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How Did Waitress’ Colleen Ballinger First Become Miranda Sings?

Yes, Tuesday is Election Day but it’s also a very special Stars In The House! James knows that the day will be filled with lots of anxiety, so he decided we should do an all-day “Vote-a-thon” edition of the show. We’re going to start at 9AM ET and go until 7PM ET (when results start coming in). This way people will have a place to go to during the day to chill out, laugh and feel a sense of community.

We have SO MANY STARS stopping by!!! Get thee to StarsInTheHouse.com beginning at 9AM ET (if you’re awake)…and because I know most show folk don’t like to be up that early, I’ve reached out to celebs in different countries to start the show. Yes, our first guest will be Lea Salonga, because she’s in Manila and that means a delicious 12-hour time difference. So she’ll be nice and refreshed because it will be 9PM her time when she joins. And after I write this column, I’m literally writing to other peeps in New Zealand and Australia….for real!

I have a podcast on SiriusXM/Pandora called Seth Rudetsky’s Back To School where I talk to stars about their high school experiences. My newest episode just “dropped” with Colleen Ballinger who became an internet sensation (and got her own Netflix TV show) because of her character Miranda Sings. If you’ve never seen her, please watch this hilariousness:

Turns out, Colleen says she was basically Miranda Sings in high school. Her family is very religious and she was home-schooled for her childhood. Before ninth grade, she begged her mom to go to public school (because she loved theatre and was so bored at home) and her mom allowed it. Here are just two of my favorite stories:

Colleen had a huge crush on one boy and didn’t know how to tell him. Her “friend” told Colleen not to worry… she would go talk to the boy and handle it. Well, her friend came back and gave her the good news: “I told him you liked him!” Yay! Then her friend followed it with “…and then we made out.” Colleen was taken aback. Why would her friend make out with the boy she had a crush on? Her friend explained that she wanted to make sure the boy really knew how to kiss if he was going to date Colleen…so she “helped” him learn. Yay? I asked Colleen if she got to date him. The answer is yes and decidedly NO. Colleen did indeed date him…for one (1) day. Basically, their “dating” consisted of him writing her a letter asking her to be his girlfriend and her saying yes. But before anything else could happen, her friend convinced her to break up with him! She told Colleen she needed to tell the boy she had a crush on someone else and therefore couldn’t date him. Of course, there was a chance once Colleen was with the boy they could start making out…so the “friend” literally went with Colleen to see the boy and stood next to her to make sure Colleen broke up with him. I think Lucy and Ethel sang best about that kind of friendship.

The other story I loved was her answer to when I asked if she thought there was a “before and after” in high school. She feels there was and It had to do with musical theatre. She remembers trying out for My Fair Lady her freshman year. She was not cast in the show…. but got on the costume crew. Her sophomore year she did get cast in Anything Goes …but in the ensemble with one (1) line…and being in the back row of every number. Pirates of Penzance was her junior year and she really wanted to be in it. She hoped that maybe she’d even be cast as one of the sisters. Well, suddenly she got a callback for the role of Mabel, the leading lady! What? She couldn’t believe she was even being considered. She went to the callback and suddenly it was the day the cast list went up. (P.S. Do you remember that? The excitement of crowding around with your friends and waiting to see where your name was? If it was even there at all?) Well, Colleen approached the cast list and looked at the bottom. She didn’t see her name. She accepted she wasn’t cast in the show. Someone then said “congratulations” and she realized she was cast in the show…as Mabel!

She started to cry. She was so excited by the thought of being onstage and singing an actual solo that she couldn’t sleep for weeks. That’s when she decided she would pursue what was always her dream…to go into the arts. But not as a performer…that was too much to ask for. She decided she could be a choir teacher. Well, even though that was her goal, she did indeed wind up being a performer…all over the world. Here she is when she was one of the stars of Waitress opposite Todrick Hall!

