Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Block Talk- Episode 167: Quarantine Check In with Pussy Willow



On today's Quarantine Check In, Pussy Willow joins me to chat all things containment cookie, The Sims, and mental health!

To listen to the podcast, download and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, or Stitcher!


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Block Talk- Episode 166: Quarantine Check In with Coco Taylor



Today, I got to chat with my good friend Coco Taylor! Our topics include Broadway, Video Games, and Pet Peeves!

To listen to the podcast, download and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!


Monday, March 16, 2020

Block Talk- Episode 165: Quarantine Check In with Gigi Deetz



In a time of uncertainty, it's always important to check in with the people around you. And that's what I'm going to do everyday until things improve. Joining the Block Talk content is Quarantine Check In, a new feature where I'll chat with a friend, family member, peer, stranger, basically anyone who wants to talk, all they have to do is suggest three topics to discuss!

To kick off the series, I'm joined by NYC Drag Queen, Gigi Deetz!

To listen to the podcast, download and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, or Stitcher!


Sunday, December 8, 2019

Spotlight On...Luke Jackson

Name: Luke Jackson

Hometown: Logansport, Indiana

Education: University of Michigan, National Theatre Institute

Favorite Credits: Charlie in The Whale, though the character is in his forties and I would never have been cast in the real world. Thank God for drama school!

Why theater?: We get to practice empathy, either seeking to understand others or soliciting to be understood ourselves. Often doing both simultaneously. And we get to do it while wearing pretty costumes. Which helps!

Tell us about STITCHES: STITCHES is a one-man show adapted from the graphic memoir by David Small. By incorporating other mediums such as sketching, painting, projection, and puppetry, we revisit Small’s tortured childhood; A botched surgery that left him virtually mute, his estranged relationship with his mother, and how his running away from home as a teenager led to a life of art and a prestigious career as a political cartoonist and illustrator. It’s a story of loneliness, trauma, perseverance, and the importance of art; Quite literally, in this case, giving the voiceless an ability to speak.

What inspired you to write STITCHES: This piece has been with me for nearly seven years now. My senior year of high school, I was tasked with devising a short play based off a person's life. I went to my public library with this silly, romantic idea that I would point to a book at random and it would change my life. And much to my surprise, it actually work. That ten minute rendition earned me a scholarship to attend the University of Michigan's drama program, which led to a full production with their student ran theatre company, and now it is making its NYC debut! David actually resides in Detroit, and I had the great honor to have him as a dramaturg and collaborator in the production's creative process. His talent is only outmatched by his unwavering generosity and kindness.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: When the story comes first, when there is an utter urgency to tell it. Indie theatre is hard work! That’s why I love the independent theatre scene in New York so much. These artists are putting on productions, often using personal funds and wearing several different hats to make it happen. But they believe it is worth it---that the time is now and people have to know about it. That's the type of theatre I love to attend.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Oh, I don't think we have enough pages! I have recently joined the Broadway Advocacy Coalition, and I highly recommend checking them out. BAC practices creative justice---using performance art as a way to seek intersectional change and restorative justice. I am really excited to get to collaborate with everybody on a deeper level and get to work!

What show have you recommended to your friends?: It has already closed, but I have told anyone within a ten foot radius to listen to the cast album of A Strange Loop. Michael R. Jackson and Larry Owens, man. Wow.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I would demand to play myself! Get super meta and break the fourth wall a lot. Kinda like Heidi Schreck's What The Constitution Means To Me. But sassier and about a queer ginger from the Midwest.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Fortunately, New York has the Drama Library at Lincoln Center---of which I have spent many hours watching archives! But I would have loved to see Patti as Mama Rose live!

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Hmm, I'm pretty shameless in my pleasures actually. Yeah, I don't have an answer to that! If it gives you pleasure, relinquish the guilt folks! LIVE YOUR TRUTH! 

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: If I wasn't working in theatre, I would be working in advocacy/activism full time. Perhaps working on campaigns until it was my time to pursue public office. Which...isn't completely off the table.

