Monday, December 4, 2017

Interview with Actor Jonah Platt

Actor Jonah Platt is a young man of many talents that include acting, singing, writing and directing. He is currently preparing to play the Lythgoe Family Panto of Beauty and the Beast to open Decmeber 13 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

Tell us about the role you are playing in the Panto of Beauty and the Beast.

I'm playing the Beast! He's the angry, hairy one.

How are rehearsals going? Have you ever done Panto before?

We haven't started yet, but I'm excited to get going. I've never done Panto before, but I've done a ton of improv so I'm excited to get to interact with our terrific audiences.

What do you think makes Panto different and so special during the holiday season?

It's a familiar story, it's fun for the whole family, it's got contemporary music hits everyone loves, plus a little holiday magic. Sounds like a perfect recipe to me.

How did your production of Dog Sees God turn out? 

It turned out better than we could've hoped! We sold out our entire run at the Hollywood Fringe and were awarded a Fringe Encore (meaning, we had been such a commercial and critical hit, that Fringe wanted us to do more shows!) We ended up extending our run and doing a whole additional slew of shows, all of which were also sold out. The playwright himself, Bert Royal, came to see us and said it was one of the most "exquisite" productions he'd ever seen. 

Was this your first direction? Talk about your young cast and your challenges.

I've directed in various forms all kinds of things throughout my life, most recently the musical improv show One Night Stand, in which I also performed. We performed across the country and sold out multiple Edinburgh Fringe Festivals. I absolutely loved working with my young actors on Dog Sees God -- they were so talented and so passionate about the material and bringing it to a wider audience. They trusted me a ton, which made my job a lot easier. I'd say our greatest challenges were teaching these actors what's expected of them at a truly professional level in terms of preparedness, promptness, pitching in to help the company, etc. They all have so much experience performing in schools and community theaters, all at a high level, but most had never really taken part in a fully independent professional production. But they all learned and grew immensely and I'm so proud of all of them and the work we did! Several of our actors are up for local BroadwayWorld Awards, and I myself was nominated for Best Director If you want to vote for me, I'd love that!

I'll see what I can do! Tell us a bit about doing Bare.

Bare is a really special piece of material that means a lot to so many people. Getting to be part of the Bare family, as "Jason" in the Los Angeles revival, is such an honor. A lot of talented performers have been through the Bare revolving door, and I'm just glad I got to bring Jason to life in my own way, and to hopefully touch some people with the amazing story. Plus, my Bare crew are still some of my closest LA theater friends - it's a very special connection. It really opened up a whole new world of LA theater for me.

What is the role you've enjoyed the most?  Why?

I have to go with 'Woof" in HAIR (at the Hollywood Bowl). It was just the most special 10 days of my life. Doing a show that's all about The Tribe, in the most intensive rehearsal period, with such an incredibly talented group of performers, in front of my hometown and crowds of 18,000 people, singing about letting the sun shine in and bringing to life this incredible piece of theater that still resonates 40+ years after it's creation... it was so liberating, so fulfilling. Plus, I met my now wife doing it! She was the assistant choreographer and dance captain. She walked down the aisle at our wedding to an arrangement I wrote of "I Believe in Love". How's that for special!

That's special! Do you have a favorite show of all time (doesn't have to be one you've done)? 

It changes a lot! I'm pretty partial to Sunday in the Park with George and West Side Story. More recently, I'm a big fan of Fun Home and of course Dear Evan Hansen! As a composer/lyricist myself, it's hard to choose just one favorite. There are elements I like from so many! 

What about a favorite composer?

My ideal hybrid composer would have the innovation and emotional storytelling of Stephen Sondheim, the complex accessibility of Stephen Schwartz, the lush unpredictability of Adam Guettel, the simple beauty of Richard Rogers, and the contemporary groove of Jason Robert Brown.

That's a great answer. Is there a role you are yearning to play?

One word: Hedwig.

What's up next for you?

I'm going to be doing a concert or two in the first quarter of 2018, in Baltimore, New York and Los Angeles. Additionally, the musical I'm co-writing, The Giver, will be having its second reading early in '18 as well. But no acting gigs lined up yet...

For more information about what Jonah is up to/appearances/shenanigans, follow him on Twitter & Instagram @JonahPlatt, and sign up for his mailing list at to stay in the loop!
And of course, go to the Panto of Beauty and the Beast at the Pasadena Civic opening December 13.

For tix and info visit:!

