Oct 28

“Downtown Crossing”

The Cast of “Downtown Crossing.” Photo by

Presented by Company One
In partnership with Northeastern University and Boston Public Library
with support from the Center for the Humanities at Tufts University
Written by David Valdes
Directed by Summer L. Williams
Dramaturgy by Jessica Scout Malone

Streaming live October 22, 23, 24 @ 7pm
October 25 @ 2pm
Digital program
C1 on Facebook

Critique by Kitty Drexel

Streaming/Boston, MA — My wife and I used to joke that we couldn’t travel to 2006’s Arizona because they looked too brown. John McCain might confuse them for a Mexican immigrant and deport them. It was the kind of stupid BS we could joke about because we were young and ignorant. We didn’t know the hurt McCain’s policies were causing.

My brilliant wife (who gave me permission to discuss them in this article) is kānaka maoli, an indigenous person of Hawaiian descent. Their skin is a buff, maple syrup brown. Their smile is wide and dominates their broad face. They have a warm but reserved personality that belies a deep well of energy. They are easy to love.

People mistake my wife for Latinx. Often.

White people don’t know how to pronounce my wife’s first or last name: they don’t ask how; they butcher it when they say it aloud.

Their name is easier to spell or describe than to say aloud to a receptionist.

White people don’t know how to talk about race because it isn’t part of their everyday experience.  Their whiteness shelters them. BIPOC don’t have this privilege.

I am lucky. My brilliant wife will patiently discuss race with me. They listen while I express my confusion, and correct me because they love me. Because other white people don’t discuss race and are entirely unaware of their microaggressions, we discuss race daily: immigration reform, the children held in cages at the Mexican/American border, how police officers choose to murder Black men, even voting restrictions.

Even in a town as openly embracing of difference as the People’s Republic of Camberville, it’s a necessity. Most white people, including me, have a great deal to learn about anti-racist human interactions.

Downtown Crossing is a composite play assembled from David Valdes’s interviews with current and former undocumented immigrants, DACA recipients, immigrant rights advocates, community organizers, and family members of the undocumented from the Greater Boston area. It is a production that teaches as it tells. These are characters with loves, hobbies, and careers – rich, full lives – that resemble anyone else’s. We are divided by paperwork only.

We meet Eleanor (Christina R. Chan), Bolade (Jean Philippe Darang), Lupe (Venuz Delmar), Jacinta (Graciela Femenia Tully), Declan, (Ben Harris), Adilson (Thomas Vorsteg), and Sarom (Eiko Yamamoto) as they ride the train to various destinations. They are your average, adult metro rider:  courteous but nervous while they mind their own business for the T is dark and full of horrors.

The cast told us in a group introduction as they rode the orange line to the city’s center that “This never happened even though it’s happening right now.” The events aren’t true as told but are based on true stories. Undocumented immigrants walk among us.

The cast continued, “All of this is only for you, only for now.” It isn’t safe to share their personal stories but the theatre is a useful tool to share common experiences. Theatre uses pleasing lies to tell unfortunate truths.

They represent Boston’s unique immigrant population: Latinx, Asian, Black, and Irish. They do not match the nation’s expectations. They look exactly like the people you see speeding their ways through the DTX tunnels and throughways.

The cast should feel proud of their work. They deliver sincere and sympathetic performances that their audience believed. We were able to stretch our suspension of disbelief to include all of their characters’ fears, hopes, wins, and losses.

The cast’s performances were so believable that a viewer of Downtown Crossing might be tempted to respond to the actors’ performances the way so many people responded to Gabourey Sidibe’s work in the 2009 movie Precious. People assumed Sidibe was her character. This is racist. Good acting doesn’t mean these actors are speaking from experience. It’s a play, not a TED talk.

I am thoroughly impressed by the use of Zoom backgrounds and props in this production. The program for Downtown Crossing says that this show was rehearsed and performed entirely online. It doesn’t say if the actors were in the same room or not. The actors looked like they were actually sitting together rather than telecommuting into the performance. It was easy to believe that characters such as Lupe and Jacinta were sitting side-by-side on the red line.

The two were directed to pass each other props. The actors’ hands passed through the Zoom background to give and receive a banana and a red sports drink to each other. We weren’t surprised to see the props change hands. It was a moment of Zoom theatre magic that left a lasting impression n us.

