Susan Stangl

Spotlight Series: Meet Susan Stangl: Director, Sound Designer, Actress, Singer and Medical School Professor


Today I am spotlighting Susan Stangl: Director, Sound Designer, Actress, Singer and Medical School Professor.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your own theatrical background?

Susan Stangl (SS): I started acting when I was 5 and was involved with plays at my local neighborhood park and in my school. I wrote, adapted, directed and acted in plays in elementary and middle school as well as writing and performing background music for some of the shows. My favorite productions from that time were an adaptation of some Winnie the Pooh stories as well as a murder mystery I wrote in 8th grade. I continued to act in high school and college and helped run a theater group for middle and high schoolers where we performed skits written by the students and a production of Our Town. Although I wasn't an official theatre major, I spent so much time there that people thought I was, even though I was also pre-med. Then I went to medical school. I kept up my music but wasn't able to get back into theater until some years later when I became a medical school professor at UCLA. I studied theater with a wonderful teacher for a few years and started auditioning for local productions about twenty years ago. Since then, I have acted in and directed numerous local shows as well as doing sound design for 120+ shows as well as writing some original music. And I have been in TV and film projects as well.

(SB):  What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the show?

(SS): I was directing Christopher Durang's Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at Kentwood Players and working on sound design for Wait Until Dark and A Comedy of Tenors at Theatre Palisades when things shut down.

(SB): How did you communicate the shutdown with your cast and production team?

(SS): I kept in touch with the theater board and my cast via email and text. Sadly, we had just performed a joyful and well-received invitational dress rehearsal for a small audience of designers, crew and their families the night before we closed our doors for what would have been our opening night. The cast was so excited to get some audience reaction and it was definitely the best show I have ever directed, and it felt like one that had been up for a few weeks and had not just opened. Ironically, the director's job is generally pretty much done when the rehearsal period ends, but I feel an obligation to the theater, the cast and crew and our audiences to bring them this terrific show. I only hope we don’t lose our momentum with the enforced break.

(SB): Are plans in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent?

(SS): As far as I know, Kentwood Players would like to open the show when it is deemed safe to do so. The sets, costumes, lights and sound are ready and the actors want to keep the show alive. We had our first online ZOOM meeting to keep the production fresh and ready for an audience until we get the all-clear. Five out of the six cast members were part of the Zoom group chat where we ran through the lines and scheduled future sessions. There is a chance that due to schedule changes everywhere, I may need to arrange for double casting or understudies for some parts, which I am in the process of doing. So much is up in the air, but I want to be as ready as I can. And of course, I am hoping that everyone stays healthy in the coming weeks.

(SB): What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?

(SS): I was planning on auditioning for a few shows that are now postponed. In addition to the two sound designs I am already working on, there are at least three others coming up for me this year.

(SB):  How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(SS): I am in a country rock band, Dreamers and Drifters, that is hoping to rehearse online starting this weekend. I am working on some monologues and scenes, as well as writing and recording some music and sharing it with other friends online. There is another theater where I work that is meeting online weekly to read plays and scenes to stay in touch. In some ways, we may well have a chance to get together more since we don't have to drive for over an hour to get to rehearsal! And the cast of my show is eager to keep things fresh with online meetings and line-throughs.

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the ghost light on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(SS): I hope that many of the remote technology options may continue to bring people together, and they may well be better for the early stages of rehearsal when we are doing work that does not require us to meet physically or when we just want to run lines. I also hope that we will appreciate the gift that we have in being able to present and attend live theater - it is even more precious now that we cannot have it.

As a trained health professional, I urge us not to rush into any situations that may put our actors and audiences in jeopardy. This is an unprecedented situation and we need to be patient and safe. Write, connect in any way you can, and use this time to develop projects you haven't had time for because you are always at the theater - be the experience artistic or personal.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



JOAN OF ART: FEATHERS, FLIPPERS AND FUR PICNIC, BUILDING BRIDGES, AND A "MUST SEE" VERY FUNNY PLAY

I've been looking forward to this event since I attended their picnic last year.

As the Los Angeles area's premier wildlife medical care and rehabilitation facility, California Wildlife Center strives to ensure that each animal in their care receives the highest level of help to allow them to return to their wild state. Since 1998, CWC has experienced a steady increase in animal patients, caring for more than 44,000 wild animals, many whose injuries were caused by the impacts of their urbanized environments.

