Spotlight Series: Meet Holly Baker-Kreiswirth and Bill Wolski, the Dynamic Duo Who Call Little Fish Theatre Their “Home Away from Home”


Anyone who has attended a production at Little Fish Theatre in San Pedro has most likely met Holly Baker-Kreiswirth and Bill Wolski, the dynamic duo who call Little Fish Theatre their “Home Away from Home.” As well as appearing onstage together, the married couple also work behind-the-scenes with Holly managing the theatre's Press Relations and directing shows while Bill often takes on the roles of Director and Producer when not acting onstage.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Bill Wolski (Bill): I'm a veteran of over a hundred plays and a whole host of other projects and performances. I cut my teeth on the small theatre circuit in greater Cleveland, Ohio, where I grew up. I'm primarily known for my work at Little Fish Theatre, which has been my artistic home since 2007, and for being the husband of the equally talented and prolific Holly Baker-Kreiswirth.

Holly Baker-Kreiswirth (Holly): I started out in television before I worked in theater; the very first paid job I had was in the acting category on Junior Star Search which led to various roles in shows such as Chicago HopeGia (HBO), and Private Practice. I studied theater in college, but took a 10-year break to work on a career in TV production, and then had my kid.  In my early 30s, I started with Palos Verdes Players as a sound tech, then worked my way up to directing, producing, and finally acting again.  When PVP sadly went down, Bill and I appeared onstage in The Tender Trap at Long Beach Playhouse (when we started dating!) and subsequently found our artistic home at Little Fish Theatre, where we produce Pick of the Vine and act in or direct roughly 1/3 of the productions every year.

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the show?

(Bill): I was working on a show called Becky's New Car, written by Steven Dietz, and directed by my wife. It was scheduled to open on April 9th. I was playing Becky's steadfast, not-as-dumb-as-he-looks husband, Joe.

(Holly): We were both deeply into rehearsals for Becky's New Car. I pre-block the shows I direct before rehearsals even begin; we had ten rehearsals under our belt with our lead actress, Amanda Karr, already off book.  Costumes/props were bought, lights/sound were being designed... everything was in motion.  Our stumble-through was the last rehearsal we had, and the show was already in great shape.

(SB): How was the shutdown communicated with the cast and production team?

(Bill and Holly): First, the sports teams postponed their seasons. Then, it was gatherings over 250 people. Then, gatherings over 50 people. Being a very intimate theater, there was still a possibility that LFT could limit ticket sales and hold performances, but the conclusion was reached that we didn't want to put our fan base and company members at risk. Emails went out to those involved that everything was going to be put on hold.

(SB): Are plans in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent?

(Bill): Becky's New Car will open at a later date, once we've been given the all-clear.

(Holly): We're thrilled that the work we've already put into the show will be seen by an audience someday.  I believe the message will resonate with them.

(SB): I have seen the show before and was really looking forward to seeing the production at Little Fish. So I am happy to hear that eventually that will happen. What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?

(Bill and Holly): We are involved at LFT all the time in a volunteer capacity. The shutdown has affected our entire season. Shows and special events that have not yet been cast or started production may be canceled entirely to give the shows that were already in progress a chance to be performed.

(SB): I know Bill is an avid hiker, but how are the two of you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Bill and Holly): Little Fish Theatre and its company members are doing a lot to bring theatre to a virtual audience. We're promoting and reaching out to our subscribers with videos and newsletters, and writing and sharing original content through our social media platforms. Specifically, we have a 5-part original web series called "Little Fish" that features hilarious portrayals of our artists.  We've produced multiple virtual readings of everything from comedic short plays to screenplays to a play about the shootings at Kent State 50 years ago this month.  And coming up next month we have a reading of a M*A*S*H* script donated to us by one of the writers, Ken Levine!  All of our readings are free -- we're so happy to be able to provide the arts to everyone in this format.

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Bill and Holly): Please, be safe. Follow the rules and the health guidelines and limit the risk posed to yourself and your loved ones. In Shakespeare's time, theaters were closed due to the plague, and 400 years later, theatre is still alive and well. As long as there are stories to tell, there will be people to tell them. We'll all be together again soon enough. From our theater to yours, here's a big hug from Little Fish. We love you!

Here's how to stay in touch with Little Fish Theatre:


All production photos credit: Miguel Elliot


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Fringe Management Co-Founder Mike Blaha


This Spotlight focuses on Mike Blaha, Co-Founder of Fringe Management, a company that has produced an incredible assortment of shows for both the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Hollywood Fringe Festival. Listen in as he shares his insights on how the Coronavirus pandemic has affected both this year, especially since the initial shutdown occurred just as the Edinburgh event had begun.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Mike Blaha (Mike): I did a little bit of acting in high school, but never really thought about producing.  Then a friend of mine asked me to be his associate Artistic Director at a small, long-defunct theatre in the Valley in the late 80s and I caught the producing bug.

Since beginning in 1989, I’ve produced or co-produced over 100 shows in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Hong Kong, London and especially at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where our company Fringe Management,  LLC (co-founded with my Edinburgh based partner, actor-director Nigel Miles Thomas) has presented approximately 70 productions since 2001.  I have also produced 18 shows at the Hollywood Fringe Festival since 2012.

I was also one of the co-founders of Sci-Fest, a festival of one act science fiction plays that ran from 2014-2016 and have served on the Board of New Musicals, Inc. for most of the last 20 years (as President from 2015-2019).

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out it needed to immediately be either postponed or cancelled?

(Mike): I was producing, along with Joel Shapiro of the Electric Lodge in Venice, the Edinburgh Fringe sensation “Hitler’s Tasters,” a brilliant dark comedy by Michelle Kholos Brooks.  We were originally scheduled to run March 12-30, 2020.  We had previews Thursday and Friday, March 12 and 13, 2020, opened on Saturday, March 14, 2020 and had to close on Sunday, March 15, 2020.

(SB): Here is “Hitler’s Tasters” promo reel on You Tube. How did you communicate the shutdown to the cast and crew?

