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Zombie Clown Trump (HFF17)userpic=fringeThe Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) offers over 350 shows during a single month; as you might guess, these shows cover a wide-variety of presentations and maturity. They range from one-on-one shows that take under 10 minutes to full-on 2 hour musicals; from everyone being naked to all clothed; from improv to rehearsed; from silly to serious. Yesterday’s sampling of the Fringe Festival was a strong demonstration of that: we saw shows that ranged from silly political commentaries (Zombie Clown Trump) to a one-woman show (Conversations ‘Bout The Girls) to a fully-realized, in-depth play (Inversion). What they all had in common was the fact that they all were excellent.

***

Zombie Clown Trump (Non-HFF Website) is one of those shows that I would classify as a real Fringe show, or as the show put it at the end: “You only paid $7 for this, what did you expect?”. This, of course, was after we all sang, “We are the world, we are the Fringe Fest”, and waiving our flags, and wearing the red noses that they gave us.

Yes, this was one of those shows.

Zombie Clown Trump purports to be a show about Trump’s re-election campaign in 2020 against Dwaine “The Rock” Johnson, after bombing much of the rest of the world and excreting on the nation all sorts of noxious bodily fluids and substances. Through all of this, Kellyanne Cuntway is trying to suck up to trump, and Press Secretary Sean Sphincter and VP Mike Peenass are blowing it out their … Trump’s wife Barbania Trump has fallen in love with the Rock, and Becky has kidnapped Trump’s daughter SriLanka Trump, which has Trump upset because his homegrown hot piece of ass is gone, and …

It is a bizarre and surreal show, but is it any more surreal than real life, where as I write this I am reading the following: “A representative from President Donald Trump’s legal team said Trump is not under investigation, despite the President tweeting “I am being investigated” this week.”?

In any case, the show is a hot comedic mess, with parody songs and profanity and general sillyness and sluttiness. But it is also fun, and a form of political commentary that you’ll find at a Fringe Festival. It’s not high art, folks.

The performances were similarly across the map at times. I think the real standout was Maegan Mandarino (BS, FB)’s Barbania Trump / Becky. Mandarino had a really strong singing voice, good dance moves, and was quite a lot of fun to watch. A close second with Dani Savka (FB)’s Kellyanne / SriLanka — again, she was having fun with the songs and the comedy moves.

Trump was portrayed by the creator of the show, Rick Cipes (FB). Cipes was a clown and was having fun with the persona, exaggerating what was already an exaggeration (it is, after all, quite small), and keeping the show quite topical, with mentions of the latest Julius Caesar mess incorporated. Rounding out the cast was Craig Aldrich/FB as VP Mike Peenass and with his hand up Sean Sphincter’s ass (Sphincter was a puppet). Aldrich was the crass one would expect in such a position.

No further credits (i.e., director, stage manager, etc.) were provided.

Visit the show’s website for more information on this absurdity, and to see an interesting mouseover. There are two more performances of this show, June 23 @ 10:30pm, and June 24 @ 8:30pm. Performances take place at the OMR Theatre at The Complex. Tickets are available through the show’s fringe page.

***

Conversations 'Bout The Girls (HFF17)The second show we saw yesterday, Conversations ‘Bout The Girls, is a great example of a one-person show / project common at the Fringe.  In the show, the author and performer, Sonia Jackson (IMDB, FB), takes on the persona of the proprietor of a lingerie / brassiere shop inducting a new hire. The permit her to take on the persona of a large number of shop patrons and characters, and to relate all sorts of stories about women’s relationships with their breasts.

These stories relate from the experience of their sudden appearance, the reaction of men to them, the reaction of parents to them, the experiences of breast examination and mastectomies (and potential reconstruction thereafter).

Now, I’m a guy and I didn’t personally relate to a lot of the stories (except as a satisifed examiner 🙂 ), but I did find it interesting to watch the audience, and especially my wife, as they reacted to the stories being told. This reflected their personal experience (something I confirmed afterwards with my wife), and in many ways was truly their story.

She did relate one item that was enlightening. She imagined if men had to go in to be fitted for a jockstrap, and the store clerk making statements like, “Don’t worry, it may be small now, but I’m sure it will grow.”, or yelling out to the story, “Do we have any of the petite left in stock?” Including this story did make this production much more understandable to the men in the audience.

Overall, I’d say this is a fun show for women or man, and a great example of what a one-person show can be: A personal exploration and exposition of a particular subject, based on personal experience.

According to the program, this isn’t a new show. It has been in development for 12 years, has been adapted into a full length play, and has been subsequently adapted into a screenplay.

Conversations ‘Bout The Girls was directed by Jessica Lynn Johnson (FB). Props appear to have been provided by Sara’s Lingerie. (FB).

Given how late I’m writing this, there is one more performance of Conversations ‘Bout The Girls on June 24 @ 1pm at the Dorie Theatre at the Complex. Tickets available through the show’s Fringe website.

***

Inversion by Aditya Putcha (HFF17)The final show of the day, Inversion, was at the other end of the spectrum. While Zombie Clown Trump was a surrealistic hot mess, but funny, Inversion was a serious well-written play about a realistic subject. It was an exposition of something that many people feel — especially folks in my field of work — when dealing with the opposite sex. Author and lead Aditya Putcha (FB) has created a story that speaks to personal experience. It is remarkably well crafted for a first play. I think it reflects another aspect of Fringe: the launching pad for new plays — a place to get them out there, and start shaping them for a full-fledged professional production. I think with a bit more shaping and expansion, this could be a production worthy of most intimate theatres in Los Angeles, a potential off-Broadway production, and possibly an even longer life.

The description of the show is as follows: Adam (Aditya Putcha (FB)), a socially awkward mathematician, especially with women, laments his inability to find the hot woman of his dreams before his mom (Lena Zhanik) declines too far into the world of Alzheimer’s. His best friend, Brendan (Adam Daniel (FB)), who seems to get any woman he wants, tries to support his endeavor, with disastrous results. Thus beings the spiral into dating and love and relationships as Brendan encourages Adam to date a low self esteemed slightly older (and, as portrayed, larger) woman, Rhonda (Shayna Spielman (FB★, FB)), in order to help Adam learn how to date. In meeting up with Rhonda, Adam finds his hot woman: Natalia (Gaia Passaler (FB)), Rhonda’s roommate. Thinking he’s finally met the woman of his dreams, Adam forges ahead with Natalia thinking maybe he can also ease his mother’s concerns about his well being as she declines. Romantic entanglements explored in this touching, all too real look at how men and women relate to not only the opposite sex as friends and lovers, but how friendships are tested by the dating world.

Now most reviewers of this show are likely trained critics, with experience in the humanities — or they are actors who are working as reviewers. On the other hand, I’m actually like the lead — I was a math major at UCLA; I’ve been doing cybersecurity for 30 years. My wife, similarly, is an engineer. We know characters like the lead character; we’ve seen the same mistakes he has made happen time and again. In an over-zealous lust for the “hot chick”, imagining that every small positive gesture conveys full blown love, and over-reacting. Meanwhile, the potentially right girl gets ignored and insulted. However, unlike what you would expect from this story (everyone ends up happy; the schlub of a guy ends up with the lovable schlub of a girl), this story ends up with a bit more empowerment: the schlub of a girl realizes she doesn’t have to settle, but can be there for herself. The hot chick ends up with a guy that she loves, not that is just hot for her. The guy who dates around realizes what true love is, and finds both a job and the right girl. And the lead is left… perhaps more confused than ever.

As the lead, I was unsure of what to make of Aditya Putcha (FB). He comes from a background of real stuttering. He has an awkward performance where he seemingly gets stuck on lines at points, but it is unclear whether this is reality or performance. In real life, such a character would be stuck on those same lines, and would exhibit the same problems talking to women. So his performance, while awkward, is remarkably realistic.

I just loved Shayna Spielman (FB★, FB), but perhaps this is just because she’s the type of girl I’ve always enjoyed watching. Playful and happy and confusing and such. She gives a performance that is fun to watch, and again, something that is very realistic because I’ve known girls just like that. As her roommate, Gaia Passaler (FB) also gives a strong performance, believably Russian. Beautiful, and also fun to watch, the two young ladies work very well together, playing off each other and off the character of Adam.

The remaining two performers only interact with the lead. As the best friend, Adam Daniel (FB) gives a suitably bro performance, and handles the transformation from ‘bro to adult quite realistically. Lastly, Lena Zhanik handles the mom with Alzheimer’s quite well, portraying a wonderful level of confusion. Dealing with a similar situation with my M-I-L, it is a confusion that is all too real and all too sad.

The production was directed by Elise Marie Hodge (FB) of EMH Productions (FB). Veniese Razo was the stage manager.

Overall, this was a very realistic show, well-performed with a good story. It demonstrated the professional end of Fringe as a place for new playwrights to get a great start.

Alas, the last performance of Inversion was (a) today, and (b) was sold out. Supposedly, a DVD of the performance is available for a short time from their Indegogo page.

***

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 Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

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 Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). This is the current planned schedule for HFF. To see the full Fringe guide, click here.

With respect to the Hollywood Fringe Festival: I’d like to recommend Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman. Linden, the artist, did the show for our synagogue Mens Club back in October, and it was a delight. So good, in fact, that we’re going to see the show again during Fringe. If you want a fun show full of parody music, see this one.

July brings us back to normal theatre (° = pending confirmation). We start with The Voysey Inheritance at Actors Co-op (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend is currently open, but we’re thinking about Animal Farm at Theatricum Botanicum (FB). The third weekend brings Peter Pan at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and Ruthie and Me at  Actors Co-op (FB). The fourth weekend of July brings Motown/Miracle | Harlem/Renaissance from Muse/ique (FB). The last weekend of July brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB).  August will (hopefully) start with Brian Setzer° at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We may also squeeze in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast. The second weekend of August? What made sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 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.

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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userpic=fringeYesterday, we saw our second batch of Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) shows: Ink Theater (FB)’s The Heart Change, 86’d , and Insuppressible: The Unauthorized Leah Remini Story. Unlike our first Fringing day, there was nary a clunker in the bunch. We found parking for the first two easy, and were able to pick up our Fringe pins at Fringe Central without difficulty. The only sour spots for the day were our continuing headaches, and the parking ticket I got in West Hollywood for not being precisely within the parking space markings. Cost of doing business, I guess — I haven’t had one in over 20 years. On to our first show….

***

The Heart Change - INK Theater (Hollywood Fringe)We selected Ink Theater (FB)’s The Heart Change because the description sounded so interesting: here was a show not only with kids as actors, but the kids wrote it, designed it, choreographed it, designed it — it was basically a creative project for a bunch of kids ages 7-12. The subject was also interesting: “When a group of kids have to face a crabby Hollywood director and realize just how powerful they are. ” Shows done by kids are usually fun at Fringe – witness last year’s Titus Andronicus Jr. – so this had good potential.

I’m pleased to say that I sat through this entire show smiling. No, by adult standards, it was far from perfect. Some jokes were sophomoric, the story was a bit simplistic and stereotyped, and there was a bit of caricature/overacting in the performance. But these kids aged 7-12. For their ages and what they did it was remarkable.

Last week I saw adults in a show that was painful because of the potential squandered. This week, I saw kids in a show that was imperfect, and all I could see is the potential-to-be.

The basic story the kids developed is this — insert the appropriate suspension of belief. Hollywood director is forced by his studio to make a movie with kids. He hates kids, and needs the money. The kids audition and get the movie, but problems arise immediately between the kid’s personality/sense of entitlement and the director’s desire to control. It doesn’t end well, and the kids quit the production. But the cameraman relates the story of one of the kids, and as the director and the kids learn more about what is driving them and what their behavior was making, they have a change of heart and learn to work together.

This is a story written by kids under 12. Pretty remarkable isn’t it. It also contained three songs, performed by the kids on-stage, and a dance.

There were also some great performances. You’ll have to excuse my imprecision here: there were no photos in the program, and these kids don’t have an internet presence yet (being under 13), so I can’t necessarily put names with the performances I liked. There was a little black kid who kept spouting scientific stuff about nutrition and eating tomatoes who was just hilarious. I also liked the two girls who sung — such a great effort (I think they were Bela Salazar and Caytlin McKinney). One girl kept reminding me of my niece with her vocal style and behavior (this is in a good way), and the two kids who played the baboons were just hilarious. This was just a delight to watch.

