Saturday, July 28, 2012

AAPEX "White Rabbit" Award for Theatrical Design goes to Paula J. Riley and Coni Koepfinger

is a synthesis of the free organic and the structured geometric.
To see more examples of how the stage can be rearranged,
please scroll down.
Please click images to enlarge.

If you are young and looking to embark on a career in the theatre, then this is what I wish for you - that you should have a mentor as awesome as the one the universe sent me almost 40 years ago, a remarkable theatrical designer named Richard Thomas Pike.

Rick was the white rabbit who enticed me down the rabbit hole of the American theatre.

As I enter my latter years and look back over my accomplishments, I realize that the true secret of my success really lies in one place, and that is my mentor's wisdom - and now that I have lived long enough to understand that, it is my duty to pass it on. As with all brilliance, it mystifies into a single premise. Unfortunately it's my trade secret, so I can't share it with you.

Another artist who is on this journey is NYC based Paula J. Riley, artistic director of The Spiral Theatre, whose mission lies in the teachings and art of her mentor, Iza Itkin. Paula wants Iza and her work to be not only remembered but engaged and utilized by the theatre of the future and I don't blame her: from the moment I saw the idea for a stage that is at the core of the spiral, I wanted one for myself, and there are very few things any more that I actually want to possess.

In the best theatre, it is the set designer who is our white rabbit, careening us into the world of the play. Paula J. Riley knows that and I 'spect she learned to know that from Itkin. Therefore it is my pleasure to recognize Paula and Iza and Paula's partner, Coni Koepfinger, with the first AAPEX "White Rabbit" Award for Theatrical Design.

Jaz Dorsey,
AAPEX Founder and Dramaturg

To learn more, please click the post's title.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Nashville theatre producer Ted Swindley does playwright "Speed Dating" in NYC

Ted with noted director and actress Petronia Paley
representing D.C. Copeland's "dancical"
Once Upon A Time In Harlem: A Jitterbug Romance
at the recent TRU playwright "Speed Date" in NYC.

Our good friend theatre producer Ted Swindley recently participated in a "Speed Date" for playwrights to pitch their stuff in NYC. For over twenty-five years, Ted has directed and/or produced over 200 plays. He is nationally known for creating the hit musical ALWAYS... PATSY CLINE, which opened in New York in June, 1997, while continuing to play throughout the world. Some of his outstanding directorial credits include World Premieres, Classics and Musicals including CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, PACIFIC OVERTURES, FOLLIES, and CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, and rotating repertory projects such as Thornton Wilder's OUR TOWN and THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH and DANGEROUS LIAISONS with THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST.

Jamie Cutler's ANGELS WITHOUT WINGS opens 8/2 (Nashville)

Please click image to enlarge.

Steve Leslie & Len Cohen's UMBRELLA opens 8/2 (Nashville)

Please click image to enlarge.

Artistic Success Seminar TONIGHT (Nashville)

Please click image to enlarge.

AAPEX Interview: Paula J Riley

What role did theatre and the arts play in your childhood and upbringing?

Being the child of performers, I was exposed not only to the external environs of the Borscht Belt circuit of the 1940’s, but the constant shenanigans of my comic father, who would bounce me upon his knee while trying out many a song or funny new routine. For attention I would dance for the inevitable weekly crowd of relatives who’s accolades have never quite been matched.

I went to a performing arts camp in the Berkshires called Stissing Lake where a young Jerry Herman was the musical director. I performed as a little ballerina in Finian's Rainbow , A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I did the traditional school plays where I would sing, act and dance. I studied at several of the day’s foremost acting schools and with teachers such as John Stix, at The Herbert Berghof Studios. As a New Yorker growing up in the 60’s, I was privy to the likes of many struggling young actors, comics and singers. I hung out at the original Improvisation begun by Bud Friedman and his wife Silver on West 44 Street in Manhattan. I would occasionally get up to sing but I preferred hearing the humor of Robert Klein, Richard Prior, Rodney Dangerfield or Stiller & Mera trying out their latest material. Or I would listen to the melodious tones of Bette Midler, Leslie Uggums or Liza Minnelli. Their nightly piano player was Charlie Smalls who would later write the Broadway musical The Wiz

As it was the rise of Off-Broadway, many of the smaller houses were playing some of America’s greatest – and still unknown – playwrights of the century such as Edward Albee and Sam Shepard. I worked part-time at the famous Village Gate – again rubbing elbows with a young Neil Diamond or Stacy Keach who played the title role in MacBird!, an Off-Broadway anti-war satire by Barbara Garson staged in 1966.

