Twitter
Facebook

 

 

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

    

"Call Me Adam" chats with...

 

 

Entries in Off-Broadway (354)

Tuesday
Feb282017

Call Answered: Matt Cox: PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic

Matt CoxI've never read nore seen a Harry Potter book/movie, but I'm a big fan of magic/fantasy and am very intrigued by the Harry Potter phenomenon we live among. When I heard about Matt Cox's show PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic (which has recently been extended until June), I cast a spell for him to answer my call and voila, this interview ensued.

Some people are born with the capacity to do great things. Some people change the world. Some people rise from humble beginnings to defeat the forces of darkness in the face of insurmountable odds. PUFFS or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic is the story of the people who sit in class next to those people.

PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic plays in the heart of NYC's theatre district at the Elektra Theater (300 West 43rd Street) every Friday (7:30pm), Saturday (3pm & 9:30pm) & Sunday (3pm) through June 25th! Click here for tickets!

For more on Matt be sure to visit http://www.mattcoxland.com and follow him on Twitter!

For more on PUFFS visit http://www.puffstheplay.com and follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. Your show, PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic moved to the Elektra Theater after a triumphant, sold-out run at The PIT last summer. What excites you most about moving this show to the Elektra Theatre, located in the heart of midtown? So, a bit further removed from that now, but the most exciting thing that has certainly happened is that our reach to new audience members has been much larger. Not only just due to more seating, but with a midtown location, we're a bit more likely to be stumbled upon which is great!

Along with that, we have been able to dedicate a bit more of the space to the show, including some decor in the theater itself (we've got some floating candles!) and the lobby, which we've decorated with various posters for other wizard themed shows.

2. What did you learn from the run at The PIT that helped inform this bigger run? I will be forever grateful for the run of the show at The PIT, and the many things we learned. We also did a workshop at the University of Florida back in May of 2016, as well, which was very helpful to the story. At the PIT, I was able to make changes from show to show just to try new ideas out/figure out better ways of doing what we were already doing.

It left us with a script with humor that had so many different versions tried that I believe we have the best possible versions in the current iteration. And it was just a lot of fun, and has kept the show fun.

Puffs also has a certain playfulness when it is at it's best, which was definitely something that was developed running at the PIT.

Cast of PUFFS, Photo Credit: Hunter CanningCast of PUFFS, Photo Credit: Hunter Canning3. PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic, is alternate narrative of the Harry Potter series so to speak. What was it about the Harry Potter that made you go, "I want to write my own version of this series?" What did you identify most with about the Harry Potter saga? I was of the lucky age of people that ended up growing up alongside the books, and alongside Harry. So, the characters continued to stay relevant throughout my adolescence. It was also just very influential to my developing love of storytelling.

The idea for Puffs manifested while I was on a train, and it was more of a: Wow! It really would have been terrible to be another kid at that school during those seven years. Then it was a quick skip to the idea that the story would focus on "The Puffs," who pop culture has always deemed the not so great house. (Less so in recent years, which is great!) I had to look it up immediately, and was surprised no one had done it, and figured I should go ahead and do it.

4. When did you become interested in magic? What was it about magic that drew you in? I have always been a fan of Fantasy books, movies, and whatnot, so that kind of magic has always been very interesting/magical to me. I don't have a particularly deep interest in magic-magic but if someone is very good at it, then I am certainly impressed.

Cast of PUFFS, Photo Credit: Hunter CanningCast of PUFFS, Photo Credit: Hunter Canning5. In PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic, "some people are born with the capacity to do great things. Some people change the world. Some people rise from humble beginnings to defeat the forces of darkness in the face of insurmountable odds. PUFFS is the story of the people who sit in class next to those people." If you could name people or events in your life that describe each of these scenarios, who or what would be assigned to each phrase? The idea is that that pretty much applies to almost everybody. The crux of the play is that ultimately, most of us don't get to be the "Harry's" in life. But there's something to celebrate about the heroic victories of normal existence. So we are all the people who sit next to those people in the grand scheme of it.

6. As the writer of this show, did you grow up feeling as though you were living in other people's shadows never shining for yourself? If so, when did you shine your own spotlight? I definitely put some of my own school experiences into the show, as I was definitely not one of the "cool" kids growing up. Not sure when that stopped, I think I just stopped necessarily caring too much about it, and focused more on the things I enjoyed.

Cast of PUFFS, Photo Credit: Hunter CanningCast of PUFFS, Photo Credit: Hunter Canning7. Which Harry Potter character best describes you? I believe we all should strive for the wisdom of "The Headmaster." So I'd hope him. "Ms. Granger" is another good one.

8. If you could cast a spell today, what spell would you conjure up? Like most people, I can only assume, it would be the spell that turns stairs into slides.

9. Aside from Harry Potter characters, who are some of your other favorite magicians from stage or screen? I'll always be a Gandalf man. (Not a conjurer of cheap tricks).

