Performance (Working In The Theatre #285)


(APPLAUSE) A warm welcome to the American
Theatre Wing’s “Working in the Theatre” seminars, now in their 26th year, coming to
you from the new Graduate Center of the City University of New York. These seminars offer a wonderful opportunity
to explore with the professionals the realities of working in the theatre. Today’s seminar is devoted to performers. We will learn something about how they became
professionals, what their work ethics are, and their reasons for remaining in the theatre. We hope that you will enjoy and learn from
today’s experience. I’m Isabelle Stevenson, Chairman of the Board
of the American Theatre Wing. And so now, let me introduce our moderator
for this seminar, a distinguished member of the theatrical community and President of
the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, and a member of the Board of Directors of
the American Theatre Wing, Theodore Chapin. Ted, would you now start? (APPLAUSE) Thank you, Isabelle. It is my distinct pleasure to introduce this
distinguished and, I think, terribly serious panel. (LAUGHTER FROM THE PANEL) Starting at my right,
Boyd Gaines, a two-time Tony winner for THE HEIDI CHRONICLES and SHE LOVES ME. He is currently dancing in CONTACT at Lincoln
Center Theatre. Well, sort of. (LAUGHTER) Well, you can tell us! He has appeared on television and in films,
and recently in the Roundabout Theatre productions of CABARET and COMPANY. Next, Marin Mazzie, currently the object of
Brian Stokes Mitchell’s affections as Lily in the new Broadway production of KISS ME
KATE. She created the roles of Mother in RAGTIME
and Clara in Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s PASSION. Tom Wopat, currently battling it out with
Bernadette Peters in the new Broadway production of Irving Berlin’s ANNIE GET YOUR GUN. Known to television audiences as Luke in “The
Dukes of Hazzard,” he has never ventured too far from the musical theatre, appearing on
Broadway in I LOVE MY WIFE, CITY OF ANGELS, and GUYS AND DOLLS. Deborah Yates wears the yellow dress in the
current Lincoln Center Theatre production of CONTACT. She has been a Radio City Music Hall Rockette,
danced in the Broadway production of DREAM and appeared in the Encores! production of
ZIEGFELD FOLLIES OF 1936. Bryan Batt doesn’t seem to be able to leave
the Minskoff Theatre, (LAUGHTER) where he is playing his fourth consecutive role, this
time as Monty, the DJ, in SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER. He originated the role of Darius in Paul Rudnick’s
JEFFREY and has skewered the best as a member of the cast of various versions of FORBIDDEN
BROADWAY. Kristin Chenoweth, a Tony winner for her remarkably
accurate portrayal of a four year old (LAUGHTER) in YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN, is currently
starring in EPIC PROPORTIONS. Her credits range from the coloratura role
of Cunegonde in CANDIDE to her ferocious nurse in Bill Finn’s A NEW BRAIN. Welcome. Thank you for being here. I want to address the first question to Marin,
because she started previews three days ago, had a two show day yesterday, and I am very
impressed, and I thank you for being here. (LAUGHTER; APPLAUSE) With the bags under my eyes! (LAUGHS) My spies tell me things are going pretty well,
but I want to know, how is it going? It’s going really well. We’re having so much fun. It’s such a fun show, and the whole rehearsal
process has just been a joy, one of the most joyous things that I’ve ever been involved
with. And I think it has to do with the fact that
the show is really fun, the first revival in fifty years, which we’re all really excited
about. And Michael Blakemore, an amazing director,
sort of heading the whole company and just sort of setting the tone of fun and a great
working atmosphere of exploration. And Brian Stokes and I are having a great
time together, too. And the whole company’s great. Have the audiences taught you anything, given
you any surprises? I think what is wonderful is that, because
we’re doing basically the original book, which was written in ’48, ’47, and the jokes, the
kind of silly, fun jokes, they’re loving. And I think we weren’t sure that that was
[going to happen]. We thought there were going to be snickers. People are howling, you know. So that’s great. And the music, of course, all the numbers
are just getting huge, huge response. So it’s really fun. That’s great. Has there been adaptation done for the book? A little bit. A little bit in the second act. Just a little! (LAUGHS) Okay. Bryan, you just opened a show, that previewed
for a while. Yes, it previewed for almost a month. What did the preview audiences teach you? Mug! (LAUGHTER) No. It’s true! They basically taught me, trust your work. And the audiences, especially for this show,
they love the show, they love the music, and believe it or not, they jump to their feet
at the end of every performance and dance in the aisles! Which is a first. I’ve never seen that happen at the Minskoff
Theatre before. But the preview audiences are pretty much
the same as the regular, after opening night, audiences. But I had no idea that they were going to
laugh at me as much as they do. (LAUGHS) Not with me! (LAUGHTER) But it’s really a fun show, and
the audiences have a great time. But they’re no different than the regular,
you know, after opening, audiences. They teach you when to hold for a laugh, you
know. Right. And in previews you can go for, push the envelope
a little more, when the director’s not there. (LAUGHTER) That was yesterday’s seminar. (LAUGHTER) But definitely, they teach you, you know,
what to do, where to pause. You know, you have to feel what they’re giving
you, ’cause they’re the most important character in the play, I think. And Kristin, in EPIC PROPORTIONS, you cut
out the intermission in previews, yes? Yeah. Our show is only eighty-five minutes long
now, without the intermission, and we learned that once you take an intermission in such
a broad comedy as EPIC PROPORTIONS, it’s really work to get them back. You know, you take a break and then you come
back where you left off and we just didn’t need it. So we cut it out and it ended up really, I
think it makes for a better evening. I mean, you’re in and out in eighty-five minutes. You’ve had a great, fun time. And we just learned that we didn’t need it,
so we took it out. And that made for a twelve-second costume
change (LAUGHTER), so that’s one of the hardest things about it for me. Oh, but actors can do anything! Yeah. (LAUGHS) And dressers. I think I was probably part of, what I can
say charitably, was probably the worst preview audience of CONTACT, since I was there with
Funders’ Night. (LAUGHTER) Oooh! Oh, always fun to be judged. But except for that night, they were pretty
cheerful, weren’t they, Boyd? You mean, preview audiences? Yeah. Yes. Actually, because, unlike all the other shows,
CONTACT is in a subscription house. And the subscription audiences tend to be
elderly. And that, sometimes, can be a cause of – well,
let’s just say, some consternation. If you’re performing, you know, a show that
gets a lot of laughs, often the elderly audiences don’t laugh very much. But this show is unusual, inasmuch as it seems
to appeal to a fairly wide range of audiences. But the individual response every night is
wildly different. I mean, some nights, they go crazy, they howl,
they laugh at everything. Sometimes they’ll laugh at one piece and not
another. Sometimes they’re very quiet through the whole
piece and then, you know, wildly responsive at the very end. So it’s never quite the same. I don’t think I’ve ever done a show that’s
had as big a difference in response from night to night. The Funders’ Nights, yeah, those were by far
(LAUGHTER) the dullest crowds. But they tend to be. I mean, you know, in institutional theatres
you have patrons who pay lots of money. And I don’t know what it is, I don’t know
if they have an odd expectation, or just that they’re too rich – To laugh. To laugh, yeah. (LAUGHTER) That’s the problem. Right. But it must be unnerving to a performer, at
least in the beginning, to think, “Am I suddenly doing it all wrong?” It can be. Those nights aren’t so bad, because Bernie
Gersten graciously warned us. And he said that they tend to be quiet, so
we were expecting it. And I think by the time we got to most of
them, we’d been doing the show for a few weeks, so we’d already experienced the ups and downs
of different audiences. And also, it’s an esoteric piece. I mean, it’s not designed for big applause. And especially the piece that Deb and I do,
the last one, “Contact,” isn’t designed for big yucks or for big applause at the end of
numbers. The numbers tend to meld, one into the next. So I think by the time we got to those we
were, you know, fairly well prepared, and were able to just keep playing through. But it can be [unnerving], I think, especially
if you’ve had a really raucous crowd the night before, or if you’ve made like big breakthroughs,
the next day you tend to have a bit of a [letdown]. And has there been any difference in the audiences,
ever since the reviews sort of told the people what it is? Told them it was a hit? (LAUGHTER) Yeah, right. Well, there’s some truth to that, actually. I do think people come with high expectations,
which actually can work against you sometimes. Sometimes people have built up in their mind
what they think they’re going to see and then the show might be different than what they’ve
built up in their heads. But I think this show, people do come expecting
to laugh and to be moved, and hopefully, they are. I mean, I think certainly we’re very privileged
to be a part of this show, because I think it is a very special experience. And I do think, since the reviews have come
out, the audiences have been more vocal. And maybe that’s the difference between a
preview audience and an audience that you have once you’re open. But they’re more vocal now. They’re more likely to laugh loudly and they’re
more likely to applaud. Because we don’t have applause moments built
into the show, as Boyd was saying. You know, there aren’t any moments where you’re
supposed to laugh here and you’re supposed to applaud here and the audience sort of feels
obligated to do that. It’s not built into the show. So it can surprise you, actually. I mean, I definitely have had moments when
the audience laughs at something that you’re not expecting them to laugh at, or applauds
at a moment when we weren’t expecting that. And in fact, sometimes we do have to hold
