Thursday, June 30, 2011

Embodying Michael 'Mouse' Tolliver

by Richard Dodds
Published 06/30/2011

It was three days before the Pride parade, and Wesley Taylor was happy that the event was skewing audience demographics at Tales of the City. "We love nothing more than a theater full of gays," said the young actor who plays Michael "Mouse" Tolliver in the new musical based on Armistead Maupin's stories. "It's a warm and embracing energy that you can actually feel."

Only 24 years old, Taylor has already been featured in two long-run Broadway hits – Rock of Ages and The Addams Family – and he turned down several lucrative offers in New York to sign up for the summer run of Tales of the City in San Francisco.

He landed the role of uber-gay Franz, the son of a dastardly real estate developer, in Rock of Ages only six months after graduating from college, and then found more steady paychecks from 18 months with The Addams Family.

"I think it's important when you're young and not starving and don't have a family to support to make decisions based on what you believe in," said Taylor, sporting a tank top, a casually arranged mop of hair, and the 70s moustache he grew for the role of Mouse. "I'm doing projects that excite me."

Taylor had previously auditioned for Tales director Jason Moore for other projects, and sensed a potential camaraderie. "Then I heard Jason was directing Tales, and someone said there was a part that was perfect for me. But I didn't know anything about the books or Armistead or the mini-series, but I auditioned and when I got called back, I started reading the books and got hooked."

Then came the waiting game. "I auditioned in front of Jason and Jeff [Whitty, the librettist], and they taped that and then had to send the tape to [songwriters] Jake Shears and John Garden, and to Armistead. Everyone had final casting say, and that become very frustrating."

But the waiting paid off, and Taylor had the chance to help mold his character in an entirely new musical. "I think you have to keep moving to keep yourself sane," said Taylor, who has already encountered the performer's brick wall. "Sometimes after you've done 400 performances, you have panic attacks on stage because you think, I cannot say this fucking line one more time. It's a real challenge to keep yourself awake and alive."

That shouldn't be a problem with Tales of the City during its ACT run, currently announced to end on July 31, though the actors are contractually committed to play through August should the run be further extended. Speaking of contracts, the male actors had to sign a nudity clause agreeing to bare all if requested. But a brief glimpse of Taylor's backside is about as naked as the show gets. "There was a lot more and it was cut down," Taylor said, "because we didn't want to seem like we were pandering to the gay community."

As Michael "Mouse" Tolliver, Taylor plays a young man enjoying the sexual freedoms of 1970s San Francisco, though fretting how his conservative parents will react when they find out he is gay. One of the most touching moments in the show comes when Mouse sings the coming-out letter he has written to his mother.

Though it can moisten theatergoers' eyes, Taylor says it's far from his favorite moment in the show. "Sometimes it's a moment I don't look forward to at all," he said. "It's a gift of a song, but it's hard, and sometimes after that scene I'm exhausted."

Taylor came out to his own parents, Southern Baptists living in Orlando, several years ago, and there has been muted acceptance. Although he was out of the closet with everyone he knew, he wasn't sure what his professional stance should be. "When I would come out of the stage door at Rock of Ages, people were asking me if I was really gay. I didn't say yes or no, but was just shocked by the audacity of the fans. I finally decided life is too short, and I want to celebrate my life and be part of the movement."

Taylor's experiences with Tales of the City and the city of San Francisco itself have further strengthened his sense of a gay fraternity. "To be completely honest with you," he said, "I did not use to agree with things like Pride or something like the BET channel. Here we are fighting for equality, but at the same time it felt like a step backwards to emphasize your differences. Now I see we are celebrating a community that has gone through a lot of hardships. It's about standing tall and saying this is who we are."

From the inspirational to the tabloid-ial, since there is time for one last question. What's his relationship status? It was well-known, at least in chat-room circles, that he was dating a popular young television star. "You have to be very careful when you're dating another actor who is also in the spotlight because fans want to know everything about your relationship. And after we broke up, that's what people wanted to hear about at the stage door, and that was the last thing I wanted to talk about."

Is he dating now? "Yes, I'm seeing someone in New York. And he's not an actor. Yeah!"

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Video: Armistead Maupin On Pride

By Frequencies Citizen Reporter Brigade
June 26, 2011 6 a.m. |In Literature

With Pride coming up this weekend, we're capping Pride Month off with an interview with Armistead Maupin, author of “Tales of the City.” The book has long been ensconced in the gay literary canon and was recently turned into a musical by the American Conservatory Theater.

We caught up with Maupin at the theater on Geary Street, and he shared his first memories of the city and how he came to chronicle gay San Francisco.

“Tales” (as it’s affectionately referred to by fans) was first published in 1978, and its overarching theme is that of misfits trying to break free of societal constraints. San Francisco is the safe haven that beckons them. It's one of those books that fans feel a cultish ownership over and has been reissued over and over again.

Of course, gay culture is an important part of Maupin’s writing. Tales of gay characters grappling with homophobia, coming out to their parents and finding true love abound. Today, those subjects are common fodder for made-for-TV movies and Oprah, but when "Tales" was released, Maupin was considered brave.

“I cringe a little at that,” Maupin tells us in the video. “Because honestly, what I realized was that I was onto something really big."

The video was produced as part of a partnership between the American Conservancy Theater and the Bay Citizen's Citizen Reporter program. As such, this video was edited by Citizen Reporter (and Bay Citizen summer intern) Erik Verduzco.

If you want to check out the musical, the A.C.T. is offering a discount for Bay Citizen readers. Get 40 percent off of orchestra and mezzanine tickets by using the code CITIZEN online, or call 415-749-2228.

Monday, June 27, 2011

EXCLUSIVE interview: Armistead Maupin for SGN

By Miryam Gordon, SGN A&E Writer

Seattle Pride was graced this year by the inclusion of a special Grand Marshall: San Francisco's favorite Gay writer Armistead Maupin. The irreverent and frank Maupin gave an intimate talk on Saturday to lucky patrons at the Seattle Public Library (focusing on his brand new book Mary Ann in Autumn) and a keynote speech to the throngs at Seattle Center after the Pride Parade made it way there, Sunday afternoon.

Maupin reported to SGN (prior to arriving), 'When the invitation came to participate in Seattle Pride I jumped at the opportunity. I'm happy I'm speaking at both places because the library appearance can be more intimate and leisurely. Pride will be more festive and it's too different types of speaking talking to a large crowd in a park and in an auditorium and I enjoy both types.'

Maupin spoke about the 35 year span of writing his now eight-book opus Tales of the City, the brand-spanking-new musical based on it that opened in June at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco to huge box office and at least three extensions in the run, and a bit about the current look of politics and California's Prop 8 ban on Gay marriage.

You might not know that one of Maupin's characters, Mona Ramsey, moved to Seattle for a few chapters, at one point. Maupin's been here a number of times and has great affection for the city. He said, 'I have wandered all over the place in literary fashion, sometimes to places I know quite well. Some of the places I've written about in Tales have been places I went on vacation.

'I wanted to be able to call myself a Lesbian, so I went to the Island of Lesbos. I ended up living in a little village called Molyvos which is the family seat of the Dukakis family, and this was before five years before we hired Olympia Dukakis as Mrs. Madrigal. I didn't know at the time (that I would have a connection with the Dukakis family).'

Asked if he could see writing about living in Seattle, he chuckled, 'I'd never want to fake it about Seattle because I'd get called on it immediately.'

Maupin is clearly thrilled about the success of his new musical even though he said he's 'only a sort of senior advisor.' The people behind the musical are book writer Jeff Whitty, the Tony Award-winning book writer for Avenue Q, and music and lyrics by Jason Sellards (AKA Jake Shears) and John Garden (JJ) of the disco and glam rock-inspired pop group Scissor Sisters. Jason Moore (Avenue Q and Shrek) directed.

He said, 'It was very bold of A.C.T. to take it on. It's a $2.5 million production! But the public is really turning out. We've had a lot of people seeing the show two and three times now and there's a high percentage of out-of-town audience members. It makes for a very good feeling in the audience. It's almost interactive. I've seen the finished production nine times now, but I've been watching it develop in workshops for the past five years.'

Musicals are particularly difficult to get right and usually take a number of years to fully ripen. Maupin agreed, 'You don't know what you got until you see it in front of an audience, so there are a lot of incarnations. The creators are amazing guys who know how to throw things out and put things in and not be too vain. It's been an impressive thing to watch. The show runs a little under three hours and it was 40 minutes longer than that during previews. They had to perform a kind of surgery on it to make it shorter.'

And were there some great songs that got cut? He said, 'I could probably sing some ballads I really loved, but they weren't moving the story forward and they had to go. Some were replaced by even better songs.'

Of course there are hopes and possibilities for the musical to play elsewhere, but Maupin said, 'I have a private fantasy that it could go to the West End in London because I think they would get it. I have no idea what's coming up next, but the success might be very encouraging for people who want to produce it elsewhere. The story has worked as a miniseries and a book, and it's universally true, about a bunch of people who are trying to find love and security and home.'

The musical focuses on the era of Maupin's first two books in the series, the pre-AIDS time of 1976 and '77. The big focus was singer and 'orange juice queen' Anita Bryant's anti-Gay screed from Florida. Maupin chose to come out in response to that, as did many others, and he said, 'The sad thing is that a lot of GLBT people don't take action until someone says something ugly about them and then we rise to our own defense. Much like young people today are responding to hate groups like the National Organization for Marriage.

