Friday, March 28, 2014

2014 Interview with Robert Osborne

interview - end of April!

2014 Mini-Interview with Taylor Gilbert


This Friday April 4 The Road Theatre Company will proudly present Sovereign Body by Emilie Beck. Over the next several weeks I will be interviewing the actors from this new production.

First up is Taylor Gilbert, who plays Anna. Taylor founded The Road Theatre Company in 1991 and for the past few years has been Co-Artistic Director. She also serves on the Artistic Board. 

Taylor has worked as a Producer on over 30 Road shows. Her Road directing credits include: the award winning In The Name of the People, Mooncalf, My Last Confession, The Chisholm Trail Went through Here, and Slumber Party. She also co-directed Hitler’s Head and Homefires, both with Ken Sawyer.

Taylor has been seen as an actress on the Road stage in: Balm in Gilead, Why Things Burn, Vig, Pirates, Akela, Merlin, American Romance, White People, A Mislaid Heaven, The Seventh Monarch, The Pagans, Oroboros, Backwards in High Heels, and And Neither Have I Wings to Fly.

Taylor has also acted on the big screen in several roles. Her film appearances include: Spiderman 1 and 2, Hancock, The Island, Twister, Tucker, The Dead Pool, The McMartin Trials, and Torment.

Here’s what she had to say about her character Anna in Sovereign Body :

First off, who is Anna?

Anna is a chef and her artistry in the kitchen means the world to her. It is her passion. " I fed people. Not just satisfied their hunger but fed them emotionally. I knew how to make food that gave people an experience..." says Anna.

What kind of conflict does she face?
Like many of us, she really likes being in control of herself and her life. When she finds she's losing control over certain situations in her life, she finds herself struggling with very serious issues that threaten to destroy her identity. 
How challenging has it been for you as an actress to find what makes her tick?
Anna has been a complex character to explore and embody. Her relationships with her family are quite normal but as she progresses through the play they seem to become somewhat abnormal due to the circumstance she finds herself in. The work has been physically and emotionally quite challenging. Exhilarating and exhausting all at the same time!
How have you used your own personal experiences to help create Anna?
My experience as a mother of teenagers, as well as a professional outside the home, has helped to ground me in the reality of this role. I am delighted to play a character that has been so artistically yet realistically penned by Emilie (Beck) and specifically directed by Scott (Alan Smith).

Anything else you care to add for our readers?
I urge you to join us for a beautiful production that will live with you long after the curtain call.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

2014 Interview with Bruce Davison

Actor Bruce Davison certainly needs no introduction. He has starred on stage, screen and television in a multitude of complex roles over the last almost 50 years. He is most remembered for his early film Willard in the 60s and his stunning Oscar-nominated role in Longtime Companion from the early 90s. Davison is currently onstage in Noel Coward's A Song at Twilight  at the Pasadena Playhouse, co-starring Sharon Lawrence and Roxanne Hart. In our chat, he talks about his wonderful role in the Coward play and other fascinating career tidbits.


    Tell me about A Song at Twilight and the character you are playing in it.

The play is Noel Coward’s King Lear and his most complex piece. I play  Hugo Latymer, a closeted writer who hesitantly accepts a visit from his former mistress. She’s writing her autobiography and wants to use his love letters. He refuses, which leads to confrontations about past secrets and repressed lives.

What challenges, if any, are you experiencing in playing this role? 

Language, stamina, and filigree rococo language is quite a lot to master especially with an upper class British accent – as well as to try to maintain a character that is so shut down emotionally and still covey a sense of truth about him that will be interesting.

       How does it compare to others you have played?

It’s the hardest – people often don’t realize the amount of work that goes into creating a character that carries a play – The Elephant Man was a piece of cake by comparison. After six months of doing The Elephant Man on Broadway I was doing it again in Westport while doing Hildy in The Front Page with Brian Dennehy at the Long Wharf ... at the same time. Hildy works very hard supporting all the characters – in contrast, all the characters work and support the Elephant Man.  In reviews, Hildy is hardly mentioned – I thought it was my best work – while with the Elephant Man – every gesture, every move is raved about – it gave me an understanding of what people don’t understand about what goes into playing a role.