Also magical? See the orange and red lines so clean. The MTBA map that served as the opening backdrop and the interior train images serving as a set were sparkling clean. I hope everyone paid attention because we’ll never see the cars looking that clean again!

In his talkback, Valdes told his audience that he intentionally didn’t directly quote anyone. His characters are representations of many people. This means he can incorporate as many people as he likes into the play while also protecting innocent people who are just trying to live their lives.

Towards the beginning of Downtown Crossing, Lupe says that the color of her skin confuses (white people/potential ICE reps). Her melanin says that she’s an immigrant but her clothes say that she’s a US citizen. This is racism in its most basic form.

Several years ago, my wife and I were sitting in an airport across from two men who were discussing in Spanish where my wife could be from. One man said to the second, if my wife was Mexican wouldn’t they understand them? As one, the men looked at my wife who did indeed understand what they were saying. Rather than look up, my wife kept reading their book. We both regret that they didn’t pop their head up to make intense eye contact with the men in what could have been a melodramatic “gotcha!”  moment. We reminisce and giggle.

White supremacy tells us that the best US citizens are white. A colonizer’s mindset tells us that North America’s original peoples are less entitled to their ancestral lands than the white colonizers who stole them. People to assume that my wife, an American native of the Hawai’ian islands, isn’t a citizen. They have more right to be here than I do.

It is not a review’s job to convince its reader that immigrant, migrant, and asylum seeker lives matter. I shouldn’t have to explain why you should care about others even if they don’t look, sound, think, or act like you. My fellow white people, confront your inherent white supremacy and talk with your white friends and family about your whiteness. Our unexamined bigotry is killing people.

Oct 26

A Look at Truth: “A Woman Ain’t I, A Depiction of Sojourner Truth”

Kathryn Woods as Truth in a prepandemic photo.

Directed and Performed by Historical Interpreter Kathryn Woods
October 9, 2020
Presented by History At Play, LLC
Pay-Per-HAP via Facebook Livestream

Review by Shiyanbade Animashaun

(Boston, MA) A Woman Ain’t I, A Depiction of Sojourner Truth is a One-Woman show about select moments in the life of Sojourner Truth. Creator Kathryn Woods has played this role since the 90s, though perhaps this was the first time it was broadcast into people’s homes via a Facebook Live stream. Continue reading

Oct 20

The Dreams of Youth are the Regrets of Maturity: “The Sun Is Sleeping”

Presented, written and performed by Michael John Ciszewski for his 27th birthday
Featuring the talents of Rachel Belleman (she/her), Teresa Langford (she/her), Steven Maier (he/him), Pier Lamia Porter (she/her), Regine Vital (she/her)
Voice work by Kevin Becerra (he/him), Elissa Bonito (she/her), Bryan Guffey (they/them), Sarah Oakes Muirhead (she/her), Noah Simes (he/him)
Music by Nicky B (he/him), Sam Graham (he/him)

Viewed on Oct. 18, 2020
Next screening on Oct. 24, 8PM EST
Social media: @micjcis

Critique by Kitty Drexel

ZOOM – Happy birthday Michael John Ciszewski – belated! The Sun Is Sleeping: A Queer Reverie is was released in June to celebrate Pride month and Ciszewski’s 27th circle around the sun. How does one celebrate a birthday during quarantine? (If my own April birthday was any indication) With heartfelt disappointment. Rather than suffer his madness, Ciszewki turned it into art.  

The Sun Is Sleeping is the expression of an extrovert’s existential frustration with the soul-crushing confinement of quarantine and pop music. Ciszewski plays the Sun Prince (and other roles), golden royalty forced into impotent exile. His revels are ended; depression is setting in. Unlike the sweet lipped and jubilant Persephone, our Sun Prince doesn’t have a dark King awaiting him in the underworld. He has Zoom and it provides poor comfort to His Majesty.  

Continue reading

Oct 14

It Was Earth All Along!: “Zoo Motel”

Thaddeus Phillips in “Zoo Motel.”

Co-presented by the Miami Light Project 
Created by Thaddeus Phillips
Designed by Steven Dufala
CO-created & directed by Tatiana Mallarino
Magic by Steve Cuiffo
Movement by Fernando Careaga & Katya Humenyuk

Now – October 20, 2020
A Performance over Zoom
8:00 pm – 9:05 pm
Zoo Motel on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel

ZOOM — A theatrical production doesn’t have to perfectly incorporate its many elements to be Art or even good entertainment. It must engage the mind and welcome us into its world. Great theatre can have plot holes up the wazoo so long as it’s a wazoo we believe in. We believe in Zoo Motel’s wazoo.

