LMezz Interviews: Actor/Playwright James Parenti

James Parenti’s exciting new play May Violets Spring, produced by Dare Lab, begins its run at Shetler Studios on April 16. Violets is a reworking of Hamlet as seen from the point of view of Ophelia. It combines pieces of the original Shakespearean text with other source texts and new material written by Parenti in order to give Ophelia voice a greater power in the narrative.

I (Sara) find the process of adapting source material into new works, and I jumped at the chance to interview Parenti about his piece. We  talked about his journey from actor to playwright and mind-melded on what it’s like to adapt Shakespeare, how to give voice to characters, and how much we both love/hate James Franco.

James Parenti


LMezz: So tell us a little more about May Violets Spring?

James Parenti: It’s an adaptation of Hamlet  I didn’t set out to make an adaptation. I just set out to tweak the story a hair because I was in a position to [act] in a production of Hamlet. Obviously I said, yes! It’s an actor’s dream. But I’ve also always been keenly aware of people’s voices being under-represented in theater and in general so when I was going through it, just doing pre-work as an actor, I found that there are these two amazing female characters, Ophelia and Gertrude, who have these great scenes but were grossly under-represented. So I thought it would be really cool and tell a potentially slightly stronger story if, let’s say Ophelia is onstage during the soliloquies,  if instead of it being Hamlet talking to the audience, Hamlet is talking to his best friend or girlfriend. And then she could answer, like she can share this line, and it can be a conversation instead of a tirade. Then, when I brought that to my director at the time, she was like, ‘this is such a deep rabbit hole and there’s so much more to unpack there. That’s a new piece, it’s not just a new production. You can explore that.’ So, it started out with them sharing the soliloquies and then I started bringing in text from other plays, like Cymbeline and Twelfth Night.  And then I got to this point where Shakespeare kind of ended and I had to write my own text to fill in the gaps. I’ve always been interested in words but I had never considered myself a playwright. It was kind of something that happened of necessity. When the [original Shakespearean text] ended, I had to build something new and then that gained its own momentum and snowballed and I realized that Ophelia is actually the protagonist of this new story. So I had to cut out all the other stuff that we don’t need, so there’s a lot less Hamlet, there’s a lot less of the political intrigue and more of the domestic story. So it’s Hamlet from Ophelia’s point of view. For the most part, it follows the canon events unless you specifically see something otherwise happening. Continue reading “LMezz Interviews: Actor/Playwright James Parenti”

LMezz Interviews Kelli Giddish!

Shakespeare? Check. Booze? Check. A lifetime of repressed emotions only now coming to light because you’re pretty fricking tipsy and the bard’s words are hitting you in your hearthome? Well, that depends. Go to Three Day Hangover’s Kickstarter page asap to learn more about their 2014 season, ways you can donate, and scoring a season pass! And if last Sunday’s Big Boozy Benefit is a hint of what’s to come, get thee to that website!

The company brought in some heavy-hitters on Sunday. Greg Hildreth opened the night with a song from their rock musical, Beyond Measure, an adaptation of Measure for Measure. Michael Emerson performed Hamlet’s ‘To Be Or Not To Be” soliloquy. There was a ‘Crimes Against Humanity’ spin on Uncle Vanya, a rap battle between Romeo and Mercutio, and plenty of other thrilling, bourbon-soaked performances.

Among the lineup was Kelli Giddish, Law and Order: SVU‘s latest badass detective. Fun Fact: Kelli’s uber-cool. We met her in the audience of R+J: Star-Cross’d Death Match, and she was such a blast to enjoy the show with. Also, this Southern girl has a great set of pipes and rhymes “motherfucker” with “motherfucker” with suave effortlessness. Another Fun Fact? She touched my hair. I think that makes us BFFs.

Kelli Giddish sings 'Mariana's Lament' from "Beyond Measure"
Kelli Giddish sings ‘Mariana’s Lament’ from “Beyond Measure”

LM: Drink of Choice?
KG: Lemon-lime soda.


