Spotlight Series: Meet Brandon Ferruccio – Fulfilling Every Actor’s Dream to Direct Plays


With the current theatre world on hiatus, I have created a Spotlight Series which features interviews with some of 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 Brandon Ferruccio, who started out as an actor, only to discover his real passion was to direct plays, especially with all-female casts or with a strong feminine lead character. He has directed many productions at Theatre Palisades, Westminster Playhouse, Whittier Community Theatre, The Warner Grand in San Pedro, El Camino College, and the James Armstrong Studio Theatre in Torrance. And soon he will be adding the Westchester Playhouse to the list of theaters in which he has directed productions.


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

Brandon Ferruccio (BF): I was first involved with Theatre through my high school Drama Department. After I dappled in sports for some time, which clearly wasn’t a fit for me. So I decided to throw my energy into something creative and was hooked into acting after appearing in a play on stage. From there, college exposed me into the realm of directing and I’ve been addicted to it ever since. Although the Arts is not my career path, it is very much my passion and my ultimate stress relief from work. Living in the South Bay is nice too, because I’m between LA County and Orange County, so I’ve been able to spread my Director wings to a pretty wide net.

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

(BF): The last production I directed was “Steel Magnolias” at Theatre Palisades. It closed in the middle of February when things were really heating up overseas before the situation was not classified as a worldwide pandemic. Luckily, we were blessed that it did not hit the U.S. during the run and everything was marching along as normal through the show’s closing weekend. However, I remember having conversations about it that weekend because news broadcasts about the Diamond Princess Cruise ship and the people infected aboard it was all over the media. I felt those broadcasts, while timely and needed, sent more of a panic into people who were traveling. It was a sad conversation then, and looking back at it now, I wouldn’t have ever guessed it would have gotten to this point.

(SB): I don’t think any of us did. And importantly, so many are still not heeding the warning to just #StayHome to #FlattenTheCurve.   But since your last show did not have to shut down during the run, have you ever experienced a similar set of circumstances during any of your other productions?

(BF): The current issue reminds me of my production of “Parfumerie” at Theatre Palisades which was running during the 2018 L.A. Firestorm. So much tension was riding on “Is our show going to close because we are located too close to the fire zones?” since so many highways were closed, perhaps preventing cast and audience members from even getting to the theatre which is on Temescal Canyon just south of the hills above Sunset Blvd. in Pacific Palisades. I remember one night, we performed in front of an audience of maybe eight people because no one was venturing out. But since the decision was made that the show must go on, those few got the same quality show as if we had a packed house.

Tension was high, but we reassured the actors that if our theatre became a dangerous area that we would close the production for the weekend. Thank goodness it never happened and everyone was safe. I just remember how much anxiety I had over simply one-weekend possibility closing, and I can’t imagine what it must feel like for a whole production to go dark on which you have worked diligently for so long. It breaks my heart for every single artist who has volunteered so much time and effort into a passionate project, only to have the opportunity to present the final product pulled out from under them.

(SB): In what ways do you think theaters can still present their pulled productions?

(BF): I think something valuable would be to do a Podcast/Live Stream of the shows that were going to be running, although right now that would not be feasible due to all theaters being closed.

(SB): Or perhaps using an online service such as Zoom to present a reading or the production online, especially since some theaters use that format to hold rehearsals right now.

(BF): Perhaps local theatres could create a link on their websites and send out mailing list emails to let all of their members and anyone else interested, especially those who have already purchased tickets, to let them know when a Stream or Audio Recording of the performance will be available for a small donation. Sure, it might not work for bigger productions, but I know I would personally tune in to support my fellow local artists. And since there are unabridged musical recordings out there, no doubt the concept works. Of course, I am not sure how licensing would work in a situation like this, BUT a donation is a donation!

Another great way to help would be to donate the ticket money patrons have already spent on the show that got canceled, rather than getting a refund. In fact, I encourage everyone to consider donating the cost paid for that ticket to the theatre, and simply repurchasing a new ticket when the show finally does open. Or better yet, snag up a Season Pass/Membership this year. All theatre groups need the funds to keep going, especially right now.

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

(BF): This fall, I will be directing my first show for Kentwood Players at the Westchester Playhouse – the suspenseful thriller “Night Watch” by Louise Fletcher. No decisions have been made about whether or not the production dates will be changed or the run shortened. Either way, as an artist I think it is only fair that all of the scheduled shows this year get their chance to shine, even if it’s just for one or two weekends. I encourage all my fellow directors to be flexible and supportive, whatever decision is made on their scheduled shows.

