Ice Theatre of New York brings free performances to NYC students

By Stephanie Meditz

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Ice Theatre of New York’s New Works and Young Artists Series brings free ice dancing performances and lessons to NYC public school students.

Beginning on Feb. 2, Ice Theatre of New York (ITNY) will begin its New Works and Young Artists Series (NWYAS) for the first time in three years. 

The program gives the gift of ice dance to NYC public school students by providing them with free live performances by ITNY professionals and ice skating lessons. 

“Its goal is to introduce underserved public school students to skating on ice,” executive director Jirina Ribbens said. “And beyond just regular skating activity, to give them arts exposure to what we call dancing on ice, which is beautiful, choreographed performances and expressive movement on the ice.” 

ITNY’s mission is to establish ice dancing as an art form rather than a competitive sport or recreational activity. 

It is a repertory company that works with choreographers from both the dance and skating worlds, meaning that a choreographer might set a piece on one performer and reset the same piece on a different performer years later. 

“As a repertory company, you come in and you have to just learn all the different repertory that we are performing that season,” Ribbens said. “So it’s really truly like a dance company.” 

Ice Theatre of New York was the first company in the nation to be recognized as a non-profit dance company and is one of few dance companies that dances on ice. 

NWYAS performances include young apprentices who are close in age to the attending students, so they can see the possibility of their own progression. 

Ribbens said that NWYAS is many students’ first time ice skating. 

Ice Theatre of New York gives many students the opportunity to ice skate for the first time.

“We teach them how to safely fall and then to get up again on the ice,” she said. “The program is really inspiring for the children as well as for our performers because they feel like rock stars when the children respond to their performances, especially the young performers.” 

The New Works and Young Artists Series is open to NYC public schools, mainly Title 1 schools, and students visit their local ice rink as a class during the school day. 

The program will visit Lakeside in Prospect Park and City Ice Pavilion in Long Island City, as well as several rinks in Manhattan. 

ITNY also began virtual programming during the COVID-19 pandemic, which it has continued this year. 

“That reaches the children in the other boroughs or people who are further away from the rink,” Ribbens said. “And not all schools have bussing programs or are able to come to do the live programming. So we reach out to those schools with the virtual program where they get to watch a short video and then we teach them in their classroom how to fall and get up. It’s actually hilarious.” 

Ribbens is grateful that the program is operating in-person again, but during the pandemic, the virtual program was a nice change for students whose classes were strictly online. 

“They got to ask all these questions from the performers and they got to see exciting videos,” she said. “We didn’t know how it was going to be received, but it was very well-received. The teachers loved it because it really gave them a different thing to do with the children during the pandemic.”

By bringing ice dancing to students’ neighborhoods, ITNY hopes to spark their love for it and inspire them to continue skating. 

“We introduce them to their local rinks and then we say, ‘Look, come back, come skate again,’” Ribbens said. “Not only is it an activity that they can do safely outdoors in the winter, but they can also learn about all the different jobs that are at the rink, from ticket taker to zamboni driver, which is usually everybody’s favorite.”
In addition to the New Works and Young Artists Series, ITNY offers weekly classes at Bryant Park and Sky Rink during the season. 

It also holds several concerts to engage the community, including one at Bryant Park on Feb. 21 during Kids’ Week that spotlights young performers. 

“We cater the programming to the audiences that are coming, but they’re all free,” Ribbens said. “We try to reach as many audiences as possible. We’ve even done programming at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. They have a small synthetic ice surface.” 

To learn more about ITNY’s programming, visit https://www.icetheatre.org, e-mail [email protected] or call (212)-929-5811.

Museum of Broadway comes to Times Square

By Stephanie Meditz

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“Rent” memorabilia included costumes for Angel Dumott Schunard, Roger Davis and Mimi Marquez.

After Broadway’s longest-ever hiatus for the COVID-19 pandemic, the Museum of Broadway permanently opened its curtains on Nov. 15 to remind NYC of the joy of live theater. 

Located in Times Square in the midst of the landmark theaters it features, the Museum of Broadway allows visitors to explore a visual, interactive timeline of Broadway that spans three floors. 

The Museum was founded by Julie Boardman and Diane Nicoletti, and it traces the origins of live theater in NYC, along with iconic productions’ historical contexts and influences on both later shows and society at large. 

The first room is a hall of Playbills that features all currently running Broadway shows, followed by a brief film tracing the history of Broadway. 

It features props from some of the earliest performances in the 18th and 19th centuries, followed by Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.’s infamous “Follies” that solidified the revue as the defining style of the early 20th century. 

Classic Broadway shows with recent revivals such as “Oklahoma!”and “West Side Story” also originated in the 20th century. 

“Oklahoma!”, a collaboration by the iconic duo of Queens composer Richard Rodgers and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II, opened on Broadway in the midst of World War II and became a household name because of the escape from reality it allowed audiences. 

Other landmark Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals include “The Sound of Music,” “Carousel,” “The King and I” and “Show Boat.” Like each show-specific room in the Museum, the “Oklahoma!” exhibit captures the show’s essence and Wild West aesthetic with rows of corn across the floor. 

The “West Side Story” room resembles an Upper West Side store in the ‘50s, complete with a “dance along” screen featuring Jerome Robbins’ choreography to the iconic tracks “America” and “Cool.” 

