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Entries in Author (20)

Tuesday
May162017

Call Answered: Brooke Lewis: Coaching From A Professed Hot Mess

Brooke Lewis, Photo Credit: Birdie ThompsonBrooke Lewis is an award winning author and actress. Known as a "Scream Queen" for her horror genre films, I was most taken by Brooke as a life coach. I'm all about entertaining, heck, I stand for entertainment, but nothing feels as good as helping people through tough times. Brooke's new book Coaching From A Professed Hot Mess, is a fun bedside table book that provides coaching tips on life, love, online dating and LGBT support.

What a thrill it was to speak with Brooke about her vast and varied career. From acting to life coaching to being a professed hot mess, Brooke & I cover it all!

For more on Brooke be sure to visit http://brookelewis.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Brooke Lewis, Photo Credit: Birdie Thompson1. Who or what inspired you to become an actress? I was an incredibly emotional and sensitive child with a vivid imagination. When I hit my teenage years, I became obsessed with drama, old Hollywood and my inspirations Elizabeth Taylor and Mae West. I was singing and dancing from a young age, which led me into musical theatre in Philadelphia, which led me into comedy in New York. I got my first "break" in the New York Off-Broadway Comedy Tony N' Tina's Wedding, then went on to do TV sitcoms like Quintuplets and Mafiosa, then acted in mobster dramas like Pride & Loyalty and Sinatra Club, then broke out in the horror, thriller genre with films like Kinky Killers, iMurders and Slime City Massacre earning the title of a "Scream Queen," then combined my experience in comedy, mobster movies, and horror and created the role and brand, which I am best known...Ms. Vampy!!!

2. What was the moment you decided to also become a life coach? Ironically, many of my most powerful career choices have been made while facing challenges or hitting walls! I had been a working actress and producer for many years, and shortly after the economy crashed in 2009, my investors pulled out of my production company and projects and I was forced to make changes. In 2011, we launched the award-winning TV pilot/talk show for teen girls Ms. Vampy’s Tween Tawk, Teen Tawk and In Between Tawk and I was hugely inspired by my young cast and their issues and messages. It was the first time anything beyond acting inspired me, so I paid attention. When my reps were pitching my show and I to TV talk shows, we were receiving incredible feedback, BUT…the networks were all asking if I had a "credential" as a therapist, counselor or life coach. Of course, I had two college degrees, but they wanted a certification in the coaching arena. Since I am not one to leave any stone unturned, I chose to go back to school again to receive my life coach certification at the Life Purpose Institute. My initial intention was for the purpose of my Ms. Vampy brand and TV series in development, but I became so passionate about my support career, I launched my company Be You And Be Fearless Life Coach.

3. You just released your new book Coaching From A Professed Hot Mess, which is a fun bedside table book that provides coaching tips on life, love, online dating and LGBT support. What made you want to put all these tips into a book? What is the most heartwarming comment you've heard about the book and what is the cruelest thing someone has said about it? Again, I had been facing challenges and hitting walls in my support career as a Life and Dating Coach (see the pattern that pushes me into being tenacious?) I was paying my dues again and feeling overworked and underpaid, shelling out fabulous advice for various publications and morning shows and several people had suggested that I should write a book for myself and my coaching business, instead, and my "blessed lil bedside table book" was born! Now, I am going to cheat a bit here to answer the first part of your question, as I pull an excerpt I love right from my pages: "Life can be crazy! So, in 2016, I chose to embrace my "crazy" and use my blessed and beautiful bedside table book to profess..."I am a HOT MESS!" Yup...I said it, rock it and OWN IT! Now, being an Actress, Life Coach and Dating Expert in the public eye, some may think I am really "crazy" sharing this with the world! I know some of you are thinking (and judging) that a Board Certified Life and Dating Coach, professional and working actress should not "air her dirty laundry." Well, I cannot tell you how good it feels to be self-aware enough to admit and embrace my "flaws." Along with my strengths, my "flaws" and weaknesses make me vulnerable, special and unique. I also believe that by sharing my HOT MESS quirks with you, it will support you in embracing your HOT MESS quirks, too! Let's break the 'rules' and stop chasing "perfection." It gets tiring trying to be "perfect" all the time, doesn't it?"

To answer the second part (and, as an actress I learned early on to not take any positive or negative comments too seriously) I will share two comments on Amazon that stayed with me. I received one three-star review that was by no means "cruel," but upset me because the reviewer stated that in the dating chapters of my book, I created the perspective of "needing a significant other." This frustrates me greatly, because I breathe, coach, speak and write the antithesis of that statement! I am all about self-empowerment and female empowerment and how we need to love ourselves first and want, not need, a partner to share life with! But, as we know, we cannot control others’ interpretations of our art and work!

I am blessed to have received so much positive feedback with this book! It is always heartwarming to receive praise from my friends and family (because we know they tell us the truth! I have had some of my best girlfriends tell me they keep my book on their bedside table to reference daily! I recently received a fabulous review on Amazon and I will share my favorite part, "This woman is a genius and the most useful and relevant life coach in the world (before this book I thought they were useless and overrated). Even if you do not need life coaching this book is still an amazing read!" Now, is that a compliment to keep doing what I am doing or what? Serious author gratitude here!

