Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sex and the City - with an accent :)

Sex and the City - with an accent :)
“Relationships in New York are about detachment” says Carrie aka Sarah Jessica Parker, in… we all know what. “Self-protection and closing the deal are paramount. Cupid has flow the co-op” – writes Candace Buschnell in the first chapter of her best-seller turned into TV series turned into a (not so well received) movie.
New York. Which New York? There are three New York cities: one of those born here, one of tourists, and one of new immigrants. As a somewhat new New Yorker, who moved into the city ten years ago and still tries to make sense of what’s going on around her, I want to see if things are different in that other New York, the one with an accent. We all watched – well, maybe only the girls - “Sex and the City”, trying to understand better the relationship archetypes surrounding us, realizing that is oh-so-different from home, especially for those coming from patriarchal societies where women are still used to be the receiver of males’ sexual attention, not the instigator. A woman from those kinda places couldn’t help but wonder, buttoning up her pajama in front of a TV set spitting reruns at midnight: wow, there’s so much glamorous sex going on in this city, there’s so much dating in fancy places, there so much and yet so little, in terms of true romance. So the question that stuck into my mind, after discussing with many immigrant ladies, grew to be: Is the immigrant love life about detachment too? Is detachment the unwritten rule of all relationships in the new cyber-addicted business-obsessed media-hypnotized world?
This column aims to carry an immigrant eye in the streets, bars, theatres, restaurants, offices, cubicles, spa-s, lounges, subways, cafes and rooms of THE City. But don’t get me wrong – I plan to write about people not places. I want to show that there’s much more to the immigrant life than gritty asexual humorless routines: work-work-send-money-home-work-work. Of course, it’s not easy and everyday can bring just another grim fairy tale instead of the old hatching American Dream, but it’s neither bitter-and-angry nor goofy-and-silly as it’s been stereotypically presented so many times. You’ll see.

“You’re right, I prefer women who don’t have English as their mother tongue, says a guy called (here) Bob. Didn’t you notice: When you are forced to pay closer attention to people’s words, you actually communicate better. If you both speak perfect English and you both think you know what you’re talking about, there’s all this room for misinterpretation about what’s actually being said. But if you are not sure the other person is getting you, you check her out, you make sure she gets you. And if… if she’s not sure she’s getting you, she checks you out, you know, she pays attention, until she gets you… And even the silences begin to have some meaning, you know, because you’re used to pay attention to each other… “
These are (more or less) Bob’s words as I rewrite them from memory. Bob married twice with foreign women to help them get US permanent residence. He didn’t do it for money, “as some crooks”, but out of genuine concern, tenderness and care. Maybe all those words put together mean “love”, or maybe love is just overrated when we talk marriage.

Now, the question is of course: why are Bob’s marriages ending at some point. When and how does that happen. I truly hope that’s not when the woman starts to speak better English ☺. I asked him about the endings of his fairy-tales, what makes them not a “they lived happily ever after”. He shrugged and told me that I should ask his wives. Ex-wives, I mean. Out of sheer curiosity, I decided to visit Tanya at her (now) legal working place: a Spa in West Village. A good occasion to get my manicure and pedicure done and to delve into a new immigrant love story. Eastern European, Korean, Chinese, the women working in the Beauty&*** salon share a particular charm of –hmmm - detachment, self-confidence, business smiles and poorly hidden boredom. They know you will surrender parts of your body to their power soon. It’s hard to see these women frightened, in a room, answering questions rapid-fired by Immigration officers. Have you ever been convicted of a felony in your country or in America? Have you ever plotted crimes against the United States of America? Have you ever taken part in terrorist activities in your country or in America? No, you can only surrender with a mixture of fear, relaxation, and a strange sense of familiarity, cuz you’re actually one of them, a global foreigner too. I ask to be “taken” by Tanya, Bob’s ex-wife, and I hope she’s one of those talkative pedicurists. Will she tell me her story between toe-one and toe-ten?

Saturday, April 2, 2011


LAUNCH EVENT at Nuyorican Poets Café
236 East 3rd Street Between Ave B & C


Sunday, April 17, 3-6 pm

(Celebrating Immigrant Heritage Week)

Tickets: $8 online BUY HERE
$10, $5 (for students) – at the door

IASNY, founded by Romanian-born playwright and NYU professor Saviana Stanescu, is an alliance of outstanding people working in the arts and academia who are committed to support, nurture and advocate for immigrant voices as a vital and vibrant part of the New York City community.

