The world has forever changed. There is no doubt about that. The world changes all the time. The world of entertainment changes all the time. The most successful artists have been the ones who have been able to consistently adapt to those changes, adjust their approach, redirect their strategy, and provide the new required content.
So much has been written about the necessity of approaching your career as the business it must be in order to succeed. Look around you right now. Take notice of the businesses that are successfully adapting to change, adjusting their approach, redirecting their strategies, and providing the new required content. Learn from them so that you will be ready to hit the ground running when auditions open up again.
Auditions will open again. If you don’t believe that, then you should turn your focus right now to locating work in the least expensive, most attractive suburban community you can find.
If you do believe auditions will open up again, then you better get ready for your new world.
None of us can know exactly yet what the new world is going to look like. History tells us that entertainment will still be a commodity, no matter what the planet throws at us.
Auditions will open again and once they do, it will mean work for every artist in every field of this craft - unless they’re not ready. You are your commodity.
Here are some things you should be doing right now to get ready.
First, get healthy.
That’s actually the easiest one. We all know the hours can get crazy when we’re working on a project, especially if we are also working another job. That schedule presents far too many excuses for eating random crap at random times and washing it down with cocktails at whatever is open and still serving both.
Get healthy. Learn to prepare healthy food for yourself. It is a life skill that will serve you throughout your life and future career in anything. Make a commitment to yourself to treat your commodity better. Prepare your product for the showroom floor.
After you get healthy, get in shape.
If you’re in front of the audience, you need to realize it’s an aesthetic art. Look the part. If your roles are the “I’ve been sitting on my sofa eating my own homemade baked goods during quarantine” look, then rage on! Undoubtedly, the way that art mimics life, there will someday soon be auditions for those roles. Go for it.
If the audition you want is a “dashing leading role,” you had better get ready for your new world. The most beautiful aspect of this truth is in the also strong truth that most people will not take this simple advice, thus only enhancing the advantage of those who will.
Those who use this time to perfect their look for the roles they wish to have, will have far greater success than ever before in obtaining auditions for those roles when auditions open again. It just stands to reason. A lot of the business is about beating the odds.
Next, get educated.
The internet is an incredible thing. You can pretty much learn at least something about just about anything. Learn how to stitch a tear in a costume. It’s a very valuable skill that may save your own bum from being exposed some day. Learn how a camera operates so that you know better how to operate in front of a camera. Wow. Learn more about the details of how certain microphones work so you will know how to use them better. Learn how to use power tools so you can help build a set some day. Or maybe not.
There are so many things about our craft you don’t know that you could use this time to at least dabble into right now. Learn to edit your own reel. Woah, what?
Read scripts. Stop scrolling through everyone’s clever memes and photos of their homemade baked goods, and read some scripts. Read all types of scripts: plays, teleplays, radio plays, screenplays. Find a better understanding of the use of direction in the script. Discover roles or types of roles you want to play. Read them out loud to keep your face, tongue, lips, voice, and diaphragm from atrophy. Use your tools, or you will be rusty when your opportunity comes. Get on your feet and read some scripts!
Learn an entire new set of monologues to use for the new world of new auditions you are preparing for. Throw out that old piece your college theatre professor helped you perfect in your old world and learn a new piece. You’re a new artist preparing for your new world. This is a perfect time to refresh and renew your vigor for pursuing your craft by exploring new monologues to perfect.
Sharpen your skills and hone your edge. Remember what it was that made you want to pursue this craft as a career. Remember what inspired you to throw yourself into it. This is a time that has been thrust upon you. You get to decide how to use it. Or not.
Auditions will open up.
Get ready. Get healthy. Get in shape. Get educated. Read scripts. Learn new monologues. Remember why you’re here, and throw yourself into it.
When not practicing government-mandated social distancing, actors tend to be some of the most social people you can find, both on and off the job. From standing in line to audition at a cattle-call, to table reads, to rehearsal processes, the entire world of creating theater or cinematic art requires actors to be “social.” Add to the mix the after-rehearsal bar gatherings, wrap parties, opening night or premiere galas, and closing cast parties, and you find that social distancing is impossible for working actors.
Sometimes black box theater and indie film projects call on actors to quite literally be on top of each other in confined spaces that have been converted into makeshift dressing rooms, green rooms, and performance locations. Factor in love scenes and the social connectivity goes through the roof!
There is still no telling how the COVID-19 lockdown will forever change the dynamic of artists creating their art in limited spaces with limited resources. Perhaps when the threat has ended, it will be business as usual for small storefront theaters and backroom indie film projects. Perhaps new mandates will require an end to the type of close-quarters we have all worked in from time to time. Only time will tell.
In practicing our craft, we find ourselves connected to so many other artists in so many ways: physically, mentally, emotionally, even spiritually at times. It will be interesting to see how much more cognizant we will be of the physical connections we have with each other in the Post Covid Age.
When actor life resumes, perhaps stage managers will have to be more tolerant of actors missing rehearsal due to illness. They will certainly be adding massive amounts of hand sanitizer to their first aid kits and more hygiene talk in their backstage etiquette speeches. Dressing room divas may find new justification for demanding their own mirror space now. Love scenes may have to forever be cut from all scripts, and shared props eliminated during virus season. Let’s not even talk about rented and borrowed costume items. Wigs? Yuck!
If you’re smirking about the wigs line, that proves our artistic connections will not change. Our mutual love, appreciation, frustration, and anxieties about our art will remain the same. Our ability to create new and lasting bonds with our fellow artists will remain with us. I have connected with most of my closest friends in life through my craft. Some of those people I may never work with again, but they will always be treasured colleagues and lifelong friends.
The personal connections we make as artists sharing our art run the gamut of human relations. Mentors, friendships, family-like bonds, lovers, soulmates, and even sometimes enemies can be developed through working on a project together. In my lifetime, I have witnessed no fewer than 10 marriages result from relationships developed during the artistic process, and a few divorces as well. On at least one occasion, a divorce of two people led to a second marriage for one of them.
Then there are those awkward connections; the ones we sometimes don’t know how to break. Thanks to social media groups, we all have a string of project groups we are connected to down the sideline of our pages. If your list is anything like mine, some of those groups date back years. Forming a group page can be very helpful during the project to share information, contacts, schedules, etc. Yet, once the projects are over, there the groups awkwardly accumulate down the side of your page.
Sometimes a project is so fun or so successful, or so full of great people, the members of the group talk about the group continuing forever, reviving the show, working together again, or having regular get-togethers that almost never happen. Instead, every once in a while, someone from a past group will post something about the new project they are currently working on as a promotional effort which leads to additional awkward moments for everyone still connected to group. Do you ignore them? Do you respond and reopen that can of worms? Are you suddenly reminded to leave the group, but then hesitate because you don’t want the person to know you left the group right after they posted out of the blue after three years?
Nearly 150 productions into my career, I’ve found it’s best to cut ties where there are no true ties, and not be false about being further connected where you truly are not. There will be other “best cast ever” experiences in your life. There will be plenty of groups to add to the sideline of your page. The true lifelong relationships will continue to exist without the aid of the group, the stage manager on the project, or the director who brought you all together. You will still have your fondest memories of the project and the best people involved.
While you’re shut up inside during this historically unprecedented time of isolation, practice a little social media distancing and clean up your groups list. Reach out to any artists you worked with before whom you truly miss, and then archive that group or drop yourself out of it to make room for new groups, new experiences, and new connections to come in the Post Covid-19 Age.
With performance venues, productions, and businesses temporarily closing down to help deter the spread of the Coronavirus and protect public health, now is the time to implement or beef up your crisis management plan for the days to come, maintain your branding, and increase your online presence, while maintaining current social distancing requirements.
As part of a series, this column will highlight communication strategies for handling unpredictable circumstances and a variety of essential online tools and suggestions for you and your teams to implement in the coming days.
In addition, as productions may also be considering options for remote viewing of existing and ongoing productions, many of these tools can be used for such planned sharing and viewing of taped productions, with a potential for live performances as well. More on additional options for this feature in future articles for this column.
Plan for redundancies and have a backup plan for all of your critical functions in case you are cut off from key people, whether they are stranded, sick, or injured. You don't want to have a lack of access to that resource. With regard to redundancies, this includes planning for yourself as a resource.
Critical functions include all people, facilities, IT, finances, productions, and communications.
Dispersion: have information in different places and multiple places. Keeping things in your head is not good, so implement cross-training and document processes so “the show goes on.”
