Archive for the tag 'theater'

Photo from a previous BBT performance of Nutcracker.

Photo from a previous BBT performance of The Nutcracker.

by Jennifer Szulman

The 27-year-old Brighton Ballet Theater/School of Russian American Ballet (BBT) will be one of only three schools in Brooklyn this winter to perform a version of the classic ballet The Nutcracker, and theirs will offer a distinct telling featuring inspiration from the neighborhood’s various cultures.

Since 1995, BBT has remained the only dance school in Brooklyn to perform The Nutcracker. This year, however, they will be one of three local schools to perform the ballet, and will feature more than 40 young dancers alongside seasoned professionals. Cheographed by Edouard Kouchnarev, the 55-minute-long production draws nuanced inspiration from a Russian Nutcracker-inspired cartoon, and a heartwarming tale of diversity aimed at a young audience.

In this particular version, a young girl similar to Disney’s Cinderella becomes a princess. It is good to simplify an otherwise intricate plot for little children, BBT’s owner said, because they can understand what is happening. Most of the parts are danced by kids and instead of ending in The Land of Sweets, this version finishes in the Land of Cultures, where all the cultures flourish together – not unlike their adopted Southern Brooklyn community.

Founded in 1987, creating the prestigious school took perseverance, drive and the childhood dream of a young dancer.

As an immigrant from the Soviet Union, Irina Roizin aspired to open her own dance school. These dreams came to life when she saw a newspaper advertisement about a small ballet school open on Avenue M. Lessons were held in a quaint living room where three students were trained by a former student of Russian ballet teacher Agrippina Vaganova. At the time, the school had no owner and was funded by the parents of the three students. The teacher and Roizin eventually worked together to create a program for young children. In time, Roizin moved the school to Brighton Beach.

Roizin taught for nearly three decades, growing it to accommodate approximately 400 children per year.

“Our goal is to serve the community,” Roizin said. “Over 27 years, about 15 of our students became professional dancers. We do achieve our goal by bringing up professional dancers but the main thing is to give all children an opportunity to dance professional scale ballet. Even if they’re not going to become dancers, they will take something from this that they can bring to a different profession.”

For those who wish to become masters of the craft, ballet helps dancers develop a skill set used to shape not only themselves physically, but also emotionally and socially.

“This is disciplined, something that gives children an opportunity to be closer to arts, to change their personality, ideas, what music they’ll listen to,” Roizin said. “It’s not too many kids that understand classical music, can be disciplined about themselves, about what they eat. We realize that most of the kids that take ballet for a lot of years do better in school. It’s better attention, social skills and self-esteem. It helps them in a lot of ways.”

Professional dancers are invited to the school for young students to learn from, allowing the children to see what can come from their dedication and hard work.

The non-profit BBT continues to grow its services, recently opening up a pilot program for children with autism, and offers scholarships to students with need.

“We never turn a child away,” Roizon said.

For parents thinking this is just a place to drop their kids off for a play date, though, Roizon points out that she aims to train the best of the best.

“When kids come and parents tell the child, ‘Okay, go have fun!’ I always say, no, you can have fun at the park,” Roizin said. “You don’t have to pay money to have fun. They come here to work and learn something. Maybe this is a little bit of a different approach. The parents who understand stay with us and understand that whatever we do, we do to help parents raise intelligent, educated children. The kids need to understand that it’s fun when they dance and wear costumes and perform, but it’s also hard work.”

BBT will perform The Nutcracker on Saturday, December 21 at 6:30 p.m. The performance will be held at the Leon M. Goldstein Performing Arts Center at Kingsborough Community College, 2001 Oriental Boulevard. For tickets, call (718) 769-9161.

Source: JSmith Photo/Flickr

The following is from our friends at the Shorefront YM-YWHA (3300 Coney Island Avenue). On a side note, I had the opportunity to meet with the three playwrights, as well as the backers of this initiative, yesterday. Three truly interesting people working on an awesome project that will bring stories of Brighton Beach to a global audience. Check it out.

Elyse Dodgson (Head of International Dept. at the Royal Court Theatre, London), The Public Theater (NY), and Actors Touring Company (UK) present: a free practical workshop/discussion hosted by three of the most important contemporary playwrights in Europe today.

