Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Review: Brass City Blues

Write what you know is something all writers take to heart. Sometimes they take it a little too seriously. In Eddie and the Palaceades, writer and lyricist Roy O’Neil pays homage to the Palace Theater in “Brass City” as the fictional hometown band Eddie and the Palaceades try to save the theater from turning into another corporate America graveyard.
Eddie and the Palaceades follows titular Eddie as he vows to save the venue that got him his big break and jumpstart of memories. Corrupt mayor Biggie Williams is hoping to demolish the Palace Theater and turn into shopping malls and the like. And along the way there is an assortment of characters that fill in for potential loopholes within the main story. With a title that boasts the band’s name, you would think that the story was all about them. But it’s not. Sure we meet Eddie and his wife Gracie and his best friend Vinny, but with so many subplots including daughter Mary’s conflict about her career and disrespecting her town, Biggie’s loneliness, and Mary and Ryan’s romance, among others, the character arcs never truly get completed. When answering the question “what is the musical about” generates multiple answers, you know the book needs some work. In the program note by O’Neill, he states that the work is still in development and scenes have been pulled out, you have to wonder how long it originally was and what it would be like had the subplots been eliminated. Despite the “incompleteness”, the book truly dragged the musical down. Stylistically, the musical had so many varieties it didn’t know what it wanted to be. From campy musical theater to straight-laced characters, the world was muddy. With big characters like Biggie, pun intended, and grand choreography musical comedy is in full throttle, but against other moments of realness, the intent doesn’t quite mesh. Additionally, with a song called “Bangarang” as the big number for the band, you can’t help but feel it’s a reference to “Hook”, or even Skrillex, which is clearly much after the bands’ time.
Art should be about the artists’ passion for their project, but this musical meant more to the creator. The majority of the audience, current and future, will not know what or where “Brass City” is. It’s not meant to be a “Anytown, USA”. O’Neil pays homage to his hometown, Waterbury, Connecticut. The location is such an essential character in the musical it needed clarity. This writer to audience disconnect is a huge hindrance to connecting to the importance of this location.
As title character Eddie, Bill E. Dietrich did an exceptional job with the material, rocking hard to Stephen Feigenbaum’s score. Dietrich has a wonderful voice for the score but was largely let down by the rest of the ensemble. Kayleen Seidl as daughter Mary has a pure voice, playing a part that wanted so much to be fleshed out. Deep within the ensemble were excellent performances by Annie Edgerton and Luke Hoback, owning their larger than life bit characters.
Like the book, Jamibeth Margolis’ direction was all over the map, perhaps due to the blurred intent. The set by Duane Pagano looked as if it came straight from storage at a community theater. Sure, the restraints of the festival setting can be a struggle for a designer, but the design didn’t match the style of the show.
Passion in a project is the backbone to art. But translating that passion for the audience is the key for a successful work. Eddie and the Palaceades has much work to be done before its next reincarnation.

Spotight On...Courter Simmons

Name: Courter Simmons

Hometown: Milpitas, CA (It sounds like “Mule Penis”, but it means “Little Cornfields” in some native South American language… at least that’s what they told us in school)

Education: BA in Theatre and Dance from Santa Clara University, a small Jesuit School in CA

Select Credits: Broadway: Jersey Boys (Bob Crewe) National Tours: Jersey Boys (Joe Pesci, Frankie Valli understudy) Beauty and the Beast (Le Fou), High School Musical. Film: "Lucky N#mbr". TV: 2009 Tony Awards as Frankie Valli

Why theater?: I love the immediate connection with the audience. When you act on camera, you’re only interacting with the other person in a scene (if they’re even actually there, usually they’re in their trailer.) In live theatre, you’re interacting with the people on stage AND the audience itself. Even in a very intimate piece, you can hear the audience react, even breathe in the quiet moments.

Who do you play in Coming?: I’m the “He-Demon,” which means I play lots of different characters in Josh (the son of God) and Damian (the AntiChrist)’s story. I play Damian’s boyfriend, then the voice of God, then the angel Israfel who’s sent from Heaven to assist Josh with the Apocalypse. It’s fun!

Tell us about Coming: It’s a fantastic glam-rock love-triangle story about the second Coming of Jesus and the Anti-Christ, set today in our media and reality show-crazed time. The music is fabulous and the choreography is amazing. The whole team led by Rachel Klein is top-notch, and there’s lots of gloriously raunchy stuff thrown in the mix.

What is it like being a part of Coming?: Like any show in the Fringe at times it feels like it’s being thrown together with duct-tape and safety pins. Then you watch a moment in rehearsal and you’re like “Holy Shit, this is a great show! Why are we only doing 5 performances?"

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: The more honest a show is, the more it speaks to me. It can be big and presentational or intimate, but if the truth behind a story comes through it can be life-changing. I’m inspired by anyone or anything that makes me think or better yet challenges my preconceptions in a real way.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: People will say it’s a stretch, but I’d kill to play Prior in Angels in America. I’d also give my left nut to be anything or anyone in Avenue Q. I love that show so much!

What’s your favorite show tune?:
You’re going to ask a gay man that question and only want one answer? It changes all the time, but I always go back to “On the Steps of the Palace” from Into the Woods. Not traditional I know. But I love the lyrics and Cinderella’s journey through the song.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:
It’s a 3-way tie between Harvey Fierstein, Dennis O’Hare, and Paul Rudnick. There’s a theme there, I know, but they each bring something so fantastic to the table, just to be in a room and watch any of them work would be an honor.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:
Elijah Wood in “Inexplicably Moist - The Courter Simmons Story” on Lifetime.

What show have you recommended to your friends?:
I mean, Book of Mormon is still the best show of the Millennium, the reviewers weren’t wrong.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?:
"Is it Like this for Her Here Always" from The Minister’s Wife (the show based on Shaw’s Candida)

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Totino’s Pepperoni Pizza. The horrible frozen kind. I only allow myself to have it when on vacation somewhere far away, because it’s a damn shame to eat that crap when there’s so much great pizza all over New York.

What’s up next?: I’ve got a couple of ideas floating around for a show of my own creation with friends. Whatever it is will be zany and fun and have me singing songs originally written for high-belting women.

Review: Midlife Crisis Dreams

Everyone has a dream, no matter what the age. Making those dreams come true is the challenge. When a group of pals who get together weekly to jam get the opportunity of a lifetime to play a gig in the Catskills, you get a musical that all audiences should relate to you. The Gig, with a book and score by Douglas Cohen, follows these six buddies up the mountains as their dreams and relationships are tested.
photo courtesy of Russ Rowland
Led by dreamer Marty, six aging friends with careers that are not performing respond to an ad in the paper to be a house band for a resort in the Catskills. It’s only when they arrive that they discover this resort getaway isn’t exactly paradise. And neither is the situation when they are forced to replace one of their own due to cancer, adding a new energy to the mix. As things don’t go quite exactly to plan, their friendships are truly tested as they ponder whether pursing their dream was worth it. Cohen’s The Gig is a throwback to the past with a message about not giving up on your dreams and the value of friendship. Yet the sentimental story doesn’t always land. As we watch Cohen’s characters bright in the eye doing what they love, The Gig is a success. Yet when Cohen strays away from the basic, The Gig begins to layer in too much fluff material. The characters are a bit wishy washy in their decisions and intentions, having a change of heart scene by scene. Some of their choices appear to be created just to cause conflict and dramatic tension. The largest example of fluff material are the characters Lucy and Donna, played faultlessly by Kate Fahrner and Dee Roscioli. Their only purpose in this world is sing Cohen’s music beautifully and to instantly fall for Arthur and Gil just to have a love plotline. But The Gig’s natural love story about these men’s love for their music is more than enough to fill the love quota. Despite the setbacks in the book, Cohen’s jazzy score is fresh and invigorating.
The Gig employs a top notch cast led by Larry Cahn as Marty, Doug Eskew as Marshall, and Nick Gaswirth as Arthur. Their conviction and passion for their characters were lovely to watch. Kate Fahrner and Gaswirth had wonderful chemistry during their budding romance, yet the plotline still felt out of place, halting the main story. Stephen Berger as sleazy resort owner Abe and Donna Vivino as has been diva Miss Ricki Valentine added the right amount of hilarity to the mix.
Led by NYMF directing veteran Igor Goldin, the overall production served the venue magnificently. The simplicity in staging and design was cohesive, allowing the audience to tap into their imagination. Yet, the theatricality of no instruments is clever musically, showcasing Cohen and the casts skills, but for a musical about men who dream of playing music, you kind of miss seeing the instruments.
The Gig has a great universal theme but it doesn’t quite translate to all audiences the way it wants to. The weight and gravity play an important aspect in the characters’ lives but with too many plotlines to follow, the stakes are lowered. Cohen’s music is truly the selling point of this show.

