Spotlight Series: Meet Shon LeBlanc, Owner of The Costume House in NoHo


This Spotlight focuses on Shon LeBlanc, owner of The Costume House in NoHo who had 15 shows on his costume design schedule cancel within a week due to the COVID-19 shutdown to “FlattenTheCurve” of infection.


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

Shon LeBlanc (Shon): As of this year, I have been doing this for 35 years and have been fortunate to work with amazing people who gave me a chance to do what I do and push me to do better.  Sometimes that process has been frustrating; but in the end, it was a good thing as it helped me grow to become a better designer.  And as of now, I have done over 400 shows from classics to world premieres.  I also taught costume design at Academy of Art College in SFO, as I do many schools here as I believe in educating our up and coming theatre folk.

I own The Costume House in NoHo and create a great variety of show ensembles with my talented staff, joined the Costume Designers Guild, and was lucky enough to do the Disney series Encore.  Now let me tell you, my theatre background came in handy since that show’s theme is “let’s do a musical in 5 days and present it in front of a live audience!”  So after doing Encore, nothing scares me!

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

(Shon): The amazing Human Interest Story at the Fountain was running and got suspended, but it will rise again!!! As a matter of fact, I lost 3 shows in one day, and by the end of the week about 15 productions as we had schools either postpone or just cancel all together. Some included The Share Project which cancelled their yearly show, while the next show at the Fountain, shows at Sierra Madre, McCoy Rigby Entertainment and the Lounge cancelled, and the Encore season 2 is on hold.

(SB): How were those shutdowns communicated with you, the cast, and production team?

(Shon): Most people either called directly or sent a full company email to let us know. But I can tell you it was not easy for them to tell us. Every Producer or Director was really shaken and devastated.

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

(Shon): Yes, luckily Human Interest Story will continue once things are lifted, and Joe and Betty at the Lounge has been pushed but will be produced. McCoy Rigby Entertainment has plans to present their season with a later start date to be determined. I have no idea what will happen with the schools, but Sierra Madre Playhouse will not open until March next year. So that means no traditional Christmas Story there this year

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

(Shon): I had just moved the shop in February, and then just a month later the shutdown happened. So things are a mess there right now. I am spending time going over there to clean things up, but it’s going slowly. But to keep myself in creative mode, I have been posting pictures of hats, jewelry, purses, and ties on Facebook. And people seem to appreciate it, so that will continue.

(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?

(Shon) I miss the work, my fellow designers, and the cast, which makes me realize I really didn't know how important this community is to me. I miss the magic that happens in it each and every day. I mean where else can you get an email from Del Shores asking if you might like to do his next show, or stand out on the street in Hollywood and have a phone conversation with Nia Peeples? And have Robert Waldon and Chi Chi LaRue come to your shop on the same day. After all, where else would you get to do Show Boat, the Grandfather of all musicals, and the world premiere of Athol Fugard’s Exits and Entrances at the same time?

I encourage you to think about all that you have been blessed with, especially all the amazing people you have worked with and the shows that made you proud. The stinkers... get a laugh out of that!  Remember, we WILL be back together soon.

Please everyone...keep in touch.! Find me on Facebook at Shon LeBlanc; and follow The Costume House, which is located at 13222 Raymer Street, Suite A, in North Hollywood, CA. 91605. Contact me there for all your costume needs at 818-508-9933.  And remember we will all be ready to work once this is over. Please reach out for help when you need it and support your friends when they reach out to you. We are all in this together.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



COVID-19 Theater Series: Deaf West Theatre Broadens our Horizons - An Interview with David J. Kurs


Having grown up in a deaf family in Riverside, California, it was no surprise that David J. Kurs became interested in theater performed in American Sign Language (ASL) early on. His passion for the power of the arts was realized when in 2009 he joined the Deaf West Theatre (DWT), founded in 1991 by Ed Waterstreet. Upon Waterstreet’s retirement in 2012, he became the second artistic director in the history of the company. Prior to becoming artistic director, Kurs wrote and produced Aesop Who?, a multimedia show for young audiences, and served as associate producer and ASL master for Deaf West’s productions of Children of a Lesser God (2009), My Sister in this House (2010), and The Adventures of Pinocchio (2011). To quote Kurs: “Deaf West has had a great impact on me in my artistic development, and I can only hope to spread this passion on to others and to create opportunities for them so that we all can achieve a shared goal of artistic growth.” In 2020, he was named “Deaf Person of the Month” by DeafPeople.com. David took time from his busy schedule to interview in May 2020.


Daniel Durant and Natasha Ofili in "Orphee" - Photo by Brandon Simmoneau

When and how did Deaf West Theatre first form? Were you there from the beginning? What are some of the most popular shows you presented? Have you received any rewards? 

David J. Kurs:  Deaf West Theatre (DWT) was founded in Los Angeles in 1991 by deaf actors. Our theater engages artists and audiences in unparalleled theater experiences inspired by deaf culture and the expressive power of sign language. We weave American Sign Language (ASL) with spoken English to create a seamless ballet of movement and voice. Committed to innovation, collaboration, and training, DWT is the artistic bridge between the deaf and hearing worlds.

Recent and past productions include Jean Cocteau’s Orphée, The Solid Life of Sugar Water by Jack Thorne, and Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, a co-production with the Pasadena Playhouse. In co-productions with the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, we also presented Edward Albee's At Home at the Zoo. The Deaf West production of Spring Awakening transferred from a small 99-seat theater to the Wallis and then to Broadway, where we received three Tony Award nominations in 2016. American Buffalo was named the Los Angeles Times “Critic’s Choice.” In a co-production with the Fountain Theatre, we also presented Cyrano, which won the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for outstanding production. Big River won the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle and Backstage Garland Awards for best musical in its Los Angeles premiere, as well as a Tony nomination and four Drama Desk Awards on Broadway. In a co-production with Center Theatre Group, DWT produced Pippin, which was presented at the Mark Taper Forum, and Sleeping Beauty Wakes, produced at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Oliver! won the Ovation Award for best musical, and A Streetcar Named Desire won the Ovation Award for best play. In 2005, the Secretary of Health and Human Services selected DWT to receive the highest recognition award for its “distinguished contributions to improve and enrich the culture lives of deaf and hard of hearing actors and theater patrons.”

I have attended DWT shows since the company’s inception when I was in high school. I began working with the theater in 2009 and succeeded our founding artistic director Ed Waterstreet as artistic director in 2012.

Daniel Durant, Eddie Buck, Troy Kotsur, Ipek D. Mehlum, and Maleni Chaitoo in "Cyrano" - Photo by Ed Krieger

When did you close the theater for COVID-19? Were you in the middle of a run?

DJK:  We opened and closed our new production, Jean Cocteau’s Orphée, on the same night. It was heartbreaking; but, in retrospect, I am thankful that everyone is safe. My heart goes out to the actors, designers, and creatives who labored so mightily and valiantly to bring together an exemplary show that was seen by so few. The memory of coming together with the company in the empty theater after the curtain will remain in my heart for a long time.

How has the COVID-19 shutdown impacted your theater?

DJK:  We had to cancel our run of our play on the first night, as well as a planned tour to Tokyo. We also cancelled a planned fall show. Other than readings and workshops, we don’t have anything on the calendar for another year. But I’m still hoping that we’ll get back onstage before then.

Sandra Mae Frank, Treshelle Edmond, Natacha Roi, Katie Boeck, Lauren Patten, Amelia Hensley, Alexandra Winter, and Ali Stroker in "Spring Awakening" - Photo by Tate Tullier

Are you doing anything right now to keep your live theater going? Are you streaming? Do you have virtual meetings? Are you planning for your next show when the theater can reopen?

DJK:  We are staying in touch every day, mainly on Zoom. We collaborated with NBC on an episode of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist that premiered a few weeks ago, and it was extremely gratifying to see the love and praise from the community. We also collaborated with Kelly Clarkson and helped create a community-sourced video for her latest song, “I Dare You.” It’s a blessing to be able to generate work for all of the actors from our community during these times, and we’re not going to stop. We’re also working on several digital projects, including a full production to be streamed.

Nick Apostolina, Natalie Camunas, Sandra Mae Frank, and Tad Cooley in "The Solid Life of Sugar Water" - Photo by Brandon Simmoneau

What do you think the impact of COVID-19 will be on live theater in general in Los Angeles? Do you foresee any permanent changes?

DJK:  It is my observation that theatergoers in Los Angeles are creatures of habit. Once we emerge from the end of the tunnel, I think that things will return to normal quicker than we expect. I also think a lot about what prospective patrons will need to feel safe in a theater again.

Troy Kotsur, Matthew Ryan Pest, and Paul Raci in "American Buffalo" - Photo by Noel Bass

What do you need right now to keep going forward? What would you like from the theater public?

DJK:  I, for one, count my blessings every day. We have a wonderful community of actors and patrons that keeps us going. Our Board has been extremely supportive, and we’ve received some wonderful donations. Theater is an art form that’s been around for ages. While we will continue to fill our need for communal experiences, our industry will continue to evolve. I think our industry will make advances in virtual space. I’m thinking about this time in our industry and how we can step up to the challenges posed by quarantine. But in my mind only one thing is certain: that we must move forward together with grace, strength, and compassion.


This article first appeared in LA Splash Worldwide.



Spotlight Series: Meet Robert Yacko, One of the Busiest Triple-Threat Performers in L.A.


This Spotlight focuses on Robert Yacko, one of the busiest triple-threat performers in Los Angeles, whose musical theatre skills constantly bring magic to the stage.