The room dedicated to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” features a costume worn by Michael Crawford, who originated the titular role. 

Broadway’s longest-running musical, “The Phantom of the Opera opened on Broadway in 1988 and will close on April 16 of this year.

The show boasts a whopping 13,907 Broadway performances, which the Museum commemorates with a crystal to represent each one. 

From a certain angle, the crystals form the shape of the Phantom’s signature mask. 

The Museum designates one crystal for each performance of “The Phantom of the Opera,” and the crystals form the shape of the Phantom’s mask.

Other iconic artifacts include the glittery red dress worn by Ozone Park native Bernadette Peters in the 2017 revival of “Hello, Dolly!” and the matching headpiece worn by Peters, Bette Midler and Donna Murphy. 

Among the artifacts in the museum is the iconic dress and headpiece worn by Ozone Park’s Bernadette Peters in the 2017 revival of “Hello, Dolly!”

In addition to the glitz and glamor of Broadway sets and costumes, the museum does not shy away from the tragedies in Broadway’s history. 

The AIDS epidemic in the ‘80s and early ‘90s had a drastic impact on copious Broadway actors, many of whom died from the disease. 

The museum honors the lives lost with their names on the walls in a room dedicated to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BCEFA), an organization dedicated to providing medical assistance to individuals affected by HIV/AIDS.

Courtesy of BCEFA, it displays the AIDS memorial quilt, a symbol of unity despite differences that bears renowned Broadway productions’ titles or identifying symbols, including “Company” and “Cats.”

The Museum provides ample unique photo ops, including a ‘70s-inspired swing as a nod to “Hair” and an Instagram filter inspired by Disney’s “The Lion King.”

In this same spirit of modernity, current or recently closed productions like “Hamilton” and “Dear Evan Hansen” receive recognition with memorabilia in the Museum. 

The polo shirt and cast worn by Sam Primack during the final performance of “Dear Evan Hansen” keep the show and its message alive, reminding visitors that they are not alone. 

With music by Cyndi Lauper, who grew up in Ozone Park and attended Richmond Hill High School, “Kinky Boots” brought love, acceptance and self-expression to Broadway for six years until its closure in 2019. 

The famous boots from “Kinky Boots.”

However, Lola’s glittery red thigh-high boots live on in the Museum. 

The Museum also displays boots worn by Lin-Manuel Miranda in the titular role of his hip-hop Broadway sensation “Hamilton,” as well as Eliza Schuyler’s trademark blue dress. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” tells the story of America’s founding with a diverse cast to represent America’s population.

Although it opened in 2015, “Hamilton” still makes theater buffs long to be in the room where it happens at the Richard Rodgers Theatre because of its interpretation of America’s past through the lens of the present. 

At the 70th Tony Awards in 2016, the show won 11 out of its 16 nominations. 

Miranda won Best Original Score, and Best Lead Actor in a Musical went to Queens native Leslie Odom Jr. for his portrayal of Aaron Burr. 

In addition to onstage action, the museum dedicates an entire floor to the often overlooked superheroes of Broadway, namely stagehands, producers, general managers, agents, makeup artists, costume designers and many others. 

With its dim lighting and real equipment, this floor simulates the feeling of being backstage at a real show.

Designed by David Rockwell and presented by https://www.broadway.com,  it details the roles of the many people besides actors who bring a show to the stage. 

The Museum also reserves space for rotating special exhibits, which is currently occupied by curator David Leopold’s “The American Theatre as seen by Hirschfeld.”

Broadway veterans such as Anthony Rapp, the original Mark Cohen in “Rent,” and Andrea McArdle, who originated the titular role in “Annie,” have recently visited the Museum. 

Tickets are available from $39 at https://www.themuseumofbroadway.com/tickets#/

The Museum will donate a portion of each ticket sale to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Maggie’s Little Theater to open Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’

By Stephanie Meditz

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Rehearsals for The Mousetrap began in November and took place both in-person and on Zoom.

On Feb. 11, Maggie’s Little Theater in Middle Village will open the curtains on its production of Agatha Christie’s 1952 murder mystery, “The Mousetrap.”

The whodunit follows Mollie and Giles as they open their guest house for the first time, only to find themselves snowed in with a murderer. 

Producer and founding member of Maggie’s Little Theater, Dolores Voyer, said that several of the show’s rehearsals took place on Zoom to protect the cast from COVID-19.

“We rehearsed in person most of the time, but when we started this show, our director [Thom Harmon] suggested…to have certain rehearsals not in person. Things that don’t need to be in person, individual work between the director and an actor…don’t need to be on the stage,” she said. “We wanted to keep everybody as safe as possible…when we’re in the theater on the stage, the actors are free to and often do wear masks.” 

This past summer, Maggie’s Little Theater put on a production of “Kiss Me, Kate,” its first performance since before the pandemic. 

Last summer, Maggie’s Little Theater put on its first performance since before the pandemic, Kiss Me, Kate.

“I didn’t realize during the pandemic how much I missed it until we started again, and I think that a lot of people feel that way,” Voyer said. “We kind of got used to being in our own little bubbles, and now that we’re able to safely come out and enjoy live theater again, it’s such a great feeling to be able to collaborate with people and to bring something to the audience.” 

Voyer is especially grateful for the cast of The Mousetrap and their motivation to produce quality work for the audience. 

