Sunday, May 17, 2020

Stephen Foster and Chuck Pelletier Interview

Actors/writing partners Chuck Pelletier and Stephen Foster created the popular musical The Green Room and released a CD of the show in 2006 to great acclaim. It has toured across country snd played off Broadway to excellent reviews in 2019. Now there is a new website devoted exclusively to The Green Room. Recently they composed a short film entitled "That's Opportunity Knocking" that has won a myriad of awards. Both men took time out of their busy schedules to discuss both projects, which push the limits on creativity during Covid-19.

Tell us about your new website for The Green Room. Does it allow visitors to see the show from the ground up, from the very beginning on upward to the latest success in New York?

Stephen Foster: Due to our hectic and diverse creative schedules (acting, writing and directing) the information and materials for The Green Room musical has been helter-skelter on YouTube and Facebook so we decided, after the Off-Broadway run, to put it all together in one streamlined website.

It’s a way to describe how the show has grown and evolved through the years. It provides a platform where people can see clips of various productions, listen to the songs for free, obtain free scripts, and even purchase the sheet music. It’s the catch all for learning all about this 4-character musical that had humble roots in Hollywood theatre and finally had an Off-Broadway run. We are extremely proud of how far this “passion” project has come.

This is the pride and joy for both of you. Chuck's music has been such a success and you have reworked the book to make it more adaptable to current time. What are the elements of the show that have appealed most to audiences everywhere? Be specific!

Chuck Pelletier: I love writing funny songs, and when I go to see musicals, my favorites are always the comedy songs. For the most part the songs in The Green Room are comedy songs, I think there’s only three or four exceptions. They still move plot and character forward, but they make you laugh. And I think audiences love that. That’s the way musicals were written in golden age, whether it’s Guys and Dolls, My Fair Lady, Oliver, The Music Man. Most of those shows were fun and funny. They landed on the occasional love song or sad song when the plot warranted it, but for the most part, people went to Broadway to escape. To be entertained. Many people have mentioned to me that that’s how they feel after they see The Green Room, and that is what makes me the most proud as a lyricist. When you hear an audience laugh, really laugh, belly laugh, in the middle of a song, and then again, and then again, to the point they have to try to contain themselves just to keep up with what’s coming next. That gives me more joy than anything.
There is also the sense of youth, four characters in their 20s having fun in college. People love the youthful energy of the story.

Sum up your dreams for this show and advise our readers how they need to be creative and follow their heart at all cost.

Stephen: The musical has had a wonderful track record thus far with indie productions all over the US, Canada and Ireland. The songs have been performed in cabarets, concerts and singers love singing the 2 comedy songs “It’s All About Me” & “Nothing Can Stop My Boys” at auditions. The future of the show is endless with new theaters and now online venues opening up.

The song “In The End” contains my favorite line, “In the end you do what you have to do. Because it’s you, in the end, who has to live with it.” That’s been my philosophy for many years. To pursue a career in acting and writing, you miss a lot of “normal” living, but in the end you have art to show for it. The trade-off isn’t always fair, the labor of love is long, but sometimes you hit gold and that pay-off is what keeps us going against the odds. Follow your heart is what I coach actors and writers when I teach. If you follow your heart, you might not hit the moon, but you’ll land in the stars.

Let's switch to your new film "That's Opportunity Knocking" What basically is it about? What inspired you to write it?

Chuck: “That’s Opportunity Knocking“ is a 22-minute comedy on Amazon Prime that tells the story of two college-educated guys in their 20s so down on their luck they decide to rob an empty apartment. The tenants come home while they are robbing it, so they have to hide, and wait, while the tenants make out on the couch. One of the interesting things about this comedy is that it’s based on a true story. Usually comedies aren’t based on a true story, unless they are historical, period films. So of course it was the true story that inspired it. What happened was that we were involved in a play at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. The director of that play, Thomas Anawalt, and most of the cast of the play, went out for drinks one night after the show. Thomas was telling a story about when he lived in New York with a couple roommates, and one night they came home and found some items out of place but didn’t think much of it. They woke up the next morning and found the place had been robbed. So they realized then that, the whole time they had been home that previous night, those burglars had been hiding somewhere. I think I told Thomas right then and there that I wanted to make that into a short film, and I wanted him to play himself. Most of the actors that were in that play ended up being in the movie.

You have won many prizes so far. That is wonderful.

Chuck: Yes, the film has won 24 awards at film festivals, and after that was picked up by Amazon Prime, where it has been viewed hundreds of times since. Who knew there was a market for short films? We are very proud. Stephen himself won 5 awards as Best Supporting Actor.

Stephen: We are humbled and surprised by all the awards. We’ve been working in theater and film as actors and screenwriters for many years, and this one clicked. We are grateful to the indie film festivals that helped us achieve these awards.

What do audiences learn from the movie?

Chuck: There are a few themes running through the movie, but the main theme, which recurs especially throughout the dialogue of the two burglars, is that it is far harder to be middle class right now then it was, say, 50 or 75 years ago. That’s the motivational engine of three of the characters, and the reason the burglars are there in the first place. I hope that is what people take away from the movie, as well as just a lot of laughs and having a good 22 minutes.

Does it have your zany sense of humor?

Stephen: I don’t think we could produce a piece without it containing our off-beat view of the world. I always wanted my creative life to be “The Carol Burnett Show!” Humor is how Chuck and I survived growing up and we use it in our writing and acting. Chuck understands my sense of humor, and I understand his, so we mesh very well together.

But, as well as being entertaining, does it have a substantial base? How does it inspire people to live?

Chuck: I loved the screwball comedies of old Hollywood, because they always worked as simple comedies, but there was always a class-against-class theme behind them. There were other elements, reversed sex roles, etc., but the class struggles are what I always relate to, and as I said, I wanted that to be integral to this movie. If someone told me my comedies inspired them to look at class in a different way, perhaps vote more with the middle class in mind, nothing would be a higher honor.

