Musician Ronnie Wells
Talks His Career, New Albums, ‘Shiftin Willie’ and More

By Amber Topping

New Jersey musician Ronnie Wells does it all. He sings, writes, produces and plays the drums and the bass. While managing two careers for numerous years (one in the medical field), he recently began working music full time in 2010. With years of experience behind him as front man of groups like “Ronnie Wells & The Fabulons” and “The Sound Exchange,” as well as performing with many hit groups of the ‘60s, he used his many talents to create his first solo album, “My Bad” in 2012. He’s now jumping into the next new album and working on his solo performance act.


Can you talk a little bit about your background and how you became interested in music?

At the age of 15-16 I started playing drums and took a liking to that. And then into high school, I played in the high school band and I also played in Drum Corps. While playing, I began singing and a group came to me (who already had a drummer) and asked me if I'd be interested in fronting the group singing. And that went on for a few years. I, maybe three years, four years later, started picking up the bass. And I had an affinity for playing bass for quite a while. So I started adding bass to my performing. And through that, a local agent had hooked me up with several of the recording acts of the time in the '60s. And I was getting gigs playing with those groups when they were appearing in the Jersey/New York area. At that time of course, there weren't big halls or stadiums or anything with groups having hit records out. They just played normal clubs. And that was the typical thing they did. And as time went on, I played and sang…And yeah, that's how I started.

Do you have any fun or interesting stories of those days in the groups you were in? Like "The Sound Exchange?"

Well, I wouldn't call it funny, but before at the age of 18, we wanted to play New York night clubs so you had to get a Cabaret card. And myself and my drummer at the time went over to apply. And the two girls standing in front of us, waiting and waiting—they were getting mad waiting to get their cards—turns out it was Diana Ross and Mary Wilson of “The Supremes.” And that was interesting ‘cause they were gonna appear at the Copa in New York. And in order for them to appear, of course, they also needed Cabaret cards. So if you're under 21, you needed a Cabaret card in New York at the time.

Yeah that's a fun story. Doesn't happen that often, right?

A funny story came later on when a friend of mine, who owned a tractor trailer [training] company, was always writing little jingles and trying to get them heard by people. And he wrote a song about a truck driver called “Shiftin Willie.” But he had no musical background. So he came to me and he said, “You know Ron, could you write some music for this and maybe even sing it?” So I took his lyrics and played around with them and wrote the song and recorded it for him—not to be released or anything like that. However, he called me six months later and said, “Conan O’Brien's coming through the school and is interested in this song.” How he heard it, I have no idea. Anyway, he did a segment live with his crew in New Jersey and sang the song, not accurately, but he sang it anyhow on his show—wound up being heard by a lot of people.

So what was that like for you having your song on the Conan show? Were you surprised? Think it was funny?

Funny! He did it as a comedy skit. The guy who wrote the lyrics, my friend, was reciting the lyrics while Conan O’Brien was playing guitar and singing the song. Of course, it was not even close to accurate, but they used it as a comedy skit. And of course then he played the real song the way it was recorded by me.

Eventually you also went into the medical field, so how did that help you grow as a musician?

Up until 2010, I was in the medical field covering two hospitals. Sometimes, I'd work late or get back from a gig very late and have to go to the hospital early in the morning before getting a chance to change. And the patients looked at me kind of funny walking over, you know, the bell bottoms and hair and trying to treat them with a lab coat over it. So it was kind of funny, kind of interesting switching back and forth between day and night—two different lines of work.

So in 2012 you released your first solo album "My Bad." Can you tell me a little bit about your album?

With the exception of the “Shiftin Willie” thing, it's the first time I decided to take seriously the knack of writing. So I wrote three songs at the time—originals. But to put an album out, I figured I only got time to write seven to eight-nine songs. Let me put an album out with three of my originals and then take songs from the Great American Songbook, the standards, and add on to it. And that's how my first album came about. I mixed the both together. That would actually steer me in the way I would perform. I would do a mixture of everything from standard pop hits to soft rock to my originals…and country…So that stayed with me as the way I would perform as time went on.

Next you have another solo album coming, "Say it With a Song." Is it going to be similar to "My Bad” or a little bit different? What can people expect to find on that one?

Kind of the same, as far as a soft rock type of feel. And again, if I don't write all the songs, I will add some standards that are previously written. It depends—I have it half done right now. I'm deciding which way to go. If I have time to write more and record more then I will put it out in that way. All my originals or some originals, some covers.

You're also working on your solo performance act. Do you have any upcoming shows that are happening soon?

Yes, March 14th I'm gonna be doing a show in East Rutherford, New Jersey. That'll be at a place called Al Di La—it’s an Italian Bistro Night Club. And it's a very nice set up there for shows.

Do you plan on taking the act anywhere else besides New Jersey?

Yes. Depending on bookings, I'm really headed towards doing a lot of hotels and even possibly some cruises next. That's what I'm aiming for really. More so ‘cause the night club situation is not what it used to be. So there's not a lot of venues to work as there used to be. So that's why I'm really aiming toward hotels and even cruises to do the show.

Would you describe your show as like an entertainer type show?

Yes, definitely. A matter of fact, depending on the venue and the lead, I may even bring a comedian with me, background singers and widen the show a bit. It all depends of course on budget and everything else. But that's what I ultimately would like to do.

You can learn more about Ronnie Wells and his music at his website:

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Casa 0101 Celebrates 15th Anniversary
Premiere of Comedy: Clean Slate

By Shirley Craig

Celebrating it's 15th 'Quinceanera' anniversary Casa 0101 opens with Clean Start. Clean Start is a comedic play centering around Parker Reed, played brilliantly by Kim Chase, a down-on-her-luck Beverly Hills socialite, and Rosario Rodriguez, her Latina maid who lives in a small house in East Los Angeles.  When Reed loses everything due to her husband’s illegal dealings running a ponzi scheme, she is forced to move in with her maid, Rosario, and her superstitious but caring mother and slacker, immature sister who at age 35 is still dreaming of her Quinceanera. The resulting tensions question whether the women, from such divergent backgrounds, can resolve their differences and make a 'clean start' with their lives. Taken straight from recent headlines, the Bernie Madoff scandal, the play flows beautifully with lots of laugh out loud moments.

Photo E - l to r Ingrid Oliu Rosario Rodriguez Marina Gonzalez Palmier CS B 245 copy

The five member cast is outstanding particularly Chase, who certainly knows her way around physical comedy by creating a very funny and poignant portrait of a woman who has fallen on very hard times. Reed's character is a challenge but not for the remarkable talents of Chase. Maria Russell as Rosario’s voluptuous unemployed sister develops a a wonderfully raucus character who together with her sister and mother use everything from spells to tolerance to blend themselves together as one family. This is Casa 0101 at it's best and is playing to full houses each performance.

 Photo P - l to r Marina Gonzalez Palmier Doña Maria Rodriguez and CS C 009 copy 
The play is highly commendable for fusing socio-political subject matter with broad uproarious humor verging on satire. It is written by Josefina Lopez (Real Woman Have Curves) and Kathy Fisher (The George Lopez Show) who also directs.  Fisher's spirited directorial stage debut moves fast around a delightful set and shows she has equal talent for writing and direction. The scene changes are handled innovatively by two actors dressed up in maid garb, who dust and dance their way through moving props and furniture around on the stage. A lovely entertaining way to change scenery. 

We'd love to see this play have a future on television as a sitcom that would have the opportunity to explore our cultural differences in new ways.

Clean Start closes out this weekend so click here to get your tickets. Casa 0101 is a wonderful equity waiver theater, with an art gallery, which will increase your cultural experiences two-fold.

They are Saturday, February 14th at 3:00 p.m. and Sunday, February 15th at 8:00 p.m.

Additional performances added: Friday, February 13th at 8:00 p.m., Saturday, February 14th at 8:00 p.m. Regular performances: Friday, February 13th at 8:00 p.m., Saturday, February 14th at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, February 15th at 5:00 p.m.

Photo Q - l to r Ingrid Oliu Rosario Rodriguez Kim Chase Parker Reed CS B 199 copy

Other productions and events, beside Clean Start, to be presented during CASA 0101 Theater’s 15th “Quinceañera” Anniversary Season include: Chicanos, Cholas & Chisme (March 6 – April 12); the World Premiere An L.A. Story written by Emmanuel Deleage and Lorenzo Alfredo, directed by Emmanuel Deleage (May 1 – June 7); the 12th Annual Reel Rasquache Art & Film Festival produced by John Ramirez (May 15 – 17); the musical Little Red, with Book by Anthony Aguilar and Ocar Basulto and Music by Grammy Award-winning band Quetzal, directed by Edward Padilla (June 26 – August 2); the play Placas written by Paul Flores starring Culture Clash’s Ric Salinas (August 14 – September 13); the World Premiere of the play, Drunk Girl written by Josefina López, directed by Claudia Duran (September 25 – October 18); and the musical Eastside Heartbeats written by Tom Waldman and directed by Corky Dominguez (November 6 – December 20). The repertoire is subject to change and revision. 

