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Posts Tagged ‘The Public Theater’

On November 4, 2010, I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with real-life married couple Jonathan Walker and Jennifer Van Dyck after seeing them in hilarious new Charles Busch show “The Divine Sister” at the SoHo Playhouse. This was my very first joint couple interview (Thank You James Valletti for the idea!) and it was thrilling! With impeccable comedic timing, Jonathan and Jennifer bring the house down while on stage both together and separately.

Jonathan has delighted audiences on Broadway in “20th Century” and “After the Fall,” while Off-Broadway audiences saw him in Charles Busch’s “The Third Story,” “The Divine Sister” at Theater for a New City as well as numerous productions at The Public Theater, MCC, MTC, Women’s Project, The New Group, Playwrights Horizons, Roudabout Theatre Company, La MaMa, and P.S. 122. Jonathan has lit up the big screen in such feature films as “Far From Heaven,” “People I Know,” “Heights,” “Michael Clayton,” and “Malevolence 2.” Television audiences have seen Jonathan in “The Big C,” “The Good Wife,” “Eli Stone,” “Sex and the City,” “Chapelle’s Show,” and lots of “Law & Order.”

Jennifer has dazzled Broadway audiences in “Hedda Gabbler,” “Dancing at Lughnasa,” “Two Shakespearean Actors,” and “The Secret Rapture.” Her many Off-Broadway credits include Charles Busch’s “The Third Story” and “The Divine Sister” at Theater for a New City as well as plays by Austin Pendleton, Bathsheba Doran, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Douglas Post. Film/TV audiences have seen Jennifer in “Across the Universe,” “Michael Clayton,” “Stealing Martin Lane,” “Series 7,” “States of Control,” numerous “Law & Order” episodes, “Fringe,” and “New Amsterdam.”

Now you can see both Jonathan and Jennifer shine in “The Divine Sister” at SoHo Playhouse (15 Van Dam Street) along with fellow Adaubmelle’s Quest participants Charles Busch, Julie Halston, Alison Fraser, and upcoming participant Amy Rutberg! This show is a MUST SEE, so click here for tickets and enjoy an afternoon or evening in heaven…

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer?

Jennifer: I always wanted to be an actress. There was never any question. It really began growing up…my friend and I would always put on productions of “The Wizard of Oz” and she played “Dorothy,” of course, and I played “The Scarecrow.” As far as people who inspired me, Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett. I was completely mesmerized by “I Love Lucy” reruns growing up.

Jonathan: A number of the guys I gleaned for this show, and I mean this in a good way, the cheesy leading men in the 60s/70s who I admired growing up, like Chad Everett who was on a show called “Medical Center” (who was actually in the “Singing Nun”), Charlton Heston, Dick Van Dyke, and Dick York. Also as a child, we were church going (look how it all blends with this show) and a troupe came to our church called the Alpha and Omega Players (who still exist today) and they travel around in a van and put on religious-themed (but not evangelical) shows. They came into our church, I must have been 6, and they transformed it into a performance space. They did a shortened version of “St. Joan” and I was undone. To see that space I was in three days a week turned into this thing and I have a distinct memory of standing out front of the church as the van pulled away, bursting into tears and saying to my father “I wanna go with them,” (you know instead of running away to the circus). So from “Bewitched” to “St. Joan” was the real early inspirations for me.

Jennifer: The other side of that for me was The Paperbag Players. My parents took me to that when I was very young and they terrified me. I remember they were doing Grimm’s Fairytales and people’s fingers were being cut off and people were being locked in cellars, but I was utterly transported to another world. I remember being both terrified and thrilled by the whole thing and remember saying “I want to do that.”

2. Who’s the one person you haven’t worked with that you would like to?

Jennifer: Mike Leigh, the filmmaker (he’s directed “Topsy Turvy,” “Happy-Go-Lucky,” “Vera Drake,” etc), who comes from a theatre background. I just read his book and I’m just so in awe of him. I love his films. He does like six months of rehearsal with his actors, so by the time they shoot the film, the actors really know their characters inside and out. It sounds like a terrifying prospect, but I’ve always been fascinated by rehearsing as if you were living a character. Then getting to do it for film, which normally has no rehearsal, but his way you seem like you get the best of both worlds with theatre and film combined.

Jonathan: I would have to say it’s always been Vanessa Redgrave. I put out feelers for “Driving Miss Daisy” you know when they were casting it and I heard with in two days that Boyd (Gaines) was getting it and I was like “Yes, of course he is.”

