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"Call Me Adam" chats with...

 

 

Entries in Off-Broadway (337)

Tuesday
Dec012015

Call Answered: Conference Call with Villain: DeBlanks creator Billy Mitchell and Tony nominee Brenda Braxton

Billy MitchellBrenda BraxtonI have seen Billy Mitchell's Villain: DeBlanks at least half a dozen times over this past year. This hilarious show is part Madlibs, part whodunit, but always resulting in an evening of laughter and fun! With a rotating cast, the audience helps figure out who killed "Phillip DeBlanks," making EVERY show different from the one before!

Now "Call Me Adam" gets inside the head of Billy Mitchell to learn how he created this thrilling show as well as the show's producer, Tony Nominee Brenda Braxton. Villain: DeBlanks plays the first Sunday of every month at The Triad in New York City, the next installment being Sunday, December 6 at 7:30pm (158 West 72nd Street, between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenue). Click here for tickets!

As of press time, the cast for December 6 includes Geneva Carr, Bobby Cronin, Daisy Eagan, Lauren Elder, Peter Filichia, and Hunter Ryan-Herdlicka.

For more on Villain: DeBlanks be sure to visit http://www.villaindeblanks.com and follow the show on Facebook and Twitter!

1. Let's start at the beginning. Villain: DeBlanks is a murder mystery story combined with a mad-libs style format where the audience is asked to provide some of the missing links to the script and then after the show is performed, the audience chooses whom they think killed "Phillip DeBlanks." Billy, how did you come to write Villain: DeBlanks with the format of it being an interactive show where the audience helps "finish" the script each show? Villain: DeBlanks actually began as part of a children's series I wrote & directed for The Attic Ensemble in Jersey City. I've always been a word nerd, and a lifelong advocate for literacy and creative writing, and this was a really fun way to endorse the value of language skills to diverse audiences of children and their parents, many of whom were learning English as a second language. During rehearsal one afternoon the adult actors and I decided to just make it more entertaining for ourselves by filling in the blanks with rude, naughty, "adult" words, and I thought: "Holy (EXPLETIVE)_____, this is a late night show!"

Brenda Braxton in "Villain DeBlanks"2. What has it been like to grow this show from an every few months, one-night only show, to a monthly series? 

Billy: It's funny, because I have pretty much averaged one show each month for the past year -- they've just been all over the place (54 Below, Buck County Playhouse, The Rockwell in LA, etc.). To have a monthly performance at a regular time in a consistent venue is definitely a treat -- first Sunday of each month at The Triad NYC! -- and this venue is a great fit for the show. Also, to call the run "Brenda Braxton presents Villain DeBlanks" is incredibly flattering. Brenda did the show twice, then insisted on doing it a third time before she went out to sea to perform After Midnight for Norwegian Cruise Lines. Then, while rehearsing that show in Florida, she coordinated booking the Triad and securing the room for us. It's perfect, too, because we are currently booked through April, and that will be her return to DeBlanks!

Brenda Braxton: As performers we are sometimes looking for that next thing that might make us as happy performing. My Tony nomination for Smokey Joe's Cafe was truly one of the highlights of my career but I must say being able to produce Villain: DeBlanks has been a wonderful "Act 2"!! I want to continue producing this show as long as Billy will let me!! Not to mention being one of the six performers. I'm looking forward to returning to Villain: DeBlanks in April!!

3. Not only has Villain: DeBlanks become a monthly series, it has also been presented at Bucks County Playhouse, Rockwell LA, and Maine. What are some of your future plans for Villain: DeBlanks? Oh, the future! Well, we're at The Triad NYC through April. I am writing a new version of the script - set in space - that I hope to premiere in February at The Triad and then in late February at The Rockwell in LA. There are plans to bring DeBlanks to the Poconos over the winter, and possibly London within the year. I am pretty sure we'll do another St. Jude benefit performance at Joe's Pub, and I am working with friends to pitch a 30-minute version of the show to the IFC channel.

AnnaLeigh Ashford in "Villain DeBlanks"4. What makes this show so great, from an audience perspective, is that EVERY performance is different because the cast is constantly rotating, the audiences choose different words to fill in, people vote differently each show as to whom committed the murder. What challenges does this kind of rotation present for you and how does this rotation make you thrive? The biggest challenge, so far, is getting an audience! The evening is such a wild ride, and so much fun for every person in the room, but people still aren't sure what it is, so it's a lot of work to encourage them to give us a try. The second biggest challenge is casting. For each cast of 6, I invite between 80 and 100 performers, and -- while the majority of people are enthusiastically willing to do the show sometimes -- the schedules can be a giant hurdle. I often announce casts with a "subject to availability" note, in case performed run into conflicts or end up booking a paying gig out of town. The performances are all partial or total benefits, so everyone involved is either volunteering or being given an incredibly small stipend to cover their cab fare.

