Episode 5: Elvis Has Left the Building, Podium Players

Jordan: Exploring creativity wherever it’s found, this is Table to Stage

Jordan: This episode is a conversation with the cast of Elvis Has Left the Building. It is the upcoming show from Podium Players Community Theatre in East Hampton, Connecticut. I was able to get 3 of the 5 cast members to join me for a conversation about the show, their experiences in theatre, and really what is a very unique chemistry that the cast seems to have formed. Jim Hetrick, Laurie Lee, and Matt Durland, who play the Colonel, Trudy, and Roscoe respectively, have a real chemistry off stage that I can only imagine is going to carry over really nicely into the performances and quite frankly they’re just having too much fun.

Elvis Has Left the Building will run 4 performances between June 7th and June 9th at Hope Church Auditorium in East Hampton. If you’re interested in tickets, you can get more information about the show at podiumplayers.org. You might remember that I previously mentioned another podcast that I really enjoy, that would be Couch Grouches. I’m going to recommend them again. It’s entertaining, it’s funny, it’s even sometimes insightful but now I’m going to recommend them for another reason, they have actually invited me to be a guest on their show.

If you want to see if I can hold my own with these guys.They are veteran podcasters and really uber geeks. Make sure you find them on Podbean and give them a listen. I have no idea where that conversation might go but I guarantee it’s going to be fun. If you enjoy this show, be sure to subscribe on Podbean, Apple Podcast, Google Play, or whatever podcast service you use and if you can please leave a 5-star rating to help other people find this show. If you have a comment or question or even an idea for a topic for an episode, you can reach me at tabletostage@gmail.com or through Facebook or on Twitter. This was a fun conversation with Jim, Laurie, and Matt from Elvis Has Left the Building. Let’s get to it.

Jordan: The cast Elvis Has Left the Building, 3 of 5 cast members. Podium Players is doing this show. What are the dates?

Jim: June 7th, 8th, and 9th and it’s 2 shows. 2:00 and 7:30.

Jordan: Okay. You guys have been in rehearsal for a few weeks now. How is it going?

Jim: It’s fun.

Matt: It’s a lot of fun.

Jim: I’m having a ball.

Matt: Me, too. It’s a lot of laughing. It’s one of those shows where you play around in rehearsal time and then that’s what you’ll get to do on stage, it’s just literally play.

Jim: Yeah.

Jordan: Have you guys work with this theatre company in the past?

Jim: Yes. I have.

Laurie: I have not.

Matt: This is my debut.

Laurie: Although, I’ve worked with Jim before but not in Podium Plays.

Jim: Yes. We’ve work in Wyndham before.

Matt: I have never worked with anyone.

Jordan: It’s all new for you.

Matt: This is all new. I know the theatre company. I know the people running it but I [inaudible 03:52]

Jordan: Yeah. Okay.

Laurie: I hope it’s not the last.

Jordan: That’s what everybody says. Every show is like “I can’t wait to work with all of you guys again.”

Laurie: Yeah.

Jordan: I was booked into 1 or 2 people and most of the cast that I do is usually in musicals. It’s 40 or 50 people instead of 5.

Laurie: Me too.

Matt: I haven’t done a play since I was in high school.

Jordan: Yeah. I think that’s the last time I did a straight play, too. It’s been a very long time for me. Elvis Has Left the Building is not a show, I think, that most people are probably familiar with.

Laurie: No.

Jordan: I have never heard of it until…

Jim: No. It’s a [inaudible 04:23] and a lot of Energy. I’m 65 years old and I’m exhausted. After rehearsals, I get really tired but they’re so much fun. After rehearsals, I go home and I’m so pumped I can’t fall asleep for another hour and a half. It’s just a great cast. We bounce off of each other really well.

Jordan: Was the chemistry instant?

Jim: I think [inaudible 04:52] like Matt.

Laurie: I think so.

Matt: It’s fine. I don’t like myself so that’s fine.

Jordan: It’s not that kind of podcast.

Matt: At least for me, because a lot of these folks have worked together….

Jim: Well, she and I have worked together.