Telecommuting: what do telecommuting staff need, what are the protocols, documents, passwords and communication apps they need and provide a contact tree.
Formal closures: provide a closing plan to your facilities that include security, backups, and all the in and outs of staff, when necessary and possible to those facilities.
Look to the future of scanning tickets instead of hard tickets and provide that staff open doors for patrons. This may seem to be moot for the moment, but it is something to consider for the future in order to help ease patrons who may be feeling emotional aftershocks when life returns to normal and they return to live performances at your brick and mortar venues.
Another thing to consider is to make sure that your cancellation policies are formally written. Hourly workers can get disincentivized if not paid, and you will need to think of ways to keep morale high prior to their eventual return.
Engage your Board and create communication and document sharing pipelines between all departments and staff so that you are all on the same page.
Pipelining Tools and Watch Parties
Here are a few online communication portals that I recommend for implementing communications, creative sharing, researching, auditioning, and even remote performance viewing for your audiences. Each site has different features that enable various levels of viewing, information and file sharing, and chatting, so review each to determine which one will work best for you and your teams.
Producers Matthew S. Robinson and Robby DeVillez of Red Flag Media Productions have been using such online tools to continue their audition process for their upcoming production of "Glamour," through facetime remote meetings.
“We were supposed to have in-person auditions this weekend,” said DeVillez. “But now we switched to self-submissions and video conference for those who would rather have the "face-to-face" experience.”
“We are using Zoom and Skype for remote auditions and Google Forums for them to sign,” said Robinson.
Twoseven runs straight from your browser and supports Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, Amazon, HBO, and private videos that either person has on their computer. Access to several of these requires their Chrome extension. You can create a Private Room, allow participants to use webcam/mic in the room, or only allow admins control of videos and playback. The site allows for chat or muted chat during the video and the Chrome extension informs you if a video on a given website is supported. Note: The app may no longer work with Netflix, but that appears to have patches in place or in the works. Amazon was tricky and must have access to cookies, so check your settings.
A subscription service for those wanting to share music videos or YouTube clips rather than entire movies or TV shows, Plug.DJ creates a private room for a chat and share and there is a feature to line up a list of videos. It also allows you to leave it running on a big screen and remote viewers can join through the app. Register for an account or sign in through Facebook. This looks to work for content that is already published, however it is unclear if it works with YouTube Live content.
Aside from facetime calls, Skype users with accounts can also share a browser in a video chat to review videos, PowerPoint presentations, and share other file and image viewing. The call administrator of the meeting has exclusive control of viewed content and there is no file-sharing ability, but this is another great way to get everyone on the same page.
Syncplay is a free tool that allows you to sync video streams with staff and viewers and is a multi-platform compatible with some video player apps such as VLC, KM Player and Media Player Classic. Content must be stored locally on your hard drive, but once set up you can hit play.
Another for watching video content together in groups in real-time. You create a Room on the home page, add a nickname, and the app opens a video and chat room. Add members to the chat from there and they can join the existing Room. Video source choices are from YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion, and even audio from SoundCloud.
Great for creative content producers who desire to do group research on story, structure, and other techniques is Netflix Party, a browser extension exclusive to Chrome for use with Netflix. It only needs to be installed on one computer, then users can synchronize Netflix video playback on multiple computers. Install the extension, then open Netflix and choose a film or show to watch. Once the video loads, pause it and click on the red “NP” button in the top right of your browser and a unique link will be created to send to your staff. Invitees are directed to your virtual room to watch in sync and it includes a simple text chat interface. The biggest advantage to Netflix Party is that only one person needs to have the extension installed with access to one subscription and can invite participants into the Room.* New users are given a free trial period, but everyone must have Netlfix and the Chrome extension. However, because it is connected through Chrome, participants can only access through their computers.
Sync Video creates a private room with registration. It is free, but registering is a requirement. The private virtual room is permanent, which enables you to this room each time you require it. You just invite staff once you are in to join. It allows Vimeo and YouTube videos to be added and saved to playlists to be watched at any time. New rooms and new nicknames can also be created at any time. There is also the option to make your room public for larger viewing audiences.
This one incorporates VoIP capabilities and a free voice chat while watching videos online. Groups can use hours of free voice chatting and people can be invited via social media accounts such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and email and there is no registration requirement. In the voicechats, videos from DailyMotion, Vimeo, and YouTube can be shared, and up to 5GB of video may be uploaded to a custom user space in a variety of video formats. Registered accounts allow up to 5GB space for video uploads to myCloud storage, a use profile, and a history of invitations.
Plex VR allows you to share a Space virtually. Great for live tours of a venue or space, location scouting, and virtual immersive theatre. You can chat, watch videos sourced from one media library through Plex, and sync. Users are, however, able to change the size and the position of the screen, so effecting setting protocols may be necessary to establish in advance, depending on your use. In order for it to work, all participants must have Google Daydream, Gear VR or Oculus Go-compatible hardware, so there is a pre-expense involved in the process by all viewers.
Crisis Media Management provides assistance with connectivity, online communication tools, and strategic social media management to boost your project marketing, retain and improve audience visibility, and reach new audiences.
Theatrical shows registered on the Better Lemons calendar! For more shows visit our Calendar.
For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page.
Two Trains Running at Matrix
The team behind last year's acclaimed Ovation, LADCC, and Stage Raw award-nominated production of August Wilson's “King Hedley II” returns to the Matrix with another installment of the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright's “American Century Cycle” the playwright's decade-by-decade exploration of the black experience in 20th century America. It's 1969 in Pittsburgh's Hill District, where the regulars of Memphis Lee's restaurant struggle to cope with the turbulence of a world that is rapidly changing around them.
USC School of Dramatic Arts presents: CHILDREN OF THE SUN
Maxim Gorky's darkly comic play is set in Russia on the eve of the revolution. The country's new middle class flounders about, philosophizing and flirting, blind to their impending annihilation. Protasov wants only to immerse himself in his experiments and is oblivious to the advances of the half-crazed widow and his best friend's pursuit of his wife, let alone the cholera epidemic and the starving mob.
Meet Peter Gnit, a recklessly aspiring, self-deluded anti-hero. This twisted adaption of Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt is a rollicking and cautionary tale that challenges what we think we know about this classic character. At this unique moment in U.S. history, the questions and problems raised are alive with relevance.
Coyotes evading police. Billboards predicting the end of the world. It's been a strange day at the office, and it's only 9 a.m. Moving floor by floor from the basement to the roof, scenes between employees in a corporate office explore the angst-ridden relationships between those that people often take most advantage of: their coworkers.
USC School of Dramatic Arts presents: THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA
Young Proteus only has eyes for his hometown sweetheart, Julia. But one look at the beautiful Silvia on a trip to Milan changes everything. Now he's smitten with his best friend's lover and his sweetheart has no intention of going away quietly. Events spin out of control as romantic rivals face off in this wild comic tale.
Coleman Shedman arrives at the rural meeting house of a southern Pentecostal sect with a lawyer in tow, seeking to retrieve his runaway wife (and the possessions she has taken with her). But his wife, Nancy, is unwilling to forsake the love and protection of her new “husband,” the Reverend Obediah Buckhorn, and return to the brutal, hard-drinking Coleman. Rich with atmosphere and the feel of Southern rural life, the play blends humor and poignancy as it probes into the circumstances and stories of the various cult members.
USC School of Dramatic Arts presents: THE BUSYBODY
First performed in 1709, this brilliantly witty and fast-paced comedy follows the characters Miranda and Isabinda as they attempt to arrange marriages to the men they love. Meanwhile, the hapless “busy body” Marplot tries to help his friends, but his valiant efforts only succeed in leading them closer towards disaster.
USC School of Dramatic Arts presents: SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE
Inspired by the painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's stunning musical masterpiece, merges past and present into beautiful, poignant truths about life, love and the creation of art. One of the most acclaimed musicals of our time, this moving study of the enigmatic painter, Georges Seurat, won a Pulitzer Prize and was nominated for an astounding 10 Tony Awards, including best musical.
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's action-adventure-fantasy conjures a mythical, magical meta-universe in which evil sorcerer Prospero steps out of the pages of Shakespeare's The Tempest and threatens death and destruction in modern-day Manhattan. To combat this supernatural foe, a quartet of unlikely heroes (including a dramaturg with magical powers) will emerge from the ashes to save the city and its citizens from complete and utter destruction.
