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"Call Me Adam" chats with...

Entries in Broadway (226)

Tuesday
Oct022012

Steven Reineke: New York Pops 30th Anniversary Season Interview

I first interviewed New York Pops Music Director Steven Reineke in Februrary 2012. Since that time, he has made his Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut and has been appointed Principal Pops Conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Now Steven is back in New York, gearing up to celebrate the NY Pops 30th Anniversary Season with an amazingly gifted season of concerts. Kicking things off is an evening of Rodgers & Hammerstein on October 12 starring Broadway stars Aaron Lazar, Kelli O'Hara, and Paulo Szot. November 9 continues this great season with "By Special Request: An Evening with the Orchestra," which will feature favorite symphonic repertoires including the world premiere of a new fanfare composed by Steven himself. On December 12, the New York Pops' annual holiday concert will be "Pink Martini: Joy to the World," a special multi-denominational holiday concert features songs from the Pink Martini's best-selling album, "Joy to the World."

Carnegie Hall is located at 881 7th Avenue (between 56th & 57th Street). Click here for tickets to the above concerts!

For more on the New York Pops be sure to visit http://www.newyorkpops.org and follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

For more on Steven visit http://www.stevenreineke.com and follow him on Facebook!

Steven Reineke conducting NY Pops, Photo Credit: Johanna Weber1. Since we last spoke, you made your Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut on July 4 and you have been appointed Principal Pops Conductor by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. What was it like to make your Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut on our nations birthday? Of course, it was a special treat to spend July 4th conducting the world famous Chicago Symphony Orchestra! They are an amazing group of musicians. Sometimes I say that conducting orchestras are like test-driving cars. The CSO is definitely a Bentley, plus I had the lovely Ashley Brown (Mary Poppins) as my guest soloist and we performed outdoors at the famed Ravinia Festival.

1a. What made you want to apply for this position and how does it feel to be appointed Principal Pops Conductor? I didn’t really apply for the position with the Toronto Symphony, it’s more something that has evolved over time. They’ve never had a full-time Pops conductor and I’ve been a frequent guest with the orchestra for the past 14 years. They actually just created this position for me. It’s like we’ve had a long engagement and just got married. It also keeps me mostly based on the East Coast and in the same time zone between my 3 orchestras: New York, Washington, and Toronto.

2. The New York Pops 30th Season starts on October 12. What does it mean to you to be part of this momentous season? What are you looking forward to most about it? I’m not sure I could be any more excited about our 30th season. It will be my 4th season conducting this amazing orchestra and I’m thrilled to see that we continue to grow and thrive, bringing world-class entertainment to New York City and beyond. It’s quite possibly the finest season we’ve constructed since I’ve been the Music Director. It’s all terrific but some of the highlights for me will be reuniting with our friends Kelli O’Hara, Paulo Szot, Aaron Lazar, and Essential Voices USA for our opening night concert celebrating the glorious career of Rodgers and Hammerstein; collaborating with one of my favorite bands, Pink Martini, to celebrate the Holidays; and paying tribute to one of the greatest living theater composers of our time, Stephen Schwartz.

3. You are starting the season off with a bang...an evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein featuring Aaron Lazar, Kelli O’Hara, Paulo Szot. What made you choose to do a night of their music? Rodgers and Hammerstein are probably the most important songwriting team in American musical theater history. They revolutionized what a story musical should be, fully integrating the songs and dance into the stories as well as injecting real pathos and human issues. Not to mention, their music is exquisite, and with those 3 singers!?!? Wow! It will be a night not to be missed.

4. How did Rodgers and Hammerstein influence you as a conductor/musical director? The wealth of material that this dynamic duo created is so ingrained in our culture and musical canon. I have always wanted to conduct these brilliant scores and now I get to do just that.

5. What songs are you looking forward to performing most? "Carousel" is perhaps my favorite Rodgers and Hammerstein musical so I always look forward to that segment, with Aaron singing "If I Loved You" and Paulo performing the tour de force "Soliloquy." Also, I can’t wait to hear Kelli sing "The Sound of Music" with the original orchestration from the film, instead of the Broadway production. It’s so big and lush. I’m also really looking forward to collaborating again with New York Theatre Ballet as they recreate Agnes de Mille’s original choreography for the "Dream Ballet" from "Oklahoma."

6. What excites you most about working with Aaron, Kelli, and Paulo? It should go without saying that they are all incredibly talented singers and actors but they are all dear friends of mine too. That always makes for a special time onstage when we all have such a personal connection to each other.

7. What do you hope audiences come away with after attending this night? I think the audience will remember just how important Rodgers and Hammerstein was to the evolution of musical theater as well as be reminded how timeless and sublime their music is. It certainly will be a "Grand Night for Singing."

Steven Reineke Score, Photo Credit: Michael Tammaro8. On November 9, the New York Pops will host it's second evening of their 30th Season with "By Special Request: An Evening with the Orchestra." This night will feature favorite symphonic repertoire including Ravel’s Bolero, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, Shostakovich’s Festive Overture, and the world premiere of a new fanfare that you composed. How did you choose which repertoire's to perform for this night? Why did you want to compose a new fanfare? Did you compose this especially for the 30th Season? Over the course of my last 3 seasons with the orchestra, several patrons have told me how much they enjoy the guest artists and the programming but sometimes they would just like to hear the orchestra, hence the title "By Special Request." We’ll even have an online element, allowing patrons to vote on a piece for us to play during that concert. Other than that, I’ve programmed some of the most beautiful and powerful orchestral repertoire written for orchestra, more importantly, it’s a lot of music that doesn’t always get played by strictly classical symphonies or Pops orchestras. It’s some of the great music that "falls through the cracks" and doesn’t get heard often enough. I’m delighted to premiere a new fanfare/overture that I wrote especially for The New York Pops. It is tailor-made for our orchestra to celebrate our 30th anniversary.

