Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Sitting on the Edge is Going Nowhere

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Mar 01, 2015 @ 1:44 pm PST

The Road to Appomattox (Colony Theatre)userpic=colonyThe last two weekends have been busy with theatre in Beautiful Downtown Burbank: starting with Inside Out” at the GTC last weekend, the beautiful Closer Than Ever” at Hollywood Piano yesterday afternoon, and concluding with “The Road to Appomattox” at  The Colony Theatre (FB) last night. The contrast between these three productions is interesting, and shows the value of subscribing to a venue in addition to buying tickets. Closer Than Ever was a revival; something I’d see before in 1992 — I knew the company producing it, and wanted to see it again. Inside Out came from producers I know and from writers I know — both known quantities, reducing my risk of a bad show. The Road to Appomattox, however, wasn’t my choice. I chose to subscribe to the Colony, and trust their artistic director to bring me shows I might not have seen. Colony does this well — almost every show is a premier in some way — LA, West Coast, or National. That means there is the risk I might not like it. Usually, I do.

Alas, last night I ended up a bit more on the lukewarm side. Let me describe the show first, and then I’ll tell you why I had that feeling.

The Road to Appomattox (written by Catherine Bush) is a time jumping show. There are two story threads. The first concerns General Robert E. Lee in the week before his surrender to U.S. Grant in April 1865. He is on the trail with his aide-de-camp, Col. Walter Taylor moving from Richmond to Appomattox. During this trip he is increasingly faced with defeat of the troops around him, until he must come to an ultimate decision: surrender, or move to unethical guerrilla fighting. He repeatedly gets and sends dispatches to President Jefferson Davis in Richmond, and to other officers, through Captain Russell. The parallel story takes place in the present day. Steve “Beau” Weeks and his wife, Dr. Jenny Weeks, are on a historical tour of the Appomattox trail. “Beau” has recently discovered his great great grandfather’s civil war cap and haversack, and a note in code. He is trying to find more about his heroic relative (in his eyes), and has numerous interactions with Chip, an expert in Civil War history who can decode the note. When the note is decoded it pushes Beau over the edge, and it (combined with events in his life) push him to a similar decision as Lee had to face, at the very same place.

As you can see, time is a central concern of this show. Time is also a central problem of the show. Walking out of the show, my wife and I felt that the show was both too slow and too fast. It was too slow in that at points the story seemed to take forever to get out and move forward. It was too fast in the scene changes, where the people from one time were bumping into the other characters in their rush to get on and off. On the drive home, we discussed the show some more and realized that the problems wasn’t too fast or two slow, the problem was whether it was white with gold stripes, or blue with black stripes. Wait, that’s not right. Oh, the problem was whether there was too little story and if they timed it right there would be nothing there, or whether there was too much story.

What we concluded was that the answer was — just like the dress — that both were correct. The story and drama of Lee’s retreat from Richmond to Appomattox would make a great play — there’s loads of character growth, drama, and bathos. Similar, the story of the Weeks and the dilemma they face in their marriage, and how they sort through it and move beyond it, would make a great play — again, there’s loads of character growth, drama, and bathos. The problem is that — in the urge to take the parallel nature of these stories and beat us over the head with it by combining them — they made an final version of the story that looks tasty but is ultimately a little less nutritious and filling than desired. That doesn’t mean the story is bad or badly performed — you just end up wishing there was more substance and that the chef hadn’t attempted just quite that fusion.

I’ll note that some of this might be the problem of the director, Brian Shnipper (FB). The director is in charge of the timing of the play, and so had the responsibility to catch and work on these problems. I noted before the problems created during the scene changes where the people from the present day would almost bump into the people from 1865 and vice verse. This should have been fixed during rehearsal; similarly, he should have caught where the story advancement was dragging and worked to correct it.

Luckily for the Colony, the weak story is offset, as usual, by strong performances. In the 1865 tier we had Bjørn Johnson (FB) as General Robert E. Lee, Shaun Anthony (FB) as Colonel Water Taylor, and Tyler Pierce (FB) as Captain Russell. Johnson gave a very strong performance as Lee — you could see him wrestling with the problems that command brings, and being weighted down by it. You could also see his divided loyalties — Lee was a US Army officer before he joined the CSA — and he joined not because he believed in secession, but because he would not take up arms against Virginia. Anthony provided a good counterbalance to Johnson’s Lee, illustrating how the war affected those around the upper officer echelon. More on Pierce in a minute…

In the 2015 tier we had Brian Ibsen (FB) as Steve “Beau” Weeks, Bridget Flanery (FB) as Dr. Jenny Weeks, and Tyler Pierce (FB) as Dr. Chip Eberhardt, a motorcycle riding civil war historical expert.  Ibsen did an excellent job of protraying a foamer buffy — which was Eberhardt’s term for a Civil War Buff. [I can hear Lincoln saying to US Grant, “You’re quite a civil war buff, aren’t you?”] He clearly portrayed a man obsessed with a subject clearly to distract him from issues he didn’t want to face. Pierce made a good foil: initially as a professor seemingly hitting on his wife and later as a hostage. I’ll note its odd looking back and seeing that Pierce was the male lead — the Reform Jew — in the Colony’s last show, Handle With Care. It shows the quality of that actor. Flanery was caught in the middle, stuck in a role whose primary characteristic was to be exasperated and to silently scream.

Even with a weak story, Colony normally excels with the technical. Alas, here too there were slight problems. The sound design by Dave Mickey (FB) was good and provided wonderful battle effects. Similarly, the lighting by Dave Mickey (FB) conveyed the mood well and made the battle effects pop. However… the scenic design of David Potts was not up to his usual standards. Colony sets are usually sturdy and realistic. This set flexed and creaked, and made you wonder about its safety. My guess is that they were a bit ambituous on the set, and in an attempt to create a single set that was civil war focused, they lost something. The costumes by Dianne K. Graebner (FB) mostly worked — the dual casting of Pierce as a character that wore blue jeans led to the odd juxtaposition of his playing a confederate officer in a dark blue outfit. Ummm, that’s the other side, last I looked. John McElveney (FB) did the props, including an excellent drop desk. Scenic art was by Orlando de la Paz, who has been a busy busy person, having also done the scenic arts for Threepenny OperaLeesa Freed (FB) was the production stage manager. The Colony is under the artistic direction of Barbara Beckley.

