Thursday, June 29, 2017

Stories with PRIDE

When I was a kid, I was a tomboy. Totally rough 'n tumble, getting scraped knees, climbing trees. I was an adventurer! And on the flip side of this, or maybe the perfect complement of this, was my love for the library. I was from a small town, so the one place which held the treasures of The World - and experience outside of my small town - was the library! There was a special section for kids, which was very colorful, and once I'd riffed my way through "Little Women," I went into the more grown-up part of the library. This was where I found my haven: PLAYS!

It was a small section. I don't think it took up an entire rack, but I read what I could, and this is where I found Lillian Hellman's "The Children's Hour."

This play was terribly distressful, as I'm sure was Ms. Hellmann's intent, but as a kid, I wondered, Why were the kids so nasty? Why did one of the teachers, Martha, feel such shame for loving her friend that she ended up taking drastic measures to end her suffering?

It's something that stayed with me, and when I moved to NYC and was cast as Jeanine, the title character in "The Tragic and Horrible Life of the Singing Nun," I recognized this same pattern of hiding love because of shame. It was heart-breaking! And while "The Nun" was a musical, it indeed had a tragic love story about two women coming to terms with "the love that dare not speak its name."

(Tracey Gilbert in girlscout-wear above played Annie, Jeanine's partner of many years. We reunited to sing some demos for composer Andy Monroe and his musical The Kid, which was a great, modern love story about real-life-writer and LGBTQ activist, Dan Savage, his partner, and their quest to have a child.)

These stories took place from the 1930s to 1980s, so I hoped the Millennium would find "love triumphant" for men and women with same sex partners. I KNEW these stories existed in real life! I had friends in the 90s who had very loving healthy relationships with same sex partners, and they were some of the best relationships I'd ever seen!

So when I got to play Alice B. Toklas in Hell's Belles the Musical, I was delighted to learn about women from the early 1900s who lived an openly gay life in Paris.

I did two productions of the show Off Broadway, so I had two "Gerties": Rachel O'Malley (brunette on the left) and Deb Radloff (brunette on the right). Both lovely ladies! And it was interesting to see how the production went from having Gert 'n Alice in top hats and tails (very George and Gracie) to a Coupla Swells in comfortable shoes! Either way, it was fabulous fun, and we brought down the house every time!

The turn of the screw for the real Gert and Alice (below) was that when Gertrude Stein died, their union wasn't recognized by the Law, so all of Stein's possessions, including paintings by their famous friend Picasso, were taken by Stein's relatives. Alice died in poverty.

So when Marriage Equality finally came into play, I celebrated BIG TIME with my friends because so many unions could FINALLY be recognized!

There's still a long road to hoe, because many same-sex couples are still turned away from vendors when they want to invest in their weddings, and that blows my mind. One of my favorite playwrights, Bekah Brunstetter is writing a new play about a lesbian couple turned away from a bakery. It's called, The Cake. And my friends, Dwayne Heisler and Chris Defrain (above right) were initially denied their marriage license until the  Supreme Court ruling for Marriage Equality.

Theatrically, I'm happy to say, I'm seeing more LGBTQ love stories coming to the fore. I was part of a lesbian love triangle in the sketch-comedy-with-karoke, "Petunia's Coffee House."

My character DAR, became a bit of a hero for me, because she didn't take shit from anyone! She was based on Melissa Ethridge, the motorcycle mamas that lead the Pride March, Thelma and Louise, Stevie Nicks, and Jim Morrison.

Speaking of heroes, one of my favorite actor-playwrights, Joe Gulla, has performed several of his works at Joe's Pub, including The Bronx Queen, and the upcoming Faggy at 50.

I met Joe a few years ago when he was casting his play, Garbo. I didn't get the gig, but he kept calling me back for other projects, and last summer we did a reading of his play, "Sleeping With The Fish" at the LGBTQ Center.

I was the observer of a love affair between two mobsters, and let me tell you: It was delicious!

So where would we be without these stories, these beautiful stories of love and pride? Love is part of every human experience, and I hope we continue to grow with PRIDE in each other, and recognize that everyone deserves equal rights.

With thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda. :)

Friday, June 09, 2017

2017 So Far, So Good

It's been an incredible year of delicious acting work, and it all started at the New Year when I got called in for "Steel Magnolias." That same week, my best friend from college, Wendy Ruth, brought her family to the city, and we saw Dear Evan Hansen. Wendy worked with Kristolyn Lloyd at Disney, and I had studied with Rachel Bay Jones, so it was incredible to see them and celebrate their success.

We went backstage after the show, and Wendy made introductions, telling them how I'd just gotten called back for Steel Magnolias. I'd had to juggle my callback in order to make the curtain for Dear Evan Hansen, but the director, Angela Shultz (below right), was awesome and said, "Of course! Get going! I have tickets to see it next week!"

I found out the next day that I booked Truvy in Steel Magnolias, performing in March in NYC! What a dream come true! I got to work with all these amazing people, including Melissa Harlow (above center) co-founder of Stomping Ground Theatre Company, and Chad Anthony Miller, co-producer and all around Renaissance man!

In the midst of rehearsals for Steel Magnolias, I was interviewed by Indie Activity, and got a call from Mike Jones to guest star on his webseries, The Mike Jones Show. SUPER fun! I played the winner of the lottery!

Then I did Steel Magnolias, and just drank in the beauty of that experience.

When April hit, my husband and I went to see the legendary ladies of Sunset Boulevard - Glenn Close was heartbreaking! - and War Paint. Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole were FANTASTIC! Talk about a masterclass in stage work from all three divas! Simply amazing!

Then my best friends took us to see The Great Comet for my birthday!

I also received a gift of Sunday in the Park with George, which was GORGEOUS!

I know that show well, but I heard lyrics as if for the first time. It was SO beautiful!

Then I sang in a concert with my dear friend Tracey Gilbert, celebrating producer George DeMarco. We all met during The Tragic and Horrible Life of the Singing Nun at NYMF, and it was such a thrill to revisit that piece!

I kicked May off with Six Degree of Separation and the fabulous Allison Janney and Corey Hawkins. I'd only seen the movie before, so it was a treat to see it live. I really loved how much deeper the play was. So many great monologues about life, humanity, connection and philosophy.

I was also honored to revisit Pat the Park Ranger from Sasquatched the Musical when the creators asked me to do a recording of my big song.

Then I started rehearsals for The Pound and made my debut at Signature Theatre, a gorgeous Off Broadway theatre! And I was called back for the new web series, Human Telegraphs, recalling feisty ladies with power whom I've played over the years.

Speaking of powerful women, I was blown away by A Doll's House 2. The music and speech were modern, but the clothes and story were antiquated in which a woman was still beholden to her husband and could go to jail for "living a free life" if she wasn't properly divorced. It felt so intense, especially in this political climate. When the lights went out on Nora's exit and the audience erupted with applause, I sat there stunned. I couldn't move. It was like a tidal wave of emotion had hit me. Nora's journey, beautifully played by Laurie Metcalf, just vibrated through my entire being. It was an incredible experience!

Then I got to see The Little Foxes, which was excellent! Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon trade off the roles of Regina and Birdie, and I marveled at their dexterity. My best friend and I saw the Sunday matinee. Laura Linney, who had played Regina the day before, was playing Birdie, and it was as if she had inhabited that character for years. She made me cry!

I'm so inspired by all these amazing performances I've seen, as well as all the beautiful pieces I've been honored to perform in this year. It's been deeply fulfilling work, and a very busy first half of the year. I'm excited to see what's around the corner :)

Friday, May 19, 2017

Character-Driven Week

It's been a fabulously fun, artistically fulfilling week!

On Monday, I revisited my character, Pat the Park Ranger, from Sasquatched the Musical.

The creators of the show, Phil Darg and Julie Ana Rayne (below left and right), wanted to capture my work since I originated the character, so we grooved on over to PPI Recording to lay down some tracks with Chip (behind me).

I had done a live version at 54 Below, so it was delicious to go in the studio to make a professional recording of this passionate song:

On Tuesday, I was contacted to tape an audition for the new web series, Human Telegraphs. I went in for them a few weeks ago and they called me back for a different character. All I can say is, these characters are off the chain! So much FUN!

Wednesday, I was working on scripts.

