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"Call Me Adam" chats with...

Entries in Broadway (251)

Tuesday
Sep032013

MEL & EL Interview: Advanced Maternal Age at Ars Nova

MEL and ELBackstage Bistro Award winners MEL & EL are Melanie Kinard and Ellie Dvorkin -real life best friends who have known each other since they were twelve years old. Described as a modern-day Laverne & Shirley, MEL & EL have grown up to become a riotously funny musical duo and an NYC cult phenomenon.

MEL & EL are making a triumphant return to the Ars Nova stage for one night only in their new show Advanced Maternal Age! Debuting heartfelt new songs like "Let's Not Be Poor Anymore" and "My Man is Just the Right Amount of Gay", the ladies bring their comedic musical stylings home to Hell's Kitchen. Catch them quick, before EL goes into labor. Advanced Maternal Age will play Ars Nova (511 West 54th Street, between 10th & 11th Avenue) in NYC on Monday, September 16 at 8pm. Click here for tickets!

For more on MEL & EL be sure to visit http://melandel.com and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!

MEL and EL performing1. Who or what inspired you to become performers? 

EL: My mother put the idea in my head when I was little. She is British, and I used to follow her and the rest of my family around imitating their accents at parties. She would say, "You’re such a little actress!" and I guess the idea stuck.

MEL: I think I mostly became a performer because I was terrible at all the other things.

EL: That sounds so negative!

MEL: It’s not. It’s extremely positive. 

2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to?

EL: Madonna...

MEL: Bette Midler...

EL: Sarah Silverman...

MEL: We really only work with each other, so this list is both long and ridiculous.

3. Your latest show, Advanced Maternal Age will be at Ars Nova on September 16. What are you looking forward to most about performing this new show?

MEL: I already had my opportunity to perform while pregnant, and now I get to sit back and see how El handles it. Or really, I get to see how the audience reacts to it.

EL: I am excited to try our brand new material. We have three songs that have NEVER been heard by anyone other than our composer/accompanist. It’s always exciting when we get laughs for the first time.

MEL: But what if they don’t laugh?

EL: Then I will just wiggle my belly around. That’ll get 'em.

MEL: That’s cheap, but I like it.

MEL and EL4. You have performed at Ars Nova several times. What is it about this venue that you enjoy most? What do they offer that another venue does not?

MEL: Ars Nova is both cozy and fancy which are our favorite two qualities in a venue.

EL: But, really, you get the intimacy of an edgy, “downtown” location along with this incredible theatre and dressing rooms and staff.

MEL: Also, the bar.

EL: Correct.

5. For fans who have seen your previous shows, what will excite them about this new show and what might surprise them?

EL: For years, our material was inspired by being single in New York City. Now that we’re married with kids, the content is shifting. I think they will be excited by the new material and surprised that it’s just as funny and relatable as the previous stuff.

MEL: Yeah. What she said.

EL, MEL, and Patrick Bodd6. How did you come to work with your accompanist Patrick Spencer Bodd? What is the best part about working with him?

MEL: Patrick and I went to Ithaca College together and were attached at the hip from pretty early on. My student loans were worth it to meet him.

EL: Patrick is the most talented human I know. He can literally do anything extremely well. But my favorite thing about him is how he can tell us we’re both total idiots in a really sweet way.

7. Mel you are a mother already. El, you are about to become a mother. Do you feel motherhood has changed/will change your performance style at all?

MEL: Nah. I have always been the self-conscious one and El has always been the brazen one. Having kids doesn’t change that. 

EL: What she means is, I will still be wearing sequin hot pants and talking about the details of my sex life.

MEL: And I will still NOT be doing that.

MEL and EL at age 128. You have been friends since you were 12 years old. What have you learned from each other over the years? What is the best part about working together and being such close friends? What challenges do you face from having such a close relationship?

EL: It’s going to sound corny, but our biggest challenge is seeing each other enough and finding "friend-time" together aside from rehearsing and performing.

MEL: Barf! But it’s true.

EL: I also think we’ve learned to be more patient with each other.

MEL: We’ve had to. And we’ve figured out how to really quickly disperse any tension. It usually means we just need five minutes to talk like actual people and then we get back to "work."

EL:  And, typically, I speak before I think and Mel thinks before she speaks. It seems over the years we’ve rubbed off on one another a little bit.

MEL: Bitch.

EL: See? 

MEL and EL9. What do you enjoy most about filming your web series The Mel and El Show? How do you decide what each episode will be about?

