JOAN OF ART: A Must See Film, A Classic Play and Rediscovered Art

An amazing film with an electrifying performance by an Irish actress opens in theaters this Friday, June 21st. The film is called 'Wild Rose' and the electrifying performance is given by Jessie Buckley. This is by far my favorite film of the year.

Jessie plays Rose Lynn Harlan, a 23 year old wannabe country singer who dreams of going to Nashville. The film opens with Rose getting out of jail and from there we go on an amazing unpredictable journey with her as she tries to fulfill her dream of being a country star. Jessie is an incredible singer and that alone is worth the price of admission. Don't miss this film!

Death of a Salesman

Also opening on Friday is the Tony Award Winner for Best Play and Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Arthur Miller's 'Death of a Salesman' at the Ruskin Theatre located at the Santa Monica Airport. The play is strikingly relevant in our times and is considered to be on of the greatest plays of the 20th century. The play stars actor Rob Morrow as the tragic character Willy Loman.

To purchase tickets go to RuskinGroupTheatre.org or call 310-397-3244. 'Death of a Salesman' plays Friday, Saturday at 8:00pm and Sundays at 2:00pm. It run till August 4th.

If art is what you crave this weekend then Diverted Destruction: Found Objects Rediscovered as Art is a must see.

The 11th annual Diverted Destruction exhibition is at the La Brea Gallery through August 20th. This is a provocative and ultimately profound concept. Gallery owner Liz Gordon has shown this type of exhibit yearly. She says it's one that is pivotal both in terms of the art itself and as an aesthetic for the L.A. art community.

Liz was an antique art dealer and throughout her 40 year career she had to decide on the value of millions of pieces that have come across her path. She always had a section in the store labeled the 'Artist Boxes' and these items were always sold at a fraction of their price in order to encourage artists to use them.

This time around the show has only female artists. Her reason? "We continue to live in a 'man's world' and look what they are doing and have done." she exclaims. "It's time we give women the platform and maybe, just maybe, the approach would be humanity first," she states.

This will be one very interesting art show. For more information go to DiversionsLA.com

Whatever you choose to do this weekend, make it a fun won.


JOAN OF ART: Pop Icons, Gay Pride, Playboy Jazz Festival and an Opera Great

One of my favorite places to go to hear music is THE ROSE in Pasadena. I've seen some amazing groups there and this Saturday, June 8th, Carnie and Wendy Wilson along with Chynna Phillips (Wilson Phillips) will be performing at The Rose and I can't wait. They have sold over 18 million copies worldwide and scored three number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100, making the trio the best selling female group of all time!

The group won the Billboard Music Award for Hot 100 Single of the Year for 'Hold On' and in addition was nominated for four Grammy Awards and two American Music Awards.

Other hits include 'Release Me,' 'You're in Love,' 'Impulsive' and The Dream is Still Alive.' Most recently the trio appeared in the hit comedy movie BRIDESMAIDS and also released the album DEDICATED, featuring cover versions of songs by The Beach Boys and The Mamas and Papas.

What makes this show even more exciting is the opening act Eileen Carey. She celebrates her recent hit single, 'Anything That Reminds Me of You,' which this February swept the #1 spot in the New Music Weekly charts, including Country, AC/Hot AC and the Top 40 charts. Eileen is an amazing singer, songwriter. She has all of her bases covered and now her new single 'Meet Me Halfway', is climbing up the music charts.

The Rose is located at 245 East Green Street, Pasadena CA. To purchase tickets and for more information go to WhereMusicMeetsTheSoul.com or call 1-888-645-5006.

Now if pop music isn't your thing, this Friday, June 7th Ron Howard's new documentary entitled PAVAROTTI is opening in select theatres.

Luciano Pavarotti was an Italian operatic tenor who also crossed over into popular music, eventually becoming one of the most commercially successful tenors of all time. He made numerous recordings of complete operas and individual arias, gaining worldwide fame for the quality of his tone and eventually established himself as one of the finest tenors of the 20th century.

To hear him sing the aria NESSUN DORMA, one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written, is alone worth the price of admission.

Adding to the great music happening this weekend is the PLAYBOY JAZZ FESTIVAL at the Hollywood Bowl on June 8th and 9th. This year the performers are as great as ever.

They include Boz Scaggs, Angelique Kidjo, Kool and the Gang, Bela Fleck and The Flecktones, Sheila E., Benny Golson's 90th Birthday Quartet and more. George Lopez will be hosting.

This is such a beautiful outdoor venue to experience music. For more information and to purchase tickets go to HollywoodBowl.com. The Bowl is located at 2301 North Highland Avenue in Hollywood.

Lastly but definitely one of the most important events happening this weekend is the LA PRIDE FESTIVAL on June 8th and 9th.

It will be at the West Hollywood Park put on by Christopher Street West Association, a 501 non-profit who organized the world's first permitted parade advocating for gay rights on June 28, 1970 as a response to and in commemoration of the Stonewall Rebellion on Christopher Street in New York City, the year prior.

Since then they have built a rich history as an active voice for the LGBTQ+ community across the Great Los Angeles metropolitan area and today they continue to produce the LA PRIDE PARADE AND FESTIVAL every June in the City of West Hollywood.

This year the headliners will be Meghan Trainor and British electronic pop trio, Years & Years. They will be joined by Ashanti, Amara La Negra, De3Leaf, Greyson Chance, MNEK, Pabllo Vittar, Ah-Mer-Ah-Su and many more.

Hollywood Park is located at 647 North San Vicente Blvd. To purchase tickets and for more information go to LAPride.org.

Whatever you choose to do this weekend people, make it a super fun one.

Featured image: Carnie Wilson, Wendy Wilson, and Chynna Phillips of the vocal group Wilson Phillips, circa 1990. (Tim Roney/Getty Images)


JOAN OF ART: My Favorite Theater Company, About John Wick 3, and Pacific Visions

Friday evening I'll be at one of my favorite LA theaters...The Road Theatre Company in North Hollywood. Every single play I've seen at this company totally rocked. They are always at their best.

So I naturally can't wait to see their new production which opens Friday May 17th at 8pm entitled AT THE TABLE, written by Michael Perlman and directed by Judith Moreland. The play has been called by its creators as a 'Big Chill' for the millennial generations. If you haven't seen it, you're missing an iconic film.

AT THE TABLE is about six ethnically and sexually diverse friends who head out of the city on their annual weekend retreat. With no social media, no cell phones, no internet allowed at all, this leaves them with one thing to do...look up from their screens and talk to each other. Remember talking?

When the liquor starts flowing and the tongues loosen, no conversation is uneventful and no topic is off limits. In the end, these so called liberal friends realize they're not as enlightened or diverse as they thought.

If you see this play, be sure to leave your review on their show page her on Better Lemons so they can qualify for a LemonMeter rating!

The Road Theatre is located at 5108 Lankershim Blvd in North Hollywood. The play runs Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm. until July 7th. For more information and to purchase tickets go to RoadTheatre.org or call 818-761-8838.

And now for something completely different. JOHN WICK 3...Parabellum. First I must say that I absolutely loved the first JOHN WICK as well as the second one. Yes, both films were violent but the story penetrated through all the brilliantly staged sword fights, knife fights, hand to hand combat scenes to old fashioned gun fights which are anything but old fashion.

In the first film we meet Keanu Reeves who nailed the part of the assassin who miraculously retires after marrying the love of his life. Her sudden death leaves him in deep mourning.

When a sadistic mobster and his thugs steal John's prized car and kill the puppy that was a last gift from his wife, he unleashes the remorseless killing machine within and seeks vengeance. The world created by the writer Derek Kolstad and directed Chad Taheiski was just so creative and so extremely original that you didn't mind the excessive violence and the same goes for the second film.

This brings us to John Wick 3...Parabellum which opens where the second film leaves off. John has to get out of New York City fast. And I mean FAST. Wick has been deemed 'Excommunicated' by the High Table and all of his rights and privileges are stripped away and there's an open contract on him starting at $14 million dollars. So basically every single person in New York City and all around the globe are trying to kill the dude.

BTW, The film is 133 minutes long and 110 minutes is violence to the extreme. I'm talking about sadistic, savage violence. At first it was applauded BY THE AUDIENCE at the press screening I attended. Then the audience started to laugh and then silence. I don't know what they were feeling but personally I was bored by the overly long fight scenes.

Yes the cast is great. Ian McShane's part as the proprietor of the assassins home away from home, the Continental Hotel, an establishment designated as a safe ground for those in the killing trade.

The film also stars Halle Berry, who is upstaged by her two incredible dogs, and Ava Kate Dillon (Billions), who plays The Adjudicator who arrives in New York City to make sure her minions get the job done.

The film has received great reviews but it just didn't do for me. Love to know what you think. It opens in theatres November 14th.

Now after all this excitement I recommend spending the day at the Aquarium of the Pacific. It houses an art gallery that transports you under the ocean, a state of the art theatre with multi sensory effects and a culmination gallery with interactive game tables, and live animal exhibits including the first and only public aquarium exhibit with the controversial delta smelt fish.

Aquarium of the Pacific / PR Use of Scouts - Photography by Tom Bonner - Job ID 6417

As the new focal point of the Aquarium, Pacific Visions provides a platform to integrate the arts and sciences and offers visitors innovative ways to explore their impact on our ocean planet while allowing them to explore sustainable solutions. The topics of how we produce and consume food energy and water as well as ways to make more sustainable choices are highlighted.

All 29,000 square feet and two stories, it is the Aquarium's first major expansion and the result of more than a decade of planning and development using the latest technology and methods of storytelling that combine art, science, and interactivity. Pacific Visions is an example of the aquarium of the future. Pacific Visions opens to the public on Friday May 24th. I'm writing about it now to give you plenty of time to prepare for a visit.This is a great event for the whole family.

The Aquarium of the Pacific is located at 100 Aquarium Way Long Beach CA 90802. For more information and tickets go to AquariumofPacific.org/pacificvisions.

Whatever you plan to do this weekend people, make it a fun one!


Now Registered on the Better Lemons Calendar – May 6 - 12, 2019

Theatrical shows registered on the Better Lemons calendar!
For more shows visit our Calendar. For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page.

Too Blunt!

“Your typical Midwestern-African American-Gay-Cat Loving-Sagittarian-Coming-of-Age Story in Los Angeles. A Black gay boy from Missouri shares his long and liberating journey to weight loss, dating in the gay-app era, while unpacking the complex intersectionality of race and sexual orientation– and the twisted heartbreak and humor that ensues.”

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Clementine

“CLEMENTINE celebrates the exhilaration of motherhood, balancing poetic passages with humorous detours into the modern realities of raising small children...[moving] forward and backward through time, exploring the pressures and the promises of parenthood. Unapologetically feminist and powerfully tender, CLEMENTINE studies a matriarchal family's traditions, exploring the connection between generations through Wish's lens as both a mother and a daughter...In this dynamic and often hilarious piece, April Wish has crafted a love letter to her daughter, Clementine, as well as to the little girl she used to be herself.”

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The Institute for The Opposite of Longing

“Please enter the Opposite of Longing Chamber and state your primary symptom of longing. And where do you feel it in your body? And how much do you feel it on a scale of 1 to 10? And are you running out of time? The Institute for The Opposite of Longing can cure that thing deep in the pit of your body. But what happens when its owners and operators can't let go of the little boy they had to give back? And can't stop reenacting the day they packed his bags and watched him go. Or tucking him in at night or talking to his empty shoes or unpacking the bag of his things they keep hidden. What happens when these are the women who are responsible for curing that thing, that thing you feel deep in the pit of your body? Please enter the Opposite of Longing Chamber. We can help you. The process is simple.”

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The Institute for The Opposite of Longing

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Radicals

“'Radicals' is a Bollywood Musical about a love story struggling to survive in the war-torn valleys of Kashmir, aimed at tackling Islamophobia and the trauma of warfare on civilians.”

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Siren Call

“The siren call is driving me to my end, like a ship to wreck on rocks”. Two frustrated actors accidentally kidnap their favorite movie star… or is it really her? What is identity in a world where myths are stronger than we dare think? A dramedy about identity and oneness, frustrated actors, classism, depression, myths and a quote by Albert Camus.”

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LOVE, MADNESS, AND SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN

“'Love, Madness and Somewhere in Between' is a no holds barred glimpse into a mystical journey filled with love, pain, insanity, and redemption. Scattered along the way is a sprinkling of ironic comic commentary that can only come from a true survivor. “Jimmy” is not so much a hero but more a human being traversing an abusive childhood, a descent into alcoholism and finally plunging into a world of fantastical personifications which dwell amidst humanity's darkest sins. Will closure, forgiveness, and healing come in the unlikely form of the “angel warriors” – patients on the pediatric cancer ward of Children's Hospital? Does pure love, in fact, transform and redeem, or are some lives beyond salvation?”

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Tattered Capes

“In 'Tattered Capes,' it's Kevin and Stephanie Connolly's fifth wedding anniversary, and Kevin has a night of celebration planned for them. Of course, this means he won't be going out on his regular patrol of Metro City as his alter-ego, M-Pulse, the self-appointed Eminence of Electromagnetism. But things should be fine without him for one night, right? Wrong. One would think that there could be no secrets left between a husband and wife after five years of matrimonial bliss, but when a powerful supervillain's attack interrupts Kevin and Stephanie's date, a hero's unmasking bears significant consequences for the Connollys…consequences that will resonate and redefine their relationship forever. ”

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Squeeze My Cans

“A true journey in to and out of Scientology. 'Moving, hilarious, heart-breaking and redemptive.' Lets you experience for yourself how Scientology devours money and lives.' -Chicago Reader 'Schenkelberg easily switches characters and time periods with dizzying energy, that is both exhilarating and electrifying.'- Edge Media 'At the top of the best performed, brilliantly written, elegantly directed one person shows I have ever seen.'- Buzz News”

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Skylight

“On a bitterly cold London evening, schoolteacher Kyra Hollis receives an unexpected visit from her former lover, Tom Sergeant, a successful and charismatic restaurateur whose wife has recently died. As the evening progresses, the two attempt to rekindle their once passionate relationship only to find themselves locked in a dangerous battle of opposing ideologies and mutual desires. Can they find their way back to each other, or has the time for their tumultuous romance reached its end? ”

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Tigers Be Still

“'Tigers Be Still' — a ferociously funny play from New Girl writer Kim Rosenstock — centers around the infinitely-trying-to-be-optimistic Sherry Wickman, who has earned her art therapy degree and promptly moved back in with her family. Matters take a turn for the better once she gets hired as a substitute art teacher. Now if only her mother would stop hiding upstairs, her sister would stop watching Top Gun from the couch, her petulant patient would do one of his assignments, her boss would leave his gun at home, and someone would catch the tiger that escaped from the local zoo, everything would be just perfect.”

