Audio Interview: The cast of “American Hero” at The Pasadena Playhouse

A darkly comic celebration of the power of teamwork and unity to overcome adversity. At a toasted subs franchise in the local mall, three up-and-coming “sandwich artists” — a young woman, a single mom and a downsized refugee from corporate banking — are perfecting the mustard-to-cheese ratio according to the company manual. But when their shot at the American dream is interrupted by a series of strange events, they must become unlikely allies in a post-recession world.*
Enjoy this interview with the cast of “American Hero” at The Pasadena Playhouse, running until Oct 21st. You can listen to this interview while commuting, while waiting in line at the grocery store or at an audition, backstage and even front of the stage. For tickets and more info Click here.

*taken from the website


Friday Features – Sweet Shows This Coming Week

Better Lemons has lots of registered shows and events and lot of them have Critics and Audience reviews posted. Here you can see their favorites and when you click on a title, you will see all the critics' and audience reviews and ratings. From there you can choose what your adventures this weekend will be. We wish you a fantastic weekend!

The Gin Game

A NIGHT WITH JANIS JOPLIN

SWEAT

SWANSONG

Resa Fantastiskt Mystisk

Martians – An Evening With Ray Bradbury

“BLACK!”

A View From The Bridge

The Rescued

Fallen Saints: Dark

Gloria

ROMEO AND JULIET

BREADCRUMBS

FIRE IN A DARK HOUSE

UK Underdog

Brimstone

26 PEBBLES

Showpony

A PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY

PARADISE – A Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy

Aleichem Sholom! The wit and wisdom of Sholom Aleichem

The Marriage Zone

What Happened When

Old Clown Wanted

ROPE

All Night Long

THE CAKE

I AM CHARLIE

American Hero


PODCAST: An Interview with Mary Bridget Davies of 'A Night with Janis Joplin'

In this podcast, Tony-nominated Mary Bridget Davies of the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts & McCoy Rigby Entertainment Production's A Night with Janis Joplin talks on becoming a mother, performing from an early age, her work with Playwright and Director Randy Johnson, the evolution of the show from its roots to its Broadway stint, playing with Robby Krieger from The Doors, working on a new album with her band, bringing enigmatic and iconic Janis Joplin back to life once again at the La Mirada Theatre, and "singin' the blues."

Photo by Jason Niedle
Mary Bridget Davies stars in her Tony-nominated performance as Janis Joplin in the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts & McCoy Rigby Entertainment Production's A Night with Janis Joplin.

A Night with Janis Joplin features a healthy selection of Joplin hits—especially those with Big Brother and the Holding Company - as well as songs by such irreplaceable artists as Bessie Smith, Odetta, The Chantels, Nina Simone, and the late Aretha Franklin - the latter icons all interpreted by four additional vocalists in the show, along with a live band and horn section to help recreate a repertoire of blues gems.

Although she enjoys singing fan favorites like “Piece of My Heart” or “Cry Baby,” Davies said in the interview that she finds her best challenge with Joplin's version of “Maybe,” which she sings in the second act, and with “Ball and Chain.”

Born eight years after Joplin died of a heroin overdose in Los Angeles, Davies has been interpreting Joplin since she was in her teens. Like Joplin, whose Port Arthur, Texas vernacular Davies has mastered - she studied hours of archival footage of Joplin's interviews - she began with listening to and singing Joplin's songs and vocal stylings with her mother in her native Cleveland Ohio. Later, she would do more research and read the collection of Janis Joplin's letters and other correspondence that say so much more about Janis Joplin than any journalist ever has. (Did you know she was a painter?)

The award-winning actress has studied improv at The Second City (in Cleveland at the time) and is a member of the Something Dada Improv Group in Cleveland as well. In 2005, she toured with the production of Love, Janis, and has toured in Europe with Janis Joplin's original band, “Big Brother and the Holding Company.”

Davies has since received a Tony Award nomination for Best Lead Actress in a Musical for her performance as Joplin in A Night with Janis Joplin at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway in 2014, as well as winning the Theater World Awards and Theater World Awards for that year. Davis' band, The Mary Bridget Davies Group, released their album “Wanna Feel Somethin” in 2012, where she is currently working on writing songs for their next album.

A Night with Janis Joplin opens Friday, September 21, 2018, and runs through October 7, 2018, at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts.  Visit their website for showtimes and tickets.

For more podcasts like these visit Better Lemons on Soundcloud.


Now Registered This Week on the Better Lemons Calendar - September 10 through September 16, 2018

NEW! Theatrical shows, Musical Concerts, and Film Festivals registered on the Better Lemons calendar!
For more shows visit our Calendar. For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page.

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Visit our Wakelet for more shareable stories on registered shows and festivals!


