Spotlight Series: Meet Holly Baker-Kreiswirth and Bill Wolski, the Dynamic Duo Who Call Little Fish Theatre Their “Home Away from Home”


Anyone who has attended a production at Little Fish Theatre in San Pedro has most likely met Holly Baker-Kreiswirth and Bill Wolski, the dynamic duo who call Little Fish Theatre their “Home Away from Home.” As well as appearing onstage together, the married couple also work behind-the-scenes with Holly managing the theatre's Press Relations and directing shows while Bill often takes on the roles of Director and Producer when not acting onstage.


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

Bill Wolski (Bill): I'm a veteran of over a hundred plays and a whole host of other projects and performances. I cut my teeth on the small theatre circuit in greater Cleveland, Ohio, where I grew up. I'm primarily known for my work at Little Fish Theatre, which has been my artistic home since 2007, and for being the husband of the equally talented and prolific Holly Baker-Kreiswirth.

Holly Baker-Kreiswirth (Holly): I started out in television before I worked in theater; the very first paid job I had was in the acting category on Junior Star Search which led to various roles in shows such as Chicago HopeGia (HBO), and Private Practice. I studied theater in college, but took a 10-year break to work on a career in TV production, and then had my kid.  In my early 30s, I started with Palos Verdes Players as a sound tech, then worked my way up to directing, producing, and finally acting again.  When PVP sadly went down, Bill and I appeared onstage in The Tender Trap at Long Beach Playhouse (when we started dating!) and subsequently found our artistic home at Little Fish Theatre, where we produce Pick of the Vine and act in or direct roughly 1/3 of the productions every year.

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

(Bill): I was working on a show called Becky's New Car, written by Steven Dietz, and directed by my wife. It was scheduled to open on April 9th. I was playing Becky's steadfast, not-as-dumb-as-he-looks husband, Joe.

(Holly): We were both deeply into rehearsals for Becky's New Car. I pre-block the shows I direct before rehearsals even begin; we had ten rehearsals under our belt with our lead actress, Amanda Karr, already off book.  Costumes/props were bought, lights/sound were being designed... everything was in motion.  Our stumble-through was the last rehearsal we had, and the show was already in great shape.

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

(Bill and Holly): First, the sports teams postponed their seasons. Then, it was gatherings over 250 people. Then, gatherings over 50 people. Being a very intimate theater, there was still a possibility that LFT could limit ticket sales and hold performances, but the conclusion was reached that we didn't want to put our fan base and company members at risk. Emails went out to those involved that everything was going to be put on hold.

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

(Bill): Becky's New Car will open at a later date, once we've been given the all-clear.

(Holly): We're thrilled that the work we've already put into the show will be seen by an audience someday.  I believe the message will resonate with them.

(SB): I have seen the show before and was really looking forward to seeing the production at Little Fish. So I am happy to hear that eventually that will happen. What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?

(Bill and Holly): We are involved at LFT all the time in a volunteer capacity. The shutdown has affected our entire season. Shows and special events that have not yet been cast or started production may be canceled entirely to give the shows that were already in progress a chance to be performed.

(SB): I know Bill is an avid hiker, but how are the two of you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Bill and Holly): Little Fish Theatre and its company members are doing a lot to bring theatre to a virtual audience. We're promoting and reaching out to our subscribers with videos and newsletters, and writing and sharing original content through our social media platforms. Specifically, we have a 5-part original web series called "Little Fish" that features hilarious portrayals of our artists.  We've produced multiple virtual readings of everything from comedic short plays to screenplays to a play about the shootings at Kent State 50 years ago this month.  And coming up next month we have a reading of a M*A*S*H* script donated to us by one of the writers, Ken Levine!  All of our readings are free -- we're so happy to be able to provide the arts to everyone in this format.

(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?

(Bill and Holly): Please, be safe. Follow the rules and the health guidelines and limit the risk posed to yourself and your loved ones. In Shakespeare's time, theaters were closed due to the plague, and 400 years later, theatre is still alive and well. As long as there are stories to tell, there will be people to tell them. We'll all be together again soon enough. From our theater to yours, here's a big hug from Little Fish. We love you!

Here's how to stay in touch with Little Fish Theatre:


All production photos credit: Miguel Elliot


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Eloise Coopersmith, Creator of the “Home for Mom” Web Series


This Spotlight focuses on Eloise Coopersmith, creator of the Home for Mom web series which focuses on elder care and grief in a residential care facility. And with the Coronavirus pandemic hitting this type of facility the hardest, the subject matter about finding a safe place for our elders is even more relevant to families now than when filming began.


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

Eloise Coopersmith (EC): I started my formal theater education at the Young Conservatory at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, graduated from Northwestern, and then earned my Masters from Cal State Los Angeles.  I opened my own theater company in Los Angeles, “Open Book Theater” to bring literary works to the stage.  Performing in many wonderful productions over the years has been a joy. Most recently, I was invited to be a part of the Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble in Santa Ana, and I developed my current web series Home for Mom.