Matt: Yeah, right. It seems like this company, a lot of people have worked either in other theatre companies or specifically putting for me, of course, I was a little nervous and then it’s just an infectious, this cast, because we’re so small, it’s so easy to see everyone’s distinct personalities and what they bring to the show so you really get to know everyone.

Jordan: Yeah. My personal experience with the musicals is the people that I am on stage with, I get to know pretty well on the get go, but it’s not until tech that you really start piecing things together and you’re like “You’re in this show!”.

Matt: Yes.

Laurie: Yeah. Where everybody yells.

Jim: “What do you do again?”.

Laurie: Yeah.

Jordan: Right. Exactly. A show that big, you don’t necessarily get to know the other actors until you’re almost done with the show but you all formed a bond really quickly at that stage.

Laurie: True. Yeah.

Jim: Well, you kind of have to. We have to rely on one another.

Jordan: But with a cast this small, does that happen early on the process?

Laurie: I think so.

Jim: Almost immediately. For me, I knew Laurie and I know Michelle, she’s directing the show, but the other folks I have never met before in my life but I think right from the start, we clicked.

Laurie: We all clicked. Exactly.

Jordan: Yeah. It’s just getting along with a bunch of friends. “Okay, let’s do a show.”

Matt: I think with this show, because there’s a lot of close interactions meaning we get into each other’s faces and there’s a lot of physical interaction…

Jim: [inaudible 06:50]

Laurie: that we call accidents.

Jim: [inaudible 06:56]

Matt: But because right from the opening scene, you really see how people are. There’s no room to try to feel each other out so the first couple of days of rehersal, I have to get to know Jim really well because we have a lot of close interaction together, specifically me and him in the first act. Of course that forces you to get to know each other on that professional friendship level and that characters, which I think for the show definitely helped because you find that Jim have no barriers.

Jim: Yeah, maybe that’s true.

Laurie: That’s what makes rehearsals fun.

Jordan: Yeah. What is this show about?

Matt: It depends on who you ask.

Jim: I play Colonel Tom Parker who was, in real life, was Elvis’ Manager. He was the only manager that Elvis ever had and he came from Austria. He has a shady background. There’s rumors that he was involved with a murder over in Austria. He came to the country illegally way back. Trump would have thrown him out but the show picks up when Elvis is already a star and in fact, he’s already into drugs in that. He’s been a star for a while and the fame is getting to him and he’s trying to get away from the crowd.

Jordan: So, this is late career for Elvis?

Jim: Yeah.

Laurie: Yeah. Probably middle to end.

Matt: Yeah, maybe middle to end

Jordan: Okay. So is this like Vegas Elvis?

Jim: Yes. Exactly.

Jordan: Alright.

Jim: The Colonel gets into hot water with the Vegas Mafia.

Jordan: Oh no.

Jim: He promises them that Elvis will perform free for one night in one of their casinos but then Elvis disappears and they can’t find Elvis.

Matt: But you have this plan, you and Trudy. You guys have that.

Jim: Yes. She’s German and I’m from Austria and she’s been working for me since [09:27 inaudible]

Jordan: Tom Parker is a very Austrian-sounding name.

Jim: He also speaks with the sweetest southern accent ever could be imagine, I mean it was just dripping with Magnolia but the Colonels secretary, Trudy, tries to hold things together.

Jordan: How’s that work out for you, Laurie?

Laurie: It is wonderful. No, Trudy has a great relationship with the Colonel. I think that she knows he’s wacky and can get into trouble but genuinely she trusts him and knows that he’s a good man although he makes odd choices sometimes and I get angry but all in all, I adore him. I think I adore him as a boss and as a person.

Jordan: Okay.

Jim: There’s something charming about the Colonel.

Laurie: Yeah.

Jordan: Says the Colonel.

Jim: There’s something sneakily charming about the Colonel. He’s selfish, he can be mean, he can be vindictive, he gets scared. I think when the Colonel gets scared, that’s where you can see the little boy come out.

Jordan: Sure.

Matt: Yeah. But I think he can also work people really well and specifically with my character, I play Roscoe, who’s the young assistant to the Colonel and works with Miss Trudy. What happens when Elvis goes missing, I won’t give away the plot because people should definitely come see it, but I become a part of this master plan that he has and how is Elvis found when Elvis is missing basically. We have another character on the show named Candy. He’s not with us today but he’s also part of that plan.

