Thursday, November 14, 2019

Interview with Paul Rush


Paul Rush is the artistic director of Sixty-six Theater Co. located inside the Strasberg Institute in Hollywood. In our second conversation Rush talks about his excitement for the company getting the rights to produce Lee Blessing's new play For the Loyal. The West Coast premiere opens November 21 at Sixty-Six.

Tell our readers about your next production. Why are you so excited about getting the rights to this play?

PR: For The Loyal poses relevant and timely questions about loyalty. The titular character Mia is forced to choose which side she is playing for; the community she is part of, the family she is starting, or the person she is. The story takes place in a college football town, and the football program runs the town. When an incident threatens to derail the program and everyone involved, Mia needs to decide what play is the correct one to make. Lee Blessing does a phenomenal job of telling this story without preaching to his audience.

We are a young company and getting the rights to new material can be very difficult in Los Angeles. To have the opportunity to work with Lee Blessing, is a great honor. This play has never been produced professionally in California and such makes it a West Coast premiere. Our 1st premiere! It is hard not to be excited to produce and direct this play.

I met Lee Blessing when Group Rep presented his The Winning Streak. It involved baseball. For the Loyal gets into football. Explain his love of sports and how he works within the framework of sports to get to the family and issues that complicate family life.

PR: Sports tend to be a metaphor in a lot of storytelling. Blessing's use of sports goes beyond the game itself and the metaphor of the game. He forces his characters to play roles in the game that they would never expect. For The Loyal does just that. Mia is left with a choice to make, like a coach in the game, what play is the right one to call? The X's and O's of every player is used and laid out for the audience to see. I love how Blessing uses aspects of the 'game' to influence his storytelling without it being blatant.

Are you directing For the Loyal? What directorial challenges does it present?

PR: I am directing For The Loyal. The production of this story has been absolutely wonderful. Maybe it is because it is our first premiere, maybe it is because the writing is exceptional, maybe it is because the cast and team are amazing, but probably it is because this is a story worth telling. The only challenge I face is to do the story justice and give it is due.

How does this play fit into your mission statement?

PR: A play like this fits perfectly into our mission statement. Blessing does not shy away from entertainment while giving a story worth telling. There is only one way to approach that type of writing; with complete internal honesty within the framework of production. That is what we aim to do at Sixty-Six, to tell stories that are equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking.

Has reception to your company grown over the past year? Give us some positive details.

PR: Our company is growing! We got our first premiere! We have hosted the Short and Sweet theatre festival and Nick Hardcastle's Orry premiered here all this season. Our doors are staying open and our community is learning that we are here.

Back to Lee Blessing. Is he considered a foremost American playwright? Why?

PR: It would be hard to not consider Blessing a foremost American playwright. He deals with quintessential Americana and uses the backdrop of communal American life to lay out his stories.

Tell us about your cast in For the Loyal.

PR: Professionals that care. That is this cast. They are all working actors here in Los Angeles, involved with movie premiers, television episodes and auditions. Yet, here they are working hard and committed to story that doesn't get told often and needs to. The wonderful cast includes Hilty Bowen as Mia, Eddie Alfano as Coach Tanner Hale, Torrey Drake as Toby, Mark Youngs as Coach Mitch Carlson and Danny Martha as The Boy.

For the Loyal plays at Sixty-Six Theater Co from November 21 through December 14. The theatre is located inside the Strasberg Institute at 7936 Santa Monica Blvd. West. For more info or to purchase tickets for the play, call: 213-926-3150 or go to: 
sixtysixtheater.com


Friday, November 8, 2019

Highways Interview with Patrick K



Highways Performance Space & Gallery presents Film Maudit 2.0, its inaugural film festival dedicated to outrĂ© films, inspired by the legendary artist Jean Cocteau’s 1949 Festival Du Film Maudit, which celebrated a group of films that were criminally overlooked and neglected at the time.
The event will be held Thursday, November 14 - Sunday, November 17 at Highways Performance Space & Gallery at 1651 18th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90404
http://www.filmmaudit.org
Festival Pass $40 The festival will include: 


  • six feature films & 40 shorts
  • films from around the globe.. . .
  • Belgium, Canada, Columbia, Estonia, France, Germany, Mexico, UK, the Netherlands, etc.
  • 50% of selected films are by female-identifying filmmakers
  • each feature film in the program will make its Los Angeles premiere

Artistic director Patrick Kennelly took time from his busy schedule to discuss the festival in grand detail. I am thrilled to say that from the sound of the entries I would run, not walk, to get tickets for this splendid event, as should you.


Describe in your own words what Film Maudit 2.0 signifies.