A long term goal of the center is to promote protection of wild habitats and the environment through education, training and partnerships with the communities it serves. Many people have questions and misconceptions about how to help wildlife, which can create unintended consequences to the wildlife they admire. Some conflicts with wildlife occur when raccoons empty trash cans, deer raid gardens and birds nest in chimneys.

Coexistence begins with the understanding of how to share our communities with wild animals. In order to do this, the California Wildlife Center educates individuals about the animals in their environment and provide solutions to existing problems, such as helping a neighborhood discourage a prowling coyote.

When people learn about the hardships animals face each day, they are more willing to take a proactive approach toward protecting the natural environment and the habitats of our wild neighbors. At CWC, they educate communities, and in doing so, they challenge homeowners, teachers, students and businesses to continue learning about their environment and enriching the lands in which we all live and play. What could be better?

On Saturday, May 4, 2019 the CWC will be putting on their second annual Feathers, Flippers and Fur Picnic starting at 2:00 pm and running until 5pm at King Gillette Ranch located at the corner of Mulholland and Las Virgenes in Calabasas.

You will get to experience the wonders of wildlife while feasting on Gourmet Vegetarian Cuisine from your favorite local eateries as well as wine tasting from local wineries.

There will be live music by Wild Ride and a performance by Jimmy H. a comedy magician. Your kiddies can get their face painted while you are doing a guided meditation led by Draza Jansky. Also you can participate in a Silent Auction which will offer amazing packages for the whole family, plus many more fun activities.

Tickets are $75.00 for adults, $25.00 for children ages 3-16 and children ages two and under are free. Tickets include food, wine and all activities. All the proceeds go to this incredible organization. To purchase tickets and to learn more about the event, sponsorship opportunities visit CAWildlife.org.

Now before I spend the day basking in the sun with all these wonderful animals and animal lovers, the night before, Friday May 3rd, I'll be downtown at the BUILD BRIDGES, PAINT WALLS show at the Rendon Gallery, which is partnering with the UCLA Department of Spanish and Portuguese, to present this amazing exhibit.

This is a multimedia exhibition featuring murals, graphic art and photography celebrating latinidad and the international cultural exchanges that make Los Angeles great.

Now what is an art show without music. That's why California punk band Deseos Primitivos will be performing and DJ Skwirl Sauce will be spinning ska, punk, reggae and music Latina. The corner dive bar, Licha's Bar and Grill will be open, serving beer sponsored by Angel City Brewery and Sus Arepas and Memije's Tacos and Catering will have food for sale on the site

The show starts at 7pm and runs until 10pm. The Rendon Gallery is located at 2055 East 7th Street, Los Angeles.

The event is put on by Cartwheel Art who focus on immersive experiences, designing community driven and diverse programming such as guided group tours, art activated events and curated exhibitions.

For more information and to purchase tickets go to CartwheelArt.com. I've been to many Cartwheel Art events and everyone has been unique and simply put, fantastic.

I love theatre and last week I got to see an extremely funny and touching play entitled BOXING LESSONS which is playing at The New American Theatre located at 1312 North Wilton Place in Hollywood.

​When a famous writer dies under mysterious circumstances, family and friends gather in his cabin on a remote island in Puget Sound to box up his belongings. In the process, they come to realize just how much they love, despise and need one another.

This is a world premiere dark comedy written by award winning playwright John Bunzel and perfectly directed by Jack Stehlin. This definitely falls into my 'must see' category. The cast is great and you will laugh big time. I even teared up which always makes me happy. There's tons of wild plot twists and revelations.

The play opened on April 26th and run through June 2nd. Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and some Sundays at 3pm. To purchase tickets and for more information go to NewAmericanTheatre.com or call 310-424-2980.

But most importantly, whatever you choose to do this weekend, make it a fun one people.


Five Questions for Joana Knezevic

Rising star Joana Knezevic is pounding the pavement in the City of Angels, forging a path for herself as an actor in theatre, television and film. When we last checked in with Joana, she had just graduated from Cal Arts' MFA Acting Program. Let's see what she's gotten herself into since then.

