Deborah Taylor is Producing Results

If Broadway awarded a Tony for Rookie (Producer) of the Year, Danville’s Deborah Taylor would have won the award in a landslide victory in 2010. That year she was one of the producers who brought both American Idiot (nominated for Best Musical and winner of two Tony Awards), and a revamped production of La Cage aux Folles (Tony Award winner for Best Musical Revival), to the New York stage. Deborah quickly established herself as someone who could produce results due in large part to her love of the art form, the ability to network and bring the right people together and the importance she places on the non-profit theatre world’s influence on big stage productions.

Deborah arrived at our meeting following a one-hour spin class that she teaches at the new Danville Fit.  Dressed in an oversized knit sweater and leggings, she has the sultry good looks of a successful TV or film actress. She is of Mexican heritage (sir name, Barrera. Taylor is a “stage name”) and possesses a poised warmth reminiscent of a Julianna Margulies. A jazz dancer by training, Deborah began taking acting classes on a dare. She graduated from the Drama Studio in London and began life as a stage actress in the Bay Area and beyond. Along the way, she met and married, settling into a home at the base of Mt. Diablo in Danville. She has a daughter who graduated from Seven Hills School in Walnut Creek and then Bentley School in Lafayette, and is now attending law school in Boston.  Living amongst the well-manicured homes and business parks along I-680, one might think that suburban life could potentially slow down or derail Ms. Taylor’s passion for the theater, but Deborah continued performing and in 1992 she won a Best Actress award for her portrayal of Anne Boleyn in Anne of a Thousand Days which was performed at the Dean Lesher Theater in Walnut Creek.

In 2004, while working at the Marin Theatre Company (2004-2007), she was asked to start a new works program. While there, she began developing relationships with new writers, which began her shift from acting to producing. “I became more interested and intrigued by the process of the writer than playing a role as an action,” Deborah shared, “I wanted to understand what it takes to develop a new work. I wanted to work with writers, helping them go from an idea, to a draft, to a reading, to a workshop with a creative team and eventually get a production to the stage.”

“Deborah has an incredible work ethic and a keen sense of what will transfer from page to stage. Playwrights at every level adore her. What makes her different is her ability to gather a disparate group of artists, inspire and support them to enable them to do their best work.”  Gabriella C. Callicchio -Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Family Museum

“The Bay Area theatre community is a thriving, eclectic, intelligent mix of artists. It was and is a great place to experiment, collaborate and grow as an artist. This community supports taking risks as an artist and it empowered me to take risks as a producer,” Deborah says. Her first full producing credit was bringing the Tracy Letts play, Killer Joe, to the Magic Theater in San Francisco. Reviewed as one of the best Bay Area plays of that year, Deborah had her first hit and a refined focus. Her theater life was beginning a new phase.

In 2008, she performed in her last show as an actor at the Majestic Theatre in Boston with the Commedia dell’Arte company’s production of Tartuffe. Shortly thereafter, she assumed the position of Producing Director of the Zephyr Theater in the West Hollywood. One of the shows she produced at the 99-seat venue was The Last Schwartz, which had an impressive eight month run. “The Zephyr experience was great, but it became clear to me that if I wanted to produce theatre, I needed to look at working in New York,” said Deborah.  In January of 2009, she enrolled in the Commercial Theatre Institute in New York City, a fourteen-week program run by and for theatre producers. Despite her cross-country commute she still proudly holds the distinction of being the only student to never miss a class.

During her down time at CTI, she began making the rounds on Broadway. Never one to shy away from a networking opportunity, she called on heralded producers such as Tom Viertel (The Producers), David Stone (Wicked) and Bob Boyett (War Horse) simply to learn more about the business of producing. Around this time, Deborah heard from friend, Tony Taccone, Artistic Director of the Berkley Repertory Theatre, about a new project they were developing. It was a musical based on the concept album, American Idiot, by the band, Green Day. She invited a fellow producer from LA to come to Berkeley to see the show. They met with creator, Michael Mayer, along with Tom Hulce and Ira Pittleman (Spring Awakening) and a few months later she was asked to join the producing team to move the Berkeley Rep production to Broadway. While working on American Idiot, she was offered the chance to participate in another project headed for Broadway that same year, La Cage aux Folles, starring Kelsey Grammer. And, just like that, Deborah had producing credits on two Tony-nominated Broadway musicals.

