Interviewing the Skivvies

skivvies-laundry

They aren’t the first to be on stage in their underwear, but the Skivvies certainly made an impression with the stripped down look by calling it “undie rock.” Nick Cearley and Lauren Molina began the Skivvies as a fun experiment on YouTube, but it’s grown into a project that’s taken the mainstage of their professional lives. Cearley and Molina still grace the theatre stages (Cearley is currently the lead in An Act Of God on our B3 stage), but the Skivvies has become an undeniable force in their lives.

Artistic Associate Sean Nill interviewed Cearley on the origins of the band, its evolution, and how the two balance acting and music.

How’d you and Lauren meet?

Lauren and I met in 2003 when we were cast together in a touring children’s theatre production of The Just So Stories. We drove a van across the country with all of our sets, props, costumes in back, performing in the grandest cafetoriums in the land. We became instant best friends.

How was the Skivvies aesthetic (performing nearly naked) discovered?

Well, Lauren and I were doing our thing one day in January of 2012 which consists of us getting egg sandwiches and creating some quirky arrangement of an over produced pop song. The one that day was Rihanna’s “We Found Love.” We put it on guitar and ukulele and we liked what we did with it so much, we wanted to put it on YouTube. We hadn’t really done that before. As Lauren was deciding what to wear, I said she should just wear that since we were stripping down the music. Why not just take it literally? I checked my briefs to make sure I had something on that day appropriate too and voila. The Skivvies were born. I remember the hesitation we had at first of “I can’t believe we are just gonna sit here in our underwear and do this” but it was the best decision we probably ever made.

What’s a Skivvies concert typically like?

Our signature opener is a medley of Nelly’s “Hot In Herre,” Sondheim’s “Hot Up Here,” and Buster Poindexter’s “Hot Hot Hot,” played on the ukulele. We strip to our undies and the show gets going. It feels like a pajama party; fun, comedic energy, with special guest performers, many who have also performed on Broadway. The show is filled with arrangements of songs of all genres, played on ukulele, cello, and drums, with quirky toy instruments like glockenspiel, melodica, thumb piano, and boomwhackers. As an audience member, you can expect to not stop smiling.

Who have been your most exciting musical guests? Do you have any dream musical guests?

We love Laura Benanti. Her sense of comedy and ear for music is top of the line. We have had so many amazing guests it would be hard to narrow it down. But I think we would love to get some guests in the music and comedy world. Right now we pretty much strip down the Broadway community and we love when we have a crossover artist like Sophie B. Hawkins or Caroline Rhea who have really made our line up quite unique. We would also love to snag people from the SNL, Comedy Central, The Daily Show worlds. And honestly, just anyone who wants to play our game and have fun with us.

When did you and Lauren realize that your band had become a big deal?

When our first video with a special guest went viral we thought, wow we’ve got something people think is funny too. It was Wesley Taylor (Smash, Addams Family, Rock of Ages) who sang “Call Your Girlfriend” with us on our couch that really got noticed. Then we did our first live show, it sold out, and suddenly magazines and newspapers wanted to interview us. America’s Got Talent called us, and we started to book shows non-stop. In an over saturated market of musicians, you gotta get a gimmick, and people seemed to notice us when we took off our clothes. We were able to back it up with awesome music, so people kept coming back for more.

Is there a particular story that epitomizes your experience with the Skivvies?

Well I think it comes out of the story of the origin of The Skivvies. It was something we always did wearing clothes and then one day we were just like, how do we get maximum impact? Oh, great! Oldest trick in the book! If you look at pop stars like Britney, Madonna, Ricky Martin, Miley Cyrus, Cher, so many. They have been wearing their underwear on stage for years. I think we are the first though pioneered the “undie rock” movement though and really took it there.

Did you have any ambitions when you were an actor to break into the music business? What are the challenges that being a musician has added to your life as an actor?

Music has always been a part of both of our lives and it seems natural that playing instruments would be a part of our careers. Lauren was in the Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd where all of the actors were musicians. It was where she honed the talent of singing and playing cello at the same time. I had only been playing ukulele a short time before the Skivvies started and now I often play it in shows too. As Brad in Rocky Horror, I sang “Once in a While” while accompanying myself on the uke. Also, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I played Puck and wrote and sang original music. Being a musician is a great balance to being an actor as it allows another part of creativity to flourish.

What are the Skivvies plans for the future?

We tour all the time. While I am here doing An Act of God, I actually have to take my day off mid July and fly across the country to the island of Nantucket in Massachusetts for a day. Not a fun plane ride but I do it all the time. Then, the week we close here, we have two shows back in NYC at Joe’s Pub. We are then traveling to Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, back to LA, San Diego, 54 Below, and we are really eyeing getting our TV pilot out there. And this is all while both of us have a lot of theatre gigs already lined up! The secret is to never get bored and keep ourselves extremely jam packed busy.

The Skivvies will take the Mainstage on June 30 at 10 p.m. Tickets are $25 and available through the Box Office. 916.443.5300

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The Dogs of B Street

You’d never know it, but B Street Theatre gets pet-friendly during non-performance hours. It helps keep the stress levels even, particularly during rehearsals. It also accounts for some improv opportunities, as you’ll read in this blog. We love our dogs at B Street, so we dedicated this tech week post to them. The furry friends that trot through the offices and reset our emotional states.

Lynnae Vana (Stage Manager) and Queen Annabelle

On long tech days, Annie has been known to stop by and say hello. During one such technical rehearsal, we were in the middle of our Dress Rehearsal for The Realistic Joneses. Dave Pierini, Elisabeth Nunziato, John Lamb and Dana Brooke were performing a scene that takes place in the backyard. I had walked backstage to retrieve a prop and Annie went looking for me. In the middle of the scene Annie decided to become a part of the play. She wandered onstage as if from a neighbors yard; took her time greeting each actor and then politely left the stage as if on cue. The actors never broke character and continued to act through the scene while greeting their ‘neighbor’s dog’. Annie secretly wants to be an actor but for now she will settle for best-friend-therapy-dog-cuddle-buddy extraordinaire.

When the days get long and stress is at an all-time high, having a dog around can help to calm people’s energy and relax. They are an immediate source of happiness. Also, sometimes people don’t want to hear about your complaints or frustrations, but Annie is a great listener and she helps me get through the hard times. At the end of a 12 hour day technical day, it’s always a pleasure to have Annie’s face brighten the theatre.

Stephanie Altholz (Member of Acting Company) and Toaster Beauregard Altholz

Toaster is a six year-old poodle mutt that I’ve had for about a year, adopting him from the Front Street Shelter about a year ago.

In January of this year, Toaster had a stroke and suffered from complete paralysis after I’d only had him for a few months. He was basically a newborn baby and required 24 hour-a-day care for a month. Dave Pierini was the one who drove us to the emergency room and took care of me while I took care of Toaster. Elisabeth Nunziato made sure I was emotionally okay, while her husband, Jason Kuykendall, sent me funny texts to make me laugh. Kurt Johnson gave me sketch writing homework to distract me. During our Treatment writing sessions, Amy Kelly did Reiki on him, while Tara Sissom gave him treats and gifts. Everyone I love at the theatre came through. Even Buck surprised me with a home visit… where he promptly made fun of my apartment. That’s my doggie/B Street memory. Everyone came through. Plus Toaster can walk again. Although, as Dave says, he’s now got a little hitch in his get-up.

Being in the theatre makes me really enjoy being in dark rooms all day. I tend to stay inside and nest. I’ve always had cats because they agree with my lifestyle choices. Toaster forces me to leave the house every day. I even know a bunch of my neighbors now. They all love it when Toaster poops on their lawn. Plus we have the kind of job where we occasionally get to bring our fur babies to work.

Samantha Reno (Resident Stage Designer) and Tutti Maria Frutti

I brought Tutti Frutti to the B Street Theatre scene shop once and she was so excited to be there she ran right on top of some freshly painted scenery and tracked dog prints everywhere! It’s easy to get swept up in a show when you work in theatre. Having a dog keeps you focused on the important, bigger picture in life, no matter your field of work.

Jason Kukendyall (Member of Acting Company) and Bella

Our first dog Lucy goes to the theatre all the time. She sits quietly backstage during shows and during rehearsals she knows not to bother us or the other actors unless it’s break time. Because Lucy was so well behaved we thought our second Larbadoodle might do the same. We had a play reading one afternoon and I thought it would be a good short period of time to test Bella out as theatre dog. The reading took place on the MainStage. I let Bella off leash when we walked in and within 45 seconds of arriving she took a giant dump right in the middle of the stark white carpet that was a part of the set for the current production at the time aptly named Clean House. Needless to say Bella did not become the adored “theatre dog” her older sister is. But she’s always there for me; ready to play and nap. Nothing beats the unfiltered unrelenting, unconditional love of a dog.

Lyndsay Burch (Artistic Producer) and Manuel ‘Manny’ Burch

I’ve had Manny a little over two years. He was actually found by Company Member Amy Kelly and her friend Cassy. Cassy was driving and saw Manny running by the railroad tracks in Sacramento. She opened up her car door, called to him and he jumped in immediately. He was emaciated, dirty, no collar, etc. Amy and I were doing a show together at the time and she asked me if I would consider adopting him as Cassy already had a dog and several cats. Amy didn’t know that I had been thinking about getting a dog for quite a while so I told her that she could bring him over to my place. I fell in love with him as soon as we met and he curled up next to me. The rest is history!

Manny loves to go to rehearsal and watch the happenings (plus get lots of attention). One of my favorite moments is when I had Manny at a rehearsal and we were working on laying in some sound cues to a particular scene. The sound cue happened to be the noises of dogs barking and growling. Every time we played the cue Manny would start barking! It was impossible to get past that moment because we couldn’t tell the difference between the fake sound cue and Manny’s real barks.

Having a dog in the theatre is special because they can be your support system. Theatre often means hard work, long hours, little pay or possibly inconsistent work if you’re looking for your next gig. No matter what time you come home or the shape that you’re in, your dog is ecstatic to see you and give you love.

Elisabeth Nunziato and Lucy

Lucy, our 20lbs. Labradoodle, has worked with all her co-puppy-parents at the theater since the age of eight weeks. She’s enjoys the whole process from rehearsal and tech week to opening night. She is never happier than when she is at the B Street. She knows in rehearsal to stay off the stage ’til the Equity break. She knows that when Lynnae calls “places” the show is about to begin. Lucy loves finding dropped pretzels in the lobby and greeting ALL dog-friendly patrons.

As a baby, the size of a water bottle, in Stephanie Altholz arms; sitting peacefully at Buck’s side in rehearsal while Kurt, Dave and Dana Brooke came to blows in God of Carnage; making her debut as the terrifying hound in Hound of the Baskervilles; her first ever curtain call with Company Member John Lamb, and her sensitive and delicate handling of Amy Kelly’s romantic advances.

An interview with the stars of LUNGS

LO_RES_Final_MG_0392_B-St. Theater - Lungs Play_1.jpg
Photo by Rudy Meyers Photography

Conducted by Playwriting/Literary Intern Sean Patrick Nill.

What about this script spoke to you?

JAHI: What immediately drew me to it was the continuous nature of the relationship that the two people share onstage. You get a lifetime of memories in a 90 minute span. It allows you to see how funny, how special and fragile our lives are, and our relationships are. It struck me immediately.

DANA: I really like this playwright’s voice, Duncan Macmillan. He has a very singular voice. It’s almost as if these two people speak as one. A lot of the thoughts are fragmented and disjointed, but it all works as a whole unbelievably, beautifully and incredibly. And you go, “What?! Wait a second?!”

(Everyone laughs)

D: And the other thing is, even though his voice is so distinct, these people, and the thoughts they have and the stuff that happens to them is so universal. I felt like I knew them. I wanted to hang out with them. And the funny thing that happened with this script, I would just keep it out. And from time to time, just keep it out, as a fun read. Which doesn’t usually happen, especially when you’re working on it at the same time?

This play is very intimate. How do you make intimacy natural with someone you’ve just met? Who you’re working with for the first time?

D: It depends on the person you’re working with. (In a funny voice) Jahi happens to be very temperamental…

(Everyone laughs)

J: (Smiling) Riiiiiiiight!

D: No, but we could tell right away that we weren’t gonna have a problem. We immediately worked very well together.

J: It is a very intimate piece. For all the thespians out there that know the trust exercise: when you stand on the table and fall backwards and trust that your classmates will catch you, this play is like that. It is a very intimate story. It’s about two people in a very trying time. They love each other, but they are a circle and a square peg. So as an actor, you have to allow the intimacy to develop. You can’t force it. I had to get to know Dana in an instant, cause these characters have known each other for years, and have struggled together for years. And acquiring that intimacy with Dana has been fun.\

Is this play a 21st century examination of love and family?

J: It does in the language, man. It’s very kinetic. These two characters finish each other’s sentences. They go on long tangents. It’s set in this dystopian future, so it speaks a lot about our current conflicts: politics, the climate collapsing…

D: It’s modern in topic, particularly about the environment. But there’s so much in this play that could be set in anytime. It’s a story between two young people that are just trying to make their way in the world. With each other, yes, but also on their own, figuring it out, and it’s a mess; and that’s universal.
Fun Questions
Favorite Color?

J: Green

D: Blue

Go-to Karaoke song?

J: Uh…’Under the Sea’, The Little Mermaid

D: Come back to me.

There’s no one else to ask.

D: Oh!!! Uh…something by Bowie…

J: (Singing) Rebel…rebel…

D: I’ve never done Karaoke.

J: I’ve only done it once.

Well, we need to fix that real quick.

(Everyone laughs)

Someone you really admire?

J: Prince.

D: (Pointing to him) Jahi.

(JAHI smiles)

LUNGS is showing in the B3 series until June 18. Call the Box Office for tickets or order online through out website.