Matt CoxMore on Matt:

Matt Cox is a New York City-based playwright, actor, improviser, sometimes comic book retail associate, and probably/maybe one day, novelist. His plays include Puffs Or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years At A Certain School Of Magic & MagicAdult Mutant Ninja TurtlesThe Madness of Captain Dread, and the 3-part epic Kapow-i GoGo. He authored the radio play El Hombre Bovino for WNYC’s The Greene Space, and contributed to The Flea Theater’s The Mysteries. His work has been produced at The Peoples Improv Theater, The Tank, and The Flea Theater, among other places. His acting credits include: Kapow-i GoGo (The PIT), Blogologues (Lively Productions), The Mysteries (Flea Theater), Sarah Flood in Salem Mass (Flea Theater), and Restoration Comedy (Flea Theater). Matt has studied at The Upright Citizens Brigade, The Stella Adler Studio of Acting, and Tarleton State University.

Saturday
Feb252017

Call Answered: Lexie Braverman: Dark Vanilla Jungle

Lexie Braverman, Photo Credit: Leslie Hassler PhotographyA few years ago I interviewed Laura Abbott about her play I Am Not I, chronicling the story of a girl struggling with gender dysphoria. When Laura gushed about a show her friend Lexie Braverman was starring in called Dark Vanilla Jungle, my ears perked up and I knew I wanted to delve deep into this story.

Dark Vanilla Jungle is about a young girl just trying to stay alive amidst an act of violence that alters her existence and everyone she touches. "Andrea's" yearning for love and a family takes her to the darkest of places and she just wants to tell you the truth, will you listen?

Presented by Brave Artist CollectiveDark Vanilla Jungle will play a limited run at The Flamboyan Theater at The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center (107 Suffolk Street) from March 14-26. Click here for tickets!

For more on Lexie be sure to visit http://lexiebraverman.com and follow her on Twitter!

For more on Dark Vanilla Jungle visit http://darkvanillajunglenyc.com and follow them on Facebook!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? My mom. She introduced me to Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Spencer Tracey, Vivian Leigh, and Maximillion Schell, Hamlet, Ordinary People, you name it. I know I love the arts in every way because of her. Also -- I auditioned to be the "Cowardly Lion" in the Wizard of Oz and that was my first role when I was 11. I have wanted to act ever since. My dad also bought me a tool belt when I was about four, and I put on a show fixing everything in the kitchen and my dad taped it all. I felt completely myself and comfortable in front of other people, way more than I did being alone.

2. This March you will be making your NYC debut in Dark Vanilla Jungle, a show you starred in this past summer in London's Camden Fringe Festival. What excites you most about making your NYC acting debut in this show? I am the most excited to be in NYC because it is exactly that, New York City. Also I'll be able to reach a wider audience. This play is something special. It's raw, gruesome, beautiful, and tragic. I think more people should get to see it, especially with a fear-mongering sexual predator in the White House.

3. Why did you want to be in this show initially? This play is something people are afraid to talk about or see. I wanted to show people that "Andrea's" story needs to be told and not silenced. Also, I had never been in a one-woman show before and I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to challenge myself mentally and physically, which this play does, it's like running a damn marathon.

Lexie Braverman in "Dark Vanilla Jungle", Photo Credit: Tiphaine Betscher4. What do you relate to most about your character "Andrea" and what is one characteristic of hers you are glad you don't possess? I relate mostly to her child-like innocence and naivety. She reverts back to being this kid because it's the only time in her life she really felt like she knew who she was. It's easier then to let other people take care of you, and you over-trust unskilled people to watch out for you. One characteristic of hers that I do not have is "Andrea's" suffering. I thank God every day I do not have that in my life. It's become a part of her and you can see how it leaches on to every aspect of her life.

5. Since this summer's run, do you feel your portrayal of "Andrea" will be altered in anyway, now that you have lived in her skin for a time? You know what I do. I don't think it'll be drastically different but I definitely think it will be more at ease and I'll be more comfortable. That piece stays with you, but it's in a drawer you only open when you need it. It's very tough and intense, so you need to be careful or you'll be overwhelmed. I'll be working with a new director who is brilliant and beautiful. Sybille Bruun, and I cannot wait to see what she helps us find.

Lexie Braverman in "Dark Vanilla Jungle", Photo Credit: Tiphaine Betscher6. Dark Vanilla Jungle is about a young girl just trying to stay alive amidst an act of violence that alters her existence and everyone she touches. What is an event in your life that altered your existence? An event that altered my existence was finding out about my parents' divorce from my sister over a Skype conversation (because I was in grad school in England at the time). She was so far away, and so clear on my computer screen at the same time. It was a nightmare and completely out of the blue. I remember going right to the window because I couldn't breathe and I leaned out and just tried to suck in as much air as I could. A lot changed for me after that.

7. In Dark Vanilla Jungle Andreas yearning for love and a family takes her to the darkest of places and she just wants to tell you the truth. What is the darkest place you've ever gone to and how did you get back to the light? Yikes! Darkest I've ever personally gone to? I'm afraid I can't answer that one. Unless I can pay you by the hour, I'm afraid that answer is for my therapist and her therapy dog. I can say that I've played characters that torture, kill, and poison for love and I've found good reasons (as those characters) to do all those things. When I'm on stage, everything is justified for me, no matter what. It's not that simple in real life.