“This cast is wonderful. We are really lucky to have a couple of longtime veterans of community theater in Queens as well as several people who are new to Maggie’s Little Theater…they’re very dedicated, they’re very interested in the process,” Voyer said. “The amount of chemistry between the actors has really developed so nicely.” 

Cast members who are recurring Maggie’s Little Theater actors include Bernard Bosio, Sarah Nowik and Mark York.

Although Maggie’s Little Theater typically produces more musicals than straight plays, it is primarily interested in producing shows that the audience would like to see. 

Maggie’s Little Theater’s production of Kiss Me, Kate was directed by Bill Logan and choreographed by Amanda Montoni.

“We’ve done some straight plays that are well known, some that are a little less well known,” Voyer said. “This one is kind of both well known and not, because it’s Agatha Christie but it’s a show that’s never been produced on Broadway.”

The Mousetrap has been running in London for 70 years, but it has not seen a Broadway stage in that time per Agatha Christie’s wish. 

The show’s original contract states that it could not move to Broadway or be produced as a movie until it closed in London, and it has not closed. 

“It debuted in 1952, and Agatha Christie herself thought it wouldn’t run more than a few months, but except for the pandemic, it has run continuously from 1952 until now,” Voyer said. 

Performance dates for The Mousetrap are Feb. 11, 17 and 18 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 12 and 19 at 2:30 p.m. 

Tickets are available at https://www.maggieslittletheater.org and are $20 for adults and $18 for children 11 and under and seniors over 65.

Woodside comedian brings Japanese culture to NYC

Kilara Sen, the “Pink Unicorn” of comedy

By Stephanie Meditz

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Sen is grateful to do standup comedy in NYC, where audiences accept and relate to her unique personality.

Originally from Tokyo, Japan, Kilara Sen always knew it was her destiny to move to New York City.

Sen is a bilingual, feminist comedian whose humor deals with mental health, diversity and critiques of gender roles.

Sen was inspired to pursue comedy when she saw Chris Rock perform at Essence Music Festival in New Orleans as a Theatre Arts student at Hampton University.

She was shocked by the difference between American and Japanese comedy.

“He totally killed it,” Sen said. “It was a music festival, but he didn’t use any music. He just talked for an hour and he nailed the night, so I was really impressed…I thought to myself, ‘I’m gonna do this when my English is good enough.’”

Kilara Sen poses as Rosie the Riveter for Women’s History Month. Photo via @kilaracomedy on Instagram.

Sen started a career in Japanese comedy upon returning home, but never truly felt like she belonged in the industry.

“Standup comedy in Japan is nothing. Nobody knows about it,” Sen said. “Especially as a woman bringing her opinion and sometimes telling jokes criticizing politicians…people didn’t like it at all.”

As a survivor of childhood abuse and mental illness, Sen was inspired by comedians like Tiffany Haddish and Hannah Gadsby to incorporate her trauma into comedy.

“Japanese women are usually recognized as good wives, both in and out of Japan,” she said. “I really want to represent a new image of Japanese women.”

To achieve this goal, Sen refers to herself as a “Pink Unicorn” and calls her fans Unicorns.

“I used to blame myself for a long time because I was different, but now I feel my uniqueness is my value,” Sen said. “I love my uniqueness, and I think that everyone has their own uniqueness.”

Sen uses pink, a traditionally feminine color, to reject sexist stereotypes about women.

“From Japan…there is kind of a social system to make all women be a good wife. I have a lot of experiences of that kind of sexual harassment too,” they said. “I want to deliver the message to everybody: don’t live as somebody’s wife or somebody’s something. Just be yourself.”

Sen visited New York before the pandemic, but officially moved to Woodside in June 2022.

Kilara Sen performs at open mics and comedy shows all over Queens.

They performed at various open mics and comedy shows in Queens, and loved to see Queens’ younger crowd of comedians perform.

Sen has performed at The City University of New York, where students were intrigued by Japanese comedy and culture.

“For those audiences, I do jokes introducing and making fun of Japanese culture,” she said. “It’s more based on my experience.”

Before moving to the U.S., Sen made various TV appearances, including Asia’s Got Talent, Paul Hollywood’s Food Adventure and Henry Golding’s Welcome to the Railworld.

All of her TV credits were facilitated by her social media presence — she got invited to perform on Asia’s Got Talent after her YouTube video went viral.

“[Social media] has brought me a really great network with a lot of talented young performing artists all over Asia,” they said. “Usually, in the Japanese TV industry, managers always bring auditions or TV show offers. In my case…I was really looking for some opportunities outside of Japan but I didn’t know how. I was very lucky to get those offers from my social media directly.”

“In Japanese media, women really cannot be so loud, but I’m basically very loud and hyperactive…and have a very tomboyish personality,” she continued. “People all over the world outside Japan found me and they like who I am. It’s a really great place to connect people who speak the same language.”

A key illustration of Sen’s goal with her comedy is kintsugi, a Japanese traditional art of fixing broken pottery with gold.

“As a survivor…the message is not to give up, even if you fall,” she said. “Scars can be your gold sometimes.”

To see Sen’s comedy in action and learn about her upcoming shows, follow their Instagram, @kilaracomedy and subscribe to her YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/@Kilaracomedy.