Every rookie has an occasional slump and the theatre game can be very volatile. Life is not all big hits and Tony awards. Deborah’s next project, Elling, a 2011 play staring Brandon Frazier, based on the Oscar nominated Best Foreign Film in 2002, opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theater and closed just three weeks later. “It was a major blow to everyone and a huge learning experience for me.  I trust my instincts more now and am much more comfortable sharing my ideas,” Deborah states, “You think you’ve done everything right, but you just don’t know and Broadway can be extremely fickle.” Given her early successes, a flop was unexpected and painful. It was acclaimed producer, Jean Doumanian, who, after the final performance of Elling said, “Now, you’re a real producer!”

Deborah has since gone on to other projects including The Mountain Top, a play about Martin Luther King, which takes place at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis the day before his assassination. The play, which starred Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett, played to rave reviews at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on Broadway. She also worked with respected producers Bob Boyett and Tim Levy on the transfer of the National Theatre’s production of One Man Two Guvnors, on Broadway, which won James Cordon a Tony Award for Best Actor. One of her current projects is The Old Man and the Old Moon, an off-Broadway production conceived by the very hot new band, PigPen, which is currently running at the Gym on JUDSON. It is billed as a play with music. “But it is so much more than that,” Deborah proudly shares, “I am constantly looking for work that pushes the envelope. Whether it’s something new or one of the classics, I look for projects that will excite, engage and entertain the audience.”

“Deborah has a very special ability to facilitate great artistic partnerships. She has an indefatigable passion for theatre artists and seems at her happiest when she is supporting, encouraging and nurturing them. It makes her a great supporter of Not for Profit companies and a great commercial producer – as the instinct always comes from the quality of the work itself.”  Tim Levy, Broadway Producer

Despite her busy schedule, Deborah has been on the San Francisco Ballet’s Auxiliary Board since 2006. After hosting the student showcase in 2010, she was asked to chair the GALA for the 2013 season opening night, one of the major social events of the year in San Francisco with over 900 guests. “I hope to bring a new vibe to the event and encourage a new audience to discover the amazingly cool work of the SF Ballet,” she says. This includes a Patron party at the Netherland’s Consulate and a Benefactor’s Party at Germany’s Counsel General’s personal residence. This season, the SF ballet will be co-producing a new adaptation of Cinderella with the Dutch National Ballet in an exciting work by renowned choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. Deborah and Mr. Wheeldon are also actively involved with a project in development, a musical version of An American in Paris, ultimately headed for Broadway.

Debora continues to run her own production company, FireMused Productions (the idea for the name comes from a prologue to Henry V). This spring she is producing a new musical, Hands on a Hard Body, opening on Broadway in March. Additionally, she is working on a musical odyssey project, with Trey Anastasio of Phish fame, at the La Jolla Play House in Southern California. She continues to serve on the New York based board for TECHTONIC, a non-profit theater project supporting new works such as the Laramie Project, I Am My Own Wife and 33 Variations. When asked to define her typical day, Deborah chuckles before saying, “A producer’s role changes with every new project. We essentially oversee all the details, hopefully preserving the integrity, voice and vision of the piece. Staying passionate and curious about the work is the only way to stay in it.”

Deborah Taylor’s inherit ability to value the contribution of our community based non-profit theaters as it relates to maturing a production to the grand stage is proving she has the skill set to produce results anywhere.

My Resolutions Report Card

Last year, I didn’t so much as make a list of New Year’s resolutions as much as I put together a “To Do” list for the upcoming twelve months. I haven’t historically had much luck with resolutions so this was a psychological ploy to attack the procrastination and avoidance demons I live with on a daily basis. Unlike years past, I actually think I did a pretty good job of accomplishing my personal and professional goals in 2012. I suppose the only way to truly measure a man’s success is with a report card.

I have retrieved my list of goals and objectives from last year’s humor lifestyle piece entitled My New Year’s “To Do” List, published in the February 2012 issue of Alive Magazine. I will systematically go through each targeted task and give a check to those I accomplished and deny myself a check if I don’t feel there was significant evidence to support my effort or accomplishment. I can be pretty tough on myself so feel free to look away if it gets too ugly.