For more information about Casa 0101 click here, or to read our previous indepth interview with Josefina Lopez click here.

clean start 2015

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The Other Man - F.W. de Klerk
An Interview with Director Nic Rossier

By Mende Smith

To Nicolas Rossier, anyone with an untold story is a documentary subject: any complicated and misunderstood figure brings an opportunity to see the story through new eyes. Rossier’s work spans eccentric street performers in central park, to the most transformational world leaders of our last century.  Here, Rossier explains his thinking, and his method of construction—with a deeply felt conviction in his projects. His latest project is, 'The Other Man' a documentary about South Africa's F.W. de Klerk. He talks with Reap about overcoming the obstacles of the business that is film.


So, you are a filmmaker, Nicolas, your writing and directing credits are pretty heavy even for the genre—you have had to do some heavy lifting telling these stories, let’s talk about what that’s like.

It’s interesting, yeah. I guess I have always fallen on subjects that were some how out of the main stream in a way. I fall on subjects that are somewhat controversial when I treat the subjects and sometimes they are not controversial later. For different reasons I am always interested in stories that are not really told because that’s where I can come in as an independent, otherwise I compete with too many other people all telling the same stories.

Like the story you told on the life of Isidore Block? Life Is A Dream  I am also a published poet, and a very big fan of poetry. I am really curious what making that film in 2000 was like…so few poets are ever celebrated on film, Nicolas, it is very cool that you told his iconic story.

Yes, that was a very interesting story. I met him by chance after two years arriving in New York, I find him to be quite amazing. I got together with a great friend of mine who liked him as well and we filmed him over 3 years and opened in New York in July 2000.

Did you have to have conversations with yourself about the kinds of stories you wanted to tell? You picked the most difficult genre to make into films—doing docs and docudramas— Some of the subjects of your films are very controversial and tackle sexual and physical abuse, prejudice, brutality, and racism—people and periods of history triumphant and ugly, how did you navigate that?


It is especially difficult to navigate it, yes, when I first arrived in New York I studied film and I also studied acting so I did a lot of theatre and when I was studying theatre, I started following my first character, who was Isadore Block and it took 3 years. One thing they teach you in acting; especially if you are studying method acting is to create in you the feelings and thoughts of the characters you play and they also teach you how to leave these characters when you’re done. But it’s hard sometimes when the character is as powerful as this poet was. After a year with Isidore, I started sounding like him. You don’t have to love your character but it sort of comes into you—who ever they are. He was so funny and he was so brutally honest, and he had had a terrible life and yet he was using his drama, his tragedies to make beautiful poetry. He was a soul in the park. He came out of nowhere and sat next to me and opened up to me. I was just on a bench and he came like somebody from another world and he started talking to me. It was very special and I got completely dragged into this world and so I had to tell his story and it was my first piece and it became a one-hour film.


So what were some of the challenges making that first film?

It was a film that I directed with a friend of mine, actually. We made mistakes and we probably could have gone much further with that film—had we had a little bit more money or maybe it was the time—so you learn and I was maybe, 27 then? I think it was a fascinating story and I should have developed it into a script. I watched my film with an agent and he said he thought I should make it into a feature film! He wanted to talk to punch and to get somebody to play Isidore like DeNiro or Hoffman, and I said no, I am not ready! Now, looking back, I would have done it of course and said, yeah, sure go ahead, call Dustin Hoffman or DeNiro. He was very serious.

What did it look like when you first delved into the history for your most recent film—I read your director’s statement in the press release, but I want to ask what was it that made it such a passion for you to tell the story—in what ways did you most connect with the character F.W. de Klerke?

The Other Man is an interesting story and I was actually working on idea for a series which was about Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, the untold stories of the more less known honorees and that sort of thing when I came across de Klerk’s story on a shoot in South Africa in 1998 (my first trip in SA was in 1992 during CODESA).  I was helping my friend make a film about someone who had disappeared during Apartheid and so I studied the conflict of that country and kept reading about it and so I thought let’s start the Nobel Peace in South Africa—I know it better than other places and then [Nelson] Mandela and my focus was going to be on de Klerke and Mandela together but then I realized Mandela was off and he was not giving interviews anymore and so I decided to focus on the one who was completely unexposed which was de Klerke.


And so you switched your focus onto him and then what happened next in the process?

I decided to do the film through the eyes of the “bad guy” and how he changed. And the idea that if somebody is bad and then becomes good it is probably more interesting idea to explore than a portrayal or iconography of someone who was good all the time, and psychologically, it’s interesting to understand why people make their decisions and why they change, and how we can maybe entice others to do the same or to help others to understand a little better how we can affect change.

