Observations Along the Road

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

The Man Behind the Face

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Jun 23, 2014 @ 7:34 pm PDT

Stoneface (Pasadena Playhouse)userpic=pasadena-playhouseRecently, Carla Laemmle died. She was one of the last living links to the first era of motion pictures — the silent movie era. Most of today’s youth can hardly imagine the impact of these short, black and white, soundless (but for a piano accompaniment) images on the screen, but in their day… they defined and created stars. There were romantic and dramatic stars, but some of the best known were the comedians: Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Mabel Norman, Roscoe Arbuckle, and Buster Keaton. Some big stage shows have been made for some — there have been at least two musical version’s of Chaplin’s life story, and Norman’s romance with Mack Sennet was the basis for Mack and Mabel. Others have languished in obscurity. Recently, Sacred Fools Theatre had a well-received production of a play with musical accompaniment about the life of Buster Keaton. This play was written by Vanessa Claire Stewart (FB), as a birthday present for her husband, French Stewart (FB), of 3rd Rock and Mom fame, who has the lead role as Buster Keaton (his idol). For the 2013-2014 season, the Pasadena Playhouse announced a remounting of this show, and it was the only show in their season I found interesting. So guess where I was last night? Yup, we were back at our old haunt, the Pasadena Playhouse, seeing Buster Keaton on screen and stage.

So who is Buster Keaton. Many may remember him from his last role: He played Erroneous in the screen version of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum“. But he is best known for his long string of silent movies with well-timed gags starting in 1917, and he made (on average) at least one movie a year until 1966. But all weren’t successes. He had two unsuccessful marriages and a significant drinking problem that derailed his career in the mid-1930s, and his career limped along until he was rediscovered in the 1950s for the genius that he was. His bio at IMDB makes interesting reading.

Stoneface” attempts to tell much of Keaton’s life story. It begins with Keaton at his first drug rehab in 1933 when he is with his second wife, Mae. His story is then told in flashbacks: his marriage to Natalie Talmadge (sister of Norma Talmadge), his friendship and professional relationship with Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, his relationship with Joseph Schenck (his producer) and his long line of successful films, the disastrous financial failure of “The General“, the sale of his contract to MGM and his poor relationship with Louis B. Mayer. It also explores his battle with alcoholism, his failure at relationships with his first wife (Natalie) and the loss of his children, and the scandal related to his friend, Roscoe Arbuckle. It shows the period where he had lost his timing and made horrible shorts just to survive. But it also shows his sobering up, his successful relationship with his third (and final) wife, his comeback with Chaplin in 1951’s “Limelight”, and his receiving a special Oscar for his life’s work in comedy. In general, the story worked — although I wish they had mentioned that his final speech actually was at the Oscars, and mentioned his final role in Forum.

The way the production was done was very interesting. There were many scenes that were, essentially, silent movies on stage. There was the occasional projected subtitle, but all the action was silent (often with Keaton’s style of comedy) with piano accompaniment. These scenes were excellent, and Stewart seemed to have quite a bit of fun with them, capturing Keaton’s style quite well. Other scenes were more expositional — conventional scenes in which the story played out. These scenes were a bit more problematic — not because of the writing, but because Stewart seemed a bit off with the occasional line hesitation and restart that impacted his timing. His supporting players, however, were excellent.

This production started at the Sacred Fools Theatre, an under 99-seat venue in Hollywood. At the Playhouse, it was in a 686 seat auditorium. There are those who claim that the production lost something in the transfer to the larger venue. Having not seen it in the smaller venue, I can’t speak to that assessment. I can see, however, how the magic and the performance would have had more oomph in a more intimate venue. I found the production worked at the Playhouse for me; however I think a production like this would be lost at the Ahmanson or Pantages. If it wasn’t for the difficulty in working the scenery, the Colony would be a great venue.

As noted above, French Stewart (FB) had the lead position as Buster Keaton. He captured Keaton’s persona and mannerisms quite well, especially in the silent and physical comedy scenes, but had the occasional line problem in the expositional scenes. Looking at his Facebook, this could be the four-show weekends getting to him; this was near the end of the run. But this does seem to be a character that he really enjoys playing and inhabiting, and it is worth seeing for his performance.

The remaining cast members are strong, but there are some worthy of particular note. Tegan Ashton Cohan (FB), as Natalie Talmadge (as well as part of the ensemble), has an extended sequence with Stewart where she attempts to get him sitting in a chair. The physical comedy in this sequence is spectacular.  There is a similar sequence with Daisy Eagan (FB) as Mae Scriven, his second wife. There is also some good physical comedy with Joe Fria (FB) as the young Buster Keaton; Scott Leggett (FB) is great as Roscoe Arbuckle in the opening sequence of Act II. The rest of the actors handle their roles well, and are remarkable in their interactions with the special effects — in particular, the effect of walking behind a screen and suddenly being in the silent movie. Rounding out the cast were Jake Broder (FB) (Joseph Schenck), Rena Strober (FB) (Norma Talmadge / Eleanor Keaton), Pat Towne (FB) (Louis B. Mayer), Conor Duffy (FB) (Edward Sedgwick / George Jessel), and Guy Picot (FB) (Charlie Chaplin).

The production was directed by Jaime Robledo (FB), who was very clever at providing the production a silent-movie feel, including the aforementioned scenes where the actors go behind a screen and are suddenly in the projected image, or longer scenes that are done entirely as silent movies. These were extremely clever and enjoyable. I’ll note the entire production was helped by the great rinky-tinky piano accompaniment of Ryan Johnson (FB).

This is one show where the technical makes the show. The scenic design of Joel Daavid (FB) was spectacular and truly brought the silent film era of the 1920s to life. This resurrection of the period was aided and abeted by the costumes of Jessica Olson (FB) and the wigs of Jessica Mills (FB). As for the lighting, Jeremy Pivnick (FB) did some things I’ve never seen before, including a moving light on a track in the upper fly space that itself had a moving mirror. The sound by the wonderful Cricket S. Myers (FB) was mostly wonderful — in particular the silent movie projector sound during the projections. However, the music behind Keaton and Arbuckle in the bar scenes was just loud enough to be distracting — in fact, I thought it might be coming from the bar outside. As noted before, projections make this show, and much of the credit goes to Ben Rock (FB) and Anthony Backman (FB) and technical director Brad Enlow. Mike Mahaffey (FB) was the fight director. Susie Walsh was the production stage manager; Hethyr “Red” Verhoef was the stage manager, and Kristen Hammack/FB was the company manager.

Stoneface: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Buster Keaton” continues at the Pasadena Playhouse (FB) through June 29.  Tickets are available through the Playhouse box office, and discount tickets are available through Goldstar.

The Pasadena Playhouse is promoting their 2014-2015 season, but I’m not biting. The season consists of a variation of “Kiss Me Kate” transporting to the mileau of black vaudeville of the early 20th century (umm, no); “Stop Kiss” by Diana Son, a holiday Panto of Sleeping Beauty, “Two for the Seesaw” by William Gibson, “Pygmalion” by George Bernard Shaw, and Sheldon’s favorite show, “TBD”, which he does every season. Of these, the only one interesting me is “Two for the Seesaw“, and that’s primarily because it is the closest I’ll ever come to seeing the musical “Seesaw“, which was based on that play.

[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:  We finish off June with “I’m Not Just a Comic Genius” at Secret Rose (FB) on June 27. July will be busy: “Ghost” at the Pantages (FB) on 7/5, “Return to the Forbidden Planet” at REP East (FB) the weekend of 7/12, “Once” at the Pantages (FB) on 7/19, “Bye Bye Birdie” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on 7/26, and “Family Planning” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on 8/2. August then remains quiet as we work around vacations and such (but I’m eyeing a number of productions in Escondido, including Two Gentlemen of Verona” at the Old Globe, and Pageant” at the Cygnet in Old Town. What they have at the Welk (“Oklahoma“), Patio Theatre (“Fiddler on the Roof“), and Moonlight Stage (“My Fair Lady“) are all retreads. Things start to get busy again in September and October, with “The Great Gatsby” at REP, “What I Learned in Paris” at the Colony, and “Pippin” at the Pantages. More on that later. 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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Believing in Untruths

