Thursday, March 22, 2018

2018 Interview with Alex Skuby

Actor Alex Skuby was born in Neptune, New Jersey. He moved to Chicago in 1992 and was cast in various plays with several different theater companies. In 1998 Alex moved to LA and has been in television series, films and voice-overs. Some of his credits: "Santa Clarita Diet," "Bones," "Last Man Standing." "CSI," CBS's hit sitcom "The King of Queens" (5 seasons recurring as ‘Mr. Pruzan’), recently recurring on Freeform's drama series "The Fosters" as Detective Joe Gray. We caught up with him in rehearsal for the new play Damaged Furniture opening Saturday March 24 and running Saturdays only at the Whitefire Theatre.

How did you get into acting?  Did you grow up in a creative or artistic family?

My mother had a beautiful voice. She sang all the time around our house. My father is a salesman. He's always had a big personality. I would always try to get their attention by being, what they called, a "ham" - - putting on shows in the living room for them and anyone who'd care to watch. I’ve always had a yearning to be on a stage I guess.

You are known for roles in the Freeform Drama Series “The Fosters” and the sitcom “King of Queens”; and work as a professional actor in both TV and film.  Was there a particular role (in TV or film) that you consider your breakout role? And how did that lead to other work opportunities?

Well, I started in the theater. The role I did that let me know that I indeed wanted to pursue this as a career was at a community college in New Jersey. I played Lt. Colonel Nathan Jessup in A Few Good Men. I was 19 and I remember being in that show and feeling a sense of wholeness… in a spiritual way. Then when I moved to Chicago to attend the DePaul Theater School, I was in hog heaven.  Theater in Chicago is amazing; very talented actors in that city.
As far as TV and film goes, I'd have to say "King of Queens". It validated all the work I had put in over the years figuring out the craft, and was a very fun job.

You were  in the original cast of Howard Skora’s well received Miserable with an Ocean View which played for months of Saturday nights at the Whitefire Theatre  in 2015. What was that experience like for you?

Absolutely loved it. The cast was great. The director was great. The script was wonderful. I was incredibly grateful to do that show.

How did you get involved with the production of Howard Skora’s new comedy Damaged Furniture? 

Howie told me about the new play he had written right before Christmas. He mentioned that he had me in mind to play the lead role of Doug Elling. I was immediately excited. Howie is an amazing playwright. In addition, Jim Fall was going to direct - he directed Howie's last play. I love working with Jim. By the way, the cast of this play is wonderful!

What lured you back to the theatre?

Before Miserable with an Ocean View, I hadn't done a play in about 17 years. That saddened me, especially since it's where I started. You can get sucked into the "business" side of acting when you come to LA. When you begin getting nice pay checks from acting in front of a camera, the thought of doing theater can slip away. For me it kind of did. I remember waking up one day and saying to myself "I need to do a damn play again! Get back to the rawness of craft!" Theater is definitely raw. No safety nets. I absolutely love it. It frightens me.

What is about your character you hope to communicate?

This play is relationship heavy, Between my character’s relationship with his dad, mom, sister and aunt. There is a love/hate relationship between all of us. I think that rings true for many families out there. But at the base of dysfunction is love.  So to answer your question,  Love... in my character’s own dysfunctional way. Hahhahahaha...

How did you and your wife, Mo Collins, meet?   This is the first time you’ve worked on a play together.  What’s that been like?

We actually met online. We fell in love through instant messaging.
Yeah, this is the first play we've done together. We've been on stage together before - but not in a play.
It’s EXCITING! She's soooooo funny and talented. Truly awesome actress and human. It was a bit strange when I found out she was playing my aunt. Hahahahaha... But when I was assured it wasn't a "blood" relative, I was ok with it.

What’s up next for you?

I have a comedy movie coming out next year called "My Babysitter the Superhero" ... My wife is in that too. Very fun shoot on that. I play an evil alien warlord named Commander Kruel. Should be fun for the whole family!

Show runs March 24 – May 26.  Saturday evenings at 8:00 pm. For tix: go to  Whitefire Theatre is at 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks at the corner of Sunnyslope.

