🎭 Finishing the Fringe – Tubas and Beatniks at HFF18

userpic=fringeWhew. For me, the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) for 2018 is over. Sunday I saw my last two shows, and as with Saturday’s shows, they were prime examples of what Fringe is: a well-done solo biographical piece, an a workshop of a very good new musical that hopefully is on its way for a longer life. But first, for one last time, my explanation of what Fringe is:

* For those unfamiliar with  Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), there are over 390 different shows occurring in the heart of Hollywood, with most along the stretch of Santa Monica Blvd from Western to W of LaBrea, and between Hollywood Blvd and Melrose. The shows run from 5 minutes to 2 hours, from one person shows to gigantic casts, from mimes to musicals. They have one — and only one — thing in common: they have to be able to load into a theatre in 15 minutes or less, and get out afterwards in the same time. You never know what you will see: it could be complete crap, it could be the start of a major new show. The shows and scheduling thereof are a nightmare to coordinate, but you could easily end up seeing four to five shows in a day. However, you can be guaranteed of a good time.

And now, on to Sunday’s shows. By the way, don’t worry if you missed some Fringe shows. Some of the best of the best of the Fringe will be extended into July; check the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) website for extension information.


A Reasonable Fear of Tubas (HFF18)I’ve noted before that a common characteristic of almost any Fringe festival is the solo show. Sometimes, this is a show where a single actor portrays a single character, as I saw in the excellent Ingersoll Speaks Again! early in the Festival. Often, however, the solo show is biographical, where the performer wants to impart a particular message or lesson based on their experience to the audience. Over the years, we’ve seen a wide variety of show shows; I recall one last year my wife just loved. This year, we’ve seen a broad range. In one, the performer came across as unprepared, and her message was muddled as a result (luckily, I’ve heard that although she was upset at my review, she’s taken my comments to heart and is improving her show — which makes me happy). The second solo show of this type was a bit muddled and needed some tightening, but did get its message across. The third was simply spectacular, although was a bit less autobiographical. I’m pleased to say that the last show of this type I saw, A Reasonable Fear of Tubas, hit that sweet spot: a well-done autobiographical show that got its message across well but didn’t overstay its welcome.

In A Reasonable Fear of Tubasauthor and performer Stacy Patterson (FB) tells us the story of her life, presenting numerous entertaining incidents that provide the basis for her assertion that she was reasonably fearless. She tells stories of situations where friends would have flinched, of not being afraid of heights, not being afraid of this and that. All these stories provide the basis for her exposure of her crippling fear, that came across in 1975 when she saw (insert music cue), the movie Jaws. That awakened her fear of sharks, and that fear began to cripple her near any body of water — first at the coast, then inland, and then even on TV, because — well, you know — cartoon sharks. But she then turns to the facts on sharks, and how so many of them are just killed for their fins, and then tossed to die and suffocate in the water. She doesn’t indicate whether she can now accept sharks, but she does note that she is no longer crippled by them. She then goes on to explain the title: what made sharks extra scary in the movie was not the shark itself, but the music — intentionally played by tubas out of key to amplify the fear.

Throughout the production, she is presenting slides from her childhood, which come up when she expects them to come up. More over, she’s not using the slides to tell the story (as I would with a Powerpoint); rather, the slides just illustrate the incident she has just told (for example, her at the top of a tall tall tree). She’s entertaining, energetic, and most importantly, knows her story and tells it without reference to anything else. It was just an entertaining show.

About the only drawback to the show was the lack of any program. The “program” such as it was, was the show’s advertising postcard. That tells me nothing about the experience of Ms. Patterson; I only know what I learned from the show (and what I have learned subsequently writing up this post).

The show was directed by Christian Davis. There were no other credits provided; in particular, no stage manager or technical support credits were provided.

Sunday was the last performance of Tubas; I have no idea if it is being extended by the venue.


Beatniks (HFF18)My last Fringe show for the 2018 Fringe Festival was a new musical, Beatniks. The musical, with book, lyrics, and music by Davia Schendel (FB, IG), was ostensibly about the “beat generation“, which Wikipedia describes as: “a literary movement started by a group of authors whose work explored and influenced American culture and politics in the post-World War II era. The bulk of their work was published and popularized throughout the 1950s. Central elements of Beat culture are rejection of standard narrative values, spiritual quest, exploration of American and Eastern religions, rejection of materialism, explicit portrayals of the human condition, experimentation with psychedelic drugs, and sexual liberation and exploration.” It was also, at least based on the title, about “beakniks” themselves, which Wikipedia describes as “a media stereotype prevalent throughout the 1950s to mid-1960s that displayed the more superficial aspects of the Beat Generation literary movement of the 1950s. Elements of the beatnik trope included pseudo-intellectualism, drug use, and a cartoonish depiction of real-life people along with the spiritual quest of Jack Kerouac’s autobiographical fiction.”

I’m not sure how all of those particular aspects of beat culture came across in the musical itself; certainly, most of the stereotypical aspects of beatniks and beak culture weren’t there (i.e., dressing in all black, turtlenecks, etc.), except for the heavy smoking. In the musical, the beat generation came across as one obsessed more with poetry and writing (back when you could earn as much as a folk singer by being a poet), and with the exploration of life and feelings.

At this point, I would normally attempt a synopsis of the story. That’s difficult, as there was a bit of convolution to it; further, the program itself provides little after-the-fact memory jogs such as a song or scene list. That could be intentional, as the story still still in development. The story appears to start off with two friends, Audre and Diane, who are heavily into the poetry scene, discussing life in college as they are about to head off to different college. Each has different literary aspirations. Once the story moves to college, the story centers around two main groups of characters attempting to find their way in the beat generation, make a living, get published, and pay the bills. One revolves around friends Joyce and Elise, which Joyce being the main point of interest. Joyce becomes friends with publishers LeRoi and Hettie; they introduce her to Jack. Jack swiftly hooks up with Joyce, before going off on the road for a long distance romance. Meanwhile, Elise has started to hook up with another beat poet, Allen. Allen has been serving as muse to Diane, encouraging her career while’s hooking up with a fellow beat poet, Peter. Diane becomes pregnant, has the baby, but attempt to keep writing poetry while balance motherhood along the way, still getting published and keeping in touch with Audre. They all come back together at the end.

If you notice, in that description, I left last names out of it. That’s because all of the people in the show are actually named after real-life people. Diane, the main character, is Diane di Prima, who actually did attend Swarthmore (one of the schools at which the musical takes place), and whose first book of poetry, This Kind of Bird Flies Backward, was published in 1958 by Hettie and LeRoi Jones‘ Totem Press. Yes, the Hettie and LeRoi mentioned in the synopsis. Hettie Jones and LeRoi Jones were friends with many of the major beat poets, such as Allen Ginsberg (yes, the Allen in the story) and Jack Kerouac (yes, the Jack in the story); they actually hired di Prima as an editor.  Audre referred to Audre Lorde, although Lorde’s involvement with any of the other beat characters is unclear.  Elise Cowen was another beat generation poet who became friends with Joyce Johnson (then Joyce Glassman — yes, the Joyce in the story). At the same time, Cowen was introduced to Ginsberg by a psychology professor. A romantic involvement followed in the spring and summer of 1953, but Ginsberg soon met and fell in love with Peter Orlovsky (yes, the Peter in the story). In parallel, Joyce Glassman became involved with Jack Kerouac; in fact, Ginsberg arranged for Glassman and Kerouac to meet on a blind date while she was working on her first novel, Come and Join the Dance. Floating in and out of this was Neal Cassady, who is also in the musical, who appeared both in Ginsberg’s poems and Kerouac’s writings,

So here’s the problem; The musical focuses on all these real characters. It pays a lot of attention to real relationships that developed between subsets of the characters in real life, and it is clear all — or most — of the characters knew each other at some point. So is this a real story, based on research? Is it a version of Million Dollar Quartet, where it is an imagined interaction between the characters? To what extent is this fictional; and if it is, where are the fictional characters? Further, being built around real characters makes it much harder to have a protagonist who has a quest or a want for something, and goes on that journey to achieve it, finding something else along the way. None of that is made clear.

However, it doesn’t need to be … yet. This is a Fringe musical, in its second mounting (the first was in the UCLA Botanical Gardens). It still has a substantial gestation period and dramaturgy to go through prior to a major mounting. For what it is, the maturity was remarkable. The music itself was pretty strong, although a few songs sounded similar. I particularly liked the “Land of Cardigans” song about Barnard, and the number sung by Kerouac on the ukulele about the blues. For the most part, the songs seemed not to be novelty numbers; they did what songs in a musical should do — move the story along. I’ll note that the group developing this musical is all out of the UCLA Musical Theatre program; as a UCLA grad myself (BS ’82, MS ’85, School of Engineering), I can confidently say the high quality must be in part from the excellent education they received there 🙂 ).

