Sunday Night Sondheim: Bernadette sings a soaring “Being Alive”

Bernadette Peters sings “Being Alive” from Company at the “Hey Mr. Producer” concert, spring 2007.  She looks damn good at 59! (being that this was sung 2 years ago, she’s now at least 61!).

Interview with Elizabeth Ledo (now starring in Goodman’s “Boleros”)

INTERVIEW WITH ELIZABETH LEDO 

ledo

Elizabeth Ledo, currently playing the lead in The Goodman’s acclaimed Boleros for the Disenchanted. 

 

 

Barry Eitel:  Recently, I chatted with Chicago actress Elizabeth Ledo, one of the stars of the Goodman’s production of Boleros for the Disenchanted (our 4-star review here) where she plays both a young girl in 1953 Puerto Rico and a caretaker in 1992 Alabama. The two of us talked about her experience with the two roles, her Latina heritage, and why she chooses to work in Chicago.

You face an interesting acting challenge in “Boleros,” playing a character we see about 50 years later and played by another actress. Did you and Sandra Marquez collaborate at all on the characterization of Flora? How?

Not in an outwardly way. I think mostly through observation. There were things that I noticed her do in the second act and I said, ‘I like that, where can I find the genesis for that in my own portrayal.” We never sat down around a cup of coffee and talked about it specifically. There are things that are echoed in the script that we tried to serve up in both acts. Flora repeats certain lines in each act; we would try to serve those up. We worked with Henry a lot over Flora’s and her mother’s similar relation with the flowers, for example. Most of it, though, was just through observation or from the script

 Did the cast work closely with the playwright, Jose Rivera?

He was there for the second week of rehearsals and for previews. For the most part, because the play is very biographical, I would say Jose was a great resource. We were able to ask questions about his family and experiences, he was very open. He observed, was around rehearsals as a resource, but he didn’t really impose ever. He was very gracious and let us find our own way with the characters. So yes, he more there as resource than an imposing figure, rarely did he do anything unsolicited.

Now do you come from a Hispanic background?

My father was born in Havana, Cuba, and came over to the US in 1962 at the age of 14. Growing up, it was very important to keep that side of the culture alive and present. The Cuban way of life and the energy of that people was a big part of my family life.

Jose’s script is steeped in traditional Puerto Rican culture and beliefs about family, gender, work, America, etc. Did you pull inspiration from your own upbringing for the role of Flora?

Young Flora has a lot of similarities to my own grandmother. At the time of the first act, 1953, my grandmother was only two years older than Flora, on a different island, of course, but similar culture. My abuela came from very male-dominated society—respecting her parents, virgin on her wedding night, very pious. My grandmother just died in April, and this role was a very important part of my grieving process. I found it was a celebration of her. Flora and my grandmother, though, are very similar. I didn’t need to impose anything.

You switch in the second act to a different character—Eve, a caretaker. What was your experience like switching between two characters?

I’ve done that before in a few shows. Usually, though the multiple characters live in the same world and culture, but this show’s special in that the time periods are so different. It actually made it a lot easier; there was heavy stuff in the beginning, I could decompress over intermission, and come out in the second act in a time period that I’m very familiar with. I know the nineties, I grew up then. Henry and I talked quite a bit about Eve’s backstory, we came up that she was in the Peace Corps, for example. Eve alludes that she was born in Spain and she has a very European sense about her. Eve’s earthy, I’m earthy, I could throw in a lot of myself into the character. She has great compassion and great integrity, I think. I was able to fold in a relaxed air to her and a playfulness and a generosity.

Is there one that you personally connect to more?

I connected to both Eve and Flora very well. There was less social, vocal, and physical constraints with Eve because I can be my own resource. I know what it feels like to wear denim. Emotionally, though, both of these women were easy to tap into.

The show is remarkably funny, even though the play covers some heavy issues. How did you and the rest of the cast find the rhythm to balance both of those aspects of the script?

You have to. It’s survival in some ways. When you’re doing a show with heavy themes you need a release. We need it as much as the audience. When those funny moments come up it’s like an oasis in the desert, we need those moments to continue. The hardest scenes for us to nail down were the first two scenes. The play starts with a girl coming on crying, and you really have to serve up the comedy within the first 5-6 lines or else everything is dragged down. And then in scene 2, Flora gets validation that her fiancé is cheating. We really had to serve that up, you need those things, you got to let people laugh in the play. You got to get in the script and find the humor. We know it’s difficult, we know it’s sad and scary, so you must find the human side of the characters. Flora’s so innocent and earnest, and we were able to pull out humor in that. A lot of time we were desperate to find it for ourselves, because we really needed it with all of the heavier themes at work in the play.

This is your Goodman debut, but you are a well-established Chicago actress. What’s your favorite thing about acting in Chicago?

I love the audiences and I love the artists. The community is supportive and is always taking risks. It’s also nice being able to work where I live. The audiences are great. They’re smart, supportive, and a large amount of them are into something different and like it when artists go ahead and take risks. This says so much about them. Chicago artists are some of the most talented and human artists around. I can say that, and people from New York and LA comment on that as well. The artists have so much sensitivity and compassion for their work.

You also have a lot of experience in regional theatres across the country. Is acting in Chicago special for you?

I love working in regional theatre. But I always prefer to be home and be working. I’ve done a dozen productions with Milwaukee Rep, I love it, but if I have the opportunity to work at home I love to do that, I can be here at home with friends and artists I know really well.

What do you have up next?

Next I go up to do Christmas Carol at Milwaukee Rep. This will be my, oh gosh, eighth time. Its fun, I get reunited with the old gang. And then I’ll be working at the Court in the late winter.

 

View (2009-06-30) Boleros for the Disenchanted

View full Goodman production Album
(i.e., not just pics of Ms. Ledo)

What Sarah Palin *really* wanted to say

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Stages 2009 – Calling all Musical Theatre devotees!!!

THEATRE BUILDING CHICAGO PRESENTS

STAGES 2009

 

the 16TH ANNUAL FESTIVAL OF NEW MUSICALS IN PROGRESS
Presented by Theatre Building Chicago
AUGUST 21-23, 2009

Especially for musical theatre junkies (and their friends) – Theatre Building Chicago presents STAGES 2009, a festival of 5 new musicals in progress, a new topical revue and 2 panel discussions Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, August 21-23, 2009.

The three-day musical extravaganza performs each new work twice in concert readings and studio presentations. Now in its 16th season, STAGES focuses on the development of new works of musical theatre.  The new works, in staged-reading format, include:

» SONGS IN THE KEY OF TODAY

  A new topical review of songs written specifically for STAGES. Works include numbers by Martin Charnin, George Stiles & Anthony Drew, Wally Harper and Sherman Yellen, Owen Kalt and Elizabeth Doyle and many other writers. Friday 7:30pm, Sunday 4pm (a pre-show reception at 6:30pm will be held before Friday’s performance)

» GIRL DETECTIVE

  Murder is hard. Adolescence is harder. Casey Ames, a teenager
transplanted from New York City to a small town in Pennsylvania, is
obsessed with becoming a detective. This musical explores the full
spectrum of teenage angst.  (Saturday 1pm, Sunday 4pm)

» HUNGER

  This American drama reveals the true history of intrepid settlers
who head west to fulfill their dreams but encounter a nightmare
of challenges that test their faith, spirit and their very souls.

» ON THE BRINK

  When an aging grandfather is confronted by Death in the form of Mr. Brink, he thwarts Mr. Brink’s plans by trapping him up a tree. With Mr. Brink unable to do his duty, no one can die. Mr. Brink works through the grandfather’s family and friends to try and convince the old man to free him and to restore the natural order.

» OPENING DAY

  A troubled Vietnam vet living with his sister is visited by an army buddy who dredges up the memories of a mutual comrade lost in a battle they both survived. This moving drama explores the themes of guilt, forgiveness, love and how we survive our own personal histories. (Saturday 1pm, Sunday 4pm)

» SONG POEMS WANTED! THE MUSICAL

  Song poems are the vanity publishing side of the music  recording industry. The musical features dozens of actual song poems (such as Aliens Stole My Dog) and tells the stories of a song poem composer and the everyday people who submit
their poetry for “consideration”. (Saturday 4pm, Sunday 7pm)

Panel discussions (available to all ticket-holders)

Writing Theatre for Young Audiences – Saturday August 22nd 10:00 AM
Learn what elements make imaginative and engaging theatre for children. What are the special considerations and specific responsibilities in writing material for young audiences? Writers and producers who specialize in this audience share their experiences, trade secrets and vision for the craft.

Understanding Intellectual Property Rights – Sunday August 23 – 10:00 AM
Experts in the field will speak on the intricacies and legal  issues regarding adaptations, obtaining rights, paying for  the underlying rights and what is a reasonable fee. What is public domain?  Privacy laws regarding what you can and cannot use regarding real people and events in new works.

STAGES 2009 tickets are now on sale at the box office: 773-327-5252
and Ticketmaster 1-800-982-2787 (www.ticketmaster. com)

For more info, including personnel and performer’s names, ticket pricing, performance location, transportation, and interview possibilities for the press, click on “Read more”

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