ACT: a new podcast series with host Dawn A. Westbrook about the craft of acting, the art of directing and embracing the process

Dawn A. Westbrook

An entertaining weekly interview series with nationally known theatrical and television actors and directors with only three goals in mind: to listen to entertainers. to laugh. to be entertained.

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All Episodes

Frank Wood was raised in Boston, MA and he comes from a family of politicians. His father was a political scientist who served under the Lyndon Johnson administration and his sister, Maggie Hassan was the 81st Governor of New Hampshire from 2013-2017.  She was elected to the senate in 2016 and is a junior US Senator.His passion for theatre was ignited during his college days at Wesleyan University when he got to act in the Canterbury Tale Shepherd’s plays.  It was the challenge of the actor was not only the fun part, but it got me out of myself, in a kind of extravagant, self-parody, satire, falling down comedy, that made us reach out to the audience.  And that is the reason he is in theatre.“When my character says things that I can’t say in real life is not only why I love acting, but why I need it.”He’s a Tony award winning actor for his work as Gene in Warren Leight’s SIDEMAN which also won the Tony in 1999 for Best Play.  On Broadway he has appeared as Bill in AUGUST:  OSAGE COUNTY; Roy Cohn in Tony Kushner’s Pulizer Prize-winning play ANGELS IN AMERICA; the Night Clerk in O’Neill’s HUGHIE opposite Forest Whitaker.  He has appeared in numerous television shows such as: Mozart in the Jungle, Grey’s Anatomy, Law & Order SVU, Medium, and Modern Family; and films such as: JOKER, POLLACK, & MICHAEL CLAYTON. I loved talking about the acting process with the very talented and lovely man.  Enjoy!

Sep 2020

1 hr 13 min

Born in the small town of Lubbock, Texas, Steven Skybell knew at the age of 10 as Pavel the peasant boy in the local theatre version of Fiddler on the Roof that the stage was where he belonged.  A graduate of both Yale University's undergraduate and graduate theatre studies programs, in 1988 Steven stepped right off the stage at Yale Repertory and onto the boards at the Neil Simon Theatre for his broadway debut in Eugene O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness! Classically trained in Shakespeare, ironically Steven does not think of himself as a musical theatre performer. But to everyone else? His performance as Tevye in the Yiddish version of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF directed by Joel Grey is a tour de force and the performance of a lifetime.  The show was sold out and seen by celebrities and politicians such as Hillary Clinton, Hugh Jackman, Baryshnikov, Lin-Manuel Miranda (to name a few).The production won the 2019 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Revival, the 2019 Critics Circle Special Citation Award and Steven won the 2019 Lucille Lortel for Best Lead Actor in a Musical.  The show was the brain child of both Joel Gray and the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene's (NYTF) Artistic Director, Zalmen Mlotek.  Steven has appeared on broadway in shows such as, Love! Valour! Compassion!, WICKED, and The Full Monty.  He and his husband, Michael Cole (who is Stephen Schwartz's personal assistant), live a couple of hours north outside the city in a little town known as Mahopac, NY.  They have 2 children "fur babies" named MacKenzie and Caleb both are Blue Merle Australian Shepherds.  If you ever find yourself on the lake in this lovely little hamlet, you might even see Tevye slaloming across the wakes and doing some tricks.I will tell you that that Steven is as lovely to converse with as he is on stage.  Honest.  Charming.  Kind.  Funny.  Interesting.  He says the trick to acting is If the thought is clear then the actor's message will get across.  Steven Skybell is truly a very rich man!

