With ms. estrada opening in just a few short weeks, we’re sitting down with members of the cast to hear about why they love this new hip-hop musical adaptation of the Greek classic, Lysistrata, and what The Flea means to them.
What do you love about ms. estrada, the upcoming hip-hop musical?
I love that ms. estrada is a hip-hop musical that serves as a direct response to issues that we are grappling with as a society. I think it is relevant and it is relatable to all ages and backgrounds. Everyone will find a piece of him or herself in this production.
What kind of theater speaks to you?
I really have an affinity for Musical Theater. Musicals such as Color Purple helped me to find myself and people who look like me on a Broadway stage. I’m a singer at heart and hearing the notes and tones these powerhouse vocalists hit, excites me. Storytelling through song requires a lot of emotional stamina to do well and I’m up for the challenge.
What ignites you about the medium of theater?
I have always said— “You cannot fool the audience at the theater.” This is my way of reminding myself that there are no trick cut-aways or fancy angles or edits that can happen in film or television. You’re live and in order to get the story across, actors have to show up fully and give 110%, if not more! You must be fully connected to your objectives, your backstory, and the world you’re serving for 90-minutes with no intermission— every night!
If you could change one thing about the theater process, what would it be?
I would change the casting process. I would love theater to be more inclusive of all ethnicities, and to shake up their “character breakdowns”. How exciting would it be to see an Asian lead in Waitress? Or take the page from Frozen on Broadway and cast a Black person in a lead role.
And how did you end up at The Flea?
I was in a scene study class at Primary Stages with The Flea’s Audience Development Associate, Aleesha Nash. After I went up to do my monologue for the class, she started telling me all about The Flea and The Bats. I never anticipated that I would actually be a member of the company so soon, however, I’m thankful to be working with a group of dedicated and energetic actors that are supportive and hardworking.
What has acting and working as a theatermaker taught you about yourself?
Patience, tenacity, and self-reliance. I’ve been blessed to get as far as I have within the almost 4-years of pursuing my dream of becoming an actor, but patience is still required because not everything I want will happen overnight. I have to accept that. I have to accept that on a daily basis… “sometimes hourly,” he laughs.
Tenacity, because this career can be very harsh at some points and you have really know that this is what you want to do and that you will succeed.
Self-reliance comes out of a place where I’ve had experiences where people will say “I can help you!” or “We should definitely work together!” and although these encounters feel good at the moment, they may not come to fruition and the ownness is still on me to make my own way to get what I want. By creating content, networking, and being willing to hustle is what I can always count on.
What’s your dream project?
I have a lot of dream projects, dream roles and a long list of playwrights and directors I want to work with, but the entire list equates to one thing—I just really want to create PHENOMENAL work.
Beyond any list, I want to push myself and my talents to the very depths of their limits. My dream is to be to be cast in projects that will allow me to expand my capacity and develop skills that I didn’t even know I had. I love the growth process that I experience as an artist. I love having the opportunity to bring to life characters and share amazing stories. The fact that I get to do both in ms. estrada—tell stories and grow as an artist—I am completely here for it!
Alexandra Slater, a member of The Flea’s Bat Acting Company, plays PURRIA in The Flea’s production of LOCKED UP BITCHES written by Catya Mcmullen featuring original music by Scott Allen Klopfenstein. The production, directed and choreographed by our Resident Director Michael Raine, is a sweet, psychotic, queer, and outrageously funny hip-hop parody mash-up of a certain Netflix prison drama and Bernstein-Sondheim musical.
The Flea feels like home. I love the diversity here and the energy. In this crazy city, you need a SAFE place to nurture your art and The Flea does exactly that. The staff cares about what’s going and I truly believe The Flea is doing a great thing by putting a variety of voices on stage. It’s a great time to be a Bat.
Michael and Catya are an actor’s wet-dream. The two of them combined are a powerhouse. They really love to go places that other artists might be afraid to and that’s exciting for us as actors. Catya and Michael both are such great people to work with, they genuinely care about their actors. Hopefully, by watching LOCKED UP BITCHES, you’ll be able to see that. The way they put all of us together with the help of Kerry and Scott is truly amazing. I know this is not the last time I’ll be working with the both of them!
I love LOCKED UP BITCHES because of the many voices and stories at Bitchfield. I love how each character has a story to tell in the show. If you’re on stage, you’re doing something. The script is active and playful.
There’s a lot of love going on behind the scenes. I’ve truly fallen in love with every person on that stage. It helps our onstage fight since we get on and off the stage as friends.
I really would love people to walk away from LOCKED UP BITCHES thankful for their own communities and realizing how important it is to have one. We can’t do this life alone and we can’t do this life not knowing who we are. Take risks. Find your tribe. Love who you are.
