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Entries in Actor (147)

Monday
Nov142016

Call Redialed: Michael Urie: Homos or Everyone in America presented by LABryinth Theater Company

Michael UrieWhat a thrill it is to catch up with Michael Urie, known to millions as "Marc St. James" on Ugly Betty and "Gavin Sinclair" on Modern Family. A genius comedic actor, Michael can make me laugh in a second. His dramatic roles always make my jaw drop. But what makes Michael the award winning actor he is, is when he combines his comedic chops with his dramatic side and that is just one reason I LOVED seeing him in Homos or Everyone in America, a new play by Jordan Seavey presented by LABryinth Theater Company. This show will make you laugh, cry, think, and be glad you spent a night at the theatre!

Starring Michael Urie and Robin De Jesús, Homos or Everyone in America is about two young men who traverse the ups and down of being gay in the 21st Century, where progress is always just around the corner – but so is hate. This timely, hilarious and heartbreaking play believes love is love, and that while we may sometimes lose a battle, we will never stop fighting the war for what is right.

Homos or Everyone in America plays at The Bank Street Theater (155 Bank Street) in New York City through December 11. Click here for tickets!

For more on Michael be sure to visit http://michaelurie.net and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!

For more on LABryinth Theater visit http://labtheater.org and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. You are currently starring in LABryinth Theater Company's production of Homos, or Everyone in America, a bitingly tender new play about trying to live and love in New York. What made you want to be in this show? Jordan Seavey is a brave new voice in American theater - I’ve been working with him on this play for a few years and have been dying to put it on a stage. He tells a modern New York gay love story, and I’m so proud to be a part of it.

2. What has been the best part about working with Robin De Jesús? What are some common interests you have found out you share and what are some things, you were like, "Oh, that's so cool you like that. I want to learn more about that."? I knew I’d adore Robin and I was right. His spirit is infectious and his heart is enormous. I love working with him and look forward to seeing him at the theater every night. We have a lot of mutual friends and he’s got a huge musical theater brain, which I love.

Robin De Jesús and Michael Urie in "Homos or Everyone in America", Photo Credit: Monique Carboni3. What do you relate to most about your character? What is one characteristic of your character you wish you had and one you are glad you don’t have? My character and I both have a short fuse, we’re easily set off. I think I’m better about keeping a lid on it when necessary than my character, but alas sometimes I get ragey…"The Writer" is extremely intellectual, likely more than me… :)

4. Since Homos, or Everyone in America is about trying to live & love in New York, what has been the most rewarding part of living in New York and what are the challenging parts for you? From the moment I stepped foot in New York, I knew I needed to live here. The pulse, the energy, the character of New York are exactly my speed and I can’t really imagine being based anywhere else. It’s not easy though, in addition to the huge expense of living here, we all regularly have to endure what I call "FU NY days" where you get caught in a downpour, or stuck on a train, or step in garbage, or gag from a smell. But, it’s worth it.

Aaron Costa Ganis, Michael Urie, and Robin De Jesús in "Homos or Everyone in America", Photo Credit: Monique Carboni5. What has it been like trying to find love in New York? Do you find it more complicated today then say, 5 or 10 years ago? What do you think has made it more complicated? I was lucky enough to find love 8 years ago, so I can’t really speak to modern dating in NY, but I never remember it being all that hard to find other lonely hearts when I was one…. :)

6. What are some of your favorite places do go on a date in New York? What would you be or what was (if you are dating someone already) your ideal first date? I am a dinner and a movie guy. Always.

7. What are you thoughts on monogamy? Have you ever considered being in an open relationship? I’ve been in a monogamous relationship for 8 years, let’s leave it at that!

Stacey Sargeant and Michael Urie in "Homos or Everyone in America", Photo Credit: Monique Carboni8. Homos, or Everyone in America gives a glimpse into the life of an everyday couple who's unexpectedly confronted by a vicious crime. What event has happened to you that you never thought would happen to you, catching you off-guard? I’ve been lucky and never faced any violence, but have certainly had close calls or wondered if something could turn. It’s a scary prospect, I knock on wood whenever I think of it.

9. Homos, or Everyone in America is also described as a fearless, funny, heart-on-its-sleeve examination of the moments that can bring two people together – or pull them apart. While dating or in a relationship, what is something you've done that was fearless? What have done that was funny? How do you wear your heart on your sleeve? I find devotion pretty fearless - I would do anything for my other half, and that’s pretty fearless. Our dog is a constant source of comedy. My partner and I often ask each other if we like each other and almost always say yes.

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? I try to smile at anyone who makes eye contact with me. It’s not always easy and not always reciprocated, but when it is, it’s very satisfying.

Michael UrieMore on Michael:

For originating the role of "Alex More" in Jonathan Tolins’ Buyer & Cellar Off-Broadway, on tour, and in London, Michael received the Drama Desk Award, Clarence Derwent Award, the Lucille Lortel Award, LA Drama Critics Award, and nominations for the Drama League and Outer Critics Circle Awards. Michael recently reprised Buyer & Cellar at Westport Country Playhouse where WNET recorded it and will air it on PBS as part of their Theatre CloseUp series in the fall of 2016. New York theater credits include How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Broadway), Shows for Days (Lincoln Center Theater, Drama League nomination), The Cherry Orchard (Classic Stage Company), Angels in America (Signature Theatre), The Temperamentals (Lucille Lortel, Drama Desk and Theatre World awards, Drama League nomination), The Revenger’s Tragedy (Red Bull Theater), Another Vermeer (HB Playwrights). Regionally, Michael has worked for Two River Theater, The Old Globe, Vineyard Playhouse, South Coast Rep, Seattle Rep, Folger Shakespeare, Barrington Stage, Hyde Park (Austin), and The Blank (L.A.) Film: He’s Way More Famous Than You (also directed), Thank You for Judging (co-director/exec. producer), Beverly Hills Chihuahua, WTC View, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, The Decoy Bride, Petunia, Such Good People, The Hyperglot (director), and Grantham & Rose (exec. producer). TV: "Gavin Sinclair" on Modern Family, Younger, Workaholics, The Good Wife, Hot in Cleveland, Partners and "Marc St. James" on Ugly Betty. Web series: What’s Your Emergency (director). Training: Juilliard.