9. Since this is the New York Pops 30th Season, let's go back to your first year as Musical Director/Conductor, when you took it over from New York Pops founding Musical Director/Conductor Skitch Henderson. What do remember most about that first year? How do you feel you have grown during your time as conductor? I remember how excited and a little nervous I was. It was really a demanding task with some big shoes to fill! I also needed to have some time to really get to know my musicians and the tastes of the audience. "What would they like or not like?" Four years later, I now feel very rooted in New York City and its culture. Judging by our sold-out concerts and rising subscription sales, I’d say we’re on the right track.

Photo Credit: Michael Tammaro10. What do you look forward to about the next 30 years? I know big things are in store for The New York Pops as we develop new ways to expand our offerings, including tours, recordings, and television specials. Also, just being able to spend a life making wonderful music with some of the finest musicians on the planet!

Monday
Sep242012

Ben Rimalower: Patti Issues

Ben Rimalower in "Patti Issues", Photo Credit: Gustavo Monroy for Next MagazineBen Rimalower is a rising director, writer, and performer! He directed and produced the Off-Broadway plays "Joy" (Actors Playhouse, Out Magazine: "Top Ten Theatre") and "The Fabulous Life of a Size Zero" (Daryl Roth/DR2 Theatre). He also directed "Justin Sayre Is Alive And Well…Writing" (Ars Nova), "Project Lohan" (La MaMa E.T.C.), "Snoopy!" starring Sutton Foster (Symphony Space), "And/or" (Hot Festival), "Sodom the Musical" (Kraine Theatre) and the all-star "Night Of A Thousand Judys" (Playwrights Horizons) as well as staged readings for Second Stage, The York, Dixon Place and Ensemble Studio Theatre. He conceived and directed "Leslie Kritzer is Patti LuPone at Les Mouches" (Time Out New York Award) and subsequently produced Sh-K-Boom/Ghostlight Records’ long-awaited recording, "Patti LuPone at Les Mouches" (Billboard "Heatseekers" Chart), digitally restored from archival tapes of LuPone’s legendary 1980 performances. In venues such as Joe’s Pub, San Francisco’s Plush Room and Los Angeles’ Upright Cabaret, Ben has earned the title the "Midas of Cabaret" (The Advocate) helming a slew of solo shows for artists including Alec Mapa, Cole Escola, Our Lady J, Natalie Joy Johnson, Lindsey Alley, Molly Pope, Wendy Ho, John Hill, Scott Nevins, Kate Pazakis, and Lance Horne in addition to producing and hosting the Laurie Beechman Theatre's recurring variety show, "Saturday Night Underground."

Ben writes a blog for The Huffington Post and "The New Old Gay" for akawilliam.com. Assistant Director credits include Lonny Price’s productions of "A Class Act" (Manhattan Theatre Club, Broadway and Tokyo) and "A Little Night Music" (starring Patti LuPone, George Hearn and Zoe Caldwell) as well as the Emmy-winning "Sweeney Todd." Ben studied Theatre Arts at U.C. Berkeley where he was the founding Artistic Director of BareStage (now celebrating its 16th anniversary).

Poster designed by Robbie RozelleNow Ben is making his performing and writing debut in his recently extended hit one-man show "Patti Issues" at The Duplex, NYC's most famous cabaret and piano bar. According to press notes, "When Ben Rimalower was eight years old, his father came out of the closet and embarked on a drug-fueled tear that left his family in tatters. Amid the chaos of his young life, Ben found comfort like so many gay boys before him and after in musical theater, and specifically in the transportive voice of Broadway star Patti LuPone." "Patti Issues" poignantly explores the challenges facing LGBT parents and children while shining unique light on gay men's time-old obsessions with divas.

For more on Ben be sure to follow him on Twitter @benrimalower!

"Patti Issues" plays at the Duplex (61 Christopher Street at 7th Avenue). With added performances, "Patti Issues" has been extended through November 1!

Click here for tickets!

Remaining showtimes are:

Thursday, September 27 at 9:30pm

Thursday, October 4 at 9:30pm

Monday, October 8 at 7pm

Sunday, October 14 at 9:30pm

Sunday, October 21 at 9:30pm

Sunday, October 28 at 4pm

Thursday, November 1 at 9:30pm

1. Who or what inspired you to become a playwright/director/performer? Patti. Ann. LuPone.

2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Bernadette. Lazzara. Peters. Just kidding! Lots of people! I'm a really big Rufus Wainwright fan and I'd love to work with him--PATTI ISSUES, The Musical!

3. You are making your playwrighting and performing debut with your one-man show "Patti Issues" (which has become a bonafide hit). According to press notes, the show deals with your tale of growing up gay, having a father who also came out of the closet and then became addicted to drugs, and you finding salvation in two time Tony Award winner Patti LuPone. What is it about your story that made you want to write and star in it? I think I had to tell it. All my life, I've known that I would use it in something somehow someday (somewhere...) when I was ready. That wasn't my intention, three years ago, when I began writing about my experience of Patti LuPone, but in writing about Patti, this is what burbled to the surface. The performing thing just seemed to come with the territory of this personal monologue style. I've always joked, quoting "Merrily We Roll Along," that "I only perform at dinner," but I don't think anyone who knows me is all that surprised to finally see me on the stage.

4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? I hope they connect to the sensitive, precocious me of my childhood needing an escape and finding it in Patti. And I hope they relate to my passion motivating most of what I've done in my life. And I hope they think I'm funny!!!

