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"Call Me Adam" chats with...



Entries in Pianist (4)


Call Answered: Michael Harren: "The Animal Show" at Dixon Place

Michael Harren at Tamerlaine Animal SanctuaryWho doesn't love a good cat or dog video? I love animals...well, not all animals. I hate rats and mice, but other than that, I love animals. When I read about Michael Harren's residency at Tamerlaine Animal Sanctuary, where he created his show The Animal Show, I knew this is an interview I needed to do.

The Animal Show, blends humor with candor to convey the importance of keeping all animals safe from harm. Through stories, music, and video from his residency at Tamerlaine Farm Animal Sanctuary and activism on the road, The Animal Show is a thoughtful exploration of humans’ relationships with non-human animals.

The Animal Show returns to Dixon Place (161A Chrystie Street) on November 8 & 9 at 7:30pm. Click here for tickets!

For more on Michael be sure to visit and follow him on Facebook, TwitterInstagram and YouTube!

Michael Harren and his orange organ1. Who or what inspired you to become a composer and performer? I wanted to be a performer for as long as I can remember. As a kid in the '70s I used to put on little performances for my family, playing songs I learned by ear on this florescent orange horrible sounding chord organ I got for Christmas. My mom always encouraged me to pursue my musical dreams, but it took me many years to develop the courage to start creating and performing my own work. There are so many messages we get in our culture that being an artist isn’t a "real job" or should just be a hobby. It was especially hard for me to get over that, but I am so glad I did!

2. When did you become an animal activist? I went vegan in November of 2010 when I realized that eating and otherwise exploiting animals didn’t fit with my desire to live a non-violent life. I learned so much about what we humans do to animals, I realized that being vegan wasn’t enough and I needed to hit the streets if I wanted to be able to live with myself.

3. This November you return to Dixon Place with The Animal Show, a multi-media experience of your time living and volunteering at the Tamerlaine Animal Sanctuary. First, what made you want to go live/volunteer at Tamerlaine? How long after you were there did you go, "Hey, this experience could be turned into a show? It actually worked in the reverse of that. I had the idea to do the residency because I wanted to create an experience that I could potentially turn into a show about animals. I had just wrapped up the album and book based on my previous show, Tentative Armor, and in the midst of my wondering "what next" I visited Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, and had the idea of doing a residency at a sanctuary. Soon after I met Tamerlaine co-founder Peter Nussbaum on my vegan running team, and the rest is history!

4. What are you most looking forward to about this return engagement? What do you hope audiences come away with from seeing this show? I’ve been wanting to add a video component to the show since I first conceived of the idea, but I just didn’t have the skills to get it together. Finally (after hours of YouTube study), I have some new pieces in the show that feature video, most of which I shot myself at a Los Angeles Animal Save vigil and a dairy farm I visited while on tour this summer. I’ve expanded the ensemble to a full string quartet, which really makes a huge difference in the sound of the show.

I hope people come away from the show with a different understanding about how we all relate to animals. The biggest thing I realized during my time at Tamerlaine was that every animal is an individual who wants to live. It’s such a simple concept, but even as a long time vegan activist, I didn’t internalize that understanding like I do now. Really, though, I’d like for everyone who sees the show to instantaneously go vegan, but I’ll settle for the "animals as individuals” thing. For now.

Michael Harren and his siblings with their pup Corky5. What did you learn about yourself from your time at Tamerlaine Animal Sanctuary? I’m way more resilient than I thought. Part of the "fun" of this project was that I pretty much hate the outdoors, and I knew by putting myself in a situation that made me very uncomfortable, I would have some interesting experiences to write about. It turns out that I liked doing the outdoor work way more than I thought I would. Even tasks like deep cleaning a chicken coop can become a meditative practice during which I have time to think. I don’t get a lot of that time in my regular life. I toured this summer and wound up in some pretty…rustic settings. One of the sanctuaries where I volunteered had me in a tent, with no electricity or plumbing nearby, I literally had to poop in a bucket and cover it with peat moss each time. One morning as I unzipped my tent I had a strange realiziation - "holy shit. I’m enjoying this." I never knew I was outdoorsy…sometimes.

