Interview: Gloria Gifford on Directing LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS

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By: May. 18, 2021
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Interview: Gloria Gifford on Directing LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS

LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS ran on Broadway for two months in the autumn of 1968. The playwrights, husband-and-wife team of Renee Taylor and the late Joseph Bologna, often acted together and co-wrote eleven hit plays, knowing full well the subject of love has always provided fertile ground for comedy! This ensemble romantic comedy centers on a wedding and all the side stories happening between not only the bride and groom, but their families and friends as they mix and mingle. And in a laugh-packed eighty minutes, Taylor and Bologna demonstrate their mastery of the romcom form with wonderful relatable people seduced by love, arguing about love, marrying with love, cheating with love, and confused by love.

With in-person theatre still on hold, the Hollywood-based GGC Players is live-streaming LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS, directed by Gloria Gifford, produced by Leana Chavez, Chad Doreck, and Jade Ramirez Warner. Presented by Jamaica Moon, the double-cast ensemble includes Amber Dancy, Billy Budinich, Chad Doreck, Chris Jones, Dan White, Danny Siegel, Dominique Vance, Emme Daigle, Haile D'Alan, Jade Ramirez Warner, Joey Marie Urbina, Joshua Lee Farmer, Justine Estrada, Keith Walker, Kelly Musslewhite, Keturah Hamilton, Kevin Rexroat, Michael Barker, Nancy Vivar, Sabrina Won, Sam Mansour, Stella Pecollo, TJ Martinez, and Teagan Wilson, with performances running May 22- June 26, 2021 on Saturdays at 8:30 p.m.

Interview: Gloria Gifford on Directing LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS The play's director, Gloria Gifford, is a New York and Broadway-trained director/actress/teacher who has directed over 75 stage productions, including On Golden Pond (with Salome Jens and Andrew Prine), Our Lady of 121st St. (L.A. Times Critic's Choice), The Tempest, Romantic Comedy, A Bed and a Bar, Summer and Smoke, Wait Until Dark, Love Allways (among many others), and the winner of NAACP Best Director Award for Antony and Cleopatra and Much Ado About Nothing. A veteran actor with credits on Broadway, in hit films (opposite Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, John Candy and Tobey Maguire), and recurring roles on four TV series, she has also been known as an acting coach to emerging stars and as the producer of the Rebel Planet Short Film Festival in Hollywood. She taught at the prestigious AFI in the Masters Program for six years, and Patty Jenkins (director, Wonder Woman), Brian Dannelly (director of Weeds and Saved) and GIDEON RAFF (creator, Homeland) were some of her students.

I decided to speak with Gloria Gifford about presenting LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS online as well as her Gloria Gifford Conservatory and how she is managing to keep her students active during the past year.

Interview: Gloria Gifford on Directing LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS (Shari): It's always good to speak with you about theatre and your Conservatory, especially since I am a former high school Theatre Arts teacher myself. How have you been able to hold classes during the ongoing in-person shutdown? (Pictured clockwise from top left: Justine Estrada, TJ Martinez, Jade Ramirez Warner, Haile D'Alan)

(Gloria): During the pandemic I have been doing classes on Zoom. We started one week after the shutdown and we have not missed any classes held on Wednesday night, Saturday day and Sunday day. We even did a Master Class co-taught by Brian Dannelly (Executive Producer of the CW show IN THE DARK) on Zoom for 9 Tuesday nights as well. We also did a Master Class for Directors and Actors for 8 Tuesday nights after the first master class was so successful. That was a huge success as well. So, we've been busy busy busy! And we could accommodate actors from Italy, Panama, and across the country by being on Zoom.

Interview: Gloria Gifford on Directing LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS (Shari): What are the reasons you decided to present this play now when your actors cannot appear onstage together? Isn't that difficult in a romantic comedy? (Pictured: Kelly Musselwhite and Chad Doreck)

(Gloria): You are so right about the difficulty of doing a romantic comedy on Zoom, on one hand. In fact, I had a completely different line up of plays we were going to do before the pandemic, but LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS turned out to be much easier on Zoom because it is five pieces with either two or four actors in each one and they are never connected. It is a play about LOVE and RELATIONSHIPS and FAMILIES and each piece stands alone, so we don't have to have 12 or 24 actors working together.

(Shari): What are the challenges of and reasons for double-casting the show? Are there two specific casts that appear together or do the actors alternate each week?

Interview: Gloria Gifford on Directing LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS (Gloria): I always double cast shows because so many of my actors are working actors and I never want to jeopardize the production by having actors dropping out. In fact, one of the actors who was going to be in the play, got a series regular job on a soap and is doing many episodes a week and then had to fly to NYC because she is also recurring on a show there. That would have been a nightmare if it had happened two weeks into the production, but thankfully it all happened two weeks BEFORE production after she was cast.

Casts alternate again to accommodate working schedules for day jobs too. The biggest challenge is getting the actors to rehearsals TOGETHER so I don't have to give notes twice.

(Shari): Are there any new actors appearing in a GGC Players production for the first time? Are they current students of yours or did you hold open auditions?

Interview: Gloria Gifford on Directing LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS (Gloria): Yes, we have Stella Pecollo who studied with me in Italy now doing the production from Rome and Emme Daigle (pictured with Keith Walker) is new to class and doing the production from Chicago. Both Emme and Stella came to class presently from the Master Class we did last year during the pandemic. TJ Martinez and Teagan Wilson are new to the productions but not to class. All were cast from auditions, but the auditions were only open to GGC students.

(Shari): Tell me about the rehearsal process for this production. Have they all been done on the Zoom platform?

Interview: Gloria Gifford on Directing LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS (Gloria): All the rehearsals have been done on Zoom and I LOVE IT. The actors love it too because I can do costumes, make-up and props without the actors hauling everything to the theater. I don't have to linger in the theater after rehearsals with endless questions because I say goodbye and it's a real goodbye.(Pictured: Joey Marie Urbina and Chris Jones)

If they have additional questions, they email me or the producers. It's also been a time saver that I have been able to set up rehearsals by the scene and work around the working schedules of the actors, which makes sense. No one is late and very little stops the actors from showing up ready to work. And we work!

Interview: Gloria Gifford on Directing LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS (Shari): Will each weekly performance be done live? (pictured: Billy Budinich and Stella Pecollo, Photo credit: Abigail Kochunas)

(Gloria): Yes, every weekly performance on Saturday nights at 8:30pm will be done live, which is so exciting! And we'll have to see how this works with the Showtix4U set up. It's a real leap of faith.

(Shari): Thank you Gloria for taking the time to speak with me. Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?

(Gloria): Your questions are so smart and I thank you, Shari, for being a great eye and for your informed and creative feedback!

(Shari): Thanks Gloria. I so appreciate all you do to train actors with the skills needed to complete and succeed in such a competitive industry!

Please tune in for the hit comedy LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS by Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna, directed by Gloria Gifford, produced by Leana Chavez, Chad Doreck, and Jade Ramirez Warner, and presented virtually by Jamaica Moon, which will be live-streamed by GGC Players from May 22 through June 26 on Saturday evenings at 8:30pm. Tickets are $9.00 (plus service charge) and can be ordered in advance at Registrants will be sent a streaming link. Estimated running time is 80 minutes.

Cast screenshots by Chad Doreck unless otherwise noted


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