Monday, March 27, 2017

2017 Interview with Ana Isabel O

"The Aye" is adapted from Ana Isabel Ordonez’s "The Extraordinary Love Story of Aye Aye and Fedor." The choreography came together in a sparkling fusion of music, dance and narration which was performed October 7, 2016 in Cape Town South Africa by the Jazz Dance Theatre with Sifiso Kweyama as choreographer. The shows honored Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, in celebration of his 85th birthday, and with the opening choreography for the annual Peace Conference in Cape Town. This was the world premiere of the show. Then on November 15 at a second event the Leah Tutu Unsung Heroes Award was presented outside Cape Town.

In Part II of this interview Ordonez discusses the second event in detail. In Part I she gives us a glimpse into her next project and the elaborate process her brilliant mind goes through in its organization and execution. The photos scattered throughout are of the event from last November 15 in South Africa.


A gigantic play is what I’m concentrating on right now. The experiences I’m now developing on a big project and poetry are a tour de force unleashing of the sundry story-myths-truths-tragic-fatal-magic of what life could have.

It’s undimmed like star galaxies, I’m learning new things based on true life which is more than a collection of poems, it is an unloading of reality. One poem tells the poet what to record next and in this way, the book takes the author on a trip. It’s revealing to me that a rhymer doesn’t write a real story, the story itself rewrites the rhymer.

I have always had an extraordinary faith in my destiny. I can be beaten, broken in pieces either inside or outside, stopped a thousand times; it’s all stimulating to me because nobody can catch my spirit, my freedom and powerful will of being what I really am. I’ll be there where I want to be and at my pace. I’m letting the story be what it wants to be, let it tear me apart, let it metamorphose me evermore. Emptiness changing into things: letting the sun rise on my work of art doesn’t matter when, it can be at day or night but I sure write my ass off. Returning to true Nature, letting myrmidon be stemma. The pages of a rotten old book are gone, they were not to be read at all so there should be a new one, I’m seeing new things, nothing here, nothing there, no boundaries, no differences, no measurements. They are gracious who are asking for me to let them in, even if I don’t understand how or why they are knocking at my doors…

Grappling with the ethereal and transcendent in light of the Human condition is pivotal in Art and Science; its mandatory to mainly focus on the concept of authenticity, what makes things right or wrong; the “this or that” of the normal life is a little wearisome for me so the pages I threw away help me to explore the idea of “lost,” “saved,” and everything in-between.

Faith without religiosity is very important, that’s what brought me to South Africa. Being authentic believers of ourselves first is more important than being a blind believer in faith. Someone I love and admire said he always was "at the other side of the rail" which for me has been "at the other side of the river"…that is where I have found myself and those who love me: the fence riders (smiling). They believe but don’t do what they're told; from them I get inspired and I don’t give a damn about how inconclusive and ambiguous they are. Infinitely small is infinitely large. 

I feel so grateful to experience a time when artists from across the world can gather to create a very tangible performance of art, poetry, music, and dance whenever we feel. Like children: we created imagining worlds together and it feels like falling in love again, but without getting into compliances (laughing loud).

Art and Science are very special but don’t make us human; it stimulates us to act humanely. Art however is the place where we are allowed to wane at wanting better. There is no winning or success in this space, only a chance for growth. If you don’t understand your history, every day tear away the page of the old book and write your own story beautiful, pure and sincere…reborn again, you can do anything when you are sincere and that includes all kinds of quirkiness (laughing!)


Now let’s talk about the Leah Tutu Unsung Heroes Award, what do you want me to tell you ?

DON : Explain the Unsung Heroes event. What happens? Who is honored?

Ai: THE LEAH TUTU UNSUNG HEROES AWARD commemorates a Legacy in South Africa. The Unsung Hero is a South African character who has made a meaningful contribution to the community through their acts of service, their commitment to a cause, their spirit of Ubuntu, and their exemplary persona.

DON : How is the person chosen? Who decides?

Ai: It’s Mama Leah and her team so the Leah and Desmond Tutu Foundation. Last November 2016 Mrs Gawa Sayed was awarded with the Leah Tutu Unsung Heroes Award for her extraordinary service to the community through her voluntary work at Gift of the Givers which is Africa’s largest humanitarian relief organization.

The award was presented to Ms Sayed by the The Revered Mpho Tutu Van Furth of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, at an event in De Grendel Wine and Restaurant  an award winning South African wine farm and restaurant, situated in Durbanville Wine Route, only 20 minutes from Cape Town.

Ms Sayed is a key member of Gift of the Givers, she was instrumental in leading relief efforts during the xenophobia crisis; renovating and replenishing the Sarah Fox Children’s Convalescent Hospital; managing and maintaining feeding schemes around Cape Town; helping at the Athlone School for the Blind with renovation as well as establishing the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s emergency medical services projects in Lwandle, Strand and building housing units after the New Year’s shack fires in Khayelitsha township as well as the building of a village constructed with 71 houses in Alexandra, Johannesburg. Yeap…Mrs Sayed is a High soul. 

DON : Who usually attends the ceremony?

Ai: The invitations are issued by the Desmond and Leah Tutu legacy.

DON: Explain what the audience saw of your choreography.

