Observations Along the Road

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

Medieval Improvisation (or) I Hate a Man Who Quests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Shows: Today brings a Men of TAS outing to see the Lancaster Jethawks, so alas there is no more theatre today. The bounty that is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) continues throughout June. Next weekend brings Max and Elsa. No Music. No Children. (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and  Wombat Man (HFF) at Underground Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Marry Me a Little (HFF) by Good People Theatre (FB) at the Lillian Theatre (FB) on Sunday. The craziness continues into the third weekend of June, with the Nigerian Spam Scam Scam (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and Merely Players (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Uncle Impossible’s Funtime Variety & Ice Cream Social, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Sunday (and possibly “Matilda” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) in the afternoon, depending on Hottix availability, although July 4th weekend is more likely). The Fringe craziness ends with Medium Size Me, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Thursday 6/25 and Might As Well Live: Stories By Dorothy Parker (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Saturday. June ends with our annual drum corps show in Riverside on Sunday. July begins with “Murder for Two” at the Geffen Playhouse (FB) on July 3rd, and possibly Matilda. July 11th brings “Jesus Christ Superstar” at REP East (FB). The following weekend brings “The History Boys” at the Stella Adler Theatre (FB) on Saturday (Goldstar), and “Green Grow The Lilacs” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) on Sunday.  July 25th brings “Lombardi” at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB), with the annual Operaworks show the next day. August starts with “As You Like It” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB), and is followed by the summer Mus-ique show, and “The Fabulous Lipitones” at  The Colony Theatre (FB). After that we’ll need a vacation! As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.

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

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

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

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

 

Paying for Reviews… The Right Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessing The Story Behind The Art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Shows: June will be exhausting with the bounty that the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) brings (ticketing is now open). June starts with a matinee of the movie Grease at The Colony Theatre (FB), followed by Clybourne Park (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) Camenot at the Complex Theatres (FB) (Clybourne Park was cancelled) on Saturday, and a trip out to see the Lancaster Jethawks on Sunday. The second weekend of June brings Max and Elsa. No Music. No Children. (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and  Wombat Man (HFF) at Underground Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Marry Me a Little (HFF) by Good People Theatre (FB) at the Lillian Theatre (FB) on Sunday. The craziness continues into the third weekend of June, with the Nigerian Spam Scam Scam (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and Merely Players (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Uncle Impossible’s Funtime Variety & Ice Cream Social, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Sunday (and possibly “Matilda” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) in the afternoon, depending on Hottix availability, although July 4th weekend is more likely). The Fringe craziness ends with Medium Size Me, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Thursday 6/25 and Might As Well Live: Stories By Dorothy Parker (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Saturday. June ends with our annual drum corps show in Riverside on Sunday. July begins with “Murder for Two” at the Geffen Playhouse (FB) on July 3rd, and possibly Matilda. July 11th brings “Jesus Christ Superstar” at REP East (FB). The following weekend brings “Green Grow The Lilacs” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) [and may also bring The History Boys at the Stella Adler Lab Theatre (FB) (I’m considering it)].  July 25th brings “Lombardi” at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB), with the annual Operaworks show the next day. August starts with “As You Like It” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB), and is followed by the summer Mus-ique show, and “The Fabulous Lipitones” at  The Colony Theatre (FB). After that we’ll need a vacation! As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.

Bang Bang Shoot-Em-Up To The Moon!

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 31, 2015 @ 11:11 am PDT

Entropy (Theatre of Note)userpic=99loveOne of the hallmarks of theatre — especially intimate theatre — is its creativity. Whereas at the cinema the director can call on a special effects team to make movie magic through a combination of CGI and effects that look good on film; the theatre director can only call on imagination and creativity, because live theatre by definition is live and in front of you. Perhaps this is one reason we don’t see a lot of plays that take place in outer space. Luckily, we saw one of the few that exists last night, and it was excellent and creative and remarkable and funny and … well, almost any superlative you can think of. Unluckily (at least for you), you won’t be able to see it; this write-up will have to suffice. The show that you missed (but we saw) was Entropy, written by Bill Robens (FB), directed by Christopher William Johnson (FB); we saw it at Theatre of Note (FB), an outstanding intimate theatre on Cahuenga in Hollywood.

