Observations Along the Road

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

Going Away

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Feb 28, 2014 @ 11:29 am PDT

userpic=southparkThis has been a busy week, what with getting back from Portland, doing more site visits in LA, reviewing a lot of documents, and the retirement festivities for a long-time department member here at the ranch. But I did accumulate a few items, all having to do with retirement and things going away:

  • Up, Up, and Away. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m interested in transportation. So, naturally, I found this article about the retirement of the last DC-10 and DC-9 in passenger service fascinating. I actually see DC-10s on a regular basis — as our van exits the 105 to drop off our Boeing folks, we pass right by the FedEx dock where they are loading DC-10 freighters.
  • Giving an Arm and a Leg. When my daughter was little, I was felled by “stupid dad syndrome”. I was sitting on some monkey bars at Northridge Park watching her play, slipped, and came down full force with my leg on the iron bar. It was tightly swollen and purple (but not broken), and I remember words like “compartment syndrome”. Shortly after that accident, I had to travel — on that bum leg — to Boston to give a briefing for a project I couldn’t get out of. After reading this article about former CNN anchor Miles O’Brien, I realize how lucky I was. O’Brien had a similar compartment problem — for him, on his arm — and they ended up having to amputate.
  • Shelving It Away. Ikea is discontinuing its most popular bookshelf, the Expedit. This is causing an uproar amongst Expedit users. However, it is not really dead — it is just being redesigned slightly to save some wood and some manufacturing costs. Still, this redesign announcement is considered a bungle by some, and the old shelving (Expedit) won’t match completely with the new (Kallax).
  • What Evil Lurks… If you grew up in Los Angeles, you couldn’t avoid the commercials for Adee Plumbing (“Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of your plumbing? Adee-Do”) or Jack Stephan Plumbing (“Jack Stephanovich?”). The man behind that company, the real Jack Stephan, just died. My favorite part of this obituary is his tombstone: “The name plate he chose for his crypt at Inglewood Park Cemetery reads in extra-large letters: “IT’S JACK STEPHAN!!!””
  • They’re Not Dead, They’re Just in Perris. Finally a picture of red cars and yellow cars waiting to be crushed :-(.

 

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A Timeless Love

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Feb 23, 2014 @ 7:55 am PDT

Aida (Portland'5)userpic=theatre_ticketsI have a timeless love. It is a love for theatre. This love is so strong that even when I’m in a strange city looking at potential hotels for a conference, I make time to go to the theatre. This weekend, I’m in Portland Oregon. So guess what I did last night. Yup. I went to the theatre. Specifically, we went to the Portland’5 Center For The Arts (FB), Brunish Theatre, to see Stumptown Stages‘ (FB) production of “Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida“.  Short summary: This is a production well worth seeing if you are in the area.

First, a word about this oddly named Portland’5 theatre. It is a collection of 5 theatres, the Schnitzer, Winningstad, Keller, Newmark, and Brunish. When we were there, there was a symphony concert in the Schnitzer, ballet at the Keller, and (as part of the Portland Jazz Festival), Buster Williams was at the Newmark and the Toshiko Akiyoshi Trio was at the Winningstad.  The Brunish, where we were, is a 150-seat black box theatre at the top of the facility with no fly space, set up with a thrust stage. There are three risers of seats — two on the sides, one in front. We were sitting on the side, stage left. The theatre was very easy to get to — one block from our hotel.

Now, on to the show itself. “Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida” is a conventional musical based on Giuseppe Verdi‘s opera “Aida“. More precisely, it is based on a children’s storybook version of Verdi’s opera written by the soprano Leontyne Price. The property was acquired by Disney Theatricals as a followup project for Elton John (music) and Tim Rice (lyrics) after the success of “The Lion King” on Broadway. The book for the musical was developed by Linda Woolverton and Robert Falls, and the show ran on Broadway for four years starting in 2000, and won numerous Tony awards. Some changes to the book by David Henry Hwang were made for the non-Equity tour, and this is the version that was licensed and is presented by Stumptown on the Brunish stage (although I couldn’t see all of Hwang’s changes in the Stumptown Stages version).

