Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Working Theater presents The Best of TheaterWorks!: Stories from the 99%, at The Dorothy Strelsin Theatre at the Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex, June 14 – 17

Working Theater is pleased to present the off-Broadway production of The Best of TheaterWorks!: Stories from the 99%. The production will feature six of the best short plays to come out of Working Theater’s TheaterWorks! program. The 10-year old program teaches working men and women (bus drivers, doormen, 911 operators, DMV workers etc.) to write and perform their own short plays about their experiences at work. The classes end with a stage reading style performance where the students are teamed with professional actors and directors. This production however will be fully realized by a professional cast and crew.

Directed by Tamilla Woodard the cast features: Maria Helan, Andrés Munar, Tony Naumovski, Jens Rassmussen, Gabriel Sloyer, Jeanine Serralles and Nikki E. Walker.

The playwrights are: Gail Baskerville (clerical worker – Department of Education), Mirsada Damms (Building Service Worker), Bernadette Elstein (911 Operator), Michael O’Hara (Building Maintenance Worker), Julian Pimiento (Doorman) and Eric Sposito (former laborer in NY Daily News print shop).

Set & Props Design: Deb O, Costume Design: Emily DeAngelis, Lighting Design: Christopher Weston, Sound Design: Jeremy J. Lee, Production Stage Manager: Amy Francis Schott , Assistant Stage Manager: Nicholas Betito.

Now in its 27th season, Working Theater is New York’s only professional Off-Broadway theatre company dedicated to producing plays for and about the working men and women of New York. Past productions include Lisa Ramirez’s play about nannies, EXIT CUCKOO directed by Colman Domingo, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s KING OF SHADOWS, Stefanie Zadravec’s HONEY BROWN EYES; Israel Horovitz’s HENRY LUMPER ; and Rob Ackerman’s CALL ME WALDO, TABLETOP, and DISCONNECT.

The play will run from June 14th – June 17th, 2012: Thursday – Saturday at 7, Saturday at 2 and Sunday at 3.

Tickets are $15 at or by calling 212.868.4444. For more information call 212-244-3300, email or visit

TAMILLA WOODARD (Director) is a Director, Actor and Adapter residing in New York City. She is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama, an alumnus of The Lincoln Center Directors Lab, and a founding member of The Internationalists, a collective of directors from around the world creating an interactive global theatrical community.

Most recent work includes Co-Creator of the site specific performance Hotel Project, that had its American premiere at Washington Jefferson Hotel and the Summit Grand Hotel in January 2012; Valiant by Lanna Joffrey at InterAct Theatre; Nightlands by Sylvan Oswald at HERE and the development and direction of Saviana Stanescu’s Polanski Polanski (starring Grant Neale and produced by Nomad Theatricals) at PS122/SoloNOVA festival in New York City, Teatrul Odeon in Bucharest, The Sibiu International Theatre Festival, TIFF International Festival in Cluj and HERE in NYC,. In addition, she developed and directed Overcoming Speechlessness based on the text by Alice Walker with adapter Dana Balicki for Culture Project’s Women Center Stage.

She has directed at HERE, The Actors Theatre of Louisville, PS122, DR 2, The Culture Project, Urban Stages, Dance Theatre Workshop, The Kitchen Theatre, Manhattan Class Company and for festivals around the US and internationally. Her work has won best of festival awards, audience favorite awards, Top 10 Shows to See citations, New York Innovative Theatre nominations and critical acclaim in The New York Times, Variety and others. New Dramatists honored her with The Charles Bowden Award and The League of Professional Theatre Women with the Josephine Abady Award.

Tamilla has developed and directed the solo shows of more than a dozen performers including Queen GodIs, Carlos Andrés Gomez (multiple festival, multiple award winning MAN UP), Micia Mosley and Sherry Boone. She also serves as an adjunct professor teaching solo performance at City College’s Center for Worker Education. More about Tamilla at

The Writers:

GAIL BASKERVILLE (Playwright) was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1960 to a mother who became a teacher at the age of 56 and a father who was an artist who died at the early age of 40. Her father’s family was from Virginia, NC her mother’s family God-fearing members of the Augusta County Christian Church in Augusta, GA. At the age of nine, Gail became completely enthralled with reading short stories by such authors as Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Zora Neal Hurston, Harriet Beecher Stowe and James Baldwin. She would memorize the stories she read and entertain family and friends with her recitals. She enjoyed entertaining them so much, she began writing her own stories.

At age forty she joined Bethel Emanuel Temple where her pastor recognized her story skills and assigned her to create a message in a minute drama ministry. She wrote and performed inspirational skits every other Sunday. In 2006 she had a desire to learn script writing. She joined the Theater Works class held at her Local 372 Union Headquarters in New York City. She completed three scripts “Lottery Ticket”, “Hypochondriac” and “Call Me Billie” that were performed at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center and written in the Local 372 Union paper.

Gail’s stories tend to have some connection to her own past. The story of “Call Me Billie” was based on her twin sister who died ten years ago. Her sister loved Billie Holliday and enjoyed dressing up like her. Gail lives and works in NYC with her husband and three children. She continues to write and perform skits at churches, community centers and at nursing homes.

