Eight Artists Reflect on 2019, Inspired for 2020


Fueled by the force that is the Hollywood Fringe Festival, creatives brought a banquet of quality smaller theatre and performance art to 2019 to Los Angeles, with many projects growing beyond its borders and seeking destinations in other mediums.

From local producers, east coast transplants, and across-the-pond ex-pats; from solo introspective, post-apocalyptic satire, and the cutting edge, to dance, aerial and burlesqueeight artists reflect on their personal accomplishments and challenges in 2019, as well as on the inspired work of their peers, and share their plans and hopes for more to come in 2020.

Interviewed are Creative Director and Executive Producer,  Lea Walker, at Aeriform Arts, Writer and Producer, Jonathan Tipton Meyers, at We Are Traffic: A Rideshare Adventure, Director and Producer, Roe Moore,  at PiePie Productions, Writer and Director, Matt Ritchey, at M3 and Storycrafting, Actress and Executive Producer, Jenelle Lynn Randall, at The Always Working Reading Series, Writer and Producer, Steven Vlasak, Actress and Variety Performer, Cat LaCohie, Vixen DeVille, and Writer and Filmmaker, Matthew Robinson, at Red Flag Media Productions.


What have been some highlights in 2019 for you personally and your career?


L. Walker –“One of the professional highlights for me this past year was producing Aeriform Artists Media Cirque du Giselle. To be able to present a uniquely executed, extremely well-received performance piece in a festival where there are 400 plus shows was an amazing experience. One of Aeriform Arts main values is inclusivity and we've managed to grow our production arm while honoring those values. We are pleased to have worked with Women’s Health Magazine and Hearst Media coaching and coordinating aerial shoots for magazine covers with both Julianne Hough and Para-Olympian Amy Purdy, as well as work with Yvie Oddly, winner of 'Drag Race' Season 11 for RuPaul's World Of Wonder Productions. Personally, my most important accomplishment for the year was being able to create a better work-life balance, allowing me to truly enjoy what I do.”

Jonathan Tipton Meyers - Photo by Cooper Bates

J. T. Meyers – “Personal highlights from this year began with performing a selection from my solo show 'We Are Traffic: A Solo Rideshare Adventure' on KPCC's Unheard LA. Then turning that solo show into a half-hour television pilot alongside a one-hour dramedy, 'BLERD' about a young black engineer who lands his dream job at a private sector Space Company, then discovers a conspiracy that might destroy it. I also co-created alongside fellow storyteller Katya Duft, a live storytelling show about rideshare called 'Ride or Die' to bring together passengers and drivers. I've met some beautiful artists who inspire me and 5,000+ people in this city trying to get from one place to another and they've inspired me to bring their stories to the world.”

R. Moore – “2019 has been a true treat. Career-wise, I had the opportunity to direct many great theatrical productions including Los Angeles Brisk Festival's award-winning production of 'RECESS' written by Kara Emily Krantz and starring Kyle Secor and Hailey Winslow. I also got to direct my first musical for the Hollywood Fringe Festival [HFF], 'Jamba Juice: The Musical.' Other productions include 2Cents Theatre INKFest's 'East Stanton Station' and OC-Centric New Plays Festival 'Still Moving' written by Ben Susskind...On the theatre side, I worked as the associate director on many great television shows this year, including my fourth year on CW's Masters of Illusion and the Hollywood Christmas Parade. My favorite shows to work on were the CW variety show 'The Big Stage' and the upcoming Disney+/Jim Henson talk show Earth to Ned, where alien Ned comes to invade Earth but finds himself enamored by human culture [and] abducts various celebrities to understand how Earth and humans operate. For Henson fans, they will be delightfully impressed with this show. Personally, I completed two half marathons this year: New York and Las Vegas. I'm very much looking forward to doing many more in 2020. I had the pleasure of being a Producers Guild of America Mentor in their Power of Diversity Workshop.”

M. Ritchey – “2019 has been one of my favorite years. I’ve had some tragedy and some pitfalls to be sure, but overall, I love the trajectory of this past year. Personally, I started to trust my instincts more and be okay with people not “getting” me or my choices. I’ve been more open to possibility and did a lot of leaping into things that scared me, mostly to very positive results–many of them being in my career. I did a lot of acting this year: I wrote and performed a one-man show (with two people in it) called 'Blackboxing' at the [HFF 2019] where I tried to shove as much of 'me' onto the stage as I could - and it was overwhelmingly accepted. That led to me shooting a music video for the song 'Smellay Lahk A Turkay' with For Love of Parody Productions which was fantastic. (It was written for my aunt Julee back in 1995 who passed away a few weeks after the music video debuted, just after her birthday.) I did a 48-hour project with my company, M3, and stepped into two 'last-minute' shows in October and December, I made big strides with my writing partner on a screenplay, I saw and reviewed a ton of L.A. theater, made some great new friends, and was featured on a playing card and poster thanks to Matt Kamimura and 'Matt: The Gathering.' And I got to work with Sebastian Munoz and Force of Nature Productions directing my play 'Romeo and Juliet In Hell.' Amazing year.”

Jenelle Lynn Randall

J. L. Randall – “Well the past few years have been rough with no rep–my manager died...in the past month I’ve gotten a manager, booked a few voice-over gigs, and met the love of my life so 2019 turned out okay. But I have to say 'the' most important thing I accomplished was my Eartha Kitt show that I wrote, EP'd and starred in this past June at [HFF 2019], 'I Wanna Be Evil: The Eartha Kitt Story.' We opened with three sold-out houses, got rave reviews, and offers to bring the show to other theatres. That was very taxing–as it was my first fringe and I did everything except direct myself–but it was very rewarding. I also did a truncated version of my [HFF 2019] show for Feinstein’s At Vitello's in L.A. in September, where that show also has rave reviews on Broadway World.”

S. Vlasak – “This year started with a bang for me with my 'Nights at the Algonquin Round Table' receiving a run in January at the Carriage House Theatre in Lexington, Kentucky. Every show sold out, and I flew there to be part of the fun–joining in talkbacks after some shows. The director, Bob Singleton, and the entire cast all did a fantastic job with my Dorothy Parker-centered Roaring Twenties comedy. Of course, [also] 'Disrobed: Why So Clothes-Minded?' was the focus and highlight of 2019 for me. This unique 'naked cast and audience' theatrical experience, produced and directed by Brian Knudson, sold out its debut Fringe Festival run and extensions, won some awards, and has now settled into a once a month residency at Matt Quinn’s Studio C Theatre in Hollywood.”

C. LaCohie – “This year has been insane both personally and career-wise. I had premiered my solo show 'Vixen DeVille Revealed' in L.A. back in 2018, and at the beginning of 2019 I set my goal to take the show on the road. I toured the show to four cities in three different states and won three awards, including 'Best One Person Performance,' 'Best Solo Performance,' and 'Best Out Of Town Show.' On returning to L.A. I then entered into a deal to have the show taped as a one hour TV special, which we are working on releasing in [2020.] Finally, I had also set a goal to link the show to a charitable cause and 2019 saw the launch of my book 'Vixen's Unleashed' and later a calendar version of the book, proceeds of which go to support the Vixen's Unleashed Scholarship Program - information on both the book and scholarship are available.”

M. Robinson – “A highlight for my year personally has been learning to play golf. It's fun because every time you play is a chance to get better. With my career winning best comedy for 'Olivia Wilde Does Not Survive the Apocalypse' at [HFF 2019] was such a rewarding experience. I was so proud of the cast and crew and getting recognition like that was unbelievable.”


What were your top five favorite shows, productions, or performances this past year?


L. Walker – “My five favorite productions this year are a hodgepodge of mediums and styles - circus, music, dance, and film are huge parts of my world. In no particular order, my five favorites this year were: Bauhaus at The Palladium, 'Disrobed: Why So Clothes-Minded?' by Steven Vlasak, [documentary] 'Industrial Accident: The Story Of Wax Trax! Records' with concert by Ministry, 'O' Cirque du Soleil, and 'Tarantina.'

J. T. Meyers – “[My] top five favorite shows this year were relatively small in scale, but gigantic in spirit and heart: Kate Radford's glowing multi-media show 'Drought,' Makha Mthembu's powerful time bomb 'No Child Left Behind,' Mitchell Bishop's mind-bending adventurous, gloriously insane 'Pit of Goblins,' John Leguizamo's profound 'Latin History for Morons,' and 'August Wilson's Jitney'–which needs no additional kudos, it was just brilliant.”

R. Moore – “Based off creative approach, there are two [shows] that really come to mind. During the Brisk Festival, Gerald B. Fillmore's play 'Join the Club' was an insanely hilarious view of an immigrant finding their way to America. When it comes to drama, 'Beethoven and Misfortune Cookies' directed by Allison Bergman for the OC-Centric New Plays Festival was not only relevant to the cultural issues where we're seeing inequality but an insightful look at mental health issues. On the East Coast...'Slava's Snowshow' looks like an unassuming clown performance until you find yourself covered in fake snow while clowns climb through the audience. The show ends with ginormous balls for the audience to pass around, as well as more snow! Because of a personal connection, I have to share I enjoyed 'Say Something, Bunny!' The show deciphers wires recorded from the early 1950s of a family and discovers the voices in the recording has to not only New York roots, but has insights to the early days of musicals on Broadway. I say this is a personal connection because one of the characters in the recording was a Moore and a possible relation to my family lineage!...My list wouldn't be complete if I didn't include at least one dance performance. And for that, I have to say 'Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake.' Matthew Bourne's reimagining of the story is very timely and the talent performed is incredible. The production value is extraordinary and the use of lighting, graphics, and production design is great."

Matt Ritchey

M. Ritchey – “I saw a terrific amount of theatre this year, either by personal choice or as a reviewer, and my obvious stand-outs list was 15 strong. But the five that broke convention and were the most intellectually, artistically, and visually stimulating for me were: 'Growing Gills to Drown In The Desert' at Loft Ensemble. A heady, funny, emotional, and existential look into who we are as individuals, a society, and the meanings of theater and life. 'The Magic Flute' at LA Opera. I’ve been wanting to see this show – Mozart’s classic directed as a live 1920’s film with projections and characters pulled from classic silent films – for years. A good friend got me an amazing seat and I was just as blown away as I had hoped to be. 'Butcher Holler Here We Come,' A Economy Production at [HFF 2019]. Not only was this story (based on real events of a coal mine collapsing and burying five men) incredibly well-written, directed, and acted, but it was done in complete darkness in a room at Thymele Arts with only the use of practical headlamps. The action took place all around the audience, making it completely immersive but with no burden on the audience to have to 'do' anything. It was frightening, exciting, engrossing, and other words ending in '-ing.' 'The Death of Sam Mobean,' Orgasmico Theatre Company at [HFF 2019.] Not only did Michael Shaw Fisher’s mind-bender of a play (reminiscent of 'Invitation to a Beheading' and more than one Kafka novel) move me in the brainpan and tickle my funny bone, but it featured Schoen Hodges in what I consider the best male performance at [HFF 2019]. 'Supportive White Parents' at Second City. Centered around an Asian girl who wishes on a shooting star for supportive white parents and 'magically' gets her wish. [The play] features brilliant cross-cultural stereotypes, sharp writing, fantastic music, a talented cast, and the mandatory 'lesson'–Joy Regullano’s show was my favorite new musical of 2019. Immediately following this list is 'Mr. Yunioshi,' my favorite one-man show, and 'Boeing Boeing,' the most sharply directed and acted piece I saw.” – Matt Ritchey

J. L. Randall – “Well I saw three August Wilson shows - one produced by a friend at the Matrix Theatre in West Hollywood, 'August Wilson's Two Trains Running,' 'August Wilson's Jitney' at the Mark Taper Forum, and 'August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean' directed by a good friend, Gregg Daniel at A Noise Within in Pasadena. I saw an outstanding production of 'Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill' starring dear friend Deidrie Henry at the Garry Marshall Theatre. I also saw 'Lights Out: Nat 'King' Cole' at the Geffen."

S. Vlasak – “I got to see a lot of live theatre in 2019, but It’s the shows that were somehow next level in structure and style that most stand out. ' Cirque du Giselle' an acrobatic show from Aeriform Arts, as part of [HFF 2019], was every bit as visual and breathtaking as something from Cirque du Soleil. Actually, I liked it better, with its world-class performers, a strong narrative, and fantastic costumes evoking visitors from the afterlife. My other 2019 highlights, all reviewed on Better Lemons, and all with distinctive and innovative staging, were Greg Crafts/Theatre Unleashed’s 'Tattered Capes,' LA Opera’s 'The Magic Flute,' Sacred Fool’s 'Waiting for Waiting for Godot,' and another love letter to actors, Matt Ritchey’s 'Blackboxing.'"

C. LaCohie – “In no particular order. Three of my favorite shows come from [HFF 2019.] 'Yes. No. Maybe.' by Raymond-Kym Suttle, which has some stunning acting talent and beautiful provocative writing. 'Cirque Du Giselle' an exquisitely skilled aerial ballet adaptation presented by circus school Aeriform Arts. 'Crack Whore, Bulimic, Girl-next-door' written by Marnie Olsen and directed by Jennifer Chun (which was, in fact, my second time seeing the show after seeing it at a different venue in 2018) was once again an outstanding roller coaster of a ride through heart-wrenching vulnerable storytelling, expertly peppered with genuine laugh-out-loud moments of light relief. Every cast member took this show to another level and I probably cried even more than the first time around. Honorable mention goes to 'Blue Man Group' which I saw at the Pantages - another second for me this year...I'm going to include 'Foodies and Boobies Burlesque Brunch' in my top five (an ongoing burlesque brunch show at El Cid.) I've been meaning to see this show for a while and then was cast to perform with them in November!!! I couldn't wait to get off the stage to watch the rest of the show. The performers they brought in were some of my favorite burlesquers in town, so prolific, entertaining and oozing charisma. The whole show was just put together so well, the whole cast having such a blast on stage, the audience just can't help but be swept away with the atmosphere. As a burlesque performer of 15 years, YES, I've seen a lot of burlesque. Done badly, you want to kill yourself. Done right, it's like you died and went to heaven. Producer Ginger Lee Belle is doing all kinds of other-worldly brilliance!”

Matthew Robinson - Photo by Matt Kamimura

M. Robinson – "I've seen so many amazing shows, so apologies in advance if you feel I overlooked your show. I will definitely wake up in the dead of night realizing I forgot an awesome production. These are listed in no particular order: 'Lights Out: Nat 'King' Cole,' 'We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Südwestafrika, Between the Years 1884–1915 is a 2012,' 'When Colossus Falls' at Acting Out INKFest, 'Meet me in Mizery,' and 'Pockets.' There are so many I am thinking of but I've written this list 12 different ways.”


What is your favorite food and/or holiday tradition for the New Year?


L. Walker – “I've given up on 'resolutions.' As I’ve grown older and wiser I’ve realized that looking backward isn't the best way to live your life–I like to look forward. I like to start the New Year out at the beach surfing and setting my intentions for the year, the beach is one of the places I feel the calmest at.”

J. T. Meyers – “I have no New Year's traditions, but it's such a good idea that I will start one: A Hollywood Hike to humble myself under the big blue sky.”

Roe Moore

R. Moore – “When it comes to New Year's traditions, there are two musts: watching 'New Years Eve Rockin' Party' (with that Ryan Seacrest guy) and an overflowing cup of Welch's sparkling cider. Watching the ball drop in NYC is something I always make sure I do. Goal making is a big part of what I do not just at New Year's but throughout the year. My approach has morphed over the years as I've gone from aspiring to now being in the thick of my career journey. I now look at goal setting as a course correction and aligning my energy with opportunities and networking to continue in the direction I've started. What is different at New Year's is I look at any unfinished business I may have on my plate, critically look at what did work and didn't work in the past year, and examine what will be best for the new year. I don't quite do dream boards, but I do post my goals around my bedroom as reminders. There's a lot that can pull your focus in Los Angeles, so it's key for me to say, 'Is this going to be helpful for me or is there something better for me to use my time?'"

M. Ritchey – "I had two holiday traditions at Christmas with my family, one of which has sadly gone away – the annual Snakespoon. (I won’t go into it, but if you’re interested, check it out here.) But through the year, members of my family keep an eye out online or in stores for entries into the Ugly Ornament Contest. It’s exactly what it sounds like: we buy the ugliest ornaments we find during the year and then present them on Christmas Day to one another. We vote as a family and one ornament reigns victorious. Check ‘em out.”

J. L. Randall – “I make sure I go back east, Maryland, to visit my mother for the holidays...on December 30, 2019, she turned 80, so I’m very excited for her party.”

Steven Vlasak

S. Vlasak – “Holiday traditions? I come from a big family, and we do tend to round everyone up, so I do enjoy those Christmas cookies and Italian food! And it’s LA, so…Tamales! Family and friends are the best! As for New Year’s, I just dust off last year’s resolutions and determine to do them again. No, really.”

C. LaCohie – “Food! I go home to the UK every year for the holidays and I can't get enough of that black pudding! Nom Nom...Every new year I come up with a word for the new year, rather than resolutions. I stole this from Bonnie Gillespie–who I'm sure stole it from someone else–but it's something I encourage my students to do also. The way I use it is it's a word that you will filter all your decision making through for the rest of the year. In 2016 my word was 'go' as in 'go to things'–make a conscious effort to accept invitations. If I was tired at night. and not sure whether to attend, I would 'go.' 2017, the word was 'create,' which meant whenever I was given the opportunity to create something, I would. I would choose that option over making money, overspending time doing general upkeep–unlike the previous year, if it was a toss-up between going to some event and finishing up some costume–I would stay at home and create. 2018 was 'finish,' as in finish off unfinished projects, but also put a 'finish' a polish or embellish already completed things. I finished creating my solo show, I finished a lot of unfinished burlesque act ideas. I painted my grotty looking living room. Last year was 'risk.' If making a decision, the only reason against it was it was too risky– risky financially, risky that I might fail–well, I went and did it!! I really think this is why I've actually accomplished so much this year, I just kept taking the risks. I haven't figured out my word for 2020 but I will meditate on it on New Year's Day and put it first and foremost in my Freedom Mastery Calendar–another other of my New Year traditions. I go through the whole process of goal setting as set out in the front of the calendar. If you haven't heard of Freedom Mastery check it out."

M. Robinson – “For New Year's Eve, my family loves to make black-eyed peas usually in a stew.”


What can we expect in the New Year from you personally? What creative endeavors or projects are coming up?


Lea Walker

L. Walker – “This year my company Aeriform Artists Media is in the design stage of a Social Circus production. These traveling performances will utilize circus as a medium for exploring, exchanging ideas, championing and bringing awareness to the societal experiences of various marginalized groups. Our goal this year is to find ways to expand creatively and grow organically.”

J. T. Meyers – “In this new year, you can expect a full production mounting of 'We Are Traffic,' hopefully, followed by a trip to the Edinburgh Fringe. In addition, I'll be pitching both TV pilots and finishing a screenplay, 'All My Friends,' about the 2003 blackout in NYC.”

R. Moore – "In the new year, I am partnering with playwright Kara Emily Krantz to bring her play 'inValidated' to the 2020 [HFF.] 'inValidated' is a two-time O'Neill semi-finalist and currently a 2020 National Playwrights Conference semi-finalist. I am also looking forward to see what the seeds I planted in 2019 may create, including shadowing fantastic directors on network shows. Who knows...there may also be a resurgence of the 2018 [HFF] favorite 'Buzz'd Out!' finally making it to a television near you! No matter what happens, I am looking forward to creative and 'awespiring' 2020!”

M. Ritchey – “I just began my Storycrafting service where I work with actors, writers, or anyone with a story to tell and help guide the process – theater, film, novel, short story, etc. Deadlines are always important so I have some people working toward [HFF] shows in June. Storycrafting: I’m working with a friend to create a Summer Theater Program, continuing to work with Director’s Lab West, and looking for a company to produce my sure-fire hit comedy 'Shpider.' Guaranteed hit. Seriously. Call me. Happy Holidays.”

J. L. Randall – "I am entering National Alliance for Musical Theatre in NYC, so I’m excited, and anticipating my Eartha show 'I Wanna Be Evil: The Eartha Kitt Story' being accepted into that festival. I'm also looking for a producing theatre that will help me develop my show further for the NY market. The plan is Off-Broadway, then Broadway. I’m ambitious and hopeful, but anything is possible.”

S. Vlasak – "For 2020–Yes, the Roaring Twenties are back! There are additional productions brewing around the country for 'Nights at the Algonquin Round Table.’ And although it’s too soon to make any announcements, the premise is also being developed as a TV series. 'Disrobed' may be found on the first Saturday of every month [starting March 2020] for those whose bucket list includes 'attending the theatre in my birthday suit.' And I’ve written a darkly humorous and (not very) naked look at the culture of celebrity, 'Beautiful Monsterz,' which I hope to present this June for the [HFF.] And, of course, I’m looking forward to attending and being transported by all the new works from L.A.'s innovative writers, actors and directors, and to logging in a few more hours hanging out with them at the Broadwater Plunge.”

Cat LaCohie

C. LaCohie – “Other than getting the solo show turned into a TV show (which, as I pass it over to the producers is now out of my hands) I will be looking to take the show out of town again towards the end of the new year coupled with showcases of the scholarship winners. Plans for that are on hold the next couple of months as I'm planning my wedding taking place in May (Eeek!) In March, I'll be going out of my comfort zone with the Vixen DeVille Coaching as I'm exhibiting and speaking at this year's 'The Best You Expo,' the largest personal development gathering on the planet. I'm currently writing my 20-minute TEDTalk-style speech and all of the self-doubt is, of course, creeping in! Come check out the Best You Expo March 20 and 21, 2020 at LA Convention Center."

M. Robinson – “I am working on a new play, 'Glamour,' for the [HFF.] And have a few more plays in development–one about paramedics, and another about astronauts in deep space. I am hoping that I can continue to create interesting stories, and I am super excited for the projects my friends are working on. I feel 2020 is going to be a strong year for a ton of folks!”


The 30th Annual 'LA Stage Alliance Ovation Awards' Nominations Announced


Nominees for the 30th Annual LA STAGE Alliance Ovation Awards were announced on Tuesday, November 5, 2019, on @ This Stage. The ceremony will take place Monday, January 13, 2020, at the  Theatre at Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

Center Theatre Group Leads With 20 nominations for their productions of Lackawanna Blues (5), and Linda Vista (4) at the Mark Taper Forum; Ain’t Too Proud (1) at the Ahmanson Theatre; and Dana H. (7), and Quack (2) at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, along with Best Season. Fountain Theatre follows with 19 nominations for their productions of "Cost of Living" (9), "Daniel’s Husband" (6), "Hype Man: A Break Beat Play" (3), and Best Season., Geffen Playhouse Garners 18 nominations for their productions of "Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol" (8), "Lights Out: Nat “King” Cole" (8), "Mysterious Circumstances" (2), and "Black Super Hero Magic Mama" (1)., La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts garnered 14 nominations for their productions of "Singin’ in the Rain" (11), "Beauty and the Beast" (2), and "A Night with Janis Joplin" (1), and tied with the Pasadena Playhouse who received 14 nominations for their productions of "Singin’ in the Rain" (11), "Beauty and the Beast" (2), and "A Night with Janis Joplin" (1). And Sophina Brown gets 10 nominations for her production of "August Wilson’s Two Trains Running."

Ovation Honors, which recognizes outstanding achievement in areas that are not among the standard list of nomination categories, have been awarded to Romero Moseley (Music Composition for a Play, Hype Man: A Break Beat Play at Fountain Theatre, and Dillon Nelson & Erin Walley (Puppet Design, Argonautika, A Noise Within.)

During the 2018–2019 voting season, 278 productions were registered for awards consideration by 124 producing organizations, and 3,838 individual artists were evaluated. This year’s 272 voters cast a total of 6,462 ballots.


The 30th Annual LA Stage Alliance Ovation Awards Nominations


BEST SEASON

BOSTON COURT PASADENA
Everything That Never Happened
Ladies
The Judas Kiss

CENTER THEATRE GROUP
Dana H.
Lackawanna Blues
Linda Vista
Quack
Sweat
Valley of the Heart

FOUNTAIN THEATRE
Cost of Living
Daniel’s Husband
Hype Man: a Break Beat Play


BEST PRODUCTION OF A PLAY – Intimate Theatre

ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST
The Actors’ Gang Theater

AUGUST WILSON’S TWO TRAINS RUNNING
Sophina Brown

COST OF LIVING
Fountain Theatre

DANIEL’S HUSBAND
Fountain Theatre

EVERYTHING THAT NEVER HAPPENED
Boston Court Pasadena

THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE
Angela Nicholas

THE WOLVES
The Echo Theater Company


BEST PRODUCTION OF A PLAY – Large Theatre

CHARLES DICKENS’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Geffen Playhouse

DANA H.
Center Theatre Group

LACKAWANNA BLUES
Center Theatre Group

LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL
Garry Marshall Theatre

LINDA VISTA
Center Theatre Group


BEST PRODUCTION OF A MUSICAL – Intimate Theatre

LIZZIE, THE MUSICAL
Chance Theater

THE LAST FIVE YEARS: A MULTISENSORY EXPERIENCE
After Hours Theatre Company

THE PRODUCERS
Celebration Theatre


BEST PRODUCTION OF A MUSICAL – Large Theatre


BEST PRESENTED PRODUCTION


ACTING ENSEMBLE OF A PLAY

AUGUST WILSON’S TWO TRAINS RUNNING
Sophina Brown

COST OF LIVING
Fountain Theatre

DANIEL’S HUSBAND
Fountain Theatre

LINDA VISTA
Center Theatre Group

RADIANT VERMIN
Door Number 3 Theatre

THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE

Angela Nicholas

THE WOLVES
The Echo Theater Company


ACTING ENSEMBLE OF A MUSICAL

LIGHTS OUT: NAT “KING” COLE
Geffen Playhouse

LIZZIE, THE MUSICAL
Chance Theater

RAGTIME
Pasadena Playhouse

SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN

La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts

WITNESS UGANDA
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts


CHOREOGRAPHY

EDGAR GODINEAUX & JARED GRIMES
LIGHTS OUT: NAT “KING” COLE
Geffen Playhouse

ABDUR-RAHIM JACKSON
WITNESS UGANDA
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

SPENCER LIFF
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts

JEFFREY SCOTT PARSONS
DAMES AT SEA
Sierra Madre Playhouse

JOHN PENNINGTON
A PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY
A Noise Within

STEPHANIE SHROYER
ARGONAUTIKA
A Noise Within

JOHN TODD
THE WORLD GOES ‘ROUND
Reprise 2.0


MUSIC DIRECTION

DARRYL ARCHIBALD
RAGTIME
Pasadena Playhouse

MATT GOULD
WITNESS UGANDA
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

KEITH HARRISON
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts

JENNIFER LIN
THE LAST FIVE YEARS: A MULTISENSORY EXPERIENCE
After Hours Theatre Company

GERALD STERNBACH
THE WORLD GOES ‘ROUND
Reprise 2.0


BOOK FOR AN ORIGINAL MUSICAL

DENNIS HACKIN
BRONCO BILLY – THE MUSICAL
Skylight Theatre Company

DOUG HAVERTY
A CAROL CHRISTMAS
The Group Rep

FLORIAN KLEIN
SHOOTING STAR – A REVEALING NEW MUSICAL
Shooting Star Productions


LYRICS/COMPOSITION FOR AN ORIGINAL MUSICAL

MICHELE BROURMAN, CHIP ROSENBLOOM & JOHN TORRES
BRONCO BILLY – THE MUSICAL
Skylight Theatre Company

BRUCE KIMMEL
A CAROL CHRISTMAS

The Group Rep

ERIK RANSOM & THOMAS ZAUFKE
SHOOTING STAR – A REVEALING NEW MUSICAL
Shooting Star Productions


PLAYWRITING FOR AN ORIGINAL PLAY

MALCOLM BARRETT
BRAIN PROBLEMS
Ammunition Theatre Company

JAMI BRANDLI
BLISS (OR EMILY POST IS DEAD!)
Moving Arts

JONATHAN CAREN
CANYON
IAMA Theatre Company

ELIZA CLARK
QUACK
Center Theatre Group

NATE RUFUS EDELMAN
DESERT RATS
The Latino Theater Company

LUCAS HNATH
DANA H.
Center Theatre Group

ANNA MOENCH
MAN OF GOD
East West Players


DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL

JOCELYN BROWN
LIZZIE, THE MUSICAL
Chance Theater

JOSEPH LEO BWARIE
THE ROOT BEER BANDITS
Garry Marshall Theatre

DAVID LEE
RAGTIME
Pasadena Playhouse

SPENCER LIFF
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts

GRIFFIN MATTHEWS
WITNESS UGANDA
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts


DIRECTION OF A PLAY

MICHAEL ARDEN
CHARLES DICKENS’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Geffen Playhouse

ALANA DIETZE
THE WOLVES
The Echo Theater Company

WILL THOMAS MCFADDEN
ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST
The Actors’ Gang Theater

RUBEN SANTIAGO-HUDSON
LACKAWANNA BLUES
Center Theatre Group

MICHELE SHAY
AUGUST WILSON’S TWO TRAINS RUNNING
Sophina Brown

JOHN VREEKE
COST OF LIVING
Fountain Theatre

LES WATERS
DANA H.
Center Theatre Group


LEAD ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

CLIFTON DUNCAN
RAGTIME
Pasadena Playhouse

MARC GINSBURG
RAGTIME
Pasadena Playhouse

DULÉ HILL
LIGHTS OUT: NAT “KING” COLE
Geffen Playhouse

MICHAEL STARR
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts

JAMIE TORCELLINI
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts


LEAD ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

KIMBERLY IMMANUEL
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts

SARA KING
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts

APRIL NIXON
THE COLOR PURPLE
Greenway Arts Alliance

MONIKA PEÑA
LIZZIE, THE MUSICAL
Chance Theater

SHANNON WARNE
RAGTIME
Pasadena Playhouse


LEAD ACTOR IN A PLAY

TIM CUMMINGS
DANIEL’S HUSBAND
Fountain Theatre

JEFFERSON MAYS
CHARLES DICKENS’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Geffen Playhouse

ROB NAGLE
THE JUDAS KISS
Boston Court Pasadena

RUBEN SANTIAGO-HUDSON
LACKAWANNA BLUES
Center Theatre Group

FELIX SOLIS
COST OF LIVING
Fountain Theatre

BOB TURTON
ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST
The Actors’ Gang Theater


LEAD ACTRESS IN A PLAY

CHERISE BOOTHE
AMERICAN SAGA – GUNSHOT MEDLEY: PART 1
Rogue Machine

DEIDRIE HENRY
LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL
Garry Marshall Theatre

CASEY KRAMER
THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE
Angela Nicholas

MILDRED LANGFORD
AMERICAN SAGA – GUNSHOT MEDLEY: PART 1
Rogue Machine

ELLEN LAUREN
BACCHAE
The Getty Villa

ANGELA NICHOLAS
THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE
Angela Nicholas

DEIDRE O’CONNELL
DANA H.
Center Theatre Group

KATY SULLIVAN
COST OF LIVING
Fountain Theatre


FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

RICK BATALLA
JULIUS WEEZER
Troubadour Theater Company

JOSH GRISETTI
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts

ADAM LENDERMON
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts

DYLAN SAUNDERS
RAGTIME
Pasadena Playhouse

MICHAEL SHEPPERD
THE PRODUCERS
Celebration Theatre

PHILLIP TARATULA
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts

DANIEL J. WATTS
LIGHTS OUT: NAT “KING” COLE
Geffen Playhouse


FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

LEDISI
WITNESS UGANDA
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

GISELA ADISA
LIGHTS OUT: NAT “KING” COLE
Geffen Playhouse

BRYCE CHARLES
RAGTIME
Pasadena Playhouse

AMBER IMAN
WITNESS UGANDA
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

JENNIFER KNOX
DAMES AT SEA
Sierra Madre Playhouse

RUBY LEWIS
LIGHTS OUT: NAT “KING” COLE
Geffen Playhouse

ZONYA LOVE
LIGHTS OUT: NAT “KING” COLE
Geffen Playhouse


FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY

TOBIAS FORREST
COST OF LIVING
Fountain Theatre

TIM HILDEBRAND
THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE
Angela Nicholas

WESLEY MANN
ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD
A Noise Within

ALEX MORRIS
AUGUST WILSON’S TWO TRAINS RUNNING
Sophina Brown

ROB NAGLE
THE LITTLE FOXES
Antaeus Theatre Company

MAURY STERLING
THE JOY WHEEL
Ruskin Group Theatre Co

ADOLPHUS WARD
AUGUST WILSON’S TWO TRAINS RUNNING
Sophina Brown


FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY

JENNY O’HARA
DANIEL’S HUSBAND
Fountain Theatre

NIJA OKORO
AUGUST WILSON’S TWO TRAINS RUNNING
Sophina Brown

XOCHITL ROMERO
COST OF LIVING
Fountain Theatre

JAQUITA TA’LE
TOO HEAVY FOR YOUR POCKET
Sacred Fools Theater Company

JOCELYN TOWNE
THE LITTLE FOXES
Antaeus Theatre Company

CORA VANDER BROEK
LINDA VISTA
Center Theatre Group

DENISE YOLÉN
SCRAPS
The Matrix Theatre Company


COSTUME DESIGN – Intimate Theatre

NAILA ALADDIN-SANDERS
TOO HEAVY FOR YOUR POCKET
Sacred Fools Theater Company

ALLISON DILLARD
BLISS (OR EMILY POST IS DEAD!)
Moving Arts

ELENA FLORES
SEÑOR PLUMMER’S FINAL FIESTA
Rogue Artists Ensemble

DIANNE GRAEBNER
THE JUDAS KISS
Boston Court Pasadena

TERRI LEWIS
THE LITTLE FOXES
Antaeus Theatre Company

RACHAEL LORENZETTI
LIZZIE, THE MUSICAL
Chance Theater

MYLETTE NORA
AUGUST WILSON’S TWO TRAINS RUNNING
Sophina Brown


COSTUME DESIGN – Large Theatre

KATE BERGH
RAGTIME
Pasadena Playhouse

JESSICA CHAMPAGNE-HANSEN
THE ROOT BEER BANDITS
Garry Marshall Theatre

JENNY FOLDENAUER
ARGONAUTIKA
A Noise Within

CARLTON JONES
WITNESS UGANDA
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

DANE LAFFREY
CHARLES DICKENS’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Geffen Playhouse

