About Wade and Maria:
In today's market it is almost a necessity as a stage performer to have your hands in as many pots as possible. Two great examples of this phenomena are the talented Wade & Maria. Their web series Pzazz 101 is sweeping the internet with its humorous take on the audition scene, but, it is truly the many skills of these talented individuals and their ability to multi-task that keeps both of their careers moving forward. Check out what they have to say on performing, producing, creating your own work, approaching name talent to work with you on your projects and so much more!
Q & A with WADE DOOLEY
BB: You have your hands in a lot of pots. You are a performer, a writer and and you alter ego is “Mary Shennanbargger? How do you balance all your aspects of your theatre life?
Wade: I find that it is really important for me to keep busy. The more plates I have in the air, the more on top of it all I am. I guess it harkens back to college days. I audition regularly, write while I'm on the train or waiting in line for an audition, and Mary is all that leftover time. She also gets some help from other people on the Pzazz 101 team.
BB: You now have a very successful Broadway webseries and one person show that you created call Pzzaz 101. What spawned the creation of Mary?
Wade: Mary is a combination of many people I have known in my 26 years of life along with a version of myself. I have always loved performing impressions and characters. Mary's voice and persona was born while I was doing a production of CATS. You gotta do something while you're putting on makeup. Am I right? We all sat in the same room to apply makeup, and I would just start talking as Mary. Mary would jokingly complain about the director, choreographer and the theatre. She had an opinion about everything! Mary would give acting advice. Then, after settling in New York, I started developing a show around the character. She is really a melting pot of about six years of work. I guess she is the more liberated part of myself, and that is why she is a joy to play. She "shoots from the hip" and doesn't really factor in people's feelings. Something I try not to do in my personal life - ha.
BB: As an actor what kind of advice would you give to folks about creating your work and/or finding a niche for yourself?
Wade: I am a big believer in making your own work. I'm living in Manhattan, struggling at times to find work, working other jobs that lack the creativity of performing, and I have used Mary as an outlet. Something you might use to pass the "unfulfilling" time like creating characters, writing a play, or writing music for fun could lead you to something that is fulfilling and could potentially make you money someday. I moved here to be an actor, and writing is a passion I developed along the way. The funny video you put on YouTube or the article you write that's published by an online publication could lead to other opportunities. I'm trying to build a niche for myself in performing an array of characters, and Mary is not the only character that has been born in my mind over these past six years. But, she has opened the door and has allowed me the opportunity to perform and audition for things I never would have without her. I hope that if a casting director watches a Pzazz 101 video, they might think – “If he can play a crazy senior lady, something completely opposite of his type, we should bring him in and see what he can do with this.”
BB: You have a degree in Business Administration. Do you find this has really helped in your career in knowing how to work the “Business” of show business?
Wade: I do have a business degree. While I think it's a useful degree that can help with the day to day of finances and marketing yourself, I think "Show Biz" is a whole different ballgame. There is no right or wrong, and there is no formula for success. That's what I have found to be the hardest part about this business. This isn't “HARD WORK = JOB.” In the business world, you study in school, get a job, work hard, get a promotion. Of course nothing is as cut and dry as that, but "Show Biz" is very different. You have to understand that it isn't about you. Sometimes it might be, but most of the time, it isn't about you. It's about your height, your hat size, your age, your body type, etc. In the corporate world, that's illegal - ha.
BB: What would be some show business advice you can offer us?
Wade: I think the most important show business advice I can give is to surround yourself with good people. It pays to be nice, and it pays to make friends. Whether it is a friend that you can complain to after a bad audition, helps you find a new monologue, or writes music for the show you're working on, friends can lift you up and help you through anything. Pzazz 101 and Mary wouldn't be here today if it weren't for great friends in the theatre world that believed in the project. From my director, Isaac Klein, to producers, Maria Pendolino and Brian Marchetti, to James Jackson Jr., Mary's pianist, I have had support from the beginning. A person that works for no pay, but for the promise of something that could happen in the future, that's a true friend and collaborator.
BB: As a writer of a new musical, what inspires you? How did you decide who to partner with as far as lyrics and music?
Wade: Real life inspires me, and I write what I know. I think people want to see people they "know" on stage. The projects I'm working on now are about people that live next door, that taught you, or are part of your family. I love working through real life, relatable situations in new ways. Right now, I'm working on a show called Sunset City about a failing retirement home in Illinois. No. I'm not obsessed with old people. Ha. But, I have always been close to my grandparents, and I always loved listening to their stories. They got me thinking. A show has not been written recently that utilizes older actors. The shows are getting younger and younger (i.e. Spring Awakening, Newsies) What about Shirley Jones, Elaine Stritch, Angela Lansbury, and Chita Rivera? When are new shows going to be written for them? Senior citizens are the same as us, they just have more experience. They deal with cliques, sex, friendships, death. That's what I hope to show with Sunset City. I find that collaborators fall into your lap. I started on the idea of the show with two other collaborators many years ago, and then the show fell by the wayside. A year or so later, I did a few rep coachings with Brett Teresa, the lyricist, and we became fast friends. I talked about the idea and that's when he said his partner, Bobby Cronin, the composer, might like the idea. Here we are. Again, it pays to make friends and surround yourself with good people.
BB: Any advice for budding musical theatre writers?
Wade: Write all the time, keep a notebook with you to jot down any and all ideas, and work hard to get your stuff out there. Put a song from the show up on YouTube. Have friends over to read through the material. Rent a studio for the day and work through your stuff. Keep the ball rolling no matter what you do. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
BB: Anything else you would like to share?
Wade: Make sure to check out Mary's latest coaching sessions at pzazz101.com. This is season 2 and we’ve had some AMAZING guest stars including Beth Leavel (with her Tony Award!), Kyle Dean Massey, Tony Yazbeck, Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, Will Swenson, Jeremy Kushnier and more. Our season finale is going to feature the unbelievable Donna McKechnie which for me (and Mary!) is a dream come true. Watch, laugh (hopefully), and spread the "WOW" around the web. Mary and I will appreciate it! Also, follow us on Twitter @pzazz101.
Q & A with Maria Pendolino
BB: You are both an actor and a producer. How do you balance the two and/or do you find that one compliments the other?
Maria: Sometimes it’s hard to wear both hats, but for me it’s very natural. I founded a theatre company in 2004, The Almost Knew Theatre Company, so I’ve been producing theatre and just recently started to move into on-camera work as well. For several years, I worked in corporate America as a project manager, so the organizational nature of producing comes very easy to me, having that business background. When I quit that corporate job to focus on acting full-time, I thought maybe I had wasted time … but then I pulled out good ol’ Microsoft Excel to make a call-sheet and budget for a webseries, and I realized that all of that corporate experience would definitely not go to waste!
Finding a sense of balance is really important. I believe very strongly in giving 100% to projects, and sometimes it’s hard to do twelve things at a time. I make sure that I am making time for my acting projects and auditioning when I am producing. Sometimes you have to say no, and that’s a hard thing to learn how to do, but it’s important that the things that you are already committed to do not suffer because you have totally spread yourself too thin.
I love acting. I love producing. I do my best to keep those things working in concert together. Because I’m so passionate about all facets of the industry, I think they compliment each other really well. It’s important to have a great support system built in to your project if you’re going to wear multiple hats. For instance, if I am acting in something I’m producing, I always make sure we have a strong director and a production assistant to help out so that I can focus on being a good actor when I’m working. And hopefully, if I’ve done my producer job well, everything runs smoothly during production.
BB: What made you decide to get into producing?
Maria: It was kind of “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” kind of feeling. I was auditioning for some things back when I was still working full-time and I realized it was going to be hard to be cast in other people’s projects with my schedule. So I thought I would start producing things on my own, so that I could control the “unknowns”. That was the initial spark, but after awhile I realized that I loved creating opportunities for people to work, network, grow and perform. So, it was a parallel path with my acting career.
BB: Do you find that creating your work is integral to helping your career move forward both as an actor/producer?
Maria: In this day and age, I think it’s crucial that people can do many things. For some people that could mean being a killer singer and a killer dancer – it makes you that much more marketable. For me, it’s about being a great actor and also creating opportunities as a producer. Having an entrepreneurial spirit and creating my own work and collaborating with others has been so rewarding for me in addition to my other life of auditioning for the usual suspects. As I started to branch out into on-camera work, I also started to look at the work of actor/producers on TV like Tina Fey with 30 Rock and the cast of The Office. They have creative input through writing and producing in addition to editing. Being a part of more of the process is really appealing to me.
BB: As a producer what do you really do?
Maria: It depends on the project, but my job is to prepare and maintain a budget and ensure that everyone is adhering to the budget, work with the casting director (if we have one on a particular job) to secure and confirm talent, schedule rehearsals, shoots, sessions, press opportunities and then just act as a coordinator between everyone working on the project – actors, technicians, crew, publicity teams, etc. Also, for projects under union jurisdiction, I handle union contracts, time sheets and all communication with SAG-AFTRA and Actors Equity. I joke sometimes that as a producer I don’t actually DO anything, my job is to support and make sure that everyone else can and is doing their job well, but that’s not entirely true, haha. It could be sending emails, confirming, reminding and it could be running down the hall to get someone a bottle of water. It’s different every day.
BB: You have a very successful Broadway webseries that features many stars of the great white way. How do, as a producer, approach high profile actors to get them to work on your projects (How do you find contact info/ present your material in the best light etc.)
Maria: For Pzazz 101 season 1, most of the actors featured were friends or friends of friends, so we were able to use our networks to secure people to be on the show. With season 2, we wanted to really broaden our reach. So, we made a list of our “dream cast.” I did some research using IMDBPro and found out who many actors’ agents and managers were. Then, with the help of Wade (the creator of Pzazz 101) and Isaac Klein, our director, we drafted a pitch e-mail that included information about the series, the requirements to participate in an episode and a few links to the previous episodes. And then we sent e-mails. We got some very polite “No Thanks”, a lot of them didn’t reply – but many of them did, which was exciting and encouraging. I still get starstruck when I think about the level of talent we’ve been able to work with, but with Broadway talent, you have to remember that when the show closes, the paychecks stop coming. To us, Broadway actors are huge superstars, just like people in TV and Film, but in reality, they don’t have that level of fame … and with that comes a willingness, I think, to participate in new work – be it a webseries, or a reading or a cabaret or a benefit … it’s these little things that could lead to the next contract or the next show. I can’t speak for every theatre actor out there, but it’s always nice to be wanted/requested and if you have time to spare and the project sounds like fun, why not?
I always operate on the motto that “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.” So, why not ask? Why not try? Present your material professionally, be very clear about the time commitment and the final product, state the union requirements, be clear about compensation or deferred compensation. Even though we were a small, low-budget operation, I tried to show all of the talent that agreed to be in our show that we were a professional operation – having a call-sheet, a contact list, space booked well in advance and even little things like having craft services available, a holding/dressing room and lots of bottles of water.
BB: Any advice you can offer to actors?? or people wanting to get into producing? and/or creating your own work?
Maria: I think it’s really important to know what is going on in your industry – this goes for actors, producers, writers & creators. You should be seeing all of the shows you can, watching everything online that is available to you, reading the trade magazines, know what’s successful right now – what’s selling, what the market demands. If you want to be a TV actor in New York, watch the shows that are filming here! Even if it’s not initially your thing, it’s part of your job to know what jobs are out there for you. And for everyone, network like crazy. Follow people on Twitter, join in the conversation. Take classes, take workshops and seminars. Make friends. Make connections. Ask people to have a cup of coffee with you, ask people to lunch. Make fans around town. Keep people updated as to what you’re working on.
When creating your own work, make sure you are doing it in a quality way. Anyone can take a video with their iPhone and throw it up on YouTube, but that doesn’t mean that you should. You want your work to make a great first impression and represent you well – so spend the money, time and energy to do it right.
And, like I said early, ASK questions and ask people to do things or ask them if you can do things to help learn. Take a chance.