Thursday, April 27, 2017

Shakespeare, Improv, and the PA Ren Faire

I've always loved Shakespeare, and have often earned the moniker:

So it's no surprise that one of my first professional full-time acting gigs was in the Shakespeare Troupe for the PA Renaissance Faire. I was also hired to be a singer in the Madrigal group and the Bawdy Balladeers.

Coming from the desert of California to lush world of Penn's Woods was quite a shock, but it was a delicious way to dive into my craft! We rehearsed 6 days a week, learning not only Shakespeare, but improv (Shakespearean Improv!), history, customs and manners. For example, a lady never walked to the left of her escort, because "a lady on the left was no lady at all." It was also because the gentleman had a sword on his left hip, and thus needed to draw it without fear of wounding his lady-friend.

I performed at the Faire for 4 years, enjoying the hard work of being "on" for 8 hourse a day, three-four days a week, running from show to show. We'd do half-hour segments of Shakespeare, as well as shows on court life, or a peasant's life. I played the town rogue, the court slut (historically Penelope Devereaux - above - had poems written about her, so she was classy and passionate), a grave-digger who could summon fairies, MacB's Third Witch, The Wall in Pyraums and Thisbe, and a Spanish innkeeper.

It was A BLAST! And I still use improv in so much of my work today! It's great for character-work onstage, and I've been asked to improvise on nearly every film I've worked on.

Plus I made some amazing life-long friends, and I met my husband there. Such joys and treasures!

"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." - William Shakespeare

Friday, April 14, 2017

Jackie Robinson Day

When I was a kid, I loved sitting with my great-grandpa, listening to Vin Scully call the play-by-plays for the Dodgers. He loved them when they were the Brooklyn Dodgers, and when he moved to LA, he took it as a sign because the Dodgers did too!

Sometimes he'd watch the Dodgers on TV, but I think he preferred to sit in his comfortable chair with a bowl of peanuts, listening to the game on the radio.

By this time, Jackie Robinson had passed on, but I was born on Jackie Robinson Day: April 15th. 

And I thought that was cool, that when I was coming into the world, this great ballplayer had made his major league debut.

My Dad always liked baseball - after all, this was his grandfather (my great-grandpa) - so I imagine he went through the same rituals I did, sitting there with grandpa, listening to the baseball game on the radio.

When I was growing up, Dad would let me round up the kids in the neighborhood so we could play baseball in our backyard. Girls weren't allowed in Little League at the time, so I created my own team! Dad would pitch, chasing after the ball after we'd "knock it out" of the backyard.

I still play catch with Dad when we visit.

And I played catcher for my nephews this past weekend, playing baseball in the backyard.

So I've always loved baseball, and when I saw the movie 42, and learned about Jackie's story, well... I'm glad to share my birthday with this great man. And keep on playing ball! :)

Monday, April 10, 2017

When You Realize You Have Wings

I just finished the 100 Day Get In Gear challenge with Bonnie Gillespie, author of Self-Management For Actors, and I feel FABULOUS!

I signed up for this to kick off my New Year, and somehow managed to do it in the midst of rehearsals and performances for Steel Magnolias. It was truly life-changing!

I recommend SMFA to every actor I meet, and wish I would've read it myself sooner! It's a great guide to strategizing the business side of show business, as well as creating clarity on your brand and nurturing your creative career.

The 100 Day challenge draws from the tools Bonnie writes about in SMFA, and just expands from there, providing daily lessons filled with videos, MP3s, group powwows, and all sorts of goodies to inspire artists on our journeys.

Today is Day 100 for me, and I definitely feel like I have wings! Looking forward to the next adventure! Let's FLY!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Truvy Talks with SGT NYC

On Friday, I had the idea to interview the co-founders of Stomping Ground Theatre Company, Melissa Harlow and Angela Shultz, as my character Truvy from Steel Magnolias. I figured, if anyone would have a talk show, it would be Truvy!

I spoke with producer and all-around Renaissance man, Chad Miller, and he offered to film and edit the video. God bless him!

Chad turned this around quickly so we could post on Facebook and Twitter last weekend before the show ended, and I thought I'd share it with y'all here in Blogland. Welcome to Truvy Talks!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Men Behind the Magnolias

Working on Steel Magnolias at Stomping Ground Theatre Company has been such a special experience. As our stage manager, Melissa Harlow asked, "Does every cast and crew who does this show feel this much love?" Truly, it's a lovefest, and I adore every single person onstage and off.

That leads me to today's blog. Our entire crew is made up of very talented gents! Yes, we're guided by our divine director, Angela Shultz and stage manager, Melissa Harlow, whom I introduced in my last blog, so come meet the fabulous fellows behind the construction of Steel Magnolias!

The Production designer Dan Henkel (below left) of Design 42 Architecture built the set with Joe Bergquist (middle - he's also our fabulous radio announcer in Truvy's shop) and Steven Bolt (right), who also did the graphic design for this show.

The set really blew us away. From the chekerboard floor...

