Thursday, November 14, 2019

Interview with Paul Rush

Paul Rush is the artistic director of Sixty-six Theater Co. located inside the Strasberg Institute in Hollywood. In our second conversation Rush talks about his excitement for the company getting the rights to produce Lee Blessing's new play For the Loyal. The West Coast premiere opens November 21 at Sixty-Six.

Tell our readers about your next production. Why are you so excited about getting the rights to this play?

PR: For The Loyal poses relevant and timely questions about loyalty. The titular character Mia is forced to choose which side she is playing for; the community she is part of, the family she is starting, or the person she is. The story takes place in a college football town, and the football program runs the town. When an incident threatens to derail the program and everyone involved, Mia needs to decide what play is the correct one to make. Lee Blessing does a phenomenal job of telling this story without preaching to his audience.

We are a young company and getting the rights to new material can be very difficult in Los Angeles. To have the opportunity to work with Lee Blessing, is a great honor. This play has never been produced professionally in California and such makes it a West Coast premiere. Our 1st premiere! It is hard not to be excited to produce and direct this play.

I met Lee Blessing when Group Rep presented his The Winning Streak. It involved baseball. For the Loyal gets into football. Explain his love of sports and how he works within the framework of sports to get to the family and issues that complicate family life.

PR: Sports tend to be a metaphor in a lot of storytelling. Blessing's use of sports goes beyond the game itself and the metaphor of the game. He forces his characters to play roles in the game that they would never expect. For The Loyal does just that. Mia is left with a choice to make, like a coach in the game, what play is the right one to call? The X's and O's of every player is used and laid out for the audience to see. I love how Blessing uses aspects of the 'game' to influence his storytelling without it being blatant.

Are you directing For the Loyal? What directorial challenges does it present?

PR: I am directing For The Loyal. The production of this story has been absolutely wonderful. Maybe it is because it is our first premiere, maybe it is because the writing is exceptional, maybe it is because the cast and team are amazing, but probably it is because this is a story worth telling. The only challenge I face is to do the story justice and give it is due.

How does this play fit into your mission statement?

PR: A play like this fits perfectly into our mission statement. Blessing does not shy away from entertainment while giving a story worth telling. There is only one way to approach that type of writing; with complete internal honesty within the framework of production. That is what we aim to do at Sixty-Six, to tell stories that are equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking.

Has reception to your company grown over the past year? Give us some positive details.

PR: Our company is growing! We got our first premiere! We have hosted the Short and Sweet theatre festival and Nick Hardcastle's Orry premiered here all this season. Our doors are staying open and our community is learning that we are here.

Back to Lee Blessing. Is he considered a foremost American playwright? Why?

PR: It would be hard to not consider Blessing a foremost American playwright. He deals with quintessential Americana and uses the backdrop of communal American life to lay out his stories.

Tell us about your cast in For the Loyal.

PR: Professionals that care. That is this cast. They are all working actors here in Los Angeles, involved with movie premiers, television episodes and auditions. Yet, here they are working hard and committed to story that doesn't get told often and needs to. The wonderful cast includes Hilty Bowen as Mia, Eddie Alfano as Coach Tanner Hale, Torrey Drake as Toby, Mark Youngs as Coach Mitch Carlson and Danny Martha as The Boy.

For the Loyal plays at Sixty-Six Theater Co from November 21 through December 14. The theatre is located inside the Strasberg Institute at 7936 Santa Monica Blvd. West. For more info or to purchase tickets for the play, call: 213-926-3150 or go to:

Friday, November 8, 2019

Highways Interview with Patrick K

Highways Performance Space & Gallery presents Film Maudit 2.0, its inaugural film festival dedicated to outrĂ© films, inspired by the legendary artist Jean Cocteau’s 1949 Festival Du Film Maudit, which celebrated a group of films that were criminally overlooked and neglected at the time.
The event will be held Thursday, November 14 - Sunday, November 17 at Highways Performance Space & Gallery at 1651 18th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90404
Festival Pass $40 The festival will include: 

  • six feature films & 40 shorts
  • films from around the globe.. . .
  • Belgium, Canada, Columbia, Estonia, France, Germany, Mexico, UK, the Netherlands, etc.
  • 50% of selected films are by female-identifying filmmakers
  • each feature film in the program will make its Los Angeles premiere

Artistic director Patrick Kennelly took time from his busy schedule to discuss the festival in grand detail. I am thrilled to say that from the sound of the entries I would run, not walk, to get tickets for this splendid event, as should you.

