Friday, March 27, 2015

2015 Interview with Emanuel Loarca

Written by Steve Peterson

Actor/director Emanuel Loarca, founder of Akabal Theatre, is the creator and director behind the play Under My Skin running March 26th – April 23rd at the Macha Theatre in WeHo, Thursdays at 8PM with a pre-show in the lobby starting at 7:30pm. 

You’ve performed in more than 90 plays as an actor.  How did you get started directing?  What was the first play you directed?

When I was 18, I met the late Alba Oms, my beloved acting teacher and director whom I studied with for several years at the Puerto Rican Travelling Theatre.  She mentored me and showed me the ropes. 

The first play I directed professionally was Blood Wedding at Teatro el Puente in Brooklyn, New York. It was there that I learned the importance of community.  I was so inspired by those kids who came from difficult backgrounds and challenges.  They showed me that you can do anything you put your minds to.

Tell us about Akabal, the theatre company you founded.  

As an actor, I got tired of the stereotype, one-dimensional characters I would get called in for.    I wanted to tell stories that could empower our American Latino Community and also help me develop my craft and I wanted a place to create original works that would be poignant and funny and always celebrating the human spirit.   The name Akabal comes from the Mayan.  It is a sign that means knowledge from the past enlightens the future. 

What was the genesis of this play? Where did the idea come from?  How did you find the source material?

Several years ago, I was sitting in the Village at the Ed Gould Plaza (Los Angeles LGBT Center) when I came up with the concept for Under My Skin.  Originally, I wrote it as a one-act, with the idea that I would one day develop it into a full length play that I could direct.   In 2014, Akabal Theatre, the company I founded, was given the opportunity to produce the play at the One City One Pride Festival with the proviso that besides the topic of love, the play would also address marriage equality for disenfranchised communities; I wanted to make the play about the human experience and not about sexual choices or the sexual act.  I called in favors from international writer- friends of mine, and they responded with poignant pieces.  From those pieces I learned about the challenges culture, religion and traditions have in the lives of people who love differently. 

What is the play about?

While at a wedding, six characters share their personal experiences, based on real life stories about being different, being rejected, and just wanting to be loved unconditionally.  This drama explores with humor what lives under the skin of survivors of intolerance, homophobia, and transphobia enhanced with song, and movement celebrating the joy of culture, unbreakable faith and the power of self-acceptance.  The play is performed in English and Spanish with subtitles in both languages. 

“Under My Skin” was the only theatre piece invited to perform at the One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival.  How did it go?

It went amazingly well.   It was standing room only.  The Akabal creative team and cast felt so honored to have the opportunity to share our voices, our stories with a different audience, in a different language.  The play was followed by a Q & A.  It was such a beautiful night!

What would like to see as a result of someone seeing “Under My Skin”? 

I hope everyone has a great time and that the play makes them think and challenges old information, and brings communities together with more compassion and understanding.

Is there something else coming up for you---something you’re preparing to direct, or as an actor an upcoming appearance in film, TV, or theatre?

Yes, I am set to direct “Unbreaking” a short film about the complicated relationship between a father and his son.   I am also working on a script for a TV pilot series drama; based on the life of a theater director who is working on a play with similar themes as Under My Skin, which force him to confront issues in his own life

Is there anything else you want us to know about you, Akabal, or this play?  

Everyone involved in the Akabal Theatre production of Under My Skin is thankful for all the love and support from friends and followers.  This is what fuels us to continue to create original works of and for social awareness.

Tickets: $25.  Seniors/Students/Groups: $20.  Mature material.  Ages 18+.  Buy Tickets/Info: or (917) 689-4567.   The play is being performed in association with Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

2015 Interview - Dan DeLuca Tours with Newsies

        Actor/singer Dan DeLuca has many regional stage credits that include Danny in Stephen Schwartz's Snapshots (Goodspeed), Lucas in The Addams Family (Muny), and Gabe in Next to Normal (Weston Playhouse). New York credits include: Cain/Japheth in Children of Eden (CAP21), plus various concerts/new works at 54 Below, Joe's Pub & Radio City. DeLuca will begin performances at the Pantages in the first national tour of Newsies as Jack Kelly on March 24. In our chat he tells us just how much Newsies means to him.              

             I understand you were born in 1992, the year the film Newsies came out. Put all of this into perspective for me, how you feel about that and how you felt about the film as a kid. Did you ever think that someday you would be playing the role of Jack Kelly?

I have to be honest, I never actually saw the film until I was in high school. I am a very proud Disney freak but my parents never bought me the VHS so I never had any exposure to it. However, when I finally saw the film, I imagined myself playing the role of Racetrack (Max Casella’s role in the film). I dreamed of standing on tables and singing King of New York, not riding a horse in a cowboy hat. Now I’m 22 and Captain (or cowboy) Jack Kelly is a much better fit.

