Observations Along the Road

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

Making a Change – The Show Selection Process

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Apr 13, 2016 @ 7:40 am PDT

userpic=theatre2If you’ve been reading my theatre posts for the last few weeks, you’ve seen the following line: “The fourth weekend in April is Pesach, but the Indie Chi Productions dark comedy Dinner at Home Between Deaths at the Odyssey Theatre (FB) sounded so interesting I’ve booked Sunday tickets.”

It did sound interesting. I made the selection based on a press release before it opened. As it has been running, however, I’ve been seeing its rating over on Bitter Lemons:  It is currently at the end of the ratings, with a score of 48% bitter. Quotes from the reviews include “a bit undercooked; with lighting cues missed, the stumbling over lines, and an integral plot incident causing unintentional laughter.”, “a sitcom whose humor is eccentric and contrived rather than savage and true”, “falls frustratingly short of both suspense and laughs, teeter-tottering between naturalism and farce. Stuart Ross’ direction so misunderstands the nature of the immature text that the actors are left “dead in the water.””, and “And then there are the plays that are really bad. Poorly conceived, badly written, terribly miscast, and excruciatingly directed. Such a play is “Dinner at Home Between Deaths”, now having its world premiere as a guest production at the Odyssey Theatre in West Los Angeles. There is one good thing about this play, though: it’s only 90 minutes long” (although I must note some reviewers liked it).

One advantage of being a professional audience, as opposed to a professional critic, is that I pick the shows I see. Further, since I pay for shows, I can decide where to spend my money (note: even when I coordinate with a publicist, I pay at least Goldstar prices for my tickets). Further, when I book through Goldstar, I have the Red Velvet advantage: I can cancel a ticket. When I get a heads up about a potential train wreck, I’d rather go see something with a better chance of success. But what to see? My basic constraint was that it had to be Sunday, as Saturday is the first day of Pesach, and if we were going to a second seder, it would be Saturday night. That cut out some of the top rated shows on Bitter Lemons: “Waiting for Johnny Depp“, “Baby Oh Baby“. Others, such as “Cloud 9” weren’t on Goldstar, or (in the case of “You Never Can Tell“) were, but were too expensive.  I looked through the shows that had tickets for Sunday, and tentatively decided on “Anton in Show Business“, which was on Goldstar and had the following description:

When you’re a well-known TV star looking to increase your theatrical street cred, what do you do? Sign on to play a role in a small Texas repertory theater’s production of Chekhov’s Three Sisters. Go behind the scenes with three actresses — a jaded stage veteran, an eager Southern belle and Holly, the wildly popular TV star — in Anton in Show Business. Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright Jane Martin won the American Theater Critics Association New Play Award for this raucous comedy. Now Nell Teare directs this all-female cast of Anton in Show Business at Hollywood’s Hudson Mainstage Theatre.

I had seen the press release on the show and it was of interest, but I couldn’t work it into the schedule.

Now, the other day, my wife had met a writer and an actress while having lunch somewhere, and they had mentioned they had a musical opening at the Met Theatre in Hollywood (which is the new home of Rogue Machine, having previously been home to DOMA, but this was neither a RMT or DOMA show). We googled the writer and the actress, but there was no mention of the show. My wife emailed him, and found out the show was “Psychosexual – A New Musical“, which had tickets on Brown Paper Tickets.  The description of the show was:

Marriage Counselors and Best-Selling Authors, Doctors Brad & Sarah Morton, are on the verge of getting their own big-time Television Show, produced by celebrated Media Mogul and Talk Show Host, Omeika Carter. Unfortunately (and unbeknownst to Omeika) Brad and Sarah’s own relationship is on the rocks.  Seeking solace, Brad has started to frequent Floyd’s Fabulous Fantasy Club, where exotic dancer, Leah Lane, has caught his attention.   With Club Owner Floyd Ryder seeking to take advantage of every situation, and fellow dancer, the sensual Kayla Sizzle, also looking for love, “PSCHOSEXUAL: A LOVE STORY” will both make you laugh and warm your heart.

