Ah Yes, I Remember It Well

Today’s blog entry is the first one that has had a deadline. There is one really good and fun reason.  I have, as you can see, had a logo designed for The Danieley Digest!!!

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Talented and gifted artist Justin “Squigs” Robertson, who does caricature sketches for Broadway.com, designed a flattering likeness of me to grace this page.  I am forever grateful for his help.

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I wanted to share this handsome sketch this week as we are gearing up for the opening of THE VISIT on Broadway this Thursday, April 23rd 2015.

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I’m loving writing. It is something that is as satisfying, in a very different way, as the theatre.

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I started blogging as a fun way to get my creative juices flowing, to share my experiences in the theatre so that others can glean whatever they can from my successes and failures.

Success and Failure Road Sign with dramatic clouds and sky.

There are other benefits to putting this out there in the e-universe too. It may generate interest in a show I’m doing on Broadway or at a regional theatre or a concert I’ll be performing in Florida or Prague.

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A life in the theatre and most live performing arts is not easy, it never has been, but in the days of instant entertainment and instant gratification it is maybe even a harder form of art to sell than in the past.  It’s hard enough to get the word out about big million dollar budget musicals on Broadway let alone a cabaret concert you may be doing for a weekend at 54 Below. Hmm…

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This deadline for the blog comes at the crux in the journey of our Broadway show. Comes the time – after all the rehearsals, readings, workshops, creative discussions, production meetings, out of town productions, work calls, technical rehearsals – all that is the blood, sweat and tears of the process, is over.

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Now, we have to give up our child (the show) that we have collectively been nurturing for months, others for a few years and others still for up to 15 years; we have to let it out into the world not knowing what people will think of it.  We are proud and happy but cautious and hopeful.

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Our deadline awaits. Now is the time that we are doing publicity and promotional events to let people know about the extraordinary work that has been accomplished. Our hope is that our show, and we aren’t the only ones on Broadway doing this at this time, will have a good and respectable run. This is the finish line of the theatre season. THE VISIT is, in fact, the last show opening before the cutoff of the season. We are tweeting, face booking, Instagraming and BLOGGING to get the word out.

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Remembering why we work in the theatre in the first place, especially at this crunch time, can sometimes get lost in the melee. But this is the time that remembering will keep you sane. It’s a time to celebrate ourselves and to celebrate all the work that is going on around us.

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My best wishes to all of the creative team, cast, crew and orchestra at the Lyceum Theatre on W. 45th St. as we bring this historic piece of music theatre art to the world. We are an exceptional lot!

 

 

A Different Kind of Challenge

I shudder to think what people might consider to be a stereotypical actor.

I have a feeling it would be something like:

“Likes to be the center of attention.”

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“Probably was the class clown.”

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“Has a healthy and huge ego.”

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“Cares only about themselves.”

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And the general public has good reason to think this to be true.  Drama (with a capital D) is much more interesting than the reality (with a small r) of the actor’s personal life.

As a rule our performance personas have a heightened reality in order to make the stories we are telling interesting, funny, dramatic, compelling, entertaining… otherwise why go to the movies, watch TV or visit the theatre.  Our work involves being paraded out in front of hundreds or thousands of people at a time to transport the audience to another place and help divert their attention from the “real world” for a few hours.

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We also get to perform on television, sing and dance on world stages, are asked to be involved in all sorts of seemingly glamorous situations.

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(My wife Marin and I in one of our many appearances with the Boston Pops)

 

And they are glamorous but all of that has a very perfunctory and practical element to it that you don’t see that makes it just like any other blue collar job.  Truly.

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(Cooling off after my big number in The Visit backstage in the alley. Pants are highly overrated not to mention overheated.)

So, we are conditioned to be able to go to that heightened reality quickly and almost as a default mechanism, possibly more so when you work on stage.  Every gesture has to read to the back of the house.

Now for that “Different Kind of Challenge” that I mentioned in the title of this blog…

For our production of The Visit our esteemed director John Doyle has been influenced by and applied to our production, elements of the classic Greek theatre, Yiddish theatre

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and a little of the theatre of the absurd, to make for a very unique theatrical experience.

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(Roger Rees and Ian McKellen in Waiting For Godot.)

The trick in using these highly stylized theatrical ways of storytelling is that the audience can sometimes feel a little removed from the heart and emotions of the characters.

