Wednesday, June 29, 2016

2016 Interview - Griff O'Neil

Singers, dancers, actors, models and instrumentalists will compete at the 20th Annual World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA) July 8 – 17, 2016 in Long Beach, California. This international meet is often cited as the official “Talent Olympics” for performers and is the only event of its kind!
Performers are selected from the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Europe, Asia and South Africa. Contestants will be vying for the gold and scholarships and prizes from New York Film Academy, New York Conservatory for Film & TV, Millennium Dance Complex, LA Models, Oleg Cassini, Indasoul Records and CSM Words/Music.

WCOPA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Griff O'Neil took time out of his busy schedule to sit down and talk to us. He describes in detail for our readers about the championship, how it got started, what participants and specific categories it includes ...  and its overall uniqueness as a worldwide event.

Tell me briefly in your own words what the championship is all about. What is the main purpose?

Our mission statement:  To create the ultimate, international Olympic-style competition for performing artists with an emphasis on accurate, professional "Hollywood" entertainment industry education and experience.  Aspiring talent around the world dream about "going to Hollywood."  So, this nine-day event provides an experience beyond belief which includes:   the renowned "Worldstars Boot Camp" - a full day of workshops by experts from the industry, a colorful "Parade of Nations" (similar to the Olympics) in which participants from each country proudly display their nation's flag and wear representative national costumes, Worldstars Village nights (evenings of fun and "meet and greets"), preliminary and semifinal competitions, a day of "go-sees" (every contestant has the opportunity to meet with industry personnel - managers, agents, record label reps, etc.), the spectacular live webcast of the finals (finalists compete for the World Champion titles in each competition category plus the coveted two prestigious WORLD titles:  Junior and Senior Grand Champion Performer of the World are awarded), and this one-of-a-kind event concludes with the exciting Awards Ceremony (gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded in the various categories of competitions).

Is this year the biggest list of countries participating? Wow! 61, I counted.

Yes, sixty-one countries are projected to be represented this year.  This is definitely a monumental year for all as WCOPA celebrates its 20th anniversary!

What contests in the performing arts are presented? I know dance is one. What others?  

There are six (6) categories of competitions in the junior (ages 15 and under) and senior (ages 16 and over) divisions in solo and group:  dancing, singing, acting, modeling, instrumentalists and variety arts

What kind of spirit do the contestants bring with them? Is it an excitement similar to the Olympics? 

There really is nothing to compare with the unforgettable expressions of awe, excitement and amazement on the faces of these fantastic achieving artists from throughout the world.  Again, going to "Hollywood" is a dream for so many... the first time to visit America... add to that, meeting and competing with talent from all over the globe... getting priceless education and tips from industry experts...  all is truly a rare, precious gift!

Tell us in detail what the winners will take with them as prizes. 

Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded along with cash and prizes, a recording contract, an Oleg Cassini gown for the female model winner and tuxedo for male model winner, and a total of $480,000 in scholarships which includes the famed Millennium Dance Complex, New York Film Academy, New York Conservatory for Film and Television!

You must have a great sense of pride in this. Give us a little background as to how it all got started.

It really is amazing to me how this all evolved.  Previously, as an executive with Miss Universe, our live telecasts (during my tenure the TV specials were on CBS and fully sponsored by Procter & Gamble) were produced in various countries around the world.  Since Miss Universe was a beauty pageant only (no talent was involved), we would go in advance to each respective host country and select exceptional talent to perform on the show.  

It was during this time I realized that so many opportunities and unique experiences appeared to be happening only for sports and athletes and nothing really for aspiring performers and entertainers.  Thus, when my term with Miss Universe ended, I spent time meeting with experts, researching and discussing "the tricks of the trade" so that eventually a non-political, truly independent World Championships for talent could be created and launched.  

The first World Championships for Performing Arts (WCOPA) occurred in 1997 with only 16 countries and 100 contestants.  Now celebrating our 20th anniversary with 61 countries to be represented and nearly 1,000 participants is indeed a dream come true! This could never have happened without the brilliant team of executives and staff that organizes and produces the event, most of whom have been with me the entire time.  

What celebrities continue to be involved in WCOPA?

Additionally, over the course of the 20 years, the Performing Arts Hall of Fame was devised so as to honor and induct at WCOPA celebrities and VIPs who have contributed to the performing arts such as Liza Minnelli, Justin Chambers, Jaclyn Smith,  Michael Bolton, Dionne Warwick, Daniel Lamarre (President and CEO of Cirque du Soleil) and many others.  Also, the International Worldstars Association was established as the first and only international organization for artistes and followers of the performing arts to provide unmatched benefits for its privileged members such as online education, training, career tips as well as invaluable products, services, enlightening and inventive concepts. Yes, as they say this is history... but more importantly, it's the chance for a future for so many!

