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Script-Tease


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Had the privilege of taking part again in the annual Script Reading Event for the New School’s School of Media Studies. Five winning screenplays were selected from dozens of submission, and twelve-minute excerpts from each of the winning scripts were performed by a cast of five actors in a live reading. An interesting hybrid of film and theatre, and a great playground for the actors. We sometimes played three or four different characters in the same scene, and had to make strong clear character choices to mark the distinctions.

Hats off to the winners who also received copies of Final Cut, and a professional script consulting session. And thanks again to The New School for treating us so well.


So, I Might Have Done This Thing….


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Got another out-of-the-blue offer a few weeks back. A couple days of principal work on a big time movie. Not a huge part, hopefully won't end up on the cutting room floor. But it was a big enough deal to make me excited to share the news with everyone.

Well, there's this little thing called a Non-Disclosure Agreement. In the age of social media, studios are working harder than ever to control their publicity and minimize any leaks about production. I thought it was kinda silly, but as I sat in the makeup trailer next to... um... someone who MAY have won an Oscar, I texted Joey about it. Realized it would have been so easy for me to snap an EXTREMELY unflattering pic of this mega-star with their hair all in rollers and their face smeared with cold cream and post it or sell it or use it as blackmail. Ugh, the internet brings out the worst in us.

So I definitely see the point of swearing us to secrecy. Suffice to say this film the next installment of a hit franchise, named for an immense body of water, with a number in the title. And this time, the cast is all...

Oops. Gotta go. Someone's knocking at the door. Knocking rather insistently, actually.  


Unexpected Opportunities

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It’s been a bit of a dry spell lately, hacking away at my money job for several months without a whole lot of auditions, let alone bookings. It’s actually been okay since my amazing wife has been juggling FOUR directing gigs this fall, and I’m NOT looking to leave town again any time soon. So having a steady paycheck while being home as a parent and husband has been quite satisfying. Still, my inner actor was getting a little antsy. So it was great to get a call from my agent out of the blue checking my availability for a couple gigs I was being offered just on the basis of my reel, NO AUDITION.

The second was a couple days of principle work on a major motion picture (such a cliché’d phrase) which I’ll write about in a separate post. The first was a lab production of a new reworking of Rogers and Hart’s PAL JOEY.

Screenwriter/director Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King, Behind the Candelabra, Unbroken, etc etc etc etc…) obtained the rights to the piece, and got permission to swap out some of the original songs and replace them with songs that were previously unpublished. The result, IMHO, was amazing, and that was even BEFORE he brought in the heavy hitters to bring it to life.

They had already been in rehearsals for a couple weeks when I got the offer, and I didn’t know much about the project. So I was shocked and a little humbled when I walked into the studio and saw Marin Mazzie, Patina Miller, Tonya Pinkins, and Chaz Lamar Shepherd being directed by Tony Goldwyn. And I was going to be doing SCENES with these people! (The program credit says Ensemble, but I was a non-singing utility character man.) A little daunting, but I took a deep breath and plunged in and it went great. 

After spending so many years singing and dancing in the chorus (and loving it!) it’s been thrilling these last few years to have the opportunity to be playing some real roles doing some real scene work. And after holding my own in the company of such well-known and talented performers, I joked with my agent that I was finally “sitting at the grown-ups table.” 

Here’s to many more meals at that table!

Back at 54


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Heading back to 54 Below for another Christian De concert. Here’s the official blurb:

Starring a macabre mix of Broadway veterans and Mind The Art all stars, A Drink with Death embarks on a journey to the underworld through the eyes of the mythical Mexican ambassador of death, La Muerte. As a handful of lost souls come face to face with their own demise, they take a final shot with La Muerte en route to whatever afterlife they believe in.

Sounds fun, yeah? Ticket info HERE.

54 Below Debut

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Got a call from my friend Christian DeGre - producer, composer, musician, actor, writer….. and the word IMPRESARIO comes to mind. He’s putting together an evening of his greatest hits at 54 Below next week, and jumped at the chance. As you can tell from the ad above, it ain’t exactly Jerry Herman. But when you start the show at 11:30, then “twisted” seems just about right. Click on the ad or HERE for tickets.

West Side Smash!

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Hey Daddy-o! Our production of the Jerome Robbins/Stephen Sondheim/Arthur Laurents classic is clickin’ on all cylinders. Over 90% sold out, two added performances, and a rave in the New York Times. Not bad for a 60-year-old chestnut. The music and the choreography are timeless, of course. Sadly, the themes of ethnic hatred and street violence are also just as enduring. 

Paper Mill posted a terrific trailer video on their Facebook page, see it HERE. (That thin red smudge in the very first second is yours truly.) We run through Sunday 6/26. Hope to see you there!

Back to the ‘Mill


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Headed back to Papermill Playhouse in Jersey for my first ever West Side. Don’t know how I manged to avoid this classic for all these years. If you include school and non-pro productions from back in the day, I’ve done 5 Gypsies, 3 Funny Girls, 3 Guys and Dollses, and a pair each of Anything Goeses, Hello Dollys, Peter Pans, and Annie Get Your Gunses. But never a West Side, and no Rogers and Hammerstein now that I think of it. (I better keep quiet about that, lest my musical geek card gets revoked.)

