Tori Keenan-Zelt's New Play SEPH Coming to American Theatre of Actors

By: Oct. 05, 2017

Do you want to grow things or kill things? As a teenage goddess, Seph lives in her family's in-between. With her mom, she makes grass grow and flowers bloom.

With her dad, she shoots things and poses for pictures with them. But when she finds her first real friend and discovers that her broken home might just be breaking the world itself, she must embrace her own power to bridge the breach between life and death.

From cozy backseats to tiny tree forts, across rivers, through the underworld and back again, SEPH is an adventure into the heart of what happens when we see the world - and ourselves - through someone else's eyes for the very first time.

SEPH, a new play by Tori Keenan-Zelt is directed by Jessika Malone and features original music by Nashville musician Anna Haas and puppet design by Mindy Leanse. It stars DeAnne Stewart (STARWATER), Ava Eisenson (the giants, After Laughter), Paul Cooper (Yale School of Drama), Lilli Stein (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Blacklist, VEEP).

Performances run from October 5-8 at the American Theatre of Actors - John Callum Theatre (314 W 54th St, NYC). Tickets are $18 and can be purchased at

To learn more about or support the show, visit and check out the trailer below!



Playwright: Tori Keenan-Zelt
Director: Jessika Malone
Music Director: Anna Haas
Dramaturg: Nahuel Telleria
Set Design: Jean Kim
Costume Design: Alexae Visel
Lighting Design: Elli Green
Projection Design: Michael Redman
Puppet Design: Mindy Leanse
Stage Manager: Krystle Henninger*
Assistant Stage Manager: Margaret Gleberman
Producer: Steven Koernig

Seph: DeAnne Stewart*
Demeter: Ava Eisenson*
Heather: Lilli Stein*
Hades: Paul Cooper*
Puppetry.: Mindy Leanse

*participating courtesy of Actor's Equity Association.

Thu, Oct 5 at 8pm
Fri, Oct 6 at 8pm
Sat, Oct 7 at 2pm
Sat, Oct 7 at 8pm
Sun, Oct 8 at 2pm

Tori Keenan-Zelt writes curiosity-chasing plays that sniff out in-between spaces in big theatre to change the world. Many of them decide to be comedies. Her current and recent work includes [nbd], SEPH, Air Space (Kilroys 5 Most Recommended Plays, Ingram New Works Lab, Princess Grace Finalist), Egypt Play, or The Misses Blake on a Holiday Jihad (InterAct 20/20 Finalist), Truth Dare... (Best Ensemble Pittsburgh Fringe, Kilroys Long List, Princess Grace Finalist), Episode #121: Catfight! (Yale Cabaret), and others. She has developed/presented work around the country, including at The Lark, The O'Neill, Yale Cabaret, Nashville Rep, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival, NMSU/High Desert, Fresh Ground Pepper, #serials@theflea, Pittsburgh Fringe, The Actors' Studio Playwrights/Directors Unit, The Drama Book Shop, Cold Basement, and beside unsuspecting Chipotle patrons. Recently, she has been an Ingram New Works Lab Playwright, a Playwrights' Center Core Apprentice, a Lark Dramaturgy Fellow, and has written for Colonial Williamsburg's PBS education series. She has been named an Emmy Nominee, Kilroys Lister, Jerome Finalist, Princess Grace Finalist, Playwrights of New York Nominee, and some other things. She is a member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre Playwrights Unit, Fresh Ground Pepper PlayGround PlayGroup, Bastard Playground @ The Drama League, Mission to (dit)Mars Propulsion Lab, The Actors' Studio Playwrights/Directors Unit & the Dramatists Guild. "Tori the real deal." - BroadwayWorld Nashville

