Tag Archives: Theater

Dancer Nick Phillips Embraces The Thrill Of Performing Live With Legends

No matter how many times he crosses the boards on stage or hits his mark in front of a camera, nerves and adrenaline are expected and even welcomed in the life of a performer. Still, as dancer Nick Phillips knows first-hand, some extraordinary career experiences go beyond normal nerves and excitement, especially at the start. Performing on stage with Oscar-winning actress Hayley Mills has been one such highlight for Phillips.

“To be honest I was incredibly nervous the first time we rehearsed,” recalls Phillips, “but [Mills] was so lovely and supportive the nerves subsided very quickly and by performance time I felt very comfortable and relaxed.”

Legends, which toured Australia in 2015 is a comedy starring Mills and her sister Juliet Mills as two rival film stars. Phillips, an in-demand dancer from Melbourne, stepped into the role of Boom Boom Johnson, a high-energy part that called upon Phillips’ remarkable versatility. He had to dance, perform acrobatics, beatbox, rap, and deliver dialog with comedic timing that held its own opposite two veteran actresses.

Nick Phillips, Photo by Jackson Ross

“To work with [the Mills sisters] was truly a privilege. I learned a lot from them about performance stamina– they were able to hold the audience’s attention for two hours while on stage practically the whole time.”

To wow a seasoned actress like Hayley Mills, is surely a noteworthy accomplishment. However, that’s exactly what Phillips achieved when he took on this character with the cheerful enthusiasm of one who lives for the challenge of live performance.

“When he had to step in and fill the breach left by a fellow actor,” remembers Mills, “he did so with alacrity and total professionalism, was word perfect, and danced brilliantly– we were all thrilled by his performance and very impressed.”

High praise aside, touring a show can be grueling. According to Phillips, traveling between cities is frequently lonely and it is common to experience some homesickness. Not to mention, the challenge of keeping the show fresh.

“When you’re doing eight shows a week, it can be hard to give the same high energy performance every night, especially with a character like Boom Boom,” says Phillips. “It can also take quite the toll on your body. I had to make sure I was always warmed up properly.”

Fortunately, a well-trained professional is accustomed to hard work. Phillips, who has gone from a young breakdancer with a relatively late start in any formal dance training to a sought-after performer for stage, television and commercial events, has shown great mastery of both the physical and mental challenges of the work. This natural ability may have much to do with his attitude.

“[Phillips] is a great company member, being positive and enthusiastic,” says Mills, “qualities that enhance the experience for everyone.”

Australian Dancer, Actor Nick Phillips

Though playing a very specific role as opposed to performing in an ensemble was different for Phillips he looks forward to tackling more roles that stretch him as a dancer and performer. And, though he loves the accessibility and experience of film and television, he enjoys the unpredictable response and instant validation of live performances like the one he gave in Legends.

“My favorite part was most definitely the surprise element. From the moment Boom Boom first storms onstage to the firing of his confetti-filled gun before he busts into a strip dance, the audience reactions are absolutely priceless.”

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Canadian Actress Lisa Jai Stars in the Upcoming Film “Runaway Dream”

Lisa Jai as Birdie in "What of the Night?" at the Vagrancy in Los Angeles
   Lisa Jai as Birdie in “What of the Night?” at the Vagrancy in Los Angeles

Audiences across the world know the work of internationally acclaimed actress Lisa Jai. With an impressive career that has spanned more than two decades, viewers old and young have had a lot of opportunities to see Jai’s diverse talents on the screen in everything from the hit television shows Barbar, Rupert and The Magic School Bus, to the films Balance of Power, Creed and Lost Angels.

Jai recently finished filming Runaway Dream, a film about two Hollywood transplants who get a whole lot more than they bargained for when they make the move to tinsel town with stars in their eyes.

Directed by award-winning cinematographer Daniel Abreu, Runaway Dream stars Jai in the role of Linn, and Vivian Ahn (Sisters, Inside Carly, Trail Mix, Lost Angels, Henry Danger) as Jess.

Jai says, “It is a story of the length’s people could go to when in need of more money than they are earning and what happens to someone when they have lost sight of their dream.”

A sad tale with an unpredictable twist, Runaway Dream follows Jai’s character Linn, a down and out aspiring actress who works as a maid to make ends meet. When things don’t pan out as Linn hoped, desperation leads her to hatch a plan to rob the home of an ex-boss who she believes is out of town—a move that leaves her in circumstances that are far more dire than those she faced before.

The film is currently in post-production and is scheduled for release later this year. Originally from Sweden, director Daniel Abreu received the Best Cinematographer Award for his film James & Quinn from the Sherry Theater’s 120Hour film fest, a prestigious festival run by Scott Haze (Star of Child of God directed by James Franco) and Jim Parrick (True Blood).

