Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Spotlight on Laura Gardner

The Road Theatre on Magnolia is proud to present The Spanish Prayer Book by Angela J. Davis and directed by Lee Sankowich. The fascinating historical play about the power of art to forge human connections had its official opening on Friday September 20 and plays until November 10. Each week we will spotlight a cast member. This week the light shines on Laura Gardner.

What character do you play in Spanish Prayer Book? How does she contribute to the play?

I play Joan Adler, wife of Jacob, whose father ‘saved’ the books from the Nazis. I am trying to get my husband to sell some of the books to help support our daughter and granddaughter. After Jacob’s death, I try to persuade my daughter to sell the books for the same reason! Yes, they belong to the Jews and yes, my family needs help too. 

Joan brings humor, passion, reason and honesty to the people around her. I love her British straight forwardness and yes, there is a bit of my mother and me in Joan. 

What to you is the message of the play?

I come from a Jewish background and although I wasn’t Bat Mitzvahed,  I feel such a deep connection to my roots and to the struggles of the Jews through time. Always running, hiding. This play brings so many things into consideration: who owns cultural treasures, where do we draw the line, and the importance of the truth in a family. 

Tell us about your director and fellow cast mates.

I have known Lee Sankowich for many years and have worked with him and his daughter, Sarah, on Moses Supposes at The Zephyr Theatre so it is fun to work with him again. And I have been with this play since the Summer Playwrights Festival three years ago so am delighted to be working with Angela (J. Davis) for all this time! The cast is terrific with Roadies I have wanted to play with for many years! 

What for you is the audience takeaway?

I hope the audience takes away the importance of family, cultural treasures and the connection of our ancestors. There is a moment when I have been at Passover Seder, that I have been overtaken with a deep sorrow and connection to ‘My People’. This play does this to me. 

The Road on Magnolia is located in the NoHo Senior Arts Colony at 10747 Magnolia Blvd. There is plenty of street parking but allow yourself plenty of time. Tickets may be purchased at 818- 761-8838.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Saudade Theatre

Filipe Valle Costa is the founder and co-artistic director of the Saudade Theatre, the first and only Portuguese theatre in Los Angeles to translate Portuguese playwrights into English. The company will soon open My Favorite Suicide on October 18. Based on my knowledge of theatre in Los Angeles, this is a milestone for our community. We desperately need to include theatre artists from all over the globe whose ideas will expand our intellectual horizons and build the best theatre possible.

Filipe, tell our readers about Saudade Theatre. Most importantly, as the first and only Portuguese theatre in the US, how has it made a difference for the Portuguese and our American culture?

FVC: Well, that is the key right there. Saudade Theatre is the first and only Portuguese theatre company in the US, and as such, it's our mission to develop original and thought-provoking work grounded in the Portuguese experience. I never wanted Saudade to be a "museum" theatre company. In other words, it is not our goal to grow a company that merely presents an American audience with a Portuguese story, or our history straight from the history books. As Portuguese immigrants having grown roots in the US, we are specifically interested in having a dialogue: we want to understand where the contemporary Portuguese consciousness meets the American equivalent. We are now based in Los Angeles, but started the work of Saudade Theatre in New York City five years ago - after having the simple realization that theatre bookstores did not carry any Portuguese playwrights translated to English. I felt a longing for my artistic and cultural roots, and craved the ability to share them. Saudade Theatre has been ground-breaking in presenting certain Portuguese plays in the US for the first time. Exploring Portuguese theatre has allowed us to open our minds to other possibilities and other forms of creating theatre. It's been an amazing ride to rediscover what theatre can be, and do. 

Are all productions translated into English or in some is there a mix of Portuguese and English? Have you ever presented any show in Portuguese and translated into English on a screen above for audience view?

FVC: We are not limiting ourselves to any one way of producing works. For now, the majority of our work is grounded on the translation of Portuguese plays and playwrights, in direct response to the lack of such published works. This is the foundation. This is how we create the bridge between Portuguese and American theatre cultures. 

However, we see many other possibilities in the future. We've considered bringing essential American works to Portugal; we've considered performing plays fully in Portuguese with subtitles; we have and will continue to reconsider our storytelling methods according to the specificity of each project and each step the company takes. 

Tell us about the world premiere of My Favorite Suicide. What does it tell the story of and what is its message?

FVC: It's deeply exciting. Through our work creating relationships with Portuguese playwrights, we now have a new work written specifically for our company, penned by one of the most notable Portuguese playwrights today. We are ecstatic to produce this world premiere here in LA. 

My Favorite Suicide is an apocalyptical story about four friends, in a cabin, in the middle of a mountainous forest, grappling with the strangest of all human acts. What deaths do we give ourselves and what countless tales do we tell about them?

This work is also incredibly personal. Suicide has touched my family. One of our goals with Saudade Theatre is to always take the pulse of the current moment - so My Favorite Suicide came about as a response to the general mental health conversation in the US right now. It was important to us to be able to have four actors get on stage and debate the meaning of life and death and choices and survival, nonstop, for over an hour. There is not one defined message per se. This play is not a cautionary tale, nor looking to impose a certain point of view. Our goal is to speak openly about suicide and exchange ideas, which audiences may or may not agree with, but it's an open dialogue about a subject that so often is swallowed by silence.

Talk about the collaborators and the writer/director's first directorial production in the US.

FVC: I feel personally fulfilled to be working with everyone on this project. Starting with Mickaël De Oliveira - his writing repertoire includes more than 20 plays, which have been produced internationally and translated into English, French, Spanish and Slovak. He's been working at the national theatre and on Portugal's largest stages for years.  Having him and his translator/dramaturg Maria Inês Marques in the US working with our theatre company is a unique opportunity for ourselves (as artistic directors), for actors, and also our production designers, to work with artists of great experience and perspective. And, with our goal to further Portuguese playwrights, Saudade Theatre set up a conference with UCLA's Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies, where Mickaël will have the opportunity to present on his Ph.D. thesis regarding contemporary European theatre for students and department staff. 

We're also incredibly grateful to be working with Drum & Lace once again this year. Drum & Lace is a composer & performer that writes & creates music for film, fashion & media. She composed original music for our West Coast Premiere of The Constitution, also written by Mickaël, last year. There's no limit to the wonderful things I can say about her. Her scoring of HBO's documentary “At The Heart of Gold” was absolutely gorgeous.

We have found a true diamond in the rough with our stage manager, Garrett Crouch. He's that for us and so much more. I cannot imagine producing anything without him. It’s been a huge gift to share the stage with our actresses Liliana de Castro (Psi, HBO), Joy Brunson (This Is Us, NBC; Snowfall, FX), and of course, my co-artistic director, Diogo Martins (Saramago’s Skylight.) 