The Road to Appomattox” continues at The Colony Theatre (FB) through March 15. Tickets are available through the Colony website; discount tickets may be available through Goldstar and  LA Stage Tix. This show is worth seeing if you’re into Civil War history. For me, although I don’t think this was a waste of time, I enjoyed Closer Than Ever down the street much much more.

Pro99 - Vote No NowIn her artistic director’s note, Barbara Beckley talks about the history of the Colony Theatre and where it is today. She noted how Colony started in 1975 an under 99 seat theatre near Silver Lake, and remained that way for 20 years, growing the subscriber base to over 3,000. She noted that there are so many 99-seat theatres in Los Angeles because “professional theatre actors are members of Actors’ Equity Association, and are not permitted to work in theatre without an Equity contract that establishes wages and benefits. Except where the theatre seats fewer than 100 people, in which case Equity waives the requirement for a contract. There is no pay for rehearsals, a small stipend for performances, and no benefits. Producing theatre is never easy, but those economics make it a lot less hard.”. She went on to note that her dream was for The Colony to be in a theatre large enough to pay its actors actual wages and meaningful benefits. The size of their loyal audience, and the generosity of the City of Burbank in providing them with a 270-seat home, made it possible.

This shows what the current 99 seat theatre approach can bring to Los Angeles County. It can provide the opportunity for small theatres to grow into big theatres. The Colony isn’t the only example; there are other ensembles that have similarly grown in size. The Colony is also an example of the downside: they cannot take real chances on their shows — with the budgets of Colony shows, they cannot afford to have a failure and must go with the safe and comfortable. They must also severely limit the size of the show — only rarely do they produce a show with more than 4-5 players. It is just out of their budget.

99 seat theatre is vital to provide the environment to experiment, the freedom to attempt to grow a subscriber base (something a commercial venue rarely has). It provides the avenue for actors to train and stretch their theatrical muscles. The current AEA proposal, if approved as is, may destroy that by severely restricting the ability of our best non-profit 99 seat houses to use Equity actors. What can you do to stop it? If you are an Equity member, I urge you to study the issue at the iLove 99 website (FB) and hopefully vote “no”. If you are a non-Equity actor, producer, or other creative, I urge you to let your Equity friends know about this, and to educate your professional groups about the issue — and to take a stand. For us audience members, you need to be aware that the 99-seat theatre you love (and can afford) is threatened. Spread the words, and let the actors know you support their working in 99 seat theatre. Let them know you will follow good acting and good performance at whatever venue it is made. As this show points out: sitting on the edge is going nowhere. Read and make a decision, and let your decision be known. #Pro99 #LAThtr #ILove99

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I’ve been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: Next weekend has no theatre, due to other commitments (the MRJ Man of the Year dinner on March 7, and a Purim Carnival at TAS the next day). Theatre in March starts the next weekend with  “Carrie: The Musical” at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB) on March 14, a “Drowsy Chaperone” at CSUN on Friday March 20, “Doubt” at REP East (FB) on Saturday March 21, “Newsies” at the Pantages (FB) on March 28, followed by Pesach and the Renaissance Faire on April 11. The following weekend will see us back at a music store listening to a performance: this time, it is Noel Paul Stookey at McCabes Guitar Shop (FB). After that we’re in Vegas for a week — I haven’t yet determined the shows yet, but Menopause the Musical looks quite likely. We may also work in “After the Revolution” at the Chance Theatre (FB). May begins with “Loopholes: The Musical” at the Hudson Main Stage (FB) on May 2. This is followed by “Words By Ira Gershwin – A Musical Play” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on May 9 (and quite likely a visit to Alice – The Musical at Nobel Middle School).  The weekend of May 16 brings “Beer for Breakfast” at REP East (FB). The weekend of May 23 brings Confirmation services at TAS, and also has a hold for “Love Again“, a new musical by Doug Haverty and Adryan Russ, at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB).  The last weekend of May currently has a hold for “Fancy Nancy” at the Chance Theatre (FB) and “Waterfall“, the new Maltby/Shire musical at the Pasadena Playhouse (FB).  June is equally crazy, as we’ve got the Hollywood Fringe Festival amongst other things. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.

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Opening Doors to Intimate Transcendency

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Mar 01, 2015 @ 12:07 pm PST

Closer Than Ever (Good People Theatre)userpic=theatre_ticketsIf I was to tell you that I attended a wonderful live music performance yesterday at a venue tucked away inside a music store… you probably would be thinking I attended yet another folk music concert at McCabes or Boulevard Music.  But there was nary a guitar or banjo in sight; in fact, I doubt the instruments in this room could be hung on the walls, or easily grabbed and taken out with you as you exited in an emergency. That’s because this was a special show being held in a special place — the Good People Theatre Co (FB)’s production of Maltby/Shire’s Closer Than Ever at Hollywood Piano in Burbank (produced in partnership with Hollywood Piano (FB). This new location of Hollywood Piano has a recital room, and this room was hosting the show… and providing a wonderful 9½ foot Mason & Hamlin grand piano for accompaniment. More on that in a minute.

Closer Than Ever” is an interesting show. It is not a musical in the traditional sense — there is no story, there are no particular characters. It is really a revue of gorgeous songs written by Richard Maltby Jr. (lyrics) and David Shire (music) (FB) — many written for relationship shows and then cut. We last saw the musical back in 1992 — long before I started doing these writeups — at the Pasadena Playhouse. I have vague memories of that show: four performers on a stage in the distance, and some set of musicians on stage.

