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Stories from the Stage

STORIES FROM THE STAGE – Stacy Keach

The Challenges of Zoom Theater

In April of this year, just as the Pandemic was in full swing, I was approached to play King Lear in a zoomed, 90-minute adaptation, celebrating Shakespeare’s birthday, and to raise money for the poor.

It was a daunting experience.  Even though I was familiar with the text, having played him in two previous productions, I felt the need to have the text close by, requiring me to scroll the words on the computer with my right hand while making sure to keep my eyes focused on the little green dot at the top of my screen, that being the camera.

Also, whenever the actor is not in a scene, it behooves he or she to “mute” and “stop video”.  The problem is remembering to “unmute” and “start video”.  Too often, an actor forgets, and this becomes one of zoom’s frequent mishaps.  In the live theater, to offer good luck, we say “break a leg”.  In the world of zoom, we say, “forget to mute”.

 Choosing the right virtual background is yet another challenge. A green screen becomes an essential component, along with a ring light.  Most of the time, zoom works best with each actor shares the same background.  However, there are exceptions to this. My wife, Malgosia Tomassi, created different backgrounds for each character in our recent zoomed production of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, each color representing the essence of their particular character. For example, my Big Daddy had a purple backdrop.  What I have discovered about his new medium is the degree of concentration required to give a successful performance.  We, the actor, become our own camera and sound man. Depending on how close or far away we are from the screen, we establish the nature of the shot. Also, I have learned that 1) glasses are the enemy as they cause reflections that block the eyes; 2) the actor must be so familiar with the text that “wandering eyes” are avoided, and the actor can look straight into the camera.  In my recent zoomed version of Hughie, one of my favorite characters, having played him at LAMDA in 1965, the National Theater in London in 1980, and now on zoom, I discovered that the essence of zoom theater is a hybrid cross between live theater, film, and television.  Hopefully, zoom theater will become an anomaly of the present, and that we will be back in the live theater in the near future.


An Embarrassing Moment

The year was 1969.  It was my Broadway debut playing Buffalo Bill in Arthur Kopit’s Indians.  On opening night, I galloped onstage, enveloped in my imaginary horse, and due to my jitters, yanked back so hard on the horses’ reins that I snapped his paper mâché neck!  Profoundly embarrassed, I had to think fast!  What to do?  

Somehow, I managed to “get off” or “get out of” my horse, took his drooping head in my hands, came forward to the apron of the stage, and delivered my opening speech.  I was mortified!

However, some weeks later, I was greeted backstage by a fan who informed me that, “I was here opening night.  What happened to that wonderful moment when you snapped the horse’s neck?!!” 

Almost immediately, my embarrassment and shame were alleviated!


Stacy Keach, one of our most distinguished stage actors, made his New York debut in “Macbird” for which he won an Obie and a Drama Desk Award.  His Broadway debut was in “Indians”, for which he received a Tony nomination and a second Drama Desk Award, and his Broadway credits include “Deathtrap,” “The Kentucky Cycle,” “Solitary Confinement” and “Other Desert Cities”.  For the New York Shakespeare Festival he played the title roles in “Peer Gynt” and “Hamlet”, for which he won an Obie.  He was also the recipient of an Obie for “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”.  His many notable films include “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” “Fat City”, “The Long Riders”, “American History X” and “W” among many others.  Known as the definitive Mike Hammer from the successful television series, Keach won a Golden Globe Award for the television mini-series “Hemingway”.  He is an inductee in the Theatre Hall of Fame.

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Stories from the Stage

STORIES FROM THE STAGE – Kenneth Posner

My most memorable Broadway moment happened long before I became a Broadway lighting designer, when I was 17 years old.  It was the early 80’s and I was walking through Shubert Alley on my way to see a show.   I loved theatre and was fascinated by the magic of backstage. There was a man standing outside the stage door of the Shubert Theatre, where A Chorus Line was playing.  We struck up a conversation and he introduced himself as Bob, the show master electrician. I had seen A Chorus Line twice and was mesmerized by the way Theron Musser was able to tell a story with light. 

BEETLEJUICE, Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

It was about to be half hour, but he brought me inside and that was the first time I had ever walked through a stage door. He showed me backstage and when we ended up onstage, I turned around and looked out into the house and was captivated by the beauty of the Shubert Theatre. Bob invited me to watch the Sunday matinee of A Chorus Line from the control booth. It was the single kindest thing anyone has done for me in the business.  I came back the next day and watched Bob do his pre-show lighting check out. He introduced me to the stage managers and some actors and crew and then I watched the show with him from the booth.  Everyone has a person and an experience that changes the trajectory of their life and cements their decision to go into the theatre. That was my moment and Bob was my person.