What was he like, de Klerk, when you first met him what was your impression of him as a subject for this film?

Actually the first time I met him face-to-face it was not so good. He was trying to control it he had seen the work I had done previously about Aristide and how he was overthrown and sent into exile and he was actually embraced by the ANC government. He knew I was going to cover some controversial issues so the first interview was not so great. He was polite, he gave me an hour, and I think I got what I needed. The second time I saw him it was much better and he was very open to me. I think he’s a typical male Afrikaner and the men are all very reserved. But he let his guards down and in another interview and you can really feel how he has personally wrestled with many difficult questions.


In many ways I imagine it is like the Victorian Era in their refusal to show the truth and emotions, with society being very reserved and not open to certain dialogue, feelings, or even open to discussing their own history?

Exactly. It’s interesting, I remember one South African lady saying to me that South African men don’t like to express their emotions too much, they have this burden on them that they have to be the protector like this ideal of the pioneer male who is still there fighting against the harsh elements of the wilderness, this very masculine, old fashioned way of behaving—that may be why they are so good at Rugby? I don’t know you just have to understand it.

pi otherman posterThere was a story of this friend of de Klerk who told me how his brother who was an intellectual and who had a huge influence on him. His brother Wimpie talked even earlier against Apartheid and he was more liberal than F.W. I would say and he spoke out for change much earlier. So the brother had this big influence on him. One day his brother had a black gardener who worked for him for a long time and one day he was injured and he was bleeding and he had to take him to the hospital as the man was bleeding to death and when De Klerk’s brother took the hand of the dying man he realized that their blood looked the same and how they were just one, same flesh, no barriers anymore. These things to me are fascinating, because it’s through these types of experiences in life that we change.

Wow, that is such an incredible story, the dying man actually reached out to him and he reached back.

Yes, it was just love. Falling in love with someone of a different race and culture at the moment where race doesn’t matter anymore, religion doesn’t matter anymore or when you find yourself dying with somebody who is not your family or your culture or whatever and so you have to help each other. All at once these differences just go away—only through personal experiences like this do you have the epiphany.

And he was willing to talk to you about this and was all right with it being on film?

Well, actually no. He kept saying “Off camera!  Off camera! I can’t do it with the camera on…” He insisted and I ‘d say, it is so important that we see this story this way too. So, yeah, they are very, very afraid about telling things that are a little bit too revealing of things and in America, here, we love it because that is the way we understand things, we love these types of things; maybe sometimes too much, but that is our way to understand things around us. So, in that sense the males are very different from us. They are still very much in the nineteenth century about sharing their emotions.

In working with these real characters and discoveries and all of these things put together that make films stand out from one another, can you name the shift to where you as the director have that “Aha!” moment?  You are working with public officials and former statesman or men and women who once held powerful positions, what is it like to know that it is working and it will be all right?

It is a shift, yeah. The shift can happen through unexpected events like that or in an organized more predictable way. There is always, consciously or unconsciously an emotional thing happening and sometimes you don’t realize it. One time I interviewed this minister of law and order and he is not in the film, but he is the only one who went as far as asking for forgiveness, he went on to wash the feet of the relatives of his victims, actually the wives and daughters of people he had ordered to kill. He said to me in 1994 that he was not convinced emotionally that what they did was the right thing—adding that it took his own wife’s suicide in their pool—for him to see that what he had been doing was wrong, admitting he had not internalized it until that happened. That is how change comes for most people, in big events or small ones, it is gradual but it happens all the time.

I interviewed Dr. Diane Watson back in 2010—she was a dear friend of Winnie Mandela and visited her when Nelson was first let out of prison. She told stories about the uproar and the politics of that time—I would love to get your take on what it had to be like for the women who were there at that time of great change?

Let’s see the most famous one is Winnie Mandela, or you have Nadine Gordimer or Lilian Ngoyi. You have hundreds of them, some very exposed some forgotten but all played key roles in fighting the regime. The whites and blacks that have been the pioneers of change have struggled since the 50s there. What I noticed through my film is that; and there is a debate now in South Africa, I focus through the eyes of de Klerk and people around him that played a role. But we have to remember, we are talking about thousands of people who have made this change possible—and many of them are women. In my film, I try to go about that through the eyes of Marcia and her mother. Her mother was an activist who was executed by a famous death squad leader. There were hundreds of women like her who sacrificed their life for the cause.  I tried to identify some of those people but all of the heroes should have a voice.

Rossier is still looking for more forgotten laureates to feature in his upcoming series. His current film, The Other Man is opening in New York this weekend at the Quad Cinema and will play in select theaters and festivals around the globe.

