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Al’ukhraa Blog



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MSP has embarked on a very personal project for our 2016 FREE Shakespeare in the ParkS production.

On December 7, 2015 Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”. This was just the beginning of what has created the current political climate of fear of “The Other” in the United States.

Al’ukhraa: A Study in Othello will integrate personal stories from NYC high school girls with Shakespeare’s Othello.

We want to create a space for these girls’ voices to be heard.

We want to bring to the forefront what is happening in our own backyard.

We want to stir our communities to action.

This is the blog of the girls, the actors, the women, the production team as they create, rehearse, and perform  Al’ukhraa.

This is a conversation our entire community needs to be having. Please send us your thoughts, your own stories, and join us as we share ours.

And come see the SHOW!


2016 الأخرى A Study in Othello


Read the Al’ukhraa BLOG, send us your thoughts and stories!

MSP’s 2016 FREE Shakespeare in the ParkS is back with a very personal piece created in part with NYC’s young Muslim high school women.

الأخرى (Al’ukhraa) – “the other”

Through personal accounts written by Muslim girls and Shakespeare’s text of Othello, Al’ukhraa explores how our opinions of “the other” effect the community as a whole, and how the current political climate of fear is directly impacting our NYC high school girls.

Bring a BLANKET Bring a PICNIC

All Performances FREE

All Performances @ 6:00pm

Rain Policy: The show must go on! We perform rain or shine. We will never cancel a show before showtime. So come on out! Bring a slicker, bring an umbrella. Some of our best shows have been in mysterious and foggy weather.


Astoria Park, Queens – June, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Summit Rock, Central Park – June 23, 24, July 7, 8, 9, 10
Morningside Park – June 25, 26, July 14, 15, 16, 17


To Astoria Park in Queens (near 23rd Ave and 19th St):
By subway, take N train to Astoria Blvd Station. Walk West on 23rd Ave towards the East River.

To Summit Rock in Central Park (near 83rd St. at Central Park West):
By subway, take B or C train to 86th St./Central Park West. Enter the park at 85th St.

To Morningside Park in Manhattan (near the pond at 114th St. and Morningside Ave)
By subway, take B or C train to 110th St. / Cathedral Pkwy. Enter the park at 114th St.


Sarah Eismann – Director/Iago (see MEET THE PLAYERS for more info) is absolutely thrilled to be working with such a talented and exciting cast and crew on this production. A recent MFA Acting graduate from Columbia University, Sarah got her BFA in Drama at Tisch School for the Arts at NYU. She also trained with the National Theatre Conservatory in Denver, and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. She has performed withthe Tony Award winning Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, California Shakespeare Theatre, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, Woman’s Will, improv troupes Tilted Frame SF, Middle School Poetry, and RadioStar Network. www.saraheismann.com

Julie Orkis – Emilia/Ensemble is a recent graduate of the BFA Acting program at Brooklyn College, where she was also the captain of the Women’s Tennis Team. (Internationally ranked Junior pro, CUNYAC Scholar Athlete of the Month, Four-Time Player of The Year) Recent credits include Serena Williams body double for Delta Airlines in-flight video, Girl at Brunch for OceanSpray Craisins web-commercial, Athena in The Hysterical History of the Trojan War, and Female Executive in the world premiere of Asleep at the Wheel. Julie is thrilled to be joining The Manhattan Shakespeare Project for its 2016 season!

Mouna R’miki – Othello moved to New York to fully pursue acting and joined the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, where she finds joy exploring  Human Nature. So far, she has been blessed in being part and collaborating in various multicultural projects. Credits include – Like me, like you; Skylla and Kharybdis; Nowhere/Now-Here; Rest Upon The Wind; Usual Girls / Film: The Guest; SAGA; La Recette de l’Amour (…). She is very happy to join this season’s Manhattan Shakes, as one of the voices for tolerance and acceptance and is humbled to step into Othello’s fierce shoes.

Gareth Tidball – Desdemona/Ensemble is an actress, director, and playwright. A recent graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Gareth received training in the Meisner Studio and the Classical Studio. Her favorite past credits include Jack, or the Submission (Mother Jack) Henry V (Fluellen), and Unity: 1918 (Rose). Gareth also serves as a teaching artist throughout the five boroughs. She currently teaches drama classes to young adults at the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, and she assists with arts enrichment classes in association with the South Asian Youth Academy (SAYA). She is a founding member of the all-female clown troupe The Pupils.

