Steven Sabel’s Twist on the Trade: Content Equals Character

We were all recently reminded that it was Martin Luther King Jr. who famously dreamed of a world where we would all be judged by the content of our character, but in our industry, artists are judged rather by the amount and quality of their generated content. Content equals character in a world where online presence is often the key to getting the job.

Whether we like it or not, the norm of the modern age of entertainment is to judge an artist by the amount and quality of the online content they can continue to generate. Relevant content equals relevance in the industry and viability as a marketable commodity. As an entertainment industry professional, you are a commodity. Or, you are not. We have all heard the stories about people getting work because of their large social media followings, YouTube subscriber base, or viral content. Go viral, or go extinct. Create a high profile, build an online presence, generate constant content, or slide into the oblivion of just another fantasy hobbyist. Get serious, or seriously reconsider your choice of profession.

Think about it. You are a business. Your commodity is you. You are your product and you are selling a service. In order to succeed in business, you must build your marketing machine, and your marketing machine must include an online presence filled with relevant content for prospective customers to seek, find, and assess before they will purchase. In today’s age, nobody purchases anything or uses any service without first researching the company or the product – even if all that entails is posting to the “hive mind” for recommendations of where to eat, what to buy, or who to use for a needed service. I won’t eat at a new restaurant, if they don’t have a website with a menu, photos, and reviews. Would you?

As entertainment professionals, we cannot expect that anyone will hire us if we are a complete unknown without a relevant online presence. If you don’t have a website, you don’t exist. If all you are is a collection of personal social media accounts, you are no different than your cousin, Cecil, who works at the canning factory back home in Wisconsin. Get real. Google yourself. I guarantee that casting directors will before they offer you a job. What will they find? Your personal Facebook page? Your Instagram account?

If you don’t have a fan page and a website associated with you as a commodity, then you are not a commodity. How serious can you really be about your professional career if you can’t take the time to register a domain name and build a simple website? Or if you’re completely tech illiterate – get a friend, bribe a friend, or pay a friend to build a site for you. Look at the major professionals whose careers you wish you could have. Assess what they all have in common when it comes to their online presence and generating relevant content. Most of them have people who do it for them, but until you are able to hire a marketing team – you are your marketing team.

If you don’t have available content associated with your career – you don’t have a career.

What you have is a fantasy life – no different than your best hometown friend, Sallie Mae, who you left behind back in Nebraska to become the manager of the local mini mart. If you happen to be the manager of a mini mart here in LA, but you’re not using every spare hour striving to demonstrate that you are something more than a fresh-off-the-bus fantasy player – then Sallie Mae has it all over you, because she isn’t paying $800 per month to rent a room with five other people in a three bedroom apartment in Koreatown with one bathroom. In fact, Sally Mae is laughing at you from her three bedroom, two bath house in Omaha, that (according to a Zillow search) she can get for $1,000 per month.

Get real. Get serious, or you might as well move back to Nebraska. If your only online presence is your personal social media accounts, you are not a professional business person – you’re a hobbyist. In this world, you are what you do. If all you do is post about drinking at local bars with friends – your social media presence says you are a bar fly, not an industry professional. If all you do is post about political issues that interest you – you are a gadfly, not an industry professional. If all you do is post about that great restaurant you ate at last night – you are a wanna-be food critic. You are not an entertainment industry professional.

Entertainment industry professionals post about the work they are doing – even when they do not currently have any employment in the industry. Remember my favorite Sabelism: you have to do the work to get the work. True professionals will post about anything and everything they are doing to better their career. They post about acting classes they are taking, auditions they are preparing for, new physical workouts and diet regimens they are committing to in order to enhance their physical viability for the roles they wish to play. At the very minimum, true professionals are posting about new scripts they are perusing, monologues they are learning, accents they are perfecting, skills they are acquiring, or industry books they are reading to learn more about their craft.

When they do have work, true professionals are generating content about that work. They are posting about learning their lines, studying their scenes, doing their research on their project’s time era, setting, hairstyles, clothing, manners, and any other thing that can assist their backstory and the creation of a viable character. They post about rehearsals. They post from the set while on break from filming. They post behind-the-scenes looks into their processes. They provide hints about their costuming or props, and they sell themselves as professionals on the job. Even when they are not on the job of fulfilling a role or a contract, they are on the job of getting more jobs by constantly generating content to demonstrate that they are true serious professionals.

True professionals post about the projects they are working on – promoting themselves and whatever it is they are doing day and night. The best way to market your product and services to new potential customers, is to promote the work you are currently doing for existing customers. It is far easier to generate relevant content when you are working, and far more important too, if you want to keep the string of work flowing. When you book a gig, it isn’t an excuse to take a break from doing the work, but should rather serve as the impetus for doing even more work to line up the next project.

Build and fill your website. Create a public fan page. Flood your sites with relevant content. Do your best to be the only Joanie Jones or Sam Smith on the first page of a Google search. Content is character, and if your dream is to make a living in this industry, you must know that you will be judged by your content, or lack of it….

Marsha Hunt, Actor, Activist and Survivor

In today’s volatile political and social climate, actors and celebrities are often as well known for their causes as for their movies and plays. Angelina JolieOprah WinfreyYoko Ono, and Alyssa Milano, to name just a few, are known for numerous foundations and humanitarian causes, for speaking up and out, and for making huge financial donations. It seems as if this is a new development, due to the omnipresent information that fills our screens regarding the famous. However, if you travel a little further back in time you find Jane Fonda fighting the Vietnam war, and prior to that, Audrey Hepburn leaving acting to focus on humanitarian work for UNICEF. The intersection of arts and activism is not new, and it doesn’t always have clear cut benefits for those who engage in it. Especially in certain eras, morals and integrity stood in direct opposition to fortune and popularity. Many who stood up for the former ended up fading in the latter. For those who aspire to use public platforms to create and facilitate change, Marsha Hunt is a person to both honor and emulate.

Marsha Hunt is a retired actress and activist. She is 101 years old and still lives in her beautiful home in the San Fernando Valley. She has led an amazing life, both as an incredibly gifted and intelligent performer and as a forward thinking activist championing both individual rights and institutional evolution. Everyone should know her name, her unique voice and be aware of her legacy. This article serves simply as an introduction to her incredible life and work. It is impossible to condense all that she has created and stood for into one piece. I’ve included numerous links and additional information at the end of this post.

Ms. Hunt was born in Chicago in 1917. She did it all. While training as an actor, she began to work as a model, becoming one of the industry’s highest paid by 1935. Although she wanted to do theater, she moved to Los Angeles in 1934 at the age of 17 and was initially signed by Paramount, where she starred in several films. Even at this tender age, she started to assert her rights. She refused to do pin up photos (known as “cheesecake” and “leg art”) and did not take part in the social party scene. She was starting even then, to find her own voice and to stand up for her values. Although she showed promise, Paramount released her from her contract after a few years. She freelanced for a while before ending up at MGM, where she stayed on contract through 1945. Notable films include Pride and Prejudice and Blossoms in the Dust. She also starred in the only wartime film to acknowledge the Holocaust, None Shall Escape (1944). While she did not become an A list star, she worked constantly as a supporting actor in quality films. During the war she also sang on USO tours and developed a career in radio. She appeared in over 50 films in her career, over the course of several decades.

Ms. Hunt’s film career came to an abrupt halt when she was caught up in the Communist witch hunt of the McCarthy era. Ms. Hunt was and continues to be outspoken, with a liberal belief system that she guards fiercely. Ms. Hunt, along with her second husband, screenwriter Robert Presnell Jr., were so disturbed by the actions of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) that they joined the Committee for the First Amendment which was formed in 1947 and made up of many A list actors and Hollywood players. The group went to Washington to protest the hearings and produced Hollywood Fights Back, a star-studded radio program which was co-written by her husband.

Like many other notable actors and screenwriters who dared to stand up to the government and studio system, Ms. Hunt’s career came to a complete stop in Hollywood. She was asked to denounce her activities if she wanted to find more work and she steadfastly refused. In 1950, Hunt was named as a potential Communist or Communist sympathizer (along with 151 other actors, writers and directors) in the anti-Communist publication Red Channels. Though she would continue to work through her 90s, the blacklist effectively stopped her ascent in major motion pictures.

