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"Call Me Adam" chats with...

 

 

Thursday
Mar302017

Call Answered: Nathan Lee Graham: The View UpStairs

Nathan Lee Graham, Photo Credit: Andrew Werner PhotographyWhile I was first introduced to Nathan Lee Graham when I saw him tear up the stage in the Tony nominated Broadway musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Nathan Lee Graham's name has been circling my view for quite some time. Everybody was talking about his talent long before I got to know it for myself.

Well, to see him in The View UpStairs is truly remarkable. Nathan Lee Graham gets everyone's attention whenever he is strutting his stuff on stage. From his fantastic acting to that golden voice he belts out night after night. His talent is like no other!

The View UpStairs is a provocative new musical that pulls you inside the UpStairs Lounge, a vibrant '70s gay bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The forgotten community comes to life when a young fashion designer from 2017 buys the abandoned space, setting off an exhilarating journey of seduction and self-exploration.

Currently enjoying a critically acclaimed run, The View UpStairs will play The Lynn Redgrave Theater in NYC (45 Bleecker Street), through May 21 only! Click here for tickets!

For more on Nathan Lee Graham be sure to visit http://nathanleegraham.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube!

For more on The View UpStairs, visit http://www.theviewupstairs.com and follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? Well I've been working professionally since I was six, and I come from a very performative family, I just decided I should get paid to do it! Also I knew instinctively that I was good at this...so my grandparents Rev. DeWitt Hulin Graham and Cecelia Pearl Whiteside Graham (love their names) really encouraged, supported and put me out there! My parents are very supportive too, but they're way too nervous for me all the time...still!

2. What made you want to be part of The View UpStairs? This an easy question to answer. Max Vernon wrote this beautiful part "Willie" for me and it happens that he also wrote and composed a brilliant book and score! I love history and bringing folks together, The View UpStairs does both of those things.

Nathan Lee Graham backstage at "The View UpStairs"Nathan Lee Graham as "Willie" in "The View UpStairs', Photo Credit: Kurt Sneddon3. What do you identify most with about your character "Willie" and what is one characteristic of his you are glad you don't have? Always seeing the positive in everything! I really do see the positive aspects of any and everything. The one thing "Willie" does that I absolutely can't do is have "alternative facts" to help him cope with life's trials and tribulations. He lies a lot, LOL, but it's for good. Nathan Lee Graham can't do that...I have to face reality head on. It makes me a better human and better performer.

4. What have you learned about gay history from being in this show that you did not know before? Well, primarily the story of these 32 dead people in New Orleans in 1973! I mean, why don't we know this story?!? Also little significant things like it was illegal to wear what seemed as "women's clothing" or that when you were "outed" they'd put your name in the paper and there went your job! Insane!

5. Why do you think this story doesn't get talked about as much as Stonewall? Easy. Shame on all fronts. The people who bared witness to this tragedy were fearful and shamed into not talking about it....understandably so, to a degree. And the people who watched or whom were in a place of authority didn't give a damn.

Nathan Lee Graham as "Willie" in "The View UpStairs", Photo Credit: Kurt SneddonJeremy Pope, Taylor Frey, Nathan Lee Graham in "The View UpStairs", Photo Credit: Kurt Sneddon6. The View Upstairs shows you how the past can help guide us through an uncertain future. What is something in your past that has helped guide you through your future? Dealing and not dwelling with loss. I have a very small family so when someone dies it's a lot. Also all of the people that I've lost to disease in my chosen family of gypsies and the like. How I've been able to cope and not become bitter has informed how I go about my life in a very significant way.

7. The View Upstairs also examines what has been gained in lost in the fight for equality. What have you gained, but then lost as a result of the move forward from said gain? Well I've gained a true identity from this struggle of equality. Of course those who are not as strong or inclined you lose along the way, so mine is a somewhat lonely life at times but so fulfilling and I wouldn't change anything.

8. If you were to open a lounge like in the The View Upstairs, what would you name it and where would you establish it? "Willie's Corner" on the Lower East Side baby!!

9. I saw The View Upstairs a few weeks ago and can tell just how much fun everyone is having. What is one of the funniest, most impromptu things to happen during a show thus far? Me as "Willie" suddenly deciding to put my leg on top of the piano during my soliloquy...LOL, I just did it once spontaneously and it stuck!

Nathan Lee Graham, Jeremy Pope, Taylor Frey, Frenchie Davis, Benjamin Howes, Nancy Ticotin, Michael Longoria, and Randy Redd, Photo Credit: Kurt SneddonJeremy Pope, Nancy Ticotin, Nathan Lee Graham, and Benjamin Howes, Photo Credit: Kurt Sneddon10. In addition to The View Upstairs, you have starred in other gay-themed shows Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Hit The Wall. As a gay man, do you feel or approach these projects differently or with a other feelings compared to non-gay themed shows? No. I always feel I have a responsibility to do my very best whatever the role or genre. My only requirement is great material.

11. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? My reaction to people not getting things as quickly as I do, i.e. some more patience, some more compassion before I tear into them...LOL.

12. I can't do an interview with you and not ask you about Zoolander, or at least I'm going to ask a question inspired by the film. Since Zoolander takes place in the fashion world. What is one of the worst costumes you have ever had to wear? What is one costume, you were like, "How can I keep this for myself?" I had to wear an ape inspired costume in a musical called Riverview by John Logan, directed by Robert Falls, choreographed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge and starring Marin Mazzie, my dear friend. At the Goodman Theatre in Chicago fresh out of conservatory I was...so happy but that costume was not cute! Now I had a fabulous burgundy plaid double-breasted bespoke suit for the Opening sequence of The Wild Party on Broadway, thank you. Toni-Leslie James, that was lovely! But to be honest, I've had so many wonderful costumes over the years it's hard to keep track...I have a very special relationship with costume designers. I love what they do and they complete every character I've played on stage and screen. Hat's off to Anita Yavich for The View UpStairs!!

Nathan Lee Graham, Photo Credit: Andrew Werner PhotographyMore on Nathan Lee Graham:

Nathan Lee Graham is an American cabaret artist, stage, television and film actor, singer, writer and director. His roles in feature film include "Todd" in Zoolander and Zoolander 2, "Frederick Montana" in Sweet Home Alabama and "Geoff" in Hitch. He has appeared in independent films like Confessions of an Action StarBad Actress and Trophy Kids. On the small screen he originated the role of "Peter" in The Comeback, and had guest starring roles on ScrubsAbsolutely Fabulous and Law & Order: SVU. His stage appearances include "Phil D'Armano" in the original Broadway cast of the Tony and Grammy Award nominated The Wild Party and as "Miss Understanding" in the original Broadway cast of the Tony nominated Priscilla Queen of the Desert. He received a Drama League Award nomination for the role of "Rey Rey" in the off-Broadway production of Wig Out! and won an Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Feature Performer in a Musical in The Wild Party LA Premiere in 2006. More recently, he has appeared in the role of "Carson" in Hit the Wall at the Barrow Street Theatre. He earned a 2005 Best Classical Album Grammy Award for Songs of Innocence and of Experience as a soloist. Nathan Lee Graham is a graduate of Webster University in St. Louis, MO.

Monday
Mar272017

Call Answered: Laurence Maslon: Broadway & Musical Theatre Historian

Laurence MaslonWhile I'm thrilled to be done with my schooling, education has always been an important part of my life, which is why I continue to keep my brain active and learn as much as I can. 

For as much as I know, there is always someone who knows more than me, and that's why, these people are experts. When a request came in to interview Laurence Maslon, an expert on Broadway/Musical Theatre, I jumped at the opportunity to speak with him. We talked about teaching musical theatre history, famous students, favorite Broadway shows, PBS specials, and so much more!

Laurence is the host of the weekly NPR radio show Broadway to Main Street, which just featured special guest Steven Pasquale. Broadway to Main Street airs every Sunday at 3pm on NPR affiliate NY/Long Island station WPPB/88.3FM.

For recent episodes and more on Broadway to Main Street visit http://www.broadwaytomainstreet.com and follow the show on Facebook!

1. You are one of the leading experts on Broadway/musical theatre history and an Arts Professor at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. What made you fall in love with this genre? I was very lucky to: A., grow up 52 minutes from Manhattan on the Long Island Rail Road and B., have parents who were still very enamored of theater and movies from their youth. So, the first two albums I listened to as three-year-old (they were on these flat black circular things called "records") were Noel Coward in Las Vegas and Oh Captain!, a 1958 musical with Tony Randall. My parents didn’t go to Broadway much, if at all, so a friend’s mother took us to see 1776 in 1969, from the back row of the 46th Street Theater. I was totally hooked; I remember writing, directing, and starring in my own 12-minute version of the show in my 5th Grade Social Studies class. I thought all musicals were about guys in wigs yelling at each other; a few years later, when I saw shows with chorus girls and tap dancing, I had no idea what they were doing in a musical.

Laurence Maslon2. What do you get from teaching? What is something one of your students taught you? For me, it’s about sharing enthusiasm and passing along a history that you love. Context is so important, especially in our perspective-challenged times. I don’t (necessarily) expect a student to share my passion for Noel Coward or 1776, but if he/she can understand or appreciate the context for Madonna or Hamilton, respectively, her/his appreciation of what’s in front of them might be more meaningful. Facts are not, in and of themselves, important; seeing how things fit together in a cultural continuum is important.