This performance had two key differences. The first is a double difference: resonance. When I saw the show for the first time, back in 1992, I was 32 with no children. In 2015, I’m 55 with a daughter in college. The songs — which sing of relationships and middle age problems and marriage and divorce and love and loss — resonate quite differently with me. Back in 1992, my favorite song was Miss Byrd, about the hidden sexual nature of the people around you. That’s a 32 year old talking — sex on the brain. In 2015 my favorite songs are different. The resonance hits more with songs like “The March of Time”, and lines that talk about being parent to your parents. The second resonance difference is a real resonance. C’mon, have you ever heard a 9½ foot Mason & Hamlin (FB) grand piano? That thing is beautiful and deep and … oh, indescribably trasnscendent. I had never thought before about how the size and shape of a piano affects the sound (or looked closely at the stringing — can you  tell I’m an engineer yet?). This was a performance instrument — a concert grand. When you look at the size of the soundboard, you realize there is a richness in the notes and in the sound that you just cannot get with your typical electronic keyboard or upright piano. Sitting up front, as we were, it was a delight.

The second difference is the difference between a venue like the Pasadena Playhouse and an intimate theatre. This was a small venue, and we were right up there with the performers. We could watch their faces, we could scrutinize their movement and even their breathing. We could watch their eyes, their expressions, their nuances. These weren’t distant actors on a stage; they were real people telling us their stories. Of course, it didn’t hurt that these were good actors, believably reacting to these songs, enjoying these songs, living and breathing these songs. This ability to be “up close” is one thing that makes intimate theatre special. As I noted with Avenue Q at REP earlier in the year, the closeness provides that different focus that makes the experience of the story extremely different than what you would get from seeing the exact same show, with the exact same performers, in a larger venue such as the Playhouse, the Pantages, or the Ahmanson. Intimate theatre — especially intimate theatre as we have it here in Los Angeles — is too special to lose. More on that later.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I think this production — which was produced, directed, had musical staging by Janet Miller (FB) — was spectacular. It was amazing to watch the actors up close; it was amazing to watch the musicians up close; it was amazing to watch the interaction between all the parties…. and that piano. As I’ve noted before, I had trouble telling how much of this was direction from Miller, and how much of it was from the actors and musicians — but you know what? It doesn’t make a difference. It was seamless, reflecting the fact that this production was a collaboration between the artists. That love of the material from all parties comes across unspeakably to the audience and adds to the magic.

This version of Closer Than You used four singers in addition to the musicians. Some versions use six singers (3 men, 3 women), which makes songs like “Three Friends” a little less odd. The cast here did remarkably — kudos and applause to the singers (Gabriel Kalomas (FB), Sara J. Stuckey (FB), Jessie Withers (FB) and David Zack (FB)) and the musicians (Corey Hirsch (FB) at the piano and Brenton Kossak (FB) on bass). We’ve seen Kalomas before in both Big Fish and in Side Man at the REP, and he was great in songs such as “I’ll Get Up Tomorrow Morning” or “Fandango”. There were a few points where he had this odd earnest look on his face, but just a great person to watch. We’ve also seen Stuckey before — in Big, in an intimate production of Gypsy, and in the NoHo arts production of Dirty Rotten Scoundels. She was great then, and she was great now. She just soared in “Miss Byrd” and “You Wanna Be My Friend” — just spectacular in all numbers. The two other singers were new to us, but were just great. I particularly enjoyed watching the face and movement of Withers, who nailed songs like “The Bear, the Tiger, the Hamster, and the Mole” and “Patterns”. This brings us to David Zack, who had the unfortunate :-) chore of being the third girl in “Three Friends”, and was just great. One could empathize with him in “One of the Good Guys”, and his performance in “What Am I Doin'” was just great.

As I hinted above, the musicians were performers as well (in addition to how well they handled their instruments). Corey Hirsch (FB) did a wonderful and touching (singing) solo on “If I Sing”; and although he didn’t utter a word, Brenton Kossak (FB) just blew everyone away in “Back on Base” — both in how he worked the strings and how he reacted (or didn’t) to Withers’ performance.

Technically, the show was very simple. A piano. A bass. A velvet curtain backdrop. Some stools. A few props. No complicated lighting. The program doesn’t even credit specific individuals for lighting, set, or prop design. The costumes — which were simple and elegant — were designed by  Kathy Gillespie (FB) and Barbara Weisel (FB). I particularly liked Withers’ shawl — it was just beautiful. Music direction was by  Corey Hirsch (FB). Other technical credits:  Kimberly Fox, Marketing Director; Oliver Lan, Graphic Designer; Rebecca Schroeder (FB), Stage Manager.

Closer Than Ever continues at Hollywood Piano until March 15. Simply put: Go see it. Tickets are available through Good People Theatre; discount tickets may be available through Goldstar and LA Stage Tix. Note: During the production, Janet let skip what GPT’s production for the Fringe Festival is going to be: Stephen Sondheim’s Marry Me a Little. We’re in :-).

I Love 99 Seat Theatre. Pro99 - Vote No NowGPT is an example of one of Los Angeles’s many intimate (99 seat and under) theatres. It is also an example of a theatre that might be drastically hurt or changed if a proposal from Actors Equity to establish a new contractual approach for 99 seat theatre in LA comes to pass. This production had to negotiate with Equity regarding the performance space (as it was a new space), and three of the four actors are Equity. Given the ticket sales (it looks like many tickets are half price), I doubt the show could break even if it had to pay minimum wage for 3 hours for each Equity performer per performance (that’s $108 per performance) plus rehearsal costs. There’s massive agreement that the current 99 seat approach with minimal stipends is inadequate, and there’s a strong push for a tiered system based on the budgets of the show and theatre. But to move there, AEA’s proposal must be voted down. As was said in this show, “there is no ‘there’ there” — it won’t take us to a productive place. If you are an Equity member, I urge you to study the issue at the iLove 99 website (FB) and hopefully vote “no”. If you are a non-Equity actor, producer, or other creative, I urge you to let your Equity friends know about this, and to educate your professional groups about the issue — and to take a stand. For us audience members, you need to be aware that the 99-seat theatre you love (and can afford) is threatened. Spread the words, and let the actors know you support their working in 99 seat theatre. Let them know you will follow good acting and good performance at whatever venue it is made. #Pro99 #LAThtr #ILove99

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I’ve been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: Next weekend has no theatre, due to other commitments (the MRJ Man of the Year dinner on March 7, and a Purim Carnival at TAS the next day). Theatre in March starts the next weekend with  “Carrie: The Musical” at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB) on March 14, a “Drowsy Chaperone” at CSUN on Friday March 20, “Doubt” at REP East (FB) on Saturday March 21, “Newsies” at the Pantages (FB) on March 28, followed by Pesach and the Renaissance Faire on April 11. The following weekend will see us back at a music store listening to a performance: this time, it is Noel Paul Stookey at McCabes Guitar Shop (FB). After that we’re in Vegas for a week — I haven’t yet determined the shows yet, but Menopause the Musical looks quite likely. We may also work in “After the Revolution” at the Chance Theatre (FB). May begins with “Loopholes: The Musical” at the Hudson Main Stage (FB) on May 2. This is followed by “Words By Ira Gershwin – A Musical Play” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on May 9 (and quite likely a visit to Alice – The Musical at Nobel Middle School).  The weekend of May 16 brings “Beer for Breakfast” at REP East (FB). The weekend of May 23 brings Confirmation services at TAS, and also has a hold for “Love Again“, a new musical by Doug Haverty and Adryan Russ, at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB).  The last weekend of May currently has a hold for “Fancy Nancy” at the Chance Theatre (FB) and “Waterfall“, the new Maltby/Shire musical at the Pasadena Playhouse (FB).  June is equally crazy, as we’ve got the Hollywood Fringe Festival amongst other things. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.

#Pro99: Employees, Volunteers, and the Minimum Wage

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Feb 28, 2015 @ 12:57 pm PST

Pro99 - Vote No Nowuserpic=fountain-penWhen the urge gets in ‘em, actors just gotta act. I’m not an actor, but I am a blogger… and when the urge gets in me, I’ve got write a post*. This time the urge was triggered by two comments on Facebook on my last post: one said, “a business which cannot afford to pay its workers a decent wage doesn’t deserve to survive“; the other said “I actually heard from some folks this week making the argument that any kind of volunteer work should be illegal and require the payment of at least the minimum wage plus benefits.” Both of these are common arguments you might hear in response to the AEA proposal, but when you start thinking about them — really thinking about them — the problems surface and it become clear why this proposal must be opposed.

I’m an engineer and a logical thinker. So, in general, should people be able to volunteer their time? Why shouldn’t everyone be paid a decent wage for what they do? On the surface, that makes sense and seems ethical. But what about people who volunteer for your church or synagogue? Should the Sisterhood ladies be paid for setting up an Oneg? The Brotherhood for cooking at a barbeque? It is clear there are some organizations that should accept volunteers. It’s not just religious: consider other charities such as Doctors Without Borders. Their doctors are skilled — and require a certain skillset — and yet are often volunteers or are not paid what they would get on the market. Look at lawyers who volunteer their time for charities, or professional fundraisers who help charities. All of this volunteering is permitted — and in fact, encouraged by our tax code (remember, you can deduct charitable miles).

So, you say, to do this everyone in such an organization must be a volunteer. That’s not true. Consider your church or synagogue. They have paid clergy and paid staff as well as volunteers. Most charitable organizations have paid executive directors. You can have both paid staff and volunteers. So when should a volunteer become paid staff? That’s a great question — and I think the answer is fundamental. One might think the answer is hours: typically a volunteer is not full time. I would tend to think that volunteers should have a cap on the number of hours they may volunteer — but hours does not an employee make. There are many part-time employees. That’s why I’m discounting hours as the factor. I think the real time an employee become necessary is when you can not find a person with the appropriate skill willing to take on the job either unpaid or below market.  Looking at the theatre, there is clearly the law of supply and demand here. There are lots and lots of actors, and depending on the position and the role, you may be able to use a non-Equity volunteers to replace an Equity actor. However, if the role is unique, the answer might be different. Other creatives are not so plentiful, but even then you can often find volunteers willing to take on the task for the experience. Gee, that sounds like interning :-)

Now you’re probably saying that this means any organization could get around the minimum wage. If you think that, you’re missing a clear distinction. All the organizations I’ve mentioned above are charitable — recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) organization. Their intent is not to make profit; any surplus is to be returned to the community through good work. So lets consider the example of an unpaid intern. There have been recent rulings that unpaid interns in commercial businesses — be they engineering or film and television — are not acceptable.  Yet volunteers are acceptable in charities (and I don’t think I’ve seen a ruling on interns at charities, but they seem analogous to volunteers).

The real factor that should come into play on whether volunteering is permitted should be: is the concern FOR-PROFIT or NON-PROFIT. Yet is it precisely this concern that is ignored by the AEA proposal. The proposal should be that the only companies that could accept volunteer or underpaid actors should be NON-PROFIT theatres. Commercial theatre ventures — even if under 99 seats — should have to pay minimum wage. Yet the proposal, as I understand it, prohibits non-profit theatres from accepting volunteers. That’s wrong, and that should be the main reason to vote “no” and oppose it — it goes against the definition of what a non-profit is.

Once the proposal in this form is disposed of, a new motion should be made to bring in a proper plan. We’ve seen a number out there; I’ve noted the 99 to HAT proposal at Bitter Lemons earlier. The thought experiment behind this post has led to a few additional things:

  • First, the 99-to-HAT notion must be for non-profit theatres. What AEA is proposing may be reasonable for any intimate FOR-PROFITs out there — being FOR-PROFIT, they should have the ability to charge what they believe the market will bear, and have investors who will take the risk of that in exchange for the benefit of a profitable performance. NON-PROFIT and FOR-PROFIT are different beasts.
  • Second, if AEA is truly concerned about the actor, they should have contracts with any theatre — NON-PROFIT or FOR-PROFIT — employing any AEA actor. These contracts shouldn’t be punitive to volunteers, but must protect the working conditions of the actor — breaks, facilities, safety, and other factors. Remember that unions came into being not just to raise wages, but because of incidents like Triangle Shirtwaist, which had dangerous working conditions.

To move to a proposal that can be win – win – win, and that balances the needs of the creatives, producers, and audience, the current proposal must be rejected. Those who have the ability (i.e., the actors and the producers) should then move to create a new committee that has representatives of all stakeholders to establish fair and equitable rules for all. Hopefully, the audience stakeholder can be remembered in this as well.

