Escaping and Not Escaping The Tension Experience

Circling the World of the O.O.A.

Until this year, I'd never been to any kind of haunt production. I hadn't heard of Delusion, I didn't know what My Haunt Life was, and (I'm embarrassed to say) I had never even been to Sleep No More. What about an escape room? Nope. Hadn't done that, either.

However, I have been part of live events that push beyond the proscenium of “traditional” theatre, and I love it. I've attended as well as created various types of immersive and interactive productions in several genres and forms. So, when I first heard about The Tension Experience: Ascension, I was instantly riveted.

If you're not familiar, The Tension Experience is a highly-produced, ever-changing, individually-tailored machination of tentacled performances that just released its hold on LA (at least officially, and at least for the moment). It was part theatre and part mythological rabbit hole. It was part puzzle and part interrogation. It was made up of guerrilla mind games and shifting layers of morphing storylines. It also was, and is, a complete obsession for those who stepped into its shadowy waters.

My explanation is a little vague because, well, it would take me about 27 pages to give you my initial take on what actually went down. Also, to be honest, there's a part of me that's still nervous they're tapping my phone and monitoring my email, and if I reveal too much I'll come home to find some masked guy waiting with a coil of rope and a tray of scalpels. If you want to dig into their history, scour the internet at your own risk.

The short version of what happened: a cult called the O.O.A. came to town. They were full of mystery and controversy, popping up all over LA for months to interview people and disperse clues. Then, if you actually bought a ticket and showed up at your appointed time, you might have a chance to learn their secrets and become part of their mission.

Unfortunately, I was broke. So I decided not to go.

That is, until a friend of mine offered to loan me the money. Where did he get the funds? I assume the O.O.A. wired them to his account, and blackmailed him into buying me a ticket for their own nefarious purposes. In any case, we secured our admissions, girded our loins, and finally arrived at the designated alleyway at our appointed time.

Shortly afterwards, the black van pulled up.

Inside the Machine

Again, I'm not going to go into great detail about what went down for the next two or three hours of my life. I can tell you that I was stripped of all my possessions (including my clothes, thank you), questioned by several different people, and put through a battery of physical, mental, and psychic tests.

In nearly no time at all, I knew I had been singled out. I was separated from the rest of the group for most of my journey. I was given tasks that pitted me against my fellow entrants, and I was rewarded with encouraging words as I passed through each new challenge. For a good stretch, it appeared they'd narrowed it all down to me and one other person.

But narrowed it down for what?

Finally, my one remaining companion (enemy?) and I were knelt down. We began a strange and frightening ceremony in total darkness. And the question was posed: which one of us was to go first? I held my breath…and they took him first. Then I was alone. For a long time. Until they came back to get me.

I suppose it was after I woke up in a room full of sand. It was after a woman whispered in my ear that she was “so jealous” of what I was about to feel. It was after they strapped me to a medical chair and someone started swabbing my arm. That's when I started to think that maybe I shouldn't have come.

I learned something that night, though: when someone tells you it's time to say your final goodbyes to everyone you know? It's hard, in that moment, to come up with the right words.

The Tension Experience site is now mostly dismantled remains.

The Experience Continues

Clearly, I'm here writing this, so I didn't wind up dead. But it was close. As often happens with cults, things didn't exactly go as planned, and by the time I managed to get out of there, I was a bit shook up—and covered in blood. So, I did the sensible thing: I decided to write about my escape, publish it for all to see, and call out the O.O.A. on their messy little slip-up.

And you know what? They heard me. The next day I received a special message from the O.O.A. Within the week, I was back at their headquarters to ‘bear witness.' To what? I could only assume it would be a very jarring finale.

It was.

While I was there to witness the final moments of the show, I saw others in attendance that I recognized from The Tension Experience forums. There were people I recognized from events like Screenshot Productions' The Rope. It was a small but highly devoted audience, and a group that was apparently very loyal to this brand of terror-driven immersive experience. Everyone gathered with a particular type of fervor and suspense that I have honestly never seen in the theatre.

The Lust Experience is the next chapter, but very little is currently known about it.

