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"Call Me Adam" chats with...

 

 

Entries in Disney (5)

Friday
Jan162015

Call Answered: DISENCHANTED! Conference Call with Dennis T. Giacino and Fiely A. Matias

Dennis T. GiacinoFiely A. Matias"Call Me Adam" chats with Fiely A. Matias and Dennis T. Giacino, the director and book/composer/lyricist of the new Off-Broadway musical comedy DISENCHANTED! which is currently playing a limited run in NYC at the Theatre at St. Clements (423 West 46th Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue) through January 25 only! 

UPDATE: After a successful run at St. Clements, DISENCHANTED is now playing an open-end run at NYC's Westside Theatre (407 West 43rd Street between 9th and 10th Avenue)! So you have a second chance to this hilariously fun show! Click here for my review and link to tickets!

DISENCHANTED! tells the story of the original fairytale princesses and how they are none too happy with the exploitation they’ve suffered in today’s films, books and dolls. 

For more on DISENCHANTED! be sure to visit http://www.disenchantedmusical.com and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram!

1. Your newest show, DISENCHANTED! is currently running Off-Broadway at the Theatre at St. Clements through January 25. DISENCHANTED! What made you want to write and direct a musical comedy from the point of view of the Disney Princesses?

Fiely A. Matias: The idea for DISENCHANTED! popped into Dennis' mind several years ago while the two of us were performing Asian Sings The Blues on an international tour.

Dennis T. Giacino: I used to be a history teacher in the 80s and would, each year, tell the story of Pocahontas to 7th and 8th graders. I loved regaling the students with stories of this rough-and-tumble, 10 year old, Powhatan tyke from the pretty pinewoods of Appalachia. When the Disney animated film, Pocahontas, was released in 1995, and I saw their rendition of a more adult, deer pelt lingerie-wearing, somewhat voluptuous woman with long flowing hair, make-up, and leaves following her everywhere, the thought occurred to me:  What would the 10-year-old tomboy from history think of today's sexier, more adult pop culture version?! And a song was born! The show, featuring a band of pissed-off princesses singing out against today's obsession with dainty royals, wasn't far behind!

Fiely A. Matias: DISENCHANTED! is written from the point of view of the original fairytale princesses - the same public domain well that Disney went to for their films. Our princesses are portrayed as strong, real women commenting on today's helpless damsel in distress princesses with big saucer-like eyes and waistlines smaller than their own necks! It's a loving poke, a friendly skewering of the Princess Complex perpetuated by Disney, Toddlers & Tiaras, Barbie dolls, MTV, etc. We wanted to write and direct the show because there's so much gold to mine in real women telling the truth about living supposedly happily ever after! In our show, happily ever after ain't it's cracked up to be!

Cast of "DISENCHANTED!"2. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing DISENCHANTED!?

Dennis T. Giacino: Laughter!

Fiely A. Matias: And some truth. Audiences love the ribald comedy, the improvisation, the belting-their-faces-off funny women, and the message of DISENCHANTED!

Dennis T. Giacino: In DISENCHANTED!, every comedy song re-tells, in a riotous, hilarious way, each of the princess stories while hinting at a bigger picture. The message hidden in each of the songs is that happily ever after is self-acceptance; being perfectly you - not what today's entertainment tells you how to be.

Fiely A. Matias: Audiences are enjoying both the comedy and the message!  We've been sold out the entire run!  It's been an amazing NYC experience for us and the show!

Lulu Picart, Becky Gulsvig, Michelle Knight, Jen Bechter, Soara-Joye Ross and Alison Burns in "DISENCHANTED!"3. What has been the best part about having this cast bring DISENCHANTED! to life? 

Fiely A. Matias: Well, you really need six Carol Burnetts up on that stage in DISENCHANTED! They need to have great comic timing and sing their faces off. This cast does not disappoint!

Dennis T. Giacino: It's also been a treat to have two of our original Orlando actors in this Off Broadway production. Along with Lulu Picart (Mulan, Pocahontas, Princess Badroulbadour), it's been so great to have Michelle Knight (Snow White) continue her journey with the show. She brings amazing vocals, great leadership, and a keen sense of wonderful 'straight-man' comedy to the show. We're having such fun watching the NYC audiences love these performances!

4. What have you enjoyed most about this run of DISENCHANTED! and what are your plans for the show after this run is over?

Fiely A. Matias: We are loving watching an audience lose themselves in laughter! Having an Off-Broadway show has been a dream of ours since our Asian Sings The Blues days back in the 90s. It's been great realizing that dream! We went from a one-man cabaret act in Asian to a full-on Off-Broadway musical comedy with DISENCHANTED! - it makes all those years in which I rolled around the stage in a skimpy 12-year-old's one-piece bathing suit singing love-songs-gone-wrong worth it! :)

Dennis T. Giacino: We're in a limited engagement with DISENCHANTED! now. Our hope, due to the sold out houses, raves, and such positive audience reaction, is that the show transfers to a larger Off-Broadway space this year. That would be very exciting!

Cast of "DISENCHANTED!"5. Since DISENCHANTED! is from the point of view of the Disney princesses, which Disney princess have you always wanted to be and why?

Dennis T. Giacino: I'm totally Snow White! I could make fun, off-color jokes about 7 men and waiting for my prince to come but suffice it to say, I just love the idea of dying and coming back to life! Who doesn't want that?!

