Suffice it to say, producers and directors all over this town hold their collective breath as they ramp up to their openings, fingers and toes crossed that their cast makes it to the theatre to hear “Places!”
Sam Shepard’s Curse of the Starving Class opened last weekend at the Open Fist Theatre in Hollywood, and director Scott Paulin grinned from ear to ear as he watched his talented ensemble deliver – intact.
Paulin cast Open Fist stalwarts Laura Richardson and Kevin McCorkle as the feuding married couple in Shepard’s autobiographical social drama about a family whose world collapses around them as they struggle to hang on to their farm. Bruce Dickinson, John Lacy, Daniel Escobar, John Bobek, and Dennis Osborne round out the talented cast.
But the casting coup of this production of Curse of the Starving Class was snagging two outsiders to come on to the boards. Playing the sibling roles of ‘Wesley’ and ‘Emma’ are Ian Nelson and Juliette Goglia.
I sat down with the two young actors earlier this week to discuss their career paths, their introduction to Sam Shepard, and what they thought of working with Juju the scene stealing lamb.
Lars Beckerman: So, how is the show going?
Ian Nelson: Ladies first.
Juliette Goglia: Ah, thanks. The show is going great.
LB: Juiette, you’re 15, your stage work to date has been mostly musicals (she starred in last year’s production of Hello My Baby at the Rubicon). Were you familiar with Sam Shepard before this job?
JG: I was not. At first I was kind of afraid. You know, Curse of the Starving Class is the first straight play I’ve ever done. It’s a really intense play in general. But it’s pretty timeless. It’s not old-fashioned at all. My friends who have come have loved it. I’m working with really awesome actors. Getting a chance to kind of evolve into the character. Working with Scott Paulin has been really an eye-opening experience. I never thought you could dig so much beneath the surface. I think that’s what Scott has really helped me with. By dissecting every single little thing you get all the right nuances, and Scott has really helped us all with that.
Ian: Working with Scott has been amazing. It’s been really, really great. He is fearless and he pushes me into areas that I was afraid to go.
LB: He does create a safe environment for actors.
JG: Exactly. I agree with Ian. I’ve grown a lot as an actor. Done things I didn’t think I could do.
LB: Scott Paulin performed in Curse several years ago, playing your role of ‘Wesley,’ Ian, was that helpful?
Ian: It’s interesting, because if he hadn’t told me I don’t think I would have known. He didn’t seem to have any preconceived way of how it should be played. It was like while we were working it seemed like he was making discoveries with me.
LB: What is your theatrical background, Ian?
Ian: I was studying at Playhouse West with Robert Carnegie. Doing mostly scene work. I put one show up, Lone Star. It was a small part. We put it up in a small 35 seat house for about a month and a half. But as far as honest, professional theatre, this is the beginning for me.
Nelson, 28, whose television credits include 7th Heaven, Ghost Whisperer, Private Practice, and Castle, is most known for his roles in the Lionsgate kiddie flick, Bratz (2007), and the critically acclaimed ultra low-budget indie film, Dakota Skye (2008).
LB: I’ve heard a lot about this lamb, Juju. Any thoughts on working with Juju the scene stealing lamb?
JG: At first I was like, she’s so cute, but she’s so loud. But now when I’m backstage with her I find myself having conversations with her. Like, “Yeah, Juju, I know how you’re feeling.” And she responds. She’s really smart.
LB: You agree with that, Ian? Is Juju smart?
Ian: Yeah. She’s smart. But she’s still a barnyard animal. (Juliette cracks up) She eats like a maniac. Very spoiled – she needs a lot of attention. The second we’re not around she whines and whines.
JG: You can’t walk away from her backstage or she goes crazy.
Ian: First couple of nights on stage under the hot lights went straight to her head.
JG: I think she was just playing us all at first. Now she’s stealing the show! Getting all the great reviews. She is adorable though.
Goglia has been working professionally in Hollywood since she was 7 years old. She played the memorable recurring role of ‘Little Girl God’ on Joan of Arcadia, as well as showing up in multiple episodes of the hit shows Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty.
LB: What’s next for you, Ian?
Ian: Some projects I’m developing with a friend. Film stuff. Couple of pilot ideas. We’re in a really sweet spot right now to get a lot of people to see what we’re doing. Just a matter of time.
LB: And you, Juliette?
JG: I’m really interested in independent films. I’m always auditioning, always putting myself out there. It was a great thing that I had some down time because I got to be a part of this amazing show.
LB: Thank you both for sitting with me.
JG: Thank you. It was fun.
Ian: Yeah. Thanks, Lars.