Lexie Braverman, Photo Credit: Leslie Hassler Photography8. Vanilla is my favorite flavor in the world. Vanilla coke, vanilla coffee, vanilla tea, vanilla anything is just delicious. What is your favorite thing to add vanilla too? YUM Cinnamon. I love mixing vanilla with cinnamon specifically in coffee. Heaven for sure. One of my favorite spices and also my best friend's name.

9. Dark Vanilla Jungle is being presented by the Brave Artist Collective, which you helped co-found. What do you get from running this theatre company as opposed to just being an actress? It's nuts. I never thought I would be on that side of the coin. We are just getting started, this being our NYC debut season of Dark Vanilla and my dear co-founder's play Junebug (also running at the Flamboyan--shameless plug!). It is insanely hard and my production hat, although brand new, is already taking a bit of a beating. There is so much responsibility and you feel like everything that goes wrong is your fault. What I've realized though is that I cannot do this alone. As an actor and now a co-founder, I must surround myself with people that I love and support and they love and support me right back. Being an actress is hard enough, why do I do this to myself? Same reason I get rejected all the time, because I can't get enough.

10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? That's so awesome! I want to improve my self-talk one percent better every day. I'm reading Amy Poehler's book Yes Please currently and I already adore it. She talks about the little demon voice inside of you that says you're not thin enough, or you're too Jewish, or your hair would look way better straight, or you're not funny enough and that you will always have that voice but you have to work on talking to it, calming it down, and controlling it. My self-talk, my own head, I would love to improve that each day. Once I stop caring what other people think I'll be able to conquer the world. First I have to destroy this little demon though, then I'll work on everyone else.

Lexie Braverman, Photo Credit: Samantha Leonetti PhotographyMore on Lexie:

Lexie Braverman is a critically acclaimed actor born and raised in Philadelphia. Classically trained in Shakespeare, she has performed theatrically everywhere from London to Los Angeles. She is a graduate of Ithaca College and the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Her first role was the "Cowardly Lion" at day-camp in the Wizard of Oz when she was 11, because her hair was so big and her voice was so low. She went on to graduate from Ithaca College, performing in fantastically reviewed Underground productions like Boys’ Life by Harold Korder and Fat Pig by Neil Lebute. After graduating with her BA, she found her love of Shakespeare and Chekhov when she attended the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School’s MA program overseas. After graduating from the Old Vic, she was lucky enough to work with the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater, the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival, and the American Shakespeare Center. She recently finished the 2016 Actors’ Renaissance season at the American Shakespeare Center performing five plays, in three months, with 12 actors, and no directors. That season changed her life.

In her off time Lexie volunteers at dog shelters and helps socialize them. She is also a movie quoting expert, no one can out quote her.

Saturday
Feb252017

Call Answered: Tulis McCall: Are You Serious? A Woman of a Certain Age Inquiries at Cornelia Street Cafe

Tulis McCall, Photo Credit: Flash RosenbergI first met Tulis McCall when we both joined a theatre blogger group. I knew Tulis loved theatre and reviewed shows and that's all I knew. Fast forward to 2017 when I'm asked to come see a one-woman show called Are You Serious? A Woman of a Certain Age Inquiries. Then I'm told that one-woman show is by Tulis McCall and I go, I love Tulis, sign me up!

One Sunday afternoon, I attended Tulis' show and I was blown away by it. Are You Serious? is a show everyone can relate to because we are all aging. There was not one part of Tulis' show that I didn't identify with. Tulis is engaging, enthusiastic, and knows how to draw an audience in. She brought up several poignant points about living, mortality, fear, goals, and accepting yourself for who you are. This truly is one show you don't want to miss.

Are You Serious? A Woman of a Certain Age Inquiries plays every Sunday at 3pm at the Cornelia Street Cafe, being extended through March 26! Click here for tickets!

For more on Tulis and Are You Serious? be sure to visit http://areyouserious.nyc and follow the show on Facebook and Twitter!

For more on Cornelia Street Cafe visit http://www.corneliastreetcafe.com and follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? Oh good grief - It was always something that was comfortable and easy for me. I liked being on a stage and telling a story. Even in grammar school. To deliver a story and watch it land is a bit of magic, and to be on the initiating side is very powerful. You have to calculate and execute at the same time, and eventually you have to let go of the steering wheel for it to all work.

2. Your show, Are You Serious? is currently enjoying an extended run at Cornelia Street Café, after winning the 2015 United Solo Award for "Best Stand-Up" along with rave reviews. What made you want to create this show? I suppose it harkens back to "write what you know." I have become a "Woman of a Certain Age" and was surprised to have arrived at this juncture. When I looked around I saw not only no one talking about it unless it's as a clinical study - I saw no one who represented me. Not in the movies, onstage, nowhere. We are all over the streets here in Manhattan, but we are not represented in any artistic venue - unless of course you are an icon like the various Dames who keep working or the occassional appearance of a star like Glenn Close. But these are few and far between. I decided to write about how I was feeling, what I was thinking and observing, and see if anyone responded. They have.

Tulis McCall in "Are You Serious?", Photo Credit: Terri Mintz3. Are You Serious? is your story about becoming a WCA (Woman of a Certain Age). What is it like to talk to the audience after the show? What do they relate to most? What has someone told you that made you change something in the show? What I have heard mostly is people, women AND men, say "I am a WCA too. I relate to everything you are saying." The other conversations are with people whose opinion I seek out and we have a conversation around where they were engaged and where they were disconnected from the piece. These are great conversations because as a performer you don't "see" what the audience sees. Just as they don't see from your vantage point.