If you had to sum up your professional life so far, how would you do that? Is there another project on the horizon that you yearn to work on?

Stephen: I would sum up my professional life as “trial and error” with perks thrown in along the way. I’m extremely LUCKY to work hand in hand with Chuck, as we click in all we do. There’s never a sense of competition or one-upmanship with us.
As for the future, we have started our own small company, Round Earth Entertainment, to nurture and develop our creative projects: songs, scripts, movies and plays. We have several projects that are in development.

Chuck: This virus has been the worst thing that has happened to the world in my lifetime, but you have to make lemonade out of lemons, and the time at home has given Stephen and I a lot of time to talk through potential projects and do some good writing.

Stephen: Don, these are very odd and crazy times, humor helps us heal, connect and survive. I think that’s our primary statement to humanity.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Shelly Goldstein Speaks Out Creatively

Writer/actress/cabaret performer Shelly Goldstein is  very popular worldwide and is in a constant state of motion with a unique sense of humor. In this special creativity interview she talks about just that. Especially wonderful is her advice to everyone to stretch your horizons and reach out to others.

DG: Overall, what are you doing during this horrible Covid-19 period to stay creative?

SG: First of all, Don, thanks for reaching out. One of the positive aspects of this wackadoodle time is the return to old-fashioned phone calls between friends, and emails/texts that are a bit more personal than a typical 6-word message. It’s been great to actually have conversations with people. I didn’t realize how rare such calls had become and I hope they don’t disappear.

Human interaction inspires creativity.

I’ve been doing a lot of writing. Like everyone, I’ve lost a ton of work. Any gig I had on the books since mid-February was either cancelled or put on indefinite hold. That meant a lot of performances and many gala/award show events went away. The biggest disappointment was a gig where I was going to work with Julie Andrews on a lifetime tribute she was going to receive! But such is life. And “life” is what matters now.

My husband and I had a few projects that were in the works before this happened and we’re still inching those forward. There’s a series coming out this year in Europe called COLD COURAGE that we worked on: he wrote & Story Edited. I was a Script Consultant and I actually had the joy of writing a song lyric that is part of a key scene. Can’t wait to hear the final mix as, obviously, we weren’t able to be there as it was finishing post. I think it will air in the US in 2021.

I try to do a vocal warmup for every one of the 4,372 times each day I wash my hands.

DG: Have you been helping create projects online for people to watch or listen to?

SG: Yes! It’s a lifesaver.

My favorite thus far is a song parody I wrote (re-wrote Lee Adams great lyric) and uploaded to YouTube called “How Lovely When News Was Stupid.” It’s a parody of BYE BYE BIRDIE’S song, “How Lovely to Be A Woman”, written by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse.

No production value! I’m just sitting in a chair in my living room. But it’s struck a nerve. It’s gotten thousands of views and shares and online posts. I’ve gotten some very kind emails from people telling me the song caused them to laugh for the first time in weeks. That’s a blessing.

This is the song. Please enjoy and share with anyone who could use a smile!

My friend Mark Evanier wrote a terrific parody about the mess we’re all in and he’s asked me to sing/record. As soon as I learn the lyric, it’s next up.

DG: What about interviews?

SG: I’ve done some online (ZOOM) theatre and interviews and just today was asked to write & perform a piece for a benefit for the Chicago Actor’s Fund.

When John Prine died, I was heartbroken. Loss of a giant. I adored his songs. A couple of years ago I wrote a concert special for the Lyric Opera called CHICAGO VOICES that later became a PBS special. Prine was in the cast and he won an Emmy for his performance.

The night he died I kept crying and singing his songs. I’d done, “Angel From Montgomery” in a recent show and took that clip and put it online. It’s a perfect song and I love singing it. Playing/arranging is the great Doug Peck, who I met when he conducted and was the Music Director on CHICAGO VOICES.

This is that video:

I have so many friends writing songs, recording songs, writing commentary/jokes – I think it’s so vital to have that outlet. I love seeing how singers, actors and writers are reacting to what we’re collectively experiencing.

I was so impressed by the song written by dear friends, Michele Brourman & Hillary Rollins, “While There is Still Time,” sung by another woman I adore – Maude Maggart. (I always say Maude’s is the voice that angels wish they had.) It had a touching video made by Christine Lavin who I’ve never met, but whose work I so admire. A gorgeous effort.

Seeing how other people are speaking out inspires me and makes me stronger. I am unofficially mentoring a few people – We keep in touch and I follow what they are doing.

I probably post much too much online – but it’s impossible not to see the insanity swirling around us and ignore it. I try to do it in a way that makes people smile and think – and I delete any responses that call for violence or cruelty. There’s enough of that in a million other places.

I feel like people are moving to a different place this week. Now that we’re sheltered-in-place for over a month, we’re all looking for the next step. I’ve started to get calls and e-mails asking my availability for writing special material or full shows/acts. I love how many performances are happening online and I’ve always happy to help!

DG: Do you have any recommendations for people on how to extend their creativity? Should they stick to what they know best or venture into unchartered territory?

SG: If there ever was a time to venture into unchartered territory – it’s now! We are flooded with emotions right now – fear, uncertainty, impatience, vulnerability, anger, gratitude, love – if that doesn’t inspire a song or a script or a joke or a dance or a painting or an opera or a concert…WHAT WILL?

This is a rare moment of stillness, although it’s impossible to be still in this political climate. We’re all feeling a ton of stress and anxiety. It’s helpful – emotionally, psychologically and physically – to challenge yourself.

One practical thing I need to learn how to do is add more production value to my videos. The days of just singing to camera aren’t enough anymore. I don’t have a green screen and don’t know how to do it…YET. But I am going to learn.

