Sunday, March 18, 2012

Liz Rubino!

Liz Rubino
Don’t Miss The Chance To Sing!”-Bea Arthur


Happy Sunday!

I hope you all had a safe sane St. Patrick's Day.

I had a traditional corned beef and cabbage Irish dinner with good friends. Now, I'm looking to the week ahead: seeing Terese Genecco Tuesday night
(see yesterday's blog), a few interviews for my Hello, Dolly! book, a reading of a new play.
All in all, a full busy week ahead.
However, before I focus on the week ahead. I would like to celebrate Liz Rubino today.

She is a singer, an actress, and a teacher.
Liz lives for the little moments. The little spaces of unexpected wonder in a song. That genuine suspension between audience and performer. The teaching moment when a student’s eyes register a meaningful shift. Those little moments that lift communication between people into art.

She sat down to reflect on her art with me.
The first show that Liz remembers seeing as a child was the National tour of Jesus Christ Superstar when she was 10 starring (of course), Ted Neeley, who at that time, must have been over 50 still reaching those incredible high notes. She was obsessed with theater from that moment on.

Live, Bette Midler is Liz's favorite entertainer. Liz has never missed one concert. Bette is the quintessential entertainer for her. She can make you forget your challenges in one crazy song where she is working her ass off dancing and singing and then in the next, she is working just as hard to interpret a quiet piece of music that it jumps right out into the audience, grabs your heart and holds it in her hands. She is stunning. Also, in film, Meryl Streep is Liz's favorite actress. There isn’t a role in a movie Liz hasn't learned from watching her craft. And then Liz forgets it is a craft. Because Meryl transforms all the while being this giving, humble, beautiful woman who teaches us so much about life in her interviews, her roles and her songs. Liz can imagine she must be an incredible Mother. You can hear it in her interviews. As an actress, she blows Liz  away.

with James McClellan
 Liz has learned that the professional community is very small and that each person you connect with can teach you something about yourself, about the business, about life. This is a community she feels that is compassionate, supportive and, yes, tough. But for all the right reasons. Anyone she meets is valuable to her life because we are all just people working towards the opportunity to produce art. There are no pedestals, just plenty of inspiring individuals who she feels she learns from at every turn. It is vital to be a good person, a nice, relationship-oriented person who cares about much more than making it alone. Because it takes others. We really are all in this together.

Your thoughts on Arts in Education
I couldn’t be more dedicated to it. My master’s from NYU is in drama therapy and I work part time as a therapist. Before any of that however, I taught countless arts classes in voice, drama and musical theater all over Ohio where I am from for so many organizations, arts schools and theater companies. And then I developed my own pre-conservatory arts training that I still travel to teach twice a month with youth ages 10-18. I am also a private voice (NYSTA member) teacher, vocal coach and drama coach in NYC to adults and young Broadway auditioners. Arts are such a therapeutic (for some) and vital part of our youths lives. The arts foster self discovery, expression, relationships and talent. And so much more! I was a kid who needed the arts so deeply, and thankfully, the community theater was there for me!!! My school did not offer adequate arts education and I find that so often with the youth I work with. It is disheartening.

Have you ever felt like you were born in the wrong era? What other period of time do you relate to and why?
YES! I have always felt like I was meant to be in the Music Hall era…maybe 1912…with Sophie Tucker-ish broads, music hall variety shows, risky business…and the HATS! OH THE HATS!!


Your thoughts on Carol Channing (All my blogs focus on Carol Channing’s Foundation For The Arts)
I first saw Carol Channing in the 1985 television version of Alice in Wonderland (which is sitting on my shelf right in front of me! I asked for it for Christmas last year!). When she came onscreen as the white Queen, I was immediately drawn in! She was so quirky, so stunning, and then she sang…”Jam tomorrow jam yesterday, but never ever jam today”…I tried for weeks to sound like her. I still sing that line today trying ever so hard to sound like her (Richard, you could do this for me!). But she was legendary in that for me. And then, as I got older and watched her career, listened to her recordings, watched interviews, I was constantly in awe of the woman she is.

I’m campaigning for Carol Channing to receive the 2012 Kennedy Center Honor in 2012. If you agree that she should receive this honor, can you say why you think this should happen (See below on how YOU can help!)
I absolutely believe Carol Channing should receive this honor! Beyond being a legendary performer who had a voice so unique folks have interpreted her for years, an acting style that was hers alone and the ability to interpret music grandly and emotionally that she was a study for any musical theater student, Carol has been an activist for LGBTQ rights and organizations for years and lives her life with compassion. Mother, activist, performer, cancer survivor, all roles she has filled with grace and humor…she is a model.

