Gates McFadden and Brent Spiner are together again. The Star Trek: The Next Generation co-stars and longtime pals are joining forces for The Last Look Back, a play that will be staged on October 4 and 5 as benefit performances for Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA, the not-for-profit theater company McFadden serves as artistic director. Spiner will star in The Last Look Back as Frank Sinatra, who, on the last day of his life, forges an unlikely friendship with… Monica Lewinsky. McFadden does not play Lewinsky, of course, but rather she’s directing the show.
StarTrek.com invited McFadden and Spiner to banter with each other about The Last Look Back, figuring it might be fun. Well, lesson learned: Be careful what you wish for. Here’s what they had to say, and be sure to read through to the very end for additional details about The Last Look Back, including a one-day-only 15-hour sale on tickets.
Brent, why did you want to work with Gates at EST/LA?
SPINER: To be honest, I really didn’t want to. But, she called me and literally cried on the phone. She said there was just no one else in America who could play this part and if I didn’t do it, she might literally hurt herself. Well, I don’t want that on my conscience. I mean, I’m her son’s godfather. What would I tell him? How could I explain it to the fans? And even then, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it. But, when she sweetened the pot with the best payday I’ve ever had in the theater, how could I say no? I just hope the check doesn’t bounce!
Gates, why did you want to work with Brent at EST/LA?
MCFADDEN: Truthfully, I didn't. I mean I saw just about every other actor in Los Angeles. We put out literally thousands of offers, but in the end he was the only one available. Plus, we got him cheap. Dirt cheap. Michael Dorn would have made a better Sinatra than Brent, but Michael's manager said, "No way. I'd rather Michael be in deep space with the Voyager satellite." Michael also demanded we build a hangar for his plane at the theater, which would have required using our patio and two parking areas. It was just too much for a small non-profit to handle. Denise Crosby might have worked, but we were worried she'd sound too much like Bing. Sadly, in the end, it came down to Brent. Boy did we get him cheap.
Brent, how’s it going?
SPINER: Well, on the one hand, good, and the other, not so good. Turns out she doesn’t have a clue how to direct. She keeps saying, “What do I do now?” in a little girl’s voice. Very embarrassing. Fortunately, I don’t really need direction. And the other actors call me after rehearsal so I can tell them what to do as well. I don’t really mind, though. I might ask for a directing credit, eventually. If I don’t get it, I might threaten to walk.
Gates, what’s your take on how it’s going?
MCFADDEN: You might think it would be helpful to have someone who played an android all those years, someone who has lots of film experience, lots of Broadway experience, even off-Broadway experience, working on this play, but, honestly, it hasn't helped a bit. Every day we are at START. It's a roll of the dice every day at rehearsal. I will say, to his enormous credit, Brent does know how to sign an autograph super-quickly and legibly, but that's about it.
Gates, you’ve directed a lot of theater and you even directed an episode of The Next Generation. How helpful to you in your theater work were your years on TNG? What are the differences between the two experiences?
MCFADDEN: Probably the biggest difference is there's lots less time spent on hair and makeup, which means most of the time I look like hell. I used to think our TNG craft services was lame, but compared with what EST/LA provides for actors, the TNG craft services was high buffet at the Four Seasons. However, I do miss having a chair with my name on it. I found that helpful whenever I was feeling lost.
Brent, your thoughts?
SPINER: Probably the biggest difference, like Gates said, is there’s a lot less time spent on hair and makeup. So, as you can imagine, I look much better. I’ve had to dye my hair gray, which makes me look surprisingly handsome and not a day older! Strange, Gates keeps going on about that chair with her name on it. I guess she can’t let go of how important TNG made her feel. I do wish she wouldn’t wear the Dr. Crusher uniform every day, though. I don’t mind it so much, but the other actors are afraid there’s something seriously wrong with her.
Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA has announced two performances only of The Last Look Back, a world premiere play by Stephen Serpas directed by Gates McFadden, and starring Brent Spiner, Sadie Alexandru, Tracey A. Leigh, and Ramón de Ocampo, on Friday, October 4 and Saturday, October 5 at 8pm. Proceeds will go to support EST/LA, the artistic home for new works from the best established and emerging playwrights in Los Angeles.
It is May 14, 1998. A pretty young intern embroiled in a presidential sex scandal meets with a legendary entertainer on the last day of his life – and so begins a lesson she could learn from no one else. The Last Look Back is a surreal pairing of kindred spirits and a hallucinatory comic ride about mortality, redemption, and the end of the twentieth century.
These special performances of The Last Look Back are on Friday, October 4 and Saturday, October 5 at 8pm. Tickets are $150, $250, and $500 (VIP Package—priority seating, pre-show cocktail reception, souvenir program signed by cast, post-show party and photo opportunities with the cast, photo booth opportunity with 1/8th Gates, gift bags and more). Tickets are on sale now and may be purchased online at www.EnsembleStudioTheatreLA.org or www.brownpapertickets.com/event/454219. The Atwater Village Theatre is located at 3269 Casitas Avenue, in Los Angeles.
Be sure to keep an eye on the EST/LA site this Friday for details about a one-time only 15-hour sale of tickets priced at $75.
And, all joking aside, McFadden added the following: “The play we are doing is like a gorgeous and crazy surrealistic dream painting. It’s a fictionalized meeting between Monica Lewinsky and a dying Frank Sinatra. What could be better than that?! If we raise the money to stay at the theatre we’ll we be able to take the production further. We shall see; but, in the meantime, the work is challenging, crazy fun.”
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