Last but not least, sharing an artistic life with my wife, our Executive Director, Vanessa Varela, has been one of the most rewarding experiences I could have asked for. Vanessa has been our rock. 

Tell us about incorporating American actors into casts and how that generates a fine sense of community.

FVC: Saudade Theatre is first and foremost a conversation between American and Portuguese artists, between our cultures & societies. A dialogue about what we might or might not have in common. Our work is always in relationship to where it exists, because the theatre depends on that. I guess we can say that we are not a Portuguese theatre company. We are a Portuguese American theatre company. We never wanted to be solely made up of Portuguese artists because for us, that would mean isolating ourselves rather than opening ourselves up to valuable collaborations. The bridge we are slowly building strongly depends on that.

My Favorite Suicide will play at Anthony Meindl’s Actor Workshop 905 Cole Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90038  It plays at the following times:  Friday, October 18 - 8:00 pm, Saturday, October 19 - 8:00 pm, Sunday, October 20 - 7:30 pm. NO SHOW on Fri. 10/25. Saturday, October 26 - 3:00 pm, Saturday, October 26 - 8:00 pm, Sunday, October 27 - 7:30 pm,  Friday, November 1 - 8:00 pm, Saturday, November 2 - 8:00 pm, and Sunday, November 3 - 7:30 pm  $20, Ages 16+

Monday, October 7, 2019

Interview - Michael Ventre

Michael Ventre studied at the University of Southern California both in Journalism and at the graduate school of Cinema. He also studied acting at the Stella Adler Conservatory in Los Angeles.

As s journalist, he has contributied to such publications as, Variety, American Way (American Airlines) magazine, Los Angeles Confidential magazine, Los Angeles Times magazine, Produced by (Producers Guild) magazine and many others.

Ventre has been working for a few years on a new musical with arresting political references called Letters to Benito. In our conversation he discusses it and how he would like to produce it locally at a prestigious theatre.

Tell our readers about the association between Benito Mussolini and J Edgar Hoover that sparks your new musical. Old timers are familiar with both men, but they may like to know why you created this fantasy to link them as pen pals. Explain the story.
MV: Authoritarian rule is a much-discussed topic these days, in the U.S., in Europe and beyond. There was a time when Hoover had an authoritarian grip on power in America, although it was relatively silent and behind the scenes. He ran the FBI for almost half a century with an iron hand, he intimidated powerful figures into submission, and he went after his enemies. In short, he used Fascist tactics and abused his power. Of course, Mussolini was more of an overt, card-carrying Fascist and a supporter of Hitler, but I think you can conclude that the two were simpatico in terms of how to maintain their respective grips on power through ruthlessness and fear. Plus each was about 5-7 and bald, so I thought they’d make a cute couple.

If the musical is irreverent and political, then it certainly is a fit for our current scene. What motivated you to write it?
MV: It’s something I have been working on for several years, but it certainly seems especially appropriate for our current times and the current political conditions. Back in the early 1990s a biography of Hoover came out and made a number of assertions about him, one of which was that he was a crossdresser. His private life and his relationship with close friend and FBI deputy Clyde Tolson have always been the topics of speculation and discussion. I don’t think it matters who he was with or what he wore; I support anyone living their life the way they want and loving who they want. But for the purposes of this fantasy in which seducing Mussolini was an objective, I put Hoover in a dress, wig and high heels, and I think an impartial observer would probably agree that he looks quite fetching and irresistible.

Did you write the music as well as the book? If not, who collaborated with you?
MV: I did write the music as well as the book.

What style of music did you envision? Opera? Operetta? Of is it more contemporary with rap and hip hop?
MV: It’s more contemporary, and although there’s a dash of hip-hop in one number, it’s mostly what you might categorize as whimsical show tunes within a nutty context. Yet I’m a big fan of soul, R&B and Motown, and some of that is layered in as well, especially after Madame Gottlieb, the beautiful African-American transvestite brothel operator in Italy, is introduced. It’s an intentionally wacky musical, but with a serious side. There’s a delicate balance, and I tried to maintain that balance in the songs as well as the book.

Without creating a spoiler alert, tell us some of the humor that is present. You say it is Mel Brooksian. Explain that in detail.
MV: A friend and colleague, Flody Suarez, who was one of the producers in the Tony-nominated The Cher Show on Broadway, recently read Letters to Benito and remarked: “That is one trippy read! It’s very reminiscent of Mel Brooks’ comedies.” That’s where the Mel reference came from that you’re citing, and it was very nice of Flody to say that. I would never make that comparison. Mel is one of my all-time comedy idols, and I am eternally grateful to him for existing. It is my sincere hope that, if Mel ever sees “Letters to Benito,” he laughs. As for a spoiler … I’d rather not get too specific. I will say that there is one song performed by the Clyde Tolson character that is both dirty and patriotic – one could argue that the two often go hand in hand – and I think most will find it funny and some will find it offensive. I remember thinking, “I don’t think this has ever been the topic of a song in a musical before. Maybe the time is right!” There are also references to a certain current-day individual without mentioning said current-day individual that I hope will elicit at least a guffaw or two.

Many theatres like the Road, Actors Co-op in Hollywood and Antaeus have great acting companies. It obviously will take some pretty terrific acting to carry off the powerhouse ambitions of these two characters. What kind of effect do you want it to have on audiences?
MV: I want audiences to laugh. It’s an irreverent musical comedy, after all, and we could all use a good laugh, especially these days. I feel confident audiences will have fun at this show. But there is always an undercurrent of darkness to it, especially toward the end. No matter how fun the ride is, the subject matter has natural darkness to it that can’t and shouldn’t be avoided. So I think as people walk out they will have a lot to talk about regarding our current leadership, Hoover, Mussolini, freedom, democracy, power, secrecy, propaganda, and how to select just the right handbag.

Have you read it in small groups? If so, what was the reaction?
MV: Yes, and everybody laughed in all the right places, and sometimes in the wrong places, but I’m hoping that was residual laughter from laughing in the right places.

How do you feel about musicals in general? Is this your very first?
MV: I love musicals, now. I’m not going to say I saw Oklahoma! when I was 10 and it changed my life. Nor have I ever appeared in a high school musical. I have attended musicals as a casual fan over the years. But in recent years I’ve been going more and more, catching up more and more, and now I have the bug in a sort of incurable way. Letters to Benito started out as a screenplay, but as I progressed, it just felt like a musical. So I transformed it. And yes, it’s my first.