Jessika Malone is a maker of theatre and many forms of well-meaning mischief hailing from her hometown of Nashville, TN. She is the Associate Artistic Director of the Actors Bridge Ensemble and the Co-Founder and Program Director of the Sideshow Fringe Festival [Best AlterNative Theatre, Nashville Scene]. She has been named a "serious theatrical talent" by The Nashville Scene and productions under her direction have been hailed as "fascinating and mesmerizing" (Broadway World) and "guaranteed to keep you talking long after the lights come up" (The Tennessean) as well as "guaranteed to provide an experience that will last way beyond the current season. Maybe well on into the century" (The Nashville Scene). She directs, devises, and generally produces the kind of creative happenings that help us all feel a little less lonesome. Often, there are puppets and there is almost always music. Her recent directing projects include the Nashville premieres of Failure: A Love Story by Philip Dawkins [Broadway World Nashville Best Director & Outstanding Ensemble], The Nether by Jennifer Haley [Nashville Scene's Critic's Pick], Gnit by Will Eno [Vanderbilt University Theatre], Hearts Like Fists by Adam Szymkowicz, She Kills Monsters by Qui Nguyen [in collaboration Nashville Children's Theatre], Blackbird by David Harrower, and Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl [Nashville Scene Best Director]. Her approach to creation embraces emotional authenticity and the power of story to cultivate meaningful community in unexpected spaces and forgotten places. She has produced classic and original works in parks and prisons, shopping malls, and detention centers. She has been named as one of First Night's "Unsung Heroes of Nashville Theatre" and an emerging leader to watch by the Nashville Scene for introducing "innovative" and "progressive new ideas to Music City's theatrical culture." She produced and directed the Nashville workshop of SEPH at Actors Bridge Ensemble in May of 2017 and is thrilled to see this extraordinary play move from Music City to the Big Apple and beyond.

Anna Haas, with red-hot moxie to match her crimson tresses, is the exemplar triple threat whose dramatic appeal scintillates on her records and especially through her live performances. Her upcoming EP, PASSION/POISON was recorded in Shreveport, Louisiana at Blade Studios with world renowned producer and drummer, Brady Blade (Dave Matthews, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Jewel, Buddy Miller) and Grammy nominated engineer Chris Bell (Erykah Badu, Destiny's Child , U2, The Eagles). Haas moves into new territory, melding organic and electronic sounds with her signature powerhouse voice. Her sound is dynamic, with intelligent lyrics that resonate through expressive vocals and complex arrangements. Haas has reached a level of vocal and musical maturity with this sophomore release that is hard pressed to find among the up-and-coming. From orchestral to pop to blues and heart wrenching ballads, Haas' influences span decades and genres, creating threads that tie together to make her an artist you won't be able to forget. When not in the studio, Haas has been taking the world by storm, touring regularly and obtaining a loyal following across the country; Her roots in both Nashville and New York are apparent in her eclectic style, "A Thousand Lifetimes" and "Eyes Open" with a Nashville influence, and tracks like "Woman of the Wild" and "Game Over" resounding of New York. Anna's full band live show, complete with horns and fiddle, is nothing short of mesmerizing, drenched with intensity and soul. She leads her band with grace and authority, commanding the stage like Janis Joplin or Freddie Mercury, using her voice, her eyes and her body to tell her stories. Simply put, she puts on a show. No Country for New Nashville says, "Anna's powerful onstage presence and vocal prowess is undeniable, her energy is contagious." Haas was winner of the Deli Magazine's 2012 Best Emerging Artist of Nashville Year End Reader's Poll and sizzled with the release of her debut album, Crazy Is, which critics called "remarkable," and "timeless and fascinating."

DeAnne Stewart (Seph) received her BFA in Musical Theatre from Ithaca College. From childhood her passion for music was always evident. From childhood DeAnne has always enjoyed many genres of music and to date has performed traditional and contemporary musical theatre, gospel, r&b, country, rock, and jazz. Her favorite past productions include Legally Blonde (Paulette Bonafonte), Hair (Dionne) and Rent (Maureen Johnson). She was a featured soloist in the Ithaca Voices' "Tribute to Broadway" concert and performed at the famed George Eastman Theatre with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Pops under the direction of Jeff Tyzik. She has won various vocal competitions and been a part of projects for many directors and composers, including two-time Tony Award Nominee and Emmy Winner Andre De Sheilds and former Hollywood producer and songwriter, Steve Gordon. Her first year in NYC was a wild ride from taking 1st Runner-Up in the infamous "Stonewall Sensation" competition to making her debut at the legendary 54 Below, losing her mother to cancer, and making her Off-Broadway debut in Mighty Real: A Fabulous Sylvester Musical! She also performed in the Midtown International Theatre Festival as Lt. Uvula in Warp Speed: A Sci Fi Parody Musical! (Best Actress in a Musical). Since then DeAnne has performed regionally with Mighty Real and internationally with Royal Caribbean. In the last two years she has managed to visit over 27 countries while performing abroad!

