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"Call Me Adam" chats with...

 

 

Friday
Mar032017

Call Redialed: Mrs. Smith: While My Guitar Gently Shrieks at (le) Poisson Rouge

Mrs. Smith and The RageI first came to know Mrs. Smith when her Off-Broadway show BROADWAY CAT-TACULAR! decended upon New York City. It was that show that made me fall in love with Mrs. Smith. I'm so excited that we have now had the chance to reunite to talk about her new concert, starring in a GUCCI Eyewear ad, and being crowned the winner of "Shred for Your Life."

Mrs. Smith & her band The Rage will be presenting their show While My Guitar Shrieks at (le) Poisson Rouge (158 Bleecker Street) on Tuesday, March 7 at 7pm. While My Guitar Gently Shrieks will sonically delve into the traumatic life events that have made Mrs. Smith the guitar virtuoso she is today. From her Little House on the Prairie-style childhood to her kidnapping at the hands of a Norwegian Death Metal band, Mrs. Smith will leave no stone unturned and no note unplayed. Featuring the music of ABBA, Prince, Jimi Hendrix, Taylor Swift, Van Halen, Sia, and Metallica, among others. Click here for tickets!

For more on Mrs. Smith be sure to visit http://www.worldofsmith.com and follow her on Facebook, Instgram, and YouTube!

1. It's so great to catch up! Last time we spoke, you were premiering your Off-Broadway show BROADWAY CAT-TACULAR! Now, you have switched gears, formed a band, and started doing concerts. What made you want to go this route? When it comes to the guitar, no other instrument gives such clear voice to the Grief and Rage. I never planned on becoming a guitar goddess! Last summer in Provincetown I started performing with my guitar on the sidewalk and it changed my life. The initial impulse behind this "sidewalk guitar show" was survival. I'd lost my entire fortune because of Brexit—my accountant couldn't explain why that was exactly but I was destitute. I found myself living in a mule shed behind the house of a local comedian named Ryan Landry. (A new low). The rent was due on this mule shed and so I took to the street! I was shocked at how the people gathered, huge crowds of them, clogging the streets and blocking traffic to see me "shred" on my guitar. I thought, "we might have something here..."

2. You recently were crowned the winner of "Shred for Your Life" at Webster Hall. What did it mean to you to win this contest? How did this help validate your path of music? The winning of this contest was coming off of my "sidewalk guitar shred" concerts in Provincetown so my "chops" were sharp. Even so, I was terrified. I almost left before the concert even began! There were so many tremendous players in a variety of styles and tones and all so much younger than me. I did make use of Geritol XL for some added energy and the judges determined that was not a performance-enhancing drug (it's b-vitamins). I battled it out over three excruciating rounds and just when I felt like my fingers were going to fall off I emerged the "Queen of Shred." It was definitely validating and helped me have the confidence to start this band and put this new show together. Around the same time a video of me playing in the East Village went viral on Guitar World and got 1.2 million views and then guitar companies started sending me equipment to review and I eventually wound up in this ad for GUCCI.

3. How did it come about for you to be featured in the GUCCI eyewear ad? I was playing guitar in Tomkins Square Park in the East Village this Fall and was spotted by fashion "it girl" Petra Collins. We were inspired by one another. She asked if I would be willing to wander into a GUCCI dreamscape with her and of course I said yes. I was whisked away to Budapest, Hungary, dressed up in gorgeous GUCCI clothes and sunglasses it was ultra-glamorous. You can look at stills from the shoot and read about Petra's inspiration here and here and here.

Mrs. Smith4. What do you like about performing in a band as opposed to a theatrical show? I love both, but for me right now, the band brings something raw and immediate to the live experience that feels relevant. People are raw right now, they're an exposed nerve because of what's happening in the world. (I've always felt like an exposed nerve so I'm used to it.) Along with my stage productions, I have done appearances at stand-up comedy venues where I perform impromptu stories, tone poems, and guitar solos. These appearances were stripped down and unfiltered and thrilling to me. I wanted to take that experience and elevate it a bit and that's what this new show is about, for now anyway. At first I was insecure about not having lots of costume changes and props and puppets. But when the show premiered to a sold-out crowd at Joe's Pub several audience members said they enjoyed the focused simplicity of the piece. I will also say, theatrical productions are a thrill to do but they are expensive and logistically complex. I like being able to book this show almost anywhere very easily and doing it in rock clubs and cabaret spaces means I can keep ticket prices accessible. And finally, it's just really really fun being a rock star!

5. For fans of your theatrical endeavors, what will surprise them about seeing you perform in concert? It's unfiltered Smith. I don't leave the stage, I don't change costumes, I don't relent from the top of the show until the finale. I go on a complete journey from my traumatic childhood in upstate New York to my life in high society to my kidnapping at the hands of a Norwegian Death Metal band and emergence as a guitar goddess. All of these realities are reflected through sound, music, storytelling and, of course, dumb show. The audience uses their imagination to draw the pictures. One song takes place in complete darkness with just the band playing and haunting voices from my past intruding on the loudspeaker! At first, I hired a video designer (who lives in Bushwick) to make elaborate video projections out of these voices but then realized how much more powerful to let the audience dream what the faces of these tormentors look like! That Bushwick videographer spent 10,000 hours working on those projections but we never used them--of course I still paid him! The surprise and delight is re-living these trauma's and triumph's with me. Isn't that what all entertainment is all about?

