And You Thought Those Metal Rulers Were Bad

In response to the continuing scourge of school violence with weapons, there are those who believe the answer is not increased gun regulations, but increased armed guard and, in particular, arming school teachers. A few thoughts on that proposal:

  1. The right often quotes a statement by Benjamin Franklin about those who give up liberty for security get neither. This is usually in reference to proposals to ban or take away guns. But it is equally true to the notion of having increased armed presence in public and becoming a police state. Neither is the correct approach.
  2. Although the proposal is to arm the teachers, no one ever asks where those teachers would get the guns, and who would pay for them. Teachers are woefully underpaid as it is, using personal money for classroom supplies and educational material. Do we expect them to find the personal money to buy the guns; money that they don’t have? Do we expect the school districts, which are also underfunded, to supply them? What educational courses do you want cut this time; remember,  curriculum has also been cut to the bone due to lack of funds?
  3. In terms of hardening the schools themselves, ask yourself this: In the past — in the time of your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents — schools were not fortified, and did not have guards let alone fences. Yet there weren’t school shootings. So what has changed?
  4. Would you be comfortable with loaded weaponry, out and accessible, being present in a classroom with curious children? If not, when the unthinkable happens, would you rather the teacher protect the children and get them to safety, or fumble to find the keys to unlock the gun safe to get out the gun, load it, and then shoot? Where should those precious minutes be spent?

Arming the teachers is not the answer, when you think about it critically. Think about what other solutions might work better. I have a few ideas.

[ETA: Over on FB, a friend shared a post that captured three other areas I missed: Training — who will train the teachers and who will pay for it; Liability — who will be liable if the teacher misses and hits someone else; and Psychological — there will be numerous psychological impacts of asking a teacher to potentially shoot a child or a former student, and who will pay for all the counseling afterwards. Yet more reasons this is a poor idea. Here’s the reference to that shared post.]

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Powerful Women | “Dessa Rosa” @ Chromolume

Dessa Rose (Chromolume)This is the year of the women. Women are speaking up (almost like never before) for themselves. They are speaking up against abuse, harassment, and the traditional patriarchal notions. Unlike some past feminist efforts, the current effort is going beyond equality of pay and equality of work to demanding equality of treatment, privilege, and respect.

So, perhaps, it is with a unique sense of timing that the first show of the  Chromolume Theatre (FB) 2018 season is Dessa RoseDessa Rose, with book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, music by Stephen Flaherty,  based on a novel by Sherley Anne Williams, was first produced Off-Broadway in 2005, and is making its Los Angeles premier. The original novel fictionalizes and combines two historical incidents:  In 1829 a pregnant slave woman led a revolt against slave traders, and in 1830 a white woman had a habit of taking in runaway slaves. The book combines the two stories, with the two women meeting and participating in a plan to free the runaways. It also times well for Black History Month, as it is based on the work of an African-American writer, and tells a story about powerful and proud black survival in the pre-Civil War South, and is being presented in a minority owned and operated theatre.

(As an aside, a recently saw a wonderful explanation of why Black History Month is appropriate, but White History Month would not be. Whites typically have the luxury of knowing their past and ethnicity, and knowing where their families came from and when they came to the US. Blacks had that all taken away from them. For many, the best they know is “Africa”, which is a continent, not a nation. They’ve had their past ripped from them, without consent, and Black History Month is a way to reclaim that past, celebrating all achieves of the Black community as their own.)

Dessa Rose also falls into category of music I had heard, but never seen. I’m quite a fan of the works of Ahrens and Flaherty, and how they have a musical style that isn’t repetitive with a particular sound (some other composing teams make it clear when you hear their work who they are). I’ve had the CD of Dessa Rose for quite a few years, but could never wrap my head around the story. Now I can, and hearing those songs in the context of the story makes them so much more meaningful. That’s one reason why I like Chromolume’s season so much: all of their mainstage shows are Los Angeles premieres, shows that I have only heard but never seen.

Dessa Rose tells the story of two women: Dessa Rose and Ruth. You can find a detailed synopsis on the Wikipedia page. The story is presented as the two women telling the story to their grandchildren so that it isn’t loss (a similar motif to Once on this Island, demonstrating the importance of shared storytelling). Dessa’s story concerns how she was born a slave, fell in love at 16, get pregnant, watch the man she loved get killed, and killing the overseer herself in response. She then leads a slave revolt, gets arrested and sentenced to hang. She eventually escapes jail and with the help of other slaves from the revolt, makes her way to Ruth’s plantation. Ruth, who is the black sheep of a different plantation family, marries young to a gambler who abandons her in an unfinished plantation with a new infant. She is accepting of the blacks, and that plantation soon becomes a haven for escaped slaves where no questions are asked. At the plantation, Ruth and Dessa’s stories combine, and the remainder of the musical is how they learn to accept each other, and standup for dignity and freedom.

This is a powerful story, and in some sense, a dark story. Although there are some energetic songs, one can see why it isn’t a typical Broadway story or musical, and thus, never moved from the Off-Broadway Mitzi Newhouse to a larger venue. In the tiny space that is the Attic Theatre (typically configured for 49 seats), it works and the closeness gives it extra power and meaning. It is a clear example of a show that is meant for an intimate theatre space.

What was my reaction? Going in, I really knew only the music, and that it was about the relationship of an escaped slave and a white woman. I’ll note also that I was having a bad afternoon, for reasons I shan’t go into other than to say: Always double check the time for an afternoon matinee, and sometimes it can be equally bad to arrive too early.

So, my reaction: I found this to be an incredibly moving musical, with very strong performances. There were just a few points where I felt a little bit of a drag in the story, and the close of Act I was more of a dark close than one is accustomed to see. But overall, I found the story timely — especially in this era of women speaking up for themselves and not putting up with being mistreated anymore. This was a strong show about women taking back their power and putting their destiny in their own hands — not the hands of their masters or their husbands. It was women finding their own way in society. It is a message that resonates with today.

Dessa Rose (Chromolume) - Cast Image StripDirector , James Esposito (FB) had a challenge in staging this production. Not only did he have to draw powerful performances out of his cast, but he had to figure out how to make the production work in a very tiny space, with very limited sets, options, and budgets. But the true measure of live theatre is creativity, and productions can thrive on imagination and performance, whereas film demands realism. The set here was simple: no real set pieces, just some ramps and spaces. Looking back, there also wasn’t a large number of specific props. Yet none of this was necessary, as the actors through performance alone created all the different places and made them real, so that you saw where you were in your imagination and in the movement. As a small example of that, watch the background performers and their motions. They are doing their house and field work without props, but establishing where and when they are. That’s the type of notion that I believe comes from the director working with the acting team.

