🛣️ Headlines about California Highways – September 2018

Ah, September. The last month of the US Government fiscal year. Silly season 3. But also the time when we are gearing up for the November elections — and for us roadgeeks, the battle over Proposition 6 — the initiative to repeal the gas tax increase, which (if passed) will do horrible things for the highways in this state. As for me, it has been a month of adding maps to the county sign route pages; as the month finished, I’ve added routes through all the letters up to “S”, and am working on the “S”s. So while I work on that, have some headlines:

  • Big Sur’s new stretch of highway already cracking. The newly rebuilt section of Big Sur’s scenic Highway 1 near the town of Gorda is beginning to crack, an early sign of wear for the road that opened just a month ago. But it’s nothing to be alarmed about, state officials say. Several cracks in the pavement, sometimes a foot or longer, were reported this week across the one-third mile stretch of coastal road, which was closed to traffic in May 2017 after being washed out by the enormous Mud Creek Slide.
  • Mineral King Road/Mountain Road 375; the unbuilt California State Route 276. Back in July of 2016 I took Mineral King Road east from California State Route 198 to Mineral King Valley in Sequoia National Park. Mineral King Road is a 24.8 mile roadway which travels from the confluence of the Middle Fork and East Fork Kaweah River in modern day Three Rivers to Mineral King Valley. Mineral King Road has an approximate starting elevation at about 1,000 feet above sea level in Three Rivers and ends at approximately 7,400 feet above sea level in Mineral King Valley in the High Sierras.
  • Yesterland: Walt Disney’s Mineral King. It was a Friday. It was about a week before Christmas. And it was official: The U.S. Forest Service awarded the right to develop the Mineral King area of Sequoia National Forest to Walt Disney Productions. The year was 1965. A wire service article quoted Walt Disney: “When I first saw Mineral King five years ago, I thought it was one of the most beautiful spots I had ever seen and we want to keep it that way.” To Walt Disney, that meant a self-contained “Alpine Village” designed to preserve the natural beauty of valley. Other people wanted “to keep it that way” too. But to them it meant no development at all.
  • The western end of US Route 6 and Laws Depot on the Carson & Colorado Railway. Back in June of 2016 I visited the western terminus of US Route 6 at US Route 395 located in Bishop, California of Inyo County on my way to Laws Depot. US 6 is one of the longest US Routes at 3,205 miles between Bishop, CA east to Provincetown, MA. Historically US 6 was the longest US Route ever when it ended in Long Beach at 3,652 miles. US 6 is known as the Grand Army of the Republic Highway and is mostly known for traveling through some of the most rural corners of the Continental United States.

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🎭 Not Quite T. S. Eliot | “Bark” @ Theatre Palisades

Bark (Theatre Palisades)I want you to think about musicals and plays about animals — particularly ones told from the animal’s point of view. What comes to mind? For cats, there is (of course) The Lion King and Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Cats.  Both are soaring epics — one based on Hamlet, the other on the poems of T. S. Eliot. Both have remarkable music from remarkable composers, and both have spectacular dance.  Both use the art of costuming to transform their performers into the animals they are portraying. All this for felines that are indifferent to us, at best (unless you have an Aby, as one of my friends will point out).

What about man’s best friend, the dog? Well, there’s Snoopy, the sequel (in some sense) to You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Never a big hit. There’s the play Sylvia, about a dog and her owner. Both are funny, and either that particularly memorable.

In 2004, the Coast Playhouse in West Hollywood introduced yet another musical about dogs: Bark! The Musical.  Bark! featured music by David Troy Francis (FB), with lyrics by Gavin Geoffrey Dillard (FB), Robert Schrock (FB), and Mark Winkler (FB), with additional music by Jonathan Heath and Danny Lukie. The book was by Mark Winkler (FB) and Gavin Geoffrey Dillard (FB). Bark! told the story of six dogs through song, and was the longest running musical in the Coast’s history. They produced a cast album in 2005, which I picked up in 2008 and enjoyed.

Fast forward to this year. I’m scheduling October, and I get an email from Goldstar about Bark! being performed at Theatre Palisades (FB). I was unfamiliar with the theatre, despite the fact that it was across the street from my high school (it opened 11 years after I graduated), but Bark! was on my list of shows that I had only heard but not seen. I knew they had good talent, because they had cast a friend of mine in a recent show there.. So I got tickets for last night. The theatre is quite impressive for a community theatre, with a stage that could house 2 99-seat theatre, including substantial space in the wings. The show also gave us the opportunity to see the new Caruso Palisades Village while we hunted down dinner.*
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*: So what did we think of it? A nice walking space with a good village feel. The stores that were opened were nice. It didn’t, however, have quite the old “downtown Palisades” feel of the days of the House of Lee and Morts. It was a Caruso-sanitized shopping experience, which didn’t make it bad, just … overpriced. Given the growth of housing prices and the wealth in that community, perhaps that’s more appropriate now than it was in the 1960s and 1970s.