Ai: They saw a new version of "the Aye" choreographed by Sifiso Kweyama. The show was beyond delightful, not simply because of the magic that is dance, but because of the amazing people involved in the project. The performance was held in a beautiful vineyard estate with gardens and a wonderful decoration. Sifiso came up with an idea for performance art, the dancers were wearing our masks some of them are made with beautiful local feathers.

The idea for the performance was my first glimpse into Sifiso’s wildly creative spirit. As the time progressed, the encouragement of Dean Jacobs of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation was inspirational and continues to impact me personally. Sifiso and the dancers worked tirelessly and when the day came for the performance they did get some fascinating photographs. The one here is of Fedor and Aye Aye looking fantastic and greeting Reverend Mpho’s arrival to the ceremony. The choreography was totally engaging and smart as well as evocative. I wanted to share my work with others, give this present to Monseigneur Tutu and Mama Leah. It was an unexpected fusion becoming spontaneous combustion of matter turning into energy and movement.

DON: How long was the presentation and was it successful?

Ai: It was a 15 or a little bit more say 20 minute presentation…people loved it! One was all, all was one . When you see things like this, you are already complete!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Interview with Writer/Director of Where The Numbers End ... Amanda Moresco

Amanda began her career as an actress in New York City working for the late Sidney Lumet.  Amanda has appeared in numerous films and TV shows and earned a SAG Award for Ensemble Cast for the Academy Award-winning film Crash. Pursuing her real passion, writing, Amanda has learned from the best by working behind the camera for Woody Allen, Bobby Moresco, and David Chase, and in writer’s rooms as assistant for Paul Haggis, Todd Field, John Lee Hancock, Mark Johnson, and Gil Adler. Amanda wrote two episodes for the first season of NBC’s The Black Donnellys. She has had two feature films produced.  Amanda has written and produced numerous one-act plays.  Most recently, she directed the L. A. production of William Hoffman's "Cal in Camo" which went on to a critically acclaimed Off-Broadway run. Amanda is raising two sons and splits her time between New York and Los Angeles.

by Steve Peterson

When did you first become interested in theatre either as a performer, writer, or director?

When I was little my father would read Edgar Allan Poe to my sister and I, listen to The River by Bruce Springsteen on repeat and talk with us about the lyrics which were just like poetry to me. At 14, my Grandmother helped me get my first job as a Broadway Usherette at The St James theater. The first show I worked was The Secret Garden with Mandy Patinkin. I worked different Broadway theaters and saw tons of shows for over six years. Then, my family moved to LA to support my father in his pursuit of a career as a screenwriter. I learned that craft from him and I fall madly in love with movies and exquisite visuals but always equally with poetry and theater.

How did your father’s film career influence your taking up writing, directing?

My father has been a huge influence on me especially in understanding that this business is a labor of love and the only reason to do it is because you couldn't possibly do anything else with your life. And that if you've stopped loving it for what it is- a grueling labor that has awful lows and incredible highs - then it's time to get out.

How did the idea of the story to come to you and when you did realize this could be a play, rather than a book or film?

When I was in college, I started hearing the voice of louise. She told me that the thing she missed most about being a kid was punching people in the face. I also knew that she had two cousins: Margaret and Caroline and that one was a dreamer who was scared to leave her block and the other was an alcoholic partyer unable to face the present. Eventually, I embarked on writing my first screenplay. I called it "Red to Green". It was optioned four times but never got made. I'm glad it didn't. Eight years later, I started thinking about my old poetry and Louise's monologue about "punching people in the face" which of course I never used in the screenplay because you don't put two page monologues in screenplays, and I realized that I could never get the movie right because the characters were being strangled by the confines of a screenplay structure. That is when I embarked on writing the play. I knew it was right because when I let them speak freely, their voices came pouring out of me.

How did choosing New York City’s Hell Kitchen as a backdrop for the play come about? Had you lived there in any point in time? What is your connection to that neighborhood?

My great grandparents immigrated to Hell's Kitchen in the 1920s. I went to the same grammar school on 51st and 10th that my Grandfather went to and my father after him. My family's roots are embedded in the tenements and high rises between 43rd and 54th on The Westside of Manhattan. It breaks my heart to such an extreme extent that the history of NYC is disappearing for the sake of money and real estate and "gentrification", that I wrote a goodbye love poem to it. And that is what this play truly is.

I understand that this play took a while to evolve and take shape. What was your process in developing the story and characters? Please tell us about the process before the play was workshopped in the Actors Gym at the Whitefire Theatre. Also, life got in the way - - please share that if you are comfortable doing so.

As I was saying before, the idea came to me in college. I wrote the opening monologue and the opening love poem to NYC then. They sat in a notebook for six years. I just didn't know what to do with them. I knew about the characters but I didn't know what the story was. In my 20s I struggled with an eating disorder and the lines between reality and un-reality severely blurred. I felt ashamed and scared and because mental illness runs in my family, I became obsessed with the idea of "what is crazy". That's when the story began to take shape and I was ready to start plotting it out.

Tell us about the play.

The characters came to me right away. But when I realized it was about the question "what is crazy", I realized I needed to be very specific about what each of their "crazy" was. And that is what this play is about. Three damaged women coming to terms with the fact that either they're going to conquer their crazy or their crazy is going to conquer them. And of course being Irish, I can laugh about all of it and I hope the humor shines through in the play the way it shined on me when my grandmother would tell someone to go fuck themselves and everyone would laugh, all while we were sitting at a wake with a dead guy in a coffin.

