Interesting Histories

It’s been an interesting week. Although I was collecting a bunch of news chum, they never coalesced in my head into a coherent post. Now it’s the weekend, so let’s start clearing them off. This first collection provides a bunch of histories that I found of interest:

  • Street Light Banners. 1984. For some, a chilling book. For others, a foretelling of our current political climate. For me, it is the memory of when Los Angeles hosted the Olympics, with pastel banners and wayfaring signs all over the city. It turns out that the 1984 Olympics was the first major use of the light pole banner. As the article notes: “With only $10 million to outfit the entire city (five percent of the budget of the 1976 Games in Montreal) the designers of LA’s Olympic look, overseen by legendary designer Deborah Sussman, had to be scrappy. Instead of stadiums, they built towering scaffolds. Instead of brand-new Olympic villages, they outfitted parks and freeway entrances with colorful pylons, sonotubes, and giant inflatable stars. Little of it would have stood a chance if it had rained (luckily it didn’t) but the designs looked great on television. It was a classic LA story. The street banners were intended only to line the Olympic marathon route, which ran down Exposition Boulevard from Santa Monica to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum downtown. At the last minute, however, the organizing committee dramatically expanded the program, promising banners to dozens of additional neighborhoods and even cities in neighboring counties.”
  • 31 Flavors. Here’s another Los Angeles creation. No, not ice cream, but Baskin-Robbins.  Starting with two shops, one in Glendale, the other in Pasadena, BR franchised and grew, until by the time of the 31st anniversary, Baskin-Robbins had already accumulated more than 500 flavors. The previous year, they had come out with several flavors made for the U.S. bicentennial celebration, including Yankee Doodle Strudel, Valley Forge Fudge, Concorde Grape and Minuteman Mint. Over the years, their commemorative flavors have ranged from Beatle Nut in 1964 to Lunar Cheesecake in 1969 to Saxy Candidate in 1996. Today, Baskin-Robbins has 1300 flavors.
  • Use of the American Indian Image on Advertising. It’s a staple of advertising, from Land O’Lakes butter to Native American Cigarettes. They were at cigar stores and on motorcycles. How did the image of the American Indian — either the full headdress or the beautiful princess — come to be everywhere. Here’s an article that explores a new exhibition of how the image of a people that we systematically oppressed and pushed out because an advertising image that is everywhere. As the article notes: “American culture has used imagery of American Indians to symbolize authenticity in branding, or combativeness in sports and the military, even as it has subjugated real-life Indians throughout history. At its core, the artifacts in the exhibition reveal how Indians have become an integral part of the American brand itself–something that companies have been capitalizing on for decades.”
  • Food Colors. Brightly colored food. Red maraschino cherries. Blue jelly beans. Yellow banana pudding. Do we ever stop to think where those colors came from? When food dyes came in, they were made from products such as coal tar, a by-product of coal manufacturing.  Yet we believed them safe. As the article notes: “Food companies soon used the coal tar colors as well, especially in butter, candy, and alcohol. Though gross-sounding, they might have been healthier than the alternative. In both Britain and the United States, the 19th century was plagued with food adulteration, often in the form of food coloring. In order to make pickles, jellies, and candy more vivid, manufacturers added dangerous metal salts such as copper sulfate and lead chromate. In contrast, coal tar dyes were so vivid that only a little was needed. Plus, the tiny amount meant that the flavor wasn’t affected.” But were they safe? And what are we using today?
  • Elevators. We probably don’t think twice about using an elevator. They are everywhere. They are what made the high-rise revolution possible. But there is risk, such as the time the President got caught trapped in an elevator.  This was at the Pentagon, a concrete building/bunker with only one elevator. What did the President’s party think? Levinson’s first thought was that he was experiencing, first-hand, an attempted coup by the U.S. military on McNamara’s last day in office. “Was someone about the inject some type of gas into the lift or drop some form of explosive? We had the head of state and the Secretary of Defense in one small place that was undefended and vulnerable. A natural site for an extraordinary disaster.”
  • Interstate 95. For a highway system that started in 1955, one would think the Interstate Highway System, after 60 years, would be complete. But it isn’t, and one glaring whole was New Jersey… was in New Jersey on I-95. Finally, through a kludge, I-95 has (almost) been completed. Construction to fix the I-95 gap began more than eight years ago in Pennsylvania, but it has now reached its final stage. This week, the New Jersey Department of Transportation began switching out road signs in preparation for the change. But until it opens, if you are driving northbound on I-95, just outside of Princeton, a road sign will warn you that I-95 North—the road you are on—is ending. But the physical road itself doesn’t end—instead, the highway veers south, now under the name Interstate 295. If you don’t get off at an exit, you will find yourself suddenly driving south, and have to do a complicated series of maneuvers to get back on a northbound road. On the other side of this gap, Interstate 95 continues northward, starting from eight miles away.
  • Mapping Applications. Some of us love road maps. Some of us love our navigation applications. But did you ever think about where the maps come from, and how they were created in the era before satellite mapping. It was a hard process, and this article explores how cartographers made maps before modern technology. The process of updating maps involved sending scouts out into the field to drive along every road and note conditions, compare the roads against topographical maps, and confirm mileage figures. Then, those scouts reported back to the draughtsmen responsible for producing revised maps every two weeks. The draughtsmen updated the data on road closures and other changes.
  • Printers. Although this article isn’t as long as I would like, and omits a number of classic printer types (such as the IBM 1403 Line Printer, or the workhorse ASR33s and the DEC LA36  Dot Matrix Printer), here’s a short exploration of the start of computer printing technology. The articles notes that in 1953, the first high-speed printer was developed by Remington-Rand for use on the Univac computer, and the original laser printer called EARS was developed at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center beginning in 1969 and completed in November  1971.