'My husband (Christopher Turner) and I were among the 18,000 couples who were legally married (in California) before Prop 8 banned marriage. They can't take that away from us. We file taxes as a couple. We can't file on the federal level. But the rest of the GLBT people in California have that right taken away. It infuriates me that I have to pay (federal) taxes and I'm not allowed the same rights as my straight brother and sister.

'Half the money given to Prop 8 was from the Mormon Church, which is one of the last institutions that should be passing judgment on marital institutions. The side in support of marriage equality was far too timid and should have been quite clear on a personal level (about) what it meant to millions of Californians.'

Maupin is clear that he is not a huge fan of Democrats over Republicans, necessarily. 'I don't look at any party of being our savior. If it had been up to elected people to make progress we wouldn't have made any at all.'

But he does, of course, feel strongly about the way Republicans have used homophobia to gain political advantage. 'Republicans have a real dilemma on their hands because they've used homophobia to get elected and they're not going to be able to do that much longer. The American public is less and less willing to demonize Gay people. There are still a few pockets in the south where they can play on suspicion and hatred, but most people have openly Gay people as family and friends these days and that's made all the difference.'

And he's glad to see a positive focus in the 'It Gets Better' campaign, started by Dan Savage. 'Dan Savage was brilliant, insofar as he appealed to our better instincts, pointing out our responsibility to lend a hand to young people who are suffering.

'For some reason we have to keep delivering this to every generation. I find that terribly frustrating. There's a song in the musical based on my own coming out letter to my own parents and essentially (the character) says that you're the ones who made me the way I am, so thank you because it's the light and joy of my life. That's my way of saying it gets better - 35 years ago.'

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Scissor Sisters On "Tales of the City," Personal Theme Songs, & Lady Gaga

Any band that garners applause from Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour for their disco cover of “Comfortably Numb” is one worth watching. Since the release of their self-titled debut album in 2004, Scissor Sisters have been churning out glam-pop beats and satisfying dance urges across the globe with hits like “Any Which Way,” “Filthy/Gorgeous,” and “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’,” all of which are impossible to take sitting down.

The NYC band with the Elton-John-meets-Bee-Gees sound has topped charts throughout Europe, but they’re about to make a serious mark stateside with their latest and most unexpected project yet. After five years of work, front man Jake Shears (left) and touring keyboardist John Garden completed the lyrics and score for the musical adaptation of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, which made its world premiere at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater in May. Grab your tickets before the production leaves the stage (it plays through July 10). The Scissor Sisters are about to become a household name.

What was your reaction when librettist Jeff Whitty asked you to write the music for Tales 
of the City?

Jake Shears: I was thrilled because I’ve been a huge fan of the books since I was a teenager, and Jeff is a great friend of mine. We had thrown around the idea of doing a show together for a while, so it was a no-brainer when he asked me.
John Garden: When Jake first asked me to do a musical with him, I didn’t know what it was about. I just knew that the answer was yes.

How is writing songs for a musical different from writing an album?

JS: It wasn’t that different because I write in character for a lot of Scissor Sisters songs. In some ways, it’s easier since you have a more limited set of tools.

JG: It’s almost like every song is a commissioned piece of work. You know who the music is for and what the whole story is about.

How did you make modern music for Tales while keeping a ’70s vibe?

JG: I think if Depeche Mode had been asked to write this musical, it would have been more of a challenge. But Scissor Sisters already has such a ’70s influence. It’s part of the band’s DNA. The sound palette has ’70s references, but we worked really hard to make the orchestration for the show as timeless as possible.

You have such stage presence when you perform. Any chance you’ll try your hand at acting?

JS: I’ll admit that I get jealous of the Tales’ actors every once in a while. Maybe someday I’ll be in a musical. When Judy Kaye is over it, I’ll step in.

Do you think Tales will make it to Broadway?

JG: I hope it has a long run here, and if that’s all it ever does, we’ll be so proud. It’s great to see how San Franciscans react to lyrics like “share it with the bag lady on Geary.” I’m glad it opened in the right city.

Any hot spots you’ve discovered while staying here during production?

JS: I hang out more at gyms than I do bars. I like the Equinox here. I also love Books, Inc. I probably go in there every other day. But I’ve actually been throwing house parties more than going out. The lesbians downstairs don’t love that.

JG: I like quiet bars where we can just go and be—like Minx and High Tide. Does this mean they won’t be quiet anymore?

You’ve collaborated with Elton John and Kylie Minogue, to name a few. Who else would you like to work with?
JS: I’m a huge Beck fan, and then there’s Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age and Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters. Also, Trent Reznor. Those are my strange rock music collaboration fantasies.

Lady Gaga: brilliant freak or soul sister?
JS: Both. We just got off tour with her, and it was such a blast. I was nervous about it because we hadn’t opened for anyone in a long time, but we ended up getting tons of new fans. And Lady Gaga is lovely. She’s effusive, funny, and warm, and she made us feel so welcome.

What are your personal theme songs?
JS: Lately, mine’s been “Cocaine Blues” by Escort. It’s the best disco music you’ve ever heard. Also, “Nightlight” by Little Dragon and Holy Ghost!’s “Wait & See.”
JG: The first track from the Tame Impala album, “It Is Not Meant To Be,” and John Grant’s “Marz.”

You’re so popular in the U.K. that you’ve become mainstream. Why hasn’t the U.S. caught on?
JS: The last year has been good for us in this country. We definitely got new fire. So many people discovered Scissor Sisters with the latest record [Night Work, June 2010].
JG: I have this hoodie from our 2007 Ta-Dah tour, and there’s a little black Scissor’s logo on the breast. I’ve never had so many people come up to me in San Francisco and say, “Cool sweater. I love that band.”

Is there any other glam-rock band today that compares to Scissor Sisters?
JS: I don’t think so. I think any band’s dream is to be its own unique entity. You say something like Nine Inch Nails, and it conjures up a singular world. I want people to say Scissor Sisters and not think of 10 other bands.

Life after Mrs. Madrigal

Olympia Dukakis returns to SF for LGBT Pride
by Richard Dodds  Published 6/23/2011

Olympia Dukakis is an old pro at grand marshaling. A celebrity grand marshal in this Sunday's Pride parade, the Oscar-winning actress previously presided over a Columbus Day parade in Bloomfield, NJ, in the late 1980s.

"It was after Moonstruck came out, and they asked me to do the parade. I said, 'But I'm not Italian,' and they said, 'It doesn't matter, because everyone thinks you're Italian.' So I did the parade, and they took me to a great bakery afterwards, and I came home loaded down with stuff."

Dukakis won her Oscar for playing Cher's tart-tongued Italian-American mother in Moonstruck, which was good enough reason for Bloomfield to extend an invitation – Dukakis, husband Louis Zorich, and their three children then lived in a nearby Jersey suburb – despite her unmistakably Greek given and family names. But Dukakis' ties to San Francisco, and to its gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community, are long, rich, and deep.

Through serendipity, and the astute assistance of Brandon Miller and Joanne Jordan of Jordan, Miller & Associates, Dukakis' Pride appearance will dovetail into events tied into ACT's musical version of Tales of the City, which means she can also host a benefit evening for the theater where she has so often worked and for the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation. And she'll get to see for the first time how someone else is playing the role that first brought so many San Franciscans into her bosom.

That, of course, would be the sexually mysterious Anna Madrigal, the landlady at 28 Barbary Lane, the nexus of a straight-meets-LGBT world that Armistead Maupin created in his series of stories of San Francisco in the 1970s. What began as a newspaper serial became a collection of novels that, in turn, inspired three TV mini-series in the 1990s. In the musical adaptation at ACT, Broadway veteran Judy Kaye is playing Mrs. Madrigal, a performance that Dukakis will see on June 24 as part of the evening of fund-raising events that include tickets to the musical with Dukakis joining the cast at the curtain call, followed by a cocktail party at the Clift Hotel with the actress and the cast of the show. (Info at

"I scared the shit out of Armistead," Dukakis said. "When the idea of the musical was starting, I said, 'You know, I can sing.' I saw his eyes widen in panic. I can sing, but eight times a week? Give me a break. Besides, I'm too old for the role. But I'm very interested to see what Judy Kaye does with it."

And then there's the matter of riding up Market Street as a grand marshal in the Pride parade. Dukakis had a lot of questions. "What do you do as a grand marshal?" "Will people know it's me?" "What should I wear?"

If she has questions about details of her duties, despite the Columbus Day antecedent, she is approaching it with one certainty. "My whole attitude is that I'm going to have a great time," she said. "And putting it all together with the show at ACT, which is a theater I love, how much better could it be?"

There is also a serious side to her involvement. "Like many people, I have friends who have gone through the difficulty of trying to adopt children or get married or getting the other legal protections most of us have," she said. "These are not just issues to me, they all have faces."

Dukakis recently completed a film that speaks specifically to many of these very issues. In Cloudburst, she plays half of a long-term lesbian couple who loses her home when her partner's daughter has her mother declared incompetent and takes over the property. "So my character goes to the hospital and kidnaps Brenda Fricker's character, and we drive to Canada and get married."