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CORINA, From Lap dance to Sundance

“Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to keep your dream alive. CORINA: FROM LAP DANCE TO SUNDANCE is a one-woman show about finding purpose and direction to a life long dream in the least likely of places. A story of family, tradition, and perseverance.”

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Legends, Movement and Memories

“The performers include: Florence LaRue, an original member of The 5th Dimension, the pop group that so often dominated the charts in the 60s and 70s with their hit songs, will perform some of the award-winning singing group's big hits. Freda Payne will perform an excerpt from her show Ella Fitzgerald, First Lady of Song, bringing to life the immortal Ella Fitzgerald and her revered career as an extraordinary jazz singer. Sheetal Gandhi in BAHU-Beti-Biwi (Daughter-inLaw, Daughter, Wife). A tour-de-force excerpt combining dance, stirring vocalization, and percussive text that glides between humorous portraiture and active resistance. Juli Kim shares two dance works. Five Drum Dance exemplifies Korean traditional music with a touch of Western influence. New Leaf, deeply rooted in Korean “Han,” symbolically unfolds the innocence of the new leaf when there is change in life.”

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Mama Metal

“This joyfully irreverent black comedy entwines issues of identity with pop culture icons to tell a truly unique mother-daughter story. Sterling Milburn's mother is dying and Sterling is falling apart. She attempts to keep it together by rewriting the past with the help of two titans of the American theater and the world's greatest heavy metal band — but Sterling's mother refuses to follow the script. A love letter to those who shape our lives, hold us together and break our hearts.”

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Dancing to the Edge of a Cliff: One Woman's Musical Mythological Journey toward Self-Acceptance

“Incorporating music, multimedia, humor, a touch of mythology, and embodying over twenty characters, Margaret whimsically puts her psyche on stage to explore her struggle with self-acceptance and her experience of two mental breakdowns. Margaret explores not only what outside influences molded her personality when she was growing up and as an adult, but also confronts two internal voices, representing the competing compulsions of artistry (Puella) and perfectionism (Miss Perfect). Realizing in the end that what she has been taught her whole life was right, doesn't work for her.”

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Ride or Die: The Hip-Hop Musical

“Elliott and Michael are best friends. They're of different temperaments. Elliott is boisterous and outgoing. Michael is more tentative and shy. One day, Elliott dies in an accident. He's allowed to come back to earth, where he can only be seen by Michael. Elliott is tasked with finding Michael a new best friend. Only then will Elliott earn his angel wings and be allowed to ascend into Heaven. Michael wants to be friends with Ciara. Will Elliott be able to help Michael connect with Ciara, or will he mess things up for them all? Will Michael and Ciara ultimately become friends? Will Elliott earn his angel wings? The cast is unique in the fact that most of the performers are differently-abled: John JT Tucker Jr. (Elliott), has Down syndrome. He is the star of the A&E tv series Born This Way. Domonique Brown (Michael) has autism and recurs on the Netfiix series Atypical. He's the nephew of Marvin Gaye. Spencer Harte (Ciara) has autism and also recurs on Atypical. The supporting players include Coby Bird who has autism and will be a regular on a Netflix series to be announced; and Caley Versfelt, who has Down syndrome.
The rest of the cast is neurotypical and includes Brendan McCay, Stanson Chung, Alexa Russo and Callie Ott.”

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Karaoke Saved My Life

“Scotty D, just a city boy from South Detroit, invites you on a Journey, showing you how karaoke saved his life, and how it can save yours, too. With stories, power ballads, big anthems, and cheesy pop, and a bit of bopping, we might even save the World. Don't stop believing!”

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Fight Song!

“Texas. 1964. Following a deadly car crash, four cheerleaders navigate through the afterlife. Both Lucifer and God herself pay a visit, and High School drama turns into madness in this strange nightmare of a story – a never-ending fight song.”

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Fight or Flight

“Isaac Easton, a recently retired boxer, and his former sports manager open a gym together to help advance the popularity of female boxing. When their first female boxer gets into trouble only three weeks from the fight, they scramble to find a new fighter to train. Enter Zoey Jones, a young and shy fighter who has never fought in the professional circuit. Easton and Jones take a crash course in trusting and learning from each other over three weeks in preparation for the fight, and the two often butt heads. Can Jones pull out a win and save Easton's reputation and gym? Through voice-overs and grueling workouts in preparation for the fight, this one-act play shows the audience how intimate a platonic relationship between a man and woman can be, the beauty of physical strength, and what happens when you are stuck in fight or flight mode.”

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Five Pieces of Paper: Stories My Hungarian Grandmother Refused to Tell Me and Other Family Tales

“Moti Buchboot, the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, created this show in response to the 2017 Charlottesville riots. He reveals lessons learned from his Hungarian grandmother who began her life in a village in Hungary, survived the Holocaust, and eventually settled in a small town in Israel. Buchboot's tale unfolds through storytelling, Yiddish song, puppetry, and baking.”

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The Narcissist Next Door

“The power of positive thinking goes hilariously wrong when a new neighbor teaches two dispirited best friends an Ancient Peruvian Self Help Philosophy. Instead of their lives being transformed they end up held hostage by two inept kidnappers. 'Be careful who you wish for' has never been more appropriate.”

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POCKETS

“Set in the fictional British-ish kingdom of Crumpeton, POCKETS spins the tale of Bellamina Crumbledunk, a noble preteen, who becomes a pickpocket to win the attention of her overextended mother, the Duchess. Bellamina's misadventures take her into the underbelly of society, where she accidentally becomes the leader of a criminal uprising, but will she have the heart to sabotage her mother's well-laid plans for Crumpet Day? #CheckYourPockets for tickets to this fast-paced, funny, and touching period piece to find out!”

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Straight White Men Trying to Woke

“Five short comedies exploring the middle age white male struggle to fit in during these confusing times.
FANDOM – navigating politics
POLITE RACISM – analyzing ethnicity
SUICIDE PACT – tolerating millennials
BRITTLE TROMBONE – contemplating economics
FANTASY FOOTBALL – grasping identity”

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Girl From SchenectadyGirl From Schenectady

“Selected as an Honorable Mention for the Hollywood Fringe 2019 due to it's cultural theme, “Girl From Schenectady” is a story about a 38-year-old Nigerian Woman from Schenectady New York who is still a Virgin. Her story begins with her Journey to finding True Love. However, her plan is to find Mr. Right and to lose her Virginity before she turns 40. The story takes place at the Airport, while Ayo is waiting for her next flight to take off, she describes the metaphoric places she has traveled to Find True Love. She takes the Audience on a ride to her past and her Nigerian family traditions, Culture, and Values. She struggles to break free from her Nigerian Generational Cycle, Parental Divorce, Failed Marriages and to keep history from repeating itself. Ayo also takes the Audience on her dating journey starting with a Nigerian Man. She also dates a Mexican Man, an Italian Man and an African American Man. After several attempts to finding True Love and Losing her virginity before 40, she goes on a self-discovery, and Lands in the last place she ever thought she would find True Love.”

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Dames at Sea

“Ruby gets off the bus from Utah with “nothing but tap shoes in her suitcase and a prayer in her heart.” As fate would have it, she is immediately cast in the chorus of a Broadway show. When the theatre is forced to close, Ruby's songwriting sailor boyfriend persuades the Captain of his ship to allow the show to move on deck. Voila! Dames at sea! When the show's lead gets seasick, Ruby may have to go on for her. Will Ruby come back a star? Do you need to ask? Dames at Sea at once pays affectionate homage to and sends up the optimistic early Broadway musicals of the 30s and 40s. It's filled with songs, tap-dancing and romance from start to finish. It is suitable for general audiences.”

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Rory and the Devil

“During the height of The Troubles, in a rural pub on the border of Northern Ireland, Mary Friel, a barmaid, strives to maintain harmony amongst the men in her life. Ancestral legends and secrets are revisited and a cycle of violence is revealed: can they forgive injustice and cruelty from their past, or will the cycle continue? Enjoy a Guinness and whiskey as a group of actors take you to Neil Friel's pub–a safe place for a good story–until it isn't. In this bare-bones production of Rory and the Devil you can enjoy the best of what Irish storytelling has to offer.”

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Johnny '81

“It's 1981! The corpse of disco, the flames of punk, the plastic smell of new wave, and the balls of rock ‘n' roll, all converge and merge on a seemingly peaceful street in West Hollywood, CA, along with the stories of a 12-year-old boy raised by a pill-popping single mother and the many gay men in their life...Against a backdrop of music, 'JOHNNY '81' weaves together a collection of stories based on a 12-year-old boy's experience of living in West Hollywood during the early 1980s. These semi-autobiographical tales bring to life the humor and drama of how a group of gay men became strange and amazing surrogate fathers to a pre-teen boy and his younger brother...'JOHNNY '81' is like spending the day listening to an old record album, or like being at a concert, with stories that make us reflect on our lives and the world we live in, or tales that make you just want to get up out of your seat and dance!”

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Bronco Billy - The Musical

“'Voice from the Village'...is based upon one of Los Angeles greatest playwrights, Lynn Manning and his in real time visit to Skid Row Studios on Monday, August 26, 2013 for an interview on “The Qumran Report”, hosted by Melvin Ishmael Johnson to talk about his life growing up in Watts and turning a tragic situation into an art form.”

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If It Goes There

“It's Saturday night, and Erik and Connor are looking to get laid. When they try their luck on a hook-up app, the night takes a turn they never expected and their true desires are revealed.”

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A Time Traveler's Guide to the Present

“When 85% of the world is afflicted with a mysterious case of 'The Flake,' one man volunteers to travel through space and time to stop it. 'A Time Traveler's Guide to the Present' is a far-out, amped-up, one-man show about the hunt for human connection. ”

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The Scorpion and the Frog: a time-killer

“'The Scorpion and the Frog: a time-killer' is a comic interpretation of the oft-told story/fable/allegory/whatchamawhoositz about a frog who agrees to take a scorpion across a river. Will the two make it to the other side of said river? Will they learn anything? Will they grow as [an] intelligent species? Will these questions entice you to actually leave your homes and see this play?”

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Uprooted

“In 'Uprooted,' the creatures of Vanessa Boss' inner world take you on the flight of her life! A disturbance triggers violent weather, endangering matriarch Elda, the elder tree, the voice of Vanessa's wisdom. Elda leads Vanessa's inner fantasy creatures on a journey to remind Vanessa of her strength, but Vanessa's demons take control of the flight and her mind as she is moved, again and again, facing bullies, saying unexpected goodbyes to friends, and hoping for the day to come where she'll get to choose where home is. But is home a place or a feeling? Full of exciting adventure, triumph, and heartbreak, Vanessa frees herself from the restraints of her inner demons and proclaims her power to define her own fate. Uprooted is a young woman's resilient story of growing into the strong, rooted woman she is meant to be. ”

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ORANGUTAN

“Orangutan is a haunting and absurd one-woman show about the mother of a brutish (slightly orange) would-be dictator, and the tribalism that's tearing our country apart. Deutch's provocative dark comedy was inspired by Bill Maher's challenge to Donald Trump's outrageous Obama “Birther” claims. Maher offered to donate five million dollars to the charity of Donald Trump's choice if Trump produced a birth certificate that proved he was not half-ape. Trump's lawyer responded: 'Attached hereto is a copy of Mr. Trump's birth certificate, demonstrating that he is the son of Fred Trump, not an Orangutan.' Trump then sued Bill Maher for five million dollars…”

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ALL OUR PRETTY SONGS

“In this new play, Neil, a mediocre musician, and Kurt Cobain wannabe, moves to Los Angeles to “make it” as a rockstar. Through the constant ups and downs of LA living, Neil struggles between pursuing his passions or taking the practical path in life. Should he keep chasing his dreams or stop? This 60-minute three-person show explores idealism vs. cynicism, the practicality of pursuing art in a capitalist society, and millennials' struggle with mental health.”

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NAKED MAN RISING

“Aren't you tired of going to the theater and seeing the same old shit? Check out 'Naked Man Rising,' a crowd favorite from the Solo Creation Festival. We're talking sold out, folk. This tale of revenge rips through the stage like a Grindhouse film and features a balls-to-the-wall performance by Canadian Wildman and naturalist Kyle Durack. Not for your Grandma…unless, she's a badass. Winner of the Hollywood Fringe Scholarship for first-time Producers, Kyle is thrilled to bring 'Naked Man Rising' to the 2019 Fringe Festival. The writing is crisp and the play moves along at a deft pace. But the words are simply a vehicle for Kyle Durack's powerful interpretation. The Canadian actor was born with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy, and in this piece, he sheds his disability along with his clothes to reveal the inner strength concealed by a “weakened” body. 'Naked Man Rising' mixes humor and action. Durack uses his physicality well as he tells the story.”

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HELL'S FINEST

“The cult of Abaddon has a problem. The Angel of the Abyss, the figure with which they worship, is demanding a new leader. But not just anybody will qualify. Only the darkest, most demented contestants stand a chance at obtaining total power. A sadist, a murderer, and a predator, all share one common goal: to become the leader of the finest cult, the Ascendants of Abaddon. There's only one problem. In order to obtain this position, they must go up against each other in a riveting competition to impress the cult's current leader: Adam. He's spectacularly charming and possesses the uncanny ability to influence all those who cross his path. With secrets spilled and matches met, the three contestants grow more and more daring with their desperate attempts to gain total power. However, no matter what happens, no matter who lies and who cheats, Adam always calls the final shots.”