Queens College professor premieres “Action Songs/Protest Dances”

Telling stories of racial injustice through dance

By Stephanie Meditz

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After a two-year creative process conducted via Zoom, Kupferberg Center for the Arts will host the world premiere of Edisa Weeks’ “Action Songs/Protest Dances.”

“Action Songs/Protest Dances” is a live performance that combines original music by Martha Redbone, Spirit McIntyre and Taina Asili with modern dance to tell stories of past and present racial injustice in America.

Three songs incorporate Queens College Professor Edisa Weeks’ research on civil rights activist James Forman, especially his book, “The Making of Black Revolutionaries.”

Edisa Weeks is a Brooklyn-based choreographer, educator and director of DELIRIOUS Dance

The Queens College Rosenthal Library is home to an archive of Forman’s personal documents, including his FBI files, collection of political pamphlets and original drafts of his books.

Weeks was interested in researching Forman’s archive because of his critique of capitalism as an exploitative system.

“As a choreographer, I really believe in a researched performance process where it’s looking at history, looking at what has gone before and to bring it forward into the present. And so, for me, it’s been really satisfying to be able to do that with this project,” she said.

“What are things that James Forman cared about and how many of those issues like reparations are we still needing to address in America? And what are things that we actually have achieved?” she continued. “For me, as a Black woman, it would’ve been impossible for me to teach at Queens College 60 years ago, but now that’s something that’s actually possible because of the work and efforts that people like James Forman did.”

The other two songs reflect current social justice issues and were inspired by the chain of racial hate crimes in 2020, including the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

“I kept on wondering what is a way that I, as a choreographer, can lend a voice to a lot of the ferment or protest that was happening,” Weeks said. “Or just for America to be a just and truly great nation.”

Weeks’ choreography is inspired by African dances from her childhood and modern dance that she has studied.

The creative process paired each of the three composers with two dancers, and each group drew parallels between current social issues and relevant topics in James Forman’s archive.

Taina Asili wrote a song related to the idea in Forman’s “Black Manifesto” of financial reparations for direct descendants of enslaved people.

Composer Taina Asili wrote a song about financial reparations for descendants of enslaved people.

The song and accompanying choreography both incorporate Afro-Caribbean elements.

“Each song is unique to the dancer and also to the message of the song,” Weeks said.

This project began at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, so Weeks worked with the dancers and composers via Zoom until this September.

“I’ve had a month to work with the dancers and to choreograph, so it’s been a little intense and stressful,” she said. “However, also incredibly generative. I think, partially because we were in such a long gestation period, the dancers really are invested in the songs and the songs are coming from them.”

Weeks hopes that the performance will expose a new generation to James Forman’s ideas and motivate people to strive for justice in their communities.

“I’m hoping people can…experience a work that engages song and lyrics and dance and be inspired,” she said.

“Action Songs/Protest Dances” is the inaugural work of the Kupferberg Arts Incubator, an initiative that began in 2020 to give professional artists who teach at Queens College a two-year residency.

“Without the immediate prospect of resuming live events, we decided that we wanted to devote significant resources and energy toward the development of new work, which obviously takes time,” Jon Yanofsky, Kupferberg Center for the Arts director, said.

KCA’s mission is to provide accessible cultural entertainment for both the Queens College community and the entire borough.

The Kupferberg Arts Incubator is geared toward artists of color, artists who live and work in communities of color and artists whose work addresses social inequities.

“We picked Edisa Weeks, a choreographer and professor that Kupferberg had the opportunity to work with on multiple occasions. She led the dance program at Queens College, and we were just all so impressed with the way she connected with students,” Yanofsky said. “She soundly met that criteria.”

“Edisa just has such a unique dynamic point of view and she pulls people along by the strength of her conviction, just her incredibly ebullient spirit and this collaborative nature that is truly authentic,” he continued. “It was really wonderful and refreshing to see the hard work that true collaboration requires…The piece is a composite of all the people involved.”

The Kupferberg Arts Incubator’s next iteration will be in 2024 with Queens College professor Chloe Bass.

Action Songs/Protest Dances will premiere at Kupferberg Center for the Arts on Saturday, Nov. 12 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 13 at 3 p.m.

Tickets are available for $20.

After each performance, audience members are invited to participate in a discussion with Weeks and the rest of the creative team.

Vinyl Revolution Record Show returns to Astoria

By Stephanie Meditz

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Vinyl Revolution Record Show invites over 50 record vendors to set up shop in one venue. Photo via their website.

On Saturday, Nov. 12 and Sunday, Nov. 13 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Vinyl Revolution Record Show will return to the Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden in Astoria for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Father-daughter duo Mike and Amanda Schutzman started hosting record shows 10 years ago at the Brooklyn Bowl. 

Mike Schutzman initially ran the show with the manager of his record store in Valley Stream. 

Amanda Schutzman has always been involved in the show, but she now works in records full-time and co-organizes it with her father. 

“Now I work for a large vinyl distributor that deals with record stores all over America for new releases and reissues and stuff like that. So I deal with 200 record stores every day,” she said. “So I was just like, hey, I’ll take over. I know enough of the business at this point.” 

Since it began, Vinyl Revolution Record Show has hosted several shows a year in Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island. 

“I think it just got bigger than we expected it to get, and we just kept doing them,” Schutzman said. 

The show invites roughly 50 record dealers, personal collectors and record store owners from all over the country to set up shop in the same venue. 

