Interviews From Another Zero: New-York based, San Diego-born artist Jeremy McQueen Debuts The Black Iris Project

The Emmy® award-winning ballet collaborative will premiere two original ballets: WILD and A Mother's Rite at the Balboa Theatre on February 8th. The company will also host a free Master Class on February 6th in collaboration with California Ballet

We had a wonderful conversation with Black Iris Project Founder, Jeremy McQueen who is having a company debut in San Diego with two great pieces.

In the interview below, Jeremy shared how there should be holistic diversity in order for a community to feel appreciated, accepted and that their voices are valued.

Part of the Black Iris Project´s mission is to make ballet look like what the rest of the country looks like, diverse and rich in color and flavor not only within the dancers but with the whole team from designers, techs, etc.

The company in collaboration with California Ballet will also host a free masterclass on Monday, February 6th for intermediate to advanced high school dancers between the ages of 14-18. For more information on how to sign up please click HERE.

Jeremy donated 500 tickets to high schools in southeast San Diego to enjoy the show on February 8th. There will be a 30-minute Q&A session after the performance as well.

Watch the interview below and learn more about Jeremy's journey, Black Iris Project, and details about WILD and A Mother's Rite. 

Loud Fridge Theatre Group Debuts Official First Season with Local Playwright Piece, RIPPED

A Very Real Play that Breaks Down the Shifts between Consent, Abuse, and Assault

Amira Temple and Marcel Ferrin - Photo Credit: Brittany Carrillo
After an almost three-year hiatus, the new company Loud Fridge Theatre Group founded in 2019, comes back to the scene officially presenting their first season with Ripped, a play by Rachel Bublitz that premiered in 2019 at the Z Space Theatre and also is the winner of the Detroit New Works Festival Award.

Directed by Kate Rose Reynolds and John Wells III. Ripped follows Lucy (Amira Temple) a San Diego native on her college journey to Berkeley in the Bay Area during the fall of 2015. 

Trigger warning: The following lines contain the description of the story that involves sexual assault. 

Lucy has been dating Bradley (Devin Wade) since high school and does not want to be tied down/feel free to explore future experiences while studying in another city. Bradley does not love the idea, but agrees to stay on her good side since he is going to a local college. While the semester goes by, Lucy meets fellow student Jared (Marcel Ferrin) and takes a liking to him. They develop a flirty relationship and during a game of hide and seek, kiss. While Lucy is on thanksgiving break in San Diego, she goes out with Bradley and raves about her experience on campus and her new friend Jared. The former boyfriend not ecstatic about the convo, and visibly jealous, pushes on to have sex with Lucy to which she says no and he does it anyway. She goes back to San Francisco and in sort of a haze gets wasted drunk in her apartment, goes to Jared's, and passes out in his bed. She wakes up the next day in her underwear, not remembering anything and her dress is ripped on the floor.

Alyssa Kane's somber set design built by Anthony Garcia accentuates a suspenseful tone in the story through simple grays and browns that match Emily Carter's costume design for Bradley and Jared who wear toned-down colors versus Lucy's sky blue dress and all black sweat pants after the assaults. 

Kevin “Blax” Burroughs delivers a powerful lighting design once more by guiding the different passages of the story delicately going  hand in hand with Brianna Wing's sound design accentuating the feel accordingly.

Amira Temple and Devin Wade - Photo Credit: Brittany Carrillo

This is a very sensitive topic to stage and direct, I can see the Reynolds-Wells duo tag-teaming to hit the marks as accurately as they can be, guided too by the intimacy direction of Kandace Crystal during the sensitive, difficult scenes that were delivered boldly, yet carefully paced. Amira Temple is raw and histrionically clear portraying feelings of confusion, shock, denial, and awareness. The important aspect for me to point out in this play, is how consent can "shift" and sadly the gray areas that can be portrayed,  how abuse, rape, and assault can happen at any age to anyone but how a college setting and young students can blur the lines/context. Both Ferrin and Wade deliver contrasting, ying-yang emotions that as an audience member leave you asking questions and then, re-evaluating the question with a different answer. The three actors are on point with Amira carrying the weight of the piece.

It is an 80-minute play with no intermission and it could go no other way as having a break would totally disrupt the feeling going.  
While the story is running, there is a projection of dates starting a timeline so audiences can grasp the order of events, and how everything took place because it goes back and forth on a black chalkboard setting that underlines each date with a screeching sound. By the fourth date, it sort of becomes monotonous and even though you need them to follow along with what is going on, I believe it can be resolved in a more dynamic way, maybe not going back and forth so much, or using different projections with different colors. I am not a creative y'all, but that is the feeling I got.