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Center Stage:
An Interview With Tanna Frederick

By Shirley Craig


Tanna Frederick's life has been a stage life. Writing, directing, producing and acting since childhood, she has been instrumental in carrying off adaptations, indie film projects and on-camera performance. Most of her days are spent planning the next venue, and the next. Weekends are often back-to-back shows in the same theatre—adding to the mania. Frederick tells Reap in an interview that she is doing great, that she's elated, exhausted and very happy after an all-day double bill of Amiri Baraka's Dutchman and Train to Zakopane, a new play by partner, Henry Jaglom. Frederick explains how they pulled off switching out the sets for both plays, pushing the main train car to the back and reading on the same stage setting a row of folding chairs to mock a subway.


Frederick first caught the acting bug, she says, when she was 8 years old. "I knew I was very passionate about the arts, and I started out doing ballet in first grade and my teacher said to my mom, 'You know, she does her own thing.'  I don’t remember much, except I remember her correcting my feet all the time and my just wanting to freestyle it. It was a kind of an exclusive dance company in Iowa and the teacher sort of suggested to my mom that maybe I should go in another direction." Frederick says with a laugh.

Even at that age, Frederick says, she marched to the beat of a different drum. She began taking classical piano lessons, which she soon realized she loved. Studying classical piano brought a passion to her life and she took to it right away. " I practiced all the time, and then I remember going with my Girl Scout troop to see the musical Oliver at a local children’s theatre and it was so great!” Frederick says. The musical played to a full house, and she and her fellow scouts sat in the aisle. "My best friend was playing Oliver and I remember watching it. It was my first theater experience and I just remember being completely mesmerized. And when the Artful Dodger walked on stage, I just knew in my body and my soul, I knew I'd found what I would be doing for the rest of my life." Frederick says.

Tanna FrederickMike Falkow by Ron Vignone 72DPI

She joined the little children’s theatre the next year and started doing every role possible there. Before Frederick knew it, she was the actor friends were coming to see onstage.  "I was trained in this children’s theatre by my director to be very professional—we were. I mean, we were treated as adults, and so even then as I was doing theatre with adults, kids and with high-schoolers, there was no room for any unprofessionalism and that was one of the greatest gifts that I was given, because it became ingrained: 'You will not chew gum on stage. You will be quiet when the other actors are up there. You will learn all of the stage directions. You will come to the other shows. You will tech other shows. You will write in your scripts with pencils so you can erase it.' There was no discrepancy between adults and children and the expectations for actors, and that was fantastic."

Frederick stayed with the children's theatre well into high school. She did summer musicals, and her career began to take off. In the auditorium at the local community college, Frederick performed in a 1,200-seat venue. For the most part, Frederick managed to lock in one of the lead roles, and produce and even structure their performances—this was true ensemble. This experience would be the foundation of her career. It was, Frederick recalls, the breeding ground for an actress and an artist in Iowa.

The art of learning competitive performance was one that she would learn to take in stride. “We were very competitive, and we also went all over with our choir competitions. We were well-respected. Again, it was just a very vivacious playground yet, at the same time, institution that was being upheld for us to be nurtured in as blooming artists,” Frederick adds. When she received a full scholarship to the University of Iowa for theatre, she knew there was no going back.

 Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 11.15.48 AM

"The writer’s workshop in Iowa was amazing. New playwrights were constantly coming in and new material was constantly being performed. Everything was just rich with new plays and that really taught me the craft." Frederick sighs. "It's crazy. I had the most fun in that medium. In the most interesting plots and plotlines from different artists whom were all exploring and trying out their work and it was daring and crazy. I would always somehow find the way to connect with the character, no matter who that character was, and I would take it on. It was a really a great place for me to learn," Frederick says.

Frederick recalls that her life nearly took another direction, but her parents discouraged her and she agreed to go on to college. "After high school I almost moved to New York and was actually offered to room with a younger Uta Hagen—my uncle was friends with Uta's daughter—and they wanted her to live in the city and study at the Herbert Berghof Studio! Much to my chagrin, although I guess I’m thankful for it now since my career wouldn’t have panned out the same way, I went to L.A.,” Frederick says.

Frederick just packed up her little Honda and moved to the Golden State, and she says everyone thought she was nuts. "I didn’t know anybody here, but I just knew it was the right decision to make if I wanted to do theatre and to get the television and the film credits under my belt. I’m very glad I made that decision.”

"I wanted to do film,” she says." I was already waiting tables trying to do my survival job, and pay rent with that—and I met Henry Jaglom.

