Stories & Cast Interviews

Friday, August 22, 2014

Ken Jennings Is A Wiz Of A WIZ!

Posted by: pia on Friday, August 22, 2014 at 9:00:00 am Comments (2)

Ken Jennings, plays the title character, The Wizard Of Oz, in our Production

      I grew up in Jersey City, NJ.  1st generation Irish.  My dad was from Newry. County Down, Ireland (Northern Ireland actually - but my family wouldn't be inclined to recognize the border).  Jesuit high school.  Jesuit College.  Both in Jersey City.  Only child.  Fine and happy childhood, thanks be to God.

Always acted.  Just liked to do it.  Other kids might be playing ball.  Myself and my 2 friends, Billy and Johnny, were always making up our own scripts and acting them out.  We'd even give weekly awards for best story, actor, and director.  Went to the high school I went to (St Peter's Prep) because they did more plays and shows then the other kids (and my parents were happy to send me there - a very good Jesuit high school).  Went to college (St Peter's College) on a dramatic scholarship, even though the school had no theatre department.  It was just an extracurricular activity.

My agent submitted me for WIZARD and I got an audition and got the job.  Never did the show before.  Never worked at WBT before.  Really, really like working here.  Because the quality of the production is very high.  But, much more importantly to me, everyone has been so generous and welcoming to my 11 year old son, Brendan.  I had him with me for the first 2 weeks of August and, with the show schedule, I would never have seen him if everyone hadn't welcomed him so warmly.  He was allowed to stay backstage.  Allowed to see the show.  Given hot fudge sundaes.  Everyone has been very welcoming to both him and me.

The movie is great.  Brendan and I watched it a lot when he was younger.  We haven't watched it in a while.  But he'll be 12 in a month.  So his tastes are running to other things now.  But he saw our show 3 times in the 2 weeks that he was with me and he'll probably see it again. There are some wonderful film musicals.  

I've done many shows that I've really enjoyed.  I like playing the Wizard and doing WIZARD OF OZ because it's such a bright and positive show and I've done a lot of dark things, especially on Broadway (SWEENEY TODD, SIDESHOW, URINETOWN, GRAND HOTEL, ALL GOD'S CHILLUN' GOT WINGS - have also done comedies on Broadway, but, generally, have done some heavy and dark things).  As far as my dream role, I'd love to play Shylock again in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE.  I've played it once.  But one could return to the great Shakespearean roles again and again.  They are a deep and thrilling ocean.  I've done a number of Shakespearean comedies.  But doing Iago in OTHELLO and Shylock in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE were the most challenging and thrilling experiences I've had as an actor.  Most people would think I'm too old for Iago (he claims that he's 28 - but it's he who is doing the claiming and he might be the most brazen liar in the entire dramatic canon).  But I'm a good age for Shylock and I'd love to do it again.

When I'm not acting, I guess my delights would be my son, Brendan, and spending time with him.  He was born 2 weeks before my 55th birthday.  My only child.  Being his dad has been a challenging and joyous experience, truly a treasure.  Then chess, poetry, writing.  I try to remember to devote time to prayer and try to be aware of the aspects of being that will transcend this temporal existence - try to remember that "love is patient and kind" - am not always successful.

Don't have an Ipod.  Probably wouldn't have a computer, but a friend of mine gave me one a while back.  I found it was great for e-mail and online chess.  But I'm 66 now, be 67 in October.  I didn't grow up with these technologies.  I'm sure Brendan is much more adept at computer skills than I am.




Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Jayson Elliott "Puts 'Em Up" as The LION

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 12:00:00 pm Comments (0)

Jayson Elliott plays The Cowardly Lion in our production of The Wizard Of Oz.

     I grew up in the Midwest (Indiana) which makes playing someone from Kansas pretty easy. Haha. I played a lot of sports when I was younger but then realized there were a lot more girls in a choir room than there were in a locker room. Haha.

My high school theatre and music teachers were big influences. They took us to see many different forms of art that really opened my eyes to other things.

The Wizard of Oz was always one of my favorites! This is the second time I've been fortunate enough to play the lion. I just hope I'm doing justice to one of the most iconic characters of Americana! This is my fourth show at WBT. It's all about the staff. Casts come and go, but stage management, the crew, The Producer, Lisa, The Owners, Bill & Bob, front of house, everyone, each class acts!  And when you throw our Director, Richard Stafford, into the mix, that doesn't hurt either!

It's rough to recreate such a timeless masterpiece. But I think Richard Stafford (Director) and Jonathan Stahl (Choreographer) have done a wonderful job of paying homage to one of the most recognizable films of all time!

My favorite show is The Full Monty. It was also the first show that I did here at WBT and when I got my AEA card. Also, being a musician, I enjoy the "guitar" musicals. I've been doing a lot of The Buddy Holly Story lately playing the Big Bopper (over 400 times!)

When not on stage, I enjoy golf, music, and planning my wedding to the beautiful and WBT favorite actress, Karen Webb!

What's on my Ipod? Old Crow Medicine Show, The Avett Brothers, Zac Brown, Sturgill Simpson, and of course,  Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Richie Valens. 



Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tim Dolan Has The Brains!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 12:15:00 pm Comments (1)

A Chat with Tim Dolan... Our scarecrow in THE WIZARD OF OZ!

 I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. I have the best parents a kid could ask for! I am the youngest of three boys. Almost everyone in my family is involved in the family business: Dolan Optical. I opted to move to New York when I was 18 years old to pursue Musical Theatre and thus far it's worked out nicely! 
In second grade I took a field trip over to the High School across the street to see a student matinee of The Sound of Music. From that moment on I was utterly enthralled. It was a very exciting moment to then perform on that stage when I reached high school! My love of musical theatre was always nurtured by my Grandma Pendy as well. Every month I would drive to her house to go out to an Italian dinner and then take in whatever musical was playing at the theater near her house. Some of my fondest theatre memories are those moments spent with her on those outings. 

My first large-scale exposure to The Wizard of Oz was through my Grandma Dolan in 1995. She had heard at her local hair salon that a big national tour of The Wizard of Oz was coming to Detroit's Fox Theater. She drove downtown and purchased two tickets in the tenth row of the Orchestra section of seating. I had never seen anything so technically wonderful in all my life! The show starred a young Jessica Grove, Eartha Kitt and Mickey Rooney and was unbelievable! In college one of my dance instructors was actually the Scarecrow in that production so it was special to train with him. And to top it all off: Bill Berloni, who trained Nigel and Snickers for our production, worked on that production too! I had a wonderful conversation with him about that in rehearsals for this production of The Wizard of Oz! It was a very "full-circle" moment for me.
I actually played the Scarecrow in a production about seven years ago so those somersaults are a little harder these days!! I had forgotten how much an endurance challenge it is to flop around the stage for two and a half hours each night as the Scarecrow but I wouldn't trade it for anything! It's a blast! 
I was previously in Singin' In The Rain at WBT three years ago. I really like the fact that you can still live at home while performing at the theatre each week. I also love that they get truly wonderful talent to perform alongside from NYC. Each production at WBT is unique and wonderful and a pleasure to be a part of! 
I know the movie very well! It is one of my favorites! I think that it's hard to recreate the same magic on film as onstage. I believe that you have to honor the essence of a show in either medium but have to have very different "takes" or ideas to make each medium successful. You will never be able to recreate the exact magic of The Wizard of Oz film with all of those iconic performances. What I try to do each night is bring my own ideas of what Scarecrow is while still honoring Ray Bolger's original performance. 
My favorite shows: Little Shop of Horrors, Rent, Parade and Into The Woods. My dream role when I moved to NYC was playing Abraham in Altar Boyz and I was lucky to do that on the national tour and in the off-Broadway production in 2009. It was truly a dream come true! 
When I'm not onstage I divide my time between teaching and running my own business. I teach for Rosie O'Donnell's Theater Kids and Dreammakers Performing Arts in the Bronx. Both schools are near and dear to my heart and I love working and teaching the future generations of musical theater performers. My business is called Broadway Up Close Walking Tours. We offer walking tours of the Broadway theatre district exploring the ghost stories, anecdotes and legends that have made Broadway such a destination for millions over the past 100 years. I started it four years ago and have now grown from a staff of one (myself!) to a staff of 12 tour guides! We are currently the third highest rated walking tour in NYC out of 500 on and I couldn't be happier with its success! You can visit for more details and to book a tour! 
I don't have an iPod...does that make me old?! I don't actually listen to that much music outside of performing. I should work on that! 


Chris Kind Is A Hearty TinMan!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 12:00:00 pm Comments (1)

Chris Kind plays The Tinman in our production Of The Wizard Of Oz..


I grew up in Mankato MN.  I did my first show there, A Christmas Carol, at age 12 during which I met my wife.  Both of our parents met each other during shows as well, so I was surrounded by theatre people from the start.  


My dad and his four brothers are all theatre folk.  There was no escaping it.  Holidays are always entertaining and loud.


I've been lucky enough to play the Tinman three times now.  This is my first theatrical hat trick!  This is my first show at WBT but I hope to come back an annoying amount of times!


I love the evolution from the books to the movie and then to the stage.  The little pieces that have been added by everyone who touched it have resulted in a phenomenal show.


Some of My favorite shows are; Evil Dead the Musical, Urinetown, Litte Shop Of Horrors.  I have a dark sense of humor.  I got to play Ash in Evil Dead and it's the most fun I've ever had in my life.



When I'm not on stage I design theatrical posters ( and have my own line of miniatures for a strategy game.  Nerd alert!


My DROID is full of Tenacious D, The Electric 6, The Eagles of Death Metal and The Protomen. The last is a group that does rock operas about the video game character Mega Man.