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"Call Me Adam" chats with...

 

 

Tuesday
Mar142017

Call Answered: Steve Willis: The Legend of Yma Sumac at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

Steve WillisI love music videos. I love documentaries. I love live performance. I love learning about people. When you get asked to interview someone that encompasses all of these and then you find out they have worked with some of the biggest names in entertainment, you jump at the opportunity presented before you.

That's where Steve Willis comes in. He has made videos for Mary J. Blige, Patti Labelle, Maxi Priest, Dawn Robinson, Miranda, and many others (including RuPaul's Drag Race stars Jinkx Monsoon and Sharon Needles). Now, he is premiering his "live documentary" cabaret show The Legend of Yma Sumac starring drag performer Scarlet Envy. Featuring many of Yma's greatest hits and never-before-seen footage of Yma, shot by Steve, The Legend of Yma Sumac will play The Laurie Beechman Theatre in NYC (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue in the basement of the West Bank Cafe) from March 15-29Click here for tickets!

For more on Steve be sure to visit http://thestevewillis.com and Instagram!

1. This March you are premiering The Legend of Yma Sumac, starring Scarlet Envy. The show is described as a "live documentary" cabaret about the late star, whom you were friends with. How did you first come to meet Yma? What was it about her that made you want to be friends? What do you miss most about her? When I first heard Yma’s music I became obsessed and couldn’t stop talking about her. From the very beginning I treated her as news that must be spread. I had the feeling that more people needed to know about her. I was so shocked to find out she existed. So one of the people that heard me talking said she was making gowns for Yma and I begged her to introduce me. She took me to dinner with Yma and I asked if I could make a documentary about her life. She was totally interested but she also wanted help with her career and I eventually learned she wanted help with her life. She was quite isolated. Over the years the relationship developed from director of her documentary, to also include manager for live shows to personal assistant. We would spend long hours in her apartment listening to her new music and hearing stories of the past and the people that did her wrong.

I think what I miss about her is being around such amazing talent and her wise worldly ways. She was always full of good advice and she cared for people and animals. She had a magical quality with animals that was like nothing I've ever seen. Wild animals, birds for example, would come to her and she was acting like it was the most natural thing when it was extremely rare. I believe the power of her mind was very great, she credited her singing ability to her mind and believing she could do it. She taught me more about integrity, artistic integrity than anyone I've ever met.

Scarlet Envy as Yma SumacThe real Yma Sumac2. What made now the right time to mount this show? That's an interesting question because there are three people that were involved with Yma at the end of her life trying to do projects with her. All three of us, without communicating with each other, returned to our projects again at the same time, around seven years after she died. The seven year itch? I've read the human body completely replaces all its cells after seven years and therefore you are a totally new person. Maybe we all had to heal a little before getting back to work on our projects? The other two people are Damon Devine, who was Yma’s caregiver and friend. He is working on a book that I really want to see come to life and I want to help promote. The other is Thomas Lauderdale of the band Pink Martini. I introduced him to Yma to record a song and she gave him a great start.

3. Why is Scarlet Envy the perfect drag queen to portray Yma? What aspects of Yma do you see in Scarlet? Spencer Rothman, the editor of this project has gone so far and beyond helping make this show come to life, introduced me to her. He saw I was really struggling to cast the project. I went through so many options. The problem was...if I was making a show that says "Yma has the greatest voice in the world ever," then how do I cast a live singer? No-one can sing these songs. (if you are reading this and you think this is incorrect….please introduce me to the singer that you think can do this).

Also, if I was in the audience for this show, I would want to hear Yma’s voice. So, the only choice seemed to be to do a lip sync show. I did consider real women along with drag performers but when it came to lip syncing, I think Drag performers have a little more practice…haha. I was already following Scarlet Envy on Instagram, so I was a fan of her beauty. She has an old Hollywood glamor to her look. She’s a beautiful woman and not a girl. I wanted the person playing Yma to be an older version of Yma. When I saw Scarlet paint herself to look like Yma, the resemblance was shocking and exciting. She had to do it. Yma’s career suffered somewhat from being considered "campy" or "kitsch" so I carefully considered whether casting a drag performer was the right thing to do but in the end I decided that the gender of the artist on stage is the last thing anyone needed to worry about. There is no nudity in the show except the male dancers show a lot of side ass.

