Friend Grae Drake Visits New York!

We were totally blessed on Monday with a visit from a favorite person of the world of ours…Grae Drake! She’s a fantastic person, movie lover, editor, producer, podcast creator (http://www.popcornmafia.com/ and featured on an episode of How To Look Good Naked – and she does) and one can not help but be elevated spiritually, emotionally and a tiny bit physically by her presence. She only had 24 hours in New York itself (taking a break drive to and from friends in Connecticut & Boston), so we had to make the best of it. Her biggest “to do” was going to Central Park, so after I finished up my work & meetings we met up at my place and took the subway to 110th street, the NorthWest corner of the park.

We then took an almost completely random walk down Central Park, zig-zagging our way Southwards, from the North Woods & Ravine down past the North Meadow, then walked around the Reservoir, down past the Met Museum of Art, checked out Cleopatra’s Needle/The Obelisk and the Belvedere Castle, rambled in a circuitous route through the Ramble itself, visited Cherry Hill and Bethesda Terrace, paid respects in Strawberry Fields, then walked down the Mall and the Literary Walk, sat for a moment to talk next to Shakespeare’s statue, then left the park to walk towards the Apple Store via Fifth Avenue, where Grae marveled at the 24-hour location’s outside. Whew! As I type this, my right ankle is being iced and wrapped – I think I overstressed it with so much walking, although at the time there wasn’t enough pain to tell.

In any event, I signed up on the Central Park mailing list/free membership just so I can be informed on the park and get more of a sense of what goes on there in the future.

Look at all my photos here, or view some selections thus:

Catching Up On Some Cabaret

Tudor City Greens Concert…Chilly in the Park
I was extremely happy about my performance at the Tudor City Greens concert last Wednesday (the 22nd). Although it was outdoors at noon in the somewhat chilly wind, we had a great turnout full of enthusiastic audience members who braved the cold, wrapped up like we were.

Highlights of the show included Roger Mapes singing his song “Control Queen” on guitar, Sarah Rice performing a lovely ditty about offing her past husbands, and Scott Barbarino and the Bev-Naps singing classic 50’s doo-wop with tight harmonies and a few comedic twists. As the theme of the evening was “Witchcraft,” we saw some themed music (Raissa Katona Bennett sang “Witchcraft”, while Mary Foster Conklin sang “The Richest Man in the Graveyard.”) I dusted off my comedy song “Fifteen Pounds” and was able to bring in a witch-y themed song by singing “Children Will Listen” as sung by the Witch in “Into the Woods.” Raissa & I sang backup to Lennie Watts, and Eric Michael Gillett closed the lunchtime show with a power ballad containing enough energy to raise the dead.

*UPDATE 10/29/08*
Raissa herself blogged on the event with a lot more detail and some fun pictures of the event – you can see how we’re all bundled up against the cold 🙂

Julie Reyburn @ The Metropolitan Room
Saturday late afternoon, I traveled to The Metropolitan Room for the first time to see Julie Reyburn’s cabaret show, directed by Peter Napolitano (no not this Peter, this Peter) and music directed by Mark Janas. She had a GREAT five-piece band featuring her husband on electric guitar, drums, and Ritt Henn on upright bass. The sound was perfect, the mood simple and straightforward, and Julie can SING! She has an incredibly supple voice, able to mix and match her way through classic American standards, blues/rock, and lovely ballads. She also has a great humor and ease about herself; I was taking mental notes about banter & song introduction. Mark Janas included some lovely cross-mixing of songs in his arrangements, and the band was superb. Of particular delight were the duets between Julie and her husband, and a crazy-energetic one between her and Ritt Henn (on an original composition of his). It was also great to hear songs like “Mama Will Provide” and a belted “When You Wish Upon a Star” – songs not commonly heard in Cabaret. She also performed a heartbreaking song from a new musical, “Pinocchio in Chelsea,” written by Peter Napolitano and Mark Janas.

Julie Reyburn’s show will bring her show back to The Metropolitan Room on Tuesday, November 25 @ 7pm and again on Saturday, December 6 @ 7:30pm and Saturday, December 13 @ 7:30pm. I highly recommend it, and I enjoyed the venue a lot also.

