Thursday, July 30, 2015

2015 Interview with Creative Team of Assassins

opening on Pico August 21!
interview here - next week!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

2015 Interview with Gregg T. Daniel

Director Gregg T. Daniel returns to The Group Rep to direct Eric Simonson’s critically acclaimed play LOMBARDI based on the book When Pride Still Mattered:  A Life of Vince Lombardi by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss.  In our conversation, Gregg talks about the play, his fascination with the nature of greatness, and what he’s been up to as a director.

By Steve Peterson

When did you take an interest in directing? 

While I was in college, I worked for a number of years as a counselor at a summer performing arts program in East Harlem. The program provided neighborhood youth classes in Art, Music, Dance & Drama. I was in charge of the Drama Division. The program culminated in a fully mounted production utilizing all of the departments. One year, the program director asked me to direct the stage production. After that, I was hooked, the challenge of bringing various disciplines together into a cohesive whole thrilled me.   

What was the first play you directed and how did it go (or what did you learn from the initial experience)?

I believe the first play I directed was the musical, “The Me Nobody Knows.” It was an enormous amount of fun working with a musical director, a choreographer and a scenic artist. We were all very young and thankfully were willing and open to learn from each other. 

How did your directing of the Group Rep’s production of LOMBARDI come about?

I’ve developed a very fulfilling artistic association with the Group Rep. GRT’s Co-Artistic Director, Larry Eisenberg continues to invite me back and is willing to consider material I’m interested in. Lombardi is my fourth product with GRT. I was watching the sports channel ESPN one night and stumbled on a two part documentary about Vincent Lombardi. I was fascinated by the man and his accomplishments. I remembered there had been a play on Broadway a few years prior about Lombardi. I acquired Eric Simonson’s script and brought it to Larry.  

In addition to being a working actor, you also directed plays for Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble, a company you co-founded. What plays did you direct for LDTE and tell us a bit about how they relate to the mission of the LDTE Company?

A central part of LDTE’s mission statement is mounting material, “through the lens of the artist of color.” We look for plays that explore stories of the Black Diaspora. For LDTE, I’ve directed, “Three Sisters After Chekhov” by Mustapha Matura. It’s an adaptation of Chekov’s work set in1941 Colonial era Trinidad. The play is a wonderful reimagining of the original work with people of color squarely at its center. I’ve also directed, “Elmina’s Kitchen” by Kwame Kwei-Armah, a powerful work set in London’s East End about three generations of black men within an immigrant family.  

You recently directed the well received, award-winning production of WEDDING BAND for Antaeus where you are a company member. How did that rarely seen play come to be a part of Antaeus’ season?

My wife, Veralyn Jones is also a member of the Antaeus Company. She brought the play in. We’ve both admired the work for a long time and longed to see it revived. Antaeus encourages its members to bring in material they’re passionate about and arrange a reading for company members. If there’s enough interest in the work, the play may receive a staged reading open to the public. WEDDING BAND went through that process. Ultimately, the Artistic Directors decided it was a work which the company wanted to produce.   

What do you see as possibly being a challenge with the direction of Lombardi?

It’s hard to present a play about sports on stage especially a sport as physical as football. When you’re in a football stadium, there is a visceral reaction to the sights and sounds around you. It’s intoxicating. I want to bring some of that athleticism of the players and the excitement of the game to a stage production. 

What do you want the audience to take away with them having seen the play?

I’m interested in the play as a look at the nature of greatness. What are the unique ingredients which breed greatness in a person? I’d like the audience to possibly reflect on not only what they find great in others but in themselves as well.  

What’s up next for you as an actor and/or as a director?

Next up I’m directing a production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, FENCES by August Wilson. I’ll be at the International City Theatre in Long Beach. It’s been 30 years since the play’s initial production at the Yale Repertory Theatre. It’s also the theatre’s 30th anniversary season.  

Is there anything else you’d like to share about the play LOMBARDI that you would like people to know?

