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Entries in Gay (49)

Monday
Aug142017

Call Answered: Max Vernon: The View UpStairs: Original Cast Recording

Max Vernon, Photo Credit: Frederic Lagrange PhotographyCast Recording designed by Robbie RozelleAfter two viewings of Max Vernon's The View UpStairs, I couldn't get this story out of my head. It has stayed with me for months. I keep wanting to learn more about this time in gay history when the UpStairs Lounge was burned to the ground. Additionally, I have been waiting for this cast recording to get released. I loved the music! Nathan Lee Graham, Michael Longoria, and Frenchie Davis, are just some of the vocal powerhouses that have stayed with me.

When it was announced The View UpStairs cast recording was being released by Broadway Records on August 11, I knew this was the right time to call Max. Luckily, he answered! I loved learning about the recording of the album, why he wrote this show, and what he learned from this run.

To download or purchase your copy of The View UpStairs, click here!

For more on Max be sure to visit http://maxvernon.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram!

1. On August 11, your show, The View UpStairs will be releasing its cast recording. What is it like to know that something you wrote the book, music, & lyrics for is getting a digital/CD release? Who is the first person to get a signed copy? Ever since I first started writing songs, I dreamed of having an artifact of my work that was beautiful from start to finish, but never had the resources to create something of that caliber. It took 15 years for the dream to become reality, but I really believe we have created one of the all time great rock musical records. Growing up I was that weird kid wearing kimonos at 14, watching David Lynch films, and listening to Kate Bush and Roxy Music. I hope for all the queer/glam/arty/weirdo kids coming up that this record means something to them.

First signed copy goes to my grandma!

"The View UpStairs" cast, Photo Credit: Kurt Sneddon"The View UpStairs" cast, Photo Credit: Kurt Sneddon2. What was the recording process like? What song took the longest to record? What song was recorded in a matter of "minutes"? I already love recording studios because they tend to feel so suffused with musical ghosts and memory, but our room at Avatar felt particularly magical. Being in the console room with the engineers playing back the mix while looking into this giant space filled with our band and incredible cast - I felt like I was on the Starship Enterprise, overseeing this army of fierce glam rock warrior divas.

I think "Some Kind of Paradise" took the longest, because it's our opening song so you *have* to get that exactly right to set the tone for the rest of the day. People needed that to know - are we gonna phone it in, or are we here to make one of the great cast albums of all time? It's 10am, people were just waking up like "Can I have a sip of this coffee?" and I said "Yeah, after you wail that high F# for Jesus!" Hello!

Michael Longoria did essentially a perfect straight through take of "Sex on Legs." It was on FIRE. When he finished, everyone around the room looked at each other in silence 'til I said, "Well damn! Okay." He went back to overdub some crazy melismas and screlted dolphin sonar high notes, but the entire song was done in less than ten minutes.

3. Can you share with us any funny stories that happened during the recording session(s)? Only one thing, but it's rated NC-17 so I can't say!!! Take me out for a drink first :)

Nathan Lee Graham in "The View UpStairs", Photo Credit: Kurt SneddonNathan Lee Graham, Jeremy Pope, Nancy Ticotin, Benjamin Howes in "The View UpStairs", Photo Credit: Kurt Sneddon4. Let's talk about the show itself for a minute. What initially made you want to write this show? Why do you think this event is not as widely known about as say The Stonewall Riots? Before I went back to school for the financially savvy grad degree of musical theatre writing (ha), I was a gender & sexuality studies major undergrad. I was going pretty deep down the rabbit hole of queer theory - you know, Foucault, Butler, Cyborg Feminism, Disability as Queerness, etc - but none of my professors had even heard of the UpStairs Lounge Fire, which before Pulse was the worst attack on the LGBTQ community in history.

I knew I wanted to shine light on the event, but I really wrote the show with the intention of speaking specifically to my generation of the queer community - to the experience of feeling disconnected from one's history; wanting to reclaim that past to help us navigate through all the bigoted bullshit going on right now with Trump, etc. What I was not expecting was that some of the most emotional responses came from audience members in their sixties and above who had lived through the 70s and everything that followed. So much of queer theatre is centered on the tragedy of the AIDS crisis, that we don't often celebrate the raw sexuality of the 70s because it seems tainted in some way. I think for some of the older audience members, watching a piece created by a younger author that attempted to reclaim and honor their sacrifices was moving.

I think The UpStairs Lounge Fire is not as widely known as Stonewall for a variety of reasons: It happened in the South, where gay rights and gay lib politics were essentially non-existent. Many patrons at the UpStairs Lounge refused to give interviews on camera for fear of being outed, which could lead to being fired or denied housing. The police, media, churches, and local government officials all essentially ignored the attack, which helped it lapse from public consciousness. Finally, the likely arsonist, Rodger Dale Nunez, was a gay hustler who'd been thrown out of the club by his own community for harassing patrons at a glory hole in the bathroom. That doesn't fit a clean, convenient narrative of a hate crime for our community.

5. What did you learn from the Off-Broadway run that might inform future runs to those who mount The View UpStairs? Our midnight Friday and Saturday shows were always the best because the audience came with a drink or two already in them and ready to go on a muthaf*ckin time travelin gay glam rock VOYAGE. The actors could feel that energy and they would go wild and start improving crazy, insane bits that had everyone in stitches. That kind of freedom and wildness is so crucial to what this show is all about. Our superfans (we call them "voyeurs") who saw the show anywhere from 10 to 34 times, started coming with glitter already on their faces, ready to get cruised, dance, and flirt with our actors. I think future theatres need to embrace that spirit and cultivate that cult following as a means of generating community!