Not one to sit still however, Ms. Hunt simply knocked on other doors, returning to her first love; theater. She made her Broadway debut in Joy To The World, in March of 1948. She continued to go between theater, working both on Broadway and in Los Angeles, television and radio for the rest of her career. She starred in the first live televised Shakespeare play, playing Viola in Twelfth Night. In 1950 she appeared on the cover of Life Magazine as the star of the Broadway play, The Devil’s Disciple. In 1987 she even appeared in an episode of Star Trek! In addition to opening up time for theater, the blacklist also opened up her time for activism. This was not a new avenue for her to travel. She had worked throughout the war years at the Hollywood Canteen dancing and socializing with service men, especially on Saturday nights, when no one else wanted to. But, after the blacklist, the world opened up to her. As she stated in an interview with Film Talk in response to the question:

“How did you get involved in all the charity work you did for so many years?”
When I had so much free time because I wasn’t allowed to act, I discovered the outside world. I went around the world with my husband and I came back as, what I called, a planet patriot. I fell in love with the planet, not just my country, but all of us. I learned about the United Nations which was right here in this country and I spent twenty-five years working as a volunteer on behalf of the UN, I worked on the Year of the Child, international cooperation, and made a documentary film during World Refugee Year with fourteen stars appearing in it to tell the stories of different refugees. There were still twenty-five million people floating around the world, stateless, with no travel papers, no identity papers, no work permits – fifteen years after World War II ended. The United Nations was trying to get the governments to open their borders and let their fair share of refugees in, so I made this film to acquaint Americans with it. It was very rewarding.

In addition to world wide charity work, Ms. Hunt made a huge difference right in the San Fernando Valley, opening the first homeless shelter for women and children. This is especially poignant because her own baby did not survive. During the turmoil of the McCarthy era, she gave birth to a baby girl, born prematurely, who later passed away. This was a true heartbreak for her and she did not have any other children.

Ms. Hunt’s creative spirit is expressed in numerous ways. In 1993 she published The Way We Wore … a beautiful coffee table book detailing fashion of the 1930s and 1940s. All of the photos are of her, in glorious outfit after glorious outfit. Many are studio shots used as publicity for her 50 movies, some are fashion shots for the designers. Each photo is explained and detailed by Ms. Hunt in her own charming manner. I actually met Ms. Hunt when I was directing and costuming a play set in the 1940s. She lent us clothes, making sure that each piece was truly representative of who would wear it. Her knowledge of fashion rivals many who made it their life’s work. Her generosity of spirit was on display even in such limited contact.

One of the most charming surprises, but one that goes to the heart of Ms. Hunt’s belief system is the song that she wrote about love and marriage equality for same-sex couples, titled Here’s To All Who Love. She wrote it at age 95, and it has become an anthem at marriage ceremonies. She wrote it as a gift and it is has been received as one.

There is a documentary by Roger Memos about Marsha Hunt. It had a short run in 2015 but in order to recut it for streaming services, Mr. Memos is raising funds. The documentary was filmed in collaboration with Ms. Hunt and features countless interviews, clips and insight. It is a labor of love and an amazing project. If you would like to read more about the documentary you can check out the Facebook page. If you would like to donate to the GoFund account to help with the sound mix, closed captioning, the film’s website and the film trailer, please click here.

In preparation for this article, I sent Ms. Hunt some questions to answer via email. Rather than edit them, I will share them with you as is.

Marsha being surprised by the crew of her documentary for her 75th anniversary. She is in her late 90s in this photograph.

What similarities do you see in the political climate today and during the 1940s and 1950s? Are there differences that you feel are more or less dangerous? 
At 101 years of age I am not as well informed as I once was. But of course I favor, as always, the most peaceful, most even handed solution to problems.

I don’t know if you would remember, but we have actually met! You were extremely generous in helping me costume a play that I directed, set in the 1940s. I came over and you lent us clothing and gave me a copy of your book, which I treasure. How do you feel that fashion (or the lack of it) affects women’s power and collective voice? I have been watching the new congress and all of the new younger and female members of the House in their bright clothes and fashion forward choices. Does this, in your opinion empower or diminish them?
I think there is an effect but it’s hard to define. I think how well, how effectively, a woman legislator dresses can tell us something about her IQ, the effective, the becoming, the appropriate, which then empowers them. I don’t think “fashion” diminishes unless it’s extreme – then it can be negative, but I think that’s pretty rare. I guess women in government dress without “headlines’. If they were fashion plates it would be distracting from their effectiveness in what they are there to do. It would become the wrong topic.

What do you want to tell women and actors who find that their activism is more important to them than their acting careers? Do you think it is worth it, if being known for your politics is hurting your castability. Do you think that is a truism, or simply a fear?
When you take positions you lose some people just as you gain others. On matters of importance to me, it is worth it.

What role do you think that the unions should play in helping actors become activists? Should the union be neutral or an active partner? (NB: Ms. Hunt was active in SAG prior to the blacklist and served on the board)

The union is there to protect and help the actor so when one’s union takes a position the individual is spared blame or credit for it. At that extent we are protected by our unions.

Do you see any positive aspects to social media as it it used today? Do you see it as a danger (do you not care about it at all??)
The internet/social media is a way of “getting it out there” but then nothing remains private including opinions.

What changes would you like to see, both in the nation and in the entertainment/film industry, in regards to women specifically.
The changes in the entertainment/film industry ideally would be that it that it be an open opportunity to write, direct, produce whether a woman or a man.

Sweet Adversity Documentary:

Book website:
The Way We Wore

Links to additional articles:
NPR: Actress Marsha Hunt, 100, Has Matters Of Principle
Movie Maker: Marsha Hunt at 100: The Actress Recalls the Blacklist, Film Noir and Being Cast in Gone With The Wind
IMDB bio
British Film Institute: Marsha Hunt: American girl, Un-American woman, upstanding centenarian
LA Times: Actress Marsha Hunt survived the blacklist without apologizing for her activism
Film Talk: Marsha Hunt: “MGM let me play absolutely everything, the studio gave me such joy”
Huffington Post: Marsha Hunt Pens ‘Here’s To All Who Love’ Gay Rights Anthem

Marsha discusses her career and the Hollywood Blacklist

Novel Entertainments – Part 3

This is a three part series.

To read Part 1 of this series, which discusses the recent production of The Picture of Dorian Gray that was performed at the Pasadena Playhouse, please go to Novel Entertainments – Part 1.

To read Part 2 of this series, which discusses the recent productions Creation (Pictures for Dorian Gray) by the Gob SquadThe Woman in Black at the The Pasadena Playhouse, and The Turn of the Screw, by noted playwright-screenwriter Jeffry Hatcher, please visit Novel Entertainments – Part 2.

Intriguingly, The Actors’ Gang has brought us a new production of Johnny Got His Gun, the 1938 award-winning anti-war novel from legendary screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo – Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Roman Holiday (1953), Spartacus (1960), and Exodus (also 1960). Trumbo directed his own film adaptation of Johnny Got His Gun in 1971, and has himself become widely known through the recent biopic starring Bryan Cranston (2016).

The novel is an excruciating tragedy, a dark, anti-war satire about a patriotic young American in WW1 (it was published two days after the declaration of war in Europe, more than two years before the United States joined World War II). It’s the story of Joe Bonham, a duty-bound volunteer, who enters the war to the rousing hoopla of “Over There” which repeats and repeats the Civil War rallying cry:

“Johnny, get your gun, get your gun, get your gun.
Johnny, show the Hun, you’re a son-of-a-gun.
Hoist the flag and let her fly
Yankee Doodle, do or die.
Pack your little kit, show your grit, do your bit.
Yankee to the ranks from the towns and the tanks
Make your Mother proud of you
And the old red-white-and-blue.
Johnny, get your gun, get your gun, get your gun…”

“Johnny get your gun” became a slogan encouraging enlistment in the army in 1917 as American entered the War to End all War. Most recently the lyric was used by the rock band Ladyjack, as an ironic protest. But Trumbo’s past tense use of the cry says it all: Johnny got his gun and see what that got him?