"Henry gave me his original script of A Safe Place and said, 'If you want to take this and do a scene for acting class, fine. I think you’d be brilliant at this role and I haven’t said this since Tuesday Weld and Karen Black played it, but you’re perfect for this part.’” Relieved, she read for it and was happy to fit right in. It was spot-on casting to play the role, and Frederick asked Jaglom if she could have the rights to it as a play, thinking she could go all the way with it. "I felt that if he would give me the rights free, I could find a theatre to produce it, and he did." Jaglom had only done this once before, charging a fee of $600. "I knew I had something that was quite worthwhile," Frederick adds. "There was never a stage production by Henry Jaglom done anywhere all over the world and I was getting the rights for free, which was incredible, and I knew I was perfect at the lead. The Beverly Hills Playhouse at the Skylight Theatre in Los Angeles was to be the venue, and we had a producer who believed in the company and it was all set," Frederick says. “After Camelot Artists got the play produced and ran the production for eight months, I felt like I truly had made it. Henry came to just about every single show," Frederick says, and that’s when I made the hard transition from stage to film acting. Frederick worked very closely with Jaglom. She says there were days where she “just wept,” but that her frustration culminated into Hollywood Dreams getting done. Next, she portrayed an 'Eve Harrington' kind of character in Hollywood Dreams who ends up turning love away, which was not so joyful. But despite this, Frederick says, the role was a joy to make, and it “sealed the deal” that from then on, Jaglom and Frederick were going to keep working together. And eventually, real-life romance would add to the mix. "We had a ball working together," Frederick explains, "Like I said, it was not always easy with peers, but, by that time I had been under fire from him and I was used to his way of working." Of her partnership to Jaglom, Frederick says, "That’s just one of those things that happened over the course of 13 years making films together." From the first project, to the last, she recalls, that shooting his movies were awesome experiences quoting “sheer heaven and sheer excitement and amazing—a dream come true.” Frederick says the added bonus of getting to work with a brilliant mind was that in the process, not only did she find love; she found her place on the screens of the indie film world.

"So, I guess we’ve been making films together for 11 years, but we’ve done a number of plays and a number of films together. So at a certain point, we just sort of realized we’re best friends and that we loved each other and that was just, it was always there, kind of. What a neat thing that an actress could encounter, creating films with somebody who she loves and vice versa." Theirs is a true indie Valentine story.

Never forgetting her roots, Frederick created a film festival in her hometown in Iowa, The Iowa Film Festival. Frederick muses about how the best part about the October event is being able to give back to the kids and the filmmakers there, and to bring more encouragement into the community where she got her start. The pride of American architecture—the Historic Park Inn, which is the only Frank Lloyd Wright hotel in the world—lends all its refurbished glory to the magic of independent film. “Frank Lloyd Wright was there and his students were there,” Frederick says, “It is just an amazing place to hold the festival. We put together a couple of screening rooms and it’s also been a lovely place for the filmmakers to stay while showing their films.” Frederick says she never would have been successful in any other line of work, saying, she ‘had to be fair to her heart and soul and passion.” She is still learning and developing as an actor and collaborator, still working hard and as often as she can.

Of Jaglom’s current production, the onstage production of Train to Zakopane, Frederick says she had mixed emotions upon her first reading of it, calling into question many moral issues that still press audiences today. “I think we’re in the correct political landscape right now where people need some sort of emotional event. They need somewhere that’s not just an intellectual acknowledgement of these fires that are raging around the world in terms of racism, anti-Semitism. They need somewhere to actually feel something. And I think that this play is so important and people being able to support this play, I think, gives them a feel as though they’re doing something because they’re sort of reconciling with their own ideals, especially being a town full of Jews, their own belief systems about—it’s the most difficult play I've ever done because the whole second half is a love story about an anti-Semite and a Jew.” Frederick explains.

Frederick’s challenge was to make her character likable and to get the audience to sit in their seats for the second act, despite the vehemently difficult plotline.  Frederick says she felt physically sick after reading the script. So much so that she was unsure about taking it on even at this stage of her career. “I thought ‘I can never do this. Nobody’s going to want to see this. I’m never going to get hired in this town again.’ But Henry was very passionate about making it and with Gary’s brilliant direction and a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful cast I just went for it.” Frederick compares her co-star Mike Falkow as a modern Leslie Howard.  Laughing, she adds, “It’s his elegance and his poise. I really see him as that and Henry does too, and he makes this character. We’ve worked our assess off to really develop the love,” Frederick explains.

“Now I've come to a place where I’m really passionate about the story, the character, what people walk away with, and know what I need to do to bring the forgiveness in there, to bring the reconciliation of these two characters, to help people understand where seeds of hatred come from. And it’s been quite amazing. I’m actually, I don’t want to say having a good time doing it, but I do want to say I’m having a joyful time playing the role.” Frederick embraces the history and the importance of telling these kinds of stories, but admits that working on this project has changed her forever. “I've done beautifully, wonderfully storytelling plays like The Rainmaker that we ran for a year and got standing ovations for. It’s beautiful storytelling. It’s lovely. I did Sylvia, which was so much fun because I got to play a dog. But doing this piece right now at this specific time for everything brought me such pain.”  Frederick says. “I was a mess during rehearsals, but the international relations political science geek in me is thankful that I have something right now that means something. Sylvia—yeah, it was a fun play—but I don’t think right now would be the time to do something like Sylvia.” Frederick says.

“Today, we need plays like these. Now is the time to do something that does create change.  I believe one of the ways that people can change is through emotional understanding. So, yes, it’s been a tough ride to really feel in my heart and really grasp the fact that, as an actor, I have to look at the role of Katia as a protagonist in order to explain where her hatred comes from. … The audience has been incredible because it’s like I come out, and there’s Holocaust survivors and Polish Jews. It’s amazing, the specificity of Henry’s story about his father. And using the complete specificity of that has given this play a universal understanding, if you will, because everybody has specific stories from that time.” Frederick says.

Train to Zakopane is running through March 28 at The Edgemar Theatre in Los Angeles. With onstage performances still to come and two other films in postproduction, 2015 is already kicking into high gear.  Frederick’s own film, Garner, Iowa is to be shown in this year’s Iowa Film Festival. “Working on Garner, was amazing. We shot in the freezing cold. We shot in the ungodly heat. We shot with local crew, local cast—the talent is amazing. And so that will be coming out in 2015, and I’m so excited for it to come out! It is a gorgeous, breathtaking film, for women especially, and confronting the stigma against mental illness.” Frederick has played many a damsel in distress, and she has played quirky, whimsical characters in Jaglom’s films with great success. But playing a mentally ill woman in a small Midwestern town—in this role she presents a very serious, tough, Olive-Kittredge sort of gritty woman. Frederick says, “We showed a short sneak preview at the Iowa film festival last year. The response was so incredible. Many people came up to me and told me their story after: mothers who were bipolar, people who had struggled with bipolarity, people whose kids were bipolar. Their stories were incredible and again, to me, doing work that creates a dialogue, that just sparks any sort of talk about something that people are not inclined to talk about or are too frightened to talk about, that is the kind of work that I find myself drawn to,” Frederick adds.


As if Frederick’s schedule was not crazy enough, she is also training for the LA Marathon. She is raising money for a village in the Ben Tre district of Vietnam, where funding is needed to install a hundred water filters. “I had a really hard time the last run and was very discouraged. This time, for this cause, I just said, ‘You know what? I’m just going to run this.’ I’m going to run it to raise money for our kids and our clean water initiative, and I’m not going to care about what happened last time.” Frederick laughs. “I've been doing my long runs and training and taking the pressure off and it has brought the joy back to my running, which I love doing, and it really does help me onstage to get rid of all the chaff with doing the shows. It’s a necessity for me to do something as equally as difficult physically as what I’m doing onstage,” Frederick says. “That is how you do it when you know it is all you can do. You just get back on the horse and keep on riding.”


Frederick’s life is a true Hollywood story. Gaining happiness, experience, continuing her fitness, keeping up with a creative partner, and managing to pull it all off so gracefully.

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Into The Theatre Of The Mind:
A Talk With Dan Woren

By Mende Smith

Dubbing English translations for Anime films, lead and background vocals for video games, or the obscure feature roles of trusted storyteller for libraries of best-selling audiobooks, there is so much work in the voice over world—once you find it. For veteran actor, voice over talent, and audiobook narrator Dan Woren, his savvy narration skills have kept him in the business most of his life.  The growing popularity of listening to the books we love appeals to book lovers of all ages. For listeners’ young and old, Woren’s vocal style conveys all the animation, wonder, and fascination you might expect in an interview, telling his own living history with all the charm of a so-well-liked baritone that delights as well as accompanies one long-playing session after another. And he has rave reviews to match his unequalled performances. It cannot get any better than having a fan take you aside and exclaim “When we got to the destination of our road trip we still had a ways to go to the end of the story, and the wife and I sat in the car and waited fifteen minutes to come to the end.”


Fifteen minutes of Woren’s voice is butter caramel-smooth and the investment is easy on the ears. A timely, patient, elegant, and purposeful voice can lull a thousand babies to sleep, or keep a bike rider fixed on his path. “Ever since I was a kid in Elementary school I always liked reading aloud.”  Fast-forward to his college years whenever his friends needed narration for their projects, Woren answered the call. With a degree in Theatre, his voice work dominating his schedule from the very start of his career, and he says, he ‘fell into it fortuitously’. “I met people who complemented me on the quality of my voice and thought that I might be good at it.” Auditions later, Woren found his rightful place at the mic for commercials and Anime work. Over the years expanding his base to incorporate live acting roles too. Woren says that working behind the microphone is the same as on camera or stage acting.

To date, Woren has narrated over 60 audiobooks, both fiction and non. He holds the writers of the works he has had the pleasure to read for in the highest regard, naming fiction writers Leif Enger and Steve Martini especially great. He says he does not have a favorite genre after a lifetime of narrating books, though he prefers fiction—and he says he will read anything if the timing is right.  He is flexible, and believable. His range, inexhaustible. With a poignant dictation style and rapier wit, Woren has easily repped for Commercial Real Estate and Life Insurance firms. Among his Anime series credits are leading roles in Bleach, Fate Zero and Digimon. Video gamers know his trusted voice in the crazy-popular World of Warcraft series, among six others. Adept at so many genres, Woren’s delicious timbre makes it all seem so easy to pull off.

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On being prepared for work he offers this advice: Just go for it! The industry is exclusive and evergreen, provided you are willing to work hard. If you are an actor looking to break into the business, Woren says, “Get into the workshops and formal training programs that have cropped up all over the country—whatever you can afford, do that. The gaming industry alone is primed for aspiring voice actors.”

Woren says he highly recommends Deyan Institute to get beginning or ongoing coaching in audio book, animation or video game performances, adding that they were integral in his own skillset development.  “They are not only great people, they have excellent instructors for every genre that one might want to explore. In addition to the institute, Deyan Audio casts, records and produces numerous audio books each year, at their two facilities in the Valley (Northridge and Tarzana). I have had the pleasure of working with them for over 7 years.” Woren credits the program for helping him to become established in the land of audiobook narration, and introducing him to the business—into the forays of the voice over world. Like tuning an instrument for a concert performance, voice demands equal preparation, practice, and technique. “It’s a wonderful period of time for actors because there is so many opportunities with new media. Online, and even on Netflix and now Google is starting as well, there are so many companies that are producing products.”  Woren adds, being a narrator in this field, it is not necessary to have the ‘impeccable booming baritone voice’ that is so often thought of with regards to the listening experience.

“There is room in the market for a myriad of vocal types and qualities. Quirky, compelling, interesting, young, old, textured (or not) my point is, that just because one doesn't have the quintessential narrator or announcer voice, doesn't mean that you can't get work in the field.”

He loves to read and believes reading is the key to carry on in this business. He reads aloud every day to keep on top of his craft. “It is best to stay fresh and to hear what your voice sounds like to others, that is the key to acting work.” The key to projection, the key to timing and the whereabouts to the greatest stories are the silver key to his success. Through the years, he says, he has always been working—like a machinist, or a cable runner, spooling along from platform to platform. With great humility and enthusiasm he discusses his living history. Seamlessly speaking from one reading to the next, and the next and so on, in the long auditions, call backs, and numerous television shows he kept a level head and a steady pace. Woren never lost his interest in connecting with people and loftily took his voice back into theatre—his first love. Having recently finished an on stage performance in the New York stage premiere of Behind Closed Doors: The Musical, playing to sold out houses in the New York Fringe Festival, Woren recounts the awesomeness of his volley back to the stage. “ I just got back from New York and was there for five weeks. Acting on stage again really was a tremendous thing—and I am always staying active and adding tools to my craft. I am looking forward to acting in another play now that opens in March.”

In 2014, Woren was honored to receive two Earphone Awards from AudioFile Magazine (arguably the bible of the industry, reviewing over 2400 audiobooks each year), and was also named one of the magazine's Best Voices of the Year. Deeply humbled by the recognition, he is delighted to have captured the attention of children and family listeners while working on one of his favorite projects. A relative newcomer to the field, he has been successful in the audiobook industry for over 8 years, now.  “No matter where you live,” he smiles, “there are always good opportunities for good voices, especially with the emergence of home-studio recording."

According to Woren, to be ready for a career in acting—whatever the platform may be, it is to always be training. “Like for instance sometimes reading for non-fiction can be pretty dry—don’t get me wrong here, I am grateful for the works of non-fiction—and so it’s a challenge at times making it not sound that way to someone that’s listening to it, and in that world, it’s your job.” Woren laughs. “And doing an audiobook is to bring it to life, into the theatre of the mind, so to speak.”

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