Monday, October 29, 2012

Why you should call your mother

Sunday morning I woke up for the very first time without a mother.

Those who've been through this know the indescribable emptiness that consumed me as this reality sunk in.

After all, hers was the first face I saw when I saw anything. She taught me kindness and empathy.

She was not just my mother but a woman with her own journey and struggles along the way.

I have her hands, her eyes, her curious mind.

Her heart was as fragile as a Faberge' egg and eventually so was her body.  Underneath it all though, her life force was strong.

49 years of marriage, five children, three grandchildren......she certainly left her mark.

But now she is gone.

I will never ever hear her voice again. For some reason this bothers me the most.  She will never leave my heart.

Dedicated to my late mother Mary Elizabeth, who always knew she was loved. 

Mary Elizabeth Age 5

The above photo is the age my mother was the first time my father ever saw her, behind a candy counter at a local theater.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Shakespeare Under the Stars

Last night I sat among the audience in the breeze, blankets and chairs spread out on the lawn. The stars were high above us and just to the right of the stage in the night sky was the moon, shining like nature's spotlight on our tortured young Hamlet. 

I could stay for only an hour so we sat in the back but as I tore myself away to leave I said to my husband, "look at everyone."  He said "I am. They are silent, and still. The crowd is hanging on every word."  I believe they were...I know I was!

To mesmerize an audience in an outdoor setting full of potential distractions is a rare and beautiful feat. When I am part of a group watching a show with everyone in this mode, I feel "at one" with the others, and with the performers as well. 

Shakespeare in the Park, Las Vegas Style!
Photo of Lake Las Vegas performance 2011 courtesy of Las Vegas Shakespeare Company

Anyone who reads my blog knows I'm a Shakespeare fan and love to write about anything related. I feel compelled to bring people into the world of this amazing form of expression that is Shakespeare's works. It taps into shared emotions by all human beings since our inception; love, fear, passion, jealousy, hate,'s all there.

Last night was a representation of one of the longest held and most enjoyable traditions in theater.... the free "performance in the park."

Outdoor theater, 1596
Drawing courtesy of Utrecht University Library
Shakespeare in the Park is performed worldwide as a presentation of William Shakespeare's works. Of course, here in Las Vegas we have something for everyone including our own Shakespeare in the Park, by the Las Vegas Shakespeare Company. LVSC Director Dan Decker, holds their productions to the highest level and it was evident in every moment of Hamlet last night.

"He is our Hamlet," Dan Decker said to me as he placed Michael Uribe's head shot on his desk in front of me back in August when I visited the theater. "Michael gets the essence of Hamlet. He can take the audience with him on this journey."...I can now attest to how right Dan was!

One of the obvious components that makes a production like this so successful is the commitment of the actors. If you ever want to meet a group of passionate, philosophical and physically "present" performers, go see a Shakespeare production. One cannot "phone it in" when performing Shakespeare. As an actor it overtakes you. At first because it's such a different and challenging form of expression, but once learned it is addictive because nothing helps an actor grow like embodying the works of Shakespeare.


Dan Decker
Director, Script Adaptation, Set and Sound Design,
Lighting and Costume Design

Dan Decker

Clare Jaget..........Queen Gertrude

Michael Uribes.....Hamlet

Richard Hill.........Claudius

Morgan Hill.........Ophelia

Paul Besterman....Polonius

Ryan Williams......Laertes

Scott Spence.......Horatio

Bill O'Neil...........The Ghost

Brian Kell, Sound Design and Engineer

Dale Karllsen, Costumes

Douglas Davy, Set Construction

Michael Uribes......Hamlet

Morgan Hill, Ophelia....2012 Las Vegas Shakespeare Company
"I love Shakespeare. I grew up on his works. Literally. Both of my parents were Shakespearean actors.
Even my bedtime stories were from a book of Shakespeare children stories."
Morgan has an engraved ring that says "Thine own Self be True"...Fittingly, it was a gift to herself!

Catch the final performance of Hamlet Oct. 27th!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Rediscover a "downtown"

What is it about a "downtown?" They seem to have the best live music, vintage shops, ethnic restaurants, people watching, and overall vibe.

If you want to show someone where many different types of people live, just take them downtown. Are you a little unique, maybe don't fit in everywhere? Just head for the nearest downtown and trust me you will find your "peeps", whoever they are. Whether it be musicians, artists, actors, dancers, even finance types, lawyers, and teachers, downtown attracts an eclectic crowd. 

Whenever I am downtown in any city I just feel "artsy." Makes me want to buy retro clothes and vintage albums and listen to an acoustic guitarist in a coffee house or drink white wine at a jazz club.

