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The NYSX Blog

MEET THE CAST: Kate Lydic

Q: Position/Role with the show?
A: Omega/Vittelia/Innkeeper

Q: Brief background about yourself?
A: I am a born and raised New Yorker. I went to college up in Worcester, Mass at the College of the Holy Cross where I studied Theater/English. There, I was either performing or critically investigating Shakespeare’s work. I then went on to get my MFA in Acting from Mason Gross at Rutgers University, which was the best decision of my life. Now I’m back in New York acting as well as baking and cooking delicious treats for my friends and family!

Q: Any previous experience with NYSX?
A: I have done some readings in the past with NYSX: The Muse’s Song and the first poem reading of The Rape of Lucrece. And oh, that one time I lost my hands and tongue in a tutu during their production of Titus Andronicus…it was a messy experience ;P

Q: Favorite thing to do outside of theatre?
A: Outside of theater, I really love to bake and cook for my loved ones. It is a lot like acting where you start with necessary ingredients, blend them, trying to add or subtract to find a harmonious connection that brings out the best in the ingredients and the final product brings joy to the recipients. I love to relax around good food, good wine and great friends.

Q: Favorite Shakespeare play and why?
A: Titus Andronicus . Maybe it’s because I’ve been in it, but I truly feel this is one of the Shakespeare’s only works where women take strong action against their oppressors. SPOILER ALERT!: Yes, Lavinia’s tongue and hands are cut off, but without words, she takes action to assist her father in her family’s revenge. Tamora as well, while being a “villain” in this play, is not sitting at home sewing and weeping but plotting and doing whatever it takes to avenge the loss of her son. There is a real sense of power and dominance in these tragic women that has always struck me as profound and riveting.

Q: Three words to describe the play?
A: Beautiful, heartbreaking, love.

Q: Why is Shakespeare (and adaptations of Shakespeare) still relevant and important?
A: Shakespeare and his adaptations are incredibly relevant and important in today’s world because his topics, sometimes unfortunately, are still relevant today. Shakespeare has a way of peering into the mind and soul of those who have loss someone or are in love for the first time or are so hopeless he/she doesn’t know right from left, and it’s this insight that inspires those who adapt his work to go even further towards understanding the human experience we all share. These works remind us we are not alone, but that others relate to our experiences.

Q: What about this production excites you?
A: Unlike most of the other actors, I have the chance to do a lot of character work and be multiple people in this production. I am really excited to showcase a lot of unique women from different worlds and how they all exist in this one story.

Q: What do you hope audiences take away from watching Lucrece?
A: I hope our audience watches our production and begins a conversation. This is a play that you’re going to immediately have a reaction from watching but then the play will linger in your thoughts for days afterward and your impressions might change or grow stronger. It is a play to watch, reflect upon and then talk about. There are no happy endings or perfect characters, and I am excited to see how people respond to each character’s journey.

 

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MEET THE CAST: Erik Olson

Q: Position/Role with the show?
A: Caius Marcius

Q: Brief background about yourself?
A: Proud to have been born and raised in Boulder, CO. After catching the theater bug amidst a childhood of skiing and ice hockey, I moved to NYC to train at NYU's Tisch. After school I joined the resident acting company at The Flea Theater and am now an Ensemble Member of Pipeline Theatre Company. I've also co-founded two theater production companies, Turkey in the Straw Productions in Boulder and The Bower Group in NYC. Go Broncos!

Q: Any previous experience with NYSX?
A: This is the third beautiful and bountious Kevin Brewer play that I've had the pleasure of acting in. I was in the production of Island, or, To Be or Not to Be at The Connelly Theater in 2012. And I was in the staged reading of The Wall at The Access Theater in 2014.

Q: Favorite thing to do outside of theatre?
A: Skiing. Brunching. Biking. Rockaway beaching.

Q: Favorite Shakespeare play and why?
A: Hamlet. Because I want to play Hamlet. I know the play backwards and forwards. Playing Hal is a strong second. Not too original here, what can I say? They're incredible characters.

Q: Three words to describe the play?
A: Incendiary, visceral, relevant.

Q: Why is Shakespeare (and adaptations of Shakespeare) still relevant and important?
A: It's the best presentation of the English language. In a very real way Shakespeare actually completed the English language. His characters and plots and poetry hold up in any era and with any contemporary twist or take. When performed well there is no one that can resist the magic in his pages. It inspires and teaches new generations about the power of language and theater.

Q: What about this production excites you?
A: It is exciting that Kevin is challenging us to bring the audience to extremes of hilarity and extremes of despair, all in the course of one evening. Really, laughing and crying are two sides of the same coin - emotional release. On one hand, I'm excited to get to play the clown, and connect with the audience through physical comedy. On the other hand, the play grapples with an issue that is as timely today as it has ever been, sexual violence towards women. There's a lot to unpack in these few short weeks of rehearsal.

Q: What do you hope audiences take away from watching Lucrece?
A: Some of the more insightful scenes in the play show Sextus' thought process leading up to the titular event. I hope that the audience leaves the show reflecting on how terrifyingly easy it can be for any person to rationalize committing atrocious acts when selfish desire overrides human compassion.

 

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MEET THE CAST: Joel Oramas

Q: Position/Role with the show?
A: Publius

Q: Brief background about yourself?
A: I graduated with my MFA from the University of Florida in 2014 (chomp chomp). After that, I decided to travel and perform for a couple of years and got to see Canada, London, and parts of the US that I wouldn't have imagined visiting before, but I'm glad I did. I decided to settle in New York this past June, joined AEA in August, and here we are!

Q: Any previous experience with NYSX?
A: First time!

Q: Favorite thing to do outside of theatre?
A: I practice American Sign Language every single day. If I'm on the subway, you'll most likely catch me spelling random words with my hands.

Q: Favorite Shakespeare play and why?
A: I have a few, but Taming of the Shrew is on top of there. I know, I know, misogyny! Yikes! But just as a performer having done that show twice, I have been lucky enough to meet some of the most beautiful and wonderful human beings that I still cherish today. So that show holds a dear place in my heart…but yes, misogyny, no bueno!

Q: Three words to describe the play?
A: Intense, playful, relevant.

Q: Why is Shakespeare (and adaptations of Shakespeare) still relevant and important?
A: The stories and the themes are timeless. A story containing love, deceit, murder, scandal, plot twists, politics, all in one? I'm down to see that!

Q: What about this production excites you?
A: I am working with a lot of talented artists and a director who wants to get to the truth of this subject. This is hard subject matter to get through, especially considering the debates that it brings up today, but we are all of the mindset that this needs to be told.

Q: What do you hope audiences take away from watching Lucrece?
A: With all the stories in the media about the acts of sexual assault and rape, I just hope they can see the parallels between Lucrece and other victims and continue to ignite this ongoing conversation. The conversations are often about the character and intentions of the aggressor rather than mindful that there was also a victim. What about what they are going through?

 

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MEET THE CAST: Brandon Garegnani

Q: Position/Role with the show?
A: Lucius Junius Brutus. The original gangster.

Q: Brief background about yourself?
A: Born in San Diego with my three burly bothers and raised in the mountains of Colorado where I discovered my love of the arts. Currently residing uptown in the concrete canyons of New York City with my beautiful wife Lynnsey. We like picnics in the park and find ourselves perplexed by the beauty and duality of man.

Q: Any previous experience with NYSX?
A: Debut!

Q: Favorite thing to do outside of theatre?
A: paint, write, draw, read, cook, bike, run, hike, swim, camp, laugh, jump rope, HBOgo, creating something from nothing.

Q: Favorite Shakespeare play and why?
A: Othello. Or Hamlet. Or Romeo and Juliet. Or Macbeth … It depends on the day. But this question is making me discover I have a curious fascination with love and death.

Q: Three words to describe the play?
A: Opportunity / Time / Lesson

Q: Why is Shakespeare (and adaptations of Shakespeare) still relevant and important?
A: Because we still wrestle with the same complex human emotions Shakespeare so eloquently brought to life hundreds of ago. He cuts straight to the blood and bone of what it means to be human.

Q: What about this production excites you?
A: Kevin Brewer’s adaption is wicked, provocative and in verse! The poetry, like Shakespeare’s plays, carries a rhythm and imbedded music humming throughout. It is very exciting and exhilarating to tap into that. It feels like we’re cracking into a brand new Shakespeare play.