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

(BF): Technology is great isn’t it?! I’ve been able to help out some of my actor friends who have needed coaching and notes for auditions they have done recently or were planning to do, thanks to being able to Skype or Live Stream which is extremely valuable right now. I can watch their monologue without any distractions at my home, give notes via Skype, all the while keeping a safe social distance from each other.

Also, I have written a few one-act plays, which have been produced in the past at the college level. But now I’m trying to flesh them out and possibly turn one into a full-length play about Greek Goddesses living in modern-day New York. I have been gathering a few actors to jump on board with table reads (digital table reads of course via ZOOM or similar platform) to assist me in refining the script. That way we can stay creative without having to gather everyone together. The other show we will be reading is called ‘Restroom Confessions’ about six diverse women from different backgrounds and walks of life, who have gathered together to gossip in a luxury restroom. Both shows are with all-female casts, and that is a real trend in my work when it comes to supporting the female presence on stage. My husband teases me saying that I’m a sucker for a damaged woman who may or may not be a martyr for her loved ones by the time the final curtain falls. And I suppose that is very true!

(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?

(BF): While it’s hard for many of us who volunteer our time for the arts, I can’t imagine what it is like for those who are making their living from it. I simply hope that when everyone comes back, these theatres have more bookings then they can handle, so they can fill up their calendars and keep their doors open to thrive. I think communicating and reaching out to each other is probably the strongest thing we can do now and lending a hand when possible. Also, I would encourage even more patience with each other because as things start to ramp up, it could get very stressful. Lastly, to all of the designers out there! Now is the time you can work on the things you have put to the side because of overwhelming schedules. Sound Design, Record Demos at home, Finish some Set Designs, Style Wigs, Build Costumes! In a way, many designers can play catch up.

(SB) Tell me a little more about your interest in directing “Night Watch” for Kentwood Players, which I am sure you are greatly looking forward too and crossing your fingers all will go as planned.

(BF): One of the biggest reasons I was drawn to Lucille Fletcher’s dramatic thriller “Night Watch” was because of the strong female presence in it as well as it is written by a female playwright. As I have already shared, I try my best to get involved with scripts that have strong female characters; and no, not to push a ‘message’ or fill a quota with casting, but because the female mind is so complex and so captivating. And unfortunately, I find a majority of plays simply lay off their backstories and characterize them in a way that means their true presence gets lost in the script. That is definitely not the case with this play.

(SB) I look forward to experiencing that production with you.


 


Audio Interview: The Cast of 'THE OUTSIDER' at North Coast Rep


THE OUTSIDER, a razor-sharp, hilarious satire of modern American politics is currently getting a witty and smartly paced West Coast premiere at North Coast Repertory Theatre. Written by Paul Slade Smith (Unnecessary Farce) and overflowing with clever plot twists, the play is a fun-house mirror held up to reflect the often confounding, yet proudly enduring American political system. This thoroughly non-partisan laugh-fest is the ideal antidote for anyone who is overwhelmed with today’s headlines. This non-partisan laugh-fest is just what you need."*

Enjoy this interview with the cast of “THE OUTSIDER at North Coast Rep, playing through March 22, 2020. You can listen to this interview while commuting, while in line at the grocery store or at an audition, backstage, and even front of the stage. 


*taken from the website


Audio Interview: 'Carolyn Ratteray' – 'Emmy-nominated Caitlin Priest' in 'Riley Parra'


Actress, Director, and Producer, Carolyn Ratteray, known for her film and television credits in "Riley Parra" (2017), "NCIS" (2003) and "The Hungover Games" (2014,) was staring as Isabella in Shakespeare's  “Measure for Measure" at the Antaeus Theatre Company at the Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center, which is now closed due to the coronavirus.

A Resident Artist at A Noise Within and a member at the Antaeus Theatre Company, she's also played in productions such as "Gem of the Ocean" at A Noise Within, "The Mountaintop" at the Garry Marshall Theatre, and "The Cake" at The Geffen Playhouse and Echo Theatre CompanyClassically trained in Shakespeare and theatre at The Old Globe at the University of San Diego, she's also appeared in off-broadway and regional theatrical such as "The Winters Tale" at Theatre 150, "Merry Wives of Windsor", "Alls Well That Ends Well," "Two Gentleman of Verona" at The Old Globe, "Hecuba" at The Pearl Theatre Company, and "The Cherry Orchard" at The Classical Theatre of Harlem. As a Director, Ratteray has helmed "By The Way Meet Vera Stark," "In Love and Warcraft," and "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" at Pomona College, along with staged readings throughout the Los Angeles area. 