As for Bark! The Musical. This ain’t Cats folks. Cats are complex creatures, with quirks and oddities that inspire, well, poets. Dogs are simpler: give them love, attention, play with them, and for the most part, they’ll love you back unconditionally. The musical is equally simple: a series of songs sung from the dog’s point of view about their lives. The characters in the show represent a mix of dog types: King, an older dog whose boy has gone off to college; Boo, a scruffy dog owned by a family; Chanel, a poodle owned by a gay couple; Golde, a pampered dog owned by a Jewish couple, Sam, a mutt, and Rocks, a puppy. The songs aren’t particularly deep (c’mon, they sing about wizzing on cats!), but they are entertaining and enjoyable. A few of them are particularly moving. All in all, it makes for an enjoyable night out that doesn’t require a lot of thinking. In particular, given the events of the recent weeks, it gives a night out where you don’t need to think about politics (although there are a few folks I’d love to take a wiz on).

Under the direction of Susan Stangl (FB) with choreography by Heidi Dotson (FB), the actors do a reasonable job of capturing dog mannerisms — the excitement, the scratching, the nervousness, and so forth. But unlike the productions for their larger feline siblings, the mannerisms only went so far. You knew these actors as their characters, but they didn’t become dogs. I think a bit more imagination and creativity might have been required to create that illusion, including a stronger use of perspective in the set design, more ecovative costume direction, and such. But then again, this is community theatre with community theatre resources — so for what they had, they did well. The director did build a good chemistry within the team, and the dance worked will with the skill of the performers.

Of the six “dogs”, I really liked three of them. Two others were a close second, and the last was promising but needed to grow into his feet. In the favorite’s positions were Julie Hinton (FB) [Chanel]; Greg Abbott (FB) [King]; and Elena Coleman (FB) [Boo]. Hinton was extremely strong, with a truly remarkable singing voice, and a playfulness and personality that shined through her performance. She was really strong in her solo number, “‘Il Cane Dell’ Opera”, but was equally fun in numbers like “Siren Symphony” and “Three Bitches”. Abbott also brought a remarkable personality and a strong voice to his numbers, really capturing his character well. This was most noticeable in “A Grassy Field”, but also in his number about “Lassie”. I just really enjoyed watching him (and I kept wondering if he was the same Greg Abbott that went to Pali in the 1976-1977 time period). Lastly, there was Coleman’s Boo, who was not only really cute, but brought that cuteness to her personality and character. She also had a strong voice and strong acting skills, which she demonstrated  in numbers such as “Guarding Janie” and “Life Should Be Simple”.

In the second tier, down just a notch, were Marina Tidwell (FB) [Goldie] and Peter Miller (FB) [Sam]. Both were just a bit weaker on the singing side, but really strong on the acting side. Tidwell was a hoot in “Hey, You” and the “Howling numbers, and hilarious in “Cones” about the cone of shame. Miller’s Sam was fun in the background scene, and really really funny in the “M-U-T-T Rap” and “Seniorita La Pepita” numbers. The comic performances from both were just great.

In the third tier was the puppy of the group, Ben Fuligni (FB) [Rocks]. His performance was not bad, but truly a case of “growing into his feet”. This young man clearly has talent, and embodied the puppy personality and enthusiasm well. He simply needs a bit more experience and training and time, so when contrasted with the others in the cast — it showed. I look forward to seeing him in more local production as his experience grows.

Music was provided by an on-stage band: Gary Nesteruk (FB) [Music Director, Keyboards]; Dan Radlauer and Dave Kief (FB) [Bass]; and Tom Zygmont (FB) [Drums].

Turning to the production side of the show: The set and lighting design was by Sherman Wayne, and it worked reasonably well. There could have been a bit more forced perspective in the set to give the realization that we were seeing this through a dog’s eyes; instead, it was a if the dogs were the size of humans. But again, this is community theatre, so there’s a bit more leeway. It was supported by sound and projection design by the director,  Susan Stangl (FB). These worked very well, especially during the “M-U-T-T” number with the large variety of dogs. Also doing double duty was the choreographer, Heidi Dotson (FB), who did the costumes. Here was perhaps my largest quibble: other than being in a dog-appropriate color palette (browns, whites, greys), the costumes did not evoke “dog”. I think a tad more costume creativity was needed to provide that evocation, which would have helped the suspension of disbelief aspects a bit more. Other production creidts: Josh Harper (FB[Stage Manager]; Joanne Reich [Poster Design, Scenic Design]; Ria Parody Erlich (FB) and Sylvia Grieb [Producers]; Gavin MacLeod and Arnie Wishnick (FB[Executive Producers].