... to the functioning sink where Annelle accidentally splashes M'Lynn with the hose!

The details are off the charts! One of our producers, Chad Miller, worked with Terence Buckley and Chip Kraemer to create about 20 magazines from the '80s which fill Truvy's shop! "I get McCall's, Family Circle, Glamour, Mademoiselle, Ladies Home Journal, every magazine know to man!"

Jackson Simmonds gave me some professional tips on hair - and even gave Oiser a trim! And Jerry Phelps was our dialect coach since he grew up in that part of Louisiana.

Tony Ponella is our incredible Lighting and Sound Technician (below with Melissa Harlow). Seriously, the gunshots and dog barking in Act 1/scene 1 are a symphony! And the music before-during-and-after the show are such an ode to the '80s. We dance every night!

Dustin Eastwood is our costumer designer, below with Mel.

And the sensational Scott Koonce, whom I've dubbed my son, Poot, is our Production Assistant. He helps us get set up every night, and he's responsible for The Tree of Beauty (below with our director, Angela Shultz).

Seriously, this crew makes every day feel like Christmas!

Of course, the play wouldn't exist without the talents of playwright Robert Harling, who wrote it for his sister, Susan, so her son Robert would know how much his mother fought to have a normal life despite a debilitating struggle with diabetes.

It's a beautiful show, and truly an honor to be a part of it!

We've got 3 more performances, so if you'd like to join us, please do! We're at 410 W. 40th Street. Tickets are $18. Hope to see you in the salon! ;)

Monday, March 06, 2017

Meet the Magnolias!

There's something about "Steel Magnolias" that really moves people. Maybe it's the story of the young woman who fights to "have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special," despite her deadly struggle with diabetes. Maybe it's the generations of women who surround her and worry about her, who strive to keep the world spinning with laughter and love in spite of personal tragedies. Maybe it's all of the above!

Whatever it is, I am so honored to be opening the play by Robert Harling (based on the life of his sister and mother) this Friday at 8 PM in NYC!  This production by Stomping Ground Theatre Company is really magical, and I am amazed at all the work they've put into it. We even have a working sink for the salon! ;)

I don't know if it's the nature of this play, but there is something so wondrous about the women I'm working with! There is just so much love! It's a pleasure to go to work every day! :)

Meet the Magnolias!

Me as Truvy, the fabulously funny Katie Donnelly as Annelle, Rebecca Hoodwin as Hurricane Oiser, Katherine Alt Keener as M'Lynn (her final monologue makes us all reach for tissues), Anna Laura Strider (a former Miss Alabama!) as Shelby, and Joan Valentina as Clairee.

And we would be nowhere without our fearless director, Angela Shultz (below right), and sensational stage manager, Melissa Harlow (below left)

These ladies are the co-founders of Stomping Ground Theatre Company, and they put the power in powerhouses!

Steel Magnolias runs Friday through Sundays March 10-12 and 17-19 at 8 PM at 410 W. 40th Street.

Tickets are $18, a portion of which goes to Living Well, a life skills empowerment program at Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries for women who've experienced trauma. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Introducing... Truvy!

I've been having a BLAST with the beautiful ladies of "Steel Magnolias." Our director, Angela Shultz, has such a clear vision, and our stage manager, Melissa Harlow, is so on top of everything! They are both fearless and fabulous!

Last night we got our salon chairs - thanks to Mel driving throughout Jersey for 'em - and everyone took a spin!

I'm already in love with this cast! Katie Donnelly is hilarious as Annelle, Joan Valentina is pure class as Clairee, Anna Laura Strider is the perfect Shelby, Katherine Alt Keener is heart-breaking as M'Lynn, and Rebecca Hoodwin is going to steal the show as Oiser! What a talented group of ladies!

Katherine Alt Keener who plays M'Lynn said last night, "This feels so comfortable!" It feels like we've known each for years!

Each actress is being introduced on Facebook on the Stomping Ground Theatre Company page, so y'all come visit, ya hear! ;)

Here's my little bio:

Everyone always asks where I’m from, because I'm “too nice for NY.” I’m from Southern CA but my grandparents were from Texas. My Grandma Millie would be so proud I’m playing Truvy. She was all about beauty and style!

Me? I love NY! I recently performed in back to back shows Off Broadway as the wise-cracking Kay in Do Re Mi and Judy Garland/Janis Joplin in Hell's Belles. I received the NYMF Award for Outstanding Performance in The Tragic and Horrible Life of the Singing Nun, and was the original Pat the Park Ranger in Sasqatched the Musical! I fell in love with a shark in JAWS the Musical, and earned the title, "Bitchiest Bitch of the Bitchissippi" as Sophie in the international recording of Roberta. Regional Theatre: I played a near-sighted mob mistress in Lucky Stiff and won the Inland Theatre League Award for Educating Rita. Upcoming films include 39 and ½, Tick Tock, and the series, Trending. Thanks to Stomping Ground Theatre Company, Table 5, my friends and family. To my husband, Robbie: You always melt my butter. :)