Vendors sell a range of merchandise, including vinyl records, CDs, 45 RPM records and record supplies like sleeves, boxes and collector bags. 

Steve Lobmeier of Steve’s Record Cleaning cleans records that attendees buy or bring to the show for $1.50 per LP. 

At a whopping 80 tables, the most recent show was the largest one yet, and the Astoria show will be the first two-day show. 

“It’s basically just a giant flea, but it’s all records,” Schutzman said. 

Mike Schutzman, an avid record collector, often sets up shop at record shows around the country, including Vinyl Revolution. 

He passed his love for vinyl and music onto his daughter, who is also a collector. 

“I was raised in a record store, so I’ve always been into music. I didn’t start collecting myself until about 10 years ago, maybe even more than that,” Amanda Schutzman said. “And I’m addicted like the rest of them.” 

She is grateful to work with her father and share this hobby with him. 

“We have all the same hang-ups and we’re constantly back and forth on the phone making sure everything’s planned properly, but we have a great time working together,” she said. “We’ve never really butt heads or anything like that. He seems to really know what he’s doing, so I fall in line and listen.” 

The Astoria show will also feature special guests DJ Shangri-La, DJ Nina Day and DJ Spag of punk band Two Man Advantage. 

DJ Shangri-La and DJ Nina Day will play music at both Astoria shows.

Tickets are available on their website for $5. With the price of admission comes a ticket for the raffles called every half hour. 

Early admission is also available from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. for $10. 

“It’s just nice to have the Queens, Brooklyn, New York City crowd come back to the shows because we haven’t done them in a while,” Schutzman said. “The atmosphere is the most exciting at Astoria.”

Contemporary classical music comes to Ridgewood with ‘Laminaria’

By Stephanie Meditz

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Laminaria combines evocative contemporary classical music with costumes and other visual elements.

With Halloween around the corner, Ridgewood’s live music scene shifts towards dark themes reminiscent of the horror genre.

This Saturday, Oct. 15 at 8 p.m., Concetta Abbate and her 10-piece chamber orchestra will perform her folk-horror epic, “Laminaria,” at Footlight Underground at the Windjammer.

Through music and vocals, Laminaria tells the story of an underwater sea witch who emerges to the surface and ascends to the sky in death, only to be pulled back into the ocean.

The musical arrangement depicts the plot with its contrast between low, ominous notes and whimsical, borderline comedic elements.

“I always have a hard time explaining my genre,” Abbate said. “I think our ensemble is just covering all ends of the spectrum, music-wise. There are moments that sound a little more like a traditional cinematic orchestral score, and then there are parts of it that sound like you’re at a free improvisation show, and then there are parts of it like you’re listening to a rock band.”

Abbate, a classical violinist and vocalist, will be accompanied by an orchestra consisting of woodwind, string, brass and percussion sections.

The ten piece chamber orchestra consists of woodwind, string, brass and percussion sections.

Laminaria’s vocals and simplistic lyrics were inspired by medieval Gregorian chants and closely resemble incantations.

The orchestra also includes an array of homemade instruments played by Skip La Plante that create haunting sound effects without the use of technology.

“It’s really dipping into a lot of musical worlds and soundscapes,” Abbate said. “I think that’s what makes it so exciting because it’s really unexpected.”

Laminaria will be accompanied by modern dancers from Wendy Osserman Dance Company in Manhattan later this month. Photo by Alice Teeple.

The word laminaria means “kelp” in Latin, which is used to induce labor.

Kelp is also notorious for the destruction of boats and is known in New Zealand’s folklore as “the devil’s apron,” which is the title of Laminaria’s first movement.

“For me, this sea witch is trying to emerge and is kind of stuck in this crux between living and not living,” Abbate said. “I think there are also more tangible messages in the piece about access to healthcare and our mental health systems being so broken. So I think that this metaphor of this substance that is used to induce a change in life, whether it be birth or death, really encapsulated a lot of the message of the piece.”

Abbate was inspired to compose Laminaria during the COVID-19 pandemic when she watched many horror movies in quarantine.

“I started to question why I was so interested in horror movies and I realized that it’s a cathartic way to process traumatic events,” she said. “ And a lot of the time, the monster in the movie represents the trauma in itself, and it’s the physical embodiment of whatever real, terrifying thing is happening in your life.”

Abbate drew upon her own experiences of witnessing loved ones struggle with mental health issues and the healthcare system’s inability to help them.

“It literally looked like demon possession to me because when you’re a child, you don’t know the medical terminology for things,” she said. “And so I wanted to, in this piece, explore that childlike understanding.”

“I think the piece can be taken on many levels,” she continued. “You can come in and watch it and it could just be this silly, fun horror thing. Or if you wanted to seek out the deeper, cathartic meaning in it, if that feels relevant to the audience, I think that that part of it is also there.”

A native New Yorker, Abbate holds a master’s degree in music education from Columbia University.

She grew up on Long Island and has lived in multiple boroughs, but she now resides in Glendale.

“[The Windjammer] is just such a great local spot to get people in the neighborhood to know about the work,” she said. “I think it’ll be really fun at Windjammer.”

Tickets are available on a sliding scale starting at $10 at https://withfriends.co/event/15003568/laminaria or $12 at the door on the night of the performance.