Spotlight On...Adam Harvey

Name: Adam Harvey

Hometown: Santa Fe, New Mexico

Education: Autodidact for the Joyce, Texas Tech University for the Drama, and the University of San Martin, Tarapoto, Peru for the shamanism.

Favorite Credits: A Finnegans Wake show I put up at Cornell University, summer of 2005 for a Joyce academic conference. I performed an entire 40 page chapter – “The Mime of Mick, Nick and the Maggies” - some of the densest stuff in the book. Two-and-a-half hours long, all done off book, and it was as physical a performance as I could make it. I’m pleased with the work I’ve done since then, but I can only look back in disbelief at what I did for that show.

Why theater?: I ask myself this same question all the time. Another way of putting this is “Why not film?” After all, film can be manipulated with edits and close-ups and photo-shopping and sound effects and musical punches and on and on. Only big-budget theater - Broadway and the like - ever succeeds in aping these manipulations, and they can certainly succeed, no question. But to my mind the only reason to go to the theater is to watch something non-apish happen right in front of you, to bear witness to real human activity with all the manipulative filters removed. To do this successfully is rare - even for theater - but theater is the only place where such an event CAN happen.

Tell us about Don’t Panic: it’s only Finnegans Wake: People do panic - this is a real problem. I’ve been running James Joyce reading groups for over fifteen years now, and when it comes time to open our copies of the Wake and peek at what’s inside, even world-renown Joyce scholars have been known to excuse themselves on the flimsiest of pretexts - “Gosh, look at the time,” “My wife’s at home,” “I have to go mow the lawn,” - I’ve heard them all. So it’s an elephant in the room – best look it straight in the eye. This show is specifically designed to make Joyce’s masterpiece accessible – but not through the usual channel of simplifying or condensing, as so many have done before. Finnegans Wake is neither simple nor condensable. It is a massive exploration of the unfathomable universe we live in, and DON’T PANIC: it’s only Finnegans Wake is an invitation as much as anything else: to enjoy, appreciate, and ultimately learn to be comfortable with that which we don’t understand.

What inspired you to write Don’t Panic: it’s only Finnegans Wake?: Well, James Joyce wrote most everything in the show; my contribution as a “writer” is mostly to provide bridges, to ‘ease people into it’ as it were. But this question’s easy to answer: my inspiration is "Finnegans Wake" itself. I’ve been at it for twenty years now, and it never stops being new.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:
Oddly enough, American realism - all that stuff taught by Strasbourg, Adler , Meisner, Hagen, etc. Again, it comes down to ‘How do you make something real happen for an audience to see?’

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:
Bill Irwin – America’s greatest living performer of abstract texts. Yet watch him in the film "Rachel Getting Married" and you’d swear he was from HB, Esper, Actor’s Studio, etc. The man has the best of both worlds living in his body – simply amazing.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Most recently, a local production here in Santa Fe of DLA’s Good People. Some of the most inspired stuff I’ve seen anywhere, and I mean that: London, New York, Chicago, etc. Good theater can happen anywhere.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Richard Burbage starring in “The Invisible Ink Stain”

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Flash Games – the kind modelled on the video and computer games I played when I was a kid in the ‘80s.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: "Vuelvo al Sur" by Popcorn Behavior.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Teaching.

What’s up next?: I’ll put the show up here in Santa Fe again. Some more tweaking, then a tour.

Review: How the 1% Schemes

During the height of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, debates raged on as the protestors riled up the troops. All the while the elite 1% watched on from their fancy penthouses. That image took full form in James Presson’s Long Division, a play that watches siblings and their significant others contemplate their future assets as the wealthy patriarch of the family dies just a floor above them. Sound familiar? Taking inspiration from King Lear, the offspring of the super rich plot and scheme as daddy dies, proving that money and power will truly drive a person mad.
At the start of Long Division, we watch a bunch of hoity toity rich folk play musical chairs in their luxury apartment as they bitch about the 99% and their silly Occupy Wall Street movement as they sip wine and champagne and munch on Ferrero Rochers. We learn that sisters Meryl and Rae are trust fund babies who’ve never worked a day in their life. They depend on their father and their lovers, Allen and Cody respectively, for support, living in neighboring apartments daddy bought for them years ago. As they moan about how the 99 percenters shouldn’t complain, the quartet comes to terms about the obvious fifty-fifty split their father will leave them. But what if that isn’t enough? And what if there was another cog to throw into the equation? Allen calls upon fallen sister and all around do-gooder, Corie to help boost his share. Unfortunately Corie’s arrival halts all of the plotting and scheming with one simple talk with her father. What Presson does wonderfully is he takes Lear into the modern age simply. The themes are consistent and singular. Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia are transformed into Meryl, Rae, and Corie effortlessly. Yet, Long Division has the power to stand on its own. When the plot is present, the story is engaging. However there is an overload of social commentary. The social commentary dragged the show at times, preventing the action to continue and prompting some major character duality. Sure, money truly is the only thing these people know how to talk about, but after it’s established in the first scene, it may not need to be as present throughout. The characters Presson has created live in their own selfish bubbles. They are so selfish they don’t realize how truly awful they are. At times they feel as they are wonderful caricatures. Zak Risinger’s Allen was great and a bit cartoonish. Perhaps the rest of the ensemble wanted to match his level to really comment on the egos these characters have.
Despite some varied acting styles, the ensemble did an overall wonderful job. Emily Tarpey easily rocked forgotten sister Corie. Her control shook the world of the play in all the right ways. Her outside perspective allowed for secrets to be revealed and passed along seamlessly. Tarpey’s Corie may have been scheming from the start, but against the horrible people beside her, you instantly liked her. I almost wished there was some sort of prologue that featured Corie so we see her before her grand appearance. Rachel B. Joyce as Rae played up the whiney, prissy spoiled brat card. Had her pill-popping alcoholic character reached Risinger’s at the start, her descent would have landed more. Ben Diserens as Cody had one of the more intriguing backstories, yet the monotony of the performances prevented that from shining through. Cody worked his way to the top so there is still an ounce of humanity inside we didn’t get to see.
In a bare bones environment, director Marc Eardley does a fine job at evoking the spirit of the 1%. Though physically, the world that was set up was at times inconsistent as actors were entering and exiting to rooms and entranceways different from one another. Eardley’s shining moment in staging was the subtle yet impactful choice to foreshadow Corie’s assent by placing her in a thrown at the head of the table. Sound designer Lee Kinney’s transition music was lively and helpful to cover-up the painfully slow scene shifts. More hands would have helped, but the intent was present as the characters in this world would never be caught moving a single piece of furniture. Costume designer Isabelle Fields did a nice job dressing the men of the play, but for a play about the rich, Meryl and Rae wanted to be flashier, drenched in theater budget-friendly designer clothing.
Power goes to people’s heads. Yet when all hopes and desires are ripped away, lives will be shattered and perspectives will change. James Presson’s Long Division is a magnificent glance at the corrupt minds of the chosen few and how money is quite an ugly look.

Spotlight On...Billy Hipkins

Name: Billy Hipkins

Hometown: Verona, NJ

Education: Yes, thank you.

Select Credits: Broadway: Anna Karenina, the Musical… the Musical.  Toured the USA as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, had compelling lines on every soap opera that began with a vowel (there were 4).

Why theater?: Why air?  This is a hard one, I’ve just always, always wanted to be in a theatre, either onstage, backstage, or out in the house. Always.
Who do you play in The Truing?: I play the Lady Ginger Chicken (but everyone calls her Chickie because even though she’s classy she likes to remain accessible to her fans), a drag queen in chicken drag.  She is a celebrity on these annual aids rides and is based on an actual individual who did the rides, called the Chicken Lady.  She is living with AIDS but has a very positive (pun intended) attitude and is both a mother hen and cheerleader with a strong sense of humor on this journey.

Tell us about The Truing: Joe Norton has written a beautiful play about six individuals – both riders and support staff – on an AIDS fundraising ride who for various reasons have been stranded at the first night’s camp after everyone has begun the second day’s ride.  They need to work together to figure out how to get help and on to the next camp.  The script is full of metaphors; the ride itself can be life, life with AIDS.  We are mid-journey in this epidemic; these characters need each other to get through this.  Our director, Doug Hall is helping us to pinpoint where our loyalties shift, who needs immediate help as the action plays out, how we bond and form a team to get help and help each other.  We all just want to get on with the ride; injured, in need of assistance, just tired of the long road ahead, we all just want to get on with the ride. 
What is it like being a part of The Truing?: Well for me this is a real treat.  I haven’t pursued acting work on a long time (I’m the happiest wardrobe worker on Broadway these days – Go Local 764!) and so being part of a cast again, discovering and developing these scenes together with Doug and Joe is a great adventure.  And we are having a good time together, the whole team – our producer Liz English, our stage managers Jenny Waletezky and Rachel Gass, some very dedicated designers – are totally onboard for this ride.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I have always admired artists who do it their way.  Charles Ludlam, Charles Busch, (There’s a drag theme there too, hmmm…) they found ways to write for themselves, to present the kind of work that they want to be part of within a system that doesn’t always support – or rather fund – not so mainstream work.  Theatre that speaks to me embraces theatricality in some way, whether that be outrageous and over the top or very simple and subtle.  Theatre is a unique art form, live, changing with every performance.  There is something so vital in that and it has always thrilled me to see it or be part of it.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Yes.  Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors.  And Pan the Forest God.  Don’t know in what piece but I want to play him.  Maybe a musical.  Maybe I should write that.