Frenchie Davis in "The View UpStairs", Photo Credit: Kurt SneddonFrenchie Davis, Taylor Frey, Jeremy Pope in "The View UpStairs", Photo Credit: Kurt Sneddon6. What was one of the most memorable things you heard from audience members about the show? Did you hear from any of the survivors or their family/friends? One of the most incredible things was actually, one night after a show, I went out with some friends to Odessa Diner for some midnight pierogis. We started joking about my show's glowing dildo chandelier, the drag queen's confetti lactating breasts, how my dad wishes I would stop talking about fisting in my interviews, etc. I notice there's a very butch lumberjack kind of a man sitting in a booth behind us and he starts to tense up. I'm thinking any minute he's going to come over and assault us for our very public display of art-faggotry. He walks over with a grimace on his face and bellows "Are you talking about that show about the UpStairs Lounge Fire!?" And then the butch all melts away, and he proceeds to tell us he's actually a gay poet who went to all these clubs in the 70s and remembers the fire firsthand. A month later he sent me a collection of his poems.

7. Which character in the show most resembles you? "Wes," the main character, is somewhat autobiographical - a bit of a satire of all my worst qualities x 100.

8. Since the title character in the show is a young fashion designer and you certainly seem to have an eye for fashion. Do you have aspirations to have your own clothing line? What designers inspire you? Thanks! It was all just kind of borne from necessity. When I was 18 and first starting to perform my songs around the city I wanted to be dressed head to toe in Alexander McQueen couture, but didn't have $20,000 for a blazer, so I bought a glue gun and started making my own sh*t instead and cultivating an eye for all the strange, colorful, sequined power bitch blazers that the grannies of the upper east side were throwing away. Recently I've started tricking out looks for other artists - I just finished stoning a shirt for Charles Busch's Fire Island Cabaret to give a kind of Marie Antoinette trompe l'oeil necklace effect. All of my favorite designers are dutch: Iris Van Herpen, Dries Van Noten, Walter Van Beirendonck, Ann Demeulemeester. I'd love to do a Max Vernon inspired capsule collection if anyone cool wanted to collab...call me!

Max VernonMax Vernon9. The View UpStairs takes the audience on a  journey of seduction and self-exploration. What is one seductive tale from your life you can share with us? Last week, while waiting for the Q train some guy came up to me around 9 am and said "Hey can I ask a question? Are you single? Cause you know I wanna fuck you in the park behind a tree right?" He was barefoot and seemed probably insane but he was kinda cute actually! That mighta been my soulmate right there! Hey, if any of you boys are feelin' thirsty who knows, he might still be at Prospect Park.

10. After The View UpStairs finished its Off-Broadway run, you got hit with a wave of Brooke Shields post-partum emotions and you took some time to go deal with that. Now that you are back, why do you think you got to depressed after the show? What was it like to take those months to yourself? How do you feel this rejuvenation made you stronger? Imagine spending 5 years creating a show with a cast full of characters you deeply love, and then having to watch them die every night for three months! That's a lot. And to have such a political show hit NY right after the election, there was so much catharsis happening with the audiences as well who would come up to me after the show because I dress like Bea Arthur on acid. I loved connecting with those people and all the fancy 2am cocktails at Noho Star spending up that royalty money, but once the show ended I kinda collapsed from exhaustion. I just stayed in bed for three weeks doing snail mucus face masks, eating gelato, and watching reruns of Two Fat Ladies.

My next show, KPOP at Ars Nova, was in pre-production only a month later. So, after a mini-hibernation and a few chemical peels, I shook off the post-partum blues and got pregnant again. Now I have pink hair, a floor covered in teal rhinestones, and a 32-song all electronic half Korean score ready to go. We start performances Sept 5th!

Max Vernon, Photo Credit: Frederic Lagrange PhotographyMore on Max:

Max Vernon is a composer/lyricist, playwright, and performer. Described by the New Yorker as "equal parts bohemia and Broadway," Max's work has been performed and developed at Ars Nova, Actors Theatre of Louisville (Wondrous Strange, Humana Festival 2016), Berkeley Rep, Dixon Place, Disney Creative Entertainment, Goodspeed Opera House, Keen Company, LaMaMa, Naked Angels, New Dramatists, Ma-Yi, Pride Films and Plays (Chicago), Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, Theatreworks USA, and Two River Theater (NJ), among others.

He is a recipient of the Jonathan Larson Grant, New York Stage and Film's Founders Award, New York Foundation of the Arts Fellowship, and the JFund Award from the Jerome Foundation. He has been a Dramatist Guild Theatre Fellow, and an artist in residence at Rhinebeck Writer’s Retreat and the Johnny Mercer Writers Colony. He is currently a member of Ars Nova's Uncharted, and former member of the Civilians' R&D Group. He has performed over a hundred concerts in New York City, including sold out shows at Joe's Pub (Frisk Me: The Songs of Max Vernon), Lincoln Center (LC Originals) and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Civilians' Let Me Ascertain You).

His musicals include The View UpStairs (NYU, Pride Films and Plays, Invisible Wall Productions), 30 Million (Keen Company) and WIRED (Ars Nova) Developing: KPOP! (Ars Nova/Ma-Yi/Woodshed Collective); Co-Op (Ars Nova, Naked Angels Radio); Show & Tell (Jerome Foundation, Civilians R&D Group); Nincest (Berkeley Rep Ground Floor); Better for Night (Weiner Theatricals/Randy Weiner). He hopes to one day dismantle patriarchy and steal your grandma's sequin blazer. MFA: NYU - Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program.

Friday
Jul282017

Call Answered: Alaska: "On Golden Girls" at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

AlaskaThank you for being a friend! I love The Golden Girls, so anytime someone has a show about them or in praise of them, I'm checking it out. I am thrilled that RuPaul's Drag Race Season 5 favorite, Alaska, & I got to fly to Miami, eat cheesecake, & discuss her upcoming show On Golden Girls, with her sidekick Handsome Jeremy.

On Golden Girls takes you on a musical journey of story and song, diving deep into the lake known as The Golden Girls. Drawing upon their vast knowledge and worship of the Girls of Gold, Alaska and Jeremy will explore the songs featured within the seven seasons of the hit TV classic, while offering their own unique analysis and perspective on all things Golden.

On Golden Girls will play The Laurie Beechman Theatre (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue, inside the basement of the West Bank Cafe) from August 3-13. Click here for tickets!

For more on Alaska visit http://alaskathunderfuck.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. The story of your creation goes something like "After your spaceship crashed in the Matanuska Valley, a remote part of south-central Alaska, the U.S. government recovered an emaciated… make that an emancipated alien" which turned out to be you. As your spaceship was going down, what was going through your mind? What was it like when you were rescued? How did surviving the crash change you? The reason the space ship crash landed was because I ran the air conditioner, heater, cappuccino maker, and hair straightener all at once. As I crashed down, I was grateful that I was wearing cute underwear.

2. You are known for being one of the final three contestants on Season 5 of RuPaul's Drag Race. What is the one lesson you learned from Ru herself that you will carry with you? RuPaul works hard and has a sense of humor.  But she also doesn't take any shit and will throw a fit when it's necessary.

3. This August, you will be returning to the Laurie Beechman Theatre with your side kick Handsome Jeremy in your new show On Golden Girls, a musical journey of story and song, diving deep into the lake known as The Golden Girls. Drawing upon your vast knowledge and worship of the Girls of Gold, you and Handsome Jeremy will explore the songs featured within the seven seasons of the hit TV classic, while offering your own unique analysis and perspective on all things Golden. First, what was it about The Golden Girls that made you want to create a show with the sitcom as its backdrop? I'm not a religious person, but if I had to choose a religion, it would be The Golden Girls. I study the scriptures daily, and I can point you to an episode that will shed light upon any problem you may be experiencing in life. Jeremy and I have bonded a lot over the show, and so we found it natural to do a show born out of our obsession.

4. How did you and Handsome Jeremy come to work together? What is the best part about this partnership? We met in Psychology class in my freshman year of college. The best part of our partnership is the friendship I've found in Jeremy. He is the kindest and most honest, open-hearted person I know and we are family.

Alaska5. Which "Golden Girl" are you? I'm tall with a deep voice, so I'm "Dorothy." But I also have flights of self-centered insanity, like "Blanche." So I'm a "Dorothy" with a "Blanche" rising.

6. Were you nervous to create a show centered around one of the most beloved TV shows of all time? What do you think die hard Golden Girls fans will think of the show? I'm certain the die hard Golden Girls fans will love it. It's the fair-weather, casual Golden Girls observers I'm worried about. They may have no idea what the hell we're talking about. I suggest a binge watching session before coming to our show.

7. I have seen several Golden Girls parody shows, but none have explored the musical numbers before. What song was the most was the hardest to fit in? A lot of the times when there are songs on the show, they usually only last for like 20 seconds. So that's challenging -- but we're going to try to do our best to cram as many of them in as we can.

Alaska8. What do you feel is something you know about The Golden Girls that the average super fan would not know? People like to pretend there was a feud or friction between Betty White and Bea Arthur, but that's not really how it was. They all ate lunch together every day. And Estelle Getty would write her lines all over the fake fruit on the table or various props so that she could remember them.

9. If you could have cheesecake with the The Golden Girls, what flavor cheesecake would you have? What problem would you ask them to solve for you? I would have to have some vegan, dairy free chocolate cheesecake with Coconut Bliss ice cream. I would love to hear the girls' perspectives on social media. I'd love to see "Blanche" on Tinder and "Dorothy" on Twitter.

10. If you never made out of the Matanuska Valley and the only form of entertainment you had was to watch five episodes of The Golden Girls on a loop, which five episodes would you want to be on there? "A Little Romance;" "Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself;" "Dorothy's New Friend;" "All Bets Off;" "The Case of the Libertine Belle."

AlaskaMore on Alaska:

After her spaceship crashed in the Matanuska Valley, a remote part of south-central Alaska, the U.S. government recovered an emaciated…make that an emancipated alien, or that’s how the story goes. Alaska went on to become one of the final three contestants on the fifth season of RuPaul's Drag Race on Logo.  In October 2013, she starred in The Rocky Horror Picture Show at The Woodlawn Theater in San Antonio.

Thursday
Jul062017

Call Redialed: Jackie Beat: Birthday Bitch! at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

Jackie BeatI am beyond thrilled that Jackie Beat answered my call yet again! I love interviewing Jackie Beat. She keeps me laughing the whole time with her brilliant sense of humor! In this interview we get the party started with a pre-birthday celebration by talking about her new show coming to The Laurie Beechman Theatre entitled Birthday Bitch! 

Everyone knows that Jackie Beat is a big bitch. And a talented bitch. A shady bitch. A fierce bitch. A sick bitch. But this July, Jackie Beat is also a BIRTHDAY BITCH! To celebrate her birthday weekend, Miss Beat is invading New York, unwrapping some new parody songs and sharing some of her greatest hits. So here are the ground rules: Do not make eye contact.  Do not ask "how old?" Laugh loudly. Drink. Gifts optional.

Birthday Bitch! will play The Laurie Beechman Theatre (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue, in the basement of the West Bank Cafe) July 22 at 8pm & July 23 at 4pm. Click here for tickets!

For more on Jackie be sure to visit http://missjackiebeat.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter!

