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Entries in Adam Rothenberg (289)

Monday
Oct162017

Call Answered: Carey Cox: "Glassheart," "The Glass Menagerie," and more!

Carey Cox, Photo Credit: Lauren Toub GriffithsAlmost everybody that knows me, knows what a sympathetic person I am. Maybe it's because I was born premature or because I grew-up with a learning disabilty, or because I felt like an outsider growing up, but whatever the reason, I love learning about people's lives and their struggles.

When I heard Carey Cox's story, I knew this was an interview I had to do! Carey is an actress with a mobility disability called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome who just made her Broadway debut understudying "Laura Wingfield" in Sam Gold's Glass Menagerie starring Sally Field.

Now, Carey is taking on her next role in Everyday Inferno's production of Reina Hardy's GLASSHEART a surprisingly modern and thoroughly adult spin on the classic story of Beauty & the Beast. Hardy's re-imagining explodes the limitations of traditional fairy tales, focusing its attention away from the ideal of conventional romance and toward something darker and much more complex: the question of what makes us human?

From being physically abled to disabled, Carey is showing the world, she is just like everyone else and we really get to the heart of it all...from acting to Lin-Manuel Miranda to life struggles to an exclusive heartbreaking story you'll only find here at Call Me Adam!

GLASSHEART will make its New York premiere at The Access Theater (380 Broadway) from October 19-28. Click here for tickets!

Carey Cox, Photo Credit: Malloree Delayne Hill1. Who or what inspired you to be an actress? Since my first school play at six years old I've had kind of a one-track mind. I always loved becoming other people and getting to live vicariously through characters. I think that I liked being able to do things that I couldn't do in my normal life. Over time, theatre gave me an excuse to learn and a jumping-off point to do research I never would have thought to do by myself. I was kind of a shy kid when I wasn't at home, and I still am in some ways, and theatre always gave me a way to connect with other wonderful weirdos. In high school, I became obsessed with Carol Burnett and was cast as "Winnifred" in Once Upon a Mattress, a role she originated. It was silly and over the top and to this day some of the most fun I've ever had. It was then that I also started to appreciate the special connection that can occur between an audience and an actor, and among all of the people witnessing the event, and that touched me deeply. Theatre had always been my passion but doing that play definitely sealed the deal!

2. Did you ever let your disability prevent you from pursuing this career path or did you keep telling yourself, "I can do this"? I was born with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, but wasn't diagnosed until a few years ago, and it's only been a couple of years since I became what the world sees as physically disabled. My disability was never really an obstacle in high school or college. It began to affect me a lot more in grad school, and I had an especially difficult time in my movement classes, I think because there isn't a format for how disabled people should be trained in a field that tends to favor athletic able-bodied people. My disability never affected my decision to become an actor because when I fell in love with acting I was able-bodied, and I could run and dance and pull all-nighters, and no one questioned my place in the theatre. My experience is different from other people I know who have been disabled their whole lives, and who have had the added obstacle of people questioning their place in theatre from the get-go. Becoming disabled has taught me a lot about people and a lot about my body, and I think I've become a richer artist because of it. The main way I let it hold me back currently is through auditioning. I have a very bad habit of looking at a casting call and thinking, "well surely they wouldn't want ME." I need to get over that because I don't think I'm giving directors and casting directors the benefit of the doubt, and I'm not representing my community in all its disabled glory! One thing is for sure: I'm not quitting any time soon.

3. What made you want to audition for Glassheart? My friend Malloree Delayne Hill, who is a wonderful actress, has been involved with Everyday Inferno for a while, so when I saw the audition notice, there was a little "ping!" in my brain. When I read the plot summary and the sides I was smitten. It was obvious to me that this play is funny and special, and that I would have a ball being a part of it and getting to say those great words.

4. What do you relate to most about you character "Aoife"? What is one characteristic of hers you are glad you don't possess yourself? That's a tough one, because I think I possess all of "Aiofe's" qualities to some degree. What I like most about "Aiofe" is her self-awareness. She has a lot of problems, but she knows she has problems and she wants to do better. She knows that she hurts people and makes mistakes, but she always comes to a point where she can confront herself and see the truth of what she's doing. I certainly hope I haven't hurt people in the way that "Aiofe" probably has, but I can appreciate the frankness with which she looks at herself. Something else I really appreciate about "Aiofe" is her open heart. When she meets the "Beast," she is ready to help and accept him, despite his strange behavior. I think that "Aiofe" has a lot of empathy and when she looks at someone she quite literally sees the human before the beast.

However, "Aiofe" and I are in very different places in our lives. At the top of the play, "Aiofe" is barely capable of functioning and her ambitions are heart-breakingly simple. "Aiofe" is starting over, whereas I feel like I have been building a life that I love for years, so I don't envy her. Though for "Aiofe," starting over is the right thing to do.