2017 Interview with Actress Peri Gilpin

Actress Peri Gilpin, best known as Roz on the now classic TV series Frasier, is currently preparing to open at the Pasadena Playhouse in a radio play of Miracle on 34th Street December 15. She took time out of her busy schedule to talk about her role in the play, her director Cameron Watson... and of course, Frasier.


I am playing Doris Walker in a Radio Play version of the 1947 film. The way the story was told has always struck me as very original. It’s almost like a commercial for a sermon about a commercial for a department store. But, because it never denies that about itself it stays relevant, rooted in authenticity, and honest. It also feels so American. Doris is a very buttoned -up single Mom. She works as an “EXPERT P.R." person for Macy’s department store. This working, single mom with a high powered job doesn’t feel anachronistic if you are familiar with Katharine Hepburn or Maureen O’Hara, the original Doris Walker, movies, but by more recent standards, she does feel unusual. She has very, very, strong opinions about parenting. There is no ex-husband or father to her daughter in the picture at all. No emotional life. Emotions are silly. And life is pragmatic and on schedule! She seems perfectly capable of juggling all of the responsibilities of parenting alone, excelling at a very creative and demanding job, being put together like a Vogue model, keeping her home immaculate, getting dinner on the table and keeping her daughter neat as a pin, adorable, respectful, reliable and thoughtful. The fact that this woman is doing all of this on her own, (even given talented art, scenic, costumes, hair and make up departments) somehow, is what exonerates her from being despised as an overbearing mother, determined to control and dictate her daughter's every thought. Especially her thoughts about SANTA CLAUS! Doris wants to protect her daughter and we can see that in her actions.


I relate in big way to this character as the mother of two thirteen year old twin girls! But that is pretty much where Doris and I part. I struggle with the basics of parenting. When I am working, my parenting skills get even sloppier and I wouldn’t presume to ever tell my kids what to think. Though I can be persuasive if I have strong feelings about something, I would never go so far as to tell them whether or not to believe in Santa Claus. Of course I want to protect my kids from anything negative or anyone who might cause a negative experience for them (even though I know I can’t). I also have a fantastic partner in my husband, who is always there for all of us and is the best dad I’ve ever met. That is the fundamental difference between Doris Walker and me. I have empathy for her. Raising kids alone has to be the hardest job in the world.


The message is about Faith. Faith in love. Faith in yourself. Faith in others. Faith in the future. Faith in the things you want. Faith means believing in something even though you can’t see it, hear it, touch it, smell it or taste it but you can feel it. Faith in what you feel. Faith in Faith.


Well, the director, Cameron Watson, is like family. He is one of my oldest and dearest friends. The cool thing is, he is my kids’ Godfather and I know how he feels about Christmas, the Holidays, the Season and Santa. He is a fantastic director. I’m lucky to get to return with him to Pasadena Playhouse. The last time we were here we did AS BEES IN HONEY DROWN together. So this is meaningful in many ways. Beth Grant and Jim Rash and Larry Poindexter are old friends and Alfred Molina, whose performances in too many movies to name, I’ll try… Enchanted April, Not Without My Daughter, An Education are always revelatory, and he made me laugh so hard once backstage at a benefit I have willed this.


I have never been able to answer this question. Whatever it is, I’m looking forward to it. And thank you for asking because I do believe in putting it out there!


Well, I have to say I loved playing Roz Doyle on "Frasier". It is so amazing to me when I watch it now how much the character is written like a very good friend of mine. None of the writers knew her, but I always thought of her when I was making choices. I used to say it often. But Roz was very much a woman of her time. So, we all knew people like Roz in those days. I hope that women like her never again seem out of the ordinary. Extraordinary women are the norm and extraordinarily written female characters should be the norm! I recently played Mrs. Page from THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR at a benefit for a Shakespeare Theatre here in Los Angeles and rediscovered that Shakespeare is my first love and will always be my favorite. Endless feels.


It’s always a pleasure to talk about "Frasier" because it was so much fun in every way. Every member of the "Frasier" world was a character in their own right. There was over 5000 years of combined experience, there were second generation comedy writers and the first generation was there too and there were writers there who went almost as far back in TV as you can go. The creators of the show cut their teeth on some of the iconic shows of the 70s...And that isn’t a reference to age, but to experience and wisdom and knowing what plays. There were young whippersnappers there too experimenting and trying to keep up and hoping to "hit one out of the park" and succeeding and also feeling like losers because they were young and inexperienced. Just the way it ought to be and the way it always is. And it was that way in every single department. There has always been talk of a "Frasier" Reunion, even when we were doing the show. As on every show! And there has always been a certainty that there will never be one. As much as every one involved would love it and probably wishes it could be.

