Announcing the Formation of the OC Theatre Guild

The OC Theatre Guild has officially been founded and formed by an acting Council consisting of the following Orange County Theatre community members:

Amanda Demaio, President
Kristin Campbell, Vice President
Oanh Nguyen, Secretary
Tamiko Washington, Treasurer
Brian Newell, Brian Page, and Jeff Lowe as Council Members

After years of development and consideration, the OC Theatre Guild is prepared to move forward with its mission to nurture, support, and promote live theatre in Greater Orange County. The OC Theatre Guild is inclusive and open to all to join in making our theatre communities a better place for everyone, cast, crew, theatre organizations, and audiences.

Memberships are available as both an Individual at $50, and an Organization/Producer at $250.

Interested parties can sign up at www.OCTheatreGuild.org

Membership brings with it an invitation to help shape and enjoy many short terms and long term goals including:

Individual Membership:

Support of the OC Theatre Guild and its mission
Theater ticket discounts
Free or discounted admission to industry workshop and events
Membership vote for OC Theatre Guild board members
Recognition on OCTheatreGuild.org
Expanded networking opportunities

Organization Membership:

Support of the OC Theatre Guild and its mission
Cross -Promotion, collaborative marketing efforts like the Program Inserts for all participating member theaters
Participation in the Annual General Season Auditions
Access to post on the OC Theatre Guild Facebook page
Consideration for the Annual OC Theatre Guild Awards Ceremony
Membership vote for OC Theatre Guild board members
Recognition on OCTheatreGuild.org
Expanded networking opportunities

Becoming a member will also allow an individual to self-nominate for the inaugural OC Theatre Guild Board. The Board is responsible for approving all Guild plans and activities, giving one an opportunity to help shape OC Theatre as a whole. Those interested in serving on the board can self-nomination through OCTheatreGuild.org by March 15, 2019. Voting for these positions will begin April 1, 2019.

For more information visit OCTheatreGuild.org


A Contemporary Glass Menagerie: Five Questions for Actor Rafael Goldstein

Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie is as classic and American a drama as they come. Most of us have had to study it – perhaps in drama school or high school literature class. It exists in a place somewhere between venerable literary text and dramatic playscript. Like memory, as Williams invokes it in the script, our perspective on the play is often-times romantic, soft, nostalgic. However, what has always fascinated me about the play as it appears on the page (particularly in Tennessee Williams' stage directions) is how experimental, meta-theatrical, and innovative the piece wanted to be. Fourth wall address, projections of imagery and text, and expressionistic music are prominently featured as narrative devises. Sounds like something out of a Paula Vogel text. But it was Williams. Rest assured.

Now, more than 70 years since The Glass Menagerie first appeared on Broadway, A Noise Within is reviving the work. Recently, I interviewed actor Rafael Goldstein, who is playing Tom Wingfield in the Geoff Elliot-helmed production. We could not help but gush over what it means to return this play to its technologically and meta-theatrically adventuresome roots in A Noise Within's current production.

Roger Q. Mason (RQM): The Glass Menagerie is noted for innovating the contemporary memory play. Playing Tom, what was your process navigating his memories of his family and his dilemma in the present?

Rafael Goldstein (RG): That is the primary challenge of playing Tom. He is, at once, something of an omniscient narrator, while also being helpless in the riptide of his own memories. He is capable of looking back on his earlier life and analyzing the circumstances of his departure from his family with the benefit of years of experience, but when he is inside the action of the play he is completely overwhelmed, living it, victimized by it. Williams, like Proust, knew about the incredible potency of memory. In the final monologue of the play, Tom says that “a bit of familiar music” or “a piece of transparent glass” can make his long-lost sister manifest physically. Whether this is meant poetically or not, I have found it helpful, in the playing of it, to take Williams at his word.

RQM: I love director Geoff Elliot's notion that Amanda's protection of her children is the very thing that is decaying them and preventing them from growing. Do you think Tom made the right move walking away from his mother and sister? What do you think happened to Laura afterwards?

RG: The tragedy of the Wingfield family is that they love each other desperately but don't know how to navigate their individual priorities or desires without hurting one another. I don't know if Tom's decision to leave his mother and sister can be couched in terms of “right” or “wrong”. I think it is a necessity.

Animals gnaw off limbs to get themselves out of traps. Kasey Mahaffy and Erika Soto, who play Jim the Gentleman Caller and Laura Wingfield, came up to me after a recent run-through and said it's clear, in our production, that Tom has to get out in order to survive, but the price to pay is everlasting regret - a piece of him will always be missing. I'm not sure what might have happened to Laura after Tom leaves, but I don't think it could have been good. Their mother has left them nearly incapable of living in the real world. When Amanda dies, where does Laura go? She has no friends, no family. It is not a pleasant thought.

RQM: The piece is unapologetically autobiographical. What can you share about the real-life story which inspired the play?

RG: According to a couple of biographies I've read on Williams, this play is very close to the bone. Apparently, his mother Edwina Williams was as verbally expansive and as cutting as Amanda is in the play. Their relationship was close, but fraught. She was in the theater on opening night of the original production. His father, unlike Tom's, did not leave the family and headed to Mexico, but was emotionally absent and hard-drinking. A year before The Glass Menagerie premiered, Williams' sister, Rose, underwent a lobotomy at the urging of her mother. She was in her early thirties. She spent the rest of her life in institutions, paid for by Williams and then, after his death, by his estate.