For specific info and schedule, visit:

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Interview - Recorded in Hollywood Creative Team

We sat down with Jamelle Dolphin and Lou Spisto, producers of the returning RECORDED IN HOLLYWOOD as they prepare for the upcoming run at the Kirk Douglas Theater in Culver City. Both men talk about going deeper into John Dolphin's character and adding new material to create the perfect show, which begins previews July 8.

Jamelle (grandson of John Dolphin), authored the book "Recorded In Hollywood: The John Dolphin Story," published in 2011. The book is based on research in historical records, as well as, hundreds of hours of verbal interviews with family and friends -- and records the true life story of John Dolphin, who was owner of the world famous record store "Dolphins of Hollywood" which began around 1948. Jamelle was inspired to write the book, as a natural outgrowth of hearing the many colorful stories about his grandfather. As Jamelle grew up in Los Angeles, having the last name "Dolphin" always seemed to be followed by "are you related to John Dolphin?" Jamelle Dolphin holds a B.A. degree in Business Administration Marketing from Sonoma State University, and he currently runs Dolphins of Hollywood Productions with siblings Ahman Dolphin and Glory Dolphin Hammes, in Los Angeles, CA.

Lou Spisto: Broadway: Producer, THE GLASS MENAGERIE (TONY nominated)
directed by John Tiffany with Cherry Jones and Zachary Quinto, YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU (TONY nominated) starring James Earl Jones and Rose Byrne; LOVE LETTERS with Mia Farrow and Brian Dennehy, ROCKY and BIG FISH. London: Producer, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN at the Gielgud Theater. Old Globe: Executive Producer, raised $75 million for the theatre’s capital campaign, over ten seasons produced 140 plays and musicals, 40 world premieres, 7 transfers to Broadway. Several theatre projects in development; two television projects with the Wolper Organization; Board of Directors of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles.  

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We know that last season's run in Hollywood was a tremendous success. Why did you even contemplate making changes? 

JAMELLE: Last season’s run was a great success but we’re quite aware that at each next “step”, more will be expected of the show. Last fall, we took an honest look at what we achieved and what remained to be done.

LOU: The show was, no doubt, a crowd pleasing great time but we felt we could go deeper to tell the story of John Dolphin and his time, and still keep the entertainment level high, and perhaps even higher. So, we went back to work with all of our creative team—Matt Donelly our book writer, Andy Cooper our composer and lyricist, and Denise Dowse our director, to get clearer about the story of John Dolphin. 

Tell our readers about some of these specific changes, particularly regarding what newer elements we can expect to see in the character of John Dolphin. 

JAMELLE: Nothing was sacred; we looked at every aspect of the material in a series of creative team workshops and then two full cast workshops for both music and book over a period of several months. 

LOU: We think this production will go further to reveal just what made John Dolphin the force that he was—we get more specific about his marketing genius and his creative capabilities that led to his impact on the music business and his artists. We also provide more context; more names and places from his world, the music industry, and the Los Angeles scene.

What about in his relationships with the greats?

JAMELLE: The relationships between John, Sam Cooke, Jesse Belvin, and Huggy Boy are more central to our story as is the key relationship with his my grandmother Ruth Dolphin. We spend more time getting to know my grandfather, personal warts and all, as he struggles to find his place in the world and finally becomes a real leader in South Central.

Did you make any additions to the musical score?

LOU: There are some great additions to the music because we know that this show has to bring great tunes to the audience—our story is first and foremost about music, so the score really needs to deliver. We’ve edited the material and added several new songs—both original songs by Andy Cooper and additional songs from the period. The period songs work with the new material to tell our story and provide a sense of the time and impact that Dolphin’s had on the R&B and early Rock and Roll era.

Are you more content now with the direction the show is taking?

JAMELLE: I started this project with a book about my grandfather so I could honor his legacy and let the world know of the contributions he made in the music industry, but in the end it has to be a great musical and, to that end, I think we are continuing on the right path.