USC School of Dramatic Arts presents: QUEEN MARGARET
Margaret of Anjou becomes the central character of her own story in this edit of William Shakespeare's first tetralogy of history plays (Henry VI, Parts 1 -3; and Richard III). Intrigue, betrayal, romance and revenge play out as Margaret evolves from daughter to bride to queen to avenging warrior and grieving widow. Our BFA sophomores tell her tale of resilience, resolve and charisma.
Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach features a wickedly tuneful score by the Tony & Academy Award-winning team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Dear Evan Hansen, La La Land, The Greatest Showman)and a curiously quirky book by Timothy Allen McDonald...When James is sent by his conniving aunts to chop down their old fruit tree, he discovers a magic potion that results in a tremendous peach and launches a journey of enormous proportions.
As the British Industrial Revolution dawns, young Ada Byron Lovelace (daughter of the flamboyant and notorious Lord Byron) sees the boundless creative potential in the “analytic engines” of her friend and soul-mate, Charles Babbage, inventor of the first mechanical computer. Ada envisions a whole new world where art and information converge – a world she might not live to see. A music-laced story of love, friendship, and the edgiest dreams of the future. Jane Austen meets Steve Jobs in this poignant pre-tech romance heralding the computer age.
A hidden discovery in a hotel bathroom changes the lives of four Korean American Christian girls on a mission trip to Thailand. Samantha is hurt that someone she trusted could betray her. Jen is worried about how this might affect her college applications. Kyung-Hwa thinks everyone should adjust their expectations. Mimi's out for blood. Amid the neon lights and go-go bars in Bangkok, the girls plot revenge in this funny, feminist thriller.
Thomas Novachek is a playwright/director looking for the perfect actress to play the lead in his adaptation of Leopold Sacher Mashoch's novella, Venus in Furs. He hasn't had much luck and is ready to call it a day when a very late arrival bursts into the room in a wave of chaos. This actress appears to be the worst of a bad lot. Despite his protestations, she manages to cajole him into letting her read and from that point on the night veers into titillating and uncharted territory where Thomas' biases and desires are laid bare. Venus in Fur is about human relationships, gender power dynamics and the matrix of stereotypes and assumptions that root seeming subversions. Its dark comedy and sexually charged scenarios provide fertile soil for exploration of subconscious and culturally mired desires, motivations, and expectations.
The Bard's most intimate of family tragedies about the terrible force of love and the breakdown of a man who has everything—power, position, and passion—only to find his world decimated through intense mind games with his ensign. Prescient in its searing social commentary of prejudice, betrayal, and thwarted ambition, Shakespeare's thunderous drama examines who we trust and the price we pay for choosing wrong.
We find our twins on the eve of their 18th birthday in the kingdom of GillyGate. One is set to take the throne while the other sits in her tower with only a dragon to keep her company. Unbeknownst to both, a prophecy is about to unfold much to the dismay of their uncle, Lord Grimbert, who will do anything to stop a woman from taking the throne with the help of his trusty talking high horse. A musical tale woven together by a misfit traveling ensemble, this show will take you back to the Ren Faire. Full of bawdy, drunken fun mixed with some good ol' audience interaction, this show is fun for your whole family!…well maybe not your kids.
For the misfits of Skid Row, life is full of broken dreams and dead ends. Seymour Krelborn is a meek and dejected assistant at a floral shop who happens upon a strange plant, which he affectionately names “Audrey II” after his crush at the shop. Little does he know that this strange and unusual plant will develop a soulful R&B voice, a potty mouth, and an unquenchable thirst for human blood. As Audrey II grows bigger and meaner, the carnivorous plant promises limitless fame and fortune to Seymour, as long as he continues providing a fresh supply of blood ... Featuring an electrifying early 1960s-style score from Alan Menken and book and lyrics by Howard Ashman.
In a backyard deep within a canyon during Labor Day weekend 2016 — before everything in America changed — we meet a newlywed couple and a Mexican father and son as they all try their best to find a better view. IAMA Theatre Company partners with the Latino Theater Company to present an immersive staging of this driving new play that takes a look at what happens when two families are rocked by an unpredictable accident that changes their lives forever. A look at gender, citizenship, and the costs of trying to live a conventional American life
The West Coast premiere of the acclaimed off-Broadway hit by Nicky Silver (Broadway's The Lyons). Celebrated actress Audrey Langham reaches her breaking point while rehearsing Medea in Chicago — walking off the stage, out of the production and into her married daughter's summer house in Cape Cod, where her unexpected and unwelcome arrival sets off a chain of events alternately hilarious and harrowing.
Phalaris's Bull: Solving the Riddle of the Great Big World
Harvard-educated molecular biologist, visual artist and provocative visionary philosopher, Steven Friedman has the answers to life's big questions. Using personal narrative, poetry, art, and science, he delivers a spell-binding performance reflecting his prismatic, transformative and deeply consoling vision of the world. Friedman offers a solution to the worlds pain based not on belief or faith but on logical rigor a philosophy starting from Kierkegaards story of an ancient torture device, Phalariss bull, that turns the terrible sounds of pain into music. To create is to enter Phalariss bull, and our pain becomes beauty.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Blanca.
What forces of nature brought your talents to REAL WOMEN?
I met Josefina López in 2010 when I went to see a show at CASA 0101, and started teaching dance in her theater. She invited me to audition for a couple of her plays. Later she mentioned that auditions were going to be at the Pasadena Playhouse for REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES, and I got the part of Carmen. I immediately fell in love with the play.
What works of Josefina are you familiar with, either on stage or in film?
I had the opportunity to work on her play A CAT NAMED MERCY and REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES a couple of times, among others; and I took several of her workshops.
Would you describe your character that you play in REAL WOMEN?
Just as any Latina mother that comes from their country with the dream to find a better live for their families. She has strong values, tradition and, at the same time, feels she's the pillar of the family. Works hard to keep things going, and just like any other mother, tends to be a bit dramatic or manipulative when it's convenient. Extremely funny, open minded in many ways and loves chisme (gossip)!
Does this character remind you of anyone you know in your personal life?
My mom, my aunties, and many moms that I know, especially Latinas.
You've done over forty plays. You said you played Carmen before?
Yes, I played Carmen before at the Pasadena Playhouse in 2015. In 2016, we did a series of readings for schools, in which I played the same role.
What shows have you seen at the Garry Marshall Theatre (formerly the Falcon)?
This is my first time at this theater acting or as an audience.
You were the voice of Emcee in the Oscar-winning Coco. I know voice work sometimes is recorded without everyone involved in the particular scene. Did you record Emcee by yourself or with some of the performers you introduced?
I recorded the voice first. Then they showed me the final image of the character. I was told that it got the shape based on my voice. I recorded along with the directors and the producer.
How long after you did your recordings, did you actually get to experience the finished Coco on the big screen?
I recorded in January of 2017, and got invited to the premiere on November 8 at El Capitan Theater.
I couldn't believe I was crying watching a cartoon. What was your initial reaction to Coco?
I was so happy and honored to be able to share with the world our great tradition, folklore and culture. Mexico is the real winner in this movie.
You've been the director and choreographer for Tierra Blanca Dance Company since 1996. What changes have you noticed in the Los Angeles dance and theatre community in the twenty-something years since you started?
In 1996, there were few Mexican dance companies. I was not aware of all the great diversity that there was in L.A. But, now with all the media, a lot of different Mexican Folk companies were formed, and we get to know other cultures through their folk dance companies. People are more aware of the different cultures. This helps people to understand where other people come from and, therefore, more barriers are down once you get to see and understand a country with a dance.
You're the choreographer for the short Jalisco. When did you start learning your traditional folklorico dancing?
When I was 17 years old, at the Instituto Cultural Cabañas in Guadalajara. I belonged to the Ballet Folkorico de las Americas.
Did you want to be a dancer or an actor when you were growing up? Or both?
I wanted to be a lawyer, but I started dancing. Dancing took me to acting.
Any plans to revive your one-woman show that you played at the Bohemian Café?
Yes, actually I am writing and working on my first one-woman show in English. Hopefully in 2019, I will have it ready.
In theater, I just finished doing the Short and Sweet festival on September 28, 29 and 30. Then comes Pastorela El Ermitaño in December 2018, and TOO MANY TAMALES also in December 2018. As choreographer, I am working with The Rogue Company in their current play. SEñOR PLUMMER'S FINAL FIESTA, still running with several shows with my dance company to celebrate dia de muertos (October and November). And, finally, I got booked in the role of Carmen for a production that will take place in Texas in the spring of 2019.