Joe – the “Johnny” who got his gun in the novel was, by a horrific artillery shell attack, rendered blind, deaf, and mute, even losing his arms or legs. In the book, trapped in what’s left of his now limbless body, unable to communicate with the world around him, he recalls his earlier life and attempts to overcome the tremendous obstacles that stand between him and contact with the rest of humanity. After learning he can pound out Morse code with his head against the bed rail, the outer world’s indifference to his consciousness forces him, in desperation to find a way out, to end his life.

Trumbo’s film version succeeds because his adaptation lets us see and hear the doctors and nurses, so we understand that they’re only keeping Joe alive to study the effects of such mutilation on a mangled human body. The doctors are convinced he’s a vegetable, unable to feel pain, without memory or hope. Trumbo’s elegant, heart-wrenching narrative, puts the lie to that medical diagnosis. It presents the reality of Joe’s situation in stark black and white and his memories in color.

The Actors’ Gang production, directed by artistic director, Tim Robbins, from an adaptation by Brandley Rand Smith, is in effect a solo performance, with eight actors functioning like a Greek chorus. They echo words and voices in Joe’s mind’s ear. They move choreographically, sometimes in military formations, sometimes as leaves blown on the wind, generally as remembered characters, but sometimes as mere impulses in Joe’s memories. But unlike the novel, The Gang’s script/production is really narrative drama brought to life as agitprop theater. It mimics rather than dramatizes – at least until that magic moment when a nurse with her finger spells out “Merry Christmas” on Joe’s chest. Suddenly, he has real communication, his first since his war wounds rendered him what was then insensitively called “a basket case,” and the script springs to life, beginning to achieve what the novel does so profoundly – let us experience the horror of war.

What is ultimately so devastating in the book and the film is the continued indifference to Joe’s inner needs and the service to which the world around Joe puts what’s left of his body – his life, even when the nurse and a soldier discover his ability to communicate. They deny his own best interest with the same arrogance as the politicians and general who sent him into their useless war.

That the Actors’ Gang, with all reverent homage to Trumbo’s novelistic efforts, fails so completely as a stage work, is unfortunately an opportunity missed. What is lost in the Brechtian approach Robbins uses in staging the piece is the real drama. When Jow, four to five years into his post-War experience is finally able to communicate with the outside world, he is thwarted at every turn. Using his Morse code technique, he tells his caregiver he wants to be displayed around the nation as an emblem of the reality of war. “It’s against army policy” is the excuse, drawn on his limbless, torso. But in the Gang’s production, we never really grasp the outside world’s take on Joe. Where the Dorian production gives us mostly exterior, this Johnny locks us into the interior. That the essentially human tragedy of the novel is lost in the staged political message is a dramatic miscalculation!


Last but certainly not least, Kenneth Ludwig’s adaptation of Murder On The Orient Express at the La Mirada Theatre. It’s based on that most famous of Agatha Christie’s novels (whose play, The Mousetrap, is the only show in London that’s been running longer than The Woman In Black (since 1952, 65 years). The Hercule Poirot mystery was first published as a novel in 1934 (originally, in the US, as a serial in The Saturday Evening Post under the title Murder in the Calais Coach). The story, (one of 33 in which Hercule Poirot is a character) was inspired by the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case of 1932 – at the time considered “the biggest story since the Resurrection.”

On his way from Istanbul to London on the swanky Express in the Calais Coach and its adjoining dining car, an American gangster is found murdered in his locked compartment with nine telltale knife wounds and a broken watch. As Poirot, at the begging of the train’s general manager, sets out to identify the killer, the train gets stuck in an avalanche of snow.

So he does what the detectives in Agatha Christie novels always do – interview everyone with even the slightest access to the dead man, comparing everyone’s statement for inconsistencies, oddities, and lies. He follows the clues, looking for a motive. He reconsiders the clues again and again, with an open mind, and fearless in the face of truth. The script and the novel follow the tried and true Christie formula.

But perhaps unique in Christie’s work is the unexpected drama of Poirot agonizing over a criminal dilemma. That he comes down on the side of the angels is, perhaps, a tragedy of ethics? Certainly, it shatters his devotion to legal absolutism, and after more than two dozen novels, it forces him to face his so easy convictions, painfully reducing his certainty about his role in life. Welcome to humanity, Hercule! The recent TV adaptation (with David Suchet) and the two films versions (one with Albert Finney – the most recent with, and by, Kenneth Brannagh) emphasize this internal issue.

The tone of the Ludwig’s adaptation used in the La Mirada production is lighter, playing the story for its humor and theatricality, not for the emotional reality. It’s a matter of style. Playwright, Kenneth Ludwig, is a popular American stage-crafter (Lend Me A Tenor, Crazy for You, Moon Over Buffalo, and many others), with a string of awards and successes. He created this script for a 2017 presentation at The Old Globe (reportedly, at the request of the Agatha Christie estate). It is both efficient in the telling and entertaining in performance. This Poirot is charmingly effective as the driving force, and all characters are drawn with a comic precision that is probably more what novelist Christie had in mind. The emphasis on Poirot’s internal agony is the fortunate product of our culture’s craving for “relevance” and “profundity.” A sort of political correctness required for art today which in this case is to the advantage of the novel.

As this survey hopes to demonstrate, a well-written novel is a compelling journey into and through a fully integrated world. It’s either an extended, totally immersive read you can pick up and put down and contemplate at will, or it’s a page turner you can’t.

But the theater is a very different art form. Each viewing is a one-time experience in a single sitting. The dramatis personae are right there in the same room, living through the series of happenings before your eyes and sharing it with us, the patrons?

That’s what makes live theater so special. You’re there when and where the adventure – emotional and intellectual – takes place. It exists only, as Shakespeare tells us, “in the two hours’ traffic of the stage.”

Laugh, cry, groan, leave! It’s over. It’s memory.

And each time, a very novel experience.

Novel Entertainments – Part 2

This is a three part series.

To read Part 1 of this series, which discusses the recent production of The Picture of Dorian Gray that was performed at the Pasadena Playhouse, please go to Novel Entertainments – Part 1.

In a short run recently at Red Cap, co-presented with Center Theatre Group, the members of The Gob Squad fashioned Creation (Pictures for Dorian Gray). It’s a fascinating thematic exploration of The Picture of Dorian Gray by the seven-member, Anglo-German “arts collective” based in Berlin.

In the program the Squady quotes Wilde from the preface to the novel: “It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.” Which speaks to the endless reflections of looking into the mirror, which is what The Portrait is for Dorian. So, as one of the members told me, the work is based on Dorian’s reaction to first seeing the portrait of himself, his contemplation of what he sees – and what he makes of it as it ages and he doesn’t.

There is no attempt to bring its story, even its characters, to life. It’s not an adaptation. But it is theatrical, albeit more didactic than dramatic. All seven members of the Gob Squad are self-identified as middle-aged. They employ three local actors over eighty and three in their twenties to assist in making their Dorian-esque exploration of youthful hopes and beauty versus the elderly value of memories and experience – the dreams of youth in the light of the value of aging. Beginning with an Ikibana floral display which they put under a heat lamp to see the effects, they continue discussing the theme and creating examples using the young and the elderly singing and in confessional self-revelation.

It was an intriguing astringent amongst a group of dramatized novels, related to but with no attempt at capture the novel on stage.


Another offering in Pasadena this fall (at The Pasadena Playhouse) is Susan Hill’s acclaimed novel, The Woman in Black. It’s one of those English Christmas stories of ghostly gothic horror set in the very early years of the 20th Century. Written in 1983, it was dramatized in 1987 and presented in London’s West End in 1989 where it’s still (almost 30 years on) playing eight times a week. Mostly to tourists, I suspect.

