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"Call Me Adam" chats with...

 

 

Tuesday
Feb282017

Call Answered: Matt Cox: PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic

Matt CoxI've never read nore seen a Harry Potter book/movie, but I'm a big fan of magic/fantasy and am very intrigued by the Harry Potter phenomenon we live among. When I heard about Matt Cox's show PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic (which has recently been extended until June), I cast a spell for him to answer my call and voila, this interview ensued.

Some people are born with the capacity to do great things. Some people change the world. Some people rise from humble beginnings to defeat the forces of darkness in the face of insurmountable odds. PUFFS or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic is the story of the people who sit in class next to those people.

PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic plays in the heart of NYC's theatre district at the Elektra Theater (300 West 43rd Street) every Friday (7:30pm), Saturday (3pm & 9:30pm) & Sunday (3pm) through June 25th! Click here for tickets!

For more on Matt be sure to visit http://www.mattcoxland.com and follow him on Twitter!

For more on PUFFS visit http://www.puffstheplay.com and follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. Your show, PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic moved to the Elektra Theater after a triumphant, sold-out run at The PIT last summer. What excites you most about moving this show to the Elektra Theatre, located in the heart of midtown? So, a bit further removed from that now, but the most exciting thing that has certainly happened is that our reach to new audience members has been much larger. Not only just due to more seating, but with a midtown location, we're a bit more likely to be stumbled upon which is great!

Along with that, we have been able to dedicate a bit more of the space to the show, including some decor in the theater itself (we've got some floating candles!) and the lobby, which we've decorated with various posters for other wizard themed shows.

2. What did you learn from the run at The PIT that helped inform this bigger run? I will be forever grateful for the run of the show at The PIT, and the many things we learned. We also did a workshop at the University of Florida back in May of 2016, as well, which was very helpful to the story. At the PIT, I was able to make changes from show to show just to try new ideas out/figure out better ways of doing what we were already doing.

It left us with a script with humor that had so many different versions tried that I believe we have the best possible versions in the current iteration. And it was just a lot of fun, and has kept the show fun.

Puffs also has a certain playfulness when it is at it's best, which was definitely something that was developed running at the PIT.

Cast of PUFFS, Photo Credit: Hunter CanningCast of PUFFS, Photo Credit: Hunter Canning3. PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic, is alternate narrative of the Harry Potter series so to speak. What was it about the Harry Potter that made you go, "I want to write my own version of this series?" What did you identify most with about the Harry Potter saga? I was of the lucky age of people that ended up growing up alongside the books, and alongside Harry. So, the characters continued to stay relevant throughout my adolescence. It was also just very influential to my developing love of storytelling.

The idea for Puffs manifested while I was on a train, and it was more of a: Wow! It really would have been terrible to be another kid at that school during those seven years. Then it was a quick skip to the idea that the story would focus on "The Puffs," who pop culture has always deemed the not so great house. (Less so in recent years, which is great!) I had to look it up immediately, and was surprised no one had done it, and figured I should go ahead and do it.

4. When did you become interested in magic? What was it about magic that drew you in? I have always been a fan of Fantasy books, movies, and whatnot, so that kind of magic has always been very interesting/magical to me. I don't have a particularly deep interest in magic-magic but if someone is very good at it, then I am certainly impressed.

Cast of PUFFS, Photo Credit: Hunter CanningCast of PUFFS, Photo Credit: Hunter Canning5. In PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic, "some people are born with the capacity to do great things. Some people change the world. Some people rise from humble beginnings to defeat the forces of darkness in the face of insurmountable odds. PUFFS is the story of the people who sit in class next to those people." If you could name people or events in your life that describe each of these scenarios, who or what would be assigned to each phrase? The idea is that that pretty much applies to almost everybody. The crux of the play is that ultimately, most of us don't get to be the "Harry's" in life. But there's something to celebrate about the heroic victories of normal existence. So we are all the people who sit next to those people in the grand scheme of it.

6. As the writer of this show, did you grow up feeling as though you were living in other people's shadows never shining for yourself? If so, when did you shine your own spotlight? I definitely put some of my own school experiences into the show, as I was definitely not one of the "cool" kids growing up. Not sure when that stopped, I think I just stopped necessarily caring too much about it, and focused more on the things I enjoyed.

Cast of PUFFS, Photo Credit: Hunter CanningCast of PUFFS, Photo Credit: Hunter Canning7. Which Harry Potter character best describes you? I believe we all should strive for the wisdom of "The Headmaster." So I'd hope him. "Ms. Granger" is another good one.

8. If you could cast a spell today, what spell would you conjure up? Like most people, I can only assume, it would be the spell that turns stairs into slides.

9. Aside from Harry Potter characters, who are some of your other favorite magicians from stage or screen? I'll always be a Gandalf man. (Not a conjurer of cheap tricks).

