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BWW Interview: At Home With Leslie Carrara-Rudolph (and Lolly Lardpop)


The magic duo of wacky and wonderful goes virtual for Halloween.

BWW Interview: At Home With Leslie Carrara-Rudolph (and Lolly Lardpop) Leslie Carrara-Rudolph is an original. Nobody who has seen the whirling dervish of puppetry in action would deny that the Sesame Street performer and the woman behind Lolly Lardpop has something special to offer to audiences of all ages. With her BIZARRE BRUNCH series, Leslie brings to live theater some of the magic she provides television fans, plus a little bit more, as she takes her sense of whimsy and all of her on stage friends to places that television doesn't quite allow. Each time Leslie steps into the spotlight of any stage, viewers can expect something new from her, something different in entertainment, and, definitely, something the other side of wild.

This interview was conducted digitally and is reproduced in its original form.

Name: Leslie Carrara-Rudolph

First Cabaret Show (Title, Year, Club):

My first official cabaret was called "Something Smells" at The Cavern Club Theater, which is in the basement of a Mexican restaurant in Silver lake California in 2000. It was Sort of a musical storytelling adventure where I wake up in the middle of night to a funny smell that leads me to clean out my refrigerator of "leftover ideas." The refrigerator eats me and I crawl out of the back into a weird and whimsical world. But my first ever one-person show was in 1990 in Northern California and it was called "Life in other people's shoes." I had shoes all over the stage and would slip on a pair and become that person...or sea monkey.

My most recent Cabaret Show was my last Bizarre Brunch at the Laurie Beechman Theater in February 2020.

The Bizarre Brunches were designed to be sort of like a Gospel brunch only with a collection stories and music and puppets to serve up "Humor with a heart." In February, I called the show, "Sleptember." I oversleep and I have to create a show from scratch with the help of my sidekick Lolly, the Beechman team, and my unsuspecting audience. The inspiration for that show was an emergency poncho, a beard and an Ella Mae Morris song.

Website or Social Media Handles:

@LollyLardpop on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter

(Lolly really doesn't "tweet" her Facebook page is just hooked to twitter)

Leslie, thank you so much for talking with Broadway World today! How are you faring this fall?

Thank you for reaching out Stephen. This fall I have been super busy since schools and after school programs are still virtual and in need of creative content. I have been zooming into classrooms all over the country doing character workshops for all different age groups. It's been inspiring to meet so many amazing teachers and nonprofit groups who are working so hard to champion the arts. I have a hard time saying no because the kids and families that I meet fill me with hope. Plus, Lolly considers herself an "Arts Activist" and is up for any adventure and has been hosting and doing live playdates. She is very active with the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund. Since COVID, I can't do hospital visits with kids, so we do little live shows on the Jay Fund Facebook page to help the families have a moment of joy. My major at SF state was "Child Development Through the Arts" and I feel a strong call to help out during this time.

What was your experience with the quarantine like? Lots of projects, or baking and reading?

I have become a crazy craft troll who can make a Sasquatch out of a paper towel roll, magic markers, and some plastic forks. However, I still can't master zoom. To be honest Stephan I might have been a crazy craft troll before quarantine. I had my very first art installation at a gallery in Chicago. The Art Center Highland Park had a show called "Voices in Visions" curated by Caren Rudman. I made a 6-foot light up pipe-cleaner sculpture of a Phoenix out of art supplies that was flying above little whimsical creatures guarding a dragon painting. The piece is my 3D story of how the arts have been my resilience in times of darkness. It's called "Fearless heart." It was exciting to have my art outside the house. From the beginning of quarantine I have been busy with Sesame Street, which became a supportive force to help educate families on how to navigate COVID, provide emotional support, and stand up to racism. The puppeteer's have been filming from home. I am so grateful to be part of the love, science, and insight with Abby and my Sesame family. Plus Lolly has kept me busy with her "Weird Wednesdays," Jay Fund, Art House Astoria, Long Island Children's Museum, Dystonia foundation, and whoever needs a cheerleader for humanity. Living under one roof with Abby and Lolly has been hectic and ridiculous. My husband is surviving by creating music in his studio, playing vibes, experimenting with percussion, and occasionally dressing up as Deadpool. We really need to get out in nature. Books- The graphic novel series of "MARCH," "Dead Weight", and the novel "The House in the Cerulean Sea."