dialogue. Or you used to the momentum going along at
a certain pace, and all of a sudden, you’re like, “Wow, there’s people out there!”, you
know? (LAUGHTER) But the magic of our show is that I think
we get so caught up in the experience of being in CONTACT, at least in the club itself, there’s
a certain energy that comes about. And you don’t forget about the audience, because
there’s definitely a give and take between the audience and the performers, but I think
we get so wrapped up in the experience of the show itself that regardless of whether
they’re vocal and applauding or laughing, the experience for me, and with Boyd and with
other members, is just as rich every night, whether the audience is enthusiastic or very
quiet. And I think we give the same performance,
regardless of the audience response. Well, your audience is right on top of you,
aren’t they? Yeah. Very on top of us, right. I mean, you can’t miss ’em. Literally! As opposed to a proscenium stage, where, you
know, pretty much you’re blinded by the light out front. Yeah. Do you have that experience? I mean, do you feel – We have a couple of occasions in our show,
where we have the shooting matches, between Bernadette and I. Right. And those, it’s lit so hot on stage, I can
see about halfway back. Really? Wow! Yeah. But most of the time, you can’t see out there
very much at all. Same here. I’m so guilty, I hate to say this, but I can
see the audience. Totally, see their faces. I like to look at the audience. I do, too. And it’s great when they’re having a great
time. And sometimes, when you look at them, and
(DEMONSTRATES, SITTING WITH ARMS FOLDED, LOOKING GRIM). (LAUGHS) That’s not good. Well, you get somebody sleeping in the front
row! (LAUGHTER) That happens so much. Yeah, that is a concern. My character talks to the audience. And that’s great, that’s fun. I mean, I totally interact. And I’m always like, “Okay, you need to wake
up!” (LAUGHTER) “Get your feet off the stage!” (LAUGHTER) That’s your job. I can do that. But it is disheartening to look out and see
someone maybe sleeping or – Smacking their gum. Smacking their gum! I’d like a big nun, right when they walk in,
taking the gum from the people. (LAUGHTER) Candy wrappers. Yeah! We’re given a certain liberty as well, since
in our show, you know, basically it’s supposed to be a show within a show. Right, sure. So we’re supposedly portraying these characters. So you can really relate to the audience,
at least in some way. If Bernadette doesn’t catch me. (LAUGHTER) You also went out of town with ANNIE GET YOUR
GUN, something which doesn’t happen very much these days. Well, we tried it out down in Washington D.C.,
and they made a few million down there in that big old house. (LAUGHTER) I think that might have been what
it was about, because we talked first about going to Seattle, and they thought that the
expense of going there for the size house it was really didn’t make sense. And we had a lot of tightening up to do in
D.C., and we cut about fifteen minutes off the show. Were you in that opera house? Yeah, opera house. Three thousand seats. (DEMONSTRATES CALLING TO THE BALCONY) Yo! Wow. That’s big. That’s big. But it was fun. It’s been a blast, from the beginning. It’s been a lot of fun. Since you’re talking about audiences, what
do you bring, and where does it come from? How to react to the different audiences that
you’re getting. Because that’s constant. It isn’t only a preview or a ticket-buying,
it’s an audience, and that makes the difference between being a professional [and an amateur],
and either overcoming or bringing them forth. Where does that come from? You’re talking about technique? Technique or experience. How did you get that? How do you know when to tighten up to let
go or to pull? Yeah, instinct or the audience. Like Bryan said, the audience is, you know,
really a part of the show. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) So it’s all about listening. I mean, you have to be listening to your fellow
actors. I mean, I think that’s one of the most important
things is to really listen on stage. As an actor, to really be present and really
hear. And you know, be, whatever. Acting is reacting, or being. What is it? One of those Acting 101 things? (LAUGHTER) You learned most of them, right? Yeah! But it’s all sort of true, in that sense of
just truly listening. And listening to your audience, because they
tell you. That’s what we’re sort of learning now, because
you know, we’ve only done three shows, so we’re still not really sure where a lot of
the laughs are. We’re still finding our way, where the scenes
– and it is going to vary, night to night, certainly. It always does. But you know, certain things that you can
hopefully depend on. “Oh, this is gonna land,” or “This will probably
get a laugh” or that sort of thing. But I think that just comes from doing it. I think that’s the important thing, listening
to the audience as well as to your actors. Yeah. To actors, and it’s so true. You get as good as you give on stage, I do
believe. Yes. There are some people that it’s about them,
you know, when they’re performing. And it’s really not. It’s about the entire cast and the audience
together, having this unique experience. Right, right, experience. It’s not just one person. It’s the entire combination of a scene. I think if a show really works, it’ll work
with a bunch of different audiences. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) Yes, definitely. In that, you know, if your scene really carries,
you can keep it pretty tight, without any reaction from the audience, and it will land,
you know. The point of the scene will land. If they’re going to respond to every little
thing that you have, that’s great. You can give them a little opening there. But I think that a show that is well constructed
will withstand about any audience. Definitely. Do you ever have the tendency, though, in
one performance, where something isn’t quite going the way it used to go, where you want
to like do a little more (MARIN LAUGHS) or you overcompensate or you try to [pull back]? I go faster. (LAUGHTER) As fast as I can. Fast is the thing? Faster, funnier. I think the rule of thumb is that if you’re
not getting the reactions, it’s like, there’s nothing to wait for! (LAUGHTER) No, go! Drive that truck! Don’t wait. No, don’t wait. Exactly. Faster, louder, funnier. Yes. But as a non-actor, those are the moments
where I think, “My heart goes out to all of you!” (LAUGHTER) You wish we’d go faster, too! Hurry up! (LAUGHTER) Get this over with! Mostly for the non-actors! I think what Tom is saying is exactly right. If the work has been done well, with the exception
of, I suppose, maybe some kind of burlesque where you have obvious setups for laughs that
demand, you know, a joke that demands a laugh, right? Basically, if it’s done well and played honestly,
whether it suddenly gets a laugh or not, the moment still plays and you just keep going. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) You know, there’s nothing
to wait for, you just play it. Because audiences do vary, and as far as what
Boyd’s saying, elderly audiences, I mean, sometimes your matinees. Yesterday, we had a matinee audience, and
the typical, more elderly people. They loved it. They loved it! And they’re listening, you know they’re listening. Right, they enjoy it, but they’re not as vocal. They’re enjoying it, but they’re not waaah! They’re a thin audience. Yeah. Yes. That’s what makes it more fun than doing a
sitcom. Absolutely. Because sitcoms, aw, geez! You listen, and it’s mostly the producers
and the writers that are laughing at every joke. (LAUGHTER) That is the oddest laughter in the world,
isn’t it? Very forced. Very forced. And they can always add it later. Oh, yeah! (GENERAL AGREEMENT) In defense of the elderly audience, I will
say, I can’t believe it, but at our show (LAUGHS), they’re loving it! It’s our corporate audience, the buyouts – When did the movie come out? ’77? ’77. Well, the defense rests. There you go! (LAUGHTER) Well, older audiences are a little more experienced
at theatre going. Sure, yeah. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) They come ready to be gratified, you know? Right. I think they really open themselves up to
it more than our generation or the younger generation. You know, they’re used to video games and
all this input all the time, MTV stuff. Umm-hmm, immediate. And theatre isn’t quite as relevant to a lot
of people. It’s a lot more work. Yeah. Umm-hmm. You have to concentrate for a longer time. And it’s always great to see younger people
in the theatre (GENERAL AGREEMENT) and see them enjoy a show. But you know, the older audiences, they’re
a little more open to it. Yeah, they were raised [going to the theatre]. I think the interesting thing is that you’re
dancing, and you’re known as an actor. Well, if you’ve seen me dance . . . (LAUGHTER) I did, and I still want you to answer that
question! (LAUGHTER) How does it differ for you? And you are a dancer, and are now acting. Tell me about that. How did that come about, and how much training
did you have to bring to each part of this? To the different things that you’re doing
now. I’ve watched you, lo, these many years! Well, I think we were very fortunate, working
with Susan Stroman, who is director and choreographer of this piece. And certainly, she tailored both these pieces,
these roles to us. They were created on us, and so they really
use our strengths to the best advantage. And of course, (LAUGHS) a lot of rehearsal
for both of us! What is your background? My background is primarily dance. I’ve been dancing since I was five years old. Where? I grew up in Texas. And I studied in Texas and I studied in London,
and I studied in Chicago and here in New York. But I think the thing that’s very interesting
about CONTACT and that Susan brought to this piece is that there really is no separation
between the dancing and the acting. It’s not like some musical numbers, where
you go and you do a tap dance and then you do a scene, and then you do a little ballet
over here and then you do a scene. There’s not dancing and acting. Actually, both are completely married at every
moment, and so, every movement has a reason. And so, when you’re dancing, actually what
you’re doing is acting with your body. And in the same sense, when you’re doing a
scene, you’re dancing with your words. And so I think Boyd and I actually really
were able to use each other in that sense, because I learned from his experience acting,