As in the opera, the basic story concerns a Ethiopian Nubian princess, Aida and the Egyptian captain, Radames, who captures her on a naval expedition up the Nile. He brings her back home and gives her as a slave to his betrothed, Amneris. However, during this process, Aida and Radames start falling in love, and this process continues after Radames returns home. In fact, it intensifies as Radames’s father, Zoser, has been secretly plotting to acquire power by poisoning the Pharaoh, and accelerating Radames’s marriage to Amneris. Radames is pulled off of his navel duty. After Aida’s father, the Nubian king Amonasro is captured the situation is brought to the breaking point. He forbids Aida from seeing or loving Radames; Aida disobeys and Amneris discovers the relationship. There is an escape attempt by the King and Aida, and the King is allowed to escape. However, Aida and Raames are captured, and are sentenced to be put to death by being buried alive, together, for eternity.

Pretty upbeat stuff for a Disney musical, right?  Actually, no, although it is a perfect tragedy for the opera world. Disney addressed the tragedy by wrapping this story with an opening scene that takes place in an art museum of Egyptian artifacts, including a statue of Amneris. Two of the unnamed art students bear a striking resemblance to Radames and Aida. After these two students sit down and look at each other, the statue of Amneris comes to life and tells the story of Aida. At the end of the story, it is noted that Radames and Aida’s love is so timeless it will live on forever as an enchantment in future reincarnations of Radames and Aida. The first scene is then repeated, but with much more knowing looks, and implied meaning, between the Radames and Aida dopplegangers.

The story is also made more upbeat through the music of Sir Elton, which features a mixture of pop-style tunes, Motown, gospel, and African-inspired songs. I’ve had the album for a while, and a number of the songs a like quite a bit. Other songs I think I’ve grown to appreciate more as result of this production, now that I understand their staging and part of the story.

Let’s turn to this production itself. Overall, it was very good. The director, Kirk Mouser (FB) (assisted by Terry D. Kester) did a good job of bringing out the emotion and feeling in the cast, and working with them to convey the story. Where the direction was a little weak was in remembering that the production was on a thrust stage. The performances were great for those looking straight-on to the stage and those sitting on stage right. Those of us on stage left were often to the back of the voices. A thrust stage requires the director to remember to move the actors to play somewhat equally to both sides. My suggestion, if you can pick your seats, is to take this into mind.

The performances themselves were very very strong. You can see some pictures from the production here. In the lead position was Joann Coleman (FB) as Aida. Coleman gave a very moving performance, and had a loving and reasonably strong singing voice. The emotions that she exhibited and brought out were great, and she was just stunning in songs like the “The Gods Love Nubia”. Supporting her were James Langston Drake (FB) as Radames and Joy Martin (FB) as Amneris. Drake exhibited the requisite strength and tenderness, and had a lovely tenor voice that was shown in numbers like “Fortune Favors the Brave” and in duets with Aida. Martin’s Amneris was also strong; she exhibited the humor that the character requires, and was great in her signature number “My Strongest Suit”. All three could have benefited from a tad more power in their belt, although that could have been an artifact of my stage left seats or (and I suspect more likely) a fault of the sound engineer and the microphone placement.

In the second tier of named performers were Kurt Raimer as Zoser, Jeremy Sloan (FB) as Pharaoh, Antonio Tillman (FB) as Mereb, Terence Kelley (FB) as Amonasro, and Lydia Fleming as Nehbka. Of these performers, I was very impressed with Raimer’s Zoser. Although again he could use a little more power, I found him wonderful in his two numbers “Another Pyramid” and “Like Father Like Son”. Also strong was Tillman’s Mereb, who did a great job of conveying emotion and tenderness. Lastly, I was impressed by Fleming’s powerful voice which shone through from the chorus in “The Gods Love Nubia”.

Rounding out the ensemble were Krista Chase (FB), Jennifer Davies (FB), De’sean Dooley (FB),Kiara Stellato-Kersey (FB), Jalena Montrond (FB), Salim Sanchez (FB) and Malia Tippets (FB). In general, the ensemble performed well; they were exceptional in “The Gods Love Nubia” . There were some standout performances — if I’ve identified people correctly, by Stellato-Kersey and Montrond.

Supporting the performance side was the choreography of Valarie Grudier Edwards  and a number of instructors on the Stumptown Stages Staff. The choreography worked well for the space, but at times I wondered about the movement of some of the background dancers (especially during the songs of Kurt Raimer as Zoser). I do with the Stumptown vocal instructor, Douglas Weber/FB, had brought out a bit more of the rock voices for the main characters — the roles called for that strength and power and (for whatever reason) it was only about 80% there).