Why did you feel compelled to tell this particular story? What is the meaning behind the title of the play?

This play had many different titles. "Saturday Night in a Bar in New York" "I Am From Here". And lots of others. But in the middle of a rewrite, a pass that was meant to focus in on Margaret's dilemma of wanting to go some place far away and yet being too afraid to go anywhere by herself, she said in my imagination: "we don't go past West Fourth Street. We don't go past where the Numbers End. Because fuck that." And I knew that was the title. Signifying the neighborhood comfort and claustrophobia that exists so often in NYC. When you have everything at your fingertips 24 hours a day within a ten block radius, why bother going beyond your ten block radius?

Why did you choose to direct the piece?

I wasn't sure if I should at first. The play is written so melodramatically that I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to shake that as a director and the whole experience would be one long sappy roll your eyes puke fest. But when I started thinking about my vision of the execution, it occurred to me that this play really should unfold as a "ballet of words" not a piece of dramatic material. Like a one hour spoken word piece with twists and turns and crescendos. Once I understood that, I felt strongly that I needed to be the one to execute that. Here's to hoping I don't fuck it up.

The play was workshopped in your father, Bobby Moresco’s, Actors Gym at the Whitefire Theatre. What was that process like and how did it contribute to the fruition of the play?

Every week I would bring in ten pages of this play and hear brilliant actors read those pages and get insight from the group. I would then go home and rewrite based on the notes I found most helpful. Two whole drafts were workshopped there. To say that the sharp talented group of artists at The Gym contributed to this play would be an understatement. There would be no play without The Actors Gym. I would never have had the discipline to do it on my own- without the weekly check in.

What do you want the audience take away or feel, after having seen the play?

I can only hope that they laugh and come away with an understanding that we're all crazy in our own way. I hope they understand that mental illness sometimes isn't a choice. I hope they understand that at any moment in your life, you can get up and walk out of a bad place, if you ask for help. And mostly, I hope that when the play is over they will feel like they did just spend Saturday Night in New York. The way I did every weekend of my life with friends and family and a world that just doesn't exist anymore.

What’s up next for you - creatively?

I just finished writing a half hour comedy pilot also based on my time in Hell’s Kitchen. Of course, it's titled: "Fucked Up". :)

The Whitefire Theatre presents the world premiere dramedy “WHERE THE NUMBERS END: A Hell’s Kitchen Love Tragedy” written and directed by Amanda Moresco. March 18 - June 10, 2017. Saturdays at 8:00 pm. Ages 18+. Mature language. Minimal violence. Tickets $22. Information: 818-990-2324.Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Bryan Fox (Director) is an award-winning writer, director, and actor, as well as notable photographer whose work has been displayed in gallery shows around the world. Most recently, his photography was shown at the prestigious Art Basel in Miami. Bryan began directing with his short film “Dissonance” which screened throughout the U.S. and opened film festivals in Canada, Italy, Germany, and India. It won over 20 awards including Best Short Film at the Accolade Global Film Competition, Indie Fest Awards, LA Spotlight Film Festival, Waterfront Film Festival, Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival and the Temecula Film Festival. He also wrote and directed the film “We Alone" which took top prize for music video at the Accolade Global Film Festival. Bryan most recently directed an upcoming episode of the web series “Gossip Boy.”

Written by Steve Peterson

When did your first get interested in or involved in theatre?

My experience in theater has been limited to the acting side only. However, after directing in other mediums, I was eager to take on a challenge like this.

How did you get involved in directing plays?

Markus Taylor, who is the producer of Malicious Bunny and also our lead actor, found the material and was immediately passionate about seeing this project come to fruition. He brought the material to me. As my first try at directing a play, I wanted to be on board with not only great material, but with others that were invested completely in the project with their hearts and souls.

How did your directing Malicious Bunny come about? What, in particular, drew you to this project?

I had just come off of more than a year doing the film festival circuit with my short film "Dissonance" as well as mounting two photography gallery shows. I was looking for the next challenge. My photography work is dark and sexy, and Markus felt that I had the sensibilities to take the play in a direction to make it as compelling as possible. That said, the play is also incredibly funny thanks to the playwright, Matthew Sprosty. So the challenge in the rehearsal process is balancing that comedy with what is deeply rooted, very deep pain.

Tell us a bit about the play.

MALICIOUS BUNNY is a dark comedy centered on the character of Jonathon, and his struggle to please his wife and keep his marriage intact. When his wife Angela brings up the fact that she wants a divorce because she feels stifled in their two year marriage - - Jonathon asks what he can do to make her happy with him. Angela shocks Jonathon when she asks him to kill her well to do parents - - which will make the young couple millionaires and keep her from divorcing him. What if the only way to keep his wife is to kill for her - - what will he do?

What has been your big biggest challenge in directing this play?

Really the greatest challenge has been logistical, finding the time and the scheduling - - there are not enough hours in a day, week, or month! The cast and crew have offered their time and talents so generously. We all knew from the beginning that this is not the kind of material that you can take lightly. It's very hard. But if executed correctly, it can be something really special and amazing!