For more shows from Spin Cycle visit http://spincyclenyc.com and follow them on Twitter!

Jackie Beat1. This July, you are once again returning to the Laurie Beechman Theatre with your new show Birthday Bitch! What are you looking forward to about celebrating your birthday at The Laurie Beechman Theatre with your fans? Well, all joking aside, there is no place I would rather be! Except maybe in bed with my dogs watching Netflix. Or at a grand opening of a new Arby's - with unlimited free Beef & Cheddar sandwiches. But after those options, on stage in full clown singing my balls off is definitely my third choice for best place to celebrate getting one year closer to death!

2. For some people, their birthday is a time for renewal and at this bash, you will be unwrapping some new parodies. I will leave the parodies as a surprise for those who attend your show, but what I want to know is, what do you hope to unwrap for yourself either professionally or personally that you have not gotten to yet? Time to get serious kids. I would really like to unwrap some peace-of-mind. It may be hard to believe, seeing how I have been doing this for close to thirty years now, but what with Drag Race and the mainstream popularity of drag in general, it's gotten harder. I'm like everyone else and I often compare myself to others. And when those others are half my age and have been on a wildly-popular TV show, sometimes it can get to me. But then I take a deep breath and think, "Hey, you're Jackie Beat goddamn it!" Then I yell, "Snap out of it!" in my best Cher voice and slap myself across the face. So yeah, a little much-needed boost of self-confidence would be a great birthday present. And I realize it's something that only I can give to myself. And if I can't have that, maybe a $50 gift certificate for Arby's?

Jackie Beat3. One thing attendees should know is that there are some ground rules for your Birthday Bitch! show: Do not make eye contact. Do not ask "how old?" Laugh loudly. Drink. Gifts optional. What will happen if someone breaks these rules? Are there different punishments for breaking each rule? GIFTS OPTIONAL!? Are you fucking new? Gifts are mandatory. I put the MAN in mandatory. And as far as punishment for breaking my rules, I think people are well aware of just how painful being read to filth in front of an entire roomful of fellow sodomites can be. Se be on your best behavior, kids! And bring presents.

4. What are some gifts you would like to receive this year? (Think of this as your registry). I really do love a nice gift card. You know, Starbucks, Bed Bath & Beyond, Trader Joe's. I'll avoid mentioning Arby's yet again so as not to make anyone think I'm shamelessly trying to land a lucrative endorsement deal with the deliciously trashy fast-food chain. I appreciate fan art, but - let's be honest - if it really looks like me I'm probably just going to get depressed. I also love accessories and makeup, but frankly, I have enough to last me the rest of my life. That's right, I have a 6-month supply! See what I did there? I guess if you really love me, you could start a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to have Lady Bunny brutally murdered. And not just brutally, but SLOWLY. Happy Birthday to me!

Jackie Beat5. You have been described as a big bitch. And a talented bitch. A shady bitch. A fierce bitch. A sick bitch. Out of everything you've done in your career, was there one or two things that made you feel as though it took more talent than something else? If so, what were those things that took more talent? Well, first of all I will say this: I'm very proud of becoming a successful drag queen before it was socially acceptable. I mean, there were Gay bars - leather bars in particular - that wouldn't even let drag queens in the door! Now they all have their RuPaul's Drag Race viewing parties and every event has a drag queen hosting and/or performing. Don't get me wrong, that's progress! After all, the only difference between a drag queen and a leather queen in their choice of fabric. All I am saying is that back in the day drag only appealed to a very specific kind of drama class/glee club outcast/misfit if you will. Now it's the cool kids! Which, again, is great! And, trust me, no one became a drag queen to make money! Also, me and Sherry Vine and Coco Peru and Varla Jean Merman and Lady Bunny and so many others couldn't just go onto YouTube and watch makeup tutorials.

But I guess what I most proud of is that I am a drag queen who can sing a rock song with a live band, play Bea Arthur as "Dorothy Zbornak" in a stage version of The Golden Girls, put on a 75-minute solo show and write material for people like Margaret Cho and Ross Mathews. I'm very well-rounded! But most of the credit for that goes to Arby's.

6. What is the shadiest thing you've ever done? What is the most fierce thing you've done? I'm honestly not that shady. And I'm sure there are some people who are rolling their eyes right now reading that, but it's true. Anyone who really knows me knows that I am a very loving person. Listen, we all have our moments. And I have certainly opened my big fat mouth and/or posted a Tweet before thinking that I later regretted. Unfortunately, that's the flip-side of being a comedian. What works on stage - saying the first and/or worst thing that pops into your head - doesn't always work in real life. I've had to apologize many times, trust me. That's why I feel for people like Kathy Griffin and Bill Maher. We want our comedians to be outrageous and push the envelope and then when they make a mistake or go too far, we crucify them. It's like getting mad at someone for pulling your hair or calling you a filthy whore during sex. Hey, it was done in the heat of the moment. I went too far. I'm sorry!

And as far as the fiercest thing, I'd have to say refusing to water-down my political beliefs and my unbridled hatred of Donald Trump. On the Drag Queens of Comedy Tour I sang a song that ripped him a new one and occasionally there would be someone in the audience who voted for him who would get upset. In Chicago an older drag queen dripping in rhinestones and wearing a tiara made a big scene and stormed out during my number. I mean, can you imagine?

