Monday, November 19, 2018

Laura Loves Bali: Beats of Paradise

One of the things I love about New York is that it's a melting pot of cultures and film festivals. :) So when I was asked to interview director Livi Zheng at the New York premiere for her beautiful documentary, Bali: Beats of Paradise, I was SO psyched!

The film is GORGEOUS! It's about a Balinese performer-dancer-musician, Nyoman Wenten, who teaches gamelan in Southern CA where I grew up! Talk about a wild connection.
The film also shows how Wenten collaborated with Grammy Award winner, Judith Hill, to bring Balinese music and dance into the modern world.

Judith Hill is a fabulous singer-songwriter in her own right, and their collaboration is delicious!

I was fortunate to interview Judith at the New York Premiere as well, and she shared some behind-the-scenes stories on learning the Balinese dance for her music video, Queen of the Hill.

I also met American composer Jody Diamond who's been teaching gamelan and arranging for this ensemble of instruments and artists for almost 50 years! She had awesome stories about Lou Harrison whom she worked with in Joshua Tree, and she told me how the instruments "found" her when she was a college student, and that a chance encounter where the instrument "played her" became a lifelong profession.

Catch all this gorgeousness in my web series, Laura Loves NY:

Bali: Beats of Paradise is currently playing in theatres in New York and LA, and I hope you'll treat yourself to this beautiful film! It'll leave you breathlessly inspired!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Haunted by a Song

Have you ever been haunted by a song?

When I met Russell Kohlmann in the West Village to film the Pride episode of my web series, Laura Loves NY, we walked into an area of Christopher Park where 2 musicians were playing. And Russell said, "This is why Laura Loves NY because you can just stumble upon a random performance in the middle of the day."

Turns out the song was Riptide by Vance Joy, and it is delicious!


Thursday, September 20, 2018

A Walk Through Fort Tryon Park with Deborah Unger

Earlier this year, actress Deborah Unger joined me on my web series, Laura Loves NY, and she showed me one of her favorite spots in the city: Fort Tryon Park.

It is an absolutely LUSH experience, and I can't wait to go back! It's at the tip-top of Manhattan, but it doesn't take long to get there. The subway got me there  - from the West 30s to 190th Street - in a half hour!

Interestingly enough, after my walk in the park with Deb, I've seen signs everywhere about how it was 242 years ago that the British occupied Manhattan. They took over in September 1776, and as Deb remarks in the video, General George Washington and his troops initially LOST to the British! Wow!

I'm thankful to all those who fought -and continue to fight - for freedom.

As Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote, "History is happening in Manhattan, and we just happen to be in the greatest city in the world! In the greatest city in the world!"

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The people who helped me get through 9-11

Getting ready for work this morning, I flashed back to 17 years ago, wondering if I was doing the same thing... getting ready for work, heading out into the big city to take on the day.

We can get stuck in routines, you know? So today, I look back and thank the people who helped me get through that day:

Rodney Newby, my boss at Sony, had the wherewithal and presence of mind to send us all home when it had been confirmed this was a terrorist attack. Rodney continues to be a pillar of strength and compassion and innovation. I am so thankful for his friendship.

My husband, Rob. Getting home to him meant everything to me. It still does.

Maryanne Schwartz, our friend from the PA Renaissance Faire, with her sister, Tina Sams, was the first one to call us on our landline. Thank goodness we had one because all cellphone service was dead. Hearing her friendly voice was a soothing balm, and our friendship continues to be a beacon of hope and tenacity.

Then there were more calls from family and friends. My mom. My brother. Rob's family.

My Dad was stuck in Hawaii but we connected days later.

Just knowing we were able to check in with each other and make sure everyone was ok was a blessing that not everyone had that day.

Thinking of everyone who was affected by this tragedy.

We are all in this together and have to look out for each other.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The 20th Anniversary of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone

It's hard to believe it's been 20 years since Harry Potter was first published in America.

I remember seeing the book on a friend's desk and asking her about it, because who wouldn't be fascinated by the picture of a boy on a broom?

 She told me it was Harry Potter, and so I picked up a copy myself. This is before Pottermania took over the world, and JK Rowling's book felt like a secret treasure I'd just discovered.

