Artist Profile: Celeste Walker

Celeste Walker is a writer/performer - an actor with a BFA from Kutztown University & MFA in Acting from The Actor’s Studio Drama School at the New School University in New York. She is a lifetime member of The Actors Studio and a member of Actors Equity. Her theatre Roles include: Melissa in LOVE LETTERS, Maria Callas in MASTERCLASS and Frankie in FRANKIE & JOHNNY IN THE CLAIR DE LUNE.  She's an Adjunct Professor of Integrated Studies at Arcadia University and Montgomery County Community College.

Her show Colette: Reloaded is appearing this weekend at White Pines. Colette Reloaded tells the story of a 60-year-old woman’s examination of her life filled with loves, losses, goals, and obstacles and questionable choices. Why is she still trying to battle 40-year-old demons? Is Colette (her twin) really evil? Is she the embodiment of wrong turns or is she the strength that allows the woman to face her fears, take risks and learn from all that she has experienced?

We asked Celeste about here show . . . 

Where did you get the idea that gave rise to your show?

I was encouraged, by a friend, a fellow actor, to re-visit a Fringe Show that I wrote, produced, directed and performed in 2003. At that time I was terrified to write, direct AND act solo, so I changed the piece from a solo to a two-person one-act. My friend, Bob Weick, read the script and told me it should be a solo show and that I should play three characters. I took on the challenge with the help of my long-time friend and director Marshall Mays. Following an initial re-write of the script, we spent the summer of 2016 fine-tuning, editing and rehearsing the play. I mounted the production the A-Space, a tiny co-op gallery space in West Philly for the Fringe in September. The response was positive and encouraging. The original idea, came from the struggle that I have had in my past trying to reconcile the two sides of my personality that have lead me to make questionable choices in my past and how those choices lead to my personal and artistic growth.  

What is it about White Pines that made you submit your show to the series Cold Hard Love?

I read the description of the series, knew that my piece needed an outlet and thought the the subject matter would fit in with the premise. I also know that Benjamin Lloyd has an excellent reputation in the Philadelphia Theatre Community.  

Do you have a funny love story to share?

All of my love stories are funny . . . Okay, here's one. On my first date with a guy I met on Match.com, I got up to use the restroom and wrestled with the idea to sneak out of the restaurant. The date wasn't going as planned. My Catholic guilt got the better of me and I returned to the table. Luckily for my date, upon my return, I asked the magic question. I asked about his children. His one-word answers turned into proud daddy stories and the deer-in-the headlights look on his face softened. We were married two years later. 

Give our audience a teaser for your show . . . 

Listen for a reference to The West Wing!

Share a rehearsal tidbit: has something funny/surprising occurred as you have been preparing for Cold Hard Love?

With all theatre, whatever can go wrong, does go wrong. But we love the work anyway. 

 

Artist profile: Alexandra Tatarsky

Alexandra Tatarsky

Alexandra Tatarsky

Alex is a graduate of the noted Philadelphia performing arts school, the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training. From their website: "The Pig Iron School brings together daring and passionate theatre artists from around the globe to train their bodies and imaginations. A physical theatre school rooted in Lecoq pedagogy and ensemble theatre practice, the Pig Iron Theatre School is a space for rigorous experimentation, playful theatre-making, and long-lasting collaboration. Each student's journey is both inward and outward, helping find creative inspiration from within while responding to the world around; its rhythms, characters, impulses and contradictions." 

We asked Alex about her upcoming show for the Cold Hard Love series, Americana Psychobabble:

1.   Where did you get the idea that gave rise to your show?

The spark of the show was lit when the amazing Quinn Bauriedel of Philadelphia’s beloved Pig Iron Theatre Company prompted me to improvise text and movement in response to an image of fingernails painted with the American flag. These nails had a lot to say! And they just kept talking. After one early show, the poet Lewis Freedman (Residual Synonyms for the Name of God) approached me saying, “Surely you know of the mystical importance of fingernails?” Indeed, the fingernails and cuticles are of great importance in the Jewish tradition as a sacred boundary space, a borderland of the body. Fingernails also figure in ritual practice and divination.  Channeling the image of American flag fingernails felt like an act of spirit possession, reaching out to a complicated, grotesque American spirit and asking it to speak through me. 

And so I began performing as the nails in theaters, bars, and galleries and eventually took the nails to Mexico on a travel grant from the School of Authentic Journalism, a fabulous project based in Mexico City that trains journalists, organizers, and artists to collaborate on effectively telling the stories of social movements (they are a wonderful organization to support if you care about thoughtful, engaged journalism and they are fundraising right now for the next school: https://tinyurl.com/authentic2017)! Anyway, the organization funded a residency for me to develop more material in response to the despicable racism undergirding Trump’s campaign -- and to perform these bits in a tourist restaurant in Cancun every night of the Republican National Convention, alongside a Trump piñata! I was later invited by Poetry Electric at La Mama ETC to perform a showing of this material on December 19th, which happened to be the exact day the electoral college decided Trump’s victory. It was a delirious night of holding space for feelings, screams, and laughter while processing the election together in a small, dark theater and trying to find the energy and hope it takes to sustain a movement – in the body and in the body politic.

2. What is it about White Pines that made you submit your show to the series Cold Hard Love?

I was excited by the Cold Hard Love series at White Pines because as I was writing this show I was going through a terrible heartbreak! And it seemed to me that heartbreak could be a metaphor for a lot of the political pain in this country and a way to understand what’s behind some of the violence and hateful rhetoric.

When you are in pain, you want to make others feel pain, so you don’t feel so alone in your pain (or at least sometimes I do L). Alone in a hotel in Cancun, I began to study my heartbreak as a research project to try to understand the dangerous things despair can make us want to do.

