Testimonials

Tita Anntares

“My search in covidtimes for online theater found mostly flat boring play readings until I found the Riant Theatre’s Jocunda Festival with its diversity of stories representing the full vitality of Americans from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The readings stood out for their vibrant high quality acting with no signs of reading from a script and even set design in the form of background screens to unite actors in shared locations. When I observed rehearsals, I understood why: Van Dirk Fisher directs actors to interact with a sense of human connection without any sign that the actors were actually working alone in their covid caves, coaching even stars to use online technology, and balancing his rigorous sense of dramatic excellence with his encouragement of the actors’ creative work.”

Bob Ost

Co-Founder and Executive Director of TRU (Theatre Resources Unlimited)

“Van Fisher is remarkably committed to providing a creative platform for hundreds of artists, and has also done a graceful pivot to our current virtual situation. I admire his energy and his consistency.”

Bambi Everson

Mad Love Productions

“I have only seen one strawberry one act festival but it was delightful. Van Fisher, who runs the company, is a peach of a guy and totally encouraging to both playwrights and actors. It’s a safe and fun place to work and to see work.”

Shelia C

“A wonderful festival with theatre for everyone. A great way to enjoy NYC summertime”

Sharon Ifrah

“I really enjoyed the presentation of,The Right Way in the JOCUNDA FESTIVAL’S Virtual Play Reading Series. It surpassed any expectations I may have had. Thank you for a wonderful experience.”

Amy Walker

“Everything I love about theatre is embodied in The Black Experimental Theatre~The Riant, and it’s powerhouse fountain of inspiration, Artistic Director, Van Dirk Fisher: Giving voice to deep human truths through heartfelt stories that bring you to the edge of your known world and stretch it. Ground-breaking artistry, and a deep commitment to preserve and evolve the medium of theatre to embrace and uplift our ever-changing world community. Engage, support, attend and fall in love with The Riant Theatre.”

Eileen McShane

“I really enjoyed the experience seeing THE RIGHT WAY in the JOCUNDA FESTIVAL’S Virtual Play Reading Series and would happily pay more to see more!! Thank you (Van Dirk Fisher) for leading the session afterwards too. It was a great way to spend 90 minutes. So proud of Sam and the whole cast!”

Ellen Mausner

“Working with the Riant Theater has been absolutely instrumental in helping me grow as a playwright and actor. It has also been a great joy.Van Dirk Fisher has created a theater program that is inclusive and fosters cultural diversity even as it celebrates black artists and black culture.He is a multi-talented showman with a gift for order and organization -a great combination. His Strawberry One-Act Festivals include networking events that have beenso delightful and fruitful. He published one of my plays in one of his festival anthologies. I have done many plays at Riant over the years.Thru Riant I have had the chance to meet and work with wonderful, gifted people.Van is a consummate theater artist and gifted writer/director.He directed a play of mine, “Therapy”, last August ‘20 on Zoom, helping us realize our dreams even during the difficult period of quarantine. That was a real gift to me. His expert direction and laser-sharp casting of that piece made it a truly eye-opening experience. I am continually amazed by Van Fisher and the ongoing creative force that is theRiant Theatre.I urge everyone to work with the Riant Theater as much and as often as you possibly can.”

Sean O’Leary

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with The Riant Theatre in the Strawberry One Act Festival, The Strawberry One Act Festival at Symphony Space, and most recently, The Jocunda Festivals’ Virtual Play Reading Series. As a playwright, it’s easy to write, but harder to find ways to have your works performed. Riant Theatre has become a great partner in bringing my work to an audience. When the pandemic hit, Riant Theatre quickly responded to the needs of the performing community and seamlessly transferred to the online experience. My experience in every production has been of the highest quality, professionalism, supported by an energetic and knowledgeable organization.”

Robert Batiste

“It was a pleasure working with Van Dirk Fisher of Riant Theatre and the Jocunda Festival. Van has a way of bringing the best out of actors and making the writer’s words come to life. Van is a visionary, who’s patience and talents are beyond approach.”

Lauren Perry

“I truly enjoyed the play A WOMAN’S PERSPECTIVE, it was very deep and touched on a lot that we as African Americans face on a day to day basis. The actors did a phenomenal job. I was impressed and moved by their performance. Looking forward to seeing more plays in the future. Shout out and kudos to the director who is also my uncle Van Dirk Fisher!!!”