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 22, 2014 @ 4:48 pm PDT

userpic=obama-supermanEarlier today, I wrote about a fundraising event for REP that occurred in response to an incident that happened earlier in June. In this event, a version of a story was spread that was exaggerated in ways to make people believe an untruth — in this case, they believed this untruth because it fit their conception of what likely happened, not what really happened. As someone who tries to look at things neutrally (although I have progressive leanings), I see this all the time. I especially see it on Facebook, where rabid partisans on both sides of the political spectrum spread their untruths about the other side in order to support their views. Yes, I said both. I see some of my very liberal friends constantly making fun of the conservatives; and I see conservatives spreading untruths about the liberal side.

The latest example of this flew across Facebook a little earlier today: a link to an article titled “This “Top 10 Reasons To Vote Democrat” List From Allen West Is One Of The Best Things On The Internet“, posted at The Federalist Papers.org. But when you look at this list from the perspective of the truth, you discover that each one of these things is actually based on a false belief about Democrats. Let’s look, shall we?

  • I’ll vote Democrat because I can’t wait for college football season to be delayed or cancelled because the student athletes are union employees.” When you think about it, unions are actually a pretty Tea Party concept: individuals deciding to dictate their own future instead of letting the government do it. Individuals collectively bargaining for better conditions, better wages, a better future. They are not depending on the government to achieve this goal: they are doing it themselves. So this builds on the misconception that unions are bad things. It also builds on the misconception that the Democrats specifically made student athletes union employees. This was a specific legal decision by a in a specific case interpreting law; it was based on a number of factors, including the time students devote to football (as many as 50 hours some weeks), the control exerted by coaches and their scholarships, which were equivalent to a contract for compensation.
  • I’ll vote Democrat because I believe oil company’s profits of 4% on a gallon of gas are obscene, but the government taxing the same gallon of gas at 15% isn’t.” This plays on the conception of evil government taxing. But is this true. Companies are entitled to reasonable levels of profits; the usual assumption is that many of those profits will be returned to shareholders or into research and development. When profits go for other purposes — like insane executive salaries — people get upset. But more significantly, where does that government tax dollar go? It goes to pay for all those roads people drive upon. The gas companies pay nothing for the infrastructure upon which they depend. The 15% tax on fuel is not obscene.
  • I’ll vote Democrat because I believe the government will do a better job of spending the money I earn than I would.” This is a common belief. The problem is that people would not spend money on common good. If you kept more of your tax dollar, would you pay for roads? Would you pay for the lighthouses? Would you pay for the air traffic controllers? Would you pay for the coast guard? Would you pay for the national clocks? Would you pay for the organizations that establish neutral and accurate national standards? In truth, in many areas, the government does do a better job at spending money than you do. One other note: Although you might spend money better, do you believe that is true for everyone?
  • I’ll vote Democrat because Freedom of Speech is fine as long as nobody is offended by it.” What’s funny here is that it is the Democrats that are usually at the forefront of defending the rights to free speech through the ACLU. On the other hand, who has attempted to limit magazines and subjects that they felt were offensive? Who has attempted to limit the presentation of non-Judeo-Christian religious views and symbols?
