The Off-Off-Broadway Nicu’s Spoon Company, in association with Identity Theater Company, is presenting a production of Shakespeare’s Richard III designed to make audiences rethink attitudes toward differently abled actors.
Apparently, Die Hard action-star Bruce Willis, will be making his Broadway debut in the stage adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery. The best-selling 1987 novel was already adapted for the screen with Kathy Bates and Jame Caan, so I’m wondering how they will adapt it, yet again, for the stage. Actress, Elizabeth Marvel (House of Cards) will step into the role of Annie Wilkes, which was originally portrayed by Bates and earned her an Academy Award. Personally,I think it would be interesting if Kathy Bates were given the chance to play her famed character onstage. I honestly think that even after twenty-five years, Bates could pull it off. Who knows? It’s still early in the process, so there might be a chance for her to win a Tony for the same role in which she won an Oscar. But, I’m interested to see what Marvel does with the role. The characters of Paul Sheldon and Annie Wilkes have become so iconic within the horror/thriller genre that I think an audience may have a tough time seeing anyone else but James Caan and Kathy Bates in those roles. The good news is, that many film-goers may not be aware of, that Willis has Off-Broadway stage experience. It’ll be very interesting to see him “back on the boards” after nearly thirty years. However, I don’t want to be too quick to assume its fate yet. We’ll just have to wait and see until the curtain goes up in the fall.
What happens when you’re majoring in computer science at the University of Texas in Austin and decide to change to theater after successfully auditioning for a student film, subsequently finding your passion in life? If you’re Akie Kotabe, it pays off. With roles spanning across film, television, and theater, Kotabe is currently co-starring with Oscar-nominee Salma Hayek (Frida) in the action/thriller Everly, coming to theaters Friday, February 27th. So, what’s it like to act alongside Salma Hayek? Well, apparently it’s pretty incredible. Playing a character known simply as Dead Man, many of the characters in the film, directed by Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2: Dead End) are referred to using descriptive monikers. Kotabe has a supporting role as a man who has become the target, along with Hayek’s Everly, of assassins and is left for dead. Trapped in an apartment, the characters are faced with dealing with their existence and survival, “Think Die Hard in a single room” Akie told me.
Based in both London and Los Angeles, Akie fell in love with acting in college when he auditioned for a student film on a whim and got the part. He says that he didn’t know anything about acting before that, but has since studied both at university and with various well-known acting teachers in the industry. This non-traditional trajectory into acting has proven successful for the Michigan-born, Texas-bred actor. He’s had guest spots on Mad Men, CSI: Miami, and Without a Trace. Kotabe also puts his bilingual abilities to the test where his roles may require him to have a command of the Japanese language and accent
However, he proves his versatility with quite an impressive filmography. Securing his first AFTRA gig (when SAG & AFTRA were separate unions) while still in Austin for the Jamie Kennedy Experiment, he says he’s had some interesting experiences. He got the aforementioned AFTRA show even after he accidentally bashed his face into a wall during the audition. Woops. We’ve all had weird auditions as actors, sometimes it’s the odd ones that pay off the most.
The passion that Kotabe has for acting is apparent when talking to him. As a fellow actor, we talked about our love for the craft, and the fact that being able to entertain people is one of the best things to be doing in life. Having gotten the acting bug in college, lived and worked in Japan, Los Angeles, and his current city of London, Akie says he’s enjoyed something different from every place he’s lived. He’s also learned from those places as well. From doing theater in Japan (both in English and Japanese) to film and television in Los Angeles and London, he tries to gain as much knowledge and wisdom as possible from the people he is surrounded by in the business. “You can learn a lot through the work” he stated, “It’s what gets me up in the morning.”
What was his favorite part of filming Everly? Well, everything. For Kotabe it was being part of a team and contributing to the bigger picture that was most exciting to him while filming in Belgrade, Serbia. I think we can agree that the best part of being an actor is the ability to be storytellers. I am fortunate enough to have the chance to tell Akie Kotabe’s.
Don’t forget to catch Everly in theaters Friday, February 27th.
Thank You Akie for being such a friendly and open fellow performer. It was such a pleasure to learn your story.