After Laminaria’s Oct. 15 performance at the Windjammer, Abbate will perform the piece on Oct. 21 and 22 at Theater For The New City in Manhattan, accompanied by a modern dance routine choreographed by Wendy Osserman.

“When we did the first show, people were crying at the end of it. It’s a very moving experience to come and see this piece.”

Arts Gowanus hosts 26th annual Gowanus Open Studios

By Stephanie Meditz

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Natale Adgnot’s unique sculptures protrude from her studio walls.

This weekend, Gowanus artists will open their studio doors to the public, art connoisseurs and curious minds alike.

Arts Gowanus will host its 26th annual Gowanus Open Studios on Oct. 15 and 16 from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., where artists in the community will allow their neighbors to see them in their creative element.

The first GOS took place 27 years ago when a small group of artists opened their workspaces to the public.

Johnny Thornton, Councilwoman Shahana Hanif and MarktheArtisan attended GOS in 2021.

This year, more than 350 artists in 100 locations will participate in the event.

“It started out very small and over the years it has just become, I think, Brooklyn’s biggest art celebration,” Johnny Thornton, executive director of Arts Gowanus, said. “It grows a little bit each year. More artists and more people hear about Gowanus and hear about all the amazing creative stuff that’s happening here.”

Fortunately for Brooklyn’s many bikers and pedestrians, GOS is navigable for people traveling on foot.

There are multiple studios that are walking distance from several subway stations, and some artists even have studios in the same building.

As a result of the event’s increased popularity over the years, artists look forward to participating every year and sharing their work.

“This drives itself a little bit,” Thornton said. “This is the best time of year for artists to make sales, to meet curators. A lot of art insiders come here to scope out new artists in the neighborhood. So this is really something that artists are excited about year-round…It can’t come soon enough.”

Gowanus Open Studios includes designated studio spaces for artists who have been displaced from the neighborhood.

“Rents have been going up in the neighborhood for a while. We’ve lost a couple of large studio buildings over the last decade. And so we make our best efforts to be able to include artists who either can’t afford a studio in the neighborhood or have lost their studio,” Thornton said.

These artists will have the opportunity to exhibit their work at 82 St. Marks Place, the Gowanus Dredgers Boathouse and 540 President St., the Arts Gowanus office.

Gowanus Open Studios reflects the neighborhood’s diverse range of artists, including jewelry makers, painters, printers, muralists, photographers, video artists and sculptors.

Natale Adgnot, a wall sculptor in the community, attended her first GOS in 2014.

Her work consists of acrylic and thermoplastic mounted on birch panels in a three dimensional effect.

She is currently working on a series entitled “Bird Brains” in which each piece represents a bird referenced in common English idioms.

Natale Adgnot poses with one of her favorite pieces from her Bird Brains series, “Appeal to Vanity (Peacock Square)” (2022).

Each idiom is then connected to a cognitive bias or logical fallacy.

“There are so many expressions in the English language that sort of borrow a bird, and the bird stands in as a metaphor for some irrational behavior or belief that humans hold,” Adgnot said. “We humans are kind of bird brains for believing these things.”

Adgnot will showcase parts of Bird Brains at GOS this weekend at TI Art Studio #5 on the third floor at 183 Lorraine St.

“[Gowanus] is just the best place to be an artist. I lived in Japan for three years and, honestly, 75 percent of the reason we came back to New York was because I missed my art community in Gowanus,” she said. “I’m really lucky to have a studio in this neighborhood.”

In 2023, Adgnot will reveal a new installation of her work that takes her sculptures off the birch panels and mounts them directly onto walls or floors.

Adgnot’s “The Duck Test” (2022) is made from acrylic, enamel on
thermoplastic and panel.

Thornton himself is a photorealist painter, and he participates in local community projects.

On Monday, he and Arts Gowanus programming director Emily Chiavelli installed a community photo mural across the street from the Gowanus Dredgers Boathouse.

The mural features most of the artists who live and work in Gowanus, including Adgnot.

Thornton and Chiavelli will also showcase a painting and photo series in the Arts Gowanus office.

One of the goals of GOS is to make art more accessible for all, meaning that people do not need to know anything about art to attend.

“[Gowanus Open Studios] kind of takes the gallery out of it. You can see a lot of art in one day and it makes it completely accessible for the public and anyone who wants to see what’s happening in the neighborhood,” Thornton said.

Adgnot especially enjoys when children visit her studios — she lets them choose a postcard of her work to take home.

Thornton became executive director of Arts Gowanus in 2020, in the midst of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the neighborhood rezoning.

During these hard times, Arts Gowanus was dedicated to advocacy for local artists — it negotiated 30,000 square feet of affordable artists’ space inside the new developments in Gowanus.

“We want to keep this neighborhood the vibrant creative community that it’s always been. Art requires accessibility and diversity. It requires an organization looking out for the artists’ best interests in the neighborhood,” Thornton said.

All year long, Arts Gowanus helps artists secure workspaces, pair with businesses, find work opportunities and navigate the administrative aspects of being an artist.

To conclude and celebrate GOS 2022, there will be a party at the Gowanus Dredgers Boathouse at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 16.

“It’s really just a celebration of the entire creative community in Gowanus, which is so strong and vibrant,”  Thornton said.

For more information, visit https://www.artsgowanus.org.