PIPPIN, Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Fast forward to San Francisco 2007.  I was standing on the stage of The Golden Gate Theatre during load-in of Legally Blonde when a man came up to me and said, “you probably don’t remember me,“ I stopped him mid sentence.  I recognized his voice immediately and said, “I know exactly who you are!”  It was Bob.  I threw my arms around him and said, “I probably wouldn’t be standing on this stage if I hadn’t met you”.  It turns out that Bob left New York after A Chorus Line closed and ended up in San Francisco, where he was working as a stage hand on Legally Blonde.  It was wonderful to reconnect with Bob and he has since been on several other shows that I designed.  Bob shared his passion for theatre with me when I was young and inspired me to become the designer I am today.  Sharing our passion as theatre creators is my favorite part about making theatre.

THE COAST OF UTOPIA, Photo Credit: Paul Kolnik


Kenneth Posner is a ten-time Tony nominated lighting designer — winning for The Coast of Utopia: Shipwreck. Among his nearly 50 notable theatre designs are BeetlejuiceWicked, Hairspray, Catch Me If You Can, If/Then, Mean Girls, Pretty Woman, Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, and Glengarry Glen Ross.

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Stories from the Stage

STORIES FROM THE STAGE – Elizabeth Ashley

My Most Embarrassing, Humiliating & Humbling, Moment On The Broadway Stage

Having been on B’way for 62 years (I made my debut in 1958) I’ve had a plethora of embarrassments.

BUT one is spectacularly horrifying!

Way back in the olden days (1974) I was blessed to be in the kind of gig every actor prays for, almost never gets and if, by some miracle, does – they been kissed on the butt by God.

First – a little context:

I was having my 2nd  ‘15 minutes  of fame’. Having had my 1st  ’15 minutes 13 years earlier (i.e. you’re the ‘hottest, brand new shiny object of the moment’, on magazine covers, critic’s darling, prizes galore including a Tony, Neil Simon writes a play for you, etc.)

AND , OF COURSE I BLEW IT!

It went straight to my head. I was so stupid and immature I believed everything I read about myself –

ALWAYS A FATAL MISTAKE!

Being young, inexperienced, not realizing those 15 minutes are mostly marketing tools for producers and never last past your last show and mean nothing in the long run, I became an arrogant, ungrateful brat. I went to Hollywood, made some films, got burned out, married a movie star and quit acting.

Then came the inevitable divorce. All in the world I wanted was to get back on the stage. Needless to say no one was interested. If Broadway remembered me at all it was for my difficult reputation.

Then, out of the blue, I got a call from The American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, CT to play ‘Maggie the Cat’ in ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’. My hero, Tennessee Williams, wanted to do his original version of ‘Cat’.

In 1955 producers had huge reservations about the language and homosexuality. The play got cut and was a huge success, but Williams always longed to have his original version done and Stratford agreed.

I got to work with Tennessee Williams every day in rehearsal under the direction of the great Michael Kahn. The Stratford production was so successful it got national press, due to Tennessee’s involvement and got transferred to Broadway. (Unheard of back then)

All the above to explain how extremely high the stakes were for me. Not only did I have to ‘redeem’ my reputation as a ‘wild child’, foul mouthed, ‘out of control hippie’ – I had a debt to Tennessee and Kahn. They had taken a risk on an actress who Broadway considered ‘down, dead over with and finished’. I prepared every way I could think of.

I studied my 3 cat’s behavior by decreasing their food. I needed to know what they’d do when hungry. After all – Maggie is – above all – hungry! (Relax animal lovers – I didn’t starve ’em – just put ’em on a diet.) We opened on Broadway to raves and sold out houses and once again I was the ‘hottest’ actress in the hottest play on Broadway, but the establishment was still skeptical so I was watching my P’s and Q’s. A second chance is nothing short of a miracle! The set was an extremely raked deck (no longer allowed) that came to a point over the orchestra pit and met the front row.

There’s a moment in the 1st act where Maggie physically moves in on Brick and he rejects her by pushing her away. Thanks to the director and stunt supervisor I was given a spectacular physical move. Brick is far upstage left when she moves into him and when he pushes her away she falls backward, rolls head over heel very fast all the way downstage right edge of stage and like a cat, jumps immediately into a squat, from there slowly rises, faces him and smiles.