Q: What do you hope audiences take away from watching Lucrece?
A: I hope the audience gets lost, forgets their watching a play, and experiences an investigation into our beautifully flawed humanity.

 

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MEET THE CAST: Shawn Williams

Q: Position/Role with the show?
A: Collatinus

Q: Brief background about yourself?
A: I am a Cleveland, Ohio native...which also makes me an honorary NBA Champion! From 4th grade through 12th grade, I attended Cleveland School of the Performing Arts (CSA). For the first two years we were exposed to all of the arts, and by the end of our 6th grade year is when we were required to declare a major. Being an art major at the time, I thought I was too advanced for the projects we were being assigned and decided to switch my major to theater. As over the top as the switch may have been for a 6th grader, I'm confident I made the best choice. I mention all of that to share how I started acting, but to also say that I've been known to make "dramatic" decisions from early on.

Q: Any previous experience with NYSX?
A: I was fortunate enough to play the role of Publius, in the first staged reading of this play last year. Prior to that, I believe I'd auditioned for NYSX twice.

Q: Favorite thing to do outside of theatre?
A: I would have to say what I enjoy most is having random conversations with my 4yr old daughter, Julia. Her imagination is out of control. What start's off as a general question or comment, usually spirals into this impromptu improvisation about various Disney characters and how they might interact with us, should we ever meet. Did I mention that she's 4 years old? Lol!

Q: Favorite Shakespeare play and why?
A: The Merchant of Venice. To be honest, I've never really thought about the "why" until now. In 2004, I was on tour doing Romeo & Juliet, and on our day off, we decided to see a production of Merchant at the Denver Center for Performing Arts. I can't remember the actors' names, but their performances moved this play to the top of my list. A close second would be Macbeth: I think this play gives a clear-cut example of how misguided ambition for wealth/power, ultimately leads to death and destruction.

Q: Three words to describe the play?
A: Revealing - Scary - Introspective

Q: Why is Shakespeare (and adaptations of Shakespeare) still relevant and important?
A: I think the relevancy speaks for itself. Most of the topics covered by Shakespeare, from love to misogyny, are all very relatable. The unfortunate side of this relatability, especially in respect to what occurs in Lucrece, is the fact that not much progress has been made in over four hundred years. That's where the importance comes into play...continuing to use popular art as a way to spark not only conversations, but change.

Q: What about this production excites you?
A: What excites me the most about this production, is the fact that everyone involved has a great sense of humor. We're tackling such a heavy and loaded topic, and yet we continuously manage to keep each other laughing throughout the process. I love to laugh and that is definitely happening...along with acting and other work tasks of course.

Q: What do you hope audiences take away from watching Lucrece?
A: Hopefully Lucrece erases the idea for some, that Shakespeare is impossible to understand or too complex to enjoy.

MEET THE TEAM: Bryan Russell, Production Stage Manager

Q: Position/Role with the show?

A: Production Stage Manager

Q: Brief background about yourself?
A: I am an east coast transplant, originally from Memphis, then by way of Texas. After undergrad, I decided that I wanted to be closer to cities with booming theatre scenes, so New England and New York just made sense. I have been at Rutgers for 2 years now and I am finishing up my MFA this fall. I've worked in a number of genres, from devised work to dance, with some opera in between, but I found that something always brings me back to new plays and adaptations after a while.

Q: Any previous experience with NYSX?
A: This is my first production with NYSX

Q: Favorite thing to do outside of theatre?
A: I love watching basketball. I have a small obsession with human flight, so watching those towering players screaming through the air for 48 minutes makes me giggle like nothing else.

Q: Favorite Shakespeare play and why?
A: King Lear. Aside from the madness, to me it's also a painful tale about a family that never got the help they needed, and paid dearly for it. There are so many opportunities for Lear to reconcile with his daughters, but instead he lets himself get swept away.

Q: Three words to describe the play?
A: Passion without pity

Q: Why is Shakespeare (and adaptations of Shakespeare) still relevant and important?
A: Many of the questions and issues raised in Shakespeare's plays are still questions we grapple with today. So as you watch and examine the work, it serves as a reminder that, while we have made great strides over the centuries, these questions have not gone away.

