Category Archives: Artist Select


(from Radio Free Europe, 11/20; Photo: Russian stage director Yevgenia Berkovich; Creator: Anton Novoderjozhkin|Credit: Sipa USA via AP Copyright: Sipa USA.)

The Moscow city court on November 30 rejected appeals filed by theater director Yevgenia Berkovich and playwright Svetlana Petriichuk against an extension of their pretrial detention on charges of justifying terrorism with the production of the play Finist-The Brave Falcon, about Russian women who married Muslim men and moved to Syria.

The court upheld a lower court decision in early November to extend the two women’s pretrial detention until at least January 10.

During the hearing, Berkovich expressed gratitude “to all who were involved” for allowing her to travel from a Moscow detention center to St. Petersburg to attend the burial of her grandmother, noted human rights defender Nina Katerli, who died at the age of 89 on November 20.

However, Berkovich said “the act of mercy had tuned into an act of torture” as while being transported to the funeral she spent 25 hours in “a cage of avtozak” — a special vehicle designed for transporting suspects and convicts, which affected her health.

“I did not have warm clothes with me because I was not aware where I was going and my lawyers did not know. It was a cage — a piece of an iron cage 1 meter by 2 meters, in which it is not possible to stand or properly sit. Because of that, it is painful for me to stand up or sit down. It was not possible to sleep there either as there was no heating…. For those 25 hours, I was allowed to get out to a toilet only twice,” Berkovich said.

But Judge Oksana Nikishina rejected Berkovich’s complaints, saying that she should be grateful that she was allowed to attend her grandmother’s burial at all.

(Read more)


(from Radio Free Europe, 7/20/22.)

Influential Russian playwright Mikhail Durnenkov fled Russia for Finland shortly after Moscow’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine. Durnenkov’s opposition to Russia’s war against Ukraine has had severe personal consequences. Theaters in Russia have stopped showing his plays, and there have been calls to prosecute him for his anti-war position.



(interviews from, 2/24/2022.)

In an interview with DW, Ukrainian artists such as Oksana Lyniv and Andrei Kurkov call on the West to take more decisive action against Russia.

Conductor Oksana Lyniv is very worried about her homeland

Anger, sadness and indignation at the inaction of world politics — these are the feelings that have been dominating the Ukrainian cultural scene. Now, Ukrainian artists are fearing for their families and friends, and whether they will be able to continue pursuing their beloved professions. Identifying the Russian state as an aggressor, their wave of anger can hardly be contained. DW spoke with some of them the day before the attacks on February 24, 2022.

Oksana Lyniv, conductor: ‘The world has seen Putin’s Russia’s true face’

“At last, Putin’s true intentions lie clear and open,” says Oksana Lyniv. “He wants to destroy an independent state, a nation with its own culture, its own alphabet, its own language and history, its own artists, its own identity. Our development as a European state, for which we have worked for 30 years since independence and which has exacted a high price with the Maidan, is in acute danger.

Now, the world has seen Putin’s Russia’s true face, which is unfortunately far from the self-declared ideal image as a country of art and humanism. At the beginning of the development was the annexation of Crimea, which was condemned all over the world. Now, Putin has targeted all of Ukraine. In the decades of his rule, the dictator has built a police state in Russia. But in Ukraine, such a thing would not work, Ukrainians firmly reject impunity!

All those who still lulled themselves in post-Soviet memories and raved about the ‘brother nation’ have now received a decisive wake-up call. A true brother does not come to you with a gun and lie in wait at your door — only a murderer does that. Now is the time for the whole world to prove what the lessons of two world wars are worth to them in order to prevent a bloody battle in the middle of Europe.”

