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"Call Me Adam" chats with...

 

 

Wednesday
Jun072017

Call Answered: Billy Lykken: The 'Sacred Monster' Live NYC Gay Pride Weekend at The Metropolitan Room

Who can resist a DIVA? From their demeanor to their talent to their wardrobe, I always keep up with my girls. I'm so glad to have the opportunity to interview Billy Lykken who is returning to the Metropolitan Room during NYC Gay Pride weekend for an encore presentation of his show Lykken 'The Sacred Monster' Live, which is an alt-cabaret experience featuring Billy's queer brand of comedy and outrageous parody, as well as his interpretations of songs ranging from Broadway, R&B, Jazz, and Tin Pan Alley.

Billy takes his audiences on a hyper-emotional journey of song, eyelash, and pizzazz filtered through the soul of an often heartbroken, but never bitter, sequined songstress whose eccentricities and self-destructive behavior are overshadowed by an all-consuming need to please the faithful masses.

Lykken 'The Sacred Monster' Live will play The Metropolitan Room on Saturday, June 24 at 4pm! Click here for tickets!

For more on Billy be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? Judy, Liza, Barbra, Bette, these are names I can't forget! My favorite albums growing up were live diva concerts, Barbra Streisand - A Happening in Central Park, Patti Labelle Live at the Apollo, Judy at Carnegie Hall of course. Honey, I wore them out! I think I was attracted to their larger than life personas and a hyper-emotional way of singing. I would lip-sync to them in my bedroom and sort of become them in my fantasy. So that's what this show is, me acting out my childhood fantasy and letting my inner diva out.

Billy Lykken2. This June, for Gay Pride weekend, you are returning to the Metropolitan Room for an encore performance of your show Lykken 'The Sacred Monster' Live. What are you looking forward to most about performing during Gay Pride Weekend in NYC? I'm singing my version of Nina Simone's "Mississippi Goddam." Talk about a Sacred Monster! This year's Pride is different for me, and I think it's different for most LGBTQ people. I'm angry, afraid, energized, amused. It's my protest song but with a funny twist, and it's cathartic.

3. Why do you call yourself the "Sacred Monster"? "Sacred Monster” is an old term for an eccentric diva who's maybe a bit "too much" or a little needy, but is so talented and electrifying that it just adds to the mystique for her worshipping fans. The character I play is sort of delusional about her own legend. It's tongue in cheek, but at the end of the day I want make you laugh, and cry, and walk out feeling like something happened to you.

4. In this show you take the audience on a hyper-emotional journey of song, eyelash, and pizzazz filtered through the soul of an often heartbroken, but never bitter, sequined songstress whose eccentricities and self-destructive behavior are overshadowed by an all-consuming need to please the faithful masses. What has been your most hyper-emotional life moment thus far? Working that stage at Metropolitan Room! I throw down like my sacred monster mothers taught me.

Billy Lykken5. Why are you often heartbroken, but never bitter? All artists are vulnerable people because they have to be. It's a curse and an asset. I find bitter people are not vulnerable.

6. What do you think is your biggest eccentricity? I get obsessed with things, or people. Like if I see some Liza Minnelli performance on Youtube that I love, I'll watch it a hundred times, and memorize every moment. Or I'll start on some hobby, like baking bread. I'll bake a million loaves of bread and then just stop one day and drop it completely.

7. With your eyelashes and sequins on, what has been your flashiest, most diva inspiring moment? I have crazy bolero arrangement of "My Way" that I used to do. It's a self-congratulatory, presumptuous song to sing in the first place. Perfect for a Sacred Monster. Come to think of it, maybe I'll put it back in the show.

Billy Lykken8. When you are in your dressing room before the show, as you are putting your make-up on, what is going through your head? And after the show, what goes through your head when you take your make-up off? As I'm putting my makeup on I'm trying to get into the feeling of the character, looking in the mirror giving fierce face and saying "Yaaaas I look fabulous." She's a legend in her own mind and I want to tap into that energy before I hit the stage. I'm not a flashy person in real life so the makeup and sequins help me get there. The show takes a lot of energy, so I think I must seem like an insane person when people meet me after because my whole body is still buzzing. I can't just drop it when I get offstage.

9. Your performance has been compared to the likes of Tallulah Bankhead and Eartha Kitt. What was your reaction to this comparison? How did these two artists influence your style? Well that's a compliment and I'm humbled by that because those women were geniuses and goddesses to me and certainly did influence the show. I sing Eartha's Japanese version of "Come-on-a My House" and it's outrageous! Do you know she sang in seven languages? French, Hebrew, Tagalog. And Tallulah had that hilarious deadpan humor and wit. And an underrated actress too, watch Lifeboat.

10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? I sing everyday because it makes me happy and I can feel myself getting better at it all the time. Repetition baby!