Do you have a favorite composer? If so, why this choice? What about favorite musical of all time? Why?
MV: Probably the Gershwins and Stephen Sondheim. I know that’s a little like saying “The Godfather” is my favorite movie, but what can I say? That’s it. And although it’s film, can I please throw in Ennio Morricone for “Once Upon A Time In America”? Thank you. My favorite musical of all time is probably a tie between Bye Bye Birdie, The Producers and Hamilton. And I know this isn’t exactly what you asked, but I’ve never been a big fan of rap and hip-hop. But after seeing Hamilton and wearing out the soundtrack, I’ve gained an appreciation for that genre and I am exploring with glee. Thank you Lin-Manuel Miranda. I think you can say that’s the power of a great artist, when he or she has that kind of impact that alters your life a bit.

Do you wish to add anything I did not mention?
MV: One item I’d love for audiences to think about afterward is the idea that you should consider how you want to be remembered, especially if you’re in any position of power and influence. I don’t know that Hoover thought much about it, maybe until the end, if at all. In retrospect, he probably should have. I think there are a lot of folks today who should really keep that same thought in mind.

I have read the play and find it terribly amusing and worthy of attention. Since he is between websites at the present time, you may contact Ventre on his FB page: Theatre producers, take note!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Interview - Magician Siegfried Tieber

Renowned magician Siegfried Tieber, who was a sensation on television with Penn and Teller, is about to perform a new show Red Thread in downtown Los Angeles Oct. 3 – Nov. 10. The interesting part is that there are only 6 shows per week for 6 weeks and ... only 34 guests will make up the audience for each show. In our conversation he explains the show and why it must be perfromed in an intimate space.

Tell our readers about your fascinating background. Your father came from Austria and your mother from Colombia. You grew up in Ecuador. How did magic become a part of your childhood? When did it become more important to you than anything else?

ST: Many professional magicians, those of us who decide to devote our lives to this pursuit, get interested in magic at an early age. However, I didn’t until I was 19. Someone lent me a book and I started learning from it. After a few weeks of practicing on my own, I gathered the courage to share what I’d been working on with my family. Their response was very enthusiastic—much more than I expected. They freaked out, and I freaked out at their freaking out. Since that moment, I fell in love with magic.

Do you have a mentor? Who influenced you the most? Who taught you magic or are you self-taught?

ST: I’ve had a few mentors along the way. I crossed paths with the first one when I was still living in Ecuador, only a few months after I got interested in magic. I had the good fortune of meeting someone who taught me to care about magic, to nurture it and to see it as an art form. His name was Andres Castro, a great artist and a wonderful wizard who left us too soon.

There are and have been many who have influenced me as a magician. To this day the most present is the Spanish genius Juan Tamariz—el Maestro!!

Who do you think is the greatest magician of all time? Why this choice?

ST: Ayayay… Tough call. “Greatness” is highly subjective and hard to define. I don’t have an answer to that. I have heroes and personal favorites. I’ve had the thrill and pleasure to collaborate with many of the magicians I’ve respected and admired for a long time. Red Thread director Jon Armstrong and co-writer Jared Kopf are very influential figures within the magic community. Collaborating with them has been a privilege. If someone had told me about this only 5 years ago, I wouldn’t have believed them.

Your show sounds very intimate with only 34 guests in each audience. Explain why this is so important to the enjoyment of the show?

ST: An intimate audience opens the door to interaction and to getting to know each other. I might be doing most of the talking during the performance, but everyone there is an essential, active part of it.

Physical proximity to the stage and to the performer is important for the kind of performance I propose. It creates a specific atmosphere and group dynamic that can’t be attained in any other way.

How is Red Thread different from your past shows?

ST: For me, magic has always been an excuse for human interaction. It’s a vehicle that allows me to engage with people and implicitly ask them for a few minutes of their precious time and attention. My hope with Red Thread is to push this even further, with a performance that puts weight on the narrative, instead of focusing solely on the magic.

Talk about your co-writer Jared Kopf and your artistic director Jon Armstrong.

ST: Jared and Jon have different artistic visions, but both are immensely respected in the magic community. We all pull in different directions, which has led to a work that hopes to encompass and fulfill multiple dimensions. It has been challenging of course, but it’s been a very enjoyable challenge.

We know that the magician makes you focus on one thing while you do another. The magician moves our attention away. Without revealing anything, talk about this.

ST: The idea that a magician distracts people is a misconception. The psychology of magic goes deeper—is more subtle and elegant—than “quick hands” and “distracting people.” If you are being distracted and you realize that you have been distracted, then the experience won’t resonate. Instead, it will be dismissed as a clever juggling feat. In my mind, the magician should encourage people to watch closely and follow the action every step along the way. If people know they’ve been watching attentively and the result is still surprising and wonderful, then that feels like magic.

On a similar note, I greatly dislike the idea of “fooling” people. Magic deals with the psychology of deception, but deception is only a means to an end. Magic is a quite peculiar art form in the sense that it must bypass the intellect in order to reach the emotions. When I perform, my goal is to evoke wonder. No one wants to be fooled; we all want to experience wonder.

For info and tix go online to:

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Interview with Harriet Schock

teacher Harriet Schock has had an incredible career in composing for TV and film. She still performs in live concerts around the globe, gives master classes in songwriting and is lauded for her great skill and humanity in writing songs that resonate with the human spirit. "Ain't No Way to Treat a Lady" and "First Time on a Ferris Wheel" are but two of her magnificent hit pop songs. In our conversation she really digs deep to help us understand and feel the songwriting process.

I have been a fan of yours since I heard Carl Anderson sing "First Time on a Ferris Wheel". It's one of my favorite songs of all time. Reaching out and finding love, the exhilaration of it all is perfectly presented in your music and lyrics for this song. Is there a specific event or person that inspired you?

HS: Well, in answer to the question which comes first the music or the lyrics, Sammy Cahn said “the phone call.” In my case, in answer to what inspired it, it was a film assignment. Misha Segal wrote the beautiful melody, in my presence, in the music studio where we worked. I watched him write those notes and those chords and I felt I was riding a horse that I was steering not to make one false move. Of course, I had nothing to do with it, but that was the sensation I had—like I was willing every note and chord and he was doing it exactly as I wanted. After the melody was written, I wrote the lyric. It was for the Motown film, “Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon.” I asked myself “What do I have in common with this character?” He’s African American, from the ghetto, a virgin, studying Kung Fu—so far nothing in common. But we had one thing in common…we both had fallen in love for the first time—he with a character played by the actress Vanity. I thought, “Falling in love is sort of like being on a Ferris wheel---it’s exhilarating but terrifying.”

