"oh what a tangled interweb we weave..."


Monday, November 29, 2010

Remembering Leslie Nielsen


This morning I was devastated to learn that Leslie Nielsen -- one of my favorite actors of all time -- passed away. Nielsen started off doing drama, then became famous for comedy. But what made him so great was an acting style that intentionally blurred the distinction between the two.

While it was "Airplane" that first publicly cast Nielsen into a comedic light, he did his finest work in the 3rd best movie of all-time, "The Naked Gun: Files From The Police Squad!" (The only two movies better are "Back To The Future" and "The Princess Bride.")

Playing the iconic police detective Frank Drebin, Nielsen employed every shred of dramatic acting technique he had acquired over the years to make Drebin as believably inept as he possibly could. Frank Drebin was never "in" on the joke -- and that's what made him so likable. Sure, other gifted actors could play the straight-man convincingly. But Nielsen's natural straight-faced-ness was a gift that no other comedic actor could ever compete with. Even Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau -- as brilliant as he was -- paled in comparison, because with Clouseau there was a blatant over-the-top-ness to the portrayal that could often take you out of the story being told. He was speaking with a fake French accent for crying out loud!

But there was nothing fake or artificial about Nielsen's Drebin. He approached every situation as any cop on the force would. For proof, look at this comparison between "Dirty" Harry Callahan and Frank Drebin:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4ui_eQF4oE&feature=related

This moment, like so many others of Nielsen's career, is brilliant not just because it wittily references a popular archetype, but also because it shows us just how silly some of those archetypes are. It's as if Frank Drebin was the main character of a classic hard-boiled cop story, where someone erased certain sections and replaced them with absurd substitutions. Instead of a gun, Drebin gets foiled by a pillow. Instead of commandeering a pedestrian's vehicle, Drebin ends up commandeering a "teen driving school" car:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C29-gLZLt9s

Now a lot of this credit should also go to Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker -- the creative team who made this movie and who, in one combination or another, maintained the spoof genre until it was spoiled in recent years.

But if there's any doubt that Nielsen was their best muse, just look at the efforts from other 'serious' actors they employed like Charlie Sheen and Lloyd Bridges in "Hot Shots!" Solid yes, but no doubt inferior to Nielsen's inimitable Drebin. Even Clouseau could be recast twice after Sellers (yes twice -- Steve Martin in recent years and Alan Arkin in 1968 after the first two Pink Panther movies), because Clouseau was at its essence an idea. An idea of a bumbling foreigner best inhabited by Peter Sellers but one that could be inhabited by other gifted actors as well.

Frank Drebin on the other hand is Leslie Nielsen. There is no other actor who could ever inhabit that role, and so let's hope no one ever makes the monumental mistake of doing a remake of "The Naked Gun." Instead, let's hope someone decides to rerelease it. That way, a whole new generation can revisit a wonderful movie and the genius of Leslie Nielsen.





Thursday, October 14, 2010

A House for the Naked

Hello all -

Long time no see. On this cold, rainy night, I wanted to share something that I had read a long time ago, but recently it's made a resurgence in my psyche.

Rumi's poem "A House for the Naked." Recently, when I re-read this poem, it invoked a feeling that I believe we should all have when we are witness to the creation of art. Sometimes with all the stress involved in putting together a show, it's hard to remember that feeling of community of the shared experience, but in a way this poem somehow reminds me. Enjoy.


A HOUSE FOR THE NAKED

It's late and it's raining, my friends;
let's go home. Let's leave these ruins
we've haunted like owls.
Even though the blind ones beckon us,
let's go home. All the reasons offered
by the sensible, dull, and sorrowful
can't darken our hearts now;
nor can all this phantom love play,
this imaginary paradise hold us back.
Some see the grain but not the harvest.
Don't ask too many "hows" or "whys."
Let Beasts graze
come home to the real celebration and music.
Shams has built a house for the naked and the pure.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Josh K. Interviews His Drinking Buddies! Episode 1: Playwright Steven Gridley


Welcome to the first episode of
JOSH K. INTERVIEWS HIS DRINKING BUDDIES!

Every week or month or however long he feels like, At Play writer Josh Koenigsberg goes drinking with his buddies and interviews them. Some are artists, some are not...all are fascinating!

This week Josh sits down with playwright Steven Gridley (a.k.a. Leegrid Stevens) to talk about Steve's upcoming play "The Dudley's!" which is playing from August 22-30 at Theater For The New City (155 1st Avenue).

First a little about Steve:

Steven Gridley's plays have been seen in several downtown theatres such as HERE Arts Center, Ontological-Hysteric Theatre, Theatre for the New City, Altered Stages, CSV Cultural Center, and Spring Theatreworks’ DUMBO space. His plays and have been published by Playscripts, Brooklyn Publishers, Smith & Kraus, and by Martin Denton in his 2004 Plays and Playwrights Anthology. Steven was recently named as one of the “People of the Year 2005” by nytheatre.com saying "Indisputably one of the smartest and most innovative young playwright/directors working in New York's indie theatre scene.”