Mrs. Smith in an ad for GUCCI6. What was the hardest part about learning guitar? How do you feel learning to play guitar helped you grow as an artist? My father had taught me a few chords on a folk guitar when I was a little girl. Everyone could see I showed great promise but his alcoholic dissolution got in the way of my lessons. Then in the '90s I was kidnapped and held for ransom by a Norwegian Death Metal band. This was barely covered in the press because Patty Hearst completely stole my moment. I was kept in a closet for 90 days and there was a guitar in there. I had to learn to play it to survive. I ended up taking over the band and we won the Eurovision contest. I played the guitar when I appeared on America's Got Talent many years ago and it has been featured in my stage shows but I've never given myself so fully to the instrument until now and it's catapulted me into a new adventure.

7. You will be playing songs from quite a range of musical influences: ABBA, Led Zeppelin, Prince, Jimi Hendrix, Taylor Swift, Sia, and Metallica. How did these artists inspire your musical taste? What is the common thread of all these artists that make them fit into your concert? I have a passion for all of these songs because they reflect some element of my story. I've become known as a "shred guitar goddess" and the show definitely includes that but the guitar is such a diverse instrument! You can have an acoustic song that is so soulful and tender and then an electric guitar solo that soars like a valkyrie! And this band is so talented and skilled they can play literally anything so we zig-zag from rock and roll to country to pop to disco to jazz. It's like turning the knob on an old radio through all the styles of music.

Mrs. Smith8. Let's take this contest in a different direction. What is something you want to shred from your life? I insist on less fear. I know that seems radical, everyone is fearful of everything right now, especially in our little artistic corners of the world. But I want to create art and a life for myself without fear as the engine! That might mean finally taking the plunge and creating a Senior-Match.com profile and trying an internet coffee date. (I'd sworn off human love but is that just fear ruling me?) It might mean finding a way to finally tour Japan with my one-woman shred guitar opera. Of course, I don't want to strip out the terror, I need that, I think we all do. But fear and terror are two totally different energies as everybody knows.

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? Can I work to make it .0001% better? 1% seems like setting the bar really high. (I'm so exhausted from self-improvement.) Your readers should look into The Miracle Morning, I just started it myself and I'm committing to try it for 30 days and see if it works.

Mrs. SmithMore on Mrs. Smith:

Mrs. Smith is an electric guitar virtuoso, philanthropist, and cat lover who has captured the public imagination with her unbridled creative expression in the face of a life filled with grief and rage. With an improbable life-tale that includes a lonesome childhood of privilege, 14 marriages, and show biz stardom and obscurity, Mrs. Smith is a 20th Century creature who has burst through to the internet age to become a sensation.

Mrs. Smith is the 2016 winner of the "Shred for Your Life" contest held at Webster Hall and was a featured performer at the Guitar Gods Festival in Miami opening up for guitar legends Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai. A video of her shredding on the streets of the East Village was shared by Guitar World Magazine and garnered 1.2 million views. Her unique blend of musical performance comedy has been featured on NBC's America's Got Talent, PBS Television as well as Joe's Pub, American Repertory Theater and Berkeley Repertory Theater. She has also been seen at Feinstein's/54 Below, First Avenue, Webster Hall, Ars Nova, The Laurie Beechman Theater, Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, The Bell House, Union Hall, and the legendary Bushwig Festival, among many others.

Mrs. Smith's Broadway Cat-tacular! wow'ed audiences Off-Broadway and was hailed by the New York Post as "Purrfect!" Mrs. Smith's performance described as "Off its meds" by the Boston Globe, "Luminous" by Gay City News and "Oddly poignant..." by the New York Times

Thursday
Mar022017

Call Answered: Kerstin Karlhuber "Fair Haven" Film

Kerstin KarlhuberAs much as I love theatre, it's always a thrill when I get a request to interview someone in another medium. I've gotten to interview some great filmmakers over the years and now I get to add rising filmmaker Kerstin Karlhuber to that list. When I read the film was about a young man who returns to his family farm, after a long stay in ex-gay conversion therapy, and is torn between the expectations of his emotionally distant father, and the memories of a past, loving relationship he has tried to bury, I had to talk more with Kerstin.

Fair Haven will be released March 3rd in Los Angeles and VOD/DVD March 7th. 

For more on Fair Haven be sure to visit http://www.fairhavenfilm.com and follow the film on Facebook and Twitter!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a filmmaker? I started out as an actress. I grew up performing and was working professionally in musical theater productions by the time I was in middle school. I was majoring in theater in college when I booked a small role in a TV movie and took a week off from school to film it. Most of the time I sat around waiting for my scenes and during the down time I became obsessed with the behind the scenes process. I watched what every crew member's responsibilities were, what each piece of equipment did, and asked a lot of questions. It was that experience that changed the direction of my career. I did a complete 180 and realized I was much more interested in being behind the camera than I was in being in front of it. I finished my studies in theater but added as many production classes as I could. I then went on to get my Masters Degree in Film Production and have never looked back. At this point in my life I have no desire to ever be on camera again!

2. You just completed your first full length feature film, Fair Haven, a tender love story about a rural working class family drama, and a poignant exploration of the lingering effects of "gay conversion therapy" on a young man and the people he loves most. What made you want to tell this story? How long did it take you write Fair Haven, from concept to filming? In college I began writing a screenplay that was a family drama and took place in my native Vermont on an apple farm. I never finished it and put it away for over a decade. Immediately after grad school, where I met screenwriter, Jack Bryant, he came to me with a script he had written about "reparative" or "conversion therapy." It was wonderfully written and I wanted to direct it immediately. In his youth he had personally seen several friends and family members come back from this traumatizing "therapy" and was passionate about highlighting the horrors they endured. But that film was a huge project requiring a large cast and a lot of money. We tried unsuccessfully to get it off the ground for several years, and ultimately decided we needed to focus on something smaller and more attainable for our first feature.