We showed it to Mr. Gordy late one night at his house. He prefaced listening to it with the complaint “Why did you write a love song? There’s no love song in this film.” He then heard it and called the head of Tri Star Pictures on the phone (it was 2AM by then) and asked him to come over and hear the song, telling him they were re-writing the film for that song. Carl Anderson sang the demo and it became his trademark song. In the film, Smokey Robinson sang it. Over 35 singers have sung it but no one could beat Carl’s version. He was Judas in the film, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” as you must know. He was one of the finest singers who ever lived. It was an honor to be in the audience when he sang it.

"Ain't No Way To Treat a Lady" fit Helen Reddy like a glove. What are your memories about creating this piece? Were you happy with Helen's interpretation of it?

HS: I was very happy that Helen sang the actual melody. That may sound absurd but when you’ve had a lot of covers, that can be a miracle, a gift. Even the intro was almost identical to my record. She was very kind to me. After the record started getting airplay, she flew me to Las Vegas and introduced me from the stage. It apparently was a custom started by Edie Gorme who sang a song of Helen’s and did that for her. She continued the tradition with me. My publishers had been bragging about getting her the song, but when I asked her how she heard it, she told me she’d heard my version on the radio. That made sense because “Hollywood Town, “ my first single and “Ain’t No Way To Treat a Lady,” my second got a lot of airplay. Not as much as she got, but enough to get it heard by her. The label I was on—20th Century Records—had 2 top forty stations poised to go on my record on a Monday.

The Friday before it happened, the program director of the first station (in L.A.) quit. When that happened the second station (in San Francisco) pulled out. The promotion team at my label are still upset about it. I was happy to have a hit my parents could point to when they were still around, even if it wasn’t my record. Helen went on to record my song, “Mama,” which my mother used to great advantage to get backstage at Helen’s shows. “Ain’t No Way To Treat a Lady” had a Wikipedia page before I did. Whoever wrote the info on the Wikipedia page must have come to one or more of my shows because he quoted my introduction to the song: “I wrote this song on an airplane as I was leaving someone for the last time. It was one of the last times I left him for the last time.” That pretty much sums up what inspired it.

As I listened to Breakdown on Memory Lane, I marveled at the songs with the word "search" in it. We are all searching for love and some memories are painful as well as happy. Tell our readers about this from the viewpoint of a songwriter. What makes you choose one memory over the other? What makes it tick for you?

HS: Generally, I don’t write a song if the communication I want to make doesn’t have an effect on me, unless it’s on assignment. There’s a physical feeling I get, sort of like tears starting or a yearning feeling. I feel I have to say something and only the saying of it—both melodically and lyrically—will stop the feeling or satisfy it. It’s hard to describe but if it’s not physical, it manifests that way. That feeling will carry me through the writing of the song. Usually it’s not a memory that will do it, it’s something I’m trying to get, to communicate, to express or to share. I might start with a memory but the impetus to write it is outward—something I’m trying to accomplish or say to someone or about someone. I often tell my songwriting students songs are like little trials. You’re in front of a jury trying to win your case. The pictures you use are your exhibits A and B…you have to make your case or a disaster could occur. If you lose your case, she’ll never come back, or he’ll think you never loved him or the world won’t understand the way things REALLY are…whatever you’re on trial about. If I don’t have that gnawing tears-at-the-back-of-my-throat thing, I probably won’t write a song at all. There are so many other fun things to do. Like errands.

One song in particular "I'd Forgotten" really grabbed me. Did this grow out of a personal experience of yours or someone close to you? What inspired it?

HS: The recurring line is “I’d forgotten you were God,” spoken very sarcastically at the end of the first two verses, after which the audience always laughs. Then the bridge says “When I stopped admiring you, I thought it was your loss…but the one who’s disillusioned always pays a higher cost.” Then in the last verse, after discussing some soul searching and reading I say “It reminded me divinity lives inside the spark—that glows in us, each of us, even in the dark… and it showed me I’d forgotten you were God.” When people listen all the way through, they sometimes have the realization that it’s about forgiveness and understanding. When you really know someone and see that person, you can’t dismiss him or her as I was doing in the first half of the song. I like revealing my own flaws in hopes that others will see their own.

You collaborate with other lyricists, but most of the time you write both music and lyrics. That is a true gift. Do you prefer to work alone? 

HS: I mostly work alone. In the beginning, I wrote alone. Then I got signed to Motown’s publishing company with a composer named Misha Segal and I wrote mostly lyrics. I generally write second—if I’m given a melody, I write words and if given a lyric, I write the melody. When I write with Arthur Hamilton (Cry Me A River, et al), I write melodies even though he can also write both. . Lyricists like Hillary Rollins and Chana Wise write lyrics that leap from the page to the piano. How can I not write melodies with them? But most of my album songs I wrote alone or, if there’s a collaboration in there, I’ve written the music.

Let's go back in time. Tell us about your background. How did music play into your world? When did you realize it was your life's dream?

HS: I was very close to my father. He was a musician. My sister got piano lessons and when she came home and read the music she was practicing, I’d play that song by ear. So my father taught me some chords when I was about 4. Eventually I’d say “I know, I know.” Then I studied with a piano teacher who was sweet and innocent enough to believe I was reading music after I got her to play it “just once so I’ll know if I want to learn it,” and then I was mostly playing by ear again. I never learned to read music well. My father was a much better musician than I am. He put himself through school playing cello and marimba. Eventually his father convinced him to become a doctor (dermatologist) and I lived out my father’s dream of becoming a musician. It was definitely my dream too. At what age did that start? Probably before my foot could reach the pedal.

Do you have a mentor or mentors? If so, tell us about these people, or person, and why they (he, she) mean (s) so much to you.

HS: I was probably discovered by Roger Gordon who signed me to my first publishing deal at Colgems. I’d write songs each weekend and bring them in on Monday. I got the songs for my first two albums that way. He was my mentor and inspiration in many ways. Colgems had signed Carole King also so there was a lot of pressure to say the least. I performed at what was then The Ice House, owned by Bob Stane who now owns The Coffee Gallery Backstage. He suggested I perform “6 songs and show.” I said “What is show?” He said, “You know, talk to the people!” This unleashed a monster. I think people come to hear my intros to the songs now as much as the songs themselves. Bob has been a wonderful mentor not only to me but to many singer/songwriters over the decades. By playing Bob’s club, I got signed to 20th Century Records. At that point, Russ Regan took me under his wing. He was a true record and song man.

