Thursday, September 26, 2019

Night of the Living Dead Interview

Drina Durazo and Gus Krieger are about to open an adaptation of Night of the Living Dead at Group Rep on October 4. In our conversation they talk about the excitement of presenting this Halloween treat.

Gus Krieger (Writer): Original stage plays include Deity Clutch, Sherlock, Through The Looking-Glass, The Armadillo Necktie, and Breaking Bard. Awards include the Spirit of the Fringe Award for Best Writing, Scenie Awards for Best World Premiere Play and Outstanding Production, and the Valley Theatre Award for Best Play. Krieger’s first produced feature screenplay “The Killing Room” premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. As writer-director-producer, Krieger’s films include the philosophical thriller "The Binding," and the award-winning hip-hop drama "My Name Is Myeisha." Additionally, Krieger is the Associate Artistic Director of The Porters of Hellsgate, which will become the first Los Angeles theatre company to produce the complete works of William Shakespeare.

Drina Durazo (Director): Drina has been a member of The Group Rep for 8 years. GRT credits include: as Director- Yellow Brick Ride, Moon over Buffalo, Hotel Paradiso, Don’t Dress For Dinner, and the world premiere of Gus Krieger’s The Armadillo Necktie (winner of 7 Scenie Awards); as Producer- Sherlock’s Last Case, Awake and Sing!, Lombardi, Calendar Girls, and Avenue Q. Other directing credits include: the multi-award winning production of Breaking Bard by Gus Krieger, for The Porters of Hellsgate; Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some), All The Great Books Abridged, Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, and The Ultimate Christmas Show Abridged for Mammoth Lakes Rep.

Drina, explain in detail your love of horror.

My love of horror as a genre began when I was a young child. At the tender age of eight, my favorite movies were A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and Psycho; my favorite TV shows were Tales from the Crypt, Unsolved Mysteries, and Are You Afraid of the Dark. My initial fascination was hugely in part because I enjoyed experiencing terror followed by a euphoric sense of relief, and also because I loved that some of the strongest women onscreen were part of the horror genre. In time, my fascination also stretched into the theory that there is a beast within us all. We consciously disagree with what we see the boogeyman/zombies/vampires doing, but the unconscious part of us enjoys seeing it happen. It's morbid to think about, but some deep part of us enjoys seeing humans one step away from their animalistic ways. I think this thin veneer of civility is apparent in many horror films, including Night of the Living Dead, which makes it so much fun to explore onstage.

Gus, as adaptor, what happens when you open the film up to the stage? How exactly do you attempt to heighten the scary elements?

The goal was always to go for horror. The film is inherently claustrophobic, and those restrictions translate perfectly to the stage. There's always an element of removal when watching a scary movie from the far side of the silver screen, but that barrier is removed entirely in ninety-nine seat theatre: the zombies could literally reach out and grab you at any moment.

Drina, what are your challenges as director of the piece?

I thought my biggest challenge would be finding actors who wanted to play zombies, knowing they wouldn't have lines or character arcs. Wearing scary makeup and walking around moaning and grunting is not exactly high on every actor's list, but to my delight I was able to find a great deal of people willing and interested in being involved. Once I had them all onstage for the first time, I realized my greatest challenge would be making each zombie specific to the action. For this, I turned to Marc Antonio Pritchett. In addition to playing Ben in the show, he is also serving as our fight choreographer, and I can honestly say, I've never seen a fight choreographer more organized and passionate. The play has a lot of action, and without Marc, I don't know quite what I would have done. He created looks for each fight that I would add my two cents to, then he'd design the fight based on that. He created what I frequently refer to in rehearsal as the "zombie ballet," among other great fight moments. The zombie challenge was met head-on with his help, and I couldn't be more grateful.

(Drina and Gus) Do you have original music for the piece? Are there projections onstage?

Gus: Yes to both! We're utilizing a full multimedia experience for our show, combining elements in ways only live theatre can.

Drina: We decided to pay homage to the film by recreating those news broadcasts, shooting, and projecting them. Matthew Herrier was our video editor and his work brings a real 1960s feel to the footage, bringing us back to the era. Kenny Harder has an extensive background in music and proposed the idea of creating original compositions for the show. He took influence from the film's original score, as well as various other horror film composers, and put together some really great tracks that will both keep us in the mood and help us carry the tension from scene to scene.

(Drina and Gus) You alluded in the video to problems in our world in 1968 that have repeated themselves in our contemporary world. Expound on those if you will.

Gus: The original film was very clever with the ways it presented its themes of nihilism, societal breakdowns, etc. Unfortunately, little to none of that has gone away in the intervening decades. Feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness pervade on a national scale. The piece feels, if anything, more prescient and relevant today.

Gus, when you wrote the stage play, what was your greatest challenge?

Running time! And I'm only half-joking. So much of the film is non-verbal that it quickly became evident that large parts of the story would have to be translated to dialogue for the story to play out with the same level of efficacy. In film, a single close-up can convey a world of emotion, a relationship, a subtext. On the stage, those things have to be personified through words and action.

Drina, does the staging involve the audience more intimately? Do you think this will cause a more frightening experience?

No spoilers, but I will say this: we do have zombies, and I can't control just where they wander throughout the show. Being the undead, they simply can't be directed, and just kind of... do their own thing. The audience will have to wait and find out.

Drina, this is a great opportunity for fab costumes and makeup. Who is doing each?

Angela M. Eads has been my costume designer on all the shows I've directed at The Group Rep. She's always worked well with my vision and she is bringing her expertise into the world of 1968. The costumes the zombies wear tell the story of their life before death: great character exploration for creatures that have no action but to attack and kill. The makeup design is done by my long-time friend and incredibly talented makeup artist, Julia Hapney. Julia has over one hundred makeup and special effects makeup credits in film and TV, and I've had the privilege of working with her on several projects. I approached her to design the makeup for this show and she very enthusiastically said yes: in addition to loving what she does, she considers Night of the Living Dead to be the greatest horror film of all time.

Is there anything either of you wishes to add?

It's our hope that NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD will be one hell of an evening of theatre: engaging and scary and thrilling and thought-provoking in equal measure. We hope to see you on the NIGHT!

The Group Rep presents George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead,” adapted for the stage by Gus Krieger, directed by Drina Durazo. Seven strangers barricade themselves inside a Pennsylvania farmhouse, attempting to escape the bloodthirsty, flesh-eating ghouls ravaging the countryside. Beset by the walking dead outside, and ever-rising interpersonal tensions within, the group begins their desperate attempt to survive the night…October 4 – November 10. Fridays/Saturdays at 8:00 pm. Sundays at 2:00 pm. Special performances, Wednesday, October 30 and Thursday, October 31 at 8:00 pm. Talkbacks after Sunday matinees October 13 and October 27. Approximate running time 85 minutes, no intermission. Ages 13+. Tickets: $25. Seniors 65+/Students with ID. Tickets/information: or (818) 763-5990. Lonny Chapman Theatre – Main Stage, 10900 Burbank Boulevard, North Hollywood 91601

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Spanish Prayer Book 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 previews September 17, 18 and 19 and has its official opening on Friday September 20. Each week we will spotlight a cast member. This week the light shines on Allan Wasserman, a Roadie since 2012.

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

Jacob Adler. Michaela’s father and soul transporter of The Spanish Prayer Books to the USA from Germany. 

Any challenges to overcome as an actor?

Applying  a slight German dialect and to investigate and attempt to discover how I’m like the character and unlike the character.

What to you is the message of the play?

What are the ethical actions to take in life during desperate times and also during calm and abundant periods. It is a  moral tale that sheds light on wrestling with ethics versus human needs. 

What do you hope will be the audience takeaway?

This is a story that exemplifies our shared human behavior and vulnerability no matter what kind of lives we lead. 

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.

Friday, September 13, 2019

2019 Interview with Lilly Bright

Actress Lilly Bright is about to open in her one woman show American Standard at Highways in Santa Monica. The play reveals a deep secret she has kept about her struggles with bulimia. In our conversation she opens up to our readers and conveys the importance of coming to terms with your inner self. The truth will set you free.

 Lilly, you are from West Virginia. Tell our readers about your upbringing and what caused you to initially not feel satisfaction with your life. Was is it your parents? Were they too strict?

Come to my show and find out!  Seriously. The family dynamics underpinning the story are layered and complex. Beneath the subject matter of eating disorders and addictions, the show is about family dynamics, secrets and discovering what’s at the root of inner and generational pain. 

Obviously you became increasingly dissatisfied. What did you do to feel better?

Everything! I’m a seeker. I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied with partial recovery. I wanted full transformation which I embody and bring to the stage. This is what makes the solo show genre so powerful. When at its best, the audience bears witness to the transformative journey. 

When did you realize that you were in trouble? What advice did you seek?

I’m 17. I’m spending that summer atop the highest mountain in West Virginia in a writing program I was accepted into as an upcoming high school senior. I had to write an autobiographical thesis. This is when I realized I had to tell someone. I couldn’t keep my struggle a secret any longer. I admitted I needed help and that began a journey of recovery that lasted ten years. 

Talk about what you learned about the perils of bulimia. How do you bring all of this into your show with humor? Give us a couple of examples without creating a spoiler alert.
 It’s not about the food. People who have never struggled with an eating disorder might find this hard to believe. It took me decades to realize this! It’s crystal clear now, but I had to reprogram myself. I had to learn to be with discomfort. To feel feelings without running away.

I’m able to bring humor because I’m fully recovered and I don’t take myself or my colorful journey seriously. I’m able to laugh at myself. When tragedy is written and performed well, it is, it CAN be funny. I hope that gets translated. People will laugh and cry.

Is American Standard the first play you have written? How did audiences react to it when you first presented it?

It’s the first play I’ve written that’s being staged in this way. I wrote many plays as a child. Our neighborhood would put on the shows. I wrote a play script last fall for a dance company in San Francisco. I performed along with the company and did a spoken word Laurie Anderson type thing. I have been in the film business since 2003 as a producer and distributor. I love being back in the theater; my roots are in dance and theaterical plays. 

What is the message of your play? Why is it so important to you to get it out to the world?

Self-love and inner transformation is possible when we learn to embrace all of ourselves, when we learn to stop being so afraid, running away from feelings.

Our planet is going through an incredibly tumultuous time right now. To make a difference and contribute in a meaningful way to society means looking at ourselves first, cleaning up all the places we’ve been blind to in order to bring that change into the world and have it effect the world positively. I mean, who doesn’t want to feel better within themselves and who wouldn’t want to share that learning with the world?

Talk about your director Valerie Hager and how she has helped you get the project on stage.

Valerie is a soul-sister, a total professional, a fierce director, visionary and team player. I am so honored to have her alongside me for this show. We have a lot in common, which is contributing to going very deep with the material and makes a perfect collaboration.

There are many one person shows about addiction. What do you feel sets yours apart from all the others? Why should we pick yours to go see?

I’m not aware of another solo show specifically about bulimia. I am aware that a play was recently staged in NYC that addressed anorexia. I’m super pleased to see these topics entering the conversation within the arts community with less and less stigma and shame and with higher and higher levels of quality production. Bulimia is something my character has to deal with as a way of growing up, as a way of becoming comfortable in her own skin. So many of us cling to unhealthy agents in our best efforts to thrive, even though they’re not working.  I don’t make the show solely about bulimia. The scope is much wider and that’s why it will appeal to a wide audience range. If my healing wasn’t complete I wouldn’t be able to make it relatable (and fun!), but I am, and it is.

(photo credit: Cheryl Mann) 
Highways Performance Space is located at the 18th Street Arts Center (1651 18th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90404). Tickets are $25 for general admission and $15 for students. For more information and tickets, please visit
Thu. Sep. 19 – Sat. Sep. 28
• Thursday, September 19 @ 8:30pm• Friday, September 20 @ 8:30pm
• Saturday, September 21 @ 2:00pm
• Monday, September 23 @ 8:30pm
• Friday, September 27 @ 8:30pm
• Saturday, September 28 @ 8:30pm 

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Interview with Director Carla Cackowski of Irma Vep

Director Carla Cackowski is delighted to be making her Actors Co-op debut with this wonderfully ridiculous play. Recent credits include directing shows at The Second City (LA), Curious Comedy Theater (Portland, OR), and Stephnie Weir's one woman show, Vanona Ray at the Comedy Central Stage. She regularly tours around the world performing comedic improv with her two person show Orange Tuxedo. Recent tours include the Copenhagen International Improv Festival, the Vancouver International Improv Fest, and the Warsaw Improv Festival. Carla proudly serves on the Board of Directors at Kickstand Comedy, a non-profit theater that seeks to serve the needs of the community, providing programming and educational outreach that helps people laugh, connect, and thrive together. She is about to open The Mystery of Irma Vep - A Penny Dreadful at Actors Co-op on October 4.

Describe for our readers the storyline of Irma Vep and any pertinent background information.