Hill’s book tells the tale of a young lawyer who encounters horrific visions in an isolated windswept mansion set amidst the eerie marshes and howling winds of England’s forbidding North Coast. Brought to the stage by virtue of Stephen Mallatratt’s minimalist two-characters script, it is now touring the US in a re-creation of the London production. And it’s come for Halloween. Good timing. We colonials like our ghosts in their proper time slot – on All Hallows’ Eve or Dia de Los Muertos. Generally, we want our Christmas stories warm and toasty, infused with the exhilaration of a brightly wrapped present, not served on a plate of misty gloom with spine-tingling chills and startling thrills.

In the Playhouse production two excellent American actors (Bradley Armacost and Adam Wesley Brown) successfully capture a handful of the book’s idiosyncratic characters with consummate skill, and the technical production, the design, lighting, and special effects all work to create the novel’s mood. It is all one could ask for.

But as a piece of spooky stage drama? Adapted from a novel? Well, the play-within-a-reading concept seems at odds with itself. For this viewer, it never really achieves the “scary” heights the book provides, and the theatrical promos promise. Indeed, it seems that the brilliance of the theatricality and the clever direction work against it.

In the most recent film of the novel, Daniel Radcliffe played Arthur Kipps the central character, as a young troubled lawyer, whose unease was affecting his career. So, his journey to the haunted house was meant to give him a reboot. Hah! In this stage version Arthur Kipps is a middle-aged man (not the youngster of the novel) needing to share the horrors of his past with friend and family (so the action is in flashback). He’s written it down, and he starts the evening by reading it us. That he’s hired a never-named actor to help him with his presentation provides a wonderfully entertaining, charmingly humorous opening that leads the two of them to “act out” what Kipps has written down. This cleverly tips its hat to the prose origins of the story. Yet the rollicking entertainment of the opening sets an expectation of comedy. And as the tale unfolds, the stage script frequently breaks in on the intended mood of otherworldly eerie-scary. It shatters the illusion, mostly because the humor doesn’t flow from the tale but reminds us that the tale is being enacted on a stage.

The result is a production greatly to admire but ultimately a less than effective transmogrification of a top-notch ghost story into a spooky coup de theatre.


Another classic piece of ghostly English prose brought to the stage this fall in Los Angeles is another two-character reduction, this time of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, by noted playwright-screenwriter Jeffry Hatcher (screenwriter of the sublime Mr. Holmes and the lavish The Duchess). There are three characters if you believe you see the lady in Black.

Of the handful of adaptations viewed for this writing, even with its less than effective production values, this was the most satisfying – because the script hones to the intent of the novel and the actors were so convincing. Both actors made the experience of the novel’s legendary ambiguities palpable.

But it’s Hatcher’s script that, even if reduced to a handful of characters, quite successfully captures the tone of the novel, reducing the action to its essentials. Hatcher vividly brings key passages to life in mostly short effective scenes that sweeps the audience into and through the story. Like The Lady In Black, it takes place in a house haunted by past horrors. This time it’s about a young governess determined to care for two young children, but in over her head. Is the naughty boy playing a spooky game intent on driving her mad? Are there two spirits haunting the house, jealous of the governess’ presence? Is the all too knowing creepy housekeeper working to maintain control over the house by driving her bonkers? The questions, as per the novel, remain long after the curtain calls. And the mood lingers in the memory.

Novel Entertainments – Part 1

Ever read a book and wish you could experience it, live? That’s what playwrights are in business to do, isn’t it? But how can the hundreds of pages of a novel be captured in “the two hours’ traffic of the stage?” With nearly 600 pages, The Cider House Rules by John Irving needed two plays (well, one play in two parts for a five-hour encounter) to do it justice. The movie version reduced it to just over two-hours, leaving out so much, but wonderfully capturing the essence of Irving’s intent. Shakespeare worked mostly with short stories and historical accounts, not whole novels – a chapter of Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, one of the tales in Boccaccio’s Decameron or Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, a section of Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans. But The Bard was mostly interested in plot points and character, not mood, tone, or style.

And most theater-goers in the 16th/17th Centuries hadn’t read the story or poem that was crafted from the “best sellers” or important literary works available in their day. Today, books are often evaluated before publication for their dramatic potential with an eye to the commercial value they bring to a project. (“Everybody’s read it.” “They’re dying to see it on stage!” “It’ll sell like hot cakes.”) And the dramatizations are usually (too often, perhaps) evaluated for their “faithful” representation of the source.

Of course, in the limited a space of a theater, with less than a tiny portion of the army of collaborators that’s scrolled at the end of a film, what can you do? Obviously, it ain’t easy. We’ve had five (and a sixth “inspired by”) such productions in Los Angeles this fall. Let’s look at how they fared.

Let’s begin with Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, recently presented in a relatively large-scale, rather complex production at Pasadena’s popular classical repertory theater, A Noise Within.

There is a mythic conceit at the center of Oscar Wilde’s late-Nineteenth Century novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. A trope that taps “into a root of Western folklore” according to the author of a recent study of the poet John Gray, who is believed to be the real Dorian Gray.

The conceit of the tale is the painted image of a beautiful young man that suffers the corrupting ravages of age while its living subject physically retains the bloom of youth. Hence, the vanity of beauty is made visibly dramatic by a Faustian bargain – a bargain that leads the living Dorian Gray to regret the deal he made, for it brings him a loveless life and the corruption of his soul. With this conceit, Wilde the novelist sets out to plumb the cost to the spirit of rampant narcissism. Originally made available to the public as a homoerotic magazine serial, the critical reception to Dorian Gray was typically Victorian – the wit and the writing were praised but it was deemed “unclean,” “poisonous,” “heavy with the mephitic odors (noxious vapors) of moral and spiritual putrefaction.” Sometime later, Wilde “cleaned up” the prose, extended the tale by a few chapters, and published it as a novel. That was 1890.

Five years later, 1895, Wilde was defending himself in a court of law against the charge of “gross indecency,” for which the main exhibit against him was his novel. He insisted that The Portrait of Dorian Gray was “a highly moral book decrying the pursuit of pleasure devoid of empathy or personal responsibility.” Does that mean that by portraying the sin of vanity as it inevitably corrupts the soul, one is forearmed against the commission of that particular sin? Isn’t that like showing you the effects of excessive fatty food intake as a cure for the ills of obesity?

It is with a deep appreciation of Wilde’s intent that one of the Southland’s most talented directors, Michael Michetti, has created his own stage adaptation of Dorian Gray. Originally produced at the Boston Court in Pasadena, Michetti’s newly revised adaptation, in a no-holds-barred, visually fascinating production aptly achieves the homoeroticism of Wilde’s work.

Okay, but does Michetti’s unquestioned artistry (and A Noise Within’s restrained-lavish production elements) succeed in creating an effective stage work? In this case, it depends upon what one thinks is the purpose of the novel. Michetti, as director, has an abundance of theatrical ideas, filling the stage with Wilde’s wit, strident music, and a wide-ranging cast of Victorian characters. At the center is, of course, the handsome youth, Dorian Gray. But there is also a loquacious Wilde stand-in, Sir Harry Wotton, the enlightening goad to Dorian’s tragedy. Do these two characters give us a satisfying performance version of the novel’s essence?

Unfortunately, except for a stunningly-staged finale, the real drama, the raison d’etre of the novel, seems veiled behind the verbal onslaught of Wilde’s notorious wit and some over-wrought modern dancing.

While director Michetti fills the stage with movement and adaptor Michetti with a full evening’s helping of the Wildean excess, “the mephitic odors of moral and spiritual putrefaction” – the corrosive effects of vanity on the soul – seems to get lost in the theatricality.

Even more than Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Picture of Dorian Gray is an internal drama – the soul as the battlefield between social values and naked impulse, the need to hold on to one’s youth being at odds with the richness of experience and age. In Michetti’s version, what seems to be lacking is the interior of the character. We are given a blank picture frame instead of being able to see the painting age, as Dorian’s soul is increasingly devastated by the corruption of immortality.

Michetti, the ever-inventive director, has a penchant for countering expectations. In Michetti the adaptor’s version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (also for A Noise Within, but many years ago) he eliminated the Ghost of King Hamlet. Why? Because, I think, Michetti the director wanted us to believe the dead monarch was not a ghost, but a deep-seated construct within the psyche of young Hamlet. So, his Hamlet is both characters, speaking the lines of the revengeful spirit facing a mirror (or really any reflective surface, for that matter). An intriguing idea that didn’t always work.

