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"Call Me Adam" chats with...

 

 

Thursday
May112017

Call Answered: Haley Swindal: "Golden Girl" at Feinstein's/54 Below

Haley Swindal, Photo Credit: Lance RaeI'm so glad Will Nunziata introduced me to Broadway powerhouse Haley Swindal. Her vocals are unreal and I can already tell she's going to blow the roof off of Feinstein's/54 Below when she returns with her new show Golden Girl.

Golden Girl is a brand-new concert event celebrating the music of an era that her heart and soul were born in – The Golden Age. With influences ranging from Rosemary Clooney to Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand, Haley puts her own stamp on songs that made these great dames stars. Haley will knock-out-of-the-park standards such as "Come Rain or Come Shine," "Don’t Rain on My Parade," and "Cry Me A River," all with fresh arrangements by musical director to the stars Tedd Firth (Michael Feinstein, Ana Gasteyer, Brian Stokes Mitchell). Conceived and directed by Will Nunziata (concert director for Tony Award winner Lillias White), this is an evening that will have you laughing, crying, and tapping your feet all within a matter of minutes, and a true showbiz event where a brand-new star is born.

Golden Girl plays Feinstein's/54 Below (254 West 54th Street, between Broadway & 8th Avenue) on Tuesday, May 30 at 7pm and Tuesday, June 6 at 9:30pm! Click here for tickets! 

For more on Haley be sure to follow her on Twitter!

For more on Feinstein's/54 Below be sure to visit http://54below.com and follow them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

Haley Swindal, Photo Credit: Takako Suki Harkness1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer (other than Rosemary Clooney, Judy Garland, and Barbra Streisand)? Singing was always in me. From the time I could walk, I was singing down the halls and driving my parents crazy. It was never a choice for me - it was in my blood, which is very funny because no one else in my immediate family is in the arts at all! I used to stand at the top of the stairs in our house and pretend to be "Eva Peron." My brother thought I was nuts (he still does). When I was about eight years old, I remember my mom took me to see a production of Hello Dolly with Carol Channing, and I remember thinking, WOW, I want to do that!

2. This May/June you return to Feinstein's/54 Below with your brand-new show Golden Girl, celebrating the music of an era that her heart and soul were born in – The Golden Age. What are you looking forward to about coming back to Feinstein's/54 Below? I always said I only want to come back with these shows when I have something to add, something to share, a story to tell. The two times I have played here have marked major events in my life: my Broadway debut for the first one, and getting married the second one. Those first shows were similar, but were both kind of about where I came from and what its taught me.

This show is something entirely different. First of all, not only have I done a lot more great roles, I have more importantly lived a lot more of life. I am married to an amazing guy, and I'm a stepmom to two awesome teenagers. I also have a new boss, who is eleven months old, my amazing daughter - Lily George Tantleff.

This show is really a concert meets one-woman show. I do everything from singing "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" as Judy, Liza, Patti, Billie Burke, and Bernadette Peters to stripping down to the bottom of my soul with some amazing torch songs.

I am thrilled to be back because this is a whole new side of me, a whole new journey, and I hope one that might surprise and excite people.

Director Will Nunziata3. Golden Girl is directed by Will Nunziata. Will, primarily known as a singer with his brother Anthony Nunziata, has been making quite a name for himself as a director over the past several years. What was it about Will's style/vision that made you say, "He is whom I want to direct my show."? Will has been on my radar for a very long time. We first met in Michael Feinstein's apartment about four years ago, where Michael had a bunch of young folks over to talk about the future of the Great American Songbook and how the torch would be passed to our generation.

I followed him as he created amazing shows for Cady Huffman, Lillias White, and other incredible divas. It was Will that came up with the vision for this show. His concepts and his ideas are brilliant. The way he is able to bring out things in me and get me to burst out of my comfort zone is unreal. He gravitates I think towards strong women - women who can't really be put in any particular kind of stereotypical, run of the mill box. He takes their strength and what makes them unique and turns it into something brilliant. His concepts, his vision, and his ability to communicate, nurture, and bring out the best in those he directs is incredible. He is and will continue to be one of the greatest directors of our generation.

Haley Swindal4. What is about this time in music that makes your heart a flutter? I often sit around and wonder, what will our generation be listening to when they are eighty? The generation ahead of us has the Beatles, Carole King, Carly Simon. When we were younger, we had Whitney, Celine. But will this generation be turning on Britney Spears? Eminem? Single Ladies? 

What I love about the Great American Songbook is so many songs are literally transcendent of time. How many of us have been madly in love and connected to the lyrics of "Night and Day," "Whether near to me or far, it's no matter darling where you, are I think of you." How many of us have been heartbroken and can relate to Frank Sinatra alone in a bar at 3AM singing "One for My Baby," "It's quarter to three, There's no one in the place 'cept you and me, So set 'em' up Joe."

I fell in love with my husband when he sang, "I only have eyes for you" badly (but endearingly) in my ear. These songs are masterpieces that capture the complexity of love and what it is to be human. As I grow older, I connect with them even more.

