The Hollywood Fringe Festival is celebrating its 10th year this year and opens today, Thursday, June 13, 2019.
Annually, for the month of June, this unique "open and uncensored" non-profit theatre festival occupies Hollywood's Theatre Row, and many more adjacent venues and spaces in the Hollywood and Media District areas. Per the non-profit's site, this "open-access, community-derived event celebrating freedom of expression and collaboration in the performing arts community" can be found in parks, community centers, churches, clubs, restaurants" housing a wide variety of productions created by new individual producers, seasoned production companies, member-fueled theatre companies and residencies, and a variety of other independent self-producers–both locally and from all over the world.
This year, there are nearly 400 participating shows, most of which are also registered on the Better Lemons Calender. Here are a few shows, opening this week and next, that talked with Better Lemons about their shows.
Vivi Thai, producer and actress of "She Kills Monsters," spoke with Monique LeBleu of Better Lemons at The BLACK bar and lounge at the Hollywood Fringe Festival Office Hours mixer on May 22, 2019.
Chris Bunyi & Matt Robinson of "Olivia Wilde Does Not Survive the Apocalypse" spoke with Monique LeBleu of Better Lemons at The BLACK bar and lounge at the Hollywood Fringe Festival Office Hours mixer on May 22, 2019.
This weekend, June 14th, 15th, 16th Luminario Ballet presents: "Choose Your Identity", modern dance legend Bella Lewitzky's TURF, 'LedZAerial and the world choreography award nominated 'Lift Ticket.' by Luminario artistic director Judith FLEX Helle.
I've seen them many times and they are absolutely fantastic. This is ballet like you've never seen it. Their aerial work alone will blow you away.
Special guest stars: Dreya Weber (PINK) will perform and Tawny Ellis and her band will play with Luminario Ballet dancers dancing.
The show will take place at the ultra cool Cafe Club Fais Do-Do located at 5253 West Adams Blvd, in LA. This is a club that offers a gumbo of eclectic music and diverse people coming together to build a stronger community by offering exposure to new cultures, sounds and philosophies.
Another great event happening this weekend is the opening of the Hollywood Bowl on June 15h with the great John Legend performing. He'll be accompanied by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and a sky full of fireworks. Now it doesn't get more romantic than that.
John is an incomparable talent, a charming presence on stage who brings great depth of emotion to his work as a pianist and songwriter. He'll kick off their season with style and a performance you won't forget.
To purchase tickets go to HollywoodBowl.com. or call (323) 850-2000. John goes on at 8pm.
Married couple Karen and Gabe live an idyllic life in Connecticut. They regularly have their best friends Beth and Tom over for double-date dinner party But of course dinner is not just about food. At least not in Margulies' play.
As the evening goes on Beth tearfully reveals that she is getting a divorce from Tom who has been unfaithful and from there it only get better and better. I've seen this play twice and it's one not to be missed.
'Dinner With Friends' opens at the Beverly Hills Playhouse 254 South Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills CA 90211. To purchase tickets or for more information go to CrimsonSquare.org. The play runs Fridays and Saturdays 8m and Sunday at 2:00pm and 7:00pm, until June 30th.
If art is what you desire starting Friday June 14th at 7pm the Pop Up Arts & Music Festival will be at the Fred Kavli Theatre for the Performing Arts at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.
As the name suggest, the festival will feature pop up public performances and activities at a variety of locations throughout Thousand Oaks.
The primary goal of the festival is to provide residents and visitors with an opportunity to actively participate in and enjoy the arts in unexpected and distinctive locations throughout the community.
The festival will feature seven free events over three weekends, June 14 and 15, June 21, 22, 23 and June 28 and 29. In partnership with local arts organizations, the festival will include local and regional artistic talent, in addition to nationally recognized performing artists.
Ross spoke with Better Lemons about the new piece and what he’s been involved with since we saw him last.
Better Lemons: What have you been up to since the 2017 Fringe? Ross John Gosla: Wow, hard to believe it's been two years. Been keeping busy. I did a short run of Desert Warrior in January 2018, followed by a couple of one act plays. I was brought on staff full-time at the Complex Hollywood, where Monica Martin and team have been working at full speed to improve and renovate since she took over ownership last year.
I filmed an episode of the web series The Wasteland, in which I played a captured insurgent in a dystopian future. I shot a big commercial at the beginning of this year directed by an Academy Award-winner (NDA). Most recently, I provided the narration for the documentary Masculinity that Inspires Change that dropped on Amazon Prime this past May.
