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Entries in Off-Broadway (359)

Thursday
Apr062017

Call Redialed: NEW Facetime interview: Sheri Sanders is LEGIT! An Evening of Legit Musical Theatre + Rock The Audition Online

"Call Me Adam" catches up with Sheri Sanders, the pioneer trailblazer who started Rock The Audition, where Sheri teaches how to audition for rock musicals even cutting & arranging music for your personal needs. Now, Sheri has brought this program online, making it possible to study directly with Sheri from every corner of the world.

After dipping her toe back into performing two years ago, Sheri is taking the stage once again, this time at Subculture NYC (45 Bleecker Street, in the basement of the Lynn Redgrave Theatre) to perform a concert of legit musical theatre "Sheri style!" On April 17 at 8pm, Sheri will present Sheri Sanders is LEGIT! An Evening of Legit Musical Theatre, directed by Joe Barros. Click here for tickets!

For more on Sheri & Rock The Audition be sure to visit https://www.rock-the-audition.com and follow Sheri on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

"Call Me Adam's" NEW interview with Sheri Sanders:

Monday
Apr032017

Call Answered: Sally Schwab: Adventures in Babysitting, The Marvelous Wonderettes, NEWSical The Musical

Sally SchwabFor over 10 years I have been a fan of Sally Schwab. Ever since I saw her star in Tom D'Angora's (Call Me Adam's very first participant) A Broadway Diva Christmas, I was hooked on her glorious vocals! She has repeatedly won me over and over again every time I see her sing.

In addition to being a high school history teacher, starring in the Off-Broadway revival of The Marvelous Wonderettes and being a swing in the long-running hit musical NEWSical the Musical, Sally is bringing back her one woman show Adventures in Babysitting for three performances only at The Laurie Beechman Theatre in NYC! Adventures in Babysitting recounts Sally's story of arriving to the Great White Way as a young, wide-eyed aspiring theatre actress. It follows Sally as she navigates the insane world of auditions while paying her dues working odd gigs, including what would become her go-to survival job: helping to raise NYC's most colorful children.

Joining Sally in Adventures in Babysitting are Alex Ringler (Broadway’s West Side Story, first national tour of A Chorus Line and off Broadway’s Pageant) Dylan Thompson (NEWSical the Musical and Naked Boys Singing!) and Gregory Sullivan (Naked Boys Singing!). Music direction is by eight-time MAC Award winner and Bistro Award winner Tracy Stark.

Adventures in Babysitting will play at The Laurie Beechman Theatre in NYC (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue, in the basement of the West Bank Cafe) on Monday, April 3 at 7pm, Monday, April 17 at 9:30pm, and Monday, May 1 at 7pm! Click here for tickets!

For more on Sally follow her on Twitter and Instagram!

For more on The Marvelous Wonderettes visit https://www.themarvelouswonderettes.com!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? There were a few people in my life that really inspired me to become a performer. My entire family is very musical and has always loved musical theatre. So I grew up watching all the classics...The Sound of Music, Carousel, etc. My grandmother actually recorded the PBS Les Miserables special with Colm Wilkenson and Lea Salonga played "Eponine." I remember just falling in love with the music and studying the way she sang "On My Own." It was the only song I sang between the ages of 11 and 16. Around this same time, I was 11, my Aunt took me to NYC for the first time. Beauty and the Beast just opened on Broadway and we saw that. I remember just crying through the opening number. It was a happy, uplifting number, but I was just so moved and at that moment I knew I wanted to be a performer.

2. This April, you are revising your show Adventures In Babysitting, which recounts your story of arriving to the Great White Way as a young, wide-eyed aspiring theatre actress. It follows you through the insane world of auditions, odd jobs, and finding your go-to survival job. What made now the right time to bring this show back? I decided now was the time because I am so immersed in the performing world right now. Before Wonderettes, I haven’t performed in years. You realize very quickly it all can go away, so one day before a Wonderettes show, Tom D'Angora, my producer, and I just looked at each other and said "It’s Time."

Tom D'Angora3. Adventures in Babysitting is co-written with your long-time friend Tom D'Angora. How did you first decide to have him co-write the show with you? What was it like revisiting this show with him now? Tom and I working together is nothing but laughs from start to finish. We met 14 years ago at a Kinkos my first week in NYC. We have been working together on various projects for our entire 14-year friendship. Tom has always believed in me and supported me. I can’t remember if I said to Tom that I wanted to do my own show or if he said "you need to do your own show," but we decided a few years ago to sit down and write something. There was a restaurant on 48th Street called Mont Blanc…it’s closed now, but that was our spot. We met there one day and just started throwing ideas around and the show was born. Working on it now is just as fun. We couldn't go to Mont Blanc, but our other lucky spot is in Tom’s building. So we went there and just started reworking some bits and once again just started laughing and never stopped.

4. How do you feel the four years of life experience, since the last time you did this show, will alter the feel and style of the show? I truly think every experience in life shapes you as a performer. I have been teaching in a public high school in the South Bronx for the past four years. I have grown so much as a human and learned so much about myself. I think it has made me a much more confidant performer. Also, the past year playing "Betty Jean," in a comedic show, has really helped me as an actor. When I did the show years ago, I wasn’t performing, so I wasn’t used to being on a stage. I didn’t have that same confidence that I am hopeful I do now. Haha! I hope the feel and style stays the same though….I just hope I can make it even funnier than last time.