5. Without giving too much of the show away, what is it about Patti LuPone specifically that you were so drawn to? In my show, I quote John Housman saying that Patti has "the smell of the gallows." People get it wrong--the smell of the footlights, or whatever, but he said gallows. There's a fierceness to Patti, not just in the "snap, snap, snap, work, bitch" sense, but like she has a taste for blood. That thrills me and holds my attention--even in the dark times, especially in the dark times. And also, that is very empowering. Patti is my superhero.

Patti LuPone and Ben Rimalower at "Patti Issues", Photo Credit: Jenny Anderson for Broadway.com6. Ms. LuPone herself came to see your show recently and loved it. What was this moment like for you? Has it changed your performance at all? It was exciting and gratifying and nerve-racking and terrifying and wonderful. My director, Aaron Mark, advised me not to change anything for Patti, and Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman had attended the performance before and said that she would like it, but I was still scared until I got on stage. Feeling Patti's energy in the room, hearing her amazing cackle (she could give Roseanne a run for her money), I knew in my bones that Patti is many things, but a bullshitter is not one of them; I knew that she would respect me for telling the truth, my truth.

7. You have directed several Off-Broadway shows, concerts, and all-star benefits. What do you enjoy most about directing? Well, moving forward, I'll enjoy most that I don't have to get my ass up on stage! It's a lot more relaxing to sit in the audience and receive compliments in the lobby--or even stay home and order Chinese! What I have always loved about directing, though, is putting myself in the audience's place and catering to their experience of the show. As someone who loves seeing theatre, I want to create the perfect theatrical experience. Or die trying.

8. What was your favorite part of the creative process in writing this show? Where is your favorite place to write? Just the writing itself, and creating the space to write. I got sober 16 months ago, so before that, writing was odd. I'd work for an hour and take a break for six months. The serious work began this past spring. I'd set aside my Saturdays, all day and all night, just to write. It was such a wonderful feeling of freedom to wake up in the morning, after having worked all week, and know that I had nowhere to go and no one to see, that my time was my own and I didn't owe anything to anybody. I would take my time drinking my coffee, cleaning my apartment, puttering around and then when I was ready, I'd sit at my desk looking out on Bedford Avenue and North 11th Street in Williamsburg, and just tell my story. Sometimes, I'd take a break to go for a walk by the river or sing some karaoke or watch a Patti video, but I felt very inspired and grounded and free, just being myself and saying what I wanted to say. It was really the best time in my life.

9. As you went back through the events in which you created "Patti Issues," what did you learn about yourself in this process? Has time changed your perspective at all? If so, how? What I've learned about myself is the thing I've been learning since getting sober, which is that I'm largely a sensitive, introverted person and a lot of my needing to be the center of attention is a defense against feeling my feelings I learned when I was a little kid and I couldn't handle them. It's rewarding to take a step back as an adult and just be me with no need for anything from anyone, including my father.

10. What's the best advice you've ever received? The best advice I ever received was to go to rehab.

11. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? I love to dream about my Grandma Harriet, who died when I was 18. I always wake up feeling like I got to hang out with her. She was the greatest!

BONUS QUESTIONS:

12. Favorite way to spend your day off? Either downtime or uptime. I need a certain amount of staring off into space clearing my mind and I also crave a certain amount of running around town, seeing people, seeing shows, carrying on and cavorting.

13. Favorite way to stay in shape? Yoga.

14. Boxers or Briefs? Briefs. They have to have the seam up the center--maintains good placement and prevents male camel-toe.

15. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? The ability to print money.

Friday
Sep212012

Wade Dooley: PZAZZ 101 Interview

Photo Credit: Kevin Thomas GarciaWade Dooley is yet another rising performer/writer to keep your eye on! As a performer, some of his favorite credits include: "The Radio City Christmas Spectacular" (Tour); "Scott Alan’s Monday Night New Voices" (NYC), "Forever Plaid," and "Over the Pub" (Saint Michael’s Playhouse) along with regional productions of "Grease," "Thoroughly Modern Millie," "CATS," and "Crazy for You." Also, Wade is the creator and book writer of a new musical, "Sunset City," with lyrics by Brett Teresa and music by Bobby Cronin. Wade is a graduate of Bradley University with a B.S. degree in Business Administration and proud member of Actors’ Equity.  

Wade Dooley as "Mary Shennanbargger", Photo Credit: Kevin Thomas GarciaNow Wade has taken his writing and performing talents to web to create his hilarious Broadway-themed web series "PZAZZ 101," directed by Isaac Klein. Just wrapping up it's second season, "PZAZZ 101" is centered around "Mary Shennanbargger," a former performer turned teacher, who helps Broadway’s best and brightest find their footing on the Great White Way. She knows everything there is to know about entertainment and she’s ready to share the wealth. Pull up a chair, grab a Werther’s and get ready to say "Wow!"

"PZAZZ 101" has new episodes every Wednesday! Tune in at http://www.PZAZZ101.com and follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!

For more on Wade be sure to visit http://www.thewadedooley.com

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer/writer? I have always been performing. I was huge in the family room and the backyard. I like to make people smile, and I love to make people laugh. But, Raul Esparza in the revival of "Company" truly sealed the deal for me. I moved to New York the following summer. I knew I wouldn't be happy doing anything else.

2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Kristin Chenoweth, Elaine Stritch, Chita Rivera....just to name a few.

