Observations Along the Road

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

Unusual Histories

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Feb 17, 2017 @ 3:41 pm PDT

While Trump in Trumplandia attempts to go back in time to the campaign, and while I await Google Maps to show my back yard as a lake on its next update, let’s move on to some more interesting history. Anything, anything but Trump.

  • Fingernail Clipping. As we enter into the Trump-free Twilight Zone, here’s proof that anything is really more intellectually interesting than 9 x 5: the history of fingernail clipping, especially before we had clippers. Consider: the modern nail clipper is a fairly recent phenomenon, roughly as old as the Swiss Army Knife. Which means that for most of human history, clipping one’s nails was a little harder than digging your rusty clipper out of the medicine cabinet.  There were also superstitions: “It is unlucky to cut the finger nails on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.  If you cut the on Friday you are playing into the devil’s hand; on Saturday, you are inviting disappointment, and on Sunday, you will have bad luck all week. There are people who suffer all sorts of gloomy forebodings if they absentmindedly trim away a bit of nail on any of these days and who will suffer all the inconvenience of overgrown fingernails sooner than cut them after Thursday.”
  • There Their. Did you ever wonder how English ended up with There, They’re, and Their. Wonder no longer. They actually started as very different words.
  • Maiden Names. Here’s an interesting essay on the practice of women taking their husband’s names (which is something my wife never did). It is a surprisingly controversial subject, even in 2017. All research on English-speaking women’s marital naming choices since the 1970s shows that the introduction of choice has not produced a wholesale shift away from tradition. Both in the US and the UK, the great majority of married women have continued to take their husbands’ names. The size of the majority has fluctuated over time. The percentage of name-keepers increased sharply in the 1970s, rose to a peak in the 1980s, and then held steady for several years before declining noticeably in the 1990s. By 2010 one US study reported that 94% of native-born married women used their husband’s names. Further, name-keeping is a mark of privilege: Married women who keep their original names are not just a minority, they’re a minority of a minority–they are heavily concentrated in the elite professional class. Name-keeping is strongly correlated with having at least one degree, and you’re most likely to be a keeper if both you and your husband have more than one.
  • Futuristic Gas Stations. If you’ve ever driven “Little Santa Monica” in Beverly Hills, you’ve passed it. A really cool Union 76 station near what used to be the headquarters of Litton Industires. But did you ever wonder the history of the station? Wonder no more. Evidently, it was originally planned to be near LAX, but the airport decided they didn’t want it.
  • Card Catalog Handwriting. Here’s something only oldsters like me will remember: card catalogs in libraries. Further, they were once handwritten, not typed. When they were handwritten, it turned out that librarians used a special style of writing. Cool. Thanks to Melvil Dewey and a group of librarians, we have “library hand,” a penmanship style developed over the ensuing year or so for the purpose of keeping catalogs standardized and legible.


Everything Old is New Again (or Refurbished)

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Feb 17, 2017 @ 11:07 am PDT

Let’s start clearing out some of the non-Trumponia news. In this collection of links, we look at things from the past that may be getting new leases on life:

  • The Triforium. Those outside of Los Angeles probably have no idea what I mean when I say “the Triforium”; hell, most younger Angelinos have no idea either. The Triforium is a art installation that goes back to when I was in high school, a “space-age-looking pointy edifice that stands six stories tall and is covered with 1,494 colorful lights that once blinked in time to music blasted from its four gigantic speakers”. It never quite worked as intended, and for most of its life has been a barely or non-operative artwork in a below-ground mall only frequented by those nearby on jury duty when they go to lunch. But that may be changing. The Triforium Project, co-founded by musician Claire Evans, Tom Carroll, host of the popular local web show “Tom Explores Los Angeles,” urban planner Tanner Blackman and Jona Bechtolt, Evans’ bandmate in the pop-dance group YACHT,  has a plan to “replace the computer system entirely with something that is network simple, easy to update, open-sourced and remotely accessible so that we can turn the instrument into something genuinely interactive for residents of the 21st century”. The improvements are now in the approval process.
  • Downtown Las Vegas Lights. Derek Stevens in Las Vegas is a man with a mission. He’s purchased one of the original blocks in downtown LV, and is tearing down and revamping the buildings, including Fremont Street’s Las Vegas Club casino and several neighboring properties, including Mermaids and Topless Girls of Glitter Gulch. All told, it adds up one entire city block that the Stevens brothers intend to demolish and build up anew. The problem? This block is home to a number of vintage neon signs that feel pretty essential to the character of the street, including Vegas Vickie, the kicky neon cowgirl that debuted with Bob Stupak’s Glitter Gulch casino in 1980; the sign for Herb Pastor’s Golden Goose casino, circa 1974; and the giant “Las Vegas Club” letters themselves, which have been part of the streetscape for more than 60 years. However, unlike many casino owners, Stevens cares about LV history — and is preserving the signs and planning to operate them — in some way — going forward.  According to Stevens, “The signs are going to be part of the design. Whether they’ll be internal or external, I’m not quite sure yet. … I’m a pretty big fan of Vegas history. I don’t see anything getting the wrecking ball.”
  • Nokia Candy Bars. For the youngsters out there, I’m not referring to the candy bars that are more expensive than the street drugs, at least according to our President. Rather, the candy bar phone — the Nokia 3310 — which the new owners of the cell phone name plan to bring back, at least in Europe. This was an extremely reliable, long-battery-life pre-iPhone cell phone, where you only had a numeric keypad (but you had a great version of the game “snake”). The phone, originally released in 2000 and in many ways beginning the modern age of mobiles, will be sold as a way of getting lots of battery life in a nearly indestructible body. The new incarnation of the old 3310 will be sold for just €59, and so likely be pitched as a reliable second phone to people who fondly remember it the first time around. It will be revealed at Mobile World Congress later this month. For those who want to know where this fits historically, here’s a chart of all the Nokia dumpphones released from the first one in the early 1980s until 2006.
  • LP Records. We all know by now that LP records have made a comeback (it seems everything old is new again, especially analog stuff). So what type of record collector are you? This article attempts to find out, defining 7 types of record collectors. As for me, depending on the genre and artist, I’m either a lifer, a completest, or a casual.
  • iPod Classics. For some, the iPod Classic is seeing a resurgence; for some, it has never left. For those of us using them, something that periodically resurfaces is the article on how to replace the hard drive with SSD devices. It just resurfaced again. The only problem with the article is that Tarkan moved his site with the boards to http://www.iflash.xyz. These are for iPod Classics 5G and later, and he has boards that can accomodate a wide variety of SSD, including SD cards and micro-SD cards. I’ve been using the iFlash Dual in two of my Classics for over a year now (each is at 512GB) with no problems. We plan to upgrade at least one more iPod Classic (a 7.5G). We also have a 80GB 6G, but we can only take that to 128GB. PS: If you are in the Southern California area and need someone to do the mods, I may have a contact for you.