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Not Here Right Now

“The hilariously touching tale of a tall man in tight spaces, finding clarity and avoiding a quarter-life crisis in Southeast Asia, all while wearing strappy velcro sandals except to the wedding of the century. Tired of the monotony of New York City corporate life, Royce, an ambitious 20-something, trades in his promising media research career for a one-way ticket to Southeast Asia. In this live one-man show, Royce brings you on an 8-country adventure toward self-discovery. During 'Not Here Right Now,' audiences are treated to true stories and experiences of Royce's inspiring journey from corporate citizen to world traveler. The original production of Not Here Right Now was successfully funded on Kickstarter thanks to the support of 165 people from around the world.”

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IF TRUTH BE TOLD

“A raucous evening of comic stories, told by a woman who has seen a few things. Actress and humorist Jennifer Brown examines how the truth can play out in a variety of ways. What exactly is “the truth”? And when you are asked to tell the truth, whose truth do you stand in?”

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Crack Whore, Bulimic, Girl-Next-Door

“A comedic romp through depression, eating disorders and self-loathing! Crack Whore, Bulimic, Girl-Next-Door is a one-act play chronicling one woman's journey through her depression and bulimarexia. It is a painfully funny look at body image, addiction, and the obsession with fitting into society's ideal of beauty and thinness. It is part poetry and prose, part sketch and part narrative with a few snappy dance numbers mixed in. Three actresses portray one woman in various stages of her eating disorder and crippling depression. They are joined by one male actor portraying various influences in her childhood development, teenage years and young adulthood. This autobiographical theatrical experience intimately exposes the perils of womanhood, the rawness of living through sexual trauma and culminates in discovering the inner strength to live comfortably in one's own skin ”

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Mil Grus

“Previous Fringe award winners team up for this year's Hollywood Fringe to create the First official Bouffon/Clown troupe “MIL GRUS” led by world-renowned physical theater artist Dean Evans of “Honeybuns” fame. Be prepared as this motley crew of miscreants crawl out of the gutter to make you question reality in the most exhilarating way. This timeless satire features improvised feats of physical and existential comedy that defy explanation and provoke unfettered, eery glee. Come see what's behind the curtain, starting June 9, 2019, at The Mccadden Place Theatre”

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Human Fountains

“As seen on America's Got Talent (quarter-finalists) and countless television shows around the world! Prepare for a fountain show like you've never seen before! The Human Fountain's hilarious choreographed water spitting routines will keep you laughing and thirsty for more. Always making a splash on stage, literally — the group has endless tricks up their sleeves (and in their mouths) giving you performances that are one-of-a-kind. Inspired by the world's most famous fountains, the comedy group adds a human touch to give you one of the most unique experiences you've ever seen. They couldn't be more excited to premiere their full-length show for Hollywood Fringe.”

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Les Mis-Cast

“Cast members from the National Tour of 'Les Misérables' (now at the Pantages Theatre through June 2) will perform in a very special cabaret concert to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and PAWS/LA. Patrons will support two great causes as they enjoy an intimate evening of cabaret-style performances. The evening will also feature a silent auction, allowing audience members to bid on items graciously donated by the Broadway community and local businesses.”

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Funeral Potatoes

“What would you do with only a month left to live? What would you look back on with nostalgia or regret? With laughter as the best medicine, Funeral Potatoes is a dark comedy about death and friendship, examining what makes it all worth it when you've spent your entire life planning for a future you won't have.”

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Food Bowl Events: Food and Film

Food and Film - Somebody Feed Phil: Dublin

“Somebody Feed Phil: Dublin' LA FOOD BOWL FEATURED EVENT. Join Phil Rosenthal, creator, writer and producer of the hit comedy “Everybody Loves Raymond” for a special screening of his Netflix hit 'Somebody Feed Phil: Dublin' and a conversation with Phil. This fantastic event will be teamed with none other than Nick Shipp (Upper West) who will be teaming the event with a specially curated Irish themed assortment of food! Specialty drinks provided...Screening with talk-back 75 mins. Nick Shipp Meal With Phil 75 minutes will be followed by a Q&A with Phil and Arena Cinelounge-Clamorhouse-LA Times-Phil Rosenthal event.”

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Food and Film - The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover

“NC-17 LA FOOD BOWL FEATURED EVENT MON. MAY 20 - The 1989 crime drama is arguably Peter Greenaway's most famous (or infamous) film, which first shocked audiences at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival and then on both sides of the Atlantic. A gang leader (Michael Gambon), accompanied by his wife (Helen Mirren) and his associates, entertains himself every night in a fancy restaurant that he has recently bought. Having tired of her sadistic, boorish husband, the wife finds herself a lover (Alan Howard) and makes love to him in the restaurant's coziest places with the silent permission of the cook (Richard Bohringer). Sergio Corbia of Ciabatta Bar and Fabiolus Cafe crafts a specialty menu that complements Greenaway's paradoxical comments on the relations between eating and sex, love and death.”

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More about the L.A. Times Food Bowl:

The 2nd Annual Trump Family Special

“the 2nd annual trump family special original musical comedy' parodies [the] First Family in “yuge” way. What if the First Family put on a live musical TV special – just like the Brady Bunch – starring Ice Princess Ivanka, her numbnut brothers, a still-not-caring Melania, and a host of ex's and deplorables.”

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Princess Magic's Trash Fire Time Revue

“A child's birthday party takes an unexpected turn when the scheduled magician doesn't show and the job is filled by a drunk and wayward vagrant. There are prizes. You should come. Use discount code BETTERLEMONS for 20% off their regular ticket price of $15”

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THE CHRISTIANS

“As their final show of Season 27, Actors Co-op Theatre Company is proud to present Lucas Hnath's The Christians, directed by Thomas James O'Leary, produced by Carly Lopez. When the pastor of a megachurch unilaterally decides to enlighten his congregation with his own personal revelation, he is faced with doubt and dissension among his flock. Hnath's Obie Award-winning play examines the schism in today's church and the role of faith in America. ”

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StoryTime

“The Group Rep presents StoryTime, a story salon produced by Patricia Willson, featuring fresh, live personal stories as entertainment – – an evening of joy, sadness, and a touch of comedy on Sunday, May 12 at 7:00 pm, at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood, CA, at the edge of the NoHo Arts District.
Authors performing their stories include Vince Cefalu 'Eyes of A Child,” Devon Curry 'Mach Two,' Jana DiMaggio 'Conventional Wisdom,' Rick Hall 'Mom's Home Cooking,' Tripp Mills 'A Rainbow God Box,' Madeline Morgan 'Salute to Storytellers,' Candace Nicholas-Lippman 'Don't Get It Twisted, I Love My Mama,' Lila Silvern 'This Sperm is For You,' Jonathan Leigh Solomon 'Hello in There,' Lan Tran 'Overpolite, Shanghai'ed and Homeless in Vietnam,' and Pat Willson 'Momma.' ”

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SHAME OF THRONES: The Musical

“The Whitefire Theatre Musical Mondays is proud to present...the musical spoof SHAME OF THRONES: The Musical returns to L.A. for more hilarious re-imagining of the show's backstabbing siblings, clever imps and dragon mamas, all set to an addictive rock score that'll stick in your head (unless the king orders it off, natch)...Watch your favorite daring and most despised characters sing and dance towards epic plot twists and the coveted Iron Throne.”

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AVENUE Q

“The Group Rep presents AVENUE Q...This fresh and unusual Tony-award winning musical is a coming-of-age parable, addressing and satirizing the anxieties associated with entering adulthood. Its characters lament that as children, they were assured by their parents, and by Sesame Street, that they were 'extraordinary' and 'could do anything'; but as adults, they have discovered, to their surprise, that in the real world their options are limited, and they are actually ordinary like everyone else. This quirky musical ranks 24th on the list of the longest running shows in Broadway history. Avenue Q is notable for the use of puppets, animated by unconcealed puppeteers. ”

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THE COLUMBINE PROJECT

“In remembrance of the 20th Anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, Loft Ensemble and the Whitefire Theatre are co-producing and reviving Paul Storiale's award-winning drama The Columbine Project directed by Bree Pavey. An atemporal retelling of the events leading up to, during and following the April 20, 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, the play challenges what we think we know about the victims, families, teachers and the shooters themselves. Praised by LA theatre critics, survivors and families of the victims. The Columbine Project was created from direct correspondence with people involved in and affected by the event”

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Let's Write a Musical

“Let's Write a Musical is an emotional rollercoaster ride of music, laughter, and tears. David Hamilton decides to write a musical after he is diagnosed with cancer. While the couple deals with the ups and downs of their cancer journey, so are the characters in the musical on a rollercoaster ride of mishaps and shenanigans.”

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Aristophanes' THE BIRDS

“When the world has gone to the birds, the cuckoo is king. Two shiftless con men scheme to exploit the power of the birds by encouraging them to build a fortress in the sky, from where they can lord over mankind and Gods alike. Aristophanes' classic comedy THE BIRDS is about corruption, weakness, and power; how easily people are exploited based on fear, ego and greed; and how even noble ideas may be corrupted if those who have power are irresponsible and/or selfish. (Sound like anything going on now? Hm? Too soon?) Or, as John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton said to an Anglican bishop, 'Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men…'”

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Jordan Maverick, History Teacher

“Welcome to the school of hard Glocks. Jordan Maverick is one of the nation's most highly-trained teachers – an excellent marksman, a black belt in Jujitsu, and an engaging History teacher. But when he transfers to one of the most dangerous schools in the country, he'll face one of his biggest fears: co-teaching with the loose cannon Miss Pitts. Can they find a way to work together in time to solve the school's problems? This favorite from Season 13 of Serial Killers at Sacred Fools returns as a complete production at this years Hollywood Fringe.”

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Come Back!

“'Every day's a goddamn audition.' Based on the 'Serial Killers' 2018 Playoffs winner, 'COME BACK' is the hilarious yet touching story of Edie and Petey Stevenson, an overbearing stage mother and her hapless son, attempting to stage a 'comeback' performance. One of three shows Sacred Fools is proud to present as part of this year's Hollywood Fringe.”

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The Drag Queen of the Year Pageant Competition Award Contest Competition

“Who is the best Drag Queen in the whole wide world? Now's your chance to find out — at the first ever Drag Queen of the Year Pageant Competition Award Contest Competition. Millions of the best Drag performers from around the world applied, but only eight will compete, carefully chosen by a mysterious group of anonymous Drag Elders. ▪︎ The contestants are (in alphabetical order) Abhora (Miami, FL); Astrud Aurelia (Phoenix, AZ); Calypso Jeté (Los Angeles); Lyle (Los Angeles); Gigi Monroe (Juneau, AK); Kat Sass (Chicago, IL); Sabbyiana (Montebello, CA); and Aurora Sexton (Los Angeles). ▪︎ Judged upon the criteria of Presence, Energy, Nuance, Integrity, and Stunningness, this is a pageant for everyone — Drag Queens, Drag Kings, Trans Artists, Hyper Queens, Bio Queens, AFAB Queens — from first-timers to established pageant powerhouses. ▪︎ The celebrity guest host is Jackie Beat. The judges are (in alphabetical order) Nicole Byer, Jiggly Caliente, Landon Cider, Gia Gunn, Sharon Needles, Peppermint, and Willam.”

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5 Women Wearing the Same Dress

“During an ostentatious wedding reception at a Knoxville, Tennessee estate, five reluctant, identically clad bridesmaids hide out in an upstairs bedroom, each with her own reason to avoid the proceedings below. They are Frances, a painfully sweet but sheltered fundamentalist; Mindy, the cheerful, wise-cracking lesbian sister of the groom; Georgeanne, whose heartbreak over her own failed marriage triggers outrageous behavior; Meredith, the bride's younger sister whose precocious rebelliousness masks a dark secret; and Trisha, a jaded beauty whose die-hard cynicism about men is called into question when she meets Tripp, a charming bad-boy usher to whom there is more than meets the eye. As the afternoon wears on, these five very different women joyously discover a common bond in this wickedly funny, irreverent and touching celebration of the women's spirit.”

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Hide Your Fires: Butoh Lady Macbeth

“'Hide Your Fires: Butoh Lady Macbeth' brings the audience alongside the accursed spirit of Lady Macbeth to experience her nightmare of stifled ambition, unfulfilled desire, and ultimate loss. Telling the story solely through her perspective, this production fuses Japanese Butoh dance, movement, and various texts to take you inside the mind and body of one of Shakespeare's most famous villains.”

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Now Registered on the Better Lemons Calendar – April 22 - 28, 2019

Theatrical shows registered on the Better Lemons calendar!
For more shows visit our Calendar.
For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page.

Greenwood 1964

“GREENWOOD 1964 is a powerful, educational two man one act show which takes us into an actual trip made by Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. Two very great friends and once industry's most successful sought after duo. Sidney Poitier the first Black to win an Academy Award for best actor and Harry Belafonte, activist and first music artist ever to sell a million copies in the US & England. The show takes place in Greenwood Mississippi 1964, a time in which Dr. King called it “The year of promise” due to the rise of racial tension versus the quest for social equality. This brilliantly crafted fictional debate between Mr. Poitier and Mr. Belafonte eloquently explores the individual approaches on how to achieve liberation for people of color. The action takes place inside of an attic “safe-house” in the racially charged segregated deep south of Mississippi. Both men have traveled down to drop a bundle of cash for relief funds and show moral support for the civil rights workers who have been killed trying to register black voters.”

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Sins

“Can we ever stop paying for the past? Can the person we want to ever escape the person we are now and were then? What price must be paid for not only our own crimes, but those of people close to us? Sins is a frank look at what we all deal with when we cannot overcome our own failings...This show includes prop guns, gunshots, and themes of gun violence. This show includes scenes of domestic violence, gun violence, and strong language.”

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Saving Cain

“A far-right, Pentecostal helicopter-mom struggles to keep her hell-raising son on the path of righteousness as he enters his first public school. When a powerful addiction takes over her son's life, she must accept that you can't save everyone, and that not every miracle can be left up to God.”

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Flights of Fancy

“Imagination or reality? Elegant stagecraft or just, well… Complications? Stephanie and her best friend Tommy are flying home together, but nothing is what it seems. As we are thrown back and forth between the rehearsals for a play Stephanie has written about her troubles and her increasingly turbulent flight home, we start to wonder: can we be saved through our art or is a crash landing inevitable? ”

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Women Beyond Borders

“Rubicon Theatre continues the company's 21st “Coming of Age” season with the World Premiere of WOMEN BEYOND BORDERS, a play inspired by and loosely based on the remarkable journey of Lorraine Serena and a dynamic group of California-based artists who founded the non-profit Women Beyond Borders (WBB). Determined to “make art as if the world matters,” Serena and her friends fell upon the idea of box as metaphor: hope chest, treasure chest, womb, coffin, etc. They replicated a miniature wooden box no bigger than the size of a human heart and sent the boxes to curators and friends in other countries with the goal of encouraging dialogue, collaboration and community among women and honoring creativity. The founders of WBB were astonished at what came back to them – eloquent expressions of the enormous depth and variety, but also the universality, of women's experiences throughout the world.”

