Tenth Planet: Anthony P. Pennino


Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, the brainchild of arts professional Glory Kadigan, turns 10 years old. In that decade, PCTF has successfully changed the landscape of the theatre festival and all of New York independent theatre. The multi-award-winning theatre festival will celebrate in a big way by premiering more than 50 timely and topical plays and musicals written by the next generation of playwrights. Each play contains a powerful message serving as a parable of various world themes.

Premiering more than 50 original plays & musicals The Tenth Planet: Planet Connections Theatre Festivity will run from July 9 through August 5, 2018 at The Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street, NYC. http://www.planetconnections.org

Across our sites, Five-Star Arts Journals will spotlight this special season with interviews, articles, and reviews.

AnthonyPennino_Icon-150x150Ai talks to ANTHONY P. PENNINO about The Nuclear Plays
In a nuclear war, there are no winners only survivors.

Benefiting Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy

The Flamboyán @ The Clemente
Thursday 7/12 @6:15pm-7:30pm
Saturday 7/14 @3:15pm-4:30pm
Sunday 7/15 @1:00pm-2:15pm
Friday 7/20 @6:15pm-7:30pm
Sunday 7/22 @3:00pm-4:15pm
Thursday 7/26 @8:15pm-9:30pm

A nuclear device explodes at Madison Square Park. Six college students, rehearsing at The Clemente Center, must grapple with the terror of what for them is an unknown horror. Told in a series of short pieces that mix tragic, comedic, and documentary styles, The Nuclear Plays tells, from the perspective of those just staring out on life, the sobering consequences of nuclear war and its aftermath in a world that has largely forgotten the dangers of the ultimate conflict. A project commissioned by the Reinventing Civil Defense Project to educate the public about nuclear risk.

OK, let’s start with you… tell us about yourself as an artist

My whole self – left brain and right brain – is devoted to theatre. As a playwright, I believe that theatre exists to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, to put the spotlight on the marginalized, to give voice to the voiceless, to tell the narrative and stories that the dominant culture may not want to hear. My plays tackles controversial subjects such as police shootings in the African-American community, attacks on immigrants, and our seemingly endless wars. I have been awarded two fellowships from the New Jersey Council on the Arts, had numerous plays published, and seen my work produced across the world. Additionally, I teach literature and theatre at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ. My book Staging the Past in the Age of Thatcher: “The History We Haven’t Had will be published by Palgrave Macmillan UK later this year, and I have written articles on William Shakespeare and August Wilson. I hold an MFA in Playwriting from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in Drama from the University of London.

You are a Renaissance Man for sure! OK, let’s dig deeper… share with us a little something about your play that we WON’T see in the press release.

This play emerged from an investigation launched by the Reinventing Civil Defense Project, which is exploring different ways we think (or don’t think) about nuclear risk in the present moment. In the past, there was a great deal of education – faulty though it may be – about what to do in case there was a nuclear attack (think “Duck and Cover”). And so the Project is exploring ways to talk about nuclear risk and trying to answer such questions as: how do we educate the populace – particularly the young  – about nuclear war? how much is too much? when does information become panic? And so, this is one part of that project. They are also looking at graphic novels, computer games, and art installations.

Wow. Things don’t change. I was going to ask if your play resonates today? I guess it does, Tell us about it. Feel free to be blunt.

We are careening toward nuclear crises with Iran and North Korea, and, if you are younger than, say 40, you really have no idea what that means. There was an article in The Weekly Standard recently that claimed we could easily shake off a nuclear attack. So, the job of the play is to put the issue front and center (sometimes in humorous ways, sometimes in dramatic ways).The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has a mission to eliminate the risk of nuclear war by eliminating nuclear weapons. This play ultimately shares that mission.

Theatre is best when its a cautionary tale. Why did you choose Planet Connections to get the word out?  

I have worked with Planet Connections before. They are always jonesing for political theatre, and I am more than happy to feed that addiction.

They – and you – are to be commended. PC doesn’t mean politically correct in your case. Where do you see it going in the future? What’s the next step?  

What I am doing at Planet Connections is kind of a beta test for the project. I hope to learn a lot about the play myself. The ultimate goal is that it is something that can be performed at high schools and colleges, and I want to see what works and what doesn’t. I am working with the Reinventing Civil Defense folks to get that ball rolling, and I have some nibbles.

Final thoughts?

I’ve never done something quite like this before, so I am flying without a net. But it is exciting, and I think important to put this issue – which paradoxically everyone agrees is important but also no one thinks about – front and center in a way that makes sense dramatically and theatrically.



