Kandace Crystal Proves Amazing and Touching Artistry in Stage Return for NEAT

A Though-Provoking, Stimulating Co-Production Between Loud Fridge Theatre Group and Scripps Ranch Theatre

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardasht

Kandace Crystal and Nicole Diaz-Pellot. Photo Ken Jacques
It is challenging to perform a monologue, let alone a one-person show with various characters with different voices, mannerisms, and intentions. Loud Fridge Theatre Group and Scripps Ranch Theatre came together to gift audiences with a heartfelt co-production of Charlayne Woodard's play, NEAT where Albany-bound Charlayne, shares her story growing up with her aunt Neat who got brain damage as a baby due to poisoning. Kandace Crystal interprets all the roles on a bare stage with a backdrop of projections by Ted Leib that show animations and sequences by Leigh Akin that go with the narration.

 Not only does Kandace portray the different family members and Neat, but she also sings and dances. The triple threat delivery is impeccable. It is Kandace's return to the stage since 2021 and she did so with an absolute bang. This production reflects a team effort as all the creative elements have their moment and time to land. Dancer Nicole Diaz-Pellot also has her moments where she captivates the audience with contemporary style moves and just organic, flowy expressions that complement the story-telling. Diaz-Pellot has histrionic talent and a fun sense of humor that come out in really brief moments making the performance that more special. Director Claire Simba did a great job piecing everything as well as curating a cool soundtrack with sound designer Omar Ramos making space for feelings or reactions that either made me close my eyes and take it all in, clap and cheer, or just start twerking. I had to know which songs these were and behold! here they are:

Kandace Crystal. Photo Ken Jacques
Sona Jobarteh - Reflections

Mamadou Diabate - Humanity

Fatoumata Diawara - Sonkolon

Ablaye Cissoko - Evolution

Asimbonanga - Johnny Clegg

Soungalo Coulibaly - Jarafoli

Voices of East Harlem - Right on be Free

Sean Paul - Like Glue

NEAT is a total gift that challenges the audience's imagination through the performing arts in its purest form and essence. The experience can resemble story time with your mom, auntie, or grandma when they gather all the kids and just open the door to all the possibilities.

Productions like these with all the elements that stimulate the mind while raw and truly have an effect, do not come often. Kandace and Nicole are a strong power duo that would be a sin to miss. 

Currently playing until April 16 at Scripps Ranch Theatre is located on the campus of Alliant International University. For information on performance times and ticket prices, please click HERE.

Kandace Crystal and Nicole Diaz-Pellot. Photo Ken Jacques

Interviews From Another Zero

Sean Boyd, Artistic Director of Trinity Theatre Company in San Diego on Co-Producing the First Edition of The New Works Festival. 

Celebrating the works of Ten Emerging New Playwrights from across the country

Running from March 31 - April 2nd in City Heights

by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

We had a lovely conversation via Zoom with Sean and to start it off, I had to ask how it all began...

Trinity Theatre was co-founded by a classmate and me when we both were seniors in high school. We chose to launch as a combination of our passions, I was very much a theatre-oriented person he was all about the business side of things so, those eccentric desires I think, really played nicely into what we chose to do. We have been around since 2012 providing theatre and arts education all across San Diego County. We have school partnerships as far north as Escondido and as far south as Imperial Beach and we adore every single second of it.

The New Works Festival is a really exciting venture for us. We recently did a world premiere of LARping (Live Action Word Playing) and we worked really closely with the playwrights. The directors had a great time, the actors had a great time and the producers had a great time as well, so we decided "Let's see if there are other plays out there". We did a solicitation for new work and, long and behold we received about 400 submissions from around the world which told us that there is this great enthusiasm for telling stories. The playwrights had stories to tell and we were eager and happy to read all 400 submissions. Now we have ten that we are actually presenting next weekend and I am so excited that we are working with a local group of playwrights and actors. All of our live artists are based in San Diego, our playwrights are all over the country but, all of our actors, directors, and technicians are local. 

