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Guards at the Taj

Recently finished a killer play at La Jolla Playhouse called “Guards at the Taj” by Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph.  Directed by Jaime Castañeda, new Associate artistic director of La Jolla Playhouse (Chris Ashley, Artistic Director) and starring me and Babak Tafti.  It is the story about two low level guards at the grand opening of the Taj Mahal in the 1600’s.  Part Tom Stoppard and part Tarentino.  The play is both funny and dark.  Check out the NPR piece below.

 

 
Here was the promo for the show.

 

and the animated promo below

 

Guest Starring on “Grey’s Anatomy” TONIGHT – Thursday 10/2/14 ABC @ 8:00PM

Grey’s Anatomy Season 11 Episode 2

I will be guest starring on Grey’s Anatomy  (Season 11, episode 2) tonight at 8PM (7 CST) on ABC.  I get to play Eric Patel, the husband to a sick, pregnant, wife named Rita.

Anisha Nagarajan and Manu Narayan on set at Grey's Anatomy

Anisha Nagarajan and Manu Narayan on set at Grey’s Anatomy

It was a wonderful surprise to arrive on set and see that Rita would be played by a dear friend and colleague of mine Anisha Nagarajan, from my hometown – Pittsburgh.   Anisha, known for her work on Outsourced, was my co-star on Broadway in the Andrew Lloyd Weber/A.R. Rahman musical Bombay Dreams.

Manu Narayan (Akaash) and Anisha Nagarajan (Priya) in the Original Broadway cast of Bombay Dreams

Manu Narayan (Akaash) and Anisha Nagarajan (Priya) in the Original Broadway cast of Bombay Dreams

She moved out to LA a few years ago with her husband, Aalok Mehta, another Bombay Dreams alumnus.  I hadn’t seen her in many years and what a wonderful reunion we had during our week on the set.

Rita (Anisha Nagarajan) and Eric Patel (Manu Narayan) at Grey's Anatomy's Seattle Grace Hospital on ABC.

Rita (Anisha Nagarajan) and Eric Patel (Manu Narayan) at Grey’s Anatomy’s Seattle Grace Hospital on ABC.

 

During my time on the set, I was reunited with so many colleagues from the my time in New York City.  Jessica Capshaw and I acted in Eric Bogosian’s subUrbia revival at Second Stage a few years ago in Manhattan.  She plays Dr. Arizona Robbins.  She was so wonderful in subUrbia. It was nice to catch up on the west coast and get to act with her again.

Jessica Capshaw (Dr. Arizona Robbins) and Manu Narayan (Eric Patel) on set at Grey's Anatomy

Jessica Capshaw (Dr. Arizona Robbins) and Manu Narayan (Eric Patel) on set

Kelly McCreary is playing Dr. Maggie Pierce and is the new lead on the show.  I met her in Baltimore a few years ago at the Baltimore Center Stage Caroline, or Change opening night party  .  She was acting under the direction of dear friend David Schweizer. We have gotten a chance to see each other a few times since at auditions.  Look at her now, I am so happy for her.

Greys5

Manu Narayan and Kelly McCreary on set

 I got to work with some really nice people like series regular Jerrika Hinton who plays Dr. Stephanie Edwards, Camille Luddington, who plays Dr. Jo Wilson, and director/ executive producer Rob Corn who was so generous, efficient, and was the catalyst for everything to go smoothly.

 Thank you ABC and Grey’s and I hope that you all enjoy the show tonight! 

Jerrika Hinton and Manu Narayan.

Jerrika Hinton and Manu Narayan.

Michael James McEachran 1969 – 2014

Michael McEachran

Michael James McEachran 1969 – 2014

 

Michael McEachran, my college roommate and friend, sadly passed away this past Sunday morning after a year long battle with Brain Cancer. Michael, an alumnus of the Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama (CFA ’95), acted, sang, and danced on television and in theaters on Broadway, off Broadway, on tour and regionally across the country.  Michael was an immensely talented actor and most importantly a beautiful human being. He has been an inspiration to me .  My heart and prayers are with his Spouse, Mother, Stepfather, Siblings, his Nieces, Nephews and those who loved him.

I first met Michael at the beginning of second semester of freshman year, January 1992. Matthew Stocke, a classmate of Michael in the Music Theatre program at the School of Drama, Paolo Malabuyo, a Fine Arts and Industrial Design double major, and I occupied prime real estate of the Carnegie Mellon Campus, Roselawn Terrace #7.  It was light blue individual row house for 5 roommates with a porch, back area, a big living room, dining room, basement with a washer and dryer, and three bedrooms upstairs.  Over the holidays that year, our two previous roommates Ed Walker and Michael Solomon left the CMU Drama school and Roselawn 7 for different pastures so we had two vacancies.  One went to directing student Tim Conley who quickly claimed the basement.  The other went to this thin, tall, handsome, dapper young man with red hair, Michael McEachran.  Thanks to some nifty maneuvering for the single room by Mr. Stocke, Michael and I shared a room for what would become three semesters.

The new Roselawn 7 guys became fast friends and in addition to our rigorous schedules in the College of Fine Arts, we found ways to hang out with each other and be the de facto CFA – Drama and Music congregation hall – party house – over the weekends.  Michael was older than all of us and because of his maturity and personality, he easily became a big brother to me and I sure to the others.  He patiently would answer the questions I had regarding the basics of acting and give strong encouragement to me in my times of despair.  He would be able to negotiate the different strong artistic egos and personalities in the house.  Don’t get me wrong, Michael had a healthy ego but his was tempered by great empathy, generosity, and compassion.  He also was a magnet as he dripped charm and a joie de vivre that always served for a good laugh.  He was the life of any gathering.