Matt CoxMore on Matt:

Matt Cox is a New York City-based playwright, actor, improviser, sometimes comic book retail associate, and probably/maybe one day, novelist. His plays include Puffs Or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years At A Certain School Of Magic & MagicAdult Mutant Ninja TurtlesThe Madness of Captain Dread, and the 3-part epic Kapow-i GoGo. He authored the radio play El Hombre Bovino for WNYC’s The Greene Space, and contributed to The Flea Theater’s The Mysteries. His work has been produced at The Peoples Improv Theater, The Tank, and The Flea Theater, among other places. His acting credits include: Kapow-i GoGo (The PIT), Blogologues (Lively Productions), The Mysteries (Flea Theater), Sarah Flood in Salem Mass (Flea Theater), and Restoration Comedy (Flea Theater). Matt has studied at The Upright Citizens Brigade, The Stella Adler Studio of Acting, and Tarleton State University.

Saturday
Feb252017

Call Answered: Lexie Braverman: Dark Vanilla Jungle

Lexie Braverman, Photo Credit: Leslie Hassler PhotographyA few years ago I interviewed Laura Abbott about her play I Am Not I, chronicling the story of a girl struggling with gender dysphoria. When Laura gushed about a show her friend Lexie Braverman was starring in called Dark Vanilla Jungle, my ears perked up and I knew I wanted to delve deep into this story.

Dark Vanilla Jungle is about a young girl just trying to stay alive amidst an act of violence that alters her existence and everyone she touches. "Andrea's" yearning for love and a family takes her to the darkest of places and she just wants to tell you the truth, will you listen?

Presented by Brave Artist CollectiveDark Vanilla Jungle will play a limited run at The Flamboyan Theater at The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center (107 Suffolk Street) from March 14-26. Click here for tickets!

For more on Lexie be sure to visit http://lexiebraverman.com and follow her on Twitter!

For more on Dark Vanilla Jungle visit http://darkvanillajunglenyc.com and follow them on Facebook!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? My mom. She introduced me to Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Spencer Tracey, Vivian Leigh, and Maximillion Schell, Hamlet, Ordinary People, you name it. I know I love the arts in every way because of her. Also -- I auditioned to be the "Cowardly Lion" in the Wizard of Oz and that was my first role when I was 11. I have wanted to act ever since. My dad also bought me a tool belt when I was about four, and I put on a show fixing everything in the kitchen and my dad taped it all. I felt completely myself and comfortable in front of other people, way more than I did being alone.

2. This March you will be making your NYC debut in Dark Vanilla Jungle, a show you starred in this past summer in London's Camden Fringe Festival. What excites you most about making your NYC acting debut in this show? I am the most excited to be in NYC because it is exactly that, New York City. Also I'll be able to reach a wider audience. This play is something special. It's raw, gruesome, beautiful, and tragic. I think more people should get to see it, especially with a fear-mongering sexual predator in the White House.

3. Why did you want to be in this show initially? This play is something people are afraid to talk about or see. I wanted to show people that "Andrea's" story needs to be told and not silenced. Also, I had never been in a one-woman show before and I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to challenge myself mentally and physically, which this play does, it's like running a damn marathon.

Lexie Braverman in "Dark Vanilla Jungle", Photo Credit: Tiphaine Betscher4. What do you relate to most about your character "Andrea" and what is one characteristic of hers you are glad you don't possess? I relate mostly to her child-like innocence and naivety. She reverts back to being this kid because it's the only time in her life she really felt like she knew who she was. It's easier then to let other people take care of you, and you over-trust unskilled people to watch out for you. One characteristic of hers that I do not have is "Andrea's" suffering. I thank God every day I do not have that in my life. It's become a part of her and you can see how it leaches on to every aspect of her life.

5. Since this summer's run, do you feel your portrayal of "Andrea" will be altered in anyway, now that you have lived in her skin for a time? You know what I do. I don't think it'll be drastically different but I definitely think it will be more at ease and I'll be more comfortable. That piece stays with you, but it's in a drawer you only open when you need it. It's very tough and intense, so you need to be careful or you'll be overwhelmed. I'll be working with a new director who is brilliant and beautiful. Sybille Bruun, and I cannot wait to see what she helps us find.

Lexie Braverman in "Dark Vanilla Jungle", Photo Credit: Tiphaine Betscher6. Dark Vanilla Jungle is about a young girl just trying to stay alive amidst an act of violence that alters her existence and everyone she touches. What is an event in your life that altered your existence? An event that altered my existence was finding out about my parents' divorce from my sister over a Skype conversation (because I was in grad school in England at the time). She was so far away, and so clear on my computer screen at the same time. It was a nightmare and completely out of the blue. I remember going right to the window because I couldn't breathe and I leaned out and just tried to suck in as much air as I could. A lot changed for me after that.

