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Entries in Pangea (3)

Wednesday
May102017

Call Answered: Conference Call: Austin Pendleton & Barbara Bleier: "Beautiful Mistake" at Pangea

Barbara Bleier and Austin Pendleton performing at PangeaWhen I found out that Austin Pendleton & Barbara Bleier were doing a new cabaret show together, entitled Beautiful Mistake: The Songs of John Bucchino and Amanda McBroom, I was delighted they answered my call! 

Beautiful Mistake is an evening of story songs including unpublished work from McBroom and Bucchino, as well as some known songs including McBroom/Hunt/McBroom’s "Errol Flynn" (an NPR feature pick for Songs We Love), and Bucchino’s "If I Ever Say I’m Over You" recorded by Art Garfunkel on Grateful: The Songs of John Bucchino.

Beautiful Mistake has two shows left, May 18 &  May 23 at 7pm at Pangea (178 2nd Avenue). Click here for tickets!

Barbara Bleier and Austin Pendleton performing at Pangea, Photo Credit: Theater Pizzazz1. Who or what inspired you to be a performer?

Austin Pendleton: When I was a kid my mother got involved with a community theatre that was being developed in Warren, Ohio, our hometown. The early rehearsals were in our living room, evenings, after dinner. My brother Alec and I would sneak down, after we were supposed to be in bed and watch these rehearsals. I was hooked.

Barbara Bleier: I can’t even remember far enough back! I’ve always been a performer. I learned to read music before I learned to read words, and I was reading words at four years old. My mother was a pianist, and there was always music in my house…music of all kinds; classical, show tunes, popular songs. My mother played, and my sister and I sang. My father was our audience. I started picking out tunes on the piano, and began piano lessons before I was four. I loved playing the piano, and played concerts from the time I was four, but I loved singing even more. I was always the vocal soloist for the assemblies and programs in my grade school, PS89, and was the singer for the jazz band at the High School of Music & Art (now LaGuardia).

2. How did you two first come to meet? How long after you met did you go, "We should do cabaret together"?

Austin Pendleton: Barbara wanted me to coach her on some acting material. Then Barbara joined my acting class at HB Studio, here in New York. Then Barbara asked me to do a cabaret with her, in, like, 2000.  The rest is what I like to think of as history.

Barbara Bleier: That wasn’t exactly how it happened. It was kind of, "I proposed to him!" I was studying acting with Austin at HB Studio. I was also doing cabaret…in fact, I had been a Fellow at the Eugene O’Neill Cabaret Symposium in 1992…and had been doing cabaret before and after that. I had started studying acting, because the songs that I preferred singing were story songs, and I thought that studying acting would help me get the most out of them. (I also, at that time, started performing as an actor). So, I was taking a class in the late 90’s with Austin, and had a cabaret gig coming up. There was a duet by Dick Maltby and David Shire called "There" that I was aching to sing, and I needed a male partner. I knew, of course, that Austin was a singer, and I asked him if he’d like to do that song with me in the show. His answer was, "You’re offering me one song?" I said, "Would you like half a show?," and the rest is history. We performed our first cabaret, Undecided in New York and Chicago, and had a great time with it! We also got some really good notices. "There" has been in every show we’ve done since, except the present one.

Barbara Bleier and Austin Pendleton performing at Pangea, Photo Credit: Theater Pizzazz3. What do you love about working with each other?

Austin Pendleton: Barbara actually listens to me. This leads me to actually listen to her.

Barbara Bleier: Well, first of all, I LOVE Austin, so that’s a good beginning. He’s not a "straight line" thinker; he kind of comes in from the side, and I love that! We always seem to be on the same page, or following one another’s crazy thoughts, or awakening one another to something. There is, honestly, no one I’d rather work with.

4. Has there ever been a time when you both were really excited to duet on a song, but then disagree on how it should be executed, and, if so, who won?

Austin Pendleton: I have a sneaking suspicion that Barbara always wins these.

Barbara Bleier: I know it sounds crazy, but that’s never really happened. At least, I don’t think it’s happened. Austin may feel differently! It’s more of a "free association" process. We start singing the song, then one of us gets an idea, and we try it, and that leads to another idea that we try. It kind of evolves.

5. What excites you about your new show Beautiful Mistake?

Austin Pendleton: To enter the world of John Bucchino and Amanda McBroom is precisely as exciting as falling down the rabbit hole.

Barbara Bleier: My idea of heaven would be to spend eternity singing John’s and Amanda’s music! And, there are trunks full of it!!! Their lyrics always seem to say what I want to be saying, and their music is so incredible, in such different ways. John’s has a baroque quality, to me…I fell in love with him for his chords. Amanda’s is more romantic, and both of them often play against the lyric, which is wonderful to perform as an actor and musician. Both can be ironic and humorous, in just the ways I Iove. I guess this also answers your question.

6. This new show is called "Beautiful Mistake." What is one "Beautiful Mistake" you have made? (meaning, you made a mistake with something, but it turned out to be a good thing). 

Austin Pendleton: Many things in my life have been beautiful mistakes that turned into a good thing. Then there are the mistakes that are not beautiful and do not turn out to be a good thing. Then there are the mistakes that are not beautiful but still turn out to be a good thing. On such occasions I confess to a certain confusion.

Barbara Bleier:  Oh, so many. It’s not the mistakes you make, it’s what you do with them, what you learn, how they take your life in a different direction. One example I can think of, as a divorced mother whose children were quite young at the time…the marriage was a mistake, but my two wonderful sons sure weren’t!

Barbara Bleier and Austin Pendleton performing at Pangea, Photo Credit: Theater Pizzazz7. What is a story about one of John or Amanda’s songs that is not in the show that really hit you hard?

Austin Pendleton: The songs of Amanda's and John's that hit me the hardest are in the show. The other songs of Amanda's and John's that hit me the hardest will be in the next show.

Barbara Bleier: John’s song, "Not A Cloud In The Sky," which deals with someone trying to handle the death of a loved one by dissociating the possibility of their death; taking control by being obsessive compulsive about little things, because if they let any emotion through they would crumble. I lost my sister (also a musician) five years ago, and that was my way of trying to keep control and be strong for her, and for myself.

8. If you could sing a quartet with John and Amanda, which song of theirs would you pick?

Austin Pendleton: "That Smile." I defy Mozart to top "That Smile."

Barbara Bleier: Well, the only one that they wrote together was "Beautiful Mistake," which I can’t quite wrap my mind around as a quartet, so I'll pick one for each? It would be "Coney Island" (A Catered Affair) for John, and Amanda’s song "Old Love," which Amanda wrote with the wonderful Michele Brourman.

Austin PendletonMore on Austin:

Austin Pendleton is an actor, director, playwright and teacher of acting, whose most recent stage appearance was as the "King" in Lear at The Secret Theatre, a critically lauded run that just ended in early April. Austin's first Broadway appearance was as "Motel the Tailor" in the original production of Fiddler on the Roof directed by Jerome Robbins and starring Zero Mostel. He has since appeared frequently on, off and off-off Broadway, and can be seen in approximately 200 films. His many TV appearances include roles on Oz, Homicide, Law and Order and Billions. In New York, he has directed Between Riverside and Crazy and four shows at CSC (Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, Ivanov and Hamlet) featuring such players as Peter Sarsgaard (Hamlet), Maggie Gyllenhall and Ethan Hawke. Austin is the author of three plays (Orson's Shadow, Uncle Bob, Booth) all produced in New York, and, in the case of Uncle Bob and Orson's Shadow, internationally. He has most recently directed Luft Gangster for Nylon Fusion Theatre Company & Cloverleaf Collective, A Day at the Beach for the Mint Theatre Company, and A Taste of Honey for the Pearl Theatre. He teaches acting in New York at HB Studio, where he studied with Uta Hagen and Herbert Berghof. He also studied acting with Robert Lewis.

Barbara BleierMore on Barbara:

Barbara Bleier is a singer, actor and playwright who has appeared on stage, in film, and on TV, as well as in solo shows and revues in national and international cabaret. She played the mother of a psychopathic killer in the cult classic, Swoon, and appeared in the film This is Where I Leave You, with Jane Fonda and Tina Fey, and in They Came Together, with Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler. Her solo show, Who’s Your Mama? was selected for production in the NYC Women at Work Festival, and her two-person revues with Austin Pendleton, Late Nights in Smoky Bars (New York, Chicago and Philadelphia) and ‘Tis the Season to Be Morbid, received critical praise in the press. She has studied acting with Austin Pendleton, singing with Barbara Maier, and musical performance with the late Julie Wilson at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center.

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.