Somebody Stop Him Before He Gives Me More Material Again

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Feb 16, 2017 @ 5:58 pm PDT

userpic=trumpLast week, Peter Sagal on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me expressed a wish to Donald Trump that he stop giving him so much material to work with. I feel the same way. Here’s a small smattering of stuff that caught my eye (that didn’t fit into my earlier post on Trump and Religion):

  • Ah, C’mon. Sometimes, you wonder what reality you live in when you see the headline: “Trump skirts Russia issue in a freewheeling news conference: ‘I’m not ranting and raving’” In the article, it was noted that he said Thursday that “nobody that I know of” from his campaign contacted Russian agents or government officials before his election. He also said that Michael Flynn acted appropriately in discussing sanctions with Russia during the transition period (never mind the Logan Act). He said Flynn was asked to resign only because he misled Vice President Mike Pence about those discussions. In fact, he said “it certainly would have been ok with me” if Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak when President Obama was still in office. He also said his travel ban worked without a hitch. Lastly, he said about the press conference: “Tomorrow, they will say, ‘Donald Trump rants and raves about the press,'” he said. “I’m not ranting and raving.”  It must be an interesting Einsteinian Frame of Reference in which he lives.
  • Before and After. Before his election, Trump was constantly praising Wikileaks for their good work, declaring at a rally in Pennsylvania, “I love WikiLeaks!” To the cheering throngs that night, Mr. Trump marveled that “nothing is secret today when you talk about the internet.” The leakers, he said, had performed a public service by revealing what he called a scandal with no rival in United States history. But now that the shoe is on the other foot? Trump is condemning leaks about his administration, calling them a “criminal action” and “Un-American”. Remember what I’ve been saying about consistency, boys and girls. There are lots more “Before and After”s. Before: He condemned Hillary for using a private email server; After: He uses his private Android phone to tweet. Before: He condemned Hillary for potentially discussing classified information on a non-government server; After: He publicly discusses classified information in a Mar-a-Lago dining room. Before: He complained about all the vacations that Obama took and the cost to the country, and vowed he wouldn’t take a vacation while in the White House; After: he has spent every weekend golfing at his resort in Florida, while his wife stays in NYC, and his kids fly around the world on Trump business, all with Secret Service protection that is costing millions more than Obama ever spent. Before: He complained about Obama’s inexperience; After: He appoints people with no experience. You get my drift.
  • What You Read. Yesterday, I read an article about how Conservatives and Liberals get completely different views of the news. No place can that be seen better than in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Sun is the product of muck-raking reporter Hank Greenspun, independent since 1950, and very liberal. The Las Vegas Review Journal is owned by Sheldon Adelson, a major Republican powerbroker. Today, the Sun has headlines like: “Trump bashes news media, defends start of administration” and “Trump White House wrestles with a crush of crises” and “White House taps billionaire to head intelligence review”. The LVRJ? The political headlines are: “House’s Obamacare replacement coming after recess, Paul Ryan says”; and … and … . The only headline that mentions Trump at the LVRJ is common to both: the name of the nominee for Labor Secretary. So, if you wonder why the other side isn’t talking about what you think they should be talking about, perhaps they aren’t seeing it.
  • What You Don’t Read. Perhaps, this should be “What He Doesn’t Read”. There’s a new hotbed of political activity, according to the New York Times. Your neighborhood bookstore. According to the Times: «In the diffuse and suddenly fierce protest movement that has sprung up on the left since President Trump took office, bookstores have entered the fray, taking on roles ranging from meeting place to political war room. Many stores have distributed information for customers who are mobilizing against Mr. Trump’s actions: his cabinet choices, his threat to cut off funding for sanctuary cities and his immigration bans on refugees and many Muslims. At City Stacks, a bookstore in Denver, employees printed out forms with elected officials’ contact information in a gentle nudge to customers. On Inauguration Day, Broadway Books in Portland, Ore., handed out free copies of “We Should All Be Feminists,” a book-length call to arms by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the novelist. All over the country, independent bookstores have filled their windows and displays with “1984,” by George Orwell; “It Can’t Happen Here,” by Sinclair Lewis; and other books on politics, fascism, totalitarianism and social justice. Booksellers have begun calling the front table devoted to those titles the #Resist table.» Would Trump know about this? Unclear. From everything I’ve read, he prefers TV to reading books and going into bookstores. (Although my fingers want to make a generalization about his followers, I shall refrain from doing so. I do not know if you will show such restraint.)