Ratteray's film and television credits also include “Snowfall,” “Castle," “All My Children," “Chemistry," “The Young and the Restless” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” just to name a few. With a master's in Arts education and training from The Old Globe at the University of San Diego and a bachelor's from New York University, she is currently a professor at Pomona College and has also studied theatrical clown with Philippe Gaulier, Christopher Bayes, David Bridel, and Angela De Castro and she is currently at work creating her solo clown show, “Both, And,” according to her website.

Enjoy this interview!


 


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.


Actor/Singer Robert Bannon Works Creatively During COVID-19 Closure of Feinstein's

Actor/singer Robert Bannon has worked on Broadway and on TV's "SNL." He was scheduled to present his cabaret show "Unfinished Business" at Feinstein's at Vitello's April 14 (Feinstein's is closed until further notice because of the Corona Virus.) In our conversation he tells us about his background and how his love of the "American Songbook" came to be.

Tell our readers why you are recording an album in salute to the American Songbook. You graduated from Juilliard Prep. What did you learn from the composers of these songs? Who are your favorites?

RB: Growing up in a good little Italian-Irish family in NJ, the music of Sinatra, Sammy, Dean, Johnny was reverent. The instrumentation, storytelling, and classic nature of these songs just spoke to me. I have always been a fan of the “story” and the build of a song. I love singing all music and listening to everything from hip hop to country (and sometimes that sneaks into the show) but all in all nothing beats the classics. They can be done and reimagined but the bones of them remain and will last forever.

I did go to Juilliard Prep, I was in the first music theatre class under Bertin Rowser and Diane Wilson. I am so grateful to them for seeing something in me, as a child, I didn’t see in myself. I learned that acting and musical theater are truly art forms. There is a difference between fame/celebrity and the art and the work it takes to serve it. That goes back to the classic element of the show. It is my story, but I serve the music and I hope that translates.

As far as composers, I learned it iss all in the melodies. Can you listen to a song and remember it? That is the magic of a good song. Also the saying that you don’t remember what you did or what you said but you will always remember how you FEEL! Does the music make you feel something? The universal themes of them all!

I have a bunch of favorites. I love Johnny Mercer. His vibe and style is just timeless. The poetry of his lyrics is second to none. Also I love Anthony Newley. He is often not thought of but I love the DRAMA of his music!! His arrangements and songs are full of drama. It makes a moment in my shows and hopefully emotes something we all can relate to!

You title your concert show Unfinished Business. You are so young. Usually artists use this term at the end of their careers. What is your intent?

RB: Thanks for this question and saying I’m young!

There is a story to the title. When I was in high school and at Juilliard, I ended up getting sick for 4 years. I had undiagnosed Lyme disease which turned into meningitis before Justin Bieber made it a newsworthy thing. I literally never had a chance to go to high school as a “normal” student. When I recovered I only knew one thing - singing. I started putting myself out there. I got called in to replace Roger in Rent on Broadway. I walked in, botched the audition and freaked out. I changed my major to Political Science and became a history teacher done with performing. After two Masters Degrees in Education, I felt something was missing. I would literally tear up at a curtain call or a concert.

So after 10 years of not performing, fate intervened. I met up with the amazing performers and writers Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews. They just did their show Witness Uganda at The Wallis in Beverly Hills. They helped me literally dust off the rust and get back out there. They told me I had something to say. The first day I sang again I said I had some "Unfinished Business" to do and it stuck. I called my show that in NY at 54 Below. It is the journey and the lesson that we all have something unfinished to do. Take a step and the path will FOLLOW!

Do you tell anecdotes in your show or just sing? As a principal in SNL, you must love comedy. Any comedic stories or skits we may look forward to?

RB: I think I talk as much as I sing! I have stories for days and have had such an interesting life thankfully! I love to talk about my journey, family, love, and some of the things that I’ve experienced. I love comedy! I grew up obsessed with SNL so being there is beyond anything I could ever imagine. I’m so grateful to just be in the halls of that American Institution!

I do have some fun stories. I talk about my childhood obsession with all things Manilow, being stuck on an elevator with singing legend Phoebe Snow, my personal life which is a show in of itself, etc! There are a lot of laughs. I am all Jersey all day so that totally comes across in the show.

Talk more in depth about SNL. What has this added to your career as a performer? Has improv strengthened your delivery and stamina onstage?

