Thursday, October 18, 2018

2018 Interview with Cate Caplin

Cate Caplin has produced, directed and choreographed over 200 productions and her work has been seen on television, in films, music videos, commercials and in theatrical venues world wide from the Paris Opera House to the Broadway Stage. She is a 34 times Regional and International Theatrical Ballroom Dance Champion, is a published writer and has been the recipient of a Garland Award, a Women In Theatre Red Carpet Award, multiple LA Stage Alliance Ovation, Eddon and Scenie Awards and was honored to receive an Award of Excellence from the LA Film Commission for her work as a Writer, Director, Choreographer and Producer. 




Tell me about this production of She Loves Me and what challenges your directing.  

I've always loved this musical. It's beautifully written, artfully constructed, classically romantic, and it's funny in an extremely welcomed way, especially during difficult political times like these... I think the most challenging part of this process quite honestly has been scheduling!  We are blessed with a superb cast, wonderful chemistry between all the players and a particularly positive, joyful and cooperative manner of creatively collaborating. That should be a "given" in all productions but sadly it is not always the case (!) so I am extremely grateful to have that dynamic during our rehearsal process ... but this has definitely been THE most difficult show I have ever experienced in regard to conflicts and scheduling around commitments out of town, work obligations, unexpected booked gigs, and surprise unavailability, and I have quite honestly been going a bit nuts trying to keep the flow and continuity going for the ones who actually ARE present on a consistent basis!  With a situation like this, the name of the game is to keep finessing the details that need attention with the ones who are there and trust that collectively, the pieces of the puzzles will continue to refine and settle into their happy place! Some times it comes down to sheer will, focus and tenacity to pull these things together! 

Musically this is a lovely show. What do you find fascinating about it?  

The music in this show truly advances the plot and the strength of the text is felt throughout the journey of the story unfolding. The characters reveal dimension and a mixture of qualities and shifts in personality more so than some roles in other "old fashioned" musicals. There are more real moments of anger, vulnerability, uncertainty, bewilderment and frustration than you see in a typical feel good musical yet at the same time, the style of comedy is often heightened, almost borderline cartoon-like in sensibilities. It's a fun line to walk artistically .

There is less dancing in this show. What does the choreography add to the story?  

This may have "less dancing" than a show like 42nd Street but to me, all moments of musical staging are a form of dance. I think the challenge is to make musicalized scenes look seamlessly organic evolving out of the action of the scene. Sometimes that is a trickier assignment than a traditional musical number. Looking for the right balance of choreographed moves laced with natural behavior of the character and blending those worlds so it doesn't look too stagey or not carved out specifically enough is the hard part. Some numbers are still in process as I see the actors exploring and trying different things with the given lyrics and others are more clear when the moves make sense and are married to the lyrics and the action of the scene and I then "lock" them in.  The choreography adds humor, theatrics and musicalized punctuation throughout and the "art part" is finding a way to enhance those colors and details without taking you out of the story.

What is your favorite show...that you have worked on?  Why this choice?  

Many moons ago (!) I was brought into the revival of West Side Story in NY, directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins and conducted by Leonard Bernstein - need I say more?! This was an absolute highlight of my career, and besides being one of the all time best musicals ever written, working on that show with those artists was a thrill of a lifetime. I went on to tour Italy and France with the show, always in 15-20,000 seat Amphitheaters and glorious Opera Houses, always with a magnificently full sized orchestra playing that heavenly music. 

Do you have an overall favorite musical?  

That's a very tough question, I love so many but West Side Story may be my number one choice because of my history with the show.There are others that I love for different reasons, Ragtime, Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, Light in the Piazza, the list goes on....!

Is there a show you really long to direct? 

There are many shows on my Director "Wish List",  musicals, straight plays and comedies.... A few off the top include Kenneth Lonergan's "Lobby Hero", Anna Ziegler's play "Actually", "Tennessee William's "Glass Menagerie", Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird",  there are many more....

I wish you would put together a one person show about your life. You have so much to enchant us with. Any desire to do that? 