Poet, translator, festival organizer -— but above all citizen: Serhij Zhadan

Serhij Zhadan, poet and writer: ‘We are citizens first and foremost’

“Today, we are first and foremost citizens, not artists. This is a fact always during a war. We are one country and one nation, we support our army, all my colleagues go to the front as volunteers. But we understand very well that the current situation is a transitional situation; it can also change from one day to the next. Of course, we all hope that this war will not spread further — to Kharkiv or Kyiv. While I am glad that some Russian artists have taken a clear position, their voices have no chance of being heard. I have many longtime friends, including artists and writers who actually believe that Ukraine wants to attack Russia and the like — that’s where the Putin propaganda has already had its effect.”

Filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa sees the situation as “chronically dramatic”

Sergei Loznitsa, filmmaker: ‘Unfortunately, history repeats itself’

“For eight years, the Russian Federation has waged war against Ukraine. For eight years, Western Europe tried to ignore this war, continued to cooperate with and support the aggressor. Now, we are all reaping the fruits of this ‘far-sighted’ pacification policy. Russian power bodies have wiped their feet on all peace efforts and moved on. If there is no tough reaction from the EU and NATO countries now, it will end badly for everyone. Unfortunately, history repeats itself, and unfortunately, no one learns from it.”

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the two-character play
by tennessee williams
OCTOBER 22 at 7:30
an open rehearsal
Greg Mehrten and Maude Mitchell
directed by Dana Greenfield, sound design by Gavin Price
 “… It is a cri de coeur, but then all creative work, all life, in a sense is a cri de coeur.
–  Tennessee Williams
Visit Mabou Mines Web site 
150 First Avenue, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10009 

“The Two Character Play (Out Cry)” is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals on behalf of Samuel French, Inc. “The Two Character Play (Out Cry)” is presented by special arrangement with the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee.

This program is made possible by the New York City Artist Corps. 
Support is provided through the City Artist Corps Grants program, presented by The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA), with support from the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) as well as Queens Theatre.



In 2011 Ai Weiwei was arrested without notice by the Chinese authorities and detained for 81 days. Here he writes a letter to his son Ai Lao who was two years old when he disappeared. It contains a detailed account of the rules and routines he was obliged to uphold during his detention.

It’s part of a series in which writers from around the world read letters on the theme of imprisonment, inspired by Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis.

Oscar Wilde was incarcerated in Reading Prison between 1895 and 1897, enduring the Separate System, a harsh penal regime designed to eliminate any contact between prisoners. Wilde’s imprisonment led to one of his last great works – De Profundis, an extended letter to his lover Lord Alfred Douglas written by Wilde in his prison cell.

Produced by Barney Rowntree and Jeremy Mortimer
Executive Producer: Joby Waldman

A Reduced Listening production for BBC Radio 4

Photo: The Hollywood Reporter


Craig Smith is Producing Artistic Director of Phoenix Theatre Ensemble.  He was an ensemble member of New York’s prestigious Jean Cocteau Repertory where he made his artistic home for more than 3 decades appearing in over 200 productions from Stoppard to Shakespeare and Sophocles to Williams. In 2004, Craig and four colleagues founded the award-winning Phoenix Theatre Ensemble.   Now under the direction of Mr. Smith and Artistic Director, Elise Stone,  Phoenix presents  3 to 6 productions of new and classical works annually, a reading and new play development series, and an arts-in-education program for NYC public schools.  He is the recipient of the President of the Borough of Manhattan’s Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Arts and Community Service.

Craig Smith talks with SV’s Bob Shuman about his new production at the Wild Project.

One question you’d ask Joe Orton if he was around?

Your work in Entertaining Mr.  Sloane has a tragic through-line that has the emotional impact equal to that of Arthur Miller.  You moved away from this with Loot and What the Butler Saw–why? 

One of the early reviewers of Entertaining Mr. Sloane called it a “dirty highbrow play.”  Is it? 