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The sold out, critic's pick musical Recorded in Hollywood returns to the stage at the Kirk Douglas Theatre from July 8 - August 7.
for tickets, visit:

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Interview with Director Drina Durazo

Drina Durazo’s directing credits include: Moon Over Buffalo, Hotel Paradiso, Don’t Dress for Dinner (The Group Rep); Every Christmas Story Ever Told And Then Some, All The Great Books Abridged (Mammoth Lakes Rep); Breaking Bard at the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival (Porters of Hellsgate), which earned four Ezra Buzzington Spirit of the Fringe Award Nominations, including Best Direction; and the extended Breaking Bard, which earned eight Valley Theatre Award nominations, including Best Direction, and a win for Best Play.  

Written by Steve Peterson

In the past several years you have been involved with making independent films.  How did your directing for theatre come about?

I have been involved with theatre since my early high school days, but while attending college, I had an opportunity to break into entertainment in a different medium. I went into television, and along the way, I made numerous connections and started dabbling in film as well. In 2010, my journey eventually brought me back to theatre when I collaborated with a friend who was working on a production at The Group Rep. I found myself also working on that show, in the role of Assistant Stage Manager, and on that show I met Larry Eisenberg. When I told him I was most interested in directing, he took me under his wing and I began to assistant direct for him on numerous productions. I was eventually given my directorial debut in 2012 and was incredibly grateful and ecstatic, not only for the opportunity to spread my wings, but also for the support I was given by Larry, and the company as a whole.

What was the first play you directed and what was your take-away from that experience?

The first play I directed was Ken Ludwig’s Moon Over Buffalo, and although I did not choose this play for myself, I was delighted to take a stab at it. My major take-aways were the importance of choosing your play and doing your homework on it. The show was fun, and I was incredibly proud of it, but that show would not have been my first choice. The opportunity helped me prove myself as a director, and I went on to direct a few other shows for GRT before landing on The Armadillo Necktie, but I wasn’t strong on how I wanted the voice of the Buffalo to be heard, and my vision was unclear. I think this was partly due to my inexperience and lack of detailed homework, and also due to the fact that I did not choose this play for myself, therefore I had no immediate attachment to it other than to direct a show. The Armadillo Necktie is actually the first show I have directed for GRT that has been of my own personal choosing. I went in with a lot of passion for the project, which made my pre-production experience that much easier, and the overall process has been so rewarding. I came in fully prepared, with a clear vision, and understand the importance in the process of choosing your play, because your homework begins there.

You previously directed another Gus Krieger play, the well-received Breaking Bard, which won awards and accolades at the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival, and was also reprised after the festival ended.  What do you think drew patrons to the play; what was the audience responding to?

Gus Krieger’s Breaking Bard began as a 6-minute scene presented at a fundraiser for his company, The Porters of Hellsgate, and evolved into a 60-minute show for the Hollywood Fringe Festival directed by myself. The show, being a mash-up of William Shakespeare’s most famous dialogue and a parody of the hit television series “Breaking Bad,” drew in die-hard fans of each, in addition to our regular patrons and supporters. The script was written in a way where you could be fan of the show but not know Shakespeare and you’d enjoy it, or you could be a fan of Shakespeare but not know the show and still get the through-line of the story, and enjoy it. The show received four Ezra Buzzington Spirit of the Fringe nominations, including one for Best Direction, with one awarded for Best Writing. The remount was extended to 80 minutes and ran successfully for 5 weeks, and went on to receive eight Valley Theatre Award Nominations, including Best Direction, with two awarded (Best Play and Best Stage Manager).

Tell me a bit about the history of The Armadillo Necktie and what went into the development of the play? How did you directing The Armadillo Necktie come about? 

In 2012, the Group Rep’s Artistic Director, Larry Eisenberg, recognized the script as something I would be interested in and connected me with Gus so we could mount it as a staged reading. I was floored by the material because of how highly sophisticated, dark, and timely the subject matter was. I felt the style and structure was ahead of its time and I was really interested in exploring dark comedy, absurdism, and tragedy at the time, all of which were elements of the script. Our journey involved many discussions, a lot of emailing back-and-forth, and many struggles with casting. We tried for 7 months to get a staged-reading together, but due to schedule conflicts and other things, we had to shelve the project for a bit. Three years passed before we decided to try again; Gus and I both happened to be in-between projects, and so we were finally able to pull it all together. In February 2015, we mounted a staged-reading, worked through some notes during the process, and a final draft was written in December 2015. We pitched it to the Artistic Council and Artistic Directors and were grateful to finally be given the green light to present it to the world (North Hollywood/Los Angeles) on the GRT stage.

Some of the play’s subject matter is quite serious.  How have you gone about keeping the play a “jet black comedy,” as opposed to a black comedy or dramedy which sounds - at least on paper - lighter.