       You have had a wonderful stage career in New York and Los Angeles. I saw you in The Elephant Man Broadway early on and also playing Tom in The Glass Menagerie with Jessica Tandy. Talk a little about the latter experience.


Hume Cronyn played the role of Tom on Broadway, and he was a great mentor to me. I did the The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial with him on Broadway in the 1970s; Henry Fonda directed. During the time I was doing The Glass Menagerie I was lost in the part of Tom – my mom was dying in Philadelphia, and I was playing Tom for real – going home on a train and leaving my sister with my mom in Philadelphia – and I couldn’t get near the part – I was emotionally shut down – Hume took me aside and told me “It’s not important what you feel – what is important is the performance and the words – simplicity and the words are all you need.”  He then told me the story of the death of his father in 5 minutes at the end of which I was in tears. Hume then said, “I put no emotion into that – I just told you the facts. That is your job – you have one of the greatest written passages to do that for you. So find your light, and say the words.”

I later directed Hume in his last film Off Season for Showtime, for which he was nominated for an Emmy.  I wish he were here now to help me with Hugo.

     Another highlight was The Cocktail Hour, which you did here in LA. Talk a little about that and working with Nancy Marchand and others in the cast.

I have a picture on my dressing room table of them. Keene Curtis and Nancy were great influences on me - another great theatrical family. We played together for over 400 performances and I always think of them when I see that photo sitting there. Holland Taylor played my sister in that production as well.

     What is the favorite role you have played onstage? If more than one, mention them. Why these choices?  

The Elephant Man was a great sense of rebirth for me in the theater and of coming back after having a rough time in Hollywood. Doing Streamers in Westwood was great as well. For films, Longtime Companion certainly, and Ulzana’s Raid, directed by Robert Aldrich.  I got to live every young man’s fantasy of chasing Apaches across the vast expanses of the West along with costarring and riding alongside Burt Lancaster.


     Which playwrights are among your favorites? Why?

I love Pete Gurney (A.R. Gurney) – I know him personally and got to work with him. Other favorites are Ionesco, who I got to know when I worked with him in Stockbridge, and Tennessee Williams. I wish I could have met him – he died just before I did The Glass Menagerie.

   Longtime Companion brought you an Oscar nomination and was a wonderful performance. I know the battle against AIDS remains close to your heart, as it figures into the charitable side of your career. Talk about that film and others related to the issue that you have done.

I started with The Normal Heart before Longtime Companion – and I was inspired by Larry Kramer who went on to create Act Up. I never thought anybody would see Longtime Companion - it was a little movie of the week for public TV – I never thought it would even make it on the air much less have a theatrical release - but because of Tom Rothman and Sam Goldwyn it went on to achieve the success it did – I did Randal Kleiser’s film It’s My Party and worked with a lot of earlier groups when they were starting in. I worked with Henry Heimlich when we thought Malaria therapy might be a solution to the AIDS crisis – I also worked with American Rights and APLA in the early days – when my agent manager and commercial agent all died – during the late 1980s and early 1990s; it was a holocaust.

     As you are aging, do you have a role that you feel you must play like King Lear? Or are you just satisfied with the work that comes your way?

I am just satisfied with the work that comes my way – King Lear would probably kill me – I watched Lee J. Cobb do it – I was a spear carrier at Lincoln Center – I used to watch him come sliding down that highly raked Ming Cho Lee set – I thought he would get a hernia!

     Talk a little about your recent TV work - A & E's Those Who Kill and Last Resort. 

Last Resort was the last resort – they ended up blowing us all up – the network didn’t want to continue which was too bad – I thought it was a great series and I loved working with Andre Braugher, but you never know. Those Who Kill finished its first season and is about to have a reboot – we will see how things go – I play ChloĆ« Sevigny’s twisted dad – it’s a fun role.


