Kenneth Jones on Mastering The Musical Workshops:
Ann Arvia & Linda Brovsky, Together Again for the First Time, Offer Workshops for Musical Theatre Performers
August 9, 2015
Broadway actress and voice teacher Ann Arvia and critically acclaimed director Linda Brovsky, longtime music-theatre colleagues respected for their work on a range of projects, are hanging out a shingle together to offer audition workshops for dancers and actors seeking to grow muscle as performers. Their series of workshops, under the banner of “Mastering the Musical,” begins Aug. 17 with a class called “Your Best You in Song.”
The 7-10:30 PM session in Manhattan will include working on the performer’s choice of material in a small class, with participants taking away three new song suggestions to work on for future auditions. “People will gain valuable insights about how they are perceived in the room,” Arvia told me. “It’s meant as a kind of safe place for the reawakening of performers’ artistic and storytelling muscles.”
(I was lucky enough to have Ann, a veteran of Broadway’s Les Miz, Mary Poppins and Beauty and the Beast, sing on the demo of my musical Voice of the City. That studio session included Ann assigning vocal parts on the spot. Yes, she’s that incisive and smart — immediately cutting to the core of things.) I previously wrote about her turn as sister Marie in Goodspeed Musicals’ recent revival of The Most Happy Fella.
Other workshop titles are “Opera to Broadway: Mastering the Crossover” and “Ballet to Broadway and Beyond,” plus “Broadway’s Minor League,” a workshop aimed at teen performers.
Brovsky, an opera and theatre director who has worked around the world, shared some of the goals of the classes.
“The mission of ‘Your Best You in Song’ is to address ‘audition nerves’ as well as polish material before the audition season starts,” Brovsky told me. “‘Opera to Broadway: Mastering the Crossover’ and ‘Ballet to Broadway and Beyond’ address the very specific needs and mindsets of opera singers and dancers who have the talent for musical theatre but lack the ‘vocabulary’ and process. We hope to at least give them the tools to explore this world further when they leave our workshop and know what areas they specifically need to work on. ‘Broadway’s Minor League’ is a scaled-down workshop for the younger set — ages 14 to 18 — to give them a taste of the professional world of musical theatre as well as some valuable skills for their high school musical. If we can start young, perhaps we’ll inspire the next generation and give them the insights about the courses and approach they’ll need in college to pursue a performing career.”
Ann and Linda fielded some of my questions in the days leading up to their first workshop.
How did you two meet?
Linda Brovsky: Back in the Bronze Age (1989), I cast Ann as Lillian Holliday in a production of Happy End at the Court Theater in Chicago. Management strongly wanted one of their favorites but Ann showed up and literally lit up the stage. Her wisecracks about the audition process convinced me that she was the actress I wanted and I fought for her. Needless to say, it was one of the best casting choices of my career!
Ann Arvia: Our artistic collaboration grew into a friendship and a few years ago, we worked together on a reading of a new musical called By Grace.
Why are you two a match for these classes?
Linda Brovsky: I think Ann and I are a good match for the workshops because we seek the same depth and honesty in a performance but from different perspectives. Ann, as a seasoned Broadway performer, understands the fears and frustrations of the audition process as well as what it takes to book the job. She is also an accomplished voice teacher who passes along a lifetime of training in both the musical theatre and classical worlds. As a director, I come from the other side of the table. I offer the perspective of the person who actually casts as well as the one who hears all the remarks from the musical director, choreographer and producers. Because I was trained as a dancer and direct both opera and musical theatre, I bring the vocabulary and insights from those worlds as well.”
Ann Arvia: I think our greatest strengths in working as a team are we are both great diagnosticians, our compassion and our humor. And we’ve both been out there working in this business as artists…for a really long time. We know what it’s like from both sides of the table.
How did you come to collaborate on these workshops, and can you share a little about the mission of the classes?
Ann Arvia: I teach voice in addition to my acting career and Linda has often taught in apprentice programs in various opera companies and universities. We’ve had numerous conversations about our experiences and frustrations with certain “holes” in people’s training and thought it was time to address them in a way that would be constructive for performers.
So “Mastering the Musical” was born. The first workshop we created was “Ballet to Broadway and Beyond.” Given the current Broadway season and its very dance-centric bent, we felt that empowering dancers to audition asconfidently when singing and acting as they did when dancing was a great goal to begin with.