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All in the Timing at North Coast Repertory Theatre

“Award-winning playwright David Ives, described by The New York Times as “wizardly, magical, funny, and original,” has penned six one-act comedies that examine various attempts at relationships and communication with hilarious results. Using inspired language and wordplay, Ives takes delight in pushing audiences' smart buttons and teasing their brains. Join us for non-stop laughter and brilliant witticisms.”

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She Kills Monsters at North Coast Rep Theatre School

“A comedic romp into the world of fantasy role-playing games, She Kills Monsters tells the story of high schooler Agnes Evans as she deals with the death of her younger sister, Tilly. When Agnes stumbles upon Tilly's Dungeons & Dragons notebook, she finds herself catapulted into a journey of discovery and action-packed adventure in the imaginary world that was her sister's refuge. In this high-octane dramatic comedy laden with homicidal fairies, nasty ogres, and 90s pop culture, acclaimed playwright Qui Nguyen offers a heart-pounding homage to the geek and warrior within us all.”

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John Denver Tribute at North Coast Repertory Theatre

“Jim Curry, returns to North Coast Repertory Theatre to perform the music of the late John Denver. The music “is like an old friend, outlasting trends and standing the test of time,” says Mr. Curry. Join acclaimed performer Jim Curry for this tribute to the music of one of the most beloved singer/songwriters ever to grace the stage.”

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Tuesday Night Comics at North Coast Rep

“Tuesday Night Comics is arguably the funniest night of comedy in San Diego. Mark Christopher Lawrence taps into his extensive list of talented comedian friends and shares the North Coast Rep stage with them. The show is comprised of talent from all over the country with late-night television credits as well as credits from Comedy Central, HBO, SHOWTIME, ETC…RATED R ”

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Taken at Midnight at North Coast Repertory Theatre

“Based on true events in 1931 Berlin, a courageous mother resists the rising Nazi party in order to free her imprisoned son. This riveting drama explores the heroic battle of the weak against the powerful, the truth against the lies, and mothers against murderers. ”

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The Price

“In Arthur Miller's riveting masterpiece, two estranged brothers must try to make peace with their past when they meet to dispose of their late father's belongings.”

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Mamma Mia!

“East West Players presents an all-P.O.C. production of the beloved musical Mamma Mia! The magic of ABBA's disco-era hits brings us to a Greek island paradise where a mother, a daughter, and three possible dads take a trip down the aisle you'll never forget!”

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Sunbathe in Darkness

“In the distant past of 2007, Casey writes fanfiction for the hit Alfie Wunderkid series of books. She writes really, really, really bad fanfiction. On purpose. The plot makes no sense, the characters are inconsistent, the dialogue is at the level of a second grader who swears, and… it's hugely popular. As the fanfiction comes to life, what started out as a joke slowly morphs into a way for her to cope...with absentee parents, an overbearing sister, and having only one friend who, let's just be honest, is a bit of a douche.”

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Masters of the Dark Realm

“Fantasy collides with reality when Force of Nature presents the world premiere of Thomas J. Misuraca's 'Masters of the Dark Realm.' When a group of long-time friends end their fantasy role-playing game, Masters of the Dark Realm, they seek out new quests in the real world.
Will a tragedy bring them together to slay their dragons, or cause their fellowship to fall apart?”

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BLUE KISS

“An SAT tutoring session takes a shocking turn when the teacher realizes that his new student is not who she claimed to be, in this intense nerve-racking drama.”

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Treason

“A dark comedy on the danger and absurdity of American politics.
Taking inspiration from the family drama of Arthur Miller and the gallows humor of Martin McDonagh, TREASON explores the entitled toxicity of our current president and his surrounding culture without relying on recent headlines. Synopsis- On a ranch in Nevada, Grant Wilson rules a made-up nation through empty shows of power and ridiculous propaganda, with his family as his only subjects. When his son takes the mission too far and his daughter questions everything, Grant fights for control in the face of family, country, and reality.”

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Chrissy Meth ~ A Dance with the Devil and a Journey Back to Self

“Chrissy Meth is a solo show written & performed by Crystal Bush with direction & development by Jessica Lynn Johnson. It centers around a motherless child “Crystal” who grows up in the western suburbs of Chicago, she finds herself stumbling from one abusive relationship to the next, pushing her into a deep drug addiction. Somehow, from the depths, of being lost forever, she finds hope and begins to put the pieces back together. Through the use of song, multimedia, humor and multiple characters, she explores, questions and challenges beliefs and social mores surrounding identity, and self-esteem while showing that it's never too late to comeback and find one's self-worth. ”

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VIOLENCE: The Misadventures of Spike Spangle, Farmer

“Originally written and performed in 1986, this no-holds-barred satire of militarism and media manipulation tells the story of Spike Spangle, a down on his luck farmer who gets sucked into a whirlwind of celebrity and patriotism. He joins Superman on billionaire Max Enormous' Celebrity Space Shuttle and a nefarious plot leads to the deification of Spike Spangle as an American hero.”

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Tap Dancing My Way To The Nuthouse

“A burgeoning neurotic evolves into a full-fledged tap dance, mime, story-telling, multimedia nutcase… Come watch the trip! Does insanity win?”

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Tales By Candlelight

“A collaborative storytelling experience, driven by scent; a parcel received in the mail with a unique story-based candle.”

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Los Angeles Women's Theatre Festival: Defining Moments

“Four women writer-performers will perform their stories, excerpted from larger pieces. Karen. A. Clark in The Women. In this encore excerpt and through music, poetry and storytelling, Ms. Clark reflects on the women in her family, particularly her mother, who provided a “wow” factor. Barbara Cole in Surviving Chrysalis. One woman reconciles aging in her journey toward self-actualization in this funny excerpt. Bellina Logan in Confessions of a Mulatto Child. This excerpted piece chronicles a bi-racial child's life with her acerbic English actor/mother and the deep bond they forged. Amy Milano in Dancing with Crazies. In this excerpt from her life experiences, one woman searches for a place to call home after being uprooted from place to place as a child. Anna Maria Horsford and Ted Lange host.”

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Better Lemons is going to Sacramento

April is Arts, Culture and Creativity Month!

Better Lemons is going to Sacramento to join activists from all over California in celebrating Arts, Culture, and Creativity Month (ACCM) by gathering on Tuesday, April 23, at the State Capital to engage our elected officials in advancing the arts across the state.

Arts and Creativity Activists will be addressing these topics with our representatives:

  • Support Governor Newsom's permanent funding increase of $10 million for the arts in the 2019 budget
  • Position arts and culture as creative solutions to pressing societal issues
  • Ensure that all students have access to arts education
  • Position the arts as a positive economic influence in community revitalization
  • Support the Youth Poet Laureate legislation
  • Enhance legislation for California's Cultural Districts Program
  • Fund the California Cultural and Historical Endowment's Museum Grant Program

The campaign is led by Californians for the Arts and participants will be advocating for increased public funding for arts and arts education and working to ensure that arts, culture and creativity in California is valued, funded, and recognized for its social and economic impact on our lives, our communities, and our state.

The Senate legislation that designates April as Arts, Culture, and Creativity Month says it well:

WHEREAS, Arts are not only an impressive and important agent for economic development, but also impact societal issues that include health, corrections, housing, immigration, veterans, transportation and education; and

WHEREAS, It is imperative for all children and youth in the state to have access to arts education in their schools; and

WHEREAS, California is the fifth largest economy in the world, with a creative economy totaling $407.1 billion in 2017; and

WHEREAS, California employs a higher number of people in creative industries, such as architecture, entertainment, fashion, media, and publishing, than any other state in the nation, according to the 2018 Otis Report on the Creative Economy of California; and

WHEREAS, In a state as diverse as California, the arts serve to give voice to our many communities, spark individual creativity, foster empathy and understanding, spur civic engagement, and serve as a continual source of personal enrichment, inspiration, and growth; and

WHEREAS, State support for the arts, arts education, and cultural institutions is crucial in order to achieve equitable access to the arts throughout California; now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate of the State of California, the Assembly thereof concurring, That the Legislature recognizes April 2019, as a significant time to recognize and celebrate the arts, culture, and creativity of all Californians; and be it further

Resolved, That the Legislature designates April 2019, and every April thereafter, as Arts, Culture, and Creativity Month

We'd love your participation and your support!

Join us in Sacramento on April 23. If you can join us, please let us know so we can work together!

Email us with a message that we can share with our representatives. “How can our state government do better in supporting you and our creative community and infrastructure?”

Email us with a personal story of how the arts changed your life and/or your community.

But most of all, keep doing the things that you do that have made Los Angeles the center of the creative universe!

For more information visit CaliforniansForTheArts.org


Now Registered on the Better Lemons Calendar – February 25 - March 3, 2019

Theatrical shows registered on the Better Lemons calendar!
For more shows visit our Calendar.
For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page.

Attack of the Second Bananas

“Who killed beloved stage stars Ruby Moss and Andrea Hammond? Find out as the LAPD detective on the case pieces together the clues. Attack of the Second Bananas is a comedy noir about the ultimate price of fame. Running time is 90 minutes with no intermission. WORLD PREMIERE.”

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Light's Out: Nat “King” Cole

“In this electrifying exploration into the soul of an American icon, Tony and Olivier Award nominee Colman Domingo and Patricia McGregor imagine Nat “King” Cole as he faces the final Christmastime broadcast of his groundbreaking variety show and weighs the advice of his friend Sammy Davis Jr. to “go out with a bang.” Cole's hit songs, such as “Nature Boy,” “It's a Good Day” and “Smile,” underscore this boldly original homage to the renowned performer who struggled to break through America's color barrier in the early days of television. A feast for the eyes, ears and soul, the musical incorporates lively choreography by Broadway veteran Edgar Godineaux and dazzling tap dance steeped in politics and pizzazz created by renowned hoofer Jared Grimes.”

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1=0

“An unemployed, divorced theoretical physicist has an online relationship with a man claiming to be a Syrian refugee. When the relationship goes offline, it paradoxically becomes less real.”

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FRIENDS WITH GUNS

“You think you know your friends, your neighbors, your spouse, but what happens when you suddenly find out they have a garage full of guns? This new dark comedy explores the complicated issue of gun proliferation when two young liberal couples are forced to confront their assumptions about who should own a gun and why. The time of easy answers regarding this issue is long gone. In the wake of current events, we are all forced to reexamine our strongly held beliefs about gun ownership. Friends With Guns explores the question of what we can compartmentalize…and what we can't. It examines what happens when guns enter the conversation. It pulls the curtain back on liberals with guns. It asks what happens when suddenly one person in a marriage does a 180 on the gun issue. And it does all of this through a female lens.”

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The Journey of the Little Prince

“A sensory experience that follows the Little Prince in his interplanetary journey that will leave audiences inspired to explore their inner child for we all have one deep inside.”

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Blue for Mister Charlie

“A sensation in its New York premiere at the Actor's Studio, this searing drama by one of America's leading writers retains all its power to this day. Richard, a black man who is a former junkie returns to his parochial southern town and infuriates the denizens with his incendiary talk and actions. When he is killed by a poor, illiterate, white man, the murder, the eulogy, the trial, and the acquittal are presented in an abstract dramatic form of time, fury, and passion.”

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Portrait of a Soul - workshop performance

“Featuring Corryn Cummins, James Hal Hardy and Maxi Witrak, PORTRAIT OF A SOUL is the story of a young woman whose life is shadowed by sexual assault experienced in her teenage years. The encounter with her abuser, a now famous artist, gives her a chance to confront him face to face, and she'll find unexpected closure from the unusual relationship they develop.
A new way of making theatre that'll catapult the audience into a world of art, mental illness and broken relationships, while offering a chance to meet other creative souls.”

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Disaster! The Musical

“Earthquakes, tidal waves, infernos and the unforgettable songs of the ‘70s take center stage in Broadway's side-splitting homage to classic disaster films. Disaster! is a new musical straight from Broadway, featuring some of the most unforgettable songs of the ‘70s. “Knock on Wood,” “Hooked on a Feeling,” Sky High,” “Mocking Bird” and “Hot Stuff” in a “hilarious tribute to the era of bell-bottoms, platform shoes and the hustle. With larger-than-life characters, snappy dialogue and some of the most recognizable songs of the ‘70s, Disaster! will have you dancing in your seat and rolling in the aisles.”

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Nine

“Nine is the story of a celebrated film director Guido Contini and his attempts to come up with a plot for his next film as he is pursued by hordes of beautiful women, all clamoring to be loved by him and him alone. Flashbacks reveal the substance of his life which will become the material for his next film: a musical version of the Casanova story. Based on Italian director Federico Felini's comic masterpiece of biographical filmmaking, 8 1/2. Maury Yeston's sultry and enchanting musical follows the life of this world famous film director as he prepares his latest picture and balances the numerous women in his life. Contino is also, after recent box office failures, drifting towards a nervous breakdown, from which he is held back only by the support of his wife, Luisa.  As his sanity disintegrates, he drifts into nostalgic reverie, eventually focusing on the formative sexual encounter of his life, which occurred at the age of nine.”

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In the Penal Colony

“An explorer visits an island where blind conformity has no rational connection between crime and punishment. Kafka's ingenious metaphor about man's inhumanity to man is heightened by Glass' hypnotic score. Witness the internal conflict of the innocent bystander; to act or to do nothing.”

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Life Beyond Prison

“Experiences of formerly incarcerated persons. The Rising Scholars Justice Lab comprises individuals who are now pursuing academic degrees. They will discuss the trauma of being in jail, their personal trust issues, and having a criminal record. The California Innocence Project takes on cases of wrongful incarceration. The event also includes performances by artists affiliated with LBO.”

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Guilty Until Proven Innocent

“Mr. Tyler was the youngest person ever convicted of the death penalty and was incarcerated in Angola prison for 41 years before having his sentence overturned and being released in 2016.”

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Black Lives, the Arts, and Mattering

“Acclaimed composer Anthony Davis shares his inspiration for writing The Central Park Five, which will receive its world premiere at LBO June 15, 2019. He is joined by performers from the opera. The panel explores how music and art are used in activism and how classical music can more effectively participate in activism.”

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The Central Park Five

“World premiere opera composed by Anthony Davis. In 1980's New York, five African American and Latino teenagers were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were unjustly convicted of a Central Park crime but exonerated through DNA evidence thirteen years later. Davis' opera is a passionate story about an issue that still rocks America today.”

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Crazy Woke Asians Solo Performance Festival

“Crazy Woke Asians, the sold out comedy show presents a Solo Performance Festival at Santa Monica Playhouse. This year's festival showcases over 15 Asian American comedians, actors and writers. The shows range from touching autobiographical stories to stand-up comedy acts, from clown burlesque to magic with music, poetry, and more Thursdays through Sundays, March 14-24, 2019.
Each night will feature two or three performers, with special guest stars to round out the evening. All tickets come with a complimentary glass of wine, and there is a Festival Pass ticket available for those who want to attend several (or all!) shows. Plus, the first Friday and final Sunday of the festival will have post-show celebrations featuring food from Ish Kitchen.”

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The Wolves

“Left quad. Right quad. Lunge. A girls indoor soccer team warms up. From the safety of their suburban stretch circle, these 16- and 17-year-olds navigate big questions and wage tiny battles with the ferociousness of a pack of adolescent warriors. New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley calls Sarah DeLappe's extraordinary debut play “theater that keeps you on the edge of your seat.” Co-winner of the American Playwriting Foundation's inaugural Relentless Award and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the Yale Drama Series Prize.”

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I'm Jennifer Mother F*cking Lawrence

“Actress Jennifer Lawrence has some pretty intense fears, and she's about to tackle her first one; a spider. ”

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ROALD DAHL'S MATILDA THE MUSICAL

“Based on the beloved novel by Roald Dahl, Tony Award-winning MATILDA THE MUSICAL will dazzle audiences of all ages at the Civic Arts Plaza this spring! With inspiring and fun songs and lyrics written by Tim Minchin, this extraordinary girl will show you how a sharp mind and vivid imagination can help you change your destiny!”

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Kentwood Players Presents Sunday In The Park With George

“Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical, the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical and multiple Tony Awards, SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE, was inspired by the life of French pointillist, George Seurat. With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Lapine, the plot revolves around the creation of his masterpiece, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” George, an intense and passionate artist, struggles to not only create his paintings but also to maintain a relationship with his long-time mistress, Dot. The second act connects to the first while focusing on another George, Seurat and Dot's great grandson, also struggling to find meaning in art and the need to connect to the past, present and future. A white canvas, so many possibilities.”

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STEEL MAGNOLIAS

“Actors Co-op presents Robert Harling's Steel Magnolias, directed by Cameron Watson, produced by Lauren Thompson. Set in a small town beauty salon in Louisiana, Steel Magnolias celebrates the bond of friendship between six women in the midst of life's challenges. Based on the playwright's upbringing, and later adapted into the critically acclaimed film, Steel Magnolias is a humorous, yet devastating journey of friendship, loss, and love.”

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THE SECRET OF CHIMNEYS

“The Group Rep presents a long-lost Agatha Christie play The Secret of Chimneys, directed by Jules Aaron, produced by Kathleen Delaney & Kevin Hoffman, Jr. In this mystery, a cosmopolitan adventurer on a mission discovers more than he bargained for when he arrives at an English country house and finds himself in the center of a murderous international conspiracy. This sinister plot of stolen diamonds, secret oil concessions and exiled royalty unfolds under the purview of both Scotland Yard and the French Surete. Chimneys is Christie at her best: a comedy of manners laced with murder!”

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BRUSHES: A Comedy of Hairs

“MB Artists and the Whitefire Theatre present the world premiere of BRUSHES: A Comedy of Hairs, written by Cathy Hamilton and Carol Starr Schneider, directed by Kevin Bailey. BRUSHES untangles the hysterically complicated relationship between women and their hair since time immemorial. Brushes with disaster, vanity, envy, self-doubt, sex, death – even the law – are explored in hilarious and poignant style. In a series of vignettes, the follicular follies flow from the Bad Hair Days Inn to a new salon on the block called Blow Me Now.”

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Mean Gays

“It's survival of the fiercest when Kimmy Chi (RuPaul's Drag Race Season 8 finalist Kim Chi), a home-schooled transfer student from South Korea, moves to an American high school ruled by drag queen girl-gang The Plastics, led by the terrifying Willam George (RuPaul's Drag Race Season 4 firebrand Willam, currently stealing scenes opposite Lady Gaga in Bradley Cooper's A Star Is Born), and her ignorant band of loyal followers, Peaches “Swallows” Wieners (Peaches Christ) and stoner dingbat Laganja Smith (RuPaul's Drag Race Season 6 standout Laganja Estranja, also seen in the Netflix series Dancing Queen). Will Kimmy fit in with these mean gays, or will they throw her under the school bus? Mean Gays is a hilariously irreverent live musical parody of the 2004 cult classic film Mean Girls starring Lindsay Lohan, Tina Fey, and Rachel McAdams.”

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WE NOW KNOW WE ARE NOT ALONE: 5 Questions with Jesse Bliss

Writer. Director. Producer. Actor. Activist. Mother. Jesse Bliss does it all. I first met Jesse when we were both taking a writing course at UCLA under the tutelage of famed writer/instructor Leon Martell. What impressed me about her was how she USED theatre as a vehicle of social transformation and civic action. The nexus of some of this work is her theatre company The Roots and Wings Project (RAW Project). Through March 10, RAW Project will be presenting an evening of song, dance and language called MATRIARCH centering on the complexities of mothers and motherhood.
For more information on this show, visit: facebook.com/events/2197437173856678

Roger Q. Mason (RQM): How did Matriarch begin?

Jesse Bliss (JB): I had come to a place in my life where I was at peace with being an artist over having a family. I had always wanted to be a mother, however the lifestyle of an artist and the choices I'd always made to put my work above all else, made it perfectly clear I could only be with a partner who understood my needs as an artist so that I could do both and do them each well. I realized that context may never exist and finally, after praying to the spirit of my child, released the idea of motherhood for this life unless the universe showed me otherwise, and came to peace with the fact that because of my deep commitment to my art, it may never happen that I'd find a partner who could understand how to have a cornerstone of equity while raising a family and creating work, all the while sharing the responsibilities of love and care for the child, household work, plus finances.

Low and behold I fell madly in love, seeming to have found this context much to my surprise. It all happened very fast. We had a big wedding. I'm remaining silent about the details, but what I will say is that the equity I'd firmly believed was there, was not. I'd been working as an artist literally up until I gave birth having directed my play TREE OF FIRE at The Rosenthal Theater at Inner-City Arts. However, I had a very challenging pregnancy with many medical complications and thus a difficult birth. It left me needing to heal and recover. During that time, I was very much alone. I was more thrilled to be a mother than any role I'd ever been given in this life, however, my fantasy of partnership was shattered. In the countless hours of breastfeeding, I'd have pieces of paper and notebooks with pens lying around the house so if I was suddenly breastfeeding somewhere unable to move, there was accessible paper. I'd stare out the windows at my passing neighbors and up at the palm trees, loving my baby and having the epiphany of all epiphanies about womanhood, understanding it all differently and more clearly than ever before---women have historically been put in the home and our advancement into the workforce only doubled our work load. Here I was working full time running a theatre department at a private school plus teaching on the side at The Geffen while nursing all night and struggling to find places to pump in the day.

Nicole Mae Martin Photgrapher: Ivan Cordeiro

Seated in my living room, while breastfeeding: I got struck like lightening with both the title and idea at once. MATRIARCH would allow women to speak out about the oppression we've been living, allow me to work in an ensemble without having to be away from my baby for endless hours like in a traditional play, and bring light and awareness around the hidden truths of motherhood and the oppression of women.

The first writer I thought of was Patricia Zamorano. I'd played the lead in her play YOU DON'T KNOW ME. I wanted to know more about the story, particularly the dynamic about her and her mother. When I hit her up she let me know that she wasn't a mother and seemed surprised I'd considered her for this work. I reminded her that she'd become her mother's mother when her mother was severely burned (and later blinded) in a fire.

She was stunned and in turn found great healing in writing that riveting story. I began tapping other writers I knew had something profound to share and a perspective to offer that would alter perception and give piercing truth.

Our first reading was at a bar at Union Station. People were laughing and crying on both sides of the stage. Passersby were stopping, arrested by the work. It was then and there we collectively knew there was something very powerful that needed further life.

I was suddenly less alone and able to share space and time with potent artists and engage dialogue around the work. I found this entirely healing and necessary in a world where women are objectified and silenced. My baby was on my hip through it all as being with her has, and remains to be, my number one objective. I embody all things wild and completely domestic at once.

Ramy El-Etreby Photographer: Ivan Cordeiro

RQM: You've done the show many times within the last few years.  How has the show grown and changed over the different iterations?

JB: It became clear we needed to include our male allies. Because someone is a woman does not make them an ally and because someone is a man doesn't make them an enemy.

So many women completely sign on to the poison of patriarchy and also there are men who are strong allies. For example, in the case of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, her work didn't happen because of him, but she was able to navigate and break boundaries because he had her back and believed in her to such a degree that she was able to be an unstoppable force. He moved cities for her work. He sacrificed whenever necessary to ensure her rise.

This type of ally promotes our advancement and enforces our voices. Throughout history, oppression has been overcome by those being oppressed joining forces with allies to create a movement. Angela Davis' book WOMEN RACE & CLASS does a great job of exemplifying this point as does her entire body of life's work.

Women have only been legal citizens a short time, previously owned by men on paper through marriage. We've barely been allowed to vote or enter the work force or college and still make so much less than men, yet have the responsibility of the home and suffer enormous condemnation. Is there equity? Sure, it's somewhere, but it's hard to find. The voice of the ally is in Tamar Halpern's piece, GABRIEL, and brings so much to the overall message.

Tamika Simpkins Photographer: Ivan Cordeiro

MATRIARCH is much about the shaming of the feminine. All feminine energy has been subjected to shame. It can be embodied by a woman or a man and yet still experience the same level of condemnation, thus it became crystal clear that it enhances and emphasizes the work to include that voice. Your piece (Roger Q. Mason) embodies this and it is a critical aspect of the work. In his piece, AGE SEX LOCATION, the character is being shamed for his femininity by the very women he looks up to---his own mother! This shows how the feminine is degraded and humiliated in all shapes and forms…a critical point to explore on our journey to respect and equity…the very definition of the word feminism has *no* female implication. It refers to equity for all human beings.

Also, since the inception of MATRIARCH, I have become a single mother. This role is shrouded in stigma and has been an entirely new awakening, once again, about the roles women have been subjugated to in our quest for freedom and to live outside the walls of oppression. My new perspective has changed the way I see the value of this show and the role it plays in voicing what we don't usually hear, thus moving more toward justice.

Raised by a single mother myself who endured abusive relationships, it has been an awakening to trans-generational trauma and a strong desire to break the cycles. I have stepped into a role I never wanted and am determined to not only make it work, but to live in joy---something society has attempted to keep from women.

The Roots and Wings Project also has a program now in the women's prison California Institution for Women (CIW) in Chino. Those women are survivors of abuse and so many of them are in there because of Domestic Violence. They have gifted me so much and working with them is an honor. It has greatly enhanced my understanding of how the dynamics of patriarchy in the United States are costing women their lives both inside and outside the walls. I don't see the separation. My collaboration on MATRIARCH exists in both places. The women behind the walls are great keepers of knowledge and testaments to the strength of the human spirit. Their voices are stifled because their truth threatens the structure of patriarchy. We do this work out here for them as well. All artists on both sides of the walls are company members of The Roots and Wings Project and by bridging this gap we are helping people to understand the truth about who is in prison and why. Though I've been doing prison work for over 15 years, this is the first Roots and Wings Project program in a woman's prison. We are grateful for the support and collaboration from Poets and Writers and Luis Rodriguez and Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural.

It's been exciting rotating in new voices like Diane Rodriguez whose piece speaks to the story we *never* heard about: a proud and peaceful single mother with 5 kids and 5 kid's fathers and Dancers like Nicole Mae Martin (held the vision for popping and locking interlude for years for this show) whose piece explores Domestic Violence, a topic society doesn't understand that is not publicly expressed thus perpetuating. It's equally exciting continuing on the journey with the MATRIARCH OG's like the talented Sigrid Gilmer who has been running the show since "the get" with a piece about a dying mother and her last taboo advice to her children.

We did a short run of the piece in 2017 at Casa 0101 to much success. Though the venue is no longer being rented by them and we are running the show in the space again, we honor and appreciate the legacy of that space and all the incredible work that has been built in there by so many stellar artists.

Jesse Bliss. Photographer: Ivan Cordeiro

RQM: You make an appearance in the show.  Tell us a little bit about Jesse Bliss the writer and performer.

JB: My first lens is that of an actor. I have written literally my entire life, but as a young child, always envisioned becoming a professional actress and started doing radio commercial work and plays at a very young age. I moved to San Francisco at 20 years old and met my acting teacher, Linda Lowry, walking up the street near my place in the dangerous Tenderloin District. I trained very hard with her. She was a prodigy of Bobby Lewis who founded the Original Actor's Studio and he was a prodigy of Constantine Stanislavski. I was so incredibly frustrated by the lack of good material written for women and Linda saw the writer in me. She challenged me to write my own work. Thus was born my life as a playwright. However, I am a multidisciplinary artist, truly, and all parts equal my whole. Each is an integral part of my being. Performing makes me happy and keeps me connected to all aspects of the work and is something I am meant to do while in this life. I love directing, producing and writing just as much. I find acting makes me better at them all, eliciting my vulnerability, embodying a character and keeping me connected in a way I'm built for. There are works I never do step inside of as a performer and approach the work only as a director and producer.

