Observations Along the Road

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

A Sound of Music Midrash

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 14, 2015 @ 7:21 am PDT

Max and Elsa No Kids No Music (Norton School / Theatre Asylum)userpic=fringeIn Judaism, there is this concept of a midrash. A midrash tells the story between the lines; it explains the story that appears in the formal scripture by providing the back, side, and around story. Classic examples of midrashim include the story of Abraham smashing his father’s idols or the story of Lillith. Neither appear in the book of Genesis, but both are the explanations of the story that does appear.

Yesterday, we saw our second 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) show: Max and Elsa. No Kids. No Music. This show is a midrash on the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music. It tells the back, interstitial, and after story of two minor characters: Max Detweiler (Clayton Farris (FB)) and Baroness Elsa Schraeder (Megan Rose Greene (FB)) during the times not portrayed on the stage.  It begins with Max trying to find the right man for Elsa — a man who is wealthy enough that Max can sponge off of him as well as Elsa. Elsa is insistent that he not have kids, for she’s not the mothering type; however Max convinces her that Captain Georg Von Trapp (Frank Smith/FB) is the man for her. She’s unsure because of “all those kids”, but gives in.  Max tells her not to worry; he’s hired this non-descript nun to watch over them. What Max doesn’t tell her is his new position: he’s a booking agent and he’s looking for acts.

You know the rest of the visible story: how Georg and Elsa fell in love and got engaged, and how Maria and Georg fell in love and destroyed the engagement, creating a singing act in the process.  What you don’t know (and what this story shows) is how Max engineering the whole thing, including getting Maria to storm off and return. He even engineered their escape, and got arrested for it… which brought Max and Elsa back to where they were: trying to find the right man for Elsa.

The story itself was very amusing and laugh-out-loud funny at many points. The authors of this production, Mason Flink (FB) and Lindsay Kerns (FB), came up with a wonderful backstory for these characters — a backstory that meshes well with our memories of the characters. Under the direction of Flink (FB), Max is clearly a man obsessed with, and out for, … Max. His philosophy is to move in whatever direction advances the cause of Max, and provides Max with the ability to live large on someone else’s nickle. Elsa is that Baroness we see in the movies: cold and calculating, uncomfortable around children and music, strongly wanting someone with particular qualities — the ability to support her parties and her lifestyle, and keep up with her.

Clayton Farris (FB) (Max) and Megan Rose Greene (FB) (Elsa) did a wonderful job of creating and projecting these character traits. They worked well together and had a strong chemistry and humor. They also rolled wonderfully with the unpredictable beast that is live theatre: Elsa when the cap to her fountain pen just wouldn’t cooperate, and the both of them when Max slipped up and talked about the escape to Austria (no, Switzerland).

What adds to the humor in this production is the character that Flink (FB) created for Capt Von Trapp. As portrayed wonderfully by Frank Smith/FB, Von Trapp was a dim bulb who couldn’t even remember the names of all his children, didn’t want them to sing, and pretty much allowed himself to be manipulated by whomever was around him. His only passion was for Austria. The dim nature of Von Trapp, combined with Elsa’s cynical dislike for both children and music (with a mixture of Max’s self-obsession) combined to create wonderful comedy.

Supporting these three characters was Matthew Gilmore (FB) as both Rolf Gruber, Liesl’s 17 (going on 18) boyfriend, and the Mother Abbess. These side portrayals were hilarious.

On the technical side, the set design by Lindsay Kerns (FB) was simple: some boxes, photos, tables, etc. They worked just well enough to establish the requisite place and time. The sound design by Alysha Bermudez (FB) worked well, particularly the sound effect of the children and the interstitial music (musical echos of The Sound of Music‘s music, composed and whistled by  Mason Flink (FB)). Brandon Baruch (FB)’s lighting design illuminated the action, but due to Fringe limitations couldn’t do that much more. The costume design by Megan Rose Greene (FB) worked well: Elsa’s costumes gave off a wonderful sense of elegance and warmth; Max’s were suitably eccentric, and Georg’s had that echo of Austrian military. Rolf and the Mother Abbess were… inspired. Lastly, Jean Ansolabehere (FB) was the stage manager and coordinated props.

Max and Elsa. No Music. No Children. has five more performances, all of which are supposedly sold out. They will also supposedly be adding more pop-up performances (which will be announced on Twitter @thenortonschool). If you can get tickets, the show is well worth seeing.

Ancillary Notes. Be forewarned that parking may be horrible. We hunted in the area for ½ hour before giving up and paying $10 for the valet at the Dragonfly — the supposed Fringe central. This left us in a poor mood, which luckily the show brightened considerably. Alas, the good mood from the show was destroyed by the customer service problem we ran into at Fringe central afterward, but restored somewhat by our excellent evening show, Wombat Man: The Cereal Murders.  None of this is the fault of Max or Elsa, which is why this is an ancillary note.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I’ve been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. 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 afternoon brings Marry Me a Little (HFF) by Good People Theatre (FB) at the Lillian Theatre (FB). Next weekend sees the craziness continue with the Nigerian Spam Scam Scam (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and Merely Players (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and (on Sunday) The Count of Monte Cristo – The Musical  (FB) (HFF) at  the Lounge Theatre (FB) in the afternoon, and  Uncle Impossible’s Funtime Variety & Ice Cream Social, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) in the evening. The Fringe craziness ends with Medium Size Me, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Thursday 6/25 and Might As Well Live: Stories By Dorothy Parker (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Saturday. June ends with our annual drum corps show in Riverside on Sunday. July begins with “Murder for Two” at the Geffen Playhouse (FB) on July 3rd, and “Matilda” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on July 4th. July 11th brings “Jesus Christ Superstar” at REP East (FB). The following weekend brings “The History Boys” at the Stella Adler Theatre (FB) on Saturday (Goldstar), and “Green Grow The Lilacs” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) on Sunday.  July 25th brings “Lombardi” at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB), with the annual Operaworks show the next day. August starts with “As You Like It” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB), and is followed by the summer Mus-ique show, and “The Fabulous Lipitones” at  The Colony Theatre (FB). After that we’ll need a vacation! As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.