7. In Dark Vanilla Jungle Andreas yearning for love and a family takes her to the darkest of places and she just wants to tell you the truth. What is the darkest place you've ever gone to and how did you get back to the light? Yikes! Darkest I've ever personally gone to? I'm afraid I can't answer that one. Unless I can pay you by the hour, I'm afraid that answer is for my therapist and her therapy dog. I can say that I've played characters that torture, kill, and poison for love and I've found good reasons (as those characters) to do all those things. When I'm on stage, everything is justified for me, no matter what. It's not that simple in real life.

Lexie Braverman, Photo Credit: Leslie Hassler Photography8. Vanilla is my favorite flavor in the world. Vanilla coke, vanilla coffee, vanilla tea, vanilla anything is just delicious. What is your favorite thing to add vanilla too? YUM Cinnamon. I love mixing vanilla with cinnamon specifically in coffee. Heaven for sure. One of my favorite spices and also my best friend's name.

9. Dark Vanilla Jungle is being presented by the Brave Artist Collective, which you helped co-found. What do you get from running this theatre company as opposed to just being an actress? It's nuts. I never thought I would be on that side of the coin. We are just getting started, this being our NYC debut season of Dark Vanilla and my dear co-founder's play Junebug (also running at the Flamboyan--shameless plug!). It is insanely hard and my production hat, although brand new, is already taking a bit of a beating. There is so much responsibility and you feel like everything that goes wrong is your fault. What I've realized though is that I cannot do this alone. As an actor and now a co-founder, I must surround myself with people that I love and support and they love and support me right back. Being an actress is hard enough, why do I do this to myself? Same reason I get rejected all the time, because I can't get enough.

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? That's so awesome! I want to improve my self-talk one percent better every day. I'm reading Amy Poehler's book Yes Please currently and I already adore it. She talks about the little demon voice inside of you that says you're not thin enough, or you're too Jewish, or your hair would look way better straight, or you're not funny enough and that you will always have that voice but you have to work on talking to it, calming it down, and controlling it. My self-talk, my own head, I would love to improve that each day. Once I stop caring what other people think I'll be able to conquer the world. First I have to destroy this little demon though, then I'll work on everyone else.

Lexie Braverman, Photo Credit: Samantha Leonetti PhotographyMore on Lexie:

Lexie Braverman is a critically acclaimed actor born and raised in Philadelphia. Classically trained in Shakespeare, she has performed theatrically everywhere from London to Los Angeles. She is a graduate of Ithaca College and the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Her first role was the "Cowardly Lion" at day-camp in the Wizard of Oz when she was 11, because her hair was so big and her voice was so low. She went on to graduate from Ithaca College, performing in fantastically reviewed Underground productions like Boys’ Life by Harold Korder and Fat Pig by Neil Lebute. After graduating with her BA, she found her love of Shakespeare and Chekhov when she attended the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School’s MA program overseas. After graduating from the Old Vic, she was lucky enough to work with the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater, the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival, and the American Shakespeare Center. She recently finished the 2016 Actors’ Renaissance season at the American Shakespeare Center performing five plays, in three months, with 12 actors, and no directors. That season changed her life.

In her off time Lexie volunteers at dog shelters and helps socialize them. She is also a movie quoting expert, no one can out quote her.

Saturday
Feb252017

Call Answered: Tulis McCall: Are You Serious? A Woman of a Certain Age Inquiries at Cornelia Street Cafe

Tulis McCall, Photo Credit: Flash RosenbergI first met Tulis McCall when we both joined a theatre blogger group. I knew Tulis loved theatre and reviewed shows and that's all I knew. Fast forward to 2017 when I'm asked to come see a one-woman show called Are You Serious? A Woman of a Certain Age Inquiries. Then I'm told that one-woman show is by Tulis McCall and I go, I love Tulis, sign me up!

One Sunday afternoon, I attended Tulis' show and I was blown away by it. Are You Serious? is a show everyone can relate to because we are all aging. There was not one part of Tulis' show that I didn't identify with. Tulis is engaging, enthusiastic, and knows how to draw an audience in. She brought up several poignant points about living, mortality, fear, goals, and accepting yourself for who you are. This truly is one show you don't want to miss.

Are You Serious? A Woman of a Certain Age Inquiries plays every Sunday at 3pm at the Cornelia Street Cafe, being extended through March 26! Click here for tickets!

For more on Tulis and Are You Serious? be sure to visit http://areyouserious.nyc and follow the show on Facebook and Twitter!

For more on Cornelia Street Cafe visit http://www.corneliastreetcafe.com and follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? Oh good grief - It was always something that was comfortable and easy for me. I liked being on a stage and telling a story. Even in grammar school. To deliver a story and watch it land is a bit of magic, and to be on the initiating side is very powerful. You have to calculate and execute at the same time, and eventually you have to let go of the steering wheel for it to all work.

