COVID-19 THEATER SERIES: Ronnie Marmo on the Move - A Coast-to-Coast Artist


Originally from the East Coast, actor / producer / director / writer / chief bottle washer Ronnie Marmo has managed to call both the East and West coast home during his life-long career. Perhaps best known for his stellar performance in I'm Not a Comedian... I'm Lenny Bruce, which he also penned – directed, by the way, by the talented Joe Mantegna - or his three year / 150 episode run on General Hospital just a few years ago, Ronnie traveled from Los Angeles to New York to Chicago to entertain audiences far and wide. With critically acclaimed performances in dozens of plays, including Bill W. and Dr. Bob and Tony ‘N Tina’s Wedding, Ronnie co-founded Theatre 68 Los Angeles 19 years ago. The New York Chapter opened nine years ago now, making Theatre 68 a bi-coastal home for many artists. Despite his perpetual-motion-machine style, Ronnie took time out to interview during the COVID-19 “holiday” from live theater.


Ronnie Marmo as Lenny Bruce - Photo by Doren Sorell

How is the COVID-19 ban on live theater affecting you and Theatre 68?

Ronnie Marmo:  We tried to keep the Lenny Bruce show open in Chicago as long as we could. We got as far as Sunday, March 15 before we ultimately postponed the show and went dark for the time being. For our last four performances, we deliberately sold only a quarter of the 180 seats in the theater to allow for social distancing; and we sanitized everything that people might touch. In 25 years, I’ve never missed a performance. Now we don’t have a choice, but this virus is scary and it’s important to respect the people who know more than us about COVID-19 safety.

The LA and NY Chapters of Theatre 68 are currently dark for productions; however, the community is sticking together with our Monday Night Actors Gym on both coasts. It's a hard time right now because many of us don’t know much about this virus. I’m concerned for theaters both small and large around the world because, generally speaking, theater is not a very lucrative business; and many of us survive month to month. After all, we don’t get into the theater business to get rich. We do it because we can’t help ourselves; we love it. It’s a sickness of sorts (laughing). My hope is that people will continue to support the arts. For example, if you currently have tickets for a show or event, it would be wonderful if people can move those tickets to a performance down the road as opposed to asking for a refund - but ONLY if they could afford to do so.

Ronnie Marmo as Lenny Bruce - Photo by Doren Sorell 2

Tell us about your plans for the future. Will you continue with I'm Not a Comedian...I'm Lenny Bruce? Do you have any new shows planned?

RM:  First and foremost, we plan on bringing the Lenny Bruce show back to Chicago just as soon as it is safe to do so. Also, we plan on having a few pop-up performances here in Los Angeles. We have just signed with Columbia Artists Theatrical, and they are working on a national tour. We have already had an offer for early 2021 in Tampa, Florida; and many other venues have inquired. But I assume that, with the virus, things may be delayed a bit. We will see.

Let me tell you a bit more about Theatre 68 and our productions. We have great leadership on both Coasts, and we’ve been in constant meetings making plans and finding ways to keep the company inspired during this very tough time.

I plan to keep moving forward in hopes that all will be well soon enough / Combined on both coasts, we have 90 actors who take part in our NOW virtual Monday Night Actor’s Gym. I’m constantly trying to help keep everyone engaged. We’re working really hard with lots of writing assignments, monologue jams, anything we can do virtually to continue to grow as artists. We’re constantly producing on both coasts. Right now, we’re working on Stupid Fucking Bird by Aaron Posner. It’s a great play, a really cool play. It’s sort of a contemporary version of Anton Chekhov’s, Seagull. We plan to open in June in Los Angeles. We’re having virtual auditions next week, and we plan to move forward as if it will happen, even if maybe we have to postpone it. In NY, we are in the middle of developing seven original one-act plays written by NY company members. We’re going into virtual auditions for that as well in the coming weeks.

Monday night at Theatre 68's virtual gym - Photo by Ronnie Marmo

Any final thoughts on live theater's survival during a pandemic?

RM:  Our survival depends on how kind the landlords are to theater owners. I’m going to work my pants off to keep this thing going for all involved. I feel that enthusiasm is the key to life, and that certainly has been the case for me. People have asked me how I’ve found success in different areas of show business, and I simply tell them - I do my best to finish what I start.


This article first appeared in LA Splash Worldwide.



