IT CAN HAPPEN HERE: Episode One

It Can Happen Here: Episode One is a dramatic comedy developed over the span of the year of the QCA commission from November 2017 through the summer of 2018. Sloan created characters inspired by stories gathered in the greater Jamaica and Southeastern Queens neighborhoods through storytelling workshops, interviews with community members and old-fashioned conversations over dinner, lunch and breakfast. 

This new piece was commissioned by the Queens Council on the Arts’ inaugural Artist Commissioning Program (ACP), which provides local choreographers, playwrights and composers with funding towards the creation and production of original work. Selected for her project’s capacity to tell untold stories in American art, Sloan was one of four artists chosen from nearly 100 applications for the inaugural award in theatre and playwriting. ACP provides local choreographers, playwrights and composers with funding towards the creation and production of original work. The focus of this new initiative, funded by the Scherman Foundation’s Rosin Fund, is to produce new, significant works of art that diversity the American canon, as well as build a growing culture of arts support in Queens.

It Can Happen Here, is a reference to the Sinclair Lewis novel, It Can’t Happen Here, which chronicled the fictitious election of a power-hungry politician who stirred up fear by promising a return to patriotism. Judith comes from a lineage of Jewish refugees. Growing up, she often heard the phrase “it can’t happen here,” referring to Hitler and the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust.

For nine months, Sloan — award-winning playwright/actor and longtime chronicler of Queens (Crossing the BLVD1001 Voices: Symphony for a New America) — talked with residents of Southeastern Queens about our hopes, fears, and aspirations. “What struck me over and over were stories of love and support that often fly under the radar in times of extreme duress. I decided to zoom in on conversations between women. Like the novel, It Can’t Happen Here, my play is inspired by real events,” says Sloan.

In It Can Happen Here, two hairdressers—one black, one white—in an ever-changing neighborhood in Queens, embark on a new dream.They follow their passion for singing and nurturing a community in the midst of a national political climate of chaos, division and autocracy. Through their journey they reveal stories of their customers, family members and neighbors, including a DACA recipient, an immigration lawyer, and an older man who lost everything in Hurricane Sandy.

“Judith Sloan’s project, It Can Happen Here, is a universal tale that seamlessly landscapes itself into the heart of Jamaica, Queens. Sloan’s new musical play is timely, relevant, reflective and inventive in the way that it explores the socio-economic circumstances of multi-ethnic communities with generational differences. It brilliantly hones in on what we all know to be true: that ultimately, we are all far more similar than we are different.”— Brendez Wineglass, QCA ACP Art Producer and Project Manager for Jamaica Is.

“One of the most significant aspects of Judith Sloan’s artistic expression for me was the community/interview process she undertook to inform some of the stories for It Can Happen Here. Her work is Queens-specific, presenting my immigrant reality, as she holds up a mirror to social and political American culture as a voice of the unheard.” Mala Desai, QCA ACP Art Producer and Artistic Director of Mala’s School of Odissi Dance.

Creative Team
CLICK HERE FOR BIOS
Script, music and lyrics: Judith Sloan
Story Consultant: Giona Jefferson
Director: Alexandra Aron
Performers: Judith Sloan, Meah Pace, Priya Darshini, Lisette Santiago, Emily Wexler
Music Producers: Judith Sloan and Joshua Valleau

Crossing the BLVD: strangers, neighbors, aliens in a new America

As immigration policy is hotly debated around the country in terms of national and cultural security, Crossing the BLVD: strangers, neighbors, aliens in a new America presents the human stories of why immigrants and refugees have migrated to the US and what their experiences have been since they came here pre- and post-9/11. Based on Lehrer and Sloan’s critically acclaimed book, actor/writer Judith Sloan channels many of the people that the couple interviewed on their three-year journey around the world through the borough of Queens, New York. The performance is illuminated by projections of Lehrer’s stunning photographs  along with an original soundtrack of music and sounds, including Sloan’s audio mixes, music by Scott Johnson and Gogol Bordello. Home to the New York airports, Queens, is no longer made up of neatly partitioned ethnic enclaves. Today the choreography of Queens, a place where residents speak 138 different languages, is one of chaotic co-existence. This group portrait of a multi-ethnic, multi-racial community is a magnifying glass for the future of America. Above all, Crossing the BLVD is a celebration of resilient, prismatic character – in search of home.