What’s your favorite show tune?:
Ellen Greene’s version of "Pirate Jenny" from Three Penny Opera is my favorite show tune recording.  But when I’m trying to maneuver through midtown tourists I’ve discovered that it’s easier if I keep "Belle" from Beauty and the Beast playing in my head.  “There goes the baker with his tray like always…”

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:
Hmm…Dame Maggie Smith.  I have a feeling we’d get on famously.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Only I play me, got it?  We’ll just shoot the flashbacks through thick gauze.  And we’ll call it “Alsoran”.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I just saw the revival of Pageant and loved it.  The original is to this day one of my favorite theatre experiences and Matt Lenz has done a brilliant job directing this new version.  And if you can get a ticket, The Book of Mormon is holding up quite well.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?:  That changes weekly.  Usually something fun and uplifting to get me out the door and onto an elliptical machine at the gym.  Robyn is my favorite – especially “Dream On” – but right now it’s Michelle Williams’ “Say Yes”.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:
When someone’s wig falls off onstage.  It doesn’t happen often (Go Local 798!) but when it does, we all live for that stuff.

What’s up next?: I’m glad you asked.  I am also a soloist with a one-man show titled For the BENEFIT of Miss JENNIE GOURLAY about an actress who was at Ford’s Theatre the night President Lincoln was assassinated.  She was scheduled to star in a benefit on the following night, a benefit that was obviously cancelled.  So what became of her and her career?  This is my story about finding her and my overwhelming need to tell our stories, the also-ran story.  We don’t all get to be the star, guns go off in all of our lives and our dreams get shifted.  So how did Jennie, how have I, how do we all soldier on?  The show is a mutli-award winner I’m happy to report and I will be presenting it as an encore in the 5th annual United Solo Theatre Festival this fall.  Please check out our website and thanks for reading!  www.ForJenniesBenefit.com

Monday, July 21, 2014

Spotlight On...Libby Emmons

Name: Libby Emmons

Hometown: the Northeast US, currently Brooklyn

Education: Sarah Lawrence undergrad, Columbia School of the Arts grad

Favorite Credits: most recently Puff Puff, at Festival of the Offensive, for which I won the Most Offensive award, in which I performed with Ali Ayala, and was directed by Michael Domitrovich.

Why theater?: Novels take too long and I'm a shitty painter. Also I like instant gratification, and you don't get that if your work is sitting on a shelf somewhere.

Tell us about Sticky?: Sticky. It's a 10-minute play series that blue box world has been producing since 2000. We started out in Philly, where our goal was to work with basically every young actor in the city, which we almost did. After a stint in some LES bars in the early oughts, fulfilling the same mission with the New York kids, we were in residence at Bowery Poetry Club until 2012, and are now at Beauty Bar in Brooklyn, thanks to Eliel Lucero. Just for the record, and in light of all this gender parity talk, it's good to know that Sticky has been 50/50 since 2000.

What inspired you to write I’m Not an Allegory (these are people I know)?: The inspiration of I Am Not an Allegory (these are people i know) was how I feel like the only way I can reconcile my perspective with the world is to assume that everyone looks at things they way I look at things. Otherwise I could never leave apartment.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: The kind that makes my heart feel like it will explode with love for the universe. The Holy Trinity.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: When I want to work with someone, I find a way to work with them. As I meet new people, there'll be more people I want to work with.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Fantasy Grandma is fantastic. I also love anything Rachel Klein has any involvement in at all, I mean if she's in the audience, I'll go.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: yeah I would play myself, and call it “Look Mom, I'm Famous”.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: no comment.

What’s the most played song on your iPod?: I can't tell because settings, but top song this week is South Coast Plaza from The Julie Ruin.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Making shitty paintings.

What’s up next?: I'm working on a short film with Michele Travis, Kelly Stuart, Jimmy Pravasilis and Anna Van Valin, based on a play called Wormy, that I wrote for NY Madness this spring. I want there to be more Puff Puff, and there might be, but it's too soon to tell. I'm working on a screenplay with my husband David Marcus about our old friend, Chris Kelley, who died 15 years ago; it's called "The Fall". Also there's this other play that Brad Rothbart is dramaturing, but I'm not super ready to talk about it yet.

For more on Libby, visit li88yinc.com

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Spotlight On...Kate Foster

Name: Kate Foster

Hometown: the tri-state area

Education: BFA, Boston University and Academmia dell'Arte

Favorite Credits: I Run With You,  Anna/Kate's first song-cycle at Culture Project and Dixon Place, and misandry is a thing the one act I developed with Rebecca Wear and rad actors for Michael Block's Rhapsody Collective!

Why theater?: Because.... my brain.

Tell us about Fear City/Fun City?: FEAR CITY/FUN CITY is a theatricalized concert, or a play with music-- in short, an Anna/Kate song-cycle. It's made up of original songs, stories, spoken word and dance breaks. FEAR CITY/FUN CITY tackles what it means to survive NYC everyday, and what it means to think of leaving for elsewhere-- it tackles the isolation and camaraderie of the urban surround sound-- and finding a community in the midst of all the masses. We talk about falling in and out and in and out of love with NYC-- and wanting to queer how we, collectively, live here.

What inspired you to create Fear City/Fun City?: A RadioLab on how cities scientifically work.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I really love the projects where the entire creative team is female and/or queer and/or POC-led.  I've recently realized that starting on the basis of a shared vocabulary can be super revolutionary. We've been lucky to work some of these directors, namely Rebecca Wear, Patrice Miller, and we've had awesome brainstorming with Karen Eilbacher, Rebecca Cunningham, Alex Mallory and Nicole Watson. They put out such unique projects, with a much needed point of view, intelligence and ferocity. I think you can pick those projects out, where people are surrounded by others who share common goals of representation or transparency or queering or politicizing their art. That's the kind of art I want to see more of.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:
We're presently in talks to develop a piece with the awe-inspiring performance poet Timothy DuWhite. He's part of poetry collective, Red Ribbon Army Collective, and you can check out his transcendental piece "Joy Revisited" here: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MM08i78ZrvQ) I am really pumped to work with him. I also have major creative-crushes on: Madeline Burrows (of MOM BABY GOD), poet/performer Lauren Whitehead,  and all the poets Anna/Kate is sharing the stage with at the NYC Poetry Festival this year. Those are all people I know, so I should really make those shows happen. I guess my major pipe-dreams are opening on tour for Sara Bareilles and/or Andrea Gibson, developing work with Young Jean Lee, Ragnar Kjartansson, Kate Tempest.... and singing in the Sleep No More bar.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I'm a big fan of theaters that put up amazing work and develop relationships with artists over a series of years. I will always recc the programming at Dixon Place, Culture Project, wild project, Girl Be Heard, LaMama and all their summer and winter festival programming.  I've been a big fan of the Public's programming recently and have recc'd Fun Home, Rev Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir, and their reading of Mary Kate's new play in development Manhatta, that our dear friend and frequent director Rebecca Wear assisted.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I'm gonna be a buzzkill here, but there are so many rad ppl who don't have movies made about them. Once we have awesome films about Audre Lorde, Sylvia Rivera, and too many to mention... and Patti Smith's "Just Kids", Eileen Myles "Inferno"...  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's "Americanah" has been turned into a film with Lupita Nyong'o (it's a thing, YAY).... then we can check back in with me and I'll have more movies I'd like to see made.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Stopping dog-owners for 5-10 minutes to bond with their dog....

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?:
Probably something by Rihanna.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Hiking somewhere?

What’s up next?: Anna/Kate's releasing our 6-song Debut EP at Rockwood Stage 3 on Saturday, August 23 @ 7:30. Then we're previewing our Music Video for "Head on Vacation" at Sidewalk Cafe on Friday September 5. It's a super cute video, following 3 queer couples on a first date in Coney Island.... (Collective AWWW) We will be performing at Governor's Island in the NYC Poetry Festival on Sunday July 27 with poets Sarah Duncan, Timothy DuWhite, Nicole Goodwin and more!