Now, when I hear the term “Entropy”, what comes to mind is the quality of random numbers — in particular the seeding of a random number generator. But that’s likely just because of who I work with on a daily basis. In a broader sense, entropy is a thermodynamic term that is a measure of the disorder of a system. In particular, according to the second law of thermodynamics the entropy of an isolated system never decreases; such a system will spontaneously proceed towards thermodynamic equilibrium, the configuration with maximum entropy. In other words, isolate a system, and it rapidly descends into chaos. And chaos, my friends, is funny (and if you don’t believe me, ask Maxwell Smart).

In the case of last night’s show, the “entropy” was brought upon by an absurd premise; suspend disbelief on this premise, and set it down in a stereoptypical genre situation appropriate for the premise, and guess what? Instant entropy. What was the premise? Only that the sputnik satellite, after 15 years in space, had become sentient, gone to the Moon, was doing the happy dance, and was about to realize that it was lonely and craving another mechanical intelligence to love. The stereotypical genre situation? NASA in the early 1970s when there was still a strong competition between the US and the Russkies. Now, mix, stir, and laugh.

At this moment, I must digress and comment on the “Playwright’s Notes” in the program, which said “This show is reserved for people smart enough to accept absolute fact, and to celebrate the magnificent achievement of those who risked everything to explore the unknown. And then we make fun of them. Okay, so we’re not perfect. We’re not rocket scientists, but we hope any rocket scientists would appreciate our play and just shut up for a couple hours about our inaccuracies. They can be such snobs.” I must point out that I actually am a rocket scientist (well, a rocket computer scientist), and work with rocket scientists every day at my place of employ. I enjoyed the inaccuracies; entertainment is about suspension of belief. Look at the reaction of seismologists to San Andreas. However, we are not snobs.

Of course, suspending disbelief is easier when it is clear you are not in a realistic situation. Movies go for that realism and immerse you in the story. The stage is all about imagination, and what hits you first about Entropy is the incredible about of imagination that has gone into this production. It is apparent the first time you see the stage.  Let me set the scene. On stage left is Mission Control — some fake consoles constructed from all sorts of destroyed keyboards and electronics, with an upper level with a desk and a picture of Richard Nixon, with an open window to the folks doing sound and lights, but dresses as 1970s engineers. On stage right is the space capsule, with handholds everywhere and all sorts of buttons and electronics (again, broken up keyboards). At stage center is a model of the Saturn V. When it is time to launch the ship, out comes the stagehands, dressed in black with black hoods, who manually raise the Saturn and hold a cardboard cutout of fire beneath the engines, and move it around the theatre (including a similar manual separation). You’ve now got a sense of the show.

The plot, as I said, is silly. The US is launching a space mission with the first girl astronaut (or astronette). Yes, I said “girl” — this is the 1970s and this is NASA. The ostensible mission is to test whether toys and parlor games work in space. The real mission is to capture Sputnik and bring it back to a girl robot that the US has built, in order to sway the Russian Sputnik to the side of the US. The real real mission, as developed jointly by NASA head of mission control Chuck Merrick and Russian Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, is to destroy Sputnik. So, when the “Green Drive” developed by NASA Engineer Neil Bradley fails, and the EVA to get to activate the auxiliary power also fails  (stranding Astronaut Red Jackson in space), the mission seems doomed. Just then Sputnik knocks at the door of the capsule, and the remaining Astronauts, Samantha McKinley and Scott Derickson, let him in — and discover how to communicate and become friends. But Merrick really wants to destroy Sputnik, so he steals a spacecraft and rendezvous with the Zeus III. He coordinates with Dobrynin, and is about to destroy the Zeus III, Sputnik, and the remaining astronauts with the laser. However, Sputnik is saved when Alexandra Mikhailova destroys Merrick’s capsule instead. The astronauts of Zeus III are saved when Sputnik uses his power to save them, leaving him stranded in space. The secondary comic subplot, because every story has a comic subplot, involves mission control engineers Benny and Joanna Curtis who are undergoing a nasty divorce, partially because Benny has been cheating… with Rebecca, who turns out to be Alexandra undercover.