RB: I was first asked to be on SNL in a sketch about the TSA. In the sketch they let me through security with a sketchy bag and book bag while others were not allowed to come through as they had a travel ban. I had to shave my head for the part and I asked the Casting Director, if I shave my head, can I be on a live show? Please! It actually worked. Ask and you shall receive.

Since then I have had big roles, small roles and everything in between. Check out Electric Shoes with Kenan Thompson and see my bass playing wig debut. Seeing the way that show works and how talented they all are is inspiring. I’ve seen some of the best in the biz work up close to make that show fly. It’s always an honor. When I was first on, a friend from elementary school wrote me and said “You used to stay up and watch this show every Saturday and now you are on that stage!” It is a pretty surreal moment!

Improv is simply the best! It is scary which makes the payoff so much better. I am a graduate of Willian Esper for acting under the amazing Barbara Marchant. That program is Meisner acting technique which is mostly improv. That skill is something that makes you so present in your work as an actor and has certainly helped my stage show and listening to the audience moment to moment. It keeps you on your toes and ready for anything! Who knows what will come out of my mouth!?

What is your favorite Broadway show? It does not have to be one that you have done.

RB: That’s a tough question. I love Rent. I loved finally being able to be in Rent after my awful audition as a kid and being Roger. That show resonates with me so deeply about love and living each day to the fullest.

I would love more original musicals to be made on Broadway! Witness Uganda is BRILLIANT! That score is something that has stuck with me. It was genius at The Wallis in Beverly Hills. Matt Gould who co-wrote that show has a new show coming to La Jolla called Lempicka! Go SEE IT! I am hoping after California it takes over NYC!

Any particular role that you are yearning to play onstage?

RB: I would love to play Bobby in Company. I just relate so much to his character and the score is brilliant. I also love comedy and have been singing “My Girlfriend Who Lives In Canada” for years. So I would love to be fitted with a puppet to have some fun in Avenue Q! I am always down for some campy puppet moments.

Did you grow up with music in your family? What inspired you to be an actor and singer?

RB: My parents loved music. My dad loved placing big headphones on me and letting me rock out to Earth, Wind and Fire. My mom loved Carly Simon. We would listen to her when she made us breakfast every weekend but don’t ask them to sing! Ha! They are not singers. My parents are kinda shy and I am literally shot out of a canon 24-7. I think I always wanted to make people smile and entertain. I would take the sheets from my bed, make curtains, and put on shows for my family since I could remember.

I tell a story about trying sports and being dreadful (soccer goalie is not on my special skills on my resume) and finally being like "nope I quit!" Take me to singing lessons instead. Sixth grade hit, I was the Prince in Cinderella at my school, I was hooked. I wanted to sing and act anywhere and everywhere.

My parents were hip and loved music. I was the old soul. I got a karaoke machine for Christmas with the Hits of Manilow and I was sold. Hook line and sinker. I would listen and study him nonstop.

What was it like performing with giants like Patti LaBelle and Whoopi Goldberg? What did you learn from being in their presence?

RB: Wow! I had the pleasure at 12 years old to perform with Ms. LaBelle at a tribute concert for Laura Nyro (songwriter) at the Beacon Theatre. I have loved her since. She was so kind, humble, and a FORCE on stage. She brings 110% every time and is so authentically herself. Her kindness and authenticity are what makes people love her. I have had the pleasure to see her numerous times after and sing with her again, she is as amazing now as ever! OBSESSED!

Whoopi is such a wonderful performer, kind, and generous. She was such a wonderful person to be around. I think I learned that being kind matters. Being a good listener and remember that you matter and your art matters but you can’t do it without the people who support it.

Do you have a goal in LA? Are you looking toward more work in TV and roles in film? Will stage always remain a vital part of your performing life?

RB: It is so humbling to be booked at Feinstein’s in Studio City. No one is more surprised and honored than me. Three years ago, I had hung it all up and had not done a thing so I’m thrilled people are inspired and supportive. I am focusing on my new album which is on the way based on the one man show and journey. My first love will always be me, a stool, mic, and a piano player. It’s taken me decades to be comfortable sharing my story, and that will always be the one I want to tell first and foremost. I am just happy to meet some new friends in LA and spread my message and music! Therefore stage and the live show will always be the first love. We are always adding more dates so I’m so grateful for that. You can find all upcoming dates on RobertBannon.com.

I also love TV and film! I would love to do more straight up acting. That is such a fulfilling way to make a living to be the vessel for the text and project either comedy or drama-that is a blast. I am open to whatever surprises life has to to offer. One thing I learned is it’s gonna surprise me so let’s see where it goes!

Add anything you wish here that we did not already mention.