Expanded and polished, Matthew Scott Montgomery's multi-award-winning DEAD BOYS begins at the Celebration Theatre July 1, 2018. Matthew's one-act on two millennials trapped alone in their old high school basement morphed into a full-length dark, but comedic piece. Matthew most amiably agreed to answer my probing inquiries.
Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Matthew!
How did you originally come up with the premise of DEAD BOYS? You weren't in a trapped situation somewhere before, were you?
Well, it started because I love two-person shows! I got addicted to the idea of working on one after acting in a workshop of a two-person play called COROMANDEL, by Nick Johnson with EST LA. It seems like the purest form of acting to me - just two people for 80 minutes. There's no hiding! So I definitely set out to write a two-hander, and knew I wanted to tackle race and sexuality, and the first draft happened very quickly. I basically took a long weekend marinating with these two characters in mind and I just went with where they were taking me. And the "trapped" aspect and the bit-of-horror element that came along with it kind of happened organically. My personality is really upbeat and find myself doing comedy a lot, but underneath, I'm actually more drawn to dark side of things - and I love a good twist. One person who saw DEAD BOYS last summer called it a millennial Brokeback Mountain meets Moonlight meets 10 Cloverfield Lane, and that feels really apt!
Your 2017 production of DEAD BOYS won a number of awards. Can you give us a run-down of your various initial reactions to being notified of your honors (City of West Hollywood: One City One Pride Scholarship Award-winner, Best of Fringe, Encore! Producers Award, and a Diversity in American Theater Award finalist)?
The scholarship grant I got as part of WeHo's One City One Pride was TOTALLY unexpected and really exciting. That was also awarded before we opened, it was just based off of the script, so I thought, "Maybe I'm onto something here!" It definitely helped build anticipation to give us that boost of buzz before we had our first performance and I felt like I had a lot to prove to live up to that scholarship. At the same time, I didn't think ahead too much, mostly just focused on putting on the best show we could each performance at a time, so the fact that we got extended so many times thanks to the Encore! Award was a thrill. To be recognized by Fringe specifically felt very COOL, like I was at the cool table, and to be a finalist for Diversity in American Theatre was really special too. DEAD BOYS poses some tough questions and is really frank in the character's points-of-view, but it's actually a celebration of diversity; I'm really glad it was and is continuing to be seen as that.
This isn't your first dance at Celebration. You acted in revolver in 2013 at their former location on Santa Monica Blvd. Was revolver your first collaboration with Celebration?
revolver was my first time ACTING with them. DEAD BOYS is my first time co-producing with them and my first time on the Lex stage! I feel like I'm in great company with a lot of the actors and shows. I'm such a big fan of that have come before me. I love the whole team at Celebration and revolver was a lot of fun. When I did DEAD BOYS as part of Fringe, multiple people commented that it seemed like a good fit for Celebration, and I agreed. And I had been talking with Todd Milliner, who has worked on several shows there, for a few years about potentially working on something together. He and the literary director Nate Frizzell and one of our producers Tom DeTrinis have always been champions of my work and they're great friends; they came to see it last year, we stayed in touch about it and the timing worked out great. Tom and Jay Marcus, our other producer, are incredible and have been really enthusiastic about it.
Tell us what factors led you to exercise your creative chops at the Celebration.
I couldn't be happier that DEAD BOYS' first official home is at a place that is known for being a beacon in Los Angeles LGBT entertainment. The show has definitely evolved since last year - it was a one act then and now it's a full-length. I had invaluable help working on it in The Living Room Series at The Blank Theatre; Beth Bigler and the whole team over there really brought DEAD BOYS to life (pun intended). I consider both theaters homes of mine, but it was important to me to embrace the queer aspects of the story as much as possible, so Celebration was a perfect fit. Celebration is such a great name for the company because it's exactly that - celebrating all things LGBT. They do such respected and important work and are always telling colorful stories; I'm really honored to be co-producing with them.
When did you become a company member of Celebration?
2013 when I did revolver. I was hooked!
How do you address Celebration's four Michaels (Kricfalusi, Matthews, O'Hara, Shepperd) when they're in the same room? Nicknames? Last names? Michael #1, #2, #3, #4?
Ha, ha! GREAT question! Michael Kricfalusi is "Kric." Michael Matthews is "Michael Matthews." I'm not sure why this is, but for me; it's always the full name! Michael O'Hara is "O'Hara." And Michael Shepperd is "Shep." Please don't ask me to pick a favorite!
Did you grow up wanting to be an actor or a writer? Or both?
I've always wanted to be an actor, even if at the time I didn't know how to articulate that. Like the character Levi in DEAD BOYS, I didn't grow up in an environment with a lot of obvious outlets to act, so if you kind of trace back and look, that's what I was always trying to do. Writing came hand-in-hand with that a lot because I wanted to perform, but didn't know how to get started. So I'd write stuff for myself. One time in school, I wrote a musical for me and friends to do just in a classroom - guerrilla style - like we met there at 4PM and kind of just did it for ourselves. After working on TV for a few years, I was so surprised how many of my co-stars didn't do theater or know much about it, and I was like, "That's it! I'm taking you to a play so you can see what it's all about!" And they weren't always enthusiastic about that - but if I was in and/or wrote something, they were more prone to see it. So honestly, that's kind of what I did. So writing has always come from the immediacy of wanting to act.
Who were your writing idols growing up?
I'm a huge fan of Kevin Williamson and Joss Whedon. And R.L. Stine.
Would you say you have two distinctly different groups of fans - those of your Disney Channel shows and those of your Celebration and Del Shores work?
Ha, ha, I definitely think that's true. Doing YELLOW with Del was my big break really. That got me recognized by Disney Channel. I started working on the channel while the show was still running. Then, literally the day after it closed, I was full time working for Mickey Mouse for a couple years. It was a strange transition. I had a lot of grown, mostly gay men recognizing me around town for my theater work, and then overnight, it became mostly teenage girls recognizing me for the TV work.
Have the two groups ever mash-up?
Sometimes! Theater helps them mash-up actually. It's always really fun and means so much to me when fans of my work on Disney or people who follow my social media come to see me onstage. For some, DEAD BOYS was their first play they had ever seen. There were adults from the traditional theater world and young adults who know me from TV or Instagram/YouTube who travelled to see the show last summer and were there in the audience together. And I think they both identified with it in different ways, both equally rewarding. Because DEAD BOYS deals with the emotional fall-out of high school, I think millennial audiences can identify with it because of the freshness of that experience. Older audiences can appreciate the things that have never really changed about school and being haunted by it. There's something so volatile and intense, and sometimes sexy, and sometimes heartbreaking about high school that stays with everyone, I think.
Describe the evening at the LADCC ceremony in 2010 you won Best Actor for your role in Del Shores' YELLOW.
That was pretty surreal, one of the best nights of my life probably. I actually on set that day, and I wasn't sure I was going to make it on time to the ceremony. We were filming a scene where I got ketchup sprayed in my hair. I raced to take a shower in my dressing room as soon as we wrapped and barely made it on time. YELLOW was the most rewarding job. Del and the whole cast was really a family, so that night was a blur of pure love. I brought the award with me to work the next day to show a friend, and it was at our table read and our show runner asked me, "What was it that?" And I did a little show-and-tell. That felt cool. I was like "See! This was that thing I kept talking about!"
Any plans for taking DEAD BOYS on the road, or to another city?
You know I was just talking about that with Del Shores the other day. He thinks Palm Springs could be a good fit! I'm also a big fan of Diversionary Theatre in San Diego. I love Los Angeles and the theater scene here - when stuff is good here, it's REALLY good - and so I'm proud to be a part of the scene here for the time being. But I do want to share it with a lot of people, and I do have followers online who live all over. Any excuse to perform it anywhere, or to have it performed anywhere, is a gonna be a good excuse for me!
Can you share what your next script will be dealing with?
I have a couple ideas, and they're equal parts sexy and spooky. There may be a ghost involved... I told you I'm drawn towards dark side of stuff!
What reactions would you like the Celebration audiences to leave with after the curtain call of DEAD BOYS?