Don't miss Bruce Davison in his knockout role in Noel Coward's A Song at Twilight through April 13 at the Pasadena Playhouse. As always, he delivers the goods.

http://www.pasadenaplayhouse.org/

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

2014 Interview with John McDaniel

On Saturday May 10 S.T.A.G.E. (Southland Theatrical Artists Goodwill Event) will present its annual show at the Saban Theatre on Wilshire Blvd in Beverly Hills, this year entitled S.T.A.G.E. Goes to the MOVIES, directed by David Galligan with musical direction from the incomparable John McDaniel. Grammy, Tony and Emmy winning composer, musician McDaniel took time out of his busy rehearsal schedule to chat about the evening.

John, will you give the audience a little preview of the show? What film songs may we expect to hear?

There are so many great songs that have been featured in films - a few of my favorites that have been chosen so far include:  "How Do You Keep the Music Playing" from 1982's Best Friends, which will be performed by Bill Hutton, "It Might As Well Be Spring" from State Fair, sung by Debby Boone and "The Way You Look Tonight" from Swing Time,  performed by Jason Gould.

The show usually honors Broadway. Why a show about films this year? 

(laughing) We are in the thick of Hollywood, for heaven's sake - it's a natural fit!

Sounds like fun and it sure is a change. You have been doing this show for how many years? Do you have any favorites or do you just love each one as it comes along for its own merits?

Little known fact:  I played keyboards on the Julie Styne benefit - way back at the Variety Arts Theatre - what a great show ...with Georgia Brown!!  I've been the music director the past few (3 or 4?... I can't remember) years.


What will Robert Osborne be doing? Narrating? Setting up each segment?

Bob is graciously hosting - there will be lots of film clips, a few fun interviews - it's gonna be so cool to hear him live and in person!

You have done it all. TV. Broadway. Concerts. You have played for some of the greatest entertainers in the business. Pick one and tell me a funny story. Maybe something unexpected that happened, or just the experience itself, how it became more memorable than you would ever have imagined. 

My favorite Stritch (Elaine) story has to do with when we did PAL JOEY together in Long Beach in (maybe) 1990. She was reprising the role of Melba, singing "Zip", just as she had done on Broadway in 1950.  Yup, 1950!!  At the last performance, she was doing the "stripper" ride off, heading off stage, and she looked straight down at me in the pit and yelled, "Take me home, John!!!".  I died and went to heaven at that very moment. 

OMG, how hysterical! 
Who is your favorite composer of all time? 

I have a hard time considering any theatre composer on a par with Stephen Sondheim.  And getting exacting and thoughtful notes from him when I conducted the reunion concerts of the original Broadway cast of COMPANY was another "life" moment.   

I've heard about those famous notes! Any favorite musicals you care to mention?

My 2 favorite, and somewhat perfect to me, musicals are GYPSY and THE KING AND I.

Great choices! What's up next for John McD? Anything promising on the horizon for Broadway?

I'm excited to honor FIDDLER ON THE ROOF in concert on April 28th in NYC with a starry cast - we are celebrating Sheldon Harnick's 90th year, which will be an absolute pleasure.  I'm also very much looking forward to my 2nd year as Artistic Director of the O'Neill Theater Center's Cabaret and Performance conference this summer!   


There you have it, folks. Like John McDaniel says,  S.T.A.G.E. Goes to the MOVIES will be a great show... with appearances by Mitzi Gaynor, Lainie Kazan, Donna McKechnie, Helen Reddy, Jason Gould, Richard Chamberlain, Betty Buckley, Cheyenne Jackson, Debby Boone, Patrick Cassidy, among many many other super talented singers. The best seats are going fast, so go to their website and order your tix online NOW! Remember you are contributing to APLA Los Angeles with every dollar you spend.
http://apla.convio.net/site/PageServer?pagename=STAGE_Home

Friday, February 21, 2014

2014 Interview with Susan Egan


Prolific Broadway singer/actress Susan Egan will perform a benefit concert on March 1 at Arcadia High School. She talks about the concert and other career tidbits in our chat below.

Tell me about some of the wonderful things you are doing in the concert on March 1. You are singing with a children's chorus I've been told?

