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Entries in Theater For The New City (4)

Wednesday
Mar222017

Call Answered: Sean Patrick Monahan: DIVA: Live From Hell

Sean Patrick MonahanFor the past 10 years I have been enjoying the talents of Sean Patrick Monahan in Charles Busch's Times Square Angel at The Theater for the New City. It's my one Christmas holiday tradition I look forward to each and every year! Well, after this year's performance, Charles made the delightful announcement that Sean Patrick would be presenting his original new musical DIVA: Live From Hell this spring at The Theater for the New City. As soon as I saw Sean Patrick in the lobby of the The Theater for the New City, I ran up to him asking if we could to do an interview together about this show. At the time he said he'd love to, so after a few months, I'm beyond excited that when I called, Sean Patrick answered! What fun we had talking about everything from DIVAS to legends to angels!

DIVA: Live From Hell is a devilish new musical that charts a high school musical nerd’s descent into madness. "Desmond Channing" is a teenager who’s spent much of his short life basking in the spotlight. As Drama Club President and star of ALL the productions at his Florida public high school, "Desmond" never imagined he could fall so far so fast. But when "Evan Harris," a hotshot transfer student from New York, rips the rug out from under him, "Desmond" responds, as any diva would, with lethal force. Now, "Desmond" is forced to relive his humiliation and insanity over and over again at a cabaret in Hell. As he begins his one-millionth consecutive show, "Desmond" performs with renewed desperation, in the hopes that he can prove he’s learned his lesson and be freed from his eternal, campy torment.

DIVA: Live From Hell will run from March 23-April 9 at The Theater for the New City (155 First Avenue). Click here for tickets!

For more on Sean Patrick be sure to visit http://www.seanpatrickmonahan.com!

Cast of Charles Busch's "Times Square Angel" with special guest Narrator, Joan Rivers1. Who or what inspired you to become a playwright/performer? Whatever it is that made me want to spend my life in the theatre has always been there. When I was two years old, my dad took me to a Renaissance Faire, and I insisted that he buy me a court jester hat. All of the other kids got crowns or Robin Hood hats, but I had to have the jester’s cap with little bells on it. I didn’t know what a jester was, but I wanted to be one. I still want to be one. And along with that, I always wanted to be a storyteller.

But beyond those sparks that have always lived in me, the person who inspired me to become a "playwright/performer" as a career was, and still is, Charles Busch.

2. Your show DIVA: Live From Hell is going to be at Theater for the New City, which I have been coming to for the past 10 years, seeing you perform in Charles Busch's Times Square Angel. Before we get to your new show, we have to talk about Times Square Angel. How did you first get involved with it and what do you look forward to about performing it every year? Yes! It was so delightful to talk to you after Times Square Angel this year. And oh man—10 years! I love that. Pretty much the whole audience comes back year after year, and I have to say that is the thing I look forward to the most—the sense of reunion, of a holiday homecoming at Theater for the New City. It’s an incredibly special event.

I’ve been playing "Jimmy the Newsboy" in Times Square Angel since I was 11 years old. I met Charles at Manhattan Theatre Club, where I did a reading of a play of his when I was a child actor. Charles read the scene in the audition with me, and I will never forget it. Well, I kept in touch with Charles, and that December he wrote me a terrific role in Times Square Angel, which I’ve done every year since. It’s a great feeling to have originated a role in one of his plays.

3. Now, let's get to DIVA: Live From Hell, which you wrote and are starring in. What made you want to write AND star in this show? Why didn't you want someone else to star in it and you just write it? Jeez Louise—so far the answer to all of these questions is "Charles Busch." What kind of DIVA am I? I need to start talking more about myself pronto. But this show really does all come back to him—when I was a kid, Charles suggested that I should write parts for myself, rather than wait around for someone to cast me. So, in 2013, when an opportunity arose for me to develop a solo act with Less Than Rent Theatre for the United Solo Theatre Festival, I jumped at the chance. It became a 45-minute solo comedy called DIVA. A few months later, the wunderkind composer/lyricist Alexander Sage Oyen approached me about expanding it into a one-act musical, and I jumped at that chance too.