When I started teaching my NYU Graduate Acting class called "The Now of Then" (back in 1995), I taught two plays written and set in the 1930s, Golden Boy and Stage Door. One of the students in the second class I taught was black and he said, essentially, "There’s nothing about me in these plays." So, I went out and looked at what black playwriting was like in the 1930s and discovered an unproduced play by Langston Hughes called Little Ham. It kicked off my love affair with the Harlem Renaissance and both the play and its cultural context have been an essential part of my curriculum ever since.

3. One of your former students, Mahershala Ali just won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Moonlight. As his teacher, what went through your head when you saw him win? Had you kept in touch with him over the years since you taught him? Hersh was always a kind, thoughtful gentleman and well-deserves his success.  Our jaws dropped when he thanked three of his NYU teachers—and I can only assume he ran out of time before he thanked me. (That’s a joke).

4. You are the host/producer of the weekly NPR radio show Broadway to Main Street where you interview Broadway performers. What is something you've learned about Broadway from your interviews that you did not know before? Who do you still hope to interview? My radio program is more about programming topics and themes around music that made its debut on the American musical stage: in addition to original cast recordings, I play renditions from films, cabaret, jazz, pop recordings. Interviews are just a part of that programming. I’m very lucky when I can get folks into the NYC studio (I usually record in Southampton) to talk about their work and, more interestingly, talk about what music inspires them and what music they put out into the world. I do an annual holiday show and my guests have included Jordan Gelber, Ann Harada, Malcolm Gets, Veanne Cox, and Lewis J. Stadlen for each holiday show over the last five years; I love what they bring in as the songs that influenced their holidays growing up (or what holiday material they have performed in their careers). It’s fascinating to me the range of music that influences a Broadway performer—not everyone grew up with The Music Man. (I always hated that show; give me Oh Captain!)

I haven’t learned that much about the "biz"—because it’s not really that kind of program. I have learned that performers often don’t love the recordings of their own work that I love. Both Marin Mazzie and Veanne weren’t totally in love with some stuff of theirs I picked for the show, but I think, in context with their other recording work on the program, they came around. Through a wonderful bit of serendipity, William Daniels—who I saw in my first Broadway show—has written a new memoir. I reached out to his publicist and—voila!—he’ll be my guest for an hour-long program in June. The idea that I could interview a lifelong hero on my own program, listening to his performances and talking about them is amazing to me.

5. If you had to choose eight Broadway shows (one for each day of the week + a matinee) to watch on a loop, which shows would they be?

Monday: Pal Joey (to get the rhythms flowing)

Tuesday: A Little Night Music (something a bit more reflective)

Wednesday: Do Re Mi or Top Banana (a little Phil Silvers to get through the hump)

Thursday: Golden Boy (a good night to be thoughtfully engaged)

Friday: On The Twentieth Century (because it’s the end of the week and let’s have fun!)

Saturday matinee: 1776 (so I could take my nine-year-old son)

Saturday night: It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s…Superman! (maybe my wife would let him stay out late…)

Sunday: Sunday in the Park with George (because, well….)

Sammy Davis Jr.6. Another project you have going on is a documentary for PBS about Sammy Davis Jr. You have worked on several programs for PBS. What do you love about creating projects for them? PBS is by far the most thoughtful and well-produced venue for historical context of any kind, particularly the arts. I’ve been most fortunate in collaborating with producer/director Michael Kantor on most of my writing projects; he makes it easy and fun and jam-packed with integrity. PBS also provides a context: I’ve done two American Masters shows, one on Richard Rodgers, one of Sammy Davis, Jr,, about two decades apart; but what makes them each masters of American culture? How do they fit together as part of a continuum?

7. Why did you want to do a documentary about Sammy Davis Jr.? What is something about Sammy Davis Jr. that you can share with us, that the average fan would not know about him? For one thing, the current generation knows practically nothing about him, but in many ways, he defines popular culture of the 21st Century; he set the terms. Sammy has always been a source of pure joy for me. I tend to favor "cool" performers--Noel Coward or Chris Connor or Mabel Mercer or Bill Evans—but Sammy always gave 110%; he’d "pulverize you" with his talent as one of our interviewees, George Schlatter, said. There’s something terribly attractive about that. He was also incredibly complex, as a black man living through the most racially charged times of the 20th Century: when he was trying to make it in the first part of his career, he had to fight white audiences; when he became a success, he then had to fight black audiences. The struggle never ended for him, so he kept re-adapting his identity: "I’ve Gotta Be Me" is our subtitle. But which "me"?—that’s the question, and it’s something we can all relate to. There are a million things in his life that people don’t know—he was a fantastic photographer, he marched at Selma, he was the first black actor to have a dramatic show on television, on and on—but, a lot of people remember nothing about Golden Boy.  Here was Sammy—a major recording star, think of John Legend meets Chris Rock—giving up hundreds of thousands of dollars in club dates, etc., to star in a demanding role on Broadway in 1963, in a show created just for him, about civil rights in America. He had eight songs, plus two fight sequences, and he did eight shows a week for eighteen months, then did it on tour in Chicago and London. So he spent three years at his prime on the stage, in one of the most challenging roles in Broadway musical history: where’s the credit for that? Who would even think of attempting that today?

