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"Call Me Adam" chats with...

 

 

Entries in Actress (137)

Friday
Mar172017

Call Redialed: Lucie Pohl: "Apohlcalypse Now!" at Under St. Marks Theater

Lucie Pohl, Photo Credit: Laura RoseLast time comedian/actress Lucie Pohl and I spoke, she was starring in her one-woman show Hi, Hitler, now these two Jews are talking about her new show Apohlcalypse Now! From tyrants to death, we know our herritage! In this new show, Apohlcalypse Now! bangs together stand up, storytelling and character comedy. Expect bad language, bad decisions, a wedding, a break up, dead rats and wake up calls from Stephen Baldwin.

Apohlcalypse Now! will play a very limited run, four performances only, March 20, 21, 27 & 28 at Under St. Marks Theater (94 St. Marks Place). March 20 & 27 are at 8pm. March 21 & 28 are at 7pm. Click here for tickets!

For more on Lucie be sure to visit http://www.luciepohl.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

1. It's great to catch up with you! Last we spoke, we did an interview for your one-woman show Hi, Hitler. Now you are back in NYC with your brand new show Apohlcalypse Now! How ironic that your show a few years ago had Hitler in the title and now your show has Apohlcalypse (a funny take on apocalypse) in the title. In the few years between shows, we got a new Hitler leading our country and he's creating an apocalypse. How do you explain this irony? Yes that is creepy and ironic. I'm psychic! Or may be it's that artists have invisible, subconscious feelers which pick things up before they've emerged into daily life.

One way to look at it is also, Hi, Hitler was very much a fish out of water story which went all the way back to my Jewish-German family history of persecution and migration. The whole point of the show was embracing that not fitting in was in my DNA. In this sense, I am not surprised that those of us who are different (for many different reasons) have become a target again. The fight for acceptance against periodic assholes will never end, I think.

The Apohlcalypse theme came out of a period of extremely taxing events in my life that kept piling up relentlessly. I also had been having this feeling of imminent doom for a few years. I never anticipated that history would tie these two shows together in such a frightening way.

Lucie Pohl, Photo Credit: Elmar Lemes2. What can people expect from this new show? What people can expect from Apohlcalypse Now! is a wild roller coaster ride into a year of tragically funny disasters in my life told through storytelling, stand-up and character comedy. It's an intimate, sometimes surreal, hilarious and very honest 60 minutes. And there's a goldfish monologue.

3. Let's play with the title of your show, "Apohlcalypse Now!" for a moment. What is the biggest event to happen in your life that would be as big as an apocalypse? The biggest apocalypse ever to happen in my life is when I realized Nutella is made with palm oil and I can no longer eat it! Game over!

No, ok, I'll be serious: it was the violent shattering of my 12 year relationship. Internally that was something which completely destroyed everything I thought I was, I thought I had and I thought I knew. And then a few other things happened simultaneously which just added more fire and brimstone. But these are all spoilers! That's what the show is about!

But one more thing: In writing the show I spoke to Anbarra Khalidi who is an apocalyptic scholar at Oxford (yes that's a job title) and she told me that the nature of the apocalyptic framework is both horror and clarity - exposing uncomfortable truths, mirroring the notion that we are our truest selves in moments of suffering, trial and judgement. This idea sort of fell into my lap and became what I was most interested in.

Lucie Pohl, Photo Credit: Mindy Tucker4. In this show we can expect bad language, bad decisions, a wedding, a break-up, dead rats, and wake-up calls from Stephen Baldwin. So for the next few questions we are going to break these down. If you could create a sentence using your five favorite bad words, how would that sentence look? Trump is a motherfucking thundercunting asswiping fuck-shit fascist.

5. What is the worst decision you've ever made? What did you learn from this bad decision? The worst decision I ever made was deciding to act on every impulse I had regardless of the consequence. I've made many bad decisions. What I've learned (the hard way) is that decisions matter and they are decisions, not accidents. You control that, it doesn't control you. It's not always about doing the thing which feels best in the moment, it's about knowing what's important and what you want in the long run.

And of course looking at the ingredients list on a Nutella jar.

6. What is one of your most funny break-up stories? When I was a teenager my boyfriend at the time said he was going downstairs real quick to get a Snapple. He came back 10 days later. I tried to punch him and missed. We broke up.

Lucie Pohl7. What is a good wedding tale you can tell? I once went to a wedding in England and woke up in Wales.

8. I hate rats. I mean HATE, but I'm going to ask a question about them anyway. What is an interaction you've had with a dead rat? Big, fat spoiler but here it goes: I found a dead rat in my mailbox! Yes, this is a true story and I have the pics to prove it.

9. When did you get a wake-up call from Stephen Baldwin? I got a wake up call from Stephen Baldwin in Istanbul, Turkey when I was in a horror film with him about a cult which impregnates women with demon babies to make an army of super humans. Duh! What else?! (Another spoiler).

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? Right now I'm trying to not freak out on subway platforms every day about terrible MTA service. Yesterday I waited for 45 minutes at Union Square and at one point a nice man eating plantain chips told me to "Relax." Gotta work on that. Ommmm.

Lucie Pohl, Photo Credit: Laura RoseMore on Lucie:

Lucie Pohl is a German-born-NYC-raised comedian, actor, writer, solo performer and producer. Her storytelling comedy debut HI, HITLER was nominated for the 2015 New York Innovative Theater Award (Outstanding Solo Performance), received 5 and 4 star reviews and played to sold out houses at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, on London’s West End, 59E59 Theatres NY & Los Angeles.

Monday
Mar132017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nancy Opel as "Penelope Pennywise" in "Urinetown"9. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? I am trying to improve my health every day, too! My commitment is to cook more for myself, and to cook healthy food- mostly vegetarian and vegan for the planet!

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

Nancy OpelMore on Nancy:

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

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

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

Saturday
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.

Monday
Feb062017

Call Answered: Carmen Cusack: If You Knew My Story: Live at Feinstein's/54 Below

Carmen CusackI was first introduced to the talent's of Carmen Cusack during her Tony-nominated turn in Steve Martin & Edie Brickell's Tony-nominated Broadway musical Bright Star. I was blown away by Carmen's performance and that voice! I could listen to Carmen sing all night if I had the chance to and now with the release of her debut CD (on Broadway Records), If You Knew My StoryLive at Feinstein's/54 Below, I can!

Come find out the tales behind Carmen's story in our interview below!

Carmen will be returning to Feinstein's/54 Below for four performances only March 8 at 9:30pm, and March 14, 15, 16 at 7pm! Click here for tickets!

Purchase Carmen's CD at Broadway Records, iTunes, or Amazon!

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

1. Last year you released your debut CD as part of the Live at Feinstein's/54 Below series. As if the pressure of making your concert debut at Feinstein's/54 Below wasn't enough, you decided to record the show and make into a live album. What made you decide to make your concert debut also your CD debut? I was asked to perform four shows for Feinstein's/54 Below and along with that request they asked if they could record it as a possible live album venture. I agreed to it because I felt I had nothing to lose. They took the best bits of the show and mixed it nicely and gave me full control over the content. I love LIVE recordings. They are raw and beautifully imperfect which is far more interesting to me. I'm a bit of a perfectionist to a fault and this allowed me to let go a little and embrace the organic nature of the evening.

2. Were you nervous knowing the show was being recorded? If so, how did you keep yourself calm? I was nervous the first five minutes of the first night. I then noticed that everyone was having fun so I decided to. I didn't really even think about the recording of it. I was too much in the moment with the audience to be bothered about that.

Carmen Cusack at Feinstein's/54 BelowCarmen Cusack as "Alice Murphy" in Steve Martin & Edie Brickell's "Bright Star"3. For fans who have seen you in Bright Star and your many other theatrical productions, what do you think will delight them about this album and what will surprise them? Well, I sang some songs I hadn't sang in a while! Roles I had played in the past, like "Christine" in PHANTOM and "Fantine" in LES MIZ and of course "Elphaba"...showing a bit more strings to my vocal bow. I also gave some background regarding the writing process I witnessed working with Steve Martin and Edie Brickell as well as some stories that never made the Broadway version of BRIGHT STAR. There were some hauntingly beautiful songs that had to be cut from BIGHT STAR that I wanted to showcase as well. These anecdotes did seem to intrigue (if not shock) some folks. Ha!

4. The album cover is a picture of you as a young girl. When you look at that picture now, what goes through your mind about that time in your life? How much space I had. How big everything felt. Catching lizards and picking blackberries with Grandpa and running with my dog. Good times.