Tuesday
Jun062017

Call Answered: Conference Call: Michael Raver & Nicholas Carriere: Death Comes for the War Poets at Sheen Center

Nicholas Carriere & Michael Raver, Photo Credit: Lloyd MulveyWe live in some crazy times. Every day that moron stays in office is another battle we have to fight for our freedom from him because we never know what that lunatic is going to do. Ever since this election, I am just grateful to wake-up everyday still alive.

When I found out about Death Comes For The War Poets, a new play by Joseph Pearce, I thought this would be a great show to highlight because it takes place on the centenary of the United States’ entry into World War One and grapples with the horror of trench warfare as experienced by the two greatest war poets, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen.

I was so excited to get to speak with the plays' two lead actors, Michael Raver and Nicholas Carriere, who play "Wilfred Owen" and "Siegfried Sassoon" respectively. It was interesting to compare the events of the past with what's happening today.

Presented by Blackfriars Repertory Theatre and The Storm Theatre Company, Death Comes For The War Poets will make it's world premiere at The Sheen Center in NYC (18 Bleecker Street) from June 9-24. Click here for tickets!

For more on Michael be sure to visit http://michaelraver.blogspot.com and follow him on Twitter!

For more on Nicholas visit http://nicholascarriere.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter!

1. This June you are starring in the world premiere of Blackfriars Repertory Theatre and The Storm Theatre Company's production of Death Comes for the War Poets by Joseph Pearce. What attracted you to this show?

Michael Raver: I didn’t actually know anything about Wilfred Owen or Siegfried Sassoon when I heard about this play. The poetry that both of these men wrote, the emotional capacity of their work and what they accomplished with it is staggering. Ultimately because plays are about relationships between people, that's the breakfast, lunch and dinner for actors, right? Sassoon and Owen had a fascinating relationship, one that was very obviously filled with a lot of love. Against the backdrop of how they met and the abiding feelings they expressed to each other suggest delicious possibilities.

Nicholas Carriere: Pure curiosity, and a dose of masochism. I’m from New England, and was raised Catholic, so if it seems difficult, I’ll probably be drawn to it.

2. What do you relate to most about your characters "Siegfried Sassoon" & "Wilfred Owen"? What is one characteristic of theirs are you glad you don't possess?

Michael Raver: I love Owen’s emotional bravery. One of his most profound gifts to the poetic landscape, particularly as it pertained to war, was a willingness to be vulnerable and blunt. There was no sarcasm or triviality in his ethos. As an actor and as a writer, my ultimate desire is to get to the bottom of complicated things. Distilling, while I wrestle with things that make no sense to me. Owen spent his short career fighting to understand violence and I can completely relate to that. I’m relieved that the jingoistic relationship with going to war isn’t on the menu for me. England, at the time of the first World War, had a propensity for nurturing young men to believe that their destinies were all on the battlefield. The might is right. I have respect for the military but I’m endlessly thankful that I’m not among them.

Nicholas Carriere: I love words, much like he (obviously) did, though the way we use them is very different. Sassoon was a fascinating man, whose life was beautiful, and tragic. The events of our respective lives couldn’t be more different; it feels unfair of me to judge any of his choices, or perceived character traits. That said, I could only wish to write as beautifully as he did.

Michael Raver, Nicholas Carriere, Sarah Naughton, Photo Credit: Lloyd Mulvey3. In preparing for the show, what kind of research did you do on your characters?

Michael Raver: Reading a lot. I’ve read and re-read his poetry. I also was in touch with the Wilfred Owen Association and they’ve been very helpful giving me some details about him that I might not have easily found in books. Because he was suffering from shell shock at the time we’re covering in the piece, I also watched some really heartbreaking documentaries about the lasting effects of war on the human body.

Nicholas Carriere: I read the first of Sassoon’s autobiographies, and reviewed my WWI history, but because there’s very little interpersonal dialogue in the play, most of the work lay in unpacking the language of his poems, because his poems serve as the narrative engine. I can’t rely on relationships, or sets, or a general audience’s working knowledge of this man. I have to find a way to create the world of this man’s life - both external and internal - with only his poetry.

4. Since you play poets and the show is about war, if you were to write a very short poem about war, how would your poem go?

Michael Raver: 

Roses are red, violets are blue
War is complete bullshit
So stay home won’t you?

Nicholas Carriere: If anyone wants to see me doing poetry, they should come see the show starting June 9th!

Michael Raver5. The show is titled Death Comes for the War Poets. If death came for you now, what would you be most grateful for that you've accomplished and what would be one or two things you were like, "Damn, I didn't get to do that yet"?

Michael Raver: I’m grateful that, in the last year particularly, I’ve stayed in the present moment more often than not. I’ve gotten to be present for some really exceptional moments in other people’s lives. Births, weddings, seminal creative moments and also a few deaths. As far as things that I haven’t done yet, I guess that since we live in a work-addicted culture, I would love to get to a point where I can soften out of that a little. In terms of my career, I’m proud of what I’ve done so far. I’m in the process of writing a book right now and I’m looking forward to seeing that through.

