Ashton's Audio Interview: The cast of “Confederates” at the Grove Theater Center in Burbank

A young and ambitious reporter uncovers a compromising photo of the daughter of a candidate for president. An older colleague urges him to publish it immediately while the daughter and his conscience tell him to bury it. In the end, he must decide if it's a legitimate story and whether such a distinction is even relevant for our multi-platform and relentless news cycles.*
Enjoy this interview with the cast of “Confederates” at the Grove Theater Center, running until Dec 16th. You can listen to this interview while commuting, while waiting in line at the grocery store or at an audition, backstage and even front of the stage. For tickets and more info Click here.

*taken from the website


Creating Mass Movements — Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

In these turbulent and twisting times that find so many bewildered and baffled, suckered punched by the events of the last two years, I find myself in this punishing period for our nation oddly consoled by a soothing sense of déjà-vu.
Yes, Trump's victory via that Three-Card Monte constitutional encumbrance called the Electoral College left me as bumfuzzled as a hoe-wacked goose, as his election was about as unexpected and unpleasant as finding a spitting cobra inside a box of Cracker Jacks as your secret prize.
However, in the days that followed, I felt a curious calmness creep over me, and it struck me that I recognized the dynamics at play.
Not that I've had prior experience of a long-established democratic system rending itself apart, or of a society being sucked down into the toxic swill of the most recidivistic and repugnant aspects of its national character.
I had watched as Trump infected the body politic, from the GOP convention to the November election, like a particularly viral strain of the French Pox. I had watched as his malevolent, blustering, vainglorious and clownish campaign bloated up into a “crass-roots” crusade fueled by his rabble-rousing duplicity and squalor and constant mudslinging in 140 character smears.  And while I had never beheld such an excremental engine as the Trump candidacy, I had studied the blueprints that built it.
I had read Eric Hoffer.
As far as foreseeing what the future holds, Jean Dixon, Criswell of “Plan Nine” fame and Nostradamus were a pack of third-rate wankers.
Eric Hoffer was the real deal, and his first work, a thin volume published in 1951, should be mandatory reading today.
The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, runs just over 150 pages, and consists of 125 brief commentaries distributed into 18 short chapters.
It's a book one can read in an afternoon; it's a book that explains why individuals would fly airliners into our buildings and how an inadequate, Pecksniffian nonentity finds himself in the White House.
When Hoffer died in 1983 at the age of 84, America lost one of its few native son philosophers and the world lost one of its most original and prescient thinkers.
How Hoffer came to that station is a narrative hued with the tincture of classic American mythos.
Much of Hoffer's life story derives from his own reports, particulars of which over the years have been challenged by biographers and historians.
But when one lives up to the myths woven around oneself, then they transubstantiate into “history” and, whatever myths Hoffer cloaked about himself, his life excelled them all.
His birth date is uncertain and the tales he told of himself over the decades often conflict, but certain details are constant in each retelling.
He was born in the Bronx.
His parents were recent immigrants from the Kaiser's imperial Germany.
He was orphaned at an early age.
Still, it is even possible that none of that is true and that, rather than having been born here, Hoffer came, illegally, into this country some time before the Great Depression.  This would account for attitudes towards and treatment of immigrants being a recurring theme in his work as well as explaining why he spoke with a distinct German accent throughout his life.
Hoffer told how he used the $300 insurance money from his father's death to travel to Los Angeles, where he said he spent the next 10 years on Skid Row: reading, occasionally writing, and working at odd jobs; including as a migrant field hand in California's central valley.
He acquired a library card and spent countless hours in both the Downtown and Hollywood libraries.   His claim that he taught himself Hebrew, botany and chemistry could be dismissed in someone of lesser stature.  But his recounting of reading Michel de Montaigne's Essays and the world they opened up to him seems validated in his adoption of Montaigne's personal, pithy and aphoristic heavy style as his own.
Also, like Montaigne, Hoffer's study was that of man.
Hoffer's life emerges from the mists of self mythology in 1934.
His internment that year in a federal transient camp, set up by California where any jobless drifters who crossed into the sunshine state were detained and put to work on state projects, is documented, and his own account of that period is included in his book The Ordeal of Change which is arguably the strongest narrative writing of his career.
It is of interest to note that in the enormous amount of unpublished writings and notebooks, Hoffer left at his death, there is nothing that predates his arrival in California in 1934.
In 1941, Hoffer moved to San Francisco where he would remain the rest of his life.  There, he took work on the docks as a longshoreman and began writing his first book.
Ten years later Margaret Anderson, a New York editor with Harper & Row, received an unsolicited manuscript by an author neither she nor anyone else, at that time, had ever heard of.
The work bore the sober title of Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements.
Anderson expected to read the first page and set it aside.
By the second paragraph she knew she wasn't setting it aside.
Hoffer pronounced his theme in the opening preface:

“All mass movements generate in their adherents a readiness to die and a proclivity for united action; all of them, irrespective of the doctrine they preach and the program they project, breed fanaticism, enthusiasm, fervent hope, hatred and intolerance; all of them are capable of releasing a powerful flow of activity in certain departments of life; all of them demand blind faith and single hearted allegiance.   All movements, however different in doctrine and aspiration, draw their early adherents from the same types of humanity; they all appeal to the same types of mind.”

It would be Anderson, while working as the book's editor, who suggested the addition of “The True Believer” to the title.  Hoffer accepted the suggestion and dedicated the book to her.
At its publication in 1951, Hoffer lived by himself in a single room he rented in the Chinatown section of San Francisco.  His room held a few articles of clothing, a bed, two chairs and writing supplies.  There was no telephone, no radio, no television.  It would remain that way until his death.
Seemingly overnight the unknown, barrel-chested, balding longshoreman was hailed for the staggering insights of his book and stamped by the media as “the Longshoreman Philosopher.”
But Hoffer's impact reached beyond the hype.
In Britain, Bertrand Russell praised Hoffer, and in America the historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. in speaking of The True Believer said, “This brilliant and original inquiry into the nature of mass movements is a genuine contribution to our social thought.”
Hoffer continued to work as a longshoreman even after the success of his work.  When he left the docks, it was to accept an adjunct professorship at the University of California, Berkeley.
In 1959, it was divulged that Hoffer had another admirer of note.
Two years before the farewell address where he aired his concerns of the threat the “military-industrial complex” posed to our democracy, President Dwight D. Eisenhower(Ike) gave voice to another warning for our nation, in a letter to a dying veteran.
Terminally ill Robert Biggs, who had served in World War II, wrote to Eisenhower venting his concerns, admitting, “I felt from your recent speeches the feeling of hedging and a little uncertainty.”
He longed for the firm leadership of command that he'd known during the war, the lack of which he found disturbing.
He closed his letter with a confession, “We wait for someone to speak for us and back him completely if the statement is made in truth.”
Today Biggs would receive a standard White House form response like hundreds of others that are mailed off daily, consisting of a “thank you” and the president's automated signature.
But Eisenhower sat down and composed a reply.
A reply which reflected the turmoil of his term: Joseph McCarthy had paralyzed the country with his claims of Communist sympathizers at all levels of the government and had infiltrated the nation's schools and industries, and the John Birch Society had branded Ike a tool of the Soviets, all the while making inroads into the Republican party.
To Biggs, Eisenhower wrote:

“I doubt that citizens like yourself could ever, under our democratic system, be provided with the universal degree of certainty, the confidence in their understanding of our problems, and the clear guidance from higher authority that you believe needed.   Such unity is not only logical but indeed indispensable in a successful military organization, but in a democracy debate is the breath of life.”

Eisenhower recommended The True Believer to Biggs, then goes on to explain that the book:

“… points out that dictatorial systems make one contribution to their people which leads them to tend to support such systems — freedom from the necessity of informing themselves and making up their own minds concerning these tremendous complex and difficult questions.”

In warning Biggs of the danger in wishing “for someone to speak for us,” perhaps Eisenhower was recalling this passage from Hoffer's book:

“Unless a man has the talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden. Of what avail is freedom to choose if the self be ineffectual? We join a mass movement to escape individual responsibility, or, in the words of the ardent young Nazi, ‘to be free from freedom.' It was not sheer hypocrisy when the rank-and-file Nazis declared themselves not guilty of all the enormities they had committed. They considered themselves cheated and maligned when made to shoulder responsibility for obeying orders. Had they not joined the Nazi movement in order to be free from responsibility?”

In his letter, Eisenhower acknowledges this “irksome burden” but he is quick to point out its blessing; “But while this responsibility is a taxing one to a free people it is their great strength as well–from millions of individual free minds come new ideas, new adjustments to emerging problems, and tremendous vigor, vitality and progress."
Eisenhower closes his reply praising Biggs for “pondering these problems despite your deep personal adversity.”
In the post war America, it was difficult to accept that the right-wing fascist and left-wing Marxist were interchangeable.
But Hoffer argued:

“All mass movements, irrespective of the doctrine they preach and the program they project, breed fanaticism, enthusiasm, fervent hope, hatred, and intolerance… A mass movement attracts and holds a following not because it can satisfy the desire for self-advancement, but because it can satisfy the passion for self-renunciation.”