2. Your show, Are You Serious? is currently enjoying an extended run at Cornelia Street Café, after winning the 2015 United Solo Award for "Best Stand-Up" along with rave reviews. What made you want to create this show? I suppose it harkens back to "write what you know." I have become a "Woman of a Certain Age" and was surprised to have arrived at this juncture. When I looked around I saw not only no one talking about it unless it's as a clinical study - I saw no one who represented me. Not in the movies, onstage, nowhere. We are all over the streets here in Manhattan, but we are not represented in any artistic venue - unless of course you are an icon like the various Dames who keep working or the occassional appearance of a star like Glenn Close. But these are few and far between. I decided to write about how I was feeling, what I was thinking and observing, and see if anyone responded. They have.

Tulis McCall in "Are You Serious?", Photo Credit: Terri Mintz3. Are You Serious? is your story about becoming a WCA (Woman of a Certain Age). What is it like to talk to the audience after the show? What do they relate to most? What has someone told you that made you change something in the show? What I have heard mostly is people, women AND men, say "I am a WCA too. I relate to everything you are saying." The other conversations are with people whose opinion I seek out and we have a conversation around where they were engaged and where they were disconnected from the piece. These are great conversations because as a performer you don't "see" what the audience sees. Just as they don't see from your vantage point.

4. In the show, you say how as a child, you would say, I'm 3, I'm 4, I'm 5, etc, but then you start to hit milestones. I hit 30, I hit 40, I hit 50. Then it becomes I reached 60, I reached 70, etc. At what age did say to yourself, I'm a WCA? After you admitted that to yourself, what was your next thought?  Well, getting my Medicare Card was an eye-opener. I remember showing it to people, and my peers or those older than I responded with, "Congratulations." And people younger than I, and often by not that much, said, "What's that?" As to the "next thought" - there wasn't one. Just carry on. Those next thoughts occur gradually. Reflection. Goal setting. Reality checks. Dismissing of the naysayers in your head and externally. All sorts.

Tulis McCall in "Are You Serious?", Photo Credit: Terri Mintz5. You also talk about how men are considered to always be in their prime, but women of a certain age are considered past their prime. You could run circles around most men with all you have going on. How do you keep your youthful outlook about yourself? I have a very low threshold for boredom. That's why I live in NYC. I remember back in the day Johnny Carson complimented Jane Fonda for how she looked - she was 50 and back then that was old. Her response was, "This is how 50 should look." So I don't think of it as a "youthful outlook" because that belies my age - which is at the center of this whole conversation. The idea of old is slow, withdrawn, frail. In other words, feeble. Time to jettison that and let us all wear our age like a many colored cloak and see what hapens.

6. I love how you talk about the way your bullshit meter changes as you get older. When did you say to yourself, I'm old enough not to have to tolerate anyone's bullshit anymore? What was the most recent bullshit you didn't put up with? If I am in a group of people and someone refers to us as guys, including people IN the group, I correct them. To refer to women as GUYS makes us invisible. People say, "Oh it is just a saying. It doesn't mean anything." And I say if it doesn't mean anything why are you wasting your breath saying it? Call us folks or people or come up with something else. I will also lean into a conversation to tell someone how many times they just used the word "like." It makes them sound so stupid, the way that smoking cigarettes makes people look stupid.

Tulis McCall in "Are You Serious?"7. You also mention how as you age, you do things you may never have done before. What are some things you've done at this stage of your life, you never thought you would be doing? I never planned for the future, really. So whatever it is I am doing is usually a surprise tome. I follow my nose from one path to the next. I never thought I would be reviewing for the theatre (www.thefrontrowcenter.com). I never imagined I would produce a monologue evening once a month at the Cornelia Street Cafe (www.monologuesandmadness.com). I never thought I would be an award winning performer at United Solo Festival (2015 Best story telling script and 2016 Best Stand-Up Comedy). In 2001 I was living out in L.A. and after 9/11 I knew I had to move back. No one thought I could pull it off, move back, find a job and an apartment. Luckily I never asked anyone what they thought about it and only discovered their opinion after the fact.

8. There is a great scene where you talk about regret and the doubts that fill your head. We all have those voices. How do you keep those voices at bay instead of allowing them to flood your mind? Like I say in the show you have to get a little crazy - well craziER than the negative voices. And this is something you learn over time because eventually, if you are honest, you get bored with whining about all the bad shit that is affecting your First World Life. I am in no way Pollyanna and perky people, frankly, give me a PIA. Instead I have figured out a way to grab these voices and shake them till they are silly. You do have to give them some attention because they, like our president, are narcicistic and need attention. If you just ignore them they fester. There is a fine line between acknowledging them and giving them power - you have to strategize, get out ahead of them, just like Congress has to do as soon as it pulls it's collective head out of its own butt. The way that people are coming together to demand town hall meetings - that is what we have to do within us.