Potentially interesting, but something was raising red flags. This show was opening in two days. There had been no press release. It wasn’t on Goldstar. It wasn’t on LA Stage Tix. It wasn’t on Plays411.net. It wasn’t on Footlights. The actress playing the lead wasn’t promoting it. It wasn’t being publicized anywhere that normal shows are being publicized. That was odd. That says “vanity production”. Sensing something, I investigated the writer more. He has written mostly for the animated TV screen (think “Cartoon Network”), and has had one other musical, “Campaign”, done with the same composer at this show.  I found a review of that show at the LA Times:

Mounting a full-blown original musical takes plenty of guts. In that regard, the creators of “Campaign,” a world premiere at the MET, deserve kudos for sheer ambition.  They also deserve a few discreetly hurled brickbats for the general clunkiness of their production, which fails to coalesce into a cohesive professional effort. A chief obstacle is the uninspired book by Samuel Warren Joseph, who also wrote the music and lyrics with Jon Detherage, the show’s musical director. […] But despite a few laughs along the way, the show seems stale, with retro musical numbers that sound like they’re being channeled from the 1950s.

Reading this, I was unsure whether I wanted to move from a known train wreck to an unknown train wreck. Better to see how the reviews for this show shake out before seeing it. On the other hand, although the production of Anton only has one review so far (it just opened), that review was extremely positive, the playwright won an award from the show, and past productions of the show have gotten very positive reviews — so at least there is a good chance of a decent book. The show is also publicized in the usual places.

Guess which show I’m switching to? Now you see the thought process that goes into selecting a show. Remember: This is the era of the Internet. People will research.

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The Spark of Creation 🌠 “Children of Eden” at Cabrillo

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Apr 10, 2016 @ 4:20 pm PDT

Children of Eden (Cabrillo Music Theatre)Cabrillo UserpicFor a change, I’m going to start a writeup with a BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front): If there was ever a reason that Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) needed to survive, it is productions such as this. We have been attending Cabrillo since Anything Goes back in the Fall of 2000, and I believe that this is one of the best, if not the best, production that they have done. I believe that this production could transfer to the Pantages, Ahmanson, or even a Broadway stage and the audience would be equally blown away. The performance, technical, dance, creative, and musical teams come together perfectly to make a creation that is an Eden. If you do nothing else, get tickets for one of the remaining performances. You will fall in love with this musical, its message, and this production.

OK. Enough gushing. You’ve probably figured out that we liked this show.

One of the things that I liked about this particular Cabrillo season was that it was all shows that I have seen with a professional company: they’ve been films, schools, and churches. My exposure to Children of Eden, other than the music, was a Church production back in 2013. This version of Children of Eden was head and shoulders above that version, and that version was very strong for what it was. I’ll note that this is one of those rare musicals that has never seen a life on Broadway: it went straight out to the regional circuit, where it has done extremely well. Steven Schwartz (FB), the composer (who most know from Wicked these days), has indicated that this is his personal favorite musical. There’s a reason, which become apparent as you see it multiple times. If “Feed The Birds” was the heart of Mary Poppins, I think the heart of this show is the Act II song “The Hardest Part of Love”:

And it’s only in Eden
Grows a rose without a thorn
And your children start to leave you
on the day that they are born
They will leave you there to cheer for them
They will leave you there to mourn
Ever so

Like an ark on uncharted seas
Their lives will be tossed
And the deeper is your love for them
The crueler is the cost.
And just when they start to find themselves
Is when you fear they’re lost

But you cannot close the acorn
One the oak begins to grow
And you cannot close your heart
To what it fears and needs to know
That the hardest part of love…
That the rarest part of love…
That the truest part of love…
Is letting go.

Note: On his website, Stephen Schwartz has a wonderful document on the show, its origins, its themes, and its impact on people. Well worth reading. He notes that he particularly likes “Stranger to the Rain”:

I don’t curse what I can’t change
I just play the hand I’m dealt
And when they lighten up the rations
I tighten up my belt
I won’t say I’ve never felt the pain
But I am not a stranger to the rain.

The story of Children of Eden (book by John Caird (FB), based on a concept by Charles Lisanby, with music and lyrics by Schwartz (FB))  is the story of letting go, and the story of learning to let go. Act I tells the story of Adam and Eve, from their creation to their death, their interaction with their Father, and in turn, their interaction with their children (who exhibit remarkably similar traits to their parents). It deals with parents being disappointed with their children; it explores children and boundaries (which brings to mind The Fantastiks line about getting children to do something by just telling them “no”). It demonstrates that parents are only human as well, and the hard choices we are sometimes forced to make when we have knowledge — especially when we must decide between two things that we love. The second act brings the other end of that lineage:  it explores the story of Noah, focusing on the reason for the flood, and again focuses on the power of choice, of making a decision.