Scarlet Envy as Yma SumacThe real Yma Sumac4. Some of Yma's greatest hits were "Malambo No. 1," "Mozart's Queen of the Night," and "Claire de Lune." In rehearsing this show what memories come up for you as hear these songs being performed? Because it is pretty rare to hear Yma’s music out in the world, I look forward to hearing my favorite songs by her on a nice loud system in a public place. I never heard Yma sing any of these songs live but when I would drive her around I would play these songs and she would drum on my dash board and sing along. One of my biggest regrets is not filming these moments. The way she would sing on top of the existing song was incredible. She would do this with any song by the way, not just hers. It was always in perfect harmony. I don’t know musical terms that well but she would also counter the melody in a very interesting way. She was also a great percussionist. Who knew the dashboard of a car could add so much great rhythm to a song?

5. The Legend of Yma Sumac incorporates unseen footage of Yma that was shot by you. How did you decide what footage to pick? What was it like to watch this footage now as opposed to when you first shot it? When I first picked up this project five years after her death, I needed to digitize some pretty archaic video formats (the project started in the 80’s). When I first started watching the footage, I literally broke out in hives on my face. The experience of watching the footage was a overwhelming. I put it away again until now. This year, I also won a grant from the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts for my feature documentary about Yma so I’ve been working on that as well. Chip Duckett knew I was doing this and asked me if I wanted to do a live show at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, I wanted the live show to be a tribute to her so I picked footage that was happy and she looked great in.

Scarlet Envy as Yma SumacThe real Yma Sumac6. What do you hope audiences learn about Yma from attending the show? I want them to learn that she was a serious artist and had the greatest voice ever recorded. According to some experts I've interviewed, there are two other women who could sing the same scale as Yma and we know this from the music that was written for their voices but this was before the technology to record them existed.

7. What was the hardest/most emotional part of the show to write? What was the most fun part? The hardest part of the show was the end. Every time we would get to that part I would get emotional. It was a little embarrassing but luckily Spencer the editor is a friend. The "fun" part?…..did I say I had fun? Actually the whole experience has been fun.

Patti LaBelle8. In addition to Yma, you have made videos for numerous high profile artists such as Mary J. Blige, Patti Labelle, Maxi Priest, Dawn Robinson, Miranda, and RuPaul's Drag Race stars Jinkx Monsoon and Sharon Needles, amongst others. Is there a really crazy story that stands out from one of these shoots where you were like, "I can't believe that just happened?" Meeting Patti LaBelle was crazy and amazing and educational. She was the first big name person I ever directed. The record company guy took me to her hotel room and as we waited in the living room of her suite I was very nervous. From the bedroom she called out "Is that Steve Willis? I love your work!" I said "yes." She answered "Oh my, I look terrible and I don’t want to come out of my bedroom, I'm on my period." We all laughed and my nerves went away. She came out and we had a great meeting. I realized after what a pro move this was. She has probably met and intimidated many people and that's not the best place to start working with someone. Complimenting me and bringing herself to a human level was a great way to start working together.

Rebecca Romijn9. You also directed the documentary Wet Dreams with Rebecca Romijn about your attempt to approach Wet Design, the creators of the Bellagio fountain, to choreograph a fountain show of your own. What did you learn from this experience? Are there any secrets about the Bellagio fountain or fountain show that you can share with us that we, the public, might not know? That was an amazing experience. I was the first civilian to swim in the Bellagio Fountain. The film is about what we learned and the secrets of the fountain. It is on Youtube. So, if you want to know the answer to this question you need to watch the film ๐Ÿ˜Š

10. What is something Yma taught you that you can share with us? She taught me not to compromise on your artistic vision no matter what. Once you have a clear vision, everyone can go to hell before you compromise on any small detail. I’ve never seen anyone hold to this more strongly and I've worked with many of the top people in the Film, TV and Fashion Industry.

Steve WillisMore on Steve:

Steve Willis is a filmmaker, photographer, and music video director. As a music video director, he has made videos for numerous artists, including Mary J. Blige, Patti Labelle, Maxi Priest, Dawn Robinson, Miranda, and many others (including RuPaul's Drag Race stars Jinkx Monsoon and Sharon Needles). He directed the documentary Wet Dreams with Rebecca Romijn, and is currently working on a documentary about Yma Sumac, who he befriended in 1987.

Monday
Mar132017

Call Answered: Nancy Opel: "Urinetown", 92Y Lyrics & Lyricists' "Baby, Dream Your Dream: Dorothy Fields and The Women of the American Songbook"

Nancy Opel"Who rules the world? Girls!" Throughout history, or should I say, herstory, we have had many strong female songwriters. Most of my iTunes consists of songs written and performed by woman. When I saw the 92Y was going to be showcasing the music of Dorothy Fields and other women lyricists' of the American Songbook as part of their Lyrics & Lyricists' series, I couldn't wait to see who would be part of this concert. Then I saw the cast list (Marilyn Maye, Kenita Miller, Nancy Opel, Margo Seibert and Emily Skinner) and was like, "This is going to be one heck of a concert."