Trump and Religion

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Feb 16, 2017 @ 11:27 am PDT

userpic=trumpYesterday, President Trump met with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, and with a simple question related to antisemitism, it again brought the issue of Trump and Religion again to the fore. Here are a few topics related to the subject that have caught my eye over the last few days:

  • Trump and Antisemitism. Yesterday, Donald Trump was asked, by an Israeli reporter, a straightforward question about “a sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents across the United States” since his election. His response? A rambling response about the extent of his electoral victory, that included the following: “As far as people, Jewish people, so many friends; a daughter who happens to be here right now; a son-in-law, and three beautiful grandchildren. I think that you’re going to see a lot different United States of America over the next three, four or eight years. I think a lot of good things are happening.” Reading this, two things struck me. First, just like right after the election when there were a number of antisemitic incidents by his followers, he did not take the opportunity to strongly condemn antisemitism — and indeed, religion-based hate crimes. It was similar to his tone-deaf response on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day where he failed to acknowledge the major target of the Holocaust. Second, the “As far as people, Jewish people, so many friends…” struck me as a “Some of my best friends are…” line. Many remember when “Some of my best friends are black” was an excuse for racism — if I had a black friend, how could I be racist. Having a Jewish son-in-law does not make Trump not antisemitic: he can still hate the group while still liking a few individuals. After all, how many Conservatives have a few liberal friends but hate “libtards” (and vice-versa)? [ETA: It should also be noted that Trump tends to shout down reporters who ask him about antisemitism]
  • Trump and a Christian Resurgence. The Jewish Journal has an interesting article on Trump that strikes a few chords similar to my article last week on Trump and Apocalyptic Visions. The article notes that the anti-Muslim sentiments of the new administration are one head of a two-headed beast. The other head is a political agenda forged by a coalition of conservative Christians that is closer than ever to achieving its vision of a “Christian nation.” This linkage between anti-Muslim and “pro-Christian” policies is revealed in the executive order, which couples a thinly veiled ban on Muslims with a thinly veiled preference for Christians from predominantly Muslim countries seeking refuge in the United States. It is a sentiment I’ve seen from a few Conservative friends, who are spreading the word that the most prosecuted minority in Muslim countries are… Christians. That notion is lifted directly from the Christian right, which has long promoted the idea that Christians are a — indeed, the most — persecuted minority. It dovetails with the belief that Christians are being subjected to religious persecution in America by intolerant secularists, which has joined the claim that liberals turn a blind eye to the persecution of Christians by Muslims. Both are staples of the worldview that drives Stephen Bannon, the president’s chief strategist and architect of his immigration policies. This is all part of a plan forged between Trump, Bannon, and the Christian Right to bring the US “back to” being a Christian Nation (something the White Nationalists love).
  • Muslims and Jews – A Surprise Alliance. With all this hatred for Muslims, and the fights between Arabs and Jews over Israel, you think Jews and Muslims would hate it other. You would be wrong. There are alliances between Muslims and Jews in a number of areas. One I particularly support is the alliance of HIAS, which just supported the National Day of Jewish Action for Refugees. This was last Sunday; I participated in the meeting we had at Temple Ahavat Shalom. There was a large rally held in parallel in New York; Jews have also been fighting for Muslim refugees right after the executive order. The underlying notion here is that Jews have often been refugees because of their religion, and that is the case with many of the Muslims coming to the US. Whereas the Christian Right portrays Muslims as a unified group, and thus how could these be refugees when they are all Muslims, they forget why the Puritans came to America — because they were hated by other Christians. That’s the same reason Quakers and Catholics and many Christian groups came to the US: because other Christians kicked them out. It is why there is religious freedom in America. In this case, there are two main divisions within the Islamic world: Shia and Sunni, and the more militant and violent group is kicking out and conducting genocide against the other group. Jews recognize this, and that is why they are saving lifes, going back to the commandment from the Torah to “Welcome the stranger”. There are additional coalitions forming, going back to 2015 when the American Jewish Committee began work with the Islamic Society of North America, when presented with FBI data showing a stunning 67 percent rise in hate crimes against Muslims.  This spurred the formation of the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council, or MJAC, a group of 38 high-profile business leaders, government officials and others. The nonpartisan council aims to combat discrimination with engagement at the highest levels of government. The desire to bridge Muslim and Jewish communities has intensified since the election, as both religious minorities express concerns over a White House in which presidential advisers like Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller have been accused of having white supremacist ties. Another group, called MuJew Antifa, protested Wednesday in response to Trump’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This group is opposed to what they view as facist occupation and actions by Israel against Palestinians (one report connects them to the Antifa group who incited violence at the recent protest against a Breitbart editor at UC Berkeley, although other accounts attribute that to a different Antifa group). MuJew Antifa says its goals are “to strengthen ties between our communities, to support each other in a time of hate and to forge a united front against fascism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.”


