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Thursday
Nov302017

Call Answered: Megan Freels Johnston: "The Ice Cream Truck"

Megan Freels JohnstonAs an ice cream (cookies-n-cream) & horror film lover myself, I couldn't wait to get a big scoop on the making of Megan Freels Johnston's The Ice Cream Trucka provocative psychological thriller that stars Deanna Russo (Being Human, Gossip Girl) as "Mary," who moves back to her suburban hometown after her husband gets relocated for work. As her family ties up loose ends back home, she moves into their new house alone. And although the move makes "Mary" nostalgic for her youth, there’s something very sinister about that Ice Cream Truck that patrols her suburb.

The Ice Cream Truck is available on DVD through Amazon!

For more on Megan be sure to follow her on Twitter @number1megan

For more on The Ice Cream Truck visit http://www.icecreamtruckmovie.com and follow the film on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a writer/director? I was just a producer originally. I think I got fed up with how long it took movies to get made. I got into the film business because I just love movies. So after a few years of things not going forward as a producer I decided to make a movie myself with a small budget. That was my first film Rebound. I am a big fan of retro horror and the suspense films of the 60s and 70s so they serve as my creative inspiration.

2. Your new psychological thriller, The Ice Cream Truck has just been released on DVD. What do you like about writing in the psychological thriller genre? I love playing with things that are scary inside and outside the mind. It’s fun to do both in the same film. People are so complex so the story ideas that revolve around human emotions and anxiety are limitless.

Scene from "The Ice Cream Truck"3. How did you come up with the concept for The Ice Cream Truck? I lived in an area of Los Angeles that happened to have a lot of ice cream trucks. I am also from the Midwest suburbs so I grew up around ice cream trucks. I just felt like there is something so creepy and strange about getting ice cream from a virtual stranger’s car. So I had to write a story about it. But I wanted to do it in a way that wasn’t your typical B horror movie.

4. What was the most complicated part of the film to make? What was the most fun? Making indie films are always a challenge because you have financial constraints. You can’t just do whatever you want. You have to be realistic and work with what you have. So that is always the hardest part. Making this film was a total blast. Everyone loved the project and wanted to be there so it was just a really fun set to be a part of.

Deanna Russo as "Mary" in "The Ice Cream Truck"5. How many gallons of ice cream did you go through to make this film? We used quite a bit of ice cream, but probably more blood, to be honest!

6. What's your favorite ice cream flavor? I am a Rocky Road fan. Simple, yet complex.

7. In the film, "Mary" moves back to her suburban hometown, which makes her very nostalgic for her youth. What is something from your childhood you long for as an adult? I have two kids so it allows me to be a kid in my every day life. But the one thing I have taken with me along the way is my old school Nintendo NES game system. It’s got some kinks and I still know all the tricks when it’s not working correctly but no modern game will ever compare to me. I love the original Nintendo. Kid Icarus is my favourite game.

Emil Johnson as "The Ice Cream Truck Driver" in "The Ice Cream Truck"8. You are the granddaughter of legendary crime writer Elmore Leonard. What did you learn from him that influenced your own writing? Elmore was a big proponent of writing for yourself. That is one thing I try to do. Don’t write what you think other people want. Be authentic within your voice and tell the stories you want to hear or see.

9. For a while you worked on adaptations of his work. When did the moment come when you said to yourself, "I need to write & direct my own work"? What did that moment feel like for you? Well initially that came from frustration of not getting enough movies off the ground. Even Elmore Leonard adaptations. It was supposed to be more of an experiment, my becoming a filmmaker. But it was life changing and now that’s where my true passion lies within the film business. I prefer to do my own material because I can just do it however I want which is really creatively freeing. Putting in all the work from writing a script, to being on set to shaping your film in post-production is one of the greatest feelings.

10. After completing The Ice Cream Truck, what is one lesson you learned from this film that you'll carry with you for the remainder of your life? I learned so many things from The Ice Cream Truck. I think the main thing is work with people you like and be appreciative. The rest kind of falls into place.

Megan Freels JohnstonMore on Megan:

Megan Freels Johnston is a producer and writer, known for The Ice Cream Truck (2017), Rebound (2014) and Convention (2018). She is the granddaughter of legendary crime writer Elmore Leonard.

