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Entries in The Laurie Beechman Theatre (34)

Tuesday
Jul112017

Call Answered: Blake McIver: "Blake Sings Barbra" at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

Blake McIverIf you are a Barbra Streisand fan, this interview won't rain on your parade, except maybe this first paragraph. While I only have two or three Barbra Streisand albums and have only seen Yentl (please don't take my gay card away), I have always been fascinated with what Barbra Streisand is working on. There is something about her that intrigues me, which is one of the reasons I LOVE the fictional play Buyer & Cellar, which I feel goes inside the mind of Barbra Streisand.

When it was brought to my attention that Blake McIver was going to be bringing his acclaimed tribute show, Blake Sings Barbra to The Laurie Beechman Theatre, with her 1994 MSG concert as the backdrop, I couldn't wait to call Blake. I'm thrilled that Blake answered my call allowing me to get to the heart of what makes him LOVE Barbra Streisand so much!

After conducting this interview, Blake's enthusiasm and insight has made me want to dive deeper into the artist that is Barbra Streisand. Blake Sings Barbra will play at The Laurie Beechman Theatre (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue, inside the basement of the West Bank Cafe) for one night only, Friday, July 28 at 7pm! 

Due to popular demand, Blake Sings Barbra will be returning to The Laurie Beechman Theatre on Saturday, August 19 at 7pm! Click here for tickets!

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

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

Barbra Streisand1. Aside from Barbra Streisand, who or what inspired you to become a performer? I was drawn to singing and dancing as early as I can remember. My parents both have performance backgrounds as do many of their closest friends, so I grew up in an environment where that just seemed like the thing to do; the family business, if you will. Thankfully I had a little bit of natural born ability that I could couple with a lot of hard work and training.

2. When did you become a Barbra Streisand fan? What was it about her that made you go crazy for her? I’ve been a Barbra superfan since the first time I watched Funny Girl at seven years old. I think it really is her innate ability to infuse this electric passion and character into a melody and a lyric that was almost immediately a spiritual experience for me. Obviously I didn’t have that vocabulary to explain to my mom what was going on the first time she walked in on me with a bed sheet around my waist belting "My Man" into the bathroom mirror!

3.This July you are bringing your show Blake Sings Barbra to the Laurie Beechman Theatre. The show is a love letter to "The Greatest Star" using her 1994 comeback concert as a back drop. What was it about that particular concert that touched you so much? I have wanted to do this show for years! I’ve been completely obsessed with Barbra’s 1994 concert since it first aired on HBO. It was one of those things that I would joke about with my friends and then one day I just sat down at my laptop and decided to do it! But what makes this show unique is it isn’t just a recreation of the concert note for note. I take you on a journey through my own life to explain how this particular show came to mean so much to me. It’s part theatre, part concert, part cabaret, part therapy session.

4. When you decided to create this show, did you have any reservations about singing her songs, considering they are so well known? Yes! Hahaha. But the thing is, no one is her but her, and nothing about this show is an impersonation. I definitely tried to approach all the music as if it was brand new. Also, by revealing so much of myself in the stories between the songs, they become like telling new stories through very known material.

Blake McIver, Barbra Streisand5. What was the hardest song of hers to learn and which one was a piece of cake? There are challenges in all of them because I don’t think she’s ever picked an easy song in her entire career! I definitely am the most excited performing the "I’m Still Here/Everybody Says Don’t/Don’t Rain on My Parade" medley. It’s one of my favorite moments of her show and I’ve added my own spin to it and thrown in some references to Full House, The People’s Couch, and yes even being a gogo boy! The biggest challenge interestingly enough is "Not While I’m Around." Barbra dedicated it to her son Jason in ’94 and when I do it in my show it’s dedicated to my parents who have been so vital in every step of my journey. It’s always a struggle to get through it without tears.

6. What have you enjoyed most about your journey from child actor to go-go dancer to singer/songwriter? Well it definitely hasn’t been a boring life or career! I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunities I did at such a young age. That has given me the ability to learn and grow and change and evolve within my industry. The most enjoyable part is wearing different hats. Some days my title shifts from actor to songwriter, director to choreographer or music video editor, and the list goes on. And that’s what keeps me on my toes and always trying to learn and grow and get better at each thing.

7. You were on the original Full House as "Michelle's" friend "Derek." What do you remember about your time on the show? What is one story you can share with us? I spent three wonderful years on Full House and even though it’s not salacious or click-baity, the greatest thing was how truly kind everyone was. I did a lot of episodic work on other sitcoms in the 90s and I can say that many of those sets were oppressive environments *cough Home Improvement *cough. I would always feel so happy to go back to my home base set and the wonderful group of people both on and off camera who made that show happen.