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Sep 2020

1 hr 13 min

If you are like me, you've seen this week's guest more than you can even remember.  He's a face that has appeared on so many tv sitcoms, dramas and comedy specials it's impossible to name them all.  Born in Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY,  Brian is a true New Yorker.  He was an absolute delight to interview.  So funny.  So open.  So raunchy.  Did I mention raunchy?  As a stand-up comic, Brian has appeared on numerous television show to almost every comedy club to name a few, Dangerfield's, Caroline's Comedy Club, Stand Up NY, Comic Strip Live, Boston Comedy Club, Catch a Rising Star and the list goes on and on.  He has been on shows such as Grey's Anatomy, Dexter, Mad Men, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Conan, Bones, A Million Little Things, Castle and played Gordon in Three Sisters, Stuart Miller on Stacked with Pamela Anderson, and THAT list goes on and on.  His raspy, sexy voice has been used for commercials and video games such as Grand Theft Auto and Need for Speed.  A few years ago, during a stand up routine one of Brian's eyes started to go blurry and not soon after he was diagnosed with MS.  Needless to say with COVID, the lack of work for all entertainers as well as SAG's new health insurance minimum annual income being raised from $16,000/yr to $25,000/yr (in the year of a pandemic) Brian has had to find other means for making money.  He has started a fund me page on www.patreon.com/brianscolaro where those interested can enjoy his quick wit weekly for only $5.00 a MONTH!  And the clips are hysterical.  His new book How to Punch a Monkey can be purchased on Amazon for $12.99 and on Kindle for $9.99 and his new recording Then/Now can be purchased on iTunes.  All worth it. I know. I bought them all.  Donate if you can because Mr. Scolaro is worth every penny and much, much more!  I hope you enjoy this interview as much as we did doing it.  (EXPLICIT LANGUAGE and CONTENT)

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Aug 2020

1 hr 12 min

One of the most talented actors I have ever seen on stage, Dan Ruth is a true showman, a writer, a musician, an actor, a director and a friend.  A studied actor, the alcoholism that  trapped and spun him into a downward spiral was the one thing that miraculously turned his life around.  He singing voice is as powerful and passionate as Mandy Patinkin, his unrelenting comic timing will make your face hurt from laughing so hard, and his gut-wrenching personal tragic story about how he turned his life around are all a part of what make this man such an inspiration.  His show "A Life Behind Bars" has won numerous awards such as:  2018 Bistro Award for "Outstanding Solo Play," 2018 MAC Award for "Best Spoken Word Artist," 2018 Hollywood Fringe Festival Producer's Encore Award, the 2016 Best Autobiographical Show award at United Solo Festival and last but not least the 2018 Martha Hill Newell Playwright's Fund Award.  Dan's have a bar towel will travel attitude will put this ball-of-energy actor back on the road again with his tour de force as soon as this COVID-19 thing is over. "A Life Behind Bars" is the perfect show for any producer looking to get audiences running back into their theatre seats and experience just why live theatre is an electric, and enjoyable way to spend one's evening.   You can also find Dan on Instagram @danruthbkny ;  FB @danruthbkny ; OR Twitter @ danruthbkny.  His website is www.danruthbkny.com

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Aug 2020

1 hr 11 min

I'll let these famous people give comedian, Jeff Caldwell's intro:Dennis Miller - "This guy is incredible!"Craig Ferguson - "Very funny!"George Carlin - "Funny and Smart!"David Letterman - "Very, very funny!"Jeff is such an approachable person.  Kind to everyone, this comedian believes that humor is best when commonalities are found and that the stage is not a preferred platform for exclusions or bullying.  Known to other comedians as "The Stand Up Guy" - Jeff is JUST that.  During the podcast, we discuss the similarities of both stand up and comic acting.  In this career we all have to deal with disappointment, but when the Paramount and CBS sitcom that centers around you as the main character (and Bob Newhart as your dad) falls through, getting back up on the horse again is more than difficult.  His wife, Kathy who worked for Lorne Michaels grounds him and proves to be an excellent sounding board for jokes before he ever says them in front of an audience.  He has toured with Jon Stewart, and worked with Rosie O'Donnell and Lewis Black (to name a few and believe me ther are many more!)  When we stopped recording the episode, I asked what was for dinner.  Well, Jeff had eaten a tomato (from his garden) sandwich with Hellman's  before he logged on and I quickly challenged him that his next sandwich MUST be made with Duke's or he wasn't really living. I promised to send him a jar and Jeff, it's in the mail!I hope you enjoy Jeff's down-to-earth humor and the rapport he quickly establishes to anyone who is lucky enough to chat with him!  Keep up with this Jeff on FB, Twitter and Instagram so when this crazy quarantine is over...you can see him on the stage where he very definitely belongs!  

