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

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

Too Blunt!

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

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Clementine

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

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The Institute for The Opposite of Longing

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

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The Institute for The Opposite of Longing

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Radicals

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

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Siren Call

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

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LOVE, MADNESS, AND SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN

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

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Tattered Capes

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

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Squeeze My Cans

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

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Skylight

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

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Tigers Be Still

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

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CORINA, From Lap dance to Sundance

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

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Legends, Movement and Memories

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

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Mama Metal

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

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

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

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Ride or Die: The Hip-Hop Musical

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

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Karaoke Saved My Life

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

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Fight Song!

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

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Fight or Flight

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

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

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

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The Narcissist Next Door

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

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POCKETS

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

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Straight White Men Trying to Woke

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

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Girl From SchenectadyGirl From Schenectady

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

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Dames at Sea

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

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Rory and the Devil

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

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Johnny '81

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

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Bronco Billy - The Musical

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

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If It Goes There

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

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A Time Traveler's Guide to the Present

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

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The Scorpion and the Frog: a time-killer

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

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Uprooted

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

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ORANGUTAN

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

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ALL OUR PRETTY SONGS

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

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NAKED MAN RISING

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

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HELL'S FINEST

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

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Not Here Right Now

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

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IF TRUTH BE TOLD

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

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Crack Whore, Bulimic, Girl-Next-Door

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

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Mil Grus

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

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Human Fountains

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

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Les Mis-Cast

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

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Funeral Potatoes

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

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Food Bowl Events: Food and Film

Food and Film - Somebody Feed Phil: Dublin

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

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

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

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More about the L.A. Times Food Bowl:

The 2nd Annual Trump Family Special

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

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Princess Magic's Trash Fire Time Revue

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

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THE CHRISTIANS

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

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StoryTime

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

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SHAME OF THRONES: The Musical

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

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AVENUE Q

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

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THE COLUMBINE PROJECT

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

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Let's Write a Musical

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

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Aristophanes' THE BIRDS

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

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Jordan Maverick, History Teacher

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

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Come Back!

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

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The Drag Queen of the Year Pageant Competition Award Contest Competition

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

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5 Women Wearing the Same Dress

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

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Hide Your Fires: Butoh Lady Macbeth

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

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?


EVENTS OPENING THIS WEEK

THE PEOPLE VS HELL KROSS @ Three Clubs

October 3, 2018 8:00 pm

Audience Lemonade: 100%

80s British rock band, Hell Kross, stands accused of hundreds of wrongful deaths, as their music leaves a wake of death and destruction. This heavy metal musical comedy rock opera extravaganza requires YOU to ...read more


THE TEMPEST @ Brand Park

October 4, 2018 7:30 pm

Exiled and left stranded to raise her young daughter on a deserted island, Prospero's chance for revenge has finally come. Aided by magic and the spirits of the island, will justice finally be won? ...read more


THE LONE [email protected] Smothers Theatre at Pepperdine University

October 4, 2018 8:00 pm

Americana country trio The Lone Bellow is known for their transcendent harmonies, serious musicianship and raucous live performances, which display their “open-hearted, vein-bursting conviction” (NPR Music). The group continues their introspective and poignant music ...read more


SAN PEDRO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL @ Warner Grand Theatre

October 5, 2018 5:30 pm

The San Pedro International Film Festival was founded to celebrate the diverse culture and community of San Pedro with a wide spectrum of independent film, documentaries, and shorts. SPIFF is committed to exhibiting films that ...read more


FANCY NANCY: THE MUSICAL @ Chance Theater @ Bette Aitken Theater Arts Center

October 5, 2018 7:00 pm

A sophisticated evening for the fancy side in all of us Fancy Nancy and her friends Bree, Rhonda, Wanda, and Lionel are going to be performing in their very first show, “Deep Sea Dances.” ...read more


5TH ANNUAL HIGHLAND PARK INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL @ Highland Theatres

October 5, 2018 7:00 pm

The Highland Park Independent Film Festival (HPIFF) was founded by a group of filmmakers whose express mission is to promote the art of film in their  community. HPIFF is the first film festival of ...read more


THE SECRET IN THE WINGS @ Stage 12

October 5, 2018 8:00 pm

The Secret in the Wings October 5th, 2018 – November 4th, 2018 Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm Written by Mary Zimmerman Directed by Patti Cumby A captivating voyage into our collective ...read more


LA FASHION FILM FEST @ various venues

October 6, 2018 11:00 am

LAFFF has partnered with two venues with a combined history of 159 years at the forefront of fashion and technology in Los Angeles to host the two-day festival, taking place on October 5th and ...read more


TOWNE STREET THEATRE IN RESPONSE; YEAR OF THE WOMAN @ Stella Adler Theatre

October 6, 2018 8:00 pm

Towne Street Theatre's IN RESPONSE: Year of the Woman is the latest installment of the critically acclaimed IN RESPONSE series reflecting on the current State of the Union. Past and present issues of women ...read more


MICHAEL FEINSTEIN @ Smothers Theatre at Pepperdine University

October 7, 2018 2:00 pm

Through his live performances, recordings, film and television appearances, and his songwriting Michael Feinstein is an all-star force in American music. Over the three decades of his career, Feinstein's five Grammy Award nominations, Emmy ...read more


THE DOGS POND @ Whitefire Theatre

October 7, 2018 7:00 pm

After serving in the Iraq war, Carter's brother, Owen, has been withdrawn and mute. In the hopes of getting the brother he once knew back, Carter invites two of Owen's service buddies, Bergsey and ...read more


DR. BRADLEY'S FABULOUS FUNCTIONAL NARCISSISM @ Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal

October 7, 2018 7:00 pm

Hilarious and moving coming-of-age story with music from the theater, that chronicles Jones' childhood as a budding theater queen, ten years on Broadway in "A Chorus Line," through to the present and his successful, ...read more


EVENTS OPENING THIS WEEK

AUTOPLAY @ Los Angeles City College

September 27, 2018 3:00 pm

Directed by Leslie Ferreira September 27 - October 6 AutoPlay 2018 is a devised work - a series of fifteen, original, intimate, site specific ten minute plays - each taking place in an automobile. ...read more


THE [email protected] The Gem Theatre

September 27, 2018 8:00 pm

Bialystock and Bloom! Those names should strike terror and hysteria in anyone familiar with Mel Brooks' classic cult comedy film. Now as a big Broadway musical, The Producers once again sets the standard for ...read more


SELL/BUY/DATE @ Los Angeles LGBT Center

September 27, 2018 8:00 pm

Written and Performed by Tony Award-winner Sarah Jones, "Sell/Buy/Date" is an exuberant show inspired by the real-life experiences of people affected by the sex industry. Brimming with Sarah Jones' dazzling medley of masterful, multicultural ...read more


WAS IST DAS? SHOW 31 - THE LIVE AND LEARN SHOW! @ Crown City Theatre Company

September 27, 2018 8:00 pm

A Cabaret Circus Variety show set in the raucous days of Berlin 1924 that is dedicated to presenting lively and inventive performances ranging from the absurd to the sublime! On any given night you ...read more


SAMMY MILLER AND THE CONGREGATION @ Smothers Theatre at Pepperdine University

September 27, 2018 8:00 pm

Sammy Miller and The Congregation are on a mission to put the generosity back into jazz and bring art back to the people. With their feel-good, joyful sound, they share the power of community ...read more


BLOODY [email protected] Little Fish Theatre

September 27, 2018 8:00 pm

In celebration of the bicentennial of the publication of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Little Fish Theatre presents Bloody Poetry by Howard Brenton. Opening September 27 at Little Fish Theatre and directed by Ovation Award winner ...read more


CHINESE WARRIORS OF PEKING @ Smothers Theatre at Pepperdine University

September 28, 2018 7:30 pm

Featuring a mixture of high-intensity martial arts and breathtaking acrobatics, The Chinese Warriors of Peking tells the tale of two rival martial arts disciplines competing in the ancient Chinese capital of Peking during the ...read more


THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE @ The Attic Theater

September 28, 2018 7:30 pm

"The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" is a classic tale of love, hope, and revenge set against the vicious backdrop of a lawless society. A young scholar travels into the Wild West in search ...read more


SHOWPONY @ The Victory Theatre Center

September 28, 2018 8:00 pm

When the mostly, white employees from a large Ad Agency, reveal their unconscious racism through slips of the tongue and gender micro-aggressions, the tensions build as aggressions move into overt racism and misogyny. Both ...read more


EVERYTHING THAT NEVER [email protected] Boston Court Performing Arts Center

September 28, 2018 8:00 pm

Forget everything you think you know about Shylock; this world premiere fills the gaps in Shakespeare's tale and exposes the realities of Jewish history. Mantell's fresh and time-bending story is rich with humor and ...read more


BEYOND FEST @ Egyptian Theatre

September 29, 2018 10:00 am

A world genre film festival dedicated to delivering the best in horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and badass cinema. Created by a collective of film nerds/cultural innovators, our mission is to deliver an experience that builds ...read more


12 ANGRY [email protected] Harter Hall, Charles Stewart Howard Playhouse

September 29, 2018 7:00 pm

Following the closing arguments in a murder trial, the 12 members of the jury must deliberate, with a guilty verdict meaning death for the accused, an inner-city teen. As the dozen jurors try to ...read more


JUSTICE ON TRIAL FILM FESTIVAL @ Loyola Marymount University

September 30, 2018 11:00 am

The Justice On Trial film festival grew out of a conversation between award-winning author Michelle Alexander and Susan Burton, founder of A New Way of Life Re-Entry Project. The Justice on Trial Film Festival speaks to the challenges ...read more


TOMáS AND THE LIBRARY LADY @ Smothers Theatre at Pepperdine University

September 30, 2018 2:00 pm

Unable to read English, Tomás, a migrant boy, is terrified of school. When his family heads North for the harvest, he finds a refuge that may help ease his fears—the library. The compassionate Library ...read more


GLENN FEST @ The Downey Theater

October 1, 2018 7:00 pm

GlennFest Film Festival 2018 will run from Sunday, September 30, 2018 through Sunday, October 7, 2018 in Downey, California. Realizing the importance of introducing art and film to underserved areas, GlennFest founder, Glenn Stephens, concentrated ...read more


FALLEN SAINTS: DARK @ The Belfry Stage (Upstairs)

October 1, 2018 10:30 pm

Critics Lemonade: 88%

Audience Lemonade: 100%

**3 ENCORE PERFORMANCES ADDED BY POPULAR DEMAND** MONDAY OCTOBER 1, 8 & 15 at 10:30PM!! What are you afraid of? Find out as Force of Nature explores the Darkness with the latest chapter of their ...read more


Now registered this week on the Better Lemons Calendar August 20 to September 2, 2018

NEW! Shows and film festivals that have registered on the Better Lemons calendar. For more shows visit our Calendar. For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page.
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Visit our Wakelet for more stories.


SXSW 2018 Film Interview: Human Rights Filmmaker Jason Outenreath

Making its world premiere at this year's SXSW was the feature-length documentary They Live Here, Now, conceived and directed by human rights filmmaker Jason Outenreath. Shot on location at Casa Marianella, an emergency homeless shelter in East Austin, it depicts the daily lives of recently arrived immigrants as they relate their frequently harrowing stories about their journeys to the United States.