Grand Central Station Market

I have been fortunate to live in a downtown twice. We had just gotten married and my husband asked if I wanted to live in Long Beach, New York, or New York City. Without a moment of hesitation I chose the city, even though it meant living in a much smaller space. Who could resist being surrounded daily by such art and culture, ambition and energy?!

Those three years in Manhattan I walked everywhere and experienced life at eye level rather than through a car window. It made me a better actress and writer to have had that experience. One of my favorite things to do was to walk to Grand Central Station's market and buy fresh flowers and something from the butcher to make for dinner. 

Minneapolis courtesy of and

Years before Manhattan back in my home state of Minnesota was downtown Minneapolis and the "Warehouse District," where former warehouses along the river were converted into unique apartments. My sister and I lived in a 100 year old renovated railroad station apartment. It was right next to the former Creamette noodle factory that had been transformed into a restaurant and comedy club.  We were both broke the whole time but managed to find a lot to do.  

Now, living in Las Vegas, I am intrigued by our  "Rediscover Downtown" theme. With The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, new restaurants, businesses like Zappos, the renovation of the Plaza Hotel and the opening of the new "D" Hotel, there is revitalization and, of course, in true Vegas style, ADVENTURE!

Fremont Street and the renovated Plaza Hotel downtown Las Vegas

Downtown Las Vegas' newest addition, The Smith Center,

I always bring out of town guests downtown for a night because it has a personality totally different from the Las Vegas strip. Fremont Street is always a kick to newcomers and the free nightly shows are better than they expect.

On Saturday I ran the Heart Run 5K through downtown Las Vegas which inspired me to write this story.  Next time you come to Las Vegas be sure to check out our fabulous downtown.

 Rediscover Downtown Las Vegas! A video

Rediscover Downtown Las Vegas on Facebook

Fremont Street Experience

Friday, October 12, 2012

Sometimes I miss vinyl

Maybe it's just nostalgia for my teen years....or the whole sensory experience of buying an album that I miss. The tearing off of the plastic.  Sliding out the record....breathing in that new record smell....loved it when they put the lyrics on the insert. Remember that?

Dropping the shiny disc "just right" onto the center pin. Placing the needle down....a second of anticipation.....then sound would fill the room like an audio friend.

Often times I knew only one of the songs, (whatever single had been on the radio) but bought the album for the artist. I'd listen to my favorite song a few times then start the album at the beginning because it was time to "get to know it".  

Some of the tracks took awhile to grow on me, but then they would, even more so than the hit single, the reason the album was purchased in the first place. Other songs never "took" but I would sit through them because that's just what you did.

Remember the physical presence of music in your home? I know we all love our iPods, but you know you can't sit back with your arms wrapped around it and just "daydream".

Even though I don't remember the first album I ever bought, I do remember the last one...

Boston...."Third Stage"

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Before they were famous they were Hollywood underdogs

Many times when a viewer of a TV show or film sees an actor for the very first time they assume it's that actor's first role in a big production. Most of the time that's not the case. It's just the first time they noticed that actor.

For example, when Scarlett Johanssen starred in "Lost In Translation", many people thought that was her first big film. It was actually her 14th! Before that was "If Lucy Fell", "Home Alone 3", and "The Horse Whisperer", to name a few.

Scarlett Johanssen, "Home Alone 3",

Also, with Elizabeth Moss of "Mad Men" fame, many thought her role as the secretary turned female copy writer, Peggy Olson, was her first role. Not even close. She had been acting in well known television shows and movies since 1990! 

Elizabeth Moss, "Picket Fences",

Most of us remember George Clooney as a pediatrician on "ER" before his movie fame.  Before that he was a series regular on "Sisters". Previous to that on "Roseanne", and yes, even before that he was a regular on "Facts of Life". Ever hear of "Return to Horror High"? Probably not. Most of us have heard of "Out of Sight" though. We consider that George Clooney's first big movie role....(hmmm he probably does too)!

George Clooney, "Facts of Life"

For each of the above, each rung on the ladder of success was probably exciting and valuable in its own way. Just like any career.

Even though Clooney had family connections with his Aunt Rosemary and his father Nick Clooney, (like many famous actors do), he still had to work his way up. He may have started a few rungs higher up the ladder than myself and my fellow actors, but as we do, he still had his climb.

Thanks "Pleated Jeans Productions", for sharing the above video!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The meaning of "wicked".....

What is good to one can seem evil to another....
It depends on which side you're on
and are you sure on which side you should be? 
Do you know the whole story? 
Which character are you in it?
The good guy, the bad.....a little of both?
Nothing is, or ever will be black and white
Oh, how we can forget that in life....