Ava Eisenson (Demeter) is a NYC based actor. Recent credits include: the giants by Matthew Jellison, dir. Isaac Klein and Old Love New Love by Laura Brienza, dir. Nancy Robillard. Ava has had the privilege of working on a wide range of projects with: The Lark, SPACE on Ryder Farm, The Public, Attic Theatre Company, Loft 227, Nonsense NYC, The Wild Project, Luna Stage, Sightline Theatre, Atlantic Theatre, Wide-Eyed Productions, Superhero Clubhouse, Pipeline Theatre Company, In The Water Theatre, Dixon Place, St. Anne's, A.R.T., Classic Stage Company, Marvell Repertory, EST, Ars Nova, the AMC Network and The New Ohio. Ava holds her BFA from Boston University.

Paul Cooper (Hades) is a recent graduate of the Yale School of Drama. His credits at Yale include (Macbeth, Knives in Hens, The Merchant of Venice, King John, Coriolanus, Riverbank: A Noh Play for Northerly Americans, Paradise Lost, and In Arabia We'd All be Kings). He has also appeared at the Guthrie (Concrete Orange), the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, MA (Design for Living), in his hometown of St. Louis (Good, King Lear, Julius Caesar, The Labute New Theatre Festival: Blood Brothers) and at Brown University (Reckless, The Play About the Baby, Big Love, Family Voices, The Pleasure Dome).

Lilli Stein (Heather) is an actress and otherwise artist from New Hampshire. She's very grateful for the theatrical work she gets to do on the regular at Ensemble Studio Theatre, The Lark, and The Actors Studio. Apart from SEPH, she is currently workshopping Brian O'Neill's Grass Island which will have a staged reading as part of the Emerging Artists Theatre's New Works Series. You can also "catch" her on NBC's The Blacklist, HBO's VEEP, and bopping throughout the upcoming 1950's-era Amazon series The Marvelous Mrs Maisel which will "drop" in December. Oh, and she's also in this badass little film called The Privates which can easily be seen on Vimeo: and a sweetass big film called WEIGHT which ain't out yet.

Mindy Leanse (Puppet Design) attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and has been performing as an actor and puppeteer all over the country and parts of Europe. Credits include: Albuquerque (Ash Tree@ Duke City Repertory),vPrague, Amsterdam (Maniacal Works), Paducah, KY; Detroit, MI and Madison, WI (Dinosaur Train Live) amongst other fantastic places. Most recently, Mindy has been the understudy, ASM and puppet wrangler for the Off-Broadway production of The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show. She is a recipient of the 2012 Eugene O'Neill Puppet Pandemic Scholarship and is a three-year participant at the National Puppetry Conference in Connecticut (under Hua Hua Zhang and Martin P. Robinson.) Other awards include the "Share the Spotlight" scholarship for performance arts from the University of Texas, El Paso.

The American Theatre of Actors was founded in 1976 by James Jennings, who continues as its President and Artistic Director. It is a repertory theatre company consisting of 50 actors, 20 playwrights and 10 directors. Its purpose is to promote the development of new playwrights, directors and actors and provide them a creative atmosphere in which to work without the pressures of commercial theatre. The plays are dramas and comedies dealing with the social and ethical problems of contemporary society. Over 800 new works have been presented and more than 8000 actors have worked at ATA, including Dennis Quaid, Bruce Willis, Danny Aiello, Dan Lauria, Chazz Palminteri, Kevin O'Connor, Kevin Spacey, William Fichtner and Edie Falco. If you are interested in helping support the further growth of ATA, visit



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