Dukakis was back in the studio a few weeks ago for post-production dubbing for a version that can be shown on airlines. "You have to change 'ass' to 'arse.' Why if you say it like the Brits you can get away with it, don't ask me. And I'm hard-pressed to see how they're going to show it on planes anyway. There are romantic scenes, and in one scene I go after her with a dildo, and our characters laugh and carry on about it."

That a movie like Cloudburst is being readied as in-flight entertainment is a long journey from the time when the first season of Tales of the City so rankled people like Senator Jesse Helms that PBS let one of its most popular programs pass to Showtime for its two subsequent seasons.

Sen. Helms probably didn't watch long enough to learn Mrs. Madrigal's big secret, and if you don't know what it is and plan to see the musical, you should stop reading at the end of this sentence. But by now, both through the popularity of the books and the television adaptations, most people know that Anna Madrigal is a transsexual who previously had fathered a child. It was a twist that only made Dukakis want the role more.

"Anything that stymies me or scares me is always of real interest to me," she said. She had not read Maupin's books, and was advised by the director not to do so until finishing the series. "But I read everything I could about transsexuals, about the operations, and the psychiatric involvement," Dukakis said. "I needed to find out what made it possible, even necessary, for a person to go through such a painful process. I told one of the producers I needed to talk to someone who has gone through this, and he introduced me to this woman, 6-foot-2 but with a very soft voice, and I asked her what was it that made it matter so much. And the first thing she said was, 'All my life I yearned for the friendship of women,' and I tell you, I started to cry. I didn't know what the hell she was going to say, but this was such a human thing."

The meeting, which went on to cover other aspects of the decision to transition, convinced Dukakis that she needed to avoid any sensational or stereotypical spins on the role. "What I had was the option at any given time to come from a more masculine or more feminine place in myself," she said. "It was a very special time in my life."

On Dukakis' upcoming agenda, she has a three-episode run as Zach Galifianakis' much older paramour in the HBO series Bored to Death, an appearance at the Festival of the Aegean on the Greek isle of Syros in the one-woman play Rose, and a return to her sly but mostly mute role in Morris Paynch's Vigil at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. Her co-star again is Marco Barricelli, with whom she first performed the play at ACT in 2010. It was her sixth ACT appearance; they date back to 1995.

She first met ACT Artistic Director Carey Perloff in New York, when Perloff was still running the Classic Stage Company. "She asked me to do Clytemnestra in Agamemnon, and at the time I thought it was politically disgusting to be in a play that said women should give up trying to be more valued in society and go back to being wives. I said I'd try to find a play for us."

It turned out to be Hecuba, by which point Perloff had moved to San Francisco to take over ACT's top artistic slot, and Dukakis performed the Greek tragedy while the theater was still in temporary quarters following the 1989 earthquake. The roles that Dukakis takes on are never the easy ones, even with her 80th birthday now in the rearview mirror.

"I do theater because you know who you are when you're on that stage," Dukakis said. "You know you're alive."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ten Percent 100 Episode - David Perry interviews Armistead Maupin

Armistead Maupin ("Tales of the City") speaks with David Perry for the 100th episode of "10 Percent" -- now the longest continuously running LGBT show in Northern California history. Original airdates: June 13-17, 11:30am & 10:30pm; June 18 & 19, 10:30pm. Comcast Channel 104.

Armistead Maupin at Microsoft Auditorium, Seattle Public Central Library

There’s no shortage of festivities to go along with this year’s Pridefest, and this appearance by Armistead Maupin, author of the famous Tales of the City series, is just the cherry on the top. Take a moment away from the dancing, singing and celebrating to pop by the library for Maupin’s free talk about his latest novel, Mary Ann in Autumn. Also, show your love by embracing some of the other Seattle PrideFest events as well— should fill you in on the details—and Maupin will also be the Seattle PrideFest keynote speaker at the Seattle Center on the 26th.

Saturday, 3 p.m. // Microsoft Auditorium, Seattle Public Library // Free


Playing now–July 31

Libretto by Jeff Whitty  Music and lyrics by Jake Shears and John Garden
Based on Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City and More Tales of the City
Choreography by Larry Keigwin
Directed by Jason Moore

On the bustling streets of 1970s San Francisco, neon lights pierce through the fog-drenched skies, disco music explodes from crowded nightclubs, and a wide-eyed Midwestern girl finds a new home—and creates a new kind of family—with the characters at 28 Barbary Lane.

Three decades after Armistead Maupin mesmerized millions with his daily column in the city's newspapers, his iconic San Francisco saga comes home as a momentous new musical. Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City unleashes an exuberant celebration of the irrepressible spirit that continues to define our City by the Bay.

"Sparkling . . . instantly addictive"
—San Jose Mercury News

"Tantalizing . . . [a] celebration of sex, love, and all kinds of coming out" —San Francisco Chronicle

"Crisp and witty . . . [with a] richly
talented cast" —TheaterMania

"It's as if you had been to a happening party and met lots of fabulous people"
—The New York Times

"Radiates real joy" —SF Weekly

"Delicious . . . out-and-out good, rousing fun" —The Examiner

"This shining, shimmering A.C.T. musical delivers on every front."
—CBS San Francisco

"Joyous . . . a major aligning of the musical theater stars" —SFist

"A home-turf hit . . . playful yet heartfelt" —Variety

"Exuberantly captures the sweeping current
of transformation in Maupin's work . . . a happy blur
of flares, gay saunas, and bongs" —The Guardian (UK)

"Whether you are a Mona or a Mary Ann, a Mouse or a Mrs. Madrigal, this show illuminates the colorful, crazy, complicated, wild times of our fabulous city. A gift to San Francisco and all of us who love it!"

Running time: 2 hours and 50 minutes, including one 20-minute intermission.

Click here to download the performance program (PDF).

Please be advised: This production contains brief nudity, drug use, adult situations, and disco lights. Parental guidance is suggested.

Afraid of commitment? When you purchase ticket exchange insurance for an additional $5 per ticket, you can easily exchange your tickets for another performance if you can't make the show. Simply add it to your order at checkout.

Make Tales part of your Pride weekend—for less!

Great seats available Friday and Sunday.

Save $25 off Orchestra and Mezzanine seats at select performances.
Use code TALES25 online or call 415.749.2228.*

Get your group into the groove! Groups of 15 or more save up to 20%.

Call 415.439.2473 for details.

Lock in your tickets to the must-see show of the summer, and check out these dazzling upcoming events!

Friday, June 24, at 8 p.m.
Experience the show with Olympia Dukakis—who played Anna Madrigal in Tales of the City television miniseries—and witness her onstage meeting with Tony Award winner Judy Kaye, who plays the role in the musical. This special performance benefits A.C.T.'s arts education programs and the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation.

Saturday and Sunday, June 25–26
Swing by the A.C.T. booth at Pride for fabulous giveaways, Tales merchandise, and more! Look for us in front of the Asian Art Museum. And don't miss a special performance by the Tales cast on the Pride mainstage—beginning Sunday at 12:45 p.m.

Tuesday, July 5, at 7 p.m.
Join us for OUT with A.C.T.—the best LGBT party in town! This special preshow event begins an hour before curtain, and entry is free with your ticket to the performance. Enjoy sizzling drink specials, fabulous music, and a chance to win spectacular prizes! Sponsored by SF Weekly.

Taking Muni this weekend?

Plan a stop at the Castro Street Station, where Tales has taken over! Pose by the iconic artwork and post your photo to our Facebook page for a chance to win prizes—and show off your Tale.

*Limit 6 tickets. Not applicable to previously purchased tickets or with other offers. Subject to availability.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A conversation with Wesley Taylor of “Tales of the City" by Armistead Maupin

Thursday, June 16, 2011
Jamie Freedman

I have had the good fortune of having gone to school with some fabulously talented people. Many of these people have fabulously talented friends. And it was with pure glee that I emailed former classmate Lauren Molina whom I have written about here and here when I saw her friend and Rock of Ages co-star Wesley Taylor appear on the stage of A.C.T. a couple weeks ago.

Starring in Armistead Maupin’s staged production of Tales of the City: A New Musical" at the American Conservatory Theater has changed Wesley. He is 24 and has been out of college for three years. During that time he has worked continuously on Broadway, landing central roles in a handful of enormously successful shows including Rock of Ages and The Addams Family alongside Nathan Lane. He has also become known through his satire YouTube series Billy Green.

But it wasn’t until being cast as a Michael “Mouse” Tolliver, a young hopeless romantic gay man in San Francisco during the early 70s, that Wesley really began to feel a greater responsibility than to just the art of theater itself. Not only does he feel a connection to an older generation of men who have come to love and identify with Mouse, but also responsibility to the next generations that continue to struggle for gay rights.

Below is part of an interview I conducted with Wes yesterday about three weeks into the run. We talk about the magic of San Francisco (even today), the responsibility of playing Mouse, where the show might go from here, Armistead Maupin, Jake Shears, the process of being part of a new production, marriage equality, mustaches and on-stage nudity.

To see a shorter version of the interview, click on the article here. I am also hoping to eventually post an audio file of the interview, so check back.

Tales of the City is now running through July 24th. Buy tickets here.

Jamie: First things first, so I see that the ‘stache is real. You could walk down Mission Street and no one would know the difference.

Wes: I went to New York for twenty-four hours last weekend which was crazy, and for the first time I was a little embarrassed about the mustache and was noticing people looking at me funny. It’s interesting because San Francisco is so embracing of every kind of oddball. Like that’s what this city kind of stands for, it doesn’t matter what you look like, it doesn’t matter what you wear. And that’s why there’s so much personality in this city. It’s really a sanctuary of people who are different. Which is really special, it makes this city so magical.