and he hopefully could draw on my experience as a dancer. And it’s partner dancing, you know. This is not disco dancing. There’s a very big difference in the two. (LAUGHTER) Well, there is! They both have soul! (PH) (LAUGHTER) And very well. Well, because we’re touching each other. I don’t, I don’t, I just have my little [space]. But in partner dancing, there is a big difference,
because you have to learn how to really sense each other’s energy and movement and respond
to very subtle cues from one another. And I think, actually, that that’s a big advantage. It’s sort of what Marin was saying, it’s the
same thing as really listening. You’re listening with your body. And it’s the same thing that you do as an
actor. You truly tune into your partner and pay attention
to what’s going on. Did that come about through rehearsals? Umm-hmm. And I wanted to talk about CONTACT, because
Boyd mentioned that it’s at an institutional theatre, which has a built-in audience. But also, I believe that this show was an
idea and that Andre [Bishop] just said to Susan Stroman, “Do you have any idea? Do you want to do it?” When did you get involved, both of you? How did you get involved and at what stage? Did Susan call and say, “I want you to dance,”
Boyd? I got a call from my agent, who said, “Susan
Stroman and John Weidman are doing this workshop at Lincoln Center.” This was last year, late November or early
December. And said, “It’s a dance workshop, do you want
to be in it?” And I went, “Well, why are they calling me? Surely there’s some mistake.” And they said, “No, no, no.” So they sent over this – it was essentially
maybe about a fifteen, sixteen page outline, describing the show, which ironically is pretty
much what we’re doing. Umm-hmm. I mean, very little has changed. It had all the music in it, and a description
of the story, and some dialogue. Was it John’s idea? It was both of them. I think Susan got the idea – I mean, the
sort of apocryphal story now is that she went to a dance club down in the meat district,
you know, some pool hall that becomes a swing club at night. Saw all these people dancing, and saw this
woman in a yellow dress who was quite evocative and – (TO DEBORAH) That’s you! (LAUGHTER) That’s exactly right. And said, “Wow!” You know, people were coming up and asking
her to dance and she was saying, “No,” and you know, she was kind of the focal point
of the evening at the club. And that sort of inspired this idea about,
you know, how dancing with someone could change their lives. And then, I guess when Andre and Bernie invited
them to come do something, she and John had collaborated before, that was what they decided
that they would work on. And I don’t know when that happened, but by
the time that John actually wrote out the outline and they decided to do it and then
they called, Susan was in London filming OKLAHOMA!, the Trevor Nunn production. And so, I said, “Well, I think maybe I need
to talk to her.” Because I had met her socially, but I had
never worked with her, and I really thought she thought I was someone else. (LAUGHTER) You know, because the description
of the character, he does have to dance at some point, and I thought, “Well, I’m just
not a dancer.” I figure I’m dance-challenged, I think. (LAUGHTER) But we finally did hook up and
talk, and she said, “No, no, I really want an actor for the part, and not a dancer.” And I said, “Well, you know, I’ll try anything,
but I really am limited in what I can do,” and she said, “Don’t worry, you know, I’m
used to working with, you know, klutzes.” Anybody! Exactly, the dance-challenged! Did your agent think that you should do this? Oh, yeah, she loved it. And I mean, I’ve said this before, but you
can imagine if Joe Torres called you and said, “Do you like baseball?” “Well, yeah.” “Do you play baseball?” “Well, no, not really.” “Okay, but would you like to come work out
with the Yankees?” You know, you’d say, “Yeah!!” (LAUGHTER) And I have to say that, because I worked with
Susan on OKLAHOMA!, she invited me, a call came to the office, “Come to this thing called
CONTACT.” I thought, “I have no idea what this even
means.” You know, and down into the bowels of Lincoln
Center, into a rehearsal room, where I was sitting in the front row. And this thing, it was just the third piece,
that you are both in. And I was absolutely overwhelmed. I had absolutely no idea what it was. You know, you came out in your yellow dress,
and I thought, “This is one of the sexiest things I’ve seen.” And you know, when you’re in the front row
in a rehearsal room, as in the theatre, legs are going over you. But in a way, I thought to myself, “This is
something that can be created by a place like Lincoln Center and nowhere else.” (GENERAL AGREEMENT) Because really, nobody
was saying, “Now, it’s got to be theatre parties on this date.” Right, right. Which I think, that’s a really important thing. Well, those backers’ performances, a weekend
of rehearsal. Well, exactly. Right. It’s been really unusual in that it’s the
least-interfered-with show I think I’ve ever been in. Awesome. That’s gotta be nice. Yeah. We went into these rehearsals. I remember Andre and Bernie came and said
hello the first day. And then we didn’t see them for weeks. We just worked. They’d just come in and sort of go like, “Oh,
that looks very interesting.” The kids were playing. That’s right! That’s exactly what it was like. And they did not watch runthroughs, they did
not watch it. They came, actually, right at the end when
we were doing it. And then they loved it, and then the most
amazing thing is that they had the guts to then say, “We want to do it.” I mean, people would say, “What are you doing?” I’m going, “I’m doing this really weird dance
thing down in the basement at Lincoln Center. You know, we’re having a ball, but – ” It’s also interesting, this is not what we’re
here to talk about, but I think it’s the best use of canned music I’ve ever seen. Yeah! And now that it’s become a hit and now that
it’s going to move upstairs, suddenly there’s a question about, do you want a – whatever
this is, call it a musical or whatever – with canned music? And it’s not done – It’s a soundtrack to – It’s part of the concept, actually. Really, part of the concept was always that
it was [canned music]. I mean, in fact, in “Contact,” in my character’s
apartment, it’s always been this way. The music that you hear, all those CDs are
on my desk. On the stage, yeah. So it’s always been that. This is music that’s in his mind. And I mean, you know, it’s funny. Yeah, we’ve heard a little flak about people
saying, “Wow, they should be using a live orchestra.” But it can’t be. It’s not part of the concept. But it was never part of the concept. And also, too, no one ever bitches about movie
soundtracks. I mean, it’s essentially the same kind of
thing. Yeah. We talk about live theatre, though. That’s part of it, and that’s why. But it works in this, very well. Well, it’s part of the concept, from the very
beginning. Yeah, exactly. So that’s the reason why there is a difference. You couldn’t recreate that stuff. No, no, no. But it’s also, you know, I mean, for example,
if you had a moment in a play where you had, say, a recording of Martin Luther King’s speech,
that’s a very specific cultural reference. And to have an actor do it live, while that
could be just as effective in a certain way, is not the same choice. I mean, it’s just not the director’s choice. It wouldn’t be the same to have an orchestra
play “Simply Irresistible.” You’ve got to hear Robert Palmer’s voice. Right, right. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) Part of it is hearing recognizable music. But you bring whatever happened with you when
you first heard that song – Right. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) The emotions or whatever came with it, too. Yeah, that’s absolutely right. You bring to that piece, too, as an audience
member, I guess. And the idea is that this is all happening
in Boyd’s head, it’s a fantasy. I mean, the whole evening is about fantasy. And so, these are songs – he imagines going
to a swing club and probably doesn’t quite know what that means and what swing music
is all about. And so, he picks songs from his life. In this fantasy, he picks songs from his life
that were meaningful. And I do think that’s why these songs are
important. Because like he said, they are the cultural
events. They’re the songs with those artists performing
them. And eventually, he gets around to “Sing, Sing,
Sing,” thank goodness. (LAUGHTER) But meanwhile, we go through “Beyond
the Sea” and Robert Palmer, and I think that’s what makes it unique. Bobby Darrin! (LAUGHTER) But also, those characters, as you said earlier,
they were molded around you and pulled from you. That must be satisfying, from an actor’s standpoint. What do you have, Bryan? What kind of an orchestration do you have
in your show? Oh, we have a full orchestra, although they’re
not in the pit. How many? They’re piped in. They’re in another room. Unfortunately, you know, this is the sound
they wanted. At least for me as an actor, on stage, we
hear no live percussive or acoustic sound. It’s all piped in, and they wanted it to sound
like you were in a disco. Do you have trouble hearing, like, when you’re
singing? Like, are there monitors? Oh, yes!! (LAUGHTER) One rehearsal, you know, it was
a rehearsal, and we have to come on with just a percussive beat, Paige and I, and it wasn’t
coming through. There was nothing piped in. We could not hear a beat. Could not hear one-two-three-four. And it was just a rehearsal. Thank God everything got fixed. But it’s the concept of the sound, that they
wanted it to sound like you’re in a disco, so that everything was loud and piped in. All of the instruments are offstage, except
for the synthesizers, bass guitar, the guitars, are in the pit. Do you have a conductor? Oh, yeah, we watch him. Every show I’ve been in at the Minskoff, and
other theatres, too, now we have the TV monitors. Do you have those? No, we don’t. Because the Beck is such an intimate theatre
and Paul is right [there]. You don’t need it. That’s true, right. You don’t need it. And the orchestra is in the pit? You can see ’em, yeah. And it’s a fabulous pit at the Beck. It’s got wood. I mean, when we did our “Sitzprobe” last Friday,
it was so exciting, because we did it acoustically. Ohh! And us. Oh, nice. And as other people were singing, I walked