SHON LEBLANC
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts

KAREN PERRY
BLACK SUPER HERO MAGIC MAMA
Geffen Playhouse


FIGHT DIRECTION

JEN ALBERT
SUCKERPUNCH
Coeurage Theatre Company

AARON AOKI & THOMAS ISAO MORINAKA
VIETGONE
East West Players

AHMED BEST
SCRAPS
The Matrix Theatre Company

MICHAEL CALACINO
ROPE
Actors Co-op

ANDY LOWE
MAN OF GOD
East West Players

MIKE MAHAFFEY
DEFINITION OF MAN
DConstruction Arts

JESSE JAMES THOMAS
TWO NOBLE KINSMEN
The Porters of Hellsgate


LIGHTING DESIGN – Intimate Theatre

CHU-HSUAN CHANG
HYPE MAN: A BREAK BEAT PLAY
Fountain Theatre

JENNIFER EDWARDS
DANIEL’S HUSBAND
Fountain Theatre

BRIAN GALE
AUGUST WILSON’S TWO TRAINS RUNNING
Sophina Brown

JOHN GAROFALO
COST OF LIVING
Fountain Theatre

JARED SAYEG
THE LITTLE FOXES
Antaeus Theatre Company

ANDREW SCHMEDAKE
THE LAST FIVE YEARS: A MULTISENSORY EXPERIENCE
After Hours Theatre Company

JAYMI SMITH
EVERYTHING THAT NEVER HAPPENED
Boston Court Pasadena


LIGHTING DESIGN – Large Theatre

ELIZABETH HARPER
MYSTERIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES
Geffen Playhouse

THOMAS ONTIVEROS
LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL
Garry Marshall Theatre

JARED SAYEG
RAGTIME
Pasadena Playhouse

JARED SAYEG
THE WORLD GOES ‘ROUND
Reprise 2.0

JENNIFER SCHRIEVER
LACKAWANNA BLUES
Center Theatre Group

BEN STANTON
CHARLES DICKENS’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Geffen Playhouse

PAUL TOBEN
DANA H.
Center Theatre Group


SCENIC DESIGN – Intimate Theatre

FRANCOIS-PIERRE COUTURE
EVERYTHING THAT NEVER HAPPENED
Boston Court Pasadena

JOEL DAAVID
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE
Dance On Productions, LLC

STEPHEN GIFFORD
THE PRODUCERS
Celebration Theatre

MATTHEW G. HILL
SEÑOR PLUMMER’S FINAL FIESTA
Rogue Artists Ensemble

JOHN IACOVELLI
AUGUST WILSON’S TWO TRAINS RUNNING
Sophina Brown

JOHN IACOVELLI
THE LITTLE FOXES
Antaeus Theatre Company

DEANNE MILLAIS
DANIEL’S HUSBAND
Fountain Theatre


SCENIC DESIGN – Large Theatre

BRETT J. BANAKIS
MYSTERIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES
Geffen Playhouse

MIKE BILLINGS
HEISENBERG
Rubicon Theatre Company

ANDREW BOYCE
DANA H.
Center Theatre Group

TOM BUDERWITZ
RAGTIME
Pasadena Playhouse

DANE LAFFREY
CHARLES DICKENS’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Geffen Playhouse

DANE LAFFREY
QUACK
Center Theatre Group

TODD ROSENTHAL
LINDA VISTA
Center Theatre Group


SOUND DESIGN – Intimate Theatre

MALIK ALLEN
HYPE MAN: A BREAK BEAT PLAY
Fountain Theatre

JEFF GARDNER
AMERICAN SAGA – GUNSHOT MEDLEY: PART 1
Rogue Machine

JEFF GARDNER
AUGUST WILSON’S TWO TRAINS RUNNING
Sophina Brown

JEFF GARDNER
SCRAPS
The Matrix Theatre Company

ADAM MACIAS
ROPE
Actors Co-op

CHRISTOPHER MOSCATIELLO
RADIANT VERMIN
Door Number 3 Theatre

CRICKET MYERS
THE LAST FIVE YEARS: A MULTISENSORY EXPERIENCE
After Hours Theatre Company


SOUND DESIGN – Large Theatre

PHILIP ALLEN
LACKAWANNA BLUES
Center Theatre Group

PHILIP ALLEN
RAGTIME
Pasadena Playhouse

ROBERT ARTURO RAMIREZ
LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL
Garry Marshall Theatre

MIKHAIL FIKSEL
DANA H.
Center Theatre Group

HOWARD HO
MAN OF GOD
East West Players

ROBERT ORIOL
ARGONAUTIKA
A Noise Within

JOSHUA D. REID
CHARLES DICKENS’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Geffen Playhouse


VIDEO/PROJECTION DESIGN – Intimate Theatre

MATTHEW G. HILL
THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE
24th Street Theatre

DAVID MURAKAMI
BRONCO BILLY – THE MUSICAL
Skylight Theatre Company

DALLAS NICHOLS
SEÑOR PLUMMER’S FINAL FIESTA
Rogue Artists Ensemble

CIHAN SAHIN
ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST
The Actors’ Gang Theater

NICHOLAS SANTIAGO
COST OF LIVING
Fountain Theatre


VIDEO/PROJECTION DESIGN – Large Theatre

HANA KIM
RAGTIME
Pasadena Playhouse

LUCY MACKINNON
CHARLES DICKENS’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Geffen Playhouse

YEE EUN NAM
THE MOTHER OF HENRY
The Latino Theater Company


OVATIONS HONORS RECIPIENTS


MUSIC COMPOSITION FOR A PLAY

ROMERO MOSLEY
HYPE MAN: A BREAK BEAT PLAY
Fountain Theatre


PUPPET DESIGN

DILLON NELSON & ERIN WALLEY
ARGONAUTIKA
A Noise Within


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.

Sponsors of this year’s Ovation Awards are DOMA Development Corporation; DOMA Theatre Company; Requiem Media Productions, LLC; SE7EN Waves Entertainment, LLC; Venture Hills Entertainment, LLC; UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television; F&D Scene Changes LTD; Ken Werther Publicity; Bakers Man Productions; Rosebrand; Zodiac Entertainment, LLC; Perpetua Holdings, LLC; Behind the Mask, Inc.; and Millennia Development, Inc.

LA STAGE Alliance is a nonprofit arts service organization dedicated to building awareness, appreciation, and support for the performing arts in greater Los Angeles. The LA STAGE Alliance Ovation Awards, founded in 1989, are the only peer-judged theatre awards in Los Angeles. Voters are LA theatre professionals who are chosen through a vigorous application process each year by the Ovation Rules Committee. More information can be found at www.ovationawards.com.

The 30th Annual LA STAGE Alliance Ovation Awards will be Monday, January 13, 2020, at the Theatre at Ace Hotel. Tickets on sale soon.

 


"MEET THE PUBLICISTS" PANEL PODCAST

Better Lemons and Theatre West hosted “Meet the Publicists” featuring several of LA's premier publicists for a panel discussion of theatre publicity, marketing, and promotion.

The following publicists were on the panel:

Tim Choy (Davidson & Choy Publicity)
DAVIDSON & CHOY PUBLICITY (Press Representatives) resume includes the original Evita through The Book of Mormon and stints with American Ballet Theatre and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Clients include Actor's Gang, Broad Stage, El Capitan Theatre, Ford Theatres, Hollywood Bowl, Lythgoe Pantos, Pasadena Playhouse, Segerstrom Center, Shakespeare Center LA, The Soraya, and Walt Disney Imagineering.

Lucy Pollak (Lucy Pollak Public Relations)
Lucy Pollak has been providing publicity services to the Los Angeles arts community for the past 27 years for companies including 24th STreet Theatre, Antaeus Theatre Company, The Echo Theater Company, Fountain Theatre, International City Theatre, L.A. Theatre Works, Latino Theater Company at the LATC, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, Padua Playwrights, Theatre Planners, Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum; numerous independent theater and dance productions; and large events and festivals such as the annual L.A. County Holiday Celebration at The Music Center.

From 1981 to 1990, she was production manager/staff producer at the Odyssey Theatre, where she co-produced over 100 productions with artistic director Ron Sossi.

She is the recipient of a Los Angeles Drama Critic's Circle Award (Master Class), an LA Weekly Award (Mary Barnes), four Drama-Logue Awards (Mary Barnes, Idioglossia, Accidental Death of An Anarchist, It's A Girl!), and a Women in Theatre Recognition Award. She has served on the boards of directors of the Los Angeles Theatre Alliance (now L.A. Stage Alliance), Women in Theatre and P.A.T.H. (Performing Arts Theatre for the Handicapped).

Philip Sokoloff
PHILIP SOKOLOFF has been a publicist for 24 years. He represents over 100 live attractions and several dozen feature films annually. His long-term clients include Theatre 40, Edgemar Center for the Arts, Sierra Madre Playhouse, Robey Theatre Company, Arena Cinelounge, Dean Productions and more.He is a member of the Public Relations Society of America. He has also produced for stage and television and has been an actor for 49 years.

Lynn Tejada (Green Galactic)
For 25 years, Green Galactic Founder Lynn Tejada has been the go-to publicist in Los Angeles for alternative art and culture producers, representing clients on a local, regional, national, and international scale. Since 1994, her promotions and client-base has included music of all sorts, theatre, art, film, dance, and more.

Tejada is also drawn to helping charities and nonprofit clients – she currently sits on the board of Linda Carmella Sibio's Bezerk Productions, Dance Camera West and on the advisory board of Lauren Segal's Give A Beat. She is also on the Honorary Board of Flea's Silverlake Conservatory of Music and sat on the board of humanitarian nonprofit NextAid for many years.


Steven Sabel's Twist on the Trade: Social Theatre

I’ve never been big on social theatre. Not that I don’t think that theatre can and sometimes should make people think, but I’m a classicist who believes in subtlety. No one ever changed their mind about much of anything by being hit over the head, or force fed with a message. The best way to affect social change through performance is doing a show containing those “ah-ha” moments that strike audience members on their drive home from the theater. The classic masters were – well – masters at this.

Aristophanes sent a message of peace to his fellow Athenians, while highlighting the power of the feminine force through humorous metaphor with his “Lysistrata” without losing its entertainment value by drilling home his message to the populace.

Shakespeare was able to make his point about anti-Semitism by giving Shylock his famous speech, wrapped inside a mostly comic play he knew would appeal to his audience. In fact he almost pandered to their views, and then sort of snuck his message in under the radar. He does this equally well in tragic terms with “Othello,” adding another layer of subtlety by making “the savage Moor” the most eloquent and intelligent speaker in the play, perhaps the entire canon.

Sophocles used a dressing of anti-tyranny for his fellow democratic Athenians to sneak in his messages regarding loyalty to a higher power and the bonds of family over government and society when he wrote “Antigone.” Jean Anouilh used the classic Greek tragedy 2,385 years later to sneak those messages past the Nazi regime in occupied France.

Moliere used his comedies to take stabs at hypocrites of all sorts, and though he was regularly condemned by the religious, political, and medical profession leaders of his time because his attacks hit them too close to home, he was popular with the public who consumed his works with fervor. He wrote 31 of the 85 plays performed at the theatre in the Palais-Royal in Paris over a 14 year period. In today’s modern French, a tartuffe is a hypocrite, and a harpagon is a greedy miser – names of two of Moliere’s most famous characters that have now become part of the French lexicon. How’s that for making an impact?

Too many of today’s playwrights lack the creative subtlety to send their social message to an unsuspecting audience. Instead they write directly to the audience they already have. They preach to the choir. This does not affect any social change. It convinces no one of anything. It merely creates an echo chamber of like-minded people congratulating themselves and each other for sharing the same view – often a tunnel vision view. There is nothing clever about that, and thus not very interesting. It may have some entertainment value, but it isn’t opening new minds to new points of view. If anything, it only pushes potential new audiences away. In essence, a hammer head message accomplishes the exact opposite of what social theatre should be aimed at doing – opening the message to new minds through subtlety.

Much of today’s social theatre is a result of social theatre, in that a group of like-minded friends get together and say: “let’s put on a play!” The play is their social outlet, not unlike a bowling league or softball team. Rehearsals become a place to hang out with friends, and performances become not much more than a precursor to socializing at a local bar or house party. The audience is composed of friends and family members like the backyard productions we used to put on for our parents as kids. Any social message contained in the material actually takes a back seat to the true intent of the gathering: maintaining a social calendar for the participants. It’s a “play” date for grown-ups.