  • I’ll vote Democrat because I’m way too irresponsible to own a gun, and I know that my local police are all I need to protect me from murderers and thieves. I am also thankful that we have a 911 service that get police to your home in order to identify your body after a home invasion.” So many things here. First, it is not *you* owning a gun that is worrisome; it is that depressed psycho neighbor of yours. You’re fine. Second, the statement about the local police creates the implication that people use their personal firearms to protect themselves from murderers and thieves — which in really does not occur. Name 10 recent incidents where a murder or theft was stopped due to a local person using a handgun? As for 911, identification of the body is not done by first responders. The first responders are there to find the person who did the murder, and start collecting evidence. Don’t you watch CSI:?
  • I’ll vote Democrat because I’m not concerned about millions of babies being aborted so long as we keep all death row inmates alive and comfy.” Again, multiple issues here. No one is in favor of abortion; no one believes it should occur willy-nilly. The belief is that a woman should have the right to choose what happens to her body; if the conservative side is so in favor of a small government that doesn’t restrict them, they should be in favor of keeping the government out of telling women what they can or cannot do with their bodies. As for the death row inmates: the concern here is the same as with abortion: loss of innocent life. Mistakes happen, people lie or misinterpret evidence, and innocent people do land on death row. Why is it right to not kill an innocent when they are a baby, but OK when they are an adult. As for alive and comfy, you obviously haven’t been in prison — but there is also this little thing called the constitution that prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.
  • I’ll vote Democrat because I think illegal aliens have a right to free health care, education, and Social Security benefits, and we should take away the Social Security from those who paid into it.” Actually, the Democrats don’t believe illegal aliens have a right to free health care, education, and Social Security Benefits. They do believe they have a right to some health care, because if they are infectuous they can infect a citizen just as well as a non-citizen. Some of the rights that have been extended have been done by courts — consisting of both liberal and conservative judges — interpreting the law of the land. As for Social Security, you’ll find that it is the Democrats that have been defending Social Security against attempt to put it in the risky stock market and other investments.
  • I’ll vote Democrat because I believe that businesses should NOT be allowed to make profits for themselves. They need to break even and give the rest away to the government for redistribution as the Democrats see fit.” Democrats believe businesses should be able to make profits. They also believe — just like everyone else — that businesses should pay their fair share of taxes.
  • I’ll vote Democrat because I believe liberal judges need to rewrite the Constitution every few days to suit some fringe kooks who would never get their agendas past the voters.” Except, of course, when it is the conservative judges that rewrite the constitution through decisions such as Bush v. Gore and Citizens United. Fringe Kooks exist on both sides, boys and girls.
  • I’ll vote Democrat because I think that it’s better to pay billions for oil to people who hate us, but not drill our own because it might upset some endangered beetle, gopher, fish or frog.” Oil is a limited resource. It is best to use as little as possible, irrespective of where we get it, because we cannot make more. But in reality, the oil companies go where the profits are. If it was cheaper to sell domestic oil at the same price, they would. Imported oil is cheaper. Environmental protection is only one part of that. As for the endangered species (which were protected by a Republican administration), we never know what we might learn — what new scientific or health discoveries might be made from them. But more importantly, the reality is that endangered species don’t stop most oil drilling — it is people wanting to protect their water, their air, or their community from the pollution that comes with oil drilling — or the risk of an oil spill, which we all know never happens (and when it does, is cleaned up with nary a trace). Sometimes the easiest way to get a legal hook to stop the action is… you guessed it… the endangered species act.

