Observations Along the Road

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

Two, Four, Six, Eight, …

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri May 26, 2017 @ 12:05 pm PDT

Here is some recently collected news chum, linked by a numerical progression:

 

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Tea Time 2017

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu May 25, 2017 @ 8:13 pm PDT

As I’m down to my last tin of tea, other than my large tin of Iranian Ceylon, it is time to do another tea order. My last order was in July 2015, so it has almost been 2 years. Again, the bulk of the order is from Upton Tea (who has great varietals), except for one tea that they are out of. Here’s what I’m ordering this time (as before, teas shown with 🍵 are new this year; ☕ indicates repeats from 2015; ☕☕ indicates repeats from 2013; ☕☕☕ repeats from 2012):

  1. TD06: Orthodox BOP Darjeeling.  🍵 The best value in Darjeeling tea. Broken leaf Darjeeling is often overlooked, either because the price is so reasonable or because too much value is placed on a more stylish leaf. This flavorful BOP blend offers a great cup at a very attractive price. $8.25/125g.
  2. TD50: No.1 Tippy Orthodox GFOP Darjeeling. ☕☕ An exceptional golden tip Darjeeling blend. We first introduced this tea in 1990 and it continues to be our most popular Darjeeling. $9.75/125g.
  3. TA20: Tippy Orthodox FBOP Assam. 🍵 A uniform, broken-leaf tea with bold character and strong, malty flavor. This tea is a great choice for breakfast and throughout the day. $6.50/100g.
  4. TA27: Halmari CTC BOP. 🍵 A bold CTC style tea with rich flavor. The dark liquor will readily take milk. Especially suited as a bracing morning tea. $6.25/125g.
  5. TP12: Premium China Keemun. ☕☕ Often called the burgundy of China teas, this North China Congou is rich, flavorful and appropriate for any time of day. We offer this as our basic Keemun, although it is in the middle range of the standard series. $6.50/125g.
  6. ZG20: First Grade Gunpowder Green. ☕☕☕ Superior grade of green tea in the style of gunpowder teas (tightly rolled tea leaves resembling gunpowder pellets). $5.75/125g.
  7. ZG14: Young Hyson Imperial Organic.☕ This organic tea has the bold flavor of a high-fired tea, yet it has a pleasing smoothness with delicate sweetness. The thin, well-twisted leaves produce a liquor with a pale green color. This is a very popular style of China green tea with a bolder leaf. $6.00/100g.
  8. ZM44: Osmanthus Oolong Se Chung. 🍵 Se Chung Oolong, naturally scented with osmanthus flowers. The flavorful, aromatic cup has a full body, with hints of ripe fruit. The finish is sweet and lingering. $7.60/125g
  9. TB49: Darjeeling-Ceylon Iced Tea Blend. ☕☕☕ Half whole-leaf Darjeeling and half OP Ceylon. A great hot tea as well! The brewing information provided is for making an iced tea concentrate. $7.00/125g.
  10. TB15: Java Blend. ☕☕ A rich breakfast blend especially suited for those who enjoy a powerful cup in the morning. This also is a great choice for iced tea. Java teas are never expensive, so you get the best produced for a few cents a cup. $5.75/125g.
  11. TK12: Rukeri Estate Rwanda BOP Organic 🍵 The cup has a full flavor and aroma, with a medium body. May be enjoyed plain, but it is strong enough to accommodate a touch of milk. Longer steepings yield a robust cup with notes of rose and peppery hints. At briefer steepings, the liquor is sweeter and more delicate. $6.50/125g.
  12. TC05: Ceylon BOP (Broken Orange Pekoe). ☕☕ A choice blend of regional Ceylons. [Note: Both TN05 ☕ and TN10 🍵 were out of stock]. $6.00/125g.
  13. TC88: St. James Estate BOP. 🍵 This broken-leaf tea yields an aromatic, bright-coppery cup. The full-bodied liquor is pleasantly pungent and is accentuated with mellow wintergreen notes. $6.00/125g
  14. TB02: Leadenhall Street Breakfast Blend. ☕ A tribute to the famous London tea auctions, our Leadenhall Street Breakfast Blend is a blend of two classic British teas: a brisk Ceylon and a thick, malty Assam. The result is a flavorful mixture which lends itself to the addition of milk. $6.50/125g.
  15. TB05: Mincing Lane Breakfast Blend. ☕☕☕ For this blend, we paired a hearty Assam with a smooth and flavorful Yunnan, for a cup that is highly enjoyable. The invigorating liquor has a full mouth feel, subtle spicy notes, and a lingering aftertaste. While milk is recommended, it is enjoyable plain. $8.75/125g.
  16. TB14: Scottish Breakfast Blend. ☕☕ Blended to appeal to those who favor an eye-opening experience in the morning, this tea yields a cup with a round, full flavor, malty notes, and brisk character. A perfect choice to start the day. $6.25/125g.
  17. TB30: Kensington Breakfast Blend. 🍵 A bit lighter than our River Shannon Blend, this English Breakfast style tea is a rich blend of Assam, Ceylon, and Keemun. Best with milk. $7.00/125g
  18. TB75: Baker Street Afternoon Blend. ☕☕ A bit of Lapsang Souchong is blended with Keemun and Darjeeling, yielding a mildly smoky tea. Perfect for an afternoon uplift. Another special (whole-leaf) blend from our London source of fine teas. $8.25/125g.
  19. TB86: Richmond Park Blend. ☕ A mellow, whole-leaf blend of Keemun, Ceylon, and Darjeeling. An exceptional tea which is smooth enough for drinking plain, and sturdy enough to take milk or lemon. From our London blender. $8.25/125g.
  20. TE85: Creme Caramel. ☕☕ Pieces of caramel are added to a black tea from Sri Lanka to create a delicious blend with a mild, creamy aroma and sweet caramel flavor. Enjoyable on cold days, and throughout the seasons. This is a bolder leaf version of our former TE86.This product contains dairy. $6.25/125g.