*: I’m also a programmer, and there the creative urge is the same. When I see a solution to a problem, well, coders gotta code, designers gotta design, and architects gotta architect. I’ve been doing a lot of that the last few months as I’ve been turning my multiyear analysis of NIST SP 800-53 and CNSSI No 1253 into a tool for Subject Matter Experts …. and boy has exercising that muscle felt good. I truly understand the actors, even if I can’t act.

Climate Change is Coming! Let’s Stop It Before It Drowns Our Theatres!

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Feb 27, 2015 @ 8:30 pm PST

I Support 99 Seat Theatre in Los Angelesuserpic=theatre_musicalsAbout two weeks ago, I wrote a post about a situation unfolding here in Los Angeles with our intimate theatres (under 100 seats). The post concerned a move by Actors Equity, the stage actor’s labor union, to replace the “99 seat plan” (itself the successor to what was called “Equity Waiver” theatre) with a new plan that many felt would destroy intimate theatre as it is in Southern California. This new proposal (described in this article, but seemingly unavailable to those not in Equity) would essentially destroy non-profit theatre companies: individual actors could mount showcase productions with no legal protections; membership groups (who could not add to their members) could pay below minimum wage, and any other 99 seat and under theatre that used Equity actors would be required to pay those actors minimum wage for a minimum of 3 hours for each performance, and for rehearsal time.

Now, on the surface of this, you’re probably going — actors are people too (despite what some folks have said in the past). They deserve to be paid at least minimum wage, and to be able to make a living from the theatre. In an ideal world (cue the chirping birds and shining sun), I’d agree with you. Even in a slightly imperfect world — perhaps New York — this might work. Such a world understands and supports live theatre, and is willing to pay ticket prices that permit payment of such wages. Actors in such an imperfect world would not have other lucrative acting opportunities available to them that might make up for poor live theatre pay.

However — and this is the problem in Los Angeles — Los Angeles is far far from being a perfect world. Just ask anyone from San Francisco (hear that, Mr. Roadshow — pick on us for saying “the 405″, will ya??). In Los Angeles, there are many opportunities for actors to make reasonable money acting — there is television and film work, which comes up on short notice and pays well. What LA doesn’t provide is easy — and inexpensive — opportunties to practice the craft. Sure, you can pay for classes … or you can get paid (even if it is just gas and bus fare) to practice on stage as part of a show. Such practice has the side benefit of getting you seen by others in the industry, and permits networking that gets you those lucrative jobs.

I should note that I’m not talking from experience. I’m not an actor. I could never be an actor — I can’t inhabit a role. I’m not a director or producer or other creative. I’m a logically thinking engineer who attends a lot of theatre, and who has been reading what the actors and others have been saying about this proposal. I’m a blogger that some consider a reviewer (I hesitate to use the “critic” term); I attend lots and lots of threatre. In other words, I’m a professional audience. I’ve been trying, in my little way, to capture the audience point of view. Here’s my perspective.

Back in January 2014, I saw an excellent production of Sex and Education at the Colony Theatre. If you aren’t familiar with that show, it concerns an English teacher giving her last test before a well-earned retirement. She catches the star football player, who has already been offered a football scholarship, passing a note to a cheerleader to get her to sleep with him. The note is riddled with grammatical problems, and she refuses to pass him until he rewrites the note as a proper persuasive essay. In doing so, he learns not to think about what he wants to get out of the arrangement; he has to convince the cheerleader why it is to her benefit to sleep with him. This is a very important lesson.

So in this discussion, it is pointless to talk about what the actors want, or even what the producers want (and no one cares what the audience wants). What is important is what Equity wants, and what Equity wants is to protect the financial health of its members. Get that: its members. It doesn’t care about non-union people. It doesn’t care about the health of theatres. It doesn’t care about ticket prices. It wants Equity members to be paid minimum wage — the demand of other unions — and to be able to sanction employers (read “producers”) who hire Equity actors and fail to pay them that.

Pure and simple, the plan they propose will not do that. Los Angeles is a market with three types of theatre goers: those that only know of the “big” theatres that book tours; those that attend any and all theatre in Los Angeles; and those that are friends of actors that attend for free. The big musical tour crew won’t care about this proposal — they don’t even care if they see a non-Equity tour (I’m looking at you, Pantages). The rest of the folks rarely pay full price — they quest for the discount ticket. They will not pay what is required to permit non-profits to pay minimum page. A few non-profits might survive with equity actors, but the rest will not. They will either close — or more likely — employ non-union actors or actors working under assumed names (no sanction for the theatre there). That will hurt, not help, the union.

Everyone seems to agree that the current 99-seat plan is broken. But AEA’s proposal is not the answer. On Facebook, the AEA conciliators suggest voting for the plan to initiate the change — but I’ve seen no guarantees that the plan will change if voted in. Certainly, it is not in AEA’s interest to change it. I’ve seen some excellent proposals that increase actor renumeration based on the budget and size of the theatre. These can only be considered if this AEA proposal is voted down (and even that might not stop it, as the vote is only advisory).

Pro99 - Vote No NowI’m not an AEA member. I can’t vote. If you are an AEA member, I urge you to vote the proposal down.  I urge you, in membership meetings, to use Roberts Rules to your advantage, and introduce motions to consider a different proposal and reject this one. See if you can find a win-win, not the current proposed lose-lose.

Everyone can learn more about this. The LA 99 Theatre Community has posted a large number of articles on the subject. There have been numerous position statements on the subject, all of which Colin over at Bitter Lemons has collected. [ETA: And the I Love 99 folks have created a new Facebook community you should like.] Read learn.

But as I’ve said: I’m an audience member. What can I do? We don’t want to take actions that will hurt our actors or our theatres. I think the answer is to be there and to support. We can let our theatres know we support them. We can let them know of the economic impact we provide to the community at large — not just the tickets we buy, but the restaurants we support. This will encourage public officials to come out on the side of the 99 seat theatres. We can encourage actors we know to vote against the plan. We may also have services and skills that we can provide to the pro-99 community. We may not be able to act, but we know how to work computers, to build mailing lists, to analyze data. Audiences consist of not only unpaid actors, but lawyers, labor specialists, engineers, and problem solvers. We can bring our expertise to the fore to help.