              How challenging a role is Jack to play onstage? Is it as difficult or more so than others you have tackled? If so, in what way?

I think Jack Kelly is one of the most difficult male tracks in musical theater. I wore a Fitbit on my ankle one night and I burn over 900 calories every time I do the show. It’s the best marathon ever. It’s extremely vocally and physically demanding. Lots of high notes to sing, lots of speeches to get the guys riled up, lots of punching and lots of getting punched. It’s an adventure every night and I am having the time of my life.

How is the stage version of Newsies similar to the film?

It still has the plot line and songs that everyone knows and loves.. You still get “Seize the Day” and "Santa Fe", they are just more flushed out for the stage. 

            How is the musical different from the film?

There are quite a handful of differences, as one should expect. Harvey Fierstein cut the Bill Pullman character (Denton) from the film and created a new character for the stage named Katherine, a sassy and sophisticated reporter who writes about the Newsies’ strike and serves as a love interest for Jack Kelly.  Alan Menken and Jack Feldman added a number of catchy and smart songs that won them the 2012 Tony Award for Best Score. I’ve met many fans of the movie who have come to see the show and they have not been disappointed.

Describe working with this creative team - the composers, the director, choreographer. I understand we are about to see some of the best dancing onstage EVER. Talk a little about that.

Alan Menken, Jack Feldman, Harvey Fierstein, Jeff Calhoun, and Chris Gatelli…no wonder the show is a hit. Each one of those men is just as talented, smart, loving and supportive as the next. 

The score is out of this world. On my day off, I find myself singing the songs in the shower and I get mad at Alan and Jack because the score is so catchy and I deserve a day off (laughing). I have never had a composer make such a tremendous impact on my life as Alan Menken. Not a day has gone by in my life when I have not either hummed or sung one of his songs out loud. Jack Feldman and I also share the stupidest sense of humor and we can entertain each other for hours texting dumb jokes. Jack also wrote the songs for A Goofy Movie, which makes him one of the coolest guys ever. 

Harvey is also one of the sweetest men on the planet. He treated me like an old friend the second we met. I have seen him in countless Broadway shows and movies and think he is one of the most talented people in the business and, it’s a dream come true getting to work with him. 

I met Jeff Calhoun two years ago and he has been so supportive of me getting this role, and I can’t thank him enough. He’s been so great about letting me explore and play as Jack. Every time he comes to see the show, we’ll have a new discussion about the character and it continues to help me grow. 

Poor Chris Gatelli had to work with my “dance” skills. I've never worked with a choreographer who caters so much to his dancers. He is one of those talented forces of nature with a heart of gold. I'd work with him again in a heartbeat. 

     Are you looking forward to LA audiences? 

I am thrilled to be opening this show in LA. It will be so nice to sit down and really explore the city. I don’t know what to expect but I have a feeling I’m really going to enjoy it.

      What fun story can you tell me about working in Newsies on the road? An embarrassing moment or something that can only happen onstage.

There is a new story everyday. The set is made up of 3 giant towers that move all over the stage. If they malfunction, it results in me improving a whole new scene (which is an adventure for everyone involved) until stage management can get them back on track. Lyrics have been forgotten and I’ve fallen on my butt and face a number of times. The list goes on...

The performance schedule for Newsies is Tuesday through Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm & 8pm, and Sunday at 1pm & 6:30pm. There are previews March 24 and 25 and opening Night is Thursday, March 26 at 8 pm. The show runs through April 19. Newsies is recommended for ages 6 and up.
For tickets or more information about the Los Angeles engagement of Newsies, please visit: 

(photo credit: Deen van Meer)

2015 Interview with Brady Schwind, Director of Carrie the Musical

What has been your greatest challenge in directing Carrie The Musical?

The biggest challenge to directing this production of Carrie is our environmental staging which is at once intimate and epic - putting the actors and very complicated special effects only feet away from audience members. It's rather like creating a two hour 'close-up' magic trick - you can't hit any false notes - either in the slight of hand of the effects, or in the honesty of the performances.The audience will be right there for everything.

More specifically, the technical challenges of the show are enormous. We've got 300 lighting cues, illusions, water, blood, complicated sound effects.  Integrating those elements takes enormous logistic planning. The tone of the piece has to be just right to work -- horror relies on thrills and unexpected surprises, but the story also demands humor, and emotional honesty.  Balancing those elements is a careful science. 

Explain how the changes in the script affect your work on the piece.

I've luckily had Lawrence Cohen, the original book writer, at my disposal in creating this production, and he has been incredibly supportive of our vision for this piece, and open to tweaks to the script that work for 'this' concept of the musical. That collaboration works much as it does on any re-imagined production; Larry and I talk about new ideas for a certain scene; he creates wonderful new lines which we explore in the rehearsal room, and then we hone in together to create what will ultimately work best in performance.  

How vastly different is this piece from the original Carrie?

Larry, Michael and Dean already did a drastic re-write to the musical before it opened Off Broadway in 2012 at MCC.  We are starting with the template of that revision and are making tweaks for our re-imagining. But audiences familiar with that production can expect quite a bit of new dialogue, a new scene involving Margaret in a parent-teacher conference at Carrie's high school, and musical verses in "Do Me a Favor" and "The Destruction" that are restored from the original Broadway mounting.

What is your cast contributing?

They are sensational!  Fearless and true. Misty Cotton who plays Margaret is one of Los Angeles's finest singing actresses; Emily Lopez who plays Carrie is a real find: she was living in Vermont at the time of our casting for this production, and won the role after submitting two sensational audition videos.  And for the younger roles, we are blessed with some of the best new talent in Los Angeles. It has been a joy to give so many kids right out of school their first professional contracts.  

What do you wish audiences to take away?

I want them to be thrilled and moved and above all else, I want them to have fun. Theatre should be a visceral experience.

Remember Carrie will perform in La Mirada at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, March 12 - April 5!

2015 Interview with Producers of Carrie The Musical


Explain briefly but specifically the changes in the staging of Carrie since the last New York production three years ago. I understand the set is different. How? Does it bring the audience into the action more?

The Off Broadway production was the impetus for a renewal of interest in the show. Although it closed early, that chamber production, which was performed on a standard proscenium stage, proved that the brand still had widespread audience appeal.

Following that lead, we are producing an audience-immersive, environmental production of Carrie in which we will be bringing the audience into the center of the action. The audience will be seated, some of them in movable bleachers, in the gymnasium of Ewan High School and the story of Carrie’s days in school will happen all around them, with many surprises and terrifying moments. At every performance, some members of the audience will be invited to attend the prom and who knows what might happen there?

Is the music intact or has any of that been changed as well? What about the book?

The music is essentially the same great score that many people love so much, although there will definitely be additional music in this production. The authors are working closely with us and are making small changes to the score, book and lyrics. We are excited because we are attempting to develop a new approach to the show which will make it more accessible to today’s audiences. One of the most beloved thrillers of all time, Carrie spins a classic tale of bloodsport and revenge. Our production is not a replacement for any other version. It is a reimagining, a telling of a classic tale from a new point of view.

Has bringing Carrie into contemporary light with all of the psychological problems of teens more apparent made the story more accessible to them and to their parents?

The psychological problems of teens are the same now as they ever were. It is the media and technological advancement that has changed. Perhaps it is easier now to reach our younger audiences but the world of high school never changes. There are always the jocks. There are always the cheerleaders, the nerds, the stoners, the bullies and the bullied. No matter when we went to high school we all have visceral memories of that time. We are inviting our audiences to enter into their own good or bad memories and to go back to high school with us. Everyone remembers. Do we ever forget those days? Do we ever escape them? Do they still haunt our dreams?

What is the plan for this show? Is it hopeful that a Broadway run is in the offing?

This is a developmental production with an extraordinary director, Brady Schwind, who has conceived this exciting new road we travel, and a fantastic creative team who are working with all their powers to astound our audiences and to scare the pants off them. If all goes well at LaMirada, we are planning future productions for cities around the world, perhaps kicking off with Las Vegas, New Orleans and Toronto. Although we are active Broadway producers, we have no sights set on Broadway at the moment.

Anything else you care to add?
We invite you and your readers to join us in conversation #experience carrie and at the theatre for this very special look at a most remarkable musical. Carrie lives in all of us. We are all Carrie and we delight in bringing terror to the City of Angels.