Advisory Board: Elizabeth Bradley, John Clinton Eisner, Teresa Eyring, David Henry Hwang, Carol Martin, Joyce Maio, Jose Rivera, Richard Schechner, Zishan Ugurlu

Leadership Committee: May Adrales, Amanda Feldman, Ana Martinez, Jelena Stupljanin, Tamilla Woodard, Graciela Berger Wegsman, Aaron Schroeder (PR)

As part of our efforts to expand our involvement in the New York community and advocate for the brilliant and diverse voices of immigrant artists as an integral part of that fabric, IASNY will be having its official launch at the storied Nuyorican Poets Café (executive director: Dan Gallant) in the East Village. Featuring performances by many prominent members, this launch event promises to embody the vision of IASNY as a forum for the exchange of ideas, the fostering of an immigrant voice, and a showcase of the breadth of talents in New York City's immigrant community.

The speakers/performers include:

Saviana Stanescu
Romania*, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, writer
President/Founder of IASNY

Teresa Eyring (advisory board)
Executive Director - Theatre Communications Group

Zishan Ugurlu (advisory board)
Turkey, director, actress, artistic director of Actors Without Borders - ITONY
Scholar, Assistant Professor at Eugene Lang College The New School University

Graciela Berger Wegsman
Argentina/Israel, playwright
Freelance Journalist Daily News/Hora Hispana and Daily News (VIVA)

Ana Martinez
Mexico City, Graduate Center (CUNY), scholar and designer

Tamilla Woodard
Director, founding member of The Internationalists

Jelena Stupljanin
Serbia, Actress

Susana Cook
Argentina, playwright, performer, director

Jennifer Lim
Hong Kong, MFA from Yale School of Drama, actor

Frances Uku
Nigeria/UK, Harvard University, actor

R. E. Toledo
Mexico, New York University/University of Tennessee, writer

Inma Heredia
Spain, flamenco singer/dancer/comedienne

Sujin Lee
South Korea, interdisciplinary artist
MA in Performance Studies from NYU

Ondina Frate
Romania, Glass Beads Theatre Ensemble, actress

Christina Quintana & Alessandra Hirsch
MFA playwrights at Columbia University

Blagovesta Momchedjikova
PhD, Bulgaria, New York University, writer

Stavri Karamfilov
Bulgaria, independent artist and scholar, theater director and sculptor

Paola Lázaro-Muñoz
Puerto Rico, Columbia University, playwright

Monica Santana
Venezuela, Columbia University MFA, actor

Jessica Litwak
Playwright, Performer, The New Generation Theatre Ensemble

Daniela Dakich
Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Serbia), HB Studio, actress

Natasa Trifan
Romania, dancer/choreographer

* We asked the featured artists/speakers to specify their country of origin if they are first generation immigrants or "legal aliens" – however, IASNY encourages the participation of all artists and scholars interested in the immigrant experience

Immigrant Heritage Week - established by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in 2004, celebrates the experiences and contributions of immigrants to New York City.

Immigrant Heritage Week 2011 is from April 11 to April 17 and celebrates the vibrant life stories New Yorkers have to tell.

Immigrant Artists and Scholars in New York (IASNY) is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas,
a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions in behalf of Immigrant Artists and Scholars in New York (IASNY) may be made payable to Fractured Atlas and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. You can safely DONATE HERE

For more details e-mail us at:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

World Theatre Day

Why work in theatre? Why work in theatre now?

We are all actors: being a citizen is not living in society, it is changing it.

Excerpt from the Message by Augusto Boal (World Theatre Day 2009)

Theatre is a place where we can collectively share our laughter, shed our tears and loudly demonstrate our joy or frustration. Theatre has the incredible capacity to be soul healing; it allows both the audience and artist to purge toxins and exorcise collective demons.
I challenge all of us to sustain the complexity of our world; to invite a multitude of diverse voices onto the stage. We must open the doors and windows of our theatres to let the world in. It is our responsibility; it is our burden and our gift.
We are fabulators… we are cultural watchdogs.

Excerpt from the US Message by Lynn Nottage (World Theatre Day 2010)

Art is not a mirror to reflect the world, but a hammer with which to shape it.
Bertolt Brecht

Theatre is not a reflecting mirror, it is a magnifying glass.
Vladimir Mayakovsky

From world-renowned cultural leaders to emerging/aspiring/struggling artists from each corner of the global village, the (mostly rhetorical) question is bound to pop up in our consciousness at some point: WHY am I doing this? Why didn’t I listen to my parents and become a lawyer, a doctor, an IT person? Why didn’t I invent something amazing and useful like… the washing machine, the bulb, relativity theory, Radio, TV, the aspirin, the bra, the toilet, the bike, the lipstick, the sandwich, the cell phone, Coca Cola, the frying pan, the batteries, the bed, the refrigerator, the car, the telescope, the zipper, the microprocessor… why didn’t I create Facebook?
Why didn’t I become a billionaire and buy a heavenly island where I could share the everyday bliss with my love and my kids? OK, maybe the in-laws too, once in a while. Not very often though…

Well, for people living in the so-called “third world”, in places torn by ethnic, religious, military conflicts those funny questions above don’t really apply, they’re too abstract and surreal when the on-going practical not existential dilemma is: will I survive, how can I survive?