At the close of his life, Hoffer had ten more titles to his name including The Passionate State of Mind (1955), and The Ordeal of Change (1963), which he considered his best work.
But it is The True Believer for which he is best remembered, and 21st century readers can distinguish Hoffer's paradigm in Islamic terrorists such as Hezbollah and al Qaeda, right-wing, evangelical fundamentalists groups such as the World Church of the Creator, Zionist militants such as the followers of Meir Kahane, organizations of both black and white supremacists and a host of other groups.
Citizens of today's troubled America sitting down with the book would be stunned at how Hoffer's words provoke a reverberation so precise in echoing both the roots and allure of Trumpism.
When placed beside Trump and his political movement, Hoffer's commentary takes on the appearance of reversed engineered prophecy.
In the beginning there was Trump trumpeting the ridiculous allegation regarding Obama's birth certificate:

“I have people that have been studying [Obama's birth certificate] and they cannot believe what they're finding… I would like to have him show his birth certificate and, can I be honest with you, I hope he can. Because if he can't—if he can't, if he wasn't born in this country, which is a real possibility…then he has pulled one of the great cons in the history of politics.”
“The fact is, if you're not born in the United States, you cannot be president…”
“An ‘extremely credible source' has called my office and told me that Barack Obama's birth certificate is a fraud.“

You have Trump's assault on any press media or news outlet refusing to kowtow to his public image or challenging his contrived assertions:

“The press has become so dishonest that if we don't talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. We have to talk to find out what's going on, because the press honestly is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.”
“And I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It's fake, phony, fake. A few days ago, I called the fake news the ‘enemy of the people,' and they are, they are the enemy of the people.“

Hoffer would observe:

"It is startling to realize how much unbelief is necessary to make belief possible.”

It is the true believer's ability to ‘shut his eyes and stop his ears' to facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard which is the source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy. He cannot be frightened by danger nor disheartened by obstacle nor baffled by contradictions because he denies their existence.
All active mass movements strive, therefore, to interpose a fact-proof screen between the faithful and the realities of the world.
Trump “interpose[d] a fact-proof screen” as a masquerade of “alternative facts,” yet he raged at the media:
They shouldn't be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody's name. Let their name be put out there. Let their name be put out.
A feature in the make-up of a “True Believer” is holding others to a higher code of conduct than they do themselves or their leader, so Trump never needs to identify his “extremely credible source” who denounced Obama's birth certificate a “fraud.”
Trump lashed out unendingly at those forces plotting against him:

“We have losers. We have people that don't have it. We have people that are morally corrupt. We have people that are selling this country down the drain.”
“Our enemies are getting stronger and stronger by the way, and we as a country are getting weaker.”
“The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary – but also at many polling places: SAD.”

Hoffer would retort:

"The enemy—the indispensable devil of every mass movement—is omnipresent. He plots both outside and inside the ranks of the faithful. It is his voice that speaks through the mouth of the dissenter, and the deviationists are his stooges. If anything goes wrong within the movement, it is his doing. It is the sacred duty of the true believer to be suspicious. He must be constantly on the lookout for saboteurs, spies and traitors.
Propaganda … serves more to justify ourselves than to convince others; and the more reason we have to feel guilty, the more fervent our propaganda."

Trump promised those who came to his rallies:

“I think that I would be a great uniter. I think that I would have great diplomatic skills. I think that I would be able to get along with people very well. I've had a great success in my life. I think the world would unite if I were the leader of the United States.”

Hoffer:

"It is futile to judge the viability of a new movement by the truth of its doctrine and the feasibility of its promises. What has to be judged is its corporate organization for quick and total absorption of the frustrated. Where new creeds vie with each other for the allegiance of the populace, the one which comes with the most perfected collective framework wins."

“Sadly,” Trump lamented, “the American dream is dead. But if I get elected president, I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before, and we will make America great again.”
Hoffer:

"There is no more potent dwarfing of the present than by viewing it as a mere link between a glorious past and a glorious future. Thus, though a mass movement at first turns its back on the past, it eventually develops a vivid awareness, often specious, of a distant glorious past. Religious movements go back to the day of creation; social revolutions tell of a golden age when men were free, equal, and independent; nationalist movements revive or invent memories of past greatness."

Trump positioned himself as able to fix all the wrongs of the country just by the force of his personality.

“So I deal with foreign countries, and despite what you may read, I have unbelievable relationships with all of the foreign leaders. They like me. I like them. You know, it's amazing.”
“We'll have companies pouring back into our nation. I mean, it's going to be — you know, it's going to be beautiful.“
“You know, I've had a lot of wins in my life, and I know where I'm coming from, and I know where I've been, and I know how to get the country to where people really want to see it.”
“Hey, I'm a nationalist and a globalist. I'm both.”

Other than the claim, “Only I can fix it,” Trump offered no detailed programs, but when he spoke to his base, where the rest of us heard words fluttering about as meaninglessly as cards flung in a child's game of 52 pickup, his supporters found revelations and reassurance.
Hoffer diagnosed the difference:

"Crude absurdities, trivial nonsense and sublime truths are equally potent in readying people for self-sacrifice if they are accepted as the sole, eternal truth. It is obvious, therefore, that in order to be effective a doctrine must not be understood, but has rather to be believed in. We can be absolutely certain only about things we do not understand.  If a doctrine is not unintelligible, it has to be vague; and if neither unintelligible nor vague, it has to be unverifiable.
For men to plunge headlong into an undertaking of vast change, they must be intensely discontented yet not destitute, and they must have the feeling that by the possession of some potent doctrine, infallible leader or some new technique they have access to a source of irresistible power. They must also have an extravagant conception of the prospects and potentialities of the future. Finally, they must be wholly ignorant of the difficulties involved in their vast undertaking. Experience is a handicap.
A rising mass movement attracts and holds a following not by its doctrine and promises but by the refuge it offers from the anxieties, barrenness, and meaninglessness of an individual existence. It cures the poignantly frustrated not by conferring on them an absolute truth or remedying the difficulties and abuses which made their lives miserable, but by freeing them from their ineffectual selves"

To those immune to Trump's political paroxysm, his constant display of a fractured ego seeking to mask a glaring defectiveness of character beneath hyperbolic pronouncements were reminiscent of a cartoon coyote intoning of himself “Super genius.”
“My IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure; it's not your fault.”
“I'm very smart. My life has proven that I'm smart. I mean, I've had a life of success and I've had a life of victory."
“I've been winning all of my life. . .  My whole life is about winning. I always win. I win at golf….   My whole life is about winning. I don't lose often. I almost never lose.”
“To be blunt, people would vote for me. They just would. Why? Maybe because I'm so good looking.”
“I'm the most successful person ever to run for the presidency, by far. Nobody's ever been more successful than me. I'm the most successful person ever to run.”
“I think I am actually humble. I think I'm much more humble than you would understand.”
It was difficult to understand how his supporters were so readily able to accept his self-aggrandizing when so ludicrously over the top, to the rest of us it seemed like dialogue plucked from Monty Python routines.
Hoffer had commented:

"The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world.
The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.
The frustrated follow a leader less because of their faith that he is leading them to a promised land than because of their immediate feeling that he is leading them away from their unwanted selves….  The True Believer is eternally incomplete, eternally insecure."

The final question most asked of Trump's devoted supporters is, ‘Why?'
Yes, both parties failed in fielding a candidate capable of communicating a vision or program that would inspire and unite a great people.  That accounts for what drew many to his standard at the outset.  But what is it now that binds his base to him despite a run of broken promises and failures:

  • Mexico is not paying for a wall that the country shouldn't build.
  • He didn't fully repeal and replace Obamacare with “something even better.”
  • He's alienated our allies and emboldened our foes.
  • He didn't enact new ethics reforms on special interests.
  • He didn't make two and four year colleges more affordable but instead cut student aid.
  • He didn't label China a currency manipulator but nearly plunged us into a trade war.
  • He didn't ban Muslims from entering the country.
  • He didn't expel Syrian refugees.
  • He didn't expel the “Dreamers”; though he is still threatening to despite the country's objections.
  • He didn't sue the women accusing him of sexual misconduct.
  • He didn't arrest Hillary.
  • He didn't defeat Isis in a week.
  • He didn't release his tax returns

And Trump just declares:
“Eventually we're going to get something done and it's going to be really, really good.”
Why?
Why would anyone see in that sad, arrogant little naffin, a leader?
Again, Hoffer has much to say on that topic.

"It has often been said that power corrupts. But it is perhaps equally important to realize that weakness, too, corrupts. Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many. Hatred, malice, rudeness, intolerance, and suspicion are the faults of weakness. The resentment of the weak does not spring from any injustice done to them but from their sense of inadequacy and impotence.
The permanent misfits can find salvation only in a complete separation from the self; and they usually find it by losing themselves in the compact collectivity of a mass movement.
Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves."

So much of Trump's rhetoric and persona is rancid with racism and xenophobia, describing Mexicans as rapists, criminals, “bad hombres,” declaring at his rallies he doesn't want Syrian refugees or Muslins coming “over here,” his obsession with building his wall.
There's one aphorism in The True Believer that reflects on these attitudes that accounts for so much of Trump's support, it is one of Hoffer's insights that has the most troubling resonance for me.
Should Americans begin to hate foreigners wholeheartedly, it will be an indication that they have lost confidence in their own way of life.
There is little of optimism to be found in The True Believer, but then Hoffer was trying to Illuminate the interaction of individuals within a society that fosters insurrections, rebellions, Jacqueries, terrorism and dictatorships, not write fairy tales.
On the whole, Hoffer counsels caution with hope, writing in The True Believer:
When hopes and dreams are loose in the streets, it is well for the timid to lock doors, shutter windows and lie low until the wrath has passed. For there is often a monstrous incongruity between the hopes, however noble and tender, and the action which follows them.
In The Ordeal of Change, one of his later works, Hoffer still offers little in the way of hope.  But he does offer us reasons to at least have hope of “Hope.”
Hoffer lists the distinctly American virtues:

"…a superb dynamism, an unprecedented diffusion of skills, a genius for organization and teamwork, a flexibility that makes possible an easy adjustment to the most drastic change, an ability to get things done with a minimum of tutelage and supervision, an unbounded capacity for fraternization."

Contrary to the fear mongering of Fox News and Trump's dire cant, the demise of most democracies are not a result of external enemies breaching their walls or the mongrelization of their culture by an influx of the “outsiders.”
The death of a democracy begins when its people forget their history.
And a people without a history cannot have a future.
There will be a cost to this nation for neglecting its institutions and people until conditions had deteriorated to where Trump's candidacy was possible.  But Trump will eventually travel the same path as “the Know-Nothings,” Father Coughlin's National Union for Social Justice, the Share the Wealth movement of Huey Long, and McCarthyism.
The challenge before us is not defeating Trump and his Crusade of Deplorables.  The challenge is for the people of this nation to recommit to those principles forged at its founding.
For in the end, America will fail when Americans have failed her.
To read Eisenhower's letter in full, click HERE.
Reprinted with permission from TheTVolution.com.


Casting, Activism, Connecting the Public to the Arts, and More News

LOCAL

Female Fusion - The Intersection of Art and Activism

Reena Dutt is exactly the artist that this column is named for. She creates art; theater, film, web, and video, that moves the conversation forward. The subject of the conversation changes, the message is sometimes obvious, sometimes more obtuse, but the medium stays constant. Art speaks and Dutt knows the language intimately.

There are so many stereotypes of what an ardent feminist, an activist, a person of color fighting for representation is; strong, powerful, angry. Dutt is quite disarming and funny. She laughs easily and often. She is petite, pretty and slightly self effacing. read more here


Audio Interview: Barbara Luna (Lt. Marlena Moreau of Star Trek) and the cast of "South Pacific" at La Mirada Theatre

Enjoy this interview about “South Pacific” featuring an opening interview with Barbara Luna (Lt. Marlena Moreau of Star Trek) who was in the original 1949 production. Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, runs until May 13th. listen to the interview on SoundCloud


Fire, Glass-Walk With Me: A Revealing Interview With Vixen DeVille

Fire-eating, glass-walking, circus aerial, magic, burlesque, costume crafting, comedy, and acting—British actress Cat LaCohie fits all of these skills into her life and her new solo show “Vixen DeVille Revealed”, coming to the Hollywood Fringe Festival this June.

Originally from Newcastle, LaCohie began her career in London, with appearances at Cafe De Paris, The Ritz Hotel and at the Charing Cross Theatre in West End, since relocating to Los Angeles. read more here


Deanne Bray and Troy Kotsur

Now Casting: World premiere ASL/Spoken English love story “Arrival & Departure” at Fountain Theatre

The Fountain Theatre is now accepting submissions from hearing actors for the world premiere of Arrival & Departure, a funny and poignant new play written and directed by Stephen Sachs that will blend American Sign Language and spoken English. read more here


Face To Face: Street Artist Teachr and Fairfax High School Students Come Together To Teach Peace

Renowned street artist Teachr (Keith Biele) will display his work and highlight the art work of 16 Fairfax High School students he has mentored, on Thursday, May 25th from 4-10 PM.

The art show will take place at Flux Rebellion (7763 Melrose Avenue), who generously donated their space to allow the students to sell their pieces and keep 100% of the income while learning the business of art and harnessing their creative energy in a positive way. read more here


Antaeus Academy Classes Open for Enrollment

Antaeus Academy is offering now 12 classes and this is the time to enroll for these summer sessions! read more here


NATIONAL

Larry Harvey during the Burning Man festival in 2011.CreditJohn Curley, via Associated Press

Larry Harvey, the Man Behind Burning Man, Is Dead at 70

Larry Harvey, the guru-like driving force behind Burning Man, the globally celebrated anti-establishment, anti-consumerist festival that he and a friend began 32 years ago on a San Francisco beach, died on Saturday at a hospital in San Francisco. He was 70. read more here


Students in every Putnam City school are offered a variety of art instruction by 95 fine arts teachers. Western Oaks Elementary second-grader Siriwan Adsawathanat practices for a school program in vocal music class.

Interviews: Putnam City school district puts emphasis on the arts to inspire students to success

Whether playing the national anthem at an Oklahoma City Thunder home game or performing an intriguing string quartet cover of the Beach Boys' classic “Barbara Ann” at an Oklahoma Autism Center fundraiser, members of The Silver Strings of Putnam City stay on the move. read more here


Young Audiences Program Brings Teaching Artists To Students


‘You Did It So Well': Traveling Theatre Connects Shakespeare With Everyone

The team, called “Shakespeare in the Parking Lot,” takes their show on the road, performing at local schools and parks.

“Shakespeare is for everyone. It can pop up, and perform in your parking lot,” said Allison Watrous, Executive Director of Education for the DCPA.

Using an old Ford pickup truck as their set, cast members perform iconic Shakespeare plays like “Romeo and Juliet” and “A Midsummer Night's Dream.” read more here


CPHS teacher to receive national theatre award

Charles Page High School teacher Andrea Campfield will receive the Distinguished Merit Award from the American Association of Community Theatre (AACT).

The AACT Distinguished Merit Award is reportedly presented to individuals and organizations in recognition of contributions made to promote and develop the highest standards for community theatre. The award will be presented at an awards ceremony during the international theatre festival aactWorldFest 2018 June 18-23 in Venice, Florida. read more here


24 Teachers and Teaching Artists Board Educational Theatre Association's Model Curriculum Framework Project

The Educational Theatre Association (EdTA) has named 24 individuals to form its Model Curriculum Framework Project, which aims to expand instructional practices for both teachers and teaching artists around the country.

The project, supported by a National Endowment for the Arts grant, pairs 12 teachers with 12 teaching artists, each selected from a pool of over 100 candidates. The pairs will receive online training in standards-based teaching and assessment strategies before convening in Cincinnati July 12–15. read more here


AROUND THE WORLD

Andrew Garfield in Angels in America. Photograph: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg/AP

EU rule could leave theatres dark

The president of the Association of Lighting Directors warns that a new directive could make all existing equipment obsolete
I am writing to you as the president of the Association of Lighting Designers, and as the Founder of Theatre Projects, an international theatre design company that for 60 years has been at the forefront of British theatre technology, responsible for the stage design of the National Theatre, and for over 1,500 theatre projects in 80 counties. read more here

An Interview with Homeward LA Founder Jason Lesner

Jason Lesner (center) at the Homeward LA preview performance at Pico Union Project 4/10/18 Photo by Mike Dennis

Homeward LA is a 10-day theatrical event concluding this Sunday intended to focus attention on the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles, as well as raise money for the Midnight Mission on Skid Row.

Starting late last year, a group of writers met with 12 people who had experienced homelessness, and crafted monologues based on interviews with these individuals. Those monologues have been performed from April 13-20 by nearly 300 actors in more than 20 productions across the city.

The project has an ambitious intent: convincing the community to commit to ending homelessness. All of the proceeds from the project will go to the Midnight Mission, who helped find the storytellers. This is Homeward LA's first year but they plan to continue the project.

Jason Lesner is the founder and project director of Homeward LA. We met with him recently to discuss his project and the homeless crisis in Los Angeles.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Better Lemons:You have been saying that you don't want the cliched homeless story, the downer – can you explain what you mean?

Jason Lesner: It's not that I don't want that story, if that's what someone's story is, than that's great. I just think that's not the only story and that seems to be the story everyone thinks of when they think of the homeless. In the show, there are sad stories and there are stories where it's hard to tell whether you should feel sad or not sad about it. I think there's all sorts of things.

Marcelo Tubert performs "The Set-Up" photo by Mike Dennis

BL: But you're not trying to have the producers do the show in one specific way – they have leeway to interpret the material.

JL: This is what I said to the producers overall – I'm not going to micromanage your productions. Here is the piece, they can even change the order of the monologues. I've allowed them to do that and they can really envision it for what they want.

