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Entries in Gay (55)

Friday
Nov172017

Call Answered: Rick Skye: "Bazazz! A Sequined Variety" at Don't Tell Mama

Rick Skye, Photo Credit: Trevor SwingleLiza Minnelli is one of the most impersonated icons of our time. Everyone who pays homage to her brings their own flair & talent with it. When I was introduced to Rick Skye, one of the world's most well known Liza impersonators, I just had to "Ring Them Bells" and find out more.

Rick, who's show Judy and Liza Together Again just finished a seven year run at Don't Tell Mama this past June, is already returning to the venue with a new monthly variety show called Bazazz! A Sequined Variety. In addition to Rick, November's show will feature Steven Brinberg as Barbra Streisand and entertainer Sidney Myer. Cabaret favorite Ricky Ritzel is the evening’s Musical Director.

Bazazz! A Sequened Variety will play Don't Tell Mama (343 West 46th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenue) on Saturday, November 25 at 8pm. Click here for tickets!

Designed by Andy Drachtenberg1. Besides Liza Minnelli, who or what inspired you to become a performer? I think you are born a performer and the performers who came before you set the bar for the type of artist you want to grow into. I was initially inspired by all the MGM Musicals, I Love Lucy, Judy, Cher, Bette Midler, all the brilliant Broadway shows that had stars that glittered and belted it out. I love a song and dance Diva that holds the audience for two hours with the force of her unique, individual personality. Shows used to revolve around those and it was my ambition to be able to do that. There isn't a school for that. "You either have it, or you've had it" to quote Mama Rose. The important thing is to get up anywhere and everywhere and perform for the experience. You need a lot of tricks in your bag to be able to keep that audience from fidgeting - especially NOW. So, I absorbed everything from the last generation of performers, but, all that set aside - Judy Garland has been my lifelong inspiration and muse in all things. The "World's Greatest Entertainer."

2. You recently started a monthly variety show at Don't Tell Mama called Bazazz! A Sequined Variety. When did you get the idea to start this show? I didn't! I had been performing in a show entitled Judy and Liza Together Again that ran most Saturday nights at Don't Tell Mama for almost seven years! It just kept running and running and then it finally ended last June. The managers at Don't Tell Mama contacted me in September and said that it just "hadn't been the same" on Saturday nights without a big show in the back room and would I consider doing a Variety show, as Liza, once a month that could turn into a long running thing. I was skeptical at first because there were other things I wanted to pursue at the time, but sometimes you "walk through the door that is open," ya know? So, I said, "Yes!" and kept my fingers crossed.

Rick Skye as Liza Minnelli3. What do you like about this format as opposed to putting together a one man show? I am really enjoying working with choreographer Kyle Rostan and the dancers. We do a really razzle dazzle opening number called "Bazazz," which is a song written by Liza's Godmother Kay Thompson with four part Jazz harmonies and it's just PURE JOY from start to finish. Opening night it really set the audience up for a good time. I also get to do Kander and Ebbs "Arthur in the Afternoon" from The Act, a show that Liza won the Tony Award for. I want to put in more numbers with me and the boys as time goes on. They are all talented and full of "Bazazz!" (which is a word Kay Thompson coined for the film Funny Face - it's a blending of "Bazaar" and "Pizazz," but you knew that, 'natch).

4. This month's show (November 25) features Barbra Streisand impersonator Steven Brinberg and entertainer Sidney Myer. What are you looking forward to most about having them on the show? For Steven and I it will be a sweet reunion. We have performed together many times, most notably in London for four spectacular, sold out nights at the Leicester Square Theater and at the Dublin Theater Festival. We both want to sing "Face to Face" from War Paint in "Bazazz!" and I'm going to move heaven and earth to try and make that happen. Sidney Myer is always a unique present whenever he graces a stage, so I am hoping he will add a little spice to the mix. He is a legend in Cabaret circles, so that's a lot of legends on one stage!

Rick Skye as Liza Minnelli5. Also on this variety show, you will be performing as Liza Minnelli, which you have been heralded for. What was it about Liza that made you want to impersonate her? Well, the way it began had nothing to do with "wanting" to impersonate her. I wrote a song for a "Liza" character to sing in a revue that I wrote called MaCabaret - A Tabloid Fable. All the actors played five parts, so they were either onstage performing or changing their clothes. Nobody was available in the middle of the show to sing this one song.  So, I plopped on a wig, made a red slash of a mouth, threw on a sequined schmatte and did the song and it brought down the house. When the show closed, I kept singing that song in a comedy night and week after week people told me that I should do more. So, finally I wrote a show called A Slice O' Minnelli and did a whole evening. Since she has always been my spirit animal it was a thrill to finally be able to exercise that electric style of performing fully.