***The Voices***

So much gratitude to the young women who IMG_20160515_145255contributed their talent and voices to Al’ukhraa.
Zarin Chowdhury
Sarah Essa
Bagdad Mohamed
Saira Mughal


Julia Levine – Assistant Director is a theatre artist, educator, and 2015 graduate of Butler University. Assistant directing credits include: The Debates (Theater in Asylum), Spring Awakening, The Infernal Machine, Charlotte’s Web (The Hangar Theatre); stage managing: JUPITER (La MaMa), The Witches (Access Theater). She has been an assistant or intern with various local companies, including Honest Accomplice Theatre, The New Collectives, Superhero Clubhouse, and the Foundry Theatre. Julia is Assistant Producer on the 2017 International Human Rights Art Festival, co-presented by the Institute of Prophetic Activist Art and Dixon Place, where she will premiere a reading of her new play about the food system. www.juliaslevine.com

Tom Spencer – Stage Manager is an NYC-born playwright who grew up in New Hampshire, where he has had two original shows produced, and one staged reading. He is the stage manager for Manhattan Shakespeare Project. He once worked as a blacksmith. He likes working outside, Shakespeare, and America.

Niki Afsar – Dramaturg 




Josh Fried – Stage Management Intern was born and raised in Fairfax, Virginia. Unlike most people who are in the arts, he didn’t grow up with theater, and really only got into it during high school, which is where he took his first real theater class. Now he’s a student at Longwood University where he is studying technical theater. He enjoys every aspect of theater, from acting to tech. He most recently had one of his own plays produced at school, and is thrilled to be part of Manhattan Shakespeare Project. To all who dream big; seek a life useful.

SopArtStudioSop-Art Studio – Graphic Design
Christopher Soprano’s art is born out of an instinctive desire to create. His passion for letter forms and intuitive mark making create intertwined narratives. Fused with his adamant optimism the work is both playful and dark. In addition to identity design, Christopher currently creates huge character sculptures and environments for theme parks. As a result of working under tight deadlines, his personal work captures his energy and expressiveness.

***Pre-Show Musical Entertainment***

MSP is so excited to have these very talented NYC musicians VOLUNTEERING their time to bring their songs, sounds, and fun to our wonderful audiences before the show. Come catch them at 5:30 every night!

A. BridgesSqAdrian Bridges is excited to be joining Manhattan Shakespeare Project with a revolving group of collaborators to provide music before shows of Al’ukhraa. He received both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from New York University’s Jazz Studies program, with an emphasis in guitar and composition. Adrian has since found a home in the multi-disciplinary world of theater, working as a performer, sound designer, music director, and composer for numerous shows, including Less Than Rent Theatre’s Little Town Blues and Diva (United Solo Festival – Best Musical), Theater In Asylum’s ¡Ole! and Debates, Artilliers’ Dreamplay and Sea/Sick, and Kaleid Theatre’s No Place LikeGlow, and Eurydicewww.adrianbridges.com.

***THANK YOU!***

To everyone who helped make this production possible.
*The East and West Coast Eismann Families
*Genevieve Windbiel & the Windbiel Family
*The Fried Family
*Katherine Dalton – The Institute for Health Professions at Cambria Heights
*Brooke Turner
*The fabulous people at The Public Delacorte Free Shakespeare in the Park ticket line
*Eve Landau & The JCC in Manhattan
*Kathleen Dorman – Classic Stage Company
*Chez Bushwick Studios
*Everyone who Likes and Shares all our Social Media!!!
*And all our amazing audiences!

الأخرى A Study in Othello is made possible in part with public funds from Creative Engagement, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and administered by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. LMCC.net






The Shrew Blog 5-9-15


Carla Lerner – Tranio, Ensemble

Carla_rehearsalI just finished my third rehearsal of Taming and the whole cast has taken me on, out of nowhere, without skipping a beat. I’m having a blast and (perhaps shamefully) am grateful that someone dropped, because being a part of this process is fascinating.

The Taming of the Shrew is a tricky show for the modern woman, which makes me doubly grateful to be working on it with an all-female cast. Even if we are not “shrews,” every person in the room lives with the cultural expectation of docility. I’m grateful for that shared experience, because I think it gives us greater license to look at the aspects of this play that tend to stick in our throats. It also helps that Monica, our Katherina, is an utter powerhouse.