5. According to press notes, Rosemary Clooney, Judy Garland, and Barbra Streisand were some of your influences. What was it about these entertainers that made you go, "Yes! I want to be like them."? Judy Garland always said "Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else." What I think I loved - and continue to love - about these women besides their other-wordly vocals is that they were/are originals. They were unabashedly and unapologetically themselves. Their sound was distinctive, the way they approached their art was distinctive, and what they have given us is something no one else can ever come to close to because it is so uniquely them.

Patti LuPone, Christine Ebersole, Cady Huffman, and Bernadette Peters are some of these women on the Broadway stage. 

The women I admire can transform themselves into incredible roles onstage, but, as human beings, they are unapologetically strong, which isn't always easy as a woman in this business. Onstage, they can be heartbreakingly vulnerable. It's an amazing duality, to be strong and vulnerable at the same time, and one that I admire. I think, so much of this business is how we fit. Fit someone else's vision, fit someone else's vocal styles, even fit someone else's costume. These women somehow transcend that. As for me, I guess I've just grown tired of trying to fit into a box. I'm a brassy blonde broad who has packed a lot of life into my first thirty years. That's my truth.

Haley Swindal, Photo Credit: Stephen Sorokoff6. What songs that you are performing do you think will surprise people to hear from you? There's one where I'm lying on a piano....

7. A few songs you will be performing are "Come Rain or Come Shine," "Don’t Rain on My Parade," and "Cry Me A River." Let's play with these song titles. When have you said to yourself, "Come Rain or Come Shine," I'm going to do this? HA! For better or for worse, all the time! "Come Rain or Come Shine," I guess probably in my love life in the past. Wanting so desperately to be loved, perhaps by someone incapable of loving...but trying to convince them.

"Cry Me a River" is realizing I'm going to be okay whether or not this person loves me. That the only person I need to live and be fulfilled is me.

"Don't Rain On My Parade" is a celebration of what it means to spill out everything you have, no matter what the cost might be, because you don't want to spend the rest of your life wondering "what if?" To me, this applies to choosing to creae solo shows, and challenging myself, and also following my heart in other ways.

8. When did you think, oh please, "Don't Rain on My Parade"? HA that was Will. I was thrilled. At first, I thought, really? But, then I realized why not, it's my truth? It's part of a medley, which I think has a really neat arc.

Haley Swindal, Photo Credit: The New York Times9. What event has caused you to cry like a river? I think the sadness of that song is realizing that sometimes love is not enough. The tragedy of still being madly in love with someone but the strength to put your well-being first and not allow that person to destroy you. I was there once. It took a long while, but I figured it out, and my life is richer for it. And I can sing one hell of a torch song!

10. Since this show is celebrating The Golden Age, what, age or age bracket has been your "Golden Age" so far? Why has it been so rich? Oh my goodness, NOW! I am just entering my thirties, young enough to still know what's fun, and old enough to know better. Just kidding! Undoubtedly though, meeting and marrying my husband and becoming a mother changed everything for me. I remember leaving my first Broadway performance and crying when I got home because I had been so tunnel-visioned that I had no one to share it with. Any part of my life other than work was completely absent. That changed. My daughter is the most amazing thing that ever happened to me and has put everything else in perspective. If I don't get anything else right in this life, I somehow built a perfect little human, and, to me, that alone is enough! 

11. I know the show's title, "Golden Girl," is for the Golden Age of music, but we are going to take this to the Golden Girls themselves. If you had to describe yourself as one of the Golden Girls who would you be? I'm still obsessed with that show! My best friend and I used to spend all weekend watching Golden Girls marathons (she's "Sophia" re-incarnated!) As for me, I look at the world through "Rose"-colored glasses for sure, but I definitely am flirty and fun like "Blanche."

Haley Swindal, Photo Credit: Takako Suki HarknessMore on Haley:

Haley has appeared on Broadway and on tour with Jekyll and HydeWhite ChristmasJesus Christ Superstar opposite Ted Neeley, and at Lincoln Center in The Secret Garden. She has performed in concert at Carnegie Hall alongside the great standards vocalist Steve Tyrell, acclaimed Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, and under the baton of Steven Reineke with the New York Pops. She won a New York Emmy for her appearance on Kids on Deck and recently appeared in the film Walt Before Mickey.

Wednesday
May102017

Call Answered: Conference Call: Austin Pendleton & Barbara Bleier: "Beautiful Mistake" at Pangea

Barbara Bleier and Austin Pendleton performing at PangeaWhen I found out that Austin Pendleton & Barbara Bleier were doing a new cabaret show together, entitled Beautiful Mistake: The Songs of John Bucchino and Amanda McBroom, I was delighted they answered my call! 

Beautiful Mistake is an evening of story songs including unpublished work from McBroom and Bucchino, as well as some known songs including McBroom/Hunt/McBroom’s "Errol Flynn" (an NPR feature pick for Songs We Love), and Bucchino’s "If I Ever Say I’m Over You" recorded by Art Garfunkel on Grateful: The Songs of John Bucchino.

Beautiful Mistake has two shows left, May 18 &  May 23 at 7pm at Pangea (178 2nd Avenue). Click here for tickets!