The Mystery of Irma Vep is a farce that was written and originally performed by Charles Ludlam. The bulk of the action takes place at Mandacrest Estate, the home of Lord Edgar and his new wife, Lady Enid. A maid named Jane and a groundskeeper called Nicodemus are some of the other colorful characters that inhabit this world. All are under the spell of Edgar's late wife, Irma Vep, whose portrait haunts them from above the fireplace. Vampires, werewolves, and even a quick stop in Egypt are some of the fun and unusual elements that spin our protagonists into a frenzy. In this play Ludlam has created a high-camp parody of horror films of the thirties and forties, as well as some other film and literary classics such as Hitchcock's Rebecca, Wuthering Heights, and the Victorian melodrama.

As I remember there are two actors who play many roles each. Talk about this and how it creates a farcical comedy.

Each of our actors plays a few characters throughout the play. They have quick changes as they run off the stage and then emerge as a different character in a different costume and wig on the other side of the stage. The frenetic energy of the entrances and exits creates amazing opportunities to tickle and delight the audience by quickly surprising them from moment to moment. I've always felt like the audience enjoys farce most when the action is moving at lightning speed. The audience should never get ahead of the bit, and the frantic pace with which the actors enter and exit in this show to perform their different roles really plays into that.

What are your challenges as director?

The real challenge directing this play is not getting too far lost in the logic of anything. Ultimately, this play is a farce. It's not slice of life or realism. Sometimes characters say or do things that completely negate something they said or did in the previous scene. And that's okay! Ludlam wrote this as a loving homage to these specific genres so he is heightening moments from these novels and films that delighted him. It doesn't always have to be rooted in logic. It just always has to be fun!

Timing is so important in carrying off a farce. Is it the most crucial element do you think?

Timing is crucial to carrying off a farce. When in doubt, I always remind myself, faster is funnier! But I think the challenge then becomes keeping up the pace while still allowing the emotion and relationships of the characters to take shape. Bits and goofs and running from one side of the stage to the other are hilarious but it has to be rooted in some emotion that the audience can relate to. So finding the balance between a character's point of view and comedic timing is the most crucial element to pulling off a farce. And often times the comedic timing is discovered because the actors are so firmly planted within their characters point of view.

Talk about your cast and how they must play very well off each other to make the play a success.

I know I'm bragging here but John Allee and Isaac Wade are both really brilliant actors! They come to each rehearsal with a strong sense of play and a treasure trove of hilarious ideas. They had never worked together before this play but have an easy chemistry and make each other laugh a lot. They're both incredibly physical and their ability to do dialects is Streep-ian! I feel lucky to work with them both and can't wait for the community to see what they've been creating together in rehearsals.

Without creating a spoiler alert, what is the funniest scene in the play? How do audiences usually react?

The Second Act takes place in Egypt. I was nervous about it when we began blocking. There aren't any props and very minimal set pieces. The day we blocked it the actors got up and started saying the lines and we created an invisible environment for them to physically move through and the choices were so broad and ridiculous that our stage manager and I couldn't stop laughing. So look for that Egypt scene after intermission and be prepared to guffaw!

Actors Co-op is known for some pretty great ensemble acting. This play should be a winner for them. Comment in detail!

Actors Co-op is consistently praised for their ensemble work. Though this play is only two actors, I think the that would apply here too. There are eight roles in this two man show and our actors are approaching each one as their "main" character. And what I mean by that is they're putting time and effort into creating multi-dimensional characters even though they could skate by with less in this farcical play. I think the specificity that they're bringing to the dynamics of all the relationships in the play, as well as the hard work of our dressers behind the scenes, really give the play the vibe of a full ensemble cast!

The Mystery of Irma Vep - A Penny Dreadful  opens October 4 and plays through November 10.  Fri/Sat 8 pm; Sun 2:30 pm; Two Saturday Matinees have been added on October 12 and 19 at 2: 30 pm.  Actors Co-op CrossleyTheatre (Hollywood).

Visit the link below for more info and to purchase tix:

2019 Interview with Ari Stidham

The Edgar Allan Show is about to open at the Two Roads Theatre in Studio City. With material from Poe's famous stories rewritten in a silly vein and original music by Ari Stidham, you are bound to knock your socks off. Here's what Stidham has to say for his work.

Just how silly is your show? I love Edgar A. Poe, but am usually prepared to be scared out of my wits.

Our silliness lands somewhere between Looney Tunes and Monty Python. Poe frequently used unreliable narrators in his work, we have as well. Our cast portray a very serious and excitable troupe of touring actors. It is these “actor personas” that inform most of the comedy in our show.

Without creating a spoiler alert, can you give our readers one example of crazy comedy in the show?

