Each week leading up to the October 6th concert premiere of Monkey Trouble Unleashed! at the Duplex Cabaret Theatre, I'm releasing a brand new episode of Something New: A Musical Theatre Podcast, featuring interviews with the cast and songs from the show. Fun!
While you're enjoying this episode, get your tickets to the premiere of Monkey Trouble Unleashed! before we sell out! Do it! Do it, I say!
Episode 602: Originally from McAllen, Texas, Ernie Pruneda holds a Bachelors of Music in Musical Theatre from Oklahoma City University. In New York City, he is trained by the world-renowned Brad Calcaterra at The Studio. His ability to flip from unconventional leading man to extreme character actor has allowed him to play a broad range of roles. With a soaring tenor and an articulate rapping talent, he has the ability to tell stories that showcase his huge heart and demonstrate human growth and creativity. With a career spanning from Broadway, National Tours and Regional Theaters all over the U.S. he continues to bring stories to audiences all over the country. For more info, please visit erniepruneda.com.
Hello dear listeners, I'm Joel be new and this is something new, a musical theater podcast, but you already knew that, didn't you? I'm recording this interview on a Saturday night cause I'm that cool having just gotten home from Rupaul's drag con, which is just as fabulous as it sounds. If you're following me on Instagram and you should because I'm delightful, you might have seen me there supporting a large customized fan with a monkey trouble unleashed logo emblazoned upon it. Because when you're self producing like I am, you never stop promoting your show. It's all about manifesting anyway. If I have swag, then surely I have a show that's going to get picked up for an amazing off-broadway run. Right? I Dunno y'all. The cart is so far before the horse, I don't even see the horse anymore. I don't even remember ever having a horse to begin with. You know, it's just always been me in this cart. And now this fan, I'd like to take a minute to recognize an Aaron Carp . I've recently become fiscally sponsored by fractured atlas and they were able to make a tax deductible donation to support monkey trouble unleashed because of the carp family. I can pay my director how novel, what a notion and was there at the inception of Broadway sip and sing a weekly group singing class with wine , a k a my favorite side hustle ever and if you're listening I love you. Now take a seat, take a sip. If you'd like to support new work in a text deductible who a visit Joby new.com/monkey to find out how and all about the super cool perks because they are super cool or just go there and buy a $15 ticket to the show. That's also how you can support new work. All right, three last things. One I realized when I was editing this episode that both Ernie Panetta and Amy Jo Jackson have done incredible solo shows at the duplex, which is the venue of Mikey triple unleashed. The duplex is obviously a breeding ground for breaking new ground. That's a lot of ground. And two , we recorded this episode in a rehearsal room with very thin walls, so please excuse the soprano who I hope got whatever gig she was practicing for them . And third, I didn't do a great job of setting up the song in the room so I will be popping in from the future to do a better job of laying the groundwork. So much ground. Without further ado, hereSpeaker 2:
is episode six oh two with my friend Ernie printed out.Speaker 3:
hi everybody. This is Joel B. New. You're listening to "Something New, a musical theater podcast" -- my chance to talk with the savviest professionals in the industry, hear their stories, perform brand new songs and get to the heart of what makes them the working multifaceted artists they've come to be. And today, ladies and gentlemen, and everyone in between, I am sitting here with my friend for, I did the math today [bleep] years.:
Can we bleep that too ? We can't [inaudible] I'm so happy to have you like just to like talk to you and get to know you better afterSpeaker 4:
peers .Speaker 2:
Yeah . What else do you want to know? I don't know. I don't know. I have, I have bullet points. So where are you from originally? Uh , well I was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, but I moved to Macallan Texas down in the Rio Grande Valley , um , which is a border town , um, by uh, the Gulf of Mexico and Mexico. Uh, I moved there when I was like in third grade I think. And I was there until I left for college where we met at Oklahoma City University. Shout out , we actually lived together my junior year in [inaudible] original. I know I'm still mad. We didn't get a placard for a time. It's not too late. It's not too late. I'll get you one for the show. Um, we've also like, we've, we've collaborated a lot. You were in my very first musical that I never talk about. I wrote when I was 20, 21 opposites . Tiffin , Barilla also see you alone. Um, and then you were in the first