Carey Cox5. What do you think this show will teach people? I think that people might see this show and think about how we see our lives as stories. The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves have a huge effect on our behavior and what roles we play in life. I see so many juicy lessons in this fairytale but my favorite one is this: sometimes we are trapped by our own narratives, and sometimes, when our life doesn't follow our projected story, the only way to find contentment is to let the story go.

6. Glassheart explores the space between light & dark. With all the recent tragedies we've been having from the deadly hurricanes, the shooting in Vegas, and so many others, how do you find the light in the darkness? Knowledge is a light. Lately I am trying to listen and to keep my mouth shut. I'm trying to question what I think I know and actually hear what people say when they talk. I'm finding light in other people. I'm reaching out to friends, I'm meeting eyes on the street, I'm talking to people on the subway. I'm laughing as much as I can. When I look at people, I'm trying to see the human before the beast.

7. The show also shows the sacrifices we make in search of an ordinary life. What sacrifices, if any, have you made in your life and art? I don't think I've made any sacrifices on a grandiose scale, but having a painful chronic illness means I sacrifice a lot of little things every day to be able to remain reliable in this collaborative art form. I was always taught that real actors never get sick. Well, no disrespect, but I'm literally always sick. To make sure that I am strong and alert enough to work during rehearsal hours, I don't do a lot of the things I want to do. I work a job with very flexible hours so that I can work a ton when I'm healthier but take it easy on myself when I'm not doing so well. I have to ration my energy because if I overdo it one day, I will pay for it for days after. It gets me down being so young and having to treat myself so delicately, but there are beautiful spiritual side effects from living life at a slower pace in this city. That sounds cheesy but for me it's been so true!

Carey Cox, Photo Credit: Lauren Toub Griffiths8. Glassheart is a take on the classic story of Beauty & The Beast. If you were to star in a revival or remake of Beauty and the Beast, Who would you want as "The Beast" to your "Belle"? My best friend thinks the last beast should have been Dev Patel and I think she's seriously onto something. However, Lin Manuel Miranda. Though to be fair, if you asked me that question about pretty much any show, I would say "Lin Manuel Miranda."

9. I find it quite funny that you recently finished your run in the Broadway revival of The Glass Menagerie starring Sally Field and now you are starring in a show called Glassheart. So, both shows have the word "glass" in them. Since glass is so fragile what is the most fragile thing about yourself you keep hidden, but maybe now, with so much uncertainty around us, you are ready to reveal? Something I don't talk about much is the loss of my brother and sister. I lost my brother when I was 16 and my sister a couple of years ago. I've had the support of wonderful family and friends and moving to New York has been incredibly healing, but it's something I struggle with. You never know who might be harboring a secret pain. Maybe even the guy being a jerk on the train. I promise I didn't intend for that to rhyme, but I'm keeping it.

10. What was it like acting with Sally Field? What did you learn from her? Sally Field was wonderful! She kept everybody laughing and was incredibly kind. I got the chance to act with her one time when I went on as "Laura's" understudy, and she made me feel so comfortable and safe. What I learned most from her came from watching her in the rehearsal room. For me it was a terrific example of how great work is not only emotionally connected, but also logical and smart. I was so lucky to get to watch that caliber of work in process.

In my own rehearsals I worked mostly with Sally Field's incredible understudy, Kathryn Meisle, who is fiercely talented and was a joy to act with every week. She gave me wonderful acting and life advice and boosted my confidence with her kindness. I was lucky to work with amazing people then, and I'm working with amazing people now! I've been very lucky. New York has been very kind to me!

Carey Cox, Photo Credit: Malloree Delayne HillMore on Carey:

Carey Cox is an NYC actress with a mobility disability called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. She received a BFA in musical theater from Santa Fe University of Art and Design and an MFA in acting from UNC Chapel Hill where she performed with PlayMakers Repertory Company in Three Sisters, Seminar, Mary’s Wedding, We are Proud to Present…, Trouble in Mind, Into the Woods, Metamorphoses, and others. Carey recently made her Broadway debut understudying "Laura Wingfield" in The Glass Menagerie directed by Sam Gold.

Friday
Oct132017

Call Answered: Michael Mott: Abandoned Heart

Michael Mott, Photo Credit: Michael Kushner PhotographyWhen I saw the list artists singing on Michael Mott's new album Abandoned Heart, I knew I had to take a listen. What I heard were songs filled with raw emotion in regards to love & relationships. From finding love to losing love, Michael has a voice all his own. And he's found a group of performers, including Brian Justin Crum, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Natalie Weiss, Shayna Steele, & Jenna Ushkowitz, who really knew how to help bring these songs to life!

Abandoned Heart is available now on iTunes and Broadway Records along with his new single "More Than Me," which benefits Puerto Rico.