8. Another series you worked on for PBS is the Emmy-nominated Make 'Em Laugh. What makes you laugh in these post-election times? What has been the funniest thing to happen to you during one of your interviews? Nowadays, the only thing I find vaguely amusing are the three political musicals of the 1930s by George S. Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind and the Gershwins: Strike Up the Band, Of Thee I Sing, and Let ‘Em Eat Cake. They are all timely and timeless and prefigured the American infatuation with being bamboozled nearly a century ago. They are always worth returning to. 

We interviewed Jerry Lewis, actually for the Sammy Davis documentary, and he talked about being funny: "I was funny when I was four, I was funny when I was fourteen…I was funny when I was 74, I was funny when I was 84…" And I said, "So, Jerry, that means you were funny only once every ten years?" And he laughed: really, really hard.

George Carlin (who was interviewed for MEL) signed my album cover of Class Clown: "To Larry—Fuck You, George Carlin."

9. One of your books that really peaked my interest was Superheroes! Capes, Cowls and the Creation of Comic Book Culture. If there was a film or comic book created around Trump winning the election and the dark times we are living in, what superhero or team of superheroes do you think could help save us? Maybe "The Flash" could get on the Cosmic Treadmill and run really fast and take us back in time to the summer of 2016 when we could think more seriously about what we were in for. ("Kang the Conqueror" could do that, too, but he’s a bad guy.) Maybe "The Joker" could just show up somewhere to remind us how dangerous a clown can be.

10. Since you are an interviewer yourself, what is one question I did not ask you that you wish I did? (Please provide the answer to that question as well). How did you get to be here, Mr. Shepard?

It’s just amazing to me that all the things I loved growing up—Broadway shows, music, comic books, comedy, old-time radio, the world of the 1930s, Kaufman and Hart, Hollywood movies—I not only still get to "play" with, I get paid to do it. I just had fun with all of this, and got more and more curious about it and read more and more about it, and—lo and behold!—I became an "expert" in it (although there’s always someone who knows more than you do about anything). The responsibility is to share that knowledge and enthusiasm with the next generation.

Laurence MaslonMore on Laurence:

Laurence Maslon is the Associate Chair/Arts Professor at the Graduate Acting Program at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, with an affiliation in the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program.

His most recent publication is American Musicals (1927-1969), a two-volume set of sixteen musicals which he edited for Library of America. He is the host and producer of the weekly radio series, Broadway to Main Street, broadcast on the NPR-affiliate station WPPB-FM. Among his books are Superheroes! Capes, Cowls and the Creation of Comic Book Culture (Random House); Some Like It Hot: The Official 50th Anniversary CompanionThe South Pacific CompanionThe Sound of Music Companion (2007; revised with foreword by Julie Andrews, 2015). With Michael Kantor, he co-wrote two episodes of the Emmy-winning Broadway: The American Musical as well as the companion volume (updated edition published by Applause in paperback) and the liner notes for the five-disc box set for the series, released by Sony/Decca.

He also cowrote the six-part PBS series Make ‘Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America with Kantor, as well as the companion volume; they were nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Writing of a Non-Fiction Series for this show. Laurence wrote the acclaimed American Masters/Thirteen documentary Richard Rodgers: The Sweetest Sounds and is the editor of Kaufman & Co., the Library of America edition of George S. Kaufman’s plays, as well as the official website, www.georgeskaufman.com.

He has written for The New YorkerThe Huffington PostThe Daily Beast and Slate; created concerts and programs for Lincoln Center Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall; and served on the nominating committee for the Tony Awards from 2007 to 2010. He is currently working on an American Masters documentary on the life of Sammy Davis, Jr. for PBS.

Wednesday
Mar222017

Call Answered: Sean Patrick Monahan: DIVA: Live From Hell

Sean Patrick MonahanFor the past 10 years I have been enjoying the talents of Sean Patrick Monahan in Charles Busch's Times Square Angel at The Theater for the New City. It's my one Christmas holiday tradition I look forward to each and every year! Well, after this year's performance, Charles made the delightful announcement that Sean Patrick would be presenting his original new musical DIVA: Live From Hell this spring at The Theater for the New City. As soon as I saw Sean Patrick in the lobby of the The Theater for the New City, I ran up to him asking if we could to do an interview together about this show. At the time he said he'd love to, so after a few months, I'm beyond excited that when I called, Sean Patrick answered! What fun we had talking about everything from DIVAS to legends to angels!