You don’t have to be a football fan to enjoy LOMBARDI, it’s a story anyone can enjoy. Additionally, Lombardi’s wife Marie figures prominently in the play. She was the glue that kept Lombardi and their family together. He may not have attained the greatness he did, if it hadn’t been for the determination of Marie Lombardi.

~~~
LOMBARDI runs July 24 – Sept. 6. Fridays & Saturdays 8PM.  Sunday Matinees 2PM.  Appropriate for ages 12+.  Admission: $25.  Buy Tickets/Info:  www.thegrouprep.com or (818) 763-5990.  Lonny Chapman Theatre 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood 91601.


The cast includes the talents of Bert Emmett, Christopher Hawthorn, Julia Silverman, Ian Stanley, Steve West and Troy Whitaker.

2015 Interview with Playwright Martin Sherman

Playwright Martin Sherman, most famous for his Pulitzer-nominated play Bent is in town for the Mark Taper Forum's revival of  the classic directed by Moises Kaufman. We sat down at Vespaio at the after party Sunday July 26 and chatted briefly about the play and this production.

A writer friend of mine wants to know what research you did originally on the persecution of gays in Nazi Germany?

I went to a library called the Wiener Library in London. There was hardly anything written about it. I asked the librarian and she showed me a book that had a footnote and another that had a line and another that had three sentences. I pieced it all together from that. There was also a brilliant book written by Bruno Bettelheim called The Informed Heart which was about the psychology of both the prisoners and the guards at Dachau when it was a detention camp, not an extermination camp. That was very helpful about the psychology of everybody.

When you wrote the play and it first appeared on Broadway in 1979 with Richard Gere and David Dukes and David Marshall Grant - which I saw by the way - what did you hope audiences would take away with them? And now, has that changed?

I wanted them to learn what happened to gays in Nazi, Germany. But beyond that I wanted...I'm sure I wanted... a message about love, which I always want in all my plays. It doesn't matter what time.

Well, as I was watching Act II tonight, you certainly achieved that.

This is a wonderful production. Wonderful director and company of actors!

So this production holds up to other past productions?

Oh, yes. This is so special, brilliantly directed and every part is wonderfully acted. It's a very, very special production. I couldn't be happier.

Is Bent your favorite play?

That's like asking a parent to choose a favorite child.

I love A Madhouse in Goa. It suits my craziness. All of the characters are such losers, and again in need of love.

Yeah, I love that play. It ranks right up there with Bent and other plays. Vanessa Redgrave played Mrs. Honey in London.

You should have won the Pulitzer for Bent. It's so powerful.

I don't know if that's true. In those days, nominations were not announced; now they are. Only the winner was announced. Years later when the Internet came into being, it started to say that I was nominated for a Pulitzer. Maybe I was. I honestly don't know. (he laughs) I have no idea where it comes from or whether it's true or not.

Thank you for your time, Martin.

Thank you.

A very humble, gracious human being and brilliant writer! Go see Bent while it plays at the Mark Taper Forum through August 23 only.
www.centertheatregroup.org

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Interview with Stacy Ann Raposa

Stacy Ann Raposa has, for several years, worked with actors to explore the depths of their minds and souls.  In doing so, the actors create solo pieces that are performed in public at the end of a four month process.  Rather than just moving from one solo piece to another, all actors are on stage throughout the show – sometimes playing characters in other actors’ solo pieces.  We sat down with Stacy to hear about the process and how BARE NAKED ANGELS came to be.

BARE NAKED ANGELS:  Angels Unabated
Interview with Director/Producer Stacy Ann Raposa
By Steve Peterson

When did you first take an interest in the performing arts (theater, or acting)?
I was 26 and had just moved to California. I decided that it was finally time to go to college. I signed up for a Theatre 101 class at Glendale Community College and fell in love.

How did the idea of BARE NAKED ANGELS come about?   Where does the name come from?
While attending USC (where I met my co-producer Sarah, who also stars in the show,) I took a class in Solo Performance, which I was immediately intrigued by. After I graduated, I belonged to a theatre company and kept trying to get them to do some kind of solo show. My voice went unheard, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I assembled a cast and held meetings in my living room, teaching my actors what I had learned and adding my own twist. One of my actors in the original show just blurted out the name during one rehearsal, and it stuck. “Bare Naked” as in the actors are baring their souls to an audience and “Angels” as in people living in L.A.

What is the development process of the material (briefly)?
