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Monday
Sep242012

Ben Rimalower: Patti Issues

Ben Rimalower in "Patti Issues", Photo Credit: Gustavo Monroy for Next MagazineBen Rimalower is a rising director, writer, and performer! He directed and produced the Off-Broadway plays "Joy" (Actors Playhouse, Out Magazine: "Top Ten Theatre") and "The Fabulous Life of a Size Zero" (Daryl Roth/DR2 Theatre). He also directed "Justin Sayre Is Alive And Well…Writing" (Ars Nova), "Project Lohan" (La MaMa E.T.C.), "Snoopy!" starring Sutton Foster (Symphony Space), "And/or" (Hot Festival), "Sodom the Musical" (Kraine Theatre) and the all-star "Night Of A Thousand Judys" (Playwrights Horizons) as well as staged readings for Second Stage, The York, Dixon Place and Ensemble Studio Theatre. He conceived and directed "Leslie Kritzer is Patti LuPone at Les Mouches" (Time Out New York Award) and subsequently produced Sh-K-Boom/Ghostlight Records’ long-awaited recording, "Patti LuPone at Les Mouches" (Billboard "Heatseekers" Chart), digitally restored from archival tapes of LuPone’s legendary 1980 performances. In venues such as Joe’s Pub, San Francisco’s Plush Room and Los Angeles’ Upright Cabaret, Ben has earned the title the "Midas of Cabaret" (The Advocate) helming a slew of solo shows for artists including Alec Mapa, Cole Escola, Our Lady J, Natalie Joy Johnson, Lindsey Alley, Molly Pope, Wendy Ho, John Hill, Scott Nevins, Kate Pazakis, and Lance Horne in addition to producing and hosting the Laurie Beechman Theatre's recurring variety show, "Saturday Night Underground."

Ben writes a blog for The Huffington Post and "The New Old Gay" for akawilliam.com. Assistant Director credits include Lonny Price’s productions of "A Class Act" (Manhattan Theatre Club, Broadway and Tokyo) and "A Little Night Music" (starring Patti LuPone, George Hearn and Zoe Caldwell) as well as the Emmy-winning "Sweeney Todd." Ben studied Theatre Arts at U.C. Berkeley where he was the founding Artistic Director of BareStage (now celebrating its 16th anniversary).

Poster designed by Robbie RozelleNow Ben is making his performing and writing debut in his recently extended hit one-man show "Patti Issues" at The Duplex, NYC's most famous cabaret and piano bar. According to press notes, "When Ben Rimalower was eight years old, his father came out of the closet and embarked on a drug-fueled tear that left his family in tatters. Amid the chaos of his young life, Ben found comfort like so many gay boys before him and after in musical theater, and specifically in the transportive voice of Broadway star Patti LuPone." "Patti Issues" poignantly explores the challenges facing LGBT parents and children while shining unique light on gay men's time-old obsessions with divas.

For more on Ben be sure to follow him on Twitter @benrimalower!

"Patti Issues" plays at the Duplex (61 Christopher Street at 7th Avenue). With added performances, "Patti Issues" has been extended through November 1!

Click here for tickets!

Remaining showtimes are:

Thursday, September 27 at 9:30pm

Thursday, October 4 at 9:30pm

Monday, October 8 at 7pm

Sunday, October 14 at 9:30pm

Sunday, October 21 at 9:30pm

Sunday, October 28 at 4pm

Thursday, November 1 at 9:30pm

1. Who or what inspired you to become a playwright/director/performer? Patti. Ann. LuPone.

2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Bernadette. Lazzara. Peters. Just kidding! Lots of people! I'm a really big Rufus Wainwright fan and I'd love to work with him--PATTI ISSUES, The Musical!

3. You are making your playwrighting and performing debut with your one-man show "Patti Issues" (which has become a bonafide hit). According to press notes, the show deals with your tale of growing up gay, having a father who also came out of the closet and then became addicted to drugs, and you finding salvation in two time Tony Award winner Patti LuPone. What is it about your story that made you want to write and star in it? I think I had to tell it. All my life, I've known that I would use it in something somehow someday (somewhere...) when I was ready. That wasn't my intention, three years ago, when I began writing about my experience of Patti LuPone, but in writing about Patti, this is what burbled to the surface. The performing thing just seemed to come with the territory of this personal monologue style. I've always joked, quoting "Merrily We Roll Along," that "I only perform at dinner," but I don't think anyone who knows me is all that surprised to finally see me on the stage.