Miracle on 34th Street will play from December 14, 2017 - December 23, 2017. For tix and more info, visit:

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Actor Bennett Saltzman Soars in First Two Plays

1     Actor Bennett Saltzman is a new member of Group rep in NoHo, but has already played two leads in a row in the last two plays. He has been critically and publically praised for Lost in Yonkers and the current Midsummer Night's Dream. Saltzman talks about his young past and about his love for his craft.

       Tell us about yourself. Where you were born and grew up and how your love of theatre began. 

I was born and raised in Chicago, well, this suburb forty minutes outside of Chicago called Buffalo Grove, but I went into the city almost every weekend so I think I can say I’m from Chicago. From the beginning I wanted to be a Power Ranger so that’s kind of where I caught “the bug.” I started doing Karate and Fencing at an early age, but my family’s a very musical family so I did a lot of singing and dancing growing up. I really liked to dance at Bar Mitzvahs. I would win all the prizes. I did ballet and jazz for ten years until I was about sixteen. Anyhow, I was always really “into comedy” so I’d go downtown every weekend to take improv classes at The Second City and see the shows. I just liked entertaining. I wanted to be an actor early on and my Mom told me I could try after my Bar Mitzvah. I had a small role in A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas when I was fifteen, but school was always very important. 
      So, I went to USC to study theater and really started digging into acting there. Eventually, in my junior year. I studied Shakespeare abroad in London at the British American Drama Academy. It was the first time I’d really tackled the guy, I’d kinda been hiding from him but I quickly learned how much I loved it. Then back to USC, graduate and here we are. Kind of that classic theater kid upbringing dipping my toes in everything. Besides that I guess I really like American history? Comic books? Greek mythology? I don’t know.

     Did you feel prepared for the real world of acting when you graduated from USC? How did the program prepare you?

        Between USC and BADA I definitely feel more prepared for the “real world” than had I not gone to school, although I may not have realized it at the time. There was a lot of times in school where I didn’t understand the point of all the classes: the exercises were ridiculous and it didn’t feel like I was getting any better especially when I could sleep walk through a scene and still be told I did a decent job even when I knew I didn’t. But I think the point was to find out what techniques and methods worked best for you and to be able to make yourself put in the effort. You got to learn who you are and how you work and that’s what the classes were for. Bit of a ramble-y answer but short version, yes, college did actually prepare me. Also USC offers fun and interesting things that you wouldn’t normally get to try like stand-up and voiceover and writing and producing. 

     What were your challenges in Lost in Yonkers, your very first play for Group rep?
    I think the biggest challenge of being in Lost in Yonkers was that, short of one thing in high school, it was the first professional acting gig I’d ever had, ever. I had to figure out how everything worked and how to live a balanced life as a professional actor really quickly. I felt very in over my head. I’d never done an eight week run before, school plays only run one weekend! I think that was the biggest learning curve that I’m still figuring out, how to sustain a role for months and keep it fresh. It’s a great challenge, I love it, I feel like an adult tackling it.

4         Tell us about Midsummer, how it is different from other productions and the challenges of playing Puck.

    We have a very “different” take on this production of Midsummer. It’s not different in that we are being edgy or wacky for the sake of shock value, but that we are grounding this play in a certain reality. No matter how cooky the characters and antics get, these are real people, with real thoughts, feelings, values, and responsibilities. Even the fairies. That’s been the biggest challenge; making Puck a “real person.” He is a boy, who has a job in serving and entertaining his king. He doesn’t fully understand his responsibilities or the consequences of his actions but over the course of what occurs throughout the play he realizes that all actions have weight to them. Finding a way to convey that and not slipping into the classic “Pucky” tropes, yet to still be the lovable “Merry Wanderer” has been an exceptional challenge. I guess the audience determines if I succeeded.

          Is this your first Shakespeare play? Do you think Shakespeare is more difficult to play in today's world than when it was written?

    This is my second Shakespeare show. Last year at USC I got to play Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet and I loved absolutely every second of it. Between the sword fights and the explosive language, it’s one of those “roles of a lifetime.” I probably think about that production at least once a week. They had me bouncing off the walls and in constant motion, it was just so much fun. And no, I don’t think Shakespeare is more difficult to portray today. Once you get through the language barrier you’re just open to this huge range of emotions. Nothing is really off limits and any questions you have are answered in the text. The meter really does tell you what you are supposed to be feeling and when; you just need to know how to look for it. Plus, and this is my favorite part, you truly have the freedom to move and play around with Shakespeare, each show lends itself to being very visual and active. I find it very freeing to be in a Shakespearian play, especially compared to your classic “family room” play. Shakespeare is very freeing for an actor.

       What is your favorite play of all time?

    My favorite play has got to be Columbinus by Stephan Karam and PJ Paparelli. Having read it, seen it, and been in it… It’s an explosive and powerful show that dissects the columbine massacre. The first act is about eight “breakfast club” stereotypical teenagers, (Jock, Faith, AP, Freak, Loner, Rebel, Perfect) and the troubles each face and how there’s more to them then the box they fit in. In act two you watch as Freak and Loner go down a darker and darker path and “become” Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, eventually committing themselves to the massacre. A recent third act deals with the aftermath and how it affected the community and America. It’s just a phenomenal show that truly nails the sense of aimlessness and anger that you experience at that age, and the terrible consequence of letting that darkness take over. As the number of mass shootings increases I wonder more and more if you can still put this show on today. It is told from the perspective of the killers; it DOES humanize them, though the third act shows how what they did was unforgivable… I don’t know. Seven years later ... and it still sits with me more than any other show. That’s a powerful and meaningful piece of theater.

       Do you have a favorite playwright?

Right now I’ve been reading a lot of Sam Shepard. I love how raw his plays are. His characters love each other, but the intensity of it makes them claw their eyes out.  I just relate to his style of writing immensely, and try to incorporate it in my own work.  Also he had a crazy rock and roll life.

      What roles would you like to play?

     Oh gosh. well the classic answer is Hamlet, but if we’re going to be honest with ourselves… Frankenfurter in The Rocky Horror Show. That show is a freaking rock concert live and he is just raw sex and it looks like so much fun. On a more serious note… Wesley in Curse of the Starving Class by Sam Shepard. Also, and I know this will sound ridiculous, but when I’m older I really want to play Vladimir in Waiting for Godot. We did scenes from it my senior year of college and that play is a lot funnier and more relatable than a high school English class would let on.


              Do you have an agent or manager?

 I’m currently with Littman Talent Group and PureTalent Management. I’m currently just auditioning and trying to get my foot in the door, looking forward for things to pick up. Also trying to make fun films with my friends. Classic actor stuff.

      Tell us a bit about being a member of Group rep and what it means to you.

9     The Group Rep has become like a second little home to me post grad. The company offers great opportunities and it has been amazing to become a part of a network of experienced actors so eager to take me under their wing, give me their wisdom, and help me out. I really appreciate everything they’ve done for me.
             Any long range plans?

I may pursue an MA in Theatre if that’s how my life gets going, but currently I have a very youthful look and type and I want to take advantage of that while I still can.

      Anything you'd like to add that we didn't discuss?

      I normally don’t rant and ramble and wax philosophic about my opinions like this. Yes, it’s cool that I’ve done two shows at the Group Rep, but ask anyone my age in this craft and you’ll find an absolute well of creativity and intelligence. I’ve got friends I never see because they’re constantly writing, directing, and working and I’m truly inspired by them and envious of their work ethic. Though I’d never say that to their face because that would be super lame.

         You have until December 31 to see this amazing young talent in Midsummer Night's Dream
at Group rep in NoHo.  Don't miss him!

Friday, November 24, 2017

2017 Interview with David Engel

Triple threat performer David Engel needs no introduction. He is one of the top 5 musical stars on local stages and has won multiple Ovation Awards. He is currently preparing to open White Christmas for two weeks at Musical Theatre West (MTW) Saturday December 2. In our chat he tells us about the show and why MTW is so important to him.

How many times have you done this role? What attracts you to it?
This is my sixth time performing White Christmas. 10 years ago I toured with the show playing Phil, the more comedic dancing role that Danny Kaye played in the classic 1954 film. Since then I have played Bob, the more romantic crooning role that Bing Crosby made famous. I must say that playing Phil is a lot more fun, but playing Bob is way easier. The production does take advantage of my dancing skills (because I can), but my costar playing Phil is the one who is really out there working up a sweat. The role of Bob is much less active, and this being my 5th time playing him, it's like putting on an old pair of comfy slippers. A pair of Sparkley, Glittery, Holiday Slippers!

Is the stage show by your standards better than the film White Christmas? If so, how?

Them are fightin' words to say that the stage production is better than the film version. The original film is an annual favorite and is just about as charming as you can get. And you just can't beat Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye, and Vera-Ellen. So we don't even try. None of us are doing an impression, although I do tip my hat a bit to Bing when singing the title song. I kind of scoop and give it a little Bing-like lilt to give the audience the comfort of hearing the song the way if was introduced by Bing himself. The film is actually quite an intimate little film. It's all about the relationships of the core four and the General and Martha (Dean Jagger and Mary Wickes).The stage version opens it up with huge productions numbers to give the audience a spectacular Christmas-y experience. 