Sally Schwab5. Let's break down this story without giving too much away! It's no secret that your go-to survival job was babysitting the kids of NYC. Why do you think babysitting stuck where so many other "odd jobs" didn't? What did you learn about yourself from babysitting other people's kids? Babysitting stuck because I am such a family person. My first year in NYC was really hard. I was so homesick and missed my family so much. I was so fortunate to meet a couple of really incredible families right away. Yes, I watched their kids, but they welcomed me and included me as a member of their family and that was exactly what I needed. It gave me a sense of stability at a time when I didn’t know anyone and was figuring out my way through the city. I learned through babysitting that I was really good with kids. Working with kids was the best fit for me.

6. How did babysitting lead to you being a high school social studies teacher? What was it like to bring your love of theatre to these high school kids, who have never seen a stage show before, and start their first ever musical theatre department? I love being a performer, there is nothing like taking the stage every night. However, the work I have done as a teacher in the South Bronx is something I am so proud of. Working with this demographic of student has changed my life. I am the person I am today because of these kids. Babysitting taught me that I really loved working with kids, so getting a Masters in Education seemed like the perfect fit. I have always loved history and I knew I wanted to teach it in a way that could be fun and engaging for the kids. I don’t want to brag, but I was writing historical raps for my students well before Hamilton came out. Haha! The kids love when I rap. Of course, musical theatre was always on my mind and our school has a gorgeous stage that never had a musical on it. I knew my mission. My first year teaching I directed and choreographed Once on this Island. This became the schools first ever musical. Now, they are about to have the 4th musical in a row! There are no words to describe the feelings I felt watching these kids take the stage and perform for the first time ever. These are kids who don’t have a lot. They come from an extremely tough neighborhood and just getting them to rehearsals was a challenge. But they persisted and they were all shining stars. My family and friends all came to town to see the show too. It was probably one of the most magical nights of my life. I cried from start to finish.

Cast of "The Marvelous Wonderettes"7. In addition to Adventures in Babysitting and being a high school teacher, you are also starring in the hit Off-Broadway revival of The Marvelous Wonderettes and as a swing in the long-running hit show NEWSical The Musical. How do you keep yourself balanced with such a varied and demanding schedule? That is the biggest challenge of my life right now. I am working seven days a week and every job that I am working is demanding in its own way. I constantly need to switch the roles I play in life. I hit the stage and spend two hours singing in the Wonderettes and having a blast with the gals, then in bed and ready to be up at 6:30am for a full day of teaching. It is intense, but I find time here and there to sit on my couch and watch some Housewives. The girls in the show Ryann Redmond, Jenna Leigh Green and Laura Woyasz have become three of my closest friends, so after every Sunday matinee we go out for dinner and drinks. It is time I really cherish and long after the shows close, it is something I will continue to do with these girls. They have become family. The hardest part is not seeing my friends I don’t work with. It is hard to find time to see people I don’t do a show with or teach with. Also, one day, one day soon, I would love to go on a vacation.

8. 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? Can I pick two things?? Haha!! I need to improve my eating habits. I am always on the go which makes it so hard to cook a nice meal. I love to cook and I don’t have any time to do it. So my bank statement pretty much is all Seamless. So that I need to improve. The second thing is not being afraid to say no to things. I take on too much and I need to say no sometimes.

Sally Schwab in "The Marvelous Wonderettes"9. What do you love about starring in The Marvelous Wonderettes? What do you relate to most about "Betty Jean"? What is on characteristic of hers you are glad you, yourself, don't possess? I love Wonderettes so much. I have been with the show since the beginning and to see how we have evolved this past year has been an incredible thing to see. Wonderettes is such a feel good show. I love making people laugh and smile every night. I mean, when you hear "It’s My Party," how do you not have a good time. Also, the people have made this experience incredible. The cast and crew have become family. I look so forward to going to work knowing I get to see these gals that have become my best friends. We have shared so much and gone through so much together and they will be lifelong friends.

I relate very much to "Betty Jean's" goofiness and how feisty she is. She has such a positive spirit....even when things don't go her way, she tries to fight through it and stay positive. I like to think I am like that. The one characteristic of "Betty Jean" that I am glad I don't possess is her willingness to just go back to "Johnny" after he isn't faithful to her. I doubt I would be so forgiving.

10. In this post-election world we live in, what makes being in NEWSical The Musical so great? There is so much going on politically in the world right now and to have jokes and songs to poke fun at the administration in such a turbulent time is really helpful for all of us. When I stop and think about everything that is going on it really enrages me. Performing in NEWsical gives us an outlet and an artistic way to express some feelings. There is a really great Melania Trump number that is just so much fun to do. Expression through art is a really great way to cope with what is going on.