Bark! The Musical continues at Theatre Palisades (FB) through October 7, 2018. It is a cute show, and an enjoyable way to pass the evening. Tickets are available through the Theatre’s website; discount tickets may be available through Goldstar.

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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 Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), and the Ahmanson Theatre (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:

October starts with Oppenheimer at Rogue Machine Theatre (FB). The following weekend brings Moon River -The Music of Henry Mancini at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB). The third weekend of October brings Shrek at 5 Star Theatricals (FB). October will close with the Contemporary Crafts Show in Pasadena.

Continuing the lookahead: November starts with She Loves Me at Actors Co-op (FB) and Stitches So Cal. The second weekend of November is very busy: Dear Even Hansen at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) and A Bronx Tale at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), as well as A Day Out With Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (OERM) (FB). The third weekend of November brings Finks at Rogue Machine Theatre (FB). Thanksgiving weekend has Steambath at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble (FB). December starts with the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), followed by a hold for the Canadian Brass at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB). Then we may travel up to the Bay Area for Tuck Everlasting at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley (FB). Lastly, January will start with Bat Out of Hell at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB).

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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🗯️ On The Horizon

This week has truly disturbed me. I’m not specifically talking about the specific people in the news and what they have done (although that’s been pretty horrific). Rather, I’ve been talking about what I’ve seen on social media in response — and it truly is frightening me. If we look back at the American Civil War in the 1860s, the groundwork for it was laid many years before — some argue it was laid at the time at the founding of this country, and the specific items that led to the actual Civil War were triggered by a number of Supreme Court cases, including the Dredd Scott decision. But that Civil War — horrible as it was — had one distinct advantage. The ideological lines roughly could be drawn as geographical lines. There were clear areas that held one view strongly, and clear areas that held a different view strongly. That led to secession and a traditional ground war.

The foundational problem that led to the Civil War is still around. There is a divide in this country and it is growing, a divide created by some fundamental constitutional decisions. The wounds from the first Civil War are festering and malingering. This week — again, a battle over a Supreme Court justice, and his positions on a number of decisions — are adding fuel to the fire. But unlike the last Civil War, this one will not have clean geographic battle lines. There is no territory to secede, no traditional armies to form, no place for those armies to line up and take aim at each other (except on social media). There is still anger, there is still brother against brother, but this time it is at the level of Shia vs. Sunni in the Middle East: a block by block, house by house, room by room division that can only be fought in the most dangerous way: through propaganda, through terrorism, through mess shootings, through IEDs. It is a something that is not fought by formal armies, but by lone angered crazies, trying to bring a point home, so desparate for their side that they will do anything.

As we have seen, such a war is dangerous not only for the civilians in the middle, but it is a war where there is no clear victory and no one to surrender. It is a war that does not win a cause and destroys a nation. It is a war that stops only when the people arise and say, “Enough!”, and either convince the losing side to  change their mind (unlikely) or find a pocket of the country where they can be kicked out to, to be isolated and live the way they want. The latter, although *a* solution, is not *the* solution. Further, the solution is not legislating one side’s goal, for that just kicks and anger and resentment down the road, to let it fester and grow. The solution may not be compromise either, for that doesn’t resolve the fundamental problems. Ask yourself: Did the Civil War solve the race problems in America? Did the Civil Rights Act of 1965 solve the problems?

Here’s the divide as I see it.

On one side you have what I we’ll call the “Blues”: using the name Democrat is wrong, because the coalition is broader than that; the name Progressive is wrong because of the pejorative nature of the term; the term Liberal is wrong because it has been coopted into an curse word. These folks are libertarian in the social sense: what people do is there own business, and someone else’s beliefs should not be forced upon them. They fundamentally respect the rights of others in a similar way — and argue against discrimination or privilege based upon characteristics — sex, skin color, orientation, gender, social status, religion, and many more. They care about others, often at a personal cost to themselves (and often, they are willing to take burdens upon themselves, such as taxes, to help others). That does not mean they are fiscally irresponsible — they don’t want to spend just for spending’s sake — there needs to be an outcome. They are not universally against war, but I do think there is a belief that when war is waged, it must be just and for the right purpose, and have a clear victory point. They are a bit more against the war machine — the complex that supports war and tends to want to feed itself — and would rather not only those funds, but the talent and intellect to be used for productive purposes and to benefit society (as was done with the DARPANet). They are distinctly against inherit and inherited privilege, believe in consent and the right for the individual to dictate what is done regarding their bodies, and they demand respect for themselves as individuals.