Theatre Row Fixture The Lounge Theatre Closes Fueled by Coronavirus Lockdowns


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Spotlight Series: Meet Shelley Fisher, “The Hebrew Hillbilly”


This Spotlight  focuses on Shelley Fisher, a down home diva better known as The Hebrew Hillbilly, her persona in her solo music play which is the longest running in the USA. Believing that music is the universal language which brings healing and encouragement to everyone, performing her show fuels the flames of creativity and hope for Shelley, and comedy provides a welcome break from the weight of life as it is today. So, what is she up to until she can back inside the Santa Monica Playhouse to perform for an audience again?


Shelley was born and raised in the heart of the Mississippi Delta in Memphis, TN, the home of The Blues and the birthplace of Rock n’ Roll, which inspired her love of music and performing. Her mother was a professional singer/comedian and her father was a concert violinist who co-founded the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. The gritty musical backbeat of Beale Street and the King of Rock n’ Roll himself, Elvis, coupled with her parents influence, made performing a natural focus of Shelley's early life in local talent shows and high school theater. She moved on to Boston University, studied fine arts and drama and formed her own Blues/Folk band.

"I’m the writer and performer of the longest running critically acclaimed solo musical play in the USA, The Hebrew Hillbilly, which is autobiographically based on my true story of growing up Jewish in the red neck South and is a celebration of diversity, dreams and determination! Obviously, it has hit a popular nerve and is perfect for this time of Passover, Easter & Coronavirus, since for the first time in modern history, Passover and Easter have been canceled due to a Plague.  With 17 original songs I wrote with my co-songwriters Ken Hirsch, Harold Payne and Steve Rawlins, we were preparing for a May 17th benefit performance for Santa Monica Playhouse when the Coronavirus pandemic shut down civilization as we know it."

Since it’s a solo musical play, Shelley only had to contact her audio visual staff, management and acting coach, Missy Peikin, about postponing its current run, and the co-artistic directors of Santa Monica Playhouse, Evelyn Rudie and Chris DeCarlo. Evelyn and Chris are seasoned veterans of the theater who welcomed Shelley almost eight years ago and deftly knew how to deal with the current situation. And, if the fates allow, all three are looking forward to present The Hebrew Hillbilly on Sunday, June 28th at 6:30pm as a Benefit Performance for the Santa Monica Playhouse. Of course with uncertainty of the pandemic, all her other productions, including national television (JBSTV), theatrical presentations in Florida, Atlanta, and NYC are now on hold.

To keep her creative juices flowing, Shelley is skyping and zooming with other noted songwriters, including Harold Payne and Steve Rawlins, to create new songs. "I’m also sending bi-weekly emails to friends and fans, posting on my Facebook public page, The Hebrew Hillbilly: Fifty Shades of Oy Vey! and on my website HebrewHillbilly.com."

"Music and performing fuel the flames of creativity and hope. The universal language, music, brings healing and encouragement to everyone. And comedy provides a welcome break from the weight of life as it is today. Take two Ha Ha’s and call me in the morning! We’ll be back soon."

The Hebrew Hillbilly is designed to entertain and encourage folks to never give up on their dreams. If one dream doesn’t work, get another one. The finale says it all: ‘I’m Still Hot’ (It Comes In Flashes Now).

You can hear Shelley's CD, Rockin' in Memphis on Amazon, and her latest song, ‘I Wanna Win A Grammy (Before I Am A Grammy)’ is available at Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, and CDBaby.

Link to short (1 min 49 sec) performance video:

Be Glad You’re Different:

Miami Beach:


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Jessica Lynn Johnson, Founder and CEO of Soaring Solo


This Spotlight focuses on Jessica Lynn Johnson, proud founder and CEO of Soaring Solo LLC, a company dedicated solely to the direction and development of one person plays who has collaborated on well over 100 solo shows and is still going strong despite the current shutdown. And now she is offering free classes on ZOOM until it is possible to perform in a theater again.


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

Jessica Lynn Johnson (JLJ): Besides encouraging other solo artists to develop their own shows while operating my company Soaring Solo, I am also a solo artist myself and have toured for 13+ years with my own two award-winning one woman shows. I am also on the Board of the LA Women's Theatre Festival and we have been empowering diverse women's voices for nearly 3 decades!

Lastly, I would like everyone to know that I have taught a 100% FREE One Person Play Development Class for about a decade, and while this has primarily been at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks, I have now taken my free class online via ZOOM. In addition, I also offer affordable and awesome coaching (one-on-one, small group, and power pair sessions) because as a solo artist myself I know how important it is to get valuable feedback at an affordable price.