Lastly, we can spread the word. Those of you on Twitter and other services supporting hashtags, use the tags #pro99 #LAthtr #ILove99. Don’t be passive. Speak up and keep LA’s intimate theatre community vibrant. Oh, and go see a show or two while you’re at it!

Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Feb 27, 2015 @ 7:10 pm PST

userpic=star_trekThe big big news today has been the passing of Leonard Nimoy. Nimoy was the touchstone of multiple generations as a result of the iconic character he created — and how he fought so valiantly against the Vietnam War and for the healthcare of children. Whoops. Wrong Spock.

Seriously, Nimoy was much much more than the character he created. He was a long-time supporter of Yiddish and the Yiddish Theatre, and excelled in multiple artistic venues. As we remember that “pointy eared Vulcan”, let us also remember the other sides of Nimoy. Here’s a great article from Tribute that recalls Nimoy’s recent interview for the Stars of David book, and how Judaism and Yiddishkeit influenced his life and the characters he portrayed.

P.S.: I love the quote that titles this post, which was Nimoy’s last communication. It so reflects why theatre is so important in life.

Ballot Recommendations – LA Municipal Primary Nominating Election

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Feb 22, 2015 @ 5:36 pm PST

userpic=voteIt’s hard to believe, but we have an election about a week and a half away. You would hardly know it by the dearth of advertising. Of course, that means that turnout is going to be low — so low, in fact, that our precinct only got 3 pizza boxes (folded up voting booths). This will explain two of the measures on the ballot, but that may create more of a problem. Still, it is an election, and that means it is time for me to go through my sample ballot and tell you what I think.

Member of the City Council, District 12

Mitch Englander is running unopposed. Would be nice for him to have some opposition — after all, this could be a 5½ year term. Still, this is LA city politics for you, where we elect councilcritters who represent populations larger than a state.

Los Angeles City Unified School District, Board of Education, District 3

We have five candidates here, again, for a possible 5½ year term: Carl J. Petersen, Ankur Patel, Scott Mark Schmerelson, Filiberto Gonzalez, Elizabeth Badger Bartels, and the incumbent, Tamar Galatzan. Let’s see if we can sort these folks apart based on their websites. Note that I no longer have a horse in this race — my daughter is the successful product of an LAUSD education, under Galatzen, now at UC Berkeley. All have websites, passing the first hurdle. Let’s look at the endorsements next. The LA Times endorsement is lukewarm for Galatzen.  The Daily News also went for Galatzen. They note Gonzalez as the alternative for those who don’t want Galatzan. They note Galatzan was a Deasy supporter, and is “the only board member with children currently in an LAUSD school”.  Filberto was endorsed by the National Association of Social Workers, CSUN Young Democrats, representatives of NOW — essentially, supporting Filberto’s goal of advancing minorities. Schmerelson has the support of the California School Employees Association and the Associated Administrators — in other words, the teachers. Patel appears to have no major endorsers. Peterson has no major endorsers. Bartels has no major endorsers, and her front page emphasizes that she is a woman of faith, and has children on the autism spectrum. The “woman of faith” troubles me — I’m concerned about the excessively religious being on the school board and overtly or covertly influencing children. Given we have to pare down somehow, that’s a good starting point.

Let’s look at the issues. Galatazan is concerned about the budget, ensuring the A-G requirements are met (UC prerequisites), providing technology, and providing teachers with the needed devices and training. Filberto’s priorities are teachers pay, child safety, class size reduction, local control funding, and children with special needs. Petersen’s is accountability, high stakes testing, local control, defending Public Education, and children on the Autism spectrum. Badger’s is accountability, early childhood education, parent participation, providing sufficient resources, reducing dropout rates, safety and security, special needs children, and teachers and staffing. Schmerelson  focuses on local control, teachers, and adult education. There are some repeated themes here, and some aspects that shows a disconnect with Galtatzen.

But what’s important. For the most part, I didn’t have a problem with LAUSD. I wish teachers were paid what they are worth, but that’s not going to happen with budgets as they are. I wish there weren’t some of the idiotic rules, but the came in because of idiots. There’s the large issue of safety, but valley campuses are mostly safe. I saw no problems with parent participation — for those that wanted to participate. I can’t address special needs children, not having one.

I read through all the issues statements. There’s general railing against standardized testing — but that’s a state and federal requirement, not under local control. There’s general railing against teacher pay. We’d all love to pay teachers more, but only have so much budget. Unless you scrap or adjust Prop 13, we’re not going to be able to pay teachers what they deserve or need, and that’s a tragedy. But the school board can only allocate the pot, and there’s only so much to go around — and further, some is restricted on where it can be applied. There’s lots of railing against Deasy’s iPad plan. Well Deasy is gone, and things are being reevaluated.

I just can’t build up the enthusiasm for this one. Unless someone convinces me otherwise, I’m either going to abstain (leaving it to the parents with kids in the system to decide) or go for the incumbent.

Conclusion: Abstain or Galatzen

Los Angeles Community College District

Talk about a contest with even less interest that LAUSD — how about community college. We have four seats : 1, 3, 5, 7 and candidates I know nothing about. Not a lot of incumbents here, and not a lot of issues I know about. This is where I’m going to depend on the research of the LA Times staff and their recommendations:

Seat 1:  Andra Hoffman

Seat 3: Sydney Kamlager

Seat 5: Scott Svonkin

Seat 7: Mike Fong

In general, I agree with the Times reasoning.

Charter Amendments 1 and 2

Both of these charter amendments have the same goal: eliminate the silliness of the off-year election that everyone ignores. They move the city election dates and schedules, and the LAUSD dates and schedules, to align with Federal and State elections (i.e., even years). This means that in 2015 and 2017, candidates will have 5½ year terms to bring them into alignment with even years, and have everything line up in 2020.

I think this is a good idea, but there’s one shortcoming: What about the LA Community College District? Imagine the waste if that is the only thing on odd year ballots. I urge those to be aligned to even years as well.

Conclusion: For 1 and 2.

And that’s it. This election is a yawn.

