Nana Ponceleon To Play Rita Moreno On Stage

Nana Ponceleon

Nana Ponceleon


Hi Nana, since we last spoke, you mentioned you were going to start working on a one-woman show where you will be playing the role of Rita Moreno. How did this come about?

I have been going to study at the Susan Batson Studio for a while now. Initially, I had to work on a series of personal exercises in the DYOM (Develop Your Own Method) class. These are a series of exercises designed to open our instrument, to help us develop our own method, which will best serve our acting and ultimately aid us in delivering a truthful performance. Once I passed all of the personal exercises, Susan suggested to me several characters that I could possibly play, based on many different criterias revealed through my previous work (emotional life, type, among many others). I had to choose… I had thought of Rita Moreno, a long time before getting to this stage of the process. Rita Moreno was one of the people on the list, which was quite long and varied as a matter of fact. Every single woman was extremely interesting and different in my mind, but I was set on Rita! So I presented my journalistic report on Rita. In this exercise, one portrays a journalist in the time period of the character,  who is passionate about the character and presents information based on the research done about the character’s life. I passed the exercise so I was given the green light to start working on Rita. Whether this becomes a one-woman show is a personal choice and of course, something that Susan needs to agree to, since she will be the director and producer of the show. This process can take years or months. It is definitely a lot of work and a huge compromise, because we have to honor the character we will be portraying, be completely true to the story and completely truthful on stage.

You are also the writer of this one-woman play. Is writing something you have always been interested in and if so why?

I have always loved writing, even though I have never done it at a professional level, except when I wrote my musical play called Volver a Empezar (To Start Over). This play I produced, directed and wrote as well, in Caracas, Venezuela. This was a play about the life of a teenager who had to struggle to study Arts and Drama fighting against her mother’s vision of what her future should be. The answer to the question that I am sure you are thinking of is… yes. This play is very close to home. I have been writing since I was a teenager; prose, poems, thoughts that became short stories, and today I have a good amount of notebooks full of thoughts and ideas, which I write in everyday. This last routine was very much inspired by Julia Cameron’s book “The Artist Way”, which still is on my bed side table. For me, writing is a healing and tremendously creative tool.

This play will be directed by the extraordinary Susan Batson, who has worked with some of the best actors in the business, what is it like to work with such an icon like Susan?

Susan Batson is one of the most generous people I have encountered in my artistic life. She has an ongoing program for actors from around the globe, who come to train with her and she gives her soul and passion to each and everyone of us, no exceptions. Her life is dedicated to the craft. We do this work on the character in the class called DYOM, as I mentioned before. She teaches only the monday classes, other teachers teach on other days. We begin promptly at 6pm and end when the last person has worked, which is very rarely before 6am the next morning. This is incomprehensible for most people in the business who have not yet been to the studio. This generosity and passion which Susan Batson and James A. Lee share with us every week, is priceless. Working with Susan is a huge challenge and honor. She is the toughest, most honest and generous teacher/coach I have had the honor to work with. If my work is not good, she will have no mercy to let me know exactly what she thinks. On the same token, she will be the most generous person to praise my work if she considers it was great work. This gives me a great sense of security, because I know the result will be nothing but the truth on stage. However, I must admit, it still makes me very nervous to work with her.

Rita Moreno IS an amazing Puerto Rican actress, 82 years old, one of 11 people in the world who has won awards in every possible category in the entertainment business: 2 Emmy Awards, a Grammy, a Tony Award and an Academy Award (Oscar), among others.  What kind of preparations have you done to play this role?

The first thing I did was read as much of her bibliography as I could, including her autobiography, Rita Moreno A Memoir. This last book is a wealth of knowledge and information. She was very generous to share it with us in such a raw, open and honest way. I watched her movies, interviews, TV shows, etc. I still have many more to see. She has 145 credits in film and television, theater not included. So first its research, research, research, and more research. Then I looked for the props: dresses, shoes, accessories, make up, sheets, pillow cases, that I felt she had during the period I am working on now, which I will use during my explorations of the scenes. This is an ongoing process as new scenes are explored or worked on and the set changes.

Do you find any similarities with Rita Moreno and yourself?