BL: Tell us a bit about the new piece. What was the inspiration? RJG: The piece follows a privileged straight white male named "Ross" as he goes on an adventure through the Man Make Machine in order to become a real man in 2019. When the Weinstein scandal broke, I found myself quickly saying, "But I'm not like that," as I’m sure many men did. And we men tended to vocalize that sentiment loudly.
But as the narrative evolved, a resounding female voice said: "Shut up and let this play out." And as it did, the moment of epiphany came. I asked myself if there were any areas of sexual violation that I have committed, any lines crossed, any boundaries not respected. And in that introspection, I found a myriad of unchecked behavior — behavior that in a different set of life circumstances could very well lead to a Weinstein-esque persona.
From there, I applied the same formula I used with Desert Warrior. I took that behavior I revealed and a couple other seemingly unrelated events (my Taekwondo years, and a couple of key conversations with my Dad), put them into the brain mixer, and here we are!
BL: Your director, Steph Martinez, is a Fringe first-timer. What’s her background? RJG: She is a blessing from Heaven. We met at the theater program at Arizona State in 2007. A similar training style — the program primarily utilizes Viewpoints as a tool to train actors and devise new work. We reconnected here in LA and are part of the same acting studio, Studio 24/7. A brilliant actress and artist, she has masterfully shaped the piece and kept me truthful in the work with insightful notes and questions. Most importantly, she has brought a perspective that is crucial to any conversation dealing with improving gender relations.
BL: What message do you hope to deliver with this piece? RJG: Understanding and healing. I believe there are certain unifying male experiences that all men share. I'd like to think that if the show causes one other man to honestly examine his "gray areas," and he comes to recognize those times when he may not have actually had consent. Or he was false with his intentions, and learns from those mistakes and can foster a higher ideal in the future, that would be a powerful message indeed.
BL: How does it feel to be back at the Fringe as a performer? RJG: I love the Fringe, it's my absolute favorite time of the year. You meet so many like-minded artists and make so many new friends. The electricity in the air is palpable — this year especially. All the participants seem extra pumped!
BL: What words of advice would you give to Fringe neophytes? RJG:Dive in headfirst, have fun, hydrate, rest when needed; rinse and repeat.
Sexual Misadventures of a Straight White Male: A Privilege Story plays June 14-
29 at the Complex Hollywood’s Flight Theatre, 6472 Santa Monica Blvd. Specific dates and showtimes, as well as ticketing information, can be found on the Fringe site.
Making his Fringe debut this year is Thomas Wortham, the writer, producer and director of An American Video Store, set in one of the titular establishments that barely exist anymore.
In the midst of beginning a new job and preparing his show for the Fringe, Mr. Wortham still found the time to talk to Better Lemons.
Better Lemons: What was the inspiration behind this piece? Personal experience? Thomas Wortham: I don't know how it works now, but in the ‘90s kids would just hang out at various retail locations, whether it be the mall, an arcade or — in my case — a video store. I got hooked at a young age by my mom's VHS collection and it just never stopped. There was a Blockbuster up the street from my house that I practically grew up in. I also worked at a Hollywood Video Store in college, which was an awesome and terrible experience all at the same time. I always wanted to write some form of this story and the mistake I always made was trying to make the plot about the actual downfall of the video store business. Something in the vein of Empire Records, where it was all about saving the store.
I finally felt I had unlocked the idea when I realized the story had to be about the characters and allow the business aspects to simply act as a foundation for what was happening.
BL: Any parallels with Clerks - which, of course, would be a perfect connection? TW: It is so funny you ask this. OF COURSE Clerks and Kevin Smith are a massive influence on myself and the play. In fact, just two nights ago I attended his Fatman Beyond podcast taping in Hollywood. They do a Q&A at the end and I was able to get up and ask a question wearing a shirt that had my play's logo on it.
Kevin is so generous with folks promoting their stuff, and with his connection to video stores, he immediately asked me about my shirt and insisted I plug all aspects of my play before and after me asking my question. It was incredible. He also had some nice things to say about the Fringe, which was cool.
But in terms of the mechanics of the play, it was crucial that the script had scenes that allowed the characters to wax intellectual about movies. Very similar to how Dante and Randal talk about Star Wars in Clerks, or how Brodie and T.S. talk about Superman in Mallrats. And you know just how shitty jobs really have an impact on how our lives play out, when we are young can, whether we recognize it or not in the moment.
BL: What does (or did) the video store symbolize in American culture? TW: I think that more than anything the video store era just represented a communal experience that sadly is the biggest thing missing when you select something through a streaming service. I'm sure the algorithms that Netflix uses are very sophisticated, but the way an organic conversation with customers and clerks could lead you down such interesting and unexpected paths was something I think is impossible to replicate.
BL: Briefly, what’s the show about? How will it resonate with audiences? TW: Taking place over three pivotal moments in the history of the American video store, our intimate story of clerks and customers examines the rise and fall of a cultural phenomenon that defined a generation. The show is an hour long - with the goal being a funny, emotional and nostalgic trip down memory lane for anyone who has ever enjoyed the experience of going to a video store to pick out a movie.
BL: Can you tell us a bit about the cast? TW: My girlfriend Aidan Rees is our lead and is also a producer. She is an incredibly talented actoress who is a regular at Second City. I'm always blown away by her ability to be such a versatile performer. Going from improv to sketch to everything scripted can be challenging for anyone to execute. We found our second lead, Jeff Coppage, through a self-tape. He has the uncanny ability to add flavor to dialogue that wasn't intended as a joke, and all of a sudden I'm laughing my ass off. So damn unique and funny.
Kristin Morris is a close friend of mine and an extremely accomplished actor. I saw her in West Side Story at Musical Theatre West in Long Beach and I always knew I would love to write a part that would be brought to life by her amazing talents. Antoine Dillard, Misao McGregor and Angelique Maurnaé were all actors that Aidan had worked with before. While I was not familiar with their work, they have all knocked it out of the park and made their characters jump off the page in a way I never could have imagined.
BL: Is this your first Fringe experience? Or have you attended in previous years, either as an audience member or talent? TW:First time Fringer in every capacity. I am so excited and thankful to be exposed to this brand new weird world.
BL: What other shows intrigue you at #hff19? TW:Lots of shows that are also at Stephanie Feury look great. I have had the chance to meet the creators of George. and Treason so I look forward to seeing those. The ladies who are putting on 2 for 1 seem to be cooking up something unique. An Excuse to Behave Badly sounds like a really smart and fun concept. I am intrigued by the ambitious premise of She Kills Monsters. I am sure there are plenty more I would love to see but honestly those are some of the folks who I have met at office hours that caught my eye.
I look forward to a Fringe year when I can be just an attendee and have more time to learn about other shows instead of focusing so much on ours.
BL: Finally, have you made the trek to the last remaining Blockbuster in Bend, Oregon? TW:I have not. I would love to. Fortunately, there are a handful of video stores still operating in the LA area that I have gone to recently to help inspire the show. In particular, Cinefile Video in Santa Monica made me feel at home, so if any of this conversation makes you miss the experience, go check ‘em out and show them some love!
An American Video Store plays June 9-29 at the Stephanie Feury Studio
Theatre, 5636 Melrose Avenue. Specific dates, show times and ticketing
information can be found on the Fringe site.
Lemon Butter is a bi-monthly column featuring choice restaurants, lounges, Happy Hours, and other spots where hospitality is offered, that are convenient to theatre venues throughout Los Angeles. For distances and times given traffic and parking are not factored in. Where available, contact all hospitality venues for valet or parking information and/or reservations.
https://twitter.com/LemonadeLA/status/1086329199403528194 The counter service restaurant features a variety of salads, sandwiches, bowls, and hot entrées--items like a Curry Apple Chicken Salad with whole grain mustard & golden raisins, Thai Chicken Meatballs in green curry sauce, a Roasted Mango Chicken with sautéed kale & seasonal vegetables, served over warm, seasoned white or brown rice, or a spicy Pineapple Chicken Green Bean with toasted coconut, jalapeños & jerk dressing.
There are Asian-inspired bowls, like the Ahi Tuna Avocado with ahi tuna, avocado, radish, tangerine, and sesame served over warm, seasoned white or brown rice. served with ginger, shallots, seaweed, & furikake or the Thai Ginger Salmon sweet soy ginger salmon poke with Thai peanut noodles, served with ginger, shallots, seaweed, & furikake. Sandwiches such as a Turkey ‘EL Tijuana’ with jicama slaw, queso fresco, avocado, pickled jalapeños, and jalapeño aioli.
The Classic Mac and Cheese and Avocado and Cherry Tomato salad at Lemonade in Larchmont Village. Photo by Monique A. LeBleu.
Lemonade also has an assortment of vegetarian hot and cold items, such as a Tomato & Mozzarella sandwich with basil, pesto, and balsamic or a Classic Grilled Cheese with aged cheddar cheese, the Grilled Artichoke Asparagus with snap peas, manchego, arugula, pine nuts, & lemon artichoke vinaigrette, Curried Cauliflower with golden raisins & almonds, New Mexican Chili Roasted Butternut Squash with white corn, lime corn nuts, & scallion ranch dressing vegetarian, or Beet Couscous with red onion, baby spinach, goat cheese, dill, & creamy herb dressing.
For vegans, a Snap Pea Edamame with Watermelon Radish, Carrots, & Sesame Vinaigrette, Avocado Cherry Tomato with pine nuts & lime cilantro vinaigrette, kale farro, or Red Kale Quinoa with sunomono vegetables, gala apple, colored cauliflower, scallions, & white miso vinaigrette, and a Southwest Vegan Chili with zucchini, squash, red beans.
Lemonade - 626 N Larchmont Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90004 – (323) 464-0700
Cozy for brunch, in time for Pride Month, and nearest the Marilyn Monroeat Lee Strasberg, McCadden Place Theatre,LGBT Center, and just a short jaunt from Theatre Row, the WeHo Bistro starts the day right with an eye-opener like Wicked Bloody Mary or an endless Mimosa to pair with brunch items such a Croissant French Toast made with a fresh croissant dipped in eggs and butter, grilled, then topped with homemade caramel sauce and whipped cream, or their Croque Madame, a French-style sandwich made with ham and melted Emmental Swiss cheese on grilled brioche bread with a sunny side up organic egg on top.
For a leisurely dinner, start with their French Onion Soup dripping with melted and toasted Emmental Swiss cheese and homemade croutons, a French Pate Platter with pork rillette, duck pâté with pistachio, chicken liver pâté and pâté de champagne, or Lamb Sliders prepared with cucumber, lettuce, tzatziki, feta cheese and onions. For sample entrées, there's a Genoa Pasta made with jumbo tiger shrimp sautéed in garlic and olive oil and tossed with spaghetti al dente in a creamy pesto sauce or a Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon with Peppercorn Sauce comprised of an 8oz Prime Grade Angus Filet Mignon topped with tiny onion rings and served with potatoes Dauphinoise and tomato Provençal.
And for a quick cocktail between shows, you can have a kiki with Jerry’s Kiki cocktail made with Redemption Bourbon Whiskey, or a gild the lily with a WeHo Bistro’s signature Gold Blend, egg white, lemon with gold flakes on top.
Gallery photos by Velvet Media & Marketing.
WeHo Bistro - 1040 North La Cienega Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069 - (310) 657-9696
The restaurant and full bar features a Happy Hour from 4 -7 p.m. daily, and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, lunch and dinner.
Several unique and Traditional Peruvian dishes are offered such as the Mixto ceviche cocktail, to start, of striped bass, shrimp, octopus, squid, lime juice, onions, choclo – a giant Peruvian corn, and rocoto – a spicy chili pepper. For entrées, there's the Lomo Saltado – a sauteed beef filet with onion, tomato, Lee Kum Kee sauce, Kennebec fries, and rice on the side, the Sudado De Pescado – a poached Mediterranean Sea Bream with tomatoes, cilantro, chives, onions, chicha de jora – a Peruvian corn beverage, the Clasico Striped bass with lime juice, onions, choclo, and rocoto pepper, an Agnolotti De Seco – a homemade ravioli stuffed with lamb, cilantro beer sauce, finished with rocoto aioli, or a traditional Arroz Con Pollo of chicken confit, cilantro rice, salsa criolla, and creamy huancaina sauce.
Los Balcones also has a few vegetarian dishes. To start, there's a Baby Kale Salad with gooseberries, red radish, red apples, walnuts parmesan cheese, and lemon vinegar. Then, for entrées, the Solterito De Quinoa with quinoa, queso fresco, choclo, fava beans, heirloom carrots, cherry tomatoes, red wine vinegar dressing, or the Coliflor A La Nortena – a pan-seared cauliflower with cilantro sauce.
For dessert, the Picarones, a Peruvian sweet potato beignet, tropical fruit syrup or a Chicha Morada, a traditional Peruvian beverage made from purple corn & spices.