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

Robert Yacko (Robert):  I’ve been around a long time, a native Philadelphian who cut his teeth on theater in high school after being a musician for a few years. I was pulled into the love of dance by a choreographer who saw potential in me. My brilliant acting teacher at Temple University, Joel Friedman, then gave me the tools that got me into the Juilliard Drama Division and things took off from there. My Broadway debut was in Fiddler on the Roof with Herschel Bernardi, directed by Jerome Robbins himself, assisted by Ruth Mitchell and Tommy Abbot. The subsequent National Tours we did brought me to LA twice, and after having the privilege of dancing with the legendary Cyd Charisse in summer stock, LA was beckoning.

“Sunday in the Park with George” with Robert Yacko and Pamela Myers at the LA Premiere at Long Beach CLO. Photo by Craig Schwartz

I was quickly welcomed in the City of Angels with two back-to-back seasons in the Mark Taper Rep, soon followed by one of the highlights of my career - starring in the Los Angeles Premiere of Sunday in the Park With George, with Pamela Myers (the original Marta from Company) as my brilliant Dot and Marie. We had the Broadway sets and costumes and a director chosen by Sondheim and Lapine, the wonderful Fran Soeder.

 

From that flowed lots of amazing opportunities, many of them in Sondheim musicals, which was a gift, since his work was the very reason I longed to do musicals. Highlights of my Los Angeles Theater work include Into the Woods with Leslie Uggams, Company with Carol Burnett and Patrick Cassidy, Chess with Jodi Benson, A.R. Gurney’s Sylvia with Cathy Rigby, The Donmar Warehouse production of Parade at the Mark Taper (which began my association with Jason Robert Brown), and more recently, Annie at the Hollywood Bowl with Lea Salonga, Megan Hilty, Anna Gasteyer, David Alan Grier, and Steven Weber.

As many singing actors do, I have also branched out into the LA Cabaret scene in the last decade, aided and guided by my inspiring friend, Bruce Kimmel. To say I have been blessed over the years, especially in this city, is an understatement!

(SB): I have seen many of the shows you mentioned, but were you involved with any productions when word went out to immediately postpone or cancel them?

(Robert): I had two corporate shows scheduled in late March, one of which was cancelled, one postponed. I have been working with my corporate event company for 17 years and those were the first to go, as they are highly attended events. And I was slated to do the second in a series of Concerts at the Wallis Annenberg on April 1st, organized by the outgoing Mayor of Beverly Hills with Richard Sherman’s son, Greg. The first Concert of this series we did on February 26th, which was an evening of Tom Lehrer and Stephen Sondheim as a partial sing-along. The April concert was to be in a Hollywood Musicals theme, but this event was cancelled.

I was due to perform in the April and May Kritzerland Cabarets at Vitello’s, the second of which would coincide with our Director/Producer Bruce Kimmel’s new book Simply, A Lifetime of Lyrics being published, and would highlight his songs. The April 5th event had to be cancelled. However, the May Concert went online on May 3rd on Facebook Live and YouTube Live with a theme change.

Robert Yacko as Henry Ford in "Ragtime" at 3D Theatricals

The biggest event of mine that got postponed, first from March 30th to June 1st, and now to a TBD date, was the 2nd Benefit for Musical Theatre Guild’s Educational Outreach, an event called Rewind2: By Request at the Rockwell. I was honored to be directing this benefit show and we had been working hard on its planning, built with music from audience-requested musicals from MTG’s archives, using 25 of LA’s best musical theater actors. I’d been working closely with Kristi Holden (producer / organizer) and our Musical Director, Dan Redfeld, since late January and we had a stellar lineup of songs and MTG members to perform them. We were about to have our first rehearsals when everything shut down. This was the toughest one to lose, even temporarily, but I do know that it will get done when we can do so safely.

(SB): That was a lot of changes in such a short time. How were the shutdowns communicated with the cast and production teams?

Robert Yacko in “Undiscovered Country” in the Mark Taper Rep, with Christina Pickles

(Robert): With the corporates, our manager let us know via group email as soon as things changed. With Kritzerland, I spoke to Bruce Kimmel as things unfolded, and at the point where Shelter in Place went through April 15th, we knew we had to cancel April 5th. Then in mid-April, I got a message that we might try and do a Kritzerland online. The Wallis concert word came in a group email from our vocal director Carly Bracco, who had already put a ton of work into the event. It was heartbreaking for many, as this one is lost for good.

Finally, the MTG Benefit word came through back and forth messages with our brilliant coordinator Kristi, who at first tried to have us keep our March rehearsal schedule and get tracks to the singers for the June date. At the same time, MTG was still trying to plan for Kismet on May 3rd and a Glendale Arts event immediately after, which I was asked to direct as well. We soon realized that putting 20+ singers in among some of our elders was not prudent, considering how COVID news was darkening daily. It was first shared privately among the production staff and performers, then the date changes were announced publicly.

(SB): Are plans in place for any of those productions to be done at a future date?

