There’s another reason why you’ll want to attend Artists Without Walls’ January 28 show “Crossing Boroughs,” where you’ll not only experience an afternoon of wonderful entertainment, but for the price of the show, which is only $15, you’ll have access to all the exhibits in the museum.

If you haven’t been to the Museum of the City of New York you’re in for a treat. It’s in a wonderful building, located on Fifth Avenue across from Central Park and the New York exhibits are always excellent. There are a number of exhibitions that will be on display in late January. One that might catch your attention is “Mod New York: Fashion Takes a Trip.” 


“The world of fashion was turned on its head in the 1960s, as its traditions were challenged, rejected, and reimagined for the restless next generation. Beginning with the introduction of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy as a new American style icon and evolving over the course of the decade, fashions of the 1960s were legendary for their energy, their ingenuity, and their enduring appeal.”

Featuring more than 70 garments drawn primarily from the Museum’s Costume Collection, the exhibition traces the dramatic transformation in clothing between 1960 and 1973.”

Join us for a great day in January! The weather is going to be better–it can’t get worse–there are no football games on that Sunday and the show is sure to lift your spirits.

For tix and info CLICK HERE


Artists Without Walls is pleased to announce that it will once again have a show in Origin Theatre’s First Irish Theatre Festival titled “Crossing Boroughs.”

The show will be performed at the Museum of the City of New York, January 28, 3pm.

“Crossing Boroughs” was written by Charles R. Hale and stars Niamh Hyland along with Maya Kronfeld, Jonathan Matthews, Mary Ann McSweeney, Shu Nakamura, Laura Neese, Jack O’Connell, David J Raleigh, and Shirazette Tinnin. 

Charles R. Hale/Narrator. Niamh Hyland/Music Director. Charmaine Broad/Director. Mitch Traphagen/Graphics and Images. Christopher Hale/Multi Media and Sound Effect.  

For tix, which are $15, and info CLICK HERE





Mitch Traphagen’s photos from Artist Without Walls’ “Love Force” benefit Showcase for Stars of Hope at Sid Golds Request Room.

Marty Plevel
Niamh Hyland
Charles R. Hale
Deni Bonet
J. r. Garcia
Allison Sylvia
Serena Jost
Walter Parks
Dia Luna
Marty Plevel and Niamh Hyland
Allison Sylvia and Niamh Hyland
AWoW February 2017 Showcase featuring Walter Parks, Serena Jost, Allison Sylvia, Deni Bonet, Niamh Hyland, J.r. Garcia. Marty Plevel, Charles R. Hale, Dia Luna and Joe McGinty.


Interview with Mitch Traphagen

Who is Charles R. Hale?

Charles R. Hale preparing for “Jazz in the City: The New York Connection” Photo by Vera Hoar

Charles R. Hale was born, raised and educated in New York. A descendant of New York City’s Irish famine immigrants, Charles is a former partner of a NYC based consulting firm that specialized in succession planning for family-owned and closely-held businesses. He grew up in a family of inveterate storytellers and has continued the family tradition. His storytelling now incorporates the written and spoken word, music and film.

Why do you have such a great interest in stories and storytelling?

If someone asks me to tell him or her something about myself, what do I do? I share something of my life and put it in story form. I think we all do that. Stories are the narratives that we live by, revolving scripts of our own creation.

We’re all subject to an endless source of new material that impacts our experience and I think we define ourselves, our world, and our role through these experiences. All of these moments coalesce into our personal narrative in which each of us play bit parts; thus, we are connected through our stories.
What picture do you love to stare at and why?

I enjoy looking at anything painted by Johannes Vermeer, but a painting I stare at every day is one by NYC firefighter, Edward Brady. It’s a painting of three firemen, including my grandfather Charlie, staring at their poker hands, singularly within themselves, absent of any sentiment or theatrics. The soft light emanating from the hanging lamp over the poker table enhances the mood and subtle emotion of the participants; the interaction is minimal, but it captures a singular New York City moment in my grandfather’s life. I am very grateful for this painting.

What word best describes you?

I don’t know if it best describes me but it’s a word I use and think of often…connection. Much of our lives and history are connected; sometimes they’re connected by design but often the connection is subtle and borne of chance. Many great philosophers have talked about being born of other lives. The great humanitarian Albert Schweitzer talked about how nature compels us towards mutual dependence, and how, in the fibers of our being, we bear within ourselves the solidarity of each other. Thus we recognize how connected we are. I often think of that.