For more on Fear City/Fun City, visit http://dixonplace.org/performances/fear-cityfun-city-a-theatrical-concert-and-play-with-music/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/819488538071112/?ref_notif_type=like&source=29

Review: The Price for Progress

Progress is a beautiful and scary thing. With progress comes new innovation and a new way of life. In This Will All Be Yours, a new musical by Laura Pederson and Charles Bloom, progress threatens the Price family farm as the old way of living is no longer profitable as a young man, with an eye for the future, attempts to buy the property all while the Price children are growing up and moving on.
In This Will All Be Yours, Adam and Paula Price hold onto their old-fashioned values and ideals as they tend to their farm along with their three adult children, Glen, Kelly, and Scott. The kids, who've grown up during a time of progress, all have ideas for their future that don't involve the family farm. Though their parents are happy to let their kids fly free, holding onto tradition is still in their hearts, despite young business man and family acquaintance Jackson Webb tries to strike a deal with Adam for the land. At the heart of the musical is the story of family.  Watching the family's love and devotion for one another is beautiful. However there is more to a musical than it's heart and intention. This Will All Be Yours is an ode to the classics, clearly inspired by the Rodgers and Hammerstein cannon as well as some more recent pieces in the similar classic style like The Light in the Piazza and The Bridges of Madison County. Like the characters in the play, progress is occurring in musical theater. The classic style musical is sadly becoming a thing of the past, making this new musical feel too old. The score by Charles Bloom lives primarily in the ballad and mid tempo world. The musical longed for something upbeat, though Jackson's "Progress" fit that bill. While the score did have some stunning numbers including Kelly's "The Sky and I" and Scott's "Being a Star", overall the music felt repetitive. The book by Laura Pederson was, almost to a fault, fully seeded with farm lingo and the like. Due to the language, the dialogue felt quite presentational and unnatural for the actors to recite, especially Amy Griffin and Josh Powell as Paula and Adam. Overall, the entire piece felt like a Disney attraction. You know, like the Carousel of Progress; the attraction tourists flock to in order to avoid the Florida heat.
photo courtesy of John Quilty
As the Price children, Jenny Rose Baker, Matt Farcher, and Daniel Rowan as Kelly, Glen, and Scott respectively, offered a pretty solid performance.  The trio had beautiful voices, Baker and Rowan's the most contemporary and pleasing.  Trevor St. John-Gilbert as the smooth talking, plaid suit wearing Jackson developed a wonderful character through his varied appearances.
Director Ludovica Villar-Hauser seemed to struggle with this musical world. While the set by Meganne George literally put a fence between the actors and audience, Villar-Hauser lacked intimacy and an invitation for the audience to enter the world. Additionally, her staging included a lot of busy work, with little progress, for the actors. George's set and costumes did evoke the appropriate feel, the disconnect was quite unfortunate. Janie Bullard's soundscape added the necessary feel and atmosphere.
For the theater goers longing for the past, This Will All Be Yours is an opportunity to relive the nostalgia. But for a musical about progress, this piece may not progress the genre.

Spotlight On...Tim Realbuto

Name: Tim Realbuto

Hometown: Brooklyn, New York

Education: B.F.A. in Acting from Five Towns College

Select Credits: "The Emperor's Club"; "Law and Order: Criminal Intent"; "The Sopranos"; Finian's Rainbow; Hair; White Widow the musical; The Winter's Tale Project

Why theater?:
There's nothing in the world like watching something live. Actually being there together with an audience experiencing it all together. I discovered how magical and powerful that give and take between actor and audience member is when I was four year old and I saw my first live play.

Tell us about Alone (With Plenty of Help):
'Tim Realbuto: Alone (With Plenty of Help)' is a lifetime in the making. I was supposed to do a two-person show at 54 Below with my good friend Annaliese van der Pol, who starred in a musical I co-wrote. We lived together for a few months and came up with the show. Unfortunately, she got a film role and left New York, leaving me alone with our concert date. The venue asked if I could do a solo show instead, and with the help of friends, I said I would take the chance. The show talks about my life growing up in the entertainment industry, the highs, the lows, relationships (both personal and professional). It's an evening filled with wonderful songs that will hopefully make you laugh, but it's also filled with poignancy and personal heartbreak. I've asked some famous friends of mine to play the people in my life, voices in my head, and sometimes (when things get too tough), they even play me! My special guest stars include Tony Award winner Beth Leavel (The Drowsy Chaperone), Derek Klena (Wicked) , Jason Gotay (Bring It On), Jenna Leigh Green ("Sabrina, the Teenage Witch"), Natascia Diaz (tick tick Boom), Laurissa Romain (South Pacific), Kimberly Faye Greenberg (Danny and Sylvia), and Drama Desk Award nominee Christina Bianco (Forbidden Broadway). It's also my big comeback to acting, so that should be fun for all (if I don't make a complete fool of myself... buy a ticket and find out!)

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I feel like there's not only one answer for this. I think there is a place for all types of theatre. Jukebox musicals and Chekhov should be able to live in harmony together. It's nice that there's something for everyone to enjoy. Art is so subjective. However, I like to be challenged as an audience member. If a play or musical evokes conversation and forces me to think about it for days after, then that's good theatre in my opinion. As for inspiration, good writing inspires me. People like Albee and LaBute, they inspire me. Good acting definitely inspires me. The list of actors I admire goes on and on. Meryl Streep, Marion Cottilard, Ryan Gosling, Liev Schreiber, Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Nicole Kidman, etc. etc. etc.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I really want to do Adam in LaBute's The Shape of Things. I also have a desire to play Benjamin Braddock in Terry Johnson's great stage adaptation of The Graduate. One day, I'd like to tackle Leo Frank in Parade; Harold Hill in The Music Man; and the title roles in Jekyll and Hyde.

What’s your favorite showtune?: "
Rose's Turn" (with anything from Into the Woods, Grey Gardens or Spring Awakening being a close second)

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:
Bernadette Peters

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Joaquin Phoenix because I'm always compared to him. It would be called "Him"

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Hedwig and the Angry Inch! Do NOT miss it! It will change you.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Trashy reality TV

What’s the most played song on your iPod?: "Leave Me Alone (I'm Lonely)" by P!nk

What’s up next?: After this concert, I'm taking a nap. Following that, my writing partner and I are getting our musical "Ghostlight" ready for the workshop stages and I also have a screenplay in pre-production.

For more on Tim and "Alone (With Plenty of Help", visit http://www.myfoxny.com/Clip/10338749/tim-realbuto, http://www.broadwayworld.com/cabaret/article/Tim-Realbutos-Show-at-54-Below-to-Feature-Leavel-Klena-and-More-Broadway-Vets-724-20140609, http://www.broadwayworld.com/cabaret/article/Christina-Bianco-and-Laurissa-Romain-Join-Tim-Realbuto-at-54-Below-724-20140618#.U8Kiz5RdWSo, http://www.broadwayworld.com/cabaret/article/Julie-DMoure-Justin-Anthony-Long-and-More-Join-Tim-Realbuto-in-ALONE-WITH-PLENTY-OF-HELP-at-54-Below-724-20140621

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Spotlight On...Israela Margalit

Name: Israela Margalit

Hometown: Haifa, Israel

Education: Masters (Artist Degree) in music. Studies in philosophy, political science, and literature. Hon. Doctorate Human Letters.

Favorite Credits: TRIO, The Soveremnick Theater, Moscow.

Why theater?: Theater has always been my second great love, after classical music. I love the economy of writing for the theater, trying to say a lot with a little, finding just the right words and timing, looking for ways to shed new light on old thoughts, to create characters and imagine what they’d say to each other. I very much enjoy the collaborative effort and how characters and lines change with other people’s interpretations. Most of all I treasure the relationship with a director, especially when he or she comes to the project with a strong and fresh point of view. My play TRIO had three successful productions: it was magnificently presented as a period drama in Russia, and ran for over six years. It was more intimate and character-based in a wonderful Ovation-recommended production in LA. And finally translated into Hungarian and presented at the Pecks Theater Festival, where it was stripped of the period in a cutting edge production that won all three leads best actor awards. Each interpretation of the play was fascinating to me, and sometimes quite surprising.

Tell us about Get Me a Guy: Get Me a Guy is different from anything I’ve written before, both in terms of structure and style. The play comprises 16 scenes, each one a moment in the life of a different couple, ages 20 to 70, all interwoven together. Some of the scenes are very short, others longer, some funny (hopefully), others more reflective. Three of the scenes are written as spoken poetry. The same four actors play all the roles.

