Nonprofit provides green space to underserved communities

Seven years ago, Jamaica resident Alicia White realized that there was green space in her community that wasn’t being used to its fullest potential.

She noticed that Railroad Park was being used as a dumping ground and that a few community members did what they could to keep it clean on their own.

“So one day, when I was on my way home, I asked one of them, ‘Is there a way I can help?’And they told me they would love for someone else to come and help clean up the space,” White said.

“Long story short, I had a volunteer project there that next Saturday, and I came with volunteers to clean it up,” she said. “From there, I was trying to figure out what more I could do.”

After various neighbors and friends saw what White had done for her community, they began to ask her for help with other green spaces with great potential.

By following that calling, White went on to create Project Petals, a nonprofit that devotes itself to creating and maintaining green spaces in New York’s under-resourced and BIPOC communities.

Project Petals has grown from that one project in Queens, to 10 projects across the five boroughs including the Mill Brook Houses Garden in South Bronx, Bergen Street Garden in Crown Heights, and Paradise Garden in Jamaica.

Prominent personal care brand Tom’s of Maine recently awarded Project Petals a $20,000 grant as part of their “Giving For Goodness” program.

“It’s empowering that Tom’s of Maine sees the impact Project Petals and our community of volunteers have at a local level,” White said. “These green spaces we develop provide food, wellness and will be there, benefiting the community for years to come.”

White added that the team has already started utilizing the funds to further expand their initiatives by providing tools, gardening materials, and other resources for programming in each garden.

Sonia Ferraro, a gardener who works the day-to-day at Paradise Community Garden is thankful for White’s efforts to provide environmentally equitable spaces to those underserved — especially during such difficult times.

“Alicia White and Project Petals helped us when we were struggling,” Ferraro said. “I was going to give up and was ready to throw in the towel. No one was giving us tools and resources, then Alicia and Project Petals came, and our garden really got started. Now we are thriving because of their help.”

Paradise Garden in Jamaica serves as a “learning garden,” where people can learn to grow their own food and distribute fresh produce to the community.

The garden also recently held an event where PPE was distributed, including masks, hand sanitizer, and COVID tests, as well as providing a space for mental health and wellness for community members.

White said that she’s happy to see BIPOC communities benefiting from the efforts of Project Petals, given where the organization is based geographically.

“A lot of the communities we work in are food deserts, and that access isn’t there. The gardens also act in a way so people can learn,” White said. “Growing your own food is not a skill that many people in New York City have, which is something that we help with, but I would say the most important feature of the spaces is that we’re creating healthy spaces. Usually, a lot of Black and brown communities in New York City lack green spaces, compared to Manhattan or other zip codes that have more funding. So it’s essential and vital that these spaces are there just for health and wellness purposes as well.”

White encourages representatives from any local green space in need to reach out to [email protected] via email, and for any potential volunteers to log on to Project Petals’ website and sign up.

Queens rallies for safe, legal abortion

Local elected officials, gender justice groups, and other community advocates followed the lead of other protesters across the country when they gathered at the steps of Queens Borough Hall to fight for abortion rights.

Outrage sparked nationwide in response to a leaked Supreme Court draft to overturn Roe v. Wade, which set the precedent to protect a woman’s right to an abortion in the ‘70s.

A Forest Hills resident holds up a sign with a photo of his grandmother, who died as a result of an unsafe abortion.

Merle Hoffman, who founded Choices Women’s Medical Center before Roe v. Wade said that as a result, women’s rights in the United States are in a “state of emergency.”

Hoffman founded Choices Women’s Medical Center in 1971 as one of the country’s first abortion centers.

She said that over the years, she’s been invaded, harassed and received death threats for performing abortions — and that the one thing that kept her going was the women and patients she was able to assist.

“I was only 25 years old, and one day abortion was illegal, a sin, and a crime. The next day, women were lining up to have them in New York,” Hoffman said.