My first theatre memory is auditioning for a solo at church. I was four. The song was “Away In A Manger.” I still think about how I slayed that audition. It doesn’t matter that everyone who showed up for the audition got a part— I slayed!
I took a year-long break in my first year of college. I was studying Biology. It was interesting, but eventually, I discovered it wasn’t for me. I also missed the theater. I auditioned for Brooklyn College, was accepted, and was able to continue pursuing my passion of being a theater artist. One of the best decisions I ever made.
What I love about theater is how intimate and fleeting it can be. There’s no pillow to cover your face or fast forward button to press. You can’t hide. It’s in your face. And for all the moments on the stage that you fall in love with, you have to do the work to cherish them. You cannot rewind or hit pause and so the work of being in the moment is one that I love.
I also love rehearsals and getting to know the people that I’ll be working with for weeks. The relationships that are formed in the whole rehearsal process. I’ve met some of the coolest people through this show. So many backgrounds, but yet we all have this passion to create.
The theater has taught me P-A-T-I-E-N-C-E! The right thing will come along, but it’s not always on our time. And when it’s not our time—it’s time to practice, study, and put in the hard work so that I’m prepared.
LOCKED UP BITCHES began its life as seven episodes in SERIALS (Cycles 26-28, 2015). Get a sneak peak of what life used to be like in Bitchfield!
The Flea mourns the passing of Reg E. Cathey, known affectionately as Reggie, whom we lost too soon on Friday at the age of 59.
Reggie was a dear friend and colleague of founding Artistic Director Jim Simpson and Producing Director Carol Ostrow from their days at the Yale Drama School where they were classmates and collaborators. Cathey served as a part of The Flea’s “Artistic Resource Group” that works as a sounding board for artistic ideas for Flea programming.
Cathey starred in two Flea productions, Joseph Addison’s 1712 play CATO in 2008, based on the Roman statesman who sided with Pompey in an unsuccessful civil war against Caesar and A.R. Gurney’s HERESY in 2012, a satire about the state of our union in the future (not very far off from where we are today). In both productions, under Simpson’s direction, Cathey lent his rich baritone, crackling wit and contagious glee in the creation of unforgettable characters.
Though he became well known for his television roles in The Wire and House of Cards, which earned him an Emmy, Cathey was a theater lover at heart and made his home here in the city. His work is an inspiration to The Bats and his legacy will be upheld through their work. He is mourned and will be dearly missed by all of us who loved him.
Artist’s Leather Jacket on permanent display
On Monday, February 5, 2018, the actual birthday of writer, composer and director Elizabeth Swados, The Flea held a small ceremony and revealed her black leather biker jacket in a large Plexiglas container which will be permanently placed in the lobby of The Sam, The Flea’s largest black box performance space.
The container was designed by artist Steven Sebring and holds not only the jacket but Liz’s keys which she kept in her right pocket. The jacket was originally purchased and worn by Rosalind Lichter, Swados’ longtime life partner. “Liz somehow absconded with the jacket and wore it continually until it actually became hers.”
The ceremony included a group of Bats, The Flea’s resident company of emerging actors singing, Wide White Road, a song from the last theatrical piece that Swados composed and directed, The Nomad which premiered at The Flea in the winter of 2015. Niegel Smith Artistic Director of The Flea welcomed a group of Swados’ closest friends. Ms. Lichter told the story about the jacket and then Carol Ostrow, The Flea’s Producing Director spoke.
Said Ostrow, “Liz wrote about runaways, iconoclasts, outcasts and outsiders – but really she was the ultimate insider – a wonderful giving collaborator, an instinctive and caring director, a dedicated teacher, a relentless and unfailing provocateur and a child of the theater – always a conduit in pursuit of excellence. She was beloved by The Bats and was revered by all of the designers and musicians who came under her spell. Liz will always be remembered, and she is dearly missed. We all feel so lucky that The Flea has a little part of Liz and she is now a part of The Flea forever.”
The Flea Theater is expanding our resident artist program to include playwrights. Ten artists will be chosen to form a writer’s room for SERIALS, our raucous late night play competition featuring The Bats. SERIALS provides playwrights the unique opportunity to write a play in 10-minute episodes, rehearse and perform it over the course of one week – and learn right away whether the audience wants to see more.The SERIALS Writers Room is a year long commitment. Writers will be assigned to a SERIALS team, featuring a director and a group of Bats, The Flea’s resident acting company. Over the course of the year there will be eight cycles. Each cycle features two consecutive weekends of shows, with performances Thursday – Saturday at 11 pm. Five episodes are performed each weekend, and the audience votes to invite three plays back the following week, joined by two new pilot episodes. Playwrights will write for SERIALS on a rotating basis: if your play is not voted back, you will get a few cycles off until it is your turn to launch another series with a new pilot.Click Here to Apply & for More Information
We are looking for writers from diverse backgrounds who are excited to write in a fast paced environment for young, energetic performers. We are looking for writers with a playful, downtown aesthetic and a burning need to confront pressing social issues. We are looking for writers who are keen to explore the form and push the boundaries of episodic theater.