One night during that fast, tricky roll to the edge of the stage, I thought I heard something peculiar, but the audience always gasped and scream at that moment so I ignored it. But then I began to hear whimpering that got progressively louder. At first I thought someone had an infant in the audience. I assumed they would get up and leave. But the sounds kept getting louder, like animal squeals. By the time the audience was twisting in their seats and craning their necks trying to see where the sounds were coming from.

Some were shouting “quiet”. Others  were standing, people were hanging over the balcony rail trying to see. By that time the sounds were screams, howls, and yowls, obviously an animal in distress.

I finally, totally lost control and shouted “WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT NOISE?” Realizing I had stopped the show but still steaming with rage, I stepped out of character, turned to the audience and said “Ladies and Gentleman – some Muthafuka has an animal in the house who doesn’t seem to be enjoying the show. I cannot continue until it’s removed.” Applause from the audience.

A man got up from a 4th  row seat & slowly made his way to the aisle. I saw he had a huge dog with him, then to my horror I realized the man was blind and the dog was his seeing eye dog!

I just stood on the edge of the stage while he and the dog slowly made their way up the aisle and out into the lobby.

Needless to say the audience got very quiet while I just stood there and blabbered on and “I’m so sorry – so very sorry – I really couldn’t go on – so very very sorry – blablabla…”

Then, from the balcony, in a loud, unmistakable New York accent, came “You’re paid to act – so act!” Humiliated, I tried to stumble through best I could. The tabloids went crazy with page 6 headlines:

“ASHLEY THROWS BLIND MAN OUT OF THEATER”

“ASHLEY STOPS SHOW DUE TO DELICATE EARS”

“ASHLEY WONT ACT FOR THE BLIND”

My reputation was not redeemed! UNTIL: A letter left back stage from the dog’s owner, saying he’d been bringing his dog to theater for years and dog always sat quietly under his seat, never making a sound. But the dog hated cats with a vengeance and that had to be the only explanation for the dog’s behavior.

NOTE TO ACTORS: Be careful when doing your animal research!


Elizabeth Ashley, a Tony Award winner for her performance in Take Her, She’s Mine, was nominated for Best Actress for her memorable Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and her delicious Corie Bratter in Barefoot in the Park. Her recent Broadway stage credits include August: Osage County, Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, You Can’t Take It With You, and Enchanted April. Her many film and television credits include: Netflix’s Russian Doll, The Carpetbaggers, Coma, Ship of Fools and Ocean’s 8.  

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Stories from the Stage

STORIES FROM THE STAGE – Danya Taymor

Like many directors before me, acting was my gateway drug into the theater.  I caught the bug very early on, when my mom brought me to an audition at my local Children’s Theater. I remember feeling a thrill as I lied about my age on the audition sheet: you had to be 7 years old to try out and I was just shy at 6 years 10 months. I felt an even bigger thrill when the cast list was posted, and I saw my name on the list. After the first rehearsal, I was hooked. 

Later on, the possibility of directing came into my life through my incredible high school drama teacher, Kristen Lo. We all thought Kristen was impossibly cool: 28 years old, she was close enough in age to know what we were going through, but far enough that she could keep boundaries. We adored her, and she inspired us to consider all aspects of theater-making: light board operator, playwright, costume designer, stage manager.  We were able to see theater through her eyes: an incredible tool with which to break down social barriers, an artform that demands rigor and mutual respect among its practitioners. Kristen shared her boundless love of plays by dead writers like Ibsen and Shakespeare, but also a devotion to new work by a myriad of voices. Kristen rallied parents from the community to organize field trips to our nearest regional theaters: ACT, Berkeley Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I didn’t yet recognize the names: Heather Raffo, Dael Orlandersmith, Edward Albee, Mary Zimmerman, August Wilson, Les Waters, Eve Ensler, Caryl Churchill, Nilo Cruz.  But I could feel the power of their voices and of the freshness of the work. As I look back now, I can see the profundity of this early exposure. But Kristen didn’t stop at just exposing us to these pieces, if we saw something we loved, she programmed it the next year and let us take a swing at our own interpretations. If we didn’t like the piece, she encouraged fiery and open debates and encouraged us to get specific. By placing our work alongside that of the pros, and validating our disparate points of view, she made us feel like we could do anything. She shared the anthologies of work from the Humana Festival, 10-minute plays that were hot off the press and encouraged us to direct them ourselves. I directed a one-act that year that had premiered only a few years before at the Humana Festival. 