The only thing about this film that says Christmas is that it opens on Christmas Eve 1944, and ends on Christmas Eve 1954. The stage version utilizes more of the great Irving Berlin catalogue of Christmas songs like "Happy Holidays" and "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm". Then we have retained "Snow" from the original film version of course.The stage version gives the audience everything they want from the film, and then goes way beyond it.

Who is sharing the stage with you?

Well that's funny. My immediate costars are the fabulous Jeffrey Scott Parsons, Rebbeca Johnson, and Tro Shaw. But you may lose us in the crowd. It's a whopping 29-person cast, THEN a 22-person orchestra live onstage in big band style with Dennis Castillano at the baton. The stage is bursting with talent and energy. 52 of us at a time.

What is the message of White Christmas? Is it peace on earth? Boy, do we need that now.

White Christmas does exactly what it sets out to do. It's an escape from all the craziness outside, and brings everyone together in one place to put you right in the holiday spirit. It has everything to make you leave the theatre humming all the familiar beautiful Irving Berlin tunes, and has all the heart to lift your spirits and put you right in the Christmas mood. It's also a valentine to our fighting men and women who served and continue to serve for our freedom. It is everything you could possibly want it to be.

What is different about this production? Any unusual choreography or staging?

I think the real star of the show are the glorious Irving Berlin tunes played by a live onstage orchestra, and the dazzling production numbers with original choreography by Lisa Hopkins, all performed by a crazy talented energetic cast. I think the concept for this production by director Todd Nielson is pretty brilliant.  Having the orchestra onstage brings the show to life far greater than if they were buried in the pit.There are enough set pieces to completely transport the audience to the location without having a literal full scale inn or nightclub on stage.Then it has all the colorful costumes and stunning lighting to satisfy everyone's eyes, and it just may or may not actually snow on the audience!

What else do you want to say about the show?

The book to the show is as light as air, and any conflict could be explained away with a single word. But then there wouldn't be a show. Don't ask it to make perfect sense, just go with the flow and you will be completely charmed. It is constructed in the style of a good old fashioned Broadway or movie musical...Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy sings song and get girl back. It's not going to challenge your intelligence if that is what you are looking for. But if you want an escape and to just be moved and entertained and put in the holiday spirit, then come and escape at the Carpenter Center.

What's your next project?

Funny you should ask.  At the end of every show, I usually have a whole itinerary of shows lined up. As of now, I have absolutely nothing following White Christmas. Intentionally. My agent and myself are going to focus on me getting more large scale production work on Broadway or on tour. That plan starts on January 1st. I am going to New York for a chunk of time and start auditioning for new upcoming Broadway shows. It's a bit scary heading into the new year with nothing lined up, but I have always been incredibly lucky and blessed to have continuous work over the past four decades. I am hoping and trusting that my luck will hold out on this next adventure.  

MTW is close to your heart, isn't it? Why?

Oh yes, Musical Theatre West is quite close to my heart.  Paul Garmen has given me many great opportunities on this stage, and my work there opened doors for me everywhere else. This is the first time I am back at MTW in 5 years. Paul asked me to come back a couple of years ago to reprise my role in Singin' in the Rain for them, but I just had to go and tick off a bucket list role and play Harold Hill in The Music Man at Moonlight Amphitheater. I am so excited to be back on this stage and in front of this audience that I have great history with. This marks my 14th show at MTW. Favorites being La Cage aux Folles, Crazy for You, Never Gonna Dance, Kiss Me Kate, The Full Monty, Hairspray, The Producers, and of course Singin' in the Rain. Thrilled to be home!

White Christmas plays December 1 through December 10 only at MTW. For tix, go to their website whose link is listed below:

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Stephen Tobolowsky On Road Event Reading

On Sunday, December 10, for one night only, the Road Theatre on Magnolia is proud to present a first-time reading of a compelling story from actor/writer Stephen Tobolowsky’s new book My Adventures with God. The performance, which runs about an hour, will feature Tobolowsky and fellow guest actor Alan Mandell and will take place at 5:30 pm. Preceding the reading, wine and refreshments will be served at 5:00 pm. Immediately following the reading, there will be a book signing made possible by Skylight Books.

Tobolowsky, currently on a book tour on the east coast tyook time out of his busy schedule to expound specifically upon the content and message of this reading:   

“Alan Mandell and I are reading “A Good Day at Auschwitz” from my new book My Adventures with God published by Simon and Schuster. 