Events Opening This Week

GLORIA @ Atwater Village Theatre

September 12, 2018 8:00 pm

A razor-sharp, darkly comic drama about ambition, office warfare and pecking orders by MacArthur “genius” grant recipient Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. For the 20-somethings working at a chic, unnamed New York magazine, the only thing that ...read more


BEAUTIFUL THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL @ Pantages Theatre

September 13, 2018 2:00 pm

BEAUTIFUL – The Carole King Musical tells the inspiring true story of King's remarkable rise to stardom, from being part of a hit songwriting team with her husband Gerry Goffin, to her relationship with fellow ...read more


SHORT+SWEET HOLLYWOOD @ Marilyn Monroe Theatre

September 13, 2018 7:00 pm

Festival of short plays. Week One (Sept. 13- Sept. 16): PROGRAM A (Thurs&Friday&Sat 7pm, Sunday 6pm) Slow Dating. Written by Adam Szudrich. Directed by Katie Burson. Cast. Julie Collis When an elderly lady tries ...read more


FIRE IN A DARK HOUSE @ Whitefire Theatre

September 13, 2018 8:00 pm

The Whitefire Theatre and Slowly I Turned Productions present a world premiere drama FIRE IN A DARK HOUSE, about two star-crossed young lovers, their families and community, all thrown into turmoil as anti-immigrant fervor ...read more


BROADWAY [email protected] Miles Memorial Playhouse

September 13, 2018 8:00 pm

It's 1949, the war is over, and America is beginning a new chapter. Eugene Jerome and his brother Stan are being given a chance to audition as comedy writers for CBS in the emerging ...read more


WE ARE TRAFFIC - A SOLO RIDESHARE ADVENTURE @ Stephanie Feury Theater

September 13, 2018 9:45 pm

Audience Lemonade: 100%

SPECIAL ENCORE PERFORMANCE! COMBINED ARTFORM PRESENTS: "ONE LAST CHANCE" Shows from the 2018 Fringe "We Are Traffic: A Rideshare Adventure" "In 2014 Jonathan lost his faith, so he got in his car...and drove. 'We Are Traffic' is ...read more


MOVING PARTS FILM FESTIVAL @ The Complex

September 14, 2018 12:00 pm

2 Days of International Independent Feature Films, Short Films, Documentaries, Live Staged Readings & Web Series The Moving Parts Film Festival is Hollywood's International Web Series and Film Festival. In response to the 2016 election, ...read more


THE MARRIAGE ZONE @ Santa Monica Playhouse The Main Stage

September 14, 2018 8:00 pm

Critics Lemonade: 90%

Cal and Beth are selling their home. They're visited by Skip and Ellie, an engaged couple, very much in love who are eager to buy their first home. They're joined by Mike and Liz, ...read more


MARTIANS - AN EVENING WITH RAY BRADBURY @ Whitefire Theatre

September 14, 2018 8:00 pm

WHAT THE CRITICS ARE SAYING “...the warmth and good humor of Ray Bradbury is wonderfully embodied in the performance of Mr. Mount... His performance is a TOUR-DE_FORCE! The ensemble invests their characters with passion and ...read more


DON'T YOU EVER CALL ME ANYTHING BUT MOTHER @ Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre

September 14, 2018 8:30 pm

Don't You Ever Call Me Anything But MOTHER with Tina Preston by John O'Keefe Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group proudly presents the amazing Tina Preston in John O'Keefe's solo-sonata centering around a crazy old ...read more


CAMBODIA TOWN FILM FESTIVAL @ Art Theatre

September 15, 2018 11:00 am

One of the key purposes of Cambodian Town Film Festival (CTTF) is to highlight the diversity of the Cambodian experience through the art of filmmaking. By specifically featuring films that deal with Cambodian social ...read more


AMERICAN [email protected] Carrie Hamilton Theatre at Pasadena Playhouse

September 15, 2018 8:00 pm

IAMA Theatre Company opens its 2018-19 season with the L.A. premiere of Bess Wohl's darkly comic celebration of the power of teamwork and unity to overcome adversity. At a toasted subs franchise in the ...read more


THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE @ studio/stage

September 15, 2018 8:00 pm

THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE  September 14 – October 21   studio/stage (Los Angeles) Production developed at the Actors Studio West, Martin McDonagh's award-winning black comedy THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE, directed by Mark Kemble (Film: co-writer/director “Bad Hurt”; writer/director award-winning ...read more


GIVE ME THE [email protected] Lounge Theatre

September 15, 2018 8:00 pm

With modern audiences in mind, renowned theatre artist Tony Tanner has created this adaptation of the classic play "Ghosts" by the immortal Henrik Ibsen. Reimagined in a taut, lean, focused framework, "Give Me the ...read more


HOT OFF THE PRESS @ Whitefire Theatre

September 16, 2018 7:00 pm

Hot Off the Press is a program of new writing by talented women playwrights as excerpts of their newest works are performed. The program includes: Fertile: An Exploration of the Expectations of Procreation. Written ...read more


Now registered this week on the Better Lemons Calendar August 20 to September 2, 2018

NEW! Shows and film festivals that have registered on the Better Lemons calendar. For more shows visit our Calendar. For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page.
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PIRATE King Shawn Pfautsch On Making It His Duty to Crack You Up

A most imaginative, re-imagined take of Gilbert and Sullivan's classic PIRATES OF PENZANCE will begin January 23, 2018 at the Pasadena Playhouse. We had the chance to chat with Shawn Pfautsch, one of the members of the Chicago theatre ensemble The Hypocrites, who will be performing in the role of Pirate King, in The Hypocrites' wacky beach party version of the Major General and his zany crew's exploits.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Shawn.

