Saturday, December 27, 2008

My Grown Up Christmas List

Santa: What is your wish for 2009?
DG: Kelly Clarkson's beautiful lyrics to her song "My Grown Up Christmas List" say it all, Santa.
Do you remember me
I sat upon your knee
I wrote to you
With childhood fantasies
Well, I'm all grown up now
And still need help somehow
I'm not a child
But my heart still can dream
So here's my lifelong wish
My grown up christmas list
Not for myself
But for a world in need

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal the heart
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end, oh
This is my grown up Christmas list

As children we believed
The grandest sight to see
Was something lovely
Wrapped beneath the tree
But heaven only knows
That packages and bows
Can never heal
A hurting human soul

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end, oh
This is my grown up christmas list

What is this illusion called the innocence of youth
Maybe only in our blind belief can we ever find the truth

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end, oh
This is my grown up christmas list
This is my only life long wish
This is my grown up christmas list

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

2008 Interview with Ann Randolph

Currently on tour with her marvelous solo show Squeeze Box, Ann Randolph is a brilliant comic actress, solo performer and writer. She will make her annual appearance in Bob's Holiday Office Party here in LA @ the Zephyr in a couple of weeks, creating 2 of her many zany characters.

Q: Do you keep SqueezeBox as originally written or do you make changes when you perform it?
AR: It changes every night as far as performance, but the text stays the same. I keep discovering new layers in the characters, and it’s so much fun to play with.

Q: How many years have you been doing "Bob's..."?
AR: This will be my 13th year of doing the nasty.

Q: Will you tell us briefly how the characters from both shows developped?
AR: The characters usually develop from looking at parts of myself and exaggerating them. For example, I have both a born again and a brothel inside me. I just let them out. I like to play in the mirror and see who wants to come out. Also, working at the homeless shelter and living/volunteering at a mental institution, you see lots of characters. I watch and listen closely to their behavior, speech patterns, mannerisms and I find what part of myself shares that. We all have it in us. I like to explore what I'm afraid to look at in myself.

Q: Tell us a little about the seminars you're currently doing.
AR: Ahh, I've been leading workshops in "Sharing Your Life Story." And I love it. I love teaching as much as I love performing. These are workshops that I teach at Esalen and Kripalu and also ongoing classes in Santa Monica and San Francisco. I so believe that everybody has an incredible story to tell and I want to guide them in their creative process and help them to tell their story. I believe stories connect us to one another and we learn from one another's experience.

Q: What does Christmas mean to you?
AR: Seeing my family who make me laugh and singing. My family loves to sing and we sing lots of carols. My favorite is brightest and best, and it's an old kentucky song sung by Jean Ritchie.

Q: What in you mind constitutes the ideal Christmas gift?
AR: Homemade CDs.

Q: Who are your favorite actors and why?
AR: I am more influenced by musicians than actors. When I write, it is music that inspires me.. Music breaks down boundaries for me. When I hear Astor Piazzola, a composer of classical music and tango- I hear whorehouse, perversion, sacredness, desire, longing- it's all in his music and it helps me find those parts in myself. I feel the same about Copland and Bach, Beethoven. Each composer brings out a different element.
I also love Carol Burnett and Gilda Radner, Chris Rock and Drew Hastings and Maria Bamford. The absolute best in comedy.

Q: Any roles as an actress that you're burning to play?
AR: If they ever did a movie version of Grey Gardens, I'd like to be the daughter.
Come take my workshop and tell your story. I start up again in January.
www. for more info
-and Also, Dec. 3rd, I'll be participating in a xmas burlesque comedy show at the Steve Allen Theater.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

2007 Interview with Al Coronel

Al Coronel made my 2006 year-end list for his electric performance in Buon Natale in North Hollywood. He is a frequent guest star on episodic TV such as House M.D. on Tuesday, November 18th.
This interview took place in November of 2007, as Coronel was preparing once again to do Buon Natale.
Q: This is your second shot at playing Luigi in Buon Natale. Had you played a gay man before?
AC: This is the first time, other than when I was studying at the Sanford Meisner Center, we had to do partnering exercises and create scenarios. It wasn't so much the dynamic of playing a gay didn't bother me one bit doing was the relationship between me and my boyfriend in the play, and also the relationship between the father and the son. That's what caught my eye about the role. I'm trying to please both my boyfriend and my father. Basically, I'm walking on eggshells to make sure that I'm guarding my emotions from hurting them.