Yes. The program on March 1 includes songs with the Arcadia High School theatre company. I travel around the world and perform concerts – and what I love in addition to performing concerts, is arts outreach. But what I like most, is instead of just doing a master class and doing a concert I like putting the two together.  What you would instruct students to do, in a class, and what you would do to rehearse a concert are very similar. From my experiences, I can often give students more insight, helping them understand the song better. For example, during the rehearsal for the March 1 concert, the Arcadia High School students and I had a long conversation about “Seasons of Love” from Rent and it enhanced their performance. The students and I are doing four songs together. They will also be singing two songs from their upcoming production, Curtains.

  I saw you do Putting It Together with Carol Burnett a while back at the Taper and in the non-musical play Amy's View. That showed a great display of versatility on your part, as the two were like night and day. Did you enjoy doing these roles? Talk a little about that.

Yes, they are very different. Putting it Together is a musical revue of Stephen Sondheim -- with a lot for an actor to mine out of the material. I performed opposite Carol Burnett – who is one of my most important role models. I went to college on a Carol Burnett scholarship, so it was even more meaningful to work in a show with her.  

Working with her was an experience beyond any and all of my expectations. And knowing her – I am always reminded to continue to be generous and gracious to the performers who are in the next generation. That is why I like working with students so much. It reminds me to think about where I’ve been and how I can help them in where they are going.

I did Amy’s View with Carol Lawrence. In college, I did a lot of plays -- Shakespeare, Chekov, Ibsen, and Shaw -- so this was a lot of fun to get to do.  If you can sing, you often end up in musicals because they run for six years, but I love doing plays when I get a chance.

And talk a little about Belle in Beauty and the Beast as well.


It’s been 20 years since the opening – so it’s time to reflect.  The students that I am working with weren’t born when the show started – and the show and cast album, still speak to them.

It was my first first Broadway show, and it was the first Disney show.  Looking back, it is easy to see that Disney ended up starting a new golden age of Broadway musicals.  After Beauty and the Beast, they revitalized the New Amsterdam Theatre, brought The Lion King to Broadway – and ushered in an entirely new, younger, family audience. 

A few years later – when I was in Thoroughly Modern Millie and Cabaret, there were huge teenage audiences for Broadway shows – much due to the success of the Disney Shows.  And then Universal Pictures, Sony and Dreamworks followed – bringing properties they owned to Broadway.

People complain that musicals are all based on movies these days – but in all eras of Broadway, shows have been based on other materials.  Earlier it was plays and novels, because the movies were such a young medium. And now there are lots of movies that are good to base musicals from.

Did you leave theatre behind to bring up your children? We have missed seeing you onstage.

For me, I transitioned. I now travel the world with symphony orchestras and 75% of the time I’m able to be a stay-at-home mom.  I do tons of voice work, I’m making the same living, but now I only have to be away from the kids a week a month, and I get to live in California with my vegetable garden.

Who are your mentors? Anyone in particular influence your work more than anyone else? Your favorite actors?

Tommy Tune was an actual mentor.  The people I look up to did not forget their roots: There is Carol Burnett, who I already talked about. Audrey Hepburn and Paul Newman, for example, did a great amount of philanthropic work and helped a lot of people out by using their talents. And I admire that greatly. 

What is your favorite role? (one that you've played)

Sally Bowles in Cabaret. She is a little more complicated. When you play the good girl, they inhibit interesting characteristics, but to play a character that is so flawed, there is a lot you can get out of it. So it was great to play someone so terribly misguided – and I learned a lot from Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall.

What role do you long to play?

I love originating things, so the role I yearn to play has not been written yet. I also want to develop other parts of my creativity – especially to write, perhaps a novel. It’s a different way of being creative. 

Who is your favorite composer? Why? Your favorite musical of all time? Why?

I love the new stuff. I think about Rent and how it was unfinished (Jonathan Larson died during previews).  I would love to know what Howard Ashman would have done, had he lived longer.  I love Robert Lopez, Jason Robert Brown, and Georgia Stitt.  The difference now is that I am friends with all these people. I was around when Jason Robert Brown wrote The Bridges of Madison County and was working on the funding for it. I know how hard it is to get a show produced and what it takes to get that done. I can’t wait to see who comes next.  I get new music sent to me all the time, since I use it my shows, so I get to track their progress. 