 

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Fringes on My Mind

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jun 13, 2015 @ 11:12 pm PDT

userpic=fringeFringes are on my mind today. This morning, I was Bimah Buddy at a service where we first read about the commandment to wear fringes on our clothes. This afternoon, I was at the Hollywood Fringe Festival.  This morning we read about how G-d told Moses to treat the scouts who came back from the Promised Land with a negative attitude. Today, I encountered someone with a negative attitude which provoked a similar urge (not acted upon).  Here’s what happened:

As you know (if you read my schedule at the bottom of any recent theatre post), I’m going to a lot of Fringe shows. When I purchased my tickets, I got a “Fringe Button” to get a discount. This corresponds to a real physical button you can get at “Fringe Central” which is a particular bar on Theatre Row. Last week, during Fringe Previews, we attempted to pick up our button. Fringe Central, however, wasn’t ready — we were told to come back this week.

This week we had shows at 4pm and 8pm (write-ups tomorrow and later in the week). Parking in Hollywood was especially bad, and after 30 minutes of looking we were forced to use the valet at Fringe Central and walk 4 blocks (with my wife’s sore knee) to get to our show. At that time, we were told Fringe Central was open. After our show we walked back, expecting to be able to pick up our pin and sit for a bit before we went to dinner and our 8pm show. However, Fringe Central had been kicked out by the venue owner because they booked something else without telling them; the director of the Fringe was sitting outside, and we were told to ask him. We asked if we could get our button from him, and we were told the stuff was inside; come back tomorrow. We related our exasperation to him, and were about to suggest he mail them to us when he claimed we were aggressive, and told us to go away. Very poor customer service, although I understand his exasperation.

We ended up driving around, having a cheap dinner, and then sitting in our car near the other theatre for 45 minutes while we waited for it to open (it was too cold outside). This left my wife so pissed off at the Fringe she doesn’t want to book additional shows, and doesn’t want to go next year. All due to bad customer service.

I don’t like to dwell on the bad. The Fringe has great shows, but has fallen down this year on patron services. I sent the following specific suggestions to the director for next year. These come from my over 25 years of involvement with ACSAC:

  1. The minute HFF found out they had lost Fringe Central for the day, an email should have gone out to those with tickets for today to inform them.
  2. Ideally, the venue booked for Fringe Central should have, as part of their contract, been required to provide you with an alternate venue and help you temporarily relocate and provide signage. HFF could quite likely have made arrangements with the Hudson or EatThis to temporarily camp there to take care of patrons. They should also have provided you with compensation. If that wasn’t in HFF contract this year, put it in next year.
  3. As you discovered the parking was going to be bad, you could have used the email mechanism to warn patrons to provide extra time to find parking. Next year, HFF might make arrangements with some of the schools and businesses to rent out their lots on heavy days.
  4. The online sales system should permit multiple buttons to be purchased As it is, you can only purchase one, creating difficulty if you are buying tickets for a couple. You could create one ID for each person in your party to get multiple buttons, but that is too much work for many. You should be able to purchase multiple buttons, and have the system apply one button to one ticket.
  5. For online sales, there should be an option to mail the buttons so people can have something before the show. You can use this to provide information on discounts, which will help your sponsors; information on parking, which will reduce patron frustration; and getting the buttons out will enthuse your patrons. HFF cannot assume everyone lives in or near Hollywood. We drove to the Fringe from Northridge.

This year was an experiment for me, trying to take advantage of the Fringe to book lots of shows. Previous years, I only booked one. I hope that they can figure out how to fix their problems so I don’t have to go back to my previous model. [And hopefully, the North Hollywood Fringe (FB) in October will not have these problems.]

 

Saturday News Chum

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jun 13, 2015 @ 1:45 pm PDT

userpic=observationsIt’s Saturday, and that means it’s time to clean out the accumulated links.  As I’ve got about an hour before I jump into the Fringe, let’s get going:

 

Paying for Reviews, Take 2

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Jun 08, 2015 @ 12:00 pm PDT

userpic=99loveTime to wade back into the frey. While finishing my salad at lunch, I was reading another take on the “Pay for Review” situation that I stepped into yesterday. For background, read the introduction on my previous post. I want to say upfront that I do not like, do not approve, do not condone, theatres paying for reviews.

That said, there are two arguments in this discussion that may be red herrings: the argument that theatres cannot afford these reviews, and the argument that if this works, everyone will do it. The two are connected, and let me show why they are wrong.

  1. Theatres cannot afford to pay for reviews. One of the key things that seems to be forgotten is that no one is holding a gun to the head of a theatre company and making them pay for a review. They can always just ignore the Bitter Lemons Imperative and do what they did before: send out press comps and hope that someone comes. Although the option is there, a theatre that uses it end up with egg on its face if it uses it either due to quality of the result, the tainted nature of the result, or what it implies about the show. Furthermore, they may not want a review from Bitter Lemons, seeing the unpredictable quality that comes out and its reputation as a review source. That’s true even for unsolicited reviews: consider the power of an “LA Times” recommendation vs. a recommendation the North Valley Chamber of Commerce Newsletter (or even this blog :-) ). However, that’s neither here nor there. If theatre companies don’t have the money, they just don’t have to pay.
  2. But Everyone Will Want To Charge. Two schools of thought here. One is that, given the nature of journalism, press outlets may finally stop giving free coverage, unless it is real news, to non-advertisers. They’ll cover your theatre if it burns down or someone dies in a rehearsal. A review, especially a good one? That’s advertising. So — independent of what Bitter Lemons has done — papers may try to start charging anyway. So, you say, perhaps Bitter Lemons will start the trend. Papers will then start charging more and more, and theatres just cannot afford it. This brings us back to the previous point. If they don’t have the money, they don’t have to pay and Bitter Lemons will demonstrate that the idea was a failure. The theatres will just shift even more to word of mouth, recognized theatre bloggers for whom sufficient payment is free tickets, social media promotions, and promotion sites such as Goldstar. Human nature being what it is, you can always find people that will review for free.

Again, let me emphasize that I am not supporting theatre companies paying for reviews. I personally feel it is an incredible conflict of interest (whether real or just perceived) that devalues the review, devalues the theatre, and devalues the publication. That, alone, to me is a reason not to do this. But the two arguments above — affordability and slippery slope — are poor arguments.