In the School of Drama productions, I remember being struck by his acting work in the George Kaufmann/ Moss Hart play “Once in a Lifetime.”  His physical work, the ability for the audience to empathize with his character, his comedic chops, and his brilliant choice to shell and eat peanuts throughout the play as the dimwitted George were eye-opening to me.  His work in that play was so believable and incredible to watch, so human and honest.  To this day, at every first rehearsal of a new play, I think about that eating peanuts choice and how cool it was.

I did get to perform with Michael once in the senior production of “Cabaret,” he as the tall, bean pole, Joel-Grey-be-damned EMCEE full of charm and fury and me as the KitKat “girl” with the short purple skirt and hairy legs playing the Saxophone in the band.  Again he was incredible – this time additionally as a song and dance man.  To this day “Cabaret” is still my favorite musical.

The summer after graduation, Michael was scheduled to do a production upstate and had some time off before.  He invited me on a road trip with him to Orlando to visit his family.  On the highway in North Carolina in the middle of the night, we saw a small furry bundle trying to cross the road.  Michael stopped the car, put it in reverse and we added one more soul to our duo heading south.  A small, tick riddled, cute-as-a-button puppy dog which he gave to his sister Lisa and her family.  It was a great trip.  Getting to experience first hand the newly graduated Michael returning home to showers of love from his proud, proud family.  It was quickly apparent where Michael got his best attributes.

I don’t know why over time Michael and I lost the closeness of those collegiate years.  He moved to New York City, I was on tour for four years and then was in and out of the city for the first few years after.  Wrongly, I took his friendship for granted.  I have seen him a few times, but never once shared with him what how much his friendship and Artistry had influenced me.

Mikey, thank you my friend for everything that you shared with and have given me.  I am not sure why things happen the way they do, but wherever you are, I hope that you can fully see and sense the immense love for you that is zapping back and forth on the internet, but more importantly how much it swells in our hearts and minds. Rest in well deserved peace my friend you are already greatly missed.

Memorials may be made in Michael’s memory to:

St. Jude’s Children’s Cancer Research Hospital

P.O. Box 1000, Dept. 142, Memphis, TN 38148-0142

or by calling 1-800-822-6344.

Please provide Michael’s tribute #35893813 and the family will be notified of your gift.

 

Michael’s Obituary and Funeral information from his sister Diane Wolf:

Dear friends and family – Here is my wonderful brother Michael McEachran‘s obituary and funeral service information. I miss him and there will forever be a hole in my heart. Writing about his amazing life was my greatest honor. He is resting in the loving arms of our father – singing and dancing in heaven. If you are in the New York area, please come celebrate with us on Saturday, May 3rd.

Michael James McEachran, age 44, Broadway and Television singer/actor, went into God’s arms on Sunday, April 27th at his dream home in Brooklyn, NY. He was diagnosed in 2013 with brain cancer. He fought courageously and continued his selfless love during the last 12 months, just as he did his entire life. He is survived by a loving family including his spouse, Hector Rojas who was faithfully beside him; his mother and stepfather, Joyce and Charles Frantzen; a brother, Jeffrey McEachran; two sisters, Lisa Cowan and Diane (John) Wolf, and a sister-in-law, Amy McEachran-Todd. He will be remembered as a loving uncle and honorary father-figure to ten nieces and nephews: Jeffrey McEachran Jr., Jared McEachran, Justin Cowan, Ryan Anderson, Aliya Cowan, Katey Wolf, Amy Wolf, Emilie Wolf, Johnny Wolf and Tory Cowan. He is preceded in death by his father and step-mother, James A. (Elaine) McEachran, his infant brother, James C. McEachran, his grandparents, and lifetime friend, Timothy Mitchell.

Michael was born in Alpena, Michigan on June 9, 1969. He was the youngest child with bright red hair and sparkling blue eyes singing ‘Joy to World’ at the age of two. He graduated from Goshen, Indiana High School in 1987 and was inspired to sing and dance by participating in the ensemble ‘Crimsonaires.’ He graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music Theatre from Carnegie Mellon University in 1995 and starred in ‘Cabaret’ his senior year. His Broadway credits include several touring productions including ‘How to Succeed in Business’ with Ralph Macchio, 1996; ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,’ 2000. He also appeared in Broadway’s ‘Little Me’ starring Martin Short, 1998. He starred in the 2006 off-Broadway Musical “How to Save the World and Find True Love” which was written and produced for him. Michael was in numerous television commercials and TV appearances. He is a member of Actor’s Equity. He joined Edison Learning, an education services company as Enrollment Manager in 2007. He used his creativity and his inexhaustible energy to inspire students throughout the country to stay in school. In addition to his passion for song and dance, Michael later became a fine artist including pencil sketching and acrylic paint. In 2012, he helped inspire the creation of Mod Cup, LLC., a specialty coffee business in Hoboken, NJ.

Michael will be remembered for his passion, love, creativity, talent, soulful wisdom, wit, and lasting friendship. He will continue to be a light that shines forever. Services will be held on Saturday, May 3rd, 2014 at the Actors’ Chapel – St. Malachy’s, 239 W. 49th Street, New York, NY 10019, 212-489-1340. Visitation starts at 9:30 a.m. and funeral services begin at 11:00 a.m. Burial will be held privately.

Expressions of condolences can be sent to the Actor’s Chapel. Memorials may be made in Michael’s memory to St. Jude’s Children’s Cancer Research Hospital, P.O. Box 1000, Dept. 142, Memphis, TN 38148-0142 or by calling 1-800-822-6344. Please provide Michael’s tribute #35893813 and the family will be notified of your gift.

Jan 10 – 18th, NYC : THUMBPRINT: a world premiere Opera based on the story of Mukhtar Mai.

I am excited to make my opera debut in the world premiere of THUMBPRINT. A newly commissioned opera by Kamala Sankaram, composer and Susan Yankowitz, librettist, THUMBPRINT is based on interviews with Mukhtar Mai, a gang rape victim who was the first Pakistani woman to bring her attackers to justice in 2002. The score is heavily influenced by Hindustani and Western Classical music and the Libretto is in English. THUMBPRINT is part of the PROTOTYPE: OPERA/ THEATRE/ NOW Festival.

THUMBPRINT

Featuring Kamala Sankaram, Soprano; Manu Narayan, Lyric Baritone; Steve Gokool, Bass; Theodora Hanslowe, Mezzo; Leela Subramanium, Soprano; and Kannan Vasudevan, Tenor.

Musical Direction by Steve Osgood ; Directed by Rachel Dickstein

at the Baruch Performing  Arts Center, Nagelberg Theater, 55 Lexington Avenue (between 24th and 25th), New York, NY 10010.

90 Minutes.  Tickets $25 ($16.30 & $15 through PROTO pack).

January 10 & 12 /  14 through 18 at 7:00 pm  and  January 11 at 4:00 pm  **

**A panel on International Human Rights with esteemed panelists will follow the January 11 (4PM) show.  Moderated by Peter McCabe, the discussion will feature Maitreyi Das, Lead Social Sector Specialist, World Bank; Mohammed Naqvi, director of SHAME, a special Emmy winning documentary about Mukhtar Mai; Shantha Rau Barriga, Director of Disability Rights, Human Rights Watch; Kamala Sankaram, Composer & SusanYankowitz, Librettist; and Ms. Mukhtar Bibi will join the conversation via Skype.

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Kamala Sankaram as Mukhtar Mai in the world premiere of THUMBPRINT at the 2014 Prototype Festival in the Nagelberg Theater, Baruch College Performing Arts Center.

THUMBPRINT poetically explores the deep family ties and tribal traditions that shape Mukhtar’s story. Through acts of courage that astonish even her, Mukhtar is transformed, and so is the world that watches.

Composer Kamala Sankaram (Soprano) sings the lead role, bringing to life Mukhtar Mai’s courage, fortitude, and independence of thought.  I portray the role of Faiz Muhammed (Lyric Baritone), the antagonist who as a leader in the Village is ultimately charged with ordering the Honor “Crime” against Mukhtar. Steve Gokool, Bass  and Theodora Hanslowe, Mezzo portray Mukhtar’s Father and Mother, Leela Subramaniam, Soprano -Mukhtar’s sister Annu, and Kannan Vasudevan, Tenor – Mukhtar’s Brother Shakur.  Each cast member portrays multiple roles in the telling of the story.

Thumbprint started as a song-cycle commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects for the 2009 21c Liederabend at Galapagos Art Space, was further developed for the 2011 iteration at The Kitchen, and will now receive its final development and world-premiere in this co-production by BMP and HERE.

PROTOTYPE: Opera/Theatre/Now is Beth Morrison Projects and HERE’s “wildly promising new opera and music-theatre festival” (The New York Times), showcasing the boom of new work by pioneering artists from New York and around the world. Launched in January 2013, the Festival produces, presents, and commissions fully realized chamber-sized piecesOn the inaugural launch, NPR noted “The rise of small-scale, more experimental presentations of opera is hugely exciting” and New Yorkmagazine concluded that PROTOTYPE “should quickly evolve into a New York institution,” adding, “The contemporary mini music drama has found its impresarios in Kristin ­Marting, Beth Morrison, and Kim Whitener.”

The inaugural Festival featured the world premiere co-commission of Mohammed Fairouz’s Sumeida’s Song, the New York premiere of David T. Little’s Soldier Songs, the U.S. premiere of 33 1/3 Collective’sBluebeard, and LA’s dark glam opera band, Timur and the Dime Museum. The 2014 Festival calendar, credits, personnel, synopses, libretti, images, videos, biographies, and more can be found at http://prototypefestival.org.

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A B O U T   T H E   C R E A T I V E   T E A M

As a performer, Kamala Sankaram has collaborated with and premiered pieces by the Philip Glass Ensemble, the Wooster Group, Anthony Braxton, John Zorn, eighth blackbird, Phil Kline, David T. Little, Corey Dargel, Taylor Ho Bynum, Tristan Perich, Fred Ho, the Dogs of Desire, and Anti-Social Music, among others.  She has recorded with Anthony Braxton (TRILLIUM E: Braxton House), Phil Kline (Around the World in a Daze: Starkland Records), End (The Sick Generation: Hymen Records), Death Comet Crew (Dominatrix), the Albany Symphony Orchestra and Anti-Social Music.

As a composer, Kamala Sankaram’s music has been praised as “strikingly original” (Allan Kozinn, NY Times), and performed as part of American Opera Projects “Opera Grows in Brooklyn” series, at HERE Arts Center, the Stone, the Bang on a Can Summer Festival, the Santa Fe New Music Festival, and the Lucerne Festival, among others. She had the featured commission on the 2009 21C Liederabend, selected as one of Time Out’s 10 Best Classical Concerts. Her music for SOUNDING (directed by Kristin Marting) was praised as “gorgeous pop-rock interludes” (Time Out NY). She was the 2011 Con Edison/Exploring the Metropolis Composer-in-Residence at the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy and the 2012 Composer-in-Residence at the Eugene O’Neil Theater. She has received grants from the MAP Fund,  the Foundation for Contemporary Art, Meet the Composer, and the Asian Women’s Giving Circl e, as well as residencies at the MacDowell Colony and the Hermitage. As a resident artist at HERE Arts Center, Kamala created MIRANDA, a steampunk murder mystery opera called “enjoyable, utterly original opera” (NY Post) and “among the very best theater achievements of 2012” (NYTheater.com).

Susan Yankowitz is a playwright, novelist, lyricist and librettist. Among her plays are THE REVENGE, PHAEDRA IN DELIRIUM (winner of the QRL poetic play competition); UNDER THE SKIN; TERMINAL and 1969 TERMINAL 1996, both pieces collaborations with Joseph Chaikin’s Open Theatre (Drama Desk Playwright’s Award); A KNIFE IN THE HEART (O’Neill Conference winner; West Coast Premiere October 2002 at Sledgehammer Theatre); and NIGHT SKY, presented throughout the United States and internationally. Her plays have been translated into French, Japanese, Catalan, Dutch and German; they have been widely published and anthologized. She is also the librettist/lyricist of SLAIN IN THE SPIRIT, a gospel-and-blues opera with music by Taj Mahal; CHERI, an opera/music theatre work with Michael Dellaira; and bookwriter/lyricist of TRUE ROMANCES, a musical fantasia with Elmer Bernstein.

In addition to her work for the stage, she has written a novel, SILENT WITNESS, published by Knopf, as well as several films and television plays. Her teleplay, THE PRISON GAME, was aired on PBS, as was SYLVIA PLATH: ARROW TO THE SUN, which won her a WGA nomination for the best-written documentary of the season.

Her work has been honored by grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, NEA, NYFA, TCG, Berilla Kerr, McKnight and Rockefeller Foundations. She is a frequent fellow at Yaddo and MacDowell, and is a member of New Dramatists, PEN, the Dramatists Guild, and WGA.


P R O T O T Y P E

T H E   P R O D U C E R S

Creative producer Beth Morrison Projects identifies and supports the work of emerging and established composers and their collaborators through the commission, development, and production of their work, taking the form of opera-theatre, music-theatre, and multi-media concert works. Relying on the core values of collaboration, exploration, experimentation, artistry, and excellence, BMP provides a nurturing structure that allows artists to push the boundaries of their art form. Founded in 2006, BMP rapidly developed a reputation for “envisioning new possibilities and finding ways to facilitate their realization” (New York Times). In 6 years, BMP has commissioned, developed, and produced more than thirty operas and music-theatre pieces that have premiered or been performed in New York, across the country, and around the globe. The Wall Stre et Journal said, “Ms. Morrison may be immortalized one day as a 21st-century Diaghilev, known for her ability to assemble memorable collaborations among artists.” BMP is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council for the Arts, the Department of Cultural Affairs of New York City, Meet the Composer, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, the ART NY/ JP Morgan Chase Fund for Small Theaters, The Map Fund, a program of creative Capital supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. http://www.bethmorrisonprojects.org

Since 1993, HERE has been one of New York’s premier arts organizations and a leader in producing and presenting new, hybrid performance work. Over 20 years, HERE has come to occupy a unique and essential place in the landscape of downtown live arts, and to be known as a home both for risk-taking artists in all disciplines, and for their adventurous audiences. HERE has served thousands of emerging to mid-career artists developing bold new hybrid performances, which are cross-disciplinary works that challenge existing boundaries among media and forms of expression. In the face of cookie-cutter art making, HERE has created a commissioning, development and production model that addresses many of the challenges faced by artists working in these hybrid forms. HERE makes it possible for artists to work at varied levels or scales, depending on what they individually need for their project, and to do it within a community of fellow artists who provide peer support and inspiration through the HERE Artist Residency Program (HARP). One major focus is on hybrid music- theatre/opera works, often involving multi-media and other genres such as dance and film. Recent examples are Corey Dargel’s Removable Parts (2007 & 2009), Christina Campanella & Stephanie Fleischmann’s Red Fly/Blue Bottle (2009), Nick Brooke’s Border Towns (2010), Yoav Gal’s Mosheh (2011), Kamala Sankaram’s Miranda (2012), Joe Diebes’ Botch, and upcoming, Stephan Weisman & David Cote’s The Scarlet Ibis, Hai-Ting Chinn’sScience Fair, Bora Yoon’s Sunken Cathedral, and Rob Roth & Lady Rizo’s SoundstageHERE is located at 145 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10013. http://here.org

T H E   P R E S E N T I N G   P A R T N E R S

Baruch Performing Arts Center presents programming that reflects the various interests of the college for both the college community and general public. BPAC and the Weissman School of Arts & Sciences support programming on an individual basis such as: the Joel Segall Great Works Readings, the Aaron Silberman Concert Series, the Alexander String Quartet Residency, the Milt Hinton Jazz Perspectives Series, and the Weissman Talks Onstage Dialogue Series via the Baruch Jewish Studies Center. BPAC programming is presented by professional musicians, theater and dance companies. BPAC is located at 55 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10010. http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/bpac


T H E   C R E D I T S

PROTOTYPE is part of “January in NYC is the Place to Be for the Performing Arts,” celebrating the unmatched convergence of performing arts professionals, audiences, and events in New York City. Every January over 45,000 people from around the globe flock to New York City for public festivals and industry gatherings, featuring over 1,500 performances by thousands of world-class artists of all disciplines and genres, including world music, theatre, dance, classical, and jazz. These Festival presentations and additional conversations coincide with the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) and International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA) conferences, and the Opera America New Works Forum. More at www.JanuaryNYC.org.

Leadership funding for PROTOTYPE has been provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with significant support from the Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts, The Charles and Cerise Jacobs Fund for New Opera, and The Reed Foundation.

Lia Chang: Nov. 4: The Jungle Book’s André De Shields Nominated for Jeff Award; will perform “I Wanna to Be Like You” at Ceremony

Congratulations To Andre DeShields for his Jeff Nomination for Mary Zimmerman’s “The Jungle Book.”  It also Features my Bombay Dreams Co-Star Anjali Bhimani.

Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

It’s been quite a jazzy year for Two-time Tony Award nominee and Broadway legend André De Shields, who completed his run as King Louie and Akela in the world premiere of Mary Zimmerman’s adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s THE JUNGLE BOOK, a co-production of Chicago’s Goodman Theatre and Boston’s Huntington Theatre on October 20, 2013.

For his critically-acclaimed role as King Louie, André has been nominated for a Jeff Award for Outstanding Achievement in the category of Actor in a Supporting Role – Musical, and recently garnered a 2013 BTAA for Best Featured Actor in a Play (Musical or Revue) at The 19th Annual Black Theater Alliance Awards, which honor excellence in African American theater and dance productions in the Chicago area.

On Monday, November 4, 2013, I’m off to Chicago with André, The Jungle Book‘s musicians Ronnie Malley and Neel Murgai to attend the 45th Annual Jeff…

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Shooting Fox’s “The Following” with Kevin Bacon, James McDaniel, Shawn Ashmore, and more

Kevin-Bacon-The-Following-TOUT_510x317

Kevin Bacon – The Following (image credit: Michael Lavine/ FOX)

I finally have one degree of separation between me and Kevin Bacon. Kevin and I are both alumni of The Pennsylvania Governors School of the Arts, the PA state sponsored summer professional training school for gifted high school arts students.  But even though there has always been that connection, I had never met Kevin in person, only seeing him in passing at the opening night party of Broadway’s Life  x 3 a few years ago. I have always enjoyed Kevin’s work. He was incredible in Footloose, Stir of Echoes, JFK, and a favorite of mine A Few Good Men.   I am really excited to have spent time with him this past Wednesday on the set of Fox’s The Following.   Kevin is so gracious and so kind to his fellow actors.  In preparation for my role as FBI analyst Reece in the first episode of season 2, I watched a few episodes of The Following. What impresses me most about Kevin, both as Ryan Hardy on the show and in his other roles in film, is that he so easily straddles the line between a believable leading man and a character actor of varied depth.  I admire him greatly for his skill onscreen.   That he was so gracious and came out of his way to introduce himself to me was the icing on the cake

James McDaniel in ABC’s “Detroit 1-8-7” (image credit: Mark H. Preston-ABC,2010)

James McDaniel, another favorite actor of mine who was nominated for two EMMY awards for his work on NYPD Blue as Lt. Arthur Fancy, is on season 2 of The Following playing our FBI boss Ken Phillips.  As I learned recently, he is friends with Peter Jay Fernandez, a colleague of mine in the Actors Center Workshop Company.  James and I quickly made the Peter Jay connection and had a couple of wonderful conversations between takes. I am currently deep in rehearsals for the new musical Gettin’ The Band Back Together at George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, NJ.  So traveling and transitioning from the world of Broadway to a television set in Brooklyn was a good challenge.

Valerie Cruz in "The Following"

Valerie Cruz in “The Following” (image credit: The WB)

Going from acting as a singing/ dancing Dermatologist in a musical comedy under TONY award winning director John Rando, to playing an FBI crime analyst with a lot of dry technical text under executive producer/director Marcos Siega was what we actors live for. Thankfully, even though TV is much faster paced than theatre, Marcos and the entire cast and crew including Kevin, James, Canadian Shawn Ashmore (Iceman on X-Men and a great guy), and Valerie Cruz (Nip/TuckDexter, True Blood) were incredibly helpful and the shoot seemed to turn out well.

Kyle Barisich

Kyle Barisich (image credit: Jemal Countess/Getty Images North America)

Kyle Barisich, who recently left the Broadway company of  Andrew Lloyd Weber’s The Phantom of the Opera starring as Raoul, was my crime analyst partner in the scene. Kyle is a true pro, smart and talented. It is easy to see why he is a Broadway Star.  TV and film stardom is sure to follow.

GETTIN’ THE BAND BACK TOGETHER at George Street Playhouse, NJ from 9/24-10/27/13

I am having a blast in rehearsals for Ken Davenport’s new musical Gettin’ The Band Back Together (previously known as Garage Band: the musical) at George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, NJ. Performances run September 24th – October 27th, 2013. Opening night is scheduled for October 4th at 8PM.

Getting_the_band_back_together_flyer1This original Mike Myers/Will Farrell style ensemble musical is about four high school friends from a small town in New Jersey, who, while grappling with turning 40, reunite their hometown garage band to reclaim their dreams and finally triumph over their high school nemesis.

The cast is incredibly talented with the resumes that speak to their superb singing, acting, dancing and instrumental skills. The rehearsal room is a constant source of fun as we are having a ball collaborating with the creative team here in New Brunswick, NJ. I am hopeful that this funny, poignant musical will be a hit here and later up the New Jersey transit lines to Manhattan.  You definitely will be humming the tunes back home from the theatre.

I won’t give away too much, but our re-formed band of heroes are called “Juggernaut.” It consists of four high school classmates: I play Robbie, the dermatologist on keyboards;  my fellow Carnegie Mellon alumnus Mitchell Jarvis (Rock of Ages) is Mitch the investment banker and lead singer;  Jay Klaitz (High Fidelity) is Bart, the high school math teacher on Bass; Adam Monley (Mamma Mia!) is Sulley, the hometown cop on drums, as the reuniting band mates.  Newcomer to the band is Evan Daves (The Coast of Utopia) on guitar.  The cast also features two-time Tony nominee Alison Fraser (GSP’s Lend Me a Tenor, Gypsy on Broadway) as Sharon, Mitch’s mom, and another fellow Carnegie Mellon alumnus and classmate of mine Brandon Williams (TV’s “Entourage,” “Stay at Home Dad”) as Tygen, the band’s high school arch-nemesis.  The company is rounded out by Heather Brave (Circle of Friends) as Billie , Michelle Duffy (Leap of Faith) as Dani, Ryan Duncan (Soul Doctor) as Dr. Patel, Sr., Deidre Goodwin (A Chorus Line) as Officer Roxy, Christopher Gurr (Memphis national tour) as Sargent Sullivan & JP, Garth Kravits (The Drowsy Chaperone) as Ritchie, Emily McNamara (NEWSical the Musical) as Tawney, and Tad Wilson (Wonderland) as the Mayor.

photo courtesy of Ken Davenport productions

The cast and creative team of “Gettin’ the Band Back Together” at George Street Playhouse. photo courtesy of Ken Davenport productions

Mitch Jarvis (MITCH) on a Coffee Break

CMU Alumnus Mitch Jarvis (MITCH) on a Coffee Break

Jay Klaiitz (BART) on Bass in “Juggernaut” music rehearsal

Evan Daves,Ryan Duncan, Heather Brave,

Evan Daves (RICKY), Ryan Duncan (Dr. PATEL), Heather Brave (BILLIE) in GTBBT Rehearsal at Davenport Studios, NYC 8/27/13

Fellow CMU Alumnnus Brandon Williams (TYGEN), Deidre Goodwin (ROXY), Emily McNamara (TAWNEY) at Davenport Studios in NYC 8/27/2013

Fellow CMU Alumnnus Brandon Williams (TYGEN), Deidre Goodwin (ROXY), Emily McNamara (TAWNEY) at Davenport Studios in NYC 8/27/2013

Tony Award-winner John Rando (Urinetown, GSP’s Toxic Avenger) is director of Gettin’ The Band Back Together which is written by Ken Davenport and The Grundelshotz, with additional material by Sarah Saltzberg, and music and lyrics by Mark Allen.  Fred Hartenstein is Stage Manager.

Orchestrations are by Doug KatsarosFred Lassen serves as musical director, Kelly Devine is choreographer. Creating the world of the play are scenic designer Derek McLane, lighting designer Ken Billington, costume designer Gregory Gale and sound designer Peter Fitzgerald.

George Street Playhouse is run by Artistic Director David Saint.  It was founded in 1974 by former Rutgers faculty member Eric Krebs.

Discount code using the word BOMBAY

GSP flyer advertising the 2 for 1 discount code using the code BOMBAY

A 2 for 1 ticket deal is available using the code “Bombay” which harkens back to my Broadway debut as the lead in AR Rahman’s Bombay Dreams.

Read more about Gettin’ the Band Back Together

George Street Playhouse

Manu Narayan, Alison Fraser, Garth Kravits, Emily McNamara and More Set for Gettin’ The Band Back Together at George Street Playhouse, September 24-October 27, 2013 – Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Alison Fraser & Mitchell Jarvis to Lead GETTIN’ THE BAND BACK TOGETHER at George Street Playhouse; Full Cast Announced by www.broadwayworld.com

My June: a new Opera, an Ibsen Play, 3 Concerts and an Important Celebration

I am very excited for the busy month ahead. I’ll be working on four varied projects with many diversely creative artists, and am glad to be back on the East coast after spending most of the year in California.

OPERA: June 3 – 9, 2013 @ The Watermill Center, Watermill, NY. I’ll be in New York rehearsing a new contemporary opera called Thumbprint created by composer Kamala Shankaram and playwright/librettist Susan Yanowitz, at Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center on Long Island.

IBSEN: June 10 – 29, 2013 @ University of Scranton, PA. I join rehearsals a week late as Peer Gynt in a continuing workshop of the Ibsen play in Scranton, PA. The Peer Gynt Project, co-directed by Grace Zandarski and Felix Ivanov, is part of a new artistic summer residency that was dreamed up by Grace, and is sponsored by the University of Scranton as a collaboration amongst its students, faculty, and outside arts professionals. Last summer, we worked on the first three acts, and this year we are working the rest of the piece.

CONCERT 1: June 10, 2013 @ The Laurie Beechman Theatre, NYC (9:30PM). I am excited to return back to NYC to sing a concert celebrating the music of a fantastic theatre composer Rona Siddiqui. Entitled Songs Rona Wrote, The Music of Rona Siddiqui, the evening features some of the most talented Broadway actor/singers.

CONCERTS 2 & 3: June 14, 2013 @ The Stone, NYC (8 & 10PM). I have two Klezmer/Bhangra concerts in NYC (The Stone is at Ave. C and 2nd Street, Manhattan), with Frank London, Deep Singh and the rest of the crew from the Washington Jewish Music Fest concert we did a few weeks ago in DC. The two sets are part of Frank London’s week long residency at The Stone, which is under the Artistic direction of John Zorn.

CELEBRATION: June 15, 2013 @ The Fairmont Hotel, Pittsburgh, PA. I am proud to be at my alma mater – Carnegie Mellon University – to celebrate the successful completion of the Inspire Innovation Campaign which, amongst many other things, has impacted CMU’s global visibilty by raising over $1 billion for the university endowment. For More Information on Carnegie Mellon University go to : http://www.cmu.edu/index.shtml

After the celebrations, I am back to Scranton for the last two weeks of the Peer Gynt Project.

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 THUMBPRINT – (a new contemporary opera)  

June 3 – 9th @ The Watermill Center, 39 Watermill Town Road, Water Mill, New York.