And a little about his play:

The Dudley's! A Family Game is an evocative new play that translates the adolescent memories of a young man into a malfunctioning 8-bit video game -- the kind he used to play as a child. A life-size video game onstage provides the setting in which the characters must score points and overcome obstacles as they navigate their way through the dangers of their own family.

Josh and Steve discussed playwriting, religion, and whether or not Steve wanted another beer as they drank at No Idea -- a bar on 20th street between Park and Broadway, close to where Steve works.

JOSH: So check it out, it looks like this place has its own brew. See the one called "No Idea"?

STEVE: Oh yeah. Huh.

JOSH: You think it's good?

STEVE: I don't know.

JOSH: I already ordered a Blue Moon, otherwise I'd get it. You wanna try it?

STEVE. Um...sure.

(STEVE orders, gets, sips the beer)

JOSH: How is it?

STEVE: It's pretty good actually. Yeah it's...yeah pretty decent. Here, here's some money.

JOSH: Nah, it's cool. I'll get the first round, you get the next.

STEVE: Okay, sure.

JOSH: (Fumbling with recorder) Wait, let me just check the levels. Say your name out loud I guess?

STEVE: Okay, uh...Steven Gridley.

(JOSH plays it back)

JOSH: Oh yeah I heard everything, everything we've done up to this point actually. That song ["No Rain" by Blind Melon] is playing sort of loudly in the background, but that's okay...

(JOSH fumbles with recorder again.)

JOSH: All right great so...the first thing I want to know is what the impetus of this play was. Did you start it as sort of a writing exercise or did you sit down and say 'I have this play I need to get off my chest.' Did you know what it was from the second you started?

STEVE: No I didn't. Not at all. And in fact I thought this was gonna be two separate plays. Cause I started getting into the "Chip Tune" scene where these guys hack into these old videogame consoles like Atari and NES and make music out of it? So I started searching eBay for old consoles and then started making music and I thought I was gonna make a videogame play that was gonna be a re-enactment of The Battle of Marathon?

(They both laugh.)

STEVE: And then when I was at Columbia [in the M.F.A. playwriting program], we started doing writing exercises and I started writing these scenes related to the video game play, but that for some reason included members of my family also, and the two ideas started fusing together. And in another class we had to write a new play, so I just kind of decided this would be the play I would write and banged out a draft.

JOSH: And how did your family seep into it?

STEVE: Well you know how those writing exercises are.

JOSH: (Chuckles) Yup.

STEVE: It's stuff like, y'know, "close your eyes, picture yourself sitting near a window and think about somebody that did, y'know, something bad to you."

(They both laugh.)

STEVE: And so the things that came up were family stuff. And so I'd write these scenes about my life but in a video game world cause I was still interested in writing this video game play, but...what was the original question?

JOSH: Yeah it was...yeah I don't remember. I think it was about your family. I mean originally I asked if you wanted to try the beer this place made, but--

STEVE: Yeah so it was when I realized I wanted to write a whole play about a family in a videogame, which is based on my family, but became its own thing. I drew whatever I wanted from my family and I changed whatever I wanted.

JOSH: Right.

STEVE: For the sake of the play, y'know.

JOSH: Right, yeah. So you mentioned Columbia, where we both went and where I first saw the play presented, um, well over a year ago, right?

STEVE: Yeah. A reading in Kelly[Stuart]'s class.

JOSH: So what's changed since then?

STEVE: Uh, quite a bit! (Chuckles.)

JOSH: Right no. I guess what I mean is was that time off useful for you? How did you, y'know, develop it more.

STEVE: Well it didn't really have a central focus other than that it related to this certain event...that happened.

JOSH: Uh huh.

STEVE: And so I started working with directors, this one in particular [fellow Josh K. Drinking Buddy] Matt Torney who, um, started trying to focus it in on who the central character is, whose story is it. And so it started becoming the two brothers' story and everything related to them as oppose to saying "we're gonna go follow the aunt for a couple of pages." All the characters are still in it -- it's just that all their parts of the story relate back either to the brothers or the main family.

JOSH: Right. Now you yourself are sort of in this play. There's sort of a version of you. Is it fair to say that?

STEVE: Yeah...

JOSH: What was that like? I mean did you know you were gonna put yourself in it or did it just sort of happen naturally?

STEVE: Um...I didn't mean to do that, but when I started writing these exercises I could tell that I was writing myself a little bit. Well it's kind of hard because you have to have a certain amount of...not self-loathing but...

JOSH: But A LOT of self-loathing.

(They both laugh.)

STEVE: Yeah, it's like "sometimes I really suck." Um, so I would write these things in this play that I did or that I thought I was ashamed of and felt bad about. Things that are related to how the character who is basically me hurt other people. I just wrote it, y'know? In a weird way I feel like I was, I don't know, I was pretty hard on myself? It felt, in a way as I was doing it, like sort of an apology.