I made 3 albums for that label and during the seventies there was a station that played album cuts. Every cut on all three albums got played. It was how other artists heard my songs and covered them. I was devoted to Russ and his belief in me made a huge difference back then. Then I met Berry Gordy who also inspired both me and Misha Segal. I had met Misha in the early eighties and had started writing with him. We met with Mr. Gordy regularly while we were signed there. He inspired me and during that time, Misha and I wrote “First Time on a Ferris Wheel” among many other songs. In 1991, I met Nik Venet. He reminded me of my records in the seventies and urged me to get back to who I was as a singer/songwriter writing from real communication. He made 2 albums with me which I really love—American Romance and Rosebud. Then Phil Appelbaum came to town and produced a live CD with me. My most recent CD is “Breakdown on Memory Lane,” produced by Travis Allen. All of these business people, in some way, were mentors of mine. As Nik Venet often said, “If you wouldn’t eat dinner with that person, you shouldn’t be working with him.” All my mentors were also friends.

You are helping to keep great standard pop music alive for future generations. What is your opinion of hip hop and other contemporary music styles?

HS: That’s kind of you to say. I have no problem with any style of music. It’s all so subjective. Hip hop has bled into pop and given us rhythms of melodies we wouldn’t have had without it. Everything has a purpose. I do still appreciate melodies that have movement and chords that do change occasionally. And I prefer lyrics that make sense or at least have enough pictures that I don’t care that they don’t make sense. I have trouble enjoying constant repetition and my greatest irritant is chords that never change…either one progression of two chords or even one chord over and over. The fashion parallel seems to be this: You see people dressing in clothing that looks really bad on them and their reasoning is that it’s in fashion. This illogic has spilled over into songwriting and I think we are the poorer for it.

You have done a lot of work in composing for film and TV. Which are your favorites? Why these choices?

HS: I have written or co-written a lot of songs for film and TV but I’ve scored only a few films by Henry Jaglom. That was a lot of fun. Mostly, though, I write songs for films and for TV. I love solving a problem in a film with a song or deepening a message. When I co-wrote (with Misha Segal) the songs for the animated “Secret Garden,” a film by Mike Young Productions, our audition was to solve a problem of the bird singing a song even though he didn’t speak English—or anything else for that matter. So I solved it by the phrase “If you listen to the meaning, not the words.’ Luckily that got us the job and I’ve done a number of shows with that wonderful company, now called Splash Entertainment.

Henry Jaglom came to one of my concerts and decided to make a movie sort of like “Oh Lucky Man,” where the band comes in and out of the film commenting on the story. The film was called “Irene in Time” and my entire band (at the time) was in it along with four of my songs. It was always a thrill working with Henry. He later cast me in a play called “Just 45 Minutes from Broadway,” directed by Gary Imhoff, which ran for nearly a year, and I was later cast in the film version of that. It was great working with the other wonderful actors: Tanna Frederick, David Proval, Diane Louise Salinger, Jack Heller, David Garver, Julie Davis and Judd Nelson.

Anything you care to add that I did not mention?

HS: I have some exciting things coming up. I’m making a new CD of my unrecorded new songs with my fabulous band. When I perform, I get to hear their beautiful accompaniment and I truly have the best seat in the house. There’s Joe Lamanno on bass, Jennifer Richardson on cello, Kelly DeSarla on flute, Eden Livingood on violin and Andrea Ross-Greene on backup vocals. I play keyboard, of course. And sometimes Carmael Frith fills in the third harmony. At my last Coffee Gallery Backstage concert with this amazing group of musicians, a filmmaker was inspired to create a film of some sort about and/or with me. It’s in its formative stages, but it would probably be some sort of documentary. The work he does is always wildly entertaining and never dry so to even call it a documentary is misleading. I am looking forward to his creative ideas on what he wants to do.

To read more about her fascinating life, to check her concert schedule...and to purchase her many cds, visit:

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Interview with Tal Fox of In Trousers

Actress/Producer Tal Fox is about to open in the rarely produced In Trousers at The Lounge. In our conversation she tells us about this and her other theatrical chestnuts.

TAL FOX  - Tal is an LA-based actress, singer and theater educator. Theater credits include: Max & Ruby (National Tour), The Christians (Center Theatre Group), Star Is Born 3, Unauthorized Musical Parody of Mean Gurlz (The Rockwell), Kiss Me, Kate, Urinetown, Sunday in the Park with George, Zorba, Hello Again, The Spitfire Grill, Ragtime... Tal holds a BFA in Musical Theater and BA in Communications from Pace University, and is also a producer, writer, and casting director. Producing credits include: Star is Born 3 (The Rockwell) and Dreamgirls (5-Star Theatricals). Casting work includes: Good Grief (Center Theater Group), Collective Rage (Theatre @ Boston Court), 5-Star Theatrical's productions of Shrek, Matilda, West Side Story, and The Music Man. Follow her on Instagram: @talmorningdew

Tal, tell our readers about your acting background. What kinds of roles have you played previously? What role are you essaying here?

I’m a graduate of Pace University’s Musical Theater program in NYC. After college, I joined Actors Equity when I went on tour with a Nickelodeon musical, “Max & Ruby”. I returned to NYC after and worked on some new works, concerts, and plays. I made the move back to California several years ago to pursue some other goals and have been staying active in theater with the Musical Theatre Guild and at venues like The Rockwell Table & Stage. I’m constantly trying to find new opportunities to perform, to build on the craft, and to tell good stories. Theater is the ultimate space to collaborate and connect and I feel really lucky to be an artist who is a part of this upcoming production of In Trousers. I’m grateful that I’ve played parts that have a lot of variety to them (The Actress in Hello Again - desperate for a connection; Pennywise in Urinetown - severe and brash; Lilli/Kate in Kiss Me, Kate - high drama, covers a large vocal spectrum…), and I’m thrilled to be working on such a nuanced character of The Wife in In Trousers, who teeters on the brink of “breaking down” and being so reflective and introspective.

Talk about producing a play or musical. How enormous is this job and do you like wearing this hat as well as that of the actor in the piece? If you had to choose, what would you rather do, produce or act?

Producing a musical is always a large task, but I’m grateful to be working with a collaborative team as part of Knot Free productions. I really enjoy solving puzzles and having produced on several other productions (at 5-Star Theatricals and The Rockwell Table & Stage). Within these, I’ve found another element to this industry that I can take pleasure in, and have some control over. Gathering together the sensational team on this show and putting together all of the other entities, big and small, has been very rewarding. I can see where our hard work is going to pay off and am grateful to help create opportunities for other actors, directors, musical directors, etc. to put on a production; especially one that is so rarely done.