The black comedy is meant to provoke serious thought on some very real topics; in this case, it sets forth a dialogue on the way America deals with war, the way we view and deal with threats, and the affects that the actions of higher power has on its civilians, both on American, and foreign soil. While most playwrights use the genre to make light of one dark subject matter, Gus cleverly uses it to explore numerous dark themes and subject matters. In addition to war, the play also explores the topics of murder, guns, depression, insanity, nightmares, disease, racism, terrorism, political corruption, and torture. It’s these many elements, I feel, make this black comedy a jet-black comedy.

What do you want the audience to take note of or perhaps think about long after they’ve left the theatre?

Over the last few days, I found myself deeply saddened by the disturbing events in Orlando. It was hard to distract myself from the harsh reality of it all because, in the theatre, I was dealing with a group of characters who take matters into their own hands, care only about their personal agendas, view anything outside the bounds of their personal mindset as a threat, and immediately turn to violence to get a point across. The play was originally written in 2011, and had been workshopped since then, but the story and themes have all remained the same. The issues we address on stage are based on much of what has occurred around us over the last 15+ years, and it breaks my heart to see that in that time, not much has changed. We, as Americans, are still constantly exploited by fear -- fear of terrorism, fear of the unknown, fear fed by hatred -- instead of addressing the issues of gun control, mental health, bullying, hatred, and so on. The list is unfortunately a large one. In light of Orlando’s tragedy, I began to get worried that some might be sensitive to the political metaphors and dark themes we tackle in The Armadillo Necktie, but then I was reminded that we must not censor ourselves. We should, instead, continue to get our voices heard and our message out. It might not change the events that occurred in Orlando, that are occurring here or around the world, but it starts a dialogue and that in itself is a good step in the right direction.  

What’s up next for you, either directing or something else creative you might be up to?

For The Group Rep, I am producing their next production, Calendar Girls
directed by Larry Eisenberg, which is set to open August 26th. My other upcoming project will be in the role of Production Designer on Gus Krieger’s groundbreaking feature film, “My Name Is Myeisha.” The film takes us through the dreamscape that is Myeisha Jackson’s mind, as she is faced with the all-too-familiar events which take her life; it’s an exploration of compassion, and the timely issues of police brutality and Black Lives Matter. We are in the early stages of pre-production and are set for principal photography in October. I am excited to be collaborate with Gus again on such a meaningful and profound project.

Drina’s latest directing project Gus Krieger’s The Armadillo Necktie runs June 17 through July 31, Friday & Saturday at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood.   For tickets and information please visit or call 818-763-5990.  

Interview with Playwright Gus Krieger

Gus Krieger is a Los Angeles based writer-director-producer of stage and screen.  As writer-producer: “The Killing Room” (2009). Writer-director: “Ol’ Stan Levid” (2007), “The Binding” (2016). Producer: “Would You Rather” (2012), “Fender Bender” (2016). As playwright: Deity Clutch (2011), Sherlock Through The Looking-Glass (2013), and Breaking Bard (2015), which took home the Spirit of the Fringe Award for Best Writing, out of 200+ shows.

Written by Steve Peterson

When did you discover that you had an ability and/or desire to write plays?

I was always writing in fits and starts as a kid, trying to conjure the great American space epic at age ten; the usual reach-exceeding-grasp business of the young. My first successfully completed (and subsequently self-mounted) full-length piece was 2005, and the creative momentum built from there. The immediacy and inherent challenges of the stage are very unique, and it’s a form I will always return to.

The Porters of Hellsgate production of your comedy Breaking Bard, which you also acted in, won awards and was a darling of the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival.   Your new play, The Armadillo Necktie, is also billed as a comedy, albeit it a jet black comedy – with the subject matter and situations taking on a very serious tone with the play set against the back-drop of war and a sense of loss, both past and present.  How did you go about weaving those elements into a comedy?

As a viewer, it’s always much easier to me if “important” topics are wrapped in something other than their own weight. This can be accomplished in any genre (Wes Craven, for example, called THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT his meditation on Vietnam), but, given the chance, I tend to lean a bit toward the humor - especially the dark variety - present in this largely absurd world surrounding us. The hope is that this play will make people laugh (and gasp and weep and think) but at the very least, I can always fall back on the original definition of “comedy”: a piece written in the language of the people, boasting a happy ending. Is the conclusion of ARMADILLO a happy one? I’ll let you decide.

