The Los Altos Stage Company’s recent board of directors meetings were anything but routine, interrupted online by an array of well-known performers.
In June, Nick Spangler, a Los Altos native and Broadway actor, popped in to surprise the board and staff.
Then in July, board member Vivian Lufkin doubled up on the Zoom-bomb challenge, arranging for friend and TV actress Polly Draper and Draper’s husband, jazz pianist Michael Wolff, to join the party. The couple happened to be having dinner with two other Hollywood actors – husband and wife Tony Shalhoub and Brooke Adams – and they appeared at the meeting via Zoom as well.
“I mean, what would I have loved to shake Tony Shalhoub’s hand … or all of them,” said LASC managing director Ed Seng-
stack in a phone interview. “But nonetheless, given the circumstances, it was still quite special.”
Spangler ‘Zooms’ in
The celebrity Zoom-bombs all started with board member and former Mountain View Mayor Mike Kasperzak, a family friend of Spangler’s. Kasperzak came up with the idea to surprise the board and staff.
When Spangler entered the Zoom meeting, it took a few seconds for people to realize what was happening.
“The board meeting was just kind of going on, and then, when I saw Nick in the waiting room (in Zoom), I let him in and he just came in without anybody knowing what was going on,” LASC executive artistic director Gary Landis said in a phone interview.
Spangler’s theatrical career began with Los Altos Youth Theatre; he made his acting debut as a Munchkin in the “The Wizard of Oz.” Now, Spangler has appeared on Broadway in the original productions of “The Book of Mormon,” “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” “It Shoulda Been You” and “Tootsie.”
Celeb couples pop in
When Draper, Wolff, Shalhoub and Adams joined last month’s meeting, they discussed what they’ve been doing since March, when their shows and productions were put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. Sengstack said he found it heartwarming to hear Draper and Wolff talk about the situation their two sons are facing in the acting industry.
“There were stories about how people are gradually going back to filming, but they are literally all being quarantined – they’re in a bubble in a hotel, (so) they can’t leave the hotel,” Sengstack said.
In turn, the LASC board exchanged their stories of halted productions and the difficulty of virtual theater programs. What kept the conversation moving was the shared connection that all artists and entertainment industries are experiencing, Sengstack said, regardless of size.
“Whether it’s Broadway or television or movies, everybody’s trying to figure out how to cope, and equally, how to move forward and keep our artistic direction moving forward,” he said. “It’s very difficult to be in a hold pattern, so to hear that even on that level – while they are finding some ways to work through this – we are all kind of in the same boat together, aren’t we?”
Landis added that it was comforting to hear the artists speak to the uncertainty of the present and future.
“That is the biggest question: the uncertainty about how long this is going to last, how long we are going to be in and out, what kind of social interactions or restrictions on social interactions are going to be placed and for how long,” he said. “It’s been fun to be able to engage with artists that have a connection to us. I think that artists are just all artists across all industries (and) are just hungry to get back to doing what they did.”
The board is working on a fundraising idea with the artists. Sengstack said he was moved by how willing and sensitive the artists were to help local theater companies like LASC.
“What I found most overwhelming was their total connection to what I would call their roots: theater, live theater, community theater, (questions like) ‘What can we do to help? Could we help you with a fundraiser?’” Sengstack said. “We are trying to work with them right now to do that, but here are these … stars in their own right, and yet here they were sensitive to the problems that we were going through as a small theater company and totally willing to help in some capacity.”
For more information on LASC, visit losaltosstage.org.