Friday, April 21, 2017

2017 Interview - Christine Pedi

Actress Christine Pedi is well known for her theatre/
cabaret appearances as well as TV and SiriusXM radio. 

















Her finest hour has come in Forbidden Broadway with
her glorious singing impressions. She took time out
from her busy schedule to talk about her upcoming
appearance in LA for the last S.T.A.G.E. benefit 
on Saturday May 13 at the Saban Theatre.

What are you performing in the show? Some of your regular 
material or something extra special? 
Can you reveal your song(s) or is it a secret?

I’ll be bringing some of the great female Icons &
Legends to life in a classic song.


I saw you in Forbidden Hollywood and Forbidden Broadway 
when you did them in LA umpteen years ago. Your characters 
are amazing. Who is your favorite? Why?  

It always depends upon what I’m singing and why and of course
if I do them well. I love doing Liza, Bernadette & Angela
because I sound a lot like them. As always it goes back to the
written word a great impression is gratifying but add some good
comic lines to it and then I’m in heaven.  I don’t do impressions
just to “sound” like them…I want to make a comic statement.

Tell me about what's happening lately. I hear you interview on 
radio from time tot time,  but not being in New York, I miss most 
of your appearances. Any new characters?

Currently in SPAMILTON:An American Parody as the guest “Diva” .
My Streisand is getting much better as a result.  SPAMILTON is coming
to The Kirk Douglas Theatre in November and I’ll be in the first few
weeks of the production!

How do you decide who you want to do? Is the attraction the 
populaity of the person... or what is it exactly?  

No rhyme or reason to any of it…just what ever comes out
sounding right.














What is your process for working on the voice of each 
character? Do you listen and try to imitate or do you have 
another way of duplicating the 
vocal eccentricities?

Becuase I’ve been lucky enough to have done MANY satirical
off broadway revues like Forbidden Bway and NEWSIcal the 
Musical the stage was my laboratory.  I’d do an impression
that was decent but 8 shows a week gave me the luxury  to try
new things and hear how they sounding in front of an audience
in performance every day.

Is this your first S.T.A.G.E.? If so, why have you waited so very 
long to do one?

I did one probably over ten years ago?  It was the Comden &
Green show. I sang “If You Hadn’t But You Did” and “Neverland”.
Actually this is the 100th b’day of Betty Comden and I’m celebrating
with a show at Feinsteins/54 Below on May 3rd.

Were you a fan of Charles Pierce? Do you remember him? 
His impressions were so funny, as are yours. And very few 
women do impressions. Dear Debbie Reynolds was one of the few. 
So you are part of a dying breed. Who were your mentors? Have
I mentioned any of them?  Tomlin? Ullman? Any one else? 

I never intended to do impressions. I started doing them with
Forbidden Bway and that’s how I discovered that I could.
Of course I always marvelled at people who could do them.
The only woman I knew was the amazing Marilyn Michaels (there
are some Youtbue videos that are EPIC She could do ANYONE).
However I suppose I was first attracted to  the comic characters of
people like Lily Tomlin.  At a very young age that totally appealed
to me. Impressions came a lot later.

Anything else new in your world?

I’m attempting to write a pilot (I know, I know who ISN’T).
I hope to book my solo show somewehre in LA in November
around the time that SPAMILTON opens.  I also have a lovely
& VERY funny holiday show that will celebrate TEN
years in NYC this December at Feinsteins/54 Below.

















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S.T.A.G.E. PRESENTS THE 33rd ANNUAL SPECTACULAR
IDOLS & ICONS 
One-Night-Only Performance Will Be A Tribute 
To The Stars Of Yesterday And Today

The Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event (STAGE) is delighted to 
announce the All-Star cast participating in the 33rd annual gala
“Idols & Icons,“ being held on Saturday, May 13th, at the historic 
Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills. David Galligan directs with 
Michael Orland returning as Musical Director.  
“Idols & Icons” will pay tribute to Stephen Sondheim, 
Shirley Bassey, Bob Fosse, George Michael, Michael Jackson, 
David Bowie, Prince and more.  Stars of film, Broadway and 
television scheduled to appear in the concert that raises 
critical funds for APLA Health include: India Carney
Carole Cook, Melinda Doolittle, Anthony Fedorov, 
Barrett Foa, Sam Harris, Jane A. Johnston, Dale Kristien, 
Vicki Lewis, Kimberley Locke, Jon Maher, Sharon McNight, 
Jennifer Paz, Christine Pedi, Jai Rodriquez, Jake Simpson 
and Nita Whitaker. Additional casting to be announced.

Begun in 1984, STAGE is the longest-running annual HIV/AIDS 
fundraiser in the world.  To date, STAGE has raised more 
than $5 million for HIV/AIDS organizations in the Southland.  
Co-created by Michael Kearns, the late James Carroll Pickett, 
David Galligan and Susan Obrow, STAGE continues to be a 
vital and essential fundraiser more than three decades later.  
David Galligan has staged and directed all 33 productions.
Funds raised through STAGE support an array of APLA Health’s 
services, including its Vance North Necessities of Life Program 
food pantries; health centers that provide medical, dental, 
and mental health care; home health services; housing assistance; 
HIV prevention and testing efforts; and many more on which 
those living with and affected by HIV/AIDS depend. STAGE is 
among the most enduring and valuable sources of private support 
for the agency’s HIV/AIDS care, prevention and advocacy work.  
See www.aplahealth.org for more.

