Boxing Girls, a new Arabic-language drama from the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) premiered earlier this year and is the screenwriting debut of New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Afnan Alqasimi. Additionally, the program features actress and NYFA alum Dana Al Salem.
Alqasimi hails from the United Arab Emirates and attended NYFA’s 4-week Filmmaking workshop in April 2012. Alqasimi previously worked on the animation short Homecoming. Al Salem is originally from Bahrain and enrolled in NYFA’s 4-week Filmmaking workshop at our Los Angeles campus in August 2015. Al Salem previously appeared in The Sleeping Tree and the short film Canary.
Boxing Girls is gaining buzz for its focus on female characters and stars several well-known Arabic performers, including Fatima Al Hosani, Ali Al Sherif, and Shaifan Al Otaibi. The program was directed by Saudi filmmaker Samir Aref and was produced by O3 Productions and twofour54 Abu Dhabi.
“This drama production is particularly unique, because it puts a real emphasis on the region’s young talent — both in front of and behind the camera,” says Maryam Eid AlMheiri, CEO of Media Zone Authority, Abu Dhabi (MZA) and twofour54.
The program was shot over two months across various locations in Abu Dhabi, before completing production in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Additional cast members include Mila Zahrani, Abdul Aziz Skeirin, Alaa Shaker, Anoud Al Saoud, Abeer Sander, Noura Ezzer, Mohammed Meshaal, Rakan, Zuhair Haider, and Zara Al Balushi.
Boxing Girls debuted in February of this year.
The New York Film Academy congratulates workshop alumni Afnan Alqasimi and Dana Al Salem on the production and success of Boxing Girls!
Melissa Sullivan was so shy growing up, she would stare at the ceiling to avoid looking at people. Eventually, realizing “ceilings weren’t going to get me anywhere in life,” she decided to make a change—and committed to talking to one stranger a day. That, plus an affinity for the stage, got Sullivan out of her shell and into a variety of performing arts: theatre, television, film, and music.
Sullivan, who teaches acting and is the musical director of the NYFA Glee Club, took some time to discuss her career as a multi-hyphenate and her upcoming album.
New York Film Academy (NYFA): How/when did you know you wanted to pursue the performing arts?
Melissa Sullivan (MS): In Naha, Okinawa, my mother put me in a ballet class. I remember a performance being back stage. I loved it. The smell of the stage, the curtains, the anticipation of the performance. I wasn’t the best dancer but the experience was informative and I knew I was at home in the theatre.
NYFA: You’ve performed in a variety of fields—theater, television, film, and music—and have also directed. As an artist, how do you see yourself and why?
MS: When I first moved to Los Angeles things were very different than they are now. I heard “Are you an actor, or a singer? You need to pick one.” Now it is much more fluid. Performers have more freedom to explore, perhaps because of technology and the access to it. The connection of artists globally through technology is amazing. I studied at California Institute of the Arts where all disciplines lived side by side. You would hear music in the hallway, walk by a piece of art, see dancers in the distance, artists in the gallery discussing someone’s work, and watch filmmakers editing in the graffitied sub-level. It was such a great environment. After I graduated, I never gave that spirit up.
NYFA: Speaking of, you have a long list of credits in various mediums. Of all the work you’ve done, what are you most proud of and why?
MS: Recording my album of original music and playing Honey in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at the Actors Studio, directed by Barbara Bain.
NYFA: Additionally, are there any others that stick out in your mind of being particularly memorable and why?
MS: Filming an episode of Shameless. I had been called into the casting office for Shameless for a few years and was happy to finally land a part. I’m really happy with the work that I did on that show. The experience was fast paced and yet enjoyable. It is a great production from the actors, directors, AD’s, scripts, grips and on.
NYFA: As a multi-hyphenate, what is the most challenging aspect about wearing different hats, project to project? How do you take on the challenge?
MS: Working on a few things at once suits my mind. I am very busy, so I write music while I walk my dogs or drive to work. I wrote some of my favorite songs in my car. I guess to be a multi-hyphenate you have to organize your time well and I have gotten better at this. Teaching has inspired me to take more risks. When you talk with students about their growth and how to facilitate it, you in turn have to follow suit with your own work.
NYFA: You’re the musical director of the NYFA Glee Club and have said that “music can transform people.” Can you elaborate on that?
