Five Question Friday

Today we’re talking to the founder of The Scene Shop, Sean Michael!

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Sean Michael is a long-term transplant to the St. Louis area whose love for the stage developed during video store runs for Annie and The Sound of Music at a young age. He plays many roles in theatre: he was last seen onstage in New Line Theatre’s world premiere production of the revised Celebration and is the executive director of The Tesseract Theatre Company. Sean holds no degrees but has invested years in honing his crafts both onstage and through college courses. Selected onstage credits: Atomic, American Idiot (New Line Theatre); Dogfight (Stray Dog Theatre); Love From a Stranger (ACT INC); Hamlet (R-S Theatrics); and Romeo and Juliet (Riverside Shakespeare). He has studied voice under Gene Ditch, Erin Haupt, Becky Thorn, and Carole Gaspar.

Q: What was your first experience in theatre?

In middle school, I was asked to be a member of the quarter in “The Music Man,” and I absolutely refused. I was so freaking self-conscious then (still am in a lot of ways). Instead, I agreed to be photographer for the show. After seeing it, I vowed I would audition for the next one. Being the world’s greatest procrastinator, I waited another four years until I actually auditioned and played a role: Doody in Grease. It was the greatest.

Q: What is the best piece of career advice anyone has ever given you?

If you’re going to do theatre as a career, you have to keep fighting. No matter what level you’re at, it’s all about the drive and what you want to achieve.

Q: Tell us about a backstage or onstage mishap you lived through.

I’ve been lucky to not have many. Probably the one that still effects my pre-show routine has to do with earrings. I decided in college to get my ears pierced. Then, I was cast in “Once Upon A Mattress.” Maybe the third performance, I’m up in place listening to the Minstrel sing his song and realize I haven’t taken my earrings out yet. I have no pockets on my costume. I pulled them out and performed almost the entire first act while holding my earrings.

Q: What is your dream role/show?

Jean Valjean in Les Miserables

Q: What is your current guilty TV Pleasure?

I am an anime junkie. Right now, I’m watching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood which is heavily (emphasis on heavily) based on Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe.

 

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Grace Austin is an STL area director and educator.

See her work at gracemaustin.com and ecctheatre.com 

Five Question Friday

Happy Friday from The Scene Shop!! Here’s another great interview with an awesome STL Theatre person- take a look!

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Erik Kuhn is an actor, technician, designer & stage combatant. While studying drama at Washington University in St Louis he worked as a technician; learning skills he now employs as a freelance theater professional. Shortly after that, he was introduced to stage combat. Since his first workshop, he has continued training with the SAFD & DAI and is now a DAI Associate Instructor. Locally, as an actor, technician, & fight director, he has worked on over 65 shows with professional companies & educational institutions.

Q: What was your first experience in theatre?

When I was about 6 years old, my family got involved in a production about Abraham Lincoln through Theater at the Park at Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site. My brother & I were two of several children in the show, and at one point, we played Lincoln’s two young sons. As Tad, I had one short question to ask Papa Lincoln while he was telling us a story. I remember this show in particular because one night I got so caught up looking out over the audience into the stage lights, I completely missed my cue & almost didn’t remember my single line.

Q: What is the best piece of career advice anyone has ever given you?

I actually have two pieces of advice that I reference all the time. One of my teachers used to say, “To be successful, you need to be at least two of these three: talented, on time, easy to work with.” Having a good attitude & a good work ethic will get you far, even if you’re not that talented or struggle with punctuality like me. In a similar vein, don’t to be afraid to ask questions – especially doing tech work. Better to feel stupid about asking than waste time/money/resources because you don’t know what you’re doing.

Q: Tell us about a backstage or onstage mishap you lived through.