Talk about your recordings. I've heard that The Secret of Happiness is quite special and very different for you. Is that true?

Coffee House was special for me.  I was playing Millie, from Thoroughly Modern Millie, at night and working on the album during the day. I was listening to Simon & Garfunkel and Cat Stevens. Secret of Happiness is what Belle would sing at age 42, after the happily-ever-after ending. Life is complicated and it isn’t what you’d expect it to be. The album has songs by Georgia Stitt and Jason Robert Brown that are brand new. One song is from Daddy Long Legs, which will hit Broadway in about a year. I loved doing it. This album is special – but they are all special. Every album is a child you think a lot about raising and nurturing.  

Go see the amazing Belle, I mean, the incredible Susan Egan sing on Saturday, March 1. Tickets, available online by visiting www.Arcadiapaf.org, are $29.50, $39.50, and $59.50; senior, student, and family 4-pack pricing are also available.   The theatre is at 188 Campus Drive at North Santa Anita Avenue, Arcadia CA 91007.  For more information please call 626-821-1781.  


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

2014 Interview with Hannah Yelland

Tony nominated actress Hannah Yelland is about to make her Los Angeles debut in the stage version of Noel Coward's Brief Encounter, the role which garnered her a Tony nomination in 2011. The classically trained actress talks about the role and how she feels about opening in Los Angeles.



Do you find playing the role of Laura in Brief Encounter quite challenging? Did you see the film with Celia Johnson? I know some actors prefer not to watch so that they are not influenced by a film performance. How did you approach this, with or without seeing it? Also, some actors find LA a daunting experience for theatre. What is your attitude?

It is challenging- but in a great way. The way that this show was created means that I employ many different skills as an actor- playing the period and observing the style of the original play, but also getting the chance to sing, dance, fly (yes, fly- must be seen to be believed!) I've seen the film now many times, but when I first got cast, I purposely didn't want to watch it as I wanted to discover my own version of the character. I've since watched it and I think, without realizing, have integrated a few things from Celia Johnson's beautiful performance. This is my first time appearing in a play in LA, so I'm afraid I don't know yet! I hope it's not too daunting. Just adrenalising!


I think it's wonderful that your director is a woman. There's a feminine sensitivity about the whole piece. Tell me a few of your ideas on this subject.

It's really wonderful to be directed by Emma (Rice). This piece for her is so special, and I truly feel honored to have had this opportunity to be in this production and for so long. There is definitely a sensitivity to the piece, but there is also a tremendous sense of fun; it has such life and vigour. Emma is brilliant at retaining that sense of fun, while at the same time retaining the inherent tragedy of the piece, the longing between the lovers, the passion and frustration which co-exist at every moment. 


Without spoiling anything, can you tell us about how the music and film are used in the staging of this piece?

I'm not sure I can without spoiling anything actually! I'll try... The film of Brief Encounter was based on Coward's one act play Still Life which he wrote a few years before the film script. Emma's concept for the piece was to combine live theatre and film in order to, in a sense, honor both the original play and the film. Our piece is a kind of love story written by Noel Coward, of course, but also a love letter TO Noel Coward, as it includes some of his original songs which have been more specifically worked into the fabric of the production, as 'monologues' for some of the characters. So our production, though it completely follows and respects Coward's script and story, is also Coward 'turned inside out' in a way- the emotions which are so repressed, are at times allowed to explode and be fully lived and breathed in a more physical and sensory way.


You have had quite a wonderful background in theatre. Tell me about your experience with The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby.

I worked on the show over the course of two years back in 2006-8. The production started at the Chichester Festival Theatre in England. My father, David, played Ralph Nickleby in the second incarnation which we took to the West End and then to Toronto during 2007-8. It was a very special time for me to work with my Dad. Something I would dearly love to do again. I played his niece, Kate Nickleby, which was obviously a little confusing at first- calling my father 'Uncle'...But it's a marathon. Six hours of Dickens. But it was so beautiful. The audiences who saw the two plays in the same day felt like they had been on a real journey with the characters- they became so invested. And it was magical. I think, if I remember correctly, 27 actors played 54 parts or something insane like that!