How's rehearsals going for the Pasadena Playhouse production?

Rehearsals are going great - six hours a day of making a fun play with friends, old and new. We've put our PIRATES OF PENZANCE up almost a dozen times and those of us who have been with it all these years still have fun playing this music and cracking each other up. 

Is this your first time working/attending the Pasadena Playhouse?

This is my first time at the Pasadena Playhouse. Not only are we excited to visit a new theatre and a new audience, but it's currently 24 degrees and snowing here in Chicago, so we'll be extra happy to see you all.

How would you describe The Hypocrites' version of PIRATES OF PENZANCE (vs. the original Gilbert & Sullivan edition)?

It's really hard to describe in words! When I try to explain the show to friends who still haven't seen it, I mention that it's promenade style (you can/should share the stage with us), that we re-orchestrated the show for ten actors who play instruments (guitar, ukulele, mandolin, banjo, clarinet, accordion), and that there's a bar on stage. And, that 300 shows later, even I still enjoy watching the show every night. Someone in Boston once remarked that Gilbert would have loved it, and Sullivan would have hated it, and I think that pretty much sums it up for G&S traditionalists! It's silly and fun and a little bit different every night and I love it.

Have you experienced the more traditional production of PIRATES OF PENZANCE before?

I've never seen a traditional stage version of PIRATES (I have seen the Kevin Kline/Linda Ronstadt version on video, years ago), but... my grandparents were both classical singers and musicians. They brought me to many operas after I started taking voice lessons in my early teens. I was never a huge fan of the story-telling style of classical opera. My grandparents and I would get into debates about what I saw as staid staging, un-involved acting and interminable, self-congratulatory curtain calls.

But, then I saw a production of THE MIKADO at Ohio Light Opera in the late 90's. I remember thinking, “Oh, this is fun!” It was a very traditional version, but it was still silly and charming and the performers were clearly having fun. It reminded me of the Victor Borge and PDQ Bach send-ups of serious music that my family also enjoyed.

When Sean Graney asked me to be in PIRATES; I thought of that production and Sean's distinctive aesthetics; and didn't have to think too hard about saying yes.

You're playing the Pirate King in this Pasadena Playhouse production. You're been an Ensemble Member and the understudy for Major General in earlier Hypocrites' PIRATES, so you must know this show inside and out.

And I just got through playing Frederic in New York!

As one who's inhabited different roles in PIRATES, is it advantageous to you to take all you've known about the show and just re-work everything for your new character? Or do you need to throw everything out and start from scratch from a new perspective?

My directing professor in college liked to remind us of the old quote “good artists borrow, great artists steal.” So, with that in mind, I've the immense fortune of getting to steal from some really talented performers while also being given a lot of leeway from Sean to make each role my own. I do like to imagine, though, that each character has a key element that unlocks them. For the Pirate King, it's definitely the cigarette holder, which Rob McLean (who originated the role) and I like to refer to as “the character.”

In spite of their obvious differences, what characteristics would you say the Major General and the Pirate King have in common?

They're both very clear about what their ethics are, are outraged when other characters affront those ethics, but then go ahead and break them without a second thought. To be really on-the-nose, both of them are hilarious Hypocrites. And they both like to tell Frederic what his Duty is. In fact, can I just change my answer to Duty? It's all about Duty. Duty!

Since you've done both, which character type would you prefer tackling - the hero or the villain?

I'm confused, which character is which? In all seriousness, I do like a good villain. I can really indulge in some shmacting. Of course, with Gilbert & Sullivan heroes, I can also indulge in some schmacting. Can I change my answer to Duty?

How did you originally connect with Sean Graney and The Hypocrites? Back in 2010, right?

I moved to Chicago to start a theatre company in 2000, and one of the first companies I became a fan of was The Hypocrites. So, I've known Sean for a long time. But I didn't work with him until I vocal coached his THREEPENNY OPERA in 2008.

So how does the company distinguish addressing you and Sean? Shawn P. and Sean G.? Or something more fun and crazy?

Heh! Good question. Unless Sean is saying “Shawn,” I basically ignore my name when I hear it at the Hypocrites. Mostly, they just call me “Pfautsch.”

I have a not-so-common first name also. So, when I meet another Gil, we have to carry on 'comparing notes.' Did you and Sean do the same when first meeting? Or have you run into a lot of other Shawns/Seans?

I know a fair number of Shawns/Seans/Shauns. But, yeah, it's unusual enough that when I meet one, we “compare notes.” Strangely enough, I know a couple of Gils here in Chicago. Let me know if you want me to put you in touch with them!

Are you familiar enough with the Los Angeles theatre scene to compare it with your Chicago theatre happenings? Or the Boston theatre vibes?

When Chicago actors talk about Chicago, they say, “But we DO have lots of film and TV!”

When L.A. actors talk about L.A., they say, “But we DO have lots of theatre!”

