Judy Garland on the MGM recording stage, Photo credit: The John Fricke Collection.
n i p e e bl inside: 22
5 QUESTIONS WITH MICHAEL MCARTHUR
LIFE IS GRAND
TITUSS BURGESS BREAKS THROUGH
Michael McArthur caught the attention of GRAMMY Award-winning Producer, David Bianco and the two teamed up to produce his debut full-length album, “Magnolia.” Now, he’s caught our attention too.
He took the internet by storm with his song “All-American Boy.” Now, Steve Grand talks to BLEEP about being labeled a country artist, being an out musician and what to expect on his album.
The man who wowed in Jersey Boys, The Little Mermaid and Guys and Dolls on Broadway, then became a fan favorite on 30 Rock, has brought new meaning to ‘pinot noir’ and helped make “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” Netflix’s newest smash.
MAX & SHRED
THE STORY BEHIND “OVER THE RAINBOW”
The cast of Nickelodeon’s newest hit series talks to BLEEP about working together, juggling work with school and friends, and what they’ve learned so far on the set.
The great-grandson of “The Wizard of Oz” lyricist Yip Harburg, Aaron Harburg, has begun work on “The Sound of Oz,” a documentary film that will detail the relationship his great-grandfather shared with composer Harold Arlen and will celebrate the history and impact their songs have had on pop culture. We talk to Harburg about his family legacy and the goal of his documentary on the most famous song ever recorded.
BLEEP OUR. TEAM. RYAN BRINSON Editor-in-Chief
SARAH ROTKER Business & Audience Development Manager PABLO SALINAS Social Media Associate COVER PHOTOGRAPHER: Michael Young FEATURE EDITORS: Nathan Robins
The Austrian musician actress known for her roles in television shows “Die Geschworene” and “SOKO Donau” has a new album on the way. We talk about the state of music currently.
ALEXANDER FOST The “So You Think You Can Dance” favorite talks about his love of dance, what the show taught him and where he’s headed next.
Photo by Jono
DALAL TAKES OVER
CONTRIBUTORS: Caleb Bollenbacher Rachael Mariboho Hatley Moore Laura Seitter Alex Wright FEATURE CONTRIBUTORS: Florian Hubertus WEB CONTENT: Sheena Wagaman All articles and photos are the property of the writers and artists. All rights reserved.
From the Editor The last time I interviewed Tituss Burgess, we talked about his “30 Rock” character D’Fwan and I got to take a picture with the actual bottle of “D’Fwine.” This time, we talked about his “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” character and his catchphrase-gone-viral “Peeno Noir.” Over the past few years of knowing Burgess as a friend, we have shared our fair share of wine and conversation. Not only is he even more talented than people have seen on TV, (the living room singalongs that take place in his apartment are better than most Broadway shows) but he’s one of the most warm, caring, and attentive friends someone can ask for. He’s incredibly dedicated to the people in his life and goes out of his way to make sure they feel validated and important. The fact that he’s exploded onto the pop culture landscape isn’t surprising to those of us who know him. It’s almost as if he’s been waiting in the wings for just the right moment/project to come along. He says in our interview that he’s finally found “his people,” those people being Tina Fey and Robert Carlock who created this part with him in mind, and he’s reveling in being able to bring this part of him out and onto TV
and computer screens everywhere. This marks his second time being interviewed for BLEEP. He joins an exclusive group of only 4 artists who have graced our pages twice (Broadway singer Ariana DeBose, YouTube sensation Miranda Sings and Birdland Jazz Club legend Jim Caruso are the others) and the reason for that is simple: Tituss is the real deal. I’ve interviewed artists who have tremendous gifts on stage, but off stage are not who you’d hope they would be. That’s not the case with Mr. Burgess. His character shines through everything he does and I hope this is only the kick-off of great things for him. It’s an honor to have him grace our cover and to celebrate this new and exciting chapter in his life. So, I lift my glass of Pinot and say, “Cheers to you T. This is only the beginning.”
Ryan Brinson Editor-in-Chief BLEEP 5
BLEEPblips “Struck” by PMT Dance Company On Saturday, March 7th, the Pavan Thimmaiah led PMT Dance Company presented their new work, “Struck,” at the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. Narrated through original music and brought to life by the talented dancers of PMT Dance Company. Fusing dance styles from contemporary to break dancing, PMT gave the audience reason to cheer. As the creator of “Struck” 2014, Thimmaiah has his hands in every aspect, from choreography to being a lead dancer to writing and producing two original songs. He’s a leader in a new wave of dance that is taking audiences beyond the stage show and leading them into a dance experience. You’ll want to make sure you dont miss their next performance. www.pmtdancecompany.org
From Harlem’s Cotton Club to the Golden Age of Hollywood, Harold Arlen’s natural ease for jazz and blues gave him a distinct voice in the Great American Songbook. Inspired by their mutual love for the strain of an Arlen tune, Broadway leading lady Teal Wicks (Finding Neverland, Wicked, Jekyll and Hyde) and music director Steven Jamail offer an intimate evening of song exploring the work of their favorite composer.
The music of Harold Arlen sung by Broadway’s best - a night you don’t want to miss
Where did the concept of doing a Harold Arlen concert come from? TEAL: Harold Arlen is one of my favorite composers hands down and I have been dying to do a concert of his music. One day over coffee or night over drinks I mentioned this to Steven and he tells me how much he loves Arlen, so we just made a pact we do an Arlen concert together. And now it’s happening! What’s an example of one of his songs and why that song particularly resonates with you? TEAL: “Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home.” There is such an ease yet drive to that song which completely evokes the wandering spirit. And what I especially love about an Arlen tune is his sense of the blues that I can hear in almost every song of his- there’s heartache and unrest, yet there’s a laid back and very earthy quality that pours over you when you hear it. STEVEN: “Get Happy.” It’s everything that’s good about Arlen. He could take a dark, dark lyric from one of the many greats he worked with and find the light in it. There’s just something about the upwards movement in the music that makes the “other side” not sound so bad. This evening is full of some great guests? What are these vocalists going to bring to the concert experience? TEAL: Aside from amazing vocals and great storytelling... I hope our friends will bring their own interpretations of the music and a joy for this music. What sets this concert apart from others at 54 Below? STEVEN: It’s a true love letter to an underrated genius. Teal is mind-blowing and every single guest on the program is an exceptional storyteller as well as being some of the most versatile vocalists in the business. And come on, who doesn’t want to hear some former witches put their own spin on all those Oz tunes? Head over to www.54Below.com to get your tickets for the April 12th show now!
by Alex Wright
Equity in flux The headline today in the LA news was as followed: “ACTORS TAKE TO THE STREETS OF LA AND TELL THEIR OWN UNION: ‘F*CK YOU!’” As over-dramatic as this headline might seem, what is happening between the Actors’ Equity Association, the national stage union, and actors is nothing less than a pivotal moment in the future artistic landscape of Los Angeles. Equity has proposed to edit one of the major tenants of the Los Angeles theatrical scene, the 99-seat waiver theater contract. The contract, which has been in existence for over 30 years, allows smaller theatrical venues to pay their “volunteer actors” a stipend of between $7-$19 per performance. The new plan proposed by Equity would require these theaters to pay their actors minimum wage for performances and rehearsals. Sounds great on paper, doesn’t it? The problem is that most of these smaller theaters already have a difficult time paying their actors the required $7 per performance. Equity has yet to be able to explain to actors and producers from where this minimum wage payment will be allotted. As it stands, a change like this would put many small theaters out of business, and will leave many actors without a place to stretch and hone their skills. The 99 seat theater scene has become an incubator for new playwrights, an experimental venue for directors, a welcome return for veteran actors between film shoots, and a training ground for new actors. Helen Mirren, Ed Harris, Frances Fisher, Jeff Perry, French Stewart, Tim Robbins, and Al Pacino are a few of the superstars who are lending their voices towards a no-vote on this proposal. What stands out to me is just how resounding this “NO” vote has been from the actors in Los Angeles. Of course we all want
to make more money; that would be fabulous! But that isn’t why anyone does theater. No one promises you tons of money when you decide a life in the theater, and if someone has promised you that, then they’re a liar and you’re a fool. Life in the theater has always been a commitment to working hard for pennies, or in some cases, crumbs. It’s a life where you are rewarded with an equally crazy and passionate family of artists; where your post-show dinners at 2 AM and your stale coffee fixes pre-rehearsal are what you need to feel fulfilled as an artist; it’s where you look forward to arriving after you leave your “normal job” at 5 PM. Taking away these opportunities would mean sacrificing artistry for commercialism. Theater is where you problem solve, it’s where you fundraise, where you discover what it really means to work as a team, where you “make it work” and where the “show must go on”, where you break a leg and mend some hearts and raise a toast. It’s not where you put producers and directors out of a job because you want a few more dollars per hour. I’m so proud to call myself a member of the professional Los Angeles theater community. We are professionals because we work. We are professionals because we give a damn. We are professionals because we show up, work hard, and strive to make the most of what we have. We don’t rank our success by the money we make per hour—save that for the cereal commercials. We rank our success by the growth we can see in the theater community that we serve, and Los Angeles theater has been rapidly growing over the last decade. You can’t put a price on that. So, Equity, please, for the love of God, don’t pay us more…just give us our theater back.
