Category Archives: Theatre Tales + Reviews

My night in a ‘Glass House’..

Harris Yulin as Mies van der Rohe and Janet Zarish as Edith Farnsworth

What a treat to witness acting at it’s finest in June Finfer’s Glass House with leading lady Janet Zarish(Public Theatre, Primary Stages appearances), who plays the self-sufficient Edith Farnsworth and it’s leading man Harris Yulin, a prominent Broadway actor (Hedda Gabler, Julius Caesar) and film star as Mies van der Rohe, a German architect. Directed masterfully by Evan Bergman and appearing in conjunction with Henrik Ibsen’s The Master Builder, Resonance Ensemble’s, The Glass House, tells the true story of a German architect, Mies van der Rohe(1886-1969), and the opportunity he was given to create a live-able work of art for Chicago Doctor Edith Farnswarth who was in search of a weekend getaway.  Well, true in the fact that it is based on actual people, not neccesarily events.  That is writer June Finfer took Mies and her other characters and created an emotionally driven play chopped full of affairs, betrayals, and passionate 4th wall monologues with Mies talking to the audience about his desire to create this skin and bones glass house not only for Farnsworth, but for his own desire to create something new, something with purpose.  Taking place over a ten year period(1945-1955), we see the developement of not only the house, but of the relationship between Mies and Farnsworth, which comes to a crashing halt in the last 20 minutes of the oddly blocked show.   A play that not only forces you to question what is art and its role in the modern world, but to what extent art can frame the way in which an individual leads his/her own life.

The highlight of the evening, for me, as an actor, was witnessing impecable and flawless acting by Zarish and Yulin.  Yulin’s performance was perfection.  Emotionally she connected bravely with her high strung, indecisive Doctor and had I not known that I was watching a play I would of thought that she was merely a stranger who had wandered off the streets of midtown, found her way on to a stage and begun a conversation with Yulin.  Her naturalistic style is refreshing and inspiring and it never falters at any point in time throughout the play, but instead grows with every scene creating a living, breathing human being that you expect, after the show ends, to go back to her lab or wherever she came from and carry on with her life.  And I’m sure having Yulin as a support would make it even easier for someone who is already as talented as Zarish to be able to create an even more enriched performance.  Yulin, I think, has heard enough praise to know that he is one of immeasurable talent.  I’m sure that many critics have commented on the beauty and simplicity of his acting.  I would, of course, agree with their criticism as it is undeniable that Yulin’s talent exist beyond the capacity of words.  I can merely say that it was a joy to watch him perform and a honor to sit in a theatre with someone of such seasoned skill.  Not to mention that his German accent was dead on and he played perhaps the best grumpy old man I have ever seen.  Not that your old, Yulin.  In regards to both Yulin and Zarish it was if the audience didn’t exist and they were both carrying on with their lives, playing off each other smoothly, creating tension, love, hate, co-existing and growing within the ten years, and portraying how in real life, it all ends.  Quite simply, a magnificent work of Art.

In all my awe and although, in general, I highly enjoyed Glass House there were a couple of things that bothered me.  Number 1, the sets. Now, it didn’t bother me so much that between the succession of each year the lights dimmed, jazz music played, and the set was changed, what bothered me was that the set moves seemed, for lack of a better word, pointless.  With no more than maybe two chairs and a desk on stage, it seemed distracting to me that stage hands, dressed smartly in the decades attire, would come on to move a desk in a different position, change the utensils on a table, or to take away every other scene the same table and chairs.  Had it been done quicker it might not have been much a nuisance, but I found myself concentrating on how long it would take for the sets to be changed rather than what was going to happen next.  With such a strong play that has so much to say about art and life and with such strong point of view, why would you distract by creating unnecessary obstacles such as moving the same desk 10 times?  Less, as Mies would have seen it, would have been more in this instance.

Number 2: The two minor actors.  Gina Nagy Burns(Skylight, The Heiress), who plays Mies’ ex-love Lora Marx, delivers a tolerable performance, but lacks the fire that it acquired of her character.  As Meis’ artist lover, a sculptor, who takes it upon herself in the earlier scenes to break her relationship with Mies due to his drinking and dependency, I find that the character may have required someone with a more powerful presence.  Someone who could stand up to Mies when he forcefully asked her why she was leaving.  Someone that could center herself, stand her ground, and deliver the well thought out text with powerful purpose and zeal.  Here it seems that when Meis and  Marx are conversing, Mies seems to be having one-sided conversations, and at points he leans in hard to distract from the actresses not delivering her lines with intention.  This may be because I am over critical  or it could be because this actress may not have fully understood who her character was and was not given good direction.