Now, on top of a wonderfully comic plot and a wonderful set, we have wonderful performances. This is one case where I’ll give extra credit to director Johnson. On the space capsule side, he has the actors, through physicality and handholds, provide a wonderful simulation of weightlessness. He also has actors continuing to act and move in character even when they aren’t the focus of attention. This is a lovely attention to detail, and it keeps the audience busy as they try to capture the action everywhere in the wide-but-narrow Note performance space.

Let’s get to the actors themselves. In the space capsule we have Trevor H. Olsen (Red Jackson), Alina Phelan (FB) (Samantha McKinley), and Nicholas S. Williams (FB) (Scott Derickson). Olsen does a wonderful job of capturing the stereotypical cowboy astronaut, down to the twang, racist commentary, and cowboy hat. Yee haw! Williams, on the other hand, is the hot shot test pilot/engineer trope. Phelan’s trope is the clueless newbie, who has been kept in the dark because she’s a girl in a male chauvinist world. All three capture their characters well, and excel at simulating zero gravity movement. They had a wonderful chemistry together.

In mission control we had David Wilcox (FB) (Chuck Merrick, Head of Mission Control), Travis Moscinski (FB) (Benny Curtis, Mission Control Engineer), Wendi West (FB) (Joanna Curtis, Mission Control Engineer), Justin Okin (FB) (Neil Bradley, Engineer), and Kjai Block/FB (Rusty, the Intern).  Wilcox was the gung-ho anti-Communist, and he captured that perfectly. Moscinski and West had the trope of the bickering couple, and were quite fun to watch. Bradley’s trope was the milquetoast engineering (who should have been shot for using designs without testing them) — he played the role for comic effect and was, again, excellent. Lastly was Block as Rusty, who was just a bit more of background comic relief.

Our Russian friends were Brad C. Light (FB) (Anatoly Dobrynin) and Rebecca Light (FB) (Alexandra Mikhailovna). Light, the Mr., captured the trope of the hard drinking Russian emissary well, providing that wonderful sense of evil we no longer have. Light, the Ms., was lovely as the female spy, who once was undercover as the lover of Benny. She was able to exude that aura of evil sexy. Fun fun fun to watch.

Rounding out the cast in smaller roles, as reporters, other unnamed characters, and likely, as stagehands in black and as Sputnik, were: Christopher Neiman (FB) (Reporter); Lynn Odell (FB) (Minnie Jackson); and Arlene Marin (FB) (U/S Reporter). Rounding out the understudies, who again were probably the stagehands in black, were David Bickford (FB) (U/S Dobrynin); Christine Breihan (FB) (U/S Mikhailovna); Gene Michael Barrera (U/S Benny Curtis/Rusty); Stacy Benjamin (FB) (U/S: Joanna Curtis); Dan Wingard (FB) (U/S Neil Bradley); Bill Robens (FB) (U/S Chuck Merrick); Garrett Hanson (FB) (US Soctt); Jo D. Jonz (FB) (U/S Reporter).

Turning to the technical side. The wonderful set was designed by Krystyna Łoboda (FB) (set designer), with graphic design by Gene Michael Barrera , prop design by Richard Werner (FB), and puppet design by Andrew Leman. I’ve described the set before. The props — especially the spacecraft — were wonderful. The puppet design refers to the wonderful Sputnik puppet that was expressive while still being, at its heart, Sputnik. Costume design was by Kimberly Freed (FB), and were fun while being reasonably period. Particularly cute were the spacesuit costumes.  Corwin Evans (FB) did the sound design, and I particularly enjoyed both the selection of music tracks, as well as the overall sound effects (particularly the launch sequences).  Lastly, the lighting design by Brandon Baruch (FB) did an excellent job of focusing attention. Fight choreography was by Jen Albert (FB). As noted earlier, the production was directed by Christopher William Johnson (FB). It was produced by John Money (FB).

Now is the point where I would normally tell you to go see this show at Theatre of Note (FB). But, alas, for you, last night was the last performance. So I’ll say instead: Go support your local intimate theatre — you’ll be surprised at the great productions you’ll discover.