Natasha Vorozhbit (Ukraine), Pavel Pryazhko (Belarus) and Mikhail Durnenkov (Russia) will invite the audience to take a journey into the process of playwriting and the world of contemporary drama. They will be joined by Elyse Dodgson (London), the Director of Actors Touring Company Ramin Gray (UK), and translator Sasha Dugdale (London). The session will run in English as well as in Russian.  

Background Information:  In the 1960s, Dodgson’s mother filmed a documentary about life in Coney Island, a document now lost. That missing film and her own family’s emigration from Eastern Europe to Brighton Beach inspired Dodgson to commission playwrights to spend two weeks in Brighton Beach and to turn their findings into plays. The project has come to life thanks to the support received from Public Theater (NY), Actors Touring Company (UK) and the Genesis Fund.

Natasha Vorozhbit (Ukraine) Ms. Vorozhbit studied at the Moscow Literary Institute.  Her plays, Demons and Galka Motalko were staged in Moscow and Latvia. She also writes extensively for television including the script for series School in Russia. She has also written two plays for the Royal Court Theatre in London.  Her play THE GRAIN STORE was produced at the ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY in 2009.

Pavel Pryazhko (Belarus) Mr. Pryazhko has won several major Russian language theatre awards and his plays have been produced throughout Europe. His play LIFE IS GRAND was invited to the Golden Mask Festival in Moscow in 2010. His play HARVEST was presented as a staged reading in London in the Royal Court Theatre’s International Season in 2011.

Mikhail Durnenkov (Russia) Mr. Durnenkov is the author of over 15 plays including THE LAST DAY OF SUMMER which was produced at the Moscow Arts Theatre. His plays have been translated and produced throughout Europe. THE DRUNKS was produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2009. He has also participated in workshops with the Royal Court Theatre in London.

When: Sunday, June 3, at 5:00 p.m.
Where: Shorefront YM-YWHA (3300 Coney Island Avenue)

Source: National Library Archives via Flickr


Playwright Daniel John Kelley is not a native of Southern Brooklyn. Instead, he spent most of his life in Cobble Hill. Yet, when it came to writing his next play, Wall, Ball, Summer and Fall (A Coney Island Adventure), it was Coney Island he drew the story from. Specifically, the fast-paced, local pasttime of handball. He set his play on the famous Seaside handball courts off of the boardwalk and let the diverse athletes that are drawn to a sport played with nothing but a wall and a rubber blue ball be his inspiration.

Daniel John Kelley will host a reading of his play on May 19 at 7 p.m. at Hunter College’s Frederick Loewe Theater, at 68th Street between Park Avenue and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. He hopes to have a reading somewhere closer to the setting of his play as well, but has yet to find the right venue.

Keep reading: I was interested in exploring the idea of Brooklyn as a world unto itself, because for many people, it is.

"K sozhaleniyu, ya poka ne govoryu po russki!" ("Unfortunately, I can not yet speak Russian!") Source:

Remember our pre-summertime write-up about the play, Russian Transport, set “in the Russian-Jewish enclave of Sheepshead Bay,” and written by Sheepshead Bay-native playwright Erika Sheffer?

Production dates, cast and additional creative team members had not then been announced, but now we are informed that the actress, writer, political activist and all-around supah-star Janeane Garofalo will play the role of a Russian mother of two living in the Bay.

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The Handsome Little Devils’ Squirm Burpee Circus is just one of the performances on the 2011/12 lineup.

Kingsborough Community College hosts one of the finest – and most under-appreciated – cultural venues in Southern Brooklyn, with a top-notch theater as its crown jewel. The On Stage at Kingsborough program, which produces seasonal schedules for the theater, is announcing their lineup of exclusive cabaret, dance, theatre and family performances covering the next year. Featuring stars like Lorna Loft, Billy Stritch and America’s Got Talent finalists Recycled Percussion, the diverse slate is revving up for one of the school’s biggest years of affordable, local entertainment yet.

“We approach this season with tremendous anticipation as we welcome leading artists in dance, theatre, music and family entertainment,” said Anna Becker, the executive director of On Stage at Kingsborough. “We are honored that world-class performers such as Lorna Luft, Billy Stritch and Paul Taylor’s Taylor 2 among many, many others have agreed to make On Stage at Kingsborough their only Brooklyn engagement this season.  We are confident that our audiences will welcome them with great enthusiasm.”