I’m playing Glad Hand (John Astin in the movie, for my fellow nerds) and understudying all the other grown up men. Happy to be back on the boards, excited to work on a variety of character roles, but THRILLED to have a decent-paying gig that keeps me HOME. 

Dates are 6/1 - 6/26. Come check us out! Click HERE for tickets.


Across the Multiverse

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The universe works in strange ways. Joey’s new play, An Uninterrupted Thought, deals with themes of love and relationships across multiple lifetimes and parallel realities. She wanted to incorporate actual ideas from the world of quantum physics, so she did a random Facebook shout-out asking if anyone know anyone with expertise in the field.

Well, the internet pulled through. Turns out one of her college roommates is MARRIED to a quantum physicist, who loves the play. AND this ex-roommate just happens to run Shoreline Actors Collective in Clinton, CT. Next thing you know, there’s a public reading scheduled in Clinton featuring the SAC actors, and one very lucky New Yorker. 

Can’t wait to share this amazing piece with an audience. If you're interested in quantum physics, gender fluidity, open relationships, and/or the persistence of love over multiple lifetimes (and you have a car... ) come check us out! Info HERE.

Intense Reading


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Honored to take part in a reading last week of No Home for Bees by Emily Dendinger, directed by Nancy Roblliard at Red Fern Theatre. The blurb says it all:

Sixteen-year-old Suz is trying to get reacquainted with her father after he is released from a five-year prison stint. However, when she discovers why he was incarcerated, she is forced to ask herself what constitutes an unforgivable act. In an exploration of sex and deviance, No Home For Bees investigates the repercussions of the desires we struggle to control.

So yeah, just an uplifting evening of light entertainment.

Actors are supposed to always embrace their characters without judgement, but sometimes it’s not so easy. Happily my wife was being played by… my wife(!) and that made it much easier. 

Shout-out to Red Fern, and their versatile performance space in the 14th Street Y. Tons of interesting and innovative work going on there.


Updating Sophocles

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Got an invitation last week to take part in a reading of a new play, Fanatical, by Eddie Intar. I met Eddie during the run of 4, and evening of one-acts at Up Theatre in Inwood. My one-act in that production was a pretty broad comedy, so I’m glad Eddie’s asked me to read the heavy in this retelling of Antigone. (Not to be confused with Vestments of the Gods,  a DIFFERENT Antigone-inspired show where I ALSO read the Creon character.) My guy this time is a powerful businessman, obsessed with the New York Yankees. His son blames him for the death of his mother, and uses his dad’s Yankees-fanaticism to take revenge.

As 30-year Mets fan (remember ’86!) it’s kind of killing me to praise the Bronx Bombers out loud, even if it’s just in character. At least he’s the bad guy!

H-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-M-E!

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After 16 months, 35 cities, 428 performances, and too many thrilling moments to count, my time with the Kinky Boots National Tour has come to an end. Thanks to everyone across the country who came out to see the show. By far the most amazing experience of my career. What an incredible honor to work with such INSANELY talented people to bring this beautiful, hilarious, heartwarming story to people all over the country. And to get to play such a fun character. Aw, George. Gonna miss you.

I shaved off my beard as soon as the show came down, as promised. Then the delightful J. Harrison Ghee (currently killing it as Lola on tour) treated me to a full makeover a la our Kinky drag queens, aka The Angels. Here’s a shot of the final product:

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Okay, so she's not winning any beauty contests, but she’s definitely working some glamour!

Anyway - I’ve been back in NYC for a few weeks with hardly any time to catch my breath. Parent duties have returned to their hands-on craziness with volleyball tryouts, high school search and applications, nagging about too much screen time etc etc etc. But after so much time away, I’m loving every second of it.

Here’s to the next gig! (One that keeps me HOME!)


“WHO'S scruffy lookin’?"

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I grew this beard for the Kinky Boots tour more than a year ago, and I’m STILL not used to it. Don’t recognize myself in the mirror, and the scratchiness drives me nuts. Sunday night October 18th, as soon as the curtain comes down, the razor’s coming out and I get my face back.

Still, I wanted to get a decent photo with it before I leave the tour. Lucky for me, Kinky Boots’ very own Grace Stockdale is also a budding photographer looking to practice her craft. So we hit the streets of Greenville SC (well, at least the Marriott parking lot) for a little impromptu photo shoot just a few days before she left the tour. Thanks Gracie! Miss ya!

Not So Fast...

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So I had my sights set and my spirit all prepared to be finished with the Kinky Boots tour at the end of my one-year contract. But Yogi Berra was right about when it’s over, and when it ain’t.

I’ve been asked to stay on for another four weeks to give the powers-that-be a little more time to find and rehearse my replacement. The company had already planned a two-week layoff in September, so I at least get a nice break at home with the fam before heading out again for the home stretch. Even got to take College Kid back to school!

Lots of turnover going on with the Kinky cast, so the company I leave will look very different from the company I started with. Still going to be an extremely bittersweet departure. Bright side - I get to add Peoria IL and Appleton WI to the extensive list of cities I’ve played. (Don’t everybody cheer all at once, now!)

Summertime, and the Baseball is Kinky!

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As the Kinky Boots tour continues to wind its way across the country, I’ve been able to “collect” a few more stadiums (“stadia?”) to feed my inner baseball dork. The previous post showed a picture from Progressive Field in Cleveland, which I still call Jacobs Field. (I wonder how all the political conservatives in Cleveland feel about that renaming?)

