MARC CASTLE started in the business at the age of ten in Thornton Wilder’s Plays for Bleecker St. at the Circle in the Square. He toured in the 1st National Company of Camelot, and appeared off-B’way in My Great Dead Sister (The Production Co.) and Romance Language. (Playwrights Horizons) Regionally: The Foreigner, Crazy for You and A Lion in Winter. Film and TV: A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, Urbania, and As the World Turns. Productions of his work have been seen at EST, the Neighborhood Playhouse and La Mama. He was the Literary Manager for Emerging Artists Theatre where he has had eight short plays produced (one of which, Invisible, was recently published.) Other recent works include One Brief Shining Moment, his biographical one-man show which he will be performing again this March; Young King Arthur (music: Scott Zesch, book: Jon Shear) which played at the Vital Theater in 2006 and recently won the National Children’s Theater Award which included a month long production at the Actor’s Playhouse in Coral Gables, Florida, and the musical Hollywoodland, (music: Scott Zesch) recently given a developmental reading at Emerging Artists and on the short list for the O’Neill Conference. His musical, Love, Incorporated, was presented in 2008 at the Midtown International Theatre Festival where it won Outstanding Production of a Musical. It recently premiered at the Roper Center in Norfolk VA as an out-of-town tryout for a future Off-Broadway run. His play, Friends and Relations, was produced at the June Havoc Theater in December, 2011. Marc also has an extensive background as a director too, both in NYC and regionally. He recently staged Noel Coward’s Fallen Angels at the Players Club. For Emerging Artists, he directed two short plays; Furious and Belle and Angel, as well as a play by David Bell for Fast Food, the 24 Hour Plays and many pieces for the One Woman Standing Festival. Other directing credits include A Boy and His Dog for The Directing Co., Sly Fox at The Playhouse on the Mall in Paramus, NJ, and the cult Off-Off B’way production of Pledge Girls from Delta, House of Death. Marc was Director of New Play Development at the Vortex Theater Co, ran the Playwrights Platform for the Turtle Shell Theater, and has done a great deal of dramaturgical work as well. He has taught acting and does coaching on an ongoing basis. In Long Island City, he has worked at the Secret Theatre as both actor (Much Ado about Nothing) and playwright, (Short Play Festival) and at the Chain Theatre, as director and playwright. (Unchained Festival) Besides Emerging Artists, Marc is a proud member of The American Renaissance Theatre Co., TOSOS, Equity, SAG/AFTRA, ASCAP, the Dramatist Guild, and an alumnus of both the BMI Composer/Lyricist and Librettist Workshops.
The 2014-2015 Propulsion Lab
Mission to (dit)Mars, a theatre arts collective serving Queens artists, is excited to announce the selection of nine new members to The Propulsion Lab, a Queens’ writers group serving emerging playwrights from the borough.
The nine new members are Jonathan Alexandratos (Astoria), Scott Casper (Astoria), John Caswell (Astoria), Mrinalini Kamath (Astoria), Elizabeth Seldin (Astoria), Mac Rogers (Astoria), Enrique Urueta (Astoria), Amy Witting (Sunnyside), and Tori Keenan-Zelt (Forest Hills) with returning members Lisa Huberman (Woodside), Kristine M. Reyes (Astoria) and Tyler Rivenbark (Sunnyside). Rounding out the group are inaugural members August Schulenburg (Forest Hills) and Mariah MacCarthy (Astoria), who will serve as “Writers in Residence.”
Each playwright will focus on writing a new full-length play over the course of the year. The new members were selected by Mission to (dit)Mars co-founders Kari Bentley-Quinn, Don Nguyen, Meredith Packer and Laura Pestronk. The writers group meets bi-weekly at the Secret Theatre in Queens.
On what excites her about the new members, Kari Bentley-Quinn explains “they are as diverse as they are accomplished…in style, ethnicity, and approach – much like the residents of our beloved borough.” Laura Pestronk adds “The new members excite me because of their amazingly different voices. Such a diverse group of stories are going to be told this season!”
