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Rubén Yuste and Pretty Woman

Ruben Yuste Interview photo for front pageImagine you are relaxing in a restaurant in a picturesque town on the island of Mallorca, Spain, the resort of Port d’Alcudia and in walks a fellow and you think wait a minute isn’t that the same guy I just watched a few nights ago when I was in Madrid (or Barcelona) and he was Mr. Thompson in Pretty Woman the Musical? The restaurant is Como en Casa and the actor is the highly respected Rubén Yuste who owns this beautiful restaurant with his sister Vanessa Yuste. Actually, you may have noticed Rubén for more than one reason, as he also plays Happy Man with the wild hair and Mr. Hollister in Pretty Woman the Musical. After enjoying a six month run in Barcelona during the 2022 – 2023 theater season, the musical, with the cast intact are taking the production to Teatro EDP Gran Via in Madrid for the entire 2023 – 2024 season. Rehearsals begin in early September.

Riveting Riffs Magazine attended two performances in Barcelona and while still in Barcelona we connected with several cast members with Rubén Yuste, kindly consenting to be interviewed by us. (Editor’s note: We are secretly hoping that when we relocate to Madrid in the fall that we will be able to attend another performance.)

Naturally our conversation began with Pretty Woman the Musical, and we wondered about the challenges presented by playing three very different characters, and also if he had a favorite scene or two that he was in.

My favorite scene is when Mr. Thompson looks for Vivian to talk to her. After realizing that she is a good person, he decides to help her find a dress (she can wear) to go to the restaurant with Edward (the other main protagonist). Also, when he teaches her how to dance the Tango is another of my favorite moments of the show,” says Rubén Yuste.

Oh, that brings us to another facet of Rubén Yuste’s performance skills, “I competed internationally in ballroom dancing, in Latin dance. It was really nice, because when I began the rehearsals for Pretty Woman the Read More

Aida Ballmann - Actress - Spain

Aida Ballmann Interview 2023 Photo FourIn 2019 Riveting Riffs Magazine interviewed actress Aida Ballmann, born on El Hierro, one of the islands of the Islas Canarias (Canary Islands), of German heritage (her parents) and completely fluent in German, Spanish and English. Just a few months after that interview Spain, and much of the world was plunged into the COVID pandemic and the film, television and entertainment world came to a jolting stop. Fast forward to a few weeks ago and we caught up with Aida Ballmann again, a very busy Aida Ballmann we might add.

With recent films, and series completed in the past couple of years and more in pre-production, we decided to start with one that was filmed during COVID, a short film titled Five Minutes, written and directed by Genesis Lence.

“I knew Genesis Lence from her photography and television series and then she started writing and directing. This is not her first short film. I think it is her second or third. She says she is very proud of this (film) because it represents the way she wants to talk with her art and it (reflects) her personality.

It was a very hard piece to shoot, because it was during the time of COVID and we had to cancel it twice, before we could shoot it. That also meant we had to do the rehearsals using Skype. The co-protagonist is my sister Serai and it was the first time that we acted together. That was great. She is younger than me and she has not done much (acting), but I was really surprised to find out what a great actress she is.

The special thing about this (film) is it that it is just one piece and she did not edit it by bringing together different frames. It is just one like in the theater. We did the rehearsals like that from the beginning until the end. That was very hard, because my character was in an emotional state trying to survive. She is hungry and she can’t breathe and she has to fight. It was very extreme to shoot this, but it was an amazing experience at the same time,” says Aida Ballmann.

The film is set in a world where the air is no longer breathable. Read More

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The Claudettes Going Out!

The Claudettes 2023 Interview front pageThe new album, the partially self-titled, The Claudettes Go Out! is an interesting exploration of humanity, from delusional, to twisted humor, and “Park Bench,” which flirts with love or is it just teasing the listener with a hint of mystery. The foundation of this collection of ten songs are the compositions and lyrics of Johnny Iguana, the incredible, unblemished vocals and phrasing of Berit Ulseth, combined with the musicianship of Zach Verdoorn (bass guitar), drummer Michael Caskey and Johnny Iguana on keys.  