I write stories from my life, and this is one of my favorites - a true story of a man I met at my synagogue. His name is Abe. Abe is a man of great humor and heart who survived three years at Auschwitz - certainly the worst place on earth. And …  he fell in love there! Amazing! 

Besides being an entertaining story I thought it was perfect for the holidays. It is a story about the resilience of the human spirit, renewal, and hope where there seems to be none.”

Don’t miss this one of a kind event with these highly respected actors Stephen Tobolowsky and Alan Mandell. The Road at Magnolia is located in the NoHo Senior Arts Colony at 10747 Magnolia Blvd in NoHo. Tickets are $40. There is plenty of street parking available, but come early to guarantee your space.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Interview - Marc Singer

Actor/director Marc Singer was a household name in the 80s with his big screen role as the Beastmaster in a series of theatrical films. He was also popular on the small screen in the series V, among others. Today he is still a working actor in demand and is a member of Group rep Theatre in NoHo where he is currently rehearsing their next production of A Midsummer Night's Dream to open November 17. Singer will play Oberon and also direct the piece. He took time out of his busy schedule to sit down and talk about his love of Shakespeare, Midsummer and some of his career highlights.

Is this your first direction?

No, this is not my first direcion at all. This is the first realization, however, of something that I've wanted to do since I was a very young actor. And that is to follow in the tradition of actors who mount their own productions of Shakespeare so that they can manage the storyline and the pace of the production and get the kind of slant or interpretation that they want to out of the entire production rather than just out of the single role that they play.

What role are you playing?

I'm playing the lead; I'm playing Oberon. It has been my experience that many productions appreciate the ensemble effect of Midsummer Night's Dream to such an extent that very often the piramital shape of the lead actor gets lost. The lead character in this case is Oberon. And Oberon drives the play and is an integral part of the mood of the play. So, this being a comedy. hopefully our Oberon will be contributing to the comedy.

I remember years ago playing Puck in a scene that was so much fun and you can get caught up in these guys and their stories but they all kind of meld together in getting out the main message.

I agree with you, and well said. The point is they can meld together to such an extent that we lose sight of who's driving the play forward. It's sort of like an avalanche that everything mixes together by the time it reaches the bottom of the hill, and it shoudn't be that way. There should be a through storyline which everything else revolves around. When that through storyline resolves itself, then the play is over. And that's the storyline of the argument between Titania and Oberon.

Are you reinventing the play in any way or are you doing a traditional mounting of it?

No, I don't favor and am not fond of  reinventions. I don't say that everything has to be done strictly to period. I like Hamlet in the style of the Napoleonic day wars. I think that's perfectly appropriate. I like it. So, not everything has to be true to period. But, what we're doing is rediscovering what I think is being overlooked in the main by most companies in the United States, according to what I'm sensing, feeling and experiencing in theatrical productions of Midsummer Night's Dream.  And that is that the original storyline which is the resolution of the struggle between Titania and Oberon and why it takes place in the first place is lost.

We're restoring a sense of it. Everybody in every literary endeavor has a very strong personal feeling about how Shakespeare should be done and what Shakespeare means, etc, etc, etc. I happen to think that Shakespeare is absolutely essentially foundational to Western culture. I believe that the loss of how to approach Shakespeare and understand Shakespeare and translate Shakespeare into action on a stage is being lost. I believe that it is a specific deal of study and endeavor, and although that sounds cold and academic, it is an imperative to me in my life that I accomplish what I can in illuminating plays by Shakespeare in my understanding of how to look at Shakespeare as a performer, before I leave this earth.

Where did you receive your training of the classics?

I was very father got me interested in Shakespeare when I was 10 years old, in the fifth grade. Through the years I discovered eventually that I really was interested in acting and that Shakespeare was foundational to my studies and to my whole life. It was the thing that made life make sense for me. I was fortunate enough eventually to be accepted into a conservatory program run by Mr. William Duncan Ross who had come I think from the National Theatre School of Canada. Later he became the head of the drama department at USC. He was an extraordinary Shakesperean scholar...and a director and an actor.

You were like a rep company?

Yes, 10 of us in the program were like a rep company. Under his direction we were significant in Seattle Washington where this conservatory was associated in developing Seattle's theatrical history.

What roles did you play?

Antonio and Shylock in The Merchant of Venice...Lear

Even though you were obviously too young for Lear or Shylock ... age makes no difference in Shakespeare.

