Stories & Cast Interviews

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Leo Ash Evens "Steps In Time" as Bert!

Posted by: pia haas on Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at 2:00:00 pm Comments (0)

 I Grew up in Pittsburgh, PA.  Loved it there.  Great city for the arts.  My grandparents always took us to the theatre as a young kid, and I quickly knew it was what I want to do as a career.  My parents love the arts as well and have always been supportive of my profession.  I ended up attending Carnegie Mellon University for musical theatre which was only a half hour from home!  So once I graduated, I was hungry to exit Pittsburgh and head to the big apple!

I grew up watching the movie ANNIE all the time with my cousins. Carol Burnett was a huge influence.  Her comedy chops amazed me.  So I was always a big fan.  My mom bought me the entire Carol Burnett Show DVD set so I have every episode.  I really want to meet her.   Two other huge mentors are my parents.  I look up to their values and balance that they live their lives with.  Very inspiring.  I'm fortunate to have them. 
I certainly LOVED the movie as a kid, and wanted to be Dick Van Dyke badly.  He was effortless in his choices and had great charm.  I've always loved watching the song and dance man.  Loved him in BYE BYE BIRDIE as well.   So certainly when the show became a Broadway musical years ago, it was on my list of roles to play.  I'm thrilled to be doing it!  First time!

I love that so many musicals are being turned into films.  Musical Theatre is popular.  Very mainstream again.  Its exciting to be active in the business during such an embracing time of the arts. 
I've had the joy of playing the Emcee in CABARET  twice.  Certainly once of my favorties to date. Love  WEST SIDE STORY.  I've played Riff multiple times and have a lot of Jerome Robbins in my past.  Future roles I'd love to play...Leo Frank in PARADE, Frank 'n Furter in ROCKY HORROR, Bobby in CRAZY FOR YOU, and George in ALL MY SONS.  (to name a few ;)
I love to coach.  I am the Assistant Director of MTCA: Music Theatre College Auditions.   Its a team that preps high school students who are auditioning for BFA and BA undergraduate and graduate musical theatre and acting programs.  I am also one of the monologue coaches on the team.  Its very fulfilling to work with students during such a competitive time in their lives.  The coaching makes me a stronger actor, and the acting makes me a stronger coach. 
On my Ipod? Stevie Wonder, Bonnie Rait, Ben Folds, Pop/Dance mix that I create! ;)

With Chita Rivera & Mickey Calin                     as Riff in West Side Story.                                    as The Emcee in Cabaret.
(Original Riff - West Side Story on Bway).     
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 Haas 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.