Featured Artist: Matt Schatz

This is a series of posts featuring our artists who are making things happen in and around our great borough of Queens.  Please check back weekly for new posts.

Matt Schatz
Matt Schatz

Title\Occupation
Playwright, Musical Theater Writer (librettist/lyricist/composer), Sort-of-TV-Writer…

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
My wife Jenna and I moved to Sunnyside almost six years ago. She wasn’t my wife then, but she’s my wife now. We like it here.

How did you get involved in theater?
I always wrote stuff. I wrote little books and songs and raps when I was a kid (like you do), and in high school I wrote a lot of poetry. In college while studying screenwriting, I learned how to play the guitar, so I also started writing songs. I’ve always had sort of a short attention span, so I started reading plays, because unlike a novel, you can read them in one or two sittings. For some reason, I liked the idea of being a playwright. I wrote a play about a drugstore (I worked in a couple of them during and after college) and used that to apply to grad school. I got into a few and went to one, and while there, I found that if you called yourself a playwright long enough, eventually you would become one.

And then I wrote my first musical in 2007 while in Youngblood at Ensemble Studio Theatre and realized that was probably what I was born to do. I wrote many more after that. And the rest is the present.

I never really acted. I’m terrible.

What do you love most about Queens?
Sunnyside is great. It’s a real neighborhood. It’s small and it’s incredibly diverse. There are families and young people and old people and middle aged people. My wife and I know the people who work at the diner, the fish store, the thrift store, the laundromat, and all that. We talk to them and we’re not even that friendly (we’re both shy writer types).

I love that we are able to live in New York and live in a rent stabilized two bedroom apartment—with one room to sleep in and the other for us both to write and for me to write songs and play musical instruments and procrastinate.

What I love most about Queens is that it’s in New York City. I really like Queens, but I love New York.

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?

I will limit this to Sunnyside/Woodside food places.  I write what I know.

In no particular order…

Diner Breakfast: Pete’s Grill

Diner Lunch: New York Style Eats

Sushi: TJ’s Asian BistroAri Yoshi

Thai: Yum Yum Queens

Mexican: De Mole

Pizza: Marabella’s

Butcher/Delli: The Butcher Block
Fish: Kim’s Fish

Trendy Small Plates: Salt & Fat
Donuts: Alfa Donuts
Cafe: Aubergine

Breakfast Sandwiches: Dunkin Donuts
Big Macs: The McDonald’s on Queens Boulevard

There are also plenty of bars and Irish pubs if you’re into that sort of thing, but all beer tastes the same to me.


Current/Upcoming projects?
Director Wendy Goldberg and I are presenting my hip hop basketball musical DUNKFEST ’88 as part of Ars Nova’s ANT Fest on June 15. Come see it!I am appeared on a panel with Diana Son and Itamar Moses called “Playwrights Writing for Television: Success or Compromise” at the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center on May 20th; I haven’t yet compromised as much as I would like, but I plan to compromise more and more.
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Featured Artist: Jenny Lane

This is a series of posts featuring our artists who are making things happen in and around our great borough of Queens.  Please check back weekly for new posts.

Jenny Lane
Jenny Lane

Title\Occupation
Playwright
Administrative Director for the League of Professional Theatre Women
Literary Manager for the Astoria Performing Arts Center

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
I live in Astoria, and I’ve been in this apartment for 2 years. But I lived in Long Island City/Astoria for many years before grad school brought me to Harlem, as well. So all told, I think I’ve lived in Queens for about 6 years. I love it here.

How did you get involved in theater?
I was lucky to have parents who loved the theater, and they began taking me to the Broadway shows that toured through Detroit at a very young age. I knew all of the words to Les Miserables before I understood what all of the words meant.

What do you love most about Queens?
I find it so unpretentious and refreshingly family-oriented, with a vibrant and committed arts community. And also, the food.

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?

Mosaic, for the wine list.
Via Trenta, Brick Cafe and Ovelia for the food.
Sissy McGinty’s, because that’s been our local haunt for about a decade.
Astoria Park, for the pretty.
Club Fitness, for the Zumba.

Tell us a little about the play you’r developing in the Propulsion Lab?
Right now I have only the beginning of something brand new, and presently untitled. It begins in the mundane rhythm of naturalism and then sort of disintegrates into something dreamier. It’s at once a deeply personal piece, and a response to some frustrating and horrifying current events. I don’t know much about it yet, but I’m super excited to have a place to hear it and get some feedback.

Current/Upcoming projects?
I had an excerpt of a play go up in April in Washington, DC, a short play going up in Seattle in June, and my play Harlowe will be produced in the fall as part of the Alec Baldwin Fellowship at Singers Forum.

