BWW Spotlight Series: Meet South Bay Entertainers Cindy and Perry Shields
With the current theatre world on hiatus, I have created a Spotlight Series on Broadway World which features interviews with some of the many talented artists who make our Los Angeles theatre community so exciting and vibrant thanks to their ongoing contribution to keeping the Arts alive in the City of the Angels. And just like all of us, I wondered how they are dealing with the abrupt end of productions in which they were involved.
This Spotlight focuses on Cindy and Perry Shields who met in 1980 when they were both performing in "Guys and Dolls" at El Camino College and have been entertaining audiences at theaters around Los Angeles and the South Bay for over 40 years!
Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?Perry Shields (Perry): I discovered acting in Kindergarten when I had a card trick I had learned and asked my teacher if I could perform it for the class. She indulged me, and I discovered how much I liked performing for an audience. Then, since I was considered a good reader, in second grade I was sent to the lower grades to read books to them. Every year, there was something like that to encourage me to keep performing for others, which I really enjoyed. Finally, in seventh grade, I played Santa Claus in a Christmas play at school and I was hooked. I participated in Drama all four years of high school and have performed in around 100 productions since then in the capacity of actor, director, and musician. And for the past 11 years, have been an MC at every "Monsterpalooza" event in Burbank and Pasadena. Cindy Shields (Cindy): My roots were being a "lonely only" child who watched WAY too much TV! I grew up on the glory days of The Hollywood Palace, holiday specials, variety shows, The Carol Burnett Show, The Honeymooners, The Dean Martin Show, and the beloved Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. You see, as a kid I was frequently sick and that was one of the perks to be able to watch so much late-night TV. I really wanted to be one of the Goldiggers on Dean Martin's show!
In elementary and middle school, I was very SHY. But in my sophomore year of high school, I put my fear aside and auditioned for their Spring Show, "No, No, Nanette" and was actually cast as a dancer! And that was it - I was hooked! In the cast was a new friend who became my friend, mentor and teacher, Rick Sullivant, who had his own dance studio in Redondo Beach called The Dance and Creativity Centre and enjoyed a wonderful career in his too-short life. He was instrumental in setting me on the path to be a performer - casting me in leads in shows he directed, featuring me in a touring group were both in that included fun televised Christmas specials. So, I've been a (musical mostly) theatre geek for over 40 years!I have been blessed to perform in numerous productions in the South Bay area. studied with the Groundlings for a while, performed in L.A.'s funniest murder mysteries with my husband Perry (who I met in 1980 when we were both performing in "Guys and Dolls" at El Camino's beautiful Marsee Auditorium), and worked with fantastic directors.
And after a lot of encouragement, I took stand-up classes and have been on that exciting journey the past eight years, which has somewhat forced me to pull way back on appearing in productions. Performing stand-up got me noticed by an agent in 2015 (after having one in the 90s and doing a few commercials), and am happily still doing commercials. I also perform regularly at Flappers Comedy Club and around LA/Orange County. Not a life I ever saw coming but I love it - although I truly MISS the joy of working with an ensemble in a show.
(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the show?Perry: I had just completed performing in PICK OF THE VINE at Little Fish in San Pedro, which closed mid-February. The Other Theatre company in which I am involved, the Torrance Theatre Company where I am V.P. of the "Friends Of" organization, was about to open GOOD PEOPLE, the fourth show of their season when word came on Friday, March 13th that Saturday's opening, and subsequent run, was cancelled.
Cindy: I was performing weekly at Flappers and had a headlining gig that were cancelled. Sad situations to be sure, but in the midst of all this, we sadly lost Perry's sister, my dear sis-in-LOVE, so her illness and passing and her precious daughters were our focus. Our dear younger niece moved in with us (hate the circumstances but LOVE having her with us) and so our world turned upside down for a few reasons. God continues to see us through it all.
(SB): I am so sorry for your family's loss, but what a blessing that you have been able to open your hearts and home to your niece. How were the shutdowns of the shows communicated with you and the production teams?Perry: I communicated with the President of "Friends Of" and we had an email exchange with all Board members to brainstorm a way to salvage the production. The cast learned the news from the producer at the end of their preview performance.
Cindy: Communication was done via email, with great sadness. Artists just want to share their gifts and make people happy. The GREAT news is that virtual performing is popping up and am proud to say that Flappers is giving us opportunities to participate AND their yummy restaurant is still providing take-out.
(SB): Are plans in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent?
Perry: Yes, plans are in the works to perform GOOD PEOPLE at a later date, tentatively August 28 - September 13, and push the fifth show of TTC's season to a later date as well. That is, of course, unless conditions dictate otherwise.
