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Entries in Actor (161)

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.

Monday
Mar062017

Call Answered: Brad Zimmerman: My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy at Bucks County Playhouse

Brad ZimmermanI first heard about Brad Zimmerman's show My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy when it had it's New York run here in 2014, but never got to see it. I'm so grateful for second chances because when I called, Brad answered. My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy is the hilarious and inspiring story about the grit & passion it takes to "make it" as an artist & the sweet rewards that come from never giving up! If you ever longed for something, if you ever desired it with all your heart, if you were willing to wait tables for 29 years to pursue your dream then My Son The Waiter will give meaning to your life!

My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy will be heading to Bucks County Playhouse from March 23-April 9. Click here for tickets!

For more on My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy be sure to visit http://www.mysonthewaiter.com and follow the show on Facebook and Instagram!

For more on Bucks County Playhouse visit http://bcptheater.org and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. This spring you are bringing your one-man show My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy to Bucks County Playhouse. What made now the right time to go back on tour with this show? I began the tour in 2014 in Phoenix. I think that with a few exceptions the show has really resonated both artistically and financially all over the country. The experience of doing it in a theatre rich area of the country one hour and 30 minutes from where I live is sublime. There is really no wrong time to do a tour of a show like this that is real, authentic and very very funny...it has a message that if you are willing to pay a price, and believe me, I have, that life can be extremely rewarding and meaningful. That is how I now feel about my life so I'm sharing that knowledge with audiences all over the country. And its universal...not just for Jews..but for anyone who wants to find purpose or desires to lead a rich life.

2. What are you looking forward to most about performing it at Bucks County Playhouse? I love the area of Bucks County...I grew up in New Jersey so Bucks County is just across the river. It is rich in both culture and the town is so artsy and beautiful and the theatre is legendary. I know I'll be taken care of by the wonderful people who really know what I need...that makes me feel in really good hands..wow!!! And I love the Northeast more than anything. I have so many people who I know in Jersey and Philadelphia who want to see it, some of whom I went to camp with in the Poconos so it should be a sublime expereince...all I need is a Starbucks, a gym and a nice Jewish lady who enjoys loaning money.

Brad Zimmerman in "My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy"3. My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy is your hilarious and inspiring story about the grit and passion required to 'make it' as an artist and the sweet rewards that come from never giving up on your dream. When did you realize you had a story that could be told in a show format? In 2005 I was approached by a friend who said he would produce a one person show should I ever have the desire. So I began work on the show in 2005. Its been an evolution...I didnt know right away that my story would resonate for so many people...I think my growth as an artist combined with my realization along this journey that my life was devoted to mastering a craft made me over the years feel like the story could resonate for so many people who have not found themselves...have not found what they were meant to do. That is the hardest thing in life, to find what you were born to do...if you have a little determination and are willing to really commit to getting the most out of your ability, the rewards can be truly remarkable and I'm not talking about financially. I'm talking about success on a much deeper level...which is the best kind of success...so I think it wasnt until a year ago, after working on the show for a decade or more, that I became aware in part due to the audiences response that I had a show that really inspired people and made them think and in some cases to reassess their own lives (break).

Brad Zimmerman in "My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy"4. In creating this show, what did you learn about yourself that you didn't realize living through it? The answer to this question is somewhat similar to question three. I learned that practice does make perfect...I never improved in sports and I was a truly great athlete, but I never improved because I never practiced...I took up acting and I wasn't nearly as gifted at acting as I was at hitting a baseball...but the challenge of trying to get great obviously had meaning for me...as my therapist once said to me. "You have only been inspired by the best. You have never been inspired by competence." Truer words were never spoken. I also learned that I love connecting...that is everything in art...really making the attempt to connect with the audience...to really talk TO THEM...I also learned that each human being is possessed of genius...in so many ways...we just have to be willing to pay the price to tap into it...(paycheck)

5. You spent 29 years waiting tables while pursuing your dream of becoming an actor. How many times during those 29 years did you consider giving up? What kept you going each time? What ultimately kept me going more than anything was that underneath the self doubt and the lack of confidence and the fear of failure which served to literally paralyze me for many years, I had a small little voice that told me, "YOU HAVE SOMETHING." At the time, my feeling was the something I had, was in the comedic arena so I think I needed to stick with it to find out if I was right...and I was...yeah me!!!