Kristen wanted to inspire us further and show that we truly didn’t need anything but ourselves and our imaginations to create theater: She created a new work festival “Speed Limit 25”. All work produced in the festival had to be directed, written, and produced by people under the age of 25. In reality, it was all created by students 18 and under. This was revelatory. We witnessed each other be creative in ways we had not yet dreamed we could be and expanded our perceptions of each other. Whether we went on to pursue theater or not, we all were emboldened by the brilliant audacity of our teacher and her fierce belief in each of us. 

Kristen somehow managed to treat us as adults, while not denying our youth.  She taught us to respect one another by showing us how it’s done: never favoring the actor over the techie, stage manager over understudy. Kristen taught us that every theater marker is crucial, and it is only through a collective effort that the work can truly sing. When I think of the director who made me feel most inspired, free, collaborative and safe enough to take risks, I still picture Kristen Lo.


Danya Taymor is an Obie-award winning New York based director, writer and translator. Recent direction includes Will Arbery’s HEROES OF THE FOURTH TURNING (Playwrights Horizons) Korde Arrington Tuttle’s GRAVEYARD SHIFT (Goodman Theater), Jeremy O. Harris’ “DADDY” (Almeida London + New Group/Vineyard), Antoinette Nwandu’s PASS OVER (Lincoln Center + Steppenwolf, Lortel Outstanding Play), Danai Gurira’s FAMILIAR (Steppenwolf), Martyna Majok’s QUEENS (Lincoln Center Theater).

Please tune in beginning Thursday, November 19th at 8pm through Monday, November 23rd to see Neil LaBute’s World Premiere adaptation of Anton Chekov’s UNCLE VANYA directed by DANYA TAYMOR (Heroes of the Fourth Turning). Tony Award winner Alan Cumming takes on the titular role joined by Constance Wu, Emmy Award winner Samira Wiley, K. Todd Freeman, Anson Mount, Mia Katigbak, Manik Choksi and Academy Award Winner Ellen Burstyn. Gabriel Ebert narrates the proceedings. Tickets from $5 and are available only on TodayTix. Proceeds go to benefit The Actor’s Fund.

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Stories from the Stage

STORIES FROM THE STAGE – K. Todd Freeman

Sitting at home in exile from doing the thing one loves the most as well as the thing that supports ones existence has been torture, as I’m sure it has been for many others. I had never imagined that I would live in a time that truly experienced a worldwide plague of medieval proportions. Living through the initial AIDS crisis was as awful as I thought it would get during my lifetime. Clearly I was wrong. I never imagined that something would threaten the existence of something so essential to the breath of humankind….. the mass gathering of humanity, theatre. The sharing of a communal experience. The universal religious communion of soulful connection that is theatre.

Being trapped at home has postponed my participation in many theatre projects that were slated to come to New York City. One being The Minutes by Tracy Letts, which will hopefully see the light of day on Broadway in the near future. The other is Bruce Norris’ DOWNSTATE which I have been blessed to be a part of since it’s premier at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago in the fall of 2018. We then moved it to The National Theatre in London in 2019 and hopefully it will be coming to New York via Playwrights Horizons next year.

The play and the role have been an extraordinary highlight of my life.

Photo Credit: Michael Brosilow

Americans, as we have all hopefully figured out by now, are living through an extraordinary time in history. Daily, we are being challenged with tough questions that will affect our futures in profound and significant ways. Bruce’s play DOWNSTATE does that as well, which to me is the absolute best sort of dramatic literature. It provokes and challenges in a similar way that Angels in America did in the early 1990’s. DOWNSTATE, takes place in a group home for sex offenders in southern Illinois, and it is those offenders, of varying degrees and types, who are our protagonists. Those roles are some of the most, complex, nuanced, fascinating, difficult, and exhilarating parts written for the American stage. Obviously, in my opinion. I’m a bit biased, apparently.

Photo Credit: Michael Brosilow

This theatre piece does exactly what I demand all great plays should do: challenge and provoke. It demands each audience member to look inside themselves and reexamine their prejudices, morality, and ethics at a base almost primal level. Playing the character I played in front of a live audience every night was a thrilling and intoxicating rush. I felt as though I were center court in a Wimbledon final every night playing alongside the likes of Nadal, the Williamses, McEnroe., and Sampras. The electricity that flowed between audience and actors was life affirming. An intangible, unquantifiable purity that I miss so excruciatingly much, during this particularly difficult time of blight.


K. Todd Freeman recently performed in Steppenwolf’s The Minutes on Broadway, as well as Steppenwolf’s Downstate (Jeff Award, Evening Standard nom.). Broadway: Airline Highway (Tony nom., DD Award), The Song of Jacob Zulu (Tony nom.). Off-Broadway: Fetch Clay, Make Man (Obie); Spunk. TV: “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” “God Friended Me.” Film: Anethesia, Cider House Rules, Grosse Point Blank.

