Writer Par Excellence Shelly Goldstein Offers Sage Advice During Covid-19

Writer/actress/cabaret performer Shelly Goldstein is very popular worldwide and is in a constant state of motion with a unique sense of humor. In this special creativity interview she talks about just that. Especially wonderful is her advice to everyone to stretch your horizons and reach out to others.

DG: Overall, what are you doing during this horrible CoViD-19 period to stay creative?

SG: First of all, Don, thanks for reaching out. One of the positive aspects of this wackadoodle time is the return to old-fashioned phone calls between friends, and emails/texts that are a bit more personal than a typical 6-word message. It’s been great to actually have conversations with people. I didn’t realize how rare such calls had become and I hope they don’t disappear.

Human interaction inspires creativity.

I’ve been doing a lot of writing. Like everyone, I’ve lost a ton of work. Any gig I had on the books since mid-February was either cancelled or put on indefinite hold. That meant a lot of performances and many gala/award show events went away. The biggest disappointment was a gig where I was going to work with Julie Andrews on a lifetime tribute she was going to receive! But such is life. And “life” is what matters now.

My husband and I had a few projects that were in the works before this happened and we’re still inching those forward. There’s a series coming out this year in Europe called Cold Courage that we worked on: he wrote & Story Edited. I was a Script Consultant and I actually had the joy of writing a song lyric that is part of a key scene. Can’t wait to hear the final mix as, obviously, we weren’t able to be there as it was finishing post. I think it will air in the US in 2021.

And I also try to do a vocal warmup for every one of the 4,372 times each day I wash my hands.

DG: Have you been helping create projects online for people to watch or listen to?

SG: Yes! It’s a lifesaver.

My favorite thus far is a song parody I wrote (re-wrote Lee Adams great lyric) and uploaded to YouTube called “How Lovely When News Was Stupid.” It’s a parody of Bye Bye Birdie's song, “How Lovely to Be A Woman”, written by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse.

No production value! I’m just sitting in a chair in my living room. But it’s struck a nerve. It’s gotten thousands of views and shares and online posts. I’ve gotten some very kind emails from people telling me the song caused them to laugh for the first time in weeks. That’s a blessing.

This is the song. Please enjoy and share with anyone who could use a smile!

My friend Mark Evanier wrote a terrific parody about the mess we’re all in and he’s asked me to sing/record. As soon as I learn the lyric, it’s next up.

DG: What about interviews?

SG: I’ve done some online (ZOOM) theatre and interviews and just today was asked to write & perform a piece for a benefit for the Chicago Actor’s Fund.

When John Prine died, I was heartbroken. Loss of a giant. I adored his songs. A couple of years ago I wrote a concert special for the Lyric Opera called Chicago Voices that later became a PBS special. Prine was in the cast and he won an Emmy for his performance.

The night he died I kept crying and singing his songs. I’d done, “Angel From Montgomery” in a recent show and took that clip and put it online. It’s a perfect song and I love singing it. Playing/arranging is the great Doug Peck, who I met when he conducted and was the Music Director on Chicago Voices.

This is that video:

I have so many friends writing songs, recording songs, writing commentary/jokes – I think it’s so vital to have that outlet. I love seeing how singers, actors and writers are reacting to what we’re collectively experiencing.

I was so impressed by the song written by dear friends, Michele Brourman & Hillary Rollins, “While There is Still Time,” sung by another woman I adore – Maude Maggart. (I always say Maude’s is the voice that angels wish they had.) It had a touching video made by Christine Lavin who I’ve never met, but whose work I so admire. A gorgeous effort.

Seeing how other people are speaking out inspires me and makes me stronger. I am unofficially mentoring a few people – We keep in touch and I follow what they are doing.

I probably post much too much online – but it’s impossible not to see the insanity swirling around us and ignore it. I try to do it in a way that makes people smile and think – and I delete any responses that call for violence or cruelty. There’s enough of that in a million other places.

I feel like people are moving to a different place this week. Now that we’re sheltered-in-place for over a month, we’re all looking for the next step. I’ve started to get calls and e-mails asking my availability for writing special material or full shows/acts. I love how many performances are happening online and I’m always happy to help!

DG: Do you have any recommendations for people on how to extend their creativity? Should they stick to what they know best or venture into uncharted territory?