“That first patient, Helen, was my epiphany that led me to this struggle and to understand that this is what I had to spend my life doing,” she continued. “I had my abortion when I was 32 years old — I was married, I had all the support I needed. I just didn’t want to be a mother at that time, and that’s enough. My decision is enough.”

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, who organized the rally, stood in solidarity with women fighting for their rights. He echoed Hoffman’s sentiment that the U.S. cannot go into a post-Roe society.

“I will never truly know what it means or how painful it is to seek or need an abortion. But as a Black man whose ancestors were brought here in chains and deemed three fifths of a person, I want you all to know I stand with you today as an ally,” Richards said. “Abortion is healthcare and a fundamental human right. Queens will not stay silent as Roe is gutted by five right wing justices, in black robes, as if they were the Grim Reaper trying to destroy one of our country’s most sacred rights.”

He emphasized that overturning Roe v. Wade would simply be a ban on safe abortions, and that women would continue to seek them in other ways — many of which are unsafe.

Councilwoman Lynn Schulman shared the story of how in the 1800s, her great grandmother died trying to give herself an abortion.

“We’re going back to the 1800s. We cannot let that happen,” Schulman said. “I’ve gotten messages from people in this district who said they don’t want their taxpayer money used for abortion. They don’t believe in reproductive rights; it is horrible. We have to make sure that we go out and fight, that we go out and vote and organize because our lives depend on it.”

Council Speaker Adrienne Adams speaks to the crowd

She added how proud she is to be a woman on the female majority-led City Council with the first African American woman to be speaker.

Council Speaker Adrienne Adams reiterated that Queens will always support the right to safely access abortion and reproductive healthcare.

“No Supreme Court decision made by a majority of white men who will never understand the pain or heartbreak that goes into making the difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy will ever change that fundamental right,” Adams said.

“Several states have already passed trigger laws that would outlaw abortion if Roe were overturned,” Adams continued. “Those who cannot afford to get access out of state, those who cannot have access to reproductive care in state, poor and low income Americans will be left out, but here in New York we will do what we can to support people coming from outside our state to seek care.”

Members of local gender justice groups South Queens Women’s March and Jahajee Sisters encouraged New Yorkers to continue to fight for safe abortion and support clinics that offer the service.

Joan Hirsch of Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights took donations from attendees that would go to funds for safe abortions.

“We’ve got to show up and join these actions, put our bodies out there, and let this whole nation know that we are not taking this lightly,” Tannuja Rozario, a founding member of South Queens Women’s March, said. “Our liberation as a whole is tied to the liberation from reproductive injustice. If you care about the right to vote, environmental justice, or food justice, all these issues are linked. Reproductive justice should be important to you.”

“We must do everything as a borough, as a city, and as a people to protect decision making power for all,” Felicia Singh, of the Jahajee Sisters, said. “This means taking to the streets and showing up in mass. This means supporting abortion funds from our local independent clincics that will bear the brunt of this work. This means establishing an abortion access fund in New York State, creating a state public fund for abortion care… and a public option for healthcare for all people regardless of immigration status.”

Joan Hirsch, an advocate from Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights, took donations from attendees that would go to funds for safe abortions. The organization is participating in the national week of action for abortion rights, which takes place from May 8-14.

“You cannot capitulate to this. We have to fight this now and get in the streets. Only the people can stop this,” Hirsch said. “Forced motherhood is female slavery. We are fighting for abortion on demand and without apology.”

Queens Theatre presents ‘Forward Festival’

Uplifting the artistry of deaf/disabled performers

From circus to musical theater performances, audiences of Queens Theatre can expect a series of diverse, captivating performances as part of their first-ever Forward Festival of the Arts.

The goal of the festival is to highlight and uplift the artistry of deaf and disabled performers, and will run from May 13 through May 22.

The festival will feature Omnium Circus, Full Radius Dance, composer Molly Joyce, Phamaly Theatre Company’s ‘The Spitfire Grill,’ and The Apothetae/New American Voices Reading Series.

Festival events will include audio description, open captioning, ASL interpretation, and other accessibility services.