And every night of the Republican Convention I was observing what appeared to be a lot of very upset, heartbroken people! The parallels between their attitude and mine were astounding: things did not work out as we thought they would! We were betrayed by the people and institutions we trusted the most! And rather than fully feel our rightful anger towards those who hurt us (cough cough capitalism) – because it’s very painful and scary to sever ties with the only thing you know (cough cough capitalism) – we diverted our anger towards those we decided were responsible for causing us pain (you know, “illegal aliens” and “radical Islamic terrorists”). Let’s just say, it’s easier to hate your ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend because you don’t even know her than to hate the ex-boyfriend you still love deeply even though he did you wrong time and again.

So all of this is a long TMI way of saying that I was very inspired by Ben Lloyd’s call for pieces dealing with heartbreak and although my personal pain investigation is now cloaked in Xmas lights and absurd characters, it lies at the heart of Americana Psychobabble. I was and am very excited to share this very new and raw project with the incredible White Pines audiences and at a space whose mission statement speaks to me so strongly, a place “dedicated to transforming people's lives through performance creativity… by nurturing the citizen artist, who is committed to using his/her creative gifts in service to communities.”

3. Do you have a funny love story to share?

Oh dear… a funny love story. Let’s see. Welp, one time I fell madly in love with a charming vagrant in New Orleans because as I biked by he yelled out MARRY ME! while peeing on a refrigerator on the side of the road. I thought this was both very poetic and took a lot of chutzpah. I later followed him to San Francisco where we lived for several weeks in a van next to a Chinese restaurant.

4. Give our audience a teaser for your show

Ooh, a teaser! I will be thrilled if someone catches the winks to Artaud threaded throughout Americana Psychobabble and comes and talks to me after the show...

5. Share a rehearsal tidbit: has something funny/surprising occurred as you have been preparing for Cold Hard Love?

The process of working on Americana Psychobabble has felt at times chillingly prophetic as the country consumes and is consumed by a monstrous babbling. Working on this piece with my co-director, the marvelous Meryl Sands, and a brilliant, generous community of theatre-makers in Philadelphia and New York, has truly served as a necessary reminder of the theater’s strange magic to alchemize anguish into energy, to value misery as the finest ingredient in laughter. Preparing for Cold, Hard Love throughout these cold, hard months has made me reflect with tenderness on the role of the hapless clown, the sad, lovesick, rejected, dejected clown who keeps trying despite all his failures. It gives us great to delight to watch the clown continue despite the impossibility of his task. May we all be clowns and never stop trying.

Read reviews of Alex's work by clicking here!

Some pix of Alex in performance!

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Cold Hard Love artists and acts announced!

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December 15, 2016  - White Pines Productions is excited to announce a series of performances by some of Philadelphia’s finest performing artists, examining love, heartbreak, romance and relationships.

Benjamin Lloyd, the Executive Director of White Pines, says, “These shows were selected from a competitive pool of submissions and reflect both established talent like playwright Michael Hollinger, and up-and-comers like Alexandra Tatarsky. After our series Bright Nights which celebrated the talent of our ensemble Bright Invention, Cold Hard Love is a series for guest artists. With this series White Pines reinforces its place as an intimate venue where innovative shows happen.”

Jessika Brust of the musical group The Hourglass, said “Andre DiMuzio and I are delighted to be putting together our first ever Hourglass feature show! To play our songs of long distance partnership in an intimate venue like White Pines is an amazing opportunity.  As connectivity is increasing and the world is shrinking, how do we stay rooted in our art, balanced as individuals, and still ride the wave of our rapidly evolving world? We can't wait to explore these questions with audiences at White Pines.”

The series runs from January 28th – March 25th. The lineup is as follows:

·      January 27th & 28th: Michael Hollinger, TRIPTYCH: Three short plays on love and sex, (theater). Directed by Benjamin Lloyd. Four lovers form three couples in two apartments and one hotel room.  Let the games begin . . .

·      February 4th: Bright Invention Dinner Theater (improv). Three courses of fine dining, and three courses of spontaneous theater!

·      February 10th – 11th: Josh McIlvain, SLIDESHOW (solo show). Real slides. A fictional family saga. An old-fashioned slideshow becomes a theatrical experience.

·      February 17th:  Grayce Hoffman, Game. Set. Match. (theater). Join “Girl” and her Tinder “Men” on a crazy adventure as the newly single 20-something sifts through one cheesy pickup line after another to find out what it means to “love” someone in today’s world.

·      February 24th – 25th: The Hourglass (Jessika Brust & Andre DiMuzio), Over Land, Over Seas (cabaret). Two international performing musicians, two individual's stories of relationships made and lost while following a career in the arts.

·      March 4th: Bright Invention Dinner Theater (improv). Three courses of fine dining, and three courses of spontaneous theater!

·      March 10th: Alexandra Tatarsky, Americana Psychobabble (solo show). A tragicomic evening of song, movement, and monologue investigating the American psyche through the metaphor of heartbreak, the despair of feeling abandoned and betrayed by the American dream.

·      March 17th: TBA

·      March 24th – 25th:  Celeste Walker, Colette Reloaded, (cabaret). Directed by Marshall May. The story of a 60-year-old woman’s examination of her life filled with loves, losses, goals, obstacles and questionable choices.

Most shows will perform more than once over their weekend. Please see the Cold Hard Love page on the White Pines site for more information about the shows.

All shows will be performed at:

The White Pines Place

7908 High School Road

Elkins Park PA 19027

 

Tickets are between $10 and $20, general admission.

For more information: 877-674-8338, or discover.wpp@gmail.com