PK: Film Maudit are films that in ambition bite off way more than the mainstream (including the “Sundance mainstream”) would normally chew. They’re works that are deliberately bold in their choice of subject matter and aesthetics and consistently challenge themselves and audiences, while still being entertaining as hell. The idea is to buck the trend of “like” culture, where we’re only exposing ourselves (whether we like it or not) to stuff we’re already supposed to like (y’know, that is “Like" something we’ve bought before, watched before). This is not Netflix film programming. Film Maudit is guaranteed to raise your guard and beat through with its cinematic audaciousness.

When you say censored films, are you referring to those that are primarily gay in content? Sounds like the days of Oscar Wilde. Joe Orton's films were brilliant and would most likely fit in here.

PK: The films in the festival, 50% of which are directed by women, encompass many different countries, sexual identities, and genres. A through-line of out-there-ness runs through everything. Pretty much all of them are L.A. premieres, including the features, and part of the purpose of Film Maudit is to give local exposure on the Big Screen to those films from Africa to Mexico to our very own backyard, that might be, for whatever reason, hot potatoes for other fests. There is a particular love here for films that use and abuse the trappings of genre cinema to get at other things.

This is the inaugural film festival. Do you hope to make this an annual event?

PK: Yes, this is the beginning of something that we hope will have a long life, and expand beyond being, you know, ANOTHER film festival. In this first year we have special screenings and music events, but we have big plans to bring in more performance, readings, visual art, and food. To have something that really reflects the platform-less age of tomorrow. A # of the creators involved in this first showcase, not only make films, but work in VR (Virtual Reality), gaming, gallery-based arts, literature and the theater.

How does this festival work within the mission statement of Highways?

PK: Film Maudit 2.0 is an extension of Highways’ mission to develop and present innovative artists, promote interaction among people of diverse cultural backgrounds, and engage artists and the communities they serve in cross-cultural dialogues about social, cultural and artistic issues.

Has your audience built steadily over the past few years? I have seen some wonderful theatrical pieces here in the past. It's definitely a place for theatre and film buffs to gather and exult in your choices of outre work. It's a one of a kind place in its design and in the subject matter presented.

PK: There’s been consistently inconsistent audiences throughout the 30 years of Highways’ existence! It continually ebbs and flows based on the dynamics of the Los Angeles performance, dance and art scene at any given moment in time (even week to week). Communities have come and gone, and sometimes come back again, new ones to fill the gap. There is a consistent re-history, we which love - the book being written on the space and the overall landscape over and over in a uniquely personal way by hundreds of artists. Our continually morphing identity as a space reflects that. We’re grassroots, experimental and diverse beyond measure - all ingredients for something that doesn’t spell long life, but, thanks to the hard-work of Executive Director Leo Garcia and his leadership of the Highways staff, we’ve been able to do it!

Tell our readers anything you wish that I have not mentioned.

PK: Whether you love them or hate them, I recommend that you won’t be bored by the radical narratives and styles we have on display as part of the festival - for much less $ than it will take you to be “shocked” by THE JOKER. If you want something that truly gets under your skin - come out to any of our programs!

Film Maudit 2.0 is Highways' inaugural film festival  takes place Thursday, November 14 - Sunday, November 17. Highways Performance Space & Gallery is located at the 18th Street Arts Complex 1651 18th Street. Santa Monica, CA 90404  Call  310-453-1755 or visit http://www.filmmaudit.org
A Festival Pass costs $40.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

2019 Interview with Burt Grinstead

Actor Burt Grinstead gained recognition in Los Angeles for his terrific performance in Deathtrap at LGBTQ and later in The Rope at Actors Co-op. He formed his own production company and produced and co-starred in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which he also adapted with his partner Anna Stromberg. They won top prize at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in 2018. Grinstead is currently preparing to open as Richard the Lionheart in The Lion in Winter at Laguna Playhouse this Sunday November 10. In our conversation he talks about the play in depth and lays bare his passion for the acting profession.




Tell us about playing Richard the Lionheart in The Lion in Winter. What a great role! You do realize that Anthony Hopkins played him on film with Katharine Hepburn in his early career. right? How much of a stretch is it playing him?

BG: It’s an awesome role! James Goldman’s script is a gift to actors. It pumps with life and death stakes yet is laced with wit and humor. I’m excited to portray the Lionheart. I remember seeing the movie with Anthony Hopkins, Katharine Hepburn, and Peter O’Toole and thinking ‘these are masters at play.’ You rarely see actors be so free in film. It seemed like they were having the time of their lives. Anthony Hopkins, of course, killed the part and sets a high bar for any mere mortal actor. The story takes place over a Christmas with all the Plantagenets gathered in a castle in France. It’s the first gathering since the eldest son and heir to the throne died. Who is to be the next king of the English empire? Let the games begin. 