And yeah, my friends at home keep making fun of my mustache in all the pictures. But I love it. For the last three years I’ve been playing eighteen-year-old characters and I’ve been shaving my face every single day and it sort of sucks. So I’m really jazzed about the fact that I can do something different.

JF: Yeah, you look normal to me, but I live in the Mission.

WT: Exactly! When we first started the rehearsals, (director) Jason Moore wanted us to grow facial hair. And I didn’t know if Mouse should have a mustache. Marcus D'amico in the miniseries didn’t have one and I wanted him to stay twinkie and innocent. Sometimes when I grow facial hair I have the tendency to look sinister or edgy.

But Armistead said, “Mouse has a mustache. I had a mustache in the 70s, Mouse has a mustache.” And it was at that moment that I realized Mouse was Armistead. And I actually didn’t know that before. I had read the books and watched the miniseries, but it just hadn’t dawned on me that he was telling his story mostly through Michael. It was pretty surreal when I figured that out, and it was very intimidating.

I was also really intimidated when I first got the part because I didn’t know what a huge deal the books were। But when I started telling people that I got it, every middle-aged gay man in New York freaked out. It really scared the hell out of me that so many people identified with this character. But what made me feel really comfortable was that Armistead had the final say on the casting. He gave us his blessing.

JF: I love how involved he's been in making this production; I mean how often does that happen?

WT: It doesn’t। I mean on the first day of rehearsal, he said that this is one of the happiest days of his life. He was so excited and such a part of it. But, still kept his distance respectfully to the writer Jeff Witty who made Armistead’s books into a musical. He couldn’t have been better to me through this whole process.

JF: Did he offer up any other words of wisdom that you can share?

WT: He told me once that there’s something about Mouse that’s hard for some people to get: which is this quirk that he is both light and dark. He said that I was really embodying that. And because as an actor you can really get neurotic about getting into a character, it was really comforting to hear from its creator that you’re on the right track.

JF: You’ve said before that playing reserved characters, like the one you played in The Addams Family, is more difficult for you than playing really crazy characters, like Franz in Rock of Ages. What was it like to play Mouse then, who is definitely on the more reserved side?

WT: The thing I love about Michael is that he’s a little of everything. He’s very much like who I am, which can sometimes be the hardest thing to play on stage because it’s the most exposing. You can feel naked and horrified because at the end of the day it’s about telling the truth. And telling the truth can be the hardest thing in the world.

But yeah, Michael is a lot like me: we’re both from Orlando, Florida, we both have conservative parents, I grew up very religious in the Baptist world just like him, it took us both a while to come out to our parents, we’re both hopeless romantics and we both like our vices.

JF: My brother, who’s straight, said he got really emotional during Michael’s coming out scene. It’s a really amazing number.

WT: I like how simple and subtle that scene is. I kept wanting to make it more dramatic, but the director kept telling me to stop and just read the letter. Just love your mother. I was also playing the scene kind of defensive, you know, ACCEPT ME GODDAMIT! And he kept saying, no, you love your mother. You feel for her and you get it. It’s more, Thank you for making me who I am, which is more heartbreaking because it’s killing them with kindness. I feel like that song is a gift and the character has been a gift. I’ve been so lucky to stumble across it.

JF: And I’d imagine people have been reacting very strongly to your performance?

WT: Yeah, it feels really great. I’ve never been in that position before. I mean Franz was super gay but I’ve never been in the position of having gay men telling me how I’ve helped and affected them. That’s been very special to me and it means a lot. And I didn’t care about that stuff before. I don’t want to say I was selfish, but I was really focused on being an actor on my own terms. I wasn’t really interested in being a role model or helping other people’s lives. I was just interested in doing good art, but the older I get I realize what’s the point of that ?

Like when I first moved to New York my agents told me that it’s probably better off that you don’t come out for television and film. But I think that’s changing dramatically; you know with people like Neil Patrick Harris, I mean things are changing in a great way.

JF: That couldn’t have even been that long ago, what 3, 4 years?

WT: Yeah, I got out of school three years ago. But they did say that they would be completely open to it if I wanted to.

JF: But they were just recommending…

WT: Yeah, and they’re all gay too. It’s just one of those hard decisions to make as an actor, deciding weather or not you want to sacrifice the possibility of putting you into a box as a gay guy. But I think it’s getting easier to be a gay man and being able to do it all. But I started to realize that if I wasn’t going to get cast in something because I’m gay, I don’t want to be part of that project. You start growing up and you start seeing these things. And now I’m trying to be as active as I can in the gay agenda. I mean we are so close in New York to getting marriage equality right now. This is such a big deal! It’s made me really passionate, it has to get done! So yeah, it’s affected me. I love how it’s affected other people. I love that it’s made a difference, I think this piece is really special in that way. Even though it’s dated, it takes place in the 70s, but we’re still dealing with the same issues.

JF: It’s from the 70s, but I think the San Francisco in this show is still here. Have you felt that?

WT: Yeah, you can feel it. And everywhere you go in this city is research for the show! All of these locations are all over the books and the lyrics. Even the street names, it’s everywhere. I love working on a show and being in the world of the show while you’re working on it. I’ve never had that experience before.

JF: Everyone is talking about if they’ll be able to take this show out of San Francisco and on the road. What do you think?

WT: Because of all the inside jokes? I think that the show has the heart and I think it’s good enough to be able to transfer anywhere and work. Sure, you might have to tweak some of the lines and jokes. I actually think it would go over really well in London it would be super successful. The books are huge; Armistead is very popular over there. And the Scissor Sisters are everything in the UK! They’re way more known there than they are here. The demographic in London is right up our alley. But we won’t know what’s going to happen for a while. I mean, we got extended here until July, and it might even get extended until August. We just don’t know and as an actor is a little scary. Do you look for more work? Can you rely on the show?

JF: It’s like dating two people at once, and geez! Everyone should have these problems!

WT: It’s exactly like that! It’s awful! And yet exhilarating and great.

JF: What was it like working with Jake Shears (Jason Sellards)?

WT: He sort of became my big brother while he was here. We got along really well. We partied like rockstars, The Scissor Sisters don’t fuck around! They had a concert here and the whole cast went, it was really fun. He’s never written a musical before, but he’s such a natural at it. And he was so not precious about anything. He was cutting songs left and right. He probably wrote over fifty songs for the show and there are only nineteen or twenty in it. There are so many great songs that got the chopping blog. There was a song that Mona and I sing together called “Who’s your Mama?”, and after one week of previews, it wasn’t working for them, so he wrote another one called “Everything Gets Better” in twenty-four hours and put it in. I mean, that’s previews. It’s pretty stressful.

JF: They should make a B-sides album.

WT: Yeah, like bonus tracks. There was another song called “Show Me How to Love You” and it was so gorgeous. My verse was my favorite thing that I got to sing in the show, and they cut it! People need to hear this stuff!

JF: So this was all in two months? You guys learned double the amount of material?

WT: When we started previews, the show was something like four hours long. I mean it’s three hours right now, which is also too long for a musical comedy. But they’ve taken a lot out and changed even more.

I remember the first time Mary and I sang our new song for an audience, we were shaking because there were people sitting there hearing a song you had only sung three times. It’s terrifying. I think putting up a new musical is one of the most terrifying things you could ever do.

JF: Earlier you mentioned that playing the role of Mouse is “revealing” makes you feel “naked”. You like getting naked don’t you?

WT: As soon as they made us sign that nudity clause…

JF: There was a nudity clause?

WT: There was a nudity clause that all of the men signed. There was supposed to be a lot more nudity in the show. But, I mean, obviously you have to show flesh in the show, it’s Tales of the City, it’s a big component of the show. But Jason didn’t want it to look like an excuse to please to the gay community.

JF: So all we get it is your butt.

WT: Yup, that’s it. I’ve never gotten to even take off my shirt in a show, I love it. As soon as I signed that clause I stopped eating fried food and starting hitting the gym every day and doing five hundred sit-ups. It’s a fun challenge to be working on something outside of the show, whether it is growing out a mustache or going to the gym more! It’s a cool experience to have to change something about your appearance for a show, it really makes you feel like you’re earning your paycheck.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tales of the . . . Cast! Meet Patrick Lane

Meet recent M.F.A. Program graduate Patrick Lane, who plays Brian Hawkins. Click here to read his official bio.

NAME Patrick Lane.

CHARACTER Brian Hawkins.

HOMETOWN Louisville, Kentucky.

FIRST THEATER EXPERIENCE Well, my father was a preacher and my mother directed the children's choirs, so my first experience performing was as one of the lions in Noah's ark. I suppose constantly performing in church, coupled with my middle-child syndrome, left me completely defenseless against the alluring theater.

FAVORITE THEATER EXPERIENCE My favorite experience would have to be when I played Horace Robedaux in a college production of 1918. It was my first experience delving into the deeply complex family relationships that are so common in plays by Horton Foote and Arthur Miller and Sam Shepard. It also calls to mind a kind of interesting phenomenon that many actors go through when they find “their playwright” or their “style,” so to speak. Being from Kentucky, and coming from a long tradition of deep rural roots and close family bonds, made it easy and very fulfilling to play Horace. In a way, I suppose coming into contact with that material taught me a lot about who I am and the traditions I come from.

FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH TALES I actually didn't know much about Tales until I heard A.C.T. was doing it. Being the obnoxiously over-prepared grad student that I am, I immediately went out and got the book and couldn't put it down. I was shocked that I had never encountered it before, and from that moment on I was searching for a possible avenue into this process.

HOW ARE YOU LIKE BRIAN HAWKINS? Brian is a man's man who seems driven by some kind of energy—sometimes sexual—that he cannot control. I grew up playing sports, so I guess that classifies me as a "jock"—and that, paired with the fact that I drink beer and watch football, probably moves me into the man's man category. Like Brian, I've always been very driven by my passions, but I suppose what I hope to bring to the role is an energy that isn't just cro-magnon in its need to satisfy innate desires, but also genuine in the pursuit of digging deeper and discovering what's underneath the strong, cad-like facade.

FAVORITE MUSICAL Always a tough choice, but if I had to choose I think it would have to be Sondheim's A Little Night Music.

FAVORITE SONG TO SING “It's Hard to Speak My Heart” from Parade by Jason Robert Brown.

EDUCATION B.F.A. in theater performance from the University of Evansville; M.F.A. in acting from A.C.T.

PERFORMANCE RITUAL Arrive to the theater an hour before curtain, hot tea, warm-up in the Garrett, head up to the stage.

FAVORITE ’70s WARDROBE ITEM Not one thing I own is ’70s. I know . . . blasphemous.

Friday, June 10, 2011

See Tales with Olympia Dukakis!

Join us on Friday, June 24 for an official San Francisco Pride event! Olympia Dukakis—who played Anna Madrigal in the Tales of the City television miniseries—hosts a special performance of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City benefiting A.C.T.'s arts education programs and the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation.

Select tickets include a VIP afterparty and an exclusive preshow dinner with Dukakis and special guest "Top Chef: Just Desserts" winner Yigit Pura at celebrated San Francisco restaurant Fleur de Lyse.

Order tickets online today!

Join us! Facebook Twitter A.C.T. Blog YouTube Flickr

Tales of the . . . Cast! Meet Alex Hsu

Meet Alex Hsu, who plays Lionel. Click here to read his official bio.

NAME Alex Hsu.


HOMETOWN Born in Taipei, Taiwan; grew up in Hayward and Fremont, California.

FIRST THEATER EXPERIENCE My mom took me to see a production of Promises, Promises! at the college where she worked, and I remember being absolutely mesmerized by Turkey Lurkey Time. I can probably trace many aspects of my personality to that experience, such as my love of musical theater, my affinity for mid-century design and fashion, and my appreciation of go-go dancing.

FAVORITE THEATER EXPERIENCE Seeing Les Misérables on Broadway in 1996. I basically wept for three hours. It was absolutely transcendent and spiritual.

FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH TALES Watching the TV miniseries on DVD many years ago.

HOW ARE YOU LIKE LIONEL? We are both second-generation Bay Area Chinese. Well, I imagine that Lionel is second-generation. And I did spend one summer in college delivering frozen yogurt to office ladies who would call me “Yogurt Boy.”

FAVORITE MUSICAL A Chorus Line. A close second would be Irving Berlin’s White Christmas (for personal reasons, of course).

FAVORITE SONG TO SING Right now, it is “I Wish I Could Go Back to College” from the musical Avenue Q.

EDUCATION B.A. in linguistics and anthropology from UCLA. Dance training at Dance Arts Center in San Carlos.

PERFORMANCE RITUAL Pre-: putting on makeup. Fewer and fewer men seem to wear stage makeup in professional theater, especially when the production is in a realistic style. But I still do it because to me it is part of the transformation into my character. I don’t feel completely present until I go through that. Post: EAT!

FAVORITE ’70s WARDROBE ITEM I owned a pair of rainbow “Mork from Ork” suspenders as a kid. LOVED them. Also any pair of tight bell-bottoms that make my ass look good!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Olympia Dukakis to Host TALES OF THE CITY Benefit, 6/24

Wednesday, June 8, 2011; Posted: 06:06 PM - by BWW News Desk

Academy Award-winner Olympia Dukakis will be hosting a benefit performance of American Conservatory Theater's (A.C.T.) world-premiere musical, Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City on Friday, June 24, 2011, at 8 p.m. The evening is being hosted by San Francisco-based Jordan, Miller & Associates, which specializes in comprehensive financial planning for the LGBT community, as a benefit for A.C.T.'s education programs, and the Richmond Erhmet AIDS Foundation (REAF) of San Francisco. Attendees can choose to participate at different levels, all available at

"Olympia's Guest Tickets" ($1,500) include an intimate dinner with Dukakis and special guest "Top Chef: Just Desserts" winner Yigit Pura at celebrated San Francisco restaurant Fleur de Lyse, premium orchestra tickets to the show, and access to the VIP postshow party held at Clift Hotel.
"Barbary Lane VIP Passes" ($200-$235) include the best mezzanine or orchestra seats for the performance and the VIP postshow party at the Clift Hotel.

"Performance Only Tickets" ($55-$125) include seats at all seating levels for this once-in-a-lifetime performance.

Says, Dukakis: "I am thrilled that my first viewing of this momentous new musical is being made into a fundraising event for A.C.T., who so boldly took on the challenge of bringing Armistead's work to the stage, and the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation, whose tireless fundraising for HIV/AIDS service organizations over the last 17 years has made a significant impact in my beloved city of San Francisco. It will be a weekend-long celebration, and I cannot wait to arrive in San Francisco to become Grand Celebrity Marshal of the Pride celebration."

Dukakis, who has appeared on the A.C.T. stage numerous times (most recently in last season's Vigil), has gained international recognition for her roles in television and film, including her turn as the iconic Anna Madrigal in the television miniseries versions of Tales of the City.

"We're excited about bringing this unique opportunity to fruition," says Brandon Miller and Joanne Jordan of organizing sponsor Jordan, Miller & Associates. "The June 24 event is a terrific way to celebrate Pride, support our local charities, and see this world premiere staging of San Francisco's most beloved story in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for fans of Armistead's work. Thank you, Olympia and Armistead, for making this night one we won't soon forget!"

The world premiere musical production of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City features a book by Tony Award-winning writer Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q) and music and lyrics by Jake Shears and John Garden of the glam-rock band Scissor Sisters; is directed by Tony Award winner Jason Moore (Avenue Q and Shrek: The Musical); and is choreographed by Larry Keigwin. The world premiere production has been breaking sales records for the company and has just been extended again through July 24, 2011. For tickets and more information, please visit or call 415.749.2228.

Opening Gala for ARMISTEAD MAUPIN'S TALES OF THE CITY Raises $950,000

Tuesday, June 7, 2011; Posted: 03:06 PM - by BWW News Desk

American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.)'s Opening Night Gala celebrating the world premiere of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City took place on Wednesday, June 1, 2011, and raised $950,000 to support the production and A.C.T.'s educational programs. The attendees, including many San Francisco philanthropic luminaries along with author Armistead Maupin, Laura Linney (who played Mary Ann Singleton in the television miniseries adaptation of Tales of the City on PBS), Jake Shears of the glam-rock band Scissor Sisters (who composed the music for the show), and Mayor Edwin Lee, walked down the red carpet for a cocktail reception and gala dinner at Union Square in a clear tent elegantly designed in deep purples and reds by Stanlee Gatti, followed by the performance at the theater and a dance party with the cast at Ruby Skye nightclub after the show (sponsored by ABSOLUT). The gala, chaired by A.C.T. Trustee Marilee K. Gardner and Barbary Lane Committee Co-Chairs JaMel Perkins and Roselyne C. Swig, was the culmination of A.C.T.'s two-year effort to bring Armistead Maupin's famous San Francisco stories to the stage as a new musical. The Opening Night Gala Honorary Chairs included Olympia Dukakis, Laura Linney, and author Armistead Maupin. The Revelers were entertained by members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and wildly dressed cast members from the Thrillpeddlers's production of Vice Palace during the cocktail reception. The presentations during the dinner included an exclusive, one-time performance of a Beach Blanket Babylon show created by BBB producer Jo Schuman Silver specifically to honor Tales of the City and Armistead Maupin, as well as Maupin's acceptance of a surprise gift-a framed copy of his first Tales of the City column in the San Francisco Chronicle-from Chronicle editor Ward Bushee.

The world premiere musical production of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City features a book by Tony Award-winning writer Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q) and music and lyrics by Jake Shears and John Garden of the glam-rock band Scissor Sisters; is directed by Tony Award winner Jason Moore (Avenue Q and Shrek: The Musical); and is choreographed by Larry Keigwin. The world premiere production has been breaking sales records for the company and has just been extended again through July 24, 2011. For tickets and more information, please visit or call 415.749.2228.