Tell us about In Trousers. It preceeded Falsettos, correct? Why has it been left out of productions of Falsettos? When was it last seen?

In Trousers is the first of a trilogy by William Finn. It originally premiered Off-Broadway in 1979 and then a significantly rewritten version (the one that we will perform) premiered in 1985. Following this show, he used the same Marvin character when he wrote March of the Falsettos which premiered in 1981 and then later Falsettoland, which premiered in 1990. It was not until 1992 that the two latter parts of the trilogy were combined into Falsettos, which ran on Broadway and went on to garner seven nominations at the 46th Tony Awards winning two: the 1992 Tony Award for Best Original Score as well as the 1992 Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical.

In one sense- In Trousers is a prequel to Falsettos as we know it now. In short, it is the story of Marvin, and the women in his life, as he sorts out his issues with intimacy and his sexuality, ultimately trying to figure out what he wants and who he is. It’s very rarely done, but has a cult following, with many fans of the 1979 album, recorded with original stars, Alison Fraser, Chip Zien, Mary Testa, and Joanna Green.

Why was it decided to finally bring it back? What does it contain that the other two pieces do not?

We chose to produce this show, most simply, because it is a beautiful and moving piece of theater that never really got its due. Its hauntingly gorgeous musical score and bold message of self-acceptance were way ahead of their time and we feel will be much more appreciated in today’s culture, especially in an intimate venue.

We are introduced to the three women that most affected Marvin’s development and self discovery: his wife, his high school sweetheart, and teacher. The wife character continues in Finn's latter pieces but the other two characters do not. Also, while the two parts of Falsettos deal with Marvin’s handling of his disjointed family, torn apart by his coming out and leaving his wife, as well as the impact of the AIDS crisis on gay men in the late 80s, In Trousers tells the story of Marvin’s self-discovery and the women he loved and hurt along the way.

Musically, this piece is very unique as well, with one male character singing with three women who are in tight harmonies throughout the score. Furthermore, the music is very freeform and brings us into Marvin’s mind. It becomes a “character” in the show much more than most of his other works.

What are your expectations for audience reaction to the piece?

I hope that people walk out having enjoyed a beautifully acted and sung piece by William Finn. His work is exceptional and this music is challenging and in your face. This musical deserves to be heard by new audiences. I really feel this show was ahead of its time and can be appreciated in a way now that it never could when it was written.

I hope as well, that on top of being moved by Marvin’s specific journey of self-discovery, that audiences will reflect on and appreciate those few moments and people in their life journeys that helped them discover who they really are.

Talk about the rest of your cast and your director.

We’re so lucky to have these gems joining us! Corey Lynn Howe directs- she has developed many plays and has recently directed Next to Normal, Title of Show, Tattered Capes… She’s also a part of A Little New Music and is an advocate for new and rarely done work.

Jake Anthony, our musical director, is a highly sought-after vocal coach and musical director throughout Southern California. Credits include Little Women, Splendora, Songs from an Unmade Bed, Into the Woods… He is also a composer who’s written three musicals that are produced throughout the US.

Our cast: Braxton Molinaro stars as Marvin. He is an exceptionally talented actor and symphonic composer. He brings so much depth and nourishment to this role. Michelle Lane plays Miss Goldberg, his teacher- wait till you hear her sing “Set Those Sails”! Lea Madda plays the Young Sweetheart, and is just that, a delightful doll. Additionally, we are lucky to have Brooke van Grinsven cover all the female tracks (not an easy task! Have you heard this music?!) I am co-producing this piece with Zachary Harris whose producing highlights include Assassins and Next to Normal at the Pico Playhouse.

What for you is the message of this play? Is it any different from the overall message of Falsettos?

In one of my favorite songs from the musical my character sings, “Love me for what I am, not what I try to be. Love me for what I am…someone imperfectly me.” This powerful anthem of self-acceptance is the message of the show. It is this self acceptance that Marvin searches for throughout the piece and the message that we hope our audience will take with them when they leave the theater.

In Trousers plays October 11 – November 3. Fri/Sat 8 pm; Sun 3 pm. Ages 14+. Sexual content. Running time 90 minutes, no intermission. Lounge Theatre – Front Theatre 6201 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90038

To make reservations, go to:

Interview with Sylvia Brooks

Jazz artist Sylvia Brooks has quite a fascinating background to share with us. In her live concert at Feinstein's Upstairs at Vitello's on October 26 she will sing from her three albums with an eclectic and alluring mix of songs.

Talk about your album The Arrangement and how it became a breakout in forwarding your career.

SB: Before I started to make this album, I was in a bit of a quandary. I knew that I wanted to explore a variety of styles- and really didn't want to only stick with one idea in order to make the album cohesive. I love Latin music, Classic Jazz, Blues and certain pop songs that I have always wanted to record, like the Beatles "Eleanor Rigby" and Hank Williams "Cold, Cold Heart". And I was familiar with a number of musicians and writers in the Los Angeles area that I have always wanted to work with. So, I reached out to them and asked them if they wanted to be part of this project. There were songs that I thought would be good for their musical voices, and I said, what do you think about doing an arrangement of this...all I asked was that they kept the arrangements consistent with any combination of horns that they wanted to use. I also said, pick your players. So we went into the studio and recorded. I knew that the album's success or failure really depended on my ability to make these writers work sound musically cohesive, so that it all fit together as one piece of work. It was a big risk, but I think it paid off.

What was it like growing up in Miami? Tell our readers about the styles and rhythms that surrounded you.

SB: My father was a well known, first call pianist who loved Oscar Peterson ( he actually taught his book) as well as Duke Ellington. My mother was an opera singer, who later headlined in the big show rooms on Miami Beach, singing jazz and pop - artists like Nancy Wilson and Peggy Lee. Miami is a sensual place- and moves to a different rhythm than other parts of the country... the heat & humidity, the ocean air- the tourists that would come down from New York in the summer. There was a time when Miami was one of the major entertainment capitols in the world. I reference that in the liner notes to my first album. And, without giving myself away, I grew up down there when the wealthiest Cubans had just come over from the revolution. The Cuban culture was magnificent- and I learned a lot from not only their pain and loss of having to leave the country that they loved, but the richness of their lives. It was a wonderful time to be down there.

What was it like coming from a musical family?

SB: I think coming from a musical family- I rebelled and went into theater- I was classically trained at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Fransisco- and then moved to New York. But because I had a natural voice- I started getting cast in musicals. I had just returned to New York, after playing Anita in West Side Story, and my knee gave out. It was like A Chorus Line! I realized that I could no longer dance- and so I moved to Los Angeles and started over. Luckily, my family was always very supportive of my choices- and my desire to be an artist.