NYC hasn’t forgotten about freestyle

Exploring the story of freestyle music from yesterday into today

By Jessica Meditz

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Most popular in the late ’80s into the ’90s, freestyle is a niche genre of music that’s unique to just a few major cities — namely, New York.

There are already a million things that make New York the best, most unique city in the world.

Another thing to tack onto that list is the fact that most of us have either grown up with or been exposed to freestyle music at some point in our lives — while folks from other places may not be able to say the same.

Freestyle, also known as “Latin freestyle,” “Latin hip-hop,” and even “heartthrob” or “club music” in cities like Miami, is a genre of electronic dance music that was born out of major cities like NYC, Miami and Philadelphia.

There’s some debate as to when freestyle music actually began, and people will give different answers.

Some believe freestyle music emerged around 1983, when Shannon’s “Let the Music Play” became a hit. Others feel the true birth of freestyle was in ‘86, when Sa-Fire dropped “Don’t Break My Heart.”

Either way, what is known as post-disco served as the precursor to freestyle, and the genre was widely appreciated by predominantly Italian-American and Latino audiences until the late ‘90s, when Rockell’s “In A Dream” blasted from car speakers and in nightclubs.

Although the genre never really died, that was the golden era of freestyle.

But many artists still make an effort to keep freestyle alive and thriving, including Joe Zangie, an Italian-American freestyle artist born in Camden, N.J.

Zangie’s been a part of the freestyle music scene since 1994 when his first single, “In My Dreams,” was released under Tazmania Records. He was 18 at the time.

Zangie grew from a kid who was peer pressured into doing music, to a guy passionate about all things freestyle — doing performances, creating songs and making friends along the way.

“Freestyle just puts me in a good mood…it’s the type of music you listen to when you want to put your windows down, your music up and drive. It’s such a vibe. I love the beats and the production of freestyle. It could be anything lyrically, but the tracks and the production of the beats is what I love about freestyle the most,” he said.

“I think many people feel nostalgic in a way when they listen to freestyle,” he continued.

“A lot of times, people will relate to freestyle songs, right to their own personal life. All the lyrics in freestyle are like love songs; it’s either somebody getting dumped, or somebody falling in love. There’s no in between, it’s got to be about love.”

Freestyle artist, Joe Zangie.

Staying true to this sentiment, Zangie released his newest single, “Love You Like Wow,” under Fever Records in May of this year.

“Love You Like Wow” is a fun, upbeat track that puts a more modern twist on the traditional freestyle sound, but still features some of the same nostalgic, distinctive beats — especially toward the end.

Shortly after its release, Zangie shot the music video for his single on the Wildwood boardwalk with Robert Barrera of REBolution Media.

“That was crazy because I had to stay up all night. We wanted to get those shots with no one around on an empty boardwalk,” he explained. “We were out filming at like five o’clock in the morning.”

“Love You Like Wow” was well-received by both his peers and fans, reaching No. 1 on all the freestyle charts.

Zangie is proud to be a part of the reason why people still know about freestyle, passing it onto future generations.

“I don’t think that I would have wanted to do a new record this year if I didn’t feel like there was a reason to put it out. I do see these sold out crowds, these big venues that we do these shows in, and you do see the younger kids coming with their parents, and they might even be the grandkids. There’s definitely a new resurgence in it,” he said.

“For the people who don’t know freestyle, I think that if they’re exposed to it, they’ll hear it and say, ‘I like this.’ There’s nothing in freestyle that’s going to make you not want to listen to it,” he continued. “It’s feel-good music. And who doesn’t want to feel good?” 

Zangie recently participated in the Freestyle Beach House concert at the Coney Island Amphitheater on Sept. 3 — performing alongside big names in freestyle including TKA, Judy Torres, Brenda K Starr and Cynthia.

Also at the show were his close friends and fellow freestyle artists: Noel, best known for his 1987 hit, “Silent Morning,” and Rockell, who he’s collaborated with and even refers to as being “like family.”

“When I met her, we just became best friends. I’m still really tight with her; I know her family, she knows my family and I’m actually her son’s godfather,” he said. “It’s just been great.”

After recording nine singles with Tazmania/Metropolitan Records and touring with Denine and Collage as a vocalist for Collage, Zangie went on to tour and record a version of the smash hit, “Can’t We Try,” with Rockell.

They continue to perform together.

Zangie has two upcoming performances in Staten Island: Freestyle for a Cause on Oct. 1 at Nuvo, and Ultimate Freestyle on Nov. 19 at the St. George Theater.

Although freestyle is a niche concept to most or something from the past, many people have been exposed to it in the present day — possibly unknowingly.

In 2021, a TikTok user by the name of @groovy_mal shared a video of her hair routine, where she styles her hair in a ‘70s, Farrah Fawcett-esque feathered look. The background song in the video is Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam’s 1985 bop, “I Wonder If I Take You Home.”

The video has 6.2 million likes and over 30 million views, and in the nature of TikTok, other users attempted the same hairdo on camera with the same song playing in the background.

Although the creator missed the mark by using an ‘80s freestyle track to accompany her ‘70s-inspired hairstyle, she did expose a brand new audience to the song produced right here in East Flatbush, Brooklyn.

Locally, freestyle music continues to play on local radio stations, such as 103.5 KTU, where Judy Torres stars as an on-air personality.