Roger Q. Mason (RQM): Since we last spoke, you were working on your first
theatre production in Los Angeles. What was it like making theatre in Los
Angeles for the first time?

Joana Knezevic (JK): My first role after the graduation was in Ibsen's ‘Ghosts'.
Technically we started rehearsing just one month before my graduation and that show
was kind of my bridge to the real world in LA. I was lucky to present my work in front of the Hollywood Fringe audience and received good feedback.

Making theater in Los Angeles is quite different then in Europe. It seems to me that in LA everything is faster. A lot of work you have to do on your own, before and after the rehearsals. It is very exciting because it always keeps you in shape and you have to make quick and smart acting choices. That said it is important to nourish your instincts and listen to your inner voices. That requires constant work physically and mentally. I'm in love with the LA artist community. They are very supportive and they really want to help you and navigate you into the right direction. I feel I am growing here as an actress and that's the most important thing for me right now.

RQM: Have you done any plays since then?  What were those experiences like?

JK: Last November artist Edgar Arceneaux and Hauser & Wirth gallery invited me to be part of the project called ‘In response: Zoe Leonard's I want A President'. Edgar directed my solo show that we called ‘Rasputin for president', where I played a Russian monk Gregory Rasputin who came to the States to be a new president. I was fully in drag and we talked about gender issues, what does that mean being a female foreigner in the States, and problems about immigration. That day I had a chance to perform and show my work with fantastic and notable artists in LA. Some of them are Lita Albuquerque, Neo Bustamante, Patric Stuff performance Artist and co funder of Black Lives Matter, Edgar Heap of Birds, Patrisse Cullors… That day was very special because we share our deepest thoughts, concerns and feelings about our society and it was cathartic. I'm thankful to Russel Salmon from Hauser & Wirth who was there all the time helping and supporting us.

RQM: I did a little Instagram spying.  You have done some film work.  Tell me about some of your recent film roles.

JK: Yes, I did some short films, one music video and TV. The short film ‘One of Many' directed by Mikel Dever was part of his final exam at UCLA. It was nice experience because it reminds me how little you need to tell the story. The budget was not high and the time for filming was limited. So, again in a short period of time you have to create your character, tell the story and allow yourself to trust a young director. Working on the music video for the Danish band called ‘Idimish' was quite different. Director Inka Rusi had time to prepare the locations, story and the script. She really knows what she wants and how to direct actors. The last work that I did for TV is a short episode in the new TV show ‘In Ice Cold Blood' for Oxygen TV. Big production and huge team. It was a pleasure working on those projects.

RQM: What differences did you notice between film and theatre acting?  How did you change or alter your artistic process?

JK: In terms of acting no matter which medium you use you are oblige to tell the truth.

Through the lens of camera everything looks bigger. I am a very expressive actress and that means I have to be more focused on the details of the movements, and follow the rule ‘less is more'. (laugh) Film forces you to be very intimate with the camera when everything else around you is quite the opposite. You must stay grounded and focused in the world of your character no matter what's happening on set. You can make mistakes on camera and try another take  but theater will never allow you to do the same scene twice in front of the audience. That's one of the reasons why my heart belongs to theater. The stakes are higher with the live audience.

RQM: What is your current project?

JK: Currently I am working on a new show directed by Edgar Arceneaux called ‘Boney Manilly'. In this production I get to portray two men: Frank and Rasputin. I enjoy a lot in this process because this is my first time playing men in the disco world.

We have three more weeks of rehearsals before our tour to Nigeria to present a preview of this project as part of the Lagos Theater Festival in March. This is such a great opportunity to meet artists from all around the world and potentially collaborate with them. Our Los Angeles premiere is coming soon, so stay tuned!

In May I will be traveling to New York where I will be doing a workshop for the show ‘Medea' directed by Michael Alvarez and written by Peter Gray. Michael and I know each other very well from CalArts and this will be our first professional project together. I trust him fully and I can't wait to start.

Also, NY based choreographer and dancer Sophie Bortolussi is directing her new show
and I'm very lucky that she cast me to be part of her magic. It's very early in the process so that's all I can say for now.


Now Registered This Week on the Better Lemons Calendar – November 25 through December 2, 2018

NEW Theatrical shows, Musicals, and Workshops registered on the Better Lemons calendar!
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