Queens Theatre’s executive director Taryn Sacramone said that this festival is an extension of their “Theater for All” initiative, which provides more opportunities for
deaf and disabled individuals.

“In 2016, we gave some consideration to whether we were truly fulfilling our mission of reflecting and celebrating the full diversity of the community we serve,” she said. “Theater for All includes training programs for disabled actors as well as children, plays that were written by disabled playwrights or
feature disabled characters.”

“We are excited to present a festival with such a range of disciplines represented,” she continued. “I know audiences will be thrilled
by these performances.”

Omnium Circus will present “I’Mpossible,” the story of a young boy who dreams of joining the circus.

Rob Lok, a Flushing resident who portrays a clown in the act, said he is proud to be part of an inclusive, diverse, multi-abled, multi- ethnic company.

“When I started in the circus years ago, there was a certain look of what a circus performer is. But beauty comes in different sizes, shapes, and perspectives, and Omnium’s vision is that everyone’s beautiful and can be included,” Lok said.

Lok is Chinese American and was raised very traditionally, but is so glad to serve as an inspiration for other young Asian Americans who are interested in the perform- ing arts.

“Representation matters,” he emphasized. “We see deaf acrobats, disabled hand balancers, as well as dancers and aerialists. We’re just showing what we do; we’re just ordinary people.”

“The live conversation we have with the audience is priceless, which is also part of Omnium’s mission of just being there for people and entertaining them. And that’s the best thing about being a clown, is having that beautiful conversation with our audience from eight to 80 years old. It means so much to us.”

Community discusses Bus Network Redesign

As part of their public outreach efforts, the MTA is holding workshops in each community district — from Astoria to Rockaway — to hear feedback about their Queens Bus Network Redesign Plan.

After an 18-month pause on the project, which was initially developed in 2019, the MTA released the most updated draft.

They said in a presentation that after the recent public outreach has been completed, that feedback will be analyzed and implemented into a proposed final plan.

The goal of the Bus Network Redesign is to modernize the city’s bus network and provide faster, more efficient service to the nearly 800,000 customers who rely on it.

The plan is slated to eliminate a total of 1,685 bus stops, as well as offer 85 routes to the borough.

Residents of Community District 5 — which covers Ridgewood, Glendale, Middle Village and Maspeth, had the opportunity to provide feedback to MTA representatives at last Wednesday’s virtual workshop, and many of them were quite skeptical about the plan.

“The proposed change to the Q39 removing all service in Ridgewood removes access to several colleges not served by the Q67,” one concerned resident said. “Q67 frequency is 30 minutes, which does not improve Q39 service. The only option would be the Q58, which is already overcrowded, and transfer to the Q39 somewhere.”

The proposed Q39 would be extended north to Astoria via 21 Street and Astoria Blvd, replacing Q103 service there, and providing new connections across western Queens.

It would also terminate in Maspeth instead of serving Ridgewood, which would be provided by the potential Q67 bus. It will also no longer operate on a 24-hour timeline.

As part of the plan, the MTA created online profiles for each individual bus route in Queens in order for customers to analyze the proposals in depth.

The profiles suggest alternate connections by bus and train to compensate for any service that was changed or eliminated, as well as average stop spacing, total length, proposed frequency and span, and a map to provide a visual guide for the route’s changes.

Another Ridgewood resident pointed out that a stop on Menahan Street and Fresh Pond Road along the Q58 has been skipped as a result of nearby construction and stressed that it needs to be addressed in the new plan.

The same resident also brought up an error in the MTA’s plan regarding the QM24 and QM25 buses, which say there will be a stop on Fresh Pond Road and Gates Avenue, however, there is currently no bus stop at Gates Avenue.

“I think that was just an error because there is a stop at Fresh Pond and Grove, and that would make perfect sense to keep the bus stop there. But if you remove the bus stop at Bleecker Street and move the Grove stop, it’s such a tremendous difference to be able to walk all the way over to Gates Avenue,” she said.
Lucille Songhai, an MTA representative, said she and other employees will continue to do research regarding the road operations, which will likely be reflected in the final plan.