Wednesday
Oct262016

Call Answered: Billy Lewis Jr.: Glee + "The Portal" at Minetta Lane Theatre

Billy Lewis Jr.My first introduction to Billy Lewis Jr. was watching him on Fox's hit show Glee, during it's final season when Billy came on as "Mason McCarthy," cheerleader and Glee Club member. I loved his character, his voice, and his talent. Then I discovered his original music and felt even more connected to him. Then I found out he was a fellow Long Islander, who was proud of his origins, and I was like, "That's it, I HAVE to interview him." When I heard he was going to be starring in the Off-Broadway spectacle The Portal I immediately dialed his number and lucky for me, Billy answered my call!

The Portal is a rock odyssey: part concert, part movie, and part performance. Inspired by Burning Man, Pink Floyd, EDM, and world mythology, The Portal not only entertains but also immerses the audience in a journey of transcendence and empowerment. The Portal follows "Dante" through majestic deserts and alpine mountains as he seeks the beautiful and mysterious "Beatrice" -- while also being pursued by his own inner-demons. Is his quest real? A dream? Or an allegory of our own desire for transformation?

The Portal is currently playing at Minetta Lane Theatre (18 Minetta Lane between MacDougal Street and 6th Avenue). Click here for tickets!

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

For more on The Portal visit http://www.theportalnyc.com and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? My cousin Catherine always did musicals growing up. As a kid I was never really interested in the shows. But I finally caught the bug in high school when my younger siblings started doing theatre with her as well.

2. This fall you are starring in the Off-Broadway extravaganza The Portal, which is part concert, part movie, and part performance. What do you like about starring in a show format like this as opposed to a traditional musical theatre show? I'm having a blast with the rock concert aspect of the show. Instead of having a cast of 20 actors telling the story with me, I get to interact with the Band, the giant LED screens and two amazing dancers. I think Luke Comer, our director, has found a really powerful way to help guide people along this journey.

3. What do you relate to most about your character and what is one quality of his you wish you possessed? I can say that I relate to the "Front Man" quality of my character. Being the voice in the band, having been in a couple bands in my high school days and writing my own music now. I definitely wish I had more of the enlightened characteristics of my role in my everyday life.

I definitely still let myself get bogged down with everyday problems and anxieties. But the show is helping me to overcome those and hopefully it'll do the same for the audience.

4. The Portal, follows "Dante" through majestic deserts and alpine mountains as he seeks the beautiful and mysterious "Beatrice" -- while also being pursued by his own inner-demons. What are some of your own inner-demons that you've had to tackle? While tackling them, did you ever try to escape to a mythical place like The Portal? I definitely suffer from anxiety like a lot of people do these days. It's only natural to let yourself get swept with in the chaos of school loans and rent and being stuck in between jobs. I guess my "mythical place" would be when I write. I get to go to place where I can challenge these feelings that I'm having and deal with them in an expressive way.

Billy Lewis Jr.5. The Portal also immerses the audience in journey of transcendence and empowerment. How has being a performer empowered you in a way you never thought possible? I can absolutely say that performing has turned me into a more confident person. You learn a lot about yourself on stage, it's a very venerable place to be. And when you're nailing it, it's great and you feel so high up.

But when you're not nailing it, and you trip and fall a little...it's those moments you really figure out what kind of person you are. It's how you deal with the pressure in front of people that prepares you for everyday problems that arise in life.

6. How do you feel being a singer/songwriter helped prepare you for this role? It has definitely helped with the commanding nature of the role. Having to keep an entire audience engaged while I'm up there front and center. It's very similar to when I play gigs with my own music.

Billy Lewis Jr. as "Mason McCarthy" on FOX's "Glee"7. You starred on the final season of Glee as "Mason McCarthy," one of the cheerios, in addition to being in the Glee club. Since you were part of the cheering squad on the show, what is something you cheer for in life no matter what? Long Island! I have a lot of home pride.

8. What were your top three funniest moments to happen on or off the set of Glee?  

  1. Laura making up lines for "child star" episode.
  2. Making vines with Marshall.
  3. And anything Jane Lynch ever did or said.

8a. Whose music were you so excited to sing on the show and whose music do you wish you could have sung? I was so pumped to sing Queen on the show. It was such a huge honor. I always wanted to do a classic rock song on the show, maybe with Noah. Possibly a Creedence Clearwater tune.

9. In your original song, "History in the making," you sing "So I can put flame to this fire, It's time to start living my life, Set fire to the sky, Now I'm yours." What weren't you doing at the time you wrote this song that you wanted to be doing? How did you get to where you wanted to be? I wrote the song at a time in my life when I was VERY unemployed and very unhappy with where my career was. I wanted to create content for me to exercise my natural talents, which was a ridiculous passion for rock and roll music.