Please tune in beginning Thursday, November 19th at 8pm through Monday, November 23rd to see K. Todd Freeman in Neil LaBute’s World Premiere adaptation of Anton Chekov’s UNCLE VANYA. Tony Award winner Alan Cumming takes on the titular role joined by Constance Wu, Emmy Award winner Samira Wiley, K. Todd Freeman, Anson Mount, Mia Katigbak, Manik Choksi and Academy Award Winner Ellen Burstyn. Gabriel Ebert narrates the proceedings in an evening directed by Danya Taymor (Heroes of the Fourth Turning). Tickets from $5 and are available only on TodayTix. Proceeds go to benefit The Actor’s Fund.

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Stories from the Stage

STORIES FROM THE STAGE – Mia Katigbak

I lost my memory during intermission of Ma-Yi Theatre’s production of Alice Tuan’s Last of the Suns.

I was in the cast.

Before the act ended, I made my exit, walked to the wings and stood motionless for the last quiet moments of the scene. I held my breath so I wouldn’t make a sound, and because I had to desperately empty my bladder. 

Blackout. Exhale. I hurriedly made my way to the bathroom backstage. Fade out.

Fade in. Four hours later. A plastic bag with my street clothes crosses my line of vision. Fade out.

Fade in. About ten minutes later. I’m standing beside a hospital bed in said street clothes, looking down and thinking it odd that I’m wearing my shoes from the show. Fade out.

Fade in. A few minutes later. I’m walking out of the hospital smoking a cigarette, with my friends Ching Valdes-Aran (who played my father-in-law) and Jorge Ortoll (the producer), who are arguing about whom I should spend the night with. I have no idea what they’re on about, I’m slightly perplexed about the circumstances, and in the cab on our way uptown, they finally tell me the whole story.

When we received our “places” call after intermission, I dutifully complied, and asked one of the actors what happened next. Thinking I was being funny, she reminded me that in the scene coming up my husband threatens me with a kitchen knife. I laughed, then a few seconds later asked the same question. She thought I was milking the joke, but saw that I was in earnest, and after I asked yet again, she decided something was wrong. She informed the ASM, who passed the message to the PSM, and then those words, “Is there a doctor in the house?” followed. There happened to be one and she came to examine me in the dressing room. She asked me if I knew where I was. I said no, but told her I recognized my make-up bag on the dressing room table.

She led me to a chair by an open doorway. Surrounded by the cast, she asked me my name, my address, my phone number. I answered correctly. She asked me who the president was, and I replied “Bush.” Then she asked me the year and I wasn’t sure. It was 2003 and I may have been confused by which Bush I meant. She then asked me if I knew any of the people surrounding me. I knew most of them, but I politely told the gentleman who was holding my hand and comforting me that I didn’t know him. The doctor’s diagnosis was TGA, Transient Global Amnesia (a great name for a rock band, my friend Jessica later tells me), which affects short term memory. I had worked with many of the cast for several years, but had only met the very kind hand-holding actor when we began rehearsals for the show. I went to the emergency room of Beth Israel, the closest hospital, accompanied by several friends from the show. 

Over the next four hours, my poor friends, who took turns keeping me company, were subjected to the same question over and over again: “did we finish the show?” They started to quote lines from the play addressed to the 100-year-old character Ching was playing, who asked for the time incessantly and immediately forgot the response. “You fucking c**t, I said no!” “You ask me again and I’ll slap you.” I’d laugh, then ask it again. Jorge begged the doctor to tranquilize me to put them out of their misery, but that was a no-no in cases like this because my brain had to be monitored without medication. They just had to wait until I started to get normal again. After which I couldn’t be left alone for the next 24 hours. 

Although I never lost consciousness, those four hours are forever lost to me. I only had my friends’ accounts of what had transpired. My doctor explained the condition in the cinematic way I experienced it. If we think of memory as a life-long compilation of movie reels, the progression of frames forming the narrative of our experiences, TGA expunges a frame just as the next one is being developed. So for four hours there was nothing there. It can also temporarily compromise earlier sections of the reel. As I started to recover, more frames became viable, hence the fade outs and fade ins, until there were no more fade outs. 

How odd that although I remembered nothing after my walk to the restroom, my only preoccupation despite TGA was whether we finished the show or not.

Ching won the argument and I went to her apartment from the hospital. I couldn’t sleep until I had said the entire play in my head. I didn’t perform the next two nights, and when I went back to the show, I devised a ritual. I arrived at the theatre two hours before curtain. I sat in the house and sipped a bottle of spinach/aloe/berry/banana juice. I asked all the ghosts of that venue to be my friends. Then I took a ½ hour nap in the house, entrusting myself to their care. 

I finished the run without memory-related incident, pondering on the actor’s brain’s tenacity, holding on to our responsibility to performance, frames expunged or not. 


Mia Katigbak is the Artistic Producing Director and co-founder of NAATCO (National Asian American Theatre Co).  She is the recipient of an Obie Award for performance (2014) and a Special Drama Desk Award in 2019 for her vital presence as the artistic director of NAATCO and sustained excellence as a performer and mentor.

Please tune in beginning Thursday, November 19th at 8pm through Monday, November 23rd to see Mia Katigbak in Neil LaBute’s World Premiere adaptation of Anton Chekov’s UNCLE VANYA. Tony Award winner Alan Cumming takes on the titular role joined by Constance Wu, Emmy Award winner Samira Wiley, K. Todd Freeman, Anson Mount, Mia Katigbak, Manik Choksi and Academy Award Winner Ellen Burstyn. Gabriel Ebert narrates the proceedings in an evening directed by Danya Taymor (Heroes of the Fourth Turning). Tickets from $5 and are available only on TodayTix. Proceeds go to benefit The Actor’s Fund.

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Stories from the Stage

STORIES FROM THE STAGE – Patti LuPone

My first break in Show Business would have to be my acceptance into the first class of the Drama Division of The Juilliard School. Group One. It was the Golden Ticket in more ways than one. It not only armed me with an invincible technique that slyly reveals itself to this day, but the four years of brutally exacting instruction opened up opportunities well beyond our acting, movement, speech and voice classes.

At the start of our second year, the actors were invited by our beloved singing teacher, Roland Gagnon to join the chorus of the Opera Division’s Il Giuramento. The rehearsals would take place after our 13 hours of technique, technique, technique. Three actors joined the production… until the Opera Division and the Juilliard Orchestra were chosen to represent America at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. That’s when two more actors clawed their way on to the stage, Sam Tsoutsouvas and me. We performed the opera on the Juilliard Theatre stage, then boarded a chartered Pam Am flight to Rome. That’s when my life changed.

It was my first trip to Europe. It was my first opera production directed and conducted by two of the greats, Tito Capobianco and Thomas Schippers. It was my first experience with anti-Americanism. It was my first experience with an emotional awakening. No one in Italy or Yugoslavia, or France, the countries I hitchhiked through, knew my history. It was the first time I was free of familial and emotional bonds. I was just me at my tender age in my truest sense. No back history. People who I met had to take me as I presented myself. It was a freedom that I had never known. And in that strange and vulnerable place I learned observation, one of the actor’s most important tools. I was measured and more thoughtful in my presentation. At the same time, I didn’t understand the hatred coming at me because I was an American but I soon found out in spirited arguments. I found myself embarrassed at my lack of political knowledge or the impact America had on the countries of Europe.

In that European summer I gave birth to my personal and political conscience. I delved into my soul. I deepened and broadened my existence. My big break ended up not being on the stage I was trained for but rather in my personal awakening and growth. An actor needs a serious tool box. Now my tool box had more clarity, empathy, and I have to say rage. My European experience, all thanks to Juilliard made me the actor I am today.


Patti LuPone is one of the great leading ladies of the American musical theatre.  Nominated for 7 Tony Awards, she has twice won that honor for her defining roles as Eva Peron (“Evita”) and Rose (“Gypsy”). Her Tony nominations also include “The Robber Bridegroom”, “Anything Goes”, “Sweeney Todd”, “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” and “War Paint”.  She is also the recipient of two Grammy Awards (the Los Angeles Opera production of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny- Best Classical Album and Best Opera Recording) and two Olivier awards ( for “The Cradle Will Rock” and “Les Miserables” in 1985 and for the recent acclaimed revival of “Company”).

On television, she starred in the drama series Life Goes On (1989-1993) and received Emmy Award nominations for the TV movie The Song Spinner (1995) and her guest role in the sitcom Frasier (1998). She also had recurring roles on two FX series, the thriller American Horror Story: Coven (2013-2014) and the drama Pose (2019), as well as on Hollywood on Netflix. Her film appearances include Waitress (1985), Driving Miss Daisy (1989), State and Main (2000), Parker (2013), and The Comedian (2016).

