Glimpses of the Moon:
they saved the show
A glimpse into the ‘big switch’ at MetroStage:
Cohn and Natascia Diaz on Glimpses of the Moon
By Joel Markowitz
September 29, 2010
It’s a great 42nd Street-type
story: the lead gets sick and another cast member assumes her role and saves
the show. Then bring in a talented actress/comedienne who comes down from The
Big Apple to play the roles that the new lead actress was performing – and give
them only have a very short time to learn their new roles before the critics
arrive to review the show and their performances. WHEW!
It’s a great story, so here’s Lauren ‘Coco”
Cohn and Natascia Diaz to fill us in.
Joel: What is Glimpses of the Moon about?
Coco: I am guessing you aren’t asking for the plot here,
eh? You want a motif. A passion statement. The show is
about wanting what the other guy has and doing anything necessary to achieve
it. A good solid theme, eh? One can find plenty of
comedy and drama in that. Not to mention music.
Natascia: It’s about a social climbing young couple in the
20’s trying to fit into high society while they find themselves and each other.
The story follows the journey of Nick and Susy, who
are very popular but penniless, and rely on their charms and intellect
respectively to be invited into high society…Susy
hatches the ultimate scheme: for them to marry and live off the wedding
presents while they help one another look for millionaires to marry. The plan
works, until they realize what their true heart longs for…and they fall in
Joel: Talk about the
characters you play in the show.
Coco: I play three roles: first, Ursula Gillow, a competitive, society matron who is clearly trying
not only to keep up with the Joneses, but outdo them. She brings Nick Lansing
to the party literally and figuratively, setting the stage for the central
action to occur. She doesn’t listen. She is loud and uninhibited. Next, I play
the Maid to the Vanderlyn household. She knows
precisely what is going on behind the scenes and between the lines. She’s no
dummy. Finally, the most integral role I play is the misunderstood, Coral
Hicks. She comes from a ridiculously rich family and managed to adopt none of
the refinement. She’s dorky and lovable. But don’t underestimate her – she’s
wiser than first she seems…
Natascia: Susy Branch is an
effervescent, social delight, who, since her father died and squandered her
inheritance, has become a regular guest and party favorite at the Vanderlyn household. She is on a mission to avoid the fate
of “unmarried girls who don’t have their own fortunes,” and as Ellie Vanderlyn suggests, to marry…anyone…with
a big enough bank account. On this quest, she realizes the price of climbing
those steps…and what it costs. By the end of the play, she discovers she is not
who she thought she was, and must follow her heart.
Joel: How much of you own experiences did you bring
to your performances?
Coco: I’d have to say that I brought NOTHING BUT ME to
these roles. There was no time to do anything other than. By that I mean that I
dug deep into a very useful bag of tricks that have been ‘perfected’ over time,
and applied them craftily to each of these three very different woman. Make no mistake, I reveal
this with respect to my own abilities. Blech. As I type this, it begins to sound pretentious rather than
humorous as I intended. James Liptonesque
or something. Ah, well. By the way…if Heaven exists, and I arrive at the
Pearly Gates, I just want God to laugh and applaud.
Natascia: I always find a little bit of me, to varying
degrees, in every role I play. Suzy is ambitious, clever, quick-witted, and
fighting for her future. I certainly relate to that. But I have never played an
ingénue and never been seen as one or cast as one, which I always thought was a
shame. I get cast a lot as the sassy side-kick, or “magic being”, which I love,
but in a lot of ways, characters like Charity Valentine resonate with my soul.
My friends know this about me. I am terribly naive, trusting, and open. No one
has ever seen me like this on stage. And I love painting with these colors. I
think I even changed the writers perception of me as
an actress in the role as well. I wish that everyone could be so open minded in their casting! The things the creative team
has said to me have been unbelievable – how through me they see aspects of the
role they’ve never seen. Support like that is music to an actor’s ears.
Joel: Tell us what
happened just 9 days before press night on Sept 12th.