However, despite the closing of the O.O.A.'s doors, this isn't over. We already know that the next chapter of this saga will surface in the form of something entitled The Lust Experience, and after that we'll encounter The Adrenaline Experience. It's hard to say what they have in store.

I have a million questions. Some have to do with the story we know, and some have to do with the chapters to come. Some have to do with my interest as a playwright, actor, and producer: how was this thing assembled? I wonder how many more secrets will be revealed. I wonder how many locked doors will remain unopened as this experience continues to grow.

Then I wonder about the audience. For these next installments, will it be the same fervent group of devotees who adore horror and fantasy? Or will new participants emerge after hearing about the success of this first experiment? Will people be more or less comfortable facing Lust than they were facing Tension? Is this the start of a new LA institution?

As I said, the haunt scene is entirely new to me, but I can't help but think that The Tension Experience is, in many ways, the most memorable piece of theatre I've ever witnessed. It grabbed me in ways I couldn't shake, and now it continues to follow me afterwards. On the one hand, I feel like this kind of production could be the future of live theatre. On the other hand, perhaps it follows the form of the exact thing it claimed to be from the start: a small and devoted cult meant for a select few.

Only time will reveal what comes next. But if you're even the tiniest bit curious, I encourage you to visit The Lust Experience and join the list. Even if you're not a haunt-goer. Even if you're not a theatre-goer. Even if you have to bum some money from a friend down the line. Get involved with this story, because what's going on here feels big. It's a narrative that extends far beyond a 90-minute window or a 99-seat theatre. It's not just another live event. It's a living, breathing, organism. And it's waiting for you.


BREAKING: Judge dismisses suit against AEA

Looks like Judge Hatter has dismissed the lawsuit brought against Equity by Los Angeles actors. For the official court document of the judgement CLICK HERE.
I'm sure there are many companies out there who have already been coming up with plans on how to move forward in anticipation of the case being dismissed. There are already a number of companies who have decided to go non-union for their next season. It will be interesting to see how this will affect our community as well as the already tumultuous relationship with AEA.
More to come as information is released.
***If you'd like to write a response to the news please email the editor Ashley@better-lemons.com


No 'Fooling' Around

Sacred Fools, the much-beloved and much-awarded pedigreed theatre company, is moving into its 20th Season, with January 2017 marking the one year Anniversary of its residence on Theatre Row. For the two decades before, Sacred Fools had been working in a theatre in East Hollywood, but they jumped at the chance to lease a larger space at the end of last year and hit the ground running in January.

“It was madness,” says Managing Director Padraic Duffy about the fast changeover. “It was exhausting but also invigorating. We're running a professional business here with still a volunteer staff and we're in that transition where we're demanding a lot of ourselves to make this happen.”

From right to left Mark Hamilton Costello as Arthur Taylor Marr as John Jessica Sherman as Alice Photo by Ben Rock

From right to left Mark Hamilton Costello as Arthur Taylor Marr as John Jessica Sherman as Alice Photo by Ben Rock

It's paying off. Since January, Sacred Fools has not only refurbished the theatre spaces that once housed the Asylum and the Elephant, but they've mounted four new plays - PAST TIME, A GULAG MOUSE, SKULLDUGGERY, and MOM'S DEAD (now playing until December 10th), worked with outside rentals, and became a central part of the annual Hollywood Fringe Festival.

“It went really well - we met a lot of wonderful artists, it's financially a boon to the space and you feel like a steward of the theatre - it's been such a center for Hollywood Theatre Row and Fringe and we all just loved keeping the doors open for Fringe. We did 40 productions in the space and probably had room for another 20. We'll probably be able to increase how many shows we have in here.”

In addition to the four theatre spaces, they're in the process of turning one of the smaller front theatre into a bar, complete with small cabaret stage. It's a separate business and co-tenant but they're working closely with Sacred Fools.

Traditional Sacred Fools worked hasn't slowed down since the move either, with the late-night series SERIAL KILLERS continuing on the MainStage on Saturdays and just passing its 300th show! The company also has a one-week Summer Camp for kids as part of their Education program and are working on a Diversity Initiative “with company members and friends of the company to get artists of color and female playwrights and actresses and inject our democracy with this perspectives.”

