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Entries in The Laurie Beechman Theatre (32)

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.

Tuesday
Mar142017

Call Answered: Steve Willis: The Legend of Yma Sumac at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

Steve WillisI love music videos. I love documentaries. I love live performance. I love learning about people. When you get asked to interview someone that encompasses all of these and then you find out they have worked with some of the biggest names in entertainment, you jump at the opportunity presented before you.

That's where Steve Willis comes in. He has made videos for Mary J. Blige, Patti Labelle, Maxi Priest, Dawn Robinson, Miranda, and many others (including RuPaul's Drag Race stars Jinkx Monsoon and Sharon Needles). Now, he is premiering his "live documentary" cabaret show The Legend of Yma Sumac starring drag performer Scarlet Envy. Featuring many of Yma's greatest hits and never-before-seen footage of Yma, shot by Steve, The Legend of Yma Sumac will play The Laurie Beechman Theatre in NYC (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue in the basement of the West Bank Cafe) from March 15-29Click here for tickets!

For more on Steve be sure to visit http://thestevewillis.com and Instagram!

1. This March you are premiering The Legend of Yma Sumac, starring Scarlet Envy. The show is described as a "live documentary" cabaret about the late star, whom you were friends with. How did you first come to meet Yma? What was it about her that made you want to be friends? What do you miss most about her? When I first heard Yma’s music I became obsessed and couldn’t stop talking about her. From the very beginning I treated her as news that must be spread. I had the feeling that more people needed to know about her. I was so shocked to find out she existed. So one of the people that heard me talking said she was making gowns for Yma and I begged her to introduce me. She took me to dinner with Yma and I asked if I could make a documentary about her life. She was totally interested but she also wanted help with her career and I eventually learned she wanted help with her life. She was quite isolated. Over the years the relationship developed from director of her documentary, to also include manager for live shows to personal assistant. We would spend long hours in her apartment listening to her new music and hearing stories of the past and the people that did her wrong.

I think what I miss about her is being around such amazing talent and her wise worldly ways. She was always full of good advice and she cared for people and animals. She had a magical quality with animals that was like nothing I've ever seen. Wild animals, birds for example, would come to her and she was acting like it was the most natural thing when it was extremely rare. I believe the power of her mind was very great, she credited her singing ability to her mind and believing she could do it. She taught me more about integrity, artistic integrity than anyone I've ever met.

Scarlet Envy as Yma SumacThe real Yma Sumac2. What made now the right time to mount this show? That's an interesting question because there are three people that were involved with Yma at the end of her life trying to do projects with her. All three of us, without communicating with each other, returned to our projects again at the same time, around seven years after she died. The seven year itch? I've read the human body completely replaces all its cells after seven years and therefore you are a totally new person. Maybe we all had to heal a little before getting back to work on our projects? The other two people are Damon Devine, who was Yma’s caregiver and friend. He is working on a book that I really want to see come to life and I want to help promote. The other is Thomas Lauderdale of the band Pink Martini. I introduced him to Yma to record a song and she gave him a great start.

3. Why is Scarlet Envy the perfect drag queen to portray Yma? What aspects of Yma do you see in Scarlet? Spencer Rothman, the editor of this project has gone so far and beyond helping make this show come to life, introduced me to her. He saw I was really struggling to cast the project. I went through so many options. The problem was...if I was making a show that says "Yma has the greatest voice in the world ever," then how do I cast a live singer? No-one can sing these songs. (if you are reading this and you think this is incorrect….please introduce me to the singer that you think can do this).

Also, if I was in the audience for this show, I would want to hear Yma’s voice. So, the only choice seemed to be to do a lip sync show. I did consider real women along with drag performers but when it came to lip syncing, I think Drag performers have a little more practice…haha. I was already following Scarlet Envy on Instagram, so I was a fan of her beauty. She has an old Hollywood glamor to her look. She’s a beautiful woman and not a girl. I wanted the person playing Yma to be an older version of Yma. When I saw Scarlet paint herself to look like Yma, the resemblance was shocking and exciting. She had to do it. Yma’s career suffered somewhat from being considered "campy" or "kitsch" so I carefully considered whether casting a drag performer was the right thing to do but in the end I decided that the gender of the artist on stage is the last thing anyone needed to worry about. There is no nudity in the show except the male dancers show a lot of side ass.

Scarlet Envy as Yma SumacThe real Yma Sumac4. Some of Yma's greatest hits were "Malambo No. 1," "Mozart's Queen of the Night," and "Claire de Lune." In rehearsing this show what memories come up for you as hear these songs being performed? Because it is pretty rare to hear Yma’s music out in the world, I look forward to hearing my favorite songs by her on a nice loud system in a public place. I never heard Yma sing any of these songs live but when I would drive her around I would play these songs and she would drum on my dash board and sing along. One of my biggest regrets is not filming these moments. The way she would sing on top of the existing song was incredible. She would do this with any song by the way, not just hers. It was always in perfect harmony. I don’t know musical terms that well but she would also counter the melody in a very interesting way. She was also a great percussionist. Who knew the dashboard of a car could add so much great rhythm to a song?