With this film, Outenreath pushed the boundaries of the documentary format by blending actual portraits of immigrants who live at Casa Marianella with scripted characters who were drawn from real life. Here, he explains the reasons for this unorthodox approach.

Your feature-length documentaries, They Live Here, Now and

Country Kids, as well as a number of your short films, have focused on immigration.

Can you tell us about why this is frequently your subject?

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nicaragua for a couple of years. I studied in Mexico, and I also lived there afterward. I developed close relationships with the people there. When I came back to the U.S., I sought out groups that were immigration-oriented. As a filmmaker, I felt a social responsibility to respond to what was happening and how people were being treated. Immigrants deserve to be treated with the same dignity as any other human being.

How did you locate Casa Marianella?

I was a student at the University of Texas at Austin. Someone in passing mentioned Casa Marianella to me and said, “You might be interested in this place.” I began visiting it on a fairly regular basis, not with a camera or anything, but I was just blown away by the community and the diversity of people coming there. When I was pitching my project to them, it involved talking to the entire house, just standing in front of immigrants from 20 or 30 countries.

It was something that left a really deep impression on me. As I realized the gravity of this place in Austin that deserved more attention for the services it was providing, it also needed to be celebrated for the immigrants and what they had gone through to get there.

How long did it take to secure the subjects and make the film?

It took about three and a half years. I make relationship-based films, and I'm very concerned with the connections I make. So I spent the first year, you might say, in preproduction, forging those relationships and learning about the house before I began filming at all. The editing process took about a year and a half to complete, and I edited it myself.

Filmmaker Jason Outenreath talks about his new film, “They Live Here, Now" at SXSW. Photo: Kurt Gardner.

 

Were there some people who were afraid to come on camera and tell their stories?

Yes, they were divided along two lines. There were a lot of people who didn't want to appear on camera or who were very afraid of what that would mean to their legal status or their families in their home countries. At the same time, there were also people who wanted to be heard. My job as a filmmaker was to work with the people who wanted to share their stories while also respecting their privacy.

I didn't set out to make a political film, but I have my political ideas, and they're embedded in it. I think it goes back to the respect that people deserve, regardless of where they're from or what their circumstances are.

In terms of adding the narrative story to the piece, what was the purpose?

There were two main goals I had with interweaving that story. As a documentary filmmaker, one of the questions that I ask is, “What constitutes social reality?” I'm always interested in pushing the boundaries and asking both myself and the audience, “What really is documentary?” I had artistic reasons for doing it, too, and it does enrich the story of Casa Marianella.

I had ethical reasons as well. I wanted to show aspects of the house that were essential to that experience, but I couldn't get conversations with lawyers and recent arrivals who just came to the house. Those are things you just can't film without putting someone's actual legal status at risk, so they were some of the reasons I decided to weave in the fictional narrative.

The storyline of the fictional character [Nayeli] would have been impossible to film without the reality of the house and the reality of the people she was interacting with. She was a composite character of a lot of people I'd met, working at the border and living in Mexico and Nicaragua. The actress [Regina Casillas] brought a lot to the role. I feel like I've met that character before.

She blends quite well into the film, too.

Right. Nobody was told that she was an actress. I wanted it to appear as if she was coming to Casa Marianella for the first time. She went through all the actual steps that someone would go through to be taken in. I had in mind the arc for her story, but a lot of the scenes were improvised. I just gave general direction, like, “You're going to cook rice,” and she would say, “I don't know how to do that,” and I would say, “Figure it out.”

What do you want to inspire in viewers who see the film?

I'd like people to identify with the immigrants in it who were brave enough to share their really personal stories. Hopefully, they'll take a stake in the next chapter of this story, since it's not really a culminating project so much as it is ongoing. I hope people will watch it and think, “I really need to do something about this. I need to be a part of the solution.”

It's obvious you're going to continue to tell these stories.

Right. I wouldn't say solely immigration, but I can see myself continuing in the specific vein of human rights films. I feel a very strong need to use filmmaking to tell humanizing stories about people.

Where is They Live Here, Now going next?

That's in process at the moment. I'd personally love to see it shown in schools and educational institutions. It's so important to humanize the issue, especially with younger generations, since they are the people who will be making some of the decisions in the future.

The PBS documentary series Independent Lens would be a great place, too.

Absolutely. Other festivals as well.

What other projects do you have in development?

I'm working on my first fiction feature film, which I'll be shooting this summer. I'm also working on a web series about the indigenous cultures of Oaxaca, Mexico.

 

Featured photo: 'They Live Here, Now': Refugee Teo sits thoughtfully before lights out at the Austin based refugee house, Casa Marianella. Photo: Jason Outenreath.


One Way To Express Your Support of the DREAMERS

Given the terrible - if predictable - news of the day, here's a simple way to show your support of the DACA program while also getting to see the last scheduled performance (this Sunday 9/10 at 2 pm) of one of the best shows of the year - WET: A DACAmentary Journey by Alex Alpharoah - and all for just $30.  This includes the reception after the show.

I was fortunate to see and write about this one-man show several weeks ago, and I couldn't recommend it more highly.

A word to the wise: EST/LA's theater has only 60 seats, and this is sure to sell out, so I would recommend buying your seats right away.


BRETT RATNER, FILM GURU and THE TEN BEST FILMS at the 2017 Hollyshorts Festival

"You have to be in it for the right reasons - because you love storytelling.  That's the skill set of any filmmaker.  If you want to do it because you want to be famous, get laid, get rich, or whatever, then it's not going to happen for you." - Brett Ratner, from his IMDB page.