6. What is the hardest part about impersonating her? The inside is easier for me because I am an actor and the way she is is basically the way I am. It was the outside that I always have a struggle with. I try week after week to make my face, which is almost the exact opposite of hers, to look like her. I want to do the character justice. The clothes all have to be custom made. Her look is so iconic that you have to get the details right, especially in a show where the audience is looking at you for an hour and a half. There has to be a moment in every evening where the audience buys into it and their belief takes over and they begin to think you REALLY look like her, or REALLY sound like her, when, in fact, there is a little magic involved. So I try to perfect as much of the "outside" as I can ahead of time. That is hard.

Rick Skye as Liza Minnelli7. Has Liza Minnelli herself ever see your impersonation of her? If so, what was her reaction? If not, would you want that to happen? Liza hasn't ever seen me and if she were to see me I would hope she would know that the deep love I have for her is what informs every detail of my performance. Even when I make little jokes at the expense of her public persona, because, after all, that is the only thing one really knows about, they are done on the sly and with great affection. I try to capture and bring to the audience what is great about her. She has given me so many nights of thrilling entertainment that I hope, in my own way and with my OWN talent, I can approximate that type of evening for my audiences.

8. Liza is very famous for her rendition of "New York, New York." So, what are some of your favorite things to do in NYC? I always say, "Aren't I lucky to live in my favorite city?" I love to wander the streets with a cup of coffee on an early Sunday morning and wave to Radio City Music Hall, go to a street fair, eat in Little Italy, watch a Joan Crawford movie at the Film Forum, have lunch with Charles Busch and dish the dirt, go to Happy Hour at The Monster and sing all the old songs, take a twirl on the dance floor, go to an Off-Broadway Show, stroll through Central Park and, well, you get the idea...

9. What have you learned about Liza Minnelli from impersonating her that the average person wouldn't know? That she must be made out of iron. To be a star of that magnitude, the amount of discipline and energy that goes into those gargantuan performances really takes an enormous amount of energy. The timing of your day, when to eat, when to begin make up, the whole day revolves around show after show and then travel and then greeting people after and getting enough rest and the stress of keeping everyone together and rehearsals etc. It takes a very special kind of person who would rather perform than do anything else to try and hold such an enterprise together.

10. If you could sing a duet with Liza Minnelli, on one of her songs, which one would you choose? I think it would have to be "A Quiet Thing." First of all, we wouldn't both have to scream over each other and secondly it holds a lot of meaning to people whenever they hear it. And we could harmonize, so there's that. That would be a dream come true. And a very "quiet thing"...

Rick SkyeMore on Rick:

Rick Skye is a multi-award winning performer who has enjoyed international success. Training with the Joffrey Ballet and the famed Stella Adler, Rick toured the US with Ann Reinking and Sandy Duncan in The American Dance Machine Show and in the Kennedy Center Production of Miss Liberty. He acted with Dorothy Louden in a role written especially for him by Paul Zindel in Danny and Della. He did a stint on All My Children and appeared in the film The Cater Waiter starring David Drake. His friendship with Neil Sedaka led to his writing and starring in The Flip Side of Neil Sedaka which earned him a nomination as "Best Newcomer" by The Manhattan Association of Cabarets. His revue, MaCabaret - a tabloid fable ran for nine months in New York and in 2008 he created a new revue entitled The War of the Mama Roses - the Ultimate Audition for GYPSY starring some of the world's foremost impersonators and which enjoyed a successful run in New York. He joined forces with the legendary "Madame" of "Wayland Flowers and Madame" fame and toured the U.S. with Its Madame with an E! which he wrote and starred in. The duo played Resorts International in Atlantic City, the Suncoast Casino in Las Vegas, The RRAZZ Room in San Francisco as well as Feinstein's at the Regency in New York City. He was a contributing writer and performer of Bawdy! - Off Broadway's Biggest Little Vaudeville and most recently won acclaim for creating and directing Sacred Monster a hyperemotional evening of song, drama and comedy starring Billy Lykken.

Monday
Nov132017

Call Redialed: Andrew Keenan-Bolger: "Kris Kringle The Musical" at Town Hall NYC

Andrew Keenan-BolgerIt has been five years since I last interviewed Andrew Keenan-Bolger and let me say, a lot has changed for both of us. I changed my interview style asking more insightful, but still fun questions and Andrew has starred in several Broadway shows, made a handful of films, wrote a book, and got engaged. I am beyond excited to get to do this new interview with Andrew as he readies to originate the role of "Kris Kringle" in the one night only event Kris Kringle The Musical! 

Kris Kringle The Musical, narrated by Cathy Rigby, weaves a new and entirely original tale that will delight audiences of all ages. Based on one of the most familiar names of holiday folklore, this is the tale of a young, starry-eyed toymaker, "Kris Kringle," who crosses paths with an evil New York City toy company CEO and finds himself wrapped up in a magical curse with the power to destroy Christmas. From the top of the world in the North Pole, "Kris Kringle" teams up with "Santa and Mrs. Claus," the beautiful "Evelyn Noel," a band of hilarious "Apprentices" and "Elves," and magical "Toys" to remind us what Christmas is really about.

Kris Kringle The Musical will play Town Hall in NYC (123 West 43rd Street, between Broadway & 6th Avenue) on Friday, November 24 at 3pm and 8pm. Click here for tickets!

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

1. On November 24, you will be starring in the one night only performance of a new musical, Kris Kringle The Musical. What made you want to be part of this show? I really loving getting to do theatre for young audiences. I remember being a kid and seeing local productions that completely changed my life. I often think back to how powerful it was to be exposed to the performing arts at a young age and I try as much as possible to find excuses to perform in theatre that can be enjoyed by the whole family. Kris Kringle is something you can bring the whole family to and I was excited about getting to be a part of that this holiday season.

2. In this show you play "Kris Kringle." What do you relate to most about him? What is one characteristic of his you are glad you yourself don't possess? At his root, "Kris Kringle" is in search of a community and a family. When I moved to New York, I wanted desperately to feel like I was a part of something. The theatre community ended up becoming my chosen family and the safe space I’d been searching for.

As for characteristics I’m glad I don’t possess, I feel like I’m slightly less of a hot mess when it comes to holding onto employment.

Andrew Keenan Bolger in "Newsies"3. "Kris Kringle" is a young, starry-eyed toymaker. What were you most excited about when you were a starry-eyed actor just starting out? Do you still get that same starry-eyed today with each new project? I was a total MTN (Musical Theater Nerd) growing up. I had a massive binder of cast albums and prided myself in knowing all of the actors who sang on them. It was hard to stay cool when I grew up and started working alongside some of these voices from my childhood. Even today I totally nerd out about performing alongside certain actors. One of the things I’m most excited about is getting to share a stage with "Peter Pan," "Cinderella" and "Marta" from COMPANY.

4. Your character, "Kris Kringle" also crosses paths with an evil NYC toy company CEO who through a magical curse threatens to destroy Christmas. What has been the most evil thing you've had to encounter so far in your life? My fiancé is a political journalist. I feel like I’ve seen some of the most unimaginable evil close up in the past few years.

5. Then "Kris Kringle" teams up with "Santa and Mrs. Claus," "Evelyn Noel," "Apprentices," "Elves," and "Toys" to remind us what Christmas is really about. Who or what has been your favorite collaborative team thus far? When I was a kid I got to be a part of the musical Ragtime. The combination of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty along with the direction of Frank Galati and Graciella Danielle was a collaboration I’ll never forget.

Andrew Keenan-Bolger and his fiancé Scott Bixby6. What do you believe Christmas is really about? I think any excuse to sit down and spend some quality time with your family is a holiday worth celebrating.

7. What's your Christmas wish this year? I’m recently engaged and I’m so excited to be spending Christmas for the first time with my fiancé’s family.

8. What was your favorite Christmas gift to receive as a child and what is your favorite adult gift to get? I remember getting a microscope when I was a kid. I was always a curious child and I would find all kinds of things from my house and backyard to look at on a microscopic level. As an adult, my sister Maggie is super crafty and creative and always makes us gifts that would make Etsy cry they are so cool.

9. Congratulations on your recent engagement. That is so exciting! What is one Christmas tradition from childhood you hope to continue with Scott and what is one tradition you would like to make up with himself? I have already subjected him to the Keenan-Bolger tradition of watching White Christmas every Christmas Eve. We mostly fast-forward through the book scenes, but I can’t imagine he’s going to get off the hook with that tradition any time soon.

In terms of the Bixbys, Scott’s mom is an amazing cook. I’m hoping I can finally get in on some of her secret holiday recipes.

Andrew Keenan-BolgerMore on Andrew:

Andrew Keenan-Bolger is an actor, director, author and filmmaker. He's been working in the entertainment industry since the age of 10 when he made his Broadway debut as "Chip" in Beauty and the Beast. Recently, he starred as "Jesse Tuck" in Tuck Everlasting on Broadway (Drama League Award nominee). He created the role of "Crutchie" in Newsies on Broadway (Outer Critics Circle nominee) as well as the record-breaking film version which premiered in 2017. Other Broadway credits include Mary PoppinsSeussicalA Christmas Carol. 1st Nat'l Tours: Spelling BeeHow The Grinch Stole ChristmasMary PoppinsRagtime. On film he's portrayed "Billy Frazier" in The Rewrite starring Hugh Grant, Marci XYou Must Be Joking and the upcoming To Dust starring Matthew Broderick. TV credits include Nurse Jackie (Showtime), Looking (HBO), Naked Brothers Band (Nickelodeon), One Life to Live.

He has a B.F.A. from the University of Michigan. His work as a filmmaker has been profiled in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly, The Associated Press and New York Magazine. He is the director of the award-winning short films Sign and The Ceiling Fan. Along with collaborator, Kate Wetherhead, he is the co-creator of the critically acclaimed webseries, Submissions Only (www.submissionsonly.com) and co-author of the best-selling children's book series Jack & Louisa. (Penguin Random House).

Tuesday
Oct312017

Call Answered: Bryan Powers: "Time is the Longest Distance"

Bryan PowersLast week I went to NewFest, NYC's premiere GLBT film festival, because I wanted to see Sam Greisman's film Dinner with Jeffrey. What I discovered during the "Boy Shorts" viewing were some other remarkable movies such as Time is the Longest Distance, a film about an estranged son’s journey to reconnect with his Alzheimer’s-stricken father, and the teenage boy he meets along the way.

As someone who's gay and lost a grandparent to dementia, I connected to this film on many levels. Bryan Powers wrote & directed a powerful short that rightfully so is getting rave reviews at film festivals around the world. Time is the Longest Distance was accepted into over 20 film festivals and so far has won "Best LGBT Film" in the Toronto Independent Film Festival" and "Best Student Film" in the West Virginia FILMmakers Festival.

Time is the Longest Distance will next be screened at the following festivals:

Kansas International Film Festival (All In The Family Shorts) on November 5 at 2:45pm

Yonkers Film Festival (Westchester Shorts 1) on November 8 at 6:30pm

Rome International Film Festival on November 10 at 4:30pm

Monarch Film Festival (Student Block) on December 2 at 2:15pm

For more on Time is the Longest Distance visit https://powersproductions.wordpress.com and follow the film on Facebook!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a filmmaker? My father managed movie theatres when I was growing up and I spent countless hours watching, and re-watching, whatever he was screening. The cinema was my babysitter and the movies my playmates. Dad was also a journalist and progressed from theatre management to film critic. We attended many films together and I would accompany him back to the newspaper where he’d type up his reviews. Discussing, and sometimes arguing over, films with my dad gave me an appreciation for movies as not just a form of entertainment, but as a form of art.

I originally pursued acting, but had to pay the bills and ended up in retail sales, which led to an unexpected career in retail visual merchandising. However, my love of cinema never diminished and I was always watching whatever I could and constantly reading about film and filmmakers. It was my long-delayed discovery of the films of Francois Truffaut, specifically The 400 Blows, that led to me returning to school to pursue my BA in Film. Something about the humanistic approach of Truffaut’s storytelling really inspired me. Additionally, Truffaut's own story, of growing up with a love of film, becoming a critic, and then choosing to make films also influenced my decision. Although I initially thought I would just pursue editing, which I still consider my favorite part of fimmaking, completing a thesis film that I had written and directed was required for my MFA studies at City College of New York. It was a big challenge, despite having made some previous, smaller shorts, but I am so happy I was forced out of my comfort zone or a dark editing room and forced to be the one making all the decisions — from conception to production, to post-production. It resulted in my film, Time is the Longest Distance and I am now anxious to tackle new projects as a writer/director/editor.

Claudia Murdoch, Bryan Powers, and Andreas Damm NewFest NYC 2017, Photo Credit: Emilio Seri2. I just saw your latest short film, Time is the Longest Distance at NYC's NewFest. It was so powerful and beautiful. The film is based upon your own relationship with your father. When did you initially have the idea to make this film? How long did it take  you from idea to completion? Thank you for the compliments. I am so pleased you were moved by the film. The script’s inception arose from applying to grad schools and trying to come up with ideas for what would make a good thesis film. Many grad schools want to know from the start that you have a viable concept for what might become your thesis. As with most films I’ve made, the script started with images. While some of these where too complex and didn’t end up in the final film, they mostly concerned the passage of time, the change of seasons, and the transient nature of life. From there, I took narrative elements from my own life to develop characters and potential situations where those characters would be in conflict, or would somehow influence one another.

Originally, the character of "Xander," the teenager who finds himself pulled into the story of a stranger trying to reconnect with his Alzheimer’s-suffering father, had a story line of his own. He had his own issues with his father and the chance encounter with "Jack" in the film also worked to help him though his issues. But it’s a short. I had to focus the story and narrow it down a bit.

As part of my MFA studies, the first draft of the film was completed in December of 2014 and then workshopped for months. After casting and pre-production work, we shot on location in the Bronx in the fall of 2015 and the final version of the film for City College was finished by May of 2016. After that, we spent additional post-production time on color correction and an original score, both of which were done pro-bono so I had to wait until those artists had the time to make their contributions. Our first festival screening of the final version of the film took place in April of this year.

3. How did you partner with Cup of Joe Film for this release? What did they get about your film that perhaps another film company did not? I placed an ad, seeking a producer on Mandy.com, a job listing site for film professionals. I had very limited funds to offer, but hoped to find someone that was looking for experience and believed in the script — connected to it deeply enough to dedicate long hours on the project without any expectation of real financial reward. Surprisingly, I had a good amount of applicants. A couple meetings with a couple of them were rescheduled, for whatever reason, and Claudia Murdoch was the first producer I was able to meet. She was also the last. We had an immediate connection — Claudia having switched careers around the same age as myself, and having a personal connection to the storyline of caring for a loved one with dementia. She was also very organized and outgoing. I’m organized, but am more reserved. I needed Claudia’s fearlessness to make the connections, to find the locations, to deal with all the "wheeling and dealing," for lack of a better phrase, that gave me such anxiety. I must say, finding and choosing Claudia was the best thing that happened to the film. I’m confident that it wouldn’t have had the success it’s had without Claudia and Cup of Joe’s unending dedication.

Time is the Longest Distance4. What was the hardest part of the film for you to write? The encounter between "Adam" and his father was tricky. I didn’t want it to be too predictable or too melodramatic, but I also needed it to pack an emotional punch. Getting the dialogue right and dramatizing the moment visually — the awkwardness of "Adam" in trying to get-up his courage and his dad "Jack’s" business with the radio, turning up the volume, which leads to "Adam" taking action. That whole scene was difficult to edit as well — finding the right rhythm and knowing when to to cut to the reaction shots of each character when the encounter goes south.

5. What did you learn about yourself from making this film that you didn't know going through these events? If you mean what I learned making a film based on aspects of events from my own life, I’m not sure. That’s not something I think I’ve really considered. I guess I’ve learned that I need to try to take advantage of time in my own life. It’s cliche, but there really is no time like the present. And the present is all we have. I may say that I’ve learned this, but I can’t say I’ve fully embraced it or put it into action. I’m still great at procrastination. I’m trying to improve. I’m trying. Maybe tomorrow I’ll improve.

6. Time is the Longest Distance has been accepted into over 20 film festivals. It has won "Best LGBT Film" in the Toronto Independent Film Festival" and "Best Student Film" in the West Virginia FILMmakers Festival. What is it like to have your film not only accepted into these festivals, but then to win these awards? Do you need these accolades to know you made a good film? Did I make a good film? Just kidding...but not totally. I, like most artists, I think, tend to focus on what could be better. I still see all the imperfections in the film — most that are probably not even noticed by the average viewer, especially if the narrative works and they are drawn into the story of the film. Is there such a thing as a confident artist? Aren’t we all plagued by insecurities? Or is that just me? I imagine Tarantino doesn’t doubt his own brilliance. But all joking aside, I was happy to get the film into one festival — being accepted into so many and winning awards? That has been amazing. I was confident in the story I was telling and in most aspects of how we told it, but I could never have imagined that the film would have been embraced and praised by so many others.

7. What has been the most heartbreaking story you've heard from viewers after a screening? What has been a comment that just made your whole face light up and you still think about today? It’s been very touching to hear so many stories from viewers who themselves have been touched by Alzheimer’s and who tell me how much the portrayal of the father in the film rang true to them. After the film’s second screening at NewFest, I had a lovely gentleman come up to me and tell me how he loved how the film demonstrates some of the family’s resistance, conscious or not, to letting the father live in his own reality and how the film’s resolution comes from a moment when the family does allow the dad, without interruption, to live out what is real to him.

If I can share his story of his own mother who had Alzheimer’s, he told me he eventually came to the realization that it wasn’t productive, it didn’t help his mother or provide her any comfort, if he constantly tried to correct her. He realized she was much happier when he participated in her misconceptions, her perception of reality. One day (and I may not have the story exactly right) she asked him, "Who’s your mother?" He replied enthusiastically, "Who would you like to be my mother?" She responded, "Well, I’d like to be your mother." That broke and warmed my heart at the same time. I was so happy he took the time to find me and share his experience with me after the film.

"Time is the Longest Distance"8. As someone who lost a grandparent to dementia, watching your film, Time is the Longest Distance, brought up so many memories of my grandmother, especially when her memory was going. What was the toughest part for you, watching your dad's memory decline? Being that my dad was an avid reader and writer, it was hard to see him lose those abilities. With the loss of his short term memory, he could no longer hold the thoughts of what he has just read and couldn’t make it past a paragraph or two. The same was true of films, which he loved. He began to like simpler films, where the moments of each scene as they happen could provide him some joy, but where he didn’t have to comprehend the film as a whole. As far as his writing, I have a journal of his, written over several months. I’ve never been able to read the whole thing; it’s too heartbreaking. In addition to the frustration expressed in his writing, in not being able to put his thoughts into words, you can see the frustration in his actual penmanship; the writing becomes larger and more erratic. It’s tough to see that — a physical document and demonstration of his thoughts and emotions.

9. What is the fondest memory you have of your dad? I have so many. I get my height from my dad, but he was a bit stockier through most of his life, until the final years. He gave great hugs. I miss his hugs. Towards the end, despite him losing so much of what made him who he was, despite me never being sure if he recognized me or other members of my family, his love for my mom only grew stronger. That never went away. He never forgot his Betty and seeing her always brought him the most joy. She may have grown irritated at times by his constant declarations of love for her, but it was beautiful. They met in high school and were together for 60 years. I tried to show that love between the parents in my film.

10. After this round of festival screenings is over, what are the next steps for this film? Do you want to expand it to full feature? Or do you feel it's meant to be a short and you will focus on new projects? There’s definitely a feature in there. As I mentioned, I have a whole story for "Xander" and would love to explore his story before and after it intersects with "Adam’s." If I could find the time, and the financing, to expand it into a feature, I would love to take on that challenge. I’ve written two new shorts over the last few months, one that deals with the generational differences between the men who survived the AIDS crisis and the current generation of gay men who no longer see AIDS as a real threat. I would love to get that film into production. Traveling to several LGBTQ film festivals with Time is the Longest Distance, I’ve become aware of how a large percentage of the festivals’ audiences are men of a certain age. I think they long to see their stories on screen. And I think they deserve to be represented.

Bryan Powers at NewFest NYC 2017, Photo Credit: Emilio SeriMore on Bryan:

Bryan’s informal film education started early, as the son of a cinema manager and film critic. In 2016 Bryan obtained his MFA in film from the City College of New York. Previously, Bryan graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BA in Film from Hunter College where he received a scholarship from BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) and was nominated for Marshall and Fulbright Scholarships. In addition to being the editor on many projects, Bryan has also written & directed several shorts and has worked as an Assistant Director, Sound Recordist, Boom Operator, and Sound Editor on numerous others. Bryan’s past jobs in post-production include positions at DCTV and Tribeca Film Institute.

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.