The cast consisted of: Olivia Brumit – Alexandria; Stephen Ramsey – Bob; Sienna Sullivan – Charlotte, Waiter; Emma Patti – Eliza Jane; Malachi Turnbull – Jacob; Gael Bary – John Pierre; Ruby Miller – Luna; Bela Salazar – Mercedes; Nadia Gray – Ms. George; Zoe Gray – Nelly; Terydan Green – Roberto; Caytlin McKinney – Sunshine; and Tegan Linehan – Toby.

Credited adult supervision was Rachel Kiser (FB) – Director; Sarah Cook (FB) – Producer / Choreography Coach; and Erin Hall (FB) – Acting Coach / Stage Manager.

There is one more performance of The Heart Change, today at 7:00pm. If you enjoy watching kids with potential — hell, if you enjoy just watching incredibly cute kids on stage — go see this.

***

86'd (Hollywood Fringe)The second show that we saw was, 86’d, a one-woman show about life in the service industry — something every actors supposedly knows because being a waitron is supposedly one of the best subsistence jobs. I went into this show expecting it to be a one-woman monologue of vignettes. Instead, Co-writer and performer Courtney Arnett (FB) presented a series of scenes from what was ostensibly her life as a server at a restaurant called “Sweats”.

These vignettes begin when she has been working a double shift, and gets assigned a clueless newbie to train. They continue through the life of the restaurant, its decline, its rebirth as a new venue with the same chef and staff, until that venue’s eventual decline and closing. It ends, fittingly, with her being the newbie at a new restaurant.

During the saga, we get to see how a life such as this doesn’t permit her life to go on. She may meet bartenders and busboys and chefs, but her reason for moving to Los Angeles is never achieved, and she never achieves her goals of family either.

However, that is the character in the story. My hopes for this actress, however, are much more. In this production, she demonstrated a remarkable singing voice, great comic timing, wonderful expressions, and an easy-going way of relating to the audience. We found the show very enjoyable, providing a different view of those servers we see every day.

The title, “86’d”, refers to a term used in the restaurant industry for running out of a food or service items (e.g., “We’re 86’d on the haddock today.”). Early in the show, the running joke is that everything on the menu is 86’d except for the hamburger, fries, and Miller Lite.

86’d was cowritten by Julia Meltzer (FB), who also directed the piece. Courtney Arnett (FB) created the piece. It was produced by Terri Arnett, Rachel Germaine (FB★; FB) [who was checking us in at the door], and Matt Robinson. Music was by Kait Hickey and Ariana Lenarsky (FB). Tech by Colin Johnson (FB).

86’d has 3 more performances: Wednesday June 14th @ 700pm; Monday, June 19th @ 830pm, and Friday, June 23rd @ 1130pm. It plays at Studio C as the Asylum, which is right next to “The Complex” group of theatres near Fringe Central.

***

Insuppressible - The Absolutely Unauthorized Leah Remini Story (Hollywood Fringe)The last show we saw yesterday was Insuppressible: The Unauthorized Leah Remini Story at The Actors Company facility in West Hollywood. Yes, this is where I received the love note from the West Hollywood Traffic Force for not being exactly between the lines. Not worth contesting, but something others should note when visiting this venue. Perhaps they were agents of David Miscavige, mad about my seeing this show.

Going in, my only knowledge of Scientology was what I picked up by listening to A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant. I had heard roughly about the disappearance of David Miscavige’s wife, Shelly, but hadn’t followed the Leah Remini (FB) series. My wife, however, had.

[ETA: I completely forgot, until the tweet with this writeup was re-tweeted, that we saw Squeeze My Cans at last year’s HFF. That show was one woman’s story of how she got drawn into the tar-baby that is Scientology, how she worked her way into the upper tiers of the religions, and how she eventually escaped its grasp. Not only did this effort take more than a decade, it decimated her finances. Quite interesting to think about, when paired with this musical.]

Insuppressible started late due to the previous show running late (this is Fringe, folks); I’m sure the show after us was late due to the same shift, plus the confetti left by this show. I’m glad to say, however, the show was worth the wait.

I went into the show, for some reason, thinking that his would be  a one-woman musical. Far from it. This was a large cast (8) musical, executed well, with strong song and dance, and great effects. This was the exact opposite of Robot Monster: The Musical. This is a good thing.

Insuppressible tells, in five scenes, the story of Leah Remini’s path through Scientology. It opens with her making friends with Shelly, and Shelly to encourage her to persue her dream of acting. It then moves to her professional pinnacle in King of Queens, and her being a Scientology Celebrity up there with Tom Cruise. It then moves to the wedding of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise, where all the resentment that Remini has with Scientology starts to bubble up, leading to her split with the group. It ends with her getting the courage to leave Scientology and go onto a life of success or something close thereto.

This was a fringe show. Jeffrey McCrann (FB)’s book and Robert Hill (FB)’s music were relatively entertaining, although it is unclear if they could extend the piece into a fully-sustained two-act musical with a deeper book and connection of the songs to the inner turmoils of the characters as opposed to being more scene oriented. Still, it might be worth a try. I certainly didn’t sense the show dragging, although I would have liked to find out more what happened afterwards, and to see some more fleshing out of the beliefs of the group and how strange they are. But then I’m always for exposing strange rituals.

The performances were excellent. In the lead position was Leslie Rubino (FB) as Leah. We saw her a few weeks ago in Freeway Dreams, and again we were blown away by her talent, voice and sense of comic timing.  It is worth seeing this show alone just for her performance.

The remaining seven cast members all are strong. Jaimie Day/FB‘s Katie Holmes was mostly a caricature, but she was spectacular in her solo number “Katie and Tom”. A great LA theatre debut. There was just something about Tiffani Ann Mills (FB)’s Shelly Miscavige that was a delight to watch. Perhaps it was her believable friendship with Leah; perhaps it was her look; perhaps it was her singing in the opening number — in any case, I just couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. Libby Baker (FB)’s Mother was strong in the opening number, but then the writing moved her to more of a background role, although she was strong in “The Gaslighting Song”. Nicole Clemetson/FB‘s J-Lo was a hoot — I have no idea whether J-Lo acts like that in real life, but that’s how I want her to act.  Clemetson was also a strong singer. Lastly, of the female cast, Sohm Kapila (FB) was Nicole Kidman. She only had one scene as Nicole in the end and was good in that. Note that all of the actresses other than the lead were also in the ensemble in various scenes.

There were two male members of the cast: David Wilkins/FB as Tom Cruise and Milo Shearer/FB as David.  Both were strong performers and strong singers — they were particularly strong in “Matter, Energy, Space, and Time”.

Music was a mix of prerecorded music and on-stage music from Robert Hill (FB).

No credits were provided for choreography, set design, costumes, sound, lighting etc. With respect to those creative areas, a few observations. First, someone went crazy with the glitter glue. Second, I’m sure the production following this wanted to shoot this production for the on-stage confetti gun that left confetti everywhere. Third, there was some sort of sound problem that sounded like constant rain, which was annoying. Other than that, however, the costumes and props were clever, and the show fit in and out of the Fring requirements great.

The production was directed by Jeffrey McCrann (FB).

Insuppressible: The Unauthorized Leah Remini Story continues at the Let Live Space at the Actors Company with four more performances: Sunday June 11 2017, 5:30 PM; Thursday June 15 2017, 8:30 PM; Friday June 23 2017, 11:30 PM; and Saturday June 24 2017, 4:00 PM. We found this to be a very enjoyable production, and predict you will as well. If not, well, there are always soup cans.

***

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 Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

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 Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). This is the current planned schedule for HFF. To see the full Fringe guide, click here.

With respect to the Hollywood Fringe Festival: I’d like to recommend Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman. Linden, the artist, did the show for our synagogue Mens Club back in October, and it was a delight. So good, in fact, that we’re going to see the show again during Fringe. If you want a fun show full of parody music, see this one.

July brings us back to normal theatre (° = pending confirmation). We start with The Voysey Inheritance at Actors Co-op (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend is currently open, but we’re thinking about Animal Farm at Theatricum Botanicum (FB). The third weekend brings Peter Pan at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and Ruthie and Me at  Actors Co-op (FB). The fourth weekend of July has a hold for Motown/Miracle | Harlem/Renaissance from Muse/ique (FB). The last weekend of July brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB).  August will (hopefully) start with Brian Setzer° at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We may also squeeze in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast. The second weekend of August? What made sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 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.

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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Hey Hollywood, My Hustle Has ADHD (HFF17)userpic=fringeThe Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) has started, and we’re going to be seeing multiple shows each weekend. So I’m going to batch my writeups… and this is batch one. We saw all these shows Sunday night.

***

As Hey Hollywood, My Hustle Has ADHD started, the author and sole performer, Rasika Mathur (FB), was clearly unprepared.  It was as if she had put off writing and blocking and staging this show until the last minute.  As if her attention had been focused somewhere else, and she just didn’t sit down and get the damn show done. I mean, at times she was even having to go back and review the script to see where she was. I know this was a preview, but … Then again (and possibly more likely), that was the point of this exercise — to make you realize the impact of ADHD on a person’s life. Not knowing whether it was an act or real was part of the charm, just like knowing how hard it is for a trained singer to intentionally sing bad.

Hustle is structured as a one-woman show, but it really isn’t. Mathur brings up audience members to represent key people in her life — her parents, casting agents, Nick Cannon, her manager and agent. She then plays off these people to tell her story, and how her condition affected her life until she decided to take charge of it.

I found the show fascinating, especially as we had brought a teen relative who may have ADHD with us to the show. The bell rang and the lights went of. It was also interesting to see the levels of ADHD within ourselves, and seeing something like this is the first step on dealing with it. So the show was enlightening and entertaining and a great start to the Fringe Festival. I just wish there was a show from the other side: Hey Hollywood, I’ve Got To Deal With An Actor with ADHD!

Hustle was directed and developed by Deana Barone (FB), who worked on last Fringe’s 30JJ or Bust.

There are three more performances of Hey Hollywood, My Hustle Has ADHD: June 11 @ 6PM, June 15 @ 10PM, and June 24 @ 10PM. It plays in the Lounge 2 Theatre, 1 block E of Vine on Santa Monica.

***

Robot Monster - The Musical (HFF17)I always operate on the conceit that the stage production came first, and then they made a movie of it. If that was true, then they improved Robot Monster when they made the movie version of the story, based on the musical Robot Monster – The Musical (FB), which was our second Fringe show. And since Robot Monster (the movie) has 1.9 stars on IMDB, and a 31% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, that should scare you more than any Ro-Man could ever do.

So why did we go? Well, the description made it sound better than it was:

Hailed as one of the greatest bad movies in the annals of film history, the 1953 cult sci-fi classic, “Robot Monster” is a beloved fan favorite for its complete absurdity, hammy acting, charming naiveté and – most of all – for its famously tortured space gorilla.

But more than just an infamously “bad movie,” the film has a charming and unpretentious sincerity that’s so appealing in our frenetic age

With 16 original songs, the musical includes everything current and new fans demand from a show about a space gorilla sent to earth to destroy the human race. Will he succeed?

I will say that the musical had all of what was claimed: complete absurdity, hammy acting, charming naiveté and a tortured space gorilla. But often — almost usually — stage musical versions of bad musicals figure how to turn the camp into a redeeming feature. Look at shows like Johnny Guitar, Zombies from the Beyond, or even Evil Dead – The Musical. They make it work. Partially, it is because a campy plot can be improved by good songs and performances.

Not here.

For the most part, the performances were weak (again, that may have been intentional given the camp and the history) — but they were at the verge of painful. Yes, this was a preview performance, but when the best part of the performance is the line missteps…. But I do say, “for the most part”. Dana Deruyck (FB) was perhaps the sole redeeming player in this show. Her “Johnny” was a hoot with hilarious facial expressions, strong singing, and just, well, she was fun to watch. Her sister, Stephanie Thomas/FB, was also fun to watch.

Now, I will admit that perhaps I was expecting to much from this. After all, the show’s FB page indicated that other audience members really enjoyed this and found it a hoot. So perhaps you need to be a Robot Monster fan to truly appreciate what was done here. In other words, YMMV. But for someone who had never seen the movie, and was going based on experience with other campy SF movies turned into good small musicals, I was expecting much much more.

