Sunday, January 31, 2010

Interview - Gale Harold

Best known for his 6-year stint as Brian Kinney on Showtime's Queer as Folk, actor Gale Harold is currently treading the boards at Theatre/Theater in the rarely produced Orpheus Descending by Tennessee Williams through February 21. Talk about commitment to a role! On the night I attended the play the cast did a Q & A after the performance with audience at which time Harold shared a story about iconic teacher Stella Adler's script interpretation notes in which it was stated that she once shut a student down in scene study class for his "pedestrian interpretation" of Williams' lyric poetry in Valentine's monologue about the bird with no wings.

GH: She said something like "You cannot speak this as if you heard the story down on the dock." For an actor with great expectations, it gives you cold feet.

Q: You have obviously taken your preparation for this role to heart. As an actor, you are a very good listener, but so is Valentine. What do you feel this attribute contributes to his overall symbolism in the play? Is he a healer of sorts?

GH: I don't think Valentine's aware of that. Even though he's a hustler, he's had to survive by his wit and by his charm and by learning other things on the streets. When he communicates, I don't think what results he does consciously. I think it's just his spirit that's driving him. He loves to listen; he grew up all alone without family. There's that aspect of hearing things that probably most people couldn't hear. It's not what's coming through the words, but what's coming through your eyes and your heart. Like Stella (Adler) said, he listens to a voice, what's communicated through the soul. It's not something that we always come across.

Q: He's an unusual person. He's bigger than he knows.

GH: That's absolutely true. It's an allegory. He's a mythological character and a real person. You can't really be both if you know you're both. I'm treading very lightly on this, as I'm not really sophisticated to know.

Q: It's very complex and you're doing very well with it. What is the tune that Valentine keeps singing throughout?

GH: It's a poem that Williams wrote. The words of the's straightforward and simple. The meaning there is's almost this country blues kind of song about this bird who is or is not this boy who is or is not this bird that used to be free. When he walked, he walked in a way on the grass that was growing in heaven. He was up in the stars and he watched the stars and he watched the sky, and one day he fell to earth. When he was given birth, he came out of his mother, but he's not himself in a different place. A beautiful image...the whole idea of it, I think!

Q: You played Dr. Cukrowicz in another Tennessee Williams play, in a New York production of Suddenly Last Summer. Would you compare this character to Valentine?

GH: I enjoyed playing him immensely. The characters themselves, even though they are both listeners, they're similar structurally in that a lot of their function in the piece is to listen. Listen to the memories, the ideas, and the passions. But they're incredibly different. Cukrowicz is young, somewhat ambitious, but still in his early stages, dealing with the procedure of lobotomy, which was very, very new. Not much was known about it. It was experimental, dangerous. That character is much more restrained, more about being the sounding board between the female characters. Valentine is much more involved. He's a transient and has some real problems in terms of the things he's done and up against. He's under scrutiny and gets put in a vey dangerous situation. He's a much more lyrical, active part of the story. The ideas are much more complicated in Orpheus Descending. In our production, Lou Pepe (director) has done a great job. When you take a great myth and incorporate it into a modern story, you get vastly different aspects, ambitious and compelling.

Q: Do you have a role that you really yearn to play?

GH: There are so many. I don't like to talk about it, actually. I let those ideas kind of percolate out there.

Q: Is there one part that you've played that stands out in your mind?

GH: There've been some great ones, but I'm still waiting for that one... Valentine is probably the most encompassing. You do the background work and it grows on you. It's quite a fire.

Q: You have a good singing voice. Have you done musicals? If not, do you want to do one?

GH: I haven't. I'm an extreme novice. I'm so out of my league.

Q: How did you enjoy your role in Desperate Housewives?

GH: I enjoyed it. It was something very different, very new for me. The way that Marc Cherry writes, the way that he sees what's going was challenging. I'm not a comic and didn't have a lot of experience doing comedy. In that project, there's that fine line between comedy and dark drama. The things that are funny are not horrifying, but shocking or troubling. There's a very specific idea of timing and the way it works. And I immediately realized I had to say, "Marc, tell me, direct me, because I'm not sure where I'm really at!" It was fun.

Q: Are you more challenged with stage work than with doing film?