We are so delighted to have audiences back, I know it is still kind of fun to say that and I am looking forward to sharing ten stories in three days. 

Are there community actors or do you have a mix of professional and community?

We are compensating all the actors for their time regardless of their experience level and the experience level varies. Some individuals have been doing this a lot less, and others have years and years of experience. We have a great number of performers that are joining Trinity Theatre for the very first time on this production which is just so exciting to us.

Are these 10 works to be presented, as short plays or excerpts of longer plays or how is that going to look during the festival?

All the plays are considered one-act plays. One act has a wide range of what can be so I think our shortest play is about ten minutes long and our longest, is about ninety minutes. Our idea and how we have decided to present the shows for the weekend is that we are pairing two of the shortest with one of the longest so, it is usually about 10-10-90 and Sunday is the only exception where there are three shorts and one longer.

The call for entry that you guys made was open, geographically speaking, not limited to California or the States.

Yes, and we received a great number of multilingual submissions which is awesome for us. Of course, we do some programming in South Bay and in some of our schools we try to do a bilingual presentation so we recently did a bilingual presentation of "Alice in Wonderland" in English and Spanish. It was a lot of fun, our bilingual teachers helped and supported us with the translations for that which is a really fun juncture. Now all the plays that we are submitting for the most part are in English. There is one show "Spit in Your Face" that is a bilingual production with Spanish-speaking scenes but the majority of the show is in English.

Trinity Theatres Celebrates First Edition of New Works Festival. Photo Courtesy

I love it! I am seeing here that you guys have works from South Florida, Springfield, Dallas, North, and South California
Yes! all of those places and one local which is exciting. We tried to do a blind submission process so we weren´t swayed based on the location or the playwright's name or rather the works that were exciting to us as producers and our directors. They had a say in the show that they chose.

-Being the person that I am and while discussing this topic of new plays, I had to ask Sean-... 

There is this thing, and I think it happens a lot in San Diego where if it does not come from New York let's say, or if it does not have a certain cycle of life or whatever, it is not going to be produced in what it is called "the main stages". Because you have many stages in San Diego and then there are the "main stages" and, sometimes when I ask these questions, the answer is "well, these works have to be commissioned"...So being that you have this experience with new works, is there enough new work to go around and be produced? not just across San Diego and California but across the country?

Absolutely! there is a huge demand of playwrights wanting to tell their stories on any stage that they can. I think Trinity's position...we are not Broadway YET. But, our purpose is to serve the community and our community has stories to tell. We will always invest in those stories and in whatever capacity we can share, we will. We are just privileged to be able to indulge in that shared experience so, very happy that we can tell the stories. I hope that more stages are willing to commit to the community's stories regardless of supposed value. The arts are prominent and relevant for the group that you are and I am really excited that we can continue to highlight that piece.

Have any plays presented by the festival scaled to other stages?

So, this is our first effort with this type of festival, when we have done new works in the past, we've invested our resources into mounting them into bigger productions and making it a grander production than it has been when it is done in the developmental reading stages but it does certainly take time, and it also relies on patrons to show up and to support the art that is exciting and compelling to them. I think in a dream world we will have audiences come, they will see all the shows and somebody will say "I really like this one" and talk to myself or Connor who is our lead producer about what excited them about it because then, we know that that person was spoken to and we know we should continue that story and continue to collaborate and make sure comparable stories are told.

Sean Boyd -Artistic Director and Megan Goyette -Director of Arts Education

The New Works Festival will be playing at Community Actors Theatre located in City Heights. The venue where they started and Sean is very grateful for the partnership that they have and the help of Ms. Jenny Hamilton who is the owner of the space and excited to continue with the relationship.

Tickets are available HERE. The price of admission is 20 dollars

There are discounts for students, seniors, and military as well as group discounts and multiple-day discounts. 

The Old Globe Presents the World Premiere of The XIXth (The Nineteenth) Set in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

A Well-Rounded and Clean Piece that Highlights an Important Historic Moment and How the Repercussions are Still Relevant Today. 

(from left) Patrick Marron Ball as Pete, Biko Eisen-Martin as John Carlos (Los), and Korey Jackson as Tommie in The XIXth. Photo by Rich Soublet II.

Seeing plays based on actual, historical events usually leads to a fascinating rabbit hole with research, references, and wanting to know more. The Old Globe's latest, The XIXth (The Nineteenth), a world premiere by Kemp Powers, directed by Carl Cofield, was definitely not the exception. It had me searching for old clips and facts about that historical day during the 1968 Olympics.

I was excited to see this new piece because 1968 was a charged year in Mexican history. It was the first Olympics ever in a Latin American country, Mexico was also the host of the World Cup; and atrociously, it too was the Tlatelolco student massacre at the National College, ten days before the games started. Kemp Powers' piece focuses on the protest by Black American sprinters Tommie Smith (Korey Jackson) and John Carlos (Biko Eisen-Martin) that entailed raising their fists and being shoeless at the podium highlighting segregation, racism, and poverty. The Silver medalist, Australian sprinter Peter Norman (Patrick Marron Ball) also participated in the protest by wearing a badge that read “Olympic Project for Human Rights”. And, as it happens in many countries when sporting protocols get mixed with politics, the three athletes never got to run professionally or in any other Olympic games again. Years later, Pete passes away and Tommie and John Carlos travel to Australia to say their goodbyes while there is a faint intention of clearing the air polluted by the negative outcome that has haunted the all these decades later. 

(from left) Patrick Marron Ball as Pete and Christian Coulson as Neville in The XIXth. Photo by Rich Soublet II.

Powers did a wonderful and precise job by highlighting key moments, attitudes, and the overall feel of the time giving the audience a seat at the table to witness what might have happened behind the scenes which, also included Gold medalist Jesse Owens (Michael Early) who won four medals in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Nazi Germany. I liked how the playwright weaved in phrases that referenced said key moments but made them his own for the chronicle's sake. For example, after Jesse Owens established world records and won, he could not find a job -again because of segregation, racism, ignorance, -you know-, the usual... and he had to race against horses to make money. In the play, during a heated argument, John Carlos throws that against him and calls him an "Uncle Tom". Another accurate and funny (but not really) moment is when Owens goes to talk to the sprinters, he mentions the times being very different from when he competed in Berlin over thirty years ago to which "Los" responds "Really? not really". 

Kimberly Scott as Dora and Korey Jackson as Tommie in The XIXth. Photo by Rich Soublet II.
Riw Rakkulchon's set design with a round-moving platform that changed scenery and served too as the mausoleum-type space where Pete's coffin stood, was practical, using brown, dark red, earthy tones that totally gave the vibe as well as including the 1968 Olympic Games Logo in a high scale that came up and down the stage. Let me tell you when that logo first came on stage, a tear came down my cheek. This is one of the most memorable/important designs in history. There is even a FONT inspired on it. So, including the logo and the way it was handled throughout the piece, was a nice, visual, cherry on top. Allen Lee Hughes's lighting design is deep and "loud" by marking the different years, the sprint action, and a moment of reflection that each athlete has while the race is happening. The same goes for David R. Molina in charge of the original music and sound design which reflects attention to detail. From the gunshot that prompts the "go" in the competition to the narrators, to the reactions. This is a clean team effort that used the right pieces to depict an amazing big picture.

The three main actors Korey Jackson, Biko Eisen-Martin, and Patrick Marron Ball are flawless. Carl Cofield's direction shined through as each dialogue/monologue was articulated taking its time and landing with a melodic pace, which is important to the chronicle as the actors go back and forth in age, so the tone and intention were delivered well. Same with Michael Early and his heated argument scenes being interpreted with poise and calculation. The rest of the cast did a marvelous job as well starting with Pete's coach Neville (Christian Coulson) who is the one that introduces the drama and has a comedic tone throughout the piece that alleviates some of the tension. Kimberly Scott as Dora, Tommie's mom, has a brief but mighty participation giving joy, pride, history, culture, and everything! and Mark Pinter with his deep, projecting voice playing Avery, the president of the International Olympic Committee at the time and who was nicknamed in the play (and probably in real life too) "Slavery Avery". Pinter always gives a nice ludic balance between intention and stoicism. It is part of his acting style and he does it so well. Seeing him onstage is always a joy. 