Winner 2004 Brendan Gill Prize Municipal Art Society of NY

Crossing the BLVD: strangers, neighbors, aliens in a new America
Written by Warren Lehrer and Judith Sloan
Performed by Judith Sloan
Photography and design by Warren Lehrer

To inquire about a performance CLICK HERE

BUY THE BOOK ON AMAZON

Watch the Video

Judith Sloan’s YO MISS!

Fusing the art of theatre, poetry, and music, YO MISS! is a sometimes funny, sometimes sad, always truth-telling show about immigrant/refugee teenagers and incarcerated youth grappling with the cataclysmic events that shaped them. Using midi-controllers and an original musical score to accompany her compelling performance, Judith Sloan remixes her own traumatic experiences with those of her students and transforms into a multitude of characters ages 14 to 80.
Written and Performed by Judith Sloan
Direction: Matt Gould
Dramaturgy: Morgan Jenness
Performed solo or with live musicians.

“This deeply felt and richly entertaining show frames its earthy soulfulness in high-concept theater with ease. In a whizzing-by hour Sloan plays an assortment of students of many nationalities, immigrant teenagers and incarcerated youth with the simplest of adjustments–a headscarf, an accent–then fortifies the scene with crowds of recorded characters whose voices she mixes live onstage, operating several MIDI controllers with her fingers and feet. As artfully composed and intelligently framed as it is emotionally gutsy…It is a fully realized piece of inventive theater that packs a punch – and a lesson.” BlogCritics Jon Sobel

Listen to musical pieces from Yo Miss!

Sweeping Statements

What’s Your Status


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Read about the early development of the work in progress in:
NY TIMES

 

 

 

 

Warren Lehrer’s A LIFE IN BOOKS performance

 

In his performance/ readings of A LIFE IN BOOKS: The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley (based on the award-winning illuminated novel), Lehrer presents an overview of his author-protagonist’s life and work with projections of his book cover designs and other biographical materials including animations and short films of Mobley book excerpts.

A LIFE IN BOOKS presentations are funny, entertaining, and thought provoking. They focus on: the creative process (how life events can influence an artist’s work and vice versa); the future of the book, reading and writing; and the lines that separate truth, myth, and fiction. Whenever possible, Warren likes to engage audiences in a Q&A afterwards, and sign books. In some venues, he combines an A LIFE IN BOOKS performance/reading with an overview presentation of his own 30+ year career as writer and artist. Workshops on Visual Literature for writers and artists are also possible.

watch excerpt video reel of Warren Lehrer’s A LIFE IN BOOKS performance

Inquire about a reading / performance CLICK HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Denial of the Fittest: excavations of untold truths and other outbursts

Denial of the Fittest: excavations of untold truths and other outbursts is a one woman show that interweaves family secrets and public lies. Featuring a dozen characters in the person of actress performance artist Judith Sloan, this funny and haunting work traverses a Jewish family’s taboos, nervous breakthroughs, nuclear meltdowns, beauty school and an ever-expanding hole in the ozone layer. It is a chronicle of memory and transformation, based on Judith’s own coming to terms with the deaths of her father and grandmother when she was a young girl. Denial of the Fittest is a madcap look at the effects of whispers, silence and lies within a nuclear family and the nuclear secrets of a global family. Running time: one hour, twenty minutes. Workshop performances originally developed at La Mama ETC. It received critical acclaim at Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has been produced in theaters, universities and conferences throughout the USA and in Canada. From the editors of the anthology From Memory To Transformation; Denial of the Fittest script included: “Judith Sloan is a superb performing artist who makes the personal into the political. She takes on the nuances of personal everyday life experiences and combines them with larger current world issues, plays with them and entices her audiences with biting insight and poignant realities. In her performance piece Denial of the Fittest, her protagonist must deal with the deceptions and secrets of her family and her own inner past before she can find her authentic identity.” Sarah Silberstein Swartz and Margie Wolfe.