(Public open rehearsal on June 9th, 6 – 7 PM)

I am excited to be doing my first contemporary opera – theatre work, THUMBPRINT by Indian-American composer Kamala Sankaram and playwright/librettist Susan Yankowitz,  from June 3rd – June 9th at Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center in Long Island.  Using a mix Indian Classical and European Opera styles, Thumbprint is a new piece inspired by the experiences of Mukhtar Mai, a young illiterate peasant who was gang-raped as retribution for an alleged ‘honor’ crime by her little brother and who became the first woman in Pakistan to bring her rapists to justice. When offered a settlement, she instead asked for a school where girls in her village could be educated so that they, unlike her, would never know the humiliation of having to sign their names with a thumbprint. Despite government opposition and repeated death threats, she has now become an international voice for human rights. Mukhtar’s remarkable story is at the heart of this boundary-leaping work. While in residence at Watermill Center this summer, Kamala and Susan will be revising and finalizing the libretto and score. At the same time they will be exploring the piece on its feet with director Rachel Dickstein and a small cast of singers/actors as a first opportunity to work on the intersection of words, music, movement and character. The cast includes Eric Brenner, Miriam Khalil, my friends Rajika Puri and Kannan Vasudevan, whom I grew up with in Pittsburgh.

Kamala Sankaram’s music has been praised as “strikingly original” (Allan Kozinn, The New York Times), and performed as part of American Opera Projects Opera Grows in Brooklyn series, at HERE Arts Center, the Stone, the Bang on a Can Summer Festival, the Santa Fe New Music Festival, and the Lucerne Festival, among others. She had the featured commission on the 2009 21C Liederabend, selected as one of Time Out’s 10 Best Classical Concerts. Her music for Sounding (directed by Kristin Marting) was praised as “gorgeous pop-rock interludes” (Time Out New York). She was the 2011 Con Edison/Exploring the Metropolis Composer-in-Residence at the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy and the 2012 Composer-in-Residence at the Eugene O’Neil Theater. She has received grants from the MAP Fund, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Meet the Composer, and the Asian Women’s Giving Circle, as well as residencies from the MacDowell Colony and the Hermitage. As a resident artist at HERE Arts Center, Kamala created Miranda, a steampunk murder mystery opera called “enjoyable, utterly original opera” and “among the very best theater achievements of 2012”.

Susan Yankowitz is a playwright, novelist, librettist and occasional screenwriter. Among her best-known plays are Night Sky (produced off-B’way and internationally); Phaedra In Delirium (produced at CSC and WPP, NY; winner, QRL poetic play competition); Terminal and 1969Terminal1996, collaborations with Joseph Chaikin’s Open Theatre (Drama Desk Award); and A Knife in the Heart (Sledgehammer Theatre). Boxes A-Z just won the 2012 award for Best Ensemble Play in Ankara, and her long monologue about Mukhtar Mai is in continual production in the U.S. and internationally, on its own and as part of Seven, most recently in India and Afghanistan. Silent Witness, her novel, was published by Knopf and her teleplay about Sylvia Plath aired on PBS and won her a WGA nomination for best-written documentary of the season. She has collaborated on opera-theater works with Elmer Bernstein, Taj Mahal, Moshe Cotel, and Michael Dellaira, and has been awarded grants from the NEA, NYFA, TCG, and Guggenheim, McKnight, Bogliasco and Rockefeller Foundations, among others. She is a frequent resident at Yaddo and MacDowell. Her work is archived and catalogued at Kent State Library.

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SONGS RONA WROTE, The Music of RONA SIDDIQUI  

Monday, June 10th @ The Laurie Beechman Theatre, 407 West 42nd St.,  New York, NY

9:30pm

Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/392358

Join composer Rona Siddiqui and her amazing lyricist friends, Zayre Ferrer, Sander Gusinov, Laura Kleinbaum, Rebekah Melocik, Zoe Samuel, Chris Staskel, Liz Suggs, and Max Vernon, for a night of new theatre music spanning from comic metal love songs to aquatic predator funk jams and everything in between.

The Featured Performers: Manu Narayan (Bombay Dreams), Erin Dilly (A Christmas Story), Sarah Stiles (Avenue Q), Gideon Glick (Spring Awakening), Mykal Kilgore (Hair), MJ Rodriguez (Rent), Margo Seibert, Liam Forde, Ayesu Lartey, Matt Bauman, Andrew Leggieri, and Ben Langhorst.

Directed by: Andrew Willis-Woodward

Band: Rona Siddiqui (Piano), Jon Russ (Guitar), Ayesu Lartey (Bass), Hiroyuki Matsuura (Drums), Susan Mandel (Cello)

Rona Siddiqui is a composer and music director based in New York City. She is the 2011 recipient of the ASCAP Foundation/Max Dreyfus Scholarship and the 2010 recipient of the award for Best Musical Direction by the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle in San Francisco. Rona wrote the music for the original musical One Good Day which has had readings at NYU, Custom Made Theatre Company in San Francisco, and in the Sacramento New Works Festival. She also composed the music for an original 20-minute musical, The Tin, which was selected to be part of the 2012 Samuel French Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival. She vocal arranged and music directed Tree of Life, the Oneida Nation float song in the 2012 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Original scores she has written include The Vagina Monologues, The Good Person of Szechuan, The Clean House, and Love Song of J Robert Oppenheimer. She received international recognition for her composition “Storms and Whispers” from the International Association of Women in Music. She was recently a featured songwriter in The Bill Finn Cabaret: A Night of Comedy Songs, Songs By Ridiculously Talented Composers and Lyricists You Probably Don’t Know But Should at Barrington Stage, and the concert series Broadway’s Future at Lincoln Center. She received her B.A. in music composition from UCLA and her Masters from NYU’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program. Rona is currently Music Director for the Off-Broadway production of Piggy Nation.