Tickets may be purchased by going to www.sabantheatre.com
or Ticketmaster 
For further information, please go to www.stagela.com  

Friday, April 14, 2017

2017 Interview - Patrick Mulryan

Actor Patrick Mulryan, a member of the Fiasco Theater Company, is currently playing Jack in their touring production of Into the Woods at the Ahmanson through May 14. He took time from his busy schedule to talk about the role and his blossoming theatre career.

Patrick, you are having such a great time playing Jack that the joy you are feeling transcends the footlights. What is your honest impression of him? Define his character traits and flaws.

One thing I love about Jack is that he feels things very deeply: joy, sadness, excitement, fear, the whole gamut. It's a feast for an actor. He has a big heart and leads with his heart instead of his head...which can get him into trouble. He, like many of the other characters, doesn't think through the potential consequences of his actions.

Jack has a hard life. He and his mother are very poor and his father abandoned them. He loves his mother dearly, but longs for adventure and escape. This gets him into trouble, but ultimately gives him the experience he needs to grow up.

Talk a little about his relationship with Milky White and what it truly represents to you.

The relationship between Jack and Milky White is one of the aspects of this production I'm proudest of. Because of his difficult circumstances, Jack has a very active fantasy life. His only friend in the world is his cow and he cares about her deeply. That's why it makes sense in this production that Milky is played by a young man (my brilliant scene partner, Darick Pead). Of course Jack would realize his cow as a fellow boy who can be his partner in crime!

One of my favorite moments in the show is “I Guess This is Goodbye” when Jack has to sell Milky White. I hope the audience really feels how much these two matter to each other and how hard it is to say goodbye.

Is this your first Sondheim musical? If not, what have you done before? What does Sondheim achieve better than any other composer in your opinion?

This is my first Sondheim musical as a professional actor. In college I played Bobby in Company and John Hinckley in Assassins.

Sondheim achieves an incredible balance of intellect and heart in his writing. Every song is so smart and at the same time so moving. As an actor, it's a privilege to sing his music. As with all the best composers, if you truly sing what's on the page, you have no choice but to be affected by it as a human being in the same way the character is being affected by it.

The entire ensemble of this show are really having a sensational time together. Did you do this show back east and in London as well? Talk a little about the cast, the comaraderie and the teamwork in Into the Woods.

I've been with this show since the first workshop in 2012 and subsequent productions at McCarter in Princeton, Old Globe in San Diego, Roundabout in New York, and Menier Chocolate Factory in London. It's been an amazing experience to be with this production since its inception. I'm eternally grateful that Fiasco asked me to be a part of it. From the beginning, we conceived this as an actor-driven ensemble production and created all the moments together in conjunction with our incredible design team. We all care deeply about storytelling which drew us to this piece in particular and we were all involved in conceiving how to tell this story together as an ensemble each night.

The cast at the Ahmanson is an incredible, joyous, and generous group of artists. We have an amazing time creating this story afresh each night.

What sets this production of the show apart for me is in fact this ensemble that bring an in.the.moment unpredictable spontaneity and excitement to it all. How did the troupe rehearse? Did your director encourage improvisation? How was the process different from most?

The process was different in that we all worked together to create each moment in the show. We would brainstorm as a group and then play and improvise on our feet until we found a version for each scene/song that felt like it best told the story of that moment and that at the time was fun for us to do!

What's up next for you onstage or on film, TV? Many offers should be coming your way.

I've been workshopping a new musical about Henry VIII written by the incredible Michael Radi in which I play the King himself. I'm also the vocal coach for a one-woman production based on the poem Goblin Market that will be playing off-Broadway in NYC and then traveling to the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival this summer.

Who are your idols in the business right now? Do you have a mentor? And...actors/directors out there? Do you have any favorites? If so, why these choices?

I'll see anything Mark Rylance does. He plays with such irrepressible joy and humanity. Directors on my dream list to work with are Bartlett Sher, John Tiffany, John Doyle, and Steven Hoggett.

Is there a role that you have your mind set on playing at some future date? Or do you follow the adage, whatever will be, will be?

My dream role is George in Sunday in the Park with George. “Move On” and “Finishing the Hat” are two of the best songs ever written. I also want to play Joe in Angels in America and Edgar in King Lear.

Back to Jack. I'm so happy he and Milky end up together as a family. It's one of the purest relationships in the play. Your feelings?

They love each other unconditionally. No matter what happens, they're a team. I think they're a beautiful example of what's at the heart of Act 2: when we're faced with difficult circumstances, we need to band together.

Anything you care to add?

This show is incredibly dear to my heart. When we were performing at the Old Globe in San Diego, my brother Tom passed away. I had to perform the day I found out. The entire cast and crew were incredible. Everyone had my back and was there for me on one of the hardest days of my life. This show was the most difficult and wonderful show to perform on such a day. It deals so directly with loss and how we come together and move forward in the face of difficult circumstances. Everyone in the cast and crew came together to support me that day and buoyed me up. I am forever grateful. My brother Tom was a big guy. My family often referred to him as the Gentle Giant. Now every night I dedicate Jack's solo, “Giants in the Sky,” to my brother, the gentle giant in the sky. 

It's such a gift every night to hear the brilliant Sondheim lyric:

Sometimes people leave you
Halfway through the wood
Do not let it grieve you
No one leaves for good
You are not alone
No one is alone


Thank you so much, Patrick, for taking time out to do this. I hope to see more of your work in the not too distant future.



