Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wide Eyed goes 501(c)(3): Co-founder + Board chair Liz White breaks it down for us

Liz White
Wide Eyed Productions is proud to announce its official not-for-profit 501(c)(3) status. We caught up with Wide Eyed co-founder and Board chair Liz White to find out exactly what that means for the company and its donors. 
  • In addition to being one of the founders of Wide Eyed Productions, you currently serve as its Board chair. What exactly does that role entail, and what's your favorite part about it? Least favorite part?  
Right now, Wide Eyed is building its Board and bringing in new talents and skill-sets. We are really working on getting out of the “founding” Board stage, and moving into the “governing” Board stage. As a result, my role has been building the infrastructure of the Board by creating functioning Board committees, engaging in strategic planning and requiring full Board participation in fundraising, and so much more.  

My favorite part is working with all the bright and committed Board members. I work with non-profit Boards in my work life and I can say, hands down, this is the most active Board I have ever worked with. It’s a rarity if someone can’t participate.  

I can’t say I have a least favorite part, but there are definitely challenges. The biggest challenge is that our budget is small and we don’t have a staff. As a result, the Board fills in the gaps where a staff member would normally in other organizations. It makes it difficult to get out of the founding Board stage when you still have to operate like a grassroots organization. Slowly but surely!  
  • Wide Eyed has, up until now, been operating under the umbrella of a fiscal sponsor organization (Fractured Atlas). Can you please explain what that means, in civilian terms?
Basically, [operating under] Fractured Atlas allows organizations to use [Fractured Atlas’s] non-profit identification number so the organization can fundraise and give their donors tax receipt letters. An organization would choose to be fiscally-sponsored if they didn’t want the legal responsibility of being a 501(c)(3), were [a] very small [organization], only did programs every so once in a while, and/or didn’t want to go through all the paperwork to be independent. When Wide Eyed first started, we didn’t know where we were headed, so it made sense. Now, we need more independence. It means more work for the Board because we need to have strong financial controls in place and proven Board leadership, but it also means we can apply for grants without going through a third party. We can throw our first annual gala; we can pay people in our shows; we have a direct cash flow and don’t have to ask Fractured Atlas to release funds, etc.  
  • What upcoming activities or funding opportunities can Wide Eyed look forward to now as a 501(c)(3) organization?  
Grants, grants, grants!!! Bigger and better events!!!  
  • Speaking of bigger and better events, Wide Eyed has its first annual gala coming up in September, which we are very excited about. Can you tell us a little bit about how not-for-profit status will benefit our donors?  
With our 501(c)(3) status, any donation we receive is a tax-deductible donation, whether it is for an auction item, or a ticket, or just a general donation. The benefit is going to be rockin’, so be sure to buy your tickets for the gala before the early bird special ends in July!  
  • Did you foresee Wide Eyed becoming at 501(c)(3) organization when the company was first started? How does it feel to know, after seven years, we're "official"?  
It’s amazing! I am always so proud of Wide Eyed Productions and how far it has come. It is definitely the members that have made this happen, and I am super grateful for the amazingly talented and committed people I get to work with at this organization.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A "Wink" & Smile with Broadway veteran Ken Jennings

Ken Jennings
Ken Jennings is working with Wide Eyed Productions for the first time, but his support of the company goes back to his days acting with co-founder Sky Seals in the Off-Broadway premiere of Sessions at the Algonquin Theatre. Ken originated the role of Tobias on Broadway in Sweeney Todd (Drama Desk Award – Outstanding Featured Actor), and was also on Broadway in Side Show, Urinetown, and Grand Hotel. Ken’s extensive film and television work includes “Law & Order” (NBC) and  “Mildred Pierce” (HBO).
  • Youʼll be performing in our staged reading of Proof as part of our “Winks” series. No doubt many people in our audience will be familiar with your work on Broadway. Can you share with us a bit about your most recent project?  
Too early to say. Been offered one job; another in the works. But don’t know if negotiations will work out. My 10-year-old son, Brendan, is with me every weekend.  So every job has to work around him.  For most jobs, they have to be in NYC or close to it.  If they’re a bit away from NYC, I have to figure out how Iʼm going to get Brendan to me on the weekend. I never speak about possibilities until theyʼre definite. 
  • I believe you are originally from Jersey City. Growing up, did you spend a lot of time at the theatre? When did you know that you wanted to be an actor? How did you get started? 
I was always doing plays and improvs. I didnʼt see any professional theatre until high school. But my friends and I were always acting out the movies weʼd seen and changing them to fit our tastes:  TV westerns from the 50s; the monster films; the Hercules movies. All such ideas (and more) were our source materials. We even gave out awards among ourselves each week. There were three of us: me, Johnny, and Billy. The other two boys usually gave me the acting award each week. Johnny was usually given the directorial award. Johnny and I usually split the writing award. Poor Billy rarely was awarded anything. But he always played with us. 