Commenting on the surprisingly rapid growth of the lab, Meredith Packer suggests “The amount of submissions we had this year and the amount of talent we were given the opportunity to read meant that after three years this lab is what we have been preaching all along- that Queens has a vast amount of talented artists that are looking for a community in their own back yard. And that we are doing our job at Mission to (dit)Mars to bring them together.” Don Nguyen adds “the meteoric rise in members of the Propulsion Lab is a direct reflection of the immense growth of artists living and working in the borough and, in general, the increasing desire of making Queens a profound place to make theatre. We’re excited to help foster both.”
On its ongoing relationship with The Secret Theatre, Don Nguyen adds “Richard Mazda (Artistic Director) has been extremely supportive of new work in Queens and particularly of our group, where his generosity has been overwhelming on all fronts. Our relationship with has proven to be a rich one and we look forward to continuing and deepening our alliance with Richard and The Secret Theatre this year.”
The Propulsion Lab was created to meet the needs of like-minded theater artists who wanted to have a way of developing new work locally in Queens on an on-going basis. In addition to bi-weekly meetings, the year will include industry meet and greets with Artistic Directors and Literary Managers, three Launch Pad readings of full length plays, and All Systems Go! 3, an evening of excerpts from the new Propulsion Lab plays.
The Secret Theatre is located at 4402 23rd St in Long Island City.
For more information on The Secret Theatre, please visit http://www.secrettheatre.com/
Meet our current Propulsion Lab writers:
Jonathan Alexandratos (Astoria)
Jonathan Alexandratos writes plays. Jonathan Alexandratos writes plays about a soldier finding the legs he lost in battle (SHEPHERD, commissioned play by Abingdon Theatre Company, 2014), a woman discovering that the Moon has grown inside of her (BREAKING/ORBIT, Last Frontier Theatre Conference, 2014), a woman without a mouth (TEETH, commissioned by Truant Arts, 2013), and the atom bomb (CHAIN REACTION, NY Fringe Festival, 2012). Jonathan Alexandratos also made a documentary about his dad’s comic book collection, A BETTER UNIVERSE, which premiered at the 2014 Denver Comic Con. Jonathan Alexandratos lives at the intersection of Magic and Reality. Also in Astoria.
Scott Casper (Astoria)
Scott Casper is an actor, director and playwright living in Astoria, NY. As a writer, his short plays have been produced as part of the Asolo Conservatory’s Late Night Series, Firecracker Productions’ Red Light Nights, and Left Hip Productions’ From the Hip Festival. Scott is also the Artistic Director of taxdeductible theatre, and he has had several plays produced as part of The Dare Project (world-premiere ten-minute plays, written on a dare). The Dare Project also provided the starting point for his full-length play #hero, which was authored in collaboration by taxdeductible theatre. #hero received its world premiere in 2013.
John Caswell (Astoria)
John is the Founding Artistic Director of Progressive Theatre Workshop (www.progressivetheatreworkshop.org) and the author of several original works for the stage including ARRANGEMENTS (2013 Woodward/Newman Drama Award Finalist), GOD HATES THIS SHOW (HERE, Joe’s Pub @ The Public Theater), and SHOTS: A LOVE STORY (New York International Fringe Festival, Mesa Arts Center). He has spent time learning alongside pioneers of American theatre including Anne Bogart and The SITI Company, Circle Repertory founder Marshall W. Mason, and Ontological Hysteric Theater founder and MacArthur Genuis Richard Foreman. John studied theatre at Arizona State University.
Mrinalini Kamath (Astoria)
Mrinalini Kamath’s plays have been performed around the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Australia and India. She has been a semi-finalist for both the O’Neill and Seven Devils Playwrights Conferences, a finalist for the Actors Theater of Louisville Humana Festival and was Fluid Motion Theatre and Film’s inaugural Start the Story commission recipient. She won first place in the first East West Players (Los Angeles, CA) Got Laughs? Asian-American Comedy Play Contest and a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Several of her short plays appear in various Smith and Kraus anthologies. She is an alumna of Youngblood, the emerging playwrights’ collective at Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York City and a current member of the Ma-Yi Writers’ Lab.