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Interview - Kay Cole


Actress/singer/dancer/director/choreographer KAY COLE is known for her award-winning work in the original Broadway production of A Chorus Line, which garnered the Tony, Pulitzer Prize, Drama Desk, and Theatre World awards –among others. Other credits as director/choreographer include hundreds of plays and musicals in New York, LA and London. Visit her website for a complete list: www.kaycole.net

She is currently directing Group rep’s production of a new play by Brent Beerman A DULL PAIN TURNED SHARP that will open Friday April 21. She also has a CD called Souvenir just released by Kritzerland Records.

We know you did the trailblazing A Chorus Line in 1976 for Michael Bennett. It opened new doors for you and many other artists and recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. You have been a triple threat performer in many musicals through the years, but when did you make the transition from performer to director?

It happened naturally. I transitioned by being a choreographer first, then wanting to expand my vision I began directing. I have always loved plays and the language of theatre. I was also with the Los Angeles Repertory Company for many years and had the opportunity to stretch my skills as an actress and director.

Have you had a mentor or mentors who have had an important effect on your work?

So many people along the way…their care and guidance and love have always surrounded my artist’s spirit. But Tom O’Horgan was the director I felt molded my director's eye. I worked with Tom O’Horgan in Hair in Los Angeles at the Aquarius Theatre, and in New York on Broadway; and Jesus Christ Superstar in New York on Broadway (original company) and several shows at La Mama in New York. Working with Tom on many shows taught me the value of risk and trusting your instincts.

How did you get involved in directing A Dull Pain Turned Sharp?

Brent (Beerman) and I met and started working together about 5 years ago…at La Crescenta Valley High School. We have written a screenplay together and I have directed several musicals for the high school. We are now working on several original ideas for film and stage and Brent wanted to re-visit this play. After I read it …I wanted to direct it. We did a reading at GRT and did re-writes and are now putting up a full production.

What do you find special about it? What do you hope audiences will take away?

It is about family and extended family and how love solves all of their conflicts. I would love for audiences to open their hearts to embrace a new vision of family.

Your CD promo sounds wonderful. Tell us about it. I know it's a long time in the making. How did you choose the songs you sing. Was Bruce Kimmel instrumental in helping you put it together? Wih him you are always in safe and creative hands.

THANK you … I am very proud of the CD … It was time to expand my horizons creatively and singing just seemed right. When Marvin Hamlisch passed … Bruce asked me to sing at a Kritzerland
Show …. I did ...and the rest just fell into place.I had so many songs I thought I wanted to sing but with the help of Bruce and John Boswell ..we narrowed it down. It is about telling a story with each song and telling a story with the CD as well. Bruce is a brilliant producer and a close friend ….it was just a perfect partnership. He introduced me to John Boswell … and that was a wonderful gift … He is an amazing musical director and now a really good friend. I was blessed at every turn …

Kay Cole will be doing an evening of song to promote the CD on July 16 at the Federal. 

In the meantime, go to Group rep and see her direction of A Dull Pain Turned Sharp.
A Dull Pain Turned Sharp runs April 21 – June 4. Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM; Sundays at 2:00 PM. Tickets: $25. Seniors/Students w/ID: $20. Groups 10+: $15. Buy tickets: www.thegrouprep.com or info@thegrouprep.com  The Lonny Chapman Theatre is located at 10900 Burbank Boulevard North Hollywood.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

2017 Interview with Gordon Bressack


Writer/Director/Producer Gordon Bressack is a veteran of the NY Off-Off Broadway scene as a member of The Playhouse of the Ridiculous. He toured Europe three times with that group and was with them in 1971 when they were all arrested for obscenity in Brussels. He came to Los Angeles in 1983 and was soon hired at Hanna-Barbera writing such shows as "Scooby- Doo" and "The Smurfs". He went on to Warner Bros. Animation and won three Emmys for his work on "Animaniacs" and "Pinky & the Brain." His two previous plays in LA, "Fuggedaboudit" and "Missing Dick" were audience and critical favorites.

 by Steve Peterson

When did you first become interested in working in theater and what was it about live theater that drew you into the fold?

I was in college and decided to take a summer job. I went around to all the Off-Off-Broadway theaters hoping to get a job as an assistant stage manager or something. I had always been attracted to the theater. My mother took me to see Broadway plays at a very early age. At one theater the director, John Vaccaro (Playhouse of the Ridiculous) offered me a job... in the play. The play was The Moke Eater by Ken Bernard and was totally weird and dangerous, The summer job turned into a decade and three European tours. And the first play I directed in L.A. was The Moke Eater.

According to an interview I read about you, you stated that were you an actor in an underground theater company. If you would, please share with us a little about what that experience was like for you and how, if at all, it influenced your future as a writer and/or director.

It's very hard to determine what influences me. Yes, I was in The Playhouse of the Ridiculous and was exposed to extreme types like Holly Woodlawn, Jackie Curtis, Penny Arcade and many others. These were personalities more than actors or actresses. It taught me that bold choices are the way to go in the theater. Go big or go home. And I suppose the stories I tell are about extreme types. As the character George says in this play, "It's the job of art to be far-fetched. You don't plop down a hundred buck or even twelve dollars and fifty cents to see something that's um, fetched."

You are best known for your television (Three Emmys and the first-ever Writer's Guild of America's Award for Animation Writing) and film writing. What got you started writing plays?  