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

(JLJ): At any given time, I have 20-30 solo shows up and running with some making their world premiere and others simply continuing to tour since I work with my solo artists for years and help them tour internationally. All of that said, I had close to two dozen solo shows coming up that I directed and developed in three different festivals (Solofest 2020 at Whitefire Theatre, LA Women's Theatre Festival in March, and the Hollywood Fringe Festival in June). And of course, those have all been postponed.

Bryan Rasmussen at the Whitefire Theatre is such an innovative Artistic Director and had been perfecting the Live Stream experience of shows long before this COVID-19 pandemic took over. Therefore, he is planning to begin streaming shows as soon as mandates dictate this is possible. Many of my clients are excited to experiment with this new medium which is planned to begin in June.

(SB): How did you communicate the shutdown with your clients?

(JLJ): Every artist has handled the devastation of this moment differently. Therefore, some clients have processed this news with me on the phone, others have found texting and emailing the best way to process. And many have been partaking in my ongoing free online class, my coaching services, and my free daily Isolate Meditate Create experience, so events were discussed via all those options. My free guided meditation and writing sessions take place on ZOOM at 9am (PT) during the Stay at Home, with more information available on JessicaLynnJohnson.com.

All to say, this is such a challenging time and it is important to respect each person's nuanced way of handling this crisis and hold space for their feelings and the mode in which they feel comfortable engaging.

(SB) Are plans in place to present shows at a future date and how are you keeping the Arts alive during social distancing?

(JLJ): As an eternal optimist, I encourage my clients to "Never Give Up" and "Always Think Outside the Box". We must "Let Go of What Was" and step into the reality of "What Is." Suffice it to say, I am in discussion with several clients about the Live Streaming dates for those who were in the tail end of Solofest, and therefore unable to perform their shows when COVID-19 hit. I am also in discussion with those who would like to wait until we are able to gather in person at Whitefire to resume the production of their shows. I respect both choices.

As it stands right now, the Hollywood Fringe which is traditionally held in June has been postponed until October, and most people are eager to partake during this rescheduled time and I will be there to support them in the Fall.

The LA Women's Theatre Festival is also in talks about next steps to carry on with our programming, and our publicist Philip Sokoloff will certainly make an official statement on that once the Board has agreed upon appropriate next steps.

Lastly, I encourage everyone to TAKE CREATIVE ACTION right now since Art is more important than ever! After all, how many of us are getting through this challenging time by reading a good book, binging television shows and films, or tuning into content being streamed around the globe?  I hope the majority of us are nurturing our souls and entertaining our minds with Art to get through this day-to-day madness.

For example, recently my brilliantly talented client Dana Lynn and I hosted a ZOOM reading of her one-woman show Transcending the Mirror about her journey to accept and love herself as a lesbian woman, and we had 40 people tune in and give us incredible feedback to implement into the script.

We have moved all of our Soaring Solo LLC services online, and I have also transferred all of my coaching services and my 100% free One Person Play Development class to ZOOM so that we can all continue with our Art and not be stopped by this virus. I like to say kill the coronavirus and NOT creativity! As such, I am still coaching solo artists in the development and direction of their one-person plays from the comfort of their living room, offering One-on-One coaching, small group coaching featuring 6 solo artists at a time, and Power Pairs where two artists work together with me on larger excerpts of their solo shows.

With all the fear and uncertainty in the world right now, I know many people appreciate something else to focus on besides the virus and I want to provide that much needed creative outlet for them. And for those who are financial strained and cannot afford my paid services, I have got their back too, offering my 100% free One-Person Play development class on Saturday mornings, as well as my free guided meditation and writing sessions on ZOOM daily at 9am (PT). For more information on my free class and my paid services, please visit www.JessicaLynnJohnson.com

Yes, we need to keep our physical bodies healthy right now, but our mind, heart and spirit need to stay healthy too. Creative expression is a HUGE part of that overall wellness. This is a season for pioneers, innovators, and trailblazers to come forward and take the lead. We all need to think outside of the box and find ways to serve and connect and share our Art like never before. Yes, it is sad that we cannot perform in a theater at this moment in time, but desperation often breeds ingenuity. So, turn that negativity into new ways of creatively expressing yourself and connecting with others. There are true possibilities here if we can let go of the old and step into the new.