My early training as a singer was “legit”; that is, classically based. Linda directs a great deal in the world of opera, so “Opera to Broadway: Mastering the Crossover” came to be. Since so many opera companies are now programming musicals, giving classically trained singers the tools to succeed at that seemed like a natural fit. That workshop includes a mock dance audition, a cold reading segment as well as working on the difference between musical theatre vocal production and an operatic approach.
Linda Brovsky: The “missions” of the workshops evolved from Ann’s experiences in regional theatre, her master classes in Croatia and here and her teaching vocal technique to the dancers of An American in Paris combined with my guest directing at universities, hearing numerous rounds of auditions for The Wizard of Oz and cringing through opera galas as opera singers wailed show tunes. We had lengthy conversations about talented actors, singers and dancers who weren’t getting hired because they lacked the necessary skills for those auditions.
Likewise, we discussed those who had the chops but whose fear of auditioning, misunderstanding of musical theatre style, lack of polish or inexperience in front of the table prevented them from nailing the the job or getting rehired. In some cases, this was the result of inadequate training on the university level. In other cases, the training had been so intense in one discipline that all others had been ignored or devalued. Often it was a case of rusty performer skills with no time or place to “practice” them or re-learn them in a non-judgmental environment.
Rather than continuing to bemoan the state of performers, we decided to do our small part to help address it in small chunks that the performer could assimilate both artistically as well as financially.
Ann Arvia is a New York City-based actress. On Broadway, she was a member of the original cast of Mary Poppins and appeared in Beauty and the Beast and in the original run of Les Misérables. Off-Broadway, she appeared in the MTC production of Time and Again as well as Children and Art, the gala concert celebrating Stephen Sondheim’s 75th birthday. She has also toured extensively across the United States in both Les Misérables and Ragtime.
Regionally, Ann has appeared at Arena Stage in Washington, DC (Golde in Molly Smith’s Fiddler on the Roof starring Jonathan Hadary), Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut (Marie in The Most Happy Fella and Connecticut Critics Circle Award nomination for Meg in Damn Yankees) and the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia (Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music and Barrymore Award nomination for Carlotta in Phantom).
Her film and TV credits include “Man on a Ledge,” “3 Backyards” (Sundance 2010) and “Let It Snow” (Sundance 2000), “The Affair,” “Nurse Jackie,” “The Big C,” “Rescue Me” and “Law & Order: SVU.”
Originally from Chicago, Ann appeared across the Tri State area in more than 60 productions at such venues as the Court Theater (Joseph Jefferson nomination for Happy End), Marriott Lincolnshire Theater (Joseph Jefferson nominations for The King and I and The Sound of Music), Candlelight Dinner Playhouse (Joseph Jefferson nomination for Rags), the Forum Theater, Drury Lane Oakbrook Theater, Drury Lane Evergreen Park Theater, the Illinois Theater Center and Milwaukee’s Melody Top Theater.
Ann is also a busy voice teacher, working with established stars, emerging performers and mid-career actors and dancers who are seeking to improve, maintain and challenge their vocal skills. She has taught master classes in the U.S. and abroad.
Linda Brovsky’s innovative productions are found on operatic stages throughout North America, including the San Francisco Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Seattle Opera, Los Angeles Opera, San Diego Opera, Opera Theater of St. Louis, Glimmerglass Opera, Palm Beach Opera, and Cincinnati Opera among many others with repertoire ranging from standard classics to world premieres including David Carlson’s The Midnight Angel, Scott Eyerly’s The House of the Seven Gables and the U.S. premiere of Lowell Liebermann’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Recent credits include a debut with the Canadian Opera Company directing her critically acclaimed production of Don Quichotte, a remount of her Fascist Italy-set Rigoletto for the Seattle Opera, La Boheme for the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and Le Nozze Di Figaro for IVAI in Tel Aviv, Israel. Upcoming engagements include Il Barbiere Di Sivilglia with the Pittsburgh Opera.
Her talents also extend to the world of musical theatre where she recently directed The Wizard of Oz for the Skylight Music Theater. Other productions include the 50th Anniversary National Tour of Oklahoma! for the Troika Organization, Happy End (Chicago’s Court Theater) and Carousel (Opera Grand Rapids) as well as the development of a new musical, By Grace. She has been a contributor to Biography Magazine as well as a guest speaker for the National Arts Club, the Guggenheim Museum’s “Works in Progress” series, and the American Opera Project’s “New Works” series. She also served as jurist for the Douglas Moore Foundation for New Composers.