For more on Michael be sure to visit http://www.michaelmott.net and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, & YouTube!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a composer/lyricist? Honestly, the piano. I dreaded playing the rudimentary exercises my piano teacher required of me, so I'd go off and make up my own compositions. I've always written ever since I was a little kid, but didn't really explore this talent seriously until I applied to the BMI Musical Theatre Writer's Workshop in 2012 in NYC. Going through that program gave me the confidence and skill set to pursue writing full time.

2. You just released your new CD Abandoned Heart, a variety of feel good pop, anthemic soul and introspective ballads. How do you feel you struck "Gold" with this album? Haha. Well, as corny as this sounds, I truly wrote all of these songs from the heart. Over the past few years I've found my artistic voice as a songwriter and these songs are written from a place of truth. While this is stylistically very different from my first album, Where The Sky EndsAbandoned Heart explores the type of music I truly love creating and am inspired by as a fan of music.

3. You have stated that this album helped you find your own individual voice and point of view as a writer and singer. How do you feel this album did that? Not to discredit my first album, but I feel like I was trying very hard to say "Look! I can write in any style or genre!" with that record. I was trying to appeal to a more high brow audience and show everything I could do, which almost made that record feel like a sampler platter. Abandoned Heart is a much more cohesive album. It has a true beginning, middle and end. I honed in on the styles and genres that speak to me as a fan first and foremost and then wrote from my heart and soul.

4. Since the album is called Abandoned Heart, when have you abandoned your heart? This can get pretty deep, pretty quickly. Let's just say working on this album taught me A LOT about myself. Haha. When I was going through the process of naming this project I was listening to these songs over and over again and beginning to analyze lyrics. I don't know why I write what I write, I just write! When I was trying to dissect every phrase, I realized  that every song was written from a place of yearning or longing. Each song on this record deals with a heart crying for acceptance. Hence, Abandoned Heart.

5. Which songs were the easiest to write? Which ones gave you the most trouble? I wrote "Gold" in a matter of 15-20 minutes sitting in the park. "My Favorite Color" also came to me pretty quickly. It's funny because the rest of these songs are like the fourth or fifth versions of these songs. "So Relentless," "Minefield of Love" and "Breathless" all had completely different choruses. It was after I had demo'd them and listened back that I realized what I wanted to do to evolve them into what they are now. I would actually love to do a concert or workshop or something and show the earliest versions of these songs. It's very interesting to see just how different they were in their first draft stages. "Minefield of Love" was originally called "Ask Me To Stay" and had this interesting country/rock vibe. "Breathless" was called "My Man" and had a totally different hook. Listening back on those earlier versions now, they're extremely inferior to the current versions. Thankfully I had the common sense to know I could do better, haha. It's very important for artists to give themselves the time and space to allow the material to grow and evolve. You can not undermine the creative process.

Michael Mott6. How do you prepare for a day of writing? What is your writing process like? Do you say today I'm going to write my emotional songs and then I will tackle my more upbeat songs or vice versa? How do you decompress writing songs? I wish I knew. I've found that when I sit down with the intention to write is when I usually come up with the worst material that makes me feel like the most untalented human being on earth. It's funny because once I allow myself to be in this place, suddenly the flood gates open and I am receptive to inspiration; my subconscious opens and melodies, lyrical phrases and ideas start coming to me in the most inopportune times (see: showering, working out, walking to the park, etc).

7. Your song "Complicated" is about someone holding on to a relationship that seems to be ending. When you write a song like this, if it's based upon your own experience, how far out from this relationship were you when writing it? What do you feel as you write it? Freedom or the anger/frustration of the situation? This song is based on a relationship I was in last fall. I was head over heels for this guy, but he was scared of commitment. We fell for each other and then he pulled away. It's very therapeutic to be able to sit down at the piano and allow the music to do all of the work for me. That song encapsulates exactly how I felt in that relationship and Eric LaJuan Summers' vocal performance is exquisite. I couldn't ask for a better vocalist. He's such a star.

Michael Mott at the "Abandoned Heart" release concert8. I love the different styles of music on your album. How did you know they would all blend together so well? Thank you, I appreciate that. I honestly don't think about it. I just knew I was writing from a place of truth and wanted to write with a more fresh, contemporary pop sound and that was that. It also helped that I worked with one music producer on the entire album, so we were able to hone in on a certain tone that was all encompassing on the entire record. Rich Matthew produced and made everything sound like a million bucks.

9. Another song on the album is "My Favorite Color." So, what's your favorite color? I enjoy a dark blue or black. Let's go with black as the black heart emoji has been part of the branding experience of this new album.

10. If you had the opportunity to write songs for five of your favorite artists, who would you want to write for? Well, I have been lucky enough to have worked with most of my favorite artists from the Broadway and television worlds, including everyone on this album and my first album. That is something I do not take for granted at all! However, it would be an absolute dream come true to write with Mariah Carey, Billy Joel, Sia, John Mayer and P!nk. I love collaborating because I learn so much from the writers and artists I'm working with. You can not get any better than those legends and it would be a dream come true to be able to work with them in any capacity.