Do you have upcoming events you would like people to attend?

  1. The Artists Without Walls’ Showcase, Tuesday, January 24, 7PM at The Cell Theatre, 338 W.23rd St.
  2. “Jazz in the City: The New York Connection,” a show I’ve written and narrate. Stage 72/The Triad at 152 West 72nd Street, Manhattan, March 23.
  3. Charles R. Hale Productions presents “Niamh Hyland and Friends,” at The Cell, March 30. 

You mentioned the upcoming Artists Without Walls Showcase. Why did you decide to create AWoW? Where did the idea come from?

I’ve always been inspired by the flowering of artistic achievement, which often arises when cultures come together. Jazz is one of the great examples. As a result, I was inspired to create a dynamic environment that allows for and promotes cultural collaboration and artistic achievement. 

If you could try something in the future that you haven’t done yet what would that be?

I would like to organize and produce a global event that would help promote cultural unity. Why not think big?

What is your favorite place in the world to visit and why?

That’s hard to say, but a few that come to mind are the Garden Court at the Frick Museum in New York: a sea of tranquility amid the city’s chaos. Another is Dick Mack’s pub in Dingle Ireland where at any given moment you might be among the greatest cast of characters assembled anywhere on earth. And while I’m on pubs, I must add the little table just of north of the stove at NYC’s McSorley’s Old Ale House.

Who is your greatest inspiration and why?

There have been a number of inspirational people in my life but the one I most often think about is my maternal grandfather Allie Gorman, (pictured left.) His mother died when he was four; his brother was killed in a fire in which he was badly scarred when he was six; another brother died of spinal meningitis and four siblings died before they were two. His father was an alcoholic and abusive and my grandfather spent eighteen months in a reform school when he was a teen. He survived it all and became a successful labor leader. He was a tower of strength. I think of him often.

What was the best gift that someone gave you that inspired or facilitated an interest in your art?

Both my father and his father were storytellers with two very different styles. My father could make the simplest story hilarious. In my father’s hands, the next-door neighbor putting the garbage out could turn into a tale of great hilarity. My father was a product of the streets of New York City and he had a little “Brooklynese” for every experience imaginable.

Grandpa Charlie, on the other, had a world-class imagination. Dinner in my grandparents’ Manhattan apartment was unbeatable. According to Grandpa Charlie, he met my grandmother when he rescued her from King Kong’s grasp

“True story, Charles. I swear, every word is true. Aren’t I telling the truth, Helen?”

And he was the Lone Ranger’s sidekick before Tonto.

“I was just like Tonto,” he’d say.

“But Tonto was an Indian, Grandpa. “

“I was too, Charles, before I lost my hair!”

Grandpa Charlie…bigger than life.


The Soul of an Artist Without Walls

by Mitch Traphagen

Billy Joel performed his 37th consecutive sold-out monthly show at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11, 2017. When he began, he said he would keep playing until people stopped showing up. There is no sign of that happening. His 41st concert was just announced.

Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden

It would be hard to argue that he needs the money. He is among the best selling recording artists in history. But he is a New Yorker through and through. Born in the Bronx 67-years-ago, Madison Square Garden is in his hometown; it’s his backyard. And for many artists, Madison Square Garden represents the high bar of a goal of which dreams are made. It is a venue known around the world. Performing there places one in a very rarified club.

Now entering my third year as a member of Artists Without Walls, I’ve seen a number of artists that could be playing at Madison Square Garden. For those artists, having seen them perform at an AWoW monthly showcase, the stretch to MSG is not a long one from my outside perspective. But for the artists, it may well appear differently. For them, it is a matter of choosing the path of the heart, and making the sacrifices, often far more than most people could bear, in reaching that stage.

The Piano Man, Billy Joel

Billy Joel made sacrifices. He was busy performing and didn’t actually graduate from high school until…1992. Was it worth it? In terms of wealth and fame, no doubt it was for him. But he has also long suffered from clinical depression, including after September 11, 2001. And yet he continued. He wants to perform. He wants to play until people stop showing up.

What determines what is “worth it” is the soul of the artist in many cases. Some are lucky financially. Sometimes the sacrifice is simply too much, when living indoors and having regular meals must be chosen over someday dreams of 21,000 people at MSG cheering you on.

Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden.

Many years ago when I played in a rock band at the tail end of the disco era, we used to joke that dinner for musicians meant going into a diner, ordering a bowl of hot water and grabbing the ketchup bottle on the table. For too many artists today, that probably isn’t far from the truth.

