Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Next! Walnut Street Theatre Touring Company, January 2010-March 2010

When I auditoned for Walnut's touring company it was only my fifth audition I've been on in 2009 and yet I landed my fourth acting job. I'm very paticular about what I audition for. I came so close to not auditioning at all because I knew I had an excellent chance of landing the gig and it is a big time commitment. The Walnut Touring Company is the Walnut's Outreach program show that tours tri-state area schools. I am cast in two childrens shows that will tour in rep. A Forrest Fable and I Never Saw Another Butterfly. This is my third contract with the Walnut Street Theatre in the last two years. I did two mainstage shows: Man of La Mancha in 2007 and Born Yesterday in 2009. It feels good to be back! My castmates are Jordi Wallen, Aime Kelly and Shane Donavan. I look forward to working with these guys. This should be a blast!!

Robert Schiller 1962-2007

Through the wonders of Facebook I found out a month ago that Robert Schiller passed away back in 2007. Robert and I performed together back in 1996-1998 when I was in Peace Theatre. In 1996 I was in my second summer in Peace Theatre. I was a young, raw and talented performer. Rob was veteran improv and comedic actor and he took me under his wing that summer. I really liked Rob. He brought alot out me I never knew I had. It was that summer back in 1996 while we were in pizza shop between shows Rob was telling our troop about all of his theatrical experiences. I was in awe of his life and it was that day I decided to pursue theatre as my profession. I was 16. Rob will never know how much he is responsible for my acting career. Rob and I did alot of Peace Theatre shows together between 1996 and 1998. Our last show together was March 11, 1998 at the Philadelphia Convention Center. We lost touch over the years. I was looking him up on Facebook when I found his memorial page. He died in 2007 from complications from heart surgery. He left behind a wife and child. Thanks Rob for your influence on me when I was young teen age performer. Your finger prints are all over my acting career!

Show Boat: The Media Theatre Fall 2009: September 30th-November 1st

When I was cast in the ensemble of Show Boat at the Media Theatre I was very excited. I was happy to be back at the Media after experience there in the Spring of 2008. It was a very talent heavy cast. Philip Boykin played Joe, Jennie Eisenhower played Julie and the incredibly talented and under rated Elisa Mathews played Magnolia. However, the first day of rehearsal let me know right away that this show experience was going to be very different from my last Media Theatre experience.Show Boat was directed by Jesse Cline who's also is the Producing Artistic Director of the Media Theatre. At the first rehearsal he told us he was going to be using the original script of Show Boat when it was produced in London in 1927. In that script they use the word "nigger" alot when refering to some of the black charecters in the show. Right before the first read through I thought Jesse was asking the cast on how we felt about the use of the word "nigger" in the show. I raised my hand to explain my experience when I did Big River four years earlier and we kept "nigger" in the script. I agreed with that decision. However, Jesse made it clear he didn't paticularly care how we felt about it. He had the final say and that was it! I didn't have a problem with the nigger being in the script. My issue was when we sung the song at the top of the show. Instead of singing "Colored folks work on the Mississippi" Jesse went back to the original script when the black ensemble sang " Niggers all work on the Mississippi." I don't know if Jesse knew that the original 1927 Negro London cast were white actors in black face! So them calling theirselves niggers was meant to be insulting to blacks!!! Also complicating the matter to me was the fact that we were blocked during this number to sing the song while our wives were greeting us on the docks while we stacked the cotton bales. We were directed to be happy to see our women but calling ourselves niggers while singing the song!!! I was dumb founded!!! I give Jesse Cliene the benifit of the doubt that his intentions were to be authenthic to the time the play took place. Blacks on these show boats were treated that way in 1880. However, the direction to me felt like it was a heavy handed attempt to invoke guilt or emotion out of the Media audiences. Also when the black ensemble was singing the song m"Misery" we were upstaged by a back drop with images of slaves with welts on their backs. The fact that the images had nothing to do with song was ignorant enough but the fact that it upstaged us insulted the black ensemble even more. This heavy handed, unimaginative direction, caused a slight rift in the cast that never really quite recovered. However, when you have blockbuster talent it can make up for alot of bad direction. Phillip Boykin was incredible as Joe (I found out I was his understudy on opening night which was a violation of my contract which thoughly annoyed me!) When Phillip sang "Ole Man River" he brought down the house! When Phillip was asked to sing "Ole Man River" at the opening of the Paul Robeson Museum, he graciously asked myself, Paris Nesbitt, Brandon Dennis and Alex Fraser to sing along with him. The museum was Robeson's old house and it was an amazing experience! Elisa Mathews as Magnolia was breath taking! Jennie Eisenhower's portrayal of Julie was sublte and equally as breath taking. The show recieved great reviews and was well recieved.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Up Next! Show Boat at the Media Theatre! September 30th 2009-November 1st 2009