Adam Seely is Sax-y!

A. Seely Sax.pngPhoto: Kim Guerriero (KimmyG Photography)


In 2002, a group of celebrated professional musicians – veterans of the New York music scene – came together to form Beginnings.

While Beginnings was designed as a tribute to the 70s/80s classic band Chiacago, the musicians are certainly not mimics. These formidable players infuse the classic – and highly memorable tunes of Chacgo with their own spoecial style, adding musical commentary and 21st Century touches allowing them to stabnd nbext to the biogrtaphical showings along Broadway like Jerrsey Boys, Mama Mia, American idiot, and so many more. Now, Town Hall will contribute to the Broadway skyline by hosting a special one-night-only concert featuring the phenomenal band, Beginnings, and their tribute to the legendary 70/80s band, Chicago; and That Motown Band – celebrating the 60s record label that fostered powerful, definite and historic music.

Preemo Productions in association with Town Hall hosts a concert honoring the American rock band, Chicago, and the timeless music of Motown

Across our five arts sites, we will cover this once-in-a-lifetime event.

We’ll start with Adam Seely, on Alto, Tenor & Soprano saxophones, and on-the-spot. 

Adam, tell us about yourself as an artist. What’s happening with you? 

As a saxophone player and arranger, I have always gravitated towards music that has horn sections at their core.  I love arranging for horns, and the power it can and energy they can bring to a song.  My favorite bands have always been ones with that horn section signature sound like Tower of Power, Earth Wind & Fire and of course, Chicago.  As a musician, I love taking a nice sax solo on something and expressing myself that way, but my true love is playing in a horn section.  Just being a part of a voiced-out arrangement and playing as one with other horn players, it still thrills me to this day, and Chicago is a perfect example on what that lends to their hits and songwriting.

My other musical endeavors are really based around lending my horn parts to original artists’ material and giving something to a song they might not have thought about much.  I love the collaboration in that.  Sometimes it’s deciding where NOT to have horns, and then they come in for the best effect.

Cool. So, fees-up! Share with us a little something about the bands or the show that we WON’T see in the press release.

This band, “Beginnings” is a true labor of love on and off stage.  We are constantly revisiting the show to give that live Chicago experience, but also give our energy and enthusiasm to it.  Crafting the set list is always top of mind.  We try to fit in over 3 decades of hits into a 90-minute show, so we’re immensely proud of the medleys we’ve arranged to give as many choruses to hits so people feel like they’ve heard their favorite song.

Labor of Love? OK, you sort answered this question already. You are keeping great musical works alive and sharing them with new generations. How does that feel? Do you have a greater sense of responsibility because of it?

I’d like to think of it that way for sure.  Cover bands and tribute bands are simply spreading the word – the word is great music.  Plays are revived on Broadway all the time, and re-interpreted and produced differently, but there’s a solid base of art that is being honored and re told to new generations.  If there’s a 20-year-old singer / songwriter out there who hears us play “Saturday in the Park” live, and goes and checks out Chicago’s catalog, that’s a win / win for everyone.  Inspiration can come from talented musicians playing and celebrating music they haven’t written but feel passionate about playing and dissecting and making it relevant for today’s audiences.

You brought up new singers hearing Chiacgo for the first time though you all. How does the music of Chicago and Motown resonate today? Feel free to be blunt. 

As I’ve said, Chicago has over 3 decades of hits.  Big hits.  There’s a reason these guys have been so successful.  Songwriting.   Just amazing songs that meld classical music and rock and unforgettable hooks.  We’re so fortunate to play with “That Motown Band” who just comes out and kills it with every Motown hit.  They’re timeless melodies, and not disposable.  They’re modern classics.  I think those in the audience that are older live out their childhood with nostalgia in each bar of all of Chicago’s tunes as well as Motown.  That’s the feedback we get consistently at our meet and greets.  “I saw Chicago in 1971 and when you did that tune, it brought me back to that place when I first heard the song.  Music can do that like no other art form.  I love when people say we’re as much fun as Chicago to watch and listen to, and that feeling translates to today.  The material isn’t dated and we’re honoring it because the songs have no expiration date in my opinion.

OK, you’re gonna be on BROADWAY! How does THAT feel?

Yeah, playing on Broadway.  It doesn’t get any better than that!  The heart of New York City and all the amazing acts that have graced the Town Hall stage, it’s truly an honor and a blessing.  I will enjoy every second of being on that stage.

