Spotlight Series: Meet Sascha Vanderslik, a Native Australian Who Calls The Group Rep Theatre Company Her New Home

Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Sascha Vanderslik (Sascha): I am Australian born and bred and grew up in the theatre. My Mum is an incredible singer with her band Organic Joe and she did musicals when I was a kid, so I spent my childhood watching her perform.  I would sit backstage and watch the actors put on their make-up and costumes, completely enthralled by the magic they were creating and then would go home and make up my own plays with my toys. Then one day they did Little Shop of Horrors and my mind was blown. Seeing that show changed my world and suddenly I realized how versatile and fun the stage could be.

When I was 12, I co-founded a theatre company in my home town since we didn’t have a lot of theatre available for youth. So we made it ourselves and wrote plays that dealt with youth issues such as peer pressure and drugs. I took what I learned in the years with this company and I used it in my career. For me, the best art will always challenge you while it entertains you.

Since living in the States I’ve been focused more on film and TV work and building my credits. I felt something was missing though, and the last three years have been focused on reigniting my first love since theatre soothes my soul and there is no greater rush than performing on stage. I did two plays with the Manor Theatre Company in 2017 and have been a member of The Group Rep Theatre Company for a little over a year, during which time I have been involved with multiple productions at GRT. And I am pleased to announce I was just voted onto their Board of Directors as the 2nd Vice President.

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out it needed to immediately be either postponed or cancelled?

(Sascha): When the shutdown started, we were right in the middle of rehearsals for London Suite which is the next Main Stage production at The Group Rep.

(SB): How was the shutdown communicated with the cast and production team?

(Sascha): The Group Rep is such a fantastic company and we are lucky that both the Artistic Director Doug Haverty, and the Executive Director Bert Emmett, are incredibly transparent with the membership. There had been multiple discussions before the shutdown started about what the process would be. We had also had discussions with our Producer Aly York and Director Doug Engalla, both of whom really made it their first priority to make sure the cast were comfortable and felt safe while rehearsals were still happening. As soon as the shutdown started, we received communication from Doug and Aly explaining the situation and that we would be postponing rehearsals.

Once the shutdown happened, we have had regular communication from our Director Doug to check in and see how we are doing. Bert Emmett and Doug Haverty are also in constant contact with the membership to give them updates on what’s happening, and we will be having Zoom meetings with the membership in the future.

(SB) Most theatre companies are going that same route for now, and all are trying to figure out options for their next steps. Do you know if plans in place to present London Suite at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent?

(Sascha): At this time London Suite is postponed and not cancelled, and the plan is to open it as soon as it is safe to do so. We are rehearsing weekly on Zoom, which has been different and a lot of fun. We are a family and it’s great to see people even if it’s only on Zoom. Of course, we are only able to rehearse lines but it’s nice to keep everything fresh in our minds so that when the time comes, we can hit the ground running.

(SB): What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?

(Sascha): This year I am co-producing Nine Winning One Acts at The Group Rep. It was supposed to open in June, and we would be heading into rehearsals right now if we were able to do so. This festival has now been postponed and we don’t have a date yet for when it will open. My Co-Producer Helen O'brien and I have been hard at work reading all the submissions and narrowing down the plays so that when we get the green light, we can head into auditions and get the festival up on its feet.

I’m also in two staged readings that are postponed: the first, Baby With the Bath Water, is going to be completely staged and we are going to be starting Zoom rehearsals for that soon. The other, Ouartermaine’s Terms, is just postponed until it is safe to open.

Loose Knit

Lastly, I am in a hilarious new play, The Canary by Amy Sullivan, that is part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival, which had been postponed to October and was then cancelled completely. This is such a fun play and I can’t wait until it can be shared with the world, maybe at Fringe 2021.

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Sascha): I am lucky that I still have projects keeping me busy, and rehearsals for London Suite have been such a bright light in these times. I’ve also been participating in the open call self-tapes that different casting offices have been doing. I also have some very talented friends that have been doing Zoom table reads for projects they have written.

(SB): While it’s true the online theatre experience is not quite the same as being in a theater for a live performance, it certainly is keeping us creatively busy. Any thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Sascha): This is such a hard time for our community and it warms my heart to see how we have all banded together. The Arts are so important to the world and we will make it through these dark times. It won’t be easy and we don’t know what the other side looks like, but we will make it through together.

And of course, the Theatre community is struggling right now and we need your help. Most of the small non-profit theaters are held together by a membership of volunteers, so without ticket sales we are struggling to survive. And since Art is always there to help people, in these dark times Art needs some help in return. Like so many other theaters, we need as many donations as possible. And while it has been incredible how many people have already donated, we still need more help. To donate directly to The Group Rep, you can go to TheGroupRep.com/show/donations. Another place to donate is at gofundme.com/savenohotheatres.

Please stay in touch as we all work together to support our vibrant L.A. Theatre community! You can find me on Instagram @saschavanderslik or at TheGroupRep.com.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Fringe Management Co-Founder Mike Blaha


This Spotlight focuses on Mike Blaha, Co-Founder of Fringe Management, a company that has produced an incredible assortment of shows for both the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Hollywood Fringe Festival. Listen in as he shares his insights on how the Coronavirus pandemic has affected both this year, especially since the initial shutdown occurred just as the Edinburgh event had begun.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Mike Blaha (Mike): I did a little bit of acting in high school, but never really thought about producing.  Then a friend of mine asked me to be his associate Artistic Director at a small, long-defunct theatre in the Valley in the late 80s and I caught the producing bug.

Since beginning in 1989, I’ve produced or co-produced over 100 shows in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Hong Kong, London and especially at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where our company Fringe Management,  LLC (co-founded with my Edinburgh based partner, actor-director Nigel Miles Thomas) has presented approximately 70 productions since 2001.  I have also produced 18 shows at the Hollywood Fringe Festival since 2012.

I was also one of the co-founders of Sci-Fest, a festival of one act science fiction plays that ran from 2014-2016 and have served on the Board of New Musicals, Inc. for most of the last 20 years (as President from 2015-2019).

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out it needed to immediately be either postponed or cancelled?

(Mike): I was producing, along with Joel Shapiro of the Electric Lodge in Venice, the Edinburgh Fringe sensation “Hitler’s Tasters,” a brilliant dark comedy by Michelle Kholos Brooks.  We were originally scheduled to run March 12-30, 2020.  We had previews Thursday and Friday, March 12 and 13, 2020, opened on Saturday, March 14, 2020 and had to close on Sunday, March 15, 2020.

(SB): Here is “Hitler’s Tasters” promo reel on You Tube. How did you communicate the shutdown to the cast and crew?

(Mike): We communicated the heartbreaking reality of the shutdown in person with the cast and crew after the performance on Saturday night.

(SB): Are plans in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent? 

(Mike): Fortunately, we made an archival recording on opening night and we were able to negotiate an agreement with Equity to stream that recording for a two-week period, May 8-21, 2020, so audience members who bought a ticket to the live performance, and some new audience members, were able to watch that recording during that window. It is possible that there may be a remount of the play at the Electric Lodge, but it’s tricky because the cast members, who were the actors in the Edinburgh Fringe production, are all from New York.