But, I suppose I should be writing more about my own part. So, Tranio. This friggin guy. What a trouble maker. One of my favorite things in life is when, somehow or other, a role lands in my lap that it never would have occurred to me to play. It’s an incredible opportunity for growth and experimentation. Tranio exists in such a different physical space than I do. As a petite lady, it’s so great to play with his bawdiness, his extravagance, the GUYness of him. I’ve played a lot of dudes in my time, but some males are just extra plus male and Tranio is one of them. He’s wonderfully large. My current goal is to push it to the point where Kate asks me to dial it back. I do not know if this is possible. Also, Tranio and Lucentio have a secret handshake and it is the BEST.

Exploring Tranio has been making me think a lot about disguises, about our everyday masks and about code-switching. Tranio, Lucentio, and Hortensio wear the most blatant disguises, but I’m starting to feel like this whole play is an exploration of how we reconcile our nature with the role we’re given at birth, and of the different roles we take on to get what we want.


The Shrew Blog 5-5-15


Shannon Ward – Lucentio/Ensemble

Shannon_rehearsalDammit, if I don’t keep making connections between my life and this play. Which is not something I would have guessed coming into The Taming of the Shrew. But there is always something new to find with Shakespeare. (One would hope that would be the case. Otherwise why would we still be reading and performing it?) Today we discussed Bianca, a character who I had always written off as a vapid secondary character that was simply the foil to Kate’s “shrew.” But when I thought of her as a person rather than a character, I remembered that she is a sister. A little sister. I have one of those. Bianca has had a childhood in Kate’s shadow. Learning from her, seeing her failures and successes, and forging her own life accordingly. Now, I’m not sure how much my sister would agree with this, but I am absolutely certain that she is handling life which much more badass poise than I did at her age. I am incredibly proud of her accomplishments, and I think she will grow into an AMAZING woman. But I see Bianca now as a more rounded person. Perhaps very similar to Kate, just better at playing the game. (The game being society. It’s always society.) And Kate sees her, a mini-her that’s more successful at life, and she is jealous. The parallel between their relationship and my relationship with my sister ends there, but I think that Kate is extra infuriated because she has lost an ally in life.


The Shrew Blog 5-3-15


Margo Murphy-Gross – Stage Manager

Margo_rehearsalToday’s rehearsal started with a conversation about women using manipulation in different ways and what those different methods of manipulation mean. In the case of “Taming” Bianca’s manipulation seems to be a survival method rather than an act of malice. This conversation led to a conversation about survival v. Flirtation. When we took our break the conversation became more serious and led to some conversation about what it means to be female is today’s society. A big thing that came up was peoples’ perception on breasts. A lot of us have had interactions where people measure our happiness with our femininity based on how “curvy” we are. But not just our bodies but how we “use” them. Are we less feminine if we don’t flirt, or use push up bras? Though this is not a group of people who buy into that we are all being held to that standard when we are out in the world. Though we have come a long way since Shakespeare’s England these same dynamics still exist the difference between Bianca who has learned to flirt and Katharina who has reacted to the world around her with rage. It’s not that one of them is bad or one method is worse or better. But the bare bones of being female is that we still have to make a choice around our behavior we will be a shrew or not? Maybe this is a choice that we make for how we deal with everything in the outside world or a choice have to make and remake in every new location and group. Do you smile at the man in the deli who calls you honey, or do you tell him that you aren’t his honey? Do you keep walking when someone grab your ass or do you say something? Can you accept that free drink or no? What is safe and what isn’t? It seems to be that it all breaks down into the question of safety, and then breaks down into what does safety mean? In a sense when Katharina bows to Petruchio’s will isn’t she making the choice that she needs to, to be safe? And in a sense looking at what her choices were isn’t safety the closest to happiness in that world? And how far removed really is that aspect of that world from our world?


The Shrew Blog 5-1-15


Monica Jones – Katharina, Ensemble

Monica_rehearsalI recently got married…like in February. So, I have a sort of connection with Kate. The idea that somehow one must lose themselves in order to become one with their partner for life. We have debated whether or not Kate is a willing participant, a conspirator or somewhere in the middle. From my personal experience, there comes a certain death to self. Not so much one to mourn but a loss, nonetheless. To remove something in order to gain. If I had one goal, my mission to bring to this production, it is to highlight the strength of such a decision. Her unwillingness is a mask to hide her fear…perhaps. Her defiance is to mask her uncertainty…perhaps. Her compliance is a representation of her hope…perhaps.

I’m excited to explore the fight in Kate. Not just in her defiance, wit, unflappableness (Is that a word?), etc…but in her battle to submit and to sustain. Kate is a wild horse, beautiful and dangerous. What happens when she is captured, bridled and bound? Does she lose her spirit? Or is it simply her spirit is so vast and powerful that nothing can truly contain her? I guess I am excited to explore the fight within myself as well.