 How was your experience with My Cousin Rachel?

Originally I was thought to be too young to play Rachel, the part which Olivia de Havilland played in the original film with Richard Burton. But then finally, and quite unexpectedly,  I was called and asked to come to Dublin to do it. The theatre and the director took a chance on me having seen my work in other things, and I have so much respect for them for that. It was brilliant timing because shortly before I got the call, my husband was called to deploy to Afghanistan with the Navy and I was facing a four month stretch without him. It was a fateful opportunity. I loved playing that role- an Italian Countess- not natural casting for me, but it was a great time. I'm doing the part again later this year at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston.


And most recently with The Winter's Tale?

I had a great experience working on The Winter's Tale. I wanted the challenge of playing Hermione, as she is so crucial to the play, but only has a few scenes early on in the play to really make an impression. And some of the language she has is some of the most beautiful ever written by Shakespeare, I think. I worked with Mark Harelik, who was wonderful as King Leontes, and it was a great privilege. We had a fantastic time. 


Do you have a favorite play or playwright? If so, why that choice?

That's hard to answer. My immediate response would be Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. For some reason- I must have seen it at a particularly impressionable age or something- it really got into me. I also love Chekhov. I have seen a number of productions over the years, but most recently saw a wonderful production of Uncle Vanya in London in which my father played Serebryakov, and was, although of course I'm biased (!) truly brilliant. The whole production was so beautifully acted. I'm so interested in the idea, as an actor, in the fine line between, and crossover of happiness and despair; joy and pain, finding humor in tragedy and sadness in humor... Chekhov's characters are so rich and complicated- as are Coward's.


Do you have a mentor or is there an actress/actor who has greatly motivated your work?

I love learning from people I work with. But of course then there are people who have particular strengths in some kinds of work, and other people in another kind of work. As a screen actress, I admire Meryl Streep enormously. And also Cate Blanchett. Both of these actresses are so graceful, I mean there's great grace in their work.  Whatever they do has so much depth and honesty.


 Is there a role or two that you are yearning to play? Which ones?

I always think that's a strange question, because often I've thought of parts I'd like to play and they haven't come my way, but then I've found myself being cast in something that I wouldn't have seen myself doing and have loved it. I honestly take things as they present themselves to me. But off the top of my head- I'd like to do something complicated and challenging (of course)- Lady Macbeth perhaps? That'd be fantastic. 


With working on the West End and Dublin stages and now in America, how would you compare working in both venues? That may refer to both conditions for the actor and the audiences as well. We hear that theatre is of course more serious there as opposed to here. Do you find that true?

I'm not sure that's true. I think theatre people take theatre seriously wherever it is, and there is so much incredible work happening everywhere all the time. I just feel really lucky, I really do, that I have been able to work in these three places, and in other places, too. That is one of the best things about theatre- we are pretty much the same 'creatures' wherever we are! I'm sure I'm going to find that it's the same here in LA. But the Guinness is definitely better in Dublin...and the weather is definitely better here!

Don't miss Hannah Yelland in Brief Encounter at the Wallis Annenberg Theatre in Beverly Hills.


Bram Goldsmith Theater, Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
                                9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Performance        February 15 through March 23, 2014 
Schedule:             Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday Evenings at 8 pm
                                Saturdays at 3 pm and 8 pm; Sundays at 2 pm and 7pm

Tickets:                  Prices: Previews 2/15-2/18 $49.00 - $89.00; following 2/20 $59.00-$129.00
                                In Person – Wallis Annenberg Center Ticket Services,
9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
                                By Phone - 310-746-4000
                                Online – www.thewallis.org