Jackie Beat7. I can't believe we have done two prior interviews together and I never asked you how did you come up with your persona Jackie Beat? Oh God, it's such a long fucking story! When I first moved to LA way back in the 1980's, I considered myself a serious artist and poet. I used to go to this one open mic poetry night in Hollywood week after week and sign up, but because they always gave B-List celebrities priority, I never got to read my stuff. Well, one week I got so pissed off that I got in drag. I just put on a black turtleneck, a black skirt, black boots, black wig & a black beret. I wrote a "Beatnik" poem - which was essentially just a high-concept stand-up comedy routine. Well, not only did they not let me read my poem, they wouldn't even let me in the club! So I went to WeHo, to the gay bar Rage, and it was a talent contest that night. I decided to read my poem there. They asked me my name for the sign-up list and I just thought of the most Sixties thing I could think of: Jackie Beat. It was part Jack Kerouac, part Jackie Kennedy. Anyway, to make a long story short - TOO LATE! - I won the contest and the rest is history.

8. Since you are the Birthday Bitch! what is your birthday wish for your fans who continue to support you? Just keep laughing. Don't be so touchy and easily offended. And let's please fight the real enemy, not each other. If a comedian says something, take a moment to consider the context. Is it irony? Are they perhaps portraying an ignorant "character?" Are they playing devil's advocate? Or is the only possible conclusion that they are in fact a horrible transphobic racist monster who just accidentally revealed how they truly feel? Do the math. It's NEVER that last one, people.

9. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? Eat 1% less Arby's!

Jackie BeatMore on Jackie:

Jackie Beat is the self-professed bastard child of "Weird" Al Yankovic and buxom Bette Midler. An award-winning drag darling, Jackie Beat has been wowing unsuspecting audiences since 1989.  She has toured with Roseanne Barr -- as the comic legend’s opening act -- including a 7-week run at The New York New York in Las Vegas; written for TV (Fashion Police, Hello Ross, Hype! and others) and collaborated on special material with the like of Roseanne, Rosie O’Donnell and Jennifer Coolidge; appeared in countless TV shows (Sex and the City), Movies (Grief, Wigstock The Movie, Flawless, Adam & Steve) and Off-Broadway hits (Valley of the Dolls, Tell-Tale!). She has been named Best Drag Queen by New York Press and Best Live Performance by HX Magazine. Jackie is also a columnist, lead singer for the electro-rock band, Dirty Sanchez, and the subject of the documentary film My Name is Jackie Beat including commentary from Joan Rivers, Margaret Cho, and Roseanne.

Friday
Jun302017

Call Answered: Marc Jordan Cohen: Daddy Issues, a web series

Marc Jordan Cohen, Photo Credit: Allan MaldonadoAs a spin instructor Marc Jordan Cohen inspires me. I have been taking Marc's class at CYC Fitness on and off for several months and I can guarantee you, not only has he helped me get in shape, he has left with lots of food for thought. When I found out Marc was writing, producing, and starring in his own web series, Daddy Issues, I immediately said to him, we must do an interview to promote this!

Daddy Issues is a web series about three friends who start an escort business. It's a show about resilience, love, family, and learning to accept yourself and those around you for who they are. It's about relationships, connection, and finding hope within each other.

I saw the pilot episode and could not be more passionate about a new project. Daddy Issues is sure to be a great series. After the first episode, I wrote Marc and told him how I wanted more! Marc was already one step ahead of me. He put together this great Kickstarter campaign to get the rest of Season 1 made! So, let's help Marc continue to make his dreams come true and allow me to watch more episodes! Donate to Daddy Issues' Kickstarter here!

For more on Marc be sure to visit http://www.marcjordancohen.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer/writer? I’ve been performing since I was seven years old. I wouldn’t say anyone inspired me because it was something that I had to do. We had a family friend growing up that owned a community theatre, and they were looking for boys for a production of The Princess and the Pea. My dad took me to watch a rehearsal and I knew immediately that I wanted to be on that stage. Ever since that show I knew this was what I was put on this earth to do. As a writer, my mother is my daily inspiration. She is a painter but with metaphors, alliteration and memories. She’s currently working on her own memoir and we often bounce ideas off each other and she is my main editor and critic.

Marc Jordan Cohen, Melanie Porras and Brian Swinney in "Daddy Issues", Photo Credit: Brian Brigantti2. You are developing a web series called Daddy Issues, with each episode being about 10 minutes in length. Why did you want to make your own web series? What do you like about this short format episode? After graduating NYU, I needed to take a break from the theatre world and figure out what I wanted. I went on a few auditions after the summer ended, but I felt unfulfilled. I felt stuck because I don’t have representation and I wasn’t excited about any auditions. So I started writing as my secondary creative outlet. I’ve always been told I should create my own content and I wasn’t going to wait for someone to hand me a job, so I made my own. Daddy Issues is simply what was born out of free writes and my childhood experience.

With the need for instant gratification and the short attention span of my generation, I believe that this short format or web content is the best and most pleasing way to digest entertainment. I mean, look at Vine and Youtube–people would rather watch 6 second to 3 minute videos than an hour drama. Even with Netflix, people are eager to binge and be done with a show as fast as possible.

3. To create a 10 minute episode, how many hours of filming does that come out to? How hard is it to cut those hours into 10 minute episodes? Has there been a scene you really wanted in an episode, but because of time constraints, you just were able to get it in there? It’s crazy to think that one 10 minute episode, at least this first one, was filmed over five days totaling roughly 12-14 hours. I didn’t have to cut anything for time constraint (yet) because I write the scripts to be around 10 pages in screenplay format which comes out to be exactly the length I want it to be.