Mr. Doyle has wisely and craftily designed our production to use the exciting and theatrical elements of these styles BUT asked us to employ a realism inside of these parameters to tell the important heart of the story; the love and morality of the tale needs to be gently stated but able to cut through the grotesqueness of the moral of the story.

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This may all be a little technical but I’m sure there are some who will appreciate the difficulty in at once, wearing highly stylized make up and costume, walking in an overstated physicality but then delivering lines with a sincerity and intimacy that draws an audience in.

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The challenge of combining all of these elements makes it thrilling for us as actors to perform and, I think, what makes it unusual and exciting for the audience. Using these historic theatre styles and marrying it with a contemporary way of presenting theatre is what creates something that is at once an homage but also forward thinking and cutting edge.

But don’t take my word for it.  Come see us at the Lyceum Theatre on W. 45th St. just off Times Square and judge for yourself.  You’ll be very glad you did.

 

“You be good… and I’ll try.”

 

Jason

 

 

 

Making Faces

If I try to put a starting point in my life to the moment I felt like I was acting it was probably when I was a toddler sitting in my high chair making faces at my grandma and grandpa. They thought it was the cutest thing they had ever seen.  I had a distinct advantage over my younger sisters as I was the first born so everything I did they were seeing for the very first time.

I would imagine that in the history of the world the most basic and earliest form of storytelling involved “making faces”.  Before there were musical instruments, stages, curtains, falling chandeliers or projections we had our faces.

(First class-photo of The Actor’s Studio)

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The ancient Greeks used masks to transport the actors and therefore the audience to a different place and time.  Often creating a heightened sense of joy, fear, anger etc… by the exaggerated facial features sculpted or painted on the mask.

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There have been a variety of ways to “make faces” throughout the ages and nothing is more timeless than this “simple” way of telling a story.

Not all stories can support this deceptively simple way of theatre. If you don’t have a text that is well written and well crafted then it can just look foolish or childish.

 

(Ain’t she cute though?)

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But with the right story, a timeless story, told with well drawn and universal characters you can heighten the audiences experience to another level.

John Doyle, the director of The Visit, to a degree, had this way of story telling in mind when constructing this version of the musical written by Terrence McNally and John Kander & Fred Ebb. It’s a timeless story of love, romance and passion destroyed by greed and materialism and the destruction and possible redemption that comes through, of all things, revenge.

Sounds complicated… don’t it.  But that’s where using this simple but very specific form of storytelling is so perfect.  It’s really a boy loves girl, boy ruins girls life, girl returns in the twilight of her years to exact revenge.  And those versions of young love are the beautiful and fresh, unpainted faces of Young Anton and Young Claire.

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The townspeople of Brächen Switzerland who allowed the ruination of this innocent young girl have reaped the ravages of their iniquity on their faces.  And John along with our incredible costume designer Ann Hould-Ward and our makeup designer Jared Janas have come up with their take on a contemporary mask.

Based partly on the work of theatre designer Boris Aronson and partly on the art work of Ivan Albright. Boris known for his work with the Yiddish Theatre and his collaborations on musicals like Cabaret, Zorba, Fiddler on the Roof, Company, Follies.  Annie’s mentor was a student of Boris’ so we have a direct line of style and design ethic to our production.

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The artist Ivan Albright may be most widely known for doing the portrait of Dorian Gray for the 1943 movie The Picture Of Dorian Gray. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, along with his identical twin artist brother Malvin, and was of the school of the American Magic Realist.  His style really captures the grotesqueness that Dürrenmatt describes and writes in the original play of The Visit.

(Self portrait of the artist)

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So combine these two inspirations as well as folding in the idea of the Ancient Greek masks but trying to make it feel contemporary and allow the actors to be seen and able to act through these painted masks and you get what we have on the stage eight times a week at the Lyceum Theatre.

The Visit is dramatic, romantic and emotional. It evokes a timelessness that makes this piece of theatre exciting and able to stand the test of time.  Only the future knows that for sure but if I were a betting man I’d say that this musical will be around and admired for many years to come like that of other playwrights that have come before and whose stories we tell over and over in order to get a new look on our own deepest hidden truths buried behind our own faces.

(Chris Newcomer as one of Claire’s eunuchs.)

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(Matthew Deming as the other of Claire’s eunuchs – you gotta have a pair.)