Mac Rogers (Astoria)
MAC ROGERS’ plays include SOVEREIGN (New York Times and Backstage Critic’s Pick), BLAST RADIUS (New York Times Critic’s Pick), ADVANCE MAN (winner of the New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Premiere Production), FRANKENSTEIN UPSTAIRS (NYIT nominee, Best Premier Production), LIGATURE MARKS (CityBeat Critic’s Pick), VIRAL (winner, Outstanding Play at FringeNYC 2009), UNIVERSAL ROBOTS (nominated for four New York Innovative Theatre awards), and HAIL SATAN (Outstanding Playwriting Winner at FringeNYC 2007. Mac’s plays have earned acclaim from The New York Times, Backstage, The Wall Street Journal, Time Out New York, New York Post, Flavorpill, io9.com, Tor.com, NYTheatre.com, and many others.
Elizabeth Seldin (Astoria)
Elizabeth Seldin is a professional Actor, Writer, Acting Coach and Reiki Practitioner living in NYC. Past writing credits include: The Carnival (Sandbag productions), Estrellas Verdes ( FullStop Collective and conceived at Filling The Well), Solitude: A Short Film ( I Am She; Christine Drew Benjamin), The Belief Line Spoken Word EP( HoneyChrome) and Monologist at Pussy Fest ( Caps Locks). She is extremely grateful to the Mission To (Dit)Mars team for giving her the opportunity to explore her favorite passion: Storytelling. More information can be found at Elizabethseldin.com
Enrique Urueta (Astoria)
Enrique Urueta’s plays include The Johnson Administration, The Danger of Bleeding Brown, Learn To Be Latina, and Forever Never Comes. He has received a Jerome Fellowship, a Walter Dakin fellowship at Sewanee Writer’s Conference, and was an NEA Fellow at The MacDowell Colony. He received the New Works Fund award for Forever Never Comes from Theatre Bay Area and was a runner-up for the 2009 Yale Drama Series prize for The Danger of Bleeding Brown. Learn To Be Latina won the inaugural Great Gay Play contest sponsored by Pride Films & Plays and was named Best Ensemble Comedy of 2010 by the SF Weekly, which also named him Best Up-And-Coming Playwright of 2010.
Amy Witting (Sunnyside)
Amy E. Witting’s work has been seen at various theatres and festivals including: the Kennedy Center ACTF/NNPN MFA Playwrights Workshop (Day 392, 2014), Cabrini Rep (victor,Winner 2013 Thespis Festival), Frigid Festival (36 Hours, 2013), NY International Fringe Festival (FALLING, 2012), Edinburg Festival Fringe (G.I. Joe Jared, 2011), 59E59 (G.I. Joe Jared, 2011) The Sam French Festival (Create Me Pegasus, Finalist 2011), and The Cherry Pit (Classic 8, 2010). She received a 2014 Anne Friedman Production Grant for Road Veins, which will have a workshop production in Fall 2014. She is a grateful member of The Dramatists Guild of America, and received her MFA at Hunter College where she had the great privilege to study with Tina Howe, Arthur Kopit, and Mark Bly.