(Mike): We communicated the heartbreaking reality of the shutdown in person with the cast and crew after the performance on Saturday night.

(SB): Are plans in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent? 

(Mike): Fortunately, we made an archival recording on opening night and we were able to negotiate an agreement with Equity to stream that recording for a two-week period, May 8-21, 2020, so audience members who bought a ticket to the live performance, and some new audience members, were able to watch that recording during that window. It is possible that there may be a remount of the play at the Electric Lodge, but it’s tricky because the cast members, who were the actors in the Edinburgh Fringe production, are all from New York.

(SB): What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?  

(Mike): I had five shows lined up for the 2020 Hollywood Fringe Festival, including three shows from the UK (The Nights, The Tanner and West), a local sketch comedy show Gold Baby and the 7th annual “Combined Artform’s Pick of the Fringe”.  With the Hollywood Fringe now cancelled this year, except for online shows, I have lost most if not all of the planned productions, although they may return for 2021.

We were also producing 7 shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August, which has been cancelled altogether including Activities of Daily Living, Bard Overboard, Elton John: Rocketman, Elvis: He’s Back, Hiding Anne Frank, Once Upon A Time in Hollywoodland, and Two Girls: One Mic.  Fortunately, it looks like most if not all of the shows want to perform at the 2021 edition.

(SB): I saw Joanna Lipari in her one-woman show Activities for Daily Living at the Sierra Madre Playhouse and believe everyone needs to experience her incredible and very personal observations about life and love in that show. So I certainly hope she will be able to take the show to Edinburgh in 2021. (Here’s the link to my review on Broadway World.)

So now that everything is on hold, how are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Mike): Well, I’m reading my daily reports from Broadway World, of course, following updates from various theatre companies, as well friends’, colleagues’, and various theatre forums on social media (and occasionally posting myself), and trying to keep up with the amazing explosion of content by artists of every stripe on YouTube, Facebook, Patreon, Twitter . . . the list goes on.  I’m in touch with all of the artists involved with the delayed and cancelled productions referenced above, and working with a couple of them on developing new projects.

(SB): Are there any thoughts would you like to share with L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Mike): Some people think the pandemic will move live theatre online permanently; some people think live theater will return eventually unchanged. I fall somewhere in the middle. I think there may be a hybrid model that combines live theatre with more digital innovation, both with respect to the design and production of live theater, but also respect to the supplemental, possibly complementary exploitation of those live productions.  One thing I am certain of, having witnessed the resilience and creativity of our community over these past few weeks, is that the L.A. Theatre scene will adapt and thrive in whatever becomes the “new normal.”

Of course, this has been a very difficult time for all of us.  One of the things that has kept me sane in spite of all the postponements and cancellations and missed openings is the knowledge that theatre has been around for a couple of thousand years and ain’t going anywhere.  It may be very different or not that different at all; but in a few weeks or months we will all be sitting in a dark black box once again in thrall to the magic of live theatre!


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Kristy Edmunds, Executive and Artistic Director of UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about you and CAP UCLA?

Kristy Edmonds (Kristy): UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance produces and supports programming that builds a community around the world’s creative artists whose ideas find a home in contemporary theater, dance, music, writing and collaboration. Artists that have achieved a towering legacy in their chosen art forms, alongside those who are well on their way because of their generous and singular vision. At CAP UCLA we leave no stone unturned in assuring that people (in every age, culture and means) have artists in their lives one project at a time.

(SB): What production(s) were you (and/or your company) involved with when word went out it needed to immediately be either postponed or cancelled?

(Kristy): After presenting Octavia Butler’s Parable of The Sower by Toshi Reagon, on the now legendary evening of March 7, there were but days before the safer at home order would come in. An additional 13 performances were immediately impacted. Our work began in earnest for postponing (cancelling was a last measure position for us), and important in every discussion around rescheduling was CAP UCLA’s commitment that we would not leave artists, managers and audiences out to dry, as we knew that artists and their creative teams would be in a severe cash flow challenge (one that would move from stressful to imperiling within weeks as more organizations began to cancel). But none of us anticipated the long duration of the marathon this would rapidly evolve into.

In our situation at CAP UCLA, I had an enhanced vantage point because of the leadership of UCLA – they were responsibly addressing a scale of change that was unfathomable and because of the transparency of critical decision-making, I had a slight head start on the crucial reality of public safety measures spreading in every direction imaginable. We had to all focus on the huge contour and the exacting detail concurrently. I remember getting off of a Zoom call and saying to myself: “Kristy Edmunds, this is not a surreal dream this is happening. You have to move NOW, you’ll add to the chaos if you wait a second longer.”

As hard as it was, it ensured that no one was left unaddressed – not my staff, not the audience, our supporters, associated businesses and not the artists. I knew what the scale of impact would be to artists instantly, this is my profession after all. But I didn’t know it would spread to all of us in every allied workforce and in all walks of life. That equally heart-breaking realization would come later (and rapidly).

(SB): How was the shutdown communicated with the artists and production teams?

(Kristy): With all speed and with emotional intelligence. CAP UCLA one of the first performing arts organizations to suspend our programs, so everyone effected would have a different level of awareness and the impact would be different for everyone. I knew that there would be a shock reaction, or a denial impulse (the show must go on!), and then too the gracious diplomacy of understanding. It would land differently for everyone, and everyone would be affected unevenly. Our imperative was that every artist would be supported, and every ticket holder would be refunded. We were bleeding of course, but we acted on principle and did not stand still in justifiable but acutely problematic suspended animation.

(SB): Are plans in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent?

(Kristy): Yes, there are plans in place for future dates and all of us are operating from plan A, B, C and D. We have also worked closely with artists to explore what approaches for presenting their works will look like, and we will start the soft launch of the programming for the upcoming season in a few weeks.

Every project is now rescheduled, or being re-developed. Some are being filmed and we will present the work online later. Some projects have jumped to the fall of 2021 to get to more solid ground where it may be less crazed by uncertainty. Others are adjusting their work for new platforms and we are there for that as well.