I can't say that it is something I've ever seriously considered. I so love being on the other side of the table now and take great pleasure in coaching dancers and actors and designing and collaborating with other artists and designers..That seems to be my strongest pull and inspiration at the moment but you never know what will lead to what on this creative path! Maybe elements of my story will come out in my future writing and personal projects on stage or in film, we'll see....

What else are you involved with at the moment that you care to share?  

I am currently in pre-production for Georgette Kelly's play, "I Carry Your Heart" which I will be directing at 59 E 59th street in the spring of 2019.
I am very excited to finally have an opportunity to direct in NY, something I have wanted to do for a long time now. We have selected our design team and are now proceeding with casting. Day One we received over 800 submissions for 6 roles. Here we go, the adventure continues....!!!

Anything you wish to add about why audiences should come out to see this production of She Loves Me?

There is nothing like good natured comedy and a warm hearted love story to brighten anyone's day. We've worked hard on this delicious confection and we're delighted and looking forward to sharing it with our theatrical family and friends.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Interview with Playwright Ken Ludwig

Playwright Ken Ludwig has gained tremendous popularity over the last few decades. His hysterical Lend Me a Tenor is performed all over the world and translated into a multitude of languages. His stage adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express is about to open October 20 at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts in its West Coast premiere. Ludwig took time out of a super busy schedule to talk about the play and other highlights of his career.

You are perhaps our number one American farceur. Lend Me a Tenor and Moon Over Buffalo are ever so popular. Detective Hercule Poirot is a humorous character in Murder on the  Orient Express, but I am sure you have made him ten times funnier in your adaptation. Do you want to elaborate on creating comedy?


Sure. I'd love to. That's a great question. In a way it just grew out of the text. The kind of humor I try to write is ... tell the story, find a story that innately has humor in it. Mysteries are a lot like comedies. They're highfalutin, very Northrop Frye, who wrote Anatomy of Criticism, books on Shakespeare and stuff. He likens comedies to mysteries as a genre form. Everything gets shaken up. You're sort of in some kind of a normal social situation, and everything gets shaken up. Think of a jigsaw puzzle flying up into the air. When everything comes down, it gets locked together in the right order and makes sense. And there's something innately comic in the larger sense about that journey than say something that ends up with jagged edges and is a psychological tragedy or makes us uneasy in the end. I think what Agatha Christie wrote in essence are comedies or great standard mysteries of the mystery genre being sort of comic because it's so satisfying and has extravagant characters like comedies do. The humor really grew out of those characters.


There are so many characters in Murder on the Orient Express!


Yeah, but less than in the book. The book says that there are twelve suspects. I cut it down to eight, because there are too many people to get on the stage.


Tell our readers more about the process of writing comedy. Expound on what makes comedy so much more difficult to compose than drama.


Well, I think it's who writes it.  For me it's easier than writing drama because it's where I live, it's what I think and feel. I think one is either made to write comedy or made otherwise. Shakespeare did both, but ... For me comedy is a way of looking at the world. I'm innately sort of an optimistic guy but not in a sort of Pollyanna way. I think realistically optimistic. I feel that things will work out all right, and that's really basic to the notion of writing comedy.


You've written about Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. You must like sleuths. Do you think they make the best comic characters?


They do. They're so colorful; they're so interesting; they're so out of the box. They're not average. God knows, they better not be boring. The two greatest detective characters ever written are indeed Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. They're as quirky as the dickens. Writing about their quirkiness is a joy and really allows a writer to flex his muscles.


... Tenor and ... Buffalo are specifically about the theatre. However, all of your work is theatrical. You obviously agree that "All the world's a stage". Comment on that if you would.


I got very involved in writing plays about the world of the theatre or backstage at the opera. I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania that did not have access to the larger sense of being in the theatre. There was a community theatre there. I dreamed about being in the theatre. My mom was from New York and exposed us a little bit to what theatre looked like on the outside.  It was really my dream. I'm psychoanalyzing myself but the reason I loved theatre was it gave me a chance to become a part of this whole world that I loved so much. I wrote about it with so much affection and excitement. It's where I want to be.