Richard is a force of nature, defined by his fury. He is furious at everyone for different yet specific reasons: furious at his father, Henry II, played by the dynamic and strong Gregory Harrison; at his mother, Queen Eleanor, played by the fierce and elegant Frances Fisher; at his little brothers John and Geoffrey, brought to life by the talented and vivacious Spencer Curnutt and Ian Littleworth respectively; at the French king Phillip, portrayed beautifully by Taubert Nadalini. 

My job as the actor is to look beneath the Lionheart’s fury, to understand whether frustration, loss, love, or fear are driving each moment. Goldman writes these emotions in such a truthful and relatable way. As an actor, I’m able to take a psychological dive into the human experience with each new hat I put on. In Richard’s hat (or should I say crown), I’m able to explore the extremes of the human condition. We are defined by how we are nurtured in our youth. Family can be our greatest strength and our deepest flaw at the same time. Mr. Goldman certainly understood that basic dynamic when he penned this classic. It’s a holiday dinner with a dysfunctional family where murder is a very real option and the fate of an empire is at stake.

How are you preparing for the role? What elements of the character do you find in your own persona? 

BG: It’s all about the exploration. Fortunately, Laguna Playhouse and Sheldon Epps, our fearless director, give the actors time to play with different ideas and to work with each other to bring life to the story. The real drama lies in the relationships. The toughest part of telling a story like this is defining a lifelong relationship in a three-week rehearsal process. I’ve only just met these talented actors, and yet we have to be able to openly share some of the most intimate and vulnerable emotions we can muster. Knowing this, Sheldon sat us down for the first week and had us talk through the play with each other. We were able to get to know each other and share our thoughts and ideas. We were able to feel each other out and discuss our character histories and relationships. We were given time to find the depths of each of the bonds that inform the current predicament our characters find themselves in.

Richard was called “the Lionheart” for a reason. If you do any basic research on this man, you’ll see that he was a great soldier and ruthless tactician. He was always fighting. In my mind, he found peace in conflict. When you get to know his family, you can see that conflict was what he knew as home. In my real life, I’m much more of a pacifist, avoiding conflict at all costs, sometimes to my own detriment. I envy how Richard was able to take charge and stand up to obstacles that lay in his path. I don’t, however, envy the violence he left in his wake. It is fun to able to play someone with such ferocity though. It’s a chance to explore an emotion I rarely allow myself to experience in real life.

As with all characters I get to portray, I’m able to relate and bring in elements of my own life that can help further deepen the story. As an actor, you are required to find compassion for your character. It’s the classic actor line, “whether you play Jesus or Hitler, you have to believe you are in the right.” After all, everybody is the protagonist of their own story. The easiest way to find compassion for your character is to put yourself in their shoes. You have to be able to relate, and I definitely can relate to Richard in many ways. I’d rather keep those ways to myself though. My hope is that by bringing myself into Richard, the audience will also be able to relate and walk in his shoes.   

How are rehearsals going? Talk about Sheldon Epps as director of the play.

BG: With material like this, rehearsals are a playground. It’s a chance to explore and imagine and play. It’s a joy to come to the rehearsal room and to work with such talented artists in exploring this twisted, fantastical world.

Sheldon has theatre running in his blood. Every element in this play adds up to create a unified vision and a complete tale. He addresses every moment with us and gives us the material necessary to inform the next moment. It’s a hard play to direct. It’s an elaborate chess match, or rather a long game of poker. Every character is trying to win, but every character keeps their cards close to their chest. Sheldon is in charge of mapping out each of our journeys, each of our tactics, each of our manipulative techniques. Seeing him place us around the space is like watching a master chess player setting up his side of the board. I’m excited for audiences to follow the twists and turns. I can’t wait to see how people react to the surprises that lie around every corner and behind every curtain.   

Tell us in greater detail about working with Gregory Harrison and Frances Fisher. Also, talk a little about the other actors in the cast.

BG: The sheer talent in this rehearsal room is staggering. This cast is incredible. Sheldon, Ann Wareham, and Michael Donovan have somehow gathered such a rare group of proficient artists. This family feels real. Gregory and Frances are simply brilliant. Not just as actors, but as leaders. They are our parents in the play, and they have adopted that familial role in the rehearsal room. They lead by example. They are professional, hardworking, and unbelievably kind. Their years of experience shine through them in every part of this process. I love watching them work, and I love being able to work with them.

Ian Littleworth and Spencer Curnutt play my brothers. In a way, we’ve also adopted those roles in real life. We are able to support each other and laugh each other. We are able to respect each other, but still poke fun at each other. We know that each one of us is there to help the other be the best they can in this piece. Ian and Spencer are powerful actors. They bring life to everything they do. I’m so proud to call them my brothers in this play. 

I don’t want to leave out the other actors in this piece. Taubert Nadalini plays the French King Phillip. Taubert has a natural presence about him that easily steals the show when he walks the stage. There’s also the intelligent and talented Chelsea Kurtz who plays the French princess, Alais. Chelsea brings an emotional depth to the stage that heightens the drama and tension of this story in such a beautiful way.

I can’t wait for people to witness this cast.  

What do you think is the message of The Lion in Winter. It's a comedy, but not always that funny for the protagonists.

BG: The Lion in Winter certainly has some funny moments and some witty lines, but yes, the overall story of this play is a dark and twisted tale about a severely dysfunctional family. I’m sure everyone is going to come away with their own thoughts about the overall message Goldman was trying to share with us, but I think it’s simply about the importance of love. Love is as necessary to human existence as water. It’s food for the soul. Without it, we are starved, we are dry, we are empty. The place we are supposed to be able to find love is within our family. However, that is not true all the time. In fact, most of us are still thirsty for it. In this play about a family coming together for a holiday dinner, we see the sheer lack of love being spread around. In my view, the opposite of love is selfishness. If we are selfish, we are incapable of love. Everyone in this story is looking out for themselves first. In the end, a simple “I love you” or a meaningful hug, could change the fate of this empire. As the Beatles said the year after this play was written, “All you need is love.”

Switching gears, tell us a bit about the success you had in LA and New York with Jekyll and Hyde.

BGDr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde was a roller coaster. We started at the Hollywood Fringe in 2018, and little did we know, we were strapped in for a wild ride. We did eight shows at the Fringe, then we came back for a month at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Then we came back for Halloween 2018 for a few shows before we headed to Wilmington, North Carolina to perform it there for a couple of weeks. After that, we put the set in a truck and brought it up to New York City where we performed for two weeks in the International Fringe Encore Series at the SoHo Playhouse. The SoHo Playhouse then picked us up, and we headed back there for a full six week Off-Broadway run in the Spring of 2019. Now, the play is in the process of being published and will soon be available for purchase.

Anna Stromberg, my wife, and I were and are completely overwhelmed and grateful for the success of our little show. We absolutely loved performing it, and we’re so lucky to have been given the opportunity to perform it so often. Our producers and team along the way were always incredible, and we learned so much from each new adventure. You can find out more information on our outrageous comedic-thriller Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde on our production company’s website: www.BlanketFortEntertainment.com.

Are you and your wife planning any new projects for the near future?

BG: Yes! Many! First up, we made a movie that opens/premieres in Los Angeles the first week of December, The Lost Footage of Leah Sullivan. It’s a found-footage, mystery-thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat. We will also have screenings throughout December in Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, and New York City. You can see information on screenings of that film at www.TheLostFootageofLeahSullivan.com

We also hope to produce a new play this coming 2020, and we have several other projects including films and series in the works. We loved creating Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and were extremely encouraged by the success of it. We can’t wait for audiences to see what we have planned next. You can subscribe to our email list for our most up to date information at www.BlanketFortEntertainment.com.  
(play photo credit: Ed Krieger)

Is there anything you wish to add about Laguna Playhouse and the play?

BG: The Laguna Playhouse is a magical place. Ann E. Wareham and her team have created an adventure zone. A place where you can escape from the trials and tribulations of the modern world and enter the fantastical world of the theatre. It’s a place to come together as a community to laugh, to cry, to enjoy, and to be entertained. It’s a place to learn and to love.  You don’t have many places like this these days. You have to come see this play and support such an artistic playground. Come and have fun with us! You won’t regret it.

Opens: Sunday, November 10 at 5:30pm
Runs: Sunday, November 10 – Sunday, November 24, 2019
Performances will be Wednesdays through Fridays at 7:30pm; Saturdays at 2pm & 7:30pm; Sundays at 1:00pm & 5:30pm.
There will be added performances on Thursday, November 7 & Thursday, November 21 at 2pm & Tuesday, November 12 at 7:30pm.
There will be no performance on Sunday, November 10 at 1pm.
There will be Talk-Backs following the performances on Saturday, November 16 at 2pm and Thursday, November 21 at 7:30pm.

LAGUNA PLAYHOUSE
606 Laguna Canyon Rd. in Laguna Beach, CA
Tickets: $50.00 - $75.00

For tickets – visit www.lagunaplayhouse.com
or call 949-497-2787