We shall see….


The Shrew Blog 4-29-15


Kate Holland – Director

Kate_rehearsalI have to say, this process of rehearsing this play is a gradual loosening of defenses for me. When Sarah first asked me to direct Taming of the Shrew, I started crying — I begged her to choose any other play. I couldn’t see through my own discomfort with the gender issues raised by the play and my own past experiences in relationships in which I was not an equal partner. These words sound rational and reasonable but the truth is that when I read the words of Katharina’s final speech, I felt scalded by them as if they were drops of acid.

I saw no way INTO the text while being true to ourselves as women. The only way forward that I could see was to direct some kind of commentary on gender, deconstructing the play, “breaking” it. The visionary Tina Packer, who comes from a place of much more experience and wisdom than myself, has a similar dislike of “Taming of the Shrew”.

Sarah was patient and brave enough to hang in there with me while I first protested and then plotted to unravel the play. She challenged me instead to trust the text, to venture into Shakespeare’s words with this amazing company of women and search for the heart of the matter.

Rather than creating a deconstructed “Shrew” that shines a searchlight on power imbalances (as had been my first inclination), we are searching for the spark to light each of the characters so they glow from within, revealing their hearts and their vulnerabilities. Much cruelty and injustice in the world comes from a place of pain on the part of the perpetrator, and we can never win the war for respect and equality with weapons of rage. Only by seeking first to understand, searching for these characters from a place of compassionate curiosity, can we hope to engage meaningfully with this play and effect change in ourselves and each other with it.

Today we dove into the question of masculinity as it relates to Hortensio, his desire for Bianca, and his sense of self in relationship to the other men in the play. More on this next time, as sleep is pulling me down like an irresistible anchor.


The Shrew Blog 4-27-15


Shannon Ward – Lucentio / Ensemble

IMG_20150426_113621We talked for quite a while today about Hortensio as a character, and how he strives (somewhat unsuccessfully) to fit into a masculine mold in order to win Bianca’s love. We discussed the pressures that men have to be “masculine.” And I started thinking about how those pressures are two sided. Much like Katharina, I struggled with fitting into a “feminine” mold when I was younger. I was unlucky in love and I blamed my looks and my tom-boyish personality. In college, I tried to become more like how I thought a girl should be. And it’s true, I turned more heads, but it wasn’t until I became truly comfortable with myself as a woman and as a human being that I was able to connect with someone who I ended up falling in love with. It all stems from an acceptance of the self. I was self-conscience of my tomboy ways in high school, and now I embrace them. I am a woman, girly or no, and I am confident and self-assured. And I think, in the end, that’s what really makes a person attractive. So maybe Hortensio shouldn’t worry so much about being all macho like Petruchio. If only he could carry his masculinity in his own way, and just keep being the badass clown he is.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and stories! When have you felt “out of sync” with the world around you? How do you feel when media and society tell you you need to act and behave and look a certain way in order to fit in?


The Shrew Blog 4-26-15


Amy Frey – Tranio / Ensemble

(Shortly after this post Amy unfortunately had to leave the production because school and amazing things called her. We will miss her and welcome lovely Carla!)

IMG_20150426_115339First day at Manhattan Shakes and I’m trying not to vomit. I got here way too early. And I’m not entirely sure I should be here in the first place. I’m thrilled, of course, to join this incredibly intelligent, talented group of women, but the excitement is manifesting in a slightly queasy case of nerves. I’ve been in school for the past two years for occupational therapy, and I’ve been spending the last week and a half hunched over a computer, vainly hashing out my master’s thesis. The world of theatre, particularly physical theater, has seemed light years away from my fieldwork at the hospital.

But then I get to the rehearsal space, and Sarah’s already turned on a ridiculously upbeat, candy-pop song, and is starting a physical warm up. I stop worrying if I’m good enough, or if I’ve lost all of the skills that I had in college, (I have.) because we’re running around and dancing and I meet Kate again, who indulges my slightly breathless character analysis, told at a frantic pace because I’m burning with ideas that I’ve been suppressing for the past two years because of science.

I calm down a bit after that. I love my character-Tranio seems to come right out of a commedia dell’arte lazzi, something that I studied in Italy years ago, but put away as a skill set never to be used again. I meet Shannon, who is a grounded, beautifully realized Lucentio, and listen to the smart, nuanced takes everyone seems to have on all of the characters. It’s a fun, thought-provoking, honest rehearsal process: I can’t wait to see where it goes.

Let’s talk! What do you do to prepare for your first day?