How did you get started in theater?
I lived in Greenwich Village until I was
10. There were places you could go
after school for arts and crafts, games
and other activities. Both of the
places had summer camps and I was
fortunate enough to go. I'm sure my
parents had a hard time scraping up
the money. The Greenwich House Camp was $40.00 for a month and the Morrisini was $20.00 for two weeks!! Anyway, I used to do the shows at camp. I also took ballet at the Morrisini when I was very young. (Talk about two tons in a Tu-Tu!)
What hooked you?
I guess I was never reality based. I lived for Mary Martins Peter Pan and
always wished I could go to Never, Neverland. Also wanted to visit Oz and go to Toyland. So I suppose I was an "escapist" from the time I was a child. My first Broadway show was The Roar of the Greasepaint the Smell of he Crowd. I was so excited because Cyril Richard was in it and I always loved him as Captain Hook.
Did you study acting? If not how did you get into it?
I took a few courses in College as I started out as a theater major. I
switched over to Education after my first year. I was still able to do some
shows and I had a great time.
What was your first audition?
It was Carriage House Players Oklahoma. I lied to my Mother-in- Law and
asked her to watch the kids while I went to the Mall. Actually, I did go to
the Mall to buy sheet music and went to the audition. I was scared to death,
and almost left when I saw that the young girl in front of me had a beautiful
headshot. I got up to leave , but something told me to stay. The girl got
up to sing and literally could not sing Happy Birthday! I stayed and got
into the ensemble. Doug Quattrock was Curly and he was very nice to me. He gave me Peter Maravell's name and I started to study with him. I then went with Cathy Cook to Airport Playhouse and auditioned for Man of La Mancha. I still remember seeing Marenne Kashkin audition. The showed starred Jack Green , Marenne and I also met a very young Tim Browne ,Lynn Adams and the eternally young Amelia Chiaramonte. I was cast as the Housekeeper. I was totally hooked and still am!
How do you choose what play you will audition for? The piece itself, the
director, theater, you were pre-cast, etc.
I guess its all of the above. I am mostly interested in the character.
Speaking of pre-casting, tell us how you really feel about it.
I've only been pre-cast once. People have to come to terms with this. If we
really think about it only a small percentage of people are always pre-cast.
So, you can either sit home waiting for the phone to ring or you can audition
for the part you want.
Actually, I appreciate when people call and ask if I will audition. I'm not
familiar with every play ever written, so I certainly am grateful when
someone calls and says I have a part I think you may be right for. I will
read the play if I like it I will go to the audition. I also see the
directors plight in all of this. No matter how good the material you need
good actors to pull it off. That's what keeps people coming back to the
What types of parts do you normally play? Do you feel type cast?
I play Mothers mostly. Which is fine with me since its my favorite "real
life" role. Luckily Moms come in all shapes, sizes and temperaments. Jeff
Sanzel made me a collage depicting the Mothers I played in his shows. I love
it! There will come a day when my theater days will end but I'll always be
Courtney's and Gregory's Mom.
What is your approach to developing your character?
I suppose I do what most people do initially and that is to read the piece
over and over again. I start to memorize the lines immediately because I
hate having the book in my hands. When I'm memorized I put my cues on tape so I can rehearse to and from work. I say the lines over and over again
until I am satisfied that it sounds real. It's just a relentless pursuit of perfection or as close as is possible.
Of all the characters you have portrayed, who is your favorite?
It has to be Sister Amnesia. I had never seen the show and thanks to the
editor of this newsletter I was called to audition. Amnesia and I just
bonded right away. I love her innocence. There's no guile or hidden
agendas. Everyday is a new adventure! Of course a close second is Amnesia's antithesis, Carlotta. I loved playing her! I guess the difference is that I loved everything about Amnesia. Even though I didn't like Carlotta as a person, she was just so much fun to portray!
This is a tough one. I started to list them and when I looked at the list I
realized that they were the characters from plays that I really enjoyed doing
for one reason or another. There are just some characters that you love and
bring you the greatest satisfaction performing them.
I can't think of any...not because I'm such a great actor, but mainly due to
the fact that I have had so many wonderful experiences I can't think of
anyone I really hated doing.
What roles offered you the greatest challenge and why? How well do you think you met the challenge?