Wade Dooley as "Mary Shennanbargger", Photo Credit: Kevin Thomas Garcia3. What made you want to create and star in PZAZZ 101? How did you come up with the character of "Mary Shennanbargger"? I grew up watching SNL, MAD TV, Tracy Ullman's "Tracy Take On," etc. I love characters, and I love seeing one person become different people. "Mary" is one of my different people. I was doing a production of CATS about six years ago. While applying makeup, I would start talking in this voice. It slowly became "Mary," a retired performer turned coach that was mad that she hadn't been asked to choreograph the show. I worked on her bit by bit over the years along with other characters, and she always seemed to stick out. Fast forward two years later. I moved to NYC, and I started piecing together a stage show for "Mary." I ended up doing the show at the DC Fringe Festival and with Prospect Theater Company here in the city. Then, I met Isaac Klein, my now director, and we came up with the idea to create the web series "Pzazz 101." We joined the online craze, and we have been trying to spread "Mary's" words of WOW ever since. In the end, we hope that a following for the character and series will help the stage show to get a run in the city or maybe "Mary" could take to the small screen!

4. What do you hope audiences come away with after watching the series? First, I hope people laugh. Second, I hope people recall their time in "class," and they can reminisce a bit. Third, some of "Mary's" lessons actually work.

5. How did you decide which theatre stars you wanted to have on the show? I invited performers that I really enjoy watching onstage. We put offers out to a bunch of different people, and we ended up with a great, fun group. Every person was up for anything, and that's what was so great about it.

Photo Credit: Kevin Thomas Garcia6. What do you enjoy most about writing a web series as opposed to a theatrical show? Well, we don't write the web series, and I do have to write for the stage. Our "Pzazz 101" episodes are improvised. We agree on a premise and then we film for an hour to produce a 5-8 minute video. I love the spontaneity of improvisation. If we had scripted it, it would have been funny, but not as funny as it is because it is truly in the moment.

7. What can you tell us about your upcoming collaboration with Bobby Cronin and Brett Teresa on "Sunset City"? What have you enjoyed most about working with these two talented guys? Well, "Sunset City" will be a very funny musical with a lot of heart. It's about a failing retirement home in Central Illinois (my stomping grounds) and the residents that live there. People aren't writing shows for older actors. Why? I'd much rather hear a 75 year-old tell a story or sing a song compared to a 15 year-old. It's the years of experience and the history that make it more interesting.

First and foremost, they are very fun, and we have a good time. Most of all, I enjoy our spirited debates that never end with someone winning and someone losing. We have debate, the work is better for it, and in the end, we're still friends.

8. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer/writer? I have learned that preparation for me is everything. I used to be the guy that laughed about warming up. I have come to realize how wrong I was. Whether performing a song or a scene, I can only be fully present if I have done the preparation. I'm more confident, uninhibited, and "in" my body.

9. What's the best advice you've ever received? "It's not about you." Whenever I'm upset about an audition, it softens the blow when you realize, most of the time, it's not about you. It's about the costume size or my body type or my height. You can't change those things. Well, you can't change most of those things.

10. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? To be honest, I don't really dream while I sleep. But, when I do, it's usually very odd and scary i.e. trees growing out of my hands, being chased, falling, etc. I should probably talk to someone about that.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. Favorite way to spend your day off? I love going to the movies, roaming around the city, and window shopping for things I can't afford...yet.

12. Favorite way to stay in shape? Mark Fisher Fitness! It's not a gym, it's a clubhouse. Fun, friendly, and I feel the burn every single time.

13. Boxers or Briefs? Some things need to remain a surprise.

14. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? I think I would choose the power to teleport different places instantly. I don't LOVE riding the train.

Friday
Sep142012

Over The Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project: Kate Dawson and Jodi Glucksman

"Call Me Adam" sat down with Kate Dawson and Jodi Glucksman, the creators of "Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project." The ambitious project — which incorporates a 2-CD, 26-song set; a lavishly-illustrated hardcover book of 17 songs from the album; a corresponding e-book encompassing the entire collection; and a documentary film and web series — gathers many of contemporary musical theatre’s greatest composers and vocalists, as well as illustrators, all of whom have donated their talent to deliver an emotionally affecting set of new lullabies, some written specifically for this project.

This collection puts a fresh spin on the classic lullaby form, creating a warmly expressive song cycle that will touch listeners of all ages, while raising funds for respected breast cancer charities, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and Young Survival Coalition.

Jodi Glucksman and Kate DawsonOriginally from Champaign, Illinois, Kate moved to New York and made her Broadway debut in 1997 playing "Emily" (Scrooge's fiance) for three seasons in "A Christmas Carol" at Madison Square Garden. Kate shared the stage with several "Scrooge's" during that time, including Roddy McDowall, Hal Linden, Frank Langella, and Tim Curry. Other favorite credits include "Eileen" in "Wonderful Town" (opposite Lucie Arnaz, directed by Don Amendolia) at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, California, "Lili" (opposite Robert Cuccioli) in "Carnival!" and "Lydia" in "The Rivals" at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. Off Broadway, Kate played "The Wardrobe Mistress" (also with Robert Cuccioli) in "Enter the Guardsman" at the Vinyard Theatre. She has worked regionally at the 7 Angels Theatre, the Coconut Grove Playhouse, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Stages St. Louis, readings at the Manhattan Theatre Club, and the Public Theatre, among others.

Kate's voice can be heard in numerous movies and TV shows, most notably as Faith Hill’s "moment of ecstasy" in "The Stepford Wives," as well as "Sex In The City," "Chicago," "Two Weeks Notice," "The Devil Wears Prada," "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," and "Marley & Me," among others.

After years of performing in other people's shows, Kate got the writing bug. In 2009 and 2010 she wrote, performed and produced her original one woman show "The A**hole in My Head," garnering much critical acclaim and four encore runs! Her solo CD can be purchased on www.cdbaby.com. Kate and her husband Jed live in NYC with their 1 year old son Zeke, and their little dog Sophie.