5. The title of your debut album is If You Knew My Story. We'll know your story from listening to this album, so what is something we don't know about your story? Ha! Well there's still a lot more story to tell. I plan on telling more on my next set of shows at Feinstein's/54 below this March and of course when I release my original album. Nothing but stories in those songs!

Katie Rose Clarke and Carmen Cusack at Feinstein's/54 BelowCarmen Cusack as "Elphaba" and Katie Rose Clarke as "Glinda" in the First National Tour of "Wicked"6. Another song you perform on the album is "Strong is the Heart." What has been the hardest thing your heart has had to endure that you need it's strength? Allowing someone in. To learn how to love and be loved.

7. You also perform "For Good" from Wicked with Katie Rose Clarke, which you two starred together in on the First National Tour. What was the best part about reuniting with her? What is one funny story you can tell us that happened between the two of you during your run together? She is a Texas girl and most of my schooling was in Texas so we got each other straight off the bat. She is so soulful and real. Love her. We got caught in a whiteout in Cleveland taking her puppy to emergency vet. We couldn't drive any further so we had to walk another mile in waist deep snow holding on to each other and the puppy for dear life. Sadly, the puppy didn't make it. His name was Roadie. : (  (Sorry this story wasn't funny).

Carmen Cusack and Edie Brickell opening night of Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's "Bright Star", Photo Credit: Walter McBrideCarmen Cusack8. You also duet with Edie Brickell on "Sun Is Gonna Shine" from Bright Star, for which you received a Tony nomination for. What was the best part about performing with Edie? In your bio, you say playing "Alice Murphy" was the role of your dreams. Why was this role held in such high esteem for you as compared to other roles you've played? I love Edie. Her smile and energy is so infectious and calming and then she opens her mouth and this voice comes out that is like a warm breeze. She is the best! I knew as soon as I read the script that I was to play "Alice Murphy." It was that simple. Also creating the role as a debut was another big selling point.

9. One of your patter pieces on the album is titled "Anything could happen and probably will." What is something that you hope will still happen for you? The next thing I'd like to happen as soon as possible is to get my original album out. Maybe next time we can talk about that! 😉

10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? I want to be one percent every day more thankful for the love in my life.

Carmen CusackMore on Carmen:

An actress and singer whose career spans the world, Carmen Cusack made her Tony-nominated Broadway debut as "Alice Murphy" in Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s BRIGHT STAR. In addition, she has graced the stage in some of theatre’s most renowned roles, including PHANTOM OF THE OPERA’s "Christine," LES MISERABLES’ "Fantine," WICKED’s "Elphaba," SOUTH PACIFIC’s "Nellie Forbush," and SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE’s "Dot/Marie." In January 2017, Carmen starred in the world premiere of Karen Siff Exhorn’s DO THIS, a one-woman play at Gulfshore Playhouse. Possessing a versatile vocal range, she has also been featured in numerous concerts, recordings and cabarets. Her Live at Feinstein's/54 Below album entitled "If You Knew My Story" is now available, and she will return to the cabaret stage at Feinstein’s/54 Below for a series of four shows in March 2017.

Born in Denver, Colorado, Carmen’s childhood included stops throughout the Southeastern and Central United States. At a young age, she was enticed into singing by a sweet tooth. She had sung for youth chapel many times; however, her church’s pastor asked her to sing "Amazing Grace" for the adult chapel – with the promise that she could have the first choice from a box of chocolates as her reward. Intrigued by the deal, Carmen decided that chocolate was enough motivation to overcome her shyness. She approached the podium for her song, and when the pastor asked if she would like the pianist to accompany her, the five-year-old Carmen replied "No thanks… she might mess up!" Even as a child, she was already a self-declared perfectionist. Her singing debut was a success and a sign of things to come.

Carmen Cusack as "Elphaba" in the First National Tour of "Wicked"A passion for singing and acting continued to be fostered over the years and led her to the University of North Texas, where she studied in the Performing Arts. Among the genres in which she trained were opera, ballet, jazz and tap, and her early creative influences included Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, Sandi Patty, Aretha Franklin, and Meryl Streep. After completing her education, Carmen accepted a job on the Queen Elizabeth II cruise ship that changed the course of her future. Jean Ann Ryan Productions offered her a contract, and she sang her way around the world. Eventually, she landed in Manchester, United Kingdom, where she attained her breakthrough opportunity – the chance to appear in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA as "Christine Daae."

Shortly thereafter, another milestone in Carmen’s career arrived in the form of her West End debut in London. Starring as "Fantine" in LES MISERABLES, she earned her first bow in Europe’s most prestigious theatre district. A diverse career continued to flourish in Europe, with opportunities ranging from Original West End Casts (THE SECRET GARDEN and PERSONALS) to innovative workshops to the futuristic, interactive SAUCY JACK & THE SPACE VIXENS. One part which Carmen particularly enjoyed playing was OVER THE RAINBOW’s "Eva Cassidy," as she had always admired Ms. Cassidy’s music.

In late 2006, a path paved in emerald green led Carmen back to the U.S., as she returned to her native country to take on one of musical theatre’s most demanding roles – WICKED’s "Elphaba." She initially joined the Chicago company as the stand-by for the role, and a year later, the show’s producers asked her to lead the U.S. National Tour as the company’s principal "Elphaba." As the "Wicked Witch of the West," Carmen paired with Katie Rose Clarke as "Glinda" to become one of the blockbuster’s beloved duos, and the Green Girl became a cherished credit in her career.

Carmen Cusack as "Nellie Forbush" in "South Pacific"Following her run as "Elphaba," Carmen once again demonstrated her artistic versatility by stepping into the role of "Ensign Nellie Forbush" to launch the Lincoln Center’s North American Tour of SOUTH PACIFIC. Besides providing her the chance to embody one of theatre’s timeless roles, SOUTH PACIFIC also presented the opportunity to work with Bartlett Sher, one of the industry’s most esteemed directors. Critical acclaim followed her around the country, and the show grew to become her one of her favorite productions.

Two challenging roles in strong regional theatres arrived next, with the Chicago Shakespeare Company providing the opportunity to play "Dot" and "Marie" in its production of SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE and the Milwaukee Repertory Theater offering the role of "Mother" in RAGTIME. Both presented unique opportunities for Carmen to add her touch to these respected parts.

Carmen Cusack and Paul Alexander Nolan in Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's "Bright Star"The opportunity to create the role of her dreams arrived in BRIGHT STAR, and Carmen was reminded of how stimulating the creative process can be. Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s folk musical offered the perfect blend of music genre, intense acting, and extensive collaboration. Originating the role of "Alice Murphy" during the show’s development in the Powerhouse Theater workshop, she subsequently brought "Alice" to life in the show’s runs at the Old Globe in San Diego and Kennedy Center in Washington DC prior to the Broadway opening. She earned critical acclaim and amassed an array of award nominations – including the Tony Awards, Outer Critics Circle Awards, Drama Desk Awards, Drama League Awards, and Theatre World Awards.

Most recently, Carmen appeared in New York City Center’s gala concert of SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE and FOR THE RECORD – SCORSESE: AMERICAN CRIME REQUIEM in Los Angeles.

Sunday
Jan152017

Call Redialed: Martha Wash: It's Raining Men, RuPaul, + Fresh Grind Festival

Martha Wash, Photo Credit: Sean BlackI have been a fan of Martha Wash for a long, long time. From "It's Raining Men" to "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)" to "Strike It Up" and my all time favorite "God Bless The Road." I was fortunate enough to interview Martha in 2010 at the "QSAC Got Talent" benefit gala (a non-profit organization providing comprehensive services to individuals with Autism and their families).

It's a real honor to have the opportunity to catch up with her now as she gets ready to show us her acting chops in the 10-minute staged reading of I Want to Eat Brains (or the Day I Killed All My Friends), as part of the Fresh Grind Festival, a festival of public staged readings at Theaterlab.

I Want to Eat Brains (or the Day I Killed My Friends) is a musical parody about a zombie apocalypse and will play at Theaterlab (357 West 36th Street between 8th and 9th Ave) on Friday, January 20 at 8pm. Click here for tickets!

For more on Martha be sure to visit http://www.marthawash.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter!

1. This January you are starring in a 10-minute staged musical reading of I Want to Eat Brains (or the Day I Killed All My Friends) as part of the Fresh Grind Festival. After all these years of being a singer, what made you want to turn to acting at this stage of your career? I’ve always been open to other avenues in this business. I’ve done theatre before, back in 2003 I did a production called Love On Layaway. I have auditioned for many Broadway shows over the years. I just completed a movie called Wholly Broken. It’s a faith-based movie musical that can be turned into a TV series.

2. What do you get from acting that you don't get from singing? More of a challenge for myself rather than anyone or anything else.

3. What made you want to be part of this particular musical? My manager James Washington sent it to me and I read the script and thought it was funny and said yes.

Martha Wash, Photo Credit: Gor Megaera4. I Want to Eat Brains (or the Day I Killed All My Friends) is a musical parody about a zombie apocalypse. What is the best part about living in a zombie world? Well as long as there are humans still alive, you have food!

5. What do you relate to most about your character? What is one aspect of your character that you say to yourself, "Girl, you keep that part of you to yourself, I'm glad I don't possess that trait."? Well the only trait is that she’s sultry, so I can play that! Lol. Her lover loves her so much (although he just shot her in the head) she’s able to turn him into a zombie.

6. Since the show is called I Want to Eat Brains (or the Day I Killed All My Friends), I have to ask, have you ever eaten brains? If so, what did it taste like? And has there ever been a day where you thought, what would I do if all my friends were killed and I was alone? No, I’ve never eaten brains. I haven’t thought about losing all my friends, but if I did, I would be very sad because I’d think of our pasts. Life and time goes on and I would hope to make some new ones.

7. Now we have to switch gears and talk about your music. You have been singing in the music industry for over 40 years and it has changed a lot. What has been the hardest thing to adapt to? What do you feel is better now than when you first started out? I won’t say hardest but social media is the biggest thing. The internet. You can hear music anywhere and anytime now. The best thing is you can listen to so many more artists that you would never hear on mainstream radio.

Martha Wash, Photo Credit: Gor Megaera8. You are well known for so many songs such as "It's Raining Men," "Everybody Dance Now," "Strike It Up," and dozens more!

  •  If the world could be "Raining Men," who would you want to be pouring down all around you? Idris Elba.
  • When you want to "Strike It Up," how does Martha Wash accomplish that? A club.
  • One of your more recent songs is "Something Good." What is something good that has happened to you in the past year or two? Expanding my record label "Purple Rose Records" to include Heritage Artists. "First Ladies of Disco" which include myself, Evelyn Champagne King & Linda Clifford. We recorded a single ("Show Some Love") which reach the Top 10 on the Billboard Dance Club Charts. Our follow up success was with "The Ritchie Family," who happen to be THE first girl disco group to chart on Billboard Dance Charts 40 years ago, making them literally the First Ladies Of Disco. Their new single "ICE" hit the top 40, and both songs can be found on ITunes and CDBaby.
  • On that same album you recorded a song called "Dream On." What are you dreaming of still doing that you haven't done yet? I’d still like to do a Gospel and a Christmas CD

9. One of my favorite songs of yours is "God Bless The Road." There was a time I made a survival mix, it was a mix of songs that helped me through rough times and "God Bless The Road" was at the top of that mix. The song is all about believing in yourself. This is a three part question.

  • What do you ask God to Bless the Road you are walking with these days? For strength to continue to walk in His light. To still love one another. Sometimes that is easier said than done.
  • What did you used to want him to bless you with? I would probably say material things. Now I can say, "Don’t have to have it."
  • What was going on in your life during the time you recorded that song that made you go, I need to record this song? Not a thing. I just believed that everyone could relate to this song if they really thought about it.

10. One of your biggest hits was "It's Raining Men," which we briefly talked about in question 7. In 1997, you re-recorded this song with RuPaul, which I love! What made you want to re-record this song with him? The head of the label suggested it would be a good idea. I thought yeah. Everyone knew who RuPaul was and the thought of us doing it together would be big fun, you know putting his spin on it!

11. What's next for Martha Wash? I’m still working on the new album. It will be out this year. Continue to build the record label and reintroduce artists that you haven’t heard from in awhile. Work on more acting. We are in pre-production for my new Youtube show called 10 Minutes with Martha Wash, which I am very excited about, and will debut this summer.

12. 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? Getting a better hold of my time and things that I need to do.

Martha Wash, Photo Credit: Sean BlackMore on Martha:

THERE IS ONLY ONE MARTHA WASH. Martha Wash’s unmistakable voice has been capturing the hearts of millions of people around the world for decades. The two-time Grammy nominee is responsible for some of the biggest-selling, most beloved pop and dance hits in music history, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the irresistible charm of her astonishing répertoire. Think of her legendary backup work as part of Two Tons Of Fun for Sylvester’s disco classics, such as "(You Make Me Feel) Mighty Real." Remember how you celebrated the unrestrained joy of "It’s Raining Men," where she performed as one half of the Weather Girls. Recall the sizzling heat of her powerhouse rendition of "Gonna Make Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)," the highlight of C+C Music Factory’s career and a number one pop smash. Re-live that feeling of rapture you felt from her performance on the Dreamland album by Black Box, which featured three Top 40 Billboard hits, including "Everybody, Everybody." Is it any wonder today that Martha is considered the very heart and soul of dance music?

But make no mistake—Ms. Wash’s reputation isn’t just built upon the past. She has remained one of the world’s most in-demand vocalists and continues to command the attention of millions of fans, far beyond the confines of vintage dance music. After establishing herself as a celebrated solo artist with the release of "Carry On," another number one Billboard dance hit in the early ’90s, Martha released a string of hits that made her one of club land’s most enduring and prolific vocalists. The award-winning duet with Jocelyn Brown, "Keep On Jumpin’," and the glorious anthem "Catch The Light," paved the way for Martha to ignite the dance floors of a new generation.

Some of Ms. Wash’s most creative efforts have come to light in recent years. In 2012, she released her stunning and critically acclaimed LP, Something Good. This collection adventurously expanded the artist’s musical boundaries with unexpected journeys into pop and rock, such as her stellar rendition of Aerosmith’s 1973 gem "Dream On." Soon after she reached number two on the Billboard dance chart in a special remix of "I’m Not Coming Down" that set floors on fire. In 2015, she was back at the number one spot on the survey with "Free People," a riveting collaboration with famed DJ Tony Moran, bringing her Billboard number one count to a staggering 14.

Also in 2015, Martha teamed with dance icons Evelyn "Champagne" King and Linda Clifford under the moniker First Ladies of Disco (inspired by the book of the same name by James Arena). Their anthemic song of unity—the Top 10 Billboard dance hit "Show Some Love"—was a victory for heritage artists everywhere, thanks to the visionary efforts of Ms. Wash and James Washington, business manager and A&R executive of her independent recording label, Purple Rose Records, which released the project. The group First Ladies of Disco has been touring and selling out shows across the country ever since.

Martha Wash, Photo Credit: Sean BlackDue to this recent success Purple Rose records has started a Heritage Department and recently released its next project with the legendary group The Ritchie Family (Best Disco in Town and Brazil) and their new pop/dance single "ICE," www.theritchiefamily.band. As the owner of Purple Rose, Martha is actively promoting both her own excitingly progressive projects and the talents of vocalists who have shared her incredible journey over the years. She’s also launched a new show called Hot ’n Retro, in which she serves as a unifying focal point that melds the soundtrack of her astonishing history in dance music with those of her special guests—some of the greatest artists of the genre from decades’ past.

Martha Wash has a level of experience in the music business that few artists can claim. She knows a thing or two about the struggles performers endure. Ms. Wash has encountered more than any vocalist’s fair share of adversity, and is widely lauded as a model of perseverance.

Martha famously filed suit against Black Box and C+C Music Factory for failing to give her due credit for her lead vocals on their albums. This lawsuit ran in tandem with another case, which centered on the Milli Vanilli lip-syncing scandal of 1990. As a result of the lawsuits, record labels were forced to assign proper vocal credit for all albums and music videos. Wash had become an unwitting industry pioneer. Martha is an accomplished speaker about this and other aspects of her life and career, having lectured to audiences at a wide range of organizations and public events (including NYU Clive Davis School of Music, Billboard Music Conference and SAGE Center Harlem).

Martha Wash, Photo Credit: Mike RuizMartha also stays busy with her charity work as a spokesperson for QSAC, Inc., a non-profit organization providing comprehensive services to individuals with autism and their families. The You Can Play Project, a not-for-profit dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation.

Martha Wash is a star. But she’s not about to trip on it. "You have to pay so much to be a 'star,' I don’t take the hype seriously." Unquestionably, hype can be a flash in the pan—Martha Wash is anything but. Her voice is one of the very few in contemporary music that has been taken seriously, endured and grown ever more rich in beautiful and unexpected ways, earning the respect and admiration of fans and peers worldwide. Hers is a voice that has been honed to perfection with songs that lift the spirit and inspire the soul.

And for Martha Wash, the best is yet to come.