“A lot of places have struggled in the past and we're trying to turn outward in a lot of ways. It's Come One Come All, “ says Padraic. “We are really trying to engage our community right now. Our company meetings are open to the public and we've been trying to make sure people know that. In a community where tickets prices keep going up, we are trying to figure out how to lower our ticket prices and be a place where the community can come and be here a lot and afford to see shows and be involved.”

The choices of shows to include in the seasons has changed a bit this year, as well. The company of almost 112 Members and countless Associate Members used to have an eight-week window of suggesting shows to the Artistic Directors who would then read and decide the season, but this year, the non-dues paying group is taking year-round submissions. And still, all show auditions are open to the community.

And while he doesn't know the exact story behind the company name (which was nearly named “The Candy Store” when it first started), Padraic thinks it's the perfect moniker. “I just think it really fits what we do, “ he says. “Oftentimes when someone says describe your company thats where I start. We pride ourselves on being foolish but we take it really seriously. That's both sides of our character.”

MOM'S DEAD is now playing.

NOVEMBER 11 - DECEMBER 10, 2016
Fridays & Saturdays @ 8pm
plus Thursdays, Dec. 1 & 8 @ 8pm
Understudy performance Sun, Dec. 4 @ 7pm
Tickets: $20
www.sacredfools.org/onlineboxoffice


In the Heart of America

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

Place: South Bend, Indiana.

Home of Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish.

We were 3.5 weeks into the LA Theatre Works national tour of “Judgment at Nuremberg”. It is a radio play about the Nuremberg Trials after World War II.

You know the one-where Nazi war criminals were tried for the crimes against humanity that resulted in the Holocaust.

Our play is specifically about the trials of the judges.

The trials that followed the first Nuremberg Trials. These trials were of the judges, doctors, business men, IG Farben whose chemicals were used in the gas chambers and so on.

It's Judges judging Judges.

It's a morality play about who is responsible and how far does that responsibility go.

Fun fact: War crimes and crimes against humanity came out of the Nuremberg Trials. It was the first time that people were convicted of carrying out the law. The first time that people were prosecuted for doing something that wasn't illegal at the time that they did it. That's how bad the crimes were. We needed to set a precedent so that it couldn't happen again.

It isn't a comedy.

3.5 weeks at universities all over the country, doing workshops and having talkbacks. Amidst an impending Presidential election. We find ourselves in the middle of America facilitating a conversation about fascism, nationalism and hate. The kind that makes us insulate ourselves from our neighbors.

Election Night.

No one was going to come and see a play about the Holocaust tonight-so we had the day off.

The first thing I noticed when we arrived at Notre Dame was it's swanky-ness. It is gorgeous, surrounded by trees of every color changing before our very eyes. We checked into the Morris Inn-clearly the place they put up donors to impress them.

changing-leaves

This is a place where dreams are made. This is a place where anything is possible.

The next thing that I noticed was the lack of color-everywhere except the trees and the staff at the college. The only students that I saw of any color at all were clearly athletes.

Did I mention I was in Indiana.

Mike Pence is the Governor of Indiana.

Rohr's-the fancy bar at the Morris Inn.

nd-morris-murph

In the middle are me and my castmates. 8 liberal actor tour-mates/friends. 8 of the best that there are to work with. The crème de la crème. 8 people going onto the front lines of truth and 8 people who have been bonded together through intention.

Across from us is a group of 40-50's something women celebrating a birthday.

At the end of the bar is a group of very large college athletes dominating the TV where the sound is on.

Sprinkled amongst us are several tables of couples that probably never look like they are having a good time.

We ordered food and drinks and waited for signs of how the night was going to progress. What the next four years would hold.

Our very smiley waitress, relatively young, particularly Mid-Western-but surprisingly, under further investigation, is a mother of 4. She looks around to see if anyone is watching her and secretly shows me a photo of her kids on her iPhone.

Smiley Waitress: This is a great job. If I stay-my kids will be able to go to college here and get financial aid.

She points to Murph, the grey-haired gentleman bartender.

Smiley Waitress: Murph has worked here for more than 40 years. They named a burger after him. It's really good.