Committed to training young singers, Linda has been guest director for productions at the Manhattan School of Music, AVA, San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, the Brevard Music Festival, Temple University and the University of Michigan as well as scenes programs for Yale University, Carnegie Mellon University and the Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Program.
BWW Interviews: Golde Speaks! Ann Arvia Talks Arena Stage's FIDDLER ON THE ROOF
6:14 AM 2014
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Jeffrey Walker of BroadwayWorld-DC caught up with two of Anatevka's most prominent citizens, Golde and Tevye. Actually, we spoke to actors Ann Arvia and Jonathan Hadary who are bringing these characters to life in the new and exciting production of Fiddler on the Roof wowing audiences on the iconic Fichlander Stage. Artistic director Molly Smith directs the production which features the original Jerome Robbins choreography adapted and restaged by Parker Esse. FIDDLER celebrates its 50 anniversary this year and Washington audiences can see this classic show newly minted. Hadary and Arvia make their Arena Stage debut performances in the Bock, Harnick, Stein musical masterpiece. This is part one: Jeffrey Walker's interview with Ann Arvia.
On Broadway, Arvia played the iconic Bird Woman in MARY POPPINS, Madame Thenardier in LES MISERABLES and appeared in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. Off-Broadway saw her as Mrs. Carmody in the New York premiere of TIME AND AGAIN at MTC. Ann also toured extensively in both LES MISERABLES and RAGTIME. She most recently played the historic Goodspeed Opera House as Meg in DAMN YANKEES and Marie in THE MOST HAPPY FELLA and has appeared across the country in roles from Rose (GYPSY) to the Mother Abbess (THE SOUND OF MUSIC).
Arvia is no stranger to performing in Washington from her days of touring with such shows as LES MISERABLES. She is also not a new citizen of Anatevka. As an actress just starting out, her first professional job was playing the second youngest daughter, Shprintze, in Chicago, her hometown. Through the years, she also performed Hodel twice.
JEFFREY WALKER: How is it making your Arena Stage debut?
ANN ARVIA: I cannot begin to tell you how much I love working here. What an amazing, amazing company and organization. They are so well organized; everybody works at an incredibly high level. And it's all about the product - nobody's ego seems to be involved in that building. It's the most remarkable thing I have ever witnessed as an actor.
Aside from working with such an esteemed organization, you are there working on FIDDLER IN THE ROOF, a landmark show that has been with us for 50 years. How does that feel?
The responsibility of it feels incredibly great because it is such a great piece of writing. Not a day went by in rehearsal that someone didn't step back to observe just how phenomenal the writing is. It's so tight, and there really is no fat in this show. Everything that's in there is necessary and moves the plot forward. It's like each scene is a little, well-crafted gem.
When Jonathan [Hadary ]and I worked through "Do I Love You?" one day, we did it twice and we just started giggling at the end of it because it is a perfect scene through song. If you spoke the text as a scene it would completely work and play.
Where do you think FIDDLER fits in to our American musical theatre history? Why is this one so significant?
Off the top of my head, I would probably put it in the top three, right up there with SHOWBOAT and GYPSY.
Earlier this year I got to open at the Goodspeed Opera House in DAMN YANKEES. They were also doing FIDDLER and I got to see a run-through of it there. I just got cast here at Arena and hadn't seen the show in a while. I marveled at how maybe the first ten minutes of FIDDLER, you might say, 'I'm watching a Jewish show. And then that completely falls away and it literally becomes a show about a family and a culture that's trying to deal with change. And there's nothing more universal than that. It's what every family system goes through no matter where you live in the world.
And given what is going on in the world today, I marvel at how horribly relevant this piece still is. Because you don't want it to be as relevant as it is, but with what's going on in the Ukraine, and with Anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli feelings being as high as it is in the world right now, FIDDLER plays in a very contemporary way, I think.
What sort of mother and wife is Golde for you?
Golde is so often played, in productions I have seen, as this cold, harridan, or battle-axe. Teyve is the one who gets to be all warm and fuzzy. To a certain degree you have to honor that, since you are the set up for his laughs. However, as we did table work and read through the play, there is so much depth of love for her children and her family unit - that is what came screaming out to me. And I didn't expect to be as moved at times in some of these scenes.
And Bock and Harnick's score contributes to the moving nature of so many scenes and moments.
All of it is so simple. "Sabbath Prayer" and "Sunrise Sunset" are not complex pieces of musical writing but they are so gorgeous in the moment. And I think the other brilliant thing they did with the show - and our conductor Paul Sportelli talked about this the first day - in this world of Anatevka, music existed if people made music. Music was not something that happened to you the way it is in our society. For them, music was part of their everyday life, but not through an earbud or iPod. They sang folk tunes, played instruments, and I think they accomplished that with this score. There is nothing in this score that doesn't sound really like something that would come out of that place or those people. We are using an orchestration for ten pieces that is scored to sound much more like a klezmer band than a symphonic orchestra sounding arrangement.
What do you hope audiences will take away from when they see this Fiddler on the Roof?
I hope they have a really wonderful time at the theatre because this show has everything. You have great humor, great sorrow - living side by side - and ultimately, at the end, great hope. These people must go forge a life somewhere else. But I think what they will come away with is that surprise of 'wow - not a lot has changed from 1905. And we're all in this together, we are all people and we are all connected. You may call yourself a Jew, you many call yourself a Catholic, you may call yourself a Muslim, but ultimately we are all people trying to do best by our families and survive in a very harsh world. Our world right now may have more creature comforts, but it's still a pretty harsh world when you see the headlines on the news. That universality is what's going to surprise people, as it probably always has on this show.
BWW Blog: Eric Ulloa of Goodspeed's THE MOST HAPPY FELLA - When You're Good to Mama
8:16 AM 2013
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Every musical has to have their antagonist, and in our case we have two here in the Napa Valley. This week we feature our overbearing Italian sister hostess with the mostess our very own "Marie", Ann Arvia.
Ann has the challenging job of making a role that can easily come across as a pain in the ass, into something layered and nuanced while also singing her soprano brains out. And boy does she ever do it beautifully and richly.
Ann also has the very exciting task of singing a song never before heard in The Most Happy Fella (It was cut before the original Broadway opening), "Eyes of a Stranger," which adds such dimension into why Marie acts the way she does and allows audiences to see just how damn good an actress our wonderful Ann Arvia is.
Eric Ulloa: If you could go back and retackle a role from your past, what would that role be and why would you want a second chance at it?
Ann Arvia: Hands down, Rose in "Gypsy." I had my first crack at it when I was 37...18 more years of living and life experience makes that a no brainer. Hopefully, I'll get another shot at it while I still have the stamina!
EU: As a proud Italian lady, what's your signature dish? The one people rave about?
AA: Well, there are several dishes people kvel over; I'd say that it's a toss up between any pasta with my Grandma Arvia's gravy (sauce) recipe. It's an all day affair that simmers on low with 3 different kinds of neck bones (beef, pork & veal) for depth of flavor. The meat eventually falls off the bone, fish out the bones & you're done. And I've had more than a few compliments on my risotto.
EU: What are three things you will always find at your dressing station?
AA: A fan.
An electric kettle.
A magnifying mirror...sad, but true.
EU: What's a male role in the musical theatre canon that you would love to play in a dream world? Why?
AA: The first one that pops into my brain is Sweeney Todd, because, hello...why wouldn't you wanna??? But then, when I expand my parameters of dreaming, Coalhouse Walker is a frontrunner as well. Again...why not? You get to be everything & run the gambit of human emotions...lover, father, crusader, "widower," crusader...dead. Sorry for the spoiler...
EU: Tell me about your most embarrassing moment onstage.
AA: Oh, there are many to choose from, but I have to believe that it was the time I called Jean Valjean (in "Les Miserables") "a raisin."
How is that possible, you might ask? Well, in the prologue, during the "Little Inn," Valjean (while on parole) enters and is warming himself by the fire and the Innkeeper's Wife (not to be confused with Mme. Thenardier who shows up later) sings to him, "My rooms are full and I've no supper to spare. I'd like to help a stranger, all we want is to be fair."
On this particular night, the word "stranger" eluded me & in that panicked nanosecond, my brain went, "It's 2 syllables, has an "r", an "s" and an "a" in it."
And out came "raisin."
I walked into the stage manager's office during my 1st break & put in a vacation request.
Hope you enjoyed getting to know our lovely Ann, and come back later this week to hear all about the exciting world of Understudy Rehearsals, or as I call it, no rest for the weary!
Ann Arvia: Meg in Damn Yankees: Goodspeed Opera House by Richard Skipper
"Every master was once a beginner. Every pro was once an amateur."
