INTERVIEWS

The Director's Chair, Artist Spotlight, Playwright's Corner and Designer's Dialogue are weekly interview series highlighting entertainment professionals, working actors, singers, stage managers, producers, directors, designers and others in the arts and entertainment industry. Guests share stories about how they began in the business, their journey and helpful suggestions for others who aspire to their profession.

The amazing Luke Yankee joins us this week on The Director's Chair, revealing his newest creation that exposes the underbelly and decadence of Hollywood — a radio play called "Confessions Of a Star Maker," available on Vimeo beginning November 27th through December 13th.

NOVEMBER 22, 2020 — By Chris Daniels

Luke Yankee's storied life history makes any average industry professional sit up and listen. He has written, directed, produced, taught, lectured and acted throughout the country and abroad. He has run two regional theatres, serving as Producing Artistic Director of the Long Beach Civic Light Opera, one of the largest musical theatres in America, and the Struthers Library theatre, a historic landmark in northwestern Pennsylvania.

Luke’s published plays include “The Last Lifeboat” and “A Place at Forest Lawn,” both published by Dramatists Play Service. His other plays include “The Jesus Hickey” (which premiered in Los Angeles starring Harry Hamlin), and “The Man Who Killed the Cure,” and has also written numerous TV spec scripts and pilots. He created and hosted the seminar series, “Conversations on Craft,” where he interviewed prominent members of the entertainment industry, including Emmy winning actor, Edward Asner (“The Mary Tyler Moore Show”), Emmy winning actress, Michael Learned (“The Waltons”), Oscar nominated director Mark Rydell (“On Golden Pond), Producer/Director David Lee (creator of “Frasier”), Tony winning actress Harriet Harris (“Thoroughly Modern Millie”), Golden Globe winning writer/producer Marc Cherry (creator of “Desperate Housewives”), writer/executive producer David Rambo (“Empire”, “CSI”) and writer/executive producer Adam Belanoff ( “The Closer”, “Major Crimes”).

 

His book, “Just Outside the Spotlight: Growing Up With Eileen Heckart,” is published by Random House (under the imprint of Back Stage Books), with a foreword by Mary Tyler Moore. Critics have praised it as “One of the most compassionate, illuminating showbiz books ever written” (Musto, The Village Voice).  It was recently cited by PaperMag as “One of the Ten Best Celebrity Memoirs of All Time.”

 

Off Broadway, he directed the political comedy, “High Infidelity” with John Davidson and Morgan Fairchild at the Promenade Theatre and Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard” at the York Theatre with Cynthia Nixon, Penny Fuller, David Canary and Merle Louise. On Broadway, he has worked as an assistant director on the musical “Grind” starring Ben Vereen (as assistant to Harold Prince), “The Circle” with Sir Rex Harrision and Glynis Johns, “Light Up the Sky” with Peter Falk and New York City Opera’s “Brigadoon” with Tony Roberts.

His regional theatre directing credits include: “Driving Miss Daisy” with Eileen Heckart, “Nite Club Confidential” with Barbara Eden, “Private Lives” with David Canary, “The King and I” with Lee Meriwether, “Man of La Mancha” with John McCook, “Love Letters” with Edward Asner, Joanna Gleason, John Rubinstein, Sally Struthers and former California Gov. Pete Wilson, the southeastern premiere of David Mamet’s “Oleanna” (Carbonnell Award nomination as Best Director), the 30th anniversary revival of “Waiting for Godot” at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, a bi-lingual tour of “Cyrano De Bergerac” and productions of “Sweeney Todd”, “The Road To Mecca”, “Painting Churches” “Lost in Yonkers”, A Little Night Music”, “Gypsy” and “Lend Me A Tenor.”

As a director and producer of special events, he has worked with Betty White, Quincy Jones, Stephen Sondheim, Alec Baldwin, Florence Henderson, Barbara Cook, Noah Wyle, Annette Bening, Neil Simon, Barry Manilow, Debbie Allen, Dick Clark, Bill Pullman, John Guare, Roma Downey, Patti Austin, August Wilson, Alfre Woodard, and in theatres ranging from Radio City Music Hall to the “Crystal Symphony.” Luke also produced special events and trade shows for the Mattel Toy Company all over the country for more than ten years.

