BWW Interview: Paul Sand on Getting KURT WEILL On the Boards & Working Actors Off the Streets

BWW Interview: Paul Sand on Getting KURT WEILL On the Boards & Working Actors Off the Streets

Tony Award-winning actor Paul Sand took time out of his Sunday afternoon off to talk with BroadwayWorld. He is currently putting on his third-ish re-incarnation of KURT WEILL AT THE CUTTLEFISH HOTEL (opening July 8 and running thru July 30) at the Miles Memorial Playhouse in Santa Monica.

Inspiration for CUTTLEFISH initially hit Paul as he was walking on his favorite local haunt, the Santa Monica Pier. Paul thought the Pier was "so waterfront and so funky. Wouldn't Kurt Weill's nasty songs about murder and revenge and broken hearts be terrific down here?"

Paul's first production of composer Weill's dark and sinister collaboration with lyricist Bertold Brecht opened at The West End Theatre in December of 2013. Paul noted that these two creative geniuses had sometimes walked on this very same pier. He put on a couple of mini-workshops prior to his official 'second' production at The Actors' Gang last June.

Paul has always relied on his instincts in casting, rather than on 'traditional' auditions. Paul had directed Sol Mason previously in THE SOLVIT KIDS (co-written by Clara Mamet, David's daughter) at the Ruskin School of Acting. (David Mamet had recommended Paul as Clara's director. Clara told Paul, "My father said, "Yes, I should ask Paul.") Paul admired Sol's "wonderful, uncontrollable way of moving" and thought Sol would be perfect for the "gangly, wise guy" narrator role in CUTTLEFISH.

BWW Interview: Paul Sand on Getting KURT WEILL On the Boards & Working Actors Off the StreetsSol suggested a friend of his for Paul to consider for one of CUTTLEFISH's female roles. When Sol's friend Shay Astar strutted into Paul's office with a great big hat, a long dress, dark glasses, much attitude and "such presence;" Paul immediately offered her the part - without even hearing her sing. Remember, Sol did already vouch for her singing. (In my review of CUTTLEFISH at The Actor's Gang last year, I raved about Shay, "Can someone please cast her in all the Patti LuPone-type roles???")

For the other female role, Paul and his producer Jim Harris happened upon a performance of Megan Rippey singing Kurt Weill - while dancing on a stripper pole. Paul and Jim looked at each other and went right over to offer Megan the other female part. (The Actors' Gang production I reviewed had the talented Kalean Ung subbing for Rippey.)

The fourth member of this CUTTLEFISH quartet of talent is Mr. Sand himself. At the suggestion of his costumer Marie Lalanne, Paul wears a single red glove. Actually, the red glove's a compromise between Paul and Marie. She originally wanted him to have one of his hands painted blood red. The theatrical use of the red glove really pops during CUTTLEFISH, especially when Paul slashes another's throat.

BWW Interview: Paul Sand on Getting KURT WEILL On the Boards & Working Actors Off the StreetsThis production of CUTTLEFISH will inaugurate Paul's newly established Santa Monica Public Theatre. With this theatre company, Paul's realizing his goal to "create a real, an exciting theatre on the Westside," and a space for young actors to get off the streets and keep working as actors- paid actors. "I have a spooky self-assurance that I know how to put on a show that no one is going to fall sleep. I'm vowing to the people of the Westside that no husbands are going to fall asleep during the show." Paul has four other productions he has created he's planning to put on.

Paul's acting background included a one-year stint as a member of the Marcel Marceau Company in Paris and then, The Second City Company in Chicago. When asked the main difference between the two companies, Paul quipped, "In Marcel's company, nobody talked. In Second City, nobody shut up." Paul sought out the Marcel Marceau Company when first escaping Southern California. "I just didn't know French, but I wanted to study theater. I went to Paris and auditioned for a guy who didn't need to deal with the language." One of the essential lessons Paul learned from working with the Marcel Marceau Company was "the value of expressing an emotion or a thought by keeping quiet and holding still."

Paul took this lesson to heart when he started working with Second City. In the beginning, he was known as the 'Quiet Guy' as he was afraid to talk. "I was really shy." Paul was intimated by the other Second City members, "all from the University of Chicago and really smart on politics and literature." After about nine months or so, Paul performed a sketch originating from Paul's own idea centered around a phonograph recording "How to Win a Friend." This bit, which the audience responded to with much laughter, opened Paul up to finding his voice and he, lucky for us, hasn't stopped talking since. "Once you get a subject that you believe in, that moves you; then you've got everything going." Paul found his niche, his area of expertise. "I caught on to, just the human side; what we're all going through, and not be scared; when everyone is basically scared."