Playing “Dress Up” at the Algonquin Salon
Sunday afternoon (a change of time for this one day of the Salon schedule), Pete & I went over to the Algonquin Hotel for the open piano lobby, before I had rehearsal for Definitely Dickens. The theme this week was “Dress Up,” and I took the opportunity to do something I’ve always dreamed of doing – dressing up like Alex from “A Clockwork Orange” and performing the song “Singing in the Rain.” Mark Janas, his usual genius at the piano, struck up a bluesy version from memory and I got to check that “to do” off my list. Unfortunately, I had to leave early for rehearsal, but I enjoyed all the singers and inventive costumes there.

Trip Through Central Park & Chris Wade’s “Anonymous Lives”
My friend Grae Drake of the PopcornMafia.com podcast & other shenanigans in Los Angeles came to visit Monday. Took half the day to walk with her and my husband through Central Park, starting at the NorthWestern corner on 110th street and walking sort of zig-zagged through the park, until we ended at the Apple Store on 5th Ave, waaaaay down on the SouthEastern corner. We took pictures, stopped to marvel at the stereotypically-beautiful fall colors emerging from the trees (a few “When Harry Met Sally“-esque poster backdrops were available thanks to nature doing her thing). I’ll blog about our day on another post, since we took a lot of cool pictures and discovered a few interesting things for the first time in the park.

We ate dinner in Hell’s Kitchen and then walked to the Dionysus Theater Complex to see fellow holiday caroler Chris Wade showcase some of his original pieces of composition in a work entitled “29Lives.” As stated in the program, “Anonymous Lives” is technically the 13th volume of “29Lives” for composer, Chris Wade. “Anonymous Lives” is the first “29Lives” to have been directed and conceived for revue, versus the previous “concert-cabaret” style. The show was directed by Stephen Brotebeck and had an eclectic cast consisting of Roberto Araujo, Scott Barnhardt, Allison Rae Carlsen, Bradley Hoff, Erik Sisco, Amanda Stocker, and Molly Tynes. Of particular standout was a sexy belt-ballad by Molly Tynes entitled “I Wanna Remember This Night,” a heartfelt “Out of My League” sung by Allison (lyrics by Jana Cudney), a fierce flaming-queen character piece “I’m Fiona” by Brad, and my personal favorite of the night, “Now I Know” sung by Roberto (the song incorporates the stress of having to push away a particularly “unflushable” former lover via text messages, voice mail, and Facebook, so it tickled this geek’s funny bone).

Chris has a natural tendency towards emotional melodies and is able to nail some awesome harmonies in the multiple/choral numbers he has written. He is in the BMI composer’s program (along with my UCLA-alum friend Brian Allen Hobbs), so I look forward to seeing an already solid base of talent grow in the coming year. And I also hope to sing with Chris in a quartet one of these upcoming Holiday days as we don our gay apparel (a.k.a. traditional “Dickens” garb) for our gig in the Definitely Dickens Holiday Carolers here in New York.

RIP Milton Katselas, 1933-2008

I didn’t know Milton personally, but I saw him teach, asked him questions when I could, read his Acting Class and Dreams Into Action books, and saw the change he instilled in others. Thus, I understand Milton Katselas by this research to be an incredibly unique and powerfully wise man. He was not without his controversy (his links to Scientology turned some people off), but I never felt these conflicted with the incredible amount of acting and life-teaching advice he had for us as students. His corporeal presence will certainly be missed by acting, directing, and other creative people around the world, but his wisdom will be a permanent fixture and a constant reminder of how we can all improve both creatively and personally.

http://bhplayhouse.com/milton
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/15/magazine/15Katselas-t.html

Not to sound like an Amazon salesman, but anyone interested in reading his work can read his newly-published acting book Acting Class: Take A Seat or his book on achieving goals Dreams Into Action – the audio version is also available on cassette, and his May 1997 2-day seminar on cassette as well.

