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

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

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

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

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

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

Man of Many Hats

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

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

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

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

tam o'shanter

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

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

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


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

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

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

It's bananas to bring props into an audition!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


JOAN OF ART: FEATHERS, FLIPPERS AND FUR PICNIC, BUILDING BRIDGES, AND A "MUST SEE" VERY FUNNY PLAY

I've been looking forward to this event since I attended their picnic last year.

As the Los Angeles area's premier wildlife medical care and rehabilitation facility, California Wildlife Center strives to ensure that each animal in their care receives the highest level of help to allow them to return to their wild state. Since 1998, CWC has experienced a steady increase in animal patients, caring for more than 44,000 wild animals, many whose injuries were caused by the impacts of their urbanized environments.

A long term goal of the center is to promote protection of wild habitats and the environment through education, training and partnerships with the communities it serves. Many people have questions and misconceptions about how to help wildlife, which can create unintended consequences to the wildlife they admire. Some conflicts with wildlife occur when raccoons empty trash cans, deer raid gardens and birds nest in chimneys.

Coexistence begins with the understanding of how to share our communities with wild animals. In order to do this, the California Wildlife Center educates individuals about the animals in their environment and provide solutions to existing problems, such as helping a neighborhood discourage a prowling coyote.

When people learn about the hardships animals face each day, they are more willing to take a proactive approach toward protecting the natural environment and the habitats of our wild neighbors. At CWC, they educate communities, and in doing so, they challenge homeowners, teachers, students and businesses to continue learning about their environment and enriching the lands in which we all live and play. What could be better?

On Saturday, May 4, 2019 the CWC will be putting on their second annual Feathers, Flippers and Fur Picnic starting at 2:00 pm and running until 5pm at King Gillette Ranch located at the corner of Mulholland and Las Virgenes in Calabasas.

You will get to experience the wonders of wildlife while feasting on Gourmet Vegetarian Cuisine from your favorite local eateries as well as wine tasting from local wineries.

There will be live music by Wild Ride and a performance by Jimmy H. a comedy magician. Your kiddies can get their face painted while you are doing a guided meditation led by Draza Jansky. Also you can participate in a Silent Auction which will offer amazing packages for the whole family, plus many more fun activities.

Tickets are $75.00 for adults, $25.00 for children ages 3-16 and children ages two and under are free. Tickets include food, wine and all activities. All the proceeds go to this incredible organization. To purchase tickets and to learn more about the event, sponsorship opportunities visit CAWildlife.org.

Now before I spend the day basking in the sun with all these wonderful animals and animal lovers, the night before, Friday May 3rd, I'll be downtown at the BUILD BRIDGES, PAINT WALLS show at the Rendon Gallery, which is partnering with the UCLA Department of Spanish and Portuguese, to present this amazing exhibit.

This is a multimedia exhibition featuring murals, graphic art and photography celebrating latinidad and the international cultural exchanges that make Los Angeles great.

Now what is an art show without music. That's why California punk band Deseos Primitivos will be performing and DJ Skwirl Sauce will be spinning ska, punk, reggae and music Latina. The corner dive bar, Licha's Bar and Grill will be open, serving beer sponsored by Angel City Brewery and Sus Arepas and Memije's Tacos and Catering will have food for sale on the site

The show starts at 7pm and runs until 10pm. The Rendon Gallery is located at 2055 East 7th Street, Los Angeles.

The event is put on by Cartwheel Art who focus on immersive experiences, designing community driven and diverse programming such as guided group tours, art activated events and curated exhibitions.

For more information and to purchase tickets go to CartwheelArt.com. I've been to many Cartwheel Art events and everyone has been unique and simply put, fantastic.

I love theatre and last week I got to see an extremely funny and touching play entitled BOXING LESSONS which is playing at The New American Theatre located at 1312 North Wilton Place in Hollywood.

​When a famous writer dies under mysterious circumstances, family and friends gather in his cabin on a remote island in Puget Sound to box up his belongings. In the process, they come to realize just how much they love, despise and need one another.

This is a world premiere dark comedy written by award winning playwright John Bunzel and perfectly directed by Jack Stehlin. This definitely falls into my 'must see' category. The cast is great and you will laugh big time. I even teared up which always makes me happy. There's tons of wild plot twists and revelations.