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

(EC): Home for Mom our awarding winning musical digital web series was set to shoot the second half of the season on March 7th. In February we recorded the music at Clear Lake Studios, and performed a live reading at the Frida Cinema in Santa Ana, all in preparation for the upcoming shoot days in March. But our lead actress notified the production team she was ill the week before the shoot, so there was no question we were going to have to cancel. I personally called each actor, crew and production team member as well as providing a written email explanation to everyone involved.

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

(EC): The majority of our cast is over 60 years old, which is appropriate since this project deals with elder care and grief in a residential care facility, which requires a more mature cast. And since our production team did not see how we could provide the safe space needed, we are in the process of pitching to different entities to take this project to the next level.

However, wanting to share the brilliant work of these talented actors, I placed the music on 50+ streaming platforms. We edited the live reading from the Frida Cinema performance and shared it on the “Re-imagine: Life, Loss and Love” event platform which focuses on the emotions we are experiencing during this pandemic.  We offered a post panel discussion on coping with grief, spring-boarding off the reading. And the feedback has been gratifying.

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

(EC): I was cast in a play set to open in June, which of course has been cancelled. Currently, the OC and LA theater groups are holding online forums to discuss how to move forward bringing productions back for live audiences. Unity among creative artists is key to breathing life back into our “new” normal world.

 

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

(EC): Using Zoom, I am a part of readings of original scripts to help writers to continue to develop their work. I am attending online productions of new works, and these powerful performances are impressive and inspiring.

“Home for Mom” is currently being uploaded in podcast format and I am using various social media platforms to create awareness of the project. And of course, I have already mentioned my involvement with “Re-imagine” and those artists keeping the conversation open through creative performances and discussions so people don’t feel quite so alone at this time.

(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?

(EC): I think we need to remember who we are: a very resilient group. We built up a thriving, vibrant artists community once and we will make it happen again. We will do it with original, out-of-the box thinking, looking for solutions that may sound a bit crazy but we try it anyway. And it will work. We will help each other - because we are a community. And although it may seem scary, we are artists who take risks for a living and we make magic happen. It’s is who we are - it is what we do.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



COVID-19 THEATER SERIES: Kritzerland Goes Virtual - Bruce Kimmel and Hartley Powers Together for Group Rep Fundraisers


Bruce Kimmel and Hartley Powers joined forces to develop May and June Group Rep fundraisers which they are sharing with the world.

Clearly a man for all theatrical seasons, Bruce Kimmel has achieved success in every endeavor which he tried. Bruce wrote, directed, and starred in the cult movie hit, The First Nudie Musical.  He also co-created the story for the hit film, The Faculty, directed by Robert Rodriguez.  As an actor, Bruce has guest starred on most of the long-running television shows of the 1970s.

Hartley Powers - Photo by Russell Baer

Bruce is also a legendary Grammy-nominated producer of theater music on CD and has produced over 180 albums. His song “Simply” won the Mac Award for best song of the year.  Most recently, he’s directed rave-reviewed productions of L.A. Now and Then, Welcome to My World, Li’l Abner, Inside Out, Dial ‘M’ for Murder, and the world premiere of a new Sherman Brothers musical, Levi, the story of Levi Strauss. For the past ten years, he has been producing and hosting a monthly series of live entertainment called Kritzerland, which most recently was seen at Feinstein’s Upstairs at Vitello’s. In his spare time, Mr. Kimmel has also authored twenty books. Bruce took time from his crowded schedule to an interview with me in May 2020.

Hartley Powers started her acting career at the early age of 11 months and continued in the business through college, studying theater at Cal State Northridge and Fullerton. After graduating, she continued her studies and earned a degree in Digital Media from FIDM. She built a career in the post-production industry and is now the President of Pongo - a boutique A/V marketing agency. After taking a break from acting, Hartley decided to return to her love of theater by becoming a member at the Group Rep in North Hollywood. She played Hermia in A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut in Avenue Q, the title role of Carol in A Carol Christmas, and Maggie in The Man Who Came to Dinner ; the last two were directed by Bruce Kimmel. Whether on the stage or through the art of editing, she loves being able to share and tell stories with others. Hartley also agreed to an interview in May 2020.


Bruce, your career goes back nearly 50 years as an actor, writer, novelist, blogger, director, composer, and Grammy-nominated CD producer. How did you happen to branch out so extensively? Which of those roles fits you best and gives you the most satisfaction?

Sam Golzari, Esperanza America, Olivia Cristina Delgado, Ella Saldana North, Julio Macias, Kenneth Miles, and Ellington Lopez in "A Mexican Trilogy" - Photo by Grettel Cortes Photography

Bruce Kimmel:  50 YEARS??? Yikes.  I was blessed, I suppose, to be able to do several things well; and I always felt it would be a sin not to nurture anything I did well. It didn’t always serve me well because people in show business - especially when I was coming up - like to put everyone into little boxes. But from the time I was fourteen, I knew I wanted to write - songs, musicals, and plays – as well as direct; back then, I especially wanted to act.  The CD-producing came about in a roundabout way at a time when I had recently emerged from a negative place in my life. I was given the opportunity to be a full-time record producer, and I grabbed it with gusto. In a year, I achieved the kind of success that had eluded me for all those years prior. Not that I didn't have success, mind you, because I did. I was very lucky in that way. But we all have silly places we think we should be and - if you haven't gotten there - then maybe it's time to take the blinders off and look at other avenues. This is what happened to me. But after producing all those albums (over 180 that I personally produced) and releasing over 400 albums on my CD label, Kritzerland, I got back to directing. I absolutely love directing. For the past twenty years, I've written a book a year (seventeen works of fiction and three non-fiction). That has actually been the most satisfying thing of all. I've also written several musicals in the last few years.