Michael Perlman, a resident of Forest Hills and a columnist for this newspaper, grew up during the golden era of freestyle. He said that without KTU, freestyle would probably be forgotten.

“I am a huge freestyle music fan. I was raised to freestyle hits in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, and I remember its revival in the late ‘90s and early 2000s,” he said.

“Thanks to KTU 103.5, my mom and I won tickets to a freestyle concert at Brookhaven Amphitheater in 1999. My mom asked me at the end, ‘How did you like seeing all of the singers who you grew up with?,’ he continued. “It’s very sentimental and true to our NYC roots.”

Angelica Pizzonia, a baker from Williamsburg, also feels nostalgic when listening to freestyle, and relates it to her Italian upbringing.

“Freestyle tells a story, which may not be your own story, but you can relate to the words the artist is saying. My sister introduced it to me. It reminds us of summertime in Brooklyn…hanging out on the stoop, having block parties, going to the Italian feasts…Just pure old school living,” she said.

“We weren’t teenagers during the prime era of freestyle but my uncle and his friends kept it going and passed it down to us. We share such a strong love for it and we still listen to it with our friends and family,” she continued. “My mom always says it reminds her of a dance version of her oldies doo-wop music. She loves all the stories the artists tell about young love. Freestyle music will never die.”



Royal Star Theatre brings Peanuts to life onstage

By Stephanie Meditz

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Royal Star Theatre taking their final bows after a performance of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

Last weekend, Royal Star Theatre brought audience members back to their childhoods with its production of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

The four-show run at The Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica was the company’s first full fledged production since the COVID-19 pandemic.

In her directorial debut with RST, Alison Kurtzman made the difficult choice of what show to put on after two and a half years away from the stage and ultimately made the perfect decision —  a lighthearted, universally loved production with a small cast.

“We put a lot of thought into what was the right show to do in terms of what cast we would have available, how comfortable people would feel coming down to audition or coming to see a show, all that casting,” she said. “It was just really exciting to be able to kind of help this and be the first show back.”

“I don’t think people realized how much they missed this until they came back to it,” she continued. “It’s just a really exciting time for all of us, and it’s really great to be able to be back in some semblance.”

The musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” consists of a series of vignettes that depict Charles M. Schulz’s beloved Peanuts in adorably funny situations that align with their infamous traits.

For instance, Linus van Pelt (played by Danielle Fleming) and his signature blanket led a lively dance number,”My Blanket & Me,” but not before he attempts and fails to walk away from it.

Lucy van Pelt (Aglaia Ho) stomped around and demanded the other Peanuts to participate in a survey to measure her crabbiness level.

Daniel Kuhlman especially shone in the titular role — from start to finish, he emulated an anxious child with every stumbling step and pout when the cute little redhead once again did not notice him.

“Most of Queens’ community theaters are just coming back this summer, so everyone was just so excited to be here that it wasn’t hard to get excitement out of the cast,” Kurtzman said. “It really didn’t take much to get them to have that exuberance.”

It was no small feat for this cast to adopt children’s body language in a convincing way —  the Peanuts are all children (or dogs), but RST’s cast was made up entirely of adults.

“Characterization is super important in this musical because you’re remaking these beloved comic strip characters and all these specials that people watch around the holidays onto the stage,” Caitlin Leahy said, in reference to her role as Snoopy. “You have to be larger than life, especially since it’s a stage production.”

Leahy, who wanted to play Snoopy as soon as she found out about the show, screamed when Kurtzman called to tell her she got the part.

“I feel like Snoopy and I have a lot in common,” she said. “Very effervescent personalities, but Snoopy can be very sassy at times, so I’m trying to bring out that side of me more…There are a lot of times where Snoopy has this switch between being a calm and stoic personality and switching to this very funny, comedic, almost predatory dog who still has animalistic instincts. ”

Leahy, the youngest member of the cast, attended high school at The Mary Louis Academy and returned to its stage as a college student.

“As I’m still in the area for college, I’m always passing by,” she said. “I’m officially an adult now onstage, and it feels different because I’m working with different people and it’s a different production. And while the change was pretty drastic, I’m still at where I started my theater experience in freshman year.”

Although this was Leahy’s first show with RST, she had arguably the most difficult stage directions in the show, between standing atop her doghouse, chasing metaphorical sticks on all fours and finding a balance between human and canine movements.

The performance was held at The Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica.

Daniel Kuhlman (Charlie Brown) likewise had a difficult role to play, given that his character was likely everyone in the audience’s favorite.

“I think more than trying to copy any previous idea of what Charlie Brown is, I tried to look at it more from ‘What does a seven-ish year old with anxiety look like?’ and just sort of use that as a base and go from there,” he said. “And then make sure that whenever I’m rehearsing lines at home or when I’m running the songs, I’m always keeping in mind that I am an anxious, very young child.”

Although Kuhlman never studied theater or pursued it as a career, it has been inseparable from his everyday life.

He posts niche theater content on his TikTok account, @dankuhlman, which boasts 12.9k followers.

“Anyone who knows me…knows that, at any given point, it’s not ‘What’s your next show?,’ it’s ‘What are you in rehearsals for right now?’” he said.

Royal Star Theatre dedicated its run of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” to Natalie “Cookie” Knisbaum, one of RST’s founding members who died recently.

To learn about Royal Star Theatre’s upcoming productions, visit their website at www.royalstartheatre.org.

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