An Exclusive Interview with the Divas of Legends!:
Sylvia Glenn and Leatrice Monsee
You ladies have a tumultuous history together. How are you currently getting along?
Sylvia: Leatrice Monsee and I are professionals; we both have long histories which naturally include ups and downs, both on the screen and off. For the record, her history is a bit longer than mine and her terrain happens to feature a few more valleys, but nonetheless, we are both devoted to upholding certain standards of excellence in acting.
Leatrice: My dear, I am a lady. Sylvia Glenn is…ahem…all woman.
Why have you decided to work together at this point in your careers?
Sylvia: Leatrice came to me with this project and practically begged me to consider it.
Leatrice: Sylvia needs the work so I’m only too happy to help her, bless her.
What other projects have you been working on lately?
Leatrice: I’ve been asked to do The Joy Zinoman Story to be directed by Michael Kahn.
Sylvia: I've been approached about appearing in The Michael Kahn Story to be directed by Joy Zinoman.
Why do you think you’ve been so successful all these years?
Leatrice: I took a cue from my old friend “Missy” Stanwyck who knew every crew member’s name, his wife’s name and his children’s name. (That was of course in the Sixties when most of the crew was male). It’s important to be well liked on the set.
Why do you think your co-star has been so successful all these years?
Leatrice: Co-star? Oh, you mean Sylvia. From what I understand, while I was studying at the feet of Barbara Stanwyck, Sylvia was hanging out with the starlet Barbara Payton who wrote a memoir about her life in prostitution called I’m Not Ashamed! So perhaps it’s that lack of shame that keeps Sylvia going.
With age being such a obsession in Hollywood, do you find parts harder to come by as the years go by?
Sylvia: Hollywood has always been about next big thing; and let's face it, most of the time the next big thing happens to be young and pretty. But occasionally smart and talented can trump young and pretty -- even in Hollywood. Think Meryl.
Leatrice: I like all kinds of music.
How far would you go for a part?
Leatrice: Sometimes I have to go to West 40th Street to pick up a script from my agent.
Sylvia: I draw the line at using weapons in order to win a part.
Would you get work done?
Sylvia: I wouldn't let anyone touch me with a knife!
Leatrice: You mean, on the way to 40th Street?
What do you think makes a legend a legend?
Leatrice: I once met the singer Odetta and I said, “Oh, you’re a legend!” and she seemed not too pleased. She said back to me, “Well, I’m still here!” But to answer your question, I think the answer is to let everyone know know how kind you think they are.
Sylvia: Perseverance, originality, sheer determination, balls and above all, the ability to outlive the competition.
Cast | Directors and Designers
John Epperson AKA Lypsinka (Leatrice Monsee) was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi and resides in New York City. He is the creator and star of iconic shows (many seen at The Studio Theatre) including I Could Go On Lip-Synching!, The Fabulous Lypsinka Show, Lypsinka! Now It Can Be Lip-Synched, Lypsinka! A Day In The Life (Drama Desk nomination Most Unique Theatrical Experience), Lypsinka! As I Lay Lip-Synching, Lypsinka Must Be Destroyed!, Lypsinka! The Boxed Set (Drama Desk nomination, Washington DC Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Non-Resident Production/Outstanding Lead Actor nomination, wins for Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Circle Award and L.A. Weekly Theatre Award), John Epperson: Show Trash and The Passion of the Crawford. He also appeared as The Stepmother in the New York City Opera production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella at Lincoln Center. Mr. Epperson has appeared in such films as Witch Hunt with Dennis Hopper, Wigstock: The Movie, Angels In America, Kinsey, Another Gay Movie and Another Gay Sequel. His television credits include thr HBO specials Sandra After Dark with Sandra Bernhard and Dragtime; George Michael’s Too Funky, PBS’s The United States of Poetry and the special features on the Mommie Dearest and Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? DVDs. Formerly a rehearsal pianist at American Ballet Theater, Mr. Epperson’s theatrical career was launched in the mid-1980s when he wrote the book, lyrics and music of Ballet Of The Dolls and Dial “M” For Model at La Mama ETC. His play My Deah, the Medea tale set in The New South, had an Obie Award-winning production Off Broadway in 2006. Epperson and Lypsinka are the subjects of an Emmy-winning television documentary for PBS. He provided the preface for the Rizzoli photo book Persona, and is the author of a new screenplay Happy Everything. Mr. Epperson has also written for The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post Book World and Interview magazine.