Oscar Wilde, the novelist, is exploring the internal agony of Dorian’s external vanity, but in Michetti’s Dorian Gray, it’s largely (not completely) missing – presented off-handedly, an observation here or there, buried in directorial business, or presented enigmatically in a Martha Graham-esque dance with extensive narration read from the novel. How much more moving would it be, how much more dramatic to hear – in private moments – Dorian speaking to himself, first recognizing, then denying, eventually trying to manage, finally being overwhelmed by the inner corruption that forces him to put a violent and tragic end to the conceit. But where Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is a tragedy, Michetti’s Dorian is melodrama.

Of course, there is a more contemporary way of handling Wilde’s novel. It would require some modest changes to the plotting, but it would realize the hidden drama – Oscar Wilde confronting his own beliefs. What adaptor every worried about a little dramatic license? By positioning Sir Henry as the central character and Dorian as the object of Henry’s influence – just as Salieri, the lesser composer in Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, sets Mozart, the better composer, on the road to destruction – it would allow the book’s deeper concerns to be dramatically realized. Sir Henry would for all intents and purposes be Oscar Wilde, the narrator/novelist, living through the experience he’s relating. And like Dr. Dysert, in Shaffer’s Equus – a tame if wise psychiatrist, trying to cure the very pagan passions (in a young patient) he only wishes he was brave enough to experience – such a dramaturgic approach would allow the audience to experience the tragedy Wilde’s novel give us.

Either approach would allow the stunningly-staged climax to bring Wilde’s confrontation with the dangers of beauty to a more successful conclusion. Destroying the Picture of Dorian Gray would be the only way out.

Lin-Manuel Miranda to Get a 'Star' on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at the Hollywood Pantages

Multi-Tony Award®-winning “Hamilton” and “In The Heights” writer, composer, and actor, Lin-Manuel Miranda, in then-Secretary Jack Lew’s office—or as Miranda writes—, “the room where it happens,” on March 14, 2016. Photo credit Public Domain.

Multi-Tony Award® winning Lin-Manuel Miranda, the lyricist, composer, singer and actor who cultivated a signature rap and musical story-telling style in his shows “In the Heights” and “Hamilton”, is to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in front of the Hollywood Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles, on Friday, November 30, 2018, at 11:30 a.m.
Satirist singer-songwriter “Weird Al” Yankovic and Renée Elise Goldsberry, the latter whose role as Angelica Schuyler in “Hamilton” won her a Tony Award® for Best Actress in a Featured Role–Musical, will be guest speakers.
The presentation will be live-streamed on
The Hollywood Pantages Theatre is across from the Metro Red Line Station near Hollywood and Vine and there is metered street parking and paid lot parking in the area as well.

Miranda is due in movie theatres during this holiday season with Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns,” alongside Emily Blunt, on December 19, 2018.
Hamilton won a total of 11 Tony Awards®, including awards for Best Musical, with Best Original Musical Score and Best Book (Musical) to Miranda, as well as receiving the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, in 2016.
Both of Miranda’s shows, “In the Heights” in 2010 and “Hamilton” in 2017, made their way to the landmark Hollywood Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles after their stints on Broadway.
The ceremony will be in front of the Hollywood Pantages, located at 6243 Hollywood Blvd., and Miranda’s new Star will be unveiled and installed in a designated spot, just adjacent to the theater at 6231 Hollywood Blvd., in front of Starline Tours.

Steven Leigh Morris Resigns as Executive Director of LA Stage Alliance

Morris’ resignation letter reflects on his three years as ED and of the successes and struggles along the way.
Though there was no official announcement from LA Stage Alliance, they posted the following on their facebook page early Tuesday morning.
Dear L.A. Theater Community,
Wanted to let you know that on Oct. 29, I tendered my resignation from LA STAGE Alliance, effective Nov. 11. My aim was to wait until after the Ovation Awards nominees had been announced before making this public. (Congratulations to all the nominees.)
Short version: After three years as Executive Director, I feel I’ve done what I can within the confines of a complicated administrative structure. For this, and for personal reasons, I feel it’s time for me to move on and turn the organization over to new leadership.
In three years, I can point to three accomplishments that I’m proud of: First, upon taking the job, in a series of community meetings, I was told that the community needed greater visibility. With the help of LA City’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Butcher Bird Studios, we produced a dozen public service announcements promoting local theater, and hosted by local theater makers with name recognition. These are currently being aired on public TV station KCET.
These PSAs refer the public to a new destination website for LA (, conceived by LA STAGE Alliance and funded by The Ahmanson Foundation. This website has now launched, and its public facing side is gorgeous, guiding residents and visitors to performances across the region, as well as to arts journalism and local stage reviews. Most of the community interacts with the site’s Ovation Awards functions, and developing that side has been far more challenging. For several months, IT Manager Mark Doerr lived somewhere near the seventh circle of hell, trying to resolve the onslaught of glitches. Mark’s tenacity has elevated him to somewhere between the first and second circle, as problems continue to be fixed. And he continues to work, to repair, and to rise towards the land of the living. Thank you Mark.
Finally, with the help of The Ahmanson Foundation, NPO Solutions and the Non-Profit Sustainability Initiative (NSI), LA STAGE Alliance has been leading the effort to implement a discount ticketing program for teenagers, based on Teen Tix Seattle. Such a program is vital to bring a new generation of arts-goers to the sector.
I must express my gratitude to the Board of Directors, and for the generosity of Marco Gomez and Jose Luis Valenzuela, whose vision and combined efforts have sustained LASA. Thanks also to Cj, Miriam, Tomas, Mark Seldis, Cathy Carlton; and finally, to Eric Sims and Cricket Meyers, who have been instrumental in keeping the Ovation Awards program clipping along.
The ecology for arts service organizations is even more brittle than it is for arts organizations, and Los Angeles needs a pillar organization that represents the interests of the stage community. I hope you’ll continue to support LA STAGE Alliance in that role, as I will.
In the meantime, I’ll be turning my professional attentions back towards teaching and to journalism which is my home, via Stage Raw which is my now gangly, pre-teen child.
I’ll say more on that from the Stage Raw platform.
Keep the faith,
Steven Leigh Morris

In Memoriam: Henry Ong

In Memoriam: Henry Ong

Award-winning Los Angeles Playwright and 16-time recipient of Artist-in-Residence grants from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.
October 3, 2018 Silver Lake, CAHenry Ong, a fixture of the Los Angeles theatre community for more than 35 years, died Saturday, September 29th after a long battle with cancer. Ong was the quintessential Los Angeles playwright: a first-generation Asian-American, he was interested in the exploring the immigrant experience, and conducted writing/oral history workshops in many LA communities as diverse as the city itself.
Ong grew up in Singapore and later attended graduate school in the U.S., graduating with a master’s degree in journalism. Post-graduation, he moved to Los Angeles, where he began to pursue his career as a playwright. He was a member of Interact Theatre Company and Company of Angels. In 2014 he was awarded the Lee Melville Award from Playwrights Arena for outstanding contribution to theatre in Los Angeles.
An internationally-produced playwright, Ong’s works span an eclectic mix, from plays inspired by true events to biographical drama and adaptations of classic novels. Credits include: Madame Mao’s Memories, Sweet Karma, Fabric, The Legend of the White Snake, and People Like Me, which won him a Drama-Logue Award for Excellence in Writing in 1998. A number of his plays have been produced nationally, including New York and San Diego (at the Old Globe Theatre); as well as internationally in London, Edinburgh and Singapore. Other works include: The Masseur, Ascent, and theatrical adaptations of the Anthony Trollope novels Rachel Ray, and Nina Balatka, all in various stages of development.
Ong was a 16-time recipient of Artist-in-Residence grants from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. He collaborated with Marlton School, Los Angeles’ only day school for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, on staging a series of Asian folktales for youth. In addition, he was one of the founding members of the non-profit Artists Against Oppression (AAO), whose primary mission is to create and support artistic endeavors that elevate the lives of oppressed or disenfranchised communities.
In 2017, Ong fulfilled a life-long dream to have his six-hour adaptation of the Chinese classic, Dream of the Red Chamber staged, co-directing the play at the Edward Vincent Jr Park in Inglewood. In June his play, The Blade of Jealousy, an adaptation of the Spanish Renaissance Playwright Tirso de Molina’s La Celosa De Sí Misma, had its world premiere at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks.
As a champion of LA theatre, Ong was an avid theatre-goer, attending 150 performances annually. He served for many seasons as an active voter for The Ovation Awards, the Southern California award for excellence in theatre.
Dubbed “the shyest man in theatre” by theatre website Stage Raw, Henry famously avoided the spotlight and cameras unless he was on the other side of the lens. Everyone in the theatre was “a famous person” in his world. No audience member or performer escaped his attention. Ong felt, he said in a 2016 Stage Raw interview, that “everybody deserves to be seen, and wants to be seen.”
Henry is survived by his husband Matthew Black, mother Geok Lian Yan, and sisters Noi Giddings and Stella Ong.

