30 June, 2011

The Adventures of Sophie and Sharon: Part 4, Locked Out

oops! sorry Shar-bear...

So this really happened...just ask the people who witnessed it... or the people that laughed so hard they wept... or the people that video taped the whole thing on their iPhones...


We have a great show and then:

Sharon: Sophie...Our door is LOCKED.
Sophie: Um. I don't know how I did that. I--
Sophie: Uh?
Sharon: --Sophie! [calms herself] SOPHIE. We've DISCUSSED this. When you leave the room you have to make sure the door is locked from the OUTSIDE. I've had a pretty upsetting class just then and I-- 
Sophie: I'm sorry Share Bear. [Long pause] ...um...does this mean we can't get the guinea pig?

28 June, 2011

On Camera: Playwright Terrence McNally

Enjoy the lauded playwright, (and my dear, wonderful friend) Terrence McNally discusses the life, career, person and persona that was and is Maria Callas, the central figure in his play Master Class, now on Broadway at The Samuel J Freidman Theatre starring Tyne Daly as Maria Callas, with Sierra Boggess, Jeremy Cohen, Clinton Brandhagen, Garret Sorenson and lil' ol' me.


27 June, 2011

Ask Al: Secrets of The Self Employed Part 2

it is!!
Creating a social network of other self-employed people is very important not only for your business, but for your spirit.
There is nothing like good ol' fashion collaboration, except possibly good ol' fashion commiseration... having colleagues and pals around you who both inspire and support one another is key to weathering the self-employment waves-- we need people around us to help celebrate the highest of highs and aid in weathering the lowest of lows.

If you want to work on your art, work on your life.  It’s all connected.
As artists we interpret life, and how are we supposed to interpret life if we do not have a real life to interpret? (This has always been my argument for why I lived in North London, why I live in Astoria. As an artist, I wish deeply to cultivate my life "outside" of art. Whatever that is for you-- sports, family reunions, tea-pot collections, a love of cooking, cats, cheese, you get the idea--love it HARD. Be a part of your community. Listen to people. Try to understand them and hear their stories particularly if they are different from your own.

But this is another point.
Truth time: all those personality traits that aren’t working for you in your LIFE will haunt you in your career (i.e. assertiveness, fear of conflict, fear of confrontation, inability to be vulnerable, refusal to "get dirty" or make mistakes...). So sort yourself out! Take responsibility. Agency, self-awareness and self-knowledge will not only improve your life, but it will improve your art.

Also: don't be a jerk. It doesn't (usually) matter how talented you are, no one WANTS to work with a jerk. Remember what Conan O'Brian said on his final Tonight Show:

      "...If you work really hard, and you're kind, amazing things will happen."

Don’t worry about whether or not you are "good."
Listen. Look. (Okay both listen and look).
Some of the arts are more technical than others. You cannot, in good faith, show up for an orchestra audition and not be able to read music. You cannot expect to be an opera singer if you do not have some kind of command on foreign languages. You cannot just randomly blow into a tuba an expect results. You obviously have to work hard to be technically excellent. I am hoping that is obvious.

But beyond THAT. LISTEN TO ME, I am underlining this: GOOD IS SUBJECTIVE.
And most people are not great judges of their own work.

So with that said, just keep doing your thang.

(PS. some people don't actually wish to compete on a professional level. I believe that the arts are especially beautiful because anyone, at ANY level, can incorporate them into their lives. That's why we have community theatre and do NOT have, for example, Amateur Surgical Societies - the important thing is to always keep an awareness of what "excellence" is for YOU, to keep growing, and always attempt to "dance as if no one is watching.")

Nothing is achieved without at least a little bit of mischief. Make certain you goof off on a regular basis.
It's true. Dancing the line between taking yourself and your art seriously, and being capable of laughing at yourself, at life, at the ridiculous is key. Defining where that line is for you is important, and exploring is always illuminating.

Let your work itself be your professional calling card. Networking is, without question, valuable and important, but the quality of your work will always speak for itself.
Wanna know how I made my Broadway debut? Because I did good work in the Kennedy Center production of Master Class.
Wanna know why I did Carousel in Los Angeles? Because I has made a name for myself doing the role in London.
Wanna know how the West End production of Carousel came to be? Because the director and producer worked with me in Fiddler on the Roof.
Law & Order Criminal Intent? They liked me in Law & Order...
...This is how it works.

Let your work speak for itself and people will want to know who you are (and the networking happens for you!). Then, when they meet you and you are not a jackass? Great.

Networking is important.
Not being a jerk is important.
But nothing speaks louder than good work.
Good, solid, wonderful, inspired work will always speak loudly, and will always be the most important calling card.

25 June, 2011

Look. What. I. Found.

Guys.... GUYS.... 
For real.