Where The Shutdown Blame Lies

userpic=divided-nationThroughout the day, I’ve been reading posts trying to place the blame for the looming government shutdown. The Republicans blame the Democrats for holding up the bill because of DACA. The Democrats blame the Republicans for not passing a bill, given they are the majority party. Where does the fault really lie? Hint: It has nothing to do with DACA, and everything to do with Congress — in particular, Congress not doing their job.

The US Office of Budget and Finance has a great infographic on the budgeting process. In short, Congress is supposed to develop a budget and appropriations bill well before the start of the government fiscal year on October 1. This bill should be one that can pass both houses with appropriate majorities — meaning that it must represent bi-partisan goals and compromise. Neither side gets 100% of what it wants, but can live with the results. It must be something that either the President can sign, or Congress can override the veto.  When this happens by the start of the fiscal year, there are no government shutdowns. Money is appropriated, Federal agencies can operate, they can do appropriate long range planning, and things run smoothly.

When the majority party FAILS to do its job — that is, fails to pass budget and appropriations bills on time and get everyone on board, then continuing resolutions become necessary. This keeps the funding going at last year’s levels for a short period while they supposedly are finishing the budget. We are now on our second or third continuing resolution, and they are attempting to pass another one.  Further, this ends up costing the government more in terms of wasted time, inability to plan ahead, in ability to purchase ahead for a discount. Congress failing to do its job costs you, the taxpayer, more.

So when placing the blame, remember that the entire need for a continuing resolution goes back to the majority party not doing their simple job of passing the needed budget and appropriations bill. It means the President failed to work with all parties to reach concensus. It means that the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader failed to negotiate a compromise in the overall interest of the nation, as opposed to just their party. And since the President, Speaker, and Majority Leader are from the same party, there’s only one party to blame: The Republicans, for not doing their constitutionally-mandated job.

Remember also that it is the Republicans that have conditioned us to expect budget bills to be late, to hold up appropriations threatening shutdowns, to say they are against deficits but then pass tax bills that increase the deficit. It is the Republicans that continually “kick the can” down the road when they don’t want to face an issue and do their job: be it establishing a realistic budget that might be balanced, or hiding the deficit inherent in “temporary” tax fixes for individuals but permanent fixes for corporations.