During the concert Billy at times would stop and ask, “Do you want hear this song?…hitting a few keys…or this song?…hitting different keys — but both songs iconic for millions of people encompassing generations.

Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden

He spoke of his songs and albums. At one point, he mentioned an album from the mid-70s and asked the crowd if anyone had it — and quickly followed up with, “Don’t worry. It wasn’t one of my best. I don’t even have that album.”

In the end he played for two and a half hours. There were songs that he likely felt he had no choice but to play — the audience was surely expecting them. But he also mixed it up with some Stones and Led Zeppelin. He has long been a Led Zep fan. 

There are any number of artists with AWoW who either have or will someday play on that stage or one equal in stature. There are any number of artists who will perform at the Richard Rogers Theatre on Broadway or in front of movie or television cameras, who may one day change lives while playing at the Rockwood Music Hall or Cafe Vivaldi.

Billy Joel. Mitch Traphagen Photo

There is a reason Billy Joel is performing monthly shows at MSG and it probably doesn’t have much to do with money. There is something else; there is pure, driving passion and there is an “it” factor. Artists Without Walls’ cofounder Charles R. Hale understands it; he is himself an artist, after all. And thus there is a reason such talent takes the stage at the Cell every month for the AWoW showcases. There is a reason such talent exists at all. 

From Billy Joel to the many artists with AWoW, from MSG to the Cell, walls don’t matter. The words, the music, the talent…it is in the souls of the artists. 


Two years ago, Kathleen Bennet Bastis’ mixed-media art exhibit was shown at the First Street Gallery. One night featured an event that melded Kathleen’s art with performance art. The night was enormously entertaining and a great success. Click here to read what poet and author Connie Roberts had to say about the evening.

In conjunction with Artists Without Walls, Kathleen will be doing another event on Saturday, May 6, 6:00pm to 10:00pm, called “One Night Stand.” The evening will feature Kathleen’s work and three great jazz musicians, Thana AlexaJosh Cohen and Nicole Zuraitis

Mark your calendar for what is sure to be a special evening. First Street Gallery is located at 526 W 26th St #209, in Manhattan.


“I’ve been working as an actor for at least twenty five years now and I’ve never before been involved in anything quite like this. AWoW is a unique blessing. So happy to be a member.” Jack O’Connell, actor



Tess Druckenmiller
       Tess Druckenmiller

Young and extremely talented singer/Songwriter Tess Druckenmiller opened the night with three of her compositions. Exhibiting her musical versatility Tess played solo, accompanying her voice with acoustic guitar and piano. She sang three songs – “Break My Heart,” “Please Say Yes,” and “Red Wine.” Red Wine is included in Tess’s recently released EP, “Carousel.” Wonderful performance.


Rafiq Kathwa
     Rafiq Kathwari

Thanks to Connie Roberts, who has introduced AWoW to a number of excellent poets, we were able to experience the poetry of  Rafiq Kathwari, the first non-Irish recipient of the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award, in the 44-year history of the award. When asked to say a few words about his first Artists Without Walls’ experience, Rafiq Kathwari responded with a poem:



for Artists Without Walls


“Where are you from?” I’m often asked.
“From Kashmir,” I answer.
“Is that where wool comes from?”


Sometimes, I play it straight: I95
Exit 16, hang a left. In the Himalayas
my road diverged.


Not, “Where are you from?”
But where are we going


Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 9.15.29 AMCharles R. Hale’s film, “The Musical History of the Lower East,” which was recently performed as a full-length musical production at Rockwood Music Hall, followed. The short film is a musical journey through the diverse cultures that have inhabited the Lower East City, New York City’s melting pot, from the mid-nineteenth century to the present.  “This could be a PBS or HBO special! A treasure.” Joanna Migdal.  


Meredith Szalay
       Meredith Szalay

Meridith Szalay followed with a dance piece entitled “Alan.” According to Meridith, “The dance allowed me to be emotionally vulnerable and send out my cries of pain.”  The dance was a heart wrenching display of passion, heartache, and anger with Meridith  lost in a swirl of intense feelings. “I felt as free as a bird. I flew directly into the heart of my storm of pain. I laid my broken heart on the dance floor” she said.  Breathtakingly vulnerable, beautiful, and tender.