Hillary has taken her first states. Our group cheers. We receive glowers from numerous guests. I feel obliged to remind our group that we are not in Kansas anymore. Kansas, actually would've been a problem as well-but to be conscious of the fact that we might not be in the majority.

Trump takes Tennessee and a middle aged white guy stands up at his table and obnoxiously cheers and claps and directs all of his energy at our table. He jeers at us.

Obnoxious White Guy: Yeah! That's what I'm talking about!

I am actually not sure why he would care that we didn't all vote for the same person-but he was successful at making a point. A point that felt like a threat.

I went to the bathroom and the front desk staff was peering into the bar TVs. They all jumped to attention as I walked past to look like they were working. I stopped and chatted with them-my way of letting them know I'm not the person who needs them to busy themselves.

Darlene the Front Desk Clerk: How is your night going?

Me: Good with the exception of the guy who just clapped for Trump in my face.

Darlene: Oh, yes. They get very aggressive if you don't do what they want you to.

Me: How is this for you tonight?

Darlene: Just a day in the life. This is a good job so I am getting through.

After I returned from the bathroom, the bar had emptied out quite a bit. It was that time in the night when it was looking pretty good for Hillary.

Gone was the obnoxious white guy. Gone was the group of women who I wished that I had asked how they felt about the election and being in Indiana-just to hear what they had to say.

And then about a half hour later-Trump takes another state. Hmmm.

The large athletes-couldn't tell if they were football players or basketball players or maybe both-were all white except one who was ethnically ambiguous. They cheered loudly and ordered more beer. I believe “Whoops” were involved. The ethnically ambiguous one looked like he was in conflict with himself as he tried to “Whoop” along.

One of my cast mates stands abruptly to leave.

Cast mate #1: This is how much they hate us. They had to make sure we knew just exactly how much they hate us. They are really that afraid of women that they would rather have him than her.

She refuses to watch anything further publicly and retires to her room for some kind of sanctuary.

I was feeling a little touchy. I went out for some air.

Earlier that week we were in Iowa. And Wisconsin. And Minnesota. And Arizona. But in Iowa, I was met with these stares. Not by the Quakers. Not by the Amish. Not by the students or the staff at the University. By the people who were just regular people that we'd bump into at the Culver's fast food joint (Frozen custard-check it out) or the lobby at our hotel. These people who stare-it is a look I've seen before-it is a look of disgust. Perhaps I don't look the way they think I should? Perhaps it's indigestion. It's the same kind of look that someone gets when they want to destroy something.

In the space of 3 hours going between Wisconsin and Iowa to return rental cars-it's a long story that involves a cancelled flight at Chicago O'Hare airport during the last game of the World Series when the Chicago Cubs won for the first time-

I was asked by 4 separate people in 4 different places:

“Where you from? You ain't from round here.”

One of whom was a toothless truck driver who thought I might like to see his bumper sticker that was an outline of a pin up girl holding a garden tool.

It read: Every farmer needs a good ho!

When he finished laughing and slapping his knee (really, he actually knee slapped himself) he invited me into the cab of his truck.

Toothless truck driver: Maybe you'd like me to show you other things you won't see out there in California. Maybe you'd like me to teach you a thing or two.

It was at that moment I assumed the person pumping the gas into our rentals was pumping diesel so that the car would stop in a half a mile and they could come “rescue me”.

People keep pointing out that he was just a trucker…and I keep pointing out that I am just a woman and it spooked me. I felt fear. The kind I haven't for a while. The kind that is intentional. The kind you can see in their eyes.   That they want to teach you a lesson. The kind that should be unacceptable in a modern society.
When I returned to the bar this time-

Trump had just been given Florida.

One of our cast mates hangs up his phone.

Cast Mate #2: My kids are in tears. They don't understand what is happening. I told them it was going to be fine and not to worry.

The bar was now mostly empty. Except for our group, Murph the bartender, a 21 year old blonde bartender who never smiled and a man who it turns out was speaking on the panel about the Nuremberg Trials before our show the next night. We talked about the precedent that Hitler set with his rhetoric of hate. We talked about his focus on how “others” were the problem and his meteoric rise to power. We talked about how quickly the tide can shift. We acknowledged how terrifying it is that his language is mirrored to a tee by Trump as we waited to see how Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Wisconsin were going to turn out.