Denial of the Fittest
Performed by Judith Sloan
Written by Judith Sloan in collaboration with Warren Lehrer. Directed by Lehrer.

To listen to an excerpt: 

To inquire about a performance CLICK HERE

A tattle tale

Judith Sloan portrays a muckraking southern woman with a sharp ironic wit, riding a roller coaster through an incestuous Mississippi legal system made up of frightening, odd and quirky characters. A Tattle Tale, the story of a teenage runaway, turned deputy sheriff, turned whistleblower, bears witness to coming of age in the face of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Inspired by the true story of Andrea Gibbs, who in 1989, sworn to uphold the law, blew the whistle on her superior officers for the brutal treatment of juvenile offenders in detention centers and prisons in Mississippi. In 1993, her efforts culminated in federal investigations and closings of prisons that were deemed “barbaric and unfit for human habitation.” Running time: one hour, fifteen minutes. Workshop performances originally developed at La Mama ETC. It premiered (1998) at Independent Performance Space at HERE, in New York, and has been produced in theaters, universities and conferences throughout the USA.

A Tattle Tale: Eyewitness in Mississippi
A play conceived and written by
Warren Lehrer and Judith Sloan
Performed by Judith Sloan

To hear the play as performed on Democracy Now Click Here

To hear the documentary by Laura Sydell and Judith Sloan that aired on National Public Radio  Click Here

To inquire about a performance CLICK HERE

The Whole K’Cufin World

In an evening with Judith Sloan, anything can happen. Frustrated with not being able to say the F word on the radio while writing commentaries about Pat Buchanan, Sloan came up with an alternative word that would be FCC safe: K’Cufin, and embarked on a series of weekly radio commentaries with Warren Lehrer after Malachy Macourt asked Sloan to replace him on WBAI’s Talkback in 1994. Judith—who combines “fine acting that gives her performance depth and texture” (Variety), with “exquisite comic timing” (Indianapolis Star), “wickedly skewers stereotypes” (The Village Voice)—transforms into a myriad of characters in a full-length comic performance filled with laughter and tears. Judith’s character-driven monologues reveal the hypocrisy that lies beneath our information-glutted lives. Working in the comedic tradition of Lily Tomlin and Whoopi Goldberg, her characters challenge common assumptions about war and peace, women, generational struggle, gay and heterosexual relationships, and the ties that bind friends and family. Her monologues in this show are peppered with up-to-the-minute commentary on world affairs.

The Whole K’Cufin World and a few more things
Written and performed by Judith Sloan

To inquire about a performance CLICK HERE

The portrait series

This reading/performance features a selection of monologues from the first four books in The Portrait Series, which celebrate the riotous and heartfelt stories and perspectives of American eccentrics. “Lehrer’s animated readings bring to life the sit-down comedians, stoop philosophers, and off-the-cuff poets who are the subjects of his acclaimed series: a retired dockworker, an ordained minister turned street poet and raconteur, a gifted musician struggling with manic depression, and an orphaned citizen of the world and renaissance man.”