P.S.: Both sides will be trying scare tactics with the shutdown, claiming social security checks or welfare checks won’t go out, or soldiers won’t be paid. That’s not true. Here’s what won’t shut down:

  • Programs that don’t require annual appropriations. That group, which includes Social Security, Medicare and other so-called entitlements, continue without interruption.
  • Those entailing functions “necessary to protect life or property.” Law enforcement, the military, intelligence agencies and foreign embassies all will stay open.
  • Some programs that have other sources of money that will allow them to function for a while. Courts, for example, can spend money they have collected through fines and fees, funds that would allow them to keep functioning for a while.
  • The U.S. Postal Service. It’s a quasi-independent entity and does not depend on annual appropriations, so its business will continue as usual.

What does shut down? Parks, non-essential services, and such. Who gets hurt? The middle and low income contractors, who don’t get paid. The people to whom the government owes money. Taxpayers, who can’t file returns or get refunds.

Now you know.


Phoning It In

As we continue to clean out the news chum, here are some cell-phone related articles of interest:

  • TAP your Phone. Two distinct articles discuss something interesting coming to the LA Metro: Cubic Systems has been awarded a contract to develop an integrated fare-payment mobile app. Cubic (NYSE: CUB) designed and delivered the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s TAP card, which serves 24 transit agencies. More than 2 million people hold TAP smart cards, which pay bus and light rail system fares when users hold them next to card readers. The card transmits data using near-field radio communication technology.  With the upgrades, riders will be able to use their TAP accounts to pay for third-party services such as ridesharing, bike sharing and parking. TAP will also support fare subsidy programs. In addition, Angelenos will be able to use their mobile devices in place of TAP cards when getting aboard buses and subways. That’s confirmed by an article in Curbed LA: Instead of swiping a TAP card, as most passengers do now, users of the new app will be able to simply scan their phones to pay a fare. The system is expected to be ready for testing this summer, with a full rollout planned for the fall, says Metro spokesperson Rick Jager. The system may also be able to give incentives for frequent riders or on smoggy days. I’m looking forward to this, as your phone account, unlike a tap card, won’t expire and is harder to lose.
  • Full Size Keyboards. One of the most interesting things about the Moto Z series are Moto-Mods: the ability to add modular additions to phones. It appears that a new mod coming this year will be a full-size keyboard. According to The Verge:Back in April, we were forced to acknowledge that the Indiegogo crowdfunded Keyboard Moto Mod was actually a real physical device. This year at CES 2018, Motorola has announced that you’ll actually be able to buy one soon for $99. The Slider Keyboard Moto Mod, developed by a third-party company called Livermorium, was the winner of Motorola and Indiegogo’s Transform the Smartphone Challenge, after which it was put through Motorola’s Accelerator Program where the cellphone company worked on the device alongside Livermorium. And now, a finished version of the mod is set to be released sometime in the next month or two.
  • New Phones Leaked. Going along with the above, a report just came out leaking the details of the upcoming Moto phones: the X5, Z3, and G6. According to the article, a sampling of the new features reveals: ♦ The Moto X5 will have a “notch” like Apple’s iPhone X;  ♦ The Moto X5 will include either 3D face unlocking or an in-display fingerprint sensor;  ♦ The Moto Z3 has a Galaxy S8-style infinity display;  ♦ The backs of the phones will be made of glass instead of metal;  ♦ The Moto G6 Play will have a whopping 4,000mAh hour battery;  ♦ There will be a 5G Moto Mod.

Oddities of the Food World

Clearing out some more news chum — this time with something you can really chew on:


Fly, Fly, Away

Time to start clearing out some accumulated chum — and non-political chum at that! Here are three airline things that are going away, plus one non-airline thing that may also be disappearing:

And also disappearing:


Girth Certificate? Really?

userpic=trumpEver since the report came out on the President’s health, the liberal groups I read have been in an uproar? “How could it be true”, they ask. “They’ve got to be lying about his weight — I demand to see a girth certificate“, they jest, while posting pictures comparing the President to athletes.