I was lucky enough to see Ann Arvia as Meg in Damn Yankees a few weeks ago at The Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut. Rush to see this production before it closes on June 21st.
I was even luckier enough to sit down and talk with her earlier this week about the road to Damn Yankees (and a few other things as well!).
Here are/were the greatest "influencers" in her life as far as creativity is concerned.
For Ann, it is constantly changing. She is inspired by great actors. She is inspired by great art. Last summer, The Metropolitan Museum of Art had this phenomenal exhibit called Spines Collect. It was all of the paintings that the Spines family collected over the years. Ann sat down and pondered how to make THIS into a show. She has not found her way in yet, but it is still there on the back burner.
Initially, it would be her voice teacher. She has studied with her for decades, Anne Perillo She is a phenomenal voice teacher back in Chicago. Ann studied with her at DePaul University. She is one of those "did it all" kinds of women. She was an opera singer. She did musical theatre. She did cabaret. She did voice over work. Ann desired to follow in those footsteps and do it all as well. She wanted to be able to explore whatever it was that she could do.
What does Ann love the most about the theatre?
She loves what she has learned about herself through roles. She loves the diverse people that she meets whose paths she wouldn't cross otherwise. She loves reaching at audience.
What has she learned most about herself through her current role as Meg?
Ann has spent the last decade playing an assortment of hags, harridans and teapots. Ann has transitioned into the role of old sage character roles. She spent four and a half years playing the Bird Woman in Mary Poppins. That certainly was not a glamor role. She has also played Miss Andrew, the bad nanny in Mary Poppins, again not a glamor role, a shrieking and mean harridan. Don't get her wrong. Those are great roles to play and lots of fun including Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast. Ann has not played a "romantic leading lady" character role since she played Mother in Ragtime in 2002. Playing Meg has been a fascinating journey getting back in touch with that and being comfortable with that. When one reaches a certain age as a woman, they're asked to put their sexuality aside. People don't want to think about their moms having sex. Actresses go off and start doing other types of roles. They become sage women of wisdom, such as the Bird Woman or a teapot singing a lovely song. Being able to play a fully developed full fledged three dimensional woman is fascinating to rediscover.
Last summer, Ann appeared at Goodspeed in The Most Happy Fella. That was Ann's first time at Goodspeed.
Ann LOVES, LOVES, LOVES it up at Goodspeed. both professionally and personally. It is such a rare experience to have a month of rehearsals in a studio and then have basically a week of tech and three weeks of previews. Nobody does that anymore! Even with a show as vast and enormous as Mary Poppins was , they were in the studio for four weeks. Those rehearsals were not about exploration. They were about, "Here are the steps. Get the shape and THEN we'll move it into the theatre and space it out." At Goodspeed, everyone has the luxury of exploration. Sometimes, they may be going down a path that is not ultimately the "right" path, or what I saw as the final product on the stage now. Those paths are important in the discovery process. The actors learn things about their characters. "No, he wouldn't do that", or things about themselves as actors. "OK, I was willing to take that risk." They may not have been willing to take those risks six months ago. THIS is a great process. They care very much about process at Goodspeed. The support staff is great at the theatre. Their production stage manager, Bradley G. Spachman, is quite phenomenal. Ann fell in love with the area last autumn. It was such a spectacular fall. It was like something out of a movie. Now, coming back to do Damn Yankees, Ann has gotten to experience all four seasons there. It has been beautiful.
Director Daniel Goldstein brings in an incredible amount of enthusiasm and research. "That man knows his baseball!"
That wasn't that important to Ann because Meg is oblivious to it all but it was fascinating to watch him and telling actors, "No, that swing isn't right", or all the other little nuances of the "game" aspect of the show. The other thing that Ann really loved about working with Danny is that he is very game about allowing actors to take chances. There was one particular day in which Ann came into the rehearsal hall and said to him, "I have been thinking about this", and blah blah blah...He said, "OK. Let's try it." Ann sort of did a "double take" and said, "Really!?!?!". He said, "Yes. I never so 'no' to actors." They all learn something in the process. They may not do what happens in that process ultimately, but they all learn SOMETHING.