4. In the show, you say how as a child, you would say, I'm 3, I'm 4, I'm 5, etc, but then you start to hit milestones. I hit 30, I hit 40, I hit 50. Then it becomes I reached 60, I reached 70, etc. At what age did say to yourself, I'm a WCA? After you admitted that to yourself, what was your next thought?  Well, getting my Medicare Card was an eye-opener. I remember showing it to people, and my peers or those older than I responded with, "Congratulations." And people younger than I, and often by not that much, said, "What's that?" As to the "next thought" - there wasn't one. Just carry on. Those next thoughts occur gradually. Reflection. Goal setting. Reality checks. Dismissing of the naysayers in your head and externally. All sorts.

Tulis McCall in "Are You Serious?", Photo Credit: Terri Mintz5. You also talk about how men are considered to always be in their prime, but women of a certain age are considered past their prime. You could run circles around most men with all you have going on. How do you keep your youthful outlook about yourself? I have a very low threshold for boredom. That's why I live in NYC. I remember back in the day Johnny Carson complimented Jane Fonda for how she looked - she was 50 and back then that was old. Her response was, "This is how 50 should look." So I don't think of it as a "youthful outlook" because that belies my age - which is at the center of this whole conversation. The idea of old is slow, withdrawn, frail. In other words, feeble. Time to jettison that and let us all wear our age like a many colored cloak and see what hapens.

6. I love how you talk about the way your bullshit meter changes as you get older. When did you say to yourself, I'm old enough not to have to tolerate anyone's bullshit anymore? What was the most recent bullshit you didn't put up with? If I am in a group of people and someone refers to us as guys, including people IN the group, I correct them. To refer to women as GUYS makes us invisible. People say, "Oh it is just a saying. It doesn't mean anything." And I say if it doesn't mean anything why are you wasting your breath saying it? Call us folks or people or come up with something else. I will also lean into a conversation to tell someone how many times they just used the word "like." It makes them sound so stupid, the way that smoking cigarettes makes people look stupid.

Tulis McCall in "Are You Serious?"7. You also mention how as you age, you do things you may never have done before. What are some things you've done at this stage of your life, you never thought you would be doing? I never planned for the future, really. So whatever it is I am doing is usually a surprise tome. I follow my nose from one path to the next. I never thought I would be reviewing for the theatre (www.thefrontrowcenter.com). I never imagined I would produce a monologue evening once a month at the Cornelia Street Cafe (www.monologuesandmadness.com). I never thought I would be an award winning performer at United Solo Festival (2015 Best story telling script and 2016 Best Stand-Up Comedy). In 2001 I was living out in L.A. and after 9/11 I knew I had to move back. No one thought I could pull it off, move back, find a job and an apartment. Luckily I never asked anyone what they thought about it and only discovered their opinion after the fact.

8. There is a great scene where you talk about regret and the doubts that fill your head. We all have those voices. How do you keep those voices at bay instead of allowing them to flood your mind? Like I say in the show you have to get a little crazy - well craziER than the negative voices. And this is something you learn over time because eventually, if you are honest, you get bored with whining about all the bad shit that is affecting your First World Life. I am in no way Pollyanna and perky people, frankly, give me a PIA. Instead I have figured out a way to grab these voices and shake them till they are silly. You do have to give them some attention because they, like our president, are narcicistic and need attention. If you just ignore them they fester. There is a fine line between acknowledging them and giving them power - you have to strategize, get out ahead of them, just like Congress has to do as soon as it pulls it's collective head out of its own butt. The way that people are coming together to demand town hall meetings - that is what we have to do within us.

Tulis McCall9. When you become a woman of a certain age, you get to see all the gifts you've given yourself. What are the top five gifts you've given yourself? Appreciation for my fantastic sense of humor and my point of view. Quiet time and Meditation experiments. Two women's groups with whom I meet regularly. Hope. Writing.

10. What do you think is next for Tulis McCall? I am already thinking about the next incarnation for this show. It will be called All The Queen's Horses.

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? Oh yeah - my fitness. I have been carrying extra weight around for awhile and I KNOW it is a protective coating. So I am using one of my women's groups to be accountable using Weight Watchers which works for me because it is all about numbers. I was always terrific in math.

THANK YOU ADAM FOR THESE GREAT QUESTIONS.

Tulis McCall, Photo Credit: Flash RosenbergMore on Tulis:

Tulis McCall is an actor, writer, producer and performer. Her first one woman show, What Everywoman Knows, was produced at the Public Theater by Michael Moriarty and the Potters Field Theatre Company, in Los Angeles by Dan Lauria, and toured nationally. Running With Scissors, directed by Philip Proctor of The Firesign Theatre, was produced in Los Angeles. She is the recipient of the 2016 Best Standup Award from UNITED SOLO™ for Are You Serious? and the 2015 Best Storytelling Script Award from UNITED SOLO™ for her show All Aboard! Since 2007, she has hosted Monologues and Madness, an evening of original work read by 12-15 actors, each month at the Cornelia Street Café in Greenwich Village. Tulis is the creator and editor of the theatre review site www.thefrontrowcenter.com that features 20 writers and covers over 500 shows per year.

Monday
Feb132017

Call Redialed: Charles Busch: "Naked and Unafraid" at Pangea NYC

Charles Busch, Photo Credit: Michael WakefieldEvery time I interview Charles Busch, I always learn more about what makes him tick and where his inspiration is drawn from. In this new interview, Charles and I let it all hang out as we discuss his new cabaret show Naked and Unafraid which will premiere at Pangea NYC on Saturday, March 4 at 7pm. Click here for tickets!

For more on Charles be sure to visit http://charlesbusch.com and follow him on Facebook! 

For more on Pangea visit http://www.pangeanyc.com and follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

Charles Busch, Photo Credit: Michael Childers1. This March you are heading to Pangea NYC for your new cabaret show Charles Busch: Naked and Unafraid, where for the first time you will perform this show in "male" drag as opposed to your usual "female" drag. What made you want to create a show to be performed as yourself? The thing I love about performing in cabaret as opposed to being in a play is projecting a version of myself that is truly representative of who I am. A creative life seems to be a never ending journey of self-discovery and definition. After forty years of expressing myself through drag, I've become so comfortable with my own androgynous nature that the element of transformation means very little to me. In this performance at Pangea, I'm just going to push the androgynous meter a bit more towards the masculine. It's basically the same act, just minus one more veil.

2. In putting this show together, was your creative process any different than when you design your "drag" cabaret shows? How did your song choice differ with this show? A major part of my act is telling stories about my past and I have had quite a past, a full repertoire. At times I've decided against certain stories that placed too much of an emphasis on my being male. In this show, I'm not censoring myself at all. As far as songs, well, I'm doing some older material including a short ten minute piece as my character "Miriam Passman," to prove to myself and the audience that there really isn't that much difference. I can basically do the same show and it doesn't matter what I wear. Frankly, I haven't worn any falsies or foundation garments in years and in my regular act I've always worn pants.

3. Why did you choose to debut this show at Pangea? I asked a few of the out of town venues that I'll be performing in over the course of the next year if they'd mind if I did the show out of drag and they adamantly objected. They fear that my audience will be disappointed or worse, not show up. And it's a legitimate concern. I wanted to test the waters, and most importantly, see if I like it. I may not but I think I will. Pangea is a very safe place for me. I've known the owner Stephen and the talent coordinator Kevin Malony for many years. They were eager to provide me with a venue for this really rather mild experiment.

4. What do you hope audiences will come away with from attending this show as opposed to your previous cabaret shows? I certainly hope the audience will feel a greater freedom of expression from me and an even more honest experience of spending an hour in my company. And I really do hope they'll feel that it's not that big a difference. My persona in drag is so close to who I am in real life that it's not like they're gonna suddenly see me turn into Vin Diesel. It's basically the same persona.

Charles Busch a la Marlene Dietrich, Photo Credit: Michael Wakefield5. What are you most excited about in presenting this show? What are you most nervous about? I'm looking forward to singing with greater power because without intending I think I lighten my voice a bit in subconsciously feminizing it.

I'm a trifle concerned that perhaps the audience and I will miss the trappings of glamour that drag provides. In my act I suppose I evoke echoes of some of the great ladies at the mic; Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich etc. But perhaps with my own short hair I'll still be unconsciously evoking Judy and maybe a little Elaine Stritch. All of those ladies' stage personas traded on their androgyny. Judy in her tramp outfit and Dietrich in her men's tuxedos and even Stritch with her simple white buttoned down shirt. The great theatre critic Kenneth Tynan once wrote of Dietrich "She has sex without gender." That would be the highest compliment I could receive.

6. You will be joined once again by your long-time musical director Tom "Muscles" Judson. How will your chemistry with him differ with you performing as yourself? This should be interesting. Tom is a big good looking sexy guy and we enjoy singing romantic duets with each other. It's an element that I've never seen any other drag performer do in their shows. Not to my knowledge. Drag surprisingly can desexualize a performer. One of the things I've always admired about Rupaul is that he manages to be gorgeous, smart and sexy. Without the drag, it will be two men singing a romantic duet. I hope my seething blindingly muscular virility won't overwhelm Tom.

Charles Busch, Photo Credit: Kenn Duncan7. Many people have hang-ups about being completely naked and exposed, fearing they might be rejected or ridiculed. What has been your most terrifying naked moment? Well, very early in my career I wrote a play and starred in and for a rather extended scene was completely nude. I played incestuous identical twin brothers and well....basically in the second act...I fucked myself. My dear, it was a coup de theatre. I was less nervous than I thought I'd be, but it was a little weird knowing that every friend of mine and worse my two sisters had all seen me totally nude.

8. Since the show is titled Naked & Unafraid, when have you been naked and not afraid of what people thought? I was raised by a remarkable woman, my mother's older sister, my Aunt Lillian. My mother died when I was seven and Aunt Lillian eventually adopted me. She was my first great collaborator. She was involved in everything I did. Among the great gifts she gave me was a sense that every creative idea I had was worthy and should be encouraged. I was brought up without any sense of "what will people think?" Looking back now, I'm realizing that I don't think I ever turned down an experience. I have some regrets of things I didn't do, but never something that was actually offered to me. My entire career has been predicated on taking a chance, putting on a show in some bizarre venue for the sheer fun of it. Creating a drag role because it was a cinematic fantasy that I wanted to experience. Thank God, I never have concerned myself for one second on "what will people think." I think I've always been naked and unafraid.

9. Continuing with show's title, what is the most intimate fact about Charles Busch you would be willing to reveal in this interview? It's been so long since I've performed this activity, but all modesty aside, I think I'm a world class kisser. I wonder if the younger generation have technically improved on it. I'd like to find out.

10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? I would like to be a more thoughtful friend. It would be nice to be a little less self-absorbed. I actually am making an effort. I hope I don't let it go like I have all of those unused gym memberships.

Charles Busch, Photo Credit: Michael WakefieldMore on Charles:

Charles Busch is the author and star of such plays as The Divine Sister, Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, The Tribute Artist and The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, which ran for nearly two years on Broadway and received a Tony nomination for Best Play. He wrote and starred in the film versions of his plays, Psycho Beach Party and Die Mommie Die, the latter of which won him the Best Performance Award at the Sundance Film Festival. In 2003, Charles received a special Drama Desk Award for career achievement as both performer and playwright. He is also the subject of the acclaimed documentary film The Lady in Question is Charles Busch. He is a two-time MAC award winner and has performed his cabaret act in many cities including San Francisco, Provincetown, Palm Springs, New Orleans, Atlanta, Philadelphia, London, Paris and in New York at Feinstein's/54 Below. In winter of 2016, his show The Lady at the Mic premiered at Jazz at Lincoln Center's American Songbook series.

Thursday
Feb092017

Call Answered: Conference Call: The "Georgie" interviews: Ed Dixon, Eric Schaeffer & Kathie Lee Gifford

Ed Dixon has been on my radar for quite some time. I've been lucky enough to see him on Broadway in the original Les Miserables, Mary Poppins, and the 2011 revival of Anything Goes. But it was the enthusiasm of my friend Mairi Dorman-Phaneuf over his autobiography Secrets of a Life Onstage...and Off that really got me interested in Ed. I immediately purchased his book and could not put it down. Needless to say, I was over the moon when my call got answered to interview Ed about his new one-man tour de force show Georgie, about his friendship with actor George Rose. Ed's performance in Georgie is one of the most powerful I have seen in a long time! It's gripping from start to finish!

The best part about this interview was I got to conduct it at the opening night party for Georgie which afforded me the opportunity to not only interview Ed, but also Georgie's director Eric Schaeffer, and one of my long-time idols, Kathie Lee Gifford, whose work with both Ed and Eric as parlayed into a life-long friendship.

Ed Dixon's Georgie plays at The Loft at The Davenport Theatre through April 15 (354 West 45th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenue). Click here for tickets!

For more on Ed be sure to visit http://www.eddixon.biz and folllow him on Facebook and Twitter!

For more on Georgie visit http://georgietheplay.com and follow the show on Instagram!

Ed Dixon in "Georgie", Photo Credit: Carol RoseggEd Dixon (Actor/Playwright):

1. What do you miss most about George? He was my connection to an entire world of show business: the Royal Shakespeare Company, Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir John Gielgud, Sir Ralph Richardson, Dame Edith Evans and superstardom in the theatre. And in an instant, he was gone. We would go see openings together, the opera and for months after he died, I would go to the phone to call him because when someone disappears instantly like that with no warning, they just don’t leave you. Obviously no matter what you find out about them, if you love someone for 20 years that doesn’t leave you either. 

2. When you were performing at North Shore Music, you said that was the first time you actually felt as though George was your friend. What was that moment like? Let me tell you, George was not an easy person to get along with. When you see his interviews on line, there’s a great formality to him. He was born the same year as my father, in 1919. That’s a whole different level of gay. A whole different era of gay. Even in 1970, you weren’t allowed to be gay. Casting directors wouldn’t hire you, but he didn’t care. But there was a part of him that did because when you see the interviews, all that joyousness I’m trying to show, that I got personally, wasn’t in any of the interviews. They are very business like, which I found very fascinating.

Ed Dixon in "Georgie", Photo Credit: Carol RoseggGeorge Rose and Ed Dixon, Photo Credit: Linda Lenzi3. In Georgie, there’s a big twist in the show which I don’t want to give away in the interview, but when you found out about it, did your heart just sink? Let me tell you, it takes a long time for a thing like that to sink in. There's a picture of me George took while we were in the Dominican Republic and I look happy. I see that picture now and I go, "My God. That’s amazing." He’s been gone for 30 years. I couldn’t have done this play before. I had my own problems to deal with.

4. Do you think the death of George was the first step towards your own downward spiral? It would be very disingenuous to say that. It’s a very complicated thing when someone loses control of their life. There were many pieces to it. In truth, I had been on a bad road for a while, but it certainly doesn’t help when a good friend is murdered violently and you find out a horrible secret about them.

5. How did you pick-up your life after George’s death as well as the death of two of your other friends at that time? Show business saved my life. I went into treatment while I was working in the original Broadway run of Les Miserables and they gave me my job back. I went back into the biggest hit on Broadway and if I hadn’t, I don’t think I’d be alive today.

Ed Dixon and Director Eric Schaeffer, Photo Credit: Joseph MarzulloEric Schaeffer (Director):

1. As the director of Georgie, what attracted you to the project? Well, Ed…hahaha. We are good friends and because it’s such a personal story for Ed I think he wanted somebody he could trust. When he asked me, he said, "I’m writing this play. It’s a one-man show. It’s really personal to me. Would you do it?" I said "Absolutely!" And I hadn’t even read the play yet, but I think Ed is such a huge talent, not only as an actor, but as a writer/storyteller, so I wanted to be part of that.

2. You worked with Ed on Kathie Lee Gifford’s Under The Bridge as well as Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and Sunset Boulevard. You’ve seen him grow as an actor over the course of his career. How do you think, in this show particularly, he’s grown from working with him previously? I think the hardest thing for Ed was to play multiple characters and not just one role. Plus, it’s such a personal story that it’s a challenge to know where the line was to say this was just enough and now it’s time to move on. In a rehearsal room, you have to be able to trust the person you are working with to say, "I trust you to tell me when it’s too much and when it’s not." I think the range of emotions, that Ed goes through, is probably the biggest thing he’s ever done.

3. For people who don’t know George Rose, what could be one reason, in addition to Ed’s incredible performance, they should come see this show? Anyone who loves theatre will love this show because it’s a real history through the theatre and it’s all about what the theatre was and is not anymore. It’s so exciting to re-live those moments to someone who actually lived through them originally.

Me: And it has that twist, which I don’t want to give away in the interview, but it’s like you’re watching the show and then bam, where did that come from and it’s such an emotional point, it’s so great. You did a really good job with keeping that hidden and just letting it drop.

Eric Schaeffer: It goes back to the writing. As Ed says in the play, "It’s all about the text."

Kathie Lee Gifford and Ed Dixon, Photo Credit: Joseph MarzulloKathie Lee Gifford (The Today Show):

1. You are here tonight to see Ed Dixon’s Georgie about his friendship with actor George Rose. You had cast Ed in your show Under The Bridge. What do you love about Ed? How did you initially meet? Ed was doing a reading with me of another project that I had written called Saving Aimee, which ended up being Scandalous on Broadway, but at the time, I had also written Under The Bridge, and I took one look at Ed and I said, "You’re my 'Armand' and Ed laughed at me and said OK!" He didn't even know who "Armand" was at that time, but that's what actors learn you to do. You tell them they are a character and they are like, Ok, I'm that character." He was just brilliant to work with and we have remained friends all these years.

2. How does everything come full circle for you by seeing Ed Georgie? You know, any time you are on the road or in rehearsals with Ed, he always has a gazillion stories. I had heard a couple of the stories through the years of his friendship with George Rose, but I’d never known the story in its entirety of how impactful it was on Ed, on his whole psyche, his whole being. How do you process the devastation of finding out something so heinous about the person you admire the most? That is the real question. This show, Ed’s performance, is a tour de force! I’m trying to remember a more unbelievably powerful performance by a man on stage that I’ve seen in my recent memory and I can’t.

Eric Schaeffer was my first director when I made my Broadway debut in Sondheim’s Putting It Together. He also directed Under The Bridge at The Zipper Theatre and then he was my very first, very important director on Saving Aimee as well. And Mary Cossette, one of the producers of Georgie is the widow of one of my husband’s (Frank Gifford) dearest friends, Pierre Cossette. So this is like old home week for me. I’m almost shaking with joy seeing all these extraordinary talented people I’ve been blessed to work with and call friends in my life.

Me: They’ve been lucky to work with you.

Kaithe Lee Gifford: Oh, I don’t know, you’d have to ask them…hahaha. I was the one who was new to the Broadway world and they welcomed me and encouraged me. You never forget the kindess of people.

Ed DixonMore on Ed:

Ed Dixon is the author/composer/lyricist of Shylock (The York Theatre) which garnered him his first Drama Desk Nomination. He wrote Richard Cory with A. R. Gurney, on a Steinberg Grant from Playwrights Horizons. It was nominated for a Leon Rabin Award for Best New Work and won the NYMF Festival Award and the Audience Prize. Cloak and Dagger, his four-person musical recently opened at the Signature Theatre in DC, helmed by artistic director, Eric Schaeffer. Dixon’s Fanny Hill was presented by the York Theater where it won a Dramalogue Award, two Dean’s List Awards and was nominated for two Drama Desk Awards. Cather County which opened at Playwright’s Horizons won him a Leon Rabin Award at Lyric Stage in Dallas where it was also named best new theater work of 2000. Dixon’s grand farce, L’Hotel was given its premiere at Pittsburgh Public Theater last year by Producing Artistic Director, Ted Pappas. Ed’s comic thriller, Whodunit…The Musical has had countless productions all over the United States and he is the author of the highly successful book, Secrets of a Life Onstage…and Off.