Melanie Porras, Marc Jordan Cohen and Brian Swinney in "Daddy Issues", Photo Credit: Brian Brigantti4. After watching the pilot episode, I love the complexity of the series, the multi-layer story lines. You did a great job of setting up the characters and their starting points for this series. The end of the pilot episode, definitely left me wanting more. What made you want to create this show? Why did  you title it Daddy Issues? Thank you. That was the goal! Each episode following, especially the first three, leave you with a bit of a twist or question mark over your head. Originally, it was very autobiographical and too personal. It was more of a therapeutic experience for me, and it still is, but I added the plot of an escort business as a layer to remove my life from the show. I titled it Daddy Issues because it immediately has people asking the question, "What is THAT about?" and it’s also the connection that unites "Matt," "Destiny" and "Danny." I wanted to create something that resonated with everyone. We all have daddy issues, as I like to say. But, I also wanted to write something LGBTQ+ focused that doesn’t center on sexuality being a problem. So many shows have the "gay best friend" trope, or the designated "sassy black friend." Gender, race, sexuality, etc. isn’t the focus. Ultimately, this show is about people discovering who they are by connecting to each other and learning from one another.

Melanie Porras, Marc Jordan Cohen and Brian Swinney in "Daddy Issues", Photo Credit: Brian Brigantti5. You will be releasing the first episode of Daddy's Issues on Father's Day. Then you will be doing a crowd-funding campaign to film the rest of the season. Why are you choosing to go the crowd-funding route to make this series? How do you feel the crowd-funding will make the series more special as opposed to seeking out private donations? First off, I’m nervous to be asking anyone to back this project. There’s always that little voice telling you you’re not good enough, that people won’t like what you’re doing, etc. but we all have that voice. So, I had to silence it and just go with my gut. I believe we all can relate to this show in one way or another, and I want everyone to feel a part of this project. Having it funded by people who truly want to see it come to fruition will keep the passion in my passion project. If I just had someone throw money at it, it could possibly be blown up to a mainstream level that: 1. I’m not big enough for and 2. could lose creative license to. It’s also uplifting and validating to see people engage with the series before it exists and to see their excitement of what's to come.

6. Let's play with the title of the show for a bit. What are some of your "Daddy Issues" from childhood, but now as an adult, you were able to resolve? Well, not to go too into it, but they’re definitely addressed in the show. I wasn’t always close with my dad. We didn’t understand each other growing up and I think it had to do in part with me being uncomfortable and confused with my sexuality. But, as I grew up and learned to love myself, I’ve become closer with him and realized there are just some things he won’t ever be able to understand about me, as a gay man. He’s never been marginalized his entire life, as a white cis heterosexual privileged male. I’m not sure I’ve been able to "resolve" the issues I have, but this show is one way I continue to work through them. My awareness of my "issues" are more important than the actual solving of them I believe, otherwise my job as a creative human would be complete, right?

Marc Jordan Cohen, Melanie Porras and Brian Swinney in "Daddy Issues", Photo Credit: Brian Brigantti7. In the first episode, your character seems to be joining the world of escorts. If you were to bring this into reality, in what instance do you think you would sell your body or soul to someone else? Oh wow. Well, personally I’m not sure I would ever physically sell myself. Luckily I’ve never had to contemplate it. I do know people that have had to, and I respect them so much for their shamelessness, strength and tenacity to survive by whatever means necessary. I don’t think I would ever sell my soul because it’s too sacred, and I’d rather struggle for my goals. However, if Jake Gyllenhaal wanted to pay me, I wouldn’t complain.

8. At the end of the pilot I get the feeling some kind of deal is being made, though I don't know what the deal is in the show because so far there is just the pilot episode. If you were to make a deal with the devil, what kind of deal would you make? Jake Gyllenhaal’s hand in marriage. Kidding aside, I’d probably make a deal to always find happiness everywhere I go even through the most painful parts in my life. I know that doesn’t sound like something the devil would provide, but truly all I could ever ask for is to find positivity and hope daily, through all the stress and anxiety of life, I’d take the deal, whatever it costs.

Marc Jordan Cohen, Photo Credit: Alisha Siegel9. There is a great quote during the premiere episode you say at the end of your spin class (which I think you've actually said in your classes). You say, "All great changes are preceded by chaos." What change or changes in your life were first preceded by chaos? One of my favorite Deepak Chopra quotes. I feel like I’m in the chaos right now. It’s partially why I included that quote in the pilot as a reminder to myself to keep pushing through. I'm doing all of this on my own–writing, acting, directing, marketing, scheduling (with some help from a few generous friends), but it feels like a tornado. So, I’m trying to stay focused, meditate and repeat that mantra to myself.

10. In addition to being an actor/writer, you are also a spin instructor. How do you feel acting/writing has influenced your style of instruction and then how does being a spin instructor help your acting/writing? A very interesting question! At the source of my being, I’m a performer. When I’m teaching at Cyc, I’m center stage of the Richard Rodgers theater giving my best performance sometimes 12 times a week. I think the most important thing that they lend to each other is that the show must go on, I must write, I must act, I must fake it till I make it. Even when I don’t feel like teaching, or I’m having a shitty day, I remind myself at least one person is depending on me, or needs me to better their day. I’d say writing and acting is what influences my teaching style because it is self reflective and for my own well being. That’s something I always make sure my riders know–that this is their time, their workout, and to find the joy and excitement rather than punish themselves or do it for anyone else. The most important relationship you have is the on with yourself and as Mama Ru says, "If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gon’ love somebody else?"

11. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? My patience. Like I said before, my generation is all about instant gratification and I’m always trying to get to the end result, but I need to be better at living in the moment, working through the struggle, and bettering myself one step at a time. I find I am happier when I focus on the one task in front of me rather than inducing myself with the stress of what’s going to happen 3 months from now.

Marc Jordan Cohen, Photo Credit: Brian BriganttiMore on Marc:

Marc Jordan Cohen recently graduated from NYU Tisch School of the Arts’ New Studio on Broadway with a BFA in Drama. He’s been performing since he was seven years old and has always known his purpose was to lead a creative life and connect with other people. From the serene shores of Newport Beach, California, Marc always strived for the fast pace of New York City his entire life. There’s an energy fueled by the determination of the city’s people that lend him to feel more motivated and excited to create. Currently Marc can be found performing on a different kind of stage instructing indoor cycling at Cyc Fitness. When he’s not on the bike, he’s writing, creating, and planning what’s next. Right now, it’s his new web series Daddy Issues. He hopes to one day marry–I mean, work alongside Jake Gyllenhaal.

Friday
Jun162017

Call Answered: Doug DeVita: The Phillie Trilogy at Fresh Fruit Festival

Doug DeVitaI first came to know Doug DeVita when he was the Marketing Director of the Abingdon Theatre Company. He invited to me Abingdon's production of Marathon '33 where I met special guest Lane Bradbury, the original "Dainty June" in Gypsy starring Ethel Merman. Lane seemed to be the thread that kept us going, reuniting us for Lane Bradbury: Let Me Entertain You, Again which Doug wrote. I loved that show and am so excited to see Doug's latest play The Phillie Trilogy which will be part of this year's Fresh Fruit Festival July 19-23.

The Phillie Trilogy is about Phillie growing up gay in the "fabulous" 70s which was no picnic for the precocious "Phillie McDougal." Through nuns, priests, bullying classmates, parents – and years later the realization his best friend may not be the person he thought she was – he lived to tell the tales, with results no one bargained for. Including him.

The Phillie Trilogy will play in the 2017 Fresh Fruit Festival at The Wild Project (195 East 3rd Street, between Avenue A & B) on July 19 at 6:30pm, July 22 at 4:30pm, and July 23 at 3:30pm. Click here for tickets!

For more on Doug be sure to visit https://www.dougdevitaplays.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter!

1. I first came to know you when you worked at Abingdon Theatre Company as their Director of Marketing, but now you have switched gears and started writing more plays. Who or what inspired you to become a playwright? There were many roads I took to becoming a playwright; in addition to my career in the advertising world – which paid the bills – I was always concurrently involved in theatre. I’ve acted, I’ve directed, I was Artistic Director of the now-defunct Westside Repertory Theatre for a brief stint, and I even wrote reviews for OOBR (Off-Off Broadway Review) for a few years (until I realized I hated the person it was turning me into). It was while I was writing for OOBR that I developed a friendship with Carrie Libling, the head of Vital Children’s Theater, and she’s the one who cajoled, prodded, and pushed me into writing my first produced play – I wrote the book for a musical based on the enchanting Charles and Mary Lamb prose version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest; in the early 19th century, the Lambs wrote adaptations for children of most of the Bard’s plays, and they’re truly delightful. After the success of The Tempest, Vital commissioned another one from me (As You Like It), which was another success for them. I was then invited by another writer to collaborate on some more "adult" fare; I haven’t stopped writing since.

2. Your latest play, The Phillie Trilogy is going to be part of the 2017 Fresh Fruit Festival. Why did you want this show to be part of this festival? I’ve generally avoided festivals in the past; they’re a lot of work, they cost a lot of money, and I hate, loathe, and despise self-producing. But I’m a submission junkie, and last year I sent Fresh Fruit the script for my play The Fierce Urgency Of Now, not expecting anything. Well, it was accepted into the festival, and after a lot of hemming and hawing on my part (and some more prodding, this time from my friend Bob Ost, who’d done the Fresh Fruit Festival already and had a very positive experience) I decided, "What the hell, let’s do it." And it was a dream experience. They’re a smaller festival, so there’s a lot of attention paid to details, they’re a wonderfully warm, human group of people to work with, and the tone set by Executive Director Louis Lopardi and Artistic Director Liz Thaler invites you to really feel like you’re a part of something magical. There was no question in my mind – or in the mind of my brilliant director, Dennis Corsi ­– that we would submit The Phillie Trilogy this year. After several readings, and having won Scrap Mettle Arts Emerging Playwrights Program’s inaugural competition last year, Dennis and I felt it was time to see Phillie on his feet, and Fresh Fruit was the perfect place for this first steps. Again, there were no expectations we’d even be accepted, but we’re thrilled that we were.

"The Phillie Trilogy" 2017 Fresh Fruit Festival cast, Front: Maeve Press (Barbie), Daniel G. Cunningham (Keith/Jude), Bonale Fambrini (Phillie). Back: Carole Monferdini (Older Grace/Lina), Karen Irwin (Younger Grace/Barbara), Terri Kelsey (Veronica/Sheila), David Sabella (Pete/Philip).3. The Phillie Trilogy tells the tale of budding writer "Phillie McDougal" and the struggles he went through growing up gay in the "fabulous" 70s including the realization his best friend may not be the person he thought she was. How do you think "Phillie's" realization about his friend will affect his future friendships? Not a clue. The play ends with that question, actually; I’ve been asked many times what happens to "Philip" and "Barbara," and my answer is always the same: "Not a clue. What’s your fantasy?"

4. What do you think made "Phillie" able to survive all the hurt he encountered throughout his life to keep going as opposed to giving up? His wit. And his ability to realize that even though he had a contentious relationship with his parents – who definitely raised him with a barrage of mixed signals – they ultimately gave him, albeit reluctantly on the part of his father, the freedom to become who he was meant to become.

5. What were some struggles you went through growing up gay? I was bullied mercilessly in high school; I had lit cigarettes tossed at me, I was locked into lockers, I was followed on the street by schoolmates shouting taunts at me, the gym teacher called me a tub of shit in front of the entire school during an assembly…After I graduated, I left that school and never looked back. It’s interesting to me that I have a lot of friends from grammar school – kids I haven’t seen in over 40 years – who’ve looked me up on Facebook and we’ve reconnected, but very few from high school have sought me out, nor I them. And I’m absolutely fine with that.