James Lecesne (Sylvia Glenn) has created several solo performances as a writer as well as an actor, including his one-man play Word of Mouth, which was presented by Mike Nichols & Elaine May and directed by Eve Ensler (NY Drama Desk Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Solo Performance). Word of Mouth went on to be performed in Los Angeles (LA Weekly Theater Award) and in San Francisco (Bay Area Theater Award), as well as in many cities throughout the U.S. Other New York theatre credits include, Cloud 9, directed by Tommy Tune; Extraordinary Measures, written & directed by Eve Ensler; and the 30th anniversary production of Boys in the Band. Regional theater credits include, I Am My Own Wife, The Mystery of Irma Vep, Motherhood Out Loud all at Hartford Stage Company. Mr. Lecesne has appeared in episodes of Sex and The City, and in the films Home for the Holidays, Broadway Damage and Motherhood. He wrote one of the final episodes of Will & Grace, adapted Armistead Maupin's Further Tales of the City for Showtime (Emmy nomination) and wrote The Road Home: Stories of the Children of War, which was presented at Asia House and at the International Peace Initiative at the Hague. His young adult novel, Absolute Brightness, was a finalist for a 2008 William Morris Award; and his next novel, Virgin Territory, will be published this fall by Egmont. He wrote the short film Trevor, which received an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short, and he is co-founder of The Trevor Project, a non-profit organization that supports gay and questioning youth. Mr. Lecesne most recently founded After The Storm, a non-profit theater and film project that uses art to revitalize the lives of young people in post-Katrina New Orleans.
Rosalind "Roz" White (Aretha) is thrilled to be back at Studio Theatre after making her debut here in Spunk as Blues Speak Woman over 20 years ago. Ms. White also received a Helen Hayes award for her portrayal of Rhythm in The Studio Theatre’s production of Bessie’s Blues in 1995. She is a vocalist, actor, and teacher with over 20 years of professional experience and training. She recently starred in the cabaret Pearl Bailey… by Request, she co-wrote with Thomas W. Jones. A Washington DC native, Ms. White graduated from both The Duke Ellington School of the Arts and Howard University with a BFA in Musical Theatre in 1994. She is a former Miss Howard University and Miss Collegiate African American. She has worked as a backing/featured vocalist with many artists and producers including Yolanda Adams, Stevie Wonder and Quincy Jones. Ms. White spent three years working as a lead vocalist on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. As an actor she has played a variety of roles including Effie White in Dreamgirls in the national tour, Velma in Crowns at the Indiana Repertory Theatre and Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls at the St. Louis Black Repertory. As an educator, Ms. White has served on the faculty at The Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Howard University, the Children’s Studio School, and WEDJ Public Charter School for the Performing Arts.
Tom Story (Martin Klemmer) returns to The Studio Theatre where he most recently appeared as Fred in Moonlight and Katurian in The Pillowman. Other Studio Theatre roles include Bernard in A Number (Helen Hayes nomination), Young Housman in The Invention of Love (Helen Hayes nomination), John in The York Realist, Hermes in Prometheus and Lvov in Ivanov. He has also appeared in Washington at The Shakespeare Theatre Company as The Dauphin in Henry V, Aumerle in Richard II, Otto in Design For Living, Steven in Major Barbara, and Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night (Helen Hayes nomination) and as Prince Hal in 1 Henry IV at The Folger Shakespeare Theatre. In New York he has appeared at the Mint Theater, Town Hall, the York Theater, as Isabella in Measure for Measure directed by Diane Paulus for Project 400. Regional credits include Twelfth Night, Loot and Tartuffe at the McCarter and Yale Repertory Theatre, Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet at Seattle Repertory Theatre, Bosie in Gross Indecency at Missouri Repertory Theatre and multiple roles in the world premiere musical A Girl Called Dusty at Provincetown Repertory Theatre. Mr. Story has spent nine seasons at The Berkshire Theatre Festival. Roles at BTF include Ishmael in Moby Dick-Rehearsed, Mordred in Camelot, Acaste in The Misanthrope, Peter in The Heidi Chronicles (Berkshire Eagle Award), Venticelli in Amadeus, Tom in The Glass Menagerie and Will in The Book Club Play. He is a recipient of a Fox Foundation grant and a graduate of Duke University and The Juilliard School.
Leo Christopher Sheridan (Boom-Boom) makes his Studio Theatre debut. He is a DC native but began his professional career in New York City. He performed in the national and international tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. His favorite credits include Michael in The Dining Room with the Shawnee Playhouse; Donald in You Cant Take It With You at the Lyceum Theatre and Ricky in The Wedding Singer at the Gateway Playhouse. He has appeared in Touchstone Pictures' Step Up, the HBO series The Wire, and the ABC pilot 20 Questions. He attended The Duke Ellington School of the Arts and received a Bachelors of Music from The Catholic University of America.