For more information on Akie, you can also visit his website: Akie Kotabe
Ask anyone of my generation or younger, and they’ll probably tell you that James Garner is “the guy from The Notebook.” My response to that is, “WHAT?!” Seriously though, today we lost another great: actor, James Garner passed away at the age of 86. To many, he wasn’t just that guy from The Notebook. He was Bret Maverick, and Jim Rockford. He was the unlikely movie star with two purple hearts from the Korean War. He appeared on Broadway, once, in a non-speaking role in The Caine Mutiny Court Martial where he learned and honed his craft. In the 50s and 60s, westerns were big on television, and James Garner turned the character of Bret Maverick into an icon. He found television success again in the 70s as another icon, Jim Rockford of The Rockford Files. Even with his numerous television successes, including an Emmy for The Rockford Files, he managed to find fame on the big screen too. He starred in The Great Escape, and received a Best Actor Oscar nomination in 1986 for Murphy’s Romance. In 1994, he starred in the film version of Maverick, with Mel Gibson stepping into the shoes of the famous gambler, and Garner as Marshall Zane Cooper. In his later years, he starred in The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and yes, The Notebook. He was a versatile actor who needs to be recognized for his impressive career. Rest in Peace James Garner, you were my mom’s favorite actor. You were more than the guy from The Notebook: You were a Maverick.
This is a clip from Garner’s famed series, Maverick, with Clint Eastwood looking for some trouble:
Last night, my good friend Sarah, who appeared on the first episode of Rants Reviews and Reels: Live!, and I went to our local bar. We were avoiding the thunder and lightning by consuming some good craft beer in a very lively environment. Whenever we get together, I find that I have some of the most profound and meaningful conversations about life. We were talking about things that make us happy; things we love doing, performing, the insanity of show business, everything. During our conversation, I had brought up the fact that music has always had a profound impact on my life. Like many, I have an innate visceral reaction to songs. Growing up, I was exposed to all types of music, and learned about an array of artists. I remember taking my first music lessons on my Muppets-themed keyboard. Then, that transitioned to the violin, piano, clarinet, guitar, and in high school, vocal lessons. I listened to classical symphonies, I listened to my parents records of The Beatles, Janis Joplin, Patsy Cline, and Frank Sinatra. I wanted to know everything there was about music in all its forms. There was even a program on Microsoft Encarta (remember that?) I was obsessed with that showcased music from around the world. Music feeds my soul. Sarah and I talked about how we both have a deeper connection to music than anything else creatively. Not to say that acting and writing don’t fill spaces in our beings, but music is at a whole different level. There have been studies done on the benefits of singing. Both emotionally and physically, it has been proven that singing promotes community, releases the same endorphins as exercising, promotes learning in children, and evokes emotions.
When I was in high school and college, I sang nearly every day. Now, in my adult life, I find myself keeping tight-lipped, unwilling to bring someone into my vocal world. At theater school, we did this exercise which is rather simple in concept called “The Sound Exercise.” During the exercise, the actor starts to sing a simple song such as “Mary Had a Little Lamb” only singing one note at a time. As the exercise progresses, it actually becomes a very emotional experience because you are open and vulnerable. I try to use that exercise whenever I feel I’ve hit a wall emotionally during scene or monologue work. It’s benefited me greatly as an artist.
Last night, just like acting class, Sarah and I sang our hearts out. We were vulnerable, emotional, and joyous. We sang as if we were the only two people in the room (we weren’t) and we didn’t care who heard us belting out “Me and Bobby McGee.” we just sang. We weren’t on a stage, there was no paying audience or accompaniment, but it was one of the most fulfilling artistic experiences I have ever had. We sang slowly at first, and it evoked memories of that sound exercise. At that moment last night, I was happier than I have been in a long time. By the end we had tears in our eyes, and we belted out more songs after that. Sarah told me to I should sing more often, which was really amazing to hear. Do yourself a favor, sing with someone sometime. The connection is more powerful than you might think.
Janis Joplin’s music has always stirred something deep inside me that I have trouble expressing outwardly, but I have always had a connection to her music. Last night was no exception to that rule. Through the music of a fantastic talent who was gone too soon, and one of the best friend’s a girl could have, I reawakened something inside me that I’ve buried deep for a long time–my voice.
A Few years ago, I saw the 2006 documentary called Ballerina. The film features profiles of five different dancers of Russia’s Marinsky (Kirov) Ballet throughout the piece. One dancer in particular caught my attention: Diana Vishneva. She was rehearsing the ballet Manon with the Paris Opera Ballet. Instantly, I was moved by it, and thought that if I ever got a chance to see it live, I’d go. Well, it just so happens that Vishneva is also be a member of the American Ballet Theatre. Last night, I got to see Manon performed live with Diana Vishneva, Marcelo Gomes and Misty Copeland.