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? I'm working on smiling more in my life. It's a very simple solution to dealing with negative, unhappy thoughts that plague our minds on a day to day basis. Bad things are always going to happen, we just have to work on how we let it affect us.

Billy Lewis Jr.More on Billy:

Billy Lewis Jr. is a New York City based singer|songwriter|actor. He has been featured in The Who’s Tommy, Spring Awakening and Hedwig & the Angry Inch, as well as the national touring companies of Hair, Spring Awakening and We Will Rock You. In 2014 Billy released his debut EP of original music. All songs are available on iTunes. In 2015 he joined the cast of Glee as "Mason McCarthy" for the sixth and final season of the popular series. Currently he is writing new music with plans to release a record in 2017.

Tuesday
Oct252016

Call Redialed: Nick Cearley: Buyer & Cellar at Bucks County Playhouse

Nick CearleyAs I mentioned a few weeks ago (in my interview with Trey Gerrald about Buyer & Cellar at Cape May Stage), I adore this show! Jonathan Tolins has written a terrific play. I can't wait to see Nick Cearley, whom I adore, play this role at Bucks County Playhouse next month. Nick had been on my radar for a few years, but it wasn't until he was starring in Bucks County Playhouse's 2013 production of Rocky Horror that I finally got the chance to interview him and the rest of the cast. That production, solidified my admiration for Nick and my love for Bucks County Playhouse.

What a great 360 moment now to interview Nick yet again about another show he's doing at Bucks County Playhouse. Buyer & Cellar is a hilarious play about an underemployed actor working for Barbra Streisand. It will play Bucks County Playhouse (70 South Main Street New Hope, PA 18938) from November 5-26. Click here for tickets!

For more on Nick be sure to follow him on TwitterInstagram, and at http://www.theskivviesnyc.com!

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

1. This November you are starring in Bucks County Playhouse's productioin of Jonathan Tolins' outrageous comedy Buyer & Cellar. As someone who has performed at Bucks County Playhouse before (in their 2013 production of Rocky Horror), what do you enjoy most about performing there? Why will Bucks County audiences fall in love with this show? Bucks County Playhouse is one of my favorite places ever to work. The town of New Hope is addictive. The 2013 production of Rocky Horror was actually my first time there and this marks my 6th show there. I did all the Rocky Horrors under Hunter Foster’s brilliance as "Brad," Plaid Tidings directed by Gordon Greenberg, The Skivvies, and A Tribute to Angela Lansbury with Hal Prince and the Dame herself! And now Buyer & Cellar! I was supposed to be "Brad" again this year in Rocky Horror and it conflicted with Little Shop of Horrors so I unfortunately had to withdraw. But, when that was a "thing" my husband joked that for those two months, they were going to change the name of the playhouse to "Nick’s County Playhouse!" hahah.

I have fallen in love with Bucks County and Buyer & Cellar and I think my love for both of those things will be apparent to the audiences who come see our funny little show.

Nick Cearley as "Alex More" in Jonathan Tolins' "Buyer & Cellar" at B Street Theatre, Photo Credit: Lynnae Vana2. Buyer & Cellar is a show you have been performing for almost two years around the country. How do you keep the role of "Alex" and the show fresh for yourself? This is my fifth production of Buyer & Cellar (though because of conflicts, it would be my eighth that I have booked!). I have done the show in Sacramento, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Key West, and unfortunately had to withdraw from Provincetown, Cape May, and Columbia, Maryland.

What helps to keep it fresh is that I actually enjoy telling this story. It isn’t like I am doing a show for the sake of getting the role in a play. It is a story I am in love with telling. And, it is very unique in that it is based on a real place and a real person but the protagonist in which I play and the circumstances are all fiction. And I think that is the perfect marriage of creative writing and real life.

Also, I have been lucky to have a different director with each production I have done. This isn’t a tour by any means, even though, it feels like one sometimes. They have all been stand alone productions that are regional premieres per the theatre I have booked the job. So with that comes a different director and a different set of eyes. It is sort of the actor’s dream to get to take all the information from all the different eyeballs and use everyones opinion. It has further validated when it comes to making choices on stage, there are so many possibilities.

3. What initially made you want to star in this show and how do you feel you have grown in this role as you have performed it over time? I remember when I saw this show in previews with Michael Urie, I said to him afterwards, "Oh, I will do this show." And then I called different theatres I have worked for and not worked for and said, "Please do this show so that I can get my hands on it." Literally, that’s what I did. It is a dream. I think I am different now doing the show as opposed to the first production because I am not thinking about "what comes next?" anymore. It is so in my bones that I just have a ball talking to hundreds of strangers a night and hearing THEM (who really are the other character in the show) react to the circumstances for the first time. It really fuels how I play each moment.

Nick Cearley as "Alex More" in Jonathan Tolins' "Buyer & Cellar" at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, Photo Credit: Ryan Kurtz4. What do you relate to most about "Alex"? What is one characteristic of his you wish you had? I relate to a time about 10 years ago when I didn’t know where and how I was going to make ends meet. Working odd jobs. Living week to week. Most actors go through that. The "in-between" times. I have been so lucky the past few years, but it is always a thing with actors, "what’s next?" And this job "Alex" has in the basement of Barbra’s house is his "in-between" time.