I finally got pulled onto Instagram – I’m GroovyShelly (and at Twitter - @GroovyShelly) Follow me! I’ll follow back.

If I’m not creating, the only options left are worrying/crying/obsessing – or eating carbs. I spent 3 years carb-free and that has gone out the window. I can attempt many things of value during a pandemic. Giving up pasta and bagels is not one of them!

There is so much literally at our fingertips right now. Go online. People are giving classes, sharing shows, major theatres and cabarets are streaming past productions. Take a class – then teach a class. This is a great time for bartering. What can I learn from you? What can I teach you?

No one knows how or when we get out of this, but when we do – I hope it’s with more of a sense of compassion and community. If we don’t learn it now, we never will.

DG: There are so many lies out there. It seems that we have to make our own truth and that is scary. Do you have any predictions on how and when this whole nightmare will be over?

SG: Wow. We must, must, must fight to keep the truth alive. We must dig for it and we must counter that dangerous lies that we face every hour of every day.

Right now, the single most important thing is to listen to the experts and leaders like Governors Cuomo, Newsom, Pritzker, Witmer, Inslee. We also need to STAY AT HOME! Yes, there are a million other places we’d like the freedom to go right now. Be patient. Tough it out. If you don’t want to do it for any other reason, do it to show respect for the medical personnel who are working superhuman hours to keep people alive. It’s literally the least we can do. We must “Stay the F Home!”

We all see how hard the medical first responders are working. The best way we can help them is to flatten the curve. Which means staying home. Another great way to help them is to send food to your nearest ER.

If a friend is alone or vulnerable, send them a GrubHub gift card or find out what you can send them.

I have no idea when this will be over – or even HOW it will be over. I know it will not absolutely end in one single day. But I can’t fathom what the stages will be that will put us on the road to “normal.”

I think it’s important to say, “I don’t know” when you don’t know. People don’t like those 3 little words and they also don’t like, “I was wrong.” The inability of some of our leaders to honestly say those 2 phrases when needed is one of the things that got us into this mess.

Spread facts. Spread science. Spread art. Spread love. Spread kindness & compassion – and a healthy heaping of dish. Keep washing your hands.

And to quote that great philosopher, Dolly Gallagher Levi (by way of Jerry Herman) – “Whatever you do, for God’s sake, KEEP BREATHING!”

TWITTER follow me @groovyshelly
INSTAGRAM - GroovyShelly

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Joshua Finkel Creativity Interview

Actor/director/producer/teacher Joshua Finkel does not let Covid-19 get in the way of his work. In our discussion he gives us examples of the projects he is most proud of and is totally insistent on marching forward in spite of the odds.

Are you still working during Covid-19? If so, for whom?

Right now I'm just working for California Lutheran University. Everything else that would be extracurricular or master classes or whatever has shut down so that is my ongoing semester gig

After I get over some work pile with that, learning how to segue all that info online-- which is a definite trial-and-error learning curve, I might do some free online classes for clients just to keep people creative, because I know people are out of work and they can't afford to pay me for stuff like this most likely. So it's a really tricky catch-22 and I'm grateful for the University right now.

But that is the only place I work aside from New Musicals Inc where I am not doing master classes because we have to maintain social distance, 
Plus there is no reason to need to audition for anything right now because everything is shut down.

My directing projects at California Lutheran also got shut down.
It we can, we will remount those shows in the fall if some of those people are still there.
It's a weird bubble as you know.

When yoiu work with a client, do you encourage a new interpretation of playing a role or adding something innovative?

If I am teaching my cabaret class or I am working with a client to build a one person show, it's always about finding a fresh angle or finding a subject matter that is less explored, but that they have a very close and personal relationship with.

One of my favorite results of that was with Roslyn Cohn, who let us know that she had been a member of the church of Scientology for 27 years and had gotten out.
This was a few years back, before the "Going Clear" film had come out and really no one had a clear understanding of the breakdown and blow-by-blow of the Scientology organization

So we built a cabaret act that she had filmed at Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal. I helped with everything from the poster design to the title to the choreography to the structure and the content.

Her goal was to make it accessible via YouTube and inform folks who are considering going into the church that they should not, as well as inspiring and supporting those trying to get out of the church.

After she posted it, she received so many international invitations to perform it at festivals and venues around the world.

Because it is such a painful journey for her to go through emotionally,  though of course it has a lot of comedy in it, she turned it down ...because she did not want to have to go through it again. But she was thrilled that it has gotten all of that attention and is helping folks around the world.

That's a great story. Ros Cohn is a talented lady, and I am sure she made the right decision for herself at that point in her career. Any other cabaret clients with interesting happenings to relate?

Yes, another set of cabaret clients not only did their show in Los Angeles but also at 54 Below a New York, and that was an exciting journey. Two Broadway teens who knew each other during their year on Broadway working in separate shows Matilda, and Annie, came together at last

What do you feel are your most effective strategies in coaching your students?

I often try to help people give the best possible audition: best vocals in the correct style, clear emotionally full acting choices that also stay within the genre. But if they are going 'outside the box' we practice choices that way too, so in case they are asked for an adjustment, they are ready as well and have explored options.

Many times when we are building a part my client booked after coaching/callback coachings, we go through the role and I give them the system to look at it both as an actor, and also as a director to help come up with the smartest and most well rounded choices.

I did that with Sandy Bainum prior to playing Mame back east
and just with Talya Sindel to build Esmeralda in Hunchback, which of course got postponed/cancelled due to Corona.

So, right now, I'm weekly coaching my students at California Lutheran University on Cold Reading and Acting and Monologue Prep, plus teaching some voice lessons on line and also teaching Tap to my online dance students at CLU.

I am doing live teaching with supplemental training videos I create so the students can drill from those as well between our sessions.  I record the sessions in the cloud and share those sessions with the students as well for further study.