There's a part of the show that's in Spanish, and even though a good portion of the audiences may not speak the language, I think they'll "get" what's being said. Also, even though I mentioned the darkness in it and the logline is fairly dramatic, it's also a really funny show. Tragedy and comedy can be so close to each other. So I hope they laugh with, and fall in love with the characters like I have - they're both complicated and imperfect, and the show is a lot of fun. When we did it at Fringe, I was blown away by how different types of people identified with it in different ways. I had a friend who is a straight white woman that was very moved by it. I have a younger friend who is biracial and bisexual and she was very moved by it. And we've had a lot of return audience members who've brought friends. That has been a gift that's kept on giving.
Thank you again, Matthew! I look forward to seeing your BOYS.
No, thank YOU! Insert a "dead" pun here that's in REALLY good taste! I'll knock 'em dead? I don't know!
An Angeleno for decades now, the internationally-produced playwright Henry Ong always manages to find his way back to his home base in Los Angeles (FABRIC at Pasadena Playhouse, SWEET KARMA at The Grove Theatre, to name a few of his works). The prolific writer's latest world premiere THE BLADE OF JEALOUSY will open June 24, 2018 at the Whitefire Theatre. We managed to find a few spare moments of Henry's time to pick his creative brain on L.A. theatre and always giving back.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview with me, Henry!
The original draft of THE BLADE OF JEALOUSY came from your involvement with Jon Lawrence Rivera and Golden Tongues. Can you elaborate on this 2015 association?
I was invited and commissioned to participate in Golden Tongues, which is a joint project by Playwrights' Arena (Jon's the Artistic Director) and UCLA's William Andrews Clark Memorial Library. The purpose of the project is to draw attention to the vastly untapped treasures of the Golden Age of Spanish theater. Playwrights were asked to pick a play and re-interpret it in a contemporary setting. I picked Tirso de Molina's LE CELOSA DE SI MISMA (JEALOUS OF HERSELF) and modernized it against the backdrop of Los Angeles.
What inspired you to adapt Tirso de Molina's LE CELOSA DE SI MISMA (JEALOUS OF HERSELF) into THE BLADE OF JEALOUSY?
After poring through a catalogue containing hundreds of untapped plays, I was immediately struck by the vibrancy of the story and the madcap quality of JEALOUS OF HERSELF. Tirso de Molina is himself an interesting character. He was not only a Catholic friar; he was also a successful playwright writing under a pseudonym. The story of a woman who became jealous of herself was simply too delicious to ignore! For me, it also raises questions about society's obsession with beauty and its implications. Apparently, it was no different during 17th century Spain.
What did you learn from your one-nighter at the Odyssey Theatre in August 2016? Any particular audience reaction take you by surprise?
The reading at the Odyssey was magical. We had a sold-out house. And a “red carpet” event, for crying out loud! We, playwrights, never know how our work will be received until it is staged, but the reading was a good gauge that perhaps we were ready for a mass audience. Generally, I had very positive feedback. I don't remember anyone expressing anything negative. There was a lot of laughter throughout the show, and I don't think they were just being polite.
Are there a lot of tweaks from that 2016 reading to this world premiere at Whitefire?
I have done several edits to trim the “fat.” As we rehearse, we are delving into the deeper issues. Hopefully, the comedy goes deeper than just mistaken identity—that deep down, there is also human connection and love. There's a fine balance between being in your face and being subtle. That's what I'm working on at the moment. In the back of my mind, I wonder whether it will work when you have actors try different things. With different casts, the coloring of the play changes somewhat as well.
Any of the actors from your 2016 show back for this Whitefire production?
Unfortunately, the actors were unavailable for this production (e.g. one is moving out of town, another is in India at the moment, etc.) There is also the situation which does not allow us to use Equity actors. So, we have a brand new cast.
How did you come up with the name of your production company - Blue Apple Productions?
Actually this particular production is co-produced by Whitefire Theatre and Artists Against Oppression (AAO), a non-profit organization whose primary mission is to encourage artistic projects in the community that have a charitable bent. We have an arrangement with Thai Community Development Center to honor its Executive Director, Chancee Martorell who supported a number of my artistic endeavors like FABRIC and THE BOONSOM PALAT STORY. There will be at a special event prior to opening for this event, and it will raise monies for Thai CDC as well.
Blue Apple is the literal translation of the name, “Jiang Qing.” She was Chairman Mao Zedong's wife and widow. My first play, Madame Mao's Memories, is based on her life. Because that play defined me as a playwright, I have fond memories of it. Hence, I thought using her adopted name would be an interesting one for my production company.
How does one become a 16-time recipient of Department of Cultural Affairs Artist-in-Residence grants?
By applying for grants with the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. I was lucky. I submitted 16 project ideas, all of which were funded. My main proposal was to conduct oral history projects in various underserved or minority communities; it's a way of giving back to the community. I learned that regular people, not just artists, are hungry to tell their stories. It's more about the participants than it is about me, but in the process, I learn about the various communities as well. I've done oral history projects in the Filipino, Chinese, Korean, Thai communities, as well as partnered with Marlton School, Los Angeles' only day school for the deaf and hearing impaired students, to stage several plays for youth. The school had hitherto not done any Asian plays, and there's such a wealth of Asian folktales, so it was a very happy partnership for several years.
Was your six-hour DREAM OF THE RED CHAMBER atWHY DREAM IN INGLEWOOD? part of this grant award?
No, DREAM OF THE RED CHAMBERresulted from an IGAPP (Inglewood Growing Artists Performed Projects) initiative awarded by the City of Inglewood. It gave me the opportunity to revisit my six-hour adaptation of the Chinese classic novel, Dream of the Red Chamber, a story I grew up with. What a treat to be able to use the beautiful Inglewood Amphitheater and park, as well as its Agee Playhouse theater as the setting to tell this epic tale! We had 13 actors taking on some 70 roles, performing all over the park, over an entire day, with breaks in between, of course. Additionally, we did half the play on one day, and the other half on another. We were also able to use some members of the audience as “actors” for bit lines, which they seemed to enjoy.
How involved are you with your scripts once they get produced past their premieres? Do you partake in any creative decisions? Do you watch rehearsals and give notes?
I do. I try and attend every rehearsal and I like getting various viewpoints, especially from the director. I don't always agree, but I appreciate that everyone wants to do the best for the play. Ultimately, as the playwright, I have final say on whether or not to include suggested changes. And, yes, I do give notes, but always through the director.
Once your plays are published, how flexible are you with any script changes?
I feel that no play is set in stone although, after publication, unless I'm actively involved, any production will have to deal with the published version rather than alter the script.
Did you have any creatives you looked up to in your formative years?
I wasn't originally trained to be a playwright. As with many Asian families, my parents wanted me to be a doctor. So I had to “prove” to them that I had no aptitude for medicine. By which time, I'd graduated with a science degree. I hated my years having to study disciplines I had no interest in, so when I graduated, I decided I would follow my own path. Not knowing what that would be, except that I wanted to write, I became a journalist for a while. I took a UCLA playwriting class, and that was enough for me to decide that that was what I wanted to do. There was a lot of catching up to do, so I immersed myself in reading plays, seeing them when I could. My favorite playwrights were Tennessee Williams and William Inge (the gay ones!). I also looked at Asian playwrights, such as David Henry Hwang and Philip Kan Gotanda. I'm glad to see there are a number of Asian playwrights now making their mark on the national stage.
How has the Los Angeles theatre community changed in all the years you've been active in it?
My goodness, there's so much theater in Los Angeles. It took me a while to navigate through all the theaters, and I'm still discovering. I like the fact that many productions companies just do it! I even appreciate "bad" theater. No one produces a show to be bad. So there's something to be said for the effort, and there's always something to learn from any production. Plays are also getting shorter. Gone are the three-acts (well, mostly gone!). Today, more and more plays are one-acts, but not any less substantial. The Equity situation certainly is a game-changer. There are so many actors I would love to have worked with on THE BLADE OF JEALOUSY, but we can't. While we appreciate that actors need to get paid, by the same token, they need to constantly exercise their creative muscle. Unless they belong to a membership company, many actors are barred from productions that cannot afford to pay actors more than a minimal wage. Hey, being in a show beats taking acting classes (for which actors pay!).
What emotions would you like Whitefire audiences to leave with after THE BLADE OF JEALOUSY's curtain call?
For this play, I want people to have fun, and at the same time think about the underlying idea of self-esteem and how that's linked to our concept of beauty. I think this play touches on that—excuse the pun—beautifully! I would love it if people can see in the characters, glimpses of themselves. In many of my plays, I would love it if audiences are moved by the message and cry. In this, I hope they are moved to laugh. I remember someone telling me, God loves laughter. I want to my audience to laugh. Pure and simple.
