Dori Levit is a talented actress who has recently turned her attention to producing and curating plays—especially those which are suitable for one-act ensembles. Starting in February of 2019, Dori teamed up with The Tank in NYC to produce an evening of one-act plays which debuted, as a one-night-only showcase, on Valentine’s Day. As one could imagine, the common theme was love. Fast forward to May and Dori presented a second ensemble of one-act Plays—this one focused on mental illness in all its stigma, anguish, and difficulties—titled “You Are Not Alone.”

One-act plays, charity, and experiences

Dori donated proceeds of "You Are Not Alone" to a charitable organization called “Active Minds.” From over one-hundred submissions, Dori selected seven one-act plays that truly stood out and moved audiences in their short, approximately ten-minute, run-times.

  • “Seized” was the first play, written by Remington Moses. Firmly rooted in science fiction, the play was set in a mental institution of the future and focused on the relationship between a dedicated yet vulnerable nurse (Judith Feingold) and her blind, sheltered, and easily overly stimulated patient (Andre Vauthey).
  • Next was the start of “Let’s Be Roommates” by Maggie Wilson such ran continuously as the set was being switched from one segment to the next. Starring Jaelyn Gavin and Angela Manfredonia, this funny and sweet segment was a nice touch.
  • “The Jail at Philippi” by Joshua Crone focuses on a herbal doctor who is accused by the police of giving her patients illegal substances, even though the substance are all natural and have proven healing qualities. This timely play featured a stellar cast of Barbara Kinter, Valerie Donaldson, Kenneth Weinstein, and Damien Palace who all played their roles with realistic conviction.
  • “Chasing the Dragon” by Joe Starzyk is set in an alleyway and focuses on an overdosing veteran (Jacob Saxton) and an angel that comes to his side (Sydney Wilson). This piece is moving and not easy to forget.
  • “First Night Out In Months” is a funny yet tragic piece by Eric Walkuski About a father (Howard Margulies) with althimzers and his dedicated daughter (Alexandra Sabina) who are doing their best to cope with his deteriorating condition. As much a commentary on family ties and love, this moving piece is one of the strongest in the show.
  • “Music of The Mind” by Allie Costa also centers on the love between families, in this case, a brother (Alexander Chilton) and a troubled sister (Emily DeSotelle). Set in 1900, this segment holds the distinction of being the only one not placed firmly in the present.
  • “Helper” by Rachael Carnes is the final play and, by far, the best. The piece features a sole actor (Jason Sofge) who plays the part of a dog who is devoted to its depressed, suicidal owner. Funny, sad, suspenseful and heartfelt, this piece is made particularly captivating by Jason’s stellar acting as a talking, loyal, lovable pet.

Dori Levit clearly carefully selected each of these plays after receiving dozens of submissions.

She chose wisely and the result was a well put together show that made for a very enjoyable evening at the theater. The purpose of “You Are Not Alone” was to spread the message that, no matter what you are going through, it is okay to talk to others and reach out for help as need be.

Dori is just emerging from an incredibly difficult time of her life.

2018 was marred in strife and sadness when her father passed away in her home state of Texas. Now back in New York and healing, Dori dedicated “You Are Not Alone” in her father’s memory.

Dori recently discussed her experiences putting this show together via an exclusive interview.

Theater, directing, producing, and shows

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get into acting and what most appeals to you about the theater in particular?

Dori Levit (DL): What most appeals to me about the theatre is its ability to bring together a wide range of people from all different walks of life, for a single moment in time. It’s also just fascinating to watch grown adults play around, like when we were children.

MM: How did you get started with directing and producing plays?

DL: I directed my first play in my senior year of high school—"Proof” by David Auburn. We had an amazing teacher named Mr. Paul Shaffer, and in his theatre curriculum, it was mandatory that seniors direct their own show.

He guided us through this process all the way from dissecting the script, to working with actors, to all of the technical elements. I didn’t realize how lucky we were to have this opportunity; I’m so thankful for it now.

MM: What inspired you to start curating one-act play ensembles, and how did you partner with The Tank?

DL: I did my first festival of plays with the Tank last February. I love reading new works and giving playwrights the opportunities that they deserve. The Tank is an extremely giving resource for artists in the city and new works. We are so fortunate to have their support in a place where there are literally millions of talented people, and not enough outlets to display their work at an affordable price.

MM: How did you settle on the mental health theme of “You Are Not Alone” and can you tell us a little bit more about the charity that you are donating proceeds to?

DL: Mental health is a subject very close to my family and I, and is something that needs to be shared and more openly supported and discussed. Active Minds is an organization devoted to mental health advocacy and suicide prevention in young adults. It encourages students to ask for help when they need to and to speak more openly about their experiences and difficulties. Like the theme of this festival, it’s vital for everyone to know that whatever they are going through, they are not alone.

MM: How did you call for submissions, and why did you select these specific pieces?

DL: I reached out to many talented playwrights in the city that I know, and posted to a lot of Facebook playwrighting groups. My friend and talented playwright Steve Hayet also helped spread my message, and because of his help and the social media presence, I received about 100 scripts from playwrights all over the world. There were so many beautiful scripts submitted—all of which inspired me and helped me to continue to flesh out the festival. I tried to choose scripts that were vastly different from each other but all had a common theme of not only mental illness but feeling alone.

MM: Where did you find the incredible actors, and how did you decide on the sequencing?

DL: Sydney Wilson, Emily DeSotelle, Judith Feingold, Angela Manfredonia, and Alexandra Sabina are all wonderful actresses I’ve had the pleasure of studying with at the John DeSotelle Studio in their Meisner based conservatory.

Jason Sofge is also classically Meisner trained and has extensive experience acting and singing opera around the world. Jacob Saxton is an incredible actor I met at Actors Connection, an awesome networking organization here in NYC. Jaelyn Gavin, Alex Chilton, Valerie Donaldson, Barbara Kinter, Kenneth Weinstein, and Damien Palace are friends/co-workers of mine who are also extraordinarily talented and dedicated to their crafts. And André Vauthey and Howard Margulies are two stunning actors I met through Backstage! I am so thankful to have worked with each of these beautiful and intelligent artists. As for sequencing, we started with the future and then went to the past; everything in between was decided in terms of the ride we wanted to take the audience on.

Actually, the scene from the past was the second to last play. I just really wanted to end with “Helper” because it was the piece closest to my heart, and the one that I felt truly drove home our message. We were also lucky enough to have the brilliant Jaelyn Gavin in the transition scenes to help make the production a cohesive whole.

MM: What made you decide to dedicate this show to your late father?

DL: My dad always supported me in my passion for theater. He would have loved this festival and everything it stood for.

MM: What other theatrical shows or other events are you planning to appear in or host in 2019?

DL: I’ll be in Eve Lederman’s beautiful new play “To Life” directed by Frank Calo at Theatre For The New City this September/October.

I’m beyond excited to work with such a powerful script and artistic team. I am also waiting on a potential new play project with Joshua Crone, who I worked with last year on his play “Squatters.” He’s an incredibly intelligent and unique new playwright/director/actor here in the city.

MM: What are the best experiences that your life as a theater professional has afforded you, and would you like to mention or discuss anything else?

DL: The selfless help and support that went into this festival by all of the artists involved and outside organizations/friends is how the production was managed to be put up. I don’t know how to put into words how amazing and instrumental everyone was to this project, and how much it meant to me that they were there through this challenging time in my life.

It’s been an important lesson to learn that sometimes when you reach out for help, people reach back.

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