the intersection by
Getting caught in the web Spider-Man is coming home. By now the news that Spidey is making his way to the Marvel Cinematic Universe – a decision spurred by the universally negative response to the dumpster fire that was Sony’s last “Spider-Man” film – isn’t exactly news. It’s been confirmed for a while now, everyone’s favorite webhead is off to join the Avengers and all the franchise options that entails. That’s not the story anymore. What is still drawing everyone’s attention, and will continue to do so until a casting announcement is made, is the identity of this shiny new Spider-Man, not the actor under the mask but the character that actor will be playing. Will Spider-Man be the Peter Parker we’ve all known and loved? Or will we see a fresh face under the mask with a secret identity all their own? To be more specific, the fresh face I’m talking about is one Miles Morales, who has been one of Marvel’s breakout starts over the last few years. Created to fill the void left in Marvel’s Ultimate line of comics (a reimagining of their comic book universe that stands in a separate
continuity) after the death of that universe’s Peter Parker, Miles Morales has been a big hit within the comic community from day one, and it’s easy to see why. He’s funny, friendly, and as written by fan-favorite creator Brian Michael Bendis, he bring an air of authenticity to the table, one that would make him an easy fit in your own circle of friends. This character is, above all else, real. And that’s why Miles Morales should be the next Spider-Man. Here’s the thing about Spider-Man, the reason he’s been one of the shiniest of stars in all of comic book mythology: he’s a true everyman. The X-Men have their strange mutant powers, Superman is from another planet, and even Batman, while not having powers, has an endless supply of cash to outfit himself with all the toys he needs to crusade against crime. Spidey has powers you may say, and while I’d argue that it could have been anyone getting bitten by that spider, it’s a fair point either
way. But in addition to his powers, Spider-Man has problems. He always has, that’s his thing. Almost nowhere else do you see a superhero struggling with how to pay the rent, visiting a sick relative in the hospital, or showing up to a date on time. These are all problems that any member of the audience will be able to relate to in a way that no other hero provides. Back to Miles. All those problems I just mentioned could be easily tied to fifty years worth of the mythology revolving around Peter Parker as Spider-Man. The thing is, those are problems that Miles Morales has dealt with, just like you or I have. The entire concept of Miles Morales is that it really could have been anyone who was bitten by a radioactive spider and given extraordinary powers. Maybe one of the eight-legged science experiments got to a Peter Parker out there, but maybe there was another one left roaming around to find Miles Morales. Maybe the next one bites me or you. The nature of fantasy is that it provides an escape, lets us see our world in a way we might not be capable of seeing on our own. The beauty of Miles Morales’ character is that he encapsulates that escapism so perfectly, by hammering home this accessibility for anyone in the audience. It’s not just that Miles is of Black Hispanic descent (though that
in itself is extremely important), it’s that he’s not Peter Parker. Don’t get me wrong; I love Peter Parker. He’s one of my favorite characters in all of comics, and I tend to engage with him as a person far more than with him as a masked hero. But at the end of the day Peter Parker isn’t me, and as much as I’d like to draw comparisons between the two of us, that’s never going to change. Miles Morales isn’t me either, but he’s someone else, someone new, and he’s proof that heroes are more than just characters in tights, they’re people who are trying to do the right thing. They’re people who put others first. They’re people like you and me. To me, that’s a beautiful invitation. There are plenty of reasons that Miles Morales would be an exciting change of pace in the cinematic representation of Spider-Man, just as he has been on the pages of the comics, but this is first and foremost. He’s a friendly reminder that your friendly neighborhood superheroes don’t have to be shoehorned into any one identity; instead they’re something to be shared. Now on to the other casting question we’ve all been wondering about: will Marvel be able to find someone who can keep acting after being hit by a falling Spider-Man?
The Cocktail Connoisseur
As the weather warms with the arrival of spring and the anticipation of summer it’s hard not to let one’s mind wander to thoughts of golden days on tropical beaches. Thankfully there is one spirit that may stave off the thirst for tropical climes for a time, rum. Though often seen as an ingredient used in neon hued party concoctions there is a refined side to rum that shouldn’t be disregarded. It is a spirt steeped in history, and dazzlingly varied in taste and application.
Though the production of alcohol from sugar laden juices dates back to time immemorial the rise of true rum goes hand in hand with the rise of sugar cane plantations in the Caribbean. The spirits role in history is undeniable, contributing to the escalation of the slave trade from Africa, serving as medium of exchange, and in-part fueling the American Revolution through the declaration of the Molasses Act. Rum is made from either the juice of the aforementioned sugar cane or molasses, a byproduct of refining the raw cane juice. This, in the production of rum, is largely where similarities end. Differences in the process of fermenting, distilling and aging in different countries and distilleries contribute to the great variance found in rum and its cousins like cachaça and charanda. Throughout the Caribbean rum varies greatly from country to country, yet there are some notable trends in traits. Rums originating in historically English speaking countries, Belize, Jamaica, and Barbados to name a few, often preserve stronger molasses flavors and are often darker and more full bodied. Puerto Rico, Columbia, Cuba and other Spanish speaking countries tend to produce somewhat smother, less bold rums. French
speaking countries such as Haiti and Martinique produce rums largely from raw cane juice, sometimes called rhum agricole, or agricultural rums. Recipes Being such a versatile spirit rum is found in countless cocktails, shots and punches. Presented here are a variant of a notable classic, the daiquiri and something older and uncommon today, bumbo. The daiquiri, sadly today most often seen in psychedelically colored frozen form, is traditionally made with just three simple ingredients: white rum, simple syrup and lime juice. Ernest Hemmingway purportedly preferred his less sweet and with the addition of grapefruit juice. Breaking with the Caribbean flair, in this variant a spectacular American silver rum call Privateer out of Ipswich, Massachusetts is used, though another high quality silver rum can take its place. To keep from muddying the flavors of a rum good enough to drink neat additions are kept light, the traditional lime juice and a pear soda flavored with honey to add a hint of sweetness and additional layers of flavor. Bumbo was a drink popular during the early days of colonization, being favored by pirates over the grog of the Royal Navy and appreciated in the American colonies, often being gifted to voters during elections. With only two ingredients providing much flavor, the rum and cinnamon, it is important to choose a complex dark rum - the nearly black rums of Jamaica and Barbados being prime choices. When spices are added to a drink they can produce a gritty mouthfeel, to limit this a drink can be strained through a fine mesh sieve to remove some of the spice while it’s retaining flavor. Though ice was likely in short supply at the height of bumbo’s popularity it is enjoyable well chilled.
Not So Classic Daiquiri 2 oz. Privateer Silver Rum 1 oz. Sipp Pear Soda 1 oz. Fresh Lime Juice Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, swirl and strain into a saucer glass.
Bumbo on Ice 2 oz. Very Dark Rum 1 oz. Water 2 tsp. sugar Dash of Allspice or Cinnamon Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake hard and strain through a fine mesh sieve into a rocks glass filled with ice.