Brad Zimmerman in "My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy"6. During the run of this show, when did you realize you had something that would allow you to quit waitering? Then, what did that moment feel like? I was waiting tables until 2007...had to return five years later becuase I could not afford a haircut...three months later my ex-manager got me a three-week run of the show in Coral Springs, Florida and the show was extended four months. My producers Dana Matthow and Philip Roy flew down and after seeing the show offered to buy the touring rights to my show...I'm not certain but one of them wanted to buy the show and one of them didn't...so they asked me to cast the deciding vote. Haha...they gave me an advance and I have had a savings account ever since...yeah!!!

7. You been working on My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy since 2005. How do you keep the show fresh? Keeping the show fresh is the hardest thing I have ever done next to killing a deer...only because I keep missing...my mind wanders many times and the key is that the audience can't know that. For instance I could be talking about my father and at the same time thinking about what flavor ice cream to get that night...but if I wander I have to remind myself to connect...that is the key. When you have done a show as much as much as I have it's natural to have the mind wander.

Brad Zimmerman in "My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy"8. What has been some memorable "missed moments" during the runs of the show? Missed moments : When you expect a loud laugh and you get silence...that is a moment that can really test your composure. I have to adlib something...I try to say something that might get a laugh, like "they didn't get that in Alabama either."

9. As a comedian, you got to open for two of my all time favorite comics: Joan Rivers and George Carlin. How did you get to be their opening acts? What did you learn from working with them? What is one funny story about your interaction with each comedian you can share with us? Opening for Joan and Georgre was an honor...both were the most professional of professionals...Rolling Stone Magazine just came out with the list of top 10 comedians of all time and they were both in top 10. I think Georgre was 2. So to say that I worked with both of them, wow. By the way, I was number 2,000,346,900,111.

10. Since you were a waiter for 29 years, did you wait on any celebrities? If so, who? What are your top five favorite things to order when you go out to eat or drink? Celebrtities I waited on: Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore. Julianne Moore, Glenn Close, Chris Noth, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Dustin Hoffman, Ron Howard.

Five favorite things to order when I go out: a great steak, veal parmesian, warm apple crisp with vanilla ice cream, bagel and nova, carrots!!!!!!!!!

Brad ZimmermanMore on Brad:

Brad Zimmerman is a very unique and original voice in the world of comedy. Watch a few minutes of his comedy and you will know you have never seen anything like Brad. He works all over the country, doing theatres, comedy clubs, casino’s, country clubs, comedy festivals, JCC’s. I mean, you name it, he’s done it. He has worked with many well known comedians and entertainers such as Brad Garrett, Dennis Miller, Susie Essman, Julio Inglesias, and was Joan Rivers’ opening act of choice for over seven years. In fact Joan had said "I’ve had three great opening acts in my lifetime: Billy Crystal, Garry Shandling, and Brad Zimmerman." In the year 2006, Brad had the great honor of opening for George Carlin, and that relationship lasted until George passed away in 2008. The first time Brad opened for George, at the Paramount Theatre, just outside Chicago, right after finishing his act, George approached Brad backstage, and said, as only George could have said, "f**kin great!"

Brad combines years of acting training and standup, which is evident in Brad’s true pride and joy; his one man show. It is called MY SON THE WAITER, A JEWISH TRAGEDY, and he has been working on it since 2005. In this part standup/part theatrical piece Brad tells a story of one man’s lengthy, and we do mean lengthy struggle to make it as an actor in New York. His send-ups on his childhood, his family, his misbegotten love life, and his career are as warm and poignant as they are hysterical. He has done the show all over the country. In addition to this show, Brad has done work in both television and film, most notably playing Johnny Sack’s lawyer in one of the best television shows of all time: THE SOPRANOS.