At this point I had learned so much about this "therapy," had interviewed survivors, and had become just as passionate as Jack about making a film that shed light on the issue. That’s when we combined my original screenplay idea taking place in Vermont with this incredibly important and timely topic. Jack went off and wrote Fair Haven rather quickly. When I read his first draft I fell in love with the characters and the dynamics between them. The script got a lot of attention immediately. We had the opposite experience getting Fair Haven off the ground than we had with the previous project. It was around 10 months from writing the screenplay to production. We had a great team on board who were instrumental in pushing it forward.

3. What was the hardest scene to write and what was the easiest/most fun scene to write? I asked our screenwriter Jack this question and he said, "The scene with 'Ruby' in the bar at the end was the hardest to write because so much needs to be said about 'Richard's' past and he needs to think about a lot of things in a short amount of time. The scenes with 'Charlie' were usually more fun to write because he's a lighthearted character, even when 'James' is being miserable or treating him badly."

4. Do you have any fun stories from filming that you could share with us? I just did a director's commentary for the DVD and it brought up a lot of memories! I have a lot of fun stories. The shoot was hard; we shot in 14 days and had a lot of really deep, dramatic themes to cover. But we managed to have fun too. One of the hardest scenes to shoot was the barn scene where "Charlie" and "James" become intimate. It’s sensitive and awkward to shoot those kinds of scenes but it ended up being hysterical. I brought an array of breath sprays and mints with me in case either of the actors wanted to freshen their breath. One of the sprays I had was pink grapefruit flavor. Josh Green, who played "Charlie," being the jokester that he is, decided to overuse the grapefruit spray. He knew that Michael Grant, who played "James," didn’t like grapefruit. After the first take Michael made a face but moved on. A few takes later he finally said, "What IS that!" It had been a long day and Josh and I ended up flat on our backs in the grass outside of the barn laughing uncontrollably. It was half funny and half due to be being incredibly overtired. Poor Michael, I’m not sure he ever knew what Josh had been up to. If you watch our DVD extras, Josh tells that story in his behind the scenes interview.

Michael Grant and Josh Green in "Fair Haven"5. Now that film is complete, what does it feel like to have this story out there to the public? What's it like to hear feedback from people who have seen the film? The reaction has been incredible. I am shocked that almost every day I get an email or a tweet or Facebook message telling me how much the film means to someone. I am truly lucky that I was able to accompany the film to most of our festival screenings around the world! Seeing the reaction during the film makes all of the hard work worth it, and then hearing from people afterwards even more so. I’ve been to screenings where it took me hours to leave the theater because so many people wanted to tell me personally how much this film touched them. Audience members have told me tearful and personal stories about their own struggles and familial relationships. I am just so overwhelmed that this little film I made affects people so deeply. And we haven’t even released it in this country yet! I hope it continues to have the same impact!

6. In Fair Haven, "James" arrives back at his family's farm after being in "gay conversion therapy" and bumps into his ex-boyfriend, prompting old feelings to arise. What went through your head the first time you bumped into an ex unexpectedly? Hide! And I did, but he saw me anyway. An awkward conversation about my upcoming wedding (to my fabulous husband) ensued.

Tom Wopat in "Fair Haven"7. "James" is pressured to give up his music career and take over the family farm. What is something in your life that you were pressured to give up? Did you give it up or did you go after it anyway? I can’t think of anything I was pressured to give up. I’m lucky! My parents were supportive of me majoring in theater, but they did urge me to have a more sensible minor. I didn’t do it! My rationale was that if I had something to fall back on, I’d fall back on it, and I was determined to go for it 100%.

8. How do you feel Fair Haven will help people in these crazy times we are living, which are filled with so much fear that all the progress we have made with gay rights will move backwards? I think Fair Haven provides hope. Hope that even in the toughest situations one can find a way to be true to oneself and attempt to reconcile familial tensions. We made the film in a very specific way so that we could reach a mass, mainstream audience. Fair Haven is subtle in its approach and we were very careful not to feel preachy or pushing an agenda. It educates but also entertains through a very traditionally structured dramatic narrative. I think the film is a bit of a wake up call to many. Before Jack came to me with a script about "reparative therapy" I didn’t know much about it. I assumed that it had become obsolete because this "therapy" obviously didn’t work. When I did research and learned that it very much still happens and that our youth is currently being subjected to this trauma, I was shocked and infuriated. I hope the messages in the film linger, inspire a dialogue, and maybe even open a few closed minds along the way.

Lily Anne Harrison and Michael Grant in "Fair Haven"9. As a female filmmaker, what challenges do you face that you feel your male counterparts do not? I have to say that with Fair Haven I rarely felt as though I were at a disadvantage as a female filmmaker, and it’s hard to tell sometimes if something is difficult because I am a female or because indie filmmaking is just inherently difficult. I generally go with the latter. There were a handful of times that I felt like my vision wasn’t being taken seriously, as a relatively young woman, making my first feature. That never happened on set. I was completely supported and respected by the cast and creative team. They took a leap with me on my first feature and gave me their full trust and support. I did feel as though other sides of the process were extremely male dominated and possibly a bit prejudiced. In several situations it took some time, but I think I eventually gained the trust of those "old boys club" members. However, maybe every director faces these obstacles, male or female.