Michael Mott, Photo Credit: Cristin DownsMore on Michael:

Michael Mott  is a composer, lyricist, singer, actor and voice teacher living in NYC. Born and raised in New Hartford, New York, Michael graduated from Ithaca College with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Musical Theatre Performance. After graduating, he moved to New York City and enjoyed a successful career performing in numerous Off-Broadway, regional and national touring shows. In 2012 he decided to shift his focus to writing and was accepted into the prestigious BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Writer’s Workshop. He has since been named one of Playbill's "Contemporary Musical Theatre Songwriters You Should Know."

Michael's debut album, Where The Sky Ends, is a compilation album of his original theatre, jazz and pop music performed by some of the best singers on Broadway, co-produced by Mott and legendary orchestrator/ producer, Kim Scharnberg. The LP has been referred to as "a masterpiece" by Broadway World and was released by Grammy Award Winning label, Broadway Records on June 17, 2014. Due to popular demand, Where The Sky Ends: The Dance Remixes was released by the same label on October 14, 2014 and spawned the popular dance track, "Gone" (Julian Marsh Ethereal Mix). In 2016 he composed a Christmas single for Broadway star, Laura Osnes, co-produced by Mott, Scharnberg and Jeremy Roberts. "Christmas, Will You Stay?" was released digitally on his own label, Motta Music, on December 6, 2016.

Michael has had the great fortune of working with some of the best singers in the business both in the recording studio and on stage in his touring show, Michael Mott & Friends. His collaborations include TONY Award Nominees Jeremy Jordan, Laura Osnes, Jennifer Damiano, Orfeh, Sierra Boggess, Zachary Levi, Jenna Ushkowitz, Andy Mientus, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Adrienne Warren, Justin Guarini, Brian Justin Crum, Shayna Steele, James Snyder, Jackie Burns, Mitch Jarvis, Michael Lanning, Marissa McGowan, Crystal Monee Hall, Loren Allred, Natalie Weiss, Teal Wicks, Jason Gotay, Ryan Silverman and countless others. As composer/ lyricist, Michael’s original musicals include In The Light (book by Nathan Wright and Justin Silvestri), The Don (book by Corey Skaggs) and Lucifer (co-lyricist, Mike Squillante, book by Corey Skaggs). He co-conceived and composed music to the original ten minute musical, Riding Out The Storm, written with lyricist and librettist, Christine Toy Johnson. Additionally, he has written and recorded several stand alone pop/ R&B/ top 40 songs.

Tuesday
Oct032017

Call Redialed: Alison Fraser: "Squeamish" by Aaron Mark, All For One Theater

After providing coverage for Aaron Mark's two previous plays Empanada Loca & Another Medea, I'm so excited to get the inside scoop on his third psychological horror play, Squeamish, in this new interview with the show's star, two-time Tony nominee Alison Fraser! Alison & Aaron have known each other for several years now, so it's rather exciting to hear about their collaboration and find out how Alison prepares herself every night for this darkly twisted adventure!

Squeamish is the tale of an Upper West Side psychoanalyst, a long-time recovering alcoholic whose bloody quest for personal balance begins when she finds herself in the South Plains of Texas, off her meds, after her nephew's suicide.

Squeamish, produced by All For One Theater, will play The Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row (410 West 42nd Street) from October 6-November 11. Click here for tickets!

For more on Alison be sure to visit http://alisonfraser.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram!

1. You are currently starring in All For One Theater's production of Aaron Mark's psychological horror play Squeamish. First, how did you and Aaron come to know each other? What does it feel like to have a role written specifically for you? Aaron and I met when he was assistant directing a reading that I was doing. I believe he was 18 or 19. Five years after this reading he contacted me about a part he had written for me in an excellent little indie film called Commentary he was directing. I read the script, and immediately fell madly in love with his writing. I accepted the role, and have continued to work with him ever since. Having a role written for you is a huge honor of course, and I have been incredibly lucky to have worked on many original plays and musicals for some of the greatest writers around. When you are involved in the creation of a piece, naturally pieces of you end up in the finished product, but my artistic connection with Aaron is very deep. He obviously sees something intriguing in me because he has written five pieces, all of them quite dark, specifically for me. One was very much inspired by a jarring incident in my life -- Deer - a wonderfully funny and scary play about the crazed deer that tried to commit suicide on my car. It's being produced around the country now, and has been published by Dramatists Play Service. Now, thanks to #TheTwistedMindOfAaronMark (yes I came up with that hashtag and he likes it) the deer did not die in vain-now he belongs to the ages. And as for having had Aaron write the astonishing Squeamish for me? He's plumbing depths I had no idea I possessed. It’s thrilling, and more than a little frightening. He saw that in me?

