Monday, September 29, 2014

Interview with Randy Harrison

The Queer as Folk star is rehearsing Amadeus Mozart for the play Amadeus to bow in Santa Barbara at the Ensemble Theatre on October 11.
interview here - October 9!

2014 Interview with AuthorJames Spada

interview here October 15 when his latest book about Barbra
Streisand in the Camera Eye
is published.

Saturday, September 20, 2014




Carnie Wilson, Wendy Wilson, and Chynna Phillips aka Wilson Phillips have sold over 10 million copies worldwide and scored three number  one singles on the Billboard Hot 100, making the trio the best-selling female group of all time. The group won the Billboard Music Award for Hot 100 Single of the Year for "Hold On," and in addition was nominated for four Grammy Awards and two American Music Awards. Other hits include "Release Me," "You're In Love," "Impulsive" and "The Dream Is Still Alive." Most recently, the trio appeared in the hit comedy movie Bridesmaids, and also released a new album, Dedicated, featuring cover versions of songs by The Beach Boys and The Mamas and Papas. 

Carnie, daughter of Brian Wilson, one of the original Beach Boys, and sister of Wendy Wilson, is also known for her television work and recently for creating gourmet desserts for Vitello's Ristorante in Studio City. Carnie is married to music producer Rob Bonfiglio and has two young daughters, Lola 9 and Luci 5. She recently sat down with me to chat about the upcoming concert and various aspects of her career.


How long has Wilson Phillips been doing concerts since getting back together?


We've been touring for four years now. We do probably at least two shows a month...yeah, it averages out to about two shows a month.


Have you done LA a lot?


Oh yeah, we perform here every year, from Ventura County Fair to Mission Viejo to the Saban and Thousand Oaks...oh, yeah.


What are you going to perform at the Saban on the 26th?


We'll be doing a few songs from out last album Dedicated. We're actually changing our set list a little bit right now. We've got some rehearsals scheduled, but we do all the hits, a few covers. We kind of go through some of our albums and do at least one from each album. Of course, we do about five from the first one. It's great, but we've got some surprises for Saban. It's really a fun show. We laugh a lot.


I was at Vitello's recently and I read that you contribute desserts exclusively to them called Love Bites. Tell me about that.


I know. It's incredible. It's really taken off. I've been six months there. I worked with Matt Epstein when he was part owner of Sweethearts in Sherman Oaks.That business sold and then I saw him at an open house. He's a big realtor. He said to me "We've revamped our whole restaurant (Vitello's) and the wine is selling great, the food is really delicious now. We just need to revamp our dessert menu. What have you been doing with your desserts?" I said "I was just on The Talk doing a Thanksgiving bread pudding. You know me. I've got this great stuff up my sleeve and I'd love to come". So, I went in and we made a deal together and the next couple of months I went in to train one of their bakers there, and it's been great so far.


How much contact do you maintain with them? Are you there weekly?


I try to get in once a week, but the last couple of months have been hard. It's once every two weeks now.I do get in and bake desserts with Mary quite often. I like to be hands on, and I'm a bit of a control freak. I like my desserts to look and be exact recipes. We're not going crazy with too many items because we want there to be consistency, and we want basic feedback from the public, which has been really positive. My whoopie pies are not working there right now. It's either the humidity or whatever it is, so we go with what is taking off beautifully which are the cheesecakes, bread puddings, peanut butter pies, and if I do make the whoopie pies, I make them from another kitchen and bring them in. It's really catching on now. They're starting to tweet about it and stuff, so I'm really like "wow", and OK Magazine just kind of...the review was amazing with 'Carnie Takes the Cake!'


It's a whole other career for you. How great is that!


I know.


Let's get back to Wilson Phillips. In 2004 when you guys got back together you did an album called California. Is that similar to the album Dedicated or are they completely different?


Those are two different concepts.  California...the general vibe of it, there were these classic 60s and 70s songs. The songs were some we had written or performed, or artists who were known for their California vibe. That was our first reunion record. There was a twelve year gap. It was the beginning of coming together again which was extremely meaningful to us. Dedicated...we were kind of like not forced into doing the tribute record to our parents but it was like "let's just get this done" because everybody's been asking us to do it for 25 years. We were scared to do it, because we were just a little hesitant... because of how beautiful and genius those songs are, the way they are.We were nervous. We didn't want to reinvent the wheel, but we were also like "Well, let's just do our spin on it." My husband Rob was the producer of Dedicated and he did a marvelous job.