Los Balcones - 1360 Vine Street, Los Angeles, CA - (323) 871-9600
Distance to The Broadwater - 0.4 miles via Santa Monica (10 min. walk/1-3 min. drive)
800 DEGREES/SUNSET & VINYL
Within walking distance to The Montaban and the Pantages is 800 Degrees in the Sunset + Vine mall. The street-level restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating with a dog-friendly "Bark Park" patio. Also, tucked away upstairs above the restaurant, is Sunset and Vinyl, a cozy speakeasy bar that features you-pick-and-play-it vinyl. The bar is a warm and comfortable, circa 1970s, living room-style atmosphere, complete with window views that looks upon one of the city's most famous intersections.
800 Degrees makes hand-stretched, wood-fired Old World pizzas, sandwiches, salads, and Rotisserie Chicken served with their signature sauces and a host of sides, such as Roasted fingerling potatoes, Brussels sprouts, hummus, farm Greens, and Quinoa Tabbouleh.
There are six different “in-house” sauces made to accompany their roasted chicken – the Peruvian Jalapeno-Cilantro Sauce (reminiscent of a Peruvian "Aji" sauce) made with jalapeños, cilantro, lime, mayo and garlic, a Barbecue Sauce, a Tahini Sauce of tahini paste, garlic and olive oil, the Spicy Tomato of uncooked Roma tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and Calabrian Chile, and the Calabrian Chile Aioli includes with the Italian chilis blended with herbs, spices and aioli, and the Piri Piri Sauce – a blend of citrus, chilis, garlic, onion, herbs and olive oil.
The local-made Burrata cheese makes a good starter and is served with the Cherry Tomato & Pesto, the Prosciutto & Strawberry or the Beets & Balsamic.
There a several signature pizzas to order from, such as the Quattro Formaggi – their “Bianca” with mozzarella, smoked provolone, gorgonzola & fontina, finished with wildflower honey, a BBQ with rotisserie chicken, BBQ sauce, smoked provolone, peppadews, red onions, and cilantro, a Tartufo of a Bianco with truffled pecorino, wild mushrooms, roasted garlic, and arugula, or a Prosciutto & Burrata – a lassic Margherita topped with Prosciutto di Parma and local burrata.
Gallery photos by Monique A. LeBleu.
Or you can make a custom pizza from a large selection of unique toppings, such as Bianca pizza with butternut squash and caramelized onions or a Margherita topped with sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms and roasted garlic. Good for keeping away the vampires!
They also has a selection of beer and wine for the inside and patio dining.
Sunset & Vinyl has craft cocktails such as the Master Cleanse of gin, ginger, carrot and lemon or a Dance or Die with Mezcal, pineapple, Aperol, and lemon, and a daily Happy Hour from 6 - 8 p.m. with $5 well drinks and draft beer and $6 for a glass of wine.
Baritone opera star Christopher Job is returning to Los Angeles to perform in LA Opera's new 1920s-set, multi-cultural production of La traviata. A native of Anaheim Hills and graduate of Cal State Fullerton, this production constitutes Mr. Job's LA Opera debut. On the eve of his Angeleno opening, I had to find out - opera, East Coast vs. West; what's the difference?
Find out what he says and more in my conversation with Christopher Job.
Roger Q. Mason (RQM): First of all congratulations on your LA Opera debut. How does it feel to be performing opera in Los Angeles?
Christopher Job (CJ): Thank you very much. It feels amazing. I was just talking with a couple of my best friends who happen to be in the chorus at L.A. Opera (we've known each other since our days at Cal State Fullerton) and I said "All those years ago, could you even imagine that we'd be sitting here today? All three of us at L.A. Opera. On that stage together." It's quite thrilling to have this opportunity in our home town. It's certainly a homecoming for me, and it's quite surreal.
(RQM): Tell us about your role in La traviata.
(CJ): I play the role of Doctor Grenvil. He's a dear friend of our protagonist, Violetta, as well as her physician. So he's aware of her illness; and amidst the parties, the decadence and the debauchery in their world, he is continually looking out for her well-being. Aside from the two lovers at the center of the drama, this is largely an ensemble piece. However Doctor Grenvil appears in the final act, in one of the more intimate and emotional scenes of the opera. As an actor, it's nice to get to play a range of emotions in your scene work.
(RQM): You're worked as an opera performer on both coasts. What's the difference between making opera on the East Coast vs. in the West?
(CJ): Opera started in Europe, so naturally the first major opera company in the United States would form on the East Coast; so there's a lot of history over there. Making opera is largely the same to the performers, no matter where you are in this world. We are mostly transplanted colleagues, and we know how to collaborate in numerous situations and places. Now to further answer this question, I would start out by saying that I'm a Californian. I was born and raised here. And after many years of living in New York City and witnessing audience reactions, both when seeing opera myself and surrounding my own performances, I feel that the culture and people of every locale very much play into their varied reactions. We Californians are as we've been described; a very chill group of people. New York is as described; busy and hectic. Both coasts are very knowledgeable and appreciative; but sitting in the audience for El Gato Montes last week, I could feel the Californian flavor to the audience. It's very good to be home again.
(RQM): What has been your favorite role so far? What's your dream role?
(CJ): I'd have to say Leporello in Don Giovanni or Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro. Mozart and his characters are a lot of fun to play. However I have had a taste of "the devil," playing Mephistopheles in Gounod's Faust, and I have to say that I'd like to explore more of these "darker" roles in the future: Mefistofele by Boito, The Damnation of Faust by Berlioz, Nick Shadow in The Rake's Progress by Stravinsky, and the four villians of The Tales of Hoffman, have long tempted me.
(RQM): After La traviata, what's next for you?
(CJ): I am contracted for the entire 2019/20 season at The Metropolitan Opera, so I will be taking as much vacation time as possible this summer (mostly in Italy), surrounding two great performance opportunities. This July I will be in Tosca in Vail, Colorado with Yannick Nézet-Séguin (head of music at the Met) and his Philadelphia Orchestra, and then in early August I will go to London to record Handel's Messiah at Abbey Road Studios with the Royal Philharmonic. It's a pretty exciting summer for me.
Center Theatre Group's $10,000 Dorothy and Richard E. Sherwood Award for theatre artists is given annually to nurture innovative and adventurous theatre artists working in Los Angeles. Two additional finalists will each receive a $1,000 honorarium.
The Sherwood Award nurtures selected artists and invites them to engage in a professional relationship with Center Theatre Group. Competitive candidates demonstrate leadership qualities, push existing boundaries, and are dedicated to improving the future of their respective artistic fields. Artists are not limited by title, role, or genre, but they must have a relationship to contemporary performance rooted in theatre.
The deadline for the initial application consisting of an artist's statement and resume is June 10, 2019 at 11:59 PM.
After the first round, select candidates will be invited to submit full applications. Full applications, along with letters of recommendation and work sample material will be due no later than July 19, 2019 at 11:59 PM. The winner will be announced at the LA STAGE Alliance Ovation Awards.
When the pastor of a mega church unilaterally decides to enlighten his congregation with his own personal revelation, he is faced with doubt and dissension among his flock. Hnath’s Obie Award-winning play examines the schism in today’s church and the role of faith in America.*
Enjoy this interview with Townsend Coleman - the voice for The Tick in the 1994 cartoon series and the cast of “The Christians” at The Actors Co-op, running until Jun 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.
Making her Fringe debut this year is singer, actor and Los Angeles native Victoria Gordon, who is bringing her cabaret show to the Complex in Hollywood. The piece, entitled Victoria Gordon — Live at the Hollywood Fringe, is a combination of musical performance and comedy.
In anticipation of her upcoming appearance, Ms. Gordon spoke with Better Lemons about her show and her all-around Fringe experience.
Better Lemons: You performed this show before, right? What’s different about this Fringe production? Victoria Gordon: I did perform a version of this show before — in September 2018 at the Broad in Santa Monica. But I knew that wasn’t the finished version. As soon as I got the video of that show back, I started taking notes to figure out what I liked and what I didn’t. And I used that to refresh and expand my repertoire, which also led me to write new monologues. At the end of the day, while some of the songs are the same, almost everything around them is different.
BL: And the music… How were the pieces selected? VG: Everything came to me differently. I love musicals and listen to cast albums all the time, so sometimes, a song just hits me and I think, “I have to sing that!” That’s how the song “Another Round,” from Bright Star, ended up in the show - I was at the Ahmanson, watching the cast perform it, and I just knew I had to do it. Others are old favorites, like “It Might As Well Be Spring,” or characters I’ve dreamed of playing, like Mabel Normand in Mack and Mabel (that’s how I wound up with “Wherever He Ain’t,” one of Mabel’s big moments). And then there are the songs I never imagined singing, but someone else suggested and I quickly realized that they were right. “I Am What I Am” is one I never saw myself performing, but my sister told me I had to give it a try, and now it’s a cornerstone of my act — thanks, Natalie!
BL: How about the band? Did they accompany you in last year’s show? VG: Two out of three, yes! I met my Musical Director-slash-drummer, Sam Webster, through two contacts: my arranger and a studio musician I trust. They both recommended Sam, so I contacted him and we hit it off right away. He brought in both my bass player, Chelsea Stevens, and pianist, Adam Bravo. Adam is new for this show. He wasn’t available in the fall, but I’m a huge fan already!
BL: Is this your first time at the Fringe? How are you enjoying the experience? VG:This is my first Fringe as a participant. I had no idea what to expect going in, but I’m really thrilled to be part of it! I’ve met so many incredible people and learned so much about theater and performance. This is such a great and inclusive community.
BL: What makes “Live” a good fit for the Fringe? What can audiences expect? VG: My show is a throwback. I’ve been describing it lately as an “old-school nightclub act,” back in the day when lounge singers were off-duty Broadway performers. It’s not something that many people my age do anymore, but it’s the only music I’ve ever wanted to sing, and I think Fringe audiences are used to less-than-expected offerings.
Audiences can expect to laugh a lot — usually with me, but sometimes at me—and to hear showtunes they know and love (or maybe a few they don’t know yet!). It’s also just a fun show. I modeled it after Bernadette Peters and Jane Krakowski’s shows, and what I love about them is that they’re just enjoyable shows, filled with entertaining stories and great songs. Nothing too dramatic or depressing; it’s a lighthearted but still touching show.
BL: Tell us a bit about your background. VG: I grew up in Los Angeles, as did both of my parents, so all of my grandparents were very active in my childhood. My mom’s family was all musical; my dad’s family worked in TV comedy. Both sides were very accomplished, so I got to see what it really takes to be successful in music or entertainment. I grew up playing the violin, but later switched to singing, and haven’t looked back since! I always wanted to be an actress and singer, and got into writing in my teens. I started producing comedic film and TV projects for Amazon while still in college, and post-college, that became my full-time job. But when the opportunity to stage a solo cabaret came up, I jumped at the chance, and Victoria Gordon Live was born. It’s been a great way to put everything I know — performance, production, and live events — into practice at once.
BL: Since the Fringe is a collaboration, what other shows intrigue you? VG: So many! I have a folder filled with sixty-ish Fringe flyers and they all sound like great shows. I am especially excited for Bunny the Elf, because Christi Pedigo has brought so much sunshine to Fringe this year; Leaving Prince Charming, because Lara Repko’s story is so personal and moving; and Batter Up! My Brain on Baseball, because the idea of a baseball trivia show is just so Fringe.
Victoria Gordon — Live at the Hollywood Fringe plays June 6 (preview) through June 27 at the Complex Hollywood’s OMR Theatre, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd. Information and ticketing can be obtained on the Fringe site.
Reflecting on the theme of ‘culture shock,’ this unique production of Mamma Mia! will feature a diverse, Asian American-led cast—challenging the perception of who is perceived as an American abroad and exploring the culture shocks we often feel in our own families generationally,” says EWP Producing Artistic Director Snehal Desai.
Enjoy this interview with the cast of “Mamma Mia!” at The David Henry Hwang Theater, playing through June 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.
After taking 2018 off, the award-winning improv musical comedy troupe Robot Teammate is making a welcome return to this year’s Fringe with Pockets, a brand-new production.
Kat Primeau, Robot Teammate member and producer, co-writer, choreographer and co-star of Pockets, was happy to speak with Better Lemons about the troupe’s Fringe comeback and the new show.
Better Lemons: Tell us a bit about the genesis of Pockets. Kat Primeau: Robot Teammate completed our "T-Trilogy" of musicals (Timeheart, Thug Tunnel and Turbulence!) with an off-Broadway run at SoHo Playhouse in 2017. After that, we had been joking about doing a "P-Trilogy," with Perm, a parody in the realm of Hair, when Dave [Reynolds] pitched a story about "Pockets, a young female thief." We thought it could be a perfect vehicle for Molly [Dworsky] to star in, and our story grew from there. We actually wrote songs and a script for the first version of Pockets that got completely thrown out, but we love the story now and hope it will be our funniest, most touching tale yet!
BL: What about the music? Was it a collaborative effort? KP: Everything about a Robot Teammate musical is collaborative, and each song has a different origin story. Our musical director and teammate, Branson NeJame, has crafted a beautiful theme for the kingdom of Crumpeton and shaped every improvised and demo'd idea with loving attention. Some songs were lyric-driven, whereas others were inspired by a melody. Others are hammered out through many rounds and rewrites and deliberate arrangement. It's quite different than what we are used to as musical improvisers, so we always relish the songwriting process.