2. What has been the best part about working with Aaron? How does his vision as a playwright line up with what you look for in looking for parts to play? Not only is Aaron a sensational writer and a highly skilled director, he is one of the sweetest, smartest, funniest hardest working people I have ever met. The best part of working with Aaron is getting to be in the room with him every day.

As for his plays? They are exactly what plays should be--inventive, original, dangerous, passionate and challenging. 45-pages-of-solo-dialogue challenging. Who was it that said if theatre doesn't scare you it's not worth doing? With Squeamish, I am shaking in my shoes.

Alison Fraser, "Squeamish", Photo Credit: Mara Baranova3. What do you relate to most about your character? What is one characteristic of hers that you are glad you don't possess yourself? I relate to "Sharon's" sense of wonder and discovery, her need to explore what makes her tick, her independence, and of course her low key New York fashion savvy.

As for part two of the question? I am seriously glad that aside from that little pill glitch mentioned below, addiction does not seem to be in my tool belt.

4. How do you prepare yourself mentally & physically for such a heavy show each night? I stopped drinking completely for this show, because I realized I needed all the brain cells I could possibly muster. I try to sleep well, and walk as much as possible. I eat very simple, usually home-prepared food, except for the insidious and delicious Reese's peanut butter eyeballs that keep showing up in rehearsal. They are addictive, which is apropos of our show.

And as for mentally? I will go through the show at home before I perform at night, just to make sure all the pieces are in right order. I already do it on the street & a lot and people are starting to give me a wide berth.

Alison Fraser, "Squeamish", Photo Credit: Mara Baranova5. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing Squeamish? I hope after seeing Squeamish people come away with the feeling that they have just seen a world premiere of a play by an important new playwright, and the realization that actors can indeed (hopefully) hold single court for an hour and a half or so just by telling a compelling, beautifully written story. Not all theatre needs the Phantom’s chandelier.

6. Your character is long-time recovering alcoholic. Have you ever been addicted to anything? If so, how did you recover? I had about a year in my life when a very bad doctor would call in Xanax and Prednisone prescriptions for me whenever I asked for it. Recovery? I think the show that was stressing me out closed, and my anxiety waned and I didn't have to belt long high notes for a while so I just stopped taking the pills.

Alison Fraser, "Squeamish", Photo Credit: Mara Baranova7. "Sharon" is also on a quest to find personal balance. How do you find the balance between work and personal life? Right now my work life is my personal life because of the nature of the Squeamish beast. I basically live like a hermit and am zero fun, because of the daunting task I face. But I am looking forward to the time when I can get out to my sweet little place in the country again and relax without words words words occupying my brain. And reading a book again will be nice. And oh for a glass of fine red wine!

8. The character you play is a psychoanalyst. If you had to psychoanalyze yourself, what is something you feel you need to change about yourself to improve your life? I really have to stop taking politics so seriously because it has led me in this past year down a dark dark path. My doctor and I are working on it. Switching from the constant CNN feed to an occasional Modern Family helps. Temporarily.

9. Since the show is titled Squeamish, what makes you most squeamish? Easy answer. Salt pork. I wish it didn't exist in the world because even the thought of it makes my skin crawl. And don't even get me started on fried pork rinds.

More on Alison:

Alison Fraser was recently seen as "Mommy" in Lila Neugebauer’s production of Edward Albee’s The Sandbox and "The Landlady" in Adrienne Kennedy’s Funnyhouse of a Negro at The Signature Theatre, in addition to "Nancy Reagan" and "Betty Ford" in Michael John LaChiusa’s First Daughter Suite at the Public Theater, for which she was nominated for both a Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel Award. She is a two-time Tony Award nominee for The Secret Garden and Romance/Romance. Other Broadway roles includes "Dorine" in Tartuffe at Circle-In-The-Square, "Helena" in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and "Tessie Tura" in Arthur Laurents’ production of Gypsy starring Patti LuPone. She has created many roles Off-Broadway including "Arsinoé" in David Ives’ The School For Lies, "Sister Walburga" in Charles Busch’s The Divine Sister, "Jessie" in Terrence McNally’s Dedication or the Stuff of Dreams, "The Matron" (opposite Shirley Knight) in the world premiere of Tennessee Williams’ In Masks Outrageous and Austere, "Trina" in William Finn’s March of the Falsettos and In Trousers, and "Miss Drumgoole" in Todd Rundgren’s Up Against It. Film and TV credits include the new SyFy series Happy! opposite Chris Meloni, High Maintenance, Happyish, Smash, It Could Be Worse, Impossible Monsters, Blowtorch, Socks and Bonds, Understudies, Jack in A Box, and The Thing About My Folks opposite Peter Falk and Paul Reiser. She has been heard on thousands of radio and television commercials, hundreds of audiobooks, and dozens of albums, including three solo efforts: A New York Romance, Men In My Life, and Tennessee Williams: Words and Music.