Jodi Glucksman holds degrees in both theatrical producing and English Education from NYU. Her broad career dates back to the Hartman/Huntington Theatre Company under the direction of Ed Sherin ("Semelweiss," "Moliere in Spite of Himself," "Mahalia"), Circle in the Square Theatre Company ("The Caine Mutiny Court Martial," "Heartbreak House," "Awake and Sing"), and McCann & Nugent Productions ("Leader of the Pack," RSC's "Cyrano de Bergerac/Much Ado About Nothing"). Branching into the music management, she worked with such legendary artists as the Average White Band, the Ohio Players and Afrika Bambaataa. As an educator in New York and Massachusetts she earned grants and awards teaching language and literature through arts and humanities to students ranging from public middle and high schools to private universities. Jodi's distinguished and diversified career continued when, with her husband Daniel, she co-founded Luckimann LLC, a production company specializing in education, theatre and film. Through Luckimann, Jodi has designed and implemented interdisciplinary, arts-integrated curricula including the plan for Discovery High School, a New Visions Charter School in the Bronx. She has consulted dramaturgically on numerous productions including Daniel Beaty's acclaimed "Through the Night" and the DiCapo Opera Theatre's 75th Anniversary tour of "Porgy and Bess" as well as Roundabout Theatre Company's "Language of Trees," "Tin Pan Alley," "Rag," and "Ordinary Days." Jodi was a producing partner on the award-winning a capella musical "In Transit" and sponsors the Roundabout Underground for emerging playwrights. She has executive produced several documentary films including "A Broadway Lullaby" which chronicles the making of "Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project."

For more on "Over The Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project" be sure to visit http://www.overthemoonbroadway.com and follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

Click here to purchase the book. Click here to purchase the CD. Click here to purchase the eBook.

1. You created and conceived "Over The Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project," a new collection of lullabies for children and adults, with proceeds going to various Breast Cancer charities such as The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and Young Survival Coalition. What inspired each of you to create this project? How did you decide to combine your efforts and work together? 

Kate: The inspiration was two-fold: I found out I was pregnant at the beginning of the year, and as the early weeks and months passed, I found myself thinking of all the great mothers in my life, in particular, my cousin Jill. Jill was a natural mother in every way and I loved watching her with her children. Sadly, Jill lost her life to Breast Cancer at the age of 45…early in motherhood. I wanted to do something to honor her, involving music, which could raise money for Breast Cancer charities. Since I am a singer, and since music has always been a huge source of joy and comfort in my life, producing a CD of original (or never before recorded) lullabies seemed like a perfect vehicle to, not only honor Jill, but also celebrate motherhood and families everywhere.

I told Jodi about my idea one evening over dinner with our husbands. She was extremely supportive and said she knew of a few people who would be interested in participating! She reached out to them, those friends responded enthusiastically, and within a couple weeks, a very natural partnership formed. So I asked her if she wanted to partner with me on the project. She said yes! And the rest as they say is history.

Jodi: Unfortunately, breast cancer has touched my life quite closely in a myriad of ways:

This project is a tribute. At the height of my awkward adolescence, I lost my maternal grandmother, Tillie Gerschon. She was my best friend at that time. She bravely fought breast cancer for nine years after diagnosis, surgery and a prognosis of six months to live, determined to dance at my Bat Mitzvah, which she did. Oblivious in the early years, by the end I could only stand by helplessly as the disease spread and she succumbed.

This project is a thank you and an apology. After surviving uterine cancer, her annual mammogram revealed a lump in my mother’s breast. Because my children were sick, I was forbidden to be with her for her surgery and recovery. Because of his own illness, my father could not stand by her. Because of my own bedridden recovery from emergency back surgery, I could not accompany her to months of radiation treatments. Memories of her own mother’s valiant battle, her own tireless will, and the support and dedication of loving friends saw her through to recovery in her family’s stead…in my stead.

Alarmingly, my mother-in-law is also a survivor. And I have more than a few friends and cousins who have thus far survived breast cancer…and many more who have died or lost loved-ones to this undiscriminating disease.

Thankfully, my brother’s wife has devoted her life, her career as a breast cancer surgeon to helping and protecting people in their struggle to survive and thrive.

For all of these people, and for my own children in hope to help spare them this particular potential pain, when Kate told me her idea for a small CD project to honor her cousin Jill and raise funds for breast cancer charity and asked if I could help, I said yes…and much more.

Research, support, education and spreading awareness all require funds, concern, a creative approach and an active community. This project is inspired by personal experience with the rampant need. This is a gift and a melodic call to action in the form of musical love letters to life – lullabies.

2. Why did you want to use lullabies as the backdrop for this project as opposed to another genre of music?

Kate: In addition to honoring Jill, the project was created to celebrate motherhood and babies…so lullabies were the perfect fit. There is something so pure, simple, and beautiful about a lullaby…just like the love between a parent and child.

Jodi: To me, it seemed a natural choice. Lullabies are all about soothing, comforting and nurturing. We can all benefit from that – the young and not-so-young, those facing the stress of every day, and certainly those confronting illness and loss. Designed to musically cradle newborns lullabies are by nature life-affirming. The confluence of the nurture and nourishment of a mother’s breast, the unique poignant pain of breast cancer and the role in life of lullabies the relationship is organic and instinctual.

Before she asked me to participate, Kate had set her heart on a lullaby CD, inspired by her own pregnancy, as a way to sing to her cousin Jill’s children after they lost their mother.