As this was my second time seeing the show, I’ll note that I got much more out of Cabrillo’s production. I found myself recognizing depths and aspects of this story I hadn’t seen in the Church production, and insights and story aspects that made we want to explore more of the midrashim in this area. I think it demonstrated why the point of these stories in the Book of Genesis is much more than a creation story: it is a parable of parents and children, of raising the question of proper choice that surfaces again in Deuteronomy. It shows that — independent of the religious trappings — the stories in Genesis have wonderful lessons to teach us about life and handling life’s situations.

If theatre and performance can make you reflect and think like that… that’s the power of theatre and of live performance. And, as I said upfront, it is why performance and production teams the size and scale of Cabrillo are vital for a community’s spiritual and emotive health. This is a large production: in addition to the leads and main players, there were 12 Storytellers, 5 adult Ensemble members, and 20 children’s Ensemble members. Broadway can’t afford that. Regional productions can, especially when mixing local and Equity talent. But regional spaces that can handle that size of a show are rare; this is especially true when attempting to find such spaces that aren’t already booked with the “From Broadway” tours. Again: a reason why Cabrillo is vital to the artistic health of Ventura and northwestern Los Angeles county.

Lewis Wilkenfeld (FB), who directed this production, brought some interesting touches. I particularly noted the unspoken framing devices: The story starts with Father (God) in street clothes reading the story to his children in bed; it ends with the cast not in their biblical garb, but again in street clothes as they sing:

We cannot know what will occur
Just make our journey worth the taking
And pray we’re wiser than we were
In the beginning
It’s the beginning
Now we begin…

This simple directorial decision changes the impact of the story from something in the past to a challenge to us today.

[It also, as I re-read the words, has an interesting echo for Cabrillo Music Theatre itself (for which Lewis Wilkenfeld (FB) also serves as Artistic Director): They want to make the journey worth the taking, hopefully being wiser than before the flood. It’s the beginning of a new Cabrillo. But I digress…]

There are some other directorial decisions that I thought were the little touches that gave this performance something extra. Lewis obviously worked with the children on this show, keeping that childish joy there (seen when they are portraying animals). He was the one with the broad view that brought the overall image the magic that it needs. He also, I’m guessing, was responsible for some of the little things, like how Father would watch the characters go on and off stage during Act II, just like a caring watchful parent. Observing all. Saying little.

This is one of those shows where everything came together: the dance, the lighting, the visuals, the movement, the performances, the costumes. That overall vision — especially on the stage — comes from the director. Kudos to Lewis for this vision.

Normally, I might hunt down some publicity pictures for you to look at while I discuss the cast. I found some on Broadway World, but it is unclear if they are BWW’s or the show’s. To play it safe, I’ll just provide you the link to see them.

The leads in the show were played by three Equity actors whom we have all seen at Cabrillo before (as well as in other regional productions): Norman Large (FB) as Father, Misty Cotton (FB) as Eve/Mama Noah, and Kevin McMahon (FB) as Adam/Noah. All were spectacular. Let’s take them one by one:

Large’s Father was just what you would want a father to be: caring, loving, and concerned for the future of his family. You could see the exasperation of a father when he was dealing with a childish Adam and Eve. You could see his anger and disappointment when his children disobeyed his orders, and especially when they brought harm to others he loved. Large captured well the emotions every father knows well. He sang beautifully in all his numbers, but especially memorable was his opening number and his duet with Noah in “The Hardest Part of Love”. What I’ll remember, however, is something little he did: In Act II, as characters walked off -stage, he turned and watched them. This is the omnipresent concern of a father, keeping an eye on your children wherever they may be.

Cotton had the matriarchal roles in both acts: Eve and Mama Noah. We’ve seen Cotton many times, most recently in her wonderful performance as the mother in Carrie: The Musical. In this show, what I remember most about her was her childish enthusiasm and curiosity, which she captured so well in the first act in number such as “The Naming” and “Grateful Children”, as well as her interaction with the snake in one of my favorite songs, “In Pursuit of Excellence”. Where she brought the house down, however, was her gospel-y, rock-ish performance of “Ain’t It Good”, the penultimate number of the show. Just an astounding performance.

Lastly, McMahon’s Adam/Noah was a wonderful counterpoint to Cotton’s Eve. He, too, had the childish nature that came across in Act I, but with a much more obedient streak, which made his portrayal of making the decision between his wife and his father a more painful one.  His standout performance, however, in my eyes, was in “The Hardest Part of Love”, where he captured the true emotion of what it means to be a father.

