The New York Times--- August 15, 2011 Mark Sam Rosenthal toggles between two personas in his one-man Fringe Festival show “I Light Up My Life”: a garrulous, gay and self-obsessed would-be celebrity who has penned a premature autobiography with the play’s title; and someone who appears to resemble Mr. Rosenthal himself. Distinguishing between them is the challenge offered the audience; the production’s skill lies in how daunting that can be... (read more)
The Happiest Medium--- August 15, 2011 Oh, you’ll love walking into the theatre at Dixon Place to watchI Light Up My Life: The Mark Sam Celebrity Autobiography– Mark Sam Rosenthal’s (Celebrity!) solo show. The music is cranking with such anthems as The Pussycat Dolls “When I Grow Up”, Katy Perry’s “Firework” and Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and the walls are glowing with projections of Mark in his candid, semi (one assumes) nude “oops, you caught me being cute!” poses. You’ll just love walking in, almost as much as Mark Sam Rosenthal himself does... (read more)
Theatre Reviews Limited --- August 13, 2011 Proverbs 16 advises its readers that “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.” One would think that a southern United Methodist (with a Jewish father) might heed such a warning, but not Sam Mark Rosenthal whose “I Light Up My Life” bitch slaps lowliness in spirit and most of the oppressed to the proverbial (pun intended) curb.... (read more)
Stage-Rush.com ---August 13, 2011 My Fringe Friday started off with a bang, or at any rate, a birthday. Mark Sam Rosenthal, writer and star of the solo show I Light Up My Life: The Mark Sam Celebrity Autobiography at Dixon Place, was celebrating his, and not just as part of the show. At least, I hope it wasn’t part of the show, because I skipped out before they cut the cake. The show itself takes the conceit of the tawdry, self-involved genre of celeb autobiographies and turns it into an intensely-honed farce... (read more)
Final Ars Nova Show "Another Triumph!"
By Mark Sam Rosenthal MarkSamIAm.com, April 1, 2011 (reprinted with permission)
Well, as I’ve literally been camped at Sardi’s since Wednesday night’s final Ars Nova curtain call and haven’t been handed word one from the mainstream press as goes a review, I am once again writing my own. One wonders anyway at the true efficacy of the mainstream press any longer, in the youtube era. I mean, did theTimes interview Friday-singing celebrity Rebecca Black? No, that task fell to Funny or Die. Has the mainstream press really mattered since the days of the Saturday Evening Post?
I am still of course available for an interview should the Times change its tune.
Meanwhile, to sum up this week’s stellar performance, I’ll use my favorite word: Sellout. Yes, I sold out Ars Nova! I believe that’s 85 tickets - or at any rate that’s the number of seats I counted in the audience during the tech rehearsal when I was counting to see just how many people might be there if I indeed sold out. Which I did. Apparently, though I was sequestered in the Green Room deep in pre-show prayer and so cannot corroborate this, there was a line down the block to get into the theater and a veritable clamor for tickets. I believe it!
For some the clamor continued into the show, as one elderly female theatergoer continued to exclaim “Oh my God!” at multiple of the show’s shocking revelations - and even repeated some of her favorite lines to her apparently even more elderly seatmate, whose hearing aid batteries must recently have died. The pair added just the right dash of pluck and “cabaret flair” to a theater event that by its very definition could easily verge on august overearnestness. Thank heaven for their casual contributions!
Words cannot describe my achievement - except almost any word that ends in “-est”! I even outshone my first Ars Nova show on March 16 (see the last blog post for a review). As my (regrettably) Mormon director suggested just prior to the show, I went onstage in the spirit of “hosting a party” - despite the fact that many of the “guests” present would never be invited to any actual party I might throw and were only there by virtue of their having paid $15 - and a party I did host! As in days of old, we enjoyed slides from some of my most memorable vacations - including sun-dappled boat photos from one of my favorite Greek islands, Milos. How I adore Greece. I think of the Greek gods I am most like Apollo - or whichever one was very good-looking and the center of attention!
Thankfully there were no noticeable technical gaffes this time - my stage manager had learned her lesson after the last review singled out her gross ineptitude regarding the correct time to begin playing These Are a Few of my Favorite Things. I enjoy being in the spotlight, and in this show I get to literally be in the spotlight quite a lot - again, I am grateful that it was aimed accurately and turned on and off at the appropriate moments. Ideally, no one should really notice the technical elements of a show (they should notice the star); and one only does notice these elements when they are done wrong. I suppose the life of a stagehand must be quite lonely and self-abnegating in that sense - but then, we don’t all have a face for the stage. And my stage manager, while “sweet as pie,” definitely does not.