Barbara Bleier and Austin Pendleton performing at Pangea, Photo Credit: Theater Pizzazz1. Who or what inspired you to be a performer?

Austin Pendleton: When I was a kid my mother got involved with a community theatre that was being developed in Warren, Ohio, our hometown. The early rehearsals were in our living room, evenings, after dinner. My brother Alec and I would sneak down, after we were supposed to be in bed and watch these rehearsals. I was hooked.

Barbara Bleier: I can’t even remember far enough back! I’ve always been a performer. I learned to read music before I learned to read words, and I was reading words at four years old. My mother was a pianist, and there was always music in my house…music of all kinds; classical, show tunes, popular songs. My mother played, and my sister and I sang. My father was our audience. I started picking out tunes on the piano, and began piano lessons before I was four. I loved playing the piano, and played concerts from the time I was four, but I loved singing even more. I was always the vocal soloist for the assemblies and programs in my grade school, PS89, and was the singer for the jazz band at the High School of Music & Art (now LaGuardia).

2. How did you two first come to meet? How long after you met did you go, "We should do cabaret together"?

Austin Pendleton: Barbara wanted me to coach her on some acting material. Then Barbara joined my acting class at HB Studio, here in New York. Then Barbara asked me to do a cabaret with her, in, like, 2000.  The rest is what I like to think of as history.

Barbara Bleier: That wasn’t exactly how it happened. It was kind of, "I proposed to him!" I was studying acting with Austin at HB Studio. I was also doing cabaret…in fact, I had been a Fellow at the Eugene O’Neill Cabaret Symposium in 1992…and had been doing cabaret before and after that. I had started studying acting, because the songs that I preferred singing were story songs, and I thought that studying acting would help me get the most out of them. (I also, at that time, started performing as an actor). So, I was taking a class in the late 90’s with Austin, and had a cabaret gig coming up. There was a duet by Dick Maltby and David Shire called "There" that I was aching to sing, and I needed a male partner. I knew, of course, that Austin was a singer, and I asked him if he’d like to do that song with me in the show. His answer was, "You’re offering me one song?" I said, "Would you like half a show?," and the rest is history. We performed our first cabaret, Undecided in New York and Chicago, and had a great time with it! We also got some really good notices. "There" has been in every show we’ve done since, except the present one.

Barbara Bleier and Austin Pendleton performing at Pangea, Photo Credit: Theater Pizzazz3. What do you love about working with each other?

Austin Pendleton: Barbara actually listens to me. This leads me to actually listen to her.

Barbara Bleier: Well, first of all, I LOVE Austin, so that’s a good beginning. He’s not a "straight line" thinker; he kind of comes in from the side, and I love that! We always seem to be on the same page, or following one another’s crazy thoughts, or awakening one another to something. There is, honestly, no one I’d rather work with.

4. Has there ever been a time when you both were really excited to duet on a song, but then disagree on how it should be executed, and, if so, who won?

Austin Pendleton: I have a sneaking suspicion that Barbara always wins these.

Barbara Bleier: I know it sounds crazy, but that’s never really happened. At least, I don’t think it’s happened. Austin may feel differently! It’s more of a "free association" process. We start singing the song, then one of us gets an idea, and we try it, and that leads to another idea that we try. It kind of evolves.

5. What excites you about your new show Beautiful Mistake?

Austin Pendleton: To enter the world of John Bucchino and Amanda McBroom is precisely as exciting as falling down the rabbit hole.

Barbara Bleier: My idea of heaven would be to spend eternity singing John’s and Amanda’s music! And, there are trunks full of it!!! Their lyrics always seem to say what I want to be saying, and their music is so incredible, in such different ways. John’s has a baroque quality, to me…I fell in love with him for his chords. Amanda’s is more romantic, and both of them often play against the lyric, which is wonderful to perform as an actor and musician. Both can be ironic and humorous, in just the ways I Iove. I guess this also answers your question.

6. This new show is called "Beautiful Mistake." What is one "Beautiful Mistake" you have made? (meaning, you made a mistake with something, but it turned out to be a good thing). 

Austin Pendleton: Many things in my life have been beautiful mistakes that turned into a good thing. Then there are the mistakes that are not beautiful and do not turn out to be a good thing. Then there are the mistakes that are not beautiful but still turn out to be a good thing. On such occasions I confess to a certain confusion.

Barbara Bleier:  Oh, so many. It’s not the mistakes you make, it’s what you do with them, what you learn, how they take your life in a different direction. One example I can think of, as a divorced mother whose children were quite young at the time…the marriage was a mistake, but my two wonderful sons sure weren’t!

Barbara Bleier and Austin Pendleton performing at Pangea, Photo Credit: Theater Pizzazz7. What is a story about one of John or Amanda’s songs that is not in the show that really hit you hard?

Austin Pendleton: The songs of Amanda's and John's that hit me the hardest are in the show. The other songs of Amanda's and John's that hit me the hardest will be in the next show.