Michael Grant in "Fair Haven"10. Why did you want to dedicate this film to your late cousin Katelyn? What do miss most about her? Katelyn was a beautiful transgender woman. She was the film’s biggest supporter. She was exceedingly proud of me and the message I was trying to spread. Tragically she took her own life about a month after we wrapped production. I dedicated the film to her because she had spent a portion of her life fighting for love and equality and hope. When I made the dedication I felt like I was now carrying her torch. She faced enormous discrimination which is exactly why making this film was so incredibly important to me. After losing her, completing the film and telling this story became even more important. Katelyn was so positive. She was always giving me pep talks. She believed in me more than I believed in myself. That support is one of the things I miss most about her.

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? Count me in on the fitness journey! But, I recently got really interested in meditation. I get fidgety and my mind often wanders so I’d like to get 1% better at that practice every day.

Kerstin KarlhuberMore on Kerstin:

Kerstin Karlhuber is an award winning Filmmaker and the Founder/Director of Silent Giant Productions. She recently completed her first feature length film, Fair Haven, which has been called, "deftly and meticulously directed," and "a potent, stirring new film." Kerstin’s credits include national ad campaigns, original television content, music videos and several award winning short films. She holds a Masters Degree in Film Production from Boston University and undergraduate degrees in Musical Theater from The American Musical and Dramatic Academy and The New School.

Wednesday
Mar012017

Call Redialed: Karen Mason: It's About Time CD + Birdland Concert

Karen Mason, Photo Credit: Bill WestmorelandIt's About Time Karen Mason & I did a new interview. It's been two years, almost to the day, since our last interview together. At that time we spoke about Karen's month-long residency at Don't Tell Mama doing her show Mason at Mama's. In that interview we went back in time with Karen. Now, we are looking to the future while staying in the present, and using the past to show how Karen became the woman and singer she is!

Karen's newest CD, It's About Time is a mixture of timeless standards ("I Can’t Give You Anything But Love," "Just in Time"), theatre classics ("Everything’s Coming Up Roses," "Somewhere/The Impossible Dream"), and a few original tunes ("It's About Time"), along with a homage to Judy Garland ("The Man That Got Away," "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart" and the iconic "Over the Rainbow"). Click to purchase Karen's album on iTunes and Amazon!

Karen will celebrate the release of It's About Time with a return to Birdland Jazz NYC (315 West 44th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenue) on Monday, March 6 at 7pm! Click here for tickets!

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

1. I'm so excited we are doing this new interview, especially since it’s about something you do BEST...and that's sing and make beautiful music. You are about to release your latest album It’s About Time. What made now the right time to release this album? Thanks, Adam! You have been so good to me…and I do love making music! Well, it is about time to release this new CD because it has been nine years since my last CD. I said to Paul (my husband and producer, Paul Rolnick) that we need to take advantage of the time we have….and keep making music! Music speaks to my soul. And honestly, I love recording!

2. The title song on the album, "It’s About Time,"  written by your husband, Paul Rolnick, as an honor to the passing of marriage equality and then as a celebration of your friend’s marriage. What are some things in your life you feel "It’s About Time" for? Standing up for what I truly believe is more important than ever! I am a middle child…and not much of a trouble maker, always the pacifier. And then I get older…and suddenly I am becoming more fearless! I feel that we must stand up for our brothers and sisters who need our support and well, it is about time I spoke up! The song, "It’s About Time," distills the subject of marriage equality down to its truth…which is love! We cannot deny love…not now, not ever!

Karen Mason and her husband Paul Rolnick3. One song you sing on It’s About Time is "Just In Time," with music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Betty Comden/Adolph Green. What is something that happened "Just in Time" to you, either in your personal life or career? I met my husband, Paul, a year after I found out I was losing my best friend and music director, Brian Lasser to AIDS. Brian died two years later, and those years were really difficult….on Brian and on all of us and Paul stayed with me through it. We just celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary (and have been together 26 years). Ah…the universe!

4. You also sing "Everything's Coming Up Roses" from Gypsy. When did "Everything Come Up Roses" for you? The first night I went on in Sunset Boulevard, I was scared to death!! Also, very, very excited to be going onstage with this herculean role!! I made it through the show without missing a beat or line or entrance! With the help of that extraordinary cast, I think everything did come up roses for me that night!

5. You also perform "The Impossible Dream." What is one dream you had you thought would never come true? What is one dream you are still hoping comes true? Hmmm, dreams are so private! I can tell you the one that did come true….but I can’t tell you the one that I am still hoping for. Cuz I am a little superstitious about that! One dream I had that I wondered if would ever come true would be singing at Carnegie Hall. And it came true when I was asked to sing with The New York Pops! I have a picture of me on that stage with Skitch Henderson…and a HUGE grin on my face! Of course, wearing a beaded gown for the show! I sang "This Nearly Was Mine." It was so much fun! And so special to sing in a hall that heard the voices of so many talents I admired.