(SB): What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?  

(Mike): I had five shows lined up for the 2020 Hollywood Fringe Festival, including three shows from the UK (The Nights, The Tanner and West), a local sketch comedy show Gold Baby and the 7th annual “Combined Artform’s Pick of the Fringe”.  With the Hollywood Fringe now cancelled this year, except for online shows, I have lost most if not all of the planned productions, although they may return for 2021.

We were also producing 7 shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August, which has been cancelled altogether including Activities of Daily Living, Bard Overboard, Elton John: Rocketman, Elvis: He’s Back, Hiding Anne Frank, Once Upon A Time in Hollywoodland, and Two Girls: One Mic.  Fortunately, it looks like most if not all of the shows want to perform at the 2021 edition.

(SB): I saw Joanna Lipari in her one-woman show Activities for Daily Living at the Sierra Madre Playhouse and believe everyone needs to experience her incredible and very personal observations about life and love in that show. So I certainly hope she will be able to take the show to Edinburgh in 2021. (Here’s the link to my review on Broadway World.)

So now that everything is on hold, how are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Mike): Well, I’m reading my daily reports from Broadway World, of course, following updates from various theatre companies, as well friends’, colleagues’, and various theatre forums on social media (and occasionally posting myself), and trying to keep up with the amazing explosion of content by artists of every stripe on YouTube, Facebook, Patreon, Twitter . . . the list goes on.  I’m in touch with all of the artists involved with the delayed and cancelled productions referenced above, and working with a couple of them on developing new projects.

(SB): Are there any thoughts would you like to share with L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Mike): Some people think the pandemic will move live theatre online permanently; some people think live theater will return eventually unchanged. I fall somewhere in the middle. I think there may be a hybrid model that combines live theatre with more digital innovation, both with respect to the design and production of live theater, but also respect to the supplemental, possibly complementary exploitation of those live productions.  One thing I am certain of, having witnessed the resilience and creativity of our community over these past few weeks, is that the L.A. Theatre scene will adapt and thrive in whatever becomes the “new normal.”

Of course, this has been a very difficult time for all of us.  One of the things that has kept me sane in spite of all the postponements and cancellations and missed openings is the knowledge that theatre has been around for a couple of thousand years and ain’t going anywhere.  It may be very different or not that different at all; but in a few weeks or months we will all be sitting in a dark black box once again in thrall to the magic of live theatre!


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



The Hollywood Fringe Festival Scheduled For October 2020 Is Cancelled


Hollywood, CA (June 22nd, 2020) - After deep reflection the Hollywood Fringe organization is announcing the cancellation of the 2020 Festival.

We recognize that COVID-19 is still a rapidly developing health crisis with little certainty of what the future holds. Knowing this, we cannot guarantee a safe festival season. This decision is based on guidance from state and local health authorities and our desire to minimize further financial strain to our HFF20 participants and partners.

“We are all living in a time of forced reflection and altered normalcy. The work our community will bring to our next festival will no doubt bring to light powerful exploration and insight into this shared experience. It will be more important than ever,” said Festival Director Ben Hill.

While this year’s festival may be cancelled, our commitment to our community is not. We will use our platform and passion to support our community through our ‘Fringe From Home’ programming. We'll also continue to offer our website to all artists to aid in ticketing and event promotion free of charge. Our mission of celebrating freedom of expression and collaboration in the performing arts community will live online until we can come together in person.

Check out all of the above programming on HollywoodFringe.org.

This decision does not come lightly to our organization. We, like the rest of the world, have suffered financially due to the unforeseen events this year, but are lucky to have a strong foundation as an organization, and look forward to continuing to present our festival for many years to come.

We look forward to serving our artists, partners and all lovers of the performing arts to the best of our ability until we can fringe together again. Please reach out to [email protected] with any questions you may have.



Spotlight Series: Meet Michael Gordon Shapiro, Composer of Music for Theatre, Film, Games, Television and Concert Halls


This Spotlight focuses on Michael Gordon Shapiro, a composer of music for Theatre, Film, Games, Television and Concert Halls, who I first met during the 2019 Hollywood Fringe Festival when I attended his The Bully Problem musical, which included not only great lessons against bullying in schools and why it is so important to stand up for yourself, but also his love of robots! The show had its commercial premiere at that Festival, where it earned an Encore Producers Award and was a Pick of the Fringe selection. It was also nominated for seven awards including Best Musical, Top of the Fringe, and Fringe First. And you can bet I was back in the audience during its additional performances in August 2019 – for a third time!


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Michael Gordon Shapiro (Mike): I wasn’t a theatre kid. I regarded actors as magical creatures with unnatural abilities. (How did they show emotion on demand like that? How did they even memorize all those lines?) And I didn’t become serious about writing musicals until my 30s. Age is a great motivator!

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out it needed to immediately be either postponed or cancelled?

(Mike): I’ve been developing a new family musical called Gideon and the Blundersnorp. (The mental image that you just came up with is probably accurate.) We were slated to premiere at the Hollywood Fringe Festival this June, and my producing organization, New Musicals Inc., had booked our run at the Broadwater Main Stage. I had reserved studio time for the cast album and was thinking about my wardrobe for the festival awards party. In short, we were looking forward to this.

(SB): I understand.  It will be a very strange June this year without being able to walk from theater to theater and see 3 or 4 shows a day as I have done at the Fringe for several years now. It must have been very difficult to communicate about the shutdown with the cast and production team of your show.

(Mike): The producers and I had kept an eye on the Coronavirus situation as it progressed, adjusting our expectations accordingly. By the time LA announced the closure of theater venues, we had a suspicion that our original production schedule wasn’t going to happen. We weren’t fully cast yet, but we emailed members of the creative team. It was primarily a courtesy; at that point just about everyone understood the situation.

(SB):  I know the Hollywood Fringe Festival has been re-scheduled for this October. How confident are you it will be able to take place at that time?

(Mike): Our star is hitched to the 2020 Hollywood Fringe Festival. The Fringe has tentative plans to open in October. If the festival proceeds, we’ll be there with bells on, running at the originally-planned venue and on dates that parallel those of the prior June schedule. Needless to say, we’ve got our fingers crossed!

(SB): What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?

(Mike): If there isn’t a Hollywood Fringe this year, we’ll likely move Gideon and the Blundersnorp to next summer. Consequentially, whatever to-be-written show I might have premiered in 2021 will get bumped. Unless I become pathologically ambitious and try and launch two shows next summer… no, that would be unwise.

(SB) Unwise, perhaps. But most welcome to this reviewer!

(Mike): *looks contemplatively into the distance*

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Mike): I’ve taken advantage of the downtime to work on the cast album from my prior musical, The Bully Problem. We tracked vocals last year, but there was such a tremendous amount of editing and mixing that I decided to defer it to when I had sufficient time to hunker down. That time is now. The silver lining for me personally is being able to launch this album much sooner than planned.