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(George Abud as Anton’s son Karl. He’s a young man but still has inherited a bit of the hard living courtesy of his father’s indiscretions.)

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(Rick Holmes as Father Josef. One of the town fathers who was around and complicit in the banishment of young Claire. He’s an older character but as a holy man who has done wrong, very wrong, he probably has some of the more grotesque features going on stage.)

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(Finally myself as Schoolmaster Kuhn. Although he is the good friend of Anton and the last hold out to comply with Claire’s heinous demands he still allows his intellect and morality to be corrupted by greed. Though the years weigh heavy on his face nothing compares to the festering blisters on his soul. A fun musical for the whole family!  (Ha! just kidding) a musical for the those who are looking to be enlightened and seeking some sense of truth to life.)

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“You be good… and I’ll try.”

 

Jason

Steak or Cake?

I was a fat kid.

Well, for a short time in my life I hadn’t had that growth spurt I needed to lengthen all of this God-given-goodness up into a taller leaner me.  😉 As I waited for that day, that never seemed to come, I ate a lot of crappy food and didn’t exercise. My eating choices consisted of Little Debbie snack cakes for breakfast, junk food lunches of cheese curls and ding-dongs with a healthy dose of potato chips and ice cream as an after school snack.

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Not my parent’s fault, I was a sneaky little chub. Supper included all of the truly healthy foods that I had to eat as I was under the watchful eye of my mom and dad. Foods of substance that would ensure I didn’t become obese and acquire diabetes at the ripe age of 12.

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From then on out it was very important to read the ingredients of what I put in my body. It started a routine for me that I keep to this day.

It also is a practice I apply to forms of entertainment that I choose to see or even to participate in.

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I like cake, I like pie, I am partial to a really good chocolate chip cookie but I can’t survive on that alone.

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I need a balance of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins… something of substance that nourishes my body and mind.

I like pure comic entertainment, I love singing and dancing and corny jokes I am partial to comedy of the baser variety at times (a dark “blue” joke goes over well with me).

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But what do I live off of, what do I crave?… Entertainment of substance that engages my mind and stimulates conversation for hours if not days after I’ve seen it. Even if I don’t necessarily agree with a point of view of a character, if I am challenged to think and consider all sides of an argument I am hooked like that piece of salmon that I’m craving in another way.

Also the “cooks” of a production are important. Would you rather eat a meal by Eric Ripert or Chef-boy-ar-dee?

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I’ll give you that after a night of drinking you may want to tie into a can of spaghettiOs but if you are sober you may think twice… or maybe just once.

Now consider the chefs in a “kitchen” of a Broadway show like THE VISIT!

Songwriting team of Kander & Ebb: Cabaret; Chicago; Kiss Of The Spider Woman; “New York, New York” etc…

Playwright Terrence McNally: Ragtime; Love, Valor, Compassion; It’s Only A Play etc…

Star Chita Rivera: West Side Story; Chicago; Kiss of the SpiderWoman etc…

Star Roger Rees: Nicholas Nickleby; Cheers; Robin Hood: Men in Tights etc…

Choreographer Graciela Daniele: Ragtime; Marie Christine; Once On This Island etc…

Director John Doyle: Sweeney Todd; Road Show; Company etc…

Already, you can tell that these cooks know what they are doing.  I haven’t even listed our design team Scott Pask (The Coast of Utopia), Anne Hould-Ward (Into The Woods), Japhy Weideman (Of Mice and Men)… the list does go on and on.

Each and every one cooking on all four burners and at the top of their game. A team like this doesn’t happen every season or every several seasons and chances are this may be your last chance to experience the creative brilliance of this particular team.

So do yourself a solid and make sure you take advantage of this cornucopia of music theatre delights now in previews at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway and opening on April 23rd. You’ll have something to talk about and to gnaw over for quite a while.

 

“You be good, and I’ll try”

 

Jason

 

Something’s Coming

… There’s something due any day, I will know right away, soon as it shows. It may come cannonballing down through the sky gleam in it’s eye, bright as a rose…

“Something’s Coming” from Leonard Berstein and Stephen Sondheim’s West Side Story.