But while you were just talking, the both of you, about your relationship, the bond, this play has a really nice far setup. If this was a Neil Simon play and there were multiple doors that could slam, it would slam but we only have one door. That door does gets opened and shut a lot. It has these characters, like you have the German woman who is the aid and caring and knows the Colonel probably more than anyone else. You have the young, doe-eyed Roscoe, my character, who’s eager to please and could probably get into so much trouble just by tripping over his own feet.

Jim: Kind of stupid.

Matt: Kind of stupid. You know these characters but you’re seeing them in a very fresh interpretation other than just a typical play.

Jim: It is still a classic because it starts off — I want to stay slow — but it starts of kind of lowkey and it’s relentless. It just builds and builds and builds and builds to the climax.

Matt: Like a good play, right? It has a natural build up, you have each character, you figure out who they are within their really first few moments that they enter the scene. It’s not all of a sudde  you’re in this crazy frenzy. You get to know who these personalities are and how they fit and how they all work together, which I think is very interesting because then Act 2, it really becomes crazy. Act 2, we open up with crazy frenzy. There’s no segue. Act 1, like Jim is saying, is kind of a build up.

Jim: It’s kind of the introduction.

Matt: I love Laurie’s character because — I was thinking about this the other day — I think there is a very maternal instinct.

Laurie: Yes, absolutely. I just realized that last week for the first time because I think the more I’m understanding the play, the more I’m realizing that she looks at Roscoe as a young son to her even though he’s not related but I think she does have a motherly instinct for him and she wants to protect him.

Jim: She protects him against the Colonel.

Laurie: Yeah.

Matt: She’s will always be there. Like the Colonel, his bark is probably worse than his bite.

Jim: The Colonel will use anybody.

Jordan: Yeah.

Matt: To think about the dynamics of all these relationships and even the character Candy, he has a really separate relationship with the Colonel himself that is very different from my relationship with Candy and Trudy. We have another character, Jill, who plays a reporter and she’s I don’t know even know how to describe.

Jim: She’s a scorpion in a tight skirt.

Laurie: That’s right. She uses her feminine wiles to get whatever she needs to get.

Jordan: Alright. It sounds like that there are some pretty well-developed characters in this show.

Matt: Yeah.

Jordan: It also sounds to me maybe structurally, maybe a throwback to something that might have been done in the 50s or 60s

Jim: Yeah, like a classic British [14:37 inaudible]. We’re talking about the characters, the physicality of this show. “Did I hurt you? No, seriously did I hurt you?”

Matt: Yes. Every rehearsal.

Jim: Everything is so bam, bam, bam. Especially in Act 2. Act 2 just takes off and everything is happening and people are slamming into each other.

Matt: When I first look at the at the first [inaudible 15:05] to be honest I was a little nervous because I didn’t know the title. I’m a person who likes to really know the title.

Jim: I’ve never heard of it either.

Matt: Of course, you try to find anything about the show online or YouTube, you won’t. It’s so hard to find anything. And so that can be a little daunting especially because I come from a really heavy musical theatre background. What Jim’s saying is so true. Because of all this physicality, there is almost a musical style to this. For me, because I could almost hear and see where…

Jim: There’s a cadence.

Matt: Yeah, there is a cadence to this. Today, we just finished “blocking” the show. And it’s a lot. I’m 24 and I’m exhausted.

Jim: I’ve got underwear older than you.

Matt: For those who are wearing underwear.

Jim: How do you know?

Jordan: Again, not that kind of podcast.

Matt: If you’re looking for something that’s really deep in characters that are going to this crazy, emotional arc, there isn’t necessarily that. It’s really just more about watching everyday human relations in a crazy frenzy.

Jordan: It sounds like it’s supposed to be a good time at the theatre.

Jim: It’s supposed to be fun. You need the human element. In order to hook somebody into a comedy, or any drama or comedy, you need some some sort of a [inaudible 16:41]. You need a hook that people could say “Yeah, I know what that feeling is.”

Jordan: Of course.

Jim: I think everyone of the characters is well-developed. I can find an audience member to look at the five characters on stage and not find something in each of them that they can relate to. That’s what makes us funny.

Jordan: The more you can relate to any character in anything, you are able to find the humor, the heart, whatever it is.

Matt: Even more, I think what you realize is you do see character transformations both in retro physically and figuratively. The transformations aren’t this big, crazy arc but each character has a transformation. Trudy, when you can talk more about that, in the beginning of Act 1 and then how you progress around to it.

It’s really funny to see how each character progresses. For Roscoe, it’s really obvious, his transformation. Jim, who plays the Colonel, his transformation. But I am curious, I thought about this today, too, in rehearsal what your transformation because yours is a little more difficult, yours is very finite, it’s very within reals of…

Laurie: Oh yeah. True. We’re still playing a little bit in rehearsal especially for me. I am supposed to have a thick German accent so I try not to concentrate on that too much. I want to develop the character a little bit more. I’m not at a stop yet where I’ve pick out. I’m trying to add certain things and see how they work. Basically, she’s very no nonsense, especially in the first act. She’s no nonsense. She’s been with the Colonel for so long. She knows what he gets into.

Jim: Sign this. Do this.

Jordan: She’s a very efficient secretary type assistant.

Jim: A German stereotype.

Jordan: Exactly.

Laurie: I was going to say, I think somewhere deep inside of her but I know that I think, I think every single human being probably has stuff they have deep inside of them. She’s not special to this but deep inside she does panic, she does worry, and she does get drunk. Throughout the second act, she starts to let go a little bit, not by choice but because the situation that is going.

Matt: The stakes are so high.

Laurie: Yes. Very, very high and I’m trying to keep it all together and it’s all coming apart so my character is coming apart as well but she’s not finished yet.

Jim: She cares for every other character in this show. She loves the Colonel and she’s devoted and loyal to the Colonel but she gets angry at the Colonel for using the other people, the other two.

Jordan: Well, you don’t get angry if you don’t care.

Jim: Laurie pulls it off so well. She is comedic but at the same time you can see the sensitivity in her acting. I really mean that.

Laurie: Oh my God. I paid him to say that.

Jim: That’s the truth. You can’t bake a cake [19:58 inaudible]

Laurie: Thank you. [inaudible 19:59] I wear nice shirts.

Jim: She wears nice shirts.

Jordan: Alright. This show sounds great. I’m looking forward in seeing it myself. I know I’ll be there probably the 3 of the 4 performances because I am connected to Podium. I’m curious since this is all your first time more or less working in East Hampton for this particular company. How did you get started in theatre?

Matt: That’s a loaded question.

Jordan: Everyone has an interesting story. Nobody just…

Matt: I think for a lot of us maybe it’s see and then do kind of thing. I saw a show at the Goodspeed Opera House. I’m from East Haddam. That’s where that beautiful theatre is located. I was 7 years old, freshly adopted from a country called Bulgaria, didn’t speak a word of English. My mom had a really great idea of taking me to see Man of La Mancha because every 7 year old wants to see that show. Anyways, I just remember I didn’t understand a word of it but I remember watching this incredible thing that was happening.

Jim: [inaudible 21:11]

Matt: Yeah, I didn’t understand but I remember exactly where I was sitting. I remember leaning over the edge of the mezzanine because I just want to be so close to it. I didn’t know what this thing was called, theatre, but I just have to be a part of it. I started doing shows in my school formative years. I oddly became really involved with musicals as a music director and a director so that’s really what my life has become.

It’s actually really nice that I get to do this with everyone because I don’t get to play and be an actor because I’m always on the other side as a production team member and I do miss that. When this opportunity came, I really thought that this is going to be really easy, light, and it is, but also it’s become something more than that which is really nice and it feels great as an actor to have that feeling. Remembering that 7 year old boy who was like, “Yeah, it feels great to do this.”

Jordan: That’s so cool. That’s funny because the first live theatre I remember ever seeing was also at Goodspeed.

Matt: What show?

Jordan: It was Animal Crackers.

Matt: Oh my God.

Jim: That was a great show.