LM: Which Shakespearean character would you most like to party with and why?
KG: Falstaff– he’s kind of like the Hunter S. Thompson of Shakespeare.


LM: What’s your hangover cure?
KG: My dog, a little love, and the park.


LM: What kind of drunk are you?
KG: Love-drunk
LM: What drew you to Three Day Hangover’s Big Boozy Benefit?
KG: Because I hate Shakespeare because I never got it! Because I never get the dick jokes, you know? But when I’m with them (Three Day Hangover) I get it! I finally get the dick jokes!

LMezz Interviews Greg Hildreth!

We’re still basking in the glory from Sunday night’s Big Boozy Benefit for Three Day Hangover’s 2014 season. For the uninitiated, Three Day Hangover is a new theater company that combines drinking and Shakespeare in only the best and smartest ways. There’s no better way to feel like a badass than to be three drinks into the night and have a totally modern and reinvigorated love for that classy bard.

Among the line-up for the benefit was Greg Hildreth, who has appeared on Broadway in Peter and the Starcatcher and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, and he’s a hilarious Youtube enthusiast. We’re big stalkers fans and jumped at the chance to interview him about all things drinking and Shakespeare…y’know… the important stuff.

Greg Hildreth and Company Perform 'Vienna Sucks' from "Beyond Measure," a rock musical adaptation of "Measure for Measure"
Greg Hildreth and Company Perform ‘Vienna Sucks’ from “Beyond Measure,” a rock musical adaptation of “Measure for Measure”


LM: Drink of Choice?
GH: Bulleit bourbon on the rocks.


LM: Which Shakespearean character would you most like to party with and why?
GH: Falstaff! I feel like we are the most similar. We are both loud, big guys who love to drink.


LM: What’s your hangover cure?
GH: Okay. Cooked eggs. Some coconut water. And a hair of the dog like a Bloody Mary.


LM: What kind of drunk are you?
GH: I’m a happy, fun drunk. The kind that likes to go karaoke at 2am.
LM: Follow-up then, what’s your go-to karaoke song?
GH: Anything Billy Joel.


LM: What drew you to Three Day Hangover’s Big Boozy Benefit?
GH: I think it’s really important to expose more people to Shakespeare, which is really what Three Day Hangover does best. Especially exposing drunk people to Shakespeare.


Look forward to Three Day Hangover’s 2014 season, which will include boozy productions of Twelfth Night, Uncle Vanya, and a TBA Two-For-One Shakespeare extravaganza! Learn more about the lineup, ways to support and get super awesome season passes at their Kickstarter page!

Three Readings and a Holiday: A Conversation with FRESH PRODUCE’d NYC

The denizens of FRESH PRODUCE’d NYC take Labor Day seriously. On Monday night, the group of actors, directors, and writers met for a preliminary reading for their monthly play workshop series. Over 150 artists have collaborated in the series, which began last year. I spoke with artistic director Kyle Metzger about the history of FRESH PRODUCE’d and the process of showcasing new theatre.

Reading a play. Or two. Or three.

How did FRESH PRODUCE’d happen?

FRESH PRODUCE’d actually began last year in May. Actress Riva Di Paola got a bunch of different actors together and started the group, and it began out of a want for opportunities to continue to grow as artists. A chance to work on a new piece every month, a chance to meet other young artists, writers, directors. Riva left to go to LA at the end of 2012, and she created FRESH PRODUCE’d LA out there. Our company, The Glass Eye, then took over FRESH PRODUCE’d NYC as the producing entity. Under our banner, it’s become more about the playwright than ever before and giving the playwright the tools to take it to the next stage.

What is your creative process like? How long are the pieces?

We do a little bit of everything. We’ve had self-contained short plays as short as five minutes, and we’ve done multiple scenes from a longer full length play. It’s really whatever the playwright wants to workshop and what they submit to us.