MEL: The web series was a collaborative effort between us and some creatives at a digital media company called ClearMetrics. They took some of their favorite material from our act and helped us develop it into three initial episodes in hopes that it would be picked up commercially and developed further.

EL: For example, "Tampax presents The Mel & El Show." But Tampax hasn’t come a-knockin' just yet.

MEL: We had a blast filming it and would love to do more, so if anyone from Tampax is reading this, give us a call. 

EL: Say Tampax.

MEL: Tampax.

MEL and EL10. What's the best advice you've ever received?

MEL: The gay ballroom dancer who taught me how to apply stage makeup when I was 13 told me "never blend." In retrospect, I think he was talking about eye shadow, but I was an emotional adolescent and I really took it to heart.

EL: I never knew that story!

MEL: We need to hang out more often!

EL: My mom has always said, "You don’t ask, you don’t get." And I have used that as inspiration many times – especially with Mel & El stuff.

MEL: Maybe you should ask Madonna if she wants us to be her opening act.

EL: I am on that.

BONUS QUESTION:

11. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose?

EL: The power to make Mel wear sequin hot pants on stage.

MEL: It’s a good thing super powers aren’t real. 

More on MEL and EL:

MEL & EL grew up in South Florida, where they attended the University Center for the Performing Arts together, and where, due to a shortage of boys in the summer camp program, one of them often played a man.

Described as a modern-day Laverne & Shirley, MEL & EL have grown up to become a riotously funny musical duo and an NYC cult phenomenon. Their critically acclaimed show, MEL & EL: THIS SHOW RHYMES, was developed with Cannery Works and enjoyed a year-long run at The Duplex in NYC's West Village. Their next show, MEL & EL: SHOW & TELL, developed in part at New York Stage & Film, premiered at Ars Nova to rave reviews. MEL & EL: GAY MARRIED headlined Comix and culminated in the pair being chosen as one of the Village Voice's BEST OF NYC.

EL and MEL performingMEL & EL were awarded the Backstage Bistro Award for their song "Fagnet", the Collaboration Award given by the NY Coalition of Professional Women in the Arts and Media and were recently chosen as GO Magazine's Very Best in NYC Comedy.

MEL & EL have hosted and appeared at various events such as The Miss Fag Hag Pageant which raised funds for the Hetrick-Martin Institute/Harvey Milk School, and benefits for The Trevor Project, The NYCLU's LGBT efforts, The Food Bank of New York City, and Habitat for Humanity.

NYC appearances include NYMF, The Hysterical Festival, Jim Caruso's Cast Party, Nice Jewish Girls Gone Bad, The Big Gay Variety Show, Dykes on Mics, Homo Comicus, Hedda Lettuce’s Tossed Salad and here! TV’s Busted. You can also catch them at popular venues around town like The Box, Birdland, Gotham Comedy Club, The D Lounge, Le Poisson Rouge, Therapy, The PIT and Joe's Pub at the Public Theater.

Outside of NYC, MEL & EL have performed their show onboard various Atlantis gay cruises, at Harlan's Cabaret in New Hope, PA, the BACCHUS Area 11 conference in SUNY Oswego, at the Women's Auxiliary in Waterford, CT, and at the Primetime Comedy Club in Sayreville, NJ.

Their debut musical comedy album, MEL & EL: SHE'S MY BITCH, is available on iTunes and CD Baby and their web series THE MEL & EL SHOW is now available at themelandelshow.com.

Wednesday
Aug282013

Jim McCarthy: Goldstar Interview

Jim McCarthy is the CEO of Goldstar, but he is also Customer Service Agent Number 1 for the company. Jim has spent the last decade and a half in e-commerce, starting way back at GeoCities before it was bought by Yahoo in 1999. Even before that, he helped to open about 50 Noah’s Bagels locations in California, where he learned about delighting customers, developing employees, and managing high growth. He’s written articles and commentary in Fast Company, Business Insider, and other well-known publications, and has appeared as a speaker at conferences like SXSW, TEDU (part of the main TED conference), INTIX and others. He co-founded TEDxBroadway, which he also hosts and curates. Jim graduated from Harvard College and has an MBA from the Anderson School at UCLA. He also speaks Japanese, writes ghost stories and is a certified lifeguard.

For more on Goldstar be sure to visit http://www.goldstar.com and follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

1. You are the CEO and one of the founders of Goldstar (along with Robert Graff and Richard Webster), the world's largest ticket booth, offering half-price tickets to various theatre, comedy, dance, concerts, sporting events, and other live entertainment outlets. What made you want to start Goldstar together? You know those conversations you have where you say "Someday, we'll..."? The three of us had been having those conversations about starting a business for a couple years, and 'someday' finally came.