The album was recorded in Chicago over what Johnny Iguana describes as, “sprawling events.”

Continuing he says, “Half of the record was recorded in piecemeal during the lockdown era. I had my engineer (Grammy Award nominated) Anthony Gravino come over and record my piano to a click track and got good takes that we liked. Then we had Berit do the vocals. We had Mike and Zac practice in my basement. They were songs that we had mostly played live, so it wasn’t like they were being introduced to new material.

Fortunately for me when COVID arrived I had been on a big writing streak and the majority were songs that we had started playing live. It was (a matter of) tightening up and making some choices for the studio. Then we went into the studio and they recorded it and we did overdubs. Generally, it involved only a couple of people in the studio at a time and with masks. That was in 2020 and into 2021. Then in 2021 we felt we could get into a space together and record. That led me to believe that the songs from both recording periods wouldn’t play well together on something you might call an album, because Read More

Luke Leblanc - New Album

Luke Leblanc Interview Photo OneWith Dini (short for Houdini) and Mini keeping an eye on him, to make sure he speaks glowingly about them, singer and songwriter Luke Leblanc’s cats joined us, as we talked about his new album Fugue State, as well as his life and career.

The very likeable artist said, “The whole time we were recording it, it felt like everything melded together perfectly. It is a nice group of songs. Erik Koskinen was the producer and I was very fortunate to be able to surround myself with some good musicians too. It all just clicked together very nicely.”

The title of the album has us stumped Luke.

“It is used a lot in psychology and one of the definitions is a temporary defense against extreme stress. The person might lose awareness of their identity and the awareness of where they are. I took that term and as I have observed, and I think a lot of other people have observed, as a collective society I think we are going through a fugue state a little bit. In terms of a cultural and political divide (Many) responses to generations of inequity and the pandemic are leading people to take a step back. That is why I have the lines in the song, “Take your mind off of it / I think we’re living in a fugue state.” Someone told me the other day that a fugue is also a Classical music term. I don’t know a ton about it, but it is like a chaotic sound. I think the musical term came first,” he says.  

Let us take a step back. His first name Luke is after Old Luke in the song “The Weight,” by The Band and his middle name is Young, because his mom was a big fan of Neil Young, with whom he shares the same birthday. Read More

Florence Dore

Florence Dore Interview Photo for front pageIt is difficult to know where to begin a conversation with Florence Dore, as her creative and scholastic achievements are plentiful. She has taught creative writing and American literature (fiction) at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill since 2010, during which time she authored three books, raised a daughter with her husband Will Rigby and most recently released a splendid album Highways and Rocketships. Florence Dore received her doctorate in English from the University of California at Berkley. Her life began in Nashville, and among the places along the way that became home for a time, was New York City, before finally settling in North Carolina.

After spending an hour and one-half in conversation with Florence you come away with deep respect for her insightfulness, smile at her quick wit and due to her warmth and generosity you come away ninety minutes later convinced that you must have been friends in another life.

We decided to begin with digging into the roots for her passions for literature, writing and music. Where did this all begin?

She thoughtfully says, “I think it was the music. I would say the two things are similar parts of me. It is my love of literary beauty related to whatever that kernel of joy is when you are really small and your enjoyment of music and your response to beauty that maybe is irrational beauty and artistic beauty. I think they are similar.

In terms of the chronology of my life, music happened first, Read More

If I Were the Moon, Children's Book

Jesse Terry Front Page PhotoIf you want to buy a great book for a child probably in the age range of two to six years old, Riveting Riffs Magazine would recommend If I Were the Moon, with the story by singer and songwriter Jesse Terry and beautifully illustrated by Jacqueline East.  The book was first a song with the same title and the feedback from Jesse Terry’s fans was he should adapt it to a book, which is exactly what he did during the COVID pandemic. They were connected through the publisher Schiffer Publishing Ltd. and the publishing imprint Schiffer Kids.  