Brooke Lewis, Photo Credit: Birdie Thompson4. In describing the book, you have classified yourself as a HOT MESS. What events/activities in your life, made you go, "You know, I'm a HOT MESS?" What behaviors have you changed or become aware to not be a HOT MESS? Um…have you seen me at the Spike TV Scream Awards or Saturn Awards in 105-degree-heat with my hair frizzy and makeup running down my face? Yeah, HOT MESS!!! And, at that point, there is nothing I can do, but own it and rock it! But, yes, I use the term HOT MESS, both literally and figuratively! That’s the beauty of it…and, life! None of us are "perfect!" We are all perfectly imperfect! We make mistakes and lousy choices in life and I have surely made many! I have made some poor career choices and even more really poor dating choices! I have had emotional meltdowns over nothing and I have locked myself in the house for three days, after gaining five pounds on the scale that weekend...life is full of a whole mess of messes, so let’s make them HOT!!!

5. In writing this book, what did you learn about yourself that you didn't realize while living through it? If I may humbly declare this, I learned that I have much more value as a woman, actress, life coach and dating expert, than I ever imagined! I, too, struggle with worthiness and never feeling "good" enough, so it was a huge catharsis and gift to empower and acknowledge myself through writing this book. I also learned how much I need to take my own tips and advice!

6. Your book will help readers exist in the world around us, gain clarity and fulfillment. What used to give Brooke the biggest sense of fulfillment and what fulfills Brooke of today? Thank you! That was a fantastic and revealing question! I used to receive a sense of fulfillment by being liked, loved and praised by others. I focused a lot on my external appearance and fame. I would try to fill the void, and based my worth on the above. As I have worked hard on myself and become more evolved over the years, the things that fulfill me have drastically changed! The things that fulfill me now are integrity, truth, loyalty, being a "good" person, staying artistic, having integrity, committing to great work, surrounding myself with people who support each other, true love and charity work. The one constant that has always fulfilled me (and always will) is being an actress and doing the best work I possibly can!

Brooke Lewis, Photo Credit: Birdie Thompson7. What do you get from being a life coach that you don't get from acting? I suppose I have a bit more control over my coaching career and I get to be my own boss! Both my careers are rewarding in so many ways. However, I love the instant gratification of knowing I just supported a client in having a huge breakthrough, while coaching her.

8. I read that your favorite genres to act in are horror and mystery. So, I'm going to take these genres in a different direction and relate them directly to your life. What is the scariest thing to have happened to you that you are willing to talk about? What is something about yourself that you are still trying to figure out? One of the scariest things in my life (that I have not shared often publicly) was when I got the chicken pox at 21 and ended up hospitalized with 104 fever, encephalitis and nerve damage. I was blessed to make a full recovery, but I live with chronic pain and a compromised immune system ever since. It is a challenge every day, but it taught me that life is short, there will always be obstacles to overcome and to live fully and follow your dreams!

As far as the thing I am still trying to figure out, I could write another book here (wink)! One of my biggest frustrations is trying to understand how I could work as long and hard as I do, yet not have my hit TV series (yet). I always feel like I have to work just a little bit harder than most to bring my dreams to fruition! Things appear to come easier to others sometimes. But…appearance vs. reality, right? You can’t buy into the social media hype!

Brooke Lewis, Photo Credit: Birdie Thompson9. 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? May I acknowledge you for a moment and tell you this is fabulous? 

I want to take things less personally…by One Percent Better…every day!

10. I have a new segment in my interviews called "I Can See Clearly Now," where I try to clear up misconceptions. What is the biggest misconception about Brooke Lewis that you'd like to put to rest? I feel like a lot of people in my personal and professional life perceive me as "courageous" and "fearless," because I preach my mantras and quotes quite often:

"Be You…And Be Fearless!" – Be You And Be Fearless Life Coach

"Let's break the 'rules' and stop chasing "perfection." It gets tiring trying to be "perfect" all the time, doesn't it?" – Coaching From A Professed Hot Mess

"When faced with fear, dig deep inside, find your inner vamp, and Vamp It Out!" - Ms. Vampy’s Teen Tawk

But, remember, this is a misconception, as we teach what we need to learn!!!

Brooke Lewis, Photo Credit: Birdie ThompsonMore on Brooke:

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Brooke always had dreams of being an actress. Brooke soon moved to New York City where she cultivated much of her acting career and landed her first role as "Donna Marsala" in the off-Broadway, hit comedy Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding. After four years of making a name for herself on the east coast, Brooke decided to move to Hollywood where she currently resides. Brooke has built up quite the impressive resume by launching her own production company, Philly Chick Pictures and has worked with many veteran actors including Mark Ruffalo, Andy Richter, Charles Durning, Michael Pare, Dominique Swain, Joey Lawrence, and many more!

Wednesday
Dec072016

Call Answered: Samuel Shem: At The Heart of the Universe

Samuel ShemFamily means the world to me. I am very close with mine and would move mountains for them if I had to. When I heard Samuel Shem, best-selling author of The House of God, was releasing a new book I knew I had to give him a call. Luckily, Samuel answered.

At The Heart of the Universe, is a fictitious story, based upon Samuel's own experiences about the ups and downs of adoption, during the time of Mao's population control policies in China, and the drama that comes when two opposite ends of the world become inextricably intertwined. Click here to purchase the book!

For more on Samuel be sure to visit http://www.samuelshem.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter!