Tulis McCall9. When you become a woman of a certain age, you get to see all the gifts you've given yourself. What are the top five gifts you've given yourself? Appreciation for my fantastic sense of humor and my point of view. Quiet time and Meditation experiments. Two women's groups with whom I meet regularly. Hope. Writing.

10. What do you think is next for Tulis McCall? I am already thinking about the next incarnation for this show. It will be called All The Queen's Horses.

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? Oh yeah - my fitness. I have been carrying extra weight around for awhile and I KNOW it is a protective coating. So I am using one of my women's groups to be accountable using Weight Watchers which works for me because it is all about numbers. I was always terrific in math.

THANK YOU ADAM FOR THESE GREAT QUESTIONS.

Tulis McCall, Photo Credit: Flash RosenbergMore on Tulis:

Tulis McCall is an actor, writer, producer and performer. Her first one woman show, What Everywoman Knows, was produced at the Public Theater by Michael Moriarty and the Potters Field Theatre Company, in Los Angeles by Dan Lauria, and toured nationally. Running With Scissors, directed by Philip Proctor of The Firesign Theatre, was produced in Los Angeles. She is the recipient of the 2016 Best Standup Award from UNITED SOLO™ for Are You Serious? and the 2015 Best Storytelling Script Award from UNITED SOLO™ for her show All Aboard! Since 2007, she has hosted Monologues and Madness, an evening of original work read by 12-15 actors, each month at the Cornelia Street Café in Greenwich Village. Tulis is the creator and editor of the theatre review site www.thefrontrowcenter.com that features 20 writers and covers over 500 shows per year.

Friday
Feb242017

Call Answered: John Pollono: This Is Us, Lost Girls, Stronger

John PollonoThis year there are three words that easily grab my attention: This Is Us. When I received an e-mail with the subject line "Interview with NBC This Is Us actor" I had already decided I would interview whomever the e-mail was about. When I found out it was actor/playwright, John Pollono, who's show Small Engine Repair got rave reviews not only from critics, but from lots of people I knew, I was even more excited!

John's new show Lost Girls, a hard-hitting drama about three generations of women struggling to rise above their limited prospects, in a world indifferent to their struggles, to prevent history from repeating itself, is currently playing at Theatre Exile's Stuido X in Philadelphia, PA (1340 S. 13th Street (13th & Reed Street) through March 12. Click here for tickets!

For more on John follow him on Twitter @JPollono!

For more on Theatre Exile visit http://www.theatreexile.org and follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a playwright/actor? Reading plays. I didn't grow up going to the theater, the first play I was in, was only the third play I'd "seen." But I was in an acting class when I was in my mid-twenties and we did scenes from plays and it was like discovering a whole new world. I dove in deep, discovered my voice as a writer reading and writing plays.

2. What made you want to write Lost Girls? After SMALL ENGINE REPAIR, which was male-driven, I wanted to explore the same themes from a female perspective. I knew the characters so intimately, drawing them from real life people I grew up with, that they came to life in my head and I knew they had beautiful things to say.

3. Lost Girls is the story of three generations of women who struggle to rise above their limited prospects, in a world indifferent to their struggles, to prevent history from repeating itself. What are some struggles you've had to rise above? My biggest struggle was having the courage to do what I wanted to do with my life. I didn't grow up in a very artistic community and I was terrified to admit that I wanted to be an artist. I had to overcome that fear and learn how to accept rejection and really put myself and my writing out there.

4. The story seems to go in line with a quote one of my spin instructors, David Held, told me that has stuck with me since I heard it. "You can't move forward without rewriting the past." What is something you keep doing over and over again that you feel maybe preventing you from moving forward in some aspect of your life? I fight the voice in my head that tells me I suck, that I shouldn't be working so hard at this point to make shit work. But the best work comes out of doubt and struggle and fighting to make it work. It's a process...I always want to stick the landing and be brilliant my first draft. To wow with as little effort as possible. But it's the work that makes the difference.

5. Lost Girls also explores this families strengths, scars and flaws as they battle teenage pregnancy, bad relationships, alcoholism, and making ends meet. What is your greatest strength? What is your biggest battle scar? What are some of your flaws? I think one of my greatest strengths is my willingness to collaborate with people I trust. My favorite part of the process is listening to actors and directors and producers who push me to be better. My biggest battle scar was, early in my career, working with people who were toxic but confident because I thought I needed their confidence in order to do what I wanted to do. My flaws are sometimes to want to push away from the desk and say "fuck it" I'll write something else because I let the negative voice in my head take over. But it's sticking with it in the darkest times that leads to deeper work.

6. Piggybacking on this question, how did you make ends meet prior to your writing/acting taking off? I've had hundreds of jobs. I had a landscaping company through high school and college, then worked construction, was a mover, installed irrigation systems, worked at a butcher, then was in a mailroom, a PR assistant, then a PR agency Supervisor working on video games...all to pay the bills while I wrote and auditioned. Been only four years that I've been able to make a living doing what I want.

