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Entries in Gay (52)

Thursday
Sep282017

Call Answered: Sam Greisman: "Dinner with Jeffrey" at NewFest LGBT Film Festival

Sam GreismanSometimes a tweet by Sally Field, one of your idols, about her son's film, leads to your next interview. "October 21st. My son's (@SAMGREIS) funny, touching short is playing at @NewFestNYC. Go see it if you can!" After I took a look at the film's description, I called & Sam Greisman answered.

Sam Greisman is a rising film writer/director. As excited as he was I asked for an interview, I'm even more delighted to provide a platform to promote his film Dinner with Jeffrey, which he wrote & directed about a teen who's struggling after coming out when his gay uncle tries to teach him about the "gay lifestyle."

It was great talking with Sam about this film, learning about his creative process, coming out struggles, and so much more!

Dinner with Jeffrey will be playing in NewFest, NYC's premiere LGBT film festival on Saturday, October 21 at 11am in their Shorts Program: Boy Shorts at Cinépolis Chelsea (260 West 23rd Street, between 7th & 8th Avenue). Click here for tickets!

For more on Sam follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a writer/producer/director? Well, my whole family is in the business in some form or other. So I'm not sure if one individual person inspired me to be in film. It's really just all I know. What I grew up with. The only way I know how to live, basically.

2. This October, your short film, Dinner with Jeffrey, is part of NewFest, New York's LBGT Film festival. What made you want to write Dinner with Jeffrey as a short as opposed to a feature film? I wrote and directed Dinner with Jeffrey as part of my coursework at Columbia Film School - I graduate in May. So it wasn't really an option to make this as anything other than a short, that was really just how the concept came about.

3. Why did you want it to be part of NewFest? What do you feel this film festival will offer your short that another one might not? I know NewFest has a really great reputation among the LGBT community. They show a lot of great stuff and I'm really just glad to be included with all the other work. I'm pretty new to getting my stuff out there, so any opportunity, especially in New York is huge.

Owen Campbell in "Dinner with Jeffrey"4. Dinner with Jeffrey is about a young teen who is struggling to fit in after just coming out when his uncle tries to teach him about the "gay lifestyle." What was the most challenging part of the short to write and was was the easiest? Well, the short is based on something that happened to me shortly after I came out at 19, so I guess most of the dinner stuff was the easiest, but taking reality and turning it into something that felt like a story was definitely the challenge.

5. What did you learn about your own coming out experience from writing this short that you didn't know while you were going through it? I'm not sure that I learned this while making it, but I definitely think it's the message of the film and I learned it as I was coming out, which is that coming out doesn't necessarily mean one's own work is done. There's still a lot of figuring out and messiness happening. That's kind of what the short is about.

Reed Birney and Javier Spivey in "Dinner with Jeffrey"6. Looking back, I think, one of the funniest things my dad said to me, though at the time, this was him processing what I just told him, my dad said, "So you would rather look at a picture of a naked man instead of a naked woman?" and I said, "Yes." He said, "Ok." What was something, that looking back, you felt was the funniest thing one of your parents said to you after you came out, but at the time it was their way of processing that you were gay? I think my parents processed the fact that I was gay by the time I was five years old, so I kinda wish I could hear what they were saying to each other and my brothers about it then, because by the time I came out, they were more like "Ok, great, good job, lets go eat." Although when I was twenty, my grandmother did ask me if I had "taken a lover yet" and when I told her "Eww, please don't use that word," she said "why that's what all my friends called it when were in our 20s" (which was sometime in the 40s), which I thought was pretty cool.

7. How do you feel this short will help teens with their own coming out? Ha. I'm not sure that this film will help teens with their coming out, honestly. I think it's something someone should watch after they come out. Maybe future films of mine will deal with the actual coming out process and all that entails.