What’s up next?: The future is a mysterious right now in a really exciting way! A couple projects have been in the creative process rotation for a while now. I think a musical is next on the docket. STITCHES will definitely continue to have a life---still figuring out the next steps. As for me personally? I bought a one-way ticket to Paris for February. I thought, "Tickets are cheap and climate change is real. Let's go!" So we will see what inspiration that might stir up.

Fore more on Luke, visit www.lukejackson.org. For more on STITCHES, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/2424398241133709/

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Spotlight On...Maria Ciampi

Name: Maria Ciampi

Hometown:  Hartsdale, New York

Education:   Fordham University, B.A. 1981 (summa cum laude, in cursu honorum); St. John’s University School of Law, J.D. 1986.

Select Credits:  Kris Kringle The Musical; “29 Rules for Deliverance” (a short story); and The Question Presented (legal text that was used at Harvard Law School)

Why theater?:  I adore musical theater — the ability of music to move the listener is to me unparalleled, and when you combine that with a good story, it’s magical.  In addition, I am also all about catharsis, which I think theater and movies are the best at achieving.  I also love being in the audience, both watching the audience’s reaction and participating in what is happening live before our very eyes and being part of the drama.

Tell us about Kris Kringle The Musical Kris Kringle is a story for everyone, like some classic musicals used to be.  There is a storyline for little children (a magical Toy Competition), a buddy story for young children, tweens and teens, a love story between young Kris Kringle and Evelyn Noël  for all ages, and a love story between Santa and Mrs. Claus, who are real people.  The story is also chock full of comedy, with Christmas jokes, lawyer jokes (I’m a lawyer!) and Elvis jokes as well as fun physical comedy.  But Kris Kringle is also deeply profound and universal, as it is a story about healing and redemption.  So, as you watch the story, you’re laughing and falling in love, and then you’re hit with a touching and cathartic reveal at the end of the story, that I’ve heard audiences gasp when they realize it.  At the end of the story, you can look back and see it was foreshadowed from the opening line of Act One, and is so obvious, but you only just now realize it.  It’s a fabulous experience for me to see the audience’s reaction. And then there’s the music.  Lush orchestrations and wholly original songs, from lively tunes to touching ballads to traditional Broadway.  One of our songs, Evelyn’s ballad, “My North Star,” has over 3 million views (and counting) on Facebook worldwide.  In 2018 we released a fabulous Studio Cast recording starring Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Nikki Rene Daniels with Kim Crosby, Mary Stout and Janine LaManna. We’ve been so fortunate to have incredible casts as well.  In the legendary Town Hall in NYC in 2017, the show starred Cathy Rigby with Broadway stars Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Kim Crosby and Pam Myers.  This year’s show at Proctors stars Eve Plumb (from “The Brady Bunch” and “A Very Brady Renovation”) as well as Broadway veterans Rema Webb, Elizabeth Ward Land, Christopher Shyer, and Gerianne Perez.  This year, we have added award-winning designers to our team, Tony Award winner Jeff Croiter for lighting, Emmy Award winner Matt Kraus for sound, Rick Lyon who worked on the Tony Award-winning Avenue Q for puppets, and Drama Desk-nominated John Narun for projection designs.  Our major setpiece, a grand Storybook (20 feet by 26 feet), will be used for magnificent projections. I think Andrew Keenan-Bolger summarized the show best when he said “Kris Kringle is a holiday musical for a new generation — a gorgeous score paired with a heartwarming tale of family and forgiveness.”  This year when we add on our Storybook, it will be a truly magical experience for the audience.
 