3. How did you decide which charities you wanted to support?

Kate: I chose the Young Survival Coalition because it’s a charity that supports and empowers women who are living with the disease. Obviously finding a cure is of paramount importance…but I think what Jill needed the most in her last few years was support and hope. YSC has created a wonderful and strong community for women battling the disease.

Jodi: Foremost among its kind, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation was founded by Evelyn H. Lauder in 1993 to advance the most promising breast cancer research that will help lead to prevention and a cure.  Young Survival Coalition is the premier global organization dedicated to the critical issues unique to young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. These two charities serve as perfect complements to each other in the fight against breast cancer and the fight for those touched by it.

From a more personal standpoint, after my mother had to battle her breast cancer without her family by her side, she turned this challenge into a gift for others by creating "The Unsung Hero Award" which honors a non-related friend who offers extraordinary support to someone undergoing treatment for breast cancer. It is presented at BCRF’s Annual Hot Pink Party. This project is my "Unsung Hero Award" for her.

4. How do you think your various backgrounds, Kate you are a writer, singer, actor, and new mother, and Jodi, you are a producer, dramaturg, educator, and mother of three, contributed to the structure and design of the project? 

Kate: For me, art is about communication, unification, and beauty. So as a writer, singer, actor, and mother I wanted to create something that communicated the love between a parent and a child, and I wanted to leverage the power of that sentiment to combat breast cancer.

Jodi: The creation of this multi-faceted project tested and exercised knowledge and experience from throughout my background and current career.

Motherhood, my years as an educator and my extensive library of children’s books helped guide outreach to illustrators, but the book never would have come to fruition without Barbara Aronica-Buck, our award-winning book designer and my lifelong friend.

Prior relationships and experience not to mention my husband’s award-winning work in documentary film connected us with Peabody and Emmy winner Barbara Rick and her extraordinary Out of The Blue Films team including her husband, the wonderful cinematographer, Jim Andersen. It was their artistry that gave us the web series and the forthcoming documentary film "A Broadway Lullaby."

A delightful web of friendships stemming from my work as a dramaturg led us to the incomparable Matt Pierson. His musical concept, talent, insight (as well as his musicians and arrangers too numerous to name) with seemingly magical sensitivity and subtlety wove these many disparate compositions and voices into the exquisite musical story that exceeds our imaginings from those first conversations about a "little CD to help fight breast cancer."

My work in theatrical producing gave me some sense of what would be necessary to bring the pieces of this puzzle together, but it really couldn’t have come together without longtime friend/attorney Craig Kaplan. Aside from navigating countless Herculean, seemingly Sisyphysian tasks, he brought us to the incredible people at Public Interest Projects, our fiscal sponsor, a 501(c)(3) public charity with a 25 year history of providing fiscal sponsorship for projects working toward a society that ensures justice, dignity and opportunity for all people.  They have coordinated and skillfully juggled the many documents, and disbursements and all sorts of minute logistics for this massively complex endeavor.

5. "Over the Moon" is a 2-CD, 26-song set; a lavishly-illustrated hardcover book of 17 songs from the album; a corresponding e-book encompassing the entire collection; and a documentary film and web series featuring some of today's most contemporary Broadway composers and vocalists as well as some of the biggest visual artists. Out of all the talent out there, how did you decide who you wanted to reach out to?

Kate: It started with reaching out to friends and colleagues, and it went from there. Friends told friends and it just grew. It was really amazing…the project continued to gain momentum as the weeks passed and stars became interested in being involved. We actually ended up not being able to use all the talent we were offered. That was by far the most difficult aspect of the project, telling people that we didn’t have the time or the funds to record every song we were so generously given was heartbreaking.

In terms of actual people – I was on a mission to get Audra McDonald! I’ve idolized her for years and years…my husband Jed had done THE SECRET GARDEN on Broadway with her, but that was the closest I’d ever gotten! We were able to reach her through friends and I have to say, spending those few hours in the studio watching her work was just amazing. It was a "pinch me" moment! It was just thrilling.

Jodi:  For the music we began by contacting composers and singers who we know as friends and/or colleagues. As our ambitions and the project grew, we began to reach out to people we knew who might be able to help us contact others. Matt Pierson’s expertise guided the match up of singer with song. Barbara Aronica-Buck ‘s vision suggested the connection of songs to illustrators’ styles. Although Kate and I are listed as co-executive producers of Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project, a huge community of people who care about this cause brought together this wide and wonderful array of generous musical and visual artists. I’d love to list the names of many of the people who helped, but can’t imagine you’d print them all anyway. Right?

6. What did it feel like as people started coming on board and this vision was turning into a reality? Now that the project is complete, what emotions come about knowing you are helping so many people?

Kate: It was amazing. It was humbling. It was touching. It was moving. It was hard to believe at times! It felt like we were putting together something the world wanted, which felt divine in some way. It felt like something greater was lending a hand…

Oh gosh…overwhelming joy and gratitude…and a bit of disbelief that it all came together in this amazing way! All of these artists came together to create this, and to help so many people. You know, when you read or hear the news, the world is portrayed as such a corrupt and sad place, but it’s not. Look at this project – people want to help. People want to share their gifts with the world. People want to be a part of something greater. I think what I feel the most is unity. We’re all the same, we all want the same things, we are not alone.

Jodi: Above all else I feel and have felt grateful and lucky….but also sad. So many people contributed in beautiful ways that we can all see and hear, and also behind-the-scenes. It’s been an incredible honor. For this I can never adequately express my thanks. For the people in my life (both here and gone) who I love, who love me, whose inspiration continues to feed my soul and make this celebration of life possible I feel fortunate beyond words. To have the opportunity to help others in this way, how can I not feel lucky…but the ongoing need, the pervasiveness of this disease and too many others, the countless stories of pain and loss…these make me sad.

