Halloween is one of my favorite holidays of all time! If I'm not going out, I love curling up on the couch watching some of my favorite Halloween-themed shows such as the Halloween episodes of Beverly Hills 90210 or Beauty and The Beast or It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. But I also love telling and hear ghost stories. The theatre is rich in ghost stories! Practically every theatre has a story which is why I was so excited to get to do this special interview with two of my fellow theatre reporters: Steve Schonberg (Center on the Aisle) and Laura Heywood (BroadwayGirlNYC).
They are hosting Ghost Light: Songs and Creepy Stories from Broadway and Beyond To Get You in The Halloween Spirit at Feinstein's/54 Below on Friday, October 30 at 11:30pm. In addition to Steve and Laura, this show will feature Daisy Eagan (Tony Award winner, The Secret Garden), Keala Settle (Tony Award nominee, Hands on a Hardbody, Waitress), Christina Sajous (Spider Man: Turn Off The Dark, Baby it’s You), Doreen Montalvo (On Your Feet!, In The Heights), Stacy Sullivan (2015 MAC Major Artist award winner), and Brian Losoya (Lindsay Mendez & Ryan Scott Oliver’s Actor Therapy). Click here for tickets!
1. On October 30, you are co-hosting Ghost Light: Songs and Creepy Stories from Broadway and Beyond To Get You In The Halloween Spirit at Feinstein's/54 Below. How did you come to join forces for this event?
Steve Schonberg: Laura and I are friends so I asked her almost immediately after the idea for this show at Feinstein's/54 Below came up, I asked if she'd be willing to join me for it. We are incredibly similar--our energies, our dedication to informing and entertaining fellow theatre enthusiasts and our somewhat obsessive work ethics! I know that will translate into a great time for the audience as soon as we take the stage together, along with these incredible performers. I can't wait!
Laura Heywood: We've wanted to work together for a long time. As two BIG personalities, we knew we needed an event that had an element of being "over the top" for our first collaboration. Halloween seemed like the perfect opportunity, since we'd both be dressing up and being silly anyway. Why not do it together and make it a show?
2. Joining you in this concert are the spine chilling talents of Daisy Eagan, Christina Sajous, Doreen Montalvo, and Brian Losoya. How did you decide you wanted their haunting talents for this show? What makes them "Halloween enthusiasts"?
Steve Schonberg: Well, it started with Daisy Eagan--a friend and artist I respect and admire a great deal. She was the first person I asked (via text message mind you, ha!) and within minutes she said yes. I knew of Christina Sajous from Baby It's You, but hadn't met until Lauren Worsham introduced us at the Williamstown Theater Festival this summer. They were both in an incredible new musical there called Unknown Soldier, and I realized Christina, besides being an outrageously talented performer, had also played "Arachne" in SpiderMan-perfect for a Halloween show! Same with Doreen and Brian, they're talented artists who caught my eye--Doreen was performing with another close friend, Stacy Sullivan, and I told Stacy--I want her in my show!
They're all Halloween enthusiasts because each one of them, just like each one of us, has a deep love of the holiday. We all grow up with it from childhood, we trick o' treat, we pull pranks and maybe act a little mischievous at points (if not, you're not doing it right!), and each of us in the show have a story - from cute to chilling - that makes us want to connect our love of it to our love of the theatre.
Laura Heywood: Steve did all the programming. I'm so impressed and excited about his choices.
Laura Heywood: When Steve and I were looking at the dates Feinstein's/54 Below had available for the show, we realized the 11:30pm show on the 30th was perfect. First off, it's in the time-honored tradition of the late night shows, a la Rocky Horror, plus it'll end in the wee hours of Halloween morning. Perfect all around for the theme!
4. Out of all the stories you are telling in this show, which one freaked you out the most?
Steve Schonberg: The story of Olive Thomas, the famed ghost of the New Amsterdam Theatre. She's said to have been a performer in the Ziegfeld Follies, who died from swallowing mercury pills. She's pretty infamous among the casts and crew who work there, especially for brushing up against or whispering in the ears of men who work there--she's a flirt! One occasion scared someone so much, he quit on the spot. She'll cause mischief too, like turn out all the lights. There's a photo of her by the stage door, which the cast and crew say "Good night" and blow a kiss to as they leave. Apparently they say it's best to stay on her good side.