Another thing that was strong were the performance. In what I would characterize as the lead female positions were Rachel Berman (FB) as Diane di Prima, and Roxy Seven (FB) as Joyce Glassman. Both were remarkable — strong voices, strong performances, strong characterizations. I was particularly taken with the emotion that came through Seven’s voice, and with her facial expressions. Both were delightful to watch.

On the male side in leading positions were Matt Curtin (FB) as Allen Ginsberg and Brady Richards (FB) as Jack Kerouac. Curtin captured the neuroticism of Ginsberg well and gave a strong performance. SImilarly with Richards; I was also impressed with his singing and ukulele playing, which worked very well.

Supporting the female leads were Nola Faye Dodd (FB; IG) as Elise Cowen and Autumn Sylve (FB) as Audre Lorde. Both inhabited their characters well and had strong vocal performances. Rounding out the somewhat larger performances were Scottie Nevil (FB) as Hettie Jones, and Dennis Woullard (FB) as LeRoi Jones. Both gave strong performances and had good voices, although Nevil could use a bit more strength behind hers.

Rounding out the ensemble in smaller roles were Kyle Frattini (FB) as Neal Cassady, and Charles Platt (FB) as Professor Williams / Peter Orlovsky.

Music direction was by Mina Bloom (FB), who also played piano and helped workshop this production in 2017 with her Dually Noted Theatre (FB). Rounding out the band were Austin Chanu (FB) [Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute]; Kyle Lesh (FB) [Guitar]; Marion Meyerson (FB) [Bass]; and JJ Ross (FB) [Drums].

There was no choreography credit; presumably, the dances and movement were developed by the director,  Davia Schendel (FB, IG), as yet another hat.  As this was a Fringe production, the scenic aspects were limited by time and budget (although the Beatniks team can always use your donations).  Costumes were by Jared Davis (FB), and were surprisingly not black or bereted (i.e., stereotypical beatnik). Phoebe Balson (FB) was the stage manager.

This was the last performance of Beatniks at Fringe, unless they get an extension. This is a show that I expect will continue, as it shows quite a bit of promise. I’m sure they can use any donations to help them on the way.

***

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 (FBז״ל, a mini-subscription at the Soraya [nee the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (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:

It’s June — ah, June. That, my friends, means only one thing: the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), Here’s our June schedule:

July will be a tad less busy. It starts with the 50th Anniversary of Gindling Hilltop Camp, followed by On Your Feet at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). For the next weekend, as Jane Eyre The Musical from Chromolume Theatre (FB) looks to be a dead parrot ⚰🐦., we’ve replaced it with Tabletop, a reading of a new musical about tabletop RPGs at the Charles Stewart Howard Playhouse (FB). The third weekend in July brings a Bat Mitzvah in Victorville, and Beauty and The Beast at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) that evening on Saturday, and a hold for the OperaWorks (FB) “Opera ReConstructed” at CSUN on Sunday. The last weekend may be a Muse/ique (FB) show. August starts with Waitress at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) on Saturday, and the Actors Co-Op Too! production of Always Andrews: A Musical Tribute to the Andrews Sisters on Sunday at Actors Co-op (FB). The next weekend brings the last Actors Co-Op Too! production, Twelfth Night, or What You Will at Actors Co-op (FB). There may also be a production of The Most Happy Fella at MTW — I’m not sure about it, but the hold date is on the calendar.

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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🎭 The Power of Theatre – Cheese, Monday Morning, and Goat Testicles @ HFF18

userpic=fringeJust as my first two shows on Saturday at  the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) showed the range of the Fringe Festival; my second two Saturday shows showed the power of the Fringe Festival to showcase new work that is an essential commentary of our times. Fringe is interesting in that way. At the 2017 festival, the emotion from Trump’s election was exposed and raw, and there were numerous shows about the President that were equally raw, and came from a place of fear, which far too unfortunately has proven to be well justified. This year, the predominant theme came from the #MeToo movement, and there were numerous shows on that subject. I didn’t go to see many in that vein, but today’s shows touched on other raw issues: the issue of race and the legacy of hate in the South, and the dangerous power of demagogues and charlatans who give the people what they want, even if it isn’t in their interest. But first, however, the obligatory description of the Fringe, and an upfront PS:

* For those unfamiliar with  Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), there are over 390 different shows occurring in the heart of Hollywood, with most along the stretch of Santa Monica Blvd from Western to W of LaBrea, and between Hollywood Blvd and Melrose. The shows run from 5 minutes to 2 hours, from one person shows to gigantic casts, from mimes to musicals. They have one — and only one — thing in common: they have to be able to load into a theatre in 15 minutes or less, and get out afterwards in the same time. You never know what you will see: it could be complete crap, it could be the start of a major new show. The shows and scheduling thereof are a nightmare to coordinate, but you could easily end up seeing four to five shows in a day. However, you can be guaranteed of a good time.

P.S.: For those that didn’t see this post, I — a stalwart audience member, who have never been on the other side — has been inspired by Fringe, and am thinking about how theatre could explore cybersecurity. If you’re interested in helping, contact me. If not, at least read The High Assurance Brake Job linked in that post.

Now, on to the remaining Saturday shows:


Cheese & Things / Monday Morning (HFF18)Monday Morning / Cheese & Things was actually two shows in one: a ten-minute opening show (which was a comedy), and a fifty minute full-on drama.

Cheese & Things, the opening show written and directedy by L. P. Dohi (FB), was set at a baby shower with two friends waiting for the reveal of the baby’s sex. It starts with one woman, Sydney, talking about about how she masturbates, and has no use for men. This shocks the other woman, Frances, and the discussion continues on in a sexual vein. There are discussions about how women only reach orgasm during sex about half the time; about how women faking it ruins men who then think they know how to bring women off. One woman reveals she’s afraid to go out with men because 9 out of 10 women killed were killed by a man. This leads to one of the best retorts of the show: “That you know of.” There are also discussions about women’s periods, the use of tampons vs. diva cups, and so forth.

I’m not sure that this opener delves into any particular deep areas, although I’m sure for the ladies in the audience it was quite cathartic, and expressed some of what they felt. As a guy in the audience, however, I’m unsure how I was supposed to react (especially as one whom I’m discovering is less than typical, for I listen to and respect my wife, and follow the adage of when she’s happy, I’m happy). In many ways, my reaction as a man was similar to my reaction to They’ll Be Some Changes Made, in that it tended to present a one-sided, somewhat stereotypical, view of men. But then again, I’m an outlier in that area, and media tends not to show the atypical.

Setting that aside, I still found the play quite funny and enjoyable.

The two women, Bessie Jo Hill (FB) as Sydney and Natalie Davis (FB) as Frances had good comic timing and a great chemistry together. They were very believable as their characters. The author of their sibling from another mother play, Nathan Trumbull (FB), played the partner of the target of the baby shower, and popped in his head occasionally.

After the whine and cheese appetizer (should I duck and run?), we came to the meat of this Fringe show, the play Monday Morning by the aforementioned Nathan Trumbull (FB). This play was simply spectacular, and held my interest and focus throughout.

Monday Morning tells the story of two co-defensive coordinators for the Old Miss Rebels, Charles (who is black) and Mack (who is white). On the Monday morning after a game against Florida State, Charles walks in to discover that Mack is asleep on the office couch; he has a hangover, and indicates that his wife threw him out the night before because of something he had done. After some back and forth character establishing conversation that demonstrates the depth of friendship between these two, Charles turns on the news and we learn that the night before there had been a rally against tearing down a Civil War statue on campus that had turned violent. For some reason, Mack keeps turning off the radio. They eventually start plotting their avenue of attack for the game against LSU the next weekend. Mack has a number of players he thinks are key to winning the game, when Charles informs him that they may not be able to field those players. Mack can’t understand why, and then Charles brings up why he wanted to hear about the rally the previous night. It seems that a number of players had been at the rally the previous night, and a few of the black ones had been arrested and released, after one of white players — who wasn’t arrested — joined in with the white supremacist fraternity in singing a racist and hateful song, and waving a flag with the Dixie banner. Mack then goes to his locker and pulls out what appears to be the Confederate Battle Flag, but that he then reveals to be the Mississippi state flag. Charles notes that that flag is banned on campus, and its display could be viewed as a hate crime. This leads to a discussion on how the police treated the black players, should they be suspended for a game — all of which Mack supports. But then, when the discussion turns to the white player, things turn even uglier. Charles wants to pull his scholarship for his involvement in hate crimes — something against the student handbook. Mack protests, and in the discussion of that protest, the real reason Mack was hired in the first place is revealed, and Mack’s ugliest side reveals himself.

This is a topic in this news, and one vital to the day — especially as our leaders are working to divide this nation based on race and skin color, and as we see white supremacy raising its ugly ugly head (and I see many white conservative friends defending the police behavior of white officers against blacks, and defending the legacy of the Civil War). I think this play is a must see for the story it tells and the message it imparts. It exposes the undercurrent of hate far too visible today.

