Fantastic First Reading of My New Play!

I’m so excited. And grateful. This is a major gratitude post. I count a LOT of insanely talented and kind actors and directors as my friends. That’s something to be grateful for right there. But a couple of weeks ago, a dozen or so of those very busy friends took time out of their performance and work schedules to take part in a Zoom reading of the new blank verse comedy I wrote this April as part of the Dramatists Guild’s End of Play Challenge.

Everybody jumped in and gave their all to this crazy new piece. Now, you might well ask: what possessed me to write a 12-character blank verse riff on a famous Shakespeare play? I’ll tell you: this is a queered version of the classic play, and I wrote it for a couple of reasons: 1) I never quite “believed” the heterosexual romantic pairings at the end of the original play and wanted to set that “straight” (as it were), and 2) I wanted to create a challenging, exciting, loving, funny, joyful, poetic, pro-LGBTQ+ play with really great roles for myself and some of the fabulous actor friends I know.

And you know what? I did. Even in this first version, hearing it aloud with a wonderful cast proved to me the play works like gangbusters. One of my director friends, a Shakespeare expert, told me afterward what I’ve already accomplished is “astounding”–and coming from him, that’s amazing praise. My actor and director friends also gave me fantastic comments afterwards, and I am already hard at work on revisions. I don’t know yet who will produce this ambitious play, but I know the world needs it now more than ever. Stay tuned!

And once again: my heartfelt thanks to all who took part in this first reading. You have helped me more than I can say and I am deeply grateful. ❤️

Exciting New Sci-Fi Audiobook Project!

A quick update: I’ve been asked to narrate a wonderful new sci-fi fantasy novel that just had a really successful KickStarter campaign! What makes it even better is it was written by one of the grad students I coached at Western Colorado University last year.

This book has everything: quirky, appealing characters, a clever and ever-twisting plot, and a great mix of small scenes with large space operatic set pieces. With about 52 speaking roles, I have my work cut out for me! This is the first book in a series and I for one can’t wait to read the next installment.

I’ll share more info once we have contracts signed. Stay tuned for news later this summer!

End Of Play 2022: I’ve Written a New Play–In Verse!

Back in 2020 (you know, when that pandemic thing started…), the Dramatists Guild created an annual playwriting challenge called End of Play, to encourage its members and all playwrights to carry on with creating new works despite the global lockdown that prevented theatrical performances.

The premise is simple: On April 1, you declare what new play you’re going to write that month (or a complete rewrite of an existing piece). And then on April 30, it’s “pens down!” and you report whether you met your goal. I didn’t participate that first year, but I did in 2021. To my astonishment and delight, I found I’d written a full draft of a new solo play by April 16th! I went on to finish a second draft by April 30th and am eager to put that new solo piece on its feet. It’s a bold and surprising new take on a beloved classic.

I signed up for End of Play 2022 with a crazy idea in mind: I wanted to “queer the canon” and create my own version of a famous Shakespeare comedy–in blank verse! I spent April 1-2 creating my outline, and started writing on April 3rd. By April 17 I finished my first draft of this new full-length play. And now as we approach April 30th, I’ve completed a second draft. It’s 12 characters (including two not in the original Shakespeare play), entirely in blank verse, and delivers a very different ending for our various couples! I’m still astonished I was able to write a full-length play in blank verse (which I’ve never tried before) in less than a month. But you know what? I’m thrilled with the results. Next up: I need to pull together some of my incredibly talented friends and do a reading so I can hear it aloud!

Get ready, world–I’m really proud of both of these projects, and I plan to get them produced. And they might not have happened if not for the magic of external deadlines, courtesy of the Dramatists Guild’s wonderful End of Play program!

I Performed in the Inaugural Season of the Playground-NY New Play Festival

I love it when one job leads to another in this business. And I’m grateful that it’s happened a lot for me over my career. Some years back, I performed in a new play for writer Sam Affoumado. In fall of 2021, I got an email from Sam that he was taking part in the inaugural season of the Playground-NY writing program (enterprising founder Jim Kleinmann now has Playground festivals in a number of states!), and had a role he wanted me to play in the Zoom performance of his new short play. I had great fun doing that, and then found myself being asked to come back month after month to perform roles in other plays by other talented new writers. I also recently appeared onstage in another of Sam’s short plays, The Finalist, here in NYC.

This past Monday, I took part in the Playground-NY season finale, playing “H.D.” (aka Humpty Dumpty) in the very witty short comedy A Great Fall by Christian Missonak. As a lifelong Lewis Carroll buff, I was delighted to take on this classic role with Christian’s own clever spin. If you’d like to watch a recording of the six plays (A Great Fall is first in the lineup), you can watch it here until June 30th! The performance was directed by Sylvia Cervantes Blush, and features Michael Barrett Austin as Nathan and Krystal Mosley as Alana.