 

Steve Whitney of Kodak Inc. with Brett Ratner at Hollyshorts Awards Night

The Hollyshorts Festival recently concluded with an awards ceremony featuring 45 minutes of producer/director Brett Ratner in converation with Steve Whitney of Kodak Inc., followed by a 25 minute rush to hand out all the filmmaking awards.  The names were read out in quick succession, each accompanied by a slide show visual for a few seconds.  It was a weird scene, or at least it struck me as such.

The way that these film artists were scurrying up to the stage and then scurrying back to their seats, without even a moment to bask in the limelight just struck me as wrong, and I felt angry on their behalf.  The first award given out had gone to Brett Ratner, who hadn't had a film in the festival.  That had made me angry too.

What a typical Hollywood move, to shower the people at the top with attention and awards, while those at the bottom, who had so little, weren't even allowed a few moments of public acknowledgment (much less celebration) when they had finally won something!

Still, I had to admit that there were things in Brett Ratner's opening remarks that had surprised me, even touched me.  He described how his life was changed at 10 years old when he saw Scorcese's Raging Bull for the first time. He was smitten with a love of film and didn't really care about any other subject at school.  He found out that Martin Scorcese taught at NYU Film School, and from that point on, he was obsessed with going there to study.  He shot thousands of hours of film, hundreds of thousands of hours.  When the time came to apply to colleges, he only applied to NYU.  Then he went for his interview and was told that his grades weren't good enough, and he was being rejected.  "Did you look at my short films?" he asked. He was told that his films didn't matter - his bad grades disqualified him for consideration.  "I didn't know what to do," he told the Hollyshorts audience.  "I had no Plan B.  There was nothing else I wanted to do."

So what was he to do? What would you have done?  This was the pivotal moment, the dramatic turning point when sad young Brett became Brett Rattner.

He went to the Dean of NYU and told the secretary that he had to see the Dean.  Did he have an appointment?  No. Well, the Dean was a busy man, and he didn't have any openings for the next few weeks.  "But I can't wait three weeks.  I have to see him now," Brett insisted.  And it turned out to Brett's lucky day.  Because someone didn't show up for an appointment, and Brett got fifteen minutes with the Dean, and he made his point that admission to the film school should be based on how good a film director you are, not how good an all-around student you are.  And the Dean agreed to look at Brett's reel of short films.  And long story short, that's how Brett Ratner got into film school.  And got on the road to directing the Rush Hour Trilogy and X-Men: The Last Stand and other movies and a slew of music videos.

Not my kind of movies, I admit.  But I admire the dynamism and vitality of his visual storytelling.  And the money he's earned.  I'd like to experience some of that.  And his claim on our attention does have more to do with the money his films have garnered than with any claim of artistry.  But when I went to Brett Ratner's IMDB page, I was surprised to find how influential his production company, RatPac, was in making it possible for the visions of other filmmakers to be realized.  He had used his entreprenurial platform to make films he believed in, and not only the ones that were certain to make a profit.  I have a lot of respect for that.

I also enjoyed the lengthy comments on his IMDB Bio page, which re-enforced his gut-level commitment to film as a storytelling format, and to making good movies.

"When I was a film student at NYU, there wasn't a platform like the internet for filmmakers ... Now Steven Spielberg has someone every month prepare "The Best of YouTube."  There's so much short-form content better than feature films out there.  And there are huge opportunities out there now for young filmmakers to have something seen."

I also passionately agree with his statement that "the worst thing we have in today's movie culture in Rotten Tomatoes.  I think it's the destruction of our business.  I have such admiration and respect for that.  When I was growing up, film criticism was a real art.  There was intellect that went into that.  You would read Pauline Kael's reviews or some others ... Now it's about a number.  But that number is an aggregate, and nobody can figure out exactly what it means, and it's not always correct.  It's hurting the business, and it's just insane."

So hey - maybe Brett Ratner was exactly the right person to preside over those awards.  And maybe he deserves his own "icon" award, or whatever.  I still wish that Hollyshorts had shown more respect for the filmmakers whose work they had chosen to exhibit, and especially for the winners of their own awards.

Free vodka is nice, and God knows I enjoyed all those flavors.  But I'd still prefer to see the winners given a chance to accept their award and maybe hear a few words about the film itself.  And then the free vodka.  Okay?

MY AWARDS, SANS CEREMONY

Whatever committee made the Hollyshorts choices got a few right, such as giving Kevin Wilson Jr. the award for Best Director for My Nephew Emmett.

But choosing Shoot Me Nicely over COMPANION for Best TV pilot?  Really?  I mean, come on.  What the hell were you smoking?

Michael Friedman, Alain Uy and Ray Stoney from COMPANION

Yes, most of the really exceptional films went uncelebrated.  And I am here to rectify that, to the best of my ability.

So here are my choices for the TOP 10 HOLLYSHORTS FILMS.

Drum roll please.

(I've written about all these in previous Hollyshorts columns - hope you will check those out.)

The bottom 5 (6-10), in no particular order and irrespective of genre category:

REFUGEE by Joyce Chen and Emily Moore - best documentary I saw in the festival.  I will never forget it.

A BEAUTIFUL DAY, Written by Casey Cannon and Angeliki Giannakopoulos, directed by Phedon Papamichael - This would have been memorable with any good actor, but James Brolin makes it special.

I KNOW JAKE GYLLENHAAL IS GOING TO FUCK MY GIRLFRIEND, Written by Sean Wing, Directed by Nino Mancuso -  No it's not perfect, but it's funny, and it really stayed with me.  Oh that Jake!

A STUDY IN TYRANNY by Andrew LaurichThe answer to the question: what would happen if I went back in time and tried to kill Hitler?  Here's a hint: He's Hitler!  No matter how nice he seems, he's still Hitler. And always will be.

