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The Red Dress @ New Phoenix Theatre on the Park

Tania Wisbar has fond memories of Buffalo after being invited here by Jonathan Sanger, one of the producers of the major motion picture, Marshall, when it was being filmed here two years ago. Tania and the acclaimed three-time Oscar winning producer work together in their Los Angeles- based Argyle Road Productions company.

Jonathan Sanger

Through that company Sanger is producing the theatrical performance, The Red Dress, a true story based on the lives of the parents of the play’s renowned playwright, Ms. Wisbar. After opening in Los Angeles, the play will make its Buffalo Premier May 31-June 23 at the New Phoenix Theatre on the Park. It will be directed by Buffalo native, Frank A. Rossi.

“After being in Buffalo, both Jonathan and I fell in love with the city, the people, the architecture and the theatrical history Buffalo has,” Ms. Wisbar explains from her home outside of Los Angeles. “We just love the cast and the story is absolutely amazing.”

The story is about beloved German film star, Alexandra Schiele (performed by Kenmore native and New York City actress Liz McKendry) and her fights for democracy in 1924 Post-World War I Berlin. Alexandra meets her husband, Franz (performed by LA actor and Hamburg native, Josh Nuncio), a homeless sketch artist and a veteran of the war. They marry and Franz eventually becomes a top documentary film director for Joseph Goebbles and Adolf Hitler in 1933 Germany. With her defiance of the Nazi regime very public, the Gestapo discovers Alexandra is 1/8 Jewish, leaving her with the option of aborting her child and becoming sterilized, or being exiled from her country, divorced, penniless and four months pregnant.

“It is a privilege to speak for a woman of such substance and courage who, in the face of adversity, stood and presented an example for us all,” says co-star Liz McKendry, who has been rehearsing with the the cast for the past several weeks.

The Red Dress opens Thursday, May 31 at The New Phoenix Theatre on The Park, 95 Johnson Park, and will run Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. through June 23. Tickets are available at brownpapertickets.com, or by calling 800.838.3006. For more information, visit Facebook.

Those holding tickets for any performance can enjoy a pre-show three-course discounted dinner special and free parking at the 31 Club, 31 N. Johnson Park, a block east of the Theatre. The 31 Club offers live entertainment on Friday and Saturday evenings.

THE COMPANY

Liz McKendry

Liz McKendry (Alexandra Schiele), a Kenmore native and a graduate of SUNY Buffalo State, she has spent the last 14 years as a working actress in New York City. Her work includes multiple featured roles on Broadway in the hit musical, “The Producers,” leading roles Off and Off-Off Broadway in productions of “Shakespeare,” the Classics and Contemporary plays, as well as work in Television. Her film career credits include work as a featured performer in Jonathan Sanger’s, “The Producers,” starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick.

Josh Nuncio

Josh Nuncio (Franz Weitrek) of Hamburg, has spent 10 years in Los Angeles performing in numerous plays. He is best known for his starring role as Nick McCabe in the hit Disney series, “I Heart Vampires.” In 2017, Josh landed the starring role in Mac Cappuccino’s feature film, “Malaisia,” filmed in Buffalo.

Jeremy Kreuzer

Jeremy Kreuzer (Dieter Keller) of Cheektowaga, has theater credits that include Jimmy Jack in “Translations,” Adam in “As You Like It,” Lane in “The Importance of Being Earnest,” and Kapo in “Bent.” He subsequently toured the country with the Chamber Theatre Production of “Encore!” He was cast in the Buffalo movie production of “Marshall” and has appeared as Eugene in “Biloxi Blues” and Kenny in “Proposals.”

Camilla Maxwell

Camilla Maxwell (Sybil Stein), an Australian-born playwright and actress. She has a B.A. degree in Media/Shakespeare from Macquarie University in Sydney and a degree in Theatre from the American

Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. A professional working actress in Australia since she was 8; she lived and performed in NYC for nine years before moving to Buffalo five years ago. She has produced, written, directed and acted with the Mind The Gap Theatre (“Dame Judy French” and “Helen Mirren”).   She also won the Maxim Mazumdar play competition at the Alleyway Theatre and she recently acted in ND Studios Sci-Fi film, “Locke.” Earlier in her career, she also was the face of Coppertone sunscreen in Japan and has been on various national commercials in the United States and Australia.

Pamela Rose Mangus

Pamela Rose Mangus (Rachel) is a Western New York Actress and South Buffalo native. She is a multiple Artie Award winner and Managing Director for O’Connell & Company. She recently finished performing in “The Full Monty” with Subversive Theatre Collective and played Sir John Falstaff in an all-female production of “The Merry Wives of Windsor” with Shakespeare in the Park.

THE PRODUCTION TEAM

Tania Wisbar

Tania Wisbar (Writer) was born in Berlin, Germany and now resides in Los Angeles. Her mother, Eva Kroy Wisbar, was a music and art magazine publisher, and her father, Frank Wisbar, was one of Germany’s best-known film directors. Her mother immigrated during the Nazi era to America with one infant and one toddler. Frank immigrated later. When he arrived in Hollywood, Frank Wisbar produced and directed the first filmed series made for television, FIRESIDE THEATER. To earn her allowance, Tania’s first job, at age 11, was to read magazine stories for her father and summarize those that fit into the format of FIRESIDE THEATER. The parents eventually divorced and Eva moved to Washington, D.C. and worked at the Pentagon as a U.S. Air Force Intelligence Officer before accepting an assignment to go back to Germany with her daughter. There, Eva interviewed newly released German soldiers imprisoned at the end of WWII by the Soviets. Tania returned to the United States to attend college, earning degrees in Theatre Arts, Speech Pathology, and Special Education.