How did you come up with the idea for The Armadillo Necktie?  What drove you to write about this particular subject?

It was year five or six of the Iraq war and everyone had stopped talking about it. That blew my mind. Here we were, a country with soldiers overseas attempting to accomplish an entirely ill-defined goal, and no one back at home seemed particularly concerned or even interested anymore. So what if it was personal? What if, instead of the country, it was one man? The wheels began to turn.

What is the meaning behind the title?

There’s the literal meaning (which I’ll leave you to discover), but also the notion that exacting revenge upon others takes a very literal toll. It always removes something; something is always lost. That something is, more often than not, very messy. We’ve glamorized the notion of revenge, made it sanitary, black and white. An armadillo necktie is anything but.

Tell us a bit about the play.

It’s dark, it’s funny, it’s sad, and it’s more than a little weird. I don’t like to talk influences, but the hope is that if you’re a fan of Samuel Beckett, or Nicky Silver, or John Patrick Shanley, or Martin McDonagh, or Tracy Letts, you’ll find something to chew on during those two hours.

What would you like the audience take away to be?

Think more. We’re so often caught up in our belief systems, our stasis, our day-to-day, we often lose track of whether we’re still on the right path, or indeed, on any path at all. The character of Madeline says at one point, “Beliefs supersede facts,” and I think she nailed it.

What are you up to next, writing and/or acting?

My philosophical feature thriller THE BINDING hits the shelves August 2nd, 2016. It’s a modern riff on the tale of Abraham and Isaac, with a liberal dose of thrills and chills and some great performances. You can follow me on Twitter @MrGusK for additional details and information. Thanks!

Gus Krieger’s The Armadillo Necktie runs June 17 through July 31, Friday & Saturday at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm, at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood.   For tickets and information please visit or call 818-763-5990. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

2016 Interview with Gloria Angeles

Gloria Angeles became a Zumba instructor for LA Fitness approximately two and a half years ago. Through the years she has also been involved in salsa dancing and competitions. “ I had been taking tap at the Marge Patka dance studio and performed in many of her shows and had wanted to be involved in more than just tap numbers. I got my opportunity in the summer show The Marge Patka Summer Spectacular 2015.”

Last year Gloria wanted to start her own female Latin dance team, so she requested from Marge the opportunity to do two numbers in the show.  One was a Latin salsa number and the other was "The Charleston". “Since we do two styles of dance, Latin and a more nostalgic 1920s style, our group has two names. The first is Angeles Salsera Zumbera Dance Company with a nickname of ASZ Crew and the other is Vintage Dancer. We performed at the Marge Patka Summer Spectacular 2015. We then did a special performance at the Joyce-Eisenberg Center. We have done performances at private parties. I myself have provided three parties where our dance team performed fully costumed with a professional stage.We have our own Youtube channel.There we have several Zumba dance routines and our performance at the Marge Patka 2015 show.”

This brings us to the Marge Patka Summer Spectacular 2016 which will be held on June 25th, at 2:00 PM at the Reseda High School Auditorium, 18230 Kittridge St., Reseda, CA.

Gloria informs us that the Latin number this year will be a Samba routine, and the 1920s style dance will be "The Black Bottom". “The Samba routine has been difficult because we started with 5 dancers and now have 7.  We are trying to expand our group without compromising the integrity of the actual dance movement.  The most difficult step to learn has been the basic Samba step.  Many of the dancers are not formally trained in dance studios. They are not accustomed to so much hip movement. Due to the time compromise, we have already started practicing with our Samba backpacks and heels.  Next will be the Samba headdresses. The week after we will add the wristlets and ankles.  Our Samba costumes are authentic Rio costumes and they are gorgeous, very colorful and we have had to spend time and effort of just the wearing of the headdress part.  It is very heavy and hard to wear. I have designed the costumes this year for the Roaring 20s Black Bottom dance.  

"The 1920s dance has been more fun to practice. It still has several challenges.The number is very fast paced with a lot of quirky dance moves. The girls have had less difficulty learning this routine. They do the "Raggedy drop hop!"

Tickets can be purchased at the door for 25.00 or you can come by her studio and purchase them.  The phone number to call for info is 818-943-8677.

In the meantime check out the gorgeous ladies and their costumes in the photos below.
Gloria Angeles

LR: Grace Carmona, Debbie Crocco, Jeannine Jackson, Gloria Angeles, Rebecca Minazadeh, Pamela James

                         LR: JJ Jackson, R Minazadeh, G Carmona, D Crocco, Gloria Angeles, P James