Dessert was definitely required.

The 21 year old blonde bartender who never smiled came over.

Me: I'll have the crème brulee with 6 spoons please. How is this night for you? How do you feel about this election?

She scoffs.

Blonde Bartender: I'm just getting through it. Is that it? The kitchen is closing.

Me: Yes, that's it.

The crème brulee didn't help.

States that had seemed to be locked up were changing from blue to red.

Another cast mate hangs up his phone.

Cast Mate #3: I don't know what to tell my son. He has a Muslim girlfriend. What am I supposed to tell my son?

It was 1 AM. I'd never been on the east coast for an election. I'm used to Los Angeles where you have a new President by 10.

The bar was closing.   It was me and 2 cast mates, the 2 bartenders and the staff of the hotel. All but the blonde bartender looked like they'd seen a disaster.

I felt like I had just watched the World Trade Center towers fall again. It felt as personal as that day did. An attack on our freedom. Our way of life.

We retreated to our rooms, in shock.

The next day-I felt like I'd been hit by a truck. And the morning news didn't bring a sudden miracle.

I walked to the bagel place on campus. It was cold, sunny and windy.

trees-theater

A very tall athlete brushed past me. I felt invisible. I felt like I had a target on my back.

On the sidewalk someone had scrawled in pastel colored chalk:

Love Trumps Hate

love trumps hate

Standing in line, I overheard 2 undergrads mumbling to each other.

Female Undergrad: I don't really get what the big deal is?

Male Undergrad: I don't know. Everybody always overreacts. I mean what can happen in 4 years?

I felt like a crazy person. I felt scared.

The show that night was the kind of show you dream about. And never want to perform at the same time. Our mutual shock over what had transpired in the last 24 hours had turned to anger. Purpose.

If we were gonna be in the good state of Indiana where Mike Pence is the Governor we are going to leave it all on the stage. We are not going to leave a stone unturned. We are going to tell the fuck out of this story and hold our heads up high.

We had developed a camaraderie that you can only find on the front lines. With the people you go to war with.

Fighting the good fight.

Fighting for right by showing the humanity of being wrong.

The show was tragic and terrifying as these words that we had been saying for the last 3.5 weeks were ringing true. These words took on a new meaning.

There is a monologue in the climax of the play.

The character Ernst Janning, the pre-eminent Judge on trial for war crimes, is confessing to his part in upholding the law. He paints the scene as to how these crimes could have happened.

“There are devils among us. Communists, Liberals, Jews, Gypsies! Once the devils will be destroyed, your miseries will be destroyed…What difference does it make if a few political extremists lose their rights? What difference does it make if a few racial minorities lose their rights? It is only a passing phase. It is only a stage we are going through…It will be discarded sooner or later.”

I and my cast mates were in tears in the wings.

It wasn't until I returned home on Thanksgiving Day that I actually felt the weight of reality. Everything has started to normalize. Everyone is getting on with their day. And after standing on stages across this country for the last 5 weeks, I feel impotent. On stage everything makes sense. I am doing something. I am contributing to the world. I am an ambassador for peace. What do I do now?

Politics are a mirror the same way art is.

It is easy to sit in Los Angeles and say “How could anyone vote for him?” I know I did.

If you want to know how someone voted for him, ask them.

And then listen to what they say in return.

If you listen to someone's fear instead of their hate-they will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about why they are the way they are.

We seem to live in a time where everyone has to agree to be respectful. It's actually the opposite. Respect for humanity is out of the sameness of us all being people. Not because we are all the same.

Fighting for the good of all includes all, even those we don't agree with. Especially those who don't agree with us, because those victories are the hardest won and lost.

Wiser people than me have said that dialogue is the only true path to peace.

There is work to do.


Female Fusion Spotlight on Debbie Devine

Female Fusion -- At the intersection of art and action

A column highlighting and exploring the careers of women creating art and changing the world, one community at a time.