So I named them Bertram and Scott.
and then I went back to get two more 
     because people? ...THEY WERE $4.99

The next two were in green [orange below], and I named the next two Archimedes and Zizi.
(Incidentally, it pleases me greatly that their names now line up perfectly with the Teletubbies theme song "Archimedes! Bertram! Zizi! SCOTT.")

I love owls. A lot.

23 June, 2011

I've Been

Al & Sierra: toes in the sand
re-discovering Sophie De Palma!

drinking peach martinis with Tyne.

engaging in "The Adventures of Sophie & Sharon" with fellow Master Class-er Sierra Boggess, which includes:
     18 holes of mini golf
     visits to The Intrepid
     shoe parades
     deep-and-meaningfuls deep into the night
     planning our epic dressing room
     and biking the entire isle of Manhattan.

...speaking of which, filming "The Last Street in Manhattan" on Law & Order Criminal Intent and adoring it.
the freakin' Squad Room!!

Rocking adulthood.

Writing. Every day.

Meeting my hand twin: English actress and singer Gina Beck. It was pretty crazy.

Running along the East River. Every day.

Singing like never before!

Staying healthy.

D.I.Y-tastic! WHO INSTALLED (with her fierce-as-you-know-what-DIY-tastic-Mommy) 4, count them FOUR of HER OWN CEILING FANS WITH ONLY MINIMAL ELECTRICAL DRAMA?! (Okay. Look. There was only one teeeeeeny tiiiiiny fire which required professional attention and that was only because the wires were over 100 years old...) BUT WE DID IT AND I SIT HERE TYPING BY THE COOLING BREEZES COMING FROM MY CEILING....

dying Easter eggs with pals! 

Having the most incredible week-long reunion with my brother, sister-in-law Maggie, Maggie's mom Leslie, nieces Hannah and Madison, and my Mom in The Big Apple. Magical.

Really plugging into New York City: The Big Apple (as I enjoy calling it...)

Reuniting with the Hello Again family ON "The 12th of Maaaaaay..." (dorks.)

the gang reunites
Enjoying watermelon season. YES. A lot. 

Seeing all sorts of theatre.

Loving Brother John Glover in the city of Brotherly Love. (This, specifically included, in order... 1. Tyne had no lipstick (?!!) 2. Glove and I offer to have an adventure by running across the street and buying her "Diva Red" from the Mac store 3. which Glover subsequently tries on...declaring "Patti Lupone taught me about Diva Red when I was playing Bunny the Drag Queen..." 4. We quoted Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker when agreeing we were on an adventure, this engaging in "PUDDING" 5. Ultimately, we were clique-y today. Guilty.)

Riding to Philadelphia IN. A. STRETCH. LIMO. BY. MY. SELF...

...and back to New York with Marc Bruni: a man I barely knew but we now know EVERY detail of one anothers' life stories. Fact.

Oh yeah, and I've been making my debut on THE BROADWAY.

22 June, 2011

20 June, 2011


Mikhail lay slumped over his work, fast asleep.

Remnants of tea kissed the bottom of his glass, papers sprawled and candles snuffed out. Somehow the objects captured the current essence of Mikhail himself.

Day after day, the men descended down a a coffin-like staircase into the bowels of the earth, the only light from flaming lamps and the mouth of the mine above their heads. The fact that he had his wits about him was more a miracle than a blessing.

Shura gazed upon him now— overworked, worn. It was late, and, as was usual for the last few months, Mikhail had returned from the mines only to spend the remainder of his waking hours poring over his papers.

It was becoming more and more difficult to deny that he was physically withering. His nose bled constantly, his extremities always cold, the skin all over his body had lost elasticity. He was growing progressively more lethargic, and sometimes, at night, he would riot against the cramping in his extremities—his limbs wriggling as worms might fight a hook.

But still, she gazed upon him and stared, breathless for a moment. What was it about Mikhail as he lay curled at his desk, enveloped in the mining shirt of coarse, tarnished linen and fraying trousers? What moved her so as she saw him sleeping there; his visions sprawled before him, laid out like a map of the universe? Drawings, diagrams and plans, everything he aspired to build, invent or create, set out before him in neatly coded piles.

Her nightdress had fallen open slightly, and she gathered it around herself as she tread lightly over weighty volumes, candles that had extinguished down to nubbins, and endless sheets of scribbled, coded papers. She was careful not to startle him.

Mikhail’s left hand was outstretched, having fallen almost elegantly atop his notebook like a small sculpture, as if he had collapsed into this slumber in the middle of a thought. The fingers were still holding his pencil, the side of his palm blackened with lead as it always was from the hours of writing from left to right in Russian—he always preferred to write in Hebrew for that very reason and she smiled to herself at these details that made up their marriage.

Her eyes moved toward the hand and she could not help but peak at the smudged scrawl below it. It was a coded telegram from the West which Mikhail had decoded lightly below the type. It simply read:


Below it, in his own hand Mikhail had made a note:

The People are Important.