RQM: Another thing I am obsessed with in this play is how experimental it actually is on the page - slides of images, sub textual quotes meant for projection, movement in front of and behind screens and fourth wall address. Are you guys embracing those more expressionistic elements of the play in your production?

RG: We are. When Glass first premiered in the mid-1940s, the technology didn't exist that would have honored Williams' stage directions, which are extensive. Now, as Tom, I can motion to the stage manager in the booth in the middle of a direct-address monologue and, as if by magic, a slide will appear with an image of blue roses, or a basketball star, etc. When I first encountered The Glass Menagerie, I thought it was burdened with the “Great American Play” designation, which, in my mind, meant that it was concerned with realism and subtlety. While those things are present in the actual playing of scenes, the framework that Williams sets up in the very beginning of the play keeps it from being a simple “kitchen sink drama.” The fact that Williams was dismayed at the technical limitations of the original production speaks to how far ahead of his time he was, as well as his high ambitions for the theatre-making world generally.

RQM: This production marks the return of ANW legend Deborah Strang to the role of Amanda. What is one thing you learned working with her?

RG: I learn something from Deborah every time I work with her. She is a tremendously generous actor - diligent, curious, always looking for new ways to work scenes. Sometimes actors who have played a role previously feel they can get away with repeating choices that they made in the past. Not so with Deborah. It's a rare joy to be on stage with someone you know so well who is looking at you as if for the first time, every time. I strive to have that kind of in-the-moment discovery that she brings to every role she assays.

For more information about this production, visit ANoiseWithin.org/play/glass-menagerie

Featured image: Raphael Goldstein as Tom Wingfield and Deborah Strang as Amanda Wingfield. Photo: Craig Schwartz


Now Registered on the Better Lemons Calendar – February 25 - March 3, 2019

Theatrical shows registered on the Better Lemons calendar!
For more shows visit our Calendar.
For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page.

Attack of the Second Bananas

“Who killed beloved stage stars Ruby Moss and Andrea Hammond? Find out as the LAPD detective on the case pieces together the clues. Attack of the Second Bananas is a comedy noir about the ultimate price of fame. Running time is 90 minutes with no intermission. WORLD PREMIERE.”

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Light's Out: Nat “King” Cole

“In this electrifying exploration into the soul of an American icon, Tony and Olivier Award nominee Colman Domingo and Patricia McGregor imagine Nat “King” Cole as he faces the final Christmastime broadcast of his groundbreaking variety show and weighs the advice of his friend Sammy Davis Jr. to “go out with a bang.” Cole's hit songs, such as “Nature Boy,” “It's a Good Day” and “Smile,” underscore this boldly original homage to the renowned performer who struggled to break through America's color barrier in the early days of television. A feast for the eyes, ears and soul, the musical incorporates lively choreography by Broadway veteran Edgar Godineaux and dazzling tap dance steeped in politics and pizzazz created by renowned hoofer Jared Grimes.”

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1=0

“An unemployed, divorced theoretical physicist has an online relationship with a man claiming to be a Syrian refugee. When the relationship goes offline, it paradoxically becomes less real.”

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FRIENDS WITH GUNS

“You think you know your friends, your neighbors, your spouse, but what happens when you suddenly find out they have a garage full of guns? This new dark comedy explores the complicated issue of gun proliferation when two young liberal couples are forced to confront their assumptions about who should own a gun and why. The time of easy answers regarding this issue is long gone. In the wake of current events, we are all forced to reexamine our strongly held beliefs about gun ownership. Friends With Guns explores the question of what we can compartmentalize…and what we can't. It examines what happens when guns enter the conversation. It pulls the curtain back on liberals with guns. It asks what happens when suddenly one person in a marriage does a 180 on the gun issue. And it does all of this through a female lens.”

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The Journey of the Little Prince

“A sensory experience that follows the Little Prince in his interplanetary journey that will leave audiences inspired to explore their inner child for we all have one deep inside.”

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Blue for Mister Charlie

“A sensation in its New York premiere at the Actor's Studio, this searing drama by one of America's leading writers retains all its power to this day. Richard, a black man who is a former junkie returns to his parochial southern town and infuriates the denizens with his incendiary talk and actions. When he is killed by a poor, illiterate, white man, the murder, the eulogy, the trial, and the acquittal are presented in an abstract dramatic form of time, fury, and passion.”

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Portrait of a Soul - workshop performance

“Featuring Corryn Cummins, James Hal Hardy and Maxi Witrak, PORTRAIT OF A SOUL is the story of a young woman whose life is shadowed by sexual assault experienced in her teenage years. The encounter with her abuser, a now famous artist, gives her a chance to confront him face to face, and she'll find unexpected closure from the unusual relationship they develop.
A new way of making theatre that'll catapult the audience into a world of art, mental illness and broken relationships, while offering a chance to meet other creative souls.”