MS: I have seen students petrified to sing in front of one person, but at the end of the semester they are performing in front of an audience of 90 people. Singing brings people confidence. It is a raw emotional expression. With the Glee Club I try to foster leadership and collaboration. We have student conductors and section leaders. I am blown away by their talent.
NYFA: Speaking of music, you have an album coming out in December. How would you describe your music?
MS: I am a trained jazz singer so my songs come from a jazz foundation, but it is an amalgam of genres: jazz, blues, and pop. I am almost finished! It’s been quite a journey.
NYFA: What’s your favorite thing about teaching at NYFA?
MS: I admire my colleagues. I appreciate the support that the acting and filmmaking teachers give to one another. I also love the fact that the students are from all over the world. I have so much respect for foreign students who open their hearts and act in a second language. I also really like working with the veterans. I appreciate the time they served for our country and I find most of them are highly disciplined at NYFA. They are brave and want to dive into the craft.
Several students attending New York Film Academy (NYFA) in Florence, Italy came together to shoot a stunning new video about the experience of learning film and acting in the breathtakingly beautiful city.
All of the Fall 2018 Florence students were invited to participate in the shooting of a new video and photo shoot for NYFA’s Florence programs. By working as crew members, and acting in the piece, the students were getting first-hand experience doing the very things they came to Florence to learn.
The students went through auditions and casting, as well as interviews, to mimic the process it takes to score coveted roles in a highly competitive industry. While some of the students were assigned smaller roles than they may have tried out for, it was nonetheless a lesson in humility and acceptance that is needed to continue a career in the visual arts.
The leading actors cast in the video were students David Puskas (1-semester Acting for Film) and Faranak Moradi (1-semester Filmmaking). Additionally, Filmmaking students Joren Pelsma, Pietro Barba, Scott Carlson worked as camera assistants and second unit director of photography. Several other NYFA Florence students participated in the shoot as supporting actors, extras, make up artists, and other roles.
Everyone involved showed a deep level of commitment toward their craft and a passion for learning as much as possible. The shoot started at dawn—the Magic Hour—so the students were up very early and ready to work. To mimic a professional set, the students all sat and ate breakfast together before the first shot.
Students weren’t just involved in the production of the video, but the post-production as well. They were given the opportunity to watch an early cut of the video and give their feedback and notes for the next re-edit.
Projects such as this newest video are not uncommon at NYFA Florence, and students often have a chance to work on projects outside of their own that are deeply tied to the Renaissance city. Thanks to a well-established relationship between NYFA and the municipal government of Florence, NYFA students and staff are often invited to shoot professional videos in collaboration with the city of Florence itself, including its orchestral Strings City event. This, in turn, also gives the students professional credits to add to their resumes before they’ve even finished the program!
You can find more information on the programs offered at NYFA Florence HERE.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Daniela Rodriguez Martinez has kept busy since earning her MFA in Cinematography. With over seven years of experience based in Los Angeles, Martinez has worked on live television, music videos, interviews, documentaries, short films, feature films, and television series, and has picked up multiple awards and nominations along the way.
Martinez is originally from Bogota, Colombia and enrolled in NYFA’s MFA in Cinematography program in Fall 2016. While studying at our Los Angeles campus, Martinez was able to work hands-on with advanced professional filmmaking gear used by the industry under the tutelage of Tony Richmond, BSC, ASC—director of photography of films including The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Sandlot, Legally Blonde, and Don’t Look Now.
“My time at the New York Film Academy gave me the concepts, knowledge, and network to start working in the industry,” Martinez tells NYFA. “I am very grateful to have been able to study there.”
Martinez’s films have been shown both domestically and around the world, including Nigeria. She has had the opportunity to work with several high profile actors including Sharon Stone, Marta Kristen, and Simon Miller. Her awards climb into the double digits, including honors from the European Cinematography Awards, Berlin Flash Film Festival, Miami Independent Film Festival, and Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, among many others. Martinez most recently won Best Action Film at the 2019 Festigious International Film Festival in Los Angeles.
Martinez’s success is all the more notable considering the enormous gender gap in cinematography. Currently, only three percent of directors of photography in Hollywood are women. It wasn’t until last year that a woman was even nominated at the Academy Awards for Cinematography; this year, no women were recognized.
“I have found that as a woman I must prove to be two or three times more qualified than a man to be considered as a director of photography on a project,” Martinez says. “Nonetheless, so far it has been a quite an adventure and … I hope to remain a director of photography here in Los Angeles for many years and continue to grow in the industry and contributing to this change that is happening.”