Zoo Motel is imperfect art but it is good art. Performer and creator Thaddeus Phillips gives us a brief reprieve from pandemic stressors by occupying us with new, unusual ones. Audience members/hotel residents are greeted by the Night Clerk (Newton Buchanan) as a group. He offers us amenities such as the espresso bar (delicious) and gives us a brief spiel about what to expect. Even though he briefs us, I couldn’t say that we were fully prepared for our experience. It was fun but also intense. Continue reading

Oct 09

Upstaged By A Wandering Mouse: “Fannie Lou Hamer: This Little Light”

Presented by Central Square Theatre 
In partnership with City of Cambridge Citizens’ Committee on Civic Unity & YWCA Cambridge.
Written and performed by Dr. Billie Jean Young 

October 7, 2020, at 7PM
A virtual event over Zoom 

Central Square Theater
450 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
CST on Facebook

Critique by Kitty Drexel

ZOOM/Cambridge, MA — Central Square Theatre’s presentation of Fannie Lou Hamer: This Little Light was a hot and sticky mess. This event didn’t have technical difficulties; it had technical catastrophes. An evening that should have been about civil rights warrior Hamer was rife with distractions instead. 

The audience was told at the beginning of the event that Dr. Young wouldn’t be able to perform for us that evening but that a recording of her performance would be played. While this was unfortunate, we could sympathize with Dr. Young. Her body is her instrument and instruments can be fickle. The Women’s Vote Centennial Panel would continue as scheduled.  Continue reading

Oct 05

More Than a Monument: “The Charles Lenox Experience”

Kadahj Bennett as Charles W. Lenox

Presented by New Repertory Theatre in partnership with the Watertown Free Public Library and the Historical Society of Watertown
The Charles W. Lenox Experience
Script by Ken Green
Directed by Michael Ofori
Performed by Kadahj Bennett

September 26 – November 8, 2020
Audio Description: October 18, 2020 at 1:00pm
ASL Interpretation: October 24 at 1:00pm & October 25 at 4:00
Accessibility information is HERE.
Watertown Square
Watertown, MA
New Rep on Facebook 

Critique by Kitty Drexel

Watertown, MA — Trump has COVID-19. He could learn about science from this experience (he won’t). Thoughts and Prayers.

I mention the president because he is a man who remains steadfastly ignorant of his inherent racism. Racism is a social disease that negatively impacts us all; we can’t opt-out.  We can only hope to counter it through education and cognitive retraining of the self. It’s as easy and self-monitoring your speech and as complicated as decolonizing our collective world view.

You too can learn from experience! Attend the New Rep’s Watertown Historical Moving Plays: The Charles Lenox Experience and learn all about a nineteenth-century Watertown barber who was one of the first Black men to enlist as a Private in the Civil War. Charles W. Lenox (played skillfully by Kadahj Bennett) leads a small audience across Watertown Square while describing his young adulthood, explaining local politics, and cracking jokes. Continue reading

Sep 28

A Handy History of Mount Auburn Cemetery: A Book Review of “The Mount Auburn Plays”

The Mount Auburn Plays
By Patrick Gabridge
Friends of Mount Auburn
198 pgs
Paperback (color)
Digest (5.5 x 8.5 in / 140 x 216 mm)
ISBN: 978-0-9986982-4-3
Purchase HERE

Mount Auburn Cemetary
580 Mount Auburn Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138

Virtual Book Launch with Playwright Patrick Gabridge
September 30 @ 6:00 pm
Registration is FREE!
(donation suggested)

Review by Kitty Drexel

Watertown, MA — This review is to support the Sept. 30 virtual book launch of The Mount Auburn Plays by Patrick Gabridge. I was gifted a copy of the book by Gabridge (with a fancy author’s signature. This means I can sell my copy for bazillions of bitcoins in approximately 30 years when it’s no longer in print). It’s good to be the Queen.

This book is a collection of Patrick Garbridge’s plays inspired by Mount Auburn Cemetary written during his 2018-2019 artist residency: The Nature Plays, The America Plays, and Moonlight Abolitionists. Before each play, there is a handy history of the play with casting, audience, and location information. Color production photos placed between. Continue reading

Sep 22

Tribute to a Legacy: “Thurgood”

An historical image of Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Presented by New Repertory Theatre and Central Square Theater
Written by George Stevens, Jr.
Directed by Benny Sato Ambush
Starring Joshua Wolf Coleman

September 18 to 20 at 7:30PM
Starlight Square
84 Bishop Allen Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139

Critique by Afrikah Smith

“The law is a weapon if you know how to use it.” – Justice Thurgood Marshall

Cambridge, MA  — In light of the passing of Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, Thurgood reminds audiences of the obstacles BIPOC American citizens have overcome and continue to overcome every day, as we witness political events leading up to the 2020 elections.

Curious by how outdoor theatre was going to work, the thoughtful layout of Starlight Square surprised me. After checking in at will call, house staff escorted me to my seat following COVID-19 guidelines. Inside the space were socially distanced seating that met the gathering limit and made it more intimate. Although heaters are coming soon to Starlight Square, I recommend wearing warm layers. Continue reading

Sep 19

Free Soil Arts Collective Announces “Vital Voices”

Vital Voices Series
Presented by Free Soil Arts Collective
Moderated by Christa Brown
Free Soil Arts Collective on Facebook
FSAC on Youtube

Article by Kitty Drexel

LOWELL, MA – On September 10, the Free Soil Arts Collective announced that it will launch its Vital Voices digital series this month in presentation with Enterprise Bank. Vital Voices is a six-part series that features in-depth discussions with local artists of color. They will be moderated by Free Soil Founder Christa Brown. 

“Enterprise Bank is proud to be the presenting sponsor of Vital Voices – a unique digital series presenting our community’s artists of color,” said Enterprise Bank CEO Jack Clancy in the Free Soil Arts Collective press release. 

“There are so many amazing artists of color right here in our own backyard who are talented, dynamic, and eager to engage with a broader audience. Enterprise Bank’s support allows us to support these artists during this time,” said Christa Brown. 

Featured artists include (chronologically) Veronica Holmes, Illustrator & Storyteller (Lowell), Marlene Marmolejos, Co-founder & Motion Designer of Motion Mami (Lawrence), Henry Marte, Owner of Marte Media (Lowell), Sam Stevquoah, Creative Director at Mill City’s Finest (Lowell), Princess Moon, Poet (Lowell), and Thaddeus Miles, Author & Photographer (Lowell). 

Each episode of the Vital Voices series will air live on Facebook & YouTube via Zoom on the third Saturday of each month from September 2020 through February 2021, with the first episode airing on September 19th. Visit freesoilarts.org to RSVP.

The Lineup

SEPTEMBER – Veronica Holmes, Illustrator & Storyteller
OCTOBER – Marlene Marmolejos, Co-founder & Motion Designer of Motion Mami
NOVEMBER – Henry Marte, Owner of Marte Media
DECEMBER – Sam Stevquoah, Creative Director at Mill City’s Finest
JANUARY – Princess Moon, Poet
FEBRUARY – Thaddeus Miles, Author & Photographer

Other supporters to date include Studio 26 Associates and BRM Production Management. 
The Free Soil Arts Collective is an arts organization with a mission to amplify and strengthen the voices of local artists of color. Since January 2019, Free Soil leads these efforts by producing creative works, offering educational programming, and curating events. Free Soil operates under the fiscal sponsorship of the Greater Lowell Community Foundation. Learn more at freesoilarts.org
Sep 16

Have Pitch, Will Podcast: New Radio Drama for the Pandemic-Age

Orson Welles, 1938. Shown in rehearsal, standing, center background: director Orson Welles; seated, right: composer Bernard Herrmann NB: directing his Mercury Theatre of the Air troupe, such as created panic on the CBS radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds, October 30, 1938

Article by Kitty Drexel

The pandemic has sparked a greater interest in radio drama.

In May, the New York Times shared a great article by Alexis Soloski that named multiple Broadway podcast radio shows called “For Your Ears Only: Broadway’s New Stage Is a Mic.” It references the Great Depression (as we head into another recession), quotes recording actors like James Monroe Iglehart, and then details their podcast projects.

Kelli O’Hara, Annaleigh Ashford, Iglehart, and others answer pertinent questions such as “How do you develop a character using just your voice?” Their answers are excellent advice to actors making podcast theatre during the pandemic. It’s a good read. Continue reading