It’s different for each artist and each art form, and with everything still changing, it’s about generating continuity with far less means. All is considered and thought through after many earnest discussions, and in a full recognition that the future of anyone’s capacity is subject to change. For CAP UCLA this means we have had to create possibilities and innovate for the most immediate future as well as the further flung horizon line.

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Kristy): We have this rapidly assembled “newsletter” generated weekly. It’s actually becoming a real touch stone for our audiences locally, nationally and around the world. Once the programming for next season is announced, we will all have a lot to look forward to as well.

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghost light on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Kristy): Each of us have assets that are strained now beyond our wildest imagining. It was hard enough before. We do not know how long we can survive in this suspension or what proceeding will look like. But we are an incredible part of the cultural infrastructure of the city and country, and the more we are able to collaborate together, the better off our ecology will be as we work on recovery.


(SB): And with forced theater closures world-wide and long-range performance cancellations, presenting organizations are faced with a myriad of challenges as they navigate artist support with organizational sustainability, and how to plan for an unknown future.

Here is a link to a Conversation with Kristy Edmunds, Executive and Artistic Director, UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance, and Lauren Snelling, Senior Director of Alumni Programming, National YoungArts Foundation, in which Kristy offers an honest conversation addressing the harsh realities associated with a return to public gatherings and ongoing postponements and cancellations, as well as a hopeful perspective on alternatives for artists operating in a virtual landscape and her motivation to activate recovery for the preservation of America’s cultural ecosystem.

Websites and social media:

cap.ucla.edu

facebook.com/CAPatUCLA

instagram.com/cap_ucla

twitter.com/CAP_UCLA

twitter.com/KristyEdmunds

Photo captions:

Kristy Edmunds, Executive & Artistic Director of Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA - Photo by Reed Hutchinson

Production photos of Ladysmith Black Mambazo and “Parable” by Phinn Sriployrung

"Love Letters Straight From Your Heart" promotional photo provided by CAP UCLA


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Michael Leoni, the Playwright, Bi-Coastal Director, and Co-Founder of The 11:11 in WeHo


This Spotlight  focuses on Michael Leoni, a playwright, bi-coastal director, and co-founder of The 11:11 in WeHo whose productions have brilliantly focused attention on the pitfalls of modern society, especially in the entertainment industry and on homeless street kids.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Michael Leoni (ML): I have been directing theater and film since high school and have been fortunate to direct professionally in both LA and NYC. One of my very first shows in Los Angeles was an original rock musical that I wrote and directed, called The Playground.  It built a cult following and ran successfully at multiple theatres around Los Angeles over several years.

Then, I adapted a short film I had written and directed into the stage play, Elevator. It ran for 11 months starting at The Hudson Mainstage and then moving to The Coast Theatre in WeHo. Here is the trailer:

 

(SB): Read my 2017 Broadway World interview with writer/director Michael Leoni and Erica Katzin who was in the cast of “Elevator” to learn more about that incredible play which won 11 Broadway World nominations including "Best New Work" as well as "Critic's Choice" and "Best Bet" from the Los Angeles Times.

(ML): Following that, my business partners and I opened our theatre in West Hollywood, called “The 11:11.” It became the home to my next original show, Famous, which ran for nine months, was developed into a feature film, and is now in post-production. Here is the trailer:

 

(I’ve lost count of how many times I went back to see “Famous” or the number of people I took with me to experience it. The production remains on my all-time favorites list of shows I have reviewed. If you missed it, here is the link to my 2019 interview with Michael about the cost of fame as faced by those in its spell, which led to the creation of the #MeToo movement.)

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out it needed to be either postponed or cancelled immediately?

(ML): When we first got the news that all theatre was going to be shut down, we were in the beginning stages of casting for my newest show, The Boulevard. And at the time, The 11:11, was also in full swing with live theatre, comedy and music.

(SB): How was the shutdown communicated with the cast and production teams?

(ML): Luckily, since we had just begun casting, we did not have to communicate any cancellations to actors. However, our staff at the theatre was directly affected and we, like everyone else, had to cancel all theatre bookings as none of us know when live theatre will return. Of course, we’re hopeful that live theatre will return sooner rather than later and are doing as much pre-production that we’re able to do remotely.  We will be looking into a larger theatre, as the technical requirements of The Boulevard demand a larger venue. We can’t wait to get started!

(SB): What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?

(ML): In addition to all of the rentals that were booked to run at The 11:11, we're also a film company. So those productions are also on hold until further notice.

(SB): With all those postponements, how are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(ML): As a writer/director, I am passionate about using the Arts to create social impact.  I feel like it’s one of the few ways that people from all backgrounds can be brought together to create positive change.

I feel really fortunate that one of my films, American Street Kid has just secured distribution. So, we’re able to channel our creativity into building our online marketing campaign.

For our other current feature, #WhenTodayEnds, we did have to cancel our theatrical premiere, which was set for this summer. We'll also be using Zoom for a read-through of my newest script, The Boulevard, and personally, I've been using some of the isolation time to write another script.

I think it’s really important that creativity is kept alive, especially in the hardest of times. I wrote a book for artists called Dare to Be Bad that helps with removing obstacles and allowing the creativity to flow. During this time, we've seen an increase in sales, and I'm grateful that it's been able to help!

(SB): Any other thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the LA Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghost light on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(ML): We must continue to have faith. Live theatre is vital to our lifeblood as artists. There is nothing that compares to watching performers live and being a part of that collective energy.  It’s life-changing and a connection that is hard to put into words, but you know it when you feel it; it’s like nothing else.  I have a feeling that some amazing art is going to come out of all of this, and I can’t wait to see it.