presentation of my, of my Orpheus and ready to see musical talent back. I just saw a video recently of your last performance cause I couldn't come. Oh yeah. Matching it. But you didn't, you have like these backup, it was amazing. They took it into like a whole power female woman like moment. I loved that. Thank you very much. Yeah. Super Cool. Be were the first one to sing. Thank you. It's trailblazer. Thank you. So upon graduating from OCU, what would you say your type or brand was back then was? Yes. Um, well I would say as a person I was generally a lot more nervous OK . When I came out of college, just cause uh, you know, Texas upbringing. Thank you . Yeah, I think I've, I've played a lot of like kind of nervous , uh, like nerd, super charactery nerd types and maybe the like Doh wide , like innocent guy. I played that I played , I think I did a lot of those kind of roles. I played dean in , all shook up and I played , um, Scott and Jared Lena originated that off-broadway . Um, and I was in a bunch of like ensembles every now and then. I played like a thug, but I've just like lowered my voice. Like [inaudible] they gave me a suit that was like my dad's suits so that I looked broader. I love that. That's your low voice. Yeah, that ones my little boy is still a tenor too . How and why did that evolve? You've played the emcee and cabaret, you've played ou snobby and in the heights twice in like the last year. Yeah. You've played, you of course played Pablo on Broadway and sister act. You played Turk in Tarzan and you played club pan in hunchback. I did. So, so I guess the question is multi-pronged one is like, like what's the through line there? Um, the through line there for me is an embracing of all of my colors. I think when I came out of college I was kind of just like playing it very safe. And as I started to grow as a human being, living in New York and being exposed to a lot of diversity, going out, going to burning man a few times, I really allowed myself to like embrace all that I am and love myself. And that allowed me to channel all of my truth into my art. And that stretched me to my polar opposites. You know what I mean? And so now, you know, if you look at my resume , um , you can see that I like have, I played typically like unconventional leading man, like snobby, you know what I mean? Yeah. Um, I suggested , um, Victor and Yetta ma down at a hundred good theater company , uh, a new play , uh , adaptation of a old play. Um, and or I'll play like really extreme character roles like club and Michael Pan was like closer to the cartoon where he was just like a bonkers like jester and my mc was really pushing the limit also. And um, yeah. So I, and I find that when I play those roles that are kind of more aligned with my truth, like I have more fun because you literally are shining without editing. You're just like opening yourself to the channel of the flow better than trying to curate your performance. Like nobody wants to hear something that is like perfect. He wants something that's messy because that's like us. We're beautiful. And it's also live theater. There is no second take. Yeah, I was saying through line and then you just changed effortlessly to like your truth and say , was that what you would see your like your through line is just like being your, your truest self in got the truest version of those characters through your , uh , you know, I think it's the same thing for me. Um , if you know how, like whenever you're looking at a role or something and you're like, okay , what is this person's objective? They're super objective. You know, what I, what are they trying to like what, is there a truth that you can crack in to the character? I think my personal Ernies is truth. Just living truthfully, always in my word, in my actions, in my performance. And I think that working on that in my own life just carries onto my , uh, it's easier to channel in my performance. Do you find that tracks with , um, like the stuff that you make on your own when you did your duplex concert a couple of years ago? Like for me, that was like an Aha moment watching you do that concert. And I was like, oh, I see what Ernie is about now. And I don't know if I had seen that, that, I think that was a shift now that I had never thought about it. But I think putting on that kid , that show allowed me to just be vulnerable, really vulnerable for the first time because I was creating a show that was, you know, you know, this constantly creating, it's like, oh, I have complete creative control. Like what do I want to sing? What do I want to say? And so, you know, by just making that cabaret, I been essence, learned a lot more about myself and then just kept following my, you know, as my friend JP says, your why, why are you in this? Why are you doing this? You know what I mean? Yeah. Truth, truth, reflection, you know, that's about from my seat where I'm sitting. You have had a lot of success as a working with theater professionals. Man, welcome. Um, in