MTA representative Daniel Randall reminded all attendees that the current plan is merely a draft at this point, and that all feedback, questions, and concerns are welcome.

“All this feedback is very useful,” he said. “You know your communities better than we do.”

Randall added that “the fact that you’re naming economic institutions, schools, and local infrastructure is really helpful because that will inform the next phase of this plan.”

More information about the Queens Bus Network Redesign Plan is available on the MTA’s website for anyone to view. Community members can register for any of the MTA’s virtual bus workshops through June 2 as well.

104 Pct. Council says goodbyes to Len Santoro

Longtime community volunteer and 104th Precinct Community Council president, Len Santoro, led his final meeting at Maranatha Baptist Church in Ridgewood last week.

Santoro, who has lived in Queens for most of his life, served as the council’s president since 2015, and will move to Arizona next week with his wife, Barbara, who will retire.

What seemed to be a routine public meeting quickly turned into a time of expressed gratitude for Santoro from police officers, representatives of local elected officials, and fellow council members.

“Len represents everything the NYPD stands for in a community partnership,” Council Vice President Jon Kablack said. “He took over the council, which at the time of his takeover, had no funding and little participation, but he built it to where we can operate now and help support the command.”

Kablack will finish Santoro’s term as the council’s president until June, when their election will take place.

At the meeting, Deputy Inspector Louron Hall, the 104’s commanding officer, echoed Kablack’s sentiment, and said that Santoro will “always be a part of the NYPD family.”

During his time as president, Santoro spearheaded various community engagement activities, including National Night Out, Halloween trick or treating for neighborhood children, Cop of the Year fundraiser, and command appreciation day.

He also has experience working with other civic organizations, such as Juniper Park Civic Association and American Cancer Society.

To honor his commitment to the community, representatives from Congresswoman Grace Meng, Councilman Robert Holden, District Attorney Melinda Katz, NYS Senator Joseph Addabbo, and Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar presented Santoro with proclamations and citations.

Additionally, the council gifted him an authentic, personalized DOT street sign that says “Len Santoro Boulevard.”
Santoro thanked everyone for their acknowledgements, and assured the group that the council is in good hands.

“John has a great leadership style and a lot of respect among the officers,” he said.

“Any good leader will tell you that they’re good because they have a strong support system. And I’ve always felt supported here by the NYPD, our partners, commanding officers, other board members, and people in the community.”

Hardworking food delivery worker fatally shot

The Forest Hills community mourns the loss of Zhiwen Yan, a food delivery worker at Great Wall Chinese Restaurant, who is remembered by locals for his warm greetings of “Hello, my friend.”

Yan, who lived in Middle Village, was fatally shot on April 30 around 9:30 p.m. while riding his scooter on his way to deliver food at the intersection of 108th St. and 67th Dr. in Forest Hills.

The husband and father of three endured a gunshot wound to the chest which caused him to fall off his scooter.

EMS responded and transported Yan to NYC Health and Hospitals/Elmhurst where he was pronounced dead.

It is uncertain why he was not brought to Long Island Jewish Forest Hills, which is only three blocks away from where he was killed.

At the time of publication, no arrests were made in this case and the investigation remains ongoing.

Zhiwen Yan and his wife on their wedding day.

Police say the current suspect is a 50-year-old customer who previously had issues with the restaurant staff because they once did not give him enough duck sauce.

He allegedly menaced Kai Yang, the restaurant’s owner, with a gun and vandalized his vehicle.

CBS New York reports that Yang gave the description of the customer’s car, a Lexus RX3 SUV, which matches the description of a car seen fleeing the murder scene.

Concerns in Forest Hills continue to rise as this is the second fatal crime to a neighbor that residents have seen in the community in recent weeks, following the murder of Orsolya Gaal.

Local elected officials and residents gathered with Yan’s family outside of their Middle Village home to mourn the community’s loss.

