Sunday, April 30, 2017

2017 Interview with Davis Gaines

Actor/singer Davis Gaines is perhaps the most revered singing star on Los Angeles stages. He is the longest running Phantom in Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Phantom of the Opera and is about to return to Man of La Mancha. The new production from McCoy Rigby Entertainment plays the Valley Performing Arts Center at Cal State Northridge Friday May 5, Saturday May 6 and Sunday May 7 and then moves to La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts in early June. In our chat Gaines discusses Man of La Mancha and his favorite roles from Broadway to LA.

Davis, I have seen you do the role before, have reviewed it and in my mind, it is one of your very best. It's a truly great part, but how do you keep it fresh? Is this the second time or more that you have played Alonso Quijana, Cervantes, Quijote?

Thanks Don. I appreciate your kind words. I very much love this show and especially this role. It's rare that a role like this comes along that is as challenging, but also as rewarding. It's really an actor's dream role, or at least mine. It has everything that an actor would want to play...drama, pathos and comedy. Plus, I get to sing one of the most beautiful and powerful songs ever written for a Broadway show. The McCoy/Rigby production will be my second stab at it since the 2012 Musical Theatre West production, in which I was honored to receive an Ovation Award. I'm very much enjoying re-visiting these characters again, with a fresh perspective and a beautiful new production.

If you had to pick one element of playing this part as your favorite, what would that be? The fact that you transform into two other characters, is that at the top of the list?

It's always a challenge to play two different roles, switching back and forth during the play, sometimes instantaneously, but I love the challenge. I suppose my favorite part is the character of Quixote himself. I love his optimism, his innocence, his kindness to all and his ability to see the world, not as it is, but as it should be.  

Did you ever see Richard Kiley play the role(s)? If not, who did you see and how did you feel about the musical when you first saw it?

Yes! I did have the opportunity to see Mr. Kiley's performance on Broadway. I remember it being very powerful and quite moving and feeling so fortunate that I was able to see the performance of the man that originated this iconic role.

What is the message in the play and why do you feel it is so pressing at this particular time in history? Except for his fearlessness, Miguel de Cervantes/Don Quijote seem to be the exact opposite of Donald Trump.

It's really a story for the ages and the themes and messages still resonate, especially in the world in which we are living today. Besides the message of hope, the themes include redemption, acceptance and forgiveness. Quixote teaches us to treat everyone with respect and kindness. I think one of my favorite lines of Quixote is his response to Aldonza's question, "Why do you do these ridiculous things?". He answers simply, "I hope to add some measure of grace to the world".

What is your favorite song in the show? Why this choice?

Well, I would have to say "The Impossible Dream". It's such a powerful anthem about striving for hope and survival against seemingly impossible odds. I also love the simple and beautiful song, "Dulcinea", that Quixote sings to Aldonza when they first meet.

Is this your favorite role to date?

It definitely ranks right up there, and most probably at the top. As I mentioned before, It's a role that has everything an actor could want. However, I can't not mention The Phantom because it was such a huge part of my life and my career.

Is there anything left that you have not played that is dear to your heart, musical or straight play?

I've been so lucky through the years to have had the chance to play so many incredible roles with so many amazing actors and directors. In the past several years, I've had the opportunity to play roles in shows that I had never done before like Javert, Peron, Harold Hill, Fred/Petruchio, Lawrence Jameson, King Arthur (in both Camelot and Spamalot) and one of the most fun, Hannibal Lecter in SILENCE!: The Musical. Of course, a dream would be to someday return to Broadway and originate a role in a show that has yet to be written.

How does it feel to be the longest running Phantom in LA history? Talk a bit about playing the Phantom.

Playing the Phantom was another one of those roles that don't come along very often. I am truly very lucky and honored to have been involved with Phantom, first on Broadway as Raoul and then as The Phantom beginning in Los Angeles and eventually San Francisco and Broadway, for over six years. Phantom certainly changed my life and I will forever grateful to Hal Prince and Andrew Lloyd Webber for giving me that opportunity.

What's up next for you?

I continue to perform my concerts and cabaret around the country. Between the Man of La Mancha run at the Valley Performing Arts Center in May and it's subsequent run at La Mirada Theater for the Performing Arts in June, I've been invited to perform at the 50th Anniversary Gala of Center Theatre Group (the Ahmanson Theatre and the Mark Taper Forum) on May 20th. It will be exciting and a bit nostalgic to return to the Ahmanson stage where I began my "Phantom" journey, which obviously holds a very special place in my heart. In the fall, September 8 - October 8, I will once again play Don Quixote in yet another production of Man of La Mancha for the Orlando Shakespeare Theater. Orlando is my hometown, so I'm extremely excited to return in such a beautiful and moving show.

Put Davis Gaines at the top of your must-see list in Man of the Mancha at Valley Performing Arts Center this coming weekend May 5, 6 and 7, He will be at La Mirada Theatre for the Arts June 2-25.

Visit each theatre at the links below for nore info and to order tickets.

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.

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 for more.

Tickets may be purchased by going to
or Ticketmaster 
For further information, please go to  

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:

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: or  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: 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: or 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, by phone at 626-356-7529 or at The Pasadena Playhouse Box Office (39 South El Molino Avenue).