Robert Yacko as Horace Vandergelder In "Hello, Dolly!" at 3D Theatricals

(Robert):  One corporate event may be done in October. The Wallis concerts are gone permanently. Krtizerland went on Facebook Live and YouTube Live, with guest star Liz Calloway contributing from NY. The MTG Benefit will happen at a TBD date. It will be a great show for a worthy cause, to support and inspire the next generation of Musical Theater Artists.

(SB): I have to say, you are one of the busiest stage actors I know. What future productions on your schedule are also being affected by the shutdown?

(Robert): I worked last November for the first time with David Green’s Musical Theatre University in Palm Desert doing Gypsy with a dear friend from NY, Alix Corey, who teaches there. Their program is extraordinary and so are the students involved. David and I talked about future productions (among them, JRB’s Honeymoon in Vegas), and in truth, I am not certain how this affects the program’s schedule. I was to be a guest star at the group’s last (of 6) cabaret shows on March 19th, but that of course was cancelled. I will indeed work with this group again when it is safe to do so.

There were some play readings I was to do with the gifted writer/director Suse Sternkopf (who took my great Cabaret headshot photo), with the ultimate design to create a new theater company. That is off the table until we can reconvene, as her two plays require a real intimate emotional connection which is hard to make with semi-strangers on Zoom.

Other than the MTG Benefit and their Glendale Arts show at the Americana being delayed to indeterminate dates, what is mostly affected is the ability to audition for future work, which is huge. Since no one knows exactly when and if productions can be done, no one is auditioning for anything of note. Of course, that will delay the start of productions at theaters across the board when they can re-open.

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

(Robert): Since I work a lot, the initial shock of having my entire work schedule vanish in the course of two days, topped by the ever-frightening tone of the news, caused me first to reach for humor, rather than panic. It was partly to keep things light and probably partially due to disbelief and denial. So, in the first 9 days of Shelter at Home, I started posting parodies of Musical Theater Posters, as if these were the only shows we could do now: things like Sunday in the Park Without George and No Company. I posted a dozen on Facebook the first day and people clamored for more, as everyone needed a way to laugh off the shock of this new normal in which we were suddenly living. I began posting every day on Facebook and Instagram, and in 9 days, I had created 101 mocked up posters of “Quarantined Musicals.”

A friend asked me to make a book of them for her as a cheer-up and a funny memento, so I went into iPhoto and created one, and sent copies to friends to keep them smiling in the moment and to keep as a funny memory once the plague has passed.

Just 10 days ago, I submitted my vocal-part video for a virtual choir, in which I was asked to participate by Jeff Rizzo and Eric Andrist. It is an 8-part SATB 1 & 2 choir version of a well-known pop song from the 70’s, which I cannot mention until it is ready. Fifty great LA singers sent in vocal/visual tracks to be edited together by David Engel. It should be ready soon.

As mentioned, I was shooting 3 songs for Sunday’s Krtizerland show, from composers Randy Newman, Cole Porter, and Noel Coward. And I am redesigning my professional website. It’s time and I have the time now.

Otherwise, like so many, I am eagerly watching the online concert events like Sondheim’s 90th Celebration and Jason Robert Brown’s Subculture show, highlights of the last 2 days (as I write this). And I am trying to stay in touch with my friends in our circle to make sure everyone is okay.

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

(Robert): Be Kind - to yourself first and to everyone around you, friends, family, and strangers alike. There is no roadmap for this current madness, but we as artists are more used to the kind of uncertainty that everyone is experiencing right now, and are suited to help however we can. This time is a reminder of the Native American adage that “No one wins unless the whole tribe wins.” We are all part of a tribe, both in the theater world and the rest of the world. No one is safe unless everyone is, and kindness goes a long way in making someone’s day, and in relieving some of the stress that breaks down immune systems. The smallest gestures make an enormous difference.

(SB): I so agree with you on bringing kindness into the world. Before the pandemic at the opening night of Daniel's Husband at the Fountain Theatre, director Simon Levy gave me a badge that says “Make America Kind Again” which I proudly wear every day. I wish I had hundreds of them so I could give one to each person who has reacted so positively to its message.

(Robert): I also encourage everyone to mine your solitude for its gifts of self-learning and resting, which is something we don’t do enough of when the wheels are turning full-speed. The digital world has made resting and recharging a forgotten art, one we all need to do to create our best work and, of course, to stay healthy.

You can find me by name on Facebook and Instagram. You can also watch some great videos of my many Cabaret performances on my self-named YouTube Channel, as well as a few bootlegged videos from productions of Company, Chess and Sunday in the Park With George, plus a recording of some unsung Sherman Brothers.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Simon Levy, a Director and Producer Who Calls The Fountain Theatre His Home


This Spotlight focuses on Simon Levy who began his directing career in San Francisco, then moved to Los Angeles in 1990 where he has been the Producing Director for the Fountain Theatre since 1993. His directing and producing credits are numerous, with over 100 productions in Los Angeles and San Francisco that have won more than 200 awards. His journey has been blessed with having wonderful mentors along the way, which has enabled the talented director to earn his living doing theatre and earned him great respect from the entire LA Theatre community.