Blake McIver, Photo Credit: DNA Magazine8. How did you get involved in the world of go-go dancing? What made you want to be part of it? Well, for me it’s always been about music. The first thing I ever did professionally was win Star Search as Jr. Vocal Champion ’92. Full House, Little Rascals, and all of the other "child actor" things came into my life as a result of that. My parents are both incredibly skilled actors so I was lucky to have great teachers in my own home. I always knew I would return to music. At 19, I started writing and songs began pouring out of me. I wanted to create a concept album based on the stories of my very strange childhood and how I evolved past them. Obviously that’s the last thing a record label wants to hear! So I did it on my own. The trick was, I didn’t have the money to finance it so instead of doing a kickstarter or an indie go go, I became a go-go! It was perfect because I could write and sing all day and then do what I called my "vocal rest/paid cardio" at night. The cash in my underwear literally made my dreams come true, haha! *And please download the fruits of my labor The Time Maniuplator on iTunes (SHAMELESS PLUG)!

9. Like Barbra got Back to Broadway, let's get back to talking about her and you. As a super fan, what is something you know about Barbra that the average person wouldn't? As Rosie O'Donnell learned the hard way when she had Barbra on her talk show, Babs likes to drink champagne with a hint of peach juice. It’s not quite a bellini, and definitely not a mimosa. I just want the opportunity to offer her a drink once so that I can say, "Can I get you a champagne with a splash of fresh peach?" and see her reaction.

10. If you record an album of duets with Barbra herself, what songs would want to sing with her (please keep it to a limit of 10 or less)? So here’s the thing, if that ultimate fantasy were to ever happen I would want to pick all new material. Her recordings are already so iconic, why would anyone dare to mess with them. The only exception is I would want to do a duet version of "Woman in the Moon" from her A Star Is Born. It’s my absolute favorite and I think I could find some interesting harmonies there, haha!

11. As a Barbra Streisand fan, I'm guessing you are aware of the critically acclaimed one-man show Buyer & Cellar, the fictional story about an out-of-work actor who gets a job working in the "mall" in the basement of Barbra Streisand's house. There is a scene in the show where Barbra and "Alex" share a moment together over ice cream. If you could have ice cream with Barbra Streisand, what would you want to talk with her about? Yes, don’t tell her but I did love Buyer & Cellar! I saw Michael Urie’s incredible performance and then my boyfriend (actor Emerson Collins) went on to do two critically acclaimed productions of it, so I’m now very well versed in the world of the basement. And of course, like the character of "Alex" I believe I’m the only other person on the planet who has actually read My Passion For Design cover to cover! If I had the "ice cream" moment I would talk about something really nerdy and specific: vocal placement. What makes her voice so spectacular to me is her ability to bend a note, a vowel, or even a phrase across the plane of her range. I’m completely obsessed and I want to know what goes on in her brain when she makes those iconic choices.

Mary Lane Haskell and Blake McIver12. What have you learned about yourself from Barbra Streisand? Never settle. If it’s not right, then figure out a way to get it right. Also, put the work first, above all, and don’t worry what anyone is saying about you. If you’re proud of your work, it will speak for itself.

13. For me, I went and saved the best for last. Your director: Mary Lane Haskell! I am a big fan of hers, so I'm beyond thrilled to see that she is directing this show. What made you want to work with her? What is a common interest or love about Barbra Streisand that you both share that you didn't know prior to working with her? Mary Lane is like a sister to me. We grew up together in LA and our families have been extremely close since before we were born. We watched the 1994 concert together countless times over the years (on both VHS & Laser Disk, you’re welcome) and she is equally obsessed with it. And beyond just the personal and historical connection I have such a deep respect for her as an artist. She’s got an incredible and unique perspective and she was able to bring things out of me in this process that I never dreamed would end up in the show. It’s truly one of my favorite collaborations ever. I could have never done this without her amazing vision.

Blake McIverMore on Blake:

Blake McIver has been performing since the age of six when he won Star Search as Junior Vocalist Champion and he has been working as a professional singer, actor and entertainer ever since in film, television and theatre. His film work began with a breakout performance as "Waldo" in The Little Rascals. In television, he starred as a series regular for three seasons as "Derek" on Full House opposite Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and went on to guest star on The Drew Carey Show, Clueless, Home Improvement, and The Nanny. Blake played "Edgar" in the US Premiere of the musical Ragtime and was the youngest person to ever be nominated for a Los Angeles Stage Alliance Ovation Award for his performance. Other theatre highlights include "Freddie" in Chess, "Fabrizio" in The Light In The Piazza, "Radames" in AIDA and "Link" in Hairspray. Blake has also worked extensively in voiceover and animation including Tarzan, The Little Mermaid II, Anastasia, Recess, and as the beloved "Eugene" on Hey Arnold. Blake has also worked extensively as session vocalist, backup singer and featured soloist for recording artists such as Michael Jackson, David Foster, Natalie Cole, Phil Collins and Barry Manilow. Blake is currently starring in BRAVO’s hit series The People’s Couch. He also released a solo album entitled The Time Manipulator.