A number of teas that I wanted — TF25/Wild Cherry 🍵, TF90/Vanilla ☕, TE45/Midsummer Dream ☕☕, and TE21/Monk’s Blend ☕☕☕ — were unavailable. I’ll find another source for those. Additionally, I ordered the following for my wife:

  1. TC64: Victorian Brew BOP1. 🍵 This uniquely named Ceylon offering produces a liquor that has a mildly spicy, sweet aroma with citrus hints. The flavor is rich and smooth with notes of honey and biscuit as well as a hint of cherry. The lingering finish has refreshing citrus-like hints. $6.80/100g
  2. TE13: Chocolate Earl Grey. 🍵 A premium black tea combining the popular tastes of bergamot and chocolate with a hint of lemon. Decorated with flower petals and lemon peel for a delightful presentation.This product contains soy.
  3. TE94: Mélange de Chamonix. ☕☕ Fine India tea is blended with cocoa, cardamom, and a hint of cinnamon to produce a balanced and warming cup. A delicate treat for any chocolate or tea lover. $10.75/125g.
  4. TE90: Christmas Tea; Mélange Noël. 🍵. A blend of black tea with cloves, vanilla and cardamom. Decorated with citrus peel, rose petals and almond pieces.This product contains tree nuts (almonds). $7.25/125g.

Again, we had some out of stocks: TE35/Hearthside Chai Tea.

For the missing teas, I searched around and found Pittsburgh Tea, from where I ordered:

  1. Monk’s Blend Tea loose tea. Medium bodied and flavoury with piquant Ceylon character. Blended with natural flavor oils of vanilla and grenadine, which impart a smooth and unique heavenly flavor. $6.99/.25 lb
  2. Vanilla Black Tea. Black tea, Calendula & Sunflower petals, and Natural flavors. $6.99/.25 lb.
  3. Cherry Black Tea. This premium Ceylon tea flavored with summer cherries is treat for any Chekhov fans musing in their cherry orchard. Lovely candied cherry aroma, juicy flavor and slightly dry finish. If you’ve never read Chekhov, it doesn’t have a happy ending. If you’d never tried our Cherry Black tea, it’ll make up for it. $6.99/.25 lb.

Hopefully, Pittsburgh Tea is just temporary and the needed items will come back into stock at Upton. For reference, here are some links to even older tea orders: 2012 (Franklin Tea (which, alas, closed in 2015), Stash Tea, Upton Tea), 2011 (Franklin Tea, Stash Tea), 2010 (Special Teas (which was owned by, and later merged into, Teavana, and of course Teavana was later purchased by Starbucks), Stash Tea, Franklin Tea), 2009 (Stash Tea), 2008 (Franklin Tea, Stash Tea, Surfas, Lupicia, Teavana), 2007 (Stash Tea), 2006 #2 (Stash Tea), 2006 #1 (Stash Tea, Adagio Tea), and 2004 (Stash Tea).