Let’s start with the song Jesse, “The song is an honest expression of emotion and it was written for my daughter Lily. It was a song that came out quickly and it felt beautiful. When I sang it live, people started saying that should be a children’s book. That is how it came about.

The more you write you start coming back to themes that you realize are important to you and that resonate with you. There were themes about family, but I don’t think there were any in the children’s book realm. Even this one happened organically. It wasn’t intended to be a children’s book.

When COVID hit the lives of everybody changed in an instant. We were thinking about different projects that we could pivot to. My wife works in live events and she lost her job. I remembered what my fans had said in their feedback to this song. I thought that sounded like a really great idea and I became passionate about creating this book.

A friend of mine Read More

Diane Marino - I Hear Music

Diane Marino I Hear Music Cover ArtAs the world and in particular the performing artists emerged from two years of being shutdown, locked down, out of work during the pandemic it has been interesting to watch the creative juices start to flow again and to observe the results of the creative juices that kept flowing during those two years. Some treasures have emerged by numerous artists in various genres of music. Diane Marino whom Riveting Riffs Magazine has had the pleasure of interviewing and she befriended us over the past fifteen years or so, recently released a new Jazz album, I Hear Music and, in our opinion, it is the best vocal performance we have heard from Diane Marino yet and that says a lot, because she was very good to begin with.

“I started (this album) not long after COVID was in lockdown. I have lost track of the years. What was that 2020 or something? A lot of people took advantage of that time and there was a lot of creativity going on. That is probably what happened here too,” recalls Diane Marino.

Continuing she says, “I was researching the songs and looking for the next project, before COVID even hit and we said what are we going to do now. It forces you to spend more time focusing on what you want to do. You weren’t going anyplace. You weren’t working. You weren’t doing anything.

It was (recorded in bits and pieces) and we have Chris Brown, our drummer to thank for that. He has done all of my recordings. When COVID prevented us from getting together in a studio in the traditional way we thought it Read More

A Fragile Tomorrow

A Fragile Tomorrow Front Page PhotoA Fragile Tomorrow, are they a Rock band? Are they a Post Punk band? Are they an Art Rock band? We are getting closer. To get to the bottom of this question and to learn more about their current album It’s Better That Way we decided to talk to Sean Kelly, one of the three brothers who founded A Fragile Tomorrow. 

We opened our conversation with Sean by asking him to describe the typical fan of A Fragile Tomorrow.

“We have opened for so many different kinds of bands and we have done so many different things, that I think there are people who like some things that we do, but don’t like other things that we do. That is totally fine. There are people who come to listen to us play and who buy our stuff, but they are also people who listen to a million different things.

That is a hard question, because I definitely don’t think there is a typical fan. One thing that is really cool is we have grown to (the point) that we also have fans whose music we have grown up listening to and who we have looked up to. They are also people we have toured with. We have in some ways become a musician’s band. I prefer that in one way, because I am a music nerd. There is something (about our music) that resonates with people who also have musical backgrounds. There is not a typical fan.

When we were kids, people came to see us, because we were kids. I was thirteen years old and in Brendan’s Read More


Russ Hewitt - Chasing Horizons

Russ Hewitt Photo Front PageRuss Hewitt, not the sort of name one might usually associate with Latin guitar music and yet this Texas native is a guitar virtuoso when it comes to the genre. What is even more amazing is he did not start to play the guitar until he was in his mid-teens. To the casual music fan that may still sound young, but the seeds for future musicians are often planted long before that.

With a style of music that might be described as more narrowly defined in North America compared to some, we wondered what it is that draws people to Russ Hewitt’s music.