Cast: Stephanie Thomas/FB – Carla; Dana Deruyck (FB) – Johnny; Don Margolin – The Professor; Andrew Villarreal (FB) – Roy; Val Peterson/FB – Martha; Jamie Miller (FB) – Alice; Marcus Chavez/FB – Ro-Man XJ2; Derek Long (FB) – Voice of Ro-Man XJ2; Rich Silverman (FB) – Great Guidance.

The musicians would not admit they were in this show.

Production Team: Brandon Baruch (FB) – Lighting Design; Madeleine Dahm – Select Choreography; Corwin Evans (FB) – Video Design; Paul Frederick (FB) – Arrangements and Music Production; Derek Long (FB) – Director; Pamela J. Paulson (FB) – Assistant Director; Rich Silverman (FB) – Producer, creator, composer, lyricist, etc.

Robot Monster – The Musical (FB) has four more performances at the Sacred Fools Mainstage: June 10 @ 8PM; June 15 @ 5PM; June 18 @ 1:30 PM; and June 23 @ 11PM. If you are familiar with the original movie and know what you’re getting, you’ll likely enjoy this. Anyone else — your mileage may vary drastically.

***

Buffy Kills Edward - A Musical Romp (HFF17)If this had been a normal Fringe night and venue, you would have likely seen a glowing review of Buffy Kills Edward – A Musical Romp. After all, a wonderful actress we’ve seen before, Kim Dalton (FB), was in it.

But we didn’t see the show — through no fault of the producer.

You see, the Fringe venue for the show, The Three Clubs, is a bar.  This means they cannot admit anyone under 21. Anyone. No exceptions.

Even if you have a ticket.

Even if you have a ticket from the Fringe Festival itself, because the information on the show did not indicate the venue was age restricted (it does now, after I complained). The Fringe ticketing system didn’t inform us of the fact.

So the one show we really wanted to see Sunday night … we were turned away from the door by the big burly (but very nice and understanding) bouncer.

I have written to Fringe, and they are supposedly processing a refund.

But be forewarned: If you are planning to see this show, or anything else at the Three Clubs, you must be 21 and have ID with you.

But I’m sure the show is great, and I encourage you (if you are old enough) to go see it. Visit their Fringe page for ticket 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 Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

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 Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). This is the current planned schedule for HFF. To see the full Fringe guide, click here.

With respect to the Hollywood Fringe Festival: I’d like to recommend Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman. Linden, the artist, did the show for our synagogue Mens Club back in October, and it was a delight. So good, in fact, that we’re going to see the show again during Fringe. If you want a fun show full of parody music, see this one.

July brings us back to normal theatre (° = pending confirmation). We start with The Voysey Inheritance at Actors Co-op (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend is currently open, but we’re thinking about Animal Farm at Theatricum Botanicum (FB). The third weekend brings Peter Pan at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and Ruthie and Me at  Actors Co-op (FB). The fourth weekend of July has a hold for Motown/Miracle | Harlem/Renaissance from Muse/ique (FB). The last weekend of July brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB).  August will (hopefully) start with Brian Setzer° at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We may also squeeze in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast. The second weekend of August? What made sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 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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userpic=fringeThe Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) schedule is starting to gel. I’ve done some further planning over lunch, and here is how June stands. We are ticketing in two groups: this weekend (¹), and right after June 1st (²), to split the charges.

Saturday, June 3:

⇒ Unavailable to Fringe

Sunday, June 4:

⇒ Until 4p – Annual Gluten Free Expo | [K/R]
⇒ 6p – Hey Hollywood! My Hustle has ADHD | [D/K/R¹]
⇒ 8p – Robot Monster the Musical | [D/K/R¹]
⇒ 930p – Buffy Kills Edward: The Musical | [D/K/R¹]

Saturday, June 10:

⇒ 3p – The Heart Change – Ink Theatre | [D²/K²]
⇒ 5:30p – 86’d | [D/K]
⇒ 7p – Insuppressible: The Unauthorized Leah Remini Story | [D²/K²]

Sunday, June 11:

⇒ 3p – Five Guys Named Moe @ Ebony Rep | [D]

Saturday, June 17:

⇒ 1p – Pretty, Witty Nell | [D²/K²] (Poss. Canc.)
⇒ 3:30p – Zombie Clown Trump | [D/K]
⇒ 5:30p – Conversations ‘Bout The Girls | [D/K]
⇒ 7:30p – Inversion | [D/K]

Sunday, June 18

Fathers Day – Open

Saturday, June 24:

⇒ 11:30a – Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman [D²/K²/R²]  (Maybe)
⇒ 3p – Slightly Off Broadway (Chromolume) | [D²/K²/R²]
⇒ 5:30p – Trump in Space | [D/K/R²]
⇒ 7p – The ABCs | [D/K/R²]
⇒ 9p – Reasons to be Pretty / Maxwelton | [D/K/R²]

Sunday, June 25:

⇒ 2p – Transition | [D/K]
⇒ 4p – Khant Hotel | [D²/K²]
⇒ 5:30p – Bachelorette by Leslye Headland | [D²/K²]

Note:

  • To see the full Fringe guide, click here.
  • There are those out there that I’ve bamboozled into thinking I’m a reviewer‡, and who want me to see their shows. In order to do so, (a) it would have to fit in the schedule above (including transit times between theatres), and (b) be agreeable to the boss (K), and if applicable, the pseudo-daughter (R). Ethics rules from work are ingrained in me: I do not take free tickets, but will gladly do half price or some other discount.

‡: I’m just a cybersecurity specialist who loves attending live performance, being an audience member, and telling my friends and others who read my blog about what I see, so they might see it as well.

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userpic=fringe

I need your help in planning my Fringe schedule. The following was in my most recent theatre writeup about my plans for the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). I’m working on the schedule now. The shows of interest are as follows — however, the total for tickets is over $700, which is way too high. I need help paring down this list. Not all of these are currently in our schedule (¤ unscheduled as of now). If you know of any discounts for these shows, or have recommendations / disrecommendations, please let us know. Note that I’m generally restricted to Fringing on the weekends (living in the valley and working full-time).

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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Thirteen's Spring (HFF16)userpic=fringeIn Jewish literature, the term Midrash refers to a method of interpreting biblical stories that goes beyond simple distillation of religious, legal, or moral teachings; specifically, Midrash fills in gaps left in the biblical narrative regarding events and personalities that are only hinted at. Much fiction, and a lot of good theatre, is essentially midrash. Look at the hit musical Wicked. This is a midrash about what happened to the witches in the Oz story before the events in the book. Look at the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which explores what happens when the two courtier characters are off-stage.

Last night, I saw a theatrical midrash based on The Diary of Anne Frank. For those unfamiliar with the book, Anne Frank was a Dutch Jewish girl who went into hiding in an attic in Amsterdam when the Nazi’s invaded. Anne didn’t survive the war; after the war her father found the diary and published it, whereupon it became a classic of Holocaust literature, and the basis for plays and movies. There is more summary of the book on the Wiki page.

As I was saying, however, last night we saw a theatrical midrash based on The Diary of Anne Frank: Thirteen’s Spring from The Moving Art Collective (FB), an encore presentation from June’s Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). Thirteen’s Spring explores the period just before the Frank family went into hiding. Wikipedia described this period as follows:

During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, Anne Frank received a blank diary as one of her presents on June 12, 1942, her 13th birthday. According to The Anne Frank House, the red, checkered autograph book which Anne used as her diary was actually not a surprise, since she had chosen it the day before with her father when browsing a bookstore near her home. She began to write in it on June 14, 1942, two days later. On July 5, 1942, Anne′s older sister Margot received an official summons to report to a Nazi work camp in Germany, and on July 6, Margot and Anne went into hiding with their father Otto and mother Edith.

Thirteen’s Spring explores those few days, although it plays with the timeline a bit, compressing the period from June 12 to July 6 seemingly into a single day (in the play, Anne gets the diary on the morning of her birthday, and seemingly goes into hiding that evening). The play, written by Amanda Jane Shank (FB) and directed by Fernando Belo (FB), principally focuses on two things: Anne’s budding relationship with “Hello” (Helmut “Hello” Silberberg), and the preparation of Anne’s parents for the escape into hiding, and its effect on Anne. It captures well Anne’s enthusiasm for life and her uncertainty of her budding romance. It also captures well what must have been Anne’s confusion at her parents’ preparations (selling family possessions; moving others into the attic ahead of time). Lastly, it portrays well Anne’s surprise when it was time to go, without warning.

Thirteen's Spring (Production Photos)This was a Fringe production, and in their program they note that they “hope to use this opportunity at the Hollywood Fringe Festival to expand our audiences and develop the piece further”. I spent some time this morning, as I researched and wrote this, thinking about that question. The question that keeps coming to mind is: Is the Anne we meet when the play opens the same Anne as at the end of the play, and how do we make that clear. The Anne of the original book resonated with people because of the combination of youthful naiveté, wisdom, and optimism. Did these few days shape that, or did they create or change something about Anne? Figuring out the way to address dramatic visualization of that transformation would appear to be the “development” that would be appropriate. The other characters in the piece are the catalysts for Anne’s growth — and like catalysts, enable the reaction while staying unchanged or minimally changed.

Even without the further development, I think this piece is strong and a potential facilitator of good discussion. In addition to the story exploration, the strength comes from excellent performances. In the lead position was Nora King (FB) as Anne. King’s Anne was playful, girlish, innocent, and seemingly open to the world in front of her, not wanting to give it up. When you realize that this was being portrayed by an adult actress (I hesitate to use the word “older”), it is all the more impressive. Playing off her as her potential first boyfriend was Joseph Tanner Paul (FB) as “Hello”. Paul captured equally well the uncertainty that boys go through at the same time: wanting to take the lead, to initiate something (but they don’t know what), while being scared to do so at the same time. Again, well captured and well performed.

Anne’s parents were portrayed by Michael Bates/FB [Otto Frank] and Elena Sanz (FB) [Edith Frank]. The two captured well the concern the parents must have had — concern not only with the upcoming disruption in their lives, but how that would play out for their daughter at this time in her life.

In terms of remaining technical and creative credits, there are only two in the program: Jesse Fryery (FB) as lighting designer, and Stephanie Petagno as Costume Designer. Presumably, the scenic design came from the director, Fernando Belo (FB). This design was relatively simple: suitcases, boxes, a table and chairs, and some lamps to represent the Frank home, and…. well, nothing really to represent the world outside the home. Fryery’s lighting design worked well to support the desired mood and to focus attention to the action… and the opening in the dark was spectacular. Petagno’s costumes seemed appropriately period, but I’m not an expert on period costume. If I had one comment on the design aspects, it was that nothing indicated that this was a Jewish family at all. That may have been intentional: I think Anne Frank’s diary resonated with so many precisely because Anne wasn’t one of those scary, different, Orthodox Jews with their odd dress and customs, but a secular Jew. She looked and behaved like everyone else, amplifying the sense that this was a typical family and the terror they faced could be faced by anyone. Thirteen’s Spring was produced by Emily Mae Heller (FB), Nora King (FB), and Fernando Belo (FB); it was presented by The Moving Art Collective (FB).

There is one more encore performance of Thirteen’s Spring: tonight at 7:30 PM. Tickets are available through the HFF site, or at the door.  I think it is well worth seeing.

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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 Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), and I plan to renew my mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Past subscriptions have included  The Colony Theatre (FB) (which went dormant in 2016), and Repertory East Playhouse (“REP”) (FB) in Newhall (which entered radio silence in 2016). 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:  Tonight sees us out in Thousand Oaks for The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). The end of July gets busy, with Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on July 23, Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN on July 24, and a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland on July 28, and … currently nothing for the weekend. August is a bit more open in terms of theatre. The first weekend just has a Jethawks game on Sunday; the second weekend has a Bar Mitzvah.  The third weekend brings another event from the wonderful counter-cultural orchestra, Muse/ique (FB) — American/Rhapsody — a celebration of George Gershwin. Late August sees us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September returns to conventional theatre. The first weekend has a HOLD for Calendar Girls at The Group Rep (FB). The second weekend may be another Muse/ique (FB) event — Summer/Time, a reimagined retelling of Porgy and Bess. The third weekend has a HOLD for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at the Mark Taper Forum (FB). The last weekend is The Hunchback of Notre Dame at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB).