“Where We Started” & Beyond Chris Hansen, director of films such as “Endings” and “The Proper Care” and “Feeding of an American Messiah,” created an amazing independent film last year, “Where We Started.” The film is a brave drama that takes place almost entirely at a hotel. It is about two people deciding whether or not they want to have an affair, and it works beautifully. The harsh realism, the challenges it presents to the audience and to the characters, and the overall concept of the film are a huge risk that Hansen accomplishes with charisma and talent that is inspiring to myself, and to other aspiring filmmakers out there. I got the opportunity to sit down with Hansen and talk with him about the film. My goal is to share with aspiring filmmakers what it looks like to successfully make a great indie film when you’re not internationally known, and to walk you through what this looks like. Interview by Hatley Moore
Photo by MINERVA HOUSE
How did you come to make “Where We Started?” I joked after “Endings,” my next movie is going to be two people, talking in a white room with air conditioning. And that’s pretty much what we did. It became a challenge of sorts to see if I could write something that was much more contained. When John Hughes died, somebody who had worked with him wrote a remembrance of working with him on a script that never got made, and if you heard it described, it would remind you of “Where We Started.” It was just two people stuck at a hotel, bonding over movies and music and whatnot. From just that kernel, I wanted to write my version of what that would be, and so the John Hughes references in the movie are a homage to just that. My idea focused much more on the theme of infidelity and whether these people would go through with it, what that would mean in their life if they did, and more importantly why they were doing it. Was the topic of infidelity something that just came to you or was this something you thought would be an interesting topic to dive into? It was more of the latter. My wife and I had seen a lot of people who had been married and had gone through divorces, some for infidelity, some for other reasons, but it just struck me. [We] have had conversations like, ‘why did this happen? How did this happen to these people?’ so I think it was that being in my mind, and the John Hughes thing giving me the idea for a very contained story, that was the inspiration. It’s interesting to me, because I see a lot of indie filmmakers think they have to have a crazy concept or something to stand out on a wide scale, but yours is very real and honest
without the craziness, and it worked so well. I agree, and I think it’s my best film, by far. I tried crazy concepts with the other films, but I truly think this is the best. In fact, it played in less festivals than “American Messiah” did, and that has always bugged me, because I thought, I like “American Messiah,” but this is a much better movie. It’s much more mature storytelling. But “American Messiah” is funny, so more people are going to want to see Director Chris Hansen that, and that’s one of the lessons I learned at festivals. It’s a business, and part of the business is getting butts in the seats. The reality is that people are motivated by celebrities and genre. So, if I’m going to make a movie like “Where We Started,” I know that it won’t be as enticing to watch as something like “American Messiah.” I’ve seen that there’s a lot of unrealistic expectation with filmmakers making
their movies. If you want your indie film to be successful, get a celebrity, bottom line. You know, and that won’t make it successful, but you almost have no shot otherwise. I think “Where We Started,” I’m very proud of that work, but if I had cast two people who were B-level celebrities, that movie would be a whole different experience. If you could somehow do this, this is like a fantasy, if you could have those two celebrities give the exact same performances as were given by the two actors who did the movie, people would have gone to see the movie and festivals would have screened it. So yeah, there are other factors of course like genre type, but getting a celebrity changes everything. You could make a lowbudget horror film without celebrities, and sure that could get picked up, but making a drama with no celebrities, it’s like winning the lottery if that gets picked up. So you ended up casting two actors married
to each other to play these characters that are going to have an affair, yet the reviews of their chemistry are all over the place. It’s funny reading the reviews. The LA Weekly talked about how great the chemistry was between the actors, and the LA Times is like, these people have no chemistry. And the people who figured out they were married in real life, said things like, ‘Oh, they’re married in real life which is why they don’t have any chemistry on screen,’ and I’m like, what? I think they have a lot of chemistry.
How did you get the money for this? Pre-planning was crucial. I received some grants. We tried Kickstarter, didn’t hit our goal, but I emailed everyone who contributed and said, hey we didn’t raise it but if you were still willing to give, we could still really use the money. Almost all of them gave! Then a guy I knew with a studio donated his studio for the six weeks of prep and shoot, so we built the entire set in that studio. And it was a beautiful set, it was fantastic, and not having to pay a rental fee was amazing.
Well, it’s not supposed to feel comfortable, is it? Oh absolutely not, and I think that’s where people were conflicted with the chemistry. Someone I knew had read my script, and said she wanted them to be together, then she felt bad about that, and I said, that’s how you’re supposed to feel! That was my goal, because I wanted you to feel the way they feel, which is they want to be together, they have a bond and think maybe this is the person I should have been with. If the audience feels that with them, then the audience is in their shoes and is on the journey with them. Honestly, I think for some people that doesn’t work for them or don’t want to go that deep.
How was it shot? It was mostly shot in order. We tried to at least, we wanted to be hitting the big emotional beats at the end of shooting, and because we had that home base to keep coming back to, which was the studio, we were able to do that. Now what hurt us was when the exterior hotel site threw us off after two nights. So we had to shoot a whole bunch that was originally going to be shot over several nights, all in one night.
Did the script evolve from the beginning to the end? Yes, I wanted this process to be one where we could all be involved in and enjoy. I started to realize, after the previous movies, that I’m so focused on the end result that I was missing the journey. So the journey was: let’s work together to make this something really great. I pitched the actors the idea before I had a script, and they said they were in, so they helped me to craft the characters. Some of the stories that their characters tell come straight from their own lives. So it wasn’t difficult to have others offer opinions in your vision? Ordinarily, it may, but this time it didn’t and I think that’s because it just really worked. They were trying to contribute to the vision, but they were deferring to me to make the final decision. It was a very collaborative process and they were very involved, and what I think they realized is that they were focused on their own character, while Chris was focused on the whole thing, and their contributions are all over that film.
What do you think is important for aspiring filmmakers to know? One thing I think is crucial to know is that it is increasingly unrealistic for filmmakers to expect to make a living doing just independent films. I mean, I don’t make my living making movies, but it is part of my career. If you are one of the few who is lucky enough to be a studio filmmaker, sure you’ll make a great living. But if you want to make independent films full time, there just isn’t enough money in it. So you have to ask, how can I be an artist and do what I want to do, and live another way? It’s definitely a challenging piece for the audience. Do you ever take the bad reviews as a compliment of sorts? Sometimes I do, it honestly depends on the mood I’m in. It was funny, when I was in LA for the opening, waiting on the reviews from the Weekly and the Times, when they came out, the Times disliked the movie for all of the reasons the Weekly liked it. Point for point, it was such a picture for me of how subjective the critiquing process of reviewing is. There are objectively things that are good and bad, we can all point to those, but that day it didn’t bother me because it was a point/ counterpoint, two people, one who got the movie and really liked it, and one who saw it and didn’t like it for the exact same reasons
“Where We Started” photos by Taylor Rudd
the other person liked it. Do you think it’s okay to fail? You have to embrace the fact that failure is inevitable. Ira Glass said a great statement about how your tastes and your abilities don’t match up at first. You have great taste and you like all these movies, so you try to make something and it doesn’t work at all. Why is it not like those movies you watch? It’s because your taste is really good, but your abilities are not there yet. So, it’s a process and journey of continuing to work at it. You just have to know that the first few films you make are not the ones you’re going to want to show anybody, but if you keep doing it, you start hitting your stride. I don’t think I could have made “Where We Started” had I not made the films before it. I just got better over time, and I couldn’t have done that had I not made the mistakes before. If you were going to give advice to someone who wanted to make a movie focusing on the story and characters, what would you say? It’s a flip the coin strategy, I think, of which side are you going to choose. The first option is find a way to cast someone who is known
in the movie, like I touched on earlier. The other side is, make the movie that you want to make, but be prepared for that to be all you accomplish. Finding satisfaction in the process is something I learned in “Where We Started.” If I come away from this movie with nothing else, I made the movie I wanted to make and I really enjoyed making it. And it’s hard, there will be many rejections, but I found that even with those rejections, I could still go back to the film and how much I enjoyed the process of creating it. One thing I try to teach is that this is all a journey and as an artist, you have to keep trying to stay on this journey. To do that, you have to keep doing stuff, and if you don’t keep doing that, you won’t keep growing as an artist. And that is crucial. “Where We Started” is available on Amazon Prime, and several other places, all easily accessible on www.hansenfilms.com.
