Monday, January 30, 2017

SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW: With Writer, Actor, Director, and More! - Gregory G. Allen

Arthur Wooten:  Greg, when we first met I knew you as a novelist. Can you offer our readers a little insight into your body of work. Maybe the elevator pitch/logline for each book?

Greg Allen:  Oh goodness! You're putting me on the spot. It needs to be a long elevator ride. Hi, I'm Gregory Allen & I've written 3 novels . . .


. . . that  deal with family (those we're born into and those we make), topics of sexuality, . . . 


. . . the foster care system, mental illness, love, and self discovery.
I also have three children's books that advocate on autism awareness as well as following your dream...even if you're a squirrel who wants to perform.  Here are all my books:

Arthur:  So, I’ve discovered that you wear many hats. You’re a theatre manager and I believe you’re also a playwright and a composer? And you’ve recently starred in the musical production of Big Fish and prior to that, Next To Normal.
Greg in Next To Normal
Greg: It's often hard to say what you do when you enjoy doing so many things. You can't fit it on a business card! I've been in the entertainment industry for over 25 years in one capacity or another. I've written several musicals, directed them, acted in them and I love each of those in a different way. No matter what – I'm a story teller. Either telling someone else's story or one I've created myself. I think that's why I loved playing Edward Bloom in Big Fish the Musical last summer...he was an incredible storyteller. 

Arthur:  You’ve written and directed the award winning short film Mother.

Greg: That was such a rewarding experience. Every single element from writing it, the two day shoot, post production – all of it came together in such a way that I'm afraid to try another. And then to hit the film festival circuit and win some!

Arthur:  AND, as you mentioned, you’ve also segued into being a children’s book author.

Greg: My background started in children's theater. My mother and several family members were also teachers. I wrote my first children's musicals when I was a teen. I got my equity card doing children's theater. I toured as a teenage mutant ninja turtle. So wanting children to be involved in the arts has been important to me. I love traveling to schools and discussing writing with them after reading my books. It brings me such joy to hear from children that are already creating their own stories in elementary school.

Arthur:  How do you juggle so many genres and jobs? Do you finish one project to completion and then move to the next, keeping them compartmentalized? Or can you work on many things at the same time?

Greg: I often start several different projects, but then when one takes over – it really takes over and moves to the front. I still have sequels to my first two novels that I never finished. The past year I worked on adapting some of my novels into screenplays at the same time I was writing Irving the Theater Nut!   

Arthur:  In regard to your children’s books, where do you find your inspiration? 

Greg:  My Chicken Boy series is based on my godson with autism. I wanted to create a superhero with autism from the 1st person POV (point-of-view). I had no idea people would respond to it as they did and I would begin traveling to schools every year talking about it.

The second book came along when teachers and school nurses asked me to address sensory overload with children with autism. So I did. 

For Irving, when I started my current job managing a theater in a historic theater in Westchester County NY, the 1st week I was there a squirrel got into the theater. I completely forgot that I went home and wrote an outline. Last year, I found it and created the book about the squirrel who couldn't stay out of the building because he wants so badly to perform with the children rehearsing inside.

Arthur:  I know that with Chicken Boy you’ve delved into the school circuit, educating the kids and entertaining them with your work. Are you doing the same with Irving?

Greg:  I've already done several bookstores with Irving and have a school lined up this spring that specifically wants me to talk about Irving. I'd love to go to some summer theater camps and talk about Irving to those kids. It's for those that dare to be different, follow their dreams, and follow their own beat.

Arthur:  And what advice would you give other children’s book authors who want to take the challenge and visit schools with their projects? I bet your acting skills come in handy.

Greg: You definitely need to stay sharp and be ready to take whatever is thrown your way. You never know what questions will be asked. Plus yes, it helps to be somewhat entertaining so I can utilize some acting skills for that. If I start to sense I need to shift gears, I tell my story about touring as a Ninja Turtle and that pulls them right back in!

Arthur:  Do you see a sequel to Irving in the future? Or what about a children’s musical adaptation of Irving?

Greg:  At this point I want to see how the first book does, but I absolutely could see a sequel for Irving. I've already got to witness a group of children acting it out after I read them the story. That was so rewarding to me! I'd love to see it adapted for the stage. Who knows, that may end up being another project of mine. (I haven't written music in many, many years – so perhaps it could be a collaboration with someone – any takers?) 
Arthur : Greg, you never cease to amaze and inspire me.

