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Entries in New York City (138)

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.

Wednesday
Jul202016

Call Answered: BenDeLaCreme: BenDeLaCreme's Inferno A-Go-Go at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

BenDeLaCremeAs a life long RuPaul fan, I was super excited to get the opportunity to interview another RuPaul's Drag Race favorite. This time around, I got to talk with Season Six's BenDeLaCreme whose new show, BenDeLaCreme's Inferno A-Go-Go will be making it's debut at The Laurie Beechman Theatre in NYC this summer. In this show, BenDeLaCreme seeks to answer that age old question: What the Hell? Turning her gay gaze toward Dante’s Inferno -- the original travel brochure of the damned -- this rollicking romp through nine circles of fire and fun is equal parts brimstone and rhinestones.

After reading a bit about BenDeLaCreme's Inferno A-Go-Go, I couldn't wait to pick Ben's brain about the creation of this show, starring on RuPaul's Drag Race, and finding out about his own suffering as well as how he wants to improve his life by one percent better everyday!

BenDeLaCreme's Inferno A-Go-Go will play The Laurie Beechman Theatre (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue, inside the West Bank Cafe) from July 28-August 19! Click here for tickets!

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

1. This summer you are premiering your newest show BenDeLaCreme's Inferno A-Go-Go at The Laurie Beechman Theatre in NYC. What are you looking forward to most about performing this show? Everything! I love doing solo projects where every aspect is within my control - the writing, the props and costumes, the music and video elements. It’s a fully realized experience that I get to share with the audience. And this time I’m working with some pretty dense source material - this is a comedic cabaret based on Dante’s Inferno - and I’m really proud of how it’s taken shape! The story is SO epic and has SO many characters - taking it on as a solo show means finding a lot of interesting ways to solve all those problems - and for me that always leads to the best comedy.

2. What made now the right time to debut a new show? Momentum? I’m not sure - I just had one in me! Apparently I am on a kick where I write one show a year. Who knows if that will last, but so far I’ve been inspired to do that. I premiered my first solo work, Terminally Delightful in NYC in 2014. After getting that ball rolling I immediately felt ready to create something new for the following year, resulting in my scientific spoof, COSMOS - Space. Time. Splash of Cran. The reception was great and I had so much fun doing it that this next piece just started bubbling in my head.

It’s interesting because I chose Inferno as subject a while back, and at the time didn’t quite know why I was so drawn to it. But I’ve learned to trust that, and to know that at some point about half way through the process I’ll go "OOOOOH - THAT’S why I chose this." This time, that happened personally, but also in this completely unpredictable way where 2016 turned out to be a pretty horrific nightmare year, and one that we are all desperately trying to make sense of. And here I was, elbows deep in Dante’s Inferno a story about suffering and anguish - the idea that we are possibly doomed by some greater power. That our punishments fit our crimes. And it’s a text filled with death and torture and murder and just the worst that humanity has to offer. And I thought, "Ok. Ok. This is a lot to tackle, but let’s do this. Let’s make an uplifting comedy about the atrocities of the world with a journey through Hell as the central metaphor." And here we are.

BenDeLaCreme3. This show is about hell, the eternity of suffering, and so much more. What is something you have done that you feel might send you to hell? What is the hardest thing you've suffered from so far in your life? Well, I don’t actually believe in Hell. While in this show we do take a ridiculous romp through the nine circles, the main idea behind the show is a corruption of one of Dante’s themes, which is that we all create our own Hell. I believe that "Hell" is an idea devised to wrap our mind around suffering, which is a part of our lives. When you accept that, and realize that to a certain degree you have control over it, you’re already on your way out of it. I’ve suffered through some stuff, the death of my mother at an early age, growing up a pretty reviled gay kid in the country, depression - and all that is pretty damn tame in the grand scheme of tragedy. I’m pretty sure that to whatever degree it manifests, suffering is one of the things we all have in common as humans. And that common experience is a place form which we can draw strength.

4. This show is a blend of burlesque, comedy, performance art and music. How do you feel this combination of performance styles helps tell the story you want to convey? Well those are the mediums through which I tell EVERY story. They’ve always been my languages of choice. And I love to take subjects that do NOT seem to want to be told through those methods and push them through that meat grinder to see what kind of bizarre, sparkly, hilarious goo comes out on the other side. Plus, for me, going high camp, high glitz - it’s the perfect counterpoint to subjects that are scarier, sadder, darker. It allows you to really go there. It takes the edge off. If you’ve lubed the path well enough, you can go further down it.

BenDeLaCreme, Photo Credit: Maddelynn Hatter5. Going back to the beginning, how did you come up with your name BenDeLaCreme? Well, Ben is just my name. So I initially chose "BenDeLaCreme" as an extension of my own name and a play on the phrase "Creme De La Creme," meaning "The Best of the Best." Little did I know I was in the beginning stages of creating this character that was sort of eternally optimistic. The more she took shape, the more I felt she was highlighting the best qualities that I possess. The most generous, caring, exuberant part of me. So the name became very fitting - BenDeLaCreme; "The Best of Ben."

6. What went through your head when you found out you got selected to be on RuPaul's Drag Race? What did you learn from RuPaul himself? Oh I was overjoyed - for sure! I had not felt interested in auditioning for Drag Race until that year. Suddenly, I was like- "this is it. It’s time for you to do this. RIGHT. NOW." I had been really happy with my career in Seattle but I felt like I’d hit a ceiling and this would be the way to break through it. So I put every ounce of energy and intention into making it happen. All my eggs in one basket. I was excited and RELIEVED when it happened!

As far as learning from RuPau l- I don’t think I learned much from Ru while filming the show. For one thing - we don’t actually have much contact with Ru, which makes sense for the purposes of the competition. Secondly - you’re a little too busy trying to live through the day to start picking up inspirational tidbits. But I will say that Ru was a huge inspiration to me growing up. When she published Lettin it all Hang Out I took the train into Boston to go to the one gay bookstore I knew of to buy a copy - and I poured over that book every day for months trying to absorb it all. I learned a lot about the mechanics of creating a look, but more than that I learned about what it takes to be a queen - an ability to channel a certain kind of serenity that allows you to know who you are and why you're here - and that those other opinions just don’t really matter.

BenDeLaCreme7. How do you feel being on the show helped move your career forward? It’s immeasurable. I went from having a very loyal and wonderful Seattle fan base to being an internationally known performer. I’m still making the same sort of work I was making pre-drag race but on a much larger scale, with more resources, and the insight and refinement one gets from touring work to audiences around the world. I just feel very blessed to happen to live in a time when drag is getting so much respect as an art form.

8. What was something that happened to you on RuPaul's Drag Race that you wish you could take back? Mmmm…I would have won? I dunno. I don’t really have any regrets. I played well and, more importantly, when I look back on the experience I feel proud of the work I did and the way I conducted myself. I actually managed to make some lasting friendships, and I feel I represented my character in a way that supports my work moving forward. No complaints.

BenDeLaCreme9. What is the one thing you feel gets the most misunderstood about you? That the character of BenDeLaCreme’s "happiness" is two dimensional or shallow - or a way of turning away from difficult things. I can see why one might have gathered that from viewing Drag Race, but anyone who’s ever seen one of my live shows knows this is a device. I use BenDeLaCreme as a foil for most every idea I present. Her relentless desire to cling to the bright side is always a way of highlighting the darker more complex aspects of humanity. Her purposefully ditzy demeanor speaks to the way we all sometimes play dumb when stuff gets too hard. But she always comes around. She always learns and grows and then finds the real good in the situation, not just the superficial. But the message of this character is not "BE HAPPY ALL THE TIME UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES." It’s not a tool to mask pain or struggle. It’s the opposite! It’s a magnifying lens! It says "LOOK AT THIS STRUGGLE! I have one! You have one! Let’s dig into it and laugh a little!"

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 every day? Every day I try to be more accepting of who I am right now. Am I stressed out? Ok, I’m stressed out. Do those shorts not fit anymore? Ok, they don’t fit. Did I not hit the deadline I set for myself? No, I didn’t. Quit dwelling on it. Hit it today. Striving to be better is a wonderful thing, but beating yourself up never helps you get there.

BenDeLaCremeMore on BenDeLaCreme:

BenDeLaCreme has appeared in theaters and nightclubs from coast to coast ever since the fateful day in 2002 when s/he realized that normally unsavory behavior could be dressed up in fancy clothes and called "Performance Art." Formerly based in Chicago, but with lucite heels now planted firmly in Seattle, BenDeLaCreme combines his/her background in the performing & visual arts with a love of spectacle, glamour, and Saturday morning cartoons to create a thick sludge of sparkly entertainment. BenDeLaCreme is best known from season six of RuPaul’s Drag Race and has since been voted one of the show’s "15 fan favorite queens of all time." In 2014, the premiere of Terminally Delightful wowed audiences nationally, including an encore engagement in New York. Her 2015 follow-up, Cosmos, blended Carl Sagan with cocktail culture and cemented her reputation as one of drags most creative talents.

Saturday
May212016

Call Answered: Sven Ratzke "Starman" at Joe's Pub

David Bowie was an icon on so many levels from his music to his impact on society! Everyone has a story as to what David Bowie meant to them. Sven Ratzke, transgressive European Entertainer Extraordinaire, is no exception to people who have been inspired by David Bowie. In fact, Sven is presenting the New York premiere of his internationally acclaimed show Starman at Joe's Pub from May 23-26! Click here for tickets!

Inspired by the iconic musician and songwriter David Bowie, the program combines many of the artist’s famous numbers such as "Space Oddity," "Rebel Rebel," "Heroes," and "Rock and Roll Suicide" with album deep cuts and inspired original songs by Sven and Rachelle Garniez. More than a mere tribute show, Starman is a one-man rock musical with unique characters and bold reinventions of glam rock classics!

For more on Sven be sure to visit http://www.sven-ratzke.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!

Sven Ratzke as "Starman"1. By the time your new one-man show Starman hits Joe’s Pub, you will have already performed it in 30 cities worldwide. What has it been like to perform this show? How has the show evolved over this tour so far? It's a triumph! It's so great to see that we've found a great balance with this show to make people laugh, cry, dance and just think and listen. The show makes me very happy because it makes other people happy. We've put so much hard work into it and it's payed off. And it’s evolved also. In the beginning, for example, I was wearing a wig because I wanted to transform into this character, but as we went further I became more and more myself in this show. So the wig is gone!

2. What was it about David Bowie and his music that influenced your own style so much? Bowie was always present but I was never a mega fan. I was intrigued and I admired him. But as I did all this research on him I discovered a new Bowie: he's a theatre maker. His whole life is like an opera. He was always in charge. I mean, look at his almost-staged death, the last album and all these clips. It's so amazing that somebody had his total artistic control.

Sven Ratzke3. What excites you about bringing this show to New York? How do you feel New York audiences will react to it over other audiences you’ve played for? The show will be different because in Europe we play in big venues with my own band and there is a light show. Now we have the intimacy of Joe’s Pub. You can only perform on a stage like that when you know your shit, and especially in New York City. You better kill it. But since the first time I was on a stage in New York, the audience gave me so much love and understanding. They just know what I'm talking about and what I'm doing. I have to come to New York at least twice a year to perform because it gives me a lot of inspiration.

4. If you had the chance to perform this show for David Bowie, how do you think he would have liked the show? Which song would you have wanted "Starman" and David Bowie to collaborate on? I think he would have loved the show. He got the CD just a month before he died. But I know a lot of people who knew him and they told me also that he would have loved the show because it's not a tribute show. I’m not just singing his songs, it’s almost a re-invention that utilizes fiction and fantasy. His name is not even mentioned, but his soul is there and his great songwriting is the basis of this show.

I never ever thought an actual collaboration with Bowie. That’s not what this is about for me: this show is meant to bring his music to life. I also think that he would have laughed a lot at our show. Bowie had a great sense of humor and he would have loved all the bizarre and wicked thoughts in this show.

Sven Ratzke5. Which songs do you think he would have wished you put in the show that you did not? Mmmh, I think he just would be happy. Maybe he would have said: "I have a song that I never used, it's in my safe. I'm gonna give it to you." But I'm just dreaming now.

6. How is Starman similar and different from David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust? I take you on a trip…a journey where fantasy and my life mingle with the magic of Bowie. The journey is told through his songs from the seventies, from London, NYC and finally Berlin. It's sometimes really funny and sometimes the songs themselves can move you to tears. And we meet characters like Andy Warhol, who is a white rabbit, and Liz Taylor, who's a wax figure of a child star. We start in the stinking streets of London and end up in a drag club in Berlin, so it's quit a fun night. And filled with rock 'n' roll of course.

Sven Ratzke7. You are internationally recognized for starring in the first-ever Berlin production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. What was it like to premiere this show in Berlin? How did you make the role your own, after so many other actors have performed that role in other productions around the world? First off all, to get the blessing of the creator John Cameron Mitchell helped a lot. But I'm also a bit torn like "Hedwig" because I'm am both an entertainer and half from Berlin. It's the strangest and hardest show I’ve ever done. People are so in love with it. But it's also hard to explain what the show is to people that never heard of Hedwig. As "Hedwig" you have to win them over, you have to be authentic - you have to BE "Hedwig!" We are bringing the show back to Berlin this fall, but also to Hamburg for the first time. That's really exciting.

8. What was it like when John Cameron Mitchell declared you were the best "Hedwig" he had ever seen? How does something like that influence future performances? Oh it made me so happy because I know it's John’s baby. And he was so amazing. You can't top that. It's makes me so incredibly proud that he's so fond of it.

9. Besides David Bowie, who were some of your other influences that made you want to be a performer? Well I've already worked with some amazing people and it's always; just watch and learn like Nina Hagen. She's crazy, but she's amazing. I work with so many different people like classical and jazz musicians. With New York City legends Joey Arias and Justin Vivian Bond. They are such beauties! And The Tiger Lillies – they’re so great! I really love my job and I am looking forward to meeting more people. I hope I get to meet Liza soon.

Sven RatzkeMore on Sven:

Sven Ratzke crosses musical genres and traverses decades with panache and a unique style that blends high culture with elements of glam rock, classic Weimar cabaret with vaudeville. The Netherlands-based entertainer tours the world’s biggest theaters, festivals and nightclubs from sold-out shows at Lincoln Center in New York and the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam to the famous Berliner Ensemble in Berlin. He has released five albums and has worked with legends of the European arts world such as Nina Hagen, Hanna Schygulla, and The Tiger Lilies. Sven is internationally-recognized for the title role in the first-ever Berlin production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. John Cameron Mitchell, the musical’s creator and the original star, declared "Sven is the best "Hedwig" I’ve ever seen." After its smash run in Berlin at the Admiralspalast, Sven brought the show to Utrecht and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Basel and Vienna. Ratzke’s Hedwig returns to Berlin in October and travels to Hamburg in November.