Next we have the children of Adam/Noah: Ryan J. Driscoll (FB) (Cain/Japeth), Barnaby James (FB) (Abel/Ham), and Paul DiLoreto (FB) (Seth/Shem).  Driscoll gave a strong performance both as Cain and Japeth. In the first act he did a wonderful job on “Lost in the Wilderness” as well as the emotion and passion of his battle with Abel. In the second act, he had some wonderful interactions with Yoneh and had a wonderful duet in “In Whatever Time We Have”. James’ Abel was also strong, especially in his interactions with Cain and Adam, and in “A Ring of Stones”. James and DiLoreto’s roles were less visible in the second act; I’ll note that all three were enjoyable in “A Piece of Eight” and in the concluding number “In The Beginning”.

The roles for the brother’s wives come into play only in the second act; I have the feeling they were part of the larger ensemble during the first act. Of the wives, the standout is Natalia Vivino (FB)’s performance of Yoneh, a character created by Schwartz to create the second act conflict. Vivino first blew us away when we saw here in ARTS’s Addams Family; she did it again last night. She was just spectacular in the touching numbers “Stranger to the Rain” and “Sailor of the Sky”, and in her duet with Driscoll in “In Whatever Time We Have”. There have been performers we’ve seen go big after their days at Cabrillo (yes, we remember Katherine McPhee in Annie Get Your Gun). I hope that happens for Ms. Vivino — she has a unique look and a wonderful talent, and I think she will go far (for whatever the opinion of this cybersecurity specialist means). Rounding out the brother’s wives were Elizabeth Adabale (FB) as Aysha and Kayla Bailey (FB) as Aphra.

Children of Eden uses the storytelling device of a chorus (in the Greek Chorus sense). This group provides commentary on the action and fills in portions of the story as needed. As such, it is difficult to separate the voices and the actions, although I do recall that the lead storytellers were very strong. The storytelling chorus consisted of Kenneth Mosley (FB) (Lead), Katie Porter (FB) (Lead), Francesca Barletta (FB), Jenny Hoffman (FB), Janelle Loren (FB), Zy’heem Naheo/FB, Rile Reavis (FB), Christopher Reilly/FB, Pablo Rossil (FB),  Rodrigo Varandas (FB), Terri Woodall (FB), and Kendyl Yokoyama (FB). I will note that I particularly enjoyed those members of the chorus that comprised the Snake for “In Pursuit of Excellence”; the Storytellers were also very strong on “Generations”.

Rounding out the players on stage were the adult ensemble and the children’s ensemble. The adult ensemble consisted of Judi Domroy (FB), Nicholas Ferguson, John Gaston (FB), Heidi Goodspeed (FB), and Susan Robb/FB. The childrens’ ensemble consisted of Carolina De los Rios, Audrey Devina-Goldberg/FB, Natalie Esposito/FB, Mia Gabbey/FB, Gannon Hays/FB, Samantha Hirschhorn/FB, Julia Rose Kreinces (FB), Kyle Lobenhofer/FB, Calista Loter (FB), Nathaniel Mark/FB (Young Cain), Brielle Napue/FB, Zoë Reed/FB, Marcello Silva/FB (Young Abel), Ashley Kiele Thomas (FB), Taylor Lynda Thomas (FB), Lilly Thompson/FB, Hattie Ugoretz/FB, Jessica Wallace (FB), Emerson West/FB, and Megan Zide/FB. Whew. That’s a lot of links. The ensemble is what made this show special in many ways, particularly the kids’ ensemble. They were particularly notable during the animal scenes (especially in Act II, where they just melted your heart as they stayed in character as they moved offstage). There was also one adorable little girl, brown hair, relatively young, who was just radiating so much joy as she danced in one of the second act numbers. Cabrillo always has outstanding ensembles, but this group (particularly the little ones) outdid themselves with what they added to this show.

Unseen, but heard, was the off-stage pit choir consisting of students from Thousand Oaks High School, Chaminade College Prep High School, Santa Susana High School, Simi Valley High School, Moorpark College, CSU Northridge, and CSU Channel Islands.

As Lewis Wilkenfeld reminds us every show: live theatre needs live music. The Theatre League learned this the hard way when they were raked over the coals for pre-recorded music during their recent production of Ragtime at the Kavli. Luckily, Cabrillo had a great orchestra, under the musical direction of Cassie Nickols (FB). This orchestra consisted of Cassie Nickols (FB) (Keyboard Synthesizer I), Benjamin Ginsberg/FB (Keyboard Synthesizer II, Asst. Music Director), Lloyd Cooper (FB) (Keyboard Synthesizer III, Asst. Music Director), Gary Rautenberg (FB) (Flute, Piccolo, Clarinet, Alto Sax), Ian Dahlberg (FB) (Oboe, English Horn, Tenor Sax, Clarinet), Matt Germaine/FB (Bass Clarinet, Tenor Sax, Clarinet), Jennifer Bliman (Horn), Pathik Desai (FB) (Electric and Acoustic Guitars, Mandolin), Gary Solt (Electric & Acoustic Guitars), Stephen Green (Cello), Shane Harry/FB (Double String Bass), Tyler Smith/FB (Percussion), Alan Peck (Set Drums). The orchestra was produced by Tanikawa Artists Management LLC.