Jim McCarthy with co-founders Robert Graff and Richard Webster2. What have you learned from working together? Trust in equal doses with candor. It's impossible to work with partners if you don't give them the leeway to run the part of the business they're responsible for, but at the same time, if you do that without an atmosphere of candor with each other, that doesn't work either. I imagine putting on those big puffy boxing gloves...I may hit (or get hit) pretty hard, but there's no intent to hurt. The intent is to be honest and get to the heart of a solution.

3. Why did you want to focus Goldstar on entertainment events rather than another area of interest? It's a perfect match for what the Internet/web/mobile technologies do well, which is taking a whole complicated mess of different things a person might be interested in and match them to millions of people, quickly and elegantly. Not just that, but there was and still is a basic breakdown in the world of live entertainment: people want to be at these events more and the events would love to have more people there! Our thought from the start was that's a problem that deserves a solution.

Not only that, but it's fun. You can make a fortune in cement, but it's pretty hard to get excited about it. Last week, on consecutive nights, I saw a baseball game, a rock opera, and a Broadway play. I suppose there's an amount of money I'd take to work in the cement industry instead of this, but it would have to be quite a bit more!

Summer night at the Hollywood Bowl, just one of the many venues Goldstar sells tickets to4. How do you decide which events you are going to sell tickets for? Our goal is to be broad, so we'd like to have a wide range of things in every city that we're in. We've done this for long enough that we can filter for shows and events that are professionally done and are going to be good experiences for our members, though to some degree we do let our members tell us what they think about an event.

In other words, if you're a pro or a talented amateur running an event, your show should be on Goldstar, so call us!

5. Goldstar is a membership driven service, with nearly 4 million members, many of your members being the average age of 37 years old and female. Did you start out trying to get this demographic or did they find you and now you cater to this age group? We paid attention early on to who was most responsive to what we had to offer and then went deeper into that audience as much as we could. It's important to say though that although our audience is 2/3rds women, we have a lot of men in the audience, and they're great members too. Goldstar is for everybody, really, though if you polled 100 women and 100 men, more of the women would respond more quickly.

We also saw that it was really important to many of the venues and shows that we worked with that they reach a different audience from the ones they are already reaching. That could be age, gender, or ethnicity based, or it could be a whole bunch of other things, but we saw that they didn’t need "help" selling discount tickets to the people they already had a strong connection to. What they needed more than anything was to reach a whole bunch of other people who have every reason to be interested in what they’re selling.

6. How do you feel Goldstar has helped inspire a younger generation to go to live events? We're about choices, information, and variety. We make going to live entertainment something that's easier to do, more social, and where you're better informed. I think there are a lot of unintentional barriers to getting out to live entertainment and arts, and we're breaking those down in ways that helps everyone get out there. This especially helps younger adults who generally come to this kind of content a bit later in life.

I also think that there’s a strong connection between making live entertainment part of your life and truly exploring your own personal creativity. People are creative in a million little ways in their work and just in their daily lives, but how much of the time is that creativity really activated? I think everyone, but perhaps young people in particular, want creativity of whatever kind to be part of not just what they do, but in fact who they are. I can’t think of an easier or more fun way to stir your own personal creativity than to see it on a stage as a regular habit. When you see a smart performance, you get a little smarter. When you hear someone funny, you get to be a little funnier. When you see an athlete do something amazing, you feel somehow that you too could strive to be more like them. I think we’re on the midst of a personal creativity explosion and going to live events has a big role to play in that.

7. Goldstar has been in business for over 10 years now. Did you imagine Goldstar would be what it is today when you first started out? What has been the best part about this venture so far and what challenges have you faced? Yes, actually! This is a lot like we imagined it, which means we've been tremendously fortunate. Being a bootstrapped company, the challenges mostly relate to patience. Many very high-powered fads have come and gone in the time we've been in business, and there's a kind of pressure to jump on board those fads, but if they don't make sense, you have to resist. That's tough.

The most fun part is seeing the impact of the business on all the people we touch, including Goldstar employees, the venue and show partners whose businesses we help build, and of course, the millions of people we send to all these great nights out. That's the best thing, really.

8. What do you see for Goldstar's future? In a few years, most people will think of us as the place they go to find something to do. This is already true for a lot of people, but we're uniquely positioned to take that to a mass level. We'll be able to provide people with a good answer to the question of how to figure out what they should do with their free Saturday night.