Does the sun shine above the clouds? Of course I do. So many that it is scary. Some very simple coincidences are: Rita’s real name is Rosa Dolores and her mother’s name was Rosa María. My real name is Rosa María. Rita’s father was Francisco José and her brother Francisco, whom she never saw again after leaving PR – her father she saw only once – and my ex-husband’s name is Francisco José. When she was a little girl in PR; her life was full of nature and family gatherings where she danced and sang all the time, they had lots of fun… So did I, I danced, sang and had fun at our family gatherings, also. We both were the center of attention because of our artistic expressions. Her first dance training was in Spanish dance – flamenco – so was mine. It is still something that moves me from the bones out and makes my blood rush through my veins. She was a very mature young lady, having to face a very hostile world at an early age all by her self, because even though her mother was there to push her and help her when she was a little girl, once she became a young woman, she pretty much did it on her own. The business then, was not easy for young ladies and she managed to survive and succeed. Rita has always been a very passionate woman, so much so that she almost died from it. Fortunately, I have not gone through that, but passion… I could go on and on, but those are very private things between Rita and myself to cherish.

What is something you find most fascinating about Rita Moreno, that people may not know?

That she is one of the most successful actors in the world, winning awards in every possible category the entertainment industry gives recognition to: (film, theater, television and music- 2 Emmys, a Grammy, Tony, Oscar, Golden Globes, Presidential medal of Freedom, National Medal of Arts, Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, and many others); yet I feel she has not received the recognition she deserves. She has also fought for the rights of the “Latinos” in the business; fighting against being stereotyped, she has been an advocate for the Latino acting community. She is very active politically, having  been in the front row, literally, since Martin Luther King. Another amazing piece of information is that she is still as active as ever at 82 years of age. She is still performing on stage, film and many TV shows as we speak.

How do you stay so fit and healthy with such a hectic schedule?

Exercise is part of my life. I have always exercised since I was a kid. I have done flamenco, gymnastics, volleyball, bowling, jazz dance, kick-boxing, weight lifting, cycling, and during the past years Bikram Yoga, thanks to a very dear friend, who is today my soul sister. Thank you Ocly! And of course, Salsa has been a part of my life since I was 10 years old and it still very much is today. I have to constantly work out not only for staying in shape, but it’s a matter of mental health too.

What would you like audiences to take away with them when they see your one woman play?

I hope I can show them how Rita became the great actress that she is. I want people to know who Rita Moreno really is, beyond the sexy spitfire Latina, she fought so hard to get away from, during her first decades in the business. I would like to inspire each and every person with her strength, her willingness to fight, her perseverance; which was what made her be the successful actress she is today. Most importantly, I want to show the side of Rita that most people don’t know. I want them to get to know the woman who came to NY from Puerto Rico as a child one very cold winter. The woman that worked every single day of her life on developing her craft. The woman that never gave up, who loved intensely and almost died because of it. And for the woman who was able to survive and save herself only to raise to greatness.

Introducing All Round Performer James Nitti

Actor James Nitti

Actor James Nitti

Some of the most exciting actors and actresses through the years have originally come from London, and James Nitti is no exception. From small beginnings within the television industry, he has risen to heights that no one could have predicted – although many are predicting now that he will continue to rise.

When James was a young child, he became involved within a local television show. This early experience in front of a camera gave him the thirst to perform, and his parents encouraged this for him. This meant that James soon joined the National Youth Theatre and the National Youth Musical Theatre, two great establishments where James could really hone his skills and enjoy the various productions that he was a part of.

Throughout his experience in performing, there are quite a few roles that James has really loved playing, and really excelled in. some of these include the role of Bobby Croft, the lead in Dreamboats and Petticoats. The music in particular really spoke to James, and spending each and every evening on the stage in the West End is something that some actors spend their entire lives trying to achieve. But for James, it just seemed to happen naturally, emerging from his incredible talent.

But now James has moved his sights far beyond one single stage, and is about to descend in the hearts and minds of viewers both in the UK and across the pond in the US. James has just finished the filming of a movie called Dragons of Camelot; in it, he plays the wonderful knight Sir Galahad. James loved riding around on horses, and basically being paid to have fun – although isn’t that what acting really is? The film is being released in the United States this year, and many people are full of anticipation to get the chance to see more of the immense talent that James has to offer.

Bakersfield, California’s JD Hardy

Introducing, Mr JD Hardy

Introducing, Mr JD Hardy

Bakersfield, California a place known for Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, enthused, the same star like genes into the ever hard working and talented JD Hardy. JD was born in Orange, California and his parents moved to Bakersfield, Ca when he was nine months old. He was only three years of age when he started to sing in church along with his father. At the age of five, he started handling those massive and complicated musical instruments, like drums and guitar. He started his journey of music from Bakersfield, while the two remained inspirational figures to him.

He grew up listening to some of the best country music including the ones by Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, Hank Jr, Waylon & Willie, Dwight Yoakum and George Straight. Even rock music succeeded in holding his fantasies tight, and so he kept a close check on the evergreen Guns n’Roses. Besides, Hardy always had a taste for all kinds of music, from Southern rock to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He had always appreciated all forms of music: a reason why his music is widely treasured all across the nation.