The Portrait Series: a quartet of men
Read/performed by Warren Lehrer based on his books of the same name

To inquire about a performance CLICK HERE

Presented around the country and abroad

Judith Sloan’s, Warren Lehrer’s, and EarSay performance works have been presented around the country and abroad, including at:

La Mama Experimental Theatre / The Knitting Factory / The Public Theater, New Works / The Quentin Crisp Theatre, San Diego, CA / Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa, FL / The Phoenix Theatre, Indianapolis / Broadway Theatre, Seattle, WA / Landis Theatre, Riverside, CA / The Theatre Project, Baltimore / Dixon Place / Kimmel Center Theater, New York University / Queens Theater in the Park / The Hopkins Center for the Arts, Dartmouth / The Rockefeller Institute of Public Policy, Dartmouth College / The Bowery Poetry Club / St. Marks Church in the Bowery / Nuyorican Poetry Café / Independent Art at Here / Real Art Ways, Hartford, CT / United Nations, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom / Laguardia Performing Arts Center, LIC, NY / The Jewish Museum, NY / The Brooklyn Arts Exchange, Brooklyn / The Prospect Park Picnic House, Brooklyn, NY / Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT / Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. / Kupferberg Center for the Arts, Queens College / The Painted Bride, Philadelphia / La Peña, Berkeley / Maine Center for the Arts, Orono / Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT / Stonington Opera House, Stonington, ME / Festival of Cultural Exchange, Portland, ME / The Bronfman Center, NYU / The Lower East Side Tenement Museum / National Conference on Criminal Justice Educators, John Jay College / Conference on Feminism, Ethnicity and Diversity, Washington DC / National Women’s Studies Association Conferences / New York As Global Village Conferences, New York Institute of Technology / National Oral History Conferences / National AIGA Conferences / National Book Arts Conferences / Hawaii International Conference on Arts and Humanities / Jewish Women’s Conference, Toronto, Canada / The Market Theatre, Johannesberg, South Africa, The Theatre Workshop, Edinburgh, Scotland / Pargod Theatre, Jerusalem, Israel. . .

Creative Team for IT CAN HAPPEN HERE

Creative Team for It Can Happen Here

Judith Sloan (Playwright/Actor/Music Producer) is an actor, audio artist, radio producer, educator and poet whose work combines humor, pathos and a love of the absurd. For over twenty years, Sloan has been producing and presenting interdisciplinary works in audio and theater, portraying voices often ignored by the mass media. Her work has been produced in theaters and festivals throughout the U.S. and abroad, including: La MaMa E.T.C., The Public Theater, The Theatre Workshop (Scotland), The Smithsonian Institution, the Market Theatre (Johannesburg), among others. Her commentaries, poetry and documentaries have aired on National Public Radio, New York Public Radio, WBEZ Chicago, PRI, BBC, and listener-sponsored stations throughout the U.S. Her solo performances and multi-character plays include: Denial of the Fittest Responding to Chaos, A Tattle Tale: Eyewitness in Mississippi, and Crossing the BLVD: strangers, neighbors, aliens in a new America (based on the critically acclaimed book co-authored with Warren Lehrer, winner of the Brendan Gill Prize) and Yo Miss! Sloan has received numerous awards for her audio mixes, documentaries and work with musicians, integrating storytelling, acting, sampling and multiple languages into symphonic pieces, live performance with actors and musicians, and radio, including a 2013 New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) fellowship in Sound/Music, grants from the New York State Council on the Arts, the Queens Council on the Arts, the Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation, among others. Sloan was commissioned to write the libretto for 1001 Voices: A Symphony for a New America, with music by Frank London and animations by Warren Lehrer, which premiered in April 2012 by the Queens Symphony Orchestra and was produced again in December 2017 at the Kupferberg Center for the Arts. Judith is one of four artists chosen for the Queens Council on the Arts Artist Commissioning Program inaugural year 2017/2018 for projects that tell untold stories and fill gaps in American culture with a new work. Along with Warren Lehrer, Sloan is the co-founder of EarSay, an artist-driven non-profit arts organization dedicated to uncovering and portraying stories of the uncelebrated, with projects that bridge the divide between documentary and expressive forms in books, exhibitions, on stage, in sound and electronic media. She is also a member of the adjunct faculty at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, and a frequent guest performer and lecturer in universities and schools throughout the country. Sloan is a member of the Dramatist Guild and the Network of Ensemble Theatres and the Alliance of Resident Theatres, NY (ARTNY).