On Thursday, I went into rehearsals for The Pound, also by Darg and Rayne, performing May 29th at the Signature Theatre. I'm delighted because this reteams me with Chad Anthony Miller, who was one of our producers and marketing gurus for Steel Magnolias at Stomping Ground Theatre Company NYC.

On Friday I got to audition for a new musical about a Broadway producer who's obsessed with the young woman she made a star. The character reminded me a little of Madeline Lich from Trending, a powerful woman who could lose everything.

It was great to sing an old standard and then get meaty with the script.

So I went from being a Park Ranger to a sleazy real estate agent to an upscale lady looking for a dog, and then a Broadway producer. What a great week!

I love my job. #BeingAnActor

Monday, May 08, 2017

Southern Women

Sally Field, Academy Award winner and Tony nominee for "The Glass Menagerie," was recently asked, "What is it with you and Southern women?"

I laughed at this, because, like Sally, I'm from Southern CA, and I've played my share of Southern belles. "The perniciously determined" Barbara in "Johnny On a Spot" Off Broadway was a particularly fun firecracker!

And like Sally, I grew up with "Southern women" on both sides of my family. The Daniels were Scottish but settled in Alabama, and then eventually made their way to Texas. I still remember hearing my great-aunt Willie's deep Southern accent. It was the salt of the earth!

And my Grandma Goddard, my mom's mom (below left with me as a wee tyke and my gorgeous mom on the right), looked just like Ann Richards, perfectly coiffed, and had a Texas twang to boot!

So when I played Truvy in Steel Magnolias, I couldn't help but think of these tremendously tenacious women. My Grandma Goddard, especially, would've gotten a kick out of me playing the owner of a beauty salon since she was all about looking as spectacular as possible. She would've approved of Truvy's saying, "There's no such thing as natural beauty."

Coming Up: SoundsBites 4.0 at Signature Theatre

When I was doing Steel Magnolias at Stomping Ground, I'd walk by Signature Theatre, which is an awesome Off Broadway center, and I'd say, "One day I'm going to perform here!"

And that day is three weeks from today!

I'm joining the cast of The Pound, written by Phil Darg and Julie Ana Rayne, whom I worked with in Sasquatched the Musical at NYMF.

We're premiering a 10 minute version of The Pound as part of SoundBites 4.0 on May 29 at 7 PM. Hosted by Theatre Now New York, there will be a total of ten 10-minute musicals, so it should be a lot of lusciousness to hear!

Tickets range from $25-45 at

See ya there!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

How Shakespeare and Improv Led to a Career of Letting Loose!

I've always loved Shakespeare, and it has often been said of me....

Surprisingly, I've never played Hermia, whom this quote belongs to (or about, rather) though my husband often teases me about being "low and little." He gets no end of delight out of that. And we actually did a scene as Hermia and Lysander for an audition, but I think we scared the other actors, who were watching, because we went for a comic boob-grab, and they all gasped!

I wanted to say, "It's Shakespeare! It's SEXY!"

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

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, including their Fall and Winter shows, Poe Evermore and A Dickensian Christmas. Each production required being "on" and in character for 8 hours a day, three-four days a week (more for Christmas and Halloween), running from show to show, stage to stage.

For the Faire, we'd do half-hour segments of Shakespeare, as well as shows on court (or a peasant's) life. I played the town rogue (below right), the court slut (above, and historically Penelope Devereaux had poems written about her, so she was classy and passionate in my opinion), a grave-digger who could talk to fairies, MacB's Third Witch, The Wall in Pyraums and Thisbe (below top right), and a Spanish innkeeper, Frida (below left).

It was A BLAST! I made some amazing life-long friends, and I met my husband, Rob (below with the Herb Sisters).

Plus it set me up for future work, because I still use improv for stage and screen projects today. For nearly every film I've done, I've been asked to improvise, and I love that, because it feels like letting the character loose!

Truly, it's a trend I've noticed in all my characters. One director encouraged me to keep my foot on the gas, to go from 0 to 100, because I could. I tend to get cast as characters that burst into a scene. For Johnny On a Spot Off Broadway, I literally burst through the doors, and it felt like blasting off!

As my director for Steel Magnolias said, "You change the energy of the room just by walking into it!"

I'm so thankful for my humble beginnings. Starting my career off with Master Shakespeare was a great start, and I look forward to the next adventure!

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 (below far left) 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! ;)