Orton was a 1960’s rebel–Ed and Sloane are in the words of critic Randy Gener, “rapacious bisexuals”–the play’s raw treatment of sexuality was new and titillating in 1964.  But the real dirt is the way family members treat each other–no one can inflict pain the way your family can.  “Highbrow”:  the language is sophisticated, like Wilde, Coward, and Pinter, such as “you superannuated old prat” coming from undereducated people who live in an isolated house, situated in a rubbish dump. This anachronistic use of selected words, here and there, is delicious. About the language:  It is a challenge to memorize in the way all really good language is—it does not come easily.  It is a singular voice.  When done well, it crackles. Language that is easy to memorize often comes off as ordinary and a bit uninteresting.

How would you describe what Entertaining Mr. Sloane is about?

A love story.  Four deeply wounded people in need of love.  It’s about a family–a family with very old wounds–hard facts that they have tried to ignore or forget.  But the introduction of Sloane to this family unit proves explosive.














What’s more interesting?  Joe  Orton’s plays or his life (and death)?

Very difficult to compete with the colorful—some would say the outrageous–life of Joe Orton.  The plays have order–even the chaos has a choreographed order to it–but Orton’s life was not choreographed.  

Your greatest satisfaction from being in the theatre?

Breakthroughs in the rehearsal room.

Biggest obstacle for theatre companies today?  

The extraordinarily entertaining work being done on cable television.


Tell us about the casting process:  What kind of actors were you looking for—and tell us who finally won the parts?

Good actors . . . I knew I wanted Elise Stone (my wife and Phoenix Theatre Ensemble Artistic Director) to play Kath and John Lenartz to play Kemp–both great, talented actors who I have worked with for decades.  Ed is the most challenging role in the play, and I asked PTE artist, Antonio Edwards Suarez, to play this complex man who struggles with his sexuality.  But . . . I did not have a Sloane.  Then we went to see some director scenes that friends were working on–and I saw this good looking, interesting young actor with very intense eyes.  We asked him to join a reading we were doing of Cocteau’s The Infernal Machine.  Once cast, I could see that he had excellent instincts, took direction, and was a really nice guy–so after that, I asked Matt Baguth to play Sloane. 

At Phoenix Theatre Ensemble do you typically work with the same artists?  Who are your current collaborators?

Yes, we have an ensemble of resident artists, but casting is not exclusive to that group.  Over time these artists have developed a creative shorthand and a knowledge and appreciation of each other.  It is a great way to work and btw, I won’t work with difficult people.  

Does the company look for a certain kind of play to produce?   How does the ensemble decide on a season?

Many think that you just sit down and pick out some favorite plays or playwrights that you might want to produce.  It is a very complicated process, though.  We have to consider budgets, performance rights, plays that complement each other–we like a mix of new works and classics—spaces to perform in, and the challenge the season will be to our actors and directors.

How much liberty do you believe a director can take with an established script?

In 30+ years of theatre work, this is my directing debut.  I’m enjoying it immensely.  I take more liberty with scripts than others do or would.  As an actor, I’m legend for paraphrasing–particularly with scripts in translation–perhaps this has given me a sense of entitlement, some would say a “false entitlement.”  I am not of the opinion that actors and directors are interpreters only.  As a jazz musician will riff on a piece of music, I encourage the same thing in theatre.  Lots of people disagree with this–some vehemently, but I don’t really care. 

Tell us about your background. How did you get started in the theatre and how has your career evolved?  

As a young man new to the city, I auditioned for Jean Cocteau Repertory and then attended a performance of Waiting for Godot, 10:00PM on a Friday night.  The play was at their 50-seat storefront theatre in a neighborhood that I considered the downtown “murder district.” It was indeed a pretty rough area. I had never seen anything quite like that performance before; I went back the next day and asked if they needed help sweeping the floor. I stayed with them for 30+ years.

Most unlikely problem you’ve faced during the rehearsal process—and how has it resolved or how is it resolving?

The pauses–I have worked on quite a bit of Pinter and Beckett–masters of the power of the pause.  Orton was a fan of Pinter, and the script is littered with “pauses” and “silences”–way too many of them. If he had written this later in his short career, I think he would have been more selective. But regardless, I thought I had a good handle on this–the non-filled pause–the power of nothingness hanging in the air—but it is a challenge.   We continue to work on them.