What do you want the audience take away to be - - what would like an audience member to feel or be thinking about when they leave the theatre?

I think the audience will remember laughing really hard, but also have some serious discussions in the car. Without giving away too much, there are issues of abuse, betrayal, greed, and righteousness. I want them to question how far they would go if they were given circumstances similar to those dealt to the characters in Malicious Bunny.

As an award-winning photographer, what skills or sensibilities do you bring from that world to the theatre world and how does that affect your directing?

To be a good photographer you have to have a good eye which means you have to be aware of every single component just in the frame just like you do with the 3 dimensional format of stage work, from the wardrobe, to how the actors look, where they are on stage at any particular time, to the set design and execution to how the lighting affects the scene. All these elements elicit feelings, consciously and subconsciously. In these, photography and theatre are very much the same. At the end of the day, I am a story-teller using a different medium this time around. Where a photo tells a story with one single image and a single moment, on stage I get to use multiple sources of stimulation happening over the entirety of the play to achieve the story’s goals.

What's up next for you?

I have a photography book coming out soon. . I am also in talks to direct some films. I have two film projects that I've written which I'm very excited about. One has a star attached (but that is a secret for now) and the other is nearly ready to shop around. I would also be interested in doing theatre again.

The world premiere of Matthew A. Sprosty’s edgy dark comedy MALICIOUS BUNNY directed by Bryan Fox runs March 17 – April 9. Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm. Sundays at 7:00 pm. Mature content/language. Some violence. Ages 18+. Tickets are $30.

Buy Tickets: Guest production at The Actors Company Let Live Theater, 916 North Formosa Ave., Los Angeles 90046.

Monday, March 6, 2017

2017 Interview with Absinthe's Ross Mollison and the Gazillionaire

Las Vegas Weekly, in naming ABSINTHE the #1 greatest show in Las Vegas history ever, said, “A performance of ABSINTHE is almost criminally fun. It is the domain of the Gazillionaire, the gold-toothed, foul-mouthed, lecherous dirtbag who runs the show. For the entirety of ABSINTHE’s 90 wildly entertaining minutes, you feel like you’ve discovered something new, or stumbled onto a secret meeting of acrobats, dancers and reprobates. And the first thing you want to do after is tell everyone you know.”

Spiegelworld’s Impresario Extraordinaire Ross Mollison said, “ABSINTHE is a rare opportunity to see extreme circus acts performed in an intimate environment by some of the world’s most sexy and talented artists. Given the ever growing demand for the production, we are delighted that The Gazillionaire has agreed to a limited run in Los Angeles,” said Mollison.

Celebrities regularly flock to join the audience and have included Britney Spears, James Franco, Neil Patrick Harris, Rebel Wilson, DJ Steve Aoki, Olivia Newton-John, Pink, Channing Tatum, Idina Menzel, Melissa McCarthy, Vince Young, Kaley Cuoco, Ice-T and Coco, David Copperfield, Tony Hawk and more.

For our interview Spiegelworld’s Impresario Extraordinaire Ross Mollison (RM) and the Gazillionaire (G) who runs the show responded to the following questions:
The Gazillionaire

Describe Absinthe for our readers. How does the New York Times review do in their appraisal of your show? “Imagine Cirque du Soleil as channeled through The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

RM: Channeling Cirque du Soleil through the Rocky Horror Picture Show sounds like a 1990s Haunted House in Montreal with fishnets instead of lycra. Jugglers. Lots of make up. Absinthe has no make up. Jugglers can f--- off. We hate silk acts. We really hate clowns and anyone whom speaks French or gibberish. And we hate that wailing music that emanated from Quebec in the late 80s and still wafts south of the border. We need a great big soundproof wall on the Northern Border.

G: It’s a sex fueled rock and roll circus filled with the greatest, hottest, most provocative talent in the world. And it’s hosted by me because anybody else would screw it up. I guess Cirque has done a big show or two so that’s good and Rocky Horror has a guy in drag so I’d say that’s appropriate.

Is this show adults only or are children encouraged to attend? What age specifically?

RM: This show is for children 18 and over. Adults will hate it and should check out Cirque du Soleil.

G: Adults only. Kids are disgusting.

How did the concept come about? What inspired you the most?

RM: The Gazillionaire likes Belgium beer and bought a brewery from a bunch of Monks to make even more money. When he got the business he realized it owned a 100 year old Belgium Spiegelzelt – an incredible antique theatre and bar. Ever the entrepreneur – he thought he could put a show in it to, and sell even more beer. He hired Neil Patrick Harris to be the emcee – and when Neil was cast in the Mother show, he had to host the show himself.
Ross Mollison

G: Well I had all these foreign acrobats and circus performers owing me money so I figured I'd put them to work. And now with the whole immigration situation it was easier to just buy them.

The Vegas show has been an overwhelming success. Talk about this a little bit.

RM: The Gazillionaire is a winner. When he produced Absinthe in New York, he realized that there were so many great shows in NY that he could never compete. “Let’s face it. Some of the talent in NY is amazing. I need not tell Broadway World that I cried watching Wicked,” said the Gaz. “However, no self respecting theatre professional would consider landing their Gulfstream in Nevada. So – I thought – Absinthe is such a crappy show, it may just work in Vegas. If that failed – I was going to transfer it to Reno.”