Show Boat is a musical in two acts with music by Jerome Kern and book (based on a novel by Edna Ferber) and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. One notable exception is the song Bill, which was originally written by Kern and author-lyricist P. G. Wodehouse in 1917 but reworked by Hammerstein for Show Boat. Two other songs not by Kern and Hammerstein — "Goodbye, My Lady Love" by Joseph Howard and "After the Ball" by Charles K. Harris — have always been integral to the show.

The plot chronicles the lives of those living and working on the Cotton Blossom, a Mississippi River show boat, from 1880 to 1927. The show's dominant themes include racial prejudice and tragic, enduring love. Show Boat is widely considered one of the most influential works of the American musical theatre. As the first true American "musical play", it marked a significant departure from operettas, light musical comedies of the 1890s and early 20th century and the "Follies"-type musical revues that had defined Broadway. According to The Complete Book of Light Opera, "Here we come to a completely new genre – the musical play as distinguished from musical comedy. Now... the play was the thing, and everything else was subservient to that play. Now... came complete integration of song, humor and production numbers into a single and inextricable artistic entity."[1]

Show Boat is by far the most frequently revived American musical of its era, not only because of its songs, but also because its libretto, though clearly dated in comparison to those of more recent musicals, is considered to be exceptionally good for a musical of that era.[2] The musical has won both the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical (1995) and the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival (2008). I audtioned for this show when i was rehearsing Aida in June. I am so excited to be asked back to the Media Theatre and join the ensemble of this incredible show! Make sure you come check it out!! http://www.mediatheatre.org/

Aida: Ritz Theatre Summer of 2009

When I was at the Walnut Street Theatre doing Born Yesterday in April of 2009 The Ritz Theatre was having auditions at the Walnut for Aida. The day I auditioned I had a show that night but Bruce Curless, the producing artistic director of The Ritz Theatre, allowed me to go first so I could make my call. I sang "Free At Last" from Big River. I love auditioning at the Walnut because their studios have great acoustics. The audition went well. Bruce wanted me to come to the call back to dance but I had a show down stairs so he let me go. I have done five shows at the Ritz. They know what I can do. Besides I hate dance calls! I am an actor who moves well. I'm not a dancer. Bruce called me a couple weeks later and offered me the role of Mareb who is the protector and confidant of Aida. They had the role of Aida cast but the actress was from the Caribbean Islands and had a problem with her visa and had to go back. So Bruce asked me if I had the number to Gnomia Gre (Lauren Brown). She was in Ain't Misbehavin' with me at The Ritz in 2004. She is a uniquely talented performer who is a legit triple threat. She had just done the national tour of Hair Spray and a regional production of Smokey Joe's Cafe. When Bruce asked me if he thought she'd be interested I said I don't know. I had just talked to her a couple weeks before and seemed she had alot going on. So I gave him her number. After they auditioned her they offered her Aida. She was perfect for the role but was conflicted about taking it. She some other auditions lined up. So I had to nudge her. I told her she had to take the part. I asked when she would get another oppurtunity to play the title lead in such a great show. So after relentess texts and emails from me she finally decided to do it and I was relieved. If Aida was mis-cast with a weak actress who could'nt carry the show it would kill the whole show. Marc G. Dallio was cast as Rademes the Eqytian capitan who falls in love in Aida. Marc was the equity guest artist with Broadway tour credits. He was very talented and was great in the role. Aida was one of the youngest casts I have ever worked with but so talented. The show was well recieved and recieved standing ovations almost every night! I loved playing the role of Mareb. A conflicted charecter who was split between his loyalty to Rademes who saved his life and his home land Nubia who Radames helped to enslave. My back story for Mareb was that he was deeply in love with Aida but out of respect for her postion as the princess of the Nubians he would never act on it. This was a show that hard to walk away from. Playing Mareb was one of the highlights of my career!

