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.



Spotlight Series: Meet Jennifer Chang, a Director, Actor and Educator Who Helped Found Chalk Repertory Theatre


This Spotlight focuses on Jennifer Chang, a director, actor and educator who helped found Chalk Repertory Theatre, a production company which matches plays to site-specific locations around Los Angeles. I first worked with Jennifer on Chalk Rep’s production of Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan which featured a multicultural cast, performed outdoors throughout the lawns and courtyards at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library in the West Adams neighborhood of Los Angeles where the pre-eminent collection of Oscar Wilde materials in the world is housed.


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

Jennifer Chang (Jennifer): I am a director, actor and educator.  I helped found Chalk Repertory Theatre and am currently a Visiting Professor at Pomona College and will return to UCSD this fall and continue my role as Head of Undergraduate Acting. I staged Chalk Rep’s immersive productions at site-specific locations around Los Angeles because I believe architecture affects human psyche, and I’m curious as to how unconventional spaces can illuminate and unpack story, especially since storytelling provides opportunities for communion and conversation for promoting empathy in order to inspire action and change.

The cast of Chalk Rep's production of Oscar Wilde's "Lady Windermere's Fan" directed by Jennifer Chang included (from left): Feodor Chin, Scott Keiji Takeda, Allie Jennings, Teri Reeves, Owiso Odera, Amielynn Abellera, Brian Staten, Tess Lina, Peter Wylie, and George Wyhinny
Photo credit: Shari Barrett.

I also believe it is vital to tell stories that challenge mainstream ideas, hold the door to opportunity open to diverse groups of artists, and I hope to dismantle notions of elitism in theater while pursuing rigor and excellence through fun and artful theatricality. I love language – its syncopation, musicality and power. And as a child of immigrants, I am interested in investigating what it means to be an American.

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

(Jennifer): We (the theatre company and I) were in the midst of casting The Time of Your Life by William Saroyan at Antaeus Theatre Company when the shelter-in-place orders and subsequent shutdowns were implemented.  While we held out hoping that we might be able to continue or postpone, since rehearsal was scheduled to begin at the end of April, it became evident that the show was not going to be able to proceed as planned and the cast and production team were informed via Zoom, phone calls and emails.

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

Jennifer Chang in "director mode"

(Jennifer): Its future is currently under discussion by the artistic leadership at Antaeus. The artistic directors and executive director have been absolutely supportive of the show and the vision and want to make sure they are responding to the science and information our state and city leaders are providing and with the longevity of the theatre company in mind. In general, I think only the institutions can really respond to this question, not the individual artists, but even then, it's difficult to predict what will or won't be happening in the next year or so.

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

(Jennifer): I was in early talks for various projects but I have not had follow-up discussions as would be the norm. All institutions seem to be in a wait-and-see stage.

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

(Jennifer): I'm still teaching my classes via Zoom and the on-line academic portal Sakai. Zoom has been the tool used for play readings that I've been and will be a part of in the future. Personally, I've been using this time to do many domestic projects that I enjoy that my schedule usually doesn't allow for, including baking, knitting, crafting, and doing my part to help make masks as I think my current state of watchfulness is best soothed by doing with my hands rather than the usual art-making. I've been asked to be a part of others' projects that utilize smart phones but have not initiated projects myself. I think I'm in a grieving period right now and am taking a break from my own personal theatre projects. I'm happy to be contributing to others' work.

Vietnamese refugees hit the road to see America in "Vietgone", directed by Jennifer Chang for East/West Players at the David Henry Hwang Theater at the Union Center of the Arts

(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?

(Jennifer): We will need to be patient and resilient, and whatever one needs to do to survive the wait is important and good. You can make art or not make anything and that is absolutely alright. If you feel like doing and making something that's awesome, and if you don't feel like doing anything at all, that's awesome too! Theatre has survived multiple pandemics so it will be back as soon as we are able, but the road back will require patience and adaptation and we are all coping in different ways and on different timelines. I think practicing patience for each other will be vital.

We are incredibly lucky to live in an age where content can reach us in our homes, and food and other necessities can be delivered to our doors. My family and I are incredibly privileged to be able to partake in these modern luxuries and to be citizens in a wonderful state and city where science and data are appreciated and heeded. While it is a real challenge to be separated from the various communities we are accustomed to being a part of, I am so very thankful that my family is safe and well and that our quarantine can help our larger community.

Being a theatre practitioner is an incredible training ground for understanding collaboration, care and empathy for others. While our theatre brethren are hard hit in the repercussions of separation and shutdown, we are also uniquely able to understand how our contributions fit in communion with others. A big thank you and virtual hug to everyone!


