Episode 025 – Author Karen Moline – Part 1


karen_molineMy fun friend Karen Moline is a wonderful writer with a no shortage of great stories!  We we had such a long conversation (the time flew by) that I needed to break the interview up into 2 parts.  So here is part 1 today.  Come back next Friday for part 2.

One of the first things we talked about was her first novel, Lunch: A Novel of Erotic Obsession, and in the course of talking about that novel we explored a bit some of the ways writers go about getting ideas flowing and freeing themselves up to write.

She got a substantial advance for her second novel, Belladonna, (A Novel of Revenge) back in the days with publishing houses were able to do such things.  Please go to Karen’s website for more information at www.KarenMoline.com.

Topics covered in the interview:

  • Hello Karen! (2:20)
  • How Lunch was born (3:10)
  • Stories of being an entertainment journalist; the shift from print interviews to Internet (9:11)
  • From the picture wall of fame – Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, and the set of Harry Potter (17:20)
  • Funny story about John Malkovich (24:36)
  • Discussion about how art is created… or at least how Karen goes about it (26:36)
  • Belladonna, (A Novel of Revenge) (30:50)
  • Advantages of writing with pen and ink (32:12)
  • How ideas for Belladonna came about (35:39)
  • Dreams for inspiration, the fun of research, take a trip to the library! (39:21)
  • What Karen learned at the University of Chicago (44:24)
  • Back to Belladonna, traveling to a location for research (49:05)
  • Writing something that makes you squirm a bit… like an orgy scene! (53:00)
  • Most satisfying financial moment (58:18)
  • How celebrities can change over time… Justin Bieber (1:00:18)
  • Taking criticism (1:05:18)
  • Fiction is to transport you out of your head… we’re all Elizabeth Bennett… and the A&E version is the best btw (1:08:46)
  • A great interview with Mel Gibson with the benefit of a secret (1:15:48)

Tennessee_Mountain_RetreatFinally, I’m moving soon from staying with my folks in East Tennessee to Austin.  My parents are selling their beautiful home.  Take a look at this cool website I made for them, www.TennesseeMountainRetreat.com.

Episode 024 – Jessi Blue Gormezano and Joe Jung – Project Theater and Our Bar NYC


Jessi_Blue_and_Joe_Jung_1Joe Jung and Jessi Blue Gormezano are a talented and adorable theater couple.  I was first introduced to their work with a production of the dark comedy, The Secretaries, produced by their NYC company, Project Theater.

And then when a production of my play Home of the Great Pecan was done at The Drilling Company, we were lucky enough to get Jessi in the lead for that fun Texas romp.

In 2009 they formed a site specific theater experience which has been going strong ever since called Our Bar, which is set – surprise! – in a bar.  It’s a great NYC experience where the audience feels like it’s literally in the middle of the show – and can drink and eat at the same time!  And there always seems to be live music afterwards often performed by the jug band, The Saltcracker Crazies.  So the party goes on well after the show!

Please enjoy my time with the very entertaining, Jessi and Joe.  And don’t miss Our Bar which is the first Wednesday of every month; the next show is called Stuck, and it’s on May 7th, 2014.

Topics covered in the interview:

  • Intro  (0:00)
  • Hello Jessi and Joe! The beginnings of Project: Theater (3:11)
  • Backing up in time, how the stars aligned and these kids met (8:43)
  • How I was introduced to Jessi and Joe during the run of The Secretaries by the Five Lesbian Brothers (15:04)
  • My Custom Van by Michael Ian Black (20:40)
  • Joe gets a great job in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (23:46)
  • The OurBarNYC experience, the jug band origin (31:50)
  • Jessi Blue in Home of the Great Pecan (45:25)
  • Jessi Blue, the writer emerges, Mark My Words (48:42)
  • Joe has very specific news on upcoming projects (50:15)
  • How to start a theater company (53:08)
  • “Bizarre, Interesting or Horrible Audition Stories” – Joe’s first (56:26)
  • Jessi’s audition story (1:08:21)

As usual my buddy Sal Clemente (of Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra) who wrote the podcast theme song, “Here We Go Again,” plays us out.  URO has a concert coming up.  Click the link to find out more!

Episode 023 – Steve Sherman – Actor in University of Tennessee Masters Program


Steve Sherman in Spamalot at the Clarence Brown Theater


Jessi Blue Gormezano and Steve Sherman in Home of the Great Pecan. Photo by Lee Wexler.

I was introduced to actor Steve Sherman by my buddy Dave Marantz, and he was great in my play, Home of the Great Pecan as Deputy Diggity.  I liked him so much I asked him to be in a workshop to help me develop a new play I’d been working on called Hole.

That was in New York City.  As it happens we are both in Tennessee at the moment, he as a student in University of Tennessee’s graduate acting program which is connected to the Clarence Brown Theater — a LORT Theater.  And he’s in Spamalot which is opening there tonight!

It was great to get the perspective of an actor who had been out in the professional world and had gone back to school.

Topics covered in the interview:

  • Intro  (0:00)
  • Hello Steve! His beginnings and how he got the bug (2:58)
  • Producing his own work in New York City (On Campus) and developing new work (5:44)
  • Improv in LA  (8:31)
  • Going back to school – Grad school at University of Tennessee (10:25)
  • Living in the South, long distance relationship (13:14)
  • The plan – teaching or acting (16:04)
  • Working with the Clarence Brown Theater (18:12)
  • Teaching an improv class and taking classes as a student (23:25)
  • After the masters program (28:58)
  • “Bizarre, Interesting or Horrible Audition Stories” (30:14)

As usual my buddy Sal Clemente (of Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra) who wrote the podcast theme song, “Here We Go Again,” plays us out.  URO has a concert coming up.  Click the link to find out more!

Episode 022 – Marc Palmieri – Actor, Writer, Webseries Creator


Marc_Palmieri_The_ThingMarc Palmieri is a very smart and entertaining guy, an actor, writer, teacher, and dad. He tells some great stories about getting a screenplay of his made, some of his first survival jobs, his awesome webseries (The Thing), but the most touching part of the interview well may be when he tells the charming story of how he met his wife.

He and I met when a friend of mine was in a play which he was also in, and we all went out afterwards to a bar.  I instantly liked him because he was just fun to be around, but over the years since, I’ve been consistently impressed with the depth of his talent not just as an actor but also as a writer.

In the interview we mentioned the awesome set for his play, Levittown, as designed by Michele Spadaro.  Here’s a picture of that set and a link to that feature in the NY Times.


Topics covered in the interview:

  • Intro  (0:00)
  • Hello Marc! (3:51)
  • First survival jobs – as a Macy’s “model” and receptionist  (5:10)
  • Growing up, connection to New York, theater roots  (12:00)
  • Artsy fartsy literary Shakespeare guy (15:26)
  • The Thing Webseries  (19:07)
  • Playing the lead in the movie, Too Much Sleep (22:25)
  • Writing the screenplay Telling You, the scoop (25:45)
  • How Marc met his wife – great story! (32:21)
  • Exploring question – is art still important if fewer people see it?  (44:01)
  • Levittown production (and talk about that great set) (47:13)
  • Contacting playwriting hero, Christopher Durang  (1:01:37)
  • Talking about memorable moments of the webseries (1:03:28)
  • “Bizarre, Interesting or Horrible Audition Stories” (1:14:16)

As usual my buddy Sal Clemente (of Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra) who wrote the podcast theme song, “Here We Go Again,” plays us out.  URO has a concert coming up.  Click the link to find out more!

Episode 021 – Scott Baker – Actor, Bally Master, Santa


Scott_Baker_Bally_Master_02Scott Baker is truly one of a kind on this earth.  He is the barker or bally master for the Coney Island Freak Show in the summers.  In the winters he is often (when not acting in films or plays) Santa Claus in one of the big department stores.  He was in the legendary show Oh! Calcutta! for 12 years on Broadway, and he also did some porn acting in the 70s-80s!  Quite an amazing and varied life!

He and I met doing theatre Off Off Broadway at the Drilling Company years ago, and he was my muse there in the beginning when I was writing a lot of bizarre comedies for which he was so perfectly suited.  He added his unique stamp to all of those short plays.

Interestingly the interview took a dark and serious turn when we talked about his experiences being mugged in NYC.  NYC is a safer city now, but the area where he’s lived (and in other areas around the 5 boroughs) the city has gone through some major changes through the years.

I promise you will enjoy this talk with Scott Baker!

