Thursday, April 30, 2009

The View From "Golda's Balcony"

Gina Wilhelm Actress - The View From "Golda's Balcony"

Tovah Feldshuh has a show on Broadway and works on TV. But her most reliable work is "Golda's Balcony."

"Golda's Balcony" is a one-woman show, a condensation from a multicharacter piece called "Golda."

That play was an attempt to re-create the magic of "The Miracle Worker" by reuniting its star, director, and playwright, all of whom won Tonys for the earlier play.

"Golda" was a commercial flop. "Golda's Balcony," by comparison, has proven reliable for Ms. Feldshuh.

In that play, Feldshuh portrays Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, when Meir turned to the United States for assistance.

In the course of her extensive research for the role, Feldshuh has become convinced that Israel had nuclear weapons and would have used them if the aid from the US hadn't come through.

Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

Ms. Feldshuh has to do a lot of work for the role. She wears a false nose and frizzy wig. She also has prosthetic legs to give the impression of Meir's phlebitis.

The hardest part, though, is the chain smoking. She says the trick is to grind the cigarette out almost as soon as it's lit.

Lighting the cigarette is what creates the illusion of chain smoking.

Feldshuh uses mild menthol cigarettes. She tried herbal cigarettes, which most nonsmoking actors use, but she said it smelled like "dope" to her.

She will perform the show in Kansas City this weekend, and then she goes back to her Broadway show Tuesday.

She says she performs the show maybe 10 times a year in places as far away as Africa and Hong Kong.

Interestingly enough, the one place she hasn't performed it is Israel.

Gina Wilhelm Actress

Monday, April 27, 2009

Remembering Bea Arthur

Gina Wilhelm Actress - Remembering Bea Arthur

Bea Arthur, star of "Maude" and "The Golden Girls," and Tony Award winner for "Mame," passed away this weekend at the age of 86.

Arthur started early, getting elected wittiest girl in class in school. She got a degree as a medical lab technician, but discovered that she "loathed" hospital work.

She took a drama course at the New School of Social Research in New York. She sang at a night spot.

Her career started to really gain headway when she was cast as Lucy Brown in the 1955 production of "The Threepenny Opera."

When she was inducted into the TV Academy Hall of Fame in 2008, she pointed to that as the highlight of her career. She said it was then that she felt "Ah, yes, I belong here."

She continued in nightclub acts, plays, and musicals, before being originating the role of Yente the Matchmaker in "Fiddler on the Roof."

Her greatest triumph on Broadway came in 1966, when she was cast as Vera Charles in "Mame."

The New York Post called her portrayal "a portrait in acid of a savagely witty, cynical, and serpent-tongued woman."

She won the Tony for best supporting actress for that role and went on to repeat role in the film version of the show.

In many ways, her characters on "Maude" and "The Golden Girls" would be variations on Vera Charles.

On television, she first appeared on "All in the Family" as Maude Finley, who was a great foil for Archie Bunker as played by Caroll O'Connor.

The exchanges between Arthur and O'Connor were so entertaining that producer Norman Lear created a series around her.

"Maude" debuted in 1972. Arthur won an Emmy for her role on that show in 1977. The character became a standard bearer for the feminist movement.

"The Golden Girls" was also groundbreaking, particularly finding success in a television market geared toward younger audiences.

She was unconcerned at the similarity between her character on that show, Dorothy Zbornak, and Maude.

"Look," she said, "I'm 5-feet-9, I have a deep voice and I have a way with a line. What can I do about it? I can't stay home waiting for something different. I think it's a total waste of energy worrying about typecasting."

The show gained a huge audience and 10 Emmys, including two for best comedy series and acting awards for each of the stars.

She was close friends with her costars on that show. Rue McClanahan remembered Arthur as kind, caring, and no nonsense.

McClanahan said, "she showed me how to be very brave in playing comedy. I'll miss that courage. And I'll miss that voice."

Fellow costar Betty White added "She was such a big part of my life."