In addition to Carrie the Musical, these prolific men are about to open the first major New York City revival of the Tony Award-winning The 39 Steps. They have brought the entire original creative team back together, including Tony Award-nominated director, Maria Aitken, and the show is presently in rehearsal re-creating the acclaimed Broadway and London production. The production is scheduled to begin performances on April 1 and open on April 13, 2015. In addition, they also have a major play revival in development for the fall and a new dance musical Pirates! Their critically acclaimed production of the musical On The Town continues to delight audiences at the Lyric Theatre on Broadway.
Remember Carrie will perform in La Mirada at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, March 12 - April 5!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Guest Interview

by Steve Peterson

FRAWLEY BECKER is a published book and short story author and a published and three-time prize-winning playwright. A man of many talents, he was a State Department Entertainment Director for military bases outside Paris during the Cold War, founded the first African-American theatre company within the U.S. military in 1959, formed Paris Playhouse in 1963 and was the first to professionally produce Edward Albee plays in France. For the next ten years he worked as a bilingual dialogue coach in films while living in Paris, coaching Audrey Hepburn, Peter O’Toole, Rex Harrison, Omar Sharif, Jacqueline Bisset, Ann-Margret, Samantha Eggar, Robert Ryan, Gene Wilder and all the Oompa-Loompas of the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Back in the U.S., Becker worked as a location manager for features including Jerry Maguire, Steel Magnolias, and the original Footloose, and TV movies for Oprah Winfrey Presents; and was a production executive at The Disney Studios. His award-winning, searing drama “Tiger by the Tail” has its west coast premiere March 6 through April 19 at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in the NoHo Arts District of North Hollywood, CA. For more information about the play please visit

How did you first get interested in the theatre and working in the theatre?

I grew up in Philadelphia which, like Boston, was a try-out city for plays before they went to Broadway. I saw everything that opened, started when I was 17. I saw James Dean in the only two plays he did before he went to live television in New York and on to Hollywood. After college and the army I hooked up with a local theatre company and found I loved the work and the atmosphere.

You were hired by the State Dept. as an Entertainment Director for American military bases outside of Paris during the Cold War. How did that job come about?

Shortly after I arrived in Paris I landed a job as an American Express bank teller on a military base outside Paris. It was the top military base over all the others throughout Europe. I soon formed a theatre company and started directing plays after hours. One of the plays was Clare Luce’s The Women with 25 women in the cast, some military, some dependent wives. When the play closed, two generals phoned Washington and said I should be doing this work full time and be paid American dollars instead of French francs.

You founded the first African-American theatre company within the U.S. military in 1959. What drove you to do that and how was the work of the theatre company received by the military administration and the military audience members, at a time when the United States was till embroiled in racial conflict with the African-Americans?

I grew up in a liberal family. When I was 19, I attended a political rally for Henry Wallace who was running for president in 1948 on a third party ticket.  Paul Robeson sang and going home the trolley cars were filled with black and white people all singing together. Years later when I was working on the military base outside Paris, I noticed that only white people auditioned for plays but that both white and black people auditioned for the musical shows. So I decided to form an African-American (Negro back then) theatre company. The first play was Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew in Elizabethan costumes, complete with tights and ruffs and capes. In the audience on opening night, you could hear jaws dropping down to the floor.

In 1963, while living in Paris, you formed the Paris Playhouse, and were the first to professionally produce plays by Edward Albee in France. Why the plays of Edward Albee?

Albee received the Tony for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 1963 and was the hottest American playwright around. I met with him in New York and told him about my forming Paris Playhouse and wanting to produce two of his one-acts, Zoo Story and The Death of Bessie Smith in English. Though the theatre contained 400 seats, Albee asked for only a small royalty payment, as if the theatre were a 99-seater Off-Broadway, thus contributing to the Franco- American cultural affair. Princess Grace of Monaco and the British ambassador to France attended the gala opening.

 Tell us a bit about the play.

In 1999 Frank Valdes, a prisoner in a Florida State prison, was brutally beaten to death by guards. The prison tried to cover it up and even a federal investigation was later buried. In such an atmosphere of violence, corruption, and murder, I wondered what it would be like to play a love story against it, and not just any love story but one involving two men, one on the outside and one on the inside. Just as there is violence in many forms, so there is love in many forms and the play takes you through some of them. Also, love is always worth writing about.

 "Tiger by the Tail” garnered Best Play in the 2005 Firehouse Theatre Project’s Festival of New American Plays and soon after, a production in New York City. Have there been any major revisions to the play since you first fashioned it, as the world has changed?

The play has barely changed in form or content because it was already ahead of its time in 2005. A love relationship between two men today is much more acceptable than it was ten years ago. Brokeback Mountain was released at the end of 2005, just after I’d received the award in Richmond, and just prior to the play’s mounting in New York. That film was a game-changer. The New York production of the play attracted a completely heterogeneous group of people. Older straight couples were walking out at the end with handkerchiefs to their noses. It’s universal -- everyone is touched by a good love story.

"Tiger by the Tail" plays March 6 - April 19/Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00PM/Sunday Matinees at 2:00PM/Talk-back Sundays after shows March 15th & April 5 th/Mature Material – Nudity – Strong Language/Admission: $25/Seniors/Students: $20/Groups 10+: $15
Buy Tickets/Info: or (818) 763-5990