In the lead performance positions were Shaunté Tabb (FB, FB) as Dessa Rose and Abby Carlson (FB) as Ruth. Tabb was a knockout. An incredibly strong singing voice (no amplification needed) combined with a powerhouse performance just blew me away. You believed she was who she was portraying. Similarly, Carlson was strong as Ruth. In that role, she had a bit more leeway to let go and relax, and when she did, there was just this natural luster that shone through. Again, there was a strong singing voice and equally strong performance that blended exceptionally well with Tabb’s Dessa Rose.

In more of a supporting role were Mykell Barlow (FB)’s Nathan and Ken Maurice Purnell (FB)’s Harker. Barlow was outstanding. A wonderful voice and a engaging stage presence created an instantly likable and strong character. Purnell’s Harker had a smaller presence, but the two worked well together.

The mothers in this story were repres ented in a different way: Kymberly Stewart (FB) played multiple mothers: Dessa Rose’s mother Rose, Ruth’s Mammy Dorcas, and an additional character, Aunt Chloe. Ruth’s actual mother was portrayed by Claire Buchignani (FB). Stewart’s portrayal of the different Mammy’s was interesting. Traditionally, the “Mammy” is a problematic character and oft stereotypical, but Stewart gave both an interesting rebellious and subversive nature, encouraging both Ruth and Rose, as different mothers, to be their own person and do what is right for them. Buchignani caught my eye from the opening number: there was just something in her face and movement that drew my eyes to her. Both were strong in their shared numbers such as “Ladies” and “Ten Petticoats”, and Stewart was outstanding in “White Milk and Red Blood”, emphasizing how we are all the same.

Matt Mancuso (FB), as Adam Nehemiah, was perhaps the villain of the piece, if there was one. Initially a friend to Dessa Rose, after her escape he vowed to capture her, and thus was the hunter to be avoided.  Mancuso captured the two different sides of his character exceptionally well: contrast his performances in both “Ink” and “Capture the Girl”.

The remaining actors tended to play multiple characters, both in the ensemble as well as some named characters: Mikhail Roberts (FB) [Bertie, Sheriff Hughes, Auctioneer #2]; Bradley Alan Turner (FB) [Kaine, Phillip]; Zach Campa (FB) [Mr. Steel, Mr. Oscar, Sheriff Pine]; Ambrey Benson (FB) [Annabel, various slaves]; and Margaret Berkowitz (FB) [Susannah]. All were strong singers and ensemble performers; there were a few that shone exceptionally in my mind. Berkowitz’s Susannah brought an interesting sunshine to the piece — not because she was the only blonde, but there was just something about how she portrayed Susannah that had a lightness about her. Roberts captured the cad nature of Bertie, who abandons Ruth, well in the little characterization we had, but a bit more interesting was Campa’s Sheriff Pines in his interaction with Adam Nehemiah when Dessa is almost uncovered. Strong performance. Campo was also great as Mr. Oscar interacting with Ruth. Turner had a strong portrayal of Kaine in his early interactions with Dessa Rose.

The understudies, whom we did not see, were Maya (Sh’von) Thomas (FB) [u/s Dessa Rose]; Jessica Jacobs (FB) [u/s Ruth]; Christopher T. Wood (FB) [u/s Nathan]; and Allen Barstow (FB) [u/s Nehemiah].

Music was provided by an offstage band led by music director Daniel Yokomizo (FB) on Piano, John A. Graves on Bass, and Jeff Fish (FB) on Percussion.  For a small group, they had a very nice sound that worked well with the small show.
: Simon Landau on 2/3, 2/24, and 2/25
: Anthony Jones (FB) on 2/2, 2/3, 2/10, 2/16, 2/17, and 2/23; Jon Lundgren on 2/9, 2/24, and 2/25.

The remainder of the creative and production team were: Michael Marchak (FB) [Choreography];  Kara McLeod (FB) [Costume Design]; Jesse Baldridge (FB) [Lighting Design]; Jasmine Moreno (FB) [Stage Manager]Ken Werther (FB) [Publicity]. There was no sound design credit. A few notes: the speakers had an annoying buzz that can hopefully be corrected in the future. Marchak’s choreography was simply and appropriate for the show McLeod’s costume seemed to establish period well. Lastly, Baldridge’s lighting established time and mood well.

Dessa Rose has one more weekend in its run at Chromolume Theatre (FB). You should get tickets now if you can; they are selling out fast and you don’t want to miss this show. There were tickets on Goldstar, but they are sold out.

Chromolume just announced their Hollywood Fringe Festival production, and I’m excited. Here’s what they wrote:

We are happy to announce that our 2018 Hollywood Fringe Festival production will be the one-act musical, The Story of My Life! We are also excited to announce we will be performing at the The Hobgoblin Playhouse. We are excited to bring this story to you…coming in June! Click on the link below to find out more!

http://crtheatre.com/story.html

And for those of you who don’t know, if you purchase your season subscription before our current production ends, you will get free tickets to see this production!

We last saw Story of My Life back in 2009, right after the death of our dear friend Lauren. The story touched me in special ways; it is just a beautiful and meaningful show. I’m looking forward to it. Subscribe before Dessa Rose closes, and I believe it will be included in your subscription.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) [the company formerly known as Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)], the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

February concludes with  James and the Giant Peach at the Chance Theatre (FB) in the Anaheim Hills, and tickets for Dublin Irish Dance Stepping Out at  the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB).

March was supposed to start with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner, but that shifted back a week. This enables us to see a remounting of Leslie Jones starring in Prez – The Lester Young Story that weekend. This is followed on the second weekend with the LA Premiere of the musical Allegiance at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (FB) and the MRJ Man of the Year Dinner. The next weekend brings Steel Pier at the UCLA School of Television, Film, and Theatre (FB). The penultimate Friday of March was to bring Billy Porter singing Richard Rodgers at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB), but that has shifted to June and that weekend is currently open. The last weekend of March is open for theatre, but there will be the Men of TAS Seder.

April looks to be a busy month. It starts with Love Never Dies at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) [as an aside, there was just a great interview with Glen Slater, the lyricist of that show, on Broadway Bullet that is well worth listening to]. The second weekend brings A Man for All Seasons” at Actors Co-op (FB). The third weekend brings The Hunchback of Notre Dame at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) (nee Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)), as well as our annual visit to the Original Renaissance Faire. The last weekend of April sees us travelling for a show, as we drive up to San Jose to see friends as well as Adrift in Macao at The Tabard Theatre Company (FB).