Four years later, the show has evolved into DIVA: Live From Hell, and I’m still donning the sequins and performing the piece myself. Someday I’d like to hand it off to another performer, but for now, I’m the storyteller and the act of me physically telling the story is part of the narrative.

Sean Patrick Monahan in "DIVA: Live from Hell"4. What do you relate to most about your character "Desmond" and what is one characteristic you are glad you don't possess? One trait I share with "Desmond" is that we both feel out of step with our peers and with the times. When I was in high school, and everyone I knew was into Rent and Spring Awakening, I was listening to Dear World and Anyone Can Whistle. It often felt like the only people who knew what I was talking about were the adults—our theatre directors and my English teachers.

I’m not sure that there are any of "Desmond’s" characteristics that I don’t possess—though he does express himself more extremely than I do. When I got dumped for the first time, I dealt with the pain by writing a screenplay in which I brutally murdered the guy who stole my childhood sweetheart. "Desmond" actually does kill his nemesis. So, I’m glad I had healthier outlets to express my adolescent angst.

Sean Patrick Monahan in "DIVA" from 20135. In DIVA: Live From Hell, "Desmond Channing" is forced to relive his humiliation and insanity over and over again at a cabaret in Hell. What has been the most humiliating thing to happen you so far? When I was 11, I once clogged the toilet backstage at the Mazer Theater and blamed it on one of the adult chorus girls. The rest of the cast mocked her relentlessly for weeks. I’ve never told anyone except my therapist, who thinks it’s okay for me to come clean in this interview. If that poor chorus girl finds out, it’ll be the most humiliating thing ever.

6. "Desmond" performs in hell in the hopes that he can prove he’s learned his lesson. What is the biggest life lesson you've learned to date? Slotted spoons don’t hold much soup.

7. 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 every day? I love that. I’d love to be one percent more empathetic every day—as a writer, as an actor, and as a person. That might sound trite or simple, but it’s hard to consciously work to access deeper empathy, especially in these trying times. I think it’d be worth it.

Charles BuschPenny Fuller8. An exciting component to this show is that you are having Tony nominees Charles Busch & Penny Fuller voice their parts. Charles is the voice of the manager at the dingy cabaret venue in Hell, while Penny will voice Desmond's grandmother. What made you want to have their parts as voice overs as opposed to live actors? Maybe someday there’ll be a version where those roles are played live, but in this incarnation I want the voices to be recognizable. Charles was a no-brainer, because he’s been like an uncle (or "Auntie Mame") and he’s guided me in developing DIVA from the beginning. It’s very special to have his voice in the show. And as for Penny Fuller—I think it’s very meaningful stunt casting. Penny was, of course, nominated for a Tony for playing "Eve" in Applause (based on All About Eve). Her performance of the song "One Hallowe’en" is, in my opinion, one of the best in the history of musical theatre. The plot of DIVA: Live From Hell is partly inspired by the plot of All About Eve (along with Sunset Blvd), so, it’s incredibly meaningful to have Broadway’s original "Eve Harrington" portraying "Desmond’s" grandmother.

