Category Archives: Triple Threat

Actor Wadih Dona’s Menace and Magnetism Earns International Renown

WADIH DONA HEAD SHOT3

Australian actor Wadih Dona’s career has been marked by an impressively steady progression of accomplishments. His natural cache of talent and classic theatrical training has earned him two decades of sustained professional success, not only on stage but also with numerous television and film jobs. Dona’s gift for creating fully realized, believable characterizations have landed him several very high-profile recurring roles on Australia’s top TV shows, but those successes are just a minor aspect of the driven actor’s ambition.

“I am interested in telling stories that resonate on a larger scale,” Dona said. “I have been in TV, film and theatre for many years in Australia, and I am interested in opening up avenues for international work. The US is a market that actors naturally gravitate to, and given my long list of credits, I felt ready to take it on.”

It didn’t take long for Dona to reach this goal. His portrayals utilize an impressive mixture of instinct, stagecraft and soulful, emotional intensity; Dona draws viewers in close, building an emotional bond which he deftly exploits for a powerful artistic impact. It was precisely this quality which led him to his first US film, 2016’s Septembers of Shiraz, playing alongside two of America’s biggest movie stars, Oscar winner Adrien Brody and the acclaimed lead actress Salma Hayek.

The film, a thriller set in 1979 Iran, was somewhat of a passion project for the two stars—both also served as producers—and it combines taut suspense and raw emotion into a compelling whole.

Septembers of Shiraz is an art house film, it’s an intimate family story, not an action blockbuster,” Dona said. “The film is an adaptation of the novel by Dalia Sofer, and is based on real life. It centers on a Jewish-Iranian family, played by Brody and Hayek, who are suddenly faced with persecution when the Iranian Revolution unfolds in 1979. Brody’s character is arrested, tortured and humiliated, and the film closely follows his ordeal and the fortitude he had to have to get through it.”

Dona’s personal background—the actor grew up in numerous European and Middle Eastern countries—and formidable resume of successful performances served him well when it came to Septembers of Shiraz.

“I knew Wayne Blair, the director, as we had worked together in a production of Othello for the most eminent Shakespeare company in Australia,” Dona said. “We had history, were good friends, so he trusted me and my work methodology—and vice versa.”

“He sent me the script, asked me to screen test and told me that the project would be cast out of the US, with Salma Hayek and Adrien Brody attached. Obviously, I did well because I got the part, but Wayne had no final say in the casting so it was good to know that I achieved it on my own merit.”

This was indeed the case, as executive producer Heidi Jo Markel said: “We were looking for an actor with gravitas, who could portray the menace of the Iranian Revolution. We knew we had our guy when we saw his fantastic screen test. Wadih is talented actor with incredible screen presence and the icing on the cake was that he was a pleasure to work with on the shoot.”

To develop his character (Rostam, a member of the infamous Revolutionary Guard) Dona focused on Markel’s watchword: “Menace. Rostam symbolizes the forces of chaos and anarchy within the Revolution,” Dona said. “I was cast because I can access those dark emotions quite easily. As a child I was exposed to civil wars and I knew those kind of men, I saw them—young men who suddenly had power, and they could do what they pleased with that power. When we were on set, carrying weapons and with the period uniforms, I was scared when I saw my own reflection in the mirror!”

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“Adrien Brody and Salma Hayek were both very personally invested in this story,” Dona said. “I had scenes with both, and each was a pleasure to work alongside, but I had more to do, plot wise, with Salma. In one scene, Rostam loots her house and there is an obvious sexual threat as well as one of underlying violence. We rehearsed this scene a few times and kept going deeper emotionally. She went into that dark emotionally territory with me so openly, we built rapport very quickly because of this. She was fantastic to work with—open, accessible and an absolutely gorgeous human being.”

When the film debuted at the prestigious Toronto Film Festival, Dona said, “It premiered there in the biggest cinema in Toronto, the Roy Thompson theatre, with 2,630 people watching. It was massive. I had never seen a cinema that size.”

A complex, thoughtful piece of filmmaking, Septembers of Shiraz was aptly described, by one critic, as “a germane and intelligent observation of the current global political climate in which the world’s ‘have-nots’ are rebelling against the party-political status quo.”