Melvina Douse-Manuel

Author of A Woman’s Perspective

“Working with Van Dirk, an experiencedand well-known presence in the theatre community was intimidating to say the least. However,from our first conversation, his profound artistic vision and emotional connection to my piece was unmistakenly authentic and invigorating to me as an artist. I am a young playwright that opened myself up as never before and Van was the perfect compliment to a very vulnerable first outing for me. Van was uncompromising in his promise to treat A Woman’s Perspective with care and in telling the story in the gripping way in which I intended. Working and collaborating with Van was exciting and empowering as a creative woman of color. The moment he shared his vision for this play I was not only sold but also knew from that point I would want to collaborate with him again. Not many artists are able to do what he did which was conceive a finished piece that exceeded a writer’s expectations of how far their artistic creation could soar. I look forward to working with Van again in the near future.”

George Cameron Grant

“My work has appeared on numerous occasions in Van Dirk Fisher’s Strawberry Festival, and every time, on every level, the professionalism has been stellar. From the organization, the personnel, the venues, even the quality of audiences, my plays have been given an exceptional forum, and my players have been uniformly treated with the utmost respect. Where I come from, that goes a very long way. Van IS the man.”

Simon Bowler

Producer, director, and writer of film, broadcast, and cable television programming and three award-winning plays.
He ran several shows for BBC World Service Television, then went freelance and produced, wrote, and directed feature documentaries for Channel 4, The World Bank, and Friends of the Earth. In the United States

“The Jocunda Festival is an incredible locus of emerging and established talent, writers, directors, actors, and audience. Under Van Dirk Fisher’s steady and wise guidance the festival has become one of the most fervent and fecund festivals in North America. The continued standard and range of plays and films, the quality of actors, and the sheer passion of all involved make The Jocunda Festival a true stand-out. In the face of Covid restrictions, Van, with his extraordinary commitment and passion was able to re-engineer the entire festival to an online event without losing momentum or quality. May Jocunda and Van become permanent fixtures of the American theater, film, and music scene.”

Laura Bowman

“I have worked with Van Dirk Fisher over several decades, as an actress, playwright, and workshop instructor for youth. I have appeared in several Riant Theatre productions, and several of my pieces have been mounted by The Riant, including one of my One-Woman Shows,The Spirit of the Blues, which included original songs penned by me, and my young people’s piece, The Christmas the God of Gifts forgot. In addition to these collaborations, I have acted in, and been an audience participant in the JOCUNDA FESTIVAL’S Virtual Play Reading Series. When I was beginning in the business and needed someone to recognize my acting and writing abilities, Van was one of the very first to open the doors of his theatre to me. I find him to be visionary, a producer and director who respects the artists and playwrights who come through the doors of The Riant Theatre. He does everything humanly possible to ensure that the playwright’s vision is brought to life just as it was perceived, and that the actors works to the full potential of their instrument. The Jocunda Festival has been a blessing for both playwrights and actors, especially during this time of COVID when an actor’s instrument sometimes feel as if it is shriveling up like Lorraine Hansberry’s raisins in the sun. Actors without a stage, or playwrights without eyes to see and ears to hear their work begin to feel that life has no meaning. The Riant Theatre gives back, to the actor and the playwright, the sense of purpose. Its workshops prepare the artists of tomorrow.The Riant Theatre opens its doors for all seeking to be taught; seeking an opportunity to be seen, heard, recognized, and yes – praised.”

Gha’il Rhodes Benjamin

Grammy nominated Spoken-word performance/recording artist and Audelco award winning actress