Continuing the look ahead: October is a bit more booked. The first weekend brings Dear World at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) and Our Town at Actors Co-op (FB), as well as the start of the High Holy Days. The second weekend has another Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) event: this time for Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. The third weekend has yet another VPAC event: An Evening with Kelli O’Hara on Friday, as well as tickets for Evita at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on Saturday. The following weekend brings Turn of the Screw at Actors Co-op (FB) on October 22 and the new Tumbleweed Festival (FB) on October 23. The last weekend of October brings Linden Waddell’s Hello Again, The Songs of Allen Sherman at Temple Ahavat Shalom (a joint fundraiser for MoTAS and Sisterhood). Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, October is also the North Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and it looks like a theatre in Pasadena will be presenting the musical Funny Girl. November is still in the planning stages, but we know it will include Hedwig and the Angry Inch at  the Hollywood Pantages (FB); a Day Out With Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB) [excuse me, “Southern California Railway Museum”]; the Nottingham Festival (FB); and possibly Little Women at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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Hamlet (HFF16)userpic=fringeWhen reading through the list of shows at the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), shows catch my eyes for various reasons. For example, yesterday’s show, Hamlet, was written up thusly:

Hamlet is set in the 1940s of Las Vegas and the Royal Family is the mob. Having a struggling desert town working its way towards greatness as a parallel for the turmoil that Denmark was going through connects modern audiences to a time they never experienced before. With a script cut to emphasize the story’s moral and original language to emphasize the depth of the story, this retelling of a classic will wow audiences.

Reading this, I thought: “Wow! Ever since I saw the Four Clowns presents Hamlet, I’ve been wanting to see another take on Hamlet. Plus, I’m a student of the history of Las Vegas (especially the mob era in Vegas), and this blend sounds fascinating. I’m in”. So we booked our tickets, and last night we worked our way to West Hollywood for our last show of the Fringe Festival: Hamlet, from the Boundless Artists Theatre Company/FB.

Alas, the description was better than the execution. This is not to say that the performance was bad — it wasn’t (although it had some problems). Rather, it simply didn’t match the expectation created from the catalog description. Let’s analyze why, and what could have been done to fix it.

Let’s start with that first line: “Hamlet is set in the 1940s of Las Vegas and the Royal Family is the mob.” Great, great idea. So we walk into the theatre, and it is a black box with no set, no projections. The only intimation that we are dealing with the mob is that everyone is in black suits and dark shirts and carry guns, and the ladies are in heels with black hose. Yup. Damon Runyon (think “Guys and Dolls”) mobsters. That’s it. The language still refers to Kings and Queens and Princes and Denmark and France, but with a light New York accent. That’s all that gives us the sense of place. Doesn’t work. Nothing in this execution said “Vegas” at all.

So, what could they have done? First, move it up about 8-10 years. In the early 40s, the only resorts on the strip were El Rancho Vegas and The Last Frontier, both started before the war and both without heavy mob involvement. The Flamingo opened in 1946, and the era that is desired is the 10 year era after that, probably best between 1954 and 1956 when you had a number of mob-owned “union pension fund funded” resorts opening. 1954 is particularly good: you’ve got the El Rancho, Last Frontier, Flamingo, Sahara, Sands, Desert Inn, and Thunderbird operating. Go to 1958 and you can add about 5 more, including the Stardust and Riviera. Make Claude (Claudius) the general manager of the hotel, who bumped off the previous general manager and married his wife, Gertrude. Hamlet could remain Gertrude’s son, and perhaps be something like the Casino Director who doesn’t like the situation, perhaps because Claude was the general manager at a competing resort (and, yes, this happened at the time — look up folks like Gus Greenbaum, who was brought in to manage the Riviera in 1955, after successfully managing the Flamingo Hotel after the death (some would say mob hit) of Bugsy Siegel. In December 1958, Greenbaum and his wife were murdered in their Phoenix, Arizona home, reportedly on the orders of either Meyer Lansky or Tony Accardo. Make the other characters have similar changes: Ophelia as Hamlet’s girlfriend who works in the hotel; Laertes in another position and connected to his father, Polonius, who perhaps works with one of the union pension funds. The key point is that if you are going to set it in Vegas and the mob-controlled strip, you have to adjust the story to that context and mileau. Tweak the characters and names. As this is Fringe, use projections to establish the places: the hotel, offices, on the casino floor, in the desert burying a body. Make the costumes era appropriate and not caricatures of what you think the era is.

The mob Vegas aspect is a wonderful place to set the Hamlet story and to modernize it (doing so could be a great start at a fun screenplay). However, the execution of this version just failed miserably on that count. It was less visible than the Royal Nevada. The director, Rachel Lynn Walker (FB), who was also responsible for the adaptation and adjustments, needed to study and understand the era before attempting to do this.

Independent of screwing up the theme, how was this production as Hamlet itself? What would Billy Shakespeare think? By the way, if you aren’t familiar with Hamlet, either read the Wikipedia entry, the sparknotes, or the play itself.

On this aspect, the show was a bit better, but was still flawed (but see the note at the end). The adaptation did a lot of work to preserve the key lines that everyone expects from Hamlet. That was the good part. The bad part was that many of the actors spoke their lines far too fast, and without clear enunciation, which made it difficult for the audience to follow the story (which is already difficult given the unfamiliarity with Shakespeare’s language and language patterns). This was evidence from the moment when Bernardo steps on the stage and speaks his first lines (the actor playing Bernardo was one of the worst — but far from the only — offender). This problem I blame squarely on the director, Rachel Lynn Walker (FB), who has the responsibility to guide her actors to ensure they can be heard and understood by the audience. I have to tell technical students this all the time: slow down and speak clearly. This is certainly true for actors, who must add projection on top of that (and is doubly true when you are adding an accent).

So, we set aside the theme, and we set aside hearing many of the actors, and what do we have left? The performances. I’m pleased here to say there were some strong performances that offset the weak and worked to carry the story. We’ll do it in the usual tiers, with highlights.

At the time, of course, there is Evan Garcia (FB)’s Hamlet. For the most part, Garcia spoke clear but perhaps a little fast, and captured the emotions well (although he might need to a bit of work to convey the madness of Hamlet a little better). He also didn’t appear to have the strong connection required with Cynthia Asmar/FB‘s Ophelia, who is supposedly his love. Asmar’s Ophelia was fun to watch — kudos for casting diverse body shapes — and handled most of her lines well.

As the King and Queen, Richard Lozoya (FB) and Lauren Sanatra (FB), respectively, performed reasonably well. My wife thought Lozoya spoke a little fast; I thought he was OK. More importantly, other than the words there was nothing to convey a good sense of what the relationship was between Hamlet and these folks, and why he cared about them at all.

Polonius was played by Sergio Venegas (FB), and he had one of the best performances of the team. He spoke clear and loud, and did a great job of conveying his meaning. Shannon Walker (FB)’s Horatio worked well sometimes and at other times spoke too fast. In any case, she performed well and was fun to watch. However, there were a few points where it was clear she was struggling on the next line; by the 5th Fringe show that problem should have gone away. Her partner-in-crime, Daniel Verdugo/FB‘s Bernardo, was more of a problem. He always spoke too fast and too softly, and it was often difficult to figure out what he was saying or doing.

Rounding out the cast were Andrew Cercedes (FB) as Guildenstern, Joy Ann-Marie Horn/FB as Rosencranz, and Ryan Jones/FB as the ghost. Rosencranz and Guildenstern needed to work on their projection and slow down a bit more.

Turning to the production side again, there was no credit provided for set design, because there was no set. Costume and Prop design was by the director, Rachel Lynn Walker (FB), and here again there were some distracting fails. My wife noted that the shoes were wrong for the era. At one point Joy Ann-Marie Horn/FB was an a dress with a large opening in the back, and a bra strap was clearly visible. This did not fit the era in question — either the 1940s or 1950s. In the final scenes, Shannon Walker (FB) needs to watch out as she was about falling out of her top when she was leaning forward. Again — that’s a costuming problem that should have been caught by the director.  Actors seemingly kept dropping their props, and the variety of guns was off. On the plus side, the fight and dance choreography by Richard Lozoya (FB) was quite good. No credit was provided for stage management or lighting design. Justin Huen operated the board, and the production was presented by the Boundless Artists Theatre Company/FB.

Note: Writing this up uncovered the fact that most of the actors, as well as the director, of this production are relatively new to the industry. I do not want this writeup to seem harsher than it should — they were very good for their skill level. The problem is: the audience (especially an audience at Fringe) doesn’t know the actor’s skill level. As a result, the actors and production team need to up their game. There are things one overlooks because it is Fringe: fancy sets, fancy costumes, lots of rehearsal time in the space. But other things are space independent: learning to speak at a speed where the audience can understand, speaking with sufficient projection and enunciation to convey the story. Exhibiting emotions and relating is one thing, but what makes something a play over a pantomime is the writing. I encourage these young actors to keep practicing and working at the craft, and hope to see them much improved next year. This is where a skilled director can come in; they can educate and teach while molding and shaping. I fear the director in this case was overextended: not enough time to research for the writing, not enough time to rehearse with the actors, and not enough time to research to get the costumes to convey the message. In any case, this company still has a skill I don’t have — inhabiting another character. I’m just an engineer who knows how to write.

We saw the last performance of Hamlet, and it looks like it wasn’t extended for the Fringe Encore Awards.

Attention Programmers! Take the Fringe Programming Challenge! Scheduling your shows at the Fringe can be a pain in the …. I’m trying to solve the problem for next year, so take a look at my specs for a Fringe scheduling app. Can you write it?

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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 Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September is similarly mostly hold dates at this point. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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My Big Fat Blonde Musical (HFF16)userpic=fringeOK, perhaps my taste in women is coloring my reaction to this musical. After all, if you know the women I dated (as well as the one I eventually married), you’ll know they all fit one particular mold.

No, not that mold.

They were all natural women who were comfortable in their bodies, who didn’t accept how society told them they had to look or had to behave, and who didn’t taken nothing from nobody.

(Excuse me while a song from Tom Paxton runs through the brain: …)

All over this great big city,
Can’t find a woman who’s nice and pretty.
They all look like a page in a magazine.
Legs are long and they eat like a sparrow.
Figures stick to the straight and narrow.
Top and bottom are the same as in between.

[Cho:]
Show me a pretty little number,
When she walks, she rolls like thunder,
Eyes as deep and dark as the deep blue sea.
Round right here and round right there,
Pretty red lips and her very own hair,
Wrap her up, she’s the natural girl for me.

OK, digression ended. Back to the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), where yesterday evening we saw our last show in the Sacred Fools (FB) Black Box space:  My Big Fat Blond Musical at 8:30pm.

My Big Fat Blond Musical, which was written, composed, and produced by Theresa Stroll (FB) and her finace, Bobby McGlynn (FB), and performed by Stroll, is the story of Stroll’s experience in Hollywood, where she moved from Connecticut to pursue a dream of being an actress. Unfortunately, she found out that Hollywood — in particular, the TV and Film industry — doesn’t have a liking of large (well, fubsy, well, fat) women, except as comic relief and the girl that never gets the guy. She did eventually find an answer to her problem — I’m not going to say it is the answer — but more on that later.

Throughout the show, Stroll relates her story portraying multiple characters along the way: an Austrialian actress working in a bar, her manager at Starbucks, a talent manager, and so forth. She had a particular point to make about the burden of student loans and how the loan companies start making demands to get their money back even before the student has begun to achieve their earning potential. This, as a dad of a recent UC Berkeley grad, scares me a little, although it is a little reassuring to know that her loan total is only the amount of a compact car.

Throughout the show, there are a number of songs and dances that convey the points of the accompanying scenes. Stroll sings these very well (there were only a few minor reaches), but one or two of songs themselves could use a little work if they were to survive out of the show. On the other hand, some were excellent — “Carbs and Oils” was a great parody of Modern Major General, and “Fuck It!” could be the anthem of many people that I know.  They do have a demo recording of the songs available for a PayPal payment of $2 to fatmusical@gmail.com.

By the end of the story, Stroll has found the avenue to success, and it is reminiscent of the will in A Class Act: she decides to tell Hollywood to F-it, and take control of her own destiny… and one aspect of this is creating a musical… which is, you guessed it….

I think the message that this show imparts is a great one: Don’t wait for destiny to come to you, go out and make your own destiny. It is one that is true for fat or thin actors, but especially true for actors that don’t fit the normal stereotypical molds of Hollywood and the TV and film industry. I’d say that we’re lucky that the theatrical stage is more diverse… but is it?

Stroll, in this show, touches on that last aspects of acceptable discrimination. We can no longer discriminate based on sex, race, creed, color, orientation, gender identification, religion; however, being fat or large — that you can make fun of. That’s wrong. We’re seeing some increasingly popular viral campaigns expressing that view — that what we need are real sizes and real people. (That’s one reason I supported The Nu Project (FB) — for it has a great message — all women are beautiful). But Hollywood and related acting professions (i.e., stage) still view the world through a narrow lens of shapes, sizes and colors. Fringe festival is beautiful because it allows celebration outside that boundary — whether “big boned”, “big chested”, or just “big opinioned”. Fringe embraces the wide variety of theatre in all its natural values from the one person to the ensemble, from the loosely scripted to the tightly scripted, from the polished to the not, from the… well you get it.

This is why Theresa Stroll’s piece is so important to be seen: to make us aware of the discrimination in the industry. Why can’t we have a show (other than Mike and Molly, which although it had the premise, was painfully flawed in execution) where the large girl gets the guy and is treated no different than the skinny girl that gets the guy (i.e., no jokes about size)? Why can’t we cast size diverse as well as color diverse? Why must the only role for fat be funny?

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I truly enjoyed this piece (as did my wife).

The production was directed by Jessica Lynn Johnson (FB), who is not from Australia but from St. Louis (but those midwest accents are difficult 🙂 ). Choreography was by Lindsay Braverman (FB). Rebecca Schoenberg (FB) [any relation to Larry?] was the stage manager. There were no credits given for lighting or sound or projections, but all worked very well in establishing place and mood.

Alas, we caught the last performance of My Big Fat Blonde Musical. I have heard rumors that it might be extended with a few shows, so keep checking their ticket page or follow @FatMusical  on Twitter for updates.

As a PS for this: We need to get some producer to follow this up with a production of Pretty Faces: The Large and Lovely Musical (FB, Amazon) at the next Fringe Festival. Vocal selections are available, but I can’t find licensing info. It looks like you contact the author.

Attention Programmers! Take the Fringe Programming Challenge! Scheduling your shows at the Fringe can be a pain in the …. I’m trying to solve the problem for next year, so take a look at my specs for a Fringe scheduling app. Can you write it?

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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 Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September is similarly mostly hold dates at this point. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

 

 

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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Taming of the Show (HFF16)userpic=fringeThose who have been paying attention this month may be wondering where this show came from? After all, it wasn’t on our original schedule of 15 shows; it wasn’t even on the list of shows of interest for the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). Those wondering would be correct. This show was added at the last minute, when we realized we had a three hour break between our two Saturday days, which were at the same theatre. This looked interesting, and it was at the same theatre — and so, for the first time, we had three consecutive shows in the Sacred Fools (FB) Black Box space: Squeeze My Cans at 4pm, Taming of the Show at 6pm, and My Big Fat Blond Musical at 8:30pm.

In the manner of productions like Kiss Me Kate, the focus of Taming of the Show is less the Shakespeare production itself than the meta-story of the making of the production. And, as in KMK, that “making” is going all wrong. In the case of Taming/Show, you have a maniacal director (Montana Stanislavski) who has a conception of the show as a time-travel story: an astronaut goes back to pre-historic times where mankind is living with dinosaurs. Think Flintstones, but with more grunting and less technology. OK, don’t think Flintstones; think It’s About Time. You have a lead actor (Brayden Stryker) who has an over-inflated sense of self, whose peak was being on the CW, and who uses drugs and sex to get by and a lead actress (Annie) who doesn’t want to have anything to do with the lead actor. You have one additional actor (Ronald Jeremy — and yes, they called him that) who played most of remaining male roles (and some female ones), and one additional actor (Betty Turnipseed) who played most of the remaining female roles (and some of the male ones). You have an aged stage manager Hilary Nikademus, and a former student of his drawn into being assistant stage manager, Eddie Littlejeans. Oh, and this ASM is recovering from theatrical tourettes, where he breaks out in song at any inconvenient moment.

What could go wrong?

Oh, and I forgot: there is a strong theme of forbidden love — the love that must not speak its name. That’s right: the love between someone in the crew and someone in the cast. Naturally, in this case, the tension isn’t just created with the show: Eddie falls in love with Annie, who is also the object of lust of the lead, Brayden. Annie wants nothing to do with either of them.

Now wind it up and let it go.

This isn’t Broadway-caliber writing folks. This isn’t even Colony-caliber writing. That’s not to say the show was bad. It was just not deep; it wasn’t complex. The characters were lightly drawn and boxed into particular tropes and roles. The humor was broad and broadcast. The show was funny and made you laugh, but then you felt guilty for laughing at such an obvious and broad joke. These problems can be laid squarely at the feet of the author, Blake Walker (FB) — and it appears they were intentional. The show notes indicate that the original production (this started when Walker was in college at SMU) was intended as a comment on the state of the theatre department there, and has been refined to embrace the tropes, cliches, frustrations and experiences found in the real world. Translating that, it means that this show was intended more as a parody and less as a real show — and parody is by its nature broad and cliched.

The performances were reasonably good and fit the materials — that is, the stereotypes and tropes — well. In the lead positions (at least from my point of view) was Jeff DeCrosta (FB) as Eddie and Chineze Enekwechi (FB) as Annie. DeCrosta gave a very affable and friendly performance; just a nice guy you wanted to succeed. I don’t judge these things, but my wife thought he was good looking.  He also had a very nice singing voice with only the occasional overreach. Enekwechi’s Annie was similarly accessible and friendly, and the actress just had a lovely face that was a delight to watch. I also kept detecting a slight sense of a lovely accent to her voice.

Steve Peterson (FB)’s Hilary Nikademus had an odd creepy cryptkeeper vibe to him, which was likely due to his makeup. This made the ending of the show a little hard to visualize, but then again, it takes all types. Peterson’s Nikademus had this aura of “been there, seen this, I don’t need another T-shirt” that was quite interesting.

The two “professionals” (at least in terms of the story) were Marc Forget (FB) as Montana Stanislavski and Greg Steinbrecher (FB) as Brayden Stryker. Both captured their stereotypes well: Forget as the overboard director more obsessed with his ego than the production, and Stryker as the celebrity actor more obsessed with his ego that …. well, you get it.

Rounding out the cast were Paula Deming (FB)’s Betty Turnipseed and Anthony Pappastrat (FB)’s (Ronald Jeremy). First and foremost, I should note that Pappastrat’s portrayal of Jeremy was nothing like that other Ronald Jeremy. Pappastrat had the character with the most physical comedy of the ensemble, and he handled it well. I liked Deming, but I was confused as to what age she was portraying. She seemed to have both young and old aspects. Still, she was quite fun to watch.

The music was by Blake Walker (FB) and Michael Turner, and was provided by an on-stage upright piano — which must be a pain to load in/out for Fringe. Some notes were off, and there were times where the cast that sung (i.e., “Eddie”) had trouble reaching the notes of the lyrics.

The production was directed by Blake Walker (FB), assisted by Karissa McKinney (FB). Rebecca Schoenberg (FB) [any relation to Larry?] was the stage manager. Billy Gill (FB) was the onstage accompanist, with Todd Collins (FB) providing the fight choreography. Props and costumes were by Lynn Downey Braswell (FB). In general, the props and costumes worked well, modulo the cryptkeeper hair. Taming of the Show was presented by Little Candle Productions (FB).

We caught the last performance of Taming of the Show. If encore performances get added, they will be listed (and available to ticket) through the show’s ticketing page. This was a silly show, not deep, but situationally funny and enjoyable.

Attention Programmers! Take the Fringe Programming Challenge! Scheduling your shows at the Fringe can be a pain in the …. I’m trying to solve the problem for next year, so take a look at my specs for a Fringe scheduling app. Can you write it?

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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 Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September is similarly mostly hold dates at this point. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

===> Click Here To Comment <==
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Squeeze My Cans (HFF16)userpic=fringeWhat makes something a cult? What makes something a religion? Is any belief system valid? Who was responsible for rerouting Route 79 in Riverside County between Gilman Springs Road and the Ramona Expressway? Did you like “Battlefield: Earth”?

That last question is a really important one.

Squeeze My Cans (HFF16, FB), which we saw yesterday afternoon as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), is one woman’s story of how she got drawn into the tar-baby that is Scientology, how she worked her way into the upper tiers of the religions, and how she eventually escaped its grasp. Not only did this effort take more than a decade, it decimated her finances.

If you’re like me, you’ve heard of Scientology, and how it was created by science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard. You may have seen the large amount of properties they own in Hollywood. You may have heard perceptions that it is a cult.  You may have heard stories of Tom Cruise, Kirstie Alley, and John Travolta. You may have also heard that the Church of Scientology makes it very difficult for the truth of the story to get out, or for people to leave the church. You may have heard that the church tends to isolate people and disconnect them from their families.

Again, I’ll ask what is a church, and what is a cult? But don’t answer yet — after all, I wouldn’t want to draw the wrath of Scientology down upon me.

Now, coming in, I knew a little more about Scientology, primarily because I had listened to A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant (you can listen too) [As an aside: it has been years since that show has been done in LA, and it would be ripe for a revival at a future Fringe]. I know about Scientology’s notion of Thetans and Xinu and ideas about aliens that sounded like they had been lifted from a science fiction novel. But that’s about all I knew.

I found Cathy Schenkelberg (FB)’s story about her interactions with Scientology scary and fascinating. Her manner of telling the story brought just the right amount of humor and humility to counter the horror of it all. She drew me (and the rest of the audience) in, and just held our attention rapt for a very fast paced and packed 80 minutes. Looking at it from the outside, it was easy to see the cult-ish signs: the constant demands for money, the taking out of loans for classes and to move up levels, the control over the life, the isolation from the outside world and outside voices. It is chilling, but it is even more chilling the mind games that the Church played so that those inside never realized it.

But you know what is even more scary? The fact that the Church is still out there doing it, drawing people in with their celebrities and influence. Even more scary than that? A number of the evangelical groups within our accepted religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) are doing just that. Where do you think the radicalized religious fanatics come from? Programs that use the same techniques as Scientology.

But why did this touch me so? Because I remember the days of cults first-hand. I remember the Moonies on college campuses, and the large meetings where they would attempt to recruit and draw people in.

The presentation in Squeeze My Cans was not only performed by Schenkelberg, it was written by her based on her experience, developed over years. It was directed by Shirley Anderson (FB), with lighting design by Brandon Baruch (FB) and Sound Design and Projections by Toy Deiorio (FB). The direction, lighting, and sound faded into the background — as they should — because Schenkelberg’s story and performance was just so engrossing.

There is one more performance of Squeeze My Cans at the main part of the Fringe Festival: today (Sun 6/26) at 8:00PM. Tickets (if not sold out) are available through the Fringe website. It may be extended with a few more shows in July; that will be announced tonight. Performances take place at the Sacred Fools (FB) Black Box. Check their Fringe Page for updates. It will also be presented the latter half of July as part of the Solo Celebration in Chicago. Go see this, and learn about the danger that is Scientology.

Attention Programmers! Take the Fringe Programming Challenge! Scheduling your shows at the Fringe can be a pain in the …. I’m trying to solve the problem for next year, so take a look at my specs for a Fringe scheduling app. Can you write it?

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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 Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September is similarly mostly hold dates at this point. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

 

 

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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All Aboard The Marriage Hearse (HFF16)userpic=fringeClosing out our third weekend of the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) was yet another demonstration of the range that is Fringe. This time, it was a fully realized one-act play — All Aboard the Marriage Hearse — about the institution of marriage. The quality was definitely not Fringe — this was a play that could work on any intimate stage in town.