C’mon folks. As they say, “get a life”. This is a distraction, a diversion. There are more important things to focus on. Consider:

  • Does it really make a difference if the President is obese, other than to make fun of him? They say, when he sits around the White House, he sits around the White House.
  • As for mental health: Be careful what you ask for. Although a President with mental impairment does make a case for invoking clause 4 of the 25th Amendment, that likely wouldn’t happen anyway, and I hope you’re not wishing that the leader of the free world is crazy. Perhaps you’re scared that maybe he isn’t crazy and knows exactly what he is doing. I find that a lot scarier, given what he is doing. Further, passing a mental acuity test doesn’t mean he has the right skillset to be President, or that he has sound judgement, which is different than smarts. Mental tests don’t judge personality issues or things like self-aggrandizement or narcissism.

As I noted, the health issue is a diversion, a focus of our attention away from issues like DACA, the President’s racism, and the potential illegal, impeachable acts that are being investigated by Mueller. Don’t let yourself be distracted.


I Can Deal With The Shit, It’s The Farts That Wear Me Down….

userpic=trumpOne of my favorite quotes from William Mulholland serves as the title of this post, “I can deal with the shit, it’s the farts that wear me down.”. He said it about endless lawsuits over the LA Aqueduct construction, but it equally apropos to the current shitstorm in Washington DC.

Folks: The issue isn’t whether Trump said shithole or shithouse, or that he used profanity at all. Listen to the Nixon tapes. He swore. The issue is the racism underlying what he said. I had a link that explained this well in a recent post. In short, he was indicating that people from a particular region — predominately black and brown — were not welcome in the US, while people from another region — predominately white — were. That’s racism. He wasn’t looking at individuals and their particular skills, health, or other attributes. He was making a blanket statement based on stereotypes of origin.

What prompted me to write this post was another article I saw today exploring how Trump is serving to make explicit the formerly racist subtext, and how a particular segment is responding to those dog whistles. It had a particularly cogent conclusion that bears repeating:

It’s possible to take a “rule of law” attitude toward unauthorized immigration while welcoming legal immigrants (though most Americans who are exercised about the first also oppose the second). It’s possible to support lower legal immigration, on balance, to the US, without caring much about where those immigrants come from.

It’s possible to support “merit-based immigration” as a way to affirmatively select each individual allowed to settle in the US, and oppose forms of immigration — including family-based migration, humanitarian migration, and the diversity visa — that have any criteria other than an individual’s accomplishments.

The problem is that some of the people who espouse all those attitudes are consumed, at heart, by the fear that the America they know is being lost or in danger of being lost. They believe that America has a distinctive and tangible culture, and that too much immigration from cultures that are too different will dilute or drown it; they may even worry about a cultural “invasion.”

This is an anxiety born of xenophobia. It accepts as a premise that people who come to America from certain places “don’t assimilate,” and concludes that there are some groups of people who cannot ever be fully American.

The policy aims of restrictionism can be negotiated and legislated — even as the extent to which they’re underpinned by racism will inevitably be part of the debate. It’s almost unimaginably hard to figure out a way to “end chain migration” that would both pass Congress and avoid a collapse of the immigration system, but it’s still a discussion that can happen.

You can’t negotiate with people who believe that an America that lets in people from “shithole countries” isn’t the America they know or love. Either America is a nation of immigrants or it is a nation of blood and soil.* It cannot be both.

To me, in the end, it is a question of power. Why won’t Puerto Rico be admitted as a state? Because it would vote Democratic, and thus dilute Republican power. That’s a political equation that goes back to the Civil War, where a slave state could be admitted only if paired with a free one for balance. Similarly, why don’t the Republicans want to admit minorities? Because they believe they would vote (when they become citizens) in such as way as to dilute their power base, in such a way that is a threat to the caucasian male privileged leadership positions they possess. And thus, racism and hatred of the other are embraced because it keeps them in the swamp. Drain the swamp? Hell, they are the swamp.

If you want to get rid of the swamp, the answer is not to drain it, but to dilute it with fresh water. Bring in new blood, new ideas, and embrace the diversity of thought and solutions. Try things that haven’t been tried. That is what immigration — from all over the world — brings to this nation, and we have shown with our growth the power that diversity can bring.