Thoughts on a Theatre/Concert Season: Hollywood Bowl, Segerstrom Center, Theatreworks

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Feb 14, 2017 @ 7:09 pm PDT

Today was a day for a number of season announcements. I thought I would share my thoughts on them with you.

The Hollywood Bowl

I’m not going to go through the entire list of the Bowl season. But I am going to mention the shows of possible interest to me:

Segerstrom Center, Costa Mesa

This theatre is a bit far for us to travel to and subscribe, but for those in Orange County, it looks like a great season:

Broadway Series

  • Something Rotten!” Nov. 7-19, 2017. Set in the late 1500s, two brother playwrights are trying to write a hit play but their rival, the rock star writer Shakespeare, keeps getting all the attention. Thus, the concept of a musical was born.
    🎩 This hasn’t been in LA yet; given the Pantages has announced their season, I expect this at the Ahmanson.
  • Rodgers and Hammerstein’sThe King and I,” Feb. 27-March 11, 2018: The Tony Award-winning musical presents some of Broadway’s greatest numbers, including “Getting to Know You,” “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” and “Something Wonderful.”
    🎩 This played the Pantages in December 2016
  • Love Never Dies,” April 24 – May 5, 2018: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to the iconic “The Phantom of the Opera” tells the story of the Phantom and his new life in New York City.
    🎩 This is in the Pantages’ 2017-2018 Season, playing April 3-22, 2018
  • Hamilton,” May 8 – 27, 2018: Based on Ron Chernow’s biography of founding father Alexander Hamilton, the musical provides insight into the life of the West Indies immigrant who became George Washington’s right-hand man during the Revolutionary War. The hip-hop, jazz, and R&B score gives the musical a modern twist.
    🎩  This plays the Pantages from August 11 – December 30, 2017
  • School of Rock,” July 24 – Aug. 5, 2018: Featuring 14 songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the rock-and-roll musical tells the story of a wannabe rock star who poses as a substitute teacher and creates a band of his own with the music prodigies in his class.
    🎩 This is in the Pantages 2017-2018 Season, playing May 3 – 27, 2018
  • On Your Feet,” Aug. 21 – Sept. 2, 2018: From Cuba to America, Gloria and Emilio Estefan broke through barriers in the pop music world with hits songs like “Rhythm is Gonna Get You,” “Conga” and “Don’t Wanna Lose You Now.” The musical tells the story of the groundbreaking couple’s musical sensation journey.
    🎩 This is in the Pantages 2017-2018 Season, playing July 6 – 29, 2018

Curtain Call Series

  • Motown,” Dec. 19 – 24, 2017: The true American story about Motown founder Berry Gordy and his journey in the music world as he launched the careers of music sensations Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson and more. The pop musical features hits like “My Girl,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Dancing in the Street.”
    🎩 This played the Pantages January 31 – February 12, 2017
  • Kinky Boots,” Feb. 6 – 11, 2018: The multi-Tony Award-winning musical tells the story of Charlie Price, the owner of a small shoe factory, who meets Lola, an extraordinary performer who introduces him to new, creative ideas in the world of fashion and shoes.
    🎩 This played the Pantages April 13 – 24, 2016
  • The Color Purple,” June 19 – 24, 2018: The Tony Award-winning musical presents a soul, jazz, ragtime and blues score to the story of a young woman’s journey in love and triumph in the American South.
    🎩 This is in the Pantages 2017-2018 Season, playing May 29 – June 17, 2018

Bonus events

  • Jersey Boys,” Jan. 19-21, 2018: The Tony, Grammy and Olivier Award-winning musical about rock and roll hall of famers The Four Seasons and their rise in pop music history. The show presents hits like “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Rag Doll,” “Oh What a Night” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.”
    🎩 This plays the Ahmanson May 16 – June 24, 2017
  • The Book of Mormon,” March 20-25, 2018: South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s Tony Award-winning musical comedy tells the story about two mismatched missionaries sent across the seas to share their scriptures with a Ugandan village.
    🎩 This plays the Pantages May 30 – July 9, 2017

All in all, a very good season. More information is on the Segerstrom website.

Palo Alto/Mountain View TheatreWorks

For those up in the Bay Area, I just received the TheatreWorks Season Announcement:

  • The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga. Jul 12–Aug 6, 2017, Lucie Stern Theatre, Palo Alto. Book, Music, & Lyrics by Min Kahng. Based on Manga Yonin Shosei by Henry Yoshitaka Kiyama. Translated as The Four Immigrants by Frederik L. Schodt. Directed by Leslie Martinson. WORLD PREMIERE. From a tumultuous earthquake to an exhilarating world’s fair, this broadly comic new musical chronicles the adventures of four endearing Japanese immigrants in a world of possibility and prejudice: turn-of-the-twentieth-century San Francisco. Driven by an infectious vaudeville and ragtime score, the quartet pursues their American Dream despite limited options in the land of opportunity. Don’t miss this runaway hit of our 2016 New Works Festival.
    🎩 This sounds potentially interesting — if I was up there, I’d go see it.
  • Constellations. Aug 23–Sept 17, 2017, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. By Nick Payne. Directed by Robert Kelley. London Evening Standard Award Best Play 2012. REGIONAL PREMIERE. A time-bending romantic drama spun out of string theory, this unconventional Broadway and West End sensation explores the infinite possibilities of “boy meets girl” with intelligence, heart, and humor. A charming beekeeper and a Cambridge cosmologist are nerds in love, for better and for worse, their relationship an ever-changing mystery of “what ifs.” Who knew that honey and higher physics could be so touching—or so sexy?
    🎩 C’mon, string theory in a play. Sounds good.
  • The Prince of Egypt. Oct 6–Nov 5, 2017, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Book by Philip LaZebnik. Directed by Scott Schwartz. WORLD PREMIERE in collaboration with Fredericia Teater, Denmark. A soaring celebration of the human spirit, The Prince of Egypt features a dazzling, multi-ethnic cast in one of the greatest stories ever told: the saga of Moses and Ramses, his Pharaoh brother, and the indomitable people who changed them both forever. Inspired by the beloved DreamWorks Animation film and featuring a score that includes the Academy Award-winning “When You Believe” by the composer and lyricist of Wicked, this breathtaking journey of faith and family is the must-see event of the season.
    🎩 A new Stephen Schwartz musical — could be good, although I’d be curious how he expanded the score.
  • Around the World in 80 Days. Nov 29–Dec 23, 2017, Lucie Stern Theatre, Palo Alto. Adapted by Mark Brown. From the novel by Jules Verne. Directed by Robert Kelley. Stampeding elephants! Raging typhoons! Runaway trains! Join fearless adventurer Phileas Fogg and his faithful valet in the original “Great Race,” circling the globe in an 1870s alive with danger, romance, and comic surprises at every turn. In the hilariously theatrical style of The 39 Steps, five actors portray dozens of characters in a thrilling race against time and treachery. Grab your family, and your passport, for an ingenious, imaginative expedition around the world!
    🎩 This is an oldie, but should be good.
  • Our Great Tchaikovsky. Jan 10–Feb 4, 2018, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Music by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Written and Performed by Hershey Felder. Directed by Trevor Hay. REGIONAL PREMIERE. Brilliant composer Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky springs to life through the hands and insight of piano virtuoso Hershey Felder, whose time-bending tale of culture and repression explores the mystery surrounding some of the greatest music ever written. From the unforgettable ballets Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker, to the outrageous 1812 Overture and the brilliant symphonic works, this powerful musical tribute travels to Czarist times to ponder the inevitable enigma of genius. From the creator and performer of Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin and Beethoven.
    🎩 Others might like this; I haven’t gotten into all the Hershey Felder shows.
  • Skeleton Crew. Mar 7–Apr 1, 2018, Lucie Stern Theatre, Palo Alto. By Dominique Morisseau. Directed by Giovanna Sardelli. A Coproduction with Marin Theatre Company. CALIFORNIA PREMIERE. A makeshift family of autoworkers navigates the recession in this funny, tough, and tender American drama. Will their Detroit plant survive? Ambitious dreams and corporate deception interweave, pushing friendships to the limit. When the line between blue collar and white begins to blur, how far over the lines is each of them willing to step?
    🎩 Sounds somewhat interesting.
  • The Bridges of Madison County. Apr 4–29, 2018, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Book by Marsha Norman. Music and Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. Based on the novel by Robert James Waller. Directed by Robert Kelley. 2014 Tony Award Best Score. REGIONAL PREMIERE. This sweeping musical romance about the roads we travel and the bridges we dare to cross recalls the unexpected affair of a devoted Italian-born housewife and a roving National Geographic photographer—four sensual, heart-stirring days that would never be forgotten. Set amidst the cornfields of Iowa in 1965, it is an intimate remembrance of love both lost and found, brilliantly adapted by a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and Tony Award-winning composer from one of America’s favorite novels.
    🎩 I saw the tour of this when it was at the Ahmanson, and I was very surprised at how much I liked it. TheatreWorks should do a good job with it.
  • FINKS. Jun 6–Jul 1, 2018, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. By Joe Gilford. Directed by Giovanna Sardelli. Drama Desk Award Best Play Nominee. CALIFORNIA PREMIERE. With the 1950s Red Scare in full swing, the House Un-American Activities Committee attacks “subversion” in the arts. When a romance blossoms between a rising comic and a firebrand actress, they face being blacklisted along with their friends and fellow artists. Will they lose their careers or betray each other and be branded forever as “finks”? Based on the true story of comedian/actor Jack Gilford, this stunning comic drama is written by his son.
    🎩 The story of Jack Gilford — should be interesting.