A.C.T.'s production of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City is presented by AT&T. The world premiere musical is sponsored by American Airlines, The Fairmont San Francisco, Foggy Bridge Winery, the Koret Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, with additional support by Pillsbury Winthrop; The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Fund for New Works, an endowed fund of The Next Generation Campaign; and ValueAct Capital. Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City is also made possible by commissioning sponsors Priscilla and Keith Geeslin, Ambassador James C. Hormel and Mr. Michael P. Nguyen, Nancy Livingston and Fred Levin, The Shenson Foundation, Kathleen Scutchfield, and Jeff and Laurie Ubben; production sponsors Ray and Dagmar Dolby, Burt and Deedee McMurtry, and Susan A. Van Wagner; music sponsors Lesley Clement, Michael G. Dovey, Ken Fulk, Nion McEvoy, Lorenzo Thione and David Palmer, Jack and Susy Wadsworth, and Carlie Wilmans; choreography sponsors Stephen Belford and Bobby Minkler, Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein, Marilee K. Gardner, Jo S. Hurley, David ibnAale and Mollie Ricker, Byron R. Meyer, Mr. Milton J. Mosk and Mr. Thomas E. Foutch, David and Carla Riemer, Anne and Rick Reiley, Laila Tarraf, Larry and Robyn Varellas, and Nola Yee; casting sponsors Anonymous, Paul Angelo, Lucia Brandon, David and Carla Crane, Carlotta and Robert Dathe, Jerome L. and Thao N. Dodson, Drs. Caroline Emmett and Russell Rydel, Kirke and Nancy Hasson, The Reverend and Mrs. Alan Jones, John Osterweis and Barbara Ravizza, Carey Perloff and Anthony Giles, Toby and Sally Rosenblatt, Gerald B. Rosenstein, Jeff and Maria Spears, Frank Stein and Paul May, Bert Steinberg, Jack Weeden and David Davies, and Beverly and Loring Wyllie; scenic sponsors Jacqueline and Christian Erdman, Robert Spoor, Brian and Ayn Thorne, Dr. Damon M. Walcott, and Tim M. Whalen; and supporters Anonymous, Lloyd and Janet Cluff, Julia and Kevin Hartz, Jason M. Surles, Mr. and Mrs. Bruce White. A.C.T. would also like to acknowledge its 2010-11 season company sponsors: Priscilla and Keith Geeslin; Ambassador James C. Hormel and Mr. Michael P. Nguyen; Nancy Livingston and Fred Levin, The Shenson Foundation; Burt and Deedee McMurtry; Patti and Rusty Rueff; Mary and Steven Swig; Jeff and Laurie Ubben; and Susan A. Van Wagner. Development of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City was supported by the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center during a residency at the National Music Theater Conference of 2009.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tales of the . . . Cast! Meet Manoel Felciano

Meet A.C.T. core acting company member Manoel Felciano, who plays Norman Neal Williams. Click here to read his official bio.

NAME Manoel Felciano.

CHARACTER Norman Neal Williams.

HOMETOWN San Francisco.

FIRST THEATER EXPERIENCE Playing Micaela’s gypsy guide in the San Francisco Opera production of Carmen with Placido Domingo.

FAVORITE THEATER EXPERIENCE Playing George in Sunday in the Park with George.

FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH TALES Being cast in the production.

HOW ARE YOU LIKE NORMAN? Hopefully very little! Though I’ve been known to rock the clip-on tie.

FAVORITE MUSICAL Ooh, tough one . . . right now, Floyd Collins.

FAVORITE SONG TO SING “Use Me,” by Bill Withers.

EDUCATION B.A., Yale University; M.F.A., NYU; and lots of informal teachers along the way.

PERFORMANCE RITUAL Pre-: vocal, physical warm-ups. Post-: walk the bat-pig, aka our dog.

FAVORITE ’70s WARDROBE ITEM Probably a giant corduroy goose down–lined winter coat from my dad.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

"Tales of the City" ebook

"Tales of the City" is now released in ebook format!  You can pre-order on apple iBook , Amazon Kindle, or the Nook.

Get your copy now!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Tales of the . . . Cast! Meet Mary Birdsong

NAME Mary Birdsong.

CHARACTER Mona Ramsey.

HOMETOWN Long Beach Island, New Jersey.

FIRST THEATER EXPERIENCE Doing “the bump” while dressed as a turkey leg in a Thanksgiving recital in grade school because Mia Michenzi chickened out.

FAVORITE THEATER EXPERIENCE Accidentally peeing onstage during the tech for my last solo show. I’d love to say I was five years old at the time. I wasn’t.

FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH TALES Being asked to do a cold reading at 10 a.m. at [director] Jason Moore’s house two years ago on my one day off, and saying no because I thought it was for a musical version of A Tale of Two Cities. I hate Dickens. Okay, I don’t really hate Dickens. But still . . . the idea of doing anything involving bonnets just did not appeal to me at the time. Sleep appealed to me.

HOW ARE YOU LIKE MONA? I’m all bark and no bite—a real softie. But hell if I’ll let you see that just so you can use it against me later. ☺

FAVORITE MUSICAL This one. Godspell is a close second.

FAVORITE SONG TO SING In this show: “Seeds and Stems.” Other than that? Probably “Hallelujah,” by Leonard Cohen, or any gut-bucket gospel-type stuff.

EDUCATION It’s overrated. Okay, for reals? Ethel Jacobsen Elementary School. Long Beach Island Grade School. Southern Regional Middle School and Southern Regional High School. Then NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where I got to study with the great Stella Adler. And Gotham City Improv for sketch comedy and improv.

PERFORMANCE RITUAL Pre-: big cup of hot tea with lots of skim milk and two Sweet’N Lows. One chocolate mint Zone protein bar. Lots of quiet time to get focused. I also try to walk a good distance or run before the show, to get everything moving. Post-: I use my long walk home to sort of act like a martini—to calm me down and help me go to sleep.

FAVORITE ’70s WARDROBE ITEM Bell-bottom pants are awesome, especially for chicks like me with big booties—they’re very flattering. Big platform heels are also awesome, because I’m short. Oh, and I love those handkerchief shirts. I think that’s what they were called.

announcing . . . the Tales of the City readalong!!!

From "The Olive Reader" - A Harper Perennial Weblog


I’m not a big series reader, but there is one series to which I have always been faithfully devoted . . . even though it’s been about twelve or thirteen years since I read the first book!

I first heard about Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series way back in the late 90s when the miniseries of More Tales of the City, the second book in the series, aired on Showtime. At the time, my family didn’t have cable, so I never actually watched the series, but the publicity surrounding it was enough to make me want to read the books. If you’ve never dipped into Tales of the City before, all you have to know is that it’s about the residents of an apartment building, 28 Barbary Lane, in San Francisco in the 70s. Though there are many characters, our entry into the series is Mary Ann Singleton, a young, naive woman just arrived in the city whose life changes once she moves into 28 Barbary Lane.

Looking back on my initial obsession with Tales, it seems somewhat strange. I was an 18-year-old girl living in Brooklyn who was endlessly fascinated by the comings and goings of a group of people of various ages (though most, except for the landlady Mrs. Madrigal, are in their mid to late 20s at the start of the series if I remember correctly) in 70s San Francisco. But that’s what Armistead Maupin’s writing does—it sucks you in. Tales was originally written as a series of newspaper serials, and it shows. The chapters are short and leave you dying to know what comes next. It’s like a soap opera, and anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I consider that a high compliment.

After Tales of the City, Armistead wrote five more books in the initial series—More Tales of the City, Further Tales of the City, Babycakes, Significant Others, and Sure of You—and then returned to the world of Barbary Lane years later with Michael Tolliver Lives and, just this past fall, Mary Ann in Autumn. I’ve ALWAYS wanted to re-read these books—partly because I loved them so much and want to see if they hold up for me, and partly because they’re so fun and quick to read that I know it won’t take up a ton of time—and I’ve decided that the upcoming paperback publication of Mary Ann is the perfect time. And (obviously) I want as many of you as possible to join me!

Here’s the schedule I’ve come up with:

6/3 – Today! Announcement!
6/30 – Discussion of Tales of the City
7/28 – Discussion of More Tales of the City
8/11 – Discussion of Further Tales of the City
8/25 – Discussion of Babycakes
9/8 – Discussion of Significant Others
9/22 – Discussion of Sure of You
10/6 – Discussion of Michael Tolliver Lives
10/20 – Discussion of Mary Ann in Autumn

Of course, when I say “discussion,” I mean that we’ll talk about it very informally in the comments. No pressure! And the books are all spaced two weeks apart, but we won’t start until the end of this month, so feel free to skip ahead.

To entice you to join me in this, I’m giving away TEN copies of Tales of the City! The first 10 people to sign up below will get one. Just write a post saying you’re signing up and then link to your post using the Mr. Linky below. (If you don’t have a blog, announce it on your Facebook and link to your status update). While you’re reading, tweet using the hashtag #talesofthecity.

And for more on Armistead, including the Tales of the City musical, check out his website, facebook, and twitter.

Theater Review: ‘Tales of the City’ – It was worth the wait

This is a wonderfully edgy, quintessential San Francisco experience, embracing its eccentricity with a singular charm and an irrepressible, incandescent spirit.

by Gregory M. Alonzo

I’m happy to report that Tales of the City: A New Musical, the long anticipated musical adaptation of Armistead Maupin’s serio-comic, albeit occasionally bittersweet, love letter to San Francisco was worth the wait. It’s a triumph in virtually all facets of its production, marred only by a glaring narrative misstep in the second act and a less than satisfying dénouement.

Based upon the first two installments of the popular eight novel series, the inter-woven stories of its many characters remain, for the most part, faithful to the source material. And while librettist Jeff Whitty does dilute or even excise certain elements in an attempt to simplify the intricate plotting, with over twenty songs and six connected story lines it would benefit from some more trimming.