I loved Nancy Opel in her Tony-nominated turn in Broadway's Urinetown. She really brought the laugh in laughter to that role. I have gone on to enjoy her in Memphis, Cinderella, and Honeymoon in Vegas. My favorite Nancy Opel moment was just this past February when I got to briefly interview her during Billy Mitchell's Villain: DeBlanks at The Laurie Beechman Theatre. We had a great time together, so it's super exciting to get to do a more in depth interview with her now for the 92Y's latest Lyrics & Lyricists' concert series entitled Baby, Dream Your Dream: Dorothy Fields and The Women of the American Songbook.

Led by Dorothy Fields, Baby, Dream Your Dream will also include such pioneers as Betty Comden, Carolyn Leigh and Mary Rodgers whose work earned them an indelible place in the American Songbook alongside their more visible peers like Berlin, the Gershwins and Cy Coleman. Their timeless classics range from "The Way You Look Tonight," and "I Can't Give You Anything but Love," to "Witchcraft," On the Town and Once Upon a Mattress.

Baby, Dream Your Dream will take place at 92Y (1395 Lexington Avenue, 92nd Street & Lexington Ave.) from March 18-20! Click here for tickets! 

For more on Nancy be sure to visit http://www.nancyopel.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

For more on 92Y visit http://www.92y.org and follow them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

1. This March you are you are starring in the 92Y Lyrics & Lyricists' Baby, Dream Your Dream: Dorothy Fields and The Women of the American Songbook along with Marilyn Maye, Kenita Miller, Margo Seibert, and Emily Skinner. What are you looking forward to most about this upcoming concert? I love doing an all female show, especially with this sensational collection of gals. I’ve been a fan of Marilyn Maye’s for many many years (I snuck into the Kansas City Playboy Club when I was a kid to see her show there). I’ve worked very happily with Ms. Skinner and I look forward to this go round. Kenita I don’t know well, but we’ve done a bit of work together and I really admire her talent. I just saw Margo in IN TRANSIT and she’s great. PLUS, I have worked several times with our director, Mark Waldrop, and we always have a good time.

2. What do you think will excite 92Y audiences about this show? Well, it’s great, and I mean GREAT material - it’s an interesting grouping of points of view since it’s not a concert featuring one writer’s lyrics.

3. How did these female composers influence you? If you have been in show business for 15 minutes, you’ve sung one of these women’s lyrics, just runs the gamut on well known and significant.

4. Of the songs you are performing, which one did you jump up and down over that you are getting to sing? I am both thrilled and terrified to do "If You Hadn’t But You Did."

5. This concert is sort of a coming home for you in that songs from one of the show's featured is On The Town, which you starred in as "Madame Dilly" at Barrington Stage. Whether or not you are performing one of the songs from On The Town in Lyrics & Lyricists, how do you feel you relate to that music now as opposed to when you were starring in the show? I loved ON THE TOWN and since I sang very little when in the cast, I got a chance to enjoy and admire it back then. It’s an amazing show then and now.

Nancy Opel as "Bea Singer" in "Honeymoon in Vegas"6. Since this installment of Lyrics & Lyricists is called Baby, Dream Your Dream, what is one dream you just had to pinch yourself over that came true? What is one dream you still hope manifests for you? I’ve had a bunch of pinching moments, haha. I guess a couple of obvious ones are first Broadway show (Evita), first Sondheim show (Sunday in the Park), and Tony nomination. What do I still hope for? Well, I guess, continuing to do relevant and exciting work is all I really hope for now.

7. One of the songs being performed is "The Way You Look Tonight." Growing up, how did you feel about "The Way You Look Tonight" and now that you are an adult how has that view changed? Genius tune with equally genius lyrics. I thought so the first time I hear Fred Astaire sing them, I still do. I think the thing I understand now is that that kind of perfect pairing of music to lyrics is a pretty rare combination. It’s one of the most romantic songs in the world, especially because of all the specificity, like "and that laugh that wrinkles your nose - touches my foolish heart."

8. Another song on the show's list is "Witchcraft." If you could conjure up a spell, what you kind of spell would you cast? Give everybody great free healthcare. Bibbity-bobbity-boo!

Nancy Opel as "Penelope Pennywise" in "Urinetown"9. 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 am trying to improve my health every day, too! My commitment is to cook more for myself, and to cook healthy food- mostly vegetarian and vegan for the planet!

10. Since we met during Billy Mitchell's "Villain: DeBlanks," I want to revisit the question I had asked you that evening because I loved your answer and I want more people to hear it. You're big number in Broadway's Urinetown was "The Privilege to Pee". Was there a time during the show or rehearsal or since then that you laughed so much you peed? I can't believe that you would ask a woman of certain age, whose been pregnant, and had children, if there was time she has peed.