What is it like being a part of Kris Kringle The Musical?:  What a fabulous journey!  To see what I imagined in my mind, then wrote down on paper be transformed by the actors, musicians, and designers.  People talking about my characters as if they are real.  Hearing the beautiful orchestrations.  Remembering every line I’ve written and rewritten many a time over to get it just right.  The audience laughing at my jokes.  Working together with lyricists, composers, orchestrators, and designers on every detail and their adding a layer of beauty and storytelling through their art.  Knowing that at the end of the show, the audience will leave with magic in their hearts as they’ve taken two hours away from their ordinary lives to see something wonderful.  Doing things I never thought I could, such as writing some of the lyrics, producing a show.  I can’t say that at some times it hasn’t been hard, or that I haven’t made my share of mistakes, or that I’ve had to overcome naysayers about another Christmas musical entering the market, but I’ve faced every challenge totally believing in this story and in the audiences who will see it.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:  It’s about the story and, if it’s a musical, about the music, so I’m open to virtually anything speaking to me.  Charles Dickens is probably the greatest influence on my writing life.  All of his works are theatrical (by the way, he would act out every scene in his writing study and never allowed anyone to be there when he did), but even in the works which are not considered masterpieces, he was a master of drawing characters and making them accessible to his readers.  In Our Mutual Friend (which has been called a masterpiece and a disaster depending on what critic you’re reading), for example, the young girl, Jenny Wren, could not be more foreign to us and yet her wisdom, her angelic nature, her vulnerability and frailty are beautifully sketched and draw the reader in.  I believe that Paul McCartney wrote a song about that character.

What’s your favorite showtune?:  There are so many.  Probably “On the Street Where You Live” from My Fair Lady, “Beautiful City” from Godspell, and the songs of Rodgers & Hammerstein.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:  Charles Dickens (I know he’s dead, but it’s true, I’d love to work with him as his books are pieces of theater) and Darren Criss, as I always thought he would be perfect to play Kris Kringle ever since I saw him in “Glee."

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:  Lady Gaga, and the movie about me would be called: "The Little Bronx Girl Who Sang In the Night."  I grew up poor, in a crime-ridden neighborhood, with violence, poverty, resignation surrounding me.  But I was born on Christmas Day, I had the  faith of my family, and I had music — my little radio and my father, who was a recording engineer for RCA but who never played an instrument and who couldn’t read music — and these things allowed me to survive and believe without becoming bitter and dark (though I can write and have written bitter and dark if I let myself go in that direction).

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?:  The original My Fair Lady on Broadway. 

What show have you recommended to your friends?:  The King and I at Lincoln Center; My Fair Lady at Lincoln Center; Beautiful at the Stephen Sondheim Theater.  Also, my favorite play is The Importance of Being Earnest, which I saw at the Roundabout Theatre years ago.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:  Watching old movies.  I constantly search for ones that I’ve never seen before.  I watch them for pleasure and for learning story structure and even comic timing.  While I have written drama, I am much more comfortable with comedy and some old movies are just perfect training grounds for that.  I often eat chocolate watching them, my other biggest guilty pleasure!

What’s up next?:  Finding even more audiences to fall in love with Kris Kringle The Musical.  In addition, as I am also a screenplay writer, next year I’ll begin work on a new screenplay that I have had in my head for many years.  The screenplay is about an outcast/outsider, making movies, love, betrayal, and redemption, but not at all in the typical way.  I hope it’s going to be a jewel (as that’s what it feels like in my mind), that will make the audience laugh and cry, but it has to be sculpted and nurtured, which is what I plan to do next year.

For more on Kris Kringle: the Musical, visit www.KrisKringleTheMusical.com

Friday, November 22, 2019

Spotlight On...Jaime Lozano

Name: Jaime Lozano. My full name is Jaime Alonso Lozano Reyes.

Hometown: Monterrey, Nuevo León, México. It’s in the north of Mexico. Around 3 hours driving from Texas.

Education: BFA in music and composition from the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León and a MFA in musical theatre writing from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Select Credits: Children of Salt (NYMF Best of Fest 2016), The Yellow Brick Road (Off-Broadway), A Never-Ending Line (Off-Broadway), and many to come.

Why theater?: It’s a fun story. I didn’t meet theatre till I was 18 years old. I don’t remember to have any memory about theatre when I was a kid. I actually when kid wanted to be a lawyer and then I applied for criminology school. I was about to get in and last minute a decide to wait. Then with no reason I thought that maybe music could be a good idea, I love singing at church as a teenager and learned to play guitar in choir. I had my first formal music lesson at college when I was 18 and a few months later I auditioned for Jesus Christ Superstar. I got into the pit choir and my life changed forever. Now I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I strongly believe musical theater is the most powerful way to tell stories. The way music and words can work together  to serve a story, to deliver a message and get straight to the heart of an audience member is for me magical. Theatre can change the world and can saves lives. 