What is your passion?  Baseball? Golf? Opera? Graphic Novels? Shakespeare? Politics? Soup Kitchens? Helping the needy?…

There was a time in your life where you were deeply touched, moved, compelled even, to pursue your passion. When you saw Ozzie Smith make diving catches in the 1982 World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals;

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Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer win any number of their majors;

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when you first read The Sandman series of Neil Gaiman;

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seeing Laurence Olivier play Hamlet or Richard III;

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when you saw your local congressman make a change in your community that hadn’t been accomplished for years and years of lobbying by other representatives…

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and that moment or moments propelled you into the line of work you do creating a desire to recapture that moment for yourself.

That event can create a desire so strong that you seek to capture it, or recapture it, for yourself over and over in your life.

I was raised in a home where religion was a major focus of our daily lives.  My father was a preacher and my mother was the church organist.

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I began singing at an early age and the songs I sang were telling an “important message” with a deep meaning.  We weren’t a religiously fanatical family but as the son of the leader of a church what I said through song was of the utmost importance to be heard and understood. It may hold sway over important spiritual choices people make.

As I grew up and was introduced to theatre I had a wonderful time entertaining an audience, making them laugh and having a great ol’ time. But when I was introduced specifically to music theatre that had an “important message” or “something to say” but was equally entertaining I was taken, taken with a capital T-A-K-E-N.

Shows like Sweeney Todd, Sunday In The Park With George, Cabaret, Chicago…

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Sweeney Todd with Angela Lansbury and George Hearn.

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Joel Grey in Cabaret.

musicals that addressed topics that are serious but done in a non-preachy way, which my dad had a great talent for doing in his sermons; entertaining, fun, humorous but ultimately an event that left you thinking and talking about for a very long time.

My career has been about keeping a keen eye out for that opportunity and I’ve had quite a few.

Floyd Collins: A musical about a Kentucky caver who gets trapped in a tight squeeze and the media circus that essentially danced on the grave of the man while everyone fought over the best way to save him.

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Next To Normal: A musical about a woman suffering from bi-polar disorder and how her family deals with the immense roller coaster ride and serious consequences of her emotional fragility.

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And now The Visit:  A musical about love, deceit, revenge and back again to love that transcends time.

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I am one lucky bastard to have opportunities like this, and not unlike my father in his “calling” to preach I feel that sharing musicals of substance that have something to say is somewhat a “calling” for me. I’m not saving any souls but, in a way, if we can reflect on some of the deeper issues in life through entertainment, maybe we can make our journey through this world a little more meaningful.

The Visit begins previews tonight March 26th 2015 and we open on April 23rd. This is a monumental piece of theatre that I hope you take the time to see.

 

“You be good… and I’ll try.”

 

Jason

A House Is Not A Home

A chair is still a chair, even when there’s no one sittin’ there
But a chair is not a house and a house is not a home
When there’s no one there to hold you tight
And no one there you can kiss goodnight

Darling, have a heart, don’t let one mistake keep us apart
I’m not meant to live alone, turn this house into a home
When I climb the stairs and turn the key
Oh, please be there, still in love with me.

Lyrics: Hal David and Music: Burt Bacharach

The sentiment above may be about two former lovers but the idea that it takes two, us and you, to make a house a home is what will make the Lyceum Theatre our “home”.

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(Lyceum Theatre a Schubert house with, appropriately, the marquee for THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS one of Kander & Ebbs other musicals.)

Today, March 19 2015 the cast, crew and orchestra of THE VISIT move into our new “home” at the Lyceum Theatre on W. 45th Street just off of “the crossroads to the world” at Times Square.

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For the last week or so our set designer Scott Pask and his team, our lighting designer Japhy Wideman his team, our sound designer Dan Moses Shreier his team and the crew at the Lyceum Theatre have been “loading in” all of their design elements.  It’s a time consuming, labor intensive and precise craft.  They have been creating the world of Brächen for us, the actors and musicians, to walk into today.

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Our incredible costume designer Anne Hould-Ward has been doing fittings and has made available, for weeks now, elements if not all of our costume pieces, during rehearsal so we can wear them and get to know them as “clothes” and not an unfamiliar “costume” that we add the last week during technical rehearsals.

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(My personal socks only for St. Paddy’s Day.)

Jared Janas, our makeup designer, has begun consultations on the very specific look of the townspeople of Brächen.  This look is inspired by Boris Aronson’s designs on Broadway and his work with the Yiddish theatre as well as elements of the artist Ivan Albright.  This is the first makeup test, which will change once we see how Japhy’s lights work with it.