Musical direction was by Jon Quesenberry (FB), who conducted and played keyboards for the off-stage seven-piece band. The remainder of the band were Yvette Starkey (Keyboard 2), Bill Norris-York (Percussion), Mitch Limori (Reeds), Eric Toner (Guitar), Fletcher Nemeth (Bass), and Melissa Robinson (French Horn).

Technically the production was mostly very strong. The scenic design by Joseph Benz utilized the space well with simple major set items and a basic Egyptian arch; it might have benefits from some projections on the backdrop to establish place a little more. But that’s only a minor quibble. Costumes (designed by Janet Mouser) were also good, modulo a few problematic areas (such as Radames wearing a watch during the opening number, one skirt falling off during a dance (she had shorts underneath, or it would have been a very different show), and quite a few visible bra straps). Brian Moen‘s sound design worked reasonably well, although it could have used a bit more amplification to support the rock belt a bit more. The lighting by Phil McBeth was effective at establishing mood. The production was stage managed by Joshua E. Strickler, assisted by Emma Lewis.  Other technical credits: Raquel Calderon (Wardrobe Assistant), Paul Fardig (Photographer), Kathy Lippincott (Costume Crew), Abby Marten (Playbill Design), Andrea Nelsen (Communications Director), Jennifer Olson (Social Media Manager), Lynn Redshaw (Sound Assistant), Bruce Tolonen (Prop Master), Sandra Vicent (Make-Up Designer/House Manager), and Stacee Waples (Wardrobe Mistress). Stumptown stages is under the artistic direction of Kirk Mouser and Julianne R. Johnson-Weiss.

The Stumptown Stages (FB) production of “Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida” continues at the Portland’5 Center For The Arts (FB) through March 9. Tickets are available through the Portland’5 online box office as well as (possibly) through Goldstar (although right now they are sold out).

[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 Theatre and Concerts:  The last weekend of February was going to start with Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Thing” at Two Roads Theatre, but the problematic reviews (decidedly mixed reviews on the performances, and nearly unanamous reviews that the show was too long and had too many long scene changes) led me to cancel it and replace it with Larry Shue’s “The Foreigner” at Crown City Theatre (FB). The next evening brings the MRJ Regional Man of the Year dinner at Temple Beth Hillel, followed by “Sex and Education” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on Sunday March 2 (moved from March 8). The weekend of March 8 now brings “Biloxi Blues” at REP East (FB) (moved from March 29). The weekend of March 16 brings Purim Schpiels, with Sunday afternoon bringing “Inherit the Wind” at the Grove Theatre Center (FB) in Burbank. March 22 brings “Harmony” at The Ahmanson Theatre (FB), followed by “Author, Author: An Evening with Sholom Aleichem” at the Santa Monica Playhouse (FB) on March 23. The last weekend of March is open, and will likely stay that way as we’ll be exhausted. April starts with “In The Heights” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on April 5, and should also bring “Tallest Tree” at the Mark Taper Forum, as well as the Southern California Renaissance Faire. April may also bring “My Name is Asher Lev” at the Fountain Theatre (FB) (as this runs through April 19). Current planning for May shows “The Lion in Winter” at The Colony Theatre (FB), and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at REP East (FB). 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.

 

News Chum Stew: A Tasty Thread

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Feb 22, 2014 @ 7:17 am PDT

Observation StewJust because I’m in Portland doesn’t mean I can’t prepare you some tasty news chum stew for breakfast. Let’s dig in, before you all decide to abandon me for Voodoo Donuts… luckily, I’ve been able to come up with a thread for this — no overall theme, only a connection between each article and the next…