I make zero apologies for it, asolutely not. I'm very proud of those performances, of that interpretation.
In fact it was William Duncan Ross's take on how to understand what Shakespeare really wrote, as opposed to what people are used to imagining that he wrote because they see the mistakes replicated production after production after production, so they begin to think, "Well, that must be what the play is about." It is his particular slant that I have hopefully expatiated on correctly in my own work and in my life.

Many deem it a daunting task to both act in a play and direct yourself at the same time. You seem to feel comfortable with the challenge.

As I mentioned up top, it's a tradition that many others have done before me, so I'm not the first. It's something that I've looked forward to do all my life...finally take charge of the whole production this way. (he pauses) I have moments of doubt and fear. But this I think is a tribute to the co-artistic directors of the Group repertory Larry Eisenberg and Chris Winfield. They have encouraged me. In fact, it was Larry who encouraged me first to put on a Shakespearean production way back when. He gave me the license, so this is a tribute to their stewardship of this company and this company. I'm fortunate to's an embarrassment of riches the talent and the ability of these actors. I'm pretending when I meet them that I can do what they do.

Let's break away from the play a bit. I've read that you have quite a musical background.

My father was a symphony conductor and my mother was a concertizing pianist and kind of a savant virtuoso, raised in the farmlands outside of Dallas, Texas. And yet, with perfect pitch, and could play the most profound pieces of orchestral and symphonic music. My father directed all over the world and played with all of the great musicians of his day Isaac Stern and Claudio Arrau and Andres Segovia...the list goes on and on. They loved to work under his baton. My uncle was a pianist, as well, and my aunt...

Has any of this rubbed off on you? Do you play an instrument?

No, I didn't want to spend my life indoors. I do play the piano ... and the guitar. I play it at a strictly dilettante fashion.

Mainly to entertain yourself. So you wouldn't want to direct a musical?

I've always wanted to perform in a musical, like one of those older ones such as Babes in the Wood from that era. The music is so uplifting. I'm not in any way qualified to direct one. No, no...

Let's talk a tad about your movie fame. Tell our readers about your involvement in Beastmaster.

The Beastmaster was an extraordinary kind of charmic event in my life. We were children back in Texas. Everything was cowboys in those days... Roy Rogers, Gene Autry...all those people were on television screens in black and white every weekend.

For me it was Superman.

Superman, yes...Hollywood is a dream machine. And it is, because one day an actor's walking down the street and the next day he's the Beastmaster. And from that day on, he has in his own small way a niche in Hollywood filming stand beside the Lone Ranger...and so it's like becoming the Lone Ranger. It was so fulfilling and so exciting when it was all over to think, to realize that people would now think of me as the Beastmaster.

Was being cast a surprise in any way?

It was. I got a call from my agent and he said they're sending you the script for a lead in a movie. That was the first time that had ever happened for me. When I went in to meet Don Coscarelli who was the auteur, he said it was my work as Petruchio in Taming of the Shrew that had prompted him to say "That's the guy that should be playing the Beastmaster". I made friends on the film that I have kept for life. And I also learned so much about filming. I worked with John Alcott the Academy Award winning cinematographer who did Barry Lyndon. I got to do what I had always wanted to do, working outside, and doing that thing that actors, that we all say that we do, "I do all my own stunts!" Of course, that's baloney. We do as many stunts as we're physically capable of without killing ourselves and jeopardizing the film. The producers don't care if you kill yourself; (he chuckles) they just don't want the film to be damaged. So I got to do a lot of that stuff and learn about directing and acting...

You also did V on TV to great acclaim. Is there any other poject that you're particularly proud of?

 I was lucky to do an episode of The Twilight Zone in its new incarnation in the 90s nd also Night Gallery. I'm proud of my performances in those enjoyable roles. I love immersing myself in a role. I love getting that character just right. Gripping for the audience and fun for me to play.

A role to play on your bucket list?

Oberon before it kills me. (we laugh) I want to play the role that brings out whatever is deepest in me that I want to express ...  that I never knew was there.

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I had the opportunity to sit in on part of a rehearsal of Midsummer after the interview. It was a scene with the fairies, and there were four teenage actors playing the younger fairies. It is not easy to direct young actors; I know from my own experience as a middle school/high school teacher for many years. I had such fun watching, mainly because of Singer's ability as director to jump right in and show them what he wanted them to do. As he blocked the scene, he was very playful in his approach to guiding the 'kids' into having fun with their antics, which include singing a very silly ditty and moving as if in flight hither and thither around the stage. After a few practice sessions, they did produce what he gave them quite nicely. I truly believe from what I saw Singer accomplish as a director is that he is not only effective but really quite magical.

Here are rehearsal shots of other sessions showing Singer in action.