Karen Mason as "Ma" in "Chasing Rainbows"6. You were recently in the Broadway-bound musical Chasing Rainbows and you are including a few selections to honor Judy Garland. How did Judy Garland influence you/your music style? What rainbows are you chasing these days? I was thrilled to include a few Garland songs on the CD! A few years ago I got a chance to do a symphony concert of Garland music…and it was perfect joy for me! All those amazing arrangements…God, I loved every minute!! I am a Garland fan. Judy Garland sang and told stories that speak to my heart. Something about the timbre of her voice, and her ability to sound like she was speaking just to my soul……perfect! And if you are going to steal…steal from the very very best, right? What rainbows am I still chasing? I am not sure if they are all rainbows…but I still have a lot to say and sing! And many more stories to tell!

7. One of the Judy Garland songs you included on this album was "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart." What are a few happy moments in your life when you heart went Zing!? When Paul told me he loved me. On the phone, cuz we are both shy…and my heart was about to explode!! So I told him too..and I think his heart went "Zing" too. You would have to ask him….but I think it would be safe to say that it probably did.

Karen Mason in Broadway's "Wonderland"8. You also record "Finding Wonderland" from the Broadway show Wonderland, a song about finding ourselves and finding our truths? What is something you recently found out about yourself and what is one truth you have not revealed about yourself in a previous interview? I recently found out I am stronger than I have always thought. One truth that I have not revealed is that I hate being called "Dear" by someone I don’t know. If it is someone I know and love, it is good. But someone who doesn’t know me at all? Goes right up my back!

9. Finally, you close the album with a very special song, Gershwin's "Our Love Is Here to Stay," but it's using the track your first musical director/friend Brian Lasser recorded. Sadly Brian passed away in 1992, but how great that you get to "sing" with him again. What was this experience like for you? What do you miss most about Brian? Oh Adam, this was such a beautiful gift Paul gave me! To be able to sing with Brian again? Amazing! And because I knew it was going to be so amazing, I kept putting it off for years. Paul asked me about it about 10 years ago….and I kept deflecting. As I got older, I got more fearless (always a struggle for me!)…and finally said YES! And it was amazing and natural and…..home.

Karen Mason and her longtime friend/collaborator Brian Lasser10. This album is a mixture of timeless standards, theatre classics, and a few original tunes. What songs didn't make the cut for this CD, hence saying, it wasn't time to share these songs? We have enough cuts for a few CDs….so that is the plan! We will be releasing a new CD within a year….and then keep ‘em coming! Some of the songs on the next one may be: "He Touched Me," "Time" by Barry Kleinbort….and I would love to do a new Christmas CD (and this time IN the studio!).

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? I would love to improve my relationship with the gym! Once I am there, I am fine, but getting there??? Seems like miles! And honestly, Adam, a way to improve my own life every day is to continue to try to find ways to be better to others.

Karen MasonMore on Karen:

Karen Mason has starred on Broadway, Off-Broadway, Television, and in the recording studio. She’s been praised for her "fierce emotion" by The New York Times, her "innate comic ability" by Playbill and her "delightful instrument" by the Daily News. Karen has been called "immensely appealing" by The Chicago Tribune, "a towering talent" by TheaterMania and "a dynamic performer" by Time Out New York. According to the Indianapolis Star, "Mason has a powerful voice and rich resonance you associate with Judy Garland or Barbra Streisand. She can sing slow and smoky or fast and punchy with an innate sense of humor. Mason is a poet of the vocal chords."

Karen is a twelve-time MAC Award winner – most recently "Show of the Year" and "Celebrity Artist" in 2016 – and has won the MAC Award for Major Female Vocalist of the Year for six consecutive years. She has also won the 2006 Nightlife Award for Major Female Vocalist and has three Bistro Awards.

Karen Mason as "Norma Desmond" in Sunset "Boulevard"Karen most recently garnered rave reviews starring as "The Queen of Hearts" in Wonderland on Broadway. She originated the role of "Tanya" on Broadway in ABBA’s Mamma Mia, and was awarded a 2002 Drama Desk nomination as Best Actress. Her other leading roles include "Norma Desmond" in Sunset Boulevard, which she performed to critical acclaim and standing ovations on Broadway and in Los Angeles for three years; "Velma von Tussel" in the final Broadway company of Hairspray; "Monotony" singer, "Mazeppa" in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway; "Rosalie" in Carnival (another Drama Desk nomination); plus featured roles in Broadway’s Torch Song Trilogy; and Play Me A Country Song.

She won the Outer Critics Circle Award for her performance in And the World Goes ‘Round, and starred Off-Broadway in her own show Karen Mason Sings Broadway, Beatles and Brian. Her television appearances include the hit dramas Ed and Law & Order: SVU while film credits include Sleeping Dogs Lie and A Chorus Line.

Karen MasonIn regional theatre, she starred in the 1st National Tour of A Christmas Story as "Miss Shields," in the world premiere of the stage production of White Christmas (playing the Rosemary Clooney role at St. Louis Muni Opera), Side by Side by Sondheim (Coconut Grove Playhouse in Florida), Gypsy (Sundance Theatre in California), the world premiere of One Tough Cookie (Apple Tree Theatre in Chicago), Heartbeats (Goodspeed Opera House) and Company (Huntington Theatre in Boston). Karen starred in the one-woman musical about Dorothy Parker You Might As Well Live.

Karen has headlined Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Feinstein's at the Regency, Rainbow & Stars, the Algonquin, Arci' Place, The Supper Club and The Ballroom in NYC; The Cinegrill and the UCLA/ASCAP Concert Series in Los Angeles; The Plush Room in San Francisco; and Davenport’s in Chicago.

