Forty Years Later, and Across the Ocean

2nd Annual Tumbleweed TownshipToday, while a bunch of my friends were visiting Victorian England at the Dickens Fair (FB), I was visiting a different historical reenactment: Tumbleweed Township (FB). When asked to describe what Tumbleweed is, the best explanation is: Take a RenFaire and move it to Western America in the 1880s. In many ways, that was what was literally done: Tumbleweed is produced by the same team that produces the new Nottingham Festival (FB), in the same location, with many of the same vendors, the week after the two week Nottingham Festival.

The first year, Tumbleweed was a bit unsure of itself. It was damp and cold, and the layout was odd. But it survived to a second year, which is a good thing.

The layout this year was similar to Nottingham two weeks previous — no big surprise there. There seemed to be slightly more artisans, although a number that were there the first year (notably, the folks where I got my hat and my Yucca walking stick) were not back, and a number did not say from Nottingham (again, not a complete surprise, as some vendors wouldn’t work as well in the Old West setting). There was a reasonably good variety — some food (although more is really needed, especially for those gluten free), a number of knives and metal work, boots, costumes, jewelry, perfume, and such.  There were no stave or pottery vendors. I hope the vendors did well enough to justify their return next year, and that more vendors join them.

I watched a bit of a few shows. They had the same problem that Nottingham did: they needed more musical acts. There were a few, and a number of storytellers and historical reenactments. There was a shootout and a land grab, and loads of games for the kids (including horseshoes).

I tend to like Tumbleweed a bit more, perhaps because the time period is a lot more accessible and accepting. By that, I mean that many of the historical attitudes towards minorities and other religions that were present in Elizabethan and even Victorian England are less present than in the Old West. There are still problematic attitudes towards Native Americans and Women, but that will exist in almost any historical reenactment because, well, you know, history. But the costuming is also more accessible — jeans, suspenders, a flannel shirt and a western hat work well, and there are much fewer anachronisms in costuming (except for the steampunks, but even they fit in a bit better because Jules Verne is about the same time).

Still, I would really like Tumbleweed to succeed a bit more. They may need to embrace the time of year a bit more: we’re talking mid-to-late November, so incorporating some Winter holidays could work. Bring in “A Mulholland  Christmas Carol” — not only is it roughly time and theme appropriate, it is area appropriate given the Township is in Simi Valley.

Of course, you can spread the word as well, and even come on Sunday. Tickets are available at the gate or online (where they are cheaper). More information is on their website (and note that unlike that Big Festival at the Dam Site, parking is easy and free).

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts 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 am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) [the company formerly known as Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)], the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre(FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). 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:

Tomorrow, it’s Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) on Sunday. Thanksgiving Weekend will bring Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). November concludes with the Anat Cohen Tentet at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB) and  Levi (a new Sherman Brothers musical) at LA Community College Caminito Theatre (FB).

December starts with ACSAC 2017 in Orlando FL. As soon as we return, we’ve got Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB) and the Colburn Orchestra at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB). The weekend encompassing Chanukah sees us back at the Saroya  (FB) for the Klezmatics (FB). We also hope to squeeze in a performance of A Christmas Story at the Canyon Theatre Guild (FB). Of course there will also be the obligatory Christmas Day movie — who knows — perhaps it’ll be the upcoming The Greatest Showman.

Right now, early 2018 is pretty open, with only a few weekends taken by shows at the Pantages and Actors Co-Op. I did just pick up tickets for Candide at LA Opera (FB). But that will likely fill up as Chromolume announces their dates, and announcements are received on interesting shows. Currently, we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018! We may also be adding a CTG subscription, given their recent announcements regarding the next season.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

Share

A Promising Beginning | “Edges” @ Theatre CSUN

Edges (Theatre CSUN)A few months ago, when we went to see the musical  Hello, Again at Chromolume Theatre (FB), they had a series of videos playing before the show started. One of these videos was the song “Be My Friend” from the musical song cycle Edges, which Chromolume had presented during the 2016 Hollywood Fringe Festival. Edges turned out to be a song cycle written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (FB) during their undergraduate days in Michigan — their first show, as it was. This duo would later to go on to write shows such as Dogfight, A Christmas Story (which is having a number of productions now, including one at Canyon Theatre Guild with our friend Georgann, and a live TV production) and a little thing called Dear Evan Hansen; and for movies, the songs for La La Land and the upcoming The Greatest Showman.  However, Edges has never been recorded; they only way to get the music is to snarf the audio tracks from the various YouTube performances of the songs.