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Disaster! The Musical

“Earthquakes, tidal waves, infernos and the unforgettable songs of the ‘70s take center stage in Broadway's side-splitting homage to classic disaster films. Disaster! is a new musical straight from Broadway, featuring some of the most unforgettable songs of the ‘70s. “Knock on Wood,” “Hooked on a Feeling,” Sky High,” “Mocking Bird” and “Hot Stuff” in a “hilarious tribute to the era of bell-bottoms, platform shoes and the hustle. With larger-than-life characters, snappy dialogue and some of the most recognizable songs of the ‘70s, Disaster! will have you dancing in your seat and rolling in the aisles.”

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Nine

“Nine is the story of a celebrated film director Guido Contini and his attempts to come up with a plot for his next film as he is pursued by hordes of beautiful women, all clamoring to be loved by him and him alone. Flashbacks reveal the substance of his life which will become the material for his next film: a musical version of the Casanova story. Based on Italian director Federico Felini's comic masterpiece of biographical filmmaking, 8 1/2. Maury Yeston's sultry and enchanting musical follows the life of this world famous film director as he prepares his latest picture and balances the numerous women in his life. Contino is also, after recent box office failures, drifting towards a nervous breakdown, from which he is held back only by the support of his wife, Luisa.  As his sanity disintegrates, he drifts into nostalgic reverie, eventually focusing on the formative sexual encounter of his life, which occurred at the age of nine.”

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In the Penal Colony

“An explorer visits an island where blind conformity has no rational connection between crime and punishment. Kafka's ingenious metaphor about man's inhumanity to man is heightened by Glass' hypnotic score. Witness the internal conflict of the innocent bystander; to act or to do nothing.”

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Life Beyond Prison

“Experiences of formerly incarcerated persons. The Rising Scholars Justice Lab comprises individuals who are now pursuing academic degrees. They will discuss the trauma of being in jail, their personal trust issues, and having a criminal record. The California Innocence Project takes on cases of wrongful incarceration. The event also includes performances by artists affiliated with LBO.”

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Guilty Until Proven Innocent

“Mr. Tyler was the youngest person ever convicted of the death penalty and was incarcerated in Angola prison for 41 years before having his sentence overturned and being released in 2016.”

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Black Lives, the Arts, and Mattering

“Acclaimed composer Anthony Davis shares his inspiration for writing The Central Park Five, which will receive its world premiere at LBO June 15, 2019. He is joined by performers from the opera. The panel explores how music and art are used in activism and how classical music can more effectively participate in activism.”

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The Central Park Five

“World premiere opera composed by Anthony Davis. In 1980's New York, five African American and Latino teenagers were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were unjustly convicted of a Central Park crime but exonerated through DNA evidence thirteen years later. Davis' opera is a passionate story about an issue that still rocks America today.”

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Crazy Woke Asians Solo Performance Festival

“Crazy Woke Asians, the sold out comedy show presents a Solo Performance Festival at Santa Monica Playhouse. This year's festival showcases over 15 Asian American comedians, actors and writers. The shows range from touching autobiographical stories to stand-up comedy acts, from clown burlesque to magic with music, poetry, and more Thursdays through Sundays, March 14-24, 2019.
Each night will feature two or three performers, with special guest stars to round out the evening. All tickets come with a complimentary glass of wine, and there is a Festival Pass ticket available for those who want to attend several (or all!) shows. Plus, the first Friday and final Sunday of the festival will have post-show celebrations featuring food from Ish Kitchen.”

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The Wolves

“Left quad. Right quad. Lunge. A girls indoor soccer team warms up. From the safety of their suburban stretch circle, these 16- and 17-year-olds navigate big questions and wage tiny battles with the ferociousness of a pack of adolescent warriors. New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley calls Sarah DeLappe's extraordinary debut play “theater that keeps you on the edge of your seat.” Co-winner of the American Playwriting Foundation's inaugural Relentless Award and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the Yale Drama Series Prize.”

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I'm Jennifer Mother F*cking Lawrence

“Actress Jennifer Lawrence has some pretty intense fears, and she's about to tackle her first one; a spider. ”

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ROALD DAHL'S MATILDA THE MUSICAL

“Based on the beloved novel by Roald Dahl, Tony Award-winning MATILDA THE MUSICAL will dazzle audiences of all ages at the Civic Arts Plaza this spring! With inspiring and fun songs and lyrics written by Tim Minchin, this extraordinary girl will show you how a sharp mind and vivid imagination can help you change your destiny!”

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Kentwood Players Presents Sunday In The Park With George

“Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical, the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical and multiple Tony Awards, SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE, was inspired by the life of French pointillist, George Seurat. With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Lapine, the plot revolves around the creation of his masterpiece, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” George, an intense and passionate artist, struggles to not only create his paintings but also to maintain a relationship with his long-time mistress, Dot. The second act connects to the first while focusing on another George, Seurat and Dot's great grandson, also struggling to find meaning in art and the need to connect to the past, present and future. A white canvas, so many possibilities.”