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The Frank London Klezmer Brass Allstars & Bhangra Brass Party feat. Deep Singh, Sarah Gordon & Manu Narayan

Friday, June 14th @ THE STONE (corner of Avenue C and 2nd street, NYC)

8 & 10 PM

 $15 per set *there are no advance ticket sales, all admissions are at the door prior to each performance

8 pm
Bhangra Brass Party: featuring Frank London’s Klezmer Brass Allstars & guests—Yiddish Cabaret feat. Eleanor Reissa + Bhangra Brass Party feat. Deep Singh, Sarah Gordon & Manu Narayan
Frank London (trumpet, alto horn, piccolo trumpet, leader) Susan Sandler (trumpet, vocals) Mark Hamilton (trombone) David Harris (trombone, baritone horn) Curtis Hasselbring (trombone) Merlin Sheperd (clarinet)

Matt Dariau (clarinet, alto saxaphone, guida) Mark Rubin (contrabass helicon) Aaron Alexander (drums) Matt Moran (bass drum) Deep Singh (percussion) Sarah Gordon (voice) Eleanor Reissa (voice) Manu Narayan (voice) And many more!

10 pm
Bhangra Brass Party: featuring Frank London’s Klezmer Brass Allstars & guests—Songs of Zebulon feat. Jeremiah Lockwood & Shoko Nagai + Bhangra Brass Party feat. Deep Singh, Sarah Gordon & Manu Narayan
Frank London (trumpet, alto horn, piccolo trumpet, leader) Susan Sandler (trumpet, vocals) Mark Hamilton (trombone) David Harris (trombone, baritone horn) Curtis Hasselbring (trombone) Merlin Sheperd (clarinet)

Matt Dariau (clarinet, alto saxaphone, guida) Mark Rubin (contrabass helicon) Aaron Alexander (drums) Matt Moran (bass drum) Deep Singh (percussion) Sarah Gordon (voice) Eleanor Reissa (voice) Manu Narayan (voice) And many more!

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The Peer Gynt Projecta month long exploration of the classic Ibsen play

June 3 – 29th @ University of Scranton, Pennsylvania

Grace Zandarski is a faculty member of the Acting Department at Yale School of Drama where she has taught Voice since 2002, specializing in Advanced Vocal Technique and Text for 2nd and 3rd Year Actors. She has coached numerous YSD productions and coaching credits at Yale Rep include Comedy of ErrorsThe Master Builder and the 2010-2011 season’s Romeo and Juliet. In addition to YSD, she has served on the faculties of some other fine actor training programs in the U.S. including Fordham University, A.R.T./MXAT (Harvard’s Advanced Actor Training Program), N.Y.U., and The Actors Center. She has taught master classes on Voice and Text for the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab and the Public Theatre’s Shakespeare Lab. Grace was named Associate Teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework in 1998. She was a member of the 2006 Voice Consortium Delegation/Teaching Exchange Program with Russia’s MXAT, GITES, and Vaktangov Theatre Schools. In 2008 and 2010, she was the recipient of YSD STAR Grants for work with Pantheatre, Paris, France. Grace continues to work as an actor, director, and voiceover artist. Stage acting credits include the McCarter Theatre, Wilma Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival Ashland, and A.C.T. Vocal Coaching credits include Yale Rep, McCarter Theatre and BAM. She has an M.F.A. in Acting from the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco and a B.A. in English from Princeton University.

Felix Ivanov has an M.F.A. from the Vakhtangov Academy Theater, Russia. He is a graduate of the Schukin Theater School at the Vakhtangov Academy Theater and the Stasov Musical School (violin), Moscow, Russia. Mr. Ivanov is well versed in the art of the musical clownery, physical comedy, stage combat, movement, and character dance. In addition, he has achieved the master’s level in Chinese martial arts of Kuoshu and the black belt/Shodan rank in Judo. Felix has developed an original dynamic training for the actors, and he gained an international recognition for his teaching method. He has taught at numerous international and American colleges and universities. His choreography of stage movement/combat has been seen at such venues as the Shakespeare Theater in Washington, D.C.; the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis; the Shakespeare Theater Festival in Cleveland; and the Acting Company, the Lincoln Center Theater, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Theater Workshop, the Wooster Group, at the Pearl Theater, the Cherry Lane Theater, the Soho Repertory Theater, Soho Playhouse, and Tele/Vest (TV serial) in New York City, among others in the U.S.A.

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My performance as “Ricky Roma” garners a 2012 SD Critics Circle Craig Noel Award nomination “Outstanding Featured Actor”

I am very honored to have received a San Diego Critics Circle 2012 Craig Noel Award Nomination for Outstanding Featured Performance in a Play, Male for my work as Ricky Roma in La Jolla Playhouse’s revival of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross.

Congratulations to my fellow castmate James Sutorius who is also nominated in the same category, Outstanding Featured Performance in a Play, Male, for his work as Dave Moss and our Set Designer Todd Rosenthal for his nomination in Outstanding Set Design.

Other nominated friends are nominees in Outstanding Featured Performers in a Musical, Male and Female (respectively): Michael K. Lee and Lea Salonga for their wonderful work in the musical Allegiance at The Old Globe; Outstanding Sound Design nominee Mark Bennett for his work in The Illiad at La Jolla Playhouse; Outstanding Ensemble nominee: the cast of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots also at La Jolla Playhouse; and Outstanding Ensemble nominee: the cast of Scottsboro Boys at The Old Globe of which my buddy Cliffton Duncan was one of the leads.

You can see the full list of 2012 Craig Noel nominees at backstage pass with Lia Chang. Other articles about the nominations are on Broadwayworld.com and in San Diego’s North County Times.

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La Jolla Playhouse’s production of Glengarry Glen Ross ran from September 18 – October 21, 2012. Our critically acclaimed production was directed by Playhouse Artistic Director Christopher Ashley and in addition to James and myself, featured actors Peter Maloney as Shelly Levine, Jeff Marlow as James Lingk, Matt MacNelly as Baylen, Ray Anthony Thomas as George Aaranow, and Johnny Wu as John Williamson. In addition to Todd Rosenthal, the Designers and creative collaborators on the play were: Set design; Toni Leslie James, Costume design; David Lander, Lighting design; David Corsello, Sound design; and Shirley Fishman, Dramaturg