Featured Artist: Nathan Brisby

This is a series of posts featuring our artists who are making things happen in and around our great borough of Queens.  Please check back weekly for new posts.

Nathan Brisby
Nathan Brisby

Title\Occupation
I wear a lot of hats.  I’m an actor/singer, but also a writer in the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop, and the founding producer of Broadway Gives Back.

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
I’m in Astoria (aka “Actoria”) and have been here since 2005.  I’ve been in NYC since 2002.   I’m old.

How did you get involved in theater?
I was Scrooge in A Christmas Story.  I got bit by the bug and never looked back.

What do you love most about Queens?
It’s not a concrete jungle, but it also doesn’t shut down at 9pm.  It’s the best of both worlds.

Do you have any “only in Queens” moments you’d like to share?
Well, as you may know, the census said that Astoria is the most diverse neighborhood in the entire US of A.  I love taking the train home late at nightwith dozens of languages being slurred by drunk people around me.

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?
So many!!  For food, I love Vesta, Sparrow, ordering late night Thai from Bangkok Tasty, and Sugar Freak.  Astoria Performing Arts Center regularly puts on shows that are better than most of what happens on Broadway.  How they transform their space every show is the stuff of legend.  And if you’ve got a dog, like I do, he loves nothing more than a nice walk in Astoria Park.

Current/Upcoming projects?
 I just finished a bunch of readings, and have a few coming up.  I’m working on a new tween musical with my writing partner, Lizzie Hagstedt, called “Camo Girl,” based on a novel by Kikla Magoon.  Broadway Gives Back held a benefit concert recently at Le Poisson Rouge called “Broadway Charity Songs,” and it was a HIT!  We are being asked to do it every year.  There should be press coming out about it on the theatre websites very soon.

Featured Artist: Liz Nieves

This is a series of posts featuring our artists who are making things happen in and around our great borough of Queens.  Please check back weekly for new posts.

Liz Nieves
Liz Nieves

Title\Occupation
Photographer – Event Organizer

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
Astoria for 12 years with a 2 year break in Sunnyside Gardens

Tell us more about your work.
I am a photographer that focuses mostly on environmental portraiture but I love a good landscape, especially anything with inclement weather.

Are there any favorite places in Queens that you like to photograph?
 I have one spot that a friend showed me that is an oasis of greenery and trees in the center of these large urban apartment buildings. It’s so quiet and unexpected.

What do you love most about Queens?
I love that you are immersed in a million different cultures and that it’s filled with such a variety of ethnicity. Everything feels authentic and each neighborhood has something to offer.  I love that no matter how many times it’s declared so that it will never be tragically hip.

Do you have any “only in Queens” moments you’d like to share?
I had dinner at a restaurant last night called Annam Brahma in Jamiaca.  It’s a vegetarian restaurant that is operated by the followers of the late famed guru Sri Chinmoy.   I didn’t really know much about it before I went (we were there to photograph and interview a writer that lived nearby). The place was so interesting; the entire place was a shrine to Sri Chimnoy. There is one wall devoted to his progress as he went on to train in weightlifting and lifted 7,000 lbs with one hand.  The staff all had the enlightened look of hardcore meditators (much less stressed looking than the typical Ny’er), the food was delicious and everyone was very kind. Yet after doing a bit of googling you see that Sri Chimnoy was accused of running a cult that prohibited its members from dating, eating meat, alcohol, socializing outside the circle and owning pets.   The entire thing is so random and so queens to me.

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?

So many good restaurants have opened in Astoria lately-

I love Queens Comfort for the brunch, I need to get there early enough for their creative take on donuts (and it’s BYOB), Queens Kickshaw is great to eat at anytime but I love the Friday night music series, eclectic and always good. Il Bambino is classic. Olde Prague just opened by the Brewhouse- I’m looking forward to more live local music coming from there.  Gian Pierro bakery is amazing. I just got these sugar donuts filled with cannoli cream. Soriso’s deli makes everything delicious- I always wind up leaving with items I have never had before. Via Trenta is great for dinner too. Antika – the grandma square shaped pizza is unreal. Might be the best pizza I’ve ever had. Ha, I’m making myself hungry.


Current/Upcoming projects?
Audrey DiMola and I launched glitter and doom last month (glitteranddoom.com). We are hoping to have a launch party in a few months with live music and limited editions of G & D in print. I am working with Queens Council on the Arts as their coordinator for the Queens Art Express Block Party on June 22. I’m also photographing their featured artists throughout the process. Come fall, the collective I work with (inbloomcollective.com) are going to have the 2nd Annual Astoria Art Festival.

For more information on Liz, please visit http://glitterunicorn.com/home.html