I’ve been doing theatre now for six years in New York, ten years if I count college productions, fifteen years if I count from my first show at the local university when I was growing up. I have thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of theater, however, if I could change one thing, it would be ticket prices. The theater is becoming inaccessible to a growing number of people, especially young people because of the ticket prices.
I love table work and the conversations about the play. During the table work, we’re still learning about the characters and the playwright’s intentions. I love falling in love with a play through someone else’s gaze.
I love being at The Flea because of the new works that are presented. I appreciate meeting talented writers and directors. I love hanging out with the other Bats in the company and I truly feel a strong sense of community. I love the enthusiasm and work ethic that so many of us share!
My earliest memory of acting on a stage is of playing an angel in the church Christmas play when I was about four years old. The first Broadway show I saw was Aida when I was twelve.
There’s something about growth and success that people want it to be linear, but sometimes it’s not terribly formulaic. And I think FillX7 investigates that notion of success and self-acceptance for a young woman in a world where little girls still grow up dreaming they’ll marry a prince.
Monique St. Cyr, a member of The Flea’s Bat Acting Company, plays KATE in The Flea’s production of Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill written by Steph Del Rosso. The production, directed by our Resident Director, Marina McClure, explores how we put ourselves out there after dealing with a very public heartbreak.
Joseph Huffman (right), a member of The Flea’s Bat Acting Company, plays RAY in our upcoming production of Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill written by Steph Del Rosso. The production, directed by our Resident Director, Marina McClure, explores how we heal a broken heart.
I am currently working on Fillx7. I pretty much love everything about it. It’s a monster of a play. I go into rehearsal every day wondering how we are going to pull it off, and that is exciting.
My first reaction when I read the script was “how the hell are they going to stage this?”The dialog was so fast paced and the transitions were so intense that it didn’t seem possible without a huge budget.
I like theater that doesn’t play it safe. Maybe it’s the subject matter, the acting, the setting, but I like when risks are taken. Honest storytelling is key.
Acting has taught me how to listen to other people. Actors are typically labeled as “selfish” but acting itself has the capacity to be very humbling and selfless. Good acting involves listening to the other person on stage. When I’m up there on stage, I usually couldn’t tell you what I’m doing, but I sure as hell can tell you what the other actor is doing. It’s all about the other person.
I love the rehearsal process. It’s about figuring out what the play “is” with the people you have in the room. You get to experiment and see what works and what doesn’t. It’s a difficult, but joyful experience. You get up there and try things out and they don’t always work. There is something extremely gratifying about that “aha!” moment when a scene finally clicks.
I love the sense of community The Flea provides. I spent a long time out there on my own without a sense of place. The Flea has become my “home base.” Whether it’s readings, mainstage shows, or Serials, I get constant opportunities to do what I love and with people I respect. Every artist struggles, but at The Flea we struggle together and give each other support.
My advice to new actors just starting out is to find a group that you connect with and stick together. It can be a cold business and unless you can find some kind of artistic community to connect with, you don’t stand a chance. Also, don’t try to give people what you think they want. Stay true to your own artistic integrity.
Roland Lane, a member of The Flea’s Bat Acting Company, plays NOAH, the wanderlust heartthrob in our upcoming production of Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill written by Steph Del Rosso. The production, directed by our Resident Director, Marina McClure, explores how we heal a broken heart.
Roland originally from Philadelphia, currently resides in Brooklyn, New York. Unlike his character—NOAH in FillX7—doesn’t play games when it comes to courting a woman. “I don’t use pick-up lines. It’s easier to start with ‘hi’ and start a conversation from there.”
I’ve been a professional actor for eight years and I’ve loved every moment. As soon as “action” or “curtain” is called, I feel alive. This alive feeling elevates as when I first step into my character’s costume. I have a very special connection to every performance because of the audience. Each audience brings a very special energy to the room and I connect with that on a very individual level.
When I was a sophomore, I was in our high school’s production of Anything Goes and that was my first experience being in a stage play. The show was great. Looking back, I cannot believe how much that one production changed my life and set me on my current path.
I first learned about The Flea and the Bats a few years ago from my friend, Abraham Makany, who was associated with the theater at the time. Seeing the projects he was working on I wanted to be a part of the company too. The energy that’s in the new space is energizing and refreshing. It’s been great being a part of this artistic community and especially working with Niegel. It’s been nothing short of great! I appreciate every direction and suggestion he makes. It only helps to heighten the quality of my storytelling and craft.
