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.



Spotlight Series: Meet Dana Weisman, A Musical Theatre Actor Who Longs to Get Back Onstage ASAP


This Spotlight focuses on Dana Weisman, a musical theatre actor who longs to get back on the stage and entertain audiences as soon as possible!


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

Dana Weisman (Dana): It seems like I have been involved with theatre my whole life. Originally from New York, I began taking dance lessons at around 7 years old and then became a company member in a local children’s theatre troupe when I was around 10.  Like many young girls at the time, I was captivated by the musical Annie when it opened on Broadway and would have given my right arm to be part of that experience. In my mid-teens I attended a performing arts camp called French Woods in the Catskills and further fanned my musical theatre ambition.

Roy Okida and Dana Weisman in "Somethings Afoot"

Then, after the movie Fame came out, I was given the opportunity to audition for the High School of Music & Art (now LaGuardia) and was accepted as a Vocal Arts major. We were classically trained, but for me one of the most fun and fulfilling parts of my high school years was being a member of M&A’s acclaimed Gospel Choir. While at M&A, I was also a part of a professional theatre company in Manhattan called The First All Children’s Theater. With this troupe, I had the opportunity of performing at the Kennedy Center in an original musical called The Trip when I was 16 years old.

After high school, I attended Northwestern as a Theatre major for a couple of years before transferring to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts (Circle-In-The-Square) as I had decided I wanted to earn a BFA. After college followed long years of waiting tables at MANY restaurants up and down Manhattan. You can definitely “Betcha your life a waitress earns her pay!”

In between waiter gigs and other odd jobs, I took classes and built my resume doing lots of regional and summer stock theatre. I made lifetime friends at all these jobs and seemed at times to move closer to my goal of a Broadway gig - but then would slide back. It became frustrating as I saw many of my friends move on to Broadway and my confidence eventually began to erode. I learned there is no question one needs to have an unflagging, burning desire coupled with talent and being in the right place at the right time in order to succeed in this biz. But I seemed to never have all three at the same time.

Dana Weisman as Frau Blucher

Eventually, after a break-up, I decided to move to Los Angeles where my brother was living and try out a change of scenery and maybe pursue the TV/film side of the biz. Shortly after being in LA, I met my husband Jon, a native Angelino, and my fate to become a West Coast transplant was sealed. After getting married, I decided to pursue my other strong interest - psychology - and in between raising a family of three, I earned my graduate degree and became a licensed MFT.

However, as almost any theatre person can attest, once you are bitten by the theatre bug, it is impossible to truly get rid of the itch to be involved in the business in some way, shape or form. After years of singing lullabies to my children, I decided I wanted to get back to singing in another capacity. A few wonderful years singing with the famed Angel City Chorale was followed by my LA theatre debut with Kentwood Players at the Westchester Playhouse. Since then, I have been performing in many other venues around LA, The Blank Theatre, The West Coast Jewish Theatre, and the Cupcake Theatre, to name a few, and also trying to break into the television / commercial / film / VO side as well.

Dana Weisman in "Broadway Bound"

(SB): I remember being amazed at your performance in Broadway Bound with The West Coast Jewish Theatre, quoting from my Broadway World review: "And what dedication to her craft was on display by Dana Weisman (understudy for Maria Spassoff), taking the stage with a broken leg in a boot and walking on crutches as Kate's sister Blanche Morton. But as soon as the initial surprise wore off in a matter of seconds, the lovely scene with Blanche visiting the family home, dressed to the nines by Shon Le Blanc in a lovely dressy suit and fur coat, reflected how well she has done for herself." A truly masterful performance! What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the show? 

(Dana): Luckily, I was in between shows at the time the “Safe At Home” quarantine began. I had recently ended a run at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center as Donna in Mamma Mia and was auditioning for my next opportunity. I had a callback in the works but unfortunately, the show was postponed as we started to see the ripple effect all over LA of theaters closing and schedules being put up in the air indefinitely. Post show confidence is always a great booster for moving forward to one's next goals. So while I wasn't part of a show in the works at the time the quarantine began, any momentum I was hoping to build upon post Mamma Mia has had to be suspended indefinitely.

Dana Weisman as Donna in "Mamma Mia"

(SB): If you missed Dana in “Mamma Mia” in Simi Valley, here is my review of that fabulous production.

Regarding that callback, how was the shutdown communicated with you?

(Dana): News of this particular shutdown was communicated online via Facebook, emails, and other social media. That said, I knew it was coming and had contemplated perhaps not even attending the original audition because by that time, shutdowns were already taking place all over town. But I am glad that I did though as it always feels good to get out and turn in a mini-performance and get to do what you love, even in nerve-wracking audition circumstances.

(SB): Do you know if plans are in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent?

(Dana): As far as I know, this particular production will commence in the future but no dates have been announced as yet. I certainly hope and pray that CoViD-19 and future precautions do not effectively “kill” live theatre, and I look forward to the day when auditions and live performances can resume. But I know that smaller theaters and theatre companies will have their budgets affected by the shutdown, and that all shows will be pushed back and schedules will have to be altered and reworked. I have a daughter who is attending Northwestern University in the fall as a freshman but, as with theatre, schedules are up in the air and may look like something completely new that we have not yet seen as we get closer to the start of the next semester.

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

Dana Weisman with "Sunday in the Park" cast

(Dana): So far, I have taken advantage of this time by cocooning at home with my family by resting, cooking, baking, watching TV, taking safe distancing walks, meditating and attempting to get some much-needed sleep. Lots of self-care. However, I will say that it can be difficult maintaining motivation as lethargy is not easy to stave off when the rule of the day is to stay at home and mostly indoors. As a theatre person - and generally a “people person” - the distance created by interacting onscreen is not always as fulfilling as the live experience. But if this is the new normal, we will all need to adjust.

Moving into this next phase, I hope to begin keeping up personally by honing my audition songbook, learning monologues, and reading plays. There are so many online classes for just about any aspect of the theatre -- auditions, dance, acting -- I hope to begin taking part in many of them. Some groups I participate in are doing online play readings, and I am planning to also take part in those. Keeping up with my fellow actors in Zoom chats is also a much-needed balm.

(SB): It’s been fun being in a few of the Zoom meetings with you! Any more 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?

(Dana): It is difficult to maintain hope and positivity during such unprecedented and anxious times. But theatre isn’t going anywhere. I think it’s best to just take a little rest and time to recalibrate and emerge with renewed vigor once it is safe to again “go live.” As we have all seen, the Arts in all forms are what people are turning to in these crazy times to keep going and to be inspired. They provide solace, laughter, a creative outlet, and catharsis even when shared via distance and online.

Forgive my corny sign-off but it’s true: “The sun will come out tomorrow!”


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



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.