Sunday
Mar052017

Call Answered: Michael Xavier: Sunset Boulevard on Broadway

Michael Xavier"With One Look" I fell in love with two-time Olivier Award actor Michael Xavier after seeing him in Sunset Boulevard on Broadway, starring as "Joe Gillis," opposite Glenn Close's "Norma Desmond." Michael is giving a dynamic performance whose character portrayal of "Joe" is very real and down-to-earth. My favorite "Joe" moment in Sunset Boulevard, without giving too much away, was when "Joe" stood up for himself/what he believes in and took control of his life. That is kind of person I always strive to be (even if I don't achieve it every time).

I was beyond excited when I called and Michael answered. Make sure you catch Michael's performance in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard at The Palace Theatre (47th & Broadway) through June 25th only! Click here for tickets!

For more on Michael be sure to visit http://www.michaelxavier.co.uk and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

For more on Sunset Boulevard visit http://sunsetboulevardthemusical.com and follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I don't remember who or what inspired me but my earliest memory was at around six years old I went up to my Mother and said "Mum I want to be an actor." She replied with "Go on then, do some acting for me." Surprised and embarrassed I said "No way!" Here response; "Well you'll never make an actor then." She assumed my shyness equated to poor acting ability but she's come to realise I really meant it!

2. You are making your Broadway debut in the revival of Sunset Boulevard, starring Glenn Close. Most people are just excited to have a Broadway debut at all in their career, but yours is starring alongside one of our nations most revered actresses. What were the first thoughts that went through your head when you found out you got the role of "Joe Gillis"? Well, initially I knew I was auditioning to play opposite Glenn in London's West End so it never even occurred to me that we would end up here on Broadway! When I landed the role I thought "WOW! Not only do I get to play this fabulous role and sing this amazing Andrew Lloyd Webber score with a 52-piece orchestra (English National Opera Orchestra) but I get to act opposite the legend that is Glenn Close!" It didn't sink in until the first day of rehearsals just how wonderful this whole experience was going to be.

Michael Xavier and Glenn Close in "Sunset Boulevard"3. What do you relate to most about "Joe"? What is one characteristic of his that you are glad you don't possess yourself? How do you feel your struggle to achieve success as an actor is similar to "Joe's" climb as a writer? Joe's willingness to please is something I can relate to. I can be a people pleaser and as I've gone through life I've realised it's an exhausting quality as not everyone is going to love you or what you do. I'm glad I don't possess Joe's characteristic of "selling out" and settling for an "easy life" but ultimately an unhappy one. I'd rather struggle and be happy in myself than be a kept man! Anyone who has ever worked in the creative industry knows success is often achieved through a struggle but it's how you cope with the knock-backs. Being able to stand back up after a defeat is an important quality in this business and in life. I feel it's the times that I've struggled that have made me a better actor.

4. I saw Sunset Boulevard a few weeks ago and was very impressed by it. You really held your own throughout the show. There is a moment in the show when "Joe" hears some harsh criticism about the script he is pitching to Paramount, however, the person critiquing is unaware of "Joe's" presence. Has there ever been a time in your life when you overheard someone saying something about you and they had no idea you were nearby? If so, what did you feel in that moment and after looking back on it, what did you take away from that experience? Thank you. Wow, that's a great question. This business can be tough at times and yes I've experienced many things being said about me but not in direct earshot. Lots of rumours and gossip fly about so I tend to try and filter out the noise but it really hurts when you hear something negative about you (especially when it's from someone you would call a friend). You have to thicken your skin and ride the storm if you want to stay in this business. There have been so many times I've wanted to quit! If you can ride the low times, the highs are incredible!

Glenn Close and Michael Xavier in "Sunset Boulevard"5. I secretly applauded "Joe"when he walked out on "Norma Desmond" after becoming fed up with the charade as it's also starting to affect his own career. When have you walked away from something that you thought might help you, but turns out was only holding you back? What opened up for you after this walk out? I always trust my gut instinct. My mantra has become "follow the character, not the money." When I've turned down auditions or job offers that I didn't really believe were right, it's always ended up being for the best as a better job comes up.