Debbie Devine
Artistic Director of 24th Street Theatre, Director of Drama at the Colburn School and a director for artistic programing at the LA Philharmonic

Debbie Devine

Debbie Devine Directing Hansel and Gretel, Bluegrass with Caleb Foote (Hansel) Angela Giarratana (Gretel)

Debbie Devine has a great laugh. Deep throated, full and infectious, it invites you to actively take part in the conversation. When you do, what a joy ride you will experience! The discussion ricochets between theater, music, education, and human rights - illuminating all of the places where they intersect in a gorgeous kaleidoscope of life and one woman's astonishing career.

debbie-devine-headshot-1

Debbie Devine. Photo courtesy of 24th Street Theatre

Ms. Devine is a director, an educator, a writer and an advocate. She moves seamlessly from one to the other, often occupying several spaces at once. She is the founder and artistic director of 24th Street Theatre, whose mission statement reads, “To engage, educate, and provoke our diverse community with excellent theatre and arts education.” 24th Street Theatre creates gorgeous work that is family inclusive, but in no way simplified or generic. The work is multi-layered, innovative in its content and vision and without fail intensely moving. The list of awards and accolades is much longer than this column can accommodate. In addition to what would be, for most people, more than full time job, she is the Chair of Drama for the Colburn School (both dance and music) and an artistic director for the LA Philharmonic, where she creates content and programs that bring the music and process of creating music to life for young audiences.

When I asked Ms. Devine how she found her calling she recounted that, like many people in the theater community, she was a painfully shy kid, someone absolutely unable to communicate. Her mother was concerned and as a last resort put her in a summer theater program. It worked. She found her life's passion, saying that “it was such an incredible experience for me to understand how the voice is used...how making believe and then actually being able to believe what is make believe can change lives.” She began working professionally as an actress while still in high school and started her teaching career while still quite young.

It was as a high school drama teacher that she found her path. She was working in a school for deeply troubled kids when Jack Black walked into her room. Ms. Devine's relationship with this incredible actor, singer, musician and comedian is well documented. He has, as in this LA Times quote, often credited her with saving him. “I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't met Deb Devine, who inspired me and for the first time gave me a reason to really love going to school. [She] opened my mind and soul to an exciting world of literature and communication.... All of a sudden I knew all these new things.” She was able to get past his rough exterior and helped him uncover the brilliance that was hidden inside. They have stayed close over the years, even sharing a Rose Bowl float in 2015 in honor of their joint initiative, Thank A Million Teachers, which does just that.

It is easy to go down the celebrity worm hole and focus on this ongoing and charming partnership, but Ms. Devine has saved, and I don't use that word lightly, many many people over the years. After she broke through with Mr. Black she said, “I started to look around and I realized that this is happening with all of these kids and I started to realize that this art form [theater], it's magic.” In 1997 she founded 24th Street Theatre with her partner Jay McAdams. It has grown into an internationally recognized organization dedicated to blending professional productions presented by world-class artists with quality arts education. In addition to these critically acclaimed shows, many of which debut here in LA and then tour nationally and internationally, there are arts education programs, community outreach programs and continuing arts education and professional development programs for school teachers.

We spoke in depth about the theater's production of Mike Kenny's Walking the Tightrope, which premiered 24th Street in 2012 and went on to win numerous awards, including a best direction award from LA Weekly for Ms. Devine and Best Production from the LA Drama Critics Circle. It is currently touring the country. We spoke of the power and beauty of the piece, which is the tale of a grandfather who is not quite able to bring himself to tell his 5 year-old granddaughter that Grandma is gone and in the process goes about building a beautiful new relationship with her. The play is incredibly moving, in a truly visceral way. Ms. Devine explained the process of approaching the story not as a child's tale but rather as the grandfather's story. The grandfather is suicidal and believes he cannot go on, but in trying to explain his wife's absence to this child, he finds a way to continue. That is really the mission of the theater and the method to building family friendly productions; tell a simple story in a truthful way that has meaning and sophistication.