When Boston actors talk about Boston, they say, “We pahk the cahr in Hahvahrd Yahd.”

Or something like that.

One of the things I enjoy most about traveling with this show is getting to know each city's theatre scene and I'm excited to finally really get to know L.A.'s.

So which do you prefer - basking in the live audience responses with yourself onstage acting? Or sitting in the back of the theatre hearing the audience react to your written dialogue?

Ooh another great question! I like you!

It's harder to enjoy moment-to-moment reactions to successful acting because it's like you're driving a car really fast down winding roads. If you stop to look around, you could easily fly off the pavement and explode. You have to keep focused ahead. That said, I actually find acting more healthy for my anxiety because I don't have time to sit and worry that the next line is going to land correctly like I do when sitting in the back while watching one of my plays. But, when a joke or a catharsis that I wrote lands, I do a little dance. So… comme ci, come ca.

What is the next project on Shawn Pfautsch's radar?

Well… I'm glad you asked.

My play HATFIELD & McCOY opens January 28th back in Chicago at The House Theatre. It's a pretty drastic re-write of a script first produced in 2007. It's based on the idea that the only two books on the McCoy family mantle were the Complete Works of Shakespeare and the King James Bible. These were brutally intelligent and eloquent people and something about complete investment in those two books makes their feud make so much more sense to me. And in 2018, a story of gun-violence and domestic polarization feels even more timely than it did in 2007 (when it was first produced) to comment on the Iraq war and the Bush Administration. Matt Kahler (the Major General) collaborated on the music with me. He just wrote a beautiful love song for it that we're very proud of.

So… I've been going to PIRATES rehearsals all day and HATFIELD rehearsals all night for the last few months. It's a good problem to have, although I'm sad to miss opening night of my play.

Will the Pasadena Playhouse audience be hearing your musical strumming proficiency on the ukulele, guitar or banjo; by chance?

Guitar and mandolin! You'll have to see our MIKADO to hear my mad sax skills

Thanks again for your time, Shawn! I look forward to experiencing your Pirate King exploits.

Thanks, Gil! Nice talking with you and I can't wait to do my Duty in Pasadena!

For PIRATES OF PENZANCE ticket availability and scheduling through February 18, 2018, log onto PasadenaPlayhouse.org


It's Not A MIRACLE That Keeps Beth Grant Busy Acting - It's Her Hard Work & Big Heart That Does!