Back in college, I was in the ensemble for a mainstage productin of Midsummer. In the design, the orchestra pit was dropped down the full 12 feet and a ramp was built, so actors could get onstage by going through the understage trap room and up the ramp. After weeks of rehearsal, during our first night in the actual theater, I was making a very quick entrance from back of house. As I ran down the steps for the first time, I realized I was going way too fast. I barely had control over my momentum and my feet…and I was headed right towards the pit. I was able to make a hard left and avoid it, but I stepped funny and distinctly heard my foot pop. Couldn’t walk on it, so I sat out the rest of rehearsal and later at the hospital learned I’d torn a ligament in my foot. Thankfully, I was only an ensemble member, so they were able to do the show without me. Also thankfully, I was able to switch from a cast to a walking boot about three weeks later, just in time to start blocking a two-person show I was working on.

Q: What is your dream role/show?

I would love to play Hal in “Henry IV” or “Henry V” or better yet, the arc of all three. I’d love a chance to revisit the role of Orpheus in Sarah Ruhl’s “Eurydice.” That’s also a show I’d love to be involved with as a designer or technician.

Q: What is your current guilty TV Pleasure?

Probably “Iron Fist.” I’m a sucker for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and really enjoy the majority of their stuff – especially the Netflix shows. “Iron Fist” is definitely not up to par, but I’m watching anyways!

 

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Grace Austin is a STL area director and educator.

See her work at gracemaustin.com

Five Question Friday

We’re thrilled to have snagged one of the busiest actors around town for this Friday’s feature- let’s hear from Ben Nordstrom!

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BEN NORDSTROM is an award-winning theatre artist based in St. Louis, MO. As an actor and singer, he has appeared in over 50 plays and musicals at major theatres around the country and in New York City. Since relocating to St. Louis with his family, Ben has become a well-known presence within the local theatre community. He has worked with the Muny, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre, Stages, New Jewish Theatre, Variety StL, Mustard Seed, HotCity, OnSite, and Echo. He has received a St. Louis Theatre Circle Award, two Kevin Kline Awards, and was recently named St. Louis’ “Most Versatile Actor” by the Post-Dispatch. He has played sold out solo cabarets at the Monocle, the Gaslight, the Kranzberg, and Jazz At the Bistro. Currently, he is the emcee for the annual St. Louis Teen Talent Competition at the Fabulous Fox Theatre and has emceed major events for the J Associates, St. Louis Arts and Education Gala and St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Ben is a member of Actors’ Equity Association and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television & Radio Artists. BFA, musical theatre, Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University. www.BenNordstrom.com.

Q: What was your first experience in theatre?

A; I lip synced (lip sanc?) “Gonna Buy Me A Condo” by Weird Al Yankovich in the 4th grade talent show. I had about 27 props. It was like Milli Vanilli meets Carrot Top.

Q: What is the best piece of career advice anyone has ever given you?

A; Two things come to mind; one is about the craft and one is about being in the business. A great teacher said, “Acting is not always about getting the right answers. It’s about asking yourself the right questions.” And a wonderful older actor that I worked with when I was at Webster told me that one of the keys to a long life in theatre is knowing what to do with yourself in between shows. Knowing what to do when you are working is easy.

Q: Tell us about a backstage or onstage mishap you lived through.

A: I was in the ensemble of Crazy For You at Stages. We were doing the big Act I finale, I Got Rhythm. At that point in the show, all of the ensemble men are wearing something akin to velvet tights (don’t ask). And we’re all tap dancing. At one point we crouch down and then come back up. So I go to crouch and very distinctly feel the tights rip right down the middle of my backside. I could hear all of the girls upstage laughing at me. It was pretty much just my dance belt under there. IIt wouldn’t have been too bad but we had one last turn left, so I was going to have to basically show it to the audience. My mind was racing about what to do. But I just decided to go for it. I covered it with my hands as we turned, finished the number and raced offstage as soon as the lights went down. Yay live theatre!

Q: What is your dream role/show?

A: Right now, I think it’s Bobby in “Company”.

Q: What is your current guilty TV Pleasure?

A: I’ve been bingeing on House of Cards. I just started it a few months ago. Also, Better Call Saul. And anytime Shark Tank or The Profit (CNBC) is on, I’m hypnotized.

Thank you Ben! We look forward to seeing you on the STL stage again soon!

 

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Grace Austin is an STL area director and educator.