RB: Thank you so much for your time and platform! Come see me at the show and say hi! I am so excited to share this show with LA! Joining me is Michael Orland as Music Director! Michael was the MD on American Idol for 15 seasons. He’s worked with everyone and is as talented as he is kind. You don’t want to miss what surprises we both have in store. Also, LA has some of the best singers in the world and I happen to know them so expect a bunch of surprises and a lot of fun!

Unfortunately Feinstein's is closed until further notice because of the Corona Virus.*

* I asked Robert Bannon what he is doing creatively during this time. Are you working on the CD of the "American Songbook?" When your appearance is rescheduled, will there be a CD release party?

RB: I am working on the album! It will be of the Great American Songbook. It is produced by Bob Magnuson and features arrangements by Tedd Firth and Rich DeRosa of songs you know but with my own twist. Thanks to technology we will hopefully do it all digitally and get it ready to be out as soon as possible. I am trying to be as creative as possible with this time out.

The new goal is once we have a new date for Feinstein’s in LA this summer it will be an album release with a whole new show! So I am definitely looking forward to what comes in the future. For now, just sending light and love to everyone to stay safe!


Audio Interview: Paul Culos (Joe from Shameless)

Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Paul Culos began acting at the age of nine. He started his formal training at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Theater Performance in 2007. During that time, he was able to travel abroad to London and study at the British American Drama Academy for four weeks under the instruction of numerous British talents including John Barton, Debra Warner, Fiona Shaw, Brian Cox, and Mark Wing Davey. He was staring in “Measure for Measure" at the Antaeus Theatre Company, which now closed due to the corona virus.

Enjoy this interview!

*taken from the website


Susan Priver Finds Herself in Her Telling Memoir Dancer Interrupted

Actress Susan Priver is a Los Angeles native and former ballerina. The story of how she started in ballet and finally crossed over to acting is the subject of her new memoir entitled "Dancer Interrupted." In our conversation she gives us great detail about the devastating ups and downs of her life. Her passion will make you want to rush out and buy the book, which is a great read.

The style of your book is so affecting. It was like reading your personal diary. Your thoughts and emotions jumped out and hit me. I understood.

SP: OMG, that's what I wanted to do. Let me tell you, it took 8 years. You are a writer by profession, whereas I am an actor.

I am an actor too.

SP: You are an actor too, but you have been writing longer than I. Not all actors can write, but I think actors learn the most important thing is the dialogue, what the person is feeling. I did have diaries from this growing up stage and I remember a lot, not everything, but everything that's in there I remember very distinctly because of my emotional place. I had a tough, tough time with people that I loved.

I felt so sorry for you spending time on the couch and you didn't want to leave it. Your father was hard on you, but he was so funny in his approach.

SP: Let me tell you, I hear kids now. How do you raise a kid? My dad was... "You get your ass off that couch". He was raised a certain way and he was what he was, but...he didn't understand exactly what I was going through. He didn't have the empathy, but maybe the empathy would have been bad for me.

He did understand what your mother was doing to you and how that relationship was hurtful to you.

SP: She had empathy. My mom enjoyed being a nurse.

She wanted to keep you dependent on her.

SP: That's exactly right. She got some kind of enjoyment out of enabling me to sit there and just fall apart. I've never been a parent, and will never be a parent obviously, but it must be such a hard thing...to be a parent.

Henry (Olak) ...is he your husband?

SP: No, we've been together for 17 years ...do you know Henry?

No, just from reading about him in the book. I thought he was the best of your boyfriends, so kind and understanding. Gregory, the Russian, I wanted to take him and twist his neck.

SP: I think what I wanted to do with Gregory was contextualize in the way that I was still a bunhead. Dancers...I don't know if you know that world at all...I think the acting world is a little broader, because you are fencing, you're dancing, you're learning great playwrights, you're learning how to present yourself in a way that isn't just the veil of ballet, which is extremely difficult. The amount of commitment is more than what actors put in, and it keeps you from many other things. Learning that people take advantage of people. Perhaps my family didn't prepare me for that. My dad would have known, he was a lawyer. He was used to bad things happening in the world. But, maybe I didn't listen. I just was hopeful, hopeful that everything would be ok in those early years. Then when I was out in the world, when it was time to meet someone, maybe I wasn't ready for...I enjoyed being put down. I was a masochist.

Oh yeah, I felt bad for you as I read. I kept thinking, "She's got to break out of this."

SP: And I did...eventually. I did work in a workshop for a while about the craft of writing. I got better as I went along. In terms of the book, people want to feel like they are not going to die. It's not like a Hollywood movie, but I did survive certain things, and a lot of people don't survive.