G: Yeah it's been pretty good. There are a lot of tourists here getting drunk and losing their shit so it's nice to have a show that can take all their money.

Why LA? I know you talk about money in the press release, but there has to be more motivation than money for you to move the show to other venues. What might these be?

RM: “You clearly have no understanding of money. More money is usually the answer to every question a journalist asks in the USA. The other answer is sex. LA ticks that box as well.”

G: Money is about it. There are a lot of Hollywood types that are rich and stupid and in need of life direction. I can’t think of anything better for them to do with their time and money than coming to see the number one show in Las Vegas history in their own shiny backyard. Hell we might as well become the number one show in every city in the world. Also I’d like to f--- Helen Mirren.

Raunchy? You bet! Successful? The Gazllionaire has already collected dozens of trophies (he only keeps the platinum ones), awards, “Best Ofs” and “Top Tens” from Time,, Vegas Best of City Awards, Travel and Leisure,, Fox News, Broadway World Awards, Trippy Awards, Las Vegas Digital Media Awards, and Vegas Chatter Awards, among others. It was voted Best Adult Show by readers and staff of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Tickets, starting at $49, are now on sale at The performance schedule is Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:30p; Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30p and 9:30p; and Sundays at 5:30 and 7:30p. L.A. LIVE’s event deck is at 1005 Chick Hearn Ct., Los Angeles CA 90015.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

2017 Interview with Will Holbrook

What a great pleasure to speak with young Will Holbrook, 19, who is currently playing Romeo in Archway's production of Romeo and Juliet. Will happens to be the grandson of one of our greatest living actors Hal Holbrook.

Will, your grandpa is a truly great actor, one of the best. What is it like to perform for him? How has he inspired you? Is he attentive to your needs - both giving and constructively critical ... or does he leave you on your own to overcome your own failures? Is he happy or unhappy that you have chosen the acting profession?

It isn't particularly different for me having him in the audience. He is an inspirational figure to me because he loves what he does and he works hard. There are many lessons in watching him work at his senior age, and observing his passion to keep moving is an incredible thing. I am very glad we get to have the grandfather-grandson relationship we do, and he is always asking me how he can help or if I have any questions. He has always been my grandpa first, and it is very comforting to know that I have someone who I can ask anything, about life or about the business. I think he is happy for me that I am pursuing my passion, and he sees where my heart is at, in the work and the pursuit of my goals, so he is confident that I will get out of it what I put into it. He is one of my biggest fans and in a career path that is totally inconsistent; he is one of my rocks I can rely on for support.

Tell us how your interest in acting got started. Are you studying it formally in school?

I can't remember not wanting to be an actor. I started putting on shows for my parents when I was four and five years old. I love storytelling, and I love performing for people. My passion for the craft grew rapidly from a love of performing, and my respect for it has grown through a love of dedicating and committing my energy to something bigger than myself. I've always felt that the best way for me to communicate to others was through telling stories. Acting feels like my window into the world. Because I wanted it from a very young age, there were never really any discussions about what I would do for work or what I would do after high school, it became very matter of fact among everyone I knew that 'Will is going to go be an actor'. School was always difficult for me because I knew exactly what I wanted to be doing, and everything else felt like a distraction from that. For my first three years of high school I went to a technical school where we had career shops, and mine was theater. We had our own big theater and we put on a few shows a year, those were important experiences. I never planned to go to college because I was itching so much to begin my career, I just wanted to work and learn by doing. I do spend a lot of time with classes and currently I am studying at Ivana Chubbuck studio.

Let's talk about Romeo and Juliet. You are certainly starting in the right place with Shakespeare. Classical training is wonderful for the actor, as it frees you to be big and bold and unafraid with your actions, as you tackle all that beautiful poetic language. How are you enjoying the role and what challenges are you facing in playing Romeo? Do you think he is a typical leading man?

I never expected to have the opportunity to play Romeo while young, but when it happened I was elated. Performing Shakespeare is a completely unique experience for me. I think there is simply more to be mined from his writing than others, so much rich emotional, contextual, and linguistic information there, and he is a great writer for actors, giving lots of freedom to explore within his brilliant guidelines. Preparing this role has been pretty much the time of my life, and I am excited to now bring in the audiences. It is a very challenging role and I have given my best effort to take those challenges head on. The hardest part for me was getting to the extremely vulnerable place he is at, and cracking open my chest for that. It is exhausting and very rewarding. Whether Romeo is a typical leading man I think depends on one's definition of typical. I think the stereotype of Romeo is that of a typical leading man, but I think a lot of his depth can get lost depending on the production. He is at his peak developmental age and is at that teenage crossroad; about to enter to the adult world and trying to figure out what it has in store for him while also having one foot still in the extreme but playful world of childhood. There is certainly a lot to him, he is special, so in that way I would say he is not typical.

Has your grandfather been of help to you in any way in preparing for this role?

My grandpa has been helpful in my preparation both as a fellow actor and as a close friend. He is always there for encouragement, and there for acting advice when I seek it out. He respects my work, which is wonderful for me; many young actors don't get to live with a family member let alone somebody who truly respects their work. There have been many cases where talking to him can help simplify various knots I come across in both the material and my performance of it.