The second minor character, Philip Johnson, played by David Bishins(We Declare You a Terrorist, Incident at Vichy), who is Mies’ protege and a curator at the MOMA, actually delivered a commanding performance, but I find, and this may be silly, that the voice he chose to use for his character was distracting.  It is a shame because you can tell, from the audience, that Bishins is actually a very talented actor, but he made a bad choice and that in some parts he falls out because he is thinking more about his smoker voice rather than his beats.  From the minute he opened his mouth at the beginning of the play, I knew that it would be a problem.  While I realize that the span of the plan takes place in the 50’s and 60’s and that the cliché is the raspy, sexy voice of a male cigar smoker, when you begin to lose the actor’s words, therefor the text, therefore the play, it becomes a problem.  And  besides this forced, if I think about it makes my throat hurt, raspy voice, his performance was actually delightful, light, airy, and an almost comic relief from the sometimes heavy tension that lived between the three other characters.  Charming and snub at times, Bishins played a convincing role of student and what it is not only to please your teacher, but to find out that at some point you have to live your own life.  What an interesting lesson for Art to teach.

For more information about June Finfer’s Glass House and performance’s, check at Resonance Ensemble’s site!

Clurman Theatre’s “Master Builder..”

Photo features Sarah Stockton as Miss Hilda Wangel and Chris Ceraso as Halvard Solness, The Master Builder

In the mood for a sick and twisted drama?  No reason to pay a visit to your local Blockbuster, just drop by the Clurman Theatre on West 42nd’s Theatre Row and check out Henrik Ibsen’s The Master Builder, starring Chris Ceraso and Sarah Stockton.  As one-half of Resonance Ensemble’s 2010 season entitled “Building Characters,” The Master Builder, directed beautifully by Eric Parness, Artistic Director of Resonance Ensemble, a group whose core mission is producing both classical and modern plays with resonate universal themes, tells the tragic story of an aged architect, Halvard Solness, whose is forced against his will to face not only his past, but his future and his imminent demise.


D1. I take my seat.  It’s a quaint, darkly lit theatre.  Classical music, bringing you back to a time where a Phantom was considered the pinnacle of modern transportation, plays lightly in the background.  The crinkling of my neighbors Playbill, the chatter of excitement before the lights go up, the buzz of a hopeful night hang in the air.  No curtains block the view of the staged set.  It’s simple.  A few chairs, including a lounge, and two desks.  It tells me already that this play is about the text, about what the author has to say and also that the director, Eric Parness, has honored the late Ibsen by not muddling up the stage with useless props.  The lights dim as the first actors appear on stage.  My favorite part.  Even before the first character, Knut Brovik, an elderly former architect employed by Mr. Solness, who is artfully played by Peter Judd (The Cherry Orchid, T. Schreiber Studio), speaks I tip my imaginary hat to Costume Designer Sidney Shannon as her dressings for Ibsen’s characters are remarkably on point with late 19th Century garb.  All the characters, young and old, are dressed to the nines in costumes that suit their character’s personality and age.  Mrs. Solness, played by the talented Susan Ferrara(Darger, The Cherry Orchard), in her high collared, dark colored, Victorian dress reflects accurately a traditional elder woman in dire straits.  While Miss Hilda Wangel, youth incarnate, played perfectly by Sarah Stockton(Time of Your Life, Caesar and Cleopatra), prances on stage in an alluring below the knee skirt which accurately depicts not only her sense of independence, but a time in which fashion began to change.  And not to make a big deal about the costumes, but I find to be able to properly produce a play, whether classical or modern, it is not just important to have a talented cast, but to have appropriate costumes and sets.  How else would you make a play come full circle?  If Ibsen’s characters were frolicking around in ripped jeans and baby doll shirts, I assure you that the play would not have as great an impact on you.