Nicholas Carriere: Oh, see, although I have a very bounteous life, with much to be grateful for, I try not to dwell on any of it, and hope to be present enough to not live (or die) with regrets.

6. The show deals with the horror of trench warfare, so what is the most horrific thing to happen to each of you in your life? How did you find the strength to continue after said event?

Michael Raver: My father passed away when I was eighteen and that was pretty traumatizing. Our relationship and the circumstances of it were very complicated and the situation left me with a lot of frayed edges and unresolved issues. For lack of a better way of saying it, losing a parent can feel like emotional war. Someone recently told me this really great idea that your parents give birth to you twice. Once when you’re born and then again when they die. As an adult man now, I’ve made a concerted effort to get the most out of the time I have while I have it. If something bothers me, I say something. If I have the impulse to change something about my life, I really try not to hesitate. While I appreciate that there’s a time and a place for everything, subjugating my feelings and thoughts feels like death.

Nicholas Carriere: There is poetry in the play, which deals with trench warfare, and it’s a testament to Sassoon and Owen as artists that they’re able to render such vivid, haunting accounts of a very dark time in modern history. But it’s the darkness of that time, which enables Sassoon to find a path to peace. So few of us can ever know the horror of that kind of war; mostly anything I could ever, or may ever endure seems manageable.

Nicholas Carriere7. Not only is this story told through the eyes of Siefgried & Wilfred, it's also told through the "Spirit of Death." I don't want to make every question a downer, so let's have some fun with this question. If you could come up with a cheer for the "Spirit of Death," how would you cheer go?

Michael Raver: This isn’t really a chant, but KT Tunstall has a gorgeous song about death called ‘Carried’ that would be my go-to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLNp1WROFR0

Nicholas Carriere: Sarah Naughton, who plays "Death" in the show, will be charming, and cheering audiences nightly starting 6/9. I’ll defer to her expertise.

8. We are currently living in some very trying times, especially with what's his name leading our country. What are some things you are still hopeful for in this day and age?

Michael Raver: I love those moments when communication between people gets bolstered, strengthened. I love directness. I love when I get an email or a text or a call from someone I haven’t seen in a while or even its somebody that I see on a regular basis, to get a "just saying hi" message. Little morsels of love like that can work miracles on a downtrodden mood. Celebrating what unites us rather than what breaks us up. I’m hopeful that in the coming years, people will dig deep to embrace their own vulnerability as a strength rather than labeling it a weakness.

Nicholas Carriere: My father has an infuriating way of assuring me that humanity will find its way towards whatever is best. Frustratingly, as I grow older, I am starting to see his point. I have faith.

Nicholas Carriere and Michael Raver, Photo Credit: Lloyd Mulvey9. How do you feel we can bring peace to this world we live in?

Michael Raver: Love is a huge necessity, absolutely, but I think perhaps a refined definition of what love is. To me, love has always been an action. It’s a verb. It’s so easy to toss that word off carelessly. I so want our collective consciousness to rise to the point where we can walk our own talk. If you love someone, show them if you want to tell them. If something bothers you, do something. Regarding the political circus going on at the moment, my encouragement to anyone upset by it would be to pick up a phone, call a congress person, go to a protest. Donate money. Do rather than simply complain.

Nicholas Carriere: Our collective wellspring of empathy and compassion, I think, has no bottom; we need only make better (and more frequent) use of it.

10. If you could write death a letter, what would you say to it?

Michael Raver: 

Dear sir and/or madam: 

I have a lot of things I want to do. Do me a solid and let me do them. I want to be very thoroughly used up by the time you show up looking for me.

Thanks!

xo

Nicholas Carriere: "Are you ok? You look like… Well. You know."

Michael RaverMore on Michael:

Off-Broadway: The Persians (National Actors Theatre); Vieux Carré (The Pearl); Julius Caesar, Romeo & Juliet (Aquila Theatre). Select regional: Bay Street Theater, Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Playhouse on Park, Ivoryton Playhouse, Sierra Rep. Select film/TV: How We Built the Bomb, Dark Places, Gone Away, Turn: Washington’s Spies. As a playwright: Fire on Babylon (Wild Project, Great River Shakespeare Festival, The O’Neill semifinalist), RiptideQuiet Electricity (The O’Neill semifinalist), Evening (Red Bull Theater finalist) and adaptations of The Picture of Dorian Gray (Sonnet Rep, Orlando Shakespeare Theater 
PlayFest finalist) and The Seagull (The Pearl). Contributes pieces to Classical TVNYC Monthly, Hamptons Monthly, The Huffington Post, Playbill.com, Dance Magazine and CoolHunting.com.