Nancy OpelMore on Nancy:

A singer, actress and teacher, Nancy Opel was born in Prairie Village, Kansas, and trained at Juillliard. She made her Broadway debut as a "Person of Argentina" in the original 1979 production of Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice’s Evita, and in the later run was the replacement for the leading role. In 1985, she originated the roles of "Betty" and "Frieda" in Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George. After appearance as the replacement for "Hope Harcourt" in the 1987 revival of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, Nancy played "Eleanor" in Teddy & Alice, a musical that drew upon the relationship between Teddy Roosevelt and his daughter as well as on the music of John Philip Sousa.

Nancy was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for her performance as "Penelope Pennywise" in Urinetown. Other Broadway appearances include Triumph of Love, Fiddler on the Roof, Memphis and Cinderella. She performed the roles of "Mazeppa" and "Miss Cratchitt" in the Encores! staged concert of Gypsy in 2007. That same year, she played the title character in the first national tour of The Drowsy Chaperone. She was nominated for the 2015 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical for Honeymoon in Vegas, in which she played the ghost of the lead character’s mother.

Nancy's television credits include the Law & Order franchise, Flight of the Conchords, and other shows.

Saturday
Mar112017

Call Answered: Miss Richfield 1981: 20/20 Vision at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

With her unique brand of humor, fun songs, and entertaining videos, I know my cheeks will hurt from the amount of laughter ensued after attending a Miss Richfield show and since 2006, I have been in constant pain. 

Now Miss Richfield 1981 brings her brand-new show 2020 Vision to The Laurie Beechman Theatre in New York City (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue, in the basement of the West Bank Cafe) from March 14-16! In this show, Miss Richfield 1981 offers a survival guide for the new world we live in, helps calm any post-election panic, and provide tools to prevent the apocalypse! This is one show you can't afford to miss! Click here for tickets! 

For more on Miss Richfield 1981 be sure to visit https://missrichfield.wordpress.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter!

Miss Richfield 19811. After seeing you several times in Provincetown, I'm honored to be getting to do this interview. Since this our first interview together, let's start at the beginning. How did you become Miss Richfield 1981? It was a beauty pageant July 4, 1981, on a simple plywood stage in Richfield, Minn. And like so many beauty queens, I won that title with my natural beauty, my booming baritone vibrato and a fire that horribly disfigured all 11 other contestants when Trudy Olson lost control of her flaming batons. I was the only contestant to stop, drop and roll, which is also how I do my hair. So after they hauled off 9 contestants to the burn unit, and a couple others to the morgue, I was the only one left to receive the lovely hand-glittered sash, shiny tiara, and a power lawnmower! Our local Ace Hardware is very involved in Richfield beauty!

2. What does holding this beauty title now mean to you as opposed to when you first got it in 1981? Beauty pageants became a focal point of my life, when a ninth-grade vocational aptitude test pointed me to a career in beauty or the fragrance counter at Sears. As I never could pass the math section of the Sears job application, a beauty career appeared imminent. Then winning the pageant was just the beginning, since the day after I received my beauty title, Miss Richfield 1981, the gals at my church started a fund to buy me a bus ticket to go someplace else. And for the last 36 years, every time I get back to Minnesota, there on the screen door of my trailer is taped another bus ticket for me to go someplace else! It’s embarrassing, they just adore me!

3. What is the best part about being Miss Richfield 1981 and what is the most challenging part? Has anyone every tried to de-throne you? I adore making new friends and I’m doing that with my hectic schedule this Spring, which includes San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, Tulsa, Tampa, Philly, and your godless mecca, New York City – all before I head to Ptown for the summer at the Crown & Anchor. Well popularity has its penalties! But the traveling can be a bit of a minus, as I’m trying to find a boyfriend. And you know most single gals in my stage of life are more likely to be killed by a terrorist, than find love. So I’m thinking I might relocate to Iraq to better my chances. And as far as dethroning goes, I don’t have that concern since all the other gals got heavy.

4. This March you are presenting your new show 2020 Vision at The Laurie Beechman Theatre. What are you looking forward to most about bringing 2020 Vision to New York? My new 2020 Vision show has new music, new videos, new chatter, and most importantly a new message for New York in our new world! These are some strange times, my dears, so I want to offer people a message of hope – or at least survival! And I adore doing this show. It’s supreme happiness to hear the folks go crazy with my upbeat music, informative videos and audience interaction! It’s also always a bonus when I remember the words to the songs! And the Laurie Beechman is a wonderful facility that does not require you to be a Christian to attend the show. So bring neighbors, co-workers, friends or enemies! Just think about who deserves it, and bring them along!

