Penny Fuller began her Broadway career starring in Neil Simon’s "Barefoot in the Park," and the original casts of "Cabaret," "Rex," and "Applause," for which she received a Tony Award nomination for the role of "Eve Harrington." Her television work garnered six Emmy nominations and an Emmy Award for ABC’s "The Elephant Man."
Her more recent Broadway appearances include Horton Foote’s "Dividing The Estate" and Neil Simon’s "The Dinner Party" (Tony nomination). Off-Broadway, she has been seen in "Love, Loss, and What I Wore," Nicky Silver’s "Beautiful Child" at the Vineyard, "Southern Comforts" at Primary Stages, and "Three Viewings and New England" at Manhattan Theatre Club. She has played a variety of roles in regional theater including "Amanda" in "The Glass Menagerie," "Arkadina" in "The Seagull," and "Claire" in "A Delicate Balance." She returned to musical theatre in William Finn’s "A New Brain" at Lincoln Center. Other musical credits include "A Little Night Music," "Do I Hear a Waltz?," and "Sail Away" in London. Since 2001 she has collaborated with composer, lyricist, and cabaret director Barry Kleinbort and has embarked on a new career phase as cabaret artist in New York clubs and theaters.
Now Penny and Barry are teaming up again for the New York City premiere of "13 Things About Ed Carpolotti" at 59E59 Theaters. "13 Things About Ed Carpolotti" tells the tale of newly widowed Virginia Carpolotti who gets some shocking news—her husband Ed left her in perilous debt to shady bankers, mobsters and embezzlers. Now an anonymous blackmailer wants a million dollars, or else!
"13 Things About Ed Carpolotti" will play at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenue) from December 4-30. Click here for tickets!
1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? My great uncle, William David, who was a character actor on Broadway, first made the theater REAL to me. I adored Vivien Leigh in the movies and then discovered she acted on the stage as well. Consequently I was SERIOUS about it all, and I went to Northwestern University to study with a great and renowned teacher, Alvina Krause.
2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? It is impossible to name them all!!!! One who is now gone: Oskar Werner!!!
3. What attracted you to "13 Things About Ed Carpolotti"? I had done the play, THREE VIEWINGS by Jeffrey Hatcher in 1995. It was 3 monologues; mine was the third. I loved it; I asked Jeff back then if he would make it possible for me to do it separate from the other two. He tweaked it so that it stood alone. I never got to do it in that form. About a year ago I got the idea of musicalizing it. Again, I went to Jeff Hatcher; he said, "Go ahead."
4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? I hope it will be a complete and satisfying experience: a deep love story with humor and suspense, familiarity and a bit of inspiration.
6. What excites you about performing at 59E59 Theaters? I love the sense of community there! The three theaters are teeming with different people and events; then everyone meets at the E Bar…like a big party…to celebrate being part of that special exchange and experience that happens in theater.
7. You have been working with Barry Kleinbort (who wrote the book/music/lyrics and is directing "13 Things About Ed Carpolotti") since 2001 when you started performing your cabaret act. What initially made you want to start a cabaret act? How did you come to work with Barry on this? What has been the best part about working together? What is it like to work with him on "13 Things About Ed Carpolotti"? "If you ask me I could write a book!!!!!!!" I remember right after 9/11 thinking: "Singing would be helpful." (I am not exactly sure what I even meant, but perhaps the experience of hearing, perhaps re-living musical memories or experiencing new ones might help heal). Then, I was asked by the musical director, David Gaines, if I would like to sing a song for a CD for "Jamie De Roy And Friends." Barry was the director. He later suggested we do a cabaret. Eight shows and years later…here we are. Last year I read Barry "13 Things…," and said: "Do you think this could be a musical?" I KNEW that if it could be, Barry would be the man to do it. I knew he would not corrupt the "integrity" of the piece: he would not just ADD music, but would "weave" music into it. To my mind he has done so. It is hard to believe that it was ever NOT a musical. Our working together on 8 cabaret shows has made us able to talk and work in "shorthand." We have similar theatrical ethics, taste, and history. We have been artistic associates at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Cabaret and Performance Conference, teaching together. Our collaboration has been a miraculous "accident!!!!"
8. What is your favorite part of the rehearsal/preview period in a show? Where is your favorite place to rehearse on your own? I just love the rehearsal process in general: discovery and revelation. I guess I like to rehearse in my living room. Ask my neighbors!!!
9. You have been nominated for several Tony and Emmy Awards throughout your career as well as winning an Emmy Award for your work on ABC's "The Elephant Man." What does this recognition mean to you? When I think I haven’t done anything or enough…I remember that others didn’t think that!!!!!
10. You guest starred on "Melrose Place," one of my favorite shows in the 1990s. Looking back, what did you enjoy most about being on the show and getting to work Aaron Spelling and Daphne Zuniga? I was fortunate that I got to work lot for Aaron Spelling. He was a quiet giant!!! Regarding "Melrose Place" it was hard to "steal the baby" of such a famous character. People GLARED at me on the street!!!
11. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? This question seems to confound me. I suppose I have learned that one (that is, I) must be clear and specific in communication and I need to keep working on that!
12. What's the best advice you've ever received? From Mildred Natwick: when something goes wrong on stage DON’T TRY TO FIX IT OR SAVE THE SITUATION!!!! GET OFF!!!!!
13. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? Hmmm...maybe Shakespeare? I am not sure as I don’t sleep that well anyway…anyone interesting might keep me up!!!!
14. Favorite way to spend your day off? NOT DOING CHORES that haven’t gotten done! Feeling free to explore…the city, the museums, going to movies and concerts…just being free to take in and fill up again!!!
15. Favorite skin care product? Anything from Bella Schneider’s La Belle Salon in San Francisco!!!
16. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? Save the world or just be a better person and artist.