Karen MasonShe has shared concert stages with Michael Feinstein, Jerry Herman, Chita Rivera, Luciano Pavarotti, Rosemary Clooney, Liza Minnelli, and John Kander & Fred Ebb, among others. Karen has given concerts in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Brazil, Scotland, Tokyo and Osaka. Her starring symphonic performances include The Long Beach Symphony Orchestra with Maestro Michael Berkowitz, the Philly Pops with Peter Nero, The New York Pops with Skitch Henderson, the Oklahoma Philharmonic with Joel Levine, the premier performance of The Chicagoland Pops, the Indianapolis Philharmonic, and the St. Louis Symphony with John McDaniel.

Her highly acclaimed recordings include her 2009 MAC Award-winning Right Here/Right Now, 2005’s The Sweetest of Nights, the MAC Award-winning When The Sun Comes Out, as well as three other CDs: Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!, recorded live at the West Bank Café; Better Days, featuring songs by her longtime composer/arranger Brian Lasser (including the 1998 Emmy Award-winning song "Hold Me"); and Not So Simply Broadway. Karen has been featured on the original cast CD of Wonderland; Jeffrey (Varese Sarabande), the studio cast recording of Wonderful Town (JAY Records), the original cast album of And The World Goes Round (RCA Victor), The Child In Me, Vol. 1 (Harbinger Records), and Lost in Boston II (Varese Sarabande).

Wednesday
Mar012017

Call Redialed: Conference Call Facetime interview with "Sordid Lives'" Del Shores & Ann Walker

In "Call Me Adam's" first cross-country interview, I catch up with Sordid Lives' creator Del Shores & leading lady Ann Walker ("LaVonda"). With me in New York and Del & Ann in Los Angeles, we talk about their new film A Very Sordid Wedding (the sequel to the Sordid Lives franchise). From remembering Rue McClanahan to the state of the world we live in to finding hope, this is one sordid interview you don't want to miss!

A Very Sordid Wedding is the hilarious sequel to Del's play, film, and TV series Sordid Lives. The film brings back an all-star ensemble cast of characters, rooted in the Southern Baptist world of Winters, Texas, in the weeks following the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage equality ruling where not everyone there is ready to accept it.

A Very Sordid Wedding makes it world premiere March 10, for an exclusive two-week run, at Camelot Theatres in Palm Springs, CA. Click here for more info!

For more on A Very Sordid Wedding be sure to visit http://www.averysordidwedding.com and follow the movie on Facebook and Twitter!

"Call Me Adam's" interview with Sordid Lives' Del Shores and Ann Walker:

Tuesday
Feb282017

Call Answered: Conference Call: J. Stephen Brantley and Todd Flaherty: BAREBACK INK

J. Stephen Brantley, Photo Credit: Roberto AraujoTodd Flaherty, Photo Credit: Luke FontanaI interviewed J. Stephen Brantley and David Drake in 2014 for their collaboration on J. Stephen's show Fried-Chicken Ciccone. I was so moved by that show that when I heard they were going to work together again, I knew I needed to do a new interview. Then I found out Todd Flaherty was also going to star in this show and I was like, bam, let's talk with everyone!

Bareback Ink, written by Bob Bartlett and directed by Obie Award winner David Drake, tells the story of a beautiful boy who is forcibly tattooed in this erotic new plays at IRT (154 Christopher Street) from March 4-18. Click here for tickets!

For more on J. Stephen be sure to visit http://www.jstephenbrantley.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

For more on Todd visit http://www.toddflaherty.com and follow him on Facebook and Instagram!

1. This March you are all part of Bob Bartlett's Bareback Ink. J. Stephen and Todd, you are starring in the show and David, you are directing. What made each of you want to be part of this production?

J. Stephen Brantley: I put out a call for plays last year when Hard Sparks was awarded this residency at IRT, asking for a "sinister two-hander." I was hoping for a vehicle for Todd and myself, one that would fit in that raw dark cinder-blocked space. In Bareback Ink, I got it. It haunted me, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Todd and I have done…five shows together? - two directed by David Drake - but it seems like we never really have much interaction. In Pirira, we were both onstage the entire show and never spoke a word to one another. This time we do. I’m all over him!

Todd Flaherty: I would follow J. Stephen Brantley to the ends of the earth. As a writer and artist, he is redefining what American Theatre is and can be and I trust his taste in other writers’ work. Coupled with the fact the David Drake was on board to direct…I didn’t even have to read the script before saying yes. It could have been about toilet water and I knew it would be brilliant. Icing on the cake was reading Bob Bartlett’s poetic story. I jumped at the opportunity.

J. Stephen Brantley and Todd Flaherty in "The Jamb", Photo Credit: Hunter Canning2. While based upon the Greek myth The Rape and Abduction of Ganymede, how do you feel this story relates to the times we are living in today?

J. Stephen Brantley: The play wrestles with some uncomfortable stuff. Bob (Bartlett) wrote it in an effort to make sense of the legacy of a story about kidnapping, basically, and a trove of art that celebrates it. This production is unapologetically queer, so we are mainly looking at the ways gay men pursue and eroticize youth. But it’s cross-cultural. Young people are sexualized. They are rewarded for being servile, and punished for taking power and, often, made to feel irrelevant past a certain "sell-by" date. We’re taking a hard look at that, through the lens of myth, but also pushing it aside to find some love underneath. The relationship of the two guys in Bareback Ink may not be quite as it first seems.

Todd Flaherty: Bareback is incredibly nuanced and layered so there’s actually quite a lot to glean from Bob’s story in relation to our modern times. The play’s nature is very homo-erotically charged, so naturally we are connecting the myth to modern intergenerational gay relationships, daddy fantasies and the journey to manhood, particularly for boys who have no father figures due to displacement from the home. Other times in the rehearsal room, we speak in jest about Melania, but there is some real relevance to our story there as well. Surviving an abusive relationship using tools of beauty and youth…and what happens when those tools are no longer available. Another layer entirely focuses on the outcast in society being controlled and manipulated by unseen powers that be, and the daily struggle for freedom in a world where the cards are stacked against you.

Todd Flaherty and J. Stephen Brantley, Photo Credit: Jody Christopherson3. Bareback Ink is an erotic tale of the struggle between comfortable corruption and the cost of true freedom. This description seems perfect for the post-election climate we live in. How do you feel Trump is using his power under the guise of true freedom, but everyone else views it as corruption?

J. Stephen Brantley: Let me count the ways! Aside from the ban that isn’t a ban? There’s FADA, which hasn’t happened on a Federal level yet, but may still. These "First Amendment Defense" and "religious freedom" laws have nothing to do with liberty, of course, they’re a license to discriminate and the ripple effect of such measures could be catastrophic for LGBT Americans. It’s easy for most people to look the other way, to think that "bathroom bills" have only to do with whether and where trans folks pee – which should be where they want - forgetting that these same laws strip away protections for all sexual minorities. My mother recently wrote her governor voicing her opposition to such a proposed law. It’s not something she’s used to doing, and she was outraged by the condescending, sexist form-letter reply – some bullshit about "protecting her privacy." It pissed me off too, but I was also delighted to have her in the trenches! Even if it’s an uphill battle, it’s infinitely better to be on the side of justice. There’s freedom in the fight. But for anyone joining the fray, you have to know, it’s uncomfortable. All the time.

Todd Flaherty and J. Stephen Brantley, Photo Credit: Jody Christopherson4. Some tattoos are removable, while others are more permanent. Based upon Trump's first few weeks in office, what decisions do you feel he has made that could be considered a removable tattoo and which ones do you think are a more permanent tattoo?

J. Stephen Brantley: All tattoos are removable, I should know. But it’s an expensive, time-consuming, painful process. I still believe that we will, eventually, create a world in which everyone is treated with human dignity. I have to believe that. But I also think the events of the last several weeks have set us way back, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. The President has angered world leaders, alienated our allies, and emboldened terrorists both foreign and domestic. He’s lifted all the wrong restrictions from law enforcement and appointed to top-level posts the very people who would dismantle the agencies they now head. We’re headed for disaster. Truthfully, I don’t really expect to survive this administration. But I am certain the damage that’s about to be done can, and will, be reversed someday. The marks may not be removed entirely, and maybe they shouldn’t be: we have a bad habit of ignoring the uglier parts of our collective history. Bareback Ink is a sort of trial by fire. It’s about discovering that the very thing that’s kept you down is actually your ticket to freedom. I hope that we as a nation learn from this moment, use this opportunity to become better informed, fully engaged, more compassionate people. Maybe next time more than half the population will actually vote.

Todd Flaherty: The most permanent tattoo being inked into the fabric of our nation is actually a very beautiful one…however painful the process of receiving it. I did not vote for Trump, but I think he is the president America deserves at this tipping point in our history. As a millennial having grown up with a father in politics and an activist mother, I know all too well just how fragile our democracy is and always has been. But (not unlike our character "Artist") I know many people who have lived comfortably enough, wanting more but never asking for it, for fear of loosing what they already have and ignorant to the plight of those who have even less. Trumps agenda is ruthless and those with half a brain are finally being called to action. The permanent tattoo I’m speaking of is intersectionality. No longer are we dealing with women’s rights, black rights, queer rights, gender rights, etc…we’re dealing with human rights.

J. Stephen Brantley, Photo Credit: Jody Christopherson5. Bareback Ink tells the story of a beautiful young man who enters a purgatory-like tattoo shop where an isolated and withdrawn artist forcibly inks the boy’s back over the course of several months. Has there been a time in your life when you were forced to do something you didn't want to? If so, when/what was it?

J. Stephen Brantley: Not really. I’ve chosen to do a lot of things I didn’t really want to. Everyone does. But I’ve been incredibly fortunate that I’ve never endured the kind of brutality and coercion that so many queer people do.

6. Bob Bartlett has taken The Rape and Abduction of Ganymede and brought it into a modern-day world, touching on the subjects of one being rejected by family, community, and culture. Have you ever been rejected by your family, community, and/or culture? If so, how did you initially react to the rejection, but ultimately find your own family, community, and/or culture?

J. Stephen Brantley: Again, I didn’t have it too bad. But growing up in Texas during the '80s I was surrounded by the message that gay was definitely not okay. A lot of kids don’t survive that. A lot. Those who do, we develop a thick skin and a quick mind, and we use what we’ve got. Todd’s character in Bareback uses his beauty like so many boys do – being objectified is better than rejection, and there is power in sex. If we’re lucky, we have a mentor, a teacher, who doesn’t take advantage. And perhaps we become that person for someone else someday. In that, Bareback Ink is really about family, about finding home.