This is a show with a very strong choreographic element. This is evident from the very first number, where the choreography, projections, lighting, and performance come together to make it clear that you are seeing something special. Credit, of course, goes to the dances as well as the choreography of Michelle Elkin (FB) [whose work we saw ages ago in Sister Act at the Playhouse]. In general, this is a show with a very special movement component throughout. Just look at the movement in “Let There Be”, “The Naming”, “The Return of the Animals”, and “Ain’t It Good”. A wide variety, well executed.

Lastly, we turn to the production and remaining creative team. This is one of those shows where everything came together perfectly, and no where is that seen better than the combination of the lighting design of Christina L. Munich (FB) and the scenic and projection design of Jeff Cason. It was just an astounding tour de force. Adding to this was the outstanding costume design of Noelle Raffy (FB), the hair and makeup design of Cassie Russek (FB) and Stephanie Fenner/FB, the prop design of Alex Choate (FB), and the animal costumes from Maine State Musical Theatre Costume Rentals (FB). Sound design was by CMT regular Jonathan Burke (FB). Remaining production credits: Jessica R. Aguilar (Production Stage Manager), Jack Allaway (Technical Director), David Elzer/Demand PR (Public Relations), and C. Raul Espinoza (FB) (Marketing Consultant).  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) is under the artistic direction of Lewis Wilkenfeld (FB).

Children of Eden continues at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) through April 17, 2016. It took me so long to write this up you only have next weekend to see it. Tickets are available online through Cabrillo; there are no discount tickets currently on Goldstar. 🌟🌟🌟Go See This🌟🌟🌟.

Dining Notes: We found a new place to eat just down the street from the Kavli: Mouthful Eatery (FB). Handcrafted food, relatively heathly, very very tasty. Reasonably fast. We will remember 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 had been subscribing at three theatres:  The Colony Theatre (FB), Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), and REP East (FB): but all have gone or are going dark (update: Cabrillo is coming back!), I just added a subscription to the  Hollywood Pantages (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’s theatre is on Thursday, because the actual weekend brings our annual visit to the Renaissance Faire (Southern). The Thursday show is Stella’s Last J-Date at the Whitefire Theatre (FB). The fourth weekend in April is Pesach, but the Indie Chi Productions dark comedy Dinner at Home Between Deaths at the Odyssey Theatre (FB) sounded so interesting I’ve booked Sunday tickets. The last weekend of April will be the Four Clowns (FB) production of Lunatics and Actors at the LA Shakespeare Center on April 30. May starts with Endgame at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB). We then run off to the Bay Area for our daughter’s graduation from Berkeley. While there, we are seeing the Landmark Musical Theatre (FB)’s West Coast Regional Premiere of The Boy from Oz (but pay no attention to that production behind the curtain at the Celebration Theatre (FB) — if they start the same day, they are simultaneous premieres and both have equal bragging rights). May 21 has a hold for Los Angeles: Then and Now, a new musical at LA City College (FB) from Bruce Kimmel. The last weekend of May has holds for the MoTAS Outing to the Jethawks, and Armadillo Necktie at The Group Rep (FB). As for June? It’s the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve started to hold dates for the following shows: Alien vs. MusicalAll Aboard the Marriage HearseAll The Best Killers are LibrariansCode 197 DWB (Driving While Blewish)Qaddafi’s Cook — Living in Hell, Cooking for the DevilSqueeze My CansTell Me On A Sunday   Toxic Avenger: The Musical  ✨  Vintage BoxEinstein Titus Andronicus Jr.The Old Woman Sweet Love AdieuMy Big Fat Blond MusicalDoctor in the HouseHamlet (Las Vegas Style) ✨. But that’s just a small percentage; there are over 200 shows listed now.  We thought about Love The Body Positive, but then again… no. Can’t be scaring people.  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.