More so, I relate to the feeling of doing this show with a sense of loneliness. The show deals with someone who spends a lot of time operating on her own terms and in a world with things and circumstances that are normally not obtainable by the common person going through life. Therefore, she feels very alone operating on that level because it isolates her. The coincidence is that I feel that way when doing a one person show because there isn’t another person or other cast members to talk about your day at work with. I talk to strangers all night in a theatre, just me, it ends, and I am energized and "up" and want to talk about the work day with someone who went through it with me. But there isn’t anyone. So, at Bucks County, luckily, they are pet friendly and Pippa, my 2 year old Brussels Griffon will be in my dressing room to greet me after every performance. She has done every production of Buyer & Cellar with me for these very reasons. And though she is probably tired of hearing the same damn story, it helps me decompress after the show to have the companionship of my little girl.

Nick Cearley, his husband Eric Lesh, and Pippa, their Brussels Griffon, Photo Credit: Augusten BurroughsEric Lesh and Nick Cearley at Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, PA5. As a result of "Alex" working for Barbra Streisand, tension is created between "Alex" and his boyfriend." As an actor yourself, who's married, but travels a lot for work, how do you deal with the stress/tension this kind of schedule can put on a relationship? On the flip side, what is the most supportive & eye-wetting thing Eric has done for you on one of your opening nights? My husband Eric and I have been together 17 years. Married for four. At this point, he knows the drill. For doing a show at Bucks County, he is also as in love with the city as I am so whenever there's something appropriate I can do at the Playhouse, I always try to make it a priority because I know how much we both like to be there together. It is only about an hour away from where we live and it is a little getaway for us. So he comes down on all weekends. We have even spent weekend vacations in Bucks County when I am not working there. We love it that much.

It is a little more difficult when a plane ride is involved. For example, I just finished Little Shop of Horrors at Portland Center Stage in Oregon. Eric flew out for closing because he dreaded that six hour commute! And then he did a whirlwind travel with me where we flew from there to Chicago overnight so that I could do a Skivvies concert the next day. Then he came to a photo shoot the next morning there and we spent the evening seeing Lauren (my Skivvies co-creator) in her show Wonderful Town at The Goodman Theatre. He was exhausted by it all and I think surprised how easy it is for me to hop around like that.

I remember when Eric came to see me as "Dennis" in All Shook Up for the first time in the first national tour, he had to bring a complete change of clothes because he was so nervous for me, he sweat through his outfit. I think more nervous than I actually was. I love that we are each others cheerleaders. Eric and I went to theatre school together and he graduated two years ahead of me but then decided to go to law school and now he is a lawyer at Lambda Legal. So, though we aren’t in the same business, he has the background to get it and it is easy to talk to him about aspects of my jobs.

Nick Cearley as "Alex More" in Jonathan Tolins' "Buyer & Cellar" at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, Photo Credit: Ryan Kurtz6. In Buyer & Cellar, "Alex" actually gets to have a real moment with Barbra. If you could have a few moments alone with Barbra Streisand, what would you talk about? Politics. Especially this week and next week!  We have a performance on election night. And though I don’t think Barbra Streisand would ever ever ever ever work on election night, I think she definitely has some opinions that I would like to hear come out of her own mouth in person.

I also am fascinated by OLD Broadway. The Golden Years. What NYC was like when she was becoming a star. I would talk to her about what that was like for sure. The times we live in now are so far removed from how people used to behave even since I started out in NYC, so I want to hear about her trying to make it all those decades ago.

7. Since Buyer & Cellar is centered around Barbra Streisand, how has Barbra influenced you/your career? Well, admittedly, I was not a fan of hers growing up. Similar to how the character of "Alex More" feels about Barbra. However, my mom was a HUGE fan. She knows all the songs, all the movies, had the audio cassette in the car when I was growing up in the 80s. I knew all about Barbra because of my mom. I relate to her being her own business, not succumbing to what other people thought she should do, having a lot of opinions.

Barbra Streisand8. If you could duet with Barbra Streisand on one of her songs, which song of hers would you want to duet on? If you could have been her opening act on any of her tours, which tour would you have liked to be the opening number for? If you could re-make one of Barbra's movies, with her in it, which movie would you want to re-make? If you could cover one of Barbra's albums, which album would you make? Barbra’s cover of David Bowie’s "Life on Mars" is to be reckoned with and I am obsessed with that song. And her arrangement. So that would most definitely be the song would like to duet with her on.

I would like to have opened for her on her most recent tour because it was only 7 cities!

I would want to be in The Guilt Trip actually. A road trip comedy with Barbra Streisand as my mother would be an absolute hoot. And from what I understand, there was a lot of ad-libbing that occurred and I would love to be able to participate in some good ole fashioned improv with Mrs. S!

The first album I remember really being super familiar with was her Back to Broadway album. So, probably that one because I know her arrangements of every song on that album best. And, it was a staple in my house growing up.

Nick Cearley, Photo Credit: Lauren MolinaMore on Nick:

Nick Cearley is one half of the critically acclaimed "undie"-rock comedy duo known as The Skivvies (theskivviesnyc.com), co-created with Lauren Molina. Most recently, he completed five regional premieres of Buyer & Cellar, for which he won Best Performance by CityBeat Cincinnati. Off Broadway: "Puck" in A Midsummer Night’s DreamPageant: The Musical (Original Cast Album on Jay Records, Drama Desk nom.); and Sex Tips... Broadway/First National Tour: All Shook Up. Fave regional: Twelfth Night (dir. Scott Schwartz), Next to Normal…Trailer Park…Spelling Bee, Plaid Tidings (dir. Gordon Greenberg), and The Rocky Horror Show (dir. Hunter Foster). Williamstown Theatre Festival, Bay Street Theatre, Huntington Theatre Company, American Stage Theatre Company, TheatreWorks, New York Stage and Film, York Theatre, Kimmel Center, City Theatre, Eugene O Neill Center, The Smith Center, Berkshire Theatre Group, Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, Stoneham Theatre, Serenbe Playhouse, Luna Stage, Diversionary Theatre, Rubicon Theatre Company, Alhambra Theatre, Bucks County Playhouse. TV pilots for Fox, WE, and A&E. Instagram/Twitter: @clearlycearley @theskivviesnyc.