Those needing their Holiday fix of MIRACLE ON 34th STREET will have the opportunity to catch the presentation of its original 1947 radio play version at The Pasadena Playhouse (which just opened December 14, 2017). Cameron Watson directs this perennial holiday classic of Gimbels' Santa Claus featuring Alfred Molina, Peri Gilpin and Beth Grant, with Yvette Cason, Michael Chieffo, Larry Poindexter, Jim Rash and Cecelia Witt.
I had the most fortuitous chance to once again, a few weeks ago, interview the very lovely actress Beth Grant, (lovely in physicality and so lovely in heart). I have interviewed Beth many, many times in the past years while crossing paths with her at various charity events and hot-ticket shows.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Beth!
So what enticed you to mount the boards of The Pasadena Playhouse for MIRACLE ON 34th STREET?
Cameron Watson, Christmas, Peri Gilpin, Pasadena Playhouse, playing many different characters, always wanted to do a radio play, and like most people I know, love the story of hope and faith in MIRACLE ON 34th STREET. I could not say yes fast enough!
What do you remember of the movie Miracle on 34th Street the first time you saw it, (probably on TV at Christmastime)? Did it have any effect on you? Or were you too young?
I was a little girl in the South who wanted to be that little girl and live in New York and go to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade! The first time I went to Macy's after I moved to New York, it felt like I was dreaming. I couldn't believe you could actually buy things there! I got a Christmas job in the women's department at Gimbels and honestly, I thought it was just the greatest job ever.
This is the 70th anniversary of the original 1947 radio play. Are you doing the actual original radio script?
Yes, we are performing the actual radio play — with some special flourishes and some creative casting. We'll have some surprises for you!
Will you then be performing MIRACLE with minimal blocking, music stands and a foley artist?
I've heard we have a real foley artist (Jeff Gardner)! I believe Cameron Watson has created a special framing device that will delight the audience!
Not having seen the actual cast breakdown, who are you playing in MIRACLE?
Peri is Doris, the mother of the little girl, Susan. I'm playing all kinds of characters, which is thrilling. Immersing myself in different characters is sort of my “stock-in-trade” and my great joy. So this will be a challenge, but great fun for me.
How would you compare your MIRACLES characters to Grace of GRACE AND GLORIE (that you won an Ovation Award for) and to Willi of THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF A TRAILER TRASH HOUSEWIFE (that you also won an Ovation and other awards for)?
The role I always loved and couldn't wait to do is the mother of the boy who wants the fire engine, played by Thelma Ritter - in her very first film role! She's a true blue New Yorker! As is my husband (Michael Chieffo), so I better get that one right! But all of the characters I'm doing are fun and interesting, and none of them are like Willadean or Grace who were both country women, different type women, but both Southern. These characters are all New York City folk, not that they will all have New York accents, they are from very many walks of life. Still, there's not a country girl in the whole bunch!
Aside from the obvious financial compensation of the film and television mediums, what aspects of theatre vs. film vs. television do you most savor?
I love to be on stage more than anything! I love rehearsals, discovery, building the character, and practice, practice, practice! There is nothing like the communion with an audience. Every audience has its own personality! It's absolutely a spiritual experience. But I do love it all! I love movies, TV; and I've even been dabbling in Virtual Reality. I just love to create art., I just love to communicate!
Your acting dance card has been pretty full. Anybody in particular you haven't worked with, you'd still love to match wits with?
I would love to work with Annette Bening again. We did one movie— I got cut — but she is just the best. What a thrill that would be! I'd love to work onstage with my dear friend Frances Fisher. We created a web series together and really clicked. We've known each other almost our whole lives, so we are very free with each other. I'd love to work again with Octavia Spencer, Ahna O'Reilly. I'd love to work with all the greats! Allison Janney, Laurie Metcalf, Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, George Clooney, Richard Jenkins. Oh, my goodness! The list goes on and on and on. I love actors and I love acting! Bring‘em on!
What role would you love to sink your teeth into on the theatrical boards?
Cameron and I have discussed THE GLASS MENAGERIE, done the way it was done originally with Laurette Taylor. My daughter (Mary Chieffo) is a Juilliard grad who is now the female Klingon commander on Star Trek: Discovery! She's not the usual casting for Laura, but she is so good in the role. With a Southern Belle grandmother, she really hears the music of the language as Tennessee wrote it. I'd love to do an Appalachian version of THE VISIT. I've workshopped it. It really works. It has a lot to say in today's world.
You've acted in both Los Angeles and New York theaters. If you close your eyes, describe how you could tell just by the verbal responses whether the audience were West Coast or East Coast?
West Coast audiences are very giving, enthusiastic, loving, and have a terrific sense of humor. New Yorkers are great too, but I do love L.A. I moved here so many years ago, thinking I would go back to New York. Then one day I woke up and said, “Who am I kidding? I'm happy here. I love it!"
In 1988, you were part of the Marshall W. Mason-directed production of Tennessee Williams' SUMMER AND SMOKE starring Christine Lahti and the late Christopher Reeves at the Ahmanson. Was this one of your first theatrical roles on Los Angeles stage?
Before that I was in PICNIC with Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gregory Harrison, Conchata Ferrell, Rue McClanahan, Michael Learned (what a cast!), which was also at the Ahmanson and also directed by Marshall Mason. I was very active in small theater as well, Ensemble Studio Theatre, when it was on Oxford where the Rogue Machine is now, and many other 99-seat theatres. When I first moved here from New York, I went right into a play, THE DEATH OF BESSIE SMITH at a small theatre on Western Avenue. I have always tried to say, "Yes!" to any theatre opportunity I can.
Any fond or fun memories you would share with us of that production of SUMMER AND SMOKE?
Chris had gone to Juilliard with my husband who was also in the play, so we hit the ground running with backstage antics. Someone made little stand-up paper dolls of all of us, and they decorated the backstage area. As Mrs. Bassett, I wore a “fat suit” and it was heavy! One night after a long week, my dresser was helping me put it on, and I ran amuck! I just ran up and down the halls like a big marshmallow! We shared many meals and many good times. Chris was a great Dr. John. We'll always cherish those memories and love him forever.
What changes for the better have you observed today in the Los Angeles theatre community from when you first step foot on the L.A. boards?
More and more theatres! More and more great companies! More original plays and musicals! More people going to the theatre.
What sage piece of advice did someone give you back when you started your acting career that you still religiously adhere to?
Always go back to the work. It's the work that counts. And my husband and I always comfort ourselves with “Slow and steady wins the race."
What words of wisdom would you impart on an acting neophyte with stars in their eyes?
Find a teacher and stick with a good one. Join a theatre group. Always have a project going... or two, or three. Stay busy. Don't complain. See how you can be of service, even to your agent! Agents need love too. It's a lot better to call with news of something you've got going on than just waiting for them to do everything! It's a partnership!
Thank you again, Ms. Grant! I look forward to seeing you light up The Pasadena Playhouse stage!
Thank you! Love you and see you SOON!!!
For available MIRACLE ON 34th STREET tickets and scheduling through December 23, 2017; log onto PasadenaPlayhouse.org


Nike Doukas Accenting Her Way From The Cockney Streets To The Royal Court

Actress Nike Doukas will be doing double duty in Pasadena Playhouse's latest production of KING CHARLES III, previewing on November 8, 2017. Besides taking on the character of ‘Ghost,' Nike's accent coaching expertise will be utilized to achieve maximum British effect of the various British characters. Nike was most gracious to take the time to answer my accented inquiries.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Nike!

I have seen you credited as both a 'dialect coach' and an 'accent coach.' Could you explain the differences, if any, between the two terms 'dialect' and 'accent'?