P.S.: Lastly, you might say this hurts the “pro99″ cause. It only does if theatres buy into it (thereby demonstrating they have the hidden cash in the budget). If they ignore it, they will succeed if they invite legitimate independent theatre critics and recognized bloggers with traditional perqs (accommodating those like me who feel free tickets are also a conflict of interest), and double down on the social media and postcards. If you ignore the “imperative” and just plain and simply do good and compelling work, you’ll succeed far better.

P.P.S.: With respect to these points, the larger theatres (major houses with seating above 300 or so) may be able to afford this. There, well, you get what you pay for. They are also the theatres that can pay $$$ for newspaper advertising, which may make the print journalists in mercenary mode more likely to send the critic. They are also the theatres that tend to get reviewed, and they may not pay for it simply because a Bitter Lemons review buys them no additional attendees. Most importantly, their greyhair audience wouldn’t be able to find Bitter Lemons (<granny-voice>”Where do I find that, Sonny? At my grocery store? I asked, and they said all lemons were bitter.” </end-granny-voice>)

 

Medieval Improvisation (or) I Hate a Man Who Quests

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 07, 2015 @ 8:19 am PDT

Camenot (Hollywood Fring)userpic=fringeThis week marks the start of the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), an ambitious effort where approximately 274 shows are mounted over 19 different venues during the month of June. For the last two Fringes, we’ve only made it to one show (the musical from Good People Theatre (FB)). This year, we’ve tried to hit more Fringe shows. We’ve typically got 3 shows each Fringe weekend, and that only hits a small percentage of the shows. Our first Fringe show was to be Clybourne Park (Lounge Theatre), but alas they cancelled on Thursday. Perusing the other shows available on Saturday night, we selected Camenot: The Broadway Style Medieval Musical (Acme Theatre @ The Complex) (FB) as its replacement. The published description intrigued us: “Kings, Queens, knights, maidens, magic and music! Is it Camelot? No… it’s the nearby but far less perfect kingdom of CAMENOT, where everyone grows up on the wrong side of the trail. Join the cast of this broadway-style medieval musical on their hilarious, improvised quest for that coveted fairy tale ending!” So, after seeing Grease (The Movie) in a singalong showing as a subscriber reward at The Colony Theatre (FB), we toddled over to Hollywood to wait at Fringe Central (which wasn’t open yet), hung around at the Hudson Cafe, had dinner, and toddled down the street to The Acme Theatre at the Complex Theatres (FB) for Camenot.

Unlike a lot of shows we see, Camenot is not a scripted show. It is improvisation. At the beginning of the show, the men in the cast come out and asked for a medieval noun. In our case, someone shouted out “Chalace”. The ladies in the cast then come out and ask for an “adjective”; our’s was “lumpy”. As a result, our show was about “The Quest for the Lumpy Chalace”.

Now, I sincerely doubt that this is 100% improvisation. That would be difficult when you have musical accompaniment. My guess is that the improvisation team works the selected item into a rough framework of a story, with pre-defined musical pieces that are engineered to support some level of improvisation.

[Edited Interruption: Turns out, I was wrong on my doubt. The director commented (see the comments section) the following: “The show is pure improvisation. There is no preset plot structure, there are no preset characters and there is no preset music that our cast plugs lyrics into. Jonathan Green is making up the music on the spot right along with us! Like a pure free jazz ensemble, we rehearse improvising together, but don’t have any framework, other than it will be medieval in nature. ” This makes what this company does even more impressive. Coming up with music and lyrics on the fly is exceedingly difficult, especially when there is no preset arrangement between the fingers on the keyboard and the brain making the words. Now we resume….]

The fact that this was improvisation was clear; cast members standing to the side often were visibly stifling laughter at what other cast members were doing. I had no problem with that — the audience has fun when the cast has fun, and this cast was clearly enjoying what they were doing.

I’ll describe, roughly, the story we had. As just noted, I guess other stories will be similar but not the same — I could imagine a very different story if the improvised item was a “Filthy Bath”. In our story, there was a serf family — a husband (Garrett, if I recall correctly), wife, and three children — dealing with a bad drought. The husband collects some good and goes off to the man in the castle to give him anything to fix the drought. He asks the man (whose name was Cunningham) to collect the tears of the Druidia the woodland nymph and bring them back to him. Druidia, however, is pissed at Cunningham in the castle for breaking promises, and lying about the death of her true love (Thomas, the grandfather of the husband on the quest, who made the lumpy chalice). She relates the story, gets sad, cries, and the tears are collected. When the man returns to the castle, the ghost of his grandfather appears and explains the true story. The principals are brought together, and Druidia throws away the tears, which ends the drought (oh, were it that easy). The family is restored to happiness, Cunningham loses, and Druidia is happier again. Onto the basic scaffolding were overlain about 4-5 songs, all of which were enjoyable in the moment but ultimately not memorable.

All of the story above is conveyed through acting and improvisation, for the set was a basic black box with an upper level, and perhaps one or two smaller boxes on stage that provided seating. There were no props; the only other thing on the stage was the music director (Jonathan Green (FB)) at his keyboard, with a visible clock to ensure the production fit within the 45 minute allotted timeslot. As such, imagination and the art of the theatre came to the fore, and worked quite well. This is a great reminder that it is not fancy production values and perfect set realism that makes a show — it is the talent of the actor to create the set in the mind.

Camenot Cast (HFF) - From FacebookThe cast of the show (a significant subset of the normal show cast) — Brian Giovanni (FB), Brian Breiter (FB), Joseph Limbaugh (FB), Beth Leckbee (FB), Kimberly Lewis (FB) [who we’ve seen before in Moon Over Buffalo], & Amanda Troop (FB), under the direction of Brian Lohmann (FB) — were very talented (in the picture to the right, the men (in the order listed, L to R) are in the back row, the women (in the order listed, L to R) in the front). I was particularly impressed with the singing voices of both Leckbee and Troop — they had lovely strong and pure voices that were a delight to the ears. As I started with the ladies, I’ll note that they were also strong with the comedy. I recall the woodland scenes with Leckbee as Druidia, with the other ladies acting as animals — with Troop as a trilly-lizard. The men also were strong on the comedy side, particularly Limbaugh as the husband on the quest, and Breiter as Cunningham. It was hilarious to watch the actors trying to catch up and react as new directions were suddenly improvised (particularly when they were standing on the side — I recall quite a few scenes where you could see the actors on the side on the edge of laughter from their colleague’s improvisations). It takes a quick mind and a quick wit to pull that off; this team did it well. My guess is that this comes from the fact they regularly improv together on this show throughout the year.