I heard the digital of "California Dreamin" and it sounds terrific.


Thank you. You should listen to "God Only Knows", "Good Vibrations" and "Dedicated". Those three are the showstoppers to me. "Good Vibrations" is vocals only; it was very hard to do, no instruments, just our voices.


Why did Wilson Phillips split up in the 90s after a short but wonderful success?


Chynna just got big head ego s---- and wanted to go solo. We basically begged her not to. We've been very open about all that, and she is too. She's the first one to say "You know, I wanted to go on my own and it wound up not working." She was also tired and wanted to take a break. My thought was "We're just getting going. We've had two hits. Let's keep going." It took a long time to heal those feelings for me, boy...(she lets out a loud sigh)! It was unbelievable, and I couldn't fathom anyone walking away from something that was so promising. The fear was that it would never come back again. And every year I would ask if we could have a reunion and they - Chynna and my sister Wendy - would both say "No. We're not ready. We're not ready." I went off to do television in a whole other direction, and that's great. But I became very depressed. I put on a bunch of weight, and it was really bad.



Your talk show was fabulous. That was a perfect arena for your charmingly talkative nature and personality. But I read that you had problems with it.


The formula was wrong. Every time I'd want to be myself and just be, you know, they wouldn't let me, and that was the year ('95-96) that 22 talk shows came on.


There was Ricki Lake...


There was also a bunch of new ones like Tempestt Bledsoe and Danny Bonaduce and Gabrielle Carteris, all of these people. It was really a bad year to be introduced to that. Every time I was more myself the ratings were pulled in. That's what I think they needed was someone to be really honest and say to a wife beater, "You're a f----in' asshole!" instead of "Oh, so you hit your wife, huh?" I wanted to b myself and I couldn't do that. I needed to be on HBO.


Is there any possibility you might do one now...maybe on cable? I know you've been on and off on several projects.


I do a lot of filling in - a lot - on The Talk, and that's been a blessing for me. They're always having me back. I'm very good friends with Julie Chen and Sharon Osbourne and the wonderful Sarah Gilbert. Whenever I'm there, it's a lovefest, it's great...I've been a regular fill-in for three years.They have me and Marie Osmond on the most. They know I want the job, I want that seat and I'd rather be a part of an ensemble than solo.


OK, but you have the talent and ability to swing it on your own. What about the singing solos? Were you pleased with them?


Oh, yeah. I loved it. I did a beautiful lullaby album that I'm really proud of, and I got to work with my dad (Brian Wilson) on there, and my mom (Marilyn Rovell, founder of The Honeys) and my sister sang on it, and I did some family recordings. Wilson recordings. I did Elvis Presley. I did "What a Wonderful World", "Over the Rainbow", but my favorite on there I think probably is "You Are So Beautiful", the duet with me and my dad. It's just so, so pretty. It was to honor my first child Lola, and the whole routine of putting them down at night with the music was really special to me. And with my second child Luci, we have yet to do some songs, and we will. I love lullaby music beyond words, so... The Christmas record was really just fun, and my record guy at the time wanted me to do it, so I just banged it out. I wish I had spent more time on it, but it was good.


What else can you say about Wilson Phillips now?


My sister (Wendy) has four boys and Chynna (Phillips) has three, so we have nine between us. It's fun. We don't take a tour bus and go out for six weeks. We do these weekend gigs. October is extremely busy with six shows, but we'll do them.


Anything that you haven't done that you would really love to do?


Honestly, another original record, CD. where we write all the songs. An album of all originals. That's kind of what I'd love to do.


We didn't talk about the weight and its effect on your life. There's been so much you've made public about that, I wasn't sure you wanted to talk about it.


Really, I'm so over it. Go to a music park and go ride the roller coaster. You go up, you go down. Bingo!


Catch Carnie Wilson, whose honest, open sense of humor has made her the lovable star she is, along with her sister Wendy and Chynna Phillips as Wilson Phillips at the Saban on Friday September 26 for a truly great show!





Saban Theatre, Beverly Hills

Friday, September 26
Opening sets by Brynn Elliott and Danielle Taylor
Doors 6pm.  Show 8:00pm.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Interview with Jane Monheit

Singer Jane Monheit will appear October 19 at the Saban Theatre, Beverly Hills singing the jazz of Judy Garland. Her latest CD - there are 9 - is called the heart of the matter (cover pictured above). Since high school, she has been dazzling audiences world-wide with her beautiful multi-ranged voice. For a young singer to concentrate on jazz and the classics is in itself quite extraordinary in this day and age. Monheit graduated with a BA from the Manhattan School of Music winning many prizes and is a two-time Grammy nominee. She is married to drummer Rick Montalbano Jr. and has one little boy.

