Tuesday, April 30, 2019

spotlight on Katie Huffman

The Road Theatre on Magnolia is proud to present a female perspective on the controversial issue of gun ownership in America, in Stephanie Alison Walker's Friends with Guns playing Friday March 22 through Sunday May 11. Each week we will spotlight a member of the cast or creative team. This week the light shines on Kate Huffman.

What character do you play? How does she serve the play?

I play Shannon, a liberal real-estate agent and mother of two who suffers from the modern-day plague of desperately trying to balance everything and maintain sanity in that process. She's riddled with anxiety and has a fear of guns. The audience tracks the transformation she undergoes when she's presented with the other side of an issue. She thought she felt comfortable with the stand she had taken, but now faces doubt about her decision. We watch her conquer her fear and become more powerful and more comfortable in her own skin. Unfortunately, this causes rifts other places in her life. The audience tracks her husband's transformation, as well, and since the journey these two characters go on clashes... well, you know, dramatic tension is born!

What challenges have you faced as an actor in preparation to play this role?

Shannon's emotional life is fraught, which is both fun and challenging as an actor to explore. I have no idea what's it like to experience anxiety myself. KIDDING! But the specifics of her fears are different than my own, and the outcomes of facing her fears as the play goes on proved challenging to tackle. It's important not to let the heaviness of where the play winds up come home with me. That's always a challenge for actors.

Talk about your director and castmates.

Oh, those jerks? 😉  Talk about a dream team. Randee took such good care of us from moment one. She respects each of us so much and was so attuned to our needs at all times. She was constantly presenting us with more questions to explore. She utilized "intimacy training" in early rehearsals between the two married couples as well as with the two same-gendered friendships, and it truly set us up to trust and rely on each other through the whole process. I feel so safe onstage with any of my castmates. I know they'll be there, present in the moment as the character, and as a human as we encounter the specific challenges of LIVE THEATRE!

What for you is the theme or message of the play?

The message has less to do with guns and more to do with whether we, as individuals in a divided country, can have a dialogue about issues we disagree on. It's a huge challenge in society right now. This play doesn't solve the issue of guns or even offer solutions. It encourages us to ask questions about human relationships. The issue of control within relationships is also present in the piece. If we are so quick to cut out people from our lives when they stand on the opposite side of an issue, what happens when someone within our own household suddenly changes sides? 

What do you hope audiences will take away?

I hope they walk away with questions. I hope they are moved by the specific journeys of the characters but also that they look within themselves and ask whether they have any tendency to shut down or flare up when opposing viewpoints are presented. I don't imagine anyone will walk away with new feelings about guns, and that is great, because it's not the point. 

Friends with Guns plays Friday March 22 with an extension to Saturday May 11 at the NoHo Senior Arts Colony at 10747 W Magnolia Blvd in NoHo. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sunday matinees at 2 pm. There is plenty of street parking but arrive early to guarantee a space.

Call 818.761.8838 for tickets and more information.

Monday, April 29, 2019

2019 Interview with Paul Rush

Paul Rush is the artistic director of Sixty-six Theater Co. located inside the Strasberg Institute in Hollywood. This past weekend April 26 - 28 he opened a play in the Marilyn Monroe Theater of the Institute entitled My Thing of Love. In our chat Rush talks about the play, the Sixty-six Theater Co. and why he started it three years ago.

Tell us about Sixty-six Theater Co. and its mission.

It was founded by myself and two of my friends (Maggie Cleary and Coleman Kelly) while we, new to LA, were in that typical Hollywood routine of asking people to look at us, and we got kind of tired of just humbly asking to be looked at. We thought we weren't giving to the community. We wanted to really create thought-provoking theatre with an intention of giving to our audience.

Do you look to do first-run or lesser known shows?

Not always, no. We have done material that has been produced before, but LA, in our short little experience here, has been notorious in that competition for popular productions, which has made it difficult.

I am a member of The Road Theatre in the valley and everything they do is first run.

They do great work up there.

You've been artistic director for three years in Hollywood, but where were you before? Tell us about your background in producing theatre.

I was in the military for six years on the east coast. While I was on the east coast I produced a few plays at my University. But professional productions really started when I transferred out here.

Whereabouts on the east coast?

Maine. The University of Maine.

I'm from Massachusetts. I took a workshop at Stage West in West Springfield. It's always fine to talk with a fellow New Englander.

Yeah, I read that in your bio. The theatre community in New England is really wonderful. I got immersed in it while I was growing up. There's a great book about Stage West and the kind of theatre they produced. Many Tony winning actors came out of there.

cast of My Thing of Love

Yes, Rae Allen was a Tony winner and she was artistic director there. Let's forge ahead to the play you're opening this week My Thing of Love by Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros. It's gotten great reviews back east. Tell us about the play and why you find it so special.

There's a romantic triangle betweem a husband, wife and mistress. I find the play special because the female protagonist in the play, the wife, is unapologetic. She understands what'g going on in the world, while everybody else seems to really bring her into their tornado, their storm. And this woman just weathers it. There's a wonderful statement about how strong women are in American society...really what they represent and how they hold it together even when we don't want to be held together. It was originally done at the Steppenwolf Theatre in 1992. Laurie Metcalf did it on Broadway in 1995. When I read that, I thought, yes, of course, she did this play. She'd be an absolute powerhouse in it. This female protagonist is just a powerhouse. It's nice to see that kind of writing. The thing about female playwrights is they don't get produced very often. And they're really wonderful. They have a strong voice. I'm very happy they're able to do it.

Was the playwright nominated for a Pulitzer for it?

She was. She was a co-author with Theresa Rebeck, another great writer.

Expound a little more on the female character's strength.

The strength that the character shows is not only in the way that she handles all of the situations she's in, but it's also in her sensitivity. You very rarely see full-rounded characters like that, especially in comedies, like in this dark comedy.

What else can you say about the play without offering a spoiler alert?

(he laughs) I don't want to give anything away...(he laughs again)

You should get a good female audience.

It puts the female protagonist on the stage front and center. Alexandra does a great job of just throwing the world at her and having her deal with it.

What are your challenges as director of the piece?

The actors in LA are absolutely phenomenal. A lot of the good ones work. They book work all the time. They understand that theatre training and theatre acting are second to none. I'll Take That right into the dirt with me. It's hard work. Three, four, sometimes five rehearsals a week for five and a half weeks. It's a big commitment. The actors who I've worked with and who are able to dive in and stay there...they grow. The end result is there.

Are there standouts in your cast?

The female lead Liz Greig ... this is her west coast premiere. She's originally from Australia. She's just a powerhouse with the character Elly's sensitivity and strength. Her young antagonist Kelly, the mistress, is essentially the younger version of Elly. It's Elly when she was younger. Brittany Lewis who is playing Kelly...I give her a year before she breaks out on a TV show. She's quick. The other night at rehearsal, it was their final reheasrsal, so I wanted it to be a fun one in which they make each other laugh. I gave them a challenge to see if they couldn't break each other. She did something. I was in the lighting booth and I couldn't stop laughing for five minutes. It's just a matter of time for her. She does her work, but it's not really work, it's fun.

Do you have a favorite playwright?

scene from My Thing of Love

It fluctuates for sure, but Martin McDonagh is kind of my guy. His approach to comedy is just borderline to realism. I love how unapologetic he is. He does not apologize for his comedy. In my opnion he throws that mirror up to nature. Without the politics that sometimes interweaves itself into American theatre, he does not apologize for his writing.

Which of his plays do you appreciate most?

The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Pillowman are among his best, powerhouse stuff. I also like Sarah Ruhl. She's whimsical, but her writing is very theatrical. Eurydice, The Vibrator Play, In the Next Room are some of her best plays.

Do you prefer comedy to drama?

We have a tendency here at Sixty-six to do dark comedies. We don't like to do straight comedies. In a dark comedy, the focus is on realism. Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train by Stephen Adly Guirgis was very successful for us. We did the show last year and our lead actor...you know when you have one of those actors that bleed for you? ... this guy was a bleeder; he went up onstage and bled...it was really something...

In conclusion, what do you want our readers to experience at Sixty-six?

I would like to welcome people into the Marilyn Monroe Theatre. We haven't been there for too long; it's a beautiful, beautiful stage and we're getting the doors open, we're producing original content, and we're looking forward to becoming a staple here in West Hollywood. We want to grow with our community.We really do. We believe that acting asnd storytelling is for the audience, and we do it for them. We'd really like them to come in and visit our home.

: https://sixtysixtheater.com/tickets/

Monday, April 22, 2019

Interview with Odalys Nanin

Actress/director/producer Odalys Nanin presented her award-winning Frida: Stroke of Passion at Casa 0101 in February of this year to great acclaim. The play bowed originally in 2017 at the Macha Theatre and ran for 3 months. The Casa 0101 engagement was made possible by a grant from the Eastside Arts Initiative. Nanin wrote the play and directs, produces and stars in it as Frida Kahlo. She will have a fundraiser in  August and September so she and her team can continue their programming in 2020 and hopefully acquire a new space. In our interview she talks about her success and points to the difficulty in mounting good theatre in Los Angeles.

How did your run of Frida go at Casa 0101?

ON: We had a wonderful sold out run. We sold out before we opened. We added a show Oscar night February 24, and I thought it was going to be half empty...and it was like oversold. It was very well received. I was really happy. We had standing ovations at the end of the show. We had q and a s, and people were very interested in asking questions, because the play deals with the last week of Frida Kahlo's life and the mysterious coverup about her death. People were intrigued wanting to know where I got the information. I told them I did the research, saw a lot of old documentaries, and I read about other people talking about Frida and how they felt about what she was doing. That's how I did it, and of course I added  her bisexuality. which is usually brushed under the rug. She had many men, but she also had many women, many famous women like Josephine Baker in Paris...

You really dug in and delt with controversial issues.

ON: That's the type of playwright I am. I like to explore and kind of educate the audience about the bigger picture. She was not just a painter. She was a revolutionary painter; she was a revolutionary person. Her last lover was a Cuban spy, which was completely a shocking thing for me because I had no idea she was surrounded by so many revolutionary women. I was intrigued. That's really why I wrote the play. It's my tenth play...

I think it's your best, apart from Garbo's Cuban Lover.

ON: Thank you. And I was so taken by the fact that it was sold out before I opened. Incredible! So I realized that maybe I should do like a big one night fundraising event. I thought about Barnsdall Gallery. It's in Hollywood. It has 300 seats. It's a beautiful space. What we're planning to do is have tiers. The regular seats are $50 with open bar. The front 22 seats are VIP, $100, open bar and you get my book and a  t-shirt. This is to raise funds to actually continue producing the play. You need money to produce in this town. And the little theatres are really getting to be incredibly expensive. I'm hoping by next year to have my own space. We'll see. When I first got to LA, there were so many small theatres in Hollywood, and they've just disappeared. They became coffee shops, massage parlors... And the big problem in renting is not the space, but when you have a lot of seats, they want a lot of money. So the plan for this year is to do the fundraiser at Barnsdall with a two month prior campaign to fill the seats, and I'll also remount my comedy Love Struck for a few nights in a smaller space.

Let's talk about the artistic challenges in mounting Frida.

ON: It's very difficult to cast Diego (Rivera). He's tall; he's supposed to be a certain look. I found this actor who looks like him, he did it at Casa 0101, and he's wonderful. You have to have a really good cast. It has to be really connected.

You really cast your plays well. Is there anything new that you're working on?

ON: I'm working on a new play about ghosts, phantoms. It takes you through the reason why they're there. They have their own stories. They were alive once upon a time. You learn their stories, how they die...I'm kind of like half finished. I haven't come up with a good title yet. Sacred Spirits, Haunted Theatre...it happens in a theatre, an old abandoned theatre. The actors, directors come from different times, and you find out why they're in that specific space.