Fiely A. Matias: I'm all about Pocahontas! I've always been a "just around the river bend" kinda guy plus, come on, she has hair great hair! For a balding 40-something, that's a dream come true!

Dennis T. Giacino: I definitely prefer our empowered princesses, though. There's really nothing like a strong, belting actress who can be mega-funny while she sings her face off!

Fiely A. Matias: Amen. Now that's a super-power!

6. Let's go back in time for a moment. In 2001, I saw your NYC Fringe show Asian Sings The Blues. I still remember the fun I had at that show from Fiely's performance to Dennis' songs. Looking back, what did you like about performing/working on that show? How did you first come to work together and what has made you want to continue this collaboration?

Fiely A. Matias: We've been collaborating for 23 years now! We started a small theater company in Corvallis, Oregon low those many years ago. We were having troubles affording the licensing fees for Neil Simon plays and Sondheim musicals so we started writing our own shows.

Dennis T. Giacino: Wait - hold up! Let's be clear here. Fiely came to me 23 years ago and said, "Licensing fees and actors are expensive. Write me a one-man show." My reaction was, "Okay - you sing a little off-key, all you do is chat about yourself, and you always wish to be the center of attention. You're a cabaret act!" And I wrote Asian Sings The Blues!

Fiely A. Matias: Okay, okay. That's all true! I dream that we will end up in some dive bar in our old age singing songs from Asian - those really were such fun times! What a great way to retire - as a cheesy lounge act!

7. What's the best advice you've ever received? 

Dennis T. Giacino: That's easy. As a young teenager, I played a song I wrote for Tommy West, a country music singer/producer - I think he worked with Jim Croce. When I finished the song, Tommy imparted this nugget of wisdom: "I love the melody and the lyrics. Make sure that every song you ever write tells a compelling story. It's got to have a beginning, middle and end."

Many of today's pop songs (and some theater songs) have forgotten that. I'm forever grateful to Tommy West for that advice! It has informed every song I've written since - Asian Sings The Blues and DISENCHANTED! Best advice ever.

Dennis T. Giacino and Fiely A. Matias8. How do you want to be remembered?

Dennis T. Giacino: I feel like my purpose in life is to skewer different genres of entertainment - to show how silly live performance can be. Whether it's the Disney princess films, game shows, sitcoms, or the self-centered, semi-talented cabaret performer. I love to lampoon them all. My fave, of course, is spoofing the put-upon accompanist in a lounge act. I'm known as "Scary Manilow" in Asian Sings The Blues. That'd be cool to be remembered for that. Or being the "Princess Whisperer." The guy who brought to life all these strong fairy tale women who gave our ol' buddy Walt the what for!

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

Dennis T. Giacino: I've often thought that I'd like to be able to read minds. But I can already kind of do that - I'm a bit psychic, y'know.

Fiely A. Matias: Okay, what am I thinking right now?

Dennis T. Giacino: That you don't have an answer to the super-power question.

Fiely A. Matias: Wow! You're like Kreskin at the keys!

Dennis T. Giacino: I knew you were going to say that.

Dennis T. GiacinoMore on Dennis:

Dennis T. Giacino,  a New York City native, has created musicals that have toured throughout the USA, Canada and internationally. Giacino’s works have been featured in prestigious by-invitation-only festivals in NYC, DC, Chicago, San Francisco, Orlando, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver BC, Halifax, Montreal, Sydney AUS, Singapore, and Prague. His musicals have received numerous awards including: NJ Playwrights Contest (2010 Winner! -DISENCHANTED!); "Best National Show" (DailyCityNews - DISENCHANTED!); "Best of Orlando 2011" (Orlando Weekly, Orlando Sentinel, Watermark - DISENCHANTED!); "Best Comedy" (Ottawa Fringe Festival); "Best Musical" & "Best Comedy" (USA National GLBT Theater Festival); "Best of Fest" awards (San Francisco, Saskatoon AB and Orlando International Fringe Theater Festivals).

Fiely A. MatiasMore on Fiely:

Fiely A. Matias has directed productions of DISENCHANTED! in Orlando (2011, 2012, 2013), Los Angeles (2012), San Francisco Bay Area (2013), Missouri (2012), Tampa (2014) as well as the original New York City workshop (2009) and staged reading (2012). He has directed musical works by Dennis T. Giacino (author/composer, DISENCHANTED!) for over 20 years, including over 20 International Fringe Theater Festival productions. His awards include "Best National Show" (DailyCityNews - DISENCHANTED!); "Best Musical" & "Best Comedy" (USA National GLBT Theatre Festival), "Best Comedy" (Ottawa Fringe Theatre Festival), "Producer’s Award" (Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival) and "Best of Fest" at the Orlando, San Francisco, and Saskatoon Fringe Theater festivals. Fiely is a proud member of AEA and SDC.

Monday
Sep012014

Call Answered: Kiah Victoria: Pyre Cantata, The Lion King, and Music

Kiah VictoriaMaking her Broadway debut at 10 years old as "Young Nala" in Disney's The Lion King, "Call Me Adam" chats with actress and singer Kiah Victoria about starring in Trevor Bachman's Pyre Cantata which will play HERE Arts Center (145 6th Avenue) from September 4-7Click here for tickets!

A mythic, soulful, vocally pyrotechnic adaptation of Antigone, this electric new musical follows four young siblings as they try to fix the broken city of Thebes. The music, a soulful fusion of R&B, gospel, and musical theatre exquisitely sews together quick humor with alarming tragedy. Appealing to lovers of Greek drama and good music alike, Pyre Cantata is a fiery new twist on a centuries-old myth.

