition, several City and State agencies will be recruiting workers needed to maintain their fleets. Car dealers and manufacturers may also be offering employment opportunities in their organizations. More amazing careers can be found there.

Bottom Line: As the slogan says, BE AMAZED – by everything at the show. Then, demand our schools offer more AMAZING CTE PROGRAMS!


CTE is Respectable Again!

Academic & Trade Education are Two Sides of a Coin.

This column explores the impact of CTE programs on students, society, and the economy.

Mike Porcelli: life-long mechanic, adjunct professor, and host of Autolab Radio, is committed to restoring trade education in schools before it’s too late. 

Porcelli: To Be, Or Not To Be – CTE? (3/30)

That’s the major question this column explores each week. How can William Shakespeare help students find the answers they seek?  Several of his characters offer a great deal of wisdom on the subject.

In one of his most famous lines, Hamlet says, “To be, or not to be, that is the Question.”

Consider how Shakespeare can help students answer this question today… To Degree, or not to Degree – That, is today’s question!

Hamlet uttered that famous line while contemplating his future. Many students today, primarily those in secondary schools, struggle to find their ideal educational path to their future. Unfortunately, most still do so without sufficient career guidance from their schools.

We all know numerous friends and relatives who suffer with various degrees of career dissatisfaction, and debt, caused by following the conventional, “college for all” advice.

Each year, countless high school grads enter costly college degree programs that they may not be suited for in terms of their talents, abilities, and timing, causing them to miss out on their best career opportunities.

Another character in Hamlet, offers these fitting words of wisdom to his son, as he departs for university: “This above all: to thine own self be true.”

For students in Shakespeare’s day, or 21st century students to be true to themselves… they must first understand themselves. In other words – understand their own truth. How can they best know what makes them “tick,” what talents and abilities they possess and what career paths those traits lend themselves to?

In Hamlet’s time, there were no career assessment tools. Today’s students have the advantage of the availability of a wide array of sophisticated assessment techniques that can guide them to their ideal careers. Such tools suggest occupational choices based on candidates’ skills, personalities, values, and interests, and offer crucial insights into the type of job that would best suit each individual, and the type of training required.

Regrettably, many schools still do not utilize these methods to properly guide students.

Fortunately, the internet now makes such testing available to all students and their families, and much of it is offered at little or no cost. Students interested in determining what their best educational paths are, should try googling these words: “free career assessment tests.” The search will return over a half million results, in less than half a second. Astounding!

Schools should offer this type of testing at every level. If they don’t, students should seek it themselves.


Follow the recommendation of Career Advisor, William Shakespeare:  To thine own self be true…  when determining whether to – “suffer The Slings and Arrows” of our archaic education system – or chart your own career course when deciding… To Degree – or CTE! Or, best of all, BOTH!

Academic & trade education are two sides of a coin. This column explores the impact of CTE programs on students, society, and the economy.


Mike Porcelli is a life-long mechanic, adjunct professor and host of Autolab Radio. He is committed to restoring trade education in schools before it’s too late.

Sunnyside Mom, Meditation Teacher Publishes First Book

Will Preview Book in Greenpoint

By Stephanie Meditz

[email protected]

As a mom, meditation teacher and life coach, Sunnyside resident Sandrine Marlier hopes to teach children to process complex emotions – a valuable skill for people of all ages.

When it is published on April 4, her debut children’s book “Odette’s Alphabet” will accomplish just that.

The story follows an ant named Odette who wakes up one day feeling stressed, but takes a deep breath and feels better.

Odette then meets a mouse named Marcus, who feels scared. The two talk about their emotions and find ways to feel better.

After a series of mindfulness activities that correspond to each letter of the alphabet, Odette feels calm again.

Odette and Marcus walk each other home, and she returns to her colony to teach the other ants what she has learned.

“Mindfulness is throughout the day, and to me it’s seeing the sacred in the ordinary moment,” Marlier said in a phone interview. “ Just taking a breath, a meaningful, conscious breath, that is mindful. Spending quality time with someone, that’s a moment of mindfulness, because you’re aware of how precious that moment is.”

Odette’s Alphabet includes several breathing and tapping exercises, energy healing techniques and positive affirmations.

While writing “Odette’s Alphabet,” Marlier recalled things that she says to her six-year-old daughter, Emma.

“Kids are funny because they are so much smarter than some people think,” she said. “When it’s said simply, they understand concepts that could seem more complex to grown-ups, because they don’t have preconceptions about it.”

Marlier has been a model for the past 20 years. She first turned to meditation to cope with her own anxiety, and her mood drastically improved after just a few weeks.

She then began training with davidji, a meditation teacher and stress-management expert with nearly 40k subscribers on YouTube.

Shortly after she began training, she started writing “Odette’s Alphabet.”

“I was in a hair and makeup chair one day and there was a little ant walking on the windowsill,” she said. “She was so cute, so I started doodling her,” she said.

Once Marlier finished her meditation teacher training, she drew an ant screaming the letter A to manifest herself in the world.

She showed it to a friend, who asked if she was writing a children’s book with the alphabet. This inspired her to write “Odette’s Alphabet.”

“I had so much fun. I started writing down letters that were all concepts that were important to me and that I wish I had explored with my parents as a guidebook,” she said.

She also had a great time working with illustrator Leonardo Schiavina on illustrations that would catch both children and parents’ eyes.


“Odette’s Alphabet” teaches children how to process their emotions, along with the alphabet.

On April 4 at 6 p.m, Marlier will hold a free book reading event at WORD Bookstore in Greenpoint.

“The goal is to do an introduction of Odette and how it can benefit parents, especially parents who are very busy and might feel like they don’t have time for mindfulness,” she said. “We’re going to do a few mindful exercises so I can show them that in a very few minutes, we can relax and do it with our little one.”

The event will conclude with a Q&A session and book signing.

To RSVP, visit

“Odette’s Alphabet” will be available for purchase at WORD Bookstore on April 4. It is available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and

“Mindfulness teaches you…to deepen your understanding of your inner world as well as your outer world. If we don’t know who we are, we can’t control what’s happening inside of us,” Marlier said. “I think, if we could all learn from a young age how to acknowledge the emotions we have and have the tools to control our reaction to it, we would all get along better.”

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