Europe's Hottest Theatre Directors, Student $30 ‘All Access Season Pass’, #TheatreToo Campaign and More Local, National, and International News to Inspire, to Stir, and to Entertain


Audio Interview: The cast of “PARADISE – A Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy” at The Ruskin Group Theatre

Going from coal mine to prime time, a small town sees hope for salvation. On the verge of living the American Dream, this satirical musical lowbrow hoedown is about to be outsourced. Can a charming new preacher and a bombshell sidekick, he’s rescued from the stripper pole at the Innuendo Lounge, save the day. listen to it here

Audio Interview: The cast of “The Glass Menagerie” at International City Theatre

The iconic American classic that launched the career of American playwright Tennessee Williams, this autobiographical “memory play” captures the fragility and stifled yearning of characters clinging to hope against the harsh realities of a rapidly changing world. Confined to a tiny St. Louis apartment on the eve of World War II, the Wingfield family struggles to find beauty amid the rough circumstances that surround them. listen to it here

Audio Interview: Kirsten Vangsness – Penelope Garcia on CBS’s Criminal Minds stars in ‘Marian or The True Tale of Robin Hood’ at Theatre of NOTE

A gender-bending, patriarchy-smashing, hilarious new take on the classic tale. Robin Hood is (and has always been) Maid Marian in disguise, and leads a motley group of Merry Men (few of whom are actually men) against the greedy Prince John. As the poor get poorer and the rich get richer, who will stand for the vulnerable if not Robin? What is the cost of revealing your true self in a time of trouble? Modern concerns and romantic entanglements clash on the battlefield and on the ramparts of Nottingham Castle. A play about selfishness and selflessness and love deferred and the fight. Always the fight. The fight must go on. listen to it here

Audio Interview: André de Vanny stars in ‘Swansong’ at Skylight Theatre

Pulled from the streets of 1960’s Ireland, this gritty monodrama tells the story of Austin “Occi” Byrne, abused and isolated, violent, vulnerable, and searching for redemption. listen to it here

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra Offers Student $30 ‘All Access Season Pass’

Shrewd college students ages 17 to 30 can enjoy one of the best bargains in the city with Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s (LACO) Campus to Concert Hall All Access Pass, which provides admission to some thirty LACO concerts and events for $30, the equivalent of just $1 per ticket. read more here


American Theatre Magazine’s #TheatreToo Issue Tackles Harassment and Abuse in the Theatre

American Theatre Magazine, published by Theatre Communications Group (TCG), is proud to announce the publication of its September 2018 issue focused on harassment and abuse in the theatre.

American Theatre Magazine September 2018 Issue Called #TheatreToo after the #MeToo movement, the issue examines the problems of abuse, harassment, and sexism in the theatre. How have the nation’s large and small theatres allowed these problems to persist, and what are they doing to disrupt and prevent them in the future? How have survivors told their stories and recovered their lives, onstage and off? read more here

State Theatre launches new season with more accessible theater

ITHACA, N.Y. — The State Theatre of Ithaca is launching its fall season this week with a big performance lineup and a more accessible theater to enjoy it.

“We’re excited we’re a more inclusive theater now,” Executive Director Doug Levine said.

With the update, the theater has gone from five ADA-accessible seats to 13. The beauty of the project, Levine said, is that did not lose any seating with the upgrade. They are also adding a couple wider, “buddy seats” for people who don’t feel comfortable in the smaller seats that will be available later in September. read more here

6 Theatre Workers You Should Know

From a lighting designer/electrician in Texas to a costumer in Chicago, here are some folks you should have on your radar.

Alison Lewis

Profession: Lighting designer and electrician
Hometown: Born in Central California, raised in Austin
Current home: Austin
Known for: From 2016 until this past July she worked at ZACH Theatre, where she was the company’s first full-time board programmer and assistant master electrician and worked with the organization to help define that role to best suit ZACH’s needs. She also served as the theatre’s light board operator.
What’s next: After spending some time at Maine State Music Theatreto help finish out their summer season as assistant master electrician, she plans to pick up freelance lighting design gigs in Austin and the surrounding areas. read more here

The new curtain at the SHN Golden Gate Theatre returns to the red of its original velvet drape.

Golden Gate Theatre in San Francisco nears 100 with makeover

The grand opening of the Golden Gate Theatre — a building as massive as the old Yankee Stadium with a jeweled crown high above home plate — received a championship welcome 96 years ago. “New S.F. Playhouse to Have Continuous Vaudeville” read the banner above a photograph of it and the headline “Golden Gate Sets New Mark in Design.” read more here

Peppermint (center) and the cast of “Head Over Heels” on Broadway. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Queer Eye for Theatre Critics: 4 Writing Tips

Some writers have been stumbling in addressing work about and by LGBTQ artists. Here’s a guide to help them do better.

In the past several months, Broadway has seen an influx of shows featuring queer, trans, and gender-nonconforming characters and actors, including Head Over Heels andStraight White Men.While this rush of new representation is heartening and has largely been praised both by members of the queer community and theatregoers, there has been a steep learning curve on the part of theatre critics regarding how to talk about queer folks in the context of these roles. read more here


Iran arrests Shakespeare theatre duo over video of men and women dancing together during a performance

Prominent stage director Maryam Kazemi and theatre boss Saeed Asadi were detained over the ‘type of music played’ and the actors’ ‘movements’ in the trailer for  A Midsummer Night’s Dream

TWO leading figures in Iranian theatre have been arrested by archaic lawmakers over a social media clip of their Shakespeare play showing men and women dancing together.

Prominent director Maryam Kazemi and venue boss Saeed Asadi were detained on Sunday on the orders of the judiciary, revealed the hard-line ministry of culture and Islamic guidance. read more here

Assembling the next generation of diverse theatre-makers

Embedding culturally diverse young people in the theatre-making community requires more than just offering them opportunities to write, act or direct.

Performers from Haresh Sharma’s godeatgod, presented by The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights & Squid Vicious (2018). Image by Ranson Media.

On Tuesday 7 August this year, the arrival of a new Australian – perhaps a migrant, perhaps a just-born baby – resulted in our population hitting the 25 million mark.

Recent Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) statistics indicate that around 30% of these 25 million were born overseas, and about 27% speak a language other than English at home. read more here

Edward Hayter and Josh Williams in rehearsal for Touching the Void, the first production at the Old Vic’s reopened auditorium. Photograph: Geraint Lewis

New life for historic theatre as it faces up to ‘slave trade’ past

Bristol’s Old Vic confronts its controversial 250-year-old past on its relaunch after a £25m facelift 

One of the oldest theatres in Europe, Bristol Old Vic, is finally to have a proper front door. When it was built in 1766 it was deliberately hidden away from the street, as all public theatrical entertainment was officially banned. But later this month, at the end of a £25m project, a new glass foyer for its already refurbished auditorium will be unveiled, allowing the theatre to be seen from the pavement for the first time.