As a reward for leading my audience through an unforgettable journey of discovery, I was given a standing ovation. It is hoped even some of the several talent agents who had been hounded into attendance might have stood - although none has yet phoned to offer congratulations or to suggest a casual contract-signing over coffee at an adorably chic West Village cafe. However, as for myself I know that by Thursday I am ready for the weekend and any business has to wait till Monday - so I can only imagine they are the same.
This time I felt like giving even more to my admirers so after a quick pee I darted out into the lobby and organized an impromptu receiving line, which I think everyone appreciated. Most people don’t have the chance in their workaday lives to interact so closely with fame. One suburban attendee even asked for an autograph! And I was so glad to be able to give him one. That autograph may be the most lasting gift I was able to hand out this past Wednesday evening - framed and hung as it no doubt is by now in some sad Mt. Kisco kitchen, where in a way I may watch over and bless the surely rather menial little lives that eat their Corn Flakes underneath it, crying silent tears of obscurity that nobody hears. Except me! I hear my fans - and I love you!
What a triumph!
First Show at Ars Nova “A Triumph!”
By Mark Sam Rosenthal, MarkSamIAm.com, March 18, 2011 (reprinted with permission)
As no one is more qualified to comment on my show’s aspirations and achievements than I - and also as no one else has - I have decided to write my own review of this past Wednesday’s Ars Nova debut! Here goes:
A darkened theater. A red velvet curtain. A vase of yellow daffodils, hinting at God’s promise of the coming spring. And a spotlit 600-page book with my picture on the cover. These are the sights and smells that greeted the audience of my show, I Light Up My Life: the Mark Sam Celebrity Autobiography Wednesday March 16th atArs Nova. What a treat lay in store, few knew. And after it was over, perhaps even fewer truly understood just what had happened!
A frantic melange of aspirational (and catchy!) girl-pop songs set the tone during the pre-show for an evening of serious reflection on the real-life Fame Monster. At last, just when Miley Cyrus began to cycle for the second uplifting time, I appeared to an ovation that hinted that many of the 40+ in attendance were not strangers pulled in by the amazing Time Out advance press but were in fact people I am already friends with on Facebook. Thank you, fans!
(As this show encompasses the entire spectrum of human experience, it is however accessible to all, whether you know me or not: anyone who’s ever loved, anyone who’s never really tried; anyone who’s ever lost someone, and anyone who’s cried out to the deafness of night begging to be found!)
The audience was with me from the start, which always makes the show more gratifying for me - and easier to do. Even the questionably tasteful section dealing with September 11th touched more people than usual, baffled as some of the less erudite of them might have been by its seeming non-sequitur-ness. But of course one of the main achievements of this theaterstuck is its deft thematic maneuvering - disguised in a seemingly meaningless and erratic morass of meandering: put another way, I Light Up My Life is comparable to the winding rainbow-colored road that twists across the Candyland game board - if that Skittle-hued path contained the secret code to all existence. (That ought to make an excellent pull quote from this review!)
AIDS and pornography can be difficult topics for some theatergoers, but those at Ars Nova are savvy and swallowed whatever I shot their way without question. A charming moment was achieved when I showed slides from my 2000 sojourn to Bolivia that featured me posing naked (save for a pair of Aviator sunglasses!) on a salt flat the size of New Jersey. It seemed even the unusually large percentage of heterosexual male attendees appreciated the male form.
There was one technical gaffe, which probably didn’t spoil the show for anyone besides me, but it should be pointed out here so that perhaps the stage manager might be humbled into learning her lesson: These Are a Few of My Favorite Things was supposed to play while I crossed to the microphone after the scene about my father and the hash browns. Got it? It is hoped that will never happen again.
By the time the show reached its final rousing moment, many people’s lives had been changed forever - possibly irrevocably. For, while Charlie Sheen may claim to be a warlock in possession of a torpedo of truth about the perils of Celebrity, I have the same weapon and am also coherent. And if I’ve learned anything on my long, winding Candyland road of life, it’s this: applause doesn’t lie. The audience loved the show, perhaps almost as much as I did. It was a thrilling evening, and I know that, speaking for myself, I felt afterward less alone and isolated from the whole of human experience - at least for a few minutes.