Javier Spivey and Owen Campbell in "Dinner with Jeffrey"8. Like the main character, "Oliver," who feels he must change who he is to fit in with the gays, was there a time in your life when you felt you had to change who you were to fit in? When did you realize you are perfect just the way you are? I definitely remember feeling VERY conflicted when I was in my teens. Realizing I was gay and really the only kids I knew that were out, didn't share my interests and I felt like I had to fit into some kind of stereotype because I was gay and I couldn't just be myself. I also think the early 2000s were such a different time than now, which is saying something since it hasn't been that long at all. I'm not sure if I ever felt perfect just the way I am, but only cuz I am naturally a very anxious person.

Owen Campbell and Javier Spivey in "Dinner with Jeffrey"9. If you had to describe Dinner with Jeffrey with a Madonna, Cher, Lady Gaga, Dolly Parton, & Cyndi Lauper song, what songs of theirs would you use? Wow. I don't think any of them have songs that basically just mean, everyone is the worst and life sucks. But if they did I would choose that one, cuz that's the best way to describe the film ha. I'm sure Gaga will get around to a song like that eventually. If she gets to like, a Joni Mitchell phase or something.

10. Since the short is called Dinner with Jeffrey, if could you have dinner with 5 of your favorite gay icons/influencers, who would you invite? What would you serve? And some would say, most importantly, what would you wear? Tough. Truman Capote, Laura Dern, Jane Fonda, Reese Witherspoon (she's on her way to being a gay icon) and Troye Sivan (cuz I have a crush on him). I wouldn't serve food. All booze and weed.

Sam GreismanMore on Sam:

29-year-old Sam Greisman grew up in West Los Angeles and has lived in New York City for the last nine years, since he moved there to attend undergrad at NYU. After years of running from the pressure of the family business, every member of his immediate family is in someway involved with television or filmmaking in some capacity, he discovered that storytelling is inescapably in his DNA.

He is currently in his thesis years as a Screenwriting/Directing concentrate at Columbia University. So far his scripts and films have dealt with his experiences as a young gay man, a very cynical young gay man and his feelings of not fitting in with the gay community.

Wednesday
Sep272017

Call Redialed: Andy Halliday: "Up The Rabbit Hole" at Theater for the New City

Andy Halliday, Photo Credit: Kevin CristaldiIt has been almost a decade since I first saw Andy Halliday Charles Busch's Times Square Angel at Theater for the New City. Over the years I've gotten to know Andy through the interviews we've done together. But this interview, about Andy's new play Up The Rabbit Hole, is the most raw & vulnerable I've seen Andy. With love, hope, and bravery, Andy really pulls back the curtain giving us a rare view into his life, both past and present, including the struggles and successes he has gone through.

Up The Rabbit Hole, directed by G.R. Johnson, is the story of a young gay man who, desperate to find answers to questions that consume his life as an adopted child, becomes obsessed with tracking down and connecting with his birth mother. His lack of identity in these formative years has led to a life of careless sexual exploits and reckless drug use. When he finally finds his mother, the answers he has been searching for his entire life finally give him the courage to combat his drug addiction and climb out of the darkness and Up The Rabbit Hole.

Up The Rabbit Hole is playing at Theater for the New City through October 15 only! Click here for tickets!

1. It's so great to catch up with you Andy on your new show Up The Rabbit Hole, a story of a young man who, desperate to find answers to questions that consume his life as an adopted child, becomes obsessed with tracking down and connecting with his birth mother. This production draws from your own life experience. What made now the right time to write such a personal piece of theatre? I love plays about dysfunction. If they’re well written, and they’re written from the heart, I identify with them. I learn something about myself. This play, Up The Rabbit Hole, has been in me for a long time. And after Nothing But Trash, I felt more confident as a playwright, and I also wanted to write something more naturalistic. This idea gave me the opportunity to do that.

2. What did you learn about yourself from writing this show? I learned that I get upset over the little things in life, the little things that in the long run aren’t worth getting upset about. I learned that I created a lot of stress for myself trying to be perfect. Always assuming that being imperfect kept me from fitting in, when in all reality, I just didn’t want to fit in. I wanted to isolate and protect myself from everyone and everything. I had a million excuses as to why I wasn’t successful as an actor. I blamed my failure on everyone else, rather than looking within, and seeing how I had sabotaged myself because of my lack of self-esteem. I was creating the failure, and to escape those feelings of inadequacy, I took to artificial substances to make myself feel better. But coming down from those "highs" only made my depression and self-hatred worse. I learned from writing this play, that I’m a completely different person than the one I was twenty-six years ago, and that I’m very grateful.