Thursday
Oct202016

Call Answered: Antonio Minino: Anaïs Nin Goes to Hell at 14th Street Y

Antonio MininoBetween the worlds of theatre and fitness, I have known Antonio Minino for several years, so it's with great pleasure that we finally get the chance to sit down and talk about his work! Antonio is currently directing the new play Anaïs Nin Goes to Hell, an existential comedy centered around some of the most powerful and memorable women of history (Queen Victoria, Cleopatra, Andromeda, Heloise, Joan of Arc) as they wait on an island in the river Styx for the final leg of their soul’s journey to eternal peace or damnation. Their monotonous afterlife is shaken up when women’s lib icon and erotica writer "Anaïs Nin" arrives to the island planting seeds of change.

Antonio and I discuss the many themes of this show from death to sex to power, we go to the far depths of the earth to get all the answers.

Anaïs Nin Goes to Hell plays at the 14th Street Y, in collaboration with Manhattan Theatre Works and Goode Productions through October 29! Click here for tickets!

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

1. You are directing Anaïs Nin Goes to Hell, an existential comedy centered around some of the most powerful and memorable women of history (Queen Victoria, Cleopatra, Andromeda, Heloise, Joan of Arc) as they wait on an island in the river Styx for the final leg of their soul’s journey to eternal peace or damnation. Their monotonous afterlife is shaken up when women’s lib icon and erotica writer Anaïs Nin arrives to the island planting seeds of change. What made you want to direct this show? Back in maybe 2007 playwright David Stallings had me read the first scene of what is now Anaïs Nin Goes to Hell, and I encouraged him to keep writing the play. It has been one of my favorite plays of his since, and I've had the privilege of reading every draft, attending almost every reading, and of course there was the wonderful 2008 FringeNYC production. I always thought everyone did a great job at capturing the humor and wit of the play, but I wanted to see what would happen if we changed the focus from the farce to that of the heart and soul of it. What does it really mean to feel eternally incomplete? My biggest goal was also to empower, and to exercise my voice as a male feminist through this play.

2. What do you love about directing as opposed to acting? What challenges do you face when directing? A​s an actor, I only get to create a very controlled vision based on someone else's reality of what a script or character is. The creative reach is just wider as a director, and I get to collaborate with playwrights, designers and actors in creating a world and bringing my personal perspective to it, while still being open to what everyone else has to bring to the table. Once performances start I also get to let go and see the actors make it their own and hopefully better.

The biggest challenge as an indie theater director is time. You have three weeks to rehearse something and then you usually move into the theater the same week performance start. Which is why I like a lot of pre-production time and coming on board way in advance.

Amanda Jones as "Anaïs Nin" in "Anaïs Nin Goes to Hell", Photo Credit: Jody ChristophersonNylda Mark as "Cleopatra" and James Edward Becton as "Man", in "Anaïs Nin Goes to Hell", Photo Credit: Jody Christopherson3. What do you like most about directing a comedy over a drama? A truly good comedy needs to have drama in it and vice versa. They cannot be mutually exclusive on stage because they are not mutually exclusive in life. Therefore I always bring comedy to drama and drama to comedy. If I would have to pick what I like most in either it is magic, and I believe there is magic in everything.

4. How do you feel being an actor helps influence your decisions as a director?  Stallings always tells me I'm like a conductor when I direct. I also can't stand still. If you walk into one of my rehearsals you'll see me standing in one corner one minute and in the other the next, usually barefoot. I'm very organic and need to feel connected to the ground. I think that comes from being an actor. Also I'm very good at knowing when an actor needs time to figure a moment out or when he needs my guidance. There's a great synergy and respect to the actor's process that I believe comes from me being an actor. Dramaturgically it also brings some advantages, specially when it comes to figuring out rhythms in the text.

Hannah Seusy as "Ophelia" in "Anaïs Nin Goes to Hell", Photo Credit: Jody ChristophersonRichard Lindenfelzer as "Man," Mle Chester as "Andromeda," and Mel House as "Heloise", in "Anaïs Nin Goes to Hell", Photo Credit: Jody Christopherson 5. Out of the powerful women being featured in this show, which one or ones do you relate to the most? What is it about them you relate to? Oh my! Each and every one of them. I'd like to think I'm a total bubbly Andromeda who secretly wishes was a fierce Cleopatra. As a young boy growing up I was definitely Joan of Arc splashed with Heloise, there was a time in my life when I wanted to be a priest but never got the call...No joke. As an orphan I understand Queen Victoria's loss and mourning...

6. Like in Anaïs Nin Goes to Hell, if you were waiting on an island in the river Styx for your final leg of your soul's journey to either go to eternal peace or damnation, what would be some your last thoughts? I would wonder why I spent all my life searching for acceptance and validation when I knew I had it all along.

Mel House as "Heloise" and Mle Chester as "Andromeda" in "Anaïs Nin Goes to Hell", Photo Credit: Jody ChristophersonStephanie Willing as "Joan of Arc" in "Anaïs Nin Goes to Hell", Photo Credit: Jody Christopherson7. What are some things you have done that you feel would grant you eternal peace? What are some things you've done that you feel would send you to damn​ation? When I'm allowed to create I'm already granted eternal peace. Running a theatre company  for 10 years that helped flourish the career of many ​creatives I think would grant me some eternal peace​. At least a week? ​Don't know about damnation...

8. In Anaïs Nin Goes to Hell, the monotonous afterlife is shaken up when women's lib and erotica writer "Anaïs Nin" arrives to the island planting seeds of change. When has there been a time in your life when erotica got in the way of what you were working on?  I'll tell you this much. Erotica definitely stole some of our rehearsal time.

9. If you were to send someone to Hell, who would your top 3 choices be? Depends if this is a fun hell or a biblical hell... I'll go with fun hell. My husband, my dog, and myself.

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? I want to get back to the gym! Every time I start a rehearsal process it consumes all my time and thought. Now that the show is up and running I need to get back on track. Also meditation. Meditating every day brings out the best in me and I've been slacking on that as well.​

Antonio MininoMore on Antonio:

An award-winning performing artist, Antonio is a proud native of the Dominican Republic where he studied theatre at the School of Dramatic Arts, co-hosted/produced and directed for the award-winning television show FashionTV, was a contributing writer for M.S. Magazine, an art director for various fashion campaigns, and a director/performer for various national productions.

Favorite NYC acting credits include: Suddenly a Knock at the Door at Theater for the New City, The Colonel's Wife (Outstanding Actor - PCTF Awards), Macbeth with Fab Marquee Productions, A Midsummer Night's Dream with Original Binding Productions; Dark Water with Manhattan Theatre Works; Men in TowelsAdriftAndy@62Confessions of a Cuban Sex AddictTriptych and All About Meat at the Duo Multicultural Arts Center; Limelight (Access Theater), The Other Day (Wild Project), Parts of Parts & Stitches (Theatre at the 14th St Y), The Stranger to Kindness (Robert Moss Theater; Winner Congeniality Award, Nominated Best Actor), The Empress of Sex (Audience Favorite National NewBorn Festival), Arpeggio (45th St Theatre), Intermission (HERE), Trojan Women (MHS), Elevation (Payan Theatre), OOPS! (Manhattan Theatre Source), 4 Variations of Mee (Manhattan Children's Theatre), Ilka's Dream (Payan Theatre).

Film and TV credits include Snuff the MovieOpen MikeDestinyThe Amazing Spiderman 2The Get DownThe InterestingsMadam Secretary, Person of Interest, and The Americans. As a singer he has performed at The Town Hall of NY, Symphony Space NY, The Time Out Lounge, The Triad NYC and The Nuyorican Poets Cafe. His photography has been featured in the NY Times, the NY Post, Backstage, Show Business Weekly, among others.

He is the owner of Fab Marquee Productions, and a founding member and company actor at Manhattan Theatre Works. He is a proud member of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA).

Monday
Oct172016

Call Answered: Conference Call: Jennifer Pallanich and Baltimore Russell: Awakening (Children of the Solstice Book 1) 

Baltimore Russell and Jennifer PallanichI first came to know Baltimore Russell when he and his husband, John Dylan DeLaTorre, created the web media series People You Know. Since that show ended, I have kept up with Baltimore and when I found out he and his sister, Jennifer Pallanich, were writing their debut fiction book together, I knew I just had to get the inside scoop!

Luckily, Jennifer and Baltimore answered my call and I got all the details on their premiere novel, Awakening (Children of the Solstice Book 1), a fictional story where disasters ring the planet as the earth cries out for heroes to save it. At the same time, an ancient order conspires to fulfill a centuries-old prophecy. Their plan: unleash a deadly tsunami that would destroy North American and European coastlines. Then, at the height of summer, a blinding white light races across the globe, granting a select few incredible gifts. An enigmatic ex-Green Beret trains these powerful misfits in a desperate bid to stop the man-made and natural catastrophes. But can these Children of the Solstice work well enough together and master their new powers in time to halt the prophecy and save humanity from cataclysmic devastation?

Awakening (Children of the Solstice Book 1) will be released on October 18. You can order it via Amazon.com! 

For more on Awakening (Children of the Solstice Book 1 follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Designed by Alex Sanchez1. Your debut novel, Awakening (Children of the Solstice Book 1) will be released on October 18. Awakening (Children of the Solstice Book 1) is a fictional story. The plot seems like it's ripped from the uncertain times we live in now combined with a Star Wars like divide between the ancient order and Children. How did you come up with this story?

Jennifer Pallanich: In 2006, we had an idea. We were in a busted seat in the back row of a rickety old bus riding from Arusha, Tanzania, back to Nairobi, Kenya. Two days before, we’d summited Mount Kilimanjaro, where the air was quite thin at the top, 5895 meters (19,341 feet). Clearly, all the oxygen available once we got back to Arusha, which has an elevation of 1400 meters (4600 feet), went to our heads because we decided we needed a new, big, hairy challenge. We decided to co-author a book. No, let’s make it a trilogy. A superhero trilogy. During that whole ride, we did the initial brainstorm, coming up with plot lines and characters. That day on the bus, as we jounced over pothole after pothole after pothole, we could already picture the cover of book one. Well, we didn’t know the title, for sure, but we could see this part clearly: by Baltimore Russell and Jennifer Pallanich.

Baltimore Russell: We both loved the idea of writing a Good versus Evil story, and we wanted to put our spin on it. We have witnessed so many extreme weather events, and we used that as a springboard into our plot. We quickly came up with the bones of the book, the how, the why, the who. The brainstorming allowed us to really go big with whatever ideas came to us, but of course we had to scale back some as we worked through them.