What’s next?  

Key West, a return to Las Vegas, bigger venues, and more…as the chorus goes of the song we named the band after, “It’s Only the Beginning”…!

Look for articles on Beginnings members:

Mason Swearingen

Adam Seely

Dan Hendrix 

Chris Milillo

… and producer, Ed Levine


CmM final


Body [of work] SLAM

Michael D’Antoni at the Downtown Urban Arts

“Words Matter’ Poetry Slam

A Poetry Slam or Slam Poetry if you will, by definition is competitive art whereby the venue is the verbal performance of original poetry. This type of competition from all indications began in Chicago around 1986. Poetry Slams differ from more traditional poetry readings in that they stress performance as well as writing. Additionally, many like tonight’s slam adopt specific themes.  This evenings subject matter encouraged poets to discuss contemporary social issues’ and socially conscious people.

However, mind you that the caveat is that performers and poets alike need to win over their audience, as judges vote favorably for the performance and piece that gets the biggest and loudest audience response. Audience approval is essential.

Poetry Slams are a particularly relaxed art form for they are most engaging as they surf a myriad of issues and topics, virtually minute by minute hence making them very entertaining and immediately gratifying.

All the while allowing audience members to voice their opinions almost immediately!

The  standing room only space known as the “Nuyorican Poets Cafe” was charming, welcoming and a most comfortable. Aptly named, the word “Nuyorican” is a portmanteau of the designations “New York” and “Puerto Rican”. A melding of two languages and cultures. Appropriately, this evening was nothing less then just that, a very smooth and pleasant melding of different ideas, styles, formats and talents. The inherent juxtaposition of the cafes name versus the venues platform was well apparent to some if not subliminally appreciated by all.


Headlining this evenings events was Reg E. Gaines the acclaimed Tony & Grammy nominated lyricist and playwright of “Bring in ‘Da Noise Bring in ‘Da Funk” (which won 4 Tonys) who was the special guest host for this evenings reading. He artfully kicked off the slam.

The evening was billed as a “Words Matter” platform, which in life is very true. For once the words cross our lips and we actually give life to them, we own them (with all its positive and/or negative repercussions that may follow).

Hence, to use words in a positive way to (as the producers put it) repair, reform & transform is a lesson we all could be re-introduced at times.
Fresh, innovative and thought provoking was tonight’s slam and nothing less then splendid. An evening of peaceful consciousness in this often cold and lonely asphalt jungle known as New York City.

Does Improv need actors or is it just an act?

New York’s premier improv troupe, THE IMPROVISATIONAL REPERTORY THEATRE ENSEMBLE boasts being well-trained actors as well as hilarity-makers. But is that important … I guess so … and so do they. We grabbed them in-between their second show this season, The DIABOLICAL DR. FIEND, currently running at The Producers Club. (visit http://www.irteinfo.com for info and tickets).

So … guys … quick thinking and natural talent are surely on an improvisational actor’s grocery list. How about theatrical training. How has established acting methods helped in Improv?  

28472000_10155007421096504_934422239107286857_nFrom Artistic Director, Nannette Deasy:

Theatre training is very important for anyone who steps on a stage. Improvisational acting is acting. You may not have a script, but it is still theatre. Talent and natural comic ability are wonderful – but you had better develop the skills to be heard, seen, and connect with your fellow actors and yourself. Otherwise, you can quickly get lost. A “traditional” acting method and scene study class will help any improvisational actor to develop better focus and listening skills. It will also provide him or her better access to one’s own emotional well to create characters grounded in some truth, no matter how broad or ridiculous they may be – not always an easy task when in the very artificial reality of being on a lit stage facing an audience of strangers. 

30550774_960027150828416_1281864778_oFrom Curt Dixon

The first thing that comes to mind is physicality and portraying emotions. Learning how your character moves and how they express themselves is important so that your performance is believable. You have to learn how to show the audience that you are that person. And you also have to be able to pay attention and react to the world that you are in. Being in character and in the moment at all times is paramount to making any scene work.  


From Heather Johnson

Hmm, hard question since I do not have theatrical training, unless you count high school. The method I like to follow is the “does this make ME laugh” method, I wonder if someone has coined that. Because before I even care about an audience, I selfishly just want to make myself laugh and tug on the line of comfort/appropriateness levels. It is kind of like when you’re walking down the street and you think of something and laugh hysterically to yourself and don’t care that you look like an idiot because you’re having a grand time. I’m pretty sure that’s most people in comedy though. 

Wow, this was actually a very awkward question for me to answer. Yep, I’m going to stop now. 


From Cheryl Pickett

Taking things moment to moment and listening to your scene partner.  


From Connie Perry

Scene study work comes to my mind. Even though you are not working with written material, you develop the skills to pay attention and listen to your scene partner as you learn to be in the moment. That can translate well into improvisational scene work.


From Izzy Church

I’ve studied numerous acting methods and they all contribute to the work I do as an improviser. Meisner technique teaches acting students to listen and respond, while paying careful attention that they are working moment to moment and living truthfully under imaginary circumstances. The same rules apply when you’re improvising. You have to be in the moment, and respond to whatever your fellow improviser(s) are offering. Method Acting teaches sense memory, where you recall on the sensory impressions stored in your subconscious and apply them to the space or the scene, which is also useful for improvisation. These techniques, any many other methods are useful tools when you’re improvising. Most importantly, remember to have fun! Your body and brain are very intuitive and if you tense up, you’re sending a signal to your body and brain that what you’re doing is difficult or stressful. I suggest warming up first. I believe all acting schools teach the importance of movement work. We also warm up as improvisers and work to ground ourselves before we begin to play.


Kim Yaged tells YOU who you are


“The Vast Mystery of Who You Are: Part One”

Reviewed by Robert Viagas

kim 4

The central character of Kim Yaged’s sharp new drama, The Vast Mystery of Who You Are: Part One, indulges in sex parties, she says, just to satisfy her primal urges. But it becomes apparent that something else is prowling inside her that is more complicated, though just as fierce.

kim 1

Yaged, the prolific and provocative author of the award winning Hypocrites & Strippers, Mates and Never Said, tears open her characters through language. Named “You” (Marissa Carpio), her central character is relentlessly articulate, though it gradually becomes apparent that her mastery of contemporary buzzwords and politically correct catchphrases actually serves as a kind of armor. They shield her, but also separate her from people she professes to care for.

kim 2

And she is not alone in her loneliness. Her intergender would-be lover “Dritte” (Bridget Ori) actually refuses to be touched. And this is the first play in memory that lists a separate Intimacy Director (Claire Warden).

As the play’s title suggests, sometimes the most “woke” among us are actually asleep to what’s going on inside their own heads and hearts.

As “You,” Carpio seemed a little tentative on opening night, but the confusion and frustration from her would-be male partner “First” (Gareth E. Lawson), her female buddy “Two” (Gulshan Mia), and) was palpable.

Director Rebecca Cunningham staged the show on a nearly empty stage, with three alternating playing areas designed by Omayra Garriga Casiano and lit by Karim Rivera Rosado.

kim 3

When You is finally ready to seriously question her own presumptions, she finds her coldness has driven the others away. She makes a breakthrough in the final line of the 55-minute play, leaving the audience eager to learn what Part Two has in store.

The Vast Mystery of Who You Are: Part One was presented on April 13 as part of the Downtown Urban Arts Festival.








STEVE SILVER: ” I saw a different side of New York.”

15056462_1721827568133950_541449272569597969_nSteve Silver, a playwright and actor whose star was rising at an amazing rate, passed away suddenly on March 16, 2018. His final work, WAITING FOR THE DON opens tonight, April 4, at the American Theatre of Actors.


Stage and film director, Laurie Rae Waugh will be helming this final work.  An artist who was ‘there” and wrote about it. Ms. Waugh directed much of the gritty play- and screen-writer’s canon.


“I enjoyed not only the wonderful working relationship we had but more importantly, the friendship we developed over the past 8 years” said the prolific director, celebrated for her subtle depth-of-the-character style of direction.

Ms. Waugh earned accolades for her and Mr. Silver. She received the 2016 Jean Dalrymple Award for Best Director for Silver’s play(s), Mirrors; the same honor the previous year for Spanish Harlem Story. She also won in 2010 for Jerry J. Pollock’s Code Name Daniel. 

“Steve was not just a friend but became my theater brother,” Ms. Waugh said in an interview.

She and Silver had a long and joyous working relationship on Silver’s plays, Born in the USA and Waiting for THE DON, The Tiger of Greenwich Village, and The Prince of Hell’s Kitchen.

Ms. Waugh was part of Steve Silver’s magnum opus, The Watchtower, which began as a one-act; was rewritten as a full-length; and finally became a major motion picture winning numerous honors across the country.  DON was in negotiation to become another film after its run at the landmark American Theatre of Actors in NYC.