He has taught and guest directed extensively at colleges, universities and conservatories throughout the U.S. and abroad, including five years at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Northwestern, Ohio State, AMDA, Denison, University of New Mexico, the Folkwang Hochschule (in Essen, Germany) and three years on the faculty of Columbia College-Hollywood. For the past six years, he has been a panelist and guest instructor at the William Inge Theatre Festival, where he has performed with Marybeth Hurt, Holland Taylor and George Grizzard. He is also a member of their Advisory Board. He is currently on the faculty of The American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA), teaching advanced acting and scene study.

His theatre acting credits include “Our Town” at the American Shakespeare Theatre with Fred Gwynne, the U.S. premiere of “The Greeks” at The Williamstown Theatre Festival with Gwyneth Paltrow, Blythe Danner, Christopher Reeve and Celeste Holm and “The Dream Watcher” with Eva LeGallienne. In film and television, he has appeared in “The Hiding Place” with Julie Harris, “Ragtime” with Elizabeth McGovern, “Evergreen” with Armand Assante and “The Equalizer” with Jim Dale.

As a filmmaker, Luke wrote and directed the short film, “Help Is on The Way,” starring Lois DeBanzie. He also created “E.H. On Film: An Eileen Heckart Retrospective,” and “Barbara Eden: Still Dreaming.”

Luke has studied at the Juilliard School of Drama, New York University, University of California – Riverside, Northwestern University, Circle in the Square and the Herbert Berghof Studio. He is the son of the late Eileen Heckart, who won an Academy Award for “Butterflies Are Free” and appeared in over 15 feature films, 20 Broadway plays, and countless television programs. Ms. Heckart is a member of the Theatre Hall of Fame and a multiple Emmy and Tony Award winner. In her honor, Luke created the Eileen Heckart Memorial Scholarship Fund at Ohio State University, her alma mater. For six years, Luke served as the casting director for the Los Angeles based, syndicated TV spot, “Hero in Education.” He also served as part of a Presidential Blue Ribbon Task Force to create a theatre piece on drug and alcohol abuse.

 

Luke also toured internationally for more than ten years with “Diva Dish,” his one-man show about the golden age of Broadway and Hollywood. There was such demand for a sequel, he recently created “Diva Dish: The Second Helping,” which he premiered at the Desert Rose Theatre in Palm Springs.

We caught up with Luke Yankee this week, and asked about his new projects coming up, along with a few other questions. Here's a rundown of the conversation:

In “Confessions of a Star Maker,” what’s going to surprise people about this show?

 

"This is a 'live' radio play (complete with a Foley artist) about the dark underbelly of Hollywood in the 1950’s. The play is being produced by Cal State Fullerton and the cast is comprised of the students there. I had such fun teaching them about old Hollywood and 'Film Noir,' which is the predominant style of the play. I originally wrote this as a TV pilot and was thrilled to adapt it as a radio play (which we filmed on Zoom).  It will be available on Vimeo from November 27th thru December 13th. I am very excited about it."

 

Who do you look up to as your greatest creative inspiration, and what motivates you to get out of bed in the morning? 

 

"While a lot of people inspire me, from Joe Mantello to Shonda Rhimes, I never have any trouble getting up in the morning and diving into work. There is so much I want to accomplish!"

 

What do you do when you’re not doing theatre?

 

"I’m a college theatre professor at Cal State Fullerton and Chapman. Between that and guest directing at places like Saddleback and El Camino College (among many others), I’m pretty much always doing theatre in one form or another."

 

If you had a magic wand, what show would you like to personally direct next?

 

"I’d love to do ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, A GNTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER and THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST for starters."

 

What are some of your proudest accomplishments?

 

"My book about my life as a showbiz kid, JUST OUTSDIE THE SPOTLIGHT, where I talk about my Mom (Oscar, Emmy and Tony winning actress, Eileen Heckart) has gotten rave reviews from coast to coast and brought me a lot of joy. I’ve also written a new play about my mom’s intense relationship with Marilyn Monroe during the shooting of BUS STOP called MARILYN, MOM & ME. And my play about the aftermath of the sinking of the Titanic, THE LAST LIFEBOAT, has had more than 50 productions around the country."

 

When did you first realize you wanted to be a playwright?