Benedict Knitterbatch

All of that is fine indeed. As I mentioned, some people join bowling leagues, others join softball teams. Some people form book clubs, knitting circles, and model airplane societies. We are social animals, and we like to surround ourselves with like-minded people who share our same interests. The difference is in the professed intent. I’ve never heard of a knitting circle with a “mission” to affect social change through the scarves and beanies they create.

On occasion, the casual hobbyist can turn their past time into some extra dollars. I know several people who place their creations on Etsy, E-bay, or other sites to make a little money by sharing their artistic hobby with others. Unlike actors, very few of these people profess to be aspiring to a career in their chosen social outlet or hobby. People who knit just aren’t that pretentious. Either that, or they have a keener sense of their own realities.

If you are an actor, it is time to examine your reality. Is your social theatre truly reaching the unenlightened masses? Is your social theatre just social theatre, filling your nights and weekends with play dates - or are you truly working toward that career by doing projects that either increase your aptitude, strengthen your skills, advance your professional network, or get you seen by a greater audience?

Have fun. It’s called a play for a reason. But if you’re just playing around with friends, then call it what it is, and build a career doing something else. No subtlety here.


Steven Sabel's Twist on the Trade: Too Many Hats...

So many of us in this industry wear a lot of hats. Most of us have multiple descriptors after our names in our email signatures, social media bios, and website home page descriptions. “Steven Sabel, producer, director, designer, actor, writer, podcaster, and publicist.” Sheesh! Pick one already!

The truth is, many of us wear many hats in order to keep our options open and appear more desirable to potential employers. We say, “I can do that too!” with each of our descriptors. We are all trying to make it in the industry, and many of us do not really care which of our many talents gets us in the door: actor, singer, dancer, writer, director, stage manager, whatever it takes. The other side of that is we have to make a living. Many of us wear multiple hats because that is the only way we can pay the bills – picking up whatever gigs we can to add to the proverbial piggy bank however we are able.

There is also a risk to this. If your focus is spread too thin, you cannot apply yourself and talents fully to succeeding at any one thing. You’re an actor. You want to make big block buster movies someday. But you’re also a comedian. You love improv, you take your improv classes, you work on your stand-up routine, because you want to be on a popular sitcom someday. You’re also a writer. You love sketch comedy, and you write your own comic material because you want to be on “Saturday Night Live” someday. You’re also a burlesque dancer. You take your pole dancing classes, perfect your music choices, rehearse your routines, and spend your late nights titillating people into humorous desire. You’re busy! You’re doing all you can to make it. You’re wearing every hat you can think of – including that restaurant server hat you have to wear 20 hours a week to add to that piggy bank.

Here are the hats you are not wearing: business manager, publicist, webmaster, social media marketer, and overall executive director of your potential career. If you aren’t spending that 20 hours per week on these facets of your success, the only thing you will succeed at is being a good hat rack for your many choices of head wear.

As a producing artistic director, I know this far too well. My fellow producers, producing artistic directors, executive directors, managing artistic directors, artistic managing producer directors, and the like, will raise their voices in a silent cheer here as I write this self-aggrandizing truth: Nobody wears more hats than we do. While you are studying your lines, we are studying the bottom line, serving as accountants to our respective theatre organizations. While you are at improv class, we are improvising with available materials to design a set that will work for the show. While you are writing your sketch comedy, we are writing press releases to send to media outlets. While you are rehearsing your next dance routine, we are dancing around questions of financial viability, potential liability, and actors’ reliability.

Man of Many Hats

In addition to being an artistic leader, the producer/director must also often times just be a boss. On our minds at any given time are not just the artistic aspects of the project we are working on, but the business semantics of every decision involved. Our brains are constantly crowded with issues of finances, venue constraints, insurance policies, website updates, social media content, publicity, ticket sales, missing props, washing costumes, developing patrons, juggling schedules, coordinating designers, and a plethora of other responsibilities, including selecting the next project to do it all, all over again.

The producer/director/actor is an absolute crazy person. If you still have your wits about you, adding the actor hat to the mix will definitely drive you over the edge of sanity. It is also a risk that wearing the actor hat on top of the multitudinous head wear of the producer/director will foster a deep seeded resentment toward those who only have to learn their lines, show up to rehearsal, and “play” their parts. Producer/director/actor types would welcome the luxury of delving into their creative process as only an actor, without the weighty heaviness of their positions of leadership. Most of us can’t even remember what it is like to be at a rehearsal with only one task ahead of us – act your part.

Producing/directing isn’t for everyone. I have tremendous respect for those who have tried it and walked away (in some cases run away…screaming), and never looked back at the prospect of ever doing it again. I secretly chuckle at those who say they want to try it – many of them with what business leaders call the “field of dreams” model in their minds, or what marketers refer to (ironically) as the “black box” of their consumerism – but I always encourage them to go forward with their plans. One more producer/director, no matter how short-lived, is one more person who understands how difficult it is to do the job, let alone to do it successfully.

Nonetheless, each and every artist must learn to wear some of these hats concurrently for the advancement of their own careers. I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again: You have to do the work to get the work! If you find that you just cannot juggle your actor/comedian/writer/burlesque interests while also fulfilling the aspects of business manager and promoter for all four pursuits, then you have to pick and choose which hats you can successfully wear.

tam o'shanter

The truth of the matter is that most people just don’t have heads large enough to wear that many hats. A recent stint on stage in a production of “Henry IV,” served as a great reminder to me that even my head is a poor hat rack for too many chapeaus, and I suffered to find the level of concentration I needed to focus on the hat (crown) worn by my character. It was profoundly frustrating. Thankfully I had a director for the project who understood my plight, and did his best to take some of my hats off of my head so I could play my part.

Even still, you learn you can put the hats on. It is difficult to take them off when you want to. You can’t help but worry about how actors are handling their props, keeping actors from eating in costume, making sure ticket sales are up to par, facilitating house management, negotiating details with the venue, promoting the show, and a myriad of other producer duties that just don’t go away because you got the itch to get back on stage and want to be just an actor for a while. It’s tough.

So to all of those out there who are juggling their millinery, especially my fellow producer/director/actor friends: My hat’s off to you! To the rest: time to choose the correct tam o'shanter for your noggin…


PRODUCERS PANEL "SHOW ME THE MONEY" - SATURDAY, JULY 13TH

On Saturday, July 13, from 10 am until 12 noon, Better Lemons and Theatre West will be hosting “Show Me the Money!” with some of LA’s premiere theatrical producers sharing their fundraising success stories and secrets.

This is a great opportunity for LA’s vast theatrical community to grapple with the full spectrum of strategies for funding a production, from sponsors, advertisers, and membership campaigns to grants, solicitations, and gala events.

“Whose job is it to raise the money?"

“What are some long-term strategies for establishing funding for an entire season?”

“Are there individuals or organizations that are motivated to support local theatre and how do we find them?”

“How do we get support from the local community, from the city, from the county, from the state?”

The “Show Me the Money!” workshop will be a panel discussion and a conversation with the audience to address specific situations and opportunities.

All of the panelists are producers with a diverse background of fundraising experience, from attracting wealthy benefactors to leveraging public funds.

Confirmed Producers on the Panel:

ANDREW CARLBERG - Named by Variety as one of “Hollywoodʼs New Leaders,” Carlberg is an Academy Award-winning film, television, new media, Broadway and Los Angeles stage producer. Andrew’s extensive credits include, but aren’t limited to, ABC’s Castle, DirecTV’s Full Circle, Broadway’s Romeo and Juliet and Side Show, the Neil LaBute penned feature films Some Girl(s) and Dirty Weekend, actress Jennifer Morrison’s feature directorial debut Sun Dogs (Netflix 2018), the 2018 Official Sundance Selection The Blazing World, Celebration Theatre’s Ovation Award-winning productions of The Color Purple: The MusicalThe Boy From Oz, and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the cult hit improv-based show The Blind Date Project, and the critically-acclaimed and award-winning LA premiere of Rotterdam at the Skylight Theatre (which was subsequently remounted at Center Theatre Group's Kirk Douglas Theatre).

This past fall Andrew completed production on the feature film The Pleasure of Your Presence (starring Alicia Silverstone, Mathilde Ollivier and Tom Everett Scott), and produced the Los Angeles return production of Tony winner Sarah Jones's smash hit Sell/Buy/Date (The Renberg Theatre at the LA LGBT Center).

Carlberg also produced Skin, which won the 2019 Academy Award for Live Action Short Film.

Andrew is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an alum of Film Independent’s Fast Track Producing Fellowship and New York’s Independent Filmmaker Project, and an event producer for the I Have a Dream Foundation - Los Angeles and the National Breast Cancer Coalition.

FRIER McCOLLISTER is an independent theatrical producer and general manager based in Los Angeles. Most recently, he served as producer on Sandra Tsing Loh’s holiday hit Sugar Plum Fairy at The Skylight Theatre in December. He will co-produce the show with East West Players in December of this year.

He served as Associate Producer for the South Coast Repertory production of the show in 2017 as well as for SCR’s production of Ms. Loh’s The Madwoman in the Volvo and its subsequent productions at Pasadena Playhouse and Berkeley Repertory Theatre.

He has produced the west coast premieres of all Ms. Loh’s solo performance pieces beginning with Aliens in America and Bad Sex with Bud Kemp at the Tiffany Theatre and more recently The Bitch is Back (Broad Stage/ Eyde).

With Joel Viertel, he is the original producer of the hip hop dance hit GROOVALOO. He has served as general manager on a wide range of commercial productions in Los Angeles, notably The Vagina Monologues (Canon Theatre); Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe (Ahmanson Theatre); Eric Idle’s Rutlemania! (Montalban; Blender NYC); and Pee Wee’s Playhouse (Club Nokia). As general manager, he operated the Coronet Theatre (now Largo at The Coronet) and The Falcon Theatre (now The Garry Marshall Theatre) and served as Managing Director of the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills. Prior to arriving in Los Angeles in 1994, he served as company manager on a variety of Broadway and off Broadway productions and toured extensively throughout the United States and Europe.

He is currently the Los Angeles steward for the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers (A.T.P.A.M.).

SPIKE DOLOMITE is the executive director of Theatre West. She has a 20 year background in arts nonprofit management. She started her own nonprofit, Arts in Education Aid Council, which got the arts back into San Fernando Valley public schools.

Her producer credits include producing the Valley Wide Student Art Show and Family Arts Festival for 10 years in a row (the audience doubled every year until it hit 5,000), the Valley Artists Studio Tour, the Reseda Open Studio Tour, Reseda Rocks Again for the Reseda Neighborhood Council, and Ian Ruskin in To Begin the World Again – the Life of Thomas Paine, and From Wharf Rats to Lords of the Docks, at both Emerson UUC and Theatre West, The Vagina Monologues directed Emmalinda MacLean at Emerson UUC, Tom Dugan’s Wiesenthal at Theatre West, and coming up in July a reading of Twelve Angry July by twelve Los Angeles attorneys.

Spike has received personal recognition from the City of Los Angeles on several occasions for her advocacy in supporting the arts in the San Fernando Valley and was one of the very first Community Champions for the Annenberg Foundation’s Alchemy program, mentoring nonprofit leaders on how to build stronger boards.

Spike also has a long background in grassroots community organizing and is using those skills to bring people together in the LA theatre community to brainstorm, share best practices and pass on fundraising tips!