Most recent appearance
This past fall I had the priveledge of returning to my home town, Youngstown, OH, to perform the role of “Rose” in GYPSY with an Equity contract alongside my dear friend and duet partner, James McClellan as “Herbie”, and Natalia Lepore-Hagan as “Louise”. What a gift it was to work on that stage with a beautiful supportive community around us! Playing that much of a wounded creature while interpreting some of the greatest musical theater classics written for a woman, making that “Rose” unique to me all the while standing next to a cast of brilliant performers all of whom were in it together was a stunning gift. I will always remember it. I also did a showing of my one-woman piece, IF ONLY at the Duplex last June as a benefit for the Hetrick-Martin Institute where I had directed RENT! In Concert, earlier last spring. That experience was so incredible and those youth, inspiring beyond words.

Next appearance
March 23 & 24 at The Metropolitan Room with my singing partner, James McClellan (who is making his NYC debut-he is incredible and I am honored to be doing these shows with him). Friday night’s show is A MOMENT WITH YOU and celebrates the music we love individually and as friends and collaborators. Saturday’s show, ARE WE A PAIR: A Sondheim Love Story, we have performed variations of in past years. Jimmy put that show together and I think it is quite a stunning journey of some of Sondheim’s greatest (aren’t they all?!) tunes. You can’t go wrong with Sondheim. You get an entire story in each piece! That evening is also a benefit for Creative Alternatives of New York, where I lead therapeutic theater groups/drama therapy.

 Liz considers every moment she gets the HONOR of stepping onto a stage for paying audiences, enjoying my passion, and working, doing quality work wherever she is, great success. If in the process, she can be a part of someone else’s growth as well, she considers that huge success.

What was your lowest low and how did you surpass that?
Almost 5 years ago (I was 27), I suddenly began to suffer debilitating stage fright. I was still working in professional theater in Cleveland and had just gained my Equity card. I would spend hours before curtain at home curled in a ball, lock-jawed, crying on the floor. I could not regulate. Could not get it together. At that time I had been in therapy for 4 years but this popped out of no where. I tried everything. Hypnosis, EMDR, medication and I continued my psychotherapy. I do believe that since then, as I have changed and evolved as a person, worked hard in therapy and become a therapist, those have contributed to my being in a much different space now. But perhaps the fact that I never STOPPED performing through it all made a huge difference. I kept moving. Sondheim is right! You just keep moving on. There was always a part of me that couldn’t imagine not creating and interpreting music. Combined with a lot of self work and discovery, today I am in a much healthier place where I can breathe easier. I still get nervous, but I know now how to use that emotionality in song interpretation…working on myself in life has helped me immensely in being a better performer. I think it is so important to remain curious about oneself.

What one change would you like to see in today’s industry?
This is a personal reaction. Being 5’11 and a large framed woman, I have been blessed to have directors who have been proud to showcase my height and stature. But I would love to see more and more physical diversity on stage (I must say I believe this is happening more and more on Broadway lately though and it’s refreshing to me). Whether you are a size 16 or 6, if you are an artist who can communicate a role brilliantly, it really shouldn’t make a difference. I know, for example, that the roles I am appropriate for are going to happen when I am in my 40’s & 50’s (I am 31 now) and that is understandable, but that is my personality and presence in roles, not my height or weight. Perhaps that is wishful thinking, but you asked!!! :)

Do you consider what you wear on stage for your show a costume? Or is it just clothing to you?
HAHAHAH! Yes, I do. When I am doing a solo cabaret, I go with a glitzy black pantsuit generally. But when I am doing a duet show, I like to wear a dress. And HEELS! I stand next to my partner and I am looming over him at 6’3 in heels! I pout a moment, he rolls his eyes and asks me why I am wearing heels if I feel that way, and I laugh. Because I want to wear heels!! And who cares dammit! He is fine with it and he has to share the stage with me! Why not?! I am what I am! Thank you Jerry!

Are you happy at the point you are right now in your career?
Yes. I am excited and curious to experience the present moment and what’s to come!

Do you feel you have achieved what you set out to do?
Well, that would entail knowing what it is I set out to do! I don’t have end goals, I just try to roll with life the best I can and work towards moments that I want to experience. When one passes, I move onto the next, and as long as I am working, doing quality work and helping others in the process, I feel I have achieved something.