Natascia: OMG! Well, to begin with, I had a very wonderful
but hard summer playing Aldonza in Man of La Mancha at the beautiful Hangar
Theatre (first time since I covered it and performed it on Broadway with Brian
Stokes Mitchell) then Esmeralda Agron in Capeman which was
transcendent. It was more than a show. It was an invocation. Both were very
dramatic, vocally demanding, and emotionally ravaging roles. So I was looking
forward to lying back for a minute from the heavy lifting and playing a fun
secondary character. Then our leading lady developed health problems and had to
pull out, and all of the sudden, all eyes were looking to me. I honestly had no
intention of volunteering. And I had to think about it for a couple of days.
But there was really no time. I said, “Yes” and decided to look at it as a
challenge and an opportunity to test myself, and not to mention “save the show”
and all our jobs. Hey, can I put that on my resume?
Coco: The gifted composer, John Mercurio
is an old friend. I know his remarkable talent. I also know Tajlei
Levis’ talent and I had the good fortune of seeing the original incarnation of Glimpses of the Moon at The Algonquin in
early ’08. The production was clearly in a bind. They had exhausted local
options as well as the two other women in NY who had previously played the
roles (which would have made the learning curve a lot simpler). I got a call
late in the afternoon on Friday. John gave me a little bit of the rundown about
what was shifting and I don’t know what possessed me, but I suddenly said,
“Yes” and was on a train to DC the next morning. David Marquez was first
impossibly grateful to see me, then supportive and patient, then complimentary
beyond what I deserved
Joel: What did you go
through to learn your roles so quickly? And – most important – how did you keep
Coco: I was just throwing some kind of a performance out
there from the first moment. Seeing what stuck. Painting with
broad strokes. Learning choreography to songs I had virtually never
heard, blocking to scenes I had skimmed once. It was pretty surreal. I realized
during Act II of the first PWYC performance that I had basically only said that
scene out loud with Sam once. Not kidding. I did manage to stay sane(ish) most of the time. I think there were tears twice, but
never a full-fledged meltdown. I did, however, feel overwhelmed the whole five
days – YES – FIVE DAYS! – I had to pull it together before an audience was
there. I couldn’t sleep most of those nights. There were panicked texts at four
in the morning to John and to friends in NY and LA. Why was I putting myself
thru this stress? I think the biggest challenge for me was to retain and add
on. It was always two steps forward, one step back. I compare it to cramming
for finals. You can know the stuff for the test, but it’s gone the next day. I
needed it not to be gone!!!
Natascia: The 60 pages of dialogue I had to memorize. Looking
back now, I really can’t believe I was off book in 5 days. I’m proud of that.
We had our first preview less than a week from when I started learning it. I
have always been a quick study. Everyone I’ve worked with all know this about
me as well, but I have never in my life had this skill put to the test to this
degree with the sheer volume of material. All the crew, creative team, the head
of MetroStage, and my fellow castmates
were right there for me. And music? I just kept
listening and listening, over and over, until it sank in. I would run lines
with anyone at the theatre. The costumes all fit me perfectly – it was very
eerie. But it was nice that I didn’t have to worry about that aspect. Sanity? I wait to be challenged in this profession. I relish
it. That’s how we all get things done, isn’t it?
Joel: Natascia – What do you like about the way Coco
plays Ursula, Coral, and The Maid. And what is
different in the way Coco plays them – than
the way you were going to play them?
Natascia: I love this question! Coco
is a savvy comedienne of the highest level. You can spot that brand of
expertise the minute someone like her opens her mouth. You know you’re in good
hands. And you are going to laugh. I use this analogy about my approach to any
material; it’s like painting. Some shows need thick rich oil paint, and some
need water color. I think the piece (and the part) is served much better with
how she paints it. I learn a lot watching her style. In my journey as an actor,
I am working towards being more aware of what style is needed with each piece,
and how that manifests itself in my approach to the work.
Coco: Ooooo…dangerous and
intriguing question. Remember he’s printing this, Natascia! Even though you didn’t ask, I would like to
say that Natascia blew me away with how she was
working to make it all happen. She is sublimely talented. Period.
Joel: Natascia, you have been involved with the show before this MetroStage production. Tell us about that.