  • Twisted in a Pretzel. Before NPR wrote about it on Friday, the LA Business Journal was writing about the invention of the Peanut Butter filled pretzel (which is where I saw it), how a company named Maxim’s pioneered the product 26 years ago, and how TJs picked it up and sold it. The crunchy snack became a major part of Maxim’s business, and Maxim oversaw the production by companies such as ConAgra. Then TJs decided to cut out the middleman… The point of the article being that even companies we perceive as “nice and good” are, at their heart, businesses.
  • Put a Ring on It. Perhaps you saw, a few weeks ago, the video showing how the entire engagement ring custom was designed by DeBeers to sell diamonds. Here’s another bit of news from the jewelry industry. Kay Jewelers is being bought by Signet, the owner of Zales. Signet operates 1,400 U.S. stores, including its higher end Jared chain. Zale has about 800 Zales and Gordon’s Jewelers stores, as well as 630 Piercing Pagoda mall kiosks. In Canada, Zale operates the successful Peoples Jewellers chain. The net translation of this: most of the jewelers you see in malls are all owned by the same parent company. As always: support local business; buy from a local jeweler.
  • All Generics Are Not Equal. Knowing from where you buy is important. In the US, when you buy brand name medicine, you know what you are getting and who made it, but you pay a big price for that knowledge. If you buy generic, you save money — but are you getting the equivalent? The answer… not always. In particular, it appears that medicines manufactured in India are creating safety concerns. This one actually hit home: my wife has one medicine that used to be brand-name only that has finally gone generic. Our 90-supplier recently sent us the generic. My wife checked with her doctor, and the first batch was fine — it was made in England. He told her he only wanted her to take medicines made in first-world countries. The second batch — from India. We had to coordinate getting it returned and replaced.
  • How We Look at the World. The mention of first-world and third-world makes one think about how we view the world. Here’s a question for you: Have you ever thought about why North is always at the top of a map? Al-Jazeera America did. What’s interesting is looking at the alternate maps — your bearings are totally off. By the way, having N at the top is a recent invention; N has been at the top only for about the last 500 years.
  • Whose on Top. It’s always a battle to determine who should be at the top of the heap. Alas, such a battle is happening over Casey Kasem — the DJ who used to be ubiquitous on the radio. Kasem’s children from his first marriage are battling over the right to visit their father. Who are they battling? Jean Kasem, his current wife. Jean, if you recall, played Nick Tortelli’s wife on Cheers. Note that this isn’t a battle over money — only the right to visit their father.
  • Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah. Speaking of mothers and fathers, Mark Evanier writes of a recently released collection of Allan Sherman’s early parody material. For those of us who remember who Allan Sherman was, this is of great interest. Mark notes: “But let me warn you of two things. One is that some of the 13 songs on this CD are kinda short. The whole thing runs around 34 minutes. And the other thing is that the audio quality is not wonderful. If you go to this page to order (and I’m not suggesting you not, especially if you’re a big Sherman fan), play a few samples so you can hear the quality of the recordings you’ll be getting.” Still, new Sherman music is quite tempting.

 

Oh, That Tickles

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Feb 21, 2014 @ 11:06 pm PDT

Harvey's Comedy Clubuserpic=theatre_musicalsThis weekend we’re in Portland OR doing site visits for a conference. You would think that would stop us from seeing live entertainment… but you would be wrong. This evening, a dear long-time friend (I’d venture to say my longest-term friend — we first met back in elementary school) invited us to join her and her husband at Harvey’s Comedy Club in Downtown Portland. Live entertainment? But of course!

Now, I’ve never been much of the clubbing type. I’ve been to one rock concert at the Forum, a few at the Hollywood Bowl, Greek Theatre, or Universal Amphitheatre (Z”L), but these days, my concerts are at the level of McCabes or VPAC. In particular, I’ve never been to a true nightclub, and I’ve never been to a comedy club. So this was a first time for me. I was thankful I was in a city where the club wasn’t smokey.

The comedy portion of the show consisted of three performers. The first act was Anatoli Brant/FB. I don’t remember much of his routine, other than his favorite toy growing up was a brick. Oh, and he did some jokes about the trials and tribulations of being a gluten salesman in Portland.

The second performer was Mike Walley Walter. He was pretty good. His routine started out talking about various cities he’s performed in, and he was having particular fun making fun of Laughlin NV, Las Vegas NV, and Reno NV. His routine degenerated into some interplay with some hecklers in the audience and stories about ex-wives and dating.

The third performer was Tracy Smith. Her routine was perhaps the raunchiest, with numerous riffs on being an older woman dating, shaving various body parts, and of course, interplay with the younger clueless women in the audience. She seem to have the most interaction with the clueless clown sitting in the front row using his cell phone. You think someone would actually know better to do that in a comedy club, but they didn’t. Let’s just say that he got what he deserved.

Did I find the comedians funny? Some jokes hit, but most were either going for the attack jokes (i.e., make fun of someone) or the raunch jokes. Perhaps I’ve turned into that old “get off my lawn” sort-of guy, but I miss the days when comedians would tell funny stories (think Bill Cosby, Bob Newhart, or Milt Kamen), or would be simply silly (think the Smothers Brothers, Red Skelton, or Jonathan Winters). I’m sure the next generation of those times of comedians are out there; I hope the younger audiences learn that there is something more than jokes about bald vaginas.