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Simon Levy, a Director and Producer Who Calls The Fountain Theatre His Home


This Spotlight focuses on Simon Levy who began his directing career in San Francisco, then moved to Los Angeles in 1990 where he has been the Producing Director for the Fountain Theatre since 1993. His directing and producing credits are numerous, with over 100 productions in Los Angeles and San Francisco that have won more than 200 awards. His journey has been blessed with having wonderful mentors along the way, which has enabled the talented director to earn his living doing theatre and earned him great respect from the entire LA Theatre community.


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

Simon Levy (Simon): I started off as a sax player, but when I got bored with some of my music classes at City College of San Francisco, I decided to take an acting class. I immediately became friends with two very talented dynamic actors, Harry Groener and Peter Kors, who are still friends to this day, and because of their encouragement, I fell in love with acting and switched my major. Then it was on to San Francisco State, a national tour doing Hamlet with the rag-tag/caravanning San Francisco Shakespeare Company, a season at the Alley Theatre as an apprentice actor, then back to San Francisco State to finish my degree, where I fell in love with directing.

Simon Levy as Hamlet with the San Francisco Shakespeare Company

My friend, Michael Lynch, a playwright, was having his plays produced at the One Act Theatre Company, and he and I became a playwright/director team which allowed me to really earn my chops as a director. At the same time, I worked at Steve Silver's "Beach Blanket Babylon" for 7 years as everything from House Manager to Stage Manager to General Manager, where I learned to appreciate the business side of theatre.

Eventually I ended up in LA in 1990 and the Fountain Theatre in 1993, where I've been ever since. I've been very fortunate to have wonderful mentors along the way and to earn my living doing theatre.

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

(Simon): I was literally days away from going into rehearsals for Steven Levenson's magnificent play If I Forget at the Fountain with a really wonderful cast and creative team.

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

Stephen Sachs and Simon Levy at The Fountain Theatre

(Simon): It was pretty obvious to Stephen Sachs and me at the beginning of the week of March 9th that our lives were about to change, so we started preparing. We were supposed to have a meeting with the cast and designers of If I Forget with our consultant, Rabbi Daniel Bouskila (who was one of my consultants on The Chosen) to start prepping for the background work on the play. We cancelled that meeting out of a growing concern about being in the same room together. Then on March 12th, we made the decision to suspend the production of Human Interest Story and rehearsals for If I Forget. We really wanted to do both in person, with everyone in the room. But, again, out of a heightened sense of precaution and uncertainty, we decided to communicate with everyone by email. By then it was pretty obvious where the news cycle was going.

Bill Brochtrup and Tim Cummings in "Daniel's Husband", directed by Simon Levy at the Fountain Theatre

(SB): I am so happy I was able to attend the opening weekend of Human Interest Story and have featured Spotlight interviews previously on the show’s two stars: Rob Nagle and Tanya Alexander. I also interviewed Bill Brochtrup, one of the stars from Daniel’s Husband which you directed last year at the Fountain, which was one of my favorite shows last year.  And I treasure the Make America Kind Again badge you gave to some of us in the audience on opening weekend, and I proudly wear mine every day. It’s an important message, especially right now.

Are plans in place to present those two postponed productions at a future date?

Rob Nagle and Tanya Alexander in "Human Interest Story" at the Fountain Theatre.

(Simon): Both productions are currently suspended, but it's our intention to re-open Human Interest Story and go into rehearsal for If I Forget once we get an All Clear from the City and State. We recognize, of course, that re-opening businesses, especially theatre, will be a helter-skelter, slow rolling out and testing, but we will adjust accordingly. Safety first for our artists and patrons, above all else.

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

(Simon): We have the rights to two very exciting projects, Caryl Churchill's Escaped Alone and Lucy Kirkwood's The Children. Future announcement about all Fountain Theatre productions will be posted at FountainTheatre.com.

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

(Simon): There's a stunning amount of material online right now, from local companies like Impro Theatre to readings by Skylight Theatre and L.A. Theatre Works and others, from Broadway and London, and world theatre from Berlin to Japan, plus all the Zoom meet-ups. So I'm sampling a lot of that, and I like to listen to Broadway musicals. Ironically, I haven't been able to read any plays yet as I feel like the real-life world drama that's unfolding on TV and my news-feeds supplants everything else right now... though I'm starting to feel the urge to dig into the huge backlog of plays sitting on my desktop.

But as much as I appreciate all the online content available right now, you can't hit the ‘pause’ button when you're attending live theatre. I miss that immediacy... that visceral thrill... and the danger of it. But I recognize that we're about to enter a "new" normal, which will include theatre online, because this pandemic has forced us to think/create in different ways, and we have to be aware of and sensitive to those changes. Creativity is about growth and moving into the future, and artists will always find a way to be creative. Who knows, perhaps there's a future for Mask Theatre! One thing I know for certain: We artists are phoenixes and we will blaze anew!