*UPDATED 10.29.2008: Los Angeles Times Obituary*

Show to See: “Putting Things Away” with Raissa Katona Bennett

From Broadway’s Phantom and Chess and 1st National Tours of Cats and Parade

Raissa Katona Bennett
“Putting Things Away”

Director: Eric Michael Gillett
Musical Director: David Caldwell

Saturday, November 1, 2008 @ 5 pm
Sunday, November 2, 2008 @ 4pm

$20 cover/2 drink minimum

Reservations: (212) 206-0440
http://www.raissa.info/

This lady, who hosts the Algonquin Salon open mic many a time as well as the New Concerts at Tudor City Greens, is one of the most talented, beautiful, supportive and encouraging people I’ve met in New York to date. She never hesitates to say “way to go” or “you can do it!” when referring to new shows, projects, songs, and dreams. And the shows she hosts are always full of talent, humor and energy, a positive experience for performers and audience alike. If this is how she hosts her shows, heaven knows what amazingness will be seen in her solo work. Plus, with Eric Michael Gillett and David Caldwell at the helm, it’s bound to be a tight, well-orchestrated night of her talent.

I’ll be there…wanna book a table together?

-Sierra

Raphael Jesus Gonzalez visits New York for special reading

One of my oldest friends is Rafael Gonzalez – poet, writer, teacher, spiritual leader. He lives only a few blocks from my mother and taught with her at Laney College in Oakland. He’s one of my oldest family friends, one who has known me all my life.

Pete & I had a great time this past weekend, as we were able to see Raphael speak and read some of his poetry (in both Spanish and English). The reading was in celebration of “Doorknobs & Body Paint Fantastic Flash Fiction An Anthology” in association with riverbabble, an online writing magazine. Leila Rae introduced the afternoon’s start and Bara Swain was the MC.
If you haven’t read Raphael’s poetry and strong political essays, please go to his blog and take a gander. Perhaps the most beautifully startling poem is the one he wrote (in both Spanish and English, which is his multi-lingual practice) on the day of September 11, 2001. Here is his blog entry for Sept 11, 2008 which features the poem, as well as his Sept 11, 2007 entry with even more commentary.
More pictures can be found here at my Flickr page.

Re-Post: Dem Votes Switch to Repub Candidates in W. VA by ThePete 1:50 am 2008-10-21

From thepete.com :

Yep, it’s already happening. Thanks to the honestly brilliant idea of early voting, a handful of West Virginian voters have reported seeing their votes switch from Obama to McCain. It’s happened in two different West VA counties and the elections in that state are run by Republicans.

In the last two presidential elections there have been numerous reports and abundant evidence of election irregularities and even downright fraud. Now, an October 18, 2008 article at WVGazette.com (here: http://wvgazette.com/…0810180251 ), reports that it’s happening again.

PLEASE:

When you go to vote, whether it’s early or not, please look very carefully at your vote. Whether you’ve got punchcards, ink-a-vote, computers or the old lever-machines, things can go wrong! (I found out the hard way back during the primaries: http://tv.thepete.com/…feels-like )

I know it sounds stupid, but you must make sure you vote for whom you mean to vote for and if you see something go wrong, DO NOT HESITATE. Please let a balloting place volunteer know ASAP what happened.

DON’T stop there! Report it to your friends, family and post it on the ‘net. Let me know or go to BradBlog.com and comment there. Or blog about it yourself! Open a Twitter account or an Utterli.com account or a Kwippy.com account and TALK ABOUT IT!

THIS ISN’T ABOUT DEMOCRAT VS. REPUBLICAN!

This is about YOUR VOTE COUNTING–REGARDLESS OF WHO YOU VOTE FOR.

Please don’t give into the BS rhetoric. Yes, these are Dem votes in West Virginia, but as real Patriotic Americans, we should want EVERY American vote counted accurately.

Election Resources Online:

http://BradBlog.com/
http://GregPalast.com/
http://bbvforums.org/

WHEN POSTING ON TWITTER PLEASE USE HASHTAGS. Hashtags are bits of text preceded by “#” that will identify your posts to search engines that are looking for election irregularity posts on Twitter and other microblogging sites. NotMyGal.com has posted the best hashtags to use when reporting voting problems:

* #votereport
* #EP{two-letter state code} – e.g. EPNY for New York, EPOH for Ohio (for serious legal issues only)
* #machine – use this tag to signal a problem with a voting machine
* #registration – use this tag to signal problems with the registration process, people being turned away for paperwok reasons
* #wait:time – use this tag to signal a long wait. Add a colon and the wait time in minutes – e.g. #wait:30 for half an hour, #wait:120 for two hours

Check out more on these hashtags and more about fighting this very serious issue in the “Saving Democracy with Twitter” post at NotMyGal.com here: http://is.gd/4oiS

Please pass this information on to every American you know. Some states have already started voting and it’s important that we all know to be aware that this is possible and has happened.