From Wikipedia: Blood and soil (German: Blut und Boden) is a slogan expressing the nineteenth-century German idealization of a racially defined national body (“blood”) united with a settlement area (“soil”). By it, rural and farm life forms are not only idealized as a counterweight to urban ones, but are also combined with racist and anti-Semitic ideas of a sedentary Germanic-Nordic peasantry as opposed to (specifically Jewish) nomadism. The contemporary German concept Lebensraum, the belief that the German people needed to reclaim historically German areas of Eastern Europe into which they could expand, is tied to it. “Blood and soil” was a key slogan of Nazi ideology.


What’s Your Damage? | “Heathers – The Musical” @ YA4Ever/Hillcrest

Heathers - The Musical (YA4Ever)When I say the words “High School Musical” to you, what comes to mind?

OK, now what comes to mind after you dismiss an insipid musical on the Disney Channel that had far too many sequels, was far too successful for its own good, and went on to inspire an similarly vapid stage musical done far too many times on actual high school and middle school campuses?

The answer, I hope, is the genre of high school musicals. There are loads and loads of musicals set in high schools, going beyond the Disney titular one (to which the high schoolers among us go “Heh, heh, he said t….”). High school, it seems, is a microcosm for society at large, and the variants of that society boil down to just a few:

  • The Love StoryHigh School Musical fits in this vein, but so do musicals like West Side StoryGrease and Bye Bye Birdie. Possibly Fame: The Musical as well, but more in a “What I DId for Love” sense.
  • The Coming Out Story. A same-sex variant of the love story, providing “a very special episode” along the way. Musicals in this vein include Fame (the movie), Bare: A Rock Opera, and Zanna Don’t.
  • Veiled Political Commentary. Take your political commentary, and move it to a high school setting. Zanna Don’t also fits here, as does Lysistrata Jones.
  • The Bullies. This looks at the impact of being bullied, and being the kid on the outs. Occasionally these are played for humor, but often these go into dark, dark places. Examples in this vein would include Be More ChillSpring AwakeningCarrie, Dear Evan Hansen, and Serial Killer Barbie.

Heathers The Musical, which I saw yesterday at the Hillcrest Center for the Arts (FB) in Thousand Oaks (produced by YA4Ever (FB)), clearly fits in that last vein. I was familiar with the show having heard the cast album (book, music, and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy, based on the film by Daniel Waters); however, I had never seen the original movie. When I found out through the Thousand Oaks Acorn that it was being produced, I wanted to squeeze it into my schedule so I could put the story with the music. Sitting through it, I couldn’t help think about the parallels with Carrie and Serial Killer Barbie; however, Heathers left me with the feeling that it was even darker in its resonance, even though it ended up with a somewhat positive message (just like Serial Killer Barbie). Perhaps that’s because, unlike with Barbara and the Debbies, Veronica did not kill all the Heathers. But perhaps I’m ahead of myself.

Wikipedia has a detailed synopsis of the musical, which after reading the synopsis of the movie has some distinct changes therefrom. The elevator synopsis is that there’s this girl, Veronica Sawyer, who is feeling the pressures of high school and wanting to fit in. She’s someone who cares a lot about others (not good in high school), especially her friend Martha who is fubsy. She’s at the lower end of the high school pecking order, being picked on by the jocks (Kurt Kelly and Ram Sweeney), and especially by the trio of girls that run the school, Debbie, Debby, and Debbi, uh, make that Heather Chandler, Heather McNamera, and Heather Duke. When the Heathers discover Veronica can create realistic forgeries, they adopt her to use her against others for pain and profit. Into the picture comes Jason Dean (JD), a new kid to whom Heather is attracted. Suffice it to say that JD is damaged goods, and starts getting Veronica into situations where those who have worked against are offed, starting with Heather Chandler (which they make look like suicide), and the jocks (who they make look like a gay suicide pact). This starts up a conversation about suicide, leading to a point where they are about to bomb the high school, killing the students therein. [Cue up “Going to War” by Joe Iconis]  But Veronica comes to her senses, saves the day, and changes the conversation.

Did I mention this was a dark and disturbed musical? So Joe Iconis.

You can easily understand why this has a caution warning. Here we have numerous killings, discussions of suicide, and ending with the bombing of a high school. What’s not to love? Umm, let’s try again: This doesn’t take you to a happy place, although the ending is more uplifting that Carrie.

So this is an interesting musical. I’m certainly glad that I saw it. I wonder, though, what this genre and the direction it has been moving says about society and our youth. We’ve gone from the optimism of the 50s and 60s — the Bye Bye Birdie and Grease era, to the disaffection and apathy and damage of Heathers and Serial Killer Barbie. This isn’t anything new — Spring Awakening is a story from the 1800s. But perhaps — just perhaps — there’s hope for optimism in the ending message of HeathersBarbie, and Evan Hansen: That we are individuals, and as individuals we have value, and that we must stand up to the bullies and be proud of who we are — and get help for when circumstances are too much. We can rejoice in someone like Veronica finding her inner strength, while recognizing the situations that created Kurt and Ram, the Heathers, and particularly JD — and wish that we could have found a way to get them help while we still could.

So let’s move to the stories and the performances. I was unfamiliar with YA4Ever before the show; evidently, they are an organization sponsored by a number of Conejo Valley (read: Thousand Oaks) organizations to provide theatre opportunies to teens, under the guidance of more seasoned professionals from the local theatre community. Translation: Theatre for teens, with talent of varying skills. Overall, I was impressed by the talent of this crew, under the direction of Timothy Reese. No, they weren’t perfect. But they were damn good in their performance, and most were strong in their singing, and they put on a very enjoyable show. They are a talented group, and I hope they continue their training and performance and grow, and that we see them move to larger regional and national stages.

One who I feel could certainly do that is their lead, Carly Jean Paul as Veronica Sawyer. She captured the character perfectly, had a wonderfully sardonic attitude and look, and just came across as, well, Veronica. And boy, could she sing. I truly enjoyed listening to her. I hope that she goes far in her career.

Alas, I can’t be quite as superlative about her compatriot, Jared Price as Jason Dean. Price had the performance part down pat. He nailed the character, the disaffection, and the anger perfectly. However, he was only about 90% there on the singing. That’s not a major fault — remember, this is a teen production and these folks are still early in their careers. I think he can get where he needs to be with some work — and with that work, I think he can do well. So I enjoyed watching his performance; there were just a few moments that needed some improvement. [ETA: I forgot to note that we also saw Price in the recent production Edges at CSUN, and he was strong there, so it might just have been an anomalous performance.]

This brings us to the Heathers: Karlee Squires as Heather Chandler (Red), Kate Freuhling as Heather McNamera (Yellow), and Shayde Bridges as Heather Duke (Green). Squires was spectacular as Heather Chandler. Strong singing, strong characterization, and fun to watch. I also enjoyed watching the characterizations of Bridges and Freuhling — especially in period after they were no longer just appendages to Heather Chandler, but I don’t recall their individual singing voices as strongly.

Martha Dunnstock was played by Francesca Barletta (FB), who we’ve seen many times on the stages at Cabrillo / 5-Star. She’s very talented, has a remarkable singing voice (shown here in “Kindergarten Boyfriend”), and does comedy well. We always enjoy seeing her.

The jocks — Jack Powell as Kurt Kelley and Tal Toker as Ram Sweeney — captured their roles perfectly. They were like every jock that I hated in high school. What a perfect characterization :-). They also sang well, especially in their big number “Blue” (a topic I’d never thought I would see on stage — evidently, there’s a “high school” version of this where they cut that song out — can’t imagine why).

Turning to the adults: Hannah Rachel Tamkin  as Mrs. Fleming / Veronica’s Mom, Ryan DeRemer as Ram’s Dad / Veronica’s Dad / Coach Ripper, and William Carmichael as Kurt’s Dad / Big Bud Dean / Principal Gowan. Tamkin was a hoot as Mrs. Fleming — we’ve all seen that type of teacher — capturing her character well. She did reasonably well with “Lifeboat”, but there were a few off points. Otherwise, her singing was strong — and I love her character and performance. The two guys were great, and were standout in their main joint song, “My Dead Gay Son” (which is a real fun song). But their various characters were all different and good.

Rounding out the cast were the rest of the students, name more for their character traits than anything else: Stephanie Rojo [Stoner Chick]; Wyatt Eaton  [Hipster Dork]; Michelle Johnson [Young Republicanette]; Jack Cleary [Beleaguered Geek]; Meagan Chew  [New Wave Girl]; and Noah Canada  [Preppy Jock]. These characters don’t get significant characterizations in the script, but the ensemble member did well with them. More importantly, they danced and sang well as a group, and were enjoyable to watch.

Speaking of movement: Sarah Fanella‘s choreography worked well and was enjoyable to watch.

Tyler Stouffer (FB), who we’ve seen before on the stages of Cabrillo, was behind the baton this time as Music Director and Conductor of an orchestra consisting of David Galvan [Keyboard 1], Zach Ragan [Keyboard 2], Gohan Ruiz [Guitar],  Marco Bohler [Bass], Matthew Case [Drums], Allegra Edelnant [Violin], and Andrew Shousha [Reeds]. The orchestra provided a good sound for the space.

Turning to the production team: Director Timothy Reese‘s scenic design was simple: a gymnasium floor, some lockers hiding other props, and some sliding walls in back. It worked well for the constraints of the Hillcrest stage. It was assisted by the clever props of Lauren Alexander. Jenna Friedman’s costumes worked well to establish their characters and provide the visual distinctions, together with Victoria Reese’s hair and Alexis Abrams ‘s makeup. I think this was most notable in the transformations of the adults. Tamarra Sylber’s sound design mostly worked — the balance was good, although some individual microphones were cutting in and out. Interesting fact from the search — Sylber had a project at the 2014 California State Science Fair (where I’m a judge, although she wasn’t in my category). Nick Sheppard’s lighting design worked well to establish the mood. Rounding out the production credits: Paul Cranmer [Production Photographer]; Scott Chew [Technical Director]; Mariah Tobin [Asst. Director]; Peyton Pugh [Stage Manager]; and Natalie DeSavia [Producer]. YA4Ever was founded by Nick Berke (FB) and Ruthy Froch (FB).

Unfortunately, I caught the last performance of Heathers – The Musical. However, this show has brought YA4Ever (FB) onto my RADAR, and I hope to catch more of their productions — especially if they continue to do edgy and less produced work like this.

[ETA: This post originally had my usual links to the FB pages of the artists. They were removed at the specific request of the director, who believed he was protecting his team’s privacy. As someone who professionally works in cybersecurity, my professional ethics require me to point out that “security through obscurity” provides no security. I find FB links to people — as well as professional pages — in two ways: Searching the name on Google, or checking the friends lists of the people I have found. If this brings up an artist FB page, I use that and mark it with ★.  If you want to protect your FB, that is your responsibility.  What I can do, others can do as well. Here are some useful links to help: Cnet, BT, Trusted Reviews, Facebook. Make your friends list visible only to friends, make your posts friends only, make it so people cannot tag you. You have no privacy when you make things public; potential employers will do the exact same thing that I do. Think about the image you project with what is publicly available. When I suggested to the director that he tell his team this, he blamed me for not getting permission to link beforehand (something that is not required when citing public information). Also, for future reference, I do have a priority order when linking to non-FB pages: 1st, the artists web site (if not marked as infected); 2nd, a posted resume; 3rd, a credit list on, 4th a credit list on or or; 5th, an article about the person and their skills; 6th, a linked-in or youtube page showcasing their skills; 7th, Instagram or Twitter. The reason for these links is to show credits and make it so potential employers can contact them about opportunities (I like what you do, I promote you). This is similar to the bio in the program. In short, the Internet is a tool: you control what you project and put up. If you don’t want people to see things, don’t post them. Lastly, I will always remove links on a specific request, or replace them if I have found the wrong link.]


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:

Next weekend currently has no theatre; instead, there is a So Cal Games Day and a Walking Tour of Jewish Boyle Heights. The last weekend of January brings The Pirates of Penzance at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB).

February is busier. It starts with the Cantor’s Concert at Temple Ahavat Shalom (FB). The following weekend brings our first Actors Co-op (FB) production of 2018: A Walk in the Woods. Mid-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.