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Monday, May 18, 2015

Allison Thomas Lee as Anita

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, May 18, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Allison Thomas Lee as Anita (left) with Carly Evans (right) as Maria in West Side Story

I was born in San Francisco but moved to Arizona with my mother when I was 3 after my parents divorced. I pretty much grew up there and moved back to San Francisco for college.  My mother put me in kiddie dance classes at  young age. Probably to give me something to do and a social outlet since it was just the two of us. I was born with dislocated hips so I was pretty flexible which made me a natural, I guess! 

I loved movies and was glued to the television 24/7 as a kid. When I started dancing, I fell in love with movie musicals-- it was the best of both worlds. As I got older, I was much more into independent films and smaller character driven movies. I was accepted to NYU out of high school but couldn't afford tuition, so I ended up going to San Francisco State to study French and minored in English Literature- quite a departure. After college I realized I still had the bug so I packed up and moved to NYC.

West Side Story was actually my second professional job ever: I performed it as part of a bus and truck tour in 1998. I knew the movie well as a kid and always dreamed of playing roles like Anita- triple threat roles where you could dance, act, and sing. This is the first show I've done here at The Westchester Broadway Theatre, and my first time playing the role. The staff is so fun! We have a great time hanging out and really enjoy each other's company. Being close to the city but not close enough forces us to stay out here and entertain each other. We drive into Tarrytown sometimes for lunch on two-show days, which is great. The Hudson River Valley is gorgeous and the drive up is beautiful.  It feels like an escape from the big city.

I had seen the West Side movie a million times, and think it's the best of its kind. There are plenty of great movie musicals and some not so great. Les Mis and Chicago were stunning, but sometimes it doesn't work quite as well. Musical theatre is such a unique genre that the smallest thing can throw it off.

Growing up as a dancer, I thought Fosse was king! I love all the roles Chita, Gwen Verdon, Liza and Ann Reinking played.  They were strong, brassy women who could do it all. As I get older, however, I am transitioning more into straight plays, film, and TV. I think it's so great that theatre actors are able to have such diverse careers; there used to be such a stigma about theatre actors not being able to translate to film and television. That's definitely not the case anymore. More and more, film and screen stars are also coming back to Broadway. There's definitely a difference in mediums, but if you understand it, I think you can excel at both.

When I'm not performing, I love seeing friends and exploring the city. There are so many amazing sights, exhibits, restaurants, and beautiful places to explore. I love to spend a whole day walking and sightseeing and eating my way around town with no thought of the business of obligations. It's like being on vacation. But given the choice, I would definitely be on vacation; I love traveling abroad.

My phone/iPod is pretty random. I grew up in the 80's, so I love cheesy, old-school tunes sometimes- anything nostalgic that reminds me of my youth. I love old-school hip hop. In college, I was definitely more alternative and loved all the Lalapalooza bands of the 90's. I definitely keep up with what's going on now and love to check out new bands, but I'd say it definitely depends on my mood... Whether I want to lift my energy or skulk around and get lost in a mood... Actors!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Mike Boland As Doc in West Side Story.

Posted by: pia on Wednesday, May 6, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Mike Boland (pictured with Zach Trimmer) plays Doc and Officer Krupke in West Side Story

                  

I grew up in Fairfield, CT, as one of six kids to an Irish Catholic family. Every house in my neighborhood had at least as many kids as we did. So it was a great place to be young. I remember we used to climb trees and have forts and where the neighbors’ garages were close to each other, we would jump from rooftop to rooftop. We’d get into trouble and have rock fights and then all be friends again. It was a lot different growing up then. We’d leave the house in the morning and our parents would expect us back for dinner. I remember hitchhiking to school when I was in first grade. It was a different time. Just writing that makes me feel old.

I was always a class clown and that’s where a lot of actors start. I think I was shy and that’s how I compensated. And I always had a loud voice, which makes theater such a comfort zone for me. I’ve played lots of huge theaters when on tour. And I don’t have any trouble reaching the back row. I had a decent part in the sixth grade production of Julius Caesar in grammar school. I had been working with the speech therapist all year because like a lot of kids, I had sort of a lisp. And my S’s were pretty messy. And when I got the role in Julius Caesar, I had a speech to close out Act 1, and there were S’s all over the place. I nailed it. It was a proud day. But I didn’t really have any interest in the discipline of acting. I preferred to just make my friends laugh and do daring, stupid, usually dangerous things to get a rise out of people.

When I was 30 I decided to give acting a try and I auditioned for a community theater play and got a good part. I immediately knew I’d found my home. And two years later, I made my professional debut at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven. In that show, “She Stoops to Conquer,” I was impressed by the comedic genius of an actor named Christopher Evan Welch. He was fearless and tireless and was always in total command of the audience. He was my first stage hero.  The director of “She Stoops” was Doug Hughes, who would win a Tony Award years later as the director of “Doubt” on Broadway. I worked for Doug three more times at Long Wharf, and in 2012, I made my Broadway debut in “An Enemy of the People” and Doug Hughes was my director. He has always been a sort of theater angel for me.  Another “mentor” for me has been Richard Thomas, who played the lead in the Broadway National Tour of “Twelve Angry Men.”  Richard played Juror 8 and I played Juror 1. Compared to a lot of the cast, my resume was pretty thin. But Richard always treated me as an equal, and when I had a stagecraft question, he would quietly give me wonderful advice. Julian Gamble, who played Juror 3, was another member of that cast who left an indelible impression on me. Those two were so specific in their stage business. I watched them very closely. And stole everything I could from them.  I performed with Richard Thomas again in “Enemy of the People” on Broadway. The theater world seems to get smaller the longer you do it.  My first acting teacher, George DiCenzo, basically summed everything up for me in about five minutes. He was a wise man who made things simple. Genius is a word thrown around lightly. I don’t think George was a genius. But he had a genius for bringing the best actor out of each of us in his class. 

Like most people of my generation, I had always been “aware” of West Side Story. But I never saw it on stage, and I never even saw the movie, until the night before I was to audition for the Broadway National Tour in 2010. I watched maybe the first hour of the film to get a feel for it. And the next day I auditioned and was offered the part of Officer Krupke on the spot.  I don’t think I really understood the brilliance of the show until we were finished with rehearsal and we began performing for a live audience 8 times a week. After the show, audience members would be waiting at the stage door, weeping. And that music took your breath away while you waited in the wings. We performed that show almost 700 times over two years. We played in virtually every major city in the United States. We also played in Canada and we opened the brand new Theater Orb in downtown Tokyo on our final trip of the tour.  The second year of the tour, I played Lt. Schrank.  Most of that cast has since performed on Broadway. And two of our cast members are stars of their own TV shows. Kyle Harris, who was our first year Tony, is now the lead in the new TV show “Stitchers.” And Grant Gustin, our first year Baby John, is now a major star, playing the superhero lead on TV’s “The Flash.”  When we were in Tokyo in the summer of 2012, as we were all getting ready to say our goodbyes to West Side Story, I got word that I had been cast in my first Broadway show. That’s a memory I will never forget. The entire cast knew I was up for the part, and we all celebrated when I got the news. You really get close to people when your tour with them for two years. 

The most interesting thing I think I’ve ever done onstage is “The Orphans’ Home Cycle,” which was a three-part, nine hour show. Actually, it was sort of a theater mini-series. It was both very experimental in the packaging and in the staging. But also very traditional in the storytelling. The piece was written by the great Horton Foote, and we performed it just months after he died in 2009, first at Hartford Stage, and then transferred to Off-Broadway in November 2009 to May 2010. We won the Drama Desk, NY Critics’ Circle, Outer Critics’ Circle and Lortel Awards. And we made a memory that I will always carry with me. Truly life-changing theater.  One of my bucket list roles had always been Mitch in “Streetcar Named Desire.” But I think I’m too old for it now. So I will have to find a new one. Arthur Miller wrote a lot of great characters for actors of my type. And one of my favorite plays – “August Osage County” (the play, not the movie) has lots of good roles for me. I just have to convince someone else of that.  The second time I did “Twelve Angry Men,” in 2013 at the Engeman Theater, I got to play the amazing role of Juror 3. That was like a dream and I would do that again in a heartbeat. 

When I’m not on stage, I’m a bit of a sports nut. Love the Yankees and UConn basketball. I also am a writer. I’ve also been developing an original web series, writing screenplays and considering taking a crack at a novel. 

My IPod has a lots of classic rock from my era, like Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, The Eagles, Van Morrison, stuff like that. But I have more Tom Waits than anything else on there. It’s the kind of music that connects you with your spirit, I think. It makes me want to create something when I hear his music. I hear Tom Waits is also a big West Side Story fan, and when we were out on tour in San Jose, CA, near where he lives, I tried to get an invite to him to see our show. But I didn’t have any luck. My newest addition to my Ipod is Elle King, who pretty much kicks ass.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Xavier Reyes as Chino

Posted by: pia on Tuesday, May 5, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Xavier Reyes Plays Chino in our production of West Side Story!

I am a native islander! I grew up in  Guaynabo, Puerto Rico and moved to NY 4 years ago to pursue my college education. My family is very close together and we always spend time with one another. My family is my EVERYTHING and I am quite lucky to have them. I love and miss home every day, Puerto Rico. I wish I was there but the craft calls.

I decided to pursue acting in trying to find myself, so I would say that I influenced myself to become an actor. The theater was the only place that allowed me to escape reality and become other people. The fact that I can change people and the world each day keeps me moving forward. The first time I was onstage was 1999 and It was thanks to my father when he made me attend “some rehearsal” to be in a musical. I clearly remember moments of me sneaking around the audience and watching the show and wishing I could be the lead and have lines. I would always stay in the wings no matter what. It just felt so magical! In terms of mentors I owe everything to people like Jacqueline Duprey, Cynthia Henderson, Paula Cole, Mary Corsaro, Roy Lighner, Michael Kaplan, Norm Johnson and others!

The first time I heard of the show was in a middle school history class. Then I studied it  in college and dreamt of one day being Anita. I clearly remember asking my dance teacher at the moment, Roy Lightner, if I could do the combination in heels! This is my first time doing this show and I’m quite lucky to be part of this story concerning my people!   

I think that live musicals made into films do not do justice to the kind of magic experienced on stage at a live performance. 

Some of my favorite shows are Next To Normal, RENT, In the Heights, Kinky Boots, and La Cage Aux Folles.  I have a lot of dream roles which include Tituba in The Crucible, Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest, Belize in Angels in America, all the drag roles in theatre, all the Stephen Adly Guirgis roles, Sonny in In The Heights, Zaza and Jacob in La Cage Aux Folles and…I’ll stop here because honestly I want to do any role that's fulfilling and changes people. 

When I'm not onstage I love watching indie films, reading, auditioning, eating, drinking wine, being outside, observing, and dreaming. 

 Some of the things on my phone are my to do list, Dating Apps, tons of selfies, and Spotify. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Brandon Contreras as Bernardo

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, May 4, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Brandon Contreras (c) plays Bernardo in our Production of West Side Story!                                                                                                                                                            

 

I'm a native New Yorker! I was born and raised for a bit on the upper west side!  My parents relocated to Jackson, NJ in my teenage years.  So, I consider NJ a big part or my home/upbringing as well! I'm a New Yorker and a Jersey Boy

My sister Influenced me to pursue theater. My aunt taught us how to sing when we were young from Disney movies. And my sister started doing theater first. I always sang in choir and did some shows, but it wasn't until I saw my sister in the role of Tuptim in The King and I, that I realized I wanted to tell stories and share them with an audience.

West Side Story is actually my Dad's favorite musical/movie, so, I was introduced to it at a very young age. Also, the fact that Puerto Ricans had a substantial role in the musical and film, was significant.   It was a big eye opener for me on learning about who I was.  It shed light on the history of what my grandparents came here to do and how they assimilated. I have never done the show before and I'm so grateful that I am finally performing one of my dream roles.

I think stage musicals made into films are fantastic, even if they're changed a bit for the screen (as long as the same message is clear). Through these movie musicals, we are able to introduce such a rich culture to people who, otherwise, may not have the means or the opportunity to experience. Music and the arts change lives and if we're able to capture that on film and distribute it around the world, then how exciting is that?!

Some of my favorite shows include, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Fun Home, The Light in the Piazza, In the Heights, and the upcoming Hamilton.

My dream role would definitely have to be Fabrizio in The Light in the Piazza. It's always been a dream of mine. Especially after seeing it with Aaron Lazar! That role and its arc are a dream come true.

When not on stage, I love hanging out with my family. They're the greatest. I love cooking and trying new foods. I Love to read and get crafty. I'm trying to find new hobbies, such as rock climbing at Brooklyn Boulder and learning beginner violin!

Some apps that I can't live without are Instagram, Pinterest, Netflix, and Spotify (because I don't carry music on my iPhone) I love to listen to all music really, from Gavin DeGraw to JLo, Mumford and Sons to Justin Timberlake.