Well, it was inevitable given the pandemic. But today I’ve had the official news that we must delay the upcoming Shakespeare@ production of Romeo and Juliet. We were set to begin rehearsals April 6th. I had a fantastic experience playing Polonius in Hamlet for the young company’s inaugural production last year, and was thrilled when Artistic Director Sean Hagerty invited me to play Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet this season.
We have a fantastic cast put together, including a number of familiar and fabulous faces from our production of Hamlet. Right now we are hoping that the pandemic will peak and pass over the next two months, so that we can rehearse in May and perform for you all in June.
Sean has created a wonderful new version of the play by culling the best from the various original versions, and it truly deserves to be seen. Keep your fingers crossed. Even if we have to postpone until next Spring, we’ll still work to make that happen. As Hamlet famously said “If it be not now, yet it will come.”
I’ve been slow to post on this topic, as it means acknowledging that dear @petersaide is really gone at the age of 36. The world lost him suddenly a few weeks ago from complications after a surgery, and we are all poorer for it. But anyone lucky enough to know and work with him will be forever richer for time spent with a man who was equal parts hilarious, serious, goofy, sincere, naughty, and unbelievably nice. Not to mention hard-working and insanely talented. A great listener who loved a good debate. A candid, soul-searchingly alive human. Ready for deep, meaningful talks or rampant silliness at any hour.
Peter and I met doing The Mystery of Edwin Drood two years ago at Riverside Theatre. As Fate would have it, we were not only castmates, but also suite mates, sharing both a condo and a car for the entire project. As a roommate, performer, and person, there was no one better. Insanely kind and generous, considerate and caring. Like anyone, Peter had been through his dark times–but he was able to speak about them candidly and learn from them. We became fast friends, and were both so delighted to be able to work on readings of Whisper Darkly–a musical in development in NYC over the past two years since our show closed. It gave us chances to hang out and be goofy together again. Peter saw the world with eyes wide open yet despite the challenges always chose openness and joy. He brought out the best in me and in all lucky enough to share his path for a while. My heart goes out to his partner @skputlak, roommate @matthewsolomo, his family in Australia, his faithful sidekick Gunnar the wonder dog, and all who knew him.
I was so glad to meet his parents and sisters (every bit as wonderful as I would have expected from knowing Peter), as well as more of Peter’s legion of loving friends, during a recent private remembrance. There will be a public remembrance down the road, because Peter was loved by all who met him (check out the outpouring of love and grief on Facebook and Instagram), and we all need to share our stories about this wonderful human being.
May we all be reunited someday in a hit show that never closes, my friend. I love you. ❤️
Well, the enforced social distancing of our current pandemic is giving me some time to catch up on posts! I recently had great fun auditioning for a cameo appearance in a big streaming miniseries. My character only makes a fleeting appearance but it’s a vivid one, so for the audition I bought an ascot and matching pocket square. This little wardrobe enhancement helped me feel the part as well as look it–and I booked it! I met so many great folks at the table read for our episode–including the very talented Scott Thomas, and the sublime Ms. Karen Mason! More on this project when I’m allowed to talk about it. Since the pandemic has forced all productions to shut down, we’ll all have to wait and see about the timeline for completion.
It’s been a busy couple of months: I was cast as Phillip Bax/Bazzard in a holiday production of the chamber version of the fabulous show-within-a-show multiple-ending musical, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, at my beloved Maltz Jupiter Theatre in Jupiter, FL. Director/Choreographer Jennifer Werner was simply amazing, as were all the designers and the entire cast and crew. It was one of the loveliest experiences of my career–and that’s saying a lot!
In the chamber version, the 11 performers all visit with the audience during a pre-show segment, in the guise of our Music Hall characters. Jen asked each of us to use one of our special skills–in my case, she wanted my character of Phillip Bax to be a ventriloquist! I suggested we should expand on that idea, and make both Phillip Bax and Bazzard ventriloquists, meaning if I got chosen as Detective, Murderer, or Lover, it would be both me and my dummy singing! Jen loved the idea, and we wove my new dummy, Colin, into the whole production. Colin and I also thanked patrons in the lobby after the show; we had so many remarkable conversations! (And women flirted with Colin every single night; I didn’t see that coming!) This was the first time a ventriloquist and his dummy have played these roles, so that’s another first for me this year after becoming The Ventriloquist in the final season of Gotham.
The musical’s creator, Rupert Holmes, came to see our production. He said wonderfully generous things to the entire company, and also to me personally. He remembered the first time I played Bax/Bazzard, which was the first post-Broadway production almost 30 years ago! And he was aware I had also done the role at Riverside Theatre two years ago. He said he hoped I would play the role(s) a fourth time soon–and that if I played it as a ventriloquist again, to let him know so he could add some lines for Colin! It was a very special evening in the midst of an already special run.
Here’s a montage from the show, a promo clip, and a few images. I hope they convey in some small way what a treat this was for audience and performers alike! I’m so grateful to Producing Artistic Director Andrew Kato, Jen Werner, and all involved for including me on this joyous ride.
Check out my Videos page to watch my new Dramatic and Comedic reels. Both offer a selection of clips from Gotham and other great projects. Thanks as always to Kevin Burke at Shotgun Digital for the super work. Enjoy!