FIVE MINUTES WITH MARY by Matt Beurois - It's amazing just how much you can say in five minutes.

The top 2-5, again in no particular order and irrespective of genre category:

11th HOUR by Jim Sheridan - Manages to say so much about 9/11 in 11 minutes.  Beautifully imagined.

MY NEPHEW EMMETT by Kevin Wilson Jr. - The tragedy of Emmett Till as you've never seen it.

MUSTARD SEED by Linda Roessler - Says volumes about the Holocaust in a few minutes.  No link here because I was unable to find any.  A shocking and beautiful film, and not without hope.

A TREE. A ROCK. A CLOUD. by Karen AllenIt's set in a particular time, but the story feels timeless, as if it has always existed.  Slows down time in a magical way, transporting us into a scene with great spiritual significance.

And the number 1 Film, Numero Uno, the Twisted Hipster's Palm D'or goes to:

"MOTHER" (Matka) by Piotrek Golebiowski - In 1943, a retreating Nazi regiment takes over the home of a Polish family, forcing them to live in their attic.  This is a work of art.  The final frame will freeze your blood.


"OPEN YOUR MIND, COMPANY GEEK, AND LET THE WORLD IN!" - Hollyshorts, Part 2

Ah, the '6os.  When simplistic lines like that actually seemed to mean something.  When there was a "them" and an "us," and you knew which side you were on.  But not anymore.   While there are great causes and great moral questions aplenty, the morality of any particular individual has never been more self-centered and pragmatic than it is  now.

"Never?" you may ask.  "Never?"  How can you quantify that?

Because cell phones in particular - and technology in general - has made information available to the individual in an  unprecendented way, that allows us to manipulate reality, and be manipulated by others, in ways that never existed before.  That is, the individual has never had more powerful means of communication at his or her control, especially in Western societies, where net neutrality exists, and the government doesn't control the flow of information.

At the same point, the individual has never been more disposable and replaceable than now, and this is certain to increase, as AI and robotic technology advances, and the individual worker in almost all fields becomes more obsolete.  This makes for a very interesting crossroads in world history, which the filmmakers of today are chronicling in ever-burgeoning numbers.

They have the tools.  They will not be stopped.  But who exactly is there to listen to all these trees falling in our cinematic forests?

Yours truly, the Twisted Hipster.

Here now are some of the best "fallen trees" from the recent Hollyshorts Festival.  These are the more obscure ones, with few celebrity connections to make them stand out - just talent.  I am bringing them to your attention in the hope that you will be able to track down the ones that appeal to you most and see for yourself.

DOCUMENTARIES

Wally Green, who produced/stars in "The Tables," abt ping-pong salvation

THE TABLES by Jon Bunning - This tells the true story of what happened when Wally Green (the "Tony Hawk of table tennis") paid to have two all-weather ping-pong tables installed in the middle of Bryant Park.  All of a sudden the drug addicts were pushed out, replaced by a (mostly-male) group of ping-pong fanatics, who have tournaments long into the night, even during snowstorms.  Wally Green himself, charismatic and gap-toothed, makes a brief appearance near the end of the film, but mostly he leaves it to others to express the ways in which this changed their lives for the better, giving hope to the homeless and others.  It's a fun and affecting peek into the lives of some hardcore New Yorkers.  Not my favorite documentary, but it was awarded Best Documentary at the Festival.

ONE WAY HOME by Qinzi Fan - This is an extraordinary documentary as well as an act of great bravery.  It depicts the education of Tibetan students by the Chinese government.  To quote the film's website: "What is the cost of free government-sponsored education?  Tibetan children Tashi and Tuju were chosen to study in Mainland China, chosen to study with thousands of Tibetan kids in the schools for only Tibetans.  These boarding schools prepare them to return to Tibet as China's new elite, but the "first-class education" comes with a deep loss of identity, language and culture."  I don't know how Qinzi Fan was ever able to get permission to tell this story, but if you want to see how "1984" really happens - how a government tries to wipe out a people's identity - then watch this film.

WOODY'S ORDER by Ann Talman -  This is the film version of Ann Talman's play about her brother Woody, who has cerebral palsy.  We finally see Ann perform her play for Woody, who doctors said would only live to be 12 but who is now almost 70.  The relationship between Ann and her brother is deeply-moving, and having these home movies of the two of them playing together as children is beautiful and heart-rending.  That said, I prefer the stage version, because Ann is such a great actress, and seeing her take on her brother's personality as well as her own creates something magical, of the imagination, that is somehow more enduring and deeper than than the thing itself.

REFUGEE by Joyce Chen and Emily Moore - This was my choice for best documentary, and a very good one it is - perhaps even a classic of its kind.  The filmmakers follow around Aicha Diop, a solitary but indomitable West African woman in her 60s, living in New York City, as she does battle with the forces of Immigration, struggling to bring her five children over to join her.  I can't imagine a more relevant story or one more filled with mind-blowing twists and turns.  The filmmakers frame it in such an intelligent way that. even while you're rooting for Aicha to succeed, as she cleans houses and does whatever it takes to re-unite her family, you are still allowed to ask the question: is it a good thing for the rest of us to have Aicha's children here?  Quality work by first-rate filmmakers.

NARRATIVE FILMS

THE HISTORY OF MAGIC: ENSUENO by Jose Luis Gonzalez - This was the only animated film I saw in the festival that stayed with me, both for its originality and authenticity.  The southwestern Chicano imagery has great flow and humor and a seemingly endless sense of inventiveness.  This ballad of a young girl's bike ride home gives us her hopes, fears and dreams in six minutes.  It's a small segment of a much larger tapestry - can't wait to see the rest!

FISHER COVE by Sean Skene - There's a mysterious force loose in Fisher's Cove that keeps tugging at the line of Sean Skene's fisherman and then disappearing.  The fisherman takes this personally, and he refuses to leave until he finds out who or what is behind this.  When he finally does, in a death-defying manner, I just wish that he'd had a more interesting interaction with what he finds.  Despite this, Skene's visual style is so memorable and compulsively watchable that his short film stays in the mind long after it's over.  Also, second most adorable dog in the festival.

NILES CANYON, directed by Sallyanne Massimini -This film is a little bit cheesy and a little bit over-familiar in subject matter, but it rises above others on the considerable talents of writer/actor David Paul Francis. Telling the story of a man's redemption by a mysterious woman found bleeding by the side of the road, Mr Francis also plays the main character.  Large in size, he also has an enormous emotional depth.  His speech to this woman about the darkness inside him and the regrets that have driven him to the brink of suicide pierced through the mass of words and imagery from this festival and found a permanent place in my heart.  Thank you, Mr Francis, you are a talent to be reckoned with.  Here's hoping you have many more opportunities to showcase your pain.

JUST GO! by Pavel Gumennikov -  This film won Best Romance at Hollyshorts, but it is less a film than an excuse for an extended chase scene; as such, though, it is pretty spectacular.  Just is a handsome, athletic 24 year old man who lost his legs in a childhood accident.  He is flirting with a pretty girl when two bearded thieves steal the girl's purse and make a quick getaway, not believing they have anything to fear from the disabled man who pursues them.  Oh, how wrong they are!  The film showcases both Just's physical dexterity and his ingenuity.  In a basic sense, this film harkens back to early filmmaking and the kind of simple storytelling that featured physical elements and chase sequences that could never be matched in effectiveness in any other art form.

LACRIMOSA by Tanja Mairitsch - This is a sublimely beautiful exercise in surreal filmmaking.  It centers on a young woman's dream world, where she encounters her lost lover.  He was a painter, and she is delighted to see the work he's done since his untimely death.  It's easy to take a film like this for granted as the kind of dazzling stylistic piece that one expects to find in such a festival.  But the way that Mairitsch keeps her imagery connected to her main character's dealing with the loss of her first love is anything but "typical."  And then there are those underwater sequences, so hauntingly lovely.  Again, filmic in a pure sense, what film was created to do.  Brava!

LIMBO by Konstantina Kotzamani - This 30 minute film won the top award in Hollyshorts as BEST SHORT FILM GRAND PRIZE, and it is truly remarkable.  But what is it about?  I still don't know.  On IMDB, it is described as: "The leopard shall lie down with the goat. The wolves shall live with the lambs.  And a young boy shall lead them."  All I can say for sure is that, while watching it, it seemed to communicate directly with my unconscious.  A profound if puzzling experience.

WOMAN WITH AN EDITING BENCH by Karen Pearlman - This is a very effective film and festival favorite about Elizaveta Svilova, the dedicated editor behind Dziga Vertov's revolutionary documentaries in Stalin's Russia, most notably his masterpiece, Man with a Movie Camera (No. 1 on the list of Best Documentaries of all time, according to 'Sight and Sound').  This film employs Svilova's own innovative editing techniques in telling the story of how she outwitted the Soviet censors and kept Vertov from being deported to a gulag.  In paying homage to Svilova, this film celebrates all those who dedicate their lives to giving form to creativity despite the dangers and hazards that may be involved.  A must-see for all film-lovers.

THE FARE by Santiago Paladines - This was the AFI thesis film for an Ecuadoran filmmaker with a very bright future.  He takes on the subject of human trafficking, and he does an excellent job of creating that world, in which Johnny Ortiz plays Javier, a trafficker-in-training.  His boss, Wellington,  puts Javier in charge of Cristina, an 11 year old middle-class girl, forcing him to rape her to show his allegiance.  Paladines demonstrates a sure hand throughout, and he gets a much better performance from Ortiz than John Ridley & compay did in American Crime.

 

IT'S JUST A GUN, written by Daniel Klein, directed by Brian Robau - This thesis film for Chapman University is notable for some jazzy camera movement and the dexterous use of cross-cutting to tell the heartfelt (if somewhat familiar) story of how the "good luck" of finding a discarded firearm can quickly turn fatal.  Director Robau and writer Klein have the good sense to frame this in an unexpected way, showing how the gun has the potential to save some young public school kids from being bullied by the older kids at their school.  I wish they'd found an equally inventive way to get the cops involved - right now it seems fairly lame. Nevertheless, lots to admire here.

THE SUITCASE by Abi Damaris Corbin -  This is a flawed but exciting 9/11 thriller by a USC student who graduated high school at 13 and got her B.A. by 17 (so maybe she isn't a student anymore).  It dramatizes the story of a corrupt baggage handler (Mojean Aria) who pilfers items from traveler's suitcases.  On 9/11, he happened to look inside one suitcase which contained items of no value for him, but whose significance he realized after the planes hit the World Trade Center.  He tries to alert his boss - who sees this only as an admission of the handler's thievery - and then the SWAT members who swarm the airport, but no one will listen.  The handler then goes on a frantic search for the luggage, at great risk to his own life.  All that is well done, and the film comes off interestingly as an indictment of the police/military mindset in much the same way that the first Diehard movie was. The problem is that we see the same dynamic played out again and again, and it strains credulity that the baggage handler keeps being able to gain access to restricted areas.  But this is still a nail-biting thrill ride by a director with skills and smarts beyond her years.  I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

WATU WOTE: ALL OF US, written by Julia Drache, directed by Katja Benrath; and LUNCH TIME by Alireza Ghasemi - Two festival favorites from abroad, both extraordinary films.  The first is drawn from a real-life 2015 event, when Al-Shababb terrorists attacked a bus, intent on killing all the non-Muslims.  The second is an Iranian film about a 15 year old girl who goes to the morgue to identify her dead mother's body, but the officials there won't let her see the body because of her age.  Both movies show the cruelty and the compassion that people are capable of.  Both leave us with a sense of the heroism that everyday people can demonstrate in terrible situations. Both should be seen by well-fed Westerners, who forget how many individual freedoms we take for granted.