SG: If there ever was a time to venture into uncharted territory – it’s now! We are flooded with emotions right now – fear, uncertainty, impatience, vulnerability, anger, gratitude, love – if that doesn’t inspire a song or a script or a joke or a dance or a painting or an opera or a concert…what will?

This is a rare moment of stillness, although it’s impossible to be still in this political climate. We’re all feeling a ton of stress and anxiety. It’s helpful – emotionally, psychologically and physically – to challenge yourself.

One practical thing I need to learn how to do is add more production value to my videos. The days of just singing to camera aren’t enough anymore. I don’t have a green screen and don’t know how to do it…yet. But I am going to learn.

I finally got pulled onto Instagram – I’m GroovyShelly (and at Twitter also @GroovyShelly) Follow me! I’ll follow back.

If I’m not creating, the only options left are worrying/crying/obsessing – or eating carbs. I spent 3 years carb-free and that has gone out the window. I can attempt many things of value during a pandemic. Giving up pasta and bagels is not one of them!

There is so much literally at our fingertips right now. Go online. People are giving classes, sharing shows, major theatres and cabarets are streaming past productions. Take a class – then teach a class. This is a great time for bartering. What can I learn from you? What can I teach you?

No one knows how or when we get out of this, but when we do – I hope it’s with more of a sense of compassion and community. If we don’t learn it now, we never will.

DG: There are so many lies out there. It seems that we have to make our own truth and that is scary. Do you have any predictions on how and when this whole nightmare will be over?

SG: Wow. We must, must, must fight to keep the truth alive. We must dig for it and we must counter that dangerous lies that we face every hour of every day.

Right now, the single most important thing is to listen to the experts and leaders like Governor Cuomo, Newsom, Pritzker, Whitmer, Inslee. We also need to "Stay at Home!" Yes, there are a million other places we’d like to be free to go right now. Be patient. Tough it out. If you don’t want to do it for any other reason, do it to show respect for the medical personnel who are working superhuman hours to keep people alive. It’s literally the least we can do. We must “Stay the F Home!”

We all see how hard the medical first responders are working. The best way we can help them is to flatten the curve. Which means staying home. Another great way to help them is to send food to your nearest ER.

If a friend is alone or vulnerable, send them a GrubHub gift card or find out what you can send them.

I have no idea when this will be over – or even how it will be over. I know it will not absolutely end in one single day. But I can’t fathom what the stages will be that will put us on the road to “normal.”

I think it’s important to say, “I don’t know” when you don’t know. People don’t like those 3 little words and they also don’t like, “I was wrong.” The inability of some of our leaders to honestly say those 2 phrases when needed is one of the things that got us into this mess.

Spread facts. Spread science. Spread art. Spread love. Spread kindness & compassion – and a healthy heaping of dish. Keep washing your hands.

And to quote that great philosopher, Dolly Gallagher Levi (by way of Jerry Herman) – “Whatever you do, for God’s sake, KEEP BREATHING!”

Watch Shelly on YouTube, connect with her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

Spotlight Series: Meet Barbara Keegan, an Emmy Award-winning Actress

This Spotlight  focuses on Barbara “Bobbie” Keegan, an Emmy Award-winning actress who always says “yes” to the Santa Monica Playhouse and Theatre 68 who always travels with her adopted son, good luck charm and alter- ego, “Smitty the Magical Flying Purple Turtle.” I first met both of them during the second Hollywood Fringe Festival when Keegan took Best in Fringe honors headlining in the world premiere of Jon Courie's Jennifer Aniston Stole My Life, which Courie wrote specifically with her in mind.

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

Bobbie Keegan (BK): I made my Chicago stage debut at age 3, in a duet with my comedy godfather, first mentor and jester spirit-guide for all time - Danny Kaye. I also have the distinction of being the only performer ever to receive a special Emmy Award for my work in a local television commercial. But it all kicked into high gear when I was enjoying a stint as a tourist development authority ambassador (masquerading as beauty queen Miss Miami Beach) at the same time CBS and Universal Studios were in Miami scouting locations and talent and discovered me.