Um, that's three Emmys and yes, I was the first recipient of the Writers Guild Award for Animation Writing. I never stopped writing plays. I only recently tried to get them produced. I write plays and do theater in L.A. precisely because it is a futile exercise.

How does writing plays differ from writing for TV and/or film?

Writing for mass media pays. Theater does not unless you capture lightning in a bottle. Writing for theater affords the writer total freedom. I sink or swim based solely on my personal choices and ability.

When writing for TV there might be writers on staff to bounce ideas off of. If you are both writer and director on any project and particularly on this new play - - who do you bounce your ideas off of?

I mostly work alone or with a writing partner in TV and film. I only work alone in theater. It's a Zen thing. I enter the world of the play and write unconsciously for hours at a time. I almost never know what I am about to write. I just follow my nose and stop when the play is over. I don't bounce things off anybody. I ask people I trust to read the play and give me notes. Sometimes the notes are extreme, sometimes helpful. Sometimes painful. I have ripped up plays and started over again more than once.

Tell us a bit about the play

As a writer I often have no distance from what it is I am writing. I've been on TV shows that I knew sucked but you have to get into the spirit of the thing so temporarily you lose your critical thinking ability. You have to. Murder, Anyone? is about two writers engaged in writing what seems to be a pretty terrible play but in the spirit of healthy collaboration, working together with precision teamwork, it gets much much worse. The play is about the futility of creating art, how hard it is to create even bad art and the wondrous magical world of theater. Something to be avoided at all costs in Los Angeles.

Are you currently working on projects for TV and film? 

I am writing a horror/adventure film currently called “Rio Muerte” with my son, James Cullen Bressack, who coat tails I am clinging to. He’s quite a successful film director/writer/producer. He and I also collaborated on two films, “Oliver Storm” which is currently in pre-production and “Cargo”, an animated film due out this spring.

Do you have another play in the works lined up to be produced after MURDER, ANYONE?

Yes, I've begun writing a new play, Lightning in a Bottle. I think it's a comedy.

Giving you the last word…is there anything you wished we had asked about you or about your new play MURDER, ANYONE?

I wish you had asked, "How can I give you thousands of dollars to produce this play all over the world?" Or "How is it someone as clever and handsome as you is currently single?" But seriously, I would have liked to talk more about the play itself and its similarity to the work of Karl Farbman. I could have spent minutes extolling the virtues of Farbman's use of negative space to create comedy. But you didn't ask me any of that. No, you just wanted all the celebrity gossip. And I was all too happy to comply. Thank you.

MURDER, ANYONE? Runs Wednesdays at 8:00 pm, April 5 – June 7. Tickets: $25. Senior/Student/Groups $21. Buy tickets: murderanyone@brownpapertickets.com The Whitefire Theatre is located at 13500 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks 91423.



Sunday, April 2, 2017


Playwright Brent Beerman is A UCLA MFA graduate;his Gabriel’s Rapture won the Corner Stage National Theater Contest; Millionaires opened Off-Broadway; Dancing in the Shadows won the Pacificus Foundation of Los Angeles Literary Award; his libretto for Jesus’ Daughter and Womin, touring Europe and the United States, were featured on CNN. In Los Angeles, Another Washington Affair was recently directed by Kay Cole. A Dull Pain, Turned Sharp was a prizewinner at the MOXIE Films New Play Competition and a reading featured at the HOWL festival in New York City. He is the director of theater at Crescenta Valley High School which annually produces over 14 plays with five guest directors.


Written by Steve Peterson

When did you first get interested in theater either as a performer and/or playwright?

My father is a music professor, and my mother is a modern dancer, and as a result I quite literally grew up on the stage.  I was their little mascot “roady.”  I have also have been writing plays and staging them with my friends for as long as I can remember.  I loved to write scripts, and then record the scene on a little reel to reel tape machine and then play it for my friends as if it were a radio show.  I remember when our sixth grade class had the use of a new video camera (which was the size of a house), and I wrote a short screenplay and the class recorded it.  I would give anything to see that tape again!

What was the genesis of the play, “A Dull Pain Turned Sharp”?  What drew you to the subject matter and women’s issues about motherhood?

The actual genesis of the play…? My wife and I were driving on the freeway listening to talk radio, and a woman called in asking for advice.  “Her daughter’s dead boyfriend’s mother wants her daughter to carry her dead boyfriend’s baby.”  From there, I explored the reality of my life, the relationships and family structures of my wife’s family, and blended the hopes and dreams of the real and melded it with fiction.  I remember how important it was for me to have my own children, and create my own family.
Most of my work focuses on the creation and definition of family.  It’s not intentional, but I tend to gravitate to that theme. My mother was 15 when she gave birth to me, and I am an only child and was often left alone to take care of myself.  On one hand, this is the center of my creativity as I learned to create games and stories whilst by myself; but it also was a source of fear and fragmentation.  I have always looked for a place to belong; searching for some connection.  My first wife came from a very large family and I think in retrospect I was incredibly attracted to her family because I wanted her family to be mine.

How did you go about developing the story into a play?  (Or was ADP to be a play from the start?)

Theater has always been my preferred mode, and I immediately started writing short scenes that slowly developed into the larger story.

What has been the greatest challenge in getting the play on its feet and produced?