Now, to speak to the talent, is the easy part.  From the moment the lights dimmed and Peter Judd began, his voice rumbling wearily out into the audience, depicting a sick man, who at the end of his life yearns only for the success of his son, I knew talent would not be in short supply.  Even though Judd and the other actors who appear first on stage do not play huge speaking roles throughout the course of the  play, they make their presence clearly known and their relationships which they have with the main characters play an important part in the fate of Mr. Halvard Solness.  If you think about it, a play also cannot be successful if those who play the minor roles, the parts which create the strong base for the play’s succession, were not invested in even the shortest of dialogue, the shortest of appearance on stage.  Judd, along with Pun Bandhu (Yellow Face, Caesar and Cleopatra), who plays the role of Ragnar Brovik, a draftsman and Judd’s characters son, and Jennifer Gawlik (Ghosts, Toys in the Attic), who is the book-keeper for Solness, Kaia, all convincingly portray their character’s wants and needs and through this effectively bind themselves to Solness.  It is through Ragnar and Kaia, an engaged couple, that we see the bitterness and the true form of the Master Builder, Halvard Soleness.  His cunning trickery witnessed through his inability to let Ragnar led his own life, that is become a full architect, for a desire to keep the boy’s ideas to himself, to oppress the youth that will eventually take his place.  And also, through the demented love scene, that is as much as a love scene can be in the prudish world of the late 1800’s, between him and Kaia.  And though, in retrospect Gawlik played a strong Kaia, willful, somewhat independent, and all of the naive girl, my only critcism came when she and Chris Cesaro(On the Road to Ruin, Ceasar and Cleopatra), Halvard Solness, had this love scene.  It was a bit unconvincing and awkward and I found it to be the only part which fell out  and seemed to rely on memorization rather than skill.

To make amends however, enter the comical Doctor Herdal, played by Brian Coats (Two Gentleman of Verona, Merchant of Venice) and Aline Solness, played by the fore mentioned Susan Ferrara.  These two characters are perhaps my favorite in the entire show.  While the two main characters Halvard Solness and Hilda Wangel are of course the focus of Isben’s Master Builder, Aline Solness, to me, is the heart of the play and the Doctor, a well needed comic relief.  Watching Ferrara play the emotionally drained and depressed Aline Solness was like witnessing what it must have been like to see Kim Stanley in Anton Checkhov’s The Three Sisters or Laurette Taylor in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie. Ferrara never once drops out of character and delivers a performance which still as I’m writing this is haunting.  Never have I seen such power in one actor, such drive to speak to the true essence of her character.  A woman, binded only by marriage to a man who has betrayed her in every aspect.  The power of Ferrara is undeniable and her depiction of Aline Solness perfection in every aspect.

Oh, and did I mention that you meet all of these fabulous characters within the first 30 minutes?  And if that isn’t overwhelming enough, if the drama of dying architects, betrayed wives, and love-starved youth haven’t already captivated your imagination, then when you meet Miss Hilda Wangel, played by the uber talented Sarah Stockton, that is exactly what will happen.  It is when this force, this young girl blasts on stage that the play turns upside down and our architect is forced to face his past.  And while Cesaro has been playing a colorful and emotional Solness, true to Isben’s text, it is with the appearance of Stockton that we see his character breath.  Stockton with her first step on stage demands her audiences attention.  Her full of life, independent character radiates through her and for me, as an actor, it is inspiring.   Her spritely spirit, a bit twisted as the audience will come to find out, only makes you want to keep watching and the twisted web which she spins in the two days with Solness makes for an interesting evening.  Cesaro, playing off of Stockton’s flawless acting, portrays a brooding, selfish, and love blinded man who by Hilda is driven to the brink of insanity.  Cesaro speaks forceful and clear in his delivery of text and like Stockton, keeps the audience eating out of his hands.  He makes you forget that Solness is but a character of Ibsen’s imagination and that what you see in front of you is the result of hours of rehearsal.  His performance, along with Stockton and the cast is flawless and as a result, unforgettable.

All in all, this play is a must see.  With its twisted characters and interesting plot points it is amazingly poignant in today’s world. Beautifully directed with heartfelt investment by Eric Parness it begs for attention.  I promise, I am not always one to see classical plays, but for this I make an exception.  I left satisfied, full of reflection, and entertained.  What more could you ask for?  And even better, to follow up to this magnificent play, I have recently seen the second half of the ensemble’s repertory season, Glass House, by June Finfer, directed by Evan Bergman, which is similar in many aspects, honing in on the same ideas, even the same occupations.  I felt as if I have come full circle with seeing both plays and strongly urge theatre goers to not just see Master Builder, but to see the modern play Glass House, as the full ideas of both with undoubtedly and unmistakably be made crystal clear.

Photo features Chris Ceraso as Halvard Solness, The Master Builder and Susan Ferrara as his wife Aline

Show information:

The Master Builder, written by Henrik Ibsen, directed by Eric Parness


Pun Bandhu…Ragnar Brovik
Chris Ceraso…Halvard Solness, The Master Builder
Brian D. Coats…Doctor Herdal
Susan Ferrara…Aline Solness
Jennifer Gawlik…Kaia
Peter Judd…Knut Brovik

Sarah Stockton…Miss Hilda Wangel


Scenic Design: Jo Winiarski
Costume Design: Sidney Shannon
Lighting Design: Pamela Kupper
Sound Design: Nick Moore
Projection Design: Daniel Heffernan
Props Design: Kristin Costa
Stage Manager: Sean McCain
Production Manager: Joe Doran
Master Electrician: Flora Vassar
Press Relations: Joe Trentacosta

Photos by Jon Kandel

LAST PERFORMANCE JUNE 5TH!! Go to Ticket Central to get your ticket now for $18 or buy at Box Office at Clurman Theatre (410 West 42nd)!

Performance schedule is as follows:



The Things I’ve Learned..

If I have learned nothing else from the countless numbers of auditions that I have attended, it is what NOT to do.  A little harsh, right?  Not really.  I like to think of my failed attempts at auditions as a learning experience.  A way to correct myself and to ensure that I will never make the, what would be an appropriate word be, STUPID mistake of bringing an actual weapon to an audition. (Deep Sigh)  I’m sure you’re dying to hear that one.  No fear, unfortunately, the only way to explain my “Dont’s,” my Holy Grail, of auditions is to use my embarrassments as examples.  Hopefully, in this way, you will be so mortified by my failures that you will never desire to make the same mistakes as I have.  I plan to scare these “Dont’s” into you.  So, without further ado, here are some helpful tips that I have gained over the years, in no particular order, that I pray will help you at your next hopefully successful audition:

1) NEVER upset the Monitor. You don’t know who she/he is.  For all you know the person who is the monitor could be the best friend of the Director, an Intern, or perhaps even the Assistant Director.  It happens.  And as most of us have experienced, these Monitors, or at least the ones that I have encountered, are never in a particularly good mood, especially at Musical Theatre auditions.  So, the last thing that you want to do is make a bad impression on this person.  They WILL remember your face and they WILL tell the director or the casting panel not to cast you because you rubbed them the wrong way.  True story:  A girl I graduated college with went with me to an audition at The Looking Glass Theatre, a company in NY.  Now, this audition was actually a call back and we had to re-audition with material that the director gave us.  Basically, to me, and to my friend, this was a shoe in.   That was until she decided to bad mouth the audition within earshot of the monitor.  She had gone outside on the steps and was chatting on her phone telling the person on the other end that she thought that the audition had went fine and that if she wasn’t hired that the director didn’t know what real talent was.  Needless to say, the monitor informed the whole room that my friend, no matter how talented, was definately not going to be getting a part now or never in the future with their theatre company.  In essence, keep whatever you want to say until you get safely home and have locked yourself in your bathroom.

2) NEVER stop if you mess up. This is the oldest rule in the book.  If you fuddle a line, crack on a note, or just completely blank during your monologue, KEEP GOING!  For god sakes, do not stop, do not apologize, and DO NOT

ask to start over!  You have 30 seconds, if that, to impress and amaze your “judges” and the last thing you want to do is leave them with the impression that if you got in a bind on stage, you wouldn’t know how to recover.  Not to also mention, that they have 50 people after you that they need to see and that you are basically wasting their time by asking to start over and apologizing about your pitch.  Time is money and as far as they are concerned you are costing them and are causing them to stay later than they have to.  Instead, if you mess up, smile and make sure those last four bars you sing are the most fabulous and awe-inspiring bars that you have ever sang.  And if you blank, make something up until you can find your footing again.  Actually, you should think of this as an advantage.  You can say whatever you want and have it be truthful just because of the fact that you are actually having to find what it is that you need to say.  Unfortunately for me, I forgot these basic principles at an audition that I recently attended.  The monologue, I thought, I did great.  The song, not so much.  Not only did I crack, which took me by surprise, but I stopped, apologized and began to talk about the horrible weather.  What did I get, a blank stare and a “Thank you, have a nice day.”  Which brings me to my next point:

3) NEVER come unprepared to an audition. Know what musical the song you are singing came from.  Do know who composed and wrote the lyrics to the song.  And please, please, know who the author and the name of the play that you are doing a monologue from is.  Why am I mentioning these basic points that every actor is told if they go to acting school?  Because, they are the easiest points to forget.  As I experienced at the for-mentioned audition, not only did I break one cardinal rule, I broke two.  Since I decided to prepare the night before, I had forgotten to take note of not only the composer/lyricist/name of musical, but also the author/name of the play I had chosen my monologue from.  Big mistake.  Because, what is the first question that your auditioner usually asks you?  What song/monologue are you doing and where are they from.  Panic.  Unbelievable, heart stopping Panic.  And what’s worse, I had to apologize, again, for not remembering what my material was from.  A good way to avoid this whole prepare at the last moment syndrome? Keep a book of monologues that you know work best for you and review them weekly.  That way, when you find out about an audition you are not scrambling at the last minute and are perfectly relaxed, confident, and calm.  Don’t be like me. 🙂

4) Avoid at ALL COST “Pause Syndrome.” (I know, this looks weird because I didn’t start with NEVER!) “Pause Syndrome.”  A horrible disease that will eat away at a brilliant monologue.  No matter how great the actor, this will inevitably never make, but always break.  If you remember NOTHING from this blabber of writing, please, please, remember this.  Just because you pause, does not make a monologue more dramatic.  In fact, it makes it awkward and very hard to watch.  It is almost like watching a fish try and breathe out of water.  Slow, painful, and ending in disappointment.  If you think about it, how many times have you paused when you reflected?  Took a beat, yes, thought something through, but never paused and searched with concern for your next moment.  Remember, in an audition time is not on your side.  If you pause every other sentence in a one minute monologue, you will drag it on to almost two minutes and would have lost any impact that would have been essential for the success of your monologue.  You don’t want to make someone fall asleep in your monologue to do you?

5) NEVER make your “moment before” obvious. The casting director, or whomever, does NOT want to witness your “moment before.”  No matter what any acting teacher tells you, do not drop your head, find your moment, and then begin your monologue when you are ready.  You should be ready before you even step into that room and you should know your monologue so well that at the drop of a hat you can recite it with conviction.  They don’t have time for you to find your character and remember what is happening at that certain time in the play when your monologue comes in.  They are ready to see something that will amaze them and by you keeping them waiting, you will only bore and frustrate them.  (Also, a nice little add in too, which I’m sure no one ever does anymore, but it is worth mentioning. NEVER say “End” when you are done with a monologue.  No explanation necessary) A harsh lesson to learn, but as it happened at my first audition, I went it, presented myself, gave the music and cue to the pianist and dropped my head in preparation.  Before I could even get my head up to start singing, I heard “Sweetie, I don’t have all day.  I need you to hurry up.”  I froze.  I didn’t know what to do.  I was so embarrassed and all I wanted to do was grab my music and run!  Luckily, yes luckily, the pianist started playing before I got the chance to cry!  Unfortunately any “acting” or preparation I had done went completely out of the window seeing as I just wanted to get out of that room as fast as possible.  Amazing how 16 bars could ever feel like an eternity.

6) NEVER move the chair. Yes, I know it’s odd to think.  But, if there is a chair in the middle of the room, use it.  Believe it or not, it is there for a reason.  As I recently learned from Bobby Holder of Actor’s Project, NYC, the chair is there for the panel to see how well the actor interacts with props.  They want to see what you can do when given an object to interact with.  Removing it completely from the space would be like an insult essentially and I assume that would be the last thing that you would want to do.  Besides, it can almost be like a comfort blanket to you.  It gives you something to lean on, to sit it, to circle and contort to your needs.  The chair grounds you.  It gives your body something to do.  I don’t know about you, but I need something like that at an audition.  I’m nervous enough just being at an audition that it would be nice that when I actually did my monologue to have something to put all the nervous energy into. At least then, I would know what in the world to do with my hands!  Oh and just a little side note, NEVER take your shoes off.  I did that once and had to have a five minute discussion with the director as to why it was unwise for me to do that.  Well, actually I wouldn’t say it was a discussion, more like a lecture. Needless to say, I didn’t get that part.

7) NEVER dress casually for an audition. This may just be my thing, but I find it interesting that people dress for an audition like they are hanging out with their friends on a casual Friday night.  In my opinion, you should dress like you are going for a job interview.  You want to look your best.  And this may just be my frame of mind since my mom ALWAYS told me that you should dress up for job interviews, but I think unless the audition calls for casual dress, you should NEVER go to an audition in jeans.  I don’t care if they appeared in Fashion Week, they shouldn’t be worn to an audition.  It would just appear to send the wrong message.  You want to say, “I’m professional. I’m reliable,” not, “I want to be you Best Friend” or “You wanna go get some pizza?”  Would you cast you if you came dressed to an audition in skinny jeans and a t-shirt?

8) NEVER look directly at your auditioning panel. This is something that EVERY actor should know.  Always look right above the heads of the panel at a point that is eye level with you and that you can focus on.  Reason being that you WILL make the panel uncomfortable and they will probably look away from you and not pay attention to what you are doing.  The whole audition would be a loss just because you used an actual person to be in the scene with you.  I have been told to start over and to not look at someone when I was doing a monologue.  It’s not the best feeling in the world and it completely takes you out of the moment.

9) NEVER think you didn’t get a part due to lack of talent. Never assume that you bonked a job because you think that you are not talented.  A lot of times this is not the case.  There are a lot of things that go into deciding who it is that gets certain parts.  It may be that while you were great, you just didn’t physically fit the part of the character and no matter how much that seems unfair, there is nothing you can do about it. I had a gig not go to me once only because I looked younger than the character the writer had envisioned.  Also, this may sound funny, but it has happened that I have not gotten a part because the girl that I was up against for a certain gig was the director’s niece and no matter how talented I was, it would go to her.  My acting teacher also told me an interesting story that when he was sitting in on an audition with a director friend of his, he saw a girl that was amazingly talented and would of been perfect for his friends play, but he didn’t hire her because she reminded him of his ex-wife.  You just NEVER know.

10) NEVER bring a weapon to an audition. I know! This sounds absolutely ridiculous and I’m sure you’re thinking, “Who would do something this STUPID?”  Ummm…that would be me and till this day stands as the worst thing that I have ever experienced at an audition.  Not only was it embarrassing but it was completely demoralizing and I am still mentally scarred from it.  Okay, so before I even start in with this juicy gossip that I have purposely waited until the end to give you, let me just say that I was told by certain teachers in college that if you use a weapon, use a weapon (within reason), don’t substitute.  So, going in with this knowledge that was told to me by professors, I took a retractable knife to an audition.  Mind you that I wasn’t actually going to wave this thing around, but I just needed to flash it for shock.  I go in, say my name/monologue, sit down, and begin.  The first few lines went by fine.  I was in it.  I felt sure.  I was totally going to nail it.  And then it happens.  I get to the part where murderess character shows her weapon to her victim and the unspeakable happens.  The casting director lets out a horrifying scream.  A scream so profound that I drop my prop and sit back in fear in my chair.  I have never seen a person get up out of their chair and against the wall as fast as this woman did.  Apparently she had a phobia of knives.  Some of the things she said to me I cannot even repeat in this.  Let’s just say it was along the lines of, “I can’t believe you brought a weapon to an audition!  How stupid can you be?!  Don’t you know that bringing a weapon is a liability?  If anyone gets hurt it’s not only on you but our company?  What would possess you to do such a thing! How dare you!”  I’m completely speechless.  I don’t know what to say.  Never in a million years would I think that this would be someone’s reaction.  As I was taught, what I did was fine, not something that would cause a woman to say that she should call the cops on me.  Of course, I had to get the most overdramatic person that ever existed to be the casting director.  It ends with me being told to leave and to not come back until I had learned appropriate auditioning etiquette.  This still haunts me.  I don’t think I will ever live this experience down.

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