BWW Feature: At Home With Marc Tumminelli and James Donegan of BAKING WITH MARC AND JAMES
Marc Tumminelli and James Donegan are well-known around Manhattan for their vast and varied interests in the arts. Both accomplished performers, the 14-year couple are also established teachers with students who have come to rely on their tutelage, even if their guidance comes, now, through a webcam. Discovering that webcams are their friend, the happy duo recently began an online series called BAKING WITH MARC AND JAMES - not in real-time, the show is filmed, edited, and presented on Sunday afternoons on their Facebook page, with the videos later uploaded to their Youtube channel. Is the show silly? Is it fun? Is it entertaining? Good heavens, yes, and that's what people need right now.
And the gifts rolling in prove it.
This interview was conducted digitally and has been reproduced as received.
First Cabaret Show (Title, Year, Club):
JD: Marc has directed cabaret shows, but he's never done one. I've done two, but they were a long time ago.... the one worth mentioning would be "So Much Spring" at the Triad in 2004 or so. It coincided with the release of my self-produced CD by the same name.
MT: Ricky Rat Club, 2001, Don't Tell Mamma
Most Recent Cabaret Show:
Marc directed Farah Alvin On Vinyl, 2019, 2020, The Greenroom 42
Website or Social Media Handles:
James - Insta as jdonfit and Twitter as jamesdonegan Website: http://jamesdonegan.net/
Marc - Insta @MarcTumminelli Twitter @thattumminelli
Gentlemen! How are you both doing today? How's life in isolation in the Tumminelli-Donegan household?
MT: We like each other, and we like our apartment, so we are OK. I got my old school record player out today so that has been very exciting.
Now, do I have that right? What's the billing at your house? Because at ours, going by last names, we are the Mosher-Dwyers, but going by first names, people call us Pat N Ste. How was the couples' billing determined by your household?
JD: Our names are so long that we invented a mashup: "Donninelli" ... but we only use it for things like the dog's last name and the wifi network.
MT: People call us Marc and James mostly. In. that. order. I am very loud and, like they say the squeaky wheel gets the grease, it also gets top billing.
Photo by Michael Hull:
So, let's start with the most obvious topic of conversation: Baking with Marc and James. How did this little bit of magic begin?
JD: Marc baked a box cake on his Instagram story back on Easter to "celebrate" four weeks of being in this apartment. People liked it, so we decided to make chocolate chip cookies together...
MT: I am basically an idiot and I do not understand anything in the kitchen. James cooks all the food. I am excellent at reheating things. Like really good. Anytime you want like some frozen nuggets, I am your man. But baking is not my strong suit. So I think people thought it was funny when I tried to make a BOX CAKE on Instagram and then James joined in and now look what happened to Mable!
JD: I am a pretty good cook... but I don't really know much about baking. I just have experience reading a recipe. Also, Marc's not an idiot. In fact, we risk that he might get too good at baking, and the show will be ruined.
Did you think it would have the impact it is having?
JD: Does it have an impact? It is surprising that people message us with recipes and asking what the next episode will be... and it's most surprising that we've had some people send gifts! Someone sent us a Kitchenaid stand mixer! Out of the blue!
MT: As I mentioned Baking is not my thing and James is good at everything. I think watching James help me figure it out is more entertaining than we thought. It's really fun to do so I am thrilled that people are liking it. And when we got that fancy mixer I was shocked. So what I am saying is keep the gifts coming.
JD: Let's also be clear that nobody is coming to us to learn to bake things. Essentially, we make a seven minute blooper reel every weekend, and people laugh at us.
Also... keep the gifts coming.
(Editor's note: Anything that is brightening lives in quarantine makes an impact. And keep the gifts coming.)
See all episodes of Baking With Marc and James HERE
Your social media was recently abuzz with your 14 year anniversary, though you were married 6 years ago. How did you choose the date of your anniversary - first date, or the day you decided to call it "Official" or what?
JD: We celebrate our first date anniversary, which is May 27, and our wedding anniversary, June 22. When we started dating, we couldn't have gotten married, so that's the date we celebrated.
MT: Same. I often think these two dates are too close together and people think it's our anniversary for months. But we made it a long time so that's something to celebrate.
Photo by Laura Marie Duncan
And how did you celebrate your anniversary this year?
JD: We always go to the restaurant where we had our first date. Of course, we couldn't eat dinner there this year, so we got cocktails-to-go.
You are both teachers as well as artists. Marc, your work with Broadway Workshop, Project Broadway, and Broadway Events is extensive, and James you not only teach voice but you are a health and fitness instructor when you aren't designing websites. Are you both just exhausted from all the work you do?
JD: Short answer: yes. For me, I figured out years ago that doing just one thing all day long makes me miserable, so I've cobbled together a freelance life that pays the bills and keeps me flexible when acting work comes up. Turns out that served me well in this time.
MT: It's much harder for me to sit at my desk all day and teach on Zoom. Being in the studio and running around the city all day is much easier for me personally. So my new normal is a little exhausting, but I am so lucky that we have made the transition to online workshops. I love working and creating things -- and all my work is grounded in performance in some way -- so It all feels so creative.
When you met, were you both pursuing teaching as a way of life?
JD: I've been teaching singing for 20 years. The fitness thing came up about three years ago when another instructor invited me to audition. Turns out I like it a lot more than I anticipated, and it's been a really amazing job.
MT: I was teaching a bit but it was not my focus when we met. I was performing so much 14 years ago, and that was what I wanted to do. Then teaching and directing became a much stronger presence in my life between jobs. Then I started Broadway Workshop and felt it was important to jump fully into making it the strongest program I could, and being an actor didn't really work with running a theater education program, so that was the end of that.
Are you able to continue your life as mentors and instructors through virtual methods?
JD: A few of my voice students have switched to online lessons.
MT: I personally coach around 14 people a week and Broadway Workshop is offering between 4-10 "star" workshops every week. People like Sierra Boggess, Christy Altomare, Erika Henningen, Lauren Patten, Adrienne Warren, Alex Brightman, Leslie Kritzer and Renee Rapp have been leading some of the most incredible workshops with students coming from all over the world. Almost 700 young theater students have participated in online workshops since we started them in late March. It's pretty incredible actually.
Do you both still perform? Will Baking with Marc and James be getting a baby brother or sister in the future?
JD: I do. Besides all of these other jobs, I do some professional choral gigs when things are "normal" and theater when it comes up. Most recently, I was in an Off-Broadway show last summer called I Spy a Spy which had a limited run at St. Clement's, and I was in Forbidden Broadway Off-Broadway for many years. Other than that, I do regional theater gigs when they come up.
MT: I am pretty retired from acting, however, there are a few things I still would do if they came up. I am offer-only, clearly. I was beginning to take some time away from Broadway Workshop to direct other projects and I had some exciting directing opportunities that were sidelined because of COVID. But I am hoping to get back to directing when things open back up. I am much better at directing than I am at baking. But if the Food Network wants our show, I am happy to do that.
Both: And if you are asking if we are having a baby that's a no.
(Editor's note: I was not - I was asking if there will be another online show to go along with Baking With Marc and James).
Marc, I'd love to know about the LITTLE ME Podcast.
MT: Since February I have been recording LITTLE ME Growing Up Broadway for the Broadway Podcast Network. I chat with people who found success on Broadway at a young age. Some of the guests are in the middle of the craziness and some are adults looking back at their time and chatting about how it affected them. It has been pretty well received so far and I have had some great guests like, Andrew Barth Feldman, Marissa O'Donnell, Renee Rapp, Presley Ryan, Michaela Diamond, Sarah Charles Lewis, Larry Saperstein, Eli Tokash and Sydney Lucas. Episodes with Daisy Eagan and Shereen Pimentel are coming out in the next few weeks.
James, tell me about the puppy on your Facebook page.
JD: That's our boy Max!
Because of the health crisis, the month of June will see no Tony Awards and no Pride events. What do you think we can all do to celebrate these two staples of summer virtually?
JD: I am sorry that Pride isn't happening in the same way, but what a time to reflect on what it's really about. Parades and parties are great, but it's about people who protested and fought and rioted for our rights. I am able to put on a wedding band because of the heroes who came before. I've been thinking a lot about that, and I pray that Black men and women can look back on 2020 as a turning point in their struggle to be treated with dignity. And I hope, when we all look back on this year, that we see a united fight and not one that Black Americans had to wage alone.
Gentlemen, I am so grateful to you for taking time out to chat with me today. I can't wait to see what you cook up next - in the kitchen and in life.
Both: Thank you!
All photos provided by Marc and James; Engagement photo sitting at the Lincoln Center fountain by Laura Marie Duncan