Broadway To Vegas



Copyright: September 2, 2007
By: Laura Deni


Kent Hudson Reed
The action got a little too real. Last Wednesday there was a performance of Scenes from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar at the Galena Plaza next to the Pitkin County Library in Aspen, Colorado - part of an annual free Shakespeare reading event.

Julius Caesar is Shakespeare's bloody tragedy of the assassination of the Roman emperor and its aftermath.

During the murder scene of Caesar in the Roman Forum - actor Kent Hudson Reed, playing the part of Brutus, accidentally stabbed himself during an impassioned third-act dialogue.

"It was a puncture wound," Reed told Broadway To Vegas. The founder of the Hudson Reed Ensemble was rushed to Aspen Valley Hospital where he was treated and released.

"The doctor stuck something inside and said he's going to pull it out in a week," Reed continued. "I feel good. It happened Wednesday. It's kind of like a stiff charley horse. The trouble was, it just started bleeding so much that I just couldn't go on. My pant leg was turning red. People in the audience were whispering to each other."

"Actually, I have to call the doctor," remembered Reed. "I don't really know what he did."

On Friday the personable actor-director-producer was still embarrassed.

"It was just a stupid, stupid thing. The actors were far, far away from each other. There is no way that knife could have contacted another actor. I never anticipated that somebody could stab themselves," said the still astounded Reed, who founded the Hudson Reed Ensemble after being with The Goodman, Chicago Dramatists and The Piven in Chicago. Hudson Reed Ensemble has a devoted following.

L to R - Kent Reed (Brutus) Charisse Layne (Calpurnia) Kim Nuzzo (Caesar). Photo courtesy Kent Reed.
"I also founded Theatre Aspen, another theatre company in Aspen, in 1983. Here in Aspen this is the second annual, free Shakespeare thing that we've done outside," said Reed.

The Hudson Reed Ensemble hopes to "embody that part of Aspen that has always been a little irreverent and a little scrappy...a small town with New York savvy and an Iowa heart."

Last March 31, former Aspen resident Felicity Huffman made a guest appearance with the Hudson Reed Ensemble starring in The Aspen Soap, directed by Reed, in the Black Box Theatre at Aspen High School. That performance was the first fundraising event for the two-year-old Hudson Reed Ensemble. Felicity played the daughter of aging Aspenite Victoria Monté, played by her real-life mom, Grace Huffman, who lives in nearby Woody Creek.

Felicity Huffman starred opposite her mother in a benefit for the Hudson Reed Ensemble
For those who think they may have heard of Woody Creek but can't quite place it - this is an unincorporated small mountain hamlet outlying Aspen where author Hunter S. Thompson called home for much of his life and at the time of his death. It also has been the home of several other notable popular celebrities and musicians including the late broadcaster Ed Bradley, Don Henley of the Eagles, John Oats (Hall and Oates), and actor Don Johnson. Currently, U.S. Senate Speaker Of the House Nancy Pelosi has a winter home in Woody Creek.

"As far as this particular production, we did it in street clothes," continued Reed explained about the hour long Julius Caesars staging. "We did three scenes last year from Richard III, Taming of the Shrew and Romeo and Juliet. There we worn period costumes. For this particular thing we decided to have a kind of contemporary feel to it - kind of mirroring what we feel is going on with our country."

There they stood. Brutus and Caesar in light colored, summer business suits.

Suddenly Reed appeared be in pain and his crème colored suit began to turn red. At first he attempted the "show must go on" approach - remained in character and continued with his speech.

"And let us bathe our hands in Caesar's blood
Up to the elbows, and besmear our swords:
Then walk we forth, even to the market-place,
And, waving our red weapons o'er our heads,
Let's all cry 'Peace, freedom and liberty!'"

Kent Reed (Brutus) Susan Mauntel (Portia). Photo courtesy Kent Reed.
As his own blood soaked his suit and filled his boot, he began to feel dizzy, stumbling over his lines and conceded the pain had gotten the better of him.

He apolo­gized to the audience of over 150, explaining - "I seem to have stabbed myself."

As his pants continued to redden, Reed walked offstage, favoring his wounded leg. Minutes passed while Kim Nuzzo, as Caesar, continued to remain motionless on the ground and Lee Sullivan, as Marc Antony, and Gary Mora­bito, as Cassius, haplessly stayed in position. After several minutes Tyson Young, the play’s narrator, came out to announce that the evening’s performance would have to be canceled while Portia (Susan Mauntel) took Brutus to the hospital.

“That’s what you get for trying to kill Caesar,” said Young.

"Here is the miracle," exclaimed Reed. "Hydrogen peroxide - don't leave home without it. Oh, my God! My whole pant leg was red and blood into my boot and suit coat. But, hydrogen peroxide took it right out."

"And, this blood was dried, because I didn't get to it until the next day. It was a miracle. It was the only summer suit that I have and I really like it a lot. I hated for it to be it a casualty, as I was."

What happened to the knife?

"I have it stuck up here on my shelf - with the blood still on it."

Are you ever again going to play with knives?

"No, ma'am."


It's not often that a son tells his mother to go jump from an airplane. In the case of Ross Benjamin - son of actors Paula Prentiss and Richard Benjamin - suggesting to his mother that she celebrate her 70th birthday on March 4 by skydiving for the first time is - normal.

"He and I have always liked those kind of things," laughed Paula with that distinctive sexy voice, which she says she inherited from her mother. The delightful performer and her daughter, Prentiss Benjamin, are in Lansing, Michigan in rehearsals for Mrs. Warren's Profession, which opens this week at the BoarsHead Theatre. Last week Paula and Prentiss spoke with Broadway To Vegas about a myriad of topics.

Paula Prentiss
In describing the upcoming skydiving adventure Paula explained how her son got her involved.

"He was married last year and a couple of months ago my husband and I were driving along. We got a phone call in the car that he and his wife, Liz who is a surgeon at U.C.L.A., had just skydived in tandem. I said - OK, if you've done it, I'm going to. He said - Mother, it's great."

"Ross said that it's very scary when you're walking to the plane," related Paula. "It's scary as you go up. But, you're immediately busy, getting your gear on and connecting to the person who is going to go with you. The moment you jump, it is just incredible. Ross said that you go out backwards, like a back flip. He said the moment you do it, there is nothing to do except enjoy it."

"Liz, his wife - the surgeon - who was not going to do it, decided at the last moment to do it."

She's a surgeon? What about her hands?

"That's what her mother said," laughed Paula. "It was very funny. When she called to tell her parents, her father answered the phone and after she had announced it - he said - 'I'm watching the football game.' Then I talked to her mother later and she said - 'Oh my, her hands!'"

Fortunately, everyone reported that all body parts work fine.

"That's the reason I'm doing it, because we've always done dumb stuff like that," said Paula. "You go up to the place, Perris Valley Skydiving which is a little bit outside Los Angeles, and you're told what will happen. You put your gear on. When you come out, you're very elegant looking- like astronauts. They take pictures of you walking to the plane, in the plane, when you make the jump there is a cameraman in front of you taking your picture the whole way down. "

Is she looking forward to this?

"I sure am!!"

Paula is also looking forward to a first time event of appearing with her daughter in a play. Both Paula and Prentiss are graduates of the Northwestern University's School of Drama.

The production is George Bernard Shaw's Mrs. Warren's Profession, which was performed for the first time in the theatre of the New Lyric Club, London, on January 5-6, 1902.

Written by Shaw in 1893, the story centers on the relationship between Mrs. Warren, a prostitute, described by Shaw as "on the whole, a genial and fairly presentable old blackguard of a woman," and her "prudish" daughter, Vivie. Mrs. Warren is a middle-aged woman whose Cambridge-educated daughter, Vivie, is horrified to discover that her mother's fortune was made managing high-class whorehouses. The two strong women make a brief reconciliation when Mrs. Warren explains her impoverished youth, which originally led her into prostitution. Vivie forgives her mother until learning that the highly profitable business remains in operation.

Also in the BoarsHead production are Gary Houston as Sir George Crofts, Ken Beachler as Praed, Paul Murphy as Rev. Samuel Gardner, and Jack Moran as Frank Gardner.

"I had a teacher, Alvina Krause, who channeled Shaw. She did, she literally did," insisted Paula. "It was certainly not something that I could grasp at 20. I hadn't lived enough to understand what it was, but she felt that we could understand it. And, it definitely made an imprint on those of us who were in her class. I'm glad to be able to get to that point where I can say - Miss Krause, thank you. I think I got it. I think I got it now. There are just some wonderful teachers that we have along the way."

Prentiss Benjamin
"Northwestern is very unique," Prentiss commented. "It is very well known for its theatre department, but it does not have auditions like NYU or some other prominent theatre schools. You're in the same acting class for three years - from your sophomore year to your senior year. It begins to weed out. Our class in our sophomore year was about 30 acting students. It goes down. In our senior year it was maybe 16 or 17. People begin to feel, maybe this isn't for them. That they would like to pursue other things."

"So, it is unique in that there are no auditions. Anyone who wants to declare themselves a theatre major is welcome to do that."

Since both her parents are Northwestern theater grads, there could have been some added pressures on Prentiss. Fortunately, that wasn't the case.

"People didn't know who my parents were," she explained. "Some of the professors did, but that certainly was not an issue at all. It was very much like the real world. You put in the work that you put in and that's how you're going to be judged."

"I loved college," said the 2000 year grad. "I miss my teacher David Downs terribly. The campus is so beautiful. I haven't been back since I graduated, but I had a great experience there."

As for working with her mother, Prentiss is giddy.

"In the play I get some lines that George Bernard Shaw wrote that - if you had the words you would like to say to your mother - those words are there. I have the opportunity, within the structure of the play, to say them to her."

Paula Prentiss and Prentiss Benjamin in Mrs. Warren's Profession. Photo courtesy: Trumpie Photography.
Shaw said he wrote the play "to draw attention to the truth that prostitution is caused, not by female depravity and male licentiousness, but simply by underpaying, undervaluing, and overworking women so shamefully that the poorest of them are forced to resort to prostitution to keep body and soul together."

But despite Shaw's claims and its title, the play barely touches the theme of prostitution. Rather, it focuses on the conflicts related to the "new women" of the Victoria era — issues arising because middle-class girls wanted greater social independence in work and education. Other themes include criticism of the sexual triteness of the times and a want for greater social sexual awareness along with equality in the workplace for working women.

"Rehearsals are great," said Prentiss. "I've worked with our director, James Glossman, a couple of times. He is the most energetic person I have ever met. It has an innate sense of the human beings that are under these characters. So, under all of the magic of Shaw's language are real people and Jim knows just how to get that from me."

James Glossman
"Jim feels it is his job to try to figure out the way each actor needs to be presented with something, in order to elicit what he wants from them. The way he works with me is not the same way he works with my mother. We have totally different ways of working. Jim realizes that about us and knows how to get what he wants from each of us. He changes his vocabulary for each of us - the way he speaks - in order to get from each actor something that is genuine and serves the play. All he cares about is the play. He has no other agenda. That is ideally why we are al there - to serve Shaw and to give the audience Shaw's play."

"Rehearsals are a lot of fun," said Paula. "Long and hard and we had the interruption of a tornado," she exclaimed. "It was quite fun because my mother grew up in Archer City, Texas - the Panhandle where there are a lot of tornados. I always heard stories about her as a little girl. Because you could drive at age 13, or some young age, she out drove a tornado. But when she stopped the car, an upside down owl slid down on the window shield in front of her. So things had hit her car and she had kept going. But, I always heard stories about tornados," said Paula who had lived in Galveston, San Antonio, and Houston."

For Prentiss the tornado was a bit more disconcerting.

"We had a tornado warning, so we all had to pack into the hallways to protect our selves," Prentiss related. "This was unique to me. I come from earthquake country. A total first to me. The warning systems went off, so it was very exciting. It happened during rehearsal."

Then she wondered about an event difficult to improvise into the script. "I thought - what do you do if this happens during a performance?"

For both mother and daughter this marks their first trip to Michigan and they are enjoying every moment of discovery.

Paula was savoring the delights of actual home grown cucumbers and tomatoes.

"They are fantastic! It is such a different taste than what you get in the grocery store. Each tomato has it's own individual taste. "

"This is a beautiful place, said Paula of Lansing. "The Capitol is right down the street."

It's very exciting being in Michigan for the first time," added Prentiss. "We are going a ball game. I've heard that minor league games can be a lot of fun. I'd love to go check out the campus as MSU, just wander around."

They sound like a normal family. Perhaps because they are. Neither Prentiss nor Ross have been in rehab, no arrest records and no glaring headlines.

"We are normal," declared Paula. "We wanted normal kids and that's what we got."

Paula met her future husband at Northwestern.

Richard Benjamin
Why were you attracted to him?

"I'd always liked Tony Curtis," she confessed about the Las Vegas resident. "I liked a Jewish guy from New York and that what I thought Tony Curtis was. And, here was Richard Benjamin - a Jewish guy from New York. I said, Oh, here's mine!"

Richard Benjamin has been hers for "47 years in October."

In a community of revolving door relationships, Paula and Richard have made it work.

"I do think that since both of our parents were married to one another their whole lives, that was something that subliminally you are a part of."

"We have had extreme situations when one of us was gone working and vise versa. It's been a test. I guess we always had in mind that we were going to be together. We waited for 13 years before having children. We played around as children for quite a while in our marriage until we decided to have children. Then you have a choice to be a grown up or not."

Prentiss credits her parents for providing the proper foundation.

"They are the most grounded, down to earth people. We were so focused on school. For me, I was a dancer. I was so focused on dance and school that I didn't have time for anything else."

Neither Ross nor Prentiss were engulfed in their parents' celebrity.

"I remember sometimes we would go out to dinner and people would come over for an autograph or just want to say hello. But, I don't remember Ross and I thinking much about that. Mom and Dad were involved with the movies and people would enjoy their work. I don't remember the moment when I realized that they were famous. That never really occurred to me. Even when I would go to visit my father on movie sets, it was going to visit Dad at work."

"Although, I will say that one time Madonna came over. She and my Dad had a meeting. This was when I was about six, in the early 80's. That was incredibly exciting. Madonna came over and it just didn't get any better than that! I was quite beside myself. I think I burst into tears."

Dad Richard Benjamin made his 1969 film debut in Goodbye, Columbus. His vast credit include Catch-22, Diary of a Mad Housewife, Portnoy's Complaint, The Sunshine Boys. He directed such flicks as My Favorite Year, The Money Pit, Mermaids, Made in America and Mrs. Winterbourne. He made his Broadway debut in the Star-Spangled Girl.

Where The Boys Are was Paula's film debut. She still keeps in touch with co-stars Dolores Hart, Yvette Mimieux and Connie Francis.
Paula gained household name recognition thanks to the big screen starring in Where the Boys Are and The Stepford Wives, The Honeymoon Machine, Bachelor in Paradise and The Horizontal Lieutenant, often teamed with actor Jim Hutton, who was similarly tall in stature (Hutton stood 6'5" to her 5'10"). She later starred with Rock Hudson in Man's Favorite Sport?, The World of Henry Orient Peter Sellers and Catch-22 and Move with Elliott Gould and In Harms Way with John Wayne and Kirk Douglas.

Paula no longer thinks of herself as tall. She didn't shrink. Others have just gotten taller.

"When I was in the 7th grade I was with a friend who was tall like I was. We were at a dance and she said - Paula, stand up! I was concerned that I was much taller than the boys, so I'd slump. Now-a-days I'm not concerned. I'm just medium height, compared to all of the kids. But, I took her advice," she said about developing good posture.

"Then when I got into the movies, I played a really tall girl. They even stood me on a box for a couple of those shots. I had a wonderful co-star Jim Hutton. We had a lot of fun."

Paula has stayed in touch with many of her co-stars.

Jim Hutton and Paula Prentiss in The Horizontal Lieutenant
"The movies were fun," remembered Paula. "I still have a close friendship with Dolores Hart whom I made my first movie with. She's wonderful. She's a Mother Superior in her order in Conn. I went to visit her. She is in a cloistered nunnery but she came out. She said - what the hey, let's visit. So, we ran into each other's arms and talked and talked. Later on I brought my husband and my children to meet her, because she is such a wonderful person. And, I've seen Connie Francis and Yvette Mimieux. George Hamilton is exactly the same - just as handsome. He's very funny. My film career has been very, very nice."

"I enjoy live theatre more than the movies because the movies are a different kind of technique," Paula admitted. "You learn your lines and you get up and you may have one or two lines and you wait in between. You may go to the front of the script or the back and then do another short set of things," she said of film. "But, it's not the same as starting a play, listening to it unfold - that includes the audience's reaction to it -and going all the way through to the end with what the author's intent is. You discover that as you are rehearsing it and when you are in front of an audience."

"When the children were young I'd read them Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie and we'd talk about it or we'd talk about Shakespeare and the characters. This is when they were little children. I did that because I felt, for me, the purpose of doing theatre and taking theatre was to understand human behavior. The playwrights have got that down."

"I always liked that Tennessee Williams said when actors started rehearsing his plays he would sit back and find out what the story was about, because when the human element comes into it and that includes that audience as the third element - it becomes a living thing."

"This is a very difficult business," cautioned Prentiss. "It is very different than the business that my mom and dad entered into in the early 60's. There is so much competition now. They are a lot more people vying for a limited number of jobs. It is also no longer possible to make your living as a stage actor. The stage is really what is very exciting to me. But, in this day and age, you must be able to work in television and films to make a living as an actor."

Upcoming in January for Prentiss is a Jim Glossman adaptation of a Jim Lehrer novel, Flying Crows.

"That's going to be at a theatre that I've worked at before - called Playwright's Theatre of New Jersey."

Flying Crows deals with Detective Lt. Randy Benton who has been asked to do one last inspection of the dilapidated Kansas City Union Station just prior to its massive renovation in 1997. When he discovers Birdie, apparently an escaped lunatic who has been living in the railroad station since 1933, Benton finds far more questions about his past than answers. The world premiere will be staged January 31 - February 17, 2008.

Both Paula and Prentiss have small parts in Hard Four, an independent movie Ross Benjamin produced and co-stars.

There are a lot of recognizable monikers in the comedy.

Dabney Coleman is Spray Loomis a faded lounge singer, now employed as a "greeter" at a Las Vegas morgue
Ed Asner plays high roller Golden Hands Segal who drops dead at a Las Vegas craps table. The Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas supplied $6 million in gambling chips for the death scene.
In Hard Four high roller Golden Hands Segal (Edward Asner) drops dead at the craps table in Las Vegas after betting an almost impossible “hard four” to the chagrin of his wife (Mitzi McCall) and casino boss Jack Ermine (Ian Abercrombie).

His grandson, software CEO Freddy Meingold (Samuel Gould - son of Elliott Gould), receives the tragic news about his beloved grandfather while on a business trip to Los Angeles. His childhood friend, cyber journalist Spencer Ragusa (Ross Benjamin) receives instructions from Freddy’s father to transport Segal’s body back to New Jersey for burial within 24 hours according to Jewish custom. Seeing Freddy overcome by grief, Spencer takes command of the situation. Too late to catch the last flight to Vegas, and prevented by flash floods from driving, Spencer promises Freddy that former girlfriend Erica Dale (Charlene Blaine) will fly them in her own plane.

But Erica never wants to see Spencer again and is about to hop in the sack with fiery real estate developer William Pericles Kulakundis (Charles Dennis). When Spencer and Freddy arrive on her doorstep, she refuses to fly them. But Kulakundis is moved by Spencer’s passionate plea and the four drive to Chino where Erica’s plane is being serviced.

In a scene from Hard Four, Prentiss Benjamin, Kim Eveleth, Steve Tannen, Ross Benjamin and Samuel Gould, who is the son of actor Elliott Gould
Stopping for coffee at a diner run by Sweet Cherrie (Paula Prentiss), they encounter an old philosopher named Ulysses (Fayard Nicholas of the famed Nickolas Brothers - in his last film before his death) and legendary flying jailer Orville Chisholm (Willie Garson), who is transferring celebrated killer Garvey Rogers (Kim Delgado) to Folsom Prison.

When the four finally arrive in Vegas, they learn that Garvey’s gang has affected his escape using Kulakundis’s car. To make matters worse, Kulakundis is a wanted man, suspected of aiding Garvey in his escape. Not to mention Kulakundis’s wife DeeDee (Rachelle Carson), who’s having her own affair with former football great Blazedell Woodruff (John Getz). An incensed Kulakundis breaks into the lovers’ room and goes flying out the window of their tenth floor suite into the swimming pool below.

Taken into custody by Bryce Baxter (Bryan Cranston), Kulakundis cools his heels in jail while Spencer visits the city morgue where he encounters Spray Loomis (Dabney Coleman), a faded lounge singer who now functions as a “greeter” identifying John Does. Loomis has mislabeled Segal’s body, confusing it with that of a famous Navy hero. The film’s climax at the Vegas police station results in some amazing revelations about the characters’ pasts and futures.

This flick also features Ed Begley Jr, Salli Saffioti, Richard Horvitz, Hamilton Camp, Dan Frischman, Jonathan Coogan, Ia Villatuya, Steve Tannen, Nicole Ansari-Cox, Michele Scarabelli, Beverly Washburn and introduces Prentiss Benjamin, Michelle Ward and Ethne Bliss.

"I have a very small part," said Prentiss. "I play the sister of Ross' character. She is a nun and who then goes very bad and joins a grunge rock band. It's a big transition. She left the habit and put on the stilettos. It was a lot of fun. I didn't have to audition. That is a beauty of a family business," quipped Prentiss.

As for Paula the ageless beauty keeps herself up to par with a special brand of yoga.

"I do Bikram Yoga, which is 90 minutes of hot yoga," said Paula referring to a specific type of yoga developed by living yoga master, India born Bikram Choudhury. He founded the Yoga College of India in Beverly Hills in 1974.

"There is not a studio here," continued Paula. "There is a studio in Detroit and in Chicago. But here we've been fortunate to be able to find a yoga studio where they do hot yoga, so you can raise the temperature. You turn on a little heater. It doesn't get to where Bickram's goes, which is 120 at least, but it is warm. You get to go through the postures. There are 26 of them. It keeps your joints very loose, and very well oiled. That is very important as you age. You don't atrophy."

"I did it in my 20's before I had my children. My first child was when I was at 36 and the second one, I was 41. After I had my children I stopped. But, then I woke up and thought, My God, I'm not moving!"

"But, I waited. About two or three years ago - I woke up one morning - I think it was January 1 - and I said I've got to go back to Bikram."

"I went back. Although your muscles remember to a certain point, it's tough."

"I made myself go daily, so I could get back into it. My daughter is a dancer. She took it, but she was more enabled. I didn't have the dance. I'm still working on the postures. They are tough, but they certainly do the trick."

Both Paula and Prentiss can be enjoyed in Mrs. Warren's Profession at the BoarsHead Theatre in Lansing, Michigan. Previews begin September 5 with the opening set for September 7. Performances continue to September 30.

The mother-daughter duo expect some family support.

"He is coming the last week-end," said Paula referring to her husband who is currently at home babysitting Prentiss' beloved 6 year-old part Pomeranian dog. The pooch may be thinking that the actor doesn't take direction well.

"My dog Nikki, who is the love of my life - is currently staying with my Dad. He is not a real dog person," Prentiss confessed. "He loves animals, but doesn't quite understand them. He doesn't understand why she gets up on her hind legs and licks him. He doesn't quite get it. Now he is there alone taking care of my little dog. When I talk to him I can secretly tell that he is having an absolute ball. Dogs make you open up to a world in a very unique kind of way. I love them."

Also coming in to applaud will be Ross and his wife.

Paula unashamedly adores her children but has no magic success recipe. "I think is was just luck. We have been very fortunate with our children. We, of course, love them and are held hostage by them for the rest of our lives. But, that's okay."

As an aside: On Tuesday, September 11, in one of the historic homes in Lansing, Paula will participate in a one night benefit titled An Evening With Paula Prentiss. Cocktail, hors d'oeuvres and an opportunity to chat with Paula. All proceeds benefit the BoarsHead scholarship program for theatrical interns.

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Development of the popular Fall of Atlantis show in the Caesars Forum Shops required cooperation of engineers in close collaboration with inspectors from the Clark County Fire Department.
Getting shows up and running is a fast track, high income potential. Long gone are the days when you mounted a production with scrap wood and a hammer. If it isn't high tech it probably won't fly.

Majoring in entertainment engineering is a new degree optioned offered by the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. (UNLV). This new bachelor's degree program is the only one like it in the country.

Students will have internships at Cirque du Soleil shows. They won't be fetching coffee for the cast. Rather, it's a legitimate hands on internship, working on pulley systems to moving stages.

Signing up isn't meant for those who aren't sure about their goals and think this might be and easy A. To qualify for the degree it helps to excel in both math and the arts. Unlike theater tech programs, these engineering students will be required to take a heavy load of civil, mechanical and electrical engineering courses, in addition to classes in the fine arts college. That includes metalworking and woodworking to create artistic structures.

During their junior and senior years, they will choose an area of emphasis from two of four tracks: automation/ motion controls, structural design and rigging, biomechanics/ animatronics and entertainment structures and systems.

Adding this degree to the curriculum has been a well thought out, staged plan of action.

Entertainment Engineering and Design is an interdisciplinary undergraduate minor in the Mechanical Engineering and Fine Arts. Technologies from both disciplines are interwoven into this program in order to offer students the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of emerging technologies in the Entertainment Industry.

The first Entertainment Engineering and Design (EED) course, a survey course entitled Introduction to Entertainment Engineering and Design was offered Spring 2001, Spring 2003 and Fall 2005. The students enrolled were an interdisciplinary group from the College of Fine Arts and College of Engineering.

The second EED course offered, entitled Materials Science and Fabrication Techniques in the Entertainment Industry was offered for the first time during Spring 2006. This semester marks the first time the courses have expanded to permit an actual major in the growth industry.

To fund the program, the university has developed liaisons with development companies and venues.

According to UNLV, "Las Vegas is known as the Entertainment Capital of the World, largely due to the rapid growth of entertainment venues primarily located on the Las Vegas Strip. As new venues are built, the need for new and emerging technologies increases. In order to keep pace with this growth, UNLV is poised to set the pace in this area of engineering."

The example used was: If you need to design and build a 1.5-million-gallon pool that could be raised 25 feet in a few seconds for a stage show or a jaw-dropping roller coaster capable of catapulting riders at 1.5 G’s through a 2,000-degree fire, who are you going to call?

Graduates of this UNLV program hope you call them. The institution of higher learning expects 30 to 50 students to join the program each year.


SPRING AWAKENING the 2007 Tony Award winner for Best Musical, has recouped its initial $6 million capitalization after only 300 performances.

A national tour of the rock musical is scheduled to begin in September 2008 in San Francisco at the Curran Theatre. A London production will be directed by the show's original director, Michael Mayer. That mounting opens in late fall 2008. Details of international productions in Japan, Korea, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands are being hammered out.

Spring Awakening is a pop musical adaptation by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater of Frank Wedekind's classic German drama. Set in provincial 19th-century Germany, it tells the story of a group of teenagers trying to come to terms with life and their own sexuality. The production made its world premiere Off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theater Company in June 2006. It transferred to Broadway the following November, where it continues to play at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre.

Conceived and adapted by John L. Haber. Music and Lyrics by Jack Herrick. With contributions from Michael Bogdanov, Bland Simpson and Tommy Thompson. Featuring The Red Clay Ramblers who were the 1999 Special Tony Award-winners for Fool Moon. Inspired by The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare.

The show stars acclaimed actor and Academy Award nominee Randy Quaid who will be making his Broadway debut with this show, which moves straight to Broadway from The 5th, and opens in New York November 1!.

Lone Star Love has also roped together a roster of top Broadway talent, including Tony nominees Robert Cuccioli (who originated the title role in Jekyll & Hyde and starred in The 5th's A Little Night Music), Dee Hoty (star of Footloose and The Will Rogers Follies and The 5th's Cole Porter smash Anything Goes) and Lauren Kennedy (Spamalot, Sunset Boulevard, Side Show).

Transplanting Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor to the Wild West, the musical spins the tale of washed-up Confederate Colonel John Falstaff (Quaid) working his charms on two wealthy cattle ranchers' wives--with an eye on their husbands' land and money! Bluegrass-jazz-rock string band heroes - and Tony winners - the Red Clay Ramblers provide the tunes and play onstage as Falstaff's sidekicks. Lone Star Love packs Texas-size laughs, wily women, family feuds, country ballads and a yodeling cowboy into what is promised to be a fun-loving night of musical merriment.

Long Star Love is leaving no venue description untouched. This show was first off-Broadway capturing an Outer Critics Circle Outstanding New Musical Off-Broadway nomination in 2005. Now the effort heads to the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle September 8-30 en route to launch itself as a Broadway musical on November 11.

KENNEDY CENTER PAGE TO STAGE FESTIVAL is taking place this week-end with offering through September 3.

The Kennedy Center hosts as many as fifty theater companies and organizations in the annual festival of new work, which features theatre companies previewing their new seasons or simply strutting their stuff in free readings, open rehearsals and performances.

Sunday, September 2 showcases; Forgive Us by Keith Bridges, O Go My Man by Stella Feehily - Solas Nua, Hard Cover, Soft Core by Denis Lipman, The Blue Angel by Robert McNamara, The Dream Sailors: Episode I by Randy Baker, Fictitious, a satirical musical comedy by Tom Hyndman, The Devil's Sweet Water by Jacqueline E. Lawton, Triple Play, one act plays by D.W. Gregory, Mary Watters and Eric C. Peterson, Glory by Miguel García, Aphrodite and Her Son by Luis M. Correa-Power, The Retirement Years by E. B. Solomon directed by Bill Largess, The Wonderful World of Zidney by Shawn Northrip and Mike Pettry.

On Monday patrons can enjoy; Franz Kafka's The Trial, adaptation by Christopher Gallu, ANIMA by Christiaan Greer. The Three Musketeers by Ken Ludwig, Kindred Spirits by Lara Marie Harmon, A Girl Called Alice by Kimberley Lynne, Prophecy by Karen Malpede, Dis'd by Gregg Mozgala and Cuantos Cuentos by Marco Ramirez. The Tragedy of Mary Lou Skatonda by Kallie Kimball, Oh, Baby by Aoise Stratford, Banana Rat by Phoebe Rusch, Engaging Shaw by John Morogiello, The Eden Diaries by Mark Twain with music by Kyle Gullings. Fresh Flavas excerpts from three new plays by Kara Corthron, Malcolm Pelles and Sherry Shephard Massat and King Lyndon Lear and His Year of Crisis with Dan Manning as Lyndon B. Johnson.

by Offenbach. In an artistic coup for Opera Australia, Richard Hickox conducts a new production of The Tales of Hoffman, directed by Stuart Maunder and featuring one of Australia's most exciting artists, Emma Matthews, playing four different roles to create Hoffmann's ultimate woman.

The starry-eyed Hoffmann is entranced by Olympia, seduced by Giulietta and obsessed by fragile Antonia, and when he meets Stella he thinks she might be the one. But is love playing cruel tricks? Offenbach's captivating music underscores this fantastic garland of stories.

Rosario La Spina makes his debut in the challenging role of Hoffmann, with John Wegner as the four villains. John Pringle is the eccentric inventor Spalanzani, and Pamela Helen Stephen plays Hoffmann's muse and companion, singing Offenbach's much-loved Barcarolle.

Conducted by Richard Hickox. Set & Costume Designer is Roger Kirk. Lighting Design by Nigel Levings. Choreographed by Elizabeth Hill.

Sung in French with surtitles. Opened last night at Opera Theatre Sydney Opera House, Australia.

XIRE!CELEBRATIONS Resident choreographer Luiz Badaro, a recipient of a Dance: Creation to Performance grant from The James Irvine Foundation, and guest choreographer Rosangela Silvestre experiment with traditional stories, legends and myths, infusing them with the intoxicating movements, colors and sounds of contemporary Brazil.

The troupe's 10th Anniversary Concert takes place Friday, September 7 at Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood, CA.

IF YOU EVER LEAVE ME I'M GOING WITH YOU Written and directed by and starring the husband and wife team of Renee Taylor and Joe Bologna. A three night gig in Las Vegas at The Suncoast Hotel. Opens Friday, September 7.

DOUBLE VISION directed by Ari Laura Kreith, sold out all of its performances at the 2007 New York International Fringe Festival and has been invited (along with twelve other shows) to perform in the FringeNYC Encore Series.

Double Vision is a dark romantic comedy about urban singles running from their hearts' desires - smack into a brick wall. It looks at city life and the twisted relationships it inspires. It's a quirky tale about men and women and the relationships they run from.

The six-member Fringe Festival cast returns, including OBIE Award-winner Christopher McCann, Rebecca Henderson, Shane Jacobsen, Linda Jones, Quinn Mattfeld, and Sarah Silk.

The six encore performance dates at the Bleeker Street Theater are; September 8-9-12-13-15-16.

A world is grappling with a new invention set to change its reality forever…electricity. The Terrific Electric uses a theatre of moving images, absurd humor and vivid tableaux to evoke the shock and wonder of the dawning electrical era.

The winners of this year's Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust award, mentored by Mark Ravenhill. First developed at The Playground Studio Created and devised by BOiLEROOM.

An isolated household falls under the spell of a charismatic man of science who takes up residence to pursue his experiments. Through this surreal and fantastical world of innovation, BOiLEROOM investigates technology and our relationship with it across generations, from utopian visions of the future to mobile phones, cyberspace and the cutting edge of mechanized medicine.

September 4-15 at The Barbican in London. Beckett Prize Post Show Talk takes place September 13.

THE SEXUAL NEUROSES OF OUR PARENTS by Lukas Barfuss, a Swiss writer in his provocative UK debut. Translated by Neil Blackadder.

Director Carrie Cracknell directs cast which includes; Cast Brendan Hughes, Francis Lee, Milton Lopes, Eva Magyar, Di Sherlock, Jack Tarlton, and Cath Whitefield.

When Dora's parents release her from her tranquilizers, they're not prepared for her potent sexual awakening.

Choreographer Ben Duke. Designer Phil Brunner. Lighting Katharine Willams. Sound Gareth Fry.

Opened August 31 with performances through September 29 at the Gate Theatre in London. British Sign Language Interpreted Performance on Tuesday September 18.

AVENUE Q Music and Lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx. Book by Jeff Whitty. Based on an original concept by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx.

Jason Moore direct the cast which includes; Angela Ai, Christian Anderson, Minglie Chen, Robert McClure, Cole Porter, Carla Renata, Kelli Sawyer, Jennie Kwan, Maggie Lakis, Seth Rettberg, Erica Robinson, Danielle K. Thomas and Cullen R. Titmas.

Broadway's Tony Award-winning musical is a hilarious show full of heart and hummable tunes. Avenue Q is about trying to make it in NYC with big dreams and a tiny bank account. Warning full puppet nudity!