When it comes to this show, I would have rather seen it end in redemption rather than running away. Other than that I loved Wicked, and the new theater that housed it!

With an entertainment line up like none other in the world, Las Vegas is only enhanced by our newest addition, The Smith Center for the Performing Arts! This top notch facility is so much more than a marble and art deco masterpiece.

Look for upcoming features on my blog about The Smith Center, the philosophy behind it, and what performing arts centers mean to every community. They are there for everyone, and so much more than a place to see the occasional show.

45 seconds of "Popular".....Wicked!

60 awesome seconds of "Defying Gravity"....Wicked!

(full title: Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz

The musical is told from the perspective of the witches of the Land of Oz; its plot begins before and continues after Dorothy's arrival in Oz from Kansas and includes several references to the 1939 film and Baum's novel. Wicked tells the story of two unlikely friends, Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda (the Good Witch of the North), who struggle through opposing personalities and viewpoints, rivalry over the same love-interest, reactions to the Wizard's corrupt government, and, ultimately, Elphaba's public fall from grace.

Wicked is based on the 1995 Gregory Maquire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, a parallel novel of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and L. Frank Baum's classic story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

The original Broadway production won 3 Tony Awards and 6 Drama Desk Awards whilst its cast album received a Grammy Award.  Its original stars included Idina Menzel as Elphaba, Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda, and Joel Grey as the Wizard.  Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Winnie Holzman.
Some of the above is an excerpt from Wikipedia.

Las Vegas/Touring cast of "Wicked"

Glinda..............................................Patti Murin
Elphaba...........................................Nicole Parker/Dee Roscioli
Witch's father..................................Kevin McMahon
Witch's mother................................Courtney Iventosch
Midwife............................................Renee Lawless - Orsini 
Nessarose.......................................Demaree Hill
Boq..................................................Justin Brill
Madam Morrible...............................Kim Zimmer
Doctor Dillamond.............................Clifton Davis
Fiyero...............................................Clifton Hall
Ozian Official....................................Kevin McMahon
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz............Tom McGowan
Chistery.............................................Ben Susak

Monkeys, Students, Denizons of Emerald City, Palace Guards, and other citizens of Oz........
Lauren Boyd, Timothy A. Fitzgerald, Napolean W. Gladney, Antonette Cohen, Courtney Iventosch, Trevor Ryan Krahl, Rick Desloge, Renee Lawless - Orsini, Michael Mahany, Luis Augusto Figueroa, Kevin McMahon, Ashley Dawn Mortenson, Cassie Okenka, Sarah Schenkkan, Adea Michelle Sessoms, Pamela Shandrow, Ben Susak, Mikey Winslow

Standby for Elphaba.....Carla Stickler

Todd Anderson, Tess Ferrell, Brenda Hamilton, Spencer Jones, Kevin Jordan, Kelly Lafarga, Marissa Lupp, Christopher Russo

Dance Captains/Swings....
Phillip Dean Lightstone, Shanna VanDerwerker 

Traveling Orchestra......
Conductor: Andrew Graham
Associate Conductor/Keyboard: Justin Mendoza
Keyboard 1: Adam McDonald
Keyboard 3: Sean Greiner
Guitar: Lou Garrett
Drums: Greg Germann

Local Musicians, Las Vegas........
Reed 1: Megan Lanz
Reed 2: Dave Peterson
Reed 3: Bryan Wente 
French Horn: Jeff Johnson
Trumpet: Gary Cordell
Trombone: Dave Philippus
Bass: Jon Rem
Percussion: Alex Stopa
Keyboard: Wayne Green/Jay Alger
Contractor: Jack Gaughan

Orchestrations adapted by Christopher Jahnke

Find it in your city.....Wicked the Musical

The Smith Center 


Friday, October 5, 2012

"How I got my Equity card"....100 Years of Equity

Since I don't have an Equity card I am sharing the stories of two other actors below. I am eligible to join Equity, but have not yet done so. Once an actor joins Equity we cannot work non union theater, other than a few exceptions. So, if I had joined Equity without any prospects of working in Equity productions, I could limit myself in the area of non union theater. Equity level theater is the ultimate in stage work, but I work mostly in television and film.

As Kristin Chenoweth's stand in for the American Country Awards every December, I can tell you her talent bursts out of her like a thousand shooting stars! Her singing is off the charts. She can do everything from country, to Broadway hits, to opera. Best of all she hilarious and beautiful. I've  worked with hundreds of celebrity performers over the years but she stands out to me as one of the most talented.