up in the balcony. You could hear perfectly. You could hear every word, everything. Ohh! (SIGHS) And Michael Blakemore said, “It would be revolutionary
if we said, ‘No mikes!'” No mikes! Ooh! Why don’t you? Yeah. I mean, we were tempted to do it. Never. Never happen. Oh, wouldn’t that be wonderful? It’ll never happen. Because the audiences have become so used
to it. It’s so sad. The audience would sit there and go, “What? What?” Or they would feel like they were being gypped
or something. The stagehands union wouldn’t let you do it. I don’t know. When did they start the mike in the mouth? Sixties, wasn’t it? You don’t know that, but – Madonna. (LAUGHTER) Well, they used floor mikes a lot, back in
the thirties, they did. Yeah, the thirties, actually. As early as the thirties. Really? They did, yeah. They used them very preliminarily. Yeah, a little enhancement. But not the body mikes. No, body mikes – I don’t mind the little body mike where it’s
disguised. No, I can’t stand those. We have these things. [MOTIONS AROUND FACE] Oh, the big guys. Which, you know, I hope I don’t catch any
flak for this from the producers (LAUGHS), but I find that besides not fitting your head,
when you have a big wig on, like I do – I have this big, bad perm. It’s great, I love it. (LAUGHTER) Bad perm! That’s redundant! Yeah, that’s real seventies. Gino Pinelli (PH), Tony Orlando gone wrong! (LAUGHTER) It’s this hideous perm, it’s great. But once they put it on, and if the mike’s
not in the right place, forget it. I mean, the sound guy’s yanking and pulling. And otherwise, other shows, they just stick
’em, tape ’em, and you’re fine. It does look like orthodonture. It does! (GENERAL AGREEMENT) It’s inhibiting for acting. It’s also so odd when they use it, I have
to say, like in CIVIL WAR, in a period show. Yes! Ooh! And then you see it. I went and saw it, with these mikes. These women in these, you know, big beautiful
dresses and these microphones. I feel it’s so wrong. It’s just not right. It looks alien. “Ground control to Major Tom.” (PH) David Letterman, I was watching David Letterman
– Do you, as actors, performers, not have any
say in the kind of mike you want to use? No, absolutely not. No. I kind of put my foot down once in a while. The sound guys kept wanting me to stick it
out right out into my face to where you can see it. Oh, I won’t put mine out. And I won’t do it. Uh-uh. I won’t either. I’ll say, “You just turn it up. I’ll sing plenty loud.” I think you’re so right. I will not wear my microphone out. You can turn the damn thing off, if you want! (LAUGHTER AND AGREEMENT) I will not have my mike seen, that is one
thing about me. I know people will – even the little ones
like that we wear, the body mikes. People wear them out here (MOTIONS TO HER
FOREHEAD), people wear them here (MOTIONS TO HER CHEEK). I mean, to me, that would be a deal breaker
for me. If they wanted me to wear one of those rigs,
I wouldn’t do the show. Oh, it’s ridiculous. I feel strongly about it. But in SUNSET BOULEVARD, they had them right
here. What would happen if you said, “Absolutely
not”? Well, then, they’d have to deal with that
somehow. They’d have to rethink their [plans]. And you were saying not? I just think it’s important. All of you, could all of you be heard without
these mikes? It depends on how it is. It depends on the house, really. It depends, technology and an amplified orchestra
– No. The orchestra couldn’t be. No. There’s no way you could sing over them. No, you couldn’t. You couldn’t hear over the amplification. But the other night, I was watching “Letterman,”
and I don’t know what it’s going to come to, but LeAnn Rimes was on and she had one of
those mikes. But this one was like this coffee cup in front
of her face. (LAUGHTER) And it was like, you can’t – it
was just totally cut off. Did you see it? No! She’s a cute, wonderful, beautiful, great
– She’s an awesome singer. But – (DEMONSTRATES WITH HIS COFFEE CUP;
LAUGHTER) She’s seventeen! She’s seventeen. Now, she should say, “No!” But when you have an amplified orchestra – And she probably chose it! Well, they probably say, “That’s the best
sound, will get you the best sound.” Exactly. But to delineate (PH) from the sound from
the acting. I always say, “Give me the actor.” Yeah. You know, communicate with the audience. And I find some of those things inhibiting. Well, the most disconcerting thing about it,
being an audience member, for me, watching a show that’s especially heavily amplified,
is that – well, first of all, if it’s not done really, really well, it’s often hard
to tell who the hell’s talking in a scene! Yes, yes! (GENERAL AGREEMENT) Especially in a big choral number, someone
has a solo. Yes, right. Rather than an acoustic situation when you
simply go, “Oh, that person’s singing.” But this, you go, “Whose lips are moving?” Because the sound’s all over. Yeah, it’s all around you. It’s all around you. It’s very disconcerting. And I mean, the basic idea of theatre, live
theatre, is that we’re all in the same room and we can see each other and we can hear
each other. Right. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) And therefore, there is no distance between
us. And I think the trend of heavy amplification
– I mean, the idea before, as we were talking about, enhancement. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) It makes it little easier
for – I mean, they’re talking about that at Carnegie
Hall and everything. Yeah. A lot of opera houses are having it. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) Opera! I think it’s the sound guys. I think they’ve got a whole little cabal going. (LAUGHTER) It’s a rock show. I think it’s that. I think it’s cultural. When, you know, a Cole Porter show, it should
be very minimal and acoustic. In our show, it’s a big rock disco, crank
it up. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) But there is an argument that in the Ethel
Merman days, you know, what you got for volume you missed in nuance. Nuance, that’s true. Right. It does. It’s a different style of singing now, wouldn’t
you say? Yes. Well, you can be a lot more intimate. Yes, well, you can be more intimate. You can be. That is one thing that I have to say is nice,
because you can afford – if you want to take some quiet moments, you can, which you
probably really couldn’t then. But – But I think that also sometimes encourages
people to discard technique. It does promote it. Yes. And then you hear a lot of singers out there,
and they really don’t know what they’re doing. And they can’t do it eight times a week. No, they don’t know, because they depend on
their microphones. But they’re loud enough that you can hear
’em. It does promote it. You know, technique is real important, I think. And a lot of – I hate to say “new kids,”
’cause I’m one. (BRYAN LAUGHS) But I myself have a master’s
degree in opera. And I learned how to not only sing that way
with technique, but speak that way with technique. And since I’m in a play right now, with no
mikes, I’ve realized, no matter whether you’re speaking or singing, how important that support
is. And I sang at Carnegie Hall last year, without
a mike. And if you truly have a technique — and of
course, there’s the balance issue, too, of the orchestra – Right. You should be able to project it. You should be able to do it. Right, yeah. And you should be able to do it eight times
a week. Yes, you’ll get tired, and yes, you’ll have
to take care of yourself. But I do think the microphones promote a little
bit of laziness, I do. Definitely. And also, people are getting away with having
no technique. Exactly. Right. People aren’t studying, because it’s sort
of like they don’t need to, in a sense. They don’t have to, right. Right. They don’t have to project, which is disconcerting,
I think. They want to be pop singers. Yes. Wouldn’t your directors be interested in hearing
what you’re all saying? The directors have the same concerns. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) Do they? I’m sure they do. Because this is the first time that it’s been
so unanimous, and we’ve had so many people in musicals here. And I find it very disconcerting, and I find
that I keep going back to live theatre, because that’s what the theatre is, and that’s what
makes it different from your sitcoms and anything else. There shouldn’t be anything between the audience
and you. You should communicate. Why isn’t this being very, very strongly,
this message given to the people that have the power to say yea or nay? I think it’s two big reasons. First is the advent of synthesized instruments,
have to be amplified. They’re naturally louder, and they’re easier
for the audience to hear. They have more sort of visceral impact. I mean, I’m sure, when you were doing your
“Sitzprobe,” as rich and luscious as the sound of what? – maybe twenty-eight pieces is in a pit,
compared to say an opera orchestra of sixty or a Philharmonic of a hundred and ten – Right. It’s not an overwhelming sound. It’s actually fairly subtle, if you’re sitting
in the back of the house. And the audience has to pay attention. It has to be quiet, and they have to concentrate. And if you are used to going to see TERMINATOR
2 or listening to, you know, your big Dolby home theatre system – Or in your car. Or in your car, right, which is a cultural
phenomenon that’s not going away. True. No, the surround sound. And I think that it’s simply, to go in some
place and you have to pay attention, concentrate, is something that we’re not accustomed to
doing. So I think that’s the first part. And the other is just that economically, it’s
a lot cheaper to have a ten piece band with a lot of synthesizers (GENERAL AGREEMENT)
and amplified orchestras and one or two sound people, rather than pay twenty-eight people
to play. Right. We have, I think, seventeen. You know, we have synthesizers. Yeah, we have to. You’re going to have a two thousand seat house
at the Gershwin, too – That’s right. Either you’re going to have to have opera
singers or you’re going to have amplification. That’s about cost. I mean, that’s now about it’s cheaper for
your producer to have a synthesizer down there than ten more players. So. Violins. Also, if you rely on amplification, you can
put the orchestra as it is on ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, which is split and up stage, left and
right. Right. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) I mean, if you did it acoustically, you couldn’t
hear it anywhere. That’s right. I see both sides of that. I do see the progression, although because