For the first month, the actors’ homework for each rehearsal is to write 2 pages. It doesn’t matter what they write, just that they write. I have them start with a lot of stream of consciousness just to get them going. Once they get into a rhythm, amazing things start to emerge. Actors write about things they thought they forgot, or write things they didn’t even realize they wrote. We all lend support and understanding to each other and the stories grow from there. I follow many of the philosophies and use a lot of exercises from The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity, which is a wonderful book written by Julia Cameron designed to help artists harness their creative abilities. One of my favorite exercises is called Imaginary Lives, where Julia asks: “If you had five other lives to lead, what would you do in each of them?” She then goes on to give numerous examples and then invites the reader to choose five of their own. It is this kind of work that encourages the artist to allow themselves to think in ways that they normally wouldn’t.    

You have several other BARE NAKED ANGELS productions under your belt using the method you developed for solo pieces – has the method changed in any way since you first started?  What have you learned while in the process of giving shape or developing the monologues?
No, the method hasn’t changed. The end product has, though. The very first show I did was a little different. The process was exactly the same, but the end piece was 6 monologues. Beginning with the 2nd show is when I started to break the pieces apart and glue them back together, making the show much more of an ensemble piece.
I have learned that everyone is an individual and has their own way of learning and going through the process. What works for one may not work for another. You need to cater to each and every actor to make sure that they are giving you (and their audience) the best piece they possibly can.

What is the most challenging aspect of directing the show?
The most challenging aspect of BNA is piecing together the show. I have to take various monologues (in this case, seven) and break them down, finding links (words, thoughts, feelings)  that connect certain pieces and glue them all back together to make an ensemble piece. It usually takes me about 2 weeks to complete.

Is there an overall theme to BARE NAKED ANGELS:  Angels Unabated?  And, if there is no overall theme – how do you go about tying, bundling, linking the monologues together into a play?
No, there is no overall theme; each piece has its own individual theme. That is one of the main messages of BNA, even though we are all different, there are a lot of things that connect us, or make us all the same too.  My process is to print out each actor’s monologue and lay them all out in front of me. I scan them once, searching for a word or a feeling that might tie a certain piece together with another piece. I write notes on a white board of links that I find. Then, I write all over the scripts, numbering each chunk of text in the order that I want it to appear. Then, I cut and paste and voila—a script!

What do you want the audience take away to be having seen the play?
That every human on this earth has something of value to say, even if they think they don’t.

What’s up next for you, new projects, other shows, etc.?
Well, Fringe Theatre Co is currently homeless, so I’m not sure what’s on the horizon for us. But I do know that I’ve been teaching my BNA method to actors for 9 years and it is so rewarding—for me and for them. I would love to be able to teach this to more people in the coming years.

Is there anything else you wish I had asked or something else you want the reader to know about you or the play/this production?
BNA has always been a labor of love. It is a very valuable tool for the actor to possess, going through this process. Past students of mine have reported that the process makes them stronger, bolder actors and also forces them to look at others in a different way. It changes lives, and that is something I’m very proud of.

BARE NAKED ANGELS:  Angels Unabated weaves together the intimate true stories of seven brave actors, creating a unique evening of theatre. It’s solo performance with a twist!   The play runs July 17th through August 9th, at Actors Workout Studio, 4735 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91602.  For tickets and more information please visit www.barenakedangels.com and www.facebook.com/BNAsolo. 


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

2015 Interview with Amy Madigan

Actress Amy Madigan will direct Neil Koenigsberg's play Off the King's Road later this month at the Odyssey Theatre in West LA. A production of the play in New York last season was critically acclaimed, which included a New York Times critic's pick. In our conversation Madigan talks about the play, her cast and her association with the playwright. 


Tell me about your relationship to Neil Koenigsberg. I understand it's a long and fruitful one.

Neil and I have known each other for over 20 years. He was my personal manager and we both share a vivid interest in novels and theater, so we share that conversation a lot. He is a true friend and we have shared a lot over the years culminating with Off The King's Road. 

Describe Off the King's Road and the message it conveys.


Off The King's Road is really a play about love and connecting to who one is in the moment. There is pain and loss with our main character, Matt. But through a series of substitutions for his grief he finally moves on. I think it is a feeling in the gut when you react to the play. 
Neil Koenigsberg


What challenges are you facing as director of the play? Is this your first direction? If not, what other plays have you directed?


I have directed at the MET Theatre in Los Angeles in the past and have been a moderator in classes, but this is my first show at the Odyssey. I come from the acting side of things which finally is collaboration, so I felt comfortable taking this on and I have a crack team of designers, thank god, cuz I know what I like and want in my head, but need others’expression to help me. 