5. What do you enjoy about the audience interactive component of the show? The interactivity is the BEST! The cast doesn't know what to expect, the audience doesn't know what to expect, even I don't know what to expect -- and then we're all taking the ride together. The audience get to meet some fantastic performers: Tony, Oliver & Emmy winners, pop culture & entertainment industry personalities, etc, and the casts get to circulate among the audience, so everyone meets everyone and together they create the show.

From left to right: Kinsley Leggs, La Chanze, Brenda Braxton, and Bernard Dotson6. In the show, "Phillip DeBlanks" is killed by having 250lbs of something dropped on him. That something is different each show depending on what the audience selects. If you were in the audience, how would you choose to kill "Phillip DeBlanks"? The more unusual, clever, or filthy the words, the more fun we all have, so I would say some thing elaborate like Mississippi Mud Pie, or Spotted Dick, or maybe Baumkuchen.

7. Since this show has so many spontaneous components to it, what has been the craziest thing to happen so far? There's no way I can name the craziest. But I can say there are 3 things that happen at every show, to some degree, and never fail to be memorable. 1) Accents! Brenda Braxton, Hunter Foster, and Cady Huffman have all pulled out accents that have not only brought tears of laughter form the audience, but they have destroyed the composure of their co-stars. 2) Nouns! Audiences have given nouns from "dental dam" and "vaginal mesh" to "hamsters" and "monkeys" to, possibly my favorite noun so far: "a morning talk show host like Kathie Lee." 3) Crack ups! At some point during each show -- usually due to a ridiculous accent delivering an outrageous noun, or an actor having to say a word they can't quite pronounce -- the entire cast will inevitably stop the show with laughs and asides.

Billy Mitchell and the L.A. Rockwell cast including Bruce Vilanch, Barret Foa, Lori Alan, AnnaLeigh Ashford, Robin Atkin Downes and Daisy Egan8. Villain: DeBlanks has had quite a roster of performers so far including Bruce Vilanch, Barrett Foa, Laura Bell Bundy, Annaleigh Ashford. How do you decide who you want to cast in each show? Are there certain qualities you look for when casting? Well, as I mentioned in my answer above, casting is almost a full time job. I throw a wide net, usually beginning with performers who are my Facebook friends, and more than 60 DeBlanks' veterans, to see who might be available for a given date. I also have great luck with recommendations from people who want to do the show but can't do the date requested -- they will suggest some fun alternates for me to reach out to. Once I get a sense of who I'll have (3 women & 3 men each time), I assign roles based on various things, but mostly instinct. All of the parts are fun, and fundamentally it's an ensemble experience, so they are all stars.

9. If Ellen DeGeneres were to promote Villain: DeBlanks, what would be her tagline be? I'd offer her our current tagline: "You'll laugh your (BODY PART)_____ off!" But Ellen is brilliant and would probably say something perfect that I'd never think of.

10. Finish this sentence. I_____Villain: DeBlanks. I adore Villain: DeBlanks.

Billy MitchellMore on Billy:

Billy Mitchell’s favorite thing is making people (VERB)_____ until their (BODY PART)_____ hurts, and his fill-in-the-blanks comedy Villain: DeBlanks has been a fun project so far. Seen in venues around NYC, Los Angeles and regionally, DeBlanks has not only been a great opportunity to to pay-it-forward — the shows are always benefits — but each cast is a new gang of 6 hooligans and so far about 70 amazing people have brought their time and talent to the shenanigans. (villaindeblanks.com), A member of the Dramatists Guild, Billy is the author of several plays (his script, Blood & Oil, is currently represented by the Freedman Agency), and is hoping to work on a musical project or two in the coming months. Originally from Maine, he has theatre degrees from UMaine and NYU, and is an award-winning writer/director, and occasionally the host at events where the first choice was likely unavailable. Not enough? bybilly.com.