Miss Richfield 19815. In this post-election world, how did you get the whereabouts to write a show about having perfect vision when we are living in a constant state of fog? You’re right on the money there! A life of beauty can be challenging; as a lot of time folks only see the glamour. They don’t see the weeklong Greyhound bus trips, where the only person I get to talk to is the driver – that I wrap my hair in toilet paper and sleep on my face – the duties of washing and polishing my balls during cold and flu season of Bingo. It can be a grind!

6. In this show, you are going to be giving some advice as to calm any post-election panic. What are some calming pointers that did not make it into the show you can share with us? That’s tough, as I generally don’t leave anything out. You may be aware, that I’m famous for cramming a 60-minute show into 90! That’s a lot of time to fill. But there was one post-election duty I did not include in this show. The day after the election I went behind my trailer and burned everything I owned that was orange – living room draperies, a bathroom rug, two sweaters, a leotard, and most of my dishware.

Miss Richfield 19817. You are also going to be providing tools to prevent an apocalypse. How do you know these tools will work and what apocalypse have you tried them on to know they are successful? First off, it’s probably too late to prevent an apocalypse, but I believe that you can always look your best in a bad situation. So most of my advice is a bit after the fact, sort of "since we’re all going to die anyway, let’s go buy shoes and a handbag!" And I am well versed in apocalypse experiences, mostly due to the Greyhound when the bathrooms are clogged up with adult diapers. You know that senior discount is popular!

8. What is something about Miss Richfield 1981 that you haven't revealed yet in an interview? Secrets? Alright just one: I do not wear make-up.

9. 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? Math has never been my strong suit, so I’m not sure how much we’re talking here, plus I feel like my purpose as a beauty professional is to help other people make improvements. With that in mind, I’d like to offer your readers a word of advice from my mother, "You can lose your money, you can lose your lipstick, and you can lose your dignity, but if you pack a smile in your handbag, you’ll always be able to find a trucker to give you a ride home!" That is definitely more than one percent!

Miss Richfield 1981More on Miss Richfield 1981:

Miss Richfield 1981 dedicates her life to the friendly citizens and responsible merchants of her hometown of Richfield, Minnesota. This Midwestern maven is winning over theater and cabaret audiences around the country with an interactive format that combines homespun warmth and edgy improv, leaving audiences in hysterics with a truly original performance.

Miss Richfield’s national appeal includes riotous appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Today on NBC, as well as prestigious mentions, such as The New York Post recently honoring "Miss Richfield 1981 as the must-see act in Provincetown."

As well as sell-out performances throughout the country, including LA, Chicago and New York, Miss Richfield continues her sold-out reputation as the most successful act each summer at the Crown and Anchor in Provincetown, Mass. Miss Richfield also finds time in her busy schedule to headline for Atlantis Events cruises and resort vacations, the largest LGBT vacation company.

Tuesday
Mar072017

Call Answered: Sonia Blangiardo: Tainted Dreams on Amazon

Sonia BlangiardoI was a HUGE All My Children fan. I started watching the show because Eden Riegel's character "Bianca" was going to be coming out as a lesbian. From the first moment I watched that storyline I was hooked. I then became engulfed in everyone's storyline from "Greenlee and Leo" to the return of "Kendall" to "Krystal and Babe" to the start of "Fusion," I was loving every moment.

In 2013, I first got wind of a new show being developed called Tainted Dreams, directed and produced by Sonia Blangiardo, and starring All My Children's Alicia Minshew, Michael Lowry, Terri Ivens, Walt Willey, and Bobbie Eakes. I couldn't wait to see this show. After four years of waiting, Tainted Dreams has found a home on Amazon (now Emmy nominated)! In addiiton to the above, Tainted Dreams also features Natalia Livingston, Austin Peck, Colleen Zenk, Grant Aleksander, theatre favorite Anthony Wilkinson, along with a host of other soap stars. If you are a soap fan, Tainted Dreams is the show for you! Watch it now on Amazon!

Come behind-the-drama to find out the real stories that made Sonia such a success + the tales that helped create Tainted Dreams!

For more on Tainted Dreams be sure to visit http://tainteddreams.com and follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Cast of "All My Children"1. Who or what inspired you to become director/producer? Ever since I can remember, I always was creating stories in my head. One year when I was about nine, my brother, cousins and I were vacationing together. I sketched out a musical with six or seven performances and I forced them to put on a "show" for our family. I can't imagine it was very good! I don't think I could have even begun to understand what directing and producing was at the time, but in retrospect, I think the inspiration came from an overactive imagination and a need to be in charge!