Most influential director, person in theatre, or mentor in your life? 

Eve Adamson and Elise Stone.









Does knowing about the early ‘60s in England help in understanding Entertaining Mr. Sloane?  Or do you feel it’s not necessary to explain?

Well, young Matt, in rehearsal one night, referred to the time of Sloane as “way back then”–like it might have been an 18th-century play, which I found both humorous and sobering at the same time. There is a generation that doesn’t know who Orton is, who think that “edge” is only contemporary to the last few years.  In a way, this play could have only come out of that culture-changing decade–a decade I am so glad that I experienced. But the play is not stuck in that time period.  In my opinion, it is worthy of being considered a modern classic.

Does knowing about the current political or cultural environment in the U.S. inform your production in any way? 

I didn’t think it would.   We did Brecht’s Arturo Ui right over the election–it could not have been more timely, and we reaped the benefits.  I was relieved we were doing Sloane, because I thought it would be a break for us–and for our audience–from the overload of politics and the plethora of new works coming out in response to this U.S. administration.  But, in a very short time, we are now in a culture of repression and regression:  from the progressive victories of same-sex marriage to the horrors of Chechnya; from the rise of domestic hate crimes to the overall demise of compassion. So, unfortunately, we once again find our work being very, very relevant.

Give the answer to an essential question about yourself that you realize won’t be asked here.  

I find beauty in what others find to be gross and disgusting.

Best piece of theatrical advice you ever received? 

Don’t retreat–advance the story.   And also from a director, who gave me this note:  “it is, of course, complete hokum, but you must imbue with complete truth.”

Thank you very much.

Entertaining  Mr. Sloane by Joe Orton

When:   May 4–14; performances Tues-Sat @8:00 PM;  Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2:00 pm; Sunday matinee at 3:00 pm.

Full Schedule: Thurs 5/4 @ 8pm; Fri 5/5 @ 8pm; Sat 5/6 @ 2pm & 8pm; Sun 5/7 @ 3pm; Tues 5/9 @ 8pm; Wed 5/10 @ 2pm; 8pm; Thurs 5/11 @8pm; Fri 5/12 @ 8pm; Sat 5//13 @ 2pm & 8pm; Sun 5/14 @  3pm.

Information:;  212-465-3446

Tickets:   Tickets are $30 each; Call 212-352-3101 or visit

Where: The Wild Project @ 195 East 3rd Street (Avenue A and Avenue B)

Transportation: By Subway: F Train to 2nd Avenue; by Bus A14 to 4th Street and Ave A; 8th Street Crosstown. 

(c) 2017 by Craig Smith (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

Phoenix Theatre Ensemble production of “Entertaining Mr. Sloane” photo credits: Gerry Goodstein.


BragenTIMO e-card1

(via Patrick Leonard/Blake Zidell & Associates)   

This Is My Office is set in a disused office that becomes a character unto itself. One night, hunkered down in the office provided to him by an arts grant, eating his way through a box of donuts and battling intense writer’s block, protagonist Andy Bragen (played by David Barlow) discovers an old photograph that spurs a revelation: the very office he currently inhabits was once that of his father. As Andy delves deeper and deeper into his complicated and conflicted relationship with his recently deceased father, strange things begin to happen to him in the space as family and writing take on a symbiotic relationship. The office bridges the two Bragens’ lives, and ultimately becomes an epic symbol of redemption, faith and love. 


