Tag Archives: Gypsy

Young actor shares audition tips

By guest blogger Aaron Zweiback

Being a young actor myself, I know how stressful it can be to audition. Sometimes you aren’t sure what to perform, sometimes you get nervous and don’t do your best, and sometimes the competition just seems too talented. That is why I am writing this article: to teach aspiring young actors how to navigate the audition process, and to give them some useful tips.

The first step to auditioning effectively is to be aware of the calendar for upcoming shows. A website that I have found very helpful is durantcom.com, which shows the auditions that are occurring locally. If you have any friends who are also into theatre, make sure to stay in touch with them and share information. Also, make sure you are familiar with the current “season” that is going on at certain theatres that interest you, so you will know what shows will be featuring kids’ roles.

Lto R: Sam Primack (Ralphie) and Aaron Zweiback (Flick) in "A Christmas Story" at Phoenix Theatre

Another important rule to live by that will help you tremendously on your path to a successful career is to always have a monologue and song “in your back pocket” (memorized). This way, you can be completely prepared and ready for an audition if you make an impulsive choice to try for a role but don’t have much time to prepare.

Frequently learn new songs and monologues, because some directors will get bored if you audition for their theatre with the same material more than once. It can be hard to read the minds of directors, because some hate it when you sing a song from the show you are auditioning for, but others don’t seem to mind. You should definitely think about the mood of the piece you are auditioning with, and see if it matches the mood of the show or the character you are hoping to play.

Now, if you are going to try to pursue acting, you must have the essential “tools” for the auditioning process: a photograph of you from the shoulders up (a “headshot”) and resumé (also called a “CV”) are almost always required. You can pay a professional photographer to make you look legit, ask a family member or friend to take some pictures and print them at Costco or a camera store, or even use a school photo that would appeal to a casting director.

Make sure your headshot is recent, so that you don’t show up looking completely different from the picture you are submitting. As for a resumé, simply type up all of the shows you have been a part of and the roles you have played, as well as the years and the theatres in which you performed them.

I have noticed that many young actors worry that they have no experience and therefore nothing to offer. If you feel this way, you can launch your career by attending workshops and camps, and by auditioning for as many theatres and directors as you can. Most of the professionals in town know each other, and they actually encourage actors to learn from their colleagues in different programs. I myself have performed on the main stage and/or participated in summer workshops at Phoenix Theatre, The Phoenix Symphony, Valley Youth Theatre, Childsplay, Desert Stages, and Paradise Valley Community College.

I have also watched my friends act in plays and musicals at Spotlight Youth Theatre, Greasepaint, Arizona State University, and Nearly Naked Theatre, and I hope one day to have an opportunity to perform in those venues as well. It is also tremendously productive to work with a singing, acting, or dancing coach. Choreographers like Molly Lajoie and Katie Casey have given me dozens of new dance steps that I can use on stage, and singing coach Toby Yatso has been hugely important in helping my voice mature.

L to R: Aaron Zweiback (Flick) and Sam Primack (Ralphie) in "A Christmas Story" at Phoenix Theatre

Finally, the most important thing to keep in mind when auditioning is always to keep a positive attitude, regardless of whether you win that part you’ve always craved. Casting a show is a matching process: if you don’t get a role, it does not mean that you did a bad job at the audition or that you have no talent! It simply means that the director didn’t feel you fit the part as well as someone else did, which is something you can’t control.

And if you “only” get cast in an ensemble role and feel discouraged that you didn’t get a bigger part, instead you can celebrate that you were accepted into the show at all. That old saying really is true: “there are no small roles, only small actors.”

I hope these tips have been helpful and that you will use them the next time you audition. I’ll see you at the theatre!

Note: Both Zweiback and Primack are currently performing in “Gypsy” at Phoenix Theatre and Zweiback shared with me that they’ve been cast in “The Color of Stars” with Childsplay. Zweiback attends Arizona School for the Arts in Phoenix, and is also performing in The Phoenix Symphony’s “Green Eggs and Ham.”