Rose Portillo Photographer: Ivan Cordeiro

In the context of MATRIARCH, the piece I do is very important to me as it explores a mother being shamed in public by a passerby for breastfeeding which I, and many others, experienced not just once but often. It's so ludicrous to me and makes a critical point about where we are at the world in the treatment of women. It's an honor to perform the piece. I was afraid in this iteration it wouldn't connect for me now as I've got so many other critical matters on my mind and in my heart, but it does remain to be a piece that I find deeply important and stepping inside of MATRIARCH to perform is a gift I so deeply appreciate.

I have a background in women's theatre as a writer and performer. I came to Los Angeles with an all-female troupe out of New York City, The Angry Jellow Bubbles. At 21 years old I moved to New York City and it was my first exposure to a powerful, young female director and a group of very talented female writer/performers. It brought me so much healing. We did a lot of shows together on the East and West Coasts and in Europe. All 9 of us moved to LA then quickly disbanded, but that time together greatly influenced my artistry and opened me up to the capabilities of women as content creators. Being there was so little good work for women, it feels empowering to create my own---to write it then step inside to embody it. That has always been healing for me---to write work I believe in and physically embody it. I love telling other people's stories as a writer as well as an actor. There is a collective consciousness at work in this story telling.

I connected with Josefina Lopez when I first came to Los Angeles. She has been a dear friend, ally and inspiration. It felt good to connect with someone, so soon after arriving in LA with the Bubbles show, who was working in multiple contexts and capacities creating content as a woman.

Overall, I look forward to continuing my journey as a performer yet acknowledge fully that I am also a playwright, director and producer and that work is a critical part of my being and must be exercised in order to grow.

Cast Photo - Photographer: Ava Alamshah

RQM: Outside of your work in theatre, you are an educator, radio personality, and prison reform activist. What do you bring from your other lives in to the work you make for theatre?

JB: The immediate healing that theatre offers is life-saving and I experienced it as such on my own journey and am a conduit for helping it do the same for others in these mentioned contexts. The entertainment industry can be difficult and I find sometimes artists forget the healing power of the work or the core reasons why we do it. It's interesting going from a prison environment with men at Lancaster or women at CIW for example where the work literally allows them to come alive and breathe, to a public theatre where artists approach the work in a different way due to the structure of the entertainment industry. I find the best actors in the world are also the kindest, most empathic and I see in them the same traits as the people behind the walls. A criminal mind is a creative mind and the Prison Industrial Complex has been built by Patriarchy and greed.

Crowd Photographer: Ivan Cordeiro

RQM: One thing that has always excited me about you is your supreme belief in the transformative power of theatre in our everyday lives. What can theatre do to help us in tumultuous times like now?

JB: Theatre can allow us to overcome. The power of the human spirit is magnificent and ominous. We forget because that's the design. Oppression is there to keep us disconnected from each other and ourselves. When we examine a story, its' structure and the intricacies of a precious human life, we are called to an ancient an honorable task that takes us outside of time and into the realm of possibilities. It's the highest healing modality on the planet for it offers an unparalleled transcendence for both the artist and the audience. The silence is broken. We now know we are not alone. We can process what is otherwise impossible to digest. In this we can digest, calm and take proper action.

We are called into the universal realm and metaphysical forces become more apparent.

We stand on the backs of giants in this work and call forth the legacy when we commit to participating. Ancestors come around, we connect in a different way with each other dictated by measure of trust and love and in this we are more than the circumstances of our lives, more than the haters, more than the challenges. It brings our capabilities to light and ignite what is dormant, calling upon our power to voice truth, rise up, and take no prisoners.

For tickets and more information on MATRIARCH go to Eventbrite.com/e/matriarch-tickets-54959799239

Featured photo: Jesse Bliss Photographer: Angela L. Torres


Free Los Tres! Free Los Tres! - Part 2

COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program,) the program run by J. Edgar Hoover's FBI tracked, harassed and disrupted or destroyed political organizations considered subversive, and the Chicano movement was one of their biggest targets. Momentum was lost, people gave up, got burned out, and with the passage of time, the story of Free Los Tres was largely forgotten.

The play doesn't try to turn Los Tres into larger than life legends, or some kind of barrio superheroes blasting away at The Man, riddling him with bullets. That would be silly, not to mention propaganda instead of storytelling. They are flawed characters, and the play lets you decide whether their intentions or actions were appropriate.

Carmelo tells me about a saying women used in the barrio – me puta ni santa, I am not a saint, but I'm not a whore either. "We're not saying we are saints or holier than thou, but that we're normal," Carmelo says. "We have temptations, we are human beings, and that nobody is 100 percent good or evil." On one hand, the authorities called Los Tres vigilantes and criminals. But on the other hand, and there are thousand shades of grey in between these two extremes, Los Tres believed they were protecting a neighborhood that was under assault. Carmelo says the shooting was not premeditated, and Los Tres carried weapons because they were dealing with a drug dealer – and that shortly after Los Tres got busted, the gates to the drugs opened.

"The neighborhood I grew up in – Pico Gardens and Aliso Village – after they squashed the movement and locked us up and things kind of died down----that area became known as 31 Flavors. You could get anything there, from drugs to guns,"Beto says. The gangs became more powerful and the violence in Boyle Heights got out of control, with cliques from 1st to 4th Street killing each other.

The drug problem today is overwhelming. The so-called "War on Drugs" failed because arresting dealers didn't work as long as the demand was so high and another replacement was willing to step up. Small towns across America, but particularly in Rust Belt states like Ohio and West Virginia, are being decimated by an epidemic of opioid abuse. Drugs overdoses killed more than 72,000 people in 2017, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control, the worst year ever. That's nearly 200 people a day (there was a decline of overdose deaths in 2018, perhaps a sign the epidemic has peaked.)

When I asked Carmelo if the drug epidemic could have been stopped by a few men protecting their neighborhood, he said the idea was never that they could stop the entire drug problem. If Los Tres and others took care of their own barrio, and if other communities began to do the same, they could start a movement and slow if not stop the influx of drugs.

"When you give power to the people, when you let them handle it, the community can take control of the neighborhood and make it better," Carmelo says.

Photo courtesy Alberto Ortiz

Before the bust, this was already happening: Boyle Heights activists were educating people in the projects, circulating petitions and bridging divisions, and Rudy thinks this sense of purpose may have attracted the attention of the authorities. "Also at that time, a lot of barrios were coming together – there was unity, there was even unity with theAmerican Indian movement, we were beginning to work with other organizations, the hippies, whatever--" and he believes this very unity was seen as a threat.

Rudy says an article called Strange Rumbling in Aztlan by Hunter S. Thompson(HST) also may have brought the Feds attention around to the neighborhood. It was published in Rolling Stone on April 29, 1971, just eight months after L.A. Times reporter Ruben Salazar was killed during the Moratorium march and rally against the Vietnam War.

Salazar was only tangentially involved with the Chicano Movement, but he became a martyr for it after a Sheriff's deputy blew his head off with a tear gas canister fired through the door of the Silver Dollar Cafe in East L.A., the now defunct spot located a little less than four miles from where Casa 0101 is today. Tensions in the community were very high as evidence emerged that contradicted the official version of Salazar's death, suggesting a cover-up.

Rudy is mentioned and quoted in Strange Rumblings, which like all of Thomson's best work, mixes strong reporting and novelistic attention to detail with tales of his crazy but always entertaining antics. Rudy is not the center of that particular story, however.

He came from a pro-Union family and says he was politically conscious from an early age. His parents joined protests against unsafe working conditions and unequal wages at the Empire Zinc Mine in New Mexico; they are featured in the 1954 film Salt of the Earth, which recreated the strike using real participants as actors in the movie. Rudy grew up in Estrada Courts, a low-income housing project in Boyle Heights.

He had been in juvenile hall and in the prison system; he knew La Eme (the Mexican Mafia) and they knew him, and he had a drug problem. He started reading in prison and had an awakening. He sobered up, got out of jail and got involved in the Chicano Movement after he met Oscar Zeta Acosta, an attorney who defended scores of activists from East L.A.

Acosta was also the inspiration for Dr. Gonzo, HST's partner in crime through the drug-fueled odyssey depicted in Fear and Loathing in Law Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream. HST met Acosta when he was writing "Strange Rumblings in Aztlan" and they took that Vegas road-trip partly to escape the pressure surrounding the Salazar case.

Rudy became Acosta's bodyguard. He met Free Los Tres through Acosta and some of his associates, gradually seeing the Chicano organization as more serious and his political involvement deepened. The set-up came soon after. "They weren't interested in me when I was running around the hood, but they sure came after me this time," Rudy says.

The trial of Los Tres may not have attracted as much notice outside of Boyle Heights and in the Anglo world because it didn't have the mystique, and the depraved glamour of the Manson trial. East Los Angeles even today is not paid its due. Most stories about Los Angeles are set on the Westside (after covering Boyle Heights, HST writes of his discomfort at ordering a drink at the Beverly Hills Hotel because he was "oriented to a completely different world – 15 miles away.)

Outside of some coverage by the Herald Examiner, the case didn't get noticed by a mainstream media obsessed with a celebrity serial killer. Manson is a legend, but Free Los Tres were three guys from the barrio, and they were not civil rights icons like Bert Corona or Cesar Chavez. They never wanted the story to be about them. We were just soldiers for the movement they might say.

It was a time of different values in places like Boyle Heights – people didn't necessarily aspire to be famous or gaudily rich, and there was of course no social media. These were working class people who wanted to make their communities safer and gain access for their people, achieve equality. Even now Beto says he is hesitant to be in the limelight – but Carmelo told him that you need to embrace your origins.

The trial itself was a farce. "Let me tell you, it was a goddamn Kangaroo court, that's the way I saw it at the time," Rudy says. His mentality then was that he was a political prisoner and the cops, prosecutors and the judge were the enemy.

"What I remember from the trial is that the judge, out of 27 motions we had, he denied all of them. He allowed like 5 of our witnesses out of twenty (we wanted to bring to the stand.)" says Beto. They were silenced at every step. "We never had a chance to tell our story. And we knew we were doomed," Beto says. "It got to the point where when the bailiff came and out said all rise, we wouldn't rise cause he (the judge) wasn't respecting us, so we turned around and didn't give him respect either."

They were released on bail after two years, pending the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals review. One year later they were rearrested. Their sentences were eventually reduced by 25 years after a charge of violating the Federal Law known as the Jesse James Act was dropped. Each served about eight years in prison before finally being freed.

When I see Free Los Tres on preview night it is a small crowd, and there are the usual glitches in performance and technical quality of a show going through last-minute tunings before its opening. The play begins with the actors playing Los Tres entering in chains, and there are many potent images throughout the show, but I do have some reservations. I don't believe this play has quite gotten the story down to its essence – but my qualms about the productions are terribly unimportant compared to what people from the neighborhood have said about Free Los Tres.

When I talk to a few people leaving the preview, they are all beaming, and yes of course some of that is because they are friends or family of the cast, but this is something more I think. One family I spoke with were excited to see a story about people from their own neighborhood, and they'd never heard of Free Los Tres before attending the play. They'd been to Casa 0101 only once before, but many of their friends already had tickets to see the show. Sold-out houses followed throughout the run, and a standing ovation ended each performance. Activists from the era reunited in the lobby, and their families came too: Beto, Rudy and Johnny's sons, all juniors, were there, and they were taken aback by how close the actors portrayals matched their memories of their fathers. This is a testament to the power of storytelling.

Casa 0101 has been telling the stories of this neighborhood for nearly 19 years. Located on East 1st Street just across the street from a police station, the interior has an inviting warmth, the gallery in the lobby displaying images from local artists. You begin to get a sense of all the history found in this neighborhood, and realize that this is not just a theater, it's a community resource.

Casa 0101's existence unfortunately has been tenuous of late – as what is unique about Boyle Heights is threatened by another wave of white gentrification, and the theater has suffered financial setbacks and the loss of its 99-seat theater waiver. So far they are surviving--they have created theater on a low budget for years, mostly relying on volunteers from the community, but costs have gone up They have come up with a novel solution that has kept them going so far--they are seeking 350 donors to give them $25 a month, and so far they have found just over half.

Neither Rudy nor Beto live in Boyle Heights anymore, and the area has changed so much. Beto says when he grew up everybody knew each other in the projects. During Halloween, they used to have bonfires at the 4th Street gym, and everyone would come out. There were games too, like putting $50 at the top of a greased up pole and seeing if anyone could climb far enough without slipping to grab the cash. Now Beto is still leery of going there alone, although violence in the projects is down since the 80's and 90's. "I'm kind of scared to go in there now because one day I was driving thru there, coming home from work and reminiscing, and about ten guys tried to stop my car, but since I knew the area, I got out of there right away."

"One of my grandkids told her grandpa that he didn't know grandpa was a legend in the chicano movement," Beto says, laughing at the memory. "We didn't seek to be legends in the Chicano movement, it was an incident that happened and the organizations we were working with stepped up and supported us and defended us and created this whole movement behind Los Tres," he says. For his part, Rudy finds it wonderful to see the story come alive for him and his children, as well as people from the neighborhood who haven't heard about Los Tres before – lamenting only that his mother has already passed away and didn't live to see the story reborn in this play.

The story isn't over quite yet. Carmelo has already talked about turning the Free Los Tres into a film and Beto has begun working on a book with Professor Victor Viesca of Cal State Los Angeles. It's almost, to steal a line from Beto, like they can't quite get rid of Los Tres del Barrio. Maybe no one outside of Boyle Heights will notice Free Los Tres, or maybe it will become an inspiration for a new generation of activists, perhaps both. "If we can throw another yell, let's throw another yell out there," Rudy says, and for a story that has been asleep for 47 years, it's the telling that matters.


Free Los Tres! Free Los Tres! - Part 1

"The people in their quest for a better life have the right to destroy the forces that threaten their survival." Origin unknown.

There are some stories that become legends, and we tell them over and over again. But there are other stories that are just as moving and powerful that we forget to tell. Sometimes those stories are found again, and in the telling we may wonder why we forgot them at all.

Free Los Tres! is a shout of defiance. It is also the name of a new play, and it is a powerful and sometimes flawed reminder of an essential moment in the history of Boyle Heights and the Chicano Civil Rights Movement. The story is very complex, spanning years and taking some of its dialogue directly from thousands of pages of court transcripts.