What stimulated you to want to become a professional singer?

     I grew up with this music, and my entire family, everybody loves to sing. So, my singing was encouraged from the time I was a little thing, and my family played all this great music for me all the time.

Did you go to Broadway shows all the time?

     Oh yeah, they took me to see everything. From the time I was tiny, I've been on this path.

Do you have any favorite memories from your teen years?

     The Broadway shows were highlights of my childhood. Growing up on Long Island, I was able to see everything. I'll never forget, my first Broadway show was Into the Woods.  I loved Phantom of the Opera. 

Have you ever sung Christine in Phantom?

     Oh, well,  along with the CD over and over again. (she laughs)

You should, because you definitely could. Of your nine best-selling albums, did you aim to create a particular variety of styles?

     I grew up with almost every genre of music going on at once, from jazz to theatre to folk music. My dad's a bluegrass musician, who plays the banjo. It just felt like the most natural thing for me to reflect all these styles in my albums from the time I started. I never thought much about it; I just did what felt right.

Is jazz your favorite genre?

     I suppose. I don't really have a favorite. I love doing all of it. I really do.

Do you have a favorite singer?  

     The favorite of all time is Ella Fitzgerald. The thing about Ella is not only did she have technical prowess that was completely unmatched, but she sang the lyrics with so much love and joy and could break your heart and totally warm it at the same time. She had this magical quality of communicating so sincerely while never sacrificing the technical aspect.

Judy Garland. I can't wait to hear you sing these songs on October 19. You haven't recorded this show. Is it a new show?

     I've done it all over the place, but I haven't done it in Los Angeles yet. It's brand new for LA but I've been touring it around the country. The two major places I haven't hit yet are LA and New York. Garland is my first hero. I think it's that way for most of us who love to sing. We all love Judy, and I just have always been very drawn to her and her way of communicating. She loved jazz so much and was so swinging when she sang that I thought it would be an interesting idea to celebrate that side of her in a show rather than rehashing all the drama.

Which songs of hers will you be performing?

     A lot of the songs she recorded for Decca. Like "That Old Black Magic", "Stompin' at the Savoy", stuff like that that is known as jazz repertoire, but were songs that she performed and loved.

What is different about audiences in Europe and the US from your experience?

     People are very serious about jazz in other parts of the world. Here in the states you get a lot of sincere fans but you also get people who just want to go out to a jazz club because they think it's cool and they've seen it in the movies and they're on their phone the whole time. (she laughs) In Europe the audiences seem to be very very serious about the music.

More sophisticated, like people in New York will always point to a lack of sophistication in LA. Do you notice that?

     No, not at all. I've always had amazing audiences in LA. We've played a ton in Los Angeles; it's a second home to us.

Do you have any goal to achieve that you feel you haven't as of yet?

     I'd love to make a Broadway album one of these days. I'd love to make a big band album. There are some things I'd still like to do.

                                                      (photo credit: Timothy Saccenti)

Interview with Lee Sankowich


After serving sixteen years as Artistic Director of the Marin Theatre Company, Lee Sankowich resigned in 2006 to return to producing and directing independently. Among the forty five plays he directed at Marin, there were two Estate sanctioned world premieres of previously unproduced Tennessee Williams’ plays. His career began with a jump start with his successful productions of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOOS’ NEST which ran for two and a half years in New York, five and a half years in San Francisco, a year and a half in Boston, and in Israel. Since then he has worked in Regional Theatres across the country including Baltimore Center Stage, The Mark Taper Forum, South Coast Rep, Florida Stage, Geva, Jewish Repertory Theatre, City Theatre, Center Rep, San Jose Stage, Theatreworks, Pittsburgh Public Theatre where he was a Resident Director, and was an Associate Professor of Drama at Carnegie Mellon University. Among his several awards, he has been the recipient of four San Francisco Bay Area Drama Critics Awards for Direction. Lee currently owns and operates the Zephyr Theatre in Los Angeles, where he directed and produced "The Last Schwartz" which was a huge hit for Sankowich and the Zephyr and ultimately ran from October 2007 to April 2008.  Next Lee tackled the well-received "Moses Supposes" starring Karen Black which was well-received during its limited run in 2011.



by guest writer Steve Peterson


You have had quite a career in the theatre, how did you get started directing?  Do you remember the first play you directed? 