Russ Hewitt says, “It started with my first album and I would have people say to me, we listen to this album on repeat. We leave it on as we are cleaning the house, we leave it on as we are hanging out in the backyard or if we are driving home. It dawned on me I can no longer write songs that I think are good or bad songs, but I have to write songs that warrant repeat listens. Starting with the second album, I would ask myself, is this the best way I can phrase melodies? Is this the best solo? Obviously, the end result is someone’s personal taste whether they like it or not. I spend a lot of time on that aspect of making something worthy of repeat listens.”

He explains that he has become somewhat of a student of his own music and the music of others, analyzing what he likes, as breaks down the melodies, solos and so forth. It helps to inform him about what makes Read More

Actress Sara Deray

Sara Deray Interview Photo for front page“Actors have to imagine a lot of things. We have to build life from words on paper. We also have to build a lot of things that aren’t written. You have to imagine them and create them. You have to try and find the truth and connect with the character. In all the parts that I play I try to find the parts within me that connect with the character.”

Those are the words of actress Sara Deray of Spain and she has had to imagine a lot of things during her career, as she has played a nun (El Sorbono del Cielo), an inmate in jail, a scientist who was the mother to a cloned daughter (Órbita 9), she incredibly funny  as Mary Ann, in the television series Yo Soy Franky (I Am Franky) for Nickelodeon (2016 – Colombia), and she just finished her fourth season of the comedy series El Pueblo, a Spanish Amazon Prime production, in which she plays Maria Luisa.  

Sara Deray’s ability to portray a broad spectrum of characters is due to a combination of her skills as an actress and her culturally diverse background.

She explains, “My grandma was born in France. That was my mother’s mother. She went to the United States when she was quite young and she decided to become a U.S. citizen. She left her French nationality behind and married an American guy. That was after she had my mom and she became divorced from my grandfather. She then married the American guy. My grandma married three times. Read More

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Sierra Rein - Actress / Singer

Sierra Rein Interview Photo One These are heady days for actress and singer Sierra Rein, she has now returned to what she enjoys doing most in life, performing on stage and in front of a camera, after two years of much of the arts world being put on an involuntary pause due to COVID. She has two podcasts on the go, a short film in post-production, appears in two episodes of a series to be broadcast and streamed on FX on Hulu this fall and she has several exciting music gigs coming up. Believe or not that is just barely scratching the surface.

Sierra Rein (pronounced Rhine as in rhinestones) talks about her role in the Hulu series Fleishman is in Trouble, “It came out of the blue. It was January of this year and my agent who hadn’t really talked to me for a while said hey can you put yourself on tape for this TV show? I didn’t really know much about the project, so I did a tiny bit of Googling. I was like oh, okay there is this character Cherry who is in the book Fleishman is in Trouble, but there wasn’t very much about her. I had my husband do the other dialogue and I shot the scene and sent it in. This was when we were in lockdown a little bit (New York City). We were slowing emerging and putting our toes back into the river of humanity of this year.

In mid-February I got an email that said, you are booked. I called my husband and I said you know that one minute scene that you shot with me, I am going to do a scene with Claire Danes and Jesse Eisenberg. It was one of those surreal moments.  I was surprised they didn’t have a callback. I think it was one of those (times) when they see who the person is and think yep that’s the character. That’s great, because I didn’t necessarily have to act when the time came to be the character. I had already rehearsed enough of the character ahead of time or I had enough of the identity of the character already built in.

I did two scenes for two episodes and sometimes it was just do what you rehearsed and sometimes it was throw everything out and do what the director tells you to do. Let’s record it, rehearse it and shoot it. There was a little bit of learn your lines and go. Here is the person playing your daughter, oh great. Here is Jesse and he is your cousin.

It was frightening, because I was coming out of a pandemic and I didn’t remember if I was an actor anymore to, oh you’re acting! Here’s you behaving, acting and listening and remembering everything your acting coaches taught you before the pandemic. I seem to remember this, let’s trust it and go. Everyone was great on set. It was a wonderful, thrilling experience and I have forgotten exactly what happened, but I will watch the TV show for the first time and I will go oh that’s me, look, wow! (she chuckles) It will be surreal and wonderful (more light laughter).”