Her memoir recounting her life and career from childhood to the present, which was released in September 2010, is simply titled Patti LuPone: A Memoir, which was, according to LuPone, the winner of the competition she held to name the book.  Patti was honored as an American Theatre Hall of Fame inductee in 2006.  Her highly anticipated return to the New York stage in her award-winning performance as Joanne will be seen when “Company” returns to Broadway in 2021.

Please tune in to see two-time Tony Award winner Patti LuPone, Rebecca Pigeon and Sophia Macy beginning tonight Thursday, November 12 at 8pm through Monday, November 16th in BOSTON MARRIAGE, written and directed by David Mamet.

Anna and Claire have their world upended when Anna receives an enormous emerald…professions of love, emotional blackmail and downright bullying ensue. “Very funny…dazzling repartee and exquisite literary banter…4 stars!” (The Guardian)

Tickets from $5 and are available only on TodayTix. Proceeds go to benefit The Actor’s Fund.

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Stories from the Stage

STORIES FROM THE STAGE – Debbie Allen

As a young woman of 27 years old, I was cast as Anita in West Side Story. I had no idea how the work process of putting that together would inform me, inspire me, and truly lead me to want to direct and choreograph. I first auditioned for Leonard Bernstein, then it was Jerome Robbins. And then, when we actually went to go to work and rehearsal, there was a man – Gerald Freedman – who did a lot of the scene study work with us in between learning different variations of “America.” We sat at the table for at least two weeks and it was there that I truly experienced taking a script, breaking it down, deconstructing the narrative, creating the circumstances that were not written in the play, and understanding the musicalization of all the emotions that I was going through as an actor. It was exciting. Coming from Houston, Texas, where everything was segregated, we couldn’t even go to the theater or to the movies that the general public attended. So I didn’t grow up with West Side Story, but I came to love it and was inspired by the work ethic of the production to guide others on the path that led me to success.


Debbie Allen is a two-time Tony Award nominee for her electrifying performances in Sweet Charity and West Side Story. In a career that spans three decades, the name Debbie Allen is synonymous with dynamic energy, creative talent and innovation. For her vast body of work, Ms. Allen has earned three Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe, five NAACP Image Awards, a Drama Desk, an Astaire Award (for Best Dancer), and the Olivier Award. Debbie made her Broadway debut in Purlie. She holds four honorary Doctorate degrees and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She is currently an Executive Producer as well as a director and actress on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy.

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Stories from the Stage

STORIES FROM THE STAGE – Richard Thomas

The Best Audition Ever

I was ten years old.  Jane Fonda, who was a ballet student of my father’s at the June Taylor School, walked into class one day and said, “Your son’s an actor. We’re planning the first Actor’s Studio production on Broadway – STRANGE INTERLUDE – and there’s a part for a child. Would Richard like to go down to the Studio and meet Jose Quintero?”

I went down to the Studio and walked into Jose’s office.  He sat me down and asked, in his gruff and emotional way, “So. What do you want to be more than anything in the world?”

“An actor,” I said.  

He slammed the flat of his hand onto his desk and said, “That’s it!  You got the Part!”

He then looked toward a closet in the room and said, “Gerry!”  The closet door opened and Geraldine Page emerged. She walked to my chair, knelt down, took my hands in hers, looked me into my eyes and said, “My son. You’re my son.”


Richard Thomas began is career on Broadway in 1958 in “Sunrise at Campobello” and has never looked back.  Among his prominent Broadway credits are “The Little Foxes” (Tony nomination),  “Strange Interlude”, “The Fifth of July”, “Democracy”, “The Front Page”, “You Can’t Take It With You”, “The Great Society” and “Race”.   Richard is an Emmy Award winning actor beloved for the his iconic John-Boy  Walton in “The Waltons” and will soon be seen throughout the country as another iconic figure, Atticus Finch, in the National Tour of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”  This Thursday, October 29th through next Monday, November 2nd,  Richard has recreated his role of Charles Strickland in “Race” (co-starring Ed O’Neill, David Alan Grier and Alicia Stith) in a Special Benefit Performance for the Actors Fund which can accessed on this site.