Since then I’ve seen the Rochester Redwings, the West Michigan Whitecaps, and the Pawtucket Red Sox. Minor league ball is always a blast, and it helps to have a castmate like Adam Halpin along. Dude’s a walking talking baseball encyclopedia who’s just as happy watching scrappy Single-A novices as he is watching Yankees - Red Sox. If the dogs are hot and the beer is cold, what’s not to love?

We have tickets to Wrigley for a Friday day-game this week, and chances to see games in Minneapolis, Pittsburgh and Boston before I leave the tour in September. The home teams have gone 3-1 for me so far - let’s keep it going!

Cleveland Rocks…. those boots!

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Just finished a two-week stay in The Metropolis of the Western Reserve - aka Cleveland, Ohio. 25 years in the biz and 7 national tours, and somehow this was my first time here. The city’s still got kind of a bad rap from the bad old days of decline (ie “Burning River”) but it’s actually one of my favorite towns to play. Playhouse Square, with all its theaters clustered together, is as close to the feeling of being on Broadway as you’ll find anywhere in the country.

The sports stadiums are also close together downtown, and while we werent able to see King James lead his hometown team into the playoffs (see photo above), we did manage to get to an Indians game. Heres a shot of me with their disturbing mascot, Slider:

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Also visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It happened to be induction week, so lots of R&R superstars were also in town. Saw Best Album Grammy winner Beck perusing the exhibits, and also 2015 inductee Bill Withers!

Best of all was being close to my wife’s hometown, and having in-laws and friends come to the show. So glad that when I finally toured Cleveland it was with a show that I’m so proud of. And the crowds were amazing.

More fun cities coming up, including Memphis (my other favorite town to tour) and some East coast cities - close enough to NYC for some quick trips home! Just hope it gets warmer soon. Snowing here in Buffalo yesterday! Oy!



Not Just Another Vacuum Cleaner Salesman



Finally got around to posting this clip from Steve Soderbergh’s The Knick on Cinemax. (I do most of this video ripping/editing/posting myself, and I am most definitely not a pro.) Click on the pic to view the clip.

Click HERE for more info on the shooting of the scene.

For those familiar with the show, don’t worry. The scene is absolutely G-rated. No intestines, vomit or graphic sex. (But brace yourself if you plan to watch the series…  )

Even MORE Kinky Press

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Click on the pic to see a quick interview I did with the local NBC affiliate in Nashville last week. The reporter seemed to already know her way around a pair of thigh-highs, but I chose not to point that out…

Some big changes out here on the tour. Our beloved Lola, Kyle Taylor Parker, has gone to the Broadway company to fill in for Tony-winner Billy Porter for a few weeks while Billy takes some time off for other projects. We miss him terribly, but we’re thrilled to see his two understudies - Darius Harper and J. Harrison Ghee - share the role in his absence. They’ve both been knocking it out of the park, and it’s been keeping us on our toes to have slightly different flavors of Lola being served up every night.

We’re in Houston for the rest of the week, then on to Dallas and Durham and so on and so on. Click HERE for a link to our website with the complete schedule. Hope to see you in an upcoming city!

SF ❤️ KB (And the feeling is mutual!)

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Greetings from the city by the bay! Something of a homecoming for me, having grown up near San Jose, just an hour south. I always loved visiting here with my family when I was a kid, seeing shows and doing touristy stuff. But the tour is here for a month, so it’s been great to really explore the city. 

The show’s been incredibly well received - including this REVIEW from the SF Examiner.  Money quote:

Special recognition must also go to Craig Waletzko, whose character goes through a lovely metamorphosis from bookkeeper drudge to his own true self, with a song-and-dance enthusiasm that is simply ebullient.

Some nights there are more drag queens in the audience than there are onstage! (Nice try SF, but our ladies are still more fabulous.) I’ve had visits with friends from high school and from the theater scene in San Jose. Great to reconnect, and performing in this show for the people who helped me learn my craft feels like a very full circle.

Before San Francisco we played three weeks at the Pantages in LA. More full circle - the Pantages is where I joined my very first national tour - Me and My Girl with Tim Curry in 1980-something. I also got to visit with some college buddies for a mini-reunion. We had a terrific time, but I couldn’t convince any of them to give up the sunshine and palm trees to live in a “real” city. Ah, well.

LA followed a two-week stint in Denver. A beautiful city, warm audiences, and I met up with a cousin I didn’t even know I had!

I’ve been sneaking home to NYC on days off now and then, and my wife Joey flew our for our LA opening, but all four of us haven’t been together since late August. They’re flying out to join me for TWO WEEKS over the holidays. Best gifts Santa’s ever brought me!

More Press

Did a radio spot with Jeff Scott from Skyview Satellite Radio in Arizona a few weeks back. Turned out pretty well, despite my sleepy voice.

Click on the logo below for an interview I did with Jasmine Joshua of the Seattle Examiner. Turns out she's the product of actor parents herself, and I kept asking her what that was like for her, how did she handle it, any advice for an actor Dad, etc. Eventually we got to talking Kinky Boots, and I think it turned out pretty well.

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Also had a chat with Josh Stilts from the Bellevue Reporter. He really wanted to explore some of the show's deeper themes, and we had a great talk - even with him in the middle of a Barnes and Noble store. Click the logo to check it out:

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Booting Up In Seattle

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Greetings from the birthplace of Grunge and Starbucks!