In that same year, I met and began studying with Iza Itkin and worked with her until 1970. I was a charter member of Iza’s repertory theatre company in Manhattan, The Chamber Theater. Iza was the daughter of David Itkin of the famed Goodman Theatre in Chicago. Some of Iza’s directorial accomplishments were: The Infernal Machine produced Off-Broadway and The Prisoner at the Arena Stage in Washington, DC. She also wrote a poetic memoir called A Becoming, I Iza. I believe her greatest talent was directing and her contribution to theatre is the creative structure I now call The Spiral Theatre Studio.

At the Chamber Theatre, I studied the art of improvisation, which led me to a deeper understanding of myself as well as the intricacies of acting. This would have a lasting and profound influence upon how I would later teach. Working with a closely-knit group of actors for an extended period of time gave me great insight into the acting group dynamic. This is where my true grit was challenged as an actor. By osmosis I began my tutelage in directing. I feel I need to honor her teachings on that structure. I want to fulfill her dream (and mine) by recreating this magical venue.

Tell us about your own evolution as an artist.

During the period that followed my studies, I married and divorced, wrote, directed and sang in several nightclub acts, an early love of mine. I even returned to college for Interior design, looking for the creative part of myself I was yet to fulfill.

I had always been the one that adults would come to for advice when I was as young as seven. And being the good little child I would somehow find an answer that would satisfy them and it would be right on.

I now know it was my intuition that gave me a sense of others, a perception that has grown and helped me “know” through feelings not intellect. Of course this has been a great factor in a career in which I can gratefully apply this gift. And so it seemed clear and natural for me to coach, teach and direct.

I became active in a neighborhood theatre company and directed a couple of productions. I had begun to scratch the surface of my intended destiny. But life was hard financially and I had to take in roomers in order to make ends meet. A friend who worked for a popular modeling agency recommended that I house out of town models and their mothers, M & M’s as I called it. I also worked as a bartender which supplemented my income but also made it too tempting to have “just another drink” before I went home. I had a monkey on my back that I didn’t address until many years later. Meanwhile, I picked up whatever jobs I could as an actor, director or singer.

My directorial credits include: A Fake Fiasco by Fred Timm, I Feel Swell, by Henry Meyerson, Wednesdays by Sue Brody, Extreme Unction (Reading), by Marvin Cotlar, Traffic Jam by Bonnie Corso, The Reading by John C. Davenport, Come Back, Little Sheba by William Inge, Golden Boy by Clifford Odets, The Wreck on the 5:25 by Thorton Wilder, From Lindsay by Monica Raymond and The Stronger by August Strindberg.

Some of the plays from which I directed scenes for my 3-month “From Scratch To Script” workshops are: Beautiful Clear-eyed Woman by Diana Amsterdam, Little Murders by Jules Feiffer, Come Blow Your Horn by Neil Simon, A Few Good Men by Aaron Sorkin, The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, Glengary Glen Ross by David Mamet, The Member Of The Wedding by Carson McCuller, Laundry & Bourbon by James Mclure, Lie Of The Mind by Sam Shepard.

Throughout my acting career I have portrayed such characters as: Daisy Werthan in Driving Miss. Daisy, Amanda in Glass Menagerie, Edna in Prisoner of Second Avenue and Thelma in ‘Night Mother, just to name a few.