How can playwrights contact you?

They can email us at, and they can go to The Glass Eye website to find the FRESH PRODUCE’d submission guidelines there.

So you have a reading, a tech, and then a performance every month.

The tech’s the same day.

So it’s a very cabaret kind of style.

One of the best things about the actual performance is because we don’t get to see what the other groups are doing, when we come together it’s so awesome to see different genres done in different ways. We’ve had staged readings done on music stands to full production-ready performances with costumes and props.

When I saw one of your productions last year, I saw a one act where there were vampires and witches and all kinds of phantasmic stuff. What’s the craziest scene you’ve seen so far?

Well last month we had a Hollywood/TMZ retelling of The Scottish Play in which Mr. Mac was covered in spooge. Does that qualify?

I think it definitely qualifies. What would be your advice to audience members coming to see the show?

There’s nothing like it. You will see three completely different pieces. Three totally different voices, and new voices. Voices that New York doesn’t know they should be listening to yet.

Get Thee to a… Bar? A Conversation with “The Hamlet Project”

1 - David Hudson as Hamlet in The HAMLET Project - Photo by Lloyd Mulvey
David Hudson as Hamlet in The HAMLET Project (Photo by Lloyd Mulvey).

The Hamlet Project, a “A Shakespeare Drinking Theatrical Event” has been such a blast in a glass, it’s been extended until August 26th. I met the creative team (David Hudson, who is playing Hamlet, director Beth Gardiner, and producer Lori Wolter Hudson), and got to know more about this less-than-sober production:

Whose idea was this? How did it come about?

Beth: The Hamlet Project was born in Los Angeles in 2011. It was the idea of an actor and a director that David and I went to graduate school with at UC Irvine. They wanted to do a fun, unpretentious production of Hamlet that they could repeat over and over again in different ways. They cut the script and started a production in downtown Los Angeles. Fast-forward a couple of years, and I’m out here, David’s out here, Lori’s out here, and we thought it would be really awesome to do that here. We got the rights to do the script and made a very “New York” take on what it means to do Hamlet in a bar in New York.

David: We did a production in March in a little bar in Williamsburg. We did two nights and it was awesome.

Beth: It was ridiculous. The response was amazing.

Lori: We sold out both nights, and everybody said they wanted to see more of it.

David: The three of us got together and decided to do this incarnation of it in rep with a drinking game version of Romeo and Juliet that we are premiering in September.

Have you workshopped the Romeo and Juliet script yet?

David: We’ve done some read-throughs, and we’re about to start rehearsals as soon as we open Hamlet. Lori’s directing it, and because it is a very new project, will be more developmental.

Lori: It’s going to be a little more interactive.

David: The great thing about The Hamlet Project is that it is different night-to-night and it’s totally different every time that it’s done, and that’s what we really like about it. It’s totally unpretentious. We can’t be precious with it. We just have to do it 110% and get the audience really excited and involved with it. And it changes each time that we do it.

Beth: And the bar spaces are so small that we’re very close to the audience, in their lap, acting around them at times, drinking with them…

Lori: Don’t be surprised if an actor steals your beer.

Beth: I think it’s a really exciting night of story-telling. It’s drinking, it’s fun, it’s lighthearted, and then it’s also this great story with this great language with good actors doing it. It can’t help but be amazing.

What captured me about The Hamlet Project was despite the high concept absurdity of it all, the idea of bringing this play to where people congregate in New York City as natural audiences connects directly to Shakespeare.

Beth: Its definitely the Groundling’s version of Hamlet.

David: When you think about it, it’s down on that base level. There’s some great stuff happening with it, but it’s happening in a place where everyone is congregating.

What can audiences expect beside direct addresses and some drink stealing?

Beth: They’ll get Hamlet–the story of Hamlet–and they’ll get some twists that we incorporating. Hamlet has a play-within-a-play, and we offer up that play to be performed in a number of genres that the audience can vote on.

