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Entries in New York City (140)

Monday
Jan162017

Call Answered: Michael Griffiths: IN VOGUE: SONGS BY MADONNA 

Michael GriffithsEver since I heard "Borderline" by Madonna, I was hooked on her and her music. I own all her albums, have watched all her movies, and seen many of her world tours. Madonna's music has inspired me, helped through my troubles, and been there to celebrate the good times. Madonna's self-expression has shown me it's okay to be who you are regardless of whether or not people like you for it. The ones who like you will accept it and those who don't will have to deal with it.

With-in "4 Minutes" of finding out about Michael Griffiths' show In Vogue: Songs By Madonna, I stepped into the "Spotlight" and gave him a ring. Luckily, I did not get "Hung Up" on. From one "Rebel Heart" to another, Michael & I immediately got "Into The Grove" about the creation of this show, our mutual admiration of Madonna and revealing a "Secret" about Michael he has not told anyone else! This is one Madonna "Celebration" you don't want to miss!

In Vogue: Songs By Madonna features Michael simply seated at the piano, leading the audience on a journey through Madonna's tough life and tender songs, including "Vogue," "Into The Groove" and "Express Yourself." The show will play Martinis Above Fourth in San Diego 1/26, 8pm, Catalina Bar & Grill in Los Angeles 1/29, 7:30pm, and Feinstein's/54 Below in New York 2/7, 9:30pm! 

For more on Michael be sure to visit http://michaelgriffiths.co and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. This February you are making your Feinstein’s/54 Below debut with your show In Vogue: Songs By Madonna. What made now the right time to bring this show to NYC? A few years back in Australia I read from afar about Feinstien’s/54 Below opening as New York’s premier cabaret venue and immediately thought "Wow, I wanna play there one day." Of course, I never actually did anything about it. Last year I was invited to perform my Cole Porter tribute around California in February and bringing "In Vogue" to New York was my very next thought! I don’t think I consciously decided it was the "right time," more that the stars have aligned and I’m terribly excited.

2. What excites you most about performing this show? The thrill of cabaret is the intimacy of sharing a common experience with an audience. I also love being alone on stage, it’s very dangerous and there’s no smoke or mirrors - you simply have to bring your A-game! The show attracts all types of people, but the long term Madonna fans are the ones who get the biggest kick out every little reference and lyric. I sing 12 songs in their entirety, but cram in references to about 35 different songs. It’s a testament to her extraordinary output and longevity.

Michael Griffiths3. As a huge Madonna fan myself, I can only imagine how hard it was to narrow down the song selection. How did you ever manage to do that? What were some of the songs you had to leave out? It was hard and there are a number of songs that I adore which have been left by the wayside: "Crazy For You," "Take A Bow," "Causing A Commotion" and "La Isla Bonita," the latter omitted mainly because I can’t properly pronounce the Spanish "r" in San Pedro. It was about choosing songs that gave a sense of her character or illustrated part of her life, balanced with songs that suited a male voice at the piano. Like Madonna herself, I’m a big fan of reinvention and it’s great fun reimagining these songs with a touch of ragtime, jazz and even some Phillip Glass minimalism for good measure.

4. Your show takes audiences on a journey through Madonna’s life and music. When was the moment you knew Madonna was it for you? What stage of her life was it and what song drew you in? I remember early at primary school all the Italian girls (who always knew what was cool before anyone else did) were dancing around to "Holiday" on a cassette recorder at recess. I thought it was a great song but wasn’t so keen on "Like A Virgin" or "Material Girl" so didn’t consider myself a Madonna fan from the very beginning. A year or so later, the gorgeous ballad "Live To Tell" came out and it was the first 7-inch single I ever bought. I loved her "old hollywood" look in the video clip too. When True Blue the album was released, the very opening strings on "Papa Don’t Preach" utterly hooked me. I’ve been a fan ever since. As a gay man who grew up in the 80s and came out in the 90s, it’s hard to imagine life without her.

5. You created a show about one of our biggest icons ever. Did you have any reservations prior to creating this show? If Madonna herself came to see the show, what would she think of it? I wanted the show to represent her impact on my life, my pop sensibility learnt from her and for it to be joyous. There’s an unbridled joy in pop music, joy in the Hollywood rap in "Vogue," joy in the self empowerment of "Express Yourself," in singing along to "Ray Of Light." Of course, a 42-year-old gay guy claiming he IS Madonna (I do the show without drag or impersonation) does inherently have some humour and I worry she might not appreciate some of the bitchy quips. Or the references to some of her movie choices. It all comes from a place of love and admiration though :)

6. If you could star in five of Madonna's music videos, which ones would you want to be in? If you could have been a dancer in one of her world tours, which one would you have liked to be a part of? I’m obsessed with the video to "Human Nature," it’s INCREDIBLE! That would be my all time fave, maybe I’d star as the little dog? Then one of the sexy cowboys in "Don’t Tell Me." Driving around with her in a limo in "Music" looks like fun. Lying around in a 5-star hotel room in "Justify My Love" adds just a touch of controversy and I’d have to finish off with an appearance voguing in "Vogue." As for being a dancer, I was a big fan of the "Sticky and Sweet" tour and joined in at home with the jumping "Give It To Me" finale. So fun!

Michael Griffiths7. Let’s find out a bit about you through some Madonna songs:

  • Where's your favorite place to take a "Holiday" (from Madonna)? I love a tropical holiday, anywhere the ocean is warm. "La Isla Bonita" perhaps?
  • When have you felt like a "Material Girl" (from Like A Virgin)?  Hmmm, when I buy expensive skincare?
  • When your dad would try to teach you something, did you ever say or think "Papa Don't Preach" (from True Blue)? I would burst into song, "BUT I’VE MADE UP MY MIND, IIIIIIIII'M KEEPING MY BABY!" Actually, that would be weird.
  • If you weren't a singer, how would you "Express Yourself" (from Like A Prayer)? Maybe I’d be a writer? Even as a singer, I think what’s appealing to me is telling stories.
  • What is something you hope happens for you "Sooner or Later" (from her album I'm Breathless)? I hope I get to keep doing what I’m doing now.
  • What is something the "Rain" (from Erotica) has washed away for you? I feel like "Rain" might be a metaphor for healing. I think as we all grow up, there’s a gap in what we thought life would be like and what it actually is. This causes pain which triggers growth and healing. I’m suddenly getting very deep....
  • When have you been enlightened by a "Ray of Light" (from Ray of Light)? I’m still waiting....
  • What is one "Secret" (from Bedtime Story) you would like to reveal that you haven't told in a previous interview? I’m a big softie and beautiful music makes me cry.
  • On Music, Madonna sings "Nobody's Perfect," what is one of your imperfections? I can be bombastic and easily carried away.
  • Inspired by "I'm So Stupid" (from American Life), what do you feel is the stupidest thing you've ever done? Deciding to leave my partner of 20 years for a young admirer. The youngster disappeared, my partner forgave me and it all worked out in the end. I was in idiot though.
  • When has there been a time in your life when you were ready to "Jump" (from Confessions on the Dance Floor) and you did? After many years working in musical theatre I decided to jump ship and try my luck doing cabaret. Three years later and I’m about to tour the States. "Don’t ever look back oh baby."
  • What is the most "Incredible" (from Candy Shop) thing to happen to you? I won a Helpmann Award (an Australian equivalent to a Tony) which proclaims me to be the "Best Cabaret Performer" in Australia last year. That was pretty amazing.
  • Aside from Madonna, who else do you "Turn Up The Radio" (from MDNA) for? Anything I can dance to, especially when no one is looking.
  • On Madonna's album Rebel Heart, she sings "Heartbreak City." What has been your biggest heartbreak? Finding out as an adult I was "donor conceived" and I didn't know who my biological father was. That was heartbreaking.

8. Now, let's turn to her movies. If you had a face to face meeting with her characters from Who's That Girl, Dick Tracy, A League of Their Own, Body of Evidence, and Madonna herself from Truth or Dare, what advice would you give to each of them? I’ve not watched any of those movies for sooo long! I actually have a massive soft spot for Swept Away although she is such massive bitch in it that I’d be terrified to give her any advice whatsoever.

9. If you could release a duets album with Madonna, featuring 10 of her songs, which ones would you want to record with her? I feel like going down the "Tears Of A Clown" path and doing lesser known songs: 

  • "Get Together"
  • "Inside of Me"
  • "Frozen"
  • "Dress You Up"
  • "Nothing Fails"
  • "Live To Tell"
  • "Phyiscal Attraction"
  • "Bedtime Story"
  • "Justify My Love"
  • "Beautiful Stranger"

10. If you had the opportunity to interview Madonna, what is one question you would ask her? Have you forgiven your brother for that book?

Michael GriffithsMore on Michael: 

Michael Griffiths graduated from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) with a Bachelor in Music Theatre in 1999 and has a diploma in Music Composition. He is a singer, pianist, actor, composer and musical arranger. Michael was nominated for a Green Room Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as "Bob Crewe" in Jersey Boys. He has also appeared in Priscilla Queen of the DesertWe Will Rock You!Shout! and was in the original workshop for the Australian musical Prodigal. His acclaimed one man cabaret shows In Vogue: Songs By MadonnaSweet Dreams: Songs By Annie LennoxAdolescent and Cole have delighted critics and audiences across every cabaret festival in Australia and beyond to New York, Auckland, Edinburgh, Hong Kong and London.

Sunday
Jan082017

Call Redialed: Marta Sanders: "Follow Me" at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

Marta Sanders, Photo Credit: Lou MontesanoI am so thrilled to have the opportunity to interview MAC/Bistro Award winning vocalist and top NYC tour guide Marta Sanders about the encore presentation of her show Follow Me. I have known Marta for 15 years and every time we get to do a new interview, I am as giddy as the first time we reconnected! I adore Marta and can't wait to see this show!

Follow Me celebrates Marta's twin passions -- New York, and the rest of the world. In addition to her music director John McMahon, Marta performs songs she introduced with her frequent collaborator, the late Michael Greer ("Hunk on the Bus"), she does three tunes by John Wallowitch (including her signature "Warsaw"). Marta's world-class romp around the world also includes tunes by Carol Hall, Sting, and Peter Matz, among others. Debra Zalkind and Mark Nadler are the show’s director.

Follow Me will play a four-week engagment at The Laurie Beechman Theatre (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue, inside the West Bank Cafe) from February 2-25 on the following dates: Thursday 2/2Saturday 2/11Thursday 2/16, and Saturday 2/25, all at 7pm. Click here for tickets!

For more on Marta be sure to visit http://www.martanyc.com!

1. This February you are presenting a four-week encore engagement of your newest show Follow Me. What made 2017 the right time to re-do this show? I choose to do my cabaret shows in the winter when the tourism business is quiet here in NYC. I wanted to do the show again, because I got a great response to some changes I made to the format. More storytelling and comedy.

2. What are you looking forward to most about getting back into the show? I'm excited to work the material again. I get to make some edits that I think will make it funnier. It's all about the process, working and reworking.

3. In Follow Me, you are performing "Maria by the River," a song you co-wrote with your music director John McMahon & Debra Zalkind. What do you love about the songwriting process? What do you like most about performing a song you had a part in creating as opposed to a song by someone else? "Maria By The River" is a full character and story. It's not one piece of music. She came through me on my morning walk by the Hudson. I love her because she is a part of me and she is a woman who I know from my travels and my imagination. Every time I bring her to life, she fills me with joy!

Marta Sanders, Photo Credit: Lou Montesano4. In Follow Me, you celebrate your twin passions New York and the rest of the world. As a NYC resident, what are your favorite things to do in the city? As a tour guide, what are you favorite NYC sights to show people? I love exploring the City on my own. Going into a neighborhood and just walking around, or getting on a public bus and just riding through neighborhoods and absorbing the different communities. I love taking people through the Village, NOLITA, DUMBO, Hudson Yards, Central Park, St John The Divine, Chelsea, and Bushwick.

5. If you were living in NYC and New York only had five tourist attractions in which you had to live among, which attractions would you choose to live in? Washington Square, Plymouth Church Brooklyn Heights, Riverside Church, Flatiron Building, and The Players Club.

6. What are your top five favorite places you've visited outside NYC? What are your top five dream spots to visit? Favorite Places: Hong Kong, Sydney, Venice, London, & Cape Town.

Dream Places: Portugal, Bali, Thailand, Japan, & Istanbul.

Marta Sanders7. You will be performing Follow Me in the winter month of February. What do you love most about winter in NYC? I love that it's quieter and we reclaim our city for a minute. I also love the light.

8. If you put out an album of 10 duets, who would you want to sing with? Robert Carlos, Lucicita, Mark Nadler, Eric Michael Gillette, Mercedes Sosa, Delores Hall, Marin Mazie, Chita Rivera, Brian Stokes Mitchell, & Kelli O'Hara.

9. Since this show is called Follow Me, what footsteps of yours do hope people would follow? I believe you can't learn about what the real world is, if you don't travel. Travel is the greatest teacher. It is my passion as is my entertaining.

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'm just trying to slow down. Listen more.

Marta SandersMore on Marta:

In a career spanning several decades, Sanders has won both MAC and Bistro Awards for outstanding female vocalist. Mixing her soaring alto and prowess as a comic storyteller, Marta epitomizes a freewheeling American nightclub style that was prevalent until the ‘70s -- and that has endured with such pros as Bobby Short, Steve Ross, Barbara Cooke and Marilyn Maye.

Texas born, and of American father and an Argentinian mother (her father was the head of the Peace Corp in Colombia for a time), Marta grew up in cities across the States and in South America. Soon after arriving in New York, she was cast in the original Broadway production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. But her taste for travel had her gravitating away from the theater to nightclub performing. She was featured in supper-clubs, on cruises and in concert venues across Central and South America, Russia, and on both coasts. In New York she gained a loyal following in regular appearances at such clubs as Les Mouches, The Ballroom, Upstairs at Greene Street, Reno Sweeney, and Grand Finale. She also hosted a radio program on WLIR for a time.

In October she combined her twin professions when she offered a uniquely immersive tour of New York’s storied nightlife that included performances and stories by several popular entertainers and cabaret entrepreneurs. Sponsored by Karen Lotman Productions the tour was an official event of the 27th annual Mabel Mercer Foundation Cabaret Convention.

Marta’s recordings include Panache (available on CD Baby), and Corazon del Alma available through www.martanyc.com.

Tuesday
Sep202016

Call Redialed: Luba Mason: "Mixtura" CD + Cutting Room Show 9/22

Luba Mason, Photo Credit: Agenda 2016What an honor it is to get to do this new interview with the legendary Luba Mason! I interviewed Luba back in 2012 about her acting when she was starring in NYMF's Who Murdered Love. Now, I am thrilled to have had the chance to sit down with Luba to talk about her other love, music.

In this interview Luba and I discuss the behind-the-scene tales of her newest album Mixtura, a CD featuring a mixture of jazz, world, Americana and shades of Broadway. With three self-penned songs, Luba not only sings her heart and soul out on this CD, but she wrote some pretty terrific songs as well! I can't stop listening to this album! I really loved Luba's special revelation about her time in Broadway's Chicago!

Luba will celebrate the release of Mixtura at The Cutting Room in NYC this Thursday, September 22 at 7:30pm (44 East 32nd Street). Click here fort tickets!

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

Luba Mason at the Iridium 20121. This summer you released your latest CD, Mixtura, a mixture of jazz, world, Americana and shades of Broadway. I believe the variety of styles of music on this album is just one of the reasons it's so catchy! What made you decide incorporate these different genres into one album as opposed to sticking to just one kind of music? Did the album title come first or did it come after you saw what this album was becoming? The title came first. I trademarked it three years ago. I came up with the title because I needed a name to describe the kind of music I wanted to play which was ALL types of music. MIXTURA means "a blend of different musical currents." I had folk influences growing up, played classical piano for 12 years, trained classically in voice, listened to pop music, performed on Broadway for over 15 years and was influenced by my Latin husband's music. I was not a product of just performing ONE TYPE music!

2. On this album, you penned three original songs. What do you like about songwriting that you don't get from just singing? Sharing your own personal experiences or feelings. They're not someone else's thoughts or words, they're your own, that you penned yourself.

Luba Mason recording "Mixtura"3. What was the funniest thing that happened during the recording/writing of this album? My producer and I racked our brains trying to think of a title for this album…I finally just said, "Why don't we just call it MIXTURA?? That's what it is!" Duh...

4. On September 22, you are going to celebrate the release of Mixtura at The Cutting Room in NYC. What are you looking forward to most about this concert? What do you love about performing live? I am looking forward to getting everyone from the album on the stage together: the unbelievable horn player Randy Brecker, the talented composer, pianist Vadim Neselovskyi and the ALL FEMALE MARIACHI BAND Flor De Toloache!!! 

Performing live is a unique one time experience. You are fed by the energy of the audience!!

Luba MasonLuba Mason, Agenda 20165. My favorite song, hands down, is "Freedom." I love the lyrics to this song as well as the melody. The lyrics that particularly struck a chord with me were "Freedom from boundaries. Freedom from expectations..." and then leading into "It's never too late. Never give up on your dreams." Taking these lyrics to heart, how do you keep yourself free from boundaries/expectations that are set either by yourself or others? What is one dream you still want to achieve that you are not giving up on? I wrote FREEDOM as the title song of the album because it tells you exactly what to expect as you continue to listen. No boundaries here, no expectations, just complete freedom in the music…and I keep myself true to these principles by exactly - creating, producing and releasing this album.

I dream to be back on Broadway again.

6. I also really enjoy your version of Van Morrison's "Moondance." I think you did a great job making it your own. Did you have any hesitation interpreting such a well known song in this fresh, new way (a way, mind you, I have never heard anyone else do)? Have you played your rendition of "Moondance" for Van Morrison? If so, what was his reaction? That's exactly why I chose to do "Moondance," I felt I could give it a fresh, new approach. I have not played my rendition of "Moondance" for Van Morrison but knowing that Al Jarreau LOVED the arrangement for the duet was enough for me! BTW - I cover a James Taylor tune on the album called "On The 4th Of July" and it was played for him. He loved it so much he posted it on his FB page!

Luba Mason in Broadway's "Chicago"Luba Mason in Broadway's "Chicago"7. Another song you completely redid and made your own was "All That Jazz" from Broadway's Chicago. When you decided to record this song, what made you want to give this iconic song such a fresh spin? In recording this song, did it evoke any memories of your time starring in Chicago on Broadway? If so, what were those memories? If it didn't, when you sing this song, what do you remember about your time in Chicago? The title is "All That JAZZ" so I really wanted to make it into a JAZZY song. Otherwise it really isn't. Because I have such an extensive background on Broadway, I really like to incorporate some Broadway songs into my repertoire but again, with a fresh, new spin.

My memories of CHICAGO on Broadway were so satisfying! It was seven years since I was last on Broadway before that so it felt like home to be back. The other exciting thing was being coached by Ann Reinking for the show. She was the reason I wanted to be on Broadway when I first saw her in DANCIN'. I came full circle...

8. I found myself most emotional listening to "Hannah," a song about the sexual abuse of a girl by her father and living with a mother who knew what was happening, but stayed silent. Yet, through all of this, the young girl and her sister vow to marry, have kids of their own, and break the cycle of abuse. What is the story behind this import song? What made you go, "I need to put this out there because it will help others?" I know the album has only been out a few months, but in that time, have you heard from any fans about this song helping them? I wrote the song because I have a couple of people very close to me who went through this experience. And not too many people write songs about sexual incest so I felt it was an important message to put out there and be heard. Many people comment about the song after my performance and a conversation starts. That's how it begins. A conversation just needs to be started. It helps the healing process...

Luba MasonLuba Mason, Agenda Photoshoot, Photo Credit: Federico Galbraith9. You also did a terrific job with "Last Snowfall." It's such a great story song...looking back on a relationship that didn't work out. When you've had a relationship not work out, how did you get through the heartache? When the "Last Snowfall" comes every winter, do you still think about this lost love as intensely or is it now more just a passing thought? I wrote this song about my father who passed away last year. The memories, the longing of wanting him back and how he is missed. Interesting how it can also be interpreted as a relationship that didn't work out...

10. My last question is about your song "Beautiful." In this song, the woman you sing about, is so tired of doing everything for everyone, she just wants to do something for herself. That leads into my favorite lyric "Once I started doing everything for everybody else, I wanted to do something for me, I wanted to be beautiful." When was there a time in your life you just had to take a step back and focus on Luba because you were doing everything for others and neglecting yourself? When I divorced my first husband!

Luba Mason, Agenda Photoshoot, Photo Credit: Federico GalbraithMore on Luba:

Vocalist Luba Mason is "a powerfully emotional song interpreter" (All Music Guide), blessed with "a celestial voice" (Los Angeles Times). The classically trained singer, pianist, dancer and actor who was nominated for the prestigious 2015 DRAMA DESK and LUCILLE LORTEL theater awards as "Best Featured Actress in a Musical," also has an impressive Broadway pedigree that really knocks you out with not only her stunning vocal range but also her extraordinary versatility as a performer. Luba is beyond category.

A native New Yorker born in Astoria, Queens and first generation American of Slovak descent, Luba grew up in a bi-lingual household, Slovak being her first language. She started classical piano at age five and continued for 12 more years while singing in several church choirs prompted by her piano teacher after discovering her talent for singing at the end of a piano lesson. Becoming ever more interested in singing, Luba began to study voice with teachers from The Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music recommended by her older sister who was studying opera there. Having sights on Broadway, Luba was later accepted to Circle in the Square Theatre School and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in DRAMA. Straight out of school, Luba was plucked by Tommy Tune to sing and dance on Broadway in the Tony Award-winning "THE WILL ROGER’S FOLLIES." She went on to impress director Trevor Nunn, who cast her in the American premiere of "SUNSET BLVD." But it was director/impresario Des McAnuff who placed Luba front and center as sex bomb "Hedy LaRue" next to Matthew Broderick’s "J. Pierpont Finch" in the celebrated first Broadway revival of "HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS…." Featured roles in Paul Simon’s "THE CAPEMAN" and opposite the legendary comedian Sid Caesar in "SID CAESAR & CO" preceded Luba’s return to center stage as she starred in the Broadway production of "JEKYLL & HYDE" and then, as "Velma Kelly" oppositeBrooke Shield’s "Roxy Hart" in the smash musical "CHICAGO." Tapped by Rubén Blades (her cast mate in "THE CAPEMAN") as a guest vocalist for his 2003 Grammy Award-winning CD "MUNDO," Luba's seamless segue from the New York stage to the Hollywood scene, gave her a chance to tackle dramatic roles in guest-starring parts on "PERSON OF INTEREST," "FOREVER," "LAW & ORDER," "NYPD BLUE," "NEW YORK UNDERCOVER," and opposite Jeff Goldblum in the psychic detective series, "RAINES."

As a recording artist, Luba has released three critically–acclaimed albums: COLLAGE (PS Classics), a beautiful marriage of Latin, pop, jazz and poetry; KRAZY LOVE, (Sunnyside Records), "Exquisite, Seductive, Saudade" - (Sting), where Luba debuts her impressive songwriting skills executing a cool, Brazilian mood with an intimate acoustic sound, featuring bassist Jimmy Haslip (Yellowjackets), Renato Neto (Prince), world renowned flautist Hubert Laws and her husband - 14 time Grammy Winner Rubén Blades. Luba's new release, MIXTURA, features a new musical format she has trademarked: MIXTURA® - "a blend of different musical currents." The record was produced by Jimmy Haslip and Luba with guests Al Jarreau, Randy Brecker, Dori Caymmi, Kenny Loggins, Vadim Neselovskyi and others. The CD is released by Kobalt Music.

Having toured the US and abroad, Luba has been a featured performer at the PANAMA JAZZ FESTIVAL opening for Wayne Shorter, Danilo Perez and Chucho Valdez and has headlined HAVANA, CUBA’S 40TH INTERNATIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL as well as COSTA RICA’S INTERNATIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL. In the U.S., she has performed sold out shows at LA’s famed CATALINA BAR & GRILL, YOSHI’S in Oakland, the BLUE NOTE in N.Y., BLUES ALLEY in D.C., WORLD CAFÉ in Philadelphia and the REGATTA BAR in Boston. She has also headlined at VIBRATO and the CINEGRILL in L.A., DIZZY’S COCA COLA, FEINSTEIN’S, BIRDLAND, B.B. KINGS, IRIDIUM and THE METROPOLITAN ROOM in N.Y. In 2015 Luba and her husband performed together on stage at RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL in Paul Simon's sold out benefit for the "Children's Health Fund's 25th Anniversary" alongside Mr. Simon, Edie Brickell, Sting, James Taylor, Stevie Wonder and numerous other luminaries. Last November, Luba joined her husband at JAZZ AT LINCOLN CENTER with Wynton Marsalis and his band in one of the highlights of the evening singing Otis Blackwell’s "Fever."

Wednesday
Aug172016

Call Answered: Gustavo Pace: Naked Brazillian 2016 FringeNYC

Celebrating their 20th anniversary, FringeNYC is back in full swing! With over 200 shows to choose from, playwrights, directors, producers, and actors from all over the world descend on New York City's East Village for two weeks in August to present their work.

One of the shows in this year's FringeNYC is Gustavo Pace's Naked Brazillian. How could I not want to interview Gustavo? I mean, I love boys, I love Brazillians, and who wouldn't want to be naked with Gustavo. But in all seriousness, it was Gustavo's story that really attracted me to this show. Naked Brazillian tells the tale of a young man journeys from Rio to NYC to make a case for his own destiny, struggling against his father’s wishes to become a lawyer. Along the way this boy faces many obstacles including sleeping in Central Park while struggling to find a home, almost dying by drug dealers in Rio, having to visit dangerous prisons in Rio, and living with an alcoholic father.

With just two performances left, Naked Brazillian will play on Friday, 8/19 @ 9:15pm and Sunday, 8/21 @ 8:30pm at 64 East 4th Street Mainstage. Click here for tickets!

For more on Naked Brazillian be sure to visit http://www.nakedbrazilianshow.com and follow the show on Facebook!

Gustavo Pace in "Naked Brazillian" Photo Credit: Jim R Moore/Vaudevisuals.comGustavo Pace in "Naked Brazillian" Photo Credit: Jim R Moore/Vaudevisuals.com1. Naked Brazillian is being presented in the 2016 FringeNYC and tells the hilarious and heartwarming story of a young man's journey from Rio de Janeiro to New York City (and Harvard University) in pursuit of his dream. What made now the right time to submit this show to the Fringe Festival and what does it mean to be showcasing it in this festival? Considering the Olympic Games in Rio, I felt it was the right time to bring the reality of Brazil to New York. It's a great pleasure to be
part of the FringeNYC. It's a fantastic festival with great artists and crew. I  think we live in a time where the young people are losing their true passions and dreams. So the play is dedicated to those who have a life dream and work hard to achieve it.

2. In this show you discuss the many different obstacles you encountered during your travels including sleeping in Central Park while struggling to find a home and almost dying by drug dealers in Rio. What did you learn about your survival skills from sleeping in Central Park? As you were on death's door at the hands of drug dealers in Rio, what thoughts were going through your head and how did you manage to get away? I learned that in the most difficult situations you have to breathe, imagine that things will get better and laugh about it. I think a great way to survive the pain is to laugh and see the light. The drug dealers had a big knife and a gun, but somehow I was able to communicate with them clearly and they robbed everything. So I ended up wearing only my underwear in the middle of Carnaval and people thought it was my costume.

Gustavo Pace in "Naked Brazillian" Photo Credit: Jim R Moore/Vaudevisuals.comGustavo Pace in "Naked Brazillian" Photo Credit: Jim R Moore/Vaudevisuals.com3. This show also talks about how you wanted nothing more than to entertain people, but found it hard to fit in. When did you finally feel like you fit in? It happened when I just graduated from Harvard and accepted the challenge to fight to be an actor despite success and money. It happened in New York where people are open to diversity and to whom you truly are. I felt home. 

4. What did you learn about yourself while writing this show? I learned that I'll be happier when I follow my own dreams and not my father's or anyone else's.

5. 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 don't want to criticize myself as much as I do. I want to trust more and more (1% better every day) that being honest and sincere is enough to get the best out of life.

Gustavo Pace in "Naked Brazillian" Photo Credit: Jim R Moore/Vaudevisuals.comGustavo Pace in "Naked Brazillian" Photo Credit: Jim R Moore/Vaudevisuals.com6. Since you've titled this show Naked Brazillian, what's your favorite part about being naked? My favorite part is to get my soul naked.

7. If you had to give people one reason why they should come see Naked Brazillian, what would that reason be? Naked Brazilian, performed in both English and Portuguese, giving us a glimpse into attitudes towards topics such as masculinity, sexuality, and family in Brazilian culture, in a physical and darkly comic performance. The play has a strong message about fighting for your life dream.

If you aren’t lucky enough to have tickets to the last week of the Olympics, you can pretend Copacabana beach is at 64E4 MainStage this week in the final two performances: Friday, 8/19 @ 9:15pm and Sunday, 8/21 @ 8:30pm.

Gustavo Pace Photo Credit: Jim R Moore/Vaudevisuals.comMore on Gustavo:

Gustavo Pace graduated with his MFA in Acting from Harvard University’s professional acting program at the American Repertory Theater. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for Theater/Acting. Previously, he attended the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York. He graduated in Law at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio).

He received the Brazilian International Press Award in 2013 for his achievement in Theater in the United States and in 2015 the Portuguese-Brazilian Award at Lincoln Center for Achievement in Theater, Film and Television. In 2014 he appeared in The Idiot, at the Moscow Art Theatre under the direction of Marina Brusnikina. It was also in 2014 that he appeared as "Ivanov" in an adaptation of Ivanov and Uncle Vanya entitled By Chekhov directed by Igor Zolotovitsky, which was part of a play festival held at Melikhovo in Russia, in the house that Chekhov wrote many of his most famous plays. He appeared in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Anya Saffir in Cambridge in 2015 and recently performed his solo show Discovery at the Abingdon Theatre, as part of an All for One Theater Production. He appeared in the Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing in the Riverside Park in New York.

Friday
Jul292016

Call Redialed: Karen Finley: Unicorn Gratitude Mystery at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

Karen FinleyI first interviewed Karen Finley in 2014 when her show Written in Sand made it's NYC debut. I was so inspired by that interview that when this new opportunity came to interview her, I jumped at it.

Her new show Karen Finley: Unicorn Gratitude Mystery, will be debuting at The Laurie Beechman Theatre this summer! In UNICORN, Karen humorously explores America's obsession with the imagined, unattainable white-horned mythical creature. Armed with a healthy does of cynicism, GRATITUDE finds Karen obsessing on the narcissistic tendencies that fuel contemporary gentrification. And with MYSTERY, Karen dives deep into the language, emotion, and the loss of control that can happen when we give in to our fear of the unknown.

In this interview Karen and I dive deep into the creation of this show talking about Karen's interest in unicorns, what she is grateful for, and which of life's mysteries she thinks about the most. We also discuss her fears, what she still wants to accomplish, and how she would like to improve her life by one percent better!

Karen Finley: Unicorn Gratitude Mystery will play The Laurie Beechman Theatre (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue, inside the West Bank Cafe) from July 31-August 21! Click here for tickets!

1. It's great getting to talk to you again Karen. You're new show, Karen Finley: Unicorn Gratitude Mystery, will be premiering at The Laurie Beechman Theatre from July 31-August 21. What are you looking forward to about performing this new show? How did you come up with the title? It is great speaking to you too Adam. There are so many reasons why I am looking forward to the performance. First, personally, I love performing and I love the Laurie Beechman Theater - and look forward to the physical intimacy of performing before a live audience being able to have a cocktail!. Secondly – the material – there will be humor, politics, and hopefully moments of profoundness. The performance has 3 sections – and each section deals with a topic - Unicorn – which is an exploration of the mythical attainment of the isolated white magical beast as a metaphor. Gratitude – explores the despair, the condescension of liberal white power, the aggressiveness of gratitude, thankfulness, forgiveness and the privilege of appreciation. The Mystery section explores the preoccupation of unknown events – trauma – such as flight 360 that vanished, the fear of the unknown. And the blues, depression that accompanies the not knowing. It is still in development….

Karen Finley2. According press notes, this show is divided into three sections. In Unicorn, you humorously explores America's obsession with the imagined, unattainable white-horned mythical creature. Why are you fascinated with unicorns? What do they represent to you? I have been interested in unicorns – for sometime since a child, probably since seeing the famous Cloister medieval tapestry with the gated unicorn. But what I am interested in – is the symbol – or the replacement – and the interest of the unicorn by the unconscious - and what that means. I think that the white, mythical creature – with the phallus on it’s head – a dick coming out of it’s brain – and that the imagination - circulated only in whiteness mythology. The unicorn is always alone…

3. In Gratitude, you talk about the narcissistic tendencies that fuel contemporary gentrification. Do you find any gratitude in society's obsession with each individuals narcissism? What are you most grateful for today? It is more that narcissistic tendencies but a narcissistic prevalent culture that disguises its exclusivity and elitism by the purchasing power of coconut water and the yoga mat yet the aggressiveness seen in the aisles of Whole Foods. Yet, I go deeper with the masochism in apologies – that can be ever so gendered.

Karen Finley performing "Written in Sand"4. In Mystery, you dive deep into the language, emotion, and the loss of control that can happen when we give in to our fear of the unknown. When was there a time in your life that you lost control? How did you find your way out? Thank you for taking the topic seriously – for yes, mystery – the mystery in life, in death is a space of not knowing. Mystery for me is to allow a designated space or time to knowing the not knowing – and the mystery that surrounds the situation. Allowing mystery without knowing rather in the literary genre the crime or mystery is solved. For me mystery serves both a spiritual and psychic function. Once I stopped searching – but allowed mystery a presence in my life was able to feel or accept blueness, depth, and beyond.

5. What is one of life's mysteries you think about the most? There are so many different ways to answer that – whether in my personal life- society – and larger questions of the universe – but somehow there are questions – or events that answers are never given – and for me the part is to try and not to obsess about or wait for an answer but to be present and to have a connection to humanity regardless.

Karen Finley6. What is your greatest fear? Donald Trump becoming president. I fear the escalation – continued violence in this country and abroad – I fear racism, sexism, oppression – bullying.

7. 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? That is a lovely part of your column - I would think of it as in one step on a staircase – How can I transform my pain into compassion?

8. What is something about Karen Finley that most people don't know? That I am an introvert.

9. What haven't you accomplished that you would still like to? I would like to host my own talk show.

10. If you could star in a film or TV show that was a mystery, centered around a unicorn or featured one, and made you feel grateful, which films or TV shows would have liked to be in? LOL - hahaha. The Golden Girls where ("Rose") Betty White, buys a cute Unicorn in the winodw of a Romantic Depot - shows it to "Blanche," "Dorothy," and "Sophia" and it turns out to be a unicorn sex toy. Mystery solved! And boy, were they grateful!

Karen Finley performing "Written in Sand"More on Karen:

Since her first performances in the early 1980's, Karen Finley has become synonymous with performance art. A performer, artist, writer, musician, poet, teacher and lecturer, she is the recipient of two Obies, two Bessies, and multiple grants from the NEA and NYSCA. She has toured internationally with pieces including Make Love, George & Martha, The Jackie Look, The American Chestnut, A Certain Level of Denial and The Return of The Chocolate Smeared Woman and Written in the Sand. In 1990, Karen became an unwilling symbol for the NEA when she, along with Tim Miller, Holly Hughes & John Fleck, sued the NEA for withdrawing grants on the grounds of indecency; the controversial case went all the way to the Supreme Court. Among Karen's books include Shock Treatment, Enough Is Enough: Weekly Meditations for Living Dysfunctionally, the Martha Stewart satire Living It Up: Humorous Adventures in Hyperdomesticity, Pooh Unplugged,  and A Different Kind of Intimacy.