Barbara Bleier: John’s song, "Not A Cloud In The Sky," which deals with someone trying to handle the death of a loved one by dissociating the possibility of their death; taking control by being obsessive compulsive about little things, because if they let any emotion through they would crumble. I lost my sister (also a musician) five years ago, and that was my way of trying to keep control and be strong for her, and for myself.

8. If you could sing a quartet with John and Amanda, which song of theirs would you pick?

Austin Pendleton: "That Smile." I defy Mozart to top "That Smile."

Barbara Bleier: Well, the only one that they wrote together was "Beautiful Mistake," which I can’t quite wrap my mind around as a quartet, so I'll pick one for each? It would be "Coney Island" (A Catered Affair) for John, and Amanda’s song "Old Love," which Amanda wrote with the wonderful Michele Brourman.

Austin PendletonMore on Austin:

Austin Pendleton is an actor, director, playwright and teacher of acting, whose most recent stage appearance was as the "King" in Lear at The Secret Theatre, a critically lauded run that just ended in early April. Austin's first Broadway appearance was as "Motel the Tailor" in the original production of Fiddler on the Roof directed by Jerome Robbins and starring Zero Mostel. He has since appeared frequently on, off and off-off Broadway, and can be seen in approximately 200 films. His many TV appearances include roles on Oz, Homicide, Law and Order and Billions. In New York, he has directed Between Riverside and Crazy and four shows at CSC (Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, Ivanov and Hamlet) featuring such players as Peter Sarsgaard (Hamlet), Maggie Gyllenhall and Ethan Hawke. Austin is the author of three plays (Orson's Shadow, Uncle Bob, Booth) all produced in New York, and, in the case of Uncle Bob and Orson's Shadow, internationally. He has most recently directed Luft Gangster for Nylon Fusion Theatre Company & Cloverleaf Collective, A Day at the Beach for the Mint Theatre Company, and A Taste of Honey for the Pearl Theatre. He teaches acting in New York at HB Studio, where he studied with Uta Hagen and Herbert Berghof. He also studied acting with Robert Lewis.

Barbara BleierMore on Barbara:

Barbara Bleier is a singer, actor and playwright who has appeared on stage, in film, and on TV, as well as in solo shows and revues in national and international cabaret. She played the mother of a psychopathic killer in the cult classic, Swoon, and appeared in the film This is Where I Leave You, with Jane Fonda and Tina Fey, and in They Came Together, with Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler. Her solo show, Who’s Your Mama? was selected for production in the NYC Women at Work Festival, and her two-person revues with Austin Pendleton, Late Nights in Smoky Bars (New York, Chicago and Philadelphia) and ‘Tis the Season to Be Morbid, received critical praise in the press. She has studied acting with Austin Pendleton, singing with Barbara Maier, and musical performance with the late Julie Wilson at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center.

Tuesday
May092017

Call Answered: Sam Pancake: "Gilmore Girls" + "Hot Sweet & Sticky"

Sam PancakeGrowing up, my favorite pancakes were silver dollar. I couldn't wait to drizzle that maple syrup on, and eat them up. When actor Sam Pancake called, my taste buds heightened answered! With fork and knife in hand, I cut into Sam revealing all that went into the NYC premiere of his hit show Hot Sweet & Sticky as well as his role on Netflix's Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life as Stars Hollow's only gay resident!

In Hot Sweet & Sticky, Sam Pancake portrays three different show-biz strivers: "Helluva Bottom Carter," a vivacious southern drag queen with an agenda; "Dame Peggy Wooten-Heifen-Smythe," a tipsy, aging Grande Dame of the British stage and screen; and "Fritzie Zimmer," the self-proclaimed "world's oldest-living openly-gay stand-up comedian/chorus boy." With this trio of divas, severe costume changes, stellar lip-syncing, stunning wiggery, "songs", bitch-fits and laughter are guaranteed. This hilarious, self-penned almost-solo show also features Steven Wishnoff on the piano.

Hot Sweet & Sticky will play The Laurie Beechman Theatre (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue, in the basement of the West Bank Cafe) May 19 & 20 at 7pm. Click here for tickets!

For more on Sam be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? My very first memory is of watching Mary Poppins in the theatre (IN RE-RELEASE!) at about two years old. My mother said they thought I'd fall asleep but I was standing up in my seat, riveted the whole time. That movie and Dame Julie first got me hooked, and later I was very inspired by so many of the funny ladies that came into their own in the 1970's: Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman, Eileen Brennan, Stockard Channing and of course, Laverne and Shirley!

2. What made now the right time to make your NYC debut with Sam Pancake: Hot Sweet & Sticky? It was all very serendipitous: I've been wanting to do a show there for years, and Chip Duckett, Spin Cycle's co-founder, was able to get me a weekend in May, which is when I always take a theatre trip to NYC anyway -- but this year I'll not just be viewing, I'll be performing. EEK!