Still, it was an interesting first time to a comedy club, made better by the company we were with!

Upcoming Theatre and Concerts:  Tomorrow night, we’re going to the Brunish Theatre at Portland5 to see the Elton John/Tim Rice musical “Aida“. The last weekend of February was going to start with Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Thing” at Two Roads Theatre, but the problematic reviews (decidedly mixed reviews on the performances, and nearly unanamous reviews that the show was too long and had too many long scene changes) led me to cancel it and replace it with Larry Shue’s “The Foreigner” at Crown City Theatre (FB). The next evening brings the MRJ Regional Man of the Year dinner at Temple Beth Hillel, followed by “Sex and Education” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on Sunday March 2 (moved from March 8). The weekend of March 8 now brings “Biloxi Blues” at REP East (FB) (moved from March 29). The weekend of March 16 brings Purim Schpiels, with Sunday afternoon bringing “Inherit the Wind” at the Grove Theatre Center (FB) in Burbank. March 22 brings “Harmony” at The Ahmanson Theatre (FB), followed by “Author, Author: An Evening with Sholom Aleichem” at the Santa Monica Playhouse (FB) on March 23. The last weekend of March is open, and will likely stay that way as we’ll be exhausted. April starts with “In The Heights” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on April 5, and should also bring “Tallest Tree” at the Mark Taper Forum, as well as the Southern California Renaissance Faire. April may also bring “My Name is Asher Lev” at the Fountain Theatre (FB) (as this runs through April 19). Current planning for May shows “The Lion in Winter” at The Colony Theatre (FB), and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at REP East (FB). 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.

My Dues Are Too High! (A Lunchtime Musing)

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Feb 20, 2014 @ 11:36 am PDT

userpic=tallitYesterday, I read a very interesting piece on Kveller titled “My Local Kosher Market is Closing & I’m Part of the Reason Why“, and I set it aside to write a post related to it. Yesterday evening, Rabbi Lutz posted a link to an article about why one should choose synagogue membership. Both are worth reading, so I’ll wait while you do so.

(taps feet, looks at watch, taps feet again, while the theme from Jeopardy plays in the background)

OK, so now you’ve read them. What both emphasize, in slightly different ways, is the importance of having the Jewish community — and by extension, Jewish communal institutions — there when you need them. The value of these institutions cannot be viewed solely on what you get back in services over a given time period. In fact, looking at Jewish institutions (or any religious institution) in a fee-for-service manner just will not work. You can’t say: I pay $2000 a year to be a member, and that’s cheaper than buying the services ala-carte.

The reason we join together in the groups we do (be that brotherhoods and sisterhoods, or the congregation as a whole) is to create a community, pure and simple. We want to create a community that will be there to support us — to help us and lift us when we are having trouble, to be there to share our joys. We build relationships within the community, and we help others in the community. We may not always like everyone in the community, but the community should have common values, goals, and mores. Most importantly, we want the community to be there when we need it.

In the past — at least in the progressive Jewish communities — we’ve been told that there is a price of admission to the community (boy, doesn’t it sound wrong when I put it that way?) This price: dues. There are dues for the synagogue, dues for brotherhood, dues for sisterhood. This notion of dues turns people off. It is one thing to have fees for specific services (such as a fee for religious school)… but being told by some entity that you must pay $X to be considered a part of the community seems wrong (although, to be fair, they do allow you to negotiate the value of $X depending on your circumstances).

How do Christian congregations handle this? Ever hear of something called “faith offerings”? Ever seen the basket passed? Congregational support is often done at the end of services with passed baskets, with people giving as the community moves them. This never took hold in Jewish communities because of the traditional prohibition of handling or carrying money on Shabbat. There is also tithing (giving 10% of your “income”) to the church, but (to my knowledge) this is unlike dues in that it is voluntary, not a price of admission.

Some Jewish institutions are exploring a different model. In $mens_club, we’ve done away with our dues system, and made all men in the congregation members. We have ask them to send in support to the community, if they feel the community is valuable, in an amount they deem appropriate. If we do our job right and build a valuable community with strong relationships, then people will want the community to exist and will be willing to support it financially. Yes, it is a risk. However, it is a better level of feedback than robotic collection of dues for an organization that might no longer have a purpose.