That was all it said. She could hear the steady throbbing of his heart, the quiet purr of his breathing, and she was at once torn apart with tenderness, unable to keep from pressing her ear to his back to listen.

     “What?” He sat up suddenly, What is it?” He was at once alert.
     “Darling, you must come to bed…” She carefully marked and folded his notebooks.
He glanced out the window into the inky blackness,
     “What is the hour?”
     “I don’t know. But you must rest. Besides,” she smiled coyly, “I am freezing all alone in there…” and extending her hand to him. He placed his lead-smudged hand in her own and she kissed him as she helped him rise, shifting her hand into his trousers. He clutched her, and, with defeat, he moved away.
     “…I can’t.”
This was another recent, more devastating development.
     “It is alright, my love…”
But it wasn’t. Not for him.
     “—This letter. I must finish. It is important.”
     “Tomorrow, Mikhail. It can wait.”

Thus, he followed his wife to bed.

19 June, 2011

The Adventures of Sophie and Sharon: Part 2, The Matching Glasses

Have you ever seen more perfect monikers?
More delightful a set of glasses?
--No, no! Not Sophie's glasses, the matching glasses!
The ones that call it like it is...?

matching glasses: calling it like it is...

18 June, 2011

The Adventures of Sophie & Sharon: Part 1

love at first sight (which, as Sierra knows, never dies..)
When Sierra Boggess and I first met in London [pictured], violins played. No not literally. But it felt like they did. Or perhaps it was cellos. A string section. The Love Story theme played, something like that. Okay anyway the point is that we were an instant match and not only excited to work together in Master Class, but to share a dressing room-- which we promptly began to plan straight away...yep.

So, what are two crazy, American, London leading ladies to do? Well I will tell you what they do!
They go all out.
They whole ass it.
They come up with a concept and never look back. 

Ladies and Gentleman, I give you : DRESSING ROOM 4


Al and Sierra have (prepare yourselves) turned Dressing Room 4 into a Julliard dorm room-- as if Sophie and Sharon have been forced to move in to the dorms together and are valiantly trying to make it work Odd Couple style. It is a work of pure and unadulterated genius. We are pretty freakin' pleased with ourselves.

Did we force our director to take us to the Julliard Store so we could use his staff discount?
Did we then buy Julliard flags and magnets and relevant paraphernalia to go on our doors and walls?
Did we buy matching t-shirts, fleeces and water bottles?
Did we make multiple trips to Urban Outfitters so we could get a white board, a chalk board, squillions of picture frames and various key knick-knacks? 
Do we have matching make-up brush glasses that are character-appropriately labeled "Hot Mess" and "Bitch"? [above]
Did we paper our walls with scores, records and music-school articles such as "As a musician do you lead a cluttered life"?
Do we have notes, roommate citations and pep talks written to each other AS Sophie and Sharon all. over. the. room?
     and, best of all,
Did we go to Kinkos on our night off and spend 2 hours printing out over 30 pages of relevant opera memorabilia...?

....the answer to all of these is YES.

We are aware that it is ridiculous. We are. But not only do we not care, we feel sorry for people that don't get it. (Being serious for a moment, it might even seem a little insane to say this, but it has legitimately fleshed out our back-stories on stage in a pretty profound way...)

So. Get ready. Stuff in Dressing Room 4 is about to get very very real...

those would be matching t-shirts...

12 June, 2011

First Tech Week on Broadway

Never in all my life have I experienced so pleasant, stress-free and flat-out dreamy a tech week.

This company, valiantly spear-headed by our immaculate leading lady Tyne Daly and charismatic fearless leader, director Stephen Wadsworth, has engaged with one another, taken care of each other, and managed to finish every aspect of this beautiful Broadway show ahead of schedule without a single tear or raised voice or actor meltdown.  We are all still passionate, energized and completely in love with one another.

That is a miracle.

...So. Tuesday the audience arrives and we all eagerly await our "seventh character" and look forward to telling and sharing this story with all of you. Here's to my first tech week on Broadway. I hope and trust it will not be my last. I am a lucky and grateful lady.

all photographs by Clinton Brandhagen

* * *

Terrence McNally’s music-kissed biographical drama about opera diva Maria Callas, Master Class, begins previews as Broadway’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre June 14.According to MTC, “McNally’s award-winning play about Callas takes us to one of her famous master classes where, late in her own career, she challenges the next generation to make the same sacrifices and dare to rise to the same heights she did, making her the most celebrated, the most reviled and the most controversial singer of her times.” Tyne Daly leads a cast that features Sierra Boggess, Clinton Brandhagen, Jeremy Cohen, Alexandra Silber and Garrett Sorenson. Stephen Wadsworth directs.


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