What about some of the film work you've been involved in?

ON: I just did a TV series that's coming out this April called Games People Play for BET. I play a nanny. I'm the only Latina character, which is kind of cool actually, I like it. It shoots in Encino. So far I'm in 4 episodes. When it airs, let's see how it does. If they pick it up, I'll be working, doing that.

Would you rather have your own theatre space and devote more time to theatre or work on more film projects?

ON: I want to do more film. I'd love to do a TV series; that's a working actress. I also want my plays to travel and be translated, produced in Europe. Having my own space is separate. You not only get to write but rewrite and workshop the play. You get to grow. In 99 seat theatre, as a writer, I've been able to experiment, explore, see what works and doesn't work, do more rewrites. You can only do that in a warm space, a safe space, a small theatre. When I had a hit with Frida, I had to turn people away. It's kind of like a haven where I can workshop my plays or film, whatever I'm working on.

What is your process as a playwright?

ON: I love rewrites. When I did Frida again, I did some rewriting. At Casa it was a different space, a different kind of energy, so I changed and added things, I added more pictures, a fog machine, etc

In terms of looking at what I'm going to write, I don't look for it. It comes to me. I' ll give you an example. For my play Skin of Honey, I wrote a five page scene and I put it away in my file. I was talking to someone who grew up in Cuba. She started telling me her story, and I thought, I think I wrote this. I wrote it like 10 years ago. I went back to the file and pulled out the five pages. Skin of Honey (Piel de Miel) is about two teenage girls who experience same-sex love and are torn apart by Cuban politics; one stays, one leaves. That's all I had. When I heard her story, I thought, I can do a play out of this. I hear voices, I channel, I don't know what it is, but I wrote the first draft in two weeks, writing day and night. Each play has its own way of becoming.

Garbo's Cuban Lover ... someone gave me a book and said I should read it. I read 25 pages into it, and I didn't believe a word she (Mercedes de Acosta) was saying. I put the book on a shelf and forgot all about it. At a doctor's appointment, I picked up a magazine and I read: "the letters between Greta Garbo and Mercedes de Acosta, finally to be opened in 2000". I ran back to my house, took the book out and read the whole thing. It was true. I hadn't believed her, but it was true. I read the letters and immersed myself in that era. I read them and boom, I wrote the play Garbo's Cuban Lover.

Now Frida is very different. I didn't know how to write Frida. So, I researched her for six months and thought and thought until I realized the most difficult thing to write about was Frida's pain. I had to write it slowly, so it took me a long time. I wanted to be true to her pain. I did a lot of research about how people suffer. I read about what they saw, what they did. A lot of research went into that play, whereas with the others, it was boom and they were written. Also, I didn't want to turn the audience off, so what I did was to look for Frida's humor. She was very sarcastic and made fun of herself. Then I put in some music that people love to make things a little lighter.

So playwriting is laden with complexities, isn't it?

ON: There's a time to write certain plays in your life. Frida is a play I could not have written when I was younger. You have to be mature to write something so deep. You have to mature to open up and feel that kind of pain. Most people push it away. As a writer, I had to welcome it, make it part of the play so people would understand what she really went through.

In conclusion, is there anything else you care to add?

ON: I am looking into the future and I am going to go to Spain. I want to research about a very special lady that most do not know about. The best friend of Isabella I of Spain. It's not about the queen but about this lady and how she influenced the queen. She was the first woman to teach at the University of Salamanca. She taught Latin, philosophy. Spain did not allow women to go to the University. When Isabella became queen, she opened all that up. This lady was able to teach Latin to the princesses. I want to explore the relationship between her and the queen. That's another one of my ideas.

Oh, and as far as the benefit is concerned and Love Struck, I hope people will come and give whatever they can, even $1, as it all counts in helping theatre stay alive in Los Angeles...
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

MACHA Theatre/Films presents 

August 16,17,18
The Zephyr Theatre
7456 Melrose Ave West Hollywood 90046

Fri n Sat 8pm Sun 6pm 
Tix $25 early bird (includes a glass of wine ) by July 16

Regular $35
Includes a glass of wine with admission. 
by Odalys Nanin 
and Marie Barrientos 
A Landmark Romantic Comedy 
Two Latinas One American and One Cuban in a hurricane of Love Lust and Other devastations. 