2018 Interview with Actress Mo Collins

Mo Collins,  a Minnesota native, moved to LA in ’98 where she landed “Mad TV,” giving birth to characters such as Lorraine, Stuart’s Mother, Trina and more. Post “Mad TV,” Mo built her credits with hit shows such as “Parks and Recreation” as Joan Callamezzo, Gyna in “40 Year Old Virgin” and Susan on Netflix’ “Lady Dynamite” . Mo Collins garnered her first Emmy Nomination in 2017, for her work on the animated show “F is for Family” on Netflix. She’s about to open onstage at the Whitefire in Damaged Furniture.

How did your family react to your wanting to work as a performer of improvisation and sketch comedy?  
I wouldn’t say there was any great ‘reaction”. I think they all enjoyed coming to see my shows over the years, and who doesn’t like comedy!! On moving to LA with a 2 year-old in tow, Mom said “I think you’re crazy”, but still helped me pack and rode along with us in the truck. Dad said “I think you can do it!” And 9 months later I landed “Mad TV”.
What was it like being nominated for an Emmy in 2017 for your work on the animated Netflix show “F is for Family.”  Did the nomination lead to other work opportunities (and if so, what)?
 I was stunned!! I didn’t even know it was the season. I don’t pay too much attention to those things. But, yes, the phone call from our Exec producer stunned me!! It came out of left field. After so many years on camera, I get a voice nomination!! Who knew! Being nominated was fun and confusing! I didn’t know how to “work” it. I don’t have a team, ya know? SO, I got busy shopping dresses on Ebay. I did pretty well! Spent about $200 total on dresses for all the events. The nomination did absolutely nothing for my career. But I enjoyed the experience, love my certificate, and will forever have “Emmy Nominated” next to my name on IMDB. I win!!
 How did you get involved with the production of Howard Skora’s new comedy Damaged Furniture?  Were you involved during the development process of the play?
My husband, Alex (Skuby), had done his previous play Miserable with an Ocean View. I LOVED it. Howie is currently my favorite contemporary playwright. When he came to Alex with this new play, I eeked my way into the table read of an earlier draft, and Howie was gracious enough to ask me to play Aunt Laurie in the production. As far as developmental involvement, I was a part of table reads, and perhaps a few bits of feedback, but that is all.
What lured you back to the theatre?
Short answer? I miss the audience. I need to get up in front of people and get some instant feedback. I don’t get to work as much as I would like in the “industry” and choosing to do a play gives me a sense of taking control over the creative aspect of my life. It’s been 20 years since I’ve done a play, and the process feels real good down to my bones!
What do you hope to communicate to the audience?
I’m just hoping to convey Howie’s words in a truthful way, and to entertain the audience. I’m hoping they buy my character. She’s got a few screws loose. I love that. I hope the audience sees how much I love living inside this person, and we all have a great time.
How did you and your husband Alex meet?   I was told that this is the first time you’ve worked on a play together.  What’s that been like?
Alex and I met online!! Before online got too crazy! We went on a date to Cat and the Fiddle and then popped over to Tom Bergins. Both now closed!! We’re not letting that get in the way of our love.I play Alex’s aunt in the play so we’ve had some laughs about that. It’s interesting doing a show together because there’s no one to come home to and dump the stress of putting up a show! Our poor dogs are sick of hearing about it! 
What’s up next for you?
Good question. And it’s always the question. Honestly, I’d love to get a series regular role and relax for a bit. Enjoy a TV family for a stint. That would be nice. Alas, it seems my life is about “seeking the next thing” and the fact that I am still here in this business doing that is proof of my resilience. It turns out I am always up for re-invention of self and my artistry, so bring on the next challenge!! Seriously….bring it. Where is it??
Show runs March 24 – May 26.  Saturday evenings at 8:00 pm. For tix: go to  Whitefire Theatre is at 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks at the corner of Sunnyslope.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Interview - Thom Babbes Director of A Man for All Seasons at Actors Co-op