 

The Inner Thoughts of a Girl Group

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Feb 22, 2015 @ 10:25 am PST

Inside Out (Grove Theatre Center)userpic=dramamasksI discover the shows I go to in many ways. For the theatres to which I subscribe, they pick the shows for me; in fact, that’s one reason I subscribe — to discover shows I might not otherwise pick. But the vast majority of shows I see I pick. I learn about them through promotion by Goldstar and LA Stage Tix; I learn about them from emails from publicists (they seem to think I’m a critic — I may write up the shows I see, but I’m computer security guy and professional audience). I learn about them from ads in programs (such as Footlights). I often learn about new musicals from Ellen Dostal’s excellent blog Musicals in LA. [and I should plug that I monitor this stuff with an excellent RSS reader, Newsblur, which is a great way to keep on top of websites]. Ellen’s blog alerted me to the show we saw last night — the 20th Anniversary production of Inside Out (FB) at the Grove Theatre Center (FB).  I had been looking for a show for this weekend, and just didn’t find one that screamed “come and see me”. Chavez Ravine at the Kirk Douglas came closest, but I couldn’t find tickets. This show called to me for a number of reasons: (1) it was a musical; (2) I had heard good things about Adryan Russ (FB) and her music before; (3) Bruce Kimmel (FB) was involved,  and we’ve liked the shows he’s done in the past (one, two, three); and (4) the subject matter sounded interesting. The net result: the first of two weekends seeing shows in Burbank. The verdict: This one is worth going to see — great performance, great musical, and a grand time.

Inside Out (with book by Doug Haverty (FB), music by Adryan Russ (FB), and lyrics by Doug Haverty (FB) and Adryan Russ (FB)) tells the story of a girl group. But not that kind of girl group — this isn’t Baby It’s You or some other jukebox musical. Rather, this is the story of a woman’s therapy group in the 1980s. This provides the opportunities for the women to talk and work out their problems, which provides the authors the opportunity to comment on the issues women faced with careers, the balance of work and family, and relationships. It also provided the opportunity to comment on failure and the path of recovery from failure.  This could have been a sit-and-talkfest; the fact that the participants sing through their problems is just an unsaid given. It’s the norm of the universe established in the first song.

Given the nature of this musical and this universe, the plot isn’t your traditional “tell a story” plot that one might see in Oklahoma. Instead, the plot is more on the order of A Chorus Line — learning the back story of a bunch of characters and watching them grow and change as they tell their stories and interact. For this to succeed, the mix of characters has to be right. Luckily, the authors chose a good mix: a mom who is dealing with changing body image issues after having children; a successful business woman with a stay-at-home husband and teenagers; a flighty CYT (cute young thing) into numerology and such; and a lesbian banker with a rapping teen son. The impetus for the show is the addition of a new group member: a well-known pop musician who hasn’t published anything or performed in years. The group discussions (and the songs presenting those discussions) touch upon a number of “touchpoint” subjects: the desire to be thin, the desire for a good relationship, what women want from men, the growth and depth of relationships, facing one’s fears, and taking chances. That the show successfully does that was reflected in the reactions of the women audience members — and I’m not talking just about those that know the cast members, but those that paid to be there (such as my wife, who thoroughly enjoyed the show).

Inside Out PhotosI’d venture to say that another reason for success was a directoral light touch. But in reality, I have no idea what the “touch” of the director, Bruce Kimmel (FB), was — and this is a good thing. I tend to believe that the sign of a good director — just like good sound and lights — is that they are transparent. You think everything is coming naturally from the actors. In this show, I couldn’t see obvious signs of overt direction — it all seemed that these were natural characters who loved being themselves. I guess that means there was good direction.

It didn’t hurt that the performances were top notch either. You can see most of the cast in two publicity photos I lifted from the Goldstar site, but note that we had the understudy in the role of Dena. All of the cast was excellent, so let’s talk about them (not behind their backs):

My favorite was Adrienne Visnic (FB) as Sage, the “freethinker”. She just radiated in the role — happiness, bemusement, joy, rapture. It was just a delight to watch her face — not only when she was upfront singing a song, but when she was in the background reacting to the other performers. She was very strong in her numbers, particularly “I Don’t Say Anything” and “Let It Go”. “I Don’t Say Anything” was a number that particularly hit home, as I could sense my wife thinking many of those thoughts about me :-).

Coming in a very very very close second was Stephanie Fredricks (FB) as Chlo, the lesbian banker. We’ve seen her before at REP in I Love You, You’re Perfectand I loved her performance then. She was great here, in much the same way as Ms. Visnic — her background and interaction with the other characters was great. You just got the sense that these women actually liked each other and were friends from this interplay. I don’t believe that level of nuance can come from direction — this comes from the actresses. She was wonderful in her lead numbers such as “never Enough”, but I also enjoyed watching her in the background in numbers such as “Thin.”

“Thin” brings us to the next actress I really liked (OK, I’ll admit it, I liked them all): Dana Meller (FB) as Molly. Meller’s first number, “Thin”, did a perfect job of establishing her character and echoing with the audience (as it touched on body image issues); her major number in the second act, “The Passing of a Friend” was also a hit. Again: great singing, great reaction, great interplay with the other characters and a delight to watch. I’ll note we’ve seen Meller before in both Insanity and Pest Control at the No Ho Arts Center. I still fondly remember Pest Control, and wish it would be revived and have a cast album.

Sandy Bainum (FB) was  strong as Liz, the high powered corporate executive. I initially didn’t warm to her character — I’m not sure if it was her look or the attitude she gave off. However, by the second act when the character loosened up, I was sold. She was great in her “Do It At Home” number, and just watching the transformation of the character was great.

For Dena — the character who seemingly was the focus of the group — we didn’t have the main player, Leslie Stevens (FB). Rather, we had the understudy, Jill Marie Burke (FB). Burke had a very different look than the other characters, and as with Bainum’s character, I was initially cold. Yet again, however, the performance won me over — by the second act as the character warmed up to the environment and the group, she shone. Burke nailed it on the songs and did great on the lines (one or two hesitations, but hey, this was an understudy situation, so they were truly minor). All of her numbers were great, but I’ll particularly highlight her second act numbers, “All I Do Is Sing” and “Reaching Up”. Of course, if her character really wants to find a venue where she can sing again, she should look no further than LA’s vibrant 99 seat theatre scene. More on that in a minute.

Lastly, bringing all these women together was the group therapist, Grace (Cynthia Ferrer (FB)). I could have sworn we had seen Ferrer before, but her name doesn’t appear in any of my writeups. I’m guessing this is because her character exuded that comfort and familiarity. She shone in her Act Two opener, “Grace’s Nightmare”.

The musical numbers were staged by Bruce Kimmel (FB) and Leslie Stevens (FB). Music supervision was by Alby Potts (FB), who provided the offstage music with someone else whose name I didn’t write down and who doesn’t appear to be obvious in the program. The movement and dance worked well, particularly in Dana Meller’s numbers. Music was strong throughout. Music arrangements were by Ned Ginsberg (FB), with vocal arrangements by E. Suzan Ott.

This brings us to the technical side — and the only quibbles with the show. The set design was by Rei Yamamoto/FB, and was very simple — some colored panels, and some office chairs. As they say, no expense was spared :-), but then again, this show has no real locations that had to be created, and the lack of a fancier set allowed the focus to be on the women themselves. Costumes were by Natalya Shaninyan (FB) and provided the quibble from my wife. I’m a guy — I wouldn’t know 80s fashion from a hole in the ground. My wife noted that some of the costume decisions were clearly of the wrong era — in the 80s, there wouldn’t be bare legs, there would be hose and shapers. Similarly, there were some comments from her on blouses tucked vs. untucked. I enjoyed the costumes, but wives often see things that we don’t :-). The sound by Josh Benton was clear and worked well. The lighting by Maarten Cornelis (FB) mostly worked — there were points, in my opinion, where the stage was a little too dark and the actors couldn’t be seen (and they weren’t intentionally in shadow).  Remaining credits: Victoria Chediak (Stage Manager); Maggie Marks (Props / Production Stage Manager), Art + Soul Design (Graphic Design), Michael Sterling (Publicity), Joanna Erdos (FB) (Associate Producer), Kritzerland Entertainment and Play Works Music (Producers).

The 20th Anniversary production of Inside Out (FB) continues at the Grove Theatre Center (FB) in Burbank through March 22, 2015. Tickets are available through Plays411.  Discount tickets may be available through LA Stage Tix and Goldstar. It is well worth seeing.

I Support 99 Seat Theatre in Los AngelesDuring the production, one of the character longs for a place where she can revive her career — a place where she can get back on stage and sing, and get back to being comfortable with performing again. If she was in Los Angeles, she’d have such a place — the wide variety of 99 seat theatres. Alas, on the horizon is a proposal from AEA that might drastically change this scene. The proposal would force 99 seat and under theatres to either give up their non-profit status and only produce actor-mounted productions (unless they were a preexisting membership company), or pay their performers minimum wage for both rehearsals and performances (with a 3 hour minimum per performance). In fact, this very production of Inside Out might not exist under the new rules — it is not an actor produced show, and employs at least 5 AEA actors — meaning that ticket sales and discount sales would not provide enough to pay them. 99 seat theatres would be forced to eschew use of AEA (and possibly SAG/AFTRA actors), and this will hurt the LA scene. If you, like me, are an audience member, you need to get up in arms about this.  Producers have their venues to speak up — through groups like TPPLA. Actors have the standing to protest with Equity. Us audience members? We need to let people know what we think. Are we willing to pay much more for 99 and under seat theatre? Are we willing to see shows with non-equity actors? Learn about the situation, and express your opinion. #Pro99

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I’ve been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: February concludes with a lot of theatre in Burbank. Next weekend bring two more Burbank performances: the Good People Theatre Co (FB)’s production of Maltby/Shire’s Closer Than Ever at Hollywood Piano in the afternoon, and “The Road to Appomattox” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on February 28. March is equally busy, with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner on March 7 (and a Purim Carnival at TAS the next day), “Carrie: The Musical” at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB) on March 14, a “Drowsy Chaperone” at CSUN on Friday March 20, “Doubt” at REP East (FB) on Saturday March 21, “Newsies” at the Pantages (FB) on March 28, followed by Pesach and the Renaissance Faire on April 11. Other than the Faire, April is pretty much open (as is May), but I expect that to start changing soon (for example, I just booked “Loopholes” for the first weekend in May). As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.

No Pork In This Chum

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Feb 21, 2015 @ 4:17 pm PST

userpic=schmuckThis has been a busy busy week, and I haven’t collected much chum. However, I do have two articles of interest, both related to Judaism:

  • Where Are The Non-Orthodox Rabbis? This is an interesting article from the Forward looking at the shrinking class size of non-Orthodox denominational rabbinic schools. It also discusses the growth of the non-denominated rabbinic schools. Note that I’m not saying Orthodox rabbinic schools — rather, these are schools that accept a wide variety of practice from the rabbinic students, and teach Judaism — not a particular movement. This reflects a change that is happening in non-Orthodox Judaism as a whole — the movements and traditional synagogues are having trouble attracting members, whereas institutions that are just Jewish and just accepting are growing as they are seen as a form of “authentic” Judaism. Orthodoxy is growing, but as usual it is set apart a bit. Chabad is that odd beast, straddling the middle — accepted by those looking for “authentic” Judaism, but not quite seen as the unaccepting traditional Orthodoxy. This actually reflects Chabad’s approach of being accepting first and foremost.
  • Are Jews Responsible for Antisemitism? Note that I’m not asking the question myself — rather, it was asked this week in response to the attacks in Copenhagen. The question itself is insulting — it is the equivalent of asking a rape victim if they were responsible for their rape because of how they dressed or behaved. People need to learn that hatred towards any class is unacceptable, and violence towards any class is unacceptable. No one “asks for it”. This is true whether that class is based on sex (mysogyny and violence against women), sexual preference (violence towards gays), gender identification, race, or religion (and that includes that other form of Anti-semitism (this time with the hyphen) — violence against Muslims just because they are Muslim). This is a fight and a concern about which we all must be aware.