Q: How did you get into stage managing?

 

MEET THE TEAM, Alicia Rodis, Intimacy/Fight Director

Q: Position/Role with the show? 
A: Intimacy/Fight Director

Q: Brief background about yourself?
A: I am an intimacy and fight director, stunt woman, teacher and actor. Grew up in the exotic city of Cleveland, OH and been in NYC for almost 10 years working in entertainment. Before that I was predominantly an actor in regional and classical theatre.

Q: Any previous experience with NYSX?
A: I've had the pleasure of being the fight director for Hamlet, Titus Andronicus, Island, Othello, The Life & Death of King John, as well as been a director for one of the Shakespeare pub crawls. I absolutely adore this company, and working with the truly fine artists in it.

Q: Favorite thing to do outside of theatre?
A: Anything physical

Q: Favorite Shakespeare play and why?
A: King John - I love the Bastard's railing against commodity, Constance's stunning descent into madness, and Hubert's wrestle with duty and conscience --- if the sheer number of good female roles and opportunities for theatrical violence wasn't enough.

Q: Three words to describe the play?
A: Funny. Surprising. Devastating.

Q: Why is Shakespeare (and adaptations of Shakespeare) still relevant and important?
A: Because of the relatability of these characters, story, and language we have incredible opportunity to connect and empathize with hundreds of years of humanity.

Q: How did you get into your area of design?
A: It began with stage combat classes in conservatory, then working for a number of classical theaters after, and pursuing the direction of theatrical violence and then training accordingly. As for intimacy design, it was a natural progression as most shows I worked on needed help with kisses, cuddles, and even sexual scenes. Just like violence coordination, we needed to keep the actors, audience, and theater itself safe. At best, we can tell an authentic physical story that moves the audience and, at worst, we have an unclear, uncomfortable improved piece that could potentially (and legally) be an assualt. I am so pleased to be able to create a safe and exciting direction for our actors.

Q: What kind of research did you do for Lucrece?
A: Researching the history of the epic poem, the Greek mythology involved, as well as rape survivor stories, the psychology of the victim and perpetrator in such instances. It was not as brief as it may sound.

Q: How did you decide on your actual design?
A: The script, the director, the actors, the story. Boundaries, what drives, and what inhibits to the process.

Q: What are your favorite and most challenging parts of your job?

 

MEET THE CAST: Aaliyah Habeeb

Q: Position/Role with the show?
A: Lucrece

Q: Brief background about yourself?
A: I'm originally from Kent, OH. I'm one of 8 kids from 2 awesome & supportive parents. My whole family is super supportive of me, really! I'm lucky to have them. I've always been a performer. When you come from a big family, there's ALWAYS one! I did my undergrad at the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in Administration of Justice with a concentration in Forensic Science. If I didn't have a passion for acting, I would probably be fighting crime in some capacity or another. But because of this incessant need to be an artist, I scoped out grad school programs that would give me the training I needed to make it in this business, and Rutgers was the place, and Israel Hicks, then artistic director, was the leader I wanted to guide my path. He passed away the year I came into the program, but I knew I was where I was supposed to be.

Q: Any previous experience with NYSX?
A: No! First time for everything and I couldn't be more excited!

Q: Favorite thing to do outside of theatre?
A: I love to cook. Ironically, I used to LOATHE being in the kitchen. Coming from a huge family, every meal was a well-orchestrated event and I remember my mom always being in there. FOR HOURS! I wanted no parts of it. But now, the kitchen is my sanctuary. I'm always whipping up different vegetarian meals. And I make a pretty amazing salad, not to brag or anything :)

Q: Favorite Shakespeare play and why?
A: I'd probably have to say The Tempest. I think it's the first Shakespeare play my dad took me and my younger sisters to at Cleveland Playhouse and I just remember being in awe of Ariel and Prospero.

Q: Three words to describe the play?
A: Relevant. Ferociously Unapologetic.

Q: Why is Shakespeare (and adaptations of Shakespeare) still relevant and important?
A: Shakespeare's themes transcend time and place. You could set any of them anywhere in the world and the themes would ring true for that community. His plays are about the human experience, and The Rape of Lucrece is particularly important today because we are still dealing with the same stigma and ignorance surrounding rape.

