Featured Artists

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Dina Comolli

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.

Dina Comolli
Dina Comolli

TitleOccupation
Actress, Executive Director of Rising City Arts, Teaching Artist & Nia Green Belt Instructor

Where were you born?
Trenton, NJ where “Trenton makes, the world takes”

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
Last Stop, Ditmars. 13 years!

How did you get involved in theater?

As many of you theatre-folk will understand, the theatre kind of found me. I remember, in first grade, pining over the role of Mother Rabbit. I didn’t end up getting cast, but when the actress who did chickened out, I was called in to take the part. I was so elated during the whole process! I never turned back to ask if it was a reasonable way to live the rest of my life. I just had to have it.

Looking back, I am SO grateful for the arts programming in my elementary school and high school in PA. When I hit middle school though we had no theatre program and I seriously derailed with grades, relationships and authority figures. No doubt, puberty is a rough time, but I was clearly a student who flourished with the arts because as soon as started high school theatre, all was peaceful again.  To this day, I am still equally as excited when I get cast. Being around the creative collaborative process, hearing or being the audience settling into their seats to witness a story unfold, sharing words, ideas, and feelings in a safe space, role playing, dreaming, laughing, singing, dancing. It is all such absolute pleasure to me.

Tell us about your organization Rising City Arts.

Yes! Rising City Arts is an Astoria based Arts in Education Organization and a unique place to explore and enjoy the craft of theatre. We serve children and adults of all ages with high quality, innovative theatre and acting-based classes, workshops and in-school residencies taught by some of New York’s finest Acting Teachers. We are dedicated to helping our students develop a greater awareness of self, community, confidence and artistic potential.

Rising City Arts launched in Astoria in 2010 with a big heart, years of experience in arts-based classrooms and a whole bunch of passion in the belief that now, in this technological age, is the ideal time to connect with our peers for some crazy fun and inspiring arts collaboration. The craft of acting teaches us to actually listen and look at one another, to have healthy dialogues about our thoughts and feelings, to move our bodies and to appreciate the importance of play.

Since launching, Rising City has proudly reached nearly 600 children each year with the joys of theatre making and acting. We are grateful to our 14 partner schools and community organizations (11 of which are in Astoria and LIC!!) who support the theatre arts in education.  This spring we are so thrilled to present our premiere community ACTING CLASSES for kids and adults at Broadway Dance of Astoria! Check out details on our website: RisingCityArts.com

What do you love most about Queens?

It’s hard to choose most! But forced, I will choose the people. We are such a beautiful mix of personalities who know how to eat well, enjoy life and appreciate what our community has to offer. I have met so many wonderful people and lifelong friends here!

Do you have an “only in Queens” moment you’d like to share?
The sunsets from my rooftop are breathtaking. If I can’t post a photo here, you will have to believe me that my rooftop is one of the most sublime and uplifting places in all of NYC.

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?
I always enjoy dining at Kiklades, Watawa and Sparrow. The food at the Queens Kickshaw blows my mind. Dessert at Martha’s never disappoints. You will find me working off the delicious neighborhood cuisine at Yoga Agora and The Art of Fitness (where I teach Nia). And I love my local small businesses; Copycom, Inside Astoria, Buon Appetit, Space Salon and Wave Thai. If you have never shopped at Titan Foods, you should try it, it’s an adventure. And for a night of laughter and liquor, nothing beats our great bars like O’Hanlon’s, Dominie’s Hoek (LIC and Astoria), Café Bar and Mosaic. My favorite coffee shop to get a delicious lunch and work through the afternoon is Astor Bake Shop. Then maybe back to Ditmars for a quick jog in Astoria Park, kept beautiful by the wonderful folks at The Astoria Park Alliance.
Current/Upcoming projects?
Happily, I am always busy as an actress; making commercials, performing in play readings or shooting various TV and film projects. But I am most excited by our upcoming Spring 2014 Rising City Arts community Acting Classes in Astoria for kids and adults! We have seven class offerings serving all ages – from Babies to Preschoolers, Tweens, Teens and Adults. We have gathered a powerful team of acting teachers (who are all Astoria residents) and can’t wait to share our love and joy for theatre arts and acting with our friends and neighbors in Western Queens! Full teacher bios and class details can be found at RisingCityArts.com. Register today before classes fill up!!