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It’s with great excitement that we as a company add the crew at the Lyceum to our family of THE VISIT.  Some people have already worked together others we know through working at other theatres.  For instance our stage door “mistress?” Elena Bennet-Goulet is the wife of the head electrician, Susan Goulet, at the Booth Theatre where my wife Marin and I did NEXT TO NORMAL a few years ago.  We say “theatre family” because it is just that, sometimes we may be close relatives or relatives once or twice removed, but we are all here to support one another and to reach for the highest goal of creating wonderful theatre and hopefully art for the theatre audience.

And that’s where you come into the picture.  Once we’ve filled this “house”, which is what we literally call the theatre where the audience sits “the house”, we open the doors to you to come in and experience with us, live, all of us alive and telling and listening to the story, that’s when I consider that a “home”.  We spend six out of seven days of the week at this home away from home.

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This isn’t just our home.  This theatre is the oldest theatre on Broadway.  It has been home to so many incredible plays, musicals, performances, actors, directors etc…  Like any family we stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us.  We honor the long tradition of story telling, learning from those who have come before and adding and applying our own traditions of today.  The spirit is the same and we are surrounded by the spirits of the artists who have come before.

Read a little about the great history of this theatre here: Lyceum Theatre

And now THE VISIT adds it’s own history making element to this space.  Theatre legends Chita Rivera and Roger Rees star in the last musical to be produced on Broadway of the iconic team Kander & Ebb.  It is also K&E’s last collaboration with prolific playwright and luminary of the great white way Terrence McNally.  Not forgetting the superb leadership of highly respected helmers of hits John Doyle (director) and Graciela Daniele (choreographer).

This is history in the making.  You absolutely will not want to miss this.  Don’t look back and regret not getting to W. 45th St. and experiencing this once in a lifetime, never to be repeated, theatre event.

So to twist Hal and Burt’s song into an idea for our purposes:

Darling, have a heart, don’t let one mistake keep us apart
I’m not meant to live alone, turn this house into a home
When I climb the stairs and turn the key
Oh, please be there, still in love with me.

(Ok, that last line sounds a little like “like me, you really like me” circa Sally Fields Oscar acceptance speech… which it’s not meant to be.)

 

“You be good… and I’ll try.”

 

Jason

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

One of the most beautiful things about life is that it is impermanent, each moment is here and then gone.

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One of the hardest things to do, as westerners and capitalists constantly trying to climb that ladder of success, is to savor each moment and live in it fully.

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I know that might sound a little odd.  It also is one of the most difficult things to do; live in the moment trying not to dwell on the past and allowing the future to be what it is.  I think that’s why I’m so drawn to the art of theatre and have made it my life’s work.  Every time I walk on stage there is no telling what will happen.  You are well rehearsed and your skills allow you to know, pretty well but still generally, what will actually take place.

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That idea extends to the fleeting opportunities to see a particular event of impermanent moments.  i.e.: How long a show runs that you are interested in seeing. There ain’t no DVR for theatre!  You got to hightail it out there or the chance is gone.

This isn’t just a plug for the show I’m doing… it is that but it is much more.  This is a life lesson I keep trying to teach myself and a lesson I need to learn over and over again.

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Every opportunity that arrises to see Tony Bennet in concert I say to myself “he’s a legend, a singer you adore and he’s still here… singing and performing.  Get to that concert and don’t miss a chance to hear him live!”

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Did you have a chance and miss it?  How many of you wish you had heard Kurt Cobain before he left us, Ella Fitzgerald, Cat Stevens?… wait he’s still around, but you know what I mean.

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This year we lost some incredible artists who made a significant contribution to theatre.  I saw Phillip Seymour Hoffman in A Long Days Journey Into Night but missed his Death Of A Salesman directed by Mike Nichols who we also lost this year.

I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer…

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… we just need to remind ourselves that we need to seize every opportunity that is given us to enjoy life.  I enjoy being entertained and thinking and feeling.  I think you will enjoy this once in a lifetime theatre event of seeing Chita Rivera and Roger Rees starring in the last musical written by Kander & Ebb and Terrence McNally directed by John Doyle and choreographed by Graciela Daniele that will be on Broadway beginning the end of March 2015.