Under the direction of Wolfgang Bodison (FB), the performances were spectacular and riveting. As Charles, C. W. Smith (FB) provides the voice of reason, with a clearly visible seething under the surface that you can see him controlling. Mack, as played by Grayson Low (FB), is more clearly the good-ole-boy Southerner who is laid back about what happened — but who too has a violent side that — unlike Charles — does appear to surface, in a quite ugly way, at times.

The program provides no production credits for things like costume or the set/prop design. There is also no specific credit for producer, and the stage manager isn’t credited either.

I think this combination of appetizer and main dish is well worth seeing. Cheese & Things is quite funny, and Monday Morning is quite spectacular and topical. They represent — in a more traditional one-act play sense — the best of what Fringe could be.

This was supposedly the final performance of Monday Morning” and “Cheese & Things”. But check their Fringe website, for I hope that someone sees clear to give them an extension.


The Dangerous Cures of Dr. B (HFF18)As you probably know, attending theatre and writing up shows isn’t my day job. I work full time in El Segundo, and commute daily from Northridge. When I drive the vanpool, I play podcasts. Sometime in February or March I played a recent episode of the wonderful Reply All podcast from Gimlet Media (FB) about a charlatan doctor in Kansas, Dr. John R. Brinkley.  That podcast was about what happened when new technology (in this case, radio) fell into the wrong hands, and how people were convinced — thanks to the power of the media — to do things that were clearly not in their best interest, even though they were thoroughly and completely convinced that they were.

In The Dangerous Cures of Dr. B, , conceived and directed by Ben Landmesser (FB), and created by The Puckwit Gang (FB), the story of Dr. John R. Brinkley is presented as an allegory for a different demagogue, who is currently in vogue and — alas — in leadership, who has convinced a large number of people through the power of personality that he, too, is their savior. As a result, these people support him although clearly what he is doing is not in their self interest either.

To understand the allegory, you need to know who Brinkley was. One website captures it succinctly:

From 1917 through the 1930s, physician John Brinkley made millions of dollars by implanting goat testicles in men to restore their virility.

You are not misreading that. Goat testicles. Brinkley, who never finished medical school, was a “doctor” whose claim to fame was supposedly restoring virility by convincing men that they could have the sexual prowess of goats if they implanted goat testicles in their body. He later got a radio station, and his clinic shot to fame through well produced radio shows, broadcast across the country, where his snake oil was sold (even as the nascent AMA fought him). After he was exposed, he turned to politics. He ran for Governor of Kansas, but ultimately lost after voter tampering and fraud was uncovered.

The Puckwit Gang takes that story — which they also learned about from Reply All — uses it to drawn an unspoke analogy to Donald Trump. They use it as a lesson about how a snake oil salesman, who knows how to use a new medium to his advantage, and who knows how to twist the truth, can convince people who are desperate to believe in him, and to support things that clearly will destroy them (blinding them all the while to the actual dangers). They show how the power of persuasion and belief, in the right hands, can dupe even well educated professionals to the point that it endangers their lives.

See what I mean about dark, deep, and timely resonate messages.

The show itself is structured as a radio show, where we get to meet Brinkley’s wife, Minnie who is acting as Brinkley’s proxy in promoting his work. The show also includes two folk performers, a couple down from Minnesota who have come for Brinkley’s services, and two AMA doctors who are there to expose him. There is also Dr. B  himself, who is silent and has his back to the audience for much of the show. We learn that the Minnesota couple are there because they wife is unable to have a child because of her husband’s virility problem. After promising to mortgage their family farm, Brinkley agrees to help them. After a hilarious scene where he picks his goat, and the goat gets a snip-snip, the balls are implanted and the man is seemingly restored. We also see the travels of the folk performers, where one is an ardent supporter of Dr. B and the other is an abuser of Dr. B’s tonics and tinctures. Lastly, we learn more about the AMA doctors. One is completely convinced that Dr. B. is a fraud and is attempting to convince the world of it. The other believes in Dr. B, thinks he is misunderstood, and travels to Kansas to undergo the procedure — to disastrous results. The show ends with Dr. B on trial, and when Dr. B takes the stand, we learn that what is in his head is… radio static.

As Dr. B’s wife, Daniela Whipple (FB) has a chilling portrayal of someone who is taking advantage of the cult of personality around Dr. B for her family’s gain. She is a willing accomplice, smiling and subtly moving things along, ignoring the questions.

The folk singers are portrayed by the wonderful Garrett Crough (FB) and Jess Weaver (FB). They open the show, and throughout the show interject humor and music. Now, I happen to like folk and bluegrass, and this duo is excellent. I would have enjoyed an entire show of just them giving a concert and playing off of each other. Two great performers.

The couple from Kansas is portrayed by Christian Gnecco Quintero (FB) and Mari Assad (FB). Quintero does a wonderful job of capturing the two different sides of the man, John. One — pre-surgery — is pessimistic and dour. The other — post-surgery — is hopped up and bouncing, and believes whatever Dr. B is selling. Assad captures the hopeful wife well. First, she is hoping to have children. Later, after becoming pregnant, she represents someone who still has her doubts, but is willing to swallow all of the potions that Dr. B’s clinic dispenses if it will help her have her child. It is notable that she is the first to give up on Dr. B when he is exposed. Both were great performances.

The two AMA doctors were portrayed by Pablo Castelblanco (FB) and Samantha West (FB). Castelblanco is strong as the real doctor who is willing to believe in Dr. B. His performance during his surgery and immediately afterwards is great. West is one of those actors who has a look that just draws my eye. She was wonderful as the AMA doctor that is fighting the quackery and the cult surrounding Dr. B. Her portrayal captured someone who knows a fraud when she sees it, and who gets frustrated when people knowingly believe the fraudster.

Ben Landmesser (FB) silently and smiling-ly portrays Dr. B himself.

The show featured arrangements of “May The Circle Be Unbroken” and “Blackwater Side”, as well as original compositions, by Garrett Crough (FB) and Jess Weaver (FB). Artwork was by Dwight Chesbro (FB). Meagan Truxal (FB) was the stage manager.

The Dangerous Cures of Dr. B is an example of the other type of Fringe show: a show that uses humor to get across a very serious point. In this case, the humor serves to deflate the power of the cult of personality. Dr. B serves as a metaphor for President Trump, and the dangerous cult that surrounds both, oblivious to the fact they are working against their own interests. This is a show that must be seen, although, alas, in Los Angeles it is so much preaching to the choir.

I was at the last performance of The Dangerous Cures of Dr. B, although there is always the possibility of a Fringe extension. Watch their Fringe page for more information.

***

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 (FBז״ל, a mini-subscription at the Soraya [nee the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (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:

It’s June — ah, June. That, my friends, means only one thing: the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), Here’s our June schedule:

July will be a tad less busy. It starts with the 50th Anniversary of Gindling Hilltop Camp, followed by On Your Feet at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). For the next weekend, as Jane Eyre The Musical from Chromolume Theatre (FB) looks to be a dead parrot ⚰🐦., we’ve replaced it with Tabletop, a reading of a new musical about tabletop RPGs at the Charles Stewart Howard Playhouse (FB). The third weekend in July brings a Bat Mitzvah in Victorville, and Beauty and The Beast at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) that evening on Saturday, and a hold for the OperaWorks (FB) “Opera ReConstructed” at CSUN on Sunday. The last weekend may be a Muse/ique (FB) show. August starts with Waitress at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) on Saturday, and the Actors Co-Op Too! production of Always Andrews: A Musical Tribute to the Andrews Sisters on Sunday at Actors Co-op (FB). The next weekend brings the last Actors Co-Op Too! production, Twelfth Night, or What You Will at Actors Co-op (FB). There may also be a production of The Most Happy Fella at MTW — I’m not sure about it, but the hold date is on the calendar.

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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🎭 A Mouth that Doesn’t Speak, and a Cowboy Mouth That Does @ HFF18

userpic=fringeWe’re coming down to the home stretch of the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) — the last weekend. SaturdayI had four shows; Sunday I have two Fringe shows and one traditional musical. The first two Fringe shows — after I got to the theatre after being stuck in the traffic nightmare created by the 7th Annual Hollywood Cultural Festival that completely closed Hollywood Blvd between Highland and points E of US 101 for an hour — truly demonstrated the breadth of the beast that is Fringe. The first was a mime show — yes, a mime show; the second was a traditional short play written by two well known artists. But first, as is traditional, my description of the Fringe Festival:

* For those unfamiliar with  Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), there are over 390 different shows occurring in the heart of Hollywood, with most along the stretch of Santa Monica Blvd from Western to W of LaBrea, and between Hollywood Blvd and Melrose. The shows run from 5 minutes to 2 hours, from one person shows to gigantic casts, from mimes to musicals. They have one — and only one — thing in common: they have to be able to load into a theatre in 15 minutes or less, and get out afterwards in the same time. You never know what you will see: it could be complete crap, it could be the start of a major new show. The shows and scheduling thereof are a nightmare to coordinate, but you could easily end up seeing four to five shows in a day. However, you can be guaranteed of a good time.

Now, on to the first show. I should note that, for most of today’s shows, they were shows that I did not pick on my own. I originally left today open, and producers (thinking I was a critic) got in touch with me. If I could work a show into today’s schedule, I did.


Mime Time: Get Out of Your Head (HFF18)As a result of how today was programmed, the first show was a mime show, Mime Time with James Direct Presents: Get Out of Your Head. I’ll start with the good news: it wasn’t the worst show that I saw at Fringe. I’ve written about that before; I understand the artist for some reason is still complaining.

Going into the show, I was in the mood for some humor after the aforementioned traffic jam that was Hollywood Blvd. There were a few good moments in the show, but as the artist, James Direct (FB), noted: (a) this was his return to mime after a while; (b) this was designed as a children’s show; and (c) it was a definite work in progress.

That said, at least he didn’t play the banjo or the accordion :-).

Seriously (and yes, for the record I like banjo music), mime shows can run the gamut. You can have the traditional overdone mime tropes: the mime in the box, the mime pushing the object that doesn’t move, the mime pulling the rope, the mime walking into the wind. You can also have great mime and physical comedy, as the artist Moonie does at the Ren Faire. I think for a mime show to succeed — at any age — they need to play up the sense of the absurd and the childlike nature of things, and move beyond the tried and the true.

Direct’s show was a mix of that. The  tropes were there, and served more to demonstrate his skill as a mime than to be particularly entertaining. But there were wonderfully absurd sketches that worked quite well. The Wedding sequence with the bells was wonderful, as was the Fish Matador sequence. Bringing in the absurdity, the unexpected, the reactions worked well. Potentially, adding some more improvisation could work too. Having the audience write situations that he then had to improvise in mime could lead to the unexpected. His show was certainly entertaining, and he was prepared and knew his material and how to get his point across without words.

I do think that Direct has talent, and with some additional work, I think he could bring this mime show to the next level. The current show is a start on that path. Some sequences (such as the “How To…” bits) can use some trimming, but others show an inventiveness that is nice to see. I look forward to seeing how he matures the work.

As this was the last weekend of Fringe, alas, this was the last performance of this show.


Cowboy Mouth (HFF18)The second Fringe show of the day was at the other end of the spectrum: a traditional play — Cowboy Mouth, written by Sam Shepard and Patti Smith — being mounted as a showcase by some very talented performers.

As playwright Sam Shepard writes on his website, “Cowboy Mouth is a surreal, poetic piece dreamt up by Shepard and Smith in a war of words that lasted for two nights. Every reference in the play is infused with the true character of these two icons and the dynamic of their volatile love affair.” The producers characterized the origin of the play thusly in the program, “In the early 70’s, Sam Shepard and Patti Smith had an ongoing love affair. Cowboy Mouth was birth during a particular two-day tryst, where the two of them spent the days passing drugs, love tequila and a typewriter back and forth in the comfort of the Chelsea Hotel.”

It definitely was poetry, because I’m not quite sure that I understood it.

Summarizing the play is difficult, and so I turn again to Wikipedia:

The play is about Slim and Cavale, two aspiring rock stars living in sin together. Cavale kidnapped Slim at gunpoint and held him captive in her motel room for an unspecified amount of time; the two have fallen in love, in spite of the fact that he has a wife and child in Brooklyn. Unable to move, yet at complete unrest, Slim swings from blaming Cavale for the disaster that is his life to begging her to tell him stories about French poets. Cavale is a former mental patient of some kind. She remembers electric shocks and having to wear metal plates around her club foot when she was younger. She also muses about playing the ugly duckling as a child, being forced into the role without even the satisfaction of emerging as a beautiful swan at the end. The two call on an imaginary Lobster Man for sustenance and entertainment.

I’m not quite sure I picked up on that watching the play, although I do think I got the gist of it. The bigger question, in my mind, was the point that was trying to be made. There was a lot of discussion and a lot of back and forth; there was a lot of drug use and drinking. There were desires discussed, and a few acted upon. And there was a lobster man (who had a fantastic costume). But what sticks with me most is the end of the play, when Slim is allowed to leave and the Lobster Man returns to reality. I think that was the key point of the play — the need to return to normality that was required for Cavale to finally be able to take charge of her long-held dream.

Perhaps. I’m still not sure.

Even if the story was confusing, the performances were strong, under the direction of Sarah-Jean Kruchowski (FB). The leads — Joey Bothwell (FB) as Cavale and Eddie Mills (FB) as Slim — were just spectacular. Strong, emotional, raw, at times dangerous and unhinged. They reflected well the strong personalities and emotions of their characters. Additionally, Bothwell’s singing was beautiful during her one song.

As The Lobster Man, Cameron Barnes (FB), had a smaller and stranger role that was harder to assess. I guess he did it well; his costume, created by Justin Gunn (FB), was remarkable.

Cowboy Mouth was produced by Neely Shamam (FB); Emma Harris was the Associate Producer. There was no credit for the stage manager. The Cowboy Mouth artwork was by Roland LeFox (FB).

This was the last performance of Cowboy Mouth as part of Fringe. I seem to recall the front desk at The Actors Company mentioning an extension (although that could have been a different show), so check the show’s Fringe page for any extension information. I do think it is worth seeing; I was probably not deep enough into that particular rock world to catch all the references.

***

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 (FBז״ל, a mini-subscription at the Soraya [nee the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (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:

It’s June — ah, June. That, my friends, means only one thing: the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), Here’s our June schedule:

July will be a tad less busy. It starts with the 50th Anniversary of Gindling Hilltop Camp, followed by On Your Feet at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). For the next weekend, as Jane Eyre The Musical from Chromolume Theatre (FB) looks to be a dead parrot ⚰🐦., we’ve replaced it with Tabletop, a reading of a new musical about tabletop RPGs at the Charles Stewart Howard Playhouse (FB). The third weekend in July brings a Bat Mitzvah in Victorville, and Beauty and The Beast at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) that evening on Saturday, and a hold for the OperaWorks (FB) “Opera ReConstructed” at CSUN on Sunday. The last weekend may be a Muse/ique (FB) show. August starts with Waitress at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) on Saturday, and the Actors Co-Op Too! production of Always Andrews: A Musical Tribute to the Andrews Sisters on Sunday at Actors Co-op (FB). The next weekend brings the last Actors Co-Op Too! production, Twelfth Night, or What You Will at Actors Co-op (FB). There may also be a production of The Most Happy Fella at MTW — I’m not sure about it, but the hold date is on the calendar.

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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🎭 The Bitches are Back | “Amanda” and Elton John @ HFF18

userpic=fringeJust like our first two Sunday shows themed, so did our last two. For them, the theme was “bitches”. In the first, Amanda the Barbarian, we meet a real bitch as she blurs the line between the theatre and the real world. In the second, we had more of a referential bitch, with a cabaret of Elton John songs, The Bitch is Back. But first, my obligatory explanation of the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB):

* For those unfamiliar with  Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), there are over 390 different shows occurring in the heart of Hollywood, with most along the stretch of Santa Monica Blvd from Western to W of LaBrea, and between Hollywood Blvd and Melrose. The shows run from 5 minutes to 2 hours, from one person shows to gigantic casts, from mimes to musicals. They have one — and only one — thing in common: they have to be able to load into a theatre in 15 minutes or less, and get out afterwards in the same time. You never know what you will see: it could be complete crap, it could be the start of a major new show. The shows and scheduling thereof are a nightmare to coordinate, but you could easily end up seeing four to five shows in a day. However, you can be guaranteed of a good time.

And now, on to our last two Sunday shows….


Amanda The Barbarian (HFF18)When I first did the scheduling of our Fringe shows, I made a mistake: I scheduled two shows at the same time as our tickets for Billy Porter at the Soraya. Luckily, I was able to reschedule both Fringe shows: one was They’ll Be Some Changes Made, which went to Thursday, June 7; the other was The Bitch is Back which went to Sunday 6/17 at 7:00 PM. But that left a large 3 hour hole in our schedule: we were in Hollywood, so could we find something in the general Lounge/3 Clubs/Broadmore/Complex area that was of interest. Reading through the Fringe catalog, we settled on Amanda the Barbarian, which had the following description:

Amanda, the star of a new play and superstar in her own head improvs, breaks the 4th wall, and drinks on stage in this play within a play. She is an animal – eating, loving, smoking, drinking, and stealing all the brightest lights and most beautiful moments that are all there to service her deep cavern of loneliness. A tornado on a high-speed train forcing her first time co-star Jack to play along, an over matched Director to give up, and her current girlfriend and co-star to be fed-up. Amanda The Barbarian is a love-letter to the theatre and to all the people we know who hijack every production.

From this, I expected some sort of odd train wreck: an actor who keeps getting progressively drunker on stage, going further off the rails. That wasn’t quite what I got. That’s not to say it was bad — far from it — just it wasn’t quite what we were expecting.

Amanda the Barbarian, by Scott Langer (FB), turned out to be the story of the production of a play starring the aforementioned Amanda, her live in boyfriend Jack, and her ex-girlfriend Marina, all under the direction of a director that Amanda hated. I’m not sure what the point of that play was, as we see it non-linearly, but the point of the play we were seeing on the Fringe stage was that Amanda was increasingly chafing at the written word. She didn’t like how the character was written, and kept changing the characterization and improvising, making life hell for her fellow actors. Further, this seemed to be bleeding into the real life relationships between the actors, who oddly had the same names as the characters in the on-stage play (this made it difficult to separate the play from “reality”, which might have been the authors point).

Given this, the play was fascinating to watch because you had no idea where it was going. By the end, I’m not sure where it ended up. Was there character growth? Did I feel more sympathetic for Amanda? Did she change? Or was she just a drunken bitch who just kept using people? Even now, almost 24 hours after the show, I’m still not sure.

My reception of the show wasn’t helped by some environmental factors, such as it being too cold in the theatre, or the fact that the scene changes took forever (and thus we were drowsing out). This play needs some serious tightening, both in execution between the scenes, and in the dialogue within the scenes.

As a boardgamer, I also winced everytime they mistreated that poor Monopoly set, but then again — hey, it’s Monopoly, not a real game.

I did think the performances were great. As Amanda, Kristin Walker (★FB, FB) captured the train wreck personality well. She was someone that drew your focus; she was  so fascinating as a character you just watched her to see what see would do next. Wonderful characterization. Also strong was Scott Langer (FB), the author, as her boyfriend. His portrayal of the exasperation of dealing with her was great (and to get drenched with what appeared to be beer, but could be Vernor’s, was a nightmare not only for him but whatever show had that stage next).

In smaller roles were Richard Reich (FB) as the exhausted director from dealing with the bitch that was Amanda, and for a few short  scenes, Frankie Jarvis as Marina. Both captured their characters well.

The production was directed not by “The Director”, but by the author, Scott Langer (FB). Costumes were by Frankie Jarvis. It was produced by Sean Frasier (FB), Kristin Walker (★FB, FB), and Mark Langer.

Alas, the performance we were at was the last performance.


The Bitch is Back (HFF18)After Amanda, it was time to grab a quick dinner at the Taco Truck, and head over to The Three Clubs (FB) for our last show, The Bitch is Back: An Elton John Cabaret. At HFF17, we had a bad experience with Three Clubs: we hadn’t known that bar restrictions were in place, and we had someone under 18 with us. This time that wasn’t the case: we were both (well) over 18, and so I think this was the first time I have been in an actual bar (you don’t want me to drink — I talk more!). Now that we’ve been there, I know the drill for the future and we’ll probably try more shows there. One suggestion for the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), however: For shows such as this one, which are family friendly, you should endeavor to have them in family friendly facilities.

The Bitch is Back is a cabaret produced by Skypilot Theatre (FB), and is evidently a departure from their usual fare. No story. No premise. No characters. This is simply a celebration of Elton John (FB) music performed by members of the company: Chloejane Busick (★FB, FB), Erisa Evelyn Byrd (FB), Kelly Goodman (★FB, FB), Marie Pettit (FB), and TIna Walsch (FB). There are 15 songs performed. Alas, I didn’t have the presence of mind to note the playlist, but there was a good mix of well known hits, and a few obscure ones thrown in.

The cast of the show was clearly having the time of their lives with the music. Their fun was infectious, and most of the audience (especially those a bit more lubricated) were singing along. I’m not a singer, but during at least one number I brought up the Zippo lighter app on my phone. C’mon, you have to, for “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”.

I also appreciated that the cast was not your typical Hollywood model type, but reflected talent of all shapes and sizes. This is always welcome to see.

This, being Fringe, wasn’t a perfect show. A few notes here and there were off, but the audience was having so much fun I don’t think anyone really noted. As someone who grew up in the Elton John era (I still love the entire album of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”), it was just a hoot.

The production was directed by James Carey (FB), with vocal direction by Darci Monet (FB). Lighting and sound design was by The Three Clubs (FB). Kelsey Risher (FB) produced the show, and TIna Walsch (FB) did the program.

Alas, we caught the last performance of this show.

***

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 (FBז״ל, a mini-subscription at the Soraya [nee the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (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:

It’s June — ah, June. That, my friends, means only one thing: the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), Here’s our June schedule:

July will be a tad less busy. It starts with the 50th Anniversary of Gindling Hilltop Camp, followed by On Your Feet at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). For the next weekend, as Jane Eyre The Musical from Chromolume Theatre (FB) looks to be a dead parrot ⚰🐦., we’ve replaced it with Tabletop, a reading of a new musical about tabletop RPGs at the Charles Stewart Howard Playhouse (FB). The third weekend in July brings a Bat Mitzvah in Victorville, and Beauty and The Beast at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) that evening on Saturday, and a hold for the OperaWorks (FB) “Opera ReConstructed” at CSUN on Sunday. The last weekend may be a Muse/ique (FB) show. August starts with Waitress at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) on Saturday, and the Actors Co-Op Too! production of Always Andrews: A Musical Tribute to the Andrews Sisters on Sunday at Actors Co-op (FB). The next weekend brings the last Actors Co-Op Too! production, Twelfth Night, or What You Will at Actors Co-op (FB). There may also be a production of The Most Happy Fella at MTW — I’m not sure about it, but the hold date is on the calendar.

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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🎭 Exploring and Pushing the Boundaries | “Earhart” and “Retro SciFi Futurist” @ HFF18

userpic=fringeAs you’ve probably noted with my news chum posts, I try to find themes. Our first two shows on Sunday had a common theme on exploration: the first looked at Amelia Earhart, a pioneering women aviator; the second looked at how Science Fiction at the time looked forward to the future. But first, my obligatory explanation of the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB):

* For those unfamiliar with  Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), there are over 390 different shows occurring in the heart of Hollywood, with most along the stretch of Santa Monica Blvd from Western to W of LaBrea, and between Hollywood Blvd and Melrose. The shows run from 5 minutes to 2 hours, from one person shows to gigantic casts, from mimes to musicals. They have one — and only one — thing in common: they have to be able to load into a theatre in 15 minutes or less, and get out afterwards in the same time. You never know what you will see: it could be complete crap, it could be the start of a major new show. The shows and scheduling thereof are a nightmare to coordinate, but you could easily end up seeing four to five shows in a day. However, you can be guaranteed of a good time.

And now, on to our Sunday shows….


Amelia Earhart has always fascinated me, both because of her odd disappearance, and because of her pioneering work. As someone who now is part of a group actively promoting women in cybersecurity, her pioneering work is even more fascinating. So when I had a slot available and noticed Earhart – More than a F-ing Mystery (A Musical Flight) in the Fringe catalog, I consulted with my wife (a long time member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE)), and we decided to go. I mean, given our background and the following description, wouldn’t you go? Here’s what was in the catalog:

The story of Amelia Earhart as she breaks the odds, defies stereotypes, and paves the road for anyone to be whatever they dream despite what the rest of the world believes. Like Amelia herself, Earhart is full of strong themes surrounding feminism, equality, and the success of failure, highlighted by an all female cast. For 50 years, Amelia Earhart has been known as only an unexplained mystery, but she was, and is, much more than that – especially today. Earhart delivers the story of a proud, kickass girl, who set out to change the world and to prove once and for all that she is more than a fucking mystery.

Earhart – More than a F-ing Mystery (A Musical Flight) is an interesting show that has quite a bit of promise. In many ways, it reminds me of Gutenberg: The Musical (which we saw in San Diego a few years ago), due to its tongue in cheek attitude and the way that it recognizes that is it a stage show. Right now, the show itself is extremely Fringe-y and at times a bit cheesy, but I think there are some really strong bones that could support taking this forward and making it into something much much more. The basic story combines with a strong set of performances to make this all so wonderful.

The show opens with Dana and Mandy, the “author” and “composer” (who are not the real author and composer), talking about this show they had written about Amelia Earhart, but how it just ends with an unresolved mystery because, well, Amelia’s life ended with an unresolved mystery. At this point, two audience members protest. Claiming to be Earhart’s granddaughters, they point out that her story is much more than just an unresolved mystery: it is an inspiration. At this point, the story transitions to the early days of flight, where the existing guard of men are insisting that women simply cannot fly or be aviators. Earhart is meeting with her promoter and admirer, George Putnam, about her being the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. She’s proud of the achievement, until it is pointed out that she was only a passenger. It is at this point she gets the idea to do it the right way — as the pilot. She works with Putnam (who is also interested in marrying her, while she continually rebuffs him), who helps her find sponsors for the trip. Once the money is raised, she does the flight… and agrees to marry George. However, her flight has one glitch: she lands in Ireland, not Paris. Still, it’s Europe.  But she has also realized that she has fallen in love with the sky — that it, flight itself. She begins to draw away from George, and plan to circumnavigate the globe. She meets her navigator — a noted drunk, Fred Noonan — and takes off on the fateful flight. At this point, the story ends, but the grandchildren come back out. They point out that the flight wasn’t a failure, for look at all the women that were inspired. More importantly, success is built on the bones of failure.

As I said, great message, right?

Throughout the story, there is a gaggle (that’s a technical term) of beautiful young women who are inspired by Earhart in various ways. We also get to meet the 99s, a pioneering women flying group.

Note: I discovered while writing this you can get a sample of the show, as many of the folks were on a podcast about it.

The performances were top-notch — and for some parts of the show, a bit gender-switching. In the lead position was Heather Woodward (Resume) as Amelia Earhart. She had a large number of the songs, and handled them with a lovely strong voice. She also brought quite a bit of humor to the role, and was fun to watch. I particularly liked her “I Wanna Do The Impossible”.

Playing off her for much of the show was Muriel Montgomery (FB) as George Putnam [also Grumpy Old Man #1]. Montgomery also had a nice singing voice and had a good chemistry with Woodward’s Earhart.

The remaining women formed an ensemble that provided the narrator/author, as well as numerous other characters. Dahlya Glick (FB) [Dana, 99s, others]Alexandria McCale (★FB, FB[Mandy, 99s, others]Richelle Meiss (FB) [99s, Grumpy Old Man #2, others];  and Kristen Rozanski (FB) [99s, Grumpy Old Man #3, George Reflection, others]. Alas, we didn’t get a program that told us who was who, but I believe that Glick was the narrator. All were great, fun to watch, and had lovely voices, especially together in songs like “The Ninety-Nines”. I particularly enjoyed listening to Glick and Rozanski; I hope I’ll be able to pick them out on the CD that was available.

The remaining “women” in the cast were the two granddaughters, played by two excellent drag performers, Pocket Turlington (FB, RL)  and Damiana Garcia (FB, RL/FB). My only comment for these two was a costuming one: Garcia needs to do a little better job on keeping her shirt tucked in to that the illusion isn’t broken.

The show featured music and lyrics by Manny Hagopian (FB). The songs were relatively simple but good; I particularly liked the last song about failure being important to success. I didn’t think too much about it at the time, but if the show is to move forward, there may need to be some reexamination of the songs to ensure they do not stand apart, but move to work the plot forward as well as being entertaining.

The show was directed by Greg Smith (FB), who presumably did the movement as well. I always have trouble separating what the director brings from what the actors bring, especially in shows that have good performers and are not over or under directed. This was one of those: the director handled the movement and realism. There were no credits provided for scenery (which wasn’t much), costumes, or hair — but hey, this is Fringe, right? There was also no credit for the fellow at the keyboard in the back.

We found this an enjoyable show. There are two performances during the last weekend of Fringe, and I think it is worth seeing.


Attack of the Retro Sci-Fi Futurist (HFF18)As for our second show of the day, Attack of the Retro Sci-Fi Futurist, it was the description that sold these two long-time science fiction aficionados:

He’s the singer of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV theme song. And now James Mandell has turned the story of sci-fi futurism into an eye-candy multimedia event. Performing live with original music videos, infernal electronics and comic flare, he chronicles the development of this amazing genre in a show spanning 200 years of incredible imagery.

  • SEE! Rare footage from the sci-fi’s first filmmakers.
  • HEAR! Gripping historic radio recordings from the 1930’s.
  • THRILL! To space operas, secret decoder rings and sputtering rocket ships.

It’s a ramp-up to the brilliant future coming for us all – and you’re gonna wanna be there for that!

Yes, this was another one-man show. As I’ve noted before, one man shows can scrape the bottom, they can work well at a pedestrian level, and they can soar to fantastic heights. This show, performed by James Mandell (FB), the man behind the iconic voice of the original “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” theme song, was an exploration of all things Science Fiction. Using a mixture of videos, props, and his own music, Mandell told the story of the evolution of science fiction. He started with the earliest artists such as Mary Shelly, and moved on to folks like H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and much more. All the while, he was illustrating the evolution of the genre — and its predictions — with films and media of the era. His focus was on the origins through the late 1970s.

Mandell had a wonderfully entertaining show. His focus was rarely telling his story (unlike two of our early one-performer shows); his story was that of the evolution of the genre. More importantly, he talked about how the genre was predicting wonderful technology that didn’t always make it out to the public. After all, we’re all still waiting for our flying cars.

The show was filled with cute and inventive music, which isn’t a surprise given that Mandell has four solo albums, and has worked studio sessions as a keyboardist and singer. The songs in the show were drawn from music he had written dealing with a distant retro future.

Attack of the Retro Sci-Fi Futurist was written, directed, and performed by James Mandell (FB). Technical assistance by Joe Tagnipes (FB). Eric Bridges (FB) was the stage manager. Isis Nocturne (★FB) served as social wranger, with Collin Pelton (FB) handling press relations.

We just found this to be a delightful and fun show, with extra fun for those who are actually into science fiction as well are. It is well worth seeing. There is one more performance during the last weekend of Fringe.

Lastly, I’ll note it was between this show and the next that I was ambushed by Princess “Wow”, which I’ve written about earlier.

***

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 (FBז״ל, a mini-subscription at the Soraya [nee the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (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:

It’s June — ah, June. That, my friends, means only one thing: the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), Here’s our June schedule:

July will be a tad less busy. It starts with the 50th Anniversary of Gindling Hilltop Camp, followed by On Your Feet at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). For the next weekend, as Jane Eyre The Musical from Chromolume Theatre (FB) looks to be a dead parrot ⚰🐦., we’ve replaced it with Tabletop, a reading of a new musical about tabletop RPGs at the Charles Stewart Howard Playhouse (FB). The third weekend in July brings a Bat Mitzvah in Victorville, and Beauty and The Beast at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) that evening on Saturday, and a hold for the OperaWorks (FB) “Opera ReConstructed” at CSUN on Sunday. The last weekend may be a Muse/ique (FB) show. August starts with Waitress at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) on Saturday, and the Actors Co-Op Too! production of Always Andrews: A Musical Tribute to the Andrews Sisters on Sunday at Actors Co-op (FB). The next weekend brings the last Actors Co-Op Too! production, Twelfth Night, or What You Will at Actors Co-op (FB). There may also be a production of The Most Happy Fella at MTW — I’m not sure about it, but the hold date is on the calendar.

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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🎭 Well, That’s Rank(ed) | HFF18

userpic=fringeMy doctor likes to point out that 50% of all doctors graduated in the bottom half of their class. I mention that because in any competition or comparison (unless those where partial orderings are involved), something is always going to be ranked at the bottom. Even with partial orderings, there is some value that is the lowest value (unless everything is incomparable). That is certainly true for a Fringe Festival: some shows work, some don’t. Some audiences love some shows, some don’t. Even the best show will have audience members for whom it lands with a thud, despite your best efforts. If you care about their opinion at all, you learn what you can from it and improve your show.

I bring this up because of an incident that happened yesterday, in the 45 minute interval between our two shows at The Complex. The performer and author of the second show we had seen the previous Sunday (here’s the link; you figure it out) recognized me and came up to me. A typical New Yorker, she positioned herself about 10 inches from my face and proceeded to lay into me on how my writeup hurt her and her director. She said she almost thought about quitting, she said the contemplated suicide, she said it left her in tears. But, she said, she got over it because she’s got a sold out show at a future Fringe (or Off-Broadway; I can’t recall) in New York and she would work to improve. She said I should think about the hurt I cause when I write something up, and how I go on and on and on with the details. I seem to recall she also said she was having a bad day that day, and why didn’t I get the good message from her show. I just said I was sorry if impacted her so, and eventually she walked away.

Talking with the staff at the Complex Box Office who watched this, they seemed to note she was a bit crazy.

This is the first time I’ve ever had that happen from a writeup. I’ve had folks email back with corrections, and I’ll often edit the review to note those corrections, or note that they indicated they were having difficulties that day, and that my experience might have been atypical. Be polite with me, and I’ll be polite back. But this?

When I wrote up the review, I noted that there were a few comments that expressed a similar view to mine: that this performer was not prepared and rambled through the show. There were a number of positive reviews, but those seemed to be more from friends and cohorts. Additionally, while in line for our first show on Sunday (writeup tonight), I happened to be standing next to an audience member who was at the same show last Saturday with us. Talking with her (and this was before this incident), she expressed the same opinion. This performer was not prepared, and the performance was painful and didn’t impart the message she wanted to impart.

In real life, I’m in the technical world*. I regularly have to teach courses in my area of expertise. I know my material well; I dry run (rehearse) as necessary. I make sure my material clearly imparts the point I want it to make. The reason I didn’t comment on the point she was trying to make was that she didn’t design her show to clearly and succinctly make clear what she was trying to say.

At every Fringe festival, there will be shows at the bottom and shows at the top; shows that need a lot of work and shows that don’t. I think that performers expect that, and use reviews and writeups to learn where they can improve. It is just like getting back comments on conference technical submission: the reviewers aren’t doing this to be personal, they are making comments so that you can be better in the next iteration.

So, Ms. Wow, if you are going to be getting up on a stage — be it the theatre stage, the teaching stage, or submitting technical material to conferences — you need to be prepared to have your work rejected and to get (hopefully) constructive criticism. Do with that criticism what you may, but remember that your reviewers aren’t giving it to you to be hurtful or spiteful, but to help you improve for your next time.

P.S.: * If you didn’t see it earlier in the week, I’m thinking about putting myself out the for criticism: in other words, I’m thinking about a Fringe show. I’d need a writer, so if you’re interested, look here.

P.P.S.: With respect to technical papers, here’s a good article on how to constructively review a research paper. Similar to that, I think there are different aspects to consider when reviewing a show: there’s the writing of the show: how well it establishes its message and conveys that to the audience. There’s the performance: how well does the performer do, independent of whether the story is good or bad. Lastly, there’s the technical aspect of execution: did the lighting, sound, scenery, and costumes contribute to or distract from the performance and message.

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🎭 Oh, the Pain! | Trojan Women and Asperger’s @HFF18

userpic=fringeBoth of our Saturday Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) dealt with pain, coming at it from two different angles. But that doesn’t mean the shows were pains: once was excellent, the other was pretty good. But first, however, my stock description of what the Fringe Festival is:

* For those unfamiliar with  Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), there are over 390 different shows occurring in the heart of Hollywood, with most along the stretch of Santa Monica Blvd from Western to W of LaBrea, and between Hollywood Blvd and Melrose. The shows run from 5 minutes to 2 hours, from one person shows to gigantic casts, from mimes to musicals. They have one — and only one — thing in common: they have to be able to load into a theatre in 15 minutes or less, and get out afterwards in the same time. You never know what you will see: it could be complete crap, it could be the start of a major new show. The shows and scheduling thereof are a nightmare to coordinate, but you could easily end up seeing four to five shows in a day. However, you can be guaranteed of a good time.

And now, on to our Saturday shows…. and note that, after the shows, there’s a little bit more. Suffice it to say it is a tribute to 140, or perhaps a bit more, characters.


Trojan Women (HFF18)Our first show, Trojan Women, was billed as follows in the Hollywood Fringe online catalog:

In perhaps one of the first recorded pieces of theater in the Western canon that passes the Bechdel test, Euripides’ Trojan Women tells a story of women who are stronger than gods. Trojan Women offers an unapologetic and powerful look at the act of community-building during times of grief, the gendered violence of war, and the messy aftermath of both real and mythic Greek conquests. Written circa 415 BCE and set immediately after the Trojan War, Trojan Women follows in real time the lives of nine remaining Trojan women (and two Greek men) as their city is captured.

For those unfamiliar, the “Bechdel Test” refers to a test was popularized by Alison Bechdel’s comic Dykes to Watch Out For, in a 1985 strip called The Rule.  It is used to evaluate how women are protrayed in fiction. It consists of three simple requirements: (1) It has to have at least two [named] women in it; (2) Who talk to each other; (3) About something besides a man. I’d say this is mostly true, although there are a fair references to men — both as part of the conquering force, the Greeks, and references to children lost. But first, I should perhaps describe the story to you. That, in turn, requires some background for those unfamiliar with ancient Greek myths. Here’s how the program described it, edited a little:

Well before the story in the play started, the Gods had a party on Mt. Olympus. They chose to not invite Eris, the Goddess of Discord, perhaps because they felt she would ruin the vibe. Angered by this slight, Eris devised a way to ensure that she ruined their night. She threw a golden apple (known always after as The Apple of Discord) on which she had inscribed “to the fairest” into the party. Naturally, Hera (Goddess of Women), Aphrodite (Goddess of Love) and Athena (Goddess of Wisdom and War) each assumed the apple was for them. A fight ensued, and the three goddesses demanded that Zeus determine which of them was the fairest and deserved the apple. Knowing better than to get in the middle of this argument, Zeus suggested that Paris of Troy, a mortal he knew to have good judgement, should make the call. Each Goddess promised something different to Paris if he chose her: Hera promised immense power, Athena promised incredible strength, and Aphrodite promised the love of the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris chose Aphrodite, and thus, the love of Helen was promised to him.

The events that followed, and why they occurred, are still up to interpretation. We know Paris visited Greece while Greece and Troy were on good terms, and we know that Helen left her husband, Menelaus, and got on Paris’ boat headed back to Troy. Upon hearing that Helen was gone, Menelaus approached his brother Agamemnon, and they decided to wage war on Troy. This war lasted for ten years, and ended with Odysseus’ Trojan Horse. Greek soldiers hid inside a giant steel steed, which they had presented as a “Congrats on winning the war” present. In the middle of the night, while the Trojans celebrated what they thought was a victory, the Greek soldiers crept out of the horse, unlocked the gates of Troy for the rest of the soldiers who were waiting, and sacked the city. During that night, Paris died. Priam, King of Troy, died. Hector, Troy’s most steady and masterful warrior, had died days earlier. Almost all of the city is killed or enslaved. Left behind are only the Trojan Women. And Helen.

This play, which was the third part of a trilogy about the Trojan War by the Greek playwright Euripides, opens on a war camp in Troy after the Trojans have already lost to the Greeks. What follows is detailed well in the Wikipedia synopsis; you may find the story harder to follow on stage (I did) due to unfamiliarity with the backstory and the style of language used.  Here’s the essence: The play follows the fates of the women of Troy after their city has been sacked, their husbands killed, and as they and their remaining families are about to be taken away as slaves. The focus is on how much the Trojan women have suffered as their grief is compounded when the Greeks dole out additional deaths and divide their shares of women. Through out play, a Greek herald, Talthybius, arrives to tell the women their fates. This includes the fact that the dethroned queen Hecuba will be taken away with the Greek general Odysseus, and Cassandra is destined to become the conquering general Agamemnon’s concubine. Cassandra, who can see the future, is morbidly delighted by this news: she sees that when they arrive in Argos, her new master’s embittered wife Clytemnestra will kill both her and her new master. However, Cassandra is also cursed so that her visions of the future are never believed, and she is carried off. From the widowed princess Andromache, wife of Hecuba’s late son Hector, Hecuba learns from her that her youngest daughter, Polyxena, has been killed as a sacrifice at the tomb of the Greek warrior Achilles.  Andromache’s lot is to be the concubine of Achilles’ son Neoptolemus, and Andromache’s her baby son, Astyanax, has been condemned to die. Helen, who started this mess although not one of the Trojan women, is supposed to suffer greatly as well: Menelaus arrives to take her back to Greece with him where a death sentence awaits her. Helen begs and tries to seduce her husband into sparing her life. Menelaus remains resolved to kill her. Near the end of the play, Talthybius returns, carrying with him the body of little Astyanax on Hector’s shield. Andromache’s wish had been to bury her child herself, performing the proper rituals according to Trojan ways, but her ship had already departed. Talthybius gives the corpse to Hecuba, who prepares the body of her grandson for burial before they are finally taken off with Odysseus. Much of the play is the women bemoaning what they have lost.

This is an ambitious play for a Fringe company to mount; I know the Santa Clarita Shakespeare Company is doing it for one weekend in July at the site formerly known as REP East. Luckily, Project Nongenue succeeded: the production was excellent. Even if you can’t follow the specifics of the story well, you can get the gist of the performances. And those performances? Just “wow”. Moving and beautiful, clearly demonstrating the anguish that these women were going through. Director Olivia Buntaine (FB), assisted by Elizabeth Jane Birmingham (FB), with movement direction by Christine Breihan (FB), have worked with the performance ensemble to create nothing less than a work of art.

Leading the performance team, at least in my book were Kay Capasso (FB) as Eris, who narrated the events, and Taylor Jackson Ross (FB) as the former queen, Hecuba. Ross draws your eyes; I found myself unable to keep my focus off of her when she was involved in the main action. Capasso, on the other hand, is always swooping around, narrating the action and providing sardonic commentary. Both were great.

The main cohort of women in the camp with Hecuba were Liz Eldridge (FB) as Leader; Elizabeth Jane Birmingham (FB) as Iris, and Avrielle Corti (FB) as Zosime.  All gave strong performance, although the version of the story didn’t allow the audience to learn that much about them individually and as characters.

Popping in and out of the proceedings, either as Talthybius the messenger, or as Menelaus, Helen’s husband, was Cameron Rose (FB). He had the unenviable job of (a) being the only man in the company, and (b) being the bearer of bad news. He handled both well.

The remaining characters generally came in for a scene or two, advanced their storylines, and departed: Kyra Morling as Cassandra, Celia Mandela (FB) as Andromarche, and Daphne Gabriel (FB) as Helen. All had strong performances; I particularly likes Gabriel’s Helen, and Morling’s Cassandra.

The production design of the show was simple: essentially clotheslines with cloth screens and some ladders, with a few props and use of fabric to represent the baby Astyanax. This design was by Cameron Rose (FB). It was supported by Leslie Rose (FB)’s lighting design, and Rich Rose (FB)’s scenic consultation. Costumes were by Elizabeth Jane Birmingham (FB). Robert Arthur Angell (FB) provided Dramaturgy. Al Washburn (FB) did the graphic/web design. Backstage drums by Robert Arthur Angell (FB) and Al Washburn (FB). The production was produced by Robert Arthur Angell (FB). No credit was provided with respect to the translation of the Greek playwright Euripides, or who adapted it for the Fringe stage and time limits.

As I write this, there is one more performance of Trojan Women: June 22 at 8pm.


Pain in My Asperger's (HFF18)A staple at any Fringe Festival is the one person show. Sometimes they are painful and self indulgent; sometimes they soar to wonderful places — but you can be guaranteed that if you go to a Fringe Festival, you’ll have a fair number from which to choose. HFF18 was no exception. We chose  Pain in my Asperger’s based on the subject matter; here’s the description from the Fringe guide:

Actor/musician, Jeremy Ebenstein, through story and song, takes audiences through his humorous, inspiring, yet often heartbreaking story of living a life with Asperger’s Syndrome. With eight original songs and compositions, Ebenstein chronicles his journey from childhood to adulthood, addressing universal issues like childhood bullying, hopeful romance, and overcoming depression, to his unique take on the struggles of everyday life, from relationships, to being able to hold down the simplest of jobs, yet always striving towards his dreams of being accepted and living a successful life. It’s a story of hope and love, not only for those suffering with Asperger’s Syndrome, who need to overcome the additional challenges that Asperger’s presents, but for all who have ever hoped and dreamed about making something of themselves.

Given that we work with engineers every day, are engineers ourselves, and know numerous folks on the spectrum, this show seemed to hit home. So we decided to see it.

In general, Jeremy Ebenstein (FB) does a good job. His story is moving, and it takes a lot of courage — especially for an Aspie — to get up on stage and tell it. It could use with a bit of editing — at times, it seemed to drag and one had to fight the urge to look at the cell phone for the time. But I view that as a side effect of the Aspie desire to tell too much information; I urge the directing and advising team to see if perhaps ten minutes might be cut — some repetitive examples, perhaps some of the approaches.

However, overall, the ultimate story told by Ebenstein was good. It captured well the difficulties for someone on the spectrum to achieve in the dramatic field. The stories of him in school, and his attempts at forming relationships, were quite good. Luckily, Ebenstein found his music — music is a wonderful too to help people get through so much. His rendition of “Over The Rainbow” during the show was astounding; his other songs were good, although a bit less memorable.

The script for the show was developed by Ebenstein with Jack Fry (FB) in the Jack Fry Solo Workshops. Direction was by Jack Fry (FB) . I’ll note that we’ve seen Fry on stage before, at HFF16, as EInstein. Debra Ehrhardt (FB) served as producer and creative consultant.

There is one more performance of Pain in my Asperger’s : 6/20 at 7:45PM.


The Daily Show Presents: The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter LibraryAfter the show, we had one more stop to make: we had to see the Donald Trump Presidential Library. To be more specific, it was the pop-up installation of The Daily Show Presents: The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library in West Hollywood (it was there last weekend and this weekend; today is the last day). This museum is dedicated to preserving Donald Trump’s favorite medium of communication: the tweet. The website has a virtual tour, but there are areas devoted to all aspects of his tweets: the people he mentions and disparages, his history of tweeting, the story of how he has used his tweets for good or bad; how he has tweeted about foreign countries, and so forth.

In some ways, this is serious. All Presidential Communications are part of the national archives, and his tweets are being saved in the National Archives. So this is probably the first … perhaps scholarly is too strong … study of these Presidential records. They paint a picture of a man with too much time on his handsa man who spends too much time on a gold-plated thronea man who watches far too much “Fox and Friends” … a man who prefers to take his constantly changing and contradictory messages directly to the medium in pre-packaged mouth-sized soundbites.

That give you indigestion.

Seriously, the exhibit was a hoot. It really shows who the man is, which is the point of these archives. Expect future archives of the ripped-up but later reassembled papers received in the Oval Office. Probably with the President’s scribbles annotations on them.

In crayon.

Plus, when you go the library, you get your own “Donald Trump Twitter Name”. I was “Oily Dan”.

The Daily Show Presents: The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library continues in West Hollywood, at 631 N Robertson, until 10pm today.

***

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 (FBז״ל, a mini-subscription at the Soraya [nee the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (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:

It’s June — ah, June. That, my friends, means only one thing: the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), Here’s our June schedule:

July will be a tad less busy. It starts with the 50th Anniversary of Gindling Hilltop Camp, followed by On Your Feet at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). For the next weekend, as Jane Eyre The Musical from Chromolume Theatre (FB) looks to be a dead parrot ⚰🐦., we’ve replaced it with Tabletop, a reading of a new musical about tabletop RPGs at the Charles Stewart Howard Playhouse (FB). The third weekend in July brings a Bat Mitzvah in Victorville, and Beauty and The Beast at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) that evening on Saturday, and a hold for the OperaWorks (FB) “Opera ReConstructed” at CSUN on Sunday. The last weekend may be a Muse/ique (FB) show. August starts with Waitress at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) on Saturday, and the Actors Co-Op Too! production of Always Andrews: A Musical Tribute to the Andrews Sisters on Sunday at Actors Co-op (FB). The next weekend brings the last Actors Co-Op Too! production, Twelfth Night, or What You Will at Actors Co-op (FB). There may also be a production of The Most Happy Fella at MTW — I’m not sure about it, but the hold date is on the calendar.

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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Risk and the Theatre

userpic=fringeRecently, after one of the numerous Fringe shows we’ve seen, I was talking to my wife. I opined that if I ever put on a Fringe show, it would likely me getting up and doing a short tutorial on the NIST Risk Management Framework using Powerpoint slides, and it would probably land with a thud. My wife, however, thought that with the right director, it could work…

This started me thinking. What if I was more than an audience? What if?

The idea has been floating around and taking space in my head, so I want to get it down so I can move forward. The notion is this: There have actually been very few plays — and certainly no musicals — that have explored the area of cybersecurity. There was Dean Cameron’s Nigerian Spam Scam Scam, a great two-person piece that we presented at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC) in 2015 (and discovered at HFF15). There was the wonderful play The High Assurance Brake Job: A Cautionary Tale in Five Scenes by Kenneth Olthoff presented at the New Security Paradigms Workshop in 1999 (and if you haven’t read it, follow the link — you should). But that’s it. Could we create a play that imparted fundamental Cybersecurity notions — risk, assurance, resiliency, social engineering — to a non-technical audience using a form other than a Powerpoint presentation? Could we create something with some staying power? How do you take technical notions and transform them into broad acceptability, in a two-act multi-scene structure with a protagonist who goes on some form of journal?

I’ve got some ideas I’d like to explore, especially in the areas of exploring how people are incredibly bad at assessing risk*, and the difference between being risk-adverse and risk-aware. This could be a significant contribution: we could make people more cyber-aware while entertaining them. Think of it as an information security refresher training, but in a large building in a central part of town in a dark room as part of a play with a lot of people listening, who have all paid a great deal to get it in. Or a storefront during Fringe.

However, I know my limitations. I’m not a playwright — my writing is limited to blog posts and 5,000 page interpretations of government documents. I’m not an actor, although if I know my material I can give a mean tutorial. I am, however, an idea person. I come up with ideas, solutions, and architectures all the time. If I could find someone who actually knows how to write for the stage, perhaps we could collaborate and turn this idea into something (with that caveat that, as this is related to my real life job, I might have to clear it through them — but as it is at a high level with no specifics, that’s likely not a problem).

So, if you know a potential writer who finds this notion interesting, and might want to talk to me on this (or you are a writer), please let me know.** Who knows? Perhaps one day I’ll actually be more than a Fringe audience.

——————

*: Here’s my typical example: Would you rather let your child visit a friend’s house that had an unlocked gun safe, or a house with a pool. Most people fear the gun, but the pool is much much more dangerous, as this week’s news shows. There is intense fear about MS13, but the actual number of MS13 members attempting to come across the border is low when viewed across all immigrants making the attempt, and the likelihood that a single MS13 member will attack a particular American is very very low. A third example is how it is much safer to fly than to drive, yet people are more afraid of flying. The list goes on and on.

**: I should note that right now this is exploratory. I have no funds to commit, but when is there funding in theatre :-). 

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