And, as the Old Vic welcomes back audiences, its acclaimed artistic director, Tom Morris, will also be facing up to the theatre’s links with the slave trade that once made Bristol rich. read more here

Chinese audience’s novel approach to immersive theatre – mob tactics and mini stampedes

Punchdrunk theatre company’s Sleep No More, based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth and staged in a five-storey Shanghai hotel, is not for the faint-hearted

I went to see British theatre company Punchdrunk’s award-winning play Sleep No More fully prepared.

I wore sneakers to the immersive theatre piece, directed by Maxine Doyle and Felix Barrett, which takes place in the five-storey McKinnon Hotel in Shanghai. And I reread Shakespeare’s Macbeth, on which the play is loosely based, so that, even if I got lost in the maze that is the performance venue, I would not be totally in the dark. read more here

Between shrine and shopping mall … Susanne Kennedy’s version of The Virgin Suicides. Photograph: David Baltzer

Move over Ivo van Hove: Europe’s hottest theatre directors

The Belgian director has blazed his way into the British theatre scene. Who’s next? A French marathon man and an Austrian politico among others

Susanne Kennedy turns actors into avatars and makes human life seem alien. On her candy-coloured stages, masked figures glitch and glide like animatronics. Instead of speaking, they lip-sync along to recorded, distorted dialogue.

Yet her shows mostly sit in banal, suburban settings. She turned the small-town Bavarians of Marieluise Fleißer’s 1924 play Purgatory in Ingolstadt into pallid zombies, and made a mannequin of Fassbinder and Fengler’s Herr R, the petit-bourgeois conformist who ultimately cracks… read more here

Open to everyone: Common Wealth members work on costumes at their HQ, Speakers Corner, in Bradford last month. Photograph: Antonio Olmos for the Observer

All the world’s a stage. And these women are radically changing that world…

Common Wealth is a female-led political theatre collective that aims to wrest the art form away from the elite. We joined them at rehearsals for their new show, Radical Acts

Evie Manning is a theatre-maker from Bradford. Rhiannon White is a theatre-maker from Cardiff. Together they are the driving force behind the Common Wealth theatre company. For them, theatre is a vehicle for change, a powerful form that can, in its best moments, encourage accountability, make you feel less alone and bring you closer to yourself. Their company was set up as a “reaction against the status quo” of stale theatre for middle-class audiences at £35 a ticket (if you’re on benefits, you can see a Common Wealth show for £1).

“Theatre has created its own trap,” Evie tells me. “And all the theatres are freaking out, saying we want to get more diverse audiences, but they’re so keen to cling to bricks and mortar, and they’re so keen to stay safe and only put on the things they think are going to sell tickets and fill those seats, that no one will take a risk and think outside of what’s been prescribed.” read more here

Reconstructed view of the entrance to The Theatre, Shoreditch ((c) David Toon and Lee Sands/MOLA)

London Excavations Reveal Theater Complex

LONDON, ENGLAND— Excavations at the site of Shakespeare’s original London playhouse, the Theatre, suggest that the venue was part of a large complex for theatergoers designed by sixteenth-century actor and impresario James Burbage. According to a report in The Hackney Citizen, a team from Museum of London Archaeology has uncovered sections of an expansive gravel yard surrounding the polygonal playhouse—built in 1576—where patrons could eat, drink, and socialize during long performances. read more here

Joan's LA: Adult Fairy Tales, Downtown History, and an Art Show for Dogs

It’s another weekend folks and here are just a few examples of what you will find in the new downtown Los Angeles. A few weeks ago I visited the Los Angeles Arts District where I couldn’t believe the fantastic art I was seeing. The art wasn’t in galleries or museums. The art created by ‘graffiti writers’ were spray painted on the walls of downtown Los Angeles’s historic buildings.

I went on an incredible tour given by Cartwheel Art where Steve Grody took us through the alleys as well as a genuine graffiti yard where walls are decorated with graffiti and street art.
But that isn’t the only tour this great company provides. This weekend I will be going on their ‘Underground LA tour where you can “explores the city’s ‘underground’ past, ranging from famous prohibition-era murders to the famous speakeasy haunts that the Hollywood elite would frequent” according to their tour description. You will also get to “peek into century-old tunnels and speakeasies, alongside experiencing more modern interpretations of the city’s hidden watering holes”.
To see what other super fun tours they have go to But you better hurry. Sadly these fabulous historical buildings won’t always be here. Warner Music and Spotify are just two of the many corporations that are relocating to downtown L.A.
Hopefully they won’t mess with these beautiful old buildings!
While you’re downtown also check out the historic Ace Hotel located at 929 South Broadway Los Angeles. You can have a drink at their upstairs bar or take in a show at their restored Spanish Gothic style theatre from 1927. I’ve seen some killer concerts there. Their website is
Now for my favorite part of the weekend. I think I mentioned that I’m a crazy dog person. Well this weekend, also in downtown LA is dogUMENTA, America’s First Art Show for Dogs. The event is located at FIGat7th, 735 South Figueroa Street. This free event takes place September 14-16 and 21-23 from 11am to 6pm. Each Sunday they will feature an onsite mobile dog adoption. The artwork is by, LA based artists (not dogs) who “address the canine sensibility through a variety of media—from sound and sculpture to kibble and squeaky toys”. For tickets, go to Eventbrite.
Saturday night I’ll be at The Pico Playhouse to see Fairy Tale Theatre 18 and Over: The Musical. Next to dogs and animals, I absolutely love musicals. Having grown up in New York I started seeing Broadway shows at the age of 8 and haven’t stopped. The Pico Playhouse is located at 10508 West Pico Blvd. Los Angeles The show opens Friday September 14. For tickets go to
Whatever you decide to do, have a very happy weekend everyone.

Garry Marshall Theatre Appoints New Managing Director

Garry Marshall Theatre Appoints New Managing Director
September 12, 2018 – BURBANK, CAGarry Marshall Theatre’s Board of Directors is proud to announce that Kurt J. Swanson has joined the new nonprofit’s leadership team as Managing Director.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Kurt to the Garry Marshall Theatre,” says Artistic Director, Dimitri Toscas. “His extensive knowledge of nonprofit development and theatre management is bolstered only by his first-hand understanding of the local community and what makes it tick. His leadership style is inspiring and he’s quickly become a valued member of our team.”
Swanson is the theatre’s first official Managing Director in its year-long history after relaunching as the nonprofit Garry Marshall Theatre in the summer of 2017.
The role of Managing Director was created after the departure of Executive Director Sherry Greczmiel at the end of the inaugural season. Swanson will lead the organization’s charge in fundraising, infrastructure development, and brand-building while guiding the theatre in the best-practice business principles that pertain to nonprofit live performance.
“I feel very fortunate to have been able to capitalize on my long-time performing arts and theatre background with my business and fiscal skills that have been honed over several decades,” says Swanson. “This is my ‘home town theatre’ since I’ve lived nearly two decades in the neighborhood and have always admired this performing space.”
Alongside the Artistic team of Dimitri Toscas and Joseph Leo Bwarie, Swanson will be a major player in the continuation of programming during the Garry Marshall Theatre 2018/2019 Season, which begins on October 12 with a new production of Real Women Have Curves by Josefina López.
With over 30 years of continuous nonprofit business management of performing arts, nonprofit, and social services organizations, Swanson has a long history of bold, dynamic leadership and collaboration. He has served numerous theatres and nonprofits across the country – including the The Broad Stage (Santa Monica) as General Manager, Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Chicago) as Interim Business Manager, Arts Services Associates (Milwaukee) assigned as Business Manager for Theatre X, and Box Office Manager for Skylight Theatre in Milwaukee. He also served as Operations Director of CASA of Los Angeles and Executive Director of Animal Samaritans in the Coachella Valley.
Swanson’s appointment culminates a three-month search process, which considered a significant candidate pool from Los Angeles and across the country. The search was conducted by the Garry Marshall Theatre Board of Directors.
About Kurt Swanson
Chicago native Kurt Swanson has been involved in theatre since his years as a musician for High School plays. His performance skill garnered statewide awards and earned him scholarships. He served in a variety of administrative positions with social service and arts organizations in Milwaukee and Chicago, including serving as a founding member of the “Second Tier” collaborative arts organization in Milwaukee, and as manager of Theatre X, an internationally touring ensemble theatre. In Chicago, he served as finance manager for Steppenwolf theatre during the time of its mainstage, experimental and Broadway productions, often interacting with major stars and virtually every sector of professional theatre production. He has served as senior staff to major nonprofits in the Coachella Valley and Los Angeles, and served on the board of Syzygy Theatre Group.
About Garry Marshall Theatre
Garry Marshall Theatre is a nonprofit organization providing innovative performances, educational opportunities, and storytelling activities for all ages, year-round. Located in the heart of Burbank and Toluca Lake’s entertainment industry, the critically acclaimed and Ovation Award-winning 130-seat theatre was founded in 1997 as the Falcon Theatre by Hollywood legend Garry Marshall. Reestablished as the Garry Marshall Theatre in 2017, the theatre continues to cultivate new artists and experiences that spark ideas and build community.
Chelsea Sutton, Marketing & Publicity
Garry Marshall Theatre
o: 818.955.8004 | c: 951.757.5102

