Emily Blunt Takes Us ‘Into the Woods’

For my second Backstage cover story, I sat down with Emily Blunt (at the Four Seasons New York, no less!) to chat about her work as the Baker’s Wife in the big screen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. It was truly one of the highlights of my 2014. In addition to the topics I was able to include in the article, we talked about how annoying it is that some high schools skip the musical’s second act, what project she’d like to tackle next – a Western! – and the embedded nerve she got from filming Edge of Tomorrow while wearing an 85-pound metal suit. She is every bit as charming and down-to-earth as you might imagine, and her performance in Into the Woods, as with all her other movies, is superb. Don’t miss it!

Emily Blunt on Backstage

Photo source: Matt Doyle

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Your Holiday Gift Guide: Theatre Books

‘Tis the season for gift giving! Not sure what to get your theater geek cousin? Your therapist? That boy you’ve been sort of seeing who says he likes your smile but refuses to have a “check-in” conversation and now you’re just sort of wading through a gray area relationship-wise? Fear no more! Over at TDF Stages, I wrote up a list of 12 theater-related books for the 12 days of Christmas/the postmodern holiday pastiche we’ve been lazily referring to as “Christmas.” It also doubles as my wish list. FYI. Happy Holidays!

Theatre Books

Your Holiday Gift Guide: Theatre Books

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Smart Reads: Jack Smart Edition #3

Bylines are not clickable on Backstage unfortunately, so these little updates are the best way to check out what I’ve been up to writing-wise. Do what I do when browsing a writer’s body of work: spend 4.3 seconds scanning for juicy buzzwords, and click what tickles your fancy. Here we go!

Michele Martin of NPR, Henry David Hwang, Lydia Diamond, Kristoffer Diaz

Photo source: Janice Yi/NPR

Michael Esper’s Inner Voyage on ‘The Last Ship’

So my very first Backstage cover story came out! I had the good fortune of sitting down with Michael Esper, star of Sting’s Broadway musical The Last Ship, to chat about his upbringing in the theater and his acting identity crisis. (This might seem like tooting my own horn, but hey, what are blogs for?) Everybody should go see the show – it’s a refreshingly original musical with a dazzling cast.

Michael Esper Backstage cover

Photo source: Matt Doyle

As the son of renowned acting coaches, Michael Esper spent his childhood immersed in the theater. He describes the influence of his parents, founders of the William Esper Studio, as “so massive. It probably can’t be overstated. Some of my earliest memories are watching my father’s productions of plays, watching my godfather play Hamlet’s ghost, watching my mom play Arkadina in ‘The Seagull,’ listening to actors do repetition exercises through the walls of the studio.” Esper is the first to acknowledge that having family in the business can be tricky. Was there an expectation, unspoken or otherwise, that he would continue their legacy?

 

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Turning an Elevator into an Entire World

Check out my TDF Stages article on Lift, a full-length play over at 59E59 that takes place entirely in an elevator! You might even feel uplifted reading it!!

LIFT

The cast of Walter Mosley’s “Lift”

Two days into rehearsals for Lift at 59E59, director John Marshall III got stuck in an elevator. Most people entombed in a metal box might feel alarmed, claustrophobic, or at the very least, concerned. Instead, Marshall was thrilled. “I think the people running the building probably thought I was crazy,” he says. “I’m like, ‘Don’t hurry, it’s ok! It’s great!’”

See, Lift is a full-length play by Walter Mosley in which a man and a woman are trapped in a broken elevator. This means two actors are confined to the same square of space for almost two hours: a challenge for any theatre director. “The elevator was essentially a third character in the play,” says Marshall, who last year mounted a production of the show at New Jersey’s Crossroads Theatre, where he serves as artistic director. Unable to rehearse on the set during its construction, actors stood on platforms and cubes, using any and every opportunity to simulate the feeling of entrapment. That’s why Marshall was so excited to have firsthand experience. “I was texting the actors,” he says of his elevator mishap. “I was on the bottom floor, and it wasn’t rocking. I don’t know if my confidence would’ve been quite the same if I had been twenty floors up in the air. But I was really having fun.”

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Smart Pick of the Day: T-Pain’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert

Wow.

I have long been a fan of the great T-Pain, king of auto-tune and creator of the best song no one’s ever heard of. But for some reason it never occurred to me that the guy could actually sing:

Yeah. All the hairs on my arm are sticking straight up too.

I guess I assumed – I’m sorry, T-Pain, truly I am – that the use of auto-tune has always been a bit of a crux. Now it seems auto-tune was just the guy’s thing, a branding method. This performance at NPR Music’s tiniest of desks was, from what I understand, completely unplanned. So T-Pain has accidentally set the internet on fire with the grand epiphany of his gorgeous, soulful voice, and must now face the question: why not try getting rid of the auto-tune altogether? What if T-Pain were to re-brand?? He could fill the hole in the pop music industry that douchebag Cee-Lo left behind!