One failing of the show, alas, is that they do not provide a program. I was able to piece together the cast above from the list on the HFF website and the cast page for the show. However, they do not list any technical credit. Clearly there was no set design, no sound design, no stage manager, and such. There was however a lighting design, which was simplistic but worked reasonably well to convey mood. There was also likely a costume designer, but as the actors arrived in costume (I was talking to both Kimberly Lewis and Joseph Limbaugh outside before the show), it could have just been from the actor’s closet. I’ll note they were not the realistic costumes one sees at RenFaire; rather, they were more the velour/velvety costumes that musicals such as Camelot have led us to believe were the height of fashion in medieval times. In spite of that, I did find the costumes cute; I particularly enjoyed the little touches that Beth Leckbee put on her costume.

This production would be quite at home on the RenFaire stage; I’m surprised they haven’t done it before. But I guess a RenFaire-ish improve on an intimate theatre stage but not the Faire itself balances Moonie and Broon (FB), who are regularly at Faire, but doing a single show at the Colony on June 20 (see how cleverly I worked that in :-)). We went last year and it was quite fun; this year, the Fringe Festival was booked first.

Camenot has three more shows as part of the Fringe: 6/13 at 10pm; 6/19 at 7:30 pm, and 6/27 at 4:15 pm. They also evidently do the show monthly the first Saturday of the month at Acme. Fringe tickets may be purchased from the Fringe website and are only $10; tickets during the year may be purchased through the show website (although there are no tickets listed there). Check here for Goldstar discount tickets, but be forewarned they haven’t listed any since 2014. C’mon, the show is only $10 — you can afford to pay full price! I do recommend the show — the production values may not be the greatest, but it is a fun short evening and clever improv…. plus every show is different.

One last note on this show: The tickets they used were actually advertisements for the NoHo Fringe Festival (FB), which will be October 1-25, 2015. Alas, we already have a fair number of weekends booked (yes, I do plan that far in advance), but given this is NoHo, we’ll try to squeeze in as much as we can. Thanks to Acme for bringing this to our attention.

Other Fringe Show Notes. Before the show, we had dinner over at EatThis Cafe. While there, we had a lovely discussion with Ann Starbuck (FB), the author and star of Tiananmen Annie. The show sounds interesting; we may try to fit it into our schedule; most likely it will be my wife who will succeed in doing so. Based on our discussion, I recommend you consider her show. It has gotten good writeups in the past.

Grease Sing-a-Long at the ColonyGrease Sing-a-Long at the Colony. As noted above, before the Fringe show, we went to Grease (The Movie) in a singalong showing as a subscriber reward at The Colony Theatre (FB). This is a movie that has been out for a while and there’s no real point in reviewing it. I do, however, have a few comments:

  • It was interesting to contrast seeing the movie on a big screen vs. at home on TV. I was able to note the background performers much more, and to see who was singing and who wasn’t, and how the background would suddenly break out in dance.
  • We guessed, while watching the show, that it was filmed at either Van Nuys HS or Venice HS. We were right about Venice. The location used for the carnival scene at the end (which turned out to be Huntington Park HS) was clearly a different school from the fictional Rydell.
  • The actors look much less like believable teenagers on the big screen.
  • Turnout for the performance was poor — perhaps 20 people. Surprisingly, a number had never seen the movie (such as the older couple behind us …. that kept talking)

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

Upcoming Shows: Today brings a Men of TAS outing to see the Lancaster Jethawks, so alas there is no more theatre today. The bounty that is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) continues throughout June. Next weekend brings Max and Elsa. No Music. No Children. (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and  Wombat Man (HFF) at Underground Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Marry Me a Little (HFF) by Good People Theatre (FB) at the Lillian Theatre (FB) on Sunday. The craziness continues into the third weekend of June, with the Nigerian Spam Scam Scam (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and Merely Players (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Uncle Impossible’s Funtime Variety & Ice Cream Social, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Sunday (and possibly “Matilda” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) in the afternoon, depending on Hottix availability, although July 4th weekend is more likely). The Fringe craziness ends with Medium Size Me, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Thursday 6/25 and Might As Well Live: Stories By Dorothy Parker (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Saturday. June ends with our annual drum corps show in Riverside on Sunday. July begins with “Murder for Two” at the Geffen Playhouse (FB) on July 3rd, and possibly Matilda. July 11th brings “Jesus Christ Superstar” at REP East (FB). The following weekend brings “The History Boys” at the Stella Adler Theatre (FB) on Saturday (Goldstar), and “Green Grow The Lilacs” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) on Sunday.  July 25th brings “Lombardi” at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB), with the annual Operaworks show the next day. August starts with “As You Like It” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB), and is followed by the summer Mus-ique show, and “The Fabulous Lipitones” at  The Colony Theatre (FB). After that we’ll need a vacation! 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.

Saturday Stew: 10, 512, H20, 2, 0, and 0219

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jun 06, 2015 @ 10:48 pm PDT

Observation StewWell, it’s late Saturday night, and I’m home from my first Fringe show. That writeup will be tomorrow morning — tonight, it’s time to clear out the links so we can make some news chum stew. Are you hungry yet?