(from left) Korey Jackson as Tommie and Michael Early as Jesse Owens. Photo by Rich Soublet II.

Mika Eubanks recreated the uniforms and looks from those games with a costume design that had a light of its own also contributing to the aging factor of the characters.

Going through videos and photos regarding that historic moment of the Black Power Salute, I can say that Caparelliotis Casting was spot on. It is not an easy task to recreate these narratives as sometimes they can become cartoonish. Not the case here. The XIXth (The Nineteenth) is a touching piece handled delicately to deliver a powerful message that has lingered and is pretty much alive today a million years later. It is a one-act play but, because of how layered and charged it is, it should include an intermission. Other pieces are so full of everything and running nonstop that there is no room for air. If a break is included, the audience and momentum will be lost. With The Nineteenth there is plenty of room for an intermission to give audiences time to reflect and digest what is happening. Once the plot is mostly grasped, coming back from intermission will allow an even bigger reaction and setting. But that's just me. Go see for yourself and let me know.

Currently playing until April 23, please click here for performance dates, times, and ticket prices. 

“TRIGAL” Ópera prima de la Directora Anabel Caso Llegará a las salas cinematográficas este 20 de abril bajo el sello de distribución de Nueva Era Films.

El Filme cuenta con las actuaciones de Emilia Berjón, Abril Michel, Alberto Guerra, Úrsula Pruneda, Nicolasa Ortiz Monasterio, Gerardo Trejoluna y Memo Villegas. 

Boletín de Medios

Después de su exitoso estreno mundial en el Festival Internacional de Cine de Morelia (FICM) 2022 y su participación en el 26vo. Festival de Málaga, llega el turno del estreno comercial de Trigal de la directora Anabel Caso, producción de Home Films con distribución de Nueva Era Films en la que actúan Emilia Berjón, Alberto Guerra, Úrsula Pruneda, Abril Michel, Gerardo Trejoluna, Nicolasa Ortíz Monasterio y Guillermo Villegas, la cual se estrenará el jueves 20 de abril en varias ciudades de la república.

Este proyecto, ópera prima de Anabel Caso, cuenta la historia de Sofía y Cristina, dos primas que en su transitar a la adolescencia se enamoran del mismo hombre, casi veinte años mayor que ellas. Curiosas y juguetonas, las protagonistas se aventuran en un triángulo amoroso veraniego lleno de secretos y enredos.

Anabel Caso explica que el guión de esta historia nació a partir de una serie de vivencias personales. 

“Toda la película está permeada de una serie de memorias mías que no tienen que ver con ese momento específico, pero que están condensadas en lo que para mí fue una de las épocas más significativas de mi vida, que fue el paso de la pubertad a la adolescencia y cómo lo transité a través de la amistad y de los cuestionamientos con los que experimenté ese cambio”.

La directora comenta que su relato busca, a partir de su trama, abordar ciertos temas relacionados con el deseo y la sexualidad femeninos. “Trigal" es una película que habla sobre el deseo femenino. Sobre cómo abordamos las mujeres ese deseo en la adolescencia, sobre cómo transitamos ese pasaje de la pubertad a la adolescencia, y cuáles son nuestros sentires -por lo menos en nuestra experiencia-. Habla de las mujeres, de nuestras vivencias, de nuestras carencias, de nuestras soledades, y de cómo nos acercamos al universo de la sexualidad. Pero también habla de los límites del consentimiento y de lo que sucede cuando en una situación de deseo se está en una posición de ventaja respecto del conocimiento y la experiencia.”

