Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Lauren Stanford: More Than You Know!


Lauren Stanford
You cannot be lonely if you like the person you're alone with.
Wayne Dyer

HappyTuesday, May 10th, 2016!
I hope that all that you and looking forward to a productive and music filled week. What a glorious weekend I just had. I saw Wendy Scherl, Betty Buckley, Ed Murray this weekend. They were all at the top of their game and once again infused me with why I love this business so much.
Looking ahead, I will be seeing Sally Darling, Tom Toce's Tribute to Yale Singers and Songwriters for American Popular Song Society, and She Loves Me on Broadway.

Throw into that mix the element of being with friends and CELEBRATING. That's what it is all
about for me!
There's lots to celebrate today. 
I'll start with Lauren Stanford! I am thrilled that she is celebrating a mostly forgotten torch singer that I happen to be a big fan of.
She was the 2013 Metrostar Winner and named by Nitelife Exchange as one of the 25 people in cabaret to watch in 2015. She was nominated for a 2015 MAC award for her debut cabaret show at The Metropolitan Room.
She has toured North America in the musical Grease with Frankie Avalon, A Christmas Carol, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Lauren played "Bess" in the world premier musical Houdini.
Lauren is going to be appearing at The Triad on May 22nd and June 5th in More Than You Know: A Helen Morgan Cabaret. I wanted to give my readers a chance to learn a LITTLE bit more about Lauren. I hope you enjoy this brief glimpse into this rising star.

What does this time in your life mean to you?
At the moment I'm remounting More Than You Know which a dramatic recreation of Helen Morgan's nightclub act.  Why Helen Morgan you ask?  Or maybe more likely, who is Helen Morgan?
I was taking a Musical Theatre History class in college, and the professor was teaching us a section on the history of Showboat.  At one point he showed a clip from the 1936 movie and said, "this was Helen Morgan.  She had a beautiful soprano voice and was a tragic alcoholic." The clip he showed was when she sings Bill in the movie.  I was mesmerized.  I wanted to learn more about her.  This little seed of fascination germinated for years.
In a period of creative stagnation a few years ago, I decided to create my own show about her. 

It turned out to be quite challenging to learn much information about Ms. Morgan (beyond what one reads in an encyclopedia entry.)  She had no known children or siblings.  I bought and read one used out-of-print biography (written by a self-professed fan) and watched two movies (one mostly fictitious) of her life.  Thankfully some of her performances were preserved through film roles and audio recordings from her heyday.
I also found various interviews with people who knew her, loved her and worked with her.

Even with such sparse details, Helen Morgan "the person" started to emerge for me.  Piecing together the events of her life, and imaging what those situations must have meant to her, I started to understand my version of her. 

Early on, I found myself asking the same anxious questions "Would this story interest anyone?  Would modern audiences hate hearing old fashioned music?  What do I want to say with this piece?  Why Helen Morgan?  Why am I drawn to her?"
Those questions subsided as the piece emerged and took shape. 

This show has opened a new world for me.  While I was writing it, I entered The Metropolitan Room's MetroStar Contest, as an outlet to practice singing in a cabaret setting.  After six weeks of eliminations, I ended up winning the competition.  The prize was a fully produced major engagement at the club.  I debuted there with a different cabaret show called I'm a Stranger Here Myself which was nominated for a MAC Award, and it introduced me to this wonderful cabaret community.
Helen Morgan
After six weeks of eliminations, I ended up winning the competition.  The prize was a fully produced major engagement at the club.  I debuted there with a different cabaret show called


Now I'm back to More Than You Know and Ms. Morgan, and so happy to be working on this piece again.  I'm still learning new information about her, and about myself--so the show has evolved since it's first incarnation 2 years ago.  I'm feeling inspired and happy these days.

What Tuesday Wisdom would you like to impart today?*

Spend more time with the people you love this week.

Can you tell me about a time when you had to deal with your ideas from opposing parties?

This question makes me think of growing up in Stilwell, Kansas (a little town about a half hour away from Kansas
City) where the vast majority of my peers came from conservative Christian families.
My parents are more of the "hippy" ilk and longtime Buddhists.  As a kid growing up in those surrounding, I often felt alone in my background and ideas.  Being a somewhat shy, ultra sensitive, awkward, 12-year-old vegetarian was often challenging and isolating.  But I found fellowship in art and theatre at school and in the community.  And though I don't identify as a Buddhist myself, I've learned a tremendous amount from those teachings and appreciate everything I've experienced from my exposure to that religion.

Irene Ryan in Pippin
Finish this sentence, I feel Old When...

Maybe when I hear Marilyn Maye and realize that she has more energy than I do. But really, there is no "feeling old" in cabaret! (Because there is always someone older than you in the room.) I LOVE that cabaret is an all-ages art form.  It makes me think of that song from Pippin: "I believe if I refuse to grow old, I can stay young till I die."

Book or Kindle? What are you currently reading or what was the last book you read? 