Tori Keenan-Zelt (Forest Hills)
Tori writes question-based plays. Her work has been presented or developed with The Flea, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Lark Roundtables, SG Short & Sweet, Panglossian, Cold Basement, 5D, NYMadness, Drama Book Shop, AVAdventure, Sanctuary Lab, and internationally. She’s a member of Bastard Playground, Part-Time Box, Tennessee Rep’s Ingram New Works Lab, & the Actors Studio Playwrights Unit. Last year, she was a Playwrights’ Center Core Apprentice, Lark Dramaturgy Fellow, Jerome Finalist, PoNY nominee, Kilroys List nominee, Lark Playwrights Week finalist, & two-time O’Neill semifinalist. She writes for Colonial Williamsburg’s Emmy Award-winning series and is developing an original webseries with Stage17. BA, Harvard. MFA, NYU Tisch. Member DGA. http://www.tk-z.net
Lisa Huberman (Woodside)
Lisa has been a proud resident of Woodside for two years. Her work includes Sex and Charitable Giving (developed by Mission to (dit)Mars and The New Light Theatre Project, Egyptology (developed under the mentorship of Lee Blessing and a nominee for a National New Play Network award), Under the Rainbow (Regional Winner in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, Finalist for the John Cauble Short Play Award), Health Nuts (Semi-Finalist for the Little Fish Theatre Pick of the Vine Competition, produced by the Panic Room Playwrights), Life Play (Secret Theatre’s Act One: One Act Festival), Sub-Prime (KNOW Theatre Playwrights and Artists Festival), High and Uptight (Mile Square Theatre’s 7th Inning Stretch Festival) and Heart/Succor (La Petite Morgue’s inaugural Fresh Blood Series). She has participated in the One Minute Play Festival, Pussyfest, and Monologues and Madness. Under the Rainbow, High and Uptight, and Egyptology are available for purchase and download at The Monologues Database. In addition to Mission to (dit)Mars, Lisa is also a member of the Passage Play Lab . She has attended playwriting workshops at Kennedy Center Playwriting Intensive and Chicago Dramatists. She received her BA in Theatre Performance from Bradley University and her MFA in Playwriting from Rutgers University, where she currently teaches freshman composition. Lisa was raised by vegans in Boardman, Ohio.
Kristine M. Reyes (Astoria)
Kristine M. Reyes is a playwright raised and based in New York City. Her plays include the full-length Queen for a Day(Diverse City Theater Company’s First Draft Fellowship); one-acts Quarter Century Baby, Something Blue (both produced at Diverse City Theater Company) and Lola Luning’s First Steps (commissioned and produced by Women of Color Productions); and the ten-minute pieces Balikbayan Birthday (Leviathan Lab) and Ready, Aim…Fire! (ESPA at Primary Stages; published on Indie Theater Now). Kristine is a Playwright Associate at Diverse City Theater Company, and a founding member and former co-director of the Leviathan Lab Asian American Women Writers Workshop. She was a 2012 Mary Louise Rockwell Scholar at The Einhorn School of Performing Arts (ESPA) at Primary Stages, and has also studied at Ensemble Studio Theatre. She is a member of The Dramatists Guild.
Tyler Rivenbark (Sunnyside)
Tyler Rivenbark was born and raised in Warsaw, North Carolina, and is now based out of Sunnyside, NY. He is a graduate of the Queens College, CUNY, MFA program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation with a focus in Playwriting. Select plays include Monosyllabic (Mellow Pages), (Silence) (Dixon Place and Artists’ Bloc), Inside the Rain (Dixon Place), Frogs; or How to Fail at Business (Left Hip), How they Played Games and Fell in Love (Abingdon Theatre) and Joe (Short Play Lab). In 2012 he received a commission from the Poetry Society of America to adapt Rita Dove’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book Thomas and Beulah for the stage. In 2011 he founded the Oh, Bernice! reading series in Queens. He was a 2009 writer-in-residency at the Louis Armstrong House Museum, a residency he now oversees. He is currently an English professor at Queens College, CUNY. He is also a member of the Dramatist Guild. And when not making theatre, he can be found around the city making music.
Writers in Residence
Mariah MacCarthy (Astoria)
Plays include All About a Boy (Best of Week, FronteraFest 2013), Magic Trick (FringeNYC ’12, dev. at The Culture Project; published by Indie Theater Now), The Foreplay Play (Caps Lock Theatre; two NYIT nominations, published by Indie Theater Now), Lysistrata Rape Play (dev. at The Players Theater, Anthem Theater Company, and Filling the Well), Ampersand: A Romeo & Juliet Story (FringeNYC ’11, 20 Looking Glass Forum Awards and “Outstanding Performance” of the Fringe), The All-American Genderf*ck Cabaret (Rapscallion Theatre Collective, Purple Rep, Pride Films & Plays in Chicago, and Thinking Cap Theatre in Florida; published by Indie Theater Now), You’ll Thank Me Later (Jimmy’s No. 43, Theater for the New City), Detained (Left Hip), Bachelor/Bachelorette (Co-Op Theatre East, Ticket 2 Eternity Productions), Dismemberment (Player’s Theatre), A Man of His Word (San Diego Old Globe with Playwrights Project, winner of the California Young Playwrights Contest, reading with New Dramatists), site-specific productions of l’esprit de l’escalier (The Atlantic Terminal Plays) and Three Sisters New York (Chekhov on the Hudson), and several plays in the New York & New Jersey One-Minute Play Festivals. She was the first (and, thus far, only) playwright to receive The Lotos Foundation Prize in the Arts and Sciences. She is Producing Director of Caps Lock Theatre, a 2012 nytheatre.com “Person of the Year,” curator of Pussyfest, a San Diego native, a Skidmore Graduate, and a member of the Dramatists Guild.