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Erika Sheffer with fellow playwrights Thomas Bradshaw and David Rabe (Source:

Off-Broadway theater company, The New Group, announced this weekend that, among this season’s theatrical offerings will be the production of Russian Transport, a play written by Brooklyn-born playwright Erika Sheffer, set in Sheepshead Bay:

Set in the Russian-Jewish enclave of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, Russian Transport, according to The New Group, is a “deeply personal, emotionally charged tale of an immigrant couple, their two assimilated teenagers and the fierce and fiery upheaval they experience when sexy, mysterious Uncle Boris from the old country comes to stay with them for his shot at the American dream.”

While production dates, cast and additional creative team members have not yet been announced, you can check out The New Group’s website for the latest ticket information.


Photo by Corey K.'s unnamed friend

Will Smith is again saving a slice of Southern Brooklyn history… sort of.

You may have thought we saw the last of Zig Zag Records when they closed down in December, after 35 years in business as a Southern Brooklyn cultural staple. But no. The store is getting ready for its close up, and will soon be immortalized on the silver screen in Men in Black III.

Find out the story and see more photos, including of the original signage.

Red Scare, Photo: Barry Yanowitz

I hear from many of my fellow Brooklynites, usually the Wisconsin-born hipster of the north, that Southern Brooklyn is a cultural wasteland. “There’s no dance. There’s no theater. There’s no music. There’s no food worth a damn.”

Frankly, they’re wrong. We may not have much, but what we have is pretty damn “choice.”

Last week, my wife and I were treated to a performance by Sheepshead Bay’s own Covenant Ballet Theater at Kingsborough Community College’s Leon M. Goldstein Performing Art Center of three original pieces. That’s right. Original art conceived, realized and performed – right here in Southern Brooklyn.

See more photos and read our coverage of Covenant’s performance.


Flamenco — the word itself conjures vibrant images of curvaceous Spanish women in red dresses dancing with castanets, the legendary Maria Callas performing Bizet’s “Habanera” from “Carmen,” or Gene Kelly dancing a romantic, high-flying number to Flamenco music in a bid to win the love of Kathryn Grayson in “Anchors Aweigh.”

Kingsborough Community College brings those facets of Flamenco to life, and more, as the Performing Arts Center (KPAC) presents the world-renowned Soledad Barrio’s Noche Flamenca in an exclusive Brooklyn engagement, April 29, at 8:00 p.m., as part of KPAC’s season of world-class dance, music, theatre, and family shows.

Hailed by critics as the most authentic flamenco touring company in the field today, Artistic Director Martin Santangelo brings to the stage “the essence, purity, and integrity of one of the world’s most complex and mysterious art forms.”

Dance, song, and music — all interrelated aspects of the Flamenco art form — will be given equal weight in the presentations.

Tickets for Soledad Barrio’s Noche Flamenca are $30 and are on sale now at KPAC (2001 Oriental Boulevard). Box office hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

For more, call (718) 368-5596 or go to

Who could resist seeing a musical extravaganza with songs such as “Don’t Touch My Junk,” “The Sarah Palin Ballad,” and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz making a guest-star appearance to sing his “Bike Lane Cantata.”

Resist no more, since New York City’s “only political cabaret series” — Symphony Space’s “Thalia Follies: A Political Cabaret” — is coming to the Kingsborough Performing Arts Center (KPAC – 2001 Oriental Boulevard), April 16 at 8 p.m. Public radio host and Symphony Space Founding Artistic Director Isaiah Sheffer will lead a colorful cast of Broadway and cabaret entertainers, including Ivy Austin, David Buskin, Nora York, The Chalks, and more, in “Divided We Stumble,” a special edition of The Follies.

The series, which features songs and comedy sketches on issues New Yorkers hold dear, was created by Sheffer with producer Martin Sage, and will surely turn the day’s issues and events into insight and laughter… something we could all use a little more of these days.

Tickets for the “Thalia Follies: A Political Cabaret” are $25 and are on sale now at KPAC, 2001 Oriental Boulevard. Box office hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

For more, call (718) 368-5596 or go to


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