Thursday
Jul062017

Call Redialed: Jackie Beat: Birthday Bitch! at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

Jackie BeatI am beyond thrilled that Jackie Beat answered my call yet again! I love interviewing Jackie Beat. She keeps me laughing the whole time with her brilliant sense of humor! In this interview we get the party started with a pre-birthday celebration by talking about her new show coming to The Laurie Beechman Theatre entitled Birthday Bitch! 

Everyone knows that Jackie Beat is a big bitch. And a talented bitch. A shady bitch. A fierce bitch. A sick bitch. But this July, Jackie Beat is also a BIRTHDAY BITCH! To celebrate her birthday weekend, Miss Beat is invading New York, unwrapping some new parody songs and sharing some of her greatest hits. So here are the ground rules: Do not make eye contact.  Do not ask "how old?" Laugh loudly. Drink. Gifts optional.

Birthday Bitch! will play The Laurie Beechman Theatre (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue, in the basement of the West Bank Cafe) July 22 at 8pm & July 23 at 4pm. Click here for tickets!

For more on Jackie be sure to visit http://missjackiebeat.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter!

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

Jackie Beat1. This July, you are once again returning to the Laurie Beechman Theatre with your new show Birthday Bitch! What are you looking forward to about celebrating your birthday at The Laurie Beechman Theatre with your fans? Well, all joking aside, there is no place I would rather be! Except maybe in bed with my dogs watching Netflix. Or at a grand opening of a new Arby's - with unlimited free Beef & Cheddar sandwiches. But after those options, on stage in full clown singing my balls off is definitely my third choice for best place to celebrate getting one year closer to death!

2. For some people, their birthday is a time for renewal and at this bash, you will be unwrapping some new parodies. I will leave the parodies as a surprise for those who attend your show, but what I want to know is, what do you hope to unwrap for yourself either professionally or personally that you have not gotten to yet? Time to get serious kids. I would really like to unwrap some peace-of-mind. It may be hard to believe, seeing how I have been doing this for close to thirty years now, but what with Drag Race and the mainstream popularity of drag in general, it's gotten harder. I'm like everyone else and I often compare myself to others. And when those others are half my age and have been on a wildly-popular TV show, sometimes it can get to me. But then I take a deep breath and think, "Hey, you're Jackie Beat goddamn it!" Then I yell, "Snap out of it!" in my best Cher voice and slap myself across the face. So yeah, a little much-needed boost of self-confidence would be a great birthday present. And I realize it's something that only I can give to myself. And if I can't have that, maybe a $50 gift certificate for Arby's?

Jackie Beat3. One thing attendees should know is that there are some ground rules for your Birthday Bitch! show: Do not make eye contact. Do not ask "how old?" Laugh loudly. Drink. Gifts optional. What will happen if someone breaks these rules? Are there different punishments for breaking each rule? GIFTS OPTIONAL!? Are you fucking new? Gifts are mandatory. I put the MAN in mandatory. And as far as punishment for breaking my rules, I think people are well aware of just how painful being read to filth in front of an entire roomful of fellow sodomites can be. Se be on your best behavior, kids! And bring presents.

4. What are some gifts you would like to receive this year? (Think of this as your registry). I really do love a nice gift card. You know, Starbucks, Bed Bath & Beyond, Trader Joe's. I'll avoid mentioning Arby's yet again so as not to make anyone think I'm shamelessly trying to land a lucrative endorsement deal with the deliciously trashy fast-food chain. I appreciate fan art, but - let's be honest - if it really looks like me I'm probably just going to get depressed. I also love accessories and makeup, but frankly, I have enough to last me the rest of my life. That's right, I have a 6-month supply! See what I did there? I guess if you really love me, you could start a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to have Lady Bunny brutally murdered. And not just brutally, but SLOWLY. Happy Birthday to me!

Jackie Beat5. You have been described as a big bitch. And a talented bitch. A shady bitch. A fierce bitch. A sick bitch. Out of everything you've done in your career, was there one or two things that made you feel as though it took more talent than something else? If so, what were those things that took more talent? Well, first of all I will say this: I'm very proud of becoming a successful drag queen before it was socially acceptable. I mean, there were Gay bars - leather bars in particular - that wouldn't even let drag queens in the door! Now they all have their RuPaul's Drag Race viewing parties and every event has a drag queen hosting and/or performing. Don't get me wrong, that's progress! After all, the only difference between a drag queen and a leather queen in their choice of fabric. All I am saying is that back in the day drag only appealed to a very specific kind of drama class/glee club outcast/misfit if you will. Now it's the cool kids! Which, again, is great! And, trust me, no one became a drag queen to make money! Also, me and Sherry Vine and Coco Peru and Varla Jean Merman and Lady Bunny and so many others couldn't just go onto YouTube and watch makeup tutorials.

But I guess what I most proud of is that I am a drag queen who can sing a rock song with a live band, play Bea Arthur as "Dorothy Zbornak" in a stage version of The Golden Girls, put on a 75-minute solo show and write material for people like Margaret Cho and Ross Mathews. I'm very well-rounded! But most of the credit for that goes to Arby's.

6. What is the shadiest thing you've ever done? What is the most fierce thing you've done? I'm honestly not that shady. And I'm sure there are some people who are rolling their eyes right now reading that, but it's true. Anyone who really knows me knows that I am a very loving person. Listen, we all have our moments. And I have certainly opened my big fat mouth and/or posted a Tweet before thinking that I later regretted. Unfortunately, that's the flip-side of being a comedian. What works on stage - saying the first and/or worst thing that pops into your head - doesn't always work in real life. I've had to apologize many times, trust me. That's why I feel for people like Kathy Griffin and Bill Maher. We want our comedians to be outrageous and push the envelope and then when they make a mistake or go too far, we crucify them. It's like getting mad at someone for pulling your hair or calling you a filthy whore during sex. Hey, it was done in the heat of the moment. I went too far. I'm sorry!

And as far as the fiercest thing, I'd have to say refusing to water-down my political beliefs and my unbridled hatred of Donald Trump. On the Drag Queens of Comedy Tour I sang a song that ripped him a new one and occasionally there would be someone in the audience who voted for him who would get upset. In Chicago an older drag queen dripping in rhinestones and wearing a tiara made a big scene and stormed out during my number. I mean, can you imagine?

Jackie Beat7. I can't believe we have done two prior interviews together and I never asked you how did you come up with your persona Jackie Beat? Oh God, it's such a long fucking story! When I first moved to LA way back in the 1980's, I considered myself a serious artist and poet. I used to go to this one open mic poetry night in Hollywood week after week and sign up, but because they always gave B-List celebrities priority, I never got to read my stuff. Well, one week I got so pissed off that I got in drag. I just put on a black turtleneck, a black skirt, black boots, black wig & a black beret. I wrote a "Beatnik" poem - which was essentially just a high-concept stand-up comedy routine. Well, not only did they not let me read my poem, they wouldn't even let me in the club! So I went to WeHo, to the gay bar Rage, and it was a talent contest that night. I decided to read my poem there. They asked me my name for the sign-up list and I just thought of the most Sixties thing I could think of: Jackie Beat. It was part Jack Kerouac, part Jackie Kennedy. Anyway, to make a long story short - TOO LATE! - I won the contest and the rest is history.

8. Since you are the Birthday Bitch! what is your birthday wish for your fans who continue to support you? Just keep laughing. Don't be so touchy and easily offended. And let's please fight the real enemy, not each other. If a comedian says something, take a moment to consider the context. Is it irony? Are they perhaps portraying an ignorant "character?" Are they playing devil's advocate? Or is the only possible conclusion that they are in fact a horrible transphobic racist monster who just accidentally revealed how they truly feel? Do the math. It's NEVER that last one, people.

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? Eat 1% less Arby's!

Jackie BeatMore on Jackie:

Jackie Beat is the self-professed bastard child of "Weird" Al Yankovic and buxom Bette Midler. An award-winning drag darling, Jackie Beat has been wowing unsuspecting audiences since 1989.  She has toured with Roseanne Barr -- as the comic legend’s opening act -- including a 7-week run at The New York New York in Las Vegas; written for TV (Fashion Police, Hello Ross, Hype! and others) and collaborated on special material with the like of Roseanne, Rosie O’Donnell and Jennifer Coolidge; appeared in countless TV shows (Sex and the City), Movies (Grief, Wigstock The Movie, Flawless, Adam & Steve) and Off-Broadway hits (Valley of the Dolls, Tell-Tale!). She has been named Best Drag Queen by New York Press and Best Live Performance by HX Magazine. Jackie is also a columnist, lead singer for the electro-rock band, Dirty Sanchez, and the subject of the documentary film My Name is Jackie Beat including commentary from Joan Rivers, Margaret Cho, and Roseanne.

Tuesday
May092017

Call Answered: Sam Pancake: "Gilmore Girls" + "Hot Sweet & Sticky"

Sam PancakeGrowing up, my favorite pancakes were silver dollar. I couldn't wait to drizzle that maple syrup on, and eat them up. When actor Sam Pancake called, my taste buds heightened answered! With fork and knife in hand, I cut into Sam revealing all that went into the NYC premiere of his hit show Hot Sweet & Sticky as well as his role on Netflix's Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life as Stars Hollow's only gay resident!

In Hot Sweet & Sticky, Sam Pancake portrays three different show-biz strivers: "Helluva Bottom Carter," a vivacious southern drag queen with an agenda; "Dame Peggy Wooten-Heifen-Smythe," a tipsy, aging Grande Dame of the British stage and screen; and "Fritzie Zimmer," the self-proclaimed "world's oldest-living openly-gay stand-up comedian/chorus boy." With this trio of divas, severe costume changes, stellar lip-syncing, stunning wiggery, "songs", bitch-fits and laughter are guaranteed. This hilarious, self-penned almost-solo show also features Steven Wishnoff on the piano.

Hot Sweet & Sticky will play The Laurie Beechman Theatre (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue, in the basement of the West Bank Cafe) May 19 & 20 at 7pm. Click here for tickets!

For more on Sam be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? My very first memory is of watching Mary Poppins in the theatre (IN RE-RELEASE!) at about two years old. My mother said they thought I'd fall asleep but I was standing up in my seat, riveted the whole time. That movie and Dame Julie first got me hooked, and later I was very inspired by so many of the funny ladies that came into their own in the 1970's: Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman, Eileen Brennan, Stockard Channing and of course, Laverne and Shirley!

2. What made now the right time to make your NYC debut with Sam Pancake: Hot Sweet & Sticky? It was all very serendipitous: I've been wanting to do a show there for years, and Chip Duckett, Spin Cycle's co-founder, was able to get me a weekend in May, which is when I always take a theatre trip to NYC anyway -- but this year I'll not just be viewing, I'll be performing. EEK!

3. In Hot Sweet & Sticky you portray three different show-biz strivers: "Helluva Bottom Carter," a vivacious southern drag queen with an agenda; "Dame Peggy Wooten-Heifen-Smythe," a tipsy, aging Grande Dame of the British stage and screen; and "Fritzie Zimmer," the self-proclaimed "world's oldest-living openly-gay stand-up comedian/chorus boy." How did you come up with each of these characters? What part of you does each one represent? "Helluva" came out of me this way: Since the early '90's, I've always been friends and colleagues with so many drag queens, and I've done drag and played a lot of ladies in many shows; not just in sketches and videos, but also as "Blair" in Facts of Life and "Sophia" in The Golden Girls in the LA live-stage versions of those sitcoms. As drag gets even bigger, thanks to RuPaul's Drag Race, I thought, "Ya know, I'm an actor - I can do that too! If I was just going to be a lip-syncing "beauty" drag queen, who would she be?" And that's how "Helluva" was born last year. She represents the sweet, sassy, put-upon, but bossy Southern boy in me.

"Dame Peggy" came out of my general Anglophilia and obsession with Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Judy Parfitt, Edith Evans, Joan Greenwood and other legendary British stage and screen icons. In 2014 I was doing a play-reading in a Noel Coward festival and I somehow couldn't NOT do the character as Maggie Smith. I thought -- "I gotta do something with this lady!" and "Dame Peggy" then sprang from my heated loins!

"Fritzie" I first did in a skit with my sketch group Margot's Bush in 2001. Then he was an old hoofer/showboy/entertainer/slut who had retired from showbiz to become the world's most inappropriate therapist. I dredged him back up for this show because I realized he had a LOT more to say. He's now the world's oldest living openly-gay stand-up comedian and performer, doing his own "one"-man show (accompanied on piano by his ex-husband "Giacomo," played by Steven Wishnoff). "Fritzie" is the old bitter yet hilarious show-biz queen in ME, I'm afraid, who LOVES being on stage and performing his guts out, but also feels like he's never gotten his due because he was born too soon, so he kinda has a love/hate relationship with his audience. (but I ONLY LOVE my audience!)

Top Row (left to right): Drew Droege, Jackie Beat, Bottom Row (left to right): Sam Pancake and Sherry Vine in "The Golden Girls" at The Cavern Club Celebrity Theater4. Let's play with Hot Sweet & Sticky for a moment. When have you been "Hot, Sweet, & Sticky" all at one time prior to this show? Oooooo honey -- ya know I'll never tell that one! I will say that, because of my unusual surname, I have gotten a few sexual offers in my day that involve butter and/or syrup. I'm not kidding.

5. The description of the show continues on with this trio of divas, severe costume changes, stellar lip-syncing, stunning wiggery, "songs", bitch-fits and laughter are guaranteed. So we are going to break some of this down. Between "Helluva Bottom Carter," "Dame Peggy Wooten-Heifen-Smythe," and "Fritzie Zimmer," who is the bigger diva? The biggest diva is definitely "Fritzie!!" He's the angriest by far.

Sam Pancake, Photo Credit: Darrin Noble6. What is the one song you kill every time you lip-sync it? "Wheels of A Dream" from Ragtime, the Brian Stokes-Mitchell and Audra McDonald version. I tear it up (I like to think!) and it tears me up every time -- I end up on my knees sobbing.

7. What has been your biggest bitch-fit? When have you laughed your hardest? I don't have bitch-fits professionally speaking, really, unless it's on-set in a work situation where I see other people getting treated unfairly or harmfully. I'm a much better bitch on behalf of others than myself. Personally though, I'M A NIGHTMARE.

8. I can't interview you and not talk about you Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life. For seven seasons you tried, waited, tried again, and waited some more to be on the first Gilmore Girls series. That never happened. Almost 10 years go by and then it happens, you find out that not only you are going to be on Gilmore Girls: A  Year In The Life, What went through your head when you found out you were going to not only be part of Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life, but the role of "Donald" was written explicitly for you? Well, it really wasn't that dramatic of a reveal. An appropriate role never came up during those seven years, which was fine -- "that's showbiz, kid" -- and I was plenty busy doing other shows. When talk of the revival started, I knew that Lauren had planted the seed with Amy of me perhaps playing a part, and as negotiations bubbled along, it gradually became clear it would be a reality. The fun discovery came at the table-reads, learning along with most of the other actors what fun stuff we'd get to play. And when I saw I would be in all the Stars Hollow musical scenes with Sutton Foster and Christian Borle (not to mention Carole King and Sally Struthers) my tiny mind exploded.

Sam Pancake at premiere of "Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life"9. What do you relate to most about "Donald"? What is one characteristic of his you are glad you don't possess? Other than him looking just like me, I don't think "Donald" and I have a whole lot in common! Lets see: we both enjoyed the musical (for different reasons) so I related to that. He enjoys kayaking, I do enjoy canoeing...but we definitely have very different tastes in clothing. You'll never catch me in pastels outside of wardrobe.

10. How did it feel to be the only gay in Stars Hollow? EMPOWERING! I do hope "Donald" has a husband or partner in the next one, though. I don't want him to be lonely.

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? I stay in my spiritual practice and meditate every day, and I exercise in some capacity (hike, gym, walk) nearly every day. That's what keeps me on track, along with gratitude, gratitude and more gratitude.

Sam Pancake, Photo Credit: Matt GorrekMore on Sam:

Sam Pancake is an American actor best known for his lead roles on Lovespring International and Kitchen Confidential, as well as recurring roles on Gilmore Girls, Will & Grace, Arrested Development and Curb Your Enthusiasm. He has also made memorable appearances on a number of popular television shows including The Mick, Transparent, Wings, Friends, The King of Queens, Fat Actress, Parenthood, Major Crimes, Cougar Town, and Charmed. His film credits include, Legally Blonde 2, A Holiday Engagement, Ready? OK!, Straight-Jacket, Girls Will Be Girls (with Coco Peru and Varla Jean Merman) and Jackie Beat's Scream, Teen, Scream.

Monday
May082017

Call Answered: Conference Call: Chris Harder and David Drake: #BigBrightStar at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

Chris Harder and Director David DrakeBeing a gay male the world of go-go boys and adult films are somehow always around you, in chatter or viewing. I, personally, am not a fan of porn, but go-go boys are always a pleasure to watch.

Burlesque and adult gay film star Chris Harder first came onto my radar in 2013 when I saw Chris perform in The Robin Byrd Show at The Cutting Room. I remember being quite taken by Chris' performance. I spoke with Chris after that show and we were going to try to do an interview at some point, but our schedules did not gel.

Well, when I found out that Chris was presenting the world premiere of his one-man show, #BigBrightStar at The Laurie Beechman Theatre this spring, and that David Drake was directing,  I knew the stars were aligning. Quicker than a premature ejaculation, I called and both Chris and David answered! I'm thrilled that, like Batman, I get to slide down their poles, peel back the sheets and reveal all that Chris and David have to offer!

Using theatre, burlesque, and like, so many #instagood emojis, #BigBrightStar relives Harders' defining moments and illustrates the real-life people that have shaped his career. But as he delves further between the sheets, Harder may just discover that a life on camera is ironically, "harder" than he thought. Trust, you'll never tweet #OMFG the same way again.

#BigBrightStar will The Laurie Beechman Theatre (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue, in the basement of The West Bank Cafe) from May 27-June 15! Click here for tickets!

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

For more on David follow him on Facebook and Twitter!

Chris Harder, Photo Credit: David Ayllon1. This May/June, Chris, you wrote/are starring in and David, you are directing, #BigBrightStar, which relives the defining moments and illustrates the real-life people that have shaped Chris' career. First, off, how did the two of you come to work together on this project?

Chris Harder: It's funny because even though David and I have a lot of friends in common we had never actually met. I had just finished a private reading of #BigBrightStar a few months ago and was looking for a
director. I needed someone who not only felt comfortable with the subject matter but who also had a sense of humor and play that is so much apart of #BigBrightStar. David was at the top of several of my friends' lists and after a phone call with him, I felt like he was the perfect match for the show. And luckily he said yes!

David Drake: I’d seen Chris perform at the Slipper Room last year and was very impressed. So, when our mutual friend Lola Rocknrolla recommended me to Chris as a director for his show, I didn’t hesitate to jump right into the process. And since then we’ve been having a great time working together on the script and characters. He’s such a good writer! He really has a terrific sense of humor about himself and others, while also being very disciplined about keeping it all grounded in truth. I love that. Plus, I’m a laugh whore -- and Chris is just so damn funny!

David Drake2. As the director of this piece, what is the most challenging part for you to convey? How do you express some of the more intimate moments of Chris' life?

David Drake: Even though all of it comes from truth, Chris is a wonderful satirist. So, the challenge for me in directing #BigBrightStar has been in finding the line we walk between the burlequse-ery of the characters
and their heart-beating reality. There’s a constant duality at play here, just like Chris himself -- he’s both a serious theater artist and a joyous exhibitionist. That he can act, write, and strip makes Chris a daunting showbiz triple-threat.

3. What do you relate to most about Chris' story?

David Drake: The courageous gayness of his childhood, I think. We both had an early awakening to the charms of Barbie dolls. But I also identify with his constant struggle of maintaining a successful showbiz career, and the endless amount of work and energy one must pour into that lifestyle -- if only, in the end of the day, to entertain folks. Which, of course, can mean everything to a performer.

Chris Harder, Photo Credit: David Ayllon4. You are a burlesque dancer and a gay adult film star. How did you decide to get into this line of work? I mean, with your body, I can see why you would want to show it off, but what was it about both industries that appealed to you?

Chris Harder: It was an accident! At least burlesque was an accident. I moved to NYC from North Dakota to be a "serious" actor and I had no idea that any of these nightlife scenes existed. I was very "Johnny off the farm" but through a series of events involving me working as a children's theatre actor and then losing my job as a waiter, I found myself dancing at the Cock and from there I met all these wonderful nightlife
performers and creators. What I love about burlesque and also writing this show is that YOU are the producer of your work. That's something that wasn't emphasized to me in my "traditional" acting training.

And even though I was loving working in burlesque, I also was barely making any money at the time. Porn opened me up to even more exposure (sorry, I love puns). Plus, I felt comfortable enough in my body and
there is a quality of being seen in porn that is similar but still very different from being seen onstage. It's a different arousal for me. Also, the fact that you mention my body in your question also reminds me that I was genuinely so surprised after moving to New York that I could utilize my body in those ways, whether it was burlesque or go-go dancing or porn. I was just never "seen" like that growing up. I was always "sweet," or "nerdy" or "that weird theatre guy." The idea that I could be "the sexy guy" and make money for it, blew my mind. For starters.

5. I bet over the course of your career a lot of guys have wanted to play with you. So, let's give them that opportunity. The show's description has you peeling back the sheets to reveal even more than the defining moments you speak of. What does it take to get you into bed for an evening of unbridled passion and what happens from there? How does one win your heart should it be available?

Chris Harder: Well it's kind of like RuPaul's Drag Race where I make everyone do a catwalk and then play "Snatch Game" and the best Carol Channing gets to top me. But seriously folks...just like my scenes, I really am attracted to a variety of guys, ages, even hairiness. The "man-bun" really stretches my limits, but, I'm flexible. Ultimately I want to be with a guy who can make me laugh, who is passionate about his own work
and has his own purpose, and who's weirdo qualities are compatible with mine.

Chris Harder, Photo Credit: John-Paul Bichard6. As you put this show together, what did you cum to learn about yourself that you didn't know going through it?