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

1. From September 4-7, you will be starring in Pyre Cantata. What made you want to audition for this show? This music is killer and the cast is not only full of incredible artists but also my dearest friends. It’s a win across the board.

2. What do you identify most with about the story and your character "Speaker"? The "Speaker" posses a feminine power that I admire and in may ways aspire to. In a male dominated world she’s still running shit. She knows the secrets of the city and uses that knowledge and wisdom to protect her family. 

Kiah Victoria rehearsing "Pyre Cantata"3. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? I hope audiences leave the room feeling a sense of triumph. Whether it’s from the incredible music, or the plight of "Ismene," I hope people feel that amidst darkness there is a spark of light. This story is as much about dysfunction as it is about pure potential.

4. What is the best part about being in the early stages of show's creation? It’s such a RIDE. I was in the first reading of Pyre about 4 years ago, so to hear the development since that time is pretty remarkable. The best part is witnessing all of Trevor’s work and growth being manifested into this production. And as a cast we’re making new discoveries that are further building upon his genius.

Cast of "Pyre Cantata"5. At age 10, you made your Broadway debut as "Young Nala" in The Lion King. What was it like to make your Broadway debut at such a young age? Was it everything you dreamed it would be? The Lion King was kind of magical. It was one of those experiences that completely clarified for me that the stage is where I belong. The music, costumes, lights, dancers, singers and the beautiful New Amsterdam became my home. My dad also made his Broadway debut in The Lion King playing drums in the orchestra! We were the first ever daddy-daughter team. That was such a surreal, proud moment to see him up in the balcony holding it down, while I was riding around on an ostrich with "Simba." AH!

Cover design by Rog Walker6. Since then, you also started writing your own music, releasing 2 EPs and some singles as well as perform around the world in concert. What do you get from working on your own music and performing concerts that you do not get from being on stage? I feel a deeper sense of ownership when I’m writing music. It’s much more of a challenge for me than being on stage. But ultimately each piece of my artistic creation and development makes me feel alive. I wouldn’t trade one for another.

7. What is the best part about meeting your fans around the world? Well, this question makes me feel rather fancy. I feel love from all angles when I come into contact with people who appreciate my artistry and what I create. That enthusiasm is so special.

8. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I always felt a deep, inexplicable desire to perform. I’m not sure if I had a say in the matter. It feels like that desire always was and will be forever.

Kiah Victoria singing9. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Oh man, so many people! Nabil (Video Director), Miguel (Artist), and 40 (Producer) come to mind.

10. What's the best advice you've received so far? "Treat everyday as a rededication to your craft." – Martin Scorsese (NYU ‘14 Tisch Commencement)

11. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? Hmmm, probably that I have more strength than I realize.

12. Having success at such a young age, how have you been able to stay grounded? I’m a person. I think if I remember that, I’ll be good. 

BONUS QUESTIONS:

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

14. If you could be any original flavor Life Saver, which one would you be? Raspberry. For sure.

15. How do you want to be remembered? As a giver of joy and ferocity.

More on Kiah:

BLENDING INTIMATE VOCAL PERFORMANCE WITH THE OBSCURE SYNTHETIC TEXTURES OF TRIP-HOP PRODUCER TOLU, 21-YEAR-OLD KIAH VICTORIA EMERGES FROM THE GREAT CITY OF NEW YORK.

THE MTV COLLEGE WOODIE NOMINEE HAS TAKEN HER TRAVELS AROUND THE GLOBE, LIVING IN BOTH GERMANY AND KENYA FOR A SHORT TIME BEFORE RETURNING TO HER RIGHTFUL SPOTLIGHT IN MANHATTAN.

KIAH HAS GARNERED THE ATTENTION OF NYC’S BROADWAY STAGES, NBC’S THE VOICE, AND THE CLIVE DAVIS INSTITUTE OF RECORDED MUSIC. SHE HAS STUDIED ABROAD IN BERLIN, EXPLORING THE DIVERSELY RICH MUSIC CULTURE OF THE HISTORICAL CITY WHILE CONTINUOUSLY COLLABORATING WITH HER PRODUCER TOLU, AND INTRODUCING HER DISTINCT SOUND TO THE EUROPEAN CITY-CENTER.

Sunday
Jun012014

Call Answered: Polly McKie Interview

Polly McKie, Photo Credit: Kevin O'BrienI was first introduced to Polly McKie when I attended Sophie's Open Mic Spotlight Series in 2013 because my friends Ethan Paulini and Christopher Sidoli were being featured. It was in that moment, I fell in love with Polly's humor, charm, and talent! As a result of that evening, I got to do a limited run live interview show as part Sophie's Spotlight series. From my first show, Polly (and everyone at Sophie's) embraced me with open arms. I was made to feel at ease right away and that led to 8 weeks of more joy than I could have ever asked for. Like Polly mentions below, Mondays became my favorite night of the week! So, now, I am beyond excited to have been able to sit down with the talent that is Polly McKie and get inside her heart, soul, and mind!