GH: In theatre, you go up, you do a performance each night, and you have things that change from night to night... the house, the way they're responding, the vibration that's coming back to you, or how they are not responding, your own nervousness, the fun of just being able to let it run every night. The other side is keeping your energy up, keeping your perspective clear. There's the challenge of making sure that you're playing each scene as if it's happening for the first time. On the other hand, I love films and working on film sets. And there's something that really fascinates me about getting into the light someone that may be over in 18 days or however long you're working. What seems banal is challenging. I love it all. If the material is good, and if the people that are putting it together are motivated and have a sense of humor and aren't afraid of really pushing each other to uncomfortable places, then there's nothing better.

Q: Good! What do you think is the real success of Queer as Folk? Why is it still so popular in rerun?

GH: It represents for many people something new and the way to have their voices expressed. There is a combination of...the way the original was (the British version), there's a bit of an anarchic: life is short, don't get put in a box, don't be scared to make choices that are not based on someone else's ideas, stay true to the things that you believe in whether they are good or bad, right or wrong. There's a bit of soul survivor, as in the role I was playing. That ideology was in the original and to some degree in ours, and also there's a lot of sex. Anytime you have something with a lot of sex, you're going to have fans. It's human nature. The American version had a bit of camp built into it. If you can hit the bullseye and make it funny and make it relevant, but still have some soul to it...

Q: What do you feel is your most important mission as an actor?

GH: Oh, God, I would hope it would be to ...on some level whatever the job is, whatever the part is try and find the truth in whatever you're doing. Nonjudgmental truth. And then communicating it so that it is believable, even if it is a lie, and that it is true for each person that watches it. Everybody knows eveybody on some level. We can all imagine. And that's why the arts, drama is so important, because it continually tells our story. It allows us to revisit and live on through it. Be a storyteller and get it out there so that it can be understood, make sense and do its job.

Q: Anything up and coming for Gale Harold?

GH: It's all pretty much up in the air at the moment.

Based on seeing this man in Orpheus Descending and talking with him, I sense that it won't be up in the air for long. He's a serious actor who is not afraid of taking risks, big risks and is therefore bound for glory.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Squigs Shows MY Lines

Caricaturist Justin 'Squigs' Robertson shows my lines above. Be sure and check out my interview with him below and also @ los angeles
(Search under Don Grigware!)

Happy 2010 to all my readers and check out my new website design by Fred Barca @ Euro American Media!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

2010 Interview with Justin "Squigs" Robertson

Actor Justin 'Squigs' Robertson is an amazing caricaturist of theatrical celebrities. Born in Corvallis, Oregon and raised in Lebanon, Oregon, he moved to Los Angeles in 1990 to attend college.

Q: When did you start drawing?
JR: I’ve drawn for as long as I can remember. All kids draw. Some just don’t stop. Dad has artistic abilities too and I think it was his encouragement early on that led to my passion for drawing. My folks were so great about getting lessons for whatever us kids showed an interest in, and so I took some painting courses at a local studio and won an award at the town fair. I just kept at it, and once I started performing semi-professionally in the theatre in 1993, I began giving cast sketches as closing night gifts. My vocation came directly from the word of mouth and support from many angels over the years.

Q: When did it become more than just a hobby?
JR: Over the years, the closing night gifts led to commissions, and gradually commission requests were not only coming from folks in my local Los Angeles theatre community but also from far-flung locales like Seattle and Chicago and Washington DC and then Broadway. It’s been gradual, but I would say that the career has taken a few steps forward with some extra self-promotional effort since 2006. And in 2009 I committed myself to the exercise of creating at least one fresh and timely sketch each week for posting on my Facebook page, “Squigs Knows His Lines.” It’s been a great exercise that has opened some doors, both professionally and, more importantly, in my own perception of my work.

Q: Is Hirschfeld your idol? How do you respond to people who say you are the next Hirschfeld?
JR: I would definitely say that he’s an idol. I own nearly all of the published books of his work and I own one of his lithographs. No matter how many times I look at his drawings, I’m always astounded by his potent economy and the dance of his line. I’m incredibly honored when folks see his influence in my work, but there will never be another. He’s a true legend. If I can fill even a portion of the void he left, with a fraction of the style in which he worked, I’d be happy.

Q: Who are other inspirational artists?
JR: I’m consistently blown away by Robert Risko, Sam Norkin, Bob Staake, John Kascht, Kristen Ulve, Steve Brodner, and the recently departed David Levine.