6. Which animals were your favorite to be with? Which ones were you most afraid of? I love chickens way more than I thought I would. In fact, when I realized Tamerlaine Farm would be the best place for my project, I hesitated because most of the animals they had there at the time were chickens. I mean, what would I write about dumb 'ol chickens?? To my surprise, the stories about chickens are the heart of the show, especially one chicken I had the opportunity to rescue. Chickens are so social and cuddly. YES, cuddly! If you sit down in a yard of chickens, they will gather around you, hop in your lap, nuzzle under your arm. They are lovely and loving beings. I adore them now. Roosters, are a little bit scary though when they get all territorial, and I am especially terrified of a pig at the farm named Clara. There’s a story about her in the show.

Michael Harren at Tamerlaine Animal Sanctuary7. Did you encounter any moments similar to the show When Animals Attack and if so, what happened and how did you handle yourself? I don’t want to tell too much because this particular story is in the show, but let’s just say that even though I don't want to eat animals, that doesn’t mean that animals don’t want to eat me.

8. Which animal do you consider to be your spirit animal? Oh I don’t know, maybe a cat? A sloth? Yeah, that’s it. A sloth.

9. There are so many songs out about the welfare of animals. Off the top of my head, Olivia Newton-John has "The Dolphin Song" and "Pony Ride", two songs about the preservation of dolphins and horses. If you were to write a song about saving one kind of animal, which animal would you write about and what would you name the song? That would be a tough one, and forgive me for getting all vegan-y but the song would have to be about encouraging a consciousness of compassion for all animals. It would be called "We Are Us" and I think you just gave me an idea for a song to add to the show. I wonder if I can write it in just a week?!

Michael Harren and Sandra Bernhard10. My last question, is going to deviate from this specific show because I just love this artist so much that you play with. When not creating your own work, you tour with the one and only Sandra Bernhard as her pianist. What have you learned from working with Sandra and what is one hilarious story you can share about your time on the road with her? Working with Sandra transformed me as an artist tremendously. When I first started working with her I had these beliefs about myself as a pianist, and really as a human, that I had to let go of FAST if I wanted the gig. I was really intimidated when I first started playing with her because I came from more of a classical/theatre background where music was rehearsed and perfected, and I was expected to show up at sound check, ready to go and just do it. Working like that really loosened me up as a musician, and it has changed dramatically how I show up in my own work. I’m not so married to things being perfect, or a big deal, it’s performing and fun and we all, audience and performer, are supposed to have a good time and connect.

I think my favorite moment ever with her was not only getting to play "Me and Mrs. Jones" with her in Provincetown, but the moment she changed her iconic line to " and my vegan piano player. You know how we people get along so well…"

Michael Harren, Photo Credit: Diana BezanskiMore on Michael:

Brooklyn-based composer and performer Michael Harren combines elements of classical composition with experimental electronics and storytelling to create hypnotic, bold, and intimate work. He is an artist-in-residence at Tamerlaine Farm Animal Sanctuary where he created The Animal Show. Michael Harren tours as a pianist with Sandra Bernhard and serves as the musical director for Cabaret for a Cause. Michael has performed at Dixon Place, (le) poisson rouge, Joe’s Pub, Judson Memorial Church, The Laurie Beechman Theater and numerous venues around the country.


Call Redialed: John Epperson: An Evening with Lypsinka's Maid at Feinstein's/54 Below

John EppersonI first spoke with John Epperson, a.k.a. Lypsinka! last summer when he was gearing up to present LYPSINKA! THE BOXED SET, but due to an injury he had to cancel the run of the show. Now, he's all healed up and taking the stage at Feinstein's/54 Below (254 West 54th Street, between Broadway & 8th Avenue) from January 20-23 in a new show An Evening with Lypsinka's Maid!

In this rare cabaret appearance, we get to meet the face and man behind Lypsinka with an evening of light-hearted standards and lesser-known theatre songs. He will tell anecdotes about some of the famous and infamous he's encountered along his show biz journey. Click here for tickets!