(SB): As you know, The Bully Problem was one of my favorites shows at last year’s Fringe, and I look forward to being able to hear the score again. For those who missed my review, here is the link

(Mike): I also contributed to the Hollywood’s Fringe’s premiere Virtual Cabaret. Allie Costa self-recorded herself performing a song from Gideon which was presented alongside videos from other Fringe participants. A lively group interacted in the chat room while the online talent show live-streamed. It was great fun, and certainly helped maintain the spirit of artistic camaraderie while we’re all physically separated. (You can watch the first cabaret installment here:

Jenn Crafts started an online play reading series that’s been a huge success. I’ve enjoyed being an audience member and supporting creators who might need a motivational boost. While online readings aren’t meant to replace live theatre, I think they offer a valuable supplementary experience. I hope this sort of thing continues even as we emerge from the lockdown period.

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the LA Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Mike): If you’re nervous on a plane flight, think about what you’re going to do after you land. That is, look past the unsettling present, and make your mind focus on what’s to follow. The same principle applies here.

For more information, please visit the website of my upcoming show's Gideon and the Blundersnorp at GideonMusical.com. Here is the website for The Bully Problem TheBullyProblem.com. You can also find me on Twitter and on Instagram.


The Bully Problem photos credit: Matt Kamimura

This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Janet Miller, a Multi-Talented Theatre Professor, Producer, Director, Choreographer and Tapper


This Spotlight focuses on Janet Miller, a Theater Professor at College of the Desert, Producing Artistic Director at Good People Theater Company, a multi-talented Producer, Director, Choreographer, and Tapper, as well as a lover of all furry friends. I have attended multiple productions in which Janet has contributed her skills, including several hit Hollywood Fringe Festival productions including The Toxic Avenger, Hello Again! The Songs of Allan Sherman, Marry Me a Little, and The Fantasticks just to name a few. Janet is pictured here with Gordon Goodman, the star of Barrymore which she directed, when they attended and won Ovation Awards for the production. Here is the link to my review on Broadway World: https://www.broadwayworld.com/los-angeles/article/BWW-Reviews-Gordon-Goodman-Channels-John-Barrymore-Into-Reality-Onstage-at-Greenway-Court-20131125


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background? 

Janet Miller (Janet): I am a producer, theatre director, choreographer, and educator.

(SB): What production were you involved with when word went out it needed to immediately be either postponed or cancelled?  

(Janet): We had just opened a production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) at College of the Desert. We did 2 out of 6 performances before we had to shut down the production.

(SB):  How was the shutdown communicated with the cast and production team? 

(Janet): We had been waiting to hear that our college was going to shut down as there were a number of emails that went back and forth. When I got the final word, I passed on the information to my co-director Maricela Sandoval, a graduating student, and we contacted everyone. When we arrived at the theatre, I spoke to the cast and crew. It was quite sad for our students at College of the Desert as they worked so diligently, especially the student co-director.

(SB): Are plans in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent? 

(Janet): We would like to remount in the Fall, but we don’t think that is possible, unfortunately.

(SB):  What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown? 

(Janet): We had been granted the rights to Middletown by Will Enos for our fall production, which I would be directing. We are holding off on making any final plans for that show at this point, as well as holding off on the planning on producing The Fantasticks in Spring 2021. We will decide as the course of the Coronavirus becomes clearer.

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites? I am still teaching online.

(Janet): I teach Script Analysis, Introduction to Theatre, Acting I, and Tap. I am also attending many Zoom meetings, reading and posting articles, as well as spending time speaking to my colleagues.

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the LA Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Janet): It WILL happen. Theatre is a survivor and so are we!


Featured photo: Janet Miller and Gordon Goodman at the Ovation Awards

This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Theatre Row Fixture The Lounge Theatre Closes Fueled by Coronavirus Lockdowns


The Lounge Theatre, Hollywood Fringe Festival 2018, Hollywood, California, June 1, 2018. Photo by Monique A. LeBleu.

The Lounge Theatre recently announced that it has officially closed its doors due to the coronavirus epidemic and lockdowns.

The Lounge Theatre, which is run and managed by Theatre Planners, and has been a part of the Hollywood Theatre Row community since 2005, has also been a venue participant in the annual Hollywood Fringe Festival up until 2019. Racquel Lehrman, founder and managing director of Theatre Planners, who graduated from NYU-Tisch School of the Arts and lived in New York for over eight years producing theatre prior to coming to Los Angeles, reflected on opening the theatre in 2005 in LA fresh from her marriage and honeymoon in New Jersey.

"The timing was not ideal to say the least, but I knew it was right," said Lehrman, via the venue's Facebook page post. "I remember returning from my honeymoon 2 weeks later, walking in and seeing all the construction. I nearly had a heart attack and thought 'What the hell have I done???' 'I can't do this?!!?!' Well, flash to 15 years later. The Lounge Theatre became a staple in the theatre community as a two theatre arts complex in the heart of Hollywood on Theatre Row."

Cat LaCohie in "Vixen DeVille Revealed" at the Lounge Theatre, Hollywood Fringe Festival, Hollywood, California, June 17, 2018. Photo by Monique A. LeBleu.

On the closing now, she specified that the timing in her decision was aided by much reflection along with concern overall for the return of theatre audience attendance in Los Angeles, post-COVID-19.

“It’s my choice that I gave up the Lounge Theatre, the time was right. It’s strictly a business decision and one that I’ve been contemplating for over a year,”  she said in the post. “This global pandemic sped that decision up and exposed the reasons why I need to leave sooner. We don’t know when theatre will return and the Lounge simply can't survive without it.”

The venue, which features two theatres on the ground floor coupled with coffee-concessions and lounge space, premiered many great shows that this reviewer was privileged to see during the Hollywood Fringe Festival, including solo shows like the delicious variety mixed-bag of aerial, circus arts (fire eating/glass walking,) comedy, magic, and burlesque art of Cat LaCohie  in Vixen DeVille Revealed in 2018, or the pleasures and perils of modern motherhood in April Wade Wish's Clementine or the stylish, visceral, and perfect Butoh interpretation of Shakespeare in Yoshiko "Yokko" Sienkiewicz' Hide Your Fires: Butoh Lady MacBeth in 2019.

Wish, whose show Clementine and its successful run at the Lounge for Fringe, enabled her to take her solo show to other venues post-festival as My Name Is Mommy.

Preshow preset of "Clementine" at the Lounge Theatre, Hollywood Fringe Festival, Hollywood, California, June 7, 2019. Photo by Monique A. LeBleu.

"It was the space I felt like I could take a breath in the whirlwind of the festival, a home to an untold number of stories and artists, the kind of space that was cozy, inviting you to pull up a couch and ...lounge," she said. "I will miss it. It is a huge loss to the creative community in Hollywood."

LaCohie, whose show placed challenges for other theatres that she approached, not only found the Lounge Theatre able to accommodate the physical and technical needs of her show, but was warmly embraced by it.

“This theatre helped give birth to the almost impossible show that is 'Vixen DeVille Revealed.' They really allowed me to bring my art to life and trust in my vision," said LaCohie. '"Can I eat fire onstage?' Yes you can. 'Can I rig circus equipment from your roof?' Go for it. 'Can I drag a tarp filled with broken glass on to the floor and smash bottles with a hammer?' Why not! 'Can I bring audience members on stage and teach them death-defying skills during the show?' Why of course!"