This, of course, meant that I was jonesing to see a production of the show. When we recently went to see Upright Citizens Brigade at  The Soraya,  the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB), we found a postcard that indicated that the CSUN Theatre Department (FB) was doing Edges as part of their Fall season. By the end of the week, my wife (a CSUN alum) had used her alumni card to get us tickets for the show.

Guess where we were last night?

As noted earlier, Edges is a song-cycle. This means there is no plot; no specific characters. According to Pasek and Paul, it was written with the intention to share the many perspectives of 20-somethings as they come into their own and face the challenges of adulthood. It reflects the time that Pasek and Paul were in college — the early 2000s. There isn’t even a fixed order of songs: the license package includes the songs from the original production in 2005 and the songs from a revised production in 2007, and Pasek and Paul encourage producers to draw from those sets to create a version of the show that speaks to them. This goes to what, perhaps, is the one major flaw of the CSUN production: the printed program. There is no song list in the program to show CSUN’s order (which is a mix of both 2005 and 2007), nor a list of which performers sing which songs. If these shows are intended to be a showcase and spotlight for the performers, the audience needs to know who is singing what.

Edges CastLuckily, for you the reader, my Facebook-foo and internet search abilities are strong, and I was able to find you some pictures of the actors, and I’m familiar with the songs (and hopefully, I remember who sang them). But I do encourage CSUN Theatre to beef up their programs. It is only an additional black and white sheet — perhaps 10¢ a program — and it could make a big difference in the careers of your actors.

Edges was directed by Kari Hayter (FB), whose work we have seen both a CSUN (Urinetown and The Drowsy Chaperone) and at The Chance Theatre (FB). Watching the performers, I was surprised that — for a song cycle — there was so much performance. Hayter brought out in her actors the characters in the songs. If you get a chance to go see the show (and you should, but note that some performances are already sold out), watch the faces and the bodies in addition to listening to the songs. You’ll be blown away by the expressiveness and emotion these young performers bring to the stage.

The cast itself bring a mix of experience. For some, this is one of their first shows. Others have been in a number of productions at CSUN as well as out in the real world with companies such as Canyon Theatre Guide, Simi Arts, MTW, and of course, the Chance. This led to another suggestion I would make to the cast: warm up your singing voice before starting. I was unsure about a few of the voices at the beginning of the show, but by the end I loved them all. This means that the issue wasn’t the quality of the voice, just a missing warm up. As with any muscle, stretching before use gives a better result.

The more seasoned performers stood out from their first notes.  I was blown away by Jisel Ayon (FB), Alissa Finn (FB), and Leonel Ayala (FB) from the start. They nailed their songs and were a delight to watch and listen too. Ayon was particularly strong in all her songs, including the penultimate “Ready to be Loved”. I recall Finn was great in “Caitlyn and Haley” among other numbers, and there was a solo number by Ayala (of which I can’t recall the name — us oldsters need that list) that was just spectacular.

This is not to say the others were significantly less. It was just those three that made the impression first, the next tier of impressions that hit me were Darian Ramirez (FB), Shyheim Parker/Shyhiem Parker (FB), and Jared Price (FB). Ramirez was just spectacular — I thought I heard her in the background on the opening number, and then she had some solo pieces and …. wow. This included her interaction with the audience in “I’ve Gotta Run”. Parker also has a strong voice I thought I heard in the opening, which then came out spectacularly in his solo number (which I can’t recall the name of). Lastly, Price had a solo number (drats, no song list, and this 57-year old mind is blanking) that was really great.

I was initially unsure about Ethan Barker (FB) and Shiku Thuo (FB), but I think the problem was a warm-up one. Both were remarkably expressive in terms of performance, and were strong in their later solo numbers. In the latter half of the show, In particular, Thuo had a number where her face was just a delight to watch.