Seattle is our fifth city on this tour, and after a series of quick one-week stops (Tempe, San Diego, Portland) the company is looking forward to a nice long sit-down in the Emerald City.

The tour is kicking box-office butt! Sold out for most performances, and in San Diego we broke the record for a one-week first-run of a musical.

I've been lucky enough to be asked to do some press interviews for the show. Seems like local media can't get enough Kinky Boots. Here's a
radio interview I did with Jeff Scott for Sky View Satellite Radio in Arizona. I had fun doing it, but I have to admit I was kinda shocked at the change in Jeff's voice when we switched from just introducing ourselves and chatting to actually recording the interview. Suddenly realized - Oh yeah, he IS a radio guy!

After Seattle we're hitting Denver, LA, and San Francisco.  Selling out fast - click HERE for tickets.

What happens in Vegas… tours the country!

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WE ARE UP AND RUNNING!

Performances of the Kinky Boots National Tour started September 4th in Las Vegas, at the beautiful Smith Center. We were PACKED. 2,050 people crammed in, laughing, crying, clapping, cheering - and by the end, on their feet dancing and screaming! I've been in this business a long time, and I've been a part of some really special shows that have left audiences swooning. But I've never seen anything like this. Not to get too new-agey, but we can feel how this audience is just so eager to hear the show's message of acceptance and living your truth. The PR folks have coined the phrase "happiness machine" to describe the show, and I thought that was just clever spin until we started seeing the effect it has on our audience. So proud to be a part of it! (That's me on the left, btw, rocking the sweater vest. Oh so kinky.)

And it's not just my opinion - check out Robin Leach's review in the Las Vegas Sun.

My beloved flew out for opening weekend. Here's an opening night shot from the balcony of the Smith Center.

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From Vegas we moved on to Tempe, AZ, selling out the 3000-seat Gammage Auditorim before we opened. Next week: San Diego.  Hold onto your hats, America!

Jo's Fringe Hit!

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So while I've been rehearsing Kinky Boots, my beloved better half has been directing an amazing new show for the New York International Fringe Festival. It's called Vestments of the Gods, a riff on Sophocles' tragedy Antigone set in a modern-day 5th grade classroom on Halloween. (If it sounds familiar, maybe you read about the reading we did last year.)

It's being produced by Lin-Manuel Miranda (of In the Heights fame) and the stellar cast is headed up by Broadway veteran Jen Cody. Only three performances left! Check it out! Show info HERE.

Finally!

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So the audition was all the way back in March. Got the offer in April, but I've been afraid to share the news too soon. (Superstitions run deep in this business)

Well, the announcement came out a couple days ago, so no more jinx: I'm gonna be in the Kinky Boots National Tour! Rehearsals start late July, then in late August we hit the road - tech and opening in VEGAS, BABY! I play George, the shop foreman at the struggling Price and Son shoe factory. He's a mostly mild-mannered guy whose passion is revealed when the chips are down. It's a fun role, AND I'll be on the road without understudying ANYONE. (For those who have endured that stress - you understand!)

It's a year-long commitment - tough decision for the whole family. But after a lot of soul searching and long talks, we all decided together that we could make it work. The touring experience has changed a lot since my first time on the road with Me and My Girl in 1987. Skype and cell phones haven't made it pain-free, but they sure help!

Another Closing, and...

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So my time in the house on the hill in New Rochelle (aka Ragtime) has come to an end. (That's Joey Sanzaro as Tateh and Todd Ritch as Younger Brother - waiting for our final curtain call.) Had a great time being back at Westchester Broadway Theater. Huge kudos to the entire company.

Meanwhile - something big is on the horizon. Don't want to jinx it, but stay tuned for an update once everything's official!

Interview

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Did a little P.R. for Ragtime this week. A Q&A interview for Westchester Broadway Theatre's blog. (You might need to scroll down to get to my entry.)

That's Todd Ritch as Younger Brother seething with contempt as I serve up a big helping of smug. It's been great playing the not-so-nice guy. Trying to assure myself that it's a real stretch...

The People Called It…. "Just Amazing!"

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So Ragtime is up and running in Westchester. The pic above is from the Press Night bash, with the lovey and talented Victoria Lauzun who plays Mother to my Father. Nice to share a few moments of joy offstage, since the story onstage is mostly conflict and tension. The children's cast is in constant rotation, so night-to-night we're never sure who our "son" is going to be - a new twist on modern parenting!

The reviews are trickling in. WBT has aggregated them HERE. Not too much about yours truly, but some nice background and appreciation for the production. Amazing Groupon deal HERE.

We're running 'til May 4th. Hope to see you up there!

Westchester News Coverage

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Getting ready to open Ragtime at Westchester Broadway Theatre. The local all-news station came to rehearsal last week to shoot some footage for a background piece, and I my brief interview made the cut!

Having a great time working on this role. Father is so often seen as the bad guy in this story, but it's always interesting to explore those characters and their motivations. Hoping the audience will understand this guy and feel for him a little bit even as he's hurting the people he supposedly loves.

Tickets on sale now. (Here's a Groupon offer.) The show runs until May 4th. C'mon up to Westchester!

Represent!