Tell us about Songs by an Immigrant: Songs by an Immigrant at The Green Room 42 is a concert I have put together with an amazing group of Broadway and Off-Broadway performers, all Latinos, that I like to called my “familia.” I have the honor to have this wonderful people singing my songs, songs written originally for other musical and also some new songs from an upcoming album actually named Songs by an Immigrant. As a writer and composer I like to tell stories close to me, things I feel related with. I have to tell my own stories and all these songs are stories about “someone” immigrant experience.  Songs about struggling with the language (as you can see), about being in the middle of two cultures, about missing your homeland, about missing your family; songs about what it means to wake up in a strange land and trying to make it yours. We have had already this concert sold out at Two River Theatre in NJ and at Joe’s Pub with different guest performers and even when some of the songs are the same, having a different singer bringing it to life is a completely different experience. Everyone as an immigrant by themselves or coming from an immigrant family bring so much to the stories I want to tell. And I love collaborating with them and discovering new things about my songs.
 
What is it like being a part of Songs by an Immigrant?: I feel a great responsibility with my people; with my Latino musical theatre community, with my family, with the audience. I believe diversity needs to come from the stories and beyond of trying to fit in stories already written and told we need to create new one. We need to write new stories. I want my people to originate new characters. I’m proud and thankful to be living these times, to be able to create a change with my work, even if is a small -almost invisible- change. I’m thankful for the people before me whom have opened doors for me and the people now around me, I just hope this is just the beginning of many more immigrants singing their songs, our songs.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: To be honest with you I enjoy all kind of theatre. I believe there’s theatre for all kind of audiences and with different goals. I can enjoy a very commercial piece and also a very theatrical experimental piece. But definitely that theatre that speaks to me is the one that take risks, that challenge the actors and the audience. I’m not looking anymore for stories told in a clear way, I prefer stories told in a creative, theatrical, smart, different way. I guess that’s why many of my favorite shows are flops. I love when the writers, the director and the actors shows their vulnerability and their imperfections on stage. Because at the end that’s what we are imperfect human beings playing to create, and those imperfections make us perfect in our very own particular and specific way. Overall I love honest theatre. And this inspire me, looking at people taking risks while doing art inspires me. Also my talented friends inspire me. More than inspiration I like to call it motivation, it is something more concrete than abstract. My wife that is super talented and hard worker and I admire a lot as a storyteller is a motivation for me every single day. Nice people also is a motivation for me, knowing people who has dared go to beyond and achieve things they never dreamed of. People is my motivation.

What’s your favorite showtune?: That’s a hard question. I have many favorite tunes. It wouldn’t be fair to mentioned just one. From the classic one I love: “All the Things You Are”, “They Can’t Take that Away from Me” and “So in Love.” Some Sondheim: “Move On,” “Losing My Mind.” More contemporary: “It All Fades Away,” “Meadowlark.”  And of course I have some favorite of my shows, Hehehehehe.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Actors, definitely Hugh Jackman is in my list. Also Raul Esparza, Glenn Close. Writers, I would love to set music to some Lin-Manuel lyrics or collaborate with Jason Robert Brown in some way. I have my bouquet list with artists from all fields.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Playing the old version of me maybe Jim Carrey. But talking about diversity I think it would be Mexican actor Diego Luna. I love or very large titles or one word titles: “The guy who was always wrong and never stop smiling.” Or maybe just “Grateful.”

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Gospel at Colonus, The Capeman. I told you I love flops.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Lately, Hadestown, I love its theatricality. Hamilton, I love how everything works great together: writing, orchestrations, choreography, designing, etc.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Kick lines in musicals. Does it count?

What’s up next?: Playing with my son. Enjoying my family. Writing with my wife. Writing and rewriting. I’m adapting an opera doing new Latino orchestrations. I’m opening a new show in Florida next year. Hopefully opening a show in NYC. Taking my music to London, having a concert there. Writing and rewriting. Orchestrating. Making lot of mistakes. Learning.

Jaime will perform Songs by An Immigrant at The Green Room 42 on Sunday, November 24th at 9:30pm.

For more on Jaime, please visit www.jaimelozano.net