Q: Is this the most challenging role you've played?
AC: The most challenging one onstage actually was playing a stroke victim. I played a character by the name of Ernie, in At Home with Ernie (independent writer), and my wife was coming to pick me up from the convalescent home; she wanted to take me home and I refused. The back story there was I was afflicted with all these impairments. I felt that going home would be hurting her more because I was no longer the man I once was.
Q: Did you have to work arduously on creating the paralysis in your body?
AC: Oh my God, yes...speech impairment and then physical impairment, being paralyzed on one side of my body. Everyone that saw it said they could barely control their tears. That was one of those roles that when you get on stage, you are completely drained.
Q: Does being from a Latino background help you to understand the Italian familia of Buon Natale better?
AC: Of course. I remember Christmases where my mom would do her best to hide the gifts in the closet. We'd always find them. Come Christmas, they'd try to make us believe that Santa had come. Those moments where family would come together and be up until 4 or 5 in the morning celebrating Christmas...I'm really looking forward to this Christmas, because it's going to be like that. We have a lot of family that's coming in; it's going to be the first time that a lot of family has been together. I completely relate to that in the story - the fish.
(The Bongiovanni family have cod on Christmas Eve; my mom, who was Irish, cooked creamed cod and the Hispanics have their fish too. What a small world!)
I also relate to those who are no longer with us. Memories. We reminisce over the Christmas photos.
Q: What do you apply to your acting that you learned in class at Meisner?
AC: You have to understand things that have occurred in your lifetime and what opinions you have about them. You understand how you can evoke that, given imaginary circumstances, whatever they may be. And...never leave yourself out of it, even when the character as written is totally different from yourself.
Q: Do you prefer the stage or film?
AC: On a personal level, I love doing theatre. It's so much fun, because it can be so unpredictable. Sometimes moments are created during a performance that you never knew were there. All of a sudden you think: WOW! or things happen unexpectedly that create a different moment. In Ed Begley's Cesar and Ruben, there was so much going on. Every night something would go wrong, and cast members were the only ones that were aware of it, but what happened ended up working beautifully and right into the story.
TV... I love to do as well. The money, the exposure, the visibility: work begets work. Chances are that other things will arise from that. If you're trying to do theatre for fame or to make money, you're doing it for the wrong reasons; you're in for a big disappointment.
Q: Being a native Angeleno and Latino, how do you feel about the strides Latinos have made in the biz? Is it enough? Son bastantes los cambios?
AC: Si, han cambiado las cosas para los actores latinos, pero el porcentaje de los actores latinos todavia esta a un nivel que no es totalmente significante. Porque, el porcentaje de los actores latinos al porcentaje de actores americanos es como 4 o 5 por ciento. Hay mas latinos que estan persiguiendo la carrera de actuacion, en teatro, en television y todavia no es suficiente el cambio que yo he visto. Edward James Olmos y Tony Plana, por ejemplo, han actuado por mas de 20, 30 anos y todos me dicen que todavia no es suficiente. Ha pasado mucho que ha ayudado el progreso, comenzando, por ejemplo, con Ricky Martin. Aunque el es cantante, lo que el hizo para los actores, los cantantes latinos, es tremendo. Y se puede ver en muchos programas que si se estan representando mas latinos. Ugly Betty es el primer programa que 80 por ciento de la populacion que ven el programa no son latinos, sino americanos. Hace mucho tiempo programas como Chico and The Man o Good Times desafortunadamente no tuvieron el porcentaje que solia verlos. Perso si, han cambiado las cosas poco a poco.
For those who do not understand Spanish, Mr. Coronel is saying that in comparison to the percentage of American actors, the percentage of Latin actors working is still relatively small, but thanks to shows like Ugly Betty, a larger percentage of Americans are watching it and therefore appreciating the Hispanic culture and spreading the word.
Al Coronel is a survivor and destined to be a winner. He is a very basic, down-to-earth guy that makes the best type of actor, in my book.
To hire him as a personal trainer, call: 949-689-3232.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Adam Simmons Interview - from 2005

The following is an interview with Adam Simmons that we did in 2005 after his phenomenal success in Dorian The Musical at NoHo Arts Center (fall 2004). The interview first appeared

When we sat down to chat over tea in NoHo recently, Adam Simmons told me interestingly enough that he was no stranger to Dorian. In fact, the combination Opie (young Ron Howard in The Andie Griffith Show)/Bart Conner look-alike had auditioned 3 years earlier for Dorian's incarnation in Denver, Colorado and ended up being the second choice to play Dorian. Simmons held on to one of the original songs that was eventually cut from the show "Hold Still" and performed it for his LA audition. Producers James J. Mellon and Kevin Bailey were undecidedly impressed and cast him this time around.