Sally SchwabMore on Sally:

Sally Schwab made her Off-Broadway debut in A Broadway Diva Christmas, produced by Tom and Michael D’Angora. She later went on to appear in Back in Pictures and as "Queenie" in the Provincetown Theatre’s production of Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party. She attended the University at Buffalo for musical theatre and holds a Masters degree in Education from Hunter College.

She currently stars as "Betty Jean" in The Marvelous Wonderettes and as the female swing in NEWSical the Musical, both playing at The Kirk Theatre. The Marvelous Wonderettes takes a cotton-candied colored musical trip down memory lane with four girls whose hopes and dreams are as big as their crinoline skirts. Their lives and loves from prom night to their ten year reunion are told through more than twenty chart topping hits of the fifties. NEWSical the Musical spoofs all the headlines of the day in side splitting numbers. Both are produced by Tom D’Angora.

Thursday
Mar302017

Call Answered: Nathan Lee Graham: The View UpStairs

Nathan Lee Graham, Photo Credit: Andrew Werner PhotographyWhile I was first introduced to Nathan Lee Graham when I saw him tear up the stage in the Tony nominated Broadway musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Nathan Lee Graham's name has been circling my view for quite some time. Everybody was talking about his talent long before I got to know it for myself.

Well, to see him in The View UpStairs is truly remarkable. Nathan Lee Graham gets everyone's attention whenever he is strutting his stuff on stage. From his fantastic acting to that golden voice he belts out night after night. His talent is like no other!

The View UpStairs is a provocative new musical that pulls you inside the UpStairs Lounge, a vibrant '70s gay bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The forgotten community comes to life when a young fashion designer from 2017 buys the abandoned space, setting off an exhilarating journey of seduction and self-exploration.

Currently enjoying a critically acclaimed run, The View UpStairs will play The Lynn Redgrave Theater in NYC (45 Bleecker Street), through May 21 only! Click here for tickets!

For more on Nathan Lee Graham be sure to visit http://nathanleegraham.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube!

For more on The View UpStairs, visit http://www.theviewupstairs.com and follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? Well I've been working professionally since I was six, and I come from a very performative family, I just decided I should get paid to do it! Also I knew instinctively that I was good at this...so my grandparents Rev. DeWitt Hulin Graham and Cecelia Pearl Whiteside Graham (love their names) really encouraged, supported and put me out there! My parents are very supportive too, but they're way too nervous for me all the time...still!

2. What made you want to be part of The View UpStairs? This an easy question to answer. Max Vernon wrote this beautiful part "Willie" for me and it happens that he also wrote and composed a brilliant book and score! I love history and bringing folks together, The View UpStairs does both of those things.

Nathan Lee Graham backstage at "The View UpStairs"Nathan Lee Graham as "Willie" in "The View UpStairs', Photo Credit: Kurt Sneddon3. What do you identify most with about your character "Willie" and what is one characteristic of his you are glad you don't have? Always seeing the positive in everything! I really do see the positive aspects of any and everything. The one thing "Willie" does that I absolutely can't do is have "alternative facts" to help him cope with life's trials and tribulations. He lies a lot, LOL, but it's for good. Nathan Lee Graham can't do that...I have to face reality head on. It makes me a better human and better performer.

4. What have you learned about gay history from being in this show that you did not know before? Well, primarily the story of these 32 dead people in New Orleans in 1973! I mean, why don't we know this story?!? Also little significant things like it was illegal to wear what seemed as "women's clothing" or that when you were "outed" they'd put your name in the paper and there went your job! Insane!

5. Why do you think this story doesn't get talked about as much as Stonewall? Easy. Shame on all fronts. The people who bared witness to this tragedy were fearful and shamed into not talking about it....understandably so, to a degree. And the people who watched or whom were in a place of authority didn't give a damn.

Nathan Lee Graham as "Willie" in "The View UpStairs", Photo Credit: Kurt SneddonJeremy Pope, Taylor Frey, Nathan Lee Graham in "The View UpStairs", Photo Credit: Kurt Sneddon6. The View Upstairs shows you how the past can help guide us through an uncertain future. What is something in your past that has helped guide you through your future? Dealing and not dwelling with loss. I have a very small family so when someone dies it's a lot. Also all of the people that I've lost to disease in my chosen family of gypsies and the like. How I've been able to cope and not become bitter has informed how I go about my life in a very significant way.

7. The View Upstairs also examines what has been gained in lost in the fight for equality. What have you gained, but then lost as a result of the move forward from said gain? Well I've gained a true identity from this struggle of equality. Of course those who are not as strong or inclined you lose along the way, so mine is a somewhat lonely life at times but so fulfilling and I wouldn't change anything.

8. If you were to open a lounge like in the The View Upstairs, what would you name it and where would you establish it? "Willie's Corner" on the Lower East Side baby!!

9. I saw The View Upstairs a few weeks ago and can tell just how much fun everyone is having. What is one of the funniest, most impromptu things to happen during a show thus far? Me as "Willie" suddenly deciding to put my leg on top of the piano during my soliloquy...LOL, I just did it once spontaneously and it stuck!

