In the Hot Seat: The Critique Compendium Interview

Dan Brothers: The Critique Compendium Interview

Dan Brothers Picture

Dan has been involved in theater since 2003 with Burlington County Bridge Players production of The Complete History of America as Assistant Director.  Since then he has appeared in worked on the following productions:

At the Burlington County Bridge Players he assistant directed Arsenic and Old Lace. He acted in A Christmas Carol, Exit Date, and Don’t Dress For Dinner.

He acted in The Champagne Charlie Stakes at the Hanover Street Theater.

He acted in the following shows at Burlington Country Footlighters: The Nerd, Dangerous Liaisons, The Boys Next Door, Assassins, As Bees in Honey Drown, Rumors, Legally Blonde, And The Winner Is, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Foreigner, Rabbit Hole and The Fox on the Fairway.

He also produced Metamorphosis.

Mr. Brothers graciously consented to an interview on 7/7/17. An edited transcript of our conversation follows.

 

Critique Compendium: In a recent interview, Al Krier expressed some pretty strong thoughts about you. He said, and I quote, “Dan is the best! I will share a stage with him anytime. He is very generous as an actor.” Do you agree?

Dan Brothers: Vice versa. Al’s a good friend. Playing opposite him is cake. I’m very comfortable working with him.

You have no choice but to raise your game around him. He’s one of that select few that do that. He’s that good. It’s a joy to work with him. Kudos.

In Glengarry Glen Ross we were both funny together. It gelled. Sometimes you know you got it. With that show we both knew we had it.

 

Critique Compendium: What was it like to perform in shows directed by your wife, Valerie Brothers?

Dan Brothers: It’s a good time. It’s fun, but different. She’s allowed to come down on me much more because I’m her husband. She comes down on me anyway. (Laughs.)

She’s a perfectionist. I’ve known her for 11 years. When she does a project she’s all in.

We have different ways of preparing. The clash can be fun and challenging at the same time.

She really takes care of a script. She does extensive preparation. Eight to 12 months out, she has something laid out.

The Nerd was the first show I auditioned for at Footlighters. I got the lead and at the first read through with the cast I learned that there’s a surprise ending regarding my character. That’s the first time I knew about the ending because I didn’t read the entire script before auditioning.  Pretty sad isn’t it.

I’m the very opposite of Valerie.

 

Critique Compendium: Your character in The Fox on the Fairway had quite an infatuation with Elizabeth Deal’s character. Did having your wife as the director influence your performance in any way?

Dan Brothers: Not in the slightest. Liz and I became good friends over the last few years. We got to know each other quite well during Rumors.

That’s one of the unseen things that happens in community theatre. Meeting people and making friends is the best part. It’s the best reward.

There was no uncomfortableness during that show.

 

Critique Compendium: You’ve worked as an assistant director in the past. Have you ever considered directing yourself?

Dan Brothers: I’ve daydreamed about it. I don’t know when it’s going to happen. It could be a couple of years from now.

 

Critique Compendium: You’ve also performed on stage with your wife, Valerie, most recently in Rumors. The two of you also played a married couple in Exit Date. What’s it like sharing the stage with your spouse?

Dan Brothers: That’s a good time. We met during The Nerd and would laugh and flirt quite a bit…we still do that.

 

Critique Compendium: In the scene where yours and Al Krier’s character made the bet in The Fox on the Fairway, how did you keep a straight face? Between his silly sweater and the tone of voice he used, that must’ve been difficult.

Dan Brothers: Good question. There’ve been so many moments like that. What happens for me is I get the laughs out of the way during rehearsal.

When it’s “game time” you’re conscious of the fact people paid to see the show. People should see us performing to the best of our abilities.

On stage, I’m more focused on staying in character. I find that more difficult that not laughing or giggling.

I’m actually more nervous about misspeaking a line or stuttering than laughing.

 

Critique Compendium: You’ve performed with Mr. Krier regularly. You also played the male lead in his directorial debut, Rabbit Hole. Was it any different working with him as a director?

Dan Brothers: Yes. That show was extremely rewarding. Al’s a very laid-back individual and that was exactly how he directed. I was very grateful to be cast in that show.

People are familiar with me playing funny roles. I remember a compliment Brenda Kelly Bacon gave me after seeing Rabbit Hole, she said something to the effect: “When you first came out I expected to laugh but as the show went on I forgot I was watching you.” Those are the compliments that really hit home.

I love getting laughs, but if I can move people it’s that much more rewarding because it’s not something I normally do. I’ll always cherish the role for that reason.

 

Critique Compendium: In Rabbit Hole, you played a father struggling to cope with the loss of his four-year-old son. The scene of you watching the videos of him really moved me.  How did you condition yourself to get through that a show that emotionally demanding every night?

Dan Brothers: I take personal experiences. Not all our days are happy. Many years ago I lost someone very close to me. I resort to what it was like to lose her.

It’s got to be unbelievably devastating to lose a child. I’m not a parent, but I do know what loss is.

When you’re on stage you want to do the best you can. I drew on my personal experiences to drive it home.

In The Boys Next Door I played a boy abused by his father. My mother said there were a couple of times during the show there was silence instead of applause after a scene I was in and that in itself is the audience’s reaction to what they just witnessed. I learned in that show that silent audience is actually high praise.

It’s quite something to get that reaction.

 

Critique Compendium: Rumors featured an abundance of slapstick humor. You played a physically demanding role in that show. In fact, the character you played got hit by a door and even broke his nose. How did you prepare for it?

Dan Brothers: I drank lattes and sat on the couch.

To the kids who want to get into theatre: don’t prepare like Dan. I really don’t prepare. That should prove helpful for any future directors who might consider casting me.

You’ve got to listen to your director. Scott (Angehr) casts you because you earned it. Now you’ve got to prove it to him. You’ve got to prove him right.

Take the vase toss and “one more time” in the Fox on the Fairway. In “one more time” we reenacted the show in three minutes. It comes down to rehearsals.

I can be a real bitch when I’m rehearsing. During “one more time” there was a lot of bumping and dropping things. You just keep going even if there’s a mistake.

As far as the vase toss goes the vase never dropped. Liz (Deal) made a catch like Odell Beckham, Jr. one night, but the vase never dropped.

You rehearse the hell out of it and get it right.

 

Critique Compendium: You and Rachel Comenzo played a married couple in Rumors. What was it like playing opposite her?

Dan Brothers: She’s a delightful young woman. She’s great to work with. Rachel and I would actually find time alone to run lines and ideas about our characters together which really made our first scene together very strong and enjoyable. She’s great to play against.

With that show our characters didn’t go on stage until 45 minutes in. Backstage, we’d play games. Liz’s (Deal’s) character didn’t enter until late into the second act. We all had a blast. The show was a great time.

Critique Compendium: One of your strongest traits is your voice. You can do soothing baritone. You can also broadcast very well. Is that something you were born with or did you develop it?

Dan Brothers: My parents gave me my voice. I use it a lot. Some might say too much. It’s cool to have compliments on my voice.

 

Critique Compendium: What first interested you in the performing arts?

Dan Brothers: Chicks. (Laughs)

Kevin Esmond and I went to high school together. The guy’s amazing. Holy Cross was doing a show of Anything Goes. Kevin rattled names of girls involved in the theatre. I decided to try out and got cast. It was amazing. There was tap and singing in the show. I never thought I’d do it.

I returned to South Jersey from Florida in 2006 and once again Kevin reached out to me to asst. direct Burlington County Bridge Players production of Arsenic and Old Lace. I’ve been involved in community theatre since.

 

Critique Compendium: What types of things interest you in playing a role?

Dan Brothers: Quite a bit. My roles have been very diverse. Howie (in Rabbit Hole) and Bingham (in The Fox on the Fairway) were very different. I’d have to say it has to be someone I can relate to in a pretty good way.

In Rabbit Hole, for instance, while I’m not a parent, I do know how to be a good husband. The character had a desire to seek affection elsewhere. That’s very foreign to me because of Valerie. Ultimately, he wanted to be with his wife. I know how to be a good man.

Valerie is greatest thing that happened to me. I’m crazy about this woman. I like bringing that into a character.

Rabbit Hole was very real and needed to be performed as such. I didn’t want to make fun of this character.

Rebekah (Masters) and I had a scene where we really laid into one another. We worked very hard with Al and Val to make sure we got it right. It really worked. That was my favorite scene in the show.

Quite frankly it’s hard to specify what turns me on to a particular role.

 

Critique Compendium: What’s been you’re favorite role that you’ve performed so far?

Dan Brothers: I’d have to pick more than one.

Rick Stedman in The Nerd. I don’t toot my own horn very often, but there are times when you know you’ve got a character locked in and this was certainly one of those times.

Howie Corbett in Rabbit Hole is another one, for reasons I mentioned earlier.

Barry Klemper in Boys Next Door. He’s a great character. It wasn’t even the one I wanted in the show. But getting cast as Barry was wonderful learning experience. That’s where I learned drama can be as rewarding as making someone laugh. It was a good lesson.

 

Critique Compendium: What’s the most difficult role you’ve played?

Dan Brothers: I had a hard time with Henry Bingham (The Fox on the Fairway), but I wouldn’t say it’s the most difficult. I find comedies easier than dramas.

I had to sing two lines in Legally Blonde which was actually quite nerve-wracking since I’m not musically gifted.

I would probably say Barry. It took me a while to learn. I didn’t get the part I auditioned for but I needed to get over it. The show dealt with some pretty tough issues in a direct way and also a lighthearted approach. It’s a beautifully written show and will always be grateful for being a part of it.

 

Critique Compendium: What actors have influenced you?

Dan Brothers: Jack Nicholson. He was in my favorite movie, The Shining. Talk about natural ability! The guy just knows how to do it. He can convey so much without ever saying a word.

 

Critique Compendium: If you had the opportunity to work with any other actor either living or dead, who would it be?

Dan Brothers: Nicholson. I would love to work with him. It would be very intimidating but very cool as well.

 

Critique Compendium: What do you do when you’re not on stage? What are your hobbies?

Dan Brothers: Golf. Val loves it. She has cats. I have golf. It works beautifully.

 

Critique Compendium: How do you balance a career, family and other activities with the demands of performing in community theater productions?

Dan Brothers: It’s pretty easy for me. I’ll separate work from theatre. I get in game mode for theatre.

These days I’m getting my lines down quicker. If you have lines down faster, it gives you more time to work on the role. I like playing with the role. When you’re in a show your wife is directing, you have to get your lines down quicker.

 

Critique Compendium: What adjective would best describe your theater career?

Dan Brothers: Rewarding. It’s all been rewarding.

 

Alan Krier: The Critique Compendium Interview

Alan Krier Head shotAlan has been performing in and around the Philly/South Jersey area for over 25 years. He has been married to his wonderful wife Donna for 30 years as of May of this year and has three talented children, Lindsey, A.J., and Lisa, who also perform. He was last seen on the BCF 2nd stage in the Pulitzer Prize winning play, Clybourne Park. Other BCF appearances include The Fox On The Fairway (Dickie Bell), The Who’s Tommy (Uncle Ernie), How To Succeed…(Twimble/Womper), Glengarry Glen Ross (George Arronow), Little Shop of Horrors (Mushnik), The Foreigner (Charlie Baker), Assassins (Hinckley), and Urinetown (Lockstock). Other area appearances include You Can’t Take It With You (Paul Sycamore), A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum (Pseudolus), and The Full Monty (Dave Bukatinsky) at the Ritz Theatre; also Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Pharaoh) and Children of Eden (Father) with McMagical Productions.

Mr. Krier kindly agreed to share thoughts on his craft. We conducted the following interview via email 7/2/17 – 7/3/17.

Critique Compendium: After seeing you wear those sweaters in The Fox on the Fairway, I have to ask the question readers are dying to know: did the title really refer to Bailey Shaw’s character?

Al Krier: Well, I don’t think anyone would ever mistake me for a fox so I would say, “Yes.” The incredibly talented and lovely Bailey Shaw is the fox to whom the title refers.