Another love of mine is writing. I started to write a play and then another. I also wrote many short stories and poems. They were reflections of my inner burnings. However, one of the plays, which took me three years to complete, had actually been plagiarized. I can’t reveal more on this because I won’t expose names but it appeared on a major TV network with a star-studded cast. This was a double-edged sword since it was good enough for that venue but I was never credited with its creation. I am still hoping to produce the play that was made into a TV movie, on The Spiral Theatre stage. I still write poetry – it’s a great outlet.

What is the "spiral stage"? What is you mission here, and why?

I am prepared to carry on the tradition of this sustainable poetic construct I call “The Spiral” which was originally conceived and built by Iza Itkin. I am now partnered with a prolific playwright, Coni Koepfinger, and will be directing her play Coffee House Magik which will be The Spiral’s inaugural performance. While I continue teaching, coaching and directing, my legacy is to resurrect the stage I learned how to act upon – which now bares the name The Spiral Theatre Studio.

The stage is a synthesis of the free organic and the structured geometric. Working on this stage helped me create an organic teaching process that insures the actor/student the most nuanced, and unselfconscious performance as possible. I call this the Primary Principles of Acting (PPA). I am writing a guide by the same name for actors, which describes my process and offers several effective exercises to create an in-depth character core for scene work, auditions and performances.

It is my goal to create this stage in a sustainable way and therefore become the first truly “Green” theatrical performance space in New York City. We can achieve this mostly with the ability to stage all our productions on this environmentally friendly construct. By not having set load-ins and load-outs, we can function in a controlled environment.

We can dictate what comes into our space, which will be green-optimized from the ground floor up.

One of the important elements of this theatre is to introduce “essential theatre” to both the general public at an affordable price and to have a specific department which conducts educational outreach for public and high school students.

For more information please go to:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Rabbit Hole Dramaturg

Private Eye: I've told you everything I know.
Police Chief: You ain't told me shit.
Private Eye: True, but it's everything I know.

From WALKING SHADOW by Robert Parker

One of the greatest moments of my human existence was that moment that was the first moment that I went down the rabbit hole with Alice. The curious mental and physical experience of reading Carroll's description of Alice's fall and then traveling through Wonderland with her is the most profound example of the power of literature I can reference from my life time. And that is why my aesthetic position is that every evening in the theatre should be like a fall down the rabbit hole.

The next two weeks in Nashville, Tennessee is going to be an explosion of new theatre and new tumbles down the rabbit hole, starting with tonight's preview of THE NUTTY PROFESSOR and rolling in to next week with a theatrical double header when UMBRELLA and ANGELS WITHOUT WINGS open on August 2nd - UMBRELLA at Bongo Java on Belmont Boulevard and ANGELS at The Darkhorse on Charlotte Pike. I am pleased to point out that these two local shows both got on their feet earlier this year with readings at The Looby Theatre as events in the Metro Nashville Parks Theatre Department's NEW PLAY READING SERIES, which it has been my honor to curate.

Come to Nashville and Go to the Theatre.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Ragtime Confession by Jaz Dorsey

12-year-old Lucy Turner sings Jaz Dorsey's
Manhattan Blues (with Dorsey at the piano)

There are times - as I'm sure many other piano players would agree - when you feel you could change the world with a piano.

When I hear someone who can play the music of Scott Joplin, for instance, I do wonder at the miracle that is man. That's why The Piano Society of Nashville opened it's doors today to Jim Lutz, piano, and Eleanor Hall, violin, with three rags by Joplin. And from there we plunged down the rabbit hole that is the music of the piano.

I myself was astounded at the team of artists we had somehow managed to assemble and at the rainbows, thunderstorms and butterflies that, among us, we managed to evoke from the enchanted ivories of the beautiful grand piano in The Celebrity Center of Nashville, itself an enchantment of Nashville's Victorian era architecture.

I have always thought of myself as a fusion of Bob Dylan and Scott Joplin, and today I found that I wasn't alone as my songs got to share the stage with one of those songs that defies genre but taps you on the shoulder and says "wake up" - and this was a song called ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT by NSAI member Laurie O'Shea.

And frankly, that is what the show is about - we need to admit that talent is not a geographical phenomenon. We - by which I mean artists, all artists of all lands - need an attitude adjustment. We are a nation.