As for her character Cherry, “My character has two brief scenes, blink and you will miss me. She represents the polar opposite form the Claire Danes character, who is intense, exact and who works out all of the time. She has a difficult relationship with her identity as a mother. (Whereas), I am well rounded, I have some meat on me, I have round boobs and I have a butt. I am proud of being a mother. Read More

Actress Chelsea Clark

Chelsea Clark Interview Photo Main PageThese days Chelsea Clark has a lot of things going right for her acting career and it seems the sky is the limit. The dark haired, Ohio born actress who fell in love with New York City during her teenage years appears equally adept on screen in films, television and streaming, as she is on the theater stage.

Last month (September 2022), she presented a reading of Joseph Krawczyk’s The Last of the Freudians directed by Eddie Lew in New York City.

Chelsea Clark elaborates, “I have worked with Joseph Krawczyk before. He is a brilliant playwright and I love his work. This one is about a college professor who for some reason can commune with the dead spirit of Sigmund Freud. I think it is brilliant. The way it is done in the play is he can hear Sigmund Freud, but nobody else can. I play one of the professor’s graduate students and (my character) is still having an affair with this professor. It is not the typical play that I am in, but I love Joe’s work, so I am excited to be in this reading.”

As for her preparation for The Last of the Freudians, she says, “I work from the outside in if it is a character I do not understand emotionally. I work a lot with physicality. How does this person walk? How does this person speak? What is the tone of their voice? Is their voice different than mine? That will inform how to play this person if it is not something that does not come naturally to me. This person is a little bit sexy, which is not really who I am. She has this little hip-hop and that is what I work with. That informs the rest of the body. The voice kind of follows.”

You had to know that Chelsea Clark was destined for big things, because right beside her house was the Field of Dreams. Well, maybe that is just a bit of hyperbole, but there was a cornfield beside the family home. Although, dealing that hyperbole yet another blow, she confesses she is not even sure who owned the cornfield, but it was not her family.

“My family moved from North Dakota and I was in my mom’s belly when we moved to Ohio. My dad got a job at Bell Labs, so that is why we moved. They were looking for a rural setting like in North Dakota, which they found (in Ohio). There was a little road and I remembered there was a neighbor’s dog that slept in the middle of the road. He could snooze all day in the middle of the road, because there weren’t any cars around. As I got older rich people started moving in and they built up the town a little bit. By the time I got to high school it was somewhat different, but the corn fields are still there. Industry has built around them. I am not complaining very much, because I got to go to a very nice public high school for free. It was a blue ribbon school (editor’s note: this designation recognizes schools for academic excellence) and the campus is modeled after the University of Virginia campus. Read More


Akash Sherman - Film Interview

Akash Sherman Interview Photo Front PageSome people when you encounter them you just get this sense they are standing on the precipice of greatness. It has not quite arrived yet, but all the signs are there, your artform, whatever it may be and in this case with Canadian screenwriter and director Akash Sherman it is his internationally and critically acclaimed film. You have significant peers, who only seems like yesterday were not your peers, seeking you out for collaborations and you have two television and film stars who heap praise upon you after working with you.

As much as the entertainment industry is filled with stories of successful performing artists who grew up in places like Los Angeles, New York City and Nashville, there are an equal number of fabulous stories of artists who grew up in obscure places, not obscure, because they were unimportant, but more because one does not think of those towns, cities and villages, as an incubator for creatives. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada is one of those cities and this writer says that with warmth and sincerity, as it is still the city considered to be my hometown, even though I was born in Toronto.

Akash Sherman, whose father and sister are both doctors and whose mother is a pharmacist, one might have assumed would have been headed for more of an academic career, in a cold, northern city, far removed from Canada’s two Hollywood North cities, Vancouver and Toronto and where minus thirty and minus forty degrees Celsius temperatures keep most people indoors, unless you ski or snowboard. However, for the director and screenwriter of the feature film Clara, which is experiencing a renaissance on streaming platforms, and has been warmly embraced by mainstream audiences and the science community worldwide, alas, it seems all but in Canada, fascination with film started as a young child. This is where our story begins.