“This is a terrible and horrific tragedy and my heart aches for the victim’s loved ones. This delivery worker was working hard, trying to earn a living to support his family when he was senselessly shot and killed,” Congresswoman Grace Meng said in a statement.

“The incident underscores the need to combat gun violence throughout our city, and I am confident that the perpetrator will be apprehended.

The person responsible must face justice,” she continued. “My office will remain in touch with the 112th Precinct, and I will continue to be there for the family to provide any assistance they need.”

Two GoFundMe fundraisers have been widely shared in support of Yan’s wife and three children — one by a local resident named Frances

Kweller, and another by his wife, Eva Chao. To date, the two digital fundraisers raised a total of over $260,000.
No arrests have been made in this case, and the investigation remains ongoing.

McClancy honors Brother Robert Connolly

Known by many as the cornerstone of Msgr. McClancy Memorial High School, Brother Robert Connolly was honored by the school’s community with the 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Family, friends, students, alumni, faculty, and sponsors gathered at Russo’s On The Bay in Howard Beach to celebrate the 18th Annual President’s Dinner and 50th anniversary reunion for the classes of ‘70, ‘71, and ‘72.

With support from The Cor Jesu Foundation, Msgr. McClancy held the event to raise funds for its Endowment Fund, which goes toward financial aid and capital improvements to the school.

In addition to the Lifetime Achievement Award, ‘79 alumnus Michael DenDekker and ‘71 alumnus John Savin were presented with the 2022 Cor Jesu Awards.

Michael DenDekker and president Nicholas Melito.

After graduating from McClancy, DenDekker went on to work for the Department of Sanitation, responded to the World Trade Center on 9/11, and was elected to the NYS Assembly in 2008, representing the 34th District.

DenDekker is recognized for his contributions to McClancy, including bringing funding to the school, and getting the brand new sidewalks around it installed.

Savin has lived everywhere from Georgia to LA, and has a career focused on the music and audio/video industries.

He is also known for his immense support for McClancy, being he is the self-designated scribe for the class of ‘71, and is involved with the Alumni Development Committee and Annual Appeal Committee.

“I really have to thank McClancy so much because of the education I got, and the things that were instilled in me,” DenDekker said. “I got to learn about responsibility and what it means to be productive, loyal, and honest.”

“I don’t think there’s another school so richly blessed as McClancy,” Savin said. “We are all proud to be Crusaders.”

Brother Robert Connolly and president Nicholas Melito.

McClancy’s president Nicholas Melito presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Brother Robert Connolly, noting that no speech could ever fully cover the way the school community feels toward him.

Connolly began teaching in 1953 and was later assigned to McClancy in 1962.

He served as a teacher, confraternity moderator, and athletic director in his early years there, and eventually became assistant principal, and then principal.

He was also appointed as the schools’ first president in 1997.

A video was put together in his honor by faculty, alumni, and friends of the school, sharing his contributions both big and small.

George Medlin, chairman of their board of directors and class of ‘70 alumnus, said that he originally did not get accepted to McClancy.

His brother’s prison sentence was a challenging time for the family, and as a result, his father arranged for a meeting with Connolly — who ultimately let him attend McClancy.

“Many times during my career, I’ve reflected back on the success that I’ve had and how I can attribute all of that to the one act of kindness from

Brother Robert,” Medlin said. “It meant so much to me.”

The entire room stood and clapped as Connolly accepted his award, and gave a lengthy, sentimental speech.

“We want to make sure that when a student leaves McClancy, they walk out of there confident, that they’ve made the right decisions, and know the way to make more right decisions,” Connolly said.

“So I coined the phrase ‘The school that makes a difference,’ and I’m happy to say that it still is. That’s why all of you are here tonight.”

Queens director films series in local neighborhoods

In an era of online dating, many single people know the highs and lows (but mostly lows) of dating all too well.

Comedian/Actress Brittany Brave (Photo: Arin Sang-urai)

A brand new web series, “The Disastrous Dating Life of Diane Damone,” features actress and comedian Brittany Brave, who brings this relatable concept to life.