“So many theatres tried to nay-say my vision, or say it was too risky or that the set-up was too complicated to pull off, but the Lounge saw my vision and breathed life into it,” she continued. “I still drive by The Lounge and fondly remember 'where it all started' and now that nostalgia will be all the more melancholic.”

Soaring Solo Director, Jessica Lynn Johnson, who recently produced the Soaring Solo Stars Series at the venue, directed Wish, as well as Lisa Verlo for her show Hollywoodn't, Stacy Dymalski's A Bit Much, Heather Dowling's FERTILE, Corina Calderon's Corina: From Lap Dance to Sundance, and several solo artists who have had featured shows at The Lounge for the Hollywood Fringe and beyond.

“Over the past decade as a regular Fringer, I have enjoyed many achingly beautiful stories be shared from the Lounge stage,” said Johnson. “That theatre holds so many precious memories and my heart is certainly broken at the loss of this and so many other things in this season.”

Theatre Planners also runs the Zephyr Theatre and The Lounge on Melrose, both of which remain and await any re-opening changes for theatre and performing arts venues in Los Angeles. The Lounge Theatre will retain its Lounge 3 space upstairs with plans to convert into a 35 seat theatre/studio.

Updated: 5-29-20 - 1:15 p.m.


Spotlight Series: Meet Multi-Talented Triple-Threat Actor John Devereaux from Hamilton Touring Company


This Spotlight focuses on John Devereaux, a multi-talented triple-threat actor who I shared the stage with in Little Shop of Horrors at the Westchester Playhouse after he arrived in Los Angeles from Houston, and who has gone on to charm audiences across the country in touring productions of Rent and Hamilton. John also appeared locally in Dreamgirls at the Pasadena Playhouse, Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, and during the Hollywood Fringe Festival in the world premiere of Recorded in Hollywood, among many other productions.

I was so looking forward to seeing him take the stage in Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre soon, but unfortunately the national tour in which he was appearing had to shut down along with the rest of the world’s theaters. So what’s he up to now?


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

John Devereaux as Collins in "Rent"

John Devereaux (John): I grew up in Houston, Texas and moved to LA in 2012 to continue my career in performance, beginning with studying Improv at The Groundlings. I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of a number of professional productions working with some of the best in the area, including McCoy/Rigby Entertainment, Center Theatre Group, and 5-Star Theatricals. I’ve also toured with the 20th Anniversary Tour of Rent and currently with the Angelica Tour of Hamilton.

John Devereaux on the Angelica Tour of "Hamilton"

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the show?

(John): I was in Miami with the Angelica Tour of Hamilton when we got word that our shows would be postponed/cancelled 

(SB): How was the shutdown communicated with the cast and production team?

(John): I do believe our company managers did the best they could in the moment with everything going on and there is probably nothing more challenging than managing a touring theatre company. After we had two meetings after two of our evening shows, we were implementing new procedures to keep the company safe (not doing backstage tours, not signing at the stage door, etc.), which left us wondering what was going to happen to the rest of our tour schedule. Then the cancellation of our next city, Jacksonville, was announced publicly on the Hamilton Instagram story before we found out ourselves. Knowing there was work to be done during that time, including the spread of information, I can see why we might have been the last to know. It was just a sad moment personally for me.

John Devereaux backstage in "Dreamgirls" at the Village Theatre

(SB):  Are plans in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent?

(John): Dates are being rescheduled as word comes in. It may not be the company/tour that was originally supposed to do the engagement, but Hamilton will still happen in those cities at a later time.

(SB): That’s great to know that I may get the chance to see you in the show then! Were there other future productions on your schedule also affected by the shutdown?

(John): None as of yet. As of March, I’m scheduled to stay on the Hamilton tour at least through June 2021. But for now, I am coping with all of this by creating bits of humor online. Funny videos mostly on Instagram.

John Devereaux in"Spamilton" at the Kirk Douglas Theatre

(SB): I have been enjoying many of them on your Facebook page! It’s great to see so many creative people bringing humor to the forefront during this pandemic.  

(John): To members of the Los Angeles Theatre community and those across the country, please remember our industry will bounce back. Ours is a business of escapism, people are going to need something else than a screen to entertain them once this is all done. We’re going to get through this.

In the meantime, take a breath. Spend time with the people you love or doing the other things you love or finding new things to love! To those for whom performance was their escape, it’s okay to feel that emptiness. It’s okay if there’s nothing there to replace it right now because this is a time to focus on the other parts of our lives that inform our performances; our art. Life is but an opportunity to be and as long as there is breath in our lungs, we can breathe life into anything.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Kelly Brighton, an Actor, Singer, Composer/Lyricist, Producer/Arranger and Writer


This Spotlight focuses on Kelly Brighton, an Actor, Singer, Composer/Lyricist, Producer/Arranger and Writer who has appeared in theatrical productions his entire life. As a member of DOMA Theatre, Kelly has received accolades for his roles in several company productions. He is also preparing to take a new musical he has written to the stage, and as a Recording Artist works with some of the finest producers and recording engineers in Hollywood.  So what’s this always-busy guy up to while quarantined at home?  But first, Kelly shares a bit about his theatrical background.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Kelly Brighton (Kelly): I’m a Composer/Lyricist, Producer/Arranger and Writer, which keeps me very busy. I started early in Theatre when I did two shows as a kid with Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, sang with LA Opera and the UCLA Opera Workshop. Those were really fun, busy times. I’m very grateful to my parents for supporting me to do what I love to do. Thanks to my Mom and Dad, I’ve been in the Theatre my whole life. Flash forward to today. In January I performed at the 2020 LA Ovation Awards. It was an honor to perform for our LA theatre colleagues, many of whom are my friends. It’s always a grand, black tie event at the beautiful Ace Theatre in downtown Los Angeles.

I’m a member of DOMA Theatre and played the conflicted Pontius Pilate in our production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Our superb cast and show were unanimously praised by critics and audiences, so much so that we extended our sold-out run twice at The Met Theatre in Hollywood. I received a Robby Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical as Pilate from L.A. Theatre critic, Rob Stevens.

Kelly Brighton as Lord Henry Wotton in "Dorian's Descent"

I had a great time as Lord Henry Wotton in DOMA Theatre’s Dorian’s Descent, the new musical written by Christopher Raymond and Marco Gomez, based on Oscar Wilde’s Gothic novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. I led Dorian into a life of debauchery in our beautifully produced show.

One of my favorite productions was Octavio Carlin’s hilarious farce, Hollywood Party, at the Hudson Theatre. It was mad-cap romp that audiences loved in which I played Rodrigo De Altamirano and spent the entire show looking for Lilyan Tashman. Movie star shenanigans.

I’ve written the music and lyrics with my writing partner Jane Stuart and we also co-wrote the book for a new musical farce titled Kiss Me, Quick! We’ve had two hilarious table reads with my DOMA friends and we’re planning a workshop production, making it a very exciting time for us. DOMA is developing a multi-use Arts Studio with a performance space in the Arts District in DTLA which will allow for immersive experiences as we develop new musicals in association with Behind The Mask, Inc. Stay tuned!