1. You just released your latest book, At The Heart of the Universe, inspired by your own adoption experience, chronicles the ups and downs of adoption, during the time of Mao's population control policies in China, and the drama that comes when two opposite ends of the world become inextricably intertwined. How did writing this book help you reconcile your feelings about what you went through personally? I wrote the novel because I had to. When my wife Janet Surrey and I and our ten year old daughter Katie were standing in the courtyard of the police in Changsha China where she had been abandoned as a one-month old, something happened! A woman walked across the courtyard into the police station and—of all the thousands of Chinese we’d seen so far—she had the same oval face as Katie, the same eyes the same glint of russet in her black hair—she looked just like Katie, and was the right age to be her birth mother. Janet and I, independently, noticed this. We got distracted, and later, when we went looking for her— she had vanished! We were so enraptured by the similarity, we told our van driver to try to find her. We drove around through alleyways and on big streets for a while. No luck. That was the seed of the novel. As Dylan says in his song "Up to Me," "Someone had to tell that tale, I guess it was up to me." Someone had to write this, and—having published novels and plays—that someone had to be me.

2. What do you hope people come away with after reading this book? As the author, I dare not say. Bu here’s what a few others who have reviewed it have said: Bill McKibben: "A gorgeous novel of particulars set against the fascinating backdrop of the Chinese mountains, and a hauntingly universal account of loss, gain, and new beginnings." And the Chinese/American writer Ha Jin: "A moving story that if full of understanding and psychological intensity. This large-hearted novel reaffirms the necessity of empathy, self-discovery, and love." And, finally, Abraham Verghese: "A poignant and tender novel about love, about parenting and the nature of home. This is a lovely, transformative story."

Janet, Katie, and Samuel Shem3. At The Heart of the Universe is described as "A journey of how we humans can walk with each other through suffering to heal." With what just happened with the election, the timing of this book seems all too perfect, in that, primarily we as a nation are walking around suffering while looking for ways to heal. Aside from that statement, how would you correlate what happens in this story with the results of this year's election? Ahhh! This election! Hey readers—this novel may help: it affirms, deeply, the joy that can come from walking through sharp differences, together, to understanding and, in this case, love. This is the story of how differences can either divide or connect. We in the USA are living in a nation that is fractured among many differences. By adopting a four-month old Chinese girl, very quickly we were opened up to difference—and as we went on we saw how difference, through love, can be turned into greater, stronger connection—of the shared human spirit. For instance, after our first month of looking into our baby’s Chinese eyes, when we went out and saw white babies, we thought: "How strange their eyes look." We had crossed a divide of perception—what was normal for us, then, was different from us, and it was who we were now. We were in a new normal. And we saw through her eyes the way sometimes people treated her: (to Janet) "You can’t be her mother!" And at a 5th grade visit to school we were startled to see, in her "Draw Your Family," two stick figures with white faces, and one dark brown. How surprised we were! The world of division opened up, and we embraced it. The terrible stresses in this country, mostly huge economic inequalities, don’t allow us to see differences as adding, rather than diminishing. The oppressing group can’t readily see the daily feeling-experience of the oppressed; the oppressed can often see clearly that of the oppressors—their lives literally depend on this clarity. Working in face-to-face live (not screen) dialogue through these differences is required—and actually, from all our work on the difference of gender, healing.

Samuel Shem4. In the book, Xiao Lu, gives birth to a baby girl, but with the laws the way they are in China at that time, can't keep her, so she abandons her in a pile of celery in a rural market, hoping someone who could care for her would find her. What do you think was going through her mind as she was making this decision? Here is what I wrote is going on in her head at the end of the first chapter:

"She takes the carefully calligraphed note and ties it firmly into the swaddling clothes and smells her one last time, that smell like no other, baby-soft and fragrant, like spring’s own hair, and puts her lips to the soft skin of her face her little nose her rosebud lips, and then she seems to float over the sidewalk over the dirt of the alley of the market crowded at noon and hiding the baby in a fold of her dress she goes straight to the vegetable stand trying to blend in and yes the celery is piled high and the stalks healthy and easily parted and, yes, safe, and she places the tiny bundle in the little nest she makes for her and without looking back rushes off, away, resolving not to watch what happens but then at a safe distance from behind the pile of iron and tires and pumps of the bicycle-repair stall, she watches. It takes no time at all. Vegetable sellers know their vegetables. She watches a short, stout woman wearing a blue bandanna go to rearrange the celery and suddenly look down, recoil, look again, and realize, and pick up the baby and shout:

"Whose baby? Whose baby?" People turn to look. "Whose baby?"

Mine! To keep this from escaping she puts a fist to her mouth, jams it hard, smashing her lips against her teeth.

"Whose baby?" the woman shouts. People stare, look around for the mother.

Mine! Fist to her mouth, she turns away.

"Whose baby whose baby?" echoes and echoes.

Turns back, blood on her hand now, on her fist.

"Whose baby whose baby whose babywhosebabywhosebaby . . ."

Turns away, huddles up inside, crouches over as if the fist is coming down on her head, her back, her belly, runs away.

Samuel Shem and his wife Janet5. Later in the book, it's revealed that when the adoptive parents return to China with their daughter, 10 years after they adopted her, they find the birth mother living alone in a forest. How do you think the decision of Xiao abandoning her daughter like that, sort of caused her life to lead her to a place of loneliness and despair? The birth mother is so overwhelmed by the horror of abandoning her beloved that for years she refuses to get pregnant again—to try for a boy, who would be valued by the husband’s farming family, because boys stay and work the farm, while girls leave to get married—and she is ostracized. Finally, after years of suffering in the family, she flees to the wilderness of a sacred mountain, thinks of suicide, but survives, and works a caretaking job at a Buddhist Temple. She lives alone on the mountain in a tiny, old stone hermitage, and she makes friends with the deer, and the birds, and, as her loneliness turns to solitude, returns to her girlhood talent, for calligraphy—trying to heal from this profound wound.

6. Going back to your own story, what was it like when you were visiting China with your daughter and you found out the birth mother wanted her to stay and she kind of wanted to as well? How did you get through that? This is a novel. We did not meet the birth mother. Of the hundreds of thousands of internationally adopted Chinese, almost zero meet the birth mother. That’s another reason I was called to write this novel—to fill the big blank space. As our daughter put it, at age eight, "It’s like my life is a movie, but I don’t know the first part of it."

Samuel Shem7. What did you learn about yourself from writing this book that you didn't know beforehand? In a way, everything! I’ve been a writer for five decades, and I’ve learned that the only way that I really, deeply learn from writing (and from good mutual relationships) is how to live and write on my edge. (What could be more audacious, trying to write with Shakespeare on the shelf, taunting you with astonishing lines like "parting is such sweet sorrow.") This story demanded I write it, and writing it demanded I live on the edge of all of it, in my experience in China and in the USA, over a decade of our daughter’s life, writing a draft and reaching my edge and putting it away for a year or more, picking it up wiser, an edge further, and so forth. Seven drafts worth. I read everything I could about all these Chinese things—and we took in Chinese graduate students to live with us and after a while the magic worked. I also learned that I could write in the present tense in the heads of four main characters—the edge of my technical ability—which, I am grateful to say, I learned from the modern master, my dear late best friend John Updike. I jumped in whole-heartedly, and came out with an even more full heart. A novel may or may not be true, but it is—and this one is—real.  Oh, and the grad students? We asked them to teach Katie Chinese. She refused--"All my friends are taking Spanish"—but she taught the grad students English!

Samuel Shem at SoHo Playhouse8. Everyone says that becoming a parent changes you. How did becoming a parent change you? I got a little wiser and kinder, and accepting. Not totally, of course—I had to stay deeply flawed enough to write novels. I found out that the two reasons that I write are:

1) to resist injustice, do good in the world

2) to show the danger of isolation and the healing power of good connection.

All of my eight novels and plays and non-fiction and speeches are about just that. Last year’s novel/commentary I wrote with my wife Janet Surrey—THE BUDDHA’S WIFE: A PATH OF AWAKENING TOGETHER—and my novel THE SPIRIT OF THE PLACE—are more explicitly about that theme. And my first novel, THE HOUSE OF GOD—about medical internship, as well. (It  was just named by Publishers Weekly in its list of "The 10 Best Satires of All Time" Number 2)

9. What advice would you have for parents going through the adoption process that you wish you had? It’s not easy, and you have to persist—Janet and I at one point labeled the process: "The Adoption Olympics." But follow your heart, and you will find the baby meant for you. There is how a remarkable story about how "our baby" was "meant" for us, at the center of the novel.

10. What is something your daughter has taught you? Along with my decades-long year relationship with Janet, Katie has taught me just about everything human of value at my core. And, because of her love of animals, she taught me how incredibly much I could love a dog. I’m talkin’ really love a dog. And he’s getting old!

Samuel ShemMore on Samuel:

Best-selling and literary-award-winning novelist Samuel Shem is known as the author of the three million copy–selling modern classic, The House of God, recently named second on Publishers Weekly’s list of "The 10 Best Satires of All Time." A visiting Artist/Scholar at the American Academy in Rome, a Rhodes Scholar and Harvard Medical School faculty member for over three decades, Samuel is currently a Professor of Medical Humanities and Literature at NYU Medical School. He has given over sixty medical school commencement addresses on "Staying Human in Medicine,” and has been described in the press as "Easily the finest and most important writer ever to focus on the lives of doctors and the world of medicine." His other books include The Spirit of the Place, named 2009 USA Book News Best Novel of the Year as well as Independent Publishers Best Novel of the Year. His award-winning play Bill W. and Dr. Bob, co-written with his wife Janet Surrey about the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, ran for ten months Off-Broadway in 2013. Surrey and Shem are co--authors of the 2015 book The Buddha's Wife: The Path of Awakening Together. He lives in Boston, New York, and Costa Rica, together with Janet and their daughter Katie. Follow Shem on Facebook, and read about his upcoming events at www.samuelshem.wordpress.com.

Sunday
Oct302016

Call Answered: Andressa Furletti: Group .BR presents "Inside the Wild Heart" at Immersive Gallery

Andressa FurlettiWhen I heard that Inside the Wild Heart, a new immersive play, based upon the writings of Clarice Lispector, who was one of the most influential Jewish writers, was coming to New York, I immediately thought of my grandparents, who were proud Zionists, and as a little homage to them, I felt compelled to find out more. I found out Group .BR (the only Brazilian Theater group in NYC) was presenting this show & Brazilian artist Andressa Furletti, one of Group .BR's founders was going to be starring in this show. So, I called & Andressa answered!

Inside the Wild Heart is a fully immersive theatrical experience showcasing the work of Clarice Lispector, Brazil's most acclaimed female Jewish writer, transporting audiences directly inside Lispector’s heart & creating an experience that encourages audiences to engage with literature on a sensory level. The show integrates visual arts, film, music & performance art, which embodies the writer’s deepest feelings, serving as an entry point to Clarice's incredible work, still mostly unknown in the US.

Inside the Wild Heart will be presented from November 3-20 at Immersive Gallery (132 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY), performed both in English & Portuguese. Click here for tickets!

For more on Andressa be sure to visit http://www.andressafurletti.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram!

For more on Group .BR visit http://www.group.br.com and follow them on Twitter and Instagram!

1. This November, your theatre company, Group.BR, NYC's only Brazilian Theater group is presenting Inside The Wild Heart, a fully immersive theatrical experience showcasing the work of Clarice Lispector, Brazil's most acclaimed Jewish female writer. When were you first introduced to Clarice Lispector's work? From there, when did you go, I need to create a show around her work? ​I was introduced to her in school, I was between 16 and 17. My first book was The Hour of the Star, a book published a few months before Clarice's death.

After our previous show, Infinite While it Lasts, based on the life and works of the Brazilian poet and composer Vinicius de Moraes, we met to exchange some ideas about Group .BR's next production. We ended up with three ideas and decided to do some research about them. Clarice made our creativity bubble. And the more we researched about her the more we found things related to some contemporary issues that matter to us. She was born in Ukraine from a Jewish family victim of the horrors of the pogroms during the Russian Civil War. The family almost ended up in US but had to change their plans because it was at a time when US made it more difficult for Jews to get in the country. Because of that they decide to board to Brazil where some relatives had already moved. So from there we have some issues such as immigration and refugees. And she was a woman who lived ahead of her time, and certainly paid the price for it. She wouldn't fit in the female model of the time. She was among the very few women that studied law, she published her first novel at the age of 23 already revolutionizing Brazilian literature, when she found herself in an unhappy marriage she got divorced in a time it wasn't even legal, she is one the most important Brazilian writers of all times. That makes us think about all the discussion about women's rights and gender equality. Specially for a project with so many women involved! Group .BR is a company run by two women, doing a show about a woman, directed and produced by women and with so many other women involved in other positions such costume and set designing. Those subjects are not directly the subject of the show, are examples for those discussions, the subjects of the show are Clarice's questions about humanity. The essence of our existence, our dreams, our secrets, our masks, our identity.

Andressa Furletti and Gonc¦ºalo Ruivo, Photo Credit: Roberta FernandesAndressa Furletti, Photo Credit: Roberta Fernandes2. What made you want to present Inside The Wild Heart across multiple mediums of visual arts, film, music, & performance art? Clarice's works are intimate. She talks about some hidden things. It feels very close. Because of that I couldn't think of another way to portray her other than an immersive production. The closeness to the audience to me is crucial. She often describes sensations so we created a show where things can be touched, tasted, smelled. I read in an article that you don't read Clarice, you experience it. I couldn't agree more, so the show is a "Claricean" experience.

3. As an actress, what do you like about performing in immersive theatre? In what ways does it challenge you? ​Immersive is dangerous because you never know how people will react and you must be ready for everything. This is something that keeps you on your toes and very present. You must use everything around you, everything the audience gives you, so the performance is always very fresh.

4. What do you relate to most about your character in Inside The Wild Heart? What is one characteristic you wish you had of hers?  I play a variety of characters from different books and short stories. I love Clarice's ideas about identity and inner freedom. It's something that resonates a lot with me.​

Patricia Faolli, Photo Credit: Roberta FernandesRicardo Burgos, Photo Credit: Roberta Fernandes5. Since the show is called Inside The Wild Heart, what is wild in your heart that you are just eager for it to get out and show the world or that you enjoy keeping for yourself? My true self.​

6. The underlying thread in all of Clarice Lispector's work is the questioning of oneself and humanity. What is something you still question about yourself? What do you question of humanity? There is something that I really align with Clarice that is the act of questioning. In one text she says "I am a question." I love that. I believe that when we stop questioning we stop growing. I also believe no type of radicalism can exist if we allow questions to arise. ​And I also believe that there are questions ​we don't have answers to. "So long as I have questions to which I have no answers I shall go on writing."

Andressa Furletti, Photo Credit: Roberta Fernandes7. What made you want to create your theatre group? First, I love Brazilian culture. It's so rich and so diverse! I just love sharing. Secondly, I couldn't accept the fact that Brazil didn't have a representation in theatre in NY. Well, things have changed and hopefully will change even more!

8. What do you get from running Group .BR that you don't get from performing?  Other than a lot of stress? Creating a community, seeing your vision take form, open doors to other artists, help people grow.

9. As a cross-continental performer, you are acting in more than one continent. Are the struggles you face as a performer the same no matter where you go or do you notice a difference between here in the US and Brazil? If there are differences, what are some of the ones you notice? In general, the struggle for artists is the same. ​But in my case I run into the ethnic issue ​here. For many casting directors I'm not Brazilian enough, whatever that means. Little do they know the country is very mixed and we come in all shapes and colors. I see change coming but ethnicity is still not very well accepted or even incorporated in the dramaturgy so the offer is not that big.

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? Being present.

Andressa FurlettiMore on Andressa:

Originally from Brazil, Andressa Furletti is a multidisciplinary artist based in New York. She is the co-founder and artistic director of Group .BR. Her artistic works include stage and film acting, performance art, art installation and filmmaking. Her inspiration comes from her degrees in Biology, Filmmaking, the acting conservatory training at Stella Adler Studio and many workshops and intensives such as the Mitu Thailand Artist Intensive in Bangkok and the Watermill International Summer Program (2011/2012) coordinated by Robert Wilson. Andressa received several awards including Best Multimedia Show at the United Solo Festival in New York for her debut solo theater show free•dom - a solo of many people, the Outstanding Community Service Award from the Brazilian Community Heritage Foundation, 5 awards in international film festivals for Separation Sonnet and was eight times nominated to the Brazilian International Press Awards.

Sunday
Dec202015

Call Redialed: Justin Sayre: The Meeting*, 2 Broke Girls, The Gay Agenda, Husky

Justin SayreTime sure does fly by! It's been 5 years since I first interviewed comedian Justin Sayre and so much has happened to him! He's now a writer on the CBS hit comedy 2 Broke Girls, just published his debut book Husky and comedy CD The Gay Agenda as well as his iTunes podcast Sparkle & Circulate with Justin Sayre and he continues presenting his monthly comedy series The Meeting* at Joe's Pub, which is having it's annual holiday show, The Seventh Annual Holiday Spectacular on Sunday, December 20 at 9:30pm and Monday December 21 at 7pm! Click here for tickets!

For more on Justin follow him at http://www.themeetingshow.com and on Twitter!

Cast of CBS' "2 Broke Girls"1. I can't believe it's been 5 years since we last spoke! So much has happened for you in these past few years. So, let's start with the fact that you are a writer on CBS' 2 Broke Girls, one of my favorite shows on television! How did you get to be a writer on this show? What was it like to come on as a writer later in the run of the show as opposed to starting out from season 1? What was your reaction the first time you heard your writing uttered by the cast? Well it’s been a whirlwind. Michael Patrick King saw a video of mine and called our mutual friend Bridget Everett. I happened to be in Los Angeles at the time performing with Earl Dax and we had a meeting. Three months later I moved out to Los Angeles, and started work at 2 Broke Girls. I can say that of course it was a challenge, the writers had already established a voice for the show, but they wanted something I had to offer in the mix. It was really through the support of Michael and my other bosses like Michelle Nader and Liz Astrof that I was able to find my voice in the show and thrive there. I am so deeply grateful to all of them. And then to have jokes get the touch of such a talented group of performers, it’s truly a dream come true. I can say honestly that I get to work with one of the most talented groups in Hollywood. They can do everything.

Justin Sayre performing at "The Meeting" at Joe's Pub2. The Meeting* has continued to be a success playing at Joe's Pub. You are gearing up for The Meeting's* annual holiday show. What will make this concert different from previous years? What is the craziest thing to happen thus far during one of the shows? Well every year is different, as is every month at The Meeting*. But this holiday is going to be spectacular! We’re doing two shows, with a different cast each night! We’re bringing back some wonderful performers whom we’ve had before like the gorgeous Molly Pope and the spectacular Mark Nadler, but also some new friends like David Cale and some great surprises, I can’t yet talk about here. As for crazy things happening, I think my two favorite this year, were the audience booing me over Nick Jonas. I was criticizing his sort of gay bating, and they did not like it. I love that! I love that the show is still such an exchange, it’s such a conversation.

 

3. What is your favorite part about spending the holidays in NYC? What are some of your holiday traditions? I love seeing my friends mostly. I don’t really go and see the tree or anything like that. I much prefer quiet nights laughing and talking to friends listening to Nat King Cole by the light of string lights. That’s the cozy Christmas I’m looking forward to.

Justin Sayre (center) with John Early (left) and Cole Escola (right)4. What comedians inspire you today? Well Amy Schumer I love and Louis CK certainly. But I’m also so inspired by friends like John Early and Erin Markey and Cole Escola. I’m pushed by contemporaries so much. They’re all so gifted and bring so much to the table.

5. You are also about to release your debut comedy album…The Gay Agenda. What is your gay agenda and how often do people follow it? Why should people get excited about this album? This album is sort of a greatest hits of The Meeting* and I think it’s a great addition to the work we’ve put out on the internet. It’s been a wonderful process guided by Dan Fortune, my producer and friend, and I think people will absolutely love it.

6. Additionally, you have your podcast Sparkle & Circulate with Justin Sayre on iTunes, featuring interviews with Randy Harrison, Justin Vivian Bond, Michael Musto, Frank DeCaro, Jeffery Self, Kim David Smith and R&B legend Sarah Dash. If you were conducting this interview, what question would you ask that I haven't asked? Oh you’re doing a far better job than I. I would have asked what I had for lunch. I’m not an interviewer at all, I’m just a talker.

7. As if this isn't all enough, you also just released your book, Husky, which is targeted towards young adults about "Davis" a 12-year-old who's having trouble accepting himself and his changing sexuality. Is this book based upon your own experience? How do you feel your book will help kids going through this situation? What did writing this book do for you? This book is not an autobiography, but some of the feelings were mine. But that’s something that I try to do in all my work. I don’t like writing myself, because I have a limited view of what that is. I like writing a character that speaks to my heart in some way and following them along their adventure. I hope that Husky offers kids the thrill of recognition, to know that they’re not alone. Doing that creates readers for life and if I contribute to that in any small way, I would be forever pleased.

8. With all you have going on, how do you stay healthy and strong during these busy cycles? I walk quite a bit. Always with a pen just in case. I’m getting a bit into Yoga as well.

Tituss Burgess and Justin Sayre9. If you had to choose one event in your life that you turned from hurtful to hilarious, what event would that be? How did you find the humor in such a painful event? Well there have been many actually. There’s an old adage that Comedy is Tragedy plus time, and I believe that’s ultimately true. Nothing need be off topic or taboo, you can explore the depth of yourself and still make a joke about it. Sometimes that’s the joke in itself. I’ve taken a lot of sadness and turned it into routines or jokes and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

10. In our last interview, we talked about your favorite place in NYC to go on a date. Now, I want to know, what does it take a win your heart? At this point, I more interested in kindness more than anything else. How we are kind, how kindness finds its way into all our interactions. It’s enticing and appealing and I search for it more and more. Finding someone who cares about other people and thinks that that’s an important part of being alive, is incredibly appealing to me.

Justin SayreMore on Justin:

Justin Sayre was described by Michael Musto in The Village Voice as "Oscar Wilde meets Whoopi Goldberg." Edge New York said "Comedian, raconteur, performing artist, gay rights activist and sexual outlaw: I’m not sure Justin Sayre is classifiable. The veteran performer is on his way to becoming a Downtown Manhattan institution along the lines of Charles Ludlum or Charles Busch." Justin is a child of Forty Fort, Pennsylvania who demonstrated a supernatural instinct for "camp" at an early age. With a voice straight out the MGM finishing school for girls, he moved to New York believing it was still 1947. He was terribly misinformed. As an actor, he has worked and studied with some of the finest professionals in the city. As a comedian, Sayre is regular guest at Homo-Comicus at the Gotham Comedy Club and contributing writer to "Murray Hill’s ShowBiz" on MTVX. As a gay, Justin has excelled at scarf placement, devilish quips, and a healthy but firm love of the American musical. An evening of his short plays, Justin Sayre Is Alive and Well…Writing – called one of the "Top 10 Events on the New York Stage" by the New York Daily News – sold out two shows at Ars Nova in 2012. Sayre’s play, The Click of the Lock, was a finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Theater Conference and debuted at The Cherry Lane Theatre starring Randy Harrison. Sayre is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and Flavorwire, as well offering playful and witty love advice at The Date Report. He is currently a staff writer for 2 Broke Girls on CBS-TV and recently appeared opposite Lisa Kudrow on HBO’s The Comeback. Husky, his debut young adult novel, was just released by Penguin Books.

Tuesday
Jun092015

Call Answered: William V. Madison: Madeline Kahn: Being The Music, A Life

William V. Madison, Photo Credit: Nathaniel Goodman"Call Me Adam" chats with author and producer William V. Madison about his new book Madeline Kahn: Being The Music, A Life and panel discussion at The Drama Bookshop in NYC (250 West 40th Street, between 7th & 8th Avenue) on June 11 at 6pm! 

The panel discussion is composed of Madeline Kahn’s colleagues and friends, including comedian Robert Klein, (Kahn’s most frequent co-star - New Faces of 1968The Sisters RosensweigMixed Nuts, etc.),Martin Charnin (lyricist, Two by Two), Lee Roy Reams (director, Hello, Dolly!), Scott Ellis (director of Kahn’s final theatrical appearance and of the current Roundabout Theatre revival of On the Twentieth Century), Jonathan Lynn (writer/director, Clue), Walter Willison (Tony-nominated co-star, Two by Two), Joan Copeland (co-star, Two by Two), Maddie Corman (Kahn’s niece on the George C. Scott sitcom, Mr. President) and Lawrence Leritz (guest star, Cosby).

For more on William be sure to visit http://billmadison.blogspot.com and join his Facebook Page Madeline Kahn: Being The Music, A Life!

1. You just released your new book Madeline Kahn: Being The Music, A Life. What made now the right time to release this book? The sassy answer is that the time was right because I'd finished -- after seven years of research and writing. A better answer is that people still miss Madeline. Her death came as a great shock to so many people, and I remember vividly the way New Yorkers particularly responded to the sad news on December 3, 1999. We felt cheated, and we still want some kind of connection with her. Also, the time was right because many of the most important witnesses are still around to share their memories. Just before I began work on Being the Music, Harvey Korman and Dom DeLuise, two of Madeline's favorite co-stars died, so I didn't get to talk with them. Maddie Corman, who's on the panel June 11, is almost the only surviving member of the regular cast of the sitcom Mr. President; she's the last best witness to a full year of Madeline's career. If I hadn't been able to talk with Maddie, and with Mel Brooks and Hal Prince and Lily Tomlin and Carol Burnett and Gene Wilder -- and so on -- my job would have been almost impossible.

2. Why did you want to write a biography on Madeline Kahn? What was it about her career and life that fascinated you so much? The basic outlines of Madeline's life and career are there for the world to see, but there's a great deal that she kept concealed by design. In her acting, I saw something remarkable, even when the character is cartoonish: she locates the seriousness, what she called the "truth" of the character, and makes that the foundation of the comedy. Even to "Lili von Shtupp" in Blazing Saddles, she brings nuance and dimension. That ability had to come from some place, and I wanted to find and understand the source.