Philadelphia Young Playwrights 2009: Birney MS

When Philadelphia Young Playwrights asked me to come back this year I was very excited. Most of the students were in my class last year so I already had a repoire with most of them. I feel like this year of PYPW was more of a sucess simply because I knew most of the students from last year. I had a blast! I probaly won't be back next year. My schedule looks like it will be pretty full but I will cherish the memories!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Up Next! Aida at the Ritz Theatre July 9th-August 8th

Aida is a rock musical in two acts based on Giuseppe Verdi's Italian-language opera by the same name, the scenario of which was written by Auguste Mariette. The musical was produced by Disney Theatrical, with music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice, and book by Linda Woolverton, Robert Falls, and David Henry Hwang. The musical originated from a children's storybook version of Verdi's opera written by the soprano Leontyne Price. The book featured illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon. The rights were acquired by Disney studios for a proposed animated feature film. Development on the film was shelved, but the source material evolved into the stage version. Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida had its world premiere at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia with the production running from September 16 to November 8, 1998. A new, revised production opened on November 12, 1999 at the Cadillac Palace in Chicago. The Broadway production, titled Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida, ran at the Palace Theatre from March 23, 2000 to September 4, 2004 for a total of 1,852 performances (and 30 previews). There was also produced a national tour and several international productions. I will be playing Mareb and triple theatre Ms. Gnomia Gre who was in Ain't Misbehain' with me five years ago will be Aida. Come check it out!

Born Yesterday at Walnut Street Theatre: Winter 2009

2008-2009 was a slow theatre season for me. For one my financial services business was really taking off. My client base was growing and was quite busy. So I stayed away from most auditions. I almost did The Music Man in NJ but decided against it. Then in January The Ritz Theatre called me about a play they were doing called A Few Good Men. They did a movie on this play in 1992 with Jack Nicolson and Tom Cruise. The director called me and told me that she remembered my auditions from the TAGP's and shows I did at The Ritz and was a fan of my work and talent. The call was out the blue and was really flattering. She said she wanted me to do it and didn't need me to audition but wanted me to come to the call backs and read with other actors she was considering. She emailed me after the reading and told me she wanted to go in another direction. That was cool. I had one audition for New Candle Light for Forum and got called back three times but didn't get it. I was just about to accept that I would miss the whole theatre season with out doing a show. I am different actor at 28 going on 29 than I was when I was 18. When I was 18 this would have crushed me. At 28 I am more focused on what projects I want to do. I don't want to be in a show just to be in a show. I wasn't auditioning as much by design. I was focusing more on my spiritual goals and my family. I also wanted to expand my financial services business to the point where I could hire a small staff and step away and produce my theatre company. I was keeping my eyes on the prize. So when Kate Galvin with the Walnut Street theatre called me and offered me a small part in Born Yesterday and said I didn't need to audition I was pleasantly surprised! After all they are the largest and most sucessfull theatre company in the world! I did Man of La Mancha there i the fall of 2007. I was offered a very small role as a boot black and waiter and I understudied the hotel manger. The cast was amazing! Truly the most professional and nicest cast I have ever been apart of. Marco Verna who is an actor from Conneticut and was new to the Walnut and the Philadelphia theatre scene played Harry Brock the lead. He was the coolest actor I ever met! He owned a commercial real estate company in Conneticutt so we had alot in common right away. The cast included Philly favorite Greg Wood who has also done a few M. Night Shyamalan movies. He was the mourning dad in at the end of the movie the Sitxh Sense. Fran Prisco was Eddie and was very funny. Kate Farhner play Billie Dawn the not so dim witted blonde. The cast was very good in the show. I never got to go on as the hotel manager but I was off book by the first understudy rehearsal. Working at the Walnut Street Theatre is like staying at a five star hotel! I loved working there again and felt honered they thought enough of me to ask me back! A month before the show closed I got a call from The Ritz Theatre offering me the part of Mareb in Aida their summer production. I was excited like a little kid before the first day of school!