9. In addition to having Charles in your show and you in his Times Square Angel since 2004, Charles was one of your playwrighting teachers. What did you learn from Charles? How did you take that lesson and apply it to DIVA: Live From Hell? Well, Charles came in and taught a master class at Fordham when I was a student, but he’s been my personal writing mentor for much longer. When I was 15, I sent him my first screenplay (the aforementioned murder-y one). He took the time to give me thorough, helpful notes and was very encouraging. All through college, he read drafts of all my early plays and always took great time and consideration in his feedback. When I wrote the first incarnation of DIVA in 2013, he went through the entire script with me, page by page, giving notes. Then, we spent an hour sitting in his living room, listening to monologues recorded by the legendary Ruth Draper. That afternoon, I learned an amazing lesson about camp comedy—the circumstances may be received ironically by the audience, but must be completely truthful within the play. The audience can laugh, but the playwright must take the characters and their conflicts seriously. Ruth Draper has a hilarious monologue called "A Children’s Party in Philadelphia," in which she plays a very silly suburban mother, but Draper doesn’t patronize or mock the character she’s playing. She’s only funny because she’s honest. Charles treats his characters the same way. I saw his play The Divine Sister five times off-Broadway; it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, but there’s an incredibly moving scene in which a daughter is reunited with her long-lost mother. One could play it all as a big joke, but without the emotional truth of that scene, I don’t think the rest of the piece is as impactful or as funny. I try to approach every moment of in DIVA: Live From Hell with empathy and honesty, no matter how ridiculous.

Sean Patrick Monahan in Ken Urban's "Nibbler"10. If you were sent to hell and could only bring one diva with you who you had to watch one million times consecutively, who would you take? Preface: I’m using the word "diva" here to mean an unbelievably talented songstress, not a narcissistic, unkind one.

When I was in high school, I would have had an impossibly difficult time choosing just one. It would have been a four-way tie between Merman, Lansbury, LuPone, and Stritch. But now, I can answer 100%, without hesitation: Grace McLean (currently in Natasha, Pierre…). I met Grace last year at the Johnny Mercer Writers’ Colony up at the Goodspeed Opera House, and I find her voice, her persona, and her talent to be absolutely electrifying. I have since seen her in concert five times, and after each and every song, I jump up and down in screaming delight like I’m a sixteen year old girl watching Elvis on Ed Sullivan. I could certainly stand to see her perform another 999,995 times. But that sounds more like Heaven than Hell to me.

Angela Lansbury, Photo Credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times11. I have heard you are a HUGE Angela Lansbury fan. What is something about her that only a super fan would know? Have you met Angela Lansbury? If so, did it live up to what you had pictured in your mind? Well, I celebrate Angela Lansbury’s birthday every year (October 16th). I even wrote it into DIVA: Live From Hell. The last scene of the play takes place on October 16.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet Dame Angela four times, and she is even more wonderful than I ever could have imagined. Charles knows her, and he’s taken me to see her in every show she’s done on Broadway since Deuce in ’07. Each time, we’ve gone backstage, and every encounter has been magical. Talking to her after A Little Night Music was especially so. Charles told Angela how I was having a hard time deciding where to go to college. She sat me down on the sofa, took my hands, and said, "This is your time. Go where you want to go, and don’t ever look back." I picked Fordham University—and thank God I did.

A couple years ago, someone approached me about producing DIVA with a big TV star in the lead role. I wasn’t sure what to do—I really wanted to originate the part myself. I told Charles that I was wrestling with this dilemma, and he happened to be getting dinner with Angela that night. He mentioned my predicament to Angela, who said (with grave, Manchurian Candidate-style seriousness, according to Charles), "No, he must hold onto that for himself." So, the bottom line is—I’m doing DIVA: Live From Hell because Angela Lansbury thinks I should.

Sean Patrick MonahanMore on Sean Patrick:

Sean Patrick Monahan is a playwright, performer, and hopeless Angela Lansbury addict. Plays include RODHAM/SADE (Sanctuary @ HERE Arts Center), AUNT JACK (Wide Eyed Winks), WHAT DO YOU CALL A—? (Rhapsody Collective), LITTLE MAC, LITTLE MAC, YOU’RE THE VERY MAN! (written w/James Presson, Less Than Rent), 6B (Fordham University), and GALLOWS TREE (Winner Best One-Act 2012, Manhattan Repertory Theatre). As an actor, Sean Patrick has performed at the Vineyard Theatre, the Helen Hayes, New World Stages, and, most recently, The Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in The Amoralists’ world-premiere production of Ken Urban’s NIBBLER. Other acting credits include THE VAST MACHINE (Axis Theatre), FMK (Under St. Marks), LITTLE TOWN BLUES (The Wild Project), OUTLAWS (le Poisson Rouge), and A STOOP ON ORCHARD STREET (Mazer Theatre). Sean Patrick is thrilled to be returning to Theater for the New City, having performed there every year since 2004 in Charles Busch’s TIMES SQUARE ANGEL. Sean Patrick’s greatest theatrical achievement was crafting the high school club constitution for Thespian Troupe 132, which was never enacted due to the short-sightedness of the club’s administration.