Nicholas CarriereMore on Nicholas:

Some New York and regional credits include Sex with Strangers (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park), My Report to the World (NY Museum of Jewish Heritage and Shakespeare Theater, DC), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Guthrie Theater), A Song at Twilight (Hartford Stage and Westport Country Playhouse), Zorro (American premiere at Alliance Theatre), Abigail/1702 (world premiere at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park), Coriolanus (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company), The Lion King (national tour/Vegas). Training: MFA, Yale School of Drama and Muhlenberg College. Thanks to his father for his support and always letting him make a mess in his kitchen.

Thursday
Jun012017

Call Answered: Amber Nash: Archer, Vulture Festival, Hart of America

Amber Nash and "Pam Poovey" from FX/FXX's "Archer", Photo Credit: FXGrowing up, I was all about the Saturday Morning cartoons from Scooby-Doo to The Smurfs, I was up and ready to watch! So you can imagine my excitement when I called and Amber Nash, of FX/FXX's Archer answered. I was delighted to talk with "Pam Poovey" herself about this hit show, meeting fans, performing improv and so much more including Amber's own web series Hart of America!

Archer airs Wednesdays at 10pm on FXX!

For more on Amber follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I found out when I was a kid that if I made people laugh it was easier to make friends. I think that is where it all started. Then I became a ham. Always performing. I was a theatre kid in High School and then found improv in college.

2. You attended Vulture Festival recently in NYC where fans came to hear you speak on the "Saturday Morning Cartoons" panel. What do you like about attending these kinds of festivals and interacting with your fans? It's so fun meeting fans and seeing how they respond to the show. I'm always so blown away by how loyal our fans are and how much they know about the show that I don't. Fans are the best, I always love seeing "Pam" cosplay too!

Amber Nash as "Pam Poovey" on FX/FXX's "Archer", Photo Credit: FX3. For the past eight seasons you have been the voice of "Pam Poovey," a former ISIS Human Resources Director, on FX/FXX's series Archer. What initially attracted you to this show? Honestly, a pay check! It was a job, I was a gigging actor, and I just wanted to work. But then, I was like wait a minute! This is an awesome show with a bunch of amazingly talented, famous actors and I get to be on it?!? I really got lucky!

4. The character of "Pam" is changing a lot this season. Did you have any input on her direction? I didn't. I got a call from Adam Reed, the creator and writer and he told me where we were headed and what we were doing this season and that "Poovey" would be a gender-neutral cop that was loosely based on Russell Crowe's character from L.A. Confidential. I was so excited. What a dream. I love that Adam feels like I and the character are literally capable of anything!

5. What is the most politically incorrect thing you have to do as "Pam" that initially made you uncomfortable, but after recording it, you were like "I support this because it will open up some dialog between people."? Nothing. I really feel like I'm so lucky that I get some of the funniest, raunchiest lines in the show. The character is so well-written, fun and capable. I think the show overall really earns it's dirty because it's such a smart show.

Amber Nash as "Pam Poovey" on FX/FXX's "Archer", Photo Credit: FX6. What do you relate to most about "Pam" and what is one characteristic of hers you are glad you don't have? I probably relate to being one of the boys, I really was a tomboy growing up with lots of guy friends. I wish I had "Pam's" unapologetic attitude, she doesn't care what people think about her. I think that is one of the things that people respond to most about "Pam."

7. What are some challenges to doing voice over work? What is the best part about it? The challenge is only having your voice and distilling everything you've got down to that. The best part is it is fast, no hair and make-up and I don't have to memorize lines. It's the easiest acting job out there.

8. In addition to television, you have also been working on the web series Hart of America. What differences do you see between network/cable television and web series? What do you like about working on a web series over a TV series? Well the big difference is that Hart of America is mine while Archer is a job that I'm hired to do. I like making my own stuff with the amazing team I work with. It's fun to show people the other stuff I can do. I can't wait to do more.

Amber Nash in "Hart of America"9. Playing with this series title a bit. We are all trying to find our hearts in this new America. Have have you found your heart after this election or how are you finding it? I don't even know what to say. It's crazy town USA. I'm just hanging on.

10. If you could go back in time to when you were a little girl growing up in Atlanta with big Hollywood dreams, what would successful adult Amber tell dreamer Amber? Be nice, work hard, be brave and don't worry so much about bothering people, you have to ask for what you want.

11. You got your start as an improv performer. How do you feel the world of improv prepared for your television/web series work today? Improv taught me everything I know. The audience tells you immediately if your ideas are funny. Improv and the culture is very positive, it helps you be game for just about anything.

12. What do you get from Improv performing that you don't get from "scripted" work? The ability to be wholly creative and responsible for your content.

Amber Nash, Photo Credit: Birdie ThompsonMore on Amber:

A native of Atlanta, Amber graduated from Georgia State University with a B.S. in Psychology. After graduating, she worked at an outdoor therapeutic program for a few years, living with teens who had emotional and behavioral challenges. During this time, she started taking improv classes and performed regularly at Dad’s Garage Theatre Company, where she still performs, directs and teaches to this day. She is a current member of Laughing Matters and performs on stage in Atlanta year round. She has also worked with Push Push Theatre and The Center for Puppetry Arts. Amber was also involved with the world-renowned improv groups Improv Olympic (iO) and Second City in Chicago.