But if it is geographical (talent), Nashville is surely one place you would expect to find it. N'est-ce pas?

That's why we are all waiting with baited breath for the upcoming previews of THE NUTTY PROFESSOR and to see what Jerry Lewis and his team of legends hath wrought. Including Marvin Hamlisch, speaking of ragtime.

In fact, it was THE STING that infused ragtime into my soul. When I started writing music, it was because I wanted to feel the way that Joplin felt when he created his music. If I could read music, I might have contented myself to study Joplin, but at 60 years old, I'm still going "every - good - boy - does - fine" to remember the name of the notes, so if I wanted to feel the feelings that playing such music produces, I had to write my own.

Apparently so did Joseph Akins, Charlie Yarborough and Mel Nelson, whose compositions took us on a ride from Rachmaninoff to Ireland to Harlem.

As for me, I heard my songs sung by a team of gals that would be the envy of the Ziegfeld - in order of appearance:

Lucy Turner
Audrey Belle
Roxie Rogers
Rebecca Carter
Michelle Glenn

And just think - none of this would ever have happened if it hadn't been for ragtime.

Come to Nashville and Go to the Theatre.

Jaz Dorsey
The Piano Society of Nashville.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Free Concert this Sunday (Nashville)

2:00 PM
Where 8th Ave, Chestnut and Edgehill intersect.
Plenty of free parking.

Featuring Jim Lutz, Eleanor Hall, Lucy Turner, Audrey Belle, Laurie O'Shea, Charlie Yarborough, Joseph Akins, Mel Nelson, Roxie Rogers, Michelle Glenn, Rebecca Carter & Jaz Dorsey. With a salute to NYC cabaret songwriting legend Francesca Blumenthal.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Nichole Thompson-Adams’ BLACK GIRL YOU'VE BEEN GENTRIFIED (7/27 NYC)

Please click image to enlarge.
For more info and to buy tickets, please chick the post's title.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Once Upon A Time In Harlem: A Jitterbug Romance makes the cut!

Noted director and actress Petronia Paley will pitch D.C. Copeland's "dancical" Once Upon A Time In Harlem: A Jitterbug Romance to a dozen Broadway producers this Sunday, July 22nd at the legendary Players Theatre in NYC. Sponsored by Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU), this is an invitation-only event for selected playwrights. At least one producer has won a Tony and many have been associated with Tony nominated productions including The Scottsboro Boys, The Gershwins' Porgy & Bess, Radio Golf, Clybourne Park, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Legally Blonde, and many more.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Final Weeks: Karimah's ACCEPT "EXCEPT" (Harlem)

Please click image to enlarge.
To learn more, please click the post's title.

Publicizing Your Dream

Please Click Image to Enlarge.
To learn more, please click the post's title.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Karimah's ACCEPT "EXCEPT" extended through July 22nd (HARLEM)

Please click images to enlarge.
To visit the Faison Firehouse Theatre,
please click the post's title.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Pearls Before Swine? or There is no respect for acting in our country

A colleague asked me what I meant when I claimed that there is no respect for acting in our country. I thought about it for a minute and this is where I went in my response:

To start off with I will cite two issues that perplex me and provoked my rant.

1.) There are five astounding theatre training programs in the Music City area. When the kids graduate, for the most part, they will not be staying here. They will be heading to New York and Los Angeles and they will be doing so because everyone around them, starting with their mentors and professors, tell them that's what they have to do. Talk about brain drain.

2.) The only city in this country that promotes it's theatre scene at all is NYC. Try and have a discussion with any provincial city officials, mayor or chamber of commerce about developing a campaign to promote theatre as a tourist attraction. I can't be bothered to try and have this conversation with these fools, which is why I have created The Nashville Dramaturgy Project which has launched it's own "Come to Nashville and Go to the Theatre" campaign.

3.) A smart actor gets a cell phone with a 212 or a 310 area code. I know I would if I were an actor. A smart actor wants an agent in NYC or LA.