The cast of Andy Halliday's "Up The Rabbit Hole," Quinn Coughlin, Andrew Glaszek, Tyler Jones, Laralu Smith and Peter Gregus, , Photo Credit: Kevin CristaldiQuinn Couglin in Andy Halliday's "Up The Rabbit Hole", Photo Credit: Kevin Cristaldi3. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing Up The Rabbit Hole? To be more gentle with themselves. More forgiving of people who have substance abuse issues. But also an understanding of how to deal with the addict. Understanding the meaning of "tough love" and how it can help the person you care about get themselves into some sort of program. To love one’s self, warts and all. And there’s no such thing as a perfect person.

4. What has it been like to watch this cast bring your story to life? G.R. Johnson and I have been blessed with an amazing group of actors who are helping to bring a story of my past to life again. This play is pushing a lot of buttons in me watching rehearsals every night. I think sometimes if I got to do my life all over again, if I had known better, would I have gone down this path? Well, if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be the person I am now. And I like who I am, and I love the people that are in my life. I had to go through this awful time, the lowest point in my whole life, to begin developing self-esteem. It is so good to see how much my friends care about me. I really cherish them and my new sober life. But as I said, this play has been a very emotional experience, and no matter how much I tell myself "it’s in the past," and it’s just a play about a young man searching through life to find the answers to who he is and how he got here, it’s still tough.  The lead actor Tyler Jones, who’s so wonderful, said to me after a run through, "How did you live this life!  I’m exhausted!"

Quinn Couglin in Andy Halliday's "Up The Rabbit Hole", Photo Credit: Kevin CristaldiPeter Gregus and Tyler Jons in Andy Halliday's "Up The Rabbit Hole", Photo Credit: Kevin Cristaldi5. When were you at your loneliest? I’ve always been lonely. It’s just something so ingrained in me. But you deal with it, by of course reaching out to friends and family. It’s easier said than done, for me at least. I’m a loner and I’m very protective of myself. I’ve built up walls that have taken years to break down. I take a long time to trust others, due in part to my chaotic upbringing. But a day at a time I’m able to open up and let people in a little bit at a time. I’m surrounded by such loving friends and family. I’m extremely lucky and grateful for the people in my life. And perhaps one day, a door will open in that wall, to let in "Mr. Right." Who knows.

6. When did you first decide you wanted to find your birth mother? How long did it take to find her? Was the meeting everything you wanted? Did you stay in touch with your birth mother after finding her? I’ve always known I was adopted. My adoptive parents believed that it shouldn’t be a secret. So it was an obsession of mine. I felt that because I was adopted I was always an outsider. My parents loved me more than life itself and did anything and everything for me but I felt like I was bought. My mother registered me with a free search agency in CT. I was working Off-Broadway at the time, and was in the beginnings of my habit, so I forgot about it. But I don’t want to give away what’s in the play.

And yes meeting my birth mother was everything I hoped for. It was surreal, quite unbelievable. She was a lovely, gentle woman and we stayed in touch till she passed away. She gave me a beautiful china rose, which I still have. It’s funny that it was a rose, because my adopted mother’s name was Rose.

Tyler Jones, Laralu Smith, and Andrew Glaszek in Andy Halliday's "Up The Rabbit Hole", Photo Credit: Kevin CristaldiQuinn Couglin and Tyler Jones in Andy Halliday's "Up The Rabbit Hole", Photo Credit: Kevin Cristaldi7. As a result of you finding your birth mother, you were able to combat your drug addiction and climb out of the darkness. What was the hardest part about kicking your drug addiction? What has been the best part about being clean? The hardest part was giving up a drug that gave me a false sense of security, happiness, self-esteem, courage and one that made me feel sexy. All of this could have been done with just a couple of bumps, but by the time I went into rehab, I was really broken, and it took months to get everything out of my system. It messes up your endorphins - the thing in your brain that makes you feel better - and putting artificial stuff in your system screws with these endorphins, and now they need that substance to work.

The best thing about getting clean was that I got my life back. I have my artistic career again, but it’s different now. I own it. My life and the way I deal with things is my way, and that attitude attracts positive, artistic people. Like my dear friend and collaborator G.R. Johnson. None of my new success as a writer would have happened without him. He’s my rock, and so talented, and he makes me laugh, and laugh. He’s one of the funniest people I know.

8. Since you felt a lack of identity, during your formative years, when would you say you found who you were? I began to find myself after I began to get sober. I had to face my demons head on. It gave me strength, and my new friends loved me and enabled me to love myself. But it took years, and I’m still not completely there. Maybe I never will be, but my life is much better than it ever was.

9. What would Andy of today tell Andy of yesterday? Love yourself. Be kind to yourself. See who your real friends are. Everything works out the way it’s supposed to. Don’t try to control everything. Life is as wonderful as you make it. You only got one honey….

Andy HallidayMore on Andy:

Andy Halliday was part of Charles Busch’s and Kenneth Elliott’s Theatre-In-Limbo Company from 1984 to 1991. He originated roles in the Off-Broadway productions of Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, Psycho Beach Party, Times Square Angel, Red Scare On Sunset and The Lady In Question, for which he won the "Scene Stealer of the Month Award" from Playbill, and Hirschfeld created a caricature of him in the role as "Lotte" for the New York Times. He wrote and acted in I Can’t Stop Screaming in 1991. In 2004, he formed Pocketwatch Films, Inc. and has written, directed, and produced six films. It is his mission to make films about gay men and women, and explore the realities of what happens beyond "coming out." Dealing candidly with sex, drug addiction, and aging, he endeavors to make films with heart, humor, and honesty that are also incredibly sexy. In 2011, he was featured in the Off-Broadway comedy Devil Boys From Beyond, directed by Kenneth Elliott. And in 2014, he wrote and starred in Nothing But Trash, which was produced at Theater For The New City and directed by G.R. Johnson. He hopes to continue to create theatre that explores important issues within the queer community.

Tuesday
Sep052017

Call Redialed: Sir Ari Gold: "POP OUT" at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

Sir Ari GoldIt's so great to catch up with Sir Ari Gold, Billboard Top 10 award winning recording artist. I have been a fan of Ari's since the 1980s, when he was a child actor voicing characters on Jem and the Holograms and The Cabbage Patch Kids. It's been a real joy watching Ari's star rise. I always love interviewing Ari because he goes in deep, telling it like it is.

This time around, Ari & I discuss his new one-man show POP OUT, about becoming the first openly gay chart-topping pop singer-songwriter. In the 80’s, Ari Gold, a closeted orthodox Jewish boy from The Bronx, is discovered singing at his brother’s bar mitzvah…setting the stage for becoming America’s First Openly Gay Pop Star. From doing child voices for Cabbage Patch Kids and Jem and the Holograms to performing with Diana Ross and RuPaul, Ari's paradoxical, emotional, musical memoir tells a story of family & religion, sex & pop, and the search for a community of one’s own. When a community renders you invisible, there’s only one choice: POP OUT.

POP OUT will play for one night only on Sunday, September 17 at 7pm at The Laurie Beechman Theatre in NYC (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue, in the basement of the West Bank Cafe). Click here for tickets!

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

1. Last time we spoke in 2012 you were premiering your one-man show Bashert at NYMF. Now, this September you are coming to the Laurie Beechman Theatre with POP OUT, a brand-new show about becoming the first openly gay chart-topping pop singer-songwriter. Did performing Bashert inspire POP OUT or were you working on POP OUT already? Bashert was autobiographical, as is POP OUT, and both traced my journey from being a child performer to being an openly gay pop singer. But POP OUT is way more personal and I discovered why I am telling this story right now. The show is really about community and the ways in which we both need community and yet are often injured most by our own communities that reject us-sometimes even the "community" that is our own families.