“I was determined to remain creative…and when everything closed down, I remained open, flexible and totally liberated. A surge of new energy was bouncing around inside of me …and for the first time in a very long time….I was spending more time, with someone I had met a few times before…myself. Ok girl…let’s get with it, I said to my image in the glass…and as the world shifted and exploded with protests, demonstrations and uprisings…Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, phone calls, emails, text messages…The Riant Theatre reached out to me… wasthis a bridge that would allow me to remain creatively connected…YES. …..and although I had already been officially initiated as a zoomer, I had never auditioned on live zoom. I nailed it, the rest is history. I was cast as Lynette in the Riant’s production of THE BREAKING POINT written by Karen Brown; with a cast that included: Alton Fitzgerald White, Shariff Sinclair and Joy Kelly. Brown tackles the unspoken topic, mental illness with acute precision. A whole new world, a whole new cast, and a director Van Dirk Fisher, who was ready-set-go with every detail for this live-zoom adventure. I took a deep breath, and dove in. We all made it through… sigh of deep relief….and then the summer of 2020 was in full bloom. I decide to take more time for myself as an artist, in my own residence, to launch my own YouTube channel…voicing out more of my own self-expressions via virtual festivals, interviews, live and semi-live performances of all kinds…and before I could even take another deep breath, we were already in December of 2020. Pressing down gently on the brakes, thinking that perhaps the pandemic was coming to an end. It was not.That’s when the multi-talented Van Dirk Fisher invites me into the waters of yet another powerfully sensitive writer, Melvina Douse. Douse writes an accurately descriptive memorial titled A WOMAN’S PERSPECTIVE; validating the lives of a few of the souls who were unjustifiably slain before and during the pandemic. I was invited to represent the brave spirit of Breonna Taylor. Centered and proud of this new acquaintance with myself. I say THANK YOU to Riant Theatre for keeping your doors open and the life boats afloat and fully equipped, especially for moments … like these.”

Website: https://www.ghailrhodesbenjamin.com | YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCugxBwNXF8Df4NVVgWTJvSQ

Natasha Cobb

Playwright and Novelist

“I have had the honor of being accepted into the Strawberry One Act Festival on more than one occasion.Every experience has been filled with joy and excitement.Van guides the participants to create a wonderful experience for both the participants and the audience.”

Philip Bartolf

President, Theatre Palisades Board of Directors.

“As an actor I always want to work with a director who is open, encouraging and knows their stuff. Van Dirk Fisher is such a one. His mastery of text and nuance is second to none. He gets his actors to look at the text in different lights, finding the key moments when things change so the actor has to change what they are doing. It’s a wonderful learning expereince, providing a sense of growth as an actor. As a theater admin person, Van is also at the top. He’s got a terrific sense of time management, vital to any production, but especially with Zoom. All in all, Van is one of the best directors going. To all you actors out there, audition for him. If you get cast, you will benefit from the experience.”

Lindsey Monroe-Bougher

Actor

“Being able to work with Van Dirk Fisher, Founder & Artistic Director of The Riant Theatre and Anthony Fusco, Founder & Artistic Director of the Rainbow Theatre for the LGBTQ+ Short Play Festival was an absolute joy. The way they foster creative spirit in their artists is a true gift, and finding a way to help them reach their audience in the midst of an international health crisis is a gift to us all. What a pleasure to enter into a theatrical endeavor in such an inclusive, supportive, and enthusiastic environment!”

Anthony Fusco

Playwright/Director/Artistic Director of the Triangle Rainbow Theatre.

“I first met Van Dirk Fisher back in 2009, when he accepted my 30 minute comedy into the Strawberry One Act Festival. Working with Van at the Riant Theatre was such a great experience for me that year as a budding Playwright. It was such a thrill to see my work come to life on stage at Baruch College. After that first experience of being in a play competition I continued to write and submit my work every season to the Strawberry One Act Festival. I became more and more inspired to write, and looked forward to having my work presented at the Riant Theatre’s SOAF each season. I had the pleasure of having Van direct a few of my play readings last year during the pandemic, and had the honor of partnering with Van in February 2021 for my first LGBTQ Short Play Festival. I am happy to say that the experience was a success and thanks to Van for all of his hard work in helping me put this festival together. I am currently accepting submissions for the LGBTQ Pride Play Festival in June. Anyone that wants to submit a short play 10-20 minutes in length may do so by emailing me at Triangletheatre@gmail.com”

Tait Ruppert

Actor, Singer, Pianist. Broadway credits include:Candida with Joanne Woodward at the Roundabout.Off-Broadway:Jay in Lonestar, Billy & Boo in Album.Film credits include supporting roles in Diner, Swordfish, Battlefield Earth, The General’s Daughter and Domestic Disturbance. TV: recurring roles on Arli$$ (HBO) and Fat Actress (Showtime).