 

Critique Compendium: You’ve done serious drama (Glengarry, Glen Ross) as well as farces (The Fox on the Fairway). In Clybourne Park you played both a serious role and the comic relief. Are there differences in how you prepare for dramatic versus comedic roles?

Al Krier: In a dramatic role I typically look at the script and the situation and try to determine how I would react if the events of the story were actually happening to me. I try to think of the character’s back story to help give it some depth.

When it comes to comedy I will do just about anything to get a laugh. I also look to some of my comic heroes such as John Belushi and John Candy. I’m not ashamed to say I steal from them whenever I can.

 

Critique Compendium: You’ve also performed in musicals such as Tommy and How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying. Those shows were quite a departure from your other work. Why did you decide to perform in them?

Al Krier: I’ve been doing musicals since the mid ‘90s. Tommy is the definitive rock opera and I’ve been listening to it since the early ‘70s and I saw the movie in the theatre when it came out in 1975 so I’ve always been a fan. To get a chance to be a part of it and sing those songs with a live band was just awesome.

How To Succeed… is one of those quintessential musicals that I had on my bucket list. I don’t think there is a better closing number in musical theatre than “Brotherhood of Man.”

 

Critique Compendium: Your son A. J. and your daughter Lindsey also perform. Did they learn the craft from you?

Al Krier: I would love to say that I taught them everything they know but they are both uniquely talented in their own right.

Lindsey has been involved in the performing arts since she was 3-4 years old and while I would say that my involvement in theatre may have influenced her, I think she would have gone that route anyway. She has done some incredible work. My favorites are Natalie in Next to Normal (brought tears to my eyes) and Kate Monster in Avenue Q. She is currently rehearsing for Beauty and the Beast at the Ritz Theatre.

A.J. got involved in theatre on his own when he went away to college. He auditioned for a show on a whim and has been acting since then. He has performed in dramas, comedies, and musicals. His senior capstone project was an amazing one man show called Thom Pain (based on nothing) by Will Eno. It was an incredible performance for which he won an award.

My youngest daughter, Lisa, has also been involved from a very young age – she’ll be a sophomore in high school this fall. She dances with The Next Stage Dance Company but has also been on stage at BCF as the young girl in Dracula. I got to share the stage with her in Scrooge: The Musical at the Ritz several years ago.

 

Critique Compendium: You and Lindsey both performed in Tommy at Burlington County Footlighters. What was it like sharing the stage with your daughter?

Al Krier: I was very proud to share the stage in Tommy, especially since she also choreographed it. We’ve done a few shows together but we really haven’t had any scenes together. It’s always fun to work with family.

 

Critique Compendium: You selected David Lindsey-Abaire’s Pulitzer Prize winning play Rabbit Hole for your directorial debut. What interested you in that project?

Al Krier: Rabbit Hole was the first show my son did at college. When we drove up to his school to see the show, first we were blown away at his acting. Then I thought that the play itself was outstanding and would be a perfect fit for the BCF stage. I decided right then that would be the first show I direct.

 

Critique Compendium: Do you plan on directing again?

Al Krier: I would like to direct again. There is a one act play I would like to put on The 2nd Stage and I have a few ideas for the main stage but nothing scheduled yet.

 

Critique Compendium: You and Dan Brothers have worked together on several projects. The two of you have fantastic chemistry as both a dramatic and comedy duo. What’s it like working with him?

Al Krier: Dan is the best! I will share a stage with him anytime. He is very generous as an actor and we are always able to bounce ideas off one another. I can’t say why it works but it does and I’m just very happy that it does.

 

Critique Compendium: What first interested you in the performing arts?

Al Krier: One of the first plays I ever saw was when my brother was in a high school performance of Heaven Can Wait. I was just enamored with the entire experience and could not wait for my chance to try it.

My parents always took us to see movie musicals and I distinctly remember seeing Oliver at the movies. My parents bought the soundtrack album and I used to listen to it all the time.

Sometime in the late 70s they took us to see A Chorus Line at the Forrest Theatre in Philly. Just a great experience. I just always loved watching live performances including rock concerts. That’s pretty much all I did in the 80’s – went to concerts and got married. But I digress, movie musicals, my brother’s show, A Chorus Line, rock concerts.

 

Critique Compendium: What types of things make you want to play a role?

Al Krier: There are roles that I want to play because they are a perfect fit for me and then there are roles that are a challenge. I enjoy both because the ones for which I am perfect, I can go on stage and feel very confident. The roles that are a challenge make me feel accomplished if I am successful at performing them.

 

Critique Compendium: What’s been you’re favorite role that you’ve performed?

Al Krier: Dave Bukatinsky in The Full Monty at The Ritz Theatre. Just an incredible experience from the show itself to the cast & crew and the audience reaction. If you know the show it is about a bunch of out-of-work guys trying to make some money by stripping. In real life I had just been laid off from my job that I had for 23 years so that part of it was completely relatable. I love the music in the show and we had just a perfect group of guys.

 

Critique Compendium: What’s the most difficult role you’ve played?

Al Krier: I always wanted to play Pseodolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum. I got my chance to do that at The Ritz and I just don’t think it was my best performance. I was full of nerves every night before the show and that doesn’t happen to me very often. My comedic instincts just didn’t seem to gel with the part. I can’t say why – it was just one of those things.

 

Critique Compendium: Describe your most memorable moment on stage.

Al Krier: Going back to The Full Monty, one particular night let’s just say there was a lighting miscue at a very important part of the show. We performed that show over 20 times with close to sold out shows every time, yet it seems that no matter who I meet that says they saw that show, claims they were there the night of the lighting mishap.

 

Critique Compendium: What actors have influenced you?

Al Krier: There are so many but DeNiro and Pacino are probably the most influential. I’ve just enjoyed watching them in so many films it’s hard not to be influenced. John Candy has also been an inspiration just for his natural comedic delivery – gone way too soon.

 

Critique Compendium: If you had the opportunity to work with any other actor either living or dead, who would it be?

Al Krier: Again, too many. DeNiro would be up there. Also, Spencer Tracy. His delivery of lines was just so natural. Watch him in Inherit the Wind. One of my all-time favorites.

 

Critique Compendium: What do you do when you’re not on stage?

Al Krier: When I’m not on stage I wonder why I’m not on stage. Just kidding. In real life I’m a technical instructor. I teach technicians how to fix copiers. Everything from basic xerography to networking. Pretty boring stuff.

As far as hobbies I just started getting back into one of my childhood hobbies of building and flying model rockets. It’s been and on again off again hobby that I really enjoy. I also enjoy golf but I don’t get to play nearly enough and I really suck at it.

 

Critique Compendium: How do you balance a career, family and other activities with the demands of performing in community theater productions?

Al Krier: Since my entire family is involved in theatre there is an understanding when it comes to the demands. We all know that there will be struggles, time commitments, scheduling conflicts, etc. There are no guidelines for balance, we just do our best. Most of the time it works, when it doesn’t we figure it out.

 

Critique Compendium: What do you bring to your roles that other performers don’t?

Al Krier: I bring Al Krier. Nobody else can say they are Al Krier.

Seriously, I can’t say what others don’t bring. Obviously I won’t name names but I’ve worked with some actors that simply struggled to deliver a line naturally. That may seem like a simple thing but I will practice a single line over and over again until I think it is coming out in a very natural, conversational way. I don’t know if I have always been successful at that, but I know that is always my goal.

 

Critique Compendium: How would you like audiences to remember you?

Al Krier: I would hope they would say, “Remember that guy, in that show that time, yea, he was really good. So what are you ordering?” I would hope audiences remembered that they were entertained anytime they saw me on stage and that if they met me after the show I was gracious and humble. And that they didn’t avoid a show because they saw my name in the cast list.

 

Critique Compendium: If I asked people with whom you’ve performed what it was like working with you, what would they tell me?

Al Krier: Hopefully, they would say that I was someone that they could trust on stage and was completely committed to the role. And funny, heavy on the funny.

 

Critique Compendium: What advice would you give to young people interested in participating in the performing arts?

Al Krier: Do it! Don’t be afraid. There is nothing like being involved in a production and watching it go from the first read through to the final product. I’ve worked with a lot of young people and I’ve always found that the kids that are involved in the performing arts are always the ones that are exceling in school. The two seem to go hand in hand.

 

Critique Compendium: What’s next for you?

Al Krier: I’ll probably have some lunch. Oh you mean in life, theatre etc. Ok, gotcha. I don’t have anything in the pipeline right now. I started a new job in February so I’m still getting my bearings in that respect. I do have a few shows I am looking at for which I may audition but I haven’t decided yet. We’ll see how things go.

 

Valerie Brothers: The Critique Compendium Interview

Image19Valerie Brothers has been active in South Jersey community theaters for the last 18 years both on stage and behind the scenes. Her love of theater was inherited from her mother who instilled in her at a very young age an appreciation of the theatrical arts, especially Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals!

She has been involved in all facets of theater from acting and directing to stage managing, producing, costuming, hair and makeup artist as well as special effects makeup.

Favorite past roles include Lina Lamont in “Singin’ in the Rain”, Truvy Jones in “Steel Magnolias”, Tansy McGinnis in “The Nerd”, Mary in “The Champagne Charlie Stakes” and Lizzie Borden in “Blood Relations”.

Directing credits: “The Foreigner”, “Fidelity Farce”, “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “The Fox on the Fairway”.

Mrs. Brothers graciously agreed to an interview on June 29, 2017. An edited transcript of our conversation follows.

 

 

Critique Compendium: You’ve produced shows in the past. Could you tell me: what percentage of a show’s budget goes to pay for Al Krier’s wardrobe?

Valerie Brothers: I made all the sweaters (for The Fox on the Fairway). Just two days before opening I finished. I have degree in fashion merchandising. It came in handy.

I picked up the materials at Village Thrift.

 

Critique Compendium: You’ve been involved in the just about every facet of theatre as a performer, a director and a producer among other roles. Which is the most challenging for you?

Valerie Brothers: Directing is the most challenging because I am I perfectionist. I want everything exactly right. I try to stay as close to playwright’s vision as I do to my own.

When you’re the director the responsibility falls on you. There’s only one person to blame if something’s not right.

 

Critique Compendium: You credit you mother for instilling your interest in theatre. When did you start performing?

Valerie Brothers: I was incredibly shy in grade school and high school. I auditioned for one show in high school and didn’t get cast.

I was working back stage when a Footlighters director tried to get me over my shyness. She pushed me into playing a hooker. Getting me to walking out on stage while scantily clad did it.

 

Critique Compendium: How do you select the shows you’d like to direct?

Valerie Brothers: I love farces and comedies. I like to make people laugh. The sillier the show the better.

I worked as the assistant director on Rabbit Hole. After spending three months on a show about a four-year-old getting killed after a car hit him I needed to laugh.

 

Critique Compendium: Do you take a different approach when directing a drama versus directing a comedy?

Valerie Brothers: Yes and no.

With comedy everything still has to be true to the script and vice versa. I have more fun with comedy.

Doing drama can be depressing. Especially when rehearsing it three nights a week.

 

Critique Compendium: In The Fox on the Fairway, you directed the comedy team of Dan Brothers and Al Krier. What was it like working with those two performers?

Valerie Brothers: They’re my “go to couple.” They have undeniable chemistry. They’re also good friends off stage. When they’re on stage they raise each other up.

Working with them is a hoot. Any crazy idea I throw at them they’ll do. In Fidelity Farce their characters kissed at the end. They went at it so hard I think Dan chipped a tooth.

 

Critique Compendium: In both The Fox on the Fairway and Glengarry, Glen Ross, you had the opportunity to direct your husband, Dan Brothers. What was it like to find yourself directing your own spouse?

Valerie Brothers: He’s such a diva. (Laughs.)

I treat him like any other actor. Since we live together I have a lot more opportunities to talk to him than I do with the other cast members.