3. If you couldn’t be doing what you are doing now, what career would you choose?

Jonathan: We were just talking about that with our friend Matt. You know the actor Matt McGrath, well Matt is always talking about “Drop out dream #whatever, opening a candle shop” because it’s so up and down in our profession. You go through a 2-3 month foul period and you’re like “I stink,” “They stink,” “It all stinks.” Then you go okay, Surfboard shop, masseuse, priest, baker…I always wanted to be a UPS delivery man. They have those lovely brown outfits with the shorts and the socks and I see them on the street and I go “Oh, oh, I’d love to do that, wouldn’t that be fun delivering packages all day.” (no, no that would be terrible). All jobs are difficult, all jobs are hard, that’s why they call it jobs! In all seriousness, I’d like to work with a not-for-profit group. I do a lot of volunteer work and now I’m working with a group called “Transportation Alternatives.” It’s a cycling, pedestrian, and mass transit advocacy group. I worked for the Green Gorillas for a while and God’s Love We Deliver. They’re just great because people are there for a reason. That is something I would probably do because they do good work so if I could get job with one of them full time, I would.

Jennifer: I guess I would be a teacher. I have no experience teaching, I know nothing. My mom’s a teacher and my dad’s a minister, so that’s what I’ve seen (they’ve seen this show many times already and love it, the irreverence and all).

4. How did you guys meet?

Jennifer: Doing a play…we did a production of “Hamlet” at the Old Globe, directed by Jack O’Brien. Jonthan was “Laertes” and I was “Ophelia” and Campbell Scott was our “Hamlet.”

5. What’s it like to work together and live together? How does the whole dynamic work?

Jonathan: We spend 23 hours a day together and that 1 hour apart is if you add up all the bathroom time, okay, so maybe we spend 22 hours out of the day together, if we’re including gym time. (Jennifer laughs)

Jennifer: It’s great. When we worked with Jack at The Globe, we did a couple of seasons there doing plays, but then we didn’t work together, other than readings, for like 15 years, before Charles (Busch) put us both in “The Third Story” by sheer accident…We did that in La Jolla and then that came here and all the while we got to know Charles and then he wrote this play for us…

Jonathan: We’ve been in like four plays together with Charles (2 productions of “The Third Story” and 2 productions of “The Divine Sister” (the previous one being the limited run in March ’10 at Theatre for a New City). So, we really like it. You know, we’re married, we live together, we love each other, but really like each other too and respect each other’s work…

Jennifer: I’m always amazed when actors marry civilians because schedule wise, you have no weekends, you can not plan ahead, you can’t do anything when you’re working because you’re so focused on the show…

Jonathan: (not in reference to Jennifer) But you’re also a nut job, you know, you’re out of your mind, you’ve got opening night and you’re like “Blahhh,” but the other person understands…

Jennifer: Right, so we get it, and it’s been amazing with “The Divine Sister” because it’s not just understanding one of us is in a play, we’re in the same play, so we go home and we’re like “oh that sucked” or “wow, that was great” or “what about that…”

Jonathan: Or we go “oh you had a great show, no I had a rotten show, you had a great show….”

Jennifer: We have some of that.

Jonathan: When we were opening, I was thinking maybe it would be interesting to come home to someone who has no connection to the show, because, it’s hard to come home and just detach. We’re always dissecting the show, but we don’t senor that cause it’s actually nice, even on our night off or on Sunday nights we’ll often go out to dinner and we kind of refrain for 20 minutes or so from talking about the show and then we just give into it…

Me: You guys, the whole cast, work so well together. I really feel like it’s such an ensemble piece.

Jennifer: It’s a great bunch and we all work great together. You know, Charles wrote this show for all of us and we’ve been together since the beginning and there is a real sense of comfort and ease with each other.

Jonathan: You know it’s not a lie, we really all get along and like each other. It’s really a cooperative thing, like tonight, the audience is really part of the ensemble. It’s not like “Long Days Journey Into Night” which drags you along, but the audience goes through something too and that’s part of Charles’ charm, and talent, and genius. He comes right out and puts you in his hand and he’s kind of taught us to do that a little bit and be there for the audience, and say “Come on, let’s go, let’s go do a dirty nun’s story.” (everyone laughs).

6. Favorite place to rehearse on your own?

Jennifer: In our building, our dear friend Richard Easton lives upstairs from us (as does Julie and her husband) and he was away during the time we were rehearsing “The Divine Sister” for the first time and we would take turns going up to his place to learn our lines because in our one bedroom apartment there is only a door that you can close, which usually isn’t enough to learn the lines separately….

Jonathan: It worked out great, one in his apartment and one in our apartment. The street is another good place to rehearse on your own. John Gielgud who lived in the country, used to talk about walking the roads saying lines to himself and thinking all his neighbors thought he was crazy.

Jennifer: I do learn plays when I run. Once the lines are starting to go in, I do them on the run and then I add on to what I’ve already learned. I make faces and sometimes I think other runners are like what the hell is going on. That is sort of a very meditative time for me to learn my lines.

7. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Jennifer: The first professional job I had was at Trinity Rep and Richard Jenkins was directing me in a production of “The Crucible” and he basically said to me “There is no clear path how one goes through this life (for a career). One step does not lead to another. There are side steps and vertical steps and horizontal steps. Let the unknown be your compass.”

Jonathan: I was working a lot in LA doing television and there’s a famous story that someone asked Estelle Getty “What advice do you have for a young actor trying to make it in LA?” She said, “Take Fountain” (that’s a street in LA that cuts below Sunset Blvd). You know, she’s absolutely right, you were able to get right across town, the lights worked, you were out of traffic. In LA, all you do is drive from audition to audition and I would drive down Fountain and be like, “She’s right, Estelle Getty was right.” But in line with what Jennifer said, Richard Easton gave me a piece of advice “Say, Yes” and he means that in all senses. If someone calls you up and says do you want to do a reading, say yes, because work leads to work.

8. Favorite way to spend your day off?

Jennifer: It would be to be together…

Jonathan: Often. I would say, “There ain’t enough hours in the day for the nothing I want to do.”

Both: Being in Vermont, walking in the woods.

9. Favorite website?

Jennifer: BBC News, Merriam Webster Dictionary (because I do a lot audio books and they have a pronouncing key where you can type in a word and then hear how it’s pronounced.

Jonathan: There’s a website called Chowhound.com which is an amazing resource for food. It’s a place for people who like food and like to talk about food, give recipes, restaurant suggestions, etc. There was also a website called Loronix.com, it’s a Brazilian music website and you can download all this music legally.

10. Superman or Wonder Woman?

Jennifer: Wonder Woman

Jonathan: Superdog, for me, but if I had to answer the question exactly, I would say Superman because I never quite got Wonder Woman with the rope and the bracelets. But I also love Richie Rich, Scrooge McDuck, and Baby Huey.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. Do you have any strange or unusual talent that nobody knows about?

Jennifer: I’m a ferocious burper. I don’t know if I’d call that a talent, but I got it from my mother and I can really let ’em rip…

Jonathan: You can really let ’em rip…I think that your portrayal of “Timmy” in “The Divine Sister” was a hidden talent. It wasn’t “Timmy” per say, but she’s very, very silly at home and pulled “Timmy” out of a hat and I’ve never seen anything like that before from her in my life…

Jennifer: (to Jonathan) What’s your secret talent?

Jonathan: I used cage drinks doing this…I can take 2 toothpicks and put them in my mouth, in my lower lip, and actually cross them, and then put them up my nose without touching them and then move my lower lip and make my nose go up and down. I know, it’s totally a stupid human trick. It’s vile and creepy and it’s odd and very few people can do it.

12. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be?

Both laughs…

Jennifer: You (meaning Jonathan)

Jonathan: and I’ll have to say Kate Winslet, but seriously the happiest dreams I have are when Jennifer’s in them.

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I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with the very funny and personable Jeff Hiller on September 28 after seeing him in the new hit Broadway show “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.” With stupendously impeccable comedic timing both on and off-stage, Jeff Hiller is definitely one of the next rising stars you must go see!

As a member of UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade), Jeff honed his comedic skills which he has bestowed upon theatre, film, and television audiences. Theatre audiences have had the pleasure of seeing Jeff’s talent in “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” (both Public Theater versions), “Silence!, The Children” (NYMF Award Winner), the original cast of “Awesome 80’s Prom,” and “Showgirls”…at UCB. His film credits include “Morning Glory,” “Ghost Town,” and “Adam.” Television viewers watched Jeff in such hit shows as “Ugly Betty,” “30 Rock,” “Late Night,” “Guiding Light,” “Boiling Points,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “The P.A.,” “Starved,” and numerous commercials! Jeff is currently dazzling audiences nightly in the new Broadway hit “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.” If you want to see comic royalty, then I highly suggest you click here for tickets and go see Jeff in “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson!” For much more on Jeff, be sure to visit: http://www.hillertime.com.

1. Who inspired you to become a performer? I would say Henry Thomas, the guy who played “Elliott” in ET, because that was one of the first movies I ever saw and I remember being like this is so cool…”I can do that better.”

2. Who is the one person you haven’t worked with that you would like to? This is always the question people are like, just one?? I haven’t worked with a ton of people so there are about one zillion people I’d love to work with, but I do have a soft spot for David Hyde Pierce and Jennifer Coolidge and I’d love to work in a Christopher Guest movie.

3. If you couldn’t be doing what you are doing now, what career would you choose? Well before I was an actor, I was a social worker working with homeless youth, so I’d probably doing that.

4. Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts? What do you order? Of course I try to go indie, but I would do Starbucks Venti Ice Coffee with 2 Splenda and some Skim Milk (I’m watching my girlish figure…hehehe). I also like Joe (on 13th Street) where they give you a card if you get buy five, get your 6th free.

5. Favorite play/musical? I love “A New Brain” by William Finn. My favorite play is “August Osage County.”

6. Favorite ride at an amusement park? I’m a swinger, I like the swings ’cause my feet dangle.

7. Favorite skin care product? I actually don’t do much for my skin, but I really like this new Redkin for men thickening spray because it makes seem like I’m less bald.

8. Boxers or Briefs? Boxer-briefs during the day and boxers at night.

9. Favorite website? YouTube.com and EW.com. I need my entertainment fix.

10. Superman or Wonder Woman? Wonder Woman of course. Why is it that we are always friends with big women. I think the three of us (you, me, and Wonder Woman) would have a great time out having drinks.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Career wise it’s “Just say yes to everything” and non-career wise it’s “Love more than judge.”

12. Do you have any strange or unusual talent that nobody knows about? I can wiggle my ears and I can make it look like I’m threading string through my lip and then make it look like I’m pulling my lip to make it move, into Elvis lips.

13. What is the highest and lowest note you can sing? I have been studying with Matt Farnesworth and when I am in my voice lesson, I can sing an A!  But usually just a G – an F if I’m feeling safe.  If its before noon, just an E, and if its before 9 AM I sing Bea Arthur.  I don’t know the lowest note, because let’s face it, no one cares about the lowest note you can sing.

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If you are looking for a performer with strong vocals, good looks, and most of all talent, then Curtis Holbrook is your guy! A performer on the definite rise, Curtis has delighted Broadway audiences in “Xanadu,” “Follies,” “All Shook Up,” “The Boy From Oz,” “Taboo,” “Fosse,” and “Footloose,” and the current Broadway revival of “West Side Story.”  His Off-Broadway credits include “Saved!” at Playwrights Horizon and “Radiant Baby” at the Public Theater. Curtis has also lit up the screen in such films and television shows as “Hairspray,” “Across the Universe,” “Law and Order: SVU,” “Sesame Street,” “All My Children,” and “As The World Turns.” Curtis can currently be seen in “Frog Kiss” (along with fellow “Adaumbelle’s Quest” participant Kate Pazakis) produced by Brierpatch Productions as part of the NYMF festival from September 30-October 11 at the Theater at St. Clements (423 West 46th Street).

1. Who inspired you to become a performer? First, I would have to say my mother…Because she put in me in tap class at the age of 2 🙂 But when I was old enough to know what being inspired was, I saw Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor in Singin’ in the Rain. That moment was truly magical for me. I was hooked.

2. What is the highest and lowest note you can sing? I don’t actually read sheet music…I do everything by ear. I try not to think about what notes I am singing because it can mess with your head, ya know?…But I think when we filmed Across the Universe I sang a high D.

3. Who is the one person you haven’t worked with that you would like to? Just one? There are so many!!! Well even though it isn’t possible…Bob Fosse. His way of storytelling is like no other.

4. If you couldn’t be doing what you are doing now, what career would you choose? Marine Biology.

5. Do you have any rituals that you must do before a show? Depends on the show… Usually, I listen to music that could be the soundtrack of the characters life… That helps to get me focused and fired up. How do you decompress after a show? An adult beverage.

6. Do you have any strange or unusual talent that nobody knows about? Hand Farting.

7. Favorite ride at an amusement park? All of them! The X Factor @ Magic Mountain might be my favorite though.

8. Favorite way to stay in shape? Really just by doing what I do…and Yoga. I don’t do gyms.

9. Boxers or Briefs? Really??? If you must know…square cut boxer briefs. So both!

10. Favorite website? YouTube.

11. Superman or Wonder Woman? Batman.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

12. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? My Grandfather always told me…”Think For Yourself.”

13. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? My wife 🙂

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