My friends Sarah Edmondson and Mark Vicente: Moving the world

Posted in Uncategorized on October 20, 2011 by Ames

http://www.sarahedmondson.com/inspiration/why-i%E2%80%99m-so-proud-of-my-friend-mark-vicente/

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Billy Carver and the Children in Mind gets nomination.

Posted in Uncategorized on August 2, 2011 by Montserrat Mendez
Last year, I directed my writing partner and a terrific cast of actors in a play, Billy Carver and the Children in mind for Optimystics productions, an off-off Broadway theatre company.

I am happy to report that one of our actors.  Lauren Roth  was nominated tonight for a New York Innovative Theatre Award, has been nominated for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Featured Role. For those who didn’t see the play.  She gave a fantastic performance, one of my favorites, from any role that I have ever written.

Here’s a review of the play from when it premiered!

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Billy Carver and the Children in Mindnytheatre.com review archivenytheatre.com review
Martin Denton · July 6, 2010

Pictured: Lauren Roth and Aimee Whelan in a scene from Billy Carver and the Children in Mind (photo © Kelsey Bennett Photography)

Montserrat Mendez wrote Billy Carver and The Children in Mind in three days. There’s a back story that explains why: Mendez was set to direct a revival of Alan Ayckbourn’s Woman in Mind when the rights were suddenly pulled. Armed with cast and crew and concept, he decided to write his own, slightly Ayckbournish comedy, with a title that alludes to the original project and a number of sly references to the playwright (many of them witty digs) peppered throughout the script.

Billy Carver‘s title also recalls something even more famous than an Alan Ayckbourn play (though I admit I didn’t realize it until the play began). The protagonist of Mendez’s play is a writer named Joannie Roman Redd, and she is the very wealthy, very successful author of a string of books about a boy named Billy Carver and his many exciting adventures. (Billy Carver = Harry Potter, in case I’m being too subtle.) Billy is a werewolf, it seems; and there’s a lot of wolf imagery in the play, which revolves around Joannie and the “pack” surrounding her, a colorful bunch that includes:

  • May, her sister, who lives in Joannie’s shadow and perhaps likes doing so too much
  • Tristan, Joannie’s effete personal assistant
  • William, Joannie’s ex-husband, also a writer
  • Christopher, Joannie’s fiance, the best midfielder in England
  • Priscilla Margot Saunders, a former child movie star now floundering in stage work; an old chum of Joannie’s
  • Rick, a young man who sneaks into Joannie’s house who is somewhat obsessed with the Billy Carver books

Mendez’s first act, which reminded me of a Kaufman & Hart screwball comedy more than of an Ayckbourn comedy of manners, introduces us to all of these intriguing people and sets up oodles of situations and relationships amongst them. Joannie, reeling from a bad review, is thinking of killing Billy Carver off in her next book. William wants to write the screenplay for a planned film version of Billy Carver (he has a first draft with him, as a matter of fact, even though Joannie isn’t sure at first that she wants to have the film made). Tristan reports that he saw Christopher at a pub last night with his (Christopher’s) ex-wife. May wants a man. Priscilla wants to play Virginia Woolf in the Billy Carver film (I’ll leave it you to discover how the famous novelist found her way into the Billy Carver books). Priscilla dredges up a naughty secret from her past involving Joannie. Joannie isn’t sure if she should marry Christopher, or get back together with William. Rick, an actor, wants to play Billy Carver in the movies. And he has a wild plan to try to make that happen, one that results in a wild first act curtain that leaves one unable to contemplate for a moment not hurrying back to find out how the playwright plans to tie up all of these loose ends.

To his great credit, Mendez does tie them together; the second act is more introspective than the first, and consequently more reminiscent of the ambiguously melancholic conclusion of a play like, well, Woman in Mind. Nonetheless, the play throughout is very funny, its humor rooted in situation, character, and wordplay in equal parts.

The production is probably the most lavish and beautifully realized I’ve yet seen at Manhattan Theatre Source, whose intimate space can be problematic for some directors and designers. Mendez serves in both capacities here, and the results are stunning: he creates a beautifully appointed English townhouse that feels authentic and lush, brimming with delightful details such as a pattern on the floor tiling that matches the paneling on the bar. Jenny Green’s costumes are also lovely: Priscilla wears a succession of over-the-top outfits that remind us of Absolutely Fabulous, while May spends the first act in perfectly coordinated dress and sandals. These elements along with the play’s overall literary theme and style make Billy Carver feel like a rare visitor from a long-gone theatrical era; yet it’s a brand-new piece, written almost literally overnight, which is why Montserrat Mendez is a young theatre artist to keep a particular eye on.