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STEEL MAGNOLIAS

“Actors Co-op presents Robert Harling's Steel Magnolias, directed by Cameron Watson, produced by Lauren Thompson. Set in a small town beauty salon in Louisiana, Steel Magnolias celebrates the bond of friendship between six women in the midst of life's challenges. Based on the playwright's upbringing, and later adapted into the critically acclaimed film, Steel Magnolias is a humorous, yet devastating journey of friendship, loss, and love.”

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THE SECRET OF CHIMNEYS

“The Group Rep presents a long-lost Agatha Christie play The Secret of Chimneys, directed by Jules Aaron, produced by Kathleen Delaney & Kevin Hoffman, Jr. In this mystery, a cosmopolitan adventurer on a mission discovers more than he bargained for when he arrives at an English country house and finds himself in the center of a murderous international conspiracy. This sinister plot of stolen diamonds, secret oil concessions and exiled royalty unfolds under the purview of both Scotland Yard and the French Surete. Chimneys is Christie at her best: a comedy of manners laced with murder!”

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BRUSHES: A Comedy of Hairs

“MB Artists and the Whitefire Theatre present the world premiere of BRUSHES: A Comedy of Hairs, written by Cathy Hamilton and Carol Starr Schneider, directed by Kevin Bailey. BRUSHES untangles the hysterically complicated relationship between women and their hair since time immemorial. Brushes with disaster, vanity, envy, self-doubt, sex, death – even the law – are explored in hilarious and poignant style. In a series of vignettes, the follicular follies flow from the Bad Hair Days Inn to a new salon on the block called Blow Me Now.”

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Mean Gays

“It's survival of the fiercest when Kimmy Chi (RuPaul's Drag Race Season 8 finalist Kim Chi), a home-schooled transfer student from South Korea, moves to an American high school ruled by drag queen girl-gang The Plastics, led by the terrifying Willam George (RuPaul's Drag Race Season 4 firebrand Willam, currently stealing scenes opposite Lady Gaga in Bradley Cooper's A Star Is Born), and her ignorant band of loyal followers, Peaches “Swallows” Wieners (Peaches Christ) and stoner dingbat Laganja Smith (RuPaul's Drag Race Season 6 standout Laganja Estranja, also seen in the Netflix series Dancing Queen). Will Kimmy fit in with these mean gays, or will they throw her under the school bus? Mean Gays is a hilariously irreverent live musical parody of the 2004 cult classic film Mean Girls starring Lindsay Lohan, Tina Fey, and Rachel McAdams.”

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Ashton's Audio Interview: The cast of “Anna Karenina” at the Actors Co-op

Helen Edmudson's Anna Karenina is an upside-down telling of Leo Tolstoy's classic tale. A story wrapped in temptation, passion, and moral conflict, this eight-person dramatic event is a fast-paced examination of love, adultery, and marriage.* Enjoy this interview with the cast of “Anna Karenina” at the Actors Co-op, extended through Mar 23rd. 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

WE NOW KNOW WE ARE NOT ALONE: 5 Questions with Jesse Bliss

Writer. Director. Producer. Actor. Activist. Mother. Jesse Bliss does it all. I first met Jesse when we were both taking a writing course at UCLA under the tutelage of famed writer/instructor Leon Martell. What impressed me about her was how she USED theatre as a vehicle of social transformation and civic action. The nexus of some of this work is her theatre company The Roots and Wings Project (RAW Project). Through March 10, RAW Project will be presenting an evening of song, dance and language called MATRIARCH centering on the complexities of mothers and motherhood.
For more information on this show, visit: facebook.com/events/2197437173856678

Roger Q. Mason (RQM): How did Matriarch begin?

Jesse Bliss (JB): I had come to a place in my life where I was at peace with being an artist over having a family. I had always wanted to be a mother, however the lifestyle of an artist and the choices I'd always made to put my work above all else, made it perfectly clear I could only be with a partner who understood my needs as an artist so that I could do both and do them each well. I realized that context may never exist and finally, after praying to the spirit of my child, released the idea of motherhood for this life unless the universe showed me otherwise, and came to peace with the fact that because of my deep commitment to my art, it may never happen that I'd find a partner who could understand how to have a cornerstone of equity while raising a family and creating work, all the while sharing the responsibilities of love and care for the child, household work, plus finances.

Low and behold I fell madly in love, seeming to have found this context much to my surprise. It all happened very fast. We had a big wedding. I'm remaining silent about the details, but what I will say is that the equity I'd firmly believed was there, was not. I'd been working as an artist literally up until I gave birth having directed my play TREE OF FIRE at The Rosenthal Theater at Inner-City Arts. However, I had a very challenging pregnancy with many medical complications and thus a difficult birth. It left me needing to heal and recover. During that time, I was very much alone. I was more thrilled to be a mother than any role I'd ever been given in this life, however, my fantasy of partnership was shattered. In the countless hours of breastfeeding, I'd have pieces of paper and notebooks with pens lying around the house so if I was suddenly breastfeeding somewhere unable to move, there was accessible paper. I'd stare out the windows at my passing neighbors and up at the palm trees, loving my baby and having the epiphany of all epiphanies about womanhood, understanding it all differently and more clearly than ever before---women have historically been put in the home and our advancement into the workforce only doubled our work load. Here I was working full time running a theatre department at a private school plus teaching on the side at The Geffen while nursing all night and struggling to find places to pump in the day.