Akash recalls his early influences, “When I was young and my parents were busy and / or working they would plop my sister and I down in front of the TV. We would watch the Disney animated movies. For me the original Star Wars trilogy on VHS was pretty formative. It is a tale that is often told by filmmakers of my generation and other generations above me. Star Wars opened up so many doors in people’s minds and made us think that anything is possible. As a young kid I was pretty entranced by what was possible.

Fast forward a few years to the age of ten (we should mention he still is only twenty-seven), I picked up my mom’s digital point and shoot camera and I would play with Lego to create stop motion videos. I guess at age ten or eleven I was already making little movies in stop motion with Lego and Playmobile. Stop motion is taking multiple pictures of little figurines and moving them frame by frame and inch by inch, so that they are moving once you play all of the images back. What is amazing about stop motion is it exercises the muscles of the director of blocking for actors. You are pretty well controlling every frame. As a child that was the best exercise that Read More

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Un Asunto Privado (A Private Affair)

Un Asunto Privato Poster Photo Front PageUn Asunto Privado (A Private Affair) a series produced in Spain by Bambú Producciones, starring Aura Garrido and Jean Reno and directed by the trio of David Pinillos, Maria Ripoll and Daniel Aranyó, is a classic whodunit, with a comedic flair. While all the supporting cast are superb, there is no confusing who the stars are for this show, with Aura Garrido in the role of Marina Quiroga, a wannabe police detective, taught by her late father who had been the commissioner of police, and Jean Reno who instead of being in the role of the butler who did it, plays instead Héctor the butler who helps to solve it. The series is created by Teresa Fernández-Valdés (produced Gran Hotel and Now and Then), Gema R. Neira (Alta Mar, Las Chicas del Cable) and Ramon Campos (Gran Hotel, Alta Mar, Las Chicas del Cable). Do you notice the pattern here, of successful collaborations?

Un Asunto Privado, which if you live in an English first speaking country you will find on Amazon Prime, as A Private Affair, can best be described as a Mystery Dramedy. Set in the late 1940s or early 1950s in Spain, firmly entrenched in both the Franco dictatorship and a time when women had few rights in Spain and for that matter elsewhere in the world, the storyline is built around Marina Quiroga and her sidekick Héctor, as they seek to find out who the serial killer is. There is some limited violence in this series due to the nature of the crime and although it is not gratuitous, it is probably not best for children. Jean Reno who has for decades blessed us with his magnificent performances, at the age of 74 demonstrates that he has not lost a step in terms of his brilliant acting. Aura Garrido who has starred in El Ministerio del Tiempo, Blue & Malone: Casos Imposibles and El inocente (The Innocent), blossoms in both a comedic and dramatic role as Marina Quiroga. We are wishing for a sequel to this series if for no other reason than to enjoy another spectacular performance from her.

Will Pablo Zarco (played by Gorka Otxoa) win Marina’s heart or will it be Andrés Castaño (actor Álex Garcia) or will one of them be discovered as the killer?  Marina flirts with both, batting her eyelashes and looking deep into their eyes, before handcuffing one to a chair and knocking the other one out cold. Otxoa is funny and quite handsome, while Garcia’s character, Castaño, rumor has it may be a womanizer.

Why is it that Marina’s brother Arturo (Pablo Molinero), the current commissioner of police does not want Marina poking around, unofficially in this crime, trying to solve it? Does he merely reflect the male chauvinism of the times, is it jealousy alluded to in flashbacks to when they were children or is it something else altogether?

Let us talk about actress Ángela Molina who as Marina’s mother Doña Asunción is simply superb. At times she is hilarious. We should also mention Irene Montalà and give a nod to her performance as Margó.

The writers do subtly ask on several occasions through the characters, why is a woman not allowed to do Read More

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