Saturday #NewsChum Stew: Risk, Radio, Drugs, Discounts, DNA, and Darwin

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Apr 09, 2016 @ 1:01 pm PDT

Observation StewIt’s Saturday, and you know what that means: Time to clean out the accumulating links and see what sort of stew it makes:

  • Risks of the Internet of Things. Working in cybersecurity, I’m well aware of the risks of the IOT: that these untrusted unprotected devices could be a stepping stone into a private network for attacks. But there’s an even larger functionality risk, demonstrated this week by Nest’s announcement that they will no longer support the Revolv hub: The manufacturer can render your expensive connected appliance useless by simply shutting down the server.  Just imagine it: refrigerators and HVAC equipment that no longer works because they can’t check in to their home bases. TVs and audio equipment that fail because they can’t sync. Cars that become doorstops when their underlying site goes down.
  • Expressing Your Love. Steve Julian is a long time host on public radio here in Los Angeles. He’s been fighting a losing battle — on his terms — with brain tumors. LA Observed had an interesting article on how the digital community is coming out to support Steve and keep his spirits up. We often don’t realize the value of the community we build on places like Facebook, Livejournal, Dreamwidth, and other such social sites.
  • Drug Schedules. With all the talk of new rules for Hydrocodone and Oxy, I’ve been worried about impacts on the T3 I use for migraines. As such, I found this description of what the Federal Drug Schedule is and how it is determined fascinating. I was relieved to see that Oxy was in a different category than T3. Of course, most people are reading it about pot, but I’m not most people.
  • The New Costco Card. Costco will be changing our credit cards from Amex to CitiVisa. In the process, they are moving to a card with outstanding deals. This might entice me to use the card at gas stations, although I’m sure that the gas rebate is less than the discount I get for the private gas company cards (which are charged like cash).
  • Yiddish Roots of Hollywood/Angel’s Flying. With my daughter’s love of Yiddish, article on the subject catch my eye. Here’s an exploration of Hollywood’s Yiddish roots. If that doesn’t interest you, read about how the Angels flew to Anaheim.
  • Celiac Disease and DNA. It appears they are finding more and more information about the root causes of Celiac Disease. This time, they’ve identified more of the trigger DNA sequences.
  • Darwin and Drives. Thumb drives, that is. It appears that surveys show that a majority of people, when they find a thumb drive lying in the street, will plug it into their computer to find out who owns it. They do, and — blam — they are pwned. Leave the investigation of drives to the trained professionals.
  • Porn Economics. Here’s a detailed article exploring the economics of porn, including the fact that most porn sites are run by one company, and that the search terms they choose insidiously propagate particular attitudes and preferences designed to denigrate. It is a fascinating read if only for that access: the tremendous amount of data these sites collect from you. Our society and our electronics used to be somewhat anonymous: your iPod didn’t report your music preference to Apple, that clerk in the adult store didn’t collect names and preferences when cash was used, payphones weren’t tied to individuals. Welcome to the world of big data, and all hail our ubiquitious all-knowing all-collecting overlords.
  • Moving to Encryption. WordPress has moved to encryption by default of all wordpress.com websites. They’ve also moved to encrypting all domain names they host. This is something I need to do one of these days (once I figure out how), both for tasnorthridge-motas.org (which is homed at enomcentral but really on wordpress.com) and cahighways.org (which is homed on enomcentral, but hosted on Westhost).

If you didn’t see the earlier chum this week, they were on food and controversial subjects.

Chum of Controversy

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Apr 08, 2016 @ 7:45 pm PDT

userpic=los-angelesThis collection of news chum may be controversial. It touches on a number of hot button topics: religion, racism, trolls, and sexism.

  • To Bear or Not to Bear, A Cross Too Far. The origin of the user pic to the right is a battle from many years ago when Los Angeles County redesigned their county seal to remove the cross. A few years after that, one of few Republicans on the Board of Supervisors got it added back. A judge has just ruled that the cross must go: that a cross has no place on a county seal.
  • Dress Shirts and Racism. When sizing a shirt, what questions can you ask? This was an issue faced by an internet startup that wanted men to be able to order shirts that would fit them perfectly. He started collecting statistical data, and found out that one of the best predictors was… race. He then discovered that just asking the question put him into a cultural minefield. As the article notes: “There’s no denying the satisfaction of a smartly tailored shirt. But with this one question, the once mundane world of dress shirts is now dabbling in a kind of racial profiling. Are we ready to dredge up centuries of racial strife, simply for a perfect fit?”
  • The Troll Under the Bridge. Have you ever thought about the characteristics that define an Internet Troll? Boing! Boing! did, and came up with a quad chart of seriousness and sincerity. It came up with four categories that it categorized as Squares / Jesters / Worms / Trolls. It turns out, when pressed, there was a diagonal correlation: Squares to Trolls, and Jesters to Worms. A fascinating theory.
  • Gaming and Sexism. I’d seen the source article on this, but Vox had a great summary of a new issue that, is in a sense, an outgrowth of GamerGate: Sexism and Tabletop Gaming. I’ve been boardgaming for years, and I haven’t seen it in the community; then again, I might just have blinders that need to be recalibrated. But I can certainly believe it in the role playing and heavy wargaming  communities. We’re learning more and more about the sexism and aggression that was under the surface, that just wasn’t seen. Part of me longs for the days of my youth when we didn’t need to worry about this, but then I realize that although seeing these aggressions and problems is uncomfortable, it is necessary in order to move society above those problems.

