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Posts Tagged ‘Skip Pipo’

“The theater is so endlessly fascinating because it’s so accidental.
It’s so much like life.”    ~ Arthur Miller

I am excited to be performing in a play of my dreams at The Production Company, a not-for-profit theater company that I am a proud member of located in Hollywood, CA.  In the past few years, several of LA’s finest small theaters and theater companies have brought down their proverbial curtains and closed their doors.  We are committed to not let that happen. If you enjoy the magic of live theater, please consider making a pledge today.  If you do not live in Los Angeles, please consider seeing a play in your community and make a pledge of support.  The arts need you to thrive and we hope you thrive experiencing the arts!

Watch our short promo video: The Production Company Promo

I wanted to share the following blog I wrote for my theater company about my experience with “The Beauty Queen of Leenane”.  It truly has been a dream come true

Luck Be A Lady
I remember being exhausted – the kind of exhaustion that makes your bones ache and your head fuzzy. I had worked a half day, and then dashed to LAX to catch a flight to NY to attend a two day meeting with my firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers. I was on a national task force developing a new scheduling system and we were working hard to meet the launch date. I was the socal representative and was with good cheer referred to as “our resident actor” by the team.  I was always delighted to travel to New York for it offers what no other city in the world can, the opportunity to see one or more Broadway shows if Lady Luck is on my side.

Having done theater most of my life, I tend to kick into gear when most are winding down from the day.  This proves to be a challenge when traveling to the east coast.   Hard as I tried, I did not go to sleep till 3:00am EST and groaned when I received a “wake-up” call at 6:30am. The work day was intense and I consumed many a cup of coffee.  At 5:00pm, it was announced that we were being taken to a nice dinner and had tickets to see a Tony nominated Broadway play.  Normally, I would have been ecstatic but, all I wanted to do was go back to my hotel room and go to sleep.  I pasted on a grin and off we went for a night out on the town.

After dinner, we briskly walked through Times Square and made our way to the Walter Kerr Theatre. We had great seats and seated to my right was Don, a technical brainiac and wonderful mentor who I adored, and to my left, three colleagues working on the project with us.  The theatre was standing room only and there was electricity in the air. The play began and all I could think of was how exhausted I was and how much I disliked all the characters and quite honestly, hated the play.  At intermission, I told Don that I was appalled that this play was being nominated for best of the year.  I remember being very agitated and seriously considered leaving but, I knew they had chosen this play for me, their resident actor so, with a heavy sigh, I sat down to endure Act II wondering how on earth I would be able to stay awake!

Within a few short moments of the lights coming up, I was entranced.

The Act opened with a beautiful monologue presented very simply with each word painting an extraordinary portrait of hope amidst this dark and biting story.  I remained entranced and was breathless when the lights came down at the end of the play.  I was in a state of shock and there were tears in my eyes which I quickly brushed away lest anyone see.  The audience roared at the curtain call and I leapt to my feet clapping as hard as I could.  “Oh My God!” I exclaimed to Don, that is why I love the theater! As we walked back to our hotel, I prattled on and on about the play and the performances and the writing and what it all meant.  They were kind to not remind me of my bad behavior at intermission and when they invited me to join them for a night cap in the hotel  bar, I replied “Absolutely, I’m wide awake!”   I shared while sipping a glass of crème de mint and soda that it would be a dream to have the opportunity to play a role as textured and challenging as the daughter to which Don replied,  “I have faith in you!”,  and with glasses raised, we toasted my dream.

Tackle It!
“What’s the name of that play I love so much?  The Beauty Queen of… what?” I would ask my dear friend, Kelly Jean Clair, time and again.  She would patiently remind me “… Leenane!”  “Oh that’s right… Leenane…” and then I would forget again!  I finally bought the script and would read it from time to time leaving it front and center on my book shelf that contained all my scripts.

A few years ago, after seeing yet another wonderful play at The Production Company,  I asked August Viverito and TL Koman, Co-Artistic Directors,  if they had ever considered producing “Beauty Queen” to which they replied that an exceptional production had recently been done at the The Celtic Arts Center and consequently, they did not anticipate producing it any time soon, if at all.  I remember thinking at that moment that I would never get the chance to do the show.  I was getting too old to play the role, I was too large for the “slight” description of the character in the script, was not even sure I could do an Irish dialect, and who was I to think I would be cast anyway?!  It would no doubt be a highly coveted and sought after role.  Also, I doubted if I even had what it would take to play a role such as Maureen. (Ah yes… an actor’s insecurities can be such an ordeal!) The role was certainly different from anything I had done in the past as I had gravitated to light, romantic and stylized comedies for most of my career.

Photo by: JenKL.com

Early last year to break me from my comfort zone, my acting coach, Michael Laskin, challenged me to do a role that would allow me to work on anger.  I had the perfect role in mind and I went home that night and pulled the “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” script down from the shelf and began to work.  First I had to tackle the dialect.  I knew I sounded like a British leprechaun so this was going to take some work!  I spent several hours listening to online dialect lessons, watching YouTube videos and movies with Irish actors and asked Kelly for some tips.  Kelly, being true to her Irish heritage, has an excellent dialect and gave me some valuable pointers.  I worked on a monologue in the second Act and brought it to class and it felt good to finally get Maureen up on my feet.

Lucky Number Thirteen
Then one Thursday afternoon last summer…out of the blue… it happened…  Lady Luck made her appearance.  I received an email from August asking if I would participate in a staged reading of a play that he was considering for our 2012 season and that play was “The Beauty Queen of Leenane”!  I would be doing the reading with three amazing actors, Judy Nazemetz, Skip Pipo and Rob HerringWhen I read the email, I let out a ridiculous squeal and my dogs came running.  With tears in my eyes, we did the happy dance around my home studio.  The staged readings were a su ccess and it was determined that we would request the rights to produce the play as the first production of our new season.   In mid-November, August confirmed that the rights were acquired and the actors would remain as originally cast!   (Skip was later cast in the west coast premiere of “Dissonance” at the Falcon Theatre and was replaced by the marvelous Alex Egan) As an added bonus, Kelly jean Clair was coming on board to be our dialect coach.

Thirteen years after toasting my dream in a hotel bar in NY, it came true!  And on January 13 (fitting, yes?) of 2012, I opened in Martin McDonagh’s Tony Award-winning play “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” at The Production Company! Our production has  received the much coveted “Critics Choice” in the LA Times as well as several other wonderful reviews.  Sadly, my dear friend Don lost his battle with cancer two years after that memorable night at the theater, but, I know he would have been excited and proud of me and would gleefully tease me about how much I had disliked the play and wanted to leave so I could go to sleep… to sleep, perchance to dream (oh wait, that’s another play!)

Well Worth The Wait!
Playing the role of Maureen Folan has been one of the hardest journeys of my acting career and one of the most rewarding.  I have been blessed to work with an extraordinary cast,  a tremendous producer, TL Kolman, whose calm and quiet leadership kept our energy focused on telling the story and the artful, rich and nurturing direction of August Viverito, who gently and sternly guided us to embrace the ugly… the grit… the anger… the humor… and the beauty of McDonagh’s masterpiece.  I find myself exhausted again but, in a good way.  The role takes all I have to offer yet gives me more in return.   In the play, Maureen tells her mother that “Sometimes I dream… of anything… of anything other than this!”   I however, could not have dreamed of anything better!  “Well worth the wait, it was.  Well worth the wait!”

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