"The Phillie Trilogy" ​Scrap Mettle Arts Reading, October 2016 Front: Zachary Clarence as "Phillie McDougal," and Kevin Ligon as "Pete McDougal" Back: Diane Chen as "Barbie," Karen Irwin as "Veronica McDougal"6. What was the most "fabulous" thing about growing up in the 70s? The Broadway shows and performers I got to see: the original casts of A Chorus Line and Chicago, Angela Lansbury in Gypsy and Sweeney Todd, The Andrews Sisters in Over Here!, Madeline Kahn in On The Twentieth Century, Irene Worth and a very young Meryl Streep in The Cherry Orchard, Frank Langella in Dracula, George C. Scott and the brilliant Jack Gilford in Sly Fox...so many wonderful experiences! (Such a gay answer! HAHAHA!) I also loved the grittiness of New York City; many of my relatives were shocked my mother allowed a 14 year old to go into Manhattan by himself, but she understood that the city, and seeing Broadway shows, was my refuge. Being a Manhattan native herself (she was born and spent her early childhood in Hell’s Kitchen), she passed on her street smarts to me, and was confident I could take care of myself. I miss that city. Mostly I miss being able to navigate quickly through Times Square. But there was something about the scrappy, dirty, slightly dangerous New York City of the 70s that was giddily exciting, something that’s sadly missing in the somewhat sanitized yet far more dangerous version we’re living in now. New York in the 70s was like one of those seedy but entertaining carnivals: you had to be careful but if you knew how to negotiate around some of the smarmier aspects, you were fine; today it feels more like that candy-coated, brightly-colored, but terrifying island "Pinocchio" barely escapes from in Disney’s animated classic.

7. If Doug today could tell Doug of his youth three pieces of advice, what would they be? You’re better than you realize, you’re smarter than you realize, and listen to your mother. Yes, she’s a pain in the ass, but you’re more like her than you want to admit, and deep down you know she’s right, dammit.

Doug DeVita, director James Phillip Gates, and the 2017 staged-reading cast of "The Phillie Trilogy" produced by The Great Griffon / Seeking The Queer Voice Reading Series at 13th St. Rep 8. If this show is based upon any of your life events, what would you say today to those you bullied you in school? How do you react now to someone who may say an off comment about being gay? 

1: Yes, that’s you in the play. [Gives a "Bronx Cheer"]

2: Fuck off. (My husband is convinced I’m going to be shot some day).

9. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing The Phillie Trilogy? Since this has the word trilogy in the title, will there be two more plays after this? Second question first: It’s actually not a "trilogy" in the strictest sense; although I wrote the play in a traditional three-act structure, only the first part, titled Checking The Basement For Leaks, can stand alone as a short play; indeed, in that format it has had productions in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Washington State. The title actually refers to the books the adult "Philip" has written; in order to clarify this (and inspired by the inspired graphic design created by Christina D’Angelo), I’m mulling a title change to Phillie’s Trilogy after this production closes. So no, there won’t be any more plays with these characters.…For the time being, at least.

What do I hope audiences come away with? I hate this question.…I want them to be entertained, first and foremost…I want them to laugh their asses off one minute and then gasp in recognition the next…I want them to have a theatrical experience that allows for a spirited post-show discussion about what they’ve just seen, perhaps over a few martinis or beers...that’s the best answer I can give without falling down that rabbit hole of self-important playwright pretension.

10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? I try every day to be a little less judgmental, a little more forgiving, and a little less controlling. Coming from a long line of judgmental Catholic control freaks, let me tell you: It’s a bitch.

Doug DeVitaMore on Doug:

A member of the Dramatists Guild of America, Doug’s play The Fierce Urgency Of Now was produced at the 2016 Fresh Fruit festival, where it won four Fresh Fruit Awards of Distinction, including Outstanding Play, Outstanding Production for director Dennis Corsi, and two Outstanding Supporting Performance awards. Other work includes The Phillie Trilogy, which won Scrap Mettle Arts Inaugural Emerging Playwrights Program competition, and was chosen to inaugurate Great Griffon’s Seeking The Queer Voice reading series in January 2017; The Gruesomely Merry Adventures of NELL DASH, An Irrepressibly Sensible Capitalist With A Vengeance (Winner of two Winterfest Competition ’17 Awards: Best Set Design, and a Best Director nod to Dennis Corsi); and Just A Rumor (co-written with Gary Lyons) which was a semi-finalist at the Eugene O’Neill Playwright’s Conference and has had readings at New York’s Abingdon Theatre Company and London’s Menier Chocolate Factory. His ten-minute play, Checking The Basement for Leaks (the first play in The Phillie Trilogy) has been performed at the Gallery Players Black Box Festival in New York, The Driftwood Players Short Works Festival in Seattle, Ramapo College in New Jersey, and The Warner International Playwrights Festival in Connecticut. He has also collaborated with actress Lane Bradbury (the original "Dainty June" in Gypsy, starring Ethel Merman) on her one-woman show Lane Bradbury: Let Me Entertain You, Again, which was performed at the Strasberg Institute in Los Angeles, and at Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York.

Doug belongs to both The 9th Floor Playwrights Collaborative and The 36th Street Writers Block (formerly Abingdon Theatre Playwrights Group 1) in Manhattan.

He has also worked as an Art director/Copywriter for such advertising agencies as Grey Global Group, J. Walter Thompson, and N.W. Ayer, and was the marketing director for Abingdon Theatre Company for four years. He is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Advertising Design Department at F.I.T. in New York. Please produce his work so this part of his life can become a (sometimes) pleasant memory.