  • Windows 10 is Coming. Quick, get a Dixie Cup. OK, so it’s an old joke and in bad taste. But we’re talking Windows here. Seriously, if you have a Windows 7 or Windows 8 system, you might see a new little icon so you can sign up to get the latest and greatest Windows when it is released on July 29. You’ll have a year to upgrade for free. So I’ve got a collection of articles that I found of interest on the upgrade. First and foremost, there are a number of features that will not work or will be removed when (if) you upgrade. Second, here’s an article on what to expect when the upgrade happens. Supposedly, you’ll need to do a clean install. What I haven’t seen yet is how well the upgrade process works for an in-place system, or seen a good list of what other older software will not work. My advice: You’ll have until July 2016 to request the upgrade. I’d suggest waiting a good two months and letting everyone else be the guinea pig.
  • Apple, are you listening? Having talked about Microsoft, let’s now talk about Apple. This week brought the news that Microdia will be selling a 512GB micro-SD card for around $1000 (and you can expect the price to go down as others start manufacturing, plus there are reminders that the extra-capacity SDXC format allows for up to 2TB cards. OK, Apple, here’s your challenge. Do you want to win back all the people that loved the iPod Classic for their music? Do you want to prevent these folks from migrating to any of the other large capacity players? Here’s a simple answer: sell an iPod Touch that can take a micro-SD card up to 2TB. Not only can folks store their music, they have room for loads of apps, and loads of photos (they will be grabbed by photographers). Think of all the money you can make backing that up to the cloud.
  • Water Water Everywhere. Here are three articles related to water. The first explores how to find the control room for the Bellagio fountains. There are loads of facts in the article; my favorite was the following: “The water they use for the fountains is a self-sustained source that used to be used for the old Dunes golf course before they took it down.”  I had read in another book on Vegas that Wynn bought the land for the Bellagio because it had its own springs. Speaking of piping water, when you hear Budweiser, what do you think of? I know, watered-down beer. Did you know in emergencies that AB doesn’t add the beer (of course, how would you know?). Seriously, those of us in LA know that AB canned water during the big earthquake. Well, with the recent damage in Texas, they switched to canning water as well. Lastly, I found a real good collection of stories at the Times on drought gardening.
  • A-One. A-Two. If you are security aware, you turn on two-factor authentication whereever you can. But how do you do it? Here’s an article with information on turning on two-factor authentication on over 100 sites. In particular, it links to a step-by-step guide to turning on two-factor authentication.
  • Illusions in the Air. Here’s an interesting (well, to me) discussion of Avatar Airlines, an airline that is too good to be true. Just like the recently panned (and rightfully so) Bitter Lemons Imperative (plus one, two, three), here’s an idea that might have sounded good on a surface read, but when you dig deeper, it is fraught with problems. This really goes to show why you need to think an idea out thoroughly before you put it on the net. [I didn’t earlier today, and learned my lesson]
  • A Burnin’ Issue. OK, Grammar Geeks. Here’s one for you (h/t Andrew D): Which unicode character should represent the apostrophe? The answer is easy to get wrong, as the Unicode committee did. They chose ’ (U+2019), which is RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK (as opposed to ‘ (single quote)), as opposed to ʼ (U+02BC), which is MODIFIER LETTER APOSTROPHE. Why is this significant? The former creates a word boundary; the latter does not. Now you know why your capitalization routine changes it’s to It’S.

 

Paying for Reviews… The Right Way

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jun 06, 2015 @ 12:52 pm PDT

userpic=99loveIn the last few days, there has been a… discussion… over on one of my Facebook groups regarding a decision by Bitter Lemons to allow theatres to pay money to get a critic to review their show. General reaction to the decision has been poor, there have even been a few blogs (one, two, three) railing against the issue. There has even been criticism on Bitter Lemons itself.

Now, when I first heard about it, I thought it might be a good way for theatres that are never reviewed to get known. But the discussion has made me realize that that benefit is offset by too many negatives: it looks like pay for good reviews, theatres would be upset paying for bad reviews. It also takes away money that theatres don’t have, according to our pro99 arguments. In short, it’s a bad idea. [I’ll also note that if it is done, there must be transparency: such paid reviews must be clearly marked and segregated.] [ETA: Edited to add emphasis. Note that the segregation mentioned in the previous bracketed comment is so that people can clearly know to ignore the pay-for-play review — I suggested on BL that a glyph such as 💩 (a steaming pile of poo) be used.]

But I’m not an actor. I’m an engineer. I solve problems. These are the problems as I see it:

  1. Bitter Lemons needs to raise funds to support their work.
  2. We need to increase the amount of theatre criticism being published.
  3. Lesser known theatres and theatres off the beaten path with no reputation need an equal chance to be reviewed.

I thought about this a bit, and was musing about how even comp tickets provided to reviewers are a conflict of interest. True independence would be critics buying their own tickets to shows (something I do). This would be just like Consumers Reports buying cars off the lot, not having them be provided by manufactures.

Buying cars off the lot. Like Consumers Reports. Then it hit me…

Perhaps that’s the model we need to move to (and I think someone suggested something like this in the discussion). Theatres and individuals can pay into a fund managed by Bitter Lemons to get reviews for theatres in general, just like people can donate to the Consumers Union foundation. [My wife pointed out that even Consumers Union prohibits manufacturers from donating; in that vein, my original notion was wrong. If we create such a fund — indeed, if reviews are funded — it can only be done by media outlets or perhaps non-profits with no connection to theatre production. Again, this averts any actual or perceived conflict of interest.] This fund can then send critics out to theatres that traditionally don’t get a sufficient threshhold of reviews on Bitter Lemons. That may well be the theatre that has donated, but the theatre did not fund that particular review — there’s not a direct causation of the payment to the review like you have now. In fact, it might be in the interest of larger theatres that regularly get reviewed — and have the funds — to contribute to this fund to help the entire Theatre community get visibility. [The indirect payment notion goes away if we do not permit funding by theatrical entities. The last notion has been pointed out to me to be unworkable — small theatres don’t have the funds to spare; larger theatres would not spare them.]

This, my friends, meets the three goals: (1) Bitter Lemons can still get its cut for reviews; (2) more theatre reviews are published; and (3) theatres that don’t get reviewed get reviewed. It does away with the negative: the theatre is not directly paying for the review of its show. It also permits the “haves” in the community to help those who have not.

[When one raises ideas up the flagpole, sometimes they get shot down. Sometimes it is a BB gun, sometimes a bazooka. In any case, it appears that I, like Colin, didn’t think this through completely. I would still like to come up with a solution to get the theatres that don’t have visibility — and cannot afford publicists — visibility. I have some other ideas to address that, but any idea that does address it must be done under the auspices and funding of a media outlet, not even indirectly funded by the entities reviewed.]

I have suggested this idea to Colin. We shall see what happens.