See her work at gracemaustin.com

Five Question Friday

Today we’re talking to STL native and current NYC-er Christina Ramirez!

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Christina is a St. Louis born actor, director, and teaching artist. She got her BFA at Webster Conservatory. She currently resides in NYC where she is on the teaching staff at Applause New York and Broadway Artists Alliance. She’s been seen on tour with Henry and Mudge and Skippyjon Jones. NYC/Regional credits include YAGMCB, …Spelling Bee, and The Fantasticks!

 

Q: What was your first experience in theatre?

We did some sort of version of Romeo and Juliet for Shakespeare’s birthday in second grade. I got to play Juliet and told my mom I needed to wear my red dress to capture the drama of the piece. Ha!

 
Q: What is the best piece of career advice anyone has ever given you?
So many things… continue putting in the work and the right opportunity will come.

 
Q: Tell us about a backstage or onstage mishap you lived through.
Oh gosh so many… When I was a child I was in a professional opera. We had to do a procession with lanterns and then sit with our bottoms on our toes for about 30 minutes during an aria. When I went to stand up, both of my feet had completely fallen asleep. Since I was the shortest child, I lead the line and was supposed to lead the group up a staircase. I began trying to scale the stairs, legs and toes tingling, and instead just fell back into the arms of the girls behind me. They had to push me up the next few stairs until I regained feeling in my legs. The rest of the cast called me “sleepy” for the whole run.

 
Q: What is your dream role/show?
Dream shows of the moment are definitely Waitress and Mean Girls! Dream role always and forever will be Maria in WSS!

 
Q: What is your current guilty TV Pleasure?
I’ve been binging old seasons of Project Runway. No regrets.

 

Thank you Christina- great story!

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Grace Austin is an STL area director and educator.

See her work at gracemaustin.com

Five Question Friday

Today we’re talking to one of St Louis’ best known choreographers….Robin Berger!

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Robin is the owner of Leaping Lizards Performing Arts Studio and the Artistic Director, Choreographer, and performing member of the professional tap company, Diva La Tap. She holds a BFA in visual arts with a dance minor from Webster University. She has performed in community and professional theatre, including productions with the Muny and Radio City Music Hall in Branson. She has choreographed for the KLOU Oldies Revue, New Line Theatre, Max and Louie Productions, Webster Groves High School, Clayton High School, Nerinx Hall, Crestwood/Kirkwood Youth Theatre, Characters and Company, New Jewish Theatre, Kirkwood Theatre Guild, KTK, St. Louis’ Premier Charter School and currently for Cor Jesu Academy and CBC High School. She also directs the Leaping Lizards On Stage performing group and is a member of the Fine Arts faculty at Thomas Jefferson School. Robin was nominated in 2012/2013 for a Critic’s Choice Award in the best choreography category for her work with New Line Theatre. Robin performs with Diva La Tap in Burlesque festivals in St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City MO, Oklahoma City, Bloomington, IN and as a guest artist at The Emerald Room/The Monocle.

Q: What was your first experience in theatre?

My first theatrical experience was when I was 6 years old. I was in the children’s chorus of The Music Man at Incarnate Word Academy. It was memorable and I’ve been hooked ever since!

Q: What is the best piece of career advice anyone has ever given you?
Theatre is a business. Know how to represent yourself professionally. Set high work ethic standards and maintain them. Most importantly, know your worth as a choreographer because time is money.

Q: Tell us about a backstage or onstage mishap you lived through.
One of the biggest mishaps involved a strapless gown. When I was performing in the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular in Branson, I had to wear a strapless dress that was too short waisted on me. Needless to say that during the opening number, my dance partner was standing on the front hem of the dress. When I turned to move in the opposite direction, the dress did not turn with me and the audience saw a different kind of show!

Q: What is your dream role/show?
To be the first female member of Tap Dogs. You said dream show!

Q: What is your current guilty TV Pleasure?
Sherlock, Grace and Frankie, anything Marvel.

 

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Grace Austin is an STL area director and educator.

See her work at gracemaustin.com