Describe in your own words what Film Maudit 2.0 signifies.

PK: Film Maudit are films that in ambition bite off way more than the mainstream (including the “Sundance mainstream”) would normally chew. They’re works that are deliberately bold in their choice of subject matter and aesthetics and consistently challenge themselves and audiences, while still being entertaining as hell. The idea is to buck the trend of “like” culture, where we’re only exposing ourselves (whether we like it or not) to stuff we’re already supposed to like (y’know, that is “Like" something we’ve bought before, watched before). This is not Netflix film programming. Film Maudit is guaranteed to raise your guard and beat through with its cinematic audaciousness.

When you say censored films, are you referring to those that are primarily gay in content? Sounds like the days of Oscar Wilde. Joe Orton's films were brilliant and would most likely fit in here.

PK: The films in the festival, 50% of which are directed by women, encompass many different countries, sexual identities, and genres. A through-line of out-there-ness runs through everything. Pretty much all of them are L.A. premieres, including the features, and part of the purpose of Film Maudit is to give local exposure on the Big Screen to those films from Africa to Mexico to our very own backyard, that might be, for whatever reason, hot potatoes for other fests. There is a particular love here for films that use and abuse the trappings of genre cinema to get at other things.

This is the inaugural film festival. Do you hope to make this an annual event?

PK: Yes, this is the beginning of something that we hope will have a long life, and expand beyond being, you know, ANOTHER film festival. In this first year we have special screenings and music events, but we have big plans to bring in more performance, readings, visual art, and food. To have something that really reflects the platform-less age of tomorrow. A # of the creators involved in this first showcase, not only make films, but work in VR (Virtual Reality), gaming, gallery-based arts, literature and the theater.

How does this festival work within the mission statement of Highways?

PK: Film Maudit 2.0 is an extension of Highways’ mission to develop and present innovative artists, promote interaction among people of diverse cultural backgrounds, and engage artists and the communities they serve in cross-cultural dialogues about social, cultural and artistic issues.

Has your audience built steadily over the past few years? I have seen some wonderful theatrical pieces here in the past. It's definitely a place for theatre and film buffs to gather and exult in your choices of outre work. It's a one of a kind place in its design and in the subject matter presented.

PK: There’s been consistently inconsistent audiences throughout the 30 years of Highways’ existence! It continually ebbs and flows based on the dynamics of the Los Angeles performance, dance and art scene at any given moment in time (even week to week). Communities have come and gone, and sometimes come back again, new ones to fill the gap. There is a consistent re-history, we which love - the book being written on the space and the overall landscape over and over in a uniquely personal way by hundreds of artists. Our continually morphing identity as a space reflects that. We’re grassroots, experimental and diverse beyond measure - all ingredients for something that doesn’t spell long life, but, thanks to the hard-work of Executive Director Leo Garcia and his leadership of the Highways staff, we’ve been able to do it!

Tell our readers anything you wish that I have not mentioned.

PK: Whether you love them or hate them, I recommend that you won’t be bored by the radical narratives and styles we have on display as part of the festival - for much less $ than it will take you to be “shocked” by THE JOKER. If you want something that truly gets under your skin - come out to any of our programs!

Film Maudit 2.0 is Highways' inaugural film festival  takes place Thursday, November 14 - Sunday, November 17. Highways Performance Space & Gallery is located at the 18th Street Arts Complex 1651 18th Street. Santa Monica, CA 90404  Call  310-453-1755 or visit
A Festival Pass costs $40.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

2019 Interview with Burt Grinstead

Actor Burt Grinstead gained recognition in Los Angeles for his terrific performance in Deathtrap at LGBTQ and later in The Rope at Actors Co-op. He formed his own production company and produced and co-starred in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which he also adapted with his partner Anna Stromberg. They won top prize at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in 2018. Grinstead is currently preparing to open as Richard the Lionheart in The Lion in Winter at Laguna Playhouse this Sunday November 10. In our conversation he talks about the play in depth and lays bare his passion for the acting profession.

Tell us about playing Richard the Lionheart in The Lion in Winter. What a great role! You do realize that Anthony Hopkins played him on film with Katharine Hepburn in his early career. right? How much of a stretch is it playing him?