Coming up: Art meets architecture, A journey home, Gaga for dance

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A “Gypsy” tale

I’ll never forget a pair of shows produced many years ago by Phoenix Theatre. One was “Into the Woods,” with a cast that included D. Scott Withers as the Baker — who’s now performing in the Phoenix Theatre production of “Gypsy.” The other was “Will Rogers Follies” — a show that’s long been my own personal “one to beat” in the world of splashy musical theater fare. Sunday’s matinee of “Gypsy” gave me that “Will Rogers Follies” feeling all over again, and I loved it.

I was hoping that Lizabeth, who’s been fortunate enough to study theater with Withers and perform in a production he directed, would be able to join me for “Gypsy” — but she’s spending spring break in NYC rehearsing for a Pace University production of “Our Lady of 121st Street.” So I invited a friend, whose arts and culture creds far outweigh my own, to come along.

She loved the costumes (Cari Sue Smith). I loved the lighting (Mike Eddy). Also music direction (Alan Ruch) and scenic design (Robert Kovach). We both loved the choreography (Mollie Lajoie), and agreed that the best number in the show is “All I Need Is the Girl,” performed by Peter Marinaro (Tulsa) — whose bio should sport one additional line: The cutie pants who can dance. My line, not hers. She waxes more poetic. I just wanna rhyme.

L to R: Kathy Fitzgerald (Rose) and Jenny Hintze (Louise) in "Gypsy" at Phoenix Theatre

Three other performers delivered especially strong performances, including Withers (Herbie) and Jenny Hintze (Louise). Also Kathy Fitzgerald, who performs the role of stage mother Rose. Lizabeth and I saw her last gig — the Broadway production of “Wicked” (Madame Morrible) — where she was the perfect embodiment of misguided mean. She brings the same beautiful bite to Rose, with singing chops a bit too grand for smaller stages. Her  “Some People” and “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” rival renditions by several Broadway greats.

People read Rose differently depending on their own life experiences. It’s hard to justify her selfish, hard-driving ways. Still I felt the emphathy Fitzgerald hoped to convey. Rose’s own childhood was ugly, and left her wounded in ways most of us can scarcely imagine. She wanted so desperately to be together instead of alone. To scratch out her own shot at fame while helping her daughters escape the life that’d carved “victim” across her heart.

Still, Rose modeled some important coping skills for her daughters — humor, hard work and undying optimism.” I can’t help wondering how much better any of us might have fared under similar circumstances. Michael Barnard’s direction is a kaleidescope of sorts — revealing complicated facets of characters where others might settle for simple stereotypes.

L to R: Kate Shein (June) and Kathy Fitzgerald (Rose) in "Gypsy" at Phoenix Theatre

It helps when you’re working with brilliant material. “Gypsy” features book by Arthur Laurents, music by Julie Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Consider it a “musical fable” suggested by the memoir of Gypsy Rose Lee, the oldest of two daughters the real-life Rose did her best to shove into show business as the craft of vaudeville was falling away to the craze of burlesque.

“Gypsy” feels especially relevant in a day and age that elevates stage mothers to reality show stardom. But there’s something more — the undercurrent of change within the theater biz itself, no less profound today than it was in Rose’s day. Consider, my friend suggested, the ways of Lady Gaga. What’s talent without terrific packaging? Once there was burlesque. Now we have branding.

Phoenix Theatre has long been the cornerstone of classic musical theater in the Valley, but it’s seamlessly transitioned in recent years to contemporary fare like last season’s “Avenue Q.” They’re presenting “Spring Awakening” with Nearly Naked Theatre in June, and opening the 2012/13 season with “Spamalot.”

This and other 2012/13 offerings were revealed in a short black and white film shown on a small screen in the theater before an orchestral medley of “Gypsy” tunes opened the show. They include “Defending the Caveman,” “S’Wonderful: The New Gershwin Musical” and “a reimagining” of “Our Town.” Also a new musical revue called “Love Makes the World Go Round” (“Gleeks” will dig it) — and a little something they can’t yet name but describe as “a menagerie of  crazies.” Don’t expect Tennessee Williams.