Whether already accomplished or yet to come, the projects of Josh Finkel are never ending. For him and his students, creativity most definitely goes on....
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Josh is still hoping that all postponed work will return:

1. Next to Normal  P3 Theatre Company opening August 13 in Long Beach

2. Hollywood Revisited returns to the Greystone Mansion August 25

3. Czech Musicals at the Hollywood Fringe Festival October 2020

4.In the meantime folks can enjoy the cast album of one of the award winning shows which dropped in The Wedding Night on CD baby

All info at

Joshua Finkel, MFA
Director, Actor,
Acting Coach

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Tiffany Bailey 3

Actress/singer Tiffany Bailey has many talents. She also happens to be a behavioral therapist for children with autism. I laud her for that. Last spring 2019 she released an album entitled "Jazz with Pop" and her cabaret show was very well received. In this interview she updates our readers as to the success of the CD and talks about her other projects for 2020.

How has your CD been selling since your concert last spring?

TB: The Jazz with POP CD has been selling ok. People seem to like the disco inspired groove of Twilight Tone and the soft haunting feel of True
Colors the best. More people are hearing about Jazz with POP, so that is great! I have it listed on all music platforms: Itunes, Spotify, Amazon, CD Baby! I also have it available on my website:

When is your next concert appearance and where?*

TB: I’ve got a few private gigs coming up in January and February. Next public gig is set for Thursday: April 9th at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s. This is one of my favorite venues. I have some cool things planned.
Lots of exploration in 80s/90s pop, musical theater, epic songs that have theatrics, a little Jazz, and comedy! Another gig I’m excited about is:Thursday: June 26th at The Gardenia Lounge. with my friend,
Francesca Amari, who is a popular cabaret singer in Palm Springs. Two very different shows. Both incorporating: comedy, cabaret, and some musical
theater, mixed with pop.

Are you changing what you will sing for the next series of concerts?

TB: In some ways yes. I will always have my Jazz roots. But, I’ve really
been exploring the comedy of Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball. Also
finding some great musical theater I like; some pop influenced songs,
and a little Lawrence Welk, if you can believe it.

Tell our readers again about growing up with a musical father and
how it motivated you to want to sing professionally.

TB: Growing up with a father who plays music has been one of the greatest
blessings in my life. When it came to learning about cool artists. My
dad was steeped in the jazz world, so I learned about and listened to
Chet Baker, Diane Schuur, Charlie Parker. But he also introduced me to
the Bee Gees, Captain & Tenille, Ray Charles, Hall & Oates, The
Carpenters…the list goes on. Even now, dad is always sending me links
to music I should listen to. We have a lot of fun chatting about it.
And he really understands my musical tastes, so I listen to a huge
variety of music.

Are you embarking on essaying other styles of music, or do you feel
more comfortable staying with jazz and pop?

TB: I feel very safe with and love singing the jazz standards and pop
music, but I’m definitely exploring new music genres in the last few
years. I’m wanting to bring in a funk component to some of my
arrangements; I’m also exploring adding a theatrical element to my
shows, so I’m listening to a lot of show tunes, both from the Golden
era of Broadway and contemporary shows. I’m really attracted to songs
that tell a story, and I want to translate that to my shows:
storytelling with music, words and lights. I want my audiences to feel
“full” when they leave my shows. I want the music to speak out,
loudly. And I want them to really understand the stories behind the
songs and feel the passion I do about the music itself.

What other projects are on the horizon or more specifically in the
near future?

TB: I’m exploring more acting and voiceover work. I’ve gotten my headshots
done for commercial film and TV. I’m trying to put myself out there to
get a feature film. I love using my voice in fun ways and exploring
what I can do as an actor. Recently, I’ve started to figure out how to
perfect Carol Channing’s unique speaking style. It’s a tricky one; she
was such an incredible talent.

I’m also looking to get more involved in directing cabaret shows and
theatrical productions. I have a background in music and art therapy.
I truly enjoy working on shows and being involved in the writing and
development process. I think I bring something valuable to other
artists, including adding the component of fun, organization,
creativity and collaboration.

Tell us again who your favorite singers are, old and new.

TB: My idol, Karen Carpenter is number one. Others include Lea Michelle,
Sharon McNight, Esperanza Spalding, Casey Abrams and Melody Gardot.
Lately, I’ve been really intrigued and enamored with Billie Eilish –
both as a person and performer.

Do you wish to add anything?

TB: I decided this past year to really follow my passions, so I have been
taking piano lessons, which has added so much joy to my life. My goal
was to accompany myself at a show, and I’m happy to report that I will
be doing that! I just want to immerse myself in the entertainment
world, from music to directing to cabaret to voice work and acting.

* This concert has been cancelled due to COVID-19. When things get back to normal, the concert will be rescheduled.

When I asked Tiffany Bailey what she is doing to stay active creatively, she had the following to communicate with us:

TB: Haven’t rescheduled yet. So hard to know when to do it. Probably looking at early next year, or end of this year. Just continuing to work on projects and stay musically moving & grooving. 

We were so excited to be doing our show : The Tiffany Zone in April at Feinstein’s. But, safety is what’s most important. We are looking forward to rescheduling. The Tiffany Zone, directed by Keri Kelsey, is going to be a blast to the 80’s and 90’s, quirky stories, heartfelt ballads, and lots of music you can celebrate with. We are even bringing back actual high school show choir friends from my high school (Erin Rivlin & Crystal Keith)! Both ladies are exceptional musicians. We will have some great moves too. My special guest will be jazz musician:  Jeffrey Gimble. Featuring Emile Hassan Dyer as well. Musical Director: Jamieson Trotter!
Info about upcoming dates can be found at:

During this time, I’ve been staying sane by: Playing piano 2 hrs a day, taking a sight singing class with Jazz singer/teacher Sandra Booker, working on shows with Karen Celeste Kruz, and Francesca Amari Sajtar.  Dancing every day & learning new moves. Having creative conversations with friends and family. Acting silly, taking risks (videos, live streams, writing), virtually making crafts with my niece. Finding resourceful ways to connect with people. Taking time to appreciate the space during this scary time. Funny how suddenly doing the dishes, has become more enjoyable. Especially to music. Grateful to all who are helping to burn this pandemic out. 