Monday
Mar032014

Call Answered: Facetime Interview with the cast of Andy Halliday's Nothing But Trash

"Call Me Adam" went behind the scenes into the rehearsal room to chat with the cast of Andy Halliday's new comedy Nothing But Trash, directed by G.R. Johnson, which will play at Theater for the New City from March 6-23. Click here for tickets! 

For more on Nothing But Trash be sure to visit: http://nothingbuttrashnyc.wix.com/nothing-but-trash and follow them on Facebook!

 

 

Interview with the cast of Andy Hallliday's Nothing But Trash:

Andy HallidayMore on Andy: 

Andy Halliday is an actor, writer and director, who was most recently seen Off-Broadway in the 2011 production of Devil Boys From BeyondNothing But Trash marks the third time he has performed in his own work, having previously performed double duty with Sex Slaves of the Lost Kingdom and I Can’t Stop Screaming. He got his start in 1983 performing in Charles Busch’s Vampire Lesbians of Sodom. From 1987 to 1991, the Theatre-In-Limbo company went on to perform three more of Busch’s plays: Psycho Beach PartyRed Scare On Sunset and The Lady In Question, the latter earning Halliday the Scene Stealer of the Month Award from Playbill.

G.R. JohnsonMore on G.R. Johnson:

Has directed Ty Adam’s Bounce and Thunder for the Circle East Theater Company, Seven11.2005 for Desipina Theatre Company and was the Associate Director, as well as Fight Choreographer and Dialect Coach, for a production of Peter Pan in Honolulu. As an actor, he has worked at the Huntington Theater (winner of the 2013 Regional Theatre Tony Award), The Wilma Theater in Philadelphia, Fulton Theatre in Lancaster, Alabama Shakespeare Festival and many others. In New York City, he has performed at NY Classical Theatre, Mint Theater Company, La MaMa E.T.C., NY International Fringe Festival, and in the New York premiere of Tom Stoppard’s Indian Ink.

Saturday
Apr212012

Jen Cody: Charles Busch's Judith of Bethulia

Jen Cody in Charles Busch's "Judith of Bethulia"Jen Cody is an Annie Award Winner and Drama League nominee whose career spans theatre, film, and television. On Broadway, Jen has tickled audiences in "Cats," "Beauty and the Beast," "Grease," "Seussical," "Urinetown," "Taboo," "The Pajama Game," and "Shrek the Musical." Off-Broadway, Jen delighted audiences in "Junie B. Jones," "Andrew Lipa's The Wild Party," and "Henry and Mudge," for which Jen received a Drama Desk nomination. Her other theatrical credits include "No, No Nannette" at City Center's Encores Series and regional and touring productions of "Gypsy," "Cinderella," "On The Town," "All Shook Up" (opposite Sally Struthers), "Oklahoma," "Into The Woods," "West Side Story," "Bye Bye Birdie," "A Chorus Line," "42nd Street," "Lend Me A Tenor," and "Moon Over Buffalo."

"Judith of Bethulia" castTelevision and film audiences know Jen as the voices of "Charlotte" in "The Princess and the Frog" (Annie Award Winner for Outstanding Voice Acting in a Feature Production) and "Darcy" on Nickelodeon's version of the "Winx Club." Jen was a series regular on the short-lived "Untitled Paul Reiser Project" as the sassy secretary and friend "Clarissa" and had a featured on the "Law & Order" episode entitled "Crimebusters" as "Vicki Saunders," a beauty shop associate.