Currently, Martinez is working on multiple projects, including a television series about vegan food, a web series, and several short films.
The New York Film Academy congratulates MFA alum Daniela Rodriguez Martinez on her numerous awards and festival appearances and looks forward to following her career in cinematography as it continues to progress!
The Duke Youth Media Camp kicked off its collaboration with New York Film Academy (NYFA) on January 26 at our Los Angeles campus. The Duke Youth Media Camp is sponsored by the Duke Media Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by Bill Duke in 2010.
Bill Duke is a veteran actor and director, known for his roles in several high-profile films and television series, including Predator, X-Men: The Last Stand, Mandy, Black Lightning, and American Gigolo. He’ll also be in the upcoming Steven Soderbergh film, High Flying Bird. At the 1991 Cannes Film Festival, Duke was nominated for the Palme d’Or for his film A Rage in Harlem. Additionally, Duke is a Filmmaking Instructor for New York Film Academy.
The Duke Youth Media Camp seeks to train and empower teens through hands-on instruction from New York Film Academy and Duke Media Foundation staff. The partnership between the institutions began in 2016. By teaching students the tools and skills needed in a constantly evolving media environment, the Duke Media Foundation and NYFA aim to help inner-city youth become more competitive with those who’ve typically had greater access to the education and equipment needed in a film, television, and digital media landscape.
“Duke Media Foundation is grateful to New York Film Academy of Burbank for partnering with us and enabling us to present the Duke Youth Media Camp program for at-risk youth in Southern California,” says Linda Broadous-Miles, Executive Director, Duke Media Foundation. “As a result, we are creating career paths in filmmaking and digital technology for young people who would otherwise never have this opportunity.”
Many of the alumni of the Camp have expressed a deep appreciation for the experience. One such alum, JaNarie Rhambo, says: “The Duke Youth Media Camp not only helped me mature in my career, but in my finances and personal life. My drive is amazing, my focus is sharp, and my leadership skills are toned. This was an experience I will NEVER forget because the staff who ran the program give their all to help the next generation mark their spot on the map! Mr. Duke and his program were a major catalyst in my entertainment career and I volunteer with them because of the great things they have done for me.”
Parents of students attending the Camp are also grateful for the education their children receive. “My son and I are super excited about the Duke Youth Media Camp being held at the New York Film Academy in Burbank,” says Sharon Walker, a parent of one of the campers. “We both look forward to spending every Saturday at the camp. We appreciate all that Duke Youth Media Camp does to give our kids these great opportunities. Thank you so much Mr. Bill Duke and the New York Film Academy.”
This year’s Spring camp is now well underway after its January start. Mason Richards, the Chair of NYFA Community Outreach, hosted the Orientation on January 26. After the event, he told NYFA, “We’re excited to welcome another cohort of young filmmaking students who represent a cross-section of the LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District).”
Describing the event, Richards says, “The room [was] filled with lots of excitement as a cohort of 16 new students and their families shared their thoughts and aspirations about starting the program and gaining the opportunity to study the craft of filmmaking at our academy. Mr. Bill Duke shared his experiences as a director, actor, filmmaker, and writer—which was truly inspiring to everyone present, including myself. We’re looking forward seeing the projects that the students will write, edit and produce at NYFA-Los Angeles and shoot on the Universal Studios Backlot this Spring!”
New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Fatima Al Taei stars in Justice, the procedural drama set in Abu Dhabi that is now available on Netflix. The 18-part legal series originally premiered on OSN HD in 2017 and is now available for streaming with subtitles in 20 different languages.
Al Taei first attended NYFA in 2009 in Abu Dhabi. Since then, she has gained steady work as an actress, including a lead role in When the Autumn Blooms, Saudi Arabia’s first longform drama series.
Justice (Qalb Al Adala) was created by Oscar nominee Walter Parkes (He Named Me Malala) and Emmy award-winning producer William Finkelstein (LA Law) and was filmed and produced in Abu Dhabi by Image Nation and Beelink Productions. The story follows a passionate lawyer, Farah, who rebels against her father’s firm and sets out on her own to become a defense attorney.
The series uses actual cases from the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department as a basis for their stories, and was directed by Ahmed Khalid. In a recent Harper’s Bazaar Arabia piece, Al Taei’s character was called a “strong, ambitious” lead”—an important milestone for female representation on television in the Middle East.