STEFANIE LAU is is an arts administrator specializing in marketing, fundraising, and audience development with almost 20 years of experience in Los Angeles theatre. She is a co-founder and Producing Artistic Leader of Artists at Play, a theatre company dedicated to telling the stories of underrepresented communities, with a focus on the Asian American experience. Her work with Artists at Play includes mainstage productions, new play development, fundraisers and other special events. Stefanie previously worked at Center Theatre Group, East West Players and the Ford Amphitheater, among others. She has been part of Cold Tofu Improv since 2003 in numerous capacities: student, producer, managing director, board member and current marketing manager. A graduate of UCLA, Stefanie sits on the national board of the Consortium of Asian American Theatres and Artists. Twitter @MsStefanieL

MONIKA RAMNATH is the Development Manager at Ford Theatres, formerly at East West Players.

Previous panels include Meet the Critics, Meet the Critics II, and Meet the Publicists. Listen to them at SoundCloud.com/betterlemons/meet-the-critics-panel-june-2018 and SoundCloud.com/betterlemons/meet-the-critics-ii-panel-october-2018.

As for “Show Me the Money!” bring your questions and your coffee mug for some fresh brew from Theatre West!

WHEN:
Saturday, July 13th
10am – 12 noon

WHERE:
Theatre West
3333 Cahuenga Blvd West
Hollywood, CA 90068

Parking is in lot across the street for $5 cash.

RSVP to [email protected] or via the form below:


Steven Sabel's Twist on the Trade: To see what I have seen, "The Auditions"

Here it is, as promised. The auditions version of some of the strangest, most outlandish, and downright horrible things I have seen. In preface, after producing and/or directing 138 productions, I have watched thousands of auditions. Some simple math puts it at around 10,000 monologues I have witnessed. Many of them were well prepared, well delivered, and led to many great casting choices. Many did not. O, the things that I have seen…

As I wrote at the end of last month’s column, I think I’ll lead with the guy with the banana. There I was conducting auditions in the theatre of a favorite colleague of mine, watching slates and monologues, taking notes, and shuffling head shots. A young actor came into the room looking disheveled, in a 90s grunge sort of way, with his hair in his face, and his hands in his pockets. He slated. I honestly don’t remember his name. He told us what his monologue was from - a film script, if I recall – and he began. Midway through, he reaches into his pocket, pulls out a banana, takes a giant bite, peel and all, and tosses the rest on floor. My colleague, who has a very strict rule about food in his theatre, almost leaped from his chair. The kid finished his monologue, picked up his banana, and left. That’s when my colleague turned to me and said: “What the (*#@$) was that?”

It's bananas to bring props into an audition!

Needless to say: Don’t bring props to an audition. In fact it is best to choose audition monologues that have no need for props. It is just never effective to “pretend” to be on the phone, or to “need” to look through your purse during a monologue. It isn’t it a comedy sketch. It’s an audition monologue. Don’t make it about the props. Make it about you and your talent delivering the text with emotional truth, not faking it with a prop. Besides, don’t forget props hate people. You don’t want to bring a potential adversary into the audition room with you.

The only prop I have ever seen used effectively in an audition is a simple piece of paper or a book. The best use of a piece of paper I have seen has been as a “note” for Julia’s monologue from “Two Gentlemen of Verona.” That piece can be a very effective piece for auditioning for a classical comedic role, if it is executed well. That requires plenty of rehearsal with plenty of pieces of paper, and even then, you are taking a risk that the prop won’t cooperate the way you want it to in the audition room.

Worse than props, are costumes. Yes, I’ve seen plenty of costumed auditions. I have had actors called from the lobby to the audition room who had to scramble in from the restroom because they were changing into their costume. From period clothing to Halloween attire, each and every time an actor comes into audition wearing a costume, it makes me think of that famous story about Sean Young and Cat Woman. Epic. Legendary. Infamous. Don’t do it. I really don’t need to see you in tights to learn whether or not you can deliver effective classical text in character.

Here’s a piece of paper you definitely don’t want to walk into the audition room with in your hands: the text of your monologue. If you don’t have it memorized, stop wasting everyone’s time. It’s not a side you have just been handed. It’s supposed to be your well-chosen, properly thought out, fully rehearsed, and peer reviewed best foot forward work. If you can’t come into the audition room off book, then don’t come into the audition room at all.

It saddens me to recollect how many times I have watched an actor walk into the room with their monologue on a sheet of paper in their hands, but this one takes the cake. Once I had an actress come into the audition room with several sheets of paper stapled together. There were visible pencil scribblings and highlight markings on the pages, and it was evident that it was some pages of a script. After the actress slated, and I asked her what she was going to perform, she handed me script, and asked if I would read in the other characters for her to perform the scene she had prepared for the audition.

“I don’t know any monologues,” she told me. “But I know this scene from a play I was in at my college. It’s on my resume.” And so it was, but I wasn’t about to become her scene partner for the evening. Unbelievable.

Here’s a good hint: Look like your head shot. I can’t tell you how many double takes and triple takes I have had in an audition room while holding a head shot in my hands, but looking at someone completely different standing in front of me. Don’t be the cause of double takes. Come in looking as close to the head shot you submitted as you possibly can. Once we had a trans-gendered person submit a very male head shot, but then arrived to the audition in very female appearance. The actor told us they could “change back” if necessary for the role. Now that’s an extreme example, but if your head shot shows you with blonde hair, and you decided last week you wanted to become a brunette for a while; well then you better get new head shots.

As I have admitted in this column before, my head shot is way outdated, and I am way over due for a new one, except that I so hardly ever use my head shot, that I just haven’t made it a priority. I don’t have time to audition for other people’s projects. I’m a producing artistic director. I barely have time to get on stage at all, and when I do, I pay for it dearly. But that’s another column for another day.

Clothing. O, boy, the clothing. I’ve seen three-piece suits, pant suits, and zoot suits. I’ve seen shorts, shorter shorts, and “Dear Lord, what were you thinking” shorts. There have been jumpers, rompers, and overalls; baggy pants, skinny jeans, and jeans of every color. I have seen dresses, gowns, and skirts of every length, as well as shirts, blouses, tops, and sweaters of every sort. I once had an actress come in wearing a bikini top, and I’ve seen muscle shirts galore. Please just remember this great word of advice we were all taught by early acting teachers and coaches: dress like it is an important job interview. Great practice, but with this caveat: make sure you are comfortable, and make sure you can make proper physical choices in what you are wearing. I’ve seen more than one breast flop out of a top during a vigorous call back.

Take off your coat or jacket, no matter how cold it is in the audition room. I have seen so many auditions destroyed by a heavy coat or constricting jacket. On occasion I have stopped actors to ask them to remove theirs coats and start their monologue over again. I want to see you physicality as an actor. It’s called “acting,’ and it is 90 percent what you do. Only 10 percent what you say. But you can’t effectively say anything, if you can’t do what you need to do as an actor. And you can’t do that underneath a heavy coat, unless you are in the cast of “Almost Maine,” or something like it.

As more and more casting directors turn to video submissions for their first round of auditions, the landscape for audition monologues will continue to change. Just as you should have at least four worthy monologues prepared and available to you at any given time (comedic contemporary, dramatic contemporary, comedic classical, dramatic classical), it is a good idea to line up a good camera with a good operator, book some time, and have all four of your monologues recorded to video files you can easily share or upload for any audition. Don’t wait until it is asked for, and then you have to scramble to find a friend through social media posts to help you with your “self-tape” by holding your smart phone for you while you recite your monologue. Plan ahead. Select the proper back drop, the proper lighting, the proper clothing. Clean yourself up. Prepare for the shoot date. Do a practice run, and look at the footage. Make corrections. Do a final cut, and have them all in digital files on the desktop of your computer, ready and waiting to land you that call-back.

Or you can just walk into the audition room with a banana….


Steven Sabel's Twist on the Trade: To have seen what I have seen…

Last month I briefly mentioned some of the outlandish experiences I have had as a producer/director and actor. As I consistently hold true, I never say I have seen it all, because that is the best way to have the theatre Fates send you something new and beyond belief. However, my column last month left readers asking for some specific awkward events of craziness, ridiculous bouts of ego, stunning unprofessional behavior, and unheard of incidents hard to believe, but nonetheless true.

I hesitate to refer to the following tales as “my favorites,' for some of them still make me shudder to retell. Some have become nothing more than humorous anecdotes – as time has a way of turning dramatic incidents into comedic episodes, especially in our industry. I will start by stating that all names have been redacted, and some details left out in order to protect the guilty.

My tales begin with triplets. Many moons ago, I was directing a production of “Much Ado About Nothing.” The actress cast as the lead, Beatrice, told us she was shooting a commercial in a European country for the first week of the 8-week rehearsal process. We worked around her until she returned. Three weeks before opening, she came to ask that all of her blocking be changed and her costumes altered to adjust for her pregnancy with triplets. It turned out that she hadn't actually been shooting a commercial, but was instead at a fertility clinic the week she was gone. She told us she accepted the role knowing she was going to be inseminated that week. In case the pregnancy didn't take, she said, she would have the role of Beatrice to work on to ease her disappointment. Despite the very high-risk nature of her now revealed triple pregnancy, and doctor's orders to stick to strict bed rest to insure the success of all three children, this actress insisted she wanted to continue in the role. Huge risk. Giant liability. Complete insanity. I replaced her.

“Postmortem,” by Ken Ludwig, is a favorite play of mine. I have done the show several times, but the first time was decades ago when I was playing the role of Bobby. Throughout the rehearsal process, we had some troubles with our leading man. Nobody was quite sure what was going on with him – hot and cold from night to night with regards to lines and blocking. On the final Friday performance of a four weekend run, I arrived to the theatre to be taken aside by the director who informed me that she thought the leading man “might have been drinking.”

He was plastered! He could barely speak coherently. He was staggering around backstage, and hugging everyone. A call to the president of the theatre organization resulted in a “show must go on” response. The stage manager brewed some strong coffee, and somebody had a box of See's Candy that they started force-feeding him to get his blood sugar up. It was a disaster. He missed his first entrance, leaving us stuck on stage to adlib. When his lines did come out, they were barely understandable. A special intermission had to be called after the first scene. He started getting angry. He accused us all of sabotaging his performance, before we realized that in his drunken mind, he was doing and saying everything perfectly…. I laugh about it now, but it was a nightmare when it happened.

Alcohol has been a culprit in a few instances in my book of tales. Once I had two actresses leave the theatre in the middle of the performance to go to the bar next door to tie one on together. They came back tipsy and sloppy, and then caused another actor to miss his entrance due to their distracting antics back stage. It is never a good idea to leave the theater in the middle of a performance, even if your scenes are all completed or your character is dead. “I'll come back in time for curtain call” can be famous last words. I once had an actor find himself locked out of the building. He had to wave through the door to catch the attention of actors on the stage to send someone around to unlock the door for him.

Then there was that time an actress actually left mid-performance to finish a phone call that had made her nearly an hour late to call time in the first place. Apparently a guy who knew a guy who worked with a guy who knew a guy who once saw Steven Spielberg in a crowded room wanted to introduce her to the guy who knew this guy. She directly told her fellow actors they would have to take over her lines in the further scenes of the play, and out the door she went to take advantage of this “tremendous opportunity.” No word on her upcoming roles in any Spielberg films….

Another locked door in a nontraditional venue once caused one of my actors to have to run around the entire building to the other side to make his entrance. He came on anxious and out of breath, and it was beautiful to see how realistic the response was from the other actors when he arrived in this condition from the wrong side of the stage. It reminds me of that episode of “Slings and Arrows.”

I once had an actor wear a baseball cap onto the stage during the final dress rehearsal of a classical production at an outdoor venue, because he “was cold” and couldn't find the actual hat he had been given to wear by the costume team. Another time, an actor misplaced his boots, and wore his tennis shoes on stage for an actual performance.