I chose the high school I attended because they did two full productions a year - most other schools did one. I attended college on a dramatic scholarship. I got my first Broadway show (All Godʼs Chillunʼ Got Wings) from an EPI - Equity Principal Interview. They didnʼt have to audition you in those days...didnʼt have to speak to you at all, just had to look at you and accept your picture and resume. They were looking for a short Irish gangster. I went to the EPI and got the part. 
  • Who or what do you consider to have been your biggest creative influences to date? Why? 
Well, no doubt that a really big creative influence on me was George C. Scott. He directed All Godʼs Chillunʼ Got Wings  He also directed and starred in Present Laughter on Broadway (I replaced Nathan Lane in that one). George was so powerful. The best director of comedy Iʼve ever worked with. No one else has even come close. George was like a metronome. Heʼd tell you the exact timing - the exact beat - on which to get the laugh. He was exact and correct. And, oddly enough, often quite drunk. But heʼd get on that stage and it was as if a demon or angel suddenly possessed him. The audience never saw his drunkenness (even though he would often be quite literally stumbling backstage). And, when he directed the OʼNeill, he was like a locomotive. He showed one poor actor how he wanted a certain monologue done. But no one could do it like George. Only George could bring that power. I remember watching him do the monologue and feeling like I was pinned to the back of my chair. 
  • Can you describe for us what your favorite part is of the creative process before a show opens? And once youʼve opened, do you have a particular pre-show ritual that you engage in before curtain? If so, is it something you can share with us? 
It varies. I love the shadowy, blue lights black stage. The darkness inches from the bright lights. The solitude, the quiet. I love dropping exhausted on a rehearsal floor, half-sleeping in the dust of a rehearsal floor, especially if the floor is quaking with tap dancers. 
  • Do you have any additional projects coming up that youʼd like to tell us about? 
Nothing I can share at this time (as I was typing this, I was interrupted by my agent with an update on negotiations). Iʼve had to say no to a number of things. Brendan has to fit into the picture. Brendan was born two weeks before my 55th birthday. Iʼve had a lifetime of being an actor - got my first professional job when I was 19 - but only 10 years of being a father. So Brendan gets priority.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The PROOF is in the "Wink" on Tuesday, May 14

The FREE "Winks" reading series continues with


by David Auburn

Directed by Celine Rosenthal

Opening Act: Rachel Gavaletz
Rachel Gavaletz is a singer/songwriter, jazz chanteuse, electro-pop alien performer, and animal advocate hailing from Seattle, WA. Being a professional musician for nearly twenty years, she takes pride in her chameleon approach to the business, and enjoys finding new ways to bring her training and passion for several genres to her art. 

May 14, 2013

Doors open @ 6:30pm
Rachel Gavaletz @ 7:00pm 
PROOF @ 7:30pm 

All performances are at The Underground Lounge
955 West End Avenue @ 107th St
New York, NY 10025

Tickets are Free, Space is Limited

Proof is the story of Catherine, the twenty-something daughter of an esteemed mathematician, who is mourning the passing of her brilliant, yet mentally unstable father. She meets and befriends Hal, her father’s protégé, who finds a proof in her home of a mathematical theorem once thought impossible to solve. She claims she wrote it, but did she? Proof is the story of human relationships that prove to be just as difficult as solving a mathematical theorem.


Dec 11, 2012- June 4, 2013
The second Tuesday of every month! 

Wide Eyed Productions is embarking on a season of development as they explore new works, revisit the classics, and reimagine some of the best plays in the contemporary canon. This season predicates future seasons by workshopping and reading plays to excite and invigorate  theatergoers and the production company alike. Through a series of readings open to the public, Wide Eyed Productions aims to strike a chord within ourselves and the community.

This season of “Winks” is intended to develop work that will further define Wide Eyed as a company, as well as its place in the New York arts world. Every reading will give the audience a chance to have a voice on what Wide Eyed produces in its seventh season, as well as build support for the company and all of its talented members. We’ve picked our favorite contenders, and by attending and giving your feedback, you can help shape the next season at Wide Eyed.


June 11 - TBD
July 9 - Reborning by Zayd Dohrn


 ~ Save the Date: September 28, 2013 ~

Please join us for Wide Eyed Productions' first Gala Fundraiser!
It will be held at the beautiful Dune Studios.
Buy your tickets now at