Simmons is a totally positive person and believes fiercely in the value encounters that lead one to the next level of success - "planting the seeds". Through a friend who saw Dorian, he learned that the musical Bark! needed understudies/replacements. He proceeded to audition for creator and musical director David Troy Francis who hired him on the spot.

During his teen years in LA, Simmons served as a veterinary technician for 5 years and entered Iowa State to study Veterinary Science. He didn't become a vet, but has never lost his love for dogs. And so, keeping at arm's length the old show biz adage "No dogs or actors allowed!" he currently gets a chance to prove that love 3 times a week as he sings out passionately "I Am the Terrier from Mars" in the guise of canine Ben onstage at the Coast Playhouse in Bark!

Simmons describes himself as bicoastal, having recently purchased his apartment in New York City. He first moved there after graduating from Iowa State with a triple major in Veterinary Science, Business and Performing Arts. It was Pirates of Penzance at Iowa State that got him hooked on the stage. "I was bit by the bug". His first job in the Big Apple was a booking in the largest Equity children's theatre tour of Young Tom Edison that he took through the midwest, northeast and on into Alaska before returning to NYC and landing a gig as a swing in the 2000 Broadway version of Jesus Christ Superstar. He calls his casting "one of those flukes". He understudied 18 roles and went on in 12 of them, including the part of Annas. After Superstar, it was a wonderful 6-month tryst in End of the World Party with Jim J Bullock and then on to LA "to give it a try".

On the day of our conversation he was off to a booking of an episode of Showtime's The Cell about a terrorist cell in which he plays a green FBI surveillance agent. This is definitely "against type" as "I get a chance to say a lot of bad words". With some roles on TV and 2 major ones on the LA stage to his credit, Simmons forges full speed ahead, believing in himself as an actor: "I am a good storyteller." As far as music is concerned, "David Troy Francis will make me a better technician/musician. He will give me the tricks, the tools to be more engaging. I practice and I value my work, but he (Francis) has made me aware of 'perfect practice': doing it right the first time by looking at every note and respecting it."

When I suggested that his young age (28) might be a factor in not having it all together, he reminded me that Orlando Bloom is a star. "I don't want the excuse to be that I am too young, but rather that I am not prepared". How does he define success? "Getting to do what you love, getting paid for it, doing it well, and getting some recognition for it, in whatever form that takes".

Simmons' business mind is clearly at work as he calculates his rise. He also wants to be a producer like the phenomenal David Merrick, "but nicer". During his early beginnings in New York he got involved in summer stock with the Northern Lights Playhouse in Wisconsin that offers a "true rotating rep". In show biz terms, that means a different show 7 days a week: set comes down and the next one goes up in a matter of hours. During that time as well as acting in the various plays, he learned marketing and advertising and on his return to NYC in 1998 went to work in marketing and promotions for such shows as Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon and Julie Taymor's now esoteric Green Bird. Not a bad start, kiddo! He also finds time to learn Mandarin. Why? With China's super power status imposing more and more, why let a language be the barrier? "So I can take my Broadway shows to China. It's good business; it's where the people are".

Robert Sean Leonard, Guy Pearce, Johnny Depp and Ian McKellan are role models, so Simmons definitely aims high, but still has his feet firmly planted. His ultimate goal? "To tell great stories, even if it's in a small theatre in Wisconsin, as long as I can make a small, but livable wage".

And the role he longs to play more than any other? "Fool in King Lear. He embodies the humanity that Lear progressively loses during the course of the play. It is 'love' that we want to follow us around even though life happens".

For a man his age, Simmons seems to possess enough wisdom to get him through the hard times. He will not accept just any part to get by. "I have a hard time with gratuitous, foul language and nudity in a show. Nudity needs to have a reason. There's enough shock value in the world".

At 2 or 3 points during the conversation Simmons referred to himself as a 'great' singer, then, perhaps for fear that I might interpret his as an overly audacious ego, changed his phrasing to a 'good' singer. Quite to the contrary, I am impressed with audacity, as long as you can put your money where your mouth is. Adam Simmons certainly can. I interrupted him by saying, "No, Adam, you are a great singer and, with your consistent efforts and perseverance, you are well on your way to becoming even greater".