Continuing into May and June: The first weekend in May will bring School of Rock at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), with the following weekend bringing Soft Power  at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). The middle of May brings Violet  at Actors Co-op (FB).  The last weekend will hopefully bring a Nefesh Mountain concert at Temple Ramat Zion; the weekend itself is currently open. June — ah, June. That, my friends, is reserved for the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), including The Story of My Life from Chromolume Theatre (FB). Additionally in June we’re seeing the postponed Billy Porter singing Richard Rodgers at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB), The Color Purple at  the Hollywood Pantages (FB), and possibly Do Re Mi at MTW. The latter, however, is on a Sunday night in Long Beach, and so Fringing may win out. Currently, we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018! We may also be adding an  Ahmanson Theatre (FB) subscription, given their recent announcements regarding the next season.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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How Can We Be Optimistic? | “Candide” @ LA Opera

Candide (LA Opera)We’re in a society that is filled with school shootings and violence. We have leaders that disrespect their offices, and that never demonstrate leadership or high morals. We’re constantly at the throats of others due to partisan policies. The oceans are rising, weather is getting more extreme, and we’re mortgaging our future to pay for today. Can it be said that we live in the best of all possible worlds? Is there reason to maintain an optimistic outlook, or must we just concede the world has gone to hell in a handbasket, and we must just give up and accept our fate?

That’s the question at the heart of Candide, a philosophical treatise written by the philospher Voltaire in 1789. Per Wikipedia: It begins with a young man, Candide, who is living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise and being indoctrinated with Leibnizian optimism (or simply “optimism”) by his mentor, Professor Pangloss. The work describes the abrupt cessation of this lifestyle, followed by Candide’s slow, painful disillusionment as he witnesses and experiences great hardships in the world. Voltaire concludes with Candide, if not rejecting optimism outright, advocating a deeply practical precept, “we must cultivate our garden”, in lieu of the Leibnizian mantra of Pangloss, “all is for the best” in the “best of all possible worlds“.

Candide has long been popular to adapt for the stage, and in 1956, it was musicalized by Leonard Bernstein. This original verson, with a book by Lillian Hellman, and lyrics by Richard Wilbur, Bernstein, Hellman, John La Touche, and Dorothy Parker, was a flop on Broadway, closing after 73 performances. But in 1973, it was revisited. Hellman refused to allow her work to be used, and a new book was developed by Hugh Wheeler, with some additional lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.  This version was more successful, running nearly two years and producing a well-received cast album (which I have). This was reworked again by John Caird for the Royal National Theatre. You can see the gory details of all the different versions here. This being part of the “Bernstein at 100” celebration, LA Opera (FB) opted to present this rework of a rework version to join in on the fun.

When I learned that LA Opera (FB) was presenting the show. One of my various quests is to actually see the shows that I’ve only heard. I’d long listened (and enjoyed) the music of Candide, and this provided the opportunity to put that music in context. Unfortunately, LA Opera tickets are expensive, and they weren’t yet on Goldstar. I found a Metro discount, and got some seats for a Thursday night in Balcony B. We grabbed our binoculars, and off we went. [I must remember, however, not to do these things on a school night — I was dragging the next day.]

For those unfamiliar with the story of Candide, it is basically the story of an illegitimate son (Candide) of a Westphalian (German) prince, said Prince’s real son (Maximilian), said Prince’s real daughter (Cunegonde), and their private tutor, Dr. Pangloss. Pangloss’s philosophy is that this it the best of all possible worlds, otherwise known as optimism, which focuses only on the good of the moment. When that world goes south after Candide and Cunegonde fall in love, there is a series of adventures as Candide goes around the globe: conscripted into the Bavarian army, saved by an Anabaptist, escaping to Lisbon and then to Spain … and the inquisition (which is something he didn’t expect, because no one expects…). Escaping the inquisition and ending up in the new world in Montevideo, only to have to escape again to El Dorado, and then escaping again to Venice. All the while, Candide keeps running into Cunegonde and Pangloss, and he keeps debating Pangloss’ philosophy.  Eventually, Candide abandons the philosophy, moving instead to one where work is its own reward — in the simple life of a farm, growing things, using one’s skills.  You can find the synopsis of the full original story here; a closer synopsis of the final operetta here.

Having now seen the show, just a few observations. First, the show was surprisingly engaging. Despite the more operatic style, and despite the length and how much story was crammed into the book, time just seemed to fly. There was no time that I felt the urge to look at the program to see when the act might end. There were no points where I felt the story was unnecessary. In fact, there were a few places where the story could have been lengthened to provide more information on what was happening to the characters.

Secondly, I was surprised at how witty the lyrics were. Unlike traditional musical theatre, opera often has “supertitles” — projected lyrics above the stage for the audience to read. This is vital when operas are in a foreign language, but it is also useful for operas in English. For Candide, both the Sondheim and Bernstein influences were clear by the internal and clever rhymes, and the messages and words conveyed. I was familiar with Bernstein’s music, but seeing it in use conveyed better the different styles of the music and how they related to the story.

Under the direction of Francesca Zambello (FB), the show was conceived as Voltaire narrating his story, and periodically dropping into character as Dr. Pangloss. The rest of the action was seemingly put on by an acting troupe or in Voltaire’s imagination (as they came out of a trunk), although that wasn’t made very clear. The story moves from location to location very fast, and the physical set to create those locations was more imagination than realism (i.e., scaffolds, planks, benches, trunks). Location cues were provided more by costumes, flags, and props. But it all ended up working.

In the name actor positions — I hesitate to say leads because it was not around them who the story focused — were Kelsey Grammer as Voltaire/Pangloss and Christine Ebersole (FB) as The Old Lady. Grammer had a large amount of stage time as the narrator, and provided the main philosophical push as Pangloss. It was no surprise that he handled the acting and the comedy well, although at times he seemed to be playing it up a bit much. I was less enamored of his singing — he has an odd style that didn’t work for me on the recording of La Cage, and didn’t work for me here. Luckily, Pangloss doesn’t have a large number of songs where he is the primary voice. I enjoyed Ebersole much more, and actually wished her role was larger. Good comedy, good presentation, and excellent singing — in particular, she handled “I Am Easily Assimilated” quite well.

In what I truly think are the lead positions were folks more familiar to the opera side of the equation: Jack Swanson (FB) as Candide and Erin Morley (FB) as Cunegonde. Both of these performers were excellent, with the right amount of playfulness and earnestness. Morley did a great job with her signature number in the show, “Glitter and Be Gay”, both in the vocal performance as well as the acting that goes along with it. Swanson’s Candide had a lovely voice and was enjoyable to watch.