Stay healthy, stocked, safe and healthy everyone. We will get through this together!


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Kiki Yeung - producer, comedian, actress, and organizer of 'Crazy Woke Asians'


This Spotlight shines on Kiki Yeung, a producer, comedian, actress and organizer of the Crazy Woke Asians (CWA) Solo Performance Festival at the Santa Monica Playhouse and Crazy Woke Asians comedy show at The Comedy Store in Hollywood.


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

Kiki Yeung (Kiki): I majored in Drama at the University of Washington and received a diversity scholarship at Freehold Studio Theatre’s Ensemble Intensive Training Program. I trained in Shakespeare and have experience performing with Pork Filled Players and Unexpected Productions in Seattle. I also toured with Asian Story Theater in San Diego.

My award-winning one woman show Second Chances for Grace was selected to be presented at Pan Asian Repertory Theatre NuWorks Festival in NY, Santa Monica Playhouse, New Americans Museum, and was Comedians’ Pick at the Crazy Woke Asians Solo Performance Festival.

Photo by Charles Locke

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

 

(Kiki) I was involved organizing two productions: Crazy Woke Asians Solo Performance Festival at the Santa Monica Playhouse May 28-31, and Crazy Woke Asians comedy show at the Comedy Store in Hollywood. It’s important for us to make these events happen, especially now since there has been a lot of racism and hate crimes against Asian Americans in the media due to the Coronavirus pandemic starting in Asia. But it is our goal to continue to raise awareness and shine a light with our voices through comedy.

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

(Kiki): We emailed the performers and production team to postpone our March 15 promo photo shoot. And in April, we will notify the performers regarding the new festival date since right now the end of May dates are on hold at the Santa Monica Playhouse. We also messaged all the performers for the April 19 show at the Comedy Store, which is also on hold.

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

Poster Image Credit: Lyvell G Productions, Reactant Photography

(Kiki): The CWA Solo Performance Festival is now tentatively rescheduled to September 24-27, 2020, but we are still waiting to see what happens in the next week before announcing it to the performers. I plan to confirm with all scheduled performers on April 1 and again on August 1, just in case there’s a need to reschedule or push dates to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. We may reschedule the April 19 CWA Comedy Show to either May/June/July.

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

(Kiki): We have comedy shows every other month, so we are heavily affected by the shutdown as our June and August shows, September/October NYC tour, and November Hong Kong/China tour are all going to be rescheduled or postponed. That’s a lot of logistics to try and reschedule, and there is no way to know when we will be able to travel.

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

(Kiki) We share funny videos and posts on our Instagram and Facebook @crazywokeasians. We also repost comedians’ Patreon crowdfunding platform, podcast, and funny videos on our page to support their Art.  I hosted an open mic with The Hollywood Comedy Store on Instagram Live, and we may have a live stream CWA Comedy Show sometime this April.

(SB) It certainly sounds like you are staying busy trying to figure out your next steps when so many things are up in the air right now. What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage as soon as possible?

(Kiki): Keep creating online. Support and engage with each other on social media. Spend some time in silence and write. This is a great opportunity to gather our thoughts and write that story or play we keep putting off.

For more information about Crazy Woke Asians, visit our website at www.crazywokeasians.com or on social media @crazywokeasians.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.


Jessica-Lynn-Johnson-Soaring-Solo

Isolate.Meditate.Create with Jessica Lynn Johnson - Stay at Home Days 8 - 15

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

Day 8 - Exploring our Super Powers.

Day 9 - Exploring Control & Surrender.

Day 10 - Exploring the concept of PAUSE & RESET during COVID-19.

Day 11 - Exploring the "Other Sides" of people that come out during COVID-19.

Day 12 - Imagine your lives as a Movie Trailer. 

Day 13 - Recalling an unhealed childhood memory that we can offer closure to as an adult.

Day 14 - Examining our MISSION and our PASSION.