I do this not to pick on the conservative side, but to urge people to look at partisan statements — from either side — neutrally. Find out the facts — don’t believe the sensational lies you read from either side. Get your news from multiple sources, and listen and attempt to understand — even if you don’t agree — from friends of all ilks.

Out on a Limb to Help a Friend

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 22, 2014 @ 9:39 am PDT

Solopalooza (REP)userpic=repeastExperimental theatre. If you have been reading our theatre adventures, you know this is something that we don’t normally attend. But when a fundraiser was announced for the Repertory East Playhouse (REP) after the recent debacle, I was in—no questions asked. So last night we were back at REP for “Solo-Palooza“, which was a collection of 10-20 minute monologues by theatre students from College of the Canyons that left me astounded at the level of talent and the passion of the students, as well as being pleased that REP was coming out of this stronger, with a greater commitment to do great theatre from both the staff and the community.

Let’s start with the REP aspect first. For those unfamiliar with the story, during the run of REP’s previous show, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, a patron got inebriated and started making audible anti-gay slurs during the second act. The actor playing Big Daddy reacted to these jeers not by requesting action from management, but by going into the audience and physically confronting the patron. The patron was ejected, the actor was fired (for creating legal risk for the theatre), another actor quit in support, the remainder of the run was cancelled due to the loss of actors, the issue hit the news and went viral on the Internet with a version of the story tilted towards the actor, and the theatre took a financial and publicity hit. Within a week of the incident, the show showed up with a benefit performance at another venue, with most of the actors, directed by the fellow in the audience who took the story to the media. Supporters of the theatre began speaking up when staff couldn’t, and fundraisers were organized to make up for the loss of ticket income from the production. Such is the love that this theatre engenders in the local community and the community of the people that know the theatre that they want this institution to survive. T-Shirts were sold, and two shows were organized to provide support. One of those shows was this show; the next is a stand-up comedy night next week. Of course, the best way to ensure the survival of the REP is to introduce new audiences to their quality and integrity. When you buy a ticket to their next show, Return to the Forbidden Planet, buy an extra ticket and bring a friend to the theatre.

Next, let’s turn to the show itself. What is Solo-Palooza? Solo-Palooza is a product of the “Theatre 195: Solo Performance” class at the College of the Canyons. In this program, students from the class present original solo performance pieces that have been curated with COC theatre instructor and Solopalooza director Susan Hinshaw (FB) to be both socially provocative and highly entertaining. Over the years, Solo-Palooza has been performed at both COC and at REP; REP has been a strong supporter of the program. The most recent Solo-Palooza before this one was in early June at COC, and featured shows about “broken families, drug addiction, bullies, cheerleaders, being an outsider, being a twin, and an obsessive compulsive”.  It was mentioned at the beginning of last night’s show that COC wanted to return the support to REP, and they proposed this special Solo-Palooza performance, with all the proceeds going to REP.

Last night’s performance featured nine selections from longer solo performance pieces. All were great; the weakest one in my eyes was at the 90% level, and the weakness was due less to the performance and more due to the resonance of the subject matter. The performances were at a level very different than I seen in normal scripted shows. I don’t mean this in a bad way: these performances were uniformly excellent and creative, drawing the audience to see multiple characters and multiple personas in a single individual with minimal props. This is why I referred to experimental theatre above — this was true “acting” from the heart and soul. It was remarkable. Let’s look at my remembrances of the individual pieces in the show:

  • Copy and Paste” (Ashley Rasch/FB). This was a story about a girl growing up with her identical twin sister. I was astounded with the enthusiasm and energy Rasch brought to the piece — she was flying everywhere and becoming different characters and ages, and was just astounding and funny and delightful to watch.
  • On the Outside Looking In” (Tyler Menjivar/FB). This was a story about growing up gay and trying to find your way as an outsider. One of the most interesting portions of the piece had to do with messages that we send–Menjivar related about hearing his parents talk about the fact that it was perfectly fine to be gay…. as long it wasn’t a friend, neighbor, or a family member. I was impressed by the emotion behind this story, and the physicality of the piece (Menjivar was pushed by … himself … on to the floor hard a number of times).
  • Nine Dresses” (Renee Poignard/FB). This was ultimately a story about a girls relationship to her mother who passed away too soon, and how that relationship was triggered by memories, odors, and actions. A touching and humorous piece.
  • Wrong Channel” (Jordan Haro (FB)). This was the piece that resonated with me the least. It was about a young man who learned his life lessons from television. There was a lot of patter about shows — especially kids cartoons — and the lessons they teach. Many of these were kids shows from the late 1990s that I never watched, and so the connections and in-jokes just missed me. The audience did appreciate, however, his performance of the theme from Speed Racer.
  • Fat Bottomed Girl” (Heather Frame (FB)). This was perhaps the piece that resonated the most with us — it was a monologue about a woman and her struggle with weight, with an addition to eating and of using food for comfort and nurture. This is something that my wife has struggled with, and even I’m having trouble with it (I’m finding it hard to lose weight). A really good and well-performed piece from the heart.
  • My Girl” (Joe Prata/FB). This was a piece I wasn’t sure I was going to like — it was a (hopefully fictional) talk by a man who murdered his wife with malace aforethought, after murdering her lover, and going on to kill more. At its heart, though, it was a story about a man’s relationship with his daughter, and the aftermath of a bad divorce. Although the presentation only gave one side of the story (part of the problem that was there in the original REP incident), it provided an odd understanding of an evil act. Very well performed.
  • Straight Lines, Full Circle” (Clare Tompkins-Cook/FB). Another piece about growing up, this time from the young lady who was serving as the host for the evening’s performances. It was about a girl’s hatred of pain and blood, and how the pain of her life and fighting at home led her to cutting — experiencing pain to awakeness from the numbness that life had brought to her. Tompkins-Cook portrayed a number of characters and emotions, and was just fascinating to watch.
  • Silence is Loud” (Kelsey Kosskove/FB). This was a story about a young woman dealing with the draw of silence on her life. Kosskove had a dancer’s body and dancer’s moves, and these highlighted this interesting piece. This was the piece that connected with my wife the least, for whatever reason.
  • Three Men” (Judge Boothby/FB). Boothby protrayed three angry men: a janitor talking to a student, a son talking to his father, and a third one I can’t remember. What I found interesting here — even more than the strong performances themselves — was the reaction to them from the other actors on the side of the stage. I also loved how Boothby just inhabited and transformed into each difference character. It was remarkable to see.