New York Film Academy spoke with alum Fatima Al Taei about her experiences at NYFA and filming her culturally important lead role in Justice:
New York Film Academy (NYFA): What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on Justice?
Fatima Al Taei: When I was learning at NYFA, they made sure not to tie me into a specific technique—they taught us different ways to get into the character and it helped me in different situations during the shoot, being flexible and open yet focused and specific.
Also, they taught me how to deal with other actors and directors. NYFA was a lab for me, with great helpful tutors!
NYFA: Can you speak a little about your experience playing a strong, ambitious Emirati woman? Do you see yourself as a role model for other Emirati women?
Fatima Al Taei: It was a unique experience. We had the opportunity to shoot inside actual courtrooms, because all the cases are based on true events.
Playing a strong Emirati woman is the same to me as playing any “strong woman,” an inspiration for all women to follow what they believe in no matter what kind of pressure they may be under. So it’s not only for Emirati women, but for all women.
NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?
Fatima Al Taei: NYFA will teach you so many things. You will be surrounded by people who have the same passion, which is good networking as a start.
But NYFA will not do the job you have to do—you have to secure your dream and make it happen. If it takes months or years, studying at NYFA won’t be a waste unless you give up. Many students disappeared after graduation because they didn’t have enough patience and didn’t want to get out of their comfort zone.
The industry is not much in interested in your specific acting techniques (these are your tools.) If the industry is interested in “You” they will work with you—your attitude and passion is important, so MAKE THEM WANT TO WORK WITH YOU.
The New York Film Academy congratulates actress and alum Fatima Al Taei on her success and encourages everyone to check out her legal drama Justice on Netflix!
The New York Film Academy congratulates this year’s nominees for the Academy Award!
Here is a full list of the 2019 Academy Award nominees, with WINNERS being update live:
Best Picture Black Panther BlacKkKlansman Bohemian Rhapsody The Favourite Green Book – WINNER Roma A Star Is Born Vice
Directing BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee Cold War, Paweł Pawlikowski The Favourite, Yorgos Lanthimos Roma, Alfonso Cuarón – WINNER Vice, Adam McKay
Original Screenplay The Favourite, Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara First Reformed, Paul Schrader Green Book, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, and Peter Farrelly – WINNER Roma, Alfonso Cuarón Vice, Adam McKay
Adapted Screenplay The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Joel Coen & Ethan Coen BlacKKKlansman, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, and Spike Lee – WINNER Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins A Star Is Born, Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, and Will Fetters
Actor in a Leading Role Christian Bale, Vice Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody – WINNER Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
Actress in a Leading Role Yalitza Aparicio, Roma Glenn Close, The Wife Olivia Colman, The Favourite – WINNER Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Actress in a Supporting Role Amy Adams, Vice Marina de Tavira, Roma Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk – WINNER Emma Stone, The Favourite Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
Actor in a Supporting Role Mahershala Ali, Green Book – WINNER Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me? Sam Rockwell, Vice
Best Documentary Feature Free Solo – WINNER Hale County This Morning, This Evening Minding the Gap Of Fathers and Sons RBG
Documentary Short Black Sheep End Game Lifeboat A Night at the Garden Period. End of Sentence. – WINNER
Foreign Language Film Capernaum, Lebanon Cold War, Poland Never Look Away, Germany Roma, Mexico – WINNER Shoplifters, Japan
Animated Feature Incredibles 2 Isle of Dogs Mirai Ralph Breaks the Internet Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – WINNER
Animated Short Film Animal Behavior Bao – WINNER Late Afternoon One Small Step Weekends
Live Action Short Detainment Fauve Marguerite Mother Skin – WINNER
Original Score Black Panther – WINNER BlacKkKlansman If Beale Street Could Talk Isle of Dogs Mary Poppins Returns
Original Song “All the Stars,” Black Panther “I’ll Fight,” RBG “The Place Where Lost Things Go,” Mary Poppins Returns “Shallow,” A Star Is Born – WINNER “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings,” The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Cinematography Cold War, Lukasz Zal The Favourite, Robbie Ryan Never Look Away, Caleb Deschanel Roma, Alfonso Cuarón – WINNER A Star Is Born, Matthew Libatique
Film Editing BlacKkKlansman Bohemian Rhapsody – WINNER The Favourite Green Book Vice
Production Design Black Panther – WINNER The Favourite First Man Mary Poppins Returns Roma
Costume Design The Ballad of Buster Scruggs Black Panther – WINNER The Favourite Mary Poppins Returns Mary Queen of Scots
Sound Mixing Black Panther Bohemian Rhapsody – WINNER First Man Roma A Star Is Born
Sound Editing Black Panther Bohemian Rhapsody – WINNER First Man A Quiet Place Roma
Makeup and Hairstyle Border Mary Queen of Scots Vice – WINNER
Visual Effects Avengers: Infinity War Christopher Robin First Man – WINNER Ready Player One Solo: A Star Wars Story
After graduating, Novak worked as an admissions specialist at NYFA’s New York campus, helping fellow aspiring artists from Brazil enroll at the Academy. She’s acted in commercials, short films, and most recently, the feature film River Runs Red.