And in fact, this was not my first go-round as this short-tempered egghead. I played Humpty in an original musical called Looking Glass! back when I was an undergraduate at Harvard.

I love working with writers and helping them develop their new scripts. If you’ve got a role you think I’m right for, don’t be shy about asking me to take part in a reading.

New Play “The Finalist”: One Performance Only!

On Sunday, March 27th, I’ll be appearing in TADA’s Emerging Artists New Works Series. Talented playwright and director Sam Affoumado has asked me to take on his surrogate role of The Playwright in his new 20-minute comedy The Finalist, about a disgruntled playwright’s confrontation with two theatre interns who make the mistake of rejecting his script! It’s clever, funny, and sweet as well. It also speaks a lot of truths that need to be heard.

The performance will take place at TADA’s theatre at 15 West 28th Street, NYC, on 3/27 at 2pm Eastern. It’s one of three short pieces on the 2pm bill. Seating is very limited; if you’d like to see The Finalist and two other new works, you can buy tickets here.

I love working on new scripts, both short and full length. If you’re a playwright with a role that’s a good fit for me, don’t be shy about asking me to take part, whether it’s a reading or fully-staged performance!

Another Hit Production of “The 39 Steps”–10 Years Later!!

I’ve been lucky enough to be so busy performing that I’m just now catching up with doing some blog posts. For up-to-date info on my activities, I hope you’ll check out my Instagram and/or Twitter accounts: @AndrewSellon

After the early closure of Carousel due to covid cases, I went straight into rehearsals for a production of the Tony-winning comedy The 39 Steps at Gulfshore Playhouse in Naples, Florida. Having caught covid in my prior show, I had to do my first week of rehearsals on Zoom from my quarantine hotel room in Vero Beach. When I wasn’t rehearsing on camera, I was trying to sleep off the covid fatigue. But you know what? For the first week it worked out just fine, and I’m so grateful to the theatre, our amazing director Peter Amster, stage manager Danny Kuenzel, and my three magnificent castmates William Connell, Jess Nahikian, and Brian Owen for their patience and generosity. The second week I was able to drive to Naples to join the company in person, and then the fun really kicked into high gear!

I was especially excited for this production; I did the same production with Peter exactly 10 years ago at my beloved Maltz Jupiter Theatre, where it was a smash hit. Peter also directed me in a record-breaking hit production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at Asolo Rep a few years back, and there is simply no better director out there. Period. So I was thrilled to be playing in the room with Peter again, as well as with three truly lovely and talented fellow clowns. I confess I was worried how my body would respond to doing this incredibly demanding show again after 10 years! I’m happy to report it’s been a smooth and incredibly fun ride.

I’m also happy to report that this production of The 39 Steps is a smash hit as well: rave reviews all around, sold out houses–and Gulfshore’s Producing Artistic Director Kristen Coury just announced we’ve become the third-highest grossing show in the theatre’s 17 year history! I’d call that “The Amster Touch.”

We are about to enter our last week of performances. I will miss this production, this merry bunch of players, and beautiful Naples, Florida. I’m so thrilled that Gulfshore has just broken ground on construction of their very own theatre and education complex. They are scheduled to open in early 2024.

I’m also proud that The 39 Steps is the theatre’s first production as a new member of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT). This is great for them, for their actors, and for their audiences. Onward and upward! Congrats to Kristen, Managing Director Joel Markus, and all involved. This was a great time, and I foresee greater times ahead for Gulfshore Playhouse. I’ll share some more pix from this swell production when I have them.

A Brief and Thrilling Ride on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel”

I finished 2021 and started 2022 back working at my beloved Riverside Theatre in Vero Beach, playing Billy Bigelow’s Heavenly Friend in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical Carousel. It’s a lovely little role–HF is the buddy Billy needed but didn’t have when he was alive back on earth; he’s the antithesis of the self-serving and deceitful Jigger. HF is also a character who provides tough love to help reform Billy.

It was the first show back onstage since covid lockdown for most of our huge 32-person, 12-musician company. It was, amazingly, also my first Rodgers and Hammerstein show! We had an incredible cast and crew, great designs (including Allen Cornell’s gorgeous sets, which included an actual working carousel onstage!), beautiful music, wonderful choreography and stage movement by D.J. Salisbury–and we only got to give one week of performances before being shut down due to covid cases in the orchestra and crew. It was heartbreaking. And unfortunately, my husband and I both caught covid as well, since the musicians were staying at the same hotel with the cast.