What inspired you to write Get Me a Guy?: I first wrote it as a short. My husband was very sick. I was desperate. I took care of him at home and life stopped. I found myself writing this play in a comedic style that came out of nowhere. Maybe I was just trying to survive. Then I sent it to a festival. The audience loved it. It won a few awards. I thought I should expand it into a full-length play but it took time to get into it because I lost my husband and I was grieving. But then I couldn’t sleep very well and I started to write scenes at the strangest hours, and one day I had the entire play. Then I went through rigorous editing, threw out some scenes, changed the order several times, tried it this and that way, until I got to this version. My last edit was just two days ago. I learn a lot during rehearsals.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Once, when I was quite young, I stopped at a London theater to see Long Day's Journey into Night. That had a profound impact on me. I love drama. Relationship drama, political drama.But there’s nothing more rewarding than making people laugh. Ideally I’d like to write plays that combine both drama and humor, but only the great masters know how to do that.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: The list is long. There are many directors and actors I admire. Right now I’m working with a fabulous director, John Clancy, so I can’t  think of anyone else. John is such a pro, he’s got taste and style and command, and I couldn’t be happier with the way he’s shaping Get Me a Guy. So, if anyone doesn’t like the final result it can only be my fault.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: You mean lately? All The Way. I’d like to add that I recommended it before it got all those awards.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: The title is easy: I have a manuscript called "Surviving Vertically". I’ve never given a thought to the actress who should be me. I’d probably cast the wrong actress. I don’t think I can see myself in perspective. You've got to ask someone else.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I never feel guilty about pleasure. I’ve worked so hard throughout my life, I have no doubt that I deserve pleasure. I’ve earned it. That being said, I mostly enjoy things that are associated with my work. Like a 5-hour good opera. Or seeing a matinee and an evening show with a salad in between. After I recorded the Schumann Piano Concerto with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, I bought myself a huge amount of Belgian chocolate and ate it all.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: I enjoy pop, country and jazz, but I live and breathe classical music; that’s my greatest passion, and I have too many favorite tunes to list.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: A criminal lawyer. The law fascinates me. I love a conspiracy.

What’s up next?: Presenting in New York my comedy with music Sex Today Love Tomorrow with 18 amazing songs by Oran Eldor. We presented it in Berlin and immediately sold the rights to Galissas, and it’s got UK representation, but we haven’t yet tried the American market. It’s a comedy of manners about seven New Yorkers who are trying to make sense of their dysfunctional love lives. In addition, we at Moonlight Theatre Productions are planning a new festival. And I have a play in my head I intend to write, a political drama. I’ll also be giving some piano masterclasses and maybe cut a new piano CD. I’m still active in music, though I don’t tour anymore. But before I do all of the above I’ll be flying to Bayreuth, Germany, to see Richard Wagner’s Ring as a guest of his direct descendent, my friend Eva Wagner. That should be a great experience. The people who are devoted to the Wagner Ring are a nation of its own, fanatics who go from country to country to see yet another Ring. There is a scene in Get Me a Guy about a cultured young woman who loves the Wagner Ring and who loses a guy who’d never heard of it. That's life, a never-ending source of comedy.

Spotlight On...Gary Corbett Davis

Name: Gary Corbett Davis 

Hometown: I was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, educated in New York (Brooklyn), Atlanta, and Los Angeles (for more years than should be counted), and lived/taught in colleges and universities in LA, Boston, Atlanta, and South Carolina.

Favorite Credits: My favorite credit is for producing, writing and directing a dramedy short film called "The Movie Critic," which is currently in competition in the NPR Shorts Showcase competition in Southern California.  (And available on Youtube).

Why theater?: I did theatre throughout High School, but got into film in College.  I have returned to "drama" in recent years, with The Quilted Heart being my second stageplay.  (My first, Depth of Field, had a full stage reading, but I decided it wasn't ready for prime time.  And, I was on to The Quilted Heart.)

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I have been writing most of my life.  Professionally, over 500 news stories, 15-20 dramatic film scripts, and 30+ educational films.  What speaks to me in my creative writing is real-life drama.  I am not into science fiction; I am not a "Game of Thrones" person.  I find "life" challenging enough.  Also, I am a bit of a classicist -- a modernist who has studied from Ibsen to American modernists.  My American favorite play is, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe.  My favorite writers are probably Tom Stoppard, Brian Friel, Neil LaBute...

What show have your recommended to your friends?: The last play I recommended to friends was a recent local College production of Dancing at Lugnnasa, one of my favorite plays.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:
I wouldn't want to see a movie about myself, and I can't imagine anyone wanting to star in it.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?:
ipods -- my music would not be a single but an album based upon my mood.  Casual would be "Shagging" songs in the genre of "Beach Music," or any one of a number of Doo Wop albums.  When writing, it's one of two genre's:  Delta Blues, (honkey-tonk piano like Jelly Roll Morton or Tuts Washington, or Blues Harp with Sonny Boy Williamson or Pinetop Perkins.), or classical piano (probably Horowitz or Perahia).

If you weren’t working theater, you would be ______?:
Working in film.

What’s next?: I put in some time every day on my next play, which is in its third draft (and maybe ten or twelve will be required).  It deals with some very fundamental questions -- the issues tearing the world apart -- the battle between power and love.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Review: Clash of the Cultures

When you walk out of a theater moved or touched or provoked, that work of art has, in some way, affected you. For those who are theater regulars, that may not happen all that often. In David Edgar's sensational Pentecost, feelings will be evoked. Thoughts will be had. And the beauty is, not everyone's views will be the same. Which is quite fitting for the work.
Tackling everything from the origin of Western Renaissance Art to pop culture to heritage to rights and freedoms, Pentecost follows art curator Gabriella Pecs and art historian Oliver Davenport as they search for the origins of her artistic discovery hidden away in a church. As a barrage of political and religious representatives attempt to take ownership of the work and where its home should be, everything is turned on its head when American art historian Leo Katz claims the work of art may not be what it appears to be. And just when you think that’s the end, everything is again turned on its head when a group of political asylum seekers rush the church and hold the trio hostage in hopes of a new life of freedom. Pentecost is an intellectually stimulating language play about art, culture, and humanity. The play feels like a realistic "National Treasure", just missing an appearance from Nicholas Cage. Edgar is not afraid to tackle the big issues and presents them in a beautifully stimulating fashion.
Pentecost may look like an epic play, but with a willing ensemble and impeccable direction by Cheryl Faraone, Pentecost is non-stop action from start to finish. As the main trio, Jonathan Tindle, Alex Draper, and Tosca Giustini were top notch as Oliver, Leo, and Gabriella respectively. Tindle and Draper were brilliant foils for one another. Tindle was likeable as Oliver Davenport. Draper’s Leo Katz began as a character you love to hate, but as Act II drew on, Draper’s conceded and boisterous character made a lovely change. Guistini is wonderful in her characterization as the ball of energy Gabriella, but was held back a tad with her dialect work, as at times, the clarity of her words were difficult to understand with her speaking speed. Within the ensemble, there were some beautiful performances that stood out including Christo Grabowski as nice guy Father Per Karolyi, Lilli Stein as joke-sharing Bosnian Amira, Lily Balsen as woman of few words Fatima the Kurd, Aubrey Dube as the fun gun carrying Antonio, and Chelsea Melone as the wonderfully hilarious and scene-stealing Toni Newsome. Mari Vial Golden as Yasmin, the mouthpiece of the renegades, held her own through her dominance and emotion throughout Act II.
To keep an audience engaged and willing to go on this incredible journey is a testament to great direction. Cheryl Faraone kept the world active, keeping the stakes high throughout, even when it was just a story about art. For a work with such weight and abundance of themes, Faraone took Edgar’s script and brought the audience along on the journey, pinpointing the essential. Mark Evancho's set was transformative. Using the theater's architecture as a jumping off point, the cohesiveness of theater and set was beautifully converted into a rundown church. Faraone and Evancho truly invited the audience into the world of the play, feeling as if you were a part of the action. The costume design by Adrienne Carlile, with the original design by Jule Emerson, evoked the times wonderfully, giving each character an identity. Hallie Zieselman’s lighting was quite effective, offering some stunning moments with theatrical magic.
To say Pentecost is not a difficult play to tackle would be a lie. Yet PTP/NYC did it with such ease. Pentecost is not to be missed. The emotional journey this piece will take you on is remarkable.

Spotlight On...Thomas Hischak

Name: Thomas Hischak

Hometown: Rochester, New York. Now reside in Cortland, NY

Education: St. Louis University, Southern Illinois U. at Carbondale

Favorite Credits: Books about theatre and film, lots of plays

Why theater?: Movies and TV just don't do it like live theatre.

Tell us about The Emperor of North America:
It is a comedy based on historical fact. In the 19th century, a crazy businessman in San Francisco declared himself Emperor. Even crazier, everyone at the time was amused, went along with it, and humored the old fellow. The play is about a frustrated writer today who writes a biography of the Emperor and finds the old man is starting to enter his life. Oh, and the play is also about "War And Peace". But isn't everything?

What inspired you to write The Emperor of North America?: I ran across the Emperor while doing research on David Belasco. He just sounded like a guy who needed to be put on stage.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I am a big Tom Stoppard fan. Very highbrow, I admit. But his plays are mostly comedies. Anyone who can write a comedy about physics or poetry or moral philosophy or James Joyce is my kind of writer.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: George Bernard Shaw. I know he's dead. And we probably wouldn't get along. All the same . . .