The one thing I did insist on is to not dress people as "homeless" people because again that's a cliche, and it's not even necessarily who these people are, and whose stories they are. And I think when I said that almost everyone who was involved in it said of course. In general, there is a bigger note in me even saying that, which is to avoid the cliche. My advice to all of the producers was for this show to work or not work comes ultimately down to the performances and the pieces themselves. If the pieces don't work, there's nothing you can do.

BL: Are you afraid of that homeless cliche because if I'm an audience member and I come in with certain expectations – like this is what a homeless person is and this is what they look like, and then those expectations are confirmed, then it only reinforces what I already believe and doesn't challenge me?

JL: I think that's part of the reason. I think a lot of people will walk in with a cliched idea of what homeless means, and anyone, you say homeless and some vision comes in their mind. I wanted to create a piece that humanized people who are homeless and showed that homeless people are much bigger than their homelessness, that that doesn't define them. I also just think from a sheer theatre standpoint...playing into those cliches is just not very interesting and inaccurate. Horribly inaccurate. What it means to be homeless is such an array of different things and then of course there are different life experiences that are vast. I wanted to portray as much of that as we possibly can.

Nicole J. Butler performs "A Nice School" Photo by Mike Dennis

BL: How did the project begin?

JL: I worked at LA Family Housing and I did community and corporate engagement there. It just came to me at some point that non-profits and the government...do amazing work and try very hard and are filled with caring people, but I realized unless the community buys into this, I don't think were going to really solve the problem.

I was just thinking about something the other day-when I worked on homelessness, there were action plans created and goals set for ending homelessness – there was a goal to end veteran homelessness within a year and chronic homelessness in 2 years. And I was inspired, I thought that was amazing, we're going to end this thing. But one of the problems we ran into is that it just lived in world of government and non-profits. I think somewhere we failed in achieving that goal was we didn't engage the community. If you can really engage the community in ending homelessness, you can increase your chances enormously.

BL: Define what engaging the community means – what will people do once they are engaged?

JL: I think it is being aware, taking action, letting their representatives know that this is important to them. They are volunteering, they're donating money and they are being vocal. It just needs to be a certain mass of people who are active and caring. This is a hard issue and it takes a deep commitment and there is going to be trial and error. We know that we increased how many people were housed from 2016 to 2017, yet homelessness went up. I don't think we should look as things like that as failures, but as learning opportunities.

BL: Do you think we're setting ourselves up for failure when we say something like "we're going to end chronic homelessness in two years?"

JL: I think unless you have a plan of what that is going to look like than we are setting ourselves up. I think we should really define how that happens. When I worked in the non-profit sector as a manager, I always said that I believe in ambitious yet realistic goals. All that realism means is that you have a theory of here's what needs to be put in place and here's how it happens. and you really map that out.

BL: Homelessness is everywhere in Los Angeles – conditions on Skid Row have gotten worse, there are tents underneath freeways. Is it really a question of awareness? People have to be seeing it.

JL: I've gotten more away from the word awareness because of the reasons you just said, and I've been working on focusing attention on homelessness. We want Homeward LA to be a rallying cry for the community. It's more those things than it's about awareness, because you're right, we are all aware of it.

BL: People aren't oblivious to the problem, and I think a lot of them want to help, but it's just so overwhelming. How do we get from that feeling of being overwhelmed by the problem, and instead start feeling that we can help end homelessness?

JL: I have many days where I think why am I doing Homeward LA, and I have many days where I think the problem is too big. I think it's normal to have those doubts. I'm not looking to alleviate people's doubts. The problem is growing, it's really coming to a critical mass where we're going to have to deal with it, whether it's today, or in a year, or in five years. It's going to hit that point. As people grow and care more deeply, the doubts will become less and less cause they'll see more people working toward the goal. Doubt is part of the human condition and it's something for us to contend with always. I don't expect to do anything like this without having sincere moments of doubt. It's just normal (to feel that way)

Our nature is we have logical minds and it's great for strategy, but we also need a good doze of idealism and dreaming as well. You won't even think to end homelessness if you don't have that there too. Anyone who has a vision of ending homelessness should be at the table no matter if they have loads of doubt or whatever point of view they have or what political party they belong to. It will take everyone coming together to figure it out.

Leo Breckenridge performs "I Met the Devil Twice" Photo by Mike Dennis

BL: The project started over 18 months ago – was Midnight Mission involved from the beginning and were there other groups that you considered working with?

JL: I was dealing with different organizations before Midnight Mission. This was a new project and it wasn't a small project. And for the Midnight Mission, an organization that doesn't know me, it was a leap of faith on their part, so quite frankly, part of it was that they took the leap. I was thinking of doing this the first year with multiple organizations and I'm glad we ended up doing it with just one – cause just being its first year doing it, it made it a lot easier.

BL: Did Midnight Mission find the people you're basing the stories on?

I just talked to them about what we were looking for in very general terms and they [Midnight Mission] chose the individuals. They just put it out there to individuals who were interested in doing it.

BL: Were these people still involved in the programs at the Midnight Mission?

JL Some people were alums of the program and some people were still in it. It was no one on the streets right now – and I think realistically for this project, cause the writing process went on for so long, that to do this with someone who is presently out on the streets would probably be difficult. It could be hard to guarantee that after the first meeting you're going to hear from that person again. We knew doing this that there needed to be some consistency.

BL: What were some of the challenges?

People not showing up for their writing meetings. One person who dropped out. We went out with 13 people and I thought we'd have more drop out, but in the end we only had one drop out.

BL:Describe the writing process.

JL: Last October, we set a weekend where half of the storytellers and half of the writers came on one day and half on the other. I met with them, told them what the project was. The writers toured the Mission, then we sat down with the storytellers and did some exercises around story.

I didn't necessarily want all their stories to be about homelessness, I just wanted them to share stories from their lives. They seemed to really connect with the idea that we wanted to show that individuals who experience homelessness were more than being homeless. I told them I'm not necessarily asking you to share your deepest darkest story. I wanted them to tell the stories they wanted to share – it could be funny, it could be anything.

I watched everyone and saw who would work well together and partnered different writers with storytellers. I asked them to make a meeting with each other. First meeting they were asked to just talk and come up with 3 to 4 story ideas. Almost everyone met that first week and came up with stories, and then all of the writers met at one of the writer's houses and talked about all the stories that we had gathered, and then we chose the stories. Then they met individually for probably months. The idea was they would meet once a week. Some did, some met more sporadically. Writers would meet with the storyteller, come up with a draft, and I might give them some notes. Interviewing and then draft and interviewing and then draft to keep honing in on what that story was.

BL: Did you consider having the storytellers perform their own monologues instead of actors?

JL: We had a conversation around that. There's a number of reasons why we didn't go that way. I would say that structure and the very model of doing multiple productions of the same piece – we obviously couldn't have them be in all the places – but also many of them are still...very vulnerable.

It's possible but it's a tricky thing. The Midnight Mission and I had conversations about this very topic, and we decided certainly for this very first year that we weren't going to do it. Cause there are so many things to consider in doing that – let's say it doesn't work out; for someone who is in a vulnerable place, that can be a horrifying experience.

I have film program I do with foster youth and we use actors for that as well. I think there is something about telling your story...and then witnessing your story from someone else. I think getting to see your story from the outside is a very interesting and maybe healing experience.

Cast of Homeward LA at Pico Union Project preview 4/10/18 Photo by Mike Dennis

BL: How do we get the audience, who when they're sitting in the theatre are profoundly moved by what they see, but when they leave and get caught up in everything else that is going on – the power of the story dissipates. How do you keep people from forgetting?

JL: That's the thing – you're trying to create a snowball effect and you're trying to make a cultural shift. If you're just talking about an individual, but for anyone, any emotional experience is going to dissipate and they'll go back to their normal life – it's whether you affect the culture. This first year in doing 26 productions, is that going to affect the culture? Maybe not, it might have a smaller impact, but where does it go from there, as an annual thing, growing every year, is that enough? One of the actors brought up the idea of getting celebrities to do monologues online and do them that way. It being the first year I have my vision of where I'd like it to go – but I also try to keep an open mind of where it can go. If it starts to get attention, then to me it's whatever helps it to grow and grow. Ultimately none of this happens unless we make a cultural shift; achieve a critical mass.

BL: When someone says, oh these agencies and charities are using images of suffering to raise money for themselves – have you heard people say that and what has been your response?

JL: I have responded to people who have said this. This is my feeling on it: I think we all can understand the best way an organization can promote their organization is by people who benefitted from the organization. My experience is that if the organization is making it okay for the person to say no if they're not interested, than I think it's fine. These are adults and we should give people the respect as adults to make adult decisions. If someone is asked would you be willing to speak on behalf of this organization you benefitted form, I think we should trust that individual can make a decision for themselves. Only an organization if they're being manipulative or if they putting pressure on that person or not – and I personally think if you are putting pressure on someone than it is not right – and certainly if you were holding their services over their head, then that would be terrible, but I've never seen that happen. There something a little insulting--to say you're better than that person to make a decision for themselves. It doesn't feel right to me, I think it's unempowering.