One of the programs at the theater which speaks directly to the community at this moment in time is called Enter Stage Right. A part of the Field Trip series, it is a 90 minute show about the magic of theater. The show culminates in a scene set in 1870 at a train depot at which a Mexican mother and her child are stopped from getting onto the train by a racist Irishman. Many issues are explored through music and improvisational acting throughout the show. Ultimately you find a relatable dynamic for modern audiences between the mother and child; the child can read and is able to navigate the situation by standing up for their rights. Literacy and standing up to injustice are illustrated in a very familiar way to the 10,000 students a year see this show, as many of these children are in a similar situation with their own parents, serving as translators for them in Los Angeles. Teaching artists go to the children's classes before and after the field trip to share and explore why the Irishman is so cruel, how to speak truth in intimidating circumstances and how history can teach us about the present.

24th Street Theatre occupies an amazing old building in the predominantly Latino neighborhood near USC. The theater is an old carriage house originally built in 1928. This is truly a community space; always open so that people can come in for a tour, a cup of tea or simply companionship. In addition to the Field Trip programs there is an after school program, After ‘Cool which brings teenagers into the fold and helps them develop into ambassadors and translators to help with bilingual programing. There are additional leadership programs and The Teatro del Pueblo series which brings the parents of all of those kids into the theater and has them create a play. This serves to further strengthen ties to the community and increases the number of Spanish speaking audience members exposed to live theater. Finally, there is a professional development program for teachers. They basically get to experience a three hour acting class with both a live musician and film/technical director in order to create stories. Part of this process is curriculum based and connected to the core standards so that they can take what they learn back to their students. The second and arguably more important piece reminds teachers why they became teachers in the first place. The process of creating art reconnects teachers, these teachers who get so caught up in the day to day bureaucracy of the school system, to their hearts and reinvigorates them as they re-enter the classroom. This is a theater that is as much about life as it is art.

How, then, does her work at 24th Street compare to her duties at both the Colburn School and the LA Philharmonic? She works with composers, musicians and conductors, at both venues and with symphonies around the country, teaching workshops on how to communicate about music with people. Many musicians don't naturally talk about their art and Ms. Devine helps them bridge the gap between their solo work and the people that they work with and for. She points out that a musician can practice solo for six or eight hours at a time and never have to speak to another soul! Speaking to other artists, audience, members and donors can take practice and the workshops facilitate that. The second part of her work in these venues, which is similar to her work with 24th Street, involves building, as a director and co-writer, original theatrical pieces which support library cuts of music that the Philharmonic is playing. She directs and co-writes a theatrical story which supports the music. The current piece that she is working on with Joanne Pierce Martin, the head keyboardist at the Philharmonic, is called The Art of the Piano. The piece is about the relationship between the pianist, the piano tuner and the piano. This is one of three pieces this year. She does similar work at Colburn, both coaching musicians and creating stories.

When I asked jokingly asked her about hobbies or outside interests, knowing that she couldn't possibly have time for them, she laughed that awesome laugh and agreed that maybe she needs an outlet, but that she loves what she does and that is everything.

Ms. Devine's current show is Hansel and Gretel, Bluegrass, currently running through December 11 (with a possible extension) at 24th Street Theatre. It has received rave reviews. The LA Times says, “ Masterful staging by 24th Street co-founder Debbie Devine situates the fine performances within a stunning visual tableau. ….The play's message about interdependence may seem simple enough, but this is no kiddie show. The siblings' trials are a rite of passage to adulthood, one with intentional implicit relevance to today's headlines about desperate parents in troubled regions trying to send their children out of harm's way.” It appears to be exactly what is needed in these dangerous and uncharted times.

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Equity National Member Meeting on Nov. 7 at the Sportsmans Lodge in Studio City

TO ALL EQUITY MEMBERS:
Monday the 7th at 11am, at the Sportsmans Lodge in Studio City -- a National Meeting.
We will vote on two new rules to reform Member input into Equity decisions.
If you're thinking this is not an important meeting -- THINK AGAIN!
RSVP HERE or LOG ONTO THE EQUITY WEBSITE TO FIND THE RSVP LINK:
For in-depth info, here's Leo Marks' letter about these two referendums, which he initiated:
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You might remember that we recently had an Equity Special Membership Meeting scheduled, then suddenly cancelled. It's now finally been rescheduled for Monday, November 7th.
 
Please don't skip this one! This one is really important. 
 