I’m also a Recording Artist and work with some of the finest producers and recording engineers in Hollywood. My pop/soul music is available on iTunes, Spotify, and most digital platforms. I invite you to check them out at KellyBrighton.com

(SB):  What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the show?

(Kelly): In mid-March this year, I was in pre-production to direct/act in Seminar by Theresa Rebeck for the Hollywood Fringe Festival. We did a staged reading at Theatre Palisades in August 2019 which was such a success, we decided to put it up for Fringe. I was also rehearsing new material for Jim Caruso’s Cast Party at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s, and was in pre-production with my good friend, Jim West (Weird Al), to co-produce a new single I’ll be releasing. Of course, everything is on hold now. And after years of not seeing The Book of Mormon, I finally had tickets but it was cancelled. What a disappointment!

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Kelly): While at home now, as a member of SAG-AFTRA Singers, I’m a studio session singer and have a home studio, and work is being offered remotely. We download the tracks, record our vocals at home, then send them back. It works very well. I just did a fun, Zoom online “Radio Play” reading with the Quarantine Players! It was a live, Facebook event and we had a blast. More to come! I’m also using this time at home to compose and arrange, which is my full-time job at the moment. I’m thankful to be focused on the positive and in the zone of creativity. I recommend it! And I love vocal coaching and am considering using Zoom to coach online. It’s an amazing media tool which many of us are discovering for the first time.

(SB): That’s very true. I am on the Board of Kentwood Players at the Westchester Playhouse and we held our April Board meeting on Zoom, which was a really fun way to get together without having to drive to a meeting. I’d love to keep doing it that way even when the quarantine is over.

What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

Kelly Brighton and "Kiss Me, Quick!" cast

(Kelly): I ask everyone to remember that this is temporary. Focus on what you can do at home. Engage your creativity. Read those scripts you’ve been meaning to get to. Learn that monologue you’ve had on your desk for months. Bump up your self-tape submission game. Work on your website. Go through your archival photos and update your news page. Encourage your friends to do the same. Lift each other up. And if you’re hurting, reach out. It beats being pre-occupied with worry.

There is nothing like the magic of live Theatre. It transports us, teaches us, moves us, riles us. That’s what keeps us in love with it. I know what it takes to put up a show and sustain a run, and when I’m an audience member, I’m pulling for everyone on stage to knock it out of the park! Always remember so much of what we do as actors happens backstage. I like that graphic that shows top 10% of an iceberg – what the audience sees - and the 90% below water is what we do in rehearsal. Truth!

(SB) That’s for sure! It’s the reason I appear in a play or musical every five years or so, just so that I remember all the work that goes into bringing a production to the stage when I am in the audience reviewing a show.

(Kelly): I love our community and it means a great deal to me. Some of my dearest friends are those I’ve done shows with here. You’re in the pressure cooker of production, and you bond quickly because you count on each other to bring it every rehearsal and performance. The shows go up with a bang, you have your run, and inevitably you say good-bye to your cast mates and production crew. Post-show blues are a real thing. Right?!

And so we take our friendships with us and support each other. Texts, phone calls, and lunches. None of us are doing this alone since the very nature of theatre is collaboration. How nice is it that we can continue to help each other along the way.

When we’re up and running, please go see a show! Continue to support your fellow actors and theatre companies. Get back out there and audition. We can do this!


Kelly is repped by The Movement Talent Agency

Visit Kelly at his YouTube Channel, listen to him on iTunes or on Spotify and connect with him on Facebook or on Instagram.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Jessica Lynn Johnson, Founder and CEO of Soaring Solo


This Spotlight focuses on Jessica Lynn Johnson, proud founder and CEO of Soaring Solo LLC, a company dedicated solely to the direction and development of one person plays who has collaborated on well over 100 solo shows and is still going strong despite the current shutdown. And now she is offering free classes on ZOOM until it is possible to perform in a theater again.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Jessica Lynn Johnson (JLJ): Besides encouraging other solo artists to develop their own shows while operating my company Soaring Solo, I am also a solo artist myself and have toured for 13+ years with my own two award-winning one woman shows. I am also on the Board of the LA Women's Theatre Festival and we have been empowering diverse women's voices for nearly 3 decades!

Lastly, I would like everyone to know that I have taught a 100% FREE One Person Play Development Class for about a decade, and while this has primarily been at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks, I have now taken my free class online via ZOOM. In addition, I also offer affordable and awesome coaching (one-on-one, small group, and power pair sessions) because as a solo artist myself I know how important it is to get valuable feedback at an affordable price.

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the shows?

(JLJ): At any given time, I have 20-30 solo shows up and running with some making their world premiere and others simply continuing to tour since I work with my solo artists for years and help them tour internationally. All of that said, I had close to two dozen solo shows coming up that I directed and developed in three different festivals (Solofest 2020 at Whitefire Theatre, LA Women's Theatre Festival in March, and the Hollywood Fringe Festival in June). And of course, those have all been postponed.

Bryan Rasmussen at the Whitefire Theatre is such an innovative Artistic Director and had been perfecting the Live Stream experience of shows long before this COVID-19 pandemic took over. Therefore, he is planning to begin streaming shows as soon as mandates dictate this is possible. Many of my clients are excited to experiment with this new medium which is planned to begin in June.

(SB): How did you communicate the shutdown with your clients?

(JLJ): Every artist has handled the devastation of this moment differently. Therefore, some clients have processed this news with me on the phone, others have found texting and emailing the best way to process. And many have been partaking in my ongoing free online class, my coaching services, and my free daily Isolate Meditate Create experience, so events were discussed via all those options. My free guided meditation and writing sessions take place on ZOOM at 9am (PT) during the Stay at Home, with more information available on JessicaLynnJohnson.com.

All to say, this is such a challenging time and it is important to respect each person's nuanced way of handling this crisis and hold space for their feelings and the mode in which they feel comfortable engaging.

(SB) Are plans in place to present shows at a future date and how are you keeping the Arts alive during social distancing?

(JLJ): As an eternal optimist, I encourage my clients to "Never Give Up" and "Always Think Outside the Box". We must "Let Go of What Was" and step into the reality of "What Is." Suffice it to say, I am in discussion with several clients about the Live Streaming dates for those who were in the tail end of Solofest, and therefore unable to perform their shows when COVID-19 hit. I am also in discussion with those who would like to wait until we are able to gather in person at Whitefire to resume the production of their shows. I respect both choices.

As it stands right now, the Hollywood Fringe which is traditionally held in June has been postponed until October, and most people are eager to partake during this rescheduled time and I will be there to support them in the Fall.

The LA Women's Theatre Festival is also in talks about next steps to carry on with our programming, and our publicist Philip Sokoloff will certainly make an official statement on that once the Board has agreed upon appropriate next steps.

Lastly, I encourage everyone to TAKE CREATIVE ACTION right now since Art is more important than ever! After all, how many of us are getting through this challenging time by reading a good book, binging television shows and films, or tuning into content being streamed around the globe?  I hope the majority of us are nurturing our souls and entertaining our minds with Art to get through this day-to-day madness.