 

"I started out as an actor and a director and I sort of fell into playwriting. They all require different creative muscles and I love them all for different reasons.  It’s incredibly gratifying to see a play of mine onstage and to hear an audience respond to it."

 

What’s the first hook that gets a new play started for you? Is it an image, a theme, or perhaps a character?

 

"Sometimes it’s an idea based on a random idea I might have heard. THE MAN WHO KILLED THE CURE is about how natural medicine was suppressed in this country for so long (and still is, to a great extent) because of the control of Big Pharma. That is an important “message” play. On the other end of the spectrum, my comedy, THE JESUS HICKEY is based on a headline I saw in the National Enquirer about a young girl who gets a hickey in the shape of Jesus and becomes a big celebrity. You never know where ideas will come from!"

 

Do you devote a certain amount of time each day to writing, or only when inspiration hits you?

 

"With my teaching schedule, it is really challenging to carve out writing time. But you make time for what is important to you, right? I’m currently writing a textbook for Bloomsbury Press called THE ART OF WRITING FOR THE THEATRE. It’s a daunting project, but it is also very exciting. It will be out in the fall of 2021."

 

How do you normally approach writing a new play script, testing it, casting it, working with characterization and motivation with cast and crew, and making the play a relevant work of art?

 

"Once I have a first draft, I call a bunch of friends and do a living room reading. Believe me, free pizza is a great motivator.  Sometimes I schedule the reading before the play is even done, so it motivates me to finish it.  As the old saying goes, “Writing is rewriting.” All of my plays have had many, many drafts."

 

What is currently your favorite play?

 

"THE MOTHERF**KER WITH THE HAT by Stephen Adly Guirgis. It is so raw and “out there”, while being hysterically funny and very deep.  I recently had an opportunity to interview Stephen for my new book. He is as charming as he is witty and insightful."

 

What would you say to a fresh graduate who wants to pursue theatre as a career?

 

"See everything you can, read everything you can, watch Turner Classics and Broadway HD to learn about the greats who came before you. Absorb yourself in it, body and soul."

 

How would you describe yourself in one word?

 

"Just one? That is torture for a writer!  But I guess that word would have to be 'storyteller.'"

 

If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?

 

"An end to COVID-19 – Now!!"

 

What, in your opinion, is the most important quality in a director?

 

"Casting strong actors and trusting them."

 

What’s something you are really good at that few people know about?

 

"I’ve been a dialect coach on about 40 shows. That is also something I love to do.  I was raised by a nanny from Glasgow, so I love to do UK dialects in particular."

 

What would the closest person in your life say if I asked them, “What is the one characteristic that they totally dig about you, and the one that drives them insane?"

 

"They would dig my passion. They would not dig that I can be all over the map sometimes and spread myself too thin."

 

 You’ve obviously worked with a great range of actors over your career. Do you think formal acting classes are important?

"Extremely! There is no substitute for training. I studied acting at Juilliard, NYU, Northwestern and privately with many of the greats from Paul Newman, to Jan Miner to my mom. There is nothing like a good education. And we should never stop learning. Ever." 

Many thanks to Luke Yankee! Take a look at a rough cut movie premiere scene of "Confessions of a Star Maker" below, and be sure to watch on November 27th!
CONFESSIONS OF A STAR MAKER
Streaming on Vimeo:
8pm: 11/27, 28, 12/3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12
2pm: 11/29, 12/5, 6, 12, 13

This week's Spotlight Artist is no stranger to the limelight. Adriana Rodriguez Burciaga grew up singing in a choir and has gone on to perform with Disney as well as on stages around Orange County. She talks about how the arts are an essential part of her life, what she is up to now, and what happens when you put her in a kitchen with her Dad.

NOVEMBER 22, 2020 — By David Šášik

Perhaps it has something to do with that ever-beaming smile, or possibly it's her angelic voice; it could very well be that sense of innocence, or maybe it's just her pure, expressive love for others. But there seems to be a rare, wide-eyed, unpretentious quality about triple-threat Adriana Rodriguez Burciaga—this week’s Spotlight Artist!