Jordan: I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard in my life. I was young. I was probably 10 or 12 years old

Matt: You know how intimate that theatre is. So of course as someone who gets deeply, I’m sure you guys, Jim and Laurie can attest, when you are completely moved or in trance by something so close to you, like Goodspeed, where you can reach out and touch the set, it just makes that experience. Because you’re not  hundred rows behind, which really can still be magical and beautiful but it’s not the same experience. I felt like I was there. That was my experience.

Jim: That’s cool.

Laurie: That is good.

Jordan: It’s a beautiful theatre. Laurie, how about you? How did you get wrapped up in this crazy…?

Matt: We were performing at the nightclub.

Jim: There was a bouncer.

Laurie: I was a bouncer, yeah. Oh gosh, no. If you can’t already tell, which would be a blessing, I am from New York.

Jim: You are hiding it so well.

Laurie: I’ve always been around in theatre. I’ve always been around films. I’ve always been around in the industry as a whole.

Jordan: Does New York have a lot of that stuff?

Laurie: If you look for it. You got to really, really look for it. I actually started off in independent films and I got very lucky. I think that my very first audition I went to I got the part and it fueled me and I kept going and going.

Jordan: First audition?

Laurie: First audition.

Jordan: She’s the one that happened.

Laurie: But here I am at Connecticut, I’m not in Broadway so you know. I think if I didn’t get that first yes, I might not have continued as much as I did but there are so many opportunities in New York so it’s easy to get to audition.

Jordan: You could audition every hour.

Laurie: Exactly.

Matt: You’re so close to being in Connecticut.

Laurie: Well, it’s two and half hours away, it’s hard to go on an audition. I started off doing films but then I got lucky enough to audition for a theatre show. It was a Christmas show. I think it was Wilbur the Christmas Mouse. I don’t know if you guys heard of it. I played the cat, the cat who was afraid of the mouse. That was my job. It was adorable. It was my first time ever to getting laughs at the moment live. It was great. I was also in a sketch comedy group. We performed at Caroline’s every Saturday night. We were like their house sketch comedy group.

Matt: Oh, really?

Jordan: Caroline’s is a pretty recognizable name.

Laurie: Yeah. I did a lot of stuff on the stage and there was no better high. Nothing better than being a character, especially the one that’s not yourself, on stage and just having fun. It’s incredible and if you’re lucky enough to do it for a living, not even to become rich, just to pay the bills, you would wake up or I would wake up and say “Oh my God. I can’t wait to get to work today.” It’s just a wonderful feeling and I’ve been in love with theatre ever since.

Matt: Yeah, That’s fantastic.

Jordan: Yeah. Alright, Jim. How did it happen?

Jim: I was never interested in theatre.

Jordan: Was it because I see you are wearing a Red Sox shirt, did you get tired of seeing the losing team? I’m a Mets fan.

Jim: As long it’s not the devil’s spawn team from The Bronx, you’re alright.

Matt: The greatest team, The Yankees.

Jim: No, don’t get me started. All through high school and all through college, I was never involved with theatre, never, anything to do with it. When I graduated from college, I graduated with an English Literature degree and I actually went to my first audition in Massachusetts and I got the part. It was a small part.

Jordan: Really?

Laurie: See?

Jordan: Two. Two first audition successful.

Jim: And then I got bitten by the bug. I started doing some film works, short works. When I first got on that stage, and I think what you were saying Laurie, when you first got on and you get an immediate response from the audience, that’s it.

Jordan: It’s an incredible feeling. Instant feedbacks, something worked.

Jim: I did it for 8 years professionally and then I got married and we adopted 2 children, one 9 and one 5. All of a sudden, I have a steady paycheck and I have not eaten ramen noodles every night for suppers. I became a teacher and I started to see theatre groups and got involved with community theatre and wrote a couple of plays that have been published. I’ve been acting for over 40 years. I got friends in California, in the film industry, I got friends in New York, in the theatre industry.

I will guarantee you, anybody that is making films is doing it for money unless they’re in the indies. Anybody that is on the stage is doing for the love. That’s how I am. I’ve always been asked “ould you rather do a comedy or a drama?” I always tell them I’d rather do a comedy.

I was on stage here in Podium a few years back, I played Rob Hubley in Plaza Suite and it’s just the rockest place. I was in the third admission. People say that comedy is so hard to do, it’s not. You get on the stage in a drama. You don’t know you’re good or not until you hear the applause at the end. You get on stage in a comedy, the first time they laugh, you know you got them.