Nathan Lee Graham, Jeremy Pope, Taylor Frey, Frenchie Davis, Benjamin Howes, Nancy Ticotin, Michael Longoria, and Randy Redd, Photo Credit: Kurt SneddonJeremy Pope, Nancy Ticotin, Nathan Lee Graham, and Benjamin Howes, Photo Credit: Kurt Sneddon10. In addition to The View Upstairs, you have starred in other gay-themed shows Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Hit The Wall. As a gay man, do you feel or approach these projects differently or with a other feelings compared to non-gay themed shows? No. I always feel I have a responsibility to do my very best whatever the role or genre. My only requirement is great material.

11. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? My reaction to people not getting things as quickly as I do, i.e. some more patience, some more compassion before I tear into them...LOL.

12. I can't do an interview with you and not ask you about Zoolander, or at least I'm going to ask a question inspired by the film. Since Zoolander takes place in the fashion world. What is one of the worst costumes you have ever had to wear? What is one costume, you were like, "How can I keep this for myself?" I had to wear an ape inspired costume in a musical called Riverview by John Logan, directed by Robert Falls, choreographed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge and starring Marin Mazzie, my dear friend. At the Goodman Theatre in Chicago fresh out of conservatory I was...so happy but that costume was not cute! Now I had a fabulous burgundy plaid double-breasted bespoke suit for the Opening sequence of The Wild Party on Broadway, thank you. Toni-Leslie James, that was lovely! But to be honest, I've had so many wonderful costumes over the years it's hard to keep track...I have a very special relationship with costume designers. I love what they do and they complete every character I've played on stage and screen. Hat's off to Anita Yavich for The View UpStairs!!

Nathan Lee Graham, Photo Credit: Andrew Werner PhotographyMore on Nathan Lee Graham:

Nathan Lee Graham is an American cabaret artist, stage, television and film actor, singer, writer and director. His roles in feature film include "Todd" in Zoolander and Zoolander 2, "Frederick Montana" in Sweet Home Alabama and "Geoff" in Hitch. He has appeared in independent films like Confessions of an Action StarBad Actress and Trophy Kids. On the small screen he originated the role of "Peter" in The Comeback, and had guest starring roles on ScrubsAbsolutely Fabulous and Law & Order: SVU. His stage appearances include "Phil D'Armano" in the original Broadway cast of the Tony and Grammy Award nominated The Wild Party and as "Miss Understanding" in the original Broadway cast of the Tony nominated Priscilla Queen of the Desert. He received a Drama League Award nomination for the role of "Rey Rey" in the off-Broadway production of Wig Out! and won an Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Feature Performer in a Musical in The Wild Party LA Premiere in 2006. More recently, he has appeared in the role of "Carson" in Hit the Wall at the Barrow Street Theatre. He earned a 2005 Best Classical Album Grammy Award for Songs of Innocence and of Experience as a soloist. Nathan Lee Graham is a graduate of Webster University in St. Louis, MO.

Friday
Mar032017

Call Redialed: Mrs. Smith: While My Guitar Gently Shrieks at (le) Poisson Rouge

Mrs. Smith and The RageI first came to know Mrs. Smith when her Off-Broadway show BROADWAY CAT-TACULAR! decended upon New York City. It was that show that made me fall in love with Mrs. Smith. I'm so excited that we have now had the chance to reunite to talk about her new concert, starring in a GUCCI Eyewear ad, and being crowned the winner of "Shred for Your Life."

Mrs. Smith & her band The Rage will be presenting their show While My Guitar Shrieks at (le) Poisson Rouge (158 Bleecker Street) on Tuesday, March 7 at 7pm. While My Guitar Gently Shrieks will sonically delve into the traumatic life events that have made Mrs. Smith the guitar virtuoso she is today. From her Little House on the Prairie-style childhood to her kidnapping at the hands of a Norwegian Death Metal band, Mrs. Smith will leave no stone unturned and no note unplayed. Featuring the music of ABBA, Prince, Jimi Hendrix, Taylor Swift, Van Halen, Sia, and Metallica, among others. Click here for tickets!

For more on Mrs. Smith be sure to visit http://www.worldofsmith.com and follow her on Facebook, Instgram, and YouTube!

1. It's so great to catch up! Last time we spoke, you were premiering your Off-Broadway show BROADWAY CAT-TACULAR! Now, you have switched gears, formed a band, and started doing concerts. What made you want to go this route? When it comes to the guitar, no other instrument gives such clear voice to the Grief and Rage. I never planned on becoming a guitar goddess! Last summer in Provincetown I started performing with my guitar on the sidewalk and it changed my life. The initial impulse behind this "sidewalk guitar show" was survival. I'd lost my entire fortune because of Brexit—my accountant couldn't explain why that was exactly but I was destitute. I found myself living in a mule shed behind the house of a local comedian named Ryan Landry. (A new low). The rent was due on this mule shed and so I took to the street! I was shocked at how the people gathered, huge crowds of them, clogging the streets and blocking traffic to see me "shred" on my guitar. I thought, "we might have something here..."