The other more-major named positions were performed well and were fun to watch, although discerning the nuances of the performances were difficult from Balcony B. This group included Theo Hoffman (FB[Maximilian]; Peabody Southwell [Paquette]; Matthew Scollin [James the Anabaptist / Martin]; Brian Michael Moore (FB[Grand Inquisitor / Governor of Montevideo]; Joshua Wheeker (FB[Cacambo]; and Taylor Raven [Venderdendur, Baroness, Lisbonite]. The ones that stick out in my mind were Southwell’s Paquette and Wheeker’s Cacambo.

Lastly, there where the members of the ensemble, who also had some minor named positions as noted: Eboni Adams (FB) [Dance Captain], Andrea Beasom, Tom Berklund (FB[Lisbonite], Tucker Reed Breder, Abdiel Gonzalez (FB[Bavarian Captain, 2nd Inquisition Agent, Señor, Surinam Slave], Katherine Henly (FB[Bavarian Corporal, Sheep], Amber Liekhus (FB[Lisbonite, Queen of Eldorado], Danny Lindgren (FB), Amanda Compton LoPresti (FB), Robert Norman (FB[Holland Minister, Don Issachar, Señor, King of Eldorado], Steve Pence (FB[Baron, 1st Inquisition Agent, Galley Captain], and Michelle Siemens (FB[Minister’s Wife]. Of this group, the ones that stick in my head were the performances of the sheep (including Katherine Henly), and Amber Liekhus’s Queen of Eldorado.

Rounding out the LA Opera Chorus (who I believe were offstage) were: Nicole Fernandes, Ayana Haviv, Rebecca Tomlinson, Omar Crook, Francis Lucaric, Todd Strange, Aleta Braxton, Sara Campbell, Jennifer Wallace, Mark Beasom, and James Martin Schaefer. Abdiel Gonzalez (FB), who filled in for Tim Campbell, is normally part of the chorus as well.

The LA Opera Orchestra was excellent, but was way too large for me to list them all here. 49 pieces. You don’t see that in normal music theatre, where you’re lucky sometimes to have a working piano. You can find a summary of LA Opera’s Orchesta’s artists here.

Lastly, turning to the creative and production team. The aforementioned orchestra was conducted by James Conlon (FB), who also gave a talk before the show. Movement and dance was under the choreographic eye of Eric Sean Fogel. Candide has a wide variety of dance styles, and all were handled quite well. The simple scenic design described above was developed by James Noone (FB); Jennifer Moeller did the costumes.  I mentioned my appreciation of the scenic design and supporting props earlier; Moeller’s costumes also provided great support to defining the time and especially place. The basic ensemble costumes were perhaps what I would call worn sexy chic, and survived under whatever outer garmets (red wool, Montevidean coats, uniform coats, etc.) were put on top of them. More elaborate costumes were provided to the major named characters, and Candide and Pangloss remained in essentially the same costumes throughout. You can see Moeller’s costumes and Noone’s scenic design in the show’s photo gallery.  Kai Harada (FB)’s sound design was reasonable clear even up in Balcony B, although perhaps a little more volume would have been good. Mark McCullough‘s lighting design worked well to establish time and mood (especially the use of red in places). The aforementioned chorus had good sound in the few choral numbers, under the direction of Grant Gershon. Rounding out the creative and production team were: E. Loren Meeker (FB[Assoc. Director]; Chelsea Antrim [Stage Manager]; Christopher Allen [Assoc. Conductor]; Trevore Ross (FB[Asst. Director]; Aurelia Andrews (FB), Jeremy Frank ⟦Assoc. Chorus Master⟧, Bryndon Hassman (FB), and Miah Im (FB[Musical Preparation]; Barbara Donner (FB), Whitney McAnally (FB), and Melissa Tosto [Asst. State Managers].

The final performance of Candide was Sunday, February 18, 2017.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) [the company formerly known as Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)], the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

Upcoming as of when I saw this (but which we saw yesterday) was the first production of the Chromolume Theatre (FB) 2018 season, Dessa Rose. The month concludes with  James and the Giant Peach at the Chance Theatre (FB) in the Anaheim Hills, and tickets for Dublin Irish Dance Stepping Out at  the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB).

March was supposed to start with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner, but that shifted back a week. This enables us to see a remounting of Leslie Jones starring in Prez – The Lester Young Story that weekend. This is followed on the second weekend with the LA Premiere of the musical Allegiance at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (FB) and the MRJ Man of the Year Dinner. The next weekend brings Steel Pier at the UCLA School of Television, Film, and Theatre (FB). The penultimate Friday of March was to bring Billy Porter singing Richard Rodgers at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB), but that has shifted to June and that weekend is currently open. The last weekend of March is open for theatre, but there will be the Men of TAS Seder.

April looks to be a busy month. It starts with Love Never Dies at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) [as an aside, there was just a great interview with Glen Slater, the lyricist of that show, on Broadway Bullet that is well worth listening to]. The second weekend brings A Man for All Seasons” at Actors Co-op (FB). The third weekend brings The Hunchback of Notre Dame at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) (nee Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)), as well as our annual visit to the Original Renaissance Faire. The last weekend of April sees us travelling for a show, as we drive up to San Jose to see friends as well as Adrift in Macao at The Tabard Theatre Company (FB). Currently, we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018! We may also be adding an  Ahmanson Theatre (FB) subscription, given their recent announcements regarding the next season.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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Working Towards a Solution on Violent School Assaults

Over on Facebook, a comment of mine has resulted in a thought provoking discussion between friends on all sides of the political and gun control spectrum — and I thank all the participants for being willing to listen to others and have a civil discussion. There have been some key underlying notions that have emerged that provide some good ground rules for discussion on this issue:

  • The answer is a complex one, and there is no single solution — or to use a bad analogy, no silver bullet. However, there are a number of small things that might work together to reduce risk.
  • The answer is not blanket taking away of guns. The guns are just a symptom of an underlying problem, and if you take them away without doing anything else, people will find another outlet that could be equally deadly.

The following is a collection of ideas and thoughts I’ve had from these various discussions. None are fully worked out, and I’m open to further civil discussion on them. Although they are numbered, that is solely for ease of discussion, and not to indicate any priority or ordering.