(SB): Stay in touch with Michael and his work on Instragam:

Instagram.com/michaelleoni1111

Instagram.com/famoustheliveexperience

Instagram.com/americanstreetkid

Instagram.com/elevatortheplay


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Janet Miller, a Multi-Talented Theatre Professor, Producer, Director, Choreographer and Tapper


This Spotlight focuses on Janet Miller, a Theater Professor at College of the Desert, Producing Artistic Director at Good People Theater Company, a multi-talented Producer, Director, Choreographer, and Tapper, as well as a lover of all furry friends. I have attended multiple productions in which Janet has contributed her skills, including several hit Hollywood Fringe Festival productions including The Toxic Avenger, Hello Again! The Songs of Allan Sherman, Marry Me a Little, and The Fantasticks just to name a few. Janet is pictured here with Gordon Goodman, the star of Barrymore which she directed, when they attended and won Ovation Awards for the production. Here is the link to my review on Broadway World: https://www.broadwayworld.com/los-angeles/article/BWW-Reviews-Gordon-Goodman-Channels-John-Barrymore-Into-Reality-Onstage-at-Greenway-Court-20131125


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background? 

Janet Miller (Janet): I am a producer, theatre director, choreographer, and educator.

(SB): What production were you involved with when word went out it needed to immediately be either postponed or cancelled?  

(Janet): We had just opened a production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) at College of the Desert. We did 2 out of 6 performances before we had to shut down the production.

(SB):  How was the shutdown communicated with the cast and production team? 

(Janet): We had been waiting to hear that our college was going to shut down as there were a number of emails that went back and forth. When I got the final word, I passed on the information to my co-director Maricela Sandoval, a graduating student, and we contacted everyone. When we arrived at the theatre, I spoke to the cast and crew. It was quite sad for our students at College of the Desert as they worked so diligently, especially the student co-director.

(SB): Are plans in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent? 

(Janet): We would like to remount in the Fall, but we don’t think that is possible, unfortunately.

(SB):  What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown? 

(Janet): We had been granted the rights to Middletown by Will Enos for our fall production, which I would be directing. We are holding off on making any final plans for that show at this point, as well as holding off on the planning on producing The Fantasticks in Spring 2021. We will decide as the course of the Coronavirus becomes clearer.

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites? I am still teaching online.

(Janet): I teach Script Analysis, Introduction to Theatre, Acting I, and Tap. I am also attending many Zoom meetings, reading and posting articles, as well as spending time speaking to my colleagues.

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the LA Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Janet): It WILL happen. Theatre is a survivor and so are we!


Featured photo: Janet Miller and Gordon Goodman at the Ovation Awards

This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Theatre Row Fixture The Lounge Theatre Closes Fueled by Coronavirus Lockdowns


The Lounge Theatre, Hollywood Fringe Festival 2018, Hollywood, California, June 1, 2018. Photo by Monique A. LeBleu.

The Lounge Theatre recently announced that it has officially closed its doors due to the coronavirus epidemic and lockdowns.

The Lounge Theatre, which is run and managed by Theatre Planners, and has been a part of the Hollywood Theatre Row community since 2005, has also been a venue participant in the annual Hollywood Fringe Festival up until 2019. Racquel Lehrman, founder and managing director of Theatre Planners, who graduated from NYU-Tisch School of the Arts and lived in New York for over eight years producing theatre prior to coming to Los Angeles, reflected on opening the theatre in 2005 in LA fresh from her marriage and honeymoon in New Jersey.

"The timing was not ideal to say the least, but I knew it was right," said Lehrman, via the venue's Facebook page post. "I remember returning from my honeymoon 2 weeks later, walking in and seeing all the construction. I nearly had a heart attack and thought 'What the hell have I done???' 'I can't do this?!!?!' Well, flash to 15 years later. The Lounge Theatre became a staple in the theatre community as a two theatre arts complex in the heart of Hollywood on Theatre Row."

Cat LaCohie in "Vixen DeVille Revealed" at the Lounge Theatre, Hollywood Fringe Festival, Hollywood, California, June 17, 2018. Photo by Monique A. LeBleu.

On the closing now, she specified that the timing in her decision was aided by much reflection along with concern overall for the return of theatre audience attendance in Los Angeles, post-COVID-19.

“It’s my choice that I gave up the Lounge Theatre, the time was right. It’s strictly a business decision and one that I’ve been contemplating for over a year,”  she said in the post. “This global pandemic sped that decision up and exposed the reasons why I need to leave sooner. We don’t know when theatre will return and the Lounge simply can't survive without it.”

The venue, which features two theatres on the ground floor coupled with coffee-concessions and lounge space, premiered many great shows that this reviewer was privileged to see during the Hollywood Fringe Festival, including solo shows like the delicious variety mixed-bag of aerial, circus arts (fire eating/glass walking,) comedy, magic, and burlesque art of Cat LaCohie  in Vixen DeVille Revealed in 2018, or the pleasures and perils of modern motherhood in April Wade Wish's Clementine or the stylish, visceral, and perfect Butoh interpretation of Shakespeare in Yoshiko "Yokko" Sienkiewicz' Hide Your Fires: Butoh Lady MacBeth in 2019.

Wish, whose show Clementine and its successful run at the Lounge for Fringe, enabled her to take her solo show to other venues post-festival as My Name Is Mommy.

Preshow preset of "Clementine" at the Lounge Theatre, Hollywood Fringe Festival, Hollywood, California, June 7, 2019. Photo by Monique A. LeBleu.

"It was the space I felt like I could take a breath in the whirlwind of the festival, a home to an untold number of stories and artists, the kind of space that was cozy, inviting you to pull up a couch and ...lounge," she said. "I will miss it. It is a huge loss to the creative community in Hollywood."

LaCohie, whose show placed challenges for other theatres that she approached, not only found the Lounge Theatre able to accommodate the physical and technical needs of her show, but was warmly embraced by it.

“This theatre helped give birth to the almost impossible show that is 'Vixen DeVille Revealed.' They really allowed me to bring my art to life and trust in my vision," said LaCohie. '"Can I eat fire onstage?' Yes you can. 'Can I rig circus equipment from your roof?' Go for it. 'Can I drag a tarp filled with broken glass on to the floor and smash bottles with a hammer?' Why not! 'Can I bring audience members on stage and teach them death-defying skills during the show?' Why of course!"