Michael Robb and Carrie Schroeder in "Dial 'M' for Murder" - Photo by Doug Engalla

Hartley, I noticed that your bio goes all the way back to 11 months of age “waving baby arms from a Chevy Astro van.” How and when did you first get involved in show business? What are some of the high points in your career thus far?

Hartley Powers:  My parents got me involved in acting when I was just a baby. As a couple that moved to Hollywood to act, they were eager to get me into show business. I was lucky enough to appear on TV shows, movies of the week, some feature films, and the stage - as a child and on to my teen years. A big moment for me was being cast as Billy Crystal’s daughter in Mr. Saturday Night at the age of six. I was lucky enough to work with the likes of Tyne Daly, Melissa Gilbert, Shelley Hack, Richard Crenna, Kay Cole, Jules Aaron, Vincent Dowling, Fred Willard, Marian Seldes, and Cherry Jones.

How did both of you get involved with the Group Rep? What are some of the shows you were involved in, and what was your role in these shows? Any awards?

Bruce Kimmel:  Doug Haverty, a long-time member there (and now the artistic director), and I had been working together for a couple of decades; he designed CD covers for me when I was at both Varese Sarabande and then Fynsworth Alley. He’s also designed all of the Kritzerland releases. Because of our connection, I'd occasionally see a show at the Group Rep. Then I directed a production of Doug and Adryan Russ's musical, Inside Out at the Grove Theater in Burbank. Inside Out actually began life at the Group Rep; it was a big hit award-winning production with a brilliant cast.  Larry Eisenberg, who was then co-artistic director at the Group Rep, came to see it and loved it. He kind of put the word out that he'd be interested in me directing a show for the Group Rep. He asked me what show I'd like to do; and, for reasons I can't really explain, I blurted out, Dial M for Murder.  I don't think he thought it was necessarily a good fit for the theater, but I was passionate about it because it's a real old-fashioned talking play with a great plot and great roles. I convinced Larry; and that production did really well for them - great reviews, and audiences just ate it up.

Then Doug came to me with an idea he had for a musical version of A Christmas Carol, but in a modernized and feminized version, where it takes place in the present and Scrooge is a woman. All the ghosts of the past were also women. We called it A Carol Christmas. I thought it was a clever idea - and so Doug wrote the book; and I wrote the score. The theater had actually committed to do it before we even started writing. I also directed the production, and it happily turned out well. Again, audiences just really took to it. Doug and I were both nominated for Ovation Awards - he for his book and me for the score. I won a Scenie Award for the score, so that was nice. Then last December, I directed The Man Who Came to Dinner. Directly after that, I directed Doug's play, In My Mind's Eye, which was a big change of pace for me and which I loved doing because we had an absolutely perfect cast.

Hartley Powers: The Group Rep has been a part of my life since I was born. My dad has been a member for about as long as I’ve been alive - so that theater has been a huge part of my upbringing. I had never considered becoming a member until I saw my dad really starting to participate in several productions. After going to opening night after opening night I thought, “Wait a second…I wanna jump in and play, too!” It makes for a full schedule to balance a career – but being in a show is always worth it. The Group Rep has given me room to explore roles I would have never thought possible for me - from Hermia in Midsummer Night’s Dream to Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut in Avenue Q. I definitely learned a new appreciation for artist’s when I played the titular role of Carol in A Carol Christmas, a female turn on the Christmas Carol classic where our Carol is the Scrooge of a QVC-style business. Most recently, I was lucky enough to share the stage with Jim Beaver, Barry Pearl, and Kay Cole in The Man Who Came to Dinner.

Bobby Slaski, Kait Haire, Lloyd Pedersen, and Peyton Kirkner in "In My Mind's Eye" - Photo by Doug Engalla

Your Kritzerland concert usually takes place at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s restaurant in Studio City. How was the idea hatched to move the concert onto a virtual platform in support of the Group Rep?

Bruce Kimmel:  We began our monthly Kritzerland shows back in 2010, and Feinstein's Upstairs at Vitello's is our third venue. When this craziness began in mid-March, it became obvious right away that we wouldn't be doing the April show there. So for April, I did a kind of off-the-cuff best-of-show, but I knew so little about Facebook Live and how to do it that it was fun but kind of lame. I would just have to link to videos that were on YouTube, and it was ultimately just irritating to me. Having had that experience, I decided we'd do the May show online as a real Kritzerland show. I contacted Hartley Powers, who's Doug's talented daughter. I had directed her in A Carol Christmas and The Man Who Came to Dinner. Fortunately, she knows from technical stuff - and so we began to figure out how to do it without having any technical issues. We did three or four days of testing on Skype and Zoom and something else, I think; and I just didn't see how we could take the chance of actually doing it live. There were too many variables like the lag time between audio and video. It was just crazy. Then Hartley said, "We should just pre-tape everything, and I'll edit it together."  That's what we ended up doing.  But I have to tell you, everyone thought it was live - we were very clever about it.  We'd done three "tests" prior to the show to make sure what we were doing worked. Everyone thought those tests were live, too; but they weren't.  At the end of the show, I revealed that we'd pre-taped - but that the performances had no editing or fixing. They were shot and sent to us, and those takes were used without trickery. Even after I revealed that, everyone still thought my commentary was live - but it wasn't.  We really couldn't have been happier with the way it turned out.

Hartley, how did you get involved on the technical end of the May and June Kritzerland Fundraisers for the Group Rep?

Hartley Powers:  My career is based in post-production, so Bruce knew that I had tech savvy. When he approached me about doing a fundraiser show for Facebook and YouTube, I knew I might have a learning curve as far as live broadcasting goes - but I knew I would definitely be able to figure out the editorial side of things. And, with our current state of the arts, I knew I was happy to do anything to help my home theater.

In executing a show that features this many performers, a host, and an accompanist, we have to make sure people are set up to film and/or record in their homes (something everyone is facing as we keep moving through this time). I made myself available to make sure performers were set up correctly and submitting video files we could work with. From there, I pieced together Bruce’s hosting segments along with the songs, finessing timing of fades in and out of songs as well as audio levels. From there, we created a 90-minute video file that we needed to “crunch” or make small enough for an upload to a streaming website. With this, I was able to learn about live broadcasting software as well as scheduled live broadcasts. It’s the new world we’re moving into so I’m glad to have knowledge of it.

Bruce, what goes into gathering the songs and creating the patter you developed as host?

Bruce Kimmel:  I choose the theme of the show and the songs, and then I cast it from our incredibly talented LA talent pool. Once I have the theme, I just listen to a lot of songs and pick the ones that seem to make a good show. I'm a stickler for the show structure and order; and, from the very start, I insisted on two rehearsals and a stumble-through so that no one was reading lyrics on a stand and everyone was super prepared. To that end, I was the first person in cabaret to ever pay the performers a fee for doing a multi-singer cabaret show. It was unheard of; but I thought it was only fair since the rehearsals were key. It's not a lot of money, but I know our performers have appreciated it. At least in LA, it set a precedent - so that at least one of the shows that copied our format had to start paying. I'd never intended to do anything but introduce the show; but, when we did our first show based on a series of albums I produced called Lost in Boston - cut songs from hit Broadway shows - I realized the songs wouldn't make any sense without some context. That’s why I wrote a commentary; people liked it and then expected it - so I was stuck. Now I've had to do it for 106 shows. Even so, I really enjoy writing it, and it's given me back all my performer confidence, a nice and unexpected benefit.

Hartley, was there anything that came up that surprised you (in a good way or not so good way) while working on the May fundraiser online?

Hartley Powers:  I was surprised as to how much work it actually was! As someone who tackles production schedules, I thought this would be a breeze. But between creating teasers before the show in order to build momentum, and creating the graphics to help us start and bookend the show, it turned into a pretty big task. And Bruce was wrangling talent as well as directing the performers. We both dedicated a lot of time to this and are really proud of the outcome.

Based on your experience with the May Kritzerland Fundraiser for the GRT and the upcoming June Kritzerland concert, do you think that you might again serve as a technical advisor for any upcoming events?

Hartley Powers:  Considering that we don’t know what the future holds and how our entertainment platforms are going to continue to evolve, I think that many events are going to turn to more of a pre-recorded live type of broadcast. At this point, I think it’s the only hope that is available to live performers. So I hope that I get to participate in more of these.

Bruce, have you made any modifications as a producer and director in order to plan a concert using a virtual format, rather than onstage before a live audience? What differences are entailed in performing in this virtual world? Is technology your friend or your enemy?

Bruce Kimmel:  We haven't made any changes to the format of the show, and we still rehearse - just via Zoom. I hear what everyone is doing and give any little notes I may have. We miss the laughs and applause, of course, which is the downside of doing it online; but it works pretty well. The singers who would be normally playing to the audience have to adjust to playing to the camera, and we do have to get the balances right between voice and track. That’s why I have everyone send a test video to make those adjustments prior to taping the number. Richard Allen, our musical director, has the daunting task of making all the tracks; but it's been pretty smooth. Technology is my half-friend; but technology, thankfully, is Hartley's really good friend.

Hartley, you are an actress/singer who will also be performing in the June concert.  What song or songs will you be singing? Did you have to make any changes in your usual performing style to accommodate the virtual format?

Hartley Powers:  I believe Bruce would prefer I keep my song a secret, but I think I can say that it will help spread a little cheer. Once I went to record myself, I realized just how strange it is to just sing to a camera with no audience to react to you, no mic to help reverb your sound. It’s an odd setting, for sure. I am equipped to film but I’m used to just worrying about being on one side of the camera - not both!

The Kritzerland concert is a fundraiser for the Group Rep. What do you hope to accomplish with your virtual June concert? 