Monday
Nov272017

Call Answered: Sarah Naughton: "Trapped In The Closet" at Feinstein's/54 Below

Sarah Naughton performing "Trapped In The Closet" at Feinstein's/54 BelowGrowing up I was obsessed with "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Stuck in the Closet with Vanna White" off his Even Worse album. When I was older, I hid in the closet myself because I wasn't ready to admit I was gay. I have finally embraced my gayness & love looking at closets to see how they are set up. Now, I get to go inside Sarah Naughton's closet for a revealing look at her show Trapped In The Closet which will be at Feinstein's/54 Below (254 West 54th Street, between Broadway & 8th Avenue) on Saturday, December 2 at 9:30pm! Click here for tickets!

Trapped In The Closet is a wildly imaginative journey inside her bedroom closet-turned-recording studio as she shares tales from the unsung world of audiobook narration and reveals some of the most ridiculous books she has ever been paid to read out loud! Trapped In The Closet features music from Broadway favorites (9 to 5, Sunday in the Park With George, Avenue Q, and Spring Awakening) as well as original music written with her music director and collaborator, Jake Weinstein. Also featuring special guest Vishal Vaidya (Groundhog Day).

For more on Sarah be sure to visit https://www.sarah-naughton.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

For more on Feinstein's/54 Below visit https://54below.com and follow them on FacebookTwitterYouTube, & Instagram!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? My mom! Patty Naughton is an excellent pianist and musician. As a kid she would teach me songs from old Broadway musicals and we would play and sing together. Those were some of my favorite times. And I cultivated a real love of musical theatre that way. Plus I've been a ham since day one, so becoming a professional performer has always kind of been a no-brainer.

2. On December 2 you are returning to Feinstein's/54 Below with your show Trapped In The Closet. What are you looking forward to most about this return engagement? The return engagement has given me and Jake (Weinstein, my collaborator) a chance to fine tune the show. We're debuting some new material that I'm really excited to share. One medley in particular is going to blow people's socks off!!

3. Trapped In The Closet takes audiences inside your bedroom closet-turned-recording studio as you share tales from the unsung world of audiobook narration. You reveal some of the most ridiculous books you have ever been paid to read out loud! How did you initially get into audiobook recording? There was, and still is I believe, an audiobook production company in my home town of Syracuse, New York called Full Cast Audio that produces beautiful audiobooks. They cast a different actor to play each character, and score the books with music. They're incredible. And they were producing a book called Gilbert and Sullivan Set Me Free by Kathleen Karr that was about a women's prison putting on a production of The Pirates of Penzance. And they were looking for singers! So I auditioned. And they cast me in a small role ("Rachel," the prostitute) but also had me sing "Poor Wandering One." After that I recorded a couple more books at Full Cast, which gave me a few credits on my resume by the time I was down in New York and reaching out to places like Audible. So I actually got into audiobooks via singing!

Sarah Naughton4. What do you like about this world as opposed to performing on a stage? Unlike my first book at Full Cast Audio, with the books I record in my closet, I read the entire thing myself. But that means I get to play every character in the story! Roles I would never get to play like grandfathers and Russian mobsters. So that's really fun. I get to be in charge of every element of the story.

5. What is one book you didn't get to record that you wish you did? Oh I've auditioned for so many great books I didn't get. There was one recently called Hap and Hazard at the End of the World by Diane DeSanders about a family in Texas after World War II that looked great. But didn't go my way. That's the biz!

6. Since the show is called Trapped In The Closet, when has there been a time you have felt like you were "Trapped In The Closet"? How did you break free? The title, "Trapped In The Closet," refers to the work I do narrating romance novels under a pseudonym, and the embarrassment I've felt about bringing such spicy content to life. When I feel like I have to hide this aspect of my work from people I'm literally and figuratively in the closet! But creating and sharing this show has put me back in the driver's seat. Telling my story gives me a real sense of ownership about it and allows me to break free.

Sarah Naughton7. If you could create your dream closet, what would it look like? I love this question! It would be a nice size, comfortable to stand and walk around in, but still small enough so it would be easy to control the sound quality. It would be packed with twinkle lights. Mine has some. But if I had my way it would look like the Rock Center Christmas tree in there. And I'd have some plants, maybe for the oxygen, and some color. And a really comfy chair!

8. What was the best part about performing on The View? What was the most intimidating? The audience was so supportive and awesome when I performed on The View. My parents were there, and before the show the warm-up comic made my Dad read aloud a page from 50 Shades of Gray (it was really hot at the time). So I think that really won the audience over before I even went out there. But the whole thing was super intimidating. It was set up American Idol style so I did 90 seconds of stand up and then got feedback from the ladies of The View! They were, let's say, very honest. And I was just starting out writing standup, so at the time I was bummed that they didn't love me, but in retrospect they gave me really good advice and I learned a lot.