  1. Constitutional freedoms are not unlimited. Courts have ruled that there are limits on speech, especially when it goes to the level of harming others. Some rights are limited to citizens; others can be lost with criminal convictions. It is permissible to regulate guns in various ways (“well-regulated” is part of the 2nd amendment) — the question is what is the right way.
  2. In discussions like this, people commonly bring up Benjamin Franklin’s statement about giving up liberty for security not being the answer. That’s true on both ends of the spectrum. Just as giving up the ability to legally own guns doesn’t bring security,  nor do armed guards and bag checks and hardened facilities everywhere. Some levels of both, when warranted in a risk reduction context, are appropriate; however, neither is a complete answer. [ETA: The answer is also not arming the teachers, for the reasons discussed in this subsequent post I made.]
  3. One approach might be to treat more lethal weapons (automatic or semi-automatic weapons, for example) differently. Not to take them away, but to have increased regulation of ownership: regulations for refresher training on how to store such weapons, more frequent health and anger screenings, special permits. Handguns and hunting rifles and such may have easier ownership regulations. In a way, this is similar to what we do with vehicles: motorcycles and commercial vehicles have different training and licensing regulations than passenger automobiles and trucks.
  4. It is increasingly clear that we need to address the root causes of the problem: the stresses that make people turn to guns and such violence as a solution to their problems. Perhaps what we should be discussing is the cost and benefits of a different tradeoff: the tradeoffs of tight gun control or armed protection on one side, vs. the cost of health and societal safety nets on the other. It might ultimately be cheaper — and more preserving of liberty — to have no cost, low cost, or affordable mental and physical health services available so that those facing the stresses can get help before turning to guns; to have living wages and financial support for families in need so that those pressures don’t result in a turn to violence; to have programs that address the inequalities and bullying so that people don’t feel the need to turn to violence. It could be that the cost of providing those things is much less than the cost of arming or taking away things (with the concurrent costs of the regulatory and legal structure). There’s often the comparison to other countries that don’t have those problems. Those countries don’t have the guns, but they also typically have better support systems as well.
  5. We need to address the culture of anger and hate that underlies the violence. We need to teach people that violent assaults are not the proper response to stress and anger. Just as the car chases you see on TV never result in the criminal winning, shooting up innocents has never solved the underlying problem behind the solution. We need to better understand the role our various media — the internets, publishing, music, games — play in this culture of anger and hate; we need to figure out appropriate regulations — but regulations and processes that move away from taking away things (negative) to positive additions. This means emphasizing a different message, and using media to teach other ways to resolve problems.
  6. We need to address the acceptance and glorification of violence in society. When our media celebrates violence; when video games focus more on violence than positive interaction; when guns are used casually and no thought (and no consequences) in movies; when our social media celebrates and amplify violent memes — we’re doing something wrong. We need to replace violence as a solution with a different message.
  7. We need to address dehumanization. When one sees others as “less than” due to various attributes: economic status, skin color, sexual orientation, political stance, religion, gender … then violence against them becomes more acceptable. I have seen — on all sides — views that people of different political stances are not worthy of life … and that’s plain wrong. We need to value everyone, from the lowliest welfare recipient to those with economic success; gay or straight; all shades of skin tones; all religions. We need to address the Internet echo chambers that feed upon and amplify the hatred of the different.
  8. If we are to build a culture that values life, we need to do it at all stages. One can’t be valuing the life of a fetus and then turning a blind eye to the person once born. The entire spectrum needs to be considered. Reasonable regulation of abortion (making it harder to obtain as independent life outside the womb is increasingly viable), as well as social safety nets demonstrating we value  the child once born, and the adult that child grows into. If we value children and adults in everything we do, than it becomes increasingly unacceptable to have violence against those who are valued.
  9. We need leaders that are role models again. When we have leaders that joke about violence to others, that act in ways that dehumanize segments of society, and that who operate through bullying and ridicule, we teach that those values are acceptable. We need to make it clear that such leaders are not leaders to be followed and emulated.
  10. We need to care about and for each other, and that means recognizing that the camel’s back is about to break before it breaks. We need to teach society to recognize the signs that indicate someone is antisocial and about to snap, that someone is dealing with situations they cannot handle. This is not to “take away their guns”, but to intervene with solutions that will help the individual before they turn to violence. The best gun is not one that is taken away, but one that isn’t used out of choice.
  11. While it is reasonable, in a National sense, to restrict certain rights and privileges to citizens (for example, ask yourself if the Second Amendment applies to the undocumented immigrant or the violent felon who has lost certain rights), some solutions may not be acceptable to limit. For example, we don’t restrict vaccines to citizens, because non-citizens can get sick and spread disease. It may be reasonable to extend societal safety nets and other support systems broadly, because even non-citizens and undocumented residents can go crazy, get angry, and grab their weapon of choice to assault others. Weapons don’t work only for citizens. (This, by the way, is a notion similar to why drivers licences should be available to undocumented residents — they still share the roads, and their vehicles can still crash into ours. That doesn’t prevent the license from making clear that the bearer is not documented, which simplifies law enforcement’s job if they do get in an accident.)
  12. There has been much discussion of thoughts and prayers. But I never seem to see the notion that God’s answer to our prayers might be the brains that God has given us. We were made in God’s image, and that includes the ability to answer our own prayers by developing a solution, perhaps with a little divine inspiration. We have been given free will; we have been given the choice of life or death, right or wrong, to act properly or not. The answer to our prayers is not doing nothing, the answer is choosing to do the right thing even when it is difficult to do.
  13. In general, the answer is not to ban and take away things, to be negative. Rather, the answer is to be positive and proactive. Prevent the situation that leads to the violence. Educate people on alternative solutions. Make the necessary help available so that violence and guns are never considered even as a potential solution.

 

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Thoughts on a Theatre Season – 5-Star Theatricals, Theatreworks, and a little bit more

It’s season announcement time, and I’ve gotten a few more in the mail. What am I interested in and what will I attend? What should you consider? Read on, McDuff!

🎭 5 Star Theatricals (FB) 🎭

This is the company that was formerly known as Cabrillo Music Theatre. They operate out of a large regional theatre in Thousand Oaks, doing locally-cast musicals with a mix of Equity performers, non-Equity professionals, and up and coming artists. They have announced three shows for the 2018-2019 season (currently remaining in the 2017-0218 season are The Hunchback of Notre Dame (April 20-29) and Beauty and the Beast (July 20-29)):

  • Shrek. 👍 Oct. 19-28, 2018. This is the first time 5-Star/Cabrillo is doing Shrek (Music by Jeanine Tesori and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire), although it has been done regionally before (notably at Simi ARTS back in 2014). We last saw this back in 2009 at the Pantages; it should be nice to see a good regional production of the show.
  • Matilda the Musical 👍 March 22-31, 2019. Book by Dennis Kelly and Music and Lyrics by Tim Minchin (FB) based on the novel by Roald Dahl (FB). This is the regional theatre premier for the region. We last saw this back in 2015 at the Ahmanson.  5-Star should do a good job with this.
  • West Side Story. 👍 July 26-Aug. 4, 2018. A classic show, with score by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Very appropriate in this year celebrating Leonard Bernstein. We last saw it at Cabrillo back in 2004.

We should be renewing our subscription when the packet arrives.

 🎭 Silicon Valley Theatreworks (FB) 🎭

I recently received the announcement of Theatreworks next season. Theatreworks is in the San Jose/Palo Alto area, about 300 miles away, but for the right show I might drive up, plus I have friends who live in that area. Here is their next season:

  • HOLD THESE TRUTHS. By Jeanne Sakata. REGIONAL PREMIERE. Palo Alto: July 11–Aug 5, 2018. An unsung American hero, Gordon Hirabayashi, fought passionately for the Constitution against an unexpected adversary: his own country. During World War II, he refused to report to a relocation camp with thousands of families of Japanese descent, launching a 50-year journey from college to courtroom, and eventually to a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  • NATIVE GARDENS. By Karen Zacarias. REGIONAL PREMIERE.  Mountain View: Aug 22–Sept 16, 2018. In this cutting edge suburban comedy from America’s hottest new playwright, gardens and cultures clash, turning well-intentioned neighbors into ecological adversaries. When an up-and-coming Latino couple purchases a home beside the prize-winning garden of a prominent Washington D.C. family, conflicts over fences and flora spiral into an uproarious clash of cultures, exposing both couples’ notions of race, taste, class, and privilege.
  • FUN HOME. Music by Jeanine Tesori. Book & Lyrics by Lisa Kron.  Mountain View: Oct 3–28, 2018. [They don’t say it, but I think this is a premiere at the regional level.]  Welcome to Fun Home, the blazingly honest memoir of Alison, a graphic novelist exploring her youth in a loving, dysfunctional family whose secrets of sexual identity echo her own. Winner of every Best Musical award of 2015, this tragicomic tale is told with enormous emotion and sensitivity, its haunting yet amusing score illuminating one of the most extraordinary and original musicals of our times.
  • TUCK EVERLASTING. Book by Claudia Shear & Tim Federle. Music by Chris Miller. Lyrics by Nathan Tysen. REGIONAL PREMIERE. Palo Alto: Nov 28–Dec 23, 2018. An enchanting bestseller springs to life in this 1890s tale of Winnie Foster, a free-spirited girl whose search for adventure leads to the Tucks, a close-knit family that has discovered the secret to everlasting life. With a rousing score and a wealth of warm-hearted humor, this whimsical Broadway musical offers Winnie the choice of a lifetime: return to everyday life, or join the Tucks on their infinite, irreversible voyage through time.
  • FROST/NIXON. By Peter Morgan. Mountain View: Jan 16–Feb 10, 2019. Richard Nixon has resigned. David Frost has been canceled. With America caught in the riptides of Watergate and Vietnam, the former leader of the free world and the lightweight British talk-show host clash in a legendary series of TV interviews that will determine the President’s legacy forever. In a riveting political prizefight unseen again until today, the cameras roll, the truth spins, and it becomes clear that he who controls the medium controls the message.
  • MARIE AND ROSETTA. By George Brant. WEST COAST PREMIERE. Palo Alto: March 6–31, 2019. Stirring churches in the morning and the Cotton Club at night, Sister Rosetta Tharpe became a musical legend. With competition growing on the 1940s Gospel Circuit, she auditions a new partner, a beauty with a voice made in heaven. Will they blend, break, or find harmony at last? Don’t miss this roof-raising musical hit from our New Works Festival, the saga of the woman who inspired Elvis, Ray Charles, and more on her way to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
  • Hershey Felder: A PARIS LOVE STORY. Featuring the music of Claude Debussy. Written and Performed by Hershey Felder. WORLD PREMIERE. Mountain View: April 3–28, 2019. Virtuoso Hershey Felder takes us on his own personal journey as he explores the life and music of Impressionist composer Claude Debussy. For decades Felder’s “Great Composer Series” has celebrated the brilliance of Beethoven, Berlin, Tchaikovsky, and more. In this glorious series finale, he brings to life a visionary who proclaimed nature his religion and romance his milieu, creating music of ravishing beauty, color, and compassion. From the sweeping La mer and evocative L’après-midi d’un faune to the mystical Clair de lune, this soaring tribute will never be forgotten.
  • ARCHDUKE. By Rajiv Joseph. NORTHERN CALIFORNIA PREMIERE. Mountain View: June 5–30, 2019. Can one man, one moment, derail a century? Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph explores the present by focusing on the past: the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, 1914—the flash that ignited World War I. On a darkly comic quest for immortality, three hapless insurgents prove that little has changed from then to now. This New Works Festival sensation is from the author of Broadway’s Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.

An excellent season. If I lived in Northern California, I’d subscribe both to TheatreWorks and to Tabard, whose season I already mentioned in my review of A Walk in the Woods:

  • The Tabard Theatre Company (FB) in San Jose has an interesting season coming up: Another Roll of the Dice / Sep 14 – Oct 7, 2018; The Explorer’s Club / Oct 26 – Nov 18, 2018; Uptown Holiday Swing / Nov 30 – Dec 16, 2018; Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook (featuring songs from the Stephen Schwartz catalog)/ Jan 11 – Feb 3, 2019; Beau Jest / Feb 15 – Mar 10, 2019; and Queen of the Mist / Apr 5-28, 2019.  If they weren’t 300 miles away, we’d consider subscribing; still, we may drive up for Queen of the Mist. If you’re in the southern Bay Area, you should consider subscribing in our stead.

Looking at the TheatreWorks season, I’m really interested in Tuck Everlasting. This failed on Broadway, so it is unlikely that Los Angeles will see a tour. This means I’m dependent on a theatre company down here to do it, which isn’t that likely given our companies (I could see Chance giving it a try, or MTW. But anyone else? It might be a while). Yet I loved the music and the premise of the show. That might make it worth the drive for either Thanksgiving weekend or after the ACSAC conference.

 🎭  Chromolume Theatre (FB) 🎭

Chromolume just announced their Hollywood Fringe Festival production, and I’m excited. Here’s what they wrote:

We are happy to announce that our 2018 Hollywood Fringe Festival production will be the one-act musical, The Story of My Life! We are also excited to announce we will be performing at the The Hobgoblin Playhouse. We are excited to bring this story to you…coming in June! Click on the link below to find out more!

http://crtheatre.com/story.html

And for those of you who don’t know, if you purchase your season subscription before our current production ends, you will get free tickets to see this production!