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Stories from the Stage

STORIES FROM THE STAGE – Jack O’Brien

The One That Got Away

You needn’t ever ask anyone who has served as an artistic director of a regional company if there is anything left they wished they’d directed. If the service happens to extend to about 25 years, as mine did at the Old Globe in San Diego from 1982 to 2007, I probably ticked off most my secret favorites, including as much Shakespeare as anyone of my generation. But along the way, I also managed a modern, “regional” adaptation of KISS ME, KATE, as well as THE TORCHBEARERS, with the full intent to prove that George Kelly predated the Brits’ NOISES OFF by a couple of generations, as well as a production of the rarely done THE WAY OF THE WORLD in Balenciaga gowns and including an original rhymed prologue and epilogue of “ghosts” of the period, explaining the connotation and getting a few welcome laughs.

Don’t kid yourself — the fare of a seasonal roster of plays by any regional theatre is not actually dictated, as one might suppose, by the whims of its artistic staff. It is completely at the discretion of a publishing deadline for the dreaded and deeply feared subscription brochure, something as fixed as the Sword of Damocles, and just about as welcome. If one depends upon a subscription, as almost all the major regional companies have done over decades, that slender folder of printed promise needs to go out in time for the cash to come back in before you’re able to spend a single penny; and management really doesn’t much care if you are on a first name basis with your Muse or not: they need the next six plays, let’s say. Cough it up!

I’ve always equated choosing a season with sport fishing, or maybe even better, cooking. People are coming over to eat. They assume you cook well, and if you expect to see them again, you don’t want to disappoint them; so off you go to the Farmer’s market with your basket, and you choose the best possible ingredients, trying to excite yourself as well as tempt the tastes of your friends. So initially perhaps, “one from column A, and another from column B” is a good place to begin. In the case of the Globe, the faithful expected no fewer than three Shakespeares during every summer. And, oh yes! A musical will certainly bring them in… find us a good musical! See what I mean? By the time you’ve chosen your classic, and hit upon an appropriate musical project, and thought of something for “him,” your best actor, or “them,” that attractive new married couple with the hit t.v. show on both a hiatus and with a lust for legitimacy, you are more than half way there.

So possibly something just for you might spur your enthusiasm and renew your excitement. We were usually fairly fortunate during the years I was in residence in San Diego, but I must confess, the moment Sondheim and Lapine’s INTO THE WOODS became a possibility for us to premiere, the entire regional field burst into bloom, and the future was written all over our walls. No longer the “boonies…” we swiftly became America’s theatrical proving ground, and the gloves were pretty much off. There were those sassy premieres you could grab, and others that were in serious contention, but always, inevitably, that private stash of your own, tucked away for special occasions. KISS ME, KATE and THE WAY OF THE WORLD certainly qualified for me, but honestly, too, always did Meredith Willson’s THE MUSIC MAN.

It so happened that my father, who died in the ’50’s when I was 18, was very involved in SPEBSQSA, The Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, to the extent that he wrote a column for their national publication, and since THE MUSIC MAN gave glorious precedence to it’s own barbershop quartet singing immaculate material — LIDA ROSE?… oh God!!… I have longed all my life to have a whack at it. As a matter of fact, when I was finally able to witness the original production following my dad’s demise, I presented myself at the stage door, not to get an autograph or gaze at either Robert Preston or Barbara Cook, but rather to climb interminable stairs up to the very last dressing room in the Majestic Theatre to pay my compliments to the Buffalo Bills, the celebrated featured quartet, who had been pals of my dad’s and who consequently presented me with my first taste of Scotch whiskey. Their harmony, I recall, was also equally neat and marvelously peaty.

The fallacy, of course, is that those “at the top” pretty much have the field to themselves, and get to do whatever they wish. Nonsense! Timing, availabilities, even politics carry the day, and here I am, hat in hand, finally reconciled to the fact that my good friend, the inestimable Jerry Zaks has beaten me to the punch, and will be guiding brilliant Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster to their announced and assuredly glorious revival. As a crusty veteran of these celestial lotteries, I am thoroughly contented to order my ticket early and wish them nothing but health, happiness, and extravagant raves in this coming, (please, dear God!) recovering season of ours. I guess it’s time for me to reset my sights on something a bit more attainable: anyone up for GAMMER GURTON’S NEEDLE?


Jack O’Brien, one of the American theatre’s most honored directors,  is a ten-time Tony Award nominee and has been awarded the Tony three times, for his direction of “Hairspray,” “Henry IV” and “The Coast of Utopia”. He is also the recipient of four Drama Desk Awards, for his staging of the aforementioned  plays and “The Invention of Love”. Among his major New York theatre directorial credits are:  “Porgy and Bess” (1977 revival), “The Most Happy Happy Fella (1979 revival), The Cocktail Hour, Two Shakespearean Actors”, “The Full Monty”, and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”. He served as the Artistic Director of the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, California from 1981 to 2007.