Thursday, February 15, 2018

2018 Interview with Playwright Phil Olson


Playwright Phil Olson is best known for his popular, hilarious DON’T HUG ME musical plays written with brother Paul Olson, that are crowd favorites wherever they are performed.  His comedy, A NICE FAMILY GATHERING, played at Group Rep Lonny Chapman Theatre in 2016, has been nominated for an NAACP LA Local Award for Best Ensemble.   Phil shares with us some details about his life as a writer and how “Don’t Hug Me, We’re Family” came about.

written by Steve Peterson

When did you start writing plays?  Do you have any favorites?

I wrote my first play “Crappie Talk” in 1997. I was 40 years old. I got a late start. I currently have 15 published plays, 9 of them are published by Samuel French. It’s hard to say which play is my favorite. They’re like children to me. With that, I have to say, “A Nice Family Gathering” is at the top of the list because it’s such a personal story. It’s about my family, and because it has played in 140 cities around the world, I’m thrilled that so many theatres have embraced it. It’s also been optioned to be made into a movie which is very flattering.

It’s been more than 20 years since you wrote “Crappie Talk” with a storyline and characters that continued in your “Don’t Hug Me” series of musicals.  What generated the idea to go back and turn the play into a musical?

I loved the story in "Crappie Talk", and it had a nice run at the Group Rep Theatre playing for 16 weeks. It was my first play, and even though it did very well commercially and won a lot of awards, there were problems with it that I wanted to fix. I cut down the number of characters, cut down the number of scenes, added 14 original songs (with my brother) and orchestrated 12 radio jingles. Since the setting is the same as that in the "Don’t Hug Me" musicals, the other changes came fairly easily.

What is the premise of "Don’t Hug Me, We’re Family"?

Set in a little north woods Minnesota town, the host of a radio show devoted entirely to ice fishing loses his only advertiser while his wife, a popular host of a book show, has a lot of advertisers, putting the competitive couple at odds. Their marital problems are compounded when two, fish-out-of-water, Brooklyn Italians come to the rural Minnesota town, buy the radio station, and turn everything upside down.  It's "Fargo" meets "My Cousin Vinny" without the blood or the trial lawyers.

What do you want the audience to take away with them?

First, I want them to have a great time. It’s a fun, uplifting musical that will hopefully bring a little cheer to the audience. There’s also an emotional element to the story that’s personal to me that I hope has an impact on the audience. And, of course, I’d like them to hum the songs as they drive home, and then tell all their friends to go see it.

Is there anything you wished had been asked about you or about the play?

The story was inspired by journalist Charles Kuralt who, during his travels around the country, bought a little radio station in Ely, Minnesota, up near the Canadian border. I thought it would be funny if two New York outsiders came to the little north woods Minnesota bar, bought the radio station and collided with the locals. And yet, even though their cultures are very different, they have a lot in common.

Don’t Hug Me, We’re Family runs February 16 – March 25.  Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m.,   & Sundays at 2:00 p.m.; $15 - $24.  Buy tickets: donthugme.brownpapertickets.com or 818-850-9254.  Don’t Hug Me, We’re Family is a guest production at Theatre Unlimited (T.U. Studios), 10943 Camarillo St. (just east of Vineland) North Hollywood. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Andre Barron Interviews Anna Ziegler


The Road Theatre on Magnolia is proud to present the West Coast premiere of Anna Ziegler’s exciting A Delicate Ship. The play opened officially Friday January 19 and runs through March 11. Over the course of the run we will spotlight the director and members of the cast. This week the light shines doubly on director Andre Barron and playwright Anna Ziegler, as we present an interview that Barron recently conducted with Miss Ziegler. Director Barron won BWW LA 2016 ‘Best Direction” for Edward Albee’s “The Play About The Baby” at The Road Theatre Company.

Andre:
The Road Theatre Company is excited to present the West Coast Premiere of “A Delicate Ship.” What was your initial inspiration for writing the play?

Anna:
I remember wanting to write a play that took place in a single evening. I'd never done that before. And I wanted the play to build to one major event.

Andre:
You really play with time and memory in this story. You appear to liquify the past, present and future. What are your thoughts on that concept and what are the challenges in it?

Anna:
These were definitely the challenges I set for myself.


Andre:
Your characters are very complex. There is an existential pain and questioning in the hearts and minds of these early 30 year olds. What are they searching for?

Anna:
As far as the setting goes, and the characters, I think I was in some ways inspired by the building where my husband grew up. I didn't grow up in an apartment building, and it always sounded so wonderful to me, the experience of having some of your best friends so close at hand, these friends you practically live with who become like siblings. It felt very romantic to me. So I wanted to peek behind the curtain at one of those friendships.

Andre:
Sarah is such an interesting character. There appears to be such an interesting arc in her character. She is faced with many difficult decisions moment by moment throughout the story. With every win she appears to lose something along the way.

Anna:
I would agree with your assessment.

Andre:
The character of Sam is such an anchor throughout the story. While Nate is the storm at the center of the play. Two completely different men.

Anna:
Yes.

Andre:
You are having such a renaissance now in your career. Your play ACTUALLY at The Geffen Playhouse was very successful resulting in several Ovation nominations including Original Playwrighting and Best Play. I thank you for all your support on our production and I will see you at The Ovations!

Anna:
Thank you. Yes. I will see you there!


Don’t miss A Delicate Ship! Reviewer Gil Kaan had the following to say about the play on BWW: Barron smartly directs the action as a continuous build until...(no spoiler alert here) a conclusion. As in Ziegler's other recent play ACTUALLY, all her characters possess questionable, very human characteristics, very open to interpretation
THE ROAD ON MAGNOLIA
Located in the
NoHo Senior Arts Colony
10747 Magnolia Blvd
North Hollywood
(818) 761-883
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(PARKING: Limited parking in NoHo Senior Arts Colony as well as ample street parking)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

2018 Interview - Larry Eisenberg

Larry Eisenberg is the winner of this year’s BroadwayWorld Award for Best Director of a Local Play, Lost in Yonkers, at Group Rep. He earned his MFA from CalArts, received a DramaLogue Award for the world premiere adaptation of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Stories for Children and has directed numerous productions at GRT. His favorites include Lost in Yonkers, Poor of New York, Trip to Bountiful, Over the River and Through the Woods and his original play, Nautilus, which was later turned into a feature film. He currently serves as one of the two Co-artistic Directors at The Group Rep. He is at present directing/rehearsing The Chinese Wall set to open January 26.



Tell us about the background for the play.

The play takes place in the year 220bc, in the court of the first Chinese Emperor, Tsin Zhe Huang Ti, called "The Son of Heaven, he who is always in the right."  He has just completed construction of the Chinese Wall, "The Great Wall" that has been designed and constructed to keep the barbarians of the steppes from polluting and threatening the culture of China.  In order to celebrate his great achievement he has invited a huge array of characters from literature and history to the Emperial Palace.  Included are Romeo and Juliet, Napoleon Bonaparte, Philip of Spain, Pontius Pilate, Christopher Columbus, Don Juan Tenorio, Marcus Brutus, and the Ingenue of the Seine.  Also invited, is an American Contemporary who tries to explain to the Emperor that in a modern, nuclear age, the building of walls is not only useless but very dangerous. 

The Chinese Wall was written in 1946, essentially as an anti-fascist play.  It explores the possibility that humanity was in danger of being completely eradicated by the (then recently invented) atomic bomb.  It challenges long-held nationalist aspirations that we have seen recently take hold here in America and elsewhere in the world.

It was revised in 1955 and translated into English in 1961.  I performed in a college production of The Chinese Wall in 1965 and have been aware of several productions at various LORT theatres throughout the years but for the most part it has never received the same critical stature and longevity of some of Frisch's other plays, which include his masterpiece, Biederman and the Firebugs.

Why did you choose it?

On the day Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, The Chinese Wall immediately jumped into my brain.  The parallels are obvious; an obsessive, megalomaniacal narcissist pandering to nativist xenophobia, who thinks that shutting out, shutting down and shutting up whole segments of the world's population is a reasonable method for securing a nation, fits exactly the description of Max Frisch's Chinese Emperor.  The play is a farce and it seems to be a direct reflection of the farce that is unfolding today in Washington, D.C.

Theatre is an expressive art form and The Chinese Wall is the perfect vehicle for expressing our revulsion of the current administration and a very precise lens for magnifying and ridiculing those bozo's who currently lead our country.  It is also a warning.  When you have morons brandishing nuclear buttons and using them to compare dicks, it provides endless entertainment and chuckling around the water cooler but it is also a warning that we may very well be on the brink of  total annihilation. 

What is the play's message?

You can't solve the problems of the 21st century using methods that became obsolete in the third century A.D.

What challenges does it require from you as director?

First there is the size of the production.  There are over 40 speaking roles and 23 scenes.  We had to come up with an approach to manage the breadth and scope of the script.  We've got it down to 20 actors playing multiple roles and we decided to treat this as if it were a small theatre company telling the story rather than trying to actually represent the Chinese Court.  Gender and ethnicity have been completely ignored and our entire approach removes the fourth wall so there is a great deal of interaction and direct communication with the audience.

When the play was originally mounted, nuclear proliferation was in its infancy and all the conversations were fresh.  Today the nuclear conversation seems a bit dated and we've made a real effort to trim away some of the polemics.  I've chosen to use multi-media as much as possible, both as a method for moving the story and also to highlight the current events that we want to inform our production.  This show is as much about Donald Trump as it is about the Chinese Emperor so we've decided to use current references whenever possible.  Fortunately, these are being supplied on an almost daily basis by the current administration. 

As I say, we've trimmed down quite a bit of the text and tell much of this story using video and slides.  Setting up and programming three digital projectors to operate simultaneously was very challenging but they have helped us keep things moving and pare down what might otherwise be a three hour extravaganza into what I hope will be an entertaining production that will come down in about an hour and forty-five minutes.

How does it fit into the mission for Group rep?

Lonny Chapman famously said, "First to entertain, and then to illuminate the human condition."  Our patrons will tell us if it's entertaining.  Given the chaos and constant consternation generated by the current occupant of the White house, there is little doubt that The Chinese Wall can "illuminate the human condition."

The Chinese Wall opens Friday, January 26 at 8:00 pm, runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm, Sundays at 2:00 pm. Talk-back Sundays:  February 11 and February 25 after the matinee.  January 26 – March 11.  Admission: $25. Seniors & Students $20.  Groups 10+: $15. Tickets & information:www.thegrouprep.com or (818) 763-5990.  Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Boulevard, North Hollywood

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Hypocrites' Pirates of Penzance



Pasadena Playhouse, the State Theatre of California, reinvents its theatre to present Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, as reimagined by the Chicago theatre hooligans The Hypocrites.  This wacky beach party – with flying beach balls, rubber duckies, ukuleles, banjos, plastic swimming pools, and a tiki bar – brings the audience on stage for a night they won’t forget. Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan is presented by Pasadena Playhouse in association with The Hypocrites.  It is adapted and directed by Sean Graney; co-adapted by Kevin O’Donnell and with music direction by Andra Velis Simon.  

Cast member Dana Omar answers my questions below to put you in closer touch with the Hyprocrites company and their mission.

Tell us about the Hypocrites. How long they have been reinventing shows? 
The Hypocrites have been around for an awesome 21 years. They are a company that is known for their offbeat and innovative adaptations of anything from Shakespeare to Gilbert and Sullivan to Chekhov to you name it. This company really has done an excellent job of paying homage to the original pieces while bringing it into the 21stcentury. We have also had success taking shows like “Pirates of Penzance” and “Our Town” from Chicago all around this country.  It is also a company that takes theatre to new places it has never been before. A couple years back we did a twelve-hour adaptation that Sean Graney wrote called "All Our Tragic" (that sold out), which was an all-day event encompassing all 32 surviving Greek tragedies. It is a great example of what The Hypocrites are capable of: taking theatre and bringing it to a new and exciting level while making it accessible for all.

Are musicals a favorite?
You know, The Hypocrites actually don’t do a lot of musicals. Most of the time it’s predominately plays. I know with this particular musical, Sean (Graney) read the script and just fell in love with it and had a vision. And thus, this particular wacky “Pirates” was born and we are all so thankful for it and the joy it brings.

What will physically have to be altered at the Playhouse to accommodate the changes in Pirates? 
I’m not entirely sure since I have yet to see it, but I do know there are accommodations being made to fit our promenade audience on stage with us. And for those that have never been to a promenade show before, it’s when the audience is onstage with the actors. They are like our eleventh cast member every night which makes the show even more exciting. There are still seats that are an option too if promenade is too risky or not physically possible for an audience member. But I do highly recommend roaming on stage with us. There really is no other theatre experience like it. 

Why do they feel the need to turn a show upside down, into a wacky production? Is it to make the younger people in the audience happier?
This show really is for all ages. And we’ve taken it enough places to know that there is something in it for everyone. Sometimes, and this is just by design, theatre can feel distant and less accessible. The seats are so far from the actors and there is an inherent fourth wall. The way this show is set up is so immersive that it makes theatre tangible for everyone. Since we acknowledge the audience (really no choice but to since they are on stage with us), there is an element of human connection that is really fulfilling and gratifying for both parties no matter the age. It creates a mini community for a short amount of time that is really joyous to be a part of. 

Gilbert and Sullivan is unforgettable in its musical style. I assume that the music is staying intact?
Well, yes and no… haha. The words (for the most part) and music numbers are absolutely intact. We cut some songs and music to fit our truncated version. The instruments we use are kind of all over the map with guitars and string instruments being the base for most of the show. We incorporate typical woodwind instruments but also have surprise moments with atypical instruments like the musical saw. Like most of The Hypocrites productions, we pay homage to the original piece but give it a new and fresh voice with our modern sound. 

Talk about audience interaction.
The promenade nature of the show gives an outlet for audience participation. You have the choice to be physically a part of our show being onstage with us or in the fixed seats but we acknowledge you regardless.  We always say “we won’t pretend that you aren’t here, so you shouldn’t pretend you aren’t here either”. This whole show is one moving machine and honestly the audience is the engine. The participation really takes the show and makes it shine. There have been some incredible moments of our audience singing a-long with us (which we highly recommend) that have been the most rewarding moments of my career. There was one time in Boston where The Pirate King was singing “I am the Pirate King” and there was a break where we insert a joke that the audience was unaware of and so the music stopped for a moment. And the audience had already started singing the next verse out loud as if they were in their room singing alone. Unexpected things like that happen often and it only adds to the magic of the show.  

How would you like to conclude?
This show continues to be a labor of love for all of us and we are so excited to bring it to a new place.




The Hypocrites’ Pirates Of Penzance at Arizona Repertory Theatre. // Photo Courtesy of The Hypocrites


Pirates plays at the Pasadena Playhouse from January 23 to February 18.  Tickets are now on sale at pasadenaplayhouse.org or by calling 626-356-7529.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Playwright Bess Wohl Discusses Small Mouth Sounds

Playwright Bess Wohl whose Barcelona proved so controversial during its engagement at the Geffen Playhouse in 2016 has a new play Small Mouth Sounds opening at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica January 11. In our conversation Wohl discusses her play in depth.


Tell us about Small Mouth Sounds and what stimulated you to write the play. What is its message?

I was first inspired to write Small Mouth Sounds when I went on a silent retreat with a close friend. The retreat was her idea-- I had no idea what I was getting into, and didn't even realize we were going to be in silence. I remember that by the very first night, I was interested in writing about the experience. Something about the obstacle of being in silence coupled with the intense need from all of the retreat participants to find some kind of answer, felt like it could be fertile ground. I hate to reduce a play to any one "message," but as I've come to learn about the piece along with my collaborators and audiences, I am discovering that the play seems to be about (in no particular order) the difficulty and joy of human connection, the search for meaning or "enlightenment," and the ways in which we do or do not change. Is change impossible or inevitable? Or, somehow, weirdly both?

How do you feel audience will respond to the silence? Will they be able to figure out all that is happening without hearing words? 

When I first began sharing the piece with audience, I had no idea. Early workshops of the play were very instrumental in teaching me how people watching the play would interpret it. I would poll audience members afterward to find out what they had understood, what was unclear, and where they felt the story was over-explained. As the play has been performed more and more, it's been fascinating to watch audiences engage with the detective work of watching the play. This is definitely a play that demands some effort from audiences, and in many ways I think what they take away from it is very personal, and directly related to what they put in. I am interested in the way that, in silence, we all project our own opinions, predictions and biases onto each other. It happens all the time in life, and it happens when you watch plays. My hope is that the act of watching the play and actively solving its mysteries is part of the pleasure of experiencing it.

Barcelona was fascinating because from moment to moment I did not know what would transpire. I feel the same intrigue will be present in this play as well, maybe even more so.  

I have always felt that part of the fun of watching any play is the simple joy of not knowing what's going to happen next. That sense of possibility and anticipation, and even in some cases misdirecting the audience, is something I love to explore in my writing. I try to think of every story-- no matter the genre-- as a mystery. I like to try to create a sense of intrigue about human behavior, no matter how small. Why do we the things we do? Will we overcome or succumb to our worst impulses? There are mysteries everywhere in daily life, and I'm interested in leaning into that feeling onstage. I think so much of the drama and tension of exciting theatre can be reduced to a simple question: "What's going to happen?"

Do you have a mentor playwright? Someone whose work has stimulated you to create? 

I come to playwriting from an acting background, so most of my early teachers were acting teachers. From acting I learned an inside-out approach to character that has helped me a lot as a playwright. I tend to try to put myself in each role and imagine if I could find a path through it as an actor, and that helps me find where the holes in my writing are. In general, I am deeply inspired and stimulated by the work of my peers and friends. Anytime I go to the theatre, it pushes me to create and tell my own stories.


Tell us about the cast and director and what special work they are bringing to the play. 

I have been so lucky to work on this piece with incredible collaborators-- actors, designers, Rachel Chavkin, the director-- in every stage of development. Since the play has so much silence in it, each collaborator has brought important elements of story and texture throughout, and Rachel has been instrumental in shaping the rhythms and flow of the events with her own impeccable sense of music and pace. The current cast of the play is absolutely glorious in their ability to rigorously maintain the essence of each character, and yet find little moments of personal flair and interpretation. This play has no room to hide; there is no way for an actor to coast on dialogue but be mentally or spiritually elsewhere. They have to be fully invested or the play doesn't happen. Their deep commitment, great skill and ability to be completely present with their full hearts and souls is a beautiful thing.

For tickets and further info, visit:

http://www.thebroadstage.org/smallmouthsounds

(photo credit: Joanna Eldredge Morrissey)



Monday, December 4, 2017

Interview with Actor Jonah Platt

Actor Jonah Platt is a young man of many talents that include acting, singing, writing and directing. He is currently preparing to play the Lythgoe Family Panto of Beauty and the Beast to open Decmeber 13 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.




Tell us about the role you are playing in the Panto of Beauty and the Beast.

I'm playing the Beast! He's the angry, hairy one.

How are rehearsals going? Have you ever done Panto before?

We haven't started yet, but I'm excited to get going. I've never done Panto before, but I've done a ton of improv so I'm excited to get to interact with our terrific audiences.

What do you think makes Panto different and so special during the holiday season?

It's a familiar story, it's fun for the whole family, it's got contemporary music hits everyone loves, plus a little holiday magic. Sounds like a perfect recipe to me.

How did your production of Dog Sees God turn out? 

It turned out better than we could've hoped! We sold out our entire run at the Hollywood Fringe and were awarded a Fringe Encore (meaning, we had been such a commercial and critical hit, that Fringe wanted us to do more shows!) We ended up extending our run and doing a whole additional slew of shows, all of which were also sold out. The playwright himself, Bert Royal, came to see us and said it was one of the most "exquisite" productions he'd ever seen. 

Was this your first direction? Talk about your young cast and your challenges.

I've directed in various forms all kinds of things throughout my life, most recently the musical improv show One Night Stand, in which I also performed. We performed across the country and sold out multiple Edinburgh Fringe Festivals. I absolutely loved working with my young actors on Dog Sees God -- they were so talented and so passionate about the material and bringing it to a wider audience. They trusted me a ton, which made my job a lot easier. I'd say our greatest challenges were teaching these actors what's expected of them at a truly professional level in terms of preparedness, promptness, pitching in to help the company, etc. They all have so much experience performing in schools and community theaters, all at a high level, but most had never really taken part in a fully independent professional production. But they all learned and grew immensely and I'm so proud of all of them and the work we did! Several of our actors are up for local BroadwayWorld Awards, and I myself was nominated for Best Director If you want to vote for me, I'd love that!

I'll see what I can do! Tell us a bit about doing Bare.

Bare is a really special piece of material that means a lot to so many people. Getting to be part of the Bare family, as "Jason" in the Los Angeles revival, is such an honor. A lot of talented performers have been through the Bare revolving door, and I'm just glad I got to bring Jason to life in my own way, and to hopefully touch some people with the amazing story. Plus, my Bare crew are still some of my closest LA theater friends - it's a very special connection. It really opened up a whole new world of LA theater for me.

What is the role you've enjoyed the most?  Why?

I have to go with 'Woof" in HAIR (at the Hollywood Bowl). It was just the most special 10 days of my life. Doing a show that's all about The Tribe, in the most intensive rehearsal period, with such an incredibly talented group of performers, in front of my hometown and crowds of 18,000 people, singing about letting the sun shine in and bringing to life this incredible piece of theater that still resonates 40+ years after it's creation... it was so liberating, so fulfilling. Plus, I met my now wife doing it! She was the assistant choreographer and dance captain. She walked down the aisle at our wedding to an arrangement I wrote of "I Believe in Love". How's that for special!

That's special! Do you have a favorite show of all time (doesn't have to be one you've done)? 

It changes a lot! I'm pretty partial to Sunday in the Park with George and West Side Story. More recently, I'm a big fan of Fun Home and of course Dear Evan Hansen! As a composer/lyricist myself, it's hard to choose just one favorite. There are elements I like from so many! 

What about a favorite composer?

My ideal hybrid composer would have the innovation and emotional storytelling of Stephen Sondheim, the complex accessibility of Stephen Schwartz, the lush unpredictability of Adam Guettel, the simple beauty of Richard Rogers, and the contemporary groove of Jason Robert Brown.

That's a great answer. Is there a role you are yearning to play?

One word: Hedwig.

What's up next for you?

I'm going to be doing a concert or two in the first quarter of 2018, in Baltimore, New York and Los Angeles. Additionally, the musical I'm co-writing, The Giver, will be having its second reading early in '18 as well. But no acting gigs lined up yet...


For more information about what Jonah is up to/appearances/shenanigans, follow him on Twitter & Instagram @JonahPlatt, and sign up for his mailing list at www.JonahPlatt.com to stay in the loop!
And of course, go to the Panto of Beauty and the Beast at the Pasadena Civic opening December 13.

For tix and info visit:

https://www.ticketmaster.com/lythgoe-family-pantos-beauty-and-the-pasadena-civic-pasadena-ca/venueartist/90157/2394451#!


2017 Interview with Actress Peri Gilpin


Actress Peri Gilpin, best known as Roz on the now classic TV series Frasier, is currently preparing to open at the Pasadena Playhouse in a radio play of Miracle on 34th Street December 15. She took time out of her busy schedule to talk about her role in the play, her director Cameron Watson... and of course, Frasier.



LET'S TALK ABOUT MIRACLE ON 34th STREET AND YOUR ROLE IN IT.

I am playing Doris Walker in a Radio Play version of the 1947 film. The way the story was told has always struck me as very original. It’s almost like a commercial for a sermon about a commercial for a department store. But, because it never denies that about itself it stays relevant, rooted in authenticity, and honest. It also feels so American. Doris is a very buttoned -up single Mom. She works as an “EXPERT P.R." person for Macy’s department store. This working, single mom with a high powered job doesn’t feel anachronistic if you are familiar with Katharine Hepburn or Maureen O’Hara, the original Doris Walker, movies, but by more recent standards, she does feel unusual. She has very, very, strong opinions about parenting. There is no ex-husband or father to her daughter in the picture at all. No emotional life. Emotions are silly. And life is pragmatic and on schedule! She seems perfectly capable of juggling all of the responsibilities of parenting alone, excelling at a very creative and demanding job, being put together like a Vogue model, keeping her home immaculate, getting dinner on the table and keeping her daughter neat as a pin, adorable, respectful, reliable and thoughtful. The fact that this woman is doing all of this on her own, (even given talented art, scenic, costumes, hair and make up departments) somehow, is what exonerates her from being despised as an overbearing mother, determined to control and dictate her daughter's every thought. Especially her thoughts about SANTA CLAUS! Doris wants to protect her daughter and we can see that in her actions.

IS THIS ROLE CHALLENGING OR DO YOU RELATE READILY TO THE MOTHER OF THAT LITTLE GIRL?

I relate in big way to this character as the mother of two thirteen year old twin girls! But that is pretty much where Doris and I part. I struggle with the basics of parenting. When I am working, my parenting skills get even sloppier and I wouldn’t presume to ever tell my kids what to think. Though I can be persuasive if I have strong feelings about something, I would never go so far as to tell them whether or not to believe in Santa Claus. Of course I want to protect my kids from anything negative or anyone who might cause a negative experience for them (even though I know I can’t). I also have a fantastic partner in my husband, who is always there for all of us and is the best dad I’ve ever met. That is the fundamental difference between Doris Walker and me. I have empathy for her. Raising kids alone has to be the hardest job in the world.

WHAT IS THE MESSAGE OF THE PLAY IN YOUR OPINION?

The message is about Faith. Faith in love. Faith in yourself. Faith in others. Faith in the future. Faith in the things you want. Faith means believing in something even though you can’t see it, hear it, touch it, smell it or taste it but you can feel it. Faith in what you feel. Faith in Faith.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR DIRECTOR AND CAST.

Well, the director, Cameron Watson, is like family. He is one of my oldest and dearest friends. The cool thing is, he is my kids’ Godfather and I know how he feels about Christmas, the Holidays, the Season and Santa. He is a fantastic director. I’m lucky to get to return with him to Pasadena Playhouse. The last time we were here we did AS BEES IN HONEY DROWN together. So this is meaningful in many ways. Beth Grant and Jim Rash and Larry Poindexter are old friends and Alfred Molina, whose performances in too many movies to name, I’ll try… Enchanted April, Not Without My Daughter, An Education are always revelatory, and he made me laugh so hard once backstage at a benefit I have willed this.

WHAT ROLE DO YOU REALLY WANT TO PLAY ONSTAGE OR ON FILM OR TV? WHY THIS PARTICULAR ONE?

I have never been able to answer this question. Whatever it is, I’m looking forward to it. And thank you for asking because I do believe in putting it out there!

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE CHARACTER YOU HAVE PLAYED? A FAVORITE PLAYWRIGHT? WHY THESE CHOICES?

Well, I have to say I loved playing Roz Doyle on "Frasier". It is so amazing to me when I watch it now how much the character is written like a very good friend of mine. None of the writers knew her, but I always thought of her when I was making choices. I used to say it often. But Roz was very much a woman of her time. So, we all knew people like Roz in those days. I hope that women like her never again seem out of the ordinary. Extraordinary women are the norm and extraordinarily written female characters should be the norm! I recently played Mrs. Page from THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR at a benefit for a Shakespeare Theatre here in Los Angeles and rediscovered that Shakespeare is my first love and will always be my favorite. Endless feels.

IS THERE ANY TALK OF A "FRASIER" REUNION? DO YOU THINK THE SHOW MIGHT COME BACK LIKE WILL AND GRACE? WOULD YOU WANT IT TO? TALK A BIT ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCES ON THAT WONDERFUL SHOW.

It’s always a pleasure to talk about "Frasier" because it was so much fun in every way. Every member of the "Frasier" world was a character in their own right. There was over 5000 years of combined experience, there were second generation comedy writers and the first generation was there too and there were writers there who went almost as far back in TV as you can go. The creators of the show cut their teeth on some of the iconic shows of the 70s...And that isn’t a reference to age, but to experience and wisdom and knowing what plays. There were young whippersnappers there too experimenting and trying to keep up and hoping to "hit one out of the park" and succeeding and also feeling like losers because they were young and inexperienced. Just the way it ought to be and the way it always is. And it was that way in every single department. There has always been talk of a "Frasier" Reunion, even when we were doing the show. As on every show! And there has always been a certainty that there will never be one. As much as every one involved would love it and probably wishes it could be.

Miracle on 34th Street will play from December 14, 2017 - December 23, 2017. For tix and more info, visit: