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Entries in Go-Go Dancer (2)

Tuesday
Jul112017

Call Answered: Blake McIver: "Blake Sings Barbra" at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

Blake McIverIf you are a Barbra Streisand fan, this interview won't rain on your parade, except maybe this first paragraph. While I only have two or three Barbra Streisand albums and have only seen Yentl (please don't take my gay card away), I have always been fascinated with what Barbra Streisand is working on. There is something about her that intrigues me, which is one of the reasons I LOVE the fictional play Buyer & Cellar, which I feel goes inside the mind of Barbra Streisand.

When it was brought to my attention that Blake McIver was going to be bringing his acclaimed tribute show, Blake Sings Barbra to The Laurie Beechman Theatre, with her 1994 MSG concert as the backdrop, I couldn't wait to call Blake. I'm thrilled that Blake answered my call allowing me to get to the heart of what makes him LOVE Barbra Streisand so much!

After conducting this interview, Blake's enthusiasm and insight has made me want to dive deeper into the artist that is Barbra Streisand. Blake Sings Barbra will play at The Laurie Beechman Theatre (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue, inside the basement of the West Bank Cafe) for one night only, Friday, July 28 at 7pm! Click here for tickets!

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

For more shows from Spin Cycle visit http://spincyclenyc.com and follow them on Twitter!

Barbra Streisand1. Aside from Barbra Streisand, who or what inspired you to become a performer? I was drawn to singing and dancing as early as I can remember. My parents both have performance backgrounds as do many of their closest friends, so I grew up in an environment where that just seemed like the thing to do; the family business, if you will. Thankfully I had a little bit of natural born ability that I could couple with a lot of hard work and training.

2. When did you become a Barbra Streisand fan? What was it about her that made you go crazy for her? I’ve been a Barbra superfan since the first time I watched Funny Girl at seven years old. I think it really is her innate ability to infuse this electric passion and character into a melody and a lyric that was almost immediately a spiritual experience for me. Obviously I didn’t have that vocabulary to explain to my mom what was going on the first time she walked in on me with a bed sheet around my waist belting "My Man" into the bathroom mirror!

3.This July you are bringing your show Blake Sings Barbra to the Laurie Beechman Theatre. The show is a love letter to "The Greatest Star" using her 1994 comeback concert as a back drop. What was it about that particular concert that touched you so much? I have wanted to do this show for years! I’ve been completely obsessed with Barbra’s 1994 concert since it first aired on HBO. It was one of those things that I would joke about with my friends and then one day I just sat down at my laptop and decided to do it! But what makes this show unique is it isn’t just a recreation of the concert note for note. I take you on a journey through my own life to explain how this particular show came to mean so much to me. It’s part theatre, part concert, part cabaret, part therapy session.

4. When you decided to create this show, did you have any reservations about singing her songs, considering they are so well known? Yes! Hahaha. But the thing is, no one is her but her, and nothing about this show is an impersonation. I definitely tried to approach all the music as if it was brand new. Also, by revealing so much of myself in the stories between the songs, they become like telling new stories through very known material.

Blake McIver, Barbra Streisand5. What was the hardest song of hers to learn and which one was a piece of cake? There are challenges in all of them because I don’t think she’s ever picked an easy song in her entire career! I definitely am the most excited performing the "I’m Still Here/Everybody Says Don’t/Don’t Rain on My Parade" medley. It’s one of my favorite moments of her show and I’ve added my own spin to it and thrown in some references to Full House, The People’s Couch, and yes even being a gogo boy! The biggest challenge interestingly enough is "Not While I’m Around." Barbra dedicated it to her son Jason in ’94 and when I do it in my show it’s dedicated to my parents who have been so vital in every step of my journey. It’s always a struggle to get through it without tears.

6. What have you enjoyed most about your journey from child actor to go-go dancer to singer/songwriter? Well it definitely hasn’t been a boring life or career! I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunities I did at such a young age. That has given me the ability to learn and grow and change and evolve within my industry. The most enjoyable part is wearing different hats. Some days my title shifts from actor to songwriter, director to choreographer or music video editor, and the list goes on. And that’s what keeps me on my toes and always trying to learn and grow and get better at each thing.

7. You were on the original Full House as "Michelle's" friend "Derek." What do you remember about your time on the show? What is one story you can share with us? I spent three wonderful years on Full House and even though it’s not salacious or click-baity, the greatest thing was how truly kind everyone was. I did a lot of episodic work on other sitcoms in the 90s and I can say that many of those sets were oppressive environments *cough Home Improvement *cough. I would always feel so happy to go back to my home base set and the wonderful group of people both on and off camera who made that show happen.

Blake McIver, Photo Credit: DNA Magazine8. How did you get involved in the world of go-go dancing? What made you want to be part of it? Well, for me it’s always been about music. The first thing I ever did professionally was win Star Search as Jr. Vocal Champion ’92. Full House, Little Rascals, and all of the other "child actor" things came into my life as a result of that. My parents are both incredibly skilled actors so I was lucky to have great teachers in my own home. I always knew I would return to music. At 19, I started writing and songs began pouring out of me. I wanted to create a concept album based on the stories of my very strange childhood and how I evolved past them. Obviously that’s the last thing a record label wants to hear! So I did it on my own. The trick was, I didn’t have the money to finance it so instead of doing a kickstarter or an indie go go, I became a go-go! It was perfect because I could write and sing all day and then do what I called my "vocal rest/paid cardio" at night. The cash in my underwear literally made my dreams come true, haha! *And please download the fruits of my labor The Time Maniuplator on iTunes (SHAMELESS PLUG)!

9. Like Barbra got Back to Broadway, let's get back to talking about her and you. As a super fan, what is something you know about Barbra that the average person wouldn't? As Rosie O'Donnell learned the hard way when she had Barbra on her talk show, Babs likes to drink champagne with a hint of peach juice. It’s not quite a bellini, and definitely not a mimosa. I just want the opportunity to offer her a drink once so that I can say, "Can I get you a champagne with a splash of fresh peach?" and see her reaction.

10. If you record an album of duets with Barbra herself, what songs would want to sing with her (please keep it to a limit of 10 or less)? So here’s the thing, if that ultimate fantasy were to ever happen I would want to pick all new material. Her recordings are already so iconic, why would anyone dare to mess with them. The only exception is I would want to do a duet version of "Woman in the Moon" from her A Star Is Born. It’s my absolute favorite and I think I could find some interesting harmonies there, haha!

11. As a Barbra Streisand fan, I'm guessing you are aware of the critically acclaimed one-man show Buyer & Cellar, the fictional story about an out-of-work actor who gets a job working in the "mall" in the basement of Barbra Streisand's house. There is a scene in the show where Barbra and "Alex" share a moment together over ice cream. If you could have ice cream with Barbra Streisand, what would you want to talk with her about? Yes, don’t tell her but I did love Buyer & Cellar! I saw Michael Urie’s incredible performance and then my boyfriend (actor Emerson Collins) went on to do two critically acclaimed productions of it, so I’m now very well versed in the world of the basement. And of course, like the character of "Alex" I believe I’m the only other person on the planet who has actually read My Passion For Design cover to cover! If I had the "ice cream" moment I would talk about something really nerdy and specific: vocal placement. What makes her voice so spectacular to me is her ability to bend a note, a vowel, or even a phrase across the plane of her range. I’m completely obsessed and I want to know what goes on in her brain when she makes those iconic choices.

Mary Lane Haskell and Blake McIver12. What have you learned about yourself from Barbra Streisand? Never settle. If it’s not right, then figure out a way to get it right. Also, put the work first, above all, and don’t worry what anyone is saying about you. If you’re proud of your work, it will speak for itself.

13. For me, I went and saved the best for last. Your director: Mary Lane Haskell! I am a big fan of hers, so I'm beyond thrilled to see that she is directing this show. What made you want to work with her? What is a common interest or love about Barbra Streisand that you both share that you didn't know prior to working with her? Mary Lane is like a sister to me. We grew up together in LA and our families have been extremely close since before we were born. We watched the 1994 concert together countless times over the years (on both VHS & Laser Disk, you’re welcome) and she is equally obsessed with it. And beyond just the personal and historical connection I have such a deep respect for her as an artist. She’s got an incredible and unique perspective and she was able to bring things out of me in this process that I never dreamed would end up in the show. It’s truly one of my favorite collaborations ever. I could have never done this without her amazing vision.

Blake McIverMore on Blake:

Blake McIver has been performing since the age of six when he won Star Search as Junior Vocalist Champion and he has been working as a professional singer, actor and entertainer ever since in film, television and theatre. His film work began with a breakout performance as "Waldo" in The Little Rascals. In television, he starred as a series regular for three seasons as "Derek" on Full House opposite Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and went on to guest star on The Drew Carey Show, Clueless, Home Improvement, and The Nanny. Blake played "Edgar" in the US Premiere of the musical Ragtime and was the youngest person to ever be nominated for a Los Angeles Stage Alliance Ovation Award for his performance. Other theatre highlights include "Freddie" in Chess, "Fabrizio" in The Light In The Piazza, "Radames" in AIDA and "Link" in Hairspray. Blake has also worked extensively in voiceover and animation including Tarzan, The Little Mermaid II, Anastasia, Recess, and as the beloved "Eugene" on Hey Arnold. Blake has also worked extensively as session vocalist, backup singer and featured soloist for recording artists such as Michael Jackson, David Foster, Natalie Cole, Phil Collins and Barry Manilow. Blake is currently starring in BRAVO’s hit series The People’s Couch. He also released a solo album entitled The Time Manipulator.

Monday
May082017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more on David follow him on Facebook and Twitter!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris HarderMore on Chris:

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

David Drake, Photo Credit: Jose VillarrubiaMore on David:

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