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Kristine M. Reyes
Kristine M. Reyes - Taken under the Hell Gate Bridge in Astoria Park

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.

Kristine M. Reyes
Kristine M. Reyes – Taken under the Hell Gate Bridge in Astoria Park

TitleOccupation
Playwright. I’m an associate artist at Diverse City Theater Company and a company member at Leviathan Lab.

Where were you born?
Born in Manila, Philippines, but raised in NYC since the age of seven.

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
I moved to Astoria three and a half years ago, when I got married. The joke was, it must be true love for a native Manhattanite to move to Queens. No dig against Queens, of course, but New Yorkers are very borough/neighborhood-proud.

How did you get involved in theater?
Theater was something in my life from a young age because my mom is a great admirer of the performing arts; she would take me to shows as a kid – everything from Broadway to shows in little run-down theaters. My elementary school (shout-out to P.S. 41!) also had a strong arts program, so I vividly remember chorus class and putting on our 6th grade production of 42nd Street (I was a chorus girl) with our music teacher Rayme.

So theater was always something I enjoyed, but more as an audience member than as a participant. I think I’m one of those rare playwrights who didn’t start out as an actor, but I’ve wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember. It didn’t occur to me to try my hand at writing plays until college. It was a screenwriting class that eventually led to playwriting, actually. I realized that all I wanted to do was focus on the characters and write dialogue between them. Something clicked, like an “a-ha” moment, and it’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

Tell us about the play you’re working on in the Propulsion Lab?
It’s currently untitled and I’m still figuring things out as I write, but the play is about a conservative Asian-American woman who’s in her first relationship with a woman. She’s still very much in the closet, so it’s about how she navigates that double life and tries to maintain balance in all her relationships.

What do you love most about Queens?
I love that Queens is the most diverse borough in New York City – we’ve got people from all over the world who’ve settled down and created their lives here. It’s a microcosm of the microcosm that is NYC – but more affordable and less pretentious.

Do you have an “only in Queens” moment you’d like to share?
It’s not so much a moment, but getting off the 7 train and stepping out onto Main Street in Flushing’s Chinatown gives me that feeling. I don’t know if there’s any other ethnic neighborhood in America where you feel like you’ve been transported to that country – the signs are in Chinese, the majority of the people walking around are Chinese, you hear people speaking Chinese – you really feel like you’re in, well, China. Manhattan’s Chinatown is such a tourist attraction, so it has a different vibe. But Flushing’s Chinatown feels like an “only in Queens” place to me.

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?

Café Triskell is one of my favorite restaurants in the city, period. My husband and I love going there on date nights because it’s cozy, the food is excellent, it’s affordable, and the chef/owner and his wife are really nice. Another favorite is Sanford’s – it’s upscale American food at diner prices, and it’s open 24-hours. We also love that ramen has made its way to Astoria – Hinomaru is near us and, in my opinion, rivals most of the ramen joints in Manhattan.
My favorite places in Queens are Astoria Park (lovely grassy knoll with a great view of the water, plus 4th of July fireworks); The Museum of the Moving Image (great exhibits and movies for any film buff at any age); Gantry State Plaza (beautiful view of Manhattan); The Queens Museum (the Panorama of the City of New York is a must-see); and the Unisphere (it’s an icon!).

Current/Upcoming projects?
I’ve been developing a full-length play called Stage/Mother that I hope to have a reading of later this year. I’m also in the very early stages of working on some non-theater writing projects that I’m really excited about, but can’t discuss yet (ooh intriguing!).In the meantime, you can check out my website for updates and information about my plays: kristinemreyes.com

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Christopher Diercksen

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.

Christopher Diercksen
Christopher Diercksen

TitleOccupation
New Play Director, Dramaturg, Development ProducerBaby Toy Salesman

Where were you born?
Glenn Ridge, NJ though I grew up in West Caldwell.