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

Polly McKie and Kathryn Kates (from "Orange is the New Black) in Theater for the New City's production of "Dollface"1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? Oh, it's hard to pinpoint exactly who or what.  I'm the youngest of five children so was always looking for attention! I was brought up with parents (both teachers) who love music and the theatre and I was taken to shows from as early as I can remember. The first big professional London production we saw was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat when I was 7. I was always in every school production, starting with "Mary" in the Nativity when I was 5 and ending with the role that made me realize this was what I wanted to do as an adult, in my last year of school: "Meg Brockie" in Brigadoon. In between I worked with some wonderful professionals and it's only now, as an adult, that I realize what an honor it was to sing and act alongside Bill McCue (A famous Scottish talent) and go on tour to Orkney with a new musical called The Two Fiddlers by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.

I'll never forget a particular trip to London when I was about 13 or 14. My dad had booked tickets for Follies and he told me what it was about and I thought it sounded boring. I went and it changed my life! I still get goosebumps when I think about it. Eartha Kitt sang "I'm Still Here" and I clapped so hard I thought I would burst. I bought the CD and became obsessed with Sondheim and wanted to sing all his songs. I still want to. And I often do.

Polly McKie in "Beauty and The Beast"2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Oh, so many! I want to work with actors who have passion and I always love working with experienced people I can learn from.

I love Meryl Streep (of course), Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. What links these women for me is how they come across as genuine (off camera and on). I can imagine sharing a joke with them. All three have a reputation for being fun on set. When Judi Dench and Maggie Smith work together they have a reputation for getting fits of the giggles. They also exude humility in spite of their phenomenal success. I firmly believe that's why their work is so consistently good. You see so many actors who become stars let it go to their head and they stop being relatable and that comes across in their acting. I wouldn't say no to a love scene with Colin Firth, George Clooney or my new obsession, Bryan Cranston.

Above all, famous or not, I want to work with people who take it seriously but are willing to have fun. People who are modest and care about the craft more than they care about the fame.

Polly McKie in City Hall Bermuda's production of "Cabaret"Polly McKie in "After The Circuit" at The Connelly Theatre in NYC3. You have performed in numerous stage productions both stateside and internationally. What do you like most about performing around the world? What similarities and differences do you notice between audiences and the theatre scenes in general as you travel? I love travel and seeing different cultures. Performing in such a variety of spaces with such culturally different audiences is fascinating. I recently went to see a friend in a Scottish play Off-Broadway at 59E59. Apparently the stage manager noted that evening that there must be a Scot in the audience because of things getting laughs that had not with all American audiences. Sometimes humor travels, but some jokes are very local too.

The thing about theatre, wherever you are in the world, is that people who love theatre LOVE it. And no matter how many movies and new technology we have, nothing beats live theatre. That is universal.

One very big difference I have noticed is that in the U.S. audiences will clap if a star name comes on stage and are often very quick to give a standing ovation. That does not often happen in the U.K.

Polly McKie in Lola's music video "Hate U 2"4. In addition to theatre, you have worked in film/television. What do you like about working in each medium? At first I thought I would not enjoy working in film and TV but I have really grown to love it. That said, I am grateful that my background and training is in the theatre. I do not think anything else matches the discipline we receive when learning Shakespeare or doing 8 shows a week. Most of the film actors I like and admire have theatrical backgrounds. And, of course, the medium is different, but I use the same basic principles in my acting. It all boils down to being believable and relatable. We can analyze acting forever (and we do!) but what matters is portraying something real and making people feel something. It's about being a human being and sharing that, no matter the medium.

Polly McKie as the voice of Disney's audio recording "Brave"5. You are the voice of Disney's audiobook Brave. What was it like when you found out you got the job and what is like knowing anytime someone listens to that book, they will be hearing your voice? Getting that job was a thrill. There are so many Irish and English people in New York and most people cannot place my Scottish dialect. So when this came up and they advertised that they wanted a real Scot to be the voice, I knew I had to try. On the day of the audition I was sick but, of course, I went. The waiting room was full of lots of Scottish people. It was a very strange experience. So often, I go in using my American accent for auditions but for this I could be 100% me. Ill as I was, I went in and did my best. I had no real voiceover experience but I had always been told I had a great voice and I know how to tell a story. I have 6 nephews and 4 nieces and I love reading to children. They are the best and most honest audience of all. I went into the sound booth for the audition with one page of copy and I imagined I was reading to one of my younger nieces. The casting director said "Great, now can you imagine you're reading to an older child?" I switched to an older nephew in my mind. I was in and out of the room in those 2 takes and then I put it out of my mind. My agent called me to tell me I had booked the gig and within a week I was in a recording booth with Disney execs in New York and taking direction from the head of Disney character voices online from L.A. I LOVED every minute of the experience. I think the children in my life who hear it are not overly impressed. It's just Aunt Polly reading a story. And that's what it should be.

Polly McKie hosting Sophie's Spotlight Series in NYC, Photo Credit: Dan Yaeger6. In addition to all of the work discussed above, you are also the host of Sophie's weekly Open Mic Spotlight Series in NYC. What do you enjoy most about this? What is it like to watch what could be tomorrow's musical theatre stars perform? I love Sophie's! Monday has become my favorite day of the week. I love hosting. I hear myself and think I am turning into my mother. I insult people and crack jokes. My style is very much like my mother. And, although the humor is biting, the audience knows that it is supportive. We have been labeled the most supportive Open Mic in NYC. I have been to open mics as a performer and I think that is the key. I understand the nerves and excitement that the singers have. I want to make them feel supported and important. Even if you are one singer out of 30, those 3 or 4 minutes that you have are like a Broadway debut for some of these young (or older) artists. There is a comedian who came and sat at the back for the first few weeks and just watched. Then one week he got up to sing and he said he felt safe and described me as being "A cross between a comedienne and a social worker." That is the biggest compliment. That we create a place that feels safe and fun for people to perform.

Polly McKie teaching The Actors Friend, Photo Credit: Vanessa Spica7. You have also started your own coaching classes and workshops for actors. What made you want to teach others? What have you learned from your students? I am from a family of teachers. And I have been a teacher for years. An actress and a teacher. Both are in my blood. My mother probably should have gone into acting and I think she would have but her mother died when she was 17 so she stayed with her father and went to teacher training college. Just as well she did or I might not exist! The two are so closely linked. Some of the greatest teachers are performers. They have to entertain and educate. And I think actors owe it to other actors to pass on what they know. I have had the chance to work with some wonderful teachers and I want to share what I know (even if it is how to learn from my mistakes!) Students always teach us as much as we teach them. There is that wonderful and famous lyric in The King and I

It's a very ancient saying,

But a true and honest thought,

That if you become a teacher, 

By your pupils you'll be taught.

I am far more likely to quote Sondheim but, in this case, this applies.

Polly McKie, Photo Credit: John Knox8. How do you feel living in New York City fosters your acting more as opposed to living somewhere else? I adore New York! It is the center of everything for me. I love London but I instantly felt at home in New York on my first visit. I knew there was a special connection. I love what the city has to offer  - everything! (well, apart from a good fish supper). I still pinch myself when I walk home past Grand Central and the Chrysler Building. I have lived here for almost six years and it still thrills me. I am surrounded by actors and singers. I am immersed in that life and I love it. I can spend what is a pretty average day going to an audition, walking past a celebrity on 14th street, going to see a friend in a play Off-Broadway or on Broadway, and sing at Sophie's. Of course, there are many days of just buying groceries and doing laundry but the first example is just as regular and that's a thrill. It feeds my soul!

9. What's the best advice you've ever received? Be yourself and trust your gut.

10. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? Ah, Adam, I know you ask this question and I always wondered what I would answer. I think I do not want a super power. I want to be human.

Polly McKie, Photo Credit: Lauren SowaMore on Polly:

Polly was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, the youngest of five children. Her father submitted the birth notice "Suddenly as the result of an accident...." The newspaper refused to print it, so here it is for all to read now. A sense of humor is a prerequisite for being part of the McKie family. A family who is passionate about the Arts. Thanks to her parents (both teachers), she was lucky enough to be a regular visitor to the theatre: everything from local pantomimes to Shakespeare, Greek tragedy (her father is a classicist) to West End musicals (her mother writes and directs musicals for young children).

After graduating with an M.A. in Theatre and Philosophy, Polly continued her studies and earned her postgraduate certificate in drama education, deciding to take the sensible career path and work as a teacher. The desire to perform never left, though, and she performed in the ensemble of Sweeney Todd at The Theatre Royal in Glasgow, understudying "Mrs. Lovett" (still a dream role today).

In 2004 she moved to Bermuda where she was in several shows and was lucky enough to work with Martin Lowe (Tony award for Once) and Brian Kite (La Mirada, L.A.) in Cabaret. Her time working in The Beauty Queen of Leenane helped her come to the decision to move to New York and pursue her acting career full-time. At the end of the 2 week run, the rest of the cast was so happy that it was over. Polly wanted it to run forever.

Now based in New York, as an actress, she regularly employs her "American" voice, but she is proud to be the voice of the digital book of Disney's ‚ÄčBrave.

Thursday
Jan242013

Daryl Roth: TEDxBroadway Interview

Daryl Roth with Leo and LucyDaryl Roth is proud to hold the singular distinction of producing seven Pulitzer Prize-winning plays: Bruce Norris' Clybourne Park (Tony Award); Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County (Tony Award); Nilo Cruz’s Anna in the Tropics; David Auburn’s Proof (Tony Award); Margaret Edson’s Wit; Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive; and Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women.

Daryl's other award-winning Broadway productions include: Bea Arthur on Broadway; Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s Caroline, or Change; Harvey Fierstein’s A Catered Affair; Twyla Tharp’s Come Fly Away; Helen Edmundson’s Coram Boy; Clifford Odets’ The Country Girl; Kander and Ebb’s Curtains; Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms; Terrence McNally’s Deuce; Alfred Uhry’s Driving Miss Daisy; Bill T. Jones’ Fela!; Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s Inherit the Wind; Dan Gordon’s Irena’s Vow; Mark Twain’s Is He Dead?; Alan Menkin, Janus Cercone and Warrne Leight's Leap of Faith; Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music; Friedrich Schiller’s Mary Stuart; Euripides’ Medea; Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart (Tony Award); Oscar Wilde’s Salome, the Reading; Charles Busch’s The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife; Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? (Tony Award); George Stevens Jr.’s Thurgood; Anna Deavere Smith’s Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992War Horse (Tony Award); Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; and Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking.