Actors Co-op credits include Summer and Smoke, Ah, Wilderness (Best Director/StageSceneLA), The Miracle Worker and Wait Until Dark.  He has directed workshop productions of new works, Dietrich (based on Dietrich Bonhoeffer) by John Martins III, The Real Real Thing by Frank Higgins and Washington Irvine’s Sketchbook by Frank Higgins and Southhamton County (based on Nat Turner’s slave rebellion) which Mr. Babbes wrote.  Other credits:  Sun City by Jim Geoghan at Stella Adler Theater, Hollywood.  A writer as well, Mr. Babbes recently adapted William Saroyan’s novel The Human Comedy for the stage.  Screenplays include Deadly Dreams and Body Chemistry (Concorde New Horizons), The Audition - A Short Film (Co-Writer – Winner Best Screenplay & Best Comedy 2008 - 168 Hour Film Festival), X-treme Weekend - Short Film (Co-Writer, screened at multiple fests USA and Canada.)  Insurrection (Samuelson Prods.), Bleeding Writing and Arithmetic (Kings Road Ent.), The Substutute (Apollo Pictures), Island of Lonely Men (Sotela Pictures).
When did you start directing plays?  What was your first directing job, and what did you learn from that experience that serves or guides you today when you direct?
I started directing plays in the late 1990s when I joined Actor’s Co-op.  They were mostly new plays done as a part of the Co-op Too series.  I have worked with many directors over the years and I approach directing as a collaborative process with the actor.  If you cast well, and you are clear about the themes and the story you want to tell, it usually comes together.  I love actors and respect them.  I hate when directors try to get a performance out of an actor using fear and humiliation.  That is not my style.  I try to create an atmosphere of freedom and creativity. 
How did your directing A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS come about? 
 I have had a lot of success with my past Main Stage shows at Actors Co-op THE MIRACLE WORKER, WAIT UNTIL DARK, AH, WILDERNESS and SUMMER AND SMOKE.  The Co-op called me about coming back and directing A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS.  Originally I had to turn it down because I was directing another show at the time but they changed the date for AMFAS and it worked out in the end.  Actors Co-op is my home and working there is such a pleasure for me.  It is a great fit.  
Tell us a bit about the play.  
AMFAS is the story of Sir Thomas More — a man of great faith and conscience.  When his faith comes into conflict with King Henry VIII, he chooses his faith and pays the ultimate price. Telling the story is the character of The Common Man - a character who is the opposite of More. The Common Man represents the worst in human nature.  She is a character who is shrewd and opportunistic but at the same time a survivor at any cost. She says it best, "Better to be a live rat than a dead lion."
What makes A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS a notable play?  What is about the play that might appeal to an audience in 2018?
This is a play that has stood the test of time.  It was a huge hit in London, on Broadway and won the Academy Award for Best Film of 1966. It is a story of conscience and survival.  I think this story is more reverent today in our post Christian world.  In this secular society is there anything worth dying for?  In this divided country, how far would you go to stand for an unpopular belief?  Would you dare to lose it all because of your point of view?  I believe being a person of faith is a very hard road especially in Los Angeles.  This play explores that very issue.  Although the play takes place in the 16th century, it it written for a modern audience.  It is very accessible.
What do you want the audience to experience and/or take away to having seen the play? 
I think I'd like them to experience a new way of looking at the world.  I want them to truly consider their commitment to God, their conscience, and the people around them.  How can we live together, respect each other and still have different views?  Is it better to stand up for one's principles no matter what the cost?  Or is it better to just survive and compromise?
Do you have future directing or writing projects that you are involved in, and if so, what are you working on?  
Right now I am working on a new adaptation of William Saroyan’s THE HUMAN COMEDY.  It is a project I’ve been involved with for many years and is finally beginning to take off.  We did a fully produced workshop production at Village Christian School last November with a group of really talented student actors but now it’s time to get the first professional production mounted.  I am also currently directing a production of PETER PAN.
Show Times and Tickets: March 2 – April 15, 2018.  Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm, Sunday matinees at 2:30 pm. Additional Saturday Matinees: March 10 and March 17 at 2:30 pm.  No Shows March 30 – April 1. Tickets: $30.00.  Seniors (60+): $25.00.  Students: $20.00.  Group rates available for parties of 6 or more.  To buy tickets or make reservations please visit or call (323) 462-8460.   Actors Co-op David Schall Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St.  90028  (on the campus of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood) in Hollywood.