News: I am directing “Now the Cats With Jewelled Claws” by Tennessee Williams

I am very excited to announce that this fall I will be directing one of Tennessee Williams most wildly creative plays, Now The Cats With Jewelled Claws. The production will be premiering at the 6th Annual Provincetown Tennessee William Festival, September 22-25, 2011, before opening the 50th Anniversary Season at The Club at LaMaMa ETC, for a run from October 27-November 6, 2011.

The opening stage directions read “A luncheon table at the window of a restaurant. Outside the window, there is a deserted street, with the marquee of a cinema visible. The feature playing at the cinema is Defiance of Decency, which is followed by four stars.” Conversations in a restaurant between two socialite women friends, a roughed up pregnant waitress, two young gay hustlers with pink leather jackets emblazoned with “The Mystic Rose”, and a lecherous, prophetic restaurant manager. Apocalyptic, funny, musical, physical, wild, futuristic, shamanistic.

I hope to have some exciting casting announcements soon.

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Interview: Christine Ebersole

A gay icon. So supreme, the very finest. Faaaabulous! All of those would be apt descriptions of Christine Ebersole. Or how about “one of those talents that comes along just a handful of times every generation”, which I wrote after seeing her in cabaret for the first time nearly 10 years ago, something she proved in spades in her Tony-winning turn in the Broadway musical Grey Gardens.

Now, for the third year in a row, she is doing a cabaret act at the chic Cafe Carlyle, and you absolutely, positively must see it; I’m simply not giving you any other option. First off, Christine is working again with the magnificent musical director John Oddo, like she did last year at the Carlyle. Oddo was also musical director for the late, great Rosemary Clooney and he worked with jazz legends like Woody Herman. This also finds her reuniting with director Scott Wittman, who has his own Tony for co-writing the score of Hairspray. I caught up with Christine for a few words as she prepares for the new show.

This will be your third year – is this your new permanent slot at the Carlyle?

I don’t know, but I’m hoping. Three years in a row! Always at the beginning of the year, I think this is the earliest it’s been. It’s a completely new show, about finding eternal youth. Through the Great American Songbook. [Laughs.] Evergreens, yes, and selections from Grey Gardens. I can’t say much more: How do we say what is there without giving it away? I’d rather have people be surprised!

You’re working with Oddo and Wittman again, are you three settling into a groove with your process?

I go way back with Scott, I’ve worked with him since 1996. We did our first club act then, which was recorded as Live at the Cinegrill and even before that, as far back as 1980, I’d worked with Scott and his partner Marc Shaiman. So with Scott there’s an unwritten communication. The way we understand each other is almost like clairvoyance, it’s weird. And John is the same kind of thing, musically we’re just so “in the pocket”. Our sensibility is very similar. It’s a great team. You keep thinking, “Oh Jesus, I can’t top anything.” You know what I mean? And you can’t. I have to remind myself not to make the mistake of trying to compare it. Each one is its own animal. After this year, I don’t know what’s left! [Laughs.] But then again I felt that going into this. The creative process is a strange bird; once you’re in it, it’s amazing how these things will come to you.

So when we first met you let me know that you wanted to become a gay icon. I think since then you’ve earned that status in spades, but do you feel like a gay icon?

[Laughs heartily.] Yeah, but it’s never enough you know, I’m always working on improving my gay icon status.

Have you got anything else coming up?

Yes, something very exciting. A TV show that I’ve been working on with George Segal, Jessica Walters and Jonathan McClain called Retired at 35 for TVLand as a companion to Hot in Cleveland premieres January 19. I have a recurring role, they’ve shot ten episodes so far, I’m in five of them. A very funny show, so well written!

For tickets, click here.

Interview: Bruce Vilanch

Bruce Vilanch will be playing two nights, January 11 & 12, at Feinstein’s at the Regency in his new one-man show “Writer on the Verge”. We thought we’d call him up to see what the show’s all about. Even as he picked up the phone, he was already chuckling and cracking wise: “Is this the Gay Socialite? Any questions? Fire away!”

So, is “Writer on the Verge” all-new?

It is! It’s been a a long time since I’ve done anything in New York. When I’m in the city I tend to do benefits galore and emcee things. So I’m pretty sure all my material will be new to the city. I haven’t done a real show in New York for 10 years unless I’m forgetting something. I was at Westbeth for three months but that was almost 11 years ago. There have been many more Oscar broadcasts since then and many more things to tell stories about.

You’re going to be play Feinstein’s; will there be any singing?

I don’t think so; if I get the piano player of my dreams, I will sing, I’ve got some material. But to be there and to sing, to stand there in the shadow of so many incredible singers, just because it’s a cabaret…I don’t think when Jackie Mason played there he broke into song.

No, nor Joan Collins, and her show was terrific.

[Laughs.] She didn’t? I thought that was the whole idea. So she just told stories, right? That’s interesting too, and of course my life is so much more glamorous than hers. [Laughs.]

Yeah, Mitzi Gaynor sang a couple songs, but her show was also mostly stories.

In the ballroom, right? That’s the big time. I’m in the cabaret, where I’ve been a regular, which I actually love. I worked with Mitzi recently, when she was coming out of her shell — if you can ever believe she was in one. We did an on-stage Q&A in San Francisco, and of course what I learned is you ask Mitzi one question and she goes into material from her act, of which there is no shortage. It’s hysterical and wonderful. I think getting back out there and doing that stuff encouraged her to do a regular evening.

What do you think of the state of gay’s in today’s comedy?

I think we rule! It’s ironic on TV certainly the big hit is Modern Family and because of Modern Family there are half a dozen shows in the hopper for next year about “blended” families of different kinds and they all have a gay element in them. So success breeds a lot — this is the logical extension of Will & Grace and Ellen DeGeneres. In television there’s quite a lot of it. In general I think we’re going through a transitional period. Now that we’re visible, we’re showing different textures, a character isn’t just a gay character. He’s not in the script because he’s gay, writers are now being given freedom to discover layers in gay characters.

And you are acting in a new gay themed film comedy Oy Vey My Son is Gay.

Which is opening Friday in Miami. Miami Beach at last! I’m in Tampa right now and I’m going to go down there for the “gala” opening, “gala” that’s hysterical. It’s been released “on a platform,” opening in different markets one after the other. It’s been opening around the country on different dates. That’s a fun thing because you get reviewed at least once a week by some new person in another newspaper. It’s like the death of a thousand cuts. [Laughs.] But it’s a very funny movie, an old school comedy, about the older generation getting hit by a trifecta: their sons are gay, getting married and adopting a baby. What makes it so funny is the older Jewish parents are played by Lainie Kazan and Saul Rubinek, with Carmen Electra as “the beard next door,” and the cast just goes on like that.

For tickets, click here.