Observations Along the Road

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

A Touching Tragedy | “The Old Woman” @ HFF16

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 19, 2016 @ 9:31 pm PDT

The Old Woman (HFF16)userpic=fringeAs I’ve said before, the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) has a wide range of projects, from first person narratives (our first Saturday show) to ensemble comedies (our second Saturday show) to improvised history (our third Saturday show) to… our last Saturday show: The Old Woman.  This show was another one-person show, but in a very different vein. Instead of going for the laughs (which it had), it went for the pathos and the emotion. It told the story of a son’s relationship with his aging mother, who is dealing with increasing dementia — combined with the worry that he might be facing the same fate.

In The Old Woman, John Grady (FB) starts with the simple: a walk with the dogs in Griffith Park. Through this, he introduces us to his mother, his family, and the questions of his own mental status. The story then moves into a visit with his mother, as he sees how she is becoming increasingly detached from the world. The production ends with a wordless dance — a ballet of sorts — that, well, left me thinking about what it was trying to say. My conclusion was that the dance was a tribute to his mother, her life, and her spiral down.

Saturday was a day for shows that hit home. Our first resonated with my wife, for she had also dealt with the issue of growing up with large breasts. The last resonated as well with both of us, as we’re dealing with dementia in her mom. We’re seeing everything that John portrayed: the short loop time, the argumentative nature, the refusal to do physical therapy, that intense desire to be someplace — any place else (and the realization from us, the children, that there is no other place else).

I think, of all the shows we’ve seen at the Fringe, this was perhaps was the most moving and touching of them all.

This was a true one person show; no credit was provided for director (so presumably John directed) or the technical (presumably arranged by John). That makes this even more powerful.

Sorry, I now need to go read my Shel Silverstein.

Alas, I think we saw the last production, but it might show up at the Fringe Encore in July. Watch  the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) pages for more information.

Attention Programmers! Take the Fringe Programming Challenge! Scheduling your shows at the Fringe can be a pain in the …. I’m trying to solve the problem for next year, so take a look at my specs for a Fringe scheduling app. Can you write it?

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September is similarly mostly hold dates at this point. 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 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

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Missouri Standup | “Mark Twain Answers Your Questions” @ HFF16

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 19, 2016 @ 8:25 pm PDT

Mark Twain Answers all Your Questions (HFF16)userpic=fringeOur third show on Saturday was perhaps the weakest of the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) shows that we’ve seen so far — this is not to say that it wasn’t funny at points, but it was also much more improvised and disorganized.

The show was Mr. Mark Twain Answers All Your Questions, and the premise as described was: “Fresh off his award-winning performance at last year’s Poe Show,* Mr. Mark Twain is back with his one man show! This June at the new Sacred Fools space, Mr. Mark Twain will be shooting out the lights with stories, observations, and general nonsense (with extra nonsense on the side). If he fools around long enough, he may even say something worth repeating.”

As executed, it was a little different. The conceit was somehow that the Federal Bureau of One Person Shows was forcing Twain to do this show for some reason. The show involved Twain telling a few stories of his life, trying to tell some bad jokes, and the reacting and answering a number of questions from the audience in the Twain character. There was some level of audience participation, but in many ways the biggest question was whether Twain’s mustache would stay attached to his face. At our show, it didn’t and he eventually gave up.

Twain was played by a fellow named S. Clemens, who in reality was Ed Goodman (FB). Goodman was reasonably funny and quick on his feet, but I’m not sure he captured the Mark Twain character as the audience might expect.

Corey Rittmaster (FB) providedthe sound and voice, and served as the representative of the FBOPS when Twain broke the rules. Jeremy Aldridge (FB) helped develop the show and served as director. Suz Curtis was the Brainstorm Trooper. Mark Twain was partially funded by an Indiegogo Effort.

There is one more performance of Mark Twain Answers All Your Questions, Saturday June 25 at 11:30pm. Tickets are available through the Fringe Website.

Attention Programmers! Take the Fringe Programming Challenge! Scheduling your shows at the Fringe can be a pain in the …. I’m trying to solve the problem for next year, so take a look at my specs for a Fringe scheduling app. Can you write it?

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September is similarly mostly hold dates at this point. 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 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

Vengeance is a Dish Best Served Funny | “Lamprey: …” @ HFF16

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 19, 2016 @ 7:58 pm PDT

Lamprey: Weekend of Vengence (HFF16)userpic=fringeThe sort of shows that you find at the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) run the full range, from one person shows to fully executed musicals, from deep dramas to comedies, to families shows to shows where both the audience and the actors are naked. Don’t expect a writeup from that last one. Some are shows from first time groups, and some are from established groups. Our second show on Saturday, Lamprey: Weekend of Vengence (FB) was one of the latter; another show from the folks that gave us the excellent All The Best Killers Are Librarians (which we saw during the preview weekend of Fringe) — the Serial Killers (FB) team.

Serial Killers (FB) is a Sacred Fools (FB) late night production where each week, three continuing stories face off against two new tales. At the end of the show, the audience votes for the three stories that will continue on to the next Saturday night, where their subsequent episodes will then be pitted against two completely new storylines. The season culminates in a head-to-head battle royale between the sixteen top serials, including the eight longest-running serials plus audience-choice selections!

Just as Librarians was a successful serial made into a full-length Fringe show, Lamprey was a successful serial made into a Fringe show. There are some who believe that it is funnier; I tended to prefer Librarians slightly, but it is a matter of taste. Both exhibited a strong sense of earnestness, of going for the comedy jugular no matter what it takes. One also got a sense that the actors were having so much fun they were attempting to make the other actors break their role from laughing. This worked extremely well on the Carol Burnett Show to amplify the humor. I think it worked well here as well. I can say that both of these productions made me want to explore Serial Killers (FB) more (if it wasn’t past my bedtime 🙂 ).

Here’s the description of the show from the Fringe writeup:

The Lamprey is a cop named Lynn Alvarado who is trying to get people to call her the Lamprey. She also has to solve the murder of her partner, but only has one weekend to do it! Her family has gotten non-refundable tickets for a Disney Cruise that leaves on Monday morning, and she like, HAS to be on it. The Lamprey must navigate the criminal world of Los Angeles, some by-the-book internal affairs agents, a masked killer looking to take her out and the to do list that her husband gave her. SOMEONE must get vengeance for her partner and also get the kids to Romp and Roll, and that someone is the Lamprey. Can one woman really have it all, when everyone is trying to kill her?

You can see why this description just pulled me in. The production, under the direction of Victor Isaac (FB), played (and some might say over-played) it for the laughs. I’ll note it was nice to see Victor again, albeit briefly. We last saw him at ACSAC 16 when he was part of the conference presentation of The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam. Victor kept the story moving along briskly, a rapid-fire sequence of scenes that were very funny, yet demonstrated the serial origin of the show.

As the Lamprey, Carrie Keranen (FB) was vibrating with vengeance, umm, intensity. Unlike her small role in Librarians, this role allowed her to play the comedy to the hilt, and she put all her energy into the effort.  She was a lot of fun to watch.

In primary supporting roles were Pete Caslavka as Chris Alvarado, the Lamprey’s husband and Maya Imani Estephanos (FB) as Jen Murphy, the Lamprey’s partner. Caslavka’s character here was nothing like his character in Librarians; here, he was one of the few people that could stand up to the Lamprey and call her on her shit. Another person who didn’t want to deal with the Lamprey’s shit was Estephanos as her (late) partner, Jen. With both actors, you could see well the exasperation they felt from dealing with this over the top character.

Playing secondary supporting roles (i.e., playing multiple characters) were Peter Fluet (FB) [Chief / James], Amanda Blake Davis (FB) [Agent Calhoune / Graci], Glenn  Stanton (FB) [Agent Corrigan / Barrick], Derek Mehn (FB) [Tony / Clint], Dana DeRuyck (FB) [Alexis / Coroner], and Marshall Givens (FB) [Cop / Priest / Killer / Doug].  Of these folks, the performances that remain stuck in my head are Fluet’s wonderful Chief, whose interactions with the Lamprey reminded me of the screaming on Moonlighting, and DeRuyck’s Coroner, who just had this wonderful look about her. The rest all gave great performances; it was those two that stood out in my mind above the rest.

Lamprey: Weekend of Vengeance was written by Peter Fluet (FB), who appears to have done a number of productions at Serial Killers. Scott Golden (FB) was the assistant director. HeatherLynn Gonzales (FB) was the Stage Manager. Sondra Mayer (FB) did the fight choreography, which was very good (although I still prefered the fight choreography on Librarians). Music Composition was by Zachary Bernstein (FB). Erik Engman was an associate producers and made a special appearance somewhere.

There are two more presentations of Lamprey: Weekend of Vengeance: Monday, June 20th at 7:00PM, and Friday, June 24th at 11:00 PM. It is quite funny and worth seeing. Tickets are available through the Fringe Website.

Attention Programmers! Take the Fringe Programming Challenge! Scheduling your shows at the Fringe can be a pain in the …. I’m trying to solve the problem for next year, so take a look at my specs for a Fringe scheduling app. Can you write it?

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September is similarly mostly hold dates at this point. 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 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

Busted! | “30JJ or Bust” @ HFF16

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 19, 2016 @ 10:53 am PDT

30JJ or Bust (HFF16)userpic=fringeSaturday was our four-show day at the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). Whew! Luckily, all but one of them were one-person shows, making the write-ups easier. The first dealt with a subject that is really out in front, something that calls and hold your attention, something that … oh well, just pretend I’ve inserted all  the gratuitous jokes about large breasts. Guys like to joke about large breasts; certainly, in Western society, they are what’s in for most people*. But for those that have them, dealing with them is no fun. A hot day like Saturday means you’re swimming in boob sweat. There are back problems, knee problems, self-esteem problems, … the list goes on and on. Anyone who thinks that large breasts are a blessing doesn’t have to live with them.
(*: as you are probably dying to ask: I’ll enjoy them whatever size they are, just keep ’em natural)

That, precisely, was the subject of our first show Saturday: “30JJ or Bust: The World is My Underwire“. The artist, Joan Afton (FB), shares her experiences living with “the girls” (use whatever term you want), framing the discussion with a call to her insurance company about getting breast reduction surgery — and the angst it creates when she thinks about changing something that is so much part of her identity.

During the show, Afton explores society’s relationship and view about breasts, as well as what large chested girls have to go through to deal with the chest. From learning how to camouflage and distract attention, to finding appropriate size bras and being measured properly, and exploring both the physical and emotions damage that large size breast can create.

Now, I’m a guy, and I found the show quite enjoyable. I also found it interesting to hear and explore the reaction of the audience to the stories. I never found myself wondering when the show would be over, and found myself caught up in Afton’s story.

But I’m not the best judge. My wife was in a similar position to Afton: When we met, she was in a KK cup; she had reduction surgery many many years ago — and she’ll tell you it was the best decision she ever made. She absolutely loved this show: she said it captured the experience of every large breasted girl growing up. It captured the concerns that leads one to have surgery, and also captured the questions that go through one’s mind. She thought it was the best show we saw on Saturday.

So, if the boobs that are giving you the greatest problems in life are not your partner and your co-workers, but your large breasts; if you really want to get something off your chest… you should really see this show. It’s also great for those guys who either live with or want to live with someone with large breasts: you’ll discover that your fantasy does not trump your partner’s pain.

30JJ was directed by Deana Barone (FB), who worked with Afton to help her transform her story into what you see on stage. Evidently, they are long-time friends, and that close relationship showed in how well the story presented itself. Barone has another show at the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) — MetaFam. She also hostied a workshop (well, it has just started) called Unleash Your Story, also at Fringe.

30JJ has one more performance:  Saturday June 25 2016 at 11:30 PM at  Asylum @ Studio C (Mainstage). Tickets are available through the Fringe website.

Attention Programmers! Take the Fringe Programming Challenge! Scheduling your shows at the Fringe can be a pain in the …. I’m trying to solve the problem for next year, so take a look at my specs for a Fringe scheduling app. Can you write it?

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September is similarly mostly hold dates at this point. 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 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

 

Los Angeles News Chum

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 19, 2016 @ 9:42 am PDT

userpic=valley-los_angelesBefore I start writing up this week’s Fringe shows, let me clear out a bit of news chum. Here are a bunch of articles, all related to Los Angeles (the city I love) and its environs:

 

A Lunchtime Musing: Managing Risk

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Jun 16, 2016 @ 11:53 am PDT

userpic=cardboard-safeIf you hadn’t figured it out by now, I work professionally in the field of cybersecurity. One of the concerns in my field is the question of risk: how to manage it, how much is tolerable for an organization, what can be done to mitigate it. All of the cybersecurity techniques you know are related to the question: virus scanner mitigate the risk of malware; passwords mitigate the risk of unauthorized users; firewalls mitigate the risk of unauthorized systems accessing a network, and so forth.

I’ve been thinking a lot about risk in the aftermath of the tragedy in Orlando, and in particular about the reactions of our presumptive leaders, as well as the initiatives that always start after an event like this. Naturally, I see them all dealing with risk in some ways, and in someways misunderstanding risk.

Donald Trump has blinders on with respect to risk. He clearly sees risk — a lot of risk — in immigrants and terrorists, but is blind to the risk of home-grown terrorism, or risk that comes from easy access to assault weapons. Further, his approach to the risk he sees is to be clearly risk adverse. He has a low risk tolerance, and wants to (if possible) eliminate the risk through closing down immigration and building walls. His approach is impractical and costly, as experience has shown.

Hillary Clinton understands that the risk will be present, and wants to reduce it (understanding that it cannot be eliminated). This is where the call for restricting selected gun sales based on findings from background investigations, and calls for restricting the types of weapons come from. They will not eliminate all the possible terrorist actions on American soil, but they will serve to reduce the risk of those actions.

The mass populace also has difficult understanding the difference between risk mitigation and risk avoidance. There are segments who believe that all guns should be banned. Those folks have blinders on regarding risks: banning guns will not eliminate all gun risk (for there is still the criminal element), but it also ignores non-gun attacks. There are some who believe the more moderated approach of increasing the difficulty to get attack weapons is pointless if attacks are still possible. They are the type that are risk averse, and fail to see the benefit that comes from reducing risk.

With respect to terrorist attacks and home-grown gun attacks, we need to understand that we cannot eliminate them completely. The potential is already there, with existing weapons and the free-flow of ideas that our society permits. That is a risk we must accept. What we can — and must — do, is reduce the risk where we can: this means reducing the ability to buy and sell weaponry that can create massive casualties, increasing our ability to be resilient in the face of attack, and aggressively going after home-grown terrorism and terrorist cells (within our existing legal framework), with increased monitoring of those identified as being sympathetic or involved with those homegrown causes (again, while still remaining in our legal system with respect to monitoring and the rights of US citizens).

An Open Letter to Enci (or) How to Make the Lemon Less Bitter

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Jun 15, 2016 @ 7:30 am PDT

userpic=fountain-penOver on the closed #pro99 group on Facebook, in a discussion about Bitter Lemons, Enci Box (the publisher of Bitter Lemons) wrote: “I do want to make things right and I do want to raise awareness to this issue. Truly do! I’d love to meet with you all for coffee, tea, at a theatre space where we can discuss this and other issues.” Given that meeting for coffee/tea can be difficult for me given other commitments, and because this has been rambling around my head, I’d like to offer these specific suggestions on how to restore the reputation of Bitter Lemons via my blog instead:

  1. Address the relationship with Colin. Although Colin has been fired as editor-in-chief, he is still an owner of the site. That elephant needs to be addressed, clarifying whether that has been severed and the extent to which Colin has any editorial influence — or influence at all — on the site. The baby elephant should also be addressed: What to do with Jason.
  2. Righten the Editorial Ship. Appoint two editors-in-chief who are respected by the community, and require that all articles that are posted be approved by one of them. There are two editors so that if one writes an article, the other must approve it.
  3. Sensitivity Training. To ensure that the editors and writers truly understand why this issue created the firestorm that it did, there should be mandatory sensitivity / sexual harrassment awareness training for all staff and writers. We’ve had such training at my place of employ, and it does truly make one aware of how little things can be very significant.
  4. Suspend the Pay-For-Play Reviews. The notion of paid reviews hurts the integrity of the Bitter Lemons site, and is a continual thorn in its reputation. They should be ended as of the end of Fringe; no more should be accepted for review. Bitter Lemons may be able to do reviews in the future, but any approach should be accepted by the community and free of any taint of conflict of interest.
  5. Formal Apology. There should be a formal apology from Bitter Lemons, although there are some that will not believe it (there should also be apologies from Colin/Jason, but I do not believe people would accept them).
  6. Address the Issue Head On. There should be an effort by Bitter Lemons, as an organization, to address the issue the right way. My suggestion along those lines might be for Bitter Lemons to host a series of forums to discuss the prevalence of such abuse and harassment in Southern California’s theatre community, and to develop community driven ways to eliminate the abuse and provide awareness of the abusers. Additionally, I’d suggest providing a space on Bitter Lemons for people to report such incidents, potentially anonymously, for investigation. Lastly, I suggestion posting a clear statement of editorial principles that guide Bitter Lemons, to include 0% tolerance for harassment and abuse, a pledge to avoid all conflict of interest, and a clear statement that the mission of Bitter Lemons is to bring together and improve the Southern California theatre community and improve its visibility to the public.

Lastly, for those articles that have been published, both the original article and received comments should remain.

The Tension of Speech

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Jun 14, 2016 @ 5:22 pm PDT

userpic=soapboxHere are two situations for you to think about:

  • Arts Integrity Fires Bitter Lemons: «LA Bitter Lemons, an outspoken Los Angeles theatre site which Arts Integrity’s director challenged over its pay for review strategy about a year ago, has posted a short piece by editor Colin Mitchell which seems, in essence, to “blame the victims” of Profiles for not speaking up sooner. Read it if you must, but given this manner of engaging with a serious problem at one theatre that, unfortunately, is likely happening at other theatres and in the arts at large, Arts Integrity believes Bitter Lemons has gone from bitter to vile, and will no longer give further consideration to writing that appears on the site again.» [Note that since Colin Mitchell’s piece has been posted, Colin has been fired as Editor-in-Chief by Publisher Enci Box, who has apparently assumed editorial function; Colin still seems to be part owner of the site, as no statement has been made to the contrary.]
  • Donald Trump Revokes Press Credentials from the Washington Post. «Donald Trump announced on Facebook yesterday that he would rescind The Washington Post’s press credentials. Reporters from the paper will no longer be able to cover his campaign events in person.» Essentially, the Washington Post has been barred from Trump events because they made comments pointing out where Trumps statements were in error or had unsubstantiated accusations.

In the first situation, the community wants to tar-and-feather an entire site because its editor said something very controversial. You see few speaking up for the site’s right to publish, and even fewer (if any) speaking up for the clown that made the offensive statement. In the second, you have people up in arms about the revocation of the “press credentials”, arguing that the paper should be able to say what it wants. As for me, I see hypocrisy if one is acceptable and the other isn’t. (In case you can’t figure it out, I don’t like either)

Now, I’m not defending at all what Colin said. But I do defend his right to say it. Just as the ACLU was right in defending Nazis when they wanted to march. A hazard of our rights to have free speech in this country is that sometimes there is uncomfortable and painful speech we have to hear. About the only good thing about such speech, indeed, is that it is out in the open and you can identify who is saying it. That same freedom of speech permits those who think the speaker is wrong to pummel them for it, to point out the errors of their ways, in hopes that reason will prevail and they will learn and change (of course, we tend not to accept that change when we see it, but that’s a different rant — just consider, if Colin were to apologize today, and indicate that the comments had made him see the error of his ways — would the community accept it?).

It is also perfectly acceptable for a press outlet, such as Bitter Lemons, to fire a columnist if their speech does not fit within what the site considers the bounds of their editorial position (or what their advertisers will accept, more often, alas). Freedom of speech does not mean I have to publish what you say, only that you have the right to publish it somewhere. Presumably, Colin is free to go to WordPress.Com and create a free blog of his own for anyone to read. [That’s what I’ve done, although I’m self-hosting.]

What bothers me more is that people are tarring-and-feathering the Bitter Lemons site just because of Colin, just like Trump is revoking the credentials of the Washington Post because he doesn’t like that reporter. Enci, as Publisher, has removed Colin from his editorial role (and presumably other roles, except perhaps ownership). Enci has stated she wants the site to have a new direction, working with the community. We should be giving her the benefit of the doubt, and helping her to right the ship. Independent of Colin’s missteps, the Lemon has been a good site for the community: aggregating reviews, getting commentary out there, getting news out there, supporting the publicity efforts of the community when the large print media has been pulling away. We can’t — and we shouldn’t — throw away that good because of the bad editor. Let Enci restaff, refocus, and rebuild. Further, let’s help her distance herself from the Colin era so we can make the community stronger.

We need to be very careful here: In the Chicago incident, people were afraid to speak up because of the reaction it would engender. We need to let people know that it is OK to express an opinion that differs with the community, that might be controversial, that might be shining light in an area where the cockroaches scurry. Hell — we’ve seen Colin do just that with some of the unethical producers in this city. That means, sometimes, we will hear an opinion that we don’t like. But that risk must be there, if we are to have the freedom. Freedom exists in a world of tension. We’ve seen that with the tension between the right to be safe and the right to keep information private. There’s a similar tension with the press. We need to be careful, even as we may tune out a specific speaker, that we don’t eliminate their right to say something in the process, or create collateral damage on those who simply were the conduit.

As a PS, for those talking about integrity and bringing up the integrity of accepting money for reviews. I’m an audience member — not in any way connected with the theatre save plunking my money down at the box office, and sharing my opinion afterwards. I work in an industry that hammers the importance of ethics, and the risk of the appearance of unethical behavior into us. We cannot accept anything from a supplier more than a donut.* I have had theatres offer me comp tickets as a reviewer, and I refuse them for that reason. I will pay what I would pay on Goldstar. So with respect to reviewers, as long as they are accepting free tickets, they are as tainted as money directly going through the site to their pocketbooks. You want integrity in reviewers? Create a site where the reviewers are paid through crowdfunding, donations, and subscriptions (in the model of Consumer Reports), and they are assigned to review shows… and to pay for their tickets like any other audience member. Then I’ll believe the integrity of their reviews. Otherwise, just let me know, for each reviewer, what form of bribe they accepted — comp tickets to pay-to-review — and I’ll judge based on their track record whether I agree with their reviews. Oh, and yes I understand it is “tradition”. That doesn’t make it right.
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*: Link is an example, not the organization I support.