Natascia: At the Algonquin, where it was performed in New York, I was the
guest artist (Cabaret Singer) that appears in the second act to perform the “11
o’clock number”. People who did it before me include Tom Wopat,
among noteworthy others. It was one great number, then home! Fabulous!
Joel: You are working with some other talented cast members – Sam
Ludwig, Matthew Anderson, Gia Mora, and Stephen
Schmidt. Tell us about their performances
and working with them.
Coco: First, Gia is my touchstone!
She was tireless about explaining things to me, buoying me up, going over
choreography and harmony ad nauseam. She never said no any time I asked to run
a moment or talk about a bit. NEVER. We still piece
thru stuff backstage and review beats. The “rehearsal” doesn’t end. I am
eternally grateful to her. Truly. I think this entire
cast is exactly why I was able to hold it together and somehow shimmy onto the
stage, feeling vaguely ready to perform. I respect and adore each and every one
of them -both their talent and their humanity. Not a clunker among ‘em. Makes the whole thing worthwhile!!!
Natascia: They are all gems, and I am fans of each one. I
love the DC acting pool. I have enjoyed them in shows I’ve seen in DC, and
really love playing every performance of this show with them.
Joel: Talk about
working with director and choreographer David Marquez.
Coco: David was a rock through all the stress. His
encouragement was the key to helping me keep it together. We were just getting
to know each other and developing a rapport when it was time for him to move on
to his next project. The whole thing is a blur. I look forward to knowing him
Natascia: David and I are close friends and admirers of one
another’s work. Anyone who saw the documentary “Every Little Step” can recall
seeing him in my living room as I unveiled my outfit for my final callback for
Cassie. His eye is impeccable, and his choreographic language and theatrical
sensitivity are simply genius. We speak and work together, whether in dance or
acting or conceiving, like true collaborators and friends who trust one another
Joel: John Mercurio wrote a jazzy score for the show,
and Tajlei Levis wrote the lyrics. How would you
describe the score and lyrics?
Coco: Deceivingly complex and layered. Everyone wants to
call it fizzy and frothy (which it is), but there is much more there than meets
the ear. The score is smart. It manages to be contemporary and reminiscent all
at once. No easy feat. I deeply admire what they have accomplished.
Natascia: The score is unexpected and lovely, with something
for everyone’s tastes in it, while evoking the period (America in the 20's) beautifully.
Joel: Coco – How did musical director Darius Smith help you
prepare for your performance?
Coco: To be absolutely honest, I was thrown so far into
the deep end, that Darius’ time needed to be spent
elsewhere. He was adding in his fellow musicians and we were teching the show immediately upon my arrival. John Mercurio came down on the train with me and became my
lifeline to learning my music. While someone was onstage working on something,
I was in the lobby with John and a keyboard, making sense of something else. It
was collaboration in its truest sense. The band rocks! Or I should say jazzes! I
love that they share the stage with us. It’s kind of magical.
Joel: Let’s talk
about some of your songs in the show: Natascia:
“Cigars”, “What Are You Waiting For?” and “Glimpses of the Moon”, and Coco: ”The Glories of Greece” and “That’s What Money Can
Coco: “The Glories of Greece” – This is my seduction
song. Pathetic as it is. Nick speaks Greek and it gets me all hot and bothered.
I deeply believe I win him over in this song. Or at least I bamboozle him. It’s
sorta one big WHEE!!!
“That’s What Money Can Buy” – This is my transformation
song. Thru Ellie’s critical eye, I look myself in the mirror and realize that I
don’t have what it takes to get what I truly want: Nick. First I feel a little
stung by her words and then I feel empowered by the change. It’s an Eliza
Natascia: “Cigars” – Is a song that illustrates her moral
dilemma regarding taking a box of cigars that were left in the cottage she was
staying in. It is a wrestling match between her sense of what’s right and what
is pushing it too far.
“What Are You Waiting For?” – Is a song that begins to pull
Susy and Nick to their separate objectives in finding
other partners…and away from each other.
“Glimpses of the Moon” – Is a song that comes out of a
moment where Suzy and Nick realize they are enjoying their time together, and
see something deeper in their being together.