Between television series, she continued to perform in film and on stage. On screen, she was in "That Kind of Woman," "Lovers and Other Strangers," "The History of the World: Part I," and "For Better or Worse."

On stage she was in Woody Allen's "The Floating Light Bulb" and "The Bermuda Avenue Triange."

She toured the country in 2001 and 2002 in a one-woman show she called "...And Then There's Bea."

In 1999, she told of her three main influences: "Sid Caesar taught me the outrageous; Lee Strasberg taught me what I call reality; and Lotte Lenya, whom I adored, taught me economy."

She will be tremendously missed.

Gina Wilhelm Actress

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Adventures in Auditioning: SecondStory Repertory

Gina Wilhelm Actress - Adventures in Auditioning: SecondStory Repertory

As we near the end of April and beginning of May, several theatre companies in the Seattle/Puget Sound area hold general season auditions.

For those who are unfamiliar (and I was when I moved up here a few years ago), some theatres just have one audition for their whole season.

They will then call actors back throughout the year to see them for specific shows, thereby only having to deal with the callback right when it's time to start work on the show.

Among the theatre companies that do that are Village Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, 5th Avenue Musical Theatre, Seattle Public Theatre, Seattle Children's Theatre, and SecondStory Repertory.

Today was all about SecondStory Repertory, which is based out of Redmond Town Center. Next season they have seven shows on the mainstage as well as four "Sprouts" children's shows.

I had done the general audition for SecondStory last year, and it had involved a group of some 20 actors all sitting in the auditorium with most of the upcoming season's directors at the front of the room.

Each actor went up when called and performed in front of everyone else. Each audition group was scheduled in 1-hour blocks.

I therefore assumed that was what was in store for us this year. However, this time it was more of what I have become accustomed to: Three directors, an accompanist, and one actor.

I gave my monologue first. It was received well, I think. At one point in the piece, my character goes from being cynical and despairing to overcome with joy over an essay she's reading.

One of my biggest strengths is my ability to react to what's going on onstage (they say acting is reacting).

I had given myself a peptalk before the audition to remember to really react to what my character was reading.

Judging from the chuckles I heard from behind the table, it paid off.

I got some other laughs, too, and at the end, the accompanist said he was going to have to watch the movie from which my piece was adapted. Given his tone, I took that as a compliment.

After that, I sang my song. This was a little challenge today.

The accompanist was playing an electric keyboard, and the volume was down a little quieter than I would have liked. A few times it was hard to hear where the beat was.

However, I continued to sing, remembering to act the music, and they seemed really pleased. I thanked them and left.

The hardest part for me about season general auditions is that they hold callbacks at various times throughout the year, and you don't really know when they'll be.

However, they're doing a number of good shows this season, some with parts for which I think I'd really be suited, and I think things went well, so hopefully I'll be hearing from them!

In any event, I'll have more opportunity to get used to the idea: I have my season general audition for Village Theatre in Issaquah this week. More to come!

Gina Wilhelm Actress

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Remembering Marilyn Cooper

Gina Wilhelm Actress - Remembering Marilyn Cooper

Marilyn Cooper, Tony winner in 1981 for "Woman of the Year," passed away yesterday.

She was actually able to steal some of Lauren Bacall's focus in that show, singing a duet with Bacall and stopping the show with her punchlines.

Cooper's career stretched back in 1956 in "Mr. Wonderful." She also played Rosalie in the original production of "West Side Story."

She appeared in "I Can Get it for You Wholesale" and "Mame" as well as playing a number of roles in the Comden and Green (and Jules Styne and Aurthur Laurents" musical "Hallelujah, Baby!"

In the 1970s, she was in "On the Town," "Two by Two," and "Ballroom."

She also did a few straight plays in the '70s, frequently in Neil Simon shows. She was in "Broadway Bound" and "The Odd Couple."