 

As she tells it, Adriana’s already-thriving career centers much around all things Disney, so her charisma has got to be quite impressive. Equally adept in song, dance and footlights, Adriana boasts a BFA degree from Cal State Fullerton, and is a member of AGVA. I have personally had the good fortune in viewing a fairly sizable number of Adriana’s précis of theatrical productions over the years, including “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at the Chance, “The Little Mermaid” at Peppertree Park, and many more CSUF and Attic Community Theater breakout performances, and we look forward to seeing more of this rising star very soon on the SoCal stage. We recently connected with Adriana and asked her a few questions about her challenges this year with the COVID pandemic, what her long-range goals are, and about any upcoming projects she's considering. Here's what she said:

How did you get started in the arts?

"I had always been extremely theatrical as a child due to my love for Disney animated films. However, my introduction to the arts began when I joined my middle school choir in the 7th grade!"

What has been your story as an artist since that first artistic experience?

"Throughout my time in the choir I discovered the existence of Musical Theatre. It was then that I realized this is what I wanted to do for a living. When it was time to apply to universities, I only applied to one school: Cal State Fullerton. My family and I didn't have the financial freedom to apply, let alone have me audition, for multiple schools outside of our county. Thankfully, I earned my acceptance into the university and became eager to graduate with a BFA in Musical Theatre. I thought my experience would be like any other "normal" major. I imagined I would go to class, get good grades, maybe do a few shows, and then get my degree - easy! Boy, I was mistaken. After years of rigorous auditions and endless hours of rehearsing, I was admitted to complete my BFA. Along the way I became employed at The Disneyland Resort where I had the opportunity to take on many roles, including the role of an AGVA union performer. Since graduating, I've been doing what actors do best: audition, survive, repeat."

What are you most proud of? 

"I am most proud of my ability to improve and desire to keep learning. This mentality has served me well in many aspects of my life. You know the type of person that is naturally good at the things they're passionate about? I've learned that I am not that kind of person. I have to work tirelessly to feel confident and that's okay. If that's what it takes, then that's what I'll do."

What are you passionate about outside of the arts?

"I have many hobbies! I love to bake my father's homemade cookies, I take after him in that sense. I enjoy playing Dungeons and Dragons, playing various board games, and hunting down a new coffee joint. I am extremely passionate about anti-racism, the LGBTQ+ community, empowering women, and diversity - all under the umbrella of social justice/responsibility."

People often talk about how they are working toward their dream, especially artists and actors. What is your dream?

"My dream is quite simple. I want to have a steady career in performance. Whether that be in Film/Televison or live theatre, I just want to do what I love surrounded by people who I care about."

The coronavirus pandemic has been an extremely difficult time for artists. How have you been keeping busy? Have you found other ways to be creative?

"I've been baking a ton! Making a treat for someone other than myself brings me a lot of joy and has been a good way to stay content during this time. Additionally, I've been working at Madewell as an Assistant Manager throughout the pandemic!"

Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to promote in this interview? If not, what are you looking forward to post-Covid?

"I recently became a Company Member of a virtual theatre company called Digital Dramatics! It is fairly new but it made up of incredibly talented artists from across the map. Our most recent project is live on YouTube, but more are sure to come!"

Lastly, please share with us a boring fact about yourself.

"I am allergic to barbecue sauce, quite possibly the most sad and boring fact ever."

 

Many Thanks to Adriana Rodriguez Burciaga!
 

This week we were privileged to chat with a savvy, gifted, luminary artisan of the stage — Melissa Musial.

Join us as we explore her goals, ambitions and challenges in the business of Show! 

NOVEMBER 15, 2020 — By David Šášik
"Love is Always Lovely in the End" -  The Drowsy Chaperone, Adriana Rodriguez Burciaga and Colby Hamann; Directed by Sarah Ripper at CSUF Fall 2016
If you've not had the opportunity to see Melissa Musial on stage, you may be suddenly thunderstruck at her level of command and proficiency in accentuating about any character she plays. She is definitely on the rise. Unfortunately, fate has not been kind to the world of thespians this year. But as heavy metal band Motley Crue says, "All Bad Things Must End!"
So most of us wait for the window to open again. And when it does, I'm sure Melissa will be right in the thick of it too. She's already made quite a name for herself with productions last year like "Avenue Q," and "Violet" at Costa Mesa Playhouse, along with an extraordinary performance of the Baker's Wife in "Into The Woods" at Stages. My first glimpse of her talent, though, was in the musical "Baby" at UCI's Claire Trevor School of the Arts where she later received a BA in drama with honors in musical theatre. I knew then she was one to watch.
We wanted to know more about this amazing young entertainer. Check out how she feels about the industry, her dreams and aspirations:

Melissa, how did you get started in the arts?

