VIRTUAL THEATER: STORIES OF COLOR

On September 24th, at 8 PM PT, the Grok Acting Studio will be premiering ‘Virtual Theater: Stories of Color’ of three selected short plays celebrating artists of color. The Grok Acting Studio, The Rose Theater Foundation for the Arts, and the Department of Cultural Affairs of Los Angeles have all contributed to making this series possible to bring audiences back to theater – online due to the current pandemic.

On September 24th, at 8 PM PT, the Grok Acting Studio will be premiering ‘Virtual Theater: Stories of Color’ featuring three selected short plays celebrating artists of color. The Grok Acting Studio, The Rose Theater Foundation for the Arts, and the Department of Cultural Affairs of Los Angeles have all contributed to making this series possible to bring audiences back to theater – online due to the current pandemic. Sean Rose, the owner of the Grok Acting Studio, wanted the virtual project to focus on and celebrate artists of color after seeing the injustices that were taking place this year all across the United States. The Rose Theater Foundation for the Arts, a new nonprofit also founded by Rose, was started this year to provide an opportunity to artists of diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds, and this reading is its first action in supporting the community.

The three short plays featured are The Rejection, Fridas with a Ribbon, and Beethoven and the Misfortune Cookies. The plays all feature biographical figures and will be streamed online through YouTube and other social media sites. All actors have prepared by rehearsing remotely and will record their parts. “Virtual theater is a very new concept, and this is an experiment, but not just an experiment in bringing theater to audiences remotely, but also in delivering content in a way that hopefully influences our communities for the better,” says Rose.

The Rejection is a short play and dramatization of the life of Augusta Savage. This African American sculptor worked for equal rights for African Americans in the arts during the Harlem Renaissance, written by Michael Angel Johnson. The Rejection features Toni Belafonte as Augusta Savage and Efe, who plays her neighbor Hattie. Johnson’s plays have been produced in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Cleveland, Amherst, New Haven, and other places across the U.S. Sean Rose is directing The Rejection.

Johnson’s The Price of Solitude was a finalist in the National Ten-Minute Play Contest at Actors Theater of Louisville. The Apartment earned her the honor of a special participant at the O’Neill Theater Center. Her screenplays: Seasons-semi-finalist in The Chesterfield Film/Writer’s Project, The Letters-semi-finalist Writemovies.com, The Tower- Honorable Mention Los Angeles Film and Script Festival, and Wild Fires- finalist at the Hollywood Black Film Festival. Her stories and essays: “The African American Woman Who Shaped the Future of Art” (On The Issues Magazine), “The Echo” (Persimmon Tree), and “A Basket of Biscuits” (On The Issues Magazine).

Johnson has worked with the 52nd Street Project as a director, writer, and dramaturge. She is a member of The League of Professional Theater Woman and a member of New York Women in Film & Television. She is an Associate Professor at New York University and the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York), where she developed and now teaches their African-American literature course. She is a graduate of The Yale School of Drama in Playwrighting.

Fridas with a Ribbon, written by Amy Oestreicher, is a play about Mexican painter Frida Kahlo whose works explored gender, class, and race in Mexico. In this interpretative piece, two versions of Frida are played by actresses Nataly Penya and Tatiana Zappardino. Sean Rose is directing. Oestreicher is an Audie award-nominated playwright, performer, and multidisciplinary creator. She overcame a decade of trauma to become a sought-after PTSD specialist, artist, author, writer for The Huffington Post, international keynote speaker, RAINN representative, and health advocate. She has given three TEDx Talks on transforming trauma through creativity and has contributed to NBC’s Today, CBS, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen Magazine, The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, and MSNBC, and more.

The Rose Theatre Foundation For The Arts

Oestreicher has toured her multi-award-winning musical, Gutless & Grateful, to over 200 venues from 54 Below to Barrington Stage Company since its 2012 NYC debut, and developed her full-length play, Flicker and a Firestarter, with Playlight Theater Co. Her multimedia musical, Passageways (original lyrics, music, book, and mixed media artwork) has been performed at HERE Arts Center, Dixon Place, and the Triad Theater.

The third piece, Beethoven and the Misfortune Cookies, written by Joni Ravenna, is a one-person play about African American Music Appreciation Professor Kabin Thomas, who was fired from the University of Arkansas after a white student complained about the use of profanity and a graphic image depicting a lynching in one of his lessons. This one-person play is performed by actor Rayshawn Chism and is being directed by Allison Bergman. Bergman has earned degrees from LACC Theater Academy, Boston University, and Carnegie Mellon’s prestigious MFA Directing Program, where she was distinguished as a Stephen Bochco Directing Scholar. She is lauded as Outstanding Woman in Theater in Los Angeles by Women in Theater, and her directorial accomplishments are acknowledged with a Drama-Logue Critics Award. She has worked with luminaries, including Phylicia RashadLeslie UggamsTamara Tunie, Leslie Odom Jr., and Josh Gad. Her acclaimed book, Acting the Song, is widely used in college training programs. Ravenna is a graduate of USC and is a multi-hyphenate: TV writer/producer, a journalist, published author, and award-winning playwright. Last year, four of her plays were produced. As of March 2020, three have been accepted into festivals, two in NYC and one in LA. Joni is also co- author of the book, “You Let Some GIRL Beat You?- The Ann Meyers Drysdale Story” (Behler Publications, 2012), which the Forbes Magazine called “a stunning portrayal of one of today’s legendary women’s basketball treasures.” Currently, Ravenna is working with Emmy and Peabody Award-winning writer-director and co-executive producer of the popular ABC series, “MONK”, Fern Field, to convert her memoir, “Letters To My Husband” into a stage play.

Also, a TV writer, Ravenna, wrote for the TV series Earth Trek for PBS National. She has had the honor of working with such luminaries as David LynchForrest WhitakerAnthony EdwardsSean Astin, and Ally Sheedy. Other TV writing credits include: Great Sports Vacations (a 36 part Cable-Ace Nominated TV series for the Travel Channel), The Donovan Concert, Live at the Kodak for PBS, and Hello Paradise, (a 72 part series for KVCR -PBS).

Sean Rose was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. He studied at Circle in the Square in New York City. He has performed in LA at The Pacific Resident Theater, Studio C, The Lonny Chapman Group Rep, the Hudson Mainstage, and the Odyssey. He has guest-starred in series such as CSI: NY, Veronica Mars, and commercial/print campaigns for McDonald’s, Belkin, American Eagle, etc. He has directed for the Living Room Series at The Blank Theater. He teaches Directing Actors for Directors in Hollywood and North Hollywood. Sean teaches acting and directing at The Grok Acting Studio, which was recently featured on KABC7 News and has garnered great popularity and success in Los Angeles with its students, and now features acting classes online international-students. Some of his students are also art teachers themselves at major universities. Rose is currently attached as the lead opposite Malcolm McDowell in the feature film Criminality. In 2020, he started the Rose Theater for the Arts Foundation, a new nonprofit to provide an opportunity to artists of disadvantaged and diverse backgrounds.

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