Set in 1976, the scenario involves 25 year old Mary Ann Singleton (Betsy Wolfe), who after a brief visit falls in love with the City and decides to leave her life in Cleveland behind. She winds up in a Russian Hill apartment located on the fictitious Barbary Lane with occupants of assorted genders and sexual proclivities, all of whom with a past they’re desperately trying to escape. Anna Madrigal (Judy Kaye) is the enigmatic, cannabis-loving landlady who oversees her surrogate family with an earth mother’s wisdom and devotion.

Ms. Wolfe is perfectly cast as the wide-eyed, straight Midwesterner whose impaired judgment about men is almost tragic – and strains credulity. Her ability to deliver a line with the just the right note of comical naïveté is utterly charming, and she can belt-out a tune with a clarion voice that nearly brings the house down with her dramatic rendition of the poignant “Paper Faces.”

Her superb performance is short-changed, however, by a script that goes astray in the final act by hastily pairing her with a superfluous suitor, Norman Neal Williams (Manoel Felciano), and a story line that leaves Mary Ann’s fate with too many lose ends. She’s left literally standing around in the final sequence with little to do! A potential relationship with her womanizing neighbor, Brian Hawkins (Matthew Saldivar), is suggested – and would make sense – but is never explored

This flaw may be due to Mr. Whitty’s apparent reluctance to deviate far enough from the original story to allow for an ending that doesn’t anticipate a continuing saga. Otherwise, with a little ingenuity the devilishly wicked Beauchamp Day (Andrew Somonsky), with whom Mary Ann has an affair early on, could readily subsume the role of the gratuitously evil Norman.

Notwithstanding those limited concerns, the entire company of players is uniformly excellent. And the tunes, while not always memorable, are often quite fun and successfully capture the period and the mood of their respective scenes.

The performing highlights are simply too numerous to mention, but one must recognize the contribution of the inimitable Judy Kaye, who exudes a vulnerability and pathos of someone who’s born a heavy secret for most of her life. Her heartfelt vocal interpretation of “The Next Time you see me” provides a genuine show-stopping ending to the first act. And Wesley Taylor, as Michael “Moose” Tolliver, scores as a sweet young man who comes out to his parents in a heartbreaking and inspirational missive written to his mother (“Dear Mama”).

And all are well served by an ingenious multi-leveled set (Douglas W. Schmidt) that magically transforms before our very eyes. The overall effect is beautifully enhanced by exquisite lighting (Robert Wirzel) and top-notch sound (John Shivers) design.

Together, the entire design team creates a setting that evokes the ambiance and energy of San Francisco and gay culture in the ‘70s, providing a fitting backdrop to the many whimsical and impeccably produced song and dance numbers by choreographer Larry Keigwin and musical director Cian McCarthy. And the splendid, colorful costume design by Beaver Bauer completes the stylized artistic tableau.

This is a wonderfully edgy, quintessential San Francisco experience, embracing its eccentricity with a singular charm and an irrepressible, incandescent spirit. The American Conservatory Theatre and director Jason Moore must be congratulated for bringing to the stage a highly entertaining show that does justice to the city in which it is set. Bravo!

Tales of the City: Scissors, sex and sideburns

Tales of the City, Armistead Maupin's love letter to gay San Francisco, is now a musical – with songs by Scissor Sister Jake Shears. Hadley Freeman watches it come together at rehearsals

Hadley Freeman, Sunday 5 June 2011 21.30 BST

One day in 1991, when Jake Shears was 13 years old and so far from being "Jake Shears of the Scissor Sisters" that he was Jason Sellards and as yet unaware he was gay, he was hanging out with a gay couple, who had taken the youngster under their wing. "I think they knew I was gay before I did," he recalls. "So, you know, they would turn me on to cool music." One of them handed him a book, saying: "I think you'll like this."

It was Tales of the City, Armistead Maupin's much-loved saga set in 1970s San Francisco, involving a hugely diverse group of characters who are all (often unknowingly) linked, and many of whom live in a large guesthouse run by the mysterious Mrs Madrigal. The book is full of stories of bath houses and break-ups, all told in Maupin's genial tone. "It was the first thing I'd ever read that had a positive gay perspective," says Shears, "and two years later, I came out. Make of that what you will."

Twenty years later, Shears is repaying his debt to Tales. As he relates this story, backstage at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, rehearsals are going on across the hall for the musical version of Tales of the City, for which he and fellow Scissor Sister John Garden have written the music and lyrics. The libretto is by Jeff Whitty, who won a Tony for Avenue Q, and it's directed by Jason Moore, who also worked on the coming-of-age puppet parable. "Yes, your name has to begin with J to work here," the press officer dryly confirms.

The four Js make a charmingly symmetrical double double act, with the bright-eyed and loquacious Shears and the quieter Garden in one corner; and the adorably excited Whitty and the calmer Moore in the other.

"It's been extraordinary to see the books come to life on stage," says Maupin, "but the really moving thing has been to see how well they all get along – they are 28 Barbary Lane." This was the address of Madrigal's house, where the characters meet, fall in love and form lifelong friendships.

In fact, the genesis of the musical could have come from the pages of Tales itself. Whitty came up with the idea five years ago on a flight to London. He called Moore who instantly said yes. "Jeff was passionate about it, and that's all I needed." Whitty then made a mixtape of songs that sounded like the kind of music he and Moore wanted; the only contemporary piece was by the Scissor Sisters, so he called up Shears. How did he get his number so quickly? "Oh, we met about 11 years ago when we were both go-go dancers," Shears recalls airily. "He enjoyed pulling his clothes off and dancing on bar tops. The first time we met in New York, I was probably off my face and we both had half our clothes off."

"That," Whitty says, "pretty much describes it. And we've turned it into art! No regrets ever!"

The other person Whitty had to convince was his literary idol, Maupin. "I read Tales when I was 21, when I first moved to New York," he smiles. "I was so lonely. Those characters were my company." So, nervously, he flew to San Francisco, where the writer lives. But instead of the "big box of crazy" he was worried about finding, "Armistead was so welcoming. We just got stoned within the first five minutes and that was it."

Maupin puts it somewhat more euphemistically: "Oh, we instantly clicked and spent about five hours gabbing." Maupin took to Shears right away, "although it took a while to get past the eyes". Had he been a Scissors fan? "Well, I'd heard Filthy/Gorgeous before, which I thought was grabby and fun."

On the day we meet, Shears happens to be wearing a loose vest top featuring a design by Tom of Finland, inventor of the macho gay image; he looks more like a Tales characters than the currently dressed-down actors do. "It's always been my ambition to make a musical," he says. "When Jeff said Tales, my heart started racing, and I thought, 'I don't know what I'm doing but let's do it.'" He then grabbed his bandmate Garden and said: "Get your keyboard – we're writing a musical!' They sat down and, in one day, wrote a song that's still in the show.

Later, we go to the rehearsal room to watch the opening of the second act. Here's Mary Ann fighting with creepy Norman; there's Mrs Madrigal and Edgar enjoying a romantic moment. The songs are excellent: melodic, emotional and catchy; the only one that sounded recognisably Scissor Sisters-esque is the one from the disco scene. The four Js watch carefully, and Shears even puts down his iPhone for Mrs Madrigal and Edgar, visibly moved.

Even though it's their first musical, as they chat over a snack, Garden politely eating a salad, Shears chomping on a chicken burrito as big as his thigh, the two men come across like a modern-day Rodgers and Hammerstein, talking about "making use of the 'real estate' of a song to tell the story" and "sacrificing top-drawer ballads for the rhythm of the show".

Shears is, characteristically, devoid of self-doubt. No nerves about taking on a book with which he has such an emotional connection? Never. Is he worried how San Franciscans will react, since it is the unofficial book of the city? Of course not. "But then, maybe I'm too confident," he muses, making Garden splutter with laughter.

One need only look to the SpiderMan musical in New York to know that it's not enough just to take a popular story and a successful pop group and assume it will all work out. And this project presented very specific difficulties: there are as many plotlines as there are characters – and there are a lot of characters. What's more, Whitty didn't make things easier by mashing together Tales of the City and its sequel More Tales of the City. "There were some things I just couldn't leave out," he says.

'The show queens out MAJORLY'

Maupin originally wrote the books as newspaper articles, so the books have an episodic feel, rather than the flowing rhythm that musicals need; and, even though it's set in the 70s and is full of gay characters, they didn't want to make a camp pastiche. "That said," Whitty adds, "at times, the show does queen out MAJORLY."

And how much do sex and drugs feature in the musical? "About 38%," says Garden.

If the show goes well, the plan is to bring it, not to New York, but to London. At the opening last week, according to the San Francisco Examiner, the "audience went wild. After all, they were privy to plenty of inside jokes as well as captivated by the broad and witty characterisations." It added: "This love letter to countercultural San Francisco is neither deeply emotionally engaging, nor nuanced – it's just out-and-out good, rousing fun, with some poignant moments, such as Mouse's affecting coming-out song, Dear Mama."

Whitty and Moore remember how audiences in London took to Avenue Q, and there's a big Scissor Sisters fanbase there. Maupin, too, feels "the books were really discovered in England", thanks to Patrick Janson-Smith, the British editor who was a champion of Tales. Plus, Whitty points out, "It took Channel 4 to make a TV show out of Tales. American networks wouldn't take a chance on it. London audiences are much less shockable than American ones, they're less prudey-sue. We had to make the sex scenes in Avenue Q filthier for the London audiences. That could be fun with Tales."