Damn Yankees, for Ann, was one of those rare shows that she had no frame of reference for. She, of course, knew the two big songs, Heart and Whatever Lola Wants. She had never seen the show. She thinks she saw the movie years ago when she was a kid. When the last two revivals were happening, Ann was in Broadway shows. She wasn't able to go see them. However, almost through Ann's entire career, people who did know the show, said to her, "When you're old enough, you're going to be a wonderful Meg." It was always kind of always there in the background as a show that she would eventually do. The fact that so many people said that to her, there was probably something to it. Ann knew that Goodspeed would be doing Damn Yankees this season. She closed Most Happy Fella on a Sunday. The following Tuesday, she auditioned for Damn Yankees. Meg is the complete opposite of Marie, the role Ann portrayed in Happy Fella. Ann went into the audition looking as different as possible from the way that everyone had been seeing her for the past three months. She went in in a beautiful dress and high high-heels and well done make-up and hair. She knew that she had to turn them around. A couple of days later, she had the job offer.
There is a lovely scene that takes place after Whatever Lola Wants that takes place on the baseball field in which Meg comes out to see the game and has an exchange with Joe. Ann loves the simplicity of that scene.
I was at the show on press night in which an interesting moment happened that set a tone for both the audience and Young Joe and Lola on stage. There is a moment in which Joe lets his guard down for a nano second and he kisses Lola. A woman in the audience gasped audibly and said, "What!?!?!" Ann shared with me that that has happened on more than one occasion. It happens at least three times a week. People are so in Meg and Joe's court, they are so wrapped up that they literally will proclaim something out loud, whether it is "No!" or they gasp loudly or "Oh my God! Don't!" Literally, it stops the show, as it did the night I attended, because the audience starts laughing that someone is so invested, which Ann chalks up to, "Job well done!" Daniel Goldstein shared with me that that is one moment in the show in which he does mot like. For him, it's not in Joe's "character" to kiss her.
Ann agrees with that.
She thinks it is a desperation moment of "Well, let me try this out. If I'm going to be stuck with her throughout eternity, I guess I might as well try this." He has been so stalwart throughout the entire show. Being damned to hell, maybe he throws caution to the wind!
We have touched upon what Ann loves about Goodspeed. Another thing that she loves is the intimacy of that theatre. We just referred to it here, when people proclaim aloud. The intimacy of that space creates such an energy between the actors and the audience.
It is kind of an astonishing thing to experience as an actor when they really feel the audience with them. Prior to doing Most Happy Fella, she spent ten years straight in Broadway houses where sometimes she would have a sense of that, but more times than not she doesn't just because of the size of the house. Mary Poppins played The New Amsterdam Theatre which has 1702 seats. There is also an orchestra pit in front of the stage. For the actors, it almost feels as if they are doing the show "in spite of the audience." There are moments when, obviously, the actors are aware of their laughter. During the curtain calls, the lights are a little bit more up in the house and you see their reaction. The actors are always aware of people sitting "out there in the dark".
At Goodspeed, the actors know IMMEDIATELY if the audience is with them. If not, it may just be how the audience is experiencing the show. Sometimes, it's the actors.
One of the issues that drives ME up the wall are cell phones and texting in the theatre. I asked Ann for her take on this.
There are too many experiences for Ann to innumerate. However, she says that that is a very rare occasion at Goodspeed.
When it DOES happen, it always feels like it is during the quietest most intimate moments in the show.
There's kind of nothing to be done. If an actor can, they kind of hold for a moment. Otherwise, they just press on and try to get the audience back. A cell phone going off jars the entire audience out of the experience of a play.
I asked Ann about her thoughts on those actors that break the "fourth wall" to address it.
Ann believes it is a very slippery slope. It absolutely depends on the piece and where the actor is in the piece. If an actor is doing a play like Hello, Dolly!, and the actor is playing Dolly Levi and the concept of the show is that the fourth wall is constantly being broken down and the character is constantly talking to the audience, then MAYBE it can be addressed. For most other shows, it becomes dangerous because, particularly if it is late in the show, the audience is not seeing the actor as who they really are, but rather as the character they are portraying. For the actor to "suddenly" break the forth wall, it couldn't be done as the character, because it just wouldn't happen.
It becomes confusing for the audience. Maybe if one is a big star like Patti LuPone, they can "get away with it". People certainly don't allow their cell phones to go off "on purpose". It happens mostly after intermission when they have forgotten to turn their cell phones back off. They have gone out and checked their emails, made a few phone calls, called the baby sitter, they come back in and they forget to turn it back off.
