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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Meet Mary Poppins ..Lauren Blackman!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, April 17, 2014 at 4:00:00 pm Comments (0)

  I grew up right outside of San Francisco, in Marin county. I am the youngest of 3 children. My sister and brother are only 13 months apart, and lucky for them, I was born 8 years later.  Ha! We like to joke that there is the first family and second family (me being a sort of only child) but to be honest, that's so very far from the truth. It is and was the perfect match and timing.  They are my best friends along with my parents as the glue. I think the age gap helped my imagination though, and started my acting career.  I was a particularly busy child, playing every sport I could, with dance, and (later) voice lessons on the side. But on family vacations, if the teenagers were busy being teens, my 7 year old self made up all kinds of stories, and often believed them!! Very dramatic. shocking!

My mom has always performed in children's theatre, so that was its own fantastic influence...but many a Saturday evening, mom and I would watch an old movie musical! I couldn't get enough of these. I always enjoyed singing and dancing, and I took classes, but as sports dominated most of my schedule, it took me much longer to tell anyone that theatre was my dream. One of the top five movies on repeat was Mary Poppins, naturally. Julie Andrews and Debbie Reynolds seemed to split my playlist of 'must watch'. And I could never get enough of Fred and Ginger. Ooo and Deborah Kerr and Rosemary Clooney too! When my uncle took me to see the tour of Crazy For You, in San Francisco, starring Karen Ziemba, who could sing like Julie, dance like Ginger, with the fire of Debbie... I was 'done for'. By intermission I had made up my mind and told my uncle, (then my family) I wanted to be that girl someday. Well, I hoped! And I wouldn't stop trying...nor would my dad ever let me!

I adore Mary Poppins.  I can't even remember the first time I saw or heard of it, but it is so embedded in my memory that I could probably re-direct a mirror image of the movie, frame by frame. Slight exaggeration...But I'd get close!!! You could say Ms. Andrews was my first voice teacher.  I spent so much time trying the sing like her, that it became a sort of lesson. I stepped into Mary Poppins' boots, for the first time, last summer, at the wonderful Maine State Music Theatre.  A childhood wish, come true! I hadn'twatched the movie in a couple years, and decided not to watch it again, and have not since.  I have so much 'Julie' inspiration in me, from childhood imitation, that wanted, and want, to make Mary Poppins as much of my own as possible.  Always striving to find the balance between what we love so much about the movie, the vision P.L. Travers had, and what I can bring as well. And now I get another go at it. Incredible. Even more incredible is to be back with my WBT family.

Gosh, my favorite shows change all the time. I have a list of over 20...But always somewhere in the top 5, is GYPSY. I've dreamed of playing every female role, from Louise, to the strippers, to Mama, of course!  It's a big dream. But from a very young age, Mary Poppins has reigned at the top. I don't know if playing this role was every little girls' dream, but it was mine...and remains so. I have found myself getting overwhelmed with emotion in rehearsals, and sometimes on stage, because it just IS that magical, and
simple, and heartwarming.  It's a story about a family in a difficult time, much like many of ours, and I get to be the one to watch over everyone, she'd some light, adventure, and find the joy again. Another dream role would be something totally different, that pushes me outside any comfort zones. Not that Mary Poppins is comfortable! She is her own wonderful challenge, for me.

What do I do when not on stage? That is probably split between dance class and Mexican food. Or should I say, I dance so I can enjoy all the Mexican food and margaritas I want!  If I lived closer to home, I'd be withall my nieces and nephew, but I have a wonderful family of friends here that I tend to fill every moment with...always starting the day with a morning walk or run, with a friendly companion. I'm also in the market for a bike and looking for good suggestions for the city!!!

My iPod is like a tragic mix tape of awesome break-up/love songs, and then up beat, happy, dance songs.  That's what happens when you are obsessed with Sara Barielles and anyone like her. I do have a few surprises mixed in there though. None come to mind... But I know they are there!!!  

Monday, April 14, 2014

Goodbye To Bob D'Urso

Posted by: pia on Monday, April 14, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

The WBT family has lost our beloved friend Robert D'Urso. Bob has been the technical crew chief and master electrician for our theatre. He created magic at WBT for over twenty years!   Bob was a graduate of New Canaan High School.  He was an avid Mets and Jets fan. He was a beloved son, brother, best man and godfather.  His infectious smile and his kind, warm, benevolent nature will always be in our hearts. R.I.P.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Victoria Lauzun Plays Her Dream Role In RAGTIME

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 1:00:00 pm Comments (1) 3.jpg 
  I was born in Detroit, Michigan, and grew up mostly in surrounding areas such as the tiny town of Clarkston until the age of 18.
At that age, I made the move to New York to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, thankfully with the complete support of my parents.
 Victoria as Mother in Ragtime
Growing up, my biggest influences were in classical singing. My mentors were my first voice teacher, Kaye Rittinger, as well as the late renowned opera singer, Elizabeth Parcells. Surprisingly, I did not have an interest in acting until I reached high school. A friend convinced me to audition for a local community theatre, where I booked Hodel in a musical review. From that moment, my original plan to study opera began to shift over to the world of musical theatre - I was dazzled by it!
This is my first time performing "Ragtime", but Mother has been a dream role of mine for years. My first experience with the show came in the form of seeing the national tour as it passed through Detroit. I immediately went out to buy the Broadway cast recording, and began to play it nightly as the music I fell asleep to... for months! My friend and I were so blown away by the beautiful music after seeing the show, that we couldn't decide whether we'd rather be Mother and Tateh, or Sarah and Coalhouse - so we sang both. ALL the time.
Some of my favorite shows are Sweeney Todd, Kiss Me, Kate, The Music Man (In which I have had the great fortune of playing Marian Paroo at the WBT), South Pacific, West Side Story, Jekyll and Hyde, Next To Normal, Candide, and of course Ragtime, to name a few. I have already checked a couple of my dream roles off the list with Mother and Marian. At some point in my career, I would love to tackle Cunegonde in Candide, as well as Lilli Vanessi in Kiss Me, Kate.  
When not on stage, I enjoy spending time with my boyfriend Tom, walking through nature trails, bicycling, reading, playing Disney princesses at children's birthday parties, as well as watching unhealthy amounts of Family Guy.
I have a wide array of music on my Ipod. Florence + The Machine, Coldplay, Beyoncé, Frank Sinatra, Imagine Dragons, Debussy...whatever makes me feel good!
  As Marian in The Music Man


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Craig Waletzko on stage as Father in Ragtime...

Posted by: pia haas on Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 2:00:00 pm Comments (0)

Craig Waletzko (l)  as Father with Todd Ritch (as Younger Brother)

Where did you grow up? Can you share a bit about your upbringing?

I grew up mostly in Northern California, near San Jose. There’s tons of children's and community theatre there. My mom took me to a children's theatre audition for "Alice in Wonderland" in 5th grade. I got cast as King's Horseman #2.

What influenced you to become an actor? Any mentors?

I had seen Singin' in the Rain on TV when I was 7. That hooked me on the musical side. Then in 7th grade I was doing a straight play with this semi-pro theater in my hometown. I got to help one of the character men with his upcoming Julius Caesar audition - the Cassius monologue. ("The fault dear Brutus lies not in our stars but in ourselves...") Language, inflection, rhythm, emotion - HOOKED!!

When did you first hear of  RAGTIME ... Have you done the show before?

I first read the book sometime in the 80's, and I remember being surprised by how much sex was in it. When the original production came to Broadway, I wondered how they would translate it for the musical stage. AMAZED at the result. All that adult-oriented material is kept under the surface. It’s still a (mostly) family-friendly show, but for discerning adults there's a LOT more going on than just what is in the dialogue.

 I've never done the show myself before, and I’m glad to have the opportunity. (Always excited to play the less-than-lovable characters!)

 What are some of your favorite shows? What is your dream role?

Favorite show of all time: Gypsy. I’ve been in five productions (playing everything from newsboy to Tulsa to the back of the cow) including the 1989 Broadway revival with Tyne Daly. The score is amazing, but even if you take away all the songs, the book is so powerful all on its own.

Dream role: Anything that pays well, runs for years, and lets me sleep in my own bed!

What do you enjoy doing when you're not on stage?

I've been married for nearly 24 years to actress/playwright/director Joey Brenneman, and we have two daughters. So offstage life is pretty busy with volleyball practice, college applications, homework help etc. I also work in real estate with the Corcoran Group here in NYC. (Do you know anyone who's buying or selling?)

 What's on your iPod? 

Surprisingly, not a lot of show tunes. Tons of classic and not-so-classic rock, some NPR Podcasts, and I just bought the Inside Llewin Davis soundtrack.