The season sounds interesting enough that if I was in the area, I might subscribe. Subscription information is on the TheatreWorks website.

Relationships in the Spaces | “33 Variations” at Actors Co-Op

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Feb 12, 2017 @ 4:10 pm PDT

33 Variations (Actors Co-Op)Almost exactly six years ago, we saw Jane Fonda (FB) in the Los Angeles premier of Moisés Kaufman’s  33 Variations. Last night, we saw the play again, this time in a much smaller venue than the cavernous Ahmanson Theatre (FB) — the intimate Actors Co-op (FB) theatre in Hollywood. In the six years between the productions, changes in our life have caused the play to resonate in a different way.

Back in February 2011, I wrote the following description of the play (actor names have been updated to reference the current production):

33 Variations” is, at its heart, a story of obsession, deterioration, and family. On its surface, this is the story of Dr. Katherine Brandt (Nan McNamara (FB)) and her obsession to figure out why Ludwig van Beethoven (Bruce Ladd (FB)) wrote 33 variations of an inconsequential waltz written by Anton Diabelli (Stephen Rockwell (FB)). This wouldn’t be a problem if Dr. Brandt was healthy; however, she is suffering from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Dr. Brandt wants to go to Bonn, Germany, to study Beethoven’s folios in the Beethoven Archives, but her daughter, Clara Brandt (Greyson Chadwick (FB)), wants her to stay, afraid that her condition will deteriorate. Katherine, being headstrong, goes, and becomes immersed in the world of Beethoven, Diabelli, and Beethoven’s friend and assitant, Anton Schindler (John Allee (FB)). She’s aided in this research by Dr. Gertrude Ladenburger (Treva Tegtmeier (FB)). As the play progresses, we see Dr. Brandt’s condition worsen, as she moves from a cane to a walker to a wheelchair. Her daughter, together with the Mike Clark (Brandon Parrish (FB)), a nurse who once treated her mother and has fallen in love with Clara, travel to Bonn to take care of her mother. As the story progresses, we keep flashing back and forth between the present day—where Dr. Brandt’s condition is deteriorating—and the past—where Beethoven is steadily going deaf. This brings forward a number of themes: the effects of a need to be more dependent on others, how the progression of a disease can can bring focus, Ultimately, the theme of the play moves from the surface obsession to the power of transformation: how a study of the littlest pieces can bring out beauty, and how we need to treasure each of those little pieces.

That’s what I wrote then, and it truly is the surface emphasis of the play: noticing the little things, the things that are often expressed in the shadows. For example, Diabelli’s Waltz is originally believed to be inconsequential because it was in the style of popular music of the time — a “beer hall” waltz. The play makes the point that Beethoven was able to see majestic music even in the common popular music of the day, sending the message that there is beauty in everything if one takes the time to look.

Yet something struck me different about the play in this viewing. Since 2011, we’ve had the experience of dealing with a relative (my wife’s mother) who is undergoing another type of deterioration — not neuromuscular as one sees with ALS, but the mental impairment that comes with old age. As such, the relationship portrayed in the show between Clara and her mother (which is paralleled in the relationship between Schindler and Beethoven) touched a different nerve. At the beginning of the play, the relationship was built on old patterns and old expectations. Incidents and expectations colored everything. But by the end of the show the focus had changed to seeing each other for what they really were: for seeing the little things and treasuring the little moments. It also provided insight to the frustrations of the person deteriorating: there is so much they still want to do, so much that time is taking away from them.

Viewing a play is a process of developing variations. The first time you see it, you pick up the surface meaning — the basic enjoyment and message that the playwright wanted you to pick up. You are, in essence, picking up the beer hall waltz. But as you revisit a play, and see it again and again, and study the moments and scenes within the play, you discover the deeper beauty within. You discover hidden meanings and hidden melodies — sometimes, even melodies that the author might not have intended to have in there. The play and its words (which are a form of music) find multiple resonances with us.

Resonances. Multiple messages, multiple voices. A fugue. Near the end of the play, especially as Beethoven is composing a fugue variation, I recalled that there had been a discussion of this play as a fugue. The play takes multiple voices and multiple messages and stories: the relationships between the various characters — Schindler and Beethoven, Schindler and Diabelli, Diabelli and Beethoven, Clara and Katherine, Clara and Mike, Mike and Katherine, Katherine and Gertie, Clara and Gertie, etc. — and harmonizes them together into a fugue of messages, of seeing things in the others. It makes the point of how our lives are a fugue of voices that shape our experiences, and sometimes the deepest message can come from the smallest four notes.

And that’s just the story side. I noticed things on the performance side this time that I hadn’t noticed (or don’t recall noticing) from the Ahmanson days. Partly, this may be due to the size of the venue. Many people believe the best way to see is show is in a gigantic Broadway-size venue, but often that is the worst way — even for those in the Orchestra. Larger venues require large staging and performance, and while that might be good for a large cast musical, it is often poor for a small cast play. As an example of this, I note that the Ahmanson staging included a 4-person non-speaking ensemble. That wasn’t there in this production, which allowed a greater focus on the actors.

Under the direction of Thomas James O’Leary (FB), the performances were top notch. I particularly recall a scene in the first act with Clara (Greyson Chadwick (FB) and Mike (Brandon Parrish (FB)), attending a concert. Their voices were provided by recorded voiceovers, presenting their inner thoughts on a first date. All the meaning was conveyed by the movement and facial expressions of the actors, which were remarkable for their ability to convey the emotion and meaning. There was a similar emoting via facial expression in the scene where Katherine (Nan McNamara (FB)) undergoes some form of scan. There are a series of flashes, each with a different facial expression truly showing the impact of the disease.

I also noticed one other difference from the Ahmanson: sexuality. In my writeup of the Ahmanson production, I noted: “The bravery is also on stage—both in a 74-year old actress having the confidence to do partial nudity onstage, and having the confidence to take on the acting challenge of portrying the deterioration that ALS can do to a body.” Reading that brought the scene back to me: some of the exam scenes had Fonda topless. For whatever reason — the fact that Actors Co-op is a church-based group, the size of the theatre, the desires of the actors — that level of physical exposure was not done. There were certainly points where it could have been done, but the choice was made not to do it. Guess what: It didn’t hurt the play one bit, raising the question of whether Fonda’s partial nudity was truly necessary in that production, or was just gratuitous titillation to bring in an audience. We are conditioned to expect gratuitous sex and violence in movies and TV; has it reached the level of the Broadway stage? Much as I enjoy the display of flesh, it should serve the story and not be there just to be there. I applaud the director for finding a way to tell the story in a more sensitive but equally moving fashion.

The performances from the entire cast were excellent. McNamara did a great job of portraying her relationship with her daughter, and even better portraying the deterioration that came with ALS. Ladd did similarly with Beethoven’s deterioration with his hearing. As one who suffers from Tinnitus, I could well appreciate Beethoven’s frustration at the bouts of the same. The chemistry between Clara and Mike was good, and you could see an equal chemistry form between Beethoven and his friend Schinder, and between Katherine and the archivist Gertrude. Great performances all around.

Music was provided by the on-stage pianist Dylan Price (FB). Understudies for the production are Christian Edsall (FB) [u/s Anton Schindler] and Tannis Hanson (FB) [u/s Clara]. It looks like the understudies will be on the first weekend in March.

33 Variations SetThe production was elegantly adapted for the small stage. Of the Ahmanson production, I wrote: “The primary motif was that of an archival room with shelves and shelves of archive boxes, together with movable screens made up of pages of music. Upon these were occasionally projected movements, scenery, and movements.” This production was unable to do that; instead they used the design of the set you see to the right: four windowed panels with doors between them. These panels could be translucent; the could show archival books. The doors could house projections. On the side were brick walls that slid open to expose archival books; there was also a Murphy bed for one scene behind the books. Credit for this design goes to Nicholas Acciani (FB), who did both the scenic design and the projection design. It was supported by the lighting design of Andrew Schmedake (FB), who used fixtures above to create medical devices and specialized archival lighting. Lori Berg (FB) was the property designer; I particularly noted the actual walkers and powered wheelchairs, as well as all the hand-sewn books. David B. Marling‘s sound design was less focused on amplification and more focused on effects — this was particularly noteworthy during the medical scenes where the illusion of the scanning machinery was created entirely by sound. Vicki Conrad (FB)’s costume design seemed period appropriate to this novice, and (when appropriate) were suitably revealing without being too revealing. Michelle Parrish (FB)’s choreography worked well in the few dance scenes. E. K. Dagenfield (FB)’s efforts as dialect coach were primarily notable in the Tegtmeier’s portrayal of Dr. Gerturde Ladenburger and her clipped accent. Rounding out the credits are: Josie Austin/FB – Assistant Stage Manager, Heather Chesley (FB) – Artistic Chairwoman; David Elzer/Demand PR (FB) – Publicity; Selah Victor (FB) – Production Manager; and Shawna Voragen (FB) – Production Stage Manager. 33 Variations was produced by Thomas Chavira (FB).

