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Friday, May 2, 2014

Groovy Guy of the Month: Jeremy Scott Blaustein



This month's Groovy Guy is Jeremy Scott Blaustein, a Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle-nominated producer of the 2011 Broadway musical, Bonnie and Clyde. During his four years with Jeffrey Richards Associates, he also helped to produce such shows as the 2008 Tony Award-winning play, August: Osage County, Blithe Spirit (with Angela Lansbury), the 2009 Tony Award-winning revival of Hair, All About Me (with Dame Edna and Michael Feinstein), A Life in the Theatre (with Patrick Stewart), Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and The Merchant of Venice (with Al Pacino). As an actor, Jeremy had the pleasure of dancing with Sandy Duncan in a 2006 Barrington Stage Company production of Mame. And now this talented young man has written his first novel, The Home for Wayward Ladies, which will be released by Dress Circle Publishing on May 20.

I am delighted to have the fabulous Mr. Blaustein here on the Dish to answer a few questions about his book and, of course, pop culture.

Tell me about The Home for Wayward Ladies. What inspired you to write it?
The Home for Wayward Ladies is the literary fetus I’ve been pregnant with for nearly a decade. It’s about three best friends who can’t live without each other - although not for lack of trying. They’ve recently moved to Manhattan after having graduated from conservatory and think they’re poised to take the world by storm. Naturally, they’re mistaken.

I was inspired to write the piece by the relationship I have with my own best friends. Back in college, the three of us formed a “society” of sorts. We called ourselves the Ladyfriends and trolled around campus like we were the Pink Ladies. We were fabulous, we were fun, and - as it turns out- we were worthy of novelization!

The way the book came about was - a few years ago I accidentally fell in love with an awful prick who was threatened by my writing (I’ve never been shy about the subject of smoking pole). So, while we were together, I foolishly gave up the pen. Well, when I finally came to my senses and we broke up — two years later — I sat down at my computer and a novel came out of me like I’d just popped some Dulcolax. This project had been pent up inside of me for so long. It was a story I simply had to tell.

Did you always want to work in the theater? And what was the most memorable moment you had as an actor?
Yes, I did always want to work in the theater. There’s actually a passage in The Home for Wayward Ladies about how, as a child, one of the characters put on shows in his mother’s closet while standing on an upside-down hamper as if it were his stage. Well, I totally did that. In truth, I was painfully shy. Theater was a chance for me to step outside of that self-imposed silence. And I wasn’t bad at it. Apparently I was destined to be an attention whore.

I’d have to say that the most memorable moment for me happened when I was working in a theater in Michigan one summer. I actually wasn’t acting in that one; they’d assigned me to be the run-crew chief for the opera, Così fan tutte, which I think is Italian for, “You can nap until the scene change.” At the show’s climax — and I use that term loosely — the lead character claps his hands to summon a banquet. Me and my friend, dressed as servants, were supposed to run out carrying this long banquet table with ten place settings and put it at center stage. At the closing performance, however, the leg of the table got caught on the hem of my friend’s dress. As she struggled to free herself, the whole thing flipped over. The audience gasped. The ten place settings shattered. There was glass all over the stage. The leads in the opera just stood there in their powdered wigs staring at me (because opera singers don’t know how to ad-lib).

So, I did what I had to do: I looked at my friend, looked at the actors, looked back at my friend, shrugged my shoulders, left the stage, got a push broom, swept all the glass into the wings, got a stack of Dixie cups from the water cooler, threw them on the table at center stage, then turned to the audience and took a bow. I got a huge hand. The opera singers were furious; it was, without a doubt, the most entertaining part of the show.

What was the most memorable moment you had while working on Broadway?
There were a lot of truly magical things that happened to me on Broadway, and I’m sure I’ll write a book about them as soon as the statute of limitations expires. In the meanwhile, I’ll never forget this gem:

For reasons unbeknownst to me, my boss asked me to present a live goldfish to Christine Ebersole before a technical rehearsal of Blithe Spirit. I was given the assignment thirty minutes before the fish had to be handed to her onstage at the Shubert Theater. So, I ran to the pet shop and bought the first goldfish I saw and everything she’d need to keep him alive - bowl, gravel, food, a treasure chest to swim around.