BG: It’s an awesome role! James Goldman’s script is a gift to actors. It pumps with life and death stakes yet is laced with wit and humor. I’m excited to portray the Lionheart. I remember seeing the movie with Anthony Hopkins, Katharine Hepburn, and Peter O’Toole and thinking ‘these are masters at play.’ You rarely see actors be so free in film. It seemed like they were having the time of their lives. Anthony Hopkins, of course, killed the part and sets a high bar for any mere mortal actor. The story takes place over a Christmas with all the Plantagenets gathered in a castle in France. It’s the first gathering since the eldest son and heir to the throne died. Who is to be the next king of the English empire? Let the games begin. 

Richard is a force of nature, defined by his fury. He is furious at everyone for different yet specific reasons: furious at his father, Henry II, played by the dynamic and strong Gregory Harrison; at his mother, Queen Eleanor, played by the fierce and elegant Frances Fisher; at his little brothers John and Geoffrey, brought to life by the talented and vivacious Spencer Curnutt and Ian Littleworth respectively; at the French king Phillip, portrayed beautifully by Taubert Nadalini. 

My job as the actor is to look beneath the Lionheart’s fury, to understand whether frustration, loss, love, or fear are driving each moment. Goldman writes these emotions in such a truthful and relatable way. As an actor, I’m able to take a psychological dive into the human experience with each new hat I put on. In Richard’s hat (or should I say crown), I’m able to explore the extremes of the human condition. We are defined by how we are nurtured in our youth. Family can be our greatest strength and our deepest flaw at the same time. Mr. Goldman certainly understood that basic dynamic when he penned this classic. It’s a holiday dinner with a dysfunctional family where murder is a very real option and the fate of an empire is at stake.

How are you preparing for the role? What elements of the character do you find in your own persona? 

BG: It’s all about the exploration. Fortunately, Laguna Playhouse and Sheldon Epps, our fearless director, give the actors time to play with different ideas and to work with each other to bring life to the story. The real drama lies in the relationships. The toughest part of telling a story like this is defining a lifelong relationship in a three-week rehearsal process. I’ve only just met these talented actors, and yet we have to be able to openly share some of the most intimate and vulnerable emotions we can muster. Knowing this, Sheldon sat us down for the first week and had us talk through the play with each other. We were able to get to know each other and share our thoughts and ideas. We were able to feel each other out and discuss our character histories and relationships. We were given time to find the depths of each of the bonds that inform the current predicament our characters find themselves in.

Richard was called “the Lionheart” for a reason. If you do any basic research on this man, you’ll see that he was a great soldier and ruthless tactician. He was always fighting. In my mind, he found peace in conflict. When you get to know his family, you can see that conflict was what he knew as home. In my real life, I’m much more of a pacifist, avoiding conflict at all costs, sometimes to my own detriment. I envy how Richard was able to take charge and stand up to obstacles that lay in his path. I don’t, however, envy the violence he left in his wake. It is fun to able to play someone with such ferocity though. It’s a chance to explore an emotion I rarely allow myself to experience in real life.

As with all characters I get to portray, I’m able to relate and bring in elements of my own life that can help further deepen the story. As an actor, you are required to find compassion for your character. It’s the classic actor line, “whether you play Jesus or Hitler, you have to believe you are in the right.” After all, everybody is the protagonist of their own story. The easiest way to find compassion for your character is to put yourself in their shoes. You have to be able to relate, and I definitely can relate to Richard in many ways. I’d rather keep those ways to myself though. My hope is that by bringing myself into Richard, the audience will also be able to relate and walk in his shoes.   

How are rehearsals going? Talk about Sheldon Epps as director of the play.

BG: With material like this, rehearsals are a playground. It’s a chance to explore and imagine and play. It’s a joy to come to the rehearsal room and to work with such talented artists in exploring this twisted, fantastical world.

Sheldon has theatre running in his blood. Every element in this play adds up to create a unified vision and a complete tale. He addresses every moment with us and gives us the material necessary to inform the next moment. It’s a hard play to direct. It’s an elaborate chess match, or rather a long game of poker. Every character is trying to win, but every character keeps their cards close to their chest. Sheldon is in charge of mapping out each of our journeys, each of our tactics, each of our manipulative techniques. Seeing him place us around the space is like watching a master chess player setting up his side of the board. I’m excited for audiences to follow the twists and turns. I can’t wait to see how people react to the surprises that lie around every corner and behind every curtain.   