It took a long time and many rewrites to discover and it also took life happening. Someone I loved very much had to die in order for me to be able to write about the relationship. And I have David Drake to thank for getting the piece to this place, as well as a reading I did for New York Theater Workshop. What I didn’t anticipate was the turn of events in our government that make the show that much more relevant.

2. Like me, you grew up in the 80s. The acceptance of gays was very different back then than it is now. When did you first realize you were gay? How long after this discovery did you come out to your family? My awareness of my gayness was a process that started as soon as I can remember being alive. It mostly manifested in me liking things only girls were supposed to like and only became about sex and an attraction to men later on. I came out to to my family as soon as I was able to leave the confines of the orthodox Jewish community which was in college. I wrote an 18-page handwritten college ruled coming out letter with additional reading materials stapled to the back, handed them each a copy and read it to them outloud. I talk about it in the show.

Sir Ari Gold3. As a gay man, navigating his way through the music world, how do you feel being closeted growing up affected your work or the choices you made along the way? When did you decide to come out in the music business? What happened that made you go, "Now is the time to tell the world?" Getting politicized in college at NYU, reading queer theory, my relationship with Jose Munoz, it all really helped solidify the kind of artist I wanted to be. I knew I had to be the kind of openly gay pop singer I didn’t have growing up. But I don’t think I grasped how many gay men who were older than me, who had survived AIDS, also needed to see a proud out young gay man. And then there were gays in the industry who I believe were too traumatized to appreciate and understand what I was doing—especially those in the music industry. They were scared that the world was still not ready. All I knew is that I was ready. The chutzpah of youth!

4. After you came out, what fell into place for you that you were hoping would? Came out of the closet or came out as an artist? The fact that the LOGO network debuted my video during the commercial breaks for the launch of their network definitely helped bring me to a larger audience. There’s nothing like TV and we didn’t have YouTube then! After I came out of the closet I was hoping I’d have hot sex with men and that has definitely happened!

5. If you were growing up today/just starting out in your career, what barriers/challenges that you faced, do you feel you would not have had to go through because of the world we live in? Well, now because of YouTube and social media, it would have been even easier to get my music out. But early internet did help me by having arigold.com in the 90’s and even myspace! Back in 2005 I worked with a book publisher to get my CD in a coffee table book so that I can get my music out in stores cause there wasn’t any other way except to buy a CD in a store. I also think with artists like Sam Smith, Adam Lambert and viral sensations like Steve Grand, and quite frankly because of the barriers that I worked so hard to break myself, we are more comfortable with the idea of an openly gay artist. Although we still have a huge lack of representation in music. Also, so many more people know that homophobia is wrong thanks to greater representation on TV and such. When I was doing my thing, there really was no one else doing it in the pop world and I still often don’t get the credit for that. It even used to say I was the first American openly gay artist to be out from the beginning of my career on Wikipedia and then someone took it down. It was a whole debate on whether it was true or not. I loved it. I also loved that no one could prove that it wasn’t true.

Sir Ari Gold6. While you hid your sexuality growing up, did you feel you had to hide or play down the fact you were an Orthodox Jew as well? How did being so religious come into play, like, did you sacrifice your religion to work on Shabbat or one of the Jewish holidays? As a kid my parents turned down a lot of work that took place on Shabbat. I remember my Mom taking me on the subway during a holiday for a job, I think it was Sukkoth, and it felt very rebellious and sinful. You can say I received some mixed messages regarding the importance of religion over show business. I did take my Yarmulke off for jobs and tucked in my tzitzit. I was also considered too ethnic to be on camera which you’ll learn about in the show from my actual parents.

7. You've had quite a ride on your journey in pop music. As a kid you were doing child voices for The Cabbage Patch Kids and Jem and the Holograms to performing with Diana Ross & RuPaul. Everything we do in life leads us to where we are, but do you feel there was one thing in particular on your journey that if it did not happen, you would not be where you are? Well I think I’d be a lot further in my career had HBO not stolen my brand with the show Entourage! But I am where I am not because I've ever had a big break or I’ve doing something that made the zeitgeist. It's because I keep working, making music, telling my story and putting it out there and allow it to touch whoever its meant to. It’s what I was put here on earth to do. I’m lucky enough to know that.

8. Now that you are an adult, how do religion and sexuality come into play in your professional life? How do you navigate this business differently than before? I am not religious anymore. That doesn’t mean I don’t have reverence for many of its traditions and rituals. And I also have reverence for breaking the traditional and subverting a ritual. Like wearing teffelin naked in "My Favorite Religion."

9. I'm in the midst of my writing my own one-man show all about my dating life. I feel that show will help release my demons/ghosts of my past relationships. What do you feel writing this show released for you? I realized that I cannot contain my story only in the form of a long form pop record - a form I still love despite a singles driven that’s been going on way too long! Writing and performing this show is Madonna "Blond Amebition level "cathartic" for me every time. I learn so much.

10. What would Ari Gold today tell Ari Gold of yesterday? Yesterday as in Monday? Yesterday as in my 30’s? My 20’s? My teens? My childhood? I’d probably tell them all to forgive myself for the shame and guilt I felt about stuff that was never my fault.

11. I have a new segment in my interviews called "I Can See Clearly Now" where I like to clear up misconceptions about people. What do you feel is the biggest misconception out there about you that you would like to shoot down here and now? I was doing a phone interview and this journalist asked me the same question. And then she said, "You know like people who think you’re stuck up." OK, then, I guess people say that! I've read some nasty comments online that I know I shouldn’t read too. But I know how much feedback I get for being a good kind hearted person especially from the people I care most about, so I know what they say about me can’t be true. I’m an Aquarius, so we can be a bit hard to read. RuPaul always says I couldn’t hurt a fly. I hope that’s a compliment!

12. 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? Kindness and appreciation toward my apparent imperfections.

Sir Ari GoldMore on Ari:

Award Winning Billboard Top 10 Recording Artist SIR ARI GOLD was born and raised in an Orthodox Jewish household in the Bronx with his brothers Elon and Steven. His show-business career started at age six when he recorded a CBS Children’s Record Pot Belly Bear: Songs & Stories and made his national TV debut on the Joe Franklin Show. He went on to sing on over 400 TV jingles including voices for characters on Jem and the Holograms, Cabbage Patch Kids, and singing with Diana Ross on her Swept Away album. Ari also recorded many Jewish children’s music like 613 Torah Avenue and Uncle Moishe. He released his eponymous debut album in 2000, receiving critical attention from Billboard, Hits and Vibe for being the first openly gay pop singer who was out in his music from the beginning of his career. He’s toured Europe, Canada and in over 50 cities across the US alongside Chaka Khan, Debbie Harry, and Cyndi Lauper. Ari holds a "Visionary Award" from the LGBT Academy Of Recording Arts and he was Knighted by the Imperial Court Of New York. "Make My Body Rock" from his fourth studio album Between the Spirit & the Flesh debuted at #1 on Logo making him the artist with the most #1’s since the networks launch in 2005. His Billboard Top 10 and #1 Sirius/XM Radio dance hit, "Where The Music Takes You" was voted Logo’s #1 Video of the Year and is the Grand Prize Winner (in all genres) of the 12th Annual USA Songwriting Competition. "I’m All About You" co-written with hitmaker Desmond Child and released by Universal Records saw Ari perform on the legendary Top Of The Pops and gave him another Top 10 hit. Ari’s coffee table book and remix CD, released in 25 countries, includes contributions by Boy George and RuPaul. Ari is an Independent Music Award Winner (Best R&B Song, "Love Wasn’t Built In a Day" featuring Dave Koz), a 2x Outmusic Award Winner, one of the 25 People That Make Us Proud by Metro Source, one of Genre’s Men We Love, and Out Magazine's Out100 Most Influential.

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.