7. Director Joe Canuso, has said he wants audiences to leave Lost Girls with a sense of hope. In these trying times we are living in, how do you continue to find hope? My family, having kids and seeing how smart they are and good they are. How they are going to do better than my generation did...I hope. I also have a very diverse group of friends and they really open my eyes to so much. It's very bleak out there right now, so much division and hate. And there's a shitload of work to do in terms of really listening to each other and realizing that there are a lot of people in this country who aren't treated fairly. And they need to be heard.

8. You have so much going on these days, from Lost Girls to the spring release of your film Stronger, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, about the Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman's story, plus you are developing a new half-hour dark comedy My First Black Friend, created with playwright Kemp Powers, fro Color Force & FX Network. How do you stay grounded when having so many projects going on at one time could make someone else insane? I struggle with time management. To me, it's about having a routine and putting in the hours. Never enough time, but if I focus on giving myself a schedule then I'm usually okay.

9. What made you want to tell Jeff Bauman's story? Why did you have to write Stronger? I just connected with his story immediately, and I was raised about half hour from where Jeff grew up so we have a lot in common. I found the story to be so moving yet very raw and gritty...sort of my sweet spot. And I spent a lot of time with Jeff and Erin and their family and fell in love with them, flaws and all, and wanted to do them justice.

10. What can you tell us about your developing series My First Black Friend? Working on this project with one of my closest friends has been a joy. It deals with some really hard truths and has opened my eyes to a lot I never thought of. Not sure what's going to happen with it, but I already consider it a success since I've had such a profound experience developing it.

11. You were also on NBC's hit show This Is Us. What can you share about your time on the show? Amazing show, with one of the coolest cast and crews and writers I've ever worked with. They pull a lot from theater crowd and it really feels that way. The actors are top notch. Especially Sterling K. Brown, who I worked with most extensively. I saw him on stage in FATHER COMES HOME FROM THE WARS and was blown away. Then seeing him in OJ and now this show, he's one of my favorite actors out there right now. Really learned a lot watching him work. And just an incredibly cool guy. He's the star but he just disarms everyone, makes you feel like a bud from the second you walk on set.

12. I lived in and around the Boston area for a few years. I loved hanging out in Back Bay, the South End, Harvard Square, and Copley Square. What are some of your favorite Boston hangouts? I grew up going to the Boston Garden and Fenway. Those places have the most memories for me. I love Haymarket Square on weekends, South Boston for hanging with friends, but my favorite area is the North End. The food, the architecture, the vibe. Just love walking around there.

13. 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 could spend less time on my fucking phone, especially when I'm with my kids. It's a tough addiction to crack. I'll try to get one percent better with that every day!

Thanks, Adam. Love your website-- keep killing it!

John PollonoMore on John:

John Pollono is a playwright, actor and writer from New England. His play, Small Engine Repair, which he wrote and starred in, won the LA Ovation and Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle (LADCC) Awards for Best Play for the 2011 LA production, for which he also received the LADCC Award for Best Writing. The play also enjoyed a critically-acclaimed, extended run Off Broadway with MCC Theater Company (NYTimes Critics’ Pick.) As an actor, John has appeared in one of the most talked about shows on TV this year, This Is Us on NBC, as well as Grey’s Anatomy, How I Met Your Mother, Masters of Sex, Major Crimes and Mob City. John is also a founding member of Rogue Machine Theatre in Los Angeles, which produced Small Engine Repair as well as his plays Lost and Found, Razorback and Lost Girls. His script for Stronger, Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman's story starring Jake Gyllenhaal, will go into production in Spring 2016 for Mandeville and Lionsgate – and debut on movie screens in fall of 2017. And he also is developing a half hour dark comedy My First Black Friend, created with playwright Kemp Powers, for Color Force and FX Network.

Friday
Feb172017

Call Answered: Conference Call: Steven "Blue's Clues" Burns & Steven "Flaming Lips" Drozd: Foreverywhere

Steven Drozd and Steven BurnsNot long ago, I had read an article about Steve Burns, the original host of the children's hit show Blue's Clues. I remember thinking to myself, gosh I would love to have the opportunity to interview him. Fast forward to now when I get an e-mail asking me if I'd like to interview not only Steve Burns, but Steven Drozd from The Flaming Lips as well. I grew up with both these entities, so needless to say I was doubly excited by this opportunity.

After collaborating on Steven Burns' album Songs for Dustmites, Steven Burns and Steven Drozd are teaming up for their new album Foreverywhere, part concept album, part legend, all play, fun and filled to the brim with immediate music that will be enjoyed by kids, parents, fans of The Flaming Lips and grownup fans of Blue’s Clues alike.