(SB): As always, Simon, thank you for your insightful words and presence in the LA Theatre community. For more information about Simon Levy and his projects, please visit:

SimonLevy.com
FountainTheatre.com
TheGreatGatsbyPlay.com


This article first appeared on Broadway World.


Jessica-Lynn-Johnson-Soaring-Solo

ISOLATE.MEDITATE.CREATE WITH JESSICA LYNN JOHNSON - STAY AT HOME DAYS 36 - 42

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 36: Recalling a betrayal we suffered.

Day 37: Recalling a crowded event or gathering we attended in the past.

Day 38: Exploring our sexuality.

Day 39: Exploring our resentments.

Day 40: Revisiting our childhood home in our minds.

Day 41: Exploring our understanding of God.

Day 42: Recalling a time when we acted as a leader.

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.


Jessica-Lynn-Johnson-Soaring-Solo

ISOLATE.MEDITATE.CREATE WITH JESSICA LYNN JOHNSON - STAY AT HOME DAYS 29 - 35

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 29: Recalling a Best Friend.

Day 30: Recalling our proudest accomplishment.

Day 31: Letting our imaginations carry us into a fantasy.

Day 32: Processing a conflict in our lives.

Day 33: Exploring our purpose.

Day 34: Exploring a leap of faith that we took.

Day 35: Recalling an act of generosity.

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.



Spotlight Series: Meet Actor Bill Wolski on the Ever-So-Fleeting Magic of Live Theatre


This morning as I was compiling my Spotlight Series on Bill Wolski and his equally talented wife Holly Baker Kreiswirth of Little Fish Theatre in San Pedro, Bill shared an amazingly wonderful description of the ever-so-fleeting magic of performing live theatre which brings a playwright’s scripts to life and often unites a cast as life-long friends.

His post centers on his first-hand experience in the Little Fish production of The Country House by Donald Margulies, which was directed by Holly and featured a talented cast of six, including Belinda Howell, Frannie Morrison, Richard Perloff, Maire-Rose Pike, Patrick Vest, and Bill Wolski. His post spoke so clearly to me that I immediately reached out to him, and have been given permission to share his words as a Spotlight Series today.


Bill Wolski: “As a younger, newer actor, closing night was a victory lap. I treated my final performance the way an athlete might treat the waning moments of a lopsided win, where the only thing between them and certain victory were the seconds ticking off the clock. I indulged in pranks, I luxuriated in the final utterance of a favorite line, I let my foot off the gas, I celebrated prematurely.

But as I matured, I learned that the best way to savor a final performance is to go out on top. Stay focused, do what you were trained to do, don’t bask in the spotlight. Don’t let up.

My thoughts take me back to The Country House, which closed one year ago today (in April 2019). I consider it to be my favorite role and my best work. Everyone did everything right in that show. Our director’s vision was bold and gentle, deep and clear. Our cast was talented and cohesive, both onstage and off. Our performances crackled with humor, sizzled with sexual tension, and hummed with vibrant life. Characters picked fights with each other. Deep feelings and long held grudges boiled to the surface and spilled over in full view as these beings struggled and pleaded for acknowledgment of their pain. Real tears of grief and heartache fell on the stage and in the audience alike. We were all-in, every night, and on the day we closed, I was melancholy that our time had come to an end.

The cast of The Country House at Little Fish Theatre: Back row, left to right: Richard Perloff, Patrick Vest, Bill Wolski. Front row, left to right, Maire-Rose Pike, Frannie Morrison, Belinda Howell. Photo credit: Mickey Elliot

But those emotions did not alter my performance. As much as I may have wanted to savor every line, beat, and look as I performed them for the last time, we still had an obligation to an audience full of people who were seeing the show for the first time. We also had an obligation to the script and its playwright, our director, each other, and frankly, ourselves. We had all put in so much work, and we had to see it through one last time. It had been such a beautiful experience; it would be criminal to diminish it now.

Every actor develops an ability to seemingly detach and step out of one’s body to take stock of a moment onstage and make objective evaluations. I relied on that gift to take in and bear witness to these final moments of The Country House as they were acted out. No line was hammed, no moment onstage languid, no scenery chewed. Like a driver winning his last race, I watched each urgent moment whiz by, wishing I could capture them forever, but hellbent on keeping the pedal to the floor and doing what I had come here to do.

And that was it. We crossed the finish line, and when the show ended, it disappeared. It wasn’t recorded for posterity or archival purposes, wasn’t preserved or immortalized in any way. It just...ceased to exist. As one of the characters in the show put it, it went “the way of all ephemera.”

But it was here. It existed. And it was our little band, our village, who brought it into being. And I loved it. And every single time we touched it, from the beginning of the first rehearsal to the end of the final performance, we did it justice.”

Holly Baker Kreiswirth

Holly Baker Kreiswirth: "Everything aligned in this show: words, actors, designers. I was incredibly lucky to have found the script while browsing through Samuel French, lucky again to have had it chosen for production by LFT, and then won the lottery with this cast and team that put their all into this love letter of a show. Thank you for all of your thoughtful talent — you make my heart happy."

Holly and Bill also want to share the latest news from Little Fish Theatre on their online Virtual Stage series:

Little Fish Theatre (LFT) is hosting a Virtual Stage where company members are posting various forms of content. Including musicals, songwriting, comedy bits, shorts films and more. There's even an ongoing web series happening with material from legendary television writer Ken Levine (M*A*S*H, Cheers, Frasier), prolific playwright Rich Orloff, best-selling author Syrie James (The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen). Holly and Bill invite you to join LFT Company Members and enjoy a full slate of live stream readings, an original web series, classes, and interviews which are now available on Little Fish Theatre’s Virtual Stage website:   LittleFishTheatre.org/pond/virtual


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Steven Sabel's Twist On The Trade: Get Ready For Your New World


The world has forever changed. There is no doubt about that. The world changes all the time. The world of entertainment changes all the time. The most successful artists have been the ones who have been able to consistently adapt to those changes, adjust their approach, redirect their strategy, and provide the new required content.

So much has been written about the necessity of approaching your career as the business it must be in order to succeed. Look around you right now. Take notice of the businesses that are successfully adapting to change, adjusting their approach, redirecting their strategies, and providing the new required content. Learn from them so that you will be ready to hit the ground running when auditions open up again.

Auditions will open again. If you don’t believe that, then you should turn your focus right now to locating work in the least expensive, most attractive suburban community you can find.

If you do believe auditions will open up again, then you better get ready for your new world.

None of us can know exactly yet what the new world is going to look like. History tells us that entertainment will still be a commodity, no matter what the planet throws at us.

Auditions will open again and once they do, it will mean work for every artist in every field of this craft - unless they’re not ready. You are your commodity.

Get Ready.

Here are some things you should be doing right now to get ready.

First, get healthy.

That’s actually the easiest one. We all know the hours can get crazy when we’re working on a project, especially if we are also working another job. That schedule presents far too many excuses for eating random crap at random times and washing it down with cocktails at whatever is open and still serving both.

Not now.

Get healthy. Learn to prepare healthy food for yourself. It is a life skill that will serve you throughout your life and future career in anything. Make a commitment to yourself to treat your commodity better. Prepare your product for the showroom floor.

After you get healthy, get in shape.

If you’re in front of the audience, you need to realize it’s an aesthetic art. Look the part. If your roles are the “I’ve been sitting on my sofa eating my own homemade baked goods during quarantine” look, then rage on! Undoubtedly, the way that art mimics life, there will someday soon be auditions for those roles. Go for it.

If the audition you want is a “dashing leading role,” you had better get ready for your new world. The most beautiful aspect of this truth is in the also strong truth that most people will not take this simple advice, thus only enhancing the advantage of those who will.

Those who use this time to perfect their look for the roles they wish to have, will have far greater success than ever before in obtaining auditions for those roles when auditions open again. It just stands to reason. A lot of the business is about beating the odds.

Next, get educated.

The internet is an incredible thing. You can pretty much learn at least something about just about anything. Learn how to stitch a tear in a costume. It’s a very valuable skill that may save your own bum from being exposed some day. Learn how a camera operates so that you know better how to operate in front of a camera. Wow. Learn more about the details of how certain microphones work so you will know how to use them better. Learn how to use power tools so you can help build a set some day. Or maybe not.

There are so many things about our craft you don’t know that you could use this time to at least dabble into right now. Learn to edit your own reel. Woah, what?
Read scripts. Stop scrolling through everyone’s clever memes and photos of their homemade baked goods, and read some scripts. Read all types of scripts: plays, teleplays, radio plays, screenplays. Find a better understanding of the use of direction in the script. Discover roles or types of roles you want to play. Read them out loud to keep your face, tongue, lips, voice, and diaphragm from atrophy. Use your tools, or you will be rusty when your opportunity comes. Get on your feet and read some scripts!

Learn an entire new set of monologues to use for the new world of new auditions you are preparing for. Throw out that old piece your college theatre professor helped you perfect in your old world and learn a new piece. You’re a new artist preparing for your new world. This is a perfect time to refresh and renew your vigor for pursuing your craft by exploring new monologues to perfect.

Sharpen your skills and hone your edge. Remember what it was that made you want to pursue this craft as a career. Remember what inspired you to throw yourself into it. This is a time that has been thrust upon you. You get to decide how to use it. Or not.

Auditions will open up.

Get ready. Get healthy. Get in shape. Get educated. Read scripts. Learn new monologues. Remember why you’re here, and throw yourself into it.

Get ready for your new world.



CONNECT THRU CREATIVITY - APRIL 29 - May 6, 2020

 

Join solo artist Diana Varco (IG @dianavarco) as she leads a daily art therapy exercise to Connect Thru Creativity and draw your feelings into the language of weather!

LIVE at 11am PST on IG @dianavarco

In this 10-15 min experience, you’ll create a snap-shot sketch of your current inner world and also have the freedom to use art to articulate anxiety, frustration, joy, etc - really any emotion under the sun. This exercise is also great to do with loved ones and children to open up dialogue on our own unique and collective experiences during this unprecedented time. Mental health experts agree that being able to label our emotions, helps to support managing mental health.

No need to stick to just weather. Anything goes in your 'Weather Report' - so draw away!

Like weather - emotions can change minute by minute or stay for much longer than we'd prefer. Track your journey by joining Diana daily and writing down the description of your picture afterwards - at the end of stay at home orders, we will have a story of our experience!

This past week for Diana saw complex clouds, the sun and moon acting as stabilizing factors, and the present suspended between a difficult past and hopeful future.

Catch up on the past week of Connect Thru Creativity using the links below:

April 29th:

April 30:

May 1:

May 2:

May 3:

May 4:

May 5:

May 6th:

This art therapy exercise was first taught to Diana at the The Actors Fund - a vital support network for individuals in entertainment. Though Diana is not affiliated with Actors Fund, she remains an ardent supporter of their work. If you’d like to learn more or donate please visit: ActorsFund.org

Mental health matters and you do too! If you need immediate mental health support, contact Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741 (US/Canada) or 85258 (UK) - visit CrisisTextLine.org to learn more.


Diana Varco is an LA based actress, comedian, and storyteller.

Diana is the writer/performer of Shattered - a dark comedy solo show that explores dating, dysfunction, and sexual devastation, as well as the complex path of trauma recovery. Fresh off a 25 show run of Shattered at Edinburgh Fringe, Diana is excited to share her use of the arts to support conversations on mental health! Directed by Jessica Lynn Johnson, Shattered premiered at the 2017 Whitefire Theatre SoloFest and went on to the Hollywood Fringe Festival, Outdoor Voices Festival, United Solo off-Broadway, and LA Women’s Theatre Festival.

Learn more about Diana at DianaVarco.com.
Learn more about Jessica Lynn Johnson and her free solo show class: JessicaLynnJohnson.com.



Save Our Local Theatre - Whitefire Theatre


This is a guest post by Diana Varco


The Whitefire Theatre is a beautiful, 84-seat, state-of-the-art theatre in Sherman Oaks. With the support of Artistic Director Bryan Rasmussen and solo theatre teacher Jessica Lynn Johnson, creator of the Soaring Solo artistic community, hundreds - if not thousands - of people have been able to develop and share their stories at Whitefire Theatre. To me, it's so much more than a theatre - it's an artistic home.

I am one of those performers and am now an internationally touring artist - having completed a 25 show run of my solo show Shattered at The Edinburgh Fringe in 2019. As a result, I also now utilize my story to support discussions on mental health and trauma recovery - two themes I explore in Shattered.

Hands down, I would not have started this journey, had it not been for Whitefire Theatre. Whitefire is where I first saw Kimleigh Smith powerfully perform her critically acclaimed solo show T-O-T-A-L-L-Y about transforming her trauma; and, with Kimleigh's loving support, I slowly started to write about transforming mine. Whitefire is where I made the leap to attend Jessica Lynn Johnson’s exceptional (and free!) solo show class on the Whitefire stage - space donated by Artistic Director Bryan Rasmussen. And in 2017, with the expert guidance of my director Jessica Lynn Johnson, the Whitefire Theatre is where I premiered my solo show Shattered at The Whitefire Theatre SoloFest - the largest solo theatre festival on the West Coast.

I return every year to perform Shattered at Whitefire Theatre SoloFest because Bryan creates a festival that is incredibly supportive for the solo artist; but, more so, I return for the community.

With COVID-19 threatening many small businesses, the impact on the arts has been especially painful. Please consider supporting Whitefire Theatre to continue their great work!