4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? I hope they connect to the sensitive, precocious me of my childhood needing an escape and finding it in Patti. And I hope they relate to my passion motivating most of what I've done in my life. And I hope they think I'm funny!!!

5. Without giving too much of the show away, what is it about Patti LuPone specifically that you were so drawn to? In my show, I quote John Housman saying that Patti has "the smell of the gallows." People get it wrong--the smell of the footlights, or whatever, but he said gallows. There's a fierceness to Patti, not just in the "snap, snap, snap, work, bitch" sense, but like she has a taste for blood. That thrills me and holds my attention--even in the dark times, especially in the dark times. And also, that is very empowering. Patti is my superhero.

Patti LuPone and Ben Rimalower at "Patti Issues", Photo Credit: Jenny Anderson for Broadway.com6. Ms. LuPone herself came to see your show recently and loved it. What was this moment like for you? Has it changed your performance at all? It was exciting and gratifying and nerve-racking and terrifying and wonderful. My director, Aaron Mark, advised me not to change anything for Patti, and Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman had attended the performance before and said that she would like it, but I was still scared until I got on stage. Feeling Patti's energy in the room, hearing her amazing cackle (she could give Roseanne a run for her money), I knew in my bones that Patti is many things, but a bullshitter is not one of them; I knew that she would respect me for telling the truth, my truth.

7. You have directed several Off-Broadway shows, concerts, and all-star benefits. What do you enjoy most about directing? Well, moving forward, I'll enjoy most that I don't have to get my ass up on stage! It's a lot more relaxing to sit in the audience and receive compliments in the lobby--or even stay home and order Chinese! What I have always loved about directing, though, is putting myself in the audience's place and catering to their experience of the show. As someone who loves seeing theatre, I want to create the perfect theatrical experience. Or die trying.

8. What was your favorite part of the creative process in writing this show? Where is your favorite place to write? Just the writing itself, and creating the space to write. I got sober 16 months ago, so before that, writing was odd. I'd work for an hour and take a break for six months. The serious work began this past spring. I'd set aside my Saturdays, all day and all night, just to write. It was such a wonderful feeling of freedom to wake up in the morning, after having worked all week, and know that I had nowhere to go and no one to see, that my time was my own and I didn't owe anything to anybody. I would take my time drinking my coffee, cleaning my apartment, puttering around and then when I was ready, I'd sit at my desk looking out on Bedford Avenue and North 11th Street in Williamsburg, and just tell my story. Sometimes, I'd take a break to go for a walk by the river or sing some karaoke or watch a Patti video, but I felt very inspired and grounded and free, just being myself and saying what I wanted to say. It was really the best time in my life.

9. As you went back through the events in which you created "Patti Issues," what did you learn about yourself in this process? Has time changed your perspective at all? If so, how? What I've learned about myself is the thing I've been learning since getting sober, which is that I'm largely a sensitive, introverted person and a lot of my needing to be the center of attention is a defense against feeling my feelings I learned when I was a little kid and I couldn't handle them. It's rewarding to take a step back as an adult and just be me with no need for anything from anyone, including my father.

10. What's the best advice you've ever received? The best advice I ever received was to go to rehab.

11. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? I love to dream about my Grandma Harriet, who died when I was 18. I always wake up feeling like I got to hang out with her. She was the greatest!

BONUS QUESTIONS:

12. Favorite way to spend your day off? Either downtime or uptime. I need a certain amount of staring off into space clearing my mind and I also crave a certain amount of running around town, seeing people, seeing shows, carrying on and cavorting.

13. Favorite way to stay in shape? Yoga.

14. Boxers or Briefs? Briefs. They have to have the seam up the center--maintains good placement and prevents male camel-toe.

15. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? The ability to print money.

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