I so appreciate your question about the difference between a dialect coach and an accent coach! Linguists make a very sharp distinction between the two: A dialect is defined by vocabulary that people use depending on where they come from, for example, in Boston (where I grew up), people say "wicked" to mean "very" (among other things). But the classic "Park the car in Harvard Yard" is an accent, the same vocabulary is used, but pronounced differently. I deal only with pronunciation, and therefore, am an accent coach. For some reason, theater people tend to call what I do a dialect coach, I'm not sure why, but I'm always trying to correct the error.  

If I wanted to sound like a Cockney villager, would I come to you with the request to coach me in a Cockney accent? Or in a Cockney dialect?

Come to me for coaching on your Cockney accent - although Cockneys also have a very extensive dialect, which I can research for you, if you want extra help on that. Then I will be your dialect coach.

Any accent you would name as your specialty?

My specialty is British accents, particularly RP, or Received Pronunciation, which is also known as the Queen's English, and is that very refined sound you hear from the Royals and upper crust. I also specialize in Cockney and Estuary, which is the ever more popular accent, sort of mid-way between RP and Cockney.

In KING CHARLES III, what various accents will we be hearing? Upper-class British? Lower or middle-class British?

We will be using all three in KING CHARLES III. I have also coached about twenty other accents for plays and TV. Boston is one of my favorites, for obvious reasons.

How do you feel about productions that do not incorporate the appropriate accents of the show's characters?

I feel very strongly about accents in plays. There are certain plays I can't imagine without an accent, and KING CHARLES III is one of them. As an actor and as a theatre-goer; for me, the accent informs and enriches the play. The sounds people make reflect their emotional, physical selves, the way people make a sounds, informs how they express their point of view. This is not only in terms of the way the sounds are formed in the mouth, but the musicality of the speech, which varies so much from region to region. Think about the way Jimmy Carter's accent compared to Hilary Clinton's accent, compared to LBJ's accent, compared to our current president's accent informs their speech and personality. When directors try to neutralize accents, or lose them altogether, it makes me feel they don't really understand the world of the play. I sometimes think they think it's too hard for the actors and will distance them from their roles. And it is hard work, and can feel distancing. In KING CHARLES III, we are working for a much more expressive musicality, that is very alien to our American ears. Americans tend to make emphasis with volume, not pitch. The Brits are much more versatile with the vocal tools they have; they use volume, pace and most especially pitch, and it makes them much more expressive communicators. It's why they are so pleasant to listen to! So as Americans in the cast, we have to embrace those changes and make them feel like ourselves, and that takes work. But that's what actors do! We love taking on different physicalities, different ways of dressing, different ways of thinking. So for a director to say that's just "too hard," I say, "It's our job." And for the director who says, "It will alienate the audience. I want this to feel universal." I say, "There is no such thing as a universal accent. Everyone has one. And when audiences recognize themselves, it isn't because of the accent., It's because of the shared humanity. The fun and the lesson is recognizing yourself in someone who seems quite different. Fortunately, our director Michael Michetti, feels the accents in this play are of the utmost importance. He and I talk a lot about the story we are telling with the way the actors are sounding. He's very sensitive to the nuances of sound, and I love that.

Would you consider yourself an actress who loves to teach and coach? Or a teacher/coach who loves to act?

I am something of a typical L.A. actor (and American actor) who does as much acting as possible, and supplements my income with outside work. In my case, I'm an accent coach. I teach accents in class, and I am an acting teacher and coach. I also started directing a few years back, and in fact, will be directing Harold Pinter's THE HOTHOUSE at Antaeus as soon as KING CHARLES closes. I adore teaching and directing and accent coaching, but I think of myself primarily as an actor. Being an actor informs everything I do as a teacher, coach and director. Specifically as an accent coach, I know how delicate the process of developing a role is, and how alienating it can be to add an accent to the mix. I like to think I am able to help the actors use the accent to get closer to their characters. I often give notes in terms of acting choices. That's really fun for me. I try to be sensitive as to when an actor can hear a note about accents and when they need to focus on other things.

You're multi-tasking in KING CHARLES III, first in the role of Ghost and also as the show's accent coach. Do your two positions overlap? Or do you keep them separate?

In KING CHARLES III, I rarely give notes when I'm acting. Aside from the fact that I don't want the actors to think I'm listening for their accent when I'm acting with them, I don't want to be listening for their accent when I'm acting with them! So I spend most of my off-stage time taking notes. This wonderful, warm and talented cast has been absolutely receptive and welcoming of the notes. They make it easy for me.

You were chosen as one of the ten to participate in the Lunt Fontanne Fellowship Program in 2011 led by Olympia Dukakis as your Master Teacher. What was the process in getting to be chosen?

I was a 2011 member of the Lunt Fontanne Fellowship. Each year, the Fellowship selects ten American regional theatre actors to go to the Lunt Fontanne estate in Wisconsin, and study for ten days at their beautifully-kept home in the country. I was nominated by South Coast Repertory Theatre, a theatre where I have worked a lot over the years. It was an absolute honor to be nominated by my friends at SCR, and accepted into the program. Each year they have a different "mentor" leading the group of ten actors, and my year, it was Olympia Dukakis.

What gems of wisdom did Ms. Dukakis share with you?

She is a fiery, passionate, and hugely talented actress. We spent ten days with her thinking about and working on Chekhov plays. She had much to share with us, including her incredible knowledge on the period Chekhov was writing in. She also has a specific way of rehearsing. It was challenging and rewarding to experiment with her way of looking at rehearsal. It was especially rewarding to be among old and new friends in this group, and share war stories, complaints and to appreciate each other's work. It's very rare that actors get these kind of working retreats, and are treated so lovingly and lavishly. It made us feel very special, and I recommend it to any actor who's lucky enough to be asked to be included.

Thank you again, Nike! I look forward to hearing all your wonderful work in CHARLES.

Thank you, Gil, for your interest in me and in KING CHARLES III.

For ticket availability and show schedule through December 3, 2017, log onto www.pasadenaplayhouse.org


Dot-Marie Jones Wrestling From A Glee-ful Beiste Into an OUR TOWN Gossip

Dot-Marie Jones has been acting professionally since 1992, but it's her five-year stint as Coach Beiste in the Fox hit series Glee that propelled her into instant street recognition. Dot's latest acting gig has her portraying the character of Mrs. Soames in Thornton Wilder's OUR TOWN, a co-production of the Pasadena Playhouse and Deaf West Theatre which just began September 26, 2017.

Dot took a few minutes away during rehearsal week to answer some of my probing inquiries.

Thank you for taking time out for this interview!

Pasadena Playhouse. 2017. Our Town. Photo: Jenny Graham.

Do you like to be called Dot? Or Dot-Marie?

Dot.

In various press releases and websites, I find a floating hyphen in your name that seems to change positions or completely disappear. Why the different spelling of your name?

For SAG-AFTRA, I go by Dot-Marie Jones. That happened because in 1994 when I went to join SAG, there was a Dottie Jones, and SAG thought it was too close! So I just put the hyphen and joined as Dot-Marie Jones. Marie is my middle name. And Dot is short for Dorothy, my birth name. 

Have you seen any other productions of OUR TOWN?

No. 

Have you seen any productions at The Pasadena Playhouse in your years living and working in Los Angeles?

Yes, most recently we, my wife and our 17-year-old daughter, saw A NIGHT WITH JANIS JOPLIN. In fact, we loved it so much we saw it THREE times. Mary Bridget Davies was fantastic! 

This co-production of the Pasadena Playhouse and Deaf West Theatre will feature bilingual staging in American Sign Language and English. Did you have to learn sign language for this production? Or were you already fairly versed in it?

I am indeed learning ASL. I was a little familiar with it. I had studied with friends who had a deaf daughter. We would meet at their house once a week and worked with Bob Hilterman, a deaf actor, to better our skills and better our communication with their daughter. It's been quite a few years though. I'm learning so much, I love every minute of it.

You were part of the Fox hit series Glee from 2010 to 2015. Do you still get stopped on the street by people shouting out your character's name "Coach Beiste"?

Ha! Ha! Yes, I do. It was an amazing experience and I loved being a part of Glee because of how many people it helped! 

How would you compare and contrast your characters of Coach Beiste with Mrs. Soames in this production?

Wow, good question. They are totally different. Beiste was strong, but yet kind of stuck to herself. Mrs. Soames is more of a gossip and sociable. Not so much for Beiste, though she tried.

As a 15-time world arm wrestling champion, do you still arm wrestle for fun or for exposition?

No, but I wish I could! My shoulders are shot from so many years of weight training and arm-wrestling, and also throwing the shot put. Those were some incredible years. I loved every one of them.

Any immediate projects for you, you can share with us?

Pasadena Playhouse. 2017. Our Town. Photo: Jenny Graham.

Working on a new show/film Combat Nuns about crime fighting nuns. It's so fun and I'm working with friends. They were some of my first friends in L.A. over 25 years. Also working on a web series. Not sure if I can share that right now.

What would your dream role on stage be for you? 

Would be a dream to play Madame Morrible from WICKED. And Mama Morton from CHICAGO

What particular message of Thornton Wilder resonates with you, and that you hope the Pasadena Playhouse audience will be receptive of?

That life is fleeting. So enjoy every minute and hold tightly to the people you love  

Thank you again! I look forward attending your TOWN's socials at the Playhouse.

For OUR TOWN ticket availability and show schedule through October 22, 2017; log onto www.pasadenaplayhouse.org


Choreographer/Director Keith Young On Working W/The Best & Sharing His Craft W/The Masses

SHOUT SISTER SHOUT! will be opening July 26 at The Pasadena Playhouse under the slick choreographic vision of Keith Young. Amidst running his SHOUT cast through his distinctive dance routines, Keith managed to find a spare moment to answer a few of our questions.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Keith!
Sister Rosetta Tharpe was the first to combine gospel with secular music and became a big crossover hit in the 1930s. Was your family or you growing up aware of her music?
No, I wasn't aware of her or her music; not sure about my family.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe caught a lot of flack for taking gospel music out of the church and into nightclubs. Did your family have any opinions on that matter?
Yes, it wasn't really acceptable to combine the two.
So what styles of dancing can we expect to see in SHOUT SISTER SHOUT!? What was popular or indicative of the 1930s and 40s?

As always, I will use the movement to nourish the storytelling (gospel-inspired), and this show has various fun styles within that.

Which songs of Sister Rosetta Tharpe will you be choreographing to? "The Train"? "Down By the Riverside"? "Strange Things Happening Every Day"?
There is a little something to all of her songs, and there are many. But my approach has been to allow you to see the music.

With her distinctive vocals and spirited electric guitar playing, she became known as the Godmother of Rock & Roll. Will SHOUT SISTER SHOUT! audience be able to see similarities of movements to later artists like Little Richard or Elvis?
Yes, the likes of Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and others.

What aspects of SHOUT SISTER SHOUT! drew you to commit your artistic energies?
I think Rosetta was an amazing and powerful force. As a trailblazer, she really broke down so many walls and expectations. She also was an incredibly vibrant personality, woman, and artist. Having said that, she was primarily looked over, and I hope my participation will help bring her and her artistry to the forefront.
Earlier this year, you choreographed and directed FIVE GUYS NAMED MOE. Did directing seem for you like the obvious next step after choreographing?
Absolutely! For me, it was a natural progression. I also didn't have to tell the choreographer what I wanted, or ask the director to try something - a fun, timesaving fact.
Would you describe the challenges in choreographing in the different mediums you're quite busy in - commercials, television, theatre, Carnival Cruise lines?
I am fortunate to be able to create in so many different mediums. Each one does have unique and specific challenges. But for me, the larger objective remains the same - to make sure that what I create perpetuates the story, and helps bring the overall vision and objective to fruition.

How do you choreograph for a performer cast for their acting chops rather than their dancing abilities?
This is very common. My approach is to embrace what they have naturally and embellish on that, giving them pride of ownership and not discouraging them.

What dance classes did you, yourself, start in (jazz, modern, ballet)?
I was insatiable and pursued them all.

Which style of dance did you prefer when you began?
Modern.

You started your choreography career as Twyla Tharp's assistant on Milo Forman's Amadeus. Please tell us what Twlya first recognized in you and what lessons you learnt from her.
I can't really speak on what she saw in me, but I was determined. Regarding the lessons, that list is too long. But I will say she is a remarkable visionary and can stand proudly in the pantheon of the greats. 
Would you consider her your first mentor?
No, that honor would be my mother.
Can you briefly describe your experience as rehearsal director for the American Ballet Theatre's staging of The Sinatra Suites with Twyla and Baryshnikov?
Having been an original member of her NINE SINATRA SONGS, I knew most of the roles, so when Twyla and Misha condensed it to create The Sinatra Suites, I was asked to be the rehearsal director. It was such an honor. I was humbled by the opportunity to engage with these legendary artists.

Have you ever been awe-struck by the performer you're hired to work with?
I wouldn't say AWEstruck by anyone, but there have been many that have amazed me with their focus, talent and work ethic.

Your professional resumé contains so many name-dropping gems, we'd be here all week discussing them all. Sooo, allow me to name a few and you say a word or a sentence about each person or show you choreographed, OK?

The 78th Annual Academy Awards' production number of Oscar-winning song "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp"-
This was an extraordinary experience. I felt as if I was on the front line of a cultural mash-up.
So You Think You Can Dance -
Am so glad shows like this exist, and have brought dance into the living rooms of people who would not normally get a chance to experience it. Was happy to be part of it.

Dancing With the Stars -
Again, I like the accessibility to dance these shows provide, a fun one.
Kristen Chenoweth in Pushing Daisies -
A divinely charming, hard-working and talented artist.
Emmy nom for The Drew Carey Show -
Having done many episodes, I feel this was instrumental in changing dance on TV at the time. They worked really hard which I really appreciated.

Naomi Campbell in the  SuperBowl SOBE commercial -
She was willing, and beautiful.

Jane Krakowski in Trop 50 commercials -
Such a pro, and so full of willingness and talent.

Meryl Streep & Alec Baldwin in It's Complicated -
Really love the director, Nancy Meyers, and was really taken by Meryl's phenomenal ability to be in the moment, and her consistency. Alec was a lot of fun and willing.

Mel Gibson in What Women Want -
Simply loved his work ethic. He worked so hard, and never gave up.

RENT, the movie -
I'd have to say this was the most meaningful, in that the content, objective, and message were aimed at compassion, kindness and tolerance - virtues I cherish and prescribe to.

So what's in the near future for Keith Young? Any more directorial gigs?
I certainly hope so. I really love the opportunity to affect life through my art, and will hopefully continue to have the chance to honor my craft. I am in the process of creating a show that's been on my mind for a bit .

What dance steps would you love to see your SHOUT SISTER SHOUT! audience attempting as they leave Pasadena Playhouse?
I'd like to see them dance their way over to the box office to get tickets for them and their friends to see SHOUT again!!! 
Thanks again, Keith! I look forward to seeing your dancing feets SHOUT.
For tickets and schedule of SHOUT SISTER SHOUT! through August 20, 2017, log onto www.pasadenaplayhouse.org