those times when theater gigs are slimmer, like what skills or interests have you developed to like, either feed your belly or your soul? You know, this is recent that I've discovered what I need and I've started taking care of myself. There was a time before , uh , maybe like five years ago or six years ago yeah. That I was just kind of like trying to fill myself up with the wrong things and recognizing what feels actually does fill you up. It's really, really important, you know, rather than what depletes you. Um, your question was, what do I do to fill myself up? Right. Yeah . Um, well, it's different every day. Honestly. I , um , did the artist's way once and really is really important in that thing is teaching you how to , um, fill yourself back up. And one of the thing there in that book is taking yourself out on artists , states, whatever that may be, that could be going to the park. You know, if that fills you a meditating, it can be going to the museum, going to listen to live music, playing and creating, sometimes it's coloring for me, sometimes it's just like literally just laying on the floor and listening to music with the lights off and just allowing myself just to be like open and just like, I feel like I'm commuting with the universe, you know what I mean? Just like my body's relaxed. I'm listening to this music and I'm connecting to the flow and like, and on the bat really bad days. Like , um, when I was just doing this snobby and Wichita, I was finding that I was really blocked at one point and I didn't realize it was because of the El Paso shooting that happens that affects Latino community. And I'm telling a Latino story about immigrants. And Anyway, I had to get into that, but you can get a tight , um, anyway, yeah, I was feeling blocked and I was getting frustrated because I was like, I, I was feeling pressured to tell the story as truthfully as I possibly could because people are dying and the world needs to hear this message that Liam on hold and Miranda and , um, Keyetta , um , Alegria you this wrote so well in , in the heights , um, that shows that we're all the same and we're all family. And I was feeling really pressured to do my best work. And as you know, if you're putting that pressure on yourself, you're not going to be free. Yeah. That's the first step towards them. Right? You're not, that's you controlling your performance and acting doesn't thrive in that. And so I literally had one morning, I was like, I sat in the chair and was like, Okay Ernie, we are not leaving this chair until we figure out what truth you are not telling yourself in your own life that is blocking you from being honest on stage. And I sat in the chair and I started writing and I just breathe and I just listened to my heart and my body like, what am I scared to admit to myself? And then I, and I was like, I admitted to myself that I was hurting and that it's okay for me to feel the way I am and I can process it and I don't have to allow them . I don't have to feel the pressure of, of saving the world personally. You know, I can just do my little bit for the corner that I'm in and I'm winning the sour. And I cried, which was awesome. And it was, I was like, oh, I didn't realize that I needed to process this grief that I feel like the country was collectively feeling at that time, the fear and grieve . And then that that thing happened in , um , time square where like everyone was freaking out, but it was just a , a motorcycle backfire into your about that. Yeah . I felt like that moment like spoke to what the whole country was feeling just like helpless. Everyone's on edge waiting . Right. Anyway, I ended up allowing , uh, that in that moment, that process allowed me to really find my truth and clarity and um, though work ended up being really great and really, really well received in Wichita. So go ahead. Go ahead. I think I answered your question. I think you [inaudible] you did too. I'm a little sidebar. So you've played who's knobby twice now, right? What is that like to go and do it again but with like a different cast in a different location, the different director, like how much of your previous production do you bring with you? Cause like Wichita , like you turn it around like that. So yeah, which I thought was insane. Literally it was six days. I've arrived the journey on Facebook. I was like [inaudible] I was like, wait , how were they, how are they in costume on stage already? I know, no joke. I landed on Sunday. We had our designer run on Saturday. So does everyone speaking broadly, just like everyone in that show, like have you all done it at least once? Is that , um, like half your experience? Half of the principals had. Okay. Like I had helps. Yes. Um, the tutors adios were um, uh, Natalie Toro , the famous Google Hershey's amazing. And uh , Daniel Bolero. Amazing. Also. Uh, they were on the original , uh, first national tour. I think Danny played it on Broadway also. The um , Gabriela who played , um, Vanessa, she had done the show before but she hadn't played Vanessa, but everybody else I think, oh, besides the Bidalgo up [inaudible] Jonathan , he also picked , done the show before. But Yeah, all the ensemble, like none of them had done the show. So , and they were learning so much choreography and I have no, I literally still don't know how they remembered all of it. And that was like their Fitz showing the whole season. So like they had just been going, going, going, going, doing that for five shows. Um, but to answer your question about how they're different, they couldn't have been any more different actually because the one in Orlando, it was a thrust stage. So, you know, we had audience on three sides and it was really immersive and this one, and in Wichita we had the um , tour set, which is an, a big proceeding. I mean it was like a sea of 2100 people. It was insane. Wow. Um, but I think this stuff that I brought over was , uh, the work that I had done before , uh, might the first time I did do snobby, like getting into who he was, I brought that all with me so that I could review and , and build on what I had already come to know about who he was as a person. Cause the journey that he gets to go on is unparalleled in my career so far. It's amazing. I need to see you do it. So can you do it again please? I'm here. I'm available. There you go. Let artists call me for booking . Let's see, I've got three more questions. Question one, what advice would you give those listening who are thinking about doing something new, whether that's a side hustle or a hobby, or going back to school while holding down a job? Like what would you, what advice would you impart to those people? I'm going to give you the advice that people give me whenever I'm feeling anxious about something that is new or taking that leap. They always just say across the board, everyone always says in different words, but they all mean the same thing. Just lean into it. Don't resist it. I mean, obviously listen to your heart, but you know, change is a constant and you have to be used to just leaping. And the, in my experience, the universal , always knock on wood always catches me. Um, but just, just do it. Push yourself to new extremes. Like try something new because you know, you're obviously doing something new because what you were doing wasn't working. So allow yourself to step into that new thing and allow yourself to evolve really. So life's more fun. Take risks. Followup question . Um , what's a recent leap that you thing? I kind of feel like every time I leave a job and come back to this , like it feels like a new leap. And I'm, like I said, I'm having a really good year this year because my amazing agents at Avalon, Avalon artists. Um, I had a lot of shows lined up in a row this year. So , uh , I did basically, I did Gotham, my TV , my TV thing last fall, and then I did lose not being in the heights in which I booked. This was snobby , which was already , uh, um, on the books for this fall. And I filled in, my agent's filled in with me , um, the MC and cabaret, and then , um , yet I'm out in Boston. So at the end of this, in the heights in Wichita, I didn't have, I don't have any jobs lined up any like longterm jobs. I have a few little few readings and , um, uh , performance in DC, but no big long work. So it feels like when you leave a Gig that you're leaping into the unknown again. Yeah . In essence, kind of starting over. You're not really because you've experienced, but that was my last big leap . I think that totally makes sense. They just gotta embrace change, right. Because this business is all always changing. I should let you know, I was googling you Google . I did Google. You did anything bad come up? No , no, I was all very flattering. But like if you, if you type in Ernie Pruneda like the third word that pops up automatically is Gotham. I just thought you should know that. Oh really? Yeah. So someone's out there Google and Ernie Panetta . Gotham's yeah . It's not mean . It was so cool during that show. I watched that episode and yeah, it's amazing. It's crazy to watch TV. It's incredible. I , how did that come to be? How did that happen? I mean, I just went to the audition is the first , um, TV audition that with my new agency that they sent me to and then just randomly booked it and I was like, okay , this is actually my first , um, like legit TV thing. Yeah. So headlines . Yeah, headlines . I was [inaudible] thank you. Um, no, it was really cool. I mean, I had my own trailer and I , uh, was wearing like Burberry clothes. Like my outfit was like all like suits for expensive stuff. And uh , we were in this random warehouse in [inaudible] in Boston, in Brooklyn and it was just crazy how well orchestrated the whole thing is. And everybody's like, it literally felt like you were in Gotham and we just, it film and TV is like so different than theater because you know , uh, you know, theater you like, like rehearse and then like, okay, we