Chris Harder: I had a moment writing the show where I was tallying up past scenes and partners and studios I've worked with and I suddenly thought, "Wow, I really have done a lot." I try to be objective about what "stardom" means both in my life and in #BigBrightStar, but that realization gave me a sudden lift in my confidence because whether I'm performing on stage or in front of a camera, there's always a part of me that thinks, "No one is going to like me." It's a very "They're all going to laugh at you" kind of mentality. I think most, if not all, performers deal with some version of that voice in their own work. But writing this show was a reminder to me that, "Yeah, I actually did do all that...plus all those guys."

7. What was the "hardest" moment of the show to write? What was the most fun?

Chris Harder: The hardest moment of the show is and has been writing about what I learned from the adult industry that 1) doesn't make me sound like a victim or criminalize the industry and 2) still allows for
vulnerability and perspective to shine through at the show's conclusion. I am truly #grateful for my experiences in porn, even if they weren't always what I thought or hoped they'd be.

The most FUN parts though are creating these broad characters from my imagination and my past that reflect different perspectives about gay porn. Without giving away too much, I may or may not play (a version of) my mom, my childhood pastor, and a slightly demented, beloved American cartoon.

Chris Harder, Photo Credit: Adrian Buckmaster8. As a burlesque dancer and gay adult film star, you must meet a lot of people. What is the most heartwarming thing someone has told you? What is the creepiest fan encounter to happen?

Chris Harder: One of the nicest, most "real" moments I had with a fan was a person who told me that my films gave them much needed relief after dealing with some major family issues, including having to put their mother in a nursing home. I am very close with my mom and to have all those worlds kind of collide in that conversation was really mind blowing. Porn can be sexy and kinky but it can also just make the viewer feel
"good." And sometimes that is enough.

I haven't had a superior creepy moment, BUT, I was getting checked into a flight once and the steward double and then triple checked my boarding pass. Finally he blurted out, "It really is you! And you really are Harder!" I still didn't get an upgrade.

9. Since the show is called #BIGBRIGHTSTAR, what do you consider to be your "Big Bright Star" that keeps you going towards what you want?

Chris Harder: No matter what stage (or bed) I'm on, I ultimately consider myself an entertainer. I think what helps get me out of bed each day especially now is knowing that I get to create work on my own terms that can entertain but also elevate. That's my purpose with #BigBrightStar.

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?

Chris Harder: Here's a "Top-Secret-Porn-Star Tip": practice patience. Both with yourself and others. One of the ideas I explore in #BigBrightStar is always running, always pushing to get what you want. But "good" work doesn't happen overnight, and even porn scenes can take a while to reach their climax. Sometimes you just need to take a moment and breath. And, you know, wait for your scene partner to get his erection back.

David Drake: Since mental fitness is of importance to me as well as physical fitness, I would pledge to doing more meditation. Five minutes a day can make a world of difference in my outlook for the day. With the political nightmare our country's in right now, I need that center more than ever. We all do.

Chris HarderMore on Chris:

Chris Harder is a NYC burlesque performer, writer, and yes, an "adult film star." Chris has traveled the US and the world with his beefcake burlesque shows, including headlining the 2017 Helsinki Burlesque Festival as well as performances in New Zealand, Vienna, London and...Fargo, North Dakota. Chris is also the writer and creator of the Nasty Drew and That Harder Boy Series, a burlesque/drag parody of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys novels running at The Laurie Beechman Theatre.

David Drake, Photo Credit: Jose VillarrubiaMore on David:

David Drake is an actor-writer-director best known as the Obie Award-winning playwright/performer of The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me, one of the longest-running solo shows in Off-Broadway history. David also starred in Vampire Lesbians of Sodom (succeeding Charles Busch for 856 performances), originated the role of "Miss Deep South" in the hit Pageant, as well as co-starring with Jim J. Bullock in End of the World Party at the 47th St. Theater, and with B.D. Wong in A Language of Their Own at The Public. His TV credits: The Good Wife, Law & Order, The Beat, NY Undercover. Feature films: Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia, as well as It’s Pat, Naked in New York, David Searching, Bear City, Longtime Companion, and his own adaptation of The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me. As a stage director, David has twice been a Directing Fellow at the Sundance Theater Lab, and has directed new works at The Public’s Under the Radar Festival, Joe’s Pub, and Rattlestick, among others. Most notably, David directed the 2009 world premiere of Taylor Mac’s The Lily’s Revenge, which made the "10 Best Lists" in The New Yorker, NY Post, The Advocate, Paper Magazine, and won a 2010 Village Voice Obie Award.

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.