Bruce Kimmel:  What we always hope to accomplish: To give a good show that makes people happy. That's all we can hope for - and bringing people happiness, especially now, is important. I decided to make our online shows benefits for the Group Rep because - like all small theaters right now - they are struggling to pay the rent without having shows running. It's really daunting. Over the years, I've directed a couple of benefits for the Group Rep; and this just seemed like a natural to me. We raised over $1,000 for them with the May show, and I'm hoping June will do well, too.

This question is for both of you. What are some of your plans during and after COVID-19?

Bruce Kimmel:  Right now, I should be in rehearsals at the Group Rep for the fiftieth anniversary production of the musical Applause - but who knows when that will happen. I am ever hopeful that it will be sooner rather than later, but I tend to always accentuate the positive rather than the negative. Other than that, we'll continue doing our Kritzerland shows online until we can get back to Vitello's. I have a new book that just came out, and so I will be doing some press for that.  Otherwise, I'm just trying to stay productive here at home, writing and stuff, and staying safe and out of harm's way.

Hartley Powers:  I wish I could say I had plans for after COVID-19, but I think I’m taking it one day at a time. If we do return to “normal,” I look forward to taking dance classes, browsing the aisles of Target, getting a massage, and visiting with my family. My husband and I have been very fortunate to work from home at this time.


This article first appeared in LA Splash Worldwide.



Spotlight Series: Meet Jon Peterson of P3 Theatre Roulette, Presenting "THE LARAMIE PROJECT" Online


Jon Peterson, Executive Artistic Director/Founder of P3 Theatre Roulette, is presenting a virtual reading of Moisés Kaufman and the Members of the Tectonic Theatre Project’s masterful play The Laramie Project at P3Theatre.biz/p3-theatre-roulette. The online presentation features Emily Abeles, Guillermo Alonso, Alden Bettencourt, Kara Brouelette, Elizabeth Curtin, Christy Mauro-Cohen, Jodi Marks, Philip McBride and Jeremy Saje, each of whom will be reading from their individual “safe at home” locations. For more information, please call (714) 689-8116.

For those not familiar with the facts upon which the play is based, in October 1998, a twenty-one-year-old student at the University of Wyoming was kidnapped, severely beaten, and left tied to a fence in the middle of the prairie outside Laramie, Wyoming. His bloody, bruised, and battered body was not discovered until the next day, and he died several days later in an area hospital. His name was Matthew Shepard, and he was the victim of this assault because he was gay.

Moisés Kaufman and fellow members of the Tectonic Theater Project made six trips to Laramie over the course of a year and a half, both in the aftermath of the beating and during the trial of the two young men accused of killing Shepard, during which they conducted more than 200 interviews with the people of the town. Some people interviewed were directly connected to the case, while others were citizens of Laramie, and the breadth of the reactions to the crime led Kaufman and Tectonic Theater members to construct a deeply moving theatrical experience from these interviews and their own experiences in Laramie.

Their groundbreaking play, The Laramie Project, is a breathtaking collage that explores the depths to which humanity can sink and the heights of compassion of which we are capable. And in these uncertain times when the world must learn to cope with the uncertainty and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic which is both isolating and uniting us, I cannot think of a better play to experience with your entire family to start a conversation about why equality is so vital to a civilized society.

Jon Peterson, who is directing the production, shares “To be honest, since the switch over from real life staging to virtual happened, I've been scrambling around just trying to find ways to be innovative, stay relevant, and give back to the community. We are a new theatre company, and I'm pretty much running a one-man operation at this point.”

Shari Barrett (SB): As a point of clarification for readers, I held my interview with Jon just hours prior to the death of George Floyd in police custody and the protests/violence that have ensued afterwards.

(SB): What led to your decision to present THE LARAMIE PROJECT now?

 

Jon Peterson (Jon): Ever since the South Coast Chorale did a concert based upon the Matthew Shepard story, his story has weighed very heavily on my heart.  I believe we are at a point in our modern existence where we have the opportunity to unite and get through this, or divide and not be so fortunate.  I feel the last 3-4 years have seen some regression in overall acceptance in this country and I don’t want to lose this precious progress that many minority groups have made in basic societal acceptance.  This story serves as a reminder of what we don’t want this country to become.  Also, June 1st is the beginning of Pride month, so I figured the gay theme would be very fitting.

(SB):  How did you audition cast members?

(Jon): With the exception of one cast member, I’ve seen them onstage in a previous P3 production and have worked with them onstage or both.  They were each picked because of their talent as actors, and with character diversity in mind.

(SB): How are you holding rehearsals?

(Jon): We are at the mercy of Zoom.  Each person is at their own home (with the exception of two cast members who live together) and on their computers/phones/iPads.  We started our first rehearsal and talked about the story.  Most of the cast members were either very young, or not born in 1998, but every single person in the cast had heard the story.  Then we broke it down by acts (there are 3).  It’s been a fun challenge because each actor plays multiple roles.  I can’t wait for you to see the talent that has assembled to donate their time and talents to this production!

(SB): What do you hope audiences take away from the production, especially if they tune in with their families?  

(Jon): What I would like audiences to take away from the production is the realization that people are just that, people: Black, White, Buddhist, Mormon, gay, straight, transgender, male, female.  Each one of us is unique, one of a kind, and special.  Let’s not wait for another tragedy to remind ourselves of that.

P3 Theatre Company would like to send out their wishes that everyone stays safe, healthy and sane at this time.  Live in-person theatre will be back and we hope it will be welcomed with open arms.  Support your local theatres!

(SB): While there is no cost for virtual audience members to register for P3 Theatre Roulette programming, there are still costs incurred by P3 Theatre Company to produce The Laramie Project and other titles during their Monday night virtual series. These costs include licensing of the material, streaming platform fees, and marketing. Currently, P3 artists are sharing their talents in the series on a volunteer basis. But to work toward our mission, P3 Theatre Company would like to be in a position to provide paid opportunities for these artists. If you would like to contribute toward the P3 Theatre Roulette series or to P3 Theatre Company, please visit their donation page HERE.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Gina D'Acciaro, an L.A. Actress and Regular Performer at Rockwell Table & Stage


This Spotlight focuses on Gina D'Acciaro, an actress in Los Angeles for over 19 years who I first met when she was a member of the Actors Co-op Theatre Company in Hollywood and appeared in their production of the Kander and Ebb musical revue World Goes Round. Gina is now a regular performer at Rockwell Table & Stage in Los Feliz, as well as the creator of  many entertaining YouTube videos.


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

Gina D’Acciaro (Gina): I was fresh off a 2019 Broadway World win for “Best Cabaret - Female - Intimate Space.” I was actually set to remount my one woman show “Gina D’Acciaro is… Famous Adjacent” in NYC when the theater world closed down.

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

(Gina): We found a cabaret space that we liked best, and our creative team was juuusssst about to announce a performance date in late April 2020. So thankfully for myself, my director, Robert Marra, and my musical director, Andy Arena, no flights had been reserved yet!

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

(Gina): No way! The show must go on! As soon as cabaret spaces are open to the public again, we will pick up right where we left off.

(SB): That’s great news! But what other future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?

(Gina): Mounting my show was mission number one while in NYC, but so was finally auditioning for Broadway. And as it turned out, Friday, March 13th was the last Equity audition I had scheduled, which was, sadly, cancelled. This is the first time in my life that I left LA to try to audition my face off and book a Broadway show. Guess I picked a fantastic time to give it a try, huh??

(SB): As they say, timing is everything!  So now that we are “safer at home,” how are you keeping the Arts alive while using social media or other online sites? 

(Gina): I spent the first month of quarantine in disbelief, shock, sadness, even depression. Then I decided to limit my news intake and created a virtual variety show with a group of actors in NYC. It’s called “The Corona Clubhouse” and is a weekly LIVE show featuring sketch comedy via Zoom calls. It’s a silly “kid show for adults” and it’s been great to have the chance to get the funny, creative juices flowing as a writer / performer. I’ve been writing/filming a script and a parody song every week with my writing-partner-in-comedy-crime, Jordan Goodsell, another LA actor / singer / friend finding himself in a Broadway-less NYC.

(SB): Here are links to Gina’s latest YouTube videos:

“Quarantine Dating Sucks [Love Is An Open Door Parody]”

“Nobody Wants This Subscription Service”

(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? 

(Gina): Friends! Feel all the feels. And keep hope alive. Don’t feel pressure to create. But don’t forget who you are. An ARTIST. Artists are always essential. And the Arts might be the last thing to come back, but that’s because they always save the best for last.


(SB): And with that wonderful tribute to the Arts to end the interview, I invite you to follow Gina on Instagram @duhchairoh for funny song parodies, sketches, and clips from Famous Adjacent when you need an escape from the daily news!


This article first appeared on Broadway World.


Jessica-Lynn-Johnson-Soaring-Solo

ISOLATE.MEDITATE.CREATE WITH JESSICA LYNN JOHNSON - STAY AT HOME DAYS 43 - 49

Everyday of the Stay at Home mandate of the COVID-19 crisis, Jessica Lynn Johnson, BEST NATIONAL SOLO ARTIST WINNER, invites you to create your one person play through her guided meditation and visualization. She encourages you to isolate, meditate, and create as an artistic community EVERY DAY as we are in the STAY AT HOME mode.

Day 43: Recalling a time when our mental, physical, spiritual or emotional health was compromised.

Day 44: Recalling our rock bottom as well our peak time in our lives.

Day 45: Recalling a meaningful moment of celebration in our lives.

Day 46: Calling to mind our biggest fan and supporter.

Day 47: Calling to mind our Fathers or Father Figures.

Day 48: Calling to mind our Mothers, Mother Figures or Mother Nature.

Day 49: Calling to mind our "Chosen Family".

Jessica Lynn Johnson, recipient of BEST NATIONAL SOLO ARTIST AWARD, is the Founder & CEO of Soaring Solo LLC, a company dedicated solely to the Direction & Development of one person plays. Jessica is passionate about the transformational power of solo theatre and has aided in the creation of over 100 solo shows (and still going strong)! Visit www.JessicaLynnJohnson.com for more information on Jessica's work Directing and Developing 1 Person Plays.


 


Spotlight Series: Meet Doug Mattingly, A Multi-Talented Actor, Singer, Director, Composer, Teacher and Sound Designer


This Spotlight focuses on multi-talented actor, singer, director, composer, teacher, and sound designer Doug Mattingly, most recently involved with the production of Sarah Ruhl's Dead Man's Cell Phone at Little Fish Theatre in San Pedro.