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
Astoria, 2.5 years

How did you get involved in theater?
Through music, originally. Sang in church choir from the time I was 3. Every summer the little kids would put on a musical and the high school kids would tour a musical over winter break. It was the cool thing to do actually, a massive operation. I got to travel to London, Vancouver, Seattle, New Orleans, all over Texas, and Southern California with really good shows. My first real part came in 3rd grade when a 5th grader got the chicken pox leading up to the christmas pageant and they picked me to fill the void.  Matthew The Lowly Shepherd Boy. I can still remember the song.

What do you love most about Queens?
This is a hard question but i think a good answer is the wider sidewalks and shorter buildings. It means more visible sky and less crowding. Also the N train follows the perfect route through manhattan. Plus the population is so diverse.

Do you have an “only in Queens” moment you’d like to share?
So my Egyptian owned laundromat is run by mostly Spanish speaking ladies who all love to chit chat and watch telenovelas. One day I walked in on a jovial conversation between one of my favorites of the women and a man with a heavy Greek accent being translated by a Brazilian; Spanish to Portuguese accented English to Greek accented English to Portuguese accented Spanish. There was so much laughter. I really liked that.

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?
The Thirsty Koala; SevaAntika; and Butcher Bar for food. William Hallett; Astoria Bier and Cheese; Sparrow; Bohemian Hall; Dutch Kills for drinks. Shannon Pot; The Irish Rover for sports and drinks. Also I love the museum of the moving image and PS1. Also the secret theatre for plays.

Current/Upcoming projects?
Directing The Unlikely Ascent Of Sybil Stevens by Kari Bentley Quinn at the Secret Theatre, February 6 – 23! Here’s a link: http://www.secrettheatre.com/SybilStevens_info.html

After that, I have a couple of pots on the stove but the lids stay on for the moment. 😉

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Lisa Huberman

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.

Lisa Huberman
Lisa Huberman

TitleOccupation
Playwright

Where were you born?
At my parents’ house in Youngstown, OH.

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
I’ve lived at the border between Woodside and Sunnyside for two and a half years. I also lived in Astoria by the river in a tiny place near the Socrates Sculpture Park for a hot minute when I just needed to escape from Jersey City in a hurry.

How did you get involved in theater?
Theatre is a part of my family’s heritage.  It saved my grandpa from a life of juvenile delinquency in the 1930s and I grew up going to the local community theatre and being in shows there with my dad.  I can hold entire conversations with the men in my Dad’s family composed of lines from Guys and Dolls, The Fantasticks, and The Producers. Though I have a mixed relationship to musical theatre today, something about those lyrics feel like home.

Tell us about the play you’re working on in the Propulsion Lab?
Right now it’s called LIFE PLAY and it explores what happens when a woman’s private sexual fantasies begin to intersect with the identity she’s created in her current relationships.  Not only do these desires seem to contradict her beliefs as a feminist, but her background in activism fighting sexual oppression and poverty.  After her boyfriend confronts her with kinky material in her internet search history, they embark on a journey that pushes them to push many limits and face uncomfortable truths.

What do you love most about Queens?
When I was trying to get out of Jersey quick, I was at first overwhelmed with the sheer number of options for housing in New York.  But then I thought, you know what? I don’t know any jerks who live in Astoria.  While I knew jerks in pretty much every neighborhood in the city, everyone I knew in Astoria was a wonderful person.  And I’ve found that to be true in Woodside/Sunnyside as well.  Maybe it’s being from the Midwest–but I like being able to smile at strangers on the street and not have people look at me like a weirdo.

I also love the food–not just globe-spanning selection of restaurants, but also grocery stores that cater to every culinary persuasion without making you fork over your entire .  I kind of feel bad for Manhattanites for not having a lot of good grocery stores.

Do you have an “only in Queens” moment you’d like to share?
The “Vote Here” sign at my local polling station printed in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, and Hindi.

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?

Grocery Stores:  Homemade tofu at the H Mart on Roosevelt in Woodside, Patel Brothers in Jackson Heights, baklava at Parrot Coffee Grocery on Queens Blvd in Sunnyside, giant bags of dried chickpeas at Trade Fair.
Restaurants: Pita Pan (or Pita Hot) on 30th Ave.,  Vesta on 30th Ave. (get the warm banky for brunch)  Tangra in on Queens Blvd., La Adelita on Roosevelt. 3E Thai in Astoria on Broadway.

Current/Upcoming projects?
Working on getting a full reading of “Life Play” up sometime in the next two or three months.  In the meantime ,you can purchase my plays “Under the Rainbow,” “High and Uptight” and Egyptology on the Monologues Database http://www.notmyshoes.net/monologues/.  I’m also halfway through teaching a playwriting workshop with the kids at in the Theatre Program at the Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools in East Brunswick, NJ.  

 

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Samantha Walsh

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.

Samantha Walsh
Samantha Walsh

www.samanthafwalsh.com

TitleOccupation
Actress/Cake slinger

Where were you born?
Kansas City, KS

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
Astoria. About 2 and a half years.

How did you get involved in theater?
I’ve been in involved in theater since before I remember deciding to be involved in theater. It just kind of happened. If I look back and look for the moment I developed the crazy obsessive bug for it I would have to say it was when I was seven years old playing Clarence in the play A Kid in King Arthur’s Court at summer camp. I read the entire script (minus my lines) into a tape recorder, with breaks for my lines, so I could practice all the time. My drive while I was growing up was a little over the top.

What do you love most about Queens?
I lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan my first two years in New York and I have to say the thing I love most about living in Queens is that moment when you’re heading home on the train and it starts heading above ground at Queensboro Plaza. There’s just so much relief in that moment. You’ve emerged from the belly of the beast.

Do you have an “only in Queens” moment you’d like to share?
Steinway Street. That’s it. Just. Steinway Street.

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?
I love the movie theater at the Museum of the Moving Image. The acoustics in there are just insane. Let’s be real though. Queens is all about the food. I love Taverna Kyclades, JJ’s Asian Fusion, William Hallet, Sweet Afton, Seva, Brooklyn Bagel, Butcher Bar, and the list goes on and on.

Current/Upcoming projects?
Up next I’ll be playing Valerie in The Unlikely Ascent of Sybil Stevens which is running February 6th through February 23rd at The Secret Theater in LIC, Queens. Tickets are available here.

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Tyler Rivenbark
Tyler Rivenbark - taken at Martha's Bakery in Astoria

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.

Tyler Rivenbark
Tyler Rivenbark – taken at Martha’s Bakery in Astoria

TitleOccupation
Playwright, musician, Adjunct Lecturer

Where were you born?
Warsaw, North Carolina (never to be confused with anything South Carolina related)

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
I’ve been in Sunnyside for almost five years now!

How did you get involved in theater?
I stumbled upon theatre my junior year of college when wanting to take a screenwriting class. Playwriting was the prerequisite. At that point I had no theatrical experience at all, except for briefly appearing in an elementary school play about Thanksgiving. I immediately fell in love with the structure, or what I thought was the structure, of plays. And then when I finally took the screenwriting class it was glaringly obvious that my movie was actually a play. I never looked back.

Tell us about the play you’re working on in the Propulsion Lab?
I’m working on The Hydra: a play with puppets, which is the second part of a larger project that focuses on a veteran of the Iraq war. In The Hydra Ajax, our soldier, has found himself in a mythological world inhabited by gods, goddesses, a Greek chorus, and puppets, after taking his life in the previous play The Ostrich. He is thus sent on an epic journey to redefine who he is and what he wants.

What do you love most about Queens?
In the most wonderful of ways Queens reminds me of North Carolina. It’s unpretentious, gritty, beautiful, eclectic and full of delicious food and a treasure trove of off-the-beaten path sights and sounds. And Sunnyside in particular feels like a small town. Sitting on my stoop playing guitar or having a cup of tea neighbors stop to chat or yell from across the street. It’s pretty great.

Do you have an “only in Queens” moment you’d like to share?
Every moment experienced in Queens feels like an “only in Queens” moment. I can’t help but think if it happened somewhere else it would be completely different.
But the 7 train is a unique Queens experience that I never tire of. The purple circle, the orange seats, the neighborhoods it passes through, 5 Pointz out the window. Some of these 7 train staples are changing which is disheartening, but the spirit remains.

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?

Food (I’ll stick to Sunnyside for this):
Breakfast: Alpha Donuts (one of the best diners in NYC)
Lunch: Aubergine Café (lovely atmosphere and a beautiful street view)
Dinner: Dee, The Haab, Salt & Fat (there are many, many more, but I’ll mention just a few)
Pubs: PJ Horgan’s and Murphy’s (doesn’t get much better as far as Irish Pubs go)
Entertainment:
Citi Field (always great to watch the Mets lose to the Braves)
Any of the numerous new literary reading series that have popped up all around the borough
Sights:
 
Gantry Plaza – LIC (beautiful park with a beautiful view of the City)
Louis Armstrong House Museum – Corona (the house does justice to the larger than life personality of Armstrong himself)
Noguchi Museum – LIC (a breathtaking sculpture museum just across the street from Socrates Sculpture Park)

Current/Upcoming projects?
My collective, The Hammer and Pick, is developing new work; I am performing new music around the cit monthly; coordination of the 6th annual Louis Armstrong Residency has just started; and many more creatively fulfilling endeavors are to come. Check out my website tylerrivenbark.wordpress.com for more detailed information.

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David Lawson
David Lawson

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.

David Lawson
David Lawson

TitleOccupation
Playwright

Where were you born?
Alexandria, Virginia

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
I’ve lived in New York City for five and a half years and in Astoria for three and a half of those. Also of note: for three months I lived in this basement apartment in Sunnyside where the landlord who lived upstairs couldn’t know I was living there. I did a lot of hiding in the bushes, waiting for the right time to enter what was, at that time, my own home. There’s no metaphor there. There were actual bushes. I hid in them.

How did you get involved in theater?
I was a total hyperactive fuck up in elementary school. It was only getting worse as I got older. I had this brilliant sixth grade teacher named Brett Heflin who made a deal with me: If I kept it together during the day I would get a few minutes in front of the class every morning to put on a little show. It was a masterstroke. It chilled me out, gave me clarity and gave me something to work towards. The days I misbehaved and lost the show were crushingly upsetting and made me not want to misbehave again. That’s when I knew I was a theatre guy. After sixth grade I lost contact with Mr. Heflin but recently he tracked me down on Facebook. He’s married with kids and still working in education. It was great to tell him just how much influence he had on my life.

Tell us about the play you’re working on in the Propulsion Lab?
It’s called The Algeria Alternative. It’s about a woman who works at an office facilitating drone strikes and decides to leak information detrimental to the company.

What do you love most about Queens?
Village Voice had this great article on Philip Glass last year. Glass says that in the late 60s/early 70s (that time that every Millennial hears about fucking constantly) Glass was living for $150-$200 a month in the East Village. He says in that article “One of the things that’s made New York so impressive is the constant wave of young people looking for fame, fortune, art, whatever, something…they were bringing the energy and ambition and determination.” He then goes on to say “which is still happening, except now they can’t live in Manhattan anymore.”

Where that’s “still happening” is in neighborhoods like mine in Queens.

Do you have an “only in Queens” moment you’d like to share?
I was waiting for the M60 bus one night near Hoyt Park. There’s an old woman sitting next to me. This guy walks by and, talking to no one in particular, he screams out “AS LONG AS YOUR ASSHOLE ISN’T FACING DOWN, LIFE CAN’T BE THAT BAD.” I think this is brilliant and grab my notebook and write it down instantly. The old woman sitting next to me points to the part of the page where I just wrote this phrase down, she looks me in the eye and says “That’s true you know.”

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?
Food stuff: Chicken korma at Seva on 34th Street, the Hollywood sandwich at Othello Deli on 24th Avenue, spicy pork with the works at El Rey Del Taco on 30th Ave, souvlaki gyros at Pita Pan on 30th Ave, Hawaiian burger at the original Bareburger on 30th Ave (they’re going national next year!), Sparrow Tavern on 24th Ave and the biggest no brainer: Bohemian Hall Beer Garden on 24th Ave.Entertainment stuff: The Secret Theatre (where it’s Chekhov one night, and a new play about an alien invasion the next night) Socrates Sculpture Park (best acid trip you ever had), walking the Queensboro Bridge, Citi Field (even if you don’t care about the game, dancing to “Lazy Mary” during the 7th inning stretch is an amazing tradition). I haven’t done so yet but I’ve been meaning to check out the growing comedy scene in Long Island City at The Laughing Devil on Vernon Blvd and The Creek and the Cave on Jackson Avenue.


Current/Upcoming projects?
My solo show about pornography VCR Love is available to purchase through Original Works Publishing (http://originalworksonline.com/store/monologues/vcr-love/). It’s an actual “book book” with an ISBN number and everything. So in 200 years you can look up my ISBN number and know I was once alive and I wrote a show called VCR Love. That’s reassuring.

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Ilene Fischer

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.

Ilene Fischer
Ilene Fischer

TitleOccupation
Television Producer and Associate Director who writes screenplays and stage plays in her spare time.

Where were you born?
Chicago, IL

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
Astoria since last November. I was supposed to move in November 1, but we had a hurricane instead. I camped on an air mattress for two weeks waiting for my delivery to get rescheduled.

How did you get involved in theater?
I first took the stage at 5, performing stand up comedy in Elkart Lake, WI.

What do you love most about Queens?
I grew up in a Greek neighborhood in Chicago. Astoria immediately felt like home. I love the mix of people who live here, like the YaYa in the window on the corner who keeps an eye on the block. Also, 24 hour access to produce.

Do you have an “only in Queens” moment you’d like to share?
I was in one of those very produce stores when a man with one accent was asking a woman with another accent where she got her “squoze”. Confusion ensued. Woman at the counter, speaking a third language tried to help, and eventually they realized he wasn’t a pervert, he just wanted some squash.

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?
William Hallet has become my favorite place for a nightcap.

Current/Upcoming projects?
I have about four scripts on varying states of undress.I’m also trying to breathe fresh life into my blog which tends towards pop culture, food, and whatever else I feel like yammering on about.In the spirit of the season, here’s a chestnut I wrote a few years ago about the lessons learned from the Classic Christmas Special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: http://javasaurus.blogspot.com/2010_12_01_archive.html

You can check out my website at vassarstreet.com and enjoy my pithy commentary on twitter @iafischer

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Lisa Lewis at Loveday 31 Vintage on 31st Avenue.
Lisa Lewis at Loveday 31 Vintage on 31st Avenue.

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.

Lisa Lewis at Loveday 31 Vintage on 31st Avenue.
Lisa Lewis at Loveday 31 Vintage on 31st Avenue.

TitleOccupation
Playwright

Where were you born?
Sherman Oaks, California. Back in the days of the Valley Girl.

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
Astoria, going on two years.

How did you get involved in theater?
My parents were theatre makers, actors who met in NY in the 1970s at a singing lesson. When I was a kid, my dad and I watched every Hollywood musical from the Harvey Girls to Guys and Dolls, and birthday presents were always show tickets and windowcards. And as an only child, the feeling of being one big family on a show- the actors, the designers, the stage hands – really spoke to me.

What do you love most about Queens?
My boyfriend David! Ha! I moved here from Brooklyn for him, and I was not an easy sell. He’s born and raised in Astoria, and his parents still live in their family home just around the corner from our place. I love Queens because it’s homey and grounded. It’s got fantastic new restaurants, but it’s still holding on to its diversity and character. I hope there will always be families, and old Italian delis. I love you Dave and Tony’s and United Brothers Vegetable Stand and Mediterranean Foods on 34th Street that lets me try every cheese. It really feels like a place to call home.

Do you have an “only in Queens” moment you’d like to share?
My boyfriend’s family has lived in Queens since the 30s, and they are old-school Italians. I am now privy to a world of private social clubs, restaurants that cater to the people from one particular island or village. Queens has tons of these curious little places, each with a unique cuisine and dialect and people that know each other going back to the old country. Over at the Astor Room, the son of the owner played on the same little league team with my boyfriend and their fathers both made grappa in their basements so we were treated to some highly alcoholic homemade wine and an after hours tour of the sound stages in the Astoria Kaufman Studios. For a cinephile like me, it was pretty amazing. I love that Astorian’s go way back, and that the city was it’s own Hollywood back in the day.

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?
Oh, so many! The sexy Mars Bar for oysters and cocktails, MilkFlower and Basil for pizza, Bambinos for cheesy panini brunches, E-Taverna and MP’s for Greek, Mezze Place (wonderful, family owned Mediterranean fare), Sparrow and Queens Kickshaw for crosswords on Sunday, JJ’s Fusion for takeout and Vesta or Venturo’s for a beautiful dinner. Cannelle Patisserie for deserts. And I love shopping at Loveday 31 Vintage and Lockwood, hanging out in the summer at Gantry State Plaza, and sledding in Astoria Park.

Current/Upcoming projects?
I’m currently at work on a TV sitcom pilot called The Gamble and a play by the same name. Please look out for my production of SCHOOLED coming to New York in August 2014 – and very soon, keep your eyes out for the SCHOOLED crowdfunding campaign. And check out New York Theatre Magazine where I contribute artist profiles.http://nytheatremag.com You can find me at www.LisaLewisWriting.com

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Kel Haney
Kel Haney

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.

Kel Haney
Kel Haney

TitleOccupation
Freelance Director

Where were you born?
West Chester, PA

Which Queens neighborhood do you live in and for how long?
Astoria—Ditmars. It’ll be 6 years in May.

How did you get involved in theater?
I’ve been telling stories (& strong-arming those around me to listen/participate) since I could talk. My parents were great about taking me to theatre in/around Philadelphia & I never missed an opportunity to participate in the plays at school. In 12th grade, I finally clocked that there were people out there who were actual theatre professionals & I was ready to join the ranks. In lieu of class, I spent the last month of high school interning at this great regional theatre (People’s Light and Theatre in Malvern, PA), which was only 15 minutes from my parents’ house . During that month, I shadowed as many different theatre artists as possible, and found my calling as director.

What do you love most about Queens?
Nature and the people. I love that my day starts and ends with an above-ground subway ride, that I can walk to the park and sit by the water, that my apartment windows look out onto trees and sky. I love living amongst people who are grounded, friendly and just going about their day-to-day lives. Living in Astoria, I find perspective and serenity, even on the most stressful days.

Do you have an “only in Queens” moment you’d like to share?
My Greek landlady (who also lives next door) loves to feed me. I get especially excited about the tiny green grapes that she grows in her yard (they are transcendently amazing and are only ripe for a week or two in July) and the cookies she bakes for Greek Easter.

Your top Queens picks (food, entertainment, sights, etc)?
Any/all food/beverages at Sparrow. Dinner/wine at Vesta Trattoria (you have to try the Baby Jesus Cake). Scallops at Taverna Kyclades. Brunch at Queen’s Comfort. Cupcakes at Martha’s Bakery. Whiskey cocktails at The Strand. Daytime-work sessions at Waltz-Astoria. Yoga Agora ($5 classes!). The Sky View Room at MoMA’s PS 1. Astoria Park (every Astorian needs to find his/her favorite ‘thinking spot’).
Current/Upcoming projects?
Collaborating with Gardiner Comfort on his solo piece, YOU’RE NOT TOUGH, which will be performed at Dixon Place on Tuesday, 12/3 at 7:30. Tickets $12 in advance atwww.dixonplace.org. In another week or two, you’ll be able to listen to the Naked Radio at Naked Angels episode Kel directed (featuring new plays by Max Posner, Anna Ziegler and new-comer, Sylvia Khury) at http://nakedangels.com/nakedradio/. For more information on Kel, check out www.kelhaney.com