“So many theatres tried to nay-say my vision, or say it was too risky or that the set-up was too complicated to pull off, but the Lounge saw my vision and breathed life into it,” she continued. “I still drive by The Lounge and fondly remember 'where it all started' and now that nostalgia will be all the more melancholic.”

Soaring Solo Director, Jessica Lynn Johnson, who recently produced the Soaring Solo Stars Series at the venue, directed Wish, as well as Lisa Verlo for her show Hollywoodn't, Stacy Dymalski's A Bit Much, Heather Dowling's FERTILE, Corina Calderon's Corina: From Lap Dance to Sundance, and several solo artists who have had featured shows at The Lounge for the Hollywood Fringe and beyond.

“Over the past decade as a regular Fringer, I have enjoyed many achingly beautiful stories be shared from the Lounge stage,” said Johnson. “That theatre holds so many precious memories and my heart is certainly broken at the loss of this and so many other things in this season.”

Theatre Planners also runs the Zephyr Theatre and The Lounge on Melrose, both of which remain and await any re-opening changes for theatre and performing arts venues in Los Angeles. The Lounge Theatre will retain its Lounge 3 space upstairs with plans to convert into a 35 seat theatre/studio.

Updated: 5-29-20 - 1:15 p.m.


Spotlight Series: Meet Costume Designer and Educator Halei Parker Who Makes Art a Part of Her Everyday Life


This Spotlight focuses on Costume Designer and Educator Halei Parker, who I first met in the dressing room at the Clark Library when she showed up with a wonderful variety of cleverly designed costumes for the publicity photo shoot for Lady Windermere’s Fan when I was the publicist for Chalk Repertory Theatre. Halei really opened my eyes to the possibilities for character interpretation that a costume designer can bring to a show.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

“Lady Windermere's Fan” with Chalk Repertory Theatre and the Clark Rare Book Library

Halei Parker (Halei): I'm a freelance costume designer for theatre, opera, dance, immersive experiences, and film. I'm also an educator, and think of myself as a storyteller and world creator. The projects that excite me the most are deeply collaborative and are usually highly stylized and a little weird, especially since I love mixing ideas from disparate sources to create something magical and new.

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out it needed to immediately be either postponed or cancelled?

“Gallery Secrets” with Chalk Repertory Theatre and the Los Angeles Natural History Museum

(Halei): I was mentoring students and beginning to source and fabric shop for a production of Sweeney Todd at Cal State LA when we were shut down. I was also beginning the design phase for the Getty Villa summer show. This year the Troubies (Troubadour Theatre Company) were going to be performing our new original musical LIZAstrata (think Los Vegas Liza Minnelli meets Aristophanes' Lysistrata meets the Troubies). Thankfully I had just wrapped shooting on a film and closed the show Earthquakes In London at Rogue Machine right before the world turned upside down.

“How The Princh Stole Christmas” with Troubadour Theatre Company

(SB): Here is the link to my review of the multimedia “Earthquakes on London” at Rogue Machine which examined the effects of global warming.

How were the shutdowns communicated with the cast and production team?

George Takei in “Allegiance” with East West Players and the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center

(Halei): For Sweeney, we heard in our production meeting, two days before the Stay-At-Home order. The Liza news came at the end of March. We all saw it coming, but I was really hoping it would still manage to go on. The world could really use some more Troubie joy about now. It was pretty crushing. At this point, we are looking at postponements for both of those, and thankfully not cancellations.

(SB): I really loved all the outrageous costumes you designed for the Troubies “A Christmas Carole King” which I saw at the El Portal last December.

What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?

(Halei): The whole rest of my year is now in flux, since no one really knows when we will be allowed to gather together again to experience live theatre in a group setting. I'm just trying to keep all my fingers and toes crossed that we can make stories for the world again before the year is out.

“Hairy Ape” with Odyssey Theatre Ensemble

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Halei): Art is always alive in my home. More than half of my apartment is actually a costume shop, so I'm surrounded by fabrics and my tools. I've been able to keep busy by making hundreds of masks from my eclectic stock of fabrics, and have done a few costume challenges that have proven to be quite fun. I'm trying to curb my use of social media.... somewhat. That is especially true when I am designing and creating costumes for shows.

I'm also feeding my need to make Art for others right now by making a mural for my building on the wall of our little garden.

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Halei): Chin up, loves. The world is going to need us more than ever when we are allowed to meet again. Just keep that passion alive in your heart.

You can find my work on Instagram HaleiParkerDesign and me at HaleiPie.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.


Jessica-Lynn-Johnson-Soaring-Solo

ISOLATE.MEDITATE.CREATE WITH JESSICA LYNN JOHNSON - STAY AT HOME DAYS 43 - 49

Everyday of the Stay at Home mandate of the COVID-19 crisis, Jessica Lynn Johnson, BEST NATIONAL SOLO ARTIST WINNER, invites you to create your one person play through her guided meditation and visualization. She encourages you to isolate, meditate, and create as an artistic community EVERY DAY as we are in the STAY AT HOME mode.

Day 43: Recalling a time when our mental, physical, spiritual or emotional health was compromised.

Day 44: Recalling our rock bottom as well our peak time in our lives.

Day 45: Recalling a meaningful moment of celebration in our lives.

Day 46: Calling to mind our biggest fan and supporter.

Day 47: Calling to mind our Fathers or Father Figures.

Day 48: Calling to mind our Mothers, Mother Figures or Mother Nature.

Day 49: Calling to mind our "Chosen Family".

Jessica Lynn Johnson, recipient of BEST NATIONAL SOLO ARTIST AWARD, is the Founder & CEO of Soaring Solo LLC, a company dedicated solely to the Direction & Development of one person plays. Jessica is passionate about the transformational power of solo theatre and has aided in the creation of over 100 solo shows (and still going strong)! Visit www.JessicaLynnJohnson.com for more information on Jessica's work Directing and Developing 1 Person Plays.