The play has already triggered a new reckoning of the events it depicts. It ran for only four weeks at CASA 0101 in Boyle Heights, but Free Los Tres! has been embraced by a community hungry for stories about their culture and history. The show sold-out every night of its run.

Rudolfo "Rudy" Sanchez, Alberto "Beto" Ortiz and Juan "Johnny" Fernandez – Los Tres del Barrio– were Chicano activists, and members of a community organization called La Casa de Carnalismo that wanted to drive drug dealers out of East Los Angeles. They were convicted of assaulting an undercover federal narcotics officer posing as a drug dealer in 1971. Los Tres became a rallying point for a community and a movement.

Photo courtesy Alberto Ortiz

We are living in a time that doesn't allow us to entertain any sentimentality about how far we have come; instead, with the reemergence of white supremacy, and the scapegoating of immigrants who are called criminals and thugs, Free Los Tres! confronts how far backwards we have actually gone. Those times are our times.

"It's not that I don't want people to forget it, it's that I want them to identify it with what is happening today," says Carmelo Alvarez, who directed and co-wrote the project with Beto and Miguel Lopez Vigil. He is an eclectic man, and a natural storyteller perhaps best known for founding Radiotron, the iconic hip hop venue and youth center that was located near MacArthur Park. He has also worked as a youth advocate for more than 40 years, creating a dozen spaces where kids can learn about culture and art, and find shelter from the gangs, violence and drugs out on the streets. He lives simply, completely devoted to making his art: Free Los Tres is his passion project.

I met Carmelo when I was researching a script dense with thehistory of downtown Los Angeles and cultural issues like homelessness. A mutual friend introduced us because Carmelo is an aficionado of local history, and during our first meeting, we spoke for more than two hours. Somewhere along the way, between being peppered with my questions and barely pausing while I frantically scribbled notes, he told me about Free Los Tres.

The script was still too long – about 170 pages – and he was cutting and cutting material. He seemed inundated with information, still sorting the piece out, which would in the end take about 18 months.

He had been looking for the story for years.

He became aware of Free Los Tres when he was 14 and catching the bus to school. The bus stop was near the courthouse where the Charles Manson trial was concluding, and he saw young women with shaved heads and X's carved in their forehead – Manson girls protesting his death sentence (later overturned.) The trial for Los Tres began just as the Manson's ended, and when Carmelo looked across the street, he saw another group of people holding signs and heard cries of "Free Los Tres!". The image stayed with him, and he wanted to know more.

Other stories about the Chicano movement have become celebrated, even iconic. Long before they became part of Los Tres, Johnny and Beto joined the high school walkouts of 1968. Thousands of students from Theodore Roosevelt High and other East L.A. schools protested against inequality in the Los Angeles Unified School District: classrooms were overcrowded and understaffed, and activists charged that the curriculum ignored their experience entirely.

A year later they the also joined the Chicano Moratorium, an Anti-Vietnam War movement which organized several protests, the largest of which drew more than 30,000 protestors on August 29, 1970-- an essential date in Los Angeles history, and the same day LA Times reporter Ruben Salazar was killed. The war was placing a heavy burden on East L.A. communities like Boyle Heights as Chicanos were being drafted and killed at higher rates than other ethnic groups. The Moratorium was a continuation of what started with the walkouts; young activists taking to the streets to rally against injustice.

Moises Rodriguez (Rudy), Joshua Nicholas (Johnny) and Alex Anthony Correa (Beto) as Los Tres del Barrio. Photo by Rosa Navarrete

"They made a movie about the walkouts and the moratorium is celebrated every year, but this story has been hidden for 47 years," says Carmelo. He wanted to know why. Little has been written about Los Tres. An internet search finds only an excerpt from a book which mentioned Los Tres very briefly, and also a few pictures and flyers from the era– but nothing cohesive, only fragments that hinted at the story he knew was there.

He kept looking, but the play might never have happened but for a chance encounter in 2017. Carmelo was at a funeral paying his respects to a relative who'd been a Chicano activist. He was talking to his cousin, who'd also been involved in the movement, and mentioned he was writing a play about Los Tres. Do you know where I can find them? "Do I know them, his cousin said, Dude, I know those guys, I was on the Committee to Free Los Tres!" An introduction was arranged. 

Shortly thereafter, Carmelo met Beto and Rudy, and they gave him permission to write the script. Beto collaborated closely on the script with Carmelo – he had saved pictures and letters from members of the Committee to Free Los Tres, still in their envelopes more than 40 years later. Beto spent months getting the trial transcripts, nearly 3000 pages. He painstakingly copied them one page at a time. Those pages were very delicate, sometimes stuck together. Beto's memories of that time had grown fuzzy he says, but as Carmelo picked at his brain they began to resurface. First they worked from memory, then they began interviewing committee members. They wanted the play to become something beyond a history lesson– Free Los Tres is a call to action.

"We're kind of hoping that this will inspire the youths of today because I see the play being for this generation now, for those who didn't know or never heard about it, and we want to let them know how the conditions were back then and hopefully it will inspire them to get involved," Beto said when interviewed with Rudy at Casa 0101 just before rehearsals began late last year. "The issues have multiplied instead of diminished," Rudy said, in no small part, he believes, because of the current president.

Los Tres were very young when the confrontation took place, Rudy being the oldest of them at just 26. Beto and Rudy are the two surviving members of Los Tres (Johnny passed away in 2012) and they remain politically committed: attending rallies and marches, and still consider themselves pro-immigrant and pro-undocumented. "We're native born here," Beto says, "and it gets me upset that people are saying go back to Mexico because we never crossed the border. Our people didn't cross it and the Indians never did – the border crossed us."

Photo courtesy Alberto Ortiz

Every play has its premise, its own life as Carmelo says, and Free Los Tres asks, do the ends justify the means, and when is it okay to take the law into your own hands. And what actions are ethical if the guys carrying badges are committing illicit acts themselves? The authorities were infiltrating the community, trying to disrupt the movement, beating suspects, and intimidating witnesses – but their actions were considered legal, at least at the time.

"That's not justice, that's not legal, so they're breaking the law," Carmelo says. "And they send in informants and infiltrators – is this legal? Why is it legal to infiltrate into a community and bring in arms, and tell them you need to fight them, you need to shoot the pigs, we need to have an armed revolution? Informants were paid to tell the movement these things. So in this case, the government was doing things under the color of law, but they're not ethical, they're right in the law of true justice, or true humanity."

There is another message to this story: drugs have been been used as a tool of suppression to, as Beto says, "keep our people drugged up and killing each other." Los Tres had already helped circulate a petition asking local shops to stop selling glue to kids in the neighborhood, and were working to get rid of the heavier stuff too – angel dust, reds and heroin. The movement believed the cops were at worst abetting the problem and at best doing nothing to stop it.

Carmelo takes this from an abstract idea to something more personal, an analogy that puts the question on what you might do to protect your own family. "If someone takes drugs into the community and you do something about it, you say, hey, don't be selling that shit to my sister, get the fuck out of here, and then somebody moves into your neighborhood, and befriends you, and says I'll take care of your sister, but he starts giving her drugs, and he's doing it under the color of the law, is that legal?"

Los Tres began chasing drug dealers out of the neighborhood and for awhile Beto says it was working. They were partly inspired by the film Battle of Algiers, the 1966 film showing the guerrilla resistance against French colonizers. Rudy saw it when he was in prison, and it transformed his life and inspired his actions. The group would approach a drug dealer, tell them we don't want you selling your junk here, and then intimidate them into leaving.

They did not initiate the meeting with the undercover agent. Rudy was contacted by a man who wanted to sell him drugs. In the play we see this exchange as two backlit figures behind a scrim, two shadows arranging to meet for a drug deal. "We didn't go there to shoot the guy or kill the guy or anything like that, we went there to run him out of the neighborhood," said Beto, but the transaction turned into a confrontation.

We see this incident several times during the play, reminiscent of Rashomon, the 1950 Akira Kurosawa film that demonstrated the slippery nature of truth. The shooting is dramatized from several different perspectives, especially during the court scenes when the actors rearrange themselves as the testimony continues behind them. This is a bit awkwardly staged, but it's very funny when we see the actor playing the undercover agent enter on a moving cart with giant handlebars representing a lowrider motorcycle.

There is controversy about how many shots were fired, was it three or was it two. We do know that the officer did not identify himself as a federal agent or show his badge before reaching for his weapon ("if he'd shown one we wouldn't be sitting here talking," Carmelo told me.) Get of the neighborhood, Los Tres told him, and they demanded he give up his drug money. The cop, perhaps panicking, dropped his wallet to the ground, the money scattering, and reached for his weapon. Carmelo believes the agent expected Los Tres to go for the money. Seeing his weapon, they opened fire on him, and from there the incident gets even murkier.

There were four backup agents waiting in a car, and when they heard the gunshots they came running to the scene, the first of them arriving maybe 10 seconds later. Three claimed they didn't have weapons with them – they said they had left them in the car – one of them using the rationale he didn't have his weapon because he had taken off his shirt to blend in within the community (his exact words taken from the transcripts.)

"You're the backup agent, but yet you leave your gun in the car?" Carmelo asks me incredulously, wondering if there might be a motive for this, if it wasn't really an accident. We do not know the answer to that question, but even more mysterious is who fired the shot that hit the agent. Beto and Johnny each fired once, but there was a third shot that isn't clear what weapon it came from, and no ballistics tests were done, except on Johnny's weapon, and the results were inconclusive.

"Why didn't anyone question that," Carmelo says, "if you go up to anyone on the street, and you say three backup cops didn't have their gun, they'd say...what??"

Photo courtesy Alberto Ortiz

The shooting, this one brief incident, lasting maybe 30 seconds or so according to Alvarez, had long reverberations. "That one minute transformed their life," Carmelo says. "That one split second incident unraveled a lot of things." Chicano activists considered Los Tres political prisoners, and believed they that had been set up by the Federal government and other authorities intent on dismantling the movement (and indeed anyone considered subversive or radical.) The National Committee to Free Los Tres eventually merged with a community center called CASA (Centro De Accion Social Autonomo) and fought for the release of the three activists. They were triumphant, but so much had already been lost in the long, slow struggle in the courts and on the streets.

Los Tres were arrested when the Chicano Civil Rights movement was at its height, but by the time they were released in in the late 70's, it was badly weakened, it's many factions beginning to splinter apart, its fragile unity having been wounded by years of governmental intimidation as much as ideological differences.

...to be continued


S.O.S.: Five Questions for Director Madeleine Dahm

I love going to The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. On a recent visit there, I happened upon a postcard for a new show called S.O.S. Looking at it closer, I learned that the Wallis had recently formed an acting troupe. Looking at it even further, I saw it was a new devised show being presented in conjunction with Circle X. This took me forward and back. Forward to some devising projects that I am working on this spring and backward to the nascence of Atwater Village Theatre, when Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA and Circle X were sharing what was a renovated either toy or pillow factory in a part of town that was quickly becoming a new hub for creative thought and millennial lifestyle romping. That was about 10 years ago.

I digress.

The task at hand: to find out what are S.O.S. and the Wallis Studio Ensemble. To help me on this quest, I got in contact with director Madeleine Dahm. Here's what I learned from her.

Roger Q. Mason (RQM): To my knowledge, Wallis Studio Ensemble is a fairly new company here in Los Angeles. Tell me a little about the history of the group?

Madeleine Dahm (MD): In the 2016 I approached The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts about the idea of a company for early-career actors, that represented the diversity of actors here in LA and explored theatre as a force for social change - they liked the idea and so Grow at the Wallis joined with me in launching the ensemble. Since its inception two-and-a-half years ago, The Ensemble has steadily acquired a reputation for creating socially conscious, cutting-edge theatre, with a strong physical component. The Ensemble has mounted four full-length productions at The Wallis and performed at two international performing arts festivals.

2018 saw the mounting of Douglas Adams environmental satire The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (LA Times ‘Pick of the Week') and Disposable - an original devised work that examined the intersection between environmental destruction and human displacement, also seen at The San Diego International Fringe Festival in June 2018. It was hailed as “hauntingly beautiful” (San Diego Tribune) and "mesmerizing....this is avant-garde theater that sticks with you long after the curtain comes down.” (ArtNow LA).

In 2016/17 The Ensemble premiered at The Wallis Thebes, a contemporary feminist adaptation of the Greek classic by British playwright Gareth Jandrell, and its first original devised play Word of Mouth, an examination of Post-Truth and a response to the 2016 election rhetoric. Word of Mouth was not only featured on National Public Radio by Priska Neely, but was also seen at Rise Up LA and at The Crisis Art Festival in Tuscany, Italy, where The Ensemble spent a week in residence in July 2017.

S.O.S. cast member Siera Williams, a member of The Wallis Studio Ensemble - photo by Jo Rodriguez

RQM: Your current show is being presented in conjunction with Circle X. How did you link up with the company?
MD: This is not a partnership with Circle X, we are renting their theatre for this particular run. We really wanted to get outside of The Wallis space this year and into the 99 seat theater community, and we are very excited that Atwater Village Theater and Circle X were able to assist us with that.

RQM: What was the inspiration for S.O.S.?
MD: As we discuss topics and themes for our yearly devised work, we are always drawn to contemporary issues that directly impact our company members and their communities. The one thing that we found ourselves coming back to as we began this process three months ago, was the general sense of alienation and isolation felt by many people right now. With so much focus today being on attaining financial wealth it's interesting that a country's GDP is not related to the overall happiness felt by all its citizens, in fact it seems to be the opposite. Recent studies by the World Health Organization and United Nations have revealed that feelings of loneliness and alienation are reaching global epidemic proportions, and that this general sense of feeling disconnected is reaching many communities worldwide. So much so that now many countries have actually appointed ministers for loneliness in their governments, the UK being the most recent. There is no easy answer or fix to this problem but we wanted to explore how small acts of kindness, and authentic expressions of love can help us reach across the divide, and remember more thoughtful ways to interact with each other.