Armistead Maupin reads from 'Mary Ann in Autumn' at The Seattle Public Library June 25

The Seattle Public Library and PrideFest welcome author Armistead Maupin for a reading of his latest book, "Mary Ann in Autumn," and a conversation on the world of "Tales of the City" from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, June 25 at the Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave., Level 1, Microsoft Auditorium.

The program is free and open to the public. Free advance tickets are required. Limit of two tickets per person. Tickets are available beginning Wednesday, June 1 at Limited parking is available in the Central Library garage at the $6 weekend rate. Seating is not guaranteed after 2:45 p.m.

"Mary Ann in Autumn" is the eighth book in the "Tales of the City" series.

Three television miniseries starring Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney were made from the first three "Tales" books. Maupin has also written "Maybe the Moon," "The Night Listener" and "Michael Tolliver Lives."  He lives in San Francisco with his husband.

This event is supported by The Seattle Public Library Foundation and Seattle PrideFest and presented in partnership with The Elliott Bay Book Co. Books will be available for purchase and signing.

For more information, call The Seattle Public Library at 206-386-4636 or Ask a Librarian.

For more information contact:

Andra Addison, communications director

Armistead Maupin Feted @ ACT "Tales" Premiere

Miss Beglow's Social City

Photo by Catherine Bigelow
The many, colorful tales of one beloved city starred as a heartfelt love letter to San Francisco Wednesday during the opening-night gala and world premiere of Armistead Maupin's "Tales of the City" at the American Conservatory Theater.

Prior to curtains-up, some 700 gala guests (a joyful sartorial mash-up of black-tie, face-paint and peacock feathers) arrived at Union Square Park where Tales Gala chairwoman Marilee Gardner (with able assists from Barbary Lane Committee co-chairs Cissie Swig and JaMel Perkins, and Tales honorary gala co-chairs Laura Linney and Maupin), guaranteed a good time for ACT stalwarts, super supporters, city swells and diehard "Tales" fans.

"This is like an Armistead story come to life," observed composer Jake Heggie, with a joking aside. "It's the kind of parties he used to write about and make fun of!"

Inside joke or not, the gala's unbridled merriment was shared by all. Which also raised a hefty $950K in support of ACT's education programs. And was deeply appreciated by those who labored on this work of love.

"This has been hard. We"ve been working 18 hour days for weeks now," admitted ACT Artistic Director Carey Perloff. "But director Jason Moore and choreographer Larry Keigwin have been delicious -- they're intrepid, sexy, talented. Armistead has been to every preview and is over the moon about the production."

Cocktails and canapes were served beneath a clear Classic Party Rentals tent tricked-out by designer Stanlee Gatti with swags of theatrical purple curtains framing red and purple linen-draped tables atop which was served a masterful McCall Associates, '70s-era inspired meal: Crab Louis salad with Green Goddess dressing, filet mignon with potatoes Diana, and a nostalgic slice of McCall's to-die-for version of the old Blum's Coffee Crunch cake.

"Now this is what we call a San Francisco treat," enthused ACT Board President Rusty Rueff, prior to the post-dinner presentation. "Tonight is an historic celebration, adapted from Armistead's 'Tales,' of this magical place we call home."

And with that, cast members from Steve Silver's Beach Blanket Babylon trooped onstage to present a signature song, created by BBB producer Jo Schuman Silver, which honored Maupin (in a fabulous BBB-created "Tales" book hat) and thanked key ACT supporters, sponsors and ACT Producing Director James Haire, who after 40 years, just retired from the stage.

One such clever stanza, set to the Beatle's "Penny Lane," paid homage to Maupin's beloved "Tales" characters:

28 Barbary Lane is where the action is/ When Mary Ann arrives from Cleveland/ Quite the lass/ Meets Mrs. Madrigal, who's smoking grass/ It will kick your ass.

Chronicle Editor Ward Bushee then presented Maupin with a framed copy of the author's very first "Tales" column which debuted in The Chronicle on May 24, 1976.

"What a journey it's been for all of us. Tonight, a lifelong dream of mine is now realized," toasted Maupin. "If I die and go to heaven, I know it won't look like this."

Friday, June 3, 2011

CBS San Francisco Review

Tales of the . . . Cast! Meet Diane J. Findlay

Tales of the . . . Cast! Meet Diane J. Findlay

NAME Diane J. Findlay.

CHARACTER Mother Mucca.

HOMETOWN Suffern, New York. It’s about 25 miles north of New York City, up the Hudson River.

FIRST THEATER EXPERIENCE Hello, Dolly! on Broadway.

FAVORITE THEATER EXPERIENCE That’s a hard one. There’s been soooooo many. You see, I love what I do and each project brings along something exciting and interesting and new; something to take home with me and remember, hopefully with laughter.

FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH TALES My first audition for Tales of the City was a wonder. At first I thought perhaps I shouldn’t go to the audition because I felt our director Jason Moore would never buy me as Mother Mucca, and I knew I’d be disappointed, but my agent talked me into it. So I decided to go for broke and have myself a ball, which I did, and look what happened! The entire creative team was wonderful and they made me feel as if couldn’t fail. I felt safe, and that’s rare at an audition. My second audition was even better, because by then I really knew “Ride ’em Hard,” the dirtiest song in show business, and I couldn’t wait to dazzle them with my take on the song. And apparently I did. Lucky me!

HOW ARE YOU LIKE MOTHER MUCCA? Well, Mother Mucca runs a whorehouse, sooo how much am I like my character??? I’m afraid to think. However, and this is true, my apartment in New York, on the Upper West Side, was once a whorehouse for the 79th Street Boat Basin. Isn’t that funny!

FAVORITE MUSICAL A Little Night Music, Mame, The Spitfire Grill, Dear World. I could go on and on and on.

FAVORITE SONG TO SING “If He Walked into My Life.”

EDUCATION High school and then right into the business. I couldn’t wait to step foot on a stage. I’m HOPELESS but HAPPY.

PERFORMANCE RITUAL I start to settle down around 4:00 in the afternoon. Have a bite to eat around 5:00, take a little snooze, exercise, vocalize, and get to the theater an hour before curtain. This has been my routine from day one, and it has always worked for me.

FAVORITE ’70s WARDROBE ITEM Who can remember?!!! I pass on that one.

The city stops to listen to its 'Tales'

Leah Garchik
Friday, June 3, 2011

The press kit contained a package of rolling papers, a box of matches and a condom. That sums up the era of "Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City," the musical version of which was welcomed by American Conservatory Theater on Wednesday with dinner in Union Square, a performance and an after-party at Ruby Skye.

With the notable exception of a couple of the Scissor Sisters, most of the 700 or so partygoers converging on tented Union Square had forsaken their bell bottoms for tuxedos and gowns - Charlotte Shultz notably in Alexander McQueen - and the only non-cast member sporting a salute-to-the-'70s mustache was Mayor Ed Lee. He'd been living in Berkeley, a law student at Boalt during that era, he said, and as a member of the Asian Law Caucus, "making trouble with the city" over evictions at the I-Hotel. He knew about "Tales" but "I didn't know people like that."

"Here we have the panoply," cracked Armistead Maupin at the sight of couture-clad Joy Bianchi next to a gaggle of Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and cast members from "Vice Palace: The Last Cockettes Musical." The mix caused a chic-to-cheeky dilemma: Arriving partygoers wrestled with kissy-kissy technique while greeting pals wearing aggressive makeup (palm frond eyelashes, rainbow-striped faces augmented with patches of facial hair).

Just inside the front door, Ken McNeely, California president of AT&T California, a major supporter of the production, beamingly described his company as a "bold leader" sponsoring a "bold production." Required gala preliminaries - thanking everyone who provided creative and financial support - were handled cleverly by "Beach Blanket Babylon" cast members, who "mentioned every sponsor you could think of," said Jo Schuman Silver. (Artistic Director Carey Perloff, who'd spent the weekend at her daughter Lexie's Harvard graduation, said Silver had sung her the thank-you song on the phone while she was at the airport.)

The plane of Maupin's special guest, Laura Linney, was delayed by three hours, but she made it to the stage in time to pay touching tribute to the writer who'd changed her life; Jim Hormel and Michael Nguyen were just back from Luxembourg, where the San Francisco Symphony was playing Mahler. And the excited hum at dinner went up a few octaves when McCalls served dessert, a re-creation of Blum's coffee crunch cake.

Maupin reminisced to tablemates about former Chronicle Managing Editor Gordon Pates, so fretful over the gay content of "Tales" that he made a chart listing homosexual characters and heterosexual characters. After one episode in which a dog was described as having humped a socialite's leg, Maupin persuaded the editor to put the dog in the hetero column.

P.S.: At the after-party, star Judy Kaye said playing Anna Madrigal is "the time of my life. I was starting to think that the really great roles were over, that I'd be playing grandmothers. But here I am, in one of the greatest roles I've ever been asked to play." There's no guarantee if the show goes to Broadway, she'll be in it, but "if they want me, I'd do backflips. I'd do anything. I'm not shy about it. I'd like to ride this little puppy."

P.P.S.: ACT raised something like $980,000 from the event. And in a kind of nonprofit piggybacking, Nextcourse, a food education program for low-income groups, conducted an eBay auction for a pair of tickets to the opening gala. They made $3,000.