The play opened on April 26th and run through June 2nd. Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and some Sundays at 3pm. To purchase tickets and for more information go to NewAmericanTheatre.com or call 310-424-2980.

But most importantly, whatever you choose to do this weekend, make it a fun one people.


Sherman Wayne, at 83, Shows No Signs of Slowing Down

Article written by Julie Feinstein Adams

Sherman Wayne is a lifelong participant in nearly every aspect of the production and performance of live theater, from stage management, to directing, set building, and teaching. Most famously, he was the stage manager of The Fantastiks on Broadway for five years. Wayne is 83 years old and he shows no signs of slowing down.

Currently, he is all-hands-in-all-pots at Theatre Palisades production of CLYBOURNE PARK, having built the set, wrangled volunteers to help change it at intermission (five people are needed to transform the entire set from the 1950s to the 2000s at intermission for each performance), co-producing the show (with Martha Hunter), AND stepping in as director when Tony Torrisi fell ill with pneumonia and was hospitalized, also while two actors had to be replaced — just two weeks before opening night!

“The other day I came here at 10 o'clock in the morning because my lighting man is here and I want to talk to him about lighting." he says as he describes a typical day during rehearsals. "And I left here at 11 o'clock at night after rehearsal, which means I got stuff out of the refrigerator, cooked up something in the microwave.”

“I'm very lucky. Knock on wood!" he adds. "I've had my problems (with my health), but I've been able to overcome them. I moved from Torrance to the Palisades, so I didn't have to take the 405. I live about a half a block down the street from the theater now. I walk here which makes it much easier. I'm the kind of guy that says if you do it, you do it. I said I would build the set. And I told Tony I would cover for him. So that's what I did.”

When asked about the challenge of the set change in the script, Wayne says: “The way the play is written, the set is a very nice house in the Chicago suburbs in 1959. It gets abandoned, and 50 years later, a couple is trying to buy it, but it's gone to heck! And so, during the intermission, we have to change a nice set to one that's been basically destroyed by squatters or graffiti or whatever. And it's a big job because the author really wants a major change — so both houses are characters in the show!”

When Wayne came to Theatre Palisades, he was looking to direct, but when he was not chosen for that particular play, he offered to build sets instead. Over time, he has built nearly all of the sets, roughly 45 sets in 15 years, and has directed many shows.

“You don't just don't direct, you are a shrink." he adds when asked about directing. "You have to handle the people and help them and encourage them. You need to be a people person!”

Wayne will also direct the next production at Theatre Palisades, LEND ME A TENOR.

Wayne came to Theatre Palisades after a long career that started in high school, where he directed a drama production and he also put on variety shows at his local church. Wayne attended college at San Jose State University, where he majored in Drama and worked as a stage manager during his four years. He also acquired a teaching certificate to ensure he “would always be able to pay the bills.”

“When I got to San Jose State, I auditioned for a show." he recalls. "I did not get it, but the director who was very pragmatic — he just was marvelous — and he wanted to know if I wanted to be a stage manager. I thought, ‘What the heck is that?' But, I did. And from then on, I became the major stage manager at San Jose State University for my four years at college. After graduation, a local director and I then opened a theatre in Sausalito where we presented musicals and plays. Unfortunately San Jose State did not have a management class in theatre, so I didn't know anything. I knew nothing! So, we failed. And then I was broke, living on the Sausalito side of San Francisco. One day, I was in a park and there was a newspaper on a bench, and in there was a help wanted ad for a drama teacher in San Francisco.”

Wayne spent a year teaching drama, but then decided to move to New York, to “see if he could compete with the ‘big boys,'” stopping along the way in Fitchburg, Massachusetts to take stage director jobs in summer stock productions, and where he also began work in set design. Once in New York, Wayne worked in several off Broadway productions and soon, nearly by luck, he was hired as stage manager for The Fantasticks, a dream gig that lasted five years.

“When I moved to New York, I worked very hard and got several jobs as a stage manager Off-Broadway. Another student and I formed a company to supply Off-Broadway producers with technical help. We would supply everything they needed, from directors through lighting people and all that stuff! So I was running around doing stage managing and running this company. Then I was in my attorney's office one day, and the attorney was being told that the general manager of The Fantasticks was being fired. And fortunately the attorney said, ‘hey, I've got a great guy, he's sitting in the lobby.' So I interviewed and got the job.”

Wayne also stage-managed several other shows on and off Broadway. Eventually he decided to move to the West Coast, where he then worked in several “round houses” such as in Anaheim, where the 3,000-seat venues usually had an audience for musicals. Next, he got a job teaching high school, a role he enjoyed for the next 25 years.

When Wayne retired from teaching, he still wanted to keep his hand in theater, which led him to Theatre Palisades.

And so, with Wayne's considerable contributions, Pulitzer-Prize-winning play CLYBOURNE PARK opened at Theatre Palisades on Friday April 5th for a five week run, every Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. through May 5th. (Box Office: 310-454-1970)

The play features a complete scene change between acts, as the script tells the story of a neighborhood undergoing demographic change twice, first in the early 50's and then again 50 years later. Like a character aging in the play, the complete set change demonstrates the effects of the decades that lead to the deterioration of the home.

Set building is hard, physical, and demanding work. However, Wayne notes, “Fortunately, we never hammer and nail anymore. We just put screws in, so that the wood won't split. One of my things here is, of course I reuse stuff. I've got a whole storage area which is packed full. I get a lot of static about storing all of that stuff, but I can save hundreds of dollars per show by pulling out or planning with something that I have. For this show, I'm using the same staircase that I used in the last show. We don't tear sets apart, we just try and store them because I can use them again!”

In 1963, Theatre Palisades was founded by three television writers; Ken Rosen, Sheldon Stark, and Jacquie Chester. By 1967, Theatre Palisades had become a community theatre. From 1967 through 1975, the theatre produced shows in various venues including Palisades Park and Rustic Canyon Park as well as a few touring productions around Southern California.

In 1975, Kate Ahrens of the Pacific Palisades Historical Society brought an offer from Lelah and J. Townley Pierson to Theatre Palisades to donate land to build a theatre. Lelah, along with her husband, Townley, donated the property on which the theatre now stands. In November, 1988, just in time for the 25th anniversary of the group, Theatre Palisades opened the new 125 seat theatre, which was named Pierson Playhouse, in honor of Lelah and J. Townley Pierson who had not only generously donated the property but also contributed extensively to the Building Fund. The current busy schedule of Theatre Palisades includes five major productions per year, with a run of 18 performances per production. TPYouth produces two shows a year by children for a total of 13 performances a year. The theater also offers chamber music concerts, special shows and membership meetings. Theatre Palisades hosts many Palisades Historical Society presentations throughout the year.


'Pasadena Playhouse' Announces New Director of Development

Photo by Jackie Ortiz
NANCY GRIFFITH BAXTER

The Pasadena Playhouse has announced that Nancy Griffith Baxter is their new Director of Development, bringing with her more than 30 years of fundraising and wealth management experience.

Previously as Director of Gift Planning at LA Opera, legacy gift contribution revenue increased nine-fold during Baxter's time at the organization. Prior to the LA Opera, she was also recruited by her alma mater, Colorado College, to serve as Director of Gift Planning, pulling the program out of dormancy and growing its Legacy Society significantly towards raising over $15 million during the 2015-2016 fiscal year in new future gifts.

With a master's in Finance from Claremont Graduate University and a bachelor's in Political Science - International Relations at Colorado College, she's also an award-winning one-time Senior V.P. and Senior Philanthropic Investment Manager at Wells Fargo where she oversaw the investment team that brought and influenced $18 billion in charitable assets. With it, Baxter is looking forward to working with her new team at Pasadena's landmark and official State Theater of California.

“It's an honor to work with a dynamic leadership team at an institution with the amazing history and impact that [the] Pasadena Playhouse has had on both the local and national entertainment industry, including theater, film, and television,” said Baxter in a statement. “I look forward to working with the community to ensure the longevity of this amazing theater for another 100 years.”

In addition to coaching and building wealth teams around the US to attract and expand philanthropic business opportunities and clients, recruiting and managing investment management, and developing investment strategies for endowments, deferred gift programs, and private foundations, “a lover of the arts” Baxter also brings with her extensive and continued volunteerism in the performing arts. She has served as a board member with the Colburn School, as well as with LA Opera, Shakespeare Festival/LA (now Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles), Young & Healthy, the Rocky Mountain Women's Film Institute, and Woman's Educational Society of Colorado College.

In 1937, the Pasadena Playhouse was “officially recognized as the State Theater of California for its contribution and commitment to the dramatic arts”. Pasadena Playhouse recently hosted the LA Drama Critics Circle Awards where it recognized excellence in Los Angeles theatre and it continues its own tradition of excellence under Producing Artistic Director Danny Feldman.