The cast of seven is exemplary, too, especially Lauren Roth, who has the showiest role of spoiled movie star Priscilla Saunders: she’s perfect as themonstre sacre, whether tottering on her high heels unsteadily after too many cocktails or seducing one or another of the guests in Joannie’s house. Stuart Williams as Tristan gets some fun moments in the second act, revealing a lifelong dream that I certainly didn’t see coming. Aimee Whelan and Jenny D. Green are fine as May and Joannie, while Nathan Willis and Armistead Johnson are both convincing as Joannie’s suitors, William and Christopher, respectively. Monroe Robertson rounds out the ensemble as Rick, the one role that feels underwritten; he’s charming nevertheless.

Billy Carver and The Children in Mind is a glimmer of wit and glamour in a season that’s usually populated by outdoor Shakespeare and stripped-down theatre festivals. I had a great time seeing it.

Opened: July 7, 2010
Closed: July 24, 2010

Monday Musings

Posted in Uncategorized on July 25, 2011 by Montserrat Mendez

I’ve been away for a really long time. Working on a massively huge project. I thought I would be able to blog about it.  But there really is no time to do that.  It’s kind of insane.

Today I am Monday Musing about my friend Stacey Raymond.

I asked Stacey Raymond a few questions, here are her answers.  You can learn all about Stacey at http://www.staceyraymond.com and you should. She’s amazing.

I met Stacy a few years ago when she appeared in my play, Fag Hag at Manhattan Theatre Source.  She is so amazing, so funny and so quick-witted and she likes to pretend she’s psychic.

Who are you?

We are defined by what others say we are, then I’m an “edgy”, “quirky”, “tough yet vulnerable” actor of stage and screen who’s “like the next Tilda Swinton only younger, warmer and funnier.” I don’t look anything like Tilda Swinton, so I guess it’s just the whole androgynous quality. My twitter bio describes me as, “Actor, vegan, and co-creator of the childhood pastime Barbie Funeral.” That works.

Have you worked with a member of AMZ Creative and what have you created?

I met Mozz a few years ago when I was cast in a very funny play he wrote titled Fag Hag which Lanie produced. My character was a barista named Meg who was obsessed with coffee and danced the Irish jig.  It was a lot of fun.

What is your ultimate creative dream?

When I was a kid, I set the goal that I’d be one of the few actors (I think there’s only been about twelve) to win an Oscar, Tony, and Emmy Award. I don’t have any of those yet, but I still have a lot more ahead of me!  It’s not at all about winning the actual awards, it’s about the caliber of work and the range of people I’d reach through my art, which those awards can represent.  I’m not talking about blockbuster, blow-things-up types of movies or Spiderman-musical types of productions (although those projects do have their places in the world…well…usually…heh).  This is about quality, eye-opening work that transforms audiences or allows them to escape their day-to-day by stepping into another reality.

The mission for AMZ Creative is to “enhance the human experience.” How do you enhance the human experience?

I think being an actor is all about enhancing the human experience.  Through the characters we portray and the situations these characters find themselves in, we present choices to our audiences, as well as the aftermath of those choices whether positive or negative. Observing the choices a character makes can open a person’s eyes to themselves and their own choices in life.  By investing in a character’s story, an audience member is simultaneously relating what they’re experiencing to themselves and those around them, which in turn expands their awareness outside the confines of their own personal experiences, thoughts, etc.  This is probably why acting is one of the world’s oldest art forms. There was an instinctive knowing in humans to create theater. Powerful stuff!

If you were promised success right now, what would you be doing?

Taking a nap.  🙂

What has been your major insight, discovery or learning experience in your creative life?

I knew I wanted to be an actor at a very young age, and worried that I wouldn’t have the expected looks to “make it.” Now at this point in my life, I realize how much audiences want to see themselves on stage and screen.  Of course there will always be those picture-perfect celebrities, but I find the actors an audience truly relates to are most often ones that don’t fit into that “elite” criteria.  I’m often cast as characters who are misfits in one way or another.  I see this as a gift in that my characters can not only bring a new perspective or way of life to someone who may never have thought or felt similarly, but they can also give voice to and even create a platform for those who can relate.  This new level of awareness can hopefully lead to a broader range of acceptance.  Audiences don’t only go to the theater or movies to be entertained but also to learn, to experience, to feel “seen” themselves.  And these are some of the many beautiful truths which make being an actor incredibly rewarding!

For more about Stacey Visit:  StaceyRaymond.com

 

 

 

It’s All About The Ending

Posted in TV with tags , , , , , , on June 22, 2011 by Zipoy

I have a theory. It’s all about the ending.  And delivering on your promise.

Fans were irate after AMC’s The Killing closed out its first season with a cliffhanger and many unanswered questions.  The show sprinted out of the gate.  Artistically, that is.  Critics and viewers fawned over the series, its lush cinematography, rain-drenched locale (Seattle), and mesmerizing characters — the people affected by the murder of a 16-year-old girl, Rosie Larsen.  For 13 episodes, The Killing followed  the detectives — Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder — hunting for Rosie’s killer, the young woman’s grieving family and the political staffers whose car was used as her tomb.