Foreverywhere will be available on February 24 with a release concert at Brooklyn Bowl on February 26 at 1pm! Click here for tickets! Click to purchase Foreverywhere on iTunes and Amazon!

For more on StevenSteven be sure to visit https://www.stevensteven.com and follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

1. This February you are releasing your debut album Foreverywhere. How did you come to join forces?

Steven Burns: I met Captain Drozd when we collaborated on Songs For Dustmites, a record I made just after leaving Blue's Clues. He and I got along instantly and have been great friends ever since. I still fan-girl out every now and then because he truly has written most of my favorite music and I can't believe I get to work with him.

Steven Drozd: Burns and I met in 2001 and worked together on his LP Songs For Dustmites- we became fast friends and were always kind of involved in each other’s projects. In 2006 he was contacted by Jack’s Big Music Show to write a song about groundhogs, haha. He called me up and asked if I wanted to help. Of course I did! We had a blast with that experience and I think it just stayed in our minds that we could make that kind of music together and it kind of unfolded from there.

2. How long have you been working on the album? What made now the right time to release it?

Steven Burns: Drozd? You always know the timeline better than I do. It feels like 140 years. Basically, we had to do it in spare time - no small task as Steven lives in Oklahoma and I live in NYC. Drozd is raising kids and touring the world in a giant enormous rock band and I was busy out here so basically it took forever. I'd fly to Oklahoma when there was time and we'd hole up in Trent Bell's studio (Bell Labs) and just bang it out. It was so much fun.

Steven Drozd: Honestly, the LP has been finished since 2009 - It’s just been a long process for both of us, having the time to commit to its release and us giving it our full attention.

3. You are celebrating the album's premiere with a concert at Brooklyn Bowl on February 26. What are you looking forward to most about this concert?

Steven Burns: I’m excited to perform for kids again!

Steven Drozd: I do look forward to the challenge of performing for children - that is as potentially nerve wracking as playing Carnegie Hall; but, also I just look forward to playing music with Steve Burns. We naturally have fun together.

4. Though it's targeted for children, the album is described as music that will be enjoyed by kids, parents, fans of The Flaming Lips and grownup fans of Blue’s Clues alike, with the hopes of it having the life/longevity of "Puff The Magic Dragon." What do you think kids will enjoy about this album? What will adults like? How do you feel it could have the greatness of "Puff The Magic Dragon"?

Steven Burns: My hope is that the things kids enjoy about the album are the SAME things that adults enjoy about the album. I truly believe there's tons of overlap in what makes music great for kids and what makes music great for adults. There are sad moments on the record, hopeful moments, funny moments, face melting rock moments. I hope kids and parents enjoy them all equally. As for "Puff the Magic Dragon," I have no idea if we'd ever reach such great heights as that, but we did try to incorporate some strong story elements, especially in "The Unicorn And Princess Rainbow" which takes what almost feels like standard kid- themed cliches and tries to re-cast them in a more Ziggy Stardust sort of light.

Steven Drozd: There are some classic songs like "Puff The Magic Dragon" to aspire to. I think we’ve done a pretty good job on some of them! I have two kids, now ages 11 and 9, so we were able to try them out on a target audience. My own kids regard Foreverywhere in the same way they regard the Peanuts Christmas LP; it’s just music they love and grew up with. I think some adults will hear things from their own childhood, which is what I was hoping to do with a lot of the music, sounds and melodies. "OK, Toilet Bowl" reminds me of an orange juice commercial from the 1970’s, "Space Rock Rock" reminds me of an Electric Company segment, "The Unicorn and Princess Rainbow" reminds me of so many things from my childhood….So, we are hoping that the adults will make that connection that we tried to create, if that makes sense.

5. The album's first song "Unicorn and Princess Rainbow," is described as a three song narrative detailing the story of a unicorn who falls in love with a Rainbow Princess with incredible guitar chops, joins her band, and then loses her to cosmic forces beyond his control. What is something each of you have lost to "cosmic forces beyond your control"?

Steven Burns: My hair. I lost my hair to cosmic forces beyond my control. We all experience loss in our lives. Loved ones, failed hopes, etc. Children experience those feelings too.

Steven Drozd: Well, loss of loved ones, moving away from friends…those are the things I think of.

6. There's another great line in "Unicorn and Princess Rainbow" that goes "He just read the news and he doesn't know what to feel." Was that line written as a political statement to the world we are living in? If not, let's go there for a moment. Since the album is marketed towards kids, how do you feel it's best to explain these troubling times to children? 

Steven Burns: That particular lyric wasn't written with a political statement in mind, but I certainly don't mind if it's read that way. I think the most politically relevant song on the record is "A Fact Is A Gift That You Give Your Brain". We are seeing a perplexing erosion of Fact, and it would make me very proud indeed if we could get kids excited about...verity.