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

Upcoming Shows: This evening brings “Waterfall“, the new Maltby/Shire musical at the Pasadena Playhouse (FB). June will be exhausting with the bounty that the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) brings (ticketing is now open). June starts with a matinee of the movie Grease at The Colony Theatre (FB), followed by Clybourne Park (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and a trip out to see the Lancaster Jethawks on Sunday. The second weekend of June brings Max and Elsa. No Music. No Children. (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and  Wombat Man (HFF) at Underground Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Marry Me a Little (HFF) by Good People Theatre (FB) at the Lillian Theatre (FB) on Sunday. The craziness continues into the third weekend of June, with Nigerian Spam Scam Scam (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and Merely Players (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Uncle Impossible’s Funtime Variety & Ice Cream Social, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Sunday (and possibly “Matilda” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) in the afternoon, depending on Hottix availability, although July 4th weekend is more likely). The Fringe craziness ends with Medium Size Me, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Thursday 6/25 and Might As Well Live: Stories By Dorothy Parker (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Saturday. June ends with our annual drum corps show in Riverside on Sunday. July begins with “Murder for Two” at the Geffen Playhouse (FB) on July 3rd, and possibly Matilda. July 11th brings “Jesus Christ Superstar” at REP East (FB). The following weekend brings “Green Grow The Lilacs” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB).  July 25th brings “Lombardi” at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB), with the annual Operaworks show the next day. August starts with “As You Like It” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB), and is followed by the summer Mus-ique show, and “The Fabulous Lipitones” at  The Colony Theatre (FB). After that we’ll need a vacation! As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.

Saturday News Chum Stew: Diversity, AirBNB, UFOs, and Volunteering

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat May 30, 2015 @ 3:22 pm PDT

userpic=observationsHere’s the rest of the week’s assorted news chum:

 

Coming and Going, Going and Coming (And Always Too Soon)

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat May 30, 2015 @ 2:48 pm PDT

userpic=old-shieldFor a change, a chunk of this week’s news chum formed a theme: they all relate to things that are going away, or coming back:

 

January – May Changes to California Highways

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed May 27, 2015 @ 8:09 pm PDT

userpic=roadgeekingRemind me not to let 5 months go by between changes.  Let’s take a deep breath, and dive in…

This has been a busy busy year, with most weekends taken up by theatre and theatre reviews (if you didn’t know, I see lots of theatre and review every show I see; you can find all the reviews in the “reviews” category on my blog). But Memorial Day weekend is the perfect time to catch up on things. So put something on to slow-cook on the barbeque, and let’s dig in:

Updates were made to the following highways, based on my reading of the papers (which are posted to the roadgeeking category at the “Observations Along The Road” and to the California Highways Facebook group) as well as any backed up email changes. I also reviewed the the AAroads forum, but as usual it contained no additional information beyond what I gleaned on my own. I’ve given up on misc.transport.road. This resulted in changes on the following routes, with credit as indicated [my research(⋇), contributions of information or leads (via direct mail) from Ronald Hall(2), Ray Mullins(1), and Joel Windmiller(3)]: Route 1(⋇), Route 12(⋇), Route 16(2), Route 33(1), Route I-80(⋇), Route 84(⋇), Route 85(⋇), Route 92(⋇), US I-280(⋇), Route 282(⋇), I-405(⋇), I-680(⋇), I-710(⋇), Santa Clara County Route G2(⋇), Santa Clara County Route G4(⋇).

Reviewed the Pending Legislation page, based on the new California Legislature site. As usual, I recommend to every Californian that they visit the legislative website regularly and see what their legis-critters are doing. No items had passed yet.

I checked the CTC Liaison page for the results of the CTC meetings from January through May 26, 2015. I lucked out — the May meeting was May 28, so I only had January and March to deal with. The following items were of interest (note: ° indicates items that were below the level of detail for updating the specific route pages) :

2.1b. STIP Program/Project Amendments/Approvals for Notice

*** (Mar) (1) The Department proposes to amend the 2014 STIP to revise the project funding plans for two projects on the Route 138 Corridor in Los Angeles County: Route 138 Widening, Segment 6 (PPNO 4356); and Route 138 Widening, Segment 13 (PPNO 4357). [Information only.]

*** (Mar) (2) The Contra Costa Transportation Authority proposes to amend the 2014 STIP to delay $36,610,000 in RIP construction funds from FY 2015-16 to FY 2016-17 for the I-680/Route 4 Interchange Phase 3 project (PPNO 0298E) in Contra Costa County. [Information only.]