Soon I relocated to the West Coast to strengthen my commitment to both stage and screen, with scores of appearances and participation on the governing bodies of organizations such as First Stage, Theatre 40, and The American National Theatre and Academy.  The move also made me a presence in major motion pictures from Caddyshack, to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, from Disneyland (Saving Mr. Banks, Tomorrowland) to outer space (J.J. Abrams' Star Trek), as well as a slew of award-winning indie and festival projects. I also hosted my own TV series, The Handy Ma'am on PBS, and appeared as "Nell's Mom" on NCIS: Los Angeles (in which I was introduced in a Christmas episode, wearing antlers on my head), in addition to a wealth of classic episodic TV roles.

Los Angeles theater audiences have seen me in ten roles in the Pasadena Playhouse's award-winning Joined at the Head, five roles in the five yea- run of Bill W and Dr. Bob at Theatre 68, as well as original musicals from The Fantastics to the country-western Tanglin' Hearts to the politically-themed Campaign to the borscht-belt Mamaleh! and the occasional beloved classic such as the blarney-speaking Nurse in Romeo and Juliet for Merry War Theatre Group.

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

(BK) I was appearing in the comedy Mistakes Were Made...coulda-woulda-shoulda at The Santa Monica Playhouse, which was written by Jerry Mayer and directed by Chris DeCarlo.

(SB): How was the shutdown communicated to you?

(BK): As the coronavirus reports grew more serious, we suspected that we very well might be suspending performances at some point.  This was especially ironic for me, having only joined the cast in this extension of the show on Saturday, March 7.  So, I had my "opening" performance that night and we played our matinee on the following day, Sunday, March 8.  When we left the theatre that evening, we were already wondering if we would be playing the next weekend.  During the week, the reports grew more and more grim, and by “lucky” Friday the 13th, the Co-artistic Directors of Santa Monica Playhouse, Evelyn Rudie and Chris DeCarlo, emailed all of us to confirm that we were indeed suspending performances.  The irony is that this may turn out to be the shortest run of my life!

Mistakes Were Made First Night!

(SB): I know Mistakes Were Made has been running for a while as I reviewed it before you joined the cast. Do you know if plans are in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent?

(BK): Of course, this is a situation we've never experienced before, and so all plans are of necessity both hopeful and flexible. Evelyn tells me that there is every hope and expectation that we will re-open as soon as it is feasible to do so, and we're hoping to return this summer.

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

(BK):  I have kept my options open since there was already the possibility of further extensions of that show beyond our announced closing of April 26. And since everything is now up in the air, I want to be available for whatever dates we are able to bring Mistakes Were Made back on stage.

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

(BK): I try to post as many fun/funny/uplifting things as I possibly can.  My personal preference is to always try to only spread good news. A lovely recent festival competition-entry film I appeared in called Title 9 by Amy Campione, can be viewed at this link.

(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?

(BK): Oh, I love that you mentioned the Ghostlight!  That's actually something I posted just the other day on my Facebook page. Here's what I want to say: We WILL be back. My personal assignment-to-myself has been to use this time, however strange, as positively and healthily and lovingly as I possibly can.  I'm a do-it-yourselfer but also a lifetime member of the procrastinators club (well as soon as I get around to joining), so I've been trying to do at least one thing around the house per day. Fix something. Clean something.  Take care of the plants inside and out. Straighten a corner that's gotten out of hand, which seem to multiply daily.

It’s important to remember we're all creative artists, so let's create! Maybe you'll re-discover papier-mâché, or watercolors, or maybe you'll use that great idea you have and finally write that play!  But don't forget to take care of yourself, too. Stay healthy, both physically and mentally/spiritually. Move. Exercise as much as you can. Eat. Hydrate. (I'm mostly reminding myself about that, I regularly get "busy" with something and forget to eat or drink 'til I just about fall over, my friends will testify to this)

Most importantly, if you're by yourself (or not), REACH OUT and call people you love (yes, they will be home), write to them, text them, (but don't text me, I'm bad at it). BE KIND TO YOURSELF AND EVERYONE ELSE. We WILL get through this. And always remember, it’s all about the love! And I’d like to end by sending out lots of love and best wishes to everyone from my adopted “son,” good luck charm and alter-ego, “Smitty The Magical Flying Purple Turtle,” who is always at the theatre with me and has an even bigger web following than I do!

This article first appeared on Broadway World.