Spotlight On: Cheryl E. Kemeny, Part of Planet Connections Theatre Festivity



The Clyde Fitch Report is supporting the actors, playwrights, directors and associated artists appearing in the first annual Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, a new “eco-friendly” festival designed to promote social and cultural awareness. At least 26 not-for-profit organizations with benefit from the proceeds raised by this 19-day event.

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Today’s featured artist is writer Cheryl E. Kemeny; the musical is Cleopatra — A Life Unparalleled.

Produced by Crystal Theatre, Inc. and L2 Entertainment, Inc. benefiting Women for Women International
Book, Music and Lyrics by Cheryl E. Kemeny
Directed by Barbara Labbadia and Alexandrea Kemeny
Music Direction by Cheryl E. Kemeny
Choreography by Kari Ann Sweeney

Cheryl E. Kemeny’s Cleopatra — A Life Unparalleled chronicles her life and times through music ranging from blues to rock to ballad. In a time of “kill or be killed,” Cleopatra competed for dominance in a man’s world and used what she had (money, looks and charm) to get what she wanted!

All performances are at:
440 Theaters
440 Lafayette Street, 3rd Floor
(between Astor Place and E. 4th St.)

Performances remaining:
June 20 11:00 am
June 20 4:30 pm
June 27 2:00 pm

Each artist answers two questions:

Since the Festivity aims to promote social and cultural awareness in our community, can you talk about how your show will bring people together? Is the subject matter of the play — or is it more style or message or language?
So many people today bemoan the debasement of culture and politics, but gossip and spin have always existed in Western culture. Although the Internet and television have speeded up people’s access to information, “big lies” are present today, just as they were in the past. Cleopatra was much maligned by the Romans before and after her death. The Alexandrians were the worst perpetrators of vicious gossip and insurrection and forced Cleopatra to react to their fickle moods. In a story in which the three protagonists are either murdered or driven to suicide, one might ask, Why go to be depressed? Ah, but don’t we all die eventually? The question becomes, Who is remembered and why? Cleopatra, Marc Antony and Julius Caesar are names the whole world is familiar with — even 2,000 years after their deaths. An audience is drawn into the reasons they struggled for power — their passions for each other and the motivations behind their ambitions. We are left to wonder: How will we be remembered?

What role do politics play in your work as a theater artist? What role should it play?
Life is politics. As a playwright, I strive to show all sides of a story from each character’s point of view and let the audience decide for themselves whom they agree with. In a musical there are overarching themes that reveal themselves in songs. Generally, straight plays don’t have the same opportunity for such overt repetition. It requires the lyricist to distill repeatable messages and connecting motivations. In the case of Cleopatra — A Life Unparalleled, examples would be songs like “Killed or Be Killed” (a song delivering Cleo’s father’s political philosophy) or “Walk the Fine Line” (a song reflecting on the necessity of shifting political alliances) and “A Life Unparalleled” (a song elucidating Marc Antony’s personal philosophy). The role of a musical play is to entertain. If it also leads people to think about subjects that may seem distant and make connections to their own lives, that only adds to the value of the experience.