Puppet Design by Rick Lyon. Musical Supervision by Stephen Oremus. Choreographed by Ken Roberson. Scenic Design by Anna Louizos. Costume Design by Mirena Rada. Lighting Design by Howell Binkley. Sound Design by Acme Sound Partners.

September 6-October 14 at the Ahmanson in Los Angeles.

George Hamilton stars as Billy Flynn
starring George Hamilton reprising his Broadway portrayal of Billy Flynn prior to rejoining the Broadway cast.

He will be joined by Terra C. MacLeod as Velma Kelly, Michelle DeJean as Roxie Hart and Roz Ryan as Matron Mama Morton in Chicago's story of two real-life murderesses and a lawyer who turns them into media celebrities in a page right out of today’s papers.

Chicago features the “razzle-dazzle” music and lyrics of master Broadway multi-award winning composers John Kander and Fred Ebb, with book by Mr. Ebb and Bob Fosse.

Tony Award winning choreography by Ann Reinking in the style of the legendary Bob Fosse and re-created by Gary Chryst.

Winner of 6 Tony Awards, Chicago plays September 4-9 at San Diego Civic Theatre.


BRIAN CULBERTSON with special guest Average White Band perform Thursday, September 6 at the Filene Center in Vienna, Virginia.

MOSCOW SRETENSKY MONASTERY CHOIR Nikon Zhila conducts. The 42 voice male a cappella chorus singing ancient Byzantine and Russian chants, folk songs and Russian romances in celebration of the reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church.

After its great success in the Notre Dame de Paris, UNESCO Hall, and the Vatican Hall Auditorium, the famous Monk Choir from the ancient Russian Sretensky Manastery makes make its United States debut on Sept. 4, singing at Avery Fisher Hall at the start of a world tour. Other appearances including September 9 at Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center in Chicago. Friday, September 14 at Davies Symphony Hall San Francisco, CA.

JAY AND THE AMERICANS on stage tonight, September 2, at the Monticello Racetrack in Monticello, NY. On Friday the show becomes part of the Oyster Fest in Norwalk, CT. On Saturday they perform at Ocean City Music Pier in Ocean City, NJ.

MICHAEL FEINSTEIN performs Friday, September 7, at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, PA.

LINDA RONDSTADT entertains Friday, September 7 at the Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, MO.

SHeDAISY on stage Saturday, September 8 at the Houghton County Fairgrounds in Hancock, MI.

COUNTING CROWS in a two night stand Friday and Saturday at the Borgata Hotel in Atlantic City.

TONY BENNETT starring at Radio City Music Hall in NYC on Saturday and Sunday.

DAVE MATTHEWS BAND in the spotlight Saturday, September 8 at Piedmont Park in Atlanta, GA.


BERNARD J. "BERNIE" ROTHKOPF one of the old time Las Vegas legends, died August 15 at his home in Las Vegas. He was 88. The cause of death was cancer. Rothkopf came to Las Vegas from his native Cleveland in 1950 along with business partners Morris "Moe" Dalitz, Morris Kleinman, Sam Tucker and Tom McGinty to help Wilbur Clark finish building the Desert Inn.

Rothkopf was a major catalyst in the metamorphosis of entertainment in Las Vegas to the major show productions offered today. In his vast career he managed more than half-dozen of the major hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, spending the last 20 years of his career as president of the MGM Grand Hotel. He brought a whole new crop of young talent to Las Vegas; including Siegfried & Roy, the Jackson 5, Donna Summer and Lou Rawls.

Born Oct. 7, 1918, Rothkopf was a graduate of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and an Army veteran of World War II. He retired from gaming in the mid-1980s.

There will be a memorial celebration of Bernie's life Monday, Sept. 10, at the Las Vegas Country Club.

ALEX SHOOFEY passed away Aug. 29, 2007 in Las Vegas. He was 91. Shoofey was the man responsible for signing Elvis Presley to an entertainment contract at the International (now Hilton Hotel).

A resident of Las Vegas since 1941, Shoofey joined the accounting staff of the Club Bingo, the future Hotel Sahara. When Milton Prell purchased the Sahara, Alex was promoted to vice president.

In 1968, Kirk Kerkorian purchased the Flamingo and hired Shoofey as President. Alex Shoofey brought along 33 of Sahara's top executives. The Flamingo was used to train future employees of the International Hotel, which was under construction. For the grand opening of the International Hotel, Alex met with Colonel Parker to secure Elvis's comeback tour. The terms of the contract committed Elvis to a four-week engagement, with two shows a night, seven days a week. No other entertainer had committed to such a punishing routine.

Alex also secured contracts for the International Hotel with Barbra Streisand, Perry Como, Tom Jones, Glen Campbell and Ann Margret. Alex retired from the International Hotel in 1972. He did hotel consulting from 1972-1980.

He is survived by his daughter and two grandchildren. Services were held Sunday, Sept. 2, in Las Vegas.

Next Column: September 9, 2007
Copyright: September 2, 2007. All Rights Reserved. Reviews, Interviews, Commentary, Photographs or Graphics from any Broadway To Vegas (TM) columns may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, utilized as leads, or used in any manner without permission, compensation and/or credit.
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Laura Deni