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Aug 2020

1 hr 12 min

I met Brad in 1981.  He was already a star in the theatre department at Virginia Commonwealth University and his commitment to the craft of acting was inspiring and unwavering even back then.  He is funny, kind and has become a master (and I don't use that word lightly) on how to manipulate the camera in your favor.  His studio in Santa Monica is called Brad's Class and I would give anything to be a student on a regular basis so much so that - I am "committed" to taking his on-line class.  (See the ACT FB page for more information and his reduced rates.)  He has worked with such greats as George C. Scott, Jack Lemmon, Elizabeth McGovern, Isabella Rossellini and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Turn on any tv show and you'll see his face, whether it's on Star Trek, Medium, Bones, Grimm or Cold Case, Brad is sure to creep you out.  LOL.  For actors in the business today, Brad reinforces during the interview, that it's all about submitting that perfect self-tape, and in order to do that the actor must be willing to draw the viewer in.  Because, he believes that film and tv is about personality with a touch of sensuality and very little movement, whereas the stage requires expressive skills such as big voices and loud gestures. (You'll hear his skill during the podcast when he gives us a sneak peak into his audition for the serial killer in CSI Miami.)  Its ridiculously creepy as his one simple movement towards the microphone transforms his voice into a vibratory resonance that stimulates both excitement and terror within seconds.  Brad is a thrill-seeker both in life and on the screen.  I loved catching up with Brad and I hope you enjoy your hour with "Mr. Horror" - the master of creating the movie monster!

Aug 2020

1 hr 6 min

Dr. Karen Turner Ward and I met back in 1983.  She was a force to be reckoned with back then and her energy and creativity still abounds.  She adds theatrical expertise, musical prowess, and a kind heart to every production she touches and every person she meets.  She has toured nationally with shows such as Mama Dee's Girls that she not only wrote but share the stage with the lovely Jennifer Holliday (who she has also written songs for under the non de plume K.T. Price!)  When she sent me some of her songs, I literally got goosebumps within the first 4 measures listening to a song called "A Love To Call My Own."  Karen has chaired the theatre department at Hampton University for over 37 years, a private historically black university that was founded in 1868 by both black and white leaders of the American Missionary Association after the American Civil War.  She is a published author, composer, actress, director, producer, has won numerous awards, chaired committees on leadership and strategic planning.  She has done all of this while playing her most important role, of single mother to her beautiful daughter, Jade who has followed in her Mama's footsteps and is making her mark in the world as an actress (she is beautiful), director and producer working with such greats as Troy Rowland Studios in LA.  On top of chairing the theatre department at Hampton University, Dr. Karen (as I call her) is in charge of all special events and ceremonies at the university where she has met President Obama and the late Honorable John Lewis.  I am honored that she said yes to talking with me and I hope you enjoy her as much as I did.  WOW...love this lady!

Jul 2020

1 hr 7 min

Jon Kretzu lives in the beautiful pacific northwest and a graduate of Cal State.  He bills himself as a director, dramaturge and journalist and is one of the busiest and energetic theatre directors in Portland, OR.  He has worked professionally all of the world and was the Associate Artistic Director at ART (Artist Repertory Theatre) for 20 years and directed over 50 shows.  His passion for music guides him towards his artistic vision for most of the plays, operas and musicals that he has the privilege to direct.  Working on various adaptations of classical works is one of his favorite past times having worked with some of the BEST in our profession: playwrights Tracey Letts (August Osage County), Richard Kramer (thirtysomething and Once and Again) and Joseph Fisher (Cupid and Psyche).  Talking shop with Jon was educational and lively. I hope you enjoy!

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Jul 2020

1 hr 14 min

I met Toney Q. Cobb in the mid 1990's and immediately fell in love with not only the actor, but the man himself.  As Toney says, he came to this career later in life and feels very blessed to have met some wonderful mentors and friends.  His work with the African American Repertory Theatre Company under the tutelage of the late Ernie McClintock and Richmonder, Derome Scott Smith were the most influential in his career as far as his acting career.  Jazz acting technique is a very fluid type process that brings each actor to moments of truth by taking them to honest RE-actions and feeding off of each other.  It's not improve, it's more like a jazz riff as the actors create music together during the course of the show.  Enjoy! 