Visit Tiffany bailey at:

Monday, March 16, 2020

Interview with Susan Priver

Actress Susan Priver is a Los Angeles native and former ballerina. The story of how she started in ballet and finally crossed over to acting is the subject of her new mmoir entitled Dancer Interrupted. In our conversation she gives us great detail about the devastating ups and downs of her life. Her passion will make you want to rush out and buy the book, which is a great read.

The style of your book is so affecting. It was like reading your personal diary. Your thoughts and emotions jumped out and hit me. I understood.

SP: OMG, that's what I wanted to do. Let me tell you, it took 8 years. You are a writer by profession, whereas I am an actor.

I am an actor too.

SP: You are an actor too, but you have been writing longer than I. Not all actors can write, but I think actors learn the most important thing is the dialogue, what the person is feeling. I did have diaries from this growing up stage and I remember a lot, not everything, but everything that's in there I remember very distinctly because of my emotional place. I had a tough, tough time with people that I loved.

I felt so sorry for you spending time on the couch and you didn't want to leave it. Your father was hard on you, but he was so funny in his approach.

SP: Let me tell you, I hear kids now. How do you raise a kid? My dad was... "You get your ass off that couch". He was raised a certsain way and he was what he was, but...he didn't understand exactly what I was going through. He didn't have the empathy, but maybe the empathy would have been bad for me.

He did understand what your mother was doing to you and how that relationship was hurtful to you.

SP: She had empathy. My mom enjoyed being a nurse.

She wanted to keep you dependant on her.

SP: That's exactly right. She got some kind of enjoyment out of enabling me to sit there and just fall apart. I've never been a parent, and will never be a parent obviously, but it must be such a hard be a parent.

Henry (Olak) he your husband?

SP: No, we've been together for 17 years you know Henry?

No, just from reading about him in the book. I thought he was the best of your boyfriends, so kind and understanding. Gregory, the Russian, I wanted to take him and twist his neck.

SP: I think what I wanted to do with Gregory was contextualize in the way that I was still a bunhead. Dancers...I don't know if you know that world at all...I think the acting world is a little broader, because you are fencing, you're dancing, you're learning great playwrights, you're learning how to present yourself in a way that isn't just the veil of ballet, which is extremely difficult. The amount of commitment is more than what actors put in, and it keeps you from many other things. Learning that people take advantage of people. Perhaps my family didn't prepare me for that. My dad would have known, he was a lawyer. He was used to bad things happening in the world. But, maybe I didn't listen. I just was hopeful, hopeful that everything would be ok in those early years. Then when I was out in the world, when it was time to meet someone, maybe I wasn't ready for...I enjoyed being put down. I was a masochist.

Oh yeah, I felt bad for you as I read. I kept thinking, "She's got to break out of this."

SP: And I did...eventually. I did work in a workshop for a while about the craft of writing. I got better as I went along. In terms of the book, people want to feel like they are not going to die. It's not like a Hollywood movie, but I did survive certain things, and a lot of people don't survive.

One thing I did not quite understand. Why were you fired from the Cleveland Ballet ? They said "We have to let you go." What was the reason?

SP: I don't know.

Was it a weight thing?

SP: No. I was the skinniest I had ever been. I don't know exactly what it was, whether it had to do with funding...and they didn't need my services anymore. I didn't stay in line with people very well. I was in the corps de ballet. It might have been that. I was not a soloist. Maybe they didn't need any corps dancers...maybe they needed a soloist but they needed someone better than me. I don't know, but ballet never had a lot of money in these regional companies. They get grants and they bring people up through the schools. City ballet and American Ballet Theatre in New York have money.
Because it was never explained to me, that made it hard. It makes you question yourself. You just go get another job.

I loved your audition for Gwen Verdon and Bob Fosse in New York, where they told you to find a better song. You did "Happy Birthday"! (we both laugh)

SP: I saw people bringing out the sheet music. I didn't sing and I went to the audition kind of on a dare. Fosse liked tall ballet dancers, but ballet dancers who could sort of sing.

Fosse had an addiction problem. I try to bring that out in the book. I think creatives tend to have that.element in them, if they're any good. We're addicts. It's sad but true. A behavioral psychologist who is a professor at USC read my book and said he wants to give it to his addict students. There is a thing... How do you find a self without your addiction? For me it was finding a voice

I wrote down that the message of your book is learning to love yourself and taking your place in the world via the arts, first as a dancer and lastly, an actor. In the Forward, you tie them in so well, when you say that ballet is poetry in motion. "I couldn't live without it." Later you add,  "how will I ever get poetry back in my life?"

SP: I had that in my journal. Ballet is a hard icky sticky world but it does have poetry. Then when I took a job as a secretary, I couldn't do anything. My dad thought I was kind of an idiot. My dad was really more of an atheist than Jewish, but in Jewish families, education is everything. Being a baller dancer is really not what they do. But I was weird and we had a little bit of a weird family.

Why did you write the book? For many an autobiography is a catharsis, but I think it's more than that for you. Sum up the various lessons you have learned that have brought you to this current state of bliss.

SP: For me it was to find my particular sensitivity to what had happened to me, in another craft. I always use that sensitivity in the characters that I like to play, particularly in Tennessee Williams...and Pinter. It was a way of creating one full thing that was my own. It was mine. It came directly from my experience. I like to filter that sensitivity into roles that I am capable of playing. I did do Lorraine Sheldon in The Man Who Came to Dinner, which is completely broad and bombastic, but I learned how to use my strength and my kind of witchiness and brought that to it.

So having the experience of doing Blanche in Streetcar and writing this book that has pure emotions in it, pure thoughts in it...I had to shape everything and make it into a craft. I did have an editor, and it's crafted.

I'm also a yoga teacher, and I love teaching.You're giving back. As actors we take people into another world. All people are attracted to storytelling. I'm attracted to storytelling through playwrights. Everybody has a story. It's putting it together and contextualizing why does this relate to this and that. I had to work out my life, that I really didn't have to be a doormat and be used by men like Gregory, a dark passionate Russian who was also an alcoholic. I also had to work out that not everybody hated me and wanted to hurt me as he did. gain confidence, because when I stopped dancing, I had zero confidence, and that's why I attracted certain kinds of men in my life.

Dancers do exactly what they're told to do. It's manipulation and unless somebody gives them a backbone...and my parents were not really bad people. I just didn't listen to that. And as far as drug addiction is concerned, I had to say loud. "You did this to yourself. You are going to have to dig yourself out of it." You cannot isolate yourself. I isolated myself because I was afraid. You learn from your failures. I became a strong human being. I am a survivor, and I hope that the book will help people to realize that you don't have to join a cult or take anidepressants. You have to dig down and embrace your darkness, embrace the things that make us human that will allow you to rise above that.
The dance world taught perfection, Hollywood taught having your face lifted to be, it's what comes out of you: that's what you look like.

There will be signings of Dance Interrupted

on April 13th at Book Soup, Hollywood with John Fleck---Q and A

and on April 27th at Vroman's, Pasadena with Lian Dolan---Q and A

These events are subject to change depending on the state of the Corona Virus.

Check for updates.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Message on the Corona Virus and Theatre Closings


Friday, March 13, 2020

Interview with Social Worker Daniela Rojas Garnica

The following article explains the atrocity in Colombia in 2010, presents an original story beautifully written about the children and introduces social worker Daniela Rojas Garnica with whom I had a short inerview.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Letter to U.S. officials regarding rape and murder by Colombian military

Description: Last Thursday, October 14, three siblings, Jenny, age 14, Jimmy, age 9, and Jeferson, age 6, were found tortured, strangled and beheaded in a ditch near their home in Caño Temblador, near Tame, Arauca. A delegation made up of their teachers, social leaders of Tame, a member of Arauca’s state legislature and representatives of the Permanent Committee for Human Rights visited the ditch and took testimony from witnesses in the area that links the Colombian military with what happened. Apparently, military men raped the girl and killed the boys who witnessed their sister’s rape. The Commander of the 18th Brigade complained to local radio programs that the accusations were false and made up by the "guerrillas." More than 6,000 people from the region showed up at their funeral on October 19 in a demonstration of solidarity with the family, condemning the crime and demanding a prompt and clear investigation, given the fact that the presumed responsibility falls on members of the Colombian Army. 

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
                                                                                                       THE GAME THAT HID MY FRIENDS

This story is made in memory of the case of violence presented in the municipality of Tame, Arauca in 2010.


Ten years ago, on the "Flor Amarillo" sidewalk in the municipality of Tame (Arauca), I remember that it was more or less in the middle of October 2010 that all the children on the sidewalk were meeting, playing, since we like to play hide and seek in the forest because it is very big.

We agreed to get together to play after lunch, they chose me to count from ten to ten to a thousand, and then go out to look for my friends who had surely hidden among the trees, - well you know what it is about the game! well the case is that we were: Pedrito, Juanchito, Miguelito, Carlitos, Osquítar, Francy and me; first caught Miguelito unprepared ... - "1, 2.3 por Miguelito", then I surprised the Osquítar, hidden there on top of an orange tree. - "1, 2.3 for Osquítar", after neglecting my "base" I am surprised by Pedrito: - 1, 2.3 for me and "safe country" which implies saving the rest of the players, that is, Juanchito , Carlitos and Francy.

- Francy, Juanchito, Carlitos? , already "saved homeland" for you.

Ten minutes and nothing, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five and nothing.

- We are all going to look for them, could it be that they hid far away?

- Sure !, and maybe that's why Pedrito doesn't listen to us.

We decided to distribute ourselves to look for them and this is where the mystery begins, Pedrito went to the houses to see if they were close, Miguelito walked in the direction of some banana crops, where it was said that the spirit of evil lived. Osquítar and I instead walked around the area where we were playing in the hope of reaching the "base".

Around the houses nobody had seen them, the only thing they knew was that their father was working on the neighboring sidewalk and that they were not authorized to leave the sidewalk, therefore they would not be with him. Miguelito, on the other hand, moved to the banana crops with the fear of meeting the evil spirit, but what he was finding was nothing more than clothing from his friends, first he found a shoe by Francy, possibly the right, then he found the scarf he was wearing as part of his hairstyle, he also found a flip flop for his older brother, a shirt for his younger brother and something a little more strange, he found whole locks of long hair, some say that the spirit leaves remains of hair so that they know that it was he who took them and disappeared them.

For our part, Osquítar and I, we were waiting a lot around our game, going round and round, waiting and waiting but nothing. Then we hoped to see them at school the next day, they did not go, we also expected them to visit us at home to do the homework all together as always, on Wednesdays and Fridays, but neither. In short, we have never seen them return.

Ten years have passed, since the spirit disappeared, however we still meet his father on special dates to eat and play, he is very happy to see us. He says seeing us reminds him of the innocence and purity of children and of course we reflect his children. Although it is hard to accept that they are no longer physically with us, I know that they are still here, because I feel them close. Sometimes dreaming of them, they are always dressed in white and in reality they look very calm, I see them very happy playing "the wheel wheel" and then ... they reach out their hands and invite me to play with them and as I walk towards them , they tell me:

-You are not to blame, friend, that this is so ugly, however, peace must be achieved, we must fight for our dreams, do not worry about us, here we are very well, we are happy and we are calm.

-All right, Francy, Juancho and Carlitos, your words give me courage and strength to not stop dreaming and chasing my dreams, do not forget that we also continue from here and will continue to remember them every day and carry them with us in our thoughts and dreams. And especially remembering for you.

- I know, friend, I know ... Let's play until you wake up.

I invite you, and all the children, not to lose hope of finding paths that lead us to peace, to persist in the fight not to be forgotten.

What ending would you put to the story? (children may write snd draw in a space below)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

SUBJECT: Interview on the psychosocial area CORPORACIÓN CLARETIANA
Wishing success in your daily work through this I will give an account of the
psychosocial support process that we provide at the CORPORATION
CLARETIANA NORMÁN PEREZ BELLO to victims of state crimes in the framework
of the Colombian armed conflict, in relation to the questions sent by mail

With the paramilitary presence throughout the country, a massive forced displacement began without
precedents that led the Intercongregational Commission for Justice and Peace of the CRC to direct
its actions in defense of the rights of communities in various regions of the country. The
Claretians were part of the Intercongregational Justice and Peace and we carried out missions
especially in Medellín del Ariari, Meta; also in communities of Chocó and

For the year 1996, at the initiative of students in the training stage and trainers,
we decided to form the Human Rights Committee "Norman Pérez Bello" in memory
of this young man who worked with the Claretian Missionaries and was assassinated by the forces of the State in Bogotá (1992). Since then, we have welcomed leaders and defenders and
human rights defenders, formalizing us as a Corporation in 2003 as
non-governmental organization defending human rights and accompaniment to
victims of state crimes in the framework of the Colombian armed conflict.

The Corporation provides comprehensive and therapeutic psychosocial care, whose target population
It is made up of human rights defenders and victims of State crimes in the framework of the armed conflict that remain in Bogotá, who present psychosocial affectations as a result of the victimizing acts, and they well request Attention or are sent by social organizations with which we work in partnership. Psychosocial support and care is carried out from the systemic and
social constructionism, implementing the model of resilience and mutual aid in
individual, family, group and community intervention, from careful listening and
art therapy, which allows through music, painting, meditation, dance between
other techniques that allow identifying needs, potentialities and aspects to be transformed
for the reconstruction of life projects.

In the framework of psychosocial care, the following programs of Attention:

1. Welcoming the lives of those who defend human rights: a shelter for Human rights defenders who are in a situation of risk, providing support through the temporary shelter modality, being
initially the reception for one month, with an extension of up to three months, in that period of time humanitarian aid is provided, legal advice, psychosocial support, food, clothing, therapeutic care and training through the School - Workshop.

2. Workshop School: Mending our history, weaving hope: Training space in human rights for boys, girls, youth, women and men who have been victims of State crimes in the framework of the armed conflict, being a space for recognition and enforceability of rights.

3. MUTRAME: Focus group of women who have been victims of the loss of their brothers or sentimental partners in the framework of the armed conflict, working from art therapy
the elaboration of the duel and from the memory component the reconstruction of their life projects and emotional as well as spiritual healing.

4. Social Movement of Boys, Girls and Youth for PEACE: It was born from the perspective that children and young people manage to imagine new paths for the notion of the component political, social and cultural of the country from childhood, in order to promote knowledge and practices from their experiences that allow influencing as political subjects in all spaces in those that develop.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

INTERVIEW with social worker Daniela Rojas Garnica, coordinator of attention and psychosocial accompaniment, Norman Perez Bello, Claretian Corporation

How sad! How awful! These horrible crimes have never been solved and the
military arrested. Has something been done?

Faced with the case of Tame Arauca on the murder and rape of a 14-year-old girl and
murder of her two brothers, aged 9 and 6, in 2010, a situation that is reflected
through children's literature, it was not an unpunished case in Colombia, since the military
committed this act was convicted of the crimes of aggravated violent carnal access and
aggravated homicide. However, the father of the children at the present time presents
permanent persecution and threats for reporting the fact.

The little tale is so beautiful in its simplicity of searching for the children and not
finding them. But their spirits live and peace is requested. Who wrote this story?

The story is written by Karen Rubiano of the Republican University Corporation,
who accompanies from her internship at the NORMAN CLARETIAN CORPORATION
PEACE, setting where the story is built: "The game that hid my friends."

What do you hope to achieve by getting people to read this? Do you think that the United States
will intervene and help defame the military responsible for these crimes?

From the construction of children's literature, it is sought with children and young people to make
a critical analysis of the reality of the country, being aware of the need for
social transformation in our territories and conceive ourselves as subjects of rights and
hope. I think organizations like USAID and the UN are betting on the fight to defend
human rights; however, it is necessary to have a complete analysis of the
problems to be able to intervene effectively.

I hope that justice is done/. What else
can we do to help?

We appreciate your solidarity and availability of help, we consider that a way
It is wonderful to support us is to give an account of our process and work at the international level.

I remain attentive,

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

2020 Intrview with Director Thomas James O'Leary

Director Thomas James O'Leary is delighted to be back at Actors Co-op after receiving the 2018 Ovation Award for Direction of a Play for 33 Variations.  

As an actor, Thomas is best known for his three-year run as the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway (over 1,000 performances) and Mason Marzac in Celebration Theatre’s Take Me Out. Thomas is a proud member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC). 

He is currently preparing to open Marvin's Room at Actors Co-op on March 20. In our conversation he talks about the play in depth.

Marvin's Room is a beautiful play because of playwright McPherson's (Scott) witty dialogue and outstanding characterizations. Bessie is nothing short of a minor miracle in the play. She brings such light and hope to everyone. How do you feel as the director about Bessie's fierce determination to keep everything on a positive note?