3. In Hot Sweet & Sticky you portray three different show-biz strivers: "Helluva Bottom Carter," a vivacious southern drag queen with an agenda; "Dame Peggy Wooten-Heifen-Smythe," a tipsy, aging Grande Dame of the British stage and screen; and "Fritzie Zimmer," the self-proclaimed "world's oldest-living openly-gay stand-up comedian/chorus boy." How did you come up with each of these characters? What part of you does each one represent? "Helluva" came out of me this way: Since the early '90's, I've always been friends and colleagues with so many drag queens, and I've done drag and played a lot of ladies in many shows; not just in sketches and videos, but also as "Blair" in Facts of Life and "Sophia" in The Golden Girls in the LA live-stage versions of those sitcoms. As drag gets even bigger, thanks to RuPaul's Drag Race, I thought, "Ya know, I'm an actor - I can do that too! If I was just going to be a lip-syncing "beauty" drag queen, who would she be?" And that's how "Helluva" was born last year. She represents the sweet, sassy, put-upon, but bossy Southern boy in me.

"Dame Peggy" came out of my general Anglophilia and obsession with Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Judy Parfitt, Edith Evans, Joan Greenwood and other legendary British stage and screen icons. In 2014 I was doing a play-reading in a Noel Coward festival and I somehow couldn't NOT do the character as Maggie Smith. I thought -- "I gotta do something with this lady!" and "Dame Peggy" then sprang from my heated loins!

"Fritzie" I first did in a skit with my sketch group Margot's Bush in 2001. Then he was an old hoofer/showboy/entertainer/slut who had retired from showbiz to become the world's most inappropriate therapist. I dredged him back up for this show because I realized he had a LOT more to say. He's now the world's oldest living openly-gay stand-up comedian and performer, doing his own "one"-man show (accompanied on piano by his ex-husband "Giacomo," played by Steven Wishnoff). "Fritzie" is the old bitter yet hilarious show-biz queen in ME, I'm afraid, who LOVES being on stage and performing his guts out, but also feels like he's never gotten his due because he was born too soon, so he kinda has a love/hate relationship with his audience. (but I ONLY LOVE my audience!)

Top Row (left to right): Drew Droege, Jackie Beat, Bottom Row (left to right): Sam Pancake and Sherry Vine in "The Golden Girls" at The Cavern Club Celebrity Theater4. Let's play with Hot Sweet & Sticky for a moment. When have you been "Hot, Sweet, & Sticky" all at one time prior to this show? Oooooo honey -- ya know I'll never tell that one! I will say that, because of my unusual surname, I have gotten a few sexual offers in my day that involve butter and/or syrup. I'm not kidding.

5. The description of the show continues on with this trio of divas, severe costume changes, stellar lip-syncing, stunning wiggery, "songs", bitch-fits and laughter are guaranteed. So we are going to break some of this down. Between "Helluva Bottom Carter," "Dame Peggy Wooten-Heifen-Smythe," and "Fritzie Zimmer," who is the bigger diva? The biggest diva is definitely "Fritzie!!" He's the angriest by far.

Sam Pancake, Photo Credit: Darrin Noble6. What is the one song you kill every time you lip-sync it? "Wheels of A Dream" from Ragtime, the Brian Stokes-Mitchell and Audra McDonald version. I tear it up (I like to think!) and it tears me up every time -- I end up on my knees sobbing.

7. What has been your biggest bitch-fit? When have you laughed your hardest? I don't have bitch-fits professionally speaking, really, unless it's on-set in a work situation where I see other people getting treated unfairly or harmfully. I'm a much better bitch on behalf of others than myself. Personally though, I'M A NIGHTMARE.

8. I can't interview you and not talk about you Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life. For seven seasons you tried, waited, tried again, and waited some more to be on the first Gilmore Girls series. That never happened. Almost 10 years go by and then it happens, you find out that not only you are going to be on Gilmore Girls: A  Year In The Life, What went through your head when you found out you were going to not only be part of Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life, but the role of "Donald" was written explicitly for you? Well, it really wasn't that dramatic of a reveal. An appropriate role never came up during those seven years, which was fine -- "that's showbiz, kid" -- and I was plenty busy doing other shows. When talk of the revival started, I knew that Lauren had planted the seed with Amy of me perhaps playing a part, and as negotiations bubbled along, it gradually became clear it would be a reality. The fun discovery came at the table-reads, learning along with most of the other actors what fun stuff we'd get to play. And when I saw I would be in all the Stars Hollow musical scenes with Sutton Foster and Christian Borle (not to mention Carole King and Sally Struthers) my tiny mind exploded.

Sam Pancake at premiere of "Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life"9. What do you relate to most about "Donald"? What is one characteristic of his you are glad you don't possess? Other than him looking just like me, I don't think "Donald" and I have a whole lot in common! Lets see: we both enjoyed the musical (for different reasons) so I related to that. He enjoys kayaking, I do enjoy canoeing...but we definitely have very different tastes in clothing. You'll never catch me in pastels outside of wardrobe.

10. How did it feel to be the only gay in Stars Hollow? EMPOWERING! I do hope "Donald" has a husband or partner in the next one, though. I don't want him to be lonely.

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 stay in my spiritual practice and meditate every day, and I exercise in some capacity (hike, gym, walk) nearly every day. That's what keeps me on track, along with gratitude, gratitude and more gratitude.