The snarky French-Canadian "Etienne" whose powers include the ability to turn himself invisible and become intangible in "Awakening (Children of the Solstice Book 1)", sketch designed by Alex Sanchez2. Not only are you brother and sister, you are now co-authors. What made you want to write a novel together? What is it like to work together as co-authors?

Baltimore Russell: I actually love collaborating with others. I grew up in an ensemble-style theatre program and enjoy working with others to create something more than what just one single mind can do. I did this on the new media series, People you Know, with my husband and the result was far greater than had I tried to do it on my own. Now, writing this book with my sister has really been a positive and rewarding experience. We have such different strengths and can complement where the other may not be as skilled. We also made a deal that any criticism we gave would be directed to the work and not each other, and that it should always be given in a spirit that would make the book stronger and better.

Jennifer Pallanich: We did something smart from the get-go and drew up an agreement that outlined who was responsible for what, who had final say on which topics, and so forth. For instance, I’m a journalist and so dealing with the words and editors fell to me. I got final say on that front. I’m also a not-so-closet hippy, which means that I want everyone to just get along, which is great in real life, but means a basically conflict-free book. Which would be boring. So my actor brother, who has an innate flair for the dramatic, gets final say on the story line. Part of the agreement was that we could argue our side once, but then a decision would be made and we’d move on. Because we’re good friends, we always treated the other with respect, but that’s not to say there weren’t some frustrations. Those, however, usually came down to technology issues and snafus.

Jennifer Pallanich, Alex Sanchez, and Baltimore Russell3. Was the writing of the story pretty much evenly divided between the both of you or were one of you more the idea person and the other put the ideas into the story? What about the illustrations? Did you both have visions for them or did you just put your trust in artist Alex Sanchez after telling him your thoughts?

Jennifer Pallanich: The nice thing about collaborating is that we can draw on the other’s strengths, and we did that all the way through the process, from brainstorming to the writing and editing to the marketing. That said, we both put in the time behind the keyboard, writing away.

Baltimore Russell: When we first started brainstorming the book I was adamant about having some sort of illustrations and character sketches to enhance the chapters and also provide us with cover art and a pin up of the characters. So I spent an entire Saturday of New York City ComicCon 2015 searching for an artist to work with us who could fit the bill. We narrowed down our choices and when I spoke with Alex at his booth, I just felt a connection to him and his art style. We came to quick agreement, gave him the vital information and he got to work on all sketches. Most of the artwork came back without us having to make any changes, but for the ones we did need changes made to, it was an easy process. Alex is super talented and he really made the artwork shine. We look forward to working with him again on the next book!

"Maggie Adams" is a reporter who was in the right place at the wrong time. Now she will do whatever it takes to get the story in "Awakening (Children of the Solstice Book 1)", sketch designed by Alex Sanchez4. How long did it take you to write Awakening (Children of the Solstice Book 1)? What was the best part about the writing process and what were the most challenging parts?

Jennifer Pallanich: We had multiple false starts dating back to the months right after we climbed Kili, but in late 2014 we got serious about bringing our story to life. We signed up for a crazy little thing called NaNoWriMo. That’s National Novel Writing Month to you non-writers out there. In short, it’s a month-long commitment that requires you to write 50,000 words over the course of 30 days, or an average 1,666 words of your book per day in an effort to get your first draft out of your head. Together, we got the first draft of all three novels written between November 2014 and mid-January 2015. We typed our little hearts out, each of us averaging closer to 2,100 words per day during the 70 or so days we spent writing.

Baltimore Russell: I think the best part of the process was when it was really flowing. I would be able to spend a few hours writing and feel very good about what was coming out. And allowing all sorts of happy accidents to happen. Without sounding dorky, letting the characters tell the story and come alive. The hard parts were cutting characters and making substantial plot and character changes. But it was all for the betterment of the story, even if some beloved characters didn't make it past draft four.

This is "Anabel Wong," a member of the Ascendancy. She is brutally savvy and extremely dangerous. How far will she go to bring about the prophesy? in "Awakening (Children of the Solstice Book 1)", sketch designed by Alex Sanchez5. How do you feel the moment you finish your first draft? Then you send it off for editing/proofing. What is like when you get that feedback? How do you react to it? How do you adjust your expectations to see what the editor is talking about? How do you decide what edits you agree with and which ones you're like, "No thank you, we are keeping it as we wrote it."?

Baltimore Russell: We had a few great moments where we had finished a draft and felt really good about the work, even though we knew that we had some problem areas. Coming from an acting background I understood where our critique editor (also an actor/director) was coming from. Yes, it was sometimes blunt, but I would rather have had a slightly harsher critique when we can still do something about it than once the book is published. So, for me, I really valued the feedback. If we couldn’t justify our reasoning to the editor or to each other, then I'd happily take any suggestions that strengthen the book.

Jennifer Pallanich: The critique was pretty rough for me. I was a bit unprepared for the bluntness about the problems in our draft. There were some big issues we expected would raise flags, but he found quite a few others that we didn’t anticipate. Which is good - it’s what we paid him for - but that doesn’t make it any easier to hear. In the end, we took most of his recommendations and the book is worlds better for it.

"Maks Wong" is "Anabel's" twin and a member of the Ascendancy. His playboy status belies his cruelty and savage demeanor in "Awakening (Children of the Solstice Book 1)", sketch designed by Alex Sanchez6. What are you most proud of in writing this book and what did you learn throughout the process that you will bring into your next book?