DIVA: Live From Hell is a devilish new musical that charts a high school musical nerd’s descent into madness. "Desmond Channing" is a teenager who’s spent much of his short life basking in the spotlight. As Drama Club President and star of ALL the productions at his Florida public high school, "Desmond" never imagined he could fall so far so fast. But when "Evan Harris," a hotshot transfer student from New York, rips the rug out from under him, "Desmond" responds, as any diva would, with lethal force. Now, "Desmond" is forced to relive his humiliation and insanity over and over again at a cabaret in Hell. As he begins his one-millionth consecutive show, "Desmond" performs with renewed desperation, in the hopes that he can prove he’s learned his lesson and be freed from his eternal, campy torment.

DIVA: Live From Hell will run from March 23-April 9 at The Theater for the New City (155 First Avenue). Click here for tickets!

For more on Sean Patrick be sure to visit http://www.seanpatrickmonahan.com!

Cast of Charles Busch's "Times Square Angel" with special guest Narrator, Joan Rivers1. Who or what inspired you to become a playwright/performer? Whatever it is that made me want to spend my life in the theatre has always been there. When I was two years old, my dad took me to a Renaissance Faire, and I insisted that he buy me a court jester hat. All of the other kids got crowns or Robin Hood hats, but I had to have the jester’s cap with little bells on it. I didn’t know what a jester was, but I wanted to be one. I still want to be one. And along with that, I always wanted to be a storyteller.

But beyond those sparks that have always lived in me, the person who inspired me to become a "playwright/performer" as a career was, and still is, Charles Busch.

2. Your show DIVA: Live From Hell is going to be at Theater for the New City, which I have been coming to for the past 10 years, seeing you perform in Charles Busch's Times Square Angel. Before we get to your new show, we have to talk about Times Square Angel. How did you first get involved with it and what do you look forward to about performing it every year? Yes! It was so delightful to talk to you after Times Square Angel this year. And oh man—10 years! I love that. Pretty much the whole audience comes back year after year, and I have to say that is the thing I look forward to the most—the sense of reunion, of a holiday homecoming at Theater for the New City. It’s an incredibly special event.

I’ve been playing "Jimmy the Newsboy" in Times Square Angel since I was 11 years old. I met Charles at Manhattan Theatre Club, where I did a reading of a play of his when I was a child actor. Charles read the scene in the audition with me, and I will never forget it. Well, I kept in touch with Charles, and that December he wrote me a terrific role in Times Square Angel, which I’ve done every year since. It’s a great feeling to have originated a role in one of his plays.

3. Now, let's get to DIVA: Live From Hell, which you wrote and are starring in. What made you want to write AND star in this show? Why didn't you want someone else to star in it and you just write it? Jeez Louise—so far the answer to all of these questions is "Charles Busch." What kind of DIVA am I? I need to start talking more about myself pronto. But this show really does all come back to him—when I was a kid, Charles suggested that I should write parts for myself, rather than wait around for someone to cast me. So, in 2013, when an opportunity arose for me to develop a solo act with Less Than Rent Theatre for the United Solo Theatre Festival, I jumped at the chance. It became a 45-minute solo comedy called DIVA. A few months later, the wunderkind composer/lyricist Alexander Sage Oyen approached me about expanding it into a one-act musical, and I jumped at that chance too.

Four years later, the show has evolved into DIVA: Live From Hell, and I’m still donning the sequins and performing the piece myself. Someday I’d like to hand it off to another performer, but for now, I’m the storyteller and the act of me physically telling the story is part of the narrative.

Sean Patrick Monahan in "DIVA: Live from Hell"4. What do you relate to most about your character "Desmond" and what is one characteristic you are glad you don't possess? One trait I share with "Desmond" is that we both feel out of step with our peers and with the times. When I was in high school, and everyone I knew was into Rent and Spring Awakening, I was listening to Dear World and Anyone Can Whistle. It often felt like the only people who knew what I was talking about were the adults—our theatre directors and my English teachers.

I’m not sure that there are any of "Desmond’s" characteristics that I don’t possess—though he does express himself more extremely than I do. When I got dumped for the first time, I dealt with the pain by writing a screenplay in which I brutally murdered the guy who stole my childhood sweetheart. "Desmond" actually does kill his nemesis. So, I’m glad I had healthier outlets to express my adolescent angst.