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

Doug Mattingly (Doug): I'm a stage and screen actor and have performed in dozens of plays, features, shorts, commercials, and videos. I've trained at the University of Southern California as an undergraduate where I also appeared in several student films at the time, at Shakespeare Theatre in Washington DC, and at Groundlings here in Los Angeles.

Doug Mattingly as Jack in Theresa Rebecks "Dead Accounts" at Little Fish Theatre

I recently won a Stage Scene LA Award for "Outstanding Lead Actor, Comedy - Intimate Theatre" for my performance as Jack in Theresa Rebeck's Dead Accounts at Little Fish Theatre.

In addition to acting, I also work as a theatre sound designer. Most recently I designed sound for Sarah Ruhl's Dead Man's Cell Phone at Little Fish, directed by my wife Branda Lock.

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

Doug Mattingly as Jack in Theresa Rebeck's "Dead Accounts" at Little Fish Theatre

Doug: We had just completed our second weekend of four, of Dead Man's Cell Phone at Little Fish Theatre. I was able to see a design run of the show as well as tech week performances and opening night. My wife and I left for a trip to the Netherlands and Belgium the day after opening and were hoping to see a couple more performances upon returning. But unfortunately, the production closed just after we got back to the States. And given what has gone on since then, we were fortunate to get back when we did.

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

Doug: I believe the director was notified via email and phone the day prior to the email notice going out to the cast and designers, followed by a public announcement. There was talk initially of live streaming or filming the performance, but events unfolded quickly to where social distancing measures made that impossible.

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

Doug Mattingly as Ekhart in "Key to Eternity"

(Doug): The broader question right now for many theaters, is if the theater will reopen at all. For now, Little Fish Theatre (LFT) is hosting a Virtual Stage where company members are posting various forms of content. Given my musical background as a performer, composer, and teacher, I've posted a video on songwriting which you can find at the above link. Other actors have posted comedy bits, short films, etc. There's even an ongoing web series happening with material from legendary television writer Ken Levine (M*A*S*H, Cheers, Frasier), prolific playwright Rich Orloff, best-selling author Syrie James (The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen), and LFT Company Members. A full slate of live stream readings, an original web series, classes, and interviews are now available on Little Fish Theatre’s Virtual Stage website.

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

 

(Doug): As far as LFT is concerned, everything is up in the air. I also have some on-camera projects that are on hold. Another theatre company I am a member of, Infinite Jest Theatre Company, is working with the City of West Hollywood to mount readings and/or a production in September. As of now, plans are moving forward in the event that there is some return to normalcy by then.

(SB): I think everyone is hoping things return to normal as soon as possible. For now, how are you personally keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

Doug: I am an instructor at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Hollywood, a performing arts college that offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts as well as a two-year conservatory certificate, so I am (very fortunately) still working. I am teaching all my courses online for the remainder of the semester, so I am engaging with young artists in live one-on-one video settings and by making prerecorded lesson videos and posting documents in Google Classroom.

Doug Mattingly in "Spray It, Don't Say It"

I've also participated and will continue to participate in live online readings of screenplays and short theatrical plays. As a matter of fact, some actor friends and I are doing a reading of one of my feature screenplays on Sunday, April 26 at 4pm. We'll have an invited online audience as well! So that's a lot of fun! I will provide details for those interested in being part of the audience as the details become available.

I'll also be recording live solo music performances (I'm a guitarist and singer). My wife, who is a fantastic singer, and I have recorded a couple pieces as well and will be posting them in the coming days. I hope folks will check out Little Fish's Virtual Stage since there will be a lot of good material hitting there.

(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?

(Doug): I will have moments of feeling normal: practicing guitar, working on a screenplay, reading a play, making dinner, watching a movie, preparing for a class I'm teaching, and then remember what's going on outside my front door. That has been unsettling. It's like holding the two ideas in your mind that one day we'll shuffle off this mortal coil, yet you have to do the laundry.

Doug Mattingly staying fit

It's tempting to think of this period as a "hold" or "pause" until we get back to real life. But for me, it's been important to remember that this IS real life. And so I've been doing my best to make the most of each day. I'm using the various video chat formats to keep in touch with friends and family and all that. I had a lockdowned birthday last week. I'll never forget that one, that's for sure.

As people all over the world shelter in place and stream hours and hours of movies and TV shows, creative people should be proud of the service we as a community are providing during this time. When folks watch a movie or TV show, they are enjoying the talents of actors, writers, set designers, directors, gaffers, cinematographers, composers, editors, makeup artists; not to mention the legions of drivers, caterers, accountants, agents, lawyers, union representatives who help make it all possible. We must always remember that artists are vital to our society and we need for all of us to go on creating.

(SB): You have so much going on. How can others stay in touch and/or find out more about you and your projects?

Doug: Folks can keep tabs on me here at my website, where I've recently updated my comedy and drama. And if you've watched all the Netflix, there are a few short films posted including the award winning "Grand Cru," I can also be found on Instagram as dougmattingly.