2. Most people are lucky to work on one television show, but you have had the good fortune of working on five iconic soap operas All My Children, One Life to Live, As the World Turns, General Hospital & currently, Days of Our Lives. What do you enjoy most about working in the soap world? Everything...I love the genre, the pace, the efficiency of the way we work...I love that we keep telling stories with characters that have been a part of our lives for many years. I love that day in and day out you get to work with the same group of people that truly are your family and we get to create. We are all there for each other during our milestones in life...weddings, births, birthdays...it is a unique and beautiful experience.

3. In addition to Days of Our Lives, you are also the creator/director of the new Emmy nominated web series Tainted Dreams, about the twists and turns of life on a soap opera. What made you want to create this show? They say write what you know and this was a world I felt that I knew pretty well. I truly believed that at times, what was happening behind the camera was more fascinating that in front. I also wanted to show how much fun we had. We worked in a creative, yet structured environment. I don't think any other genre can say this. Going to work every day to see my "family" was a amazing part of my life and I thought that was something that would appeal to the audiences. I am so thrilled that thanks to Amazon, these stories can finally be seen.

4. I was attracted to Tainted Dreams because of Alicia Minshew and Terri Ivens, whom I LOVED on All My Children as well as Walt Willey and Bobbie Eakes. The show also casts actors from other soaps you worked on and the world of theatre. What is the best part about getting to work with everyone under one roof? The beauty of creating something that is your own is that you get to make the decisions. I've been doing this for a very long time and I knew I wanted to surround myself with talented, kind and generous people and I hit the jackpot on that. As far as working with my off-Broadway cast, they are also my family, so it was always a given that I would blend the "families." Anthony Wilkinson who plays "Anthony DiGiacomo" is the playwright of the Big Gay Italian franchise and my real life "Angelica's" Anthony, so upon the first inception of the idea, he was always going to be a main character because I wanted to showcase that friendship.

Sonia Blangiardo, Michael Lowry, and Alicia Minshew5. Alicia's character, "Angelica," is loosely based upon you. What qualities did you see in Alicia that made you go, she would be a great "Angelica"? I did not know Alicia when I was creating the character of "Angelica" for over a year. For whatever reason, the more I flushed out the story, the more I kept seeing her in my head. When I finally met her to ask her to be a part of Tainted Dreams, it all clicked and I understood why. We clicked. Alicia is strong, yet sweet. She can be vulnerable without ever compromising on integrity. It was one of those things that can't really be explained. I just knew she was "Angelica."

6. I love how the show weaves between the fictitious soap opera Painted Dreams and what's really happening on Tainted Dreams, it's a fine, fine line, sometimes being hard to tell where the fiction ends and reality begins. When has there been a time in your life when the lines between fiction and reality were blurred? I'm sure there are many more than I care to admit! I've always called Tainted Dreams the Grey's Anatomy that occurs in a soap studio instead of a hospital. Lines get blurred in life all the time, especially in the work environment. When you add that you are spending 60 plus hours a week with the same people, telling stories about power, sex and betrayal...it's kind of inevitable that you get caught up in that.

Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos as "Haley and Mateo" on "All My Children"7. Since I was such a big All My Children fan, what was one of your favorite story lines from your time working on the show and what was one story line that you were like, this is the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen, let's wrap it up"? Wow...there are so many. I think one of my favorites was the tornado one which left "Julia" blind. The "Noah/Julia" story line was real and gut-wrenching and just so memorable, another was "Brooke's" ectopic pregnancy. Julia and Michael poured their souls into that one and you just felt their pain. "Alec" sleeping with "Arlene" behind "Hayley's'" back...as you can see, the list goes on. I don't know about a story that I wanted to see wrapped up, but I do remember shooting on Valentine's Day at midnight, a very very pregnant Kelly Ripa getting raped. That disturbed me on so many levels!

8. You have worked with some of daytimes biggest hunks. If you could have been cast as their lover, who would you have wanted to been matched up with? In my 25 plus years, I have seen a multitude of gorgeous men and women. So much so that after a while, you almost become immune to it. What connects me to people in general is their kindness and generosity of spirit. Because of that, I am lucky to call many of the "hunks" I've worked with good friends because beyond the great looks, they are amazing people.

Sonia Blangiardo9. What has been the biggest event to happen in your life that could have been a soap opera storyline? I saw many things happen behind the scenes that quite honestly, without revealing names have made it into Tainted Dreams. Personally, I took a vacation to Miami with two of my AMC besties and one friend wanted to go to another club. It was 2am and I asked her if I could just run up to the room to change my ridiculously high heeled shoes. She wanted no part of that and tapped an arbitrary guy walking in front of her and asked him to pick me up and carry me to the club. He did and we ended up being together for six years.