2.2a. Submittal of Notice of Preparation for Comments

*** (Jan) Submittal of Notice of Preparation for Comments: 04-Son-1, PM 15.1/15.8, Gleason Beach Route 1 Realignment Project. Construct roadway improvements including realigning a portion of Route 1 in Sonoma County [Approved.]

*** (Mar) (1) Submittal of Notice of Preparation for Comments: 03-ED-50, PM 67.3. Echo Summit Bridge Project: Rehabilitate or replace the Echo Summit Sidehill Viaduct on US 50 in El Dorado County (NOP) [Approved.]

*** (Mar) (2) Submittal of Notice of Preparation for Comments: 07-LA-710, PM Various. Route 710 Surplus Property Sales. Sale of surplus property along Route 710 in Los Angeles County (all north of I-10) (NOP) [Approved.]

2.2b. Submittal of Notice of Documents Available for Comment (DEIRs)

*** (Jan) Submittal of Notice for One Document Available for Comments: (DEIR): 04-SCl-680, PM 6.5/9.9, 04-ALA-680, 0.0/12.4. I-680 Northbound HOV/Express Lane Project: Construct a HOV/Express Lane on a portion of I-680 in Santa Clara and Alameda Counties. (DEIR) [Approved.]

2.2c. Approval of Projects for New Public Road Connection / Future Consideration of Funding

*** (Jan) (1) Approval of Projects for Future Consideration of Funding: [Approved.]

  1. 01-Hum-101, PM 111.4/111.6: Big Lagoon Slipout Repair Project. Construct roadway improvements on a portion of US 101 in Humboldt County. (MND)
  2. 06-Fre-41, PM 33.3/33.4, 06-MAD-41, PM 0.0/0.2. San Joaquin River Bridge Scour and Seismic Retrofit Project. Construct seismic retrofitting to an existing bridge on Route 41 in Fresno and Madera Counties. (MND)

*** (1) (Mar) Approval of Projects for Future Consideration of Funding: [Approved.]

  1. 02-Plu-70, PM 14.9. Yellow Creek Bridge Replacement Project. Replace existing bridge on Route 70 in Plumas County. (ND)
  2. 04-Ala-13, PM 4.8/5.0. Route 13 Storm Damage Restoration Project. Construct a 14-foot high, 186-foot long retaining wall and repair storm damage on Route 13 in Alameda County. (MND)
  3. 04-SM-280, PM 9.4. I-280 Repair Pipe System and Backfill Sinkhole Project. Construct replace failed corrugated metal pipe with reinforced concrete pipe on a portion of I-280 in San Mateo County. (ND)
  4. 06-Fre-168, PM T29.0/T29.4. Prather Curve Correction Project. Construct roadway improvements including realigning a portion of Route 168 in Fresno County. (MND)
  5. 08-SBd-395, PM 4.2/19.3. Widening of Existing US 395 Project. Construct roadway improvements including widening a portion of US 395 in San Bernardino County. (MND) .

2.3a. Route Adoptions

*** (Mar) One Route Adoption: A Route Adoption as a freeway at 04-SF-80-PM 4.7/8.9, 04-Ala-80-PM 0.0/0.1: On Route 80 from 0.1 mile east of 5th Street to the Alameda County line, in the city and county of San Francisco and from the Alameda County line to 1.7 miles west of W. Grand Avenue in Alameda County. [This is interesting — it appears Caltrans discovered they had never formally adopted the routing for Route 80 in San Francisco.] [Approved.]

2.3c. Relinquishments

*** (Jan) One Relinquishment Resolution: 04-Sol-80-PM 20.9: Right of way along Route 80 on Manuel Campos Parkway, in the city of Fairfield. [Approved.]

*** (Mar) Four Relinquishment Resolutions: [Approved.]

  1. 04-Mrn-101-PM 10.3/10.7, Right of way along Route 101 on Francisco Boulevard East, Francisco Boulevard West, Grand Avenue and Rice Drive, in the city of San Rafael.
  2. 04-Mrn-101-PM 10.0/10.6, Right of way along Route 101 on Francisco Boulevard West, in the city of San Rafael.
  3. 08-Riv-10-PM 43.0, Right of way along Route 10 on Bob Hope Drive, in the county of Riverside.
  4. 08-Riv-10-PM 43.0, Right of way along Route 10 on Bob Hope Drive, Varner Road, and Rio del Sol Road, in the city of Rancho Mirage.