I was the only student of the theatre in a singles-group when I was in my early 20’s and the group asked me to direct a play.  At the time I was acting and hadn’t thought about directing but I said, “Oh sure, let’s do Fiddler on the Roof.” While it was my inexperience and naiveté that caused me to commit to such a large endeavor, it ended up being an exhilarating experience.  Since then I’ve never looked back.

The first play I directed professionally was One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which ran for five and a half years in San Francisco, two and a half in New York.  I did eleven productions of the piece, including internationally, and I owe much of my success to it.


It’s been a while since you produced and directed a main stage play at the Zephyr.   “The Last Schwartz,” the first play back for you upon your return to Los Angeles in 2007, was well received as was the world premiere of “Moses Supposes” in 2011.   What brings you back to the stage?

For the past two and a half years I’d been taking care of a sick daughter and have wanted to return to directing.  After reading this script, I knew this was the one I wanted to return with.


What brought this play to your attention?  Was the playwright known to you? Or was it just a blind submission?

Robin Bradford was very familiar with my work in Northern California, and she reached out to me asking if I'd read this script and give her my opinion. I was very impressed with the story and writing so we had discussions about me directing the play at The Zephyr. 


What is it that made you want to put this play on stage at the Zephyr?

I have a lot of plays submitted to me as I have my own theatre. This one attracted me immediately as it deals with an important, largely unknown issue (the plight of homeless female vets). In addition, it is very well written, character driven, and has a good balance of drama and humor. Robin Bradford, the playwright, has written a play that entertains and works. 


Is this play a call to action?  If so, what would like to see as a result of someone seeing this play? 

Women veterans are an under-appreciated and largely invisible segment of our society. I would hope that people leaving this play would become more aware of the service they have rendered and some of the problems they face in returning home, and support the efforts to make the military and our lawmakers more sensitive to those issues military women encounter. 


I know this play has yet to open, but is there something else coming up for you---something you’re preparing or something else someone wants you to direct? 

We are currently considering a San Francisco production of Low Hanging Fruit and I’m also talking with Nicholas Guest about directing his one-man show.  I’m also writing a play about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, which will have a staged reading in the next couple of months.
  

Thank you!



After a two and a half year absence from the stage, Lee Sankowich returns to direct the world premiere of “Low Hanging Fruit” written by Robin Bradford.   The play centers around four homeless women, all combat vets of Iraq/Afghanistan.  Without support from society, the women face their toughest battles trying to make their way on the mean streets of LA's Skid Row.   The play opens Saturday, September 20th and runs through October 26th – Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00PM and Sundays at 2:00PM at the Zephyr Theatre at 7456 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood 90046. Admission: $25.  For tickets and information please visit www.plays411.com/low  or 323-960-7788.  

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Interview with Jacque Lynn Colton


By Steve Peterson

How did you first get involved in theatre and acting?

I first got involved with a small part in a community theatre in Medford, Oregon as a child and had the usual school plays and debate teams.  I was fairly shy as a kid and my voice would rise when I was nervous, so I took a college course in the theatre department at the University of Washington to “modulate” my voice and learn “vocal placement;” one thing led to another till I was firmly ensconced as a drama major and began getting cast in great character roles.

Did you have a teacher, mentor or particular experience that encouraged you along the way in your acting career? 

I had a teacher at the UW, Vanick Galstaun, who maintained some faith in my abilities of which I had been unaware.  He said some confidence-inspiring words at the right moments, allowing me to sail on stage to glowing critical praise.  At that time, we played six nights a week for six-week runs.  This allowed one to apply the classroom acting techniques to genuine performances before paying audiences. 

In the past you performed in a few Sam Shepard plays.   Which plays were you in and where? Also please share with us a little about each experience.

After college, while on tour with the LaMama Troupe under the direction of Tom O’Horgan, I played Myra in Sam Shepard’s “Chicago” and we subsequently won an Obie Award, for the shows we had toured in Europe, when we performed them Off-Broadway in “Six from LaMama” at the Martinique Theatre.
My next Sam Shepard play was in Los Angeles at the Pilot Theatre. We did a double bill of “Cowboy Mouth” and the second play, “Action” for which I won a DramaLogue Award for my acting.  Our cast included super Sam Shepard actors, such as Darrell Larson and Ed Harris.  A great experience.