We last saw Story of My Life back in 2009, right after the death of our dear friend Lauren. The story touched me in special ways; it is just a beautiful and meaningful show. Here’s one verse from a song in the show:

“You’re a butterfly my friend,
Powerful and strong
And I’m grateful for the way
You’ve always hurried me along.
When you flap your wings to stretch yourself
It might seem small to you
But you change the world
With everything you do.”

I’m really, really, excited for this show. We’re season subscribers. You should subscribe as well: $60 for Dessa RoseJane Eyre The Musical, and Sondheim’s Passion, as well as the Fringe show. Support a wonderful small theatre.

 🎭  Ahmanson Theatre (FB 🎭

Lastly, an update on the Ahmanson. They’ve been announcing their season in pieces, with the first chunk here, with an additional show I discussed with the Pantages season. There are two shows left to announce, and when I asked, CTG replied:

So, in two weeks, I hopefully should be able to make the final subscription (and see if I got my predictions right).

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Appearances are Everything | “A Walk in the Woods” @ Actors Co-Op

A Walk in the Woods (Actors Co-Op)How do we achieve actual progress towards solving problems that, if left unsolved, have the potential to destroy the world? That’s the question that is at the heart of Lee Blessing‘s A Walk in the Woods, which just opened at Actors Co-op (FB) in Hollywood. The story, on the surface, revolves around two arms negotiators, Andrey Botvinnik and Joan Honeyman, meeting over perhaps two years (the time period isn’t 100% clear) in Switzerland. Their job: find an agreement whereby the two countries can make the world safer by reducing the number of arms each other has. But is this ever possible? Will either country let the other gain an advantage, or will they just agree to reduce one obsolete set of arms, while building new equally lethal technology not covered by agreements? Will the reductions be significant enough to ever reduce the situation to a non-lethal state? Or … perhaps .. is what is more important the appearance of negotiating on the issue, never actually accepting something?

This play was written during the Obama administration, and discusses a time period seemingly during the Reagan administration, when the nuclear arsenals of the US and the Soviet Union were of concern, and when our leaders knew how to be diplomats. One question I had was the relevance of this play today, when our nation’s leadership doesn’t seemingly care about the world stage. We have an isolationist, jingoist, and militarianist “America First” (yet another problematic slogan) we haven’t seen since the days before WWI. Does our country even care about reducing armaments today? Are there negotiations going on to do so? There are recent proposals by the President to increase and modernize our nuclear forces, to increase and continue the “mine is bigger and better than yours” mentality that makes the world less safe. So in the era of Trump, is this play just saying the negotiations are pointless anyway?

Yet there are other issues — domestic and international — where we keep talking, but not making progress. Immigration. Climate Change. We talk and talk, propose agreements, only to see them scuttled by one side or the other for seemingly meaningless reasons. Could it be that the talks are just a delay and distraction tactic, creating the appearance of progress when there was never an intent of actually finding a solution — for in finding a solution, one side must be the victor and the other the loser.

So perhaps there is a point to this play — in the Trump era — after all. It is to show us that the talking may be a form of progress. The talking may delay something worse. The talking may be keeping hope alive — hope that future administrations may finally move beyond the talk to an actual solution, and the perception and appearance of progress might be replaced by actual progress.

Under the direction of Ken Sawyer (FB), the production is kept simple. Two actors, talking, with a roughly representative set that is sufficiently evocative but not realistic, drawing the focus to the words and the action. The performances themselves were good, but still in evolution (this was the second performance of the show, and there were points where the actors had micro-momental line recall issues that were quickly recovered). Phil Crowley‘s Andrey was the friendly Russian uncle; Nan McNamara (FB)’s Joan was the no-nonsense negotiator trying to prove herself. Both performers seemed reasonably realistic, and there was a good unspoken chemistry between the two. Combined with the story, the two kept and held your attention, and the two hours (including short intermission) passed without seeming to drag.

Also seen on stage were the two assistant stage managers, Katie Chen and Carla Vigueras both dressed identically in all white. They gave the opening welcome to the show (in unison!), and also operated in unison to change the set between scenes. Although not part of the formal play, they provided a little extra levity in what was a very serious production.

In keeping with the focus on the words and the story, the other production elements were kept simple. I’ve already mentioned Ellen Lenbergs‘s simple set design of abstract winter trees, projected headlines, a dock, and a bench. This was augmented by Adam R. Macias (FB)’s sound design, which created the soundscape of the woods, and was eerily stereophonic during the rabbit discussion. Mood and season was established well by Nicholas Acciani (FB) and Matt Ritcher (FB)’s lighting design. Wendell C. Carmichael‘s costumes were sufficient — there’s not much one can say about business attire, other than the Russian’s seemed vaguely Russian. E. K. Dagenfield (FB) was the coach for the Russian dialogue. Other creative and production credits: Christian Eckels (FB) [Stage Manager];  Lauren Thompson (FB), [Producer]; Selah Victor (FB) [Production Manger].

A Walk in the Woods continues at Actors Co-op (FB) through March 18th. I found it an enjoyable drama. Tickets are available at the Actors Co-Op Website, Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar.

Season Announcements: I’ve received some season announcements in the mail recently:

  • 5 Star Theatricals (FB) [the company formerly known as Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)] has announced their 2018-2019 season (renewals are going out to subscribers, like us, shortly). The season consists of Shrek – The MusicalMatilda, and West Side Story. We’ll probably renew. Although there have been a number of local productions of Shrek, we haven’t seen it since 2011 when it was at the Pantages. Someone should let George Chavez know :-). This should be the first regional production of Matilda (wouldn’t it be interesting if they got Cabrillo Alum Lesli Margherita to return for the show). West Side Story is a classic; always fun to see.
  • The Tabard Theatre Company (FB) in San Jose has an interesting season coming up: Another Roll of the Dice / Sep 14 – Oct 7, 2018; The Explorer’s Club / Oct 26 – Nov 18, 2018; Uptown Holiday Swing / Nov 30 – Dec 16, 2018; Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook (featuring songs from the Stephen Schwartz catalog)/ Jan 11 – Feb 3, 2019; Beau Jest / Feb 15 – Mar 10, 2019; and Queen of the Mist / Apr 5-28, 2019.  If they weren’t 300 miles away, we’d consider subscribing; still, we may drive up for Queen of the Mist. If you’re in the southern Bay Area, you should consider subscribing in our stead.
  • Hollywood Pantages (FB). The Hollywood Pantage just made their season announcement; I addressed it in detail in this post. In short, it looks good, and we’ve already renewed.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) [the company formerly known as Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)], the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

The middle of this week brings opera: specifically,  Candide at LA Opera (FB). That is followed the next weekend by the first production of the Chromolume Theatre (FB) 2018 season, Dessa Rose. The month concludes with  James and the Giant Peach at the Chance Theatre (FB) in the Anaheim Hills, and tickets for Dublin Irish Dance Stepping Out at  the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB).