 

She portrays Diane Damone, a young woman living in New York who often finds herself unlucky in love.

“The Disastrous Dating Life of Diane Damone” is the brainchild of director Joseph Patrick Conroy, who based the show on his friend Laurie Roma’s true stories about dating.

As an experienced cinematographer, Conroy said he tends to write his stories with a person in mind.

He remembered Brave from a project they worked on together previously, and she was his inspiration — before he even told her what he was working on.

“Brittany got back to me immediately and said ‘I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. This is perfect; this is what my dating life is like,’” Conroy said. “And then we started shooting with a very small crew.”

Conroy at the helm as he directs the cast (Photo: Arin Sang-urai)

As a resident of Middle Village, Conroy said it simply made sense to film a large portion of the series in the local area — including Middle Village, Maspeth, and Astoria.

Residents of these communities might recognize the locations of some of the show’s scenes, including Juniper Valley Park, Grand Avenue in Maspeth, and My Sushi on Eliot Avenue.

“It’s a very Queens centric show, because most of the people who are involved with it are from Queens or live in Queens,” Brave, a Floridian who once lived in Astoria, said.

“We had a lot of local businesses be kind enough, especially in the early stages to donate their spaces to us,” she continued. “If not for free, they gave the space to us for very cheap. And for an indie film crew, that’s so key and pivotal because it really allowed us to get the job done without going bankrupt.”

Brave added that this role is very important to her because Diane’s humor is so similar to her comedy style in real life.

“Diane is an extension of me,” Brave said.

“I really have a lot in common with the character, and a lot of my comedy is based off of dating, sex, dealing with dudes, living in the city, and being Italian and single,” she continued. “It’s been kind of nice to showcase other abilities outside of just what I’m able to do in stand up.”

Although the series just premiered last Friday, April 29, Conroy said that if all goes well, a second season is “on the table.”

For now, you can watch “The Disastrous Dating Life of Diane Damone” on Roku and Tubi.

“I think this show is more relatable than ‘Sex and the City’ where it’s all about money and the fancy parts of Manhattan,” Conroy said.

“This is just about a girl who’s an average, everyday working person who has been in situations that I’m sure even people who are married were in before they got married,” he continued. “I think a lot of people will connect with it, and they’ll definitely laugh.”

Gopee inducted as NYS Supreme Court justice

Becomes first Indo-Caribbean judge to serve on Supreme Court

Family, friends, local elected officials, and other community members gathered at Queens Borough Hall last week to celebrate Karen Gopee’s induction into the Supreme Court of the State of New York’s 11th Judicial District.

Gopee ran for one of the six open seats in the district on Nov. 2, 2021, and won with 11.6 percent of the vote.

Her victory makes history for New York State, as she is the first Indo-Caribbean judge to serve on the Supreme Court.

The Gopees first came to Southeast Queens in 1973 from Trinidad and Tobago, when Judge Gopee was a year old.

Her father, Prakash Gopee, said that their entire family endured many hardships, but worked tirelessly to support themselves.

“From a young age, Karen worked very hard. She went to school, and she never wanted to go out with her friends — she only liked books and studying,” Gopee said. “I am so very proud of her; I cry inside with joy today.”

Gopee went on to earn her bachelor’s degree from Binghamton University, and her J.D. from St. John’s University School of Law in 1997.

Prior to her appointment to the Queens County Criminal Court, Gopee worked for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office and for Red Hook Community Justice Center under Alex Calabrese, Acting Supreme Court Justice.

Calabrese, along with other colleagues of Gopee’s, remarked on her character, contributions to the law field, and achievements.

“She is a natural leader and leads by example. She doesn’t see the accused in court defined solely by the charge, but takes a holistic view of that person who may be a father, mother, caregiver, or friend,” Calabrese said.

“She controls her courtroom not by yelling or cutting off attorneys, but by listening to everyone,” he continued. “Judge Karen Gopee treats people with respect, gives them a voice, listens to them, and makes sure that everyone in the courtroom understands what is happening.”