But this 8-person cast came together in the group numbers. Just watch their expressions — and the audience reactions — in numbers like “Be My Friend (The Facebook Song)”. Just a joy to watch. Watch them in the background in numbers like “Ready to be Loved” or the “Opening”, and you can see that this is more than solo performances glommed together: this is a cast that jelled and was having fun together. As I always like to note: a cast that is having fun with their show telegraphs that to the audience, and the joy is amplified.

Music was provided by two on-stage musicians: Peter Shannon (FB) on Piano and Athanasios Gousios (FB) on Drums. Watch Shannon in particular as he gets ready to rock out on the final number. They were having fun as well.

Turning to the production side: Efren Delgadillo (FB) scenic design was relatively simple: some platforms on both sides of the center stage, augmented with a few chairs and, occasionally, properties designed by Rob Murray. This was augmented by a lighting design by Mark Svastics (FB) that mostly worked well; there were a few times performers were ahead of the lights and in the dark for a second or two. Omnipresent Cricket Myers (FB) did the sound. Alas, there were some opening night problems here ranging from microphone static to occasional muffled sound. Hopefully post-opening adjustments should fix that. Costumes were designed by Elizabeth Cox (FB) and Brynn Mangelsdorf. These mostly worked well — and I particularly liked the outfits that Ayon and Ramirez were wearing. Rounding out the credits, Peter Shannon (FB) was the music director, and Quentin Melikidse (FB) was the stage manager.

Edges by the CSUN Theatre Department (FB) continues at the Experimental Theatre of VPAC through December 3, although some performances are already sold out. Tickets are available through the Associated Students Ticket Office at 818/677-2488 or through Ticketmaster. More information is available on the Event Page. This event is not available on Goldstar.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts 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 am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) [the company formerly known as Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)], the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre(FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). 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:

Today sees us at the Tumbleweed Festival (FB); Tomorrow, it’s Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) on Sunday. Thanksgiving Weekend will bring Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). November concludes with the Anat Cohen Tentet at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB) and  Levi (a new Sherman Brothers musical) at LA Community College Caminito Theatre (FB).

December starts with ACSAC 2017 in Orlando FL. As soon as we return, we’ve got Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB) and the Colburn Orchestra at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB). The weekend encompassing Chanukah sees us back at the Saroya  (FB) for the Klezmatics (FB). We also hope to squeeze in a performance of A Christmas Story at the Canyon Theatre Guild (FB). Of course there will also be the obligatory Christmas Day movie — who knows — perhaps it’ll be the upcoming The Greatest Showman.

Right now, early 2018 is pretty open, with only a few weekends taken by shows at the Pantages and Actors Co-Op. I did just pick up tickets for Candide at LA Opera (FB). But that will likely fill up as Chromolume announces their dates, and announcements are received on interesting shows. Currently, we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018! We may also be adding a CTG subscription, given their recent announcements regarding the next season.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

Share

Sexual Shenanigans

Some thoughts on all the sexual harassment / abuse / shenanigans that have been in the news of late:

  • This is not a partisan issue. What all of those accused have in common is that they are men, typically of a certain era.
  • There are levels of abuse being lumped together, from the off-color jokes or outside the clothes gestures on the least end to true sexual harassment and abuse (i.e., abuse of power relationship), improprieties with those underage, predatory activities, and activities after consent was not given. There are also ranges from one-time incidents where the behavior was an anomaly, to repeated patterns of behavior with multiple accusers.
  • The concern should be less with the one-time minor cases and more with repeated patterns of abuse that have continued over multiple years.
  • The response to the accusations is also significant: there is a different between recognizing wrong behavior and apologizing for it, between admitting the behavior and indicating you viewed it as acceptable, and denying the behavior. On the correct end of the spectrum is recognition, apology, and acceptance of the apology, without a continuing pattern. On the wrong end of the spectrum is denial in the face of multiple accusations with evidence of continued behavior.
  • All cases are worthy of investigation and appropriate action. Just as it is proper for the Senate to investigate Sen. Franken’s behavior from before he was elected Senator, they should equally investigate the claims regarding the President’s behavior before he was elected, and similar claims against other sitting officials and those nominated or running for office. Yes, I’m looking at you, Roy Moore. Remember: What these folks have in common is that they are men — this is not a partisan issue where this behavior is acceptable when it is done by your party, but not when done by their party.
  • There is a tension, as I have noted before, between our notions of justice and presumed innocence, and wanting to believe those who have come forward with the claims because they deserve to be heard. Complicating this is the fact that many of these incidents are ages old, with little to no evidence other than he said/she said. We are far too aware of induced memory (such as the McMartin Pre-School case) or people making false claims for various less-than-honorable reasons. This is where looking for a continuing pattern of behavior and claims is important, and consideration of the nature of the behavior. I’m willing to give more benefit-of-the-doubt in the one time, less critical cases, and believe the accuser more when there is a pattern that emerges of more problematic behavior. This is independent of politics.
  • For many of these cases, there must be the recognition that much of this problem is “a product of those times”. Men in the 50s, 60s, and above were raised in a less enlightened era. This may explain (but does not excuse) certain comments and jokes and attitudes, although those behaviors must not be occurring today. The past cannot be changed. However, it does not excuse abuse of power relationships, true harassment and abuse, or predatory behaviors. Those were wrong then, and they are wrong now.*
  • In many cases, this new attitude will expose people who were once respected, and who now are off their pedestal. Bill Cosby is probably the best example of this — it is unclear how one views his humor and records today. Does his behavior make his stories any less funny? There are similar questions for folks like Woody Allen. How does one separate the art from the behavior of the artist? There are similar questions in the area of politics. How does one separate the political results and achievements of a politician (for example, Bill Clinton, George Bush Sr., John Kennedy) from their behavior? The answers will not be easy. As historians note: history is complicated, probably because it comes from humans. The founders of this country were often products of their time and owned slaves. Does that make their results any less admirable? We must recognize these people as men with strengths and weaknesses, not heroes like Superman.

Related: Actually, It’s Franken’s Monster. (The Nib)

*: In other words, at some points in time certain behaviors were acceptable, such as Rosemary pursuing her boss in How To Succeed In Business…, but are no longer acceptable today. Others, such as abuse of power relationship, predatory behavior towards minors, use of drugs to make people cooperative, non-consensual behavior — have always been wrong. In general, for those behaviors that were once accepted, our problems should be from the point of time something has been judged to be wrong in society, and there has been education that the old norms no longer are. In short, as they say with Kindergarten: “The first time you do it, it’s not a mistake.”. The corollary is: “Once you have been told it is wrong and to stop doing it, do it again and your ass is grass.”

Share

Essay Prompts: Correlation is not Causation

Here’s an interesting fact: Humans are stupid. I don’t mean to imply we don’t have intelligence (although some who claim to have a high IQ, well, let’s just say they get elected to public office on other qualities). Rather, we put our trust in things we shouldn’t (and not just politicians). We are horrible at judging risk. We often see things that just are not there. We often believe the most ridiculous nonsense about cooking, such as fresh ground salt is better.  Worst of all, we often confuse correlation with causation.

  • Correlation: a mutual relationship or connection between two or more things
  • Causation: the relationship between cause and effect; causality.

Here are two examples of this confusion I’ve seen in my news feeds and on FB:

One fellow wrote about a friend of his that got a good report from the doctor in a followup visit, stating: “He’s definitely living proof that God answers prayers.” No, he isn’t. It is wonderful that the friend is doing better, but there is no causality here. You can pray to God or a Saint and get better, but that is not proof that God or the Saint was *why* you got better, no matter what the Pope says. There is no proven or provable, testable, repeatable method of showing that one action causes the other.

Another fellow wrote about high tax states, citing a article that he believed said that “high state taxes cause people to leave those states, making it very difficult to actually increase tax revenue, no matter how high their tax rates get.” Again, there’s no causality here. Yes people leave high tax states, but they leave low tax states as well, for many many reasons. Taxes may be a reason, but typically it isn’t the precipitating reason. And in the absence of clear evidence that whereever taxes are higher, people leave, this is just correlation. There are many high tax states where people don’t leave (witness property values in California) and high tax countries where people don’t leave. Further, “people” is far too nebulous a category, for all people are not the same. Are you talking those with wealth? Those on fixed incomes? Retirees? People in particular industries? The issue is just too nebulous to attribute to causality.