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

Jessica-Lynn-Johnson-Soaring-Solo

Isolate.Meditate.Create with Jessica Lynn Johnson - Stay at Home Days 1 - 7

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

Day 1 - Exploring themes of FEAR & HOPE during the COVID-19 Coronavirus crisis

Day 2 - Exploring themes of LOSS & GAIN during the coronavirus COVID-19

Day 3 - Exploring our HAPPY PLACE

Day 4 - Exploring SPEED WRITING on themes of Health, Home, Change & Community

Day 5 - Exploring a memory of a struggle that you were able to survive

Day 6 - Exploring our most predominant feeling during COVID-19

Day 7 - Exploring a relationship that has been on the forefront of our minds during COVID-19

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


Now Registered on the Better Lemons Calendar: Virtual Online and Future Shows Now Registered - May 30 - April 5, 2020


Calling all Artists


Better Lemons now includes all Online Live Events in our Calendar!

Online Pre-recorded Events will be posted on our Video page!

To register your virtual theater or performance events that are streaming at a specific time and date on our Event Registration page.

If you have pre-recorded art since practicing social distancing, please send us the link and we will add your show to our Video page.

For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page!


Online Live


Smartphone Theatre

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Rachel Chavkin and Carson Kreitzer in Conversation

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A PLAY ABOUT DAVID MAMET WRITING A PLAY ABOUT HARVEY WEINSTEIN

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LOCKDOWN - with Kimlai

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Singer Tiffany Bailey Does Not Let COVID-19 Get in the Way of Her Creativity


Actress and Singer, Tiffany Bailey, has many talents. She also happens to be a behavioral therapist for children with autism. I laud her for that. Last Spring 2019, she released an album entitled "Jazz with Pop," and her cabaret show was very well received. In this interview, she updates our readers as to the success of the CD and talks about her other projects for 2020.


DG: How has your CD been selling since your concert last spring?

TB: The Jazz with POP CD has been selling okay. People seem to like the disco-inspired groove of Twilight Tone and the soft haunting feel of True Colors the best. More people are hearing about Jazz with POP, so that is great! I have it listed on all music platforms: iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, CD Baby! I also have it available on my website:

DG: When is your next concert appearance and where?*

TB: I’ve got a few private gigs coming up in January and February [and the] next public gig is set for Thursday, April 9, [2020], at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s. This is one of my favorite venues. I have some cool things planned.Lots of exploration in 80s/90s pop, musical theater, epic songs that have theatrics, a little Jazz, and comedy! Another gig I’m excited about is Thursday, June 26, [2020], at The Gardenia Lounge. with my friend, Francesca Amari, who is a popular cabaret singer in Palm Springs. Two very different shows. Both incorporating: comedy, cabaret, and some musical theater, mixed with pop.*

DG: Are you changing what you will sing for the next series of concerts?

TB: In some ways yes. I will always have my Jazz roots. But, I’ve really been exploring the comedy of Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball. Also, finding some great musical theater I like; some pop-influenced songs, and a little Lawrence Welk, if you can believe it.

DG: Tell our readers again about growing up with a musical father and how it motivated you to want to sing professionally.

TB: Growing up with a father who plays music has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. When it came to learning about cool artists. My dad was steeped in the jazz world, so I learned about and listened to Chet Baker, Diane Schuur, Charlie Parker. But he also introduced me to the Bee Gees, Captain & Tennille, Ray Charles, Hall & Oates, The Carpenters…the list goes on. Even now, dad is always sending me links to music I should listen to. We have a lot of fun chatting about it. And he really understands my musical tastes, so I listen to a huge variety of music.

DG: Are you embarking on essaying other styles of music, or do you feel more comfortable staying with jazz and pop?

TB: I feel very safe with and love singing the jazz standards and pop music, but I’m definitely exploring new music genres in the last few years. I’m wanting to bring in a funk component to some of my arrangements; I’m also exploring adding a theatrical element to my shows, so I’m listening to a lot of show tunes, both from the Golden Era of Broadway and contemporary shows. I’m really attracted to songs that tell a story, and I want to translate that to my shows: storytelling with music, words and lights. I want my audiences to feel “full” when they leave my shows. I want the music to speak out, loudly. And I want them to really understand the stories behind the songs and feel the passion I do about the music itself.

DG: What other projects are on the horizon or more specifically in the near future?

TB: I’m exploring more acting and voiceover work. I’ve gotten my headshots done for commercial film and TV. I’m trying to put myself out there to get a feature film. I love using my voice in fun ways and exploring what I can do as an actor. Recently, I’ve started to figure out how to perfect Carol Channing’s unique speaking style. It’s a tricky one; she was such an incredible talent.

I’m also looking to get more involved in directing cabaret shows and theatrical productions. I have a background in music and art therapy. I truly enjoy working on shows and being involved in the writing and development process. I think I bring something valuable to other artists, including adding the component of fun, organization, creativity, and collaboration.

