May 24, 2023 By Maggie Wong
In the turbulent play Muses, award-winning writer and actor Julia Rae Maldonado explores the life of Emily, a New York City painter who discovers her husband has been in a relationship with 15-year-old Grace when she shows up to her studio sitting for a painting. Tears and truths break out and shake their world to the core.
Directed by Judson Jones, the cast includes Lauren Pisano as Emily, Thammie Quach as Grace, Joseph Dean Anderson as Sam and Lauren Sowa as Kate.
Running now through June 3, Muses will be showcased in The Court Square Theater (formerly Astoria Performing Arts Center) located at 44-02 23rd St.. The nonprofit focuses on advancing the dialogue of the shared human experience through storytelling.
Pisano enjoys performing in a more intimate space for the nuances in certain scenes that brings a special joy.
“You really feel the audience’s energy right there with you. I mean, they’re just a few feet away. So it’s really exciting,” Pisano said.
Maldonado’s plays are mostly comedy but took a turn to convey feelings and real-life circumstances of multiple young women having relationships with adults in high school.
“I remember so vividly being 15, and feeling like I was all grown up,” she said. “And then after no time had passed, I actually grew up looking back on that time, being very puzzled by a lot of stuff that I had experienced, or that I had seen around me”.
Most of these situations are usually swept under the rug or aren’t dealt with proper precaution. “It’s very applicable to the experience of a person of color. And Thammie brought her own connections to it. Based on her experience, ‘I’m a person of color as well’,” Maldonaldo said.
There are intimate and aggressive interactions between Sam and Grace, and when acknowledging the age difference being portrayed, it is not easy to soak in for the audience. Because of sensitivity and trigger issues for actors on stage, “treating moments of intimacy, the way you would treat, like, a physical fight on slash,” Pisano explained.
Maldonado wanted to prove “justice in a world that often there is no justice” and portrayed those who were oppressed to come together rather than pity each other, and in this case a rise in femininity to stand up against the patriarchy.
“I had her destroy the painting. I had so many different possibilities. In that last scene, I did not feel satisfied until about two weeks before we opened,” she told QNS.
While the play’s length was substantial, its characters and story were well executed. Pisano’s advice for those who feel for either Emma and Grace is “use your voice, stand up, speak out. Don’t let yourself become small, take up the space that you need and that you deserve.”
Tickets start at $30. To purchase and for more information, visit theatreeast.org