I graduated high school from a North Carolina state mental institution, which is where I spent the last three years of high school because I was determined to be an actor. I spoke with a colleague just yesterday who was told by family that she would go to hell if she didn't stop doin' that thee-a-ter stuff.

When I worked as the Assistant to the Directors at the Alliance Theatre for a couple of months in 1980, I witnessed and overheard the treatment and attitudes of a major LORT house towards local talent that almost made me hate theatre and theatre people all together.

In Atlanta too, the attitude in those days was "well, if you were really any good, if you were really serious, you'd be in New York."

From 1990 - 1997 I ran the NYC offices of Biggs Rosati Productions and The National Theatre of the Performing Arts at 250 W. 54th Street. I took the job purely as research to try and understand the root of these issues. I was the audition monitor, administered contracts, dispersed rehearsal pay and drove my actors home after dress rehearsals in Ct. for 7 years. I was also the person from our office who attended the annual acting student showcases at Stella Adler, NYU, AMDA, etc. I know something about being an actor in New York.

And I know that you can't have that experience in any other city in this country and that's because THERE IS NO RESPECT FOR ACTORS outside of NYC (and I guess LA)

Now, to get back to the beginning of the rant - I live in a city that has 5 of the finest actor training program in the country.

Pearls before swine? You tell me.

Come to Nashville and Go to the Theatre.

Jaz Dorsey
The Nashville Dramaturgy Project

Monday, July 9, 2012


The following lyrics are from a song Jaz Dorsey wrote for his 1988 musical
Alice in America, a reimagining of the Alice in Wonderland tale. Made into a movie in 1996, this song is sung by Alice at the unemployment office to avoid prison because she can't pay for her tea, something many Americans can relate to today in one form or another.

I Need A Job

I need a job, I need a job, I need a j-o-b
So I can earn my pay
And if you've got a little work that you could give to me
Then I could start today
I know the
apt to be meager
Still I'm willing and eager for a
job I need a job i need a j-o-b
I need a j-o-b
I need a j-o-b-o-j

I need a job I need job I need a
job job job
I really need some work
There isn't anything I couldn't do if I had to
I'd even be a clerk in a shoe store
And I can type although not very
Fast but I could be a secratary
For a job I need a job I need a j-o-b
I need a j-o-b-o-j
Oh yeah
I need a j-o-b-o-j.

From ALICE IN AMERICA copywright 1981 by Jaz Dorsey

Thursday, August 23
@ The Nashville Songwriters Association
Jaz Dorsey, Instructor

Friday, July 6, 2012

Petronia Paley's I THE ACTOR Showcase 2012 (NYC)

Please click the images to enlarge.
Please click the post's title
to visit the I The Actor website
to sign up for the eNewsletter
to receive direct links to the
above information.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Andre Richardson Hogan II's YOU HAPPY NOW? YOU SATISFIED? next Monday, July 9th (NYC)

NEXT Blackboard: NEXT WEEK
Monday, July 9, 2012 7:30pm
You Happy Now? You Satisfied? (1978!)
a documentary poetic drama
by André Richardson Hogan II

You Happy Now? You Satisfied? (1978!),
is a dramatization of the development of
late recording artist Marvin Gaye’s album,
Here My Dear, inspired by a divorce.

$10 Suggested Donation
~wine served~

To learn more, please click the post's title
to visit the Blackboard Reading Series website.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Miracles on Honey Bee Hill

A story of tolerance, acceptance, and love.
That's right, a fairytale.

Check out this neat little film about Millie, a selfless young girl who pines for a true love companion who lives a beautiful simple life in a little house at the top of Honey Bee Hill nestled next to the Little Stone Church that Millie attends with Reverend Filch and a faithful, colorful congregation.Through a magical turn of events Millie finds her true love, yet there is one little problem. Follow Millie through the topsy- turvy adventure of her life through this story so full of life, and the beauty of acceptance, it is one surely not to be missed.

To learn more, please click the post's title to go to the official website.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Owa: A 21st Century Poem

Please click image to enlarge.