there are different kinds of music now, in the last, I mean, twenty-five years. It would be ludicrous in your piece to do
it acoustically. Yes, to have it acoustic! That’s right. There’d be one violin! (LAUGHTER) “Stayin’ Alive.” (LAUGHTER) But on the flip side, I agree totally,
but I don’t think that’ll ever change. Unnn-unh. It won’t. As long as in a dark room, you turn on a light,
and someone starts to talk and tell a story. You know, there will always be the intimate
theatre. There will be a desire for it, there will
always be an audience for it. But I think now, like you said, everyone is
so overstimulized [SIC]. And the computers in your face. Well, you know, there’s a certain homogenization,
I think, of the Broadway theatre. And I think producers are less inclined to
really take a piece and say, “This would be good if we could do this as acoustically as
possible.” I think there’s like a machinery, you know,
in the production sense, that’s kind of in place. You know, you walk in, you’re going to have
costumes, you’re going to have sound, you’re going to have all your stage guys that you
have to have. And there’s gotta be dancing in the Broadway
shows. You know what I’m saying? Right. It’s like there’s a certain machinery that’s
in place. The shows are kind of sometimes scooched in
to them, to fit the machinery, rather than the other way around (GENERAL AGREEMENT),
which would be nice. (LAUGHS) Yeah, yeah. But would CONTACT be put up, if it wasn’t
for Lincoln Center? Well, that’s exactly it. Would that have happened commercially? Never. (BLOWS A RASPBERRY) I mean, as Ted was saying, if John and Susan
had gone to commercial producers and said, “We have this great idea for a show. (BRYAN LAUGHS) It’s three pieces. There’s almost no dialogue, it’s mostly dancing
and a bunch of canned music.” They would have said – (LAUGHS) “Can you get Ricky Martin?” Forget it! And of course, even if they had chosen to
produce it, it wouldn’t be what we’re doing. Right. It’s just simply all the commercial, as you
say. The way things are done now would have dictated,
like, “Well, you can’t do that. You’ll have to do it this way. That’s the way it’s done now.” Right. Tom, you mentioned earlier about sitcom and
theatre. What’s your training? Where did you come from? Oh, I came from theatre. You came from theatre, went into – Yeah, I did television actually after I was
on Broadway. I was on Broadway in I LOVE MY WIFE, back
in ’78. Then (PRETENDS TO SOB) I got drafted into
television! (LAUGHTER) It’s nothing to be ashamed of. But it’s paid a lot of bills. Certainly! And opened a lot of doors. But theatre is always the thing that I enjoy
the most, and I keep coming back to it, and it’s very gratifying. It’s a blast. Bryan, what about you? Oh, I would love to be on television! (LAUGHTER) No shame in it at all! You are, now! I love it! What’s your background? Mainly just theatre. Theatre, theatre, theatre. I’ve done one film. Where did you study? I went to Tulane University, in New Orleans,
where I’m from. I wanted to go other places, my father was
very ill at the time, so I stayed home. And immediately out of college, ran up here
and studied. But mainly, mainly theatre, and one movie. Did you develop the character? More so with the funny hat? Yeah. Right, Suzy Bentsinger (PH) did the costumes. She just had a field day with me. When we first met, we just clicked, and I
just said, “Go to town, knock yourself out. The higher the platforms, the better,” you
know? Which I regret now, because one month, and
my knees are almost shot! Sure, yeah! They are like four-inch heels and two-inch
platforms in every shoe I wear and I have to dance in them. I didn’t think of that! (LAUGHTER) But yes, I did tell Leon about
the wig. I said, you know, “Big huge perm – Juno
Vanelli (PH) gone wrong. Make it,” you know, he’s this lecherous character,
so I said, “Let’s have fun.” It’s bigger than life, really. Oh, yeah! (LAUGHTER) And the jewelry – when I really
knew who the character was, Susan had this whole big table of fake jewelry, because I
said, “I have to have rings on every finger, and you know, chains and medallions.” And I saw this huge scorpion and went, “That’s
it!” So my whole character is defined by a fake
gold scorpion. (LAUGHTER) Kristin? I went to Oklahoma. I grew up in Oklahoma, and (POINTS TO DEBORAH)
by Texas! (LAUGHTER) Right by Louisiana! We are neighbors! And I got my undergraduate degree in music
theatre and got my master’s degree in opera performance and thought I was going to be
an opera singer. I won the Met (PH) auditions and decided to
do music theatre. I auditioned for a play after I graduated,
out at Paper Mill Playhouse, and I got one of the parts, and then I had to decide, “What
are you really going to do with your life? And what do you really want to do with your
life?” So I decided to move to New York and stay
here and do this. What was your first Broadway show? My first Broadway show was STEEL PIER. And then CHARLIE BROWN. And now [EPIC PROPORTIONS]. I have to ask you this. Where did that character come from in YOU’RE
A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN? (LAUGHTER) She’s an amalgamation of many people. I did a lot of watching children, just random
children, on the streets, in the subways. My niece is now five, I studied her a lot. But mainly, I read the cartoon strips that
Charles Schulz wrote. And one of the things that I noticed in these
characters, and in a lot of the children, and certainly my niece, is that I’ve noticed
they don’t know that they’re children. They’re little adults. And so you know, the fact that they can jump
rope or they’ve got gum on the bottom of their shoe or they want the ice cream now is very,
very important. It’s like our banking or our opening night. I mean, it’s as important to them as our things
are to us. And that’s the one thing that I really wanted
to bring out in the character, is that they are little adults. And of course, the way Schulz wrote the material,
it’s very adult-like. So the important thing for me was just not
to play at being a child, but just bring out the qualities of being very serious and a
little adult. But mainly from my niece. (LAUGHTER) I think you know my niece, too. (LAUGHTER) At the Tony Awards, I was sitting
next to my father, quite by accident, and he hadn’t seen the show. And just before you started, I turned and
I said, “You’re about to see a performance that is your granddaughter Tess.” (LAUGHTER) And he was on the floor. He was absolutely on the floor. It was a wonderful thing. Well, you know, what’s great, too, about CHARLIE
BROWN, that is now carrying over into the play, is that a lot of these kids that sort
of enjoyed the show, CHARLIE BROWN, are now coming to EPIC PROPORTIONS. And I’m happy about that, because I feel like
whatever can get them into the theatre, into a straight play, if they mainly love musicals
or whatever, it’s great. I’ve had a couple of little girls very upset
that they’re not seeing Sally. (LAUGHTER) They’ve come and, you know, “I
thought I was coming to see Sally. Will you sign my poster anyway?” (LAUGHTER) It’s been very cute! But I’m glad that they’re there, you know? And they’re having a theatrical experience,
and hopefully, learning from it. Did you audition for the show you’re in now,
for EPIC PROPORTIONS? No, I didn’t. The director, Jerry Zaks, had come to me while
I was doing CHARLIE BROWN and said, “I think this character is so you.” And it’s funny, because I had never worked
with him before, and I don’t know what I ever did that made him think that, but I’m glad
that he did, because it is a lot of my personality. And I’m lucky that I do get to communicate
with the audience. And I do enjoy doing comedy (BRYAN LAUGHS)
and it’s a wonderful chance to do it. Your sense of comedy! (PH) (LAUGHTER) Exactly! How’d you like Zaks? I enjoyed him. You know, he’s very specific and he knows
what he wants, so he’s always very clear with you and you never have a question. But at the same time, he lets you play. Like, you said a wonderful exploration environment. He gives that. And so therefore, you’re able to bring a lot
of your own self to the role. And the writers were on hand, so they sort
of wrote it around me and the other people in the show, which is such a gift. And I know Deborah and Boyd and Bryan, you
know, when you’re creating something, it’s a wonderful gift. Because if they’re smart, they pick up on
your ability and your niche and your thing, and they go with that. And if you’re smart, as the actor, then you
can bring other elements as well to the character. So I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to
originate a lot of things, you know? And it’s a great learning experience. Have there been situations where that has
not existed in working? Well, a lot of times, some people think, like
in a revival, that that doesn’t really exist. But I think in a lot of ways, if a revival’s
gonna be successful, you really do have to create from scratch the character. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) You can’t go back and
look at what somebody else did with it, because that’s a different period. You know, if we did ANNIE GET YOUR GUN like
they did in Merman’s time, it wouldn’t be successful, probably. I mean, people would still come because of
Bernadette, but I don’t think it would have been a hit. What is the reason for doing a revival, then? Well, in this case, I mean, and I think in
her case (MOTIONS TO MARIN) – Irving Berlin! It’s amazing music, amazing! It’s great music. I think, you know, why do we keep doing TOSCA? It’s our American [classics]. But you’re doing it the same way, though. We’re not doing KISS ME KATE the same way! No, no, no. I mean, when you say the operas, they’re being
done pretty much the same way, because of the music. Well, there are differences. Well, I think they mount them differently. Not so much. I’ve always been interested in that. Avant-garde things. But I think it’s because we need to keep hearing,
as much as [possible]. Yes. I mean, this is the first revival I’ve done. I’ve done original Broadway shows, so this
is a different experience. But how wonderful to bring this incredible
music and the score to, hopefully, a new – That isn’t what I meant. I meant, why not, if you’re doing that, why
not do it as it has been done? Because it’s a classic. It has the music that you want to hear and
it was of a period. SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER is, too. But also, I mean, I don’t see how we could