Last year, writer/composer Andrew Gerle and writer/director D.J. Salisbury asked me to play the wonderfully peculiar role of Dickie the Doorman in the first developmental reading of their new immersive speakeasy musical Whisper Darkly. I was delighted to return to the speakeasy this August for the latest developmental reading. This fascinating piece just keeps getting better and better. Imagine Cabaret crossed with Sleep No More. It’s just really cool. Fabulous songs, clever and surprising script. And I was delighted to reprise the role of Dickie, who is not the brightest bulb on the string, but who tries hard and is obsessively devoted to one of the chorus girls. I love him in all his dim, creepy sincerity. Once again, the entire cast was absolutely stellar.
We also put together a fun little promotional teaser, which we shot at The Back Room–one of only two remaining prohibition-era speakeasies in NYC. Here are stills from that video, including Dickie looking through the peep hole and awaiting the password. Having worked on two readings of the show now, I can tell you the password is definitely: TOOMUCHFUNFUN!
As part of my duties on the faculty of Western Colorado University in Gunnison, CO, for the past three years I have been the Stage Director of the Opera Libretto Workshop that takes place during our summer intensive. In 2017 I staged Act One of the original American folk opera Lottie Silks by composer Justus (Jay) Parrotta and librettist Enid Holden. In 2018 I staged Act Two.
In July 2019, after three years of mentoring Enid on the libretto rewrites, I staged the first full-length reading of the newly-completed Lottie Silks. The audience was extremely enthusiastic both at the performance, and during the Q&A I conducted afterward. Lottie Silks is based on a real life love story and tragedy that happened in Gunnison, CO. In fact, Enid and her husband Paul live in the house that was once the story’s dance hall! The Dean of Graduate Studies was so impressed by our performance that he has already offered to help with mounting the 202o workshop.
I’m incredibly proud of Enid, Jay, our conductor/pianist Sarah Holtan Stai (absent from the photo below), and our entire cast of superb opera artists: Clara Nieman, Adam Ewing, Jason Baldwin, Phoenix Gayles, Sarah Stone, and Joshua Zabatta. All delivered a beautiful evening of storytelling. We had approximately six hours to work on music, six hours to work on staging, and one dress rehearsal before our performance. The performers made strong choices, took direction beautifully, and sang their hearts out. Bravi. I’d also like to thank Jay’s father Frank Parrotta, who took rehearsal photographs and recorded the entire performance. The opera’s magic realism ending was my idea, and I’m thrilled with how Enid and Jay embraced it and brought it to life. If you’re an opera fan, you can watch the staged reading here. The voices are gorgeous. The performance runs about two hours. Enjoy.
As you may know, I am on the faculty at Western Colorado University, in the Graduate Creative Writing Program. For the last four years I have coached talented grad student creative writers (poets, genre novelists, and now screenwriters) on Public Performance presentation skills during the department’s summer intensive in beautiful Gunnison, CO.
Each year I have been impressed with the quality of the writing across the genres, and also with the willingness of each student to open up to my coaching, which I’ve designed to help typically introverted writers to embrace public performance of their own works. After all, a good reading can help sell books! And it’s very important to all of us on the faculty that we are preparing our writers to succeed in the real world.
My group of students for 2019 was terrific–and more diverse than ever. In addition to coaching the third year MFA students extensively (all of whom must give a public reading of 15-20 minutes from their work), I also held a session with the second year genre fiction class, and conducted a number of sessions with the first year poetry cohort. The improvements in each case were palpable to all in the room. As is typical, some students took small but tangible steps toward comfort in public performance, and others seized the opportunity full on and ended up delivering truly exciting readings.
Congratulations to all my students. Well done! Here’s a picture of me with the 2019 MFA/MA graduating class. I can’t wait to hear more from all of them. If you’re a writer looking to hone your skills, you really should check out the excellent program we have at WCU and join us. It’s a low-residency program with an amazing faculty, and a great in-person summer residency each year. And you’ll have me as your Public Performance coach. I’d love to see you there!
Sometimes when it rains, it pours. In a good way. At the same time I was offered the plum role of Polonius in the Shakespeare@ stage production Hamlet on the East Coast, I was also offered the role of another classic Shakespearean advisor on the West Coast: Gonzalo in The Tempest. And this Tempest had a twist I couldn’t resist: it’s a pilot for a science-fiction version of the classic play, filmed in Virtual Reality (VR). Plus, in this interpretation, Gonzalo is an android–a kind of Elizabethan C3PO!
I was able to fly out to LA to shoot The Tempest VR pilot midway through rehearsals for Hamlet. Producer/Director Charles Huddleston ran a tight (and super fun) spaceship and we even wrapped production early. Watch for our pilot episode of The Tempest VR at film festivals in Fall 2019!
Thank you to everyone who made it to our production of Hamlet in Jersey City; the reviews were raves, and the audiences were amazing. This was the inaugural production for new classical company Shakespeare@, led by Artistic Director (and our Director) Sean Hagerty and producer Sydney Steele, and it was a roaring success in every way. I am honored to have been part of this wonderful cast and truly fine production. We were at 80% capacity over the run, and sold out our last two weekends–turning people away the final weekend! What a great ride.