One thing I did not quite understand. Why were you fired from the Cleveland Ballet? They said "We have to let you go." What was the reason?

SP: I don't know.

Was it a weight thing?

SP: No. I was the skinniest I had ever been. I don't know exactly what it was, whether it had to do with funding...and they didn't need my services anymore. I didn't stay in line with people very well. I was in the corps de ballet. It might have been that. I was not a soloist. Maybe they didn't need any corps dancers...maybe they needed a soloist but they needed someone better than me. I don't know, but ballet never had a lot of money in these regional companies. They get grants and they bring people up through the schools. City ballet and American Ballet Theatre in New York have money.
Because it was never explained to me, that made it hard. It makes you question yourself. You just go get another job.

I loved your audition for Gwen Verdon and Bob Fosse in New York, where they told you to find a better song. You did "Happy Birthday!" (we both laugh)

SP: I saw people bringing out the sheet music. I didn't sing and I went to the audition kind of on a dare. Fosse liked tall ballet dancers, but ballet dancers who could sort of sing.

Fosse had an addiction problem. I try to bring that out in the book. I think creatives tend to have that element in them, if they're any good. We're addicts. It's sad but true. A behavioral psychologist who is a professor at USC read my book and said he wants to give it to his addict students. There is a thing... How do you find a self without your addiction? For me it was finding a voice without dance.

I wrote down that the message of your book is learning to love yourself and taking your place in the world via the arts, first as a dancer and lastly, as an actor. In the Forward, you tie them in so well, when you say that ballet is poetry in motion. "I couldn't live without it." Later you add, "how will I ever get poetry back in my life?"

SP: I had that in my journal. Ballet is a hard icky sticky world but it does have poetry. Then when I took a job as a secretary, I couldn't do anything. My dad thought I was kind of an idiot. My dad was really more of an atheist than Jewish, but in Jewish families, education is everything. Being a baller dancer is really not what they do. But I was weird and we had a little bit of a weird family.

Why did you write the book? For many an autobiography is a catharsis, but I think it's more than that for you. Sum up the various lessons you have learned that have brought you to this current state of bliss.

SP: For me it was to find my particular sensitivity to what had happened to me, in another craft. I always use that sensitivity in the characters that I like to play, particularly in Tennessee Williams...and Pinter. It was a way of creating one full thing that was my own. It was mine. It came directly from my experience. I like to filter that sensitivity into roles that I am capable of playing. I did do Lorraine Sheldon in The Man Who Came to Dinner, which is completely broad and bombastic, but I learned how to use my strength and my kind of witchiness and brought that to it.

So having the experience of doing Blanche in Streetcar and writing this book that has pure emotions in it, pure thoughts in it...I had to shape everything and make it into a craft. I did have an editor, and it's crafted.

I'm also a yoga teacher, and I love teaching.You're giving back. As actors we take people into another world. All people are attracted to storytelling. I'm attracted to storytelling through playwrights. Everybody has a story. It's putting it together and contextualizing why does this relate to this and that. I had to work out my life, that I really didn't have to be a doormat and be used by men like Gregory, a dark passionate Russian who was also an alcoholic. I also had to work out that not everybody hated me and wanted to hurt me as he did. And...to gain confidence, because when I stopped dancing, I had zero confidence, and that's why I attracted certain kinds of men in my life.

Dancers do exactly what they're told to do. It's manipulation and unless somebody gives them a backbone...and my parents were not really bad people. I just didn't listen to that. And as far as drug addiction is concerned, I had to say loud. "You did this to yourself. You are going to have to dig yourself out of it." You cannot isolate yourself. I isolated myself because I was afraid. You learn from your failures. I became a strong human being. I am a survivor, and I hope that the book will help people to realize that you don't have to join a cult or take antidepressants. You have to dig down and embrace your darkness, embrace the things that make us human that will allow you to rise above that. The dance world taught perfection, Hollywood taught having your face lifted to be beautiful...
no, it's what comes out of you: that's what you look like.

There will be signings of Dance Interrupted

on April 13th at Book Soup, Hollywood with John Fleck---Q and A

and on April 27th at Vroman's, Pasadena with Lian Dolan---Q and A

These events are subject to change depending on the state of the Corona Virus.

Go to:  www.susanpriver.com

Updates will be posted.