Fortunately, his first album was with the legendary producer Ray Ruff who has worked with artists such as Kenny RogersHank Williams, Jr.Merle Haggard, and George Strait. In addition, Ruff launched the careers of artists such as Dwight Yoakum and Juice Newton.

JD, I understand Ray is great to work with, what’s your favorite story?

Well I have a lot which is crazy because I only knew Ray for three months before he passed away. Ray and I had a lot in common being that we’re both cowboys, we hit it off immediately.  But one of my favorite stories is when Ray signed me to his label, Oak Records.  We were having supper in LA and after we signed the contract Ray looked at me and said “ok so now we go to work and I don’t want you drinking until this record is finished starting now!”  So I laughed, haha! He says, “No I’m serious, JD if I’m going to draw the best out of you then the party stops and the work begins.” So with a serious face I said, “of course Ray” as I looked at my cousin who was with me and winked.

But for me the party had a few more hours to go and then I would follow Ray’s orders. As soon as Ray left we started ordering whiskey and told the waitress to keep em’ coming every five minutes until we’re cross eyed, ha-ha! So a few hours later our driver showed up ready to get us home safe in my F-250 4X4 King Ranch which was jacked up to the sky! I miss that truck. Anyway, as we pulled in the driveway and parked I was telling one of my famous stories and my cousin said all of a sudden I was just gone.

Needless to say, I fell out of my big ol truck, HAHA! The bad part is that I broke my nose, not good! The next morning or maybe early afternoon, Ray sent his son to get me because I wasn’t responding to any of the many phone calls. I heard the pounding on the door and when I opened it, Ray’s son said, Awe Crap! He called Ray and told him I looked pretty hungover and he wasn’t sure but thought that maybe my nose had been broken because there was still blood all over the clothes I was wearing from the night before. Oh Man!!!

Ray then wanted me at his house in Santa Clarita, ASAP! Not good, I thought well it’s all over. But when we got to his house and I walked through his front door, I thought now he’s going to kill me! Hahah! I had no idea Ray raised and lived with mountain lions one of which was sitting on the couch with him. WOW! As I stood in the front door I said I’ll just talk to you from here! Ray said, “don’t be afraid of these cats they’re the most loving animals on the planet! Well he didn’t kill me but he didn’t terminate my contract either so I came out of it with a new friend and some great memories. I miss him dearly.

The new single was produced with Don Johnson who produced Emmy Lou Harris, Flying Burrito Brothers and has also served as Music Director for Ricky Skaggs. Hardy is currently working with music industry veteran Jeff Robert from CSG music and sound mixer Mark Ettel on the catchy tracks “Ride on” and “Country Save Me” Ettel is a premier sound mixer who has worked with them all, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Michael Jackson to name a few. With all the world famous people recognizing Hardy’s talent and hearing the music myself, I’m confident that it wont be long before JD Hardy’s music is brought to the world.

The projected release date for his new record is late this summer. Please visit and stay tuned to the links below for more information on JD Hardy’s status.

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Profile: The Multi-Talented Lauren White

Lauren White

Lauren White

Lauren White (Murphy) is an extremely talented singer, songwriter, producer and performer – but it wasn’t always that way. When she was just a child, Lauren was incredibly shy, and never wanted the limelight on her at all. Her mother wanted to encourage her to be more confident, and that was how Lauren ended up at stage school. Although it may have seemed to many to be a baptism of fire, for Lauren, it worked wonders. Within moments of getting up on the stage, all of the fright and the nerves completely disappeared. It was soon quite obvious to everyone around her that Lauren was born to be on the stage.

As Lauren got older, her talents only increased. Entering her teenage years, Lauren started learning more and more musical instruments, and went behind the scenes writing for other performers and arranging music for theater shows. This is where she learned of her great passion for music and where she could earn money. She would pitch her songs to top music producers and supervisors in Ireland and the UK and they would involve her to gain experience and then a wage, which Lauren is extremely grateful for. She says “When you have a great passion for something in the arts, its not about the fame and glory, I just get a thrill when I make a a bit of money and I usually finish something and move on to the next piece. It isn’t about the fame and success”

Lauren’s Resume’ includes: Musical Director of Crumlin Community Marching Band in Ireland,  CMC Productions as a Songwriter and Musician and Elevate Music Publishing as a Music Publisher. Some of her accomplishments with songwriting have been equally as astonishing, including: National Finals of Eurovision 2010 for Azerbaijan Reached Final 10 with “Freefall“, National Finals of Eurovision 2012 for Malta Reached Final 24 with “One More Night”, National Finals of Eurovision 2012 for Romania T & L Final with “Freefall”, National Finals of Eurovision 2013 for Ireland Final 5 with “Fire”, Participated in “The Hit” TV Show in RTE, “Higher” , RTE Radio-New unsigned artist Viva Radio, Reached Top 40 on iTunes charts with “Fire” in January 2012 and obtained Over 220,000 hits on YouTube in 2 weeks, Sold song to Lady Antebellum currently awaiting contract to be signed in Nashville-”Heartache“, Pitching “Fire” to Nicole Scherzinger – details TBC. She has also worked as a producer and arranger for many Eurovision songs around Europe for artists whom she met while entering her songs throughout the years.

Lauren White is a world class talent and has the world at her feet with her multi-talented skills as both an entertainer and songwriter. There’s nothing this girl can’t do when she sets her mind to it!

The Face of Change- Nazli K Lou

Nazli K Lou in 'Parts Of Disease'

Nazli K Lou in ‘Parts Of Disease’

Sure, Nazli K Lou is a beautiful actress. Anyone with eyes can see that. But American audiences are learning that there’s a lot more to this exotic beauty than good looks. She is the star of not one, but two different films that are winning awards all over the world and grabbing the attention of Hollywood bigwigs, and not to mention, inspiring conversations about social justice and change. So who exactly is Nazli K. Lou? And what will she do next?

First, we should go back to the beginning. Nazli was born in Tehran, Iran. But when she was only six years old, her family fled war-torn Iran and relocated to Vienna, Austria, where they lived happily in the historic center of the culturally rich city. Nazli enjoyed school as a little girl tremendously, but found herself having a real interest in the arts. When she was old enough, Nazli moved to Los Angeles to seriously pursue her ambition.

Nazli was accepted into the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts, beating out over seven thousand hopefuls to secure her place in the program. During her time there, Nazli impressed fellow students and faculty. As soon as she graduated, she was offered the role of a presenter on a popular Persian television show. Soon after that, Nazli was being offered roles left and right.

One of the most recent roles that Nazli had which was very close to her heart is a film called For the Birds, which is based on a true story. Nazli portrays a sixteen year old girl, in the last few minutes of her life, as she walks to the town square in Iran, preparing to be execued after she is caught in an affair with a 51-year-old man. The film has been winning awards and getting a slew of nominations at various film festivals all over the world: the Cleveland Film Festival, the Spokane Film Festival, the Directors Guild of America awards, the World of Women Cinema Festival, the Newport Beach Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival. Its message is one too important to ignore, and no doubt, Nazli’s astonishing performance helps that message come across loud and clear. The film’s director, Tara Atashgah, so tremendously enjoyed working with Nazli that they have plans to make several more films together.

Another film Nazli has been honored to participate in is Pieces of Disease, a tense thriller about what happens when a woman decides to betray her husband who she suspects is a terrorist, as she starts working with the FBI to help bring him down. Nazli’s portrayal of a woman who fears her husband but makes the courageous decision to stand up to him is life-affirming and drives home the importance of how terribly important it is to take a stand for the things that matter.

Nazli is an actress who approaches the films she selects much like how she approaches life: she makes sure the message is important, it is clear, and it will spark a conversation, and affect change.  American audiences are sure to be hearing a lot more from this dynamic actor.

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Hollywood is calling actor Daniel Parker

Hollywood is calling Daniel Parker

Hollywood is calling Daniel Parker

Daniel J. Parker is currently living in North Hollywood, California, which is a long way from home. Born in England and raised in Switzerland, Daniel is an incredibly talented actor that is wowing audiences with his delicate blend of shock and elegance.

Like many other actors and actresses, Daniel first began his career on the school stage. Before he really knew it, Daniel’s passion for acting had gone beyond simply taking part, and he found himself really challenging himself. For example, during a performance of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, in which Daniel played Willy Wonka, he improvised on stage when a technical failure rendered his lines obsolete. He has termed it ‘unfiltered character flow’, and believes that he was so invested in the character of Willy Wonka that, on stage, he almost became that man. This convinced Daniel that he needed to start thinking much more seriously about acting as a career.

There are many different actors that Daniel is inspired by, and makes him want to continue to work on his craft. In the working character actor field Xander Berkeley and Bruce Davison are the two that come to his mind, and Daniel was greatly saddened to learn of the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, a brilliant actor that paved the way for many other character actors to take the lead themselves. Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of the actors that Daniel would have most loved to work with, and it is tragic that now, no one will have the chance to collaborate with such an acting great.

Despite many other interesting avenues that Daniel could go down at the moment, he has made the conscious decision to concentrate solely on his acting. Many people are excited about where his career could go next, but for now, we will just have to wait and see.