One example is when the actors have staged Poe’s biography, and they’ve clearly taken liberties with a great deal of his colleague’s names. Instead of regular names like “Margaret” or “Nathan” - Poe encounters a soldier literally named ‘The Raven’ -- it gets sillier but I don’t want to give too much away. The show is different every night due to the audience interaction portions. Okay, one more silly thing; we have three slide whistles.

Are your songs extensions of the recitals? Do they forward the plot or are they just there for comedic purposes?

They bookend the show, and “Tell-Tale Heart” is performed as a musical. While I wrote a good deal of the lyrics, most are Poe’s words. The compositions come from my album “Jacuzzi Louie” , though you’d never recognize them with the new lyrics, as well as the new arrangements and production by Louis Ramsey. They are now full of synths, just in time for Halloween, and family friendly.

Which of the Poe classics is your personal favorite? Why this choice?

I personally love the “Murders at the Rue Morgue” -- I think I like it because I read it after I’d gotten over my initial fear of Poe.
I saw a production of “The Fall of the House of Usher” as a child, that was my first introduction to Poe. It was nail biting, and it left me petrified. There was a jump scare at the end of the play, and I’d never felt that real level of terror in my life. I was psychologically scarred. The Edgar Allan Show is NOTHING like that. We have a didgeridoo. Did I mention the slide whistles?

Talk about Halloween and why you say the show is for all ages? Will kids really understand the humor? Will it put them in the spirit for trick or treating?

I’m born and raised here, and I know that Los Angeles has a lot to offer during the Halloween season. This show is for folks who’d rather laugh than get spooked. I’ve tailored the show to be light hearted and family friendly for a modern audience. Not only is it a comedy with moments for people of all ages, but any novices in the crowd will learn about Poe in a fun and funny light.

Have you ever presented this show before? If so, how did audiences react? If not what do you expect from them?

This is a world premiere. I’d like the audience to leave with a better appreciation for the magnitute of Poe’s work. I’d also really like them to laugh. I can guarantee they won’t be bored.

Anything else you care to mention may go here.

We’ve got a wonderful cast that can be seen on TV as we speak. Kimia Behpoornia (Abby’s, Unicorn Store) slays as the “Player King” and Jordan R. Coleman (Snowfall) sings sweeter than Celine Dion. I am so excited to work with this cast and even more excited to share this show with the world. We
are offering a group rate online or bundles of 4 tickets at $70. There are also ticket giveaways on my instagram @aristidham and the show’s instagram @EdgarAllanShow

All ages. Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm, September 27 – October 19.  Running time: 80 minutes. No intermission. Box office opens ½ prior to curtain. Admission: $25.  Two Roads Theatre, 4348 Tujunga Ave. Studio City, CA 91604.  There will be a pre-show light reception opening weekend at 7:30 pm, on both Friday, September 27 and Saturday, September 28.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

2019 Interview with Hal Linden

Beloved actor Hal Linden of TV's Barney Miller is equally famous for his Broadway appearances including the recipient of a Tony Award  for Best Actor in a Musical for 1971's The Rothschilds. He is about to open on September 20 at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts in the West Coast premiere of the new musical Grumpy Old Men.

Linden is no stranger to theatre in Los Angeles. I saw him do a unique production of The Fantasticks at the Pasadena Playhouse a few years back and ... he was wonderful. When I questioned him about the production, he alluded to the fact that the 2016 production was the vision of director Seema Sueko who took "the fairytale and presented it with a troupe of actors who performed it in an old theatre, giving it double theatricality".

Does Linden have a favorite musical? "You love each show as you are doing it. It's the same work, sweet, and you bring energy and love to it. There's an old quote, "When he's not near the show he loves, he loves the show he's near"". What about a role he has not performed onstage and would love to play? He claims his schedule never permitted but he missed out on the king in The King and I and Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. I am certain he would be terrific in both. By the way, he commented about what I said about his performance in The Fantasticks with that dry sense of humor of his ..."And yes, I was wonderful."

Yes, Linden is a natural charmer and is clearly deliciously funny. As to Grumpy Old Men, he claims he is not playing a grumpy old man but a "dirty old man. I am a 94 year old grandpa who is a little horny. Well I'm not 94, but I'm still horny."

As far as what he likes most about the show are the rehearsals. "They are the most satisfying. We actors are executing other artists' work and we try to do it as imaginatively and creatively as possible. With the input - try this, try that  - in the rehearsals, we get to accomplish this."

On another funny note he mentioned that the second most frequently asked question he has been asked is "What was Abe Vigoda really like? - which he claimed emphatically "I never answered". 