The posters promoting the show in every subway stop in New York featured the prominent scrawl, “Who Killed Rosie Larsen?” As a viewer, you might reasonably expect to find out who the killer was by the end of season one.  Especially given the marketing tagline.  This show was built on the premise of finding Rosie’s killer, and the audience traveled through terrorist cells, call girl services, beatings, a funeral, political maneuvers and the local Seattle mob.  And, still, with just a few minutes to go, a major reveal about one of the characters called into question everything that had been revealed about him (say, what? Holder is going rogue?), and there is no definite answer about Rosie’s killer.

Imagine going to see Bridesmaids this spring and the film being just about the bake shop.  Or plunking down $120 dollars for The Book of Mormon on stage in New York and instead getting a musical about Revelation with the promise of a sequel about The Book of Mormon.

Art sometimes is most entertaining when it plays with the audience’s expectations, but the fine line is tipped when promises aren’t met.  It’s a wise lesson to learn.  If you are going to ask the question, “Who Killed Rosie Larsen?,” please be prepared to answer it.

The Future

Posted in Theater with tags , , on June 15, 2011 by Zipoy

On Monday night, I joined hundreds of people, including lots of screaming teenagers, at the Skirball Center in downtown Manhattan for one of the most raucous nights of theater I’ve experienced in a long time. Fidelity FutureStage, a program that supports the arts, particularly playwriting, in New York City schools as well as other cities across the nation, hosted a performance of six plays created by high school and middle school students.  The six plays ranged from dramas about peer pressure and death to a comedy about the love of money.  They were selected from more than 480 plays written during the 2010-2011 school year through the program.

It was inspiring to see these young, promising voices have their work produced on stage and to hear from the students about the impact the Fidelity FutureStage program has had on their lives.  And, also thrilling to hear the students’ friends, parents and schoolmates cheer wildly whenever they entered the stage.  Tony-nominated actor Judith Light hosted the festivities and made for a very memorable evening.

A big thank you to Fidelity for creating and supporting this program.

A New Story Begins

Posted in Uncategorized on June 13, 2011 by Montserrat Mendez

Every writer has a writing process. A way in which they create.  And a way in which they like to tell a story.

I’m in the process of writing a script I’m very excited about.  And I am digging in to tell my story.  I’ve already written a couple of scenes.

I’m a little method when it comes to my writing.  I like to lock in on the world I’m writing about, and surround myself with it.  So I tend to drop out of society for long stretches periods of time.

Writing is interesting because every writer is different.

For me, my mind is constantly working out a puzzle of how things are going to go, how a scene is going to look.   I like to think about it from all angles.  The greater story, the metaphor, each character’s motivation.

It’s like putting together a puzzle.  And  the more you do it the faster the brain does it.

But those initial  days.   Those are the hardest, cause it’s just you and an empty page, and the choices you make at the beginning.  They affect the way the rest of the story is told.

I’m excited. I’m excited to tell this story. I’m excited to spend time getting to know these characters.

I won’t be writing about the process.  Due to the specifics of the project this is going to be a confidential ordeal for me.

But I look forward to talking about what I do learn along the way.

Here it goes.

 

The Reflex

Posted in Theater with tags , , on June 9, 2011 by Zipoy

Last night, I had an enjoyable dinner with one of my favorite friends, Khe, at Angelica Kitchen.  The food, as always, lived up to the restaurant’s longstanding high standards.  The conversation was even better, if that’s possible.  Khe and I met as volunteers years ago through New York Cares, the largest volunteer organization in New York City.  Our worlds — finance (him) and theatre (mine) — at times feel light years apart, yet we know how interrelated they are.  What I cherish most about our relationship is that I always learn something from Khe.

He’s bright, motivated and inspiring…always willing to travel a new avenue or turn an unknown corner.  We are often in sync.  So, it wasn’t too surprising when we found out that we are both into reflexology now.  For the past month or so, I’ve gone to regular appointments to deal with the lingering effects of a concussion and a torn hamstring muscle.  Khe loves reflexology because it helps him relax.  And, let’s face it, foot reflexology feels good.

Now, what does reflexology have to do with theatre and AMZ Creative, LLC?  Metaphorically speaking, the premise of reflexology is that by rubbing and pushing on certain parts of one’s feet results in healing corresponding internal organs and muscles.  In other words, everything is related.  Just like in theatre.  Everything is related there too.

In literal terms, self care is very important.  The best way to be creative and productive is to take care of yourself — enjoy time with friends and family and find time to relax and think.

I’m looking forward to next week’s appointment already.  I’m sure Khe is too.