Baltimore Russell: I'm proud that we actually finished it, and for all the dedication we poured into it. I value the time we got to "work" with each other. As for what I think we learned to incorporate into the next book, I would say a more thoughtful approach to the character arcs and outline from the outset. Nailing those down early on really helps you just write.

Jennifer Pallanich: I’m so proud of how much we’ve learned and grown as writers. Draft six is far and away better than draft one, let me tell you. I don’t see any way that book two will require fewer drafts, but I believe each of those drafts will start off stronger than their book one counterparts.

You're eyes aren't deceiving you, this is "CoCo." She has the ability to create realistic illusions and misdirections in "Awakening (Children of the Solstice Book 1)", sketch designed by Alex Sanchez7. What were the top three moments where you both just looked at each other and either you instantly clicked on an idea or just turned and started laughing at each other over an idea? What were the top three moments where you wanted to scratch each others eyes out over a difference of opinions?

Baltimore Russell: I think the whole genesis of the idea is a top moment. Things just started clicking. We started talking over characters and plot points and reasons why these disasters would happen. It was really an exciting and fun moment. On a bus. In Africa.

Jennifer Pallanich: I never wanted to scratch his eyes out over a difference of opinions, but I will confess to being a bit aggravated every time he said, "I think we need to add another chapter." A book that at the end of draft one was 58 chapters long grew into 75 chapters by the time draft six went to the formatter. It became something of a joke. We did have some differences over one of the original subplots, but based on our critique we wound up scrapping it. We also had a discussion or three about the background of one of our characters. It confused our critique editor and a few of the beta readers, so we ultimately dropped that thread as well.

We'd like to introduce "Henry Hastings," leader of the Ascendancy and founder of The Hastings Foundation. He will stop at nothing to bring the centuries old prophesy to fruition in "Awakening (Children of the Solstice Book 1)", sketch design by Alex Sanchez8. In Awakening (Children of the Solstice Book 1), the ancient order aims to unleash a deadly tsunami hoping to destroy North American and European coastlines. If you knew a tsunami was coming and only had moments left to live, how would you spend those final moments? What would you be most grateful for? What would you wish you had done differently?

Baltimore Russell: I would hope that my final moments would be shared with loved ones in either case. I would be grateful for the experiences and traveling I've been fortunate to have and for the family that has accepted me and supported me and my husband. Don't think I'd have any regrets.

Jennifer Pallanich: Moments only? I’d be thinking of my loved ones, no doubt. I’d be grateful that I’ve lived my life as fully as I can, and I’d wish I’d chosen a different coastline.

9. Then a blinding white light races across the globe, granting a select few incredible gifts. What are some incredible gifts you both have received over the years?

Baltimore Russell: Love. Family. Friends. YouTube videos of people being scared.

Jennifer Pallanich: The gifts of family, friends, scuba and travel.

"Captain Pierce" trains the newly empowered, but does his gruff and surly nature hide a more sinister motivation? in "Awakening (Children of the Solstice Book 1)", sketch designed by Alex Sanchez10. Awakening (Children of the Solstice Book 1) is dedicated to "The woman who taught us to read, the man who gave us roots and wings, and the authors who transported us into other worlds." What was the first book this woman taught each of you to read? How did the man provide you with roots and wings? Who are some of your favorite authors that inspired you to want to be an author?

Baltimore Russell: I feel like the first book Mother taught me to read would probably be either The Little Engine That Could or Pokey Puppy. Dad has always said it was his job to make sure that we knew we always had a place with him but that he wanted us to achieve our dreams. He spent a lot of time with me running lines, watching me in plays and always telling me that I can do better and to keep going. As for authors, there are a lot of them, but I would mention David Hare, Chris Claremont, Mike Carey, Peter David, Majorie Liu, J.K. Rowling, Brandon Sanderson, and Stephen King.

Jennifer Pallanich: D always gave us a solid home and foundation while encouraging us to forge our own paths and live our own lives. I can’t remember the first book M taught me to read, but I was especially pleased with a set of children’s abridged versions of books I received in first or second grade for Christmas. My favorites were 20,000 Leagues beneath the Sea and Robinson Crusoe, and I still love both stories. But it was – and I can’t decide if I’m embarrassed to admit this or not – when I was reading my way through the Bobbsey Twins series that I first got out a pencil and paper and tried to write a book of my own. So, what, second grade? Third, maybe? But now, there are so many authors whose work I admire, whether for storytelling or world-building or beautiful prose, that it is hard to name just a few. Here are some faves, in no particular order: John Irving, Margaret Atwood, Kurt Vonnegut, Mark Twain, Jules Verne, J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Buckley, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and Brandon Sanderson. I love that the magic they weave into their stories not only enthralls and entertains me but also inspires me.

Jennifer Pallanich and Baltimore RussellMore on Baltimore:

Baltimore Russell is an actor, producer, and writer. He and his husband created the People You Know new media series, which aired on HereTV. Almost from the time he learned to work a pencil, he could often be found creating his own stories. He lives in New York City with his husband, John Dylan DeLaTorre.

More on Jennifer:

Native Texan Jennifer Pallanich is a trade journalist who has bylined over half a million words about the oil and gas industry. She has published the nonfiction book Flacks & Hacks: Trade Secrets Journalists Want PR Pros to Know and loves to read good versus evil stories. An avid scuba diver, traveler, reader, and writer, she lives with a lab mix named Houdini and a cat named Possum.