Laurie: That’s true.

Jordan: Instant feedback.

Jim: It’s the most fun you can have with your pants on. It’s just absolutely amazing. There’s no bigger rush than knowing that you got the audience and you love them and they love you. It’s a symbiotic relationship. It truly is.

Matt: I think just real quick just to attest to Jim’s many years working in theatre, something that I was really and I still am kind of in awe is Jim’s character, the Colonel, has over 400 lines and Jim has tackled them so beautifully. It’s hard. He is on that stage the entire hour and a half, whatever how long the show is. It really shows his 40 years of theatre experience because he’s so good.

Jim: Here’s my wallet.

Matt: Thank you. I do take AmEx by the way. But really, as someone who has seen professional theatre, in community theatre I think a lot of people get this weird attitude that it’s community theatre, it may not be as good as quality. The set may not be Broadway quality but the acting. You see that with this cast. You see it with Jim, you see it with Laurie, you see it with our direction, you see it with everyone. Everyone brings their A-game on and that’s so important because you don’t come into rehearsal feeling you’re not.

Jim: There’s just as many talented people who are just as talented in community theatre than in professional.

Matt: Yeah.

Laurie: Absolutely.

Jordan: The Connecticut community theatre scene is shock-full of amazing performers.

Jim: Thank you man. I appreciate it.

Matt: People who could do it in New York but they decided they’re doing families, they have a job, and that’s perfectly great but you see that they’re just as good.

Laurie: Yeah.

Jim: Thank you. That was nice.

Matt: You’re welcome. I will take that cash now.

Jordan: Alright. We wrap this up because I know we’re running out of time in the building here. One final pitch for this show. I’m not saying it needs one but what would you say to somebody on the street to get them to see.

Jim: I don’t know. I’ve been in dozens of places and there’s been some that I really would not want my friends to come see me. You know what I’m saying? This show, I’m telling everybody, you’ve got to come see this because I’m so proud of the work that everybody here is doing. You may not have heard of the script. It is a really funny show and it is really being put together well.

Jordan: That’s great.

Laurie: I agree. I think it’s hysterical. I was a little iffy at first because I hadn’t read it.

Jim: Because she knew I was in it.

Laurie: Actually, just the opposite. I want you to be able to walk out that door without your head swelling but I wasn’t sure, I said yes to Michelle but then I said I better make sure that this isn’t like a silly kind of thing. I’ve never heard of it and then I saw that Jim was casted. No offense Matt, I didn’t know you then, I didn’t know how wonderful you were.

Matt: You can tell me now.

Laurie: You’re wonderful. You are wonderful. I said “Hey, Jim’s in it? that’s got to be a good sign. Okay. I’ll take it.”

Jordan: Jim’s instant credibility.

Laurie: Absolutely. The more I read it, the more I go to the script, the more I find funny things in it that I didn’t see before. It’s hysterical. It’s very well-written.

Matt: My pitch is really simple. I’m sure it’s not that hard but take a look at our world right now and take a break from it. Come for two hours and just have a really good time, feeling good about yourself, feeling good about supporting local art which is so important and just have a smile on your face that entire time and then you can go back to the world. But come see our world. Our world is really fun.

Jordan: Yes, it is. It is fun.

Laurie: Yay!

Jim: Plus, you can get to hear some great Elvis’ music.

Laurie: Yeah and it brings you back to 1970.

Jordan: Alright. Thank you very much everybody.

Laurie: Thank you.

Matt: Thank you.

Jim: It was fun, Jordan. Now, can I go home?

Jordan: You can go. Goodnight.

Laurie: Goodnight.

Matt: Goodnight.

Jordan: There it is. Elvis has Left the Building runs June 7th through June 9th in East Hamptons. Tickets are $12 for general admission and $10 for seniors and children under 17. You really should go and check it out. Thank you to Jim, Laurie, and Matt for coming on the show. Again if you enjoyed the show, please leave a rating on your podcast service or drop me a message at tabletostage@gmail.com. If I use your comment or answer your question in an episode, I will happily send you some Table to Stage swag. Until next time, keep creating.

%d bloggers like this: