New Musical SPEAKEASY to Receive Reading at TNC Next Week
The creative team of Speakeasy: John and Jane Allison in the Wonderland, a fantastical musical of Prohibition-era NYC queer life written and composed by Danny Ashkenasi, has announced a free public reading to be held on Monday, December 7th at 7pm as part of Theater for the New City’s “New City, New Blood” Reading Series. Lissa Moira directs a cast of 14, including Camille Atkinson, Torian Brackett, Anne Bragg, Tim Connell*, Chris D’Amico, Darcy Dunn, Rosalie Graziano*, Bevin Bell Hall, Brian Michael Henry*, Brian C. Jones, Rebecca Marquardt, Bri Molloy, Allie Radice*, and Zach Wachter. Music direction by Jonathan Fox Powers. The reading will be held at Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue (between 9th and 10th Streets) in New York City’s East Village. For reservations and more information on the free reading, visit TNC. (*Member, AEA.)
Speakeasy is also raising funds for a full production with a cast of 26 to be staged at Theater for the New City February 18-March 13, 2016.
1929 – New York City. John and Jane Allison are newlyweds. Although they love each other, they have desires they haven’t even acknowledged to themselves, let alone explored. But after giving her neighbor Roberta White a kiss, Jane goes “down the rabbit hole,” entering the strange world of a Speakeasy, where time and space and identity don’t appear to follow conventional rules. On accepting a sexual proposition in a public men’s room, John mysteriously slides “through the looking glass,” and in one fantastical magical realist dream night, they explore their sexuality through the course of two simultaneous and intertwining magical adventures. Lewis Carroll‘s literary characters and events from “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” are transformed into real-life historically-significant entertainers and events from NYC’s Prohibition-era queer culture, with whom Jane and John enjoy friendships and love affairs. After a night of speakeasies, buffet flat parties, police raids, drag balls, and a bizarre trial, will they reveal their “dreams” to each other and “speak easy” about their truths?
Photos, sound clips and more information on Speakeasy can be found here.
Speakeasy shares the sexual freedoms explored in the 1920s and 30s, and how those freedoms were ruined with the end of Prohibition. It is a love song to queer life in NYC and to forgotten entertainers such as Gene (Jean) Malin, the openly homosexual headline act of New York’s short-lived Pansy Craze of 1929; Vaudeville’s famous Dolly Sisters; the larger than life black lesbian singer Gladys Bentley of Harlem’s “Negro Vogue” fame; and the popular female impersonator Julian Eltinge, to name a few. The music in Speakeasy is based on various styles of the era, but with a modern twist, including Tin Pan Alley, showtunes, jazz, swing, cabaret, operetta as well as classical and agitprop strains of the time.
Danny Ashkenasi is a composer, playwright, performer, producer and teaching artist. He has been acting professionally since the age of ten and composing musical works that have been publicly produced since the age of fourteen. In recent years he has focused on creating and performing musical works that highlight the American experience, by adapting American literary masters and focusing on pertinent American historical and social themes. His current musical writing projects include “Speakeasy – the Adventures of John and Jane Allison in the Wonderland,” which explores the little know Queer culture of Prohibition era New York City; and “Feedstore Quartet” (Book and co-lyricist: Jack Hilton Cunningham) set in 1950’s Mississippi. Recently Danny adapted over 60 Langston Hughes‘ poems in a full length musical revue called “I Too Sing America – The Blues According to Langston Hughes“, which was performed at the 2011 Harlem Renaissance Festival at the Metropolitan Playhouse, New York. Danny performed in his musical adaptation of Herman Melville‘s “C*ck-a-Doodle-Doo!” at the Metropolitan Playhouse and FringeNYC 2009. He also performed in “beTwixt, beTween & beTWAIN”, a Mark Twain Musical Comedy he wrote and composed, which played at The Producer’s Club in 2008. An American citizen who was born and raised in Berlin, Germany, he