Steven Drozd: This is an example of the genius of Steven Michael Burns! Seriously, he knows how to communicate emotions and potentially complex concerns to children to make them feel okay with not being sure about something. In truth, the song was written and recorded in 2008, so it was a different time. But I agree with the analysis of the political statement.

7. Another song on the album that I think is great for children (and adults) to hear is "The Lonely Unicorn Is Never Giving Up." The song is all about "The Unicorn" who lost his love, but some how finds a ways to carry on, while holding on to the good memories. So many of us feel lonely at times and and wonder how to keep going. How do you keep moving forward during troubled times?

Steven Burns: Well...it's a struggle, isn't it? It's sort of THE struggle. I have lots of things I do when I'm down and feel like quitting but music is huge part of what keeps me moving forward! That and family. Friends. Gene Wilder films.

Steven Drozd: That is the question, yes? You have to find something in yourself to keep moving forward. There’s no way around it. Maybe it’s a combination of looking forward to the future while focusing on positive things from the past. I think most of us do that anyway, even when the current times are great; we don’t live in the moment, we think of the past and the future. Maybe that is what makes getting through tough times more tolerable??

Steven Burns and Steven Drozd8. One other song I love is "I Won't Let You Change Who I Am," a terrific song about being proud of you who are despite what other people think. When has there been a time in your life when someone tried to change you, but you stood your ground?

Steven Burns: As I child I was bullied. This song is about my experience being bullied on the school bus in first grade. I did stand my ground, eventually. My bully and I actually became friends.

Steven Drozd: I could say I was bullied at a certain age, and I always tried to deflect it with humor - but I was lucky enough to be encouraged to do what I wanted to do and be who I wanted to be from a pretty early age. I know that is not the case for everyone, unfortunately.

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?

Steven Burns: Wait, so if I did this for a year, I'd be 365% better than I am at the end! Or do you stop at 100%? I'd like to become 1% more compassionate every day. I actually do try to do that, in my way. That's a great practice you have there!

Steven Drozd: This sounds potentially hokey, but yoga changed my life. It really did. And when I stick with it and try to expand on it, it always rewards me. So, that is something I could say. My other thought is this: everyday I make at least one note of a thought into my notes on my cell phone. Whether it’s a fleeting thought, or a fake band name, or song title, or just an absurd joke, I try to have an original thought every day. I’ve got some doozies in my notes!

Steven Burns on "Blue's Clues"10. For Steven Burns: I can't do an interview with you and not ask about Blue's Clues. You were the host of the hit children's show from 1996 to 2002. What is something about your time on the show you have not talked about in a previous interview? Let's just play with the show's title for a moment. If you had to give a list of 5 clues to things that you love that are blue, what would those clue's be?

Okay. One thing most people don't know is that I didn't draw the clues. That's someone else's hand you see. There's no way I could draw that well.

Five blue things I love? That's hard! Do you have five blue things you love? I'll try:

  •  This thing contains the troposphere, mesosphere and thermosphere and is not ALWAYS blue it is mostly blue.
  • This thing is from 1969 and it's completely adorable and it sits in my garage and there's no way you could know the answer, so I'll just tell you, it's my blue 69 VW fastback.
  • This Off-Broadway show has been around forever and stars three aliens who play tubes like instruments.
  • This character is sometimes near, sometimes far. He's been a waiter and has a super hero alter ego. He was my main influence when creating the character for "Steve" on Blue's Clues.
  • This my favorite of Gershwin's music and is strongly associated with the city I live in.

Steven Drozd, Photo Credit: EJ DeCoske11. For Steven Drozd: You have been in The Flaming Lips since 1991. What are some of the funniest moments to happen to you during either a recording session or on stage with The Flaming Lips? What question have you not been asked in an interview that you wish you had been (please provide the answer to that said question as well)?

Well, that is a tough question as there are so many stories over the years. I’ll give you one of my favorites that sounds like something from a movie: The Flaming Lips were in Milan, Italy in 1995, opening for The Red Hot Chili Peppers. The audience was interested in ONLY seeing The Chili Peppers. I was playing drums live back then. The audience disliked us so much that they were throwing stuff at us. My floor tom got hit with a tomato and my cymbal got pelted with a slice of pizza. True story!

I always wonder why no one ever asks if I like bananas. I love them!

Steven Burns and Steven DrozdMore on StevenSteven:

StevenSteven is Steve Burns, former host of beloved children's televsion show Blue's Clues, and Steven Drozd, grammy award winning musical mastermind behind The Flaming Lips. They began writing music together in the early aughts when Burns was recording his first solo effort Songs for Dustmites in the upstate NY studio owned by The Flaming Lips’ producer -- where Drozd was staying. Drozd was impressed with what he heard and the two began their first collaboration within thirty minutes of meeting. The duo wrote "I Hog The Ground" for a Groundhog’s Day episode of Nickelodeon’s Jack’s Big Music Show.

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