Thursday
Sep282017

Call Answered: Sam Greisman: "Dinner with Jeffrey" at NewFest LGBT Film Festival

Sam GreismanSometimes a tweet by Sally Field, one of your idols, about her son's film, leads to your next interview. "October 21st. My son's (@SAMGREIS) funny, touching short is playing at @NewFestNYC. Go see it if you can!" After I took a look at the film's description, I called & Sam Greisman answered.

Sam Greisman is a rising film writer/director. As excited as he was I asked for an interview, I'm even more delighted to provide a platform to promote his film Dinner with Jeffrey, which he wrote & directed about a teen who's struggling after coming out when his gay uncle tries to teach him about the "gay lifestyle."

It was great talking with Sam about this film, learning about his creative process, coming out struggles, and so much more!

Dinner with Jeffrey will be playing in NewFest, NYC's premiere LGBT film festival on Saturday, October 21 at 11am in their Shorts Program: Boy Shorts at Cinépolis Chelsea (260 West 23rd Street, between 7th & 8th Avenue). Click here for tickets!

For more on Sam follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a writer/producer/director? Well, my whole family is in the business in some form or other. So I'm not sure if one individual person inspired me to be in film. It's really just all I know. What I grew up with. The only way I know how to live, basically.

2. This October, your short film, Dinner with Jeffrey, is part of NewFest, New York's LBGT Film festival. What made you want to write Dinner with Jeffrey as a short as opposed to a feature film? I wrote and directed Dinner with Jeffrey as part of my coursework at Columbia Film School - I graduate in May. So it wasn't really an option to make this as anything other than a short, that was really just how the concept came about.

3. Why did you want it to be part of NewFest? What do you feel this film festival will offer your short that another one might not? I know NewFest has a really great reputation among the LGBT community. They show a lot of great stuff and I'm really just glad to be included with all the other work. I'm pretty new to getting my stuff out there, so any opportunity, especially in New York is huge.

Owen Campbell in "Dinner with Jeffrey"4. Dinner with Jeffrey is about a young teen who is struggling to fit in after just coming out when his uncle tries to teach him about the "gay lifestyle." What was the most challenging part of the short to write and was was the easiest? Well, the short is based on something that happened to me shortly after I came out at 19, so I guess most of the dinner stuff was the easiest, but taking reality and turning it into something that felt like a story was definitely the challenge.

5. What did you learn about your own coming out experience from writing this short that you didn't know while you were going through it? I'm not sure that I learned this while making it, but I definitely think it's the message of the film and I learned it as I was coming out, which is that coming out doesn't necessarily mean one's own work is done. There's still a lot of figuring out and messiness happening. That's kind of what the short is about.

Reed Birney and Javier Spivey in "Dinner with Jeffrey"6. Looking back, I think, one of the funniest things my dad said to me, though at the time, this was him processing what I just told him, my dad said, "So you would rather look at a picture of a naked man instead of a naked woman?" and I said, "Yes." He said, "Ok." What was something, that looking back, you felt was the funniest thing one of your parents said to you after you came out, but at the time it was their way of processing that you were gay? I think my parents processed the fact that I was gay by the time I was five years old, so I kinda wish I could hear what they were saying to each other and my brothers about it then, because by the time I came out, they were more like "Ok, great, good job, lets go eat." Although when I was twenty, my grandmother did ask me if I had "taken a lover yet" and when I told her "Eww, please don't use that word," she said "why that's what all my friends called it when were in our 20s" (which was sometime in the 40s), which I thought was pretty cool.

7. How do you feel this short will help teens with their own coming out? Ha. I'm not sure that this film will help teens with their coming out, honestly. I think it's something someone should watch after they come out. Maybe future films of mine will deal with the actual coming out process and all that entails.

Javier Spivey and Owen Campbell in "Dinner with Jeffrey"8. Like the main character, "Oliver," who feels he must change who he is to fit in with the gays, was there a time in your life when you felt you had to change who you were to fit in? When did you realize you are perfect just the way you are? I definitely remember feeling VERY conflicted when I was in my teens. Realizing I was gay and really the only kids I knew that were out, didn't share my interests and I felt like I had to fit into some kind of stereotype because I was gay and I couldn't just be myself. I also think the early 2000s were such a different time than now, which is saying something since it hasn't been that long at all. I'm not sure if I ever felt perfect just the way I am, but only cuz I am naturally a very anxious person.

Owen Campbell and Javier Spivey in "Dinner with Jeffrey"9. If you had to describe Dinner with Jeffrey with a Madonna, Cher, Lady Gaga, Dolly Parton, & Cyndi Lauper song, what songs of theirs would you use? Wow. I don't think any of them have songs that basically just mean, everyone is the worst and life sucks. But if they did I would choose that one, cuz that's the best way to describe the film ha. I'm sure Gaga will get around to a song like that eventually. If she gets to like, a Joni Mitchell phase or something.