S.O.S. cast member, Viva Kanani Obiajulu Wittman, a member of The Wallis Studio Ensemble - photo by Jo Rodriguez

RQM: This piece is devised. What was your devising process for this show? I'm curious to learn more about the dynamic between you and the ensemble members specifically.
MD: The devising process usually begins by brainstorming topics and themes that are of interest to the company - as we begin to narrow down themes that we would like to explore, each member brings in support materials that can include text, photographs, music, newspaper articles, videos, all kinds of references. There is a lot of discussion in the early stages but, once we have landed on a specific focus for the work, we primarily begin developing the piece through improvisation. The devising process is very long and much of the material that is originated in the studio actually ends up on the “cutting-room floor.” As we hone in on the arc of the piece, many wonderful moments that we have created simply no longer have a place in the work and so we have to let them go. As the Director of a devised work it is my job to be the keeper of the initial vision and to bring all of the elements together in a cohesive way. It's like shooting a movie out of sequence, sometimes you're working on a section that will end up being at the end, but you're working on it first. Devising can be challenging for actors because there isn't an obvious through line that you would have with an existing play, and so there is a lot of trust that has to develop between director and actor, and actor and actor. It requires actors who are willing to jump off at the deep end, and have faith that we will get to where we need to by the end of the process.

RQM: What's next for Wallis Studio Ensemble?
MD: We hope to bring S.O.S to the Hollywood Fringe Festival this year. Then we have our second production of the season, which will be at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts June 6th through 9th, that will not be a devised piece but rather an existing play, on which we have yet to decide.

Featured photo: Cast of S.O.S. - photo by Jo Rodriguez


The Winners at the 29th Annual LA STAGE Alliance Ovation Awards

The 29th Annual LA STAGE Alliance Ovation Awards were presented on Monday, January 28, 2019, at the Theatre at Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles where 36 awards were bestowed on theater productions, producers, directors, artists, and technicians.

Sixteen different Southern California theatre companies won thirty-six awards, including the Center Theatre Group for "Soft Power", Rogue Artists Ensemble and East West Players for "Kaidan Project: Walls Grow Thin," the Bootleg Theatre for "Theater Movement Bazaar's Grail Project," the Geffen Playhouse for "Ironbound," "Sell/Buy/Date," and "Skeleton Crew," the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts for "South Pacific" and "Ain't Misbehavin'," the Celebration Theatre  for "Priscilla Queen of the Desert,"  and  The Echo Theater Company  for "Cry it Out." A Noise Within received the Best Season Award  for "A Raisin in the Sun," "A Tale of Two Cities," "Henry V," "Mrs. Warren's Profession," "Noises Off," "The Madwoman of Chaillot."

Members of The Kilroys, hosts of the 29th Annual LA STAGE Alliance Ovation Awards at the Theatre at Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, Monday, January 28, 2019. Photo by Monique A. LeBleu.

The Ovation Honors, which recognizes outstanding achievement in areas that are not among the standard list of nomination categories, were awarded to Adrien Prevost (Music Composition for a Play, Kaidan Project: Walls Grow Thin, Rogue Artists Ensemble co-produced with East West Players) and Brian White, Sean Cawelti, Greg Ballora, Morgan Reban, Jack Pullman, and Christine Papalexis (Puppet Design, Kaidan Project: Walls Grow Thin, Rogue Artists Ensemble co-produced with East West Players).

The Center Theatre Group presented the 2018 Richard E. Sherwood Award to writer, comedian, and performance artist Kristina Wong, which also includes $10,000 endowed by the Sherwood family for innovative and adventurous artists.

Wong, who took the unique opportunity of this night to announce her candidacy for Wilshire Center Koreatown Neighborhood Council Subdistrict 5 Resident Representative, said in acceptance, “In this line of work there's a very fine line between being a madwoman and a visionary. It is so validating to be recognized as the latter by this vibrant LA Theatre community that has made me the performance artist slash political candidate that I am today."

The Kilroys came with their message to the theater community at large to encourage the hiring and support of more women, trans, and non-binary artists in theater in order to achieve gender balance. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Paula Vogel, offered words of encouragement to the theater community as well, aligning with The Kilroys message of the evening with "The sooner produced, the sooner prolific."

This year's show, held at the glorious landmark United Artists 1927 movie palace that is now the Theatre at Ace Hotel, was directed by Artistic Director of Coeurage Theatre Company Jer Adrianne Lelliott, also featured live performances including by women's choral group Vox Femina.

The Ovation Awards is annually produced by LA STAGE Alliance, "a non-profit organization dedicated to building awareness, appreciation, and support for the performing arts in Los Angeles" and companies DOMA Theatre CompanyUCLA School of Theater, Film & Television, F&D Scene Changes Ltd., USC School of Dramatic Arts, Bakers Man Productions, Venture Hill Entertainment LLC, Seven Waves Entertainment LLC, Requiem Media Productions LLC, Variety, and Ken Werther Publicity sponsored the event.

Here's the complete list of winners. For more information visit LAStageAlliance.com

The awards show was broadcast live on YouTube and Facebook, in case you missed the show or would like to relive it.

Featured top photo: Rachel Myers accepts her Ovation Award for Scenic Design (Large Theatre) for "Skeleton Crew" (Geffen Playhouse) at 29th Annual LA STAGE Alliance Ovation Awards, Theatre at Ace Hotel, Downtown Los Angeles, Monday, January 28, 2019. Photo by Monique A. LeBleu.


Marsha Hunt, Actor, Activist and Survivor

In today's volatile political and social climate, actors and celebrities are often as well known for their causes as for their movies and plays. Angelina JolieOprah WinfreyYoko Ono, and Alyssa Milano, to name just a few, are known for numerous foundations and humanitarian causes, for speaking up and out, and for making huge financial donations. It seems as if this is a new development, due to the omnipresent information that fills our screens regarding the famous. However, if you travel a little further back in time you find Jane Fonda fighting the Vietnam war, and prior to that, Audrey Hepburn leaving acting to focus on humanitarian work for UNICEF. The intersection of arts and activism is not new, and it doesn't always have clear cut benefits for those who engage in it. Especially in certain eras, morals and integrity stood in direct opposition to fortune and popularity. Many who stood up for the former ended up fading in the latter. For those who aspire to use public platforms to create and facilitate change, Marsha Hunt is a person to both honor and emulate.

Marsha Hunt is a retired actress and activist. She is 101 years old and still lives in her beautiful home in the San Fernando Valley. She has led an amazing life, both as an incredibly gifted and intelligent performer and as a forward thinking activist championing both individual rights and institutional evolution. Everyone should know her name, her unique voice and be aware of her legacy. This article serves simply as an introduction to her incredible life and work. It is impossible to condense all that she has created and stood for into one piece. I've included numerous links and additional information at the end of this post.

Ms. Hunt was born in Chicago in 1917. She did it all. While training as an actor, she began to work as a model, becoming one of the industry's highest paid by 1935. Although she wanted to do theater, she moved to Los Angeles in 1934 at the age of 17 and was initially signed by Paramount, where she starred in several films. Even at this tender age, she started to assert her rights. She refused to do pin up photos (known as “cheesecake” and “leg art”) and did not take part in the social party scene. She was starting even then, to find her own voice and to stand up for her values. Although she showed promise, Paramount released her from her contract after a few years. She freelanced for a while before ending up at MGM, where she stayed on contract through 1945. Notable films include Pride and Prejudice and Blossoms in the Dust. She also starred in the only wartime film to acknowledge the Holocaust, None Shall Escape (1944). While she did not become an A list star, she worked constantly as a supporting actor in quality films. During the war she also sang on USO tours and developed a career in radio. She appeared in over 50 films in her career, over the course of several decades.

Ms. Hunt's film career came to an abrupt halt when she was caught up in the Communist witch hunt of the McCarthy era. Ms. Hunt was and continues to be outspoken, with a liberal belief system that she guards fiercely. Ms. Hunt, along with her second husband, screenwriter Robert Presnell Jr., were so disturbed by the actions of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) that they joined the Committee for the First Amendment which was formed in 1947 and made up of many A list actors and Hollywood players. The group went to Washington to protest the hearings and produced Hollywood Fights Back, a star-studded radio program which was co-written by her husband.

Like many other notable actors and screenwriters who dared to stand up to the government and studio system, Ms. Hunt's career came to a complete stop in Hollywood. She was asked to denounce her activities if she wanted to find more work and she steadfastly refused. In 1950, Hunt was named as a potential Communist or Communist sympathizer (along with 151 other actors, writers and directors) in the anti-Communist publication Red Channels. Though she would continue to work through her 90s, the blacklist effectively stopped her ascent in major motion pictures.

Not one to sit still however, Ms. Hunt simply knocked on other doors, returning to her first love; theater. She made her Broadway debut in Joy To The World, in March of 1948. She continued to go between theater, working both on Broadway and in Los Angeles, television and radio for the rest of her career. She starred in the first live televised Shakespeare play, playing Viola in Twelfth Night. In 1950 she appeared on the cover of Life Magazine as the star of the Broadway play, The Devil's Disciple. In 1987 she even appeared in an episode of Star Trek! In addition to opening up time for theater, the blacklist also opened up her time for activism. This was not a new avenue for her to travel. She had worked throughout the war years at the Hollywood Canteen dancing and socializing with service men, especially on Saturday nights, when no one else wanted to. But, after the blacklist, the world opened up to her. As she stated in an interview with Film Talk in response to the question:

"How did you get involved in all the charity work you did for so many years?"
When I had so much free time because I wasn't allowed to act, I discovered the outside world. I went around the world with my husband and I came back as, what I called, a planet patriot. I fell in love with the planet, not just my country, but all of us. I learned about the United Nations which was right here in this country and I spent twenty-five years working as a volunteer on behalf of the UN, I worked on the Year of the Child, international cooperation, and made a documentary film during World Refugee Year with fourteen stars appearing in it to tell the stories of different refugees. There were still twenty-five million people floating around the world, stateless, with no travel papers, no identity papers, no work permits – fifteen years after World War II ended. The United Nations was trying to get the governments to open their borders and let their fair share of refugees in, so I made this film to acquaint Americans with it. It was very rewarding.

In addition to world wide charity work, Ms. Hunt made a huge difference right in the San Fernando Valley, opening the first homeless shelter for women and children. This is especially poignant because her own baby did not survive. During the turmoil of the McCarthy era, she gave birth to a baby girl, born prematurely, who later passed away. This was a true heartbreak for her and she did not have any other children.

Ms. Hunt's creative spirit is expressed in numerous ways. In 1993 she published The Way We Wore ... a beautiful coffee table book detailing fashion of the 1930s and 1940s. All of the photos are of her, in glorious outfit after glorious outfit. Many are studio shots used as publicity for her 50 movies, some are fashion shots for the designers. Each photo is explained and detailed by Ms. Hunt in her own charming manner. I actually met Ms. Hunt when I was directing and costuming a play set in the 1940s. She lent us clothes, making sure that each piece was truly representative of who would wear it. Her knowledge of fashion rivals many who made it their life's work. Her generosity of spirit was on display even in such limited contact.

One of the most charming surprises, but one that goes to the heart of Ms. Hunt's belief system is the song that she wrote about love and marriage equality for same-sex couples, titled Here's To All Who Love. She wrote it at age 95, and it has become an anthem at marriage ceremonies. She wrote it as a gift and it is has been received as one.

There is a documentary by Roger Memos about Marsha Hunt. It had a short run in 2015 but in order to recut it for streaming services, Mr. Memos is raising funds. The documentary was filmed in collaboration with Ms. Hunt and features countless interviews, clips and insight. It is a labor of love and an amazing project. If you would like to read more about the documentary you can check out the Facebook page. If you would like to donate to the GoFund account to help with the sound mix, closed captioning, the film's website and the film trailer, please click here.

In preparation for this article, I sent Ms. Hunt some questions to answer via email. Rather than edit them, I will share them with you as is.

Marsha being surprised by the crew of her documentary for her 75th anniversary. She is in her late 90s in this photograph.

What similarities do you see in the political climate today and during the 1940s and 1950s? Are there differences that you feel are more or less dangerous? 
At 101 years of age I am not as well informed as I once was. But of course I favor, as always, the most peaceful, most even handed solution to problems.

I don't know if you would remember, but we have actually met! You were extremely generous in helping me costume a play that I directed, set in the 1940s. I came over and you lent us clothing and gave me a copy of your book, which I treasure. How do you feel that fashion (or the lack of it) affects women's power and collective voice? I have been watching the new congress and all of the new younger and female members of the House in their bright clothes and fashion forward choices. Does this, in your opinion empower or diminish them?
I think there is an effect but it's hard to define. I think how well, how effectively, a woman legislator dresses can tell us something about her IQ, the effective, the becoming, the appropriate, which then empowers them. I don't think “fashion” diminishes unless it's extreme - then it can be negative, but I think that's pretty rare. I guess women in government dress without “headlines'. If they were fashion plates it would be distracting from their effectiveness in what they are there to do. It would become the wrong topic.

What do you want to tell women and actors who find that their activism is more important to them than their acting careers? Do you think it is worth it, if being known for your politics is hurting your castability. Do you think that is a truism, or simply a fear?
When you take positions you lose some people just as you gain others. On matters of importance to me, it is worth it.

What role do you think that the unions should play in helping actors become activists? Should the union be neutral or an active partner? (NB: Ms. Hunt was active in SAG prior to the blacklist and served on the board)

The union is there to protect and help the actor so when one's union takes a position the individual is spared blame or credit for it. At that extent we are protected by our unions.

Do you see any positive aspects to social media as it it used today? Do you see it as a danger (do you not care about it at all??)
The internet/social media is a way of “getting it out there” but then nothing remains private including opinions.

What changes would you like to see, both in the nation and in the entertainment/film industry, in regards to women specifically.
The changes in the entertainment/film industry ideally would be that it that it be an open opportunity to write, direct, produce whether a woman or a man.

Sweet Adversity Documentary:
Review

Book website:
The Way We Wore

Links to additional articles:
NPR: Actress Marsha Hunt, 100, Has Matters Of Principle
Movie Maker: Marsha Hunt at 100: The Actress Recalls the Blacklist, Film Noir and Being Cast in Gone With The Wind
IMDB bio
British Film Institute: Marsha Hunt: American girl, Un-American woman, upstanding centenarian
LA Times: Actress Marsha Hunt survived the blacklist without apologizing for her activism
Film Talk: Marsha Hunt: “MGM let me play absolutely everything, the studio gave me such joy”
Huffington Post: Marsha Hunt Pens ‘Here's To All Who Love' Gay Rights Anthem

Video:
Marsha discusses her career and the Hollywood Blacklist