I've seen costume failures galore. Falling dresses and skirts, flying wigs, blown out boot heels, split trousers (it's happened twice to me on stage), uncooperative coats, capes, and cloaks – the list is long. Yet my favorite costume fail of all time is from a production of “Romeo and Juliet,” when the two leads found their costumes literally linked together after the final kiss of the balcony scene. Parting was no sweet sorrow. They couldn't part at all - completely unable to pull themselves apart when his doublet clasp hooked on the laces of her bodice, it seemed to take forever for them to get unhinged. We all came unhinged watching it unfold before us! Hysterical.

From costumes to props. This leads to another classic Sabelism: Props Hate People!

I've worked with some props: A full size guillotine for a production of “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” real cars and motorcycles driven onto the stage for various productions, swords and weapons of a wide variety, food of many types, and a giant life-sized trolley for “Meet Me In St. Louis.” Rubber tires were a bad idea. They became a terrible idea when one burst on the stage directly in front of a floor mic, that was a giant boom, and then trolley had to be dragged off the stage by the cast and crew.

I've had blood effects spray the crowd when we didn't want them to. I've had black powder flash pots smoke and smolder, and clear the entire audience in coughing fits. I've had guns that wouldn't fire, and swords broken at the hilt. There have been doors that refused to open, doors that wouldn't stay shut, pictures that have fallen off of walls, and walls that have fallen down. Once I had two actors get so into a combat sequence, one of them literally put a hole in the back wall of the theater with his rump.

Through 128 productions and more than 25 years as a producer/director, I have worked with more than 2,000 actors – technically a small sampling, when you consider you can throw a baseball in this town and easily hit 2,000 actors in one shot. This is why I know I have yet to see it all, but I sure have seen a lot. This is just a scratch on the surface of the tales of what I have seen. Stay tuned for next month's column: “To See What I have Seen: The Auditions.” I think I'll lead with the guy with the banana…..


Steven Sabel's Twist on the Trade: Do The Show That You Know

This week I will open my 128th full-scale production as a producer/director. The group of artists working on this post-modern adaptation of Euripides' “Trojan Women,” will become the 128th group of artists to hear me say – at every rehearsal and performance to come over the next three weeks – one of my most famous Sabelisms: “Do The Show That You Know!”

Having produced and/or directed 128 productions, I still hesitate to say I've seen it all. I've learned that's the best way to ask for a situation you have yet to encounter. Nobody likes to face a situation they have not yet encountered. Familiarity is an essential part of success in our trade. Look how many directors and actors have chosen to work together time and again due to their familiarity with each other's work. The history of famous director and actor teams goes back hundreds of years. Familiarity is the reason why theatre companies form and exist. It is an essential focus in the making of every major motion picture – especially today, when audience “familiarity” with certain brands leads to entire series of films featuring the same actors playing the same characters in sequel after sequel. It is the key to the success of any long-running sitcom, dramatic series, and even game shows, with audiences developing their familiarity with the hosts of the shows.

Humans crave consistency. With hundreds of millions of dollars on the line, film producers crave consistency too. Consistent talent, consistent performance, consistent work ethic, productivity, attitude, and most of all – consistent box office draw! The best and most sought after artists in every field of this trade – editors, sound engineers, lighting designers, special effects teams, make-up artists, costumers, actors, directors, you name it – are the people who are known for their consistency. They are the people who do the show that they know, consistently. They are a known commodity, and in this industry, where a known commodity can be worth gold, it is no wonder that a known commodity is always going to be considered for the job before taking a risk on an unknown.

Taking all of this into account, you would be surprised how many times I have watched an artist decide to stray away from familiarity and throw consistency to the wind while on stage in a performance. “Do The Show That You Know” is a pretty clear direction. It is straight forward. It contains only single syllable words. It even rhymes so conveniently. Yet there are actors – I've seen countless numbers through 128 shows – who just can't seem to understand those six simple words. As I mentioned above, I hesitate to ever say I have seen it all, but I have seen a wide variety of actors do outlandish things in changing a performance after a show has opened.

Green Room Gary has been giving advice to his fellow actors throughout the production process, continues to do so in performance, and then also decides – since he obviously knows best – to make changes to his own performance as well. “When the director isn't here, I'll do it my own way,” says Gary.

Sam the Ham

Dorothy Drama and Sam the Ham have different motivations. When her best friend, Edna, and her Grandma Matilda are in the audience, Dorothy just can't help but turn on that extra juice, and melodrama the bones right out of the text of the play! With sudden bursts of random emotion and much sawing of the air, Dorothy sets out to prove to her friends and relatives that she is indeed a serious actress. Sam has the same intent whenever his mother comes to the see the show, or even worse yet, when he has a potential love interest in the room. Then consistent performance be damned, because Sam is trying to impress a lady and win himself a date.

Isaac Ideas isn't a bad fellow, but his “magnificent brainstorms” are a day late and a dollar short. Poor Isaac is just trying to be helpful when he arrives to the theater with new blocking in mind for an important scene. He isn't trying to sabotage his fellow actors by presenting them with something they haven't encountered before on stage, he's just trying to make the show “better.” His pal, Brandon Brando, is just trying to keep things “real” when he decides to change a line or two to make them sound more “natural” and “true” to the character.

Last Night Norman is such a prankster. He just can't help chatting with everyone back stage about anything and everything completely unrelated to the show at hand. He's full of funny jokes and silly anecdotes, and thrives on being the class clown of the cast. On the last night of performances, Norman just can't resist playing that little prank on his fellow actors, that he is oh so sure will help them forever remember closing night. He is always right. We never forget him…

These types of actors can be a terrible detriment to a performance. Changes of any kind to a performance should be made only with the knowledge of the stage manager, and only after thorough discussion with every actor involved in the scene. Anything less is disrespectful to all involved, and completely self-absorbed behavior. Whatever your great new idea is – if it wasn't good enough for rehearsal, it isn't good enough now.

On occasion there are unforeseen circumstances that call for required changes involving safety, or semantics, or sight lines, etc. There are occurrences on the stage, mid-performance, which sometime call for quick thinking, adjustment, and adaptation right on the spot. Props hate people, and they can often be the cause of these unforeseen moments. It's live theater. Things happen. All the more reason you don't want to be the person causing things to happen that are outside the realm of what was rehearsed and prepared for performances. If a prop sabotages a performance, we blame the theater spirits. If you sabotage a performance by making changes, we blame you.

Do The Show That You Know. Stick to the plan. Be consistent. It is what your fellow artists have become familiar with. It's what they expect from you, and it's a quality that will get you more work in the future.

Actors often ask me why I don't make it a point to watch every performance of my productions. Part of that aspect of me is based in having other responsibilities to fulfill, and the nature of our trade which finds the director's job complete after opening night. It is the stage manager's show after that, and their job to maintain a consistent production. You think directors get upset when an actor changes things on stage? Hah! I fear any stage manager worth their salt on this issue, and you should too.

Secretly a key reason I often can't bear to watch performances of my productions is because of actors like Green Room Gary, Dorothy Drama, Sam the Ham, Isaac Ideas, Brando Brando, Last Night Norman, and any variety of others who decide that they just can't possibly show up to the theater on time, follow their preparation routine, warm up, get on stage, and do the show that they know. I don't give director's notes to actors once a show has opened. I shouldn't have to. The show should be the same way I left it on opening night, if you will just Do The Show That You Know!


The Winners at the 50th Annual 'LA Drama Critics Circle' Awards Ceremony Held at the Pasadena Playhouse

The 50th Annual LA Drama Critics Circle Awards at the Pasadena Playhouse, Monday, April 8, 2019. (Photo by Better Lemons)

The LA Drama Critics Circle (LADCC) held their 50th Annual Awards ceremony at the landmark Pasadena Playhouse where Better Lemons was in attendance to live tweet the evening's festivities and entertainment, Monday, April 8, 2019.

Wenzel Jones presided over the festivities, and Christopher Raymond served as music director with musical performances by Kristin Towers Rowles, Constance Jewell Lopez, and Zachary Ford.

There were four recipients of the 2018 Production award: Cambodian Rock Band (South Coast Repertory), Come From Away (Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre), Cry It Out (Echo Theater Company), and Sell/Buy/Date (Geffen Playhouse / Los Angeles LGBT Center).

Better Lemons' Chief Operating Officer Stephen Box (Left,) Publisher Enci Box, and Playwright & Screenwriter Steven Vlasak at the 50th Annual LA Drama Critics Circle Awards at the Pasadena Playhouse, Monday, April 8, 2019.

The Antaeus Theatre Company received the most awards, with three of its productions winning a combined seven trophies. Celebration Theatre's Cabaret took home six awards, the most awards for a single production, including one for Revival. Tom Hanks received a lead actor award for his performance as Falstaff in The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles production of Henry IV in a competitive category. 17 awards were presented in other categories with 17 productions taking home the honors.

In its inaugural this year, the Theater Angel award was presented to Yvonne Bell in recognition of her "long career devoted to fostering theater in Los Angeles ... [and] successful fundraising campaigns" to help open several cultural institutions, such as The Museum of Contemporary Art and the California Science Center.

Eight previously announced special awards were presented, including the Margaret Harford Award for sustained excellence in theater to Sacred Fools Theater Company and the Ted Schmitt Award for the world premiere of an outstanding new play to Lauren Yee for Cambodian Rock Band.

The LADCC was established in 1969  “to foster and reward merit in the American Theater and encourage theater in Los Angeles,” the LADCC site quotes from an announcement in the L.A. Times of that year.

Here is the list of award recipients as announced during Better Lemons' live coverage on Twitter:

Featured photo by Enci Box - Theatre patrons in the courtyard of the Pasadena Playhouse for the 50th Annual LA Drama Critics Circle Awards, Pasadena, California, Monday, April 8, 2019. Enci Box contributed to this story and photos.


AUDITION: The Wedding Singer

Book by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy
Lyrics by Chad Beguelin
Music by Matthew Sklar

Directed by Kristie Mattsson
Music Directed by Daniel Koh
Choreography by Niko Montelibano
Produced by Spencer Johnson

SYNOPSIS

Based on the hit Adam Sandler movie, The Wedding Singer takes us back to a time when hair was big, greed was good, collars were up and a wedding singer might just be the coolest guy in the room.

It's 1985, and once a rock star wannabe, Robbie Hart, is now New Jersey's favorite wedding singer. He's the life of the party until his own fiancée leaves him at the altar. Shot through the heart, Robbie suddenly starts making every wedding as disastrous as his own. Enter Julia, a winsome waitress who wins his affection. But Julia is about to be married to a Wall Street shark, and, unless Robbie can pull off the performance of a decade, the girl of his dreams will be gone forever.

The Wedding Singer features a wacky ensemble with a dizzying array of fun, featured roles for actors who sing and dancers who act.

AUDITION DATES

Saturday, April 13, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m (Stage)
Sunday, April 14, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. (Rehearsal Hall)

No appointment needed. Actors only need to attend one day of initial auditions.

CALLBACKS on Monday, April 15, from 6:00 to 11:00 p.m. (Stage)

You will be notified by email if you will be needed for callbacks.

PREPARE

For the vocal audition, please prepare two 16-32 bar musical theater selections, at least one of which needs to be in the style of the show (i.e. 80's pop.) Please bring sheet music in the correct key with cuts clearly marked; an accompanist will be provided. Auditionees may be asked to only sing one selection based on time constraints. For this show, all singers must be comfortable singing in 80's pop styles.

Dance audition will take place on the day of callbacks. A combination will be taught.

LOCATION

Santa Monica's Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90405. Street parking available. Venice Family Clinic's parking lot is available on weekends and on weekdays after 6 p.m. Do not park at our neighbors AAMCO/Viking Motors or SGI or you will be towed.

PERFORMANCE DATES

June 29 through August 3, Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Please note that actors MUST be available for all performances.

REHEARSAL DATES/TIMES

Rehearsals begin Sunday, May 12 and are held Monday through Thursday evenings from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm, Saturdays from 1:00pm to 6:00 pm and Sundays from 6:00 to 10:00 pm. Actors are not called for all rehearsals - only rehearsals when they are being used for a scene.