For example, recently my brilliantly talented client Dana Lynn and I hosted a ZOOM reading of her one-woman show Transcending the Mirror about her journey to accept and love herself as a lesbian woman, and we had 40 people tune in and give us incredible feedback to implement into the script.

We have moved all of our Soaring Solo LLC services online, and I have also transferred all of my coaching services and my 100% free One Person Play Development class to ZOOM so that we can all continue with our Art and not be stopped by this virus. I like to say kill the coronavirus and NOT creativity! As such, I am still coaching solo artists in the development and direction of their one-person plays from the comfort of their living room, offering One-on-One coaching, small group coaching featuring 6 solo artists at a time, and Power Pairs where two artists work together with me on larger excerpts of their solo shows.

With all the fear and uncertainty in the world right now, I know many people appreciate something else to focus on besides the virus and I want to provide that much needed creative outlet for them. And for those who are financial strained and cannot afford my paid services, I have got their back too, offering my 100% free One-Person Play development class on Saturday mornings, as well as my free guided meditation and writing sessions on ZOOM daily at 9am (PT). For more information on my free class and my paid services, please visit www.JessicaLynnJohnson.com

Yes, we need to keep our physical bodies healthy right now, but our mind, heart and spirit need to stay healthy too. Creative expression is a HUGE part of that overall wellness. This is a season for pioneers, innovators, and trailblazers to come forward and take the lead. We all need to think outside of the box and find ways to serve and connect and share our Art like never before. Yes, it is sad that we cannot perform in a theater at this moment in time, but desperation often breeds ingenuity. So, turn that negativity into new ways of creatively expressing yourself and connecting with others. There are true possibilities here if we can let go of the old and step into the new.

Stay healthy, stocked, safe and healthy everyone. We will get through this together!


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Michael Mullen, An Award-Winning Costume Designer and Actor


This Spotlight focuses on Michael Mullen, an award-winning and always busy costume designer, writer and actor who often steps onstage in a variety of roles, both male and female.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Michael Mullen (MM): I’m a costume designer, actor, and writer who lives in Hollywood with my dog Choo Choo. I’ve worked in the L.A. theatre scene for many years now, and have received several awards and nominations for my work both onstage and off from such organizations as Ovation, L.A. Drama Critics Circle, L.A. Weekly, N.A.A.C.P., Scenie, Stage Raw, Robby, Broadway World, Ticket Holder, Eddon, and Desert Theatre League. I hope to keep working and doing what I love for many years to come, and I’m very happy to be a part of L.A.’s wonderful theatre community.

(SB): I know you are always busy costuming shows around town, so what production(s) were you involved with when word went out that those shows had to be closed or postponed?  

(MM): I was involved with a few shows when this whole Coronavirus pandemic started directly affecting theatre.  I costume designed Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party at Morgan-Wixson Theatre (directed by my good friend Kristin Towers-Rowles) which was slated to open March 14th. I was at the theatre for final dress rehearsal on March 12th and the show was in great shape and ready for an audience. After the performance was over, Michael Heimos, the President of Morgan-Wixson’s board, came onto the stage to address the audience, cast, and crew to announce the run of the show was being postponed until later when it would be deemed safe to do theatre again. Everyone involved with the show was very sad over this news, but we all knew that this was the necessary and safe decision to make.

That night, the cast and crew stayed in the theatre and had an impromptu pizza Karaoke party to console each other that went on until the wee hours of the morning. Kristin (our director) organized a nice dinner for all the cast and crew at a restaurant called The Upper West for Friday, March 13th - which would’ve been our first and only preview performance. It was a lovely night of yummy food, drinks, and bonding. And now everything is on hold.

Michael Mullen in “The Importance of Being Earnest” at Crown City Theatre

Across town, I had a production of Romeo and Juliet (directed by Dana Martin) and All’s Well That End’s Well (directed by Nike Doukas) at a school called Art of Acting that had both just opened on March 11th. These two productions (which I costume designed) were both great, but unfortunately had to close early due to the Coronavirus situation as well. Everyone involved was sad of course, but understood why that decision had to be made.

That same weekend, I had In My Mind’s Eye (which I costume designed) close at Group Rep Theatre, but the production was scheduled to close that particular weekend anyway as it had come to the end of its scheduled run. The show was directed by Bruce Kimmel and written by Group Rep’s Artistic Director, Doug Haverty. It was sad to see the show end, but at least it was able to complete its full run before everything started shutting down.

(SB): You mentioned about the way in which The Wild Party cast and crew found out about the postponement. But what about the other productions at Art of Acting?

Michael Mullen in “The Legend of Georgia McBride” at Secret Rose. Photo credit: Chris Greenwell

(MM): As I recall, the cast of the two shows at Art of Acting were notified by email from the School Director, Johnny Yoder. I personally learned that the Art of Acting shows were closing early when I went to the school on March 12th during the afternoon to deal with some costume repairs for both productions. It was sad to receive all of this news about all three shows which I had costumed that were opening in mid-March. My heart broke, especially for all of the actors.

(SB):  Are plans in place to present the productions at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent? 

(MM): The plan for The Wild Party is for it to open and have a run later this year when it is safe to do so. Everyone involved is very happy about that and I think audiences will love the show since it’s fun, sexy, and very entertaining.  It’s weird to think that the set, props, costumes, wigs, and lights are all just sitting there in the theatre like a ghost light waiting to be used, but they will all get their glory and chance to shine eventually!

Romeo And Juliet and All’s Well That Ends Well at Art of Acting are sadly done for good. They were truly deserving of much longer runs.

(SB):  What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?

(MM): I was costume designing several other productions that were supposed to open over the next few months, but unfortunately all have been cancelled and/or postponed until later (yet to be decided) dates when it is safe to do theatre again. Among these projects are A Little Night Music with Knot Free Productions, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner with Ruskin Group, Imogene at Parson’s Nose, Art Of Acting’s productions of Distracted, Our Lady Of 121st Street, and Landscape Of The Body, and Love’s Labour’s Lost with Shakespeare By The Sea, as well as a few Hollywood Fringe shows. It has been announced that The Hollywood Fringe Festival (which was scheduled to happen in June 2020) is tentatively postponed until the month of October this fall. My 19-week-long costume design class at A Place Called Home has also been cancelled due to the building closing down until further notice.

(SB): That was quite a packed schedule!  I don’t know how you manage to work on so many shows at the same time and do them all so well. So for now, how are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

Michael Mullen and Choo Choo

(MM): I’m teaching acting/improv classes for kids on Zoom now, reading plays, following the news, Facebooking, talking with family and friends on the phone, watching a lot of T.V. and film, hanging out with my dog Choo Choo, and eating A LOT! And since the Hollywood Fringe Festival is now postponed until the fall, I’ve decided to try and write a play or at least find one to produce and act in myself. I mean, why not, right?! And masks! I should be making masks for people to wear! Bedazzled themed masks would be fun, huh?

(SB): Absolutely!