Sean Patrick Monahan in "DIVA" from 20135. In DIVA: Live From Hell, "Desmond Channing" is forced to relive his humiliation and insanity over and over again at a cabaret in Hell. What has been the most humiliating thing to happen you so far? When I was 11, I once clogged the toilet backstage at the Mazer Theater and blamed it on one of the adult chorus girls. The rest of the cast mocked her relentlessly for weeks. I’ve never told anyone except my therapist, who thinks it’s okay for me to come clean in this interview. If that poor chorus girl finds out, it’ll be the most humiliating thing ever.

6. "Desmond" performs in hell in the hopes that he can prove he’s learned his lesson. What is the biggest life lesson you've learned to date? Slotted spoons don’t hold much soup.

7. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent every day? I love that. I’d love to be one percent more empathetic every day—as a writer, as an actor, and as a person. That might sound trite or simple, but it’s hard to consciously work to access deeper empathy, especially in these trying times. I think it’d be worth it.

Charles BuschPenny Fuller8. An exciting component to this show is that you are having Tony nominees Charles Busch & Penny Fuller voice their parts. Charles is the voice of the manager at the dingy cabaret venue in Hell, while Penny will voice Desmond's grandmother. What made you want to have their parts as voice overs as opposed to live actors? Maybe someday there’ll be a version where those roles are played live, but in this incarnation I want the voices to be recognizable. Charles was a no-brainer, because he’s been like an uncle (or "Auntie Mame") and he’s guided me in developing DIVA from the beginning. It’s very special to have his voice in the show. And as for Penny Fuller—I think it’s very meaningful stunt casting. Penny was, of course, nominated for a Tony for playing "Eve" in Applause (based on All About Eve). Her performance of the song "One Hallowe’en" is, in my opinion, one of the best in the history of musical theatre. The plot of DIVA: Live From Hell is partly inspired by the plot of All About Eve (along with Sunset Blvd), so, it’s incredibly meaningful to have Broadway’s original "Eve Harrington" portraying "Desmond’s" grandmother.

9. In addition to having Charles in your show and you in his Times Square Angel since 2004, Charles was one of your playwrighting teachers. What did you learn from Charles? How did you take that lesson and apply it to DIVA: Live From Hell? Well, Charles came in and taught a master class at Fordham when I was a student, but he’s been my personal writing mentor for much longer. When I was 15, I sent him my first screenplay (the aforementioned murder-y one). He took the time to give me thorough, helpful notes and was very encouraging. All through college, he read drafts of all my early plays and always took great time and consideration in his feedback. When I wrote the first incarnation of DIVA in 2013, he went through the entire script with me, page by page, giving notes. Then, we spent an hour sitting in his living room, listening to monologues recorded by the legendary Ruth Draper. That afternoon, I learned an amazing lesson about camp comedy—the circumstances may be received ironically by the audience, but must be completely truthful within the play. The audience can laugh, but the playwright must take the characters and their conflicts seriously. Ruth Draper has a hilarious monologue called "A Children’s Party in Philadelphia," in which she plays a very silly suburban mother, but Draper doesn’t patronize or mock the character she’s playing. She’s only funny because she’s honest. Charles treats his characters the same way. I saw his play The Divine Sister five times off-Broadway; it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, but there’s an incredibly moving scene in which a daughter is reunited with her long-lost mother. One could play it all as a big joke, but without the emotional truth of that scene, I don’t think the rest of the piece is as impactful or as funny. I try to approach every moment of in DIVA: Live From Hell with empathy and honesty, no matter how ridiculous.

Sean Patrick Monahan in Ken Urban's "Nibbler"10. If you were sent to hell and could only bring one diva with you who you had to watch one million times consecutively, who would you take? Preface: I’m using the word "diva" here to mean an unbelievably talented songstress, not a narcissistic, unkind one.

When I was in high school, I would have had an impossibly difficult time choosing just one. It would have been a four-way tie between Merman, Lansbury, LuPone, and Stritch. But now, I can answer 100%, without hesitation: Grace McLean (currently in Natasha, Pierre…). I met Grace last year at the Johnny Mercer Writers’ Colony up at the Goodspeed Opera House, and I find her voice, her persona, and her talent to be absolutely electrifying. I have since seen her in concert five times, and after each and every song, I jump up and down in screaming delight like I’m a sixteen year old girl watching Elvis on Ed Sullivan. I could certainly stand to see her perform another 999,995 times. But that sounds more like Heaven than Hell to me.

Angela Lansbury, Photo Credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times11. I have heard you are a HUGE Angela Lansbury fan. What is something about her that only a super fan would know? Have you met Angela Lansbury? If so, did it live up to what you had pictured in your mind? Well, I celebrate Angela Lansbury’s birthday every year (October 16th). I even wrote it into DIVA: Live From Hell. The last scene of the play takes place on October 16.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet Dame Angela four times, and she is even more wonderful than I ever could have imagined. Charles knows her, and he’s taken me to see her in every show she’s done on Broadway since Deuce in ’07. Each time, we’ve gone backstage, and every encounter has been magical. Talking to her after A Little Night Music was especially so. Charles told Angela how I was having a hard time deciding where to go to college. She sat me down on the sofa, took my hands, and said, "This is your time. Go where you want to go, and don’t ever look back." I picked Fordham University—and thank God I did.