Mostly every role offers me a challenge. I meet the challenge to the best of
my abilities. Each role is so different and offers its own unique challenge.
I would have to say any part that involves dancing is a major challenge.
Just ask Jean Sorbera she'll tell you all about it! Thank goodness she
always finds a spot for me way upstage behind the real dancers!
What role do you wish you could have a second shot at and get it right this
Actually, I got this chance last year when I did Aldonza in Man of La Mancha
at the Commack Y. Jack Howell asked me to audition and I thought that it would be a great opportunity to do her again. It was a wonderful experience and I felt that I did a better job. Of course, I came to it with 9 years more
experience than the first time I did it.
What types of roles would you most like to play in the future?
Any role that will help me to grow as an actor. Of course my dream role is
Sally in Follies and I wait with baited breath to play David Houston's
"glamorous" wife. "I'm ready David just let me know the play and dates!"
How do you feel when you perform?
The word "complete" comes to mind.
What motivates you to keep on doing what you're doing?
What motivates me is to keep growing and to get better and better. When all
is said and done, I want to look back knowing in my heart that I was the best
I could be.
During opening night jitters each one of us has said,"Why do I do this to
myself?" Why do you do it?
I recognize this question as one that I sent in. Here is the history behind
it. Twelve years ago, Michael Butera and I were waiting in the wings, it
was opening night of Into the Woods. He was the Baker and I the Baker's Wife. It was my first lead in a musical and I was sick with nerves! He turned to me and said,"Why do we do this to ourselves?" "There must have been
something missing from our childhoods!" Now, I don't remember what I had for dinner last night, but I have never forgotten that because there have been
many times since then when I asked myself this question. But then the lights
go up and all is right with the world and I don't give a crap if it is something from my childhood! I also want my family to be proud of me and to show my kids that it's never too late to follow your dreams.
What is your favorite theater story?
Just as there are many stories in the Naked City, there are many theater
stories actors love to recount especially at cast parties. A flood of
memories came to me as I thought about this question. Jack Green used to
love to tell the story of how my heels got stuck in the stage at Airport when
we were doing How the Other Half Loves. I was the flamboyant Blanche
Daly--no character shoes for her! I was standing on the trap door and I just
felt my heels slip into a crevice. I tried to loosen them but it was
impossible. I was suppose to cross to Jack but I couldn't do it so he gave
me a quizzical look and came to me. As we embraced I whispered in his ear,"My feet are stuck in the stage!". He walked away with a smirk only Jack could give because we knew the phone was going to ring and I had to cross to answer it. The phone began ringing, Jack was smirking and I was sweating. Finally I just took my feet out of the shoes pulled them up out of the stage and answered the phone. Then there's the joy of the raked stage----Milky White rolling downstage, the chair in Falsettos rolling off stage, forgetting the missive in the "missive scene" and beating the hell out of the Muleteers asking who stole my missive,running off stage to get it and beating them with it for hiding it. But winner and still champ is the chute from hell in Sweeney Todd. Where do I begin...Well I slide down during rehearsal, I'm sweaty the wooden chute isn't padded. The burning sensation is so bad I thought I had 1,000 splinters you know where. Luckily I had friends, namely the editor of this newsletter, that confirmed it wasn't splinters just a horrible wood burn. Two days before we opened I'm flying down the newly padded chute and hit my foot on the wall that was constructed to keep us from flying off of the end. I didn't want to upset Jerry Friedman so I told him I was alright and continued with the rehearsal. The next day I was in such pain I had to go to the doctor. I had broken a bone in my foot. I took one night to recover, that night Brent Erlanson broke his nose flying down the chute. Needless to say before we opened the chute from hell was reconstructed and I did the show with a cast on my leg which I wrapped in rags. Michael Butera would stand at the end of the chute and catch me every night. He didn't tell me until years later that one night my cast hit him and broke his finger!
Did you ever miss an entrance, drop enough lines for it to be noticeable,
crack up on stage?