Tell us in greater detail about working with Gregory Harrison and Frances Fisher. Also, talk a little about the other actors in the cast.

BG: The sheer talent in this rehearsal room is staggering. This cast is incredible. Sheldon, Ann Wareham, and Michael Donovan have somehow gathered such a rare group of proficient artists. This family feels real. Gregory and Frances are simply brilliant. Not just as actors, but as leaders. They are our parents in the play, and they have adopted that familial role in the rehearsal room. They lead by example. They are professional, hardworking, and unbelievably kind. Their years of experience shine through them in every part of this process. I love watching them work, and I love being able to work with them.

Ian Littleworth and Spencer Curnutt play my brothers. In a way, we’ve also adopted those roles in real life. We are able to support each other and laugh each other. We are able to respect each other, but still poke fun at each other. We know that each one of us is there to help the other be the best they can in this piece. Ian and Spencer are powerful actors. They bring life to everything they do. I’m so proud to call them my brothers in this play. 

I don’t want to leave out the other actors in this piece. Taubert Nadalini plays the French King Phillip. Taubert has a natural presence about him that easily steals the show when he walks the stage. There’s also the intelligent and talented Chelsea Kurtz who plays the French princess, Alais. Chelsea brings an emotional depth to the stage that heightens the drama and tension of this story in such a beautiful way.

I can’t wait for people to witness this cast.  

What do you think is the message of The Lion in Winter. It's a comedy, but not always that funny for the protagonists.

BG: The Lion in Winter certainly has some funny moments and some witty lines, but yes, the overall story of this play is a dark and twisted tale about a severely dysfunctional family. I’m sure everyone is going to come away with their own thoughts about the overall message Goldman was trying to share with us, but I think it’s simply about the importance of love. Love is as necessary to human existence as water. It’s food for the soul. Without it, we are starved, we are dry, we are empty. The place we are supposed to be able to find love is within our family. However, that is not true all the time. In fact, most of us are still thirsty for it. In this play about a family coming together for a holiday dinner, we see the sheer lack of love being spread around. In my view, the opposite of love is selfishness. If we are selfish, we are incapable of love. Everyone in this story is looking out for themselves first. In the end, a simple “I love you” or a meaningful hug, could change the fate of this empire. As the Beatles said the year after this play was written, “All you need is love.”

Switching gears, tell us a bit about the success you had in LA and New York with Jekyll and Hyde.

BGDr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde was a roller coaster. We started at the Hollywood Fringe in 2018, and little did we know, we were strapped in for a wild ride. We did eight shows at the Fringe, then we came back for a month at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Then we came back for Halloween 2018 for a few shows before we headed to Wilmington, North Carolina to perform it there for a couple of weeks. After that, we put the set in a truck and brought it up to New York City where we performed for two weeks in the International Fringe Encore Series at the SoHo Playhouse. The SoHo Playhouse then picked us up, and we headed back there for a full six week Off-Broadway run in the Spring of 2019. Now, the play is in the process of being published and will soon be available for purchase.

Anna Stromberg, my wife, and I were and are completely overwhelmed and grateful for the success of our little show. We absolutely loved performing it, and we’re so lucky to have been given the opportunity to perform it so often. Our producers and team along the way were always incredible, and we learned so much from each new adventure. You can find out more information on our outrageous comedic-thriller Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde on our production company’s website:

Are you and your wife planning any new projects for the near future?

BG: Yes! Many! First up, we made a movie that opens/premieres in Los Angeles the first week of December, The Lost Footage of Leah Sullivan. It’s a found-footage, mystery-thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat. We will also have screenings throughout December in Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, and New York City. You can see information on screenings of that film at

We also hope to produce a new play this coming 2020, and we have several other projects including films and series in the works. We loved creating Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and were extremely encouraged by the success of it. We can’t wait for audiences to see what we have planned next. You can subscribe to our email list for our most up to date information at  
(play photo credit: Ed Krieger)

Is there anything you wish to add about Laguna Playhouse and the play?

BG: The Laguna Playhouse is a magical place. Ann E. Wareham and her team have created an adventure zone. A place where you can escape from the trials and tribulations of the modern world and enter the fantastical world of the theatre. It’s a place to come together as a community to laugh, to cry, to enjoy, and to be entertained. It’s a place to learn and to love.  You don’t have many places like this these days. You have to come see this play and support such an artistic playground. Come and have fun with us! You won’t regret it.

Opens: Sunday, November 10 at 5:30pm
Runs: Sunday, November 10 – Sunday, November 24, 2019
Performances will be Wednesdays through Fridays at 7:30pm; Saturdays at 2pm & 7:30pm; Sundays at 1:00pm & 5:30pm.
There will be added performances on Thursday, November 7 & Thursday, November 21 at 2pm & Tuesday, November 12 at 7:30pm.
There will be no performance on Sunday, November 10 at 1pm.
There will be Talk-Backs following the performances on Saturday, November 16 at 2pm and Thursday, November 21 at 7:30pm.

606 Laguna Canyon Rd. in Laguna Beach, CA
Tickets: $50.00 - $75.00

For tickets – visit
or call 949-497-2787

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Interview with Armina LaManna

Armina LaManna is writer, director and also co-founder and artistic director of Imagine Project, L.A.’s only Equity theatre company dedicated exclusively to young audiences. Its inaugural production opens on Nov. 7.

This inaugural production is the world premiere of The Tale of Turandot, a modern theatrical puppetry experience for elementary school–aged children. Inspired by the centuries-old story, Armina LaManna wrote and will direct this family friendly production, which is geared toward children between the ages of four and twelve years old.

In our conversation LaManna talks in detail about the theatre company and the inaugural production. As a fan of children's theatre, I was amazed that there has not been am Equity company exclusively devoted to it. I grew up loving puppets and as a language teacher have used them in theatrical skits to tell my stories to students and teachers alike.

As the only Equity theatre company dedicated exclusively to young audiences, Imagine Project is surely getting off to an exciting start with the world premiere of The Tale of Turandot, a modern theatrical puppetry experience.  Tell us about it...the storyline and its background.

AL: When I read the Gozzi play in my teens, I remember really enjoying the combination of commedia dell'arte with an ancient legend. I also recall, however, being saddened that a smart female character was portrayed to be cold and heartless. It was back then that I decided to tell Turandot's story differently one day. Never in a million years did I think that I would be retelling it to young audiences. Yet, over three years ago, when we first decided to commit to telling stories that spotlighted female heroes, I knew that the time was right for Turandot's story from her perspective. Shattering this idea that smart women had to be cold women, was imperative.

This is why, The Tale of Turandot is told from Turandot's point of view - from the perspective of a young woman seeking passionately the opportunity to control her own destiny with plot twists specifically adapted for young audiences. In this play, Turandot uses the riddles to delay being betrothed; she stands her ground, and uses her wit and erudition to get a voice and choice in how her life unfolds; she is a self-reliant heroine - one that I hope would serve as a strong role-model for all kids, but young women especially.

Will there be live actor performances in the future or are you planning puppetry exclusively? 

AL: Puppetry was chosen to help tell this particular story, and while Imagine Project is not a puppet theatre, I do not doubt that we will be seeing more of this majestic craft in the years to come.

Puppetry is a European tradition which when transplanted to American culture has been enchanting children for years. What do you think is the magic of it? Why do kids find it irresistible?

AL: Kids and adults I would add. The magic in large part comes from the audience witnessing puppets transform something common into something extraordinary. What is a simple task for human actors - holding hands for example - suddenly becomes epic when two puppets do it. This allows the audience to develop a new appreciation for holding hands, because it suddenly sees this every-day occurrence in a new and whimsical light. I was born in the former USSR and spent my childhood there, specifically in Yerevan. It was a gift to grow up in a city that had professional children's theatre and of course the Toumanian Puppet Theatre, which was a rite-of-passage for kids there. And really, that's what we want Imagine Project to be for kids in Los Angeles. Did you know that there are hundreds of children's theatres in Belgium, which has a population of only 11.5 million? But Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world, which is home to over 10 million people, 2.3 million of whom are kids, had only a handful, and until now, did not have a flagship Equity children's theatre?

No, I did not. We really need you. As artistic director of Imagine Project, what is your mission in detail?

AL: There was a great study done by University of Arkansas a few years ago; it found that seeing high-quality live theatre enhances kids' literary knowledge, tolerance, and empathy (which we have known to be on the decline for the past few decades). Growing this capacity for empathy at an age when technology is interfering with genuine human connection, and also igniting compassion for our differences, all through live storytelling, is the driving force behind our commitment to our community.