Here are three ways to support:

  1. Donate to the GoFundMe campaign: Click Here
  2. Support Whitefire Theatre SoloFest (Jan 9 - March 27) programming or become an on-line member! Find out more by going to www.whitefiretheatre.com
  3. Share your love for Whitefire on social media IG: @Whitefire_theatre, Twitter: @WhitefireThtr, Facebook: Whitefire Theatre

My story is just one of many. I asked fellow artists at Whitefire to weigh in on their journeys and experiences.

These are their stories:

“The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke often of his Vision of a Beloved Community - a community that honors the Dignity and Worth of every Individual with no one left out! The Whitefire Theatre Management and Community masterfully activates that Vision in every show it produces. Whether through a solo or ensemble performance - LA audiences experience subject matter from A to Z - uncensored - with no experience left out - honoring the Dignity and Worth and Creativity of All! Edutainment at its Best! Truly, the Beloved Community in Action!” ~ Candace Carnicelli (Ex. Dir., Common Peace, Center for the Advancement of Nonviolence) / Writer/Performer - Becoming Peace, a One Woman Rhythmic Dramedy about Power, Culture, Violence and Nonviolence

“Having found the Whitefire Theatre, and working with Jessica Lynn Johnson, has emboldened me to pursue all kinds of projects just knowing that there is a supportive and encouraging community of artists there. Solofest, in particular, the largest celebration of solo theatre on the West Coast, is incredibly inspiring and diverse, and offers not only the opportunity to take in these incredible performances, but is pretty much a welcome mat for anyone interested in pursuing an adventure in the theatrical arts. Community is what it is about, I have never experienced such close yet far reaching camaraderie.” ~ Lisa Verlo, Writer/Performer - HOLLYWOODN'T

“The Whitefire Theatre gave me a safe place to perform my solo show. Bryan and the support staff are generous, competent and helpful.” ~ Susan Porter, Writer/Performer - Wake Up Little Susy

“I have been part of The Whitefire Theatre for about 10 years. I've had my original works produced many times. Bryan has been a mentor AND a brother to me. He has truly built a loving supportive creative environment for artists of all levels. I perform all over the country, but I'm happiest at home at The Whitefire because of Bryan and his generous spirit.” ~ Toni Perrotta, Writer/Performer - Here’s What I’m Saying: Life Lessons From An Italian Mama

“Bryan Rasmussen and the team at Whitefire Theatre truly brought my life back to the stage where it always belonged. The chance to bring my shows to life in such a beautiful venue, supported by someone with such a passion for solo-performers and a capable crew...well, it was like being at home.” ~ Heather Dowling, Writer/Performer - Unemployed. Finally. & Fertile

“The theatre's artistic director, Bryan Rasmussen, is a kind, generous soul, a visionary and passionate supporter of solo theatre, which he frequently says is the most challenging of all theatrical expressions for any actor to undertake. The Whitefire has anchored, midwived and given me and my one-woman show, 'Wild At Hart', a home to return to and feel loved and celebrated within. It has also given home to the extraordinary Soaring Solo Theatre Community that Jessica Lynn Johnson created - a tribe of tremendously talented misfits who somehow all fit together in answering the inner call to Tell Their Stories. And the world, all of us as the larger tribe of belonging, need these stories!” ~ Kamakshi Hart, Writer/Performer - Wild At Hart

“The Whitefire Theatre has always had a welcoming, special and deeply creative energy for me. Before I premiered my show this past February, I used to take class here and was always in awe of their solofest shows. I wanted to be a part of it, badly.

Fast forward many moons later, thanks to Jessica Lynn Johnson, Bryan Rasmussen and Brandon Loeser, my show was brought into this world with their solid theatrical production savvy. I had zero worries (which made me worry) they knew me and what I needed and proceeded to produce magic not only for my sold out audience, but for me as well. I’m still in awe of how easy they make it look!” ~ Maeria Pae, Writer/Performer - Ma’s Kitchen

“I have quite a few lovely stories to share. I have had the privilege of performing at the Whitefire for the last 21 years and this place has literally changed my life. I came to LA for a 6 week run with all intentions of returning home to New York City. However, people plan and g-d laughs because instead of returning home, my show got picked up and produced for a six months run and won “BEST SOLO PRODUCTION” that year at the ADA AWARDS. I also had the AMAZING fortune of meeting my husband at The Whitefire theater. This phenomenal place has been my lucky charm. I am eternally grateful!” ~ Pam Levin, Writer/Performer - Tales of Modern Motherhood - Parts I & II

“The Whitefire Theater and the Soaring Solo community taught me to be so much more than just a performer. With their guidance, I’ve learned to value my stories, my voice, and my capacity for storytelling. They’ve empowered me to create, and I will be forever grateful.” ~ Brandon Raman, Writer/Performer - I Can’t Indian Good


Jessica-Lynn-Johnson-Soaring-Solo

ISOLATE.MEDITATE.CREATE WITH JESSICA LYNN JOHNSON - STAY AT HOME DAYS 22 - 28

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 22 - Identifying an Influencer in our lives.