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I get a chance to show a little Bay Area pride! My friend Gary DeMattei asked me to sing a duet with him in the first ever Davenport Songwriting Contest in midtown tomorrow night. We'll be singing a great new tune - "We're The Only Real Actors In This Show" by San Jose native Ted Kopulos. Ted's been involved in the Bay Area theater scene for decades - back when Gary and I were first getting hooked on show-biz. Mabye a chance for a little NoCal redemption - since the Niners lost the Superbowl.

The contest is sponsored by producer Ken Davenport and is being held at his new theater at 354 West 45th street. Tickets HERE. (The photo is from Ken's blog page about the event. Don't ask me WHO those kids are!)

Back on the Boards!

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I'm headed back up to Westchester Broadway Theater to play Father in Ragtime. 2013 was a terrific year for on-camera work, but I'm thrilled to be getting back on stage again. And really looking forward to returning to Westchester - site of my first-ever gig after moving to NYC after college. (For the record, the show was On Your Toes. And our dance captains were Rob Ashford and Kathleen Marshall.) All told I've done four shows up there, the last was Cats in 2002. Don't think I'll be reviving any of that choreography this time around, though.

Coolest Shoot By Far - So Far

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Amazing experience shooting a scene for Cinemax's The Knick last week with director Steve Soderbergh. I've been a fan of his ever since Sex, Lies and Videotape. His work is so amazingly varied - everything from artsy-fartsy to popcorn movies - that I was really curious to get an up-close look at this process.

Biggest shock - he's his own Director of Photography AND his own camera operator! It was amazing - he took a look at our set, we talked about the scene (not huge drama, but a fairly signigicant moment.) Then he just picked up the camera and started shooting. Reminded me of a kid shooting his own homemade videos in his parent's basement using his dad's VHS camera... but with a few million dollars to spend on sets, period costumes, union crew and actors - oh, and catering and craft services!

My scene partner was André Holland, whom I recognized from last Spring's 42 -the Jackie robinson movie. He's a regular on the series and on the ride home he filled me in on some details from the rest of the first season of The Knick. Might have to finally subscribe to Cinemax!


Another Period Piece

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Got the call last week - I've booked an episode of the new Cinemax series The Knick  directed by Steve Soderbergh. The email was actually kinda cool - it said I was "Mr. Soderbergh's choice," though I'm not sure how painstaking the process was. Maybe he just took a look at my audition tape and said "Him, I guess. Whatever." Still, the fragile actor ego will take any positive.

There's usually some kind of confidentiality clause in these contracts that keep the actors from blabbing/posting/tweeting any details about plot or character. But the show stars Clive Owen and centers around the Knickerbocker Hospital in downtown NYC in the early 1900's. It was a time of intense technological and social change, including the hiring of the city's first African-American surgeons. Should be pretty cool. Stay tuned.

The Reviews Are In!

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So this past Friday Amazon premiered the first three episodes of Alpha House for free. To watch the remaining episodes, viewers will have to join Amazon Prime for $79 per year - or sign up for a 30-day free trial.  Kinda like drug dealers - the first taste is free. (But hey, most drug dealers don't offer free 2-day shipping on all your other purchases and a free Kindle e-book every month.)

I haven't had a chance to watch the other two episodes yet. but I've been checking out the reviews. Raves from Variety and the LA Times, positives from the NY Times and the Hollywood Reporter, and pure poison from the Daily Beast.

A lot of the coverage continues to be about the online distribution model, with pundits and critics all predicting whether the shift toward on-demand content with less reliance on traditional advertising will succeed, and how it will shake up the already-shaky world of traditional network television. I can't imagine what it's like to be a programming executive for any of the big networks right now. Crazy times!

Busy Weekend

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Call time 7:00 AM tomorrow in Maplewood NJ for a full day of shooting the short film Communication Breakdown written by my buddy Bill Pace. It's a married couple arguing as they prepare dinner, but with a twist: they speak only in song lyrics. She's all Gershwin and Cole Porter, and he's pure Led Zeppelin. Fun stuff. And you won't believe the hottie thay found to play the wife.

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Then on Sunday it's a reading of a new play, Cosmo Girls, by Jacqui Friedman. I play a troubled teenager's widower dad who self-medicates and starts hitting on his daughter's friends before getting pushed out of an upstairs window. Just your normal boring Sunday afternoon.

Doctor Doctor!

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I thought my episode of Blue Bloods wasn't airing until later this season, so I was surprised to get a message from my aunt in North Dakota Friday night saying she had just watched my scene. I grabbed the remote and switched to CBS to do a "Start Over." (To be honest, I'd never seen the show and didn't even know it aired on Fridays!)

It's just a quick little scene, but I'm pleased it came out okay. Here's a LINK to the episode on CBS.com. My scenes start at 20:18. I'll post the clip to the video page as soon as my limited tech savy permits.

(UPDATE: Watch the scene here.)

Quick behind-the-scenes Fun Fact: In addition to the Twitter fan incident, I also got a little advanced education about the rules on-set. There was plenty of extra blood on hand for the scene where Donnie Wahlberg (see screenshot above) asks me to stitch up the famous movie star, played by Marc Blucas. In between takes, the director kept calling for more blood on Marc's fake wound and on my bloody hemostat clamp. Turns out that makeup-blood and prop-blood are only allowed to be handled by members of those respective unions. I almost caused a major labor relations incident by dipping my clamp in the wrong bucket!