Todd Flaherty: Luckily I have been blessed to be born into one of the most loving families ever. As an artist, however, I face rejection everyday. Every. Fucking. Day. Sometimes multiple times a day. That rejection used to leave me completely incapacitated. Not because of some idea that the work I was creating was bad, per se, but because the work I was creating was irrelevant. I was irrelevant. My presence wasn’t necessary to the growth of our community. That’s a tough pill to swallow for anyone. A few years ago, I changed my outlook on rejection and started thinking of it as an opportunity. You can’t grow if you're not making mistakes and if you’re not growing, you’re not living. I began to act more fearlessly and I found new friends and communities who felt/worked the same way. That’s how I began working with J. Stephen and David.

Todd Flaherty and J. Stephen Brantley, Photo Credit: Jody Christopherson7. The show is also described as being about desire, possession, and the perversion of power. What is something you desire? What is one of your most cherished possessions? When have you altered/distorted your own power over someone?

J. Stephen Brantley: I did some escorting for a while. This is no secret, I talked about it in Chicken-Fried Ciccone. There was actually very little sex involved, it was mostly Dom-sub role play. It’s a weird dynamic, being paid an hourly wage to humiliate the very person who’s hired you. In the back of your mind, you know you’re not in charge. At the same time, you do wield power or at least it feels like you do and it feels good. That’s why I always said it was essentially site-specific theatre, "living truthfully under imaginary circumstances." But like any acting gig, it can turn into a mind-fuck real quick. If sense-of-self can be possessed, I cherish that. And freedom. At one time in my life I almost lost it. My character in Bareback has given up on ever having it, until this boy comes into his cell. More than anything I fear a loss of control over my own well-being.

Todd Flaherty: I desire water-front property, be it a lake, river, or ocean. I cherish none of my possessions because I can’t take anything with me when I leave this earth. All relationships are a delicate balance of power…I can’t recall any instance where I have unfairly asserted mine, but maybe that’s something I should delve into in therapy.

Todd Flaherty and J. Stephen Brantley, , Photo Credit: Jody Christopherson8. Bareback Ink casts a raw, voyeuristic gaze at the intergenerational homoerotics of Greek myth through a decidedly contemporary and surprisingly sociopolitical lens. Between all of the shows you have either starred in or directed, which one do you feel cast you at your rawest and most vulnerable?

J. Stephen Brantley: Well, I’m was completely naked onstage six nights in Mope at EST, so that’s raw and vulnerable. But actually, once you get used to it, it’s not a big deal. The last show I did with David and Todd, my play The Jamb, was scarier. I was close to that character. And there have been others where I appeared to be transformed – "Doc" in The Night Alive, or "Saul" in Church Of Why Not – but I felt completely laid bare.

Todd Flaherty: I recently wrote and acted in a web series called Undetectable (www.undetectabletheseries.com). The story follows a young gay man navigating personal and romantic relationships with the stigma of being HIV positive. It was one of the most horrifying and rewarding experiences I have ever had, showing up to set every day, saying words I wrote, constantly questioning whether or not they were good enough, and trusting that my need to tell the story was greater than any one person’s reaction to it…good, bad or otherwise.

9. Bareback Ink is an erotic play, but with an underlying horror. What has been your most pleasurable erotic encounter? What has been an erotic encounter you wish to forget?

J. Stephen Brantley: I have never had an erotic encounter that was as pleasurable as what I’m imagining right now. And there are none I wish to forget. Actually, I wish I could remember more.

Todd Flaherty: Adam, they’re all so pleasurable…I couldn’t possible pick just one. One that I wish to forget involves a barely 17-year-old me, two high school girlfriends, the back seat of my car, a mall parking lot, and a security guard nearly calling the cops on us for public lewdness and indecent exposure.

10. Since the show is called Bareback Ink, if you could tattoo your back, what would you get drawn on it? 

J. Stephen Brantley: I’ve long wanted a big bird of prey on my back. I have songbirds on my forearms, and I love them, but I’m feeling more falcon than sparrow these days. Of course, for the price of such a piece one could produce Bareback Ink so, for now anyway, I’m going with that.

Todd Flaherty: A watercolor-like scene of the dunes leading to the secret beach in Provincetown.

J. Stephen Brantley, Photo Credit: Roberto AraujoMore on J. Stephen Brantley:

Off-Broadway: Mope (Ensemble Studio Theatre), Murder In The First (The Directors Co. at 59E59), and Theatre 167’s Pirira (West End Theater). Regional: The Night Alive (Guild Hall), Of Mice And Men (Bay Street), Slap & Tickle (Provincetown Theater), and Romeo And Juliet with its zombie sequel R & J & Z at Stonington Opera House. J. Brantley has also worked with Big Dance, Blessed Unrest, CapsLock, and Jewish Plays Project, and at venues including Queens Theatre, LaMaMa, Metropolitan Playhouse, The New Ohio, and P.S.122. J. Brantley is an eight-time New York Innovative Theatre Award nominee, and winner of the Micheál MacLiammóir Award for Best Actor at the 2013 Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival. He is the Producing Artistic Director of Hard Sparks and a member of the Indie Theatre Hall Of Fame.

Todd Flaherty, Photo Credit: Luke FontanaMore on Todd:

Off-Broadway: Pirira (NYIT Nom) also by J.Stephen Brantley, Fresh Kills (59E59). Other New York credits include: Sleep No More (Punchdrunk/ Emursive), Dead Letter Office, I Like To Be Here (Theater167), We Are Nebenienander (American Laboratory) and Hard Sparks’ The Jamb. Regional: Slap & Tickle, also directed by David Drake. Film/New Media: Pretty Girls, The Fuzz, Tracy&Cal. Todd wrote, produced, co-directed and appears in Undetectable, recently nominated for seven Indie Series Awards.