Friday, January 24, 2014

2014 Interview with Ana Isabel O

Internationally known biologist
and writer Dr. Ana Isabel Ordonez is constantly embarking on new projects. Educated in Europe and a self-taught Victorian patchwork maker since the early 90s, Ordonez has presented her work in France and Luxembourg. As a scientist she holds Masters and PhDs in Genetics, Forestry and Animal Biology and has lectured extensively throughout Europe, Africa, Japan, China, New Zealand and South America on insect-plant pathology and biological control research. She has also written several articles on the value of nature. Ordonez, however, has not confined her interests to the world of science. A true Renaissance woman, she is also a reputed jazz editor, independent filmmaker, music/art promoter and producer. In 2012 she contributed tirelessly to the Dizzy Gillespie Memorial tribute with Christopher Kennedy Lawford, because she believes in her heart that true valuable art of any kind must never be forgotten. Five years earlier, in 2005 with trumpeter Herb Robertson she had founded Ruby Flower Records with the plan to produce avant-garde music, exclusively for connoisseurs and purist audiophiles with the slogan "Creatively speaking...Where the talents blossom". Only recently she decided to expand the company's offerings to also include poetry and literature for children. Her children's books have been so popular, she has written a new one, continuing the joy of her Musical Forest. Her nephew Geronimo is doing the rest of the illustrations, but Ana still paints every day. The book will be available on Amazon.com in about a month. It will be distributed worldwide. 

As I read the new story about Aye Aye and her association with Professor Tekyp and the Hyperbrits and Euricoty, I was amazed at how much of your science background is working its way quite nicely into the stories. Tell me about your friend John and his role. How he came to be Tekyp in the story.

One has to pass the torch. The thing I learned after many years of studying and working in sciences is to share. That's why gifts are given to us. Prof Tepyk’s story was in hibernation,  after I wrote vol II; I wanted to enter into the biology subject with a lot humor.  You mean Professor F.R.S John Pickett.  Let me tell you something, I have a great admiration and respect for who and what John is. He's a fascinating character. I was just a Ph.D student in France when I first listened to one of his speeches. I was blasted with his knowledge and Briton sense of humor and wanted to be part of his team. We met again in Japan and then in China for Chemical Ecology congresses where he was the chairman and accepted my presentations. We discussed my wishes. It was in China that I knew I had to apply for a grant if I wanted to learn from John's team. Two years after when the Marie Curie Research Training Grant was awarded by  the European Union, I was appointed as a Post-doc fellow to his laboratory with the objective of  learning about isolation, production, formulation and application of bio-pesticides. This subject made part of his famous "Push Pull Strategy". Of all the people I worked with,  John and his team stand apart. I have only great remembrances. A great team led by a great man!

How did you decide what animal each character would be?

Oh, that was easy because John is gifted as an artist too and plays the trumpet (Jazz!) very well, so for me it was logical to choose a wild leopard to represent him. Christine Woodcock works in John's lab. She's a fabulous trombone player and I always enjoyed the Sundays I used to go to the local pub where they played. Christine is extremely smart and a warm soul; I never forget how she masters the chromatographe and her work with insects. I chose her to be a butterfly. For the banjo I chose Barry Pye because when I arrived at the experimental station, John appointed him as my direct boss, and it was brilliant! Barry taught me many things. The afternoons in the spray area doing our bio-assays with the track sprayer he invented were very nurturing to me. Barry played the banjo for John's band; in my story he takes the banjo again and joins the band! Through my years in the UK I began to build for Barry a pig collection, actually a pig and rhino collection. Every time I traveled I always brought him a pig or a rhino. I do recall the bargain in Kenya to buy the rhino (hahaha). Barry makes me laugh and I never forget people who make me laugh. I decided he will be the wild pig banjo player! The name of the characters changed of course.

Tell me about the trick and what scientific significance it shows, if any. Or is it just utilized to be entertaining and fun?

(she laughs) That's how open- minded John is. You know we had
a Xmas party (parties!) every year, and when I went to the first one, I met colleagues from all around the world; we were all together at a table. We were eating, and then all of the sudden John took some vodka (which I call for the children " magic potion") and fired his tummy hairs with a match (I call it "the burning bees", they are protagonists in another story!).  Man, that was a hell of a trick!  He didn't burn himself; he mastered the technique. (hahahaha)  He would play with his band afterwards. So, nice souvenirs, very funny! Britons have a particular sense of humor, which I love. I've called the band "The Hyperbrits" in the story. 
 
Euricoty is so precious. Is she patterned after someone you know?

Euricoty is Euricoty floridana, the scientific name of the cockroach species I studied for my Ph.D : sexual communication in insects;  cockroaches were the insect tool. Actually when I saw John in China I spoke 15 min about the sexual phenomena on that insect. I had to bring on the subject in a book, but first she needs to do her appearance in the story. I decided that Eurocoty will be John's pet and he will give it to Aye Aye when traveling back to his alchemist world.I told you I knew many cockroach stories (hahahaha!)

How many more stories do you plan for the Musical Forest? It seems to me a project of unlimited possibilities with so many different animals.

Absolutely! I was trained as an Animal Biologist and Insect Pathologist and I want children to
know in a simple way the things I know; I want them to laugh too. I’ll always write children’s
stories since the animals are now free in the Musical Forest! When I read the story to children and they laugh at my illustrations, I laugh too. It means I can touch their hearts. There are no standards for laughter!


Will each story have a new lesson in ecology?
 
I want to give a human dimension to all I do. My books were sent to a bush school and wildlife orphanage in South Africa.  I’ll  spend a few months there. Every week children comeover; they learn to get to know their wildlife. Those kids don't have access to see wildlife and that makes a big part of their heritage! A great film maker and friend wants to do a documentary about the Aye Aye. It’s so awesome what's happening in my life right now! Ireconnected with real friends from the past, I mean decades ago. People with whom I lived amazing adventures and I never forgot. My friends : I have ideas from a very talented poet and artist 
Adiela; my friend Maria Clarita works with autistic children and she has been a great help.
Faride works for the Theater and is anartist too; we are discussing a puppet adaptation of one of my books. I heard through Eliana about an eco-ville she wants to establish. At first I laughed at the idea, but then I realized it was an interesting point and whatthey are doing in South Africa in that orphanage is very close to her ideal. So she will join me there and my nephew wants to come too! It’s going to be an awesome experience, I'm really looking forward to it!


Discuss briefly what inspires you most.

For me, inspiration has shades.  I have met and am still meeting many amazing characters; after traveling all around the world, I have developed an eye for detecting things that make me laugh : pathetic, nasty acts, envious comments, gossip, territorial things. It can be funny; gives me a good laugh! So, I like to reach into darkness to enlighten things. You see what I mean?.  On the other hand, kindness, caring, love, support,  sincerity totally influence and inspire me... nuance.   I get influenced and inspired from the good and the bad! You know, I like laughing at and mocking myself! You’ve got to keep a sense of humor !
 
Anything to report in your participation in the music world?





Besides this work I also have releases coming up on my label. Recordings I have already done with Marshall Allen from Sun Ra Arkestra and Elliott Levin plus another one with Elliott and David M. Hotep (also from Sun Ra Arkestra) with poetry of Trudy Morse. This was a project we planned with Trudy two years ago. It's going to be be available on Amazon this year. Also... I'm trying to help someone who really has an educational concept I like, and he should be known. There is so little money for Jazz in this country where the Jazz is considered an American art form! I love new music and avant garde, and I'm committed to it. It's for the sake of that music that I found my way!.


Tell me about the latest venture in Europe to help fund your concert/dance version of the first book next fall.

Continuing with what I just said about the music business, it’s hard to fund projects in the US.
It’s in Europe where artists make money. So, I went to Europe to find sponsors for the
Martha Graham Academy of Contemporary Dance choreography on The Extraordinary
Love Story of Aye Aye and Fedor . There will be live music, narration by a Hollywood Theater actor and also video installation from shootings of the orphanage in South Africa. We have scheduled our performance for winter 2014/2015.


Sum up your feelings.


At times this planet seems so unsettled, but being spiritual helps. I believe in my strength to do the work I like to do. I'm sharing it and in doing so, we are building treasures on Earth. I'm setting my hope on the treasures of creation - trees, animals, insects, children, wildlife, jazz, poetry, dance, theater, sunsets, stars-are wonders to my eyes, a balm to my heart. The world may pass away but affection doesn't... because it never fails. The rest is irrelevant.
This way of life is finally the true way, a very sweet and peaceful one. I totally have my feet planted on this path. I have found my Musical Forest to look through. A lifetime commitment! 

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