River Runs Red is a thriller/drama written and directed by Wes Miller and starring Taye Diggs, John Cusack, George Lopez, Luke Hemsworth, and RJ Mitte. Miller previously directed Prayer Never Fails and Atone, and is completing production of Hell on the Border, starring Ron Perlman and Frank Grillo.
New York Film Academy recently spoke with Mey Novak about River Runs Red, her passion for acting, and what she learned at NYFA that she still applies to her work to this day:
New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us what drew you to acting? What brought you to the New York Film Academy?
Mey Novak (MN): Acting has always been inside me. I was in all the school plays, performing for my family during Christmastime, I always watched movies… it was kind of my happy place growing up. I always knew I wanted to be an actress. I remember being around seven years old watching movies and saying I wanted to do that one day.
When I got my theatre degree in Brazil I knew it was time to go to the US to study my craft further, and I saw that the New York Film Academy was auditioning in Brazil and that it was my time.
NYFA: Is there anything about your Brazilian background that you apply to acting in the United States?
MN: Yes, I was very versatile because of my Brazilian background. We are a very culturally rich country, so I realized I could play all sorts of foreign roles the industry requires all the time. My first commercial in the US I played a Russian girl. I hadn’t even thought about it before, then I noticed there was a whole thing for foreign accents and types in the US.
NYFA: Can you tell us about River Runs Red?
MN:River Runs Red tells the story of an African American judge whose son is murdered by the police. It’s a very strong and currently relevant plot—it’s necessary because it talks about the racism that still exists nowadays in the US, in Brazil, and the whole world.
NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on River Runs Red,or your work in general?
MN: So many things!! NYFA was a stepping stone in my career!
First, I have learned with the best teachers—I’ve found mentors for life that even after school was over I had supporting me. I’ve also learned how to be a professional—it was more than just going to class, learn a method, and go home—I learned about the real world of acting and the industry. And I had the chance to practice while I was in school. This is very important. I was in touch with the filmmaking students, I was auditioning, shooting with them, also with the photography students, etc.
So when my first big job arrived, I was ready. It was very important. For my acting specifically, I’ve learned my favorite method, the “Meisner technique” at NYFA, it’s necessary to me on set.
NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?
MN: I’m currently in Brazil shooting a show in Portuguese called Os 3 Irmaos (The 3 Brothers). It’s my first time acting in Portuguese after such a long time working in the US. After this I have plans to work in Europe for a while.
NYFA: What’s your dream role?
MN: I love action movies, I’m obsessed with them!!! I practice martial arts and have studied Stage Combat since my NYFA days, and my dream is definitely a strong female role in an action movie with amazing choreography, like in John Wick.
NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?
MN: I’d say enjoy your time there and listen to every single thing your teacher has to say—they really know about the industry. Be the first one to arrive and the last one to leave, it really pays off!
NYFA: Anything I missed you’d like to speak on?
MN: I want to say to all the aspiring actors to follow their dreams! Sounds cliché but there will be doubts, there will be moments you just want to give up, but you just need that one person to believe in you and that one “Yes” that changes everything. Be grateful and embrace every step of the journey!
The New York Film Academy thanks actress and NYFA alum Mey Novak for taking the time to answer our questions and wishes her the best of luck as her career continues to grow!
On Monday, February 11, New York Film Academy Australia (NYFAA) was delighted to welcome AFI Award-winning actor Simon Lyndon, and prominent Australian casting director Cinzia Coassin to our Australian campus.
Simon is also a sought-after theatre actor and director.