get it in our body and then like we get to do it a lot. But like I got to that set, we just literally with the director who was like, okay, you're gonna , we're going to go here and do this. And they're like that. And then you're like, okay, we just talked to the lines one time. Then we all go to a tent and people go and stand in and like find where we're going to be standing. And then when we come in, we just go and have to hit our marks that those people have already found. And like as you're coming in, you have to like, you know, like I had to avoid a camera that was like right here on tracks as I was like coming into to my lines to somebody and the lighting director got mad at me one time because my hand was like blocking light on the star's face that I wasn't even aware of. Yeah . But we also tried to act, you're like acting in the scene, but like in film you have to be kind of like multi , what's the word I'm looking for? Just hyper aware. Hyper aware, hyper aware. Um , of everything around you. Cause like they, you don't want to be the person that is costing the studio more money because they're having to take more time and they were like embracing daylight or whatever. So, but it was absolutely incredible. I loved every second. I can't wait to do it again. Um, and everybody was super kind and super professional and it was, it was a dream, honestly. It was so cool. I like, yeah, you did leave it. Cause I remember like when we lived in custody gay, like we would watch Smallville together. Oh my God. Who? Tom Willy , I'm willing. He will always be my superman. Same , same . Um , I was getting my nails done the other day and I kid you not, somebody saved me by Remy zero came on the radio and I was like, what station is this? And like no one else, you know, there was clearly no one else in that room. I was like, there's this song, it's just for me and Ernie. Um, let's see. Where can people see what you're up to? Well I actually just launched my new website today. Yes, you can just go to www.erniepanetta.com . That's e r n I e P r u n e d a.com. You can see , uh, media clips. You can see , uh , photos of my last production. I'm starting to like do a blog where I like to talk about my process. Love it. Um , which is really cool. And um, the Amazing Matthew Agland helped me upload . You see , cause I, I live in breathe a fellow OCU alumni. Um, I just was visiting him when I was in Wichita state and hung out with him and his beautiful family and of course Leslie Davis , his wife. Um, and while either dog shout out to Ali , uh , my final question instead of asking you what's next, cause I think that's kind of a rude question sometimes and it gives me anxiety when people ask me that . Okay. Instead of asking you that, I want to know what are you thankful for? Oh, I love that. What am I thankful for? Well of course I am thankful for um, you bringing me on this podcast and like also, you know, like we talked about like earlier, creating something that is a bomb to the rest of humanity. Like you're allowing us to laugh, to take our minds off of, you know, the stresses of the world, which it feels like they're countless right now. And I just am so thankful that people are creating art and continue to create art and push the envelope and do really Zany and fun and scary things so that way we can continue to be challenged and grow and remember things we forget, like love each other like hello. Hello. Um , I'm also thankful for all the beautiful support that people support me in my career. Um, I am surrounded by amazing friends who continue to ask me to sing for them and um , always , uh , and my amazing agents, of course I have to thank them cause they're amazing. Let's set up the show in the song. Yes. All right . So this is a song from my new show monkey trouble unleashed on exactly. Um , which is debuting at the duplex on Sunday, October 6th at 6:30 PM. You're welcome for that early start time and yeah, so all these episodes are leading up to that. So I'm having members of the cast and the creative team come on and I'm interviewing a lot of them , uh, to get us set up for the show. And so Ernie is playing the character of Sam who is a piano tuner who also happens to be blind and , um, of a gay persuasion. And he becomes the, I don't know how to say that he's gay. There is dead when you say it's good stuff . What do you want from me? And um, he becomes , um, like he is the love story. He's the love interest for Danny the protagonist. Uh , but it's a lot more than that. And , um, Ernie was kind enough to learn and , uh , record his first song on the show, which is called strong hands.Speaker 1:
Hi, it's me. Joby new from the future. Here's some more stuff. It would be helpful to know. The scene is in an old abandoned piano factory where Danny stands guard while Bart does something dubious in the other room. Ernie , these characters , Sam has been hired by somebody to tune a few abandoned pianos. Who that somebody is, is not important. What is important is Danny is still very shy and very afraid of pianos . Strong hands is Danny's and the audience's introduction to Sam, who Lykens proper care of a piano to the proper care of a significant other romance is in the air that Sam and Danny share. Meanwhile, bad things are happening to bart in the other room. We now return you to our regularly scheduled episode already in progressSpeaker 2:
and it's like their meet cute. Um, what now? What does it make you for those of us who don't know. Oh thank you Ernie. Some people don't know. Yeah , so like it's, I guess it's like a TV movie like term, but it's that moment in shows where the two people who are going to fall in love meet for the first time and it's usually something cute that , um, happens transpires in between them. So it's like , it's like when you meet and it something cute happens. So then you would like want to do it again. Well that's what you know, that's the answer you get when you ask. Ask such question. Ernie worthy. Oh , I love it . Where the answer is implied in the question. It's crazy. It's crazy how well that worked out. Um, earning is thinking strongly hands and um, yeah, you're the first person I've heard sing it. Other than that . Well it's been great. I mean, I love your stuff. That's fun. Thank you. Can you say, where do people can get tickets for this show? I don't know. They can go to Jovie, new.com/monkey/monkey . yes.com/monkey . That URL is also like [inaudible] on Instagram of course. And if you follow me on Facebook, which I'm really not doing anything on there, it's there. Um , um, but it's there. I think it's on Twitter too and I don't really tweet. Do you tweet? I, you know, I don't tweet. Yeah, it sounds like too much work to me. There's like, maybe that's me being old, but I just like, I feel like Twitter, you have to just constantly being like, be like focused on it. There's a listening and reading and like little clips. I'm like, I don't, I don't need all that in my brain. No. Same Instagram. Like if I post one photo a day, I feel like I was like done something. That's all you need. Yup . Yeah. Um , so go to [inaudible] dot com slash monkey and buy your tickets there . Just $15. Did the two drink minimum? Um , come see the whole show. We're doing the songs, the dialogue . Um, Casta five. It's very funny. I think it's super weird. Um, yeah, so that's it. And last, Ernie, I want to , I, I am thankful for you for being such a loyal friend in years. We can believe that we're believing that. Yeah , we're definitely believing that. When I took a leap in Undergrad and I was like, I think I should be writing musicals and not necessarily starring in them or anything like that, you know, you were of a small bunch of people that was like, yes, how can we help? And I wrote that first show and you started it with tiff and I've been on that path ever since and so I want to thank you for, it's my pleasure claiming me. I'm happy to help you on your journey. Anyway . I can . Thank you Sam. Also, did we just have Meq I think 10 years later? Aw , no, I don't know . We'll look it up more like a , I dunno, an appointment queue . Like I know your queue . Yeah, it's been awhile. Cute. Huh? [inaudible] there we go . All right . We got to go. All right . From, from Shetler studios who we love , um, this, it's not about three minutes. It's not sponsoring this, but they should they shoot dammit . From Shetler studios in New York City on 54th and [inaudible] seven 54 and forth between, is it Broadway and eighth? Yeah. Yes. Um, this is Joel being new and already Pruneda saying thank you for dropping by for something new.Speaker 5:
planners are like, people they fall apart. A few Nicolock pianos are like people exceptSpeaker 8:
they like when you correct pianos needs strong hands showing how much they,Speaker 5:
if played by the wrong.Speaker 3:
Are you still there? [inaudible]Speaker 8:
yeah , those are like people they can get injured if you pound them.Speaker 3:
pianos are like people, except I liked to be around them. Pianos needs strong hands with the sensitive. So , uh, if played by the wrong and thank you so much.Speaker 3:
wrong. Hands are great at ignoring what is right there. On the page , every last notation. ThisSpeaker 5:
even songs, you know, sound forward . You're a monkey in a cage. Sticking to bananas in yourSpeaker 5:
[inaudible] .Speaker 8:
is pianos are like people I try to fix whatever's missing. Pianos are like people except some [inaudible]Speaker 8:
[inaudible] before too long. [inaudible] hands leave is quickest.Speaker 3:
the mom looking for strong [inaudible] it's true . [inaudible]Speaker 9:
uh ,Speaker 3:
you got a name [inaudible]Speaker 2:
it's like completely asleep. I can we talk about your whole hops slippers love specifically for you. So mad and they're like so clean. Well, they're, they're new. She didn't mind also helpful . But let me talk about this . We have not talked about that. Also up above. I had no idea. Of course.