I arrived early (like always) and good thing I did, because it immediately started to downpour the second I stepped into the lobby of the famed Metropolitan Opera House. I have lived in NYC for 7 years, and it is sad to say that I had never seen a show at The Met. I had seen a few operas at NYC Opera at the David H. Koch Theater, but nothing at The Met. Over the past few years, I have frequented Lincoln Center as if it were an extension of my home. Friends and colleagues have worked there, and to be honest, I find a sense of peace whenever I sit next to the fountain. Despite the tourists, I think in NYC, it is my happy place. I waited for an hour for the house to open, but it was totally worth it. For once, I wasn’t at the Met in the middle of the day. My seat was at the very top front row, and for $26 I got my workout for the day. Granted, I could have taken the elevator, but I felt like going through the maze of red carpeted stairs and walls in my red dress–it was fun. As I took my seat before the show, I also came to realize that it has been years since I heard a pure unadulterated orchestra live. Mind you, I have seen numerous musicals, but to just hear the orchestra throughout the show without singing gave me quite a thrill. Hearing the violin section warm up gave me such a sense of happiness in my heart that I haven’t felt for some time. I was never the greatest violinist, but I did find great joy in playing it growing up.
Once the ballet started, it was amazing just how fluid and at ease the dancers were. The Corps de Ballet was just as entertaining as the Principal dancers. The second that Marcelo Gomes made his entrance there were cheers, but it was nothing compared the the overwhelming reaction to when Diana Vishneva finally took the stage. The beauty and grace of both of them together was magical. You could see the history they had together as dance partners, and it was one of the most amazing things that I have ever witnessed. It’s difficult to put it into words the type of energy they had, and the emotions I felt when they were dancing. On a lighter note, Misty Copeland added some much needed fun to a rather dramatic ballet. For those who are unaware, Misty Copeland is the only African-American Female Soloist with ABT and the second in its history. For what it’s worth, after seeing her performance last night, and the fact that she recently made her NYC debut in Coppelia dancing the lead role of Swanilda, she needs to be promoted to Principal dancer–STAT.
The entire cast was amazing and I’m so glad I got to see Diana Vishneva and her flawless technique. What was even more surprising was the reaction at the end of the show. During the curtain call, it started normal, but the reaction to Diana Vishneva was so palpable that it had an energy all its own. People stood and cheered for close to 10 minutes without stopping. The entire curtain call seemed to last about 20 minutes as a whole. That experience alone was worth the price of admission.
I needed to see that show last night. I needed to see an art form I have respect for. While unable to dance myself, I needed to feed my artistic soul. I needed the let the creativity that is in me live through those dancers for a night. I needed to see the beauty of movement, lightness, and grace. The artist in me needed it like food for my soul. And boy, was it a good banquet.
Oh, and Happy Anniversary Diana Vishneva! She celebrates her 10 year anniversary with American Ballet Theatre this year!
Below is the quintessential scene from the ballet Manon, danced by Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes at the Dance Open in 2011:
Picture it: Shakespeare, Partridge Family music, and Brady Bunch punchlines–in one show. That’s what happens in the musical, The Bardy Bunch written by Stephen Garvey and directed by Jay Stern. Their tagline: In the summer of 1974, the Brady and Partridge Families, recently canceled by ABC and no longer under America’s watchful eye, met in a blood-soaked, passion-filled, vengeance-fueled, very special episode of Shakespearean proportions.
Boy, is it Shakespearean– and musical in the best way possible. Writer Stephen Garvey has managed to take two of the most popular shows of 1970s, and the most popular playwright of all time, and make a seamless musical theater experience. Broadway vets Sean McDermott (Miss Saigon/Grease/Starlight Express) , Lori Hammel (Mamma Mia!), and Kristy Cates (Elphaba in Wicked) lead the Brady and Partridge kids in a mash-up of Shakespeare’s classics (Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, and Macbeth, just to name a few) backed by groovy music like, “I Think I Love You” and “Sunshine Day” (complete with the best Brady bicycle sequence since the 1995 movie adaptation) and my personal favorite, “It’s One of Those Nights (Yes, Love.)” Young talents like Erik Keiser, Annie Watkins, Cali Elizabeth Moore, and Mitch McCarrell give stand-out performances. The show itself is so unique in concept and construct, that it must be seen and heard! Shakespeare would be proud. So, if you’re in the NYC area, groove on down to the Theatre at St. Clements for a serious nostalgia fix.
The Bardy Bunch enjoyed its original run during the 2011 New York International Fringe Festival and opened March 20th, 2014 Off-Broadway. For ticket information and to learn more about the show, visit: http://www.thebardybunch.com.
And on a personal note: Stephen, yes, I am a groupie.
A year ago, I started a blog. I didn’t know where it would take me at the time, but I started it for fun. It so turned into something that I am very proud of. Granted, I’m still at my day job, but I’ve been writing and acting over the course of this year, and it has really helped me center myself. Despite the fact that some really crappy things happened last year that I am still dealing with, this was one of the good things. I’ve been able to merge my acting life with my writing one and do something unique that reflects who I am. I’m a movie geek, a writer, an actor, and a dreamer. I am so grateful to have subscribers and people reading this, I can’t even tell you how much it means. I am so grateful for all the positive responses and thought provoking conversations I’ve had this past year. Here’s to many more to come!
Thanks for everything,
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