Also, it’s my understanding that “Stealing America”, a documentary about election irregularities will be available in it’s entirety for free starting tomorrow at StealingAmericaTheMovie.Org. Don’t quote me on that–I’m waiting to hear back from the director. Please watch and learn how these irregularities have happened before. Thank you!

Tudor City Greens Concert

October 22, 2008
Sierra sang in the winds of fall at a recent Tudor City Greens concert, along with Broadway alums Sarah Rice, Raissa Katona Bennett, Eric Michael Gilett, mary Foster Conklin, Roger Mapes, and many others from Broadway and Cabaret. David Caldwell provided music direction and accompaniment. For more info about Tudor City Greens, visit www.raissakatonabennett.com.

I sing LIVE at the Tudor City Greens Concert!

If you are available, please meet me at the Tudor City Greens, East 41st St b/w 1st and 2nd for a benefit concert at noon. I’ll be singing a song amongst a great group of Broadway-caliber singers. There will be a reception afterward at CIBO Italian restaurant only a few blocks away.

I will also be performing in November and December at some cabaret fundraisers and a
composer showcase. Information on these and my other exploits will be found in the future on my blog and more info about my work is at www.sierrarein.com.

Host: Raissa Katona Bennett
Time and PlaceDate: Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Time: 12:00pm – 1:15pm
Location: South Park at Tudor City – East 41st b/w 1st and 2nd
Street: Tudor City Place
City/Town: New York, NY

Description
Free outdoor concert to benefit Tudor City Greens, produced in association with MAC. Post show reception at CIBO (41st and 2nd). Hosted by Raissa Katona Bennett and Starring from the world of Broadway and NYC Professional Cabaret: Scot Albertson, Scott Barbarino and the Bev-Naps, Raissa Katona Bennett, Mary Foster Conklin, Eric
Michael Gillett, Roger Mapes, Julie Reyburn, Sarah Rice, Lennie Watts and Sierra Rein.

Map to the event here

Blog Action Day 2008 – Fighting Poverty as an Artist.

“Poverty is the worst form of violence.” – Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) Preeminent leader of Indian nationalism.

Today is Blog Action Day 2008 – Poverty is the topic.

My husband’s blog of this Action day is here.

While America & the rest of the world is thrown into Wall Street Woes, a lot of poorer people who only wished they had the opportunity to mortgage a house is saying “welcome to my world.” Heaven knows I have struggled month to month to pay bills, but at least I still manage to pay them within the month they’re due. And I get to go see shows, movies, have a cell phone, eat out, etc. Thing is, anyone can join the ranks of the poor at any moment due to medical bills, sudden economic downturn and decreased job opportunity, death in the family, etc. We all can’t blame others who are under the poverty line for their own laziness. A certain amount of a socialist attitude of understanding and help is extremely necessary.

“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” – John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) Thirty-fifth President of the USA

I’m in the business of entertainment – not necessarily a hard-hitting or impacting business on economics, *unless* the craft aids to bringing about awareness, understanding, and a sense of hope for those who are impoverished or close to the poverty line. Certainly art in every form is an extremely important form through which to hold the mirror up to society to closer find where people fall through the cracks. And benefit performances for local, national, or global charities are also important, as is creating a buzz around political work to bring awareness into local government offices. Food drives (asking the audience or gallery attendees to bring in a can of food for a raffle/prize ticket) are also an option. And of course, if there is an event for the cause of eliminating poverty, donating one’s talent as an artist (performing for free, decorating for free, creating marketing material for free, etc) is as equal to a monetary donation when professional singers & artists sometimes cost $100/hr.

I was first introduced to the idea of falling into poverty after singing the song “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?” in a 5th grade American History musical. The lyrics talk of a very industrious person, who built towers, railroads, and even slogged through the hell of war, only to find himself on the street asking for a measly dime. It can happen to anyone, no matter how hard-working it is. Hm, maybe I should bring this song back into my repertoire and sing it at open mics around New York…maybe a medley of this and “Money” from “Cabaret” would be cool. Gotta think about this…

“Remember the poor, it costs nothing.” – Josh Billings (1815-1885) American humorist and lecturer.

of course, remembering is not enough – ACTION, or in some cases, INACTION on certain activities, can help your fellow man or woman on the street or starving in their own kitchen.