Site-Specific Production Directed by Davis McCallum,
Performed by David Barlow

The Play Company Presents
This Is My Office (World Premiere)
Written by Andy Bragen
Directed by Davis McCallum
Performed by David Barlow

November 5–8, 11, 13–15, 18, 20–22, 25–26, 29 and December 2, 4–6 at 7:30 p.m.
November 9, 16, 23, 30 and December 7 at 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m
November 10, 17, 24 and December 1, 8 at 3:00 p.m. & December 1 at 7:00 p.m.
Press Previews: Saturday, November 9 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, November 10 at 3:00 p.m.
Official Opening: Monday, November 11 at 7:30pm.

chashama (210 E. 43rd Street)
Tickets: $30-40 at or 866.811.4111; due to the intimate space, tickets are extremely limited.
85 minutes, no intermission

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Thanks so much for visiting Stage Voices for the latest in Theatre news and writing. Currently, we are privileged to be offering a free chapter from playwright JoAnne Brasil’s first novel–in a series of four–called Big Mamma’s #1 with Coleslaw, To Go.

The revised and expanded edition is set in Phoebus, a small military town in southeastern Virginia and told by the narrator and protagonist Cecelia O’Malley.  As the inside cover of the original novel puts it, “Raised by the Irish immigrant owners of Billy’s Bar-B-Que . . . Cecyl escapes after high school graduation and moves to Boston where she supports herself by working as a janitor. Ill-prepared for the larger world of late 1960’s America . . . Cecyl is usually caught off-guard, but she always rebounds with a tenacity and love that draw us to her spirit.”

Originally titled Escape from Billy’s Bar-b-que–the book went into a second printing–Alice Walker (author of the Pulitzer winner, The Color Purple)–who published the work through her Wild Trees Press in 1985—has written “To those who have wanted to dismantle racial pigeonholes and leap over social barriers in a single bound, this book will offer special insight and encouragement.” 

Additional praise includes:

“This is a novel written the way people talk. That leads us into the way people feel, and we are rewarded with one woman’s story and a valuable reminder that hearts and times do change—and for the better.”–Gloria Steinem 

“This fragile novel packs a surprising wallop you’ll feel for a long time afterward.”–Patricia Holt, the San Francisco Chronicle

“Brasil has written a brilliant story about the way people talk, the way they feel and, as Cecyl puts it, the way they should ‘treat each other normal’.”–Publishers Weekly

 “Cecyl is funny and sad, brave and devastatingly honest. JoAnne Brasil is uncompromising and true. So is her brave heroine.”–Dorothy Bryant (self-published Berkeley literary icon)

“Off-beat Characters on the Mark. . . . Brasil’s story is both hopeful and convincing, and given the size of the social walls Cecyl runs into this is no small accomplishment . . . perceptive and well-written. . . . Daily Californian (UC Berkeley paper)

JoAnne Brasil is a writer living in Salem, MA. She’s worked as a news reporter for the Brattleboro Reformer in Brattleboro, VT, was a letter-writer for Smithsonian, wrote an astrology column for Poets & Writers magazine, and was the host of a Sunday morning radio program for WBUR Public Radio in Boston. She has written numerous plays, scripts and short stories, and is now in the process of completing the third in the Escape from Billy’s Bar-B-Que novels.

Copyright 2013, JoAnne Brasil. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

For rights inquiries contact:

Visit JoAnne Brasil’s Web site:

JoAnne Brasil at Hildegard's Wander Theater:

Photos: Top of page, German production of The Wander Theater:  JoAnne Brasil (r) and actor Andrea Rump (l) at the Project Theater (it was part of the Dresden Yiddish Theater and Music Week). Above, American production: JoAnne Brasil (r) and Georgette Beck (l) in front of the Griffen Theater in Salem, MA. Photos courtesy of JoAnne Brasil.

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(Jody Christopherson’s article appeared on the Huffington Post, 6/14.)

Crystal Skillman is an award winning playwright, who like her characters, is breaking through all kinds of boundaries. If we were to create a travel map of all the places Skillman's work is being done there would be pins in London, New York, Boston and currently Chicago, as her play WILD's World Premier opens June 15th with Kid Brooklyn Productions, under the direction of Evan Caccioppoli,