 

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Going to the Dogs | “Lucky Stiff” @ Actors Co-Op

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 21, 2017 @ 6:06 pm PDT

Lucky Stiff (Actors Co-Op)Actors often keep track of their Broadway Debuts — the first time they were on a Broadway stage. But how much does an actor’s first show represent where they will be going in their career. The answer is: often not much. Unless they get that starring role from the get-go, there are often years of hard ensemble, swing, and understudy roles before the true talent shines through. For every Bebe Neuwirth at the top in Chicago, there’s the same actress in a background role in Sweet Charity.

What about composing teams? How much does their first show say about where they will be going? One can’t say for Rodgers and Hammerstein — they each worked with other composers before their first show, Oklahoma. For Kander and Ebb, did Flora: The Red Menace indicate where they would eventually go? Did Godspell fortell Wicked for Stephen Schwartz? How representative was Saturday Night for Sondheim? Parade for Jerry Herman?

When we look at the key new composing teams from the 1980s, one of the best is Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. They’ve given us such great shows as RagtimeOnce on this IslandSeussical, and Anastasia. Their first produced show was a farcical murder mystery, Lucky Stiff (a production of which recently opened at  Actors Co-op (FB) in Hollywood), based on “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo” written by Michael Butterworth. The plot is, well, a farce. A hapless shoe salesman (Harry Witherspoon) in England inherits $6 million from his gambler uncle (Tony Hendon) in New Jersey, who he has never met. There’s one condition: he take the corpse on one last vacation to Monte Carlo. If he doesn’t do this, the $6 million will go to the Universal Dog Home in Brooklyn (and Harry hates dogs).  Meanwhile, in Atlantic City, Tony’s lover Rita LaPorta, who shot Tony because she thought he was cheating on him, convinces her dentist brother, Vincent DiRuzzo to go to Monte Carlo with him to get back the $6 million, which she and Tony embezzled from Rita’s gambler husband, to whom she confessed that it was her brother that stole the money and then lost it gambling (and thus, the husband has a contract out on Vinnie). Lastly, the Universal Dog House is watching everything though a field representative, Annabel Glick, because if Tony doesn’t fulfill the terms of the letter, the money goes to them.

That, mind you, is the set up. This is a farce so there is plenty of mistaken identities, doors slamming, distractions, but there’s not a single sardines. There is, however, the requisite character who is blind but for her glasses, which she refuses to wear, a drunken maid, nuns, and Arab sheiks.

However, the focus of this opening treatise is whether this silly fluff of a show was predictive of the team that would give us Ragtime and Once on this Island, Seussical and Man of No Importance, My Favorite Year and Anastasia. I think the answer is … yes. Although a number of songs are silly, there are glimpses of the greatness to come. Especially in numbers like “Times Like This” and “Nice”, the team’s ability to tell tender ballads is fortold. The opening number “Something Funny’s Going On” as well as “Him, Them, It, Her” shows the ability to construct humorous multipart choral numbers. So although the story is a silly farce, it does show the genius yet to come.

Now, as farces go, this is not a tightly crafted as, say, Noises Off. It calls for overacting at times, it creates absurd situations, and has some truly bad lines reflective of the times (“she don’t just can-can, she will-will”). It requires a lot of suspension of disbelief. But it is also very funny, and I think most people will find laugh-out-loud humor in the story. If not, well they will at least appreciate some of the songs.

Lucky Stiff Prodction PhotosIn many ways, the success of a farce depends on the execution of the story. Split second timing, a willingness to go overboard when appropriate, and the ability to play for the joke is critical. For a musical farce, you need to be able to handle the music and choreography as well, which is also tightly timed. Director Stephen Van Dorn (FB) and Choreographer Julie Hall (FB) lead the cast reasonably well in this regard. The movement coordination during the second act chase (“Him, Them, It, Her”) works very well, and the players handle the farcical aspects pretty well (although, at times, they overplay it too much).

In the lead couple positions were Brandon Parrish (FB) as Harry Witherspoon, and Claire Adams (FB) as Annabel Glick. Parrish, who has to be the straight man to much of the humor and craziness going around him, handles the situations with aplomb. He also sings quite well (a side we didn’t see in 33 Variations). Adams, who we last saw as Hero’s target of adoration in Cabrillo’s Forum, handled the humor here as well. She also did a great job with one of my favorite songs in this show, “Times Like These”.

The protagonist … make that catalyst … for this story, Anthony Hendon, is played by Vito Viscuso (FB). I must say that his performance was a bit stiff. (pause for effect) Now that we are past that joke, seriously, Viscuso handled the part of a corpse very well, really only standing and dancing in one number. This is not an indictment of his acting, however, as we saw him in the previous production at Actors Co-Op, Cats Paw, where he was spectacular.

Our comedic second couple, Tony’s lover Rita LaPorta and her brother, Dr. Vincent DiRuzzio, were portrayed by Rory Patterson (FB) and Brian Habicht (FB), respectively. Patterson threw herself in the role wholecloth, playing it broadly for the humor and handling her comic numbers quite well (looking back, almost all of her numbers are comic numbers). Habicht also handled the humor quite well, especially in “The Phone Call” (his call back to his wife) and the closing scenes.

The remaining sole actor named role was David Atkinson (FB)’s Luigi Gaudi, who is a person Harry first meets on the train, and then keeps running into. He plays this well for the comedy.

Rounding out the cast are an ensemble of four, who handle multiple characters each (and are thus credited as Woman 1 and 2, and Man 1 and 2). These versatile players are: Gina D’Acciaro (FB) [Woman 1: Landlady, Miss Thorsby, Nurse, Southern Lady #1, Dancing Portrait, Drunken Maid], Alastair James Murden (FB) [Man 1: Surly Lorry Driver, Solicitor, Prosperous Man on Train, Clothing Salesman, French Emcee, Croupier, Nun, Old Texan]; Selah Victor (FB) [Woman 2: Dominique du Monaco, Spinster, Southern Lady #2, Dancing Roulette Wheel]; and Jose Villarreal (FB) [Man 2: Offstage Telegram Deliverer, Vicious Punk, Mr Loomis the Eye Patient, French Waiter on Train, Stationmaster’s Voice, Bellhop, French Waiter in Club, Dapper Gambler, Leper]. Note that one of our two programs had a slip that the Woman 2’s roles were being split between choreographer Julie Hall (FB) [Spinster, Southern Lady] and producer Catherine Gray (FB) [Dominique], but I don’t know if that applied to our performance. D’Acciaro did a wonderfully over-the-top performance as the requisite drunken maid, and Murden stood out as the emcee. I’m not sure who was playing Dominique (who gets the number “Speaking French”), but whoever did it at our performance handled it quite well, including the intentional overplay on the acting.

Music was under the direction of Taylor Stephenson who was also playing the keyboards behind the scenery (and who we have heard and seen at numerous Chance shows). Joining him were Malila Hollow (FB), also on keyboards and synthesizer, Nic Gonzales/FB on bass, and Jorge Zuniga (FB) on drums.

Finally, turning to the creative and production side: The scenic design by Lex Gernon (FB) worked reasonably well, although there was no good explanation about why the door to #5 was upside down (which was oddly distracting). However, the parachute made up for it. The scenic design was supported by Nicholas Acciani (FB)’s properties, which for the most part worked well. The lighting design by Lisa D. Katz (FB) served to define the mood appropriately and direct attention. On the other hand,  Warren Davis (FB)’s — or the execution thereof — had some problems at our performance, with mics cutting in and out and odd static at times. Vicki Conrad (FB)’s costume design worked well, although some (going with the theme) were a bit on the stereotypical side.  Hair and makeup was by Krys Fehervari (FB). Remining production credits: E. K. Dagenfield (FB) – Dialect Coach; Leticia Gonzalez (FB) – Stage Manager;  James Ledesma (FB) and Derek Copenhaver (FB) – Assistant Stage Managers; Heather Chesley (FB) – Artistic Chairperson, David Elzer/Demand PR (FB) – Publicity; Selah Victor (FB) – Production Manager, and Catherine Gray (FB) – Producer.

Lucky Stiff continues at Actors Co-op (FB) through June 18. Tickets are available through Actors Co-Op; discount tickets may be available through Goldstar. Actor’s Co-Op has announced their summer Actors Co-Op Too! season as well as their 2017-2018 season. I’ve written up my thoughts on their season here; in short – subscribe!

🎩 🎩 🎩

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 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 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: May concludes with a production from Write Act Rep (FB) at their new home in North Hollywood, Freeway Dreams, followed by Hello Again at the Chromolume Theatre (FB) [plus my wife is off to the Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival (FB) on Sunday, as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is playing, while I work on the highway pages].

As for June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). This is the current planned schedule for HFF. Not all is ticketed — we are ticketing in two groups: this weekend (¹), and right after June 1st (²), to split the charges. To see the full Fringe guide, click here.

With respect to the Hollywood Fringe Festival: I’d like to recommend Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman. Linden, the artist, did the show for our synagogue Mens Club back in October, and it was a delight. So good, in fact, that we’re going to see the show again during Fringe. If you want a fun show full of parody music, see this one.

July brings us back to normal theatre (° = pending confirmation). We start with The Voysey Inheritance at Actors Co-op (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend is currently open, but we’re thinking about Animal Farm at Theatricum Botanicum (FB). The third weekend brings Peter Pan at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and Ruthie and Me at  Actors Co-op (FB). The fourth weekend of July has a hold for Motown/Miracle | Harlem/Renaissance from Muse/ique (FB). The last weekend of July brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB).  August will (hopefully) start with Brian Setzer° at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We may also squeeze in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast. The second weekend of August? What made sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 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.

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New From The Old

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue May 16, 2017 @ 6:19 pm PDT

Today’s news chum post brings you five stories of new coming from the old:

  • North Hollywood. Emerging from the surface parking lot that just turned into a paid parking lot will be a new mixed use development. The plan would include 1,500 units of housing, 150,000 square feet of retail, and 450,000 square feet of offices (and 5,400 parking spaces). The project will be spread across a complex of new buildings centered around the intersection of Lankershim and Chandler. Plans also include a public plaza and a new entrance to the North Hollywood station, located beneath South Chandler on the western side of Lankershim (explaining the long empty stub on the S end of the North Hollywood station).
  • Masonic Lodge / Marciano Museum. The long shuttered Masonic Lodge on Wilshire (where once gigantic Lodge 42, my dad’s lodge, once met) is about to be reborn as the Marciano Art Museum. Here’s everything you need to know about it. The museum will be free and open to the public from Thursday through Saturday. Wednesdays will be reserved for school groups, and the museum will provide transportation reimbursements for all L.A. County public school visits. Advanced ticket reservations are required, and can be reserved online by setting up a free account (which takes less than 30 seconds) on their website.
  • Macy’s Woodland Hills / Woodland Hills Post Office. The long-standing post office in Woodland Hills on Clarendon (right next to where my father-in-law’s accounting office was) is closing. But don’t fear, Woodland Hills. They are moving — for perhaps 18 months — into the shuttered Macy’s at the Promenade Mall. Also facing closure and relocation are the Reseda and Northridge post offices.
  • Orange Grove Bistro / Hyatt Place. CSUN is getting a hotel. They are building it where the Orange Grove Bistro is now, and it will provide not only rooms for parents and visiting scholars, but a full-service restaurant and meeting rooms. This will be useful for campus, but I fear the traffic.
  • TWA Flight Center / Hotel. Moving out of LA for a moment, the unique long-shuttered TWA flight center at JFK Airport is becoming a hotel. Nearly 14 years after its closure—the TWA terminal finally found a new purpose. According to plans by JetBlue and a hotel developer, the original head house will be transformed into an airport hotel, consisting of 505 new guest rooms while maintaining many of the airport’s original icons, including the Lisbon Lounge and the Paris Café.

 

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Indescribable | Martha Graham Dance Company @ VPAC

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 14, 2017 @ 11:03 am PDT

Martha Graham Dance Company (VPAC)Last night saw us at the final performance of the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) 2016-0127 season: Martha Graham Dance and American Music (you can see my thoughts on their 2017-2018 season here).  What did I think of the show? I just don’t have the vocabulary. To put it another way, it was indescribable.

Let me explain. I’ve attended a lot of live theatre. As in as lot of live theatre. As in A LOT OF live theatre. So much so that I understand the vocabulary of live theatre: how a plot is supposed to work, how the ensemble works, what swings do, what stage managers do, and all the things that go into a production.

But dance?

I’ve never attended a true ballet. My exposure to modern dance was Mr. N’s Dance productions at Van Nuys High School. My sole knowledge of Martha Graham was the show we saw earlier this year.  So when I have to describe a dance production, I not only emotionally don’t have the words, but I literally don’t have the words. I do not have the vocabulary to describe what I saw, to put into words the movement and motion. I don’t know the dance tropes that Graham used to tell the story; indeed, I have difficultly following and seeing the story in the movement.

So I fall back on enjoyment. I revel in the beauty of the movement without understanding the story. I watch the feet, the faces, the muscles, the bodies. I look at the power in the legs, the beats of sweat from the effort, the impact of the colors. I see the emotions that come from the dance without seeing how that is driven by the story.

I let the dance wash over me without trying to think, because I don’t have the words to think.

The production consisted of five movements, so to speak:

  • Panorama. Premiered in 1935 in Bennington VT, with music by Norman Lloyd. Performed by CSUN and dancers from local high schools.
  • Dark Meadow Suite. Premiered in 1946 in New York City, NY. Music by Carlos Chavez.
  • Diversion of Angels. Premiered in 1948 in New London CT. Music by Norman Dello Joio.
  • Cave of the Heart. Premiered in 1946 in New York City, NY. Music by Samuel Barber.
  • Maple Leaf Rag. Premiered in 1990 in New York City, NY. Music by Scott Joplin.

All had choreography by Martha Graham. I’ve put images from each dance in the composite image with this post, although they are not from the specific show I saw. I’m not listing all the dancers — there were some substitutions I didn’t get, and the specific names would likely be a meaningless list.  There’s some more information in the press release for the show. VPAC did post a YouTube clip here.

Some more somewhat general observations:

  • I contrasted the dancers here with a typical dance ensemble from a musical. The difference: expressed joy. Modern dancers control the emotion they show: their hearts may be soaring inside, but it doesn’t show on their face. Ensemble dancers radiate the joy they feel performing, and it reverberates from the audience. The only joy I saw from the Martha Graham dancers was in the Joplin number; I just saw the beauty. Ensemble dancers you see the joy, but the beauty of the dance much less so (except, perhaps, An American in Paris).
  • There was very little of what one might think of as traditional ballet movement. There was almost non-ballet movement; an attempt to move in a way that didn’t evoke the traditional forms. That, perhaps, is what distinguishes modern dance?
  • Dance, especially barefoot dance, makes one watch the feet. Not only did these dancers move, but they used their feet as rhythmic devices, accompanying the accompaniment.
  • With the costumes, one might expect more — shall we say — unintended visibility. These costumes were well engineered as well as being beautiful, allowing one to look at the broader human form without unintended distractions. It makes one realize the magical movement bodies are capable of.

As I said, I’m not a dance person. Yet I believe the breadth of live performance needs to encompass not only those with which one is comfortable and familiar, but occasionally those outside the comfort zone. This is especially true for those forms your wife enjoys :-), and she thoroughly enjoyed this show.

I hope to see more dance in the upcoming season at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) on the campus of California State University, Northridge. You can read my thoughts on that season here.

 🎩 🎩 🎩

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 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 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 the last show of the Actors Co-op (FB) season, Lucky Stiff, at Actors Co-op (FB). May concludes with a production from Write Act Rep (FB) at their new home in North Hollywood, Freeway Dreams, followed by Hello Again at the Chromolume Theatre (FB) [plus my wife is off to the Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival (FB) on Sunday, as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is playing, while I work on the highway pages].  and possibly Five Guys Named Moe at Ebony Repertory Theatre (FB), or perhaps.

As for June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). This is the current planned schedule for HFF. Not all is ticketed — we are ticketing in two groups: this weekend (¹), and right after June 1st (²), to split the charges. To see the full Fringe guide, click here.

July brings us back to normal theatre (° = pending confirmation). We start with The Voysey Inheritance at Actors Co-op (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend is currently open. The third weekend brings Peter Pan at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and Ruthie and Me at  Actors Co-op (FB). The fourth weekend of July has a hold for Motown/Miracle | Harlem/Renaissance from Muse/ique (FB). The last weekend of July brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB).  August will (hopefully) start with Brian Setzer° at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We may also squeeze in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast. The second weekend of August? What makes sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 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.

 

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Devoid of Emotion

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 14, 2017 @ 9:20 am PDT

Today is Mother’s / Mothers’ / Mothers Day (How. To. Punctuate. ?.). I know this because of all the tributes to mothers being posted on Facebook. People talking about how great their mother was. Missing their mother for 30+ years. Missing her from 5 years ago. All these tributes.

I read them, devoid of feeling, for I tend not to think of my mother. I know I’m not the only one, as this post discusses.

This doesn’t mean there weren’t important women in my life. My grandmother (mother’s mother). My great-aunt (her sister). My aunts on my dad’s side. Godparents and family friends. (I’d add my stepmother to this list — my dad’s last wife — but by the time she came into his life I was already married and out of the house, so it was less of a motherly relationship and more just friendship).

But my mother? My mother was many things. Extremely smart. An astute businesswoman. A great accountant (one of the first women CPAs in California). A people person. She got along great at business parties.

But a nurturing mother who was always there caring? That’s not my memory. It may have been the case when I was young — I just don’t remember. It may have been the case early in the marriage, when she was raising my step-brother and I, when I was very young.

But the memory I have — perhaps from 8 or later — was the mother who was devoted to her accounting practice. The mother who left my care to housekeepers and her mom and other relatives. The mother who turned to drink and meds to deal with the pain after my brother died. The mother who yelled and faught. The mother who turned my bedroom into an office less than 6 months after I was out of the house. The mother who wanted the attention, and used emotional manipulation to get it — to the point where we had to cut contact early in our marriage. The mother who died on our wedding anniversary.

Mothers: Think about the lessons that your behavior teaches your children. You have the opportunity to set the example of what they will aspire to be, and how they will aspire to behave. Alternatively, you’ll be the negative example: the traits they consciously don’t want to have, the way they don’t want to behave. My mother taught me one major thing: I needed to do something different. My wife and I consciously tried to create a different relationship with our daughter, and I think we did.

Does this mean that I hate my mother? No. She did the best she could with her skillset and circumstances. By the time I was at a conscious age to remember the mothering, she was already consumed by the death of my brother, and her belief that it was her actions that caused it (it wasn’t, but step-mother relationships are difficult). So I don’t hate her, but I also doesn’t feel the depth of emotion that I see many express towards their mothers. My father, yes. My mother, no. I am, as I titled this piece, devoid of emotion. She wringed it all out of me.

So I think her for what she did raising me, and that we all survived. I think she would be proud of where I am now. I’m sorry our relationship wasn’t better, but I can’t go back and change the past and what happened. I’ll treasure the few good memories and move on.

Happy Mothers Day to those with great relationships and memories of their mothers. A tip of the hat and Happy Mothers Day to the other women in my life who provided the nurturing that I still remember positively.

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HFF17 – Current Schedule Plans

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri May 12, 2017 @ 11:16 am PDT

userpic=fringeThe Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) schedule is starting to gel. I’ve done some further planning over lunch, and here is how June stands. We are ticketing in two groups: this weekend (¹), and right after June 1st (²), to split the charges.

Saturday, June 3:

⇒ Unavailable to Fringe

Sunday, June 4:

⇒ Until 4p – Annual Gluten Free Expo | [K/R]
⇒ 6p – Hey Hollywood! My Hustle has ADHD | [D/K/R¹]
⇒ 8p – Robot Monster the Musical | [D/K/R¹]
⇒ 930p – Buffy Kills Edward: The Musical | [D/K/R¹]

Saturday, June 10:

⇒ 3p – The Heart Change – Ink Theatre | [D²/K²]
⇒ 5:30p – 86’d | [D/K]
⇒ 7p – Insuppressible: The Unauthorized Leah Remini Story | [D²/K²]

Sunday, June 11:

⇒ 3p – Five Guys Named Moe @ Ebony Rep | [D]

Saturday, June 17:

⇒ 1p – Pretty, Witty Nell | [D²/K²] (Poss. Canc.)
⇒ 3:30p – Zombie Clown Trump | [D/K]
⇒ 5:30p – Conversations ‘Bout The Girls | [D/K]
⇒ 7:30p – Inversion | [D/K]

Sunday, June 18

Fathers Day – Open

Saturday, June 24:

⇒ 11:30a – Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman [D²/K²/R²]  (Maybe)
⇒ 3p – Slightly Off Broadway (Chromolume) | [D²/K²/R²]
⇒ 5:30p – Trump in Space | [D/K/R²]
⇒ 7p – The ABCs | [D/K/R²]
⇒ 9p – Reasons to be Pretty / Maxwelton | [D/K/R²]

Sunday, June 25:

⇒ 2p – Transition | [D/K]
⇒ 4p – Khant Hotel | [D²/K²]
⇒ 5:30p – Bachelorette by Leslye Headland | [D²/K²]

Note:

  • To see the full Fringe guide, click here.
  • There are those out there that I’ve bamboozled into thinking I’m a reviewer‡, and who want me to see their shows. In order to do so, (a) it would have to fit in the schedule above (including transit times between theatres), and (b) be agreeable to the boss (K), and if applicable, the pseudo-daughter (R). Ethics rules from work are ingrained in me: I do not take free tickets, but will gladly do half price or some other discount.

‡: I’m just a cybersecurity specialist who loves attending live performance, being an audience member, and telling my friends and others who read my blog about what I see, so they might see it as well.

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Obsolescence, Revivals, and Transitions

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri May 12, 2017 @ 11:08 am PDT

While planning for the various theatrical adventures over the summer, I’ve also been collecting news chum. This lunchtime collection is tied together by a common theme: obsolecence, revivals, and transitions. Every article is about one or more of those three things:

  • Cassettes. By now, most of us have gotten rid of our cassette walkmans, and would be hard-pressed to find a cassette player. Elbow has come up with a fascinating minimalist cassette player: While it grabs the cassette’s spools in its elbow arms, the hinge sits against the exposed magnetic tape. A knob on the device allows you to control playback. It comes with a small magnetic clip, allowing you to attach it to your clothes, or a bag, as well as a 3.5mm audio output, allowing you to connect your earphones, or a speaker to it. It also includes a MiniUSB port, not just for charging the Elbow, but also for allowing you to digitally extract audio from a cassette tape to your PC.
  • Bluetooth Audio. If you’re an old fart like me, you’re likely using an audio device that doesn’t support bluetooth in a world of bluetooth speakers. What to do? iClever is a small bluetooth transmitter/receiver that solves the problems. It allows one to convert any audio-producing device with a 3.5mm output into a bluetooth transmitter, and to convert any speaker/headphones with a 3.5mm connector into a bluetooth receiver. I’m going to need to remember this.
  • The MP3. NPR is reporting that the MP3 is dead — specifically, the license for the technology is no longer being issued. The article claims the replacement is the AAC (.m4a). I’m still generating MP3 (although I could switch to M4A), and Amazon only sells MP3s so I somewhat doubt this. Are any digital players no longer proving an MP3 translating CODEC. That will be the death of the MP3, not licensing rules.
  • Churches/Synagogues. In the musical 70, Girls, 70, the question is asked: What do zoos do with elephants when they die? Where do the elephants go? A similar question might be asked of a church or a synagogue: when they close, where does their stuff go? I ran into two articles address this question: the first looked at finding a new life for Jewish religious objects when a congregation closes; the second asked where does the pipe organ go when a church closes. Of course, technology isn’t all bad: I found an article on how technology can help carry on Jewish traditions.
  • School Libraries. An interesting article I found explores whether school libraries are on the path to extinction. After all, library staff is expensive, and today’s students don’t research in books. But libraries are an important tool in teaching children to read and think, and funding for libraries boils down to a wealth/class issue: Parents with the means can find the funds to support libraries, so their student have them an do better. Parents without depend on the district, and the district has other priorities. We’ve seen this many times in things like art education and field trips. The article explores how LA Unified is trying to change things.
  • Hollywood Archives. We all think technology is a boon, but is it really. It used to be easy to preserve films: get good cellulose and store it right. Now? The storage media changes ever few years, everything has to be retranslated, and not everything can be saved. This is creating a gigantic headache for the studios, and means that film isn’t the long-term media we thought it was. We have human art that survived 5000 years. When we look at our civilization in 5000 years, what of our art will still be available?
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