I understand and can relate to that. Do you have a favorite play of those you\ve written?

It's a cop-out to say it's the one I'm writing at the moment. It's true in a sense. I'm always so enthusiastic I can't imagine how it's not going to knock 'em dead. .. In some ways my favorite is Leading Ladies, a comedy where Twelfth Night meets Some Like It Hot. I loved writing about characters who are crossdressing. And it was my love and admiration for Twelfth Night, my favorite of all the Shakespeare plays; I'm a big Shakespeare geek. I wrote a book on Shakespeare. Again it was very theatrical about two actors in a backstage comedy....Shakespearean actors from England who end up playing the opposite sex.  It touched on all the things I love most about the theatre.


Do you have a favorite playwright besides Shakespeare?


George Bernard Shaw. Living dramatic writers: Woody Allen, who writes movies not plays, Tom Stoppard in his heyday. Those are my favorites.  Shakespeare is certainly the greatest playwright that ever lived. Shaw is the second greatest. You can study him as if you might have known him.


Moon Over Broadway was a terrific documentary about producing Moon Over Buffalo. Carol Burnett was very brave and I think all good actors should be willing to lay it bare and show the ups and downs of what it's like to produce a play on Broadway. How did you feel about that?


I thought it was remarkable in giving a genuine sense of what it is like to put on a Broadway show. You have to change things all the time, the tensions of opening up dealing with the press, dealing with your producers and actors. 


Is there a play you long to write?


 I have two plays coming up, now in rewrites. In my head there is a comedy about the world of classical acting and Shakespeare and the things that influenced me with great actors of the 18th and 19th centuries. It's been kicking around in my head for a long time. I think that will be next.


On your tombstone it reads:  Here lies a great American farceur. Would you be happy with that or would you want to be remembered differently?


(He laughs.)


That's a great question. I'd like it to read  great American playwright, but if I can't, who can be picky... great American farceur, I'll take it.


Anything you wish to add about La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts where Murder on the Orient Express is being presented?


I'm a great admirer of Tom McCoy and Cathy Rigby. Tom came out to see the play on the East Coast when it opened. I just know he's going to do a great job. He's a terrific producer. I'm very excited.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

AGATHA CHRISTIE’S 
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS
Adapted by Ken Ludwig
Directed by Sheldon Epps
OPENS:  SATURDAY, OCTOBER 20 at 8pm
and runs through SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 2018
PREVIEW:  Friday, October 19 at 8pm
PERFORMANCES: Wednesdays & Thursdays at 7:30pm; Fridays at 8:00pm; Saturdays at 2:00pm and 8:00pm; Sundays at 2:00pm.  
There will be an Open-Captioned performance on Saturday, November 3 at 2pm and an ASL-interpreted performance on Saturday, November 10 at 2pm.  Talkbacks with the cast and creative team will be on Wednesday, October 24 and Wednesday, November 7.  
LA MIRADA THEATRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
14900 La Mirada Blvd. in La Mirada, CA 90638.  
Arrive Early To Find Best Parking -- It's Free!
Tickets range from $20 - $84 (Prices subject to change)
$15 Student Tickets for the first 15 performances of the production.
For tickets, please call (562) 944-9801 or (714) 994-6310 or buy online at www.lamiradatheatre.com
Student, Senior and Group discounts are available.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

2018 Interview with Monica Mancini

On Saturday October 13 there will be a special tribute concert to the music of Henry Mancini at the Soraya at Cal State Northridge. Monica Mancini, the icon's daughter, took time from her busy schedule to tell us about the event.

What is the reason for the tribute at this particular point in time? 




IN OUR FAMILY, THERE'S ALWAYS A REASON TO CELEBRATE DAD'S MUSIC! OTHER THAN THE ICONIC PINK PANTHER THEME BEING 55 YEARS OLD, HIS MUSIC IS TIMELESS AND CONNECTS WITH GENERATIONS OF MUSIC LOVERS

Give us a sneak peek by talking a little about the program and your special guest.