— Lynn

Note: The cast of “Gypsy” includes several talented young actors — another great reason to see the show. Phoenix Theatre performs “Gypsy” through April 1, and their “Cookie Theatre” production of “Charlotte’s Web” opens at Greasepaint Theatre in Scottsdale on April 14.

Coming up: Got scripts?

Once upon a theater camp

Aaron Zweiback performs in Green Eggs & Ham with The Phoenix Symphony on St. Patrick's Day

I was reminded while reading Mala Blomquist’s post this morning that spring break camps will soon be upon us, and was busy trolling for camps with an arts and culture twist when interrupted by a call from 12-year-old actor and ASA student Aaron Zweiback, whose theater teachers include Xanthia Walker.

I first met Zweiback last summer when my daughter Lizabeth, who now studies acting in NYC, was a teacher assistant with Childsplay Academy in Tempe. She’d invited me to see the final performance of a summer workshop with a “Hairspray” theme. Zweiback was one of several campers performing snippets of the musical for family and friends — and his Edna a la bathrobe was a hoot. He’s also done theater camps with Phoenix Theatre.

I ran into Zweiback after a recent Valley Youth Theatre performance of “Charlotte’s Web” — during which he rocked the rat role — and put fist to ear with the typical “call me” sign after chatting with his dad. In a rather spooky coincidence, I’d been wondering earlier this morning whether he’d ever have time to actually pick up a phone.

Today was the day, and the call couldn’t have been better timed. Turns out Zweiback is performing in several shows I’ll be seeing in coming days and weeks. I learned yesterday that I’ll need a little snip to a torn part of my left knee, but decided to postpone all things arthroscopy for another two weeks in order to keep my review calendar mostly intact.

Aaron Zweiback recently performed in Charlotte's Web at Valley Youth Theatre

So life looks like this for me and my knee: See Zweiback and others perform in “Gypsy” at Phoenix Theatre this weekend, limp my way through a trip to visit Lizabeth over spring break, then catch a returning flight in the wee hours that gets me home just in time to hit another Zweiback gig — The Phoenix Symphony performing “Green Eggs and Ham.” Then squeeze in the surgery thing (with a doc who took his kids to see a friend from the Valley perform in “Grease” on Broadway a few years ago). I’m told the wait won’t worsen what ails me.

Turns out “Green Eggs and Ham” includes all sorts of amazing folks from Valley stages. ASA teacher and renowned Valley actor Toby Yatso, with whom both Lizabeth and Zweiback have studied voice, is narrating the story. Zweiback does his “boy soprano” thing as “Sam I Am” and shared that the theatrical piece of the concert is being blocked, choreographed and directed by Bobb Cooper, VYT’s producing artistic director.

There’s another Sam in Zweiback’s life as well — an actor named Sam Primack whose little mittens I once guarded with care as backstage mom for a Greasepaint Youtheatre production of “Oliver.” He and Zweiback were in “A Christmas Story” at Phoenix Theatre earlier this season, and both are cast in Childsplay’s world premiere production of Dwayne Hartford’s “The Color of Stars.”

Sam Primack poses with a VYT fan after performing in Charlotte's Web

After Zweiback shared a bit about auditioning for all these shows, I invited him to write a guest blog with audition tips for young actors — and he graciously agreed. It takes a generous spirit to share one’s own “secrets to success” and Zweiback certainly has one. I fully expect to see him performing on Broadway stages one day, and hope he’ll also keep an eye out for opportunities to audition for roles in works by William Shakespeare where his intellect and gift for comedy would shine.

If the ticket fairies are working in my favor, I’ll be able to enjoy the work of another Valley-trained actor while in NYC next week. Nick Cartell, who has performed with VYT, Phoenix Theatre and other Arizona companies makes his Broadway debut this month in a revival of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

Katie Czajkowksi and Aaron Zweiback after a Childsplay summer camp performance based on the musical Hairspray

I’m also looking forward to the Homestead Playhouse production of “Holes,” being performed at Copper Ridge School in Scottsdale March 28-30, because another young performer I met after the Childsplay “Hairspray” camp performance landed the warden role. Katie’s mom, Deb Czajkowski, recently got in touch to share the happy news — and her thoughts on the many benefits of theater for youth.

I hope those of you still wondering what your children or teens might enjoy doing over spring break will do a little theater camp legwork. One day, perhaps, you’ll get to turn to your child and share the old theater adage for good luck — “Break a leg!” Just try to keep your own body parts intact in the meantime…

— Lynn

Note: Click here to read Mala Blomquist’s post on spring break camps and here to learn about all sorts of summer camps. Find additional spring break camps at Voices Studio, Creative Stages Youth Theatre and Mesa Arts Center (if you’ve got one, send me the scoop at rakstagemom@gmail.com).

Coming up: Spring break NYC-style, Hometown boy makes Broadway debut

Broadway Rocks!

Kaye Tuckerman as Donna in Mamma Mia! (Photo: Joan Marcus)

He’s young. He’s hip. But will conductor Joseph Young don the spandex jumpsuit to conduct a bit of music from “Mamma Mia” featured in this weekend’s “Broadway Rocks!” concerts performed by The Phoenix Symphony?

I think not — but it is fun to imagine all the fashion options knowing they’ll also be playing selections from “Rent,” “Dreamgirls,””Jersey Boys,” “Hairspray” and “Wicked.” Pointy hat, anyone?

The Phoenix Symphony performs “Broadway Rocks!” at Symphony Hall Feb. 24-26 — with a Sunday matinee for those of you who like to take the kiddos to such things but still believe in proper bedtimes.

Jackie Burns as Elpheba in Wicked (Photo: Joan Marcus)

The concerts are perfectly timed for who plan to see “Wicked” at ASU Gammage — which features favorites from “Defying Gravity” to “For Good.” Practice your “toss, toss” hair flipping now so you’re ready for the big night.

“Broadway Rocks” also includes selections from “The Wiz,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “The Lion King,” “Hair,” “Phantom of the Opera” and “Chess.” Even music from “Jekyll and Hyde,” which I’ve always found especially moving.

It features performance by The Phoenix Symphony Chorus as well as three vocalists — Christiane Noll, Virginia Woodruff and Doug LaBrecque. Lovely choices, but I’ll still be missing D. Scott Withers, whose campy “Edna” stylings in the Phoenix Theatre and Arkansas Repertory Theatre productions of “Hairspray” were delicious.

Van Hughes (Johny), Scott J. Campbell (Tunny) and Nicci Claspell (The Extraordinary Girl) in American Idiot (Photo: Doug Hamilton)

Two touring productions of Broadway shows with a rock and roll vibe are headed our way as well. The Theater League production of “Rock of Ages” comes to two Valley venues April 10-15, and the national tour of “American Idiot” comes to ASU Gammage April 24-29.

Come fall, The Phoenix Symphony will present a concert called “Wicked Divas.” It’s being performed Sept. 28-30 as part of their 2012-13 season “Pops Series” — and feature vocalists Ali Mauzey and Nicole Parker, who’ve both performed in “Wicked.” The concert will include music from “Gypsy,” “Ragtime,” “Titanic,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Carmen” and “Wicked.”

Maybe I’ll pass them my short list of favorite Broadway men — say Mandy Patinkin and Andrew Rannells — in case they want to give equal time to a few of the guys. Or they could just make my daughter Lizabeth’s day by bringing out her favorite trio of J. Pierrepont Finches — Daniel Radcliffe, Darren Criss and Nick Jonas.

— Lynn

Note: The 2nd annual “Symphony Stroll,” presented by Phoenix Symphony Allegro, takes place Sat., Feb. 25 from 4-7pm. Click here for details.

Coming up: Art awakenings

Update: The Carolyn Eynon Singers perform “Broadway Showstoppers from Berlin, Bernstein and Sondheim,” with special guest and narrator David Barker, Feb. 24 & 25 at Kerr Cultural Center in Scottsdale.

Reds versus blues

Rebecca Duckworth, Drew Ignatowksi, Cody Dull and Laurie Trygg in Peacemaker with Phoenix Theatre's Cookie Company

For grown-ups the “red vs. blue” thing conjures images of partisan politics. Or assumptions about huge swaths of Americans living in various states. California is blue. Texas is red. Purple is becoming harder and harder to come by.

But not so for the colorful clown-like folk who populate the land of Reds and Blues in a play called “Peacemaker” that’s being performed through Feb. 26 by Phoenix Theatre’s Cookie Company. It’s directed by Robert Kolby Harper, who knows a thing or two about juggling.

Seems there’s a land where reds and blues once lived peacefully together — albeit one to the north and another to the south. The bridge connecting them held room for just a single person to cross at one time, which wasn’t a problem until a pair who met in the middle each refused to yield.

This portion of “Peacemaker” is told by a lone character who’s lamenting her lack of juggling skills, and acted out by puppets — helping to make this work, best for preschool-K audiences, a perfect transition from puppet theater to works featuring on-stage actors.

After a battle of relatively tame proportions, the two sides decide the only way to stop the fighting is to assure the Reds and Blues never see each other. They build a wall, hire guards and hope for the best.

Until red juggling balls get thrown over the wall to the blue side, and children from warring factions begin a playful exchange that leads them to tear down a portion of the wall.

Cookie Company presents Peacemaker, a tale of children tearing down walls, through Feb. 26

A little Red girl wants to improve her juggling, while a little Blue boy wants to learn how to dance. Turns out each needs the other to get what they want. No cooperation and they all leave empty handed.

I’d have been tempted to write a bit more political parody into this piece, but it’s best I think that it’s a straight telling of a children’s story — meant to promote acceptance, empathy and friendship rather than satisfy the sarcastic tendencies of parents turned pundits.

“Peacemaker” is a very simple, straight-forward bit of storytelling that leaves the ending open so children can imagine how the world might be different once the Reds and Blues learn that neither has plans to actually eat the other.

Costumes for the Peacemaker are wonderfully whimsical, as are various sound elements that range from beatbox-style music to shoes that squish loudly as the Red guard storms across the stage befuddled that folks aren’t following the rules.

“Peacemaker” comes in under 45 minutes, so folks who go have plenty of time for exploring nearby attractions. Cookie Company performs at Greasepaint Theatre in Scottsdale, which is near the Scottsdale Waterfront, Old Town Scottsdale, the Civic Center Public Library and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

Children who attend get a free cookie with milk. Your kids might leave the show feeling inspired to bake cookies with red and blue candies, create their own puppets with fabric and craft sticks, or give juggling a try. The best theater lives on long after the show comes to a close.

— Lynn

Note: Mark your calendars for the final production of Cookie Company’s 2011-2012 season — they’ll perform “Charlotte’s Web” April 14-29 at Greasepaint Theatre in Scottsdale. “Gypsy”opens at Phoenix Theatre, near downtown Phoenix, on March 7.

Coming up: A betrayal tale

Once upon a stage mom

The mother of all stage mothers, “Mama Rose,” has been portrayed by plenty of legendary actresses in stage and screen versions of the musical “Gypsy.” Ethel Merman. Angela Lansbury. Bette Midler. Patti Lupone.

When “Gypsy” opens at Phoenix Theatre next month, Kathy Fitzgerald will perform the role. I’m eager to see it after enjoying Fitzerald’s truly exceptional performance as Madame Morrible in “Wicked” on Broadway last October with my daughter Lizabeth.

Fitzgerald has also performed in “9 to 5,” “The Producers,” and “Swinging on a Star” on Broadway — plus plenty of Off-Broadway and regional theater productions.

Before moving to Manhattan, where she lives with her husband and 12-year-old daughter Hope, Fitzgerald spent seven years performing on Valley stages. So working with Michael Barnard, who’s directing “Gypsy” at Phoenix Theatre, is nothing new.

Phoenix Theatre presents the musical "Gypsy" March 7-April 1

“Mama Rose” is often vilified for pushing her daughters Gypsy Rose Lee and June Havoc into show business. But Fitzgerald says she admires her “incredible drive and passion,” noting that she “pushed and pushed her girls” hoping to give them options not open to most women during the 1920s and 1930s.

“In some ways,” reflects Fitzgerald, “I respect her stength and tenacity.” Fitzgerald notes that “Mama Rose” did everything for her girls and was, in some ways, a pioneer. “Her life,” says Fitzgerald, “was way more tragic and flawed than it’s depicted in this musical.”

Today’s best known stage moms are another story. Fitzgerald says she has a hard time understanding why the mothers of Lifetime’s “Dance Moms” put their girls through so much melodrama. Seems the pay is poor for cable shows, though plenty of scenes may live on in digital world forever.

Fitzgerald says she’d “never want to be like” the moms who star on “Dance Moms” — whose nasty neuroses and futile fights typically take place in front of their kids. Having issues is one thing. Airing them in front of your children is another. Sharing them with millions of viewers is just plain creepy.

Daughter Hope is plenty busy with her academically rigorous school, according to Fitzgerald, who adds that neither she nor her husband would let Hope do the theater thing at this point. “There’s plenty of time for that later,” quips Fitzgerald.

Her own childhood was a bit different, however. “My dad ran a theater in L.A.,” says Fitzgerland, “and my mom was pretty pushy too.” Though her own mother died when she was just 15, Fitzgerald says “she knew that I was supposed to be an actor.”

Whether you’re a stage mother (in the best or worst sense of the word), or simply someone who enjoys watching others do the stage mother thing, seeing the musical “Gypsy” is a must.

“Gypsy” debuted on Broadway in 1959 featuring book by Arthur Laurents, music by Stephen Sondheim and lyrics by Jule Styne. It was directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins. It’s based on a memoir by Gypsy Rose Lee.

“Gypsy” is regarded by Fitzgerald and many others as “one of the best musicals of all time.” Its best-known songs include “Let Me Entertain You,” “Together Wherever We Go” and “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” The music, says Fitzgerald, “is genius.”

— Lynn

Coming up: Trends in marketing Broadway

Artists battle AIDS

I was delighted to stumble onto two panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt while attending Thursday’s “Empty Bowl” event at Scottsdale Community College. These portions of the quilt are being exhibited through Dec. 2 in a foyer just outside the SCC cafeteria.

A representative of the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS was on hand the afternoon I stopped by, and talked with various students and staff who stopped by to see the quilt and watch the multimedia presentaion featuring AIDS-related facts and statistics.

The following photos show just a few of the quilt panels and educational slides I saw while visiting the World AIDS Day 2011 exhibit at SCC.

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Those of you eager to explore some of the ways artists have tackled the topics of HIV and AIDS can visit the online gallery for “Art for AIDS,” which benefits the University of California San Francisco AIDS Health Project.

Broadway fans can support efforts to treat and eradicate HIV/AIDS by doing their holiday shopping with “Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.” Online offerings include all sort of show-related fare. Think holiday ornaments, tote bags, books, music, Playbill® items, clothing, jewelry and more — lots more. Even “dancers responding to AIDS” items.

Folks lucky enough to be in NYC early next week can attend the 23rd annual “Gypsy of the Year” event, which is “the culmination of six weeks of intensive fundraising by Broadway, Off-Broadway and national touring companies.”

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS notes that “it’s also a sensational display of the most talented singers and dancers in the chorus of shows.” These are the folks affectionately referred to as “gypsies.”

Each show is being hosted by Broadway personality Seth Rudetsky, beloved by many for his many radio and live performance gigs. My daughter was thrilled to meet Rudetsky and Betty Buckley after their Scottsdale concert last year, and recently raved about her first stint in the Sirius XM “Seth Speaks” audience.

Awards will be presented to the top Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS fundraisers, with special recognition going to the musical “Billy Elliot,” which closes in early January, and has raised more than $1 million for the cause during its three year run. I saw “Billy Elliot” with Lizabeth and fellow Pace University families during my last trip to NYC, and it’s truly spectacular.

If you’ve yet to help the cause of fighting HIV/AIDS and helping those affected by it, now is the time to get involved — whether via Broadway or on your own block.

— Lynn

Coming up: We’re off to see the Wizard…