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TEXPAT OF THE WEEK: MICHAEL AMENDOLA

5 Dec

Courtesy of The American Shakespeare Center

Rising Stage Star, Michael Amendola, is traveling with The American Shakespeare Center; performing in a rotating repertory of 12 actors. This season, Michael is performing on the Almost Blasphemy Tour through June 2012. The troupe not only play different characters in one of three shows; They are also a traveling band who perform live music at the beginning of their shows. To learn more about the Almost Blasphemy Tour, check out http://tiny.cc/1xb9c. Michael gives stories and advice to the Texpats, and We’re considering becoming his groupies.

Where are you from in Texas?

I was born and raised in San Antonio, TX. “Keep San Antonio lame”.

I attended college at Texas State University in San Marcos, TX where I got my BFA in acting and then I spent two years out of college in Austin, TX. I basically slowly inched my way 130 miles along Interstate-35 for 24 years. Although I spent most of my time in San Antonio, I like to say I am from Austin because that is where my heart is.

What’s it like to tour with the American Shakespeare Center?

The road is like walking on an escalator on a merry go round on a cruise ship with a karoke microphone and a gallon of water strapped to your back. It is also like a bear hibernating in a dark and cold cave. It is also like staring in a mirror for way too long. It is also like an indie rock music video filled with falling autumn leaves and slow motion dance parties. It is like an exotic fruit cocktail chased with cold coffee out of a Styrofoam cup. The experience is as much psychological as it is tangible. We have to be in a certain place at a certain time and do and say certain things, but all of the other time, it is an angsty toddler exploring without his mother. Learning, discovering, fearing uncertainty, getting bored, blanking out into hazes, and rejoicing in the new. It is hello and goodbye in the wink of an eye.

How do your audiences respond to Shakespeare?

It is mostly very positive. A lot of people in the world have a pre-conceived notion that Shakespeare is boring, or too high-falutent, almost pretentious. A lot of times it certainly does come off that way when it is performed badly. English students should remember that Shakespeare was meant to be seen and experienced rather than read, and when you see an ASC show that really hits home. The style is very high energy with lots of audience interaction and lots of contemporary music. Our audiences are mainly college campuses, but are open to the public. It is especially interesting when we play small town community centers, because the whole town seems to come out to see the show. They have such great appreciation for something cultural to becoming into their town and they listen whole heartedly. It is really interesting playing different states and see how people react to plays such as ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore by John Ford, which to this day is still very controversial and you can hear the audience’s varied responses from backstage.

Did you always want to be an actor?

When I was a little kid I wanted to be a cartoonist, a basketball player, a journalist, a chess player, a fireman, a professional bowler..etc. By  the end of high school I realized that if I chose to be an actor, I could kind of do all of those things. I could experience more facets of the human condition than if I did anything else. My mother still wanted me to pursue something more practical so I went into College thinking I would do some form of journalism, but after my first college play, I was hooked forever.

Courtesy of The Austin Shakespeare Festival

                                     Courtesy of The Austin Shakespeare Festival

What do you miss about home?

1. Breakfast Tacos
2. Swimming in November (comfortably)
3. Austin. The vibe, the nightlife, the music, the food, the people, the run down warehouse theatres, the WEIRDness.
4. Everything is cheap and everything is BIG in Texas. (except for the things that are small and expensive…)

Most surreal touring adventure?

I will keep it kind of discreet for the moment. But I guess the juxtaosition of being in rural Virginia one day, and then the next being in downtown Washington D.C, then Ohio, then Manhattan. It feels like a lucid dream. Although, I did visit a club in Pennsylvania called the Cell Block which is a converted prison, which was pretty surreal.

Worst traveling mistake?

This didn’t happen to me, but somebody in our troupe left keys to one of the vans at a gas station in a different state and had to drive all night and morning to retrieve them. Also, don’t do anything that might make you feel a little nauseous before you have to travel 8 hours thru a mountain range.

You’re hosting a dinner party with five of your favorite figures (living or dead). Who’s in attendance?

1. Jim Henson
2. The Pixies (does that count?)
3. Tina Fey
4. Buster Keaton
5. Laura Lane

How’s the food on the road?

Always save money for eating in Maine. Experiencing cultural cuisine is definitely one of the huge perks on the road. We cannot afford to indulge often, but we wait for the perfect places like New England Clam Chowder and Lobster in Maine. They’ll put Lobster in ANYTHING. Fresh crab from Baltimore. Aligator dumplings. Bar B Q and breakfast tacos from Texas (of course). Truffle fries and maple chicken panini from Oneonta, NY. But honestly, most of the time, we’re eating Subway and Ruby Tuesday if not just stashing muffins from hotel continental breakfasts.

Courtesy of Zach Scott Theater

                                                                                              Courtesy of Zach Scott Theater

What’s your advice to other actors?

1. Take Risks. I emptied my bank account to go to this audition, and I got it and my life is changed forever.
2. Don’t be an asshole. Once you get your break into some aspect of the business, I believe that the only thing stopping you is yourself. Don’t be an asshole. Let things that you don’t have control of, slide, and take control of what you can while being a good person. Always remember that you are being paid to play, and many others don’t have that luxury. This business is not as cut throat as you think.
3. Always find the joy in creating in any form, and it will keep you inspired.
4. Create a life outside of acting. Otherwise you will go insane.

Where can we find out more about you?

You can read my blog at http://doladiaries.blogspot.com/
You can find my bio and those of the other touring actors at: http://www.americanshakespearecenter.com/v.php?pg=1238
You can also feel free to reach me at: m.dola@live.com

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TEXPAT OF THE WEEK: Jonathan Valdez

22 Nov

Texpat Jonathan Valdez, Creator of Orangejuiceandbiscuits.com, and three-time Official Press at New York Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week sat down to tea with the Texpats to talk about New York Adventures and what he misses about Texas.

Where are you from in Texas?

Bay City, Texas near Houston. My background is Mexican-American so we had quinceaneras and there were high school football victory parties. These sassy black girls taught me how to dance to hip-hop and I would go two stepping at dance halls. I realized I was only going to be in High School once so I milked that shit up.

How was Orange Juice and Biscuits conceived?

I went to Texas State University and pitched Orange Juice and Biscuits as a show to the college radio station, who at first didn’t think anyone would be interested in celebrity interviews. We ended up being the first radio show to get press at Austin 360 and South by Southwest, eventually becoming one of the most popular shows and interviewing David Arquette, Paul Rudd, Jamie Presley, Rashida Jones among others. After College, instead of pursuing radio, I began blogging and came to New York in September 2009 where OJ&B began to evolve into fashion.

Did you expect this kind of response?

I’ve always stayed true to myself. A comedian told me you have to do what makes you laugh and other people will laugh. That hit a cord with me and I’ve always done things my own way: with my fedoras and bow ties as well as my writing. I’m doing something I really love and it’s been such a huge honor to work at fashion week.

What was it like to be new to New York?

There’s nothing like your first year in New York City. Even from the second year it changes and you have to remember all the strides and how it felt the first time it happened to you.

What do you miss about home?

Mostly it’s the people there. I was very fortunate to grow up in an area with a lot of culture. It takes until you leave a place to realize how special it is.

Most surreal NYC adventure?

Just having things happen that I know would not have happened if I wasn’t here. The most surreal thing is when I get to go to events because they are inviting me! It’s crazy.

What makes someone a real New Yorker?

I think a real New Yorker is someone who knows where to go on a certain night in their neighborhood. A real New Yorker is someone who is excited to share their city with their friends. I think a New Yorker will explore their city and not be snobby. If you never go above 14th St. you’re really limiting yourself.

How many bow ties do you own?

I’m going to say in the 20’s. About 25. I’m working on my collection right now because some have been lost. I hope (they’ve) found good homes. If I’m going to an interview or event, I usually just throw a bow tie on just because it’s my thing now.

Where can we find you on a normal day in NYC?

On a normal day, I’m probably at my apartment because of my blog. I live in Harlem. I first asked myself, “Is that chic?” and to me, it’s very up and coming, like the new Brooklyn. During the day I go to showrooms, and then in the evenings, I go to events.

You’re hosting a dinner party with five of your favorite New Yorkers (living or dead). Who’s in attendance?

1. Anna Wintour
2. Sarah Jessica Parker
3. Andy Warhol
4. The Olsens
5. 80’s Madonna

One piece of advice for someone new to the city?

Don’t rush things because they will work out. Enjoy being in the city; enjoy being lost, or scared, and broke. Don’t be afraid to let it happen. The first year is all about adventure. Just be, and let New York take you on a journey.

Listen to the full interview http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wk5-gfLU5QI

Also, Watch www.texpats.net

Texpat of the Week: Kathleen Callahan

7 Nov

World traveler, environmentalist, and cyclist Kathleen Callahan is currently teaching (and snorkeling) on the island of Jeju in South Korea. She gives the Texpats some words of wisdom from the road.

Where are you from in Texas?

I’m from Dallas originally, and I called Austin home before coming to Korea.

Did you always want to travel?

This is a question I haven’t ever really thought about oddly enough, but definitely YES. You know when you’re a child and you pretend to do grown up things like cook dinner or work for a law firm? Well, this is a bit weird now that I think about it, but I remember very specifically going into JC Penny’s and heading straight for the luggage section. I would take a piece of the American Tourister and pretend to pack up for a big trip then roll the luggage around for a while. My family never really traveled but after my first big trip with my school to New Mexico I was hooked. There’s nothing like the feeling of getting on an airplane knowing you’ll be landing in a new city, state, or better yet continent. I’m most certainly a travel junky for life!

What do you miss about home?

Friends and family foremost but two other very important things await my return to the great country of Austin Texas, salsa and easily accessible English yoga classes.

Most surreal international adventure?

Easy, being in Morocco, in the Sarah Desert, and camping with the Berbers. We talked, ate their homemade tagine, smoked hashish all night long, and sang a special Berber rendition of Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier” with the chorus “Whyeyeyaya, whyeyaya, why are there so many scorpions (in the Sahara)”. The night ended with an hour hike up a large sand dune, where it proceeded to rain. Rain in the African desert with the nomads, that is my moment. Life has been good to me.

Worst traveling mistake?

Brushing my teeth with the water in India. This particular mistake had consequences for the entire trip (ones which need not be discussed) and when I returned, most memorably coming home from NYC to Austin in the security line at JFK. You saw me, you know. Enough said.

You’re hosting a dinner party with five of your favorite historical, literary or mythological cretures living or dead. Who are they?

1) Steven Hawking
2) Anthony Bourdain
3) Benazir Bhutto
4) Nick Drake
5) A Talking Narwhal

What kind of impact have you had in Korea?

Well, I as far as teaching goes I think I’ve given the kids a good perception of Westerners and expanded their world view a little bit (they won’t come in contact with non-Koreans in Korea almost anywhere but in my class). But in all honesty my trip here was selfish in nature. I wanted to see the eastern perspective, and enjoy this beautiful island. Jeju has made way more of an impact on me than I on it. The scenery is unreal here and I find a new island treasure almost everyday. From the lava tubes, volcanoes and orums, to natural springs and soft coral, Jeju is a magical place with as much heart and soul in its people as its terrain. The Koreans (Jeju-doites) have been remarkably kind and hospitable. I couldn’t have asked for a better situation abroad.

PS Vote for JEJU as a Natural Wonder of the World (http://www.new7wonders.com/) 7 days and counting!!!

How can I get you to name a student after me?
Blackmail…

Advice on life?

If you are reading this you’re probably more privileged than most of the world. Don’t take it for granted. I’ve visited really, really poor places where people are born starving and homeless. Stop complaining, and make sure you love every moment here because there’s a strong possibility that this is it.
Also, don’t ever miss a good pun opportunity.

TEXPAT Tyler Wallach

24 Oct

When a person leaves a country, he or she becomes an “expatriate” or “expat.” When a Texan leaves Texas, he or she becomes a “texas expatriate” or “texpat.”

You know you’ve seen his art.

Sticker artist and actor Tyler Wallach is an extraordinary texpat who started making his mark from the moment he stepped off the plane from Houston. We asked Tyler to answer a few questions about his experience as a new New Yorker.

Where are you from in Texas?
A suburban area in northern Houston. A tad like Agrestic, but close enough to the city so I could sneak away to nightlife, film & theater.
Did you always want to be a New Yorker?
I was president of the Drama Club my senior year of high school (yup thats real). With so much 17 year old power buzzing around in my head, I planned a class trip with a travel company to New York City and I haven’t been the same since the moment I saw the buildings from my seat in the plane 5 years ago.
What do you miss about home?
Food and Texas hospitality. It’s a VERY real thing. Meeting new people out in public in Texas sometimes feels like running into a genuine old friend. In New York, sometimes it feels like you’re running into more enemy’s. As far as the food goes, NOTHING compares to Texas BBQ, Mexican Food or WHATABURGERRRR!!!
Most surreal NYC adventure?
They all feel so surreal, it’s incredible that a year later, I still can’t believe that this is where I live, it’s honestly like living inside of a board game.
My most surreal experience was getting cast in the first show I auditioned for based on the fact that I was from Texas. The director later told me “You were just so cute and the singing sounded great, but when you told us you were from Texas and did your little accent for us, well that was it, we knew we had to have you, don’t lose that charm”. Can’t argue with that, I’ve tried desperately not to conform to the icey personalities of NYC – which is not to say that I haven’t met some incredible people here in the city.
Worst NYC mistake? Falling in love with an unworthy person. Which of course, I ended up learning from, but damn that shit was rough.
What makes someone a real New Yorker? Someone who also realizes how goddam lucky we are to live here and doesn’t take ANY aspects (the Art, Music, Fashion, Drugs, Drinking, Page6, Beggars, Protestors, Jobs, Food….) of it for granted. When you feel too tired to go out on a Friday night, WHO CARES?! Get your ass up, text me and let’s do it – we get Kesha every weekend, but still manage to produce our art, pay our rent. Also, what makes a TRUELY true New Yorker is someone who has their Metrocard out BEFORE you’re in line to swipe & STAYS TO THE RIGHT WHEN WALKING!!!!!!!!
Any juicy celebrity sightings?
SO MANY!!! I’m obsessed – literally there are some nights where I’ll feel a bit of energy and it’s gonna be a “celebrity night y’all” my nyc DREAM is to meet/runinto/stalk Sarah Jessica Parker, but it just hasn’t happened yet 😦
MET / INTERACTED WITH: Kristen Chenoweth, Sean Hayes, Debbie Mazar, David Hyde PIerce, Star Jones, Lucy Lui, Shirley Knight, Dillon McDermott, Susan Sarandon, Donna Murphy, Sam Waterson   
SAW / STALKED: Kelsi Grammar, Nina Garcia, Jason Bateman, Sharon Stone, Snookie, Joel Grey, Ed Westwick, Anna Wintour, OBAMA, Jane Fonda, Perez Hilton, Klhoe Kardashian
Where can we find you on a normal day in NYC?               Working at EATALY as of yesterday (AMEN! A Job!!) – but probably in the West Village/Chelsea/Soho tagging up a storm or in my hood in Washington Heights.
You’re hosting a dinner party with five of your favorite New Yorkers (living or dead). Who’s in attendance?
1. Andy Warhol
2. Keith Haring
3. Liza Minelli
4. Betsey Johnson
5. Tim Gunn
What is C-L-O-U-D-Z? Did moving here effect your art?
CLOUDZ is a world of color I dreamed up and created. I was taking a Screenprinting class in college and took an assignment too far. Told to “create something that you are” i chose the medium of ever-changing, floating clouds. I knew I wanted to be someone who traveled and moved around so I felt a connection with the cloudz, started drawing my own versions of what I would literally like like and never stopped. It turned into drawing on everything – my folders, skin, final drafts of papers – soon onto an stack of HELLO MY NAME IS stickers I found, and thats where things really started.
How can I get some C-L-O-U-D-Z?
contact me http//www.C-L-O-U-D-Z.com
One piece of advice for someone new to the city? It’s what someone told me – don’t forget to create a life for yourself. Even in the biggest city in America, you need to wake up in an environment that is YOURS, that you feel comfortable in – – because let’s face it, I feel more comfortable pushing my through french tourists excited about Olive Garden than I do sitting in my car waiting for the traffic light to change in Texas, ya know? create your life, introduce yourself to the guy who does your laundry (no I haven’t done my own laundry in over a year, thanks NY) – meet the guy at your favorite subway/drycleaner/headshop and learn his name – say hello, make friends and remain yourself, because nobody is from  New York, we’re all implants from different lands with new stories to tell and lessons to learn.

Tyler Wallach, NYC Street Artist
CLOUDZ creator & monster maker.
http://www.HelloMyNameisTY.com