DG: Tell us again who your favorite singers are, old and new.

TB: My idol, Karen Carpenter is number one. Others include Lea Michelle, Sharon McNight, Esperanza Spalding, Casey Abrams, and Melody Gardot. Lately, I’ve been really intrigued and enamored with Billie Eilish–both as a person and performer.

DG: Do you wish to add anything?

TB: I decided this past year to really follow my passions, so I have been taking piano lessons, which has added so much joy to my life. My goal was to accompany myself at a show, and I’m happy to report that I will be doing that! I just want to immerse myself in the entertainment world, from music to directing to cabaret to voice work and acting.

* This concert has been canceled due to COVID-19. When things get back to normal, the concert will be rescheduled.

DG: When I asked Tiffany Bailey what she is doing to stay active creatively, she had the following update.

TB: Haven’t rescheduled yet. So hard to know when to do it. Probably looking at early next year, or end of this year. Just continuing to work on projects and stay musically moving and grooving.

We were so excited to be doing our show, "The Tiffany Zone," April at Feinstein’s.* But, safety is what’s most important. We are looking forward to rescheduling. The Tiffany Zone, directed by Keri Kelsey, is going to be a blast to the ’80s and ’90s, quirky stories, heartfelt ballads, and lots of music you can celebrate with. We are even bringing back actual high school show choir friends from my high school–Erin Rivlin & Crystal Keith! Both ladies are exceptional musicians. We will have some great moves too. My special guest will be jazz musician, Jeffrey Gimble [and] featuring Emile Hassan Dyer as well. Musical Director, Jamieson Trotter!

During this time, I’ve been staying sane by playing piano two hours a day, taking a sight-singing class with Jazz singer/teacher Sandra Booker, working on shows with Karen Celeste Cruz, and Francesca Amari Sajtar. Dancing every day and learning new moves. Having creative conversations with friends and family. Acting silly, taking risks (videos, live streams, writing), virtually making crafts with my niece. Finding resourceful ways to connect with people. Taking time to appreciate the space during this scary time. Funny how suddenly doing the dishes, has become more enjoyable—especially to music. Grateful to all who are helping to burn this pandemic out.



Spotlight Series: Meet Anzu Lawson - an Asian-American Actress, Playwright, Stand-Up Comic, and Yoko Ono Doppelganger


With the current theatre world on hiatus, I have created a Spotlight Series of interviews with some of am the many talented artists who make our Los Angeles theatre community so exciting and vibrant thanks to their ongoing contribution to keeping the arts alive in the City of the Angels. And like all of us, how are they dealing with the abrupt end of productions in which they were involved?

This Spotlight focuses on Anzu Lawson, an Asian-American Actress, Playwright, Stand-Up Comic, and Yoko Ono doppelganger who I first met during the 2014 Hollywood Fringe Festival.


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

Anzu Lawson (Anzu): I’m an Asian-American Actress, Playwright, and Stand-Up Comic who has been performing my One Woman Show called Dear Yoko to sold out theatres here in Los Angeles. It was an official selection for 2019 Binge Fringe Festival, the 2020 SOLOFEST & the 2020 Crazy Woke Asians Solo Performance Festival.

I also penned & starred in an all-original musical called Dear John, Why Yoko? which garnered my first Best Actress nomination at the 2014 Hollywood Fringe Festival for my role as “Yoko Ono.”

(SB): And I am happy to share links to my reviews of both your shows during which you absolutely amazed me with your authentic portrayal of a woman so erroneous hated the world over for her involvement with John Lennon.

(SB): Were you involved with any production(s) when word went out that you needed to immediately postpone/cancel a show?

(Anzu): I was playing the role of YEN opposite Al Pacino with a huge, talented cast in a Benefit Staged Reading for Al Pacino’s charity in the David Rabe play called “The Basic Training Of Pavlo Hummel” that garnered Al his first Tony Award on Broadway in 1977. Al Pacino and director Robert Allan Ackerman revived it on stage to help raise funds and awareness for one of Al’s charities to help war veterans. We performed it Sunday, March 8th at The Wallis Annenberg in association with The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles. There were talks of doing it again, but the very next day the Wallis Annenberg closed its doors due to the Corona Pandemic. Here’s a link to a Broadway World article about that amazing production

(SB): How has the shutdown affected your current and future production plans?