Amber got her start doing animated voice work on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim TV series Frisky Dingo, voicing the roles of "Val," "Hooker," and a variety of others. Producers and writers Adam Reed and Matt Thompson gave Amber her voice career start and continue to be friends and mentors to this day. Her work on Frisky Dingo led to Amber being cast in the series regular role of "Poovey" on Archer. Amber was also very honored when asked to voice a character in the 100th episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force for the role of "Tabitha."

In addition to her voice career, Amber regularly tours the U.S., Canada and Europe improvising, studying and teaching. She has worked with Second City, performing at the Alliance Theatre and on Norwegian Cruise Lines. She is a regular in online sketches for Dad’s Garage TV and recently produced and starred in the award winning web series Hart of America. Amber has extensive stage experience, having performed in BRAWL, an improvised wrestling show, Clash Titan Clash!DroveFingertipsInvasion: Our Town and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Between seasons of Archer, Amber continues to perform in live productions, travel, participate in panels and appearances, and tweet, in character, as "Pam" from Archer at @pamsgossiptrain or as herself @ambercnash.

Tuesday
May302017

Call Answered: Crystal Skillman: GREAT AGAIN: "The Test"

Crystal SkillmanWhen I saw that Crystal Skillman had a show in the 2nd Annual Women in Theatre Festival, I called and was over the moon that she answered! You see Crystal is working on two separate shows with award-winning composer Bobby Cronin, Mary & Max and The Cover (written for Glee's Ali Stroker), and anyone who reads "Call Me Adam," knows my love for Bobby! But more than her connection to Bobby, I was quite taken by the subject of Crystal's play The Test which is the show in Project Y Theatre Company's evening of plays entitled Great Again.

In The Test, an English teacher in a struggling high school readies her junior students for the most important test of their lives. But when a symbol of hate appears in her classroom, she and two students on either side of the recent election find their lives forever changed.

The Test will play at the Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre at the A.R.T./New York Theatres (502 West 53rd Street, off 10th Avenue) from June 1-24. Click here for tickets!

For more on Cyrstal be sure to visit http://www.crystalskillman.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter!

1. Who or what inspired you to be a playwright? While I was in a lot of plays (acting in various groups growing up - where I was always in the back row - clearly acting wasn’t my thing…!), I loved the visual arts, and found I had a talent for photography. So I went to the Hartford Art School, then Parsons School of Design. But I took an elective playwriting class (with playwright Edward Allan Baker) and man I was hooked.

2. What made you want to write The Test? After the election, we all woke up in a new, scary world. And perhaps the scariest realization is the hate, this backwards thinking we’re seeing is more rampant and normal than we could have ever imagined. It was always around us. But now it has a voice and platform. The first thing I noticed was how all the teachers I knew (full time or as Teaching Artists) flooded my Facebook feed, or when I walked into the classroom, with the same question: Why Teach? A man who is unqualified to hold office is now President.

Why work hard? Why learn? That is the point of school to prepare you for a world that is worth being a part of. What has meaning in this new world? What has value? The day after I went into teach playwriting at a high school as guest artist. There were students there on either side of the election. Two sweet boys tried to convince me that I was lucky Trump was president. I was being protected as a woman as Hillary had "killed" people. I saw this teenage energy swirling around, struggling to understand, and processing information in such a different way. Two days later a swastika was drawn in the "Beasties Boy" park by me in Boreum Hill. We rallied, we protested, it was painted over, but can something like that ever be taken away?

Crystal Skillman and Chiori Miyagawa3. Your play, The Test is just one of two plays in Project Y Theatre Company's double bill of new plays, GREAT AGAIN, that they commissioned written as a response to the November 2016 election and presented as the centerpiece of the 2nd Annual Women in Theatre Festival dedicated to broadening opportunities for women playwrights. What went through your head when you found out The Test was going to be part of run? Chiori Miyagawa and I got that lucky call last summer. The call was about the commission. Which was cool enough, but when I realized Project Y was also going to produce the plays, I thought that was special. Scary too! I mean…that’s a fast timeline! This time around, I wrote this play a lot in my head. When I sat down to write, the words flowed. I really love this play, and the struggle "Ada" has in this play. Chiori was an integral part of reminding us to wait and see what would happen (we had entertained writing them pre-election), and to write these plays from where we are at. This place of truth. She and I became close friends through the process. I’m so happy with how imaginative the plays are. To write a play knowing it will be produced creates the best work. That is the truth. Many creators wished that theatre worked more from this system, as opposed to picking plays for slots.