“In middle school my sister's friend was listening to ‘Wicked the Musical,’ so I had to find out what it was about. I went on YouTube, listened to ‘For Good,’ and I was hooked. When I started high school, I met another student whose mom owned a children's community theater group called Go-Fame. I was ecstatic kids my age could do theatre! I had thought at the time it was such a distant thing that only adults could do, as I or no one in my family had any career in the arts. I felt like I found my passion, and every day it was incredible to rehearse, build a family, and perform as a whole unit. Since then, I haven't been able to quit!”

 

What has been your story as an artist since that first artistic experience?

“A difficult decision I had to make as a 17-year-old was deciding whether I wanted to pursue my dreams, or play it safe. I am SO thankful my parents believed in me and told me to chase after my passions. I went on to graduate from the University of California Irvine with a BA in Drama and Honors in Musical theater. It was a journey within itself to discover who I was as my own person in college as well as how to brand myself when I was still in the process of growing up. You try to operate under the input and person other people see you as, but truly deep down YOU are the artist that needs to understand yourself. Once you do that and find out who that is, the rest is history.

Since graduating, I helped teach musical theater seasonally at my Alma Mater, Saint Anthony High School, became a DL Entertainment Operations Lead at Disneyland, worked local theater gigs, and have been to many exciting auditions. The process of auditioning beyond education is definitely one you have to get accustomed to. You get told by your professors that you will hear "no" a lot, but the truth is, you never hear the words "no." The rejection comes in the form of never receiving the email or phone call you anxiously wait for. You will receive rejection for reasons you can have no control over.

I met a man at intermission during a performance of one of my friend's shows and we talked about how you HAVE to fall in love with the process. With the process comes the rejection, and you have to learn to love it and learn from it too. I began to accept the process as it was, and I started focusing my energy on solely how wonderful it is to have the room listen to you for 30 seconds and watch you express what you love most. When I started to love the process, I noticed more opportunities approaching and eventually I went on to sign with ATB talent agency for TV/Film/Theater/Stage. From here, I can't wait to see what the next step in my story will be.”

What are you most proud of? (This could be a career achievement, a personal achievement, a project you worked on, an upcoming project, something you have learned, etc. Don't feel limited in your answer.)

“I'm very proud of my kids at SA. Watching them discover theatre and grow as artists fills me with so much joy and it inspires me every day to keep at it in pursuing my dreams. In my personal career, one of the greatest theatre experiences I've ever had was being able to perform as Kate Monster in UCI' s production of Avenue Q. Being my senior show, the experience was emotional, but so extremely fulfilling. Hearing an entire audience come together and boom with laughter at uncomfortable topics just made me feel so connected to the people around me. We had so much fun that every rehearsal just felt like play time!

I'm also very excited to announce my next performance working as a female lead swing for a project I have my fingers majorly crossed will still be in production when we are able to return safely to our theater spaces. I think it's going to be such a fantastic new challenging experience and I can't wait to tackle it!”

 

What are you passionate about outside of the arts? (This includes hobbies, personal or social causes, fitness, etc.)

“I am extremely passionate about teaching. Teachers are such a gift to the next generation and we need to appreciate the power they hold in shaping and encouraging the minds of kids and our future adults. Seeing a student light up when they understand a concept, or helping them overcome an obstacle, or sharing in their joys when they feel accomplished is just the best feeling ever. When you look at a student and encourage them to believe that they ARE in fact good enough, talented enough, and expressive enough, you are not only reassuring them of their personal value, but you start to treat yourself with the same kindness as well.”

People often talk about how they are working toward their dream, especially artists and actors. What is your dream?

“I have to make my 6th grade and current self, proud, and book a tour of ‘Wicked the Musical.’ That's something I need to get done and I don't care if I accomplish it by the time I'm Madame Morrible’s age, I just gotta do it! Another huge dream of mine is to be able to perform as Jenna in ‘Waitress.’

Accomplishing either of those things, I would feel I have done what I promised myself I would and could do. I would feel totally content.”

The coronavirus pandemic has been an extremely difficult time for artists. How have you been keeping busy? Have you found other ways to be creative?