A couple years ago, someone approached me about producing DIVA with a big TV star in the lead role. I wasn’t sure what to do—I really wanted to originate the part myself. I told Charles that I was wrestling with this dilemma, and he happened to be getting dinner with Angela that night. He mentioned my predicament to Angela, who said (with grave, Manchurian Candidate-style seriousness, according to Charles), "No, he must hold onto that for himself." So, the bottom line is—I’m doing DIVA: Live From Hell because Angela Lansbury thinks I should.

Sean Patrick MonahanMore on Sean Patrick:

Sean Patrick Monahan is a playwright, performer, and hopeless Angela Lansbury addict. Plays include RODHAM/SADE (Sanctuary @ HERE Arts Center), AUNT JACK (Wide Eyed Winks), WHAT DO YOU CALL A—? (Rhapsody Collective), LITTLE MAC, LITTLE MAC, YOU’RE THE VERY MAN! (written w/James Presson, Less Than Rent), 6B (Fordham University), and GALLOWS TREE (Winner Best One-Act 2012, Manhattan Repertory Theatre). As an actor, Sean Patrick has performed at the Vineyard Theatre, the Helen Hayes, New World Stages, and, most recently, The Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in The Amoralists’ world-premiere production of Ken Urban’s NIBBLER. Other acting credits include THE VAST MACHINE (Axis Theatre), FMK (Under St. Marks), LITTLE TOWN BLUES (The Wild Project), OUTLAWS (le Poisson Rouge), and A STOOP ON ORCHARD STREET (Mazer Theatre). Sean Patrick is thrilled to be returning to Theater for the New City, having performed there every year since 2004 in Charles Busch’s TIMES SQUARE ANGEL. Sean Patrick’s greatest theatrical achievement was crafting the high school club constitution for Thespian Troupe 132, which was never enacted due to the short-sightedness of the club’s administration.

Wednesday
Mar222017

Call Redialed: Facetime Interview: Bobby Cronin: Concerts, Theme Songs, & Winning New York

Call Me Adam and Bobby Cronin at The Algonquin Hotel's "New Yorker Suite"From inside The Algonquin Hotel's New Yorker Suite, what an absolute joy it was to catch-up with Bobby Cronin, award winning composer/lyricist (and creator/singer of the "Call Me Adam Theme Song")! It's been a few years since Bobby & I have sat down for an interview so needless to say, we had lots to talk about: from his upcoming concerts to creating the "Call Me Adam Theme Song" to Winning New York, we reveal it all!

Bobby has two upcoming concerts. One is Sunday 3/26 at 7pm at The W Hotel in Times Square, NYC (47th & Broadway) called #Love Is Love as part of the W's Broadway at The W series. Featuring Bobby's music, #Love Is Love will welcome Anne Brummel (Wicked), Bryan Terrell Clark (Hamilton & Motown), Lauren Elder (Hair & Side Show), Lora Lee Gayer (Holiday Inn & Follies), LaQuet Sharnell (Memphis & Lion King), Adam Kaplan (Kinky Boots & Newsies), Kyle Scatliffe (The Color Purple & Les Miserables), Marty Thomas (Grammy Nominee), Michael Williams (Charllie & The Chocolate Factory & On The Town), and Cortney Wolfson (Kinky Boots & The Addams Family). Click here for tickets!

Bobby's second concert, Bobby Cronin & Friends will be April 19 at 8pm at The Yotel's Green Room in NYC (42nd & 10th Ave). This will be a benefit for the Humane Society and feature a host of Bobby's New York friends and International talents. Click here for tickets!

For more on Bobby be sure to visit http://bobbycronin.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube!

"Call Me Adam's" Facetime video interview with Bobby Cronin:

Friday
Mar172017

Call Redialed: Lucie Pohl: "Apohlcalypse Now!" at Under St. Marks Theater

Lucie Pohl, Photo Credit: Laura RoseLast time comedian/actress Lucie Pohl and I spoke, she was starring in her one-woman show Hi, Hitler, now these two Jews are talking about her new show Apohlcalypse Now! From tyrants to death, we know our herritage! In this new show, Apohlcalypse Now! bangs together stand up, storytelling and character comedy. Expect bad language, bad decisions, a wedding, a break up, dead rats and wake up calls from Stephen Baldwin.

Apohlcalypse Now! will play a very limited run, four performances only, March 20, 21, 27 & 28 at Under St. Marks Theater (94 St. Marks Place). March 20 & 27 are at 8pm. March 21 & 28 are at 7pm. Click here for tickets!