9. What event don't you sell tickets for that you would like to? Every event belongs on Goldstar, because we have the largest channel solely dedicated to live entertainment and arts in the country. If you want to reach that audience, you need to be there, so the show that I'd like to see on Goldstar is Call Me Adam, the Musical.

10. In addition to selling tickets, you also provide for those less fortunate through your Thanksgiving Appeal where members can provide a Thanksgiving meal to one of the local food banks in their area. How did you decide to start this program ? What has been the greatest reward knowing you are helping so many people? We started this program the second year we were in business because we realized the year before that the week of Thanksgiving is a pretty tough time to try to sell tickets.  We had, really, no money at the time, but what we did have was an audience whose attention we could command for a few minutes with our emails and our website. We thought it would be nice to use that for something, and Goldstar members have always been really responsive to the Thanksgiving Appeal.

It's all to their credit, really. I'm just happy we can facilitate it, but it's about the generosity of the Goldstar members, not about Goldstar. I'm always proud but not surprised at what our customers do for the organizations, and it's one of my favorite things that happens during the year.

Tuesday
Aug202013

Tom Donahue: Casting By Interview

Tom is the Chief Creative Officer responsible for the look, feel, and quality on all CreativeChaos vmg projects. His latest project is directing the feature documentary CASTING BY, about Casting Directors, the indispensable yet unsung heroes of film making, currently airing on HBO as part of their Summer Documentary Series. Click here for air dates!

For more on Tom visit http://www.creativechaosvmg.com and for more on HBO Documentary Series visit http://www.hbo.com/#/documentaries

1. Who or what inspired you to become a director? The New Hollywood films of the 1970's.

2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Bruce Springsteen - on a documentary about America's last half century as told through his music. This is my dream project.

3. What made you want to make the documentary film Casting By? The distance between the significance of the creative contributions of casting directors and the lack of recognition and regard they receive for those achievements. I knew that gap had to be rectified after my first interview with Marion Dougherty.

CreativeChaos Partners Tom Donahue and Steve Edwards with Glenn Close and Burt Young at the NYFF CASTING BY After Party4. Casting By includes a host of Hollywood heavyweights such as Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood, Glenn Close, Jeff Bridges, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Diane Lane, Bette Midler and John Travolta. How did you decide who you wanted to include in this documentary? The people we reached out to had to have a direct connection to any one of the casting directors we talked to. Most of them went on camera to pay tribute to Marion Dougherty, others to Lynn Stalmaster but many came to talk about the casting directors they work with today or about the importance of casting in general. We discovered it was a topic most had rarely been asked to talk about before but that was supremely important to their lives and work.

HBO premiere in NYC for CASTING BY, with Editor Jill Schweizer, Casting Director Juliet Taylor, Martin Scorsese, Casting Director Ellen Lewis, Producers Joanna Colbert, Kate Lacey and Ilan Arboleda5. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the documentary? I want the audiences to take away what I have taken away from making this film - That the casting director is of major creative importance in the shaping of a motion picture. I want the audience to never again take the 'casting by' credit for granted.

6. What was the best part about making Casting By? What challenges did you face during the filming process? No doubt, the best part was being able to sit with and talk to people who were all masters in their fields - whether casting directors, actors, directors or producers. Every interview was a masterclass.

7. Why did you go with HBO as the platform to air your documentary? What does their channel offer than another one might not? HBO is one of the premiere platforms for documentaries in the United States.

Tom Donahue directing8. What does it mean to you to have your documentary on HBO? It means my film will get an great amount of exposure, as much as can really be expected for an independent documentary in the United States. And with that exposure will come greater recognition for casting directors.

9. What's the best advice you've ever received? When I was 12, a teacher told me that I understood at a young age what most people never learn in their entire lives - The value of finding life's meaning in the work that you do. Having her tell me that had a major impact on my life. I never forgot it and never will.

10. What have you learned about yourself from being a director? I've learned that I love affecting change and changing attitudes through storytelling.

 

Tom Donahue at "Casting By" NYC PremiereMore on Tom:

Tom produced the feature film PONIES released theatrically in 2012. He directed the feature documentary GUEST OF CINDY SHERMAN, which premiered at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival to rave reviews. The film opened theatrically in March 2009 and was selected as recommended watching by the New York Times when it made its premiere on the Sundance Channel in May 2009.  He is currently directing two documentaries for the company now in production.