In life, sometimes if people are holding you back it's good to let them go. If they don't want to support you they shouldn't get a seat at your table.

6. Another favorite "Joe" moment, which I'm coining as your "Joe-dropping" (instead of jaw-dropping) scene in the show is your pool scene. How do you keep that chiseled body? Have you had a wardrobe malfunction yet? Does the attention you get from that scene ever get to be too much? Joe-dropping! Haha! I like that! Well thank you for the compliment.

I have a very strict diet that I stick to and I work out six days a week. It's all very dull but if I ate what I wanted there wouldn't be much water left in that pool! I had a day when I took off my trunks (back to the audience for those who haven't seen it) but then I couldn't find the strap to my robe and spent most of the song trying to cover myself up. Hilarious and terrifying in equal measure!

Hmmm, does the attention get too much? Well, I don't like it when people are taken out of the story so it's great that as the narrator I have the opportunity to gesture a kind of "sure I sold out" shoulder shrug which tends to break the ice of "how do I respond to this?" At stage door I'd much rather hear "I loved your performance of a difficult character to play" but it's flattering to get "loved the swimming pool scene!"

Glenn Close and Michael Xavier7. What have you learned about acting or life from working with Glenn Close? What is funniest thing to have between you and Glenn either during rehearsal, the show, or off-stage? I've learned so much from working with Glenn! Professionally; How to find the truth in every second, not just moment. How to trust yourself. How to enjoy the audience as a collaborator and not something to be afraid of.

In life: Just enjoy every moment! Glenn makes me laugh a LOT. We're always giggling away about something or other. On stage we're always both very professional but off-stage I'm always teasing her about not being very good or moving her quick change items for laughs! She loves/hates me for it!

Michael Xavier, Glenn Close, Siobhan Dillon, and Fred Johanson on opening night of "Sunset Boulevard"8. You recently posted a picture on your Instagram from Sunset Boulevard's opening night. You said this was your favorite picture from that night. What made that your favorite picture? When you look at that picture now, what memories go through your head? It was my favourite (excuse my British spelling of the word) photo of the night because a door was opened and a breeze of freezing cold air whizzed through the carpet and we all reacted so naturally to it. It wasn't posed, it was real, fun and happy. The memory of a great night. One of the best nights of my life!

9. 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? Being able to relax about the future. I'm a worrier and I need to chill out by ten percent every day, not one!

Michael XavierMore on Michael:

West End & UK productions include starring roles in Sunset Boulevard with Glenn Close (Won Best Actor BWW UK Award), Love Story (Olivier award nomination – Best Actor In A Musical), Into The Woods (Olivier award nomination – Best Supporting Performance In A Musical), Shakespeare’s The Wars of the RosesShow BoatPhantom of the OperaAssassinsThe Pajama GameSpamalot!My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Pageant, Soho Cinders, Sweet Charity, Hello Dolly!, Wonderful Town, Oklahoma!, Mamma Mia!, Miss Saigon and The Mikado. TV/Film roles include: Never Let Go and Gnomeland.

Tuesday
Feb282017

Call Answered: Matt Cox: PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic

Matt CoxI've never read nore seen a Harry Potter book/movie, but I'm a big fan of magic/fantasy and am very intrigued by the Harry Potter phenomenon we live among. When I heard about Matt Cox's show PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic (which has recently been extended until June), I cast a spell for him to answer my call and voila, this interview ensued.

Some people are born with the capacity to do great things. Some people change the world. Some people rise from humble beginnings to defeat the forces of darkness in the face of insurmountable odds. PUFFS or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic is the story of the people who sit in class next to those people.

PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic plays in the heart of NYC's theatre district at the Elektra Theater (300 West 43rd Street) every Friday (7:30pm), Saturday (3pm & 9:30pm) & Sunday (3pm) through June 25th! Click here for tickets!