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 want to learn the virtue of patience. Sometimes there are so many things going on in my head that I want to have the option of pressing an escape button for about 10 minutes and just think of nothing. I need answers yesterday and that is not always possible for sure.

Sonia BlangiardoMore on Sonia:

Sonia Blangiardo is a two-time Emmy winner with over 20 years of experience as a producer/director. Sonia is the Creator and Executive Producer of Tainted Dreams, NYC BRAND PRODUCTIONS’ first scripted drama. Sonia was the Supervising Producer of Prospect Park’s online production of All My Children. She has worked in television as a producer/director for ABC’s General Hospital, All My Children, and One Life to Live, as well as CBS’s As the World Turns. She directed the revival of the Off-Broadway hit My Big Gay Italian Wedding in New York City. Sonia, a member of the Directors Guild of America, also directed and produced Boys Just Wanna Have Fun and My Big Gay Italian Wedding (both as ANNDEE PRODUCTIONS), which was nominated for an Off-Broadway Alliance Award for Best Play Revival. In addition, Sonia directed and produced a SAG pilot script for You Don’t Know Jack with Three’s Company‘s Richard Kline and Mr. PEC-Tacular Arm and Chest Workout DVD with Big Brother‘s Jessie Godderz and soap star Austin Peck. Sonia is also the founder of CARLO’S GOAL, a non-for-profit organization for pancreatic cancer research.

Monday
Mar062017

Call Answered: Brad Zimmerman: My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy at Bucks County Playhouse

Brad ZimmermanI first heard about Brad Zimmerman's show My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy when it had it's New York run here in 2014, but never got to see it. I'm so grateful for second chances because when I called, Brad answered. My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy is the hilarious and inspiring story about the grit & passion it takes to "make it" as an artist & the sweet rewards that come from never giving up! If you ever longed for something, if you ever desired it with all your heart, if you were willing to wait tables for 29 years to pursue your dream then My Son The Waiter will give meaning to your life!

My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy will be heading to Bucks County Playhouse from March 23-April 9. Click here for tickets!

For more on My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy be sure to visit http://www.mysonthewaiter.com and follow the show on Facebook and Instagram!

For more on Bucks County Playhouse visit http://bcptheater.org and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. This spring you are bringing your one-man show My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy to Bucks County Playhouse. What made now the right time to go back on tour with this show? I began the tour in 2014 in Phoenix. I think that with a few exceptions the show has really resonated both artistically and financially all over the country. The experience of doing it in a theatre rich area of the country one hour and 30 minutes from where I live is sublime. There is really no wrong time to do a tour of a show like this that is real, authentic and very very funny...it has a message that if you are willing to pay a price, and believe me, I have, that life can be extremely rewarding and meaningful. That is how I now feel about my life so I'm sharing that knowledge with audiences all over the country. And its universal...not just for Jews..but for anyone who wants to find purpose or desires to lead a rich life.

2. What are you looking forward to most about performing it at Bucks County Playhouse? I love the area of Bucks County...I grew up in New Jersey so Bucks County is just across the river. It is rich in both culture and the town is so artsy and beautiful and the theatre is legendary. I know I'll be taken care of by the wonderful people who really know what I need...that makes me feel in really good hands..wow!!! And I love the Northeast more than anything. I have so many people who I know in Jersey and Philadelphia who want to see it, some of whom I went to camp with in the Poconos so it should be a sublime expereince...all I need is a Starbucks, a gym and a nice Jewish lady who enjoys loaning money.

Brad Zimmerman in "My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy"3. My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy is your hilarious and inspiring story about the grit and passion required to 'make it' as an artist and the sweet rewards that come from never giving up on your dream. When did you realize you had a story that could be told in a show format? In 2005 I was approached by a friend who said he would produce a one person show should I ever have the desire. So I began work on the show in 2005. Its been an evolution...I didnt know right away that my story would resonate for so many people...I think my growth as an artist combined with my realization along this journey that my life was devoted to mastering a craft made me over the years feel like the story could resonate for so many people who have not found themselves...have not found what they were meant to do. That is the hardest thing in life, to find what you were born to do...if you have a little determination and are willing to really commit to getting the most out of your ability, the rewards can be truly remarkable and I'm not talking about financially. I'm talking about success on a much deeper level...which is the best kind of success...so I think it wasnt until a year ago, after working on the show for a decade or more, that I became aware in part due to the audiences response that I had a show that really inspired people and made them think and in some cases to reassess their own lives (break).

