Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Interview with "Acting Out: Words that Connect" Playwright: Bob Zaslow

Bob Zaslow is a published and produced Playwright and Author.  His most recent play, The Seed of Abraham, was performed Off-Broadway at the Bleecker Street Theatre.  Zaslow is also the creator of Rap Notes: Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits, a short summary – in rhyme – of Shakespeare’s five most popular plays. In addition, Zaslow created the documentary film, Nadine Valenti, Portrait of a Painter, which has been shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and was a Bronze winner at the American Film Festival.  Zaslow was also an advertising copywriter at Grey Advertising in New York for fifteen years.

Zaslow's play, Flights of Fancy Schmancy, will take place on Friday, July 11th and Sunday, July 14th, as part of HVCCA's Acting Out: Words that Connect series.  The play is a send up of performance art, complete with music. It presents Me 1 and Me 2, two artists who say they leave their art up to you, and yet Me 1 and Me 2 struggle not only about the meaning of art, but who really defines that meaning. Fancy Schmancy explores the making of performance art, the merging of self with art and with the other. It an exploration of twinness that Dr. Suess would applaud. 

Q: Can you describe your entrance into the world of play-writing? 

I started writing a comic strip called “Cornball” in the sixth grade. Each episode was sixteen boxes and always ended on a cliff-hanger. I think there were about fifty of those. My next entrance came when I began a career as an advertising copywriter. Each commercial was a thirty- or sixty-second play. But my more traditional stage-play writing didn’t begin until around 2005, when I started writing one-act comedies, mostly for the Aery Theatre Group in Garrison, NY. 
Q: What inspired the narrative behind this play, “Flights of Fancy Schmancy”?  Why did you choose for your play to be performed in front of Jeffrey Schrier’s “Unfinished Flight”? 

I was inspired by the work of various performance and conceptual artists in the exhibit. I’ve always been fascinated by the notion of whether performance/conceptual art has any boundaries. Can one define art as anything an artist does? At any rate, I wanted to have a bit of fun with expanding those boundaries to absurdity, including bursting out into song when needed. I chose Jeffrey Schrier’s “Unfinished Flight” because it represented the metaphor of every artist who spreads her wings and soars to new levels of expression. In addition, Jeffrey’s piece is surprisingly made of aluminum tabs, which have a functional but no real inherent artistic merit on their own. By the same token,  performance artists surprise their audience with actions that one initially might not consider “artful.” 
Q: What prompts/draws you to use humor in your work? 

I’m Jewish. Humor is in my blood.  For years, my mother told me that Joan Rivers was a relative. She wasn’t. But I think my grandmother saw her on Flatbush Avenue once. When I was writing more than 100 Maalox Moment radio commercials in the nineties, every one had to be memorable and likeable. And humor was the way to go. (Besides, I don’t’ think I’m very good at “serious.”) 
Q: What is the last great book that you read? 

I’ll give you two great books I’ve read recently that I love. The first had a huge affect on my writing. It’s several short sentences about writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg. This book should be on every writer’s “Must Read” book list.  I’ve read it twice this year.The other great book: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. The poetry, the philosophy, the insights into human nature and the political climate at the time are extraordinary.

Visit for more information on the Acting Out: Words that Connect Series. Tickets are available on the website or call 914.788.0100

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Interview with "Acting Out: Words that Connect" Actress Nellie O'Brien

Nellie O’Brien has performed in many national and local venues including the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, The Westchester Broadway Theatre, Tarrytown Music Hall, The Emelin Theatre and The Performing Arts Foundation. She has TV, radio, voiceovers, comedy improv and cabaret to her credit and was a recipient of the Irene Ryan Award for Excellence in Acting.  A former TV and Radio news anchor, producer and correspondent, she is the president of Compelle! Communications, a company specializing in media training, presentation skills, spokeswork and message development.  

See Nellie perform at HVCCA on Friday July 11th and Sunday July 12th,  as the character Sophia in Coni Koepfinger's play Turbulence aka Ups and Downs.  This is one of two plays that will be performed that weekend as part of HVCCA's ongoing performance series Acting Out: Words that Connect.

Could you describe your entry into acting?
My parents used to call me Sarah Bernhardt so it must have been at a very young age.

Do you consider there to be a difference between theater and performance art?  If so, in which would you align this series Acting Out: Words that Connect?  In which genre would you align yourself as an actor?  
I think I’m with Shakespeare on this one.  All the world’s a stage.
And everything can be considered theater. Teachers, clergy, lawyers, salespeople, public relations; everyone really is in theater. Everyone is trying to communicate an experience through speech, body language, song, dance, music, art at one point or another.  Maybe some people are more easily in touch with all the facets of humanity that exist somewhere in our collective unconscious and can (or are compelled to)  express them in ways that resonate for others. In my case, I sing, dance, teach, write, stand on my head; whatever it takes to connect, provoke thought and elicit emotion. I try, anyway!

How do you envision the interfacing between visual art and performance/theatre in this series, Acting Out: Words that Connect, and in general?  
I’ll go back to my earlier statement. In addition, I do love the fact that so many voices are influencing each other via different forms of expression in Acting Out: Words that Connect. And, having seen other events in this series, I can tell you that from an audience standpoint it is fascinating!!!  So evocative!  The artwork really does come to life and is part of the performance or experience – so, the playwright, the artist, the actor, the director, the space itself and, profoundly, the audience are all seen and heard and, I don’t know, superimposed.  The impression it leaves is significant.

What are some of your greatest inspirations as an actor?
I sound like a parrot:  All the World is an inspiration!  Everything I see, hear and feel.  But also history, mythology, fairy tales, religion, books, art.  And, importantly, I just said goodbye to a great mentor, Dr. Jacques Burdick, whom I was lucky enough to have as a teacher when I was pursuing a BFA in theater.  He was brilliant and he was magic.  He changed my life as an actor and as a person. I find myself quoting him still almost every day.

What makes a good actor?
Good question. And who am I to say?  I think it is someone who really is in touch with and recognizes how to signify those facets of humanity that lie within so that the audience is moved and cleansed, or something.  We all have a capacity, I think, to be kind, to be evil, to be fair, to be jealous, to be loving, to be hateful, etc.  But we’ve made some kind of decision (through nurture or nature or what, I don’t know) about what facets we are going to express and live by.  Hopefully, they follow the golden rule.  But we need to see those other things, the light and the dark to help us with our struggles.  Maybe?

What is the last great book that you read?
I’m always reading four or five books at once.  There’s usually something cerebral (just re-read The Origin of the Consciousness and The Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes.  Whew!), something classic (in the middle of Bleak House by Dickens), something new and easy in paperback (Maeve Binchy, Wally Lamb) and, oddly but desperately, always something in Science Fiction Fantasy (Currently on the third Game of Thrones book!  Also hooked on the show.)

For more information on Acting Out: Words that Connect and to buy tickets, visit

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Light Painting Photography!

On select Saturdays HVCCA holds an art activity for families with children of all ages. The art lessons are related to the current exhibitions at HVCCA. The lessons can take up to two hours and usually include a family friendly tour of the exhibition and hands-on arts activities. 

Last weekend HVCCA’s Museum Educator, David Licata, held a Light Painting workshop, teaching participants how to use a slow shutter speed to create illuminated patterns, shapes, letters and more! 

Check out a couple of the amazing paintings that resulted:

Join us at our next Family Education Workshop on Saturday July 12th from 2-4pm as we create Personal Flags inspired by the work of Costa Vece.  For more information visit

Friday, June 13, 2014

Summer Sound Art!

Last weekend on Sunday June 8th, Caramoor in collaboration with HVCCA presented the opening of Aaron Taylor Kuffner's Gamelatron Sanctuary: Saura Sinar (The Sound of Light) which is part of the In the Garden of Sonic Delights Exhibition of 2014.

If you missed the opening, be sure to come down to the Peekskill waterfront this summer to experience this amazing sound art exhibition.  And while you're in the area, head to Caramoor in Katonah, NY to check out the rest of the works from the In the Garden of Sonic Delights Exhibition. 

Don't just take our word for it...  The folks at Jose-Marc Gallery are recommending a visit as well!

Aaron Taylor Kuffner.  Photo by Pascal Charles Petit
For more information on In The Garden of Sonic Delights visit

Friday, May 30, 2014

Artist Update: Brent Owens

It's Bushwick Open Studios this weekend and Peekskill Project V artist, Brent Owens, will have his studio open with some new work, work from the recent English Kills show, and some work in progress!  

Pop in to say hello and while you're in the area head over to Wayfarers (1109 Dekalb ave. Brooklyn, NY) where Brent is showing all new work as part of the show "Congratulations on Everything!".  The show also features water-color paintings by British artist, Ben Coode-Adams.  "It's a beautiful, funny, sexy, soulful show - featuring spirit gatherers and citadels and hermaphrodites and low-rider logs - all in brilliant color."

For more info on Brent Owens check out his website at

Brent Owens, A Tourist Everywhere I Go, 2014, wood, acrylic spray paint, found objects