Erik Lawrence and Dina Regine
     Erik Lawrence and Dina Regine

Multi-media artist, photographer and musician Dina Regine performed a few songs off her latest album, “Right On, Alright.” Dina, who sings with a gentle unease, varied her delivery from one track to another, from sweet to defiant to undeterred.  “I had such a great time playing this evening! Thank you Artists Without Walls for inviting me to be a part of this wonderful event, and thanks to saxophonist Erik Lawrence for sitting in and dressing up my songs so cool.”    


Connie Roberts, Rafiq Kathwari, Shu Nakamura and Charles R. Hale
Connie Roberts, Rafiq Kathwari, Shu Nakamura and Charles R. Hale

Erik Lawrence, a longtime Levon Helm sideman, has built his career as a saxophonist, flutists, composer and educator.  Erik spoke of the power of music in the healing process and then proceeded to join the entire audience in a breathtaking chorus of healing and meditation. A few moments that won’t soon be forgotten by those in attendance.


“Thank you for the incredible opportunity and incredible reception to my work,” Erik said. Well deserved. For information about Erik’s work, sound healing/guided musical meditation concerts or private sound therapy sessions you can contact him at Erik Lawrence Music on Facebook


The next Artists Without Walls’ Showcase will be at The Cell Theatre, 338 W23rd St., on Friday, November 20th. 


Photos by Vera Hoar


1) Who is Rusty Faris Wheel Productions?

John Faris and I, Justin Adkins, created this production outfit in January 2015 in an effort to make films that we are excited to see. After film school, we both realized that we work well together and have strengths that would benefit the company and our films. As such, we created Rusty Faris Wheel Productions to produce all types of films with a focus on horror and action/superhero fare.


2) What are you working on at the moment?

Currently, we are producing a superhero short film called “The Friend.” Principal photography begins on November 2, 2015. We are also finalizing our three additional projects for the upcoming screening.


3) Do you have any upcoming events you would like people to attend?

We are having the Rusty Faris Wheel Screening Event, presented by Artists Without Walls, on November 6, 2015, at The Cell Theatre, 338 W23rd Street, NY, 7:00 to 8:30, which will screen all three current projects. (Promo piece below.)




4) What are 3 of your favorite films/shorts and why?

Between the two of us, three of our favorite films are The Evil Dead (Justin), The Dark Knight (both), and 48 HRS (John). The Evil Dead is Justin’s favorite movie of all time. Sam Raimi is a true inspiration as a low budget, young filmmaker who established a strong career. The Dark Knight is, for both of us, one of the strongest cinematic depictions of any superhero derived from an existing comic book. 48 HRS. is widely recognized as the pioneer American buddy cop movie and is a perfect example of a simple film on a minimal budget that stands the test of time.


5) Who are the filmmakers past & present that you admire and why?

Sam Raimi, Christopher Nolan, Alfred Hitchcock, Walter Hill, and Mario Bava. All of these filmmakers are fantastic storytellers who can create a visual, tense, gritty, violent, and beautiful picture for the audience as the stories unfold.


Justin Atkins and John Faris


6) Who is your greatest inspiration and why?

For me, Justin, it is Sam Raimi. As stated above, he started out as a young, ambitious filmmaker who raised money, gathered his friends, and made a little cult movie. This led to greater things in the form of the Spiderman movies. For John, it is Christopher Nolan. In the same vein as Sam Raimi, Christopher Nolan started small by writing, directing and producing his first feature film, Following, in 1999, while working a full-time job and using his friends as actors. Nolan proceeded to wow critics with Memento and is credited with the resurrection of the now billion dollar DC Comic Film Franchise.


7) Name 5 things that you would like to accomplish in the next 5 years?

-Make at least two feature films
-Work full time on our films
-Help other filmmakers produce their visions
-Continue to develop relationships with other artists for collaboration
-See the distribution of our films


8) If you could dream of trying something in the arts you haven’t tried, but would like to, what would it be?

We would like to venture into the musical arts in the form of creating music and scores as well as singing. We also envision making films that are far beyond our comfort zones of the horror/action-comedy/superhero genres.


9) What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?


We enjoy watching movies as well as creating new characters and stories for our films. We also enjoy the fine art of beer drinking.



by Ron Vazzano


When you think of the violin, it’s usually in terms of something classical, something staid— even to the point of being stodgy—melodious, though somewhat somber, and often evocative of a lament in the key of bittersweet. For me, something along the lines of “Ashokan Farewell” by Jay Unger from the hit 1990 PBS mini-series “The Civil War,” readily comes to mind. (Was that 25 years ago already?). All in all, a beautiful instrument to behold, especially when beheld by a virtuoso who can make even an Alpha male weep.