On the other side, you have a few of the same characteristics — a demand for respect, calls for fiscal restraint. Let’s call this side the “Reds”, for it isn’t the traditional Republican Party, and it has gone beyond the Tea Party. The term Conservative is wrong because it too has both become pejorative and coopted, and to call it the party of the Privileged Old White Men is wrong because there are other sexes and races represented. But it does appear to be a party of Fundamentalist beliefs (including evangelical), and all that goes along with them. It does appear to be a party that believes in fixed social and economic strata, and that people have their places therein. It is the party that believes in the divide between the 1% and the rest, in the divide between black and white, man and women, and that each have their place in society. It is a party that believes it is acceptable to mandate their fundamentalist views on people that believe differently (although, arguably, they view what the Blues are doing as exactly the same thing). Thus, if they believe life begins at conception, everyone has to hold that view. If they believe that certain characteristics give an entitlement for a particular behavior and privilege, then that is how it must be. They are willing to fight war — and not only have the guns, but are willing to use them against the Blues whenever and whereever necessary. They don’t understand the positions that the Blues take, and weaponize that mis-understanding. This week was a good example of that: when the Blues get concerns about sexual assault and their victims, the Reds threaten to weaponize sexual assault claims — real or imagined — against the Blues (and that has started). The Reds will figure out a way to weaponize any freedom, and use it to destroy and divide — freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, the 2nd Amendment. While the Internet wasn’t designed for this purpose, they’ve weaponized it as well, using it as a way to amplify their voices, spread propaganda, engender distrust, fan the flames of resentment, and sow the seeds of discontent. They’ve used it to find others with similar feelings, and they’ve begun to organize (and, in response, the Blues have used the Internet for the exact same thing).
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†: Admittedly, this is from my perspective as a Blue, and thus is a bit skewed, and perhaps a bit pejorative. But that is (at least) the perception I have, so if someone wants to clarify or correct my characterization of the Reds, please do so.

This divide is real. The adherents are intransigent. There is more similarity between the two sides than they would admit about wanting to legislate their worldview on those who believe otherwise. The worldviews may, indeed, be incompatible. But both sides believe in their hearts and mind, with 100% of their being, that they are in the right. If there is reconciliation, it is only temporary. Both take advantage of any tool that is given, and use it in the worst way.

[ETA: One of the things leading to that is inconsistency. If some particular action is done, it needs to be done independent of whether it is your candidate or not. So, if you establish the tradition of not considering a Supreme Court candidate nominated by the other side in an election year because — you know, election — then don’t be surprised when the other side wants the same delay when your side nominates a candidate. To not delay shows the original delay to be weaponized political ploy. Or, to use the Ford case as an example, if you bring up sexual harrassment charges, then you must be consistent. Don’t stop the investigation if the accused candidate withdraws the nomination — continue to investigate and either confirm the charges, or clear the name and go after the false accuser. To do anything else demonstrates it was just a political ploy weaponized. Further, you need to be willing to believe as true and investigate any claim made against your side as well. The issue is believing the claim, investigating it  well, and taking actions based on the findings — whoever the claim was against. If you investigate every little claim of bad legal behavior when your opposition is in office, you need to be willing to do the same level of investigation when it is your guy behaving badly. One of the best tools to close the divide is consistency.]

The most disheartening thing is that I can’t see a solution. The anger will grow and grow on both sides until it erupts in warfare. I like to point out one of my favorite books, The Late Great Days of the State of California by Curt Gentry — about the election of Ronald Reagan in 1965 in California — as a warning shot of what was to come. The seeds of this war and anger were planted by the election of Reagan to the Presidency in 1986, and the subsequent election of Bill Clinton in 1992. Each set the anger in motion; each was a dividing point for the country. The election of Bush 43 and the Supreme Court intervention in Florida that gave him his office and the subsequent swing to Obama was the fertilizer, and the election of Trump has combined the ingredients into a weapon.

It’s not pretty out there, except for being pretty disgusting. What is worse: I don’t see an answer. It just leaves me very worried and scared for our future.

If you see a reasonable answer and a way to fix this before it becomes worse, please share it.

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🗯️ Thoroughly Regusted at the Lot

userpic=divided-nationI was working from home today, and in between tasks, I was following the reactions from the Judiciary Hearings. I’m completely regusted at the lot.

From the Democratic side, I’ve seen nothing but support for the folks making the accusations. I heard about the Republicans constantly interrupting Democratic speakers and women. I heard about Kavanaugh acting like a child, crying and shouting. Certainly not judicial temperament. Everything that I’ve seen about this is a clear demonstration that the man doesn’t have the temperament for the Supreme Court, let alone respect for the judicial, evidentiary, or legal processes. We’ve seen the Republicans treat women who accuse men as if they were dirt, and I hope the voters remember come November.

As for my Republican friends: Well, they’ve been sharing memes that slut-shame. They’ve been blaming the women for any attacks received. They’ve had nothing for praise for Kavanaugh and the Republican leaders. They didn’t care about the outburst. They don’t want any investigation; they don’t care about any evidence that contradicts the story they’ve been fed. They believe these women are doing this solely out of political motivation and to besmerch Kavanaugh’s good name. They’ve made up their minds, and they will hold the vote and confirm him, despite what they’ve heard and seen. Oh, and anyone who comments with a different view is attacked mercilessly and mocked.

I had an evangelical friend yesterday write about “Three words”. He was complaining about the three words “He assaulted me. He raped me. He groped me.” and their impact on men’s lives. He proclaimed the women were lying, using the example of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. In his view, all women were deceitful and temptresses. I didn’t have the energy to point out to him that the Bible was written to support the view of the patriarchy, to build a society where men were in power and to justify that power. This is what led to both the evangelical as well as the Orthodox Jewish view of women and the notion of Complementarianism (which you should understand — it is fundamental to why the toxic masculinity culture is what it is). I didn’t have the energy to point out the impact of three actions: raping, groping, and assault, on women.

The interesting question is: Why? What did Kavanaugh do to be rewarded so handsomely, besides his record of torpedoing anyone with the name of Clinton? It is his Belief that the President is above the law? More likely, it his position on abortion.

I have seen evangelicals touting the fact that Kavanaugh’s appointment to the court will protect the deaths of unborns. They care more about their interpretation of Christian theology and forcing that on everyone no matter what  their religious views. What we have in this country is a compromise between the view that life begins at conception, and the view that human life begins at birth (a more Jewish view). We’ve compromised on the point where the foetus can be viable outside the womb on its own, perhaps with some life support. That is a compromise.  However, in order to enforce their view, they are willing to put one of their own on the court, no matter what it takes. Never mind his temperament. Never mind his past. Never mind that he really isn’t Supreme Court material — that he’s going in to push one ideology.

All this comes from the notion that Trump was selected by God. A while ago, I posted a great article on why evangelicals love Trump, even with his behavior. Read it. Understand it. Be scared.

The divide in our country is growing. Intolerance and hatred is growing. I fully expect that if the blue wave arrives, we’ll see impeachment of Supreme Court justices on top of the President. I don’t know what can be done to stop it (the hatred and partisanship, I mean. I’m all for the impeachment.).

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🗯️ Chickenheart, Chickenshit, Grab Me Some Tail

Yesterday, when I read about the prison sentence for once-comedy-icon Bill Cosby, I sent myself a note with the words “Bill Cosby and Suge Knight”. I had planned on writing a blog piece on a subject I’d touched upon before: What do we do about the art, when the artist is problematic? Or, to be more concrete: What should I do with my Bill Cosby comedy albums (I’ve always loved “Chicken Heart”) now? Did folks stop listening to rap artists when the artist or the artist label committed murder?

But then, during my shower, an interesting contrast hit me: We have a black man attempting and committing sexual assault, who gets those charges investigated, and gets convicted and sent to jail. We have a white man, Brett Kavanaugh, who also has charges made against him from multiple women for sexual assault, and we can’t even get those charges a proper investigation, and the white man will likely go to the Supreme Court as a justice. He was nominated by another white man who has also assaulted women, and those charges were never formally investigated. All three are men of power. So what are the differences? Why do the white guys dodge responsibility? What does this say about our attitudes?

I’m not trying to defend Bill Cosby — far from it. Rather, I’m disturbed by the fact that when the person who has allegations of sexual shenanigans is black and/or an entertainer, we get investigations and prosecutions. When it is a white politician — especially a politician from the party in power — we get … excuses. Oh, why didn’t she bring this up earlier (note: she did). Oh, these charges are politically motivated. Oh, the woman is lying. Oh, she can’t remember every detail, so it must not be true. Oh, he has friends that vouch for him — he couldn’t have done it. The Cos had friends that vouched for him as well. He still did it. Oh, he was drunk, so it shouldn’t count.

What message are we sending to our daughters and sons?

In an interesting bit of parallelism, the LA Times has an article on the impact of the #metoo movement and its connection with both Cosby and Kavanaugh. Interesting reading. These are very different times than the days of Anita Hill, or the days when Bill Clinton was being impeached for lying about an affair. Today, Clarence Thomas might not be on the Supreme Court, and Bill Clinton might have been charged with sexual harassment, abusing a position of power. It is completely wrong that a man with multiple allegations of sexual misconduct is not having those charges seriously investigated, even if he is from the party in power. Political affiliations does not make it right. The Republican members of the Senate Judiciary committee, and the politicians that support them, are sending a message to the women of this country (and the men that stand with the women).

I’m not sure they will want to hear the reply in November.

