John Tartaglia

No matter the medium, Tony Award Nominee, John Tartaglia is the guy you need to grab your audience. John originated the role of "Rod/Princeton" in "Avenue Q" which premiered Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre before moving to Broadway in 2003 (where it won the Tony Award for Best Musical and John received a Tony Award Nomination for Best Actor). He then went on to star in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" on Broadway as "Lumiere" as well as "Pinocchio" in Broadway's "Shrek The Musical." He has been the host of the New York Philharmonic Young People's Concert as well as Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS' "The Leading Men Concert." John's one man show, "Ad-Liberty," enjoyed a sold-out run at Joe's Pub in 2005. Prior to theatre, John was one of the youngest puppeteers to perform on "Sesame Street," starting at the age of 16 and continuing for the next 10 years. He has also starred in "Sesame English," which currently airs worldwide, is an innovative workshop created by Sesame to teach non-English-speaking children conversational English in a fun, exciting, and interesting context. John created, produced, and starred in the popular children's show "Johnny and the Sprites" on the Disney Channel as well as appearances on Disney's "Bear in the Big Blue House," "JoJo's Circus," and Discovery Channel's "Animal Jam."

Now John has taken his puppetry, theatrical, and producing skills to a new level of greatness as the writer, creator, and producer of "Imaginocean," a brand-new live puppetry show for kids (and adults) of all ages. “Imaginocean” is a one-of-a-kind live black-light puppet show which takes the audience on an undersea adventure. Join “Tank,” “Bubbles,” “Dorsel,” and their three best fish friends as they set out on a journey of discovery. What they discover on this magical adventure is the true meaning of friendship! "Imaginocean" plays at New World Stages in New York City (340 West 50th Street).

What makes this interview so special to me is that in 2005, I was fortunate enough to take John Tartaglia's Master Puppetry Class (co-taught by Leo Diagnault). I literally signed up because I thought how great would it be to take a class taught by John Taraglia. What transpired was being taught by one (actually two, because Leo was so amazing) of the smartest, dedicated, and caring individuals I have ever met. Since starting this blog, John has been one of the people I wanted to interview and after months of planning, it finally happened! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did conducting it!

1.  Who inspired you to become a performer? There are a lot of things that inspire me, but the two strongest inspirations inspirations would be my mom and my grandma because they both are performers and I grew up going to see them in shows.

2. What is the highest and lowest note you can sing? In my regular voice it would be an "A" as far as the highest. As far as the lowest, I'm not exactly sure, but in school, I was trained for a while as a bass, so I know my lowest is pretty low. In my falsetto, I can go really, really high. We did some "Shrek" event and one of the people in the show double dared me to hit a note higher than I ever hit before and I hit it. He told me at the time what the note was, but I don't remember now, but I know I have a really high rock falsetto and it's come in handy a couple of times.

3. Who is the one person that you haven't worked with that you would like to? Oooh, that's a really great question. Ellen DeGeneres. I adore her. I think she's brilliant. I've been told I have a very similar sense of humor to hers. I just respect her so much for so many things she's done. I'd also love to work with Betty White.

4. Is there ever a time you thought about quitting? If so, what career would you choose? I have thought about quitting at times. This business is wonderful and amazing and there are so many great parts, but when you are in the public eye, it can really be hard and hurtful when people say things that are really harsh or you just lose your confidence or something doesn't work out the way you thought it would and you think you'll never work again, so there's definitely times I thought about quitting, but I'm glad I didn't. If I wasn't a performer, I think I'd be a teacher or work with animals because I'm very passionate about education for kids and I'm a huge, huge animal lover.

5. Do you have any strange or unusual talent that no one knows about? I have this weird thing I can do where I can put a plastic bottle cap in my mouth against my teeth and click it and by changing the space in my mouth I can make it sound musical.

6. Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts? What do you order? Totally Starbucks. I'm kind of obsessed with Carmel Macchiatos, but during the winter my favorite thing is a Gingerbread Latte. I also love the Huevos Rancheros Wrap that they have.

7. Favorite item off the $1 menu? I'm such a sucker for fries. Even when I'm trying to eat healthy, I always find an excuse for fries.

8. Favorite way to stay in shape? I'm one of those people that need to find a reason to go to the gym because I'm just not naturally drawn to it, but the thing I get the most enjoyment out of is swimming because it doesn't feel like a work out, it just feels like I'm having fun.

9. Boxers or Briefs? I like briefs, though I try to avoid the tighty-whities, but I'm a victim of those sometimes too, I will not lie. I've never been able to do the boxers. I think there's a skill that goes with that.

10. Favorite website? I'm a huge fan of Disney and Disney Theme parks, so I find myself going to the Disney Theme Park nerd website a lot where everyone goes on message boards and talks about what's going on at the theme parks. The website is called wdwmagic.com. I love it!

11. Superman or Wonder Woman? For the crush factor is Superman, but I kind of love the toughness and kick-ass style of Wonder Woman.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

12. Favorite ride at an amusement park? All my Disney friends are going to hate me for this, but, it used to be Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios in Disney, but I just had the pleasure of going on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal. It's the most unbelievable ride I've ever ridden in my life.

13. What's the weirdest thing you've read about yourself and where did you read it? A friend of mine was writing a bio up for me for a show I was doing and he went to my Wikipedia page (I didn't even know I had a Wikipedia page, but I guess someone made it for me) and he said I think you should go to your Wikipedia page because somebody wrote something about you that I'm not sure is true. I said okay...so someone had gone to my Wikipedia page and wrote that he and I were living together in Hell's Kitchen and he was my boyfriend of like four years. First I was like "Oh my God" and then I thought that was kind of sweet, but it was very funny.

14. What's the best advice you've ever received? "The person who you stand above today is the person you'll stand below tomorrow." My mom taught me very strongly and at an early age that you treat everyone the same and you treat everyone the way you want to be treated. I'm glad I learned that and that I apply that because there's certainly been times where someone was an intern on a show and a few years later they're producing something and I think Thank God I was kind to them and I wasn't like oh you're just an intern or a PA, because those are the people who are going to run the world. I see a lot of my peers not stay true to that and pay for it later.

15. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? It would be my partner Michael. He's really amazing and been so good to me.

Michael Hirstreet

Bill Graber