It’s been a long time since my previous blog post…
Along with my work as the translator for Viola Spolin’s Improvisation For The Theater, I have been busy working on a new project, a new web-series on my favorite Russian; Anton Chekhov’s work.
Since my graduation from The New Actors Workshop, I often hear my teachers Mike Nichols and George Morrison’s voices in my head; both of them were big fans of Chekhov. One thing Mike used to repeat over and over during his masterclasses was that we should be working on materials which made us think “I know exactly what this is about!”. Finally in summer/fall of 2016 I dared to jump in and start working on Chekhov’s dark, cynical and funny characters, this time they are – yup!- New Yorkers!
“Fine. Since the tea is not forthcoming, let’s have a philosophical conversation.”
Anton Chekhov wrote about people, their hopes and dreams, failures and weaknesses, their desires and heartbreaks. He often questioned morality, common sense, social values and norms. His characters speak and act in a way that often hits too close to home.
He lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A Russian doctor. Medicine was his wife and literature was his mistress. He believed that if you wanted to lead a good life, you needed to work. So, he devoted himself into healing people physically as well as intellectually and spiritually by holding them a mirror through his stories and plays.
“Man will become better when you show him what he is like.”
In this project, we asked ourselves what if Chekhov’s characters were some New Yorkers?
Dark, grumpy, selfish, stupid and quirky… Along with a love and hate relationship with the city.
“For one sensible person there are a thousand fools, and for one sensible word there are a thousand stupid ones; the thousand overwhelms the one, and that is why cities and villages progress so slowly. The majority, the mass, always remain stupid!”
While most of us would agree with Anton on that one, we all hang on to this;
“You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.”
The series will be published in February 2017, meantime we’ll share little snippets. So please subscribe to the channel, share and comment! Chekhov in New York
Adapted & performed by Ege Maltepe
Directed by Emir GAMSIZOGLU
Music by Emir GAMSIZOGLU
Phew… What a season!
It all started with LPAC’s production of Privatopia by Maria Efstathiadi, where I got to portray a larger than life board member of a gated community, scared of a strange cat and all the other strangers around.
Right after our successful run of 8 shows in two weeks, I was ready for the auditions of Women of New York. A new play that I had written throughout my summer in New York, hanging around the Upper West Side, New York Public Library and Caffe Vivaldi with my straw hat and old laptop.
That laptop went through so many projects, presentations, plays… he’s a proud veteran.
Women of New Yorkwas an ambitious project, with nearly 20 characters, a funky mix of actors and non-actor New Yorkers with diverse ages and backgrounds. That has been one of the key factors in our shows with 4thU-Vday through the years. Now we are 4th U Artivists, carrying the same mission; creating and producing artistic projects/events to raise awareness and funds to stop violence against women and girls. Women of New York was written with the same mission to be premiered by 4th U Artivists. Proceeds benefited three amazing non profits working for women in need; Her Justice (Provides free legal advice for women in need), Restore NYC (Provides services for the victims of sex trafficking) and V-Day (A global movement founded by Eve Ensler the author of The Vagina Monologues).
Off we started the rehearsal process right before Christmas, most of the early rehearsals were for the monologues, and scenes. Meeting the new cast members one by one and sharing stories, talking about beats, and doing exercises from Spolin and my teacher George Morrison was a real joy as a director and the writer of the play.
Many characters gained their real voices through honest discoveries of the actors playing them. We had several rehearsals in our organizer Deb Roth’s living
room, sipping some hot tea in the breezy cold New York winter. As a theater artist I learned one more time how important it is to open yourself up to your partner and your director. Being vulnerable is the sign of a good actor and theater maker. Our conversations with Tammy (A transgender comedian who performed a part that I had written thinking of her (-Yes, you should totally check her out!), and the rehearsals of mother-daughter scenes with Lynn, Elizabeth, Mary Anne and Shena, as well as our rehearsal with wonderfully talented Niesha who was playing a young woman from Bronx frustrated by the effects of social media and how “real life is not real anymore” were among the gatherings that opened many doors for me.
By the end of February all the small pieces of our puzzle were almost ready to find their places in the big picture. As an actor, I am used to embellishing the piece that I have and, as a director your job is not only guiding the small pieces but also (and more so) creating the whole puzzle.…The colors, and overall shape in which the smaller shapes can find their places and fit in. So there I was in the middle of splashes of colors waiting to find harmony. Those were our ensemble rehearsals where the whole cast got together to rehearse, the group scenes, transitions, entrances, exits, floor plans, sound effects, and lastly music…
Click to enlarge the photos in these collages.
Luckily my favorite jazz musicians in town both happily accepted to be a part of the show, donating their time and talent for the cause. Having Stephanie Layton and John Lander performing some old timey New York tunes from Gershwin and Ellington added another layer to the show, which made the big picture complete for me.
Before we knew it, it was March 11 ; opening night! Viola Spolin’s warm up games and my beloved teacher Lester Shane’s voice warm up set were there with us as we gathered in a circle with the cast. It was my first time coaching Spolin games with a wig on my head and a heavy make up on my face as the “Homeless Woman”. I cannot wait to check out the footage we took from that warm up 🙂
Women of New York had two successful performances in the beautiful Fourth Universalist Society on Central Park West. Several audience members asked me after the show “What is next for the play?”. Hey! We are New Yorkers after all, it’s all about the next step!! Of course I took this question as a compliment. They had enjoyed the show and wanted to see it have a longer run, and maybe share it with their friends. Hopefully that can happen in the near future… New Yorkers asked me how come I knew what New York women go through so well, and how the characters can be so different from each other. My answer is simple; the women of New York! Especially the diverse group of women I got to meet and work with through our “artivist” group over the last 7 years made me aware of women’s issues both current and past. When it was my first time co-directing The Vagina Monologues with 40 women in the cast in 2011, I was terrified. My fear became awe as we moved on to create a terrific show together with so much joy and kindness. Now I say, bring the women on!
Click to enlarge the photos in these collages.
I am impressed by my cast who followed this long journey, and were so attentive on stage and off stage, my crew who was organized, peaceful, supportive and happy, our A-Team; the volunteers, supporters everyone who were happy to support our cause and my fellow artivists Deb, Lynn, Mary Anne, Zafreen, Pangia, Matt, Erin along with my stage managers Aydin, and Cihangir who were there to lift me up when I fell down. And of course my partner in crime, Emir who so relentlessly worked on every detail of the project starting with graphics, and production. The world premiere of Women of New York featured these talented people; Lynn Bourbeau, Mary Anne Holliday, Shena Gryffudd, Elizabeth Raia, Maria Severny, Pangia Macri, Tammy Twotone, Niesha Brown, Derya Celikkol, Lisa Curry, Yi Liu, Luisa Alarcon, Amelia Zuver, Deborah Roth, Rebecca Geneve, Joanie Watkins, Ege Maltepe, Antonio Truyols, Zachary Nading, Nick Velkov. Musicians: Stephanie Layton, John Lander. And lastly, we are still accepting donations!!
Go ahead and click the NY Charities link and all the way on the bottom, you will see a box to donate whichever amount you wish to contribute. I thank you for your contribution on behalf of our beneficiaries and the women who receive services from them. DONATION PAGE: http://www.nycharities.org/Events/EventLevels.aspx?ETID=8759 Photo credit: Andrei Severny and Luisa Alarcon
The season started in full swing; First with music through our Classical for All concert series in Greenwich Village, then PRIVATOPIA ; a new play I’m taking part in as an actor! This was a chance to go back to one of my artistic homes; LaGuardia Performing Arts Center where I have premiered one of my first plays; “TEA for 3” back in 2012.
By the acclaimed writer Maria Efstathiadi, Privatopia is a multi-layered text about the increasing fear of “otherness” and the obsession of exclusivity in modern societies. After being shaken by the horrific news about the refugees fleeing from war in Syria, I think there can’t be a better time for the world premiere of this play.
From the very first reading I was startled by the discussions among the board members of the “gated community”.
“Everyone is talking about alternative lifestyles, we turned it into reality”
I’m playing one of the privileged characters living in this secure, gated community, where everything is in private hands, the food is organic, and the doors are sprayed with cyclonytode to prevent outsiders from entering. And yet, a strange cat was able to get in and even give birth to six kittens!
While the board members are discussing this critical issue of what to do with this CAT, on the other side of the wall refugees are sharing their stories with the audience. The stories that most of us only hear from newspapers.
To me, Privatopia is an absurd, funny and poetic “clownery” opening a window into our own fears. I find fear to be a very distinct feeling that everyone in our modern world of comfort and technology is constantly promoting to sell us stuff like insurance, drugs, and even wars.
What are you afraid of?
Come see* Privatopia at LPAC and let me know what you think after the show!
Thu Nov 5, 2015 | 8:00P
Fri Nov 6, 2015 | 8:00PM
Sat Nov 7, 2015 | 8:00PM
Sun Nov 8, 2015 | 3:00PM
Wed Nov 11, 2015 | 2:30PM
Thu Nov 12, 2015 | 8:00PM
Fri Nov 13, 2015 | 8:00PM
Sat Nov 14, 2015 | 8:00PM
*LPAC is offering $8 tickets for the friends of the cast . So, if you want to come, fill the CONTACT form on the website and I can put your name on my list. Then all you’ll need to do is to mention that you’re on Ege’s discount group list at the box office. And wink 🙂