Directors and Designers
Kirk Jackson (Director) returns to The Studio Theatre where he directed The Internationalist, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead and Take Me Out (Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Resident Production 2005). For New York Theatre Workshop, he directed Emmett Foster's So It's Come to This and Emmett: A One Mormon Show and assisted Belgian director Ivo Van Hove on More Stately Mansions, Hedda Gabler and The Misanthrope. Other directing credits include Viva Las Vegas and the US premiere of Howard Barker’s Uncle Vanya at Cucaracha Theatre; The Busy World is Hushed, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Nickel and Dimed, Gray’s Anatomy and Parallel Lives at Actors Theatre of Phoenix (multiple Zoni Awards and nominations) and Strange Interlude at Washington Shakespeare Company (two Helen Hayes Award nominations). Mr. Jackson has performed in over a hundred productions from Maine to California, including Love! Valour! Compassion! on Broadway and at the Studio Theatre. He has taught and directed at NYU, Princeton, Cal Arts, Binghamton University and USD at the Old Globe Theatre. He holds an MFA from the Yale School of Drama and has been a faculty member of Bennington College since 2001.
Dan Conway (Set Designer) designed Radio Golf, Take Me Out, Runaway Home, Lobby Hero and A New Brain at The Studio Theatre, in addition to more than a dozen other productions including Seven Guitars, Jitney, Two Sisters and a Piano and Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, along with subUrbia and The Desk Set, for which he received Helen Hayes Award nominations. He recently received the 2009 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Set Design for Stunning at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. Other recent credits include One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest for Round House Theatre and the premiere of My Name is Asher Lev for The Arden Theatre. He received a 2000 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Set Design for Ambrosio at Rep Stage. Off Broadway he designed the premieres of Horton Foote’s Lily Dale and Terrence McNally’s Prelude Und Liebestod on Theatre Row. Other Off Broadway credits include work for The Chelsea Theatre, Equity Library Theatre, The Manhattan Class Company, Circle Rep and Soho Rep. For the Cleveland Playhouse, where he served as Resident Designer, he created sets for the premiere of the Reynolds Price trilogy New Music. He is currently designing the set for Chess and Sunset Blvd. at Signature Theatre. Mr. Conway is the Head of Design and Production and Resident Designer for the professional training program at The University of Maryland.
Michael Giannitti (Lighting Designer) is the Resident Lighting Designer at The Studio Theatre; he has designed over 30 productions including American Buffalo, Reasons to Be Pretty, In the Red and Brown Water, Rock ‘n’ Roll, The Seafarer, The Road To Mecca, Shining City, The Pillowman, Red Light Winter, Fat Pig, Afterplay, The Russian National Postal Service, Galileo and Seven Guitars, which earned him a Helen Hayes Award Nomination. He designed lighting on Broadway for August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone, and for its pre-Broadway tour which included Arena Stage. He has designed extensively for Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Trinity Repertory Theatre, Capital Repertory Theatre, Shakespeare & Company and Weston Playhouse. Mr. Giannitti has also designed for Virginia Stage, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Portland Stage Company, George Street Playhouse, Jomandi, Yale Repertory Theatre and Olney Theatre Center. New York dance lighting credits include Dance Theatre Workshop, Dancespace, The Joyce, The Kitchen and P.S. 122. Additional regional venues include the Spoleto Festival and Walker Art Center. He has been on the faculty at Bennington College since 1992. As a Fulbright Senior Specialist, he taught at the National University of Art, Theatre and Cinema in Bucharest, Romania and at the New Zealand Drama School.
Fabio Toblini (Costume Designer) has designed costumes for the Off Broadway productions of the world premiere of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Batboy: The Musical and Intrigue with Faye. He has also designed costumes for such original works as Sammy at The Old Globe and The Divine Sister with Charles Busch at Theatre for the New City. Other credits include the National tours of Godspell, Fame and Jesus Christ Superstar and Creature from the Black Lagoon for Universal Studios Hollywood. He has designed costumes for theatres across the country including the Old Globe, American Players Theatre, Alley Theatre, The Guthrie Theater, The Shakespeare Theatre Company, Ford's Theatre, Long Wharf Theatre and the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis. He has also designed costumes for opera including Zar und Zimmermann at Tiroler Landestheater in Austria; Macbeth for Portland Opera; L’Opera Seria and Tales of Hoffmann for Nationale Reisopera in Holland. His dance credits include costumes for Romeo and Juliet with Dominic Walsh Dance Theatre and The Nutcracker at Ballet Arizona. He received the 2008 Irene Sharaff Award and a 2001 Lucille Lortel nomination for Batboy: The Musical. Mr. Toblini studied at the Istituto Marangoni in Milan and Parsons School of Design.
Gil Thompson (Sound Designer) is the Resident Sound Designer for The Studio Theatre, where he has designed more than 70 productions and received six Helen Hayes Award nominations. He received the 2000 Helen Hayes Award for The Studio Theatre’s Indian Ink. More recently, his work was heard at The Studio Theatre in American Buffalo, Moonlight, Rock’n’Roll, Grey Gardens, The Road to Mecca, The History Boys, Shining City, The Pillowman, Souvenir and A Number. He was sound engineer for The Passion of the Crawford, and he also designed lights and sound for Crestfall, directed by Joy Zinoman, at The Studio 2ndStage. Other credits include Black Milk, Far Away, Privates on Parade and The Invention of Love at The Studio Theatre, Angel's Voices and Children of the Sun at The Kennedy Center and several productions at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. He has also worked at The Shakespeare Theatre Company, Source Theatre, Horizons Theatre, Theater of the First Amendment and The Opera Camerata of Washington. He is Production Stage Manager for The Christmas Revels and Resident Lighting Designer and Technical Director for Sidwell Friends School.
Robb Hunter (Fight Choreographer) has directed violence/movement for many productions at area theatres including American Buffalo and Reasons to be Pretty at Studio Theatre; Stick Fly, Noises Off, The Heidi Chronicles and Frankie & Johnny in the Claire de Lune with Arena Stage; The Alchemist at The Shakespeare Theatre Company; Bus Stop, The Millionairess, Oliver, Carousel, and 13 Rue de L’Amour at Olney Theatre Center; The Heavens are Hung in Black with Ford’s Theatre; A Little Night Music at Centerstage; In the Heart of America at Rep Stage and Macbeth with Baltimore Shakespeare Festival. Mr. Hunter is a Certified Teacher for the Society of American Fight Directors and member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society as well as AEA, SAG and AFTRA. He is currently Artist in Residence at American University and also teaches stage combat in the M.F.A. program at Catholic University and art history (The History of Arms and Armor) at George Mason University.
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James Kirkwood, Jr.
American playwright and author James Kirkwood, Jr. is best known for co-authoring the book of the 1976 musical A Chorus Line. Before winning the Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Best Book of a Musical and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Kirkwood wrote the semi-autobiographical novel There Must Be a Pony, later made into a movie starring Elizabeth Taylor and Robert Wagner. He adapted his 1970 novel PS. Your Cat is Dead for the stage and later the screen. His production Legends toured the United States starring Mary Martin and Carol Channing in 1986, and Kirkwood traveled 24 cities with the cast before penning the book Diary of a Mad Playwright: Perilous Adventures on the Road with Mary Martin and Carol Channing. The production resurrected the tradition of touring the country before taking the play to Broadway, and although the play never reached Broadway, the show was a popular success. The play toured North America again in 2006 starring Joan Collins and Linda Evans. It was re-imagined in March 2009 by John Epperson as a reading featuring two drag artists and Whoopi Goldberg as the character of the producer.
Dorothy Draper’s Influence on Legends!
For The Studio Theatre’s production of Legends!, Dorothy Draper’s bold and theatrical style was inspirational for the set design, created by designer Daniel L. Conway. Like Dorothy Draper, the two leading ladies demand attention and a showy setting perfectly suits their over-the-top personalities. The elaborate, extensive molding, the overstuffed chaise and poof, the enormous door, and the large portraits create a sophisticated, classy environment that feels just right.
Progressive and avant-garde, Dorothy Draper guided interior design out of the drab Victorian Era and into the innovative twentieth century. Born in 1889 to a wealthy and established family in Tuxedo Park, New York, she is credited with fashioning interior decorating into a profession. At the age of 34, she established the first interior design company in the United States, Dorothy Draper and Company, which continues to create daring designs today. Larger than life, both in her stature (she towered at six feet tall) and her style, her work has been described as theatrical and unique. She focused on designing public spaces, creating a place for people to enjoy a combination of beauty and comfort. Her designs are characterized by black and white checkered floor tiles, chintz fabrics, overstuffed furniture, vibrant colors, imposing doors, large frames, and ornate molding. She lived and designed by the motto “if it looks right, it feels right.”
1937 Lobby, Hampshire House by Dorothy Draper. Photo courtesy of flickr.com
Lypsinka at The Studio Theatre: Through The Years
Lypsinka! The Boxed Set by John Epperson, directed by Kevin Malony
photo by Josef Astor.
John Epperson in Rep by John Epperson, directed by Kevin Malony.
Photo by Austin Young.
Photo by Josef Astor.
The Passion of the Crawford Featuring John Epperson as Lypsinka as Joan Crawford, directed by Kevin Malony.
Photo by Austin Young.