For more on John as Lypsinka be sure to follow on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

For more on Feinstein's/54 Below visit and follow them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

Lypsinka, Caricature by Stefano Imbert1. It's great to catch up with you John! Last time we spoke, you were about to do LYPSINKA! THE BOXED SET, but due to an injury you were not able to do the run of the show. When you injured yourself, were you ever afraid that you might not perform again? I was very afraid at first that I might not be able to play the piano again. What happened was I had the flu that was going around NYC late April/early May, 2015. I was on my way to my doctor for the second time that week! I was walking because his office is only 9 blocks away. I said to myself, "At least you can stand up straight and try to look like you're not sick." So I held my head and chest up, and the next thing I knew I was toppling forward because I had stepped in a sidewalk pothole almost exactly the shape and size of my shoe, and I wasn't looking down. I fell on several parts of my body and had various injuries, including bad swelling of my left hand. I didn't break a bone, I sprained a ligament, which can be worse. It took a long time to heal.

2. Now you are performing a very special show at Feinstein's/54 Below from January 20-23 entitled An Evening With Lypsinka's Maid. What made you want to reveal the man behind the persona for this show? Lypsinka first became successful in the 1980s and ever since then people think I can't do anything else. But I also play the piano and sing. And I can actually talk and tell a story! So I want people to know that I am multi-talented and not a guy who ONLY lip-synchs in a dress! This is also one of the selfish reasons I was recently in ONCE UPON A MATTRESS.

3. What do you think will surprise fans most about this show? The above! And that I am a vulnerable human like everyone.

John Epperson, Photo Credit: Walter McBride4. What is the hardest part about being "Lypsinka's maid"? Keeping track of all the bits and pieces.

5. What is one story you can share with us that won't be in the show? I know a hilarious story about Nancy Reagan, but maybe I shouldn't say it. Maybe it isn't true! But it sure is funny.

6. If Lypsinka were to come to this show, how do you think she would like it? She would like it through a martini haze.

7. You are a classically trained pianist, which you will be playing during this show. What initially made you want to become a pianist? Let's clarify. I won't be playing classical music in this show. My older sisters studied piano and I would watch them and listen to them. One day I just sat down and did it. My mother was impressed and took me to my sisters' formidable teacher. I took to it and blossomed. As I look back, I realize one of the reasons I loved it was, it gave me an identity. It also gave me escape. And later it gave me real adventure and a way to finance my Lypsinka career.

Lypsinka backstage at "Once Upon A Mattress"8. What does playing the piano give you that performing as Lypsinka does not? The Lypsinka lip-synched performances are "cold and artificial" in nature which is part of their appeal. Playing the piano and singing is a "warmer" experience.

9. If you had to do it over again, would you have gone the same route you went? There are some days, some moments, where I think I would not have. But hindsight is 20/20. There are some moments when I regret not having more formal training for musical theatre, which my niece is getting now. On the other hand, by not having formal training, and by not pursuing a traditional career, perhaps I created something unique.

10. On "Call Me Adam," I have a section called "One Percent Better" where through my own fitness regime, I am inspiring people to improve their life by One Percent everyday. If you could improve your life by One Percent Everyday, what would you improve? I always try to be kinder to people, even though I know some people are not always kind to me. NYC is not known for its kindness, but there are pockets of it. (I am not always successful, admittedly.) I also try to be generous as much as I can be. Not always with money, but in other ways. Now, as for my own fitness regime, it's not going to get done while I sit at this computer answering your questions! Thank you!

John EppersonMore on John:

John Epperson was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, a long way from the exciting worlds in which LYPSINKA travels: movies (Witch Hunt with Dennis Hopper, Darren Aronofsky’s Black SwanWigstock: The MovieAngels In AmericaKinsey,Another Gay MovieAnother Gay Sequel); television (HBO specials Sandra After Dark with Sandra Bernhard, andDragtime; George Michael’s video Too Funky, PBS’s The United States Of Poetry and special features on the Mommie Dearestand Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? DVDs); fashion (appearing in the Paris, Tokyo and Los Angeles shows of haute couture designer Thierry Mugler, modeling for Valentino, Pauline Trigere, Barneys New York, and launching lines of cosmetics for Prescriptives, MAC, and Isabella Rossellini); advertisements (The Gap, LA Eyeworks, Naya Spring Water, Ilford Film); theater, including I Could Go On Lip-Synching!The Fabulous Lypsinka ShowLypsinka! Now It Can Be Lip-SynchedLypsinka! A Day In The Life (New York Theater Workshop, two Drama Desk nominations, including Most Unique Theatrical Experience; revived in 1993 Off-Broadway at The Cherry Lane Theatre), Lypsinka! As I Lay Lip-SynchingLypsinka Must Be Destroyed!Lypsinka IS Harriet Craig!Lypsinka! The Boxed Set (2001 Drama Desk nomination, Washington, D.C. Helen Hayes Award win for Outstanding Non-Resident Production / Outstanding Lead Actor nomination, wins for Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Circle Award, Best Sound Design and L.A. Weekly Theatre Award for Best Solo Performance); and special events (such as Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly, on Broadway with Bette Midler, Elaine Stritch and Patti LuPone, and London’s Meltdown Festival curated by Morrissey).

LypsinkaFormerly a rehearsal pianist at American Ballet Theatre, John’s theatrical career was launched in the mid-1980s when he wrote the book, lyrics and music of Ballet of the Dolls and Dial "M" For Model at La Mama ETC. The year 1999 brought Epperson’s dramatic stage debut in Messages for Gary at The New York Fringe Festival. In 2004 John appeared Off-Broadway in The Roaring Girle with The Foundry Theatre. The same year he was the subject of a stage festival at DC’s Studio Theatre, which included his autobiographical piece John Epperson: Show TrashAs I Lay Lip-Synching, and his play, My Deah: Medea for Dummies, the Medea tale set in The New South. Also in 2004 Epperson played "The Stepmother" in the New York City Opera production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella at Lincoln Center’s New York State Theater. The play My Deah opened in an Obie Award-winning production Off-Broadway in October 2006 and is now published and licensed by Samuel French. His acclaimed Off-Broadway show The Passion of the Crawford, a fantasia on the personality of Joan Crawford, toured to California, Florida and Washington, D.C.

LypsinkaLypsinka launched the 2007 Spring collection of MAC Cosmetics centered around the Barbie doll. Epperson’s version of James Kirkwood’s infamous play Legends! was produced at Studio Theatre in DC, Summer 2010. In 2014 in New York City, John devoted himself to a unique challenge for a solo performer by performing three of his shows in repertory under the umbrella title LYPSINKA! THE TRILOGY. John and Lypsinka are the subjects of an Emmy-winning television documentary for PBS. He provided the preface for the Rizzoli photo bookPersona, and is the author of a new screenplay Happy Everything. John has also written for The Guardian (U.K.), The New York TimesThe Washington Post and Interview and The Daily Beast.


Call Answered: Ben Moss: Arlington Interview

Ben Moss"Call Me Adam" chats with actor, pianist, and musical director Ben Moss about starring in The Vineyard Theatre's production of Arlington alongside Alexandra Silber, with Book & Lyrcis by Victor Lodato, Music by Polly Pen, and Directed by Carolyn Cantor through March 23. Click here for tickets!

For more on Ben be sure to follow him on Twitter!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? My love affair with performing began when I was given the LEAD ROLE in the 1st grade play (truly, the stars aligned). I was "Freddy the Frog" in ONCE UPON A LILYPAD and I guess I just really found it exciting. Flash forward: after spending a year on tour with SPRING AWAKENING, I went to college and thought I actually was finished with performing. It took about 1 month for me to realize that I needed to be performing to be happy in my life. That cemented it for me.

2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? That list is WAY too big to even delve into here. Am I allowed to say Meryl Streep? How about Stephen Sondheim? I would love to work with the director John Doyle (SWEENEY TODD with Patti LuPone, COMPANY with Raul Esparza) - as both a musician and an actor, his work is really exciting and presents a great challenge.

3. What attracted you to Arlington? ARLINGTON is a difficult show to imagine reading it on paper, but the depth of the score and the beauty of the words in the libretto really convinced me that this piece was something special and not to be missed. I loved the portrait of this woman and this family that the piece creates, and I think it's incredibly timely.