Q: What about this production excites you?
A: Oh man…everything! Elivia is crushing it with the costumes. Cristina is killing it directing and Kevin's created an awesome piece of literature that I'm thrilled to sink my teeth into. There's a lot of mighty people bringing this baby to life on stage and off, so I'm excited to be a part of the magic and I can't wait to see how the audience responds.

Q: What do you hope audiences take away from watching Lucrece?

 

MEET THE CAST: Leighton Samuels

Q: Position/Role with the show:
A: Sextus Tarquinius

Q: Brief background about yourself:
A: Born and raised in Houston, Texas, went to college at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and have been acting and fight directing professionally in and around New York for three years now.

Q: Any previous experience with NYSX:
A: None at all. Excited for this first!

Q: Favorite thing to do outside of theatre:
A: Friends, and all kinds of games. Playing or watching pretty much any kind of game, really. Football, baseball, tabletop RPG, Board games, the list just keeps going.

Q: Favorite Shakespeare play and why:
A: Henry IV part 1. The relationships are so strong throughout, whether it be Hal and Falstaff, Hal and his father, Hal and Hotspur, even Hotspur and Lady Hotspur. There's so much to dig into, layers to explore, and then you end it with one of the best fights in Shakespeare’s Canon. It also demonstrates a sense of respect between enemies in war that has been lost in recent history.

Q: Three words to describe the play:
A: Hilarity, surprise, gut-punch

Q: Why is Shakespeare (and adaptations of Shakespeare) still relevant and important?
A: The human condition is the human condition, no matter the time period. We all crave love, covet power, feel rejection, and Shakespeare’s plays hit all of these themes at their very cores. Through these plays, we learn about our innermost selves, and are also better able to empathize with others' struggles.

Q: What about this production excites you?
A: It's a story that's rarely told, but it is the catalyst for such a drastic and important turning point in history. It's an opportunity to bring it to life with a full arc that will make you laugh, cry, and want to crawl in a hole (Cheers, Kevin!)

Q: What do you hope audiences take away from watching Lucrece?
A: It's never your fault as a victim. Never. It's important that we support survivors of sexual assault, and find ways to educate everyone from a young age that no matter who you are or what your situation is, you are never entitled to another person's body. Lucrece's experience is shared by far too many people.

 

MEET THE CAST: Gabrielle Beans

Q: Position/Role with the show:
A: I'm playing the part of Mirabelle.

Q: Brief background about yourself:
A: Before this show I was studying classical acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Before that I was spending a lot of time thinking about and looking at brains as an undergraduate Neuroscience major. Before that I was living the strange and wonderful life of an adolescent military brat. Before that I honestly don't remember.

Q: Any previous experience with NYSX:
A: I was in a sonnet project short film! If you can guess which one without looking I'll buy you a slurpee. 

Q: Favorite thing to do outside of theatre:
A: Aside from spending an exorbitant amount of time watching vegan food and otter videos on YouTube, I enjoy trying (and eventually quitting) various exercise trends, and checking cheap weirdo concerts.

Q: Favorite Shakespeare play and why:
A: I was a witch in Macbeth in fifth grade and it's been my favorite since. I liked it then because playing a witch constituted some deep wish fulfillment; now though I appreciate the mysterious and consuming pathos that Shakespeare's able to portray in a pre-Freudian context.

Q: Three words to describe the play:
A: Unexpected; unfortunately relevant.

Q: Why is Shakespeare (and adaptations of Shakespeare) still relevant and important?
A: I think it's safe to say that at this point Shakespeare's canon is coextensive with Western theater and artistic culture. The ways we speak, think, and imagine ourselves are intertwined with these works. By engaging with the poems and plays, we do not only interrogate our history, but also tap in to essential human experiences whose immediacy and relatability have not dulled over time. 

Q: What about this production excites you?
A: Working on a new play is always exciting, but working on a new play that has such a foundation in a very old poem is especially exciting. Kevin and Cristina's spirit of playfulness with the text is really great!

Q: What do you hope audiences take away from watching Lucrece?
A: I hope that this work will allow us to engage with uncomfortable but very present realities in a way that makes viewers want to talk about what they've just witnessed. If some conversations are started with this piece, that would be very positive.