Steve Schonberg: Actually, the show was inspired by a theatre ghost, David Belasco's to be precise! The idea came after Broadway star Melissa Errico posted a memory on Facebook about rehearsal for Dracula the Musical. Apparently, a pipe burst, flooding the theatre, and when the fire department showed up the said, "it must be Belasco's ghost again!" I had never even really thought about theatre ghosts before, but said to Melissa it'd make a great show concept, and she suggested I email Jen Tepper at Feinstein's/54 Below, and well, here we are just a couple of weeks out from the performance.
Laura Heywood: There was a rumored ghost in the theatre at the University of Puget Sound, where I was an undergrad. I could see the props storage room window from my dorm room, and the light would flicker in the middle of the night, when no one was there. I had a part time job as a props coordinator, so I was one of a very small number of people who had a key. Occasionally, when I saw the light go on, I'd throw on some sweats and get to the theatre as quickly as I could, bounding up the three flights of stairs to the props room. No one was ever in the building, and the light would be off by the time I got there. It never scared me, though; in fact, on a couple of occasions I came down to the stage and lay next to the ghost light, spending an hour or so talking to the ghost (she never talked back, though!). It was a nice kind of mystical, theatrical therapy--and I don't think I ever told anyone I did it, until now!
Steve Schonberg: Obviously the Winter Garden, and audience members would see me floating around, reliving my childhood, dressed as the "Rum Tum Tugger" from Cats.
Laura Heywood: I love the Eugene O'Neill. I would be a benevolent ghost for sure; I'd deliver little gifts to the actors if they were ever feeling low.
7. One of the most famous ghost hunters of our time is Scooby-Doo. If he were to be put on a case to find out one creepy story from your own life, what story would he be sniffing out?
Steve Schonberg: One day when I was a teenager, we had been away on vacation and the night we got home my mom and I were alone in the house for awhile. I was upstairs by myself and suddenly I heard someone just a few feet from me, say my name. I ran into my room, and locked the door. Then, whoever, it was started knocking on the door--and then the weirdest part is the knocking suddenly ran down the length of the wall, as if the person was running in and out of the room next door. I was terrified. My mom came upstairs a little later, but swears no one else was there.
Laura Heywood: It would have to be the Puget Sound props storage room ghost!
Steve Schonberg: One year I went as Marlene Dietrich for Halloween...full drag and all. What a blast! Even more fun having to explain in an affected German accent who Marlene Dietrich was, and loving those people who already knew her as an icon of the silver screen.
Laura Heywood: One year in elementary school, I really wanted to dress up like a shower. I have no idea where I got the idea, but my mom & I made an elaborate costume. I was thrilled, especially since I was sure I'd be the only one with that unique costume idea. Then, when I got to school for the annual Halloween parade, an older kid had also dressed up as a shower. I couldn't believe it!
Steve Schonberg: If I had my way, it'd be those "Violet candies"--but I guess if I need to be mainstream here, I'd say "Sour Patch Kids."
Laura Heywood: Gummy cinnamon bears are my all-time favorite.
10. Theatre folks get to dress up everyday as they play characters on stage. In your personal opinion, what are some of the most popular Halloween costumes amongst the theatre community?
Steve Schonberg: Tried and true--"Elphaba"--In fact I just Googled it and it autofilled with the word "costume" so therefore you know it's legitimately a fact.
Laura Heywood: I've seen lots of Mormons with "Hello!" badges over the past few years. "Dorothy" is a consistent favorite, and there are always Phantoms of the Opera. But more & more I'm seeing fans who dress up as obscure characters that only their fellow superfans will recognize!
Steve Schonberg is an award winning media personality and journalist. Through his multi-channel platform "Center On The Aisle", and staff of writers, together they bring fans closer to stars and help them enjoy meaningful connections with Broadway, Off-Broadway, and cabaret shows through features, reviews and more. Steve serves as the theater expert for NBC "Today in New York", writes for TODAY.com, and is a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post where he does celebrity features. Steve is a recipient of the GLAAD Outstanding Documentary Media Award.
Laura Heywood views artistic audiences as collaborators, rather than customers. She leads social media accounts as conversations between artists and fans who are equally invested in the success of the works they love. With a decade-long background in national broadcasting, she understands the intersection of entertainment and dialogue; and how to encourage the passion and loyalty that lead to commercial success. As the brain behind twitter’s @BroadwayGirlNYC, one of the world’s most followed theatre-related social media accounts, Laura has proven her prowess in engaging arts lovers around the globe.