Lori: Polonius will be played by an audience member. That is decided when you get to the bar that night. It’s just whoever shows up.

Beth: There are drinking games when characters die.

What would be Hamlet’s drink of choice?

David: So much pressure.

Don’t say draft beer.

Beth: Nooooo.

David: Hamlet’s a whiskey man. I think probably in this production he’s a Manhattan man. Because we are in…

Beth: New York City!

David: He’s a rye Manhattan man. He likes it a little hard.

For more information on “The Hamlet Project,” check out their website:

Interview with Delysia LaChatte

Delysia LaChatte, the “feline fatale of burlesque,” is throwing a Belle Époque-inspired event on Thursday. I was able to ask her a few questions about her inspirations, career, and the naughty association behind her name.

1) How did you come up with your name (pronounced De-li-see-yah La-Shot)?

I have my icons like Eartha Kitt and Josephine Baker (who was in love with all things French), and I wrote out a couple of different names that I liked from stories and books. One of the books, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, had this character named Delysia Lafosse, and I loved the way it rolled off the tongue. And I didn’t want to just be called “the cat.” There are a million cats in burlesque. So I decided I wanted the French word for cat… which is also… I didn’t realize how naughty “La Chatte” it is. (She laughs.)

So it also, conveniently enough, has a double association.


What got you interested in burlesque? And how did you get started with it?

The first time I ever heard of burlesque was when my mother told me about the movie Gypsy starring Rosalind Russell and Natalie Wood. We watched it together. I later taped it and often watched it as a pre-teen. I loved the idea of glamour and creating something out of nothing. I could relate to Rose Louise aka Gypsy in the movie, because she was the average one in the family. Not the beautiful one. Not the one with any huge talent. I was shy. I still am shy, and I dreamed of having a life where I could be that confident superstar on stage. I hadn’t thought of it in terms of burlesque back then because I had no idea that people still did it. But I used my drawings as my creative outlet. I would draw beautiful, colorful, confident sexy women all the time. And now I get to be any one of those drawings.

What are some of the things you deal with as a female performer of color in the burlesque community? Any positives? Negatives?I feel like it can be a gift and a curse. I think being a woman of color in burlesque makes you stand out. The same goes for plus-sized performers. It makes you special. I also feel that although there are so many of us on the scene, we get booked less for large scale events. It is my dream to be in the position to create these events that get us lots of attention and pay very well.

What is it like to produce your own work?

First, I started by producing with a group of my closest friends. We started a theater company called Stage of Fiends. I was the burlesque branch. Then the company split. They started to do more plays and cabarets, and I became a lone producer. I recently started co-producing again with other performers, but I also felt it was time for me to go out and do it alone. I didn’t want to compromise my ideas or have to depend on anyone, which is how it is to co-produce. It’s great because you have someone to talk to, bounce ideas off with and support, but at the same time if you have a complete vision it’s hard to make that happen. I will definitely co-produce again, but I needed one thing that is all me.

Tell me about your latest event, La Chatte’s Meow.I’ve been dreaming of doing this show for years now. La Chatte’s Meow is all about my dreams of burlesque, magic and side shows. This theme is based on Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge, one of my favorite movies. It is the epitome of everything French, sexy and magical. We have some dragulesque performers like Markko Donto (La Wolverinna), who is amazing. It’s hosted by World Famous Bob and starring some of my favorite people and performers: Raquel Reed, Velocity Chyladd, Apathy Angel, and Stormy Leather, to name a few. There will also be tarot card readings, contortion, can-can dancers, a magician, and a human carpet! You name it, I want it to be happening here! The theme of my next event will be “The Last Unicorn” meets “Legend.”

What would you say to someone who is curious about seeing a burlesque show but has never gone before?Don’t be afraid to make noise! Hoot and holler when you see something amazing. We will not be offended.

La Chatte’s Meow is on Thursday, July 18th. For more information about Delysia and La Chatte’s Meow, visit her website:

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