Meah Pace (Singer/Actress)  is the renowned singer from dance/punk band “!!!” (Chk Chk Chk) and a featured singer in the Resistance Revival Chorus, a new group spearheaded by the organizers of the Women’s March. She is also a beloved presence on the Brooklyn soul scene through work with Binky Griptite’s The Mellomatics, Rv. Vince Anderson’s Love Choir, and her own band, the MAP legends. Her powerhouse vocals and fiery stage presence have also landed her performances with Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, The Roots, Deborah Cox, The All-American Rejects, and Wild Belle. Meah was formerly captain of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens cheerleading squad, and starred in the popular talent-search reality series “R U the Girl?” (UPN/Fox), hosted by hip-hop pioneers T-Box and Chilli from TLC.

Priya Darshini (Singer/Actress) is a New York-based Indian musician, actress, athlete and activist who has attracted international attention for her unique and multifaceted career. The Indian Express calls her music “soul stirring,” five-time Grammy winner Roy Wooten calls Priya Darshini “an inspiration,” and Tracy Silverman, calls her “one of the most influential artists from India.” Taking her roots from Indian Classical music, Priya’s vast knowledge of a variety of music from all over the world has resulted in a fresh, imaginative and fascinating new sound. She displays an enviable combination of range, technique, unconventional compositions and a prodigious voice that truly sets her apart from other vocalists and has the ability to intrigue and captivate any audience. Priya has shared the stage and collaborated with some of the most influential international and national music leaders of the century, including Pearl Jam, five-time Grammy award-winning drummer and composer Roy “Futureman” Wooten, three-time Grammy award-winning saxophonist Jeff Coffin, four-time Grammy award-winning trumpeter Philip Lassiter, Grammy-nominated Louis Banks, virtuoso ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro, virtuoso hammered dulcimer player Max ZT, and more.

Lisette Santiago (Singer/Actress/Percussionist) is a vocalist, percussionist and composer from Brooklyn, N.Y. At age nine, Lisette was accepted into The Metropolitan Children’s Opera, and later received both classical and jazz vocal training at LaGuardia H.S. of Music and Art, and Columbia University’s joint program with The Juilliard School. Hailing from a family of Puerto Rican musicians, Lisette began to study drum set and hand percussion at a young age. With a strong foundation in Afro-Cuban and Brazilian percussion, Lisette was first recognized as one of a handful of female Batá players in the U.S. She has recorded and shared the stage with artists such as Lizz Wright, Jeremy Pelt, Ron Carter, Bill Cole, Warren Smith, Gerald Veasley, Billy Drummond, Alex Blake, Joseph Daley, Danny Grissett, Mike Moreno, Cyro Baptista, Romero Lubambo, Vernon Reid, etc.

Emily Wexler (Singer/Keyboards) is a Brooklyn-based actor/singer/teaching artist. Aiming to harness the transformative power of the performing arts in education as a tool for community-building, as well as for self-growth, self-knowledge, and individual storytelling. She holds a B.A. in Drama/Vocal Performance from Vassar College, 2014. Currently, Emily is the co-director of EarSay Youth Voices Theater Program, co-leading workshops and rehearsals with new immigrant teens. She has been the co-director of Shakespeare After School Program, the Vocal Director of the Rocak Band Program at Bank Street School and voice teacher at the Bank Street School since 2014. She was the Assistant Director and Stage Manager for Theatre for Social Change in 2015, an ensemble of formerly incarcerated women that creates plays with their own stories and experiences to raise awareness about the prison system and reentry. She was an ESL tutor at the Poughkeepsie High School from 2013-2014, developing and implementing an ESL curriculum tailored to the needs and skills of high school-age students. She is currently in training to be in a co-leadership position with the EarSay Youth Voices at LaGuardia Community College.