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Recently I was very impressed with Act One at Lincoln Center. It has recently closed but was taped for "Live From Lincoln Center" and will be shown on PBS next year. I will encourage my friends to watch it.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: An over-the-hill actor. It would be titled "Who? Never Heard of Him"

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Old musicals. I mean really OLD musicals. Victor Herbert. Jerome Kern.

What’s the most played song on your iPod?: I'm old myself. I still listen to CDs. A lot of recent musicals, both good and bad. Most are bad. But once in a while . . .

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be ______?: In the home.

What’s up next?: A comedy, I imagine. We need more comedies. Lots more comedies.

Spotlight On...Taylor Ferrera

Name: Taylor Ferrera

Hometown: Shepherdstown, West Virginia

Education: BFA Acting from WVU

Favorite Credits: Portia in Cinderella; Emma Goldman in Tintypes

Why theater?: It’s the best way I’ve found to bring myself and others the most joy. I am also a very good waitress, and didn’t want that talent to go to waste with me being a lawyer or doctor or something.

Tell us about Propaganda! The Musical:
It’s a new musical comedy about a secret government bureau that covers up political scandals. When the bureau is faced with the biggest political scandal that they've ever seen, they decide that the best way to cover it up is by doing a Broadway musical.  The songs are super catchy with a fun blend of musical styles. 

What inspired you to write Propaganda! The Musical?:
While I was waiting to audition for a show, a tune popped into my head. Then lyrics started coming. Before I knew it, I had a premise, a lead character, and an opening number to Propaganda! The Musical. Of course the premise, lead character, and opening number are all different now, which is good, because I’m pretty sure my original tune was a rip off of a Godspell song.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:
Well, a big, brassy, classic musical theater number can give me chills and make me weep. But I also love an intimate play where it feels like just you and one or a handful of actors in the room. When I first got to New York the show Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson by Michael Friedman and Alex Timbers was on Broadway, and I remember how much that show rejuvenated my love for musical theater and gave me hope in its future. 

If you could work with anyone you've yet to work with, who would it be?: Tina Fey. She’s next on my list, though, after Matt Webster (my current co-writer) so it shouldn’t be too long.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: All the Way. Is it clear that I love historical shows on Broadway?

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:
Some baby just now being born, since I don’t forsee this movie coming out for a while and she needs to play me in my prime of life.  It would be called “The Queen of Folklore” which is an inside joke and would therefore alienate a lot of moviegoers. It would not do very well, especially since a baby is playing me.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Eating anything while watching anything. I associate eating with being entertained way too much.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?:
“I Need You” by the Beatles, inexplicably.  Of all the Beatles songs…

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: A really bad cook. Or a really bad accountant. Or a really bad press secretary to the president. I have no other skills.

What’s up next?: Law school. Sorry. I mean I have a few shows lined up where I play silly songs. And a sketch show in August. And we’re in talks with a few places to produce Propaganda! The Musical after NYMF. So hopefully lots!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Spotlight On...Jason Hite

Name: Jason Hite

Hometown: Antioch, CA

Education: Young Rep at Center Repertory Company in Walnut Creek, CA

Select Credits: Bare (Off-Broadway), Girlfriend (Berkeley Rep), Giant (Dallas Theatre Center),  The Black Suits (Barrington Stage Company), Spring Awakening (San Jose Rep)

Why theater?: I think it comes down to the joy I get in telling stories.  I get to step outside of my own world in and just play 2 1/2 hours with like minded people.  A beautiful little clan of self-imposed outcasts.

Who do you play in The Snow Queen?: I play a lovable, bumbling, loud, possibly senile chap that our heroine Gerda meets along her journey named Air Marshall Reginald Heinronymus Stilton Du Croix aka The Old Crow.

Tell us about The Snow Queen: Our telling of the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale centers around a young girl who has her best friend stolen away by the powerfully seductive Snow Queen who needs a child to help her uncover a secret hidden in an enchanted mirror.  It's very immersive show with many actors playing multiple roles, playing instruments, and working together to build a completely separate world. 

What is it like being a part of the The Snow Queen?: I've been with the show since November of last year after being invited to join my girlfriend and fellow cast member Eryn Murman at San Jose Rep to work on the show with our good friend Rick Lombardo .  A lot of these people are like family to me, and the new folks that they've brought on board our incredibly down to earth, wonderful people.  I'm a very lucky man.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Something honest. Something that has integrity. Something Fun. Art suffers when negative egos get involved.  I love working with confident, passionate, real people who aren't afraid to be honest with one another and who are genuinely supportive of one another.  When your in a room that is flowing with the same mix of creative energy and focus,  there's nothing better.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I mean,  I'd be down to jump in to Cabaret when Alan Cumming gets done being so damn good.  

What’s your favorite showtune?: "Those You've Known" from Spring Awakening

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Coming from the Bay Area Theater scene, one person that I've always wanted to work with is James Carpenter.  Someone write it.  I want a two-header with James Carpenter!

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:
Can I audition? 

What show have you recommended to your friends?:
Go out and see If/Then and Bullets Over Broadway!

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:
Late night Frozen Yogurt

What’s up next?:
Something honest. Something that has integrity. Something Fun.

Spotlight On...Rachel Stern

Name: Rachel Stern

Hometown: Montville, N.J.

Education: NYU, Lee Strasberg Studio.

Select Credits: Jean in Missionaries at BAM, Liz in High Fidelity at the Imperial Theatre, and Jeanie in Hair at North Shore Music Theatre.

Why theater?: It saved my life.  I had 2 choices.  Fall into the abyss of kids who didn't realize their potential, or pull my head out of my.....sand and dive in.

Who do you play in Madame Infamy?:
Madame Tussaud

Tell us about Madame Infamy:
It's some riveting, beautiful theatre!  One of the most interesting people in history, Madame Tussaud, introducing a story of two opposite women, in similar, emotional peril. And physical peril! One rich and powerful, and one poor and in servitude.  I don't want to give too much away.  I also don't want to give any incorrect information.  I'm still learning about the piece everyday.

What is it like being a part of Madame Infamy?:
I must say, the room is electric.  I only knew a couple of people, and everyone is so sweet, and talented.  The creative team greeted us with open arms and made it very clear that it was going to be a safe and creative room for everyone.  That's really all you can ask for when you do new theatre.  Especially, when they bring snacks!

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: This is tough.  I have dabbled in any and every type of theatre.  As an actor and as an audience.  Each style and experience moves me and speaks to me in different ways.  The first time I saw Les Miz, I knew I needed to get on that big stage.  When I saw The Fantasticks downtown, I knew a perfect, small show.  I saw Alice at BAM with Robert Wilson's direction and Tom Waits' music, and I had a glorious headache for 3 days.  When I saw the most recent production of The Normal Heart, I ugly-cried in the theatre until I was dehydrated.  So, it all speaks to me.  If it doesn't then it's not theatre.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I love playing original roles, but my musical theatre heart would love to sing the role of Lily in The Secret Garden.  I want to play Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, but who doesn't?  I really, really want to play Mad Margaret in a production of Ruddigore.  Not sure that'll ever happen, but hey, a girl can dream.

What’s your favorite show tune?: I like the mushy ones.  I can't pick one.  I love Sleepyman from The Robber Bridegroom, Poor Sweet Baby from Snoopy, and Unusual Way from Nine.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: SO many people!!!  Alan Cumming, Neil Patrick Harris, Gorgeous Jackman, I mean Hugh!  There are non-musical theatre actors I adore, like Sam Rockwell, and Judith Light, who SO rock on stage.  I would love to work with them too. 

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: HA!  Old me or young me?  I think Helena Bonham Carter.  People say I look like her sometimes, but more for her energy.  Plus I just love her!  Let's call it "HOW THE HELL DID I GET HERE AND WHERE AM I!"

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I recommend any show my friend's are working on!  I'm a big fan of supporting each others' work.  If the ticket for a particular show is too steep, I tend to recommend a less expensive show. These days, i send them to Beautiful, Violet, Kinky Boots, or If/Then.  I got lotsa pals in those and they're great.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: It's a three way tie between "Jam On It" by Nucleus, "Under Pressure" by Freddie Mercury and David Bowie, and "Why" by Annie Lennox.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:
CANDY!!!!!!  I eat tons of candy.  Maybe that's more of a problem than a guilty pleasure but I don't care.

What’s up next?: I'm devoting a lot of time and energy to my voice over, commercial, and recording part of my career.  I'm more and more in love with the booth every day.  It gives me the freedom to work on my own music, which I'll be bugging people with as soon as I get my website up!

Spotlight On...Nathan Brewer

Name: Nathan Brewer

Hometown: Zelienople, Pennsylvania

Education: M.F.A., Penn State; B.A., Westminster Choir College

Why theater?: I didn't have any other options.