5. The Legend of Yma Sumac incorporates unseen footage of Yma that was shot by you. How did you decide what footage to pick? What was it like to watch this footage now as opposed to when you first shot it? When I first picked up this project five years after her death, I needed to digitize some pretty archaic video formats (the project started in the 80’s). When I first started watching the footage, I literally broke out in hives on my face. The experience of watching the footage was a overwhelming. I put it away again until now. This year, I also won a grant from the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts for my feature documentary about Yma so I’ve been working on that as well. Chip Duckett knew I was doing this and asked me if I wanted to do a live show at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, I wanted the live show to be a tribute to her so I picked footage that was happy and she looked great in.

Scarlet Envy as Yma SumacThe real Yma Sumac6. What do you hope audiences learn about Yma from attending the show? I want them to learn that she was a serious artist and had the greatest voice ever recorded. According to some experts I've interviewed, there are two other women who could sing the same scale as Yma and we know this from the music that was written for their voices but this was before the technology to record them existed.

7. What was the hardest/most emotional part of the show to write? What was the most fun part? The hardest part of the show was the end. Every time we would get to that part I would get emotional. It was a little embarrassing but luckily Spencer the editor is a friend. The "fun" part?…..did I say I had fun? Actually the whole experience has been fun.

Patti LaBelle8. In addition to Yma, you have made videos for numerous high profile artists such as Mary J. Blige, Patti Labelle, Maxi Priest, Dawn Robinson, Miranda, and RuPaul's Drag Race stars Jinkx Monsoon and Sharon Needles, amongst others. Is there a really crazy story that stands out from one of these shoots where you were like, "I can't believe that just happened?" Meeting Patti LaBelle was crazy and amazing and educational. She was the first big name person I ever directed. The record company guy took me to her hotel room and as we waited in the living room of her suite I was very nervous. From the bedroom she called out "Is that Steve Willis? I love your work!" I said "yes." She answered "Oh my, I look terrible and I don’t want to come out of my bedroom, I'm on my period." We all laughed and my nerves went away. She came out and we had a great meeting. I realized after what a pro move this was. She has probably met and intimidated many people and that's not the best place to start working with someone. Complimenting me and bringing herself to a human level was a great way to start working together.

Rebecca Romijn9. You also directed the documentary Wet Dreams with Rebecca Romijn about your attempt to approach Wet Design, the creators of the Bellagio fountain, to choreograph a fountain show of your own. What did you learn from this experience? Are there any secrets about the Bellagio fountain or fountain show that you can share with us that we, the public, might not know? That was an amazing experience. I was the first civilian to swim in the Bellagio Fountain. The film is about what we learned and the secrets of the fountain. It is on Youtube. So, if you want to know the answer to this question you need to watch the film ๐Ÿ˜Š

10. What is something Yma taught you that you can share with us? She taught me not to compromise on your artistic vision no matter what. Once you have a clear vision, everyone can go to hell before you compromise on any small detail. I’ve never seen anyone hold to this more strongly and I've worked with many of the top people in the Film, TV and Fashion Industry.

Steve WillisMore on Steve:

Steve Willis is a filmmaker, photographer, and music video director. As a music video director, he has made videos for numerous artists, including Mary J. Blige, Patti Labelle, Maxi Priest, Dawn Robinson, Miranda, and many others (including RuPaul's Drag Race stars Jinkx Monsoon and Sharon Needles). He directed the documentary Wet Dreams with Rebecca Romijn, and is currently working on a documentary about Yma Sumac, who he befriended in 1987.

Saturday
Mar112017

Call Answered: Miss Richfield 1981: 20/20 Vision at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

With her unique brand of humor, fun songs, and entertaining videos, I know my cheeks will hurt from the amount of laughter ensued after attending a Miss Richfield show and since 2006, I have been in constant pain. 

Now Miss Richfield 1981 brings her brand-new show 2020 Vision to The Laurie Beechman Theatre in New York City (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue, in the basement of the West Bank Cafe) from March 14-16! In this show, Miss Richfield 1981 offers a survival guide for the new world we live in, helps calm any post-election panic, and provide tools to prevent the apocalypse! This is one show you can't afford to miss! Click here for tickets! 

For more on Miss Richfield 1981 be sure to visit https://missrichfield.wordpress.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter!

Miss Richfield 19811. After seeing you several times in Provincetown, I'm honored to be getting to do this interview. Since this our first interview together, let's start at the beginning. How did you become Miss Richfield 1981? It was a beauty pageant July 4, 1981, on a simple plywood stage in Richfield, Minn. And like so many beauty queens, I won that title with my natural beauty, my booming baritone vibrato and a fire that horribly disfigured all 11 other contestants when Trudy Olson lost control of her flaming batons. I was the only contestant to stop, drop and roll, which is also how I do my hair. So after they hauled off 9 contestants to the burn unit, and a couple others to the morgue, I was the only one left to receive the lovely hand-glittered sash, shiny tiara, and a power lawnmower! Our local Ace Hardware is very involved in Richfield beauty!