“Lisa is a dream to work with, she’s captivating onscreen – a gifted talent,” says Abreu. “She’s improved me as a filmmaker, truly.”

It is not surprising that Abreu says Jai’s contributions to the film improved him as a filmmaker considering the actress’s longstanding position in the industry as both a performer and a producer.

When she first rose to fame as an actress she was barely 4-years-old– an age where it is difficult for a person to be unequivocally dedicated to one thing. For the following decade Jai continued to land starring roles in a long list of international television shows and blockbuster films, as well as innumerable commercials for brands including Hasbro, Ocean Spray, Hallmark cards, Charmin, Ivory soap, Tang, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonalds and more.

While many children dream of becoming stars on the screen, the spotlight wasn’t always an easy thing to handle.

Jai recalls, “I was being teased at school and bullied for being on television. I was accused of being a show off and also keeping up with schoolwork caused a lot of tension with teachers.”

Despite the difficulties, the foundation Jai laid for herself as a performer in the entertainment industry in her early childhood definitely helped make her the incredible actress she is today.

“I worked a lot for the Canadian Broadcast Company. I was a guest regular on the children show Mr. Dressup where I had to sing and worked alongside puppeteers,” explains Jai. “We would tape live so that truly taught me how to think on my feet as an actress; plus having dialogue with puppets and making that ‘relationship’ believable to the audience only bettered my craft — like, there I was, staring into a pair of man made paper-mache eyes having a conversation: can you imagine?”

Naturally, as Jai transitioned into adulthood, it took a few years for her to affirm her individuality as a person outside of the spotlight, and really discover what it was that she wanted to do with the rest of her life.

She says “Even after trying to quit and go to University so I could get a ‘real job,’ I missed acting so much, even at its roughest points… That’s how I know it’s my true passion and chosen profession. I love it too much.”

After returning to show biz a few years later, Jai realized that her love for performing extended beyond the film and television industry alone. She was immediately recognized for talents on stage going on to land starring role after starring role.

When it comes to acting in comedies in the theater, Jai says, “I love hearing peoples laughter; there’s a joy in bringing smiles to the faces of others.”

She adds, “On stage you’re not limited by being out of frame if you move too much…. as long as the true feeling is there, you can justify every move – use up the whole stage.”

Last year she gave a riveting performance in the leading roles of Birdie and Wang in the Pulitzer-Prize Nominated play “What of the Night?” written by Cuban-American playwright Maria Irene Fornes. The play, which was staged at the Vagrancy Theatre in Los Angeles and directed by Caitlin Hart, was just another opportunity for Jai to showcase her unparalleled talents on stage. The production was so well received that it garnered a prestigious Ovation Recommendation from LA Stage Alliance in 2014.

In addition to “What of the Night?,” the actress has also led several other productions to success with her unforgettable performances as Fiona in “99 Ways to F*ck a Swan,” Masha in Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” at the Irene Gilbert Theater, Ruth in Timothy McNeil’s “Dead Pussy,” Mrs. Banks in Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park,” Titus in “Titus Andronicus,” Kate Keller in “All My Sons” and many more.

Out of all of the characters she has played on the stage, Jai notes her role as Isela Sanchez from Lynn Manning’s play “The Unrequited: A Tale Between Two Worlds,” which was directed by Shishir Kurup and staged at the Cornerstone Theater in 2011, as her favorite to date.

The production followed Jai’s character Isela, a young woman living in a wheelchair due to Polio during the 40’s in LA, as she prepares to marry a man she doesn’t love; and the mysterious events that arise to keep her from betraying the soul of the man to whom her heart is truly devoted.

Today Jai has established a a glowing reputation for her ability to touch audiences emotionally through her portrayal of characters across genres on both the screen and stage; and with several upcoming projects in the works, and the release of Runaway Dream slated for later this year, there is literally no stopping her.

Alex Luukkonen, A Phenom of the Stage!

Alex Luukkonen
                                                          Alex Luukkonen shot by Bryan Wriggle

A great actor is more than an entertainer, more than an artist, more than the sum of their roles. A great actor has a rare form of empathy—he or she is a student of humanity, a philosopher who uses their understanding of the world and the people in it to become somebody else, even it is only for a little while. Originally from Finland, actor Alex Luukkonen has spent his entire life traveling the world, meeting people from Scandinavia to Japan, China to L.A., Poland to London. He has used his worldly experience to become a master of his craft, and in so doing he has worked alongside visionaries of both stage and screen.

In Slavs!, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner (Angels in America), Luukkonen plays the lead role of Yegor Tremens Rodent. Set during the collapse of the Soviet Union, Slavs! explores love and loss in a rapidly crumbling empire, examining the lives of characters who are suffering from radiation poisoning caused by the USSR’s nuclear programs. Rodent (Alex Lukkonen) is a bureaucrat dispatched to Siberia, where he bears witness to the agony of a family torn apart by the effects of the radioactive waste left behind by the brutal communist regime, which has neither the resources nor the will to protect its own people.