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

Simon Levy (Simon): I started off as a sax player, but when I got bored with some of my music classes at City College of San Francisco, I decided to take an acting class. I immediately became friends with two very talented dynamic actors, Harry Groener and Peter Kors, who are still friends to this day, and because of their encouragement, I fell in love with acting and switched my major. Then it was on to San Francisco State, a national tour doing Hamlet with the rag-tag/caravanning San Francisco Shakespeare Company, a season at the Alley Theatre as an apprentice actor, then back to San Francisco State to finish my degree, where I fell in love with directing.

Simon Levy as Hamlet with the San Francisco Shakespeare Company

My friend, Michael Lynch, a playwright, was having his plays produced at the One Act Theatre Company, and he and I became a playwright/director team which allowed me to really earn my chops as a director. At the same time, I worked at Steve Silver's "Beach Blanket Babylon" for 7 years as everything from House Manager to Stage Manager to General Manager, where I learned to appreciate the business side of theatre.

Eventually I ended up in LA in 1990 and the Fountain Theatre in 1993, where I've been ever since. I've been very fortunate to have wonderful mentors along the way and to earn my living doing theatre.

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

(Simon): I was literally days away from going into rehearsals for Steven Levenson's magnificent play If I Forget at the Fountain with a really wonderful cast and creative team.

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

Stephen Sachs and Simon Levy at The Fountain Theatre

(Simon): It was pretty obvious to Stephen Sachs and me at the beginning of the week of March 9th that our lives were about to change, so we started preparing. We were supposed to have a meeting with the cast and designers of If I Forget with our consultant, Rabbi Daniel Bouskila (who was one of my consultants on The Chosen) to start prepping for the background work on the play. We cancelled that meeting out of a growing concern about being in the same room together. Then on March 12th, we made the decision to suspend the production of Human Interest Story and rehearsals for If I Forget. We really wanted to do both in person, with everyone in the room. But, again, out of a heightened sense of precaution and uncertainty, we decided to communicate with everyone by email. By then it was pretty obvious where the news cycle was going.

Bill Brochtrup and Tim Cummings in "Daniel's Husband", directed by Simon Levy at the Fountain Theatre

(SB): I am so happy I was able to attend the opening weekend of Human Interest Story and have featured Spotlight interviews previously on the show’s two stars: Rob Nagle and Tanya Alexander. I also interviewed Bill Brochtrup, one of the stars from Daniel’s Husband which you directed last year at the Fountain, which was one of my favorite shows last year.  And I treasure the Make America Kind Again badge you gave to some of us in the audience on opening weekend, and I proudly wear mine every day. It’s an important message, especially right now.

Are plans in place to present those two postponed productions at a future date?

Rob Nagle and Tanya Alexander in "Human Interest Story" at the Fountain Theatre.

(Simon): Both productions are currently suspended, but it's our intention to re-open Human Interest Story and go into rehearsal for If I Forget once we get an All Clear from the City and State. We recognize, of course, that re-opening businesses, especially theatre, will be a helter-skelter, slow rolling out and testing, but we will adjust accordingly. Safety first for our artists and patrons, above all else.

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

(Simon): We have the rights to two very exciting projects, Caryl Churchill's Escaped Alone and Lucy Kirkwood's The Children. Future announcement about all Fountain Theatre productions will be posted at FountainTheatre.com.

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

(Simon): There's a stunning amount of material online right now, from local companies like Impro Theatre to readings by Skylight Theatre and L.A. Theatre Works and others, from Broadway and London, and world theatre from Berlin to Japan, plus all the Zoom meet-ups. So I'm sampling a lot of that, and I like to listen to Broadway musicals. Ironically, I haven't been able to read any plays yet as I feel like the real-life world drama that's unfolding on TV and my news-feeds supplants everything else right now... though I'm starting to feel the urge to dig into the huge backlog of plays sitting on my desktop.

But as much as I appreciate all the online content available right now, you can't hit the ‘pause’ button when you're attending live theatre. I miss that immediacy... that visceral thrill... and the danger of it. But I recognize that we're about to enter a "new" normal, which will include theatre online, because this pandemic has forced us to think/create in different ways, and we have to be aware of and sensitive to those changes. Creativity is about growth and moving into the future, and artists will always find a way to be creative. Who knows, perhaps there's a future for Mask Theatre! One thing I know for certain: We artists are phoenixes and we will blaze anew!