The cast:
Tricia Cruz as Rachel 
Odalys Nanin as Laura 

Hillaria Lavirra as Laura alternate 

FRIDA-Stroke of Passion
 by Odalys Nanin
Sept 20 Friday 8pm *
The originals cast of the award winning play one night only as a Fundraising event 
At the beautiful 
Barnsdall Gallery Theatre 
All donations are tax deductible 
General seating: $50 includes open bar

VIP FRONT ROW SEATS with open bar and autographed book by Odalys Nanin is $100

Cast and creative team include:

Odalys Nanin as Frida Kahlo
Oscar Basulto as Diego Rivera 
Tricia Cruz as Nurse Judith 
Sandra Valls as Chavela Vargas
Francisco Medina as Musician/ Manolo
Andres Mejia Vallejo as Judas
Kesia Elwin as Teresa Proenza
Marjorie Burgos as Maria Felix 
Mantha Balourdou as Tina Modotti 
Christie Black as Josephine Baker 
Paul Cascante as Leon Trostky
Joseph Bixler as Little Diego 

wriitten, produced and directed by Odalys Nanin
Co Producer: 
Patricia Moran

Co- director: 
Corky Dominguez

Set Designer 
Marco de Leon

Light Designer 
Sammie Wayne 

Funded by the Eastside Arts Initiative n the California Foundation 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Spotlight on Randee Trabitz

The Road Theatre on Magnolia is proud to present a female perspective on the controversial issue of gun ownership in America, in Stephanie Alison Walker's Friends with Guns playing Friday March 22 through Sunday May 11. Each week we will spotlight a member of the cast or creative team. This week the light shines on director Randee Trabitz.

What is your overall feeling of this production?

The process of staging Friends with Guns has been a joyous one of true collaboration. I know one is supposed to talk of the “challenges” and difficulties but the truth is that we had all the right people in the room from the beginning.

Tell us in detail what makes this so joyous.

When the script is so poignant and well-crafted and the actors are so talented and committed and the producers are providing fantastic designers and plenty of time, the result is pretty damn satisfying. This is not to say that we didn’t work hard, make choices, try them out and then make better ones.

What do you feel is the key to the actors' success in the play?

Everyone, including our writer Stephanie Walker has been fluid in the process which makes hard work a delicious undertaking. I learned early on that the essential key for the actors in this show is to know what they come in with and then be utterly present to react to their partners onstage. ..

The delicate balance of Friends with Guns is that there is nowhere for an actor to hide. One faked or inauthentic moment upsets the world of this play. The story is like a balloon that they all four have to keep tapping to keep it aloft. If one of them looks away, it can hit the ground. I could not be more proud of my ensemble, who are all in and laying themselves bare for every performance.

Friends with Guns plays Friday March 22 with an extension to Saturday May 11 at the NoHo Senior Arts Colony at 10747 W Magnolia Blvd in NoHo. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sunday matinees at 2 pm. There is plenty of street parking but arrive early to guarantee a space.
Call 818.761.8838 for tickets and more information.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Interview with Singer Tiffany Bailey

Singer Tiffany Bailey took time out of a busy rehearsal schedule to talk about her concert at Upstairs at Vitello's on April 17, the release party for her first cd Jazz with Pop.

How long have you been singing professionally?

For 4 years, but I've been singing my whole life...lots of pop music. I was really into Whitney Houston and Pat Benatar. Cyndi Lauper...actually, a lot of all kinds of music. ..Depeche Mode, The Cure was really kind of my bag.

Your dad is a fine jazz musician, correct?