Here’s the description from the Fringe catalog, which is as good a synopsis as any:

Sean and Amy are your typical co-habitating, Catholic/Jewish, thirty-something couple living in Manhattan. They work hard, love each other and share common goals in life. Well, sort of. After nearly four years together, Amy wants to get married but Sean does not believe in the institution. The game is on!!! Tonight is the night when they will settle the marriage question once and for all. They will both bring their “A” game and the gloves will come off. Sean will try to talk her out of it. Amy will try to talk him into it. Will they break up? Will they keep going on the path they’re on? Will they climb aboard the “Marriage Hearse?”

Author Matt Morillo (FB) uses the play to discuss the value of marriage. Sean strongly does not believe in the institution: he feels it is artificial life support for a relationship, a historic construct with no meaning. He’s willing to commit, for today, for a long term relationship. But make it official in the eyes of the world — nope. Amy, on the other hand, was raised to believe in the value of marriage, and she believes the relationship is at the point where Sean needs to, essentially, put up or shut up.

The resulting argument brings up many interesting points about relationships, and how any why we commit to each other.

If I had any suggestion for the author, it would be that I would want a bit more. To me, the conclusion leaves me dangling. I’d love to see a short second act with the same characters that explores where they are in relation to each other 20 years down the road. What it is the long term impact of their decision: was it the right one or the wrong one. It could be just the thing to flesh this into something fuller and deeper.

The performances were excellent. Tom Pilutik (FB) as Sean, and Jessica Moreno (FB) as Amy have a natural chemistry together; it is easy to believe them as a long-term couple. They just have a comfort with these roles and characters that comes across in their performances. There’s fire when required, but there’s also softness and playfullness. They are just fun to watch.

Tom and Jessica’s performances are augmented by the direction of the author, Matt Morillo (FB), who uses his familiarity with the piece to add to the comfort. There are no real credits for lighting or sound; the lighting in general is naturalistic. Costumes, again, are relatively simple (and now I know what Spanx look like 🙂 ). Erica Lawrence (FB) was the stage manager.  All Aboard the Marriage Hearse was presented by KADM Productions (FB) and produced by Joanne Hartstone (FB).

Alas, we saw the last Fringe presentation of All Aboard The Marriage Hearse. You can vote for the show for awards, and perhaps it will come back for an encore performance.

Attention Programmers! Take the Fringe Programming Challenge! Scheduling your shows at the Fringe can be a pain in the …. I’m trying to solve the problem for next year, so take a look at my specs for a Fringe scheduling app. Can you write it?

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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 Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September is similarly mostly hold dates at this point. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

 

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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Sweet Love Adieu (HFF16)userpic=fringeAs I wrote yesterday, the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) has a wide range of projects, from first person narratives (our first Saturday show) to ensemble comedies (our second Saturday show) to improvised history (our third Saturday show) to touching dramatic one-person shows (our fourth Saturday show). But wait…. there’s more. And we saw it on Sunday.

Having been reintroduced to the comedic possibilities of Shakespeare through his timeless classic Bard Fiction, and having seen even more comedic possibilities in Four Clowns Presents Hamlet, I was eager for more Shakespeare in the schedule. No, Titus Andronicus Jr. didn’t satisfy my appetite.  I wanted more. I wanted parody (before the real thing, which will be our last HFF16 show). Reading through the schedule, my eyes set upon Sweet Love Adieu (which had not acquired its subtitle yet). From an established company. A production that had gotten rave reviews in the past. Something a bit bawdy (because I was not going to this). Plus, there was free chocolate.  The description in the catalog was short but intriguing:

Verse * tights * codpiece * lights. Romeo and Juliet meets Monty Python in this hilarious comedy of errors from multiple award-winning British verse playwright phenomenon, Ryan J-W Smith. Smith’s first acclaimed verse play – completely rewritten and updated for 2016!

Coming out of the production, my basic impression was: Ren-Faire theatre done long. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (in fact, I still believe that one of the other shows in Fringe was a production I saw at Nottingham Festival last year (hmmm, it appears it was)). But typical Ren-Faire Shakespeare uses the rhyming couplets and combines it with the bawdy humor and risque word play of Faire (without really showing anything at all). This was all that, extended to 80 minutes or so. If you go in expecting that, you won’t be disappointed.

The plot? Yes, I guess there was one. Here’s a summary of a version  from 2007; the 2016 version was a bit longer but similar:

The plot of Sweet Love Adieu revolves around a love-sick William who instantly falls for Anne Beaumont, who is the ward of the stereotyped villain Lord Edmund. When Edmund decides that he will have Anne as his bride, William and Anne become secret lovers as they plot with their friends, cousins, mothers, and friars to outwit the nefarious Edmund and his feckless manservant Sidney. Homage is paid to Shakespeare’s comedies through cross-dressing, period music, marginal swordplay, and a happy ending.

Yup. Ren-Faire Shakespeare.

The free verse was quite good, and there were numerous references to modern technology that were quite clever. There were times where the fourth wall was broken, and that too was great fun.

I think my basic point here is one of managing expectations. This piece is quite fun to watch. It is well performed and cleverly written. But it is, at its heart, a Renaissance Faire stage show with the level of bawdy humor and depth of plot one would expect from such a piece. It would do great at Southern Faire or Nottingham or any of the Northern brethren. But deep theatre it is not; particularly fringey it is not.  But you do get chocolate. Good chocolate. Chocolate that made it clear that they spent the money on chocolate instead of a program (you had to find the players online)

One additional note: Given the recent kerfuffle over the abuse at the Profile Theatre in Chicago, and the resultant collateral damage at Bitter Lemons, the issues of sexual harassment and non-consensual sex were heavily on my mind. Watching this sex farce, where the men were constantly treating the women like objects and attempting to (essentially) sexually force themselves on them, was quite uncomfortable. I’m well aware of how this was the style of those days. Still, it goes to show how even historical drama (or comedy) can raise questions for today, and why we must remember to view things in the light of their times — and think about how far we have come.

As I said before, the company putting it on performed it well and handled the language quite well. Let’s start with the folks that attracted my attention whenever they were on stage: the ladies:  Faith Kearns (FB) as Audrey, Katey Zouck (FB) as Anne, and Megan Barker (FB) as Faith. All three exhibited a wonderful sexy spunk that was just fun to watch — and the sex didn’t come from exposing skin but from a great assertive attitude that was just projected out to the audience. These were no-nonsense gals; all great.

The three guys — William and his two friends, who also handled multiple roles, were portrayed by Jason Linforth (FB) [William], Lance Frantzich (FB) [Ridley / Doctor / Magistrate / Priest], and Ryan Stiffelman (FB) [Latimer]. Linforth’s William was a suitably handsome and clueless young lad, and Frantzich was a hoot in his multiple roles — particularly as the priest with his non-priestly inclinations.

The remaining characters: Lord Edmond and his aide, Sidney, were played by Roger Carvalho (FB) and the author, Ryan J-W Smith (FB),  respectively. Carvalho’s Edmond was suitably sinister, and was fun to watch when his, umm, member was damaged. Smith’s Sidney captured the plotting quite well.

On the technical side, the production was written and directed by Ryan J-W Smith (FB). Lisa Lynn is the company manager. Because they spent all their money on chocolate, they must have pulled random people off the street to handle lights, costumes, and the like because no one is credited on their website. 🙂

There are two more productions of Sweet Love Adieu — June 24th at 5:30PM and June 25th at 2:30PM. Tickets are available through the Fringe website. It is essentially running in repertory with Macdeth! (MacBeth Done Wrong), which also has two more performances: June 23 at 7:00 PM and June 25th at 8:00 PM. Again, visit the Fringe website for tickets. Oh, and go see a show at your local RenFaire — tickets to Nottingham in Simi Valley are on sale now.

Attention Programmers! Take the Fringe Programming Challenge! Scheduling your shows at the Fringe can be a pain in the …. I’m trying to solve the problem for next year, so take a look at my specs for a Fringe scheduling app. Can you write it?

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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 Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September is similarly mostly hold dates at this point. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

 

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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The Old Woman (HFF16)userpic=fringeAs I’ve said before, the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) has a wide range of projects, from first person narratives (our first Saturday show) to ensemble comedies (our second Saturday show) to improvised history (our third Saturday show) to… our last Saturday show: The Old Woman.  This show was another one-person show, but in a very different vein. Instead of going for the laughs (which it had), it went for the pathos and the emotion. It told the story of a son’s relationship with his aging mother, who is dealing with increasing dementia — combined with the worry that he might be facing the same fate.

In The Old Woman, John Grady (FB) starts with the simple: a walk with the dogs in Griffith Park. Through this, he introduces us to his mother, his family, and the questions of his own mental status. The story then moves into a visit with his mother, as he sees how she is becoming increasingly detached from the world. The production ends with a wordless dance — a ballet of sorts — that, well, left me thinking about what it was trying to say. My conclusion was that the dance was a tribute to his mother, her life, and her spiral down.

Saturday was a day for shows that hit home. Our first resonated with my wife, for she had also dealt with the issue of growing up with large breasts. The last resonated as well with both of us, as we’re dealing with dementia in her mom. We’re seeing everything that John portrayed: the short loop time, the argumentative nature, the refusal to do physical therapy, that intense desire to be someplace — any place else (and the realization from us, the children, that there is no other place else).

I think, of all the shows we’ve seen at the Fringe, this was perhaps was the most moving and touching of them all.

This was a true one person show; no credit was provided for director (so presumably John directed) or the technical (presumably arranged by John). That makes this even more powerful.

Sorry, I now need to go read my Shel Silverstein.

Alas, I think we saw the last production, but it might show up at the Fringe Encore in July. Watch  the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) pages for more information.

Attention Programmers! Take the Fringe Programming Challenge! Scheduling your shows at the Fringe can be a pain in the …. I’m trying to solve the problem for next year, so take a look at my specs for a Fringe scheduling app. Can you write it?

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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 Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September is similarly mostly hold dates at this point. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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Mark Twain Answers all Your Questions (HFF16)userpic=fringeOur third show on Saturday was perhaps the weakest of the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) shows that we’ve seen so far — this is not to say that it wasn’t funny at points, but it was also much more improvised and disorganized.

The show was Mr. Mark Twain Answers All Your Questions, and the premise as described was: “Fresh off his award-winning performance at last year’s Poe Show,* Mr. Mark Twain is back with his one man show! This June at the new Sacred Fools space, Mr. Mark Twain will be shooting out the lights with stories, observations, and general nonsense (with extra nonsense on the side). If he fools around long enough, he may even say something worth repeating.”

As executed, it was a little different. The conceit was somehow that the Federal Bureau of One Person Shows was forcing Twain to do this show for some reason. The show involved Twain telling a few stories of his life, trying to tell some bad jokes, and the reacting and answering a number of questions from the audience in the Twain character. There was some level of audience participation, but in many ways the biggest question was whether Twain’s mustache would stay attached to his face. At our show, it didn’t and he eventually gave up.

Twain was played by a fellow named S. Clemens, who in reality was Ed Goodman (FB). Goodman was reasonably funny and quick on his feet, but I’m not sure he captured the Mark Twain character as the audience might expect.

Corey Rittmaster (FB) providedthe sound and voice, and served as the representative of the FBOPS when Twain broke the rules. Jeremy Aldridge (FB) helped develop the show and served as director. Suz Curtis was the Brainstorm Trooper. Mark Twain was partially funded by an Indiegogo Effort.

There is one more performance of Mark Twain Answers All Your Questions, Saturday June 25 at 11:30pm. Tickets are available through the Fringe Website.

Attention Programmers! Take the Fringe Programming Challenge! Scheduling your shows at the Fringe can be a pain in the …. I’m trying to solve the problem for next year, so take a look at my specs for a Fringe scheduling app. Can you write it?

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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 Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September is similarly mostly hold dates at this point. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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Lamprey: Weekend of Vengence (HFF16)userpic=fringeThe sort of shows that you find at the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) run the full range, from one person shows to fully executed musicals, from deep dramas to comedies, to families shows to shows where both the audience and the actors are naked. Don’t expect a writeup from that last one. Some are shows from first time groups, and some are from established groups. Our second show on Saturday, Lamprey: Weekend of Vengence (FB) was one of the latter; another show from the folks that gave us the excellent All The Best Killers Are Librarians (which we saw during the preview weekend of Fringe) — the Serial Killers (FB) team.