T O'L: Bessie is the heart of this piece. At times she can seem almost saintly, but I love that Scott McPherson has written her in a very human way. We are left to wonder how much she chose to be in the situation she has been in for 20 years as primary caregiver to her father and aunt. Scott is so good at portraying real people in challenging situations, while keeping a quirky comic tone dancing throughout. She does have an uncanny ability to see the glass as half full, but she also struggles with her burden and fears as anyone might. The primary story is about how we can keep on keeping on, with as much positivity as possible, through trying circumstances.

What challenges do you have in directing the piece? Is the disparity between Bessie and Lee the only conflict to deal with?

T O'L: We have focused a lot on honoring Scott’s unique comic voice, which is a bit counterintuitive at times to the subject matter, but I believe that the comic tone is what makes the play work. There are also a lot of moving parts in this production – and every designer brought her and his A game to make it all happen. And yes, Bessie and Lee, the two long-estranged sisters at the center of this piece, have the most conflict, but Lee has her own struggles with both of her sons, and Bessie is sometimes challenged by Aunt Ruth and Marvin, and even her doctor!

Love is at the center of the play and McPherson allows for such wonderful imaginative power within the audience. What do you see the message(s) of the play to be?

T O'L: Love is definitely at the center of the play, though as in real life, it doesn’t always come easy to these characters. The big concerns of living and dying and caring are deep themes throughout. While Bessie’s love is unable to stop her illness, it does impact everyone in the family, including her. Simple acts of caring transcend the darker fate that awaits her. It’s heartening to see how each character transforms.

My favorite character apart from Bessie is daffy Aunt Ruth. She is superb comic relief and so lovable. Talk about the comedy in the play that deals with such serious life and death matters.

T O'L: When I first saw the play at the Minetta Lane Theatre in NYC in 1992, I was so moved by it, in part because I was living what I saw on that stage, as I was the primary caregiver for my partner who was very ill at that time. I totally related to Bessie’s journey. And I laughed throughout the whole play. And I think Scott’s writing is brilliant – he’s so skilled at comedic but genuine dialogue – tickling our funny bone in one breath and then touching our heart in the next. I marveled at how he did it! Scott achieves something so unique here – there’s a little John Guare and a little Christopher Durang in his writing – but Scott keeps it all grounded in a nuanced reality with beautifully touching moments throughout. So we laugh through the pain. It’s not really a black comedy like Joe Orton. I call it a funny-sad play, but more funny than you’d expect. It’s such a tragedy that we lost Scott McPherson at the age of 33, just six months after he won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play for Marvin’s Room. Just think of how many other gems he would have written by now!

Tell our readers about your cast.

T O'L: I am blessed with an extraordinary cast – and all are actors who were new to me. The Actor’s Co-op is rich with talent! Francesca Casale is simply sublime as Bessie. Tara Battani Bowles is pitch perfect as Lee, the vulgar white-trash sister and mother of the two boys. Kane Filbeck has a natural sensitivity beneath Hank’s hard-to-pierce armor. I went a little younger in casting Marek Meyers as Hank’s younger brother Charlie because he is so unaffected, and he and Kane are so convincing as brothers. Brian Habicht is hysterical as Dr. Wally in scenes that are written as sketch comedy, but he also keeps it grounded in enough reality to allow dramatic moments to hit us at unexpected times. And Crystal Yvonne Jackson is so real and funny as Aunt Ruth. Justin Bowles and Kimi Walker bring much needed versatility to dual roles. I couldn’t ask for a better cast!

How would you relate this play to others you have directed? With a small cast, the ambiance is intimate and relatable. Where else gives the piece its power?

T O'L: Well, I just love this play! It’s the most I’ve been in love with something I’ve directed since 33 Variations, and yet the two plays could not be more different. I think my love affair with this one is because of Scott’s comic writing and because of my connection to the play when I first saw it. We are definitely leaning more toward what I saw in the original production than the more serious direction of the movie. And from what I’ve read, we’re taking it back to its origins more than the Broadway revival of 2012, which was hindered by being spread out on a large stage. The 99-seat Schall Theatre is perfect for this intimate play, and I adore all of the design elements of our production – we’re going for a hyper-realism, with a lot of detail work in Bessie’s home (I just hope no one tries to plug their phone charger into one of the outlets). One of my central images is the bouncing light in Marvin’s room, and that has inspired the lighting and sound design, plus original music by Dylan Price.

This is another perfect play for Actors Co-op. Tell our readers if you agree and why.

T O'L: The Co-op’s acting company is brimming with great talent, so it’s a great fit for them. Plus the story does have a spiritual bent to it – though I see almost any play as spiritual. Scott even satirizes spiritual beliefs in one of Aunt Ruth’s monologues. But the real spirituality in the play is in the theme of discovering the joy of being able to love in an unconditional way, and in seeing everyone being transfigured by Bessie’s love. You can’t get more spiritual than that.

Add anything that you wish like other projects you have been involved in since directing The Christians.

T O'L: I directed concert version of one of my favorite musicals, Sunday in the Park with George, for Musical Theatre Guild last spring, simultaneously with The Christians. And this past fall, I directed Aida at AMDA College of the Performing Arts where I also teach. Ironically, though my Broadway credits were all musicals and I direct only musicals at AMDA, I’ve directed only non-musicals at Actors Co-op. I’m not complaining – I really do love both! I’d rather not get locked into one thing anyways.

MARVIN'S ROOM plays March 20 - May 3
Fridays/Saturdays 8 pm
Sunday Matinees 2:30 pm
Saturday Matinees 3/28 & 4/4 at 2:30 pm
*No Shows Easter Weekend April 10-12 

Dates TBD

at Actors Co-op David Schall Theatre
1760 N. Gower Street
Hollywood, CA 90028