(SB): As always, Simon, thank you for your insightful words and presence in the LA Theatre community. For more information about Simon Levy and his projects, please visit:

SimonLevy.com
FountainTheatre.com
TheGreatGatsbyPlay.com


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Ashton's Audio Interview: Matt Kirkwood


Actor and Director, Matt Kirkwood, is best known for his work in Quantum Leap (1989), What's Love Got to Do with It (1993) , and Happy Birthday Little Grace (2008). This interview discusses the characters he played in “Human Interest Story" at the Fountain Theatre and the character's internal struggles and challenges as they relate to politics and local homelessness, in cities like Los Angeles and nationally.

Enjoy this interview!



Spotlight Series: Meet Actor Rob Nagle from 'Human Interest Story' at the Fountain Theatre


This Spotlight focuses on Rob Nagle, a proud member of the Antaeus Theatre Company and the Troubadour Theater Company, who was in the fourth week of performances of the world premiere of Human Interest Story at the Fountain Theatre when the production was forced to postpone the run.


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

Rob Nagle (Rob): I’ve been performing in the theater for nearly 40 years, the past 23 of them while based in Los Angeles. Cut my teeth at Northwestern University, then in the incomparable Chicago theater scene, before heading to New York City to play on the stages there.

Rob Nagle and Aleisha Force in Human Interest Story at the Fountain Theatre. Photo by Jenny Graham

Rob Nagle and Aleisha Force in Human Interest Story at the Fountain Theatre. Photo by Jenny Graham

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

 

(Rob): I was performing at the Fountain Theatre in our fourth week of the run of Human Interest Story, written & directed by Stephen Sachs. The show has been suspended, but not cancelled. Producers intend to continue the run once we return to some kind of normal.

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

(Rob): The Fountain Theatre was in remarkably close touch with us, the cast & production team, keeping a keen eye on our safety as well as that of their loyal audiences. They made plans, and changed them accordingly, all based on the best recommendations of Mayor Garcetti and Governor Newsom.

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

 

(Rob): I’m thrilled that the Fountain chose not to cancel the production. The plan is to reopen Human Interest Story as soon as we are all able to gather again, and do it safely. My fingers and toes have been crossed for two and a half weeks straight, and they’re starting to cramp. But this too shall pass.

(SB): I certainly enjoyed the production and I really enjoy that the cast meets the audience in front of the theater after the performance. Sharing a link to my review of the show, which I hope lots of people will go see when the ban is lifted on public gatherings.

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

(Rob): From my understanding, the Fountain Theatre hopes to slide the schedule to accommodate more weeks of Human Interest Story and then lead into their production of If I Forget. Personally, everything is at sixes and sevens, so who knows what’s next or how plans will be affected. I know today, and most of tomorrow. That’s about it.

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

 

(Rob): I am astonished by how inventive people have become in this “Life in the Time of Corona.” I have taught acting classes, taken part in several virtual readings and a playwrights lab, watched live interviews, live podcasts, musical performances, and even drag shows; all through Zoom, Instagram Live, YouTube Live, and StageIt. These opportunities are truly strange and wonderful, all at once.

(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?

(Rob): This is our new reality - at least for now. I know it’s challenging and it hurts some of our hearts that our art has become relegated to this. But I am reframing this time as a gift; as an opportunity for me as a creative person to be inventive in different ways, to be a braver explorer, and live in the uncomfortable part of now, as well as to encourage myself to change how I look at and relate to the world, and to my work. I can choose to accept this amazing RESET for what it is, or I can choose to let it destroy me, and my “art heart.”  But I believe complacency is the greatest enemy of creativity.

The Persians had it right when they said, “this too shall pass."


Yes, please stay at home, everyone. Wear a mask and gloves when you go out.  Carry hand sanitizer. #WashYourHands Do what you can to #FlattentheCurve so we can all get back inside the world of theatre in Los Angeles.

Featured Photo by Stephanie Girard


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Ashton's Audio Interview: Tanya Alexander (the voice of Joslin Reyes in 'Tomb Raider - Video Game')


Actress and Voice Broadcaster, Tanya Alexander, is best known for her work in Ethnically Ambiguous, The Coroner: I Speak for the Dead , and Tomb Raider - Video Game. This interview discusses the character she played in “Human Interest Story" at the Fountain Theatre and the character's internal struggles and challenges as they relate to politics and local homelessness, in cities like Los Angeles and nationally.

Enjoy this interview!



Spotlight Series: Meet Tanya Alexander – Spoken Word Artist and Lead Actor in 'HUMAN INTEREST STORY' at the Fountain Theatre


This Spotlight focuses on Tanya Alexander, a spoken word artist and writer of poetry and music, who I recently reviewed in her leading role in Human Interest Story at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood, in which she played Jane Doe, an anonymous homeless woman plucked from a park bench and made a media celebrity.