Assessing The Story Behind The Art

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Jun 02, 2015 @ 5:13 pm PDT

Waterfall (Pasadena Playhouse)userpic=pasadena-playhouseDid you ever look at a painting, and wonder about the story behind the painting? That was the question that Kulap Saipradit asked in his novel “Behind the Painting“, a story that is required reading in Thailand (from what I have seen on the Internet).  It was subsequently adapted into two Thai movies (1985 and 2001), and supposedly into a musical in Thailand (Khang Lang Parp). Richard Maltby. Jr. (Book and Lyrics) and David Shire (Music) have adapted this classic Thai story into a new musical, Waterfall, at the Pasadena Playhouse (FB) (which we saw in a preview performance on Sunday night (May 31, 2015)). According to the program, the ultimate plans are for this musical to continue on to Broadway; it was in New York in early 2014 for a lab development reading. PS: The Jewish Journal has a great article on how this show came to America.

The original Thai story dealt with two Thai aristocrats in 1930s Japan and Thailand, who wrestle with their love for each other, and their duty to their family. The two protagonists are both involved in arranged relationships which they entered into out of duty to family and social class.  Maltby and Shire’s adaptation keeps the basic elements of the story, but tweaks the story for American audiences to have a young Thai student fall in love with the young American wife of a senior Thai diplomat. This occurs at the time when Siam was transitioning into Thailand, and becoming a democracy (which, alas, didn’t last). The senior Thai diplomat, who had been about to retire, was enticed to stay by an assignment as an envoy to America (where he married his wife). He was then presented with an opportunity he couldn’t pass up: negotiating an alliance between Siam/Thailand and Japan, in the years just before World War II.

In Maltby’s adaptation (I can’t speak to the original), there are two distinct threads: a political threat and a romantic threat; these two threads are tightly interwoven. The political thread I just mentioned; it primarily concerns Noppon, a young Thai student who starts out idolizing America; the older Siamese diplomatic envoy, Cho Khun Atikarn; and his younger wife, Katherine Briggs Atikarn. Noppon, upon graduation from Thai educational system, has been awarded a scholarship to study politics at a prestigious school in Japan. At the same time, Atikarn has been directed by the Siamese government to negotiate the first ever alliance treaty with Japan. Atikarn arrives in Japan, and Noppon is requested (because he speaks English) to escort Katherine during her visit to Japan. More on that later. The political negotiations start to get testy as Foreign Minister Takamota becomes increasingly anti-American, and Japan starts to exhibit its expansionist side. This creates difficulty in the negotiations; the negotiation break off completely when Atikarn is recalled to Siam to help stabilize the government.

Parallel to this story is the story of Noppon and Katherine. This is the big romantic story that is at the heart of the musical (and, indeed, the Thai variations of it have been at the heart of all productions based on the novel). Noppon, upon seeing Katherine, starts to fall in love. Katherine enjoys the attentions of a younger man, and continues to flirt with him as Atikarn’s work brings them to Kyoto. Noppon and Katherine see the sights in the city: the Tanabata Festival, the Taiko Display. Eventually, they take a tour to Mt. Mitake. There, in front of the waterfall, they dance (mmmm, and a little bit more).

This is where Act I ends. In Act II, we see Katherine and Atikarn leave abruptly for Siam, with Noppon left behind to be groomed for the diplomatic corps. He is head over heals with infatuation, and the sudden departure fractures him and forces him into his work. Katherine, on the other hand, is pragmatic. Flings are flings, and her duty is to her husband, the Ambassador. Noppon’s infatuation leads him to send a set of paints to Katherine, as she had mentioned she had painted when she was young. A few years later, Noppon is posted back to Thailand — and we get the reunion. It it what you might predict, or something else? I’ll leave the story there so as not to completely spoil it.

This brings us to where we started: a painting. Going back to the opening of the musical,  we see this painting being hung in a new house by Noppon. His wife comes by and says she doesn’t see what Noppon sees in the painting, which is a watercolor of the waterfall at Mr. Mitaki. In particular, she doesn’t understand why the title refers to dancers, when there are none in the picture. This is where Noppon smiles, indicates that he sees the dancers, and starts to relate to the audience the story above.

When dealing with a new musical — and the first big staging of a new musical — a number of areas require analysis: the book, the libretto, the performances, and the technical aspects of the presentation. I’ve described the story above; here are my thoughts on the book:

First and foremost, my mind kept contrasting this to The King and I. There are some parallels. The King and I takes place in the 1860s in Siam — less than 100 years before this story. In The King and I, we see some of the first stirrings of modern thinking struggling against Thai tradition. It is in these areas that Anna clashes with the King, but the King holds fast — it is his son that starts to bring in change. In Waterfall, we have a similar theme being echoed: Noppon (representing Siam’s youth) wants to be all things American. This clashes with Japan, which in the ramp up to WWII was rejecting the modernities of America in favor of the preservation of Japanese culture. When Katherine enters the picture, we begin to see the clash of American attitudes with Thai culture and traditions. We see this first in the reactions of Katherine’s servant, Nuan, to American outspokeness — and we see how Katherine wants to be more Thai. This, in turn, moves Noppon to place greater value in Thai culture… which then clashes with the new Thailand values, which wants to discard Thai culture in favor of the modern world and its Western approaches. This, then, is the culmination of the effort begun with the King’s son in The King and I.

I found the political side of the story fascinating (and I find myself seeing echoes of Pacific Overtures). I have never given much thought to the other countries in East Asia during WWII: were they on the side of Allies, or allied with the Axis? Here we see how Japan was growing ready for WWII, and had significant territorial ambitions. We also see how Thailand tried to straddle the middle (at least according to Noppon); it is unclear how what was presented near the epilogue jives with the truth.

This brings us to the romantic story. My wife found it mostly predictable. I didn’t. I thought it was going to go a particular direction (which the first act makes you want to happen), but then you see how a change in the characters changes that direction, and brings the romantic story to a different, but equally touching conclusions. However, I’m unsure how well this romantic story will play on the Broadway stage. It is certainly more interesting than Light in the Piazza, but given the current nature of Broadway I’m not sure that a romantic story would have a long run. This could be one of a string of Pasadena Playhouse musicals that make it to Broadway, only to have their runs fizzle out. The track record speaks for itself: Baby Its You, Sister Act, A Night with Janis Joplin. I still think they should have brought the excellent Mask to Broadway.

But overall, I liked the book. It wasn’t the immediate grab of a Hairspray or The Book of Mormon, but it wasn’t a failure either.