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Jul 2020

59 min 31 sec

You know when you meet a woman that just changes the room the moment they step inside?  Well...that's Eva DeVirgilis!HER magazine named Eva's TEDxRVA presentation as one of the most inspirational talks in TEDx history and her one woman show IN MY CHAIR has taken her around the world.  She is an active member of the ACLU,  LGFB (Look Good Feel Better) and Safe Harbor.  Eva is not only a masterfully skilled actress, but she brilliant and benevolent.  She uses her gifts for the "better good" and infuses her positive energy and light with anyone in her presence.  My hour spent talking with Eva is probably one of the most electric and inspirational conversations I have ever experienced talking about theatre, women's rights, racism, self-help and beauty.  I hope you enjoy listening to this podcast as much as I did in the making of it.  Ladies and gentleman, I give you Eva!  (that's with a long E...!)

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Jul 2020

1 hr 12 min

Mark Delabarre and I became friends in the early 1980’s where we met at Virginia Commonwealth University. His gorgeous tenor voice, handsome face and height (I believe he is 6’4) caught my attention immediately.  He’s not only talented but just a lovely soul.  He has lived in NYC for about 30 years and made a living as late night comedian, model, television actor and if my memory serves me correctly gives a pretty mean back rub!  He took that talent and became a certified massage therapist so when “in between jobs” as we like to say in the theatre – it sounds better than unemployed – he has a steady job.  The Actor’s Fund helped him with funding - he tells us how tap into that opportunity.  Mark studied at Bada in Oxford (British American Drama Academy) with the master himself, James Barton who authored PLAYING SHAKESPEARE.  He was Will in the national tour of The Will Rogers Follies (that boy can rope!) and has some great advice for actors of all ages.  Enjoy!!!

Jun 2020

58 min 34 sec

I met Cliff Morts in the early 1990's at Mill Mountain Theatre.  He was playing the gentleman caller in A GLASS MENAGERIE.  What struck me immediately was the honesty and ease in which he delivered each line.  We later got to play on stage together (if only in a staged reading) and I realized that his honesty made me better.  He was just SO present and in the moment. Every moment.  That honesty has served him well as a television actor. As a coach, he tells his acting students "The stage is about acting, but film is about behavior."  Let that one sink in.  It makes a lot of sense.  He was lovely to interview and it was great catching up with such a successful friend.  Enjoy Cliff's readings of his own work in PRAYING SMALL at the beginning and the end of the podcast.  

Jun 2020

59 min 54 sec

I met this week’s guest back in 2015 when he designed sound for a show that I was directing at Richmond Triangle Players in Richmond Virginia.  He is now  Artistic Director of that theatre.  Lucian Restivo is a force to be reckoned with – he is a one man band and I don’t think there is anything in theatre that he cannot do.  Hiring him as the Artistic Director of Richmond Triangle Players was a brilliant move on their part before somebody else nabbed him up!  Last year in 2019 his award-winning production of The Laramie Project was not only gorgeous but Matthew Sheppard’s parents actually came to a special preview and he says this production will always hold a special place in his heart.  His win as director during last year’s ARTISIES was a moment the city of Richmond will never forget when he asked his love of his life, Luke Newsome to become his husband.  The Coronavirus epidemic and quarantine has put a hold on their nuptials but he guarantees me that it will happen as soon as possible once all of this is over.  Let’s don’t wait any longer – here’s Lucian. 

Jun 2020

43 min 3 sec

I met Michael Mastro in 1988 at the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain on the River Thames.  His stories about a life in the theatre over the last 39 years are both funny and insightful.  For me, it's stories like his hysterical broadway debut understudying Mario Cantone in Love! Valour! Compassion! to hearing Bernadette Peters sing "You Made Me Love You" TO HER DOG that makes Michael's life seem touched by an angel.  His stories paint a portrait of an actor whose both contagious laugh and gracious heart make him a gem to anyone who's lucky enough to find themselves in his presence - if only for a podcast hour.   (NOTE:  HBO Paterno with Al Pacino, Michael plays a family friend, NOT Joe Paterno's lawyer.)

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May 2020

1 hr

Week One is an introduction of ACT's host, Dawn A. Westbrook and what to expect in the coming weeks.  This week Dawn polled actors on the ACT Facebook Page.  "Ever heard the phrase "actors are the lowest on the totem pole?"  See what the listeners and fans had to say.

May 2020

11 min 53 sec