We also chose to tell stories that spotlight female heroes derived directly from the folk tales of Los Angeles' rich cultural fabric. The objective is to create an opportunity for our audience to see characters who look like them, while at the same time, inspiring girls to aspire and to teach boys to value parity in society.

From the very beginning, we also made a commitment to produce at the highest levels of professionalism; this is why we chose to be an Equity company.

Is there anything else you care to add like wisely scheduling performances on or close to weekends to avoid conflicts with school...or other future projects?

AL: Oh goodness, this has been one heck of a learning curve. Between testing months, school holidays, required lunch/recess times, bus acquisition issues, scheduling a field trip is nothing short of a miracle. There are schools/districts that made things comparatively easy, and then there are those that we have struggled to connect with. We also find ourselves having to often clarify that we are a company dedicated to producing work for children, and not by them.

Performances of The Tale of Turandot are Thursday, November 7 – Sunday, November 17.  Nine performances:
• Thursday 11/7 - 7:00 pm
• Friday 11/8 - 7:00 pm
• Saturday 11/9 - 11:00 am & 2:00 pm
• Sunday 11/10 - 4:00 pm
• Friday 11/15 - 7:00 pm
• Saturday 11/16- 11:00 am & 2:00 pm
• Sunday 11/17 - 4:00 pm

Performances will be held at The Colony Theatre 555 N. Third St., Burbank, CA 91582; 818-558-7000

For tickets and more informaqtion go to:

(photo credit: courtesy of Imagine Project)

Monday, October 28, 2019

Spotlight on RJ Seikaly

The Road Theatre on Magnolia is proud to present The Spanish Prayer Book by Angela J. Davis and directed by Lee Sankowich. The fascinating historical play about the power of art to forge human connections had its official opening on Friday September 20 and plays until November 10. Each week we will spotlight a cast member. This week the light shines on RJ Seikaly.

What character do you play in Spanish Prayer Book?
Julien Nazir.

How does he contribute to the play?
I bring protection and loving support to Michaela. I do everything I can to honor Jacob's legacy. I do my best to guide and advise Michaela to do what’s right in the eyes of history, while respecting her and her mother's wishes while honoring Jacob's legacy in heart and mind.

Any challenges to overcome as an actor?
Understanding the true weight of the historical content and putting the puzzle together.

What to you is the message of the play?Always let integrity, intelligence, and love guide us through decision making. As long as the truth is upheld, a balanced compromise can be made.

Tell us about your director and fellow cast mates.Lee (Sankowich) was great to work with. Everyone was collaborative and lovely.

What do you hope will be the audience takeaway?To have a deep understanding and respect for maintaining the true side of history. Important that we as human beings do not repeat history, evolve and learn from our past to inform a better future.

The Road on Magnolia is located in the NoHo Senior Arts Colony at 10747 Magnolia Blvd. There is plenty of street parking but allow yourself plenty of time. Tickets may be purchased at 818- 761-8838.

Interview with Joseph Bwarie

Joseph Leo Bwarie is one of the Artistic Directors of the nonprofit Garry Marshall Theatre in Burbank, California. He is a Sherman Oaks native and a recording artist popular on Siriusly Sinatra on SiriusXM Radio. JLB is widely known for his record-breaking turn as Frankie Valli in the Tony Award-winning musical Jersey Boys (over 2,000 performances - Las Vegas, 1st National Tour and Broadway). Bwarie’s career began at age nine, appearing in the television series Highway to Heaven and Mama’s Family. He is a longtime member of Troubadour Theater Company (recent: co-director and ‘Ziggy’ in Little Drummer Bowie and ‘Octavius’ in Julius Weezer). A directorial highlight was serving as associate director alongside Garry Marshall for the world premiere of Billy & Ray and its New York premiere at the Vineyard Theatre. GMT directorial: A Funny Thing Happened … Forum starring Paul C. Vogt and Joey McIntyre, and The Root Beer Bandits: A Rootin’ Tootin’ Wild West Musicale - an original family musical he co-created with Lori Marshall and Rachael Lawrence.

Bwarie is getting ready to open a live radio play at Actors Co-op Friday November 1. In our conversation, he talks in depth about this new production of Miracle on 34th Street.

Nice to see you are doing a live radio play. Miracle on 34th Street is a classic. Why do you think it still holds up after all these years?

JLB: I think Holidays defy age or trends. They become part of people’s traditions and become eternally relevant. So, whatever the holiday tradition – they are special. And Miracle On 34th Street is such a valuable story. It is a classic film that gets its annual viewing alongside White Christmas and The Grinch and It’s A  Wonderful Life and all the stop motion tv specials that are ubiquitous with Christmas. They will always be indelibly part of the season.

Tell our readers, especially those who have not seen one, what is shown in a live radio play...all the behind the scenes activity.

JLB: The exciting part about being in the room while a live radio play is in action is seeing the way the microphones are used with the voice actors, the musicians and the foley artists. In this production, it all happens right in front of your eyes. And if you close your eyes, there are moments that the foley design can transport you to Central Park, Doris Walker’s dinner table in her Manhattan apartment or even an elevator trip to the Toy Department at Macy’s in 1947. And that’s just a few that don’t give away the surprises.

Even in serious moments there is fun. What do you think are the most comedic elements in the play itself?

JLB: It’s a show that is operating on many levels. So, the layers of fun and comedy are coming from all different sources and styles. It really is a show for all ages. And it’s a feel-good show. There is humor and heart in the music, there is charm and whimsy in the foley, and at the core of it all, the adaptation of the original film script brings its own specific wit and comedic appeal. It’s a true ensemble cast and they create the entire world – the music, the foley, the movement, and of course… the laughs.

What to you symbolizes the use of the word "miracle"?

JLB: It’s a special word, right? And it’s a word that is probably used too casually. Getting from Pasadena to Santa Monica in 45 minutes is not the true definition of a miracle. For me, a miracle describes anything that is full of wonder… something that makes a person feel jubilant or alive. That is what a miracle does. When you can’t believe it could be happening and then, in fact, it IS happening – that is a miracle. It think it’s hope. I think it’s possibility.

This is a perfect family show. Tell us why.

JLB: When I was a child in Los Angeles, this is the “seasonal event” that my grandmother would take me to see with my parents and brother and sister. And my grandfather would come along, when he really wanted to stay home to listen to the game on his radio (he preferred sports on the radio to the television). After the show, my grandfather (a man of few words) was so glad he joined and we would all get in our blue minivan together and talk about the show, and we would drive around to see Christmas lights in the neighborhood. What is so great about this production of Miracle On 34th Street is that performances start this week on November 1st making it the perfect family show from a calendaring standpoint.

Talk a bit about the music in the radio play. Are you choosing the carols to be performed?

JLB: The music is clever and catchy and also beautiful. It’s an original score and emulates the sounds of the 1940s with dynamite harmonies and beautiful melodies. And everything is performed live. But there are glimpses of traditional carols that we all know. Although, they are not performed exactly how you might expect. And there are some hidden holiday gems woven into the beautiful underscore as well. I think audiences will be leaving the theatre singing the tunes and wll be filled with the holiday spirit.

How has your background with the Troubies helped you to direct this kind of show? Talk about the unexpected.

JLB: More than anything, working with Garry Marshall for so many years was what informed the detail of how I approached this show. At times in rehearsal, I would find myself saying things that Garry would say, in a Garry-like cadence. And the cast would say, “Garry’s in the building.” He would love that. That has been an interesting extension of Garry’s legacy – actors that never met him, get a “Joe version” of his unique way of communicating a detail of comedy or how to deal with the unexpected. And of course, working with Troubadour for so many years always is part of how I look at stage comedy. Matt Walker was always generous to me when I was in a Troubie show, letting me have the opportunity to invent more ideas or quirks or character business to inhabit the playground. And he would be the first to say that a clown in trouble can possibly be the best laugh of the night.

Do you wish to add anything that I did not mention?

JLB: This is a live musical adaptation of the LUX radio play from 1947. This production is the LA-premiere. And it weaves song and dance and some extra magic into the radio play transcript that was presented over the airwaves seventy-two years ago. This is a fully realized play with a huge original score that is fully designed by a team of LA’s best, and brought to life with 1940s flair by a terrific ensemble cast who do it all.

The radio play of Miracle on 34th Street plays the David Schall Theatre at Actors Co-op, 1760 N. Gower Street, Hollywood, CA, 90028 on the campus of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood  November 1- December 15, 201  Free Preview Wednesday, October 30, 2019, 8:00pm (Reservation required)  Performance Schedule: Friday, Saturday at 8:00pm, Sunday at 2:30pm, Additional Saturday Matinees: November 9 and November 16 at 2:30pm

Get tix: Online -- By phone at 323-462-8460 ex. 300

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Singer Terron Brooks and The Soul of Broadway - Impossible Dreams

Actor/singer/songwriter Terron Brooks is best known for his portrayal of Eddie Kendricks in the1998 NBC Emmy winning miniseries The Temptations. On Broadway he played Simba in The Lion King and Seaweed in Hairspray. Brooks is about to release a solo album entitled The Soul of Broadway - Impossible Dreams. I have heard some of the mastered tracks and his range and delivery are nothing short of amazing. The voice is pure velvet. On Sunday November 3, he will perform in concert at the Montalban in Hollywood, where the new CD will be available. In our conversation he talks passionately about the CD and the concert.

Tell our readers in detail about your new album The Soul of Broadway - Impossible Dreams, and why it is so important for you to make these songs fresh for today's audience.

TB:I wanted to share these classic songs with everyone. Not just the Broadway community and Broadway lovers. Taking the songs out of the theater character story and reimagining them with a soul sensibility breathes new life into them and lets the listener hear them in ways that hopefully relates to their own story. I approached them as if I wrote them and infused my story into the narrative. We tried not to limit ourselves to genre and just make good music that connects universally.

Will you do songs from the album exclusively in the concert or will there be others? Give us an example or two.

TB: We will be performing most of the album, except for maybe one or two. The show however is not exclusive to the recorded material, although it is also a record release concert.  It is the launch of a new creative concept... songs from HamiltonDear Evan Hansen, and Les Miserables, which are not on the album, for example, but will be performed during our show. We're keeping a little mystery for our audience but a few songs on the record include "The Music of the Night" (The Phantom of the Opera), "Something's Coming" (West Side Story) and "The Impossible Dream" (Man of La Mancha).

Is the orchestra for the concert the same as on the CD? Tell our readers why it is so wonderful to work with the same musicians who assuredly elevate and inspire you.

TB: The musicians are so important. They inform the emotions that the songs grow to become. The band—led by Mark Vogel, the Music Director and Executive Producer of The Soul of Broadway record—is roughly half studio musicians on the record plus new members who most certainly bring enthusiasm and soul to the live experience. Add to that three phenomenal vocalists, who we call The Soul Singers, who just happen to be friends of mine. It was essential to have Mark on board because as one of the co-creators of the music, he knows the music inside and out. During the recording process there were many magical moments that just organically happened because we share the same sensibility. The music led us many times and we followed without ego or attachments. 

What do you hope audiences will take away from the evening of song? Talk particularly about how you hope to shape their hopes and dreams.

TB: Well, the show is called Impossible Dreams. So of course, the theme is reaching for the impossible. I'm using the backdrop of my own journey to hopefully shine a light where others may find themselves in their own life. I'm hoping my vulnerability will help to inspire others to define their own success and find their voice while bringing people of all walks together. Music is a great connector and if one person leaves with more hope, determination and empathy, then we've done our jobs. I'll be living my dream in real time November 3rd!

Tell us about your association with your wonderful producer/director Brian Purcell. How long have you known each other? Why is he the perfect collaborator for this project?

TB: Brian Purcell was one of my employers and band mates in America's favorite mashup group, The Company Men, which I'm still a proud member of now. We've known each other for many years but over the course of the last four years we've formed a great friendship first and a new partnership with his company 4 Times Entertainment, along with his wife Leah. Brian is the perfect collaborator because he sees me. He understands emotionally what my intentions are with music and has the talent and creative energy to bring it all to life without ever losing authenticity and soul. Everyone needs someone in their corner who ignites their dreams and humbly pushes you to think outside the box and dream bigger. Brian is a visionary and I cannot wait for audiences to witness this experience, which will be like no other.

What I'm most excited about is creating a show where I can be me. No pretense. I think we've created something unique and familair at the same time. Audiences have the chance to be there at the very beginning of an impossible dream coming to life. And my record, which has stretched me the most, will be available that evening before its release later in the week to the rest of the world.

(photo credit: Lionel Garcia)

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