Sam Pancake, Photo Credit: Matt GorrekMore on Sam:

Sam Pancake is an American actor best known for his lead roles on Lovespring International and Kitchen Confidential, as well as recurring roles on Gilmore Girls, Will & Grace, Arrested Development and Curb Your Enthusiasm. He has also made memorable appearances on a number of popular television shows including The Mick, Transparent, Wings, Friends, The King of Queens, Fat Actress, Parenthood, Major Crimes, Cougar Town, and Charmed. His film credits include, Legally Blonde 2, A Holiday Engagement, Ready? OK!, Straight-Jacket, Girls Will Be Girls (with Coco Peru and Varla Jean Merman) and Jackie Beat's Scream, Teen, Scream.

Monday
May082017

Call Answered: Conference Call: Chris Harder and David Drake: #BigBrightStar at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

Chris Harder and Director David DrakeBeing a gay male the world of go-go boys and adult films are somehow always around you, in chatter or viewing. I, personally, am not a fan of porn, but go-go boys are always a pleasure to watch.

Burlesque and adult gay film star Chris Harder first came onto my radar in 2013 when I saw Chris perform in The Robin Byrd Show at The Cutting Room. I remember being quite taken by Chris' performance. I spoke with Chris after that show and we were going to try to do an interview at some point, but our schedules did not gel.

Well, when I found out that Chris was presenting the world premiere of his one-man show, #BigBrightStar at The Laurie Beechman Theatre this spring, and that David Drake was directing,  I knew the stars were aligning. Quicker than a premature ejaculation, I called and both Chris and David answered! I'm thrilled that, like Batman, I get to slide down their poles, peel back the sheets and reveal all that Chris and David have to offer!

Using theatre, burlesque, and like, so many #instagood emojis, #BigBrightStar relives Harders' defining moments and illustrates the real-life people that have shaped his career. But as he delves further between the sheets, Harder may just discover that a life on camera is ironically, "harder" than he thought. Trust, you'll never tweet #OMFG the same way again.

#BigBrightStar will The Laurie Beechman Theatre (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue, in the basement of The West Bank Cafe) from May 27-June 15! Click here for tickets!

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

For more on David follow him on Facebook and Twitter!

Chris Harder, Photo Credit: David Ayllon1. This May/June, Chris, you wrote/are starring in and David, you are directing, #BigBrightStar, which relives the defining moments and illustrates the real-life people that have shaped Chris' career. First, off, how did the two of you come to work together on this project?

Chris Harder: It's funny because even though David and I have a lot of friends in common we had never actually met. I had just finished a private reading of #BigBrightStar a few months ago and was looking for a
director. I needed someone who not only felt comfortable with the subject matter but who also had a sense of humor and play that is so much apart of #BigBrightStar. David was at the top of several of my friends' lists and after a phone call with him, I felt like he was the perfect match for the show. And luckily he said yes!

David Drake: I’d seen Chris perform at the Slipper Room last year and was very impressed. So, when our mutual friend Lola Rocknrolla recommended me to Chris as a director for his show, I didn’t hesitate to jump right into the process. And since then we’ve been having a great time working together on the script and characters. He’s such a good writer! He really has a terrific sense of humor about himself and others, while also being very disciplined about keeping it all grounded in truth. I love that. Plus, I’m a laugh whore -- and Chris is just so damn funny!

David Drake2. As the director of this piece, what is the most challenging part for you to convey? How do you express some of the more intimate moments of Chris' life?

David Drake: Even though all of it comes from truth, Chris is a wonderful satirist. So, the challenge for me in directing #BigBrightStar has been in finding the line we walk between the burlequse-ery of the characters
and their heart-beating reality. There’s a constant duality at play here, just like Chris himself -- he’s both a serious theater artist and a joyous exhibitionist. That he can act, write, and strip makes Chris a daunting showbiz triple-threat.

3. What do you relate to most about Chris' story?

David Drake: The courageous gayness of his childhood, I think. We both had an early awakening to the charms of Barbie dolls. But I also identify with his constant struggle of maintaining a successful showbiz career, and the endless amount of work and energy one must pour into that lifestyle -- if only, in the end of the day, to entertain folks. Which, of course, can mean everything to a performer.

Chris Harder, Photo Credit: David Ayllon4. You are a burlesque dancer and a gay adult film star. How did you decide to get into this line of work? I mean, with your body, I can see why you would want to show it off, but what was it about both industries that appealed to you?

Chris Harder: It was an accident! At least burlesque was an accident. I moved to NYC from North Dakota to be a "serious" actor and I had no idea that any of these nightlife scenes existed. I was very "Johnny off the farm" but through a series of events involving me working as a children's theatre actor and then losing my job as a waiter, I found myself dancing at the Cock and from there I met all these wonderful nightlife
performers and creators. What I love about burlesque and also writing this show is that YOU are the producer of your work. That's something that wasn't emphasized to me in my "traditional" acting training.