March was supposed to start with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner, but that shifted back a week, so we’ll go to it after our first show in March, the LA Premiere of the musical Allegiance at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (FB). This is followed by a HOLD for Steel Pier at the UCLA School of Television, Film, and Theatre (FB). The penultimate Friday of March was to bring Billy Porter singing Richard Rodgers at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB), but that has shifted to June and that weekend is currently open. The last weekend of March is open for theatre, but there will be the Men of TAS Seder.

April looks to be a busy month. It starts with Love Never Dies at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) [as an aside, there was just a great interview with Glen Slater, the lyricist of that show, on Broadway Bullet that is well worth listening to]. The second weekend brings A Man for All Seasons” at Actors Co-op (FB). The third weekend brings The Hunchback of Notre Dame at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) (nee Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)), as well as our annual visit to the Original Renaissance Faire. The last weekend of April sees us travelling for a show, as we drive up to San Jose to see friends as well as Adrift in Macao at The Tabard Theatre Company (FB). Currently, we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018! We may also be adding an  Ahmanson Theatre (FB) subscription, given their recent announcements regarding the next season.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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Sitekeeping

A recent article about Chrome moving to mark all HTTP sites as Non-Secure has rekindled some thinking about a potential remodel of the Highway side of cahighways.org. I don’t necessarily believe that the highway side needs to be HTTPS (after all, this is really low impact data, and the risk is relatively low), but the actions of Google plus the desire to ensure that advertising or malware isn’t inserted in the data stream is going to push me to HTTPS. Plus, as a cybersecurity professional in real life, I should practice what I preach. So I’ve renewed the certificate for cahighways.org, and I’ve got the blog side of the site already set to be always HTTPS. I believe I’ve got the Highway side so that the pages are all using or referencing secure sources (some images on the book reference page are broken right now), but I’m waiting for Westhost to help do the final HTTPS redirect.

To understand what I’m planning to do, you need to understand something about the setup of the Highways side of the site, other than it is old. I keep individual files for each highway. I run a perl script over these files that builds them into the pretty version the user sees, puts 8 highways per file, builds all the cross references when highways are mentioned, and such. For non-individual highway pages, it takes a source version of the page and fixes links and references to generate the final HTML version of the page. My remodeled setup will need to retain all of that, and ideally, will not break any link into the site that other sites may have, except, perhaps, forcing them to HTTPS.

I’d like to build upon a notion I use for an application I’ve developed at work, where I download an HTML template file that has markers for the title (%TITLE%) and the gooey center (%BODY%). The generation scripts will insert whatever my content is into that template. At work, I use a hidden template file in a WordPress installation. I can’t do that here, because I use WordPress for the blog and I’ll need a different content management system for the site.

I’d also like the updated site to be more responsive and adaptive — in other words, it would automatically adapt to mobile and other devices. This may need to change how I refer to my image callouts. Luckily, I can have my perl generation scripts fix IMG tags to add whatever I need. I also plan to have a script that will change http: in image callouts to https: (if they aren’t local), and potentially, to do automatic validation that websites are still good by attempting to download from them.

What I’m thinking is that I’ll install a second either content management system (CMS) or blog on the Highway side of the site, and if necessary, make index.html do a reload of whatever the top page is of the CMS. The question is: which CMS or Blog. The Softalicious Installer lists the following blogging software packages as available for installation (in addition to WordPress): Open BlogSerendipityDotclearb2evolutionTextpatternNibbleblogLifeTypePixieNucleusChyrpeggBlogHTMLyPivotXFlatPress, and Movable Type. One thing I don’t know is whether a second installation would create mysql conflicts with WordPress. In terms of CMSs available, there is: Joomla, Open Real Estate, Concrete5, MODX, e107, CMS Made Simple,  Xoops,  Composr,  Drupal,  Website Baker,  PHP-Nuke,  Subrion,  sNews,   Kliqqi,   jCore,   Contao,   Silex,  GRAV,  SilverStripe,  Geeklog,  Bolt,  ProcessWire,  Kirby,  Koken,  Pluck,  ImpressPages,  Quick.CMS,  Sitemagic CMS,  Redaxscript,  ImpressCMS,  Open Business Card,  Monstra,  Mahara,  PopojiCMS,  Bludit,  Microweber,  SiteCake,  Croogo,  Jamroom,  Pimcore,  Anchor,  PluXml,  WonderCMS,  Fiyo CMS,  Typesetter,  razorCMS, SeoToaster CMS, Pagekit, OctoberCMS, Cotonti, Hotaru CMS, TYPO3, Tiki Wiki CMS Groupware 15, Zenario, liveSite, Kopage, SCHLIX CMS, CMSimple, Precurio, appRain, ClipperCMS, and. Wolf CMS. No, I’m not going to link all of these; you can see them here.

So, I’d appreciate thoughts any readers who have made it this far might have.

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Photostat

At the end of last month, an interesting announcement crossed my RSS feeds: Xerox Cedes Control to Fujifilm, Ending Its Independence. This is a sad passing indeed, and reflects a transition of one of the seminal companies in the office automation field. Sure, the name might live on, but it won’t be the same. It will be a Kodak or a Polaroid — an echo of a company that once was great.

I have many varied memories of Xerox, from their facilities on Aviation Blvd where the ACM ’81 Conference Committee once met, to the Sex manuals around the UCLA Computer Club (which, before you put your mind in the gutter, were the manuals for the SDS Sigma 7, and SDS was later XDS, Xerox Data Systems), to (of course) all the stories about Xerox PARC.  But for most of us, the word Xerox is synonymous with one thing: copying and reproduction.

My first memory of a copier was at my parent’s office. I don’t remember the brand, but it was expensive, slow, and used rolls of special paper (plain paper copiers were a few years in the future). Nowadays, we have multifunction Xerox copiers at work that can not only copy, but scan and print. So in tribute to Xerox, here are two interesting articles:

  • How Photocopiers Work. This is an in-depth exploration of the photocopying process.
  • Why Paper Jams Persist. As long as there have been copiers, there have been paper jams. There will likely always be paper jams, because the problem of solving them is extremely hard. This article explains why.

 

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