It was so hard to close the first show back, especially given all the time, energy, testing, money, and love that was poured into this production. But at least we got to play for a week, and those audiences were deeply moved. We weren’t there long, but we were there. And we all learned some things, too, about this new world of pandemic performing. I look forward to returning to Riverside in another show once the pandemic is truly behind us.

Giants in The Sky: Remembering Stephen Sondheim

While I know he was 91 years old, I belong to the huge legion of Stephen Sondheim fans who secretly hoped he would never, ever die, and that his unique creative voice would never fall silent. And now it has. The loss is inestimable, incalculable–and now we have no one to come up with clever rhymes for words like that. I am trying to console myself by watching some of the countless fascinating interviews he did in which he talks about his craft. And he left a catalog of brilliant, groundbreaking musicals that will outlive us all thanks to their astonishing alchemical blend of heart and mind. And he left the world his two books about his art and craft, Finishing the Hat and Look, I Made a Hat.

Stephen Sondheim changed my life–twice. The first time was when my college friend Neal sat me down in his dorm room at Mather House (Harvard College) and played me the LP of A Little Night Music. The music and lyrics both took my breath away. I was intoxicated for the first time in my life. From that day on I knew I had to be a lyricist, to do what he did. It was kind of like when I was 13 and saw a relative perform a magic show; after that, I was determined to become a magician. And for a while, I did! Then in college I heard that album, and I wanted to create magic with words the way Mr. Sondheim did.

The second time he changed the course of my life was when I sat down at his home for a chat about an actual career as a lyricist/librettist. To say it was an unforgettable afternoon would be a massive understatement. And I still treasure the two brief notes I received from him on his now-classic personal stationery–even though both notes make it clear what an arrogant, clueless young man I was at the time. I cherish them because they make clear what a deeply kind man he was. He saw past my youthful callowness straight through to the seriousness of my intent. He did not have children of his own, but he mentored a generation of young writers–and more.

Below is the note inviting me to his home for that talk. If you’d like to read about what happened at that chat, what the note below refers to, and how I ended up steering him towards a film he later adapted into a musical, read my earlier post here.

I’m not going to quote anything of his, although so many lines spring to mind as a fitting tribute to him that it’s overwhelming. He famously resisted the idea that any of his works or characters was autobiographical. (Although of course on some level, especially as he approached his lyrics and songs with the rigor of an actor learning a character, they were all facets of him–and he was a diamond with infinite facets.) I will just say, with all my heart, and with tears in my eyes: Thank you, Mr. Sondheim. For sharing your genius. For your deep kindness. For reminding me what bravery can look like. For everything. My condolences to his husband, and to all who loved and admired him. The world is forever richer because of what he shared, and forever poorer now that he is gone.

Exciting News: Catch My Scene With Ewan McGregor in Netflix’s Halston!

Mirror, mirror…have you seen the fashionably fabulous @halstonnetflix yet? Look for me in this fun scene at Bergdorf Goodman early in Episode 1. Step aside, Elizabeth II—there’s a new Old Queen in town! Thanks again to Director and Executive Producer Dan Minahan who has long held a passion to tell the story of this great gay fashion icon, and to Ewan MacGregor who is simply a joy to work with, and to Ryan Murphy for co-writing, producing, and partnering with Dan to make this gorgeous series happen!

I love that Dan chose a take in which I was riffing and improvising a little bit–he established such a comfortable, fun set that we all felt free to go with it! 😀🙏❤️

Check it Out! Audition Setup for Success During the Pandemic!

Here’s what auditions look like these days. While it can be frustrating not to physically be in the room with the casting director, live virtual casting is actually pretty darn great, much better than just submitting self-tapes–because the casting director can coach you and give you feedback in real time to help you land the gig. But you need to be set up to succeed. To look your best, consider having:

  • Adjustable ring light with remote control
  • Collapsible plain-colored (chroma key is ideal) background (the one pictured is chroma green on the other side, and comes with reflector covers as well for photography use!)
  • Water in a n0-spill container to whet your whistle (a chapstick is good to have handy, too)
  • Laptop for video audition room
  • iPad or printout for your script
  • (I also have a light-up selenite crystal for a little extra good energy in the room!)

A huge thank you to all the hard-working casting directors who believe in us and coach us to succeed whether in person or online. You all rock.  #bowlingmisciacasting @josydiva @therealbobcline @stephanieklappercasting  @judybowmancasting @brettegoldstein @donna_grossman_casting @wojcikseaycasting @rosalie.joseph #meredithtuckercasting #chrystiestreetcasting and many more!  😀🙏🎉 

The virtual waiting room….
My behind-the-scenes setup.
(If you look closely, my MinuteMaid print ad cast by Donna Grossman is on the wall!)