By Kristin Chenoweth  
"I had just graduated from Oklahoma City University and was headed to the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia to become an opera singer. I decided to make a pit stop in New York. My best friend, Denny, wanted to move there to make it as an actor. I went along! I was at Actors’ Equity waiting to be seen for a show a Papermill. Because I wasn’t a member of the union I had to wait five hours to be seen! Finally I got in for my audition and ended up getting one of the leads in a musical called ANIMAL CRACKERS. I had an important life decision to make: Opera or Musical Theatre? Guess what I chose! Not only did I get my Equity Card through that job, I never had to wait five hours again!!"       Excerpt from Actors Equity website

Tim Jerome is like family to me...actually he is family since he's my husband's cousin! Tim has had a long, successful and varied career. He has appeared in everything from sitcoms like Lou Grant, to Woody Allen films, to Broadway shows like "Phantom of the Opera". He is also the founder of Main Street Musicals.

For more personal stories on how others got their equity cards, go to

For more info on Actors Equity 100th Anniversary please see yesterday's blog:

Actors Equity Assocation....Celebrating 100 Years

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Actors Equity...Celebrating 100 years!

Look for my upcoming features about this strong and creative union and the actors and stage managers who comprise it. Actors Equity Assocation is honoring their 100th anniversary with a year long celebration, kicked off this past June. The celebration will culminate in May of 2013 with special events and tributes!

“Live theatre is such an integral part of American history,” says current AEA President Nick Wyman. “It is a portal to our past, a mirror to our present, and a crystal ball to our future."

Excerpt from Actors' Equity Association (AEA) website. 

Founded in 1913, Actors Equity Association represents more than 49,000 actors and stage managers in the United States. Equity seeks to advance, promote and foster the art of live theatre as an essential component of our society. Equity negotiates wages and working conditions, providing a wide range of benefits, including health and pension plans. AEA is a member of the AFL-CIO, and is affiliated with FIA, an international organization of performing arts unions. The Equity emblem is our mark of excellence. 

The beginnings....

On May 26, 1913, at the Pabst Grand Circle Hotel 112 actors voted the Actors’ Equity Association into existence. 

Equity’s history began in secret meetings, many of which were held at the Players, the actors club on Gramercy Park that Edwin Booth had founded in 1888. After the ineffectual Actors’ Society of America voted to disband in December of 1912, a select committee of actors, mostly Players members, met “without permission” as the plaque at the club still reads, to lay the groundwork for Actors’ Equity Association. It’s no exaggeration to say that these actors risked their livelihoods and reputations by holding these meetings. (This paragraph is an excerpt from the AEA website July 2004).

Now, continuing this celebration, last week Actors Equity has released Performance of the Century, 100 Years of Actors' Equity Association and the Rise of Professional American Theater. The coffee table book has been written by well-known theatre journalist Robert Simonson and was recently published for national release by Applause Books. 

"Performance of the Century", Playbill Store

"Performance of the Century" - 100 Years

Excerpt from Actors Equity News

Actors Equity Receives Special 100th Anniversary Tony Award

"Performance of the Century", YouTube link

Monday, October 1, 2012

Awareness campaigns that worked

Breast cancer awareness and the color pink. These two go together in the minds of many Americans, especially during October, "Breast Cancer Awareness" month. 

Fulfilling the Promise 30 years ago started an awareness campaign for the ages...Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen for the Cure® and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Susan G. Komen is the boldest community fueling the best science and making the biggest impact in the fight against breast cancer.

It started me thinking about other awareness campaigns that worked.... 

Sharon Stone, "Basic Instinct" 1992

For example, you no longer see actors smoking in nearly as many films as before...If you do, usually the smoking character is supposed to be a "bad guy, loser" type. Remember how normal it used to seem to see a movie star surrounded in a cloud of toxic smoke?...Thanks to smoking prevention campaigns we can now see most of their faces clearly.

Science proved long ago that too much sun causes premature wrinkling and cancer. It took most of us couple of decades of denial to catch up, but sunscreen (and not baby oil), is now "in". 

Advertisers never say "deep, dark tan" anymore!
Print ad from 1980's.

A modern sunscreen advertisement.
The "Seat Belts Save Lives" awareness campaign was so effective the philosophy is ingrained in most Americans today.

Jamie Gertz, Robert Downey Jr., Andrew McCarthy, "Less Than Zero"
Young, wild, and riding a little too free back in 1987.

Other effective campaigns include "Mothers Against Drunk Driving", "and United Against Bullying". Let's hope the anti-bullying one sticks as well as others have!

If I ever started an awareness campaign it would probably be something that educates young people on prevention of debt, or a campaign to help those speak up and get help for mentally ill family members, or possibly a campaign to encourage more exercise in daily life.

31 Days of Impact - Breast Cancer Awareness