Nicole Mae Martin Photgrapher: Ivan Cordeiro

Seated in my living room, while breastfeeding: I got struck like lightening with both the title and idea at once. MATRIARCH would allow women to speak out about the oppression we've been living, allow me to work in an ensemble without having to be away from my baby for endless hours like in a traditional play, and bring light and awareness around the hidden truths of motherhood and the oppression of women.

The first writer I thought of was Patricia Zamorano. I'd played the lead in her play YOU DON'T KNOW ME. I wanted to know more about the story, particularly the dynamic about her and her mother. When I hit her up she let me know that she wasn't a mother and seemed surprised I'd considered her for this work. I reminded her that she'd become her mother's mother when her mother was severely burned (and later blinded) in a fire.

She was stunned and in turn found great healing in writing that riveting story. I began tapping other writers I knew had something profound to share and a perspective to offer that would alter perception and give piercing truth.

Our first reading was at a bar at Union Station. People were laughing and crying on both sides of the stage. Passersby were stopping, arrested by the work. It was then and there we collectively knew there was something very powerful that needed further life.

I was suddenly less alone and able to share space and time with potent artists and engage dialogue around the work. I found this entirely healing and necessary in a world where women are objectified and silenced. My baby was on my hip through it all as being with her has, and remains to be, my number one objective. I embody all things wild and completely domestic at once.

Ramy El-Etreby Photographer: Ivan Cordeiro

RQM: You've done the show many times within the last few years.  How has the show grown and changed over the different iterations?

JB: It became clear we needed to include our male allies. Because someone is a woman does not make them an ally and because someone is a man doesn't make them an enemy.

So many women completely sign on to the poison of patriarchy and also there are men who are strong allies. For example, in the case of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, her work didn't happen because of him, but she was able to navigate and break boundaries because he had her back and believed in her to such a degree that she was able to be an unstoppable force. He moved cities for her work. He sacrificed whenever necessary to ensure her rise.

This type of ally promotes our advancement and enforces our voices. Throughout history, oppression has been overcome by those being oppressed joining forces with allies to create a movement. Angela Davis' book WOMEN RACE & CLASS does a great job of exemplifying this point as does her entire body of life's work.

Women have only been legal citizens a short time, previously owned by men on paper through marriage. We've barely been allowed to vote or enter the work force or college and still make so much less than men, yet have the responsibility of the home and suffer enormous condemnation. Is there equity? Sure, it's somewhere, but it's hard to find. The voice of the ally is in Tamar Halpern's piece, GABRIEL, and brings so much to the overall message.

Tamika Simpkins Photographer: Ivan Cordeiro

MATRIARCH is much about the shaming of the feminine. All feminine energy has been subjected to shame. It can be embodied by a woman or a man and yet still experience the same level of condemnation, thus it became crystal clear that it enhances and emphasizes the work to include that voice. Your piece (Roger Q. Mason) embodies this and it is a critical aspect of the work. In his piece, AGE SEX LOCATION, the character is being shamed for his femininity by the very women he looks up to---his own mother! This shows how the feminine is degraded and humiliated in all shapes and forms…a critical point to explore on our journey to respect and equity…the very definition of the word feminism has *no* female implication. It refers to equity for all human beings.

Also, since the inception of MATRIARCH, I have become a single mother. This role is shrouded in stigma and has been an entirely new awakening, once again, about the roles women have been subjugated to in our quest for freedom and to live outside the walls of oppression. My new perspective has changed the way I see the value of this show and the role it plays in voicing what we don't usually hear, thus moving more toward justice.

Raised by a single mother myself who endured abusive relationships, it has been an awakening to trans-generational trauma and a strong desire to break the cycles. I have stepped into a role I never wanted and am determined to not only make it work, but to live in joy---something society has attempted to keep from women.

The Roots and Wings Project also has a program now in the women's prison California Institution for Women (CIW) in Chino. Those women are survivors of abuse and so many of them are in there because of Domestic Violence. They have gifted me so much and working with them is an honor. It has greatly enhanced my understanding of how the dynamics of patriarchy in the United States are costing women their lives both inside and outside the walls. I don't see the separation. My collaboration on MATRIARCH exists in both places. The women behind the walls are great keepers of knowledge and testaments to the strength of the human spirit. Their voices are stifled because their truth threatens the structure of patriarchy. We do this work out here for them as well. All artists on both sides of the walls are company members of The Roots and Wings Project and by bridging this gap we are helping people to understand the truth about who is in prison and why. Though I've been doing prison work for over 15 years, this is the first Roots and Wings Project program in a woman's prison. We are grateful for the support and collaboration from Poets and Writers and Luis Rodriguez and Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural.

It's been exciting rotating in new voices like Diane Rodriguez whose piece speaks to the story we *never* heard about: a proud and peaceful single mother with 5 kids and 5 kid's fathers and Dancers like Nicole Mae Martin (held the vision for popping and locking interlude for years for this show) whose piece explores Domestic Violence, a topic society doesn't understand that is not publicly expressed thus perpetuating. It's equally exciting continuing on the journey with the MATRIARCH OG's like the talented Sigrid Gilmer who has been running the show since "the get" with a piece about a dying mother and her last taboo advice to her children.