We actually had a long talk about his Fox on the Fairway character. You wouldn’t know it from way he performed in the show, but up until two days before it opened he struggled with the role. We discussed it and worked on it together until he nailed it.

 

Critique Compendium: In The Fox on the Fairway, you found yourself in a very unusual situation as a director. In the show a woman takes a romantic interest in the character your husband plays. Do you feel that situation affected your artistic judgement?

Valerie Brothers: No. I’ve known Liz (Deal – the performer who played her husband’s love interest) for years. She’s a professional. Everyone I’ve worked with in community theatre is professional.

There were no worries. Plus, Dan knows I would just kill him if something happened. (Laughs.)

 

Critique Compendium: There’s a scene in The Fox on the Fairway where the characters get into a circle and toss a vase back-and-forth. What was it like coordinating that incident? Did you have a dozen spare vases handy in case someone dropped it?

Valerie Brothers: No. We just had the one vase.

We started off with a plastic vase. It was larger than the one we used in the show. We did the scene over and over until it was second nature. We must’ve done it ten times during a night’s rehearsal.

The assistant director’s girlfriend brought in the vase we used in the show. It’s Japanese.

I was a little afraid. Theatre people are not sports people. There’s a reason we did drama in high school and not sports.

 

Critique Compendium: Both you and Mr. Brothers performed together in Rumors. What’s it like to share the stage with your spouse?

Valerie Brothers: It’s always great to have your spouse out there. Every night I got to observe the things he would change up.

We played a husband and wife team in Exit Date at Bridge Players.  The characters were totally unlike ourselves, but it was fun to play a married couple together.

 

Critique Compendium: The role of Cookie Cusack in Rumors was physically demanding. Walking on your palms and the balls of your feet couldn’t have been comfortable. What did you do to prepare yourself for that show?

Valerie Brothers: I got a hip replacement. I called it my bionic hip.

The sillier the role the better. If people will laugh at me I’ll do it.

 

Critique Compendium: What types of things interest you in playing a role?

Valerie Brothers: I like stepping into someone else’s shoes. It’s challenging to see if you can pull it off. Playing Lizzie Borden is a good example.

 

Critique Compendium: What’s been your favorite role that you’ve performed so far?

Valerie Brothers: Singing in the Rain was an iconic movie musical. It harkened back to when my mom instilled that appreciation of the theatrical arts. I wanted to be the people on the screen, but I can’t sing.

I’d also say The Nerd. I met Dan there. It was a fun show.

 

Critique Compendium: What’s the most difficult role you’ve played?

Valerie Brothers: Lizzie Borden was a very complex character. I liked trying to understand her side. It was a heavy drama piece. I had fun watching everyone in the audience gasp. It was a very challenging emotional roller coaster. One moment she’s sweet, in another she’s crying and then she’s wielding an axe.

 

Critique Compendium: Describe your most memorable moment on stage so far.

Valerie Brothers: I played the lead hooker part in No Sex Please, We’re British. The director was adamant that I had to carry a guy on my shoulders across the stage in six inch heels: not piggyback. She insisted it had to be on my shoulders. I had to come out a door, too. Like Seabiscut, I carried this man across the stage every night.

It was a challenge doing it so that he didn’t go flying or fall; but it got a laugh every night.

 

Critique Compendium: What actors have influenced you?

Valerie Brothers: For comedy, Goldie Hawn has great comic timing. Melissa McCarthy will do anything for a laugh.

I have to add Meryl Streep, too, because she’s Meryl Streep.

 

Critique Compendium: If you had the opportunity to work with any other actor either living or dead, who would it be?

Valerie Brothers: I’m a very big nostalgia buff. I’d say Cary Grant or Katherine Hepburn. They had class. Actors back then held themselves to a higher standard.

That’s not to say that actors today don’t have high standards. I just don’t think actors should make political statements like Johnny Depp did recently.

 

Critique Compendium: How do you prepare for a role?

Valerie Brothers: When I played Lizzie Borden, I read every book I could find on her. If I’m playing a fictional character I’ll research the situation to make my performance as believable as possible.

 

Critique Compendium: What do you bring to your roles that other performers don’t?

Valerie Brothers: This isn’t to say that other performers aren’t, but I’m a perfectionist. If it ain’t right I won’t do it. I feel it’s important to the author to get the lines right.

 

Critique Compendium: How would you like audiences to remember you?

Valerie Brothers: Just as somebody who entertained them, gave them a good laugh and gave them their 20 bucks worth.

 

Critique Compendium: If I asked people with whom you’ve performed what it was like working with you, what would they tell me?

Valerie Brothers: I think they’ll tell you I’m open to suggestions. They may see something I’m missing. We talk about it. I go into it with a vision, but they see me as being open to possibilities.

 

Critique Compendium: What do you do when you’re not on stage? What are your hobbies?

Valerie Brothers: My cats. I’m a huge animal lover. I’ll do anything for an animal. Both of my cats are rescues. I enjoy trying to find homes for homeless animals and would like to foster shelter animals someday. I’m also quite adept at spoiling my kitties and am well on my way to becoming a crazy cat lady!

I visit my mom in the nursing home. I’ll go over pictures with her.

I also go kickboxing with Liz (Deal).

 

Critique Compendium: How do you balance a career, family and other activities with your involvement in community theater productions?

Valerie Brothers: That’s why I take time off between shows. I love being involved, but it’s nice to sit on the couch and relax. Theatre doesn’t leave much time for other commitments.

 

Critique Compendium: What’s next for you?

Valerie Brothers: I’m going to assistant direct Crossing Delancey at Burlington County Footlighters 2nd Stage in June. Torben Christensen will be directing.  

 

Critique Compendium: What advice would you give to young people interested in participating in the performing arts?

Valerie Brothers: Just have no fear. I always had dreams of performing, but my shyness inhibited me for a long time. Just go for it.

Tami Gordon Brody: The Critique Compendium Interview

Tami HeadshotAfter a 20-year hiatus from the stage to raise her two sons, Tami Gordon Brody has certainly been making up for lost time over the last five years. Upon the urging of her son Taylor, who is also an actor, Tami embarked on her first audition in two decades; Haddonfield Plays & Players’ 2011 production of Titanic and was cast as Charlotte Cardoza. Since then, she has been lucky enough to portray some of musical theatre’s great “women of a certain age” roles. Golde in Fiddler on the Roof, with Voorhees Theatre Company, Joanne in Company with Cumberland Players, Carmen Bernstein in Curtains and most recently Mother Superior in Sister Act, both at Haddonfield Plays and Players.   She’s also taken on some “strictly acting” roles, such as Harriet, in Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass at South Camden Theatre Company and Reba Freitag in The Last Night of Ballyhoo, at HP&P.   Up next, Tami is thrilled to be working with director Craig Hutchings in the Ritz Theatre production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast in the role of Mrs. Potts.

In the course of “making up for lost time”, Ms. Brody kindly offered her time to be interviewed on 6/7/17. An edited transcript of our conversation follows.

 

 

Critique Compendium: What first interested you in the performing arts?

Tami Gordon Brody: When I was young my father worked in the record business. He was head of promotion for Columbia. I took singing lessons, but my voice wasn’t suited for pop music. When I got a little older I discovered musical theatre while at Cherry Hill High School East.

 

Critique Compendium: You’ve said that you’re “making up for lost time” in terms of your performance schedule. What motivates you to be so active in community theatre productions?

Tami Gordon Brody: What do you do after work? Some people play tennis. I do theatre. I love doing it. When I leave work I get to be the actress.

 

Critique Compendium: From looking over your resume, it seems like you’re equally comfortable performing in either musicals or playing strictly acting roles. Which do you prefer?

Tami Gordon Brody: When I was younger I would’ve said musicals. My background is in musical theatre. I was a singer who acted. There have been some directors who have helped build my confidence as an actress. While I prefer musical theatre, acting challenges me more. I enjoy the challenge of it.

 

Critique Compendium: You’re a very talented vocalist. Who influenced you musically?

Tami Gordon Brody: I’d have to say Barbara Streisand and Ella Fitzgerald. Every Jewish girl loves Barbara. (Laughs.) Ella had such a pure, rich voice.

I have other performers I look to now for inspiration such as Victoria Clark, Christine Ebersole and Bernadette Peters. Bernadette Peters was the ingénue when she could be the ingenue. I’m finding that there are many amazing roles for “women of a certain age.” Musical Theatre is one of the few mediums where you don’t get replaced by younger actors.

There’s a show on Broadway now called War Paint. The two performers leads in it (Ebersole and Patty LuPone) are both women over 50.

Helen Mirren is another example of that type of actress. There are amazing roles for “women of a certain age.” I think you really need to have lived a life to play them.

 

Critique Compendium: Do you feel that you’ve matured as a performer when you play these roles?

Tami Gordon Brody: My priorities are different than they were when I was in my 20s. Now I pick and choose what I want to do.

When I was younger performing was about attention. Now it’s about being part of a bigger thing. It’s about telling a story. I’d rather be part of a strong cast.

It’s great having the opportunity to become someone else. Theatre is ageless.

 

 

Critique Compendium: If I could return to the subject of your vocal talents. You’ve done voice overs for the Special Olympics of New Jersey, Karl’s Baby and Children’s Furniture (in Philadelphia) and JCCA Maccabi Games. How did you get into that field?

Tami Gordon Brody: Karl’s is my big claim to fame. (Laughs) My ex-husband is a filmmaker. He asked me if I’d be interested in doing some voice over work. To do it I needed to lose my Jersey accent! It’s a different kind of medium. They want you to say things a certain way. After recording they speed up the track to eliminate the pauses. It’s very unnatural. So in that sense it’s much different than theatre.

 

Critique Compendium: What kinds of things interest you in playing a role?

Tami Gordon Brody:  Sometimes, it’s the story. For instance, Parade was an important story. In that show, I played a Senator’s wife. Although it was a smaller role, I got to be part of it.

Then there was Mother Superior in Sister Act. Roles like that one really gives you a chance to create a character.

I look at the way the character is written. Of course, you have to be practical about how young you can play.

It has to be something I’m going to enjoy doing. I also like roles that are a challenge emotionally, such as Joanne in Company. I wanted to find out why she was so angry and drank. I wanted to convey the character’s emotions. It’s important to make the audience feel.

 

Critique Compendium: How do you handle an audience that doesn’t feel?

Tami Gordon Brody: Every audience is different. You get different reactions from different crowds.

A performer must listen to the audience. It’s important to be mindful of their responses. Timing is important to allow them to react. Sometimes, you may get the same reaction to a line or a moment on stage and you come to expect it.   Then you’ll get an occasional audience that doesn’t react the way you expect.

 

Critique Compendium: What’s been you’re favorite role that you’ve performed so far?

Tami Gordon Brody: Oh, Joanne in Company. But I would love to play Golde in Fiddler again. Both are iconic roles. I do enjoy playing flawed characters better than playing ‘normal’ ones. Some are just fun though.

 

Critique Compendium: Why?

Tami Gordon Brody: My Jewish upbringing. My great-grandfather grew up in a village in Russia just like Anatekvah . Golde is the character I’ve played that’s the closest to me. It was very personal.

Although, I’ve loved all the roles I’ve played. I learn things about other people by playing different characters. Some aren’t like me at all. I like learning about people and cultures. Now, in Beauty and the Beast, I’m playing an animated character.

 

Critique Compendium: What’s the most difficult role you’ve played?

Tami Gordon Brody: Harriet in Broken Glass. That was my first straight acting role. The caliber of talent in that show was unlike anything I’d worked with before. I had to reach. It’s good to have to reach. It was hard work. I wasn’t going to be able to rely on my singing. Until then, I was more insecure about acting than singing. Although, you don’t want to see me dance. (Laughs)

 

Critique Compendium: First, allow me to wish you a belated Happy Mother’s Day. You had the experience of working with both your sons, Taylor and Evan, in: Parade. You and Taylor will be sharing the stage once again at the upcoming production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at the Ritz Theatre Company this summer. What was it like sharing the stage with your children?