33 Variations continues at Actors Co-op (FB) theatre in Hollywood until March 19. Tickets are available through the Actors Co-op Website; discount tickets may be available on Goldstar.

🎩 🎩 🎩

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: The third weekend of February brings Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza (FB) on Friday, February 17, with seeing Allegiance – A New Musical (recorded on Broadway) at the AMC Promenade on Sun 2/19. The last weekend in February brings Finding Neverland at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). March quiets down a bit — at least as currently scheduled — with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner,  Fun Home at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) at the beginning of the month, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month. We may go see Martha, a one-woman play on the life of Martha Graham (a good preparation for our May VPAC show of her dance group), at the Whitefire Theatre (FB) on March 18 — we’re still planning that. April starts with Cats Paw at Actors Co-op (FB) and a concert with Tom Paxton and the DonJuans at McCabes Guitar Shop (FB) (shifting Cats Paws to an afternoon matinee that day). The next day brings the Colburn Orchestra at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The next weekend is currently open (and will likely stay that way). Mid-April bringsDoc Severinsen and his Big Band at Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) on April 13, followed by Animaniacs Live at the La Mirada Performing Arts Center (FB) over the weekend. That will be followed on the penultimate weekend of April with Sister Act at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking to May, the schedule shows that it starts with My Bodyguard at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) the first weekend. It continues with Martha Graham Dance and American Music at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The third weekend brings the last show of the Actors Co-op (FB) season, Lucky Stiff, at Actors Co-op (FB). May concludes with Hello Again at the Chromolume Theatre (FB). As for June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). That, barring something spectacular cropping up, should be the first half of 2017.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

P.S.: Mostly so I can find it later, here’s my predictions of what will go on tour and where they will end up. The Hollywood Pantages (FB) announced their 2017-2018 season (which was the rest of 2018, after Hamilton took over the last 5 months of 2017) on February 7th. You can find my reaction to it here. Now we just need to see what the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) will do.

March 2017 Municipal/Special Election Ballot Review

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Feb 11, 2017 @ 12:57 pm PDT

It’s hard to believe, but here in Los Angeles we are less than a month away from an election. Alas, we can’t vote Trump out yet (oh, that we could), but we do have some significant issues on the ballot. As I do with every ballot, I try to present my recommendations for you to refute and argue with, and to let me know WWTD — What Would Trump Do (so I can vote the other way). Note that I’m not doing these in ballot order; I’m moving the country measure with the city measures for pedagogical purposes.


Good Advice

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Feb 11, 2017 @ 8:40 am PDT

Let’s take a breather from TrumpNews (oh, that we could). Allan Sherman once sang, “Good advice, good advice. Good advice costs nothing, and it’s worth the price. It’s fruitful as can be, And it’s absolutely free. My good advice.” As I’ve been going through the news, I’ve found some items that fall into the category of Good Advice. Further, they’re absolutely free because they’re from the Internet.

  • News Fatigue. The New York Times has a number of suggestions for dealing with News Fatigue, or as they put it, “It feels as if we are living in a Superconducting Super Collider of news, with information bombarding us at a head-spinning velocity. The result is a fatigue about the headlines — lately about politics — that has prompted some people to withdraw from the news, or curb their consumption of it.” Their suggestions? (1) Focus on positive news; (2) don’t read or watch any just before bedtime because thoughts of how to respond to it can disrupt sleep — watch the sports or weather instead; (3) read a physical paper instead of the Internet; (4) watch cute animals on Twitter.
  • Painting. From the Jewish Journal (because we all love Jews with Tools), some advice on pain free painting. No, it isn’t “go out and hire someone”. Rather, it actually is good advice on colors, supplies, and the process.
  • Your Parent’s Stuff. Here’s an interesting article from NextAvenue on what happens when Boomers inherit their parent’s stuff. This is something we’re dealing with right now — I’m still getting rid of my dad’s stuff from 2004, and we’re working on my mother-in-laws place. There’s all this stuff that they thought had value, or you would think had value (first day covers and framed maxim cards — I’m looking at you)…. but probably don’t, and yet you can’t just throw them away.
  • Computer DVD Drives. DId you know if that if you owned a computer with a DVD drive, you might be able to get $10? There’s a class action lawsuit that is taking names.
  • Home Device Hijacking. Here is some good advice from the NY Times on how to prevent your home devices from being hijacked. The TL;DR (especially as they have a paywall) is: (1) Research the devices before you buy to know whether it has objectionable behavior or known vulnerabilities; (2) strengthen your wi-fi security (and consider having a separate wi-fi network for just IOT things); (3) beef up your passwords (and use a good password manager and generator – I use Lastpass) : (4) Regularly update the firmware, if you can; (5) when in doubt, hit “mute” or tape over that camera.
  • Passwords. Lastly, here’s some updated password requirements promulgated by the Trump administration. Related to that, always remember to check your sources for authenticity, and remember that free advice is often worth every penny you paid for it.