10. Since the short is called Dinner with Jeffrey, if could you have dinner with 5 of your favorite gay icons/influencers, who would you invite? What would you serve? And some would say, most importantly, what would you wear? Tough. Truman Capote, Laura Dern, Jane Fonda, Reese Witherspoon (she's on her way to being a gay icon) and Troye Sivan (cuz I have a crush on him). I wouldn't serve food. All booze and weed.

Sam GreismanMore on Sam:

29-year-old Sam Greisman grew up in West Los Angeles and has lived in New York City for the last nine years, since he moved there to attend undergrad at NYU. After years of running from the pressure of the family business, every member of his immediate family is in someway involved with television or filmmaking in some capacity, he discovered that storytelling is inescapably in his DNA.

He is currently in his thesis years as a Screenwriting/Directing concentrate at Columbia University. So far his scripts and films have dealt with his experiences as a young gay man, a very cynical young gay man and his feelings of not fitting in with the gay community.

Wednesday
Sep272017

Call Redialed: Andy Halliday: "Up The Rabbit Hole" at Theater for the New City

Andy Halliday, Photo Credit: Kevin CristaldiIt has been almost a decade since I first saw Andy Halliday Charles Busch's Times Square Angel at Theater for the New City. Over the years I've gotten to know Andy through the interviews we've done together. But this interview, about Andy's new play Up The Rabbit Hole, is the most raw & vulnerable I've seen Andy. With love, hope, and bravery, Andy really pulls back the curtain giving us a rare view into his life, both past and present, including the struggles and successes he has gone through.

Up The Rabbit Hole, directed by G.R. Johnson, is the story of a young gay man who, desperate to find answers to questions that consume his life as an adopted child, becomes obsessed with tracking down and connecting with his birth mother. His lack of identity in these formative years has led to a life of careless sexual exploits and reckless drug use. When he finally finds his mother, the answers he has been searching for his entire life finally give him the courage to combat his drug addiction and climb out of the darkness and Up The Rabbit Hole.

Up The Rabbit Hole is playing at Theater for the New City through October 15 only! Click here for tickets!

1. It's so great to catch up with you Andy on your new show Up The Rabbit Hole, a story of a young man who, desperate to find answers to questions that consume his life as an adopted child, becomes obsessed with tracking down and connecting with his birth mother. This production draws from your own life experience. What made now the right time to write such a personal piece of theatre? I love plays about dysfunction. If they’re well written, and they’re written from the heart, I identify with them. I learn something about myself. This play, Up The Rabbit Hole, has been in me for a long time. And after Nothing But Trash, I felt more confident as a playwright, and I also wanted to write something more naturalistic. This idea gave me the opportunity to do that.

2. What did you learn about yourself from writing this show? I learned that I get upset over the little things in life, the little things that in the long run aren’t worth getting upset about. I learned that I created a lot of stress for myself trying to be perfect. Always assuming that being imperfect kept me from fitting in, when in all reality, I just didn’t want to fit in. I wanted to isolate and protect myself from everyone and everything. I had a million excuses as to why I wasn’t successful as an actor. I blamed my failure on everyone else, rather than looking within, and seeing how I had sabotaged myself because of my lack of self-esteem. I was creating the failure, and to escape those feelings of inadequacy, I took to artificial substances to make myself feel better. But coming down from those "highs" only made my depression and self-hatred worse. I learned from writing this play, that I’m a completely different person than the one I was twenty-six years ago, and that I’m very grateful.

The cast of Andy Halliday's "Up The Rabbit Hole," Quinn Coughlin, Andrew Glaszek, Tyler Jones, Laralu Smith and Peter Gregus, , Photo Credit: Kevin CristaldiQuinn Couglin in Andy Halliday's "Up The Rabbit Hole", Photo Credit: Kevin Cristaldi3. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing Up The Rabbit Hole? To be more gentle with themselves. More forgiving of people who have substance abuse issues. But also an understanding of how to deal with the addict. Understanding the meaning of "tough love" and how it can help the person you care about get themselves into some sort of program. To love one’s self, warts and all. And there’s no such thing as a perfect person.

4. What has it been like to watch this cast bring your story to life? G.R. Johnson and I have been blessed with an amazing group of actors who are helping to bring a story of my past to life again. This play is pushing a lot of buttons in me watching rehearsals every night. I think sometimes if I got to do my life all over again, if I had known better, would I have gone down this path? Well, if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be the person I am now. And I like who I am, and I love the people that are in my life. I had to go through this awful time, the lowest point in my whole life, to begin developing self-esteem. It is so good to see how much my friends care about me. I really cherish them and my new sober life. But as I said, this play has been a very emotional experience, and no matter how much I tell myself "it’s in the past," and it’s just a play about a young man searching through life to find the answers to who he is and how he got here, it’s still tough.  The lead actor Tyler Jones, who’s so wonderful, said to me after a run through, "How did you live this life!  I’m exhausted!"