BL: Since it’s a period piece, what style — or styles — is the music? And how were the sets and costuming created? KP: Aside from a bardic tone, the music is modern. Branson has been inspired by ELO to create a fusion of pop, rock, disco and classical music, with a little tango and reggae thrown in. Our production elements are limited to due to the nature of 15-minute Fringe load-ins, and our costumes are a mishmash of borrowed period pieces and modern basics. The book and lyrics go a long way in filling out our world, so we are able to leave room for the imagination.
BL: Who’s playing whom? KP: Pockets stars Molly Dworsky as Bellamina Crumbledunk, the precocious thirteen-year-old daughter of The Duchess of Crumpeton, Winifred Dolores Crumbledunk, played by me. When Bellamina rebels against her mother, she enters society's underbelly and befriends the mischievous crook, Veegan (Chris Bramante). Dave Reynolds rounds out our main cast as Town Crier — Rob Crier, The Clutch to the Duch — Barkly St. Piggins, and the revolutionary Jim Val Jim. We also have an ensemble cast of friends joining us again this year.
BL: What can audiences expect when they attend the show? What makes Pockets a good fit for the Hollywood Fringe? KP: We are lucky to have an incredible live band led by Branson NeJame on keys, Harrison Lee on cello, trombone, and guitar, Chris Sousa on bass, and Sam Kirsch on drums, so expect the music to be completely original and totally rockin'! The British-ish world we've built together is charming and wacky and fast-paced, so audiences may experience deep belly laughs and perhaps even a bit of "The Feelz."
We have a dynamic female protagonist and a fresh take on the mother-daughter story, so we hope to present a thoroughly modern piece of musical theater that delights and truly does us justice as writers and content creators. We have poured our hearts and lives into this musical, and we believe there's something for everyone — woman or man, young or old — to fall in love with.
Molly Dworsky, Kat Primeau, Dave Reynolds, Branson NeJame and Chris Bramante are Robot Teammate in POCKETS - photo by Dave Newberg
BL: It’s been a couple of years since Turbulence!. What has Robot Teammate been up to? KP: Robot Teammate spent 2017 working on Turbulence!, taking home awards for Best Musical, Best World Premiere, A Little New Music’s Outstanding Songwriting and Better Lemon’s Critics' Choice at Hollywood Fringe before traveling to NYC to do an Off-Broadway run at the historic SoHo Playhouse. It was an exhilarating and exhausting endeavor, and finding a way to follow up our success hasn't been easy. We've kept up our improvised musical performances at venues like Westside Comedy and Impro Studio Theatre, and recorded some podcast material we may or may not release.
Personally, I lost my dad to a bewildering form of early-onset dementia known as Frontotemporal Degeneration, wrote a children's book for my niece, and recorded an album with my band, Sumeau. We've had all manner of life experiences pop up since then, and two of our teammates left our collective to focus on their solo projects, so we really just took the time to regroup and refine the kind of stories we want to spend time scripting and bringing into the world. Each musical is an intensive, collaborative labor of love, so we didn't want to rush things.
BL: What keeps you coming back to the Fringe? KP: Fringe is an incredible breeding ground for creativity, and the energy around new works is unparalleled in LA. Since 2015, we've devoted our Junes to this community, and the payoff has been incredible. We love the artists we meet, the connections we make, the fun we have, the shows we see, and the feedback we receive. It is such a stark contrast from any improv festival we've been a part of, and there's truly nothing like the deadline of Opening Night to really light a fire under our butts and make an idea come to fruition.
BL: What other shows are you interested in seeing at the Fringe? KP: I am so stoked to see Four Clowns returning to HFF with a new show, Shakedown at the Dusty Spur!! There are several new shows promising badass women from medieval times, so we will definitely be checking those out. The Duchess & The Stripper, 45 Milligrams, Earth To Karen, Hamiltunes, and Tabletop Musical are all on my must-see list this year.
Pockets plays June 15-29 at The Broadwater, 1076 Lillian Way. Ticketing
information and specific dates and showtimes can be obtained on the Fringe site.
Just returning to Los Angeles from a two-month stint in New York I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Sigrid Gilmer's meta-theatrical send up to the "mama drama" genre, Mama Metal by the IAMA Theatre at the Atwater Village Theatre.
After my rousing experience previewing the show, I spoke with the two leads backstage. And this time, instead of transcribing my conversation, I just recorded it on my phone. Thus, "Backstage with Roger Q.", a new theatre gossip/show biz kiki podcast experience was born. Expect more of these recordings from time to time. In the meantime, listen and enjoy!