Next, let’s look at the liberetto — the music and lyrics. I tend to like Maltby / Shire musicals — Baby has a wonderful score, and despite it’s problems there are some great songs in Big. Maltby and Shire also know how to write great story and romantic songs — just look at the revue Closer than Ever. The score for Waterfall is one of the most integrated scores I’ve seen from the team. There are a number of songs I liked as I heard them (alas, it is hard to remember them afterwards — I’d need a cast album). They also had songs that were primarily sung in other languages, both Japanese and Thai. I cannot speak to how well they preserved or captured traditional Thai or Japanese musical stylings. But the songs were beautiful, and well executed by the performers. One thing I did notice was that there were just a few musical motifs; they kept being repurposed for similar songs with similar themes (this is best illustrated by the series of “I Am” songs: “I Am Not Thai”, “I Will Be Thai”; or the “I Like” songs: “I Like Americans”, “I Like the Japanese”, “I Hate the Siamese”).

This brings us to the performances. Before I go into the individual performances, I must comment on what this show says about the lack of diversity in the American theatre, and the lack of suitable dramatic vehicles for Asian actors. In reading the credits, the same shows tended to be listed — shows that are (almost stereotypically) Asian: The King and I, Flower Drum Song, Miss Saigon, Pacific Overtures. I think there need to be more shows that provide the opportunity for Asian actors. What East-West Players does is just a start. Of course, things are not helped by the set of Equity actors, which tend to be overwhelmingly of a common hue. This leads to the next casting complaint: Casting directors that seem to think that all Asians look alike. For those who know, there are distinct differences between the various Asian ethnicities, and the Asian casting here was a mix of Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and probably some I couldn’t distinguish. I find this demonstrates a commentary on the acting pool: it indicates there are insufficient actors of a particular group to properly staff the show. This is something the theatre community needs to combat: we need to encourage more diversity in the acting pool (and diverse stories to employ them). [This is where 99 seat theatre demonstrates its importance: it is that stepping stone for non-traditional actors to grow in their craft; the large paying productions cannot employ sufficient ethnic actors and tend to create a high bar to entry.]

In the lead positions were Bie Sukrit (FB) as Noppon and Emily Padgett (FB) as Katherine. This was Sukrit’s first appearance on an American stage — he is evidently a pop star in Thailand — and he came across as the equal to the other Equity actors sharing the stage. I initially found his accent required close listening, but as I got used to it there was no problem. He did, however, need greater amplification to equal Padgett and to overpower the orchestra (hopefully, this will be fixed by opening night). As for Padgett — what a lovely voice, almost operatic. It was well suited for the music, and blended well with Sukrit’s lighter voice. Both did a great job of bringing the characters to life in a way that you believed they were who they were, and that they were reflecting the emotions that the story required. I’d try to name particular songs that they excelled at, but they were all great.

In major supporting positions were Thom Sesma (FB) (Chao Khun Atikarn), J. Elaine Marcos (FB) (Nuan), and as Noppon’s college friends, Jordan De Leon (FB) (Santi, Ensemble), Colin Miyamoto (FB) (Surin), and Lisa Helmi Johanson (FB) (Kumiko, Ensemble). Again, all were excellent. I was particularly taken with the presence that Sesma had as Atikarn — he gave off a wonderful diplomatic flair, and had a lovely singing voice. Marcos, as Nuan, captured the culture clash well and was particularly enjoyable in the number “I Will Be Thai”. Lastly, of Noppon’s college friends, I particularly enjoyed Johanson’s Kumiko, who captured well both the joy and angst of being an Asian who was an American in the period before WWII. This came across extremely well in the song “America Will Break Your Hear”, as well as “Music to my Ears”.

Notable smaller supporting characters were Steven Eng (FB) (Foreign Minister Takamoto) and Marcus Choi (FB) (Thai Minister, Japanese Attaché, Ensemble), both who were great in their songs “I Like Americans” and “I Hate the Siamese” (respectively). Eng was particularly menacing in his role; this is a good thing given the nature of the role. Rounding out the cast were: Eymard Cabling (FB) (Siamese Ambassador, Ensemble), Rona Figueroa (FB) (Yamaguchi Sister, Ensemble), Kimberly Immanuel (FB) (Pree, Yamaguchi Sister, Ensemble), Kenway Hon Wai K. Kua (FB) (Taiko Drummer, Ensemble), Leon Le (FB) (Taiko Drummer, Ensemble), Koh Mochizuki (FB) (Taiko Drummer, Ensemble), Celia Mei Rubin (FB) (Ensemble), Darryl Semira (FB) (Ensemble, Dance Captain), Riza Takahashi (FB) (Yamaguchi Sister, Ensemble), Kay Trinidad (FB) (Ensemble), and Minami Yusui (FB) (Ensemble).  I’ll note that Figueroa, Immanuel, and Takahashi sounded lovely together in “Music to my Ears”.

As previously noted, the show featured lyrics by Richard Maltby. Jr. and music by David Shire. Music supervision and additional arrangements were by John McDaniel (FB), with orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick (FB). Mark Hartman (FB) was the associate conductor. McDaniel and Hartman conducted the 13 piece orchestra consisting of Christian Regul (FB) [Keyboard 2], David Witham (FB) [Keyboard Swing], Greg Huckins (FB) [Reed 1], Sean Franz (FB) [Reed 2], Bill Wood (FB) [Bassoon], Nathan Campbell [French Horn], Marissa Benedict (FB) [Trumpet], Mark Converse (FB) [Percussion], Trey Henry [Bass], Carrie Holtzman-Little and Jody Rubin  [Viola], and Rebecca Merblum (FB) and Stan Sharp [Cello]. The orchestra produced a lovely sound, which was notable for its inclusion of traditional Thai and Japanese instruments, such as the Ranat Ek, a curved, xylophone-like instrument.

Movement was choreographed by Dan Knechtges (FB), assisted by Jessica Hartman (Associate Choreographer). Dance music arrangements were by Greg Jarrett. The movement and dance was visually delightful, especially the numbers that incorporated traditional Thai and Japanese dance movements and motifs. There were also a number of moments of traditional ballroom and modern swing dancing (reflecting 1930s style) that were great. I will note that the kneepads were visible in a number of dance numbers; that could be visually distracting for some. Darryl Semira (FB) was the Dance Captain.