Day 23 - Recalling a moment of Recognition in our lives.

Day 24 - Getting in touch with our feelings of jealousy and envy.

Day 25 - Exploring Coronavirus Covid-19 as a metaphor.

Day 26 - Exploring a coming of age memory.

Day 27 - Identifying an enemy in our lives.

Day 28 - Recalling a time of exploration in our lives.

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.


 


Spotlight Series: Meet Bill Brochtrup Who Rose to Fame on NYPD Blue, L.A. Stages, and is now the Artistic Director of the Antaeus Theatre Company


This Spotlight focuses on Bill Brochtrup who rose to TV stardom as PAA John Irvin on the ABC television drama NYPD Blue and continues to dazzle audiences as an actor, most recently in the Ovation Award-wining Daniel's Husband at the Fountain Theatre, and planning programming for the Antaeus Theatre Company in Glendale as its Artistic Director. And when he can, Bill enjoys traveling around the world and hiking in some of the most beautiful places on Earth.


Fountain Theatre Company's "Daniel's Husband" with Bill Brochtrup and Tim Cummings. Photo by Ed Krieger

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

Bill Brochtrup (Bill): I started working in Los Angles theatre as soon as I got to town in the mid-1980s and that led directly to my work in film and television. But I’ve always returned to the Theatre, first as an actor and more recently as Artistic Director of the Antaeus Theatre Company. I’ve seen LA theatre grow and deepen and thrive, and I’ve been very lucky to experience what a close knit and warm community this is.

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

(Bill): Antaeus had just opened a new production of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, which is an extremely pertinent and timely play. Word of mouth was going very well and we had a number of sold out performances coming up, so it was a blow to everyone involved to have to shut it down.

(SB):  How did you communicate the shutdown with your cast and production team?

Opening Night of Antaeus Theatre Company's Native Son at CTG'S BLOCK PARTY with Bill Brochtrup, Ana Rose O'Halloran and Kitty Swink

(Bill): Early on I met with Co-Artistic Director Kitty Swink and our Executive Director Ana Rose O’Halloran to talk about our options — and it was pretty clear that for the safety of our actors, staff, and audiences we needed to close the show.  We spoke first to the play's directors, Armin Shimerman and Elizabeth Swain, and then I wrote a difficult email to the cast and production team.  Everyone understood because it was becoming increasingly clear what the world would be up against.  With sickness, death, and true hardship on the horizon for many people, closing a play is a small thing — but it was sad news nevertheless.

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

(Bill): At this point it’s hard to say what we’ll do in the future because we just can’t be certain of any kind of timeline.  I will say that the set is still standing and the costumes are still in the dressing room, so it remains a possibility — I’d love for more people to be able to see our wonderful actors.

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

(Bill): We had just finished casting our next production, William Saroyan’s The Time of Your Life which was meant to begin rehearsal this month. We’re still determining how we’re going to proceed. And we were in the midst of finalizing Antaeus’ next season, which will be our 30th and some of those plans are now in flux. We will obviously be following all guidelines from the county and state about when we can reopen and get things going again.

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

(Bill): Antaeus has numerous programs and many of those have been able to move online fairly seamlessly — a number of our Academy classes are meeting that way as is the Antaeus Playwrights Lab. We have weekly Zoom check-ins with our Company members, another with our staff, and we have also already enjoyed a really fun virtual Happy Hour with some donors and supporters.

(SB):  You mentioned what a close knit and warm community our L.A. Theatre world is. What thoughts would you like to share with them while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Bill): We believe that live theatre is about artists and audiences coming together in person to create a community, so we’re really looking forward to the time when we can gather together in real life. Antaeus isn’t going anywhere and we’ll be back with a vengeance as soon as we’re able.

(SB): I totally agree. Nothing can compare to being part of an assembly of people experiencing the magic of live theatre together. It’s so symbiotic, making each performance unique and special in its own right. Any other thoughts to share?

(Bill): On a personal note, I’m so proud to be a part of the LA Theatre scene in all of its vibrancy and diversity. I believe we’ll come through this stronger and more unified than ever.

(SB): Amen!