Tami Evan and Taylor

Tami Gordon Brody: Amazing! It was the greatest experience! I’m so proud of them. They’re so talented. They’re so much more advanced than I am vocally.

Taylor and Evan got the bug. Taylor (to Ms. Brody’s left in photo) was in Fiddler on the Roof with me too. Evan (to Ms. Brody’s right) will be playing Kenickie in Grease this summer in Blackwood.

Unfortunately, (because of our theatrical schedules) sometimes we can’t always see each other’s shows. Theatre is something we share. We can lean on each other and help each other. It’s great to have this shared love with my children.

My boyfriend Glen is also an actor, and it is something that I can share with him as well. We all understand the commitment that goes into doing a show – which is a wonderful thing.

 

Critique Compendium: What performers have influenced you?

Tami Gordon Brody: I’d say Meryl Streep, Kevin Spacey and Helen Mirren. They can really transform themselves into different characters; and they don’t need accoutrements to make that happen.

 

Critique Compendium: If you had the opportunity to work with any other actor either living or dead, who would it be?

Tami Gordon Brody: I’d love to work with Meryl Streep, Glenn Close and definitely Nathan Lane. His comic timing is amazing. These are people I could learn from. When I was younger the answers might not have been the same. Back then I would’ve been interested in their “star power.”

 

Critique Compendium: In addition to your busy performance schedule, you’re the Vice President of Haddonfield Plays and Players. What inspired you to take on a leadership role with that organization?

Tami Gordon Brody: I did two shows with them (Titanic and Full Monty). Dave Stavetski (the President of HP&P) got me to go to a meeting. I helped out with creating the posters in front of the theatre.  Now that I am on the board, I handle the playbills, social media, media and advertising. I’m happy to give back to them. We have an amazing leadership team. They’re a really great group of dedicated people.

Dave is very civic minded. He’s very involved in sharing the arts in South Jersey.

Our space allows for the ability to do shows that other people can’t do. For instance look at (director) Matt Weil’s innovative use of space in The Pillowman. You wouldn’t see a show like that in a larger theatre.

We have a successful StageKidz program. Last year, we switched to a five show season. We used to do seven shows. This gives us more production time for each, mainstage show. It also allows us to provide additional special programming – like our annual production of Number the Stars, as well as our successful cabaret series. Whenever I perform I think, “Look at how much I’m getting.” Being involved with HP&P gives me the satisfaction of giving back. You make connections with the other performers. Creating lasting relationships. Community theatre in South Jersey is getting stronger and stronger. So many theatres mean more opportunities for actors. There’s a lot of talent down here.

 

Critique Compendium: How do you balance a career, family and other activities with the demands of performing in community theater productions?

Tami Gordon Brody: When I’m at work I focus on work. It all comes down to time management. Theatre teaches it. It helps with other aspects of my life. It’s a responsibility.

 

Critique Compendium: How do you prepare for a role?

Tami Gordon Brody: I write the lines on index cards. I use them for memorization.  It’s all about time management. I’ve got the instrumental rehearsal tracks of Beauty and the Beast in my car.  I sang it on the way over here.

I know I need to do my homework. I need to get past my frustration and learn what I need to know. Then I don’t have to worry about it. I need to understand the character. I need to be prepared. Sometimes it entails not only knowing my lines, but that of my fellow actors as well.

It’s not always easy to do theatre. It means something different to everyone. I’m very proud of what I do. The roles that satisfy me the most are the ones where I work the hardest.

You have to live up to the role. Golde and Joanne are iconic roles. People expect it to be a certain way. I also want to be as good as my fellow cast members. I do enjoy playing flawed characters better than playing ‘normal’ ones. Some are just fun, though.

 

Critique Compendium: This is the first time you’ve worked with director Craig Hutchings since you played Harriet in the South Camden Theatre Company’s production of Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass. What’s it like working with him again?

Tami Gordon Brody: Craig is an “actor’s director.” He’s always looking at the acting. He gives notes and character suggestions. To him, the lyric is just as important as the dialog. He brings depth to the characters.

 

Critique Compendium: What’s next for you?

Tami Gordon Brody: After Beauty and the Beast I’ll be taking a rest. I would love an opportunity to assistant direct next season.  I’m hoping to be as versatile as some other theatre people. But, I like performing more. If the right role presented itself, I would definitely audition!

I can honestly say if I didn’t have theatre I’d be half a person. I don’t know what I’d be doing without it.

 

Daralyn Kelleher: The Critique Compendium Interview

Daralyn Kelleher is a Los Angeles based comedian, writer, and actor. She studies the Meisner acting technique at the Meisner Daralyn-3041 websizedCenter in Burbank, California, and she has previously trained at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade in New York. She likes to be silly on Twitter, and her tweets have been written about by The Experiment Comedy Blog, as well as Distractify.com. She was also nominated as “Best Comedy Twitter-er” for the INNY awards.  She has performed in the Devil’s Cup Comedy Festival in New York, and will soon be starting a weekly stand up show at Adults Only in Los Angeles. She loves her cats more than you will ever know.

Ms. Kelleher and I conducted the following interview via email during early April of 2017.

Critique Compendium: Tell me a little about yourself.

Daralyn Kelleher: I’m a nice young lady who lives in Los Angeles, California.

 

Critique Compendium: What first interested you in the performing arts?

Daralyn Kelleher: After college, I had a couple monotonous business jobs, and I became very creatively repressed. It started as a desperate need to express myself, and over the years has morphed into more of a desperate need to connect with others.

 

Critique Compendium: When did you start performing?

Daralyn Kelleher: I had taken acting classes in high school and college. I did my first stand up open mic in August 2011, though I had lurked around comedy shows for several months before I worked up the nerve to give it a shot. My first set was three minutes long and in front of five people, so needless to say I killed it (sarcasm, hehe).

 

Critique Compendium: What interested you in stand-up comedy?

Daralyn Kelleher: I always had funny tendencies with my close friends and family, and so I had wondered if it was something I could be capable of. I would go to larger-scale shows from time to time and think “could that be me one day!?” and then I would twirl under the moonlight with pure hope. One day, shortly after I had moved to NYC, my friend and I noticed chalk arrows on the sidewalk. We followed them, and they led us to a small comedy show in the back of a bar. When I say small, I mean we were the only two audience members. The experience was incredibly inspiring because that’s when I realized you can just write jokes and perform, like it’s pretty simple to do comedy. And so I did.

 

Critique Compendium: You refer to yourself as a comedian, writer and actor. Which is the most challenging?

Daralyn Kelleher: They are all equally difficult for me, and they all provide me with different necessities for emotional fulfillment.

Acting is difficult because I am reserved and have a tendency to hide what I’m feeling. I spent a lot of years hiding from my own emotions too, and that’s why I entered the acting school I’m in… because I wanted to confront them. I wanted to be a more self-realized and bold version of myself.

Writing is difficult because I’m working on a feature screenplay and it takes a tremendous amount of patience to create a well written and well structured script. I’m attempting to write a very personal story, and I feel a lot of pressure to do it perfectly so I can do it justice, so sometimes that will slow me down. I like writing as a channel, though, because there have time where I have made jokes that were far too dark to be in my stand-up act (at least at this time), and screenwriting is a much more formidable medium for material of heavy substance.

Comedy is difficult for me because I get a lot of anxiety if I’m not performing often enough. If I perform on a regular basis, I’m much more confident and engaging.

 

Critique Compendium: Describe your most memorable moment on stage so far.

Daralyn Kelleher: I pay very close attention to HOW audiences laugh, and what they’re communicating through their laughs. I’ve noticed “agreeing laughter” or “silly giggles”, but the one type of laughter that I saw was this uncontrollable uncontainable long lasting burst of laughs. I watched older more experienced comedians achieve the third type of laughter for years.

Then one time, I did that. I got people to laugh so hard that they were folded over in their chairs and they were sighing between laughs. I never thought I’d be able to, but then I did.

So I guess my new goal is to cause the audience to laugh so hard they collectively seizure.

I know it’s tough to know if I’m joking on that one. Am I?

Critique Compendium: What comics have influenced you?

Daralyn Kelleher: My two favorite comedians are Zach Galifianakis and Ellen Degeneres, and I have two favorite sets of theirs:

Ellen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIAAI3j_vsY&t=239s

Zach: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4j95ua

The Zach set is from 1999, and you can see how young he is in it. He’s just this big weirdo who doesn’t fit in but is beloved for his absurdity, and I find that to be so inspiring. I used to bomb at open mics in Brooklyn in my first couple years, and I would cry after, and sometimes the only thing that would make me feel better was rewatching this set. I’d rewatch it over and over until I fell asleep.

Watching the Ellen set is just delightful. It’s her debut on Johnny Carson, and I love the pace of her jokes up top. I love how dark she gets and charming the audience finds it. Until I’m good enough to do a late night set myself, I get to live vicariously through Ellen in this killer clip.

 

Critique Compendium: What do you do when you’re not on stage? What are your hobbies?

Daralyn Kelleher: My favorite hobby is cat cuddling. Well, it’s really more of a sport, but that’s beside the point. I don’t have too much time for hobbies, but I like generalized adventuring. Say I had time though, I like hiking, water skiing, and just going to new places.

 

Critique Compendium: How do you balance a career, family and your other interests with the demands of performing?

Daralyn Kelleher: Well, right now, my goal isn’t balance. It’s to set up a career in the very challenging world of entertainment. So, although I go on dates here and there and see friends, the goal is to make money from entertainment in some facet. Then I can focus on balance.

Critique Compendium: How do you approach writing your stand-up routines?

Daralyn Kelleher: Sometimes, I like to write about something that’s bothering me or stressing me out. I’ve learned if I’m not connected to the material, no one else will be either. Other times I just like to write a joke because I’m feeling mischievous or playful, and it’s fun just to create a quick one liner.

Daralyn Photo TwoCritique Compendium: How do you handle it when an audience doesn’t laugh at a punchline?

Daralyn Kelleher: I physically fight them.

If I don’t feel like a full out brawl (rare), I will acknowledge what it seems like they’re feeling in reaction to what I’ve said.

 

Critique Compendium: One of your strengths as a writer is finding humor in dark subjects. For instance, during one of your routines you referenced being mistaken for Marilyn Monroe except you’re “dead inside.” You also called yourself a “nude therapist” for sleeping with someone who had personal issues. From a writing standpoint, how do you take unpleasant subject matter and make it comical?

Daralyn Kelleher: For me, I learned after a few years that if I have the instinct to lie or cover up something, then I should undoubtedly write it into a joke. The nude therapist joke is about dating a guy who would rather talk about his ex in bed than sleep with me. I felt so small when that happened, but then when I made it into a joke, I could tell I wasn’t the only one who that’s happened to. That joke had a deep level of honesty, and though I don’t like to do it anymore, I feel like it brought my writing to another level.

The Marilyn Monroe joke is based on feeling stereotyped by people. The idea is that a guy came up to me and told me I reminded him of Marilyn Monroe and I say oh wow, how did you know I’m dead inside. There’s just a strong disconnect between how others see me at first and how I believe I really am and I wanted a joke to demonstrate that.

 

Critique Compendium: What’s your favorite joke?

Daralyn Kelleher: My favorite joke is Ellen’s “People always ask me were you funny as a child and no I was an accountant”

 

Critique Compendium: What do you bring to stand-up that other comedians don’t?

Daralyn Kelleher: You know, that’s a tough one to answer. People my whole life have told me I’m very unique, and to be honest, I’m not even sure I can quantify in what way that I am. I was just always different as a kid because I grew up in this family business in a town I did not fit into at all, and perhaps I just got used to being the different kid so I developed certain eccentricities. Whatever this phenomenon is, I’m learning to own it. My challenge is being a bit off beat and translating that into relatability.

 

Critique Compendium: You’ve performed in New York and Los Angeles. Have you noticed differences between East Coast and West Coast audiences?