BWW Interview: Paul Sand on Getting KURT WEILL On the Boards & Working Actors Off the StreetsAsked what he remembered that night in 1971 he won his Tony Award (Actor, Supporting or Featured [Dramatic] for PAUL SILLS' STORY THEATRE) - Paul recalls being handed his Tony from none other than Angela Lansbury, herself. Paul didn't think he would win, so he hadn't written a 'thank you' speech. But he knew if he did win, he will eliminate elements from 'thank you' speeches he didn't like: 1) "Don't fucking cry," 2) "Don't get too excited," 3) "Be sure to thank the people you want to thank (but even then I still forgot some)," and 4) "Give a little of your own point of view." He remembers walking off into the wings and his Tony being immediately snatched away from him without any spoken niceties (probably for engraving).

Paul and many of his STORY THEATRE co-stars (Lewis Arquette, Valerie Harper, Melinda Dillon, Peter Bonerz, Hamilton Camp, Richard Libertini, Mary Frann, Richard Schaal) went on to successful television careers. Asked if he credited their TV success to their theatre background, Paul gave a resounding, "Completely! Completely! Completely!" Paul found it a satisfying experience as a native Los Angeleno to go away to work (in theatre), and then be asked to come back to work (in television).

If you ever have the fortunate opportunity to corner Paul, he can easily regale you with fascinating stories of people and projects he's worked with.

Like the time he auditioned on the MGM studio lot for a Judy Garland project. Having worked with her choreographer Paul Godkin before, Paul was invited to try out for a part in Judy's upcoming tour. Uneasy with auditioning for a synchronized dance routine, Paul asked the dance captain if there was a specialty number he could be more suited for. After the group auditions finished, Paul was instructed to improv some dance moves to various songs that Judy sang. While hoofing his heart out and impressing the various MGM behind-the-scenes personnel there (including actress Kay Thompson); who but Miss Garland entered the room (and quite noticeably with her entourage). Still dancing his toes off, Paul noticed that Judy was actually raptly paying attention to his performance. When he finished his last number, Paul excused himself to go outside in the alley - to vomit. As he's still hunched over heaving, he felt a hand on his forehead. It was Judy Garland's hand. Paul apologized explaining he gets this urge to vomit when he gets really nervous. Her response, "When we're on the road, you can use my bucket."

As any budding actor knows, you always answer, "Yes," when asked if you can do anything. Paul wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to work with Judy Garland. So... back to the alley; of course, Paul answered, "Yes," when Judy asked if he could sing.

After leaving MGM, Paul looked through the Yellow Pages for a local vocal coach. The coach he eventually reached thought Paul was blowing smoke in telling him he needed vocal lessons in order to go on tour with Judy Garland.

Paul rehearsed his dance for "We're a Couple Of Swells," never with Judy, but with the dance captain in front of a large screen for Paul to duplicate Fred Astaire's footwork. Paul toured the west coast of the States with Ms. Garland. "One-night stands. We slept on the train, did the show and got back on the train. Only did that one number on the tour. She did it with Fred Astaire in the film Easter Parade years before. The rest of the time I watched her sing all those wonderful songs...every night from the wings."

Ask Paul about the tiny pen mark still on his right palm. He'll tell you how playwright Sam Shepard stabbed him (accidentally?) with a pencil going to the bathroom during a rehearsal break for his play ANGEL CITY in the mid-1970s at the Mark Taper.

BWW Interview: Paul Sand on Getting KURT WEILL On the Boards & Working Actors Off the StreetsOne of Paul's film roles had him playing Barbra Streisand's husband in The Main Event. He really liked her. "She got a bad rap because she was a perfectionist. What's wrong with that is what I say. The odd story is Jon Peters, her then husband, invited me to a surprise birthday party for her. I was the only actor at the party, no other actor in Hollywood were there. The party was filled with big Hollywood moguls. I never understood that."

Paul could have gone on for much longer with many more wonder-full first-person, behind-the-scene stories; but the time to end our interview had come. (Sigh!)

Do check out KURT WEILL AT THE CUTTLEFISH HOTEL at Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403

For tickets and dates:

You'll laugh. You'll cry. And I'm sure you won't fall asleep.

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From This Author Gil Kaan

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