Actress Turned Activist #Antipollution

Actress & Activist Aria McKenna

Without having reached the edges of the earth, I think we can all pretty much agree that there’s alot of pollution going around. From sitting in traffic jams with the smell of car fumes intoxicating the air, to watching thousands of birds fall from the sky, to witnessing deceased whales floating up to shore, to people dying from simple bathroom mold – somethings gotta give! Noticing the signs, Actress Aria McKenna, decided to create a campaign on Indie Gogo that would fund her god-given, genius idea! Right now as we speak… or read (metaphorically so) McKenna is in Los Angeles, California, writing a script alongside her new partner Jeff Abugov (Producer of Two & A Half Men) for her web series entitled Revolution Earth which will indirectly teach audiences how to live in a cleaner & healthier environment, instead of waiting for the ‘powers that be’ such as governmental parties and programs to do the job that we as citizens can do ourselves.

A graduate from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in L.A., Aria McKenna never dreamed that she would become so passionate about the study of ecology. However, it wasn’t long before she started noticing that where she once enjoyed a crystal clear sighting of the scenic mountain view, were now becoming blocked with thick smog from less than a mile away where she stood, thus, threatening her air quality as she began getting allergies more frequently.

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How To Save a World?

Yael Grinberg is a New York actress/playwright who creates her art from a spiritual center.  Her newest piece, HOW TO SAVE A WORLD?, currently playing in New York, is a clever examination of human interaction and moral consequences.  Readers who remember my LET US NERD article on Sarah Seeds will note how much I appreciate artists using their work to engage in global communication, and HOW TO SAVE A WORLD succeeds in that regard.

30c03b5b-9f65-4814-9f72-26cadafffc75-700x700_q100I first met Ms. Grinberg this past June, when she announced her plan to me of launching a show by the end of the year.  I advised her to not fall into the trap many actors do when developing solo shows of simply telling their life story, which may be very interesting, but often comes off as self-indulgent.  Fortunately, she already agreed with me and had a very different plan.

Five months later, HOW TO SAVE A WORLD? is playing to a sold-out crowd in a Manhattan theater.  That is an accomplishment that I can honestly say I have never seen any actor successfully pull off!  Nor is the play the vanity-project that I feared a potential solo show could be.  Instead it’s an anthology piece, consisting of six interconnected vignettes, each dealing with themes of spiritual growth, communication, choices, and societal improvement.  Ms. Grinberg conceived of the story (or stories) during her travels to Cuba earlier this year, and she is one of six actors in the play’s ensemble cast.

At only 45 minutes, I did feel that the play was not quite finished and is still in development, both in its writing and presentation.  Some characters wander in and out without resolution, and some hefty topics that hold tremendous political baggage, such as the Israeli conflict and Che Guevara, are introduced and not fully explored (none of the actors actually pronounce Guevara’s name correctly).  The play climaxes with a dance between Ms. Grinberg and James Venable that feels awkwardly blocked and stilted, considering we are told that both these characters are supposed to have studied dance for many years.  I felt that, with the addition of some professional choreography, this could be a much stronger, heartfelt dance that would serve as a catharsis to all the conflict built over the play, and so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Ms. Grinberg plans to add a stronger musical element to the piece.  I would love to see the piece extended and transformed into a Broadway musical.

Israel is a very passionate subject for Ms. Grinberg, and a topic she strongly wishes to write about.  But she realizes, as Tolstoy did before her, that war is not a state of politics but of the spirit, and this is where she finds her voice.

On the positive side, the production in its current state is very solid, benefits from its use of minimal set design, and has a good ensemble, with Meurice Singletary giving the strongest performance.  At the center of it all though is Yael Grinberg herself, serving as the play’s backbone and catalyst for all the narratives.  Her character in some ways serves as a spiritual healer.  With some further development, blocking, and choreography, HOW TO SAVE A WORLD? could really grow into something big, a play for the spirit, and convey its message to a larger audience, and, hey, maybe even save a world.

HOW TO SAVE A WORLD? is playing at the Under St. Marks Theatre, and will be performed again on November 17th and 26th.  Tickets may be purchased here.

Gabe Rodriguez is a regular blogger for LET US NERD and occasional contributor for INNER VIBRATIONS magazine.