 

Looking at Food Differently

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Apr 07, 2016 @ 7:33 pm PDT

userpic=fastfoodHere’s an installment towards this weekend’s news chum — a few articles (meeting the over three rule) all related to food:

 

Jazzin’ It Up, Turtle Style 🎻 Turtle Island Quartet @ VPAC

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Apr 07, 2016 @ 7:17 pm PDT

Turtle Island Quartet with Cyrus Chestnut (VPAC)userpic=ucla-csunLast night was one of those rare mid-week concerts. We normally don’t schedule mid-week, but the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) is almost walking distance, which makes it possible. This concert was advertised as a string quartet that was doing a program based on Jelly Roll Morton, Theloneous Monk, and Ragtime. This is the type of jazz I like (Morton), and the type of jazz my wife likes (Monk), so it was a no brainer. It ended up being a thoroughly delightful evening.

This production was part of the “on-stage” series, meaning that the audience is limited to 250 people, and we sit on-stage with the performers, looking out at the empty hall. This brought a wonderful intimacy to the show; one could watch closely how the performers were fingering, as well as their expressions as they got into the music.

The Turtle Island Quartet (FB) plays what is called Jazz Violin, meaning they can go anywhere from normal string quartet fare with a jazz flair, to bluegrass-tinged jazz, to full-on jazz. I kept thinking they would be great for the Woodsongs stage, with their odd range and high quality. Although they did a few solo numbers, for most of their numbers they were joined with Cyrus Chestnut on piano. I didn’t keep a complete list of the numbers, but there were a few Jelly Roll Morton numbers, a large numbers of Theloneous Monk numbers, some Scott Joplin, some Jazz Debussey, and a number by Bud Powell. There was also a jazzy version of Tea for Two.

Shows such as this demonstrate why one goes to live performance: much of the program was improvised: what we saw will never be seen or heard again. It was a shared experience of 255 people, plus ushers. We come home the better for it.

We also came home with one of their CDs. Live performance: you come home with music and memories.

* 🎭 🎭 🎭 *

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 had been subscribing at three theatres:  The Colony Theatre (FB), Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), and REP East (FB): but all have gone or are going dark (update: Cabrillo is coming back!), I just added a subscription to the  Hollywood Pantages (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: This weekend brings the penultimate show of this Cabrillo season: “Children of Eden” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on April 10. The following weekend’s theatre is on Thursday, because the weekend brings our annual visit to the Renaissance Faire (Southern). The Thursday show is Stella’s Last J-Date at the Whitefire Theatre (FB). The fourth weekend in April is is Pesach, but the Indie Chi Productions dark comedy Dinner at Home Between Deaths at the Odyssey Theatre (FB) sounded so interesting I’ve booked Sunday tickets. The last weekend of April will be the Four Clowns (FB) production of Lunatics and Actors at the LA Shakespeare Center on April 30. May starts with Endgame at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB). We then run off to the Bay Area for our daughter’s graduation from Berkeley. While there, we are seeing the Landmark Musical Theatre (FB)’s West Coast Regional Premiere of The Boy from Oz (but pay no attention to that production behind the curtain — if they start the same day, they are simultaneous premieres and both have equal bragging rights). May 21 has a hold for Los Angeles: Then and Now, a new musical at LA City College (FB) from Bruce Kimmel. The last weekend of May has holds for the MoTAS Outing to the Jethawks, and Armadillo Necktie at The Group Rep (FB). As for June? It’s the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve started to hold dates for the following shows: All Aboard the Marriage HearseAll The Best Killers are LibrariansQaddafi’s Cook — Living in Hell, Cooking for the DevilSqueeze My CansTell Me On A Sunday   Toxic Avenger: The Musical  ✨  Vintage BoxEinstein Titus Andronicus Jr.The Old Woman Sweet Love AdieuMy Big Fat Blond MusicalAlien vs. MusicalHamlet (Las Vegas Style) ✨. But that’s just a small percentage; there are over 200 shows listed now.  We thought about Love The Body Positive, but then again… no. Can’t be scaring people.  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.

