Monthly Archives: May 2012
Sexy relationship comedy The Banana Monologues is set to play off-Broadway’s Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row this summer. The production will begin previews on June 13, and officially open on June 24. No casting or creative team has been announced at this time.
What did one wall say to the other wall?
Meet me at the corner!
Okay, so my level of funny has been reduced to jokes from my 5-year-old, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know my comedians! In fact, this week I am highlighting three of my favorites from all over the country including Charleston, SC, NYC and Los Angeles, CA! These up-and-comers are sure to knock your pants off (and they might even make you laugh too)
John Brennan is an actor, story-teller and writer that lives in NYC.
Who or what made you decide you wanted to become an actor?
I played sports growing up, and when I blew my shoulder out at 18 I decided to get into Theatre. Specifically Improv Comedy at Theatre99. That’s where “Banana’ was born.
Your not originally from NYC, what made you move to the big apple?
I moved to New York City because I want to perform a comedy I co-created with Jason Cooper and Mary Cimino on Off-Broadway called, The Banana Monologues.
Tell me more about the show what character do you play?
The Banana Monologues is an award-winning, sexy comedy inspired by a true love story about a man, a woman, and his ‘banana,’ Sergeant Johnson. I play numerous characters in this hilarious show including the ‘banana’.
This high-energy show takes the audience on a funny and personal journey about Gus Weiderman’s complicated relationship with an attractive woman who’s out of his league. Gus has to decide whether his lust for Alexis, under Sergeant Johnson’s orders, is sufficient to sustain their tenuous love affair. Does he have the courage to question the Sergeant? For men and women it’s an all-too-common challenge: balancing lust and love in the pursuit of happiness.
Where can one go to see The Banana Monologues?
We have a contract with a Producer Gregory T. Gerard and was one of the producers on the popular Off-Broadway show ‘I Love you, you’re perfect, Now Change.’ We are hoping it will premier Off-Broadway Summer of 2013.
What else are you working on?
In the mean time, I am auditioning for Indy Films and telling true stories around the city, I am an understudy for the Off-Broadway show ‘Awesome 80s Prom‘, I am a regular attendant at The Moth (Live Story slams in NYC), and I recently won the UCB’s Animated Stories with my performance of ‘My First Hand Job.’
Have you ever thought about auditioning for Saturday Night Live?
I would love to audition for SNL, if you run into Lorne Michaels, can you tell him that?
You recently made your debut as “Scarlett” on a recent episode of the four-time Emmy award-winning series MadMen on AMC. What was it like to be on set with veteran actors like Jon Hamm, Jared Harris, Christina Henricks and John Slattery?
They are all so seasoned and welcoming. In the moments when it was time to work they were really focused and professional. In between takes, they were very easy-going and there was lots of clowning around! They’re a funny bunch! It’s a pretty tight-knit crew and they’ve done some amazing things together; there is an air of pride and ease amongst them that I haven’t seen before. It was quite amazing. It really couldn’t have been a better experience for me.
Tell me about the auditions, how many rounds did you go through before you received the role?
In the morning I had my audition for casting, then they asked me to stick around the area to attend the call back to producers 2 hours later. I left the studio lot, drove back to my apartment and not 30 minutes after I entered my front door I got a call from my manager’s office telling me to go back down there for my hair and make-up test for my shoot the next day. It was a pretty crazy 24 hours!
Not only is Casper Van Dien a cool cat, but we discovered that we grew up in the same town in New Jersey so there was LOTS to talk about. He’s really funny and easy to work with. He’s got a humongous fan base but he’s super down-to-earth.
Did you always want to be an actress?
Yes, I have. I was a ballerina as a kid and I always wanted to shout out during recitals…I loved dance but I always felt that I wanted to be more vocal.
Have you done theatre as well?
Yes, quite a lot. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University and I also studied at the London Academy of Theater. My background is ALL theater training. I worked every department of the theater, I re-upholstered couches for set pieces, ran a light board…I’ve done it all. The program teaches actors to be well-rounded in the theater. I love it. I just recently closed a long running production of an original play by the brilliant playwright Rob Mersola entitled “Love Sucks”.
I understand you’re also a huge supporter of independent film, is there anything coming up we can see you in?
I just Co-Produced and played a supporting role in an independent film called “Act Naturally.” We just won the audience choice award at the United Film Festival and it will be showing in that same festival in London on June 4th.
If you could work with any director, who would it be and why?
I am obsessed with the Coen Brothers. They are like the chameleons of the film industry; you never know what they are going to put out next! I love their writing, I love how character driven their stories are, I love how dark and funny and slice-of-life they are. I just love everything about them and I would be over the moon to work with them.
If you could act alongside any Actor/Actress who would it be and why?
There are so many. Mostly I want to work with actors I truly respect and feel would raise the bar for me; push me in directions I never thought possible…to name a few that come to mind: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Don Cheadle, Catherine O’Hara, Laura Linney, Frances McDormand, Kate Winslet, Tom Hanks, Steve Buscemi, Forest Whittaker…oh the list goes on.
You originally hail from New Jersey, what brought you to Los Angeles?
I was working a lot commercially in New York but I was not working theatrically as much as I liked. I was on a vacation with my Dad and brother in Bucharest, Romania; I woke up one morning, came down to breakfast and told them that I felt I wasn’t doing everything I possibly could to make my dreams come true. I explained that the Film/Television Mecca of the US was in L.A. and if I didn’t give it a try, I’d be making a big mistake. Three months later I was in L.A.
Will we be seeing you in future episodes of MadMen?
Now, you know I can’t tell you that! Keep watching!
III is a 3D horror feature film being produced by TBA Productions, LLC; an independent 2D & 3D media production company based in Charleston, SC. The film is a hybrid of a slasher film with a creature feature twist in the vein of H.P. Lovecraft. TBA Productions is using practical effects to maximize the 3-D version of the movie and is filming a 2-D as well.
III’s story and visual aesthetic is drawn from the classic slasher and creature features from the late seventies and eighties. Rather than having female characters incarnated as bimbos running helplessly up the stairs, they have been scripted as strong female leads which fight back against their attackers; similar to films like The Descent and High Tension.
I interviewed Braxton Williams the writer/producer behind this 3D Horror Feature titled, “III” about his film:
1. What or who inspired you to become a filmmaker?
I never really set out to be a filmmaker. I originally set out to be a successful working actor. Being a producer is something I kind of fell into. In 2010 a friend of mine ran for US Congress. He recruited me to coach him on his speeches and produce commercials for him. I didn’t really want to, but I owed him one so…there you go. A great learning experience and the commercials turned out rather nicely. A year or so later I was talking to our executive producer Akim Anastapoulo. He told me he had a 3D camera and was looking for someone to direct a horror film. So I jumped at the opportunity. I partnered up with Trey Howell and Alissa Guterman to form TBA Productions LLC and here we are.
2. Have you always been a fan of horror and if so, why?
Yes, I love horror; films, novels, you name it. Halloween is my birthday so I have always loved the genre. As a kid I used to have horror movie marathons every year. Well actually I still dedicate the month of October to horror movies. The difference is, as a kid I would watch all these terrible horror movies all in one night. Now that I am married, my wife will not put up with crappy horror movies let alone crappy horror movie marathons. So we watch the classics and we spread them out over the month. I actually have seen some very good and creepy films with her that I might not have tracked down otherwise.
3. You are doing your horror film in 3-D. That must be intense to watch?
Ah 3D, that was a challenge in and of itself. None of us had ever worked on 3D before. Trey and Owen Hamilton, our DP, had to do a lot of research on the camera and on 3D filming itself. It was a constant learning experience and it definitely slowed down the filming process. But it was worth it. We have some very cool 3D shots throughout the movie. Cool perspective shots, and for a lack of a better term, “money” shots. But, the 3D is not just a gimmick. The movie holds up on its own, we even shot a 2D version at the same time. The two versions will be a little different from each other, but they are both an intense experience.
4. Where did you shoot the film and why?
Trey and I actually wrote the script based on the location. His aunt and uncle own a Victorian Style house in St. Mathews, South Carolina. A couple of years ago I went up there with him to do some test shots for a project of his. That project eventually morphed into something else, but we have wanted to do something there ever since. It is the perfect place for a horror movie. The house has this presence that should infuse the film. Can’t thank Drew and Linda Rowe enough for letting us use their house and stay there while we filmed.
5. What was the most surprising thing to come out of this project?
Two things surprised me the most. The first was how much I liked writing the script. I have written many short stories and one-act stage plays, but nothing of this magnitude. I didn’t realize I would enjoy it so much. Unfortunately for Trey, I was also extremely protective of the script. After my second draft, Trey came in and took a crack at it. I think I fought him for 99% of his changes, which in retrospect was ridiculous.
The second thing that surprised me the most was how well everyone got along. A lot of times on sets there are people who just don’t get along. But that was not the case here. As hard as we worked, we had a great time doing it. Some of the worst jokes ever were told around 3 am (a lot of them by me). And since it was 3 am, the jokes were much funnier than they had any right to be.
6. What was the most challenging about making this film?
Working with such a small budget was definitely the hardest thing. We stretched every single dollar as far as it could go, and then some. Fortunately we were blessed with a very dedicated cast and crew. To make it in this industry, you have to be very lucky and/or very persistent. But you can’t be lucky if you don’t take a chance. You have to seize every good opportunity that comes your way. We all worked for less money than we would normally because we believed in this movie.
7. Tell me about your cast and crew.
We were lucky to get such a great cast. The movie is anchored by the relationship of our two main characters, Adam and Emma. Robert Dough and Rachel Swindler both do an amazing job portraying two childhood friends attempting to reconnect after years apart. And although they are the main characters, the movie is truly an ensemble piece. Carri Schwab and I play Celia and Frank, Adam’s friends who are on vacation with him. Carri is brilliant as Celia. I think my performance is pretty good too, but I am biased…Blake Gardner and newcomer, Amy Elizabeth Chadwell, are hilarious as Emma’s stoner buddies, Dave and Jess. The cast is rounded out by Ty Trumbo who plays Tommy Banks, a self obsessed douche bag who happens to be Emma’s boyfriend. Ty does a great job showcasing Tommy’s vanity and anger at Adam’s attempt to win back Emma.
Our crew was wonderful. They really brought their A-game to the film. And not only were they great at their jobs, they filled out other positions quite well too. Being an indie, we had several people wearing several different hats. From Trey Howell, our director, on down, everyone helped out where they could.
Trey has a great eye for the genre, but also for building FX rigs as well. Alissa Guterman was a co-producer/production manager. Julie Wheat of Cavortress was our wardrobe/make up/producer. Trey worked with the people from Seamless Pictures to bring a strong sense of foreboding to the movie. From Seamless we got: Owen Hamilton, our DP; Corey Corbett one of our camera operators; and Charlotte Savage our 1st AD. Zachary Breitengross was our 1st AC/camera operator. Kyle Perrit was another AC. Christopher Orosco was our sound mixer. And last but not least our crew was anchored by several students from Trident Technical College, The Arts Institute of Charleston and Savannah College of Art and Design.
8. What project(s) are you currently working on?
Trey, Alissa and I have a few projects in the works. Nothing concrete yet, it all depends on how well III is received. But we do have a few ideas floating around. In the meantime, I have put together a short film with a good friend of mine, Steve Thomas. Steve is a preditor, which is a fancy term for producer/editor. And I am sure telling people you are a preditor is a great way to end conversations, but I digress. I co-wrote it with Steve. We are producing it. He is directing it and I am acting in it. We should begin filming sometime in June.
I feel trapped in my own body. My mind is strong and my will is even stronger but my body can’t keep up. I have been suffering from Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea for years now. When I go to sleep at night, I stop breathing up to 65 times an hour which leaves me feeling extremely tired throughout most of the day. The dry air as of late has made it worse, since my throat closes up in the middle of the night causing me to wake up literally choking. Somehow I know I”m going to endure the trauma of not breathing at night so my body reacts naturally with anxiety, panic and insomnia the minute I lay my head to rest…which also wears me down.
I’ve always been a go-getter, extremely ambitious to the point where people often ask me if I have cloned myself. But the last 6 months have worn me down and I find even trivial things like folding laundry to be utterly exhausting. I want to work-out but my muscles are too tired, because they aren’t getting oxygen at night. I want to play in the front yard with my daughter but find myself grasping for the nearest chair so I can sit down. Stairs have become my enemy. I used to teach dance, and now I fear stairs.
It makes me angry to be so tired. How frightening to want to do something and not be able too? To know that it is right at your fingertips but you can’t access it? I think of all the men and women who have felt this feeling and been able to turn it into a positive. They find ways to feel less trapped, to feel energetic and good about life. I can’t imagine that its easy but I look to them for hope during this difficult time. Because every day that I can’t find the energy to workout…I cry. Every time I ask my husband to chase our daughter around the yard because I am too tired…I cringe. Every time I wake up in the middle of the night gasping for air…I panic.
I have a surgery scheduled for mid June on my tonsils, adenoids and septum. The doctor say s that this will help me breath at night and cause less apneas. They say that the better breathing will allow more oxygen into my body to help breakdown the muscles and allow me to have more energy to workout. More oxygen will also breakdown the fat that I have put on and been unable to burn off. They say my energy level will go up and my strength will come back. God I hope so. I have never felt so out-of-control of my own body before. Who knew sleep apnea could cause so many problems?
The worse thing that ever happened to this country is the invention of the credit card. Or the idea of a credit line for that matter. It’s bad enough to have zero, but now you can be financially worth less than zero!
Our citizens have become dependent on getting whatever they want “now” because they are used to paying for it with invisible money. From the 18-year-old with their first credit card buying college textbooks at 21% interest all the way up to the Federal Government and the Banks giving out home mortgages based on money that they don’t actually have and then charging high interest and late fees or borrowing from China just to get it back. How scary?
What happened to the days where if you wanted something you saved up for it until you could afford it? Or if you were afraid it wouldn’t be there when you did, you put it on layaway? Not today’s citizens. No way. They want everything now now now. They’ll even stand in line at 4am on black Friday to get a big screen TV that they don’t need just because it is on sale. Really? My parents had the same television for 40 years. They didn’t have cell phones yet we communicated just fine. My parents didn’t have to worry about whether or not to pay off their student loans versus putting food on the table because they didn’t take out loans. They only loan they had was on the house which they had been paying off for the past 25 years.
I remember when I was 20 years old, I had just moved to Los Angeles and opened a bank account with Bank of America and without even asking for it they gave me a $10,000 line of credit. Again I was 20… living alone… in Los Angeles. Seriously? What where they thinking? I don’t have to tell you how that tragic story ended.
I’m done with credit cards, bank accounts and mortgages. “If I ain’t got nothing, then I ain’t got nothing to lose”. Everyday I work, I make a profit and I don’t have to worry that my money is only going to pay off a negative balance. I will never again be less than zero. This country thinks we are in a recession headed for a depression. It is our own fault. We don’t value the dollar anymore. We don’t appreciate how to stretch it and we no longer have the ability to ‘wait’ for what we want. Until that changes, we will all be less than zero sooner than later.
In a general sense, anything that increases the rate of a process is a “catalyst”. I’ve come to accept over the years that this is one of my main purposes in life. My job, my contribution to the world. I noticed at a very early age that I would be put in the path of a certain person for reasons I didn’t understand, just to realize later that I was there to help facilitate some change in their life. Whether it be advice, inspiration, or warning; I knew once it happened that it was the sole reason.
Every once is a while I would be surprised to find out that a person who’s path I crossed would be a permanent fixture; a friend for life. Those are the ones that ended up being catalysts for me.
Have you ever found people drifting in and out of your life and wondered how you ever came to meet them? I think of certain people that I would spend days, weeks, months at a time with and then somewhere out of the blue POOF, its over. We aren’t fighting or anything, its just as if the energy in the room that bound us to each other had suddenly left. Then you never seem to be able to find time to visit or get together and you almost NEVER run into each other accidentally. Strange that you wouldn’t keep bumping into someone that you use to see all the time? You’d think having so much in common they’d be everywhere…but somehow they aren’t.
You see, I believe everything happens for a reason and everyone in your life is there on purpose. There are no accidents. Sometimes you have a boss that you can’t stand and you realize that every job you take you have the same boss (so to speak) until one day you wake up and realize that that same boss is also that parent that you never saw eye to eye with. So are you working at that job because you miss that parent? Do you keep taking those jobs to try to win over affection with said parent?
The universe to me is not as much of a mystery as it use to be because I listen very carefully. I know when I meet someone exactly why they are in my life and I am in there’s. I never tell them of course; they’d think I was nuts! But, is it really crazy to be able to foretell an outcome of a situation? I think 80% of the time the outcomes almost always obvious and the other 20% of the time it is luck or error.
So look around you often. Sometimes those people in your life that may seem annoying or needy are there for a reason and they might not be around long, so enjoy it and help them while you can; after all it is your job.
Tough Love is the hardest kind of love there is thus, living up to its name. Nobody wants to be the bad guy/gal but when you truly love someone it means saying the things people don’t want to hear in order to help them get past the darkness.
A good friend of mine lost his father many years ago and fell into a deep depression. He barely answered the phone at first and then not at all. He barricaded himself in the house which he now owned but had no idea how to take care of for he was young, had always lived at home, and had no other family. After a month of no response, two of my friends and I beat down the door. He was pissed but probably to depressed to deal with three crazy women.
We found thousands of tissues scattered on the floors, dishes piled so high and filled with so much old dirt and mold that we had to throw them out. An entire room was filled with empty beer bottles and pizza boxes. On the living room floor was a mattress and a pillow where he had been sleeping. He couldn’t sleep in his own room and wouldn’t even go upstairs to the room where his father had died. There were piles of bills that went unpaid and there was no oil in the tank. He must have asked us to leave a million times. He called us many things, most I can’t post here.
Still, he sat and watched angrily as we sanitized the bathrooms, cleaned out the closets, threw away the dishes, returned the bottles, swept, dusted, folded and vacuumed. We went through each bill, called everyone and asked for extensions. We went through his budget and put together a plan. We pulled our money together to put some oil in the tank so it wouldn’t break. When we were done he didn’t say a word. We took the mattress and put it back in his now clean bedroom and moved the dining room table where it once lay.
The next day was thanksgiving and we stayed the night and cooked and decorated. In a cabinet in the living room was a set of dishes. Growing up he was told he couldn’t touch the dishes and so of course when we started taking them out to set the table he panicked. “Nobody is here to tell you what to do, so you need to make your own rules now,” I said. He sat back and watched as we set the table for 12. A few hours passed and more friends had arrived. One of the girls had handed him a bar of soap and shoved him in the bathroom. Another had laid out a suit for him to wear when he got out.
He sat in his room for an entire hour as the house filled with friends and the food was put out on the table. Finally, I went into his room and sat down on the bed next to him. I held out my hand signaling for him to come. “No, I’m staying here,” he said stubbornly. He didn’t want to let go, he wanted to live in his misery. I wondered if we rushed him but then I remembered what the house had looked like and thought about how much worse it would have been had we continued to wait. “If you don’t come out to eat, we’ll bring the party into your room,” I said. He didn’t want that.
He got up and came into the room and sat down. Everyone said hello, wished him a Happy Thanksgiving and began to eat. Halfway through dinner it began to snow and it looked beautiful outside the now cleaned windows. I glanced over and saw him tear up as he ate his food. Later that day, we all went outside and a few of us had a snowball fight while others built a snowman.
“I need stuff to dress up the snowman,” I said to him. He looked at me long and hard and walked over to his father’s closet. I was surprised, he NEVER went in there. Everyone knew that you didn’t touch his father’s stuff. But he was gone now and my friend was beginning to make his own rules. “I think this will do,” he said as he handed me a real pipe, hat, mitten and scarf. We decorated the snowman and when we were done he stepped back and looked at it and replied, “He looks just like my dad”.
That was more than a decade ago. He thought his life was over. Some say he may have even tried to end it himself, we aren’t sure. But now he’s married with a child of his own. I remember going to his wedding. He hugged me and say, “thank you for kicking me in the ass”.