Tell us a little about Tom Bower and the role he is playing.


Tom Bower and I have known each other for about 30 years through Equity waiver theater and acting workshops. He was always my first choice for Matt, and he graciously accepted. It is a tough part – one that requires a confidence in self so we can see what this character needs to go though to get to the end of the play. Matt is onstage most of the play, and it is not an easy one. I cannot say enough about Tom as a consummate actor and friend. We also worked at Sundance together in the mid ‘80s when it was first getting started!!!! 

Tell us about the rest of the cast.

The rest of the cast is amazing. I auditioned a lot of people, and these other four — Casey Kramer, Thaddeus Shafer, Michael Uribes and Maria Zyrianova — are outstanding. Totally cool people and on top of their game, and they made rehearsal a blast and are the beating heart of this show. A real ensemble cast and tons of theater between them. 

I understand you and Ed (husband Ed Harris) will be returning next winter to New York to star in Buried Child. How exciting! Have you played Sam Shepard before? What do you feel makes him such a revered and electric playwright?


Ed and I will return for the first time Buried Child will be done in twenty years, with Scott Elliot directing and with The New Group.It's very exciting. I did the LA production of Lie of the Mind at the Taper downtown. He is the man who writes about family and rips it to shreds, with your heart going along...

Who are your all-time favorite playwrights? Talk a little about why you chose those particular writers.

I love Beth Henley, Tennessee Williams, Mr. Chekhov, Eduardo Machado, Mr. Shepard, Sarah Kane, Jane Shepard, Martin McDonough...and more. So many brilliant minds out there.

Be sure to catch Amy Madigan's direction of Neil Koenigsberg's Off the King's Road playing at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 Sepulveda Blvd. Previews: June 19-June 26/Performances: June 27- August 2. Plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm. For tix, call: (323) 960-7712 or visit: www.plays411.com/kingsroad 


Friday, May 29, 2015

2015 Interview with Patty McCormack

Actress Patty McCormack surely needs no introduction. An Oscar and Golden Globe nominee for 1956's The Bad Seed, she has worked on stage, in film and on television to great acclaim for over 60 years. Now she is onstage once more in a hilarious world premiere dark comedy Miserable with an Ocean View playing Saturdays only at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks. She recently sat down to chat about the play and about highlights of her long career.

Miserable with an Ocean View sounds very funny and your role as the mother from hell seems different for you as you have no dialogue. Talk about this and your other challenges in playing her.
The fact that I have no dialogue, in addition to being the Mother from hell, combines two of my favorite childhood roles. No dialogue as Helen Keller in the playhouse 90 production of Miracle Worker and child from hell, Rhoda Penmark in Bad Seed! The challenge in this role was how to make Rhoda Shapiro as real as possible, while fulfilling her reputation!! I figured, being a Mother myself, that she couldn’t be all bad! And I have one moment , I believe, that shows that. The other scenes are so much fun being so incredibly  “miserable."
How did you get involved in the project? Did you like the script from the start?
Howie (Skora) developed the play at Bobby Moresco’s Actor’s Gym, and although I wasn’t around for that stretch of time, I have been a member for some time.
As the play was getting cast, Bobby recommended me to Howie, and that started everything.  After some phone calls, and loving what he wrote, I was sure that it was the perfect time to break the long spell of not being on stage. The feeling of fear which becomes greater the longer you are away, began to subside, and I remembered the joy I had always experienced in front of a live audience.

Everyone remembers you from The Bad Seed. Talk briefly about that experience and what it was like as a young child to work in that company of actors.
I think of the time doing Bad Seed as a very happy childhood memory. I remember learning the thrill of causing a reaction from an audience! And learning how to “keep it in” because it worked. I had the privilege of working alongside actors who were veterans of theatre, and I learned so much by osmosis.  

I remember you as well from TV's I Remember Mama, the series. What kind of experience was that? Are the memories fond ones?
I began I Remember Mama before getting Bad Seed, and like most TV back then, it was “live” when I was on it, and much like doing theatre. I worked with Dick Van Patten, who was the most fun on the set. He really liked kids and so he brought a sort of normalcy to me and Kevin Coughlin, who was the young boy on the show.
Kevin and I made a “club” house in the empty rehearsal hall, attached to our main one at Grand Central Station where we rehearsed, and it was a great place to play, when we weren’t needed.
My Nephew, Fred Cerullo, is now the President and CEO of the Grand Central Partnership. He runs that Business Improvement District in NY. 

          
Talk a little about your soap experiences and other TV work. Do you have a favorite show?