How did you happen to join Archway? Talk a bit about this company.

I first came across the Archway Theatre last year on a casting call for Hamlet. I auditioned and was cast as Marcellus, and after a successful run of that show Steven Sabel (artistic director) asked me to join the actors company. The Archway is a splendid home for me, a place where I can count on friendly faces and artists who take pride in their work. Our company works very hard to grow the theatre and it’s rewarding to see the results. At this time, I prefer the classics to many modern shows, so the Archway is a good fit for me.

You are wise to do theatre, as the live audience always gives the actor instant gratification. What other plays have you done so far and how did it go for you? What have you learned?

Theatre is the best way for me to grow right now, and I've had several of those experiences at the Archway, first as Marcellus in Hamlet last year, then last summer as Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest, and now as Romeo. Each show has served as a marker for me in my growth, and by getting out there and doing theatre I think you discover a lot about yourself as a performer as far as what you do or do not like and preferences in preparation. You learn how to handle time effectively and how to play an audience; you really learn how to be an actor in many ways. Theatre requires being totally in the moment and focused, and those things can be hard to find in the other mediums. There is no going back when you step on stage, whatever may have happened in life before you step onstage, you are in a new world once you are there. There is something beautiful about doing your best at something and then leaving it behind. I'm always fascinated by how the shows you do end up reminding you of periods in your life; the opportunity to grow as a human and character at the same time is special.

What is this Romeo and Juliet like? Is it traditional or are there surprises in store for the audience? Tell me about the director and his approach.

I think this production of Romeo and Juliet is unique in it's truth to the text and tradition. It seems to me many Shakespeare productions are now put on with some twist, to adapt to a modern sensibility, but ours is classical. I don't think people get many chances to see Shakespeare plays done classically with a knowledge of the text, which is why those few you get to see are very memorable. Our director (and artistic director of the theatre) Steven Sabel likes to say our production is 'as hot as a Verona summer day'. Our director Steven is wonderful to work with. He possesses a vast knowledge of the text and his passion for theater is something to behold and rubs off on those around him. He has over 40 Shakespeare productions under his belt and this is his fourth Romeo and Juliet. Steven encourages us to take risks and looks out for his actors in a big way. He is the passionate, open-minded leader that as an actor you relish getting to work with.

If you had to ask your grandfather for advice, just one thing, what one thing would you ask him?

I don't know if there is any particular piece of advice I would ask him, because I often reach out to him when I am looking for advice. I am lucky that I have somebody so wise and generous with his experiences that he is an open book with me. We often talk about life and acting. I think he trusts I will follow my heart, and that there isn't much more that is needed beyond that.

Anything you care to add.about the play, your career in acting, or ...?.

I waited and prepared my whole life to come to LA and work, and I am glad I get to pursue my goals. Playing Romeo has been a process I will always remember, and we are very excited to share our work with audiences. See you in Verona!

Friday, February 17, 2017

2017 Interview with Judith Light

Actress Judith Light certainly needs no introduction. A familiar face to television audiences, she co-starred in the soap One Life to Live winning two Daytime Emmy Awards and in prime time with Tony Danza in Who's the Boss?She has also won two Tony Awards for her stellar work on Broadway. She is a gay rights activist and she and her husband Robert Desiderio have contributed greatly to the gay community in Los Angeles over the years. Co-starring in Amazon's web series Transparent, she is currently performing double duty: the TV show by day and at night a workshop play God Looked Away at the Pasadena Playhouse sharing the stage with none other than icon Al Pacino. I caught up with her this week, and she talked briefly but joyously about the play, her role in it and working with Pacino.

Tell us about the play God Looked Away and your role in it.

I play Tennessee Williams' very close friend Estelle who is based on a woman in his life named Maria St. Just. There was a book that came out that she wrote that was called Five O'Clock Angel, and there are a lot of stories about them and their relationship. She married well into English society; she married a man who was - he told her - bisexual, but he leaned toward being gay. It was a difficult time for her all through her life, but that's not what this is about. This is about their relationship (with Tennessee). It's really the story of the need ... the story of Tennessee Williams and the last 14 years of his life ... and with this woman and with his companion during that time period, whom he called 'Baby'. The play is written by Dotson Rader, a journalist...and Dotson was 'Baby' who is in the play, and it's their story. It takes place during this last production that was done in Chicago of the last Tennessee Williams play produced called A House Not Meant to Stand. It was received mildly well to mixed reviews in Chicago but it really began in some sense the downward spiral that Tennessee was in and eventually led to his death. It's about the drugs and the drinking and the process that he was going through during this one night in a Chicago hotel the opening night of this play.

Very sad. But it's billed as a comedy, right?

You know what, you cannot label this play. There are a lot of things that are very funny in it; there are also things that are very devastating about who this man was and his enormous talent and guilt that he carried around all his life. And it's a really tender piece; it's also about love and about relationships and dynamics in relationships, how people hurt each other without meaning to, and their own loss and their own sorrow, things that have not been processed in their own life.

Tell us about working onstage with Al Pacino. Have you ever worked with him before?