We talk about the meaning of even the smallest acts of compassion.

JL: I remember when I worked at LA Family Housing, and I was surprised by it actually. We had groups come in and they would service in the kitchen – it seemed to mean a lot to people in the shelter that groups would come and serve. And I wasn't always sure why cause there wasn't a load of interaction necessarily happening, they were just serving the food, but people always seemed really grateful about it – I believe it was that it reminded the people in the shelter that there is a community out there that cared about them. Any action like that is meaningful – maybe it's not going to solve the problem, but I think any compassionate kind act is a meaningful act and it should be done. What I'm trying to do with this project is raise the level of compassion--we only benefit if we just learn to be more compassionate.

Madeline Zima (left) with Temple Willoughby, whom she portrays in the monologue called "Being Grounded." Photo by Mike Dennis

BL: And be compassionate even if things like handing out bottles of water or feeding people at a mission, those seem like small things that might not solve the problem--

JL: Well, who knows? I used to give money to every homeless person I came across many years ago, and then I hit a point when I said I don't know that I'm helping people by doing that, and then I didn't give very often. And now sometimes I do and sometimes I don't – but I will never say that giving someone a dollar isn't going to help. I'm not going to say what act of kindness is going to be the thing or not the thing that is going to spark something for that individual. I just think there isn't any way for us to know. I just think we'd all be better off if we just learned to be more compassionate with each other and more understanding, and not just with someone who is homeless, but all of us.


For Hire, Funding Theatre, Homeward LA, AEA Campaign and More News

LOCAL

Come One, Come All: Funding Available to Help Sustain L.A. Theater

On Mondays April 16 and April 23, from 7-10 p.m., LA STAGE Alliance is hosting community meet-ups aimed to help guide those interested in participating in funded opportunities to develop any of four collaborative models to help sustain LA theater. Admission is free. RSVP to mbulkley@lastagealliance.com. LA STAGE Alliance is located at 4200 Chevy Chase Drive, Los Angeles. If we're able to proceed, this will be Phase II of the LA Theater Sustainability Program. read more here


Geffen Playhouse Launches Inaugural Writers' Room

In a move towards more new-play development, a group of Los Angeles writers will receive one-year residencies at the theatre.

Writers' rooms aren't just for television anymore. As part of its new focus on new-play development, the Geffen Playhouse has announced the launch of the Writers' Room, giving L.A.-based playwrights one-year residencies at the theatre. read more here


DICK VAN DYKE AND LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA TO BE HONORED AT 16th ANNUAL “BACKSTAGE AT THE GEFFEN” FUNDRAISER

GEFFEN PLAYHOUSE'S EXCLUSIVE EVENT IS SET FOR SATURDAY, MAY 19; AISHA TYLER WILL HOST

The Geffen Playhouse will honor legendary stage and screen performer Dick Van Dyke and award-winning composer, lyricist and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda at its 16th annual Backstage at the Geffen fundraiser. read more here


Homeward LA Shines Light On The Homeless Crisis in Los Angeles with a 10-Day Performance Event

Homeward LA is a 10-day citywide event taking place Friday, April 13th – Sunday, April 22ndfeaturing biographical monologues about individuals in Los Angeles county who have experienced homelessness. Showtimes and tickets can be found on the website. read more here


Know a college student looking for a paying job this summer? A young person who likes theatre and enjoys working in a crazy, eccentric theatrical environment? Search no further. The Fountain Theatre is the place.

Now Hiring: paid summer internship for college student at the Fountain Theatre

The Fountain Theatre is now accepting applications to hire one Development Intern for 10 weeks this summer between June and August. It is a full-time position (40 hours per week for 10 weeks) that pays $530 per week. read more here


The Dance Theatre of Harlem will perform at the Irvine Barclay Theatre on April 18. (File photo / Los Angeles Times)

Multi-ethnic ballet company Dance Theatre of Harlem coming to Orange County

Arthur Mitchell was on his way to an airport when he heard that Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated.

Mitchell, the first African American principal dancer in a major ballet company, was headed out of the country to establish the National Ballet of Brazil — a task given to him by the United States government. read more here


Audio Interview: the cast of "THROUGH THE EYE OF A NEEDLE" at the Road Theatre

Enjoy this interview with the cast of THROUGH THE EYE OF A NEEDLE at the Road Theatre on Lankershim, which closes May 13th. listen here


Some Enchanted Evening, John Cudia Will Bring Him Home With Just The Music of the Night

The perennial Rodgers & Hammerstein favorite SOUTH PACIFIC with its magnificent songs and its oh-so relevant messages will light up the stage at The Soraya April 13 to 15, and then on to La Mirada Theatre for the Performing ArtsApril 20 through May 13. John Cudia, the first and only actor to have performed both The Phantom in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and Jean Valjean in LES MISERABLES on Broadway, will once again impart his vocal and acting talents to the role of plantation owner Emile de Becque at both venues. John took some time to answer my inquisitive queries. read more here


NATIONAL

6 Theatre Workers You Should Know

From a choral composer to a classics adapter, from a Boston dramaturg to a Chicago writer/performer, here are some theatre folks who should be on your radar. read more here


Industry Interview: How Charity Network and the Miranda Family Are Making the World a Better Place

As BroadwayWorld recently reported, "Lin-Manuel Miranda and Charity Network Rise Up for Good" has been nominated for best campaign in the Social - Public Service & Activism category in the 22nd Annual Webby Awards.

Capitalizing on a unique moment in Broadway history, Charity Network and the Miranda family teamed to implement a record-breaking series of digital sweepstakes through Prizeo and auction fundraising campaigns via Charitybuzz, offering fans around the world the chance to experience the groundbreaking cultural phenomenon Hamilton: An American Musical and monetize for good. read more here


Cast members making their Broadway dedut during the Actors' Equity Gypsy Robe Ceremony honoring Rod Harrelson for 'Motown The Musical' at the Nederlander Theatre on July 14, 2016 in New York City.

Actors' Equity Launches Campaign For Tony Awards Categories To Recognize Broadway Ensembles

Actors' Equity Association announced today the launch of a new national campaign to create two new Tony Award categories, Best Chorus in a Musical or Play and Best Ensemble in a Musical or Play. The inclusion of these categories would recognize all Equity performers who appear on a Broadway stage. read more here


Members of the Jose Limon Dance Company performed an excerpt from Mr. McKayle's "Heartbeats" at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan in 2010.CreditAndrea Mohin/The New York Times

Donald McKayle, 87, Broadway and Modern Dance Choreographer, Dies

Donald McKayle, one of the first choreographers to weave the African-American experience into the fabric of modern dance and the first black man to direct and choreograph a Broadway musical (“Raisin”), died on Friday at a hospital near his home in Irvine, Calif. He was 87.

His wife, Lea Vivante McKayle, confirmed the death. He was a professor of dance at the University of California, Irvine, for almost 30 years. read more here


SXSW 2018 Film Interview: Human Rights Filmmaker Jason Outenreath

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


AROUND THE WORLD

Shirley Henderson and Sheila Atim © Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

Is it time to change theatre award ceremonies?

Sarah Crompton considers whether the age-old format shows theatre off in its best light

British theatre has had an extraordinary, vibrant, creative year, packed with great plays and terrific new musicals. But watching the Olivier Awards from my front row armchair last night, I wasn't sure I saw that. Certainly, if I wasn't already interested in theatre the major prize giving of the theatrical year would have done nothing to convert me. read more here


Photo: Shutterstock

Theatre's working culture ‘passively endorses harassment' – report

A “passive culture of endorsing bullying” is allowing inappropriate behaviour to thrive in the industry, a new report claims.

This is one of the conclusions of the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre's Encouraging Safer and More Supportive Working Practices in Theatre report – which brings together advice and guidance on how to tackle harassment and abuses of power in the sector. read more here


SXSW 2018 Film Interview: Human Rights Filmmaker Jason Outenreath

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did you locate Casa Marianella?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She blends quite well into the film, too.

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

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

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

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

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

Where is They Live Here, Now going next?

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

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

Absolutely. Other festivals as well.

What other projects do you have in development?

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

 

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


AEA in Washington, Women's Day on Broadway, #GratitudeNow Social Media Campaign, and More News

LOCAL

Independent Shakespeare Co. Presents ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL

Independent Shakespeare Co. (ISC), presenters of the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival announce the debut production in ISC's new and larger performance home, ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL, directed by Melissa Chalsma. ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL will begin previews on Thursday, March 22, opens Saturday, March 24 at 7:30pm and performs through Sunday, April 22 at the ISC Studio in the Atwater Crossing Arts + Innovation Complex, 3191 Casitas Ave., #130 in Atwater Village. read more here

Historic Westlake Theatre sells for $2M

The landmarked Westlake Theatre adjacent to MacArthur Park has been sold.The theater's seller was the successor agency to the defunct Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles, which was dissolved under a 2011 state law. The CRA/LA voted in January to approve the $2 million sale, and escrow is expected to close by March 15, according to the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation. read more here


LOCAL FOR KIDS

Alice! at Nine O'Clock Players

With all of the characters you know and love including the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, the Caterpillar, and the Queen of Hearts, Alice follows the White Rabbit into a Wonderland of talking animals, comic royalty, and a croquet game played with flamingos! A fast-paced musical where nonsense makes quite good sense.  Fun for the whole family! read more here

SOMETHING TO CROW ABOUT

“There's no business like show business”… And there's no show like “SOMETHING TO CROW ABOUT.”