Serial Killers (FB) is a Sacred Fools (FB) late night production where each week, three continuing stories face off against two new tales. At the end of the show, the audience votes for the three stories that will continue on to the next Saturday night, where their subsequent episodes will then be pitted against two completely new storylines. The season culminates in a head-to-head battle royale between the sixteen top serials, including the eight longest-running serials plus audience-choice selections!

Just as Librarians was a successful serial made into a full-length Fringe show, Lamprey was a successful serial made into a Fringe show. There are some who believe that it is funnier; I tended to prefer Librarians slightly, but it is a matter of taste. Both exhibited a strong sense of earnestness, of going for the comedy jugular no matter what it takes. One also got a sense that the actors were having so much fun they were attempting to make the other actors break their role from laughing. This worked extremely well on the Carol Burnett Show to amplify the humor. I think it worked well here as well. I can say that both of these productions made me want to explore Serial Killers (FB) more (if it wasn’t past my bedtime 🙂 ).

Here’s the description of the show from the Fringe writeup:

The Lamprey is a cop named Lynn Alvarado who is trying to get people to call her the Lamprey. She also has to solve the murder of her partner, but only has one weekend to do it! Her family has gotten non-refundable tickets for a Disney Cruise that leaves on Monday morning, and she like, HAS to be on it. The Lamprey must navigate the criminal world of Los Angeles, some by-the-book internal affairs agents, a masked killer looking to take her out and the to do list that her husband gave her. SOMEONE must get vengeance for her partner and also get the kids to Romp and Roll, and that someone is the Lamprey. Can one woman really have it all, when everyone is trying to kill her?

You can see why this description just pulled me in. The production, under the direction of Victor Isaac (FB), played (and some might say over-played) it for the laughs. I’ll note it was nice to see Victor again, albeit briefly. We last saw him at ACSAC 16 when he was part of the conference presentation of The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam. Victor kept the story moving along briskly, a rapid-fire sequence of scenes that were very funny, yet demonstrated the serial origin of the show.

As the Lamprey, Carrie Keranen (FB) was vibrating with vengeance, umm, intensity. Unlike her small role in Librarians, this role allowed her to play the comedy to the hilt, and she put all her energy into the effort.  She was a lot of fun to watch.

In primary supporting roles were Pete Caslavka as Chris Alvarado, the Lamprey’s husband and Maya Imani Estephanos (FB) as Jen Murphy, the Lamprey’s partner. Caslavka’s character here was nothing like his character in Librarians; here, he was one of the few people that could stand up to the Lamprey and call her on her shit. Another person who didn’t want to deal with the Lamprey’s shit was Estephanos as her (late) partner, Jen. With both actors, you could see well the exasperation they felt from dealing with this over the top character.

Playing secondary supporting roles (i.e., playing multiple characters) were Peter Fluet (FB) [Chief / James], Amanda Blake Davis (FB) [Agent Calhoune / Graci], Glenn  Stanton (FB) [Agent Corrigan / Barrick], Derek Mehn (FB) [Tony / Clint], Dana DeRuyck (FB) [Alexis / Coroner], and Marshall Givens (FB) [Cop / Priest / Killer / Doug].  Of these folks, the performances that remain stuck in my head are Fluet’s wonderful Chief, whose interactions with the Lamprey reminded me of the screaming on Moonlighting, and DeRuyck’s Coroner, who just had this wonderful look about her. The rest all gave great performances; it was those two that stood out in my mind above the rest.

Lamprey: Weekend of Vengeance was written by Peter Fluet (FB), who appears to have done a number of productions at Serial Killers. Scott Golden (FB) was the assistant director. HeatherLynn Gonzales (FB) was the Stage Manager. Sondra Mayer (FB) did the fight choreography, which was very good (although I still prefered the fight choreography on Librarians). Music Composition was by Zachary Bernstein (FB). Erik Engman was an associate producers and made a special appearance somewhere.

There are two more presentations of Lamprey: Weekend of Vengeance: Monday, June 20th at 7:00PM, and Friday, June 24th at 11:00 PM. It is quite funny and worth seeing. Tickets are available through the Fringe Website.

Attention Programmers! Take the Fringe Programming Challenge! Scheduling your shows at the Fringe can be a pain in the …. I’m trying to solve the problem for next year, so take a look at my specs for a Fringe scheduling app. Can you write it?

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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 Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September is similarly mostly hold dates at this point. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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30JJ or Bust (HFF16)userpic=fringeSaturday was our four-show day at the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). Whew! Luckily, all but one of them were one-person shows, making the write-ups easier. The first dealt with a subject that is really out in front, something that calls and hold your attention, something that … oh well, just pretend I’ve inserted all  the gratuitous jokes about large breasts. Guys like to joke about large breasts; certainly, in Western society, they are what’s in for most people*. But for those that have them, dealing with them is no fun. A hot day like Saturday means you’re swimming in boob sweat. There are back problems, knee problems, self-esteem problems, … the list goes on and on. Anyone who thinks that large breasts are a blessing doesn’t have to live with them.
(*: as you are probably dying to ask: I’ll enjoy them whatever size they are, just keep ’em natural)

That, precisely, was the subject of our first show Saturday: “30JJ or Bust: The World is My Underwire“. The artist, Joan Afton (FB), shares her experiences living with “the girls” (use whatever term you want), framing the discussion with a call to her insurance company about getting breast reduction surgery — and the angst it creates when she thinks about changing something that is so much part of her identity.

During the show, Afton explores society’s relationship and view about breasts, as well as what large chested girls have to go through to deal with the chest. From learning how to camouflage and distract attention, to finding appropriate size bras and being measured properly, and exploring both the physical and emotions damage that large size breast can create.

Now, I’m a guy, and I found the show quite enjoyable. I also found it interesting to hear and explore the reaction of the audience to the stories. I never found myself wondering when the show would be over, and found myself caught up in Afton’s story.

But I’m not the best judge. My wife was in a similar position to Afton: When we met, she was in a KK cup; she had reduction surgery many many years ago — and she’ll tell you it was the best decision she ever made. She absolutely loved this show: she said it captured the experience of every large breasted girl growing up. It captured the concerns that leads one to have surgery, and also captured the questions that go through one’s mind. She thought it was the best show we saw on Saturday.

So, if the boobs that are giving you the greatest problems in life are not your partner and your co-workers, but your large breasts; if you really want to get something off your chest… you should really see this show. It’s also great for those guys who either live with or want to live with someone with large breasts: you’ll discover that your fantasy does not trump your partner’s pain.

30JJ was directed by Deana Barone (FB), who worked with Afton to help her transform her story into what you see on stage. Evidently, they are long-time friends, and that close relationship showed in how well the story presented itself. Barone has another show at the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) — MetaFam. She also hostied a workshop (well, it has just started) called Unleash Your Story, also at Fringe.

30JJ has one more performance:  Saturday June 25 2016 at 11:30 PM at  Asylum @ Studio C (Mainstage). Tickets are available through the Fringe website.

Attention Programmers! Take the Fringe Programming Challenge! Scheduling your shows at the Fringe can be a pain in the …. I’m trying to solve the problem for next year, so take a look at my specs for a Fringe scheduling app. Can you write it?

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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 Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September is similarly mostly hold dates at this point. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

 

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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userpic=fringeuserpic=toshibaIf you haven’t figured it out yet by reading my blog, we’re in the midst of the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), meaning almost 300 shows and events spread over Hollywood and West Hollywood during the month of June. It is impossible to figure out the best way to schedule the shows you want to see in the time you have.

Or is it.

Now I’m not an actor, director, producer, or anything connected with the theatre industry, other than an audience member. I am, however, a computer scientist. I’m a software engineer, and I know how to draw up specifications for problems to be solved. Scheduling the Fringe is a solvable problem: after all, I had kids at the California State Science Fair doing something similar with school assignments.

So here’s my challenge to you: I’m going to lay out the problem as I see it. Can you develop an app or a web page that can solve the problem in a usable fashion? No pay involved other than the glory of the challenge, but I will pass any good results on to the folks at the Fringe to consider next year.

Here’s the problem:

  • You have a database of shows and events. Each show has webpage link, a title, a venue, a ticket price, a running time, and some set of performance times.
  • You have a database of venues, each with a street address (which you can likely use a Google interface to get GPS coordinates and walk time).
  • You have a list of shows and events that someone is interested in, together with what we’ll call an interest level: 0 – no interest to 3 – must see.  This could be an added parameter on the current Favorites list (go to the website, create a user, and then you can save favorites), or it might be entered in some other way.
  • You have a list of times for which the person is available, including some times marked a “meal breaks”. For example, I might be available weekends between 11am and 11pm, with a 1 hour dinner break after 5pm. You get to determine the most user friendly way to specify this.  Perhaps this could interface with Google Calendar?
  • You have a desired dollar amount they want to spend on tickets.

Given these inputs, produce a best fit schedule, that includes as many of the highest priority shows as possible, then as many of the next priority tier down, and so on for priorities 1-3. You need to take into account walking time between venues, or if the distance between venues exceeds the walking time by 15 minutes, driving and parking time (parking can take up to 15 minutes if you aren’t lucky). You need to take into account meal breaks. Allocate 10 minutes before a show to allow time to check in and get seated. Make sure the total cost does not exceed what the user has indicated.

Ideally, this tool might even connect to the ticketing system (including purchasing Fringe buttons) such that once a schedule is set, it can be ticketed. There might be the need to adjust if a show is sold out of tickets. Ideally, whatever it ticketed could then be saved to Google Calendar or whatever the Mac folks use.

For now, build the databases as you see fit. If you need, I can talk to the Fringe folks and get you information on the JSON/XML API to interface with their site.  Ideally, this should be something usable by folks used to normal websites (i.e., not a complicated interface).

I think this is a solvable problem, and might actually be a good assignment for a class as an example of a real world problem. Feel free to post questions here, and either I’ll answer them based on my experience, or I’ll pass them to the Fringe for resolution.

OK, Go….

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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Titus Andronicus Jr (Hollywood Fringe)userpic=fringeNow, I know middle school theatre, and I’ve grown spoiled by good middle school theatre. My daughter was at Nobel Middle School (FB) when their drama program was reborn about 10  years ago, and we’ve seen a large number of excellent productions since then. So, when I heard that Dawson Middle School from Las Vegas was doing a Fringe show, I just had to go. Then I heard they were doing Shakespeare. That cemented it. It was a must see.

So last night, I went into the Black Box theatre at Sacred Fools (FB) to see the show. There was the usual cheesy set. They could really take a lesson from Nobel, believe you me. Then the drama instructor, Mr. Benjamin, gets up to introduce the play:

This year, Ms. Pennington, our school principal, asked if I would direct the Spring Play. And although I’ve never directed a play before, I’ve heard the commentary track on the Pulp Fiction DVD like a thousand times, so I figured it shouldn’t be too hard, right?

And since kids needs to be nourished by studying the classics, I chose William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. I mean, it was his first play, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to put on.

Anyhow, we’ve had auditions and the cast is pretty good. They’re learning their lines and helping out with the set.

He then introduces the leads, and notes about one of them:

This is Noa. Noa plays Tamora.

Coincidentally my wife’s name is Tamra. Yeah…you probably know her. She makes herself pretty well known everywhere she goes….

We then come to realize that he is in the middle of a massive breakup, and this instructor is being a little passive aggressive… OK, sometimes really aggressive, about his wife.  And the show begins….

Being serious for a moment: What you see above is the setup for Titus Andronicus Jr., a comedic play really being done by middle school students from various schools in the Las Vegas area, and funded by a GoFundMe to come to the Hollywood Fringe. The description in the Fringe catalog said: “After a divorce leaves him suffering a nervous breakdown, a teacher at the posh Dawson Middle School receives the final insult when he is tasked with directing the school’s spring play. Reeling from his personal collapse, Mr. Benjamin chooses to lead the kids in Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedy: Titus Andronicus.”

This show, written by Troy Heard (FB), was invited to be part of the Organic and Homegrown Playwrights Festival (FB) at UNLV where it was presented as a staged reading in March 2016. The World Premiere staging was at the Onyx Theatre (FB) during May 2016. The Onyx is one of the small professional theatres — I don’t know its size, but think of a Sacred-Fool-ish to something perhaps larger — in Las Vegas. Yes, Vegas has a theatre scene beyond what is done on the Strip (although I do recommend Evil Dead: The Musical (FB) on the Strip). The GoFundMe provided the funds to bring the show to HFF, although it wasn’t good enough to get them into the opening night party.

Reading the Fringe schedule I found the description of the show, and put it on my short list of shows to see because it just sounded so warped. It lived up to my expections. If you read the intro (which I grabbed from their GoFundMe), you know the setup: mentally distraught teacher is having to do the spring show: a group of middle schoolers of varying talents putting on a version of Titus Andronicus. Yes, they do the Shakespeare, blood, gore, guts and all, modulo some trigger warnings. As the show goes on, the drama teacher Mr. Benjamin gets drawn into the action more and more, partially because the fellow playing Aaron has a tremendous case of stage fright. Combine this with alcohol, and you get the picture. I don’t want to spoil the end or the middle, but let’s just say that this play lives up to its name, with perhaps a little Lord of the Flies thrown in.

Given the nature of this show, it is difficult to assess. Watching the show, I began to wonder why I always approach Shakespeare from a warped direction. Moonlighting‘s “Atomic Shakespeare” was my intro to  The Taming of the Shrew. The Four Clowns Presents Hamlet was my introduction to the Prince of Denmark (if it wasn’t the Lion King). Bard Fiction was my introduction to that Shakespeare classic Pulp Fiction. This was my first exposure to Titus. Looking at the wikipedia pages today, I see they got the story mostly correct, although it was a little hard to follow. The drama teacher might have been part of that.

Essentially, the kids got Titus right — or at least what you might expect a middle school production to do. The descent into madness that was the Junior version was also well done — it drew you into the descent and was hilarious in its bloody incongruities and defying of expectations of what a kid show was.

As Mr. Benjamin, Thomas Chrastka (who happens to be the Sound Designer of Evil Dead) captures the descent and desparation of a drama teacher quite well. I know drama teachers like that. As for the kids, it is harder to judge because not only are they kids, but they are playing kids doing Shakespeare. At that, they were all remarkable. The kid cast consisted of Ken Haley (Titus Andronicus), Gary Easton/FB (Saturninus), Noa Agatstein/FB (Tamora), Joshua Smithline (Marcus), Joelie Mountain (Lavinia), Maxwell Claydon (Aaron), Cash Freeman (Bassianus / Quintus / Messenger), Ashlee Grubbs (Mutius / Demetrius), and Will Haley (Lucius / Chiron). They were all very funny — I particularly liked Agatstein’s Tamora, Mountain’s Lavinia (especially after losing her hands), Haley’s Titus, Claydon’s Aaron, and watching Easton come on and off stage with Saturninus’ walk was hilarious.

The production was directed by Troy Heard (FB), with music provided by Mr. Benjamin… I mean Thomas Chrastka. The sets were by Mr. Benamin’s third period (in reality, the production design was by Troy Heard (FB)), the lights were by Mr. Jenkins shop class (in reality, Cory Covell/FB and Coral Benedetti/FB), with sound design by Sam Murphy/FB. Costumes were by Maxwell’s mom, Mrs. Claydon. Cassidy Bonifacio/FB was the assistant stage manager.

There are two more performances of Titus Andronicus Jr. at the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) [June 17 @ 5pm, June 18 @ 8pm], and you should really go see it. Tickets are available off of the show’s Fringe page. Be prepared for trigger warnings, blood, violence, and adult themes. This is not your typical middle school production.

As a PS: I fear this is what will happen at Nobel now that its founders have moved on: Fanny to run the performing arts magnet at Van Nuys HS, and Jean to do Drama and English at the Porter Ranch Community School.

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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 Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, a HOLD for Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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Einstein (Hollywood Fringe)userpic=fringeJust imagine how Albert Einstein might feel if he saw how his image and name was licensed today (yes, that is a link to his licensing site). Do you think he would be happy? In fact, for many people, do they even know all that much about the man? Let’s make it specific: what you you know about Albert Einstein other than e=mc², he had frizzy hair, he was a physicist, and he makes great bagels?

Yesterday, we saw a one-man play as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) that attempted to address that question. Einstein attempts to delve into that question by exploring a critical period in Einstein’s life: the time while was in Germany waiting confirmation of his general theory of relativity. While waiting, he was being besieged by other physicists claiming his theory of curved space was wrong, and that their theories were correct. He was also dealing with the dissolution of his marriage, and the impact of that on his relationships with his children.

In Einstein, 5th grade theater and solo artist Jack Fry (FB) becomes the young Einstein during this period, as well as portraying other characters in Einstein’s life: various professional colleagues such as David Hilbert and William Wallace Campbell, or Einstein’s son Hans. He also interacts over telephone with Mileva,  his soon to be ex-wife (voice provided by Alexandra Kovacs (FB) – note that her personal website (which comes up on Google) is hacked, and is a lesson to renew your domains). His performance represents, according to the program three years of Fry’s personal research, based on 15,000 documents from Einstein’s files, letters, and records released by Hebrew University in 2007.  Fry took this research and developed it into a script, with additional physics advice from Ron Mallet (FB).

I found Fry’s portrayal of Einstein’s quite engaging and eccentric.  It wasn’t canned; he had the base material he needed to get out to advance the story, but he also had wonderful moments of interactions with the audience throughout the piece. He popped between the younger and the older Einstein with ease, and was able to assume sufficiently distinct personas for the few other characters he portrayed.

His descriptions of relativity were sufficiently simplified to make concepts such as curved space acceptable to the layperson. In particular, he had some illuminatory graphics (by Walker Schupp and Anthony Denha) that demonstrated well how curved space works to create the illusion of gravity, and how the curvature would be significant in proving Einstein’s theories. Einstein also commented on a number of modern day inventions, and how they all derived from his basic theories.

To what extent this excellent performance was Fry, and to what extent it was the direction of Tom Blomquist (FB) (assisted by Peggy O’Neil (FB)) is difficult for this audience member to determine. Whatever the combination, it worked well to bring out Einstein the man, as opposed to Einstein the caricature we see these days.

The set design, by John Toom (FB), was suitably cluttered for a physicists office, although some of the books were clearly not era appropriate. This was a pretty heavy set design for a fringe show (which have perhaps 10 minutes to load in and out): desks, chairs, loads of books, additional tables, and wall hangings. Toom also did whatever lighting design was possible in the shared Fringe environment. Cody Andersen (FB) was the stage manager, and Matt Sibley/FB was the production assistant. Peggy O’Neil (FB) was the vocal coach.

I should admit that I had another motive in attending this particular show. I’m local arrangements chair for the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), and I was hoping that lighting would strike twice at the Fringe, as it had last year for The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam.  Alas, I don’t think it did: I was unsure whether this show would be suitably engaging after a conference dinner; further, I’m not sure whether the staging requirements, props, and lighting could be accommodated within the conference budget in a typical hotel conference meeting space dining room. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for other ideas.

But as a Fringe show, this was great: accessible, scientifically engaging, and educational about the life of a historical figure that one probably didn’t know very well. Hell, add hip-hop and this could be Hamilton. Well, perhaps not, but it still was fun.

There are two more performances of Einstein! at Fringe: Friday, June 17th @ 7pm, and Saturday, June 25th @ 9pm. Performances take place at the McCadden Theatre, which is next to the Lex Theatre where The Boy from Oz is enjoying a sold-out run. The theatre is located one block E of Highland, and one block N of Santa Monica. Tickets are available through the Fringe Website, or through the ticketing link off the show’s website. Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar.

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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 Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, a HOLD for Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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All The Best Killers are Librarians (HFF)userpic=fringeI’ve known many a librarian in my life. One of my dearest friends (Z”L) was a librarian, and she had an inner something that made you not want to cross her… or you would pay the price. I’ve got corporate librarians on my van; again, don’t let their exteriors fool you about their toughness. I even know librarians that can dance people until they drop. So, when I saw a show in the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) catalog that was described as “In this action-packed comedy, a shy librarian is recruited into the thrilling world of professional assassinations, international intrigue, and forbidden romance”, well, I was sold. That show was All The Best Killers are Librarians (FB, TW), and it was the second show we saw last Sunday.

Before I go into the show itself, I’ll note that this show was the winner of Season Ten of “Serial Killers” at Sacred Fools Theater. Serial Killers (FB) is a Sacred Fools (FB) late night production where each week, three continuing stories face off against two new tales. At the end of the show, the audience votes for the three stories that will continue on to the next Saturday night, where their subsequent episodes will then be pitted against two completely new storylines. The season culminates in a head-to-head battle royale between the sixteen top serials, including the eight longest-running serials plus audience-choice selections!

All The Best Killers are Librarians (written by Bob DeRosa (FB)) tells the story of Margo, a shy librarian, content to hide out at the research assistance desk in the back of her library. But then she meets Lancaster, a man who hires and trains the best assassins in the world. Lancaster is convinced she is a natural born killer, and he proves this by sending in three trained assassins to kill her. She dispatches them quickly, for she has the gift to instinctively kill when her life is threatened. Lancaster then recruits Margo into his action-packed world of professional assassinations, international intrigue, and forbidden romance. There’s only one problem: Margo doesn’t really like to kill, and she has started to fall in love with the cleaning man. You know, the cleaning man. The man who disposes of the bodies. Before the show is done, Margo’s hands will be stained with blood and she will know the truth: all the best killers are librarians!

The acting ensemble, who I’m presuming are drawn from the Serial Killers regulars, are aptly directed by Alicia Conway Rock (FB), who keeps the pace brisk and the action non-stop. She takes advantage of blackouts and sound effects to have stage violence that isn’t too violent, focusing instead on the fun of the story. I think this is one part of why this show is so successful.

Another part of the show’s success is the acting ensemble itself, led by Lauren Van Kurin (FB) as Margo, the librarian. Van Kurin’s Margo is sexy, smart, and damn good with a throwing knife. She’s playing this show for fun, and it is clear she enjoys this very physical role. That enjoyment comes across to the audience, who is rapidly drawn into to her dilemma and adventure. She’s just a hoot to watch, and I truly could not take my eyes off of her.

Paired with her as her recruiter and mentor is Eric Giancoli (FB) as Lancaster. Giancoli’s Lancaster is the classic handsome strong silent type, who gives the great impression that there’s something more there that (say it slow) he (pause) is (pause) not (pause) telling. Nice deep voice, very well played.

Margo’s love interest, Henry, is portrayed by Pete Caslavka. Caslavka seems to be having fun with the role, although I think he missed a spot up to the right :-).

Rounding out the performing ensemble were Jennifer C. DeRosa (FB) as Eleanor, Carrie Keranen (FB) as Crane / Mrs. White, Mike Mahaffey (FB) as Belinda / Numerous Killers, and Monica Greene (FB) as Sally / Numerous Killers. All of them were great and it is hard to single out specific supporting roles (especially as the two sacrificial killees are killed so many many times). DeRosa was fun to watch as Eleanor, Margo’s supervisor. In general, the amount of physical work that these cast members go through must be exhausting!

That leads us to the production and creative credits, and at the top of the list must be Mike Mahaffey (FB)’s fight choreography. Knives were popping out everywhere, and I just couldn’t see how it was done; there were loads of physical fighting moves and punches, and yet no one got hurt. Remarkable choreography, especially when you realize that Mahaffey was there in the middle of it. Also noticeable was Ben Rock (FB)’s sound design — a significant part of what made this production work were the sound effects, perfectly selected and timed. Matthew Richter (FB)’s was very effective (especially considering that one cannot always get the lighting one wants or needs at a Fringe venue), making maximum use of blackouts to create the illusion of extra violence. Rounding out the production credits: Jennifer C. DeRosa (FB)  — Producer; Rachel Manheimer (FB) — Stage Manager; Blake Gardner (FB) — Photographer.

There are four remaining performances of All the Best Killers are Librarians (although some may already be sold out, including this Friday): Friday 6/10 at 8:30 pm; Wednesday 6/15 at 10:30pm; Saturday 6/18 at 4:00 pm; and Saturday 6/25 at 3:30 pm. I’ve been telling all my librarian friends about this. You can learn about the show and get tickets at http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/3510. You’ll enjoy this show quite a bit.

I should note that the Serial Killers team that is behind this show is also behind two other Fringe shows: Lamprey: Weekend of Violence and Serial Killers at the Fringe. We already have tickets to the former; and don’t have room in our schedule for the latter. You might, and you should probably go to those as well.

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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 Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, a HOLD for Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

 

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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