 

Monday
Aug122013

Linda Eder: Provincetown Crown & Anchor Interview 2013

Adam Rothenberg and Linda Eder at Feinstein's in NYC 2010Showcasing one of the greatest contemporary voices of our time, Linda Eder’s diverse repertoire spans Broadway, standards, pop, country and jazz. 

I first interviewed Linda back in 2010 at Feinstein's in NYC (click here for that interview) when she was promoting her album "Soundtrack." Now, three years later, it's an honor to catch up with Linda in Provincetown, MA as she brings her incomparable voice to The Crown & Anchor's Paramount (247 Commercial Street) for two nights only, Monday, August 12 and Tuesday, August 13 at 8pm.

For more on Linda be sure to visit http://www.lindaeder.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!

Linda Eder at "Now" PhotoshootLinda Eder and Frank Wildhorn, Photo Credit: Aubrey Reuben1. We first met in 2010 when you were performing at Feinstein's, in support of your album "Soundtrack." Since that time you released "Now" & continued to tour around the world.  On "Now,"  you collaborated with Frank Wildhorn once again. What do you like most about working together & singing his music? What do you connect to most with his music? Frank writes really pretty melodies with nice intervals that are fun to sing and seem to work really well with my voice and my style of singing. When he teams with a great lyricist like Jack Murphy or Nan Nighton it is pretty magical.

2. You are back out on tour again. One stop on your current tour is Provincetown, MA. What do you enjoy most about performing here? The audience is made up of mostly gay men and so it is always a wild fun night with lots of wonderful feedback from the crowd and that is what performers live for.

Linda Eder in the recording studio3. You will be performing at The Crown & Anchor on August 12 & 13. What do you feel this venue offers your show that another one might not? Location, location, location! Isn’t that what they always say? It’s on the water; it’s a small intimate room, always a great crowd.

4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing your show? I hope they had fun. I hope they laughed. Most of all I hope they are moved emotionally.

5. What is your favorite part about putting a show together? Putting shows together is work. It takes some thought to how the songs will flow so I have to sit quietly and concentrate. That’s why I usually procrastinate but I also know that I have a knack for putting set list together.

6. What is your favorite part about putting an album together? On a new CD my favorite part is singing the background vocals. It sounds funny but I love to harmonize. It’s also always so great to hear the new arrangements played down for the first time.

7. What singers inspire you today? So many it’s really hard to name them all. I listen to singers for different reasons. Some have incredible, gymnastic voices that I like to listen to for that reason but when it comes to enjoying music for the sake of music it isn’t always the singer with the biggest range of greatest vocal licks. It always comes down to the song. So these days I listen more for the songs and the mood or emotion it creates in me.

Linda Eder as "Lucy" in Frank Wildhorn's "Jekyll & Hyde" on Broadway8. Aside from singing, are there other aspects of entertainment you want to pursue? Any aspirations to come back to Broadway? I would like to get into acting a little bit. Maybe some TV. As for Broadway, I don’t have plans at the moment but I would actually like to do a play. I don’t know that I want to sing 8 shows a week anymore.

9. What's the best advice you've ever received? The secret to life is three things...

1. Someone to love

2. Something to do

3. Something to look forward to

10. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? The power of flight! Absolutely!

More on Linda:

As the tragic character "Lucy" in the Broadway musical Jekyll & Hyde, from composer Frank Wildhorn, Linda blew the roof off of New York’s Plymouth Theatre each night as she belted out signature songs "Someone Like You" and "A New Life." Her Broadway debut, for which she was rewarded with a Drama Desk nomination, sent her already rapidly rising star blazing across the sky, securing her spot as one of America’s most beloved singers and dynamic live performers.

Most recently, Linda crowned her two-decade recording career with a new album, Now, which reunited Linda with Broadway and pop composer Frank Wildhorn. The new release marked the musical return of this legendary team after six years. Linda’s transcendent voice is the perfect complement to Wildhorn’s lush, imaginative music. Now’s 12 dynamic new tracks elevate the spirit while capturing many moods.

Born in Tucson, Arizona, and raised in Brainerd, Minnesota, Linda began her career singing in her home state and eventually landed a gig at Harrah’s Casino in Atlantic City. But it was her appearances on the 1987 season of Star Search, where she won for an unprecedented 12 weeks, that attracted the attention of audiences and record companies alike.

Linda launched her recording career in 1991 with her self-titled debut album and soon established a vital niche as America’s most popular and acclaimed new interpreter of pop standards and theatrical songs with 14 solo albums and 12 musical recordings. Those albums highlight Linda’s abundant vocal gifts as well as her skill for delivering dramatic, emotionally resonant interpretations of familiar songs while making them her own. She followed up with The Other Side of Me, a country pop blend of contemporary music – including a song written by Linda.