For Dona, it had even more significance. “It was a fantastic, enriching experience,” he said. “Personally, I think we made something quite beautiful and life affirming. And it has helped me leverage myself professionally to do more work. It’s a calling card of sorts for me now—people sit up and listen when I tell what I have done in this film. And, if I had to be selfish, I would say also that shooting a film with one of your friends directing and acting alongside Oscar award winning stars, well, that’s too not bad, either, is it?”

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Mariana Montes is bilingual triple threat in Too Many Tamales

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Actress Mariana Montes

For Mariana Montes, acting is more than a career choice: it is a chance to continuously grow as a person with each role she takes. She has conquered the stage both domestically and internationally, both in Spanish and English, both in comedy and drama. Whether it is as a small role or a leading lady, this versatile actress is doing what she loves, and giving audiences performances to remember.

Originally from Mexico City, Montes is completely bilingual in both English and Spanish. She has worked in successful plays, such as Second Chances directed by Connie St. John from No Weapon Productions, Oedipus Machina at the prestigious Odyssey Theater Ensemble directed by Ron Sossi, and starred in Uterine Affairs by French writer and director Celine Nyanga. Uterine Affairs was nominated as Best International Ensemble, and won for both Best Original Playwright, and the audience-favorite Encore Award at the Hollywood Fringe Festival last year.

Her Mexican heritage and love for language and travel is something she brings to her work as an actress. When starring in the play Too Many Tamales, she performed with The Bilingual Foundation of the Arts (BFA). The BFA has a 42-year history of commitment to all people in the greater Los Angeles area, presenting the finest Hispanic literary culture for both Spanish and English speaking audiences. BFA’s presence is an integral part of the Los Angeles cultural scene, and provides an added dimension of understanding between the diverse cultures of the area by emphasizing the similarities of the human condition, which serve to unite us.

“I am able to identify natural talent, and Mariana is one of those gifted artists, overflowing with beauty, charm and charisma,” said Cecilia Garcia, the Director of Too Many Tamales and the Artistic Manager at BFA.

Based on the story by Gary Soto, Too Many Tamales tells the story of the young girl Maria, who well helping her parents make the tamales for Christmas dinner, she sees her mother set her precious diamond ring to the side. Although only trying it on for a brief moment, Maria loses the ring. In a panic, she corners her favorite cousins, and the four of them secretly eat the 24 tamales in a goal to find the ring in the dough. After eating all the Christmas Eve dinner, Maria learns a lesson and witnesses a Christmas miracle.

Being in this production was fantastic. I was surrounded by a great team of professional actors. I thought it was going to be hard to work with kids but I was mistaken. They taught me a lot actually, and it was always fun to have them around,” said Montes.

Montes played Maria’s Aunt Rosa, a middle class hard-working woman who is dedicated to her family and brings the rest of the characters together. For Montes, who does not often get to play fun roles like Rosa, the change was welcome.

“Rosa is the perfect Latino mom who has everything under control. She knows about her niece’s secret, she can talk to the puppets but she is supportive about it because she once knew how to do it too, it’s a matter of faith,” said Montes.

While Too Many Tamales is a comedic musical, Montes typically is cast in dramatic roles. The actress is a true triple threat, as her acting, singing, and dancing abilities shine.

“Everything was full of charm and love. We did this show in Plaza De La Raza at Margo Albert Theatre that holds almost 300 people. It was amazing when we had full house and we could hear all the audience members singing our songs,” described Montes. “At the end of the play, we would invite them to come and join us for a final dance. It was great to see how much they love the show. I was sad when it was over. People would come to me and congratulate me and the rest of the cast for our performances and you can see how happy they all were.”

The true highlight of the experience for Montes was working alongside such a great cast and crew, saying they became a family from the experience. The production starred child actress Tiffany Galaviz, who was recently seen on television show The Voice: Kids, as well as Gloria Laino, known for the hit shows American Horror Story: Asylum and Weeds.

“Mariana is an incredible talented actress. I have had the opportunity to work with her in both film and theater, and I can tell you about her dedication and passion,” said Laino.