 


Center Theatre Group is now accepting applications for the 2021 Dorothy and Richard E. Sherwood Award!

Center Theatre Group's $10,000 Dorothy and Richard E. Sherwood Award for theatre artists is given annually to nurture innovative and adventurous theatre artists working in Los Angeles. Two additional finalists will each receive a $2,000 honorarium.

The Sherwood Award nurtures the selected artists and invites them to engage in a professional relationship with Center Theatre Group. Sherwood Awardees demonstrate leadership qualities, push existing boundaries, and are dedicated to improving the future of their respective artistic fields. Artists are not limited by title, role, or genre, but they must have a relationship to contemporary performance rooted in theatre.

Originally created in 1996 as an annual fund to support innovative, adventurous theatre artists from Los Angeles, the Sherwood Award was established in memory of Dorothy and Richard E. Sherwood. Both of the Sherwoods were patrons of the arts with a special appreciation for the energy and talent of artists at a catalytic moment in their career who are vanguards in theatre. Richard Sherwood was president of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and president and then chairman of Center Theatre Group’s Board of Directors from 1980 until his death in 1993. Dorothy Sherwood created the award to honor her husband and helped shepherd the award process since its inception before her passing in 2018. The award is endowed by the Sherwood family and honors the Sherwoods’ passionate commitment to theatre.

2021 Sherwood Award Applications

The application for the 2021 Sherwood Award is now live. The deadline for the initial application is June 17, 2020 at 12pm. Select candidates will be invited to submit full applications. Full applications, along with letters of recommendation and work sample material, will be due no later than August 14, 2020. The awardee will be announced at the LA STAGE Alliance Ovation Awards.

APPLY HERE

For more information or any questions about the Sherwood Award, please contact Sherwood [at] ctgla [dot] org.



COVID-19 Theater Series: Rogue Machine's Journey Beyond Adversity - An Interview with John Perrin Flynn


Leading one of L.A.’s most prestigious theatre companies for twelve years, John Perrin Flynn has nurtured Rogue Machine from the seed of an idea into a group of over 300 artists with an impressive array of accolades and awards. Most recently, he helmed two epic productions, the American premiere of Tom Morton-Smith’s Oppenheimer and the west coast premiere of Mike Bartlett’s Earthquakes in London. John received the LA Weekly “Career Achievement Award,” just one of over one hundred awards during his tenure with the company. He was the executive producer and director of Lifetime’s award-winning series Strong Medicine and has produced two other series and 14 television movies or miniseries, including the Emmy nominated Burden of Proof. John took time from his busy schedule to interview in April 2020.


When did Rogue Machine First Begin? Were you involved from the start? Who/what/where was it founded?

John Perrin Flynn:  Our inaugural production was in 2008. The prior year, I had happened to read a new play by a young playwright who was looking for a director. The play was called Lost and Found and the playwright was John Pollono. As soon as I read it, I knew that I had to direct it. We ran it at the Lounge Theatre. Later that year, I directed the West Coast premiere of Craig Lucas's Small Tragedy at the Odyssey Theatre. Afterwards, I was invited to pitch plays at a couple of local venues. By then, John Pollono was working on another new play. I had also begun to work with Henry Murray, developing his Tree Fall; and I quickly learned that none of the companies that I was approaching were interested in producing new work.

Cast of "Pocatello" - Photo by John Perrin Flynn

I brought together three disparate groups: theater friends I had made during my time as a television producer; theater friends I had made doing the two plays I had recently directed; and theater friends from the time I was artistic director of Theater Exchange in North Hollywood. We all felt that there were already too many theaters in Los Angeles. At the same time, there seemed to be a need for one which would produce new work and the edgier kind of new work which was then coming out of Chicago, New York, and London. In early 2008, the opportunity to share the Theatre/Theater space on Pico Boulevard opened up and we decided to take the leap.

Ron Bottitta and Tucker Smallwood in "The Sunset Limited" - Photo by John Perrin Flynn

How about a brief timeline of changes at they occurred?

JPF:  We began running our monthly salon “Rant and Rave,” which has continued to be one of our most popular programs. We converted a classroom at the space into a second smaller stage. Our programming for that stage brought us a great deal of attention. We opened Cormac McCarthy's The Sunset Limited with Tucker Smallwood and Ron Bottitta. Stephanie Kerley Schwartz designed the small one-room urban apartment set that worked brilliantly. The show became an LA Times Critics’ Choice and ran for five months. We modified that set and opened John Pollono’s third play as a late-night show. It was Small Engine Repair, which ran for six months until we had to move it to open Joel Drake Johnson's Four Places, for which we received our first Ovation Award for Best Production.

Small Engine Repair swept the Los Angeles Award season, winning best production and many other awards. Our fifth season brought us the long-running hit Dirty Filthy Love Story by Rob Mersola and our first collaborations with playwrights Samuel Hunter and Enda Walsh. The sixth season brought us Pollono’s Lost Girls and Kemp Powers’ One Night in Miami, which became our largest box office hit ever. It ended up having multiple productions around the world, including at the Donmar Warehouse in England. We closed that season with Christopher Shinn’s Dying City, which won us our second Ovation award for best production. The eighth season was an abbreviated season because rent increases forced us out - but not before we did our second Sam Hunter play, A Permanent Image. We moved to The Met Theatre in our ninth season and opened with a strong season of multi-award nominated productions, including Hunter’s Pocatello, and Greg Keller’s Honky and Dutch Masters.

Shari Gardner Desean, Kevin Terry, and Jelani Blunt in "Les Blancs" - Photo by John Perrin Flynn

Our tenth season featured the first ever professional production of Lorraine Hansberry’s Les Blancs in Los Angeles, as well as a collaboration with the Getty Villa of a modern-day refugee version of Aeschylus’ The Suppliant Women.

We were forced to move once again during our twelfth season, but not before we produced the American premiere of Dionna Michelle Daniel’s American Saga: Gunshot Medley Part I. We moved to the Electric Lodge in Venice and in the fall, where we opened Tom Morton-Smith’s Oppenheimer and Joe Gifford's Finks. We closed our latest season with the world premiere productions of Disposable Necessities by Neil McGowan (an LA Times Critics’ Choice) and Mike Bartlett’s Earthquakes in London.

Over the past few months, how has COVID-19 impacted your theater?

JPF:  We were fortunate that we had closed the twelfth season in early March. At that time, we weren’t sure if we would open again until July. Now we have no idea when theaters will be allowed to reopen and we don’t know what the final damage to the economy will be. Fundraising may be more difficult. We understand our existence is imperiled; but all of us, Rogue Machine’s Board and staff, are determined to survive. There is a proverb that “Adversity creates opportunity.” Many theaters are attempting to build an online audience during this period of isolation. We will be offering some programming as well.

Corey Dorris and Josh Zuckerman in "Dutch Masters" - Photo by John Perrin Flynn

Are you doing anything right now to keep your live theater going? Are you streaming shows? Having virtual meetings? Are you planning for your next show when you reopen?

JPF:  We have most of our next season in place. We will open with a world premiere production of Justin Tanner’s Little Theatre, directed by Lisa James and starring Jennie O’Hara. We are also planning to produce the American premiere of Timothy Daly’s Man in the Attic, with French and Vanessa Stewart and Rob Nagle.

I am participating in weekly meetings with LA area artistic directors to see what we can do collectively, now and in the future, when theaters reopen.

John Pollono, Jon Bernthal, Josh Helman, and Michael Redfield in "Small Engine Repair" - Photo by John Perrin Flynn

What do you think will be the impact of COVID-19 on live theater in general in Los Angeles? Do you forsee any permanent changes?

JPF:  I suspect that some organizations will not be able to survive this shutdown, particularly if they have leases and rent to pay. I think it might be a long time before things return to a semblance of how they were. Some people that were key to how intimate theatre operated may be forced to take up other careers.

What do you need right now to keep going forward? What would you like from the theater public?

JPF:  Funding. I am concerned about our employees. We have applied for the SBA paycheck protection loan, but the funding ran out before we were approved. If more funding is forthcoming, we will be able to offer some employment to the staff, all of whom have been laid off. I want our theater public to stay safe and come out of this healthy, and hungry for the common bonds that live theater encourages.

Joshua Bitton, Burl Moseley, and Jennifer Pollono in "Dirty Filthy Love Story" - Photo by John Perrin Flynn

What are some of your future plans?

JPF:  We plan to do some online programming, which includes a joint project called “Common Ground” with The Road Theatre. We may also stream some live readings and something with “Rant and Rave.” In addition to the plays that I mentioned, we are hoping to do another Samuel D. Hunter play; and we are reading a number of new plays during this forced hiatus.


This article first appeared in Splash Worldwide.



Save Your Local Arts District - NoHo Arts District


This is a guest post by Lisa Bianconi


I was born and raised in the Valley and have seen North Hollywood transform from a bit scary (but always fun) to an eclectic, vibrant, creative neighborhood - a real one where folks actually know each other. Back in 2000, my mother and I joined forces to run NoHoArtsDistrict.com, and over the years the theatre owners, visiting companies, acting classes and everyone who uses our theatres have become our friends. When we saw the 18 NoHo Theatres struggling to save their creative homes due to the pandemic shut down, we had to figure out some ways to help.

Together we’ve created “Save NoHo Theatres from COVID-19” Go Fund Me campaign. We are going to do whatever is in our power to keep the NoHo Theatres alive.

As with most LA theatres, the NoHo theatres survive month to month in order to create their shows because they’re not government supported and cannot sustain even a short-term shut down. Without shows, classes, rentals and ticket sales theatres cannot survive. This has an effect on the entire community because without the theatre patrons, actors and crew, restaurants, bars, apartments and other local businesses lose revenue. Without NoHo theatres, there will be no NoHo Arts District.

“Why did residents and businesses move into the area? Because it’s an arts district,” says Nancy Bianconi, publisher of NoHoArtsDisrict.com. “If 18 out of 22 theatres close, this area will have to be called North Hollywood again. Theatres have a huge economic impact on restaurants, bars, apartments, hotels, other creative industries, local businesses, etc.”

Here are the owners of Brews Brothers, one of NoHo’s beloved craft beer bars, who chose their location because of the artsy neighborhood vibe.

But what makes NoHo theatres important to the neighborhood is:

  • NoHo has 22 theatres in one square mile.
  • NoHo had the highest concentration of theatres outside of New York City.
  • NoHo theatres present more than 500 shows per year, including world premieres.
  • NoHo has 35 acting classes held any given night.
  • More than 20,000 people enjoy NoHo's shows throughout the year.
  • NoHo theatres are an economic multiplier for local restaurants, bars, local businesses, etc.

Theatre goers spend on average of extra $32 above the theatre ticket price for dinner, drinks, and retail purchases.

But NoHo wasn’t always how it is today. In the 90s, it was the theatres who helped rebuild the blighted and crime-ridden North Hollywood neighborhood that we now call NoHo. Theatres were the impetus for the creation of the NoHo Arts District and attracted other theatres and creative industry folks as well as new developments, restaurants, bars, apartments, and hotels.

Meet The Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre. They are one of the founding members and longest-running theatre company in the NoHo Arts District.

“As one of the founders of the NoHo Theatre District, I have witnessed the most incredible blossoming of the entire neighborhood,” said Ed Gaynes, owner of three NoHo theatres. “When a few of us began opening theatres in the many empty storefronts, the area was a wasteland. No foot traffic, no shops, practically no restaurants even. The theatres attracted the people, the crowds flowing into our theatres attracted the restaurants, art galleries and shops. Ultimately, it all attracted the flood of new residents who poured into the district.”

But NoHo theatres are more than a place for shows. It is a place to practice your craft and make friends in a city of 10+ million people.

THE BOTTOM LINE
The goal of raising $108,194 will allow theatres to survive into the summer when the productions and audiences return, and NoHo’s entertainment and nightlife scene will be booming again.