Alan "Buddy" Bailey plays the jazz trumpet and flugelhorn. He started playing as a young child. His parents were cool about him being a musician. His mom, my grandmother, was very much into music. Growing up, my dad and I worked on so much music together, from the time I was 3 years old. We would sing and play, tell creative stories, we would do video skits. My dad was into horror movies. (laughs) "Twilight Zone" episodes, horror flicks and we would make our own skits. Music is where we definitely connected.

Tell us about your dad's background.

He played in the navy. In the mid 60s when Richard Glasser and Jerry Wilson and my dad did a tour of the orient, all the army and navy bases, they played their instruments and sang as The Soundmen. In the 70s and 80s they played as The Soundmen all over L.A. They used to play on the Princess Louise Ship that was docked. They played at all kinds of venues and clubs all over Los Angeles.

Alan Bailey (right)

Some of those times in the navy must have been rough.

It was not the best of times. We grew up in a Jewish family. There is such a high level of worry in the culture itself. Worry is like misuse of the imagination. We have gold medals in worrying; it's like a sport. That inhibits happiness. My dad is a worrier. Interestingly enough, he had a surgery induced stroke a couple of years ago form a heart valve surgery. It changes things in you. He had to basically rehabilitate himself. Now, he's so much more relaxed. Our music collaboration is so much more put together, a wonderful experience. He tends to get a little bit in his head but is still a fantastic musician. He is back to doing what he loves to do.

What assets do you possess that come directly from your dad's influence?

I used to find jazz intimidating, because of the scatting. I avoided it for a very long time. I did pop and some musical theatre. My dad introduced me to the Manhattan Transfer, Chet Baker, Dianne Schuur and the Carpenters. I loved Karen Carpenter so much I tried to mimic her.

What was your first introduction to musical theatre?

My grandma took me to my first musical, 42nd Street. OMG, it blew my mind. I was maybe 11 or 12. We also saw Cats. We would listen to the records of both shows, and I would sing "Memory" and the title song from 42nd Street. Later I saw Wicked twice. I love "Defying Gravity". I started to lean toward musical theatre, but I had such strong alternative influences.

In high school I was in a show choir. We wore sequin dresses and did jazz standards. My parents were so supportive. I gained self-confidence from wanting to fit in. I continued with pop music. I would do Whitney Houston and people would ask me if I was lip-syncing. What a shocking experience! You hear good things about your singing, but something inside yourself has to blossom. My father and I didn't talk a lot, but we did creative things. Now I'm mending my relationship with him. With this cd, he tells me that it's not about him, but about me. It opens up a whole giant avenue and offers me new choices. I get to know who I am and what I love. Getting to collaborate is just incredible.

How is the cd progressing?

We have one song left to record. Jazz with Pop is my love of jazz and pop music. And of course Pop is my trumpet dad. It started out originally as a tribute to Chet Baker. There are other avenues that I want to explore that make me happy. We're looking back historically at what I love. We do Earth Wind and Fire "Don't Worry About a Thing". Manhattan Transfer. "Hopelessly Devoted"..a real myriad of Brazilian, jazz standards, even vaudeville.

Why did you choose Upstairs at Vitello's?

I did my first one-woman show there 2 years ago. Two for the Road. I love the intimacy at Vitello's. It's like being in your living room...and the sound is great.

Who is your favorite composer?

Richard Carpenter. The way that he puts the songs together...I feel the simplicity, the kindness of the words, you remember what they're saying...and they are singable. It brings a level of joy. I also love Gershwin and Vince Guaraldi who wrote Peanut's theme for Charlie Brown.

A favorite song?

"A Song For You" by Leonard Cohen. The intensity of what it's saying is so prolific. If someone else wrote the words, I find my own heart in them. Also, Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All". I can take words that I relate to, that I would say.

In conclusion. What do you want to be remembered for as a singer?

She had a good heart. She loved and cared about people. Integrity means more than anything to me.

Tiffany Bailey - Jazz with POP. Wednesday - April 17, 2019. Doors open 6:30 pm. Show starts 7:30 pm, Upstairs at Vitello's. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/tiffany-bailey-jazz-with-pop-cd-release-tickets-56953616801