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🎭 Pride Cometh Before the Fall | “Rope” @ Actors Co-Op

Rope (Actors Co-Op)Why do we see the shows that we see? After all, given my druthers, I tend to pick musicals over plays, comedies over dramas. But this is where the importance of a season subscription at a theatre that does good work comes in. In additional to getting the biggies that bring in the Broadway stuff or do only musicals (Pantages, Ahmanson, 5-Star Theatricals), we always include in our subscription mix small to mid-size theatres that do a mix of dramas and musicals, new and old. This brings in the work I might not normally pick, and broadens our horizons.

That is one of the many reasons we subscribe to Actors Co-op (FB). I don’t necessarily align with their mission (ministry), but their shows are top notch, their selections always interesting, and the acting excellent. The dramas that they pick challenge our thinking, and that is a good thing. That is work worth supporting.

Last night’s show was no exception. I’m not one for dark shows, and I’m not into thrillers or murder mysteries (other than TV procedurals). I’ve never seen the 1948 Alfred Hitchcock movie Rope. The closest I’ve come to seeing live theatre revolving around the perfect crime is listening to the cast album of the musical Thrill Me, which is the story of Leopold and Loeb who also thought they had committed the perfect crime, and who thought they were intellectually superior (hmmm, some interesting parallels there). This was not a show I would have picked to go see. But it was part of the season, and so we went.

I’m glad we did. It was a very interesting show, from the suddenness of the opening, to the arrogance of the crime and the dinner party, to the method of resolution. It kept me on the edge of my seat, and my mind was involved with the story. Would they get away with it? You know the answer going in: murderers never get away with it because our story conventions dictate that is not an acceptable resolution. So the real question was: How would they be discovered? For that, Patrick Hamilton‘s story worked quite well. It kept the discovery right on the edge until the eventual climax of the story.

The rough outline of the story is this: Wyndham Brandon and Charles Granillo devise a scheme to murder a classmate of theirs, the sun of Sir Johnstone Kentley. They do this, and put his body in a locked chest in their house. They then host a dinner party where they invite the young man’s father (the aforementioned Sir Johnstone Kentley), the father’s sister Mrs. Debenham, and three of their friends: Kenneth Raglan, Leila Arden, and Rupert Cadell. They latter they thought might have been smart enough to join them in the murder, but decided not to invite him because he wouldn’t have the gumption to go through with it. They felt they would get pleasure during the party because the guest would be unaware there was a body in the chest. But then one of the guest jokes that there could be a locked body in there, and …. well, I’ll spare you the details but there is the steady march to discovery.

One of the relevant notions of this play is the idea that arrogance is a personal characteristic that often leads to a downfall. We see that in the murder here, where the perpetrators are so confident that they have pulled it off that their behavior gives them away. It is something that is seen in Leopold and Loeb. It is something we’re seeing in politics today, where arrogance of the party in charge that thinks it is smarter than everyone else, and therefore can do anything they want — moral or immoral — may be coming back to bite them. One wonders if this is subtle ministry from the company, for it is the Bible that notes “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Clearly, it is the pride of Brandon and Granillo that lead to their fall.

Under the direction of Ken Sawyer (FB), the performances are tight. There is an enthusiasm and a belief and personification of their characters that the actors capture spot-on, from bubbly to panicked, from nervous to intrigued. Leading the charge are our two murders: Burt Grinstead (★FB, FB) as Wyndham Brandon and David Huynh (FB) as Charles Granillo. Both capture the arrogance and fear of the characters well, especially Grinstead for the former, and Huynh for the latter. They were fun to watch.

In the next group, I put the three younger characters invited to the dinner party: Kyle Anderson (★FB, FB) [Kenneth Raglan]; Heidi Palomino (FB) [Leila Arden]; and Donnie Smith (FB) [Rupert Cadell]. Of these, my favorite was Smith. He kept reminding me of someone, and I figured it out after the show — he was a mix of Tim Curry and Christian Borle, which a wry smile and a playfulness that was delightful to watch. He truly gave the impression of a cat that was just wondering when he was going to pounce and get it over with, with never a doubt. Anderson and Smith were more supporting: Anderson as the good natured chum who was up for anything, and Palomino as the over-eager young thing, easily excitable. The script set the two up as an eventual couple, and there was clear chemistry between the two. This was not a surprise — writing this up I discovered that they are married in real life. There affection and like for each other came across well in these roles.

In the older category were Carl Johnson (FB) as Sir Johnstone Kently and Elizabeth Herron (FB) as Mrs. Debenham. Johnson’s role called for him being the upstanding father, which he handled well. Herron’s role was more interesting, as her character spoke very little. She seemed to handle it very well, especially the bit with the rope.