In Fall 2010, Linda released Soundtrack. Produced by Peter Collins, Soundtrack finds Linda going to the movies and adding new dimensions to an eclectic mix of themes from the silver screen. The 12 tracks span the last 50 years in cinema, from Henry Mancini’s "Charade," the title tune of the 1963 movie starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, to "Falling Slowly," the Best Original Song Academy Award winner from the movie Once.

In June 2010, Linda and Clay Aiken covered Roy Orbison’s "Crying" as a duet on Clay’s album Tried & True. She was recently featured on two PBS television specials including Clay Aiken’s Tried & True and Hallelujah Broadway.

The concert stage remains the mainstay of Linda’s career. She has performed for sold-out crowds and venues across the country and throughout Europe. Her concerts have been televised on Bravo and PBS. Trail Mix, her primetime Animal Planet special, was a natural extension of her love of animals for this Minnesota native who remains a "farm girl" at heart.

Linda has performed at many prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall, The Town Hall, The Kennedy Center, Davies Hall, Radio City Music Hall, Wolftrap and the Ravinia Festival. Always touring in good company, her collaborations include the late Oscar-winning composer and pianist Marvin Hamlisch, Tony-winner Michael Feinstein and Keith Lockhart, conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra.

Tuesday
Jul302013

Jeff Whiting: Open Jar Institute Interview

Jeff Whiting is one of Broadway's most prominent rising directors/choreographers whose talents have been seen in The Scottsboro Boys, Hair, Young Frankenstein, and Wicked (5th Anniversary). This season Jeff will be represented with two Broadway productions: Big Fish and Bullets Over Broadway, both directed by five-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman.

Five-Time Tony Award winning Director/Choreographer Susan Stroman teaching a Master Class at the Open Jar InstituteJeff is also the founder of the Open Jar Institute, a musical theatre training program founded in 2003 for the development of music theatre artists of all ages. Celebrating their 10th Anniversary, Open Jar Institute will be celebrating on August 2nd with a Special Master Class Press Event At The Pearl Theatre In NYC with Susan Stroman. In addition to Jeff and Susan, other Broadway professionals featured this season will be legendary composer John Kander, Tony Award winners Joanna Gleason and Karen Ziemba, Tony nominee David Thompson, casting associates from Tara Rubin Casting, casting director Bob Cline, director/choreographer James Gray, Stacia Fernandez, Thayne Jasperson, Robert Hartwell, Andrew Fitch, Joshua Buscher, Tina Marie Casamento, Michael Goddard, Joseph Mitchell Parks, Jay Rhoderick, Eric Santagata, Scott Taylor, and many others. 

For more on Jeff be sure to visit http://www.jeffwhiting.net and for more on the Open Jar Institute visit http://www.openjarinstitute.com and follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a director/choreographer? When I was twelve I worked with a director named Xan Johnson in Lanford Wilson's HOME FREE. I played "Lawrence" who was a young man battling extreme agoraphobia in the show and I was having trouble really finding the truth in that fear. Through rehearsals this director found some amazing ways to help me discover this fear that gripped my character. When I finally made the connection (thanks to the director) I remember thinking "I want to do what he does" - he somehow found a way to help me connect to the piece. From that day forward I always had my eye on the director - watching and observing - taking mental notes about what qualities or skills I would incorporate or NOT incorporate into my own directing style. I love working with people and helping each performer become the best they can.

2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? I'd really love to work with two master storytellers of our day - Alan Menken and Steven Schwartz.

Open Jar Institute Students at a Broadway Dance Master Class3. You founded The Open Jar Institute in 2003. What made you want to start this venture? When I first arrived in the city as an actor there were so many lessons I had to learn the 'hard way'. I had good training but there were so many things about auditioning and marketing myself that I just didn't know. In the end, I'm very grateful to have learned those lessons but always said if I had the chance I would want to share with other up and coming actors some of the realities of the business so they wouldn't have to make some of the mistakes I made.

About that time, I had read a study about fleas. A group of scientists took a group of fleas, who have an amazing capacity to jump, and placed them in an open jar. With the lid closed, the fleas tried to jump but quickly discovered they wouldn't be able to jump as high as they had intended. After a week went by, the scientists took the lid off of the jar and the fleas, who had adjusted to the new height, didn't jump out of the jar, and never jumped out to their freedom.