Too Many Tamales is a Christmas classic, but it is so much more than that. For Montes, the message the play communicates is extremely important, especially in the divided nation that we see today.

 It’s all about family and love. It’s a play that leaves you with the desire to communicate how much you love and care for your friends and family. It is a play about friendship, love, and tolerance between cultures,” concluded Montes.

 

A GUIDE TO PROPER AND IMPROPER VIEWING OF JAPAN

Artists are dangerous; not in a “hold you at gunpoint demanding your wallet or your life” kind of way but rather, they can be highly intelligent people who use their talent to sway both individual and mass opinion/sensibilities. If you upset a writer, they can compose something that addresses you in a subversive way. An actor might deliver the lines in a subliminal tone, guiding you to a feeling that might differ from what is instinctual for you. All that is needed is an Executive Producer to enable them to make it all happen. Combine all three of these with a slightly sarcastic comedic wit and timing and you’ll get Roger Bainbridge…the most interstin…err, dangerous man on Earth…well, at least in Canadian entertainment. Comedians and comic actors get away with saying and displaying some truly awful things by delivering them in a way that shines a light on their ridiculousness. Case in point; Bainbridge had seen many of his friends taken advantage of as unpaid interns. Not only did these people not receive monetary compensation for their toil but, they were quite often not treated with respect. As a writer and an actor with the resources to green light a film, Roger used his role as a part of the Canadian comedy group Tony Ho to create, produce, and present Japan. The film reveals the politics and disrespect (in a very funny way) of the modern office template.

Roger Bainbridge has worn a lot of hats in his career; writer, actor, music video director, executive producer, but he is most commonly associated with Tony Ho (the aforementioned Canadian comedy group). Tony Ho enjoys tackling ideas like threesomes (Wanda), dysfunctional family dynamics laced with time travel (Time), etc. No subject seems to eclectic for Tony Ho. Bainbridge was inspired to write Japan based on the shared office experience many of us have. He explains, “The impetus for writing Japan was seeing a lot of my friends being forced to take unpaid internships at places that really should have been paying them, and seeing how messed up the job market was at the time for people just getting out of school. From there I just thought about what might spurn a change of heart in someone in charge of the hiring. I worked briefly in an office where we did subtitling, so it wasn’t a really traditional office. Everyone had headphones on, pretty cut off from everyone else. No one really spoke to each other, it was all done through e­mail. So I guess I was just left with an impression of people being timid to go talk to anyone, which creates this awkward tension, and tension is really at the heart of comedy.” As the writer of Japan, Roger had the inspiration and the skill to conceive the notes of his comedic sonata and as the EP he could find and reserve the concert hall, he simply needed to proper “musicians” to perform the piece with the delivery and skill that would inspire his trust.

Tony Ho has been creating comedy for over a decade. You don’t stay in any relationship that long unless you have a deep caring and trust of the other(s) involved. Once he had conceived the idea for Japan and written the lines, Bainbridge immediately understood that Tony Ho were the best performers suited to make the film. The trio of Tony Ho has spent more than a decade creating and performing together both live and on screen. Roger refers to Adam Niebergall and Miguel Rivas as two of the funniest and most interesting performers he has ever worked with. Niebergall diverts praise to Bainbridge stating, “He’s a ‘taste maker’ and he’s incredibly compelling. I’ve spent a decade or so working with him in comedy and I still can’t ever see it coming. I’m amazed by Roger’s Vision. He has an unwavering integrity with his comedy. His work is so good because he is always asking himself what he would want to watch and he would never bother making anything that doesn’t pass that test. I think a lot of people write things with the mentality “Oh, this would be good; people are talking about this right now.” and a lot of times that type of thing can come off flat. You can tell when a comedy writer isn’t obsessed with her/his subject matter. Roger knows what he wants to say as a writer and for me that’s always much more compelling to pay attention to. He’s always one step ahead. He thrives on making people think about themselves and it really motivates his work.”