Currently, Jen is starring in the sold-out run of Charles Busch's hilarious new show, "Judith of Bethulia," directed by Carl Andress, at the Theater for the New City in New York City's East Village (155 First Avenue). For more on "Judith of Bethulia," follow the show on Facebook!

For more on Jen be sure to follow her on Twitter!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I grew up listening to Barbara Streisand albums and acting out "Second Hand Rose" and "Sam, you made the pants too long." I loved how funny I could tell she was, just by listening to her voice. I came to NYC with my dance class and saw shows and I was hooked.

2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? I love Amy Sedaris' wit. Would love to work with her. I would also love to work with Mark Rylance...he's a comic genius.

3. What attracted you to "Judith of Bethulia"? What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? Charles Busch. I am in awe that I get to be a part of a Charles Busch show. I learn something about comedy every night. I hope audience just laugh and think, "Did they just say that?"

4. What do you identify most with about your character "Naomi"? "Naomi" is a fighter. She may not always succeed but she is "full out" with her efforts. She saves the Jews...well, she tries to save them. Noble effort.

5. You've worked with Charles Busch before, when you were in "Taboo" and he was the book writer. What has it been like to work with him again, this time as both as the book writer and performer of the piece? "Taboo" was quite an experience. "Judith" is a completely different beast. It is nice to create without an ounce of tension or critical judgement. We are truly just making art. "Taboo" became about a lot of other things and what we all created got lost a bit in the hubbub.

6. What excites you about performing at Theater for the New City? I get to see a part of NYC that I've never seen. It's also amazing doing the show to a sold-out crowd who all want to be there because they LOVE Charles and his work. It's a dream job.

7. What's your favorite part of the rehearsal/preview period in a show? Where is your favorite place to rehearse on your own? I love doing previews where you start to find a rhythm to the comedy. That moment when you "feel the wave" and the "timing". You can't do that without an audience. I also love relaxing into it a bit and being able to take in and enjoy all of the elements that your castmates have added since you were rehearsing. And then try not to laugh. I rehearse walking down the street. When I run these lines walking down Ninth Ave, people step out of my way. It's great for moving through tourists in Times Square.....

8. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? I realize that the parts of a show that terrify me during rehearsals are usually going to be the most fulfilling in the end. 100% of the time, this is true.

9. What's the best advice you've ever received? Laugh every day.

10. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? Well, I CAN dream about anyone...right?This is a weird question. Let's see...I have talent crushes on Joshua Henry and Jan Maxwell. Go figure. I also still dream about my husband even after 15 years...that's pretty good.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. Favorite way to spend your day off? Sitting on the deck at our Lake house. Hubby grilling. Friends around the table. Puppies laying on their backs.Drinking wine. Good music playing and watching the sun go down.

12. Favorite skin care product? Mario Bedesco Rosewater facial spray.

13. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? Talking to animals...I want so bad to hear what my pup Chewbacca has to say to me.

Monday
Oct102011

Louisa Bradshaw

Louisa Bradshaw as "Norma Jean"Louisa Bradshaw as "Marilyn Monroe"Louisa Bradshaw is an actress & chanteuse that spans the globe, starring in her own show at the premier Berlin cabaret & varieté venues, BarJeder Vernuff & the Chameleon. In NYC, she has worked with TONY Award-winning director/choreographer George Faison on "If This Hat Could Talk" & recently starred as the "Countess Analise" in the Lissa Moira/Richard West production "Who Murdered Love?" and in Lissa Moira's "Only Love Will Do."

Louisa is currently starring in "Siren's Heart, Marilyn in Purgatory," also directed by Lissa Moira at Theater for the New City in NYC's East Village through October 23 (155 First Avenue, between 9th & 10th Street). Click here for tickets!

For more on Louisa be sure to follow her on Facebook!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? Gosh. From the moment they spanked my tuchas, I knew I wanted to perform! My father is a composer and my Oma (Dutch Grandmother) was a singer, so it is in my blood. I am related to Audry Hepburn on my Oma’s side and Sir Francis Drake on my father’s side, so I guess that makes me a pirate and a lady...the perfect combination for a perfomer.

2. Who is the one person you haven't worked with that you would like to? Geraldine Page is my all time favorite and I would love to work with her wonderful daughter Angelica Page...and then of course my unsung heroes...Sheryl Moller and Annie Hubbard who I was in conservatory with...John Gallagher and Broadway’s best kept secret Billy Buell. My biggest dream is to have my own production company much like Charlie Chaplin’s United Artists where the artists come together and create their own projects and are protected under one umbrella. It’s important to me that my brilliant friends get the chance to shine.

3. What attracted you to "Siren's Heart, Marilyn in Purgatory" and what do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? I love the whole notion of purgatory, as many people believe that we are all in purgatory...some place between heaven (a place of ultimate happiness) and hell (a place of ultimate despair) where we are learning lessons that will help us become a better person. I was very attracted to the idea of telling Marilyn’s story from this perspective.

4. What did Norma Jean/Marilyn Monroe mean to you growing up and now as an adult? What excites you about playing the legendary Norma Jean/Marilyn Monroe and what makes you nervous? I distinctly remember as a little girl, having completed the entire collection of Bulfinch’s Mythology by the age of 10, praying to Zeus to make me like Aprodite, the Goddess of Love and Beauty. I always saw Marilyn as this goddess. And now as an adult, I realize that Marilyn was made to be the goddess of Eros (sexual) Love, but I feel that she was longing to be the goddess of Agape (unconditional) Love.

What excites me is the chance to do a mystic healing on Marilyn. I know this sounds weird, but I feel that she was very wounded and it was manifested in the love crisis she played out throughout her life. And I am honored to be able to tell her story from this perspective. What makes me nervous is losing myself in the drama of her life so I have to remember to stay centered in who I am.

5. "Siren's Heart, Marilyn in Purgatory" will be playing at Theater For The New City where you've performed before. What do you like about performing at TNC? TNC is an artists’ theater located in the legendary east village that has spawned so many of our greatest artists. Crystal Field (Executive Director) has maintained the integrity of the theatre, much like Chaplin did with United Artists, by keeping it a safe haven of artistic freedom.

6. What is your favorite part of the rehearsal/preview period in a show? Where is your favorite place to rehearse/practice on your own? This rehearsal period has been the most challenging of my life, but it has helped me overcome the greatest obstacles I have ever faced. My favorite place is anywhere where I am calm enough to imagine the character in peace and not be pressured by any outside constraints.

7. Favorite way to spend your day off? My favorite way to spend a day off is connecting with friends and sitting in the sun and breathing in fresh air.

8. Favorite skin care product? Favorite kind of shoes? Tracie Martyn Skincare. It’s on the back of my program. It’s the most amazing thing I have ever used and I will never use anything else.

My favorite kind of shoes are anything comfortable.

9. Favorite website? www.myrocketnutrition.com

10. "Glinda" or "Elphaba"? It depends on the day.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. What's the best advice you've ever received? Penny Landau says "The first thing you have to do is breathe." And Spencer Tracy said “Know your lines and don’t bump into the furniture.” Sheryl Moller says “Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth.”

12. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? Right now I pray every night that Marilyn will come to me. I have her photo over my bed.

13. You've performed all around the world as a singer and actress. How has this experience shaped your performing style and you as a person? When I finished my MFA in acting at the Goodman Threatre School in Chicago, my first professional offer was to do a film about a woman’s descent into madness because of sexual objectification. Ironic isn’t it. This film did not get made, as it was too avant-garde, even by Berlin standards. In Berlin, I was given the gestation period that every artist deserves to find what my voice was to be. I longed to be a serious artist and fled commercialism and found that in Europe I no longer felt like a commodity. This experience gave me the confidence I was sorely lacking throughout my youth. I now feel the confidence to fulfill my calling, if you will, and realize that fame is not what will or ever could have made me happy, but rather this elusive happiness is found only within.