You have recently announced that you will be streaming some archival video recordings of two different shows from your onstage time in the New York clubs. What went into that decision and could it lead to some live streaming shows? Or is that too much like going to your day job?

BWW Interview: At Home With Leslie Carrara-Rudolph (and Lolly Lardpop) We are going to stream "Moonlight Madness" , my Halloween cabaret that would have played at the Laurie Beechman this October. Since the club is closed and so many are affected, we decided to stream it for 2 weeks and raise some funds to help out those in need of income. It's a first for showing any of my staged performances so it's a bit of a new adventure but I hope it brings some laughs. Moonlight Madness is one of my favorite shows because it's a Halloween theme and it's about acceptance, transformation, and not judging who, what, or how you love. A big shout out to my writing partner Jamie Donmoyer and my director Pam Arciero who are really enablers. In this show I get to play with the talented Tomsko family. Judy Glad, Jessy Sharkey, and Jenna Tomsko. (A Mom and two daughters.) My husband on Vibes and Deadpool, my buddy Chris Sassono and Michael Kirk Lane all lend a hand (literally) in the Madness. Pianists Steven Jamail and Michael Hicks are also along for the ride. It's pretty wacky with Granny Dot and Lolly too. I don't normally have a cast other than what's on my hand so it's a lot of extra fun. It's kind of exciting to know I can share this cabaret and also support the arts. Those who rent it will get a zoom link to a talk back with cast and special guests on Nov.7th.

Will this lead to some live streaming shows?

Hmmm, not sure. I am always up for exploring new ways of storytelling. And I am experimenting a little with a few new things with my Lolly stuff. I feel like we are all going to be finding interesting new ways to stay connected in real time. I miss live performances so much. I want to thank and applaud everyone in the arts community who continue to reach out, support one another, and help venues, and artists survive and stay present.

What are the two different shows that people will get to tune in for this month?

Moonlight Madness is the rentable streaming show. October 24-Nov 7th. A musical comedy cabaret filled with Puppets, Fortune tellers, and Swamp Thangs, Oh my!

The other one is "Lolly's Halloween Celebration" on October 31st 1pm ET.

It's a free zoom event so spots are limited. That show is more of a wacky playdate with Lolly and friends. We know kids won't get to go trick or treating so we wanted to give them a reason to dress up and have fun with the whole family. It's interactive with stories, music, games and special guests. After the show kids can hang out and visit with Lolly. You never know who is gonna show up.

People who have seen your live shows get to see some truly magical but authentically whacky on-stage adventures. What is the process like, for you, creating one of your club acts?

BWW Interview: At Home With Leslie Carrara-Rudolph (and Lolly Lardpop) I start with a theme and think about what stories I want to tell and what is the heart message. I have to have a heart intention, or I can't get started.

I usually figure out where I want to end up and work backwards. I'll take a theme like "Spring" and brainstorm everything that could mean...springy, spring cleaning, things you want to let go of, things we hold on to, spring fever, hay fever, the song "Fever" ... that's it! I am going to pull shiny green gloves and a snot dress out of a tissue box, wear a giant rubber nose on my head and sing "Fever!" It's so obvious. In truth I don't always know how these things come into my head. I surrender to the whimsy. I also have a magic ingredient, my writing partner and dear friend Jamie Donmoyer. She is also a puppeteer so we both think visually. We brainstorm together about what makes us laugh and then I start writing ideas for little stories or create characters who can take us on a journey. For the "Spring Bizarre Brunch" we also decided that we were going to use Doris Day music and that brought in another theme. Then I think about which songs would be good for Lolly, Granny Dot, a new character or how to create a fun visual on stage. Then I ask my husband about songs and he helps me with keys. Next I start music rehearsals with the extremely talented Michael Hicks. We step through the music and I share my ideas and we work on timing. Michael is always on board for anything. I also make him listen to my mission for the show so he can hold me accountable. When I did Moonlight Madness Steven Jamail hadn't worked with me before, so I am sure he had no idea what he signed up for when I started barking a song. Whenever I get anxious about performing something new Lolly usually takes over because she has more confidence than me. LOL.

I am an inherently shy person and watching your show at The Laurie Beechman earlier this year I marveled at your ability to go to those over-the-top places of whimsy and wonder. You are in a league with comics like Carol Burnett and Andrea Martin, except with puppets. Where does that ability, that abandon, come from?

Wow, well first of all thank you I am truly humbled by that compliment. Those women are my heroes along with many others. For cabaret, my direct influences are Chita Rivera and Coco Peru. I love their authenticity and passionate storytelling.

BWW Interview: At Home With Leslie Carrara-Rudolph (and Lolly Lardpop) I think my energy on stage is fueled by a combination of gratitude, mischievous anticipation, and the desire to fill the room with joy. Never underestimate the power of joy. I learned really early that life is short when our family suffered a loss that broke our hearts and changed our lives. I became an "escape artist" cartooning characters at a young age and creating imaginary worlds to play in. But when I first saw Carol Burnett dress up and become her characters and make my whole family laugh, she became my superhero. I wanted to be just like her and bring light in people's lives. The mischievous whimsy comes from laughing at myself knowing I am going to do something ridiculous and plus the clown in me thrives on physical comedy. And the gratitude is that I feel blessed to still be here playing with everyone. As for gratitude, I have dear friends who watch my shows from "above" and I owe it to them to give it my all because I know they would be right next to me. When I look out at the audience at the end of every show I think to myself "We'll always have this moment."

Some ventriloquists prefer to call their work partners their "friends" - not dolls, not dummies, not puppets. Speaking purely technically, are you a puppeteer or a ventriloquist, and how would you label your man-made colleagues?

I am a puppeteer not a ventriloquist cuz I move my mouth. Lolly is bitter about that and thinks we would be further along if I at least tried.

I refer to Lolly as my friend, she refers to me as her handler.

Does Lolly have her own space in your home? A room, or a perch where she lives and contributes to the ongoing daily conversation?

BWW Interview: At Home With Leslie Carrara-Rudolph (and Lolly Lardpop) Lolly has little by little taken up more space as she expands her world with her projects. She sleeps next to my art table on a stack of books that inspire her. Jim Henson- "Imagination" and "Becoming Michelle" She has a pillow a child made for her, a candy corn dish towel as a blanket, and her Planet of the Apes glamour doll Marylynn is always with her. She also keeps her own journal called "Dear Diaria." As for her adding to the conversation...always.

Put a picture in my head of Leslie Carrara-Rudolph when she doesn't have another person attached to her hands. What's your down time like?

If I am not rubbing my dog Newhart's belly, I sit at my art table in a Snoopy baseball hat, paint covered jeans and make stuff up or call my friends and family and blab. I switch stations all day on Sirius radio while twisting a pipe cleaner sculpture that I am obsessing over. Next to me there is a bag of weird and recycled treasures that are waiting to become something and few journals to be drawn or written in. I definitely have a giant bowl of popcorn nearby. My husband Paul is in the other room creating music and we meet on the couch every once in a while, to hang out or go for walks in the park.

We are heading into the holiday sprint for 2020. Halloween, Thanksgiving, the December Holidays and New Year's. What does that look like in the home of a woman with so much creativity and energy?

BWW Interview: At Home With Leslie Carrara-Rudolph (and Lolly Lardpop) I decorate for every season. I get that from my mama. I even paint our windows. So, I will be crafting and making gifts since we won't be able to go home which is so hard. I miss family and I miss hugging. I am sure I will be finding ways I can share some stories or art in order to hug that way.

Leslie, I can't thank you enough for chatting with Broadway World today - this is an interview I've wanted to do for months! I'm glad we finally got to do it.

Oh gosh, Stephen. I'm so glad we got to chat as well. Thank you for all you do to champion the artists in our community.

BWW Interview: At Home With Leslie Carrara-Rudolph (and Lolly Lardpop)

Photos provided by Leslie Carrara-Rudolph

For Lolly's Hollywood Zoom Party: CLICK HERE

For Moonlight & Madness: CLICK HERE

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