Sarah Naughton9. I know you love living in NYC, so what are some of your favorite things to do? Living in NYC is truly the best. Going out to eat is, I think, life's greatest pleasure. It gets pricey to do a lot. But going out with friends every so often is the best treat. I love The Smith and Kashkaval Gardens. I love New York's parks! We have so many great ones: Central Park, Riverside, Madison Square Park. And I love to go to the theatre of course. Broadway shows, downtown theatre, improv shows, I love it all! I especially love me an immersive experience! Sleep No More. A Third Rail Projects show. Maybe because I'm a performer myself, but I love being a part of the action. Also New York has some sick fitness options. I recently got Classpass and it's so cool! I've gotten to try out a lot of awesome workouts. Title Boxing, Mile High Run Club, and Aerial Yoga at Crunch were some of my favorites.

10. What are your top 5 take-out places to order food from? LOVE this question. I live for this question.

Now I live in Astoria so this is very neighborhood specific BUT:

1. Pizza (my #1 favorite food) - TIE between Retro Pizza (my corner mom and pop shop) and Rizzo's (which is just sick good)

2. Sushi - Pink Nori (beyond bomb)

3. Comfort Food - Sanford's (they have a pecan crusted chicken salad that makes a burger seem healthy by comparison but is so good)

4. Healthy (when I have to) - Create

5. Thai - Three E Taste of Thai

Sarah NaughtonMore on Sarah:

Sarah Naughton is a singer, actress, and Audie-nominated audiobook narrator living in New York. Some favorite credits include: New York Theatre: Death Comes for the War Poets (The Sheen Center) Romeo and Juliet (Lincoln Center - Clark Studio Theater), Diamond Alice (Roundabout Underground), and Summer and Smoke (Access Theatre). Regional Theatre: Mame (Human Race Theater Co), AcousticaElectronica (A.R.T. Oberon), and Meet Me In St. Louis (Mt. Gretna Playhouse). Sarah has narrated over 70 audiobooks which are all available on audible.com. Additionally, Sarah is a comedy veteran and has performed stand-up on ABC’s The View as well as at major NYC venues such as New York Comedy Club, Stand Up NY, and The PIT. Sarah is also a member of the immersive dance theater company called toUch performance art and she works as a supporting artist for CO/LAB theater group, a non-profit organization that has been providing individuals with developmental disabilities a creative and social outlet through theater arts since 2011. Sarah holds a BFA from NYU Tisch and is a proud member of Actors' Equity. 

Monday
Nov272017

Call Answered: Conference Call: Barry Anderson & Lucia Spina: "WISH: The Anderson & Petty Holiday Songbook" charity album/concert for Housing Works

Lucia Spina, Photo Credit: Maia Rosenfeld PhotographyBarry Anderson, Photo Credit: Albert Lin PhotographyI love the holiday season for so many reasons, but what makes this holiday time extra special is getting to catch up with Broadway's Lucia Spina & meeting composer/lyricist Barry Anderson. She is not only part of Barry Anderson & Mark Petty's new album WISH: The Anderson & Petty Holiday Songbook, but she is directing their release concert as well as participating in it.

All profits from the album & concert will be donated to Housing Works, a local NYC organization supporting those living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. WISH: The Anderson & Petty Holiday Songbook concert will be on Monday, December 4 at 7pm & 9:30pm at The Laurie Beechman Theatre (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th  & 10th Avenue, inside the basement of the West Bank Cafe). Click here for tickets!

The concert, hosted by MTV & VH1’s Amy Paffrath, features songs from the album sung by many of the original recording artists along with other performers from stage and screen. Scheduled to appear are (in alphabetical order): Christy Faber (Les MiserablesKinky Boots), Katie Goffman (Ghost tour, Wisco Queens webseries), Ellen Harvey (Present LaughterHow To Succeed…), Leah Horowitz (FolliesThoroughly Modern Millie), Natalie Joy Johnson (Legally BlondeKinky Boots), David LaMarr (Jersey Boys tour, La Mirada’s Dreamgirls), Kyle Taylor Parker (Kinky BootsCharlie & The Chocolate Factory), Jonathan Rayson (Little Shop of HorrorsA Year With Frog & Toad), Brian Charles Rooney (Threepenny OperaBedbugs), Drew Seeley (Another Cinderella StoryThe Little Mermaid), Lucia Spina (Legally BlondeSilence! The Musical), and Allie Trimm (13Bye Bye Birdie).

For more on Barry Anderson visit http://andersonandpetty.com and follow him & his writing partner, Mark Petty on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram!

For more on Lucia visit https://www.luciaspina.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram!

1. How did you come to work together on this project?

Barry Anderson: It just happened to come up casually in conversation. I had been talking to Lucia about the charity album while I was in the midst of recording it. She was the one who brought up the idea of an album release concert. I honestly hadn't even had time to think that far ahead. I'm so glad she offered to take the reins on it! It's a luxury to have someone as passionate and excited about putting the work in as Lucia has been.

Lucia Spina: One day, Barry & I were hanging out and we were talking about the new album and how it was going. I suggested he do a CD release concert to celebrate the album and let people hear the songs live, and I offered to direct/produce it. And that was that!

2. The album and subsequent concert is called Wish: The Anderson & Petty Holiday Songbook. What is your holiday wish this year?

Barry Anderson: My wish is for this country of ours to begin 2018 with a fresh, clean, LOVING slate. This year has been cray-cray, to say the least.

Lucia Spina: My holiday wish this year is that everyone comes to our shows on Monday 12/4 at The Laurie Beechman Theatre! Other than that, honestly and without any intended cheese-factor, I’d really like for everyone to be kinder to one another.

3. Out of all the charities out there, why did you want this concert to benefit Housing Works?

Barry Anderson: Aside from donating clothes to the location near my home every so often, I hadn't really done anything creatively for Housing Works before. Mark and I have enjoyed writing tunes for various charities and benefit concerts both here and in the U.K. for quite awhile. But we thought it would be fitting to reach out to Housing Works this time around, especially given the organization's focus on homelessness. The holidays seemed like a perfect time for doing it.

4. What do each of you like about the other's artistic vision as it lines up with your own - meaning, Barry what is about Lucia as a singer and director that made you go, I want to not only feature her on our album, but also have her direct this show? Lucia, what is about Barry & Mark's songs that made you want to sing them and help them put on this show?

Barry Anderson: I love Lucia's enthusiasm and ability to see the "down-the-road" big picture. It's been fun watching her brainstorm about casting ideas as well as how to best utilize and showcase the music. She's so well-established in the cabaret scene and Broadway community here she knows what works and what doesn't. She's also one of those singers who can handle just about anything you put in front of her. It's been great to have her record for us. And it's also been really fun to have her in a rehearsal studio and just workshop some of our things.

Lucia Spina: Well…I put them together, so I’m kind of invested in them. Barry & I were on tour with Legally Blonde and he mentioned he wanted someone to write with. I was Skype-ing with Mark and he mentioned he wanted someone to write with. So, I set up a facebook message introduction, and the rest is history. The first song of theirs I sang "Love Will Find Its Way" was featured on their first album You Are Home. I’m not sure if they wrote it specifically for me, but I was the first person to sing it and Barry and I wrote the back-up harmonies together. We’ll be featuring a few tracks from You Are Home in the concert and I’ll be singing "Love Will Find Its Way."

Lucia Spina5. What will excite audiences about this concert & album?

Barry Anderson: I think the quality of the product is what I'm most excited about in terms of the album itself. Cameron Moncur did the album orchestrations and is music directing the concert. He's fantastic. Wait until you hear what he's done with some of these songs! And our engineer Matthias Winter has also made this album completely shine. I'm beyond proud of and humbled by the talented singers and musicians who have given their time and creativity to both the album and the live concert. I really feel like each tune aligns perfectly with the people performing it.

Lucia Spina: Barry and Mark write really great songs and these holiday songs showcase them at the top of their game. I can’t stop listening to the CD. It’s been on repeat all day. The tunes are easy to settle into—they remind you of your favorite Christmas pop tunes but with a fresh, new take. They’re going to become part of your permanent Christmas CD collection. Also, the lineup of singers on the album is fantastic! New York audiences especially will drool over performances by Broadway favorites Sean Allan Krill, Alexa Green, Kyle Taylor Parker, Graham Scott Fleming, Brynn Williams, Allie Trimm, Ellen Harvey, Nic Rouleau, and of course the incomparable Liz Callaway. 

Composer/Lyricist team Mark Petty & Barry Anderson6. Lucia, what can you tell us about the song you will be performing? Barry, can you walk us through your writing process for this song? Did you write it with Lucia in mind?

Barry Anderson: "Love Will Find Its Way" was one of the very first songs I brought to Mark to collaborate with me on. He and I had a lot of fun with the idea of "self-love" and owning who you are. Not caring what other people think. It's not always the easiest thing to do. The vibe and feel of the tune was just kinda fun and hooky and a bit brass-y. Once we had the general song in place, we both knew Lucia could knock it out of the park. Hands down. It's the song she sings on our debut album, You Are Home. It'll be so much fun to have her do it live again!

7. Barry & Mark's debut CD, You Are Home: The Songs of Anderson & Petty came out in 2013 and Lucia, you sang on that album as well. When in your life, have you walked into a project or scenario that made you feel, "You Are Home"?

Lucia Spina: Barry & I have always had a great time collaborating and creating. I adore him as a friend and we have a fun, easy, midwestern rapport. But I also have come to treasure my long-time participation in Phil Geoffrey Bond’s Sondheim Unplugged. I’m in my 7th year of singing all sorts of Sondheim’s songs and I’ve been to so many wonderful artists, many of whom have become dear friends.

8. What's your favorite way to spend the holiday season in NYC?

Barry Anderson: My partner Rusty and I LOVE walking through the Christmas market they set up in Columbus Circle every year. It's charming. It's a bit of a tradition. I'm also a fan of a good holiday house party.

Lucia Spina: I usually return home to Chicago for Christmas, but I spend Thanksgiving with a small group of friends and it’s become a lovely new tradition. I religiously watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, The National Dog Show, and hit up the Holiday markets across the city.

9. The holidays are a time when people come together (I mean, people should come together year round, but I digress). What do you think is one way this nation can come together this holiday season and bring that unity into the New Year (aside from impeaching that loser running our country)? 

Barry Anderson: By fearing each other less and by looking into each others' eyes MORE.  #FeelsSoMuchBetterToLove :)

Lucia Spina: I agree with you, I think we should do a lot more "coming together" throughout the year. It shouldn’t be reserved for the holidays. I think as we all gather with our families we should contemplate that this isn’t an insular thing—millions of people all over the world are doing the same thing. At the heart of everything, how can we all be that different? Also, as we treasure being surrounded by those we love, maybe we can think of all the people who aren’t so lucky and how we can extend that joy to others as 2018 rolls in.

Barry AndersonMore on Barry:

Barry Anderson is a native of rural Wisconsin and graduated with a music degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He has lived in New York City for over a decade where he’s worked as an accompanist/vocal coach, musical director and Broadway actor. His Broadway credits include Legally Blonde & Jersey Boys.

Lucia Spina, Photo Credit: Kevin Thomas Garcia PhotographyMore on Lucia:

Lucia Spina has appeared on Broadway five times, most recently as an original cast member of the Tony Award winning musical Kinky Boots. She has also graced regional and Off-Broadway stages originating roles in Winter Wonderettes, Fugitive Songs, as well as SILENCE! The Musical in which she appears on the original cast recording.

Wednesday
Nov222017

Call Redialed: Tori Scott: "Vodka is the Reason for the Season" at Joe's Pub

Live from The Algonquin Hotel, "Call Me Adam" rings in the 2017 Holiday Season with comedian Tori Scott!

In this interview podcast, Tori & I discuss her upcoming Joe's Pub show Vodka is the Reason for the Season, impeaching Trump, Judaism, & so much more!

"Call Me Adam" & Tori Scott at The Algonquin HotelIn Vodka is the Reason for the Season, Tori will take you on a festive autobiographical journey to celebrate what is truly special about this time of year (spoiler: it’s alcohol induced blackouts), including her early childhood fascination with The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and time spent as a singing elf in an old folks’ home. Tori’s shameless holiday show includes stories new and old and songs by Dolly Parton, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and more.

Vodka is the Reason for the Season will play Joe's Pub (425 Lafayette Street) on Tuesday, December 12 at 9:30pm. Click here for tickets!