Always remember storks and babies. I had a statistics professor explain it this way: You may think there is a causality between storks and babies, because whereever there are more babies, there are more storks. But that’s a spurious correlation: there are more babies where there are more storks because there are more babies in big cities, and big cities often have zoos, which have more storks. No causality there.

Keep this in mind as you read your papers.

Share

Internet / Security

The never ending task of paring down my saved chum list brings you this collection of articles related to the Internet and Internet security. Pay attention folks — there’s some good stuff here. Also, remember the key adage: If you get a service for free, you are the product, not the customer.

  • Be Alert for Phishing. I’ve always opined that the key risk from the Equifax and other breaches is not identity theft, but phishing. Help Net agrees: they view phishing as a bigger threat than keyloggers or third party breaches. They researched the subject, and noted that “victims of phishing are 400x more likely to be successfully hijacked compared to a random Google user. In comparison, this rate falls to 10x for data breach victims and roughly 40x for keylogger victims. Keyloggers fall in between these extremes, with an odds ratio of roughly 40x”. The reason for this is that phishing kits also actively steal additional authentication factors (secret questions, phone number, device-related information, geolocation data) that can be used to impersonate the victim and bypass protections put in place by email (and other online service) providers.
  • So What is Phishing/Spearphishing? Here is a wonderful infographic/cartoon on how to protect yourself from Spearphishing. Along the way, it explains what spearphishing is, how it influenced an election (and potentially gave us President Trump) . It also contains some good tips about how to protect yourself from phishing. Note that, depending on where you work, this may be NSFW.
  • Lava Lamps and Security. Entropy. That’s “N”-“Tro”-“Pee”. Say it with me. Entropy is the property of how random your random numbers are. These numbers are usually generated by computers, and depend upon a random seed to start the process. A big issue is: how do you get the seed? Cloudflare does it in a very interesting and analog way: Lava Lamps. A lava lamp is a great way to generate randomness. Cloudflare videotapes its wall of colorful constantly morphing lava lamps and translates that video information into unique cryptographic keys.
  • Facebook Privacy. Remember my adage about getting a service for free? One such service is Facebook, and they don’t care about your privacy (and neither does that minx, Wendy). But you care about you, and that’s why you’re going to read this article about how to lock down your privacy settings on Facebook. Yes, you can make it so that when you go out searching for such-and-such for a friend (you know, that NSFW such-and-such), you aren’t suddenly deluged with ads on FB for that product.
  • Objectivity of Blog Sites. You’re probably familiar with them: all those blog sites that review this product and that product. Mattress blogs. Makeup blogs. Theatre blogs*. But there’s often a story behind the story about how manufacturers subtly influence them. Remember: if you get a product for free, what are you? Here’s a story I’ve been saving for a while about the Mattress Wars, where a bunch of new mattress stores started a war with mattress bloggers. *This, by the way, is one reason I do not accept free theatre tickets. I choose what I want to see and write about. I follow the ethical model of Consumers Reports. I will pay for tickets what I would have paid through the various discount ticket services I know about.

 

Share

But Just Don’t Stare | Folk Reunion @ T.O. Kavli Theatre

Folk Reunion (Thousand Oaks Kavli)Over the weekend, we had the opportunity to go the Kavli Theatre in Thousand Oaks (FB) to see what was being sold as a “Kingston Trio” concert, but was really what was called a “Folk Reunion. What this meant was that there were two groups: The first act was John Sebastian (FB) (of the Loving Spoonful, as well as his solo career); the second act was the current incarnation of what is called the “Kingston Trio” (FB) (but which contains none of the original Trio members). Owing to a migraine, I didn’t note any setlists.

John Sebastian opened the show with a one-hour reminiscence, starting with stories of Mississippi John Hurt. I was familiar with John Hurt from Tom Paxton’s shows; I had no idea that Sebastian was also influenced in his guitar stylings from him. Such an influential man. He basically told the story chronologically of how he entered into folk music, and how the Spoonful got started — again, demonstrating the importance of the Greenwich Village NY scene to the folk revival. Along the way, he did representative tunes and a number of his hits, most of which I was familiar with (I wasn’t familiar with his theme song for the Care Bears, and alas he didn’t do “That’s Cat“). But he did do other Spoonful hits, and I found his history lesson quite enjoyable.

After the intermission, the Trio came on. John Sebastian was the real guy — the original who had been there at the birth. The Trio, on the other hand, was just the latest incarnation. If you read the history of the Trio on Wikipedia,  you’ll know that — just like the Limeliters — they went through a number of incarnations over their history, to the point where the group performing has the sound and the shirts, but not the history. The original Trio was  Dave GuardBob Shane, and Nick Reynolds. Disagreements in the group led to Guard leaving and being replaced with John Stewart. That configuration lasted until a hiatus in 1967. A “New Kingston Trio” was later formed by Bob Shane with a number of different artists over the years. In 1976, they were able to drop the “New”, and the KT was Shane, Roger Gambill, and George Grove, and after Gambill died, there were a number of configurations.

The Trio that we saw was the latest version, and consisted of Josh Reynolds, who is the son of Nick Reynolds, a founding member of the band, his cousin Gerald “Mike” Marvin, and  Tim Gorelangton. This configuration, after some legal kerfuffles, started performing in October of this year.

Now to true Folkies like me, the Kingston Trio is … problematic. They are one of the few groups responsible for the growth of folk music in the late 1950s — it was their success that led to folks like Tom Paxton, Peter Paul and Mary, The Brothers Four, the Chad Mitchell Trio and many others. They had a sound and an energy that was infectious. However, they also were not folk purists. They changed lyrics, often for the worse (you should hear what they did to Oleanna). They butchered the story of Tom Dula into Tom Dooley. They claimed royalties on traditional songs. All of this is noted in the Wikipedia entry. But, as they say in Urinetown: the music — it’s so good. They have an energy and a fun that makes you forget all that pesky history and tradition.

The current Trio — Reynolds, Marvin, and Gorelangton — have the musical craft down. They know the old songs and the old routines and the pacing (although a few of the songs seem speeded up a little, in particular, “Scotch and Soda”). They know the hits the audience wants to hear. They still get things wrong — they introduced the Ballad of the Shape of Things as an old English Madrigal, when it is nothing of the sort: It was also written by Sheldon Harnick (for the Littlest Revue), just like the Merry Minuet (which they also did).  They are just fun to watch and have a lot of fun on stage.

But they are not the real Trio. They are an enjoyable facsimile, a generation once removed. When you put them with the real history that is Sebastian, there is no comparison. As Tom Paxton said about nostalgia: It’s OK to look back, as long as you don’t stare. With these two groups, you looked back, but you stared for different reasons.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts 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 am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) [the company formerly known as Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)], the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre(FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). 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 brings a Day Out with Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB), as well as The Kingston Trio (FB) at the Kavli Theatre in Thousand Oaks (FB). The third weekend will bring Edges at the CSUN Theatre Department (FB) on Friday, the Tumbleweed Festival (FB) on Saturday, and Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) on Sunday. Thanksgiving Weekend will bring Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). November concludes with the Anat Cohen Tentet at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB) and  Levi (a new Sherman Brothers musical) at LA Community College Caminito Theatre (FB).

December starts with ACSAC 2017 in Orlando FL. As soon as we return, we’ve got Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB) and the Colburn Orchestra at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB). The weekend encompassing Chanukah sees us back at the Saroya  (FB) for the Klezmatics (FB). We also hope to squeeze in a performance of A Christmas Story at the Canyon Theatre Guild (FB). Of course there will also be the obligatory Christmas Day movie.

Right now, early 2018 is pretty open, with only a few weekends taken by shows at the Pantages and Actors Co-Op. I did just pick up tickets for Candide at LA Opera (FB). But that will likely fill up as Chromolume announces their dates, and announcements are received on interesting shows. Currently, we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

 

 

Share

Thirty Years

Today was our annual volunteer day at the Rail Festival, otherwise known as Day Out With Thomas at the Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB). It was an odd day: I only had one shift, and my wife got none; further, walking around the museum I saw fewer and fewer people that I knew. It wasn’t always that way, however….

Walking around the museum, I came to the realization that it had been 30 years since we had joined. 30 years since our first rail festival. In those thirty years we had gone from the youngsters to the old folks. And although I truly appreciate what our friends Thomas and Percy have brought us, I couldn’t help remember the days gone by, and what we had lost.

OERM 1987 RailfestBack in 1987 and into the 1990s and early 2000s, rail festivals were a very different beast. They were run completely by the members of the museum themselves; you would get a volunteer bid sheet and request your assignments — from Loader to Car Attendant to Car Barn Attendant to Street Guard (a very boring assignment). Over the years, you would get to know the members quite well. They would bring their kids as they got older, and they would grow into car attendants in their own right and regularly come to the museum. I remember Maurice and his kids Sondra and Jeff, and quite a few others. In this way, the museum became a family: you knew everyone and they knew you. If your kid ran off, even at a festival, they knew who to direct them back to.

We ran the tracks to capacity — you can see the schedule from 1987 on the right, including two pictures from back then (including DOT 12, which is now OERM 1956 (I think, could be OERM 1975), and my lovely wife after 2 years of marriage). We would trypically run a diesel on the main line, the Key System Unit (which hasn’t run in years) down to Barn 4, a steam engine pulled caboose train, and sometimes the big Red Cars (usually a blimp – such as 418-498) on the main line. We’d also run quite a few cars on the loop line, including the really old Kyoto car from Japan. Back in the early days, we only ran part of the way to downtown Perris — as far as we had electrified the track. I still remember the vines and gourds that grew out there. Later we finally got permission to run to the Perris Depot: we would have three trains alternating, and yet another train in Perris continuing to run North to Neuvo. The first year in Perris we were mobbed — I still remember Ray Ward and I figuring out how to put out the stanchions to control the crowd.

The museum itself was a lot of dirt roads — or perricrete (hard pack Perris dirt). Stanchions were made at the museum of yellow rope, poles, and rail wheels. It was a very informal family thing. We would all gather in Town Hall at the end of each day for Ed Vandeventer to give us the attendance numbers, and then most of us would adjourn to the Sizzler (later Tres Amigos) to get together for dinner.

Family is a good word to describe what the museum was in those days. Even if you got out to Perris infrenquently due to the drive — twice a year for Rail Fest — you knew most folks from the festivals. People were treated with respect.

But times change and things grow. In 2002 a little blue train came to Perris for the first time. It was back in 2003. Since then, it has been back every year, and is now back twice a year. The museum has added Thomas’ friend Percy the last three years, as well as adding the Peanut’s characters to our Pumpkin Patch event. This is all well and good, but has changed so many things.

First, the nature of membership has changed quite a bit. Back in the 80s and 90s, all members were volunteers interested in Rail history: in addition to rail fests, they would come out to work on train restoration, learn how to be operators, and take care of the museum. Since Thomas, membership has (at least to me) expanded to what I could call the parent brigade: parents who join museums for their kids for special admission prices and such. These folks don’t volunteer, they don’t become integrated into the family. It like being a member at the Zoo or the Art Museum. Such members are vital for a success of a museum, but they represent the move into the larger world, and the transition away from the small family. Casualty of growth.

Our little blue friend has also changed the physical plant. The blue friend brings in a green friend that isn’t Percy: one that can be spent on infrastructure improvements. Thomas has brought better signage, significantly more paving, better landscaping, and a whole host of big and little improvements from drainage to bathrooms. Members and donors have also met the challenge: new building such as Grizzley Flats (Barn 6), Four Tracks Out Back (Barn 7), and the Archives Building came from the members, as did more storage land that allowed all the old trains cluttering the interior of the museum to move moved away from visitors. Safer, cleaner, but less character. Infrastructure improvements are a good thing.

The growth of DOWT has changed the festival. The traditional railfest has gone by the wayside. There’s a member event still in the Spring, but it is nothing like what we did during the old railfest with just members as volunteers. In many ways, that’s because many of the older members have gone on to the big depot in the sky (and we miss them) or have moved away (and we miss them). Railfests are primarily DOWT these days, and the volunteers are provided by loads and loads of sharp and capable young men and women from groups like the Civil Air Patrol, Explorers, ROTC, nearby Military Schools — all earning service credit and doing good for the community. It is really wonderful to see these hard-working youngsters — you know there are good kids out there. But it is different than the family that we had.

The festival is now different in terms of events — largely because a festival of diesel, steam, and trolley cars just isn’t the draw it was 30 years ago. Now in addition to Thomas, there are kids areas and Thomas merchandise and photo-ops and food vendors — and it really is a well planned day. Here’s a mom’s eye view of DOWT that was shared this year. It really shows how the event is so so different. It is a celebration of Thomas, not the museum itself.

The museum has grown and added new events, such as the Steampunk Weekend. They’ve added things for the kids, like Daniel Tiger to the Trolley Car night. There has been increased thinking about the museum as a museum and its mission of preservation and interpretation as opposed to simple collecting. [To understand, contrast something like the Valley Relics Museum with the Museum of the San Fernando Valley]

I’m not trying to say that the museum has lost its way, or that Thomas is a cult leader like Sun Myung Moon or L. Ron Hubbard. Far far from that. I think that my buddies Thomas and Percy and their friends Charlie and Daniel has been great for the museum. Instead, I’m just noting the culmulation of incremental change that I’ve seen from 1987 to 2017. I miss the old days, the hard work, and most importantly, the people. But times change, and people pass and move away, and institutions grow and mature. OERM is still instilling a love of trains and travel history in our young, and bringing back memories to the old. But it is different, and festival feels oh so different.

But I still plan to be there next November.

Dining Notes: As we got out of the museum early (around 4pm), we meandered back home. Along the way, we found a great Salvadoran restaurant in Pomona, Hot Cazuelas (FB). We had a wonderful and inexpensive dinner, and talking with the owner later we discovered he used to own Salvadoran restaurants in our neck of the woods (North Hills) that we loved. One he sold and it has become something else, but the other (FB) has the cook from the one we loved and we still frequent them. We plan to go back. Hot Cazuelas is on Holt about 2 blocks W of Route 71, 1395 W. Holt Avenue. I had their Chicken with Grilled Onions and it was great, but their specialty is seafood.

Share

Too Soon?

I’ve written about this concern before (I was going to use the word “touched”, but that brings up such wrong images): reading all the news about sexual harassment claims against this politician or that actor or this entertainment executive or that comedian, I’m beginning to worry about when we are crossing into McMartin Preschool territory. Those not familiar with the reference should read the link given.

Basically, the concern is distinguishing real claims from misremembered claims: for those cases where someone is accused of sexual harrassment or impropriety, and does not admit to the charge. Certainly, if the person admits to the charge, then the community response is appropriate (in addition to any permissible legal claims). If they don’t admit, however, before we rush to the closet to get out the tar and feathers, we should investigate the claims to make sure they are valid. I’m not attempting to say those making accusations are all liars — far from it. Most are likely valid and remembering something. But there will be some who will misremember (often out of media hysteria (another word we need to replace)), and a few who will making the claims for other purposes. Much as it might be in our nature to assume the worst — so easy and schadenfreude-ish to believe they did it — our country is based on law and evidence. If there is no acceptance of guilt, there should be corroboration to substantiate the claim. [ETA: This could include, by the way, clear patterns of behavior over many years against multiple parties. I’m more worried about the onsie-twosie cases, with no clear pattern or history of behavior.]

It is so easy to assume everyone is evil, but students of history can point to many time where accusations were made — and people’s lives irreparably harmed — when there was no basis for the accusation. We owe it to all involved to investigate the claim as if it were true, but be willing to not act on the claim if that investigate cannot confirm anything. Yes, this means that some guilty people will get away with their past behavior.  I think — I hope — that we would rather have that happen occasionally than to be putting innocent people in prison and destroying their careers. Further, the accusation will often increase scrutiny, reducing the likelihood of that behavior happening again (or if it does, it being caught with evidence).

(Note that for a number of these accusations, the public can choose to take actions on their own. If studios don’t choose to stop the release of a movie, just don’t go to it. Don’t vote for the person. Don’t buy products that make them money. The public does have some power.)

(ETA a later thought: And, if you are accused and you did do something: admit exactly what you did, and take the consequences. We teach our children that actions have consequences for a reason and they must tell the truth, and you set a bad example when you think you are above what your parents taught you).

Share