A Night of Funny 😃 Elayne Boosler @ TAS

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Apr 03, 2016 @ 4:18 pm PDT

boosleruserpic=laughingLast night, Temple Ahavat Shalom (FB) threw a special fund raiser in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the formation of TAS as TAS out of the merger of two other congregations (Temple Beth Torah (1951-2016) and North Valley Reform (1962-1965)). For this fund raiser, TAS presented comedienne Elayne Boosler (FB).

When this was first announced, I was excited. As you’ve probably figured out, I attend loads of live performances every year, and I write up each and every one of them. Yes, that obsession extends to Temple events. So, last year, when we held a cantor’s concert, I felt obliged to write that up. It’s OK when things are good, but when they go south, well, it can be a bit awkward.

So, when I heard about Ms. Boosler coming, I was very happy. I could write up the show without worrying about feelings. Further, she was someone I had heard about, and about whom I had heard positive things. My wife, who isn’t always enamored of Temple events, didn’t even put up a fuss with the tickets.

So, last night came. And we were blown out of the water. The evening was extremely funny — I can’t think of the last time I’ve seen my wife laugh like that; it certainly topped both Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and An Act of God. There were some stories that I’m not sure I ever expected to hear from a bimah, but they were true and effective commentaries on life — which is what we get normally from a bimah. Evidently, a lot of the material was part of her regular act (which I hadn’t). I can’t remember a lot of the stories, but I did enjoy the reference contrasting Donald Trump with a Jackie Mason delivery.

During the show, Elayne mentioned her charity Tails of Joy, which does dog and cat rescue and supports such organizations. This made us think of our dear friend Mindy, who works with Boxer Rescue LA.  Mindy would have gotten a kick out of the show.

All, in all, a very enjoyable evening, with wonderful desserts. Congratulations to the 50th Anniversary Committee at TAS for doing this event; I hope an evening like this become an annual tradition. It’s something we’ll certainly go to.

Disclaimer: I must disclose that I am President of the Men of Temple Ahavat Shalom; as such, I am also a member of the Board of Trustees.

* 🎭 🎭 🎭 *

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 had been subscribing at three theatres:  The Colony Theatre (FB), Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), and REP East (FB): but all have gone or are going dark., I just added a subscription to the  Hollywood Pantages (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 up is a mid-week concert of the Turtle Quintet at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) on April 7, followed by “Children of Eden” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on April 10. The following weekend’s theatre is on Thursday, because the weekend brings our annual visit to the Renaissance Faire (Southern). The Thursday show is Stella’s Last J-Date at the Whitefire Theatre (FB). The fourth weekend in April is is Pesach, but the Indie Chi Productions dark comedy Dinner at Home Between Deaths at the Odyssey Theatre (FB) sounded so interesting I’ve booked Sunday tickets. The last weekend of April will be the Four Clowns (FB) production of Lunatics and Actors at the LA Shakespeare Center on April 30. May starts with a hold date for Endgame at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB). We then run off to the Bay Area for our daughter’s graduation from Berkeley. While there, we are seeing the Landmark Musical Theatre (FB)’s West Coast Regional Premiere of The Boy from Oz (but pay no attention to that production behind the curtain — if they start the same day, they are simultaneous premieres and both have equal bragging rights). May 21 has a hold for Los Angeles: Then and Now, a new musical at LA City College (FB) from Bruce Kimmel. The last weekend of May has holds for the MoTAS Outing to the Jethawks, and Armadillo Necktie at The Group Rep (FB). As for June? It’s the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve started to hold dates for the following shows: All Aboard the Marriage HearseAll The Best Killers are LibrariansQaddafi’s Cook — Living in Hell, Cooking for the DevilSqueeze My CansTell Me On A Sunday   Toxic Avenger: The Musical  ✨  Vintage BoxEinstein Titus Andronicus Jr.The Old Woman Sweet Love AdieuMy Big Fat Blond MusicalAlien vs. MusicalHamlet (Las Vegas Style) ✨. But that’s just a small percentage; there are over 200 shows listed now.  We thought about Love The Body Positive, but then again… no. Can’t be scaring people.  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.

An Alphabet of Chum: From A to Almost Z

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Apr 02, 2016 @ 2:11 pm PDT

userpic=masters-voiceOur life is a litany of interesting news articles, of news chum, ripe for the discussion. Shall I enumerate? I shall.