What do you do to remain positive when life's hiccups get you down?
Music. Teaching. And my wife. I have the great privilege of having someone in my life whose love and support I trust fully and completely. I am lucky and I hope I give her back all she gives to me. To find love that works with you and you work with is such a gift.

with wife Sonja
How on earth do you reach theatregoers now that newspapers are obsolete and there are so many channels on TV you can’t pick the right ones to advertise on and with the web being so hit and miss.
Well, as luck would have it, there are these incredible things out there online called blogs, written by some fabulous people….OH WAIT! Richard, THANK YOU for doing what you do for this community. E-marketing, blogs, support of industry members are all ways for us to get ourselves out there!
 A genie pops out of the lamp, he grants you three wishes. What are those wishes?
-Cures for the incurable. I have been close to so many friends and family especially lately affected by these diseases and I find myself so frustrated.
 -All teachers, mental health workers, public service workers would be given salaries that reflect the deeply moving and compassionate work they give to our world. I don’t believe they are honored or financially compensated for all they do.

-A karaoke party with my favorite ladies! These include but are not limited too: Meryl Streep, Betty Buckley, Marin Mazzie, Pattie Lupone, Bette Midler, Bernadette Peters, Mary Testa, Ellen Degeneres, Jackie Hoffman, Stockard Channing, Carol Channing, Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland, Whitney Houston, Audra McDonald, Angela Lansbury, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Glenn Close, Carol Burnett, Lucille Ball, Bea Arthur, Julie Andrews, Christine Ebersole, Debra Monk…I could go on and on an on…


How did you get into this business?
My Grandmother. Wherever we went, a bus trip, the grocery store, the local Chinese restaurant, she would stop all conversation and announce that I was going to sing The Rose (her favorite). We played this lovely game where I would say, “Ok but only if you promise not to cry!”. She would promise, hide her face in her folded little Bubbie hands and as I would sing, I would look over and see her body begin to shake with tears. But I could never stop. She was my angel agent. Also, my local community theater, The Youngstown Playhouse and meeting my first voice teacher, Kenley great Phoebe Alexander were major inspirations.

What is your favorite song? And yes, you can only pick one!!!
Liz Rubino in Kalliope Stage's "Dear World"
Wow. Tough. I suppose I will pick the song that this very moment I believe is my favorite. Is that fair? Lol. It is “Who Are You Now?” from Funny Girl. A masterful, artful piece of music with lyrics that jump off the page and speak directly to me, for me, and with me! I am singing it in Friday’s show. I believe it is me at this point in my life.

What is the last stage show you saw. Local or professional. 
I last saw both The Lyons off-Broadway (the awesome Dick Latessa is a major player on our CANY board so we went to support him), and I loved it. Beautifully acted, well-written, and moving. So glad it is moving to Broadway. And Follies. What incredible performances given by an incredible ensemble. Team work at its best. I was blown away by that cast.

What do you do to prepare for your performances?
Oh you know, the usual. Warm-ups, stretching, sleep, constant exploration of the music and lyrics, no caffeine or citrus or acidy foods or drink about a week before (man is that one hard! I am a diet coke addict!). Most importantly, time spent with my collaborator/s on any given show. Talking, exploring, discovering. And humor.



When do you know it’s time for a Liz Rubino show?
When I question myself. My career. When I can’t stop singing. In the shower, at home, in the car. When I see a show that inspires deep thinking. When I hear beautiful voices singing beautiful music and I am simultaneously in awe of their amazing talents and jealous I am not with them singing! When life happens, art is my parallel process. I am one for process…I can go months and years working within the process of art. And end goal is not necessary, but when it happens, I am so very grateful for the journey.

Do you make a living at this or do you have a survival job? 
Let me say that I feel lucky enough to have three jobs that I love, none of which I consider survival jobs. I am equal parts performer, teaching artist and drama therapist. I feel blessed to be able to include all of these in my day to day life and I believe in each of them.
What is your favorite compliment?
I recently had a friend say that he thought I could “pretty much help anyone”. I laughed and said, “I’m not Buddha”! But what a compliment that was and I do take it to heart. If I can help just one person, I will be happy!

NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.  FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!

Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!

Tomorrow's blog will be...Sue Ane Langdon...and her memories of Hello, Dolly!

Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!





  Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!




 
TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com
                                
This Blog is dedicated to ALL ARTISTS: Past, present and future and the gifts they give to the world!



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