Is there anything about working on this production of BURIED CHILD or this particular character that has affected you in some way?

This production has cast some outstanding actors (in my opinion) who are able to articulate their ideas in rehearsal.  We are very open with one another; this, in combination with my character "Halie's" direct and outspoken behavior feels like it has influenced (a little) how I currently express my own opinions.

What has been the greatest joy of your career?

My greatest joy is not an isolated moment in time, but a kind of continuum in my life and career. I am lucky to keep finding important and challenging projects and people, on an ongoing basis, that enrich my life as a whole. Great Joy!

Do you have a future project you are currently working on?

I have done some independent and student films that haven't been widely released, but are lurking around the festival circuits now. Nothing as timely as my current theatrical projects.

Thanks!


Buried Child opens: September 6 with reception to follow
Runs:  September 6 – October 11, 2014
Plays: Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM
Where: The Whitefire Theatre 13500 Ventura Blvd.(at Sunnyslope) Sherman Oaks 91423
Parking:  Metered parking until 8pm on Ventura Blvd; some side-street parking
                 Please carefully read all parking signage.
                 Please allow at least 15 minutes to park
Tickets: $25


Buy Tickets: www.brownpapertickets.com  or 818-990-2324

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Interview with Actor Blake Boyd



Joanne Mosconi's new play You Love That I'm Not Your Wife is set to open at the Avery Schreiber Playhouse in NoHo September 12. Blake Boyd is one of the leading actors in the play.

Tell me about the play from the actor's standpoint and about the character you play.

I play Tony Ciccarelli, an extremely successful entrepreneur who is in love with the idea of being in love.  Perhaps not attuned to the feelings of his previous conquests, Tony gets more than he can handle and (hopefully) a life changing lesson in the form of Marie. Tony’s relationship with Marie epitomizes the old adage that ‘characters get not what they want, but what they need.’

Is it comedic or dramatic? 

Both! Some parts are very moving and some are out right hysterical.  I think it depends upon the actors and audience on a particular night.  What one person feels is funny, another could feel is sad.  A lot of times people laugh at the irony of terrible circumstances.  Does that make them any less tragic?  I think we’ve found a lot of humor in Joanne Mosconi’s play You Love That I’m Not Your Wife by simply telling the truth and speaking honestly with each other.  With a cast of 10 and actors ranging in age from their mid twenties to their fifties, audiences are sure to find people, relationships, and scenarios they can personally relate to….for better or worse!

Describe your association with Joanne. Have you been in plays of hers before? What is her perspective?

This is my first of hopefully many times working with Joanne.  We met through a mutual friend on another play.  I’d heard many wonderful things about her:  her tireless work ethic, boundless energy, obsessive organization and communication and was thrilled when she cast me.  She is one of the most open, supportive, nurturing and yet tough people I’ve ever worked with in the 20 plus years I’ve been doing theatre in Los Angeles.

Rehearsals are truly a collaborative effort where actors are empowered and encouraged to take risks.  A few weeks ago, Joanne (writer/director) cut 10 pages of her dialogue.  This was a statement to all the actors that we are, above all else, committed to telling a compelling story at whatever cost. 

What is significant about the play? 

The play explores the lives of 10 different people living in Los Angeles.  We are all of different backgrounds, levels of maturity, and varying moral and ethical compasses.  Some characters are afforded the opportunity to grow and change as their relationships evolve but can’t or won’t. 

What kind of audience reaction is expected? What will they take away from the play?
 
Perhaps more than any other city in North America, living in LA will make a person more of who they really are. The hours spent alone in traffic or killing time waiting for the next appointment have tendency to reveal one’s true character. Similarly, romantic relationships reveal who we really are. Each of Joanne’s characters are afforded this opportunity to see themselves and each will make decisions….likely much more impactful than they ever realize.  

In LA, some can’t make it and move back home.  Other’s stay and keep taking swings hoping to connect with the ball and hit a home run.  I think what Joanne’s play says is that base hits – growing, evolving, giving and enjoying the game of life - are all that really matter.

The Avery Schreiber Playhouse is located at 4934 Lankershim Boulevard in NoHo. Opening Night is Friday, September 12th at 8:00 pm, followed by performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 7:00pm through October 5.

www.fringetheatreco.com