– who remembers exactly what Alfred Drake and Patricia Morison did in 1948, that could
come and remount the production exactly as it was done? Plus, I think that would be dull and boring. It would be a museum piece. Yeah. It would be a different conception. It’s only a historical sort of thing. I think anything that is worth doing, it’ll
stand the test of time. This score will live up, the book will live
up, through different interpretations. Yeah, right. Like the fantastic revival of CAROUSEL and
KING AND I. It was totally reconceived, but yet, they
worked for today, they had something to say today. Some books hold up better than others! (LAUGHTER) Some books gotta have some adjustments. Well, but on the other hand, the songs in
your show are fantastic, every one. But I also think, what Kristin is saying is
true in a revival, because if a show was written around certain actors to begin with, by good
people, by the very nature of what it is, it’ll be well done, so that when somebody
does that part again, it’s like it’s well constructed. Yes, they’re good pieces. And it’s kind of interesting to think of [it]. You know, you look at Emil DeBecque’s lines
in SOUTH PACIFIC and if you say ’em real slow with an Italian accent, they sound, you know
— (LAUGHTER) No, but the words, obviously he [Ezio Pinza], you know. But I think, you know, it’s true of any classical
play. Any production worth its salt should be mounted
as a new, contemporary play. Yes. You have to think of it as a new play. At least for the performer. Right, you have to invent it. In your consciousness, it’s gotta be fresh. Just as you would, I think, whoever took over
roles back then. Right. Whoever took over for Merman, whoever took
over for whoever, they brought what they were to that piece. Because no one can be those people. No one can be Ethel Merman, no one can be
Ezio Pinza. Till FORBIDDEN BROADWAY. (TO BRYAN) I was going to say, you can! (LAUGHTER) Bryan is the exception! And here he is! I mean, that’s what makes us unique as actors,
hopefully, is we bring ourselves. We bring what we have to a role. Are you given any directives on that? Anything of, “This is the way it was done,
but we don’t want you to do it that way”? No, no. “This is it” and you’re free? Well, at least with KISS ME KATE, we’ve been
looking at it as completely, it’s our piece. We are inventing this. It’s a completely re-invented show. And not looking at any [other production]. And the Eliases who had the Spewack book were
holding onto it, as you know, forever and ever! Yes! (LAUGHTER) And ever, and ever, and weren’t letting anyone
do it! They came to the preview Monday night, and
said to Brian Stokes and myself that Patricia and Alfred are nowhere, and how thrilled they
were about that. And I think for them, that’s [great], because
they have been so protective of the piece. And so, for them to really look at it and
to be able to see it in a completely other way is wonderful. And that’s why we do it, I think. Well, in our case, too, in ANNIE GET YOUR
GUN, the portrayal of Frank, he was always kind of a stiff, arrogant (LAUGHS) – well! That got away from me. (LAUGHTER) But in our case, what we wanted
to try to do, since with Ethel it was always such a star vehicle, and when they recreated
it in ’66, they actually got rid of the ingenue couple and gave her another song. So she was singing everything but “Defenses
Are Down.” And in our case, I think Bernadette and Graciela
and Peter Stone, they all wanted to have a little better balance. So they gave us latitude, and my character’s
a little more sympathetic and a little less abrasive to her. You know, it’s a little less of a catfight
any more. And it’s a lot more fun to do this way, for
one thing. And the people, like Berlin’s daughters, have
all said that they like this character much better. So. Thanks! (LAUGHTER) Oh, that’s nice to hear. I’ll pass it on! (LAUGHTER) So how many people came to see
FORBIDDEN BROADWAY that you were making fun of to their face? (LAUGHTER) Too many! That was the most nerve-wracking. I’ll bet. Well, that and when you knew big directors
and big producers were in the audience. But the most nerve-wracking was when you had
to imitate and poke fun at other performers and colleagues of yours. And sometimes, they were – Gerard [Alessandrini]
was no holds barred! Oh, when I went to see the RAGTIME spoof,
I was nervous! When it came up, it started, I was sitting
there completely petrified, like that I was going to be – you know, how horrifying it
was going to be for me! I just sat there. And it was hysterical. What did they do? What number did they do? They did sort of the whole thing, and it was
actually through Mother’s eyes, and it was really, really funny. Like Tateh’s little girl was a loaf of bread. (LAUGHTER) Remember, you’re a loaf of rye! It was very, very funny. That changed so much. Every night it changed until we opened. Things were cut, it was crazy. That was very fun. But it was nerve-wracking to watch! (LAUGHS) When it was over, I was like, “Okay,
whew!” I bet! There’s a lot more that we have to explore,
but we have to take a break at this point. And so, you can all take a deep breath, you
can all have a glass of water. You can stand up and sit down, but you have
to be back in your seat in like a minute. Stand up, sit down. So right now, this is the break for the American
Theatre Wing seminars on “Working in the Theatre.” This is CUNY-TV, the City University of New
York. (APPLAUSE) Welcome back to the American Theatre
Wing’s seminar on “Working in the Theatre.” Before we return to our gifted panelists,
I would like to point out to you that the Wing is more than a sponsor of seminars and
more than our famous Tony Award, given for excellence in the theatre. We are an organization whose year-round programs
are dedicated to serving the theatre and the community, with a goal of developing new audiences. To achieve that goal, we have created audience
development programs for students, like “Introduction to Broadway,” which began seven years ago
and has enabled almost 80,000 New York City high school students to attend a Broadway
show, for many of them, their very first time. And through our “Theatre in Schools” program,
theatre professionals like these on our seminar panels go directly into classrooms to work
with and talk to students about working in the theatre. In addition, we have our hospital program,
which dates back to World War Two and our legendary Stage Door Canteen. Today’s version of the program brings talent
from Broadway, Off-Broadway, and the cabaret world to entertain patients in hospitals,
senior nursing centers, and service organizations. Children’s hospitals in the New York area,
as well, bringing that magic of the theatre to those who can not get to the theatre themselves. We are proud of the work we do and delighted
with the wonderful working relationship that we have with the theatrical community, and
grateful to our members and everyone who makes what the Wing does possible. We are so grateful to all of you on this panel
and indeed grateful to the supporters of the American Theatre Wing. So now, let’s get back to what it is to
work in theatre as a performer. Right now, Ted, would you start this? I will, indeed. Thank you, Isabelle. We’ve heard some, I think, wonderful things
about what it’s like to be an actor and what that world is about. I wanted to ask a little bit – oh, some
stories. And the first one I want to ask, for those
of you who have seen CONTACT, it’s a wonderful story about a woman in a yellow dress and
a man who – yes, there’s the poster. But I heard a wonderful story about the opening
night party, and I wanted you to tell the story of you and John Weidman at the opening
night party. (LAUGHS) Well, obviously, this is a show about
swing dancing. And I warned John Weidman weeks and weeks
before the opening party that he’d better be brushing up on his swing dancing steps,
because we were going to drag him out on the floor. And John Weidman is perhaps the most dance
phobic person I’ve ever met in my entire life! (LAUGHS) Even more so than Boyd, perhaps! (LAUGHTER) And he was petrified, but sure
enough, the very last song, they were playing “The Party’s Over,” and John Weidman and I
got out and danced the night away on the dance floor. He even dipped me at the end! (LAUGHTER) That’s amazing. I didn’t know that. I have pictures to prove it! I want copies. They’ll be his first and last. Boyd, do you have a story? No! (LAUGHTER) None that he can tell! Right. Well, actually, it did make me think of the
opening night, one of the dancers’ boyfriend’s mother backstage. Opening night, you know, it’s very celebratory. It had been a wonderful evening and you know,
we were all exhausted and exhilarated, as you tend to be on opening nights. So the boyfriend’s mother came back into the
dressing room, and she looked at me and she said, “You have the most pathetic face!” (LAUGHTER) So I said, “Yeah, uh-uh – ” The
only thing you could say in those situations is, “Thank you!” (LAUGHTER) I said, “I’m going to take that
as a compliment!” And she said, “Oh, I meant it so.” Then I saw her afterwards at the party, and
she said, “Well, your hair certainly looks better now!” (LAUGHTER) Aren’t you glad she’s not your mother? “Thank you!” People will say anything. They say anything to you. That is so funny! (LAUGHTER) I was working at the Guthrie Theatre, and
it was opening night of OUR TOWN, I was playing George. And one of the supporters of the theatre are
the Pillsburys, you know, in Minnesota. So George Pillsbury and his wife Sally, who
I had met now nine times at all these functions for the Guthrie, the late Alan Schneider had
directed, and I saw him at the party and he goes, “Boyd, Boyd, come here! Come here, come here, come here!” And so he goes, “I want you to meet George
and Sally Pillsbury!” He was trying to get away, I could tell. So he goes, and I went, “Oh, yes, hi, we – ” you
know, and they go, “Oh, well, it’s very nice to meet you.” And I go, “Okay, they don’t remember me, but
that’s okay.” And I had just played George in the show,
and they said, “So what do you do here?” and I went, “Oh, well, I’m an actor.” And they said, “Oh! Were you in the show tonight?” and I went,
“Uh – yeah. Yeah, I was.” And they said, “So who did you play?” and
I went, “Uh – ” Pointing to George, I said, “I played George.” And they go – (DEMONSTRATES THINKING VERY
HARD: LAUGHTER) “I guess I missed that.” And I said, “It’s the one that married Emily?”