Daralyn Kelleher: I’m not so sure that there’s that large of a difference in the audiences, so much as the performers. Broadly speaking, the stereotype is that NYC is a writer’s city, and LA is the showy performer’s city. I believe there’s some truth to it, but I’ve also seen the most animated performers in New York and the nerdiest comedy writers in LA…. so idk we’re all just human beings wherever we are.

 

Critique Compendium: On the television series Family Guy, the Brian character once observed, “all the stand-up comedians are on Twitter now.” Do you foresee a day when social media replaces traditional stand-up comedy?

Daralyn Kelleher: I don’t see that happening at all. Stand-up comedy is about genuine honest human connection. It’s a completely different phenomenon than reading tweets. I feel like Twitter is its own animal. It’s a digital filing cabinet of thoughts, and there’s an aspect of anonymity to it. Real life connection ain’t that organized. It’s messy and beautiful.

 

Critique Compendium: Lately you’ve been into Austin Powers impersonations. What brought that on?

Daralyn Kelleher: I really like posting polls on Twitter because I am typically surprised by what people vote on. I started by posting for advice on what to wear on a date, and I offered several normal suggestions, such as red dress, but I also added choices in such as “giant cat suit” and “Austin Powers costume.” I really liked how entertained people seemed to be by the weird choices so I continued to incorporate them into my future polls and tweets. Then I decided I would ACTUALLY make an Austin Powers video because some of my followers msged me, not believing I really had an Austin Powers costume. (I didn’t, but then I got one!) Anyway, it was a fun video to make. I am going to make more videos. Sometimes, I feel like the crazier I make myself look, the saner I feel.

 

Critique Compendium: What advice would you give to young people interested in participating in the performing arts?

Daralyn Kelleher: Do it. My problem has always been wanting certain achievements and not putting myself into action enough to attain them. So again, my advice is simply “do it”: the Nike slogan of comedy advice.

 

Critique Compendium: What adjective would best describe your career?

Daralyn Kelleher: Confusing.

 

Critique Compendium: What’s next for you?

Daralyn Kelleher: Dr. Evil. Jk. I have been working on stabilizing my new life out here in LA so that I may expend more and more energy on creative pursuits. I’ll be starting a weekly show at the Hollywood speakeasy Adults Only in a few weeks, so I’d like to be performing way more often than I have been. As well, I want to make more youtube videos, though I’m still figuring that out. And finally, I’d like the aforementioned screenplay to be completed.

The Critique Compendium Interview: Gaby Affleck

gabrielle-affleck-headshotGaby Affleck advises those starting out in the arts to “never stop learning.” As she’s established a remarkable career as both an actress and director throughout the South Jersey community theatre circuit, performers would be wise to study what follows. Ms. Affleck kindly provided readers the opportunity to learn some things about her. We conducted this interview via email during the winter of 2017.

 

Critique Compendium: What first interested you in the performing arts?

Gaby Affleck: Way, WAY back when I was in 7th grade, I saw my sister’s friend, Joan Kratowitz Tenaglia, play Julie Jordan in Carousel in a high school production. I was so enamored by her performance that I knew that’s what I wanted to do! But, alas, I was terribly shy.

When I enrolled at St. Hubert High School for Girls, I joined Glee Club, following in my sister Melissa’s footsteps. I found I could perform, but just be a face in the crowd. That was until my Glee Club instructor, Sr. Pat Cashman, encouraged me to audition for The Wizard of Oz, our Spring Musical. I was cast as part of the ensemble, and had a small role. AND…I was bitten by the Acting Bug!

 

Critique Compendium: In addition to acting, you also direct. Which do you prefer? Why?

Gaby Affleck: I don’t have a preference, per se. I like them both for different reasons. I like to act because it gives me an opportunity to show off my talents, and hone my craft. To quote one of my favorite characters, Ursula in The Little Mermaid, “It’s what I LIVE for…” Okay, let’s be honest, I do it for the applause. Applause is like a drug. Once you experience it, you want it over and over again.

Directing, on the other hand, like putting together a puzzle. It’s making sure all of the moving parts are working properly. It’s also “the thrill of the chase” finding the perfect actors, costumes, props & set pieces. I do so love working with the actors to push them to dig a little deeper and find the heart and soul of their characters. I also enjoy collaborating with the set designers and the tech gurus, the costume designers and producers, and together, as a team, building the final product! Then I get to take the credit for everyone’s hard work. (I KID! I KID!)

Directing is a different kind of satisfaction. It’s being able to look at the final outcome and say, “That’s my vison come to life!” It’s a proud moment.

 

Critique Compendium: What types of things interest you in prospective projects? Why?

Gaby Affleck: In the acting department, I like two kinds of roles: Ones that allow my current wheelhouse of talents to shine. BUT, I also love to play roles that are far from the “real me” and make me really work hard for the outcome. They are actually more fulfilling.

In the directing department, I like scripts that scream out “direct me, Gaby!” They must have meaty characters that need to be brought to life! I prefer to direct shows that aren’t often produced. I also tend to lean towards thrillers. In short, I’m drawn to scripts that speak to my soul.

 

Critique Compendium: What’s the most challenging show in which you’ve participated? Why?

Gaby Affleck: That’s a tough one. I’ve been involved with many challenging shows, from both sides of the stage.

I think I it would be when I directed Dracula at Burlington County Footlighters. Dracula was the most technically involved show I’ve ever worked on. We had a plethora of special effects: On-stage transformations, disappearing vampires, creatures with glowing eyes, books opening of their own accord, vampire stakings (complete with a geysers of blood,) crosses that caught fire, exploding coffins…just to name a few!

To accomplish all of that, you need the BEST OF THE BEST on your team! I’m looking at you, Jim Frazer (Set Design,) Bob Beaucheane (Tech. Design,) Torben Christensen (Producer,) Pat Frazer (Assistant Director,) Jasmine Chalfont (Blood FX Specialist,) Valerie Brothers (Makeup and Hair Design,) Lynne Johnson (Costumes,) Kristina VanName (Props) and Sarah Flanagan (Stage Manager.) I could not have done this show without them, and I can’t thank them enough for having faith in my ability to stage this show!

Dracula also boasted a brilliant cast, with whom I’m honored to have had the opportunity to work.

We also won a few awards that year. Best child actor (Lisa Krier as The Girl,) Best Supporting Actor (Bernard DiCassimiro as Renfield,) Best Technical Show, and Best Show! So, yeah, I’m very proud of that one!

 

Critique Compendium: Describe your most memorable theatrical moment: either performing or directing.

Gaby Affleck: Just one? That’s not easy.

I’d have to say playing Mama Rose in Gypsy to sold out houses. I’ve been lucky enough to play Rose twice, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Rose is the role of a lifetime, and she is larger than life. And based on a REAL PERSON, with so many layers to peel back. I think I’ve a lot more to learn about her.

 

Critique Compendium: In addition to acting and directing, you’re also an excellent vocalist. What inspired you to learn singing?

Gaby Affleck: I’m going to give St. Pat Cashman another shout-out here. I grew up singing for my own personal pleasure, but it was Sr. Pat who convinced me that I actually had talent. She encouraged me to audition for the school play, gave me my first solo, had me sing “God Bless America” for the Rotary Club, and she even submitted my audition tape for the 1988 Coca-Cola World Chorus (for which I went on to be a semi-finalist.) She really was my guiding force.

 

Critique Compendium: What performance artists have influenced you? Why?

Gaby Affleck: I don’t think there is any one in particular. There are some wonderful actors out there that I just adore watching because I know they always deliver. Some of them are (in no particular order): Meryl Streep, Gary Sinise, Liev Schrieber, Denzel Washington, Helen Mirren, Kathy Bates, John Malkovich…

I always enjoy when I’m watching someone perform and they deliver a line, or make a physical choice, that is so NOT what I was expecting! I think to myself “Wow! That was a fantastic choice. I never would have thought to go that way.” Then I wonder, “Was that their choice or something the director asked them to do?” I’m constantly watching from both sides.

 

Critique Compendium: If you had the opportunity to work with any actor either living or dead, whom would it be? Why?

Gaby Affleck: Again, just one?

Meryl Streep because she is an amazing actress and I think I could learn a lot from her. There’s nothing she can’t do!

I want to be Meryl Streep when I grow up!

 

Critique Compendium: What do you do when you’re not on stage? What are your hobbies and interests?

Gaby Affleck: Sleeping is a favorite. The occasional adult beverage. (stop laughing)

 

Critique Compendium: How do you balance a career, family and other activities with the demands of participating in community theater productions?

Gaby Affleck: I don’t. Theatre wins. Every time.

 

Critique Compendium: How do you prepare to direct a show?

Gaby Affleck: I read several scripts until I find one that speaks to me. Then I read it again to be sure. Sometimes I give it to other people to read to get their opinions. And, if it’s a tricky script, like in the case of Dracula, I put together a team before I even submit the show to a theater for consideration.

Then I read it about 20 more times, taking character, set, costume and prop notes.

If the script is based on a book, I will read that book. But, I don’t like to watch the movie, or other performances as I do not want to be influenced by other director’s choices. I want my show to be my own. (For better or worse.)

 

Critique Compendium: What do you bring to your roles that other performers don’t?

Gaby Affleck: I’m big on character development and honesty.

I develop a new character for each production I am in. I’ve never re-used a character, though I do occasionally borrow bits and pieces to create others.

For me a character is not just a voice affectation. It’s everything: demeanor, style of dress, posture, gait, how do they respond to different situations/people, what is their backstory? All of these things factor into creating a believable character.

I’m also big on research. I will scour the internet for information about eras to learn how people looked, dressed, behaved, wore their hair.

As for honesty, I believe one must literally become the character to be believable in the role. You cannot just deliver lines. You can’t pretend to cry or laugh. An audience knows when you are not being honest, and they will find you boring or stilted. To be true to the character, and the author, you must live the role. You have to feel what they are feeling, and react as they would. That’s what makes a performance believable.

 

Critique Compendium: What’s the most difficult part of performing in front of a live audience?

Gaby Affleck: Going up on lines. Sometimes there is just no graceful way to recover.

Oh, and there was that time I walked out on stage with my dress tucked into my pantyhose, but, I’d like to forget about that.

 

Critique Compendium: How would you like audiences to remember you?

Gaby Affleck: Well, I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who walked out on stage with her dress tucked into her pantyhose.

I’d like to be remembered for making the audience feel something. Whether I make them laugh, or cry or become angry, I want the audience to leave feeling differently than when they came in. (Same goes for when I direct.)

 

Critique Compendium: If I asked people with whom you’ve either performed or directed what it was like working with you, what would they tell me?

Gaby Affleck: As an actress I’d like to think that they would tell you I’m a hard working actress, who comes prepared and is enjoyable to work with. And that they CAN’T WAIT to work with me again!

As I director I hope people would tell you that I’m a dedicated director who has a vision, and who has the creativity and know-how to bring her vision to the stage. Also, that I’m serious, but lots of fun to work with….and that they CAN’T WAIT to work with me again!

 

Critique Compendium: What advice would you give to young people interested in the performing arts?

Gaby Affleck:

1) Never stop learning!

2) Take something away from every experience.

3) If you don’t push yourself, you won’t grow!

4) If it doesn’t scare you a little, you’re not doing it right!

 

Critique Compendium: What adjective best describes your theater career?

Gaby Affleck: Eclectic!

 

Critique Compendium: I’d like to ask a bit of a personal question involving two characters with whom you’re familiar. If you were available with whom would you rather take a Hawaiian cruise: Count Dracula or Aldolpho from The Drowsy Chaperone?

Gaby Affleck: Tough choice.

Dracula is sexy on a cerebral level. Adolpho is pure physical sexual attraction.

Dracula would hide from the sun, making it difficult to enjoy the daylight hours. While Adolpho would “keep me awake” all night, also making it difficult to enjoy the daylight hours.