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

Call Me Adam's Tori Scott interview Vodka is the Reason for the Season interivew:

Tori ScottMore on Tori:

Tori Scott is a New York based singer, actress, and comedian. She has performed her solo shows at Joe’s Pub, 54 Below, the Laurie Beechman, the Metropolitan Room, Provincetown Art House and gay bars along the eastern seaboard. As an actress, she has performed alongside Alice Ripley in the reading of the new musical The Girl with Polka Dot Eyes and performed opposite Linda Lavin, Leslie Uggams and Stephanie J. Block in the Symphony Space tribute to Sheldon Harnick and Fiddler on the Roof. On television, she's counted to 20 as a singing garbage woman on Sesame Street and dubbed the vocals of a singing hooker on HBO's Cathouse: The Musical. Her debut album, Plan B!, was recorded live at Joe’s Pub and will be released in late 2017.

Tuesday
Nov212017

Call Redialed: Anika Larsen: Art Attack Foundation's "An Evening of Song" at Birdland

Anika LarsenLast time I interviewed Anika Larsen she had just released her debut album, Sing You To Sleep and was pregnant with her first child. Since that time, Anika became the proud mama of two boys and now she is returning to the stage in a very special benefit concert headlined by the legendary Chita Rivera!

Anika will be taking part in Art Attack Foundation's An Evening of Song at Birdland (315 West 44th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenue) on Monday, December 4 at 7pm! This one-night-only show promises an array of standards, pop hits and original songs, from top artists on Yellow Sound Label. Joining Anika will be Jessie Mueller (Waitress), Christy Altomare (Anastasia), Michael Patrick Walker (Altar Boyz), Bonnie Milligan (Kinky Boots), songwriters Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich (Dear Edwina), Rob Rokicki (The Lightening Thief), Max Vernon (The View UpStairs and KPOP), Lynne Shankel, Steve Marzullo and many more special guests. The evening will be produced by Dan Watt, Michael Croiter and Yael Silver. Click here for tickets!

Founded by Dan Watt, the Art Attack Foundation’s mission is to inspire community leaders, businesses, and individuals to participate and contribute in the education, enhancement and development of young performing artists. AAF is dedicated to providing opportunities, funding, and encouragement to assist young performers in realizing their full artistic potential.

For more on Art Attack Foundation visit http://www.artattackfoundation.org!

For more on Anika be sure to visit http://anikalarsen.biz and you can purchase her debut album Sing You To Sleep on iTunes and Amazon!

1. This December you are part of An Evening of Song, benefiting the Art Attack Foundation, headlined by Chita Rivera. What made you want to be part of this benefit? I am a product of public schools, and I don’t know if I’d be where I am today if my high school didn’t have such a strong drama program. I find it heartbreaking how arts programming is being stripped out of schools. I gotta do what I can to support groups that are bringing the arts to kids!

2. Since Chita Rivera is the headliner of the night, how have you been inspired by her in your own career? Chita is a legend, and could sit back on her laurels and enjoy being a queen of Broadway, but instead she is out there hoofing it for so many great organizations. And man, does she still got it! I have been an admirer of hers ever since I first learned what musical theatre was, and I’m only a greater admirer now.

Chita Rivera3. The mission of Art Attack Foundation is to inspire community leaders, businesses, and individuals to participate and contribute in the education, enhancement and development of young performing artists. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to get into show business? I would say go to college. I believe that the more educated you are about the world, the better, smarter, more effective performer you will be.

4. What can you tell us about the song or songs you'll be performing at this benefit? Oh, I’m so excited, because I’ll be performing with my sexy and talented husband! We rarely get to do that these days. We’ll be doing "Summertime" off my album Sing You to Sleep. Freddie plays trumpet, and the way he plays with me on this song makes it feel like we’re singing a duet!

5. Last time we did an interview together, you were just about to give birth to your son. Now you are a mother of two. What did you learn from having your first child that you are glad to know now that you have your second child? Lord love a duck, you can never be prepared for a second child! Especially when they’re only 20 months apart. It’s relentless. But my boys are absolutely the best thing I’ve ever done. I remember hearing people say that and thinking it was cheesy, but now I understand what they mean. Anyway, to answer your question, I think I know better now not to panic at any fall or head bump or strange rash. Babies are resilient. Love ‘em well and they’ll be fine. Who’m I kidding, panic a little bit. It’s a scary world out there.