I've got a first edition hard cover, but not a first printing, so it's value is whatever I assign to it: priceless! :)

This year, I had 2 friends whisk me off on Harry Potter-styled adventures: Kacey Camp, who plays a Wand Keeper at Ollivanders in Hogsmeade invited my husband and I to join her for a day, and my friend, Fern Lim, whom I worked with on the web series, Human Telegraphs, saw my post about going to Hogsmeade and invited me to catch Harry Potter and The Cursed Child with her.

So you could say I've been celebrating Harry's 20th Anniversary all year!

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Back to School Advice

Even though it's still 90 degrees in NY, most kids have gone back to school. And like a lot of actors, I'm heading back to class as well. So here's some sage advice for anyone who's studying this wild ride called Life :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Neil Simon's Speech from the Actors' Equity Association

When I was in high school, I remember the drama department doing, "Barefoot in the Park," and it was utterly charming. But I was introduced to Neil Simon long before that with "The Odd Couple," which my folks watched on TV when I was a kid. Then there were all his hits at the movies: "Murder By Death, "The Good-bye Girl," "Seems Like Old Times," most of which I was way too young for, but when "Biloxi Blues" hit the theatres, I totally got it! And a few years after the film, I got to play Daisy onstage.

When I moved to NY, I remember passing the theatre which had been endowed with his name, "The Neil Simon Theatre." I even took my husband and sister-in-law there to see "Hairspray."

 In 1983, Neil Simon received a special award from Actors' Equity Association at the National Membership Meeting. The following speech, which he made while accepting the reward, were first printed in Equity News in November, 1983.

“The actor is the bravest soul I know. My god, it’s hard to be an actor. I know of no greater act of courage than to walk out on an empty stage, seeing the silhouettes of four ominous figures sitting in the darkened theater, with your mouth drying and your fingers trembling, trying to keep the pages in hand from rattling and trying to focus your eyes on the lines so you don’t automatically skip the two most important speeches in the scene, and all the while trying to give a performance worthy of an opening night with only four pages of a play, the rest of which you know nothing about and can only guess at … and then to finally get through it, only to hear from the voice in the darkened theater, 'Thank you.' You nod politely, and start the interminable six mile walk off the stage into the wings, only to have to walk back on because you left your purse or you galoshes or your envelope with your resumes on the chair at stage right, now having to make a 12 mile walk off into the wings. It has got to be the most painful, frustrating and fearful experience in the world. Because with it comes a 90% chance of rejection. And to do it time after time, year after year, even after you’ve proven yourself in show after show, requires more than courage and fearlessness. It requires such dedication to your craft and to the work you’ve chosen for your life, that I’m sure if Equity posted a sign backstage that said, ‘Any actor auditioning for this show who gets turned down will automatically be shot,’ you’d still only get about a 12% turn away.

Since for the past 22 years I have been one of those silhouetted figures in the darkened theater, I want to express my gratitude and appreciation for your courage, your dedication, your talents. I think I became a writer partly because I had an acute case of shyness all through my youth and I was well into my teens before I said full sentences. Since then I have found spokesmen to utter my words and thoughts. And what spokesmen they were: Maureen Stapleton and George Scott and Walter Matthau and Jimmy Coco and Elizabeth Franz and Matthew Broderick and Peter Falk and Lee Grant and Alec Guiness and Marsh Mason and Jason Robards and Richard Dreyfus and Zeljko Ivanek and Jack Weston and Joan Hackett. And the featured actors and the bit players and the understudies and the thousand who have performed my plays in theaters, barns and probably supermarkets all over this country. I don’t know how many plays I have left in me, but I sure hope there’s enough to cover every actor who carries and Equity card.

The collaboration that has existed between us all these years had certainly not gone unappreciated by me. Recently I received the most thrilling tribute I’ve ever been given in my entire life: The naming of a theater after me. While it takes my breath away every time I see it, I’m not foolish enough or egotistical enough to think it got up there without the talent of those who have said my works all these year – my spokesmen!!! So the next time you pass 52nd Street near Eight Avenue, just think as I do, that the name of that theatre is the Neil Simon and company.“ - Neil Simon