I think when it comes down to it, I’d pick Dracula. He’s a man (?) with whom I could enjoy intelligent conversations and long walks on the beach (after sunset.) He’s a snappy dresser, he owns his own castle, and he won’t drink any of my…wine.

 

Critique Compendium: And the big question I know readers are curious about: are you related to Matt Damon in any way? Just kidding. Any relation to Ben Affleck?

Gaby Affleck: Me personally, no.

As to whether he is a relation of my husband…well, we don’t receive a card from him at Christmas, so….

 

Critique Compendium: What’s next for Gaby Affleck?

Gaby Affleck: (Squealing with excitement) I’m going to be playing Ursula in The Little Mermaid! A Dream Role! She’s evil yet witty, with a little sexy tossed in for good measure. And she sings the best villain song every written: POOR UNFORTUNATE SOULS!

Come see me and the rest of this amazing cast! May 26, 27, 28 June 2, 3, 4 Yardley Players Theatre Company at The Kelsey Theatre at Mercer County Community College.

 

The Critique Compendium Interview: Michael Melvin

michael-melvin

A lot of people like to complain about how busy they are. These people would be well advised not to say that to Michael Melvin.

Mr. Melvin wears so many hats that pretty soon he’s going to need more heads. He recently played Joey in Haddonfield Plays and Players production of Sister Act this February. In a few weeks he will be casting for Sister Act which he will direct at the Maple Shade Arts Council this summer.

During the day, Mr. Melvin works as an Eighth Grade Math and Science teacher in Edgewater Park, NJ. He concurrently works towards his Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership at Montclair State University.

In addition to performing and directing in South Jersey Community Theatre productions, he is the President of the Maple Shade Arts Council; a 501[c]3 non-profit organization. Its membership includes educators, parents, and the general public. The group provides entertaining, educational, and inspirational artistic programs and events for the community. Through the Arts Council, Mr. Melvin has had the privilege of directing the summer theatre campers, as well as directing the adults in the summer musical.

In the past Mr. Melvin served as a board member with Burlington County Footlighters in Cinnaminson, NJ. He also played the drums in musicals such as 13 and Avenue Q.

While Mr. Melvin is very passionate about the performing arts and education, his heart truly belongs to his fiancee, Nicole Traino. He anxiously awaits their wedding day in March 2018 and looks forward to spending the rest of his life with his high school sweetheart.

Despite an exceedingly busy schedule, Mr. Melvin genially agreed to be interviewed on February 22, 2017. An edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Critique Compendium: You’re a math teacher. So I’m sure you won’t mind taking a little test to prove how well you know your subject. What’s two plus six?

Michael Melvin: Eight.

Critique Compendium: (Long, long pause.) I’ll take your word for it.

Critique Compendium: You’ve taken on leadership roles with both Burlington County Footlighters and The Maple Shade Arts Council. You’re also working towards a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership. What’s your definition of leadership?

Michael Melvin: To me, there are the people who sit behind the desk and then there are the people in the trenches. When I become a school administrator I’ll want everyone to know I’ll be there for them. I’m there to help them succeed.

I’m in the Arts Council because I want to see people achieve. My role is to help others achieve greatness.

Critique Compendium: What interested you in stepping up and taking on leadership responsibilities?

Michael Melvin: It all started when I was a young kid. I did summer theatre in Maple Shade. I wasn’t into sports. I was the type who liked to eat cheese fries in the stands! My mom said to try summer theatre. I did and got hooked. I continued doing theatre in high school. In college I focused on math.

In 2012 I got involved with Footlighters performing in the Wedding Singer through friends. At the time there was an opening on the board for a secretary. They asked me if I would be interested in doing it. Taking notes seemed like something I could handle so I said, “Okay.” After that was like a snowball effect.

Critique Compendium: You’re the President of the Maple Shade Arts Council. How did you get involved with that organization?

Michael Melvin: I was in their summer theatre program through the community alliance. A friend told me that the Maple Shade Arts Council was still in existence. In 2013 the Arts Council existed under the township, but no one was running it.

Due to changes in funding and the camp no longer being able to be done in the summer, I wanted to find a way to keep the summer theatre camp as is to better accommodate our campers. I wanted to keep the program I loved and grew up doing as is.  Since then it has blossomed. It’s been a blessing.

Critique Compendium: Could you describe some of the programs the Maple Shade Arts Council sponsors?

Michael Melvin: We have the summer musical for adults, as you know. The first one we did was Urintetown. I’ll say this: it made people aware of us.

We also do cabarets. We did art workshops before and we’re looking to do them again. We’ve done a Holiday heirloom workshop. We present a teen show, too.

The new thing is the junior program for kids in Kindergarten through third grade.

We’re focused on theatrical shows, but I don’t consider the Maple Shade Arts Council a “theatre organization.” We’re hoping to branch out into other performing arts.

Critique Compendium: How does the Maple Shade Arts Council select the shows it’s going to present?

Michael Melvin: We try to pick something the community hasn’t seen before. We want to do something unique that will interest people.

For our first show we figured we needed to attract actors first. We decided on Urinetown with the: “If you build it they will come philosophy.” We wanted to create a spark in the town. We created a conflagration.

The Addams Family had wider appeal. The Drowsy Chaperone featured old style music. We like to put on shows people can relate to. We picked Sister Act because a “summer show should be a fun show.” We present happy-go-lucky, make you feel good musicals for the summer.

As the Arts Council grows we’ll add more variety.

Critique Compendium: Did you perform in the Haddonfield Plays and Players version of Sister Act to get a “practice” Sister Act under your belt?

Michael Melvin: I wasn’t in Sister Act to learn about the show. I read Phyllis Josephson’s Facebook post about the auditions. I wanted to do a show with Phyllis. I sent a video submission. (Director) Chris (McGinnis) got back to me right away. I didn’t tell anyone about the Maple Shade Arts Council.

I wanted to get back to acting. I had fun diving into the role.

Now I have to delete that memory of the show. I’m working with a new production team. Darryl (S. Thompson, Jr.) is the Assistant Director. We’ll give the show a new twist.

Critique Compendium: How did the council decide to do The Drowsy Chaperone? That show was outstanding.

Michael Melvin: Thank you. It was the first time I knew I wasn’t going to direct. I asked (director) Brian Padla what he wanted to do. I knew we had a “unique space.” (Since Maple Shade High School was under renovations) we had a smaller forum (in Nolan Hall at Our Lady of Perpetual Help.) I had no clue about the show myself. When Brian suggested it I said let’s look into it. I liked the cool music. When I watched the Aldopho scene on youtube I loved it!

Critique Compendium: What are some of the challenges in running a small non-profit volunteer organization?

Michael Melvin: The key is the word volunteer. People’s lives are hectic. The hard part is how to strike a passion with people to put in that extra effort. I believe in the organization. Over the last three years I’ve seen a lot of parents putting in their efforts.

We’re doing something great in the community. We’re bringing people to Maple Shade.

It’s very challenging to rally the troops to see the vision and then get them to buy into the vision. When I see that happen is the best part.

Critique Compendium: What makes you interested in playing a role?

Michael Melvin: I’m a character actor. I like comedic parts. I know I’m not going to play the ingénue. When I played Joey (in Sister Act) I grew a crazy moustache. I like weird characters. I love comedies. I enjoy becoming somebody who has no similarities with myself.

Critique Compendium: What’s been you’re favorite role that you’ve performed so far?

Michael Melvin: I’d say Legally Blonde. I was Professor Callahan. I’d never played a villain before. That character never changed the entire show.

When I told Jill (Starr-Renbjor, the director) I was going to try out for the part she said I was, “too nice.” When I went to the audition I dressed professorial and sang a song from the musical. I got the part.

Critique Compendium: What’s the most difficult role you’ve played?

Michael Melvin: In my senior year of high school I played Jean Valjean. To show how much I knew about theatre at the time, I’d never heard of Les Mis! I didn’t understand the nuances of theatre then. I did a lot of research for the part. Vocally it was a challenge. The role is a tenor and I’m a bass/baritone. That was hard as was being on stage the entire show and singing the entire show.

Critique Compendium: You’ve both performed as well as directed. Which do you prefer?

Michael Melvin: After being in Sister Act I prefer directing. I feel like I get more nervous when I’m on stage. Will I forget my lines? Will I forget the music? As an actor you’re concerned about yourself.

As a director you put yourself in every actor’s shoes. It gives you the opportunity to work with people. I love directing.

Critique Compendium: Describe your most memorable moment on stage so far.

Michael Melvin: I would probably say, my senior year in Les Mis. The coolest moment was knowing it was my last show in high school. I was the last one out for curtain call. I remember the emotions that went along with that. I’d worked with these people so long. I wasn’t sure if I was going to do theatre again.

Critique Compendium: How long was it until you performed again?

Michael Melvin: I spent four or five years off stage.

I didn’t perform in college. In college theatre was for the majors. They had phenomenal talent, anyway. I was focused on math and education at the time.

Critique Compendium: You’re also a gifted singer. Who influenced you musically?

Michael Melvin: My parents brought me up listening to 60s, 70s, and 80s music; the older music. I’m not into modern music. I wasn’t influenced by one person vocally. I listen to a weird mix such as country, Hamilton (the soundtrack), and Frank Sinatra.

Critique Compendium: What actors have influenced you?

Michael Melvin: I like to look at actors I’m similar to. I’d say Kevin Chamberlain who played Horton in Seussical and Fester in the Addams Family. I like Broadway performer Brian D’Arcy James. I can relate to Patton Oswalt’s personality.

I tell kids to know your type, know who you are. Having a niche is helpful.

Critique Compendium: If you had the opportunity to work with any other actor either living or dead, who would it be?

Michael Melvin: Robin Williams because of his comedy background. You can’t figure out his mind. He keeps you on your toes. He could look at a prop and turn it into a bazillion things. He forced you to up your game or say, “I can’t keep up with this!”

Critique Compendium: What do you do when you’re not on stage?

Michael Melvin: I love watching Philly sports: the Phils, Eagles, and Sixers. I collect Funko Pop. I don’t have as much free time as I used to. It’s important for me to spend time with my fiancée.

Critique Compendium: I’ve heard that you chose a very unique way to propose to her. Could you tell us about that?

Michael Melvin: I told her they were going to do a read through at Footlighters for a script a friend of mine wrote. I let her know about it months in advance. Actually, I wrote the play. Each scene was something that happened during our relationship.

On the night of the “read through” we had heart candles all around the stage. As we went through the script she realized that all the scenes were familiar. Then I proposed to her on stage. The lights came up and there were 50 to 60 people in the audience.

We both have a passion for theatre. I feel like Footlighters helped me reconnect with friends and my high school band director, which led to me accepting a coaching job at our old high school marching band. We ended up coaching together and that ultimately led to us reconnecting and getting back together. I’m grateful BCF gave me the opportunity to propose on their stage.

Critique Compendium: How do you prepare for a role?

Michael Melvin: The biggest thing is: when going into auditions don’t soley focus on one role. An actor should be diverse and understand all the parts. I read through script several times. I read it from the other characters’ perspectives. I’ll write down the line before and the line after my character’s on notecards. That helps me get a better understanding.

Critique Compendium: What do you bring to your roles that other performers don’t?

Michael Melvin: I bring dedication. When you work with me I’m all in. At Haddonfield Plays and Players (production of Sister Act) I was very quiet. I wanted to prove that I wanted to work hard. I didn’t mention anything about the Maple Shade Arts Council.

I’ll push myself in ways I don’t normally. I’ll push through things, such as singing tenor with a bass voice, even if it doesn’t come naturally to me.

Critique Compendium: What’s the most difficult part of performing in front of a live audience?

Michael Melvin: When I do comedy: not breaking character and laughing.

Haddonfield Plays and Players’ stage is close to the audience. It’s difficult with that smaller space not to laugh when you see your friends laughing.

Holding that character is tough. Becoming that other character is hard, too. Not letting Mike break through is the hardest part.

Critique Compendium: How would you like audiences to remember you?