I know that my first experience on a soap was when I just turned 7. You weren’t allowed to work on television until you were 7. I can’t remember the  name of it because it is so long ago, and I think missing from Imdb. The others are Young Doctor Malone,The Best of Everything, and As The World Turns. My most vivid memories were from The Best of Everything because I was carrying my Daughter Danielle all through the run, and met my “Best friend” in life! Julie Von Zerneck, who worked as Julie Mannix at that time. We were working with Gale Sondergaard, who won the first Best Supporting actress award, and Geraldine Fitzgerald! 

         
         
WITH PETER FONDA IN 1962 THE NEW BREED






















Tell us something funny that happened - any unexpected or embarrassing moments?
I am going back in time to remember one of my favorite shows to do, which was Playhouse 90. I did 5 of them, and the embarrassing moment occurred during the one in which I was perched on a piano, singing “Oh, My Man” in French, with Lee J. Cobb, accompanying on the piano, and a room filled with “party guests." I didn’t speak French, so I learned it phonetically. Did it perfectly, all through rehearsals and dress, but when we went live, I went blank! All the actors in the room, including Mr. Cobb, began La-la-ing, and saved the day! But I was horrified and so embarrassed!!! That had never happened to me before!

     
I loved you as Sister Woman in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Taper. Is that production a fond memory? How? If not, why?
Any one who has had the good fortune to work with Jose Quintero will tell you what an incredible experience it was. It was a highlight for me!

         
         
cat on a hot tin roof 1983
Is there a favorite stage role that you have played? Why that particular one?
I think that I had the most fun being “cookie” in Rumors, because I was directed by Avery Schreiber and we played at a theatre in Jupiter, Florida.
We had so many good times during rehearsals because of Avery and his wonderful sense of the absurd, and also fun because I had already played a different role in the same play, previously! It made it very interesting to see the story through a different character’s eyes.

Is there a role you yearn to play? Which one and why that particular role?
I don’t have an answer, but when I do, I will tell you!  

Did you find being a popular child actor and then having work decline as you got older depressing? What is it like for child actors when work on stage or in front of the camera is scarce? Is there adequate support for child actors in Hollywood?
I can remember early on wondering why there were gaps in my working and that was before changes began to be visible, so I always questioned not working more! I am still doing it! I think that today with people more awake to those issues, and the organization that Paul Peterson began, has helped so many former kid actors transition into adult actors,
or in some cases, different careers altogether. 



Tell me about the cast you are working with in Miserable and your director.
I love each and every one. It feels like we are on active duty together, and we all have each other’s backs . Please list: Elizabeth (Regen), Paul (Elia), Alex (Skuby) and Drew (Droege), and lastly and most importantly, Jim (Fall) our leader through it all! We are truly a company, and I am so happy to be a part of it.

Anything you care to add?
I am so glad that in my 70th year, I can still work at what I will always love, with such talented people, while also enjoying the other aspects of my life. Being a Grandma changes everything! (ask any Grandma or Grandpa!) So, this time of life is the best yet, and I am very grateful to be around to enjoy it! 
     
Don't miss the resilient Patty McCormack in Miserable with an Ocean View every Saturday through July 18 at the Whitefire Theatre!

www.miserablewithanoceanview.com

Monday, May 25, 2015

2015 Interview with Emrhys Cooper

Actor and Broadway World Award Winner Emrhys Cooper 
recently sat down to talk about three major accomplishments
 in TV and film as we approach the midway mark of 2015. 
He won his BWW Award in the category of Person to Keep 
Your Eye On, and he is most assuredly living up to it.
















Tell me about the series you are 
involved in.
It's called Vanity and stars 
Denise Richards. 
StyleHaul, the digital multichannel 
network that focuses on fashion
and beauty has formed 
a collaboration with Amazon. Vanity
is its very first scripted series, so it's 
all terribly exciting.
Who do you play in the series?
I play Alistair, the lead male. Alistair 
is very charming, and helps run the 
fashion line named
Vanity.

What about a little behind the scenes info 

on the series? Who's involved besides star
Denise Richards and who conceived it?

It was created by Emmy Award-winner Bernie Su. 
Maybelline is the sponsor.It's based on a true story. 
Instagram inspired a couple of New York City kids 
to create a fashion line. So, it's a very hip and up.to.date
look at today's world of fashion.
Great! When does it premiere?
It will debut on youtube June 11.

And the film you did in Butan Kushuthara is 
about to make its premiere 
this summer, correct?
Yes. Thanks for bringing that up. I am so excited 
about this project, not only because I am the first 
Western actor to appear in a film there, but I was 
recently awarded Best Lead Actor by the IndieFest 
Film Festival. So, it is all  so gratifying, and this is 
even before the film goes into distribution worldwide. 
I'm over the moon about it.































There is also a short film in which you play the lead 
that is about to play the Cannes Film Festival?


Yes, the action thriller Shadow May Lie made the official selection
and just played the Cannes Film Festival.

Congratulations to Emrhys Cooper! I can't wait to see what's up 

next for this versatile, award-winning actor.
on set of Vanity with star Denise Richards