I have not. (pause) I have always wanted to work with him. And he is for me consistently remarkable. He is so present and so in the moment that it makes you, makes one, makes me the ever present, and that's really all you can ever ask of a partner onstage. His process is so interesting. I'm learning so much by watching him. Every line, every piece of the script is something to be delved into and dissected and talked about. We were in a note session last night and we were talking about moments that we have touched on and not have delved into, and that's why doing this play in Pasadena and having this opportunity to workshop it...because this is a play in development. You know how fabulous the O'Neill is, the O'Neill Foundation, and how you get to spend time working on a play, working with the playwright. Dotson (Rader)  has been there the whole time and Robert Allan Ackerman, our director - who I actually worked with at the O'Neill. He's a wonderful director, and he and Al have worked together before. So the kind of work that we're doing, the kind of development that we're doing on this, we're learning so much performing it for the audiences in this particular way. The kind of freedom that we have to be able to work on the play has been an experience that I will cherish forever.

Are there other characters besides the two of you?

Oh, my God, yes. Like I said, there's 'Baby'. In a sense it has the quality of Tennessee's memory play, The Glass Menagerie, which is now on Broadway with Sally Field and Joe Mantello. So, we have other characters, and the actors are really wonderful. We're all working as a team. Garrett Clayton and Miles Gaston Villanueva from The Young and the Restless plays 'Baby' and also Andrew Dits, Matt Gottlieb and Takuma Anzai. They're all wonderful

Is the plan to take this to Broadway?

There is really no plan at this point in time. What Al and Dotson and Robert want to do is really take the time to work on the play. This is the first in what will become a series at Pasadena Playhouse. Danny Feldman who has taken over for Sheldon Epps as producing artistic director feels very strongly about a program like this, where we do plays in Los Angeles ... and we see what happens with them eventually. And Tennessee did two of his plays at the Pasadena Playhouse a long time ago, so in a way it's a homecoming. We'll see. We really don't have any idea; it's a work in progress. You know, we have rehearsal every day too. and notes every day and every night. There's a consistency of growth and process in the play, as we have the freedom to explore. Then we will be prepared for that next step because we've built this very strong foundation. Dotson is changing and rewriting things all the time. We're having to be on top of that all the time, but we love this development. It's a very valuable time for us.

Is this do you think the best role you have ever played?

It's a really fabulous role. It's a role that ... you know me, I like to do things that are different.

You are always exciting to watch. You never let us down.

Thank you. You're so sweet. It's a very rich role, very different, particularly from what I'm doing on Transparent, so I love that and I love getting to explore another dimension of myself and another character and the psychology of someone who is incredibly forthright and out there and deeply connected to her relationship and her love for and her friendship with this man Tennessee Williams, who was and still is an icon, for me personally. The joy of doing that and consistently creating her, and the excitement that I have of getting onstage with Al every performance is thrilling for me.

I want to thank you, Judith, for your time and I also want to take the time to thank you personally and your husband Robert (Desiderio) for all of the valuable time and support that you have given to the gay community over the years. You have been sensational in supporting gay rights. God bless you!

Oh my goodness, it is my and our honor and joy to be able to give back to an extraordinary community that we feel so supported by and loved so much. Thank you!

Don't miss an opportunity to see the brilliant Judith Light onstage with Al Pacino at the Pasadena Playhouse for a very limited workshop run through March 19 only. Check the following link for tix and more info:

(production photo credit: Jim Cox)

Monday, February 13, 2017

2017 Interview with Charles Busch

Actor, singer, playwright and film historian Charles Busch is a multi-talented artist
who has won many awards over the course of  his varied career. Remembered for his plays Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, Psycho Beach Party and Die, Mommie, Die!, the latter two having been translated to film, Busch never ceases to amaze with his unique style of creativity. On March 13 and 14 he is bringing his act That Girl/That Boy to Rockwell Table and Stage. In our chat, he talks about this cabaret evening along with delightful observations of the theatre and movie world.

In a nutshell, tell our readers about what you are doing in That Girl/That Boy at Rockwell on March 13/14. How is the show unlike any show you have ever done?

Actually, this show is not unlike anything I've ever done. Quite the opposite. This show is very representative of all the work my musical director/arranger Tom Judson and I have been involved in for the past four years. I come to the world of cabaret rather late and it's been fascinating and very fulfilling learning so much about music and singing and expressing myself through song. I'm an actor/playwright first and I've loved applying all of my skills and experience to this new chapter of my career. I'm really enjoying projecting a very true version of myself to the audience. It's a bit odd that I'm in drag but after so many years I'm so at one with my androgyny that it doesn't really matter what I wear, the essence of who I am is the same. In this show  I'm able to entertain the audience with true stories of my life and career, most of which are humorous. I tend to view my life as a sixties sitcom. And I'm singing a collection of gorgeous songs from a wide range of music; Broadway, country western, pop. I choose the songs very carefully because they have to be a vehicle for me to treat as an individual little play. I sing quite a few dramatic songs like "Surabaya Johnny" but a friend of mine told me not to worry. He said my intros are my uptunes. I'd say my shows are sixty five per cent music, thirty five per cent comedy. And if I'm on a roll, it's sixty five per cent music and fifty five per cent comedy.

How long has it been since you did a cabaret in LA and why? Is it for lack of time or do you find LA difficult to perform in?