Topics covered in the interview:

  • Intro  (0:00)
  • Hello Scott! How we met — Two Eggs and La Mouche (3:49)
  • Bally Master a short documentary film about Scott Baker  (8:17)
  • The Coney Island Freak Show — three kinds of freaks (12:00)
  • Early inspirations, Frank Lentini and Gilbert Mysto Magic Set (16:30)
  • How to learn how to pound a nail into your head or eat fire, Coney Island Side Show School (20:32)
  • Winter job, Santa Claus (24:56)
  • How Scott got to New York (25:51)
  • Scott performs in adult films – “Rupert!” (27:23)
  • Oh! Calcutta! on Broadway (33:12)
  • How Times Square has changed, being mugged by gunpoint (37:30)
  • “Bizarre, Interesting or Horrible Audition Stories” (44:00)
  • Kitschy interests and new project: Elvis, Santa, John Wilkes Booth, Frankenstein (50:43)
  • Cancer survivor — of the soft palette (55:16)
  • Remembering director, Richard Harden (59:29)

As usual my buddy Sal Clemente (of Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra) who wrote the podcast theme song, “Here We Go Again,” plays us out.  URO has a concert coming up.  Click the link to find out more!

Episode 020 – Holly Williams – Repertory Actor at Barter Theatre


Stephen Bittrich and Holly Williams at Barter Theatre

Holly Williams is a repertory actor at The Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia.  I really wanted to see something at The Barter while I was still in this area (East Tennessee), and I approached her about doing an interview, and she could not have been nicer.  She got me into 2 shows, we had a terrific interview about the busy (and artistically fulfilling) life of the rep actor, and I got the super deluxe tour of the facility.

I was so impressed with the well-oiled machine at the Barter.  They were switching out the set for the evening show when we were talking in the dressing room.  They also have 2 shows going on in the Stage II space (their smaller space), and they are simultaneously rehearsing for the next shows which will go up.  The scheduling people must be geniuses!  Right now at the Barter you could see 4 different shows… Man of LaMancha, I Do I Do I Do, Don’t Cry for Me, Margaret Mitchell, and The Dryad: An Appalachian Tale.  Something for everyone!

And Holly was terrific.  She had a lead role in I Do I Do I Do and a supporting role in Man of LaMancha.  And she’s also in the midst of rehearsing for her next cool role as Rita in Educating Rita.  Go check out The Barter if you’re in the area!

Topics covered in the interview:

  • Intro  (0:00)
  • Not Hank Williams Granddaughter (4:30)
  • Can you actually barter to get admission to the theatre?  (8:25)
  • The shows I saw, Holly’s busy schedule, life of a repertory actor (10:15)
  • Holly’s good luck charm, writing a lyric on her fingers (17:15)
  • How Holly got the gig with The Barter (19:30)
  • Versatility required, non-traditional casting (23:40)
  • How Holly got the acting, storytelling bug (25:38)
  • Wall of fame … Barter Alumni (37:32)
  • More about The Barter administrative and creative staff (38:37)
  • “Bizarre, Interesting or Horrible Audition Stories” (47:25)

As usual my buddy Sal Clemente (of Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra) who wrote the podcast theme song, “Here We Go Again,” plays us out.  URO has a concert coming up.  Click the link to find out more!

Episode 019 – Corybungus – Off Off Radio Theater


corybungus_posterWelcome to Off Off Radio Theater with the short play Corybungus written by Stephen Bittrich.

Hijinks ensue when a bookshop customer tries to return a defective “OED” (Oxford English Dictionary) because it’s missing words.  This fast moving skit is a nod to the works of Monty Python.

The Returns Man is played by Steve Sherman.

Mr. Weiner, the Customer, is played by Stephen Bittrich.

An interview with Steve Sherman coming soon in a future Off Off Pod episode!

Corybungus was originally performed by The Drilling Company in an evening of New York themed one-acts by Stephen Bittrich called Big Apples.


Episode 018 – Stephen Rosenfield of American Comedy Institute


stephen_rosenfield1Stephen Rosenfield and I had a great conversation about comedy, how one can learn the craft, how comedians prepare and how he got his start.

Stephen is the director and founder of the American Comedy Institute where folks with the comedy bug can receive great training either by way of their monthly comedy classes or in their year long program.

I happen to know Stephen from working on the website for the school.  It’s a great resource if you’d like to know more about how you can join in!

Topics covered in the interview:

  • Intro  (0:00)
  • How we met through Ted Greenberg and The Complete Performer (2:13)
  • How it all began, working on the writing (4:58)
  • Growing up and being funny and the need to express yourself (7:39)
  • Being well rounded as a comedian, Louie CK (10:11)
  • Taking note of subjects and attitudes that are working (15:50)
  • Comedians that have reinvented their persona (19:48)
  • Comedians who seem to be making it up on the fly have worked hard to prepare  (22:03)
  • Stephen’s role as teacher, how to create a hyphenated career (25:50)
  • The One Year Program at American Comedy Institute (27:06)
  • Doing “bringer shows” (bringing in an audience to the clubs) and when comedy was “rock and roll” (32:45)
  • How to build and audience as a performer (39:15)
  • Keeping warm after bombing  (42:07)

As usual my buddy Sal Clemente (of Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra) who wrote the podcast theme song, “Here We Go Again,” plays us out.

Episode 017 – Victoria Campbell – Adventurer Filmmaker and Actor


Victoria_CampbellI’ve decided Victoria is amazing and fearless.  And I don’t know if she’d define herself as an “Adventurer” but after talking to her I felt like that word needed to be in the title of her interview!

We got to know each other when she was in a production of my play, Home of the Great Pecan at The Drilling Company, and over the years I’ve seen two of her films, House of Bones (about her lovable, eccentric family and childhood home on Martha’s Vineyard — not to be confused with a horror film of the same name!) and The Hunt for Good Americans where she and a friend traveled across this great country finding and filming all sorts of cool characters.   [I’ll put up links to see these films as they become available.]

I had heard a few stories about her most current project where she daringly finagled her way into Haiti 7 days after the earthquake of 2010.  I knew there would be some amazing tales about that journey, and, boy, I was not disappointed.  You must listen!

By the way, the Haiti documentary, Monsieur le Président, is playing TOMORROW as part of The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival at 10 am at the Chilmark School. Check out this great article from the Martha’s Vineyard Times.

Topics covered in the interview:

  • Intro  (0:00)
  • Hello Victoria; growing up in Martha’s Vineyard in an artsy family (3:12)
  • Film: House of Bones  (10:39)
  • Film: The Hunt for Good Americans (18:55)
  • Back road hookers in Ely, Nevada, Crow Reservation in Montana  (21:06)
  • Blues man, Razorblade, in Clarksdale, Mississippi (27:22)
  • Film: Monsieur le Président; the Haiti Earthquake in 2010 (32:29)
  • The aftershock 6.2; drafted as a “nurse”  (36:22)
  • The Voodoo Priest, Gaston (41:50)
  • Ukrainian transgender in Canarsie, NY (52:11)
  • “Bizarre, Interesting or Horrible Audition Stories” (53:17)

As usual my buddy Sal Clemente (of Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra) who wrote the podcast theme song, “Here We Go Again,” plays us out.  URO has a concert coming up.  Click the link to find out more!

Episode 016 – Jeremiah James Is Playing El Gallo in The Fantasticks


Jeremiah_James_3Jeremiah James kindly invited me to see him as El Gallo in The Fantasticks which is playing Off Broadway on 50th Street in the Jerry Orbach Theater (Snapple Theater Center).

I met Jeremiah through my writer friend, Karen Moline.  I asked her if there was anybody she knew who I had to talk to while in NYC, and she hooked me up with Jeremiah who could not have been nicer.

He was really great in the role of El Gallo — great voice, a lot of humor, very graceful and dynamic on stage.  In fact, go right now and listen to him sing!  (And then come back here and listen to the interview.)  www.JeremiahJames.net.

Jeremiah has done a lot of cool things so far in his career, including being a part of a very popular international touring group called Teatro, playing Billy Bigelow in a major West End revival of Carousel, originating the role of Willoughby in the new Sense and Sensibility musical at the Denver Theatre Center, and charitably helping sick kids in Zimbabwe.

Topics covered in the interview:

  • Intro  (0:00)
  • Hello Jeremiah (4:12)
  • New Business Model for Theaters, Theater as a Community Meeting Place  (6:27)
  • Growing up in LA , how theatre sunk in  (16:26)
  • Jeremiah’s sister tricks him into doing a musical  (18:15)
  • Training and first professional gig (23:31)
  • International sensation, Teatro, is formed (25:47)
  • Meeting the Queen of England, Musical Theater Groupies  (28:18)
  • Carousel as Billy Bigelow  (31:03)
  • Working on very first solo record (36:38)
  • Sense and Sensibility Musical at the Denver Theatre Center directed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge  (38:52)
  • Jeremiah as El Gallo in The Fantasticks  (45:20)
  • Helping children in Zimbabwe, Kidzcan (47:04)
  • “Bizarre, Interesting or Horrible Audition Stories” (55:34)

As usual my buddy Sal Clemente (of Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra) who wrote the podcast theme song, “Here We Go Again,” plays us out.