When did you know that music would be your career?

SB: My dad passed away about 12 years ago, and when I was putting his funeral together, and was going through his archive- I had this epiphany that I wanted to sing jazz. I started working with several wonderful musicians here in LA, some of whom will be playing with me at Feinstein's At Vitello's. We ended up receiving The LA Times Critics pick for a series of 6 shows that we were doing. It was at that point that the guys said, let's go into the studio and make an album of this- that's how Dangerous Liaisons came about.

How do you feel about the direction music is taking in 2019? Do you prefer the standards as opposed to contemporary music? If so, why?

SB: I love all music....however I do I tend to like more complex melodic structures, and songs that have a message. There are some wonderful pop songs- that have great messages. I think the problem becomes how to take a classic song and make it fresh. That's something that I try to do. I love writers and performers like Leonard Cohen, Elvis Costello- Bruno Mars- Cecile Mclorin Salvant is doing some really interesting things- at the end of the day, it's all about reaching people. If you are able to do that as an artist, then I believe you are doing your job.

Are there musical styles that you would like to try?

SB: Yes, I'd like like to eventually do a big band album, and a trio album- with a great Jazz trio. I'd also love to do a Brazilian Jazz album. Guess I've got a lot left to do!

Getting back to your upcoming concert on October 26 at Vitello's, what will you be performing? Songs from The Arrangement? What else without creating a spoiler alert?

SB: I'm going to be singing music from all 3 of my albums. And I may be adding in several new pieces, we'll see.

Do you have a music mentor? If so, who is that? Who is your favorite composer? Why this choice?

SB: I remember seeing Lena Horne in A Lady and Her Music when I lived in New York, and she changed my life. I know that I would have felt the same way if I'd seen Judy Garland or Edith Piaf in concert. I love Porgy and Bess- Gershwin, Sondheim, Duke Ellington and Harold Arlen, Joni Mitchell and Laura Nyro. I suppose my mother and father were my mentors. Growing up in a musical household seeped into me when I couldn't even talk yet. I remember my dad bringing trios into the house for rehearsals, and my mom vocalizing. I'm very lucky to have had that.

Jazz is coming back into vogue. How do you want to be remembered as a contributing jazz artist?

SB: It's my hope that my recordings and live performances reach people- and as they are listening, they are taken into their own experiences. I recorded a famous Nancy Wilson song on The Arrangement- called "Guess Who I Saw Today"- and I decided to do it as if I were living in the 50's- before women had the choices that they do today. I felt that it made it more poignant and truthful- as that was what the writer intended. So I suppose that's my mission- to reach people with as much of the truth as I can and be an honest story teller.

Anything that you wish to add?

SB: Jazz is a true American art form, and I think it’s so important to keep those great voices alive today- and for generations to come. I want to encourage people to support the arts more here in Los Angeles- go out and listen to our musical community here. There is so much talent, but we need you, the audience. Thanks Don for spreading the word!

To purchase Sylvia Brooks' albums, visit her at

Feinstein's at Vitello's is located upstairs in Vitello's restaurant at 4349 Tujunga Avenue, Studio City, CA 91604/ Hours Of Operation:  6:30pm-10:30pm/ to make reservations for October 26, call: 818-769-0905 

Interview with Pamela Clay

Actress/singer Pamela Clay has been performing a show she wrote about Edith Piaf entitled Forever Piaf for quite some time to great acclaim! She will perform it locally at Feinstein's Upstairs at Vitello's on October 16. In our conversation she talks about growing up in a musical family and how Piaf's outlook became the cornerstone of her life.

Tell us about your background. As a child, how did you become interested in music? When did you know that it would be your career?

PC: One of the first things I remember was hearing classical music. Both my parents were blessed with beautiful voices, played piano, and my father also played trumpet. Daddy was a child prodigy who played classical piano live on the radio at age five, and when I was three, they put me in the church choir, and enrolled me in piano lessons and ballet. I was cast as “Miss Merry Sunshine” in my Kindergarten’s musical show at age five. An Army brat, we’d move every two years or so, and moved to Paris, France when I was eleven, then onto Germany, where I sang “O Holy Night” solo live on German TV. Somehow “they always found me” and would put me in all the school shows. My senior year of high school, I was cast as Eliza in My Fair Lady, and I think that was when I realized that this could be my life.

Did you speak French as a girl? How and when did Edith Piaf become so important to you?

PC: I was first introduced to the French language in fifth grade in North Springfield, Virginia, just before we moved to Paris, where I attended the American school in sixth grade and S.H.A.P.E’s international school in seventh grade. The curriculum was entirely in French, and I was awarded “Le Prix des Parents d’Eleves” (best student), at the big ceremony at end of the school year. My junior year of college, I happily returned to France, attending the University of Bordeaux, and remained after the year was finished to live in the southern French countryside where I made my living singing. Then I returned to Paris to be with my Parisian ex, Coco Roussel, a world-class drummer, and later to the States where my parents were living in Arlington, VA.

Edith Piaf became important to me the first time I heard her sing “La Vie en Rose” when I was in my early twenties. I knew instinctively that I could sing this song, and started learning some of her other songs, which I’d be hired to sing at private parties, special events and nightclubs in the DC area. When we moved to Los Angeles I met dear Skip E Lowe, and sang Edith Piaf in his weekly Monday night shows until I was hired to be “the French singer” six nights a week at the fabled Moonlight Tango Café. When my ex and I divorced, I abandoned my “French soul” for a time, until I hooked up with Skip E Lowe, and once again started singing every Monday night in his live shows in Beverly Hills. I took Skip to a special SAG screening of “La Vie en Rose” and met Marion Cotillard. That film and her extraordinary performance inspired me to write my own show about Edith Piaf.

Have you performed in Broadway shows in New York or Los Angeles or are you exclusively a cabaret singer?

PC: The choices I’ve made in my personal life have impacted my ability to commit to a full-blown theatre career, and so I’ve always done my best to “grow where I’m planted”. I was blessed to study under the late, great Sanford Meisner who told me I could very well be a “true character actress”, and although the theatre is my first love (with a passion!), I also realize that theatre is like a marriage, demanding a full commitment.