Plays at the Group rep from November 17 to December 31. For tickets, visit their website:

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Interview - Linda Kerns

Linda Kerns has a made a name for herself as both an actress and director.  As an actress:  Broadway: NINE (Original Cast), Big River, National Tours: Les Miserables, Beauty and the Beast (LA), Wicked (LA). The movie “TITANIC,”  LAWeekly Award  (Best Musical Performance) for Into the Woods at Actors Co-op. As a director:  World Premiere Matthew Goldsby’s Makin’ Hay, Pride and Prejudice, I Do, I Do!, And Then There Were None,  Going to St. Ives, among others.
She is currently directing the classic The Man Who Came to Dinner at Actors Co-op to open Friday November 3.

Written by Steve Peterson

When did you first get interested in considering acting as a career?

This question always makes me chuckle.  I was FIVE!  I was cast in the lead role in my kindergarten play The Little White Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings.  All the laughs and applause and love just bit me right in the butt (and in the heart!) I knew from the moments of that curtain call that theater was going to be my life.

When did you delve into directing, and what did you learn from that first experience directing a play?

I had helped a friend direct/musical direct a few shows at a school at which he worked, but didn’t really think of directing as a “career”. Around 16-17 years ago the Artistic Director at a theater I had worked in, called to ask me if I wanted to direct a show there.  I was gob-smacked.  He said “I think you should direct, and this is the perfect place to start.”  I’ve done a fair amount of “on the job” training…and read lots of books!!

Did you have mentors along the way in regards to your directing?  And what ‘lessons’ or guidance do you still pay heed to when you direct?

In terms of mentors - really just the person who first asked me to direct,  I guess. He answered a lot of basic questions for me and I felt free to be lousy.  J There are some directors out there working that I would love to assist for the sake of learning.  Tina Landau, Diane Paulus, Frank Galati, Des McAnuff…  I have a few books that were influential, among them, the William Ball book A SENSE OF DIRECTION and Jon Jory’s TIPS, IDEAS FOR DIRECTORS.  I learned a lot about what to do, and what NOT to do, from directors I have worked with as an actress.
The lessons/tips:  1. When in doubt, keep your mouth shut.  Once you’ve said it, (to an actor) as the director, you can’t take it back.  2. Actors are sensitive, vulnerable people…honor them and their bravery. 3. The hardest and most important part of directing is the casting!

Tell us a bit about the play; and what intrigued you about directing this comedy classic?

Once again, Kaufman and Hart have created a story with a strong plot, full of crazy characters.  The play, while centered around a rather mean-spirited man, has a lot of heart, and if one follows the arc of many of the characters we do see in the end that “love conquers all”.  I was ready to direct something lighter, and more fun than some of the pieces I’ve directed in the recent past.

What do you want the audience to take away?

I want them to laugh!  I want an enjoyable evening in the theater, where one can leave outside the dark time the world seems to be experiencing at the moment, and get lost in a story that isn’t life and death, that isn’t political, that has no real darkness in it. Don’t get me wrong, I love that kind of thought-provoking theater, but just at this moment, I need joy!

In addition to directing, you are also a working actress and an Adjunct Professor in the Ray Bolger Musical Theater Program at UCLA.   Acting or directing, do you favor one or the other?

When I first started to direct I thought “Oh THIS is where I belong”, but acting is really my first love, and thank heavens I’ve gotten better at it over the years.  Some of us are late bloomers! J And I love teaching.  Seeing the ‘light bulb’ moment , or watching the growth and success of a student is glorious!

What’s up next for you in regards to directing and/or acting?

I don’t know! Got a job for me? (She laughs.)

Was there anything you wished we had asked or you’d like us to know about you or about the production?

I love these actors! AND theater (and the arts in general) can change lives in ways that nothing else can.

Actors Co-op Theatre Company presents Moss Hart and George F. Kaufman’s beloved comedy classic THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER, directed by Linda Kerns, produced by Thomas Chavira, about the nightmare holiday guest who never leaves – or so it seems. Opens November 3 at 8:00 pm.  Runs November 3 – December 17, 2017. Fridays and Saturdays at   8:00 pm, Sunday matinees at 2:30 pm. Dark November 24, 25 and 26.  Additional Saturday Matinees: November 11 and November 18 at 2:30 pm.  Tickets: $30.00.  Seniors (60+): $25.00.  Students: $20.00.  Group rates available for parties of 6 or more.  
To buy tickets or make reservations please visit or call (323) 462-8460.   Actors Co-op David Schall Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St. (on the campus of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood) in Hollywood.