The production was produced by Clare Tompkins-Cook/FB and Erin Cholakian/FB, with REP regular Taylor Kozlowski/FB serving as house manager, lighting, and sound tech. David Stears/FB was the event coordinator.

There was only one performance of this piece. You shoulda been there supporting the REP. You’ll just have to come to their next show.

[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:  Tonight sees us back at our old haunt, the Pasadena Playhouse (FB), for “Stoneface: The Rise and Fall of Buster Keaton”. We finish off June with “I’m Not Just a Comic Genius” at Secret Rose (FB) on June 27. July will be busy: “Ghost” at the Pantages (FB) on 7/5, “Return to the Forbidden Planet” at REP East (FB) the weekend of 7/12, “Once” at the Pantages (FB) on 7/19, “Bye Bye Birdie” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on 7/26, and “Family Planning” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on 8/2. August then remains quiet as we work around vacations and such (but I’m eyeing a number of productions in Escondido, including Two Gentlemen of Verona” at the Old Globe, and Pageant” at the Cygnet in Old Town. What they have at the Welk (“Oklahoma“), Patio Theatre (“Fiddler on the Roof“), and Moonlight Stage (“My Fair Lady“) are all retreads. Things start to get busy again in September and October, with “The Great Gatsby” at REP, “What I Learned in Paris” at the Colony, and “Pippin” at the Pantages. More on that later. 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.

 

Chunks of Theatre, History, Transport in a Tasty Broth

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jun 21, 2014 @ 12:26 pm PDT

Observation StewThis has been another busy busy week, both at work (where there is always something on the review stack or a control to analyze) and at home (where the week was filled with concerts, headaches, and MoTAS). But a few articles have caught my eye, so let me come up for air and share them with you:

  • Puppets and Theatre. When you think of theatre and puppets, what comes to mind? Bob Baker? Flahooley? Carnival? Avenue Q? Indonesian Puppets? Here’s another one for you: Team Land. A noted marionette artist, Bill Land, has moved to Las Vegas and was profiled in the Las Vegas weekly.
  • Disneyfied Sondheim. If you didn’t know, Disney is working on a movie version of Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods“. Alas, they have insisted on changes. Stephen Sondheim talks about them in this article. Let’s put it this way: Disney does not recognize infidelity, and wolves do not have sexual appetites.
  • Wax On Wax Off. Disney is the in San Fernando Valley (Burbank and Glendale), so an article about the Valley is in order. Here’s a look back at The Karate Kid, which was mostly filmed in the valley. The article includes some current-day pictures of movie locations.
  • The Backlot. Let’s move a little bit south to another studio: 20th Century Fox. In the early 1960s, they needed lots of money, so they sold off their backlot to pay for Cleopatra. What resulted was Century City. Century City was a planned “downtown” of high-rises, residences, shopping and entertainment, all fed by the convenient Beverly Hills Freeway, Route 2. What’s that you say? The BH Freeway was never built. Alas, Century City was, and in fact it is almost built out. So where is the traffic to go?
  • A Moving Thought. Talking about bad planning and traffic, how about building light rail to near an airport… but not in. That’s LA’s problem: The Metro doesn’t go to the airport. But there are now plans to change that, connecting the new Crenshaw Line and the Green Line with an LAX station, which will connect to a train that will feed the rental car lots, and integrated transportation hub, and some terminals.  By the way, as we’re speaking of Airport transportation, FlyAway is expanding again, this time to Santa Monica and Hollywood. The latter is good — it is near a Red Line stop and much more convenient than Union Station.
  • Old Streets. Before we leave LA Streets entirely, here are some famous LA streets when they were just dirt roads.
  • Belly Up To The Bar. Since we’re at the airport, let’s talk about hotels. Specifically, what do hotels do with the partially used soap you leave behind. In Las Vegas, they are recycling it.
  • Such a Pill. OK, I can’t connect this one it: They are working on a pill to help those with Celiac. It won’t allow you to eat gluten, but it can help with the accidental exposure.
  • That’s Disgusting. Lastly, an article from Politico about Hobby Lobby and their plans. Hobby Lobby’s owners just don’t want to win their Obamacare case; they want a Christian Nation. They are building a huge museum dedicated to the Bible a few blocks from the Mall in Washington , with as much public space as the National Museum of American History. They’ve financed a lavish traveling exhibit as well, complete with a re-created Holy Land cave, a “Noah’s Ark experience” for kids and animatronic characters such as William Tyndale, who was burned at the stake for daring to translate the New Testament into English. The Greens are sponsoring scholarly study of the Bible and hosting forums such as a recent panel on faith’s role in shaping early America, which they hope to package for national broadcast. Most provocatively, they’ve funded a multimillion-dollar effort to write a Bible curriculum they hope to place in public schools nationwide. It will debut next fall as an elective in Mustang High School, a few miles from Hobby Lobby’s Oklahoma City headquarters. A draft of the textbook for the first of four planned yearlong courses presents Adam and Eve as historical figures.

 

A Night to Remember

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Jun 17, 2014 @ 9:44 pm PDT

Theodore Bikel's 90thuserpic=folk-guitarIf you haven’t figured it out by now, I like Tom Paxton and Peter, Paul, and Mary. I’ve loved folk music all my life. So when Tom Paxton (or his proxy) posted on Facebook that Tom was participating in a special celebration of Theodore Bikel‘s 90th birthday at a theatre in Beverly Hills, I was intrigued. When I later learned that the program would include Peter Yarrow and Arlo Guthrie would be on the bill… and that tickets were on Goldstar… I was sold (even though it was a Monday night). So last night, after a long weekend, saw us in Beverly Hills for a even longer night — celebrating the legacy of 90 years of Theodore Bikel.

Now, if you are not familiar with Theodore Bikel… read his biography! Bikel has been a movie, TV, and a theatre actor for years. He was Tevye in Fiddler, the Captain in the original stage Sound of Music, and has had many more roles. He’s also been at the forefront of the battle to save Jews in the Soviet Union, fighting for the poor and oppressed, …. including many actors while he’s helmed the Actors Fund and Actors Equity. This is a man beloved by all. Most people — including me — have a number of his Jewish and Yiddish folk music records.

The show itself was spectacular. The master of ceremonies was Ed Asner, who was more crotchety than usual. The musical acts were varied: each group performed 2-3 songs. The acts included:

Combine this with an audience featuring notable actors and actors organization executives, and you could just feel the power in the room.

I didn’t try to write a set list, but here is some of what I remember:

  • Tom Paxton did “How Beautiful Upon the Mountain” and “Thank You for the Honor of Your Company”, two very appropriate songs.
  • Peter Yarrow seemed a bit out of it except when he was singing. He did “Puff the Magic Dragon”, and this inspired everyone on stage to pick up their instruments and join him. A real neat jam session. He also did “Light One Candle”.
  • Arlo Guthrie did two compositions from his father, including (if I recall correctly), “This Land is Your Land”.
  • Mizrahi and Bikel did an absolutely stunning duo. The two of them can sing.
  • Bikel also did a spectacular duo with the accordionist.