What it boils down to is this: You need to support your communal groups if they are to survive and be around whenever you need them. You might not utilize them every day; you might not get back in services what you contribute in support. If you want them to survive, you contribute. This is true whether the organization is your congregation’s brotherhood or sisterhood, whether it is the congregation itself, or whether it is your local Kosher market or JCC. If an organization has value to you, support it.

Looking to the Past

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Feb 19, 2014 @ 6:08 pm PDT

userpic=headlinesToday’s news chum brings together a collection of articles of historical interest, from taxes to time capsules, from food to food places…

 

It’s What The Internet Is For…

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Feb 18, 2014 @ 8:49 pm PDT

userpic=tortuga-heuvosToday’s news chum post brings together a collection of articles about what pervades the Internet, but about which no one talks: porn. Maybe its astrological, but there have been a bunch of interesting articles of late (which I read for the articles): [I'll note that all the top-level links in the post are SFW, although the articles themselves may link to NSFW stuff]

  • Making It Pay. We’ve all heard that porn is at the forefront of all Internet innovations. That may be true, but porn is suffering from the same problem as digital music: People are asking themselves …. why should I pay for it when I can get it for free (and there is lots of free porn out there, at sites that subsist from advertising). So, as NPR reports, the porn industry is trying to come up with new ways to get people to pay… and the primary way is to make it interactive where people can make online requests. The interesting aspect here (to me) is a problem the porn industry has: they can’t mine “big data” because people don’t want to leave tracks — they browse in private mode, they don’t like to use credit cards… and there’s not that big of a market to buy the data.
  • Who’s Making It. When you look at the actors who make porn, there are two camps: professionals and amateurs. Despite what you may be led to believe, most people don’t want to see “manufactured” (artificially enhanced) actors — they want to see actors that look like them, with imperfections and flaws. So who is uploading the amateur stuff? Huffington Post reports on a survey with the answers: One porn site discovered that almost one-third of homemade sex tapes submitted between July and December 2013 were created not in sexually liberal coastal cities, as one might imagine, but in the Bible Belt. Furthermore, 56.9 percent of videos were submitted by women. The states with the highest number of submissions were California (20.6 percent) and Pennsylvania (11.8 percent), but 10.8 percent of submissions came from Florida and 6.9 percent from Texas. Other Bible Belt states contributing submissions included North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana and Kentucky. Perhaps this is because “religious” cities watch as much porn as non-religious cities. Yup, some folks do mine big data from visitors to porn sites.
  • Why They Do It? Perhaps you’re thinking that all these folks visiting the sites are the lonely single guys out there (how come Avenue Q is coming to mind again). But you might be surprised again. A recent survey quoted by the Huffington Post shows the people who watch more porn have more sex. The article has a nice infographic with the results of the survey.

And with that, I’ll leave you to your late night reading…

P.S.: Trying to figure out the icon? This will explain it.

Girl Power in Anaheim

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Feb 16, 2014 @ 11:20 pm PDT

Lysistrata Jones (Chance)userpic=theatre_musicalsToday, we saw girl power on the stage and thoroughly enjoyed it. No, I’m not talking about the Spice Girls Musical. I’m talking about the original girl power, reimagined.

Perhaps I should explain this better. Back in 411 BCE, the Greek playwright Aristophanes (FB) debuted an comic play called “Lysistrata“. In this play, a woman named Lysistrata forces an end to the Peloponnesian War by persuading the women of Greece to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands and lovers. This forces the men to negotiate peace. This play has been done many times over the years, and the strategies of Lysistrata have been adopted by many women’s groups to get men to do what they should do, not what their little brains tell them to do. In 2011, Douglas Carter Beane (FB) (book) and Lewis Flinn (FB) (music and lyrics) came together to retell the story in a contemporary fashion. This musical, called “Lysistrata Jones” was successful off-Broadway, but tanked in the larger Broadway houses. The Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim Hills is currently presenting the West Coast premier of “Lysistrata Jones“. I’ve had the music for a while, and so jumped at the chance to see the musical, even if it meant driving 120+ miles roundtrip. So this afternoon, down to Anaheim we drove for “Lysistrata Jones“.

Lysistrata Jones” updates the setting of Lysistrata to Athens University and their basketball team, the Spartans. The Spartans have been losing at basketball for over 30 years straight, and a new transfer student, Lysistrata Jones, who is dating the captain of the basketball team, wants to change that record. She convinces the other team girlfriends (Lampito, Cleonice, and Mhrrhine) to form a cheerleading squad to support the team. This doesn’t help. Then one day at the library, she learns of the story of her namesake from the library intern, Robin, and gets an idea. She, and the other girls on the cheer squad (including Robin, who has joined the squad) will stop “giving it up” to their boyfriends until the basketball team (Mick, Uardo, Tyllis, Cinesias, and Harold) win a game. However, this plot backfires, as the boys initially decide it is better to make no effort and lose, than to try hard… and lose. So the girls visit a local prostitute to learn how to encourage the boys better. Again, the tactic backfires. This continues back and forth (I’m not going to completely spoil the fun) until, as in the original story, the girls have their way. Egging them on throughout this is Hetaira, a Greek Goddess who assumes various roles, and Xander, a young man recruited from the library to serve as the Spartan’s mascot.

The college setting — with basketball and cheer — provides for lots of energetic music and eye candy (umm, stunning visuals) for all ilks in the audience. But beyond all of that is a good story, well performed, with lots of fun writing. There were numerous throwaway lines that were just hilarious. This is no surprise when you realize that Beane was behind the musical version of Xanadu as well, and that show amped up the parody. But behind the energy and the visuals and the fun was a strong and great message of empowerment of women to change the world — as as the play was updated — the message that people can do what is right for them and change the world. This is a great message to impart, buried within all that fun.

So were there weaknesses in the story? Yes. A number of the characters were stereotypical, but that’s common in theatre where things often need to be painted with a broad brush (especially in comedies). You’ll find similar stereotypes in similar musicals such as “Bring It On“. What I liked was that, in many way, the characters started out stereotypically but moved, in various measures, beyond those stereotypes.

The entire cast was strong, and there performances blended so well with the direction that I couldn’t tell where one ended and the other began. This is a good thing, and is a credit to the director Kari Hayter (FB) [and the assistant director, Crystal Hoskins Phillips (FB)]. One of the particular things I liked about the overall ensemble was the overall enthusiasm and fun they were having — this was clearly evident from the looks on their faces on numbers such as “Hold On”. They were just enjoying this show, its message, and this enjoyment was clearly broadcast to the audience. You can see some pictures from the show here.

Leading the charge to get the team to win were the girls, led by Devon Hadsell (FB) (Lysistrata). Her squad consisted of Klarissa Mesee (FB) (Lampito); Danielle Rosario (FB) (Cleonice), Chelsea Baldree (FB) (Myrrhine), and Ashley Arlene Nelson (FB) (Robin). Camryn Zelinger (FB) (Hetaira) added the Greek element and the narration, while doubling as the referee and the prostitute. All were great. I was particularly smitten by the energy of Devon Hadsell and Ashley Arlene Nelson in their roles, and the flexibility of Camryn Zelinger in the multiple roles she had to play. I was also amazed at how all of them found the energy to do all that dancing (which was extremely energetic) and not be winded. They were also very strong singers. They all were just fantastic to watch.

On the basketball team side were J. D. Driskill (FB) (Mick), Michael Dushefsky (FB) (Uardo), Darian Archie (FB) (Tyllis), Ricky Wagner (FB)( Harold), and Jackson Tobiska (FB) (Cinesias). Robert Wallace (FB) rounded out the guys as Xander, who the girls recruited to be the mascot. All of the guys had strong energy, and did a reasonable job on the basketball court (which for actors, is pretty good). My wife enjoyed watching the transformation of Robert Wallace’s character — he went from almost comic relief in the beginning to a well rounded character at the end.  Again, all were strong singers and performers.

Strong choreography is vital to this show, and the choreography by Kelly Todd (FB), assisted by Christopher M. Albrecht (FB), worked quite nicely. This was even more amazing when you realize that this show is in a new space for the Chance, and the space was not ready until a week before the show. As a result, all the movement had to be learned in a space that had a set with different spacing and objects. That the team succeeded so well is amazing.

Music was provided by a four-piece band under the direction of Rod Bahheri (FB), who played piano as well. Supporting him on-stage were Garrett Hazen (FB) on guitar, James McHale on bass, and Jorge Zuniga on drums.