CROWBAR SMILE by Jamie Mayer - This is a coming-of-age story about a young pool boy (Tristan Lake Leabu) who falls in love with the 30-something college professor whose pool he attends to.  It's an intelligent and well-directed example of the genre, and the Holly-shorts folks thought enough of it to put it on the Opening Night roster.  I'm not sure it's that good, but it has a sweet and believable twist when the boy and professor seem about to get it on, and the director really knows how to portray the awkwardness of adolescents waiting around for their lives to begin. But what's up with that title? Yikes!

EMERGENCY by Carey Williams -  This is a one joke comedy-thriller, but it's a very good joke.  A few members of a minority fraternity on an urban college campus come home to find a scantily-dressed white girl passed out on the floor of their front room, probably from a drug overdose.  They know that someone has to call 911, but who? Three of the students are dark-skinned, and the fourth is Mexican.  Each of them spins a horror story of what would happen if he were to make the call - all the imagined stories end with the caller either shot or locked up for what has happened to the girl.  They call around, trying to find some white friend who can come over and notify the authorities.  ("Hey, you know White Jason?  Have you seen him around campus lately?  Do you have his number?")  But all their calls to white friends go straight to voicemail.  Meanwhlle the girl starts choking on her own vomit, and somebody has to do something. Will they ever find a person light-skinned enough to call the cops?  The answer is both satisfyingly funny and sadly believable.  A trenchant piece of satire which has been made just realistically enough to keep it from getting smarmy or overly smug.  (It reminded me a lot of early Spike Lee, both in its POV and its style.)

BENNY GOT SHOT by Malcolm Washington - Another AFI Thesis Film and Festival darling - it won BEST DRAMA at Hollyshorts - it's another urban film exemplifying how black people fear that their lives may really not  matter, at least when it comes to the authorities.  Iantha Richardson plays Naomi, an autopsy assistant at the L.A. coroner's office, whose kid brother has gone missing on the same night that there's been a police shooting in the area where he had been headed.  Naomi calls around desperately, praying that the next body she sees on a slab isn't him.  Director Washington does a nice job of keeping it real, letting the tension rise of its own accord, forgoing musical underscoring or any other well-worn device to remind us of how much is at stake.

SWEET MADDIE STONE by Brady Hood - Maddie Stone is many things, but "sweet" is not one of them.  Street smart, tough as nails, hates to lose at any cost - now you're getting closer.  Maddie Stone's dad is a notorious criminal, and she's ruled the yard in her Glasgow school as a result.  But now her dad has been sent away to prison, and she has to instill fear on her own.  Jessica Barden plays her with a ferocity that doesn't obscure her extreme vulnerability - in fact, it emerges directly from it.  An older - and much taller - student (Barney Harris) senses her weakness and takes over as the school drug-pusher.  He offers to take her on as his assistant, but her sense of importance does not allow her to accept.  When she finally swallows her pride and agrees, he rejects her, laughing in her face.  Maddie's response to this gets her kicked out of school.  What will become of sweet Maddie Stone?  Her future may not look bright, but it will not be boring, that's for sure.  Brady Hood has created a resonant character, and I hope she re-appears in a feature-length film.

 

THE LANGUAGE OF BALL by Ramon Rodriguez and THE CAGE by Ricky Staub 

These two movies about basketball and teenage guys couldn't be more different, but both are spectacular in their own ways.   Both use almost no spoken words to convey their messages.  The Language of Ball  tells the story of a young man (Eshan Bay) who speaks no English and has just moved into an urban neighborhood, going to the local basketball court with his ball.  He is taken up by another young man at the court, who goes around with him to all the courts in the city, playing two-on-two competitions.  In the course of the day they bond and get to know each other through "the language of ball."  While in The Cage, the focus is one young black man in North Philadelphia who struggles to break free from "a cycle of betrayal, anger, violence and death."  The intensity of the images is raw and visceral, and the performances from William Lee and all the other amateur actors are remarkable.

FIVE MINUTES WITH MARY by Matt Beurois - This is one of those films that goes by so quickly, with such a deceptively simple concept, that it's easy to miss its brilliance and the way it captures a huge event in such an off-handed way.  The film begins with Daniel, a bearded young white guy - probably a student - hiking a solitary trail in Joshua Tree National Park.  His cell phone rings, and he sees that the caller is his friend Charlie, who Daniels knows is on vacation in Paris. Except it's not Charlie on the phone, it's Mary.  And Mary is at a rock concert in Paris where a horrific terrorist event is still going on.  All of a sudden we - along with Daniel - are plunged into the violence of the modern world.  It's something we can never get away from, no matter how safe and removed we may seem.