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

Tanya Alexander (Tanya): I've always loved to learn new things and study diverse subjects. I wanted to really get into the technical process of performing an art, as well as the history of it, so it was a must that I go to college and actually study acting and theatre. I graduated Summa Cum Laude/Phi Beta Kappa with an Honors BA in Theatre from St. Louis University. I then moved to New York City to attend AMDA and studied in their musical theatre program.  I can say that what I learned at SLU in a university setting was the art and history of theatre, performance, human stories. But what I learned at AMDA was how to be a professional in the business of entertainment. How to actually work. Two very different schools with very different curriculums that benefitted me in all aspects of my career today.

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

(Tanya): I was in the middle of our run of Human Interest Story at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood. We had just finished our fourth week of shows and were about to go into the final four weeks.

(SB): If you missed the show, read my review on Broadway World. How was the shutdown communicated with the cast and production team?

(Tanya): We were actually contacted by email by our producer, Simon Levy.  At first it was just a cast and crew meeting to see what our next steps would be, then very quickly (within an hour), we were informed of Mayor Garcetti and Governor Newsome's request to curb all public gatherings over ten people. After that, there was really no choice but to suspend the run. But thankfully, we just got great news that there are plans to remount the show in the summer.

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

(Tanya): Interestingly enough I had just finished production on a film during our Human Interest Story tech week, so no future theatre productions were on my plate except for some local poetry features and performances which were affected.

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

(Tanya): Since I'm also a spoken word artist and a huge advocate of dance and music, I've been keeping my poetry work available for download and sharing my videos from my website and social media pages.

Facebook's watch parties are great for real time sharing. I've also been supporting a lot of dancers, singers, and musicians on Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Facebook.  There's plenty of content to watch and I've been staying engaged with many of my colleagues and friends as we all continue to create at this time.

(SB): The online world certainly has been a lifesaver for the Arts as a creative outlet for so many around the world right now. I am really enjoying and sharing them on my Facebook page as well. Do you have any thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Tanya): I'm very hopeful and optimistic that we'll all be back in the saddle soon! I understand the disappointment that can settle in when you've booked a show, rehearsed and now have to put it on ice.

But we are all artists and we have always supported each other and uplifted the world's spirit. So many people are looking to us, our posts, comments and creations to give them light and keep them entertained and engaged and that's beautiful. We just have to keep using the mediums we have and do it! We are appreciated and it'll be our song, dance, drama, comedy, literature, movies, shows, poetry, and creations that get our global family through these times.

Most importantly, I'd like to encourage everyone to donate to your local theatre and arts communities as they go through this economic downturn. You can go to FountainTheatre.com to donate and support their season, as well as my website TanyaAlexander.net to hear and download my poetry and music. Keep supporting the arts and the artists and we'll keep creating beautiful work to feed and inspire this world.

(SB): For all the poetry fans out there: After listening to Tanya’s poetry and music on her website, please tune in to the just-announced Ren Hen Press Poetry Hour, a new, recurring series broadcast live as part of The Broad Stage at Home, offering new, livestreamed content from artistic partners and archival concert footage. 

Human Interest Story photo credit: Jenny Graham


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



The 34th Annual 'Robby Award' Winners Announced


The 34th Annual Robby Awards show scheduled for March 23, 2020, has been canceled due to the Coronavirus and social distancing.

Here is the list of the winners for the best in Los Angeles area theatre for 2019.  With the Robby Awards, a few categories resulted in a tie vote, even with critic Rob Stevens as the only voter.

The Pasadena Playhouse’s production of "Ragtime" won Best Musical as well as three other awards. The Ahmanson Theatre’s production of "Indecent" also won four awards, including Best Drama. Best Comedy was awarded to Odyssey Theatre Ensemble’s "Loot" which also won two other awards.

A Noise Within led all producing companies with five awards spread over three of their productions—"Argonautika," "The Glass Menagerie," and "Frankenstein." The Geffen Playhouse won three awards, one each for their productions of "Key Largo," "Skintight," and "Witch."

Among 99-seat theatres, Celebration Theatre won two awards for its production of "The Producers," Boston Court Pasadena won two awards for "The Judas Kiss," and Antaeus Theatre Company won two awards for "The Cripple of Inishmaan," while two awards were given to shows at the annual Hollywood Fringe Festival.


The Robby Awards


Teri Ralston Award for Best Musical
Ragtime, Pasadena Playhouse

Virginia Capers Award for Best Director of a Musical
David Lee, Ragtime, Pasadena Playhouse

Michael G. Hawkins Award for Best Actor in a Musical
Marc Ginsburg, Ragtime, Pasadena Playhouse

Michelle Nicastro Award for Best Actress in a Musical
Shannon Warne, Ragtime, Pasadena Playhouse

Gary Beach Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
Michael A. Shepperd, The Producers, Celebration Theatre

Lisa Robinson Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Lauren Van Kurin, Earth to Karen, Hollywood Fringe Festival

Dom Salinaro Award for Best Choreography
Christine Negherbon, Holiday Inn, Musical Theatre West

Elan McMahan Award for Best Musical Direction
Gregory Nabours, Scissorhands, The Fuse Project