Her Off-Broadway credits include: Jane Anderson’s The Baby Dance; Edward Albee and Samuel Beckett’s Beckett/Albee; Mark St. Germain’s Camping with Henry and Tom; Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire’s Closer Than Ever; Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich’s Dear Edwina; Jane Anderson’s Defying Gravity; Charles Busch’s Die, Mommie, Die!The Divine Sister, and Olive and The Bitter Herbs; Eric Walton’s Esoterica; George C. Wolfe’s Harlem Song; Kenny Finkle’s Indoor Outdoor; Judy Gold's The Judy Show; Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron's Love, Loss, and What I Wore; Paul Grellong’s Manuscript; Brian Copeland’s Not a Genuine Black Man; Jon Marans’ Old Wicked Songs; Stephen Adly Guirgis’ Our Lady of 121st Street; Edward Albee’s The Play About the Baby; David Marshall Grant’s Snakebit; Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads; Matthew Lombardo’s Tea at Five; Jon Marans’ The Temperamentals; Will Eno’s Thom Pain (based on nothing); Daniel Beaty’s Through The Night; David Pittu’s What’s that Smell? The Music of Jacob Sterling; Morris Paynch’s Vigil; and De La Guarda, which ran for 7 years as the inaugural production at the Daryl Roth Theatre.

Currently Daryl is producing the new Broadway revival of Annie and the new Broadway musical Kinky Boots, based on the film, with music by Cyndi Lauper, book by Harvey Fierstein and directed by Jerry Mitchell and Nora Ephron's Lucky Guy. Future theatre projects include A Time To Kill by John Grisham adapted by Rupert Holmes; an adaptation of Abigail Pogrebin’s book, Stars of David; and It Shoulda Been You, a new musical starring Tyne Daly, directed by David Hyde Pierce.

In addition to theatre, Daryl has produced several films including Albert Nobbs starring Glenn Close, directed by Rodrigo Garcia; the Emmy-nominated HBO feature, Dinner with Friends, based on Donald Margulies’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play; The Lady in Question, a documentary based on the career of Charles Busch; A Very Serious Person written by Charles Busch, starring Polly Bergen; Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell starring Marc Wolf; and My Dog: An Unconditional Love Story a documentary exploring the relationships of well known New Yorkers and their dogs.

Dedicated to nurturing and supporting theatre artists, The Daryl Roth Creative Spirit Award is given annually to a theatre artist who has demonstrated exceptional talent and promise in his or her field.

Daryl Roth receiving her portrait at Sardi's in NYC 2010, Photo Credit: Jenny AndersonDaryl's stellar career has not gone unrecognized. Her numerous awards and honors include The Stella Adler 2012 Harold Clurman Spirit Award, The 2012 Family Equality Council Hostetter-Habib Family Award, The 2011 Live Out Loud Humanitarian Award, 2010 Lucille Lortel Lifetime Achievement Award, Primary Stages 2007 Honoree, The National Foundation for Jewish Culture’s Patron of the Arts Award, The Jewish Theological Seminary’s Louis Marshall Award, The Albert Einstein College of Medicine Spirit of Achievement Award, The National Corporate Theatre Fund’s Chairman Award, and The Tisch School of the Arts Award for Artistic Leadership. Ms. Roth was profiled in The New Yorker and twice included in Crain’s "100 Most Influential Women in Business."

Now Daryl is bringing everything she knows to TEDxBroadway, a day-long event beginning where the sold out 2012 TEDxBroadway left off, bringing together some of the most passionate and influential people in academics, entertainment, marketing and media to answer the question: "What’s the best that Broadway can be: on stage, as an important neighborhood in New York City and in terms of its cultural impact on the world?" On January 28, at New World Stages in NYC (340 West 50th Street) hear Daryl, George Takei, Rasputina, David Sabel, Ellen Isaacs, Adam Thurman, Seth Pinsky, Thomas Schumacher, Randi Zuckerberg, Terry Teachout, Christine Jones and Josh Harris all speak about "What's the best that Broadway can be." Tickets are $100 and can be purchased by clicking here!

For more on Daryl be sure to visit http://www.darylrothproductions.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter!

Daryl Roth at "Love, Loss, and What I Wore", Photo Credit: Monica Simoes1. Who or what inspired you to become a producer? I always loved theatre. I grew up in NJ and my family held theatre in very high regard. As a young person, my sister and I were always being taken to see shows and it was in my life and I just loved it. I didn't have a clue how I was going to find my way into this world, but as I got older and realized that it's something I really wanted to do, I just tried to find a place for myself and I did.  It was my passion and I found what I wanted to do with it.

2. What show or shows haven't you produced yet that you would like to? That's an interesting question, because I don't know what lies ahead. I can flip that answer a little bit and tell you the one show I regret not producing, and that was Angels in America, which I had seen in London and loved it so much. It was such an inspiration for me, and yet when I came back from that trip to London I didn't really have the confidence in myself at that time to call the people who were involved in producing it to see if I could join them. I think it was too early in my career to have that confidence. That is the one show for me that would have been special to be a part of.

3. What made you want to take part in TedxBroadway? First of all, I was honored that I was asked and Jordan did it last year and enjoyed the experience. (Daryl's son Jordan Roth is the principal owner of Jujamcyn Theaters). I think TedxBroadway is an interesting and personal way to share information with people and learn about the different ways they approach what they do.

4. What do you hope attendees come away with after hearing your specific talk? Interestingly enough, my topic is about how when audiences come to see theatre, I hope they are inspired to take something with them from the experience and play it forward into the community. I hope that is what my talk will do for people, and I hope it offers them opportunities to think about how theatre can inform who they are or how they can help make things better in the world.

5. Without giving too much of your talk away, what do you feel can make Broadway the best it cane be? Again, it's on that theme of seeing something on stage and making that message or story personal to you...how can you extrapolate something from that to make our world, whether it's the smaller world of our theatre industry or a larger community, a better place.

Me: I think a lot of the shows you produce do that for people.