Quinn Couglin in Andy Halliday's "Up The Rabbit Hole", Photo Credit: Kevin CristaldiPeter Gregus and Tyler Jons in Andy Halliday's "Up The Rabbit Hole", Photo Credit: Kevin Cristaldi5. When were you at your loneliest? I’ve always been lonely. It’s just something so ingrained in me. But you deal with it, by of course reaching out to friends and family. It’s easier said than done, for me at least. I’m a loner and I’m very protective of myself. I’ve built up walls that have taken years to break down. I take a long time to trust others, due in part to my chaotic upbringing. But a day at a time I’m able to open up and let people in a little bit at a time. I’m surrounded by such loving friends and family. I’m extremely lucky and grateful for the people in my life. And perhaps one day, a door will open in that wall, to let in "Mr. Right." Who knows.

6. When did you first decide you wanted to find your birth mother? How long did it take to find her? Was the meeting everything you wanted? Did you stay in touch with your birth mother after finding her? I’ve always known I was adopted. My adoptive parents believed that it shouldn’t be a secret. So it was an obsession of mine. I felt that because I was adopted I was always an outsider. My parents loved me more than life itself and did anything and everything for me but I felt like I was bought. My mother registered me with a free search agency in CT. I was working Off-Broadway at the time, and was in the beginnings of my habit, so I forgot about it. But I don’t want to give away what’s in the play.

And yes meeting my birth mother was everything I hoped for. It was surreal, quite unbelievable. She was a lovely, gentle woman and we stayed in touch till she passed away. She gave me a beautiful china rose, which I still have. It’s funny that it was a rose, because my adopted mother’s name was Rose.

Tyler Jones, Laralu Smith, and Andrew Glaszek in Andy Halliday's "Up The Rabbit Hole", Photo Credit: Kevin CristaldiQuinn Couglin and Tyler Jones in Andy Halliday's "Up The Rabbit Hole", Photo Credit: Kevin Cristaldi7. As a result of you finding your birth mother, you were able to combat your drug addiction and climb out of the darkness. What was the hardest part about kicking your drug addiction? What has been the best part about being clean? The hardest part was giving up a drug that gave me a false sense of security, happiness, self-esteem, courage and one that made me feel sexy. All of this could have been done with just a couple of bumps, but by the time I went into rehab, I was really broken, and it took months to get everything out of my system. It messes up your endorphins - the thing in your brain that makes you feel better - and putting artificial stuff in your system screws with these endorphins, and now they need that substance to work.

The best thing about getting clean was that I got my life back. I have my artistic career again, but it’s different now. I own it. My life and the way I deal with things is my way, and that attitude attracts positive, artistic people. Like my dear friend and collaborator G.R. Johnson. None of my new success as a writer would have happened without him. He’s my rock, and so talented, and he makes me laugh, and laugh. He’s one of the funniest people I know.

8. Since you felt a lack of identity, during your formative years, when would you say you found who you were? I began to find myself after I began to get sober. I had to face my demons head on. It gave me strength, and my new friends loved me and enabled me to love myself. But it took years, and I’m still not completely there. Maybe I never will be, but my life is much better than it ever was.

9. What would Andy of today tell Andy of yesterday? Love yourself. Be kind to yourself. See who your real friends are. Everything works out the way it’s supposed to. Don’t try to control everything. Life is as wonderful as you make it. You only got one honey….

Andy HallidayMore on Andy:

Andy Halliday was part of Charles Busch’s and Kenneth Elliott’s Theatre-In-Limbo Company from 1984 to 1991. He originated roles in the Off-Broadway productions of Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, Psycho Beach Party, Times Square Angel, Red Scare On Sunset and The Lady In Question, for which he won the "Scene Stealer of the Month Award" from Playbill, and Hirschfeld created a caricature of him in the role as "Lotte" for the New York Times. He wrote and acted in I Can’t Stop Screaming in 1991. In 2004, he formed Pocketwatch Films, Inc. and has written, directed, and produced six films. It is his mission to make films about gay men and women, and explore the realities of what happens beyond "coming out." Dealing candidly with sex, drug addiction, and aging, he endeavors to make films with heart, humor, and honesty that are also incredibly sexy. In 2011, he was featured in the Off-Broadway comedy Devil Boys From Beyond, directed by Kenneth Elliott. And in 2014, he wrote and starred in Nothing But Trash, which was produced at Theater For The New City and directed by G.R. Johnson. He hopes to continue to create theatre that explores important issues within the queer community.