WHERE CONTRIBUTIONS GO:
ACME Comedy Theatre, ACME Comedy Club
Actors Workout Studio, Actors Workout Theater B
Avery Schreiber Playhouse
Brick House Theatre
Group Rep Theatre Main Stage, Group Rep Theatre Upstairs
Loft Ensemble Mainstage, Loft Ensemble Sawyer’s Playhouse
Secret Rose Theatre
Theatre 68 Flex, Theatre 68 Main Stage
The Sherry Theater
Theatre Unlimited (T.U. Studios)
The Whitmore-Lindley Theater Center Theatre #1, Whitmore Lindley Theater Center Theatre #2
Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre

ABOUT THE NOHO ARTS DISTRICT
The NoHo Arts District is one of Los Angeles' eclectic and walkable neighborhoods - an enclave of all things artistic. This one-square-mile performing arts community is filled with 20+ live, professional theaters, which is the highest concentration outside of New York City. NoHo is also the hip hop dance capital with studios and choreographers that create the moves we see on TV and in film and all over Instagram. NoHo makes a lot of music and boasts the largest amount of recording studios west of the Mississippi with musicians from all genres having recorded in the district. NoHo was the first neighborhood in the Valley, it has become a Metro hub, and attracts new talent, creative businesses and visitors alike. Visit NoHoArtsDistrict.com for more information.



OC Theatre Guild establishes new relief fund for theatre artists


The OC Theatre Guild is one of Orange County's newest non-profit arts service organizations. They are now taking on the admirable task of raising funds for Orange County theatre artists who have been significantly financially impacted by the recent closures of theatres and performing arts venues across the county.

In mid-March, a small committee under the OC Theatre Guild set about the task of seeing what could be done to help raise money for local theatre artists. The guild drew inspiration from similar relief funds established by writer and activist Ijeoma Oluo and her Seattle Artists Relief Fund, and the Chicago Artist Relief Fund. Remarkably, by the end of the month, the OCTG rolled out the OC Theatre Artist Relief Fund, specifically designed for theatre artists affected by venue closures due to the government mandated quarantine for COVID-19.

Amanda DeMaio, OC Theatre Guild President, shared “while the virus caused the theatres to close, it also forced closures of many other venues where our artists work. Many of these artists have multiple jobs which normally afford them the flexibility they need to continue to be able to perform in smaller theatres and other non-union theatre jobs, and almost overnight all of that was shut down. While some businesses may be able to re-open soon, many of the jobs that artists rely on are in the entertainment and hospitality arena, and they are still closed."

The fund was thoughtfully constructed to be available to all those theater artists who had to stop work and are not getting paid, including those who were on contract, part time employees and those working on a stipend which was not paid.

"As part of the theatre community, and as an individual member of the OC Theatre Guild, I'm excited to play a role in this kind of fund raising. The OC theatre Guild serves such a vital part of the arts community, and I'm seeing first-hand the difference we're making with the funds we're raising," says Katie Chidester. "Everytime we're able to send out a relief check, we see the difference it makes to those who we're helping."

"When they get a check, they (relief fund recipients) reach back to us with such gratitude and humility. They are so grateful for getting the financial help, and even more grateful that in many cases, we've been able to get the funds to them just in time" says DeMaio.

Angela Griswold, one of the recipients in the first round of disbursements shared on social media “I received an unexpected and incredibly generous donation from [OCTG] just yesterday, that’s going to help more than they know until unemployment clears and we can receive additional government stimulus, etc. I’ve worked with many of their board members throughout the years, from community theatre productions outside of high school when I was just 18 to professional contracts and gigs. They are an assemblage of some of the best, kindest artists out there, and in this time of job uncertainty/hold for performers, I simply can’t thank them enough.”

Jazmin Pollinger, a relief fund recipient and stage manager who has worked at many OC theaters, reached out to the Guild to say “This money will help me pay my bills and make my rent this month! Thank you for starting this fund and helping as many artists as you can. I hope one day to be able to help people, like you all are.”

Hoping to get additional exposure for the relief fund, a number of OC Theatre Guild members have supported the OCTG by participating in a promotional video to share online. Local actress and donor, Michelle Miller-Day who urged for donations by reminding people of the stakes, “I think it’s really important to give back, when I can. I’m looking forward to going to the next show, to feed my soul again. Because I think we all need it now.”

Donor April Skinner shared "I don’t join groups, and I'm not a member of the OC Theatre Guild - but I don’t have to be a member to know what they are doing is important. These people need help, and I'm lucky enough to be in a position to help - so that’s what I do. I help."

Right now, the Guild has more applications for need than available funds, which is why the Guild is continuing to reach out to the greater Orange County community to ask for donations of any amount. "Our goal is to continue to help as many theatre artists as possible" shared DeMaio, "The assistance we can provide is based solely on the amount of donations we receive. This is why we are asking for help! Help us get the word out to the community, not only for artists but for donors too. The more donors we get, the more artists we can help, and we already have a waiting list of artists that have applied for assistance."

As donations come in from individuals, matching corporate gifts, and local
businesses, the Relief Fund Committee for OCTG meets weekly to make
disbursements to artists. Applications are reviewed objectively by a panel of volunteer board members from OC Theatre Guild. 100% of contributions will be allocated in support of the artists who apply to the fund. No volunteer receives any percentage. Although priority will be given to artists who reside in Orange County, artists in the surrounding areas are welcome to apply as well. Currently relief checks are being granted with a minimum of $100 and a maximum of $1000 to each individual artist.

Donations to the OC Theatre Guild Relief Fund are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law (EIN #83-3995441) and as mentioned on their website, the Guild is committed to keeping this relief fund open as long as artists have financial needs related to the outbreak of COVID-19 and as long as donations are being
received.

To donate, please visit OCTheatreGuild.org or directly to their secure donations page HERE.

For more information please contact Jeff Lowe, OC Theatre Guild Council member
via email at council [at] OCTheatreGuild [dot] org or by phone at (657) 549-4707.