2. What does holding this beauty title now mean to you as opposed to when you first got it in 1981? Beauty pageants became a focal point of my life, when a ninth-grade vocational aptitude test pointed me to a career in beauty or the fragrance counter at Sears. As I never could pass the math section of the Sears job application, a beauty career appeared imminent. Then winning the pageant was just the beginning, since the day after I received my beauty title, Miss Richfield 1981, the gals at my church started a fund to buy me a bus ticket to go someplace else. And for the last 36 years, every time I get back to Minnesota, there on the screen door of my trailer is taped another bus ticket for me to go someplace else! It’s embarrassing, they just adore me!

3. What is the best part about being Miss Richfield 1981 and what is the most challenging part? Has anyone every tried to de-throne you? I adore making new friends and I’m doing that with my hectic schedule this Spring, which includes San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, Tulsa, Tampa, Philly, and your godless mecca, New York City – all before I head to Ptown for the summer at the Crown & Anchor. Well popularity has its penalties! But the traveling can be a bit of a minus, as I’m trying to find a boyfriend. And you know most single gals in my stage of life are more likely to be killed by a terrorist, than find love. So I’m thinking I might relocate to Iraq to better my chances. And as far as dethroning goes, I don’t have that concern since all the other gals got heavy.

4. This March you are presenting your new show 2020 Vision at The Laurie Beechman Theatre. What are you looking forward to most about bringing 2020 Vision to New York? My new 2020 Vision show has new music, new videos, new chatter, and most importantly a new message for New York in our new world! These are some strange times, my dears, so I want to offer people a message of hope – or at least survival! And I adore doing this show. It’s supreme happiness to hear the folks go crazy with my upbeat music, informative videos and audience interaction! It’s also always a bonus when I remember the words to the songs! And the Laurie Beechman is a wonderful facility that does not require you to be a Christian to attend the show. So bring neighbors, co-workers, friends or enemies! Just think about who deserves it, and bring them along!

Miss Richfield 19815. In this post-election world, how did you get the whereabouts to write a show about having perfect vision when we are living in a constant state of fog? You’re right on the money there! A life of beauty can be challenging; as a lot of time folks only see the glamour. They don’t see the weeklong Greyhound bus trips, where the only person I get to talk to is the driver – that I wrap my hair in toilet paper and sleep on my face – the duties of washing and polishing my balls during cold and flu season of Bingo. It can be a grind!

6. In this show, you are going to be giving some advice as to calm any post-election panic. What are some calming pointers that did not make it into the show you can share with us? That’s tough, as I generally don’t leave anything out. You may be aware, that I’m famous for cramming a 60-minute show into 90! That’s a lot of time to fill. But there was one post-election duty I did not include in this show. The day after the election I went behind my trailer and burned everything I owned that was orange – living room draperies, a bathroom rug, two sweaters, a leotard, and most of my dishware.

Miss Richfield 19817. You are also going to be providing tools to prevent an apocalypse. How do you know these tools will work and what apocalypse have you tried them on to know they are successful? First off, it’s probably too late to prevent an apocalypse, but I believe that you can always look your best in a bad situation. So most of my advice is a bit after the fact, sort of "since we’re all going to die anyway, let’s go buy shoes and a handbag!" And I am well versed in apocalypse experiences, mostly due to the Greyhound when the bathrooms are clogged up with adult diapers. You know that senior discount is popular!

8. What is something about Miss Richfield 1981 that you haven't revealed yet in an interview? Secrets? Alright just one: I do not wear make-up.

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? Math has never been my strong suit, so I’m not sure how much we’re talking here, plus I feel like my purpose as a beauty professional is to help other people make improvements. With that in mind, I’d like to offer your readers a word of advice from my mother, "You can lose your money, you can lose your lipstick, and you can lose your dignity, but if you pack a smile in your handbag, you’ll always be able to find a trucker to give you a ride home!" That is definitely more than one percent!

Miss Richfield 1981More on Miss Richfield 1981:

Miss Richfield 1981 dedicates her life to the friendly citizens and responsible merchants of her hometown of Richfield, Minnesota. This Midwestern maven is winning over theater and cabaret audiences around the country with an interactive format that combines homespun warmth and edgy improv, leaving audiences in hysterics with a truly original performance.

Miss Richfield’s national appeal includes riotous appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Today on NBC, as well as prestigious mentions, such as The New York Post recently honoring "Miss Richfield 1981 as the must-see act in Provincetown."

As well as sell-out performances throughout the country, including LA, Chicago and New York, Miss Richfield continues her sold-out reputation as the most successful act each summer at the Crown and Anchor in Provincetown, Mass. Miss Richfield also finds time in her busy schedule to headline for Atlantis Events cruises and resort vacations, the largest LGBT vacation company.