This marionette musical is delightfully mad..wonderfully imaginative..and the best lyric review in the theater.

Produced in Hollywood by Bob Baker Productions, it has the scope of a Broadway musical…plus the Wonderland touch. read more here

The Enchanted Nightingale

Journey to far away ancient China in this magical tale of a powerful Emperor and the rarest of treasures – an enchanted nightingale. Experience a magical Tai Chi practice, colorful fan dancing, royal wardrobe, and above all, a most valuable story celebrating the wealth in generosity and the culture and artistry of the Far East. read more here

The Really Awesome Improv Show

Saturdays 12pm • The Really Awesome Improv Show • Celebrating an 8yr run!

Fun (and appropriate) for all ages, 2yrs-200, The Really Awesome Improv Show features improv games that rely on audience suggestions and participation, is great for the whole family, and was voted “Best Kids' comedy Show” by LA Magazine! Because there's a rotating cast you'll see a different cast and games each week. Great for birthday parties and family outings! read more here


NATIONAL

Actors' Equity Reps Attend National Arts Advocacy Day in Washington D.C. to Defend NEA Funding

Representatives from Actors' Equity Association are currently attending the 31st annual Arts Advocacy Day meeting in Washington, DC, a national arts action summit meeting. During this time, they will learn new skills needed to protect and defend funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. read more here

Tina Fey's stage adaptation of Mean Girls opens at the August Wilson Theatre on April 8. (© David Gordon)

5 Ways We Can Make It Women's Day on Broadway Every Day

Tina Fey, Jeanine Tesori, Renée Elise Goldsberry, and more #WomenOfBroadway brainstorm solutions for Broadway's gender imbalance.

Of the 332 creative-team positions on Broadway this season, only 57 (or 17 percent) are held by women. That alarming statistic is just one of many reasons that women took over the St. James Theatre (home of Broadway's Frozen) on March 12 for the inaugural Women's Day on Broadway. Four panels, hosted by Gayle King, Whoopi Goldberg, Juju Chang, and Meredith Vieira, put some of Broadway's greatest actors, designers, directors, producers, writers, and business minds onstage to hear their solutions for the theater's perpetual parity problem. Here are five takeaways that everyone can get moving on now, whether you live your life onstage, offstage, or backstage. read more here

The Kennedy Center Announces Partnership With The Second City

There's about to be even more to laugh at in Washington:

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts today announced a new partnership with The Second City, the famed Chicago-based sketch comedy company. The partnership draws on the respective strengths of each organization to extend the creative capacity, reach, and impact of both brands, and will result in new, original productions at the Kennedy Center and beyond. read more here

Adam Heller plays Harry, Michael Bartoli plays Harvey Milk, Julia Knitel plays Barbara, and Cheryl Stern plays Frannie in A Letter to Harvey Milk, directed by Evan Pappas, at the Acorn at Theatre Row. (© Russ Rowland)

A Letter to Harvey Milk Launches #GratitudeNow Social Media Campaign

Off-Broadway's A Letter to Harvey Milk, running at Theatre Row's Acorn Theatre, will partner with the Harvey Milk Foundation and the app Punkpost to launch a #GratitudeNow social media campaign. The campaign asks people to take a moment and write letter of gratitude to someone who has made a difference in their lives, record it, and post it with the hashtag #GratitudeNow. read more here

Wayne Acton and Chrissy Hoote rehearse a scene from “Class Reunion,” one of several productions Veale Creek Theatre has put on over the years. Now the theatre, located on SR 57S., will also be offering monthly movie nights. Those movie nights will begin Saturday with shows at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Veale Creek Theatre now offering monthly movies

Veale Creek Theatre may be best known for the half a dozen or so theatre productions community members bring to life on stage each year. Now, the rural theatre will also be offering patrons more entertainment options throughout the year. read more here

6 Theatre Workers You Should Know

From an activist in Oakland, Calif., to a scenic artist in Atlanta, from an educator in Los Angeles to a producer in New York City, check out this month's cohort of theatre workers. read about them here

BD Wong and John Lithgow in the original 1988 Broadway staging of "M. Butterfly."

This Month in Theatre History

From the repeal of a Pennsylvania anti-theatre law to the premieres of ‘Oklahoma!' and ‘M. Butterfly,' March was a memorable month for theatre. read more here


AROUND THE WORLD

Disturbing, not pleasing, should be art's role

Many arts organisations have become dinosaurs, failing to evolve to respond to the needs of new work, delegates at the Australian Theatre Forum were warned.

Belgian festival director and curator Frie Leysen challenged Australian artists and arts organisations to be bold, and to challenge an increasingly ossified status quo in her closing keynote address at the 2015 Australian Theatre Forum(ATF). read more here

Carrie Hope Fletcher on why traditional theatre world should start embracing YouTube

In the ego-driven world of musical theatre, Harrow-born songbird Fletcher, 25, is a breath of fresh air, albeit an enigmatic one.

While most young actors in musicals aspire to the “triple threat”, Fletcher stands as something else entirely, she has a bestselling book (All I Know Now: Wonderings and Reflections on Growing Up Gracefully) and a prolific YouTubefollowing along with her list of acting credits. This ranges from classic shows such as Les Misérables and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, to new material such as The Addams Family and Vanara: the Musical. read more here


TO ACCUSE OR NOT TO ACCUSE, PART 3: Something to Feel Good About

Going into the new year of 2018, has there ever been a more confusing and troubling time in our 21st Century lifetimes?

Sure there have been, you say.  Remember the Bush years?  The 9/11 attack?  The Iraq attack, ostensibly to find WMDs that never in fact existed?  The financial meltdown in 2008?

These were far and away more terrifying events than anything we're dealing with now, when the stock market keeps breaking records and the economy seems to be in better shape than any time since 9/11.  Yet for many of us this has only underscored the wealth gap in this country that seems to be getting wider all the time.

But hey, let's face it, the problem starts and stops in one place - with the sleazebag-in chief, who is remaking the country in his own toxic image, repealing Obama's protections, stuffing the courts with radical conservatives, blundering through the world making horrific foreign policy mistakes and generally poisoning our daily discourse.

And what can we do about it?

Just sit around and dream about Robert Mueller's investigation undoing the wrongs done by the outmoded electoral college system.

At such times, it helps to think of reasons to feel good about living right now.

Think of ice cream - so much better now than it used to be!   So many more excellent flavors than in the bad old days, such wonderful texture, with ingredients not even imagined in the '70s!

Think of cars - so much more streamlined and efficient now than the gas-guzzling, fume-spewing models of the 1970s and '80s!

Think of sexual abuse allegations - sexual abuse allegations?   Yes.  The country is much better-informed now, the difficulty of coming forward is so much better understood, and the accuser is so much more likely to be believed, and not vilified and shamed as before.

 

Photo by Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock (5622538dr)  Rose McGowan

I should know, as I certainly experienced the consequences of our previous ignorance.

It was the year 1970, I was a Junior at Horace Mann high school in NYC, and while on a 5 day school trip to Washington DC, the supervising teacher had snuck up on me in my hotel room, spun me around and stuck his tongue down my throat, then threw me down on the bed.  When I scrambled away, the teacher claimed that he was only doing what I had wanted him to do.  I walked out of the room and nothing more had been said about what happened.  But I was in a state of shock and didn't know what to do.

When I came back to school, I felt like I had to tell someone, but who?  The headmaster was an old man who I didn't feel any affinity towards.  I went instead to the assistant headmaster, who was younger, a gruff practical man who I found more approachable. "Sit down," he said, doubtless expecting me to talk about some course that was giving me trouble.  Instead I told him that the teacher had touched me in a sexual way.  "Sexual?  How?" he asked, sitting up, paying closer attention.  I described what had happened as unemotionally as I could.  It was surreal, the words coming out of my mouth reluctantly, as if embarrassed to be associated with such a tawdry event.

"What evidence do you have?" the assistant headmaster asked.  "Like what?" I asked.  "Any witnesses?"  "No," I told him.

He informed me that, in the absence of compelling evidence, the school's policy was to side with the teacher.  And that if I made my accusation public, that the school would advise the teacher to sue me for defamatory comments.  "And he would win," the assistant headmaster told me, "and your parents would have to pay him a lot of money."

This prospect was terrifying to me on so many levels.  Still, I tried one more time, talking to the school guidance counselor.  He was even more emphatic, telling me to drop any thought of going public or "you will only tarnish yourself and destroy any chance you have of getting into an Ivy League college."