Featured headshot by Rory Lewis


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Amanda Conlon - Actor, Singer and Director Who Created Bucket List Theatre


This Spotlight focuses on Amanda Conlon, the actor, singer and director who created Bucket List Theatre after relocating to Los Angeles from NYC. As the company’s Artistic Director, her talents as an actor, singer, writer and director enhance every production in which she appears or organizes for her company of equally talented, triple-threat performers. Amanda recently joined Theatre 40 and has also appeared in and directed productions for that professional company on the campus of Beverly Hills High School.


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

Amanda Conlon (Amanda): I grew up doing theatre on Long Island, went to school for theatre and spent years performing in NYC and regionally throughout the Northeast before making the move to LA. where I knew exactly one friend. It took a while to learn the LA landscape, particularly the theatre scene. After struggling to find my new theatre tribe, I decided to create Bucket List Theatre (named after my bucket list of roles I’d like to play). As Artistic Director, I’m so proud of all our productions and all that we’ve accomplished in a short amount of time, particularly with a fully self-produced budget. Equally, I cherish all of the actor-friends who comprise the awesome tribe we’ve created - it’s a truly special, crazy talented group of people, and ironically, 98% of our “Bucket Lister’s” also hail from NYC. It just took us all relocating to LA to meet one another!

Jesse Merlin and Amanda Conlon in SILENCE! The Musical

Our Bucket List shows to date include SILENCE! The Musical (11 Broadway World Award Nominations, Better Lemons Critics Choice Award, Broadway World Favorite Shows of 2018, LA Weekly Best Spooky Events), All in the Timing (Stage Raw ‘Top Ten’ and ‘Recommended’), Pageant Play, [title of show], Bucket List Cabaret (Broadway World Favorite Shows of 2018) and Missmatch (Hollywood Fringe Encore! Producers' Award, Better Lemons Must-See Musical). I wrote Missmatch based on my real-life experiences with online dating and was equally happy and sad to learn how many of our audience members related to my terrible tales!

(SB): If you missed SILENCE! The Musical, the hysterical parody of the film Silence of the Lambs, click HERE to watch a compilation of scenes in which Amanda portrays Clarice Starling in the production she directed.

Amanda: I’m also a member of Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills and appeared last year in A Bad Year for Tomatoes and recently directed the world premiere of The Surveillance Trilogy (9 Broadway World Award Nominations).

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

Amanda Conlon at Bucket List Cabaret

Amanda: I had several projects postponed, including a few staged readings at Theatre 40, as well as our next Bucket List Cabaret. Bucket List is also sometimes commissioned to be the entertainment at private events, which is a fun side gig for us, and we looked forward to a booking we had for a big party this month, which we are hopeful will be able to be reschedule.

(SB): How did you communicate the shutdown with your cast and production team?

Amanda: I made the call early on and while disappointing, everyone was beyond understanding.

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

Bucket List Cabaret with Amanda Conlon

Amanda: Yes! We will certainly remount Bucket List Cabaret when the time is right. One of the most consistent compliments we get on our cabarets is the song selection, given I love to find obscure, hardly-ever-performed material. A lot of time and thought goes into each set list, so I’m viewing this time as a gift to work on curating the next sets. Be on the lookout for the Theatre 40 staged readings as well once things are up and running again.

(SB): Here is a link to my Broadway World review of Bucket List Cabaret Dark and Dirty at Three Clubs, an evening of adult-themed songs rarely heard that kept me laughing throughout the show: 

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

Amanda: We are very fortunate that we are in between Bucket List productions at the moment and don’t have our next mainstage production slotted yet. With my producing partner/husband, Pete Flanigan, we will use this time to strategize and decide what we will produce next. In fact, we were considering producing a Fringe show this year as it’s been 3 years since our last Fringe, but will likely wait another year or two to return. We currently have several other exciting projects we’re considering.

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

Amanda: We are having our first virtual reading/sing-through of a show via Zoom! I never really considered doing a virtual reading before, but I’m growing more excited about it as it may allow us to do readings more often, now during quarantine and beyond. All of our actors have their own “bucket list” roles, so this could be a great platform for us to read through more of their bucket list shows we wouldn’t otherwise be able to produce, and in a small way, fulfill our Bucket List Theatre mission!

(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?

Amanda: My heart goes out to all those whose productions were closed and hope as many shows as possible will be able to return as soon as we’re all able. I hope audiences are currently finding a newfound appreciation for theatre and the joy of sharing a live performance together. While this is a challenging, uncertain, scary time, I encourage us all to try and find the silver linings where we can and also hope we can all take some time to rest, reflect, repair and find new ways to create. Sending lots of positivity to everyone and I am looking forward to seeing you all at the theatre someday soon!


This article first appeared on Broadway World.