Turning to the technical and support side — which was more amazing considering that this was the Chance Theatre’s first show in the new larger performance space, and that the technical work on this show couldn’t be started until construction was completed just a few weeks ago. The set was designed by Christopher Scott Murillo (FB), and consisted of a floor painted to resemble a well-worn wood basketball court with two hoops (lowered so that actors could reliably make shots). There were stairs in the back with the band on top, and bleachers on the side. This all worked quite well to support the story; it was aided by the prop designs of Daniel Bravo. The sound design by Ryan Brodkin (FB) worked well for the most part (there were one or two minor drops), and I particularly appreciated the use of reverb at points. The lighting design by Matt Schleicher also worked well, and I noticed quite a few new lights for the Chance (movers, scrollers, what looked to be some square halogens, and some LED lights). There were a few spots where actors were in the dark, but I’m sure that will be adjusted in future shows. Supporting all of this were Sarah DuVal (Dramaturg), Courtney Greenough/FB (Stage Manager/Company Manager),  Casey Long/FB (Managing Director), Masako Tobaru (Production Manager/Technical Director)., Jennifer Ruckman (Literary Manager), Marc Sanford (Associate House Manager), Erika C. Miller (Development Director), Teodora Ramos (Master Carpenter), Jeff Hellebrand (Box Office Associate), and Jocelyn A. Brown (Associate Artistic Director) . Oahn Nguyen is the Artistic Director for Chance Theatre.

Lysistrata Jones” continues at The Chance Theatre (FB) through March 9, 2014. Tickets are available through the Chance Box Office, and may be available through Goldstar or LA Stage Tix. Note: If you had starred the Chance Theatre at their old address on Goldstar, you won’t see notices at the new address. You need to star this address. This is the first show in their new, larger location, which is at the other end of large office complex from their original location. For those unfamiliar with where The Chance Theatre (FB) is located, it is right near the junction of Imperial Highway and Route 91.

The Chance Theatre (FB) has announced the remainder of their 2014 season. It consists of Sarah Ruhl’s “Passion Play” (April 25-May 18) [this was recently mounted at the Odyssey in West LA]; “In The Heights” (July 3-August 3) [being done this Spring in Thousand Oaks; Chance has the Orange County regional premier]; Jordan Harrison’s “Maple and Vine” (Sept. 19-Oct 12); the Bock-Harnick musical “She Loves Me” (November 28-December 28); and a holiday musical to be announced. We plan to head south again for “She Loves Me“, as this is rarely done in the area.

Dining Notes: Before the show, we had lunch at Slater’s 50/50 Burgers By Design. In a word… yum! 50/50 refers to the fact their burgers are half-beef, half-bacon. I didn’t have a burger, but opted instead for a pesto-sun dried tomato macaroni and cheese with grilled chicken breast. That was my final choice — I had to decide between that, a double grilled cheese sandwich with tomato-basil soup, or the build-your-own burger.

[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 Theatre and Concerts:  Read this closely, as the menu options have changed. Next weekend, February 22 I’m doing a site visit to Portland OR for ACSAC. But that doesn’t stop the theatre — we’ve going to the Brunish Theatre at Portland5 to see the Elton John/Tim Rice musical “Aida“. The last weekend of February was going to start with Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Thing” at Two Roads Theatre, but the problematic reviews (decidedly mixed reviews on the performances, and nearly unanamous reviews that the show was too long and had too many long scene changes) led me to cancel it and replace it with Larry Shue’s “The Foreigner” at Crown City Theatre (FB). The next evening brings the MRJ Regional Man of the Year dinner at Temple Beth Hillel, followed by “Sex and Education” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on Sunday March 2 (moved from March 8). The weekend of March 8 now brings “Biloxi Blues” at REP East (FB) (moved from March 29). The weekend of March 16 brings Purim Schpiels, with Sunday afternoon bringing “Inherit the Wind” at the Grove Theatre Center (FB) in Burbank. March 22 brings “Harmony” at The Ahmanson Theatre (FB), followed by “Author, Author: An Evening with Sholom Aleichem” at the Santa Monica Playhouse (FB) on March 23. The last weekend of March is open, and will likely stay that way as we’ll be exhausted. April starts with “In The Heights” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on April 5, and should also bring “Tallest Tree” at the Mark Taper Forum, as well as the Southern California Renaissance Faire. April may also bring “My Name is Asher Lev” at the Fountain Theatre (FB) (as this runs through April 19). Current planning for May shows “The Lion in Winter” at The Colony Theatre (FB), and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at REP East (FB). 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.