7. 17 of the 26 songs are featured in the illustrated book. How did you decide which songs to include in the book? 

Kate: We relied on our book publisher and book designer to help guide us on this. Being the experts in the field of "Children’s books," they helped us select the songs and drawings that they felt told the most cohesive story. It was not easy!

Jodi:  This was a painful, grueling process dictated by criteria of the publisher. It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t include all of the songs and illustrations in the hardcover book, but we’re thrilled to include everything in the eBook, and we’re honored that this was selected as one of the inaugural projects of NBC Publishing.

8. As the son of a mother who survived breast-cancer and someone who has lost others to cancer, this project takes on special meaning. What do you hope people come away with after listening to and/or reading "Over The Moon?"

Kate: First of all, I’m so sorry for your losses. We have all lost too many people to cancer. But I’m so glad to hear that you’re mother beat it! YAY! I pray the day will come when everyone can beat it!

I hope people come away with the awareness that we aren’t so different from each other. We all want to bring meaning to our lives, and we all want to share our love and joy with the people that matter to us. I hope that families will share these songs and sing them together for years, and then pass them on to their children, and their children’s children. I sing several of these lullabies to my son every night – I have since he was born. He doesn’t understand the words, but the experience transcends words…and we share something deeper and more profound. I want that for all families.

Jodi: Smiles, sleeping babies, and songs in their hearts – not to mention the glow of doing a little bit to contribute to the fight against breast cancer.

9. What did each of you learn about yourselves from putting this project together?

Kate: I learned that we all are more powerful than we know…if we are willing to put in the effort. We all have the ability to do something to make the world a little better. It may be a lot of work, it may take a lot of time, you may shed a few tears, but one person can start something...and it can spread and spread and suddenly one person has turned into over a hundred…and now, the very real possibility is there for positively impacting the lives of thousands.

Jodi: Among many other things…I learned that I don’t have the energy I had in my twenties. I learned, or rather was reminded again and again that I have amazing, fun, talented and generous children (they sing the last track "The Man Who Invented Ice Cream") who are incredibly tolerant of me, of my stress and my idiosyncrasies. If I didn’t already know, I would have learned that I made a perfect choice of husband who shares the qualities I just described in our children and so much more. And then there are my friends…Oh it’s so hard to know how to answer this. This project is a huge reminder to celebrate life. It’s all too easy to get entrenched in the details of every day and forget all the huge multiplicity of goodness.

10. Since this endeavor honors some of the loved ones you have lost or have been affected by breast cancer, what was your most cherished memory evoked by working on "Over The Moon"?

Kate: Naturally I had a lot of memories of seeing Jill with her children…she was such a wonderful mother. But it also brought up a lot of memories of my childhood…when I was about 9 my Grandmother came to live with us. She was sick with leukemia and was in pretty bad shape by the time she came to us…but after several weeks, she miraculously went into remission for 3 years. They were 3 of the happiest years of my life. Gram sang to me pretty much every night while I was drifting off to sleep. It was so sweet and tender, and I love passing the tradition on.

Jodi: This project – lullabies – fighting illness and preserving life – they’re all about the gift of time. My cherished memory stirred by this endeavor is the gift of time with my grandmother Tillie, after whom I named my first daughter. I wrote all about it in my foreword to the book. Weekends with my grandmother were enjoyed riding the escalator at Alexander’s in the Bronx and making chocolate chip cookies and Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup Cake. For me, lullabies are escalators and chocolate chip cookies in song…a gift of time.

BONUS QUESTION:

11. "Over The Moon" is about lullabies, what was your favorite lullaby growing up?

Kate: This is surprising, but we didn’t really have any standard lullabies that we sang. But some of our favorite songs that we sang as a family were "Bushel and a Peck" (Guys and Dolls), and we often sang the Big Bopper’s, "Chantilly Lace" – in addition to a bunch of camp songs my Dad taught us.

Jodi: My mother always sang "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess to put me to sleep. But the song that was most soothing, and most enduring in the role of a lullaby was my parents’ wedding song, and my grandparents’ wedding song: "Always" by Irving Berlin:

I'll be loving you Always

With a love that's true Always.

When the things you've planned

Need a helping hand,

I will understand Always.

Always.

Days may not be fair Always,

That's when I'll be there Always.

Not for just an hour,

Not for just a day,

Not for just a year,

But Always.

Thursday
Aug232012

Tonya Pinkins: Ethel Waters and 54 Below Interview

Photo Credit: Tess SteinkolkTonya Pinkins at 54 Below, Jennifer Broski, BroadwayWorld.com & Jenny Anderson, Broadway.comFrom theatre, film, television, and literature to education, self-improvement, and lecturer, Tony Award winner Tonya Pinkins has been entertaining and educating audiences in all facets of life for more than 30 years! On Broadway, she is best known for her Tony Award winning performance in "Jelly's Last Jam" and Tony nominated role in "Caroline or Change." Tonya made her Broadway debut in the original cast of "Merrily We Roll Along" and continued to shine brightly in "Chronicle of a Death Foretold," "Play On!," "The Wild Party," and "Radio Golf." Off-Broadway, Tonya dazzled theatre goers in "Milk Like Sugar," "The House of Flowers," "The Vagina Monologues," "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "Caucasian Chalk Circle," "Believin'", "My Name is Alice," and "Little Shop of Horrors." Tonya has also taken her talents around the country in regional productions of "Milk Like Sugar," "Thoroughly Modern Millie," "Caroline or Change," "Jelly's Last Jam," "Play On!," "Joe Turner's Come and Gone," "The Piano Lesson," "No Niggers, No Jews, No Dogs," "As Much As You Can," "And Her Hair Went With Her," and "Black Pearl Sings."