On the other end of the scale, associations might be in the context of bluegrass or hoe down music, and at such times, thought of as a fiddle. Is there a difference between a violin and a fiddle? Not really, though it is a subject open to much discussion, debate and lots of wry commentary. A few one-liners I ran across on line:


  • When you are buying one, it’s a fiddle. When you are selling one, it’s a violin.
  • $125 per hour and a tuxedo.
  • You can’t play a violin barefoot.
  • A violin has strings, and a fiddle has strangs.
  • You’ll never find a violinist with a mullet.
  • A violin sings, but a fiddle dances.
  • It’s a matter of style. If you have style, it’s a fiddle.


And the people playing it? We tend to think male, with hall-of-fame names like Isaac Stern, Jascha Heifetz, Yehudi Menuhin and Itzak Perlman. In short, we think of violin players (though not fiddlers), as being of rather serious temperament and often rooted in European and “foreign” traditions. What you might call your father’s or grandfather’s violinists. That has changed.


Nowhere is that more in evidence for me, than with two violinists on the New York scene these days, who are turning the instrument and their performance on it, into something that shatters the glass of any stereotypes and preconceived notions.

 Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 10.18.45 AM

No, Deni Bonet and Annette Homann are not your father’s fiddlers.


As one music critic noted on a new generation of violinists in this mold, “they are on the whole, female, ultra-virtuosic, career-focused and glamorous besides.” To which I would add specific to these two women, possessing a sense of total performance—including everything from the addition of body movement and choreography, to their banter in between pieces—wit, irony, and sexy besides.


Deni Bonet is a classically trained violinist, whose rather impressive “liner notes” from her website read:


  • Deni has recorded and performed with Cyndi Lauper, R.E.M., Sarah McLachlin among many others…
  • performed at Carnegie Hall, the United Nations, and just recently at the White House for President Obama and the First Lady
  • Her music has been featured on HBO, NBC, American Airlines, several film and modern dance projects, and has been described by the Wall Street Journal as “like Cheryl Crow meets the B-52’s.”


Her unique style is fully on display in a video produced for her single “One in a Million” that was released along with her latest album It’s all good.


I caught her at a gig at the Rockwood Music Hall in downtown Manhattan last month, in a night paying homage to “The Musical History of the Lower East Side,” a musical show created by Charles R. Hale. Deni made even a Stephen Foster medley sound hip. And I had the pleasure over a year ago, of performing a spoken word piece in tandem with arrangements she composed and played specific to a collaboration entitled “Unrequited Love.” 


Annette Homann, classically trained and born in Germany : 


  • Has been performing since the age of six
  • She has toured throughout Europe, China, Central America, Canada and the U.S. and at various venues…
  • Including Carnegie Hall, Avery Fischer Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Symphony Space, New World Stages, and Brooklyn Bowl
  • Her extended techniques, and singing combining elements of bluegrass, blues, pop and classical with a theatrical vibe—the violin used in non-traditional ways, often replacing the guitar, and sometimes percussion— are in evidence on her recent CD, “Heimatgefühle” (German for “feelings of home”).


I got to see her live last month at a private art gallery event sponsored by Artists Without Walls in Chelsea. Her performance in covering Adele’s Skyfall, the theme song of the 2012 James Bond film of the same name, was at once both sexy and witty (and barefoot, defying a previously noted one- liner). It brought down the house.


Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 10.18.54 AM


And while I have not caught a live performance of so called “hip-hop” violinist Lindsey Stirling, whose Crystallize video on YouTube has gotten an unfathomable 119,000,000 views since uploaded in February of 2012 (is that a misprint?), Deni and Annette are every bit as good and dynamic in my book. (And Muse-Letter). And does Lindsey Stirling drop by McSorely’s Old Ale House on a rainy spring afternoon, take out her violin in the backroom and play? Annette has.


I wonder what Itzak Perlman thinks about all of this sort of thing?


Ron Vazzano, a writer, poet and actor, has been a frequent contributor to this website as well as performer at Artist Without Walls monthly showcases. You can read his column Muse Letter by clicking here



Thanks to all our members, friends and performers for a great year. And thanks to Vera Hoar for this wonderful montage.

We wish you all you hope for in the new year.