I was just about to say that I thankfully never missed an entrance but that's
not true! We were doing Jerry's Girls and we had different costumes for each song! As I'm changing I realize that I'm wearing the wrong costume. As I'm ripping it off I hear Ellen Michelmore playing my entrance music but it's too late 'cause I'm in my underwear. Luckily she replayed it and as the curtains parted I ran out. Opening night of Falsettos...I start to change and once again in my underwear the entrance music is playing. I'll never forget the look on Steve Doone's face when he looked over at me. I started singing from off stage because in that show if you missed a beat you were doomed!
What was your worst theater experience/What's the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you on stage?
I think all of the above could qualify.
Why do you perform at the theaters you do?
I perform where I'm comfortable and respect the production values. I
started at Airport Playhouse and was there for many years and always enjoyed working there.I am now mostly at Theater Three. I love the people there. We may not see each other for awhile but when I go back it's like going home. Recently, I performed at the Commack Y and TTG and enjoyed my experiences with them.
Do you think regional theater will continue to grow on L.I.?
Absolutely! Why shouldn't it. We have incredibly talented people here.
Many of whom who could be doing this professionally if they chose to do so. I think we provide quality shows at a fraction of the cost of B-Way.
Who is your favorite performer?
Meryl Streep without a doubt. I also used to like watching the old movies
with Rosalind Russell, Cary Grant, Bette Davis. I don't know why but Eleanor
Parker in "Caged" just popped into my head. Of course as you can see from
the picture I like Mel too. I wrote him an Ode as a joke. It's a long story
that has to do with my job. It's at the end of the interview. Yes, Braveheart is one of my favorites, but I have many. I prefer not to answer the question about favorite L.I. performers. Suffice to say that they know who they are because I tell them!
How do you maintain your career and do theater?
Sometimes at a great cost to my nervous system! As a parent I also have to
add in family to this equation. All theater parents especially the "Moms" not
only have to learn lines, blocking and develop a character but we still have
to clean, cook, food shop, drive to music lessons, dance lessons, sports
practices and maintain at least 98% attendance at soccer, volleyball,
basketball and badminton games, 100% attendance at school concerts and dance recitals, chaperone school trips, make cupcakes for school parties and do any other schlepping that comes up. Thank God there's Tilex for bathroom mold, chicken voila and sizzle and stir and pizza! If you should ever come to my house and it looks like the Munsters live there, you know I'm doing a show!
Why do you spend so much time toiling in L.I. theater?
Because I have to!
Do you find that your family supports your love of theater?
Yes. Once the kids started to read I brought them into the process by having
them help me with my lines. Of course I've provided them with lots of laughs
as I practice my dance steps in the kitchen. Believe me there is no funnier
sight than me in tap shoes.( Actually, funnier than the sight of me in tap
shoes is my trying to actually tap in those shoes). My husband didn't know
what to think when I first started. I think he thought that I'd do one or
two shows and get it out of my system. But everyone reading this knows that
once you start there is no going back. I think he knows that after all these
years I have no intention of leaving my family for the bright lights of
How has performing enriched your life?
It has made an impact on every facet of my life. I think anything that you
work hard at and put your whole heart and soul into enriches you as a human
What brings you the greatest joy?
What really irks you?
Man's inhumanity to man!
If you won LOTTO tomorrow you would...?
I'm in three LOTTO pools at work! I'll win someday. I just hope its soon!!
I hope I win enough to make everyone in my family comfortable, that way I can
really enjoy it. I'd give some to my church and if I had some left I'd
probably but more new seats for Theater Three!
Is it true that you'd rather be rich than good looking?
Well since I'm not rich..yet, and the crows feet are getting deeper everyday
I suppose I better start working on myself so I don't really end up in hell
with Frank Tangredi, Claudine Coffaro, Steve Wangner, Tim Conlon, and
Rodney Hakim yelling, "Volume! Phyllis, volume!"
What's your favorite word?
When you reach the pearly gates what do you want St. Peter to say?
Hopefully, "Come In". I have a feeling that it will be St. Anthony meeting
me, relieved that he won't be getting any more queries from me to find
something that I've misplaced! But I've told so many people about him that
he'll never get any rest! I might as well share this with all of Deb's readers. If you lose or misplace anything just say,"St. Anthony, St. Anthony please come around something's been lost and cannot be found. Please help me to find______. He works! He has found many a prop, car keys, eye glasses etc! (An audience member shared that little poem during Nunsense)