Brenda BraxtonMore on Brenda:

Brenda Braxton starred as Velma Kelly opposite Usher in Broadway’s hit musical Chicago. Prior to that, she was featured on Broadway in the musical revue Smokey Joe’s Cafe, that earned her a 1995 Tony Award nomination, the NAACP Theater Award, the city of Chicago’s Jefferson Award and a Grammy Award for Best Cast Album. Other Broadway credits include Jelly’s Last Jam, Cats, Legs Diamond and the original production of Dreamgirls. She received the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "Living the Dream" Award given by New York Gov. George Pataki and the Josephine Baker Award from the National Council of Negro Women for her work as founder of Leading Ladies Just for Teens, seminars geared to empowering teenage girls.

Tuesday
Nov172015

Call Answered: Carol Linnea Johnson: Three Day Hangover: Tartuffe!

Carol Linnea JohnsonI first met Carol Linnea Johnson when I saw The Full Monty on Broadway in 2001. After six wonderful viewings, I followed Carol to her next gig in Broadway's Mamma Mia! With her powerful vocals, Carol brought down the house as "Donna." Carol then left Broadway for Vegas' Mamma Mia! and we lost touch. With the invention of Facebook, we got back in touch, and now it's great to have the chance to really sit down with Carol and catch up! 

Carol is starring in Three Day Hangover's re-imaged version of Moliere's Tartuffe! In this production, this play is set against a political backdrop which makes it outrageous, up-to-the-minute contemporary and hilarious. The colorful characters and over-the-top rhetoric in the current national political spotlight have added fuel to Three Day Hangover's fire. As always, they've incorporated drinking game shenanigans, which fit perfectly into the dysfunctional family dynamic at the center of the story. Moliere's searing comedy of hypocrites and heathens have been re-imaged for our modern age and nothing brings out the best kind of worst in people like a U.S. Senate race. Coming at you from the left and the right, this fast-paced, dysfunctional family farce will be anything but politically correct as we roast and toast American politics as unusual. Tartfuffe plays at McAlpin Hall at West Park Church in NYC (86th Street & Amsterdam) through November 21! Show time is 8pm! Click here for tickets!

For more on Carol be sure to follow her on Twitter!

For more on Three Day Hangover visit http://www.threedayhangover.com and follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

Carol Linnea Johnson and Sean Tarrant in Three Day Hangover's "Tartuffe!", Photo Credit: Lloyd Mulvey1. You are currently starring in Three Day Hangover's re-imagining of Moliere’s Tartuffe! What made you want to be in one of their productions? I have been a HUGE fan of this company since I saw their first production, The Hamlet Project. They take classical plays that we have all seen 100 times and rediscover them in hilarious and very meaningful ways. I thought, "This is what it must have felt like to be one of Shakespeare's groundlings!" Three Day Hangover are geniuses at elevating the material by trusting the audience and giving them ownership of the show. Plus, I enjoy what adult beverages do to a group of consenting adult theatre goers. It feels good to be a little bit bad!

Cast of Three Day Hangover's 'Tartuffe!", Photo Credit: Lloyd Mulvey2. This production of Tartuffe is being set against a political backdrop. How do you think Moliere would react to this re-imagining? I think he would LOVE IT!!! Tartuffe was banned when it was first written because it called out the religious and political hypocrites of it's time. Jake Brandman, our amazing playwright, and Beth Gardiner, our genius director, took that to heart and have made this as politically charged as a FUN evening of theatre will allow. There is an excellent balance of "I can't believe they just said that" and "I wish I could say that out loud without getting fired, unfriended, and/or broken up with."

3. What do you identify with most about this re-imagining story? I love plays about people who's passion makes them go to the extreme. There is a lot of joy in being completely myopic! In my day to day life, I actively try to be a good listener, respect where people are coming from, and try to be a good role model for my daughter. As "Olga," I don't have to worry about any of that! It is extremely cathartic. It's like being in your own personal episode of Arrested Development!

4. I love that Three Day Hangover shows have an audience participation component to them. What challenges does this kind interaction make for you as an actor? How does this element add to your performance? When you are in rehearsal, there is no way to truly prepare for the missing character in the play - the audience. Our brilliant director, Beth Gardiner, built in just the right balance of the actual play and audience playtime. She also warned us that it was going to be an "eye opening" transition from rehearsal room to performance space but that our goal was always to welcome the audience into the experience. We as a company work together to keep it joyful so that the people who are interested in physically participating feel safe and the people who participate by listening and staying seated are supported too. The audience feels safe and doesn't have to worry that there will be some kind of sneak attack. As a company, we quickly realized that the audience was a HUGE source of inspiration and now we look forward to the unique personality of each night's group. It makes the experience really alive and we all LOVE IT!! It is going to be hard to rebuild that fourth wall...

Carol Linnea Johnson and Tom Schwans in Three Day Hangover's "Tartuffe!", Photo Credit: Lloyd Mulvey5. What has been the craziest thing to happen so far during the run of Tartuffe? An audience member literally slapped "Tartuffe" (Tom Schwans) on the bum last week. I am not going lie, Tom was kind of asking for it!

6. Since this version of Tartuffe is set to a political back-drop, if you were running for president, what are some things in this country you would like to see improved? Easy. MORE ARTS FUNDING!!!!!

7. On that same front, a lot of past secrets of candidates come to the forefront during their campaigning. If you had a campaign going right now, what past secrets do you think would be revealed about you? Ummm, I had a lot of fun in my 20's and 30's. A LOT OF FUN. Thank GOD there was no Facebook in the late 90's/ early 2000's....That said, I REGRET NOTHING!

Carol Linnea Johnson in "Mamma Mia!"8. We came to know each when you were in The Full Monty and then I saw you in Mamma Mia! You left NYC to go to Las Vegas to be in Mamma Mia! What was it like to leave the bright lights of Broadway for the neon lights of Vegas? When did you decide to come back home to NYC? What has your return home been like? I loved my time in Vegas! The Mandalay Bay had an incredible theatre and the people who were in that company were some of the most talented and kind people I have ever had the pleasure to work with. Vegas is a VIP town and Mamma Mia! was really popular so we got to do all sorts of amazing Vegas-y things. The best part was the fact that my husband, Don Burroughs, and I got to do the show together. It was a really great time for our whole family. We all love that dessert sky and dry heat! After Mamma Mia! closed in 2009 my husband, daughter, and I stayed for a year and a half. I was singing with a gypsy jazz band called "Hot Club of Las Vegas" and it was a beautiful time. Ultimately, my husband and I were flying back to NYC every other month to audition for things so it made sense to move back. Also, I really wanted our daughter to grow up with the culture and diversity of NYC. Since we've been back we have worked really hard to find the balance between work and family. I find that I am drawn to projects with a shorter time frame so I can be home more.

Carol Linnea Johnson in Three Day Hangover's "Tartuffe!"9. As someone who’s starred in The Full Monty, the final song in the show is called "Let It Go," (and no this has nothing do with the Disney version), what is something you want to "Let Go" of? Ooooh, Adam! This is getting REAL! I think every day I have to remind myself that it is ok that I have pulled back from this business that I love so much to be more present as a parent. I feel like a traitor saying this because I know so many amazing parents who are balancing Broadway and family and it sounds like I am saying they are mutually exclusive! I am not. For now, slowing my pace allows me to take care of all the people I love in a more meaningful way. I get scared all the time that I will never work again and then something like Tartuffe comes along and I think, HALLELUJAH!!!! It is possible to have it all even if it is just for 6 weeks!

10. Another song in The Full Monty, was It’s A Woman's World. If you had to create a world of all women, who would you want to have live there with you (celebrity or not)? Right now I couldn't choose only women because then it would mean excluding the amazing men in my cast! I am so in love with this group of performers that I am already grieving not seeing them everyday and we still have a week left of performances! Once in a great while, the stars align and you get to make art with great artists. I think the love fest that the cast and creative team is experiencing comes through in the show. You can feel the love, "Simba." You can feel it tonight.

Carol Linnea JohnsonMore on Carol:

Carol Linnea Johnson lives a double life as an actor and high powered volunteer at her daughter's school- both are equally glamorous. She has appeared on Broadway as "Donna" in Mamma Mia! (a role she also played on the Las Vegas Strip) as well as "Pam" in The Full Monty. In NYC she has worked at Lincoln Center, with Three Day Hangover, Prospect Theatre and Titan Theatre Company's and further afield at the Alley Theatre, Globe Theatre, Barrington Stage, and Utah Shakespeare Festival to name a few. On-screen credits include Break Up At A Wedding (Before The Door Pictures), Law & Order, All My Children, and The Jerry Lewis Telethon. Recordings include Hot Club of Las Vegas featuring Carol Linnea Johnson. Carol is proud member of Actor's Equity Association.

Thursday
Oct222015

Call Answered: Brian Charles Rooney: Trouble at Feinstein's/54 Below

The first time I heard Brian Charles Rooney sing, I was mesmerized! His voice is like no other! Since then, I have seen him perform in several concerts and readings, always loving when he is on stage! My most recent time seeing Brian belt it out was last December at 54 Below during Singing Cyndi Lauper: 54 Just Wants To Have Fun! His rendition of "I Drove All Night" was unreal and then pairing him with the dynamic Molly Pope on "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" was genius!

Now, fast forward to Friday, November 6 at 9:30pm when Brian will go at it alone at Feinstein's/54 Below with his brand new show Trouble, a rich musical evening including a few gender-bending comedic moments that will leave you wondering whether or not what you’re hearing is real! Expect a theatrical mix of favorites from the canons of Broadway, popular music, and classic standards. Click here for tickets!

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

For more on Feinstein's/54 Below be sure to visit http://54below.com and follow them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

1. On November 6, you are returning to 54 Below with an all new show called Trouble. What are you looking forward to most about performing this show? I think that what I'm looking forward to most, aside from performing songs I've not tackled before, is interacting with the audience! There will be familiar faces, but there will also be new faces, and that's a huge thrill for me!

Brian Charles Rooney at Feinstein's/54 Below2. You have performed in over 30 shows at Feinstein's/54 Below. What do you enjoy most about performing there? I love the staff at the venue! As you've mentioned, I've done many shows there, so I've been able to get to know the staff pretty well. They are always incredibly supportive and kind! Then, of course, there are the people that run the venue, and help produce the shows, like Jennifer Tepper, Dylan Bustamante, KJ Hardy etc. They are all great people, and they make it easy to work there!

I think the reason that presents most prominently for me is just the ambiance the venue offers. I don't know that anyone could argue against the statement that Feinstein's/54 Below is one of the most beautiful clubs in town. There's this wonderful balance of modernity and a respect for the past in the design of the venue. I love that…Maybe it's just how I view it, but it makes performing there all the more magical.

3. Why did you call this show Trouble? Trouble can fun, it can be stimulating...It is everywhere...And it isn't always bad! In fact, I think a lot of good can come from a little bit trouble. I wanted to embrace my love for songs and characters in the American and European Song Books that might live in the dark.

Brian Charles Rooney performing Madonna's "Ghosttown" at Madonnathon"4. If you could give people one reason as to why they should come see Trouble at Feinstein's/54 Below, what would that reason be? If I had to throw down a single gauntlet, it would be my voice. I've worked hard over the years to cultivate the gift I was given. I never stop challenging myself as a vocalist and an actor. Actually, I hate separating those two roles. For me, acting is singing, and vice versa.

5. Since this show is titled Trouble, what has been some times in your life when you've gotten in Trouble? What did you learn from those experiences? I have to say that I have probably witnessed more trouble, than I've caused. Well…I say that now, perhaps because I have never been caught?! My show celebrates the kind of troublemaker that makes people think in a new way, who doesn't apologize for having an opinion, or the kind that inspires people to go on an adventure...Or simply the kind that turns someone on, makes someone laugh. I've learned a lot from some famous troublemakers, and I'd like to think those lessons have made me a better man, with a sharper wit, and a greater sense of humor.

Brian Charles Rooney in "The UnCivil War"6. I've seen you perform in several concerts & think you have an unbelievably gifted voice! When did you realize you wanted to be a singer/actor? Who or what inspired you? Thank you! I didn't sing in public before doing a talent show in 8th grade, and then I did plays in high school (the person running the Drama Club didn't produce musicals because he thought they weren't "real acting;" clearly he was wrong). I saw The Phantom of the Opera as a child, and the overture made me want to do theater (don't roll your eyes, people). I studied drama at Duke University, which also has a wonderful music department, and a fantastic dance program, so I was exposed to a lot of incredible artists and potent work. I owe all the people who educated me a huge debt of gratitude for encouraging me to be an artist who refuses to be put in a box...Or as a Talent Agent might call me: Trouble. During my senior year at Duke, I played "John Wilkes Booth" in Assassins (I was definitely exploring the low end of my voice). I vividly remember the first night, during the curtain call, thinking, "it's not about the applause for me - it's about that story we just told." The show was the high; the applause meant that was over.

7. What have you learned about yourself from being a singer/actor? I've learned that I'm resilient, and that I rank honesty and loyalty highly above most values.

Brian Charles Rooney8. What's the best advice you've ever received? As a performer? The best advice I have received was from Petula Clark. Anyone, with whom I've worked, would tell you that I am a perfectionist, sometimes to a fault, and that I am always looking to improve. I was doing a show with Petula early in my career, and most of the other cast members would chastise me for beating myself up, if I had done something that I considered sub par. They would tell me that I needed to be less hard on myself. One night, Petula pulled me aside, and said, "You are a very special talent. Don't ever let anyone tell you to stop being a perfectionist. Just don't ever stop enjoying what you do." I'll never forget her words. I followed her advice, to be sure.

9. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? I'm a huge fan of comic books, and other fantasy properties. I go to San Diego Comic Con and New York Comic Con, so this question is a favorite of mine! I think as a kid I probably would have chosen flight…But as an adult, I think it would be a toss-up between shape shifting, and psychic abilities (mind control, telekinesis, etc.). A shape shifter is the ultimate actor!

10. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it & what ingredients would you put in it? Vodka.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. Favorite way to stay in shape? Biking! I live close to Central Park, so I try to bike the 6 mile loop as often as I can!

12. Boxers or Briefs? Briefs. Boxers are shorts for bedtime.

Brian Charles RooneyMore on Brian:

Brian Charles Rooney was recently lauded by both The New York Times and Time Out NY for his performance as "Dionne Salon" in the hit Off-Broadway musical, Bedbugs!!! In a critically acclaimed performance that Entertainment Weekly said "ignited the stage," he made his Broadway debut as "Lucy Brown" in The Threepenny Opera for The Roundabout Theatre Co., co-starring Alan Cumming, Cyndi Lauper, Jim Dale, Nellie McKay, and Ana Gasteyer.

He won the Connecticut Critics Circle Award for "Best Actor in a Musical" as "Candy Darling" in Anna Jacobs & Maggie Kate Coleman's musical POP! at Yale Repertory Theatre, directed by Mark Brokaw. He has won two NY Musical Theatre Festival Outstanding Performance Awards for Bedbugs!!! (2008) & Bayonets of Angst (2014); as well as the FringeNYC Award for Outstanding Performance as "Satan" in the new rock musical, Winner Take All (2011), directed by John Carrafa.

Brian appeared with Kristin Chenoweth and composer Andrew Lippa, at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall in I Am Harvey Milk, an oratorio celebrating the life of the famous activist. He has appeared as a soloist in Martin Charnin's new theatrical revue, Rodgers &..., a retrospective of Richard Rodgers' monumental body of work at the Emelin Theatre; and in the Carnegie Hall Concert Production of Guys & Dolls, starring Nathan Lane & Megan Mullally.

He was a featured soloist with UK Pop legend Petula Clark on the North America Tour of The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. He received a Carbonell Award Nomination for his performance as "Homer Collins" in Floyd Collins at The Actors' Playhouse, in Coral Gables, FL; as well as a Metro-Carolina Award Nomination as "Jinx" in Forever Plaid at The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, NC. He played the title role in Bat Boy! The Musical at Charleston Stage Co., in Charleston, SC.

His Television credits include Camelot, Live from Lincoln Center and Sondheim! The Birthday Concert, both directed by Lonny Price for PBS at Lincoln Center.

In 2007, Brian won The Kurt Weill Foundation's Lys Symonette Award for Dramatic Excellence. He has appeared in concert at 54 Below & Joe's Pub, and as a soloist with the Oregon & Seattle Symphony Orchestras.

Monday
Oct122015

Call Answered: Steven Fales: Cult Model Laurie Beechman Theatre

Steven FalesI first met Steven Fales almost 10 years ago when his show Confessions of a Mormon Boy made it's NYC Off-Broadway premiere. To this day, I still remember that show. When I found out that his new show, Cult Model, was going to be at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, I knew I had to find out more. In true cult fashion, I re-programmed my brain as Steven and I sat down for this candid conversation!

Cult Model is a new solo comedy exploring our society’s harrowing cult susceptibility and Steven's own obsessive cult disorder. You’ll be surprised by what he considers a cult! With hilarious parables and parodies Steven takes on each of the many cults he’s let run his life as he takes each layer of clothing off--or will he? Cult Model will play at The Laurie Beechman Theatre in NYC (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue inside the West Bank Cafe), on October 15, 16, 22, and 23! Click here for tickets!

For more on Steven be sure to follow him on Facebook!

For more shows from Spin Cycle visit http://spincyclenyc.com and follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

1. Your newest show, Cult Model is making it's NYC debut this October at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. What made now the right time to debut this show to New York audiences? New York is headquarters for so many cults I thought it only fair to face my "obsessive cult disorder" right here! If I can survive the cults of Utah, it's time test myself and see if I I'm finally cured of being a cultaholic in NYC.

2. What are you looking forward to most about this show? Singing as I take each layer of my cult uniform off. 

3. Why did you title the show Cult Model? I'm fascinated with our cult susceptible society. We all seem to have "cult brain." And I've been touched by more cults than most from being a Mormon missionary to being an "escort" in the cult of the sex industry. I'm your floor sample or cult model. There's really not a cult I haven't tried or wanted to. Except ISIS. I just hope no one confuses me with a COLT MODEL. That would just be far too much to hope for.

Steven Fales performing4. If you could give people one reason as to why they should come see Cult Model what would that reason be? Pure entertainment. Nothing smart will happen. Nothing. Wink.

5. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing Cult Model? A whole new respect and appreciation for the four-letter "c" word.

6. After being in so many cults yourself, at what point did you go, I should write a show about this? How do you feel writing and performing this show has made you "cult free"? It's been a whole year since I went into "cult withdrawal" to detox from my last beloved cult. I seriously want to help others who have hit the "cult ceiling" and let them know there is life after their cult. Not all cults are bad--there can be a lot of value--like getting laid! But there comes a time to take the cult out of the kid. This show has helped me look at my pattern of cult abuse.

7. I was fortunate enough to see your first show Confessions of a Mormon Boy, which you still perform. What did writing and performing that show do you for you? As life has happened over the years, how do you feel the show has evolved and do you perform it differently now then when you first started it? Wow! Thank you for seeing Confessions! Writing that show was truly cathartic for me. My writing was a bit ahead of my healing. I wrote it more generously than I sometimes felt. But I think the generosity rubbed off which helped give me an alacrity in the face of a lot of angst. I then continued writing so it's now Part One in Mormon Boy Trilogy. The plan is to mount the entire trilogy in New York Fall 2016. That's the ten-year anniversary Off-Broadway of Confessions. I'm looking for co-producers to join my cult. I mean team.

Steven Fales8. What's the best advice you've ever received? My dad says, "Stay ahead of the plane. Because if you don't have your landing gear in place it's gonna make a terrible sound when you hit the runway."

9. What have you learned about yourself from being a writer/performer? I've learned we all have a story. I can pull out the stories in others in ways I never imagined possible.

10. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? A force field for myself and those I love. 

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. Favorite way to stay in shape? I walk everywhere.

12. Boxers or Briefs? Definitely still briefs.

Steven FalesMore on Steven: 

Steven Fales is an award-winning veteran of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, two New York International Fringe Festivals (Overall Excellence Award), the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival (Oscar Wilde Award Nomination), Atlantic Fringe Festival (Overall Fringe Hit Award), Acts of Faith Festival and countless others. His solo plays in Mormon Boy Trilogy include Confessions of a Mormon Boy, Missionary Position, and Prodigal Dad. His cabaret acts include Mormon American Princess and Mormon American Cowboy. He has performed his work from Lincoln Center to Joe’s Pub; from Halifax to Houston; from London to Los Angeles. He received an Outer Critics’ Circle Award Nomination for the off-Broadway run of Confessions of a Mormon Boy at the SoHo Playhouse. Fales holds an MFA in acting from the University of Connecticut. Fales was an LDS missionary to Portugal and is an Eagle Scout. He holds extensive credits in film, television and theatre.

Monday
Aug172015

Call Answered: David Burnham: Happy 50ish

I first came to know David Burnham about four years ago when he released his album One Day. From the first note David sang on his album, I was engulfed! David's voice is so rich, powerful, and heavenly, I could listen to him sing all day! Follow that excitement to the theatre when I saw him in the Off-Broadway musical The Best Is Yet To Come: The Music of Cy Coleman...talk about stage presence! I could not keep my eyes off David! And take that one step further to a beautifully intimate concert at NYC's famed cabaret room, Don't Tell Mama where David raised the roof with Broadway hits, his own original music, and some American standards! This guy can do it all!

So, when I discovered that David was one of the creatives behind the new Off-Broadway musical Happy 50ish, I knew I had to get an interview with him! Thanks to Glenna Freedman Public Relations, David answered my call and I turned on David's song "I Can Fly" to celebrate!

Happy 50ish is a musical comedy that revolves around Bob’s surprise birthday party. As he turns the big five-0, he learns to laugh and make fun of all the things that inevitably come with age. He’s arrived early for his party, his wife is running late, and there’s a backyard full of party guests. While reading his birthday cards aloud, he learns that turning 50 magnifies the unintended and hilarious realities of middle age. Happy 50ish plays at Theatre Row's Beckett Theatre (410 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue) through August 30! Click here for tickets!

For more on David be sure to visit: http://davidburnham.com and follow him on Twitter!

For more on Happy 50ish visit http://www.happy50ishmusical.com and follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Mark Vogel and Lynn Shore in "Happy 50ish", Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel1. What made you want to be a part of the creative team of this Happy 50ish? Mark Vogel and Lynn Shore had been working on a first draft of Happy 50ish for a few months, when Lynn got the idea to rent a theater and present the show to friends and family. Mark, who is one of my best friends, called me and asked if I would come listen to the show in Lynn's living room and give my thoughts before they presented it to an audience. Mark and Lynn are amazing musicians and artists, but they wanted a fresh eye to take a look at what they had written. They performed it for me and I instantly "got" what they were trying to do with this piece. I gave my opinion and suggestions and we set about cutting and restructuring the musical. I may not be "50ish" but my sense of humor is the same as Mark’s and Lynn’s. They presented our new version to an audience that weekend and it was a success. The audience really loved it. And they laughed! What's more, the theater they performed in wanted them to come back and do an extended run. Mark and Lynn knew they had something special. They asked me if I would join them as a co-writer and continue to create this new show. So, for the next few years we re-wrote and workshopped the piece and had very successful runs in California. Now we are thrilled Happy 50ish has made it to NYC.

2. What did you enjoy most about co-writing this show? I love it when we come up with a new line or song that the three of us thinks is funny, then we present it to an audience and they laugh too. That is very satisfying.

Lynn Shore and Mark Vogel in "Happy 50ish", Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel3. What has been the best part about working with Lynn and Mark? The three of us would have writing weekends where we would basically camp out at Lynn's house for a weekend and write for 48 hours straight. We would throw out ideas, improv, and laugh. Then we would write a new song and laugh, then rewrite a scene and laugh. It was incredibly creative, supportive, and fun. Oh sure, sometimes we would get stressed, I mean writing a new show is not easy, but we always could make each other laugh. That is what Happy 50ish is all about, to quote our own show, "find the laughter."

4. What do you relate to most about this show's message? I think the lyrics to one of our songs says it best for me:

"All we really need to know we learned when we were six,

Share, hug, and take a nap and do things just for kicks,

Find the joy in little things, you'll be happy ever after,

If you feel you're growing old, find the laughter."

Mark Vogel and Lynn Shore in "Happy 50ish", Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel5. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing Happy 50ish? One audience member said to me after a performance "I laughed, I cried, I wanna come back!" That works for me. I like that our 50ish plus audience find things to identify with in the show and can laugh about it, and I love that our audience who isn't 50ish yet can find things they see in their parents and laugh with them about it. Hopefully they all get their heart strings tugged at a little.

6. If you could give people one reason to come see Happy 50ish what would that reason be?  If you want to laugh and have a great time at the theater, come see Happy 50ish.

7. What is the best advice you ever received? My Mom told me when I was very young, "David, whatever you do with your life, make sure you do what makes you happy." I have a life in the theater, and not only does it make me happy, but when people see my work, I hope it makes them happy too.

ynn Shore (left) Mark Vogel (center) and David Burnham (right) on opening night of "Happy 50ish" Off-Broadway, Photo Credit; Walter McBride8. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? It is so important to be truthful in whatever you are performing. The audience can tell if you are not being honest and I think that it so important in life. You have to be honest and true to who you are.

9. How do you want to be remembered? I hope I will be remembered as a talented person who had a good heart and cared deeply about other people...and co-wrote one of the most successful money-making Off-Broadway musicals ever written!!!

10. If you could have any super power, what would you choose? I have always wanted to fly. I used to have dreams about soaring over a forest, feeling free and powerful. And mind control could be fun, "Go... see...Happy...50ish."

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. If you could create your own signature drink, what would it be and what would you call it? Well, "Sex On the Beach" has already been created. So I'd have to just go with a classic, anything with vodka I call "Mother's Milk."

12. What is your favorite way to stay in shape? Umm...sex.

David BurnhamMore on David:

David Burnham is a composer, an award-winning performer, director and choreographer. He has recorded two solo CDs, which include original music that he co- wrote with Mark Vogel. He co-founded "Camp Sing," a writing/performing camp for young artists. As a performer, David has appeared on Broadway in The Light In The Piazza and starred as "Fiyero" in Wicked. He has appeared in many national tours, and has performed his solo concert across U.S. and Canada.