The evening concluded with everyone joining in “We Shall Overcome”.  It was truly a memorable evening — well worth staying up for.

Upcoming Theatre and Concerts:  This coming weekend brings Solopalooza, a fund raiser for REP East on Saturday night, followed by  “Stoneface: The Rise and Fall of Buster Keaton” at the Pasadena Playhouse (FB) on Sunday. The last weekend in June brings  “I’m Not Just a Comic Genius” at Secret Rose (FB) on June 27. July will be busy: “Ghost” at the Pantages (FB) on 7/5, “Return to the Forbidden Planet” at REP East (FB) the weekend of 7/12, “Once” at the Pantages (FB) on 7/19, “Bye Bye Birdie” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on 7/26, and “Family Planning” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on 8/2. August then remains quiet as we work around vacations and such (but I’m eyeing a number of productions in Escondido, including Two Gentlemen of Verona” at the Old Globe, and Pageant” at the Cygnet in Old Town. What they have at the Welk (“Oklahoma“), Patio Theatre (“Fiddler on the Roof“), and Moonlight Stage (“My Fair Lady“) are all retreads. Things start to get busy again in September and October, with “The Great Gatsby” at REP, “What I Learned in Paris” at the Colony, and “Pippin” at the Pantages. More on that later. 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

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jun 14, 2014 @ 10:01 pm PDT

Observation StewIt’s Saturday and it’s late, but hey — I’ve been at a Bat Mitzvah and fighting a migraine, so give me some slack. So here’s some news chum stew that’s been simmering on the stove for a while:

 

I’m Just a Travelin’ Man…

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Jun 12, 2014 @ 6:19 pm PDT

userpic=psa-smileBefore I head off to a Golf Committee meeting, I thought I would share some tidbits from the news related to traveling…

 

Truth in the Era of the Internet

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Jun 10, 2014 @ 11:42 am PDT

userpic=repeastWhile eating my lunch today, I’ve been thinking more about the situation that happened last week with Repertory East Playhouse (REP) in Newhall. Today’s thinking was prompted by a discussion yesterday on a Fox 11 interview that the two primary actors involved gave. This interview was softer on the REP than previous interviews, and some opined that this issue would calm down and go away. I countered that, alas, with the Internet, nothing goes away. Potential future patrons and actors will grep google the REP, and find these stories. I pointed out that we needed to get ahead of the stories — to ensure that reports on the incident are fair. The actions to take, however, don’t just apply to REP — they apply to anyone who has been the subject of an Internet smear campaign.

Here’s what I think should be demanded — and note that I’m not demanding that anyone change their opinion:

  1. Sites presenting information about what happened should not depend only on the accusers for their information. They should attempt to get information and reports from all sides, and present that information so that readers may draw their own conclusions. If you are reading a “news site”, and the information is only from people on one side of the spectrum/issue, that news is not unbiased. With respect to the REP incident, my first post has been edited to provide quotes from those very familiar with the REP, as well as links to the news articles that present well the accusers side.
  2. Review sites, such as yelp, should only accept reviews from people that know the institution personally. Third-party or hear-say reviews should be rejected. When reading a review site, ask yourself if the author of the review is making clear they have been to the venue in question.

So what should the REP do to preserve their, ahem, REPutation on the Internet? Simple — enforce the two requirements above. First, to those news sites and blogs posting only one-sided accounts, request that they present the other side. You might not be able to change the conclusions they draw, but at least you can get a balanced presentation of the facts. Second, to those sites that accept ratings (Yelp, Google), confirm that the terms of service require those writing reviews to have actual experience with the site being reviewed. If that requirement is there, ask the review site to take down any reviews of REP from people who have never been to the REP.

A last thought (gee, I sound like Jerry Springer): Let’s not focus on “What went wrong?”. Let’s focus on “How can we do better?”

In the end, we don’t want to deny people the rights to their opinion. Your opinion, after all, is your opinion. But we can ask that you consider all the facts when making it, and those facts must be based in reality, not stories.