  • Make More Money – I’m happy to say it was a better year for me financially in the field of commercial real estate. There was a little bit of trepidation during the first half of the year, but the market came on strong the second half thanks in part to the hiring surge in the technology industry. Perhaps you’re familiar with a few of these little companies; Twitter, Facebook, Salesforce.com, Google and Apple. They’re not my clients, but I wish they were. I supplemented my primary income this past year with a writing project you may have heard about (or not). I published my first book, Alive and Kickin’: Sideways views from an Upright Guy. I don’t want to say I am rolling in dough, but let’s just say the literary field is quiet lucrative, even if you only sell 10-15 first editions copies. A big check here.
  • Get Out and Vote – I did get out the vote, several times at a variety of polling places to be precise. Sadly, my candidate didn’t win, (See my Donald Trump Presidential Conspiracy Manifesto on the Huffington Post website), so now I have elected (get it…..elected) to support President Obama’s efforts to fix the problems facing this great nation. Check!
  • Read More – I don’t know that I read more, but I sure didn’t read any less thanks to People Magazine and the TV Guide. I even went so far as to read my first book on a tablet. Those iPad things may actually catch on eventually. Let me take this opportunity to suggest a couple of really good books from my library. For business, I highly recommend It’s Your Ship by Michael Abrashoff, and for pleasure, you might enjoy 11/23/63 by Stephen King, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern or Alive and Kickin’ by Michael Copeland. Checkaroony!
  • Write Another Screenplay – I was so busy writing my book, or should I say organizing a compilation of past articles that make up my book, that I didn’t have time to write a screenplay! This is something I promise to get to this year, maybe. No Check on this one.
  • Commune with Nature – We got into the habit of walking the dogs on the hill behind Snake Park and we circled the Lafayette Reservoir with them once or twice last summer. We played on the beach in Hawaii and took walks during in the snow during our weekend in Lake Tahoe. The entire family got into the television show, Survivor, which was shot in Costa Rico or Borneo. There was lots of nature there and you could say we lived vicariously through the contestants. Okay, half a check.
  • Learn to Appreciate the Arts – Let’s see, if by arts I was referring to music, theater and culturally enriching exhibits than I think we struck gold here. As a couple, we went to a couple of music concerts (Snow Patrol, The Fray and Toto), we saw the musical of Bring It On (theatre), we took visiting family members to the Blackhawk Auto (Museum), and we visited countless summertime art and wine festivals (with a heavier emphasis on the wine than the art if I’m being honest). We also used both our iPhone and iPad cameras (photography). I may have mentioned that I released a book (writing) and finally we saw a few movies (cinema). Check, check and checkmate.
  • Be More Romantic – Not too sure I turned up the old Romantic thermostat like I had planned. Valentine’s Day was nice and naughty, with the silk pajamas, scented candles and Barry White mood music. I just wish my wife had been in town to appreciate it. Romance is hard when you have two teenage daughters and an antique poster bed. The best I could take in the romance department was the occasional chick flick, foot massage and a bottle of inexpensive wine from Trader Joes. Subtract a check.
  • Get in Shape – LOL. Those 20 pounds I found after completing the Chicago Marathon in October of 2011 are now being kept company by five more of their lb. friends that I picked-up somewhere around Halloween. It’s not that I’m a couch potato; it just keeps getting tougher and tougher to consistently work out and watch what I eat. Long gone are the days of a fast metabolism. In fact, I think my metabolism has completely shut down and laid everybody off. No check..
  • Do Not Buy in to the End of the World Prognostication – Contrary to the Mayan Day Planner, I didn’t actually think the Earth would be ravaged by a variety of cataclysmic astronomical events on December 21. That said, I think I better return those overdue library books now. Check.
  • Take Regularly Scheduled Naps – I added this one to my list last year because making my list made me sleepy. I do take the occasional nap on Sundays so l will take a check for that one.

Looking back, I may have set the bar a little high for myself in some areas. I was just so inspired and motivated way back then. I was truly bound and determined to accomplish everything on my list and at 11:59 P.M. on December 31st, my plan was to go out to the back yard, wearing only a loin cloth, and in a ceremonial gesture, raise my hands to the sky and shout out to the stars above, “I DID IT!” That didn’t happen. No check for this one either.

Regardless whether they are Resolutions or To Do’s, making a list at the start of the New Year isn’t a bad idea. It gives us all something to strive for. Since I’m sitting here at the computer anyway, I think I’ll just jot down a few notes and ideas for the next twelve months. Start a list … Check.

 

Knock, Knock…Who’s There?

Change is not a welcome guest in many of our homes. In fact, when change comes a-knock-in’, some of us lock the door and hide under the bed. Meanwhile, the longer we try to resist change—the louder the knocking becomes. Sound familiar?

Whether we like it or not, our lives are always changing. Let’s face it, as long as we’re still breathing, we’re a “work in progress.” So the truth is, we humans are continually changing on numerous levels that include mind, body, and spirit. This may sound simple and straightforward, but the tricky part is keeping up with our own transformational process (without taking refuge under our beds).

Since stress management is often a goal of my clients, the topic of “transitions and change” comes up a lot in my private practice. In fact, I see people at a variety of ages and stages in their lives. Some clients are in the midst of change in their professional lives. For example, they are changing jobs, exploring new career paths, or retiring.

I also work with clients who are in the midst of change in their personal lives. They may be transitioning to a single lifestyle after a divorce, or after the death of a spouse, or after their children go away to college and leave behind…an empty nest. Clearly, transitions come in all colors, sizes, and textures. Can you relate?

Meanwhile, if we look closely at the various transitions each of us faces in a lifetime, we’ll see a common thread: that feeling of disorientation and resistance to the change at hand. “What will happen next?” and “Will I be okay?” can be common questions swirling in our minds when we’re in the midst of a life change. Unfortunately, these turbulent energies are a vital part of the change process.

When my clients are in the throes of change, I clarify that uncertainty, confusion, and disorientation are natural feelings during these times. For example, after one of my clients, Karla, was laid off from her job, she initially felt angry. As a result, she tossed and turned at night, unable to sleep, as her mind tried to process her underlying feelings of shock, confusion, and sadness.

I explained to Karla that change is a process. In the interim stage of transition—the period between two events—it’s natural to feel a variety of emotions, including heightened vulnerability and increased anxiety. The truth is, this interim stage can be the hardest part of change. We have left the known and familiar—but we haven’t reached our destinations yet. Thus, our lives and IDENTITIES are in limbo.

For a couple of months, I worked with Karla regarding her grief process and her fear of expressing her vulnerability to her family and close friends. Being the eldest of five girls, Karla had always seen herself as “the strong one” and admitted to feeling ashamed of her current “shaky” emotional state.

During our work, Karla courageously released some of her emotional “armor” and integrated her vulnerability into her sense of self. As a result, she felt closer to her loved ones and experienced deeper emotional connections. And, with her new sense of internal balance, she landed a job that was more fulfilling than the job she’d lost.

Nevertheless, no matter how we frame it, a major life transition can feel scary. After all, who likes to be in the midst of uncertainty? I know I sure don’t. However, transitional times often encourage us to move beyond who we think we are—enabling us to own and integrate more parts of ourselves.

So, the next time change comes a-knock-in’, let’s consider opening the door and offering it a comforting embrace. By doing so, we’ll expand our depth with the addition of each new part of our selves that we s-t-r-e-t-c-h into. Then, as we continue to move forward, we’ll nourish our ever-changing lives…with courage and compassion.

Name and client details changed to protect confidentiality

Join Trina and attend her Walnut Creek workshop for women and men: Managing Emotional and Compulsive EatingJohn Muir Women’s Health Center: Monday, February 11, 6:30-8:30 pm. Cost: $40. Seats are limited—register today: (925) 941-7900 option 3. For more info, go to www.TrinaSwerdlow.com & click on “Private Sessions & Workshops.”

Trina Swerdlow, BFA, CCHT, is a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, an artist, and the author and illustrator of Stress Reduction Journal. She currently has a private practice in downtown Danville. You can reach her at: (925) 285.5759, or info@TrinaSwerdlow.com.

Start your year out right—get Trina’s inspiring FREE newsletter “Transformational Tips for Mindful Living.” Sign-up here: www.TrinaSwerdlow.com

Certified Clinical Hypnotherapy services in California can be alternative or complementary to licensed healing arts, such as psychotherapy.