Tell us about Propaganda! The Musical: It is a hilarious, quirky, original musical with an incredible cast and creative team. 

What inspired you to direct Propaganda! The Musical?:
A few years ago, the star of our show (Dale Sampson) was called back for the role of The Cat In The Hat for the Theatreworks/USA National Tour of Seussical, for which I was the Assistant Director and Music Director.  Dale was two inches too tall to fit in the pants, and the team almost passed on him.  I convinced the director to beg for a new pair of pants, and Dale got the role!  Years later, he recommended me for this gig, and I am thrilled to collaborate with him again. 

What show have you recommended to your friends?:
Aladdin!  (OK- I have to admit that I assisted Casey Nicholaw on the show in Seattle, Toronto, and on Broadway-- but I adore it, and I recommend it to everyone!)

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:
Angelina Jolie/"Maleficent"

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:
Sandi Patty

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?:  "Goin' Up Yonder", Walter Hawkins

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Homeless

What’s up next?: The Drowsy Chaperone (Long Island Musical Theatre Festival), Hair (Westminster College of The Arts), Bubble Boy (in development).

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Spotlight On...Matt Webster

Matt Webster

Hometown: Martins Ferry, OH

BFA Acting from West Virginia University

Favorite Credits: Kynaston in Complete Female Stage Beauty; Michael in The Pillowman

Why theater?: Because I never get bored with it. There’s always something to write, a character to create, a script to read.

Tell us about Propaganda! The Musical: 
It’s a hilarious new musical about a secret government bureau that covers up political scandals. It’s an awesome blend of contemporary and classic sounds with some unforgettable characters and completely original story.

What inspired you to write Propaganda! The Musical?: 
I wanted an excuse to stay friends with Taylor Ferrera (my co-writer).  Also, I wanted to tell an original story that had meaning but was also a great distraction from all of our realities.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:
 New and original theatre. I remember studying Brecht in school and kinda geeking out over it.  I loved the idea of creating a piece of theatre that causes the audience to go out into their world and effect change. It inspired me to write with a certain tone that I’ve never been able to/never want to lose.

If you could work with anyone you've yet to work with, who would it be?: Duncan Sheik.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: That guy that plays Cory in "Boy Meets World" – Ben Savage? It would be called: "Slow Down, Let Our Children Grow Up".  That was printed on signs in my hometown when I was a kid, and I always thought it was such a funny and intense warning. I mean I totally get that it’s important to slow down, but as a kid, I just loved it and always laughed.  Maybe that gives you a too intimate glimpse of my childhood…

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:
 Eating an entire container of Goldfish in one sitting while binge-watching Saved By The Bell…not that that has ever happened…

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: 
”We Will All Be Changed” by SERYN

If I weren’t working in theater, you would _____?: Be a crazy man that travels around the world and stuffs his face with amazing food… and goldfish. 

What’s up next?: Sleep (but secretly I’m hoping to be too busy to sleep…)

Spotlight On...Xalvador Tin-Bradbury

Name: Xalvador Tin-Bradbury

Hometown: Yorkshire, United Kingdom

Education: The Arts Educational School Tring and AMDA

Select Credits: Bartley in The Cripple of Inishmaan with Shirley Knight, Benjamin Button the Musical (Fundamental Theatre Project) Jim Rado's SUPERSOLDIER (NYTB) Dionysus in The Bacchae (Envelope Ensemble)

Why theater?: My dad was in Stomp so I grew up watching him drumming on pretty much anything he could find, also my mum has some pretty hilarious dance moves so I guess I was inspired from a young age.

Who do you play in Madame Infamy?: I play Mercy. He is the fabulous, flamboyant advisor to King Louis and Marie Antoinette, ya know, the funny character actor kind of role. He is based on Austrian Diplomat Comte de Mercy-Argenteau who became one of the most powerful people at the French Court by manipulating Marie Antoinette.

What is it like being a part of Madame Infamy?:
I've been involved in so many readings this past year I was terrified I had forgotten how to act without a script in front of me. Luckily I haven't. Working on this show is great because everyone and everything about it is awesome and we have a pretty bad ass creative team.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I am very inspired by and a big supporter of new work, I spent this past year involved in a lot of workshops and readings with Fundamental Theatre Project which was a massive learning curve.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I would love to play the Goblin King in "The Labyrinth" if they ever make that into a Broadway show. I'm hoping someone sees this and makes it happen.

What’s your favorite showtune?: “Candy Store” from Heathers the Musical, because I may actually know all the choreography.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: David Bowie, I want to work with David Bowie, I love David Bowie.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Macaulay Culkin would probably play me and I guess the movie would be called "Has anyone ever told you, you look like Macaulay Culkin?"

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Madame Infamy of course ;) or any NYMF show, go support new work!

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: “These Days” by Nico.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Archer marathons and Mexican food.

What’s up next?: Come see me in Madame Infamy! Get tickets - http://www.nymf.org/tickets/2014-events/madame-infamy/

Spotlight On...Dale Sampson

Name: Dale Sampson

Hometown: Glen Dale, WV

Education: GED

Select Credits: RENT (Mark, Gallery Players), Kingdom Come (Michael/Freddy, DUTF winner: best musical), Best Imitation (Landon, MITF, FestivALL, and Emerging Artists), Seussical National Tour (Cat In The Hat, dir. Marcia Milgrom Dodge, TheatreworksUSA), Featured Vocalist for Broadway Cares, National Champion in Dramatic/Humorous public speaking.

Why theater?: Some of the best advice I've ever received is, "If you can be happy doing anything else, go do that." And here I am, still in the theatre. When I was 5, I saw my older sister and her friends dancing to Rupaul's "Supermodel" in their school talent show. I looked up at my mom and said, "I WANNA DO THAT!"  I've been performing on stage or in my backyard ever since.

Who do you play in Propaganda! The Musical?: I play Rookie, a young man with the innocence and naivety of a young boy...who LIVES for musical theatre. I like to think of him as a cross between Buddy the Elf, Bobby Strong, and mostly, my childhood self.

Tell us about Propaganda! The Musical: Propaganda! is an ORIGINAL, intelligently hilarious, musical comedy that tells the story of innocent Rookie being thrown into a position of world power.  The show revolves around a secret government bureau that covers up political scandals. When faced with the hardest coverup to date, Rookie brings in his love of musical theatre to try and do what is best for all of mankind. Matt Webster and Taylor Ferrera (the writers/composers) have created a truly unique and insanely entertaining world for this cast to play in and for these super lucky audiences to experience. Get ready.

What is it like being a part of Propaganda! The Musical?: An absolute DREAM! I have been honored to play Rookie from the show's conception. I don't know a single actor that doesn't want to create/originate a role from the bottom up. These guys have trusted me and given me more creative freedom than I've ever received in this business. I feel lucky as hell every time I step into Propaganda rehearsals.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I have a very eclectic taste. Growing up in a small town, most of the theatre I was exposed to were the shows that everyone knows. Now, my biggest appreciation and inspirations come from things I've never seen or heard of, experimental theatre, new concepts and ideas. Also, I grew up in a big family and we have always been very close. As an actor, I often find myself pulling inspiration from my family's lives, relationships, and experiences to bring as much honesty to my work as possible.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Yeah, A ZILLION! An easy answer right now is Gabe in Next to Normal. There is just so much to explore with who and what he is. The options of how he can be portrayed are endless. The material is so drenched with emotion and beauty. Plus, I have a limited time in my career that I could play him.

What’s your favorite showtune?: HA! To listen to? To sing? To embarrassingly dance down the sidewalk to? Impossible to answer. But at this very second, I have "Die Vampire Die" from [title of show] on repeat. Can't get enough!

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Another question too hard to answer with just one! Someone that always comes to mind is Emile Hirsch. He is one of my favorite screen actors. I personally feel that he is underrated. His VAST range of solid and interesting character work really resonates with me. I would kill to see what we could bring to the stage together.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: A younger Neil Patrick Harris! The title would be something like "The Hills Are Alive With Dale Sampson: The Movie Musical" (laughing!) A little shout out to those West Virginia hills and my first show as a kid, The Sound of Music.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: The Fantasticks! Touching and entertaining. Simple yet complex. People tend to forget about this gem.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: Lately it's "We Are Golden" by Mika. I LOVE his music, especially in the summer!

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Horror Movies! The good and the terrible.

What’s up next?: I'm in very early development of a new musical with a creative partner of mine, insanely talented playwright and musician, Jeremy Richter. Our ideas and concepts for the project are really special. I'm looking forward to putting a focus on that next.

Spotlight On...Rachel Dunham

Name: Rachel Dunham

Hometown: Melbourne

Education: High School

Favorite Credits: Supported Ray Charles 1997

Why theater?: I've always been on the stage. It's my chosen profession, my calling so to speak. Much like someone knows they want to be a nurse or a teacher. I've been on many stages whether they be small jazz gigs or a large production on the "main stage".

Tell us about OPRAHFICATION: It is a one woman show celebrating all things Oprah. It's written as a "one-off" retrospective episode of her talk show. She has come back to television for an "Anniversary Special" to celebrate and present the "Ultimate Interview".

What inspired you to write OPRAHFICATION?: I am a fairly "niche" performer. Definitely not the "girl next door". I couldn't see myself sitting around waiting for that niche role to be created for me, I had to create it. It wasn't so much a conscious decision but I can now see that it was a good decision. My musical director and friend, Shanon Whitelock asked me what character I would like to play if I wrote my own one women show and things evolved pretty quickly from there.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love story telling. Tell me a great story in a clever and creative way  I won't care what the subject matter is. If I can loose myself in the world you create and I can think and be moved I'm in. Make me laugh make me cry but move me.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: There are too many I am yet to work with and many many more I am unaware of. I am always excited to work with new people. There is always so much to discover from other artists.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I most recently recommended a show here in Melbourne called Billy. An Audience with Billy Holiday. Starring a brilliant young performer Benny Dimas aka: Mama Alto. An incredible countertenor. SUBLIME.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I think it would actually be a documentary titled "Who Will Buy?"

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:
Simply CHOCOLATE! and HBO TV series.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: Stevie Wonder is my "go to".

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: On a farm working with animals.

What’s up next?: Writing another show. Watch this space....or running away to the family farm ( depends what day you ask me).

Review: How Gertrude Got Her Cry Back

The classics in the literary canon always contain characters that desire to be explored deeper. And many authors take on the oft-difficult challenge. PTP/NYC, the producing powerhouse of Howard Barker's work presents Barkers take on the Hamlet saga, bringing Gertrude, the titular character's adulterating mother, front and center.
In Gertrude- The Cry, Barker explores Gertrude's motives all the while painting other characters in a new light and creating new figures in Hamlet's world. Gertrude takes on a new persona as the puppet master, manipulating Claudius and going toe to toe against her mother-in-law Isola. Is it possible that Gertrude is a power hungry menace who manipulates her way to the top? Barker’s Gertrude seems to have shades of Lady Macbeth. By pulling focus on Gertrude and discovering her deeper side, Barker offers a new perspective to the source material. Sure, previous knowledge of the Bard's classic is helpful, Gertrude still has the ability to stand on its own.  While some of the liberties Barker takes may confusion Hamlet aficionados, it's still an intriguing script, sexy and provocative and never afraid to shock.
photo courtesy of Stan Barouh
PTP/NYC employs a majority of company favorites in the ensemble while integrating new blood in the mix. Pamela J. Gray as Gertrude brings a audacious new version to the previously quiet character. For the first time, we see her as perhaps a villain, using Claudius as her minion. Robert Emmet Lunney's Claudius is pained, like a puppy dog for Gertrude. His moments of unrequited love are the strongest, bringing a new humanity to the villain. Kathryn Kates as the strong maternal figure Isola is captivating and commanding. Her well-rounded performance is one of the best on stage. As Hamlet, David Barlow channels a Jim Carey-esque vibe. His road to insanity takes on a whole new meaning. Meghan Leathers as the Ophelia-like Ragusa is sprightly, shining with her physicality. Bill Army as Albert seemed to have been lost in a completely different world than his cast mates.  Though the variance of acting styles made the overall intention a bit muddled, Richard Romagnoli's direction was lively and engaging. Even Romagnoli's transitions, aided by Cormac Bluestone's high octane music, were full of life. Mark Evancho's rep set, using elements in PTP/NYC's other production, works wonders for Castle Elsinore. Danielle Nieves’ costume design was sleek and modern with a cohesive color pallet, occasionally bringing the effective pop of color. Despite some actors unable to find their light and the occasional blinding of the audience via the mirror late in Act II, Hallie Zieselman’s lights set a distinct mood for the play.
Howard Barker's extensive catalogue of work is known for its vulgar language and themes, yet Gertude- the Cry may be one of his more accessible works. For fans of adaptations with a touch of intellect, this play is for you. I guarantee you will never see Hamlet's Gertrude the same ever again.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Spotlight On...Alex Walton

Name: Alex Walton

Hometown: Bronx, NY.

Education: Point Park University, BFA Musical Theatre, Class of 2013!

Select Credits: CBS' "As the World Turns", The Music Man (Northshore Music Theatre),  The Crucible (John Proctor, Pittsburgh Playhouse Conservatory), RENT (Roger, Riverdale REP).

Why theater?: I grew up in a family of theatre folk and I guess I just got bit by the theatre bug!  It actually hurt and I still have a scar from the bite.  Dad (Bob), mom (Laurie), sister (Emily), and Uncle (Jim) have all been on broadway and doing their own theatre things my entire life.  I was sure I was going to be different, though, because I was the baseball player of the family.  But during a high school production of Oklahoma!, it just hit me.   I think I was singing about a Surrey with something on top of it when I realized that there was nowhere else I wanted to be and nowhere I felt more comfortable than on that stage.  As cliche as it sounds, I just felt so at home.  I tried to be crazy and pursue both baseball and theatre in college but it didn't work out and when it came down to it, I just couldn't stay away from the whole acting thing. 

Who do you play in Fable?: I play Tucker.  A goofy, sarcastic, charming, loud, honest, and downright lovable young partier who has decided to live at home after high school and not rush into the college life.  I'd say he's my favorite character in the show!

Tell us about Fable: Fable is a story about growing up, friendships, first loves, first times,  secrets and trying to find the path in life that is right for you.  It's the night of High School Graduation and we meet 6 friends that are doing their best to survive it.  This could very well be the last night that these 6 are in the same place at one time and they are forced to talk about things and confront situations that they never have before.  We meet this teenagers on the brink of adulthood and it makes you wonder and question all those stories and lessons we were taught as kids.  Fable reminds you that life never stops changing, whether you're ready or not.   It's a beautiful, realistic story with characters that everybody will be able to relate to.   It also has such an incredible, contemporary score.  It's great!

What is it like being a part of Fable?: I couldn't be more excited to be making my NY debut with this show!  Even though we just started rehearsals, I can already tell we have a special group of people here.  It's a gigantic team of incredibly talented and creative individuals.  It's also such a relaxed and fun atmosphere which is super important when working on a new piece of theatre.  We're all comfortable and having the perfect amount of fun while still getting our work done.  As a cast, I can tell we already have so many similarities to the characters we are playing .  That makes it easier to just breathe and be confident and just be you!  There's also a great sense of trust in the room so we can just go for it and see what happens and not be afraid!  I think everybody is going to watch this show and be like "Hey! I remember that feeling!" or "Wow that was literally me at 18 years old."  It's awesome. 

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:
Ooooh that is a tough one!  I really love all kinds of theatre.  That's kind of a boring answer but it's true!  I love August Osage County and In The Heights equally but they are rather different!  I will say that after doing Twelfth Night at school, I've become obsessed with good ol' Billy Shakes.  Obviously, Shakespeare is the most influential playwright and poet who has ever lived.  His plays are timeless, he writes about real people that you can identify with, pretty much everybody in the universe can throw out a quote from something of his, and as an actor, everything is in the language.  You can just let the words flow and pour out of you.  The words do everything for you and there's nothing like it.  I <3 Mr. Speare.  As for artists, there are many that have inspired me.  From Michael Jackson to Leo Dicaprio to Dustin Hoffman to Norbert Leo Butz to Meryl Streep to Steven Sondheim to Queen to Billy Joel to my Mom and Dad!   There are many! 

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I would do anything to play Hamlet and I would do anything to play Billy Bigelow.  Maybe someday!?  I'd also love to play Usnavi and Mama Rose but I don't think those will ever happen. 

What’s your favorite showtune?:
I'd say my favorite show tune is "Being Alive," from Company

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I would love to do a show with my big sister, Emily.  She's the most talented person I know and I just want to be able to act with her.  Now that we're both kind of adult people and working actors, that would be amazing.  Cast us!

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:  If Ryan Gosling were available, he would definitely get the call.  And I would call it "The Young Baseball Playing Actor Who Only Eats Sushi."  It's a dramedy also starring Amy Adams as the love interest.  I'm also trying to get Paul Rudd for the best friend role.  We'll see what happens.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: "
Breaking Bad" and "True Detective" forever and always. 

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: "The Way You Make Me Feel" by MJ, the king of pop.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: The 2001 teen comedy "Get Over It", starring Kirsten Dunst, Ben Foster, and Martin Short.  It's a good one.

What’s up next?:
Hopefully this will be the first of many opportunities I have in the big city.  For now I'm just going to keep on auditioning, meeting people, and having fun!  Enjoy the show!