And so I did.  I dropped it. And I did get into an Ivy League college.  And then I dropped out.  Not telling anyone what had happened almost destroyed me, causing me to lose my sense of confidence, my sense of purpose, my sense of self.

So yes, I am overjoyed that there is more understanding of how difficult it is for victims of abuse to come forward, and a greater willingness to accept the victim's story as truthful without judging the victim.

Now if we could only give the women who were sexually abused by our president a chance to be heard - and the kind of understanding and empathy that we've extended to other victims - well, that would really be something to celebrate, wouldn't it?

 

 


TO ACCUSE OR NOT TO ACCUSE, PART 2a: Constitutional Predators

Hey, I was up writing Part 2 of this series until 6:30 AM, and, before getting to Part 3, I want to elaborate on something I wrote there: "This so-called populist champion [Trump] is actually there to roll back all of Obama's social reforms and consolidate a ruling class among the wealthy elite."  In true Trumpian fashion, I want to double-down on that statement.  The fact that Trump is now supporting child predator Roy Moore just reveals how devoid of moral values he really is, and how focused he is on one Priority.

So, at the risk of sounding like Tom Steyer's little brother, I want to state the obvious: that nothing else matters to Trump and his cohorts except their money.  It is the only thing they have that makes them special, it is the substance of their selves, their identities - take that away, and they are just a bunch of old farts who couldn't get laid by their own wives.  Proof?  Every single thing that Trump has done since siezing power.  Just look at the cabinet that he put together, comprised entirely of wealthy people, most of whom have zero expertise in their respective fields.  Just look at the rollback of all Obama's protections of individual rights.  Just look at the new Tax Bill, a blank check for millionaires and corporations.

This is NOT politics as usual.  Forget that I've been a voter in 12 Presidential elections, and before that I was active in protesting the unlawful War in Vietnam, getting tear-gassed in the March on Washington in 1969, getting locked up at Fort Knox for trying to help soldiers find out about their rights. I come from a political household, my mom was co-chair of the Liberal wing of the NYC Democratic party, I grew up with Mario Cuomo, Ed Koch and that entire cast of characters in my living room.  What's happening now is something else completely.  If you view our current situation as a play, then the instigating event was the near collapse of the world economy in 2008.

I believe that this was a wake-up call for a certain class of multi-millionaires, who looked in the mirror, saw their big paunches and small dicks, and realized that something had to be done to safeguard their power.  When Trump was actually able to bamboozle the underclass into making him their champion - like something out of Brecht's Threepenny Opera - then the power imbalance already happening here was expedited into full-scale class warfare.  All of this may sound very melodramatic - after all, how much has really changed in our daily lives since Trump's election?  Well, you see what's happened to the Dreamers, Mexican illegals and now the Haitian immigrants.  It's not a big jump from that to you and me.  The only recourse we have are upcoming elections. The majority of white men are a lost cause - they will sit in their Lazy-boys, stroking their guns and watching NASCAR until Hell has frozen over.  My hope is that enough of the 53% of white women who voted for the Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief will have their own wake-up call and save us at the 11th Hour.  If Trump-Pence gets re-elected, they will have no incentive to play by Constitutional rules, and this will become a dictatorship - all undoubtedly in the name of protecting the Constitution.


TO ACCUSE OR NOT TO ACCUSE? PART 2: How We Got Here

Another day and another one bites the dust.

This time it's Charlie Rose, morning TV anchor and talk show host for the smart set.  Several women who worked for him have come forward to report what was apparently another "open secret" - that this "toxic bachelor" liked to employ young women as his assistants and then would try to seduce them after blurring their boundaries between work and life.  That is, serving the needs of the show would eventually mean serving the needs of Charlie.  But now there is no show - no morning show, no talk show, nothing.  And the bloom is definitely off this rose.

(There goes another dream - being interviewed around that circular table! Though honestly I gave up that one 10 years ago, when he interrupted the dying Harold Pinter one too many times, and I swore I'd never watch him again. And I didn't.)

Scrolling down the various articles about this latest downfall, I read the comments that readers left.  "It's a witch hunt, a goddamn witch hunt!" was a frequently repeated refrain, especially by men of a certain age.  Women tended to be either angry or sad about how many "liberal" men turn out to have abused their female employees.  Though honestly, the majority of comments seem to have been left by lonely men of various ages, with a somewhat bitter edge to many of their comments.

Many of them ask the question: where is all this going?

A better question might be: how the hell did we get here?

Anita Hill and Kerry Washington. While "Confirmation" is an entertaining movie, it doesn't come close to capturing the shock of the real thing.

"WHO PUT A PUBIC HAIR ON MY COKE CAN?"

It's all part of a 36 year cycle that began in 1991 with the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

The hearings were already a strangely public display of partisan conflict - definitely foreshadowing the current dilemma we find ourselves in - when Professor Anita Hill was introduced as a witness against Clarence Thomas.  She had worked for Thomas at the US Department of Education and then at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and she testified that he had sexually harassed her on numerous occasions, often using bizarrely pornographic images in his harrangues, including the immortal sentence quoted above in all caps.  The televised spectacle pitting an attractive and educated black woman against an educated and nominated black man whose white church-going wife was clutching her rosary beads just a few seats away was almost more than the psyche of the country could handle.  It sent out bolts of crazily repressed sexual angst into the atmosphere that came to an equally crazy fruition three years later with the arrest of O.J. Simpson for killing his white wife and the Jewish waiter returning her sunglasses.  A different case, yes, but once again with the racial and sexual component, with the violent imagery of the Thomas-Hill conflict now blooming into actual violence.

But to get back to the main question.  David Mamet's play Oleanna - written in response to the hearings - took that issue of male/female conflict and sexual harassment/abuse, and he dramatized its complexities in such a way that the play itself became a lightning rod for discussing the issue.  (The next play to have such a massive public impact, capturing that lightning in a well-made bottle, was Tony Kushner's Angels in America a few years later.  I don't believe there's been a single play of such magnitude since, unless one includes the entirety of August Wilson's 10-play cycle.)

Certainly the issue itself of male/female power plays had existed for centuries - the Trojan War itself could be seen in those terms, with the Greeks' abduction of Helen of Troy, she being "the face that launched a thousand ships."  Shakespeare had written a great play of sexual abuse of power, Measure for Measure, in the 17th Century, and August Strindberg had dramatized the psychic war for dominance between men and women 300 years later in such plays as The Father and Miss Julie.   But I believe that it wasn't until Mamet's play in 1992 - his last good play, by the way - that the issues of workplace harassment and sexual abuse of power were really brought together and crystalized for the American public.  (And oh what a great time Mamet had talking about it on the Charlie Rose Show - not that he could get many words in between Charlie's sycophantic paeans of praise.)

"I DID NOT HAVE SEXUAL RELATIONS WITH THAT WOMAN"

It was only five years later that these two issues of workplace harassment and sexual abuse of power exploded into public consciousness again with President Clinton's sex scandal with intern Monica Lewinsky while wife Hillary was just a few rooms away in the White House.  Again, no matter how well any movie or TV series might dramatize these events, the shock of these revelations from the highest seat of power could never really be captured.  It was the tawdriness of this melodrama that boggled the mind, as captured in pedantic and smelly detail by The Starr Report.   And again, the issue of sexual harassment was all over the news, seemingly discussed everywhere, with a particular concentration on the corporate environment and the frequency with which powerful men used their positions to force women who worked for them into sexual subjugation.  Attention started being paid to the fact of "the glass ceiling," and how few women were being given the chance to lead.  But Hillary Clinton stood by her man, Bill survived (barely) the impeachment proceedings against him, and then George W. Bush was elected, signalling a return to a shaky status quo.

The Obama years looked like they were going to be about revolutionizing the system from within, which included reevaluating gender stereotypes and the inequities of workplace politics.  And some of that did go on.  More women than ever were appointed to positions of consequence within the administration, and the passage of health care reform was a major step in establishing the equality between the sexes - as well as between the classes and the races.  That is, if everyone's health was of equal value under the law, then, to some extent, so was everyone's importance as human beings.

"CAN'T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?"

Of course, Obama was primarily elected to save the country's financial system, which was brought to the brink of collapse in 2008 by the machinations of the banking industry and the white men who ran it.  And he did that - largely by bailing out the failing institutions, who then went right back to doing what they had done before, without a single investment banker being arrested for almost destroying the world.  As the patchwork solutions held up in the short term, the Obama years became about Acceptance.  Accepting people in their differences, in their quirks, in their excesses.  The prevailing ethos of the Obama years had been voiced many years before, in 1992 - that year again! - by another black man, Rodney King, with the words that supply the heading for this section.  And we did get along, and nothing fundamentally changed, and that was not necessarily a good thing.  It's possible that if this society had completely hit rock bottom that we might have had to make some major changes in how we viewed each other, how we depended on each other.  Or it could have been much worse, who knows?  As it is, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer and the improving technology enabled the greedy element of this society to globalize their assets while creating a permanent underclass largely consisting of the people who built this country in the first place.  An underclass who, ironically, did the bidding of the super-rich by electing Donald J. Trump as president.  This so-called populist champion is actually there to roll back all of Obama's social reforms and consolidate a ruling class among the wealthy elite.

"YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU WANT.  YOU CAN GRAB THEM BY THE PUSSY."

I certainly see this recent spate of sexual harassment and abuse allegations - as well as the @ME TOO movement - deriving directly from the now-infamous Trump Access Hollywood tape, in which he uttered the immortal words quoted above.   That tape aired only 11 days before the election, and its impact was muted shortly thereafter by the specious claim by FBI Director Comey that he was re-opening the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails.  But its impact was and is huge - huuuuuuuge - spurring women everywhere into taking forceful action against such abusers, often with the help of men who were also outraged by the election of a man who boasted about being an abuser himself.

The scales had actually started to tip in Obama's second term, when the revelation of systemic abuse of students at elite prep schools brought a renewed understanding of the prevelance of such crimes at even the most sacred American institutions.

That is, if it could happen at Choate and Andover and Horace Mann - where I was among the victims who came forward into the public spotlight - then it could happen anywhere.  And anyone could be the perpetrator, even the most beloved TV dad of all time, Bill Cosby, Dr Cliff Huxtable.  These public recognitions of the validity of sexual abuse claims by victims who were too traumatized and powerless to speak their pain in the past were key events in clearing the way for other victims to come forward now.

Does this mean that all claims of sexual abuse are necessarily true?

And is there any acceptable definition of what constitutes sexual abuse - or is it simply anything that makes the "victim" feel uncomfortable or disrespected?

Well, I could tell you, but we've come to this lovely full circle from Clarence Thomas to Cosby, and you wouldn't want me to mess that up, would you?

 

 

 


TO ACCUSE OR NOT TO ACCUSE? Some Things to Think About. And Some Names. Part 1

Accusations of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct are all the rage right now, with new revelations coming at us faster than we're able to absorb and consider them.

But why now?  And what does it all really mean?  And what are we supposed to think - or do - about it?

I mean, all these offenders, and then all the confessions/accusations of The Me-Too posters - where is this taking us?

King of the Douchebags

On the one hand, of course, are the hardcore predators and repeat offenders - Bill Cosby, Bill O'Reilly, Roger Ailes, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey.  (Many would like to add Donald Trump's name to that list; I'll discuss that later on.) These are men who clearly took advantage of their positions to violate the rights of the less powerful by using them sexually and abusing their individual rights, perhaps in ways that constitute serious crimes.  There's no doubt that the downfall of these men is a positive thing, both for the inviduals involved and for society in general.  They represent the most noxious element of celebrity culture, the way certain men have been able to insulate themselves with their power from taking responsibility for their actions.  The rumors about all these men abounded for years, but still they paid no price.  Now they finally have.  I certainly welcome more disclosures of this type that would rid politics, the entertainment industry and every other aspect of American life of these vultures who prey on the vulnerability of others.

Brett Ratner and James Toback hanging out

James Toback and Brett Ratner?  Sure, that's probably right.  Toback is a 300 pound filmmaker/douchebag whose manipulations stink of old school misogyny.  I remember hearing all the stories of him hanging out in supermarkets on New York's upper West Side, waving his scripts around in the air and promising roles to any lady who would blow him; very classy, dude.  How could any woman resist that?  Alec Baldwin has been his recent enabler, for reasons I don't pretend to understand.  Brett Ratner is also out of step with the times and, it seems, fatally drawn to that misogynistic storyline.  But I believe he has genuine talent and still has real passion for moviemaking.  I found him engaging when I saw him speak at a festival.  Maybe it was all bullshit, who knows, but I wouldn't count him out yet.

Agent Adam Venit of WME, as accused by actor Terry Crews?  Absolutely.  I think this is really important, because it spotlights something that happens so much, 85% of the time to young women, the rest to young men - it happened frequently to me when I was a young actor, something I will talk about in Part 2 - but almost never to a 6'3" 240 pound black man like Terry Crews.  The fact that it did this time - and the fact that Adam Venit is certainly one of the stupidest people on earth, because he put his hands on a man who played pro football and who could have literally done to Venit what Venit was already figuratively doing - that is, put Venit's head up his ass - well, thank God this is something that is finally being talked about!  We've all seen it happen, at pretty much every big party we've been to where drinks are being served.  As the party goes on, men's hands slip down from touching the shoulder, then the middle of the back, then the small of the back, and then the butt.  Almost always accompanied by that shit-eating smile, in which the man is saying, there's more where that came from.  Except the young person being touched never asked for it, was never interested, and now the party is ruined for them as they're filled with confusion and trepidation about how to react and what to say.  Well, Terry Crews is standing up for all of you, and I applaud him with all my heart for doing so.  If only we could clone him and have him stand guard at these parties, then maybe these young people - our daughters and sons - could enjoy themselves without constantly being molested.

Louis CK?  See, here's where we start entering a gray area for me.  Here's a comedian whose act is comprised in large part of a catalogue of his darkly-comic misdeeds and angst.  So a comedian who jokes in the bluntest ways possible about masturbation - his constant need to do it, and the great pleasure  he derives from it - is outed by female comics for having masturbated in front of them.  This is bad, it's wrong, not just the act but his evasiveness over the years about whether it happened, and his lack of empathy for the women upon whom he inflicted this violation.  But it's just not surprising.  I can understand and even share the anger that these women felt in this famous comedian forcing them to watch him pleasure himself - he was indeed taking advantage of his fame to do something that these women in no way asked for or wanted to see.  But he didn't touch them or continue to try humiliating them after that.  So personally I believe he deserves censure, but I don't understand why his career has to be over.  Why he's so toxic that he can't be given another chance at some point.  He's not a friend, and he's not my favorite comic, but I think there's more to him than just his fucked-up behavior.  Witness the Sarah Baker-starring episode in Louie about the Fat Girl comic who kept asking Louie out.  And a really impressive body of work, most of which works against putting himself on any celebrity pedestal.  If anything, he comes across in his work as pathetic.  Which is a pretty accurate description of anyone who would compel women who are his friends to watch him jerk off.

Then we have been given this really bizarre political tandem of Roy Moore and Al Franken - two men who couldn't be more different than each other, who literally have nothing in common except that suddenly the latter man becomes the name shouted out when the former is accused.  But this is simply a "false equivalency," as both Bill Maher and Alan Blumenfeld (my friend and unofficial rabbi) have called it.  What after all did Franken do?  While he was on a USO tour as a comedian, not a senator, he had a silly photo taken of himself about to grope his fellow USO traveler, model Leeann Tweeden. The optics may not be great, but it's just the kind of juvenile thing that performers do to while away the long and tedious hours of travel between stops.  Her claims that the photo and an overly-aggressive kiss that Franken gave her in rehearsal have been haunting her for the last 10 years are hard to take on face value, since Leeann Tweeden has put herself in many other situations that would seem more likely to haunt her.  By which I mean all the nude and semi-nude modeling that she did, and all the other ways she chose to make a living from her body.  Now I'm not trying to shame how she made her money, and I understand that she feels like she had control over those situations, while an aggressive kiss during a rehearsal of a written sketch comedy scene is just soooo horrifying.

A Democratic Congresswoman holds up a photo of 4 of Moore's accusers

But even at the worst possible interpretation, it still doesn't compare in any way with dating girls under 17 when you are a 30-something District Attorney in a small town in Alabama.  It just doesn't, no way, no how.  (The idea that any senator should even consider resigning for such an inconsequential reason is deeply offensive.)  Al Franken had no power over Leeann Tweeden, obviously, she certainly had no reason to be in awe of him, nor could he have done anything for her career.  According to the women who have come forward, Roy Moore used his stature as a district attorney to "dazzle" them when they were young girls, then used it to intimidate them into silence after their encounter.   Still and all, if Moore had simply apologized for his misdeeds of 35 years ago, saying that he made mistakes as a young man, then I'm not sure these acts would have all that much relevance.  The fact that he keeps doubling down in his denials makes it evident that he is unqualified to run for high office.  While Al Franken's sincere contrition shows the opposite.

There have been many strange allegations and finger-pointing, but I think the strangest have to be events surrounding the actor Richard Dreyfuss, star of such '70s classic films as Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  First Dreyfuss sends out a proud tweet, standing behind his son Harry's claim that Kevin Spacey traumatized him by groping his genitals - and, basically, daring him to tell anyone, which at first Harry didn't have the nerve to do.  And then, the very next day, Richard Dreyfuss himself was accused of sexual abuse by Jessica Teich, a writer he had worked with 30 years earlier.  Honestly, both accusations sound highly credible, which sort of sums up how complicated this web of conflicting stories and revolving truths has become.   Dreyfuss's immediate response was to say, "At the height of my fame in the late 1970s, I became an asshole," but he refused to admit that her specific charges were true.  Nevertheless, Dreyfuss contributed what may be the best characterization of our current phase.

"There is a sea-change happening right now, which we can look upon as a problem or an opportunity... I hope this is the beginning of a larger conversation we can have as a culture."