Listen to my entire podcast (and my other ones with Tina Fey, Alison Janney, Martin Short, BD Wong, Vanessa Williams etc) here.

Finally, I did an amazing concert with LaChanze for The Seth Concert Series. I’m sure you know that she won the Tony Award for The Color Purple, but do you know she happens to live with another Tony Award nominee? Yes, her daughter Celia Rose Gooding, nominated for Jagged Little Pill. I asked them to do some duets and, boy, did they! Here’s one of the songs they sang together…LaChanze’s big song from Once On This Island:

We were live Sunday at 8PM ET and now the entire concert is available for another week. Get thee to TheSethConcertSeries.com and watch LaChanze tell stories and do songs from The Wiz, Dreamgirls, Bubbly Black Girl, If/Then and more!

This coming Sunday I have the amazing Beth Malone from Fun Home. She was so serious in that show but she’s actually really funny with a crazy high belt—as anyone who saw her in The Unsinkable Molly Brown would know! Here we are at the Humane Society Benefit. Listen to these chops!

See me and Beth Malone this Sunday at 8PM ET…and we now have VIP tickets where you can come to our dress rehearsal at 5PM and watch us pick songs and figure out what the hell we’re going to do! Tickets at TheSethConcertSeries.com.

See you Sunday at 8PM and don’t forget Election Day on StarsIntheHouse.com!

What Arts Workers Need to Know About Proposed Legislation to Support Those Struggling Due to COVID-19

Since theatres nationwide shut down in March and Broadway closed all 41 of its theatres March 12, show business has been mainly at a standstill. Gone is the revenue stream that led to $1.8 billion in income from 14.8 million patrons who visited Broadway. And so, a number of relief bills have been submitted to the 116th U.S. Congress to support out-of-work industry workers financially, those who are struggling to pay rent or buying groceries, as well as theatrical business owners.

The CARES Act offered Paycheck Protection Program for furloughed or laid-off employees, but that lapsed July 26. There is no current pandemic-related assistance being offered to arts workers from the government. The industry has been left to its own devices as arts non-profits offer grants and present fundraising concert after fundraising reading.

In the lead up to Election Day (November 3, 2020), select members of the U.S. Congress and Senate, and government officials on the state and municipal level are pushing a number of relief aid bills that would directly support arts workers if passed.

Here, we review pieces of legislation that had been considered, are currently being considered, and will help you know which representatives are involved, and how you can track progress.

Then, click here to explore your local representatives voting record when it comes to tangible support for the arts in America for the Arts’ Congressional October 2020 report card.

Federal Level Legislation


The Heroes Act
Sponsored by Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), and co-sponsored by Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Robert C. Scott (D-VA), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Maxine Waters (D-CA), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Mark Takano (D-CA), and Richard E. Neal (D-MA).

The original Heroes Act was introduced May 12. After numerous iterations, the House passed an updated version of the Heroes Act October 1. However, on October 24, however, the bill was introduced by Senator Schumer (D-NY) and rejected for consideration by Senator John Thune (R-SD), according to Democrats.Senate.gov.

The Heroes Act proposed $2.2 trillion in various programs providing coronavirus relief across industries and populations, including another round of stimulus checks, a reinstatement of the $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) supplements, and student loan relief.

The next step must be in the form of a new version of the bill that, most likely, would features terms predetermined by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. No such piece of legislation has been crafted to date.

The Save Our Stages Act
Written by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Cornyn (R-TX)

The Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives approved an updated proposal for its Heroes Act in late September: the addition of provisions from the Save Our Stages Act, which would have authorized $10 billion in grants.

“It is vitally important to acknowledge the disparate impact this pandemic has had on artists and artisans and recognize the need to extend unemployment benefits,” director-performer Schele Williams said September 28. “We need Broadway to bring us all back together again. It will require a tremendous effort for theatres to restart, and it will take longer than we would all hope. That is why now, we need the government to support [the act].”