When I got to the Shubert Theater, I scurried down to the men’s room in the basement to slop the fish into its bowl. The speedy process must have mortified the little fucker because he seized up. He wasn’t dead, but he certainly wasn’t swimming. I didn’t have time to care. No sooner had I finished then was I called to the stage. All of the actors were sitting in their costumes wondering why the fuck my boss, their producer, so desperately needed to talk to them.

I walked slowly down the aisle of the theater and up the escape stairs to the stage so as not to spill him. I stepped over the footlights and handed the fish to Ms. Ebersole. She was appropriately bemused. But when she tapped her fingernail on the glass, the fish didn’t rouse from his coma. The rest of the cast smiled cordially. Except Rupert Everett. He took one look at the fish and then back at me before remarking, “What did you do to that fish? He looks like he’s going to have a heart attack!”

I laughed nervously and took my leave. But on my way into the wings, Angela Lansbury reached out and took my hand. “It’s nice to see you, Jeremy,” she said. Um, Mrs. Potts totally knew my name. I was in heaven. Consequently, that fish would meet me there a few hours later.

If you could go back in time and see any Broadway show, which one would you choose and why?
Candide, 1956. The original production of this soaring musical starring Barbara Cook with a score by Leonard Bernstein only ran for 73 performances. Since then, it has often been revived, but never with its original book. The show was penned by The Little Foxes scribe, Lillian Hellman, who was so dissatisfied with her own work (or perhaps the reception to her work) that she banned the use of her script for any future productions. I would need a time machine to hear that show the way it was originally written.

What are three of your favorite books?
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith: the ultimate coming-of-age novel with a kitchen sink plot that makes you feel like you’re a part of the family by its third page.

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann: Who doesn’t love a good piece of pop-lit trash? This novel paved the way. My own characters in The Home for Wayward Ladies couldn’t dare be such raucous sluts without a tip of the hat to the original masterpiece.

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan: The triumph of the human spirit with prose that practically drips off the page. Sensationally constructed and delivered. The first time I read it, I had to put it down several times to remind myself to breathe.

What are three of your favorite films?
The Green Mile: A beautiful, epic film that successfully combines a multitude of genres. It is as charming as it is grotesque - and all of the actors are at the top of their game. I love when a movie says, “Sit down - I’m going to tell you a story,” and then delivers.

The Wizard of Oz: This movie taught me to dream in Technicolor. Need I say more?

Terms of Endearment: I watch this every time I need to drain my sinuses. Shirley MacLaine plays Aurora Greenway so broad that it nearly borders on camp, but then masterfully never crosses that line. That’s how I aim to live each and every day, darlings!

What are your three favorite TV shows of all time?
Jeopardy!: I used to watch this with my great-grandmother. Now I’m the one who’s tucking tissues up the sleeve of my cardigan and shouting answers (in the form of a question) at the TV. Also, I’m becoming convinced that Alex Trebek is bionic.

The Simpsons: It’s hard to believe that I’ve been watching this show for 25 years. Honestly, it’s hard to believe that I was allowed to watch this show 25 years ago. A lot of my friend’s parents wouldn’t let their kids watch it when it first aired - it was considered pretty racy for a six-year-old. My parents didn’t give a shit. I guess they were just like, “You want me to make popcorn?”

Downton Abbey: Girls fighting over boys while wearing pretty dresses in an expensive house full of hot servants? It’s practically a pre-requisite for someone who would write a book called The Home for Wayward Ladies.

If you were asked to choose the Sexiest Man Alive, whom would you select?
There are practically too many to count, but in my heart of hearts, I’ll always hold a candle for Jonathan Taylor Thomas. JTT may be out of sight, but he’s certainly not out of mind.

If you could have anyone in the world - living or dead - be a guest at your dinner party, what three people would you invite?
Liza Minnelli, Harvey Fierstein and John Waters. If you haven’t noticed, I have a thing for people who know how to tell a story.

What's next for Jeremy Scott Blaustein?
The Home for Wayward Ladies: Part II, naturally.

Thank you, Jeremy, for being such a groovy guy!

To learn more about Mr. Blaustein, follow him on Twitter and Facebook. His novel, The Home for Wayward Ladies, will be available on May 20 in paperback and eBook on Amazon - and for more information, go to www.dresscirclepublishing.com.

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