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With the writing of Japan completed and Tony Ho set to star in the film, Roger’s job as EP meant he would acquire the production team that would capture the action of Japan. Henry Sansom was the professional that Bainbridge entrusted to be seated behind the camera. DOP Sansom echoes Adam Niebergall’s sentiments, declaring,” In my experience, Roger Bainbridge is one of the most talented and disciplined minds in comedy in Toronto.   Not only an incredible actor dedicated to craft and context, he is a star writer of subtlety, relevance, and boldness. Without seeming too fellating, if there was only one artist I could work with for the rest of my career, and know that every project was able to reach the highest standard, that would be Roger Bainbridge.” Inspiring confidence in others is the template of Roger’s career, a worthy attribute for someone whom both creates and enables the filmmaking process. The fact that he is so adept at creating the storylines and situations that take place on camera might divert one’s attention from the fact that Bainbridge is such a respected an accomplished actor. A viewing of his many diverse roles and the temperament of his characters serves as a confirmation that he is truly in his element in front of the camera.

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Roger reveals the tone that he wanted for the action on film as he communicates, “In making Japan, we knew we were really pushing ourselves to make something more relatable in tone of comedy, pace, and look, so it was nice to have it be received so well by people who

have seen it. Our stuff can tend to be a bit more challenging, so this was a test to see if we could dip a toe in something a little more mainstream, and people seem to like it.” Centering on the stereotype that the Japanese culture is focused on workplace competition and Karaoke leads Miguel’s character to force Roger and Adam to compete in a sing-off with the winner being awarded a paid position for the company. While Sophie B Hawkins “I Wish I Was Your Lover” has never been so amusing, it’s the flashbacks and narration that empower the performances to have deeper laughs than simply the action might elicit on their own. Japan has a greater level of complexity in terms of the number of sets and number of cast members involved than many of the Tony Ho productions. There is a trait that enables Japan and the theme to be irreverent to the stereotypes that the general public often feels comfortable buying into. Bainbridge agrees, “I think Canadians have a unique take on comedy because we have the benefit of being influenced by both American and British comedy. The British style can be a great deal more subtle and satirical and American stuff can be so in-your-face and broad and angry. I think we have the ability to marry those two influences in an interesting way. I have never been to Japan, and that’s deliberately part of the humor of the piece for me. I like it when people feel like they completely understand a place by just gleaning bits and pieces of their culture as it’s been distorted through media. The larger joke is that these are ideas people may hold about Japan while not actually knowing anything about the place.” Bainbridge is currently in development for TV productions with Tony Ho. With successful comedy albums, his involvement heading films and music videos, Roger Bainbridge is equipped to bring the full package to the home viewing public.

Comedic Actress Jaclyn Fleming Takes The Stage At Manifold Hollywood Theatre Hot Spots

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Actress Jaclyn Fleming

The Los Angeles-based actress, Jaclyn Fleming, is a woman of immeasurable skill and talent. She’s the kind of person who’s been a performer since the day she could walk, and has now acted professionally for nine successful years.

After graduating from the renowned Second City Toronto, Fleming recently relocated from Canada to California in October of 2013, where she’s since worked on a number of shows. Her past and present credits span numerous media outlets and platforms, her most current work including heavy involvement with Tennessee Williams Improvised, The Second City Hollywood’s “Bubbelplast” and “Milk Tooth,” and Impro Studio Theatre’s “The Gauntlet” and “Netflix with Matt and Jack,” to name a few.

“I became involved with Impro Studios upon recommendation from Producer/Stage Manager Matthew Pitner,” Fleming said. The pair had previously studied at Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) together for improv acting, along with Paul Vonasek. “We had all come from a background of narrative and genre based improv and immediately felt a kinship.”

Fleming auditioned to be a part of an ongoing study for Tennessee Williams and an in-depth acting technique taught by the highly talented Brian Lohmann. From there, she relished the opportunity of doing several runs of Tennessee Williams Improvised, and has subsequently performed in the style for several independent shows at the Studio Theatre.

“The Gauntlet” and “Netflix with Matt and Jack” are two continuing shows that Fleming stars in at Impro Studio Theatre regularly. Produced by Matthew Pitner, “The Gauntlet” challenges Impro Main Company members to perform through a gauntlet of genres with performers from the studio.

“Jaclyn is truly a master of her craft,” Pitner recalled fondly of the performer. “As the nature of much of our work at theatre is transitory by nature, it is all the more reason why individuals like Jaclyn are so vitally important to the world. Her performances are highly praised by the community and inspire more support for the theatre as a whole, ranging from an increase in patrons to new students. The ways in which she has grown further confirms my belief that she belongs on the stage and screen and will have continued longevity throughout her career as an artist.”

Additionally, “Netflix with Matt and Jack” is an Impro Studio Theatre monthly show where Fleming and Pitner also come together in collaboration. “This show is raw and vulnerable for performers and audiences alike,” Fleming explained. “It is centered around building deep, emotionally-grounded relationships, all in the comforts of a faux apartment, while we watch Netflix. What comes out of it is moving and hilarious.”

Similar to her improv work with Impro Studio Theatre, Fleming has served as a valuable member of The Second City Hollywood since 2014. In 2015, Fleming was hand picked by Director, Writer, Actor, and Producer Dave Colan to be a part of Second City’s “Milk Tooth,” an ensemble made up of eight cast members who performed each Friday night.

“Jaclyn acted as a vital member and contributed beyond the regular expectations of the cast requirements,” said Colan of Fleming’s talents. “She brings depth, presence and life to the stage every time she performs.”

The cast rehearsed weekly, spending multiple hours building a solid ensemble that never failed to exceed audience’s expectations. After having been a part of ensemble driven performing in Toronto, Fleming’s move to The Second City Hollywood was a natural progression that led to an increase in viewership from outside theaters as well as the opportunity to perform in various festivals in the LA-area.

“I’ve been fortunate to have been asked to do “Cake Batter’s Funny Women Festival, which runs annually,” Fleming said. “The festival focuses specifically on women in comedy, in various categories.” Moreover, Fleming’s dabbled with musical improv as a part of “One Night Only” on several occasions, as well as participate as a frequent performer of the Venice Art Crawl, which takes place in Venice Beach, California a few times a year.

Post “Milk Tooth,” Fleming continued performing with The Second City Hollywood in her latest hit show “Bubbelplast,” produced by Celeste Pechous. Like “Milk Tooth,” “Bubbelplast” is also comprised of a hand picked, eight-person ensemble (Jaclyn Fleming, Molly Donnelly, Maya Gwynn, Jacob Sorling, Joshua Dickinson, Paul Heredia, David Anthony Luna, and Cassie Townsend) and includes a night of hilarious, Long Form improv at every show.

Together, the eight rehearse weekly where they are given the freedom to create. “We have some of the most energetic and physicals shows and rehearsals,” Fleming explained. “Working with the others within the ensemble constantly allows for me to grow. Each one of them has such a unique and amazing way of bringing life to the stage. I get to take lessons not only from what Celeste provides us as a director, but every time I watch each of them do something. Working in an ensemble reminds me that we are all in this together. It allows for me to let go and relinquish the need to be ‘perfect.’”

This encouraging space and experience has permitted Fleming to evolve and showcase her sought after talents, where she’s ultimately received a large amount of praise and recognition for her work. “‘Bubbelplast’ has allowed me to clearly show audiences my adeptness within the realms of physical comedy, musical improv and in-depth character work. I have received many compliments for bringing professionalism, my attention to detail, genuine emotional connection, and grounded performing to each show I am a part of,” Fleming stated. Not only has Fleming achieved recognition within the theatre community around Hollywood, her exposure via The Second City Hollywood has sparked the attention of several well-known directors who have pursued efforts of collaboration.

Currently, Fleming is in the process of diving into a bit of a different realm of comedic theatre acting. Set to begin production this summer is “Ginger Snaps,” a One Woman Show directed by Jamie Janek and staring Fleming. The show is a 50-minute staged comedic sketch play that tells the story of one Ginger and her life adventures thus far.

“I am so excited to be working on all of these projects,” said Fleming, elated. “I am getting the opportunity to work with some of the most gifted people in the country and to hone in on my skills as a performer. I am excited for what is to come of all of these endeavors and to see where they take me.”