BLEEP CREATIVITY. UNCENSORED.
by Laura Seitter
Everyone’s a critic As much as I enjoy writing about “my take” on film and television, I must say I really, really love reading the opinions and impressions that other writers put out there. Within the depths of the Interwebs there is no shortage of judgment on any and every project, performance or piece that hits the screen, and I frequently fill my downtime by surfing various websites and blogs, reading movie reviews, perusing TV show recaps, hunting spoiler chats, and analyzing press releases. Whether it’s a Pulitzer-prize winning editorial about censorship in documentary filmmaking or a GIF-driven Buzzfeed “article” about how Marvel movies give us all the feels, the feedback of a few can often define the consensus of the whole. That’s not necessarily a great thing, though. In the churn of articles and tweets and blog posts that swirl around any particular picture, it’s easy to not only miss the point of the piece, but we can miss out on our own individual connection to a project of passion. One of the weekly online posts I regularly stalk is Vulture’s Stay Tuned, a “TV advice column” written by Margaret Lyons. A platform mostly for recommendations, one of the most common conundrums in the column is letter-writers who are seeking either validation or pardon for not connecting to a particular show. Lyon’s advice to readers, to watch shows they enjoy and not waste time jumping on some bandwagon, ought to be viewership common sense. But far too often I find people, myself included, believing that assessment is more significant than craft. The late Roger Ebert, Pulitzer-prize winning movie critic, wrote a blog post in 2008, “You Give Out Too Many Stars,” discussing his tendency to rate films higher, on average, than his peers. This critique of his critiques was perplexing; are we rooting for movies to not be enjoyable? In defense of an over-abundance of stars, Ebert
wrote, “If my admiration for a movie is inspired by populism, politics, personal experience, generic conventions or even lust, I must say so. I cannot walk out of a movie that engaged me and deny that it did.” We ought to understand, as Ebert did, that movies (or TV shows, or documentaries, or plays…) are not made for everyone in the audience, but rather for those who can find a connection, an appreciation for the production. Those who have an affinity for horror films will be on the hunt for the next most excellently gruesome spinetingler, while fans of the sweeping melodramas will seek to watch a new love affair for the ages. There are certain expectations that have to be met: actors must give a reasonably compelling performance, and editors must ensure the movie is paced correctly. But a picture can be laudable in it’s own right, without having to stand up against any perceived qualifier. Not every movie has to be “Citizen Kane,” thank heavens. The month of April is like a valley between the two peaks of Awards Season and Summer Blockbusters. Folks have finally given up trying to work out what the hell happened at the end of “Birdman,” and are about to start pulling out their Captain America costumes for the “Avengers: Age of Ultron” premiere. I recommend spending this downtime expanding your repertoire of taste. Instead of focusing on all the buzz-worthy productions everyone is already talking about, shake up that Netflix algorithm and watch a few movies that aren’t in your recommendation queue. Enjoy meeting a new character, getting lost in a new setting, without analyzing what the rest of the world might think. Find your own individual connection to the story. In this case, I’d say the best way to do that is to not reach for the stars.
Michael McArthur five
questions with 22 BLEEP
Last year, Michael McArthur caught the attention of GRAMMY Award-winning Producer, David Bianco and the two teamed up to produce his debut fulllength album, “Magnolia.” Now, he talks to BLEEP about the vibe of the album and playing on the same stage that the King played on.
colors and detail of soul.
What sets “Magnolia” apart from other music that’s being made today? Honesty. With Magnolia, I set out to create the most honest listening experience I could. No fluff, no distraction, just raw emotion and soul. We used all real instruments and organic sound, and recorded most of it live as a band to capture plenty of the human element. This is sort of a lost art approach, but best suited for the lyrics. These songs are the sight glass to my life; a glimpse to the most personal parts of me. When you’re listening to Magnolia, you’re getting the torn out chapters. It’s not easy being so honest though. You’ve got to cut yourself open for the world to see and hope everybody’s okay with it. Truth is, you can’t get people to really listen unless you’re giving them something honest and real.
What are your interests beyond music? What occupies your free time and keeps you creatively fueled? Good people, road trips, camping, coffee, the coasts, culture, kombucha, good food, a great film or TV series, red wine, bourbon, and craft beer (is it bad to have 3 boozy interests in a row?).
Your album release show on April 10th is at the Polk Theatre, a place where Elvis played 50 years ago. Later this year, you’re opening for The Beach Boys. What musicians have inspired and informed your sound and love of music? I was a singer first. I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember. I cut my teeth singing along to Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. Even then, I was drawn to artists like that. You know the music is made for the soul when a five year old feels it. I started playing guitar when I was 15 because I wanted to sing my own songs. And at the time, I was really inspired by John Mayer and his ability to braid pop with soul and blues, just like Stevie and James Taylor. That’s what I wanted to do, take my love for pop music and paint it with the vibrant
When someone comes to a Michael McArthur show, what can they expect? Me singing and playing my heart out. I do a lot of stripped down sets. I’m lucky to get to play these songs how they were written. Just a guitar and a voice. Lately, it’s been me on an acoustic and Josh Davis playing an electric. Makes for a cool and intimate vibe.
What’s next for you? Aside from getting “Magnolia” in front of as many ears as I can, it’s back to the books. I’ve got so much to learn. I’m a forever student of the craft. I’ll spend the rest of my life discovering the ins and outs.
For more on Michael and for tickets to his upcoming concerts, head over to www.michaelmcarthurmusic.com
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photos by Tricia Baron BLEEP 27
It’s no secret that dance-based exercise classes have been sweeping the fitness world for several years. Blending popular dance styles with a cardiovascular workout, the diverse range of classes has been growing minute by minute. Here in the musical theatre capital of the world, it was only a matter of time before the trend came to Broadway. So get out your tap shoes, Frances – it’s time for CardioTapNYC. How did CardioTapNYC begin? What method did you use to come up with the routines to get the best workout? Krystle Armstrong, co-founder: The birth of CardioTapNYC™ came about in 2009 when Kristin (Holland) and I (Krystle Armstrong) were prepping for a show at Village Theatre in Seattle (the show, of course, was 42nd Street). We both loved fitness and have strong backgrounds in dance and teaching, but we wanted to be in great cardiovascular shape and strength for the show. Finding it difficult to be motivated by the mundane repetition of the treadmill, we decided to rent a room and tap dance for an hour, twice and week, and see what happened. After 30 minutes into the first class, we were sweaty, tired and shocked at just how great of a workout it was. From there, and with years of development and focus on strength and fitness training, CardioTapNYC™ has become what it is today.
Created to cater to a wide range of abilities, CardioTapNYC classes draw complete beginners and professional dancers alike. The mantra “All Sweat, No Judgment” is taken to heart by everyone in the room. Whether wearing it on their shirts, or shouting it out in encouragement during particularly tricky combinations, Krystle and Kristin have created an environment that’s truly judgment-free – as long as you’re sweaty, they’re happy. This winter, you offered the first-ever Tap It Off Challenge. What inspired you to create the challenge? Krystle: We decided to create the Tap It Off Challenge because we wanted to offer a program to our students that would help support their fitness goals and give them even more of a community. We also truly believe in the power of accountability and support to reach your goals and we wanted to add a program that would allow CardioTapNYC to be just that for our students. A group of intrepid tappers signed up for the challenge. Over a ten-week period, they attend class three times each weekly, filled out weekly accountability forms to help stay on track, and had before and after measurements and photos taken to chart their progress. We checked in with a few of the Tap It Off Challenge participants to see how it’s going. What made you sign up for the Tap It Off challenge? How have you progressed in your fitness or dance goals? Philip: I originally signed up for the Tap It Off Challenge as a way of increasing my current regimen of exercise. For the most part I’ve
progressed in my goals. The tap (while not always easy) is always fun but the elements of strength are ways of charting progress in my opinion. With push-ups, lunges, planks, squats, etc., it’s fun to be able to see how far you’ve come. Kathleen: I had been looking online for group tap classes, and CardioTapNYC popped up. I emailed and was encouraged to try a class even though I have only been tapping for just over a year. And, through the course of the emailing I learned about the Tap It Off challenge. My fitness goals have always been short-lived, in part because I have never been interested in or passionate about walking, jogging, treadmill, etc. But since starting to take tap lessons I am so focused on learning the steps and routines. CardioTapNYC has helped me get a great workout, learn to move my feet faster, and slowly learn the different routines. Do you have a performance background? How did you come to tap dancing? Brenda: All my childhood until the age of 18 I danced ballet, tap, jazz, flamenco, pointe, and lyrical. After 18 came college and I just stopped. It’s taken me a while, but I finally started up again and I hadn’t realized how much I missed it. Philip: I went to school for Musical Theatre and had only take tap for a few months in high school. In college, I learned quite a bit of tap but would never consider myself a tapper. It’s now such a hobby that I just can’t stop. What’s your favorite thing about CardioTapNYC, versus other forms of exercise, or other dancebased exercise? Brenda: I would have to say the great environment that just makes me want to sweat and have fun. Going to the gym can be intimidating, but this class plus the students just
mesh so well that coming to class just feels right. I can honestly say I love CardioTapNYC. Kathleen: My favorite thing about CardioTapNYC is the “no judgment” mantra. It makes an enormous difference when the expectation is not perfection of tapping steps and routines, but just moving and progressing and sweating. Everyone who teaches conveys this helpful and caring attitude. I always feel great after a class and always feel supported and accepted at class. When I cannot do something and just do a running shuffle, or simply stick to a single time step when everyone else is doing doubles and triples, I still feel good and not at all out of place-because there is NO JUDGMENT. How has the Tap It Off Challenge experience been for you as teachers? Krystle: As teachers, seeing our challengers progress and their unfaltering commitment to attend class day in and day out has been truly inspiring. They keep us motivated to stick to our own personal goals and keep pushing. CardioTapNYC has recently expanded from NYC to two additional cities: Boston and Seattle, and has quite a devoted following in each city. Are there plans to add classes in other regions? Krystle: We are so excited to see our method expanding to other cities and doing so well! In the future, we hope to add LA and Chicago to the list. CardioTapNYC’s spring session – and second Tap It Off challenge! – begin on Monday, March 30th. Check out www.cardiotapnyc.com for class information.
