“Why Did I Bother Training?” The Paradox of Being Over-Competent & Under-Utilized

“Why Did I Bother Training?” The Paradox of Being Over-Competent & Under-Utilized

As part of my ongoing investigation into actors and their spiritual health, I recently conducted a work-satisfaction survey of several dozen actors at various points in their careers, from those just starting out to long-term professionals.   Some answers were surprising, many followed patterns you would expect, but the frequency of one answer, in particular, startled me.  Of the approximately sixty actors surveyed, over 75% expressed frustration that their training and ability seemed to have little or no bearing on whether or not they got cast.

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Reaping Your Own Harvest: How to Use Powerful Questions to Overcome Resistance to Self-Promotion

Reaping Your Own Harvest: How to Use Powerful Questions to Overcome Resistance to Self-Promotion

My fear says: Don’t expect anything to come of this. Don’t be too showy about what you created. Don’t look too confident, too needy, too self-centered, or too anything, really.

My fear asks: What if someone doesn’t like it? What if it’s not good enough? What if someone else can do it better?

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"We Want Poems that Kill": Removing the White Gaze from Black Stories Onstage

"We Want Poems that Kill": Removing the White Gaze from Black Stories Onstage

My community has been traumatized, and yet has dealt with the wounds of history, and the present. A Small Oak Tree Runs Red was birthed from my trauma. Even though the play focuses on an actual event that took place 100 years ago, I found it devastatingly beautiful and tragic to discover how I could so easily place my own fears, emotions and anger into the mouths of those victims.

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Buyer Beware: The Case Against Getting an M.F.A.

Buyer Beware: The Case Against Getting an M.F.A.

If I were to tally up all the money I’ve made as an actor since getting my M.F.A., my basic calculations total less than half of what I owe for my degree.  This is with an Equity card that I’ve had for 15 years, and booking gigs on TV, in films, in commercials and onstage in a national tour.  

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Paving Your Own Path: Creating Your Own Work Puts You in Control

Paving Your Own Path: Creating Your Own Work Puts You in Control

What if, after coming home from a not-so-great audition, or a mind-numbing temp job, or a workshop where that big director kept forgetting your name, you were to sit down to your own creation?  A project all your own, where you called all the shots?  Something that made you feel that you were cultivating your own career?

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Help Me Re-make "The Music of the Night"

Help Me Re-make "The Music of the Night"

Cameron Mackintosh once said, when he announced the closing of the original Broadway production of Les Miserables, “I have also realized that I can’t have a crack at the Tony for Best Revival until I close the first.” This after pointing out that he wanted to take the musical out on a high note, “with audiences once again fighting for tickets,” as he had with Cats and Miss Saigon. The only one of his big four that he doesn’t seem to have felt this way about is The Phantom of the Opera, which celebrated 30 years on Broadway this past January, and looks all set to way beyond. Phantom being my favorite musical, I have a smug pride that it is unlikely that any other Broadway production will dethrone it for the title of “longest running in history.” At the same time, though, I have to wonder what that “crack at the Tony for Best Revival” would look like.

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"Whose Production is it Anyway?" : Violating Copyright in Theatre

"Whose Production is it Anyway?" : Violating Copyright in Theatre

During my 30 years in New York City I had the opportunity to see the original Broadway productions of many plays and musicals.  I have also had the unsettling experience of seeing many of those productions replicated elsewhere, without any credit given to the original director, choreographer or designers whose work has been copied. This creative plagiarism seems to have grown exponentially with increasingly easy access to bootleg videos of Broadway shows and the proliferation of YouTube.

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Working With Kids and Those Who Don't

Working With Kids and Those Who Don't

“Never work with animals or children.”  While W.C. Field’s quip has become a comic cliché, there are plenty of directors who live by those words of presumed wisdom.  I pontificated on the first subject in my column, “Sandy, Toto and Chowsie Walk into a Bar…”, so here I’ll address the second subject.  “I just don’t like kids, period.” is a common mantra among certain directors.  Some elaborate: “It’s too hard.  They don’t have the experience, they’re slow, they throw off the rehearsal schedule, they don’t have any technique or discipline, they’re unpredictable and their parents are a pain in the ass.”  

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A Chat with Glenn Slater: Giving Voice to Belmont Avenue

A Chat with Glenn Slater: Giving Voice to Belmont Avenue

“I had a very specific role in the show: to be the person who listened,” A Bronx Tale lyricist Glenn Slater told me.  In listening, he discovered the voice of Belmont Avenue.

A Bronx Tale opened on Broadway in December 2016; and now after 500 plus performances (and a North American Tour just announced), the show is still going strong.

I recently caught up with Slater by phone to discuss the show’s success and the creative process of adapting Chazz Palminteri’s popular film “A Bronx Tale” to Broadway.

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"In America, It's Better I am Told" : Immigration in Musicals

"In America, It's Better I am Told" : Immigration in Musicals

It is no surprise that musical theatre writers over the years have gravitated to the theme of immigration. Many of Broadway’s earliest artists, like Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers, and Cy Coleman, were either immigrants themselves or born to immigrants. My great-uncle Harold Katz, who wrote the musical Happy Hunting as Harold Karr, was the son of a man who, as a boy, fled Romania with his family under circumstances similar to those faced by the residents of Anatevka in Fiddler on the Roof. And where does Tevye take his family at the end of that musical? America. Specifically, “New York, America.” The von Trapp family from The Sound of Music is based on a real family that ended up in Vermont.

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May I Suggest..."The Great Comet" as Travesty

May I Suggest..."The Great Comet" as Travesty

Again and again the show places some of the deepest truisms of the characters into their own mouths. When Mary says, “It’s now or never, my fate is slipping past me,” or Pierre says “None of us are great men, we are just caught in the wave of history”, they are clearly aware of the essential truth that they ought to know but don’t — at least not yet. Tolstoy lets us know that these things may be true of Mary and Pierre, but neither of them would ever think it themselves, much less say it.

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