2. You recently were crowned the winner of "Shred for Your Life" at Webster Hall. What did it mean to you to win this contest? How did this help validate your path of music? The winning of this contest was coming off of my "sidewalk guitar shred" concerts in Provincetown so my "chops" were sharp. Even so, I was terrified. I almost left before the concert even began! There were so many tremendous players in a variety of styles and tones and all so much younger than me. I did make use of Geritol XL for some added energy and the judges determined that was not a performance-enhancing drug (it's b-vitamins). I battled it out over three excruciating rounds and just when I felt like my fingers were going to fall off I emerged the "Queen of Shred." It was definitely validating and helped me have the confidence to start this band and put this new show together. Around the same time a video of me playing in the East Village went viral on Guitar World and got 1.2 million views and then guitar companies started sending me equipment to review and I eventually wound up in this ad for GUCCI.

3. How did it come about for you to be featured in the GUCCI eyewear ad? I was playing guitar in Tomkins Square Park in the East Village this Fall and was spotted by fashion "it girl" Petra Collins. We were inspired by one another. She asked if I would be willing to wander into a GUCCI dreamscape with her and of course I said yes. I was whisked away to Budapest, Hungary, dressed up in gorgeous GUCCI clothes and sunglasses it was ultra-glamorous. You can look at stills from the shoot and read about Petra's inspiration here and here and here.

Mrs. Smith4. What do you like about performing in a band as opposed to a theatrical show? I love both, but for me right now, the band brings something raw and immediate to the live experience that feels relevant. People are raw right now, they're an exposed nerve because of what's happening in the world. (I've always felt like an exposed nerve so I'm used to it.) Along with my stage productions, I have done appearances at stand-up comedy venues where I perform impromptu stories, tone poems, and guitar solos. These appearances were stripped down and unfiltered and thrilling to me. I wanted to take that experience and elevate it a bit and that's what this new show is about, for now anyway. At first I was insecure about not having lots of costume changes and props and puppets. But when the show premiered to a sold-out crowd at Joe's Pub several audience members said they enjoyed the focused simplicity of the piece. I will also say, theatrical productions are a thrill to do but they are expensive and logistically complex. I like being able to book this show almost anywhere very easily and doing it in rock clubs and cabaret spaces means I can keep ticket prices accessible. And finally, it's just really really fun being a rock star!

5. For fans of your theatrical endeavors, what will surprise them about seeing you perform in concert? It's unfiltered Smith. I don't leave the stage, I don't change costumes, I don't relent from the top of the show until the finale. I go on a complete journey from my traumatic childhood in upstate New York to my life in high society to my kidnapping at the hands of a Norwegian Death Metal band and emergence as a guitar goddess. All of these realities are reflected through sound, music, storytelling and, of course, dumb show. The audience uses their imagination to draw the pictures. One song takes place in complete darkness with just the band playing and haunting voices from my past intruding on the loudspeaker! At first, I hired a video designer (who lives in Bushwick) to make elaborate video projections out of these voices but then realized how much more powerful to let the audience dream what the faces of these tormentors look like! That Bushwick videographer spent 10,000 hours working on those projections but we never used them--of course I still paid him! The surprise and delight is re-living these trauma's and triumph's with me. Isn't that what all entertainment is all about?

Mrs. Smith in an ad for GUCCI6. What was the hardest part about learning guitar? How do you feel learning to play guitar helped you grow as an artist? My father had taught me a few chords on a folk guitar when I was a little girl. Everyone could see I showed great promise but his alcoholic dissolution got in the way of my lessons. Then in the '90s I was kidnapped and held for ransom by a Norwegian Death Metal band. This was barely covered in the press because Patty Hearst completely stole my moment. I was kept in a closet for 90 days and there was a guitar in there. I had to learn to play it to survive. I ended up taking over the band and we won the Eurovision contest. I played the guitar when I appeared on America's Got Talent many years ago and it has been featured in my stage shows but I've never given myself so fully to the instrument until now and it's catapulted me into a new adventure.

7. You will be playing songs from quite a range of musical influences: ABBA, Led Zeppelin, Prince, Jimi Hendrix, Taylor Swift, Sia, and Metallica. How did these artists inspire your musical taste? What is the common thread of all these artists that make them fit into your concert? I have a passion for all of these songs because they reflect some element of my story. I've become known as a "shred guitar goddess" and the show definitely includes that but the guitar is such a diverse instrument! You can have an acoustic song that is so soulful and tender and then an electric guitar solo that soars like a valkyrie! And this band is so talented and skilled they can play literally anything so we zig-zag from rock and roll to country to pop to disco to jazz. It's like turning the knob on an old radio through all the styles of music.

Mrs. Smith8. Let's take this contest in a different direction. What is something you want to shred from your life? I insist on less fear. I know that seems radical, everyone is fearful of everything right now, especially in our little artistic corners of the world. But I want to create art and a life for myself without fear as the engine! That might mean finally taking the plunge and creating a Senior-Match.com profile and trying an internet coffee date. (I'd sworn off human love but is that just fear ruling me?) It might mean finding a way to finally tour Japan with my one-woman shred guitar opera. Of course, I don't want to strip out the terror, I need that, I think we all do. But fear and terror are two totally different energies as everybody knows.

9. 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? Can I work to make it .0001% better? 1% seems like setting the bar really high. (I'm so exhausted from self-improvement.) Your readers should look into The Miracle Morning, I just started it myself and I'm committing to try it for 30 days and see if it works.

Mrs. SmithMore on Mrs. Smith:

Mrs. Smith is an electric guitar virtuoso, philanthropist, and cat lover who has captured the public imagination with her unbridled creative expression in the face of a life filled with grief and rage. With an improbable life-tale that includes a lonesome childhood of privilege, 14 marriages, and show biz stardom and obscurity, Mrs. Smith is a 20th Century creature who has burst through to the internet age to become a sensation.

Mrs. Smith is the 2016 winner of the "Shred for Your Life" contest held at Webster Hall and was a featured performer at the Guitar Gods Festival in Miami opening up for guitar legends Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai. A video of her shredding on the streets of the East Village was shared by Guitar World Magazine and garnered 1.2 million views. Her unique blend of musical performance comedy has been featured on NBC's America's Got Talent, PBS Television as well as Joe's Pub, American Repertory Theater and Berkeley Repertory Theater. She has also been seen at Feinstein's/54 Below, First Avenue, Webster Hall, Ars Nova, The Laurie Beechman Theater, Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, The Bell House, Union Hall, and the legendary Bushwig Festival, among many others.

Mrs. Smith's Broadway Cat-tacular! wow'ed audiences Off-Broadway and was hailed by the New York Post as "Purrfect!" Mrs. Smith's performance described as "Off its meds" by the Boston Globe, "Luminous" by Gay City News and "Oddly poignant..." by the New York Times

Tuesday
Feb282017

Call Answered: Conference Call: J. Stephen Brantley and Todd Flaherty: BAREBACK INK

J. Stephen Brantley, Photo Credit: Roberto AraujoTodd Flaherty, Photo Credit: Luke FontanaI interviewed J. Stephen Brantley and David Drake in 2014 for their collaboration on J. Stephen's show Fried-Chicken Ciccone. I was so moved by that show that when I heard they were going to work together again, I knew I needed to do a new interview. Then I found out Todd Flaherty was also going to star in this show and I was like, bam, let's talk with everyone!

Bareback Ink, written by Bob Bartlett and directed by Obie Award winner David Drake, tells the story of a beautiful boy who is forcibly tattooed in this erotic new plays at IRT (154 Christopher Street) from March 4-18. Click here for tickets!

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

For more on Todd visit http://www.toddflaherty.com and follow him on Facebook and Instagram!

1. This March you are all part of Bob Bartlett's Bareback Ink. J. Stephen and Todd, you are starring in the show and David, you are directing. What made each of you want to be part of this production?

J. Stephen Brantley: I put out a call for plays last year when Hard Sparks was awarded this residency at IRT, asking for a "sinister two-hander." I was hoping for a vehicle for Todd and myself, one that would fit in that raw dark cinder-blocked space. In Bareback Ink, I got it. It haunted me, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Todd and I have done…five shows together? - two directed by David Drake - but it seems like we never really have much interaction. In Pirira, we were both onstage the entire show and never spoke a word to one another. This time we do. I’m all over him!

Todd Flaherty: I would follow J. Stephen Brantley to the ends of the earth. As a writer and artist, he is redefining what American Theatre is and can be and I trust his taste in other writers’ work. Coupled with the fact the David Drake was on board to direct…I didn’t even have to read the script before saying yes. It could have been about toilet water and I knew it would be brilliant. Icing on the cake was reading Bob Bartlett’s poetic story. I jumped at the opportunity.

J. Stephen Brantley and Todd Flaherty in "The Jamb", Photo Credit: Hunter Canning2. While based upon the Greek myth The Rape and Abduction of Ganymede, how do you feel this story relates to the times we are living in today?

J. Stephen Brantley: The play wrestles with some uncomfortable stuff. Bob (Bartlett) wrote it in an effort to make sense of the legacy of a story about kidnapping, basically, and a trove of art that celebrates it. This production is unapologetically queer, so we are mainly looking at the ways gay men pursue and eroticize youth. But it’s cross-cultural. Young people are sexualized. They are rewarded for being servile, and punished for taking power and, often, made to feel irrelevant past a certain "sell-by" date. We’re taking a hard look at that, through the lens of myth, but also pushing it aside to find some love underneath. The relationship of the two guys in Bareback Ink may not be quite as it first seems.

Todd Flaherty: Bareback is incredibly nuanced and layered so there’s actually quite a lot to glean from Bob’s story in relation to our modern times. The play’s nature is very homo-erotically charged, so naturally we are connecting the myth to modern intergenerational gay relationships, daddy fantasies and the journey to manhood, particularly for boys who have no father figures due to displacement from the home. Other times in the rehearsal room, we speak in jest about Melania, but there is some real relevance to our story there as well. Surviving an abusive relationship using tools of beauty and youth…and what happens when those tools are no longer available. Another layer entirely focuses on the outcast in society being controlled and manipulated by unseen powers that be, and the daily struggle for freedom in a world where the cards are stacked against you.

Todd Flaherty and J. Stephen Brantley, Photo Credit: Jody Christopherson3. Bareback Ink is an erotic tale of the struggle between comfortable corruption and the cost of true freedom. This description seems perfect for the post-election climate we live in. How do you feel Trump is using his power under the guise of true freedom, but everyone else views it as corruption?

J. Stephen Brantley: Let me count the ways! Aside from the ban that isn’t a ban? There’s FADA, which hasn’t happened on a Federal level yet, but may still. These "First Amendment Defense" and "religious freedom" laws have nothing to do with liberty, of course, they’re a license to discriminate and the ripple effect of such measures could be catastrophic for LGBT Americans. It’s easy for most people to look the other way, to think that "bathroom bills" have only to do with whether and where trans folks pee – which should be where they want - forgetting that these same laws strip away protections for all sexual minorities. My mother recently wrote her governor voicing her opposition to such a proposed law. It’s not something she’s used to doing, and she was outraged by the condescending, sexist form-letter reply – some bullshit about "protecting her privacy." It pissed me off too, but I was also delighted to have her in the trenches! Even if it’s an uphill battle, it’s infinitely better to be on the side of justice. There’s freedom in the fight. But for anyone joining the fray, you have to know, it’s uncomfortable. All the time.

Todd Flaherty and J. Stephen Brantley, Photo Credit: Jody Christopherson4. Some tattoos are removable, while others are more permanent. Based upon Trump's first few weeks in office, what decisions do you feel he has made that could be considered a removable tattoo and which ones do you think are a more permanent tattoo?

J. Stephen Brantley: All tattoos are removable, I should know. But it’s an expensive, time-consuming, painful process. I still believe that we will, eventually, create a world in which everyone is treated with human dignity. I have to believe that. But I also think the events of the last several weeks have set us way back, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. The President has angered world leaders, alienated our allies, and emboldened terrorists both foreign and domestic. He’s lifted all the wrong restrictions from law enforcement and appointed to top-level posts the very people who would dismantle the agencies they now head. We’re headed for disaster. Truthfully, I don’t really expect to survive this administration. But I am certain the damage that’s about to be done can, and will, be reversed someday. The marks may not be removed entirely, and maybe they shouldn’t be: we have a bad habit of ignoring the uglier parts of our collective history. Bareback Ink is a sort of trial by fire. It’s about discovering that the very thing that’s kept you down is actually your ticket to freedom. I hope that we as a nation learn from this moment, use this opportunity to become better informed, fully engaged, more compassionate people. Maybe next time more than half the population will actually vote.

Todd Flaherty: The most permanent tattoo being inked into the fabric of our nation is actually a very beautiful one…however painful the process of receiving it. I did not vote for Trump, but I think he is the president America deserves at this tipping point in our history. As a millennial having grown up with a father in politics and an activist mother, I know all too well just how fragile our democracy is and always has been. But (not unlike our character "Artist") I know many people who have lived comfortably enough, wanting more but never asking for it, for fear of loosing what they already have and ignorant to the plight of those who have even less. Trumps agenda is ruthless and those with half a brain are finally being called to action. The permanent tattoo I’m speaking of is intersectionality. No longer are we dealing with women’s rights, black rights, queer rights, gender rights, etc…we’re dealing with human rights.

J. Stephen Brantley, Photo Credit: Jody Christopherson5. Bareback Ink tells the story of a beautiful young man who enters a purgatory-like tattoo shop where an isolated and withdrawn artist forcibly inks the boy’s back over the course of several months. Has there been a time in your life when you were forced to do something you didn't want to? If so, when/what was it?

J. Stephen Brantley: Not really. I’ve chosen to do a lot of things I didn’t really want to. Everyone does. But I’ve been incredibly fortunate that I’ve never endured the kind of brutality and coercion that so many queer people do.

6. Bob Bartlett has taken The Rape and Abduction of Ganymede and brought it into a modern-day world, touching on the subjects of one being rejected by family, community, and culture. Have you ever been rejected by your family, community, and/or culture? If so, how did you initially react to the rejection, but ultimately find your own family, community, and/or culture?

J. Stephen Brantley: Again, I didn’t have it too bad. But growing up in Texas during the '80s I was surrounded by the message that gay was definitely not okay. A lot of kids don’t survive that. A lot. Those who do, we develop a thick skin and a quick mind, and we use what we’ve got. Todd’s character in Bareback uses his beauty like so many boys do – being objectified is better than rejection, and there is power in sex. If we’re lucky, we have a mentor, a teacher, who doesn’t take advantage. And perhaps we become that person for someone else someday. In that, Bareback Ink is really about family, about finding home.

Todd Flaherty: Luckily I have been blessed to be born into one of the most loving families ever. As an artist, however, I face rejection everyday. Every. Fucking. Day. Sometimes multiple times a day. That rejection used to leave me completely incapacitated. Not because of some idea that the work I was creating was bad, per se, but because the work I was creating was irrelevant. I was irrelevant. My presence wasn’t necessary to the growth of our community. That’s a tough pill to swallow for anyone. A few years ago, I changed my outlook on rejection and started thinking of it as an opportunity. You can’t grow if you're not making mistakes and if you’re not growing, you’re not living. I began to act more fearlessly and I found new friends and communities who felt/worked the same way. That’s how I began working with J. Stephen and David.

Todd Flaherty and J. Stephen Brantley, Photo Credit: Jody Christopherson7. The show is also described as being about desire, possession, and the perversion of power. What is something you desire? What is one of your most cherished possessions? When have you altered/distorted your own power over someone?

J. Stephen Brantley: I did some escorting for a while. This is no secret, I talked about it in Chicken-Fried Ciccone. There was actually very little sex involved, it was mostly Dom-sub role play. It’s a weird dynamic, being paid an hourly wage to humiliate the very person who’s hired you. In the back of your mind, you know you’re not in charge. At the same time, you do wield power or at least it feels like you do and it feels good. That’s why I always said it was essentially site-specific theatre, "living truthfully under imaginary circumstances." But like any acting gig, it can turn into a mind-fuck real quick. If sense-of-self can be possessed, I cherish that. And freedom. At one time in my life I almost lost it. My character in Bareback has given up on ever having it, until this boy comes into his cell. More than anything I fear a loss of control over my own well-being.

Todd Flaherty: I desire water-front property, be it a lake, river, or ocean. I cherish none of my possessions because I can’t take anything with me when I leave this earth. All relationships are a delicate balance of power…I can’t recall any instance where I have unfairly asserted mine, but maybe that’s something I should delve into in therapy.

Todd Flaherty and J. Stephen Brantley, , Photo Credit: Jody Christopherson8. Bareback Ink casts a raw, voyeuristic gaze at the intergenerational homoerotics of Greek myth through a decidedly contemporary and surprisingly sociopolitical lens. Between all of the shows you have either starred in or directed, which one do you feel cast you at your rawest and most vulnerable?

J. Stephen Brantley: Well, I’m was completely naked onstage six nights in Mope at EST, so that’s raw and vulnerable. But actually, once you get used to it, it’s not a big deal. The last show I did with David and Todd, my play The Jamb, was scarier. I was close to that character. And there have been others where I appeared to be transformed – "Doc" in The Night Alive, or "Saul" in Church Of Why Not – but I felt completely laid bare.

Todd Flaherty: I recently wrote and acted in a web series called Undetectable (www.undetectabletheseries.com). The story follows a young gay man navigating personal and romantic relationships with the stigma of being HIV positive. It was one of the most horrifying and rewarding experiences I have ever had, showing up to set every day, saying words I wrote, constantly questioning whether or not they were good enough, and trusting that my need to tell the story was greater than any one person’s reaction to it…good, bad or otherwise.

9. Bareback Ink is an erotic play, but with an underlying horror. What has been your most pleasurable erotic encounter? What has been an erotic encounter you wish to forget?

J. Stephen Brantley: I have never had an erotic encounter that was as pleasurable as what I’m imagining right now. And there are none I wish to forget. Actually, I wish I could remember more.

Todd Flaherty: Adam, they’re all so pleasurable…I couldn’t possible pick just one. One that I wish to forget involves a barely 17-year-old me, two high school girlfriends, the back seat of my car, a mall parking lot, and a security guard nearly calling the cops on us for public lewdness and indecent exposure.

10. Since the show is called Bareback Ink, if you could tattoo your back, what would you get drawn on it? 

J. Stephen Brantley: I’ve long wanted a big bird of prey on my back. I have songbirds on my forearms, and I love them, but I’m feeling more falcon than sparrow these days. Of course, for the price of such a piece one could produce Bareback Ink so, for now anyway, I’m going with that.

Todd Flaherty: A watercolor-like scene of the dunes leading to the secret beach in Provincetown.

J. Stephen Brantley, Photo Credit: Roberto AraujoMore on J. Stephen Brantley:

Off-Broadway: Mope (Ensemble Studio Theatre), Murder In The First (The Directors Co. at 59E59), and Theatre 167’s Pirira (West End Theater). Regional: The Night Alive (Guild Hall), Of Mice And Men (Bay Street), Slap & Tickle (Provincetown Theater), and Romeo And Juliet with its zombie sequel R & J & Z at Stonington Opera House. J. Brantley has also worked with Big Dance, Blessed Unrest, CapsLock, and Jewish Plays Project, and at venues including Queens Theatre, LaMaMa, Metropolitan Playhouse, The New Ohio, and P.S.122. J. Brantley is an eight-time New York Innovative Theatre Award nominee, and winner of the Micheál MacLiammóir Award for Best Actor at the 2013 Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival. He is the Producing Artistic Director of Hard Sparks and a member of the Indie Theatre Hall Of Fame.

Todd Flaherty, Photo Credit: Luke FontanaMore on Todd:

Off-Broadway: Pirira (NYIT Nom) also by J.Stephen Brantley, Fresh Kills (59E59). Other New York credits include: Sleep No More (Punchdrunk/ Emursive), Dead Letter Office, I Like To Be Here (Theater167), We Are Nebenienander (American Laboratory) and Hard Sparks’ The Jamb. Regional: Slap & Tickle, also directed by David Drake. Film/New Media: Pretty Girls, The Fuzz, Tracy&Cal. Todd wrote, produced, co-directed and appears in Undetectable, recently nominated for seven Indie Series Awards.