2.3d. Vacation Resolutions

None

2.5b. Financial Allocations for SHOPP Projects / Federal Discretionary Grant Funds

*** (Jan) (1) Financial Allocation: $112,561,000 for 17 SHOPP projects, as follows: (a) $67,859,000 for 12 SHOPP projects; (b) $44,702,000 for five projects amended into the SHOPP by Departmental action. Most of the projects were of the minor variety — landscape, pavement rehabilitation, slope rehabilitation, and other forms of maintenance that do not affect routing. Specific projects/allocations of interest are noted below: [Approved, as modified.]

  • $20,755,000: San Luis Obispo. 05-SLO-1 PM 64.0/R66.9. Near San Simeon, from north of Piedras Blancas Lighthouse Road to Arroyo De La Cruz Bridge. Outcome/Output: Realign approximately 2.8 highway miles of Route 1 to a new location 475 feet inland away from eroding shore line and construct three bridges to maintain roadway structural integrity and improve highway safety and operation at this location.

*** (Mar) (1) Financial Allocation: $128,229,000 for 50 SHOPP projects, as follows: (a) $77,757,000 for 23 SHOPP projects; (b) $50,472,000 for 27 projects amended into the SHOPP by Departmental action. Most of the projects were of the minor variety — landscape, pavement rehabilitation, slope rehabilitation, guard rail installation, painting, sealing decks, upgrading irrigation, replacing signs and lighting, and other forms of maintenance that do not affect routing. Specific projects/allocations of interest are noted below: [Approved.]

  • $2,394,000: Kern County near Tehachapi (06-Ker-58, R99.2/R99.8), at the Sand Canyon Road Undercrossing (Bridge No. 50-0345R): Replace eastbound bridge and resurface ramps to restore bridge load capacity.

2.5c Financial Allocations for STIP Projects

*** (Mar) (1) Financial Allocation: $59,569,000 for four State administered STIP projects, on the State Highway System. Contributions from other sources: $11,181,000. Projects not mentioned related to landscaping. Specific projects/allocations of interest are noted below: [Approved.]

  • Route 84 Expressway Widening – Segment 2: In the City of Livermore on Route 84. Widen from 2 lanes to 4 lanes from Ruby Hill Drive to north of Concannon Boulevard. The specific changes in funding were: $4,900,000 $7,550,000 for CON ENGR, $42,130,000 $39,480,000 for CONST. (Contributions from other sources: $8,975,000: Support [$3,105,000 $455,000] and Capital [$5,870,000 $8,520,000]).
  • Madera 41 Passing Lane. Near Coarsegold, from 0.3 mile north of Road 208 to 2.2 miles north of Road 208. Construct passing lane. CON ENG: $0 $2,577,000 CONST $11,047,000 $8,470,000.

*** (Mar) (2) Financial Allocation: $5,500,000 for the locally administered US 395 Widening (PPNO 0260J) STIP project, in San Bernardino County, on the State Highway System. Contributions from other sources: $5,019,000. [Approved.]

2.5e. Financial Allocations for Supplemental Funds

*** (Jan) (1) Financial Allocation: $5,526,000 in supplemental STIP funds for construction engineering for the Route 101 Marin Sonoma Narrows – Petaluma Boulevard South Interchange and Petaluma River Bridge project (PPNO 0360H), in Sonoma County. The current construction engineering budget is $12,190,000. This request for $5,526,000 results in an increase of 45.3 percent over the current budget for construction engineering. [Approved, as distributed in the Yellow Meeting Handout at the meeting.]

2.5g. Financial Allocation for Multi-Funded Proposition 1B TCIF/Border Infrastructure Program (BIP) Projects

*** (Jan) (5b) Financial Allocation: $22,657,000 for State administered multi-funded Proposition 1B TCIF/BIP Project 104 (Route 905/Route 125 Northbound Connectors [PPNO 1101]), in San Diego County. [Approved.]