Una producción de Home Films a cargo de Lorena Orraca, Paula Astorga, Fredy Garza y Benjamín Castillo, que toma como escenario principal paisajes de Sonora y locaciones del estado de Puebla, construye su relato alrededor del deseo femenino, la amistad y la sororidad que ahora se alista para su estreno comercial en salas mexicanas para el próximo 20 de abril. 

Coronado Playhouse Presents the musical COMPANY as part of their 78th Season

A High Energy Production Filled with Laughs and Solid Introspection

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardasht

The cast of Company. Photo Ken Jacques

This was my first time at Coronado Playhouse and I would consider it a good one. I believe I have mentioned this in other reviews but I am not that big of a Stephen Sondheim fan (shhh do not repeat it). I don't know... West Side Story really left a mark and I continue to question why it keeps getting produced. Anyway, that is a topic for another post and hopefully an episode of my podcast on hiatus...

Company follows Robert (Nathan Wetter) on the evening of his 35th birthday surrounded by friends and a surprise party. Bobby is single and practically all of his friends are not. As he is about to blow out the candles, he is prompted to make a wish and as he blows, not all the candles go out. Man is that a "bad" omen... the musical mayhem starts as Robert reflects on his bachelor life, his friends' marriages, marriage itself, -which apparently is not that great according to this musical lol- and friends wanting to get into his pants.

Even though Coronado Playhouse considers itself a community theater, this production of Company was very charming. Jacob Sampson creatively resolved the set design with moving square platforms that serve as walls but also frame the stage and add depth to the scenes. Lighting is always an essential element in production but sometimes it is key to telling the story or giving it that added feeling and this was the case with Megan Mahoney's design that prompted the song and scene transitions nicely. 
Nathan Wetter and Dacara Seward. Photo Ken Jacques

The cast did good ensemble work under Blake McCarty's directorial wing and it is always good to see up-and-coming talent across the different stages. Composed of Hannah Bosworth (April), Dylan Landau (Kathy), Dacara Seward (Marta), Lu Garcia (Harry), Sydney Wilkins (Sarah), Kevin Phan (Peter), Noelle Caliguri (Susan), Richard Dueñez Morrison (David), Cindy St. Clair (Jenny), Jeffrey Mark Pierce (Paul), Brittany Adriana Carrillo (Amy), Paul Morgavo (Larry) and Desha Crownover (Joanne) performing catchy, pop-ie songs like "Company", "Someone is Waiting", "Marry Me A Little", "Barcelona"- my personal favorite, and "Being Alive" with a live band that had Fred Biven on trombone, Jason Ford with the trumpet, Clare Hatter in violin, Nathaniel Jorge with the wind instruments like piccolo, flute, clarinet, and sax, Edward LaBarbera on bass and Michael Masessa on percussion, all led by Michael Tyree. 

Nathan Wetter does a fantastic job in the lead role of the birthday boy, bachelor extraordinaire Robert, as well as Dacara Seward and Cindy St. Clair who have magnificent voices and harmonize beautifully. It was great to see Kevin Phan onstage again, I had seen him last at Oceanside in another Sondheim piece, Into the Woods and he did not disappoint as Robert's best friend/secret crush Peter.  All the comedic points were hit in this production like a playful martial arts demo by Sydney Wilkins and Lu Garcia while showing off Erin Petersen's fight choreo skills as well. There is a frisky bed scene to the sound of "Barcelona" where Wetter and Hannah Bosworth semi-strip, taking the pace and rhythm right making it a sweet and also comical sequence. Props to Kandace Crystal's intimacy direction that reflected involvement and care.

Nathan Wetter and Hannah Bosworth.  Photo Ken Jacques 
I applaud smaller companies' efforts to produce bigger pieces with large casts like a Sondheim musical that we do not get to see often unless we travel to LA or New York. This was my first time seeing Company too and I enjoyed it. The cabaret-type seating of the venue was definitely not my hit because it is all on the same level so you see more of the back of the head of the person sitting in front of you than the musical itself but, the experience was still an enjoyable one. 

The production has been extended for one more week with performances until Sunday, April 2. If you have the opportunity, go support. For more information please click here.