We did a short run of the piece in 2017 at Casa 0101 to much success. Though the venue is no longer being rented by them and we are running the show in the space again, we honor and appreciate the legacy of that space and all the incredible work that has been built in there by so many stellar artists.

Jesse Bliss. Photographer: Ivan Cordeiro

RQM: You make an appearance in the show.  Tell us a little bit about Jesse Bliss the writer and performer.

JB: My first lens is that of an actor. I have written literally my entire life, but as a young child, always envisioned becoming a professional actress and started doing radio commercial work and plays at a very young age. I moved to San Francisco at 20 years old and met my acting teacher, Linda Lowry, walking up the street near my place in the dangerous Tenderloin District. I trained very hard with her. She was a prodigy of Bobby Lewis who founded the Original Actor's Studio and he was a prodigy of Constantine Stanislavski. I was so incredibly frustrated by the lack of good material written for women and Linda saw the writer in me. She challenged me to write my own work. Thus was born my life as a playwright. However, I am a multidisciplinary artist, truly, and all parts equal my whole. Each is an integral part of my being. Performing makes me happy and keeps me connected to all aspects of the work and is something I am meant to do while in this life. I love directing, producing and writing just as much. I find acting makes me better at them all, eliciting my vulnerability, embodying a character and keeping me connected in a way I'm built for. There are works I never do step inside of as a performer and approach the work only as a director and producer.

Rose Portillo Photographer: Ivan Cordeiro

In the context of MATRIARCH, the piece I do is very important to me as it explores a mother being shamed in public by a passerby for breastfeeding which I, and many others, experienced not just once but often. It's so ludicrous to me and makes a critical point about where we are at the world in the treatment of women. It's an honor to perform the piece. I was afraid in this iteration it wouldn't connect for me now as I've got so many other critical matters on my mind and in my heart, but it does remain to be a piece that I find deeply important and stepping inside of MATRIARCH to perform is a gift I so deeply appreciate.

I have a background in women's theatre as a writer and performer. I came to Los Angeles with an all-female troupe out of New York City, The Angry Jellow Bubbles. At 21 years old I moved to New York City and it was my first exposure to a powerful, young female director and a group of very talented female writer/performers. It brought me so much healing. We did a lot of shows together on the East and West Coasts and in Europe. All 9 of us moved to LA then quickly disbanded, but that time together greatly influenced my artistry and opened me up to the capabilities of women as content creators. Being there was so little good work for women, it feels empowering to create my own---to write it then step inside to embody it. That has always been healing for me---to write work I believe in and physically embody it. I love telling other people's stories as a writer as well as an actor. There is a collective consciousness at work in this story telling.

I connected with Josefina Lopez when I first came to Los Angeles. She has been a dear friend, ally and inspiration. It felt good to connect with someone, so soon after arriving in LA with the Bubbles show, who was working in multiple contexts and capacities creating content as a woman.

Overall, I look forward to continuing my journey as a performer yet acknowledge fully that I am also a playwright, director and producer and that work is a critical part of my being and must be exercised in order to grow.

Cast Photo - Photographer: Ava Alamshah

RQM: Outside of your work in theatre, you are an educator, radio personality, and prison reform activist. What do you bring from your other lives in to the work you make for theatre?

JB: The immediate healing that theatre offers is life-saving and I experienced it as such on my own journey and am a conduit for helping it do the same for others in these mentioned contexts. The entertainment industry can be difficult and I find sometimes artists forget the healing power of the work or the core reasons why we do it. It's interesting going from a prison environment with men at Lancaster or women at CIW for example where the work literally allows them to come alive and breathe, to a public theatre where artists approach the work in a different way due to the structure of the entertainment industry. I find the best actors in the world are also the kindest, most empathic and I see in them the same traits as the people behind the walls. A criminal mind is a creative mind and the Prison Industrial Complex has been built by Patriarchy and greed.

Crowd Photographer: Ivan Cordeiro

RQM: One thing that has always excited me about you is your supreme belief in the transformative power of theatre in our everyday lives. What can theatre do to help us in tumultuous times like now?

JB: Theatre can allow us to overcome. The power of the human spirit is magnificent and ominous. We forget because that's the design. Oppression is there to keep us disconnected from each other and ourselves. When we examine a story, its' structure and the intricacies of a precious human life, we are called to an ancient an honorable task that takes us outside of time and into the realm of possibilities. It's the highest healing modality on the planet for it offers an unparalleled transcendence for both the artist and the audience. The silence is broken. We now know we are not alone. We can process what is otherwise impossible to digest. In this we can digest, calm and take proper action.

We are called into the universal realm and metaphysical forces become more apparent.

We stand on the backs of giants in this work and call forth the legacy when we commit to participating. Ancestors come around, we connect in a different way with each other dictated by measure of trust and love and in this we are more than the circumstances of our lives, more than the haters, more than the challenges. It brings our capabilities to light and ignite what is dormant, calling upon our power to voice truth, rise up, and take no prisoners.