Philadelphia Young Playwrights 2008: Birney MS

Wow! It's been almost a year since my last post on my blog. Life has been an emotional roller coaster! While I was doing my show at the Media Theatre I was teaching a playwrighting/theatre workshop at Birney MS through Philadelphia Young Play Wrights. Philadelphia Young Playwrights is an intensive arts-education program that pairs a professional teaching artist with a classroom teacher. The two work together as an Artistic Team, guiding and supporting students in the process of writing a play. The program fosters student learning, exploring and succeeding. Up to 1500 students are served directly at as many as 50 program sites each year. More than 60 prominent playwrights and many other professional theatre artists have served as teaching artists over the years. This was my first year with the program and I was assigned to Birney MS in the Logan section of the city. Ever since I quit teaching drama full time three years ago I would get moments of really missing teaching. I loved working with inner city students in the arts. I was teaching drama with Congreso for four years and I really miss those students and that program. So young playwrights was an avenue for me to get back into it but I was only commited to teach one 90 minute workshop a week. So it was perfect for my schedule. I first saw a PYPW performance in 2003 when I got of tour with The Top of the Mountain. My friends Nakia and Kamal were in a PYPW show and asked to come. At first I was skeptical. I mean I really didn't want to see a play written by middle schoolers! However, when I saw the show I was very suprised how talented these kids were! Their writing was very raw and honest. Ever since I saw that show I wanted to be apart of that program but I was teaching full-time and was never able to until five years later when I was working for myself. When I was assigned to Birney MS in January of 2008 I was little nervous. I hadn't taught in two years and I never taught playwrighting. As the weeks went by I got more comfortable. My students really loved the workshop and really put alot into their plays. My co-teacher Kelly Compton was great and we had good chemistry working with the students. We had our mini-playwrighting festival at Birney MS on June 6th 2008. Professional actors came and did readings of my students plays in front of their parents and the school. My students were so nervous! It went really well. In fact I found out one of my students Nasheeta Tucker came in 3rd place in all of Philadelphia! Amy Hodgdon who runs the program would ask me over the summer to come back to Birney in 2009 and I agreed. I was really looking forward to coming back to Birney in 2009!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Starting to take notice; The Full Monty at the Media Theatre

That is how I would define this theatre season for me. The major theatre companies in the Philadelphia area were finally starting to take notice of me after auditioning for them for the past ten years. It was a very gratifying feeling. First the Walnut Street Theatre casts me in Man of La Mancha. The Walnut is by far the largest and most successful regional theatre company in the world! Then the Arden calls me in to audition for Our Town. I got called back three times. I didn't get it but they liked me and Our Town isn't a musical. So they liked me as an actor not a singer which is important to me to establish myself as an actor first then a singer. So it is late March 2008 and I was lining up auditions for shows for the spring slot. I had three auditions and I thought I would get at least one. The first audition was for American Family Theatre and their production of We The People. Usually AFT show tour the country. I did the Tom Sawyer tour with them in '99 but this show wasn't going to tour. It would be at a theatre downtown. Next was for Theatre Horizon and their production of Working and then Media Theatre's The Full Monty. The Media Theatre is one of the top equity regional theatre companies in the tri-state area. I auditioned for the Media Theatre the last week in March before I went to Alaska. I got offered the role a week later. I would play Gary and a few other ensemble roles and understudy the role of Horse. Rehearsals started on the 14th of April and only lasted for two weeks. The show opened on the 30th of April. The show was very good and the audiences loved the show about six guys down on their luck and reduced to make it ends meet by going to drastic measures. Stand outs were Tim Quinlan as Jerry, Jayson Elliot as Dave, Mathew Hultgren as Nathan, Artie Sievers as Malcom, Rick Delancy as Horse and Deborah Jean Templin as Jeanette. I had a blast doing this show. This was by far the coolest cast I ever been cast in. I had alot of fun back stage and made some new friends like Alisa Stamps, Eric Hogan, Leandra Ramm and Lauren Rooney to name a few. I was sad when this show closed. Now lets see how next year's theatre season shapes up. I hope the major theatre companies keep taking notice...

The Seeds of Freedom with Family Stages; November 2007

I got cast in this show right before I closed Man of La Mancha at the Walnut Street Theatre. I had auditioned the first week of October. The artistic director Steve Seyfried was the writer and performed in the play with us. The cast included Angela Pomo (who was the girlfriend of Andy Wertner who was in Man of La Mancha with me) and Nicolas Wilder. This dynamic production follows Kosciuszko's path from his native Poland to America in 1776. His duties as a military engineer brought him into most of the major fields of battle during the American Revolution including: Philadelphia, Fort Ticonderoga, Saratoga, Dan River, Charleston and more. At West Point he designed and built fortifications that stopped the British advances up the Hudson river. He also constructed a rock garden that is still there, tended by cadets of the U.S. Military Academy.His amazing military skill was matched by his unyielding dedication to the cause of freedom, for countries and individuals. Thomas Jefferson called General Kosciuszko "the purest son of liberty I have ever met". I played a variety of charecters which is something I do really well. The show performed at the Independence Center in Olde City and we had a blast doing it.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Man of La Mancha at the Walnut Street Theatre Fall of 2007