As artists, we often fall into the same trap that the fleas did. There are a lot of 'no's in this business and it's very easy to adjust to those perceived limitations. All too often we, the artist, stop jumping, or auditioning, performing, with our entire potential. At The Open Jar Institute we believe that you must approach every performance, audition with all of your might - approach it as if the jar is open - the possibilities endless. That is the Open Jar Philosophy and became the name of the Institute - The Open Jar Institute.

Tony Award nominee John Tartaglia teaching a Master Class at the Open Jar Institute4. Now The Open Jar Institute is celebrating it's 10th Anniversary. What does this milestone mean to you? It's hard to believe it's really been 10 years - they've really flown by - but it's been amazing to see how many young artists I've seen come through the program and who have already started incredible careers in the business. I think the significance of our 10th Anniversary is to see that we've really built a solid team of teaching artists as well as our 'dream team' staff at open jar. I think another wonderful byproduct of our 10th Anniversary is the wonderful reputation for excellence in education we have been able to attain and to attract the very best Broadway professionals to work with our students.

4a. Did you imagine 10 years ago, the institute would become what it is today? I'm thrilled to see how the institute has really grown and yet we are still able to provide intensive one-on-one training with Broadway's best professionals. Yes, I think if you told me 10 years ago that theatre legends Susan Stroman, Joanna Gleason, and John Kander would be teaching artists for The Open Jar Institute, well, it still blows my mind to have them as a part of The Open Jar Institute.

5. How do you decide which professionals you are going to ask each year to participate in The Open Jar Institute? It's important to me that every student who attends the institute works exclusively with Broadway professionals that are currently IN the business. The industry changes so much that it's important that they are learning from those who have found success in the business and who also bring a positive and encouraging spirit with them to teach the students.

Open Jar Institute student Jonatas Faro works on audition piece.6. What do get from teaching these students who attend the institute? I am always so overwhelmed to see how much these students grow in our time together - not just professionally and in their craft as they work in their classes, but even more importantly, to see them finding themselves as artists and to find comfort in being who they are, whatever that is.

 7. What has been the most rewarding part about being the owner and artistic director of The Open Jar Institute? I'd say the most rewarding part of being a part of The Open Jar Institute would be to know that so many talented students are getting the opportunity to learn more about their dreams - to work one-on-one with Broadway professionals who are doing what they want to be doing - and to see the student learn and be inspired by the guest artist - and, most importantly, to see the student learn that they are completely capable of finding the same kind of success with hard work and determination.

7a. What challenges have you faced? One of the biggest challenges we face as the Institute is when we go on our audition tour to schools around the country. Sometimes folks have a hard time believing that they will actually have the opportunity to work with the kind of professionals that are on our Guest Artist List (Susan Stroman, John Kander, Joanna Gleason, etc.). I suppose there are a number of scams out in the world today and it's natural for people to be on the watch for another one and it's always my thrill to see the students who come from around the country to learn one-on-one with these amazing guest artists from the Broadway community.

Open Jar Institute students take over Times Square with impromptu flash mob.8. What plans do you have for the future of The Open Jar Institute? We will soon be launching a semester program for college students who can spend a semester abroad (in New York City). We will offer this semester to college students for the Fall, Winter and Summer Semesters from schools around the globe who want to learn from Broadway's best professionals, to make valuable connections in the city, and to better prepare themselves for a career in New York.

8a. Where would you like to see it go? We're also working towards having a year-round accredited program, complete with housing, studios and a theatre for students who want to study in New York City full-time with Broadway teaching artists.

Jeff Whiting and Susan Stroman9. How did you and Susan Stroman first come to work together? I was first hired by Susan to work as her Assistant Choreographer on the Broadway production of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN in 2007. It's been my honor to work with her on that production and the national tour as well as HAPPINESS at Lincoln Center, THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS on Broadway, and now on BIG FISH (Andrew Lippa) and BULLETS OVER BROADWAY (Woody Allen) both opening this season and THE LITTLE DANCER (Lynn Ahrens/Stephen Flaherty) next year.

9a. What has been the best part about working with her and what have you learned from her? I'd say the greatest thing about being in the room with Susan is knowing that you are safe to explore and encouraged to try the impossible. She is incredibly collaborative and it's an amazing environment of creative juices where we get to play together to find the best way to tell each story. It's been one of the the greatest blessings in my life to be at her side in creating some wonderful projects over the past few years.

10. What do you enjoy about working on Broadway and getting the opportunities to work around the country and overseas? I love creating, no matter where it is, but being able to be a story-teller on Broadway is an incredible dream come true for me. I first came to New York at age 12 and the moment the lights came up on Bernadette Peters while watching my first Broadway show (SONG & DANCE) I absolutely KNEW that this environment was my home. I wanted to be able to create the kind of magic that can only be created in the theatre.

"Hairspray" in Brazil, directed/choreographed by Jeff Whiting10a. What differences do you see between working in the states and overseas? Yes, I've also been lucky enough to direct and choreograph around the world - Brazil, India, Mexico, London, China. Each place has it's own blessings and challenges. The biggest difference in working outside the states is the process by which the production is built and the rehearsal schedules are run. My favorite thing about rehearsing in Brazil is that rehearsals don't begin until 1pm. You rehearse from 1pm to 9pm because everyone goes to the beach in the morning. I love that! I'm determined to bring that practice of rehearsal times to the states. I loved having the mornings free to do errands, etc. before starting rehearsals. But, although there are many different challenges and delights in creating theatrical magic in each different country, in the end the audiences always show up at the curtain time ready to be taken on a journey of some kind. I love it!

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. What do get from being the Artistic Director of The Open Jar Institute that you do not get from being a director/choreographer? I love to teach. Although you do do a lot of teaching as a director or choreographer. You don't often talk too much about technique in the rehearsal process and I love really digging into the technique of acting and communicating when I do classes at the Open Jar Institute. The other thing that I love about teaching is to see the incredible growth, both personal and professional, that the students experience at the Open Jar Institute.

12. What's the best advice you've ever received? The best advice I ever got was this: YOU ARE ENOUGH.  Actors are always trying to guess 'what they want' and trying to fit the mold. The truth is, I want you - whatever that is. Sometimes you are the right 'fit' for the show - sometimes not. But an inauthentic self is NEVER the right fit. No matter what, you need to find confidence in who you are - whatever it is - and bring that confidence in any room you enter. The people that I'm drawn to as a creator are those who are well-rounded and comfortable in their own skin and who are willing to explore without any fear.

13. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? The power to fly. I'm constantly flying in my dreams and would love to live out that dream and not be bound by gravity.

More on Jeff: Recently acclaimed as a 'director with a joyous touch' by the New York Times, Jeff Whiting is a director and choreographer for theater, opera, television, special events and concerts around the world. ​National Tour credits include Young Frankenstein​ (director), Hairspray (assoc. director), The Producers (assoc. director). Having been praised on THE VIEW as 'a truly remarkable talent', Jeff's theatrical direction and choreography includes The Scottsboro Boys (Philadelphia Theatre Company), Hairspray (Brazilian production), Young Frankenstein (National Tour), Kiss Me Kate (Glimmerglass), Tarantella: Spider Dance (Theater for a New City), Bye Bye Birdie (Cortland Rep), Thrill Me: Leopold & Loeb (Southeastern Premiere), Fashion 47 (Minneapolis CTC), All Night Strut (Cortland Rep), My Way (Corland Rep), I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change (Arkansas Rep), The Donkey Show. Opera direction and choreography includes We Open In Paris (Glimmerglass Opera). Television direction includes Disney's Magical Moments Parade, which premiered in Rio De Janiero, Brazil and is continuing on a 15-city national tour. Special Event direction and choreography includes James Taylor Live (Carnegie Hall, co-starring Bette Midler, Steve Martin, Sting, Tony Bennett, Barbara Cook, Dianne Reeves), Stro! Gala Honoring Susan Stroman (Hudson Theater, co-starring Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Rebecca Luker, Boyd Gaines, Veanne Cox), T-Mobile's Annual Event (Kodak Theater, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones), MAIR! (Inner Circle, Starring Mayor Mike Bloomberg and the Broadway company of HAIR!), Film Premiere of Chronicles of Narnia (Southeastern Premiere). As a member of Disney's Creative Team, Jeff has directed and choreographed over 50 shows and events, including Disney's Mickey Mouse Club (India), Disney's Dream and Fantasy (Brazil), Power Rangers, Disney's Very Merry Christmas, Disney's Enchanted Princess, Disney's 100 Years of Magic, Disney's Magic Mirror

Upcoming projects include DangerousFaustus, and Hope For The Flowers.

Stage Write Software, designed and developed by Jeff, marks the worlds first digital method for documenting staging and choreography and is already in use for many of Broadway shows and tours, including NEWSIES, GHOST, THE PRODUCERS, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, HAIR, NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT, and THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS.