Monday, April 5, 2021

ALL New Virtual Legends and Bridge To Stream April 30 and May 1



C. Stephen Foster played Bette Davis in Legends and Bridge to tremendous public and critical acclaim in 2002 at The Group Rep Theatre in Burbank. Foster penned the play and now almost 20 years later we may look forward to a brand new production. 

Dramatically Incorrect Theater Group & Dance Company
proudly presents the premiere streaming production of Legends and Bridge directed by Paul R. Gymziak. It streams April 30 and May 1st, 2021 at 7:30 pm (EST) Tickets cost $15. You may purchase tix at https://ditgdc.org


The play features an all-star cast that includes Valerie Schillawski as Joan Crawford, Debbie Moylan as Judy Garland, Jen Knight as Bette Davis. Matthew DeBettencourt as Madison. Steven Cristofono as Tennessee Williams and Mic Godin as the Cab Driver

Foster, who is also well renowned for the off-Broadway musical The Green Room and his self-help book Awakening the Actor Within, sat down recently and discussed the play in depth and how it has evolved over the last 20 years. 


We then chatted in detail with the new director Paul R. Gymziak and the three actresses playing BD, JC and Judy Garland.

Don G: Stephen, tell our readers what inspired you to write Legends and Bridge?

SF: Don, first off, it's a great pleasure to talk to you once more. Thaaaaaaank you. What I'm most excited about is the current production is being produced in Lowell, MA where Bette Davis was born! WOW!

The genesis of the comedy was born shortly after I had co-written, directed and starred in "Divanalysis: the mechanics of camp" (with Scott Wilkerson) in which I played: Bette Midler, Liza Minnelli, Karen Carpenter and Judy Garland. My entire frame of work back then was campy divas from the past. One day the image of Judy Garland, Bette Davis and Judy Garland sitting around a card table playing bridge thundered into my brain along with the title "Legends and Bridge." Now, I had played Judy Garland in "Divanalysis" and assumed I would play her in this as well. I had done extensive research into her life, career and knew her inside and out. I knew nothing of Joan Crawford or Bette Davis so I went to the library to do research and found they were mortal enemies! Great Material! So, I began to write the play on a vintage 1930's Underwood typewriter. The first draft of the play took place in the 1940s when they were all still under contract at studios and playing a social game. It was very much in the vein of "If Men Played Cards as Women Do" by George S.Kaufman. Very snappy, witty and stylish. I always imagined the play to be a drag show!

As my research evolved, I set the play in 1965 after Crawford and Davis worked together on "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" and after Judy was fired from her CBS show. Tragic! They were all old, washed up and down and out, but still hopeful. Still wanting the limelight, wanting fame and attention.

Around this time, through some fluke, I was in a play called "It Started With a Lie" where I played an old battle-axe and all the reviews compared me to Bette Davis and so I switched gears to play her! I learned how to BE Bette Davis!

I had formed a theatre company Off Hollywood where we did 2 scenes from the show (which is all I had written) and the other 2 roles were played by women, and we had a smashing success. I ran off to complete the play and shopped it around the local theaters in Hollywood and it got selected by The Group Repertory Theatre (directed by the great Stan Mazin) as part of their season. We added Tennessee Williams and Madison (the love interest) and bing, bang, boom a play was born!

The show was well-received, but has never been done fully by men in drag! I found out the play does just fine with women playing these legends. Many have said that the show is more than just camp, it's a show about survival. Women surviving Hollywood. I never thought of it as "deep" in anyway, but I guess it strikes a chord. The theme of the 3 legends being cooped up together might have significance with everything we've all been through with Covid. It might now resonate in a more profound way.

Don G: Do you feel that you have earnestly kept the characters' personalities in tact? When I saw it in 2002 you played Bette to great comic achievement. What made you decide to let an actress play her this time around?

SF: These characters have lives of their own. Their personalities leap out at the audience. I wrote the play after many years of research and writing. The main issue with comedy is to keep true to the subject you are writing about and not try to cram in jokes just to be "funny." Being an actor in the show helped me because I could tell when something worked or didn't work!

I gladly hand the torch over to those who want to play Bette Davis. Although, I mouth all the words along with them when they play her. It's fun to watch another actress step into those royal shoes. Jen Knight, who plays her in this production, packs a punch with her delivery of Ms. Davis. She's got her down! I think people will be pleased with how she smokes and delivers the one-liners.

I'm extremely impressed with director Paul Gymziak and the entire gang at Dramatically Incorrect who are doing amazing hybrid theatre shows due to Covid. The cast delivers new elements and surprises to the text.

Paul Gymziak is the owner of DITGDC. He is an actor, singer, dancer and director. Past work includes: “Noises Off,” “Clue,” & "The Green Room.”  He won the Olympic Mr. King award for dance.



Don G: Paul, it is a huge undertaking to direct this play. What are your biggest obstacles?

PG: I think that the biggest obstacle for me was casting. DITGDC is an up and coming theater and dance company. We have gained a lot of amazing talent over the past 3 years. Legends and Bridge calls for something more than just talent, it calls for a strong team of players that have a bond that can't be broken. I honestly didn't have auditions for the roles. My fiance and I reached out to a selected few actors. We then sent them all sides from the script to read. We asked them to make sure that they take this character and turn it into the real thing. As I watched the videos, I tell you the talent was on point with everyone but there were three ladies that stood out; Val, Jen and Debbie. These ladies did their homework and have really put their full game face on throughout the entire process. 

When I talked to each lady, we got into a conversation about the roles. For Example, Val was doing research on Joan. Not just any "let me look her up", she was studying Joan's interviews and her movies to get a good feeling on her mannerisms and little nuances. I remember she had sent me a video that had me laughing so hard and right there I knew she was the right fit. Jen and Debbie also had amazing videos and you can see that they also really did their research. These 3 ladies not only landed the roles of these Legends but they are also very close friends in real life. Seeing them on stage together will bring tons of laughs. 

Don G: Paul, this is a comedy, but the drama seeps through consistently. Tell us any secrets in trying to keep the actors on track.

PG: Diving into characters immediately so we can really sit with them. We can play around as the characters to get the feeling. You build in time to the process to allow for so much fun. Doing this allows you to be able to really work on the drama and comedy to make sure they mesh and read well on stage. Legends and Bridge was written by a smart man. Stephen Foster really knows how to engage an audience with his amazing writing talents and is pure genius in knowing these legends so well.


Jen Knight (Bette Davis) has been involved in north central Massachusetts theater for 30 years. Her favorite roles include “Hold Me, Touch Me” in “The Producers”, John Colton Sumner in “Men On Boats” and Marina Piskolovka-Parker in “Seven.”


Don G: What a role! Have you ever played BD before? What are your greatest challenges in bringing her to life?

JK: It is a wonderful challenge. My exposure to Bette Davis previous was her legendary longevity, her acting record, the song from my young adulthood, and Johnny Carson visits late in her life. I preferred light-hearted comedies and musicals, so my heroines from her era were Rosemary Clooney and Judy Garland and the like. Taking on the role has opened my eyes to her actual personality and drive. And she was a Pip! I admire her strength and drive. She was an Actress first and Star as a result.

One of the biggest challenges is not copying the playwright's interpretation of her. Stephen did such a wonderful job bringing her to life. I have to remember I am doing my own interpretation of the character from Paul's point of view. Not an imitation of him imitating her....I hope I make them all -SF, Paul and Bette- proud.

Val Shillawski (JC) an award nominated regional actress and costume designer. She has 6 projects in the works, a movie in July, 3 costuming projects ... and a coming soon “hush hush " project.

Don G: JC is an overpowering woman and...difficult. In many ways more irritating and controlling than BD. How are you preparing to play this role?

VS: Joan Crawford  worked constantly on her career and image, always putting them first. She was a perfectionist  when it came to her image and her environment with a controlling personality. She  was sent away to school, having to work her way through, She had that "up by your bootstraps'' attitude of hard work. Even so  there were stories of abuse, alcoholism  and narcissism.

A line in Stephen's  script says it perfectly: "I'd bottle myself and sell it door to door if it could help me get ahead."

I first researched online  for videos, candid interviews,  Pepsi  commercials,  her official Pepsi duties like plant openings, or an insight into  the person she  really was. She didn't give interviews on the popular talk shows  like Bette Davis, or  have at tv show like Judy Garland did. When you look at those snippets, you realize  she was  very thoughtful  and studied with her interviews. Occasionally a hard edge to her voice, a look for a question she didn't like. I wanted to find what might be under that facade: after all we all have  our public face  and our private  lives . I tried to imagine the stress of  maintaining that image all the time.. 

Who do you turn to? How do you manage  the  perfect body, perfect  life , all in the public eye?  I tried to relate  my own experiences  on managing  pressure and found  parallels . If you know me,  you know exactly  when I'm overstressed: my apartment gets an overhaul, I rearrange my living space. It is something I can control, when  nothing else is controllable. I've been nervous  when entertaining the CEO of  the company  my ex-husband managed.  Had a career change  in midlife. I've taken my own experiences, used them, and amplified them. 

The relationship between the 3  women is a game of give and take, Joan working toward  her comeback while Bette and Judy hoping this will be theirs as well.  Finding  the  nuances  in the script has been fun! Especially since  Jen {Bette} and Deb (Judy) and I  have been  friends and colleagues for years.

This part has been such a challenge, since everyone has an image of who she was, to bring her essence, good, bad, and sometimes extreme .  

Debbie Moylan (Judy Garland) is a long-time character actress, director of the critically acclaimed "Seven," and producer/director at City on a Hill Arts.


Don G: Judy Garland in many ways is the most challenging of the 3 roles to play, probably because she is so endearing. What do you like best about her and what is your process in trying to recreate her? Renee Zellwegger could not sing like Judy, but cornered her sensitivity as a human being. Where do you fit, in your opinion, into Judy's personality? What do you feel are her strengths and weaknesses?

DM: I’ve always loved Judy Garland - I watched just about everything she ever made even when I was a young girl. In order to prepare for this role, I began to watch and listen to a vast array of her work, from when she was young to when she was much older, and even some obscure recordings of her later years. I admire her passionate love of her children, even though she struggled in so many ways to be a mom. I also admire her ability to laugh through her struggles. 

I guess I see myself in that aspect of her life: using humor to survive the darkest times. It might be why I love character acting so much: that ability to create something that might be the direct antithesis of what I am experiencing personally. She lived in the tension of being so beloved, yet never truly finding love herself. This play balances on the tension of the humor in the script that is based on so much pain in her life. Trying to stay true to both is certainly a challenge!


Remember, Legends and Bridge streams April 30 and May 1st, 2021 at 7:30 pm (EST) Tickets cost $15. You may purchase tix at https://ditgdc.org



JOAN CRAWFORD, BETTE DAVIS & JUDY GARLAND 
attempt a comeback in the 
ONLINE screwball comedy
 
“Legends and Bridge”




Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Interview 2021 - Ana Isabel O

Brilliant scientist and writer/ illustrator of children's books Ana Isabel O has been my subject of many interviews over the years. She is so productive and prolific even in these hard times and recently released two new books. Instead of asking her a batch of questions, I suggested to her that she herself tell our readers about these curiosities and explain in detail her loving process of creating. What follows is the result.

Aye Aye, Fedor, Eurycoti and the Great Escape, and The Big Musical Forest were just released last year.  Doubtless the pandemic slowed a few projects but equally ignited ideas and musing that didn't make any sense. Thereafter all took shape in children’s books.  In these last two stories I could paint a certain complexity and creepyness related with this time we all are enduring which somehow defined the form. I had a great time writing and illustrating these two last sequels. 

In Aye Aye, Fedor, Eurycoti and the Great Escape, the animals all of a sudden realized why destiny put them in the Cinico Forest; there they had a difficult journey until their great escape when Aye Aye, Fedor y Eurycoti achieved the rescue of several tropical jungle animals in extinction. This bold action was very rewarding for all of them;  facts affecting humans were connected specifically to their existence too. 

Recently all animals in the Musical Forest have been working on a way to be absolutely independent of external factors which ironically converted their habitat in the Big Musical Forest. As Aye Aye and her friends saved tropical species from toxic environment and extinction, I envisioned the characters more real than the page. The result was actually interesting because I ended up oil painting, an activity I’ve been practicing on and off in my life. Several paintings illustrate my children's books. 


All stuff going on on Earth is a matter of inspiration. Aye Aye, Fedor, Eurycoti and the Great Escape as well as The Big Musical Forest  showcased new ways of illustrating. All support is good for painting. However, the force and means one uses to point to climatic issues doesn’t change the problem. The point, in my opinion, is how to recognize what you can do and what purpose it serves. Future extinctions are inexorable. The real consciousness about what’s happening with jungle and wild animals doesn’t affect  descriptions of how life could be idyllic in a magic place even if it exists only on paper. On that, writing is a healing power because it might change how to perceive the stories. It is important to emphasize the force to which you want the story to be painted. 

Everyone has a voice and everyone has a story. If you dig into those experiences. whatever you write is based on what happened to you, but if you dig deeper in your mind the story reaches an imaginative level. Therefore part of that is just a narration of what occurred while other parts are merely a result of what happened. In regards to the form of my children's books there is a musical sort of insistence to get something in my head.  I let manyfold sort of imagery come out of that forest to run as freely as possible: a course through the literal to the imaginative. Different kinds of illustrations allow me to play off of it, like musicians who take melodies, harmonies and use them to showcase sounds and sometimes other music. The animal extinction melodies are old,  whatever is  written and/or created must come up with a new pattern, but overall it must be relevant.


One thing I enjoy very much is looking back at childhood. Then looking ahead became easy because I looked back. I also recently released in French a poetry, photography book -- I called it
Somnia Nova --  I had pending as well as these two more sequels to my children's books. During several years I dealt with funny stuff  which led me to the power of dealing with the next phase of my life. At the same time the animals' characters  became heroes trying to turn things around in another forest. 

Doing things in another way led to new experiences, and it doesn't  make any difference in terms of comprehension. The books are written in different periods. Actually so far my sequels cover four life's landscapes: there are experiences from Europe, from NYC, from South Africa, and from the UK. But it showcases the same approach: we must take care of our environment and respect wild life, perhaps now more than ever.


I try to be as free as I can be within the written stories like when you’re releasing something out of yourself. It’s like you turn on a water source and the flow starts running fast, but you won't let it just run, because it’s an emotion coming out of you; your mind naturally directs that flow. If you just think as the kid you were, you will find no restrictions. At a very young age I knew what I wanted to do. I sensed that feeling. Later I could understand that emotion as an incommensurable detachment, but not in the way of being detached from something. It was more like an outsider's view. I believe that's a gift: being able to experience complexity in the journey without bending or feeling restricted by anyone or any mass at all. Each character of my children’s book is like a layer of myself and many people and animals I’ve known. A mirror gallery.



Sunday, May 17, 2020

Stephen Foster and Chuck Pelletier Interview

Actors/writing partners Chuck Pelletier and Stephen Foster created the popular musical The Green Room and released a CD of the show in 2006 to great acclaim. It has toured across country snd played off Broadway to excellent reviews in 2019. Now there is a new website devoted exclusively to The Green Room. Recently they composed a short film entitled "That's Opportunity Knocking" that has won a myriad of awards. Both men took time out of their busy schedules to discuss both projects, which push the limits on creativity during Covid-19.

Tell us about your new website for The Green Room. Does it allow visitors to see the show from the ground up, from the very beginning on upward to the latest success in New York?

Stephen Foster: Due to our hectic and diverse creative schedules (acting, writing and directing) the information and materials for The Green Room musical has been helter-skelter on YouTube and Facebook so we decided, after the Off-Broadway run, to put it all together in one streamlined website. www.greenroomthemusical.com

It’s a way to describe how the show has grown and evolved through the years. It provides a platform where people can see clips of various productions, listen to the songs for free, obtain free scripts, and even purchase the sheet music. It’s the catch all for learning all about this 4-character musical that had humble roots in Hollywood theatre and finally had an Off-Broadway run. We are extremely proud of how far this “passion” project has come.

This is the pride and joy for both of you. Chuck's music has been such a success and you have reworked the book to make it more adaptable to current time. What are the elements of the show that have appealed most to audiences everywhere? Be specific!

Chuck Pelletier: I love writing funny songs, and when I go to see musicals, my favorites are always the comedy songs. For the most part the songs in The Green Room are comedy songs, I think there’s only three or four exceptions. They still move plot and character forward, but they make you laugh. And I think audiences love that. That’s the way musicals were written in golden age, whether it’s Guys and Dolls, My Fair Lady, Oliver, The Music Man. Most of those shows were fun and funny. They landed on the occasional love song or sad song when the plot warranted it, but for the most part, people went to Broadway to escape. To be entertained. Many people have mentioned to me that that’s how they feel after they see The Green Room, and that is what makes me the most proud as a lyricist. When you hear an audience laugh, really laugh, belly laugh, in the middle of a song, and then again, and then again, to the point they have to try to contain themselves just to keep up with what’s coming next. That gives me more joy than anything.
There is also the sense of youth, four characters in their 20s having fun in college. People love the youthful energy of the story.

Sum up your dreams for this show and advise our readers how they need to be creative and follow their heart at all cost.

Stephen: The musical has had a wonderful track record thus far with indie productions all over the US, Canada and Ireland. The songs have been performed in cabarets, concerts and singers love singing the 2 comedy songs “It’s All About Me” & “Nothing Can Stop My Boys” at auditions. The future of the show is endless with new theaters and now online venues opening up.

The song “In The End” contains my favorite line, “In the end you do what you have to do. Because it’s you, in the end, who has to live with it.” That’s been my philosophy for many years. To pursue a career in acting and writing, you miss a lot of “normal” living, but in the end you have art to show for it. The trade-off isn’t always fair, the labor of love is long, but sometimes you hit gold and that pay-off is what keeps us going against the odds. Follow your heart is what I coach actors and writers when I teach. If you follow your heart, you might not hit the moon, but you’ll land in the stars.

Let's switch to your new film "That's Opportunity Knocking" What basically is it about? What inspired you to write it?



Chuck: “That’s Opportunity Knocking“ is a 22-minute comedy on Amazon Prime that tells the story of two college-educated guys in their 20s so down on their luck they decide to rob an empty apartment. The tenants come home while they are robbing it, so they have to hide, and wait, while the tenants make out on the couch. One of the interesting things about this comedy is that it’s based on a true story. Usually comedies aren’t based on a true story, unless they are historical, period films. So of course it was the true story that inspired it. What happened was that we were involved in a play at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. The director of that play, Thomas Anawalt, and most of the cast of the play, went out for drinks one night after the show. Thomas was telling a story about when he lived in New York with a couple roommates, and one night they came home and found some items out of place but didn’t think much of it. They woke up the next morning and found the place had been robbed. So they realized then that, the whole time they had been home that previous night, those burglars had been hiding somewhere. I think I told Thomas right then and there that I wanted to make that into a short film, and I wanted him to play himself. Most of the actors that were in that play ended up being in the movie.

You have won many prizes so far. That is wonderful.

Chuck: Yes, the film has won 24 awards at film festivals, and after that was picked up by Amazon Prime, where it has been viewed hundreds of times since. Who knew there was a market for short films? We are very proud. Stephen himself won 5 awards as Best Supporting Actor.

Stephen: We are humbled and surprised by all the awards. We’ve been working in theater and film as actors and screenwriters for many years, and this one clicked. We are grateful to the indie film festivals that helped us achieve these awards.

What do audiences learn from the movie?

Chuck: There are a few themes running through the movie, but the main theme, which recurs especially throughout the dialogue of the two burglars, is that it is far harder to be middle class right now then it was, say, 50 or 75 years ago. That’s the motivational engine of three of the characters, and the reason the burglars are there in the first place. I hope that is what people take away from the movie, as well as just a lot of laughs and having a good 22 minutes.

Does it have your zany sense of humor?

Stephen: I don’t think we could produce a piece without it containing our off-beat view of the world. I always wanted my creative life to be “The Carol Burnett Show!” Humor is how Chuck and I survived growing up and we use it in our writing and acting. Chuck understands my sense of humor, and I understand his, so we mesh very well together.

But, as well as being entertaining, does it have a substantial base? How does it inspire people to live?

Chuck: I loved the screwball comedies of old Hollywood, because they always worked as simple comedies, but there was always a class-against-class theme behind them. There were other elements, reversed sex roles, etc., but the class struggles are what I always relate to, and as I said, I wanted that to be integral to this movie. If someone told me my comedies inspired them to look at class in a different way, perhaps vote more with the middle class in mind, nothing would be a higher honor.

If you had to sum up your professional life so far, how would you do that? Is there another project on the horizon that you yearn to work on?

Stephen: I would sum up my professional life as “trial and error” with perks thrown in along the way. I’m extremely LUCKY to work hand in hand with Chuck, as we click in all we do. There’s never a sense of competition or one-upmanship with us.
As for the future, we have started our own small company, Round Earth Entertainment, to nurture and develop our creative projects: songs, scripts, movies and plays. We have several projects that are in development.

Chuck: This virus has been the worst thing that has happened to the world in my lifetime, but you have to make lemonade out of lemons, and the time at home has given Stephen and I a lot of time to talk through potential projects and do some good writing.

Stephen: Don, these are very odd and crazy times, humor helps us heal, connect and survive. I think that’s our primary statement to humanity.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Shelly Goldstein Speaks Out Creatively

Writer/actress/cabaret performer Shelly Goldstein is  very popular worldwide and is in a constant state of motion with a unique sense of humor. In this special creativity interview she talks about just that. Especially wonderful is her advice to everyone to stretch your horizons and reach out to others.

DG: Overall, what are you doing during this horrible Covid-19 period to stay creative?

SG: First of all, Don, thanks for reaching out. One of the positive aspects of this wackadoodle time is the return to old-fashioned phone calls between friends, and emails/texts that are a bit more personal than a typical 6-word message. It’s been great to actually have conversations with people. I didn’t realize how rare such calls had become and I hope they don’t disappear.

Human interaction inspires creativity.

I’ve been doing a lot of writing. Like everyone, I’ve lost a ton of work. Any gig I had on the books since mid-February was either cancelled or put on indefinite hold. That meant a lot of performances and many gala/award show events went away. The biggest disappointment was a gig where I was going to work with Julie Andrews on a lifetime tribute she was going to receive! But such is life. And “life” is what matters now.

My husband and I had a few projects that were in the works before this happened and we’re still inching those forward. There’s a series coming out this year in Europe called COLD COURAGE that we worked on: he wrote & Story Edited. I was a Script Consultant and I actually had the joy of writing a song lyric that is part of a key scene. Can’t wait to hear the final mix as, obviously, we weren’t able to be there as it was finishing post. I think it will air in the US in 2021.

I try to do a vocal warmup for every one of the 4,372 times each day I wash my hands.

DG: Have you been helping create projects online for people to watch or listen to?

SG: Yes! It’s a lifesaver.

My favorite thus far is a song parody I wrote (re-wrote Lee Adams great lyric) and uploaded to YouTube called “How Lovely When News Was Stupid.” It’s a parody of BYE BYE BIRDIE’S song, “How Lovely to Be A Woman”, written by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse.

No production value! I’m just sitting in a chair in my living room. But it’s struck a nerve. It’s gotten thousands of views and shares and online posts. I’ve gotten some very kind emails from people telling me the song caused them to laugh for the first time in weeks. That’s a blessing.

This is the song. Please enjoy and share with anyone who could use a smile!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCEkfBCdabc

My friend Mark Evanier wrote a terrific parody about the mess we’re all in and he’s asked me to sing/record. As soon as I learn the lyric, it’s next up.

DG: What about interviews?

SG: I’ve done some online (ZOOM) theatre and interviews and just today was asked to write & perform a piece for a benefit for the Chicago Actor’s Fund.

When John Prine died, I was heartbroken. Loss of a giant. I adored his songs. A couple of years ago I wrote a concert special for the Lyric Opera called CHICAGO VOICES that later became a PBS special. Prine was in the cast and he won an Emmy for his performance.

The night he died I kept crying and singing his songs. I’d done, “Angel From Montgomery” in a recent show and took that clip and put it online. It’s a perfect song and I love singing it. Playing/arranging is the great Doug Peck, who I met when he conducted and was the Music Director on CHICAGO VOICES.

This is that video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFs4vq5SKhI

I have so many friends writing songs, recording songs, writing commentary/jokes – I think it’s so vital to have that outlet. I love seeing how singers, actors and writers are reacting to what we’re collectively experiencing.

I was so impressed by the song written by dear friends, Michele Brourman & Hillary Rollins, “While There is Still Time,” sung by another woman I adore – Maude Maggart. (I always say Maude’s is the voice that angels wish they had.) It had a touching video made by Christine Lavin who I’ve never met, but whose work I so admire. A gorgeous effort.

Seeing how other people are speaking out inspires me and makes me stronger. I am unofficially mentoring a few people – We keep in touch and I follow what they are doing.

I probably post much too much online – but it’s impossible not to see the insanity swirling around us and ignore it. I try to do it in a way that makes people smile and think – and I delete any responses that call for violence or cruelty. There’s enough of that in a million other places.

I feel like people are moving to a different place this week. Now that we’re sheltered-in-place for over a month, we’re all looking for the next step. I’ve started to get calls and e-mails asking my availability for writing special material or full shows/acts. I love how many performances are happening online and I’ve always happy to help!

DG: Do you have any recommendations for people on how to extend their creativity? Should they stick to what they know best or venture into unchartered territory?

SG: If there ever was a time to venture into unchartered territory – it’s now! We are flooded with emotions right now – fear, uncertainty, impatience, vulnerability, anger, gratitude, love – if that doesn’t inspire a song or a script or a joke or a dance or a painting or an opera or a concert…WHAT WILL?

This is a rare moment of stillness, although it’s impossible to be still in this political climate. We’re all feeling a ton of stress and anxiety. It’s helpful – emotionally, psychologically and physically – to challenge yourself.

One practical thing I need to learn how to do is add more production value to my videos. The days of just singing to camera aren’t enough anymore. I don’t have a green screen and don’t know how to do it…YET. But I am going to learn.

I finally got pulled onto Instagram – I’m GroovyShelly (and at Twitter - @GroovyShelly) Follow me! I’ll follow back.

If I’m not creating, the only options left are worrying/crying/obsessing – or eating carbs. I spent 3 years carb-free and that has gone out the window. I can attempt many things of value during a pandemic. Giving up pasta and bagels is not one of them!

There is so much literally at our fingertips right now. Go online. People are giving classes, sharing shows, major theatres and cabarets are streaming past productions. Take a class – then teach a class. This is a great time for bartering. What can I learn from you? What can I teach you?

No one knows how or when we get out of this, but when we do – I hope it’s with more of a sense of compassion and community. If we don’t learn it now, we never will.

DG: There are so many lies out there. It seems that we have to make our own truth and that is scary. Do you have any predictions on how and when this whole nightmare will be over?

SG: Wow. We must, must, must fight to keep the truth alive. We must dig for it and we must counter that dangerous lies that we face every hour of every day.

Right now, the single most important thing is to listen to the experts and leaders like Governors Cuomo, Newsom, Pritzker, Witmer, Inslee. We also need to STAY AT HOME! Yes, there are a million other places we’d like the freedom to go right now. Be patient. Tough it out. If you don’t want to do it for any other reason, do it to show respect for the medical personnel who are working superhuman hours to keep people alive. It’s literally the least we can do. We must “Stay the F Home!”

We all see how hard the medical first responders are working. The best way we can help them is to flatten the curve. Which means staying home. Another great way to help them is to send food to your nearest ER.

If a friend is alone or vulnerable, send them a GrubHub gift card or find out what you can send them.

I have no idea when this will be over – or even HOW it will be over. I know it will not absolutely end in one single day. But I can’t fathom what the stages will be that will put us on the road to “normal.”

I think it’s important to say, “I don’t know” when you don’t know. People don’t like those 3 little words and they also don’t like, “I was wrong.” The inability of some of our leaders to honestly say those 2 phrases when needed is one of the things that got us into this mess.

Spread facts. Spread science. Spread art. Spread love. Spread kindness & compassion – and a healthy heaping of dish. Keep washing your hands.

And to quote that great philosopher, Dolly Gallagher Levi (by way of Jerry Herman) – “Whatever you do, for God’s sake, KEEP BREATHING!”


SHELLY on YOUTUBE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nU3FMI7voYo
FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/profile.phpid=1246326234&ref=profile
TWITTER follow me @groovyshelly
INSTAGRAM - GroovyShelly

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Joshua Finkel Creativity Interview

Actor/director/producer/teacher Joshua Finkel does not let Covid-19 get in the way of his work. In our discussion he gives us examples of the projects he is most proud of and is totally insistent on marching forward in spite of the odds.

Are you still working during Covid-19? If so, for whom?



Right now I'm just working for California Lutheran University. Everything else that would be extracurricular or master classes or whatever has shut down so that is my ongoing semester gig

After I get over some work pile with that, learning how to segue all that info online-- which is a definite trial-and-error learning curve, I might do some free online classes for clients just to keep people creative, because I know people are out of work and they can't afford to pay me for stuff like this most likely. So it's a really tricky catch-22 and I'm grateful for the University right now.

But that is the only place I work aside from New Musicals Inc where I am not doing master classes because we have to maintain social distance, 
Plus there is no reason to need to audition for anything right now because everything is shut down.

My directing projects at California Lutheran also got shut down.
It we can, we will remount those shows in the fall if some of those people are still there.
It's a weird bubble as you know.

When yoiu work with a client, do you encourage a new interpretation of playing a role or adding something innovative?

If I am teaching my cabaret class or I am working with a client to build a one person show, it's always about finding a fresh angle or finding a subject matter that is less explored, but that they have a very close and personal relationship with.

One of my favorite results of that was with Roslyn Cohn, who let us know that she had been a member of the church of Scientology for 27 years and had gotten out.
This was a few years back, before the "Going Clear" film had come out and really no one had a clear understanding of the breakdown and blow-by-blow of the Scientology organization

So we built a cabaret act that she had filmed at Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal. I helped with everything from the poster design to the title to the choreography to the structure and the content.


Her goal was to make it accessible via YouTube and inform folks who are considering going into the church that they should not, as well as inspiring and supporting those trying to get out of the church.

After she posted it, she received so many international invitations to perform it at festivals and venues around the world.

Because it is such a painful journey for her to go through emotionally,  though of course it has a lot of comedy in it, she turned it down ...because she did not want to have to go through it again. But she was thrilled that it has gotten all of that attention and is helping folks around the world.

That's a great story. Ros Cohn is a talented lady, and I am sure she made the right decision for herself at that point in her career. Any other cabaret clients with interesting happenings to relate?

Yes, another set of cabaret clients not only did their show in Los Angeles but also at 54 Below a New York, and that was an exciting journey. Two Broadway teens who knew each other during their year on Broadway working in separate shows Matilda, and Annie, came together at last


What do you feel are your most effective strategies in coaching your students?

I often try to help people give the best possible audition: best vocals in the correct style, clear emotionally full acting choices that also stay within the genre. But if they are going 'outside the box' we practice choices that way too, so in case they are asked for an adjustment, they are ready as well and have explored options.

Many times when we are building a part my client booked after coaching/callback coachings, we go through the role and I give them the system to look at it both as an actor, and also as a director to help come up with the smartest and most well rounded choices.

I did that with Sandy Bainum prior to playing Mame back east
and just with Talya Sindel to build Esmeralda in Hunchback, which of course got postponed/cancelled due to Corona.

So, right now, I'm weekly coaching my students at California Lutheran University on Cold Reading and Acting and Monologue Prep, plus teaching some voice lessons on line and also teaching Tap to my online dance students at CLU.

I am doing live teaching with supplemental training videos I create so the students can drill from those as well between our sessions.  I record the sessions in the cloud and share those sessions with the students as well for further study.

Whether already accomplished or yet to come, the projects of Josh Finkel are never ending. For him and his students, creativity most definitely goes on....
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Josh is still hoping that all postponed work will return:

1. Next to Normal  P3 Theatre Company opening August 13 in Long Beach

2. Hollywood Revisited returns to the Greystone Mansion August 25

3. Czech Musicals at the Hollywood Fringe Festival October 2020

4.In the meantime folks can enjoy the cast album of one of the award winning shows which dropped in The Wedding Night on CD baby

All info at

Joshua Finkel, MFA
Director, Actor,
Acting Coach

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Tiffany Bailey 3

Actress/singer Tiffany Bailey has many talents. She also happens to be a behavioral therapist for children with autism. I laud her for that. Last spring 2019 she released an album entitled "Jazz with Pop" and her cabaret show was very well received. In this interview she updates our readers as to the success of the CD and talks about her other projects for 2020.



How has your CD been selling since your concert last spring?

TB: The Jazz with POP CD has been selling ok. People seem to like the disco inspired groove of Twilight Tone and the soft haunting feel of True
Colors the best. More people are hearing about Jazz with POP, so that is great! I have it listed on all music platforms: Itunes, Spotify, Amazon, CD Baby! I also have it available on my website:
www.tiffanybaileymusic.com

When is your next concert appearance and where?*

TB: I’ve got a few private gigs coming up in January and February. Next public gig is set for Thursday: April 9th at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s. This is one of my favorite venues. I have some cool things planned.
Lots of exploration in 80s/90s pop, musical theater, epic songs that have theatrics, a little Jazz, and comedy! Another gig I’m excited about is:Thursday: June 26th at The Gardenia Lounge. with my friend,
Francesca Amari, who is a popular cabaret singer in Palm Springs. Two very different shows. Both incorporating: comedy, cabaret, and some musical
theater, mixed with pop.

Are you changing what you will sing for the next series of concerts?

TB: In some ways yes. I will always have my Jazz roots. But, I’ve really
been exploring the comedy of Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball. Also
finding some great musical theater I like; some pop influenced songs,
and a little Lawrence Welk, if you can believe it.

Tell our readers again about growing up with a musical father and
how it motivated you to want to sing professionally.


TB: Growing up with a father who plays music has been one of the greatest
blessings in my life. When it came to learning about cool artists. My
dad was steeped in the jazz world, so I learned about and listened to
Chet Baker, Diane Schuur, Charlie Parker. But he also introduced me to
the Bee Gees, Captain & Tenille, Ray Charles, Hall & Oates, The
Carpenters…the list goes on. Even now, dad is always sending me links
to music I should listen to. We have a lot of fun chatting about it.
And he really understands my musical tastes, so I listen to a huge
variety of music.

Are you embarking on essaying other styles of music, or do you feel
more comfortable staying with jazz and pop?


TB: I feel very safe with and love singing the jazz standards and pop
music, but I’m definitely exploring new music genres in the last few
years. I’m wanting to bring in a funk component to some of my
arrangements; I’m also exploring adding a theatrical element to my
shows, so I’m listening to a lot of show tunes, both from the Golden
era of Broadway and contemporary shows. I’m really attracted to songs
that tell a story, and I want to translate that to my shows:
storytelling with music, words and lights. I want my audiences to feel
“full” when they leave my shows. I want the music to speak out,
loudly. And I want them to really understand the stories behind the
songs and feel the passion I do about the music itself.

What other projects are on the horizon or more specifically in the
near future?


TB: I’m exploring more acting and voiceover work. I’ve gotten my headshots
done for commercial film and TV. I’m trying to put myself out there to
get a feature film. I love using my voice in fun ways and exploring
what I can do as an actor. Recently, I’ve started to figure out how to
perfect Carol Channing’s unique speaking style. It’s a tricky one; she
was such an incredible talent.

I’m also looking to get more involved in directing cabaret shows and
theatrical productions. I have a background in music and art therapy.
I truly enjoy working on shows and being involved in the writing and
development process. I think I bring something valuable to other
artists, including adding the component of fun, organization,
creativity and collaboration.

Tell us again who your favorite singers are, old and new.

TB: My idol, Karen Carpenter is number one. Others include Lea Michelle,
Sharon McNight, Esperanza Spalding, Casey Abrams and Melody Gardot.
Lately, I’ve been really intrigued and enamored with Billie Eilish –
both as a person and performer.

Do you wish to add anything?

TB: I decided this past year to really follow my passions, so I have been
taking piano lessons, which has added so much joy to my life. My goal
was to accompany myself at a show, and I’m happy to report that I will
be doing that! I just want to immerse myself in the entertainment
world, from music to directing to cabaret to voice work and acting.

* This concert has been cancelled due to COVID-19. When things get back to normal, the concert will be rescheduled.

When I asked Tiffany Bailey what she is doing to stay active creatively, she had the following to communicate with us:


TB: Haven’t rescheduled yet. So hard to know when to do it. Probably looking at early next year, or end of this year. Just continuing to work on projects and stay musically moving & grooving. 

We were so excited to be doing our show : The Tiffany Zone in April at Feinstein’s. But, safety is what’s most important. We are looking forward to rescheduling. The Tiffany Zone, directed by Keri Kelsey, is going to be a blast to the 80’s and 90’s, quirky stories, heartfelt ballads, and lots of music you can celebrate with. We are even bringing back actual high school show choir friends from my high school (Erin Rivlin & Crystal Keith)! Both ladies are exceptional musicians. We will have some great moves too. My special guest will be jazz musician:  Jeffrey Gimble. Featuring Emile Hassan Dyer as well. Musical Director: Jamieson Trotter!
Info about upcoming dates can be found at: www.tiffanybaileymusic.com

During this time, I’ve been staying sane by: Playing piano 2 hrs a day, taking a sight singing class with Jazz singer/teacher Sandra Booker, working on shows with Karen Celeste Kruz, and Francesca Amari Sajtar.  Dancing every day & learning new moves. Having creative conversations with friends and family. Acting silly, taking risks (videos, live streams, writing), virtually making crafts with my niece. Finding resourceful ways to connect with people. Taking time to appreciate the space during this scary time. Funny how suddenly doing the dishes, has become more enjoyable. Especially to music. Grateful to all who are helping to burn this pandemic out. 


Visit Tiffany bailey at:
https://www.tiffanybaileymusic.com/press