(MM): It’s tough to be alone and not see people because I’m a social person, but I’ll be okay. We’ll all get through this tough time, and I can’t wait to hug everyone when this Coronavirus nightmare is over.

I just want to remind all my fellow theatre folk that we are all in this together and that we will all be making theatre again when it is safe to do so. In the meantime, it’s important for all of us to stay healthy and safe, practice social distancing, get plenty of rest, and wash our damn hands!  It’s also important for us all to connect with each other and reach out if we get lonely. I’m here for anyone who wants to talk.  And I guess people are starting to do play readings on Zoom! I think that’s great! I encourage doing that for sure! Zoom Zoom, baby!

What I’m looking forward to the most, after this Coronavirus nightmare is over, is the resurgence of theatre across the world and especially here in Los Angeles. Theatre makes the world a better place. ❤️ Much love, everyone.

(SB) I am on the same page with you and can’t wait to get back to reviewing shows. #TheatreInspires


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Amanda Conlon - Actor, Singer and Director Who Created Bucket List Theatre


This Spotlight focuses on Amanda Conlon, the actor, singer and director who created Bucket List Theatre after relocating to Los Angeles from NYC. As the company’s Artistic Director, her talents as an actor, singer, writer and director enhance every production in which she appears or organizes for her company of equally talented, triple-threat performers. Amanda recently joined Theatre 40 and has also appeared in and directed productions for that professional company on the campus of Beverly Hills High School.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Amanda Conlon (Amanda): I grew up doing theatre on Long Island, went to school for theatre and spent years performing in NYC and regionally throughout the Northeast before making the move to LA. where I knew exactly one friend. It took a while to learn the LA landscape, particularly the theatre scene. After struggling to find my new theatre tribe, I decided to create Bucket List Theatre (named after my bucket list of roles I’d like to play). As Artistic Director, I’m so proud of all our productions and all that we’ve accomplished in a short amount of time, particularly with a fully self-produced budget. Equally, I cherish all of the actor-friends who comprise the awesome tribe we’ve created - it’s a truly special, crazy talented group of people, and ironically, 98% of our “Bucket Lister’s” also hail from NYC. It just took us all relocating to LA to meet one another!

Jesse Merlin and Amanda Conlon in SILENCE! The Musical

Our Bucket List shows to date include SILENCE! The Musical (11 Broadway World Award Nominations, Better Lemons Critics Choice Award, Broadway World Favorite Shows of 2018, LA Weekly Best Spooky Events), All in the Timing (Stage Raw ‘Top Ten’ and ‘Recommended’), Pageant Play, [title of show], Bucket List Cabaret (Broadway World Favorite Shows of 2018) and Missmatch (Hollywood Fringe Encore! Producers' Award, Better Lemons Must-See Musical). I wrote Missmatch based on my real-life experiences with online dating and was equally happy and sad to learn how many of our audience members related to my terrible tales!

(SB): If you missed SILENCE! The Musical, the hysterical parody of the film Silence of the Lambs, click HERE to watch a compilation of scenes in which Amanda portrays Clarice Starling in the production she directed.

Amanda: I’m also a member of Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills and appeared last year in A Bad Year for Tomatoes and recently directed the world premiere of The Surveillance Trilogy (9 Broadway World Award Nominations).

(SB) What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the show?

Amanda Conlon at Bucket List Cabaret

Amanda: I had several projects postponed, including a few staged readings at Theatre 40, as well as our next Bucket List Cabaret. Bucket List is also sometimes commissioned to be the entertainment at private events, which is a fun side gig for us, and we looked forward to a booking we had for a big party this month, which we are hopeful will be able to be reschedule.

(SB): How did you communicate the shutdown with your cast and production team?

Amanda: I made the call early on and while disappointing, everyone was beyond understanding.

(SB): Are plans in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent?

Bucket List Cabaret with Amanda Conlon

Amanda: Yes! We will certainly remount Bucket List Cabaret when the time is right. One of the most consistent compliments we get on our cabarets is the song selection, given I love to find obscure, hardly-ever-performed material. A lot of time and thought goes into each set list, so I’m viewing this time as a gift to work on curating the next sets. Be on the lookout for the Theatre 40 staged readings as well once things are up and running again.

(SB): Here is a link to my Broadway World review of Bucket List Cabaret Dark and Dirty at Three Clubs, an evening of adult-themed songs rarely heard that kept me laughing throughout the show: 

(SB): What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?

Amanda: We are very fortunate that we are in between Bucket List productions at the moment and don’t have our next mainstage production slotted yet. With my producing partner/husband, Pete Flanigan, we will use this time to strategize and decide what we will produce next. In fact, we were considering producing a Fringe show this year as it’s been 3 years since our last Fringe, but will likely wait another year or two to return. We currently have several other exciting projects we’re considering.

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

Amanda: We are having our first virtual reading/sing-through of a show via Zoom! I never really considered doing a virtual reading before, but I’m growing more excited about it as it may allow us to do readings more often, now during quarantine and beyond. All of our actors have their own “bucket list” roles, so this could be a great platform for us to read through more of their bucket list shows we wouldn’t otherwise be able to produce, and in a small way, fulfill our Bucket List Theatre mission!

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

Amanda: My heart goes out to all those whose productions were closed and hope as many shows as possible will be able to return as soon as we’re all able. I hope audiences are currently finding a newfound appreciation for theatre and the joy of sharing a live performance together. While this is a challenging, uncertain, scary time, I encourage us all to try and find the silver linings where we can and also hope we can all take some time to rest, reflect, repair and find new ways to create. Sending lots of positivity to everyone and I am looking forward to seeing you all at the theatre someday soon!


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Actor and Writer Barry Brisco


This Spotlight focuses on Barry Brisco, an actor who has traveled the world touring with shows and had just started working on his first TV series when the shutdown forced the production to close down. The delay has also put a damper on his plans to produce a play he wrote for this year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival.


Shari Barrett (SB):  What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Barry Brisco in Switzerland

Barry Brisco (Barry): I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theater Arts Management and lived in New York City for 15 years doing theater. Most recently, I was on tour in Switzerland with “Oh La La Circus” and was a Las Vegas performer with Rich Binning in the two-man hit show Puppetry of the Penis which we took to Australia and Tasmania, playing in over 50 cities across the country.

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the show?

 

(Barry): I had just booked my first leading role in a TV series. We were shooting the episodes and were about two and a half episodes in when the production just committed suicide; literally dropping dead right in front of me.

Barry Brisco on set

(SB): How was the shutdown communicated with the cast and production team?

(Barry): Due to circumstances, everything was done so abruptly, literally done via email with a “to be continued” type of notice. We all expressed our remorse to each other and our gratitude for all the hard work that everybody was putting in. And then nothing…

(SB): Are plans in place to resume production at a future date?

(Barry): As of yet, nothing has been completely canceled. But nobody knows. And so many people were involved, and none of us know what’s going to happen next.

 

(SB): I don’t think anyone does right now. Speaking of the future, what productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?