and they went – (THINKS VERY, VERY HARD; LAUGHTER) So I said, “Oh,” and they said,
“Well, are you in anything else?” And we were in rep, and so I said, “Well,
I’m in THE TEMPEST,” and they go, “Oh, well, we saw that!” And they said, “So who did you play in that?”
and I said, “I played Ferdinand?” And so he went – (THINKS HARDER THAN EVER;
LAUGHTER) It’s a nightmare. Who needs critics? Yeah, so he said, “And what does he do?” And I said, “He’s the one who marries Miranda.” (MARIN LAUGHS) And they were going – I think they slept through it. No, no – and that’s what I was thinking. And so Sally goes, “Oh, oh, don’t you remember? He was the one who was dressed – ” I had
this beautiful white costume, you know. And she said, “Oh, yes, oh yes. Remember, he was the one in the white costume?” He goes, “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, you must have been a lot better in that
than you were in this tonight.” “Well, apparently so!” Oh, Poppin’ Fresh Dough! Oh, nightmare! “But it was very nice to meet you again!” Now, Bryan, you were in the Minskoff with
a show that had some divas, SUNSET BOULEVARD. (LAUGHS) Oh! Well, there must be some story! It’s not my word! No, no, no. I never got to go on with Glenn. Glenn was a hoot. Glenn would play tricks on everybody. My favorite story about Glenn is one night,
it was April Fool’s Day, and I went up to Glenn, where everybody met before the curtain
went up. I don’t know why, we all just kind of hung
out and said “Hi” before the opening number, before she had to go up on the house and come
down. And I said, “Glenn, why don’t we tell them
to make an announcement that you’re out, George Hearn is out, everybody’s out. And then, the whole cast will say over the
mike, ‘April Fools!'” And she’s such a prankster, she loved it. So of course, when Glenn went to the PSM and
said, “I want to do this announcement!” So they announced to the whole audience that
at this performance, the role of So-and-So, usually performed by – and went through
the entire list (LAUGHTER) of all the principals. And you could just hear them. “And Norma, usually played by Glenn Close,”
the whole audience, “Oh, God!” And then the whole cast screamed, “April Fools!” It was the funniest thing. (LAUGHTER) The entire audience screamed with
howling laughter, applauded, went crazy, and it was just a great – Great idea! That’s a great idea! (GENERAL AGREEMENT) You know, I’m surprised some of them weren’t
already out the door. I know! They’d want a refund! That’s hysterical. You know, my first time on as Jugulus (PH)
was opposite Betty, and I was on vacation and they had to call me to come back. Oh, I remember that. And I was sick. It was a nightmare. I was a mess. And she showed up to the rehearsal – they
had to make changes, because it was the last time Glenn left and I went on vacation, there
was a week and then I had to come back. They had made changes in the show for Betty,
as well they should, and I had not been there for any of the rehearsals! (LAUGHTER) And so we had a little rehearsal. And Betty showed up to the rehearsal with
a huge bouquet of flowers to give me, and just said, “You’re going to be great, don’t
worry about a thing.” And it went great, except in the performance,
it was my first time on and one of my lines, the line is, “You shouldn’t let another writer
read your stuff, he may try to steal it.” And I said, “You should – be – je – we
— be – you shouldn’t let another writer read your stuff, he may try to steal it.” And she went, “Uh – be – de – duh – duh
– I’m not afraid!” (LAUGHTER) Perfect. And we just looked and like smiled, and from
then on, it was like clear sailing, it was fine. And we never got to talk throughout the show
until the end of Act One, where I come back, she’s tried to commit suicide and I’m on top
of her, kissing her. (LAUGHS) And then the curtain came down, we
both started laughing hysterically, and she’s like, “I had to, honey, I just had to!” I was like, “Thank you!” Because I would have like killed myself for
the rest of the night. You know, she was just great. So those are my two diva [stories]. They’re not evil diva stories, they were both
great to me. So, yeah. Well, that’s great. Kristin, do you have any stories? (LAUGHTER) Embarrassing moments on stage or
anything? Well, I was also at the Guthrie and I was
doing BABES IN ARMS and I had several wig changes. And I could tell that this intern, really
sweet girl, she just wasn’t getting the wig on. (LAUGHTER) Oh dear. I could feel it, sometimes when I would shake
my head, that it was sort of sliding. But one particular night, there’s a scene
where I’m yelling at my co-star and there’s another man laying at my feet, and I’m like,
“I’m just going to go and be with him,” he’s laying there at my feet. And I said, “I’m just going to go and be with
him!” And the wig flew off, and it was laying on
his back. (LAUGHTER) And I looked up and (LAUGHS) and
you know, I’m in my wig cap, the microphone’s right here, and my costar’s eyes were this
big! And I said, “You’ve got me so mad, I’ve lost
my hair!” (LAUGHTER) I picked up the wig and left! But what’s sad about that is three weeks later,
I’m in the vom, waiting to make an entrance. You know those voms, Boyd, that you come up? Oh, yes. And I hear an audience member go, “And then
her wig fell off and she grabbed her wig and said, ‘I’ve lost my hair,” and she ran off!” And I heard snickering when I made my entrance,
and I was like, “That was three weeks ago, people!” (LAUGHTER)
That scene, they wanted it every night! Yes! There’s a wonderful group of youngsters that’s
here that would like to ask some questions of you. And I think that we’re going to start with
them right now, because I think it’s important. They’re theatre students, and you are people
of the theatre, so let’s hear from them. This question is for everyone. At what point in your life did you realize
that theatre was the career you wanted to pursue? Well, for me it wasn’t actually until I gave
it up. I went to college, I was always in the honors
classes and the accelerated programs, and my family was very much encouraging me to
go into a more traditional type career. Medicine, law, corporate America. You know, those were the things that to them
would signify success. And I’ve danced since I was a little girl,
but I never really thought that it was something I was going to do for a living. I thought it was just something I loved that
I got to do on the side. And I spent my junior year abroad in England
and quit dancing for the year. I thought, “Okay, that’s it. You know, I’m in college, I’m going overseas. It’s time to see the world.” And I did, had a fabulous year. But also realized that it was something more
than a hobby for me, that although my family had expectations for me, that if I was really
going to be true to myself, that I had to admit that this was something more important
than just an after-school activity. So I finished my degree, I got a degree in
communications. And I (LAUGHS) packed up my car and moved
to Chicago and said, “I’m going to go be a dancer.” And my family, after they all picked themselves
up from the floor (LAUGHS), has slowly warmed up to the idea. I think when I became a Rockette, that was
sort of the turning point for them. (LAUGHTER) That’s great! And now they’re all taking credit for driving
me to dance classes. You know, my uncle, my military uncle is saying,
“Well, I was the one who told her she should be a performer!” But the thing is, I don’t know if I really
knew it’s what I wanted to do until I stopped doing it. I wasn’t one of those people who knew from
the time I was three. I knew it was something I always loved, but
I grew up in a very small town in East Texas. It seemed like there’s nobody in my family
in show business, there’s nobody in my town really from show business. And so, there weren’t any people to follow,
there weren’t any role models immediately around me. And so, it took me a while to sort of realize
it was a possibility. And it wasn’t until I sort of gave it up and
I realized, “I can’t do without this. Who knows what’s going to happen? Maybe I’ll make a fool of myself, maybe I’ll
fall flat on my face, but it’s also a career that you can’t wait to do until you’re eighty
or ninety.” I mean, I can go be a lawyer or go to med
school, I can do that at any point in my career, but I can’t always dance and act and sing
and do these things. It’s something you really have to do while
you have the freedom and the youth to do it. And so, I just sort of took a deep breath
and jumped. Thank God! (LAUGHS) Thank you so much. Next question. This question is especially for Kristin and
Bryan. Was it difficult to deal with being singled
out as the positive aspects of a show in reviews that weren’t generally raves? Mmm. Go ahead. Oh, gosh. Well, as an actor, honestly, you don’t really
live for the reviews. You don’t. It’s one person’s opinion. Unfortunately, millions read it, you know,
in the New York Times. It is difficult, because what they don’t take
into consideration is the months of work that everyone puts into it, and all the talent
and the blood, sweat and tears that go into it. Also, in our case, one thing that all the
critics failed to note, and it is the basic truth of the piece, is that, despite what
they say, the audiences jump to their feet at the end of the show and dance. And I think the audience doesn’t lie. You know, they let you know. So it is hard, because they are my friends,
and it hurts me that they were not mentioned in a positive way. But not all of them were bad! But it’s bittersweet. Kristin? Basically the same thing. Ditto! And also, I’ve been lucky, a lot of the casts
that I’ve been in were very, very friendly and very close and they’re just loving and
supportive, you know? And they’re happy, and people are still coming
to show, so that’s the ultimate thing. I remember Brooks Atkinson once said, “The
audience was beside itself with pleasure,” and I thought, “Boy, there’s no critic today
who says stuff like that.” Boy, that’s true. It’s an acknowledgement of what you’re saying. Yes. Next question. This question is for the entire panel. I wanted to know what each of you find to
be the most rewarding and the most difficult aspect of working in theatre. Cosmic question! Difficult, auditioning. For me, I don’t know about you. Or the unpredictability. The insecurity of not knowing what the next
job is going to be. I mean, hopefully, you go from project to
project, but it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes you go for long stretches of time
with no work. And you don’t know what your income is going
to be. And that’s probably, for me, the most difficult
part, because you can’t predict what your future’s going to be like. You don’t have the nine to five job, you know? Right. The best part is being able to work at what