Joan's LA: Theatre, Restaurants, and Flea Market Tips For This Weekend

Hi everyone…Well looks like summer isn’t over and it’s going to be a very hot weekend. I intend to spend as many days as I can at the beach. I recommend Zuma in Malibu. It may be a bit of a drive but it’s never crowded and the water is beautiful. Plus you may get a visitor or two.
This Friday I’ll be at one of my favorite plant based Mexican Gracias Madre. Now for those out there that aren’t vegan or vegetarian I promise you will absolutely love this restaurant and you won’t miss meat at all. They serve cuisine that is inspired by the kitchens of Mexico. Everything is organic, farm fresh and it’s all locally sourced food. The chef Chandra Gilbert is definitely an artist. This is a great place to take your girlfriend, your wife, or someone you just met online and want to impress. The prices are quite reasonable. Be sure to order the guacamole and chips. Gracias Madre is located at 8905 Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood. To check out their menu go to
Saturday night I’m off to the Skylight Theatre located at 1816 1/2 North Vermont for the opening of a play entitled Swansong. The play is being put on by the Australian Theatre Company. I’ve seen several of their productions and every one of them has been excellent. This is a very unique play about a man, Austin ‘Occi’ Byrne that has been abused and has lived a very isolated life filled with violence. He is now searching for redemption. Swansong has played all over the world and from the reviews it’s gotten, I can guarantee you it will be a powerful theatre experience. Plus the play is written by the Irish playwright Conor McDermottroe and no one knows how to express suffering more poetically than the Irish. You can purchase tickets through their show page or you can also do it the old fashion way by calling 866-811-4111.
After the play, you’ll probably want to go somewhere to discuss it and walking down Vermont is the perfect place to do this. This is a very cool street filled with book stores, outdoor cafes, ecclectic shops and the historic Vista Movie Theatre built in 1921 that still shows movies. Oh and my favorite part of Vermont are the dogs. Everyone seems to have one and being a crazy dog person, I have to stop and pet every single one that I see, which for some reason gets whoever I’m with slightly annoyed.
Finally this Sunday you will find me at the world famous Rose Bowl Flea Market. I’m obssessed with anything vintage and this is the one place where you can find anything and everything from your great grandmother’s era. My passion is depression glass and dishes. I have around a thousand pieces (no I’m not a horder) and I found them all there. The Flea Market also has old albums (remember albums) rows and rows of furniture, jewelry, clothes just to name a few of the things you’ll find from the 2500 plus vendors that are there every month.. To learn more go to
After shopping I recommend checking out Old Pasadena where you will find find many historic buildings and some really cool cafes. One of my favorites is Amara Cafe and Restaurant (Chocolate and coffee). What could be better.? Check out their menu at
Whatever you choose to do this weekend have a great one.

Rogue Machine Leaves MET in October 2018

Finishing Season at Electric Lodge in Venice, CA
Opening October 6th – “Oppenheimer”

Press Contact: Judith Borne
(310) 305-7888 or

Rogue Machine Leaves The Met in October
Opening “Oppenheimer” October 6
and “Finks” 
on November 10, 2018

at the Electric Lodge in Venice, CA
Rogue Machine at Electric Lodge – 1416 Electric Ave, Venice, CA 90291

Los Angeles, CA (August 9, 2018) – Multi-award winning Rogue Machine Theatre (Best Season Ovation Award this year; Best Production Award 2013, 2011 and 2010; Excellent Season Award 2016 and 2011 – Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle) is on the move…to Venice, California.
In October, Rogue Machine begins a new journey by launching two productions at the Electric Lodge. OPPENHEIMER, by Tom Morton-Smith, is slated for October 6th and FINKS, by Joe Gilford, is scheduled for a November 8th opening.
OPPENHEIMER (Opening October 6th) is the American premiere of a play first produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon, and then in London. We see the personal cost of making history as J. Robert Oppenheimer struggles to cast off his radical past beliefs and hold onto opposition of power and authority. Directed by Artistic Director, John Perrin Flynn.
“A dazzling spectacle, ambitious and triumphant. Packed with fascinating nuggets and bristling ideas” – The Daily Telegraph
FINKS (Opening November 10th) is a play about the blacklisting, will open and begin playing in rep with Oppenheimer in early November. Michael Pressman will be directing. Both Joe Gilford’s FINKS and Tom Morton-Smith’s OPPENHEIMER examine socialism and communism in America in the 30s, 40s and 50s. These movements were driven by the universal ideal that we could be better than we are. Who are our friends? Who are our enemies?
This season our plays explore what haunts us. Why are we as we are? Can we be better? How can we be better and still survive in a world that is increasingly nonsensical? One of Rogue Machine’s most important missions is to offer visionary playwrights a professional platform and we are honored to do just that, by presenting these important Los Angeles premieres from established playwrights” – John Perrin Flynn; Artistic Director
Rogue Machine Theatre won the Ovation Award this year for “Best Season” – 2017 and received, for the second time, the Polly Warfield Award for Outstanding Season from the LA Drama Critics Circle – 2016. The company was recognized with 12 Ovation Award nominations, including one for Best Season and two for Best Production. KCRW’s nod to Best Theatre was a highlight of the 2016 season, as was receiving a Shubert Foundation grant awarded to select theatre organizations for their artistic achievement, administrative strength, and fiscal stability along with the company’s development of new work and other significant contributions to the field of professional theatre in the United States. A recipient of the American Theatre Wing’s 2014 National Theatre Company Grant, given only to 12 theatre companies in the country, Rogue Machine (BEST PRODUCTION for three years – Ovation and LADCC Awards) presents plays that are new to Los Angeles. They recently received support from the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, and the company garnered recognition for their work in upwards of 75 awards and nominations.
Continuing at the Met this through September, audiences can enjoy:
RANT & RAVE (Chapter 88: “Losing”) on Monday August 27th at 8pm. $15 online, $20 at the door.
AMERICAN SAGA-Gunshot Medley: Part 1 opens at 8pm on September 8th at the MET Theatre and run Fridays, Satruday, and Mondays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm through September 23rd. It then moves for a two week run at WLCAC Theatre, 10950 S. Central Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90059 beginning on Friday, October 5th, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm through October 14th. Rogue Machine is located at The Met, 1089 N Oxford Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90029. Tickets are $40 at the MET and $35 at the WLCAC Theatre with Pay-What-You-Can for Watts local audience at the door. Performances on Oct 5, 7, & 14 feature a guided tour of the Civil Rights Museum. Group discounts for 15 or more through Julie at Reservations: 855-585-5185 or at
Description: A lyrical and mystical new play, with live music, about the struggle against systemic racism. Set in a haunted North Carolina graveyard this intricately crafted work brings past and present together in a soulful tale of lives destroyed by deep-seated tensions and conflicts that have marred America’s history from antebellum south to the present day.
AMERICAN SAGA-Gunshot Medley: Part 1:
Rogue Machine Moves:
Rogue Machine is moving to the Electric Lodge at 1416 Electric Ave, Venice, CA 90291, beginning in October 2018. For more information and tickets for performances: 855-585-5185 or online at
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