Daryl: Oh, thank you. I hope so. When TedxBroadway asked me to speak I had to reflect on what the common denominator is for what I choose to produce,  and I think it is doing something that people would find significant.

Me: Of those I've seen like The Normal Heart and Irena's Vow and The Divine Sister and Tale of The Allergists Wife all had something in them that I took away and kept with me.

Daryl: I love hearing that. Thank you.

6. Who are you looking forward to hearing speak most at TedxBroadway and what do you hope to get out of the conference? I think everybody is amazingly accomplished and I'm anxious to hear them all speak, but I am always fascinated by what Thomas Schumacher (President of Disney Theatrical Group) has to say. I have great respect for him in the way he has steered that Disney ship to Broadway in a way that has changed theatergoing for a lot of people, especially families and  younger audiences. I know Tom and he's always been very straight forward in his thoughts and has given me good advice over the years, so I'm curious to hear what he has to say.

7. You have produced some of my favorite shows both on and off Broadway including Proof, Irena's Vow, August: Osage County, Bea Arthur on Broadway, The Normal Heart, Tale of the Allergists Wife, The Divine Sister, Die Mommie Die, and Love, Loss, and What I Wore. How do you decide which shows you want to produce? For me, the most important aspect in deciding what shows to produce is the story it tells, and if the story might add something new to the cultural landscape or offer a new way to look at something that we thought we were familiar with. It's also about truthful characters, but mostly it's about telling a story that might make a difference to someone.

8. You have The Daryl Roth Theatre named after you as well as The Daryl Roth Creative Spirit Award. What does it mean to you to have a theatre named after you as well as your own award? The award is given to support theatre artists as they develop new work and pair them with a residency so they can see their work come to fruition. Giving this reward is very fulfilling for me.  As for the theatre and naming it, I think there's a history of that. At the time I thought to myself, I've always loved this building, I walked past it when I was a student at NYU.  It's  a gorgeous landmark building, and the work that I put in that building is representative of what I think is interesting, and so I thought, why not, it just felt right. I didn't mean to be anything less than humble, but it just felt right. I don't know what else I would have called it.

Me: It's a great space.

Daryl: It turned out to be a wonderful space to have a variety of performance art and be experimental with projects that don't need seating. So the theatre became more environmental. It worked out well when De La Guarda approached us about using the space, and it made me look at it in a new way, which has worked well for all these years. It offers high ceilings and no visual obstacles. It's a great space.

Me: And the downstairs, I've seen a few comedy shows down there.

Daryl: Yes, it's a cozy space. We tried to make it a little lounge for people to do stand-up comedy or cabaret. Then the space next door to the theatre, The DR2 has been really wonderful to have because I do a children's series there which is a very welcoming space for young people, sometimes their  first theatre experience. The building and the programming have been quite wonderful and like my career, very eclectic.

9. What have you learned about yourself from being a producer? I've learned that I must always trust my instincts and I shouldn't be swayed by the noise and hype surrounding any project. I think if I succeed or fail, it's okay as long as I've been true to myself. I just have to trust myself on what plays to produce and what people to work with and how to best present things I can feel very proud of.

10. What's the best advice you've ever received? Find what you love. Do your best. Don't be afraid to fail. Theatre deals in a different currency, it's not always about the money. As you said earlier, if you do things for the reasons that are important to you and they turn out financially successful, that's fabulous, but if you do things for the reasons that are important to you, you'll always have a success.

Daryl: These were very good questions. They made me really think.

Me: Thank you. That's what I aim for.

Daryl: Well you did.

Thursday
Feb232012

Sam Lemheney: 2012 Philadelphia International Flower Show

For the past eight years, Sam Lemheney has been the designer for the Philadelphia International Flower Show, the country's number one flower show. Sam began his career at the Walt Disney World® Co. as an intern at the Land Horticulture Science Program in 1989, received a B.S. in Plant Science from the University of Delaware in 1991, and began his full time career at Disney in June of that year—eventually becoming the Area Manager of the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.

For the Philadelphia International Flower Show, Sam is responsible for coordinating a floor plan of more than 50 full-scale displays and 3,000 individual amateur plant entries.

The Philadelphia International Flower Show will be held from March 4-11, 2012 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center (12th & Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107). "Hawaii: Islands of Aloha," is this year’s rallying theme and will introduce a tropical experience that blends next-stage digital technology with the natural beauty and rich culture of the islands. All proceeds, including tickets and sponsorship contributions, will support The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and its acclaimed urban greening programs, including City Harvest. Click here for tickets!

For more information on The Philadelphia International Flower Show be sure to visit http://www.theflowershow.com and follow the Flower Show on Facebook and Twitter!

1. Who or what inspired you to get into horticulture? My grandfather. He owned a landscape nursery in Lancaster, PA. My grandfather learned about horticulture from my great-grandfather who came over from England. My grandfather grew cut roses in Lancaster County, PA, and then started his own landscape nursery. My father owned a flower shop as well, as a second career. It was my dad who expanded my interest into weddings and the flower business.

2. What initially made you want to design for the Philadelphia International Flower Show? What has continued to make you stay interested? That's an interesting question. When I graduated from college, I went and worked for Walt Disney World. I worked in horticulture there as well as special events, eventually producing and creating the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival.

In the industry, you find out that the Philadelphia International Flower Show is one of the best-respected in the world. The designer at the time was going to retire, so I was approached to apply. I was so excited when I got the job because I wanted to work for the best in the business.

Besides, I grew up going to the Flower. My grandfather went to the show, my father exhibited at the show—so this was a great career opportunity and a personal opportunity to be closer to my family here.

I've remained interested in the job because I enjoy the challenge of improving upon the previous year. Every year I want to hear that this show is the best show ever. Every year we get well over 200,000 visitors, and I love to go to the entrance and watch people smile as they enter and hear the comments they make, as well as the oohhs and aaahs of what they see. It's always inspiring.

3. How did you decide to make this year's theme focus on Hawaii? We actually pick our themes three years in advance. When we brainstorm, we think about what winter-weary people want to see. Orchids and tropical plants are always crowd-pleasers.

For a few years Hawaii would rise to the top of our lists. I’m so pleased with the selection because Hawaii offers diverse tropical flowers and plants, beautiful landscapes, rich culture and history, and that indescribable aloha spirit.

4. What is it about Hawaii's horticulture that interested you most? The natural landscapes. I’ve had the opportunity to walk through these tropical paradises that have crashing waterfalls and orchids everywhere. I discovered incredible diversity of the plants and landscapes depending on if you were on the windward or leeward side of an island.

If you take the big island, for example, the large volcanoes in the middle of the island actually block the weather, creating a rainforest setting on one side and a barren desert on the other. Because the mountains are so tall, there could be snow on the top while people are swimming in the ocean only a few miles away. That just blew me away.

One of our exhibitors, Michael Petrie, is interpreting "The Garden of the Gods," which is on the dry side of the island of Lanai. It almost looks like the surface of Mars, with red rocks and such—it looks really cool.

5. What excites you about this year's design over previous years? I’m most excited about the  integration of technology into the exhibits. We are working with a company called Klip Collective that digitally maps three-dimensional surfaces and project images onto them. We are actually going to have waves coming to life and crashing overhead when you first enter the show.

Then we are going to have an area called Pele’s Garden. Here live dancers will interact with projected imagery to tell a traditional Hawaiian story. Plants and flowers will always be the stars of our show, but if we can incorporate technology and other mediums to help bring these gardens to life, to me, that's what makes it exciting.

6. What have you learned about yourself from horticulture and from designing the Philadelphia International Flower Show? That's a good question and a tough one. I think what I've learned about myself is that I enjoy entertaining people. Instead of having a voice or playing an instrument, I use plants and flowers to create a show. Even though I'm an event producer, designer, and horticulture person, I'm an entertainer as well. I want people to walk away from our flower show having been entertained in addition to learning something.

Me: I feel this answer is the whole reason why I'm covering this show. I remember when I was first approached about doing coverage for the flower show, they weren't sure if this was something that would fit with my demographics, but I felt it fit perfectly because it is a show. It may not be a show on Broadway, but it's still a show and I cover shows whether they are on or off Broadway, so this does fit with my mission.

Sam: We are a 9 day show and we have a lot of people that come through our doors, so it's definitely a show and people are paying good money to be entertained, so we have to deliver on that.

Me: Exactly and people are coming from all over the world to see the flower show.

Sam: Yep. They are.

7. What's the best advice you've ever received? I think the advice I use most often is: "There's always next year.” You can only do so much tweaking and improving, eventually you have to trust your gut and make a decision. I keep a list of things I want to improve on for next year, and I'm lucky enough to have an opportunity to continually improve.

Although it’s not advice per se, by mounting multiple shows I’ve learned how important it is to collaborate. This year I am especially grateful to Gary Radin and Bill Lance of GMR Design, Klip TV, Walt Off at Waldor Orchids, and Barb King of Valley Forge Flowers. As a unit we’ve bounced ideas off one another, had hours of brainstorming, organized our thoughts, and come up with a Show that people are sure to remember!

BONUS QUESTIONS:

8. If you could design for any celebrity, who would you like to design for? Wow, that's a good one! I'm going to go with an organization actually. It would be amazing to design for Cirque Du Soleil because I love their design sense and I think it would be fun. I would love for them to come see the show. I would also love to design for Elton John because he seems like he would have different taste than most, which would make it fun and creative.

However, if I could design with anyone, I would love to design with Preston Bailey and collaborate with him on a show. I would also love to collaborate with David Stark.

9. What was the best part about working for Disney? How do you think your time at Disney prepared you for the work you do with the Philadelphia International Flower Show? When I was working at Disney, we designed shows for convention parties. The best was when we transform ballrooms into scenes from "The Lion King" when that film first came out. People just loved it.

My other favorite time at Disney was when the NBA All-Star Game was in Orlando. I'm a huge basketball fan, and I actually got to meet many of the players. The celebrity component at Disney was always great. I also gave a private tour of the Flower & Garden Festival to Roy Disney Jr. (Walt's nephew, Roy Disney's son). I am a big Disney fan and love the history of the company; so to be able to walk around with him and ask him questions about Walt was one of my career highlights.

The scale of the events at Disney helped prepare me for the over-the-top, sky-is-the-limit creations we make in Philadelphia. When you work on a show that takes up acres and acres, you need to know how to think big!

Sam: This has been a great interview!

Me: I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I really enjoyed it too.

Sam: These are fun questions and different than what I've answered in a long, long time.

Me: That's what I strive for when I do my interviews is to ask the questions others don't.

Sam: It's very refreshing to not have to answer the same questions over and over again, so I appreciate that.

Me: That means a lot to me! Thanks so much!

This posting is brought to you with the support of the Philadelphia International Flower Show.