First – the first person narrative usually turns artistic directors off.  It’s some sort of personal issue with “showing” vs “telling”.
Further, my writing tends to be very visual, and it requires a great deal of imagination to see the possibilities for the stage.  A quick superficial read of my work often results in rejection because the theatricality is not immediately apparent.

Tell us a bit about the play.

A Dull Pain Turned Sharp focuses on characters who grapple with the definition of family; it explores the needs and definition of motherhood while acknowledging the hope of nontraditional relationships.

What do you want the audience to take away or perhaps feel, having seen the play?

I want an audience to understand that their definition of family and relationships may not be the only definition, and one cannot and should not judge the direction others take.  A woman does not have to be a mother.  A woman does not have to be a grandparent.  A child is born not because of some sort of traditional requirements.  Rather, a child is born because there is a new person to unconditionally love; the desire to share your life and you help the child discover themselves. 

Is there anything else you’d like to say about the play or the production?  Is there anything you wish we had asked?

I am incredibly fortunate and honored to be working with Kay Cole on this project because of her love and dedication to the written word.  Her goal as a director of new work is to explore and discover the needs of the script.  She is not writing the play, but rather she helps the writer discover the core and soul of the story.
I would also like to give a shout out to the Group Rep Theatre Company for helping to develop new work.  They have created such an incredibly loving environment, a writer feels free to take risks.  A dramatic script is only a piece of paper until someone decides to give the writer a chance and turn the words into a living reality.

What’s up next for you?

Kay and I have written a script about a ghost that haunts the Rialto Theater, an old vaudevillian house that has long shut down.  When alive, the ghost was a Shakespearean actor who died on the stage during the final speech by King Lear.  He is now forced to play the role of Lear in perpetuity until the Rialto is sold, refurbished, and a new theater company is in town.
Kay and I have also been working on projects focusing on the topic or subject of bullying.  We have written a screenplay, and we continue to develop programs which we can take into schools.

A Dull Pain Turned Sharp runs April 21 – June 4. Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM;               Sundays at 2:00 PM.  Tickets: $25.  Seniors/Students w/ID: $20.  Groups 10+: $15. Buy tickets:  www.thegrouprep.com or info@thegrouprep.com The Lonny Chapman Theatre is located at 10900 Burbank Boulevard North Hollywood.



2017 Interview with Molly Smith Artistic Director of the Arena Stage

Artistic director of Arena Stage in Washington DC Molly Smith directs John Strand's The Originalist about the Supreme Court onstage at the Pasadena Playhouse beginning April 11. The play focuses on a clerkship between a young woman and recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia portrayed by Edward Gero. It fits the times to perfection as the two characters spar on a grand scale to defend their interpretation of the truth as written in our constitution. In our chat, Smith talks about the play, its mission, this co-production and also about her work at Arena Stage.

Tell us the major points at the core of The Originalist and what drew you to it as a director.

Naturally it was Justice Scalia himself. The hair on the back of my neck raised up when John Strand described his idea to me. John’s drive to understand the Justice’s viewpoint, to place it in a context where Americans might be able to find a way forward through compromise and conflict, is simply fascinating and challenging and absolutely about this moment in time.

If you had to pick just one urgent theme, conflict or challenge that the play reflects upon in our troubled world, what would that be?

Understanding. This play is about the willingness to have a dialogue with someone you disagree with. America is strong when we have diverse opinions and have the guts to have the hard conversation. Only then can we reach compromise.

Does the play present any resolutions to our problems within the justice system? If so, what are they?

As with any great piece of art, the play doesn’t provide the answers—it provides options, questions, and hopefully points us in the direction we need to go. Both characters gain an understanding of opposing viewpoints when they thought they wouldn't be able to. If everyone approached every argument with the desire to listen and learn, or posed questions in an open way, American society advances.

Tell me about the balance of humor with drama within the play. Why is that important, do you think?

John's use of comedy is exquisite. Justice Scalia was known as having a great sense of humor and the quickest wit on the Court. I believe that in any drama the further you take the play into dark areas, the more it will swing to the light. The Originalist is a great example of this rubber band theory. It is a very funny play.

Talk a bit about the Arena production, its success and Ed Gero's performance as Justice Scalia.
Edward Gero as Justice Scalia; Jade Wheeler behind

Justice Scalia called Ed Gero 'his doppelgänger'. Ed's research on Scalia was exquisite. They had lunches together, went skeet shooting and Ed watched him in action at the Supreme Court. Ed became Scalia-he had Scalia’s mannerisms, his point of view, his vocal characteristics.

The production has been wildly successful and after Asolo will go on from Pasadena to two other cities. It's been filmed by Stage17 and taped for the radio by LA Theater Works. Audiences have embraced it with curiosity and strong opinions.

Often a play goes to Asolo to workshop, and one expects to see revisions and rewrites. Is it in tact for Pasadena audiences as it was originally presented or have some revisions in fact been made to John Strands's script?


The play premiered at Arena Stage in Washington DC, rewrites happened at Asolo Rep in Florida and audiences will see the same script in Pasadena. The interpretation will continue to grow as the artists understanding of the world of the play will be deeper and more potent because time has passed. That's the remarkable part of making plays--the artists keep living and bring that life force to the stage.

Talk briefly, if you would, about your wonderful association with Perseverance Theatre in Juneau Alaska. When you founded it in 1979, what were your goals? You produced some wonderful plays there, so you must feel a great sense of satisfaction. Do you have a favorite play produced there?