Alexandra Silber and Ben Moss in "Arlington" at The Vineyard Theatre4. During the show, you are on stage and not on stage at the same time. What is this like for you? Sitting behind a scrim makes it feel like I am in my own little world back there, but I am in plain view for the duration of the piece, so even when everyone is looking at Al, I'm still lurking in the background. It takes a lot of focus to play for an hour but the time really does fly by. Once the train leaves the station you've just got to play until it stops!

5. What is your process like to jump between being the accompanist and having to jump into multiple roles during the show? There's one moment in the show where I come in singing and I always forget that it's going to happen! I do feel as though I'm performing throughout the piece, whether I'm playing or singing as well, so when I need to speak or sing it's really just one more thing my character does at that moment.

Ben Moss and Alexandra Silber, Photo Credit: Alexandra Silber6. What is the best part about getting to work with the amazingly talented and delightful Alexandra Silber? Learning something new from her every day. Getting to see how an incredible actress refines her performance night to night. Remaining amazed that she can actually pull off what she does SEVEN times a week and sometimes TWICE in one day. Mostly, though, I love that I've made a talented and supportive new friend. She is quite truly one of the best.

7. What do you enjoy most about performing at The Vineyard Theatre? The people who work there are incredible! Not only did we have a great team working on ARLINGTON directly, but the whole in-house crew is so supportive and friendly. They're always looking out for us, coming around to chat, just being generally awesome. There is a really special vibe down there and I simply adore it.

Alexandra Silber and Ben Moss in "Arlington" at The Vineyard Theatre8. What's the best advice you've ever received? Woof. I have received so much great advice in my life that this is really hard to choose, but one piece of advice I got when I was auditioning for ARLINGTON was to not to let your own conceptions of yourself stop you from putting yourself out there. I was pretty certain I was wrong for this role, but a fellow actor encouraged me to go in anyways, saying that it wasn't my job to decide that - it was my job to go in there and be so good that they would have no choice but to cast me, even if I wasn't what they'd imagined. Guess it paid off!

9. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? Being a performer is all about learning new things all the time (new songs, new lines, new dance moves). It's only in this way of constantly learning and challenging yourself that you grow.

Alexandra Silber and Ben Moss in "Arlington" at The Vineyard Theatre10. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? There's a great "This American Life" segment about this question that I highly recommend. Me, personally...I would probably choose the power of teleportation (NOT the power of flight - flying is very flashy). I hate flying. I'd rather just think of being in Bermuda and then open my eyes and be there.


11. Favorite way to stay in shape? I've been using this machine called the "Total Body Crossramp" at the gym, whatever that means. I like it. When it's nice out I like running outside, especially along the water!

12. Boxers or Briefs? Boxer briefs. I'm an underwear bipartisan.

Ben Moss in his dressing room at The Vineyard Theatre for "Arlington," Photo Credit: Alexandra SilberMore on Ben:

Ben Moss is thrilled to be making his off-Broadway debut in ARLINGTON. Previous credits include SPRING AWAKENING (1st National Tour), BUNKED! (NY International Fringe Festival, 2010), and various commercials and films. Ben graduated from Harvard University in 2013 with a degree in English, and was the recipient of the Radcliffe Doris Cohen Levi Prize for Musical Theater. As an undergraduate, Ben was a cast member and composer of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, and a member of The Signet Society. Ben has worked with composers and directors at the American Repertory Theater, The Public Theater, Prospect Theater Company, Lincoln Center Theater, and New York Stage and Film. He is represented by CESD and is a proud member of Actors' Equity. Unending gratitude to Kimberly Grigsby and Michael Friedman, and love to Mom, Dad, Caroline and Lucy.


Michael Grant Interview

Michael GrantMichael Grant is an actor on the rise! He has been seen on one hit show after another from ABC's The Practice, to ABC Family's The Secret Life of the American Teenager and Pretty Little Liars. He is now cast on the new Fox series Brooklyn Nine Nine which airs every Tuesday at 8:30pm on FOX!

For more on Michael be sure to visit and follow him on Facebook and Twitter!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? There were a couple key performances that really inspired me to be an actor. One was Johnny Depp as "Jack Sparrow" and the other was Heath Ledger as "The Joker." I remember seeing those as a kid and thinking 'Wow. I would love to be able to do that some day!'