Cinzia Coassin started her career as a theatre/film and television actor, and has since expanded her reach in the entertainment industry. Located on Queensland’s Gold Coast, she is one of the preeminent Casting Directors NYFAA students will see
Cinzia is currently Casting Director on Australian feature films Unsound, a feature film supporting disability and diversity, sci-fi film Occupation, and Darkman. A seasoned Casting Associate and industry professional, Cinzia has been involved in the casting process for The Moon and the Sun, The Dressmaker, and Camp for the NBC Network, along with CBS pilot season 2014, The Code and Hiding for the ABC Network. She was also involved with the Australian search for the hit HBO series Game of Thrones, Hercules, The Shannara Chronicles,The Badlands and BIG VALLEY -The BFG. Additional casting project involvement includes The Strip and Blood Brothers for the 9 Network Australia, Spartacus, Legend of the Seeker, and K9 (children series), 33 Postcards, The King is Dead, Satellite Boy and 4 seasons of ABC US pilot season.
A creator of work, Cinzia is creative producer and collaborator on Holy Moselle, a feature film written by Michelle Coassin and has produced a short film festival – Ten to One – giving platform to writers/producers/directors to showcase their stories/films.
NYFA students were curious about Simon’s experience on Chopper, and Simon shared personal anecdotes; his experience of sleeping in a cell where a stabbing took place, and stories of Chopper showing off his shooting skills by having a friend hold a target.
He was generous in sharing his thoughts on acting techniques – method and physical techniques.
Students were treated to a viewing of Simon’s impressive showreel before Simon and Cinzia took questions from our acting students.
Of particular interest was Cinzia and Simon’s initiatives in creating work: Simon in theatre and Cinzia in producing a short film festival. In answer to student questions – what to do after graduating, Simon encouraged students to “make your own work! If you’re not getting cast, make a short film and cast yourself!”.
As Chair of Acting NYFAA, it is wonderful to see our ethos of Learning by Doing, so enthusiastically endorsed by our industry leaders. We all expressed our gratitude and appreciation to Simon and Cinzia, before taking advantage of photo opportunities. Some students were even treated to a moment of individual consultation.
Thank you Simon and Cinzia, we hope to welcome you back again soon!
On January 18, Everygirl opened at the Kallio School in Helsinki, Finland. Directed by Annemari Untamala, the play was written by actor, director, and Acting for Film instructor at the New York Film Academy (NYFA), Peter Allen Stone. The play concerns a 17-year-old girl who finds out she is dead at the beginning of the story.
Everygirl is based on a famous morality play from the 15th century, updated by Stone with a transgender character and LGBTIQA+ themes. The original medieval play, Everyman, was used by the church to encourage people to be good, or they may end up going to hell. In 2013, after watching 16 high school plays in two days while at a theatre competition, Stone began devising a more modern version.
“I thought it would be interesting to set it in a modern high school, play with current archetypes, and make the themes spiritually universal,” says Stone. “I always intended that play be performed by younger actors and for a younger audience that would hopefully receive the core message to be kind to one another.”
The next weekend, Stone outlined his vision for the play. After three years of talking about it with colleagues and running it through his mind, he finally sat down and wrote a first draft while teaching at NYFA’s Florence location. Later that year while back in New York, Stone workshopped the play with some NYFA students.
By the time a final draft was written, Everygirl had also included themes like minimalism and consumerism. One character, Things, appears through Facetime. Other characters include Death, Best Friend, Father, Fear, Beauty, Strength, and Knowledge.
However, it is the play’s connection to youth and the place of kindness in the modern world that serves as the story’s backbone. Explains Stone, “There is a transgender character named Kindnessin the play that represents the kind acts that we can do to one another everyday of our lives regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation if we choose to lead with love.” Additionally, there is a character named Boyfriend/Girlfriend, a fluid role that can be played by a performer of any gender.
These themes are close to Stone’s heart. In 2012, Unnatural Acts, co-written by Stone, was nominated for a Drama Desk Award. Produced by Classic Stage Company, the play is based on true events revolving Harvard deans trying to expel the school’s homosexual population in 1920. “I spent over six years creating that play about the injustices done to the LGBTQ community with an exceptional group of artists,” says Stone. “We fought then, and I will continue to fight for equal rights for the rest of my life.”
Everygirl premieres January 18, where the Deputy Mayor of Education for the City of Helsinki will be in attendance. Information about the play can be found on Helsinki’s Arts and Culture website.
The New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA instructor Peter Allen Stone for continuing to apply his talents and passion to praiseworthy projects like Everygirl both home and abroad!