My goals were to start a theater of, by and about Alaskans. I was Founding Artistic Director for 19 years. We toured 80 times while I was there to Nome, Kotzebue, Anchorage and Fairbanks. I loved the wildness and the adventure of taking theater all over the state.

Memorable plays included all of the Greek plays we produced. The landscape in Alaska takes you to the mythic and the relationship of human beings to the gods. Greek Plays were a perfect way to understand our connection to the earth.


Richard Thomas as Jimmy Carter in Camp David at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for AmericanTheater March 21-May 4, 2014. Photo by Teresa Wood.


As to Arena Stage, what mission sets this theatre apart from all others? How do you feel about new American plays today after encouraging the downstairs series some 20 years ago? Is the process as difficult as when you began or more so? It sounds like you may have another big hit with The Orignalist. May it be on its way to Broadway?

Our focus on on American plays, American ideas and American artists definitely sets us apart. It’s not just about the American theater canon, it’s about ways to support the playwright in new work and over time and over their careers. We now produce at least a third of our plays as premieres. We have just launched an ambitious commissioning program called Power Plays, which will commission 25 new plays or musicals over the next ten years covering every decade of American history since 1776 to the present decade.

Is it harder than before? Theater is an impossible art form: difficult to do brilliantly because it's a perishable art form. It takes all of our talent, ideas, inspiration and drive to make great art. But that's what keeps us trying. And that's part of the reason why I love the challenge. As I mentioned The Originalist has magically turned into a 6 city tour--one never knows what will be next for this subversive, cheeky, heady play.

What area do you still want to explore in theatre? What topics and themes need further exploration in light of our troubled world?

In my lifetime I have not seen the whole country as awake and politically active as it is right now. This is the most exciting time to be producing plays. Arena is a theater that welcomes people from every walk of life and all political leanings. We welcome dialogue and fierce conversations, because it makes all of us stronger and better human beings. I’m very excited to see the new Power Plays ideas flourish—like The Originalist, there is a political focus and we will have plays about presidents and regular people in extraordinary moments in time.

The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena. THE ORIGINALIST ​plays from April 11, 2017 to May 7, 2017, with the official press opening on Thursday, April 13 at 7:30 p.m. Preview performances are on Tuesday, April 11 at 8:00 p.m. and Wednesday, April 12 at 8:00 p.m. Performance schedule is Tuesday - Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. (Notes: There are no Tuesday performances on April 18 and 25. There will be one Sunday evening performance at 7:00 p.m. on April 30.) Tickets range from $25 - $80 with premiere seats at $115. Tickets are available online at PasadenaPlayhouse.org, by phone at 626-356-7529 or at The Pasadena Playhouse Box Office (39 South El Molino Avenue). 

Monday, March 27, 2017

2017 Interview with Ana Isabel O

"The Aye" is adapted from Ana Isabel Ordonez’s "The Extraordinary Love Story of Aye Aye and Fedor." The choreography came together in a sparkling fusion of music, dance and narration which was performed October 7, 2016 in Cape Town South Africa by the Jazz Dance Theatre with Sifiso Kweyama as choreographer. The shows honored Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, in celebration of his 85th birthday, and with the opening choreography for the annual Peace Conference in Cape Town. This was the world premiere of the show. Then on November 15 at a second event the Leah Tutu Unsung Heroes Award was presented outside Cape Town.

In Part II of this interview Ordonez discusses the second event in detail. In Part I she gives us a glimpse into her next project and the elaborate process her brilliant mind goes through in its organization and execution. The photos scattered throughout are of the event from last November 15 in South Africa.

I.  ANA ISABEL ORDONEZ : THE WAY BEYOND WORDS 

A gigantic play is what I’m concentrating on right now. The experiences I’m now developing on a big project and poetry are a tour de force unleashing of the sundry story-myths-truths-tragic-fatal-magic of what life could have.

It’s undimmed like star galaxies, I’m learning new things based on true life which is more than a collection of poems, it is an unloading of reality. One poem tells the poet what to record next and in this way, the book takes the author on a trip. It’s revealing to me that a rhymer doesn’t write a real story, the story itself rewrites the rhymer.

I have always had an extraordinary faith in my destiny. I can be beaten, broken in pieces either inside or outside, stopped a thousand times; it’s all stimulating to me because nobody can catch my spirit, my freedom and powerful will of being what I really am. I’ll be there where I want to be and at my pace. I’m letting the story be what it wants to be, let it tear me apart, let it metamorphose me evermore. Emptiness changing into things: letting the sun rise on my work of art doesn’t matter when, it can be at day or night but I sure write my ass off. Returning to true Nature, letting myrmidon be stemma. The pages of a rotten old book are gone, they were not to be read at all so there should be a new one, I’m seeing new things, nothing here, nothing there, no boundaries, no differences, no measurements. They are gracious who are asking for me to let them in, even if I don’t understand how or why they are knocking at my doors…

Grappling with the ethereal and transcendent in light of the Human condition is pivotal in Art and Science; its mandatory to mainly focus on the concept of authenticity, what makes things right or wrong; the “this or that” of the normal life is a little wearisome for me so the pages I threw away help me to explore the idea of “lost,” “saved,” and everything in-between.