Cooper originated the role of Agnes in "Gypsy," the Hollywood Blonde who develops a close friendship with stripper Tessie Tura.

She will be missed.

Gina Wilhelm Actress

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

From Actress to Writer

Gina Wilhelm Actress - From Actress to Writer

When Carolyn Hennesy isn't on the set of "General Hospital" playing mob lawyer Diane Miller, she still keeps busy. She writes young adult novels.

Hennesy is currently attending book signings and visiting with students in promotion of the 3rd book in her "Pandora" series, "Pandora Gets Lazy."

Hennesy says readers relate to her protagonist, Pandora Atheneus Andromaeche, because "it's all about girl power...You're at that age when the weight of the world is on your shoulders and no one understands you."

She says that while there are parts of her personality in her "General Hospital" character, Pandora is all her.

She says her husband would agree that at any given moment, she's 13 years old, just like "Pandy."

She's thrilled to find that boys are also reading the book series.

Hennesy also talked about her role on "General Hospital," which was originally only supposed to last 2 days.

She didn't watch the show, which she says helped her. If she'd realized how popular costar Maurice Bernard, who plays mob boss Sonny Corinthos, was she would have been "too tongue-tied" to land the part.

Gina Wilhelm Actress

Monday, April 20, 2009

Kristin Chenoweth is Just a Little Bit Wicked

Kristin Chenoweth is Just a Little Bit Wicked

Kristin Chenoweth, until recently of "Pushing Daisies" and about to star in "Legally Mad," is on a tour for her new book "A Little Bit Wicked."

The Broken Arrow, OK, native is currently touring in Oklahoma. Along with signing copies of the book, she also is having brief question-and-answer sessions.

On Sunday in Tulsa, she answered questions about breaking onto Broadway.

Chenoweth won a Tony for her portrayal of Sally in "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown." She also starred as Galinda in "Wicked."

She provides a voice on the new Fox animated series "Sit Down, Shut Up."

She is getting ready to make her debut with the Metropolitan Opera next year.

Gina Wilhelm Actress

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Golden Age of Movies Comes to Kent State

Gina Wilhelm Actress - The Golden Age of Movies Comes to Kent State

Ann Rutherford is pleased to find that "'Gone with the Wind' has almost become an entity unto itself."

Rutherford will talk about her extensive career when she visits Kent State University on April 30th. Her speech is titled "Tales of Hollywood's Golden Age."

She had had a long career, starring in several films before she played Careen O'Hara, Scarlett's younger sister, in "Gone with the Wind."

She played Polly Benedict in the Andy Hardy movies and was in a series of movies starring Red Skelton.

She was also in the 1938 "A Christmas Carol" and "Pride and Prejudice" in 1940 at MGM.

She feels it was good sense to take the "nothing part" in "Gone with the Wind."

One day she received a telephone call from Louis B. Mayer, father-in-law of producer David O. Selznick. Mayer told Rutherford he didn't want her to take the part.

Mayer didn't want her to do the movie because the part was so small and she was already a star in her own right.

Mayer couldn't remember what the movie was about, but Rutherford was able to figure out that it was "Gone with the Wind" and begged to be allowed in the cast.

She says 10-1/2 hours were filmed but got edited down. She says that luckily all of her scenes were at Tara, and Scarlett always had to come back to Tara.

Rutherford retired in 1950, though she came out of retirement in 1972 for "They Only Kill Their Masters," which was filmed on her old "Andy Hardy" set.

Now she travels a lot to speak about her career. She's pleased to see more young people coming to her talks.

"Fortunately, I love traveling," she says.

Gina Wilhelm Actress

Friday, April 17, 2009

Randy Graff's Moving Experience

Gina Wilhelm Actress - Randy Graff's Moving Experience

The big thing on the Internets this week has been the moving video of Susan Boyle, the unemployed 47-year-old contestant on "Britain's Got Talent."

Boyle says she's never been married and never even been kissed, but that didn't stop her from absolutely blowing the judges away with her performance of "I Dreamed a Dream" from "Les Miserables."