Tania knew little about her mother’s past in wartime Germany. However, in 1999, a German professor visiting the U.S. brought Tania a 60-year-old, 88-page manuscript where her mother told her story that was the inspiration for her daughter to write the play, The Red Dress.

Tania is the founding President and CEO of B.E.L.I., a day program for developmentally disabled adults with a large dance troupe that performs throughout the year in Los Angeles. For 14 years, Tania was an editor and reporter for a small beach town weekly newspaper outside of LA. She first met Jonathan Sanger in 2001 over a potential film based on the novel Tania had written, “Last Cemetery in Berlin.” In 2011, she asked Sanger if he would direct her stage play, “Birthday Present 2050.”

Julie Ann Honadel (Associate Producer), Argyle Road Productions. Has been with The Red Dress since 2015 for performances in Los Angeles and Buffalo. Her passion for entertainment has taken her around the world, including Mexico, Cyprus, Turkey, and Australia as a dancer, model, actress, and writer. She has produced “Curse of Mesopotamia,” the first English genre film to come out of the Middle East, featuring an international cast.  When its filming in Iraq was abruptly interrupted by Isis and the cast and crew evacuated, Julie then joined before filming concluded in Jordan. Originally a small-town Wisconsinite, Julie has called Los Angeles home for the last 15 years, where she has been a team member on television, film and stage productions, and as an assistant to several industry professionals.  Playwright Tania Wisbar says: “Julie’s eye for story and character development is exceptionally valuable.  She is a very talented writer and a marvelous contribution to The Red Dress.”

Jonathan Sanger (Producer), a three-time Oscar winner, is a veteran of over 100 feature films, a Broadway musical, numerous TV shows and is a 30-time Oscar nominee. Mr. Sanger’s films include, among many: “Marshall” (filmed in Buffalo), “The Producers,” “Vanilla Sky,” “The Elephant Man.” He has also produced several film projects with longtime producing partners, Paula Wagner and Tom Cruise. 

Frank A. Rossi

Frank A. Rossi (Director), originally from Buffalo, has spent 22 years in New York City and Los Angeles as an actor and acting coach. He has appeared in several feature films and TV shows including: “White

Men Can’t Jump,” “Blue Chips,” “The Criminal Mind” and “Days of Our Lives.” For the past 15 years, he has taught acting to hundreds of children and adults in Western New York. Recently, he cast 50 principal roles in feature films, “Marshall” and “Cold Brook,” both filmed in Buffalo. He is also a writer with three feature films and a book in development. 

Tara Rowe-Foreman (Production Stage Manager) has been the stage manager at The New Phoenix Theatre for six years. A practicing nurse, the Tennessee native relocated to Buffalo from Minneapolis and she has an extensive acting career. She has been stage manager for such performances at My Old Lady, Cinderella and Of Mice and Men.

Betsy Bittar (Costume Designer) has costumed numerous shows at The New Phoenix, including

“Pinocchio,” as well as the Artie Award winning production of “Mice and Men,” “My Old Lady,” “Way

Back When,” an evening of One Acts at The New Phoenix, which she also directed.   Betsy is also an actress, seen in various local theatres.

Chris Cavanaugh (Set, Sound, Lights Designer) has worked on many productions, including “Of Mice and Men,” “Angel’s Fall,” “Love’s Passionate Fire,” “Harvey,” “Cloud 9,” “A Midsummer Night’s

Dream,” and “Macbeth.” He is also a successful director, having directed “Assassins” and “Tommy.”

Amelie McKendry (Social Media Manager), a Kenmore native and the sister of Liz McKendry, is an actress, producer and model who lives in Washington, D.C. and works as a flight attendant for American Airlines when she is not performing. She enthusiastically brings her life experience and dedication to every project and her film and television credits include Mary McCormack in “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” an inmate in “Orange Is The New Black<” and the television pilot episode of Miss Match playing the “Drunk Girl.”

Written by Michael J. Billoni

Michael J. Billoni

A journalist for nearly 50 years who was an award-winning sports reporter for the Buffalo Courier-Express until it closed in 1982. He was the former vice president/general manager of the Buffalo Bisons and a member of the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame. Handled the promotions and publicity for Buffalo’s undefeated heavyweight boxer, “Baby Joe” Mesi. Founder and is managing partner of Billoni Associates. He authored and managed “Robert E. Rich—Memoirs of an Innovator,” the biography of the founder of Rich Products Corp; published 'All In," the memoir of businessman Ronald Zoeller and is currently publishing The Seasons of Buffalo Baseball, the most comprehensive history of professional baseball in the city. It will be released April 17, 2020.

Mike and is wife Debbie love Western New York and always try to help others and encourage positive thoughts

View All Articles by Michael J. Billoni
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