No telling how long this will last, hopefully a long time, but life is life and unpredictable, so do yourself a solid and buy your tickets early and tell your friends.

I just did.  (tell my friends that is, I’m in the show and can’t see it.)

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I’ll see you at the Lyceum Theatre when you see The Visit!

 

“You be good and I’ll try.”

 

Jason

 

Family

It’s more than you, it is more than me
Whatever dreams we have they’re for the family
We’re not alone anymore now there are others there
And that dream’s big enough for all of us to share.

As Curtis sings to Effie in DREAMGIRLS.

Don’t think

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Try this

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The idea that we actors are a family is obviously not a new one.  It’s actually quite an ancient idea.  A band of actors traveling here and there to tell a story, an entertaining story, a story of social significance and if you are lucky one that does both.  Either way, in order to do this you spend hour upon hour, day upon day, week upon week and if you are good and lucky, month upon month and longer… together.

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You share close quarters (dressing rooms, one or two bathrooms), watch as each other matures and grows as individuals, witness happy moments (marriages, births of children), grieve and console through hard times (deaths of “real” family members, health issues among you) etc… we ride the roller coaster of life and it’s a very unifying journey.

ne_100695(The Full Monty CD release NYC)

Your director, if he/she is good, is a mother/father figure, who guides you lovingly through the process one step at a time; supervising each step, helping to shape each thought so that all of the family can grow in the same way at the same time.

JohnDoyle200px(John Doyle – Dir. The Visit)

As a citizen of the theatre world we are lucky to have many families.  Each family has it’s own dynamic and life span.  Some families you wish you could divorce quickly, others, when the inevitable time comes to move on, you are left devastated and not quite sure how you’ll survive the break up.  Somehow you do.  And when you think nothing could quite top that last great experience another completely different, but equally wonderful, clan of Koo-Koos comes along and makes you feel proud to belong.

Here’s to our theatre families.  All of us ever the traveling band of actors flitting from one group of lovely people to another, making deep and lasting connections that last a lifetime.  For those of us who go through a tough stretch in life know we are always here for you.  We’re just like that.

734000_615770439726_2002836256_n(Carousel – NYPhil)

DSCN0935(Curtains – Bway)

IMG_0733(Some Lovers – Old Globe)

IMG_1191(A Chorus Line – Sunshine Dinner Playhouse)

IMG00057-20101025-2319(The Full Monty – Bway)

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“You be good… and I’ll try!)

Jason

Money!

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“Money makes the world go ’round, the world go round the world go round.

Money makes the world go round it makes the world go round.

A mark a yen a buck or a pound, a buck or a pound

Is all that makes the world go round

It makes the world go round.”

As Fred Ebb wrote in the song “Money” in Kander & Ebb’s landmark musical CABARET.

 

It’s not from laziness or simplicity that Fred chose that phrase and uses it over and over again in this song.  Having money, too much or not enough, is a regular presence in our lives.  Always has been and always will be.  It’s an issue that is repeated over and over ad nauseam.  Money, the necessity of having it, the greed at wanting too much, the hardships when you don’t have enough, all the glorious things you can think of to do when you have even just a little extra etc… is a constant issue in our lives as humans.

Foreclosure House

We wake up to it on the news, read it in the papers, our government has constant problems with managing it, social organizations have a hard time raising it, families don’t have enough to send their children to school to get an education so that they can maybe eek out enough money to live on with their family…

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Wouldn’t it be nice if someone just walked into your life and said “I’ll wipe out your nations debt, subsidize your community organizations, hospitals, churches, schools and give each of you a few million dollars.  If you do me one little favor”?

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That sounds like a pretty sweet deal – right?  Would you really need to hear the conditions if there were any?  If there were, you’d probably find some way to manage it so you could live worry free of money.

What would you do?  What wouldn’t you do?  Is there a possibility for negotiation, if you had any problem with what is asked of you?

What if you were asked to kill someone?  Just one person, one insignificant person?  What if no one knew who killed this person? What if this person was considered inconsequential maybe even a blemish on your town or country?

Faceless person portrait

Would any of that justify considering the deed of murder for money?

Sounds like a heavy question but not so difficult to consider given how scarce and hard money is to come by.

These are the underpinning questions asked in THE VISIT a new musical by Terrence McNally and John Kander & Fred Ebb.  Starting performances on Broadway March 26th.

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It stars theatre legend Chita Rivera who plays the wealthiest woman in the world who has the means of saving a town that has been struck down and crippled by poverty and bad luck.  She only asks of them for revenge on someone who has betrayed her.  Roger Rees plays this blemish on their society, the man not worthy of a second glance… is his life worth it?

Come see this wildly entertaining musical.  It’s worth the price of admission.  Trust me.

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THE VISIT!

BTW: I’m in it too. 🙂

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“You be good… and I’ll try.”

 

Jason

 

 

 

Putting it Together…

Bit by bit,
Putting it together…
Piece by Piece-
Only way to make a work of art.
Every moment makes a contribution,
Every little detail plays a part.
Having just a vision’s no solution,
Everything depends on execution:
Putting it together-
That’s what counts!

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Tomorrow, Tuesday February 24th 2015 rehearsals begin for the New Broadway Musical THE VISIT.

So many elements over the years are finally coming together where this piece of art can finally be shared with everyone.

THE VISIT is a play written by the Swiss playwright Friederich Dürrenmatt.  It is a love story with all the complications that life, sex, betrayal and money can bring.  He called it a TragiComedy and Terrence McNally (Ragtime, Kiss of the Spider Woman) along with John Kander & Fred Ebb (Chicago, Cabaret, Kiss of the Spider Woman) have made it into a TragiMusicalComedy.  It is starring the theatre legends Chita Rivera (Chicago, …Spider Woman) and Roger Rees (Nicholas Nickleby, A Man of No Importance),  Directed by John Doyle (Sweeney Todd, A Catered Affair) and choreographed by Graciela Daniele (Ragtime, Once On This Island).

What a team!

It has been a long, long road to Broadway for this show.  It started with the first reading around 1998/99. I know, I was there.  I played the role of Karl Schell son to the role that Roger plays.  Now all these years later I’m too old for that part and get the juicy role of Schoolmaster Kuhn.

Anyway, I digress… There are and, no doubt will continue to be, article upon article chronicling that long and difficult journey.  I ain’t writing about that… exactly.

Needless to say it almost always takes a long time (years and years) to get a musical from the creative teams minds, to paper, to the little brains of us actors and out of our mouths in order to present it in a reading form, sitting at music stands, and workshops (ad nauseam sometimes… over and over) pitching it to men and women with money to make this dream come to fruition.  Even with a team as estimable as the one listed above it takes a damn long time.  I know!  Crazy, right?!?

Then when a producer, or producers, finally takes on the challenge to raise the money to put this dream on it’s feet it behooves them to take the show out of town to make sure all of the elements are just right so you don’t open and close on the same night when you finally do make it to Broadway.

Sets, costumes, orchestrations, lights, sound, stage managers, carpenters, wardrobe (makers & dressers), musicians & copyists, electricians, sound technicians, fly-men/women, front of house (theatre managers, ushers, concessions), stage door men/women, cleaning staff, the theatre owners and their staff, press representatives and their staff, publicity firms and their staff… “etcetera, etcetera, etcetera” (Said in your best Yul Brenner)  Then looking back at the “out of town try out” you have this whole list repeated at a slightly smaller scale, usually with a smaller budget to do everything you need to do.

Oy!  That’s a lot of people to pull off one show.  One show that has spent 16 or 17 years in development.  One show that has employed hundreds of people over the years.  One show that has had three “out of town” tryouts.

This happens, or a variation thereof, for every single Broadway show you see… or DON’T see.  It is a labor of love.  We get paid, of course, but it’s always a gamble on how long a show runs, how long you get that pay check.  You do it (theatre) because you have to you need to.  But that’s a topic for another blog entry.

Tomorrow the creative team, actors, stage managers and rehearsal pianists get together in two mid-town Manhattan studios to bring their years of experience into a room; spilling out their love, sweat and tears to polish, shine and present to the “world” the last collaboration of McNally, Kander & Ebb and the last of the un-produced, on Broadway, shows that John Kander & Fred Ebb wrote.

We do this for all of those who have come before us who have, bit-by-bit, piece-by-piece, made their contribution and played their part in putting it together.

Merde!

You can buy your tickets here THE VISIT.  Buy your tickets early!

 

“You be good… and I’ll try”

Jason

PS. Sondheim and Kander & Ebb are friends and I don’t think either would mind the crossover use of ones song to illustrate this point.