WE WILL BE PERFORMING ALL OF DAD'S WELL KNOWN SONGS LIKE "DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES", "MOON RIVER", ALONG WITH INSTRUMENTAL THEMES FROM THE THORNBIRDS AND VICTOR VICTORIA...
IF ANYONE HAD THE EXTRAORDINARY EXPERIENCE OF SEEING HAMILTON IN SAN FRANCISCO OR LA, YOU SAW THE AWESOME PERFORMANCE OF JOSHUA HENRY PORTRAYING AARON BURR. HE LITERALLY STOPPED THE SHOW WITH HIS OPENING LINE! I'M EXPECTING THAT HIS CHARISMA AND PIPES WILL BRING A FRESH ENERGY TO SOME OF DAD'S CLASSICS THAT HE WILL BE SINGING. NOT TO MENTION THE THRILL FOR ME TO DO A DUET OR TWO...

What was it like growing up the daughter of Henry Mancini? Did he encourage you to make music your future career?

THANKFULLY, DAD DIDN'T HIT HIS STRIDE MUSICALLY UNTIL WE WERE A BIT OLDER, SO WE  GREW UP IN A REAL NEIGHBORHOOD, PLAYING KICK THE CAN WITH REAL NEIGHBORHOOD KIDS AND DIDN'T HAVE THE "STIGMA" THAT'S OFTEN ASSOCIATED WITH GROWING UP WITH PRIVILEGE. THE THREE OF US KIDS HAD THE PERFUNCTORY PIANO LESSONS THAT MOST MUSICIANS CHILDREN HAD BUT AS FAR AS ANY ENCOURAGEMENT AS A MUSICAL PATH, HE LEFT THAT TO US. I THINK THE DNA PRETTY MUCH DECIDED THAT FOR US, AS WE ALL ENDED UP WITH MUSIC AS CAREERS.
AS FAR AS I REMEMBER, THE ONLY ADVANTAGE HAVING A FAMOUS FATHER WAS THE POSSIBILITY OF MEETING THE BEATLES!

Give a specific incident, humorous if possible, that shows his
dedication to and love for his compositions, like any fun Pink Panther story?

THE ONLY PINK PANTHER STORIES I KNOW ARE FAIRLY X-RATED, GIVEN THAT PETER SELLERS WAS INVOLVED. I CAN SAY THAT TO HEAR "THE PINK PANTHER THEME" IS TO KNOW HENRY MANCINI. HIS WIT, HIS INTELLIGENCE AND HIS HEART ARE ON FULL DISPLAY, WHICH IS PRETTY MUCH THE CASE IN EVERY PIECE OF MUSIC HE WROTE

What was his personal favorite composition? Yours?

DAD'S FAVORITE COMPOSITION WAS "TWO FOR THE ROAD". I DON'T KNOW WHY HE CONNECTED SO WITH THIS MELODY...SHOULD HAVE ASKED HIM! IT VERY MUCH SPEAKS TO THE RELATIONSHIP HE HAD WITH MY MOM, AND IT BECAME "THEIR SONG" FOR LIFE~
I ALWAYS LOVED "THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES" BUT FUNNILY ENOUGH, I PREFER TO SING "TWO FOR THE ROAD".

 Anything else you care to add?

THE LOCATION OF THIS CONCERT HAS SPECIAL MEANING AS WE GREW UP RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER FROM THE COLLEGE...YOU KNOW, WHERE WE WERE KICKING THE CAN AND WHERE DAD WROTE "MOON RIVER".


On Saturday, October 13 at 8pm, Mancini’s music comes home to Northridge as The Soraya presents Moon River and the Music of Henry Mancini.  Starring Monica Mancini with special guest three-time Tony nominated Joshua Henry, Moon River and the Music of Henry Mancini features Gregg Field as Music Director and Chris Walden conducting the New West Symphony.