Tonya Pinkins at 54 Below, Jennifer Broski, BroadwayWorld.com & Jenny Anderson, Broadway.comOff-stage, Tonya is beloved for her numerous television roles including "Livia Frye" on "All My Children," "Heather Dalton" on "As The World Turns," "Nurse Mary Jenkins" on "University Hospital," "Alama Matobo" on "24," and "Viola Crawford" on "Army Wives." Her guest appearances include spots on "The Closer," "Law & Order," "Cold Case," "Criminal Minds," and "The Cosby Show." She has starred in such films as "Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom," "Enchanted," "Love Hurts," "Above the Rim," and "See No Evil, Hear No Evil."

When Tonya is not performing, she is busy inspiring people on lecturing tours and life-coaching to live their best life with her book GET OVER YOURSELF: How to Drop the Drama and Claim the Life You Deserve.

On August 27, 2012, Tonya will be moving people with her talent and voice in her one-night only concert at NYC's newest performance space 54 Below (254 West 54th Street Cellar, between 8th & 9th Avenue), performig the music of Ethel Waters! Showtime is 9:30pm, with doors opening at 9pm. Click here for tickets!

For more on Tonya be sure to visit http://www.tonyapinkins.com and follow her on Twitter!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I started out to be a writer. The performer I imitated as a kid was Edith Ann/Lily Tomlin.

2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Gosh so many people, Brad Pitt, Jeffrey Wright, Viola Davis, Kate Blanchett, my friend Donna Murphy and I haven't worked together in decades, Oliver Stone, David Fincher, Lin Manuel Miranda, Lynn Nottage, Richard Greenberg, David Cromer, and so many more.

Tonya Pinkins at 54 Below, Photo Credit: Jennifer Broski, BroadwayWorld.com & Jenny Anderson, Broadway.com3. You are performing your first concert since 2005 at 54 Below on August 27, celebrating the life and music of Ethel Waters. With selections from your new show "Hurricane Ethel," what made now the right time to premiere this concert? Why did you want to perform it at 54 Below? The concert was originally going to be a lot of pop and jazz anthems "You Outta Know," "Rolling In The Deep," "Before He Cheats," etc, then I was asked to do HIS EYE IS ON THE SPARROW. I didn't think I could prepare 3 1/2 hours of new solo material in 6 weeks. And when SPARROW fell through because of creative differences, I decided to create the piece about Ethel that I had been dreaming about since I was fifteen years old.

I wanted to do a concert. I love Jazz at Lincoln Center. I wanted to create something to take there. I love Joe's Pub, but 54 Below asked me to do one night and I said yes. I like new places and things and I thought I'd try a different show than I had been planning for Joe's Pub. Do two different sets in one year.

4. What do you identify most with about Ethel Waters that made you want to co-write a musical about her? Even though I began studying her at age 15 before my life really began, the parallels in our lives are kind of scary. I guess the world hasn't really changed very much. She, like me was a phoenix and a sparrow.

Photo Credit: Tess Steinkolk5. How did you decide which songs you wanted to perform from Ethel's catalog of music? The songs I chose were the ones that could be performed and capture different periods in her life. We don't use songs to tell a story except in one instance. All of the songs are done in performance settings.

6. What do you hope audiences come away with after attending this concert? I hope audiences are entertained, thrilled, and eagerly anticipating the full dramatic performance of HURRICANE ETHEL.

7. What do you get from performing a concert that you don't get from your theatrical or film/television endeavors? Concerts are scarier for me, I prefer having the mask of a character. But for this concert, I will go in and out of me telling you about Ethel the woman and then becoming her for brief moments and songs.

8. I first came to know you from your performance on "All My Children" as "Livia Frye." Looking back, what did you enjoy most about your time on the show? What do you miss most about it? I watched AMC since I was 7 years old. So it was a dream come true to become a character on a show where I had been a fan.

I miss the camaraderie of the cast. There was a sign in the make-up room "Sexual Harassment will not be tolerated here, however, it will be graded." We just laughed and had so much fun together.

9. In addition to your performing, you are the author of GET OVER YOURSELF: How to Drop the Drama and Claim the Life You Deserve & creator of "The Actorpreneur Attitude," giving workshops lectures & life coaching to businesses and individuals. What made you want to get into this kind of work and write about it? My own life has been a series of trials and I have found that when I have shared my story, others have found inspiration in it. I am grateful that painful events of my life have served some good purpose by at least being a beacon to others of what it looks like to rise from the mouth of defeat again and again and again.

10. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer/author/advocate? To quote a dear friend of mine, most of the time in show business people don't want your brilliance, they want you to put your brilliance on their stupidity. I rarely get to use an iota of the capacity for creative expression that is with in. HURRICANE ETHEL is the closest I have ever come to using the fullest canon of my creative abilities. I turn down shows because they aren't interesting or challenging for me. I like to stretch myself and do what I haven't done before.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. What's the best advice you've ever received? This week, it was from a friend, Erik Liverman who had just returned from a month clown workshop in paris. His teacher criticized him one day saying "You are always in a hurry. You rush and never enjoy your self or let us enjoy you. You rush because of your fear. The theater will not cure your fear. Go away and heal your fear. Then come back and show us your pleasure, love us, and let us fall in love with you." Doing the Ethel material is the first time I have ever been able to give and receive that love.

12. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? A great lover. I've yet to have one.

13. If you could have any super power which one would you choose? The power to stay young, beautiful, healthy, and fit.