As an actor, Ed made his Broadway debut in 1971 with No, No, Nanette starring Ruby Keeler and directed by Busby Berkeley. Six months later he was opening the Kennedy Center in Washington DC as a soloist in Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, a role he reprised on the recording and at the Metropolitan Opera. Other Broadway credits include "Belasco" in King of Schnorrers, "Cardinal Richelieu" in The Three Musketeers, "Thenardier" in the original company of Les Miserables (a role he played more than 1700 times), "The Baker" in Cyrano: The Musical, "Ozzy" in The Scarlet Pimpernel, "General Wetjoen" in The Iceman Cometh (with Kevin Spacey), "Senator Carlin" in The Best Man (he also went on for Charles Durning as "President Hockstader"), "Mister" in Sunday in the Park with George, "Max" in How The Grinch Stole Christmas, "Admiral Boom" in Mary Poppins, and "the Captain" in Anything Goes. On tour he was "Mssr. De Rougement" in David Merrick’s Very Good Eddie, "Charlemagne" in Pippin with Ben Vereen, "Max" in Sunset Boulevard, "the Governor of Texas" in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas with Ann-Margret, "Albert Blossom" in Doctor Doolittle, "the Director" in Curtains, "Max" in The Sound of Music and "Doolittle" in My Fair Lady. Off-Broadway he teamed up with Leonard Bernstein again (as well as Comden and Green) for By Bernstein, played opposite Bebe Neuwirth in Here Lies Jenny, joined Len Cariou and Roberta Maxwell in The Persians, and starred in Oliver QuadeHotel BroadwayIdentity and Shylock, all of which he wrote. He has received a Helen Hayes Award, and been nominated for a Drama Desk, a Joseph Jefferson, an Irne, and a Henry.

Eric SchaefferMore on Eric:

Eric Schaeffer is the Co-founder and Artistic Director of Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA.  Under his leadership, the Theatre was honored with the 2009 Tony Award® for Outstanding Regional Theater in America, as well as 90 Helen Hayes Awards over the years, with an additional 340 nominations for theater excellence in Washington, DC.

At Signature, he has directed numerous productions that include Elmer GantryCloak and DaggerBeachesCrossingMiss SaigonSpinHello, Dolly! (Ford‘s Theatre co-production); The Best Little Whorehouse in TexasBrother RussiaHairspraySunset BoulevardChessShow BoatFirst You Dream: The Music of Kander & EbbThe HollowLes MisérablesACEKiss of the Spider WomanGlory Days; The Witches of EastwickSaving AimeeInto the WoodsMy Fair LadyNevermoreThe Highest YellowOne Red FlowerAllegroTwentieth Century110 in the ShadeHedwig and the Angry InchThe Gospel According to FishmanGrand HotelThe Rhythm ClubOver & OverThe FixWorkingThe RinkCabaretFirst Lady SuiteWingsPoor SupermanUnidentified Human Remains and The True Nature of Love; and the Sondheim musicals Merrily We Roll AlongSunday in the Park with George (Arena Stage co-production), PassionInto the WoodsCompanyAssassinsSweeney ToddFollies and Pacific Overtures, among others.

On Broadway, Eric directed Gigi, the critically acclaimed revival of Follies, as well as the Tony Award®-winning Million Dollar QuartetGlory Days and Putting It Together. His national tours include Million Dollar Quartet and Big. Off-Broadway, he has directed Sweet Adeline (City Center Encores! Great American Musicals in Concert) and Under the Bridge. His West End credits include Million Dollar Quartet and The Witches of Eastwick.

Kathie Lee GiffordMore on Kathie Lee:

Kathie Lee Gifford has enjoyed a diverse and successful four-decade career as a television host, actress, singer, playwright, songwriter and author. Though best known for her 15 years on Regis and Kathie Lee (11 Emmy nominations), and currently acting as the three time Emmy-winning co-host of the fourth hour of the Today Show with Hoda Kotb, Kathie Lee has always pursued projects which inspire and challenge her.

In 2013, Kathie Lee launched her podcast, Kathie Lee & Company, with Podcast One. Each week, Kathie Lee is joined by a friend from the world of TV, film, music, sports and news for a special one-on-one conversation.

Kathie Lee made her Broadway debut in Stephen Sondheim's Putting it Together in 2000, then originated the role of "Marta Dunhill" in Rupert Holmes' Thumbs and played "Miss Hannigan" in a record-breaking run of Annie at Madison Square Garden. In 2005 her first musical Under The Bridge (book and lyrics, contributing composer) opened off Broadway. In November of 2012, her musical, Scandalous (book/lyrics) opened on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theater and received a Tony nomination.

She is the NY Times best-selling author of many books including, Just When I Thought I’d Dropped My Last Egg-Life and Other Calamities, Party Animals, and The Legend of Messy M’Cheany. Her ninth book, The Three Gifts, was released in November 2012 with proceeds going to Childhelp. She currently writes a weekly article for the NY Daily News with Hoda Kotb.

Kathie Lee devotes much of her time to the Association to Benefit Children, which spawned the Cody Foundation. The resources from the Association continue to support Cody House and Cassidy’s Place. Cody House provides a transitional home for infants and children who have severe disabilities and serious medical problems. Named for Kathie Lee's daughter, Cassidy’s Place, is the home of the Association to Benefit Children’s (ABC) national children advocacy.