4. As a female playwright, why do you feel it's important to have a theatre festival dedicated to woman writers? There are so, so many great playwrights now - and so, so many are women. These festivals are important as I find theatre systems geared to season planning are overlooking many writers who are responding to the moment, or simply the overspill from this amount of writers. Project Y saw a need, and also was interested in politics, and created a space for this kind of work. In general, the DIY culture provides us much of the meaningful theatrical experiences in this city. Sometimes they are just here briefly, sometimes they transfer, but I hope they can become more than just a product. In this new world more than ever I believe we’re looking for experiences, not just something to sell or buy. I’ve said this in a few interviews - I believe it’s this frenzy for consumerism that got us Trump.

Crystal Skillman5. In The Test, an English teacher in a struggling high school readies her junior students for the most important test of their lives. What has been the most important test of your life so far? I think being a female writer, having a love of theatre, and trying to be sure your plays see the light of day in this world, tests you every day. It is an on-going test. I get through it more now by writing in other mediums: TV, comics. For tests I can see the outcome of, I’ve been doing a half marathon in the spring and fall. It is great to cross the finish line, it fills you with hope.

6. What is something you struggled with in high school that now you look back on and are like, "Why was that such a struggle for me?" Actually I think the things I’ve always been good at I got even better at, and those things that I wasn’t so good at stayed the same…I would say I’m better about identifying a bully, and feeling confident in how I deal with those that are trying to be manipulative, even if they aren’t being that way. I’m a really trusting person, but I’ve learned to be careful with my trust. It’s a gift. It should be earned.

Crystal Skillman7. How do you feel the outcome of this election has changed you? The balance of activism every day and writing. That day after I woke up, and before I went to teach, I decided to put my energy into working out pretty early. A van passed me and two guys shouted out the window "Hillary lost, bitch." There was nothing to identify any of my political feelings other than I was a woman. Something in me clicked. My eyes were opened in a new way. I’d been so kind, and overlooked so many misogynisitc encounters. By doing that, I allowed this kind of energy to fester. In terms of putting it in the work, that morning, that sad, sad satisfaction of "gloating victory," comes up in a climatic moment in my play.

8. With so much hate in this world, how do you think your work helps fight the hate? All creative work does. Fiction or non-fiction. By creating art, you are presenting a story or experience you must sit and live in. In theatre it’s especially effective, as you are going through your own feelings and revelations in a story the reflects today. How do we keep that going when the lights come up? That’s the question. There is a very judgmental, give-it-to-me-now culture that I’m not sure how to change. Recently I saw the revival of Fiddler on the Roof. After the moving image of those forced to leave their homeland, which the director clearly chose to highlight the plight of refugees going on right now, and after thunderous applause, and practically singing along to the songs they knew, the lights went up and the whole audience in mezzanine (a lot tipsy actually from drinking during a three hour show) started arguing with each other, pushing to get out
of there, get to their cars, etc. The work, and the sense of creating a community, or kindness has to go hand in hand. All I know is if you lead by example things do change. A homeless woman, her pre-teen child
leaning on her lap, was crying on my street in Brooklyn the other day. People walked by, walked by, walked by until a couple stopped and sat with her. Then one by one everyone on the street did the same. Lead. Lead in writing, lead by action, lead by teaching, lead by sharing.

Bobby Cronin and Crystal Skillman9. I can't do an interview with you without asking about working with the one and only Bobby Cronin. You are currently working on two different shows with him, Mary & Max and The Cover. First, what was it about Bobby that made you go, "Oh, I need to work with him. His music compositions and my book writing would just gel so perfectly."? Secondly, in The Cover there is a song called "Sleeping Sideways." What is something in your life that made you "sleep sideways"? Bobby and I have been good friends for ten years! I find his music so moving and electric. And I’ve always loved writing for musicals. Songs always creep into my plays. About four or so years ago, we began to work together as a writing team. It is such a joy. What we can create in the marriage between dialogue, lyric, and song I think is really special. We’re so excited to keep sharing our work. We’re also drawn to theatrical stories with heart, meat, and ones that are unique. The Cover is being written for the incredible Ali Stroker. It’s so fun and so meaningful to me. I love "Sleeping Sideways." It’s an extraordinary song, and really is "Abby," the character Ali plays. That song is the heart of her character. Before I met my hubby Fred it was a rough time. I have no doubt I was "Sleeping Sideways" every night!

10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? Patience. I try to do Yoga…but….I’m a runner at heart. Running has taught me patience. In the play, "Ada" is a runner as well. Her job is to have patience, but in her situation, as the school presses her to pick who she think did this act…time is running out. Maybe when patience breaks, it is a good thing. It makes us stand up….and as we
know, we’re going to need a great deal of that in the coming years…but in terms of my day to day I do wish I had the ability to be cool! A Zen-Master!

