When I moved to NYC more than half of my luggage consisted of used up notebooks filled with cursive squiggles of supremely twisted plots. Believe me living in that dreamy provocative city didn’t stop me from attaining more notebooks. Thicker ones. The whole experience of being restless about telling more stories to the world was a highly disorienting experience – a painful cauldron of words in which I suffered for a while until one day I realized where the problem really was. I was alone in it!!! Even though I was surrounded by interesting and interested artists, I couldn’t get anything done. Why? Because we weren’t speaking the same “idea language”. Simply, we weren’t on the same page. “How do I find the right people with the same page? Or rather, how do I speak the same language they do so they get me? Is something wrong with me? Should I give up already?” I kept asking the universe. You’d say in a town of nine plus million people it should be a piece of cake to meet anyone, but let me tell you – it was a hell of a hunt. At some point I almost lost hope and was about to burn all of my notebooks, how by stroke of magic THE RIGHT CONNECTION happened. On July fourth 2013 I miraculously ran into Justin Morck who after a long worldly conversation vaguely mentioned his love for theater and film over a bag of popcorn. When I was about to leave he mentioned on top that he was a co-founder of the group of folks he had weekly theater meetings with. “We create original work in our little circle” he said. A sudden spark of rare enthusiasm mixed with the fourth of July fireworks in Justin’s eye told me to approach the group then and there. And that’s how the journey started.
In the old scruffy basement stuffed with dusty burlesque theater gowns and masks, East Village, I met The Orphans Theatre Company now known as Orphans Productions LLC. I entered a guild of artists, a humble group of creators who didn’t share the same background, though shared the same artistic language, passion and desire to dream big. Victoria Bennett, founder of the company had a musical theater background and hunger to create constantly, the brilliant comedians Tim Rerucha (originally a bird trainer!!) and Ashley Hearon shined with their incredible observation skills and unique vision, the dreamy hardworking theater actor/ stage manager/carpenter Philip Calabro along with our mystical deep thinkers/experimental performers Nahuel Gorosito and Stephanie McElroy added more light and extra sparks to every project we worked on. Justin Morck turned out to be a multi-faceted actor and director who always displayed “thinking outside of the box” within the group and never rejected the most bizarre ideas we have been coming up with for four years now.
The group’s original motto went like this: “The Orphans are a closely knitted set of professionally energized creatives intent on one another’s growth”. The most efficient way to describe the creative relationship between us has been this - “If you fall, I’ll catch you”. We’ve all fallen and been caught consistently since the day I met the group. With our combined imagination, dedication and passion for art we’ve been able to create over ten original theater and film projects in just four years!
After closing my second original play “The Legion” in NYC, I moved to LA with the same old notebooks and a much firmer grasp on how to continue the artistic journey I started in NYC. The Orphans branched out into East and West. Solomon Shiv, one of the original founders of The Orphans in NYC, a unique writer, performer and filmmaker with a truly rare talent, who had come to LA first, welcomed the East Coast-comers immediately. Then Kristina Pilskaia, a classical Russian theatre-trained performer I met 10 years ago in Moscow Art Theater School joined us on the West Coast and more adventures continued to occur.
The endlessly cinematic environment and fictional elements of LA’s society quickly turned our thoughts from “Black out, curtain falls,” to “Camera speeds, and action!”. The Orphans West grew into a film crew in the heart of Downtown LA. The industry hit us immediately and we invented our own film-making machine that has gained even more steam than the theatrical realm we used to be part of in NYC.
The first film the Orphans created in LA was a gentle transition from theatrical to cinematic. I wrote “Black, White, Read”, an allegorical story shot as a black, white and red silent film in which the pages of the newspaper come to life and go through a regular day in the mass media realm. Directed by Justin Morck, shot by Justin Arbabi and designed by the highly unique production designer Christopher Yager, the film offers an endless amount of aesthetic enchantment through its imagery and messages. The page characters of the fictional newspaper were played by Solomon Shiv, Justin Morck, Michael Kelly, Emily Kincaid, Kristina Pilskaia, W Matt Stewart and Kristina Birk. The film’s characters are depicted as marionettes connected to the giant controlling mechanical hand. They drink poisonous “Pitch tea” at the publishing house table and fight for their right to be on the Front Page. The pages find their way out of the Mass Media slavery when Obituary announces David Bowie’s death. The dramatic event affects every character of the story and helps them find their way to the artistic freedom.
Shortly after we finished filming “Black, White, Read” we agreed that our new mission statement has turned into this:"The Orphans are an Ensemble of Professionally Energized Misfit Filmmakers Intent on Reflecting this World through a Cracked Mirror of Aesthetic Enchantment, Questions, and Stories.”
Inspired by the new movie magic we created on LA’s film land, we are currently on our second fantasy film “Zenith”, a contemporary fairy tale about overcoming one’s mental struggle through an unusual spiritual experience and cosmic guidance. Written by Kristina Birk, directed by Christopher Yager, cinematography by Justin Arbabi, starring W Matt Stewart, Kristina Birk, Maggie Cleary and Solomon Shiv. The names keep reoccurring, don’t they?
After going through lots of brainstorms, rehearsals, workshops, adventures, trips, breakfasts and lunches, agreements, disagreements, fights, hugs, heart-to-hearts, castings and collaborations, we have found our own functional artistic idea mechanism! The core of the existence of our company is very simple –we love creating art with one another. And we just can’t stop doing it. Know what I am talking about?