Rounding out the cast was Actors Co-op regular Deborah Marlowe (FB) as the maid, Sabot. She brought her usual humor to the role, and was fun to watch as always.

Understudies were Julia Aks (★FB, FB) and Isaac W. Jay.

Hellen Harwell (FB)’s scenic design used lots of red and black to establish the mood — from the floors to the furnishing. I’m always amazed by the skills of the scenic designer to create flooring effects and how they finish furniture to create a mood, and this show was no exception. It all worked quite well. Also strong was Adam R. Macias‘s sound design, which used sound to great effect to startle and distract. Supporting all of this was Matthew Richter (FB)’s lighting design, especially the very dark blackouts. Paula Higgins (FB)’s costumes worked well, although my wife noted that the seam on Palomino’s stockings should have been a little straighter. Other production credits: David Scales [Production Manager]; Lydia Soto [Stage Manager];  Nora Feldman (FB) [Publicist];  Kevin Shewey(FB[Producer]; and  Heather Chesley (FB[Artistic Chairwoman].

Rope continues at Actors Co-op (FB) through October 28, 2018. Tickets are available through the Actors Co-Op Website. Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), and the Ahmanson Theatre (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 last weekend brings Bark: The Musical at Theatre Palisades (FB). October is also getting quite full. It starts with Oppenheimer at Rogue Machine Theatre (FB). The following weekend brings Moon River -The Music of Henry Mancini at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB). The third weekend of October brings Shrek at 5 Star Theatricals (FB). October will close with the Contemporary Crafts Show in Pasadena.

Continuing the lookahead: November starts with She Loves Me at Actors Co-op (FB) and Stitches So Cal. The second weekend of November is very busy: Dear Even Hansen at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) and A Bronx Tale at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), as well as A Day Out With Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (OERM) (FB). The third weekend of November brings Finks at Rogue Machine Theatre (FB). Thanksgiving weekend has Steambath at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble (FB). December starts with the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), followed by a hold for the Canadian Brass at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB). Then we may travel up to the Bay Area for Tuck Everlasting at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley (FB). Lastly, January will start with Bat Out of Hell at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB).

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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🗯️ Shaving Brett Kavanaugh (with Occam’s Razor)

All week long I’ve been reading posts about Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh. I’d like to share some ruminations with you. I should disclose that I’m not a Kavanaugh supporter, although that is independent from the line of reasoning here. I’d be making the same arguments here if Merritt Garland was the nominee and she was accusing him:

  • Why didn’t she come forward at the start of the hearings? Most likely, fear. After all, we’ve all seen what has happened to her and her family for her coming forward: she’s been doxxed (had personal information released on the Internet), and her family has received death threats and had to go into hiding. Her personal life has been ridiculed. All for making public that someone attacked her. This is often why women are reluctant to speak up: there are men in the world that don’t like women who report their bad behavior, and take it out on them. Here’s a longer article on why some women take so long to come forward.
  • Why didn’t she report this to the police when it happened? Less than all half of all sexual violence is actually reported to law enforcement. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, rape is the most under-reported crime; 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to police. There are numerous reasons: fear, shame, worries about retaliation, post traumatic stress. The treatment many women get when they do report — being blamed as if it was their fault — is a large part of it. Some are afraid to admit they might have been drunk when it happened. But remember this: even if the women was drunk, that does not give a man excuse to attempt rape. This also means that we shouldn’t blame the woman if she didn’t report, or discount her claim that the incident happened. Believe her and investigate it.
  • Why should we believe something from 30 years ago? Funny how we believe boys who say they were molested 30 years ago by a priest, but doubt a woman when she says she was forced to do something sexual by a man. What does that tell our daughters about how much we value their word? I’ve even seen some people pointing out that she must be lying, because the Bible says that all women are liars. In any case, her claim is a starting point, but we must believe the claim and that she believes it to be true. This is true even if the memory is spotty — many trauma survivors have spotty memories due to the trauma itself.
  • But could she be lying? She could, but people rarely ask the FBI to investigate them when they are lying or have something to hide. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that  a review of research finds that the prevalence of false reporting is between 2 percent and 10 percent. Just look at the President, who specifically does not want the FBI investigating him. If he was clean, they will find nothing. In this case, having the FBI investigate will determine if there is any corroborating evidence to back up her story, making it more than “he said, she said”. Ask yourself: What is in it for her in making such a claim? The DNC doesn’t have deep pockets, and even if they paid her, it would be discovered. Coming forward is asking to be insulted online, have your family harassed. There is no upside, other than possibly righting a wrong done years ago.
  • But they were teenagers, and boys will be boys. Being young doesn’t excuse you from your actions; indeed, we teach our children from the earliest ages that actions have consequences. I’m willing to believe that Kavanaugh was young and stupid when he did this. Many teenage boys let their little head control their big head, and try to force themselves on women. However, that doesn’t make it right or legal. Further, being drunk doesn’t give him a pass. We hold drunk drivers responsible for their actions. If you commit a murder in a drunken rage, you’re still liable. Drink doesn’t excuse criminal behavior.
  • But it was 30 years ago. So? The question here is what Kavanaugh did afterwards. If he realized that he was wrong and apologized, changed his ways, and never did this again — then I might give him a pass. But if he was unrepentant — if he continued to behave that way towards women, then there is a bigger problem.
  • But it was one time. Was it? This is the second reason there should be an FBI investigation: There needs to be a determination if this was the start of a pattern of behavior towards women, or a one-time drunken incident. If one time and unrepentant, it is still a problem — although one where redress and restitution might be possible. If there is a pattern — if throughout his career he has devalued women and treated them only as sex objects, then there is a significant issue (for example, if he hired clerks based on how sexy they looked as opposed to their legal skills). [ETA: Since this was written, a second women has come forward with a claim, and Michael Avenetti is reporting there is yet a third women with a claim.).
  • But the FBI has already investigated him. True, but they didn’t look specifically in this area. Ask yourself what the FBI was looking for, for they will only discover findings in that area. Unless, of course, they were looking for your lost car keys. Then they’ll find loads of stuff. Seriously, the FBI likely didn’t investigate claims of sexual harassment — rather, they were looking for reported criminal activity, involvement with foreign governments, and so on. Legal reviews and background checks would also not look in this area. There might not have been previous claims, for the simple reason that many women are scared to make claims against powerful men, because of the backlash to them.
  • But this hearing has gone on long enough. Much as you would like the hearings to be done and done, we are talking a lifetime appointment to the highest court of the land. Better to take a little extra time and do the job right. After all, we went almost an entire year when Congress sat on its hands and didn’t even meet with President Obama’s nominee. Surely we can investigate for a few more weeks.
  • But is an attempted rape from 30 years ago significant in the scheme of things? That’s an interesting question. If it was a one time, childish indiscretion, an apology and restitution might suffice (and recall that I said I opposed Kavanaugh for reasons separate from this). But if there is a pattern of this behavior, that implies a number of things. First, it implies that Kavanaugh puts his personal attitude towards women above the law of the land — and a SCOTUS justice must put the law first. It also indicates that he might discount the word of women or the value of women, which would translate to putting them at a disadvantage in the courtroom — either when testifying or bringing a case. And that would be wrong.

We should and must take the time to slow down and investigate this properly. Believe her enough to start the investigation and determine if the story can be corroborated. If it is true, discover if he understands and admits what he did wrong. Discover if there was a pattern of behavior towards women. Then, and only then, can we move forward based on those findings.

One additional note: There are those who still blame the victim (the woman) for the attack: for not reporting it, for being drunk, for wearing provocative clothes, for doing it to get ahead. However, it is the man’s responsibility to be moral and ethical, and to not take advantage of situations and to obtain informed consent. Nothing is forcing us men to attack; we have the ability to keep it in our pants, and keep our hands to ourselves.

 

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C-H-U-C-K Chuck

He always used to seemingly dislike when people would add “C-H-U-C-K Chuck” into “Justice, Justice“.

Yesterday, word came out that Charles Feldman, long-time Director of Music (in the days before Reform had Cantors) at Wilshire Blvd Temple, and long-time camp director of Gindling Hilltop Camp, and long time maestro of Jewish music, passed away. It wasn’t a surprise; I had heard he was in a board-and-care home up in the Antelope Valley. But still, the news was sad. And the world wept.

I attended the Wilshire Blvd Temple Camps for 10 years, between 1969 and 1979; I was at Hilltop starting in 1972. For all but that first (and possibly second) year at Hilltop, Chuck was my camp director. So many memories: his voice, his kindness, his friendly nature, his leadership, playing anagrams after-hours.

Others from my era at camp have posted on Facebook with their memories. If the measure of a person and a life well lived are the lives that you have impacted for the good, then Chuck will be remembered well. Tradition teaches that we live on in the memories of others. In that respect, Chuck will continue to live on through the music he has left behind, through the people he has influence and how they have passed on that influence down the generations, and through the memories of the man at his piano, leading songs and completely happy.

You can hear his beautiful voice on the camp album Cherish The Torah, in the songs “Sim Shalom” and “Sanctification“. Here is a short summary of Chuck’s career at Wilshire from the time he stepped down.

According to a post from Liz Biderman Gertz on Facebook, those who wish to honor Chuck Feldman’s memory may donate to the following scholarship fund:

Academy of Music Performance and Education scholarship fund
854 West Lancaster Blvd
Lancaster CA 93534

 

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