Randy Graff, who played Fantine was in the original 1987 Broadway cast of that play (and sang "I Dreamed a Dream") revealed to "Extra" that she was deeply affected by Boyle's performance.

Graff said "She thought Susan was wonderfully talented."

The actress told "Extra" that she had been moved to tears.

Gina Wilhelm Actress

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Anna Faris, Funny Woman

Gina Wilhelm Actress - Anna Faris, Funny Woman

Anna Faris, the star of now-open "Observe and Report" says she would far rather have fans think of her as funny than hot.

She says "I've never felt that comfortable in my own skin." She started off in dramatic roles, but has gotten very popular in comic roles.

While working on "Scary Movie" she was taught by Keenen Ivory Wayans that there is no vanity in comedy.

She also says she'd be willing to be naked for a comic role, though she doesn't find female nudity particularly funny (indicating she perhaps feels otherwise about male nudity).

Faris says she's a "homebody," which is why she's rarely captured by paparazzi. She finds it a surprise when her picture is taken by one.

However, she makes a point of not looking at tabloids.

Gina Wilhelm Actress

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Shelli Boone Premieres One-Woman Show

Gina Wilhelm Actress - Shelli Boone Premieres One-Woman Show

Shelli Boone's new play, "Out West: Women of the Plains," will be opening Friday, May 1, at Playhouse Theatre Players in Downtown Los Angeles.

Boone wrote and produced the show, in which she portrays women during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Boone has been nominated for an NAACP Award and made her on-screen debut co-hosting BET's "Mad Sports." She has also appeared in "Saints and Sinners," "Entourage," "Southland," and "House MD."

In addition to "Out West," she's also a series regular in the Comedy Central webisode "Hot Sluts: Rated R!"

In "Out West," among other figures, Boone portrays Clara Brown, who was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame.

She als0 plays Elisabeth Coleman, who was the first African-American woman to become an aviator, and Maria Rita Valdez, who was the first owner of Beverly Hills.

She brings to life Cathay Williams, who dressed as a man to serve in the Buffalo Soldiers.

The play runs through May 9.

Gina Wilhelm Actress

Monday, April 13, 2009

Helen Mirren At The Movies

Gina Wilhelm Actress -Helen Mirren at the Movies

Helen Mirren is keeping busy these days. She's about to appear in "State of Play," starring Russell Crowe.

She likens the films to the Hollywood thrillers of the '70s. It's based on the 2003 British miniseries by the same name. In it, she plays Crowe's newspaper-editor boss.

She takes over the role played on TV by Bill Nighy.

In addition to that, she's currently working on the movies "The Debt" and a remake of Israeli film "Hahov."

She's also wrapped filming on "Love Ranch," "The Last Station," and "The Tempest."

For "The Tempest," directed by Julie Taymor, Mirren will play Prospero-or rather, Prospera.

In all other respects, she says, it's a very traditional take on the story.

Gina Wilhelm Actress

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Lupe Ontiveros Breaks Molds

Gina Wilhelm Actress - Lupe Ontiveros Breaks Molds

Lupe Ontiveros has been acting for decades, having appeared in such television programs as "Charlie's Angels" and "Who's the Boss?" However, in that career, she's played a maid 150 times.

She realizes that she gets a lot of parts because of her "indigenous" look, but she's also against getting parts that just reinforce Latina stereotypes.

She is pleased with one maid role: Rosalita in "The Goonies." The film has a cult following, and 30-year-olds still love that movie and the character.

It upsets her when she goes to auditions and directors want a thick "waddly" accent.

She broke out of the maid role in the 1983 film "El Norte," which she hails as "'The Godfather' of immigration films."

In it, she plays an illegal immigrant working in a sewing factory who takes the leading lady under her wing.

She has a dramatic scene in that film where she pleads with the woman's brother after the woman gets sick.