Here are some URL’s to organizations and events that might need your help – citizen, artist, or other:

Stand Up 2008 – “a global mobilisation to end poverty and inequality and for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Last year, 43.7 million people joined Stand Up worldwide, setting a new world record. This year, we are asking people to Stand Up and Take Action on October 17-19, to ensure governments worldwide hear our demands to end poverty and inequality.”

Mercy Corps – “has partnered with Tina Fey and others to create the Action Center to End World Hunger — a space where people like you can make a difference.”

Business Fights Poverty – “the free-to-join, fast-growing, international network for professionals passionate about fighting world poverty through good business.”

and from the Blog Action Day 2008 website: 88 Ways to DO Something About Poverty Right Now.

Thanks for reading!

Walking ‘Round Southern Manhattan


Looking at the above map, you can kind of follow the circuitous route that Pete & I took last night – one of our many “gosh, what’s over here?” kind of walks, this time around southern Manhattan. I had finished work near the Northern tip of Battery Park and Pete met up with me there. (1) I showed him Tom Otterness’ work in person, and then continued walking south.

We then went down Vesey Street and walked around, into, and on the Irish Hunger Memorial. (2) It refers to the Irish potato famine of 1845-52. I had seen it earlier in the day while waiting for Pete, and I knew I had to bring him over. It’s a fantastic combination of public art, beauty, and sadness, but also a reminder of human survival. The work was created by artist Brian Tolle and was made to “encourage efforts to address the current and future hunger worldwide.” The landscape is made of Irish limestone, Irish plants, and an actual Irish famine-era stack house painstakingly transported from Ireland and re-constructed here. In any event, it’s really cool, and beautiful to walk on.


We then continued East on Vesey to the World Trade Center area. It’s still a mess of construction, and we didn’t feel necessarily ready to give our respects yet. However, Pete reminded me that the beautiful globe centrepiece which survived the attack is still in South Ferry, so a trip there will undoubtedly be in future plans.

Next, we happened upon St. Paul’s Chapel (3), at 209 Broadway, which will be a definite TO DO once I figure out the open hours. It famously survived the 9/11 attacks, and has a history all its own reaching back to 1766. I took a few pictures, and was stunned by its antiquity.

Turning North, we walked by City Hall (4) and the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge. We then found ourselves in what could double as the Justice League of America set, or the area where the courthouses are. Very beautiful, old, roman-esque buildings. We stopped near Thomas Paine Park (also called Foley Square) (5) between Lafayette and Centre Streets. There, we saw in person the booth for a really neat project Pete’s told me about in the past: StoryCorps. This is, as it says on their website, “an independent nonprofit project whose mission is to honor and celebrate one another’s lives through listening.” Booths (one here at the Thomas Paine Park, but there are also ones in San Francisco as well as Mobile units) are set up to record 45 minutes of conversation between two people, usually family members or loved ones. These conversations are then archived and copied, podcast, and/or broadcast on public radio or other audio-based venues. It is a really nice oral history project. I would love to take my parents individually into the booth when they visit 🙂 And it’s a great encapsulation project, to find out how generations communicate to each other differently and how values change (or do not!).

We then went North on Broadway and found ourselves in the middle of Chinatown. We passed by fisheries, jewelry stores, acupuncture/acupressure/massage parlors, restaurants, etc. Here’s where my map version and our actual route might differ – we literally walked around and around blocks, just kind of pointing ourselves in the direction that looked interesting.

I took a picture of an “obey” poster that Pete & I both liked. I’ll admit it – I photoshopped some graphitti off of this picture to make it look better (Pete’s version of the original photo is seen here).


We turned a corner and crossed a few streets (I remember singing “And tell me what street/compares with Mott Street in July”) until we found ourselves in Italy. Well, Little Italy area. (7) We debated a bit whether we should go to an Italian clam restaurant, but instead went for sushi around the corner (Pete hadn’t been sushi eating in a while). So, we had a great meal and walked to Grand Street Station for the subway trip home.

Whew! Fun but exhausting night.