For more on Lucie be sure to visit http://www.luciepohl.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

1. It's great to catch up with you! Last we spoke, we did an interview for your one-woman show Hi, Hitler. Now you are back in NYC with your brand new show Apohlcalypse Now! How ironic that your show a few years ago had Hitler in the title and now your show has Apohlcalypse (a funny take on apocalypse) in the title. In the few years between shows, we got a new Hitler leading our country and he's creating an apocalypse. How do you explain this irony? Yes that is creepy and ironic. I'm psychic! Or may be it's that artists have invisible, subconscious feelers which pick things up before they've emerged into daily life.

One way to look at it is also, Hi, Hitler was very much a fish out of water story which went all the way back to my Jewish-German family history of persecution and migration. The whole point of the show was embracing that not fitting in was in my DNA. In this sense, I am not surprised that those of us who are different (for many different reasons) have become a target again. The fight for acceptance against periodic assholes will never end, I think.

The Apohlcalypse theme came out of a period of extremely taxing events in my life that kept piling up relentlessly. I also had been having this feeling of imminent doom for a few years. I never anticipated that history would tie these two shows together in such a frightening way.

Lucie Pohl, Photo Credit: Elmar Lemes2. What can people expect from this new show? What people can expect from Apohlcalypse Now! is a wild roller coaster ride into a year of tragically funny disasters in my life told through storytelling, stand-up and character comedy. It's an intimate, sometimes surreal, hilarious and very honest 60 minutes. And there's a goldfish monologue.

3. Let's play with the title of your show, "Apohlcalypse Now!" for a moment. What is the biggest event to happen in your life that would be as big as an apocalypse? The biggest apocalypse ever to happen in my life is when I realized Nutella is made with palm oil and I can no longer eat it! Game over!

No, ok, I'll be serious: it was the violent shattering of my 12 year relationship. Internally that was something which completely destroyed everything I thought I was, I thought I had and I thought I knew. And then a few other things happened simultaneously which just added more fire and brimstone. But these are all spoilers! That's what the show is about!

But one more thing: In writing the show I spoke to Anbarra Khalidi who is an apocalyptic scholar at Oxford (yes that's a job title) and she told me that the nature of the apocalyptic framework is both horror and clarity - exposing uncomfortable truths, mirroring the notion that we are our truest selves in moments of suffering, trial and judgement. This idea sort of fell into my lap and became what I was most interested in.

Lucie Pohl, Photo Credit: Mindy Tucker4. In this show we can expect bad language, bad decisions, a wedding, a break-up, dead rats, and wake-up calls from Stephen Baldwin. So for the next few questions we are going to break these down. If you could create a sentence using your five favorite bad words, how would that sentence look? Trump is a motherfucking thundercunting asswiping fuck-shit fascist.

5. What is the worst decision you've ever made? What did you learn from this bad decision? The worst decision I ever made was deciding to act on every impulse I had regardless of the consequence. I've made many bad decisions. What I've learned (the hard way) is that decisions matter and they are decisions, not accidents. You control that, it doesn't control you. It's not always about doing the thing which feels best in the moment, it's about knowing what's important and what you want in the long run.

And of course looking at the ingredients list on a Nutella jar.

6. What is one of your most funny break-up stories? When I was a teenager my boyfriend at the time said he was going downstairs real quick to get a Snapple. He came back 10 days later. I tried to punch him and missed. We broke up.

Lucie Pohl7. What is a good wedding tale you can tell? I once went to a wedding in England and woke up in Wales.

8. I hate rats. I mean HATE, but I'm going to ask a question about them anyway. What is an interaction you've had with a dead rat? Big, fat spoiler but here it goes: I found a dead rat in my mailbox! Yes, this is a true story and I have the pics to prove it.

9. When did you get a wake-up call from Stephen Baldwin? I got a wake up call from Stephen Baldwin in Istanbul, Turkey when I was in a horror film with him about a cult which impregnates women with demon babies to make an army of super humans. Duh! What else?! (Another spoiler).

10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? Right now I'm trying to not freak out on subway platforms every day about terrible MTA service. Yesterday I waited for 45 minutes at Union Square and at one point a nice man eating plantain chips told me to "Relax." Gotta work on that. Ommmm.

Lucie Pohl, Photo Credit: Laura RoseMore on Lucie:

Lucie Pohl is a German-born-NYC-raised comedian, actor, writer, solo performer and producer. Her storytelling comedy debut HI, HITLER was nominated for the 2015 New York Innovative Theater Award (Outstanding Solo Performance), received 5 and 4 star reviews and played to sold out houses at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, on London’s West End, 59E59 Theatres NY & Los Angeles.