Life is Grand He took the internet by storm with his song â€œAllAmerican Boy.â€? Now, Steve Grand talks to BLEEP about being labeled a country artist, being an out musician and what to expect on his album.
Your album, “All American Boy,” is going to show different sides of you than the countrylabel you were given when the single released a year ago. Is that on purpose or just an extension of you as an artist? Sonically, I am inspired by many different styles of music, from the Beatles to Bruce Springsteen to Lady Gaga, and yes, country as well. I think many of my influences are expressed in all kinds of ways on this album and I look forward to seeing what fans hear when they listen to this record. The song itself comes first for me. How it is recorded and produced has always been secondary, with the goal being to best complement the song. No song is ever treated the same. Sometimes, the production and instrumentation will fall into place very naturally. Other times, it takes some experimenting to find what works best. There wasn’t some sleek strategy with how I chose the songs to put on this record, and how they were produced. The work that I do is very honest. I’m not a good faker, so I don’t have much of a choice but to be myself. The country label came out of nowhere really. As an artist, how would you characterize yourself? ‘All-American Boy” - both the song and the video - have things that a lot of people would consider country, so I totally understand why many have characterized it that way. However, I never have stood by that label. If there needs to be a label at all I like to leave that to the listener. What a lot of people would like to point out as country in my music, I look at as being more “Americana.” But first and foremost I am a singer-songwriter. I hereby declare that my genre. Another label you’ve become synonymous with is that of an “out-artist.” Do you think that detracts focus from the music? I am an artist. I also am out. I believe that one day being LGBTQ won’t be seen as something so sensational, but that is just the reality of where a lot of people are at today. Does it detract focus from my music? There are probably some people who won’t listen to me because I am LGBTQ - because of some rigid idea they remain clinging to in regards to what that means. But I know, from first-hand accounts, that my music has inspired folks of all
ages, and it has even helped positively change some of the minds of those that are more ignorant about what LGBTQ people are like. That’s what I’m focused on. That’s a big reason why I do what I do. What better use for art than to make people feel heard and help erode the barriers that keep us separated and keep us from seeing that we are all just human? What was the process like putting this album together? What’s your writing process like? I got all sorts of offers when “All-American Boy” exploded July 2013: Reality TV shows and other stuff like that. But all I wanted to do was find the right producer to make a great record. So I used all the press I was receiving as leverage when trying to get in touch with producers. I hunted down email addresses and would pitch my project to anyone that would listen. One of those producers was Aaron Johnson. I sought him out because I fell in love with the first two The Fray records he made. He responded positively to my email and we set up a call. By December of 2013 we were in LA recording together. That was just the beginning. Aaron was great for me. We disagreed a lot and he challenged me, but it was amazing to work with someone so accomplished who was also passionate about making a great record. He ended up producing 10 of the 13 tracks that made it on the album. I learned so much throughout the process of making this record. It was truly a great journey. Incredibly challenging, but - even more so rewarding. I really learned where to trust my instincts and where I can benefit from another set of ears. The writing process varies from song to song for me. Sometimes a song flows right out of me. Songs that fans will hear on my record, like “Say You Love Me,” “Lovin’ Again,” “Whiskey Crime,” “Time,” “Run,” and “Better Off” were all products of me having an intense emotional experience as I just sat at the piano (or the guitar) and let it all come out through my fingers and my mouth. Lots of bittersweet memories pop into my head when I think about what my life was like at the moment some of those songs were born. I remember, some days after a painful breakup, I walked out of my house to smoke a cigarette (don’t worry I don’t do that anymore!). It was in October or November of 2012. The
air was really frigid and crisp, the plants were all dead, and the world looked gray. It was a low moment, but in that moment I just started singing the first lines of “Lovin’ Again.” It was so effortless, but the words and that melody line sounded so beautiful to me. It was such a beautiful echo of what I had been feeling. I immediately went inside and wrote the whole song. What does this album say? A lot of things! I put a lot of thought into the process of choosing the songs that would be on this record. All of the songs were written between the ages of 19 and 24. I look at this ‘era’ as a period of time where a person is coming to terms with being a real adult and often is fumbling awkwardly in the process. It’s the gray area in between youth and adulthood. So this album deals with a lot of the things people who are going through, or have been through, this awkward, limbo phase will recognize. Though it’s not in this order, the album does follow an arc, kind of like a story with a beginning, middle and end. When I was choosing the songs to put on this album, I wanted to make sure that each of those songs functioned as a plot point on that arc so that the whole thing would feel like a complete statement. 13 tracks may seem like a lot, but when you are trying to say so many things and make sure they all connect, it doesn’t seem like very many at all. I am happy to say that both sonically and thematically, this album will leave the listener feeling very “full.” The human experience is all about relationships, and each of the songs on this album represent a kind of relationship: relationships with romantic partners, relationships with friends, relationships with things that are bad for us (vices), relationships within a community, relationships with nostalgia, and so forth. The album does a better job of saying what it’s about than I could. When an audience comes to a “Steve Grand Concert,” what should they expect? What do you hope they leave with? When I’m touring with my band, fans can expect a show with a lot of energy and a lot
of heart. I put so much into each and every performance I do. I give it all I got every time because I really believe the audience deserves nothing less. I try to connect with my fans in every way possible up on that stage. I try to touch people in a way that is almost spiritual, but I will also go out into the crowd as much as the stage allows me too. I will sometimes put down my guitar and just hang out in the front where I can sing directly to people and squeeze their hands. The connecting power of music is really like nothing else. I know what it’s like to have a deep, impactful experience with an artist as an audience member, and that’s exactly what I try to give -to as many fans as possible. I spent a lot of time getting these tracks right and I love them! I know my fans will too. What inspires you? People who create and try to make this world a more beautiful place through the people they touch and the work they do. The world can be a very dark, cold place, and we are more exposed to it now than ever before with the internet. People can be dark and destructive from the comforts of their keyboards now. It’s really sad that all this technology has brought out such an ugly side of so many people. Putting yourself out there; taking a stand for something; sharing your art and your soul with the world - these things leave you so vulnerable to all kinds of ugliness. I’m inspired by the people who still care about making the world more beautiful even though it can often come with a price. What’s next for you? I get to share this record with all of my fans who have been so patient! I’m so eager and excited for them to hear it, and then to get to play it for them when I’m touring for the summer and beyond. So yes, I am going to be performing a lot, shooting videos, and writing the next record, but honestly, I am never able to see very far into the future. I really do just take it all as it comes. I really don’t know where all of this will lead me, and where I will be a year from now. I just know I’m going to keep working hard and being the best me I can be. Head over to www.stevegrand.com to pick up the album!
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When I talked to Tituss Burgess in 2012, he walked me through his first day working on “30 Rock.” “It was my first time to do sitcom work and I had no idea what to do,” he said then. “I was first up for the day and when I got my sides, I see that I had two scenes, not one, and it was with Sherri [Shepherd] and Tina [Fey]. I did the line and someone was laughing off stage. And when they cut, I was convinced they were laughing because I didn’t know what I was doing. I hear the director go, ‘Tina, you know we can’t do that’ and I realized Tina Fey was laughing at me. If she’s laughing, something’s going right.” She kept laughing, as did the rest of us, and his character, D’Fwan, became a fan favorite. So when it came time to populate Fey’s new show, she wrote a part with Burgess in mind. In March, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” premiered on Netflix and with two belted words, “Pinot Noir,” Titus Andromedon burst onto the pop culture landscape. I caught up with Burgess in Times Square, where his character Titus works as a performer and a place that holds special meaning for Burgess from his days on Broadway. Having not been a series regular on a show before, what surprised you most about the process? The level of fatigue. I’ve never ever experienced that type of fatigue before. I constantly want to sleep. How has this role stretched you as an actor? A lot of people think “Titus” is like me. I don’t really think he’s that close to me. I’m certainly a silly person and will take most opportunities to make a joke, but there’s a desperation that “Titus” has that I only had when I first got to the city. So I’m revisiting that place, which was a very dark place for me, though there were some wonderful fond memories of when it was all ahead for me. I was broke for most of it and scared and I think a lot of “Titus’” humor and the way he looks at the world is fear based. I’m a Pisces, I don’t enjoy visiting those depths because they tend to linger. I have to control how much of that I allow into my life.
Comparisons exist between “D’Fwan” and “Titus.” What’s the biggest difference between the two characters? “D’Fwan” was a cartoon character. He was two dimensional. He had no real stakes, there were no real circumstances. It was based on another unreal circumstance, which is reality television. There was nothing he really needed. “Titus” is completely three-dimensional, he absolutely needs things and accepts it’s going to take more than him to get what he wants. “Titus” wants to be the center of attention in attempt to land that big job. “D’Fwan” just wanted the world to pay attention all the time. What was it like to see billboards for your show all over Manhattan? I have wanted to feel what that felt like for so long. It feels like my Broadway debut felt. It’s something you’ll never get back and you’ll never have it again, but it’s spectacular. It’s been said this is your big break. Does it feel like that? I have a friend, Allison, and we often talk about finding your people. The people that I love, I am loyal to and I see them often. I cook for them and love on them. The people I do not relate to on an energetic, vibrational, level, I have very little tolerance for them. As that relates to the working environment, I’ve known what I wanted for a very long time and I’ve known my worth for a very long time. That’s caused me to say no to a lot of jobs because I didn’t feel that they got me. I finally found my people with Tina and Robert. They recognized something in me that no one else has been able to tap into yet. What’s been inspiring you recently? Emily King. Her album “Seven” puts my through it. I just think she’s amazing. Oh and Robin Wright. I can’t say enough about this diva. Her understanding of the camera and tempered, measured, storytelling is like no other. You’ve released a handful of albums over the years. Any plans for a new music? I do want to [do another album], but I want to finish this musical I’m writing first. We are still chasing the rights but I’ve assembled the best team. Rick Elice, who wrote Jersey Boys, is writing the book. I have difficulty living in
too many different worlds simultaneously. One thing will have to be completed before I start something else. What are you three favorite places in New York? I have a bizarre affinity for the West Side Highway and the drive from Harlem to wherever we’re going. I just enjoy that drive. It calms me down no matter what. My relationship to Times Square is evolving constantly because it is evolving constantly. It used to be one of my favorite places on Earth. I’ll tell you what though, when it’s 2 a.m. and it’s no man’s land, it’s a very romantic place. The third place? Honestly anywhere where there’s food. (he laughs) It’s true. Name three things you care deeply about. My boyfriend. I care very much for New York City in a familial sort of way. It’s a very strong relationship I have with this city. Also, I care very deeply about communication. Under that umbrella is music and acting. It’s important to me that I’m a part of something I care about and that is thoughtful. Name three things you can not stand. Inconsiderate people. I can’t with that. Prejudice of any kind. And arrogance. What was your earliest dream for your life? Probably to move to New York City. What is that dream now? I have to write this show that will go to Broadway. I’d love to do some movies and I never really thought that was in the realm of possibility for a long time, but now I do. And I want to learn as much as I can from Tina, Robert and Jeff Richmond. Being in that environment, I am challenged and it’s lovely. Lastly, what do you want people to know about you? The thoughtful, intense, intellectual side is just as deep as the lighthearted, comedic side. In fact, they inform each other. And that I’m a fierce cook. -Interview by Ryan Brinson Photography by Michael Young www.facebook.com/michaelyoungphotographynyc Photo assistant: Anthony Lee Medina
Nickelodeon’s newest hit series chronicles the unlikely friendship between Max Asher, a celebrity snowboarder, and Alvin “Shred” Ackerman, a science whiz-kid, who become roommates and when Max moves to Colorado to train for the Winter Cup. The two have to work to become friends and navigate the trials of teenage life from completely opposite points of view. We talked to the cast about working together and what they’ve learned so far on the set.
the cast of nickelodeon’s
& shred BLEEP 45
Jake Goodman What is working on “Max & Shr ed” teaching you that’s differe nt from your past work in “Red” with Bruce Willis or “Li fe with Boys” with Madison Pet tis? Since my role in “Max and Shr ed” is much bigger than the oth to manage my time better. I er two, I had to learn how learned that when you have a job, you have to toughen up and keep working sometimes even if you feel lousy. I also lea rned a lot about what goes on while making a show; all the people involved, and all the diff production office to on-set cre erent jobs – from the w. How do you keep yourself act ive when you’re filming a TV sho w that takes up so much of your time? After filming, I’d go for a short run. I sometimes workout out at lunch with some other crew members, and when I pla y the drums, I sweat a lot, so drums if that counts. What’s your favorite part abo ut being in the “Max & Shred” cast? I like the film set environment anywhere, but I especially like “Max and Shred” because there are other kids around my age so I have more fun with the m than I would with adults.
Emilia McCarthy You’ve been in films with stars like Julianne Moore & Robert Pattinson. What has that taught you? I filmed night shoots for “Maps to the Stars” so I was half-awake when I met everyone. This very nice blonde lady came up to me and said hi and I was just like, ‘hey what’s up.’ Then I did a double take and realized that was Julianne Moore. Because I was half asleep, all my reactions were delayed. She’s such a sweet lady! This made me realize that actors that seem so far above us really are just cool humans like the rest of us. What other actors/artists inspire you to work harder and aim higher? Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams are big inspirations for me. They come from the same hometown as me, London, Ontario, which gives me the drive to work hard to become just as talented as they are! If they can do it, so can I. What’s your favorite part about being in the “Max & Shred” cast? My favourite part is getting to work with my amazing cast and everyone that is a part of the production. We have the best times, coming to set every morning is like coming home.
“Max & Shred?” prise of the process of making What has been the biggest sur really understand ually making the show. I didn’t act into go ple peo ny ma w Ho r. kid’s shows when I was younge that when I was just watching ’re making a TV ool, friends and family when you How do you make time for sch show? when I have t’s pretty nice because I that’s tha so nds eke we on film n’t lot of We do llenge because I’m gone for a cha a ly nite defi re’s the t Bu e. my social tim and sleep. nds I just want to come home the week and on some weeke cast? ut being in the “Max & Shred” What’s your favorite part abo ple. I’ve learned a peo ng of these amazi all g etin me and y od ryb eve Being with them. lly awesome relationship with lot from them and gained a rea
Saara Chaudry What was it like taking the stage in “Les Miserables” with such a large audience? It was scary at first, but it was so awesome. From behind the curtains, you could feel the energy of the audience. I loved every minute of it. You’re acting on TV now, but you’re trained in ballet and voice as well. How do you plan to juggle all of those things as your career moves forward? I love acting on TV and in theatre and I love music (musical theatre as well as pop). I hope I am lucky enough to be able to continue to do both. [Either a] show where I can act and sing or musical theatre. What’s your favorite part about being in the “Max & Shred” cast? It has been amazing getting to know Jonny, Jake and Emilia. They are like my second family. I love hanging out with them both on and off the set.
Check out the quartet on “Max & Shred” MondayFriday at 7:30p.m. (ET/PT) on Nickelodeon.