I just recently got my first kindle but I've resisted getting one all this time because I love the tactile experience of reading a book and turning the pages.  My favorite books stay on the shelf as little badges of honor.  They're a visual reminder not only of a book I loved, but of the time in my life that I read it.  The last book I read was my friend Keith Varney's first novel called The Dead Circle. I also recently listened to the Sherlock Holmes books on a road trip.  Great fun! 

What disappointment ended up teaching you an essential lesson?

Auditioning as an actor is filled with disappointments.  They add up, and none in particular truly stand out for me.  Maybe there was an embarrassing story here--or a heartbreaking close call there, but it was the collective disappointment that taught me an essential lesson.  That lesson was to create my own work.  I decided to finally start working on my Helen Morgan show, but I didn't know how to begin.  So I took a class at HB Studios with George Bartenieff on how to write your own solo show, and simultaneously took Eric Michael Gillett's class on Cabaret Essentials. It's really changed the trajectory of my career and reinvigorated my passion about theatre and performing arts. 

If you could choose another profession, what would it be?

A surgeon!  I would love to heal people and have always had a fascination with anatomy.  I was that weird vegetarian who always was the most enthusiastic to dissect things in science class.  

How did you get started in the entertainment industry? 

My father is a retired professional magician.  His stage name was "Mr. Fabulous."  So I'm sure it's in my blood.  I begged him to take me to my first musical audition when I was 7 years old.
Three Rising Cabaret Stars: Lauren, Jamie Salzano and Marissa Mulder.
It was a community theatre production of Here's Love (the musical version of Miracle on 34th Street.   I was cast as Henrika, a little Dutch orphan.  My dad ended up doing the show too, and played the judge.  It's a very happy memory for me, and I was hooked. 

In elementary school, we'd go on field trips to see shows at a local theatre called Theatre for Young America.
It's a place that's very dear to my heart.  At the time, they were doing shows in an old movie house, so there wasn't much of a backstage. When the lights went down before the show, the actors would run down the aisles to get in place.  It was thrilling and a little scary to sit there in the dark, feeling the actors run by--knowing the show was about to start.  I loved it and always looked forward to their shows.  Later I took classes at TYA and did shows there.  Even though I might have been an outcast at school, TYA accepted me with open arms
and it was my haven. (I even got to be one of the actors running down the aisle!)

What do you think it is that makes you who you are?

My parents.  They've always given me the freedom to be whatever I wanted to be and supported me with love.  I'm so very lucky.

Who was the most influential person on your work

There is no way to say someone has been the most influential.  Eric Michael Gillett has been my voice teacher/director/friend the last few years, and has helped me tremendously in technique, but also finding my "voice."
My friends, Kathleen Stuart and Tom Picasso, are great sounding boards and witnessing their
talents is always inspirational.
In college, John Staniunas was a particularly brilliant and vivacious professor who gave me a lot of opportunities and unending support.  Mr. Bill Davis was my high school drama teacher, debate coach and sage.  I credit him with teaching me how to act--he is also one of the best theatre directors I've ever known. 

If a million dollars was given to you out of the blue, would you still do what you do artistically?

Yes.

If you could do or accomplish ANYTHING and money wasn’t an object, what would that be?

Anything, huh?  I'd make sure everyone had "enough." So there was nothing to fight for, and no need for anyone to suffer.
Lauren Stanford portrays Helen Morgan in More Than You Know on May 22nd and June 5th, 2016 at
Helen Morgan
7:00pm at The Triad, 158 W 72nd Street.

A very special show: an intimate portrait of a star. ~Cabaret Scenes

Late nights in Prohibition-era NYC you could find singer Helen Morgan iconically perched on the piano at her club, relying too much on brandy and ‘torching’ until even the most hardened gangster wept into his beer.  A star that has mostly faded from the modern public's consciousness, during the 1920's and 30's she was arguably the most famous singer in New York City.  Morgan rose to fame in 1927 from her portrayal of "Julie" in the original Broadway production of Showboat and subsequent 1936 film, and was also well known for her nightclub acts. 

More Than You Know is a dramatic recreation of Helen
Photo by Jason Russo (HeyMrJason Photography)
Astoria, NY
12/20/15
Morgan’s final night in residency at New York City’s Simplon Club in 1932.  Written and performed by Lauren Stanford, the play contains songs the chanteuse made famous, including Jerome Kern’s “Bill” and “Why Was I Born. 

Directed by MAC award winning director, Eric Michael Gillett.  Music Direction by Jonathan Larson Award winner, Mike Pettry.

Lauren Stanford in “More Than You Know” plays The Triad at 158 W 72nd Street on May 22nd and June 5th, 2016 at 7:00pm. Tickets are $15 ($10 for MAC members) with a 2 drink minimum. Tickets and information are available at www.triadnyc.com.

Thank you, to all of the artists mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!


With grateful XOXOXs ,
 





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