Giona Jefferson (Story Consultant) has produced hundreds of hours of non-fiction television and audio series. Her work includes The Wilderness, an audio doc hosted by former President Barack Obama’s speech-writer, Jon Favreau, Talking Dead, Ink Master, and Beat Bobby Flay. Among several projects in development, she is producing her first short film, Constructs, which explores her own complexities growing up amidst the shadows of the confederacy in Richmond, Virginia. Prior to her career in media, Giona was a Legal Assistant at the U.S. Department of Justice, and a community advocate for formerly incarcerated citizens and low-income families in Washington, D.C. She draws upon her versatile experiences to curate stories that explore the gray areas of humanity. Giona holds an M.A. from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study with a concentration in Cultural Politics and Media; and is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Howard University with a B.A. in Communication and Culture. In addition to her academic experience, she earned a Diversity Scholarship at the Upright Citizens Brigade with a focus on improv and sketch writing. Giona spent her childhood in Richmond, Virginia and Washington, D.C., and currently resides in New York City.

Alexandra Aron (Director) recently directed a short film Two Altars and a Cave, starring Lois Smith. Other theatrical work includes directing Naked Old Man by Murray Schisgal (EST/Playroom Theater) and Imaging Madoff by Deb Margolin at Theater J in Washington, DC. Alex conceived and directed A Night in the Old Marketplace, inspired by I. L Peretz’s play, with music by Frank London (Klezmatics), text by Glen Berger, seen on stages in São Paulo, Copenhagen, Warsaw, Toronto, Milan, MASS MoCA, Berkeley CA, and Summerscape/Bard College. Other directing credits include: Three Seconds in the Key by Deb Margolin (New Georges), Karaoke at the Suicide Shack by Rob Urbinati (Queens Theater in the Park), Eloise and Ray by Stephanie Fleishmann, (New Georges — Village Voice Season Highlight), Great Men of Science No.’s 21 & 22 by Glen Berger (Access Theater & Curican Theater), Out From Under It by Susan Bernfield (Vital Theater). Alex directed  No Second Troy (Karen Hartman) in Jerusalem and The Mole’s Dance (Mohammad Kamel Jabr) in Arabic in Ramallah, Palestine. Alex has directed dozens of readings and workshops at Ensemble Studio Theater, Primary Stages, Women’s Project, Actors Studio, HERE, Rattlestick Theater, La Mama, P.S. 122, and New Georges Theater; developing new work by Glen Berger, Deb Margolin, Maggie Bofill, Karen Hartman, Carmen 
Rivera, Murray Schisgal, Peggy Stafford, Rob Urbanati, and others. Alex has also worked in New York City as an arts educator and administrator, including for Open Classroom Collaborative; overseeing and directing group performances and teaching methods of collaborative play building. She is an affiliated artist and Kitchen Cabinet member of New Georges Theater, and New Shoe; an alumna of the Lincoln Center Directing Lab and Women’s Project Directors Forum. Alex was a Fulbright scholar in Buenos Aires, and is a graduate of Wesleyan University.

Joshua Valleau (Musical Consultant/Instrumentalist/Sound Engineer/Music Producer) is a Grammy-nominated composer, producer and engineer based in Brooklyn, NY. He has worked with Kanye West, John Legend, Snoop Dogg, Common, DMC (of Run-DMC), Estelle, Corinne Bailey Rae, Cee-Lo Green, Siedah Garrett, Imani Coppola, Res, Alice Smith and many others. He also composed music for major brands, like BBC First, Uber, Johnny Walker, Jose Cuervo, and Uniqlo. His compositions and productions have been featured on television, in movies, on the radio, and on the web. He owns and operates The Glass Wall, a private boutique recording studio located in Brooklyn, NY. Joshua was a consultant and engineer on Judith Sloan’s Yo Miss!

For more information about the ACP,

visit: www.queenscouncilarts.org/art-commissioning/

Sloan’s ACP project, It Can Happen Here, is made possible by generous support from the Scherman Foundation, the New York State Regional Economic Development Council and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, EarSay and Jamaica Performing Arts Center.

 

For more information about Judith Sloan’s work and EarSay projects visit www.earsay.org