 

For more information on Jaclyn Fleming, please visit:
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm7534064/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
http://www.secondcity.com/people/hollywood/jaclyn-fleming/
Follow Jaclyn on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JaclynFleming
Follow Jaclyn on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jaclynfleming13/

For more information regarding The Second City Hollywood, please visit:http://www.secondcity.com/hollywood/

To check out “Bubbelplast,” please visit:
http://www.secondcity.com/shows/hollywood/bubbelplast-boat/
http://www.laughstub.com/events/445900

Follow “Bubbelplast” on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bubbelplastsc
Follow “Bubbelplast” on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bubbelplastimprov/
Like “Bubbelplast” on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bubbelplast/

For more information regarding Impro Theatre and Impro Studio Theatre, please visit:
http://improtheatre.com/main-company-shows/
http://improtheatre.com/events/gauntlet/repeat_1465675200_1465678800_20_00/
http://improtheatre.com/events/twopro-2/repeat_1466112600_1466118000_21_30/
http://improtheatre.com/events/bearded-men-west/repeat_1465682400_1465687800_22_00/

Tate McRae: The Canadian Triple Threat to Watch

 

ChrisReillyPhotography
          Tate McRae shot by Chris Reilly Photography

The ultra talented Tate McRae is a dream for any casting director. The 12 year old Canadian actor possesses multiple skills; aside from acting as the character voice of Spot Splatter Splash on the popular Nickelodeon series Lalaloopsy, McRae is also a singer and professional dancer.

While watching dance classes at her mother’s studio early on in life McRae knew without a doubt that she had an infatuation for performing. By the time she was 6, McRae enrolled in her first ballet class. It didn’t take long for her to realize that dancing was something she had a God-given talent for; and, by the tender age of 8, McRae was absolutely captivated by dancing as she prepared to perform at her first Dance Nationals competition in New York City.

McRae has garnered much praise and attention for her mesmerizing abilities as a dancer including a slew of awards such as Mini Best Dancer at the Dance Awards in NYC in 2013 and the Silver Medal Solo Winner at the 2015 YAGP Finals in NYC.

In fact, McRae’s confidence in dancing and the sheer exposure it has brought her has been a huge factor in catapulting her career as an actress.

“I got into acting through my dancing and singing. I love musical theater and had to learn to develop characters for my songs. Then, the same day I got an agent I booked a job doing voice-overs for the show Lalaloopsy!” says McRae.

Lalaloopsy is an animated TV series on the Nickelodeon network and is based on the lives of a group of dolls living in Lalaloopsyland. McRae voiced the character Spot Splatter Splash for 17 episodes. The show’s success led to a few spin-off videos including Lalaloopsy Ponies: The Big Show (2014) and Lalaloopsy: Band Together (2015), in which McRae reprised her role as Spot.

“It is hard recording voice-overs. You are the only one in the recording booth and there are lots of people online from the states directing you. I usually got a 30-page script 1 to 2 days before we recorded, so you have to go through it and figure out how your expression is going to be,” says McRae.

McRae’s excitement and drive to perform voice-over work led her to play additional characters in other Lalaloopsy projects. She played Nutmeg in Lala-oopsies: A Sew Magical Tale (2013) and the role of Harmony in the Lalaloopsy DS Game, her favorite role to date.

Her experience on TV helped McRae land several other jobs including a Toyota commercial and music videos for the song ‘Rule the World’ by the band Walk off the Earth. You can check out her incredible dancing skills alongside dancer Myles Erlick in the WOTE music video below.

 

Working with big names in the dance industry such as Travis Wall from the Emmy award winning show So You Think You Can Dance, and famous choreographer Blake McGrath (Dance Moms, Dancelife) has greatly increased exposure in the entertainment industry for McRae.  Having such close friends with extensive connections, coupled with the triple threat talent she already possesses can only help broaden McRae’s opportunities in the future.

McRae continues to work on projects that incorporate her love of both dancing and singing along with acting, as well as focus more time on modeling and commercial work. She has already modeled for a few clothing lines such as Miss Behave Girls, Schatzi, and Capezio.