Jumpin' Joe

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So the sesaon four premiere of Boardwalk Empire aired last Sunday - with my scene intact!

I hadn't really watched the show before, but I'd heard it was pretty intense. I was pretty shocked at the readthru when they got to the (spoiler alert) forced-interracial-cuckoldry and multiple-stabs-in-the-throat-with-a-broken-bottle scene. Even though the stage directions were pretty graphic, I thought they'd tone it down a bit in the actual shoot. But if anything, it was even more intense! Had a hard time shooing my kids away from the TV before it all went down.

I did a little research before the shoot. Turns out my character, Cicero Mayor Joe Klenah, was a real guy. And yes, Al Capone did once beat him up and throw him down the steps of city hall. Stephen Graham who plays Capone was pretty convincing putting me into that chokehold - but that wasn't half as disoncerting as hearing his accent slip from 1920's Brooklyn into his native Liverpool/Manchester in between takes. ("Oh Bollocks!")

For hardcore fans of the show - the Cicero scenes are shot in a quiet neighborhood in Staten Island. The art directors took over this one block and completely transformed it with period storefronts and façades, vintage cars, and fake snow crusted on everything. (Although the day we shot was pretty frigid. You could see our breath in a couple of the takes.)

Ye Gods!

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Had the good fortune last week to be included in a develpomental reading of a new play with music, Vestments of the Gods, written by my good friend and Playwrights Gallery member Owen Panetierri, and directed by this woman Joey Brenneman.

The play is a retelling of Sphocles' Antigone, set in a fifth-grade clasroom preparing for its Halloween costume party. When one of the boys gets teased for coming dressed as "Jesus of Fab-u-leth," his friend supports him by announcing that she is actually dressed as the Prophet Mohammed. When the classroom chaos erupts, she refuses to take back her claim until she is told the fate of their beloved assistant teacher, who was mysteriously "reassigned" shortly after a class discussion turned to the subject of marriage equality.

I played Pricipal Creon, who struggles to balance his student's freedom of expression with demands from outraged parents, the political heat from an overly ambitious PTA president (played by Jen Cody,) and the dire warnings from the clairvoyant school janitor. Oh - and since it's Halloween I'm dressed as a clown.

Funny and absurd on the surface, but also a serious examination of freedom, poitical correctness, bullying, and the obligations and limitations of authority. Cool stuff!


Quiet On The Set!

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Interesting day on location with Blue Bloods last week. Made friends with Marc Blucas, of Buffy and Necessary Roughness fame. Really nice guy, and a terrific actor. He was there as a six-day guest star, but we were both the new kids that day. (No, that's not a Donnie Wahlberg joke.)

It was a nighttime shoot in Chelsea, pretending to be the Upper East Side. The scenes took place inside and outside the office of a distinguished-yet-discreet doctor played by yours truly. (See pretentious photo above.)

While Marc and Wahlberg were shooting the outdoor part of the scene, a pretty serious moment, a fan who was watching the shoot from her apartment window kept shouting "Donnie, tweet me back!" The crew was doing their best to keep the pedestrians walled off and to keep the crowd quiet, but this one fan just couldn't help herself. Seems like no matter how seriously someone tries to present themselves, boy-band fame is forever.

Social media is an amazing tool, but man is it ever double-edged!


Blue Bloods, Take Two

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Booked another episode of CBS's Bluebloods! Shooting in Chelsea next week.

I play an Upper East Side doctor who agrees to discreetly patch up a wounded movie star. 

I actually did a one-day shoot with them last fall, but my grieving-parents scene was cut from the opening sequence. Hoping for a better outcome this time - hoping to avoid the "we watched but didn't see you" e-mails.

NYMF - o - mania!

Searching for Romeo

Rehearsals in full swing for Searching for Romeo, a reading at the New York Musical Theatre Festival. It's a fun piece - R & J as seen through the eyes of lesser-known characters Rosaline and Paris. Fun songs, jokes in iambic pentameter, and an interesting statement about how real life is lived mostly outside the spotlight. I play Lord Capulet, Juliet's dad, so I spend a lot of time having my teenage daughter roll her eyes at me. (It's a real stretch for me, but I'm giving it my best shot.)

The reading is taking place at the Theatre Row Studio Theatre on 42nd street, Friday 7/19 and Sunday 7/21. Tickets are  free online, or at the Pershing Square Signature Center 48 hours before each performance. Hope to see you there!

Vocal Track - Shout Outs!

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So I've been tinkering with this website for a few years, comparing it to other performer sites out there. Some of my friends have built their own sites, others pay professional builders to create them. I've kept mine pretty basic, but I've always wanted to add some vocal tracks. Assumed it would require tons of effort and expense, but I found some folks to help me out and kept the cost and stress down to extremely reasonable levels. And they deserve some recognition!

First up is Paul Raiman, the guy behind MyRehearsalPianist.com. (He's also a big-time conductor/music director.) It's an awesome service. You send him a PDF of some sheet music, and for a nominal fee he sends you back an MP3 recording of him playing the music. For audition tunes, he does two separate tracks: one with the full accompaniment, and one with the melody line played nice and clearly on top of it. And the tracks are usually ready within 24 hours. So so SOOO helpful. He's also really great at listening to what you need in terms of tempo, etc. In short, he rocks.