you love. That’s the most rewarding, for me at least. Yeah, you know, in our show, I get to kick
off the show with “No Business Like Show Business.” And to stand out there every night and feel
the curtain go up behind me and to feel the spotlight on me and it’s completely quiet. I start it a cappella. And it’s just the most amazing feeling, night
after night after night. And to go out there and do that show with
Bernadette and that cast, we’re just blessed. It’s a really wonderful thing, to be able
to be in a good show. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) I also love showing up to the Stage Door. Yeah! Walking in the Stage Door, not afterwards
when everyone’s there and everything, but just going in, signing in. Saying hello to people. Yeah. You’re joining your family for the evening. Yeah, it’s a great feeling. It’s wonderful. (GIGGLES FROM THE AUDIENCE) It’s true! Some families are better than others! (LAUGHTER FROM THE PANELISTS) Exactly. My question is for all the panelists. I was wondering, how did you feel about your
future in the theatre when you were our age, eighteen, nineteen years old? I look back on that time and think how great
it was to have naivete, and I wish sometimes I still had that. Yeah! (LAUGHTER) Because I was fearless, basically. I thought that I was gonna be successful. I mean, I knew it was going to be hard, because
everybody tells you that and all of that sort of thing, but I, you know, came here, started
auditioning like the day after I got here, got a job relatively quickly. You know, I think one of the things is when
you begin to work and you become more known in the business, the expectations are higher
and higher and higher every time you walk into the door. That’s so true. So that becomes, for me, more nerve-wracking
than when nobody knew who I was and it didn’t really matter and I could try or do anything
I wanted to. Now you feel like there’s more at stake, because
you feel like you have to continue to prove. Actually Marin and I worked together, when
she was quite young. Yeah, when I was really young! (LAUGHS) And my agent saw her there, Michael Bloom. Yeah. This was in Michigan. And you came to town, you had things kind
of in hand. You had an agent. Yeah, I had an agent. I was lucky. I was lucky, I had my card, I had an agent,
and I had a good background of working at this theatre. We had this theatre, there’s a summer stock
theatre in southern Michigan called The Barn, and it really kind of gives you a flavor of
what it’s like. It’s a five hundred seat theatre, they do
eight shows a week, or seven shows a week, depending on how much of a hit it is. It’s two-week stock. And it’s tough work, but it’s total immersion. And we both apprenticed there at different
times. Right. And both sort of started there. How did you know where to go for an audition? How did you know how to, when you first came
to New York? Well, because I had met people. I mean, like Tom. And there were people that would come back
that had worked there that were professionals, that lived here and had worked on Broadway. And so knew, you know, “Go get Back Stage,”
that helped. We helped each other know what to do when
we got here. And the process still continues. Right. I mean, there’s people coming from The Barn
every year, that come to New York. Yes, they still come and get help here. It’s one of the few theatres that really does
that kind of thing any more, has an apprentice program, a resident stock theatre. Yeah. Does that answer it? My question is directed to the whole panel. I was wondering where you think the future
of modern theatre might be going. Do you believe it might become more commercialized
or less commercialized? (LAUGHTER) You got Disney! Corporate. Who’s next? Warner Brothers is going to start producing
shows. It’s becoming more and more corporate. The future of, like, producing couples, like
Fran and Barry Weissler, they’re dinosaurs. Mmm-hmm. That’s not going to be around for very much
longer. It’s changing. But at the same time, I mean, there’s a lot
of shows going up. There’s a lot of work for actors. Some people would bemoan some of the change
to corporate structure, but they have the money to do a lot of things. Yes, and when you live in a country that doesn’t
subsidize the arts, like, say, most European nations, I don’t know that there’s any other
choice. I don’t think that the sort of national – Well, Lincoln Center. Well, yeah, exactly. The not-for-profit, like Lincoln Center. Well, that’s exactly right. The not-for-profit theatres really are as
close to, you know, a kind of subsidized theatre that we have. I guess I would say, if I had any hope for
the theatre in the future is that a balance is either maintained or created. There’s always room for the commercial theatre,
and I think there will be, and I think the corporate money that’s coming in is ultimately
a good thing, because it means that shows will happen. Right. I mean, I’ve heard some criticism of, like,
the Disney shows, like BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and LION KING, saying, “Oh, it’s just big
commercial products.” But it puts young people in the audiences,
they see theatre. Right. And they’re great. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) And they’re great. They’re wonderful shows, and I think that’s
great. What we sort of don’t have now is audiences
your age, and my age, really, regularly going to the theatre. We have an elderly audience and we have a
very young audience. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) And so, the big question
in a certain way is that people our age, what’s going to happen to the years when that’s the
dominant audience? Right. Yes! Will they be in the theatre? Will they be coming? I do want to believe that it’s going to be
great and continue, because when I moved up originally, it was one of those years when
there was nothing, practically, on Broadway. But unfortunately, I do believe that it’s
becoming very cost-prohibitive for a family to go to the theatre. Oh, yeah. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) Particularly Broadway, I mean, the prices
at a hundred dollars. I mean, that’s a five hundred dollar evening,
you know for a babysitter, and even a small meal. Exactly, and dinner. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) It becomes elitist. Exactly. I remember, when I first moved up, I had to
see NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. It was the second time it was done. And the tickets were a hundred dollars! Granted, it was eight hours of brilliant theatre. But the money I had allotted when I first
moved up for transportation, maybe a month and a half, I used for that, and I walked
everywhere, just so I could go see it. And then I found out (LAUGHS), like right
before I went to go see the show, that free tickets were up at Equity. (LAUGHTER) Bitter! (LAUGHTER) This is a question for Miss Mazzie. I was just wondering what kind of research
went into your portrayal of Mother in RAGTIME? Well, the wonderful thing about RAGTIME was
that we had an incredible novel on which the show was based, that Edgar Doctorow wrote. And so, I had great source material there,
because she’s beautifully written. But I did a lot of research just on women
of the time, Victorian women of the period. And I also just like to create the human being,
so I made up her family, her name, where she came from, who her relatives were. You know, ’cause her name was “Mother,” so
of course, gave her [a name]. Everyone had a name. I wrote journals. I did this for PASSION, too. I wrote out things that were her life. I like to do that, so that they really are
human beings. But a lot of it, like I said, a lot of the
guidelines were in the novel for me, for RAGTIME. So I had boundaries and I had things that
I needed to keep within the guidelines of the show. But it was wonderful. It’s very fun to create. And I mean, I’m actually doing it with Lily
now, too. I mean, I’ve given her a whole life, even
though someone else has played her before, gone at her as if I’m the first person that’s
ever [played her]. Or whatever, I’m originating it for myself
and giving her a life and it’s very fun to do. (LAUGHS) We have one more question. This question is for the whole panel. I was wondering, where are you from? What’s your background and where did you train? I mean, what style did you train in, of acting? Who hasn’t answered this? Because we’ve touched on it. I already talked about it. I went to the University of Wisconsin, studied
applied voice. I was going to be an opera singer, I thought. Until I sang for a general manager of an opera
company. (LAUGHTER) And he said, “Well, you’ve got
a nice little voice.” Oh! “Three or four more years of study, you’ll
be able to do, you know, third or fourth leads in operas and make twenty grand a year.” I said, “Nah!! (LAUGHTER) I’m going to New York!” (LAUGHTER) Boyd? I started acting in California, at a little
place called the Pacific Conservatory for the Performing Arts. And then from there, I auditioned several
times, got turned down, was an alternate once and then finally got accepted to Juilliard. So I went to Juilliard for four years, and
the emphasis there was classical theatre, which I still get to do occasionally, but
I’ve sort of had a jack-of-all-trades career, done a lot of different things. School of hard knocks. One more, quick. Question, one more question? No? Oh, yeah. I thought you were getting another question. I don’t think we have time for another question. I have one that I’d like to go around very
quickly, but it has to be very quickly. How did you get your first agent? They saw me at Paper Mill Playhouse, and I
got a meeting. How did you get an agent? I worked at a theatre here in the city that’s
no longer, and I wish we could have it back, called Equity Library Theatre. ELT. Yeah! (GENERAL AGREEMENT) Because it was a great showcase for new people,
who have just moved up to New York, and that’s how I got my first agent. I was in a show there. I happened just to actually go to a birthday
party, and there happened to be the casting director who had just cast me in DREAM, and
the agent was there also, and the casting director recommended me to the agent and he
called me, and we set up a meeting. Thank you so much! I’m going to have to have these questions
answered afterwards. (LAUGHTER) But right now, I have to say this
is the American Theatre Wing seminar on “Working in the Theatre,” coming to you from the Graduate
Center of the City University of New York. And this seminar has been on the performance,
and it has been an extremely good, wonderfully interesting and marvelously talented people. Thank you very, very much for sharing it with
us. (APPLAUSE)

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