Joel: John didn’t
write a song for both of you to sing together in the show. If he told you he
would, where in the story would you want that song placed, give the song a title, and what would it be about?
Coco: Interesting! Hmmm. How
about a parallel story duet in the vein of “What You Don’t
Know About Women” from City of Angels. Put it in Act
II before the scene where I run into Susy and Ellie
at Altman’s and I have my “transformation.” We could call it “One Gal’s Trash
is Another Gal’s Treasure”. She, full of regret and confusion
for what she is leaving behind. Me, fantasizing how I can be more like
her to get my man.
Natascia: What a great question! The moment would be like “It
Would Have Been Wonderful” from A Little
Joel: What has been
the audience reaction to the show?
Coco: The audience response has been warm and wonderful.
They are so obviously charmed. Only really disappointing part has been the size
of the houses thus far. People are loving it! More
people should see it!! COME!!!
Natascia: They’ve been charmed by it. It’s a lovely
confection, perfect for that space and anyone who wants to be enchanted by a
Joel: Since I took my
social group The Ushers to the matinee on Sept 12th – a few hours before the
evening Press Performance – what has changed in the show and in your
Coco: The show is still intact exactly as you saw it, but
I think the abject fear has now been replaced by a sense of fun and
exploration. Every show is a little different for me. Still trying things on
and thinking in new ways. I feel like I am finally in the driver’s seat. The
first two weekends I felt almost as if I was rehearsing in front of the
audience. It’s subtle – nothing a theatregoer would
recognize, but I knew.
Natascia: I’m having much more fun, and I am making new
discoveries every show.
Joel: What’s next for
you after Glimpses of the Moon?
Coco: That is always the million dollar question, isn’t
it? Unlike what impresses me so much about the DC theatre community, we NY
fools have to keep looking for the next big thing when one ends. Truth is, I just ended up forfeiting a role in the new Barry
Levinson film, “The Bay” (formerly “Isopod”) because they changed their shoot
schedule and it would have precluded me from three performances of Glimpses of the Moon. I couldn’t put my
cast or MetroStage in that position. We had worked so
hard to elevate this production to what it has become. I know it was the right
Natascia: I am going to do a few dates of Jacques Brel
Returns at the Triad in New York,
and there may be a NY show in my future.
Joel: Coco – This is the first time the DC theatergoers have
seen you in a show. Fill us in about your career.
Coco: I am so honored to be part of the DC theatre
community. I feel so welcomed. I have spent two + years back in NY after many
in Los Angeles
where I built a career doing Film and Television. I also was Head of Musical
Development for the critically acclaimed theatre company, Neurotic Young
Urbanites (comprised of we NYU Grads who migrated West).
We were passionate about bringing theatre to an audience that wanted to stay
home and watch TV. That time with the Neurtotics was
the fondest chapter of my life thus far.
But my return to NY has been gratifying as well. I made the
move because the footlights were calling me back. I have my eye on Broadway.
Meanwhile I have continued the TV and Film work, Commercials and VOs along with my first love, theatre. My
career? A little bit of this. A little bit of that. I am also writing a play with music. A two-hander about Charlotte Sass (1900-2000), a woman who was an
unsung hero of the 20th Century. It’s a vehicle for guess who? Maybe I
will workshop it at MetroStage? On that theme, I have
already mentioned to Carolyn that I’d like her to have a looksie
at another musical I co-wrote with Lauren Bowles, Curtis Moore, and Amanda
Green. It’s called up the week without a
paddle. Perhaps MetroStage will produce the East
Coast premiere? Please stand by…
Joel: Why should DC
area audiences come and see Glimpses of
Coco: Come see Glimpses
of the Moon for the delicious cast, gorgeous tunes, clever writing,
excellent musicians, glimmering costumes. See Glimpses of the Moon because MetroStage
is committed to nurturing original works. Support new musicals!
Natascia: Because it is charming, light, fun, NEW, in a
delightful theatre, and we’re fabulous! We really are. More importantly,
support new work. Follow the performers you’ve seen and admire. Support the
theatres you see shows in. Go to a new theatre and show whenever you can.
Supporting theatre is a dollar well spent. Always.