Returning back to Damn Yankees, Ann has such love for the score especially since she kind of "discovered it" while rehearsing for the show. It is so "of a time". Some of these songs are such little jewels. She believes, as do I, that their orchestrator Dan DeLangue did a phenomenal job, both creating the right sound to support what it is that the actors are doing as well as invoking the period and what the original orchestrations are. He "marries" all of those factors really brilliantly. Ann Arvia, the actor, has a really difficult time in Near to You when the bongos come in, trying not to burst into a big smile. It reminds her of when she was a kid and those fabulous albums from the late fifties that her parents would put on the gigantic stereo in the living room in which was a stereo/TV console would be wafting through the house. That one moment in the show gives her great memories.
When it comes to BOTH of her Joes, she feels she is the luckiest woman in show business. Meg's whole show is with those two men. She has a few moments with Doris and Sister, but basically, her entire show is with the Joes. She is so lucky that both James Judy and Stephen Mark Lucas are incredibly talented lovely human beings that they are. They are each "so present". Ann doesn't feel she has ever been on stage with anyone more present as these men are and so in the moment. No matter what happens from moment to moment, they ALL shift together. Theatre is a living breathing thing and each night, sometimes it's a little different. Both of those gentlemen go with whatever happens. They are great "ballplayers" in their own right, they hit the ball out at the audience performance after performance and it is a joy for Ann to share the stage with them.
If Ann could sell her soul to the devil for one change in today's entertainment world, what would that change be?
There are so many, but if she had to distill it to one, it would be that producers would not be so afraid to produce new material. There is such a love affair now with putting movies, TV series', and revivals on the boards, not that revivals don't have a place, they do. Ann would love some of that to fall by the wayside and that producers start supporting new creative endeavors. It is thrilling when it happens and so rare an occurrence now.
Ann always did musical theatre, even through high school and college. She studied opera in college, because that was in the day when musical theatre degrees did not exist. One either had to be a theatre major a music major. Ann was a theatre major with a music minor at DePaul University. Ann toyed briefly with the idea of going into the world of opera because she loves the music. It feeds her soul. She knew very quickly that those people were not "her people". She started out primarily as a singer. Her evolution as an artist has been marrying the acting with the singing. It was very different back when she started out thirty-eight years ago. The acting/singer was not really what it is today. Over the years, Ann has embraced the combination. It is really gratifying for her on this show as well as Most Happy Fella that so many of the lovely reviews that she has gotten have commented more on her acting than her singing. She feels, as a well rounded actor, it is very freeing to not be worried about her voice every second and listening to herself. She believes that is what plagued her in the early stages of her career. ""Was that note open enough" and judging her performance by each note she sang. Now, she is less concerned about that. At the end of the night, people aren't really going to focus on whether or not she cracked on a note if she was invested in the moment. People aren't going to walk out and say, "Oh wow, it was really lovely but I wish Ann hadn't cracked on that one note at the end of that song." That's just not reality. It is so much lovelier as an artist to go out there and not be constantly monitoring herself. It gives her a freedom now that she never had when she was younger.
Ann shared a very interesting anecdote with me. When she was doing Beauty and the Beast, she had an "intermission talk show."
It was not unlike James Lipton's Inside the Actor's Studio. She would go through people in the cast and interview them. There was no greenroom at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre due ti its small size. The cast would congregate in "Belle's" dressing room and it was a way to get to know each other. She started developing her own five questions a la James Lipton's closer. Her favorite question was "If you couldn't do this, and if failure wasn't an option, what would you do?" I asked Ann what her answer would be. She would be a professional poker player. That's very much like being in the theatre. Every day is a gamble.
It gives Ann such incredible joy to see people turn out and support LIVE theatre the way they do at Goodspeed. The theatre would not exist without these audiences. So many of these theatres are dying around the country.
Go support your local regional theatres. Go even if it is once a month or every couple of months. There is no other experience like theatre anymore. Even movie going has changed. A lot of people no longer do "collective" experiences the way we used to.
Theatre and movies are kind of all that we have left of that. Movies are dying because everyone is watching them on Netflix. Even going into a movie nowadays, it wears Ann out!
People are talking at the screen and other assundry things. It is difficult to watch in spite of the people around you.
In the theatre, it is one of the last places we all go and experience something together and walk out in a different state from when we walked in.
Go see a LIVE SHOW! You have until June 21st to see Damn Yankees. Click HERE for more info.