In the Clifford Odets’ 1935 classic Waiting for Lefty, Luukkonen took on the role of Miller, a lab assistant who grapples with the moral issues of a promotion he is asked to accept. The new job would see Miller working with, and secretly spying on, a chemist who is designing a new chemical weapon for the imminent war in Europe. Having lost family in World War I, Miller refuses to become involved in what he views as a wholly unethical project. The production of Waiting for Lefty was directed by Academy Award-winning director Milton Justice (Down and Out in America) and staged in Los Angeles.

“In Lefty, I played Miller, an honest to-a-fault researcher who loses his job due to refusing to compromise on his principles,” Luukkonen said, lending his personal insight to a character with whom he became intimately familiar.

Out of all his work though, Luukkonen’s stage presence shined through with unseen magnetism during his performance as Inspector Ruffing, the lead in Ravenscroft, written by Don Nigro and directed by May Quigley (Murder C.O.D., Picture Perfect). The play, which was adapted into the 1999 hit The Manor, is an Agatha Christie-esque comedic mystery. Luukkonen’s character is dispatched to the Ravenscroft manor to investigate a murder at the secluded mansion.

“Inspector Ruffing is a sure-of-himself Sherlock Holmes-type detective who comes to the Ravenscroft manor to investigate an apparent murder,” Luukkonen said of the character, joking that the character’s impressive investigatory skills are dulled by drinking as the play unfolds. “Throughout the investigation, his sureness in his own instincts slips from him at the same rate as his sobriety does.”

After his arrival at the Ravenscroft manor, Ruffing begins to examine the mysterious death of a man who suspiciously fell headfirst down a flight of stairs. Surrounded by a group of five femme fatales, each of whom is a suspect in the death with their own motives, Ruffing begins to dig through the facts in a story that leaves the audience in suspense until the very last minute.

The intercontinental phenom’s talents on stage are just one facet of his incredibly diverse creative skillset, and his ever-growing repertoire of roles has ensured his place in the zeitgeist across cultural and national boundaries.

From the Stage to the Screen, Actress Maria Bosque Wows Audiences!

Maria Bosque in "The Seagull"
                                                                           Maria Bosque in “The Seagull”

Originally from Mexico City, Mexico, Maria Bosque is an actress whose extraordinary range and versatile look has put her front and center as a go-to talent for film and theater productions in both Latin America and the United States.

Over the course of her career Maria has landed starring roles in the films Ellas, Solo Yo, Final Test, Oh Jesus and many more. In her most recent film, Oh Jesus, Maria Bosque touches the hearts of international audiences in the role of Violet, a young woman who is made to feel shame over her homosexuality. Riddled with theological and sci-fi influences, Oh Jesus follows Violet on a journey spearheaded by a chance encounter with Jesus who leads her back in time in order to decipher and repair the ill-fated event that brought about her homosexuality. However during her journey with Jesus, Violet discovers something much more valuable than the anecdote for her homosexuality– self-love and acceptance. After realizing that she cannot spend her entire life running away from herself and her problems, Violet comes out of the closet with confidence professing her true feelings for the girl she is in love with.

A film with a powerful message for audiences across the world regardless of their individual sexuality, Maria Bosque brought Violet’s struggle to life in a way that is honest, relatable and downright beautiful. She explained, “I love playing strong female roles, and I love doing things that have an important message, especially for those girls that are going through a similar thing in their one lives.”

In addition to her work as an actress on film, Maria Bosque is renowned for her talents on stage as well. She got her first taste of the theater in the production of The Wizard of Oz in Victoria, Canada, and has since gone on to star in countless productions including Titus Andronicus, The Marriage of Bette and Boo, and The Seagull, as well as the plays Six Degrees of Separation, Waiting For Godot and Middleton, which were directed by Oscar winner Milton Justice.

“I like to choose characters that are very different from me, ones that I haven’t done before,” said Bosque.

In the production of Anton Checkov’s The Seagull, Maria played the starring role of Masha, an affluent young woman who repeatedly refuses the affections of Medvedenko in an effort to hold out for Konstantin the man with whom she is in love. A sad melodrama about unrequited love, Masha eventually gives in and marries Medvedenko and has his child, a choice that dooms her to live a depressed and unfulfilled life as she continues to harbor feelings for Konstantin.

“There is something very sad and beautiful about her. I guess I like the darker side of things because I am always very drawn to these types of characters,” admitted Bosque.

Audiences will have the opportunity to see Maria Bosque on stage in New York in March 2015 at the La MaMa Theater in the production of The Beach of Joseph K. Directed by multi-award winning director Elia Schneider, The Beach of Joseph K is an experimental work derived from the writings of Franz Kafka.