(Barry): Everything. I have plans to produce a play that I wrote for this year's Hollywood Fringe Festival. called Love is a Battlefield. But now the Fringe Festival isn't happening until October, if it can, and now the money is part of my emergency fund. So, I have no idea if I'm going to be able to produce it now, nor do I have no idea if my cast is going to be available. Or if the funding is still going to be there when the Fringe finally does take place. I have no idea of anything. I don't even know if we're going to be able to come out of the house, let alone have rehearsal and produce a play.

(SB): It’s so difficult on all of us, this new and so uncertain reality. But being creative is always a certainty for those involved with theatre. So how are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Barry): I am taking full advantage of watching every single Broadway musical that I can possibly watch thanks to a link I found on Facebook that said you can watch Hamilton and other Broadway musicals free of charge. And Hamilton came up first so of course I watched it. And then I watched Wicked and then Heathers. I tried to share the same link with everyone, but it seems to only work for me. So - wake me when it's over.

It’s amazing how much information is available online, so much so that no artist or actor should ever even have time to be bored during this quarantine. In fact, there's so much stuff on the internet I don't even have time to look at it all. So, go back to the basics if you don't think you have anything to do and revisit the artist way.

Barry Brisco in Circus

As a writer and an actor, I've always self-isolated and quarantined to do work, and I have a great dog companion who means the world to me. So lucky enough, it's really no big deal for me to stay home alone right now. Right before we were all sent to our rooms to think about what we've done to the planet Earth, I had a meeting and scored a wonderful manager. And I have an audition - in Drag. So, I get to play RuPaul's Drag Race for the next couple of days while I'm learning my audition lines and pulling together my look.

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Barry): Learn your craft. Ask questions. Join groups. Do not cut yourself off because you are an artist who definitely needs its audience. Clean your house. Throw away all of that crap that needs to be thrown away. Get your paperwork and your files and every single thing that you can possibly think of in order. Including you. Pull it together so you don't return with excuses. You will return ready to kill your next role. Get yourself ready for anything. I learned that in the book Ready for Anything. Such a good read.

In closing, I offer a quote from Effie White. "And I am telling you I'm not going, even though the rough times are showing. There's just no way, there's no way. I'm staying and you're going to love me."

This too shall pass, family.... let's stay in touch:

Imdb/barrybrisco

Instagram/barrybrisco

Twitter/barrybrisconews

Youtube/barrybrisco


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Anzu Lawson - an Asian-American Actress, Playwright, Stand-Up Comic, and Yoko Ono Doppelganger


With the current theatre world on hiatus, I have created a Spotlight Series of interviews with some of am the many talented artists who make our Los Angeles theatre community so exciting and vibrant thanks to their ongoing contribution to keeping the arts alive in the City of the Angels. And like all of us, how are they dealing with the abrupt end of productions in which they were involved?

This Spotlight focuses on Anzu Lawson, an Asian-American Actress, Playwright, Stand-Up Comic, and Yoko Ono doppelganger who I first met during the 2014 Hollywood Fringe Festival.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your personal theatrical background?

Anzu Lawson (Anzu): I’m an Asian-American Actress, Playwright, and Stand-Up Comic who has been performing my One Woman Show called Dear Yoko to sold out theatres here in Los Angeles. It was an official selection for 2019 Binge Fringe Festival, the 2020 SOLOFEST & the 2020 Crazy Woke Asians Solo Performance Festival.

I also penned & starred in an all-original musical called Dear John, Why Yoko? which garnered my first Best Actress nomination at the 2014 Hollywood Fringe Festival for my role as “Yoko Ono.”

(SB): And I am happy to share links to my reviews of both your shows during which you absolutely amazed me with your authentic portrayal of a woman so erroneous hated the world over for her involvement with John Lennon.

(SB): Were you involved with any production(s) when word went out that you needed to immediately postpone/cancel a show?

(Anzu): I was playing the role of YEN opposite Al Pacino with a huge, talented cast in a Benefit Staged Reading for Al Pacino’s charity in the David Rabe play called “The Basic Training Of Pavlo Hummel” that garnered Al his first Tony Award on Broadway in 1977. Al Pacino and director Robert Allan Ackerman revived it on stage to help raise funds and awareness for one of Al’s charities to help war veterans. We performed it Sunday, March 8th at The Wallis Annenberg in association with The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles. There were talks of doing it again, but the very next day the Wallis Annenberg closed its doors due to the Corona Pandemic. Here’s a link to a Broadway World article about that amazing production

(SB): How has the shutdown affected your current and future production plans?

(Anzu): I had to make some hard decisions. This has been an extremely unforeseeable event affecting every single human on this planet and not knowing how long we will be quarantined, has many artists unsure if they can even afford to do their show, even with rescheduled dates. I feel bad, but I am canceling all my show commitments until there is a vaccine.

I heard the remaining solo artists involved in the 2020 SOLOFEST dates at The Whitefire Theatre, in which I have participated, have been offered to have their performances streamed online. Personally, as good a solution as that may sound, performing to an empty theatre is not the ideal situation when a) audience interaction and response is a huge part of the experience as a solo performer and b) the main world focus is on live coronavirus news updates. I appreciate everyone trying to rally together to find a solution but I think people everywhere will need more time. Every person is processing what is happening very differently.

As for my future plans, I was about to fly to Chicago’s Cinespace Studios to film another episode of Chicago Med on which I have a recurring role, and I was counting on that money to pay for my 2020 Fringe solo show dates. Unfortunately, I had to cancel my entire participation in the 2020 Hollywood Fringe and am trying my very best to get my invested monies and deposits back. Even though 2020 Hollywood Fringe has been moved to October (much like Stage Coach and Coachella) at this time, I do not have the heart to ask my friends to hurry and get over their Coronavirus/social distancing fear by October to buy tickets and sit in a crowded theater while there is no income coming in for most, nor a readily available vaccine on the horizon.

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Anzu): Thank God for the internet and the free classes being offered by so many teachers and studios. I am also grateful for the funny memes on social media keeping me light-hearted and smiling through all this uncertainty. This pandemic has given all of us a “pause button” to reassess our beliefs, our tribes, our creative visions for ourselves as well as for the world. We are being forced to look at our individual contribution to humanity, not only as humans but as artists. This will forever change us as a society, hopefully for the best.

Personally, I’m in research mode. I started revisiting scripts and thinking deeply about what I want to say as an artist from here on out. I am forced to sit still, get grounded and put pen to paper.

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Anzu): Never forget there is always a silver lining and now more than ever, we artists are being called upon to be the beacon for a new humanity. We will get through this but only together and only by thinking of each other. Feed your soul now and get ready to create! Inspire! And be daring with your artistic voice. We have a huge responsibility ahead of us to shine bigger light and tell new stories that will ever remind us there is nothing more valuable than our ability to care for each other. As Yoko Ono always said, “We are all connected together. We are all one.”

I invite everyone to follow me on IG/FB/Twitter @AnzuLawson and read more about my credits on my IMDB profile. I also want to give a shout out to my director Jessica Lynn Johnson who offers free Solo show creative writing classes now on ZOOM.

(SB): Thank you Anzu. I am hoping to focus a spotlight on Jessica Lynn Johnson in the near future so more people learn about her outstanding contributions to the L.A. Theatre world.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.