What's in the immediate future for Henry Ong?
I go with the flow. I never know where my next inspiration will come. For instance, last year, I was asked if I would write a play about sexual abuse by Thai Community Development Center (CDC). It was the last thing I wanted to do, but I was game. So we did a movement piece (I asked my friend Donna Eshelman to choreograph) called THE BOONSOM PALAT STORY (title may change), and we presented it at a Thai CDC event. My friend who is opening a Thai restaurant later this year has indicated that I'm welcome to stage it in her restaurant anytime I would like.
I've had several people approach me about writing projects, but I'm considering them one at a time. What I know is, I would love to go beyond just writing plays. I would love to collaborate. I would love to incorporate movement, music, and stage plays in non-traditional spaces. Come to think of it, I've done some of these already! But more. I have several projects in the works, but we'll see if they come to fruition. Some are big, some are simple to execute, but always these projects have to excite me. We'll see. Or I may just not do anything. I remember several years ago, I said I would not write anymore. And I was immediately happy. Then, the next day, I put pen to paper. On the blank page.
Thank you again, Henry! I look forward to seeing your BLADE in action.
On Saturday, June 2, Better Lemons and Theatre West hosted “Meet the Critics!” featuring several of LA's premier critics for a panel discussion of theatre criticism.
The following critics attended:
Shari Barrett from Broadway World
Shari Barrett, a Los Angeles native, has been active in the theater world since the age of six - acting, singing, and dancing her way across the boards all over town. Shari now dedicates her time and focuses her skills as a theater reviewer, entertainment columnist, and publicist to ""get the word out"" about theaters of all sizes throughout the Los Angeles area. Dale Reynolds from Edge Media Network
Dale Reynolds, a SoCal native, has been a critic for theatre, film and DVD since 1970, for a wide variety of outlets in NYC and L.A., including StageAndCinema.com, StageHappenings.com, EDGELosAngeles.com, and for Frontiers Magazine for many years, in addition to being West Coast Editor of A&U Magazine for four years. Monique LeBleu from Los Angeles Beat
Monique A. LeBleu is a reviewer, writer, photographer, videographer, shameless foodie and wineaux. She has won multi JACC Journalism awards for her feature writing, critical journalism, and social media statewide competitions. Patrick Chavis from LA Theatre Bites
Patrick Chavis is the creator, designer, podcast writer, and head editor of LA Theatre Bites. Because of the massive size of the Los Angeles area and its theatre presence, Patrick decided his reviews should take the form of podcasts en lieu of more traditionally written articles. He is also one of the creators of the Orange County based theatre review site, the Orange Curtain Review. Bill Raden from LA Weekly
Since Bill wrote his first review for LA Weekly over 30 years ago, he has covered theater on both coasts, won multiple awards for his political journalism, and today continues to focus on Los Angeles' experimental and intimate stage scenes for LA Weekly as well as for the online stage journal, Stage Raw. Leigh Kennicott from ShowMag
Leigh Kennicott has an extensive background in theatre, film and television and a Ph.D. degree in Theatre, awarded in 2002. A writer, director and actor, Leigh Kennicott began theatrical reviewing at Backstage, followed by Pasadena Weekly and Stage Happenings blog before joining showmag.com in 2018. Katie Buenneke from Stage Raw
Katie has been a theater critic for over a decade, and has been reviewing Los Angeles theater for 7 years. She ran Neon Tommy's theater section for three years before freelancing for LA Weekly for another three years. She joined the LA Drama Critics Circle in 2015, and she's currently a regular contributor to Stage Raw. She earned her BA in theater and MFA in film producing from USC. Jordan Riefe from The Hollywood Reporter
Currently serves as West Coast theatre critic for The Hollywood Reporter, while also covering art and culture for The Guardian, Cultured Magazine, and KCET Artbound. Cover theater for OC Register/Coast Magazine in Orange County and theatre and film for LA Weekly. Assigned beat for THR focuses on touring productions of Broadway shows. Ernest Kearney from The TVolution
He is presently the cultural critic for The TVolution.com. Michael Van Duzer from This Stage LA
Michael Van Duzer has reviewed opera performances, both locally and nationally, for over 30 years in a variety of print and online media outlets. After leaving his job in 2014, he was finally able to add theatre to his reviewing schedule. Ryan M Luevano from Tin Pan LA
Ryan Luévano is a professor of music at Woodbury University and Santa Ana College. During the summers he is a regular teaching artist at A Noise Within Theatre Company in Pasadena. When he's not making music he pens as a theater critic for his blog Tin Pan L.A. where you can read all about the L.A. theater scene.
Have you ever wished you could squeeze our brains so you could ask questions about how to make the most out of our website?
Here is a FREE workshop where you will be able to do just that! DATE AND TIME
Sat, May 19, 2018
10am - 12 noon LOCATION
3333 Cahuenga Boulevard West
Los Angeles, CA 90068 DESCRIPTION
Do you register your shows on Better Lemons?
Do you use the playbill insert to encourage audience reviews?
Do you use your sweet ratings to further promote your shows?
Do you review shows that you've seen on Better Lemons?
Do you use the resources page of the Better Lemons website?
Introduction to new website features
Come to this free workshop to learn all there is to know about Better Lemons and bring your friends and family! Film, Theatre, and Event Producers, Publicists, Reviewers, Performers, and everyone else who goes to live theater, film festivals, art events, etc. will benefit from this workshop!
Join us! It's FREE!
The infamous Chico's Angels will be opening their latest edition of their riotous, outrageous, hilarious, long-running (15 years!) series of Charlie's Angels drag homage - CHICO'S ANGELS 2: LOVE BOAT CHICAS on March 28, 2018. The self-proclaimed leader of these too, too funny Angels, Kay Sedia, managed to spare us some seconds of her most precious time between her many costume fittings, wig stylings and Tupperware functions. We even finagled a few moments from Kay's alter ego, CHICO'S ANGELS co-creator Oscar Quintero.
Mucho gracias for doing this interview, Kay Sedia!
You have worn many a bright colored dress and a huge wig in all your performances in CHICO'S ANGELS since 2003. Do you have your own personal Versace? Or do you sew your frocks yourself?
No, I have my own Versage. Her name is Carol, and chee has a quinceañera shop on Western. Please don't be jealous or try to approach her because chee is exclusive to me.
Just how many wigs is 15 years worth?
Worth one million dollars, if I had put a number to it. But I say I have about 35 wigs.
How much time needs to pass before you become emotionally unattached to them that you can throw them out?
With all the shellacking, er, hair spray, how long does a set to your raven locks keep? A week? A Show? The run???
Just depends how active the cho is. Some have last for five minutes, and there are some that last for ten years. It just depends on the amount of work I'm willing to do for the cho. A few of them last ten minutes, but most of them hold their curls for ten years because I'm lazy.
You were born in 1999, out of pageantry necessity. Were you a product of immaculate conception? Or did you have 'help' in your creation? No one can say they do anything alone, specially in the world of drag. Ju always need jur mentors. I had some help from some very fancy gay peoples in Hollywood - mainly Glen Allen, James Gray and a bunch of other queens.
Which would you pick as your moonlighting job - being a Chico's Angel? Or a top-selling Tupperware Queen? Well, I tell ju! Tupperware is my yob, I enjoy it. CHICO'S ANGELS is my pasión. So ju decide! They both pay the bills. One just stores my food better.
Can I speak to your alter ego Oscar for a few moments? You can interrupt, er, join in, when you get the urge, OK, Kay?
Oscar, did any particular person inspire your creation of Kay Sedia? She is inspired by many women in my family. My mother, my aunts, and my sisters. Kay is a combination of them with the majority inspired by my mother. My mother was the most self-centered woman you've ever met. She was the life of the party and a bit clueless about how self-absorbed she was. But you loved her anyway.
What cosmic forces brought you and Kurt Koehler together to create CHICO'S ANGELS, aside from the wonderful Mr. Dan?
We were sitting next to each other and we were on our way to see the Plush Life. We met through the same circle of people. We didn't know each other that well and he told me about a project he was working that was called "Super Fag." I told him I had done this alter ego/superhero Kay Sedia, which was called "Taco Chick." My friend Glen was also sitting with us and mention it was similar to "Electric Women & Dina Girl" — yet like "Taco Chick & Salsa Girl." We all started laughing. Later, Kurt cast me in this film and that is when we started talking about CHICO'S ANGELS. Cut to about a year later, Kurt called to ask if he could direct CHICO'S ANGELS and I said he could direct it if he would help write it. AND... that's when the world of CHICO'S ANGELS began.
Okay, Kay, back to you... Describe your relaxation attire? Heels, si or no? My cha-cha pumps are everything to me. They can help me climb walls and they can make me look sexy when I'm laying on the bed. Cha-Cha pumps are everything.
Do you prefer performing live on the Cavern Club Theater stage or shooting video on location? I feed off the audience. I feed off their energy. I feed off their nachos if they have them on their table! There is nothing like a live audience for me.
Which of your past CHICO'S ANGELScases was your favorite?
We now have done five cases on stage and I would say my favorite would be a combo between the one where we are high school hookers, and when we go on the Love Boat. I just love the Love Boat one because of all disco music. I guess ju could say they're my twins. I love them both equally.
Tell us what you like most about Frieda Laye?
Chee's slutty and chee doesn't apologize. I aspire to be like Frieda because ju know, I'm a hopeless romantic and I have to fall in love. Frieda can spread them open, give it away and then walk away to the next guy - I wish I could be like that. Chee's my spirit animal.
Is there any quality you admire most about Chita Parol?
There's very little I admire about Chita Parol. Chee's so mean and so jealous of all my sexiness on a daily basis. But if I have to admire something of her - I admire her jealousy of me.
You've had Charo in your show, si?
Tell us about your experience with Senorita Charo.
Speaking about spirit animals, chee is definitely my spirit animal. What I find so espiring about Charo is that chee carved out a little niche for herself in this crazy entertainment business that is predominantly Anglo. Charo is a classically trained guitarist, but even chee says "Cuchi-Cuchi!" took her to the bank. That's what I admire. I'm funny, I'm sexy, and I'm gonna let it take me to the bank, too.
What celebrity would you like the Angels to solve a case for? Jaclyn Smith… That angel hasn't come to the cho.
Where do you find your CHICO'S ANGELSHotties? Do you have a lengthy audition process? Ches! We have a farm in Hollywood that's called "Chico's Estates!" That is where we groom them. We teach them how to learn lines, flex, and workout. Our one main acting technique for the Hotties is how to take their shirts off. It's a hard class, not many can do it. Frieda has to cho them how using her teeth, but it gets dangerous for her, chee swallows -- too many buttons! Chico usually tries to get the young actors as soon as they arrive here to LA. I can't tell ju how many have fallen in love with me. It's so sad, but I understand, my beauty is a curse.
Do you know what your boss Chico is planning for you in the near future?
Chico's next assignment for us has us doing our variety cho. Later in the year, we will be back to celebrating our 15th anniversary on the stage with our original episode. There have been rumors that we might be moving to a “bigger” theater. Gil, there is a lot of good stuff coming up, and we definitely want to make our CHICO'S ANGELS feature film this year. Chico better make it happen soon, because I'm getting bored.
With LOVE BOAT CHICAS returning to the Cavern Club Theater at the Casita Del Compo beginning March 28, are you expecting your Angels aficionados to relive their LOVE BOAT experience and shout out your lines with you? Thees is a scripted cho and does not include audience participation people! There is NO shouting out, unless ju're yelling, "Kay, ju are so SEX-EEEE!" By the way, I know that, so keep it that to jurself. (Kay is blushing)
And on a closing note, please share with your fans how you stay the "Pretty One" of the Angels? What's your diet and beauty secrets?
My diet consists of a lot of chips & salsa. I also do a guacamole mask which then I eat with the chips - it's almost like a two-for-one facial. Honestly, I try to do as little as possible in the arena of exercise. It's too much work, and I don't like it, and it hurts. Sexy is as sexy is. I can't help it.
Mucho, mucho gracias, Senorita Sedia! I look forward to laughing out loud at you and your fellow Angels. Hmm, I mean laughing with you and your fellow Angels, while oogling your latest CHICO'S ANGELS Hottie.
For ticket availability and show schedule through April 8, 2018; log onto ChicosAngels.com
Many will recognize Jim Beaver as Whitney Ellsworth in the 2004-2006 hit TV series Deadwood, and now currently on your television screens as Bobby Singer in Supernatural. Jim will be appearing sans TV screen and on stage at his theatre home base Theatre West in THE NIGHT FORLORN opening March 16, 2018. An consistently busy actor/writer/film historian, Jim made some time to answer a few of my inquisitive inquiries on his long and rewarding history with Theatre West. Thank you Jim for agreeing to this interview. You have a 30-years-plus working relationship with Theatre West. How did that initially come about? In 1984, actress Karen Kondazian brought my play VERDIGRIS to Theatre West's artistic director Clyde Ventura, and together they produced its world premiere in 1985. I've been a part of Theatre West ever since. So, did Steve Nevil and THE NIGHT FORLORN come to Theatre West? Or did Theatre West seek this project out? Steve is, like me, a longtime member of the company, and THE NIGHT FORLORN was developed in our writers workshop. In recent years, there's been a competition among members for scripts to put up in full productions, and THE NIGHT FORLORN is the most recent selection in that competition. So although there are elements of truth in both questions, the real truth is that the play grew directly from Steve in his already-existing membership in the company. Have you worked with any of THE NIGHT FORLORN talents before? Are some members of Theatre West? Everyone associated with the production is a member of Theatre West. J. Downing is friend of many years, a magnificent actor whom, although we've been in some of the same movies, I've never worked with directly. I appeared briefly in actress Leslie Caveny's play IMPACT THIS! a few years ago, and got to rough her up as my sister in Fionnula Flanagan's production of Brian Friel's THE FREEDOM OF THE CITY a few years before that. My director, Arden Teresa Lewis, and I appeared together in GOOD in the ‘90s, and she produced the 30th anniversary revival of my play VERDIGRIS in 2015. But my longest association in this play is with Tom Allard, who plays Chris. We go back to a production of KING LEAR in college together in 1972. He's my closest friend, and we've worked together on many projects. He directed me at Theatre West in Ken Jenkins's CHUG and in my own plays SIDEKICK and SEMPER FI. He also shot me with a gun the size of his leg on an episode of Reasonable Doubts. How would you compare the character that you play in THE NIGHT FORLORN with VERDIGRIS' Jockey Fielding, Shelby Parlow on Justified, or Bobby Singer on Supernatural? Do you think any of these four would get together for a drink at a neighborhood saloon? Perce, my character in THE NIGHT FORLORN, is of a type with those other characters, in that he's rural, folksy, prickly, gruff but lovable, and doesn't mind a drink. And yeah, he'd get together with those other guys at a bar. But five'll get you ten, he'd end up stuck with the tab. How does a son of a Texan preacher get interested film history? Same way the son of anybody does, I guess — watching a ton of movies growing up. I got hooked in my teens on John Wayne movies, and then on the movies of some of the people who were in John Wayne movies, and then on the movies of some of the people who were in THEIR movies, and pretty soon, I realized that I loved everything about movies. I began collecting information on movies and the people who made them, and eventually came to feel I was particularly good at researching this kind of history. I loved it, and while I got sort of sidetracked MAKING movies, I still love digging into the history of the art form and writing about the people who left their marks on that history. What sparked your interest in researching John Garfield and television's original Superman George Reeves, amongst your many other subjects? I've collected books on actors since my teens, and in college, under the false impression that there was a lot of money lying around for people who wrote books about movies, I thought I'd give one a shot. I made a list of actors I admired on whom there weren't any books, and Garfield stood out for a lot of reasons, not least of which was that he didn't make that many movies and I thought (again erroneously) that it would be a quick job and a quick buck. Neither turned out to be true. Later, as a film critic and feature writer for Films in Review magazine, I was assigned an article on George Reeves, which piqued my interest and led to a decades-long job of researching a book on his life and untimely death. In his case, I was particularly interested in writing about someone who became very famous without the concomitant power that often comes with stardom, someone who got what he wanted without it being particularly satisfying at all. Any fond memories of times you spent with Theatre West founder, the late Betty Garrett? Betty Garrett, who was among the first people involved in what became Theatre West, was simply one of the finest people I have ever known. Her professionalism, unmatched, was combined with a glowing, generous, perpetually optimistic personality. I loved her dearly. She was the first person to play the lead in my play VERDIGRIS, in a staged reading prior to its original production (when the part was taken over by the amazing Anne Haney), and she was a wise and giving mentor not just to me, but to everyone she encountered in our company and, I'm sure, elsewhere. Her son Andrew Parks originated the other leading role in VERDIGRIS and remains one of my inner circle of deepest friendships. Betty was also very helpful to me in researching my book on George Reeves, as she knew many of the people who were part of his story. I miss her intensely. You have used Kickstarter for your 2015 production of VERDIGRIS and GoFundME is linked on the Theatre West website. Any helpful tips for using either one of these money-raising websites? The biggest lesson I learned from my crowdfunding experiences was to get the assistance of someone who is well-versed in the process. Anyone can start a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign. It takes knowledge and insight and wisdom, as well as IMMENSE energy and determination, to actually succeed in one. We used the services of one of my former Deadwood colleagues, actress Leah Cevoli, who has made a companion career for herself as a consultant on crowdfunding. Without her guidance, I absolutely doubt our campaigns would have been successful. You published your memoir Life's That Way in April 2009. Are you working on a Part 2? Life's That Waywas a memoir of a particular and difficult year of my life, and it came into being as a real-time outlet for the feelings I had at the time the events were happening. Thus it had a particular urgency and impetus. I'm frequently asked about another volume of autobiography, and I very much like the idea, as one thing I discovered while writing Life's That Way is that I'm not too bad at telling stories from life and making some sense of them. But I don't have the same urgency pushing me toward such a project. I'd love to write another volume, but with career, a teen-aged daughter, and the Reeves book and a novel currently in progress, I'm having trouble setting aside the time for such a book. I want to. If I can stick around long enough, I think it will happen. What would you say was your oddest odd job before making your living writing and acting - being a Frito-Lay corn chip dough mixer, a film cleaner at a 16mm film rental firm, or a amusement park stuntman at Oklahoma City's Frontier City? The jobs you mention were perhaps a little unusual, but not terribly odd, at least in my estimation. Probably the wackiest was a job I had working for a paraplegic woman while I was in college. She was completely physically helpless, yet she ran her house and the lives of everyone who set foot in it like a field marshal. It was an absolutely crazy, remarkable experience for me, and it became the basis of my play VERDIGRIS. Which do you prefer - seeing your written work performed onstage? Or you yourself performing on stage? That's a tough question. I very much treasure (most of) the times I've seen my own work performed. There is no feeling on earth like seeing one's own words enlivened and invigorated in performance. At the same time, nothing gives me greater public pleasure than acting. Writing has often been an excuse to get myself into situations where people might decide to let me act. Fortunately, a lot of what I've written has been material I could play myself. VERDIGRIS has a role I long wanted to do, but I grew too old to play it. But in the recent revival, I was able to play an older role I'd never given much thought to, and it was a joy. I don't always write for myself, but sometimes I've been able to play writer AND actor on the same production, and that really can't be beat. What playwrights did you grow up admiring and want to emulate? My playwriting gods are William Shakespeare, Eugene O'Neill, and Tennessee Williams. If my work resembles any of theirs in any fashion, it's probably Williams. VERDIGRIS was very much influenced by THE GLASS MENAGERIE. But I don't think I really write much like any of them. Who does? But they are the ones who shaped my ideas of the theatre, of what a play could do, of the power and insight possible on the stage. As a playwright, they are with me every day when I write. My one regret as an actor is that I've never had a chance to do O'Neill. I want a Larry Slade or a James Tyrone Sr. before I shuffle off this mortal coil! Any immediate projects coming up for Jim Beaver you can share? THE NIGHT FORLORN, of course, takes up much of my time through April 22. I'm busy in film and television, with my ongoing parts on Netflix's The Ranch and the CW's loooooooong-running hit Supernatural. I'm hoping for a play in New York before long. That's about it. Ask me again tomorrow. The phone keeps ringing. I'm a lucky boy. Thank you again, Jim. I look forward to seeing you in THE NIGHT FORLORN.
For ticket availability and show schedule through April 22, 2018; log onto www.theatrewest.org
Jeff Campanella already has earned the distinction of being the only actor to be part of both the recently re-named Garry Marshall Theatre's inaugural season's first and second productions. Jeff goes from 'stage managing' Maria Callas in MASTER CLASS to being a vital contributor in Neil Simon's homage to his beginnings as part of a classic television comedy writing team in LAUGHTER ON THE 23rd FLOOR. Jeff took the time to give us a little insight to his involvement with MASTER CLASS and now LAUGHTER, which begins previews March 21, opening March 23. Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Jeff! LAUGHTER ON THE 23rd FLOORis your second show at the Garry Marshall. Do you have a history with the Falcon Theatre? Or was MASTER CLASS your first Garry Marshall/Falcon project? MASTER CLASSwas my first audition and production at the Falcon/GMT, and could not have been a better experience. Our director, Dimitri Toscas, is truly one of the kindest people Iknow, and I'm so happy for him that the show got such wonderful reviews. Did you ever have the opportunity to interact with the late, great Garry Marshall? No, I wish. I'm a great admirer of his work. Laverne and Shirley is my favorite Garry creation. I love hearing stories about him. He will be remembered not just for his numerous films and TV shows, but now for his beautiful theatre. I saw you as the "Julliard Stagehand" in MASTER CLASS with the incredible Carolyn Hennesy as Maria Callas. You were most fun in your various entrances and exits interacting with Diva Callas. How would you compare your Stagehand character with the writer you play in LAUGHTER? And, which writer are you playing in LAUGHTER? I'm playing Ira Stone, a hypochondriac who always shows up late with some new ailment. The characters are similar in that they are the outcasts of their particular worlds. Both oddballs, but in very different styles. In your research process of getting familiar with your LAUGHTER character, did you watch some of the classic comedians that these characters were originally based on? My character is based on Mel Brooks, or at least the Mel Brooks off-camera that Neil Simon worked with. Spaceballs was my first favorite comedy. I already watched it a dozen times before I was seven years old. I knew nothing about The Saturday Night Review or Sid Caesar, which our 'The Max Prince Show' is an allusion to, but in terms of that time period, I'm a big Jackie Gleason fan. My family loves The Honeymooners. Have you, by chance, ever seen other theatrical productions of LAUGHTER or the 2001 television version with Nathan Lane? No, I haven't. It's tough when you watch other performances not to at least subconsciously copy them. So, if given the choice, I'd rather not watch a performance of the character I'm going to play. I've seen Nathan Lane on Broadway in WAITING FOR GODOT, and my favorite of his films is Birdcage. Any other Neil Simon project you've love to be involved in? I really like THE ODD COUPLE and THE SUNSHINE BOYS, and the good news is these roles will be waiting for me in fifty years! You have worked with a number of divas (and, I mean 'diva' in the most positive sense!) - the aforementioned Mz. Hennesy, Susan Lucci (Devious Maids), Pauley Paurette (NCIS), Mary McDonnell (Major Crimes), Jeremy Irons (An Actor Prepares). What other 'diva' would be on your wish list to work with? Ooh, probably Maya Rudolph. She's hilarious! Tell us some fun incidents you experienced during MASTER CLASS? (practical jokes, gag opening night gifts, spilled pitchers of water, pratfalls) I would always find new ways to scare Maegan McConnell around the theatre. Also, before each show I would pretend to be a real stagehand and give the 20-10-and-places call to the ladies' dressing room. I'd find a new way to screw it up each time. But my favorite gag was Joseph Bwarie, the artistic director, would follow me around backstage as if he was my assistant. The Stagehand's stagehand. Being raised in Atlanta, Georgia, does your accent reappear easily when you're around other Georgia folks? Was it easy or difficult to 'lose' your Georgia inflections? Well, my dad's side is from Brooklyn, so I'm definitely drawing from him more than my mom's side for this role. I've never really had a southern accent, unless I'm being really polite. What is your affinity to F. Scott Fitzgerald? I believe you dogs' names are Zelda and Fitzgerald? You're good! I think the third dog will have to be named Gatsby! What 1950's topic of Neil Simon's writers' room would you think will resonate (and possibly seem too relevant to our present times) with the Garry Marshall Theatre audiences. Carol's monologue about wanting to not just be seen as a child-bearing woman, but also to be taken seriously as a writer definitely resonates today. Also, the government's desire to silence those who disagree with the status quo has always been relevant in our country. But, all in all, this is a comedy, aimed more at making one laugh than think. So bring your laugh. Or your fake laugh. I'll take either one! Thank you again for doing this, Jeff. I look forward to experiencing your comedy chops in LAUGHTER.
For ticket availability and show schedule through April 22, 2018, log onto GarryMarshallTheatre.org