Q: Do you do anything besides caricatures?
JR: I play ukulele. And I can sort of juggle. Oh… the art. I have also dabbled in character and logo design, coloring books, storyboarding for short films, and educational illustration.

Q: Do you do work on both coasts or pretty much in California?
JR: I’ve lived in Los Angeles for almost 20 years (with one or two trips to the east coast each year for the past five years or so), but I’ll be in New York soon… May in fact (after a few months in chilly Milwaukee). But wherever I’m located, I work rather well from photos (and videos when available). So I feel grateful that I’m able to draw anyone anywhere with the right reference material.

Q: Who do you consider your best caricature?
JR: That’s really hard to pin down. There are so many factors. Each time I draw someone I do my best to capture not just their likeness, but their essence in a specific moment. And I try to do it in the fewest possible lines. If I’m successful at that, it makes me very happy.

Q: Things are going well for you!?
JR: I’m incredibly grateful to do what I love, and so many amazing folks have helped me along the journey. It has been quite a ride and we’re only picking up steam. Thank you Don for the opportunity to ramble a bit. Happy New Year everybody!

(Above left, the current New York revival of A Little Night Music with Alexander Hanson, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury; right, T. R. Knight and Lara Pulver in the Taper's brilliant Parade this past season.)
for many more!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2010 interview with actor/producer Chad Borden

Actor/producing director of Havok Theatre Company Chad Borden has been treading the boards in LA theatre for many years, this year being Ovation nominated for his portrayal of Molina in Kiss of the Spider Woman (photo, above top).

Q: Tell me about Havok's new season and your opening production.
CB: THE STORY OF MY LIFE opens our new 2010 Havok Theatre Company season at the Lillian Theatre in Hollywood with previews beginning on February 25. Two years ago when our inaugural production of THRILL ME was running at the Hudson, several people said we should look at this new musical called THE STORY OF MY LIFE which was part of the NAMT Festival. Nick DeGruccio (our Havok Artistic Director) and I have multiple shows which are constantly swirling around our brains as potential production material. After producing something as ambitious as KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN to close our first season, we felt something small and simple would be best for our next show. We chose STORY because of no other reason than...the story. Nick and I always gravitate towards material with a moving core story. Written by Neil Bartram and Brian Hill and nominated for 4 2009 Drama Desk Awards including Outstanding Musical, it is a beautifully distilled treatment of two best friends who grow apart over the years for seemingly unknown reasons.

Q: How did you enjoy F*cking Men?
CB: I really enjoyed my first experience at the Celebration Theatre in F*CKING MEN. It was a great part, and a very different part for me. As an actor, I always relish the chance to dive into new material and new characters.

Q: Is your commitment to Havok the reason for your not being in the extension of it?
CB: Yes. I just finished playing the Grinch in the GRINCHMAS shows directed by Dan Mojica at Universal Studios while doing pre-production on THE STORY OF MY LIFE. Our Havok production and rehearsal schedule in January and February will require all of my time and focus.

Q: How was Fiddler at the Rubicon?
CB: I loved working at the Rubicon! James O'Neil and Karyl Lynn Burns create a wonderful family with each show up there in Ventura. FIDDLER is simply iconic, and I was so lucky to play Motel in a great production with lots of friends, new and old.

Q: Is Molina in Kiss your favorite role? If not, what is?
CB: Yes. Molina in SPIDER WOMAN is my favorite role. Also close to the top of the list are my roles in THE LARAMIE PROJECT and the Emcee in CABARET.

Q: Who is your favorite actor? actress? Film or stage!
CB: It's hard to name just one, but when I think of one actor who has affected me over the years in film, on television, AND on stage, I would definitely say Glenn Close. She always makes the unexpected choice, and that's thrilling to me.

Q: Do you have a favorite play or musical of all time?
CB: For musicals...anything Kander & Ebb...SPIDER WOMAN, CHICAGO, CABARET. I also love BIG RIVER, and I'm still a sucker for OKLAHOMA! As for plays, AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY is rooted in my recent memory, but I would still say ANGELS IN AMERICA is my favorite play of all time. I will never forget scoring a last-minute cancellation ticket on Broadway, and seeing that play front row center mezzanine with the original cast.

Q: Do you yearn to play a certain part?
CB: Albin in LA CAGE AUX FOLLES....someday....when I grow up!