"I am thrilled to welcome Nancy to the leadership team as we continue to take the Playhouse in a new and exciting direction,” said Feldman. “I know her wealth of energy and experience will be invaluable to us in garnering support from the Pasadena community and beyond.”

Featured Photo by Freed14, used via Creative Commons permissions, Wikipedia. The Pasadena Playhouse - State Theatre of California.


JOAN OF ART: An Old Fashion Musical, Puppets, Whales and Books (yes they still exist)

The 1952 MGM song and dance classic that immortalized Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds is considered by everyone one of cinema's greatest. A true classic. Adapted for the stage in 1985 by the film's legendary creators Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Singing in the Rain comes to The Soraya thanks to a lavish new production by McCoy Rigby Entertainment before it moves to the La Mirada Theatre.

This will be one antic-laden spectacle as Hollywood history is made when silent film transform into talkies.

The show is choreographed by Spencer Liff who has earned two Emmy Nominations for Outstanding Choreography for his work on the hit Fox TV show So You Think You Can Dance. As always McCoy Rigby entertainment casts their show with the top notch people many who have performed on Broadway. I'm seeing it Saturday night and can't wait.

The show runs at the Soraya on April 12th at 8pm, Saturday April 13 at 3pm & 8pm and Sunday April 14th at 3pm. To purchase tickets or for more information go to TheSoraya.org or call 818-677-3000.

Now I for one love to read...Not on a Kindle and not on my iPad, but books. I love to read books so I was so happy to hear that this weekend The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books has returned. Since 1996, this event has become a world renowned experience gathering writers, poets, artists, filmmakers, musicians and emerging storytellers like no other. There will also be signing areas where various authors will sign for about an hour.

 

Today over 150,000 people attend, making it the largest festival of its kind in the United States. How cool is that?

The Festival of Books runs Saturday, April 13, 2019 from 10am-6pm and Sunday April 14th from 10am -5pm. On Friday at 7m there is a Book Prize Ceremony at Bovard Auditorium, USC Campus.

General Admission to the Festival and Newstory is free. There are certain additional special presentations and conversations which even though free, there is a service fee charged.

The event takes place on the University of Southern California campus located near the historic Exposition Park.

For more information visit Events.LATimes.com/FestivalOfBooks

I don't know about how you all feel about puppets, but I just love them. I also love the musical Les Miz so I happy to report that LES MIZ and FRIENDS!: A PUPPET PARODY will be at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood every Friday and Saturday until May 11th.

A human production of the Broadway classic 'Les Miserables' is overturned by a bunch of foul mouth puppets who throw a revolution of their own. Both a loving tribute and a brutal deconstruction of the beloved musical, 'Les Miz and Friends!' will delight the show's lovers and haters alike.

Full of irreverent humor, parody and original music, improvisation and no-holds-barred attacks on musical theatre this production is definitely not for kids.

The Hudson Theatre is located at 6539 Santa Monica Blvd. Los Angeles. To purchase tickets go to LesMizAndFriends.com.

And now for something completly different. One of the most majestic creatures in the ocean is here in Calfornia and you have an excellent chance of seeing it. I'm talking about WHALES...

One of the most amazing sights in nature is that of majestic whales swimming and playing on the ocean's surface leaping out of the water and slapping their mighty tales. On this 2.5 hour cruise of the shores of Newport Beach you may see giant blue whales during the summer and fall months or the annual grey whale migration that brings tens of thousands of grey whales along the coast during the winter and spring months. Huge pods of several species of dolphin are very common, as are the resident sea lions.

You might also get glimpses of killer whales, sharks and many other marine creatures. This is an event for anyone that loves these sea creatures. I know I do and can't wait to go on Sunday.

For information go to NewportWhales.com. The cruises go on through September 30, 2019.

So most importantly whatever you choose to do this weekend, make it a fun one.


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

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

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

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

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

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

Sam the Ham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


JOAN OF ART: Three Different Kinds of Theatre and A Celebration of Beer - What Could Be Better?

Last weekend I saw a powerful, emotionally moving, beautifully acted one woman show entitled The Meatball Chronicles and I highly recommend it. If you do only one thing this weekend, run over to the he Hudson Theatre in Hollywood and get your tickets for this excellent must see production.

This is actress Debrianna Mansini's story and one you won't forget. Mansini is a brilliant storyteller and she takes us on a journey of her life and asks the question, 'What happens when from the day your are born you are made to feel invisible by your mother, who just happens to be a narcissist.'

The Meatball Chronicles which first played last year at the Fringe Festival follows Debrianna's journey through humorous and sometimes heart wrenching meals that align with stories of her childhood, her relationships with men and in particular her complicated relationship to her mother.

Mansini crafts the piece in a way that transcends her own story into universal themes that anyone who has a family can love and understand. As she kneads the dough and thickens the sauce through each Italian recipe, the stories associated with those recipes reveal the complex ways that families cope, laugh, grieve and show their love through food.

To purchase tickets go to OnStage411.com/meatball. The show plays Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm. The Hudson Theatre is located at 6539 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood. The play closes on April 14, 2019.

On Friday I'll be going to another kind of theatre and one I'm a huge fan of...SLAM POETRY which will be playing at Greenway Court Theatre, 544 North Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles from April 5th - April 27th. This is the 3rd Annual LA Get Down Festival celebrating hip-hop and the spoken word.

Da Poetry Lounge Co-Founder Shihan Van Clief serves as the Festival's Artistic Director. The festival features: Atlanta based Poetry vs. Hip-Hop; invitational team and Indie slams from all over the country from youths to adults. If you're a fan of this medium then this is an event you do not want to miss. Also April just happens to be National Poetry Month.

Spoken word expands all ages and cultures. Besides watching the various shows there will be a diverse schedule of talent leading various poetry workshops availabe for you to take. You've never experienced poetry like you will at the LA GET DOWN FESTIVAL

To purchase tickets go to [email protected] or call 323-655-7679.

Come Saturday evening I'm headed downtown to see BIRDLAND BLUE a play with music that takes us back in time. The year is 1959. The place is Broadway and 52nd Street in New York City, the nightblub is the world famous BIRDLAND which was the legendary center of the jazz world, where the glitterati of Broadway, Hollywood and the sports world regularly filled its 500 seats.

In August of 1959 the biggest star in jazz was Miles Davis who earlier that year recorded KIND OF BLUE, regarded then and now as the most innovative and best jazz album of all time.

BIRDLAND BLUE is a behind the scenes look at Miles on one evening. He flirts with a beautiful reporter for a jazz magazine. He copes with division within his rank as two of his musicians Julius Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane are on the verge of leaving the Sextet to start their own groups. He also deals with substance abuse problems, his own and that of one of his musicians.

The play is put on by the Robey Theatre Company and promises to be a very memorable one.

To purchase tickets go to TheLATC.org or call 866-811-4111. The play runs through Sunday May 12. Showtimes are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3:00 pm except Sundays April 21 and May 12 when the showtime will be 7pm.

So in between experiencing alll this culture you might get thirsty so luckily on Saturday April 6th from 12-8pm at Los Angeles Center Studios located at 450 South Bixel Street, the11th annual LA BEER FESTIVAL is taking place.

The event will feature dozens of international and domestic beers, over a dozen food trucks as well as live entertainment. Your general admission ticket ($45) includes unlimited beer tastings with food sold separately.

If you buy a Connoisseur's Ticket ($85) you get air conditioned bathrooms (that alone is worth the extra money) a taco bar, an indoor/outdoor event deck overlooking the event featuring limited beers/one-offs that are not available with general admission.

I went last year and it was a blast. For more information visit LABeerFest.la.

Whatever you do this weekend folks, have a great one.


Memories Are the Heart's Reality

In The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams' first success and now on stage at A Noise Within theater in Pasadena, a still young man, Tom Wingfield, relives the memories of his last months, living through the Depression with what was left of his family after his father had run out on them. He returns to the scene of this crime-of-the-heart, compelled perhaps as much by a need to justify abandoning the two most important women in his life, as his father had, as to recapture a “truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion,” as he tells the audience in the opening moments of the play. “Yes,” he warns us, “I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician.” But don't believe him. Coming from the soul of perhaps America's greatest poet-dramatist, the graceful rhythms of Williams' rueful elegy are truly theatrical magic.

Tom remembers his loving, yet overbearing mother, Amanda, surviving the gloom of
her forsaken life on reminiscences of a proper, well-mannered past that may never have been as genteel as she tries so hard to imagine. He has an aching love of his
handicapped younger sister, Laura, who escapes her intense sense of inadequacy by
mothering a collection of sparkling figurines, most particularly a unicorn – that
mythical symbol of unattainable desire – a glass menagerie, if you will. And then there's the “Gentleman Caller” (Amanda's phrase), Tom's friend from the shoe factory, Jim O'Connor, who Tom invited to dinner one evening to satisfy – you might say, shut up, his mother who needs a suitor for Laura. Jim is a young buck with dreams of breaking into the big time, being a “player,” on the world stage – mostly by applying the confidence he has to believe he's gaining from the course public speaking he's taking.

It's a brash, show-offy color that brings a cold-water splash of reality into the monotony unrealizable neediness that fills the Wingfield's down-at heel apartment in St. Louis.

But what drives this tale of rueful romantic yearning is Tom's craving for a poetry in life that breaths adventure. He longs to be free of the smothering delusions of the women he loves. Amanda and Laura, fill their lives imagining their own “could be's” and “only if's.” But they have no idea of the passions that are driving Tom away from them – passions even he has trouble granting himself. His need to be free of them breeds a corrosive guilt towards mother and sister, feed his anger at life's cruel niceties. He knows they could never, would never, allow or accept him for what he is, what he wants, what he would be.

Played out on a simple setting, young Tom's memories “turn back time…” to a
“quaint period…  when the huge middle class of America was matriculating in a
school for the blind. Their eyes had failed them, or they had failed their eyes, and so they were having their fingers pressed forcibly down on the fiery Braille alphabet of a dissolving economy.” Williams' The Glass Menagerie refract the many facets of love-hate, alone-togetherness that seem so vivid almost a century later. And A Noise Within is doing a service allowing us to consider it's truths in these troubled times.


An acclaimed playwright creates a script about – of all things – an acclaimed playwright.

Oscar Wilde, was an Irishman of uncommon wit, reached the pinnacle of his career with the opening in London of his highly acclaimed farce, The Importance of Being Ernest, in February of 1895. Within four months, Wilde began serving a sentence of two years at hard labor in England's Redding Gaol that would ruin his health and bring about his early miserable demise.

A hundred years later, David Hare (another greatly admired British playwright) wrote a play about the troubled end of Oscar Wilde's life. Hare titled his play The Judas Kiss.

The Theater at Boston Court in Pasadena presented the play in an intimate setting that allowed Los Angeles to see the play with great attention to the writing.

Hare's award-winning work in film and television as well as stage should have been sufficient enough to draw local audiences to the production. Also, while the script's first presentation in London wasn't the success everyone expected, it involved an above-the-title name from many a Hollywood film. Indeed, most people put the play's initial failure down to the casting of movie hunk, Liam Neesom as the aging Oscar Wilde. Commercial, yes – appropriate, not really. He'd just been playing title roles on screen in films like Schindler's List and Rob Roy, as well as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables (non-musical). A star, yes – but as a disgraced homosexual?

In 2012, Rupert Everrett revived the play in London and took it to New York two years later. A more sympathetic casting to be sure, and one that garnered better reviews (and spurred Everrett to write, direct, and play Wilde last year in his own end-of-Oscar's-life film The Happy Prince).

The script began on the fateful day Oscar Wilde allowed himself to be goaded into
facing prosecution for “gross indecency” rather than taking the opportunity provided by the courts to go abroad and avoid trouble. It ended with Wilde's self-imposed exile in Italy when the cause of the accusation walked out on him. Wilde had been involved with a number of men in London, most particularly flaunting a love affair with Lord Alfred Douglas -  the selfish, troubled, son of the Marquis of Queensbury [he of the gentlemanly code of boxing rules]. Wilde's aesthetic love for Douglas (no less than his physical passion for the young man) required of Wilde that he stand on principle: the love of beauty demands it be admitted. And so he did, and so he was convicted and imprisoned, and died alone far from the island of his success..

Reportedly, David Hare has said he was trying to use “the Wide-Douglas-relationship as a prism through which to examine the phenomenon of sacrificial love.” Sacrificial to English hypocrisy and xenophobia. To honor and to love – Wilde would say. And as one would expect, Hare does it with wit – Oscar's and his own. As for the details of the plot? You should have seen it at the Theater at Boston Court.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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