If you've been frustrated by top-down, one-sided communication from Equity leadership, this meeting is your chance to finally do something about it.
 
RSVP here
Then show up at the Special Membership Meeting 
Monday, November 7th at 11am
Sportsmen's Lodge
12825 Ventura Blvd. (at Coldwater Canyon)
Studio City
 
and vote to reform the rules of how our Union communicates.
 
It's highly possible that in coming days, Equity will come after membership companies like Antaeus. When that happens, it will be vital that we have a voice in our Union to make our case. These reforms are designed to give us that voice.
The Short Version
Here's what the meeting is about: I've written reforms to Equity's rules that create more fairness and openness in communication, and make one-sided propaganda campaigns a lot harder. 
 
One reform requires our Union to acknowledge dissenting viewpoints. The other reform creates a way for members to communicate with each other directly. 
 
At this Special Membership Meeting, a 2/3 majority of those who show up can pass these reforms. If you've been saying you wish you could DO something about the way our Union communicates: YOU CAN. But only if you show up.
 
This will be close: your attendance really matters. We have one shot at changing the rules.
If you want more openness and less one-sidedness, then RSVP and show up onNovember 7th
We won't get another shot at this.
 
The meeting will be held, simultaneously, in: 
 
New York 
2 p.m. EST
Actors' Equity Association
14th Floor Council Rm.
165 West 46th St.
New York, NY 10036
 
Chicago 
1 p.m. CST
Actors' Equity Association
3rd Floor Conference Rm.
557 West Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60661
 
Los Angeles 
11 a.m. PST
Sportsmen's Lodge
The Empire Ballroom
12825 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City, CA 91604
 
That's the overview, and might be all you need to know.
Now, if you're hungry for more detail, read on.
 
The Deep Version
These are 2 amendments to the By-Laws of the AEA Constitution. Stay awake! It gets interesting. The first amendment would update an existing By-Law that is pretty clearly outdated. “Article 7” says that when Equity communicates about a referendum, it has to include differing viewpoints (if any). That's just good basic fairness--but as written, the language applies only to paper mailings, and not to other forms of communication, which in 2016 kind of undermines its own purpose. It's an easy fix: to serve the article's clear intent, we can simply expand it to include other media. So that's what this amendment does.
 
It's very hard to see any principled argument for opposing this amendment. It simply closes a giant loophole in an existing rule, to make it apply to the forms of communication we actually use today. Like the existing rule, it says that if enough members hold a dissenting view to a referendum, their voice should be heard.
 
The other amendment would allow members to communicate with each other directly. If you think about it, it's strange that we don't have any real way to reach each other. Facebook is one corrective to that, but Facebook groups reach only a small fraction of members, while AEA leadership can reach all 50,000 members at will. It can only strengthen us collectively to be able to share our concerns and ideas at times, through an email to fellow members.
 
Of course, it's important to prevent abuse, so we've built in some very clear limits: 
·      You need 250 signatures to access this tool. 
·      For the sake of privacy, all emails would be sent by a third party service, so as a sender you don't get access to anyone's email address. 
·      The sender would pay for any associated costs. You can't use it to promote your show or for political endorsements. 
·      And most importantly: any member can choose to opt out of receiving these emails at any time.
 
(Essentially, this is the same tool we currently offer to Council candidates who want to reach the membership, with a few extra safeguards built in).
 
You might hear people say “But I don't want my inbox flooded.” Remember: anyone can opt out at any time. No one will be forced to receive unwanted emails, and no one's private information will be shared. We simply need a way to communicate with each other—as opposed to passively receiving messages, which is the flawed current system.
 
These are straightforward, common-sense ways to make sure members' concerns are heard, not ignored or denied. Though I think Pro99ers are natural supporters, because they've seen how easily the current system can be abused, these reforms are totally independent of any particular issue. They're about basic fairness and openness. 
 
Support for these reforms comes from an extremely wide range of members, from a dozen cities in all three regions (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Seattle, Ashland, Houston, Washington, D.C., Portland, Oregon and Portland, Maine). 
 
If you've ever been bothered by the way our Union communicates: RSVP and come to the 11/7 meeting!
 
And please forward this to Equity members you know who care about basic fairness and open communication!!