Faith without religiosity is very important, that’s what brought me to South Africa. Being authentic believers of ourselves first is more important than being a blind believer in faith. Someone I love and admire said he always was "at the other side of the rail" which for me has been "at the other side of the river"…that is where I have found myself and those who love me: the fence riders (smiling). They believe but don’t do what they're told; from them I get inspired and I don’t give a damn about how inconclusive and ambiguous they are. Infinitely small is infinitely large. 

I feel so grateful to experience a time when artists from across the world can gather to create a very tangible performance of art, poetry, music, and dance whenever we feel. Like children: we created imagining worlds together and it feels like falling in love again, but without getting into compliances (laughing loud).

Art and Science are very special but don’t make us human; it stimulates us to act humanely. Art however is the place where we are allowed to wane at wanting better. There is no winning or success in this space, only a chance for growth. If you don’t understand your history, every day tear away the page of the old book and write your own story beautiful, pure and sincere…reborn again, you can do anything when you are sincere and that includes all kinds of quirkiness (laughing!)

II. THE UNSUNG HEROES OF LEAH &DESMOND TUTU


Now let’s talk about the Leah Tutu Unsung Heroes Award, what do you want me to tell you ?

DON : Explain the Unsung Heroes event. What happens? Who is honored?


Ai: THE LEAH TUTU UNSUNG HEROES AWARD commemorates a Legacy in South Africa. The Unsung Hero is a South African character who has made a meaningful contribution to the community through their acts of service, their commitment to a cause, their spirit of Ubuntu, and their exemplary persona.

DON : How is the person chosen? Who decides?

Ai: It’s Mama Leah and her team so the Leah and Desmond Tutu Foundation. Last November 2016 Mrs Gawa Sayed was awarded with the Leah Tutu Unsung Heroes Award for her extraordinary service to the community through her voluntary work at Gift of the Givers which is Africa’s largest humanitarian relief organization.

The award was presented to Ms Sayed by the The Revered Mpho Tutu Van Furth of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, at an event in De Grendel Wine and Restaurant  an award winning South African wine farm and restaurant, situated in Durbanville Wine Route, only 20 minutes from Cape Town.

Ms Sayed is a key member of Gift of the Givers, she was instrumental in leading relief efforts during the xenophobia crisis; renovating and replenishing the Sarah Fox Children’s Convalescent Hospital; managing and maintaining feeding schemes around Cape Town; helping at the Athlone School for the Blind with renovation as well as establishing the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s emergency medical services projects in Lwandle, Strand and building housing units after the New Year’s shack fires in Khayelitsha township as well as the building of a village constructed with 71 houses in Alexandra, Johannesburg. Yeap…Mrs Sayed is a High soul. 

DON : Who usually attends the ceremony?

Ai: The invitations are issued by the Desmond and Leah Tutu legacy.

DON: Explain what the audience saw of your choreography.

Ai: They saw a new version of "the Aye" choreographed by Sifiso Kweyama. The show was beyond delightful, not simply because of the magic that is dance, but because of the amazing people involved in the project. The performance was held in a beautiful vineyard estate with gardens and a wonderful decoration. Sifiso came up with an idea for performance art, the dancers were wearing our masks some of them are made with beautiful local feathers.

The idea for the performance was my first glimpse into Sifiso’s wildly creative spirit. As the time progressed, the encouragement of Dean Jacobs of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation was inspirational and continues to impact me personally. Sifiso and the dancers worked tirelessly and when the day came for the performance they did get some fascinating photographs. The one here is of Fedor and Aye Aye looking fantastic and greeting Reverend Mpho’s arrival to the ceremony. The choreography was totally engaging and smart as well as evocative. I wanted to share my work with others, give this present to Monseigneur Tutu and Mama Leah. It was an unexpected fusion becoming spontaneous combustion of matter turning into energy and movement.

DON: How long was the presentation and was it successful?

Ai: It was a 15 or a little bit more say 20 minute presentation…people loved it! One was all, all was one . When you see things like this, you are already complete!







Friday, March 17, 2017


Interview with Writer/Director of Where The Numbers End ... Amanda Moresco

Amanda began her career as an actress in New York City working for the late Sidney Lumet.  Amanda has appeared in numerous films and TV shows and earned a SAG Award for Ensemble Cast for the Academy Award-winning film Crash. Pursuing her real passion, writing, Amanda has learned from the best by working behind the camera for Woody Allen, Bobby Moresco, and David Chase, and in writer’s rooms as assistant for Paul Haggis, Todd Field, John Lee Hancock, Mark Johnson, and Gil Adler. Amanda wrote two episodes for the first season of NBC’s The Black Donnellys. She has had two feature films produced.  Amanda has written and produced numerous one-act plays.  Most recently, she directed the L. A. production of William Hoffman's "Cal in Camo" which went on to a critically acclaimed Off-Broadway run. Amanda is raising two sons and splits her time between New York and Los Angeles.

by Steve Peterson

When did you first become interested in theatre either as a performer, writer, or director?

When I was little my father would read Edgar Allan Poe to my sister and I, listen to The River by Bruce Springsteen on repeat and talk with us about the lyrics which were just like poetry to me. At 14, my Grandmother helped me get my first job as a Broadway Usherette at The St James theater. The first show I worked was The Secret Garden with Mandy Patinkin. I worked different Broadway theaters and saw tons of shows for over six years. Then, my family moved to LA to support my father in his pursuit of a career as a screenwriter. I learned that craft from him and I fall madly in love with movies and exquisite visuals but always equally with poetry and theater.

How did your father’s film career influence your taking up writing, directing?