This will be my LA cabaret debut. It's kind of bizarre that I've performed in nearly every city, village and township in California but not LA. I'm so looking forward to it. I've appeared in two productions of my plays in LA. And I loved it.  In 1990 we did a very elaborate production of Vampire Lesbians of Sodom at the Coronet and then in 1999 we actually premiered the original play of Die Mommie Die at the Coast Playhouse. This may sound very typical showbizzy of me but I really mean it. I found the LA audiences very sophisticated and hip. So many people are transplanted New Yorkers and are connected with the entertainment world.  We share the same sense of humor. I hate to generalize and I don't mean to pander but honestly I found the LA audiences some of the most receptive in my career.

What do you find that you accomplish with this kind of show entertainment-wise that you do not quite do with a play or musical play?

I love the fluidity and spontaneity of performing a cabaret act. I know exactly where I'm going but sometimes I take a slightly different route and it's always interesting.  It's kind of like driving to Palm Springs and taking some delightful detour but you still manage to arrive in Palm Springs on time. Actors always dream of being "in the moment", which is when your instincts take over and you're no longer intellectualizing a character in a given situation. Somehow I find it easier to be in the moment when I'm singing a song. Perhaps it's the addition of melody that transports you into a deeper place. And I'm a font of anecdotes. Sometimes I think I get myself into situations just so that I can talk about it later. It's fun sharing these tales with the audience.  I've got a million of 'em.

Which of your plays is your favorite or do you have one? If not one, then mention a few you prefer. Why this one or these ones?

Sometimes it's hard not to have your critical opinion influenced by memories of the original production. Was it a happy or awful experience? I'm very nostalgic about two plays of mine that I wrote and performed with my original company, Theatre-in- Limbo. One was an homage to anti-Nazi suspense movies of the forties called The Lady in Question. It was so much fun playing this romantic role of a glamorous concert pianist who takes on the Nazis and gets the best of everyone.The other play Red Scare on Sunset was my most political play which took place in 1950s Hollywood during the blacklist. Not an obvious source of wacky comedy and it demanded the audience have a keen sense of irony and some did not. But I loved playing it. I think it would be a very interesting play to do again.

Why do you think there have been so few of your plays turned into movies? Tale of the Allergist's Wife is certainly more mainstream than the others. Any interest in a film of this? If not, why?

Well, it ain't for lack of trying. We've been working on a movie of The Allergist's Wife for years. Every time we think we're about to start shooting, we either lose the star or the director. I really thought we were going to be making the movie this past Fall but once again it evaporated. Hope springs eternal. There are a few other of my plays that are in various stages of ... let's put it this way, discussion. This past week I've been very encouraged. Next week. Who knows?

Who is your favorite playwright? Play? Musical? Why these particular choices?

Two contemporary playwrights I admire greatly are Kenneth Lonergan and Doug Wright. Both are friends of mine. Kenny writes about people that in life I would have nothing in common with and yet I watch his plays spellbound. He has extraordinary insight into people.  Particularly lost fragile souls. And Doug has such a marvelous theatrical sense. I looooved the musical Grey Gardens. I saw it five times and paid full price!  I was fascinated by the choices he made in telling that odd and emotionally complex story.

Which field that you haven't chosen would you like to choose to satirize theatrically? You've done marriage, the sisterhood of nuns, what about someone in education, a teacher by day and a female impersonator by night. Someone trying desperately to dare to be different but still cautious about hiding his identity. Any thoughts on that?

I get different ideas all the time. Too many ideas. I keep a folder on my computer called "Notes" and I write every fleeting notion down. Eighty per cent never get past a few lines but then some of them just take off.  I have notes on a slew of different movie parody plays. I always wanted to do a decadent 1930s mystery play Murder at the Ballet and I have many notes on a western homage. No gunslingers or dance hall girls. I'd like to do sort of a How The West Was Won where I played an Irish servant girl who goes west and drives a covered wagon and ages forty years and ends up the matriarch of a dynasty. I got a million different ideas. I wish I had a TV show where I could perform a different movie parody play each week. That would get them all out of my system.

As a film historian, how do you judge the newer crop of films coming out? I hear people complaining all the time about the lack of substance in movies, that there's too many special effects, etc. In your mind, are films as good as they used to be? If not how could they change for the better? We can't go back and recapture what once was, so what can be done to salvage the film industry?

I'm a glass half-full kind of fellow. I'm very encouraged by the success of dramatic films like Hidden Figures. Obviously there is an audience for a more adult form of movie. It won't gross as much as a special effects driven franchise but it can make money. Certainly La La Land should be encouraging to producers.  And it looks like we're really in a new golden age of dramatic television. Lots of great writing and acting going on.

What's up next for you? Any projects you care to share with our readers?

I tend to think of myself as someone who spends too much time reclining on my sofa but I actually have quite a bit going on. I have a new play that I'm very excited about that's scheduled for some time in 2018/19. Seems a long time away but will be here before I know it. And I'm very excited about the recent release of my first CD "Charles Busch Live at Feinsteins/54 Below." I never thought I would be able to call myself a recording artist. I call myself that around ten times a day.

Anything you care to add?  

I think that about covers the waterfront. Lovely chatting with you and I hope to see you at Rockwell Table and Stage

Don't miss Charles Busch, the talented man with the inimitable wit on March 13 and 14 at Rockwell Table and Stage!