MIRSADA DAMMS (Playwright) is currently working in the office maintenance field, but is aspiring to become a resident building manager. Native of Ulquin, Montenegro, she has been making a living here in the “Big Apple” for the last 20 years. She is also the author of the comedy “One Man’s Garbage…” and “Que Leche”. Other works include “Remembering Our Town” and “A Cheesy Situation”. Mirsada’s play that is being presented here is called “Locker Room Talk”, a humorous interactive dialogue between three ladies in their workplace.

BERNADETTE ELSTEIN (Playwright) lives in Brooklyn and has been a member of DC37since 2001. She has written and performed a monologue for Working Theatre previously when she worked as a School Crossing

Guard. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in social work. She graduated College of New Rochelle in 2008 from the DC 37 campus, where she learned that she enjoys writing. Bernadette enjoys helping others and making people laugh. She has worked in the Brooklyn Public Library in an after-school program helping children learn to appreciate what reading books can do for them. She hopes to become a librarian one day. Currently she works as a Police Communications Technician, helping others in need. She is married and has a daughter who is a senior in college.

MICHAEL D. O’HARA (Playwright) is a native New Yorker, a graduate of CUNY/Hunter College and a member of the Dramatist Guild. He’s been a photographer, graphic designer, editor and publisher of newsstand magazines. He has three full-length screenplays currently “making the rounds.” He is an eBay Power Seller, a hypnotist in training, and is working on a one-man show with a plane-crash survivor who was one of the first pro-wrestling stars of the emerging cable-TV era of the early 1980s. Besides “The Luxury Life”, TheaterWorks has presented readings of four of his other short one-act plays – “On Her Sixteenth”, “M.O.C.”, “Sunset Cowboy” and “To Boldly Go”. “To Boldly Go” will have stage performances by the Theater Group of Lafayette, Colorado this August. Special thanks to our playwriting guru Joe Roland; 32BJ SEIU President Michael P. Fishman for his continued support of this project; Mark Plesent and The Working Theater, the amazing actors, and the wonderful audience. Thank you all very much.

JULIAN PIMIENTO (Playwright) is a proud member of Local 32BJ SEIU. His short stories GRACE and KELLY AND FREDDY have been published in two separate collections, KINDRED SPIRITS and KINDRED SPIRITS ll. Julian wrote, produced and acted in an award winning short film adaptation of GRACE that screened at film festivals worldwide. He also wrote and directed the short films RECURRENCE and MANNY for campus movie fest ’09 and ’10 at New York University. Julian was also recognized for his one act plays, FALLEN LEAVES, KELLY AND FREDDY, IRONCLAD, HIGH RISE and ALL CITY by the Working Theater in New York City, as well as an acting and directing workshop with Olympia Dukakis at New York University.

ERIC SPOSITO (Playwright) is a married father of three boys who was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He started his career at 17 years old caring for horses at race tracks in the New York area. At 22 years old Sposito began working in the Newspaper Industry laboring on printing presses for the New York Daily News at their production facility located on Atlantic Ave. and Pacific Street in downtown Brooklyn. Soon thereafter Sposito transferred to the New York Times and was employed in printing plants for The Times located in Carlsdadt and Edison, New Jersey, as well as College Point, Queens, for almost 30 years. During his tenure at the Times, he held various elected offices for the Union that represents the workers in his craft, including Vice-President and Shop Steward. In 2004 Sposito started on the road to a new career by attending college at the Cornell ILR off campus program for union leaders in Manhattan and earned a bachelor’s degree in Union Leadership and Administration from the National Labor College in 2007. From 2007 until 2011 Sposito studied law at Rutgers School of Law in Newark New Jersey, where the authored, and had published, three legal papers. He is currently admitted to practice law in the States of New York and New Jersey and is working as a Field Attorney for the National Labor Relations Board. This coming fall he will begin teaching Labor and Employment Law at the Murphy Institute/CUNY program in New York City.

Other Articles on Working Theater:
Working Theater presents The Poetry of Philip Levine with Jeffrey Eugenides, André De Shields, Gene Gillette and Lisa Ramirez on May 7
Photos: Working Theater’s Production of Rob Ackerman’s CALL ME WALDO at Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex An Emerson-Loving Electrician Takes the Stage in Call Me Waldo
1199SEIU President George Gresham to receive Labor Leadership Award at 2011 Working Theater Annual Awards Ceremony
André De Shields & Alison Fraser Star in Reading of Michael Aman’s The Unbleached American at Theater Row on 5/9
Working Theater Presents Staged Reading of Chay Yew’s Visible Cities at The Studio Theatre on Theatre Row
Photos:The Working Theater’s Off-Broadway production of HONEY BROWN EYES by Stefanie Zadravec at The Clurman
Lia Chang Photo Slideshows of Productions in the Working Theater’s 25th Anniversary Season
Multimedia: Photos of Ed Cardona, Jr.’s American Jornalero at the Dorothy Strelsin Theatre
Photos of André De Shields in Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory: From Douglass to Deliverance
Achieving the American Dream, Professional Charmer Andre De Shields Sees Theater is a Way to Life
André De Shields Celebrates Black History Month Starring in The Working Theater’s Production of Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory at The Abingdon in February 2010
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

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Lia Chang. Photo by Brianne Michelle Photography

Lia Chang. Photo by Brianne Michelle Photography

Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. In 2010, the Library of Congress established The Lia Chang APA Theater Portfolio in the Asian Pacific American Performing Arts Collection housed in the Library of Congress Asian Division’s Asian Pacific American Islander Collection.

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