“Thank you Steve for giving me the distinct honor and pleasure to have brought your plays to life.  I would also like to thank James Jennings, my cast, family and friends for their support.”



Steve Silver remembered by the industry.

“We’ve lost a voice that gave us many enjoyable times in the theater.”
Stephanie Schwartz

“He was a quiet man with a loud message!
He was a reserved man, who had a talent for telling stories.
He will be missed; I will miss the plays that he would have written.”
Francesca Devito

“Steve wrote the truth and he gave it to the people.
That alone put him above so many.”
Jay Michaels 

“Steve wrote raw, gritty and compelling dramas about
life in New York City.
He will be sorely missed.”
Laurie Rae Waugh

Microsoft Word - Waiting for THE DON flyer


J.E. Robinson is a STRONG MAN at DUAF

This year marks the Season Sweet 16 for the powerful Downtown Urban Arts Festival. The five-week art & culture showcase supplying audiences with live stage works, independent film, cutting-edge music and envelope-pushing poetry, will take up residence in some of lower Manhattan’s most thrilling and celebrated spaces. Running from April 7 through May 12, artists with their finger on the pulse of what the city is thinking will present their works at Theatre 80 St. Marks, Tribeca Film Center, New York Live Arts, Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater, and Nuyorican Poets Café.

ArtsIndependent will be doing a series of interviews with some of the stage artists prior to showtime. At THEATRE 80 ST. MARKS, 80 ST MARKS PLACE, NEW YORK CITY, a powerful, literate, and engrossing piece goes up by an author who is the same.

J. E. Robinson, at almost fifty-two, by Eric Pan, DPharm, former student (1)The articulate J.E. Robinson shared some brilliance with us recently …

FRIDAY, APRIL 20 @ 8:00 PM

Decades ago, at the head of his gang, Pearl Crabtree was strong enough to kill any man. Is he now strong enough to kill one of his own?

Also featured: CORPORATESTHENICS BY Baindu Dafina Kalokoh

Tell us about yourself as an artist.

Robinson-EricMy aesthetics believes strongly that, in order for the work to live for the audience, it must live for the artist. Without this predicate, the work fails to become art. In every medium in which I have worked (fiction, poetry, essays, plays, history, even within the classroom), I strive to see my audiences sit wide-mouthed, and to hear them say “it’s not just like I met these people; it is like I was actually there!” Perhaps this impact leads them to consider my work “historical,” or even “autobiographical.” Whatever. My audiences, however, do see dimensions beyond the moments I present. Their visions vindicate my trust in them in telling these stories. The gone are not gone if we remember them, if only as parts of a fiction.

Where did you get the idea—the inspiration—for the play?

Perhaps I could explain THE STRONG MAN as being set in my ancestral home in South Carolina, from which my great-grandfather moved around the turn of the twentieth century, or I could explain that the governor of South Carolina who incited and failed to arrest the Honea race riot in the early 1900s shares his birthday with me, but those would elude the true inspiration of a play about how men die.

At fifty-two, I find myself approaching the end of my life. How shall I be remembered? How will I die? Each of us asks those questions. In THE STRONG MAN, Victor has started answering them, and he has resolved not to die cheaply, with the life of yet another person on his head. Perhaps a person arriving at that conclusion serves as the real inspiration for this play. Perhaps I sought to see it represented as religious allegory. That sounds good! “Perhaps so.”

Are you an historian or a history buff—I ask as the play has element of events of decades ago.

That is an odd question. In it, might you reference my profession or my material?

What are your hopes for this play…and goals in general?

For THE STRONG MAN, I should hope an appreciative audience would see it well. I should hope that it inspires thought for someone. I should hope someone seeks to redeem themselves. After all, ever since the time of Aeschylus, drama has been a most redemptive art.

Any ideas for a full length play?

Currently circulating is a longer play, set in Ashante country, in Ghana, between the 1500s and the twenty-first century. In it, Mother Ashante sends storms across the ocean to regain her stolen children, and she rejoices when her children return. It is called MOTHER ASHANTE GATHERS THE WAR CLOUDS FOR HER CHILDREN. I would wish it be seen somewhere beyond my flash drive.

What’s next?

My current project is a screenplay set in the 1930s, featuring a trouser-chasing director forced into a relationship with a starlet to save his job at the studio. Its title remains in flux. Who knows? Perhaps it would interest Kevin Spacey…