also acts and has musical compositions produced in that country, including the musical “Wir Pfeifen auf den Gurkenkoenig” (text: Peter Lund), which had a long run in Berlin, “Once Upon A Frog /Es war einmal ein Frosch”, which was performed in English in Berlin, and recently enjoyed its German language premiere (translated by Danny Ashkenasi) at the Wetzlarer Festpiele; and “Hexen” (text: P. Lund), which has enjoyed dozens of productions throughout Germany, three alone in Berlin, including at the Deutsche Oper (The English adaptation “Witches”, translated by Danny Ashkenasi, has been performed twice in New York.). He is the only composer twice invited as a finalist to the Hamburg Musical Festival. For more information, visit www.dannyashkenasi.com
Lissa Moira (director) AEA, SAG, AFTRA is also a playwright, screenwriter, lyricist, poet and artist. Out of 5,000 world-wide submissions, Ms. Moira’s play TIME IT IS was chosen as a top ten finalist in the prestigious Chesterfield/Paramount screenwriting competition. Ms. Moira’s 2007 play Before God Was Invented was an American nominee for the Susan Brownell-Smith International Playwrights Award. Ms. Moira co-wrote “Dead Canaries,” a feature film starring Charles Durning, Dan Lauria, Dee Wallace Stone and Joel Higgins. With co-writer Richard West, Lissa’s well known for Sexual Psychobabble and The Best S*x of the XX Century Sale. Both ran over a year and each enjoyed critical and popular success. The Moira/West team’s DaDa noir musical, Who Murdered Love? featured Broadway’s Luba Mason and Tracy McDowell as well as William Broderick. It originated at Theater for the New City and ran at the Players Theatre as part of the 2012 FringeNYC (Ms. Moira directed as well). Also at Theater for the New City, Lissa has directed a revival of Pulitzer Prize-winning and Tony Award-winning playwright John Patrick Shanley‘s Danny and the Deep Blue Sea; a new musical adaption of Nicholas Nickleby with a cast of 35; Out the Window and Rappaccini’s Daughter, two one-act operas; and Pride & Prejudice, which she also co-write with composer John Taylor Thomas. Other directing/co-writing credits include Sirens Heart: Norma Jeane and Marilyn in Purgatory (which enjoyed a 14-month Off-Broadway run at The Actor’s Temple), and Tom Jones a new musical (Bloomberg Radio declared the directing “beautiful, fine and fresh”). Of her directing work on Cocaine Dreams, a play about Freud at The Kraine Theatre, the New York Post raved “inspired.”
Theater for the New City is a Pulitzer Prize winning cultural center that is known for its high artistic standards and widespread community service. One of New York’s most prolific theatrical organizations, TNC produces 30-40 premieres of new American plays per year, at least 10 of which are by emerging and young playwrights. Many influential theater artists of the last quarter century have found TNC’s Resident Theater Program instrumental to their careers, among them Sam Shepard, Moises Kaufman, Richard Foreman, Charles Busch, Maria Irene Fornes, Miguel Piñero, Jean-Claude van Itallie, Vin Diesel, Oscar Nuñez, Laurence Holder, Romulus Linney and Academy Award Winners Tim Robbins and Adrien Brody. TNC also presents plays by multi-ethnic/multi-disciplinary theater companies who have no permanent home. Among the well-known companies that have been presented by TNC are Mabou Mines, the Living Theater, Bread and Puppet Theater, the San Francisco Mime Troupe and COBU, the Japanese women’s drumming and dance group. TNC also produced the Yangtze Repertory Company’s 1997 production of BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH, which was the only play ever produced in America by Gao Xingjian before he won the 2000 Nobel Prize for Literature. TNC seeks to develop theater audiences and inspire future theater artists from the often-overlooked low-income minority communities of New York City by producing minority writers from around the world and by bringing the community into theater and theater into the community through its many free Festivals. TNC productions have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and over 42 OBIE Awards for excellence in every theatrical discipline. TNC is also the only Theatrical Organization to have won the Mayor’s Stop The Violence award.