BRING

Picture, resume and list of all conflicts for the rehearsal period (May 12 - June 29). All conflicts MUST be submitted prior to callbacks. If additional conflicts arise after casting, it may result in an actor being replaced.

CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS

In reference to the character descriptions that follow—most characters we encounter currently are on the binary and are written with he/him or she/her pronouns and you will see that in the following descriptions. But, however limiting the descriptions are, our casting seeks to be as inclusive as possible and we invite gender non-conforming, gender fluid, transgender and non-binary actors to submit for the roles they most identify with.

We will also list race/ethnicity when specific to the character but are otherwise seeking all races and ethnicities; we encourage Arab, Asian, Black, Caucasian, Latino, Native, and Multiracial actors to audition for all roles. In addition, we will list disability when specific to a character, but are otherwise seeking actors with disabilities as well as non-disabled actors for all roles. Please let us know if you have any questions, concerns, or if there are any accommodations we can provide.

We are actively committed to casting an inclusive show that reflects the community.

CHARACTER BREAKDOWNS

This is a high energy show with many upbeat numbers. Accordingly, all cast will be expected to perform some degree of movement and dance.

Ensemble
We are seeking a wild, eclectic, brilliant assortment of brides, grooms, bridesmaids, groomsmen, banquet servers, wedding guests, parents, strippers, Wall Street executives, club goers, bartenders, waiters, priests, old folks, maitre'd, best men, bums, shopkeepers, engaged couples, airline agents, valets and Las Vegas impersonators including Cyndi Lauper, Mr. T, Billy Idol and others. The ensemble is a vital part of this show, chock full of hilarious, scene-stealing potential. Everyone is encouraged to audition and bring your most hilarious character choices.

Robbie Hart
The charismatic lead singer of the in-house wedding band in a chintzy wedding hall in New Jersey. A truly 'nice' guy that has the classic lead singer aura and personality. Also a bit of a dreamer. A true romantic at heart until his fiancée, Linda, leaves him at the altar and shatters him to pieces. Movement required.
Gender: Male
Age: 25 to 35
Vocal range: very strong, HIGH tenor (B2-A4, falsetto to C5) Note: Ability to play the guitar is a plus, but is not necessary.

Sammy
The bass player in the wedding band and one of Robbie's best friends. The epitome of a Monster Ballad, Sammy is a total guy's guy. However, beneath his bad boy bachelor antics, he is actually sensitive and very in love with Holly. Movement required, dancing ability a plus.
Gender: Male
Age: 25 to 35
Vocal range: Tenor/High baritone (C3-G4)

George
The wedding band's keyboardist and one of Robbie's best friends. He is sensitive, flamboyant and endearing. Out of all the characters, he is living life to his truest self. The perfect counterpart to Sammy's super guy attitude. Movement required, dancing ability a plus.
Gender: Male
Age: 25 to 35
Vocal range: Tenor, including comfortable falsetto; must also be able to rap (C3-A4)

Julia Sullivan
A starry-eyed waitress at the banquet hall, she is a sweet and quirky “girl next door" in looks and personality. So in love with the idea of love, she gets engaged to her long term boyfriend, Glen, but, ultimately, truly falls for Robbie and is conflicted as to who to choose. Movement required.
Gender: Female
Age: 25 to 35
Vocal range: Strong and flexible Mezzo/Alto, must have versatility between belt and lighter head voice (A3-E5)

Holly
Julia's cousin and also a waitress at the banquet hall. Holly is sassy, in control of her body and mind, and always up for a good time. Deep down she dreams of romantic fulfillment, but for now she's having fun in looking for love in all the wrong places. She ultimately reignites the flames with her ex, Sammy. Dancing required.
Gender: Female
Age: 25 to 35
Vocal range: Mezzo/Alto, must belt high (A3-E5)

Glen Guglia
Julia's fiancé. A Wall Street broker. Sexy, seductive, and charming. He is rich, shallow, and materialistic. He is a bit of a womanizer. Movement required, dancing ability a plus.
Gender: Male
Age: 30 to 40
Vocal range: Tenor/High baritone (D3-G4)

Rosie
Robbie's grandmother who raised him. Motherly but adventurous and always trying to remain "hip" regardless of her age. Movement required, some dancing ability a plus. Performs a rap number with George.
Gender: Female
Age: 55 to 75
Vocal range: Alto, must be able to rap (C4-C5)

Linda
Robbie's fiancée who leaves him at the altar. Keeps Robbie around as a back-up plan. Is more in love with the idea of Robbie being a rock star than she actually is with Robbie.
Gender: Female
Age: 20 to 30
Vocal range: Alto/Mezzo, maybe with a rock edge; must belt high (A3-D5)

Questions or requests for additional information should be directed to Kristie Mattsson at [email protected]

OTHER

Non-Equity, no pay


Steven Sabel's Twist on the Trade: Tailor Your Career

Either your mother lied to you, or she was just flat out wrong. Though her intentions may have been the best, and her motives without suspect, nonetheless the damage has been done and you will only compound the problem unless you listen to this advice. Your “book” will be judged by its cover.

In a previous column, I covered the importance of having proper headshots. In last month's column, I covered how important it is to be consistently working and generating content. These are both crucial aspects to how you will be judged by casting directors, agents, and others who may have a hand in the future of your career in this industry. Yes, the person at the desk when you arrive to an audition WILL say something to the casting directors inside the audition room if you give them reason. Those words can be the difference between you getting the role or getting the shaft. I can't tell you the amount of times I have had an audition monitor come into the room to tell me things such as: “That person is weird, don't cast them,” or “That person wouldn't shut up in the lobby,” or even “Whatever you do, don't cast that person, they were a real A-hole!”

In this instance, your mother was correct. You do not get a second chance to make a first impression, and there are several moments when first impressions are made in the audition process. It begins with your cover letter or email upon submission. Do not submit to auditions from your cell phone unless you have no other choice. Yes, it is important to submit to projects fast and early, but not at the expense of your first impression. You MUST tailor your first impression, and it begins with the first communication. If your cover letter is informal, full of typos, or otherwise slovenly, then that is exactly how it will be viewed. Take the time to sit at your computer and write a professional, well written cover letter or email to accompany your submission. Proof read it before sending. Brief and concise is good, but clean and proper is more important. Use proper forms of address, and please use proper punctuation. If you can't pay attention to those simple details, you are demonstrating that you cannot pay attention to details in the script, in the rehearsal schedule, in the direction you receive, etc.

Tailor your resume to the project. That doesn't mean you should pad your resume with lies. It means you should organize the elements of your resume so that you are properly highlighting your qualifications for the role you are submitting for. If it is a theatre project, move your relevant theatre credits to the top of your resume. If it is a musical, make sure you list your musical theatre credits first. If you are submitting to a classical production, be sure to prominently place your classical theatre training and experience where it can be valued. It is also a good idea to include a line or two about those aspects of your resume in your cover letter or email. Make sure you have properly spelled the titles of shows, characters, names, etc. You would be so surprised at how many resumes I have seen where the actors have listed “McBeth” as one of their theatre credits. Yeah? Yeah, and NO. No one can possibly take you serious if you don't know how to spell the titles of shows you claim to have spent several weeks, or even months working on or in.

You may be the type of person who lives life overlooking little typos and grammatical errors as “common mistakes,” or “no big deal.” That's all good and fine for you as a human, except for the simple fact that the goal in this industry is to be un-common-ly good in order to become a very big deal. If your cover letter or your resume contains careless typos and errors, you aren't going to make it. Perhaps your mother's basement back in Oklahoma would be a great place to return to in order to consider another career choice. Tailor your attitude to success.

Tailor your clothes! We have all heard it before, but it always bears repeating: An audition is a job interview. Dress for success. That doesn't mean you have to arrive in a suit and tie or fancy dress in order to get the role, but you also can't expect to be considered a professional in your trade, if you show up wearing flip-flops and a RVCA t-shirt, complete with a mustard stain courtesy of today's 7-Eleven hot dog lunch. If you don't have the time to properly prepare and dress for your audition, then you don't have the time to commit to the project. That is exactly what you are telling the casting directors the moment you walk into the room. It's that simple.

Dress appropriately. Be sure to dress nice, but not fancy; professional, but not uptight. Be sure to wear clothes and shoes that will allow you to move well and make strong physical choices. For guys, a suit and tie doesn't allow for strong physical choices, unless the role is established that way. For girls, skirts and high heels are a terrible idea. You can't make bold character choices if you are worried about your balance, or your skirt flying up. If you have to be pulling on your clothes to keep them up, or keep them down – don't wear those clothes. The character isn't going to be constantly checking to make sure their skirt is down, or their top stays up. Character shoes are fine, but those sexy boots with the three-inch heels are best saved for the club scene, not the audition scene. Both genders should definitely accentuate their physical attributes, but don't flaunt them. No muscle shirts. Don't be that tool. No excess cleavage. You're selling your talent, not your body. You want them to assess your abilities, not stare at your bust line.

Tailor your monologue. Don't show up with the same tired monologue you have been doing since you learned it in high school. Don't just drag out that monologue you still know from when you played the leading role in that one college production. Learn something new and specific to help you land the job. In a future column I will elaborate on the number and types of monologues you should always be “carrying in your back pocket,” as I like to say, but for now, suffice it to say: if that old tired monologue hasn't been landing you work…. Duh…. Throw it out and learn something new. Tailor it to the project if you can in some way, and in case there is any confusion about my “back pocket” analogy: don't show up with script in hand. Ever.

Take control of your career path. Take control of your image and appearance as a professional artist. Being hip or cool, isn't going to get you the gig. Showing a concentrated and professional work ethic right from the start – with a clean and proper cover letter, a well-tailored resume, and clothing that bespeaks professionalism and hygiene - says to the casting director, the agent, the manager, the contracting producer, and everyone else on the job, that you are a committed and dedicated artist worthy of hiring and working with.


Announcing the Formation of the OC Theatre Guild

The OC Theatre Guild has officially been founded and formed by an acting Council consisting of the following Orange County Theatre community members:

Amanda Demaio, President
Kristin Campbell, Vice President
Oanh Nguyen, Secretary
Tamiko Washington, Treasurer
Brian Newell, Brian Page, and Jeff Lowe as Council Members

After years of development and consideration, the OC Theatre Guild is prepared to move forward with its mission to nurture, support, and promote live theatre in Greater Orange County. The OC Theatre Guild is inclusive and open to all to join in making our theatre communities a better place for everyone, cast, crew, theatre organizations, and audiences.

Memberships are available as both an Individual at $50, and an Organization/Producer at $250.

Interested parties can sign up at www.OCTheatreGuild.org

Membership brings with it an invitation to help shape and enjoy many short terms and long term goals including:

Individual Membership:

Support of the OC Theatre Guild and its mission
Theater ticket discounts
Free or discounted admission to industry workshop and events
Membership vote for OC Theatre Guild board members
Recognition on OCTheatreGuild.org
Expanded networking opportunities

Organization Membership:

Support of the OC Theatre Guild and its mission
Cross -Promotion, collaborative marketing efforts like the Program Inserts for all participating member theaters
Participation in the Annual General Season Auditions
Access to post on the OC Theatre Guild Facebook page
Consideration for the Annual OC Theatre Guild Awards Ceremony
Membership vote for OC Theatre Guild board members
Recognition on OCTheatreGuild.org
Expanded networking opportunities

Becoming a member will also allow an individual to self-nominate for the inaugural OC Theatre Guild Board. The Board is responsible for approving all Guild plans and activities, giving one an opportunity to help shape OC Theatre as a whole. Those interested in serving on the board can self-nomination through OCTheatreGuild.org by March 15, 2019. Voting for these positions will begin April 1, 2019.

For more information visit OCTheatreGuild.org