The opinion regarding consent with this piece will go a million ways and bravo to Loud Fridge for putting the conversation on the (stage) table so we can continue to debate and make clear that this is not a gender issue. And I am sure many will see themselves in this play and have an inside dialogue as well.

Ripped is currently playing at Onstage Playhouse in Chula Vista until Sunday, February 5. For ticket prices and performance times please click HERE

Please note: Audiences must be masked during the performance. 

"I gotta right to sing the blues, I gotta right to moan inside, I gotta right to sit and cry"

North Coast Rep Opens Theatre Year with Blues in the Night. An "Oldie but a Goodie" that will Guarantee not only a Wonderful but also a Soul-Searching Night Out 

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

(L-R) Karole Foreman, Ciarra Stroud & Anise Ritchie

To welcome 2023, NCR Theatre in Solana Beach brought back the classic Blues in the Night conceived and originally directed by Sheldon Epps. A musical that debuted Off-Broadway in 1980 and two years later on Broadway. The original vocal arrangements and musical direction is by Chapman Roberts and Sy Johnson is responsible for orchestrations and additional vocal arrangements. 

The packed 26-song production spread out in two acts takes place during the late 30s in a rundown Chicago hotel where three women (played by Karole Forman, Anise Ritchie, and Ciarra Stroud) let the audience in on their failed love relationship -amongst other things- with the same man (Elijah Rock).

Ciarra Stroud photo by Aaron Rumley
Even though the piece moves smoothly without dialogue and the songs tell the story, it is a complex production with several moving parts with a five-piece jazz band as backdrop composed by Kevin Tomey in piano and leading the group, Roy Jenkins in bass, Danny King in drums, Malcolm Jones in reeds, and Thomas Alforque with the trumpet. The band immediately introduces the mood while audiences walk in the theatre and see them onstage lighting up the place along with Marty Burnett's set design with three different stations or rooms where each woman will share her triumphs and sorrows. The cool aspect I enjoyed was that the rooms are decorated with the personality of each woman which is confirmed as they sing their songs so, you start following both listening to the lyrics, and peacing the description with the design as well as with the props, designed by Chris Williams. Lighting is always key in production but here, more so because each song ends with a bang! and Matthew Novotny's lighting design guides the song to the end when it pops, making audiences want more and know what is coming next. The women's trio is a display of impressive, strong vocals with a tessitura mix that is just right. Karole Forman and Anise Ritchie each bring the seasoned flare with poise and style. Ciarra Stroud in her NCR debut is striking and delivers fierce interpretation, all three rocking Roxane Carrasco's choreography that involves all types of "eights" from paced and marked to fast and extreme. Elijah Rock as the Man in the Saloon but also -that guy-, right? is sort of the wild card amongst all the estrogen and in addition to a great voice he does a mean tap solo that I wish was screened for everybody to see, just like they do in concerts so you do not miss the details. Regan A. McKay's costume design is detailed, nostalgic and full of sass. I particularly loved a white tool dress with black and red stripes that Anise Ritchie changed to onstage and, in a different scene, a big white hat made from the same material, absolutely stunning. 
Elijah Rock - photo by Aaron Rumley

In all productions, you have the creative thread with each element and the creatives in charge. Here in Blues in the Night, you see it clearly not only dance-wise but for example how the three actresses line up and pose before and after each song accentuated by the lighting, musicalized by the beats, and guided by Yvette Freeman Hartley's direction from the simplest thing like changing clothes onstage with finesse it all is definitely in the detail and like I mentioned in the beginning, the thread between all the elements, moving pieces is clear. Sy Johnson as the arranger, Lanny Hartley as the musical director, and Matt FitzGerald in sound design which puts everything together has it make sense, and keeps it crisp each performance throughout the run is a huge task that I recognize and praise.

Anise Ritchie - Photo by Aaron Rumley
Freeman Hartley in the director's letter shares that this production celebrates the blues genre, created in the 20th Century in the Deep South by African American slaves, a combination of spirituals, hollers, chants, and work songs, and all of this is absolutely communicated and it is part of the joys of this production that starts a tad slow but grasps momentum as it runs and both the rhythm of the show and the tone of the songs goes up, prompting oh's, ah's, and giggles to straight up cackles with how the raunch takes place in various songs like Kitchen Man or Take it Right Back which is the perfect segway to intermission. 

There are so many songs in this revue that were made famous by Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith amongst other greats, that it is even like a history class told with music. I am glad that there are music streaming platforms amongst us to learn more and understand better.

Karole Foreman - photo by Aaron Rumley

Blues in the Night is a fantastic production that reflects hard work and creativity. Bravo to North Coast Rep for spicing it up with some diversity in their season opener. The performance I saw btw was midweek and packed! A good testament that it's been a long time coming and it should be here to stay.

Currently performing and extended to Sunday, February 12. For dates and times please click here.