2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? I really admire the works of Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman and would love to have an opportunity to work with them.

Michael Grant and Andy Samberg in Fox's "Brooklyn Nine Nine"3. You just appeared on the new FOX series Brooklyn Nine Nine. What made you want to audition for this show? Brooklyn Nine Nine had such a terrific cast with Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher, and the character was one that I connected with instantly. I was so thrilled when the news came that I got the job!

in Fox's "Brooklyn Nine Nine"4. Tell me about your character on Brooklyn Nine Nine. On Brooklyn Nine Nine I played "Trevor Podolski," the son of the deputy police commissioner. "Trevor" is a trouble maker and graffitis police squad cars in the episode. He is also a bit entitled due to his father's high ranking position in the force and has a habit of getting off without punishment for his crimes.

5. Prior to Brooklyn Nine Nine, you were a series regular on ABC Family's The Secret Life of the American Teenager and appeared on Pretty Little Liars. What did you enjoy most about your time on these shows? All of the people in the cast and crew on Secret Life and Pretty Little Liars were absolutely fantastic to work with! I really enjoyed getting to build that sense of family on set!

6. Additionally, you are a gifted concert pianist. What do you get from playing the piano that you don't get from your acting career? I have been playing piano for a long time, and have found that it is helpful to ground myself and unwind after a long day.

Michael Grant7. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? Being a performer has helped me see the importance of living my life in truth and with love for all. There is nowhere to hide on stage or in front of a camera, so I have found these qualities to be extremely important for both my craft and my life.

8. What's the best advice you've ever received? There is a great quote..."Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius, and it is better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring."

9. Favorite way to spend your day off? On my days off, I love to watch movies or catch a football game. I am absolutely a fantasy football fanatic. My picks for fantasy football this year is Jordan Cameron...The guy is for real. I drafted Reggie Bush to be my RB - 2, and after a couple good games the 'experts' are advising to trade him. Don't. Health is key, but in the Detroit offense, he will keep putting up one huge stat line after another.

10. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? The ability to communicate from one mind to another without words over long distances would be a really cool power to have!

Michael GrantMore on Michael:

Michael Grant, who hails from Kingsport, Tennessee, moved to Los Angeles in 2009 to steadily build his acting career. The soulful and talented Grant booked roles on Criminal Minds with Joe Mantegna, Childrens Hospital with comedy vets Megan Mullally, Rob Corddry & Malin Ackerman, Disney Channel’s Shake It Up and on Nickelodeon’s Victorious. His work extended to national commercials for Lexus, the web’s Funny or Die (Flowers and Eviction Notice). In 2011, Michael generated critical acclaim on ABC’s Shonda Rhimes hit Private Practice where he played a young classical pianist stricken with brain tumor.

The television community quickly became aware of Michael’s ability and range when he was cast by Seventh Heaven creator Brenda Hampton as "Ethan," the troubled teen on ABC Family’s hit show The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Michael’s role, which was initially just for one episode, was quickly expanded and he became a series regular in the series’ final season (2013) opposite Shailene Woodley. After the show’s conclusion, Michael landed the role of "Connor," opposite Lucy Hale, in ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars. This fall he can be seen on the FOX comedy series Brooklyn Nine Nine opposite Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher as "Trevor," the vandal son of the deputy police commissioner.

Michael’s movie credits include a starring role in The Hallmark Channel’s Reading, Writing and Romance (2013) as tech whiz kid "J.D. Forester" alongside Meredith Baxter and Brenda Strong. In addition, Michael just returned from shooting the indie dramatic feature, Zoe Gone, from acclaimed director Conor Allyn, due for release in 2014. He will be seen as "Randy Chambers," a young teen who gets on the wrong side of the law.

A gifted concert pianist who won The Tennessee State Piano Competition at age 6, Michael went on to win first place in the solo and concerto divisions in 2006. He is still a Tennessean at heart and remains a huge fan of the Tennessee Titans but in deference to his new California home is fully committed to becoming an accomplished skateboarder.

He is proud to call himself a rabid fantasy football fanatic.