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Entries in Gay (45)

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.

Wednesday
Jun072017

Call Answered: Robbie Rozelle: "Songs From Inside My Locker" at Feinstein's/54 Below

Robbie RozelleFor many people, high school sucks. It was some of the worst years of my life from the teasing to my head being hit into a metal poll in the gym locker room, I couldn't wait to get out of dodge. The best part about adulthood is looking back to see how far you've come and for Robbie Rozelle, he has come a long way! He has directed & written or co-written sold-out shows for Tony nominees Kate Baldwin (Finian's Rainbow) & Melissa Errico (Amour), Elena Shaddow (The Visit), Nikka Graff Lanzarone (Women on the Verge), RuPaul's Drag Race season 7 contestant Mrs. Kasha Davis and frequent collaborator Jessica Vosk ("Elephaba" on the Wicked tour), and this September 9, Robbie will be directing my comedic cabaret debut called Dates of Discontent at The Laurie Beechman Theatre!

But before that happens, Robbie will be making his solo cabaret debut with Songs From Inside My Locker this Friday, June 9 at Feinstein's/54 Below (254 West 54th Street) at 9:30pm! Wandering his high school hallways, Robbie would often find himself shoved in a locker for singing from The Rink too loudly. With his signature wit and style, Robbie grabs the tiger by the tail in a hilarious romp of the songs that got him through a blistering high school experience, featuring a treasure trove of songs ranging from Kander & Ebb to Carrie. Songs From Inside My Locker is the balm to the chaos of these crazy times. Click here for tickets!

For more on Robbie be sure to visit https://www.robbierozelle.com and follow him @divarobbie on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!

Robbie Rozelle, Photo Credit: Dianna Bush Photography1. This June you are making your debut solo show at Feinstein's/54 Below with Songs From Inside My Locker. After directing shows for Jessica Vosk, Melissa Errico, Kate Baldwin and Nikka Graff Lanzarone, what made now the right time to make your solo debut? It seems that the shows I wrote/co-wrote for them (in addition to directing) all had my fingerprints on them, specifically the jokes. After this past election, I just decided that I wasn’t going to let anything scare me, including getting up in front of a crowded room of 150 people, who have all paid a great deal to get in, and sing 15 songs.

2. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? Honestly, it was seeing all those movie musicals – The Wizard of Oz had a profound effect on me. I miss those yearly airings where you gathered with your family around the TV for an event. I guess the closest things to that now are the live musicals like The Wiz and Grease. And with social media, the family has grown rather large.

3. Your musical direction is by Josh D. Smith. As a director/writer yourself, do you find it difficult to let someone else direct your own show? Do you ever try to give your "director" input? I’ve known Josh for over 20 years. He’s just so wonderful. He’s also taken my rudimentary ideas and made them real things – that’s really great since I don’t read music. I wrote and directed the thing myself, but his input is invaluable. Wait until you hear his incredible arrangements!

4. This show is called Songs From Inside My Locker. What songs would we find in high school Robbie's locker and what songs would we find in adult Robbie of today? High school was a weird time for me – I sang a lot of hybrids of movie musicals (The Sound of MusicFunny GirlThe Wizard of Oz) and the popular musicals of the time were Phantom of the Opera and Les Miz. The first two cassette tapes I ever bought were Dionne Warwick’s Greatest Hits (1972-1990), because "That’s What Friends Are For" was the first song, and the Beaches soundtrack, for the obvious reasons.

Nowadays, I listen to mostly show tunes (both for my job and because I love them), a lot of Ella Fitzgerald, and a lot of acoustic pop like Jason Mraz. Shout-out to whoever created the "Acoustic Covers" and "Your Favorite Coffeehouse" playlists on Spotify, because that gets a lot of love in my house.

Robbie Rozelle, Photo Credit: Dianna Bush Photography5. You describe Songs From Inside My Locker as being the balm to the chaos of wandering your high school hallways, and finding yourself often shoved in a locker for singing from The Rink too loudly. Let's see how well you did in math...If there are 4 years in high school, 180 days in the school year, 5 days in the week, and 8 hours in the day, how many times do you think you were shoved in a locker during your high school years? I…was terrible in math. Legitimately terrible. Also, I had three lockers (my main one, my choir one, and gym), so suffice it to say, I was in one more than I was in a classroom.

6. Why did you want this show about this particular time in your life, be your debut show? I really loathe the cabaret trope of "I moved to NYC to become an actress, and had my heart broken," so I needed to find a hook for it. I think the answer became clearer when I realized that the high school bully was in the highest office in the land. So I just want to have a joy explosion all over Feinstein’s/54 Below of all the songs I was bullied for singing, with people paying a lot of money for the privilege.

7. Being so far (you're welcome for hinting at your age) out of high school, what was it like to go back to this time in your life now? Did old emotions come up? What did you learn about yourself from writing this show that you didi not know about yourself going through this rough time? Looking at that time of my life through the prism of time, it’s a bit weird. I was looking at some old photos, and there I am in overalls with one strap hanging, and bad mushroom haircuts, and thinking "man, I was so skinny!" I’ve always had the gift of bounce and laughter, so while things really sucked in high school, I’m able to laugh at most of it. Weirdly, since this show was announced, a lot of my high school peeps (some I don’t even remember) have reached out – some to apologize for their high school behavior, some to congratulate me about the show, some to say they would be there. I was openly gay in high school, in a pre-Ellen, pre-Will & Grace era, so I realize that my visibility was really important. That knowledge has had a profound impact on me.

Robbie Rozelle8. While writing this show, what part made you cry? What part made laugh? What part made you go, "I'm so much stronger now"? My first day of high school, four seniors grabbed me, wrapped me in the mat that was in front of the main doors, and dropped me next to the dumpster. I was all of maybe 130 pounds. That was terrifying, but it also told me that I better pull myself up by my bootstraps, because it wasn’t going to be amazing all the time. But I also gravitated to a group of senior girls, who took me under their wing and took care of me. Those ladies made sure that I wasn’t thoroughly terrorized. They were probably my first audience, people who would laugh at my jokes, and became my tribe. I have no doubt in my mind that I would not be alive but for those strong women and the musical theatre. So, that’s the dark. But with dark stuff, there’s light, right? Someone asked me what I would tell 16 year old me, and I gotta say, I’d tell him to do exactly the same thing. I’m just fine. I’m doing things I love with people I love, and I can’t think of honestly anything better (except maybe a woman President).

9. Besides this hilarious romp through high school, what other romps have these songs you are presenting accompanied you through? Literally every thing in my life. They were my playlist to accompany my life from start to finish. We have a Charles Nelson Reilly/Paul Lynde medley in the show, because those guys were my heroes – quippy funny men who weren’t ashamed of who they were.

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’d love to give up carbonated beverages and biting my nails. I don’t know how to do that by one percent daily, but that’s the goal! (Told you I was terrible at math!)

Robbie Rozelle, Photo Credit: Kate Lumpkin More on Robbie:

Robbie Rozelle does jokes. He has also directed and written or co-written sold-out cabaret shows for Tony Award nominee Melissa Errico (Amour), Tony nominee Kate Baldwin (Finian's Rainbow), Elena Shaddow (The Visit), Nikka Graff Lanzarone (Women on the Verge), Steven Ferezy, Jonathan Demar, Rachel Levy, RuPaul's Drag Race season 7 contestant Mrs. Kasha Davis and frequent collaborator Jessica Vosk ("Elephaba" on the Wicked tour).

As a former actor who once played "Charlie Brown" and "Dr. Frank 'n' Furter" in the same year, Robbie is the recipient of the NEPTA award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical for his tongue-twisting turn as "Trevor Grayden" in Thoroughly Modern Millie. He has also appeared in Sondheimas at 54 Below and several shows at The Duplex. He co-produced the album Cynthia Erivo and Oliver Tompsett Sing Scott Alan [Deluxe Edition], executive produced Astoria Boulevard's debut album and was an associate producer of Jonathan Reid Gealt's Whatever I Want It To Be. Robbie is a Grammy voting member. For three years, Robbie served as the graphic designer and creative director for Playbill, culminating in the design he is most proud of, the branding of #PlaybillPride, a 30-day initiative of the LGBT movement in the theatre that included a redesign of their historic logo for the month of June 2014. Playbill Pride returned for a second year in 2015, where Robbie art directed the magazine. Playbill Pride returned again in 2016, again with Robbie's work. He currently serves as the in-house designer for Grammy-winning record label Broadway Records, where he designed the iconic "What the World Needs Now is Love" in response to Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. He also runs Ghostlight Design. When not designing, he can usually be found tweeting jokes and random musings at @divarobbie.

 

Wednesday
Jun072017

Call Answered: Billy Lykken: The 'Sacred Monster' Live NYC Gay Pride Weekend at The Metropolitan Room

Who can resist a DIVA? From their demeanor to their talent to their wardrobe, I always keep up with my girls. I'm so glad to have the opportunity to interview Billy Lykken who is returning to the Metropolitan Room during NYC Gay Pride weekend for an encore presentation of his show Lykken 'The Sacred Monster' Live, which is an alt-cabaret experience featuring Billy's queer brand of comedy and outrageous parody, as well as his interpretations of songs ranging from Broadway, R&B, Jazz, and Tin Pan Alley.

Billy takes his audiences on a hyper-emotional journey of song, eyelash, and pizzazz filtered through the soul of an often heartbroken, but never bitter, sequined songstress whose eccentricities and self-destructive behavior are overshadowed by an all-consuming need to please the faithful masses.

Lykken 'The Sacred Monster' Live will play The Metropolitan Room on Saturday, June 24 at 4pm! Click here for tickets!

For more on Billy be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? Judy, Liza, Barbra, Bette, these are names I can't forget! My favorite albums growing up were live diva concerts, Barbra Streisand - A Happening in Central Park, Patti Labelle Live at the Apollo, Judy at Carnegie Hall of course. Honey, I wore them out! I think I was attracted to their larger than life personas and a hyper-emotional way of singing. I would lip-sync to them in my bedroom and sort of become them in my fantasy. So that's what this show is, me acting out my childhood fantasy and letting my inner diva out.

Billy Lykken2. This June, for Gay Pride weekend, you are returning to the Metropolitan Room for an encore performance of your show Lykken 'The Sacred Monster' Live. What are you looking forward to most about performing during Gay Pride Weekend in NYC? I'm singing my version of Nina Simone's "Mississippi Goddam." Talk about a Sacred Monster! This year's Pride is different for me, and I think it's different for most LGBTQ people. I'm angry, afraid, energized, amused. It's my protest song but with a funny twist, and it's cathartic.

3. Why do you call yourself the "Sacred Monster"? "Sacred Monster” is an old term for an eccentric diva who's maybe a bit "too much" or a little needy, but is so talented and electrifying that it just adds to the mystique for her worshipping fans. The character I play is sort of delusional about her own legend. It's tongue in cheek, but at the end of the day I want make you laugh, and cry, and walk out feeling like something happened to you.

4. In this show you take the audience on a hyper-emotional journey of song, eyelash, and pizzazz filtered through the soul of an often heartbroken, but never bitter, sequined songstress whose eccentricities and self-destructive behavior are overshadowed by an all-consuming need to please the faithful masses. What has been your most hyper-emotional life moment thus far? Working that stage at Metropolitan Room! I throw down like my sacred monster mothers taught me.

Billy Lykken5. Why are you often heartbroken, but never bitter? All artists are vulnerable people because they have to be. It's a curse and an asset. I find bitter people are not vulnerable.

6. What do you think is your biggest eccentricity? I get obsessed with things, or people. Like if I see some Liza Minnelli performance on Youtube that I love, I'll watch it a hundred times, and memorize every moment. Or I'll start on some hobby, like baking bread. I'll bake a million loaves of bread and then just stop one day and drop it completely.

7. With your eyelashes and sequins on, what has been your flashiest, most diva inspiring moment? I have crazy bolero arrangement of "My Way" that I used to do. It's a self-congratulatory, presumptuous song to sing in the first place. Perfect for a Sacred Monster. Come to think of it, maybe I'll put it back in the show.

Billy Lykken8. When you are in your dressing room before the show, as you are putting your make-up on, what is going through your head? And after the show, what goes through your head when you take your make-up off? As I'm putting my makeup on I'm trying to get into the feeling of the character, looking in the mirror giving fierce face and saying "Yaaaas I look fabulous." She's a legend in her own mind and I want to tap into that energy before I hit the stage. I'm not a flashy person in real life so the makeup and sequins help me get there. The show takes a lot of energy, so I think I must seem like an insane person when people meet me after because my whole body is still buzzing. I can't just drop it when I get offstage.

9. Your performance has been compared to the likes of Tallulah Bankhead and Eartha Kitt. What was your reaction to this comparison? How did these two artists influence your style? Well that's a compliment and I'm humbled by that because those women were geniuses and goddesses to me and certainly did influence the show. I sing Eartha's Japanese version of "Come-on-a My House" and it's outrageous! Do you know she sang in seven languages? French, Hebrew, Tagalog. And Tallulah had that hilarious deadpan humor and wit. And an underrated actress too, watch Lifeboat.

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 sing everyday because it makes me happy and I can feel myself getting better at it all the time. Repetition baby!

Saturday
May202017

Call Answered: Aaron Carty: The Beyoncé Experience at Stage 48 NYC

If you are Beyoncé fan, then this interview is for you! While it's not with Beyoncé herself, it's with the next best thing...Beyoncé impersonator Aaron Carty, who leapt onto the London scene after his audition video for Britain's Got Talent went viral.

Now Aaron brings The Beyoncé Experience, a Beyoncé dance concert, complete with an astonishing all female dance crew, to the US on May 25 in NYC at Stage 48 in Hell's Kitchen (605 West 48th Street) at a fundraiser for Hetrick-Martin Institute, presented by Open Finance. Click here for tickets!

The Hetrick-Martin Institute is the oldest and largest nonprofit agency created to serve lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth between the ages of 13 and 24. Their After-School programs invite youth to explore the arts, culture, tutoring, job skills, and health issues—with an LGBTQ focus. Their Supportive Services staff provides help in areas from housing to HIV counseling to family therapy, all tailored to the individual.

OPEN Finance is a volunteer network that combines the expertise of almost 50 financial services firms’ employee resource groupstodriveforwardLGBTequalityanddiversityinthefinanceindustryandbeyond.

For more on Aaron & The Beyoncé Experience be sure to visit https://www.beyonceexp.com and follow him Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Vimeo!

1. Already a known entity in London, this May, you are making your US debut with The Beyoncé Experience as a fundraiser for Hetrick-Martin Institute at Stage 48 in Hell's Kitchen. What is it about HMI that made you go, "This is the perfect way to be introduced to the US"? It's really important for me to contribute to organizations that work with young LGBT people. It's such a difficult time of your life and organizations like HMI really make an impact. I feel my story of growing up as an awkward and shy teen, to then become a police officer turned Media Entrepreneur...and then Beyoncé impersonator goes to show these young people that no matter what difficulties you have going on, there is always a solution; and if you can't see it - organizations like HMI are there to help guide you.

2. How do you feel an organization like this would have helped you growing up? It took me a lot longer to come to terms with who I was, what I was and what it was I wanted to be. I also felt like I didn't have people around me who understood what I was going through or the thoughts I was having. The torture you go through wondering if you'll be accepted into society really dents your confidence. I was so introverted an organization would have had to approach me to help me - and this is what HMI do. They reach out to these young people and events like this help. One photo of this event on social media itself could help a young person.

Aaron Carty in his prior "The Beyoncé Experience" life as a Police Officer3. For 10 years you've been supporting the LGBTQ community in London and now you will be supporting us in the US. What do you get from helping LGBTQ youth as opposed to the adult community? I think I'm really relatable to young people. I'm not an adult telling them "you should do it this way." My message is all about expression of yourself - whatever that is. I have young people messaging me and coming to my performances telling me that I'm really bracing for doing what I do. The fact that they think it's brave shows that they've felt insecure about expressing themselves in some way. So we need to continue showing young people that your variety and individuality is what will really make you stand out for all the right reasons.

4. Now let's find out all about you, your love of Beyoncé, & The Beyoncé Experience. Prior to The Beyoncé Experience, you were a cop. What made you want to be an officer of the law and how do you go from cop to Beyoncé impersonator? It's a very slow and unknown process, although I wanted to become a cop because at the time, despite getting accepted to three universities it wasn't something I wanted to do. I couldn't see myself going to university not knowing what I wanted to actually do. So instead I joined the police, and it was the 'J' curve of life experience I needed to pursue anything else I wanted. It 'knocked the shy out of me' and really opened my eyes to the world.

I loved the job but quickly lost faith in the politics and bureaucracy; so I started using my days off to help media production companies. Seven years later I have my own successful company. This is what led to Beyoncé, owning your own business at 22 is hard work! It got to the point where I needed a creative relief...Beyoncé Experience was born! 

Aaron Carty in "The Beyoncé Experience"5. Was Beyoncé the performer who initially inspired you to become a performer or was there someone else first and then you discovered Beyoncé? I always pretended to be Mel B whilst dancing with my sisters in our house when I was younger. But it was really Beyoncé who I look at and thought - wow - what an inspiration, what a role model. I never expected to be a Beyoncé drag impersonator. If you would have told me five years ago, this is what I would be doing, I would have laughed at you.

6. What was it about Beyoncé that made you say, "I want to spend my life traveling the world as a Beyoncé impersonator"? I've never thought that - but it has been a welcomed organic process of just taking a very mediocre talent and training at it to the point where I can show it to people. But there aren't many black artists that sing, dance and produce such an amazing show. There really wasn't anyone else I could have chosen from to impersonate.

7. What has been the hardest part about impersonating her and what's the most fun? The hardest part is dancing for 90 minutes in heels. These routines aren't easy - they're grueling to learn and really need a lot of work. I always rehearse in heels, I don't want a surprise in wearing them for the first time on stage.

Peoples reactions to the performance is definitely what makes it fun. I don't think people really know what to expect from the performance and it definitely has the shock factor. To look at me, I don't think people would say, "That's a Beyoncé impersonator." Seeing their faces and watching their reaction is priceless. It's happened all over the world - seeing it live, really is the only way to experience it.

Aaron Carty in "The Beyoncé Experience"8. Do you know if Beyoncé herself is aware of you & your experience? If so, have you heard from her? I'm not entirely sure she does - we had such a great reaction to our Britain's Got Talent performance, I just hope I'm doing it some justice.

9. What have you learned about Beyoncé from impersonating her that you feel you would not know from just being a fan? I've learned that she works so f**king hard - like, harder than you and I know. As a fan you can sit back and enjoy the amazing performances, as an impersonator you get a tiny insight into the work that goes into it. I can't imagine how much work goes into the creative mindset of an album and a performance. There aren't many artists that can take the risks that Beyoncé has in her music, her messaging and her political stance. She won't play it safe just to sell records, she's expressing herself through her art in a way that she wants to - a message we should be telling young people today.

Aaron Carty in "The Beyoncé Experience"10. Let's play with some of her song titles to find out more about you. Let's start with "Sweet Dreams." What is something that has happened to you where you went, "Is this a sweet dream or beautiful nightmare"? and then what was the result of said event? That event would be becoming a Beyoncé impersonator itself. I was a police officer at 18, I owned my first media business at 22, never would I have thought that I would be performing as Beyoncé in front of thousands of people around the world. It's a dream I think many of us have thought about - and then been terrified by. The end result is a sweet dream, I've learned more about myself and the world doing this than anything else.

11. When have you been "Crazy in Love"? Right now! I brought my boyfriend to New York only this week for his 27th birthday as a surprise and then arranged for a professional photographer (he's an actor) to take new headshots around the city. I'm so crazy in love with him that I'm actually going crazy!!!

Aaron Carty in "The Beyoncé Experience"12. Who's your "Halo"? My instant thought is my mum, she's so honest, down to earth and normal. She's the only one I've ever opened up to when I've made some terrible mistakes in my life, she's never judged me and always supported me. Even when I've been in the wrong. I'm lucky to have her.

13. Have you ever told some one, "If you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it?" HAHAHAHAHAHAHA - yes I have, but I'm glad they now didn't. I might be crazy in love now, but I think we've all been stupidly in love at some point haven't we. It's funny, when those ex's see you in the public eye and begin texting you again...I could easily send back a Single Ladies GIF, and I have. Slightly arrogant - but very true!

14. Let's twist up Beyoncé's song "Irreplaceable." What is something that you lost that you felt was "Irreplaceable"? Just like the song itself. There aren't any things in my life that at the time I thought were irreplaceable (most of them boyfriends) but you soon come to your senses and realize that they were in fact "replaceable" in a minute.

15. We both live in world, you in London with Brexit & me here in the US with that orange balloon in the White House, where are political leaders and climate are in flux and causing such stress, panic, & fear. If you were to "Run The World" as "The Beyoncé Expereince," what changes would you make? (Can you use any of her songs to illustrate your plan?) I'd firstly ask everyone to "Hold Up" a minute and really think about why they vote the way they do. Don't vote in anger and fear. I'd "Ring The Alarm" and get everyone in "Formation." It's us as the people who can make a difference. Stop thinking about "Me, Myself and I" and start thinking as a whole. It could be the "End Of Time" if we'are not careful, we all live in such luxury, we're not all a "Survivor," start working harder so you can pay those "Bills, Bills, Bills" and listening to those leaders with the "SuperPower" driving a "Partition" between us all. Everyone would be responsible for their own actions and stop playing the blame game, living their lives through their "Telephone" and begin making real change through action!

Aaron CartyMore on Aaron:

International Beyonce impersonator Aaron Carty is back, with a vengeance. Having burst onto the scenes at Sitges Pride 2014, wowing the judges on Britain's Got Talent and becoming a viral smash - making Alesha Dixon get up and dance, with Simon Cowell throwing a sly smile his way to closing Pride In London, Trafalgar Square 2015. He was memorably axed before making it onto the live show. Since walking off Simon’s stage this cop-cum-drag superstar has strutted on, amassing nearly a million views for his youtube audition clip, performing to a crowd of thousands at London Pride, and then independently putting on his own show The Protest at the iconic Troxy in London. Giving a truly Beyoncé dance concert experience, complete with an astonishing all female dance crew.

Tuesday
May092017

Call Answered: Sam Pancake: "Gilmore Girls" + "Hot Sweet & Sticky"

Sam PancakeGrowing up, my favorite pancakes were silver dollar. I couldn't wait to drizzle that maple syrup on, and eat them up. When actor Sam Pancake called, my taste buds heightened answered! With fork and knife in hand, I cut into Sam revealing all that went into the NYC premiere of his hit show Hot Sweet & Sticky as well as his role on Netflix's Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life as Stars Hollow's only gay resident!

In Hot Sweet & Sticky, Sam Pancake portrays three different show-biz strivers: "Helluva Bottom Carter," a vivacious southern drag queen with an agenda; "Dame Peggy Wooten-Heifen-Smythe," a tipsy, aging Grande Dame of the British stage and screen; and "Fritzie Zimmer," the self-proclaimed "world's oldest-living openly-gay stand-up comedian/chorus boy." With this trio of divas, severe costume changes, stellar lip-syncing, stunning wiggery, "songs", bitch-fits and laughter are guaranteed. This hilarious, self-penned almost-solo show also features Steven Wishnoff on the piano.

Hot Sweet & Sticky will play The Laurie Beechman Theatre (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue, in the basement of the West Bank Cafe) May 19 & 20 at 7pm. Click here for tickets!

For more on Sam be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? My very first memory is of watching Mary Poppins in the theatre (IN RE-RELEASE!) at about two years old. My mother said they thought I'd fall asleep but I was standing up in my seat, riveted the whole time. That movie and Dame Julie first got me hooked, and later I was very inspired by so many of the funny ladies that came into their own in the 1970's: Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman, Eileen Brennan, Stockard Channing and of course, Laverne and Shirley!

2. What made now the right time to make your NYC debut with Sam Pancake: Hot Sweet & Sticky? It was all very serendipitous: I've been wanting to do a show there for years, and Chip Duckett, Spin Cycle's co-founder, was able to get me a weekend in May, which is when I always take a theatre trip to NYC anyway -- but this year I'll not just be viewing, I'll be performing. EEK!

3. In Hot Sweet & Sticky you portray three different show-biz strivers: "Helluva Bottom Carter," a vivacious southern drag queen with an agenda; "Dame Peggy Wooten-Heifen-Smythe," a tipsy, aging Grande Dame of the British stage and screen; and "Fritzie Zimmer," the self-proclaimed "world's oldest-living openly-gay stand-up comedian/chorus boy." How did you come up with each of these characters? What part of you does each one represent? "Helluva" came out of me this way: Since the early '90's, I've always been friends and colleagues with so many drag queens, and I've done drag and played a lot of ladies in many shows; not just in sketches and videos, but also as "Blair" in Facts of Life and "Sophia" in The Golden Girls in the LA live-stage versions of those sitcoms. As drag gets even bigger, thanks to RuPaul's Drag Race, I thought, "Ya know, I'm an actor - I can do that too! If I was just going to be a lip-syncing "beauty" drag queen, who would she be?" And that's how "Helluva" was born last year. She represents the sweet, sassy, put-upon, but bossy Southern boy in me.

"Dame Peggy" came out of my general Anglophilia and obsession with Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Judy Parfitt, Edith Evans, Joan Greenwood and other legendary British stage and screen icons. In 2014 I was doing a play-reading in a Noel Coward festival and I somehow couldn't NOT do the character as Maggie Smith. I thought -- "I gotta do something with this lady!" and "Dame Peggy" then sprang from my heated loins!

"Fritzie" I first did in a skit with my sketch group Margot's Bush in 2001. Then he was an old hoofer/showboy/entertainer/slut who had retired from showbiz to become the world's most inappropriate therapist. I dredged him back up for this show because I realized he had a LOT more to say. He's now the world's oldest living openly-gay stand-up comedian and performer, doing his own "one"-man show (accompanied on piano by his ex-husband "Giacomo," played by Steven Wishnoff). "Fritzie" is the old bitter yet hilarious show-biz queen in ME, I'm afraid, who LOVES being on stage and performing his guts out, but also feels like he's never gotten his due because he was born too soon, so he kinda has a love/hate relationship with his audience. (but I ONLY LOVE my audience!)

Top Row (left to right): Drew Droege, Jackie Beat, Bottom Row (left to right): Sam Pancake and Sherry Vine in "The Golden Girls" at The Cavern Club Celebrity Theater4. Let's play with Hot Sweet & Sticky for a moment. When have you been "Hot, Sweet, & Sticky" all at one time prior to this show? Oooooo honey -- ya know I'll never tell that one! I will say that, because of my unusual surname, I have gotten a few sexual offers in my day that involve butter and/or syrup. I'm not kidding.

5. The description of the show continues on with this trio of divas, severe costume changes, stellar lip-syncing, stunning wiggery, "songs", bitch-fits and laughter are guaranteed. So we are going to break some of this down. Between "Helluva Bottom Carter," "Dame Peggy Wooten-Heifen-Smythe," and "Fritzie Zimmer," who is the bigger diva? The biggest diva is definitely "Fritzie!!" He's the angriest by far.

Sam Pancake, Photo Credit: Darrin Noble6. What is the one song you kill every time you lip-sync it? "Wheels of A Dream" from Ragtime, the Brian Stokes-Mitchell and Audra McDonald version. I tear it up (I like to think!) and it tears me up every time -- I end up on my knees sobbing.

7. What has been your biggest bitch-fit? When have you laughed your hardest? I don't have bitch-fits professionally speaking, really, unless it's on-set in a work situation where I see other people getting treated unfairly or harmfully. I'm a much better bitch on behalf of others than myself. Personally though, I'M A NIGHTMARE.

8. I can't interview you and not talk about you Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life. For seven seasons you tried, waited, tried again, and waited some more to be on the first Gilmore Girls series. That never happened. Almost 10 years go by and then it happens, you find out that not only you are going to be on Gilmore Girls: A  Year In The Life, What went through your head when you found out you were going to not only be part of Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life, but the role of "Donald" was written explicitly for you? Well, it really wasn't that dramatic of a reveal. An appropriate role never came up during those seven years, which was fine -- "that's showbiz, kid" -- and I was plenty busy doing other shows. When talk of the revival started, I knew that Lauren had planted the seed with Amy of me perhaps playing a part, and as negotiations bubbled along, it gradually became clear it would be a reality. The fun discovery came at the table-reads, learning along with most of the other actors what fun stuff we'd get to play. And when I saw I would be in all the Stars Hollow musical scenes with Sutton Foster and Christian Borle (not to mention Carole King and Sally Struthers) my tiny mind exploded.

Sam Pancake at premiere of "Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life"9. What do you relate to most about "Donald"? What is one characteristic of his you are glad you don't possess? Other than him looking just like me, I don't think "Donald" and I have a whole lot in common! Lets see: we both enjoyed the musical (for different reasons) so I related to that. He enjoys kayaking, I do enjoy canoeing...but we definitely have very different tastes in clothing. You'll never catch me in pastels outside of wardrobe.

10. How did it feel to be the only gay in Stars Hollow? EMPOWERING! I do hope "Donald" has a husband or partner in the next one, though. I don't want him to be lonely.

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? I stay in my spiritual practice and meditate every day, and I exercise in some capacity (hike, gym, walk) nearly every day. That's what keeps me on track, along with gratitude, gratitude and more gratitude.

Sam Pancake, Photo Credit: Matt GorrekMore on Sam:

Sam Pancake is an American actor best known for his lead roles on Lovespring International and Kitchen Confidential, as well as recurring roles on Gilmore Girls, Will & Grace, Arrested Development and Curb Your Enthusiasm. He has also made memorable appearances on a number of popular television shows including The Mick, Transparent, Wings, Friends, The King of Queens, Fat Actress, Parenthood, Major Crimes, Cougar Town, and Charmed. His film credits include, Legally Blonde 2, A Holiday Engagement, Ready? OK!, Straight-Jacket, Girls Will Be Girls (with Coco Peru and Varla Jean Merman) and Jackie Beat's Scream, Teen, Scream.