When I was six teen years old I used to go down town to the Walnut Street Theatre and sneak into the lobby and watch their shows on the moniter. At the time I was with Peace Theatre and had already decided I was going to pursue acting as a profession. While I was standing in the lobby one night I was watching "The Good Bye Girl". I remember thinking that I would perform on that stage one day. I knew I had the talent. I remember thinking that the actors on that stage weren't better than me. I knew I could perform on that stage and hold my own even though at that point in my career I had never performed in front of an audience of the caliber. Not even close! But I was confident. Eleven years later I got my chance. There are several major theatre companies in Philadelphia. The Arden Theatre, The Wilma Theatre, The Prince Music Theatre, Peaple's Light and Theatre Company which is in Malvern and Freedom Theatre. The Walnut is the largest and the most prominant by far. I had auditioned for all the other major theatre companies before and most of the time I got many call backs but I never landed a role with any of them. I did understudy at the Arden in 2001 for Baby Case but that is understudying. So when Kate Galvin, the Casting Director at the Walnut Street Theatre called me in July of 2007 after seeing my TAGP audition to audition for The Man of La Mancha, I wasn't overly excited. At this point in my career I don't get excited about auditions. I don't care if I get the role because I can't control it. The only thing I care about is that I do well and that I am prepared. I can control that. I went to the audition on August 10th and I sang Younger Than Spring Time from South Pacific. Then Kate Galvin asked me to sing another song. I've been doing this a long time so I am allways prepared to sing two or three songs even though they only ask you to sing one when you schedule an audition most of the time. It went well. Kate told me after the audition that she might have a role for me in the show. I knew rehearsals started in 2 and a half weeks so the role had to be a very small one. I was okay with that. Two days later I recieved a call from Jessica Doheny the company manager at the Walnut and I was offered the role of a prinsoner and an inquisitioner and I had to understudy the Duke and Governor. Two principal roles in the show! Show basically I had two learn four roles! I was very excited about the oppurtunity. Finally I had have been called up from the minors! I now know how career minor league base ball players feel when they get called up! They are paid professionals but they never got that chance to shine in the big leagues. Even if they are at the end of the bench. I was at the end of the bench but happy to get called up! I remember feeling anxious going to the first rehearsal. I was nervous about how I would be recieved. Were the actors going to be stuck up snobs? Most of whom have Broadway and television credits. I was relieved when I got there and everybody was so nice and welcoming. I never felt like an outsider. I actually saw a familiar face. Danielle Herbert who plays Fermina was in Peace Theatre with me in 1997! She is extremly talented and she was great to work with. As we went through the reahearsal process I found it challenging to learn four roles. I got my roles down quickly but trying to learn two other roles with lines and blocking and music that I wasn't performing in during the show but was understudying was difficult. The way the Walnut did the understudy assignments was interestering. Everyone in the cast except Paul Schoeffler who plays the lead role of Cervantes, understudys someone else. I even had an under study. An actor named Brian Curtas. So if someone gets sick and can't perform it causes a chain reaction! I had to worry about three actors getting sick! I felt stressed but I knew I could do it. At understudy rehearsals I impressed the music director Edward Reichert and the rest of the cast with my voice and my grasp of the music so quickly. I did get a scare toward the end of the run. Paul was sick and wasn't sure if he could perform one night. Bruce Winant who plays the Duke understudied Paul and I understudied Bruce! It was crazy! When Lori, the stage manager, called me one afternoon and told me I might be going on my heart was racing! I was so excited! I was so prepared! I knew the role well enough to act and sing with out thinking about it and being in the moment. This was the chance I had waited for since I was sixteen! It wasn't to be however. Paul felt better in the 12th hour and the show went on. At the theatre that night I joked with Paul to take a show off and fake being sick. We both laughed. Two months after the show had closed I got a call from Danielle Herbert. Her voice was cracking on the phone when she told me she had some bad news. Jorge Maldonado who played Pedro in the show died suddenly of an anuerism at the age of 30! My heart fell in to my stomach! I was shocked! He was young and strong and very talented. I had just saw him at Peter Pan opening at the Walnut a month earlier. His partner Steve Pacek who played one of the muluteers in the show said later that he had no previous medical conditions that any one knew about. It was truly devasting! The Arden Theatre held a memorial for him on the 28th of December 2007. Most of the Man of La Mancha cast was there. Steve asked people to share a story about Jorge and I told the story when we did a school matinee all the high school girls were screaming when he took his bow at the end of the show. I joked with him back stage that if they only knew he was gay! Everyone laughed. He was a very nice and welcoming person with a good heart and was truly very shocking to hear he had died so suddenly. I went home that night and hugged my little girls a little tighter. Tomorrow is not promised. I loved my experience at the Walnut. I was anxious to see what was in store for me next....