“Karen is more than just a colleague, she’s someone you can rely on and trust,” said Michelle Johnson, Justice Supreme Court – Criminal Term. “In my capacity as a supervising judge, she was the person who came as a new judge and said ‘I want to build programs for young drug offenders in Queens,’ and she did.”

Gopee also helped form the South Asian and Indo-Caribbean Bar Association of Queens, where she serves as president.

Paying homage to her Indo-Caribbean roots, Gopee invited singer Evana Labban to sing Trinidad’s national anthem, 1 Taal Academy of Tassa for a musical performance, and her former intern, Shivana Subir for a traditional dance number.

“While I grew up and assimilated into the United States, the Caribbean and Trinidad is my heritage. I wanted to bring that here with me today to the individuals here who may not have ever experienced that,” Gopee said.

“Every day, I thank God for the blessings He has bestowed upon me. I am left with a loving and big family, friends, help, a happy home, and a career that is beyond anything that I ever dreamed of as a little girl,” she continued.

“This nomination is life changing for me and my family, and it is equally life changing for my community and for others who look and sound like me.”

Playwright breaks a world record

Bobby Lang, the local playwright, director, and producer behind Nu Imperial Image Productions, recently made history in Queens with his original play, “Allure.”

“Allure” is an off-Broadway play that debuted last Friday at Hunters Point Community Middle School. It is a one-woman show that features 81 characters, surpassing the current Guinness World Record of 65 characters.

Daria Shevchenko, an actress and model from Odesa, Ukraine, is the show’s leading woman, who encapsulates the story of the main character, Brianna.

The audience follows Brianna through different day-to-day interactions, where she encounters a variety of obstacles and difficult circumstances.

“It tells a story of a woman who goes through really challenging moments in life, being supported by friends, family, and all the people that are around her every day. Somehow, these people play a more meaningful role in such a dark time,” Shevchenko said. “This story shows how

Brianna is being accommodated by all the guide people around her, and how sometimes, one word of support can change your day, and even your life.”

Lang, who is Brooklyn-born and Queens-raised, said he was motivated to write this play in order to showcase various themes that are important to his life and artistry.

“I wanted to accomplish something, and I really like to raise the bar sometimes. During a time of women’s empowerment, ‘Allure’ shows the audience the strength of a female along with her story,” Lang said.

He added that the 81 characters was a very deliberate decision, paying tribute to the late Kobe Bryant — who is well respected for scoring 81 points against the Raptors in 2006.

Although Shevchenko earnestly accepted the role for “Allure,” she said that the script was like nothing she had ever seen before as an actress.

While challenging, she said that the overall experience has been quite rewarding.

“I wasn’t sure it would be possible to do,” she said. “But then, as I read it through, I realized that there are so many characters around us every day as we walk through New York City. So why can’t I just bring all those characters to life in the play?”

Being Ukrainian and feeling the devastating effects of the war in her home country, Shevchenko said that the character of Brianna closely resonated with her, which helped her become more connected to the role.

“The war in Ukraine happened while I was already committed to the role, and I realized that I, Daria Shevchenko, am Brianna today because I am going through terrible situations, terrible pain, and loss of relationships,” she said.

“It is a very painful time in my life, and I’m actually so inspired by the kindness of people surrounding me,” she continued, “they kept me going and pushed me to pursue my acting and this performance. I knew that if I fell, they would catch me, so no matter how painful it is, having my friends and family was something I cannot express enough gratitude for.”

Lang said that he hopes to put on a local tour of “Allure,” where it will run in various locations across the city.

He plans to invite the Guinness Book of World Records to an upcoming performance to commemorate the 81-character record breaker.

“I just want audiences to be entertained. There is a message behind ‘Allure,’ which is the strength and empowerment of women, and how a person can be beautiful both inside and outside,” Lang said. “You may be going through tough times, but if you have a support system, you can get through it. But most of all, I want people just to have the very experience of a one-woman play, because it is extremely difficult to do.”

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