My father has been a huge influence on me especially in understanding that this business is a labor of love and the only reason to do it is because you couldn't possibly do anything else with your life. And that if you've stopped loving it for what it is- a grueling labor that has awful lows and incredible highs - then it's time to get out.

How did the idea of the story to come to you and when you did realize this could be a play, rather than a book or film?

When I was in college, I started hearing the voice of louise. She told me that the thing she missed most about being a kid was punching people in the face. I also knew that she had two cousins: Margaret and Caroline and that one was a dreamer who was scared to leave her block and the other was an alcoholic partyer unable to face the present. Eventually, I embarked on writing my first screenplay. I called it "Red to Green". It was optioned four times but never got made. I'm glad it didn't. Eight years later, I started thinking about my old poetry and Louise's monologue about "punching people in the face" which of course I never used in the screenplay because you don't put two page monologues in screenplays, and I realized that I could never get the movie right because the characters were being strangled by the confines of a screenplay structure. That is when I embarked on writing the play. I knew it was right because when I let them speak freely, their voices came pouring out of me.

How did choosing New York City’s Hell Kitchen as a backdrop for the play come about? Had you lived there in any point in time? What is your connection to that neighborhood?


My great grandparents immigrated to Hell's Kitchen in the 1920s. I went to the same grammar school on 51st and 10th that my Grandfather went to and my father after him. My family's roots are embedded in the tenements and high rises between 43rd and 54th on The Westside of Manhattan. It breaks my heart to such an extreme extent that the history of NYC is disappearing for the sake of money and real estate and "gentrification", that I wrote a goodbye love poem to it. And that is what this play truly is.

I understand that this play took a while to evolve and take shape. What was your process in developing the story and characters? Please tell us about the process before the play was workshopped in the Actors Gym at the Whitefire Theatre. Also, life got in the way - - please share that if you are comfortable doing so.

As I was saying before, the idea came to me in college. I wrote the opening monologue and the opening love poem to NYC then. They sat in a notebook for six years. I just didn't know what to do with them. I knew about the characters but I didn't know what the story was. In my 20s I struggled with an eating disorder and the lines between reality and un-reality severely blurred. I felt ashamed and scared and because mental illness runs in my family, I became obsessed with the idea of "what is crazy". That's when the story began to take shape and I was ready to start plotting it out.

Tell us about the play.

The characters came to me right away. But when I realized it was about the question "what is crazy", I realized I needed to be very specific about what each of their "crazy" was. And that is what this play is about. Three damaged women coming to terms with the fact that either they're going to conquer their crazy or their crazy is going to conquer them. And of course being Irish, I can laugh about all of it and I hope the humor shines through in the play the way it shined on me when my grandmother would tell someone to go fuck themselves and everyone would laugh, all while we were sitting at a wake with a dead guy in a coffin.

Why did you feel compelled to tell this particular story? What is the meaning behind the title of the play?

This play had many different titles. "Saturday Night in a Bar in New York" "I Am From Here". And lots of others. But in the middle of a rewrite, a pass that was meant to focus in on Margaret's dilemma of wanting to go some place far away and yet being too afraid to go anywhere by herself, she said in my imagination: "we don't go past West Fourth Street. We don't go past where the Numbers End. Because fuck that." And I knew that was the title. Signifying the neighborhood comfort and claustrophobia that exists so often in NYC. When you have everything at your fingertips 24 hours a day within a ten block radius, why bother going beyond your ten block radius?

Why did you choose to direct the piece?

I wasn't sure if I should at first. The play is written so melodramatically that I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to shake that as a director and the whole experience would be one long sappy roll your eyes puke fest. But when I started thinking about my vision of the execution, it occurred to me that this play really should unfold as a "ballet of words" not a piece of dramatic material. Like a one hour spoken word piece with twists and turns and crescendos. Once I understood that, I felt strongly that I needed to be the one to execute that. Here's to hoping I don't fuck it up.

The play was workshopped in your father, Bobby Moresco’s, Actors Gym at the Whitefire Theatre. What was that process like and how did it contribute to the fruition of the play?

Every week I would bring in ten pages of this play and hear brilliant actors read those pages and get insight from the group. I would then go home and rewrite based on the notes I found most helpful. Two whole drafts were workshopped there. To say that the sharp talented group of artists at The Gym contributed to this play would be an understatement. There would be no play without The Actors Gym. I would never have had the discipline to do it on my own- without the weekly check in.

What do you want the audience take away or feel, after having seen the play?

I can only hope that they laugh and come away with an understanding that we're all crazy in our own way. I hope they understand that mental illness sometimes isn't a choice. I hope they understand that at any moment in your life, you can get up and walk out of a bad place, if you ask for help. And mostly, I hope that when the play is over they will feel like they did just spend Saturday Night in New York. The way I did every weekend of my life with friends and family and bartenders...in a world that just doesn't exist anymore.

What’s up next for you - creatively?

I just finished writing a half hour comedy pilot also based on my time in Hell’s Kitchen. Of course, it's titled: "Fucked Up". :)

The Whitefire Theatre presents the world premiere dramedy “WHERE THE NUMBERS END: A Hell’s Kitchen Love Tragedy” written and directed by Amanda Moresco. March 18 - June 10, 2017. Saturdays at 8:00 pm. Ages 18+. Mature language. Minimal violence. Tickets $22. brownpapertickets.com. Information: 818-990-2324.Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.