New York City’s 54 BELOW will debut a new show from celebrated actor and singer
on Friday, April 10 at 9:30 PM. Known from his appearances on FX’s “The Americans” and Logo TV’s “Hunting Season,” Warr will premiere “Love & Warr” and we talked to him about his passion for creating art. 50 BLEEP
Where did your love of theatre and live performance originate? When I was in grade school, my parents had a summer subscription to Musical Theatre North. It was summer stock theatre. We saw every show that came up north, every summer. I was so obsessed with these shows. I would save the Playbill and study everyone in them. For the longest time, I could tell you just about every musical on Broadway, the theaters they opened in, the lead cast members and who directed them. Let’s just say, I always knew I was going to be an actor and I spent hours on Playbill.com every day. The very first Broadway musicals I saw in NYC were Jekyll & Hyde and Chicago. We took the train into NYC to see them, and all I did was do my own renditions of these shows ALL the way back on the train. I was hooked. It is really no surprise to anyone in my family that I am now in New York City working as an actor! You’re a professionally trained dancer who has danced internationally. How does that inform what you’re doing now? I’m incredibly in tune with my body. That is so important. We toured to Korea, and I have also trained in France for a short period of time. Korea was absolutely stunning, but it was also in Korea when I realized I really wanted to transition into acting full time. So when I came back, I enrolled in a conservatory training program - the Maggie Flanigan Studio - and Maggie changed my life. She opened up my senses to the world of art around me. Seeing different parts of the world and meeting the people who live there opens your eyes to the vast array of people out there. It is truly magical. People fascinate me. Different cultures fascinate me. If I could walk a mile in everyone’s shoes, there’s no doubt in my mind that I would try. When I was living in France I fell in love with the cabaret scene. I frequented many shows over there; that pretty much sealed my fate, though I didn’t know it at the time that I would eventually develop my own shows and try to make my own mark on that industry. There’s something so incredibly special about sharing that experience with an intimate theater. I think being an artist has given me compassion and empathy, I want to better understand the world around me and how I can somehow help try to change it for the better. What did working on “The Americans” teach you about your craft? My experience on set for “The Americans” was amazing. My trailer was huge. I didn’t know until I arrived that I was to be playing a young Philip Jennings, who is played by the very talented Matthew Rhys. So of course I felt
slightly intimidated. I wanted to represent his character’s past with truth and integrity. I hope I accomplished that. I take my craft very serious. It’s one of the best things about training with Maggie Flanigan. Acting is life or death with me, otherwise, why the hell do it!? This career is way too hard and the struggles are way too real to NOT make it about everything you are, every ounce of energy, every fiber of my being. Anyone who doesn’t feel the same way bores me. It just seems mediocre, and mediocre is my nightmare. Being on the set of a TV show is fast paced. There’s not much time for serious acting direction. The focus is on getting the right shot, having the proper lighting, the effects, etc. It’s exhilarating. So you have to trust yourself, trust your instinct, and remember to have as much fun doing it as you possibly can, because it is all over in the blink of an eye! What’s next for you? Right now, my focus is on my show at 54 Below – “Love & Warr.” This show means so much to me. It comes from my struggles with finding true love, or better yet, how the struggles of true love weigh us down and often blind us. Also known as, I had the most awful breakup and the most toxic relationship and I have no other way to process that than through my art. I’m just grateful to be alive, to have the training that I have, and to be surrounded by other immensely talented artists and performers. Whatever is next for me, I welcome with outstretched arms. Who is Joshua Warr? What do you want people to think of when they hear your name? I’m just trying to make people smile and laugh. I want to live a genuine life and dedicate that to the arts. Art is a powerful thing. Without it, we are a world full of greedy business men who are driving us all into poverty. I love to be a clown. And if someone can see a part of themselves in my work or my shows, then I know I have done my job. If they can connect to what I am doing and have a good time, then I know I’ll sleep soundly that night. And Joshua Warr is nobody without his incredible supporters - my Warriors, as I call them. I love them all. I’m fortunate to have done a variety of things with my career, when people hear my name I want them to know that I’m a multi-faceted performer who does cabaret, theatre, musical theatre, and TV and film. I have such a wide range of interests and I love exploring that! No matter what I do, I give my 100%. Head over to www.54Below.com to get your tickets for “Love and Warr” on Friday April 10.
These men wrote the most beloved song in the history of recorded music and most people donâ€™t even know their names.
A new documentary aims to make sure composer Michael Arlen & lyricst Yip Harburg, the men behind “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and the rest of the hits in “The Wizard of Oz,” get the recognition they deserve. BLEEP 53
Aaron Harburg, great grandson of Lyricist E. Y. “Yip” Harburg. Photo by: Josie Lapczynski.
We talked with Aaron Harburg about this documentary in progress and his familial relationship with the folklore and the legend of Oz.
Publicity portrait of Judy Garland. Photo credit: The John Fricke Collection.
“Over the Rainbow” is the most famous song in the history of recorded music. It won the Academy Award for “Best Original Song,” it’s been honored as the #1 Film Song of All Time by The American Film Institute and #1 Song of the Twentieth Century by The National Endowment for the Arts and The Recording Industry Association of America. The song is every bit as iconic as the film it was written for, yet, the names of the writer and composer of the iconic songs are not nearly as synonymous. The great-grandson of “The Wizard of Oz” lyricist Yip Harburg is hoping to change that. Aaron Harburg has begun work on “The Sound of Oz,” a documentary film that will detail the relationship his great-grandfather shared with composer Harold Arlen and will celebrate the history and impact their songs have had on pop culture. “‘The Wizard of Oz’ wouldn’t have remained as iconic as it has without the songs,” says Stephen Schwartz, composer/lyricist of the multi-billion dollar Broadway musical, Wicked, who sat down with Harburg and Jay for an on-camera interview. For the first time on record, Schwartz revealed the strategically-hidden melody fragments from the songs of “The Wizard of Oz” that he incorporated in his score for Wicked.
What was the impetus for “The Sound of Oz?” It was a fun fact I’d say that my great grandfather wrote the music in “The Wizard of Oz.” I’d been doing video production for a long time and when I was told by my grandfather that 2014 would be the 75th anniversary of Oz. I flew to New York and learned a lot about Yip and about his influence on Broadway. I remember being at a restaurant with my sister and it hit me, I could stop anyone in that restaurant and they would not only know “Over The Rainbow” but would each have a personal story about it. It wasn’t until last year when I met Ryan Jay, the director, that I knew we had the same passion for it and this began to take shape. Since you began putting the documentary together, what has surprised you the most about the process? I actually started working on this in 2012. When I was doing early research, the thing
that struck me was how involved Yip was in getting Bert Lahr, The Cowardly Lion, that part. There were a number of things we’ve looked at concerning how we are going to tell these stories. For example, there was drama around writing “Over the Rainbow.” Ira Gershwin intervened when they were writing that song and he is part of the reason it sounds the way it does. Having said that, there are a million people we could get to talk about the music in film and we have to be very strategic about who we ask. We really want this to be a contemporary documentary, not just a historical documentary. It’s really about how these songs affect people today. Yip Harburg being a member of your family, how do you feel about the legacy of the film? Amazement that this is something that came from my bloodline. It’s really cool. I’ve always wanted to be a part of the entertainment industry and it’s like there’s this encouragement from Yip himself to go for it. “Dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.” It means
that I really need to not be cutting myself short and I need to go for it. My family is very humble, no one ever makes a big deal about this. I’m the first one who wants to do this but who also enjoys the glamour of Hollywood. Beyond being family, what has this connection meant to you? Technology is amazing. It’s probably the closest thing to a time machine that we have. Yip died before I was born and when I look at the images and watch the film, it makes it so real. [Harburg and Arlen] aren’t that much older than I am and they are doing things in an industry that I’m now doing. There is this element of magic, reaching back from time to the present, that’s directly affecting me now. It definitely makes me feel a connection. What is the driving you to make this documentary? If you look at the original “Wizard of Oz” posters and the subsequent posters, their names are not even on there. “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” is one of the favorite songs of
history but people don’t know who wrote it. For me, it’s correcting an injustice. What’s happening now and what’s the next step? We are open to a number of possibilities, but we making it so that it can enter festivals. We have been in talks for television or packaging for another anniversary release later on, nothing has been confirmed, but we are hoping for some sort of theatrical release. We are doing an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. The more private investors get involved, the more likely you’re going to lose creative control so at this point, we are going to see where that goes. If we meet that goal, we will start production immediately.
Opposite page: “Sound of Oz” director Ryan Jay (left) with Aaron Harburg (right) and Wicked creator Stephen Schwartz in middle. Above: Judy Garland on the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer recording stage, Culver City, California, during production of THE WIZARD OF OZ. Photo credit: The John Fricke Collection. Below: Oz Lyricist E. Y. “Yip” Harburg (left) with OZ composer Harold Arlen.
Head over to www.thesoundofozmovie. com to find out more, watch the trailer and help support this project.
derekbisho With a new album and an East Coast tour, Derek Bishop talks about what inspires him pulling yourself out of the muck.