I went to NY to audition for Les Miserables when I was living in the DC area, and just after I left my ex, I auditioned for the LA production. I was shocked that they remembered me from my audition in NY, and was almost cast as Fantine, but it was not to be. During the time in which I’d “abandoned my French soul”, I formed the all-original 7-piece New Orleans-flavored rock band Catahoula with my amazing artist/musician husband, Bruce Bermudez. When Catahoula was busy recording our second album, we weren’t playing out, and I was incredibly frustrated to not be singing. Lou Rawls was a longtime friend of Bruce’s, and encouraged me to get out there and sing – anything, anytime! So my spirit led me back to Skip E Lowe, and besides singing in his weekly Monday night shows, I started singing solo gigs at private parties and nightclubs. Because I’d been singing jazz and cabaret six night a week in DC hotels, in addition to my theatre and rock background, I have an extensive repertoire that includes of course, Edith Piaf. As I always say: “There are a lot of people living in here, and they all want to sing!”

You wrote your one woman play about Piaf. Tell our readers what they can expect to see October 16 at Vitello's.

PC: On October 16th at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s, I will “bring the Little Sparrow to life”, allowing her spirit to “take me over”. I will be “Piaf in concert”, singing her songs in French, and sharing vignettes about her life, as if Piaf herself might do were she given an opportunity to “live again”.

Is this your first endeavor as an artist to put together your own show? If not, what else have you written?

PC: Yes, this is my first endeavor as an artist to put together my own show.

Do you have a favorite performer female or male that you look up to? Anyone you consider a mentor?

PC: There are many, including Elvis Presley, Connie Francis, Bobby Darin, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, The Righteous Brothers, and of course, Edith Piaf.

Who is your favorite musical composer? Why this choice?

PC: Beethoven. His symphonies are so filled with passion! I recorded his 9th Symphony“Ode to Joy” live singing with the University of Kansas choir my freshman year at KU (what a thrilling experience!), and also adored singing Lerner and Loewe’s fabulous songs from My Fair Lady, as well as Kurt Weill and Bertholdt Brecht’s thrilling songs from Three Penny Opera when I played Jenny at George Washington University to much acclaim. The Kennedy Center came and asked me to come audition for their next production, but my ex told me he’d divorce me if I wanted to be an actress, so I continued to “just be a singer” (and an obedient wife…).

Which of Piaf's songs is your all time favorite? Why this choice?

PC: It would have to be “La Vie en Rose”. Edith Piaf wrote the lyrics herself, and they are quite simply about how when you are in love, you “see life through rose-colored glasses”. This resonates so deeply with me, as I feel almost as if “my rose-colored glasses” are “hard-wired”. My mom always told me what a happy child I was. As an adult I’ve learned that happiness is a choice as well as a commitment. The cards we’re dealt aren’t up to us, but the way we play them is. I’m not saying it’s easy, but for me, it’s the only way to live. Love is all.

There are other singers who have done Piaf like Elaine Page and recently Christine Andreas to great acclaim. What is different about your approach and performance that will make audiences want to see YOU?

PC: I let Edith Piaf “live inside me”, I’m not sure what Elaine Page and Christine Andreas do. For me, the fact I’m singing is incidental, what I’m saying is most important. Edith Piaf told passionate stories with her songs. This is what “hooks me” the most, to strive to tell each song’s story with as much passion and honesty as I can, on the wings of the powerfully written melodies. And it helps to have world-class musicians play with me, such as gifted David Moscoe, who came to New York with me for my big NY debut performing “Forever Piaf!” at Feinstein’s 54 Below in NY. On October 16th at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s, I’ll also have Vince Tividad on upright bass, Coco Roussel* at the drums, Smokey Miles on accordion and featuring Lindsay Gillis* on lead guitar. *(Both Coco and Lindsay also play in Catahoula.)

Anything you wish to add that I did not mention?

PC: I appreciate so very much your having asked me to do this interview! It hasn’t been easy for me to keep my answers brief, as my life has been quite a journey, and there is so much more to say! I also feel an especially deep kinship with Edith Piaf because she was blind when she was very young, and I was deaf, and both of our senses were miraculously restored. I have such big dreams, and believe the best is yet to come. I’m just so excited about everything the future holds, and so grateful for this wonderful journey of life! Thank you so much + I sure hope to see you all at “Forever Piaf!” on Wednesday, October 16th at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s!

Pamela Clay has a terrific dvd of the show available for sale. Visit her website to purchase:

Feinstein's at Vitello's is located upstairs in Vitello's restaurant at 4349 Tujunga Avenue, Studio City, CA 91604/ Hours Of Operation:  6:30pm-10:30pm/ to make reservations call: 818-769-0905 

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Amy Tolsky Spotlight

The Road Theatre on Magnolia is proud to present The Spanish Prayer Book by Angela J. Davis and directed by Lee Sankowich. The fascinating historical play about the power of art to forge human connections had its official opening on Friday September 20 and plays until November 10. Each week we will spotlight a cast member. This week the light shines on Amy Tolsky.

What character do you play in Spanish Prayer Book? How does she contribute to the play?

I’m the triple role of The Auction House Assistant, Law Clerk and Customs Official. Basically, the comic relief in this mostly serious piece.

Any challenges to overcome as an actor?

A fun challenge! All three roles are British so we had to make them look and sound very different. I used three different wigs and gave the characters three distinctive regional sounds, thanks to our dialect coach Tracy Winters: upper class plummy RP, middle to lower class London, and a Northern Yorkshire sound. I also gave the characters a different physicality and personality which helped to differentiate them.

What to you is the message of the play?

This play isn't about one thing. There are many subjects covered including The Holocaust, survival, ethics, cultural treasures, art, religion, adultery, ownership, love, identity, legal rights, entitlement, family, legacy and faith. Maybe the message is that decisions need to be carefully considered and one must look deep inside but be willing to compromise to do what's right for the sake of your family and the future of humanity. 

Talk about your director and fellow castmates.

Our director Lee Sankowich is a very collaborative and easy-going presence during the rehearsal process. He trusts his actors to find their way and gives a lot of freedom to the actors. If something isn't quite working, he will suggest trying a different approach either with the interpretation of the text or changing the blocking to serve the play better and tell the story in a clear and concise manner. The cast as a whole are all lovely people. I've worked with Laura, Allan and Carlos before on readings but thrilled to have the chance to work with them (as well as Allison, Tiffany and RJ) on a full production!

What do you hope will be the audience takeaway?

There are a lot of ideas floating around this play. I hope the audiences will enjoy the production (both the acting and technical aspects) and possibly debate the issues after. Theatre is meant to entertain but also give people food for thought.

The Road on Magnolia is located in the NoHo Senior Arts Colony at 10747 Magnolia Blvd. There is plenty of street parking but allow yourself plenty of time. Tickets may be purchased at 818- 761-8838.