She was also able to get a non-maid role when she appeared in Mike White's "Chuck & Buck." She auditioned for a role originally written for a white woman.

Years later, when White was casting the show "Pasadena," he debated whether to see Ontiveros for a maid role in that.

He was afraid she wouldn't want to be offered a maid role, but she wanted to work with White again. And of course, she wanted to work.

She points out that the younger generation of Latina actresses have different choices and more opportunities than she did.

She longs to play judges or lesbians or councilmembers. She will get to play a wealthy grandmother in an upcoming episode of "Reaper."

Gina Wilhelm Actress

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Remembering Jane O'Brien Dart

Gina Wilhem Actress - Remembering Jane O'Brien Dart

Jane O'Brien Dart passed away recently at the age of 90. Although she stopped acting in 1939 to get married, she had a highly successful career.

She was renamed Jane Bryan by Warner Bros. when she signed her contract with them in 1936.

Bette Davis took the young actress under her wing, and Dart got to play Davis' younger sister in 1937's "Marked Woman."

In his "All Movie Guide," Hal Erickson said Dart was "far more effective in roles calling for disillusionment in pathos" than Davis.

Erickson hailed her performance in "We Are Not Alone" as her finest.

She appeared with Ronald Reagan and his first wife, Jane Wyman, in "Brother Rat" and "Brother Rat and a Baby." The latter film was her last.

In 1939, she married Justin Dart, who would take over Rexall Drugs and who eventually convinced Reagan to go into a career in politics.

Justin Dart's nickname for his wife was "Punky."

Together, the Darts collected 70 artworks, which they donated to the Monterey Museum of Art.

On her marriage and retirement from acting, the Los Angeles Times ran the story under the headline, "Love Triumphs Over Career."

Maybe, but in fewer than five years, she had been in nearly 20 films.

Gina Wilhelm Actress

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Aisha Tyler Breaks Records

Gina Wilhelm - Aisha Tyler Breaks Records

Aisha Tyler is proud of the records she's broken in her career, though admittedly some are more profound than others.

On the profound side, she was the first black female host of "Talk Soup" and the first recurring black female character on "Friends."

Less importantly, she was also the first female and the first African-American to serve on the Halo Council, a board of videogame fans.

She also claims that for years she was the only black female snowboarder in the sport.

Tyler is currently focusing on her stand-up act rather than her acting, gaming, or boarding.

This weekend she appears at the DC Improv Comedy Club in the Nation's Capital to promote her concert DVD "Aisha Tyler is Lit: Live at the Fillmore."

She says that stand-up is a grueling way to make a living. A fan of science fiction, Tyler will be seen acting later this year.

She'll be in "Black Water Transit" with Laurence Fishburne and Brittany Snow. She took the project because she found the script "compelling."

Gina Wilhelm Actress

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sonal Shah's Mental Health

Gina Wilhelm Actress - Sonal Shah's Mental Health

Sonal Shah, who plays Dr. Sunny Dey on the ABC series "Scrubs" will be interviewed on "Your Mental Health Talk Radio" on April 17, 2009 at 8 p.m. EDT/5 p.m. PDT.

Shah grew up in Wheaton, IL, and started as a competitive dancer. However, in college at Loyola University. She graduated with a degree in Theatre and pre-medicine.

She got to be a staple of Chicago theatre, performing with the Goodman Theatre and founding the Rasaka Theatre Company.

She also trained at Improv Olympic Chicago, The Moscow Art Theatre School at Harvard, and The Second City Conservatory.

In addition to the radio show, she does a lot of speaking on the subject of Asian Americans in entertainment.

On the radio show, Shah is scheduled to talk about juggling her acting career with working for a public relations firm.

Gina Wilhelm Actress

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Acting and Lying

Gina Wilhelm Actress - Acting and Lying

Kelli Williams says that acting is lying. She's lying to play a character. In addition, her character is trying to discover when other characters on her show, "Lie to Me," are fibbing.