Crystal Skillman after finishing the 2016 Airbnb Brooklyn HalfMore on Crystal:

Award-winning playwright Crystal Skillman is the author of the plays Geek, Cut, and King Kirby (co-written with Fred Van Lente), all New York Times Critics Picks. Her new plays include: Rain and Zoe Save the World (2017 Blue Ink Award Finalist, 2017 O’Neill Semi-Finalist, 2016 New Harmony Project, 2016 Oregon Performance Lab), Pulp Vérité (2017 Judson’s Magic Time Series, 2016 BAPF Finalist, 2015 Clifford Odets Ensemble Play Commission), and Another Kind of Love, a punk rock play (Chopin Theater with InFusion Theatre Co., 2015, Chicago). She is the musical theater book writer of Mary and Max, and The Cover written for Glee’s Ali Stroker, both with award winning ASCAP Composer/Lyricist Bobby Cronin. Wild was just published by Chicago Dramaworks, following sold out runs in Chicago and New York (at Off-Broadway's Lucille Lortel). She is also the author of The Vigil or The Guided Cradle, winner of the 2010 New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Full-Length Script. She is a proud member of EST, Women’s Project Lab and the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab. Her work can be found at her publisher Samuel French, as well as Chicago Dramaworks. She just finished the original TV pilot for her series Paper Heroes, co-created and written with Fred Van Lente.

Wednesday
May242017

Call Answered: Conference Call: Dale Raoul & Ray Thompson: True Blood, The Young & The Restless, Marriage, Lighting, & Acting

Ray Thompson and Dale Raoul at the 2017 Daytime Emmy AwardsAt first bite, I was so excited to do a new interview with True Blood's Dale Raoul, but what really brightened up this interview, was the joining of Dale's husband, Ray Thompson, nine-time Daytime Emmy Award winning Lighting Director on The Young & The Restless. From their first date to marriage to working together, Dale & Ray give us the succulent details of their Hollywood romance!

1. How did you two first meet? What did you do for your first date?

Both: We met doing summer theatre together. On our first date, we went to a cast party.

2. How long after your first date did you marry? What was the proposal like? Dale, were you surprised? Ray, were you nervous? 

Both: We were actually together a long time before we got married – about eight years. Now we can’t remember why we waited so long!

Dale Raoul: I was very surprised. We had talked about getting married but were happy with the relationship the way it was. But when he proposed, I knew it was the right time. I always knew he was the right guy.

Ray Thompson: I took her out to dinner and did the whole thing down on one knee – I was fairly certain she would say yes but you never know…yes, I was nervous anyway.

Dale Raoul and Ray Thompson3. You wed in 1986, now have been married for over 30 years. What is your secret to staying in love with each other? 

Dale Raoul: I would say humor is our key to a good marriage. Ray makes lots of puns which are pretty terrible but I still laugh.

Ray Thompson: Well, I’m always late so for me, my secret to make Dale happy is to be early. I’m still working on it.

4. You both work in Hollywood. Dale, a successful actress, best known for your role on the hit HBO series True Blood, and Ray, you are a 9-time Emmy Award winning Lighting Director at The Young & The Restless. Have you ever worked together, meaning, Ray, have you ever designed a show that Dale was on? If so, what was that experience like?

Ray Thompson: I have never lit a TV show or film that Dale has worked on but I have done the lighting on plays she’s been in. We love that as we both started out in the theatre. And it’s so fun to work on a project together. I was an actor in college so I understand the process and enjoy watching rehearsals and seeing the show come together. Dale seems to want my opinions of her work as we’re going along and fortunately, she’s usually good at whatever she’s doing, so I don’t have to give her too much criticism.

Dale Raoul on Nickelodeon's "Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn"5. Dale, most recently, you guest starred on the hit Emmy Award winning Nickelodeon show Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn. What made you want to be on this show? How is filming a kids show different than filming a more adult sitcom or drama?

Dale Raoul: I loved being on NICKY, RICKY, DICKY AND DAWN! I auditioned for it just like I would for any other show. I hadn’t really done many other kids’ shows so I wasn’t sure what to expect. In this case, the kids were total professionals. They were all terrific actors and the producers and director kept the tone very light during the week of rehearsal. It’s a sweet, easy job because the union doesn’t allow child actors to work for than eight hours per day. This is not the case on adult shows which can go on for hours and hours every day. I had a lot of fun and I would love to go back on it. They will be doing one more season but the kids are growing up so fast I’m not sure how much longer they can do the show.

6. Ray, what made you want to be a lighting designer?

Ray Thompson 2017 Daytime Emmy AwardsRay Thompson: I studied acting in college and had a minor in theatrical makeup which is very similar to lighting as it’s all about shadow and highlights. When I got out of school, I wanted to get a job that would give me the income to be an actor/waiter, not a waiter/actor. I got a job at CBS on a stage crew and learned all the aspects of production. I suddenly realized that I really loved the creative, technical side of the business. And I also figured out that I’m not a person cut out for the uncertainty of the actor’s life. I want to be in a bit more control of my future. I had a wonderful mentor at CBS who taught me lighting design. It was the right fit.