Michael Melvin: As an Arts Council leader: I hope at the end of the day people see that I love what I do. I hope they see the passion and why I do what I do. My intentions are pure and my desire to help people is evident. I want to see the kids go off and succeed. I want to see them grow.

I want other people to find that passion that I found. That’s the ultimate gift you can give someone.

Critique Compendium: If I asked people with whom you’ve performed what it was like working with you, what would they tell me?

Michael Melvin: He’s a great guy. He can be slightly undiagnosed OCD. He’s slightly perfectionist, but in the nice way. He’s very open when he works with people.

Mike’s a “worker.” Mike does too much work. He needs to relax. I would have more of my hair this way. I need to relax.

The good news is that I’m self-aware of all this.

Critique Compendium: What adjective would best describe your theater career?

Michael Melvin: Wide ranging or diverse. I’ve had a lot of unique experiences: Directing kids, adults, shows, stage crew, and building sets. It’s always been something different.

Critique Compendium: What’s next for you?

Michael Melvin: Sister Act auditions for the Maple Shade Arts Council are on April 2nd and 4th. We’ve received a lot of great feedback, so far.

Music Man, Jr. takes place over the summer. We have 60 kids in the program.

I’m finishing my master’s program. I’m also getting a wedding together for next March.

Critique Compendium: What advice would you give to young people interested in participating in the performing arts?

Michael Melvin: Without a doubt take a chance. Take the most out of every opportunity. If you’re in the lead or ensemble every opportunity can build you up. Everything is meaningful and impactful. Stick with it.

You will never meet as many great people as in the arts. It’s a lifelong blessing for anybody who sticks with it.

More information about Mr. Melvin is available at his website: www.michaelanthonymelvin.com.

The Critique Compendium Interview: Lori A. Howard

lori-howardTen years ago Lori A. Howard left the prosaic New York area to re-settle in the cultural cornucopia we know as South Jersey. At the time, she worked as the Assistant Development Director at the Walnut Street Theatre. Since then she’s transitioned from schmoozing donors to wowing community theatre audiences. They’re glad she did. Fans will no doubt remember Lori’s moving performance of Kate Jerome at the Haddonfield Plays and Players recent production of Brighton Beach Memoirs. Audiences will also recall her comical work in The Drowsy Chaperone and The Addams Family Musical, both presented by the Maple Shade Arts Council; an organization where she volunteers and gives back to a community for which she has unparalleled passion.

Ms. Howard graciously agreed to be interviewed on February 6, 2017. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.

 

Question: I figure you’ll be a big success one day since you’re such a talented performer. Normally, I’d ask for an autograph. Since I’d just end up selling it for big money some day: could you give me ten thousand dollars now?

 

Answer: (Laughs) If I had it, I’d give it to you.

 

Q: Tell me a little about yourself.

 

A: I live in Marlton with my husband, Edwin, and my son and daughter.

 

Q: How old are your children?

 

A: My son is ten. My daughter’s six.

 

 

Q: What first interested you in the performing arts?

 

A: Oh, I’ve been doing it since I can remember. I always loved singing, dancing and performing.

 

Q: When did you start performing?

 

A: At five or six. I took dance classes. I grew up in North Jersey so I saw a lot of Broadway shows.

 

Q: Why did you come to South Jersey?

 

A: I got a job at the Walnut Street Theatre in the Development Department. I had a wonderful boss. I taught at the theatre school and worked there for 10 years. I taught kids acting class for five, six and seven year olds. We did fairy tale plays and told jokes. We worked on art projects, too.

 

I do a similar class with the Maple Shade Arts Council. This is their pilot year. My husband builds sets for us. Anne-Marie Underwood and I did class with 29 kids last Saturday. (2/4/17)

 

Q: How did you get involved with the Maple Shade Arts Council?

 

A: I worked at Maple Shade High School.

I was cast in the Maple Shade Arts Council’s production of The Addams Family. It was the first time I’d been on stage in 15 years.

 

Q: Why the long hiatus?

 

 

A: Family life came first for me; then my career. I also understudied at the Walnut Street Theatre, but people were always healthy!

 

 

Q: What types of things make you want to play a role?

 

A: Well, a great script. There are a lot of rich characters in theatre. I also like to work with a great production team. Working with Matthew Weil and Sarah Viniar on Brighton Beach Memoirs and To Kill a Mockingbird come to mind.

 

Q: Why did you want to be in The Addams Family?

 

A: I liked the show and soundtrack. I wanted to give theatre a shot again. I had a lot of fun with my character.

 

Q: What’s been you’re favorite role that you’ve performed so far?

 

A: In a play: Kate in Brighton Beach. We had a small cast. We really became like a little family. Kate Jerome was a juicy part. She did what she had to do to keep her family’s heads above water. She was feisty. I loved her!

Into the Woods was my favorite musical. I played the Witch. The theme is what happens after you get your happily ever after; when your dreams and wishes change.

 

 

Q: What’s the most difficult role you’ve played?

 

A: I played Katerina in The Taming of the Shrew. Learning the language was a challenge. So was the physicality.

 

Q: Describe your most memorable moment on stage so far.

 

A: It would be at the end of Brighton Beach. Kate called for Eugene to come down and join the family. The family members in Europe escaped Poland. It had a happy resolution.

My family is Bronx Italian. Bronx Italian and Brooklyn Jewish seem to have very similar family dynamics. With the way the characters and script are written, I heard echoes of my grandmother’s kitchen table.

 

Q: What actors have influenced you?

 

A: From Broadway I’d have to say Bernadette Peters. She has a distinctive voice. I love how she performs Sondheim. She speaks to my heart.

 

I also appreciate Kate Winslett’s depth. She captures characters so brilliantly.

 

Q: If you had the opportunity to work with any actor either living or dead, who would it be?

 

A: Dustin Hoffman. He’s a good everyman with a little quirkiness. He’s very identifiable. He’s in so many of my favorite movies. I’ve always been a big fan. It would be fun to banter with him.

 

Q: You have a tremendous enthusiasm for community theatre. Why?

 

A: It’s something that you can do at any age and on the local level. It gives artists that can’t pursue it professionally the opportunity to come together. The passion and talent are there. I’ve met amazing people through it. My whole family and I do it together. The brilliant people I’ve met have brought joy and richness to my life.

 

Q: I didn’t recognize you playing one of the gangsters in The Drowsy Chaperone. What was it like performing in that show?

 

A: A lot of fun. I didn’t expect to play a male. Debra Heckman (the other gangster) and I ran with it and had a lot of fun.

 

Q: Brighton Beach Memoirs featured an unusual set-up as the audience was seated both in front of and behind the stage. How did you like working with that format?

 

A: It was a wonderful challenge. (Director) Matthew (Weil) wanted the audience to feel as though they were in the house. It would’ve been hard to create that effect with a regular stage set-up. Also, the actors don’t have to worry about putting their bad sides to the audience. Matthew did an amazing job. I cannot credit him enough for it.

 

Q: During that show, the actors remained on the stage even when they weren’t part of the action. What was it like being on stage while not participating in the action?

 

A: I didn’t have issue with sitting on the stage. It gave me the chance to watch the whole show.

 

Q: What do you do when you’re not on stage?

 

A: I’m a stay-at-home mom. I keep busy with my kids. I take them to karate, ballet, and I volunteer at their school. I run the science fair there every June.

 

Q: How do you prepare for a role?

 

A: It depends. If the script is of particular time period, I might look at books, fashion styles and see what was going on at the time. I immerse myself in the script. I might voice lines to my husband or in the mirror, too.

 

Q: What do you bring to your roles that other performers don’t?

 

A: I’m very passionate. I’m very committed to getting something right. I will work with director until everything is “as it should be.”

I have a good sense of humor. I try to say hello to everyone. My daughter and I bake and bring cookies to rehearsals.

 

Q: What’s the most difficult part of performing in front of a live audience?

 

A: Never quite knowing how they’re going to react. You never know if the laughs will come from the same spots. Different audiences may respond to different lines. You can’t assume that the audience will react in a certain way. It’s their experience. The audience will interpret. You have to respond accordingly.

 

Q: How would you like audiences to remember you?

 

A: I hope they think I did my job. It’s important as actor to understand the role in the greater scheme of the play. I don’t want to stick out in a bad way. I want to fit into the puzzle as the author intended.

 

Q: Have you ever worked with a script that contained bad writing?

 

A: Every actor comes across something that doesn’t come across the way they want. You need to find way to identify with an aspect of it and make it your own.

 

Q: If I asked people with whom you’ve performed what it was like working with you, what would they tell me?

 

A: I ask too many questions about the script, character, and time period. The more of a background I have the more real I can try to make it.

I’m also committed to playing off them well. I hope they would say they had as much fun as I did.

 

Q: Joseph Conrad said that he always kept one fact about his characters out of his novels. This way it was known only to him. Do you take a similar approach with the roles you play?

 

A: Backstory is always helpful. If you can create one or can get information from the rest of the script or if you can answer questions that the audience doesn’t have to know: it adds to the script and the circumstances. It gives you more to work with. A great director can help with that, too.

 

Q: Have you ever thought about directing?

 

A: I was a co-director at Maple Shade High School. I directed in college. I went to Flagler College in Saint Augustine Florida. It’s a small liberal arts college with a good theatre department.

 

Q: What advice would you give to young people interested in participating in the performing arts?

 

A: Go for it. Absolutely. It can bring you so much. It can boost your confidence. Plays have historical value. You meet amazing people. No matter what field you’re planning on going into, there’s an aspect of the performance arts you will benefit from. You will walk away with invaluable experiences for the rest of your life.

 

You don’t have to do it professionally. If it’s in your heart, you’ll be a richer person for it.

 

Q: What adjective would best describe your theater career?

 

A: Varied.

 

Q: I’d like to ask a bit of a personal question. It involves two characters featured in shows you performed. If you were single and available, with whom would you prefer to take a romantic cruise: Lerch from The Addams Family or Aldolpho from The Drowsy Chaperone?

 

A: (Laughs) The same actor (Antonio Baldassari) played both of them! He’s a friend of mine. Funny guy.

I would say Lerch. He’s a man of fewer words and I would enjoy the vacation more. Aldolpho would talk about himself the whole time.

 

Q: What’s next for you?

 

A: To Kill a Mockingbird opens at the Ritz on March 2nd. It runs through the 19th. Matthew Weil is directing. I’m thrilled to be back on his team. It’s a good time to be doing that show with what’s going on in the country. It will make audiences question their view of the world. It’s good to revisit and question the state of things.

I’m on the board of the Maple Shade Arts Council. I’m the Director of Fundraising. My son did their camp. My daughter is performing in Annie.

They present a summer musical, a teen show in fall, and a show for the youngest group in the winter. This is in addition to the summer camp. I’m proud to be part of their organization.

I’m grateful to be part of the community. South Jersey has so many local theatre companies. There are so many people giving their time and talents to such a rich community.

Lisa Croce: The Critique Compendium Interview

Dancer. Singer. Actress. Director. Lisa Croce is one of the most talented and entertaining performers active on the South Jersey community theatre circuit today. In spite of her very busy schedule, Ms. Croce agreed to take questions regarding her life and career. We conducted our interview via email on June 22, 2016.

20160604_144308

Critique Compendium: Tell us a little about yourself.

Lisa Croce: I’m really quite boring. I was raised in Voorhees, NJ. After high school I moved up to NYC to go to NYU as a musical theatre major. I lived in NY for about 10 years before moving back to the South Jersey area. I now work with numbers and rules in the mortgage biz but always keep my creative side active with my hobby of theatre, as well as writing (for my own eyes only).

Critique Compendium: What first interested you in the performing arts?

Lisa Croce: My mom enrolled me in dance classes at the age of 4. I wanted to quit basically every year but in elementary school my gym teacher encouraged my parents to keep me in dance as it would help me with my eye-hand and eye-foot coordination. When my dance teacher was hired to choreograph “The Music Man” when I was 13 years old, and encouraged all her dancers to audition, I was cast in the ensemble … and that was it. I was bit by the bug. Once bit, it’s irreversible.