For more on Matt be sure to visit http://www.mattcoxland.com and follow him on Twitter!

For more on PUFFS visit http://www.puffstheplay.com and follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. Your show, PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic moved to the Elektra Theater after a triumphant, sold-out run at The PIT last summer. What excites you most about moving this show to the Elektra Theatre, located in the heart of midtown? So, a bit further removed from that now, but the most exciting thing that has certainly happened is that our reach to new audience members has been much larger. Not only just due to more seating, but with a midtown location, we're a bit more likely to be stumbled upon which is great!

Along with that, we have been able to dedicate a bit more of the space to the show, including some decor in the theater itself (we've got some floating candles!) and the lobby, which we've decorated with various posters for other wizard themed shows.

2. What did you learn from the run at The PIT that helped inform this bigger run? I will be forever grateful for the run of the show at The PIT, and the many things we learned. We also did a workshop at the University of Florida back in May of 2016, as well, which was very helpful to the story. At the PIT, I was able to make changes from show to show just to try new ideas out/figure out better ways of doing what we were already doing.

It left us with a script with humor that had so many different versions tried that I believe we have the best possible versions in the current iteration. And it was just a lot of fun, and has kept the show fun.

Puffs also has a certain playfulness when it is at it's best, which was definitely something that was developed running at the PIT.

Cast of PUFFS, Photo Credit: Hunter CanningCast of PUFFS, Photo Credit: Hunter Canning3. PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic, is alternate narrative of the Harry Potter series so to speak. What was it about the Harry Potter that made you go, "I want to write my own version of this series?" What did you identify most with about the Harry Potter saga? I was of the lucky age of people that ended up growing up alongside the books, and alongside Harry. So, the characters continued to stay relevant throughout my adolescence. It was also just very influential to my developing love of storytelling.

The idea for Puffs manifested while I was on a train, and it was more of a: Wow! It really would have been terrible to be another kid at that school during those seven years. Then it was a quick skip to the idea that the story would focus on "The Puffs," who pop culture has always deemed the not so great house. (Less so in recent years, which is great!) I had to look it up immediately, and was surprised no one had done it, and figured I should go ahead and do it.

4. When did you become interested in magic? What was it about magic that drew you in? I have always been a fan of Fantasy books, movies, and whatnot, so that kind of magic has always been very interesting/magical to me. I don't have a particularly deep interest in magic-magic but if someone is very good at it, then I am certainly impressed.

Cast of PUFFS, Photo Credit: Hunter CanningCast of PUFFS, Photo Credit: Hunter Canning5. In PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic, "some people are born with the capacity to do great things. Some people change the world. Some people rise from humble beginnings to defeat the forces of darkness in the face of insurmountable odds. PUFFS is the story of the people who sit in class next to those people." If you could name people or events in your life that describe each of these scenarios, who or what would be assigned to each phrase? The idea is that that pretty much applies to almost everybody. The crux of the play is that ultimately, most of us don't get to be the "Harry's" in life. But there's something to celebrate about the heroic victories of normal existence. So we are all the people who sit next to those people in the grand scheme of it.

6. As the writer of this show, did you grow up feeling as though you were living in other people's shadows never shining for yourself? If so, when did you shine your own spotlight? I definitely put some of my own school experiences into the show, as I was definitely not one of the "cool" kids growing up. Not sure when that stopped, I think I just stopped necessarily caring too much about it, and focused more on the things I enjoyed.

Cast of PUFFS, Photo Credit: Hunter CanningCast of PUFFS, Photo Credit: Hunter Canning7. Which Harry Potter character best describes you? I believe we all should strive for the wisdom of "The Headmaster." So I'd hope him. "Ms. Granger" is another good one.

8. If you could cast a spell today, what spell would you conjure up? Like most people, I can only assume, it would be the spell that turns stairs into slides.

9. Aside from Harry Potter characters, who are some of your other favorite magicians from stage or screen? I'll always be a Gandalf man. (Not a conjurer of cheap tricks).

Matt CoxMore on Matt:

Matt Cox is a New York City-based playwright, actor, improviser, sometimes comic book retail associate, and probably/maybe one day, novelist. His plays include Puffs Or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years At A Certain School Of Magic & MagicAdult Mutant Ninja TurtlesThe Madness of Captain Dread, and the 3-part epic Kapow-i GoGo. He authored the radio play El Hombre Bovino for WNYC’s The Greene Space, and contributed to The Flea Theater’s The Mysteries. His work has been produced at The Peoples Improv Theater, The Tank, and The Flea Theater, among other places. His acting credits include: Kapow-i GoGo (The PIT), Blogologues (Lively Productions), The Mysteries (Flea Theater), Sarah Flood in Salem Mass (Flea Theater), and Restoration Comedy (Flea Theater). Matt has studied at The Upright Citizens Brigade, The Stella Adler Studio of Acting, and Tarleton State University.

Friday
Feb242017

Call Answered: John Pollono: This Is Us, Lost Girls, Stronger

John PollonoThis year there are three words that easily grab my attention: This Is Us. When I received an e-mail with the subject line "Interview with NBC This Is Us actor" I had already decided I would interview whomever the e-mail was about. When I found out it was actor/playwright, John Pollono, who's show Small Engine Repair got rave reviews not only from critics, but from lots of people I knew, I was even more excited!

John's new show Lost Girls, a hard-hitting drama about three generations of women struggling to rise above their limited prospects, in a world indifferent to their struggles, to prevent history from repeating itself, is currently playing at Theatre Exile's Stuido X in Philadelphia, PA (1340 S. 13th Street (13th & Reed Street) through March 12. Click here for tickets!

For more on John follow him on Twitter @JPollono!

For more on Theatre Exile visit http://www.theatreexile.org and follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a playwright/actor? Reading plays. I didn't grow up going to the theater, the first play I was in, was only the third play I'd "seen." But I was in an acting class when I was in my mid-twenties and we did scenes from plays and it was like discovering a whole new world. I dove in deep, discovered my voice as a writer reading and writing plays.

2. What made you want to write Lost Girls? After SMALL ENGINE REPAIR, which was male-driven, I wanted to explore the same themes from a female perspective. I knew the characters so intimately, drawing them from real life people I grew up with, that they came to life in my head and I knew they had beautiful things to say.

3. Lost Girls is the story of three generations of women who struggle to rise above their limited prospects, in a world indifferent to their struggles, to prevent history from repeating itself. What are some struggles you've had to rise above? My biggest struggle was having the courage to do what I wanted to do with my life. I didn't grow up in a very artistic community and I was terrified to admit that I wanted to be an artist. I had to overcome that fear and learn how to accept rejection and really put myself and my writing out there.

4. The story seems to go in line with a quote one of my spin instructors, David Held, told me that has stuck with me since I heard it. "You can't move forward without rewriting the past." What is something you keep doing over and over again that you feel maybe preventing you from moving forward in some aspect of your life? I fight the voice in my head that tells me I suck, that I shouldn't be working so hard at this point to make shit work. But the best work comes out of doubt and struggle and fighting to make it work. It's a process...I always want to stick the landing and be brilliant my first draft. To wow with as little effort as possible. But it's the work that makes the difference.

5. Lost Girls also explores this families strengths, scars and flaws as they battle teenage pregnancy, bad relationships, alcoholism, and making ends meet. What is your greatest strength? What is your biggest battle scar? What are some of your flaws? I think one of my greatest strengths is my willingness to collaborate with people I trust. My favorite part of the process is listening to actors and directors and producers who push me to be better. My biggest battle scar was, early in my career, working with people who were toxic but confident because I thought I needed their confidence in order to do what I wanted to do. My flaws are sometimes to want to push away from the desk and say "fuck it" I'll write something else because I let the negative voice in my head take over. But it's sticking with it in the darkest times that leads to deeper work.

6. Piggybacking on this question, how did you make ends meet prior to your writing/acting taking off? I've had hundreds of jobs. I had a landscaping company through high school and college, then worked construction, was a mover, installed irrigation systems, worked at a butcher, then was in a mailroom, a PR assistant, then a PR agency Supervisor working on video games...all to pay the bills while I wrote and auditioned. Been only four years that I've been able to make a living doing what I want.

7. Director Joe Canuso, has said he wants audiences to leave Lost Girls with a sense of hope. In these trying times we are living in, how do you continue to find hope? My family, having kids and seeing how smart they are and good they are. How they are going to do better than my generation did...I hope. I also have a very diverse group of friends and they really open my eyes to so much. It's very bleak out there right now, so much division and hate. And there's a shitload of work to do in terms of really listening to each other and realizing that there are a lot of people in this country who aren't treated fairly. And they need to be heard.

8. You have so much going on these days, from Lost Girls to the spring release of your film Stronger, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, about the Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman's story, plus you are developing a new half-hour dark comedy My First Black Friend, created with playwright Kemp Powers, fro Color Force & FX Network. How do you stay grounded when having so many projects going on at one time could make someone else insane? I struggle with time management. To me, it's about having a routine and putting in the hours. Never enough time, but if I focus on giving myself a schedule then I'm usually okay.

9. What made you want to tell Jeff Bauman's story? Why did you have to write Stronger? I just connected with his story immediately, and I was raised about half hour from where Jeff grew up so we have a lot in common. I found the story to be so moving yet very raw and gritty...sort of my sweet spot. And I spent a lot of time with Jeff and Erin and their family and fell in love with them, flaws and all, and wanted to do them justice.

10. What can you tell us about your developing series My First Black Friend? Working on this project with one of my closest friends has been a joy. It deals with some really hard truths and has opened my eyes to a lot I never thought of. Not sure what's going to happen with it, but I already consider it a success since I've had such a profound experience developing it.

11. You were also on NBC's hit show This Is Us. What can you share about your time on the show? Amazing show, with one of the coolest cast and crews and writers I've ever worked with. They pull a lot from theater crowd and it really feels that way. The actors are top notch. Especially Sterling K. Brown, who I worked with most extensively. I saw him on stage in FATHER COMES HOME FROM THE WARS and was blown away. Then seeing him in OJ and now this show, he's one of my favorite actors out there right now. Really learned a lot watching him work. And just an incredibly cool guy. He's the star but he just disarms everyone, makes you feel like a bud from the second you walk on set.

12. I lived in and around the Boston area for a few years. I loved hanging out in Back Bay, the South End, Harvard Square, and Copley Square. What are some of your favorite Boston hangouts? I grew up going to the Boston Garden and Fenway. Those places have the most memories for me. I love Haymarket Square on weekends, South Boston for hanging with friends, but my favorite area is the North End. The food, the architecture, the vibe. Just love walking around there.

13. 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? I could spend less time on my fucking phone, especially when I'm with my kids. It's a tough addiction to crack. I'll try to get one percent better with that every day!

Thanks, Adam. Love your website-- keep killing it!

John PollonoMore on John:

John Pollono is a playwright, actor and writer from New England. His play, Small Engine Repair, which he wrote and starred in, won the LA Ovation and Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle (LADCC) Awards for Best Play for the 2011 LA production, for which he also received the LADCC Award for Best Writing. The play also enjoyed a critically-acclaimed, extended run Off Broadway with MCC Theater Company (NYTimes Critics’ Pick.) As an actor, John has appeared in one of the most talked about shows on TV this year, This Is Us on NBC, as well as Grey’s Anatomy, How I Met Your Mother, Masters of Sex, Major Crimes and Mob City. John is also a founding member of Rogue Machine Theatre in Los Angeles, which produced Small Engine Repair as well as his plays Lost and Found, Razorback and Lost Girls. His script for Stronger, Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman's story starring Jake Gyllenhaal, will go into production in Spring 2016 for Mandeville and Lionsgate – and debut on movie screens in fall of 2017. And he also is developing a half hour dark comedy My First Black Friend, created with playwright Kemp Powers, for Color Force and FX Network.