JOSH: Well it's funny because at least in the previous versions that I've seen, it seems like you're hard on yourself in a plot sense. Y'know in the sense that you do certain things that impact other members of your family. But the characteristics of your character are not unappealing.

(STEVE laughs.)

STEVE: Yeah "he's funny, he's quick!" y'know...

JOSH: (Chuckling) Yeah I mean he's a very appealing guy. He's a guy that I think we most relate to in the play -- despite the things that he does to other people.

STEVE: Yeah I mean I can't say that I didn't want to make him, y'know...

JOSH: The coolest guy in the world.

STEVE: (Chuckling) Yeah exactly.

JOSH: So have rehearsals been tense?

STEVE: Well, it's funny, y'know when you're working on material that's really emotional to you there are times when an actor might doing a really good job and re-enacting, I don't know, something in your life maybe and it's gonna get you, and it's like "man..."

(STEVE stops, as the memory gets him. Long pause.)

STEVE: (Chuckles) It's getting to me here...but uh, you keep moving and you just have to be okay with that. I feel like a lot of writing, especially for me, is kind of like 'confession' in a way. Where you just spill your guts, write something emotional that you care about and y'know, just sort of close of your eyes and go forward with it. Cause when I'm writing I don't sit there thinking, "what's mom gonna think about this." I mean that's what I think about now. Now that's all that I'm thinking about: "what's mom gonna think about this."

JOSH: Right. Was there anything in your life that you wanted to include, but maybe for fear of how it would come across, you didn't get a chance to?

STEVE: (Sighs) Yeah, yeah...

JOSH: A few things?

STEVE: (Sighs) Yeah a few things...

JOSH: And what are they?

STEVE: (Not taking the bait) Well whenever you're developing a play to the next stage, you just have to cut things because they kind of don't relate to the arc? So you literally just have to find what the story of the play is and then be a little cruel to the rest. And write another play with that stuff in it.

JOSH: Does your family know about this play?

STEVE: Yeah they know. I felt like the play would not be too hard for my brother or my sister to read, so I gave them the script. But I was really worried about my mom. And I still am. And so she hasn't read it. And she was trying to come down to New York to see it. And now she's not. And I'm kind of like "okay." But it might be going up again. And she might be planning on seeing that version?

JOSH: Yikes.

STEVE: Yeah I really just, y'know, it's tough cause I really like the character and in some ways it's very different from her, but I'm worried that my mom will feel that this is what I think of her. That this is my statement on who she is as a person. When it's not at all! I just took some ideas and things that originated from things she had said and went my own way with it for the sake of a fun play.

JOSH: Yeah, one of the things that I really love about your writing is that it successfully does a balancing act of funny and sad -- especially in the scene where she announces at the dinner table that she's converting to Judaism. And they come from a Mormon family. And they've gone on a bunch of Missions.

STEVE: Yeah most of the family has pretty much left, at least emotionally, the Mormon world. Except for my character who's like "wait, what's going on? Nobody believe in the church anymore?!"

JOSH: Right he's like "how can you switch your religion when you forced me to go on Missions where I literally converted hundreds of people?!"

STEVE: Right and now suddenly you don't believe in Jesus Christ anymore.

JOSH: And did that really happen?

STEVE: Yeah, that really happened.

JOSH: That happened to you.

STEVE: That happened to me. Well see that wasn't me. That was my brother. But I was there. See my brother went on a Mission and he really didn't want to. He went to Taiwan. And came back and my mom was in the midst of converting to Judaism and he got really angry. What's not in the play is that she wanted him to go back, while she was converting to Judaism.

JOSH: To finish the Mission?

STEVE: Yeah and he was like "are you kidding me?! You don't even believe in this stuff anymore!" But she thought he needed to mature and grow up, so...

JOSH: Now, but you've been on several Missions yourself.

STEVE: Yeah see, for me, I really believed it. I went and I was all gung ho like "Yeah this is really the thing!" And then I came back and I was like really confused for 7 or 8 years. Eventually I guess I just sort of fell out of it. But uh yeah I went to Portugal and converted a lot of people.

JOSH: So did this play come out quickly?

STEVE: Yeah it came out quickly. I sat down, wrote it once. Felt pretty good about it and made adjustments. But I haven't done major major re-writes. I had all these stories and these things I'd been thinking about for a long time about a family losing their identity because of the death of the father. And then everybody's changing their last names and their religions. And it just sort of makes me think about what would've happened if my Dad had not died. I wonder sometimes...

JOSH: The play has a really tight structure. When you write, how much are you aware of structure?

STEVE: Not aware at all. When I write I have to just write on instinct--

JOSH: Yeah totally, me too.

STEVE: And follow a feeling and hope it's tying together. And it takes me a while to then realize "oh -- this is all about how people deal with grief." But I didn't know that when I started. I rely a lot on the emotional feeling and if it doesn't feel right emotionally, then I just stop and work on something else.

JOSH: Why do you think the videogame angle was (chuckles) an entrance point into your family? I mean it's not really an intuitive idea but it works.

STEVE: Yeah. I went to this concert as I was getting into the "Chip Tune" scene and in the lobby there was this guy who had hacked a Super Mario Cartridge and he made his own, like, Super Mario Movie. This guy's name is Corey Archangel. I recommend this movie to everyone. And it was like Mario standing on a completely empty sky, standing on one of those question marks.

JOSH: Right.

STEVE: And then this dialogue would come up and he says, "I have no idea what to do. If I jump, who knows what will happen. But if I stay here, I'll be alone forever."

JOSH: Like an existential Mario.

STEVE: Yeah existential Mario. And he goes "Fuck it. I'm jumping." And so he jumps and then he just falls for like minutes. And then finally lands in this crazy, fucked up world. And he's trying to figure out what the point of the game is. That movie really influenced my play. And I was like "this movie really reminds me of how I was feeling when all this crap was happening to me with my family." It takes this innocence -- stuff you were told to believe when you were young and Mario -- and turns them around and shows what's happened after that innocence is broken.

JOSH: Right. That's so interesting. Cause we've all played Mario and when you think of it that way, it's a really terrifying game.

STEVE: Yeah it's a coping mechanism in a way. Where you don't want to think about somebody with cancer. But if you turn them into a zombie that you have to kill, y'know it makes it less...I don't know I felt like that related to how you feel when you look at somebody that's about to die.

JOSH: Yeah. You want another beer?

STEVE: No, I gotta go home soon.

JOSH: Gotcha. Yeah the videogame angle makes a lot of sense when you talk about it like that.

STEVE: Yeah I wanted to portray a malfunctioning videogame that made no fucking sense. And you're just trying to figure out "what is the point of this game?" And "I just want to win!" (Chuckles) "How do I win?!"

JOSH: It's like whether you're told to hit the question mark box or go abroad on a Mission to convert people.

STEVE: Yeah and see I had just come from two years of knowing exactly what the point of life was.

JOSH: Wait two years?!

STEVE: Two fucking years. Going out, talking to people, and converting them Mormonism. And I was fairly successful. It wasn't hundreds of people, it was like 20. But which is amazing in Portugal because they're staunch Catholics. I think they average for most Missionaries is like 2 people?

JOSH: Wow. And you got 20.

STEVE: Yeah. 2 years, 20 people. Brazil's easier. You can get a lot more. But Portugal's a tough Mission. So I came back home after 2 years, my Mom is becoming Jewish, my Dad is dying. Nobody knows what's going on. And my sister is changing her last name just cause she didn't like our last name. And everything is falling apart.

JOSH: And so you fell out of Mormonism. And what's with the pen name [Leegrid Stevens]?

STEVE: Well I know some people would be hurt. What is this going out on? Is this going on like a website?

JOSH: I'm gonna type this up and it's gonna go on my theater company's blog.

STEVE: Okay. I do worry that people might be hurt about certain things. Like my Mom. Although she would never get really angry and take like legal action. But I do worry a bit about certain other people so I started writing under a pen name.

JOSH: And do you want this to be under your pen name?

STEVE: Yeah it should be. Well. I don't know, you can put whatever. Yeah I don't think it really matters. I'm not that known.

JOSH: Not yet.

STEVE: Well. It's sort of why I like writing. I took this class with Craig Lucas at Cherry Lane awhile ago and he said something I've never forgotten that I thought was great. He said, "If you wanna be healthy -- tell one person all your secrets. And if you wanna be free -- tell everyone." And so for playwriting I just want to go all out. Say what you want to say as if you were talking to somebody who knew you and loved you, y'know?

JOSH: Yeah. So you want another beer?

STEVE: Nah, I gotta get home to Erin.

JOSH: Gotcha.

For more information about "The Dudley's!" and to buy tickets, visit http://playthedudleys.com/tix

Monday, July 5, 2010

Introduce Yourself, Matthew Hadley


Theatre or theater? 

Haha, I went through a whole phase where I tried to make "theatre" happen (as in even kind of pronouncing the "truh" at the end).  These days, I'm happy when I can manage to find time to sit in a darkened room and watch people bring a playwright's words to life--regardless of whether its highbrow, classical standards--or kitchen-sink drama.

Strangest theater-related job? 

I actually haven't had a ton of theater related jobs, having put my acting career on hold for the time being.  But the strangest theatrical experience I ever had was doing a show (the name of which escapes me) where the performances started every night at 10pm, in a basement in NoHo; my character was called "Rooster" and the final moments of the show were a choreographed, heroin-fueled, dance sequence in which all the characters came back from the dead in order to torment the heroine-lead during a drug fueled frenzy.  Come to think of it...that might actually qualify as my most fun theatrical experience.  Haha!

What experience made you want to become an actor? 

I can't pinpoint an exact moment.  It was more like a gradual succumbing.  I did theater in high school, and enjoyed it, got lauded with a bunch of silly awards, and ultimately decided wouldn't it be fun if everyday I went to play instead of work?

Very first role on stage? 

Kaiser.  Kidding.  Uhhh, lets see that must have been when I was 10, and played the emcee in my church's production of "Look In the Book"...my first, and last musical.  But, as they say "a stahhhh was born."

Tragic flaw? 

Of mine or theaters?  I suppose they might be one in the same...I'm terrible at this whole making theater a money making venture, and I suppose thats the fault of theater as well--its just not designed in a way that the majority of people who want to do it, and are good at it, are able to make a living at it.  Shame really; if we were more civilized, like the Europeans, there would be subsidies for artists--because THEY realize arts are vital to the health of a culture.

If you were a 1980s television show sidekick, who would you be?

You expect me to remember TV shows from the 80s?  I was barely alive back then...my knowledge of 80s tv consists of Smurfs, Gumby and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  And because of that, I'll say "Pokey".  Always loyal to his good friend Gumby, never one to say an unkind word, and willing to carry his friends on his back when they need him!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tales from the Orchard Project pt.1


This is Josh. The Dog Whisperer. Mostly, he sang to him. So the Dog Singer. But only after a few cups of Belarussian Fire Water. Mmmm

And that's Gus - the sweetest resident dog at the Orchard Project. He even did his own monologue. I'm not kidding. It was genius, and written by our new friends from Paines Plough in London. They were delightful chaps! There was also a piece about a Ware-bear and Milwaukee's Best cleverly titled "The Beast" - who knew the Brits could write bad beer culture so well.

But let me take it back just a bit - that was all after we got cozy.

Our first few days at the Orchard Project were amazing. Amazing in the fact that we just kept repeating to ourselves "Guys, we're at the ORCHARD PROJECT." Not to mention it was gorgeous and the drive was so beautiful. Well, for some of us - I'll let Zoe tell her story about their epic journey. So we sort of walked around in a daze - soaking up the creative energy and catching up with each other.

What was great about this trip - about At Play really - is, as Sherri said, "You never know what you're going to get." And that applies to this trip as well. Originally, 12 At Play members were supposed to make it up with us. The final tally - 8: Devin, Zoe, Josh, Sherri, Mary, Stephanie, Julia, and myself. It could have easily been a completely different group and they may have worked and completed things in a totally different way. And I feel safe in saying that it probably would have been just as brilliant.

There are so many possible combinations for At Play collaborations - and all of them will output different products. And all of them will be fresh. That's what makes us exciting.

I also love our "other" new catch-phrase:

At Play: Why the f*ck not?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cataloging

Some things you may have missed if you didn't come to the Orchard Project:

Reading monologues in the ruins of an old church overrun by wildflowers.
Belarussians.
Getting shady looks from the 12 remaining residents of Hunter, NY.
Devin's one-eyed jack breakfasts.
Bunkbeds.
Morning coffee and artistic discussions on the porch.
Julia's musings on speed limits. Ummm, 80?
Popchips.
Mapping out a new game plan for the gallery plays that includes commissioning artwork from artists of all mediums.
Smores.
Zoe and Mary drinking straight vodka, using graham crackers as chasers.
Josh leading drunken campfire songs, including, but not limited to, I've Had the Time of My Life and almost the entire canon of the Beatles.
Josh then stepping on a Belarussian's glass of tequila and then exclaiming "Hey, you're not in our company!"
Vodka thirsty Brits.
STARS!
Zoe's claims that she's "a really good drunk driver".
Everyone smoking Kelcie's American Spirits.
Setting in motion a short film project using some of our favorite past At Play pieces.
Sherri's emphatic new slogan, "At Play: You never know what you're gonna get!"
Stef's hungry goblin impression.
Burritos.
Cookie dough ice cream.
Stef and Sherri's rendition of the Belarussian's song and dance.
Reading the beginnings of a beautiful screenplay by Kelcie at 1am.
The fastest paced hike known to man.
Skinny dipping in a secret mountain waterfall pool with Julia, Devin and Mary.


Some things you may be glad you missed if you didn't come to the Orchard Project:

Flat tires.
Raccoon eyed sunburns.
Leaving your phone on top of the car.
Going to pick up your phone from the dude who found it and bringing a bottle of wine as a thank you and then realizing the "dude" was 15 yrs old.
All of your clothes smelling like campfire for the latter half of the week.
Leaving.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Introduce Yourself, Devin Norik


Theatre or theater?  

Devin or Devon? 

Strangest theatre or theater-related job?  

Scoopy the Pelican.  Is that enough? 

What experience made you want to become an actor?  

I don’t know that there is one experience where I wanted to become an actor.  I think there are many experiences that have made me want to be something:  skiing powder through Utah’s mountains made me want to be a ski bum; helping my dad tend his vegetable garden made me want to be a farmer in San Luis Obispo, California; and eating scones and clotted cream in the south of England made me want to be a baker with a British accent.  Unfortunately, I have never been any of these things, but I have day dreamed what it would be like to become all of them.   

Very first role on stage? 

The head broom in my pre-schools staged production of Disney’s Fantasia.  I was the original broom that circled the audience before being joined by my million broom friends. 

Tragic flaw?  

My need for a bottomless cup of coffee. 

If you were a 1980s television show sidekick, who would you be? 

Hobie Buchannon is the lively son of Mitch Buchannon, single dad and L.A. lifeguard extraordinaire.  Hobie is devoted to the beach and somehow always manages to bump into trouble, even when he’s not trying to. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Introduce Yourself, Sarah Ries


Theatre or theater?

Theater.

Strangest theater-related job?

I once music directed a musical based on a video game where the characters would, at random points, burst out into operatic songs while fighting each other warrior-style. Wearing capes. That was pretty fucking strange. But it reminded me of the landlord's dance cycle from the Big Lebowski, live, in front of my eyes, so it was also awesome.

What experience made you want to become an actor?

I grew up in a family of musicians, and my dad was an artist, so I started out singing with my grandpa's band and such at a very young age and have wanted to be a performer ever since I can remember.  For a few years in high school I thought I'd be a lawyer, but I was very dedicated to performing in college. I stayed after senior year to play Evita, which was a huge challenge, and a special experience for me. That show prompted me to take the leap into the professional world.

Very first role on stage?

I don't remember what came first. Maybe a peasant girl in Missoula Children's Theater's production of Hans Christian Anderson. I remember it was so exciting when they came to our town to do a show!

Tragic flaw?

Perfectionism. I'm working on it. lol

If you were a 1980s television show sidekick, who would you be?

Hm... this is not so much a sidekick, but... Rainbow Brite!! Rainbow Brite, definitely! She had boots with rainbows on them. Amazing.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Introduce Yourself, Malcolm Madera


Theatre or theater?

I like -re.  But we'll see how Disney spells it when they buy the registered trademark for it. 

Strangest theatre-related job?

Helping train police cadets and foreign presidential body guards.  I'd be a suicide jumper or a drunk or dude off his meds and a young police cadet would try and figure his way out through the situation with me rewarding or punishing the poor youngster based on his/her actions.  Or I'd be a VIP who got picked up in a motorcade and taken around town and given tours of this, that and the other, and it always ended with an assassination attempt on yours truly.  Good times.

What experience made you want to become an actor?

I saw Peter Pan on stage when I was 3 and never wanted to grow up. 

Very first role on stage?

The stoner in a D.A.R.E. play?  Or maybe it was Humpty Dumpty.

Tragic flaw? 

I smoke like a character from Madmen.

If you were a 1980s television show sidekick, who would you be?

"Howling Mad" Murdock from The A-Team.  I'm crazy like a fox.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Introduce Yourself, Zoe Anastassiou



Theatre or theater?

Θέατρο (theatro) avoids the "re" versus "er" battle -- and of course it's used to mean both in Greek so not sure where along the line this difference emerged....hmmm interesting...OPA!

Strangest Θέατρο related job?

I have had many odd experiences – I remember I worked for a summer rep company in MD and when my show was not up then I had to house manage the matinees where most of the audience were elderly patrons and so had to be in charge of helping them understand things, quiet them in the performances, and even consul them and their farting in the theatre!

I know people won’t forget me being cast as a gay man in a monkey suit with a green sock to resemble a zucchini that was supposed to resemble a penis!

I also remember being cast in a piece where I along the way became the producer, co-writer and assistant director, and then discovered why – the other actor in the piece turned out to also be the director and the writer and kept assigning me more and more things so that he could be around me all the time! One day he handed me a script where the character name I was playing had now been changed to my own full name which felt strange but I went with it. Then the following week he said he had written a love scene (in a very psychological/political play) and that he wanted to spend rehearsal “practicing” the kiss so it would appear authentic. He kept saying he wanted to “practice” the kiss not “rehearse” the kiss! So, I confronted him and he admitted that he had looked me up online and saw a photo of me playing a librarian in some play and it had really aroused him so that’s why he cast me, and hired no one else, for anything, because he apparently had a librarian fetish. And he wanted to date me. Here I was working my arse off to sort out the space, fundraising, learning my lines, and it was all a bunch of baloney! Needless to say, that play never happened! But he did call me on and off for nearly three years after trying to “re-connect”!!!

What experience made you want to become an actor?

I grew up on movies. Watching movies was, and still is, almost like a family outing/adventure/event. We would watch them all the time – which is why my DVD collection is HUGE!! I am obsessed with movies! I used to apparently watch them and then re-enact them all the time too – I have witnessed this on family videos! It’s quite funny! I also noticed that I was an attention grabber – the parents would be filming my cute little younger brother and I would literally steal the poor boy’s thunder in every shot!! I don’t remember the moment I made the connection that I want to be an actor – but it was never a question. I do wish I had some defining experience/moment though that I could pinpoint.

Apparently it was very obvious that is what I was going to be since I used to put on “plays” in the garden at home and make everyone at the house who was there for dinner come and see it – they actually had no choice! I would lay out chairs and glasses of water for everyone and put on all kinds of performances. Apparently also, if someone spoke or laughed or I perceived someone as not paying attention, then I would throw a fit and start from the beginning again as their punishment! I can picture my spoiled little self doing that too!!

It’s funny how movies were, and still are, my love, yet, there is nothing like performing live and having people watch you – I do remember figuring that out very young – that I had the ability to make people laugh or cry or feel something. And that was exciting!!

Very first role on stage?

I actually don’t remember officially – I would love to know what my first role was, but was way too young. For some reason I do recall playing maybe a bird or duck #3 (I could totally be making that up!!). I know I went to all girls’ schools in London all the way until 18 so the joke was I played all the male roles – I even got an award as “Best Honorary Male Actor”!!

Tragic flaw? 

You mean flawS – which leads directly into the fact that I apparently am very self-negative – the first thing that comes out of my mouth as an automatic response to a compliment is always NO! I like to think of myself as realistic or what I call “pessimistically optimistic” but I will admit that I do need to work on that. I am also very self-critical and too nice and….I could go on forever! See what I mean!! Tragic L

If you were a 1980s television show sidekick, who would you be?

Well, since I grew up in Europe, the two television shows that I used to watch every day after school were the Australian sitcoms “Home and Away” and “Neighbours” – that still play to this day!! They were so dramatic and hilarious!! LOVE THEM! I sadly don’t have one particular female character I wanted to be (I just wanted to be on the shows with them!!), but I remember watching it for Kylie Minogue when she was still on it!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Introduce Yourself, Jamie Klassel


Theatre or theater?

Yes.

Strangest theatre or theater-related job?

Well, once I was hired to play a large red M&M for an online M&M commercial that was shot on a pirate ship. It is very difficult to 'walk the plank' in a massive M&M costume. Oh, the things we do for a buck.

What experience made you want to become an actor?

I joined a community theater in Baltimore, MD when I was about 9.  I played Wendy in Peter Pan and my heart was a flutter.

Very first role on stage?

Summer Camp circa 1989. A flower in "Alice in Wonderland."  I cried backstage because I was so petrified. My sister pushed me onto the stage and I waved at my parents through the entire scene. 

Tragic flaw? 

My fear of the unknown.

If you were a 1980s television show sidekick, who would you be?

I wouldn't be a sidekick. I would be Punky Brewster and that's that.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Introduce Yourself, Mary Quick


Theatre or theater?

Well, I don't spell color with a u sooo....

Strangest theater-related job?

Hmmm...I guess it would have to be when I played an insane asylum inmate in my high school's production of Marat/Sade.  I spent the first 25 minutes of every performance curled in fetal position, hidden inside of a small, dark compartment of the platform, so that I could burst out (literally, as well as in song) in full clown makeup and dance around the stage singing about the French revolution...that's pretty strange, no?

What experience made you want to become an actor?

I'm not sure exactly when the inkling started...I was painfully shy in lower school, but we did a play almost every year and I remember wanting really badly to be the lead in The Secret Garden and our annual Nativity play (neither of which happened, much to the disbelief of my nine yr old self...ummm hello?  Both the characters were named Mary!) But finally in fifth grade I got the big part and then that was it - kind of crazy, but I haven't even considered doing anything else since I was ten.

Very first role on stage?

A Bumblebee.....in my first grade Rainforest play.....yeah, they ran out of animals before they got to me.

Tragic flaw? 

Hahahaha.  It's funny that you think I would reveal that.

If you were a 1980s television show sidekick, who would you be?

Who would I actually be or who do I want to be?  I choose to answer the latter...and that would have to be B.A. from the A-Team (for those of you not obsessed with this show as a child, it's the Mr. T character and his name stands for Bad Attitude).  Name me someone else who can kick ass while sporting a mohawk and his body weight in gold chains.  Really.  I dare you.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Introduce Yourself, Lauren Hines


Theatre or theater?

Theater.  I'm from Kentucky.

Strangest theater-related job?

Working at Sight and Sound Theater in Lancaster, PA.  It's a 2100 seat theater with camels, donkeys, and horses on this gigantic stage.  And the animals will use the bathroom.... mid show....on stage.... while you are singing, dancing or whatever and then a fully costumed stage hand will come on stage and clean up their mess and casually exit.  But. The. Smell. Will. Remain.

What experience made you want to become an actor?

I've wanted to be an actor as long as I can remember.  But it was solidified when I was an extra in a Jim Henson movie when I was in Kindergarten.  We were at Disney World and my grandmother was with us and this producer came up and asked my grandmother to be in the movie "The Muppets Go to Walt Disney World".  Apparently, their elderly grandmother actress had gotten ill and now they were trying to scrounge up one in the park.  She had to sit between the two old guy Muppet puppets, Statler and Waldorf, and Henson and another puppeteer had them sing her a song.  And I was an extra sort of dancing and swaying in the background by default as her granddaughter.  And I was totally nervous.  But I also remember thinking, "But if this is what you want to do when you grow up, you can't be nervous, you've got to just do it."  And. So. I. Did.

Very first role on stage?

Mary (Mother of Jesus) in the Christmas pageant at our school.  I sang the song "Joseph Dearest, Joseph Mine" but because I couldn't read well, during the rehearsal I sang "Joseph Desert, Joseph Mine".  And was corrected although I think my rendition would have had a much deeper meaning and therefore made the show more poignant.  No?

Tragic flaw? 

Pride.... and desserts. 

If you were a 1980s television show sidekick, who would you be?


Larry Appleton on Perfect Strangers.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Introduce Yourself, Rachel Helson


Theatre or theater?

Theatre. I like British things.  My facebook is set to the British version.  I’m a nerd.

Strangest theatre-related job?

I was once in a production of “Alice in Wonderland” where I played Humpty Dumpty, and the director decided that he wanted me to be demonic and speak in a voice like the girl from the Exorcist when she is possessed.  And no, for all those who were wondering, I had no mic, and the theatre was big. Try projecting the Exorcist voice on a two show day. That’s dedication, dude.

What experience made you want to become a writer/producer/actor?

I wear a lot of different hats. I act, produce and write, and I started doing each at different points in my life. I can’t really point to a specific experience that made me want to go into theatre. I read a lot as a kid, and I used to get sad whenever a book ended because I didn’t want to live in the real world all the time. Theatre was the next logical step.

Very first role on stage?

 A bird in “Cinderella” when I was six.

Tragic flaw? 

Too much awesomeness.

If you were a 1980s television show sidekick, who would you be?


Definitely, Donatello from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  I love the heroes in a half shell.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Introduce Yourself, Will Rogers


Theatre or theater?  

I say theater.  But I write theatre.

Strangest theatre-related job?  

My college was commissioned to perform a piece honoring the Wright brothers at the Centennial celebration in North Carolina a few years ago.  Two of my buddies were the two brothers and I was some ridiculous fictional character serving as narrator for the whole thing.  The cool part was we spoke the text from music stands in front of a full orchestra.  The music was incredibly beautiful, amazing to sink up with, and somehow fit perfectly with our ludicrous caricatures. And Andy Griffith was watching in the front row.

What experience made you want to become an actor/writer?  

Reading.  And watching movies.

Very first role on stage?  

Gumshoe Shake Speare, from the Omelet Murder Case.  7th Grade, a bumbling detective, prone to prat falls, in a spoof of Hamlet set in a Clue-esque mansion.

Tragic flaw?  

In the interest of keeping this blog positive for AtPlay, I will refrain from answering.

If you were a 1980s television show sidekick, who would you be?

Boner from Growing Pains... (see previous question)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Introduce Yourself, Melissa Joyner


Theatre or theater?

Theater, always E-R! Doesn't it make it seem elegant and important?! And honestly, how often does one get to feel that way?

Strangest theater-related job?

Strangest theater related job was an internship for an independent film company in London U.K. The horror film, CREEP was being filmed in the abandoned tube system in the dead of winter. My job, adorned in a man's navy jumper with flashlight and walkie talkie in hand: keep the curious public from wandering, stumbling, snooping onto the set. All the while keeping the director supplied with English Breakfast tea, steaming hot. He only liked it when I made his tea.  Apparently I steep a mean cup.

What experience made you want to become an actor?

Looking back I believe I've always been an actor and a singer.  What I discovered was that there was a title for what I loved doing. I've been doing this since I was 11 years old when my parents stuck me into the Venette Carol Children's Theatre, to give themselves a break from my "energy," and they haven't been able to drag me off of the stage since.

Very first role on stage?

"The Candy Man" at Banyan Elementary School. Imagine 17 elementary school kids shrieking, I mean singing, "The candy man, the candy man can, the candy man can because he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good" and me with a white apron handing out lollipops and gum made out of construction paper, glitter, and paste.

Tragic flaw? 

Spreading myself too thin. My father is always telling me, "Melissa you can do 20 things well or 2 things and be the best."

If you were a 1980s television show sidekick, who would you be?

My nickname in junior high into high school, "Laura Winslow" (Kellie S. Williams) on Family Matters, smart goody two shoes girl, (OK yes that sounds like me) and I did have my own "Steve Urkle" type.  He was a rapper not a scientist but did have a tendency to act out his professions of love in front of the entire school. I guess it wasn’t too much of a stretch.