To find out more about Greg visit his website at

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Free Museums in NYC - Museum of Modern Art and Robert (the restaurant)

Many know this, but for those who don't, the Museum of Modern Art - MOMA located at 11 West 53rd Street in Manhattan is free on Friday nights from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM. But for New Yorkers, if you apply for your NYCidcard this museum, as well as many others in town - is free all the time for one year after you receive your id card. Plus you get discounts on Broadway shows, sporting events and even movies!

Enjoying a quick visit to some of the current exhibits as well as their permanent collection with my friend Bud, it was great to see the works of Jackson Pollock . . .

 . . . Henri Matisse . . . 

. . . as well as some lesser known but brilliant artists. We stumbled upon Florine Stettheimer.

Family Portrait, II by Florine Stettheimer

Whimsical and almost childlike, her paintings are very exciting to see up close. There are hidden clues as to the idiosyncrasies of each character she paints. Her works reminded use of the Russian painter and costume designer, Leon Bakst. She was also a poet, and set and costume designer.
Stettheimer costume design
From 1915 to 1935, Florine, with the help of her sisters, ran a literary and artists salon. Gertrude Stein was welcomed as well as modernist artists which included Georgia O'Keeffe. It must have been an exciting time to be an artist then!

DIZZY NOTE: With the hoards of people and the design of the museum itself, my vestibular symptoms as well as vertigo were starting to throw me off.

So off we went to Robert. Located at 2 Columbus Circle on the top floor of the Museum of Arts and Design building.

This restaurant has a fantastic view of the circle and Central Park beyond. If planning on having dinner, be clear to specify that you'd like a table up against the window. 

If just having cocktails there is a lounge just a few rows back behind the diners, but you'll still have a good view.

We just opted for drinks but I'm eager to go back and have dinner, as well as spend some time in the Museum of Arts and Design.


Friday, November 18, 2016

Wrap up of One Glorious Week in Florence, Italy, Part - 3

Watercolor of me with the Ponte Vecchio in the background

Back in the States, I just watched the film A Room With A View, Again. And what is amazing is that they could get as much of the master shots in as possible. For example: like the Piazza Della Signoria. Somehow they were able to keep at bay the tourists and maintain the period look of the film. And they kept their wide shots tight enough not to show any of the restaurants or caffes that surround the square.

(NOTE: We totally loved our Airbnb but if hotels are more your style, check out the #1 rated hotel in Florence on Tripadvisor, the Hotel David.)

 Yours truly in front of the Palazza Vecchio, the Fountain of Neptune and the Loggia dei Lanzi

That being said, the movie transported me right back to Florence. Butterflies in my stomach (in a good way.) But stepping beyond the usual points of attraction and exploring the city with our firenzecard (entrance to 72 museums for 72 Euros within 72 hours) we literally bumped into museum showings and cultural events that we didn't even know about. Palazzo Strozzi clebrating the controversial Chinese artist Ai WeiWei we chanced upon the beautiful Museo Novecento - very modern!

Ai Weiwei

The very modern Nove Cento Museum was extremely eclectic . . .


. . . but outside of  the Palazzo Stozzi was the Piazza Santa Maria Novella. So peaceful, so open and at the far end is the Santa Maria Novella Church.

Piazza Santa Maria Novella
Santa Maria Novella in the background
It was such a calming escape from the touristy chaos of Florence's historic center. But inside this gorgeous church hangs probably one of the most priceless art treasures - Giotto's Crucifix done in the 1320s.

It's just hanging there for you to admire. It's truly remarkable!

Later in the day, my travel partner Bud and I met up with our Venetian friend, Francesca Marucci.

She was so generous to spend time with us. Francesca walked us over to the Il Mercato Centrale, a very classy but casual giant food court with all types of food and wine bars. They even have cooking classes. There's live music and artisan shops...kind of a cross betgween NYC's Chelsea Market combined with Barcelona's La Boquería.

No matter what city you visit, if you can connect with a local, you will discover an entirely new perspective to where ever you are visiting.

Thank you Francesca . . .

. . . and thank you Florence!

Love this "twig" giraffe sitting on the banks of the Arno.
Bud and I had discussed how low the level of the Arno was and then less than a week after we left, the river flooded.

Be safe Florence - hope to see you again, soon!