Audio Interview: The Cast of 'Guys and Dolls' at The GEM Theater

Guys and Dolls is a musical romantic comedy involving the unlikeliest of Manhattan pairings: a high-rolling gambler and a puritanical missionary*

Enjoy this interview with the cast of “Guys and Dolls at The GEM Theater, playing through Mar 29th. You can listen to this interview while commuting, while waiting in line at the grocery store or at an audition, backstage and even front of the stage. For tickets and more info Click here.

*taken from the website


From Mormon to Callback Queen Actor/Singer Luke Monday Takes the LA Stage By Storm

Actor/singer Luke Monday has performed as standby for Elder Price in The Book of Mormon which just canceled at the Ahmanson Theatre. He is now preparing to perform his concert/cabaret at Rockwell Table & Stage on Monday March 16 entitled Callback Queen. In our interview Monday talks about both shows and how he really likes performing in Los Angeles.

I understand you are standby for Elder Price in The Book of Mormon. Have you gotten the chance to perform for this show yet? Do you cover other roles?

LM: Yes, I have been performing as a standby for Price! I went on for him on Tuesday March 3rd. I only cover Elder Price in the show. When it’s a role as demanding as this, often times companies will hire a standby just to cover that part. I’m the only Price standby in this company.

This is without a doubt the funniest musical comedy, especially for gay people. Are audiences still jumping out of their seats?

LM: They really are! I wasn’t sure what to expect since the show has played here a few times, but we’ve been selling really well and the crowds have been fantastic. I went on on a Tuesday night, and it honestly felt like a Friday night crowd. Totally electric. I loved it!

What do you think is the message of The Book of Mormon and do you think the message is important in today's mixed up world?

LM: My takeaway from the show is that it’s ok to follow your own path, even if it’s not what you expected. Particularly in Elder Price’s case, he’s had this very specific idea of how everything in his life (and afterlife) will play out. Obviously once he gets paired with Cunningham and sent to Uganda, that all gets derailed. But by the end of the show he learns to manage the change, and in that change he finds a new strength. I think that’s something anyone watching can learn from. Life always throws curve balls, but it’s all about how you handle the struggles and find a way to move forward!

Is this the favorite role you have played? If not, what is your favorite role and why?

LM: The Book of Mormon is definitely one of my top favorites! Maybe top 3? I love the music in this show. I remember watching the Tony’s one year, hearing I Believe for the very first time and thinking, “I can do that!” Almost 9 years and 3 auditions later and here I am! My other favorites would have to be Gabe in Next to Normal and George in She Loves Me.

You were in Mamma Mia. What part did you perform in that show and did you enjoy being in that production?

LM: Mamma Mia was a blast! One of the best experiences I’ve ever had. It was my first time touring, and the people in that show became my family. I was in the ensemble and I covered Sky, the fiancée. I loved Mamma Mia because no matter what negativity was going on in the world at the time, we could take the audience away for 2 hours and escape all of that and just have fun.

Your cabaret show Callback Queen premiered last summer in San Diego. You tell anecdotes about your career and sing Broadway show tunes. Can you give us a little sneak peek without creating a spoiler alert?

LM: The show sort of opens with my very first rejection, not getting the part I wanted in my 4th grade school play, and then we continue all the way to the present. I noticed a trend with concerts and cabarets that a lot of them are just greatest hits of roles people played or originated i.e. their success stories. And while that is perfectly great, I thought it would be interesting to flip that idea on its head and share stories of rejection. Every actor has them! Without giving away too much, there are going to be appearances from my talented friends from The Book of Mormon, awesome medleys and mashups, a costume reveal, glow sticks, and a choose-your-own finale. It should be a blast!

Do you have a favorite musical or composer or performer?

LM: I think it’s a tie between West Side Story and Ragtime for favorite musical. Two of the most glorious scores ever written, and sadly still so relevant now. I don’t think I’ve got a favorite composer. I appreciate so many of them for different reasons! But I have a few favorite performers. I’m a huge Gavin Creel fan. His voice was and is one of the best in the business. I want to play everything he’s ever played. I guess I’m on my way, seeing that he was an Elder Price! Another fav is Laura Osnes. She’s a true triple threat and just has a positive presence that I think is so important in a cut throat industry like this.

Have you auditioned for the King in Hamilton role yet? It's a funny, funny role.

LM: Obviously I’d love to play that part but I haven't auditioned yet! I think it’s pretty spectacular that a character can be onstage for such a short time and yet be so memorable. So it's definitely on my list of auditions to do. Thankfully Hamilton will be around for MANY years, so there’s time!

Tell our readers anything that I did not mention, like the camaraderie with your Mormon cast or how LA audiences are different from those in other cities across the country.

LM: Well, I love my cast. This is the longest I’ve been with any company and I can honestly say I love each one of them. We lift each other up, and I know they’ll be at Callback Queen on the 16th cheering me on. I think the audiences in LA are used to seeing great theater, so they are really smart! They pic up on the details and the nuances that often go unnoticed in other cities. Being here is a reminder of how truly funny and well written this show is. It feels new again in a way.

Catch Luke Monday on March 16 at Rockwell Table & Stage at 1714 N. Vermont Ave. in Hollywood in "Callback Queen." Call 323-669-1550 for table reservations. 

Both shows cancelled. Check back after the Corona Virus to see if Callback Queen will be rescheduled.


Audio Interview: Armin Shimerman (Quark from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) the director of Measure for Measure

Armin Shimerman, best known by his fans as Quark from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, is also an accomplished Shakespearean scholar and teacher. He is one of two directors of Measure for Measure.

Enjoy this interview with Armin Shimerman co-director of “Measure for Measure at the Antaeus Theatre Company, playing through Apr 6th. You can listen to this interview while commuting, while waiting in line at the grocery store or at an audition, backstage and even front of the stage. For tickets and more info Click here.

*taken from the website


Audio Interview: The Cast of 'Found' at The Los Angeles Theatre Center

IAMA Theatre Company presents the West Coast premiere of Found, a new musical inspired by Davy Rothbart’s popular Found magazine, which features scores of actual discarded notes and letters that have been “found” in the real world by everyday people.*

Enjoy this interview with the cast of “Found at The Los Angeles Theatre Center, playing through Mar 23rd. You can listen to this interview while commuting, while waiting in line at the grocery store or at an audition, backstage and even front of the stage. For tickets and more info Click here.

*taken from the website


Nowhere on the Border director Stewart J. Zully Presents His Take on the Play Currently at The Road Theatre on Magnolia

The Road Theatre Co is proud to present the premiere of "Nowhere on the Border" by Carlos Lacámara and directed by Stewart J. Zully. The play concerns itself with the question "Why do people cross borders?". Two working class men, an Anglo on border watch and a Mexican, face off in the desert. What is discovered is that border crossings are both physical and emotional. The play opened January 17 at the Road on Magnolia and will play through March 8. Director Zully took time out of a busy schedule to discuss the play.

What are your challenges directing Nowhere on the Border?

SZ: Many years ago I performed in an earlier draft of this play, and this was the first time I had directed a play that I had been in previously. It was interesting being reminded of my own acting choices from more than 10 years ago and then collaborating on new ones with the two actors performing this role (we have an alternate cast). Chet Grissom and Lance Guest are such experienced actors that it was rewarding to see them find their own character choices through our process.

What do you feel is the best feature(s) of the play? How does it speak to the audience?

SZ: Nowhere On The Border reminds us that we are more similar than different. When it comes to natural disasters, such as floods, fires, hurricanes, etc., we as a species get together as one—"Are you alright?” "Look at mother nature’s devastation, etc." Then, when the dust has settled, we get back to manmade problems, such as war, poverty, religion. This play is a reminder that we are all human, as the desert, a natural phenomenon, awakens in us an animal instinct. The characters in this play bond through adversity, and the audience gets to witness that.

Can you tell us a little bit about your cast?

SZ: I have been blessed with solid pros, in both casts, as the characters are inhabited by some well seasoned stage actors. I recommend people not only see the show, but actually see both casts, as the work is fascinating in the hands of different actors. The types that have been cast are vastly different in many ways, so the alternate cast puts its stamp on the roles thoroughly. And since we had to mix and match, having some of the actors in the alternate cast performing with the first cast, we have created a true ensemble of 12 people. I have been blessed with some enormous talent to direct.

What have you been up to as of late? How is your book doing?

SZ: Last year I published my memoir, MY LIFE IN YANKEE STADIUM Forty Years as a Vendor and Other Tales of Growing Up Somewhat Sane in the Bronx. The book tells the story of my working at the ballpark in New York for 2500 events as I pursued my career in show business as an actor, director, writer, and producer. For the past year I did promotion with interviews and book signings so it was nice to be able to stay in one place and focus on this play, which has been percolating at The Road for a number of years. And now, here it is…

Nowhere on the Border plays on Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 8 pm and Sunday matinees at 2 pm at the Road in The NoHo Senior Arts Colony that is located at 10747 Magnolia Blvd. in NoHo. There is plenty of street parking but arrive early. For tickets call 818-761-8838 or go to RoadTheatre.org.