And even though I was loving working in burlesque, I also was barely making any money at the time. Porn opened me up to even more exposure (sorry, I love puns). Plus, I felt comfortable enough in my body and
there is a quality of being seen in porn that is similar but still very different from being seen onstage. It's a different arousal for me. Also, the fact that you mention my body in your question also reminds me that I was genuinely so surprised after moving to New York that I could utilize my body in those ways, whether it was burlesque or go-go dancing or porn. I was just never "seen" like that growing up. I was always "sweet," or "nerdy" or "that weird theatre guy." The idea that I could be "the sexy guy" and make money for it, blew my mind. For starters.

5. I bet over the course of your career a lot of guys have wanted to play with you. So, let's give them that opportunity. The show's description has you peeling back the sheets to reveal even more than the defining moments you speak of. What does it take to get you into bed for an evening of unbridled passion and what happens from there? How does one win your heart should it be available?

Chris Harder: Well it's kind of like RuPaul's Drag Race where I make everyone do a catwalk and then play "Snatch Game" and the best Carol Channing gets to top me. But seriously folks...just like my scenes, I really am attracted to a variety of guys, ages, even hairiness. The "man-bun" really stretches my limits, but, I'm flexible. Ultimately I want to be with a guy who can make me laugh, who is passionate about his own work
and has his own purpose, and who's weirdo qualities are compatible with mine.

Chris Harder, Photo Credit: John-Paul Bichard6. As you put this show together, what did you cum to learn about yourself that you didn't know going through it?

Chris Harder: I had a moment writing the show where I was tallying up past scenes and partners and studios I've worked with and I suddenly thought, "Wow, I really have done a lot." I try to be objective about what "stardom" means both in my life and in #BigBrightStar, but that realization gave me a sudden lift in my confidence because whether I'm performing on stage or in front of a camera, there's always a part of me that thinks, "No one is going to like me." It's a very "They're all going to laugh at you" kind of mentality. I think most, if not all, performers deal with some version of that voice in their own work. But writing this show was a reminder to me that, "Yeah, I actually did do all that...plus all those guys."

7. What was the "hardest" moment of the show to write? What was the most fun?

Chris Harder: The hardest moment of the show is and has been writing about what I learned from the adult industry that 1) doesn't make me sound like a victim or criminalize the industry and 2) still allows for
vulnerability and perspective to shine through at the show's conclusion. I am truly #grateful for my experiences in porn, even if they weren't always what I thought or hoped they'd be.

The most FUN parts though are creating these broad characters from my imagination and my past that reflect different perspectives about gay porn. Without giving away too much, I may or may not play (a version of) my mom, my childhood pastor, and a slightly demented, beloved American cartoon.

Chris Harder, Photo Credit: Adrian Buckmaster8. As a burlesque dancer and gay adult film star, you must meet a lot of people. What is the most heartwarming thing someone has told you? What is the creepiest fan encounter to happen?

Chris Harder: One of the nicest, most "real" moments I had with a fan was a person who told me that my films gave them much needed relief after dealing with some major family issues, including having to put their mother in a nursing home. I am very close with my mom and to have all those worlds kind of collide in that conversation was really mind blowing. Porn can be sexy and kinky but it can also just make the viewer feel
"good." And sometimes that is enough.

I haven't had a superior creepy moment, BUT, I was getting checked into a flight once and the steward double and then triple checked my boarding pass. Finally he blurted out, "It really is you! And you really are Harder!" I still didn't get an upgrade.

9. Since the show is called #BIGBRIGHTSTAR, what do you consider to be your "Big Bright Star" that keeps you going towards what you want?

Chris Harder: No matter what stage (or bed) I'm on, I ultimately consider myself an entertainer. I think what helps get me out of bed each day especially now is knowing that I get to create work on my own terms that can entertain but also elevate. That's my purpose with #BigBrightStar.

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?

Chris Harder: Here's a "Top-Secret-Porn-Star Tip": practice patience. Both with yourself and others. One of the ideas I explore in #BigBrightStar is always running, always pushing to get what you want. But "good" work doesn't happen overnight, and even porn scenes can take a while to reach their climax. Sometimes you just need to take a moment and breath. And, you know, wait for your scene partner to get his erection back.

David Drake: Since mental fitness is of importance to me as well as physical fitness, I would pledge to doing more meditation. Five minutes a day can make a world of difference in my outlook for the day. With the political nightmare our country's in right now, I need that center more than ever. We all do.

Chris HarderMore on Chris:

Chris Harder is a NYC burlesque performer, writer, and yes, an "adult film star." Chris has traveled the US and the world with his beefcake burlesque shows, including headlining the 2017 Helsinki Burlesque Festival as well as performances in New Zealand, Vienna, London and...Fargo, North Dakota. Chris is also the writer and creator of the Nasty Drew and That Harder Boy Series, a burlesque/drag parody of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys novels running at The Laurie Beechman Theatre.

David Drake, Photo Credit: Jose VillarrubiaMore on David:

David Drake is an actor-writer-director best known as the Obie Award-winning playwright/performer of The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me, one of the longest-running solo shows in Off-Broadway history. David also starred in Vampire Lesbians of Sodom (succeeding Charles Busch for 856 performances), originated the role of "Miss Deep South" in the hit Pageant, as well as co-starring with Jim J. Bullock in End of the World Party at the 47th St. Theater, and with B.D. Wong in A Language of Their Own at The Public. His TV credits: The Good Wife, Law & Order, The Beat, NY Undercover. Feature films: Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia, as well as It’s Pat, Naked in New York, David Searching, Bear City, Longtime Companion, and his own adaptation of The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me. As a stage director, David has twice been a Directing Fellow at the Sundance Theater Lab, and has directed new works at The Public’s Under the Radar Festival, Joe’s Pub, and Rattlestick, among others. Most notably, David directed the 2009 world premiere of Taylor Mac’s The Lily’s Revenge, which made the "10 Best Lists" in The New Yorker, NY Post, The Advocate, Paper Magazine, and won a 2010 Village Voice Obie Award.

Sunday
May072017

Call Answered: Sherri Saum: "The Fosters" on Freeform TV

Sherri Saum, Photo Credit: "The Fosters"/Freeform TVFrom The Brady Bunch to Diff'rent Strokes to This Is Us, family TV shows are some of my favorite ones to watch. I love the wide range of family dynamics each show offers. I always see some aspect of my own family in these shows, but am also opened to the different kinds of families out there.

One series I have been enjoying is The Fosters on Freeform TV. I love the show's heart and soul. The realness of the storylines, the braveness of the actors bringing these characters to life, and most of all, the way it pulls on my heartstrings. I was over the moon when I called and Sherri Saum answered. It was great learning what Sherri loves about the show, how it relates to her own life, and what roles she didn't book as well as one role that made her jump up and down with excitement! The Fosters 5th Season begins July 11 on Freeform TV!

Follow Sherri on Twitter and Instagram!

For more on The Fosters visit http://freeform.go.com/shows/the-fosters and follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. For the past 5 seasons, you have been starring in the original TV series The Fosters, which is about teenager, "Callie Jacob," who is placed in a foster home with a lesbian couple (your character "Lena" being one of the lesbians) and their blend of biological, adoptive and foster children. What initially made you want to be part of this show? What has kept you interested in staying on the show after 5 seasons? I was so impressed with the authenticity and fearlessness of the pilot. And the quality of storytelling has remained incredibly strong after all these seasons.

2. What did you relate to most about "Lena" during Season 1 and what do relate more to about her now, being in Season 5? I relate to "Lena's" compassion - I love that I get to be a warm embrace - and I hope the audience feels it as well.

Sherri Saum as "Lena" on "The Fosters", Photo Credit: "The Fosters"/Freeform TV3. What have you learned about family from starring on this show? I've learned about the power of communication - I come from a very loving supporting family, but talking about the nitty gritty was never one of our strengths. I'm going to try to bring what The Fosters has taught me to my own kids.

4. What has been the most challenging storyline for you to learn? Which one has been the most fun that you wish didn't have to end? Dealing with "Lena" losing her child was excruciating - especially since I was actually pregnant in real life as we were filming. I loved the times we welcomed Rosie O'Donnell's character onto the show - she's such a talent.

Sherri Saum as "Lena" on "The Fosters"5.  As a mother, wife, and leading actress in a hit show, how do you balance work/life? I balance the way so many other millions of moms do. Sometimes great, sometimes not so great. I always wonder why men never get asked that question! It should be just as much of a juggle and concern for them.

6. How did having kids change you as person? I just feel things a lot deeper. I can't read stories or see movies where a child gets hurt. It's an overwhelming feeling of worry sometimes. But I also am called to be the best version of myself more than I have ever been. I want them to be proud of me.

Teri Polo and Sherri Saum behind-the-scenes, Photo via "The Fosters" co-creator Bradley Bredeweg7. 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? My procrastination

8. You've had quite a career in television, starring in several multi-season TV shows as well as guest stints on many others. What do you like about guest-starring on a show over being a series regular? I enjoy guest starring because it's like being invited over for a play date with all new toys in the sandbox. But there really is nothing like the security and family feeling you get when you work as a series regular. Especially when you love your cast mates and crew as much as I do!

9. What is one role that you really wanted to get, but didn't? Which role did you book that made you jump up and down and scream out loud? I remember auditioning for Avatar in the role that went to Zoe Saldana. That one stung. I jumped up and down for an HBO series I booked called In Treatment with Gabriel Byrne.

Sherri SaumMore on Sherri:

Prior to The Fosters, Sherri starred on the Golden Globe nominated HBO series In Treatment, spent two seasons on the Emmy nominated series Rescue Me starring Denis Leary and starred on Showtime’s critically acclaimed series Beggars and Choosers as well as The John Cassevettes Award nominated Anne B. Real. Memorable guest starring roles include RevengeUnforgettableArmy WivesBody of ProofCSI: NYLaw and Order: Criminal IntentLaw and Order: Trial By Jury and Charmed among others. Film Roles include Ten Stories Tall opposite Josh Hamilton and Relative Stranger starring Eric La Salle and Cicely Tyson.

Sherri was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio and attended Ohio State University and NYU pursuing a degree in psychology. While in school, Sherri landed her first lead role on Aaron Spelling’s serial, Sunset Beach for which she earned a daytime Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Younger Actress.