Wednesday
Apr272016

Call Redialed: Kim David Smith: Pangea May Residency with "Morphium Kabarett "

Kim David SmithI first met Kim David Smith in 2011 when he was premiering his show Misfit at The Laurie Beechman Theatre. That show made me an instant fan! In 2013, Kim David Smith and I caught up with the release of his debut album Nova. I'm so thrilled to sit down with Kim David Smith yet again to discuss his brand new cabaret show Morphium Kabarett, which have a month long residency at Pangea in NYC from May 2-23 (178 Second Avenue, between 11th & 12th Street).

Each week, Kim David Smith will be joined by a special guest. May 2 Kim David Smith will welcome Joey Arias and Ali McGregor. Other confirmed guests during the run are KT Sullivan, Jordan Hall/Boy Radio, Karen Kohler, Jenny Rivera, Gay Marshall, and Lina Tetruashvilli. Music direction is by Tracy Stark, on piano. Click here for tickets!

For more on Kim David Smith visit http://kimdavidsmith.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram!

1. This May you are presenting a brand new show Morphium Kabarettin a month long residency at Pangea, featuring your signature style of neo-Weimar cabaret. You have performed at Pangea many times before, what made now the right time to do this residency? All of us involved decided the spring was an appropriate time to launch something with more of a party atmosphere, incorporating guests and a generally convivial nature, immersed, of course, in my usual dark, cheeky and investigative cabaret stylings.

2. What is about this residency that you are most excited about and what is rattling your nerves? I don’t really get my nerves rattled by a project like this. I’m working with incredibly talented people, including long-time collaborator Tracy Stark as music director, and I’m beside myself with excitement over the calibre or artists who are appearing. Everyone appearing through the season is an exquisite example of what cabaret can be, be they from the worlds of opera, pop, cabaret or beyond.

Kim David Smith and Joey Arias3. During this residency, you are not only performing/hosting it, but you will be joined by some very special guests including Joey Arias, KT Sullivan, and Gay Marshall. Why did you want these talented singers to join you as opposed to doing the shows by yourself? I perform by myself all the time, and am not intimidated by sharing the stage with people I admire and respect. I curated a cabaret festival in Hobart, Tasmania two years ago, and it was such a thrill presenting artists like Joey Arias, Erin Markey, and others to an audience they otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to seduce. I’m approaching Morphium Kabarett in the same way as I did with Voicebox in Hobart, and am excited to share and showcase the work of artists who inspire fandom in me. Given that so much of my work is centered around me, I get a lot of pleasure in making it about someone else for a change!

4. What should make fans excited about this month long residency and why should they come to more than one evening of it? All my guest artists are thoroughly awesome, and I have a different line up each week, and I’m beside myself with excitement, which I think is reason enough! Tracy Stark is a phenomenal musician, and the detail work we’re putting into songs for like "Pirate Jenny," and "Jonny, Wenn Du Geburtstag Hast" is really tickling me.

Kim David Smith in concert5. Anytime I've seen you in concert, I'm just as eager to see what you will be wearing as what songs you'll be singing. How far in advance do you decide your concert clothing? Do you design them yourself or do you work with a designer? I’ve been working with the amazing Miodrag Guberinic on costumes, and also with the talented Justin Farnham. I connect with both of these men very strongly, and have a great time working with them — I’m a very lucky boy to be able to wear their designs!

6. During this residency you will be morphing Holländer, Spoliansky, Weill and Eisler with The Supremes, Kylie Minogue and William Bolcom (among others). I know you are a huge Kylie Minogue fan and that your favorite album of hers is Light Years. On that album is a song called "Bittersweet Goodbye." When have you had to say a "Bittersweet Goodbye" to someone? It’s always bittersweet saying goodbye to my amazing and very loving family after spending time with them, as we often endure stretches of two years between seeing one another — I love seeing them, but love coming home to the US when I’m done with a tour of Australia, and so it’s bittersweet, for sure. It’s tough, sometimes, when your heart is stretched over two hemispheres.

Kylie Minogue7. One of my favorite Kylie Minogue songs is "Can't Get You Out of My Head." What is something that has happened to you (good or bad) that you have not been able to get out of your head? This is a magical song, and it really speaks to the human condition; when one person reacts chemically to another, but the other is withholding — it’s an exquisite and agonizing feeling, and I think all of us approaching 33 (as indeed I am) have experienced it at least once in their lives. So, there’s a list of people I haven’t been able to get out of my head, for sure, but it grows smaller as I learn to focus on what’s important in life. Back to the structure of the song, it continues to surprise me with its layers, even after thousands of listens over 15 years since its release. The seemingly mindless repetition of "la, la, la" speaks to how the rest of the world turns into Charlie-Brown-adult honking sounds when you’re focused on someone who can’t give you what you need. Devastating!

8. If you could duet with Kylie on any song of hers, which one would you want to sing with her? Which Kylie song would you want to record your own version of? If you could star in any Kylie video, which one would you choose? I love my Kylie undiluted, and so I’m always a little hesitant when she offers duets. Having said that, I loved seeing her and Rufus Wainright perform "If I Loved You" from Carousel in the Hamptons in 2012, so I think I’d follow suit and suggest we perform "If Mama Was Married" from Gypsy. I sing my own versions of Kylie songs as it is, and I think the most fun for me is my German language version of "I Should Be So Lucky." It was the first Kylie song I ever heard, and I think the lyrics are beautiful. The topic of Kylie videos is an enormous one! I couldn’t imagine removing her from any of her videos, but my dream is to be her understudy for live tours and to disappoint tens of thousands of people in one fell swoop: "Ladies and gentlemen, in tonight’s performance of Kylie X 2008, the role of Kylie Minogue will be played by Kim David Smith. No refunds."

Kim David Smith, Image by Tyler Dean King9. In addition to singing, you have also spent the past year or two, modeling with various photographers, showing off your very muscled body. What has modeling done for you that music does not? How do you stay so fit? Posing for artist friends is something I really enjoy, be they photographers, painters, or sculptors, and it provides a practical goal for my work at the gym. I’m a certified personal trainer, and I am constantly experimenting on my own body. I also find a lot of joy in being at the gym and challenging myself, physically. I definitely have days when I don’t feel like throwing a ViPR around, but I really do love working out, and I think it’s important to explore the little pockets of joy I find in my normal day to day routine. And, it’s been a wonderful journey to feeling relaxed and comfortable naked — which comes from time at the gym, sure, but also from deciding to not care what anyone thinks about my body. Dismissing dysmorphia is a huge challenge, but it’s nice when you can stop caring.

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 everyday. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent every day? I love setting goals. At the gym, I’ll set goals depending on where I think I’ve been slacking; sometimes it’s about diminishing rest time between sets, sometimes it’s about adding a set, or supersetting complimentary exercises — I don’t think it’s always a responsible idea to just throw weight at something to make it challenging. In music, I push myself to learn scarier songs, and I try to do something terrifying and new in each new year.

Kim David SmithMore on Kim David Smith:

Australian Kim David Smith is a Helpmann Award nominated singer and cabaret performer, known for his Weimar-era inspired works that juxtapose authentic musical material with stylistic takes on current popular tunes. His electro-pop albums NovaSupernova, and cabaret EP, The Tease, are available worldwide on iTunes and Amazon.

His cabaret programmes, Stargazing (directed by Michael Rader), Nova NoirMisfit and Morphium have performed regularly in New York City at Café Sabarsky at the Neue Galerie, Joe’s Pub at the Public Theatre, the Laurie Beechman Theatre, the Due Theatre at DMAC, and Bard Spiegeltent at Bard College, while also touring Australia —  presented at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, The Festival of Voices, The Brisbane Cabaret Festival, Slide Cabaret Festival, The Ballarat Cabaret Festival, Chapel Off Chapel, the National Gallery of Victoria, and Smith’s cabaret birthplace, the Butterfly Club.

Past cabaret programmes include Johnny Come Lately (directed by Karen Kohler), Kim Smith’s Jungle Parade (directed by Martin Croft), Kim Smith is Madly Adored, and Quietly Kim Smith. 2009 saw Kim David Smith presented with the Back Stage Magazine Bistro Award for Special Achievement as an Outstanding Performer (honoured alongside Liza Minnelli and Charles Aznavour). He was also nominated for 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 Manhattan Association of Cabaret (MAC) Awards in the Outstanding Male Vocalist category. Kim David Smith is a recipient of the American Australian Association’s Dame Joan Sutherland Award for aspiring artists (2008), and is a member of the Kabarett Kollektif, a troupe of New York-based artists dedicated to preserving the European cabaret tradition. Kim David Smith studied music theatre at the Ballarat Arts Academy in Australia (BA, Music Theatre), and resides in New York City.