He has never seen the movie "Grumpy Old Men", but is very happy with the show. "I can't kick, because in this show I have what comes closest to a showstopper. It's an old fashioned musical predicated on music and laughs with no philosophical point being pushed."

Asked if he enjoys doing comedy over drama or vice versa, he quoted Chaplin, "Say something real in a funny way or something funny in a real way. Never say something funny in a funny way." He loves the work period.

As to his years on Barney Miller, with mulitple Emmy nominations, he referred to it as "a unique experience in television". They did not have a live audience, but were a real rep company where each actor became an expert on his own character. "We rehearsed until we were happy and then shot it like a film. Every week we did as good as we thought we could do with that script. it was very creative." 

Linden is bound to be a hoot in the musical and encourages that you make the trek to La Mirada for Grumpy Old Men The Musical. It opens in preview on the 20th, and the official opening night is Saturday the 21st. Follow the link below for more info and to purchase tix:

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Interview with Gilbert Smith

I marvel at the work of the Montalbán Theatre. I have noticed how the theatre has really maintained itself over the years and improved so much with all the Latino events and concerts with an emphasis on supporting all of our talented performers regardless of race, religion or creed. We are a community and need to reflect that in all we do. When I asked to speak with Gilbert Smith, President of the Montalbán Company, LLC, he enthusiastically provided the following answers to our questions.

(photo credit: Rick Telles)

Tell our readers what you feel you have accomplished in making the Montalbán Theatre stand out from among other Los Angeles theatres?

We have been working to establish a firm foundation in our community by providing access to the performing arts. Our theatre is anchored in a classic proscenium setting. We have combined that classic history with the modernization of our rooftop deck oasis and front of house capabilities for broadcast. Our renovated theatre setting provides a thoughtful informal atmosphere to create relationships between individual artists and corporations in the entertainment industry. We are part of a much larger renaissance that has rebuilt Hollywood to maintain our position as the Entertainment Capital of the World. Each of our theatres in Hollywood embody distinct character. Our roles are defined to develop cultural awareness and exchange with our community.

Tell us briefly about your relationship with Ricardo and how important your job is to carry his legacy forward.

Ricardo in the truest sense became my father figure. His daughter Anita and I have been married for 30+ years. We are all about creating legacy in our theatre. His story, as a member of immigrant families in both Mexico and the Unites States of America is remarkable. In the 1960s he spoke for the undernourished and unrepresented culture. He was a humble man and never spoke about his courage and conviction to seek a world free of prejudice. He simply built friendships with the world. His success in his career with the acting profession matched his ability to absorb prejudice. He was a born intellectual with a unique understanding of religion, language and culture. His value system was solid simple and resolute. I use his guidance in spirit to come forward with our life's decisions. His life was based on his kindness and respect for his fellow man. I aim to be judged in the same light

What about the Golden Eagle Awards? What does this event mean to the Montalbán?

Ricardo Montalbán was asked to develop a book from a series of interviews over a weekend. The name of the book from Ricardo Montalbán with Bob Thomas, REFLECTIONS: A Life in Two Worlds.

Ricardo set forth thoughts about his life's experience, "I knew what it was like to be judged as a son of Spaniards in Mexico, later as a Mexican in the United States. Could it be possible that I succumb to prejuditial thinking? I couldn't imagine it. And yet, by constant exposure... your computer brain starts to imprint such nonsense as valid information."

This quote is salient knowing that his observation about prejudice 50 years ago is applicable in today's political news spectrum being hoisted to control our society with disinformation and racism. The Nosotros Golden Eagle Awards brings forward the appreciation for individuals who inspite of the constant onslaught have prevailed with respect for themselves and their community.

Ricardo Montalbán was the founder of Nosotros. He believed in democratic institutions, where freedom of thought based on knowledge and facts works to stimulate honest discussion about diversity. Our hosting and development of the 49th NOSOTROS Golden Eagle Awards is set in the theatre that he also founded. This makes a strong statement for our inclusion with our diverse community.

Support the Montalbán Theatre and get tickets now for the Golden Eagle Awards:

Montalbán Theatre

The 2019 Nosotros Golden Eagle Awards will stream live on Facebook, YouTube and KNEKT.TV and later offered on Amazon Video as the first Latino Award show to be presented on its platform.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Interview with Michele Brourman

Music composer, pianist Michele Brourman is world reknowned for her brilliant compositions and collaborations with other great songwriters like Amanda McBroom. She has a tremendous passion for performing. She will be in Chicago on the 15th and in New York in October doing what she does best. The world is a better place because of it.

Tell our readers about your upcoming concert in Chicago and then the concert in New York. Are you featuring songs from your latest album? Is there a theme?

MB: I’m excited about bringing my songs to Chicago! It’s where I went to school in every sense of the word. I was a music composition major at Northwestern, though as a musical theatre geek I was kind of a misfit. I wrote songs for the WAA-MU show each year; in fact, Joanie Winter, my special guest at Davenport’s, performed one of my earliest songs in that show! I also scored a theatre production of “Finnegan’s Wake” that starred Peter Strauss, and co-wrote a musical revue that ran off-campus. But my real education, once I graduated, was playing in various clubs around town. As Al, my agent, loved to say, “They’re  terlets.  Some have décor and some don’t, but they’re all terlets.” In those days, we’d play five nights a week, six hours a night, seven hours on Saturdays. You learn a lot about how to write a song if you play a few hundred of them every week! And you learn a lot about audiences too.

In New York, the Birdland Theatre has been beckoning to me since Jim Caruso gave us a guided tour just before it opened. It’s the kind of intimate space where you can put your arms around everyone in the room. And they have a great piano!! I’m calling this series of shows “Love Notes” because I so love making music, and because every song is a kind of love letter. I debuted the show in London in June. It includes several songs from my cd “The Price of Love” as well as some newer songs – one that I wrote with Adryan Russ called “She Has Wings” and one with lyrics by Hillary Rollins called “My Daughters”. Plus several that I co-wrote with my dearest friend Amanda McBroom.

Upon listening to The Price of Love, I have concluded that your style is so infectious, one can listen to the songs over and over and learn something new each time.You are positive about relationships and love, letting go and looking ahead, content, if not with the man, then with the music creation that results. The music cleanses your soul. You talk about memories. Are they from your life or imagined or a mixture of both?

MB: I mostly compose to a lyric, and that lyric tells me how it wants to be sung.  And though I’m pretty sure I have a musical “signature,” I feel like the style can – and should – shift, depending on the emotions, the energetic, the tone of the lyric, the story.

I love what you said about being “Positive about love” – I think I am. Finally.  I wasn’t always.That line in “My Favorite Year” - “After all the loves I’ve lived through all these years…” that’s’ pretty much autobiographical. 
And memories? They’re probably enhanced, filtered, photo-shopped.
By the way, Michael Feinstein, whose recording really launched that song, recently shared a new video of it - just him and a piano.  So personal and beautiful!

What is Karen Gottlieb trying to convey in "Indian Boy"? It seems different from the others on the album. What is its substance?

MB: Indian Boy” was a gentleman I met while playing a gig in a dusty desert outpost near Mohave. A film crew was shooting a movie there for a month; I got hired to entertain them every weekend. And every weekend, this man appeared in an impeccable white linen suit, red silk scarf knotted at his throat, a carved wooden cane, silver-white hair, leathery weather-beaten skin. As the evening progressed, he’d be more and more in his cups – and he’d ballroom dance. Alone. A few weeks in, he came up to me, introduced himself as Indian Boy - and asked me if I could write a song that could bring his runaway daughter home. I told Karen Gottlieb about him and two days later she handed me that lyric. Somehow in the writing the song became more personal, evoking Karen’s father and mine. We’d both put 3000 miles between us and our dads…

I have always admired Amanda McBroom. She has a great sense of humor with "You're Only Old Once". In "Mary Said No" she really creates a thought provoking message, making Mary reflective, luminous, and human as well as angelical. What are your feelings about this song?

MB: I’m glad you asked about Amanda! She is an extraordinary songwriter, a cherished friend, and a joy to make music with! The two of us have been writing songs together since the first day we met – and that was (gulp!) 45 years ago!!  Her lyric to “Mary Said No” grabbed my heart. I have two wonderful sons. I am absolutely sure that the world is a better place because they are both in it.  But if someone had told me before they were born that they would be sacrificed, I too would have said No. 
To me, “Mary Said No” is a song about the Ultimate Woman’s right to choose.   And I got to draw upon my favorite undergraduate course – “Music of the Middle Ages!”

Your music creates the mood and atmosphere of what the song is trying to convey. I love "Let's Order In". It's romantic with a cozy, by the fire feel, but I can't help but remember "Love and Take Out" from a previous album that displays your tremendous humor. Talk about these themes and how they affect you in your own life.

MB: They’re about two of my favorite topics – food and sex.  And about approaching both with a sense of humor. I named my music publishing company “FingerFood Music”. (I was gonna call it “Hand to Mouth”, but that sounded a bit desperate:)

There’s something wonderfully sensual about food, sharing food, dining by candlelight. And I love feeding people!  If you were to appear at my door, the second words out of my mouth (after “come in quick before the cat gets out!”) would be “What can I get you? A latte? Home-made muffins?”  As for “Love and Take Out” – that was inspired by a friend who said to me, “That guy is like Chinese food – one hour later, you’re hungry again!”  Like I said, it took me a while to get the hang of Love.

Let's go back in time. Tell us about your upbringing and how it has affected your passion for music.

MB: I was born into a musical family.  My dad wrote songs – though he only wrote them during the 14 months he spent as a POW in Germany when his B17 was shot down during a mission.

He and my mother met and married after he came home, and moved into my Bubbie’s big house.  My dad’s youngest brother was 14, living at home, practicing his violin. So my mother – and I, in utero – would spend hours listening to Uncle Jack. My Bubbie used to carry me around and sing to me. And my parents sang together, beautifully. I used to say it was the only time they were truly in harmony, though I probably exaggerated.

By the time I was three, I was sitting at Bubbie’s piano, playing and singing entire songs by ear. I started piano lessons at four, learned right from left cause the left hand played the low notes. It’s baked into my being; the piano feels like an extension of my body.

I moved on to my beloved piano teacher Aaron Gross when I was six; he was incredibly patient with a child who’d learn a Bach invention by heart – but play it in the wrong key. Growing up, I performed with my sisters 
my sister Robin Munson, btw, is a gorgeous singer and songwriter
and with a troupe of girlfriends, all terrific singers. I co-wrote special material for The Troupe with my friend Iris – Iris Rainer Dart, the author of “Beaches.”

Have you found yourself changing focus over the years? In your mind, have you become more or less serious about issues? In what ways?

MB: We all change over the years, don’t we? I wrote a song called “The Joy of the Ride” that wound up being the end-title song for Universal’s “The Little Engine That Could.” It said, “I know what is precious – what to hold, what to let slide. “
We learn, hopefully, what matters. I had kids. That changed me enormously.  I continue to change, make mistakes, learn, open my heart. There’s a shift that most of us make, I believe – from “am I getting what I want?” to “am I giving something I feel good about giving?”

I notice you stay away from politics. For me, that's a good thing. Your music helps us to get away from the turmoil around think about love and lighter issues, like choosing dinner or how to spend an evening or appreciating flowers and nature... How do you feel about this?

MB: I don’t write many political songs. I wish I did! I admire the songwriters who take on important issues. I was even in Bob Dylan’s band once for two weeks!  Maybe if I’d learned guitar instead of piano, I’d be more of a political songwriter. Have you noticed how you can get very message-y with a guitar? But with a piano, those messages sound heavy-handed.  Besides, you can’t take a baby grand to a protest march! I try to write songs that offer some insights – or help listeners take an emotional journey. People need to laugh – and to cry. 

Tell us about anything that I have not mentioned. Future projects?  Who are your music idols, past and present?

MB: Amanda and I wrote the songs for a movie that’s being released this week from Universal  - “Curious George: Royal Monkey.”  It’s the 17th animated feature for which we’ve written (and I’ve produced) the songs, including 10 sequels to “The Land Before Time”, 2 Balto sequels, and “The Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein.”  They’re all direct to DVD. “George” will also be streaming on Hulu. It’s been a delicious project, working with a stellar creative team at Universal, plus I get to work with my favorite studio collaborator,
Stephan Oberhoff.  And we’re finishing the songs for another animated feature that’ll be out next year.

Amanda and I have started on a new musical with book writer Duane Poole.   A musical that I co-wrote with Sheilah Rae and Thomas Edward West, “The Belle of Tombstone”, just had a beautiful production in Hartford, CT.  And I’ve started recording songs for an EP to release this spring.

I’ll be doing some performances with Amanda – including
a Christmas concert in December – and several with Amanda and Ann Hampton Callaway. The three of us have a grand time onstage and off!
We close those concerts with a medley: an anthem that Ann and I wrote called “Love and Let Love” and “The Rose.”

Music idols? I have so many!! Leonard Bernstein, Frank Loesser, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen. Adam Guettel. Maurice Ravel. Laura Nyro, Joni, Carole, Aretha, Ivan Lins, James Taylor. I love practicing Bach and Mozart, just for the sheer joy of it.

I’m grateful every moment for the music in my life – and the people in my life!  I feel like a very lucky person!!

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