“When the pandemic began, it was definitely a hard pill to swallow. Everyone had their coping mechanisms and we had to learn to live a new ‘normal.’  I used the time I had to breathe, reconnect with friends and family through messages, learn how to cook family recipes with my mom, and revisit some of my favorite musical soundtracks. Being so busy with working and auditions, I think a lot of us forgot to take care of ourselves.

I started learning more about myself, about things I needed to do to start living my best life and operate at a frequency I could be at peace with and proud of.  I've also found creativity in drawing/painting, and learning/singing new music that makes me happy!”

Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to promote in this interview? If not, what are you looking forward to post-Covid? (This can include Zoom performances or any other virtual projects.)

“I have my fingers crossed that in summer of 2021 you will be able to come to Knott' s Berry Farm and catch a fantastic new show at the Charles M. Schulz Theater!”

Lastly, please share with us a boring fact about yourself. (“Interesting facts” are just way too much pressure. For example, I always brush my teeth before flossing and never the other way around.)

“Boring fact? I'm a frequent ankle cracker. The relief is just oh so sweet!”

Thank you Melissa Musial! And we hope to see you soon on the SoCal stage!

This week we talked with Richard Israel, a  four-time L.A. Stage Alliance Ovation Award winner and the recipient of the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Career Achievement Award for Directing.

NOVEMBER 15, 2020 — By David Šášik

If you are a regular theatregoer, most probably you have seen Richard Israel's name in a playbill somewhere. During the past 10 years, Richard Israel has directed a wide array of plays, musicals and new works, dividing his time between Southern California and New York. Most recently, Richard served as the Theatrical Coordinator for the HBO series BIG LITTLE LIES, in which he directed several on-screen sequences from AVENUE Q. And, for the past five years, he has been involved in the development of the Jeff Marx/Fat Mike musical HOME STREET HOME, (including workshop productions at the O'Neill Theatre Center and in New York).

 

Some of his recent theatre projects include THE WORLD GOES ROUND for Reprise 2.0, VIOLET for the Actor’s Co-Op (Ovation Award Winner for Best Direction of a Musical, Ovation Nomination for Best Musical),  25th ANNUAL ... SPELLING BEE for PVPA, WEST SIDE STORY and RENT for McCoy/Rigby Entertainment, OUR TOWN and THE BAKER'S WIFE for The Actor's Co-op, PROMISES, PROMISES and DO I HEAR A WALTZ for Musical Theatre Guild,  FLOYD COLLINS (Ovation Award Winner for Best Direction of a Musical and for Best Musical in a Large Venue), 110 IN THE SHADE (Ovation Award Winner for Best Musical in an Intimate Theater, Ovation Nomination for Best Direction of a Musical), SPRING AWAKENING for Cal State Fullerton, MEMPHIS, THE DROWSY CHAPERONE and CHILDREN OF EDEN for AMDA, KISS ME KATE and ONCE UPON A MATTRESS for Five Star Theatricals, BRONIES! THE MUSICAL, THE BURNT PART BOYS, THE FULL MONTY and FALSETTOS for Third Street Theatre, AVENUE Q for DOMA Theatre Company (6 Ovation Award Nominations including Best Musical), GLORIOUS!, DEAD MAN'S CELL PHONE and LEADING LADIES for International City Theatre, and the world premiere of HAVING IT ALL, first at the NoHo Arts Center and recently for the Laguna Playhouse (7 Ovation Award Nominations including Outstanding Musical and Outstanding Musical Ensemble and an NAACP Image Award Nomination for Direction).

Here’s what a few of the critics say:

 

VIOLET

"Among musical theatre circles, director Richard Israel has a well-deserved reputation for crafting memorable performances by bringing out the rich subtleties in a script and cultivating endless nuances of character. The result is an exquisite audience experience that satisfies on every level. VIOLET...is his finest work to date."
BROADWAY WORLD HOT LIST

ANITA BRYANT DIED FOR YOUR SINS
"Wonderfully funny and deeply moving...When this richly evocative material is matched with director Richard Israel’s crisp and flavorful staging, the result is scintillating entertainment."

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

WEST SIDE STORY
"A definitive production of a landmark show.  Richard Israel's superlative staging fully realizes the tension and fascinatingly complex dynamic...the tension is downright palpable."

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

SHE LOVES ME

“…Nothing can pull this production down from the theatrical stratosphere. SHE LOVES ME is transporting and thoroughly a heartwarming narrative, the kind of musical that even those with the hardest of hearts would find impossible not to love."

THE SHOW REPORT                                                                                                        

Currently, Richard is working on several original musicals, including ROCKET SCIENCE, HOME STREET HOME, THE MOLLYHOUSE, A VERY BRADY MUSICAL, and THE BABY PROJECT, and is a member of the musical theatre faculty of AMDA-LA as well as a member of the board of the Foundation for New American Musicals.

 

Here’s a closer, inside look at the man himself — Richard Israel:

 

Richard, how did you get started in the Arts?

“I began as an actor in college.”

What has been your story as an artist since that first artistic experience?

“I got my BFA in Musical Theatre at the University of Arizona, and immediately moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as an actor in film and television. I had a good 10-year run doing film and TV, but was always working in theatre, doing shows in 99-seat theaters in L.A. About 15 years ago, I found myself performing in Equity shows in larger theaters, to the point where most of my income was coming from my work in musicals, rather than from film and TV. About 10 years ago, I started directing musicals, and found it to be much more rewarding than performing. I started directing exclusively with the theatre company that I managed, but was lucky enough to be hired by other theaters to direct shows for them.  For the last 5 years, I've been a freelance director, specializing in the development of original musicals in L.A. and New York.”

What are you most proud of? (This could be a career achievement, a personal achievement, a project you worked on, an upcoming project, something you have learned, etc. Don't feel limited in your answer.)

“The career achievement that brings me the most joy is a production of FLOYD COLLINS which I directed at West Coast Ensemble Theatre several years ago. It was the show that really put me on the map as a director, but more importantly, it showed me that I could take something that looked like an insurmountable artistic challenge and really figure it out.  I had the amazing good fortune to be given the opportunity to direct the same show at a much larger venue 5 years ago, and it was equally rewarding, and a great mile marker of where my career was headed.

In a more general sense, I think the thing that I keep learning more and more deeply over the course of my career is how truly collaborative the art of Musical Theatre is. It's an art form that depends on dozens of people coming together to exercise the same vision with the same passion and sense of commitment. As I've directed larger shows and higher profile projects, the ability to collaborate and truly make room for my colleagues (actors, designers, producers) to be heard has been an incredibly gratifying discovery.”

What are you passionate about outside of the arts? (This includes hobbies, personal or social causes, fitness, etc.)

“I recently started a daily running regimen, and it's been a fantastic addition to my life. It was always something that I dreaded, and honestly thought would require more discipline than I possess, but I'm actually doing it, and it's changed my life.”

People often talk about how they are working toward their dream, especially artists and actors. What is your dream?

“My dream is to attach myself to an original musical that finds its way to a successful New York production, either on Broadway or off-Broadway. Being in the ground floor of something entirely original and seeing it to fruition in the epicenter of musical theatre would be the realization of a lifelong goal.”

The coronavirus pandemic has been an extremely difficult time for artists. How have you been keeping busy? Have you found other ways to be creative?

“I'm very lucky, in that I'm working with several writing teams on new musicals, and we're using this time to refine our material, so that we'll be ready when the world comes back.  I've also started teaching a Musical Theatre audition song analysis class which is so rewarding, and works great in a virtual setting.  So between script meetings, virtual readings and teaching, I've been able to stay busy and creative.”

Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to promote in this interview? If not, what are you looking forward to post-Covid? (This can include Zoom performances or any other virtual projects.)

“I just finished a virtual reading of a new BRADY BUNCH musical as a benefit for the Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine, and we're hoping to launch a national tour at that theatre as soon as it's safe to do so. So that's definitely something solid on the horizon to look forward to!”

Lastly, please share with us a boring fact about yourself. (For example, I always brush my teeth before flossing and never the other way around. “Interesting facts” are just way too much pressure.)

“The only colors I have in my wardrobe are black, grey and blue.”

 

Many thanks to Richard Israel, and we look forward to his next production.

Eugene O'Neill Theater Center
Into Light - Richard Israel
Home Street Home - Richard Israel

 © 2020 by KDaniels 

Chris Daniels, Arts Reviewer

The Show Report