Cindy: The stand-up will be back in full force once this crazy time is over. Looking so forward to being with my comedy pals and the audiences - I really do miss that interaction. It's such a mutual love affair!
(SB): What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?
Perry: Torrance Theatre Company had WAIT UNTIL DARK scheduled as the final show of the season, but that will be rescheduled to next season.Cindy: My auditions for everything (commercials, television, film) pretty much stopped overnight except for a fun opportunity that I just received from my agent. So... we'll see. Honestly, just focusing on my little family is all I've wanted and needed to do, so this surreal time came at just the right time for me. I feel guilty saying that because I HATE knowing that many are having such a challenging, painful time right now. Mentally I've allowed myself a big break in having to come up with new material since grief and anxiety aren't conducive to feeling "funny" or creative - and trying to concentrate was a huge issue. It's getting better because I get little ideas for material here and there - like sweet little blooms in brightening up Spring right now. You gave to remember to appreciate the little things in life and not worry about the big things all the time.
(SB) How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?
Perry: Little Fish has a "Virtual Theatre" initiative where members are invited to share performance art or any artistic endeavor online. Our daughter Kimmy, niece Lana, and I have created several stop-motion pieces, the longest of which was posted by Little Fish. It's a short film called YOU AND EYE. More info at littlefishtheatre.org
Cindy: Only until about a week ago was I able to form actual sentences, let alone funny ones, and my sleeping is more on a vampire's schedule right now. So... there's THAT! I do have a couple of ideas, though, and am hoping to put some things on YouTube very soon. Guaranteed silly but the idea kind of makes me giggle so I think others will do the same! And we all need a few good laughs right now.
(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?Perry: Don't stop. Keep creating. Use this time to plan. Memorize some monologues. Do whatever you can to support the theaters where you work by donating whatever they have expressed a need for right now or have talked about wanting in the past. Create it for them now!
Cindy: Those in any aspect of the Arts tend to be a bit more sensitive and empathetic, always wanting to share human experiences creatively to touch audiences as well as entertain. And in the midst of a challenging time for everyone, where anxiety (the enemy of creativity) is always there to remind you the WORST of what could happen just in case you hadn't already considered it, trying to focus and create can be painful and discouraging when you just can't. SO... what to do??!!
IMHO start with the basics: try and do your daily, normal routine (that includes your sleep schedule but now that I'm a carb-sucking vampire, you may scoff at that statement), eat some healthy stuff in between Twinkies (again, preaching to myself), go for walks or dance or do yoga and get outside for some fresh air and release of endorphins (but wear a mask), and give yourself PERMISSION to NOT create because it's okay to take a little time-off. THEN... go for it! Paint, jot down ideas for silly YouTube videos, color in books, embroider, make earrings like our niece does, watch movies that make you laugh and cry, get inspired and pick up a good book, write a one-minute monologue or 5-minute sketch.Most important, ALSO reach out to loved ones and focus on what their needs might be. And when you see strangers, be sure and smile (your eyes say it even if your mouth is covered by a mask) and wave to let them know they're not alone and okay. Artists can only go for so long before they HAVE to create and new inspirations will come - and that's a beautiful thing!
Perry: I am blessed and honored to have been a part of the Los Angeles theatre community for 40 years. During these years, my wife Cindy and I have performed together many times, and have gotten to perform with our children Craig and Kimmy as well on several occasions. Though we haven't seen anything quite like this happen before, I know that theatre will not die.Cindy: As my Sweetheart so beautifully said, theatre has been a precious and powerful presence in our lives for over 40 years, and to share this passion with our dear children is such a GIFT. Seeing the theatre community come out in virtual force is both healing and heart-warming. The Arts are getting us ALL through this challenging time - music, theatre clips, live comedy virtual shows, NETFLIX series, and other entertainment jewels. We will return stronger and even more grateful for what we get to do! Thank you so much, Shari, for your very kind inclusion of us! We are both very touched and honored.
(SB): Thank you so much! It's talented people like you who inspire me to share the magic which abounds in live performances all over Los Angeles.
Photo captions (from top):
1. Cindy and Perry Shields
2. Perry Shields headshot. Photo credit: Melissa Bandong Malkerson Bowman
3. Cindy Shields. Photo credit: Marilyn Lutes Martinez
4. Cindy Shields performing stand-up comedy at Flappers
5. Perry Shields in CABARET
6. Cindy and Perry Shields in OKLAHOMA by Torrance Theater Company
7. Perry and Cindy Shields
8. Perry Shields rocking the house in SISTER ACT by Torrance Theatre Company
9. Perry Shields and Susie McCarthy in THE CEMETERY CLUB at Little Fish Theatre
10. Cindy Shields in The Ultimate Christmas Show (Abridged) at Torrance Theatre Company