August Schulenburg (Forest Hills)
August’s plays include Carrin Beginning, Kidding Jane, Rue,Riding the Bull, Good Hope,Other Bodies, Honey Fist, Dark Matter, Jacob’s House, DEINDE, Dream Walker, Denny and Lila, Dark Matter, Jane the Plain and The Lesser Seductions of History. His plays have been produced and developed at the Lark Play Development Center, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Chelsea Playhouse, Theater for the New City, Portland Stage Company, Dayton Playhouse, Colonial Players, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Contemporary Stage Company, Abingdon Theater Company, Gideon Productions, New Amerikan Theatre, Penobscot Theatre, Impetuous Theater Group, Decades Out, Soundtrack Series, Reverie Productions, Wolf 359, Blue Box Productions, Piper McKenzie, Boomerang Theatre Company, Adaptive Arts, Hall High School, Nosedive Productions, MTWorks, Purple Repertory, Valley Repertory Company, The Brick Theater, CAPS LOCK Theatre, Chameleon Theatre Circle, Retro Productions, Elephant Run District, TheatreLAB and Flux Theatre Ensemble, where he is the Artistic Director. He is a member of the Propulsion Lab for Mission to (dit)Mars. His work has also been published in the New York Theater Review, Stage and Screen, Indie Theater Now, Midway Journal, NoPassport Press and in two issues of Carrier Pigeon. He also writes for film and television with MozzleStead Productions.
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.
Where were you born?
Saugus, Massachusetts (a small town in the North Shore of Boston)
Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
Astoria. I’ve lived here off and on for 12 years. I’ve been in my current apartment now for 2 1/2. I’ve lived all over the Burroughs….but I always come back to Queens.
How did you get involved in theater?
Hm. Well, I was a dancer and thought I’d be a choreographer one day. Truth be told, that wasn’t my dream. Dancing was just something I did well, like my Mom. She was a beautiful dancer. So I was 17 years old, and I was all set to go to Emerson College on a big dance scholarship, when I blew out my left knee in the middle of a performance. I had to undergo reconstructive knee surgery and I was looking at about a 2 year recovery time. I lost my dance scholarship, and my folks couldn’t afford to send me to Emerson without it, so I went to Salem State College and auditioned for their BFA program as an actor. I figured, “I can’t dance for 2 years, but I’d like to be on stage. So I’ll try this.” To make a long story short – I fell in love with acting when I was 18, and that was it.
What do you love most about Queens?
I love coming home at the end of the day from the loud ass City to a quiet neighborhood with lots of artists and families. There’s something really cozy about Queens. I haven’t found that feeling in any other neighborhood of New York.
So one night he asks me what I do for a living, and I say, “I’m on Broadway”.
There was this huge, awkward pause. And he blinked, about 10 times. Then finally he replied, “…the street?” I laughed and said, “Yes. I work over on Broadway.”
Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?
Taverna Kyclades (best seafood I’ve ever had in NY)
Astoria Bier and Cheese
Astoria Park (by the water underneath Hellsgate)
The Studio (outdoor bar great for watching football games)
The Beer Garden
Shooting season 3 of Orange is the New Black, and getting ready to go into rehearsals for LIPS TOGETHER, TEETH APART at Second Stage.