The age-old question on every man’s mind is “What do women want?” The answer to that question is, “Your heart”. Any guy with a credit card and a few minutes to spare can pick up a dozen roses or a card. Wealthier ones can have their secretary order up something fancy and have it wrapped in a big bow and delivered. Although some women might seem amused by these things at first, in the end they are left feeling empty. Why? Because they are thoughtless attempts at love.
I was in my early twenties when I went through a phase where I collected cherubs. I had ceramic figurines, stationary, photos, etc. I loved cherubs and everyone knew it. I remember playing pool one night with a few friends when my friend Larry came over to me and said, “I have something for you.” He opened up his jacket and pulled a pen out of his inside pocket. It was a cherub pen. The kind you get for $1 at a local gas station counter. “I saw it while paying for gas and I thought of you so I bought it.” He thought of me? How…awesome. Something so small and seemingly insignificant and I still remember it over 15 years later. Why? Because it was from the heart.
How much do you know about the people around you? Are you thinking of them from your head or your heart? For me, I believe that when you truly care about someone you know their favorite song, color, smell, etc. You know these things because you want to know them and so that when you hear the song, see the color or smell the smell it reminds you of them. That’s love, whether it is romantic or platonic, its love from the heart; and for me it’s the best love there is.
I didn’t choose to be a nurse; nursing chose me. I always wanted to be a Marine biologist specializing in marine mammal behavior. I thought I could study and train the dolphins at Sea World. When Mom said, “You can’t do that, you’ll never make enough money to support yourself,” and “I won’t pay for that schooling,” I thought, Ok now what?
So I took that test from the guidance counselor in high school my senior year in 1992. It indicated that I would succeed in becoming a psychologist, a physician or a nurse; so nursing it was. I then got accepted to Dean College and away I went to finish my prerequisites. From there I graduated with my ASLS and got accepted at Curry to the BSN program. It was there that I learned that I was meant to be a nurse and developed a love for learning.
The easy part of nursing is accepting that THERE IS NO EASY PART.
What I love most about being a nurse is the ability to change someone’s life experience this includes; the patient, their family, and the staff I am responsible for overseeing.
The scariest thing I have ever seen is very difficult to narrow down. I have been present for the birth of a child by a young girl raped by her brother. I have provided care to children receiving chemotherapy. I have seen open heart surgery and organ transplants. I have seen joints replaced and people have their body parts removed. I have sat for hours and reassured patients having visual and tactile hallucinations while detox from street drugs. I have been strangled with my own stethoscope by a psychiatric patient. I have held the hand of a man who was choked to death by his own throat tumor.
There is rarely a day that is not scary in nursing but there is a great sense of accomplishment that you, as the nurse had the ability to be there to reach out and care, to empathize and teach people through some of the most awful experiences anyone could go through. I can share this-although you think you have it bad there really is someone else who has it worse. So it is easy for me to understand you could be upset that you had to buy the generic Cheerios or buy the “cheap seats” for a concert. There are more important things in life. And to think, I just wanted to swim with some dolphins instead.
I chose to be a nurse because I had a baby at 20 yrs old and I had no college education. I knew that I had the intelligence and compassion to be a great nurse. So I signed up for a year-long Licensed Practical Nursing Course and never looked back. That was 16 years ago. As a nurse, I knew that I would always have job security to care for my family.
The hardest part of my job is knowing that there are a million kids that I care for at school that go home to parents that are not acting in the child’s best interest. Listening to the desperation in the voices of kids who feel lost, depressed, bullied, suicidal….the list goes on and on.
What I love about my job is how funny the kids are. How much they depend on the school clinic as a safe haven when they need a friend, mom, guidance, a hug, a kick in the pants or just to get out of their classroom for a break.
The scariest thing I have witnessed on the job was watching one of my 16 yr old depressed students pour gasoline on himself and light himself on fire and burn to death in front of the school as we watched, helplessly. No amount of words can express how I felt that day, and how I will continue to feel everyday after that for the rest of my life.
I think sometimes folks forget that we are people too, outside of the job. Yes, many of us have seen it all; but that doesn’t make it any easier and sometimes, many times, that pain stays with us. Sometimes for days; mostly forever.
I’ve cried myself to sleep at night at the tragedies that I have witnessed, but If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t change a thing. I love being a nurse.