The Save Our Stages addition to the Heroes Act would have authorized the Small Business Administration to make “grants to eligible live venue operators, producers, promoters, or talent representatives to address the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on certain live venues.” Organizations would have been able to apply for and receive a $12 million grant and a supplemental grant equal to 50 percent of the initial grant. Grants are preferable to loans because they do not need to be repaid and could cover costs like rent, payroll, and staff PPE.

So where does that put us? The most recent version of the Heroes Act, inclusive of the Save Our Stages Act, has been approved by the House, but not by the Senate.


Save Our Stages_The Broadway League_2020_HR
Laura Benanti, Charlotte St. Martin, Senator Chuck Schumer, Thomas Schumacher, and Schele Williams Jeremy Daniel for The Broadway League

The Small Business Lifeline Act
Written by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Chris Coons (D-DE)

A coalition of U.S. Senators propose $370 billion in relief aid be allocated from the House-approved $2.2 trillion Heroes Act to a new subsection called the Small Business Lifeline Act. Among the proposed measures of this Act is an increase of aid money in the amount of $15 billion to be distributed as grants to theatre owners, producers, and more.

The Small Business Lifeline Act proposal stipulates that in the first 14 days of the program, grants would be awarded to businesses that have faced 90 percent or greater revenue loss, followed by a 14-day period for businesses down at least 70 percent, with remaining eligible entities to follow. The funds would go toward such expenses as rent, utilities, and employee payroll and PPE. The bill also includes direct appropriations to such initiatives as the Minority Business Development Agency, loan forgiveness simplifications, the Restaurants Act, and an extended Paycheck Protection Program (including expanded eligibility) through March 31, 2021.

When it was presented by Senator Schumer, the Broadway League applauded the measure. The next step is a review by the Finance Committee, although there are no meetings scheduled on their website (and an employee confirmed there were no current plans to discuss this particular bill due to Election season and the fact that most Senators are currently working from home). Should members decide to discuss the bill, the next step is a series of hearings and executive sessions before the bill can be voted upon.

Be An Arts Hero_graphic_hr

Playwright Matthew-Lee Erlbach wrote out a bill summary on the advice of an anonymous senator’s office

DAWN stands for Defend Arts Workers Now. This bill-in-the-making, close to achieving bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, would grant $43.85 billion to a coalition of government-run arts organizations: the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), and the Small Business Association. Those parties would then disperse the funds to the “operators, employees, and artists of live venues, recording venues, cultural spaces, and other arts businesses to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to BeAnArtsHero.com.

The grants would awarded based on costs incurred between March 1 and December 31, 2020 in full. A supplemental grant that covers 75 percent may be used for expenses incurred through June 30, 2021. The proposal also requests a full extension of FPUC at $600 a week until the public health crisis has subsided and a 100 percent COBRA subsidy.

“Because of the size and scope of DAWN’s ask, every office that we have met with has expressed a more fulsome understanding of how critical it is that we provide immediate relief for the creative economy,” says Be An #ArtsHero co-founder Carson Elrod. “We’re encouraged that we have multiple lawmakers that we can say that we are ‘actively and officially engaged with’ in crafting the specific language and provisions of the DAWN Act. Clearly, Tuesday’s Election will be determinative in what will be legislatively possible and we’re prepared for any outcome.”

Be an #ArtsHero is currently organizing the push for this legislation to hit the floor. Among their other campaigns have been an open letter to Congress, a civic engagement invitation to kids and teens, and digital and in-person programming.

Written by Senators Michael F. Bennet (D-CO) and Todd Young (R-IN)

One of the few bipartisan bills currently on the floor, and co-sponsored by 56 senators on both sides of the aisle, S.3814 Reviving the Economy Sustainably Towards A Recovery in Twenty-twenty Act, also known as the RESTART Act, specifically focuses on the Paycheck Protection Program. PPP was an emergency loan program instituted by the government to incentivize businesses to keep workers on their payroll.

The RESTART Act would extend the original PPP loan term to a 16-week period to allow the hardest-hit businesses, those with 500 or fewer employees and have seen revenues decline by at least 25 percent. Given that the legislation was written in May, dates within the language of the bill would likely change, but the Act is still under consideration. Three Senators signed on to sponsor the bill as recently as September: Senators Joe Manchin III (D-WV), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Margaret Wood Hassan (D-NH). According to Congress.gov, the bill currently sits with the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Hearings are under way.

State and Local Level Legislation

Local Law 2068
Specific to NYC, this law would establish a program similar to that afforded to restaurants regarding outdoor dining. It would allow non-profit cultural groups temporary space to open areas for outdoor rehearsals and performances. The bill is co-sponsored by Committee on Cultural Affairs Deputy Leader and Chair James G. Van Bramer.

READ: Proposed NYC Legislation Could Create More Outdoor Performance Opportunities, Alleviate Roadblocks

Local Law 2034
Introduced by NYC Council Majority Leader Laurie A. Cumbo
The proposal calls for a digital hub—including a mobile app—from the Department of Information, Technology and Telecommunications in consultation with the Departments of Cultural Affairs and Parks and Recreation that allows arts institutions to coordinate such use of open spaces and share information on public programs.

Ohio CARES Act
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Lieutenant Governor Jon A. Husted developed a relief aid package of more than $419.5 million in CARES Act funding to help state residents. This package includes funding for eligible small businesses, restaurants and bars, hospitals, higher education, arts, nonprofits, and low-income Ohioans impacted financially by the pandemic. Starting November 2, residents will be able to apply for assistance through their local Community Action Agency. For more information, visit BusinessHelp.Ohio.gov.

As the Curtain Rises, a Broadway-Themed Digital Soap Opera, Debuts October 22 on Broadway Podcast Network

As the Curtain Rises, a Broadway-themed digital soap opera, debuts October 22. Additional episodes of the series, written by producer Dori Berinstein (The Prom, Legally Blonde) and Mark Peikert (former Playbill editor-in-chief) and produced by Broadway Podcast Network, will be released subsequent Thursdays.

Tony nominee Alex Brightman (Beetlejuice) is the Narrator with Tony nominee Ariana DeBose (The Prom film, Summer) as Zoey Taylor, Andrew Barth Feldman (Dear Evan Hansen) as himself, Tony winner James Monroe Iglehart (Aladdin), Ilana Levine (You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown) as the CAAA agent, Lesli Margherita (Matilda) as the Broadway Texter, Mauricio Martinez (On Your Feet!) as Thomas, Tony nominee Ashley Park (Netflix’s Emily in Paris, Mean Girls) as Kay, George Salazar (Be More Chill) as Maxwell Fernsby, Tony nominee Sarah Stiles (Tootsie) as Emma-Olivia, Michael Urie (Grand Horizons) as Bobby, and Tony winner Lillias White (The Life) as Cheryl, plus Danny Marin, Peikert, and Jacob Smith.

The soap opera also features special appearances by Broadway Briefing CEO Matt Britten, set designer David Korins, lighting designer Natasha Katz, music director-arranger Alex Lacamoire, playwright Lynn Nottage, and Jujamcyn Theatres President Jordan Roth.

The series begins as the “Broadway Disher” leaks news of a top secret, in-the-works, new mega musical, and the Broadway community goes off-the-charts batty. Top-of-their-game Broadway producers Cheryl Philips and Steve Jones, arch enemies, pounce. Who will get the rights?

As the Curtain Rises, which was created and recorded during the quarantine, is produced by Berinstein, Alan Seales, and the Broadway Podcast Network and executive-produced by Liz Armstrong. It is edited and sound designed by Bart Fasbender with Avvatar music by Matthew Sklar, sound engineering by Seales, banshee wrangling by Bill Berloni, and directed by Berinstein.

Click here to listen.