ACT: Artists for Creative Theatre

Jackie Rosa

A Modern Day, Multicultural, Multitasking, Mother of Two Making A Difference!!!

Jackie Rosa – Founder of ACT (Artists for Creative Theatre)

Being born and raised from a mother that went from Jehovah Witness to Catholic religion was confusing for Jackie Rosa at times, but the one thing that remained consistent growing up was her love for music and film. Like most young Latina’s, dancing around in her living room to the tropical rhythms of Salsa music was a traditionally, joyful, norm. Listening to Hector Lavoe, Eddie Santiago and Celia Cruz were a given on most days as her mother blasted the stereo speakers. However, Jackie humbly admits that she couldn’t escape becoming Americanized when creative Icons such as Madonna, Michael Jackson and Prince were at their all-time peak, influencing the way she viewed society through their creative outlets as they exercised their freedom of speech in racy music videos and provoking lyrical songs.

And there you have it! Another youngster infected by the creative inspiration to fight back societies manipulative ideologies to keep people controlled and asleep! But not this fierce individual. She was awakened by the music in her soul that needed to express itself in order to not only live, but to thrive!

It all started at the age of 8. Going from a God-worshiping church vocalist in a Christian choir, to witnessing her favorite boy band, Menudo, shake their asses on stage for screaming fans in Madison Square Garden, sent Jackie one clear message: She needed to perform, and nothing would stop her.

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Inner Movie – Annabelle

 “Frights come as the spirits presented Annabelle at the Jeckyl and Hyde Club” 

Written by Ekaterini Koufalis    

ArtsbyMia – holding a candle at The Annabelle movie premiere.

annabelleposterIt was a night of excitement and suspense as everyone joined together on Sep­tember 23 at the Jeckyl and Hyde Club in Time Square, NYC. The event was a VIP opportu­nity introducing the “Annabelle” doll for everyone in anticipation for the movie coming out on October 3rd. For many people it seems like just another horror movie, but for many, especially in the Latino Culture, the movie comes with many symbols of spirits, and ritu­als that is kept close to them. 

The event was coordinated by George Torres of the Sofrito media group, who is also a representative for the Arenas Entertainment, Newline Cinema, and Warner Brothers entertainment. The room was filled with people from different worlds both cul­turally and industry. The Annabelle doll, remade by director James Wan was enclosed in a case ideally similar to the original case that the original Annabelle doll is found in the Warren Occult Museum in Moodus, Conneticut. Annabelle, (the doll in the movie) was remade to look scarier than the original Annabelle doll. The original Annabelle doll is a raggedy Anne doll, the one we all know and love.

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Actor & Cyclist – Luis Antonio Ramos

A STAR ON THE ROAD

Luis Antonio Ramos Cycles To Success

LouisAntonioRamosYou may have seen Actor, Luis Antonio Ramos, in a series of Hollywood films including Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, Sea of Love with Al Pacino, and a horror movie called The Ruins. But his credits don’t stop there. Also featured in a string of hot TV shows such as Friends, The Shield, Alias, CSI: Miami, and Burn Notice, this Bronx born native, Puerto Rican entrepreneur has been consistently active in a rather pretty flaky industry.

Due to the high’s and low’s that stardom often brings, Ramos knew that his sanity lied in self-discipline. And although most actors are stigmatized for their free spirited nature (because they flee from pursuing 9 to 5 jobs) Ramos found a dependable activity that actually served his spontaneous career: Cycling.

“My motive for cycling is that it mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepares me for my work. It keeps me clear headed and ready to go at a moments notice,” says Ramos. When call backs are unpredictable, scene locations are sporadic, and work days are between 12 to 14 hours, it makes sense that one would need to have a good amount of stamina and endurance to remain alert.

LuisCycling2Luckily for this intelligent fella, his healthy lifestyle began slowly budding as early as the 80’s when he’d ride his bike beyond the borders of his Bronx barrio just to expand his horizons. Well, as fate would have it, after cruising through Central Park one summer afternoon, he got the buzz, heard the call, and felt the roar! As a swarm of about 150 cyclists rode passed him, Ramos said to himself, I wanna ride with that pack. One year later, he did.

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Director Gabe Rodriguez: Goddess of Time

GODDESS OF TIME

A Goddess is a female deity with supernatural powers – as defined in the world wide web’s Wikipedia. However, with such a strong title featuring a word that means so many things to different people, film director Gabe Rodriguez didn’t realize how powerful words can affect a script and/or a project as it did with his latest short film, “Goddess of Time”, starring Dina Cataldi, Nate Steinwachs, and Casey Bartolucci.

It all started when Gabe and a colleague were brainstorming about their next film project which was originally intended to be a basic action-adventure story, but as fate would have it, nothing happened the way they planned. What could’ve been a classic chic-flick evolved throughout the writing and filming process into a deep, thought provoking, time traveling, mystic adventure casting a female duo playing Brooklyn’s Bushwick NYPD officers – a modern day spin on strong women taking on a man’s job in serving to protect the innocent.

After receiving a neighboring complaint, the police partners make a visit to a gypsy psychics parlor to warn her about scaring the people with evil spells or bad deeds. In return, the psychic warns one of the officers, Orysia Rozhenko, played by Dina Cataldi, with a threat of trouble that will soon find a friend she has yet to meet.

In a series of time traveling events, Rozhenko, visits past and future lifetimes of two warring soldiers, played by Nate Steinwachs and Casey Bartolucci, that awaken her knowledge for spiritual truth. Realizing how the military serve as a reputation for a different form of law enforcement as she witnesses blood on the battlefield, she discovers that good and evil do exist – which is why she chose to incarnate as a cop in this lifetime. Choosing this profession was for a reason, one that she almost forgot until learning some valuable lessons from the victims that she helped along her journey. The fact that law enforcement is a job that was once entrusted only to men due to its “dominant” characteristics, proves how far we’ve evolved today. Embracing both her masculine and feminism sides is what makes her whole, a Goddess, who fights for justice between right and wrong.

When speaking with the screenplay writer and director, Gabe Rodriguez, he shares an honest confession that he’s never been the so called “spiritual” type, nor did he intend to create a film with such deep insight. “I’m an Atheist”, he confidently says.

“Spiritual is a word without a clear definition,” says Rodriguez. “It covers a wide array of assumptions for different people. The first time someone told me he found the film spiritually significant, it was a happy accident to me. There’s an abstract element to it but there’s also a clear message in the ending when Dina’s character says, ‘Now I remember why I wanted to be a cop. Right and wrong do exist… and heroism exists. People are just a shade of grey.’ Initially I was unsure if it would come off as preachy or as if we were moralizing to the audience, but now I’m really glad that conclusion is there. It grounds the rest of the film.”

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Director, Gabe Rodriguez, happily posing for the camera as his film became an official selection for the Queens World Film Festival in NYC.

Ironically, one of the best criticisms that the director admits to receiving was how so many people wished that the film was longer. Although some may view it as negative because audiences were left with some unanswered questions, Gabe views it as one of the best critiques an Artist can have due to the anticipation of wanting more – sort of like a cliff hanger.

Despite the Director not being the most spiritual person, he does recognize a certain magic in the way the film came together in a serendipitous way that wasn’t intentionally planned. For example, the make-up artist that he booked for a hospital scene surprisingly didn’t show up on the day of the shoot, and what could’ve turned into a disaster actually became a blessing in disguise as the lack of make-up made the patients “look like shit” (Which is what he wanted anyway)! Costume designer Brittany Moskowitz provided a WWII battlefield location with her long island backyard and her entire family helped out on set. Even the way the lead actress came on board was natural. Gabe discovered Dina Cataldi not by seeing her act, but from seeing her interviewed in The IndieGoGo campaign video for an action webseries. Since he was searching for a woman to play a tough cop, Dina was perfect! How it all fell into place was a mystery to him, but he went with the flow.

“Of all the films I’ve worked on, Goddess of Time, is the one that seemed to have a mind of its own, and that affected audiences in the most diverse ways. I’m really grateful to cinematoghrapher Clarke Mayer and editor Dana Glidden, who are my backbone, and the film could absolutely never have been made without the support and hard work of producer Orysia Kucher, whom I named my lead character after.”

Gabe Rodriguez is also the director of the following short films:

    • Fighting Nirvana 2009

    • Susie In The Afterlife 2010

    • Q To The 6 Train

    • Havana in Bushwich

    • Goddess of Time 2013