For tickets and more information on MATRIARCH go to Eventbrite.com/e/matriarch-tickets-54959799239

Featured photo: Jesse Bliss Photographer: Angela L. Torres


JOAN OF ART: Break Beat Play, Magical Musical, Great Restaurant About to Disappear and a very scary Stalker

Hello Everyone. I love rap! I'm fascinated by it probably because it's something I have absolutely no ability to do. But that's not the only reason. Powerful rap moves you emotionally and physically. So I can't think of a better way to experience some great rapping then to go see the West Coast premiere of Idris Goodwin's break beat timely play entitled 'Hype Man' which opened at the Fountain Theatre last weekend. Social injustice, racial identity, gender inequity, career ambition and friendship coverage and collide in Hype Man, directed by Deena Selenow.

Hype man Verb, played by Matthew Hancock, has been backing up front-man rapper Pinnacle (Chad Addison) since they were kids. Then beat maker Peep One (Clarissa Thibeaux) joined the group. Now just as they are on the verge of making it big on national TV, a police shooting of a black teen shakes the band to its core, forcing them to confront questions of race, gender, privilege and when to use artistic expression as an act of social protest.

This is one play you do not want to miss. The Fountain Theatre is located at 5060 Fountain Avenue, Los Angeles, CA. For tickets call 323-663-1525 or go to FountainThetre.org. Tickets are $25.-$45. The play runs Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm, Sundays at 2pm and Mondays at 8pm until April 8th.

While you're in the neighborhood visit Paru's Indian Vegetarian Restaurant. I've eaten here several times and the food is absolutely delicious as well as reasonably priced. That's the good news.

The bad news is that the restaurant is about to close at the end of the March. The owner of the property has decided to raise the rent to $10,000 a month. Paru's has been in this location since March of 1979. The sign of the times...most definitely.

As more and more people became aware of the physical, spiritual and environmental benefits of the vegetarian diet, Paru's became a landmark both to local vegetarians as well as non-vegetarian who simple like wonderful food.

The owners of Paru's brought from India the strict culinary traditions of their ancestors, Every dish is prepared with loving kindness as well as technical mastery. The staff is not only friendly but extremely helpful.

Paru is located at 5140 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles. For hours of operation call 323-661-7600. Their web sit is ParusRestaurant.com.

Now something for the whole family....THE OLD MAN AND THE OLD MOON at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.

This is a new musical folktale by PigPen Theatre Company. What keeps the moon shining bright? The Old Man charged with that task embarks on an epic adventure of land, sea and sky in search of his missing wife in this swirling tale of love, accompanied by a live, indie-folk band. The endlessly imaginative PigPen Theatre Company finally arrives in Los Angeles with a luminously lo-fi spectacle that elevates traditional storytelling to high art.

Even though I'm taking my fourteen year old nephew to see this on Sunday, this isn't a kid show. It's for everyone. I've heard some of the music from the production and it's just wonderful.

The show runs March 2nd - March 17th. To purchase tickets and for more info visit TheWallis.org/oldman.

Whatever you choose to do this weekend, have a great one.


A 17th Century Tragedy Gets A 21st Century Look

Los Angeles' premiere classic theatre, A Noise Within, has brought to the stage Shakespeare's Othello, directed by Jessica Kubzansky, one of the Southland's most respected directors. And Ms. Kubzansky has given us a 17th century script adorned in 21st century styles, outfitting civilians characters in business wear, with dress blues and camo gear for military personnel – for Othello is a tale of wartime infighting.

So, the question inevitably arises: what happens when you take a four-hundred-year-old play and dress it up in modern duds? Is it suddenly more pertinent? Does it become easier to find some relevance to our own lives as the action unfolds? Does it jolt the imagination into today's news, or add a depth of understanding to the wars we're now fighting? Do we see in the title character, Othello – a black man leading white army – as a sort of precursor of our own Colin Powell? Do Venice's battle against the Turks parallel our current troubles half-way around the globe? These are judgments each member of the audience must and will make for themselves.

But Othello is not actually about war, or even the place of the military in a society, modern or medieval. It's a tragedy of loving “not wisely, but too well.” It's a game of cat and mouse played between naïve nobility and craven jealousy, between powerful and the subservient.

The artistic tension between what the ear hears and the eye sees will depend upon the patron's taste, and the juxtaposition of a formal public social structure with 21st century informality requires constant mental adjustment on the part of the viewer, but not for the cast of this production which handles it with consummate aplomb.

But what Shakespeare wrote in 17th century poetry is as clear cut as a diamond. Othello is the taut tale of a powerful noble African warrior driven to murder his beloved wife by the scheming of a disgruntled subordinate.

Othello, an exotic, grandiloquent warrior, promotes Cassio, a charming if militarily untested junior officer, to second in command. Iago, a proud, cunning, more experienced fighter, is thus passed over in favor of a man he thinks less qualified. To be demeaned is one thing, but that it is so thoughtlessly arranged by a blackamoor general with whom Iago has fought on many occasions leaves Iago seething. And as Roderigo, a buffoonish friend of Iago remembers it, even before Cassio's elevation Iago has a thing for Othello.