Critique Compendium: When did you start performing?

Lisa Croce: Dance recitals at the age of 4. Theatre at the age of 13.

Critique Compendium: What types of things make you want to play a role? Why?

Lisa Croce: I am always interested in new challenges. When I see a role with a lot of dimensions, for instance, the opportunity to be funny but touch on an emotion or two along with it, I definitely want to dig my claws into that.

Critique Compendium: What’s been your favorite role that you’ve performed so far? Why?

Lisa Croce: Relating to the above, Debra Watts in Kimberly Akimbo was an amazing example of a funny character but she also had a heart. Trying to bring both aspects to life for the audience was a challenge I looked forward to meeting each performance.

Critique Compendium: What’s the most difficult role you’ve played? Why?

Lisa Croce: I feel much more confidence in my acting than my singing or dancing these days (age will do this!). Therefore, playing Rosie in Wedding Singer where I had to sing solo and dance was difficult for me. I needed to get out of my own head and just do it! I lean more towards plays or non-singing and dancing roles in musicals when I can.

Critique Compendium: Describe your most memorable moment on stage so far.

Lisa Croce: Yes, there are 2 if I may. The first one is the first time I played Mae Peterson in Bye Bye Birdie. There is a scene where Albert tells Mae to do something about Conrad and Mae insinuates a sexual encounter between Conrad and herself. Here I am made up and dressed up to be old and frumpy and coming onto the rock star Conrad Birdie. When I said my line, an audience member (male) let out an audible “UGH” … that made me so happy.

The 2nd one was during Guys and Dolls, I managed to get the biggest laugh of the show, every single performance, based solely off of my height (or lack thereof).

Critique Compendium: What actors have influenced you? Why?

Lisa Croce: I am constantly astounded at the talents of Meryl Streep, Robert DeNiro, Tom Hanks. While there are many talented actors out there, the three I name are so incredibly diverse and I feel like no matter what role they are asked to play, it will be done perfectly!

Critique Compendium: If you had the opportunity to work with any other actor either living or dead, who would that person be? Why?

Lisa Croce: The ones I name above of course. Idina Mendel! Can I do a love scene with Channing Tatum? HA! (Need I say why??)

Critique Compendium: What do you do when you’re not on stage? What are your hobbies and outside interests?

Lisa Croce: As mentioned I work in the mortgage biz and the rest of the time is devoted to my 10 year old daughter and her activities – dance, voice, girl scouts, drama club. I’m a single mom working full time, so the concept of “spare time” is kind of foreign to me. When I am involved in a show, it’s a complete anomaly!

Critique Compendium: How do you balance a career, family and other activities with the demands of performing in community theater productions?

Lisa Croce: Sleep? Who needs sleep? Messy house? I’ll clean it after tech week! It isn’t easy but it’s what I love to do, so I make it work. Thankfully, I have my mom around to help with my daughter A LOT – if not for her, I probably wouldn’t be able to do theatre.

Critique Compendium: How do you prepare for a role?

Lisa Croce: Once I’ve read a script several times, I want to understand what my character is feeling. When possible, I try to relate my character’s situation to my own life, or of someone I know. I try to find the same feelings within me that the character is feeling, even if it’s from a completely different situation. As for learning lines, it’s a matter of repetition. I read them, I write them, I speak them, I record them and play them back to myself. They are constantly in my head. Often times I’ll randomly speak some out loud. Actors are weird!!!!

Critique Compendium: What do you bring to your roles that other performers don’t?

Lisa Croce: Oh, I don’t know. I have a great comedic timing. My look is unique.

Critique Compendium: What’s the most difficult part of performing in front of a live audience?

Lisa Croce: It doesn’t matter how many times I do it, every night is a new set of jitters when “places” is called. Will I remember my lines? Will I trip and fall on my face? Will I hit all the notes (if singing) or remember all the steps (if dancing)? Will they like it? Will they laugh where they are supposed to laugh and cry where they are supposed to cry and clap where they are supposed to clap? The actors definitely feed off of the energy of the audience. Every audience is different and therefore every performance is different. You never really know what you’re going to be facing until you get there.

Critique Compendium: How would you like audiences to remember you?

Lisa Croce: Hilarious of course! “Remember that short girl who played (whoever) … she was so funny!”

Critique Compendium: If I asked people with whom you’ve performed what it was like working with you, what would they tell me?

Lisa Croce: They would tell you that Lisa keeps her drama on the stage. That I have zero tolerance for divas, drama and BS. We are all doing this as volunteers. It’s supposed to be fun. When it stops being fun, is the day I hang it up! Believe it or not, I’m actually slightly on the shy side until I get to know people. Then I’m fun, funny, and easy to work with. Oh, and very self-depreciating but will build everyone else up incessantly.

Critique Compendium: What advice would you give to young people interested in participating in the performing arts?

Lisa Croce: Go and have fun with it. Try different companies, different types of shows, etc. Volunteer to help with as much as you can – sets, lights, sound, costumes – try to learn all aspects of it. Audition even when you don’t think there’s a role for you – you never know what the director wants. (Prime example is me playing Big Jule in Guys and Dolls. This is a role typically played by a large male. He’s a gangster. When 4’11” me shows up in this role, hilarity ensues.) Most importantly, don’t take it personally. When you’re not cast in a role it stinks. When you know you’d be better than the person who was cast, it stinks even more. It will happen though. Why? It’s not about you. It’s about the director’s vision. Directors go into auditions with ideas and visions already established. If you don’t fit what they see, it doesn’t matter how talented you are, it just won’t work.

Critique Compendium: What adjective would best describe your theater career?

Lisa Croce: Improving (as I get older I fit more roles that I look right for.)

Critique Compendium: Barbara Walters famously asked Katherine Hepburn: “What kind of tree would you want to be?” Let me ask you this: If you were a tree, in what forest would you like to be located?

Lisa Croce: Can I be a palm tree on a beach? The beach is my happy place. The ocean is peaceful. That’s where I’d like to be.

Critique Compendium: What’s next for you?

Lisa Croce: One Flew Over the Writer’s Block one act festival goes up this weekend. Bye Bye Birdie (2nd chance to play Mae Peterson) opens July 14th. Auditions for Brighton Beach Memoirs are also in July. After that (if cast) I will need a break. I will be directing for the first time in April 2017. It’s a poignant dramedy, Making God Laugh, at Bridge Players in Burlington.

 

 

In the Hot Seat: Marie Gilbert

_MG_19971441369_10201895565463448_824479558_nCover for Roof Oasis

On January 23, 2015 the Critique Compendium’s editorial staff interviewed local South Jersey author, Marie Gilbert. I’m sure readers could discern Ms. Gilbert is an author: she answered all the questions in complete sentences. We conducted our discussion via e-mail.

Critique Compendium: They call you the “Steampunk Granny”. How did you get that nickname?

Ms. Gilbert: Everybody knows me as Steampunk Granny, but how I originally got the name will require a little trip back to the year 2008. I was working at the Academy of Natural Sciences and my eldest granddaughter, Allie Gilbert, was attending Moore College of Art and Design http://moore.edu/  which is right next door to the museum. Allie was also a part-time cashier in the Academy’s gift shop. One day, Allie stopped by the exhibit and invited me to accompany her to a Steampunk Event in Center City. I had no idea what steampunk was, but I would soon learn. Allie dressed me in one of her outfits and off we went to Dorian’s Parlor. As soon as I entered the ballroom, I was immediately hooked. I’ve been attending every event since. http://biffbampop.com/2013/01/01/enter-2013-with-biff-bam-pops-steampunk-granny/

Over time, I made many friends and because my granddaughter and I were always together at these events, her friends began to call me granny. It wasn’t until I was asked to take part in a Cabaret/Fashion Show hosted by the owners of Steampunk Works that I introduced as Steampunk Granny.

I have to give James Knipp, my friend and a fellow member of the South Jersey Writers’ Group the credit for officially naming me Steampunk Granny. Up until then, I was only using the title when attending Dorian’s Parlor, but James gave me the courage to use it all the time. Thank you, James.

Critique Compendium: What inspired you to start writing?

Ms. Gilbert: I grew up in a large Italian family and it was customary for adults and children alike to gather around the dinner table every Sunday at my Grandmother’s house. My siblings, cousins and me were entertained for hours with tales of our grandparent’s and parent’s childhood. The art of storytelling was introduced to me at a very young age. Although I wrote stories as a child, it wasn’t until I worked as the manager in the Academy’s Changing Exhibit Hall that I began to write seriously.

As part of my job, I was required to do extensive research for each new traveling exhibit that arrived at the hall, then I would write scripts for my staff and volunteers in order to help them explain the sometimes complicated material featured in these traveling exhibits to visitors of all ages. I was also in charge of the diorama carts, and again, had to prepare skits for my volunteers to educate the visitors. I received many awards and compliments on my skits and lesson plans.

I have always loved horror stories from when I was very young. I spent all my free time reading the works of Poe, Jules Verne, Robert Heinlein and H.G. Wells. When I retired from the Academy of Natural Sciences at the end of 2009, I finally had the time to take on two of my favorite passions; writing and ghost investigations. I am an Empath and I do professional investigations.

Critique Compendium: Could you tell me a little about your work?

Ms. Gilbert: A few months after retiring, I begun working on and completed a novel called Beware the Harvesters, but something happened on the way to getting this novel published. The secondary characters began to take over the story, fighting for their rightful place in my imagination and on the page. Roof Oasis was my way of satisfying one of my character’s demands to tell her story her way. Alas, this character still holds reign over my story. Book two of my apocalyptic series, Saving Solanda, will be out this summer, followed by two more books.

I love writing about zombies and even though they scare me to death, they are witness to what may come. Can a zombie apocalypse really happen? I feel we’re already there. We trudge through life in a daze, behaving like the shuffling dead, doing routine choirs or jobs that deaden our spirits and, we follow blindly instead thinking for ourselves. Scary right, now add to that scenario the long term effects of GMO’s on our health; physically and mentally. We are what we eat, and that, my little zombie snacks is the plot for Roof Oasis.

Critique Compendium: What’s next for Marie Gilbert?

Ms. Gilbert: What’s next for Marie Gilbert aka Steampunk Granny? I want to finish my apocalyptic series, then work on getting my Life with Fred and Lucy memoir published. I have a vampire story called New Home that will be published this year in the Bloody Kisses Press anthology Babes and Beasts and I was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Touched by an Angel with a true ghost story called Angel on the Footbridge. I’m still working on a science fiction story called Jack Sprat, the Amazing Adventures of a Slider and, I’m working on a book about a ghost investigation that I took part in last year. http://biffbampop.com/2013/08/08/gilbert-and-the-angry-ghost/

I was recently asked by Independent Director, Chris Eilenstine, to be a writer for his new horror film, Shadows of the Forest. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3264880/   This is my first venture into screenwriting and I’m both honored and very excited to be part of such an amazing team.

Critique Compendium: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Ms. Gilbert: The advice that I would give to aspiring authors is the same advice that I give to my nine grandchildren; think outside the box. Educate yourself by reading all types of books, even books that are outside of your comfort area. Think for yourself and don’t follow blindly. You can read all the advice columns ever written on how to write that perfect book, but in the end, you need to sit down and write the damn thing.

Make time for writing every day. Make it part of your daily routine. The more you write, the better you’ll get.  Start a blog and post a story at least once a week. You should blog about people, places and things that you find interesting. If it’s interesting to you, believe me, others will also find it interesting. Blogging will also help with your writing skills and, when you complete that best-selling novel, get a good editor. Most importantly, my little zombie snacks, write because you love it, because you can’t imagine your life without writing. Do this and the story will fall into place.

Ms. Gilbert blogs at: gilbertcuriosities.blogspot.com

For additional interviews with Ms.Gilbert, please visit the following sites.

lorettasisco.com

dawnbyrne.blogspot.com