Beyond Madeline's own talents, she also worked with some of the most important creative minds of her time: everybody from Leonard Bernstein to the Muppets, from David Rabe to Neil Simon, from Charles Ludlam to Gilda Radner. Exploring her career meant learning more about their careers, too.

Finally, Madeline was extremely intelligent, thoughtful, and cultivated. I never imagined that I'd spend seven years on Being the Music, but I knew she'd be good company for the journey, and I was right.

Madeline Kahn on "The Muppets"3. What do you hope people come away with after reading Madeline Kahn: Being The Music, A Life? Certainly I hope they'll come away with a better understanding of a beloved yet misunderstood performer. I hope, too, that they'll appreciate the challenges specific to working actors who -- unlike Madeline's friends Lily Tomlin and Gene Wilder -- aren't also writers. (Or directors, like Wilder and Barbra Streisand.) Actors really don't have much control over their destinies: the real control lies with casting directors, writers, directors, producers, whose choices can define an actor's career. More generally, Madeline's experience as a single working woman, on whom her mother relied for financial support, really resonates for a lot of people today.

4. What was something you discovered about Madeline that you did not know before writing this book? There were many discoveries, but perhaps the biggest was the extent of her operatic training and ambitions. Though she sang professionally only once, in La Bohème in 1970, Madeline was still fielding offers for operatic engagements in the mid-1980s, long after she'd won fame in Hollywood. You can hear even in Young Frankenstein that she's got a real voice ("Not living-room bull****," as her friend Robert Klein says), but I hadn't realized the degree to which she'd studied. Every one of her early breaks as a performer came to her because she could sing.

Madeline Kahn on "Saturday Night Live"5. On June 11, you are having a panel discussion at The Drama Bookshop in NYC. What made you want to do a panel discussion as opposed to a regular book reading? Really, the panel discussion reflects the book. In my research, I interviewed about 120 people -- this isn't just a collection of my personal observations and pontifications. The book isn't my voice, it's theirs -- and of course it's Madeline's voice, because I quote extensively from her interviews and from a private notebook she kept for 20 years. Madeline can't join us on June 11, but her friends and colleagues can, and this way the audience will get some sense of the enjoyment I got from talking with them while I prepared Being the Music.

6. How did you decide who you wanted to be part of this panel discussion? Right now we've got Robert Klein, Martin Charnin, Scott Ellis, Lee Roy Reams, Joan Copeland, Maddie Corman, Jonathan Lynn -- and more -- on the panel, with other terrific people in the audience. It's a combination of who's in the New York area, who's available, who has an interesting perspective on Madeline's career, and who's fun to spend time with. I've never organized or moderated a panel like this before, so I wanted to be sure to invite people who'd make my job easy. Three of them -- Betty Aberlin, Walter Willison, and Lawrence Leritz -- have been heroic in helping me throughout my writing, and they've become my dear friends. So, even beyond the great stories they have to share, having them with me will be comforting!

Madeline Kahn and John Cullum in "On the Twentieth Century" 19787. What made you want to have this event at the Drama Bookshop? The Drama Book Shop is a terrific space, it's in the theater district, and it's the first place people think of for an event like this one. So many people asked not whether but when I'd do something there, that we felt we had to ask the shop for a date!

8. What's the best advice you took from Madeline's life or career? Persistence. Madeline had an extraordinarily difficult relationship with her mother, her first music teacher, who gave her not only the means but the need to express herself. Madeline was effectively abandoned by not one but two fathers when her father and stepfather in turn divorced her mother; when working relationships didn't go well or petered out, when Mel Brooks stopped working with her, she felt genuine pain. Yet Madeline didn't really want to be a performer in the first place, and she hated being typecast as a bawdy comedian. All of these elements are roiling in the background of her life -- but she didn't let them stop her. Even after her disastrous experience in On the Twentieth Century (the most complex story and the longest chapter in the book), she kept going. She had to work, to make money to support her mother. Now, when we want to forget our own cares, we can turn to Madeline's work -- but obviously, if she hadn't persisted, we wouldn't have these opportunities.

Madeline Kahn and Carol Burnett9. What did you learn about yourself from writing this book? That I had that kind of persistence, too! Putting this book together meant challenges, obstacles, disappointments, and a tremendous investment in time, money, and effort. Now I look back and think how easy it would have been to give up and walk away, but at the time I really didn't see any alternative. I had so much of Madeline's story already -- I had to finish.

10. If you could have a conversation with Madeline Kahn today, what would you say to her? I'd say something much like the things said to Madeline by two of the people I spoke with, the choreographer Joseph Patton and the film director Eric Mendelsohn: "I get it. I understand how hard it is to be you." Madeline tried to insulate herself from unpleasantness, but she went through a lot of hardship in her life, beginning when she was a tiny child, and in her career she experienced some terrible disappointments. She was in some ways very fragile -- which is not what we think of when we remember her performances. Often she was afraid that audiences were laughing not at her characters or the funny things she said, but at her. It really wasn't easy to be Madeline Kahn -- but look what treasures she left us!

William V. MadisonMore on William:

William V. Madison is a former producer at CBS News and a former Associate Editor of Opera News. He was also the lone production assistant on the Broadway musical Rags in 1986. A native Texan, Madison is a graduate of Brown University & the Creative Writing Program at Columbia University’s School of the Arts.