7. Ray, you just won your ninth Emmy (your fifth in a row) for Outstanding Lighting Director of a Drama Series for The Young & The Restless. Let's go back in time for a moment. What was it like the first time you got nominated & then won the Emmy? Now, that you have won nine times, five times in a row, what do the wins mean to you now? Since you've won so many times, do you feel added pressure during the season?

Ray Thompson: My first Emmy win was in 1994 and all I really remember is being very nervous! And when I got up to accept the award, I pretty much forgot everybody I wanted to thank. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to be able to remedy that mistake! Every time I win, I am amazed, quite honestly. I work hard but so does every other lighting director in our business. It’s a roll of the dice every time. I was just as surprised to win my 9th Emmy as my first one.

Ray Thompson 8. Ray, as a lighting designer, you are the actors best friend, making them look great, or you can be their worst enemy, should they make you mad. Who have you enjoyed lighting the most? Can you tell us a time (maybe without naming names, but I leave that up to you) when you either purposely or jokingly kept someone in the dark? What is one behind-the-scenes story of The Young & The Restless you can tell us?

Ray Thompson: Sorry, I can’t give away any trade secrets or gossip about anybody! Of course I do have my favorite actors. Over the years, there have been a few actresses who insist on doing their own makeup – it’s always a mistake. It drives the makeup people crazy and it’s tough for me as it’s always done incorrectly for the camera and for the lighting. Just because it looks nice in real life does not mean it will look good on camera.

9. Dale, as an actress, what do you look for in a lighting designer when you are on a show? Do you ever chat them up with tips on how to light you best? Has there ever been a time you came home from a set and said to Ray, "Why couldn't they hire you?" That designer almost made me look like the bride of frankenstein the way he shined those lights on me!"

Dale RaoulDale Raoul: Whenever I’m working on a show, I try to meet the lighting people as sometimes Ray will know them and it’s fun to talk with them. It’s a small world. The only time I’ve ever had bad luck is when it’s a low-budget project and the lighting designer or cinematographer might be very young or inexperienced. You just hope for the best! And now that I’m older, I don’t care as much.

10. Dale, I have a new segment in my interviews called, "I Can See Clearly Now," where I try to clear up misconceptions. What is the biggest misconception out there about Dale Raoul?

Dale Raoul: I just attended a fan convention and several people mentioned that they were surprised that I seemed nice! I guess it was because of my role on TRUE BLOOD – they thought I would be nasty and mean and horrible! But guess what? Those are the most fun roles to play. I just try not to bring them home with me…

11. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day?

Dale Raoul: Take my dogs on a longer walk!

Ray Thompson: Get more sleep!

Dale Raoul and Ray Thompson 2012 Daytime Emmy AwardsMore on Ray:

Ray Thompson has been a lighting designer at CBS Television City for 30 years, honored with nine Emmys, in addition to the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for excellence in lighting. Prior to his work on The Young and the Restless, he worked on CBS This MorningThe Bonnie Hunt ShowFace the NationArchie Bunker’s Place and other TV pilots, game shows and news programs.

More on Dale:

For six seasons Dale Raoul enticed television audiences as "Maxine Fortenberry" on HBO's True Blood. A veteran character actress, Dale has been entertaining stage, film, and television audiences for the past three decades.

Dale began her professional acting career at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, CA appearing in Hamlet and Taming of the Shrew. From there, she performed at such regional theatres as Indiana Repertory Theatre, Arizona Theatre Company, the New Mexico Repertory Theatre, and the Montanta Repertory Theatre, the state's first and only professional acting company. A Montana native, Dale was thrilled to star in their production of A Moon For The Misbegotten. Dale later moved to California where she continued to dazzle theatre goers at the Pasadena Playhouse, the Los Angeles Theater Center, the Odyssey Theatre, and the Cast Theatre. Amongst her many awards, Dale won A Drama-Logue Award for her work in Steaming at the Ivy Substation.

Dale's foray into television began in 1986 when she booked her first television appearance on Murder She Wrote. Earning a formidable reputation as a character actress, Dale appeared in numerous television series including The MiddleThe OfficeSix Feet UnderFriendsNYPD BlueSeinfeldMister SterlingThe Drew Carey ShowSabrina The Teenage WitchUnhappily Ever AfterNash BridgesParty of FiveKnots LandingValerieWho's The Boss, and LA Law.

In addition to series television, Dale has starred in such made-for-television movies as Mending FencesNet ForceA Match Made In HeavenDeath BenefitFavorite Deadly Sins, and Here To Remember.

Dale's feature film credits include The MexicanBeautifulSeven PoundsForfeitSave the MavericksLove StinksOut to Sea, amongst others.

When not performing, Dale dedicates much of her time to many charitable events such as Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory," which benefited Five Acres Orphanage and Caring for Babies with AIDS.