I'm also posting lots of videos on my YouTube channel. Half Life is a comedic drama about a 40ish struggling actor who returns to his hometown to settle the affairs of his estranged, overbearing father and to find a way to finally move into an adulthood that's been a long time coming. Anyone interested in being part of the audience for the reading of my screenplay Half Life can contact me through my website.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



CONNECT THRU CREATIVITY MAY 8 - 15

Solo artist Diana Varco led an art therapy exercise - Connect Thru Creativity - daily on IG Live @dianavarco during COVID-19 stay-at-home-orders from March 18th to May 15th.

Thank you to everyone who has joined Diana along the way for Connect Thru Creativity - wow, it’s been quite a journey both personally and artistically!

If you missed the journey, feel free to do the exercise on your own or with loved ones!

Just…

Grab a piece of paper and some coloring utensils.

Draw your current thoughts and emotions as if they’re a ‘Weather Report’ (ie: is it sunny in your inner world or cloudy with a chance of rainbows? Are there green tornadoes?)

Draw for as long as you’d like or are able to, then write down the narrative of the picture after.

**No need to stick to just weather, anything goes in your weather report - so draw away! **

Like weather - emotions can change minute by minute or stay for much longer than we'd prefer. They can also be complex and varied. Follow your intuition and draw truthfully from your heart, you might be surprised at what comes out!

Catch up on the final days of Connect Thru Creativity using the links below:

May 14th:

May 15th:

Here are a few of Diana’s favorite pictures from the journey:

April 9th:

April 18th:

April 28th:


CONNECT THRU CREATIVITY - MAY 7 - MAY 13, 2020

Join solo artist Diana Varco (IG @dianavarco) as she leads a daily art therapy exercise to Connect Thru Creativity and draw your feelings into the language of weather!

LIVE at 11am PST on IG @dianavarco

In this 10-15 min experience, you’ll create a snap-shot sketch of your current inner world and also have the freedom to use art to articulate anxiety, frustration, joy, etc - really any emotion under the sun. This exercise is also great to do with loved ones and children to open up dialogue on our own unique and collective experiences during this unprecedented time. Mental health experts agree that being able to label our emotions, helps to support managing mental health.

No need to stick to just weather. Anything goes in your 'Weather Report' - so draw away!

Like weather - emotions can change minute by minute or stay for much longer than we'd prefer. Track your journey by joining Diana daily and writing down the description of your picture afterwards - at the end of stay at home orders, we will have a story of our experience!

This past week for Diana saw complex clouds, the sun and moon acting as stabilizing factors, and the present suspended between a difficult past and hopeful future.

Catch up on the past week of Connect Thru Creativity using the links below:

May 7:

May 8:

May 9:

May 10:

May 11:

May 12:

May 13:

 

This art therapy exercise was first taught to Diana at the The Actors Fund - a vital support network for individuals in entertainment. Though Diana is not affiliated with Actors Fund, she remains an ardent supporter of their work. If you’d like to learn more or donate please visit: ActorsFund.org

Mental health matters and you do too! If you need immediate mental health support, contact Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741 (US/Canada) or 85258 (UK) - visit CrisisTextLine.org to learn more.


Diana Varco is an LA based actress, comedian, and storyteller.

Diana is the writer/performer of Shattered - a dark comedy solo show that explores dating, dysfunction, and sexual devastation, as well as the complex path of trauma recovery. Fresh off a 25 show run of Shattered at Edinburgh Fringe, Diana is excited to share her use of the arts to support conversations on mental health! Directed by Jessica Lynn Johnson, Shattered premiered at the 2017 Whitefire Theatre SoloFest and went on to the Hollywood Fringe Festival, Outdoor Voices Festival, United Solo off-Broadway, and LA Women’s Theatre Festival.

Learn more about Diana at DianaVarco.com.
Learn more about Jessica Lynn Johnson and her free solo show class: JessicaLynnJohnson.com.


Jessica-Lynn-Johnson-Soaring-Solo

ISOLATE.MEDITATE.CREATE WITH JESSICA LYNN JOHNSON - STAY AT HOME DAYS 36 - 42

Everyday of the Stay at Home mandate of the COVID-19 crisis, Jessica Lynn Johnson, BEST NATIONAL SOLO ARTIST WINNER, invites you to create your one person play through her guided meditation and visualization. She encourages you to isolate, meditate, and create as an artistic community EVERY DAY as we are in the STAY AT HOME mode.

Day 36: Recalling a betrayal we suffered.

Day 37: Recalling a crowded event or gathering we attended in the past.

Day 38: Exploring our sexuality.

Day 39: Exploring our resentments.

Day 40: Revisiting our childhood home in our minds.

Day 41: Exploring our understanding of God.

Day 42: Recalling a time when we acted as a leader.

Jessica Lynn Johnson, recipient of BEST NATIONAL SOLO ARTIST AWARD, is the Founder & CEO of Soaring Solo LLC, a company dedicated solely to the Direction & Development of one person plays. Jessica is passionate about the transformational power of solo theatre and has aided in the creation of over 100 solo shows (and still going strong)! Visit www.JessicaLynnJohnson.com for more information on Jessica's work Directing and Developing 1 Person Plays.