6. Also during our last interview, we were promoting your album Sing You To Sleep. Now that you have two kids, how does this album take on new meaning? My first son was OBSESSED with the album when he was a baby. It was the only thing that would get him to stop crying when we were in the car. Freddie and I had to listen to it hundreds of times. I got super sick of listening to myself, and couldn’t listen to it anymore. Then I realized just a couple weeks ago that my second son is 8-months old and has never heard it! So I pulled it back out and played it for him. He seemed to dig it as much as an 8-month-old can. It was really special to re-listen to it after about a year, and remember how much I hoped I would have children to play it for when I was choosing the songs. Then I got pregnant for the first time when we were recording it! And my boys’ papa plays on it! I feel incredibly lucky to have something like this as a keepsake for our family. Maybe my boys will play it for their children, and their children’s children. The story goes on...

The Larsen Family7. On this album you recorded Sting's "Fields of Gold." When do you feel like you are walking or when do you feel like you have walked through "Fields of Gold"? You know, that song is on the album for my brother Peik. He died suddenly and unexpectedly of sepsis at 42, leaving behind a wife, twin 4-year-old boys, and another son on the way. It was devastating. I sang "Fields of Gold" at my brother’s wedding, and then seven years later at the same church for his funeral. That was just a few months before we recorded the album, so I had to put the song on there. And then I dedicated the album to Peik and his family. Sometimes when we’re listening to the album I can listen to the song and think of my brother and laugh or cry, and sometimes I can’t take it and I have to forward past it. I’m so terribly sad that my boys will never know their Uncle Peik.

8. You also recorded "Somewhere Out There," one of my all time favorite songs. What is something you still want to accomplish that you just think "Somewhere Out There" I'll make this work? I have been very fortunate in my life. I’ve managed to have the career I dreamed of, and now I have the family I always dreamed of. So the only thing left is to live a life of balance between the two, where I get to work but also be a fully present mama to my boys, wife to my husband, and friend to my loved ones.

9. On my website I have section called "One Percent Better" where through my own fitness regime I try to inspire people to improve their lives by 1% better everyday. What is something in your life you want to improve by 1% better everyday? Sleep. Boy, I’d like to be getting better sleep. I remember the days when I was single and childless and working nights so I could sleep as late as I wanted in the morning. I didn’t appreciate it then...

10. I also have a new segment in my interviews called "I Can See Clearly Now," where I try to clear up misconceptions about the person I'm interviewing. So, what do you feel is the biggest misconception out there about yourself that you'd like to clear the air about? Gosh, I have no idea! I’m not on social media, and I don’t read reviews, so I’m generally unaware of the things people are saying about me, and I’m content to keep it that way.

Anika LarsenMore on Anika:

Anika grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts with nine brothers and sisters from different races and countries. She made her performance debut singing with her siblings at her parents’ annual Christmas parties. Her mother thought they were the multi-cultural Von Trapps. Anika thought her brothers and sisters were holding her back. Or she might have just been a bossy little brat.

Anika spent the rest of her childhood grappling with whether she would rather be "Annie" or Whitney Houston. Ultimately Whitney won (RIP), but she realized her future lay in achieving a balance between the two. She did drama in high school, majored in theater at Yale, then came to the Big Apple to try her luck.

After college, Anika moved to New York City. Her first professional job was Rent, during which she was given the nickname Shafrika, which thankfully stuck better than the nickname her father gave her when she was little, Squeaka. After Rent, Anika was wicked psyched to see what show would come to her next, now that she was a Big Broadway Professional. She didn’t work again for two years, a painful but invaluable lesson. Eventually things picked up, and since then she has appeared on Broadway in Avenue QXanaduAll Shook Up, and currently, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Perhaps most exciting, Anika is the only person on the planet who can say she was in the original casts of both Xanadu and Zanna, Don’t!.

In 2007, with director April Nickell, Anika co-founded Jaradoa Theater, a company whose mission was to promote mercy, beauty and truth through performance and service. For four years they produced theatre that strove to resonate, inspire and reach audiences that didn’t usually have access to theatre, and they used theatre to serve the community, working in public middle schools, at-risk youth centers, teen alternative-to-incarceration programs, nursing homes, and homeless senior centers. There is nothing Anika’s done in her life that she’s prouder of.

In 2009, Jaradoa Theater produced a musical Anika wrote about her childhood, called Shafrika, The White Girl. After she was approached about interest in a TV version of her upbringing, Anika co-wrote a pilot with Orlando Bishop called The Joneses, a one-hour dramedy loosely based on her family, but set today. These experiences confirmed for Anika a love of collaborative writing, and she is currently writing a play with her longtime partner-in-crime, April Nickell. More on that as it develops.