John Raitt Award for Best Music and Lyrics
Brooke deRosa, Gunfight at the Not-So-OK Saloon, Trial Run Productions

Nan Martin Award for Best Drama
Indecent, Ahmanson Theatre

Martin Benson Award for Best Director of a Drama (Tie)
Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, Argonautika, A Noise Within
Rebecca Taichman, Indecent, Ahmanson Theatre

Ray Stricklyn Award for Best Actor in a Drama
Rob Nagle, The Judas Kiss, Boston Court Pasadena

Sally Kemp Award for Best Actress in a Drama
Deborah Strang, The Glass Menagerie, A Noise Within

Richard Doyle Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama
Kasey Mahaffy, The Glass Menagerie, A Noise Within

Belinda Balaski Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama
Jenny O’Hara, Daniel’s Husband, The Fountain Theatre

Carole Cook Award for Best Comedy
Loot, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble

Ron Link Award for Best Director of a Comedy
Bart DeLorenzo, Loot, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble

Tom Troupe Award for Best Actor in a Comedy (Tie)
Harry Groener, Skintight, Geffen Playhouse
Evan Jonigkeit, Witch, Geffen Playhouse

Lu Leonard Award for Best Actress in a Comedy
Elizabeth Arends, Loot, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble

Albert Lord Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy
JD Cullum, The Cripple of Inishmaan, Antaeus Theatre Company

Dee Croxton Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy
Anne Gee Byrd, The Cripple of Inishmaan, Antaeus Theatre Company

Michael Devereaux Award for Best Playwriting
David Hare, The Judas Kiss, Boston Court Pasadena

John Iacovelli Award for Best Scenic Design
John Lee Beatty, Key Largo, Geffen Playhouse

Best Projection Design
Aaron Rhyne, Anastasia, Hollywood Pantages Theatre

Paulie Jenkins Award for Best Lighting Design
Christopher Akerlind, Indecent, Ahmanson Theatre

Garland Riddle Award for Best Costume Design
E. B. Brooks, The Producers, Celebration Theatre

Steve ”Canyon” Kennedy Award for Best Sound Design
Robert Oriol, Frankenstein, A Noise Within

Lies and Legends Award for Best Ensemble Award
Matt Darriau, Elizabeth A. Davis, Joby Earle, Patrick Farrell, Harry Groener,
Lisa Gutkin, Mimi Lieber, Steven Rattazzi, Richard Topol, Adina Verson,
Indecent, Ahmanson Theatre

Billy Barnes Award for Best Cabaret Performance
Daniel Thomas Bellusci, Brittney Bertier, Ellie Birdwell, Bruce Kimmel,
Kerry O’Malley, Jenna Lea Rosen, Robert Yacko,
L’Wonderful, L’Marvelous, Legrand, Kritzerland at Vitello’s

Special Award for Props and Puppet Design
Erin Walley and Dillon Nelson, Argonautika, A Noise Within

Robby Living Legend Award
Teri Ralston


More L.A. Venue and Event Postponements, Updates, Cancellations, and Active Shows


Better Lemons has updated more shows in our calendar with any current postponements, updates, or cancelations due to coronavirus and concerns and actions towards the safety of theatre patrons where larger audiences are expected. Most venues are using directives by Governor Gavin Newsom and California Public Health and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announcements this week as a guide in implementing steps to accommodate for the greater public safety.

The following is a list of venues and shows that we have updated currently. This list includes shows and venues still currently open. Be sure to check with individual venues for any further potential updates or questions.

If you have tickets, please consider either donating your ticket or contacting the venue or show producer for information on available vouchers or rain checks for future shows.

If you have a show that needs updating, please log in and update your show accordingly. If you are postponing, do not delete your event and feel free to email us via our contact form should you need assistance with updating.


VENUES


Dynasty Typewriter


SHOWS


Canceled - The Really Awesome Improv Show

gUnTOPIA at The Roustabouts Theatre Co

Hamlet

SUSPENDED - Human Interest Story

IN MY MIND'S EYE

Canceled - What Rhymes With Orange?

Postponed - Our Man in Santiago

Canceled - The Velveteen Rabbit

Postponed - VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE

Hitler's Tasters

SHOW ME A HERO

Worst-Case Scenario

Postponed until May - Mistakes Were Made coulda-woulda-shoulda

Postponed - Found

Postponed through March - Poor Clare

Suspended - Rorschach Fest

Postponed - Death and Other Girly Things

DIRTY TRICKS w/ The New Bad Boys of Magic

Canceled - Improv Night

Postponed - Jelly Beans

POSTPONED - LA Fest by Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA

The Bindings

March 14 and 15 only - The Outsider at North Coast Repertory Theatre

Canceled - The Pack

TMI Hollywood

Señorita Julia - Staged Reading

Canceled - Sex, Addiction & Love in the 21st Century

Postponed - The Wild Party