Where did the inspiration for your new album “Bicycling in Quicksand” come from? I wanted to make a shake-your-booty-style dance record. But I wanted it to hearken back to the golden era of disco. I specifically did not want the sounds and songs to sound like they all came from a computer. I didn’t want it to sound processed. I wanted real musicians playing real instruments so you could achieve that organic, lively feel, and have a really great groove. When we started recording, we told the band we were aiming for something that sounded as if Donna Summer had the Foo Fighters as her backing band. Lyrically, the inspiration came from where I was in my life. This is an album about pulling yourself out of the muck. It’s about trying to succeed and trying to change, despite adversity and road blocks. The title song, “Bicycling in Quicksand,” is about knowing you’re sinking, you’re in over your head, and you are trying your hardest to dig your way out. What sets this apart from your previous works? My previous album is a very soft-sounding singer-songwriter album. I’m very proud of it, but thematically it was a tad heavy. I wanted the new album to be sprite, bouncy, buoyant, and really something that would motivate you to get up and move your hips and tap your feet. I wanted it to be able to play to all people regardless of experience or age. Give us a glimpse into this album. What should people expect from it? From the get-go, I think when you listen to the album you’re immediately going to find it a unique treat for your ears. Some people walk away from the album thinking they just heard something Abba-esque. I think overall it sounds like the best dance and pop from the late 70s and the early 80s. I think the first single, “Baggage,” perfectly combines all those elements into a just-under-4-minute pop song.
What sets you apart as an artist? I think my music is very approachable and catchy, but it’s also quite different. It’s not so bizarre that it’s off-putting. It’s just has its own unique sound. If it reminds you of something you’ve heard in the past — that’s on purpose. I’m trying to merge 4 decades of musical styles into one cohesive album. Looks-and-imagewise, I always wanted something that was exclusively mine. So on stage I have this Oliver Twist-meets-Mad Max look: scarves, newsboy caps, vests, and leather pants. It works great for me and I haven’t seen anyone copping it... yet! As an artist, what do you want to be known for? I’d like to be known as someone who creates thoughtful, creative — and fun — work. I want to write tunes that people find catchy but at the same time have some great subtext. I aim to be in this for the long-haul, so for me it’s all about working to be the best musician and songwriter I can possibly be. What motivates you and informs what you write and sing about? Nearly all of my songs are written about my life, my experiences, and my mind frame at the time. The tracks that aren’t about me, are about people so close to me that I almost feel I have experienced their situation firsthand through them. I just want to continue to experience life as fully as possible. I want all the layers and all the ups and downs. As a writer you can’t really ask for better source material than a bumpy road in your real life. What’s coming up for you? As soon as my album drops on April 7, I start work on the video and remixes for my second single, “Shutting Down.” As soon as we are finished with that, I’m going on a 4-week tour up and down the East Coast. It’s definitely going to be a fun and busy summer.
The Austrian musician actress known for her roles in television shows “Die Geschworene” and “SOKO Donau” has a new album on the way. We talk about the state of music currently.
Where did you grow up? How did that impact your musical tastes? I grew up in a small village in Austria in a small family. When I was little, I started playing violin and piano. I was exposed to classical music, European music and a lot of American music (folk, pop, soundtracks). I started touring with various orchestras and was exposed to music cultures that definitely increased my interest in foreign instruments and sounds. I hope that will come across in the album. What made you decide you wanted to create music vocationally as opposed to it being a hobby? Since I can remember, I’ve always [made] music and have always surrounded myself with music. There was a time when I wanted to become an astronomer when I was about 12 or 13, but that phase ended rather quickly. Describe your sound in five words. Musical impressionism with a twist! As you’ve been making music, what has stretched you and pushed you to work harder? Many things. I think the most important thing is that you never stop pushing yourself. There’s always a risk in taking the next step but if you don’t take it you’d be standing still. What do you to do stay inspired? I think writing music is very inspirational. The more you work, the more inspired you get. Apart from that, everything and anything can work as a source of inspiration. For me, it’s the outdoors, the horses, my friends, a good book... What is great about the state of music currently? With all the social networks and YouTube, you can interact with your fans faster! You can go directly to them. Also, all the digital platforms have made music easily accessible for everyone! What’s not so great? The illegal downloads, which I believe also diminished the value of good music. What’s next for you? We are finishing up the album and preparing for some shows on the West Coast and East Coast. Shows will be announced on my website www.dalalmusic.com as well as on my Facebook page www.facebook.com/dalalmusic. I’m also currently writing music for film and TV which is something I’ve always dreamed of doing!
The “So You Think You Can Dance” favorite talks about his love of dance, what the show taught him and where he’s headed next. Photography by Jono When did you fall in love with dance? I knew I loved to dance at a very young age. I danced a lot as a kid. Being Hispanic, most of the time that’s only at parties and get-togethers, never in a professional “dance room” environment. At times I would even make up my own dances and perform them at my birthday parties. It was always to a Disney song and it normally involved props and a few costume changes. At six, family members encouraged my mom to put me in “The Disneyland Christmas Parade.” Though it was my first audition, I got the job and was able to dance for that season.
In my sophomore year, I joined the dance team because I didn’t want to do P.E.. I knew I loved performing and this was my chance to take dancing seriously. By my senior year, I had been able to travel as well as competing and winning many competitions. I really understood how much dance meant to me. I was good at it and it had now become part of my Identity. I’ve been in love ever since. What surprised you most about your SYTYCD experience? The first thing that really surprised me was, how many people actually watched! I knew all of America was watching but
the world too? After every performance day, I remember my Twitter would blow up from people all over the place! For us, when we’re on stage, all we see are a few cameras, the judges, the audience and for some, our parents. The pressure then increases knowing we’re being broadcasted for millions to see at that moment I was only focused on performing the best I could without my nerves getting to me. Looking back at it now, I’m surprised I didn’t freak out more. SYTYCD can be a tremendous platform for dancers to expand their visibility and their career. How has that been true for you? As a dancer, it’s one of the greatest stages to showcase your talent. Not only is the whole world watching live, it then gets put online and lives forever! Since being on the show, people have recognized me. I’ve been able to travel and teach master classes and meet a ton of awesome kids. It has also given me the opportunity to become a role model to many young dancers, especially guys. I can tell you, it is not easy being a dude in dance. If it wasn’t for my family who were very supportive, I don’t know if I would have continued. I know that before making the show, I looked up to a lot of the dancers from previous seasons. Now being in that position, I do feel like it’s my responsibility to set a good example. Dance has been such a part of my life, I would hate for any kid who wants to dance not be able to have that support and experience. What have been some of your favorite projects since the show ended? Aside from teaching, choreographing and performing here and there on television, last year I was able to travel to Asia and the Middle East with a Bollywood company. They had seen me perform Bollywood on the show and though that was my first time doing it, they offered me a contract and off I went. Since then, I’ve really been able to challenge myself to dance and perform in other ways out of my comfort zone. I don’t see myself as just or one or two style dancer anymore.
Dance is an artform that is constantly evolving, more now than ever with so much dance on television. What excites you about where dance is headed? I have been super excited for the fact that dancing is increasing in television and movies. I remember watching old classics with my dad where all you would see was dance numbers. Most of the actors back then knew how to dance professionally to be considered for a role. During that time, dance was not only for entertainment, but it helped tell the story as well. Today I think we are slowly getting back to those days. I see more and more technical dancing in not just television but in music and commercial advertisement. It’s also creeping back into the movies without it being a full blown musical. What’s next for you? I consider myself an overall entertainer, so at this point anything’s possible. For sure a lot more dancing (can’t stop, won’t stop), a little acting and even some comedy. Yes! I said comedy! Recently I’ve been working with the very funny and talented choreographer Kathryn Burns. With her, I’ve gone from being a dancing servant on Comedy Central to a ballet football star on “Comedy Bang Bang” on IFC. I’ve realized there are many ways to be funny and physical comedy as well as dance can play a big part. As a kid I grew up watching and observing Lucille Ball most nights before bed. [She was] one of the greatest stars who knew how to act and dance while being extremely funny all at the same time. I know she truly influenced me a lot as a performer. I see myself doing a lot more comedy in the future. For more on Alexander, follow him at www.twitter.com/D8Alexander and at www.instagram.com/AlexanderFost
Jono, Photographer JONO Photography jonophoto.com James Loy, Art Director jamesloyphoto.com
Malcolm Joris, LUVGEN, Stylist malcolmbacani.com
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