(Anzu): I had to make some hard decisions. This has been an extremely unforeseeable event affecting every single human on this planet and not knowing how long we will be quarantined, has many artists unsure if they can even afford to do their show, even with rescheduled dates. I feel bad, but I am canceling all my show commitments until there is a vaccine.

I heard the remaining solo artists involved in the 2020 SOLOFEST dates at The Whitefire Theatre, in which I have participated, have been offered to have their performances streamed online. Personally, as good a solution as that may sound, performing to an empty theatre is not the ideal situation when a) audience interaction and response is a huge part of the experience as a solo performer and b) the main world focus is on live coronavirus news updates. I appreciate everyone trying to rally together to find a solution but I think people everywhere will need more time. Every person is processing what is happening very differently.

As for my future plans, I was about to fly to Chicago’s Cinespace Studios to film another episode of Chicago Med on which I have a recurring role, and I was counting on that money to pay for my 2020 Fringe solo show dates. Unfortunately, I had to cancel my entire participation in the 2020 Hollywood Fringe and am trying my very best to get my invested monies and deposits back. Even though 2020 Hollywood Fringe has been moved to October (much like Stage Coach and Coachella) at this time, I do not have the heart to ask my friends to hurry and get over their Coronavirus/social distancing fear by October to buy tickets and sit in a crowded theater while there is no income coming in for most, nor a readily available vaccine on the horizon.

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

(Anzu): Thank God for the internet and the free classes being offered by so many teachers and studios. I am also grateful for the funny memes on social media keeping me light-hearted and smiling through all this uncertainty. This pandemic has given all of us a “pause button” to reassess our beliefs, our tribes, our creative visions for ourselves as well as for the world. We are being forced to look at our individual contribution to humanity, not only as humans but as artists. This will forever change us as a society, hopefully for the best.

Personally, I’m in research mode. I started revisiting scripts and thinking deeply about what I want to say as an artist from here on out. I am forced to sit still, get grounded and put pen to paper.

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

(Anzu): Never forget there is always a silver lining and now more than ever, we artists are being called upon to be the beacon for a new humanity. We will get through this but only together and only by thinking of each other. Feed your soul now and get ready to create! Inspire! And be daring with your artistic voice. We have a huge responsibility ahead of us to shine bigger light and tell new stories that will ever remind us there is nothing more valuable than our ability to care for each other. As Yoko Ono always said, “We are all connected together. We are all one.”

I invite everyone to follow me on IG/FB/Twitter @AnzuLawson and read more about my credits on my IMDB profile. I also want to give a shout out to my director Jessica Lynn Johnson who offers free Solo show creative writing classes now on ZOOM.

(SB): Thank you Anzu. I am hoping to focus a spotlight on Jessica Lynn Johnson in the near future so more people learn about her outstanding contributions to the L.A. Theatre world.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



The Show Must Go Online: Registered this week NEW Online Virtual and Future Shows on Better Lemons Calendar!


Calling all Artists


Better Lemons will now include all Online Live Events and Online Pre-recorded Events in our Calendar!

The first virtual event has registered on the Better Lemons! Be sure to register your virtual theater or performance events that are streaming at a specific time and date on our Event Registration page.

Better Lemons has over 75 shows NOW registered! If you have pre-recorded art since practicing social distancing, please send us the link and we will add your show to our Video page.

For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page!


Online Live


Victoria Gordon

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Future Upcoming Live


Hearts for the Arts

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A Chorus Line

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Always...Patsy Cline

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The Holiday Gem

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THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (ABRIDGED)

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Now Registered on the Better Lemons Calendar – March 2 - 8, 2020


Better Lemons currently has over 140 shows NOW registered on the Better Lemons Calendar!

Registered NEW this week are Art Shows, Musicals, Comedy, Cabaret, Solo, Readings, and more:
For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page.


Wait Until Dark

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Bernhardt/Hamlet

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One Way Ticket to Oregon

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The Pack

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Darkness Comes Alive: Discover Your Neon Eternity

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Muse of Fire (Henry 4/5)

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A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Divorce

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Scintilla

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2nd Annual NOT REAL ART Creators Conference

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Bakersfield Mist

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ANTIDOTE TO NOISE: FOUR VOICES

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Poor Clare

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Alice in Wonderland the Musical

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Señorita Julia - Staged Reading

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