Brad Zimmerman in "My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy"4. In creating this show, what did you learn about yourself that you didn't realize living through it? The answer to this question is somewhat similar to question three. I learned that practice does make perfect...I never improved in sports and I was a truly great athlete, but I never improved because I never practiced...I took up acting and I wasn't nearly as gifted at acting as I was at hitting a baseball...but the challenge of trying to get great obviously had meaning for me...as my therapist once said to me. "You have only been inspired by the best. You have never been inspired by competence." Truer words were never spoken. I also learned that I love connecting...that is everything in art...really making the attempt to connect with the audience...to really talk TO THEM...I also learned that each human being is possessed of genius...in so many ways...we just have to be willing to pay the price to tap into it...(paycheck)

5. You spent 29 years waiting tables while pursuing your dream of becoming an actor. How many times during those 29 years did you consider giving up? What kept you going each time? What ultimately kept me going more than anything was that underneath the self doubt and the lack of confidence and the fear of failure which served to literally paralyze me for many years, I had a small little voice that told me, "YOU HAVE SOMETHING." At the time, my feeling was the something I had, was in the comedic arena so I think I needed to stick with it to find out if I was right...and I was...yeah me!!!

Brad Zimmerman in "My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy"6. During the run of this show, when did you realize you had something that would allow you to quit waitering? Then, what did that moment feel like? I was waiting tables until 2007...had to return five years later becuase I could not afford a haircut...three months later my ex-manager got me a three-week run of the show in Coral Springs, Florida and the show was extended four months. My producers Dana Matthow and Philip Roy flew down and after seeing the show offered to buy the touring rights to my show...I'm not certain but one of them wanted to buy the show and one of them didn't...so they asked me to cast the deciding vote. Haha...they gave me an advance and I have had a savings account ever since...yeah!!!

7. You been working on My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy since 2005. How do you keep the show fresh? Keeping the show fresh is the hardest thing I have ever done next to killing a deer...only because I keep missing...my mind wanders many times and the key is that the audience can't know that. For instance I could be talking about my father and at the same time thinking about what flavor ice cream to get that night...but if I wander I have to remind myself to connect...that is the key. When you have done a show as much as much as I have it's natural to have the mind wander.

Brad Zimmerman in "My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy"8. What has been some memorable "missed moments" during the runs of the show? Missed moments : When you expect a loud laugh and you get silence...that is a moment that can really test your composure. I have to adlib something...I try to say something that might get a laugh, like "they didn't get that in Alabama either."

9. As a comedian, you got to open for two of my all time favorite comics: Joan Rivers and George Carlin. How did you get to be their opening acts? What did you learn from working with them? What is one funny story about your interaction with each comedian you can share with us? Opening for Joan and Georgre was an honor...both were the most professional of professionals...Rolling Stone Magazine just came out with the list of top 10 comedians of all time and they were both in top 10. I think Georgre was 2. So to say that I worked with both of them, wow. By the way, I was number 2,000,346,900,111.

10. Since you were a waiter for 29 years, did you wait on any celebrities? If so, who? What are your top five favorite things to order when you go out to eat or drink? Celebrtities I waited on: Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore. Julianne Moore, Glenn Close, Chris Noth, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Dustin Hoffman, Ron Howard.

Five favorite things to order when I go out: a great steak, veal parmesian, warm apple crisp with vanilla ice cream, bagel and nova, carrots!!!!!!!!!

Brad ZimmermanMore on Brad:

Brad Zimmerman is a very unique and original voice in the world of comedy. Watch a few minutes of his comedy and you will know you have never seen anything like Brad. He works all over the country, doing theatres, comedy clubs, casino’s, country clubs, comedy festivals, JCC’s. I mean, you name it, he’s done it. He has worked with many well known comedians and entertainers such as Brad Garrett, Dennis Miller, Susie Essman, Julio Inglesias, and was Joan Rivers’ opening act of choice for over seven years. In fact Joan had said "I’ve had three great opening acts in my lifetime: Billy Crystal, Garry Shandling, and Brad Zimmerman." In the year 2006, Brad had the great honor of opening for George Carlin, and that relationship lasted until George passed away in 2008. The first time Brad opened for George, at the Paramount Theatre, just outside Chicago, right after finishing his act, George approached Brad backstage, and said, as only George could have said, "f**kin great!"

Brad combines years of acting training and standup, which is evident in Brad’s true pride and joy; his one man show. It is called MY SON THE WAITER, A JEWISH TRAGEDY, and he has been working on it since 2005. In this part standup/part theatrical piece Brad tells a story of one man’s lengthy, and we do mean lengthy struggle to make it as an actor in New York. His send-ups on his childhood, his family, his misbegotten love life, and his career are as warm and poignant as they are hysterical. He has done the show all over the country. In addition to this show, Brad has done work in both television and film, most notably playing Johnny Sack’s lawyer in one of the best television shows of all time: THE SOPRANOS.