On the program, she and Tim Roth try to find liars by detecting body language, facial expressions, and voice changes.

The series is based on the work of Paul Ekman, who wrote a book on the subject after years of studying lie detection.

The show starts by establishing who is telling the truth and who is lying. After that, the characters determine what lie is being told.

Williams admits that she takes her work home with her: She's been using the lie detection techniques from the show on her kids.

Gina Wilhelm Actress

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Show Goes on for Lynn Redgrave

Gina Wilhelm Actress - The Show Goes on for Lynn Redgrave

Lynn Redgrave plans to open her new show, "Rachel and Juliet" this Friday at Folger Theatre in Washington DC.

The Redgraves have been involved in theater since 1824. Lynn's new show explores the fascination that her mother, Rachel Kempson, had with the role of Juliet.

This is the latest in a series of one-woman plays about her family. She started with "Shakespeare for my Father."

"Shakespeare for my Father" was a sort of therapy for the actress, who had a troubled relationship with Sir Michael, her father.

"Rachel and Juliet" is, instead, a tribute to her mother.

Gina Wilhelm Actress

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Kristin Davis Designs Clothes for the Rest of Us

Gina Wilhelm Actress - Kristin Davis Designs Clothes for the Rest of Us

Kristin Davis' character on "Sex and the City" did not have the most daring wardrobe on the show, but she was always very stylish.

Now Davis is designing clothing for Belk department stores that the average consumer can afford.

She's not the first actress from "Sex and the City" to design clothes. Costar Sarah Jessica Parker designed clothes that sold for less than $20.

Her idea is to have clothing that, while reasonably priced, is still attractive. Her clothing is modeled after the "sexy secretary" look that defined her "Sex in the City" character.

She also made sure her line could be worn by anyone, not just "skinny actresses." To that end, she made clothes that would look good on any body type.

Gina Wilhelm Actress

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Marlee Matlin Gives Keynote Speech

Gina Wilhelm Actress - Marlee Matlin Gives Keynote Speech

Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin gave the keynote address at the Council for Exceptional Children Convention and Expo in Seattle Wednesday night.

The deaf actress told the audience of educators that she got where she was because "people like you listened to me."

She said that growing up, her parents taught her to do what she loved, and be accepted doing it.

She told about her start in acting, playing Dorothy in a community theater production of "The Wizard of Oz" at age 13.

Henry Winkler, near the height of his popularity, came to see the show. Matlin insisted on meeting him so she could tell him she wanted to act as well.

Her mother took Winkler aside. She wanted him to speak carefully. She didn't want Marlee to go to Hollywood and be disappointed.

Instead, he told her "Marlee, sweetheart, you can be whatever you want to be." Winkler himself had struggled with undiagnosed dyslexia as a child.

Years later, she has found success, appearing on "Dancing with the Stars," "The West Wing," and of course, winning the Oscar for "Children of a Lesser God."

Gina Wilhelm Actress

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Callie Thorne Doesn't Need Rescuing

Gina Wilhelm Actress - Callie Thorne Doesn't Need Rescuing

When FX's series "Rescue Me" wrapped filming for the season recently, Callie Thorne knew she woiuld be sad.

The actress, who plays Sheila Keefe on the show, considers the rest of the cast to be family. She has a little separation anxiety when they go away for the off-season.

She enjoys the show, in which she says the writers have created a world where anything can happen-particularly for Thorne's character.

She had no idea what her character would be doing until she received the first episode.

Sometimes when she reads a script with powerful material for her character, she says her "upper lip breaks into a sweat. I think, 'Oh my God, they think I'm better than I am.'"

Thorne says the storylines this season are "mind-blowing." The new season got a delayed start because of the writers' strike.

She expects that the stories will more than make up for the wait.

For now, though, while they aren't filming, she expects to be sad until she gets used to it.

"When you're lucky enough to have a job, a stable job, the hiatuses are a little daunting."

Gina Wilhelm Actress