“This may seem odd, but I have never been in the same room with Van Dirk Fisher.I have never personally met him.I have yet to shake his hand. But…I feel I know him.Fully. This past year has been challenging for us all.A true struggle. And yet I can easily cast my mind back to first hearing Van’s voice when I first auditioned for him. That’s where it all starts.His voice.His voice is beautiful.Not just the sound but the intent and purpose behind it.You totally get that this is an artist who cares about our culture and is passionate about improving it. Van’s Riant Theatre Company and the Jocunda Festival’s Virtual Play Reading Series keeps theatre ALIVE. Van attracts rich and vibrant and brilliant artists and lets them create.There is no greater joy. I have been lucky to have been in three of his productions.Van’s ease and playfulness and brilliance as a director always amazes me. We’re all apart from one another.but his voice brings us all together.Van validates your purpose as an artist.He makes you feel like you’re doing something good…because you are. He’s one of the greatest artists I’ve ever worked with…and one day I’m going to actually meet him.”

Dr. Eric E. Turner

Psychologist/ Professor/ Actor/Singer. Upcoming Broadway Show:Rock and Roll Man – The Alan Freed Story.

“Phenomenal Play!!!!!I have talked aboutlast night’s play, An Institution, ALL DAY…to every person I came in contact with! I absolutely loved it…thank you for allowing us to still celebrate creativity and artistry even through this pandemic.”

Rashida Costa

Actress and Playwright.

“Van is an exceptionally talented Artistic director. His ability to carry out the selection and interpretation of remarkable works makes him the most sought after and respected director around.
I had the honor of being in one of his many productions, he brings the performance to life with his overall artistic vision that leads to remarkable directorial choices. As an actor you are able to achieve a better performance as a result when working with Van. And the audience is certain to have a very momentous experience, one that will stay with them for a very long time. Van is a selfless soul, maintaining artistic control of the production pieces is an arduous and involved process, somehow he still finds a way to put others first.”

https://linktr.ee/RashidaCosta

Jonathan Williams

Founder & Artistic Director – The Jonathan Williams Center for the Performing Arts – TEXAS.

“I’m amazed at how engaging the VirtualPlay Readings are in the JOCUNDA FESTIVAL’s “Greenwood”!They draw you into the setting.The Pandemic left many Live Theatre Companies wondering how to present shows on this new virtual medium.Riant lead the way!My first experience with a Virtual Production was with the JOCUNDA FESTIVAL.It was inspirational, showing how well a show can be produced online!I was inspired as a director. I left with an appreciation for what I call “a new theatrical art form” and an admiration for how Van Fisher directed the show and conducted the “After Show” discussion, so inclusive for the virtual audience and performer alike!Bravo JOCUNDA FESTIVAL Virtual Play Readings, Riant Theatre… “

Jarvis Chapman

Writer, Production Assistant, Cinematic Music Group Creative Marketing and Co-Creative of Cold Chill Clothing.

“What a World I’ve been blessed to be a part of. The Riant Theatre welcomed me into their creative sanctuary with open arms and I overstayed. Enjoying this newly found family of mine while I started as an Intern in this safe space full of creators, which I do believe helped mold my creativity and understanding of the arts. Father of all Creation is Inspiring others to create, Van Dirk Fisher with his leadership as a mentor and the house he’s built, has done just that. I am forever grateful to call The Riant Theatre’s Strawberry One-Act, Festival “Family”. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!”

Maggie McCollester

Actress

“A giant THANK YOU to Van Dirk Fisher and the Riant Theatre for hosting the impressive Jocunda Festival Virtual Play Reading Series throughout the Covid 19 pandemic! The “creative pivot” you made to bring live theatre to home audiences via the internet and Zoom has been brilliant. Not only have you provided a year of memorable online theatrical experiences showcasing so many playwrights’ noteworthy stories, but you have also given actors like myself such a meaningful creative outlet during this critical time. With each play reading the creativity and convention of your “Zoom theatre” grows. What an honor and gift it has been for me to collaborate with you from all the way across the country! Van, through your vision, commitment and direction, you have kept live theatre alive for so many, and at the same time built a new way to connect to it. A “standing O” for you! I will never forget the significant contribution you and The Riant Theatre have made to pioneering a new kind of theatre for us all! THANK YOU!”

Gary Wosk

Writer

“Five Stars! Amazing, emotional performances by a first-rate ensemble cast who delivered a powerful message of hope and faith. Even though the inspiring play God’s Train to Auschwitz written by Marc Littman was performed on Zoom, I felt like I was in a theatre thanks to very imaginative background props and excellent timing. The director, Van Dirk Fisher, masterfully presented a story that should be told again and again about when all seems lost there is a light that will always triumph over evil.”