As the unfolding uprisings in the Arab world prove – in a similar (yet different) way than the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, including the messy revolution and overthrow of Ceausescu’s totalitarian regime in my native country Romania – arts can play a major role in places where the public discourse is not civil or democratic yet, where countries are still playgrounds for ruthless or “benevolent” dictators.

Writers, poets, theatre people can make a clear and loud difference in those parts of our interconnected world, they can help social and personal truths, freedom and democracy invade the “gated community” of a political and economical elite immersed in its own self-sufficient and self-nurtured Power.

And there’s no reason to believe that theatre/arts can’t still make a strong difference in well-tested democracies too, as long as there still is injustice, inequality, discrimination, pain, individual suffering, betrayal, love, jealousy, family dysfunction, desire, ambition, competition, greed, passion… as long as we still have emotions, feelings, needs and wants. As long as we are still human. And even robots and cyborgs will have their range of e-motions, I’m sure, so there’s no way to get around dramatic conflict here, on this planet.

And for us, theatre people, it means that – yes, we might be underpaid and misunderstood sometimes – but we will never go out of business. It’s our job to explore and expose the human flaws and qualities, the power gaps, the mistreatments, the deep frustrations, the ignored traumas, the needs to build awareness on a social issue, the happy endings and the bitter beginnings, the personal yet political roller-coasters of emotions and thoughts…

C’mon, forget the WHY! We, theatre folks, are playing a necessary role in this world (and hopefully even in the next, more theatrical one). Period. No, exclamation point!

(published first in "New York City World Theatre Day Coalition" blog on March 1, 2011)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mr M.T. BLISS has something to say:
(M.T. stand for Mass Transit)

New York is not about buildings, no, it’s not about real estate
New York is about people
Under ground, above ground,
In a car
No, not an automobile
A streetcar, a trolley, a subway car
That sensual space where our brains get connected
To each other
Our sweaty bodies create
A human symphony of breaths, odors, and thoughts
A masterpiece of inter-connection
The erotic tissue of the city
A mute dialogue of eyes
Exploring each other
Facing each other, trying
To guess which thought
Passes through his her mind that moment
That very moment
That pretty lady smiles like she remembers
The hand of her lover caressing
The back of her neck this morning…
That construction worker
Stares blankly at the new day
Bringing nothing new
More sweat and work and poor pay
And “fuck this routine I wish
I had a different kinda life”
Or something along those lines…
That young gentleman in a business suit
Is ready to push push push
Make money money money
Find new smart strategies
For profit
He has the hunger of an untamed lion
Struggling to seem ready
To be tamed
To compromise
To suck up on his boss
For the sake of future rewards
We all do what we gotta do
To get ahead…
Still, that pretty lady
Is not thinking of getting ahead
She’s going back in the voluptuousness
Of the dawn
When she stretched her hand
And touched her lover’s armpit
Sweat can taste good, oh, so good
She carries her lover’s odor
In the purse of her mind
She doesn’t see anybody
I bet she didn’t notice she sits next
To that old homeless man
Trying to catch a bit of sleep
Lullaby-ed by the noisy swing
The mechanical wing
Of mass transit bliss…
And those two teenagers
Cool and hot
Dismissing everyone with their youth
“give us a break all you
old people”
There’s a child in a stroller
Across their seats
And the mother or the baby sitter
(She must be the mother
She carries love and worries in her eyes)
The mother looks at the older boys
And says quietly to her baby
“You’ll be like them one day”…
People are beautiful
Even the ugly ones
Bless Mass Transit and this closeness
This intimacy that we experience
In this car, no, not an automobile
I’m not going to pay the price
For an automobile
No, it’s not the money,
It’s the removal, the price is the removal
From humanity
It cuts you out and leaves you alone
Or in two in three in four
Nothing like this subway car
This trolley
This street car
Where my thoughts and his and hers
Are dancing the Charleston together
In this cozy Ball Room Car
Of mass transit bliss…
The pretty lady is closing her eyes
And smiles sensuously to the memory
Of her own dance
Last night or this morning…
A mysterious brazen smile
Oh, no
Don’t go!
It’s her stop
The pretty lady disappears through the doors
Gets out of the mass transit oasis
Into the big world of danger, anonymity and routines
The pretty lady turns her head
Towards me
And I catch a question mark in her eyes
An exclamation mark
A dot-dot-dot
And I can’t stop
I follow her
Follow her…