THE LIGHT IN THE AFTERNOON by David Steiner - I'm ending this reviewpalooza with a 15 minute French film that was screened by a screenwriters group called Stage 32 at Harmony Gold, where the closing awards festivities for Hollyshorts was held.  This is an intriguing and oddly romantic film about the life and death of a couple.  Narrated first by Shannon (Morwenna Spagnol), we are introduced by her to Aurelian (Writer/director David Steiner), a French intellectual who expresses only contempt for "the  mundanity" of daily life and for "the mediocrity" of other people.   Shannon is repelled by his attitude, saying that he can afford these elitist views because he doesn't have a job and doesn't worry about a money.  She does have a job, and she does worry about money, and she keeps urging him to try experiencing daily life and see how that made him feel.  He agrees to do so if she will be there with him.  After some hesitation she agrees - and then comes the twist that changes everything and leads to the second half of the film, narrated by Aurelian several years later.  The film has a beautiful arc, and it results in a sense of wisdom genuinely earned.  Like so many of the best short films discussed here, "short" does not mean "small."  Like any successful work of art, they open up vistas that allow us to see with greater clarity and a sense of wonder what has always been right in front of our eyes.

 


BILLY HAYES ALERT - IT'S "MIDNIGHT EXPRESS" WEEK IN LOS ANGELES!

Don't look now, but Billy Hayes is back in town.

The "Midnight Express" man left Los Angeles in 2014 and hit the road with his one man show for a time, then settled down in Sin City, where he's been negotiating with various pot enterprises who want to market a "Billy Hayes" brand of high-end weed.  Billy has become the poster guy for the booming industry there, as he has been smoking for 50 years and has no ill-effects to show for it.  "On the contrary," he says, "I'm the happiest and the healthiest person I know."

Billy is the subject of a fascinating documentary by Sally Sussman, MIDNIGHT RETURN: Billy Hayes and Turkeywhich is finishing up its run at the Laemmle Music Hall on Friday, and is an absolute must-see if you want to understand why Billy Hayes is such an iconic figure to those of us over 50, and also if you want to get all the juicy behind-the-scenes info about the making of the landmark film Midnight Express.  This film - which would never get made today in the era of political correctness - boasted the collaboration of some very talented and large-ego'd men: David Puttnam, Alan Parker, Peter Guber and Oliver Stone.  When you hear their recollections, it boggles the mind that the movie turned out as well as it did.

Oliver Stone bares his soul about his triumphs and regrets

As a screenwriter myself, I was fascinated to hear about how much the Brits, Parker and Puttnam, hated Stone, even after they were in awe of his screenplay; and how shabbily Stone was treated throughout.  Of course Oliver Stone got the last laugh, winning the Oscar and launching his career, which had basically been stalled to that point.  Stone has some very interesting things to say about the reasons why he related so personally to Billy's story, and how he feels about the film now.  I was shocked to learn that the famous ending of Midnight Express was not in fact his creation... but enough.  I won't spoil the many other revelations.  I will say only that Alan Parker's comments deepened my respect for him as a film artist.

Billy at 23 years old is arrested for trying to smuggle out 2 kilos of hashish

But the center of the story is Billy Hayes, who comes as a deceptively complicated figure - at times he's straightforward and almost an everyman who loves his family and wants to make everyone proud of him, at other times he's an adventurer, a daredevil and, well, "crazy," as his brother and sister keep saying.  Fate chose Billy to be an actor in a drama about American innocence caught in a web of foreign intrigue, and that story has proved to have staying power way beyond anything Billy himself ever expected.  Much like the film of his life that became a cultural phenomenon for young Americans in the 1970s and '80s, and which continues to exert enormous influence over those who've seen it, down to the present day.

Billy and his dad, shortly after Billy's escape

Billy's true-life escape from an Alcatraz-like Turkish island prison still boggles the minds of the Turkish authorities, a few of whom show up in the film still insisting that he must have had help from the CIA.  The escape came after the Turkish court had changed Billy's sentence from four years to 30 years, just as he was about to be released.  (The film makes it clear that Billy was a pawn in Nixon's war on drugs, and that Nixon was happy to have Billy's freedom sacrificed to his law and order policies.)  Given all this, there seems to be some justice in the terrible publicity that the country of Turkey reaped from Billy's harrowing escape.  But Billy himself was disturbed by the anti-Turk tenor of the film and the devestating effect this had on the Turkish tourism industry and on the Turkish people's image in the world and self-image.

The Turkish newspapers depicted Billy as endowed with superpowers

The central theme of the documentary is the return of Billy Hayes to Turkey in 2007, as he attempts to heal the wounds created by the Hollywood film made from his story.  Over the objections of his lawyers and most of his friends (though not me), "crazy" Billy puts himself into the hands of a branch of the Turkish police (of all people) as he holds several news conferences, expressing his love and admiration for the Turkish people.  Then he goes on a tour of his old haunts, including the prisons he spent time in.  The municipal jail has been converted into a Four Seasons (no kidding!), but the infamous Birkakoy prison for criminally insane is still there.  Though it's closed down now, slowly rotting in the hot Turkish sun, they open it up for Billy in an unforgettable sequence, in which all the terrifying memories begin rushing back.

Billy back at Birkakoy - "you are a broken machine."

It's an extraordinary experience, part of an extraordinary story which Billy himself has been trying to come to terms with ever his escape.  He has gradually come to recognize the unique role he's been chosen by history to play, and he has stopped trying to be an actor or director - I met him when he directed my play Break of Day about the young Vincent van Gogh, 18 years ago - and embraced his public persona, taking control of his own story.

Toward this end, Billy brings his one-man show, Riding The Midnight Express with Billy Hayes, to the Odyssey Theatre for four performances this weekend.  The 73 minute show is followed by a Q&A with the audience and then Billy will sign his books for you, including his brilliant Letters from A Turkish Prison, which has not received the amount of attention that I believe it should.  I've seen the show six or seven times in various iterations, and I highly recommend it.  By embracing his "criminal" past, Billy has achieved a philosophy of self-acceptance which feels earned and authentic, and quite the opposite of all the self-help gurus out there who claim to have the answers on how to find your true self.