Next up is my amazing recording engineer Darren Korb, whom I first met when I recorded some tracks for a show he's written with his brother Dan, Marry Me, the Musical. His Brooklyn apartments doubles as a pretty awesome recording studio. He put me through my paces, and even put up with my howls of protest as we listened together to the playback and selected the best takes.

So the track is "I've Been" from Next to Normal. Check it out, and let me know what you think!

Up & Over

Photo: 'O Captain, My Captain' by Chris Van Strander
Survivors of a cruise ship accident vote on who will captain their lifeboat to shore, an election satire.

Directed by Nancy Robillard
Sets by Duane Pagano, Lights by Brian Jones, Costumes by Christopher Klaich, Sound by David Margolin Lawson

Photo by Martha Granger

Had a great time performing in with Up Theater in Inwood. The pic above is from the final one-act of the evening, Oh Captain my Captain by Chris van Strander. That's the talented Mark Friedlander on the left, and the hottie in the middle is my wife Joey Brenneman. Our first time on stage together! (I have no idea who the putz in the Hawaiian shirt is - with the classy socks/sandals combo… )

Keep your eye on Up Theater. Tapping into the creative talent pool in upper Manhattan - brilliant!

Next up - Searching for Romeo at the New York Musical Theatre Festival. Stay tuned!

4 - Play

Meet the Cast of '4'

Opened last night in 4, an evening of one-acts at Up Theater in Inwood. Some really great, wide-ranging material. And I'm always amazed at how talented people can make something special, even with limited resources. Up is a new company, and even though they do an amzing job of securing grants and sponsorships, the budget is not exactly in the millions. Still, if you start with strong, interesting material, choose your director wisely, find actors with some chops who aren't afraid to commit to the material, assemble an incredible design team who seem to thrive on making magic happen in small unusual spaces… well, you get an evening of powerful theater.  All the more special if it's happening in your neighborhood.

Proud to be a part of the blossoming uptown arts scene! (Click the image above for a link to buy tickets.) (Yes that's me in the "Alice" position on the poster.)

Up Up and (not) Away

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So there's this terrrific new theater company up in Inwood, just one neighborhood north of our place here in Washington Heights. (New York realtors have been trying to use the hip term "WaHI" as in "Washington Heights - Inwood" but it just doesn't have the same cachet as Tribeca or Dumbo.) Anyway, it's called UP Theater, and their mission is "to bring serious, professional theater to Northern Manhattan."  They've hired Nancy Robillard to direct their new project, an evening of one-acts called 4.  Nancy made the bold move of casting me alongside my wife Joey in a piece called O Captain My Captain by Chris Van Strander. Our first time acting together!

The pieces vary widely in tone, theme and style. Ours is the funny one, a political satire disguised as a shipwreck/lifeboat crisis. Seems I can't get away from political material these days.

The show runs from 6/5 to 6/16, right off the #1 or A trains uptown. (Thus the blue and red dots in the logo seen above!)

Tickets available through Brown Paper Tickets.  Hope to see you there!

Screenplay Smorgasbord

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Had a great time last week at The New School's annual script reading event. My friend Bill Pace teaches screenwriting there, and every year he asks my wife Joey to direct an evening of readings. He selects 13-page excerpts from ten of his top students' scripts, and Joey assembles a cast of four who take on all the different roles in a live reading.

This year I was in town and available - and WOW! Such interesting and varied pieces. I got to be everything from a leading man to an Irish grandfather to a punk-rock drummer to a teenage Jewish basketball star to a dying football coach to a 70-year old wardrobe mistress.

Also taking part were the amazing Leopold Lowe and the talented and lovely Zakiya Young - hadn't seen her since freezing our butts off in Syracuse doing White Christmas. And of course Joey. Played opposite all three of them over the course of the evening - heckuva rollercoaster.

The program is teriffic. Any aspiring screenwriters our there? Check out The New School's Screenwriting Certificate Program. Thanks Bill and Joey for a fantastic evening!

Cast Your Vote!

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I've been getting lots of nice messages from folks who have seen the Alpha House pilot. My conservative friends are especially getting a kick out of my right-wing hawkish character. Funny contrast to my House of Cards congressman, part of "the liberal wing of the liberal wing."

There's still time to leave a comment telling Amazon to go ahead and produce a full season. Who knows? maybe I'll get to take that senatorial trip to Afghanistan. (Or a nice safe Hollywood version of Afghanistan… )

New Pilot!

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So, just like Netflix, Amazon has jumped into the content-producing ring. They're creating their own shows to lure viewers to subscribe to their Prime service to watch online. But unlike Netflix, they're using the drug-dealer model - the first taste is free. There's a handful of new pilots you can watch without being a subscriber. You can even leave comments. Based on the comments and number of viewers the pilots get, Amazon will then decide which shows get a full season, for subscribers only.

I've got a scene in one of these pilots, and lucky me, it happens to be the one getting the most hype. Alpha House stars John Goodman and was written by Gary Trudeau of Doonesbury fame. (My blog post about shooting the pilot is here.)

If you're in a hurry, my scene starts at the 4:35 mark.  If you're in a real hurry, I'm also in the trailer. Funny stuff! Be sure to leave a comment, and hopefully the show will get picked up!

Drunken Rock 'n Roll Debut!

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So when my daughter's school announced they were holding a live-band rock 'n roll karaoke fundraiser, I signed up right away. My inner rock star has always been repressed by my inner (and let's face it, OUTER) musical-theatre geek, and I thought this would be a fun chance to get my Jagger on. Besides, I know local dad Barry Friedman and his band BOD of NYC will totally rock that awesome intro - my favorite guitar lick ever.

So why did I wake up sick to my stomach? Why am I hoping no one shows up? Why am I seriously considering wimping out on this one? It's just for FUN - not an audition with a job on the line, not a paid crowd expecting their money's worth. Just a bunch of semi-drunken PTA parents there to have a good time and raise some much-needed school money. 

Right?

HOC in the NYT

Media Decoder - Behind the Scenes, Between the Lines

The coverage and hype for House of Cards has been crazy. The first-of-its-kind online distribution is a big story. (Also a pain in the butt for cast members trying to get footage for their reels… any ideas out there?) The Times has an interesting video piece on high-quality programming HERE. (They also mention upcoming Amazon pilots. I'm in one of those too - check future posts.)

The Times has also been covering HOC episode by episode in their MediaDecoder blog, checking to see if the show gets it right in its depiction of politics and journalism. Today they covered episode nine, and I was glad to see that my scene passed the test!  

Frank, trying to whip his members into voting the way he wants, urges them, “Vote your district, vote your conscience, don’t surprise me” — a line right out of the playbook of the actual whip, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California.

Read the full Media Decoder piece HERE.

Thoughts on House of Cards

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Finally got around to watching the series. (Full disclosure - like any insecure actor I had already logged into Netflix and scanned ahead to MY scenes to make sure I hadn't embarrassed myself. Whew.) It's been getting a ton of hype, as much for the online-only distribution model as for the quality of the series itself. But I have to say I'm pretty impressed with the storyline, the themes, and the overall tone of the show. Also some terrific acting, and a lead character who sucks the viewer into his ruthless worldview. The audience asides, a la Richard III, are my favorite part. (Though I'm told they annoy the hell out of some people - whatchya gonna do?)

I think I signed some kind of confidentiality agreement, but I don't think I'm violating anything by giving a little inside scoop for any hardcore fans of the show: When my friend Brent and I showed up in August to shoot the first scene, we were both pretty nervous about meeting our lead actor. Brent reached out to shake his had, causing Mr. Spacey to wince in pain. That's when we noticed the bandage wrapped around his right hand. Apparantly he had injured himself in some kind of accident a few days before, and he was still pretty tender. The bandage was not exactly subtle, and Brent and I were wondering if the writers would add anything to the script to explain it.

Fast forward to me watching the episode yesterday and - surprise! - episode 9 opens with Francis getting splashed with coffee that we've been told is "very hot." If anyone was watching the episode, wondering what was the significance of the coffee spill (which never gets mentioned again) well, mystery solved!

Gotta go - phone's ringing. Hope it's not an angry lawyer!

Spamories...

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One of those weird synchronicity/coincidence experiences this week, encountering friends from the Spamalot tour - hadn't seen any of these folks since I left the tour in early '07. Literally bumped into one of them getting off the D train, then the next day saw another at an audition. Got home to find a  Facebook friend request from yet another, then saw ANOTHER on House of Cards that night. (Yes yes - I'm mostly watching cause I'm IN it, but still…) Then the next morning read a review for yet another's new novel! Odd 'cause I haven't seen anyone from the tour in many months. Brought back lots of crazy memories. Toured for seven months. Hated being away from my family, but had a GREAT time when they would come to visit. Even lived as a pretend-Canadian family in Toronto for a few weeks!

Wired Arts

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So tomorrow is the closing of WiredArts Fest, presented by VirtualArts.tv - a company near and dear to my heart. Virtual Arts is committed to bringing the performing arts into the 21st century through live-streaming to the internet. The festival is happening at the Secret Theatre is Long Island City, an intimate black box space that seats less than a hundred people. But there are four camera operators in the house, and the performances are edited in real time and streamed to audiences in front of their computers, tablets, and smartphones, ALL OVER THE WORLD! (That's not exaggeration - viewers have joined the online chat from Europe, Asia, South America… not to mention Jersey and small-town Ohio.) Twelve different companies performing over two weeks, with over 68,000 viewers! Please check out their website (you may see a familiar face in clips of their first streamed play, Better Left Unsaid) and stay tuned for more news from this amazing company!

Political Hero

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Shot a scene for a new pilot last week, Alpha House, with John Goodman, written by Gary Trudeau of Doonesbury fame. The scene went well, got some good laughs. When we were done, I was chatting with some of the extras and crew guys, and didn't realize until he introduced himself that I was talking to Trudeau himself. Instantly tongue-tied, so much more so than when meeting show-biz celebs. I mean, what do you SAY??!

Going Gangsta

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Shot a scene for the season 4 premier of Boardwalk Empire last week. Signed all kinds of confidentiality agreements that prevent me from really talking about it. Suffice to say it was a fun day, if a bit chilly. Happy surprise: my friend Therese from Young Frankenstein is on the crew! The table read the week before was also pretty amazing. Their first time back after the break, everyone was so excited to be back. Felt a little dizzy when "Marty" walked in. All us first timers huddled together scared to death but thrilled to be there. Life really is just like high school, isn't it?


© Craig Waletzko 2016