Outside of FillX7, I can be seen in “Brooklyn. Blue. Sky.” on BET’s digital platform and on the Bet Now app. In this web series, I play Duncan. Duncan is very similar to Noah in that they go where their hearts’ lead them. They both love to love, but also love themselves and are truly unaware of how their actions affect those around them. That is where I differ from my characters— I love to love, however, I am constantly aware of the energies around me and do my best to check in with those I love.
My advice to those who want to pursue any dream is—build your squad! You cannot do this on your own. People I would love in my squad that I currently do not know are Andre Braugher, Jeffrey Wright, and John Malkovich.
The skill that has attributed the most to my success is definitely patience.
THE FLEA SEEKS PERFORMERS OF COLOR FOR TWO HIP HOP MUSICAL PRODUCTIONS
Our theater seeks performers of color for two hip-hop musical productions at The Flea this spring: ms. estrada by the Q Brothers Collective and directed by Michelle Tattenbaum and LOCKED UP BITCHES by Catya McMullen with music by Scott Klopfenstein, directed and choreographed by Michael Raine.
Note that getting cast in either production means joining The Flea’s resident volunteer acting company, The Bats. The Bats are a core group of artists who both perform in The Flea’s productions and support the company through volunteering in all aspects of making theater. If cast you will be eligible to audition for all Flea shows and participate in all readings, workshops, and additional programming including our popular late night series, SERIALS.
ms. estrada Synopsis
The boys at Acropolis U are too preoccupied with the Greek Games to treat their ladies right. But fierce feminist goddess, Liz Estrada, rallies her besties to take a stand – and campus chaos ensues. A Hip-Hop remix of Aristophanes’ classic comedy, ms. estrada may well be the Girl Anthem of 2018.
ms. estrada Breakdown
HARRY STEFANI (and as cast): Seeking a male identifying performer of color in their 20s or 30s to play the President of Acropolis U Alumni Association, Founder of the Tappa Kegga Alpha frat. A sleazy corporate raider or venture capitalist. Super rich and wants everyone to know it. He gets off on wielding control over others. Will also double as ensemble/college student.
HERMAN: Seeking a male identifying performer of color in their 20s or 30s to play Limpita’s boyfriend, Student at Acropolis U. Gamer nerd. Sweet and ineffectual. Loves all things nerd culture.
ms. estrada Key Dates
Rehearsal: Tuesday, January 23rd – Saturday March 10th
Tech: Saturday, March 11th – Wednesday, March 21st
Performances: Thursday, March 22nd – Monday, April 30th
Mon., Wed., Thurs., Fri., Sat., @ 7 pm Sun. @ 3 pm
LOCKED UP BITCHES Synopsis
When Pipsy, a pedigree cocker spaniel, lands at the Bitchfield Animal Shelter, she becomes the center of a turf war between the dogs and the cats. Initially a long running #serialattheflea, LOCKED UP BITCHES is a sweet, psychotic, queer, and outrageously funny hip hop musical parody of a certain Netflix women’s prison drama.
LOCKED UP BITCHES Breakdown
Sofurry: Seeking a male identifying or trans actor of color with drag experience. Must be a strong dancer and singer with a high pop tenor. Sofurry is a kind and generous care-taker for the members of her gang, and sings a cover of “Dream On.”
Feelaca: Seeking a male or male identifying LatinX performer. Feelaca is strong and tough, ready to fight to defend her family. She speaks exclusively in rhythm, so strong beat boxing skills are required. Basic dance skills are a plus.
Pouty B****: Seeking a male or male identifying actor of color with strong comedic and clowning skills. PB only speaks in whines and whimpers, so the ability to communicate story without language is required. Basic dance skills are a plus. Feelane: Seeking a female identifying actor of color with strong singing, dancing, rapping and comedic skills. Feelane is the minion to Pawsatucky, she does what she is told to help bring about Cat Rapture. Through an unseen turn of events, she becomes the embodiment of Pusiris: a powerful ancient ruler and lord of all cats.
LOCKED UP BITCHES Key Dates
Rehearsal: Sunday, January 21st – Sunday, February 18th
Tech Cycle One: Sunday, February 19 – Wednesday, Febraury 21st
Cycle One Performances: Wednesday, February 21st – Saturday, March 10th
Wed., Thurs., Fri., Sat. @ 9 pm Fri., Sat. @ 11 pm
Cycle Two Tech: Monday, April 9th – Wednesday, April 11th
Cycle Two Performances: Wednesday, April 11th – Saturday, April 28th
Wed., Thurs., Fri., Sat. @ 9 pm Fri., Sat. @ 11 pm
How to Audition and What To Prepare
Auditions will be taking place on Tuesday, 12/12 with callbacks on Wednesday, 12/13. Please prepare 60 seconds or so of a rap, and sixteen bars of a song (to be sung a capella). Please submit current headshot and resume to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration. Please indicate which roles you would like to submit for. All performers will be under consideration for both productions.