Waterfall was directed by Tak Viravan (FB); Dan Knechtges (FB) was the co-director, and Kenneth Ferrone (FB) was the Associate Director. I’ll note that Viravan, in conjunction with the producer, Jack M. Dalgleish, were the primary drivers on bringing the show to America, and the Dalgleish was the one who reached out to Maltby/Shire to adapt the show for an American audience. I’ve noted before how I have difficulty seeing where the director stops and the actor begins, and so I tend to credit the actor. I’ll credit the director here for the vision that was realized, and for capturing the little things from that culture. This was particularly apparent in the interactions with Nuan, who was very deferential and submission, which made her hesitancy later on speaking up much stronger. Management was provided by the following team: Andrew Neal (FB) [Production Stage Manager], Lucy Kennedy (FB) [Assistant Stage Manager], Heather “Red” Verhoef [Production Manager/Assistant Stage Manager], Joe Witt [General Manager], Kristen Hammack (FB) [Producing Associate / Company Manager].

Lastly, let’s consider the technical side. The Pasadena Playhouse is blessed with a large flyspace, large wings on both sides, and a deep stage. Sasavat (Ja) Busayabandh, the scenic designer made good use of this space for scenic elements that flew down (Christine Peters was the Associate Scenic Designer). However, the main scenic elements were walls with rough jagged edges that slid left and right, seemingly like textured stone walls. Against these walls, projections designed by Caite Havner Kemp [Projection Designer] were used to establish locale. I recently listened to a Producer’s Perspective podcast with director Scott Schwartz where he opined that he didn’t like heavy use of projections; he felt they were a cost-saving crutch and preferred real theatrical designs. Yet these projections worked against the walls; they were particularly noteworthy during the painting scene of the Waterfall where you could see how the watercolors interacted to form the picture. Most of the other scenic elements were a bit simpler; I’ll note that the set piece for the waterfall was notable in its use of real running water on stage that was splashed around (something you rarely see). Overall, the scenic design worked well for the Playhouse space. It also interacted well with Ken Billington‘s lighting design. This design was noteworthy for its used of the color palette, in particular the washes used against the rear cyclorama. The costumes (designed by Wade Laboissonniere) and hair, wigs and makeup (designed by J. Jared Janas) seemed appropriately period; I don’t have the expertise to speak to whether the traditional Japanese and Thai costumes were correct (they appeared correct to my Western eye, but what do I know?). I particularly enjoyed the dresses worn by Katherine (Emily Padgett (FB)) and Kumiko (Lisa Helmi Johanson (FB)), which were both beautiful, flattering to the actors, and fit in the late 30s time period. Lastly, the sound design by Dan Moses Schreier was mostly clear; there were a few microphone static problems that I presume will be corrected by the official opening (this was a particular problem in the waterfall scene). As noted before, Bie needed some additional amplification. Additional design and related credits: Brad Enlow [Technical Director], Stewart/Whitley (FB) [Casting].

According to the main credit page, Waterfall was produced by the Pasadena Playhouse (FB) under the artistic direction of Sheldon Epps, in association with the 5th Avenue Theatre (FB) in Seattle (which will present Waterfall in the fall of 2015). Articles on the show indicate that eventual producers will be the director (Tak Viravan)’s producing business, Scenario Company, in conjunction with Jack M. Dalgleish.

Waterfall continues at the Pasadena Playhouse (FB), formally opening on June 7, 2015 and running until June 28, 2015. If you’re a fan of new musicals, or of Maltby/Shire musicals, or of Asian culture, this is especially well worth seeing. Tickets are available online through the Pasadena Playhouse website. Discount tickets may be available through special Pasadena Playhouse programs, Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, and other common outlets.

One last note regarding Waterfall — in particular, about the Waterfall audience. Sheldon Epps, the Artistic Director of the Playhouse, is well known for pushing diversity on stage. When we were subscribing at the Playhouse, this meant that there were a fair number of African-American themed plays. I always bemoaned the fact that the complexion of the audience would change for those plays; there was a distinct color shift I found disturbing. My disturbance wasn’t due to the black audiences — I want diverse and younger audiences discovering and coming to theatre. My disturbance was more the absence of the typical audience of non-color :-) — why were they avoiding the play (I’m similarly disturbed about the fact that the audiences of color don’t come to traditional plays). The same shift was notable in the Waterfall audience — it skewed much more Asian than the typical Playhouse audience. As a result, I must make the comment I always make: Theatre is like music — it is either good or bad. It is not “Asian”, it is not “Black”, it is not “White”. It reflects and comments on situations that are set in a wide variety of communities. Audiences must make an effort to go to a wide variety of theatre that reflects diverse experience, and not only the shows that reflect their particular ethnic experience. This permits theatre to do its job, moving people to learn and think about how people react in various situations. End soapbox.

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

Upcoming Shows: June will be exhausting with the bounty that the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) brings (ticketing is now open). June starts with a matinee of the movie Grease at The Colony Theatre (FB), followed by Clybourne Park (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) Camenot at the Complex Theatres (FB) (Clybourne Park was cancelled) on Saturday, and a trip out to see the Lancaster Jethawks on Sunday. The second weekend of June brings Max and Elsa. No Music. No Children. (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and  Wombat Man (HFF) at Underground Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Marry Me a Little (HFF) by Good People Theatre (FB) at the Lillian Theatre (FB) on Sunday. The craziness continues into the third weekend of June, with the Nigerian Spam Scam Scam (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and Merely Players (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Uncle Impossible’s Funtime Variety & Ice Cream Social, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Sunday (and possibly “Matilda” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) in the afternoon, depending on Hottix availability, although July 4th weekend is more likely). The Fringe craziness ends with Medium Size Me, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Thursday 6/25 and Might As Well Live: Stories By Dorothy Parker (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Saturday. June ends with our annual drum corps show in Riverside on Sunday. July begins with “Murder for Two” at the Geffen Playhouse (FB) on July 3rd, and possibly Matilda. July 11th brings “Jesus Christ Superstar” at REP East (FB). The following weekend brings “Green Grow The Lilacs” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) [and may also bring The History Boys at the Stella Adler Lab Theatre (FB) (I’m considering it)].  July 25th brings “Lombardi” at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB), with the annual Operaworks show the next day. August starts with “As You Like It” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB), and is followed by the summer Mus-ique show, and “The Fabulous Lipitones” at  The Colony Theatre (FB). After that we’ll need a vacation! 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.