“Thou told'st me thou didst hold him in thy hate.”

Why? Perhaps because everything comes too easily to Othello, for Iago's sense of fairness. Othello was written as an exotic, larger than life figure whose powers of seduction attract not just women's adoration and desire, but men's admiration, devotion, and loyalty. Cassio is a young stud, rising fast through the ranks, destined to become another privileged leader. And that what sticks in Iago's craw.

So Iago weaves his web of destruction around Othello's heart, using first his knowledge of Othello's most dangerous – most troubling – secret. Having gained the adoration of Desdemona, a Venetian politician's lily white, virginal daughter, Othello married her - in secret. But is their relationship on solid? When he is questioned, he responds:

She lov'd me for the dangers I had pass'd;
And I lov'd her that she did pity them.

Is that a firm basis for marriage between a favored, young white girl and a black battle-hardened warrior? Can it weather the raging storm of jealousy Iago sets swirling around them? This production plays down the racial tensions – allowing them, but never focusing on them.

And as if that weren't enough, Iago has another, more intimate grievance. He says – maybe just assumes - the noble Othello has slept with Emilia, Iago's wife. Does he believe it, or is it merely a charge Iago concocts to justify his hatred? The audience must decide for themselves. Whatever the truth, the stage ripe for tragedy. Game, set, match!

Director Kubzansky has also brought the casting into the 21st century. It is the mother of Desdemona who objects to her daughter's marriage to the black warrior, not the father as Shakespeare wrote it. And the council who whom this mother takes her grievance is headed by a female duke in consultation with a mixed gender council. The effect of these gender alterations is yet another issue audience must assess according to their own understanding of human relationships.

ANW's Othello presents the title character as a fine and apparently capable leader of men, but does he have the awe-inspiring nobility to elicit the depth of pathos usually associated with Shakespearian tragedy? The question is, is such “awe” necessary for the show to succeed with the audience?

Check it out. Decide for yourself. However you decide, it is a stage worthy production deserving of attention.


Drama Ensues: 5 Questions for Boni Alvarez

My dear friend and playwriting hero Boni Alvarez is back at it, taking Los Angeles theatre by storm with his new play AMERICA ADJACENT, playing at Skylight Theatre. The run, helmed by Jon Lawrence Rivera, has been selling out, so get tickets if you can. This is one hot play.

For tickets and info visit Skylighttheatre.org/event/america-adjacent

Roger Q. Mason (RQM): Boni, tell us about the impetus for AMERICA ADJACENT.

Boni Alvarez (BA): I read an article years ago about a Chinese birthing house getting raided in the San Gabriel Valley. The descriptions of the living conditions, the women participating, the Stateside operation, it was all so vivid. It made me question – why? Why would these Chinese women – women of means – endure these conditions, all in the name of birthing a U.S. citizen? I re-imagined the situation with Filipina women.

RQM: One room, six Filipina women. Diyos ko! That's the perfect hotbed for drama. What's it like for six women, particularly six Filipina women?

BA: They have a common bond with their shared goal, but they are a very diverse group of women. Some are married, some not. They come from different areas of the Philippines. They travel in different social circles. They're experiencing the discomforts of pregnancy, of being in a confined space, of being far from home. Drama ensues.

RQM: This project is a confluence of quite a few longstanding relationships: you're a resident playwright at Skylight; you've collaborated with Jon Lawrence Rivera many times before; and – correct me if I'm wrong – some of the members of your cast have been in other projects before. How have these relationships influenced your work and your process?

BA: The folks at Skylight have always championed my voice as a playwright. I've written four plays in the Playwrights' Lab, so it's a fertile community for me. Jon has been a champion of my work since I graduated from USC. There's an ease in our collaborations – we speak a similar language and we really enjoy each other. In terms of actors I work with repeatedly, I am drawn to them because they understand my storytelling. This is the second play I've had Evie Abat in and my third with Sandy Velasco. There's comfort in knowing that an actor will come through both professionally and artistically. But I love meeting new actors also. I think my plays tend to have bigger casts because I feel a responsibility to write for more actors, especially Filipino ones.

RQM: Okay, now a big question.  How is the “American Dream” packaged for Filipinx people abroad and how is the reality so terribly different when they get to the States? As a fellow Filipinx playwright (my mother came to the US in 1980) I am interested in hearing your take on this cultural dichotomy.  

BA: When I would visit the Philippines as a child, I got the sense that relatives believed that money grew on trees in the States, that all you had to do was get here and all would be golden.

But most immigrants know that's not true. You have to work hard to scratch out a living here, but working hard and being able to pay your rent – I don't think that's the ‘dream'. That's just simple existence – we haven't even touched on other elements like racism and xenophobia and how that factors into culture shock and colors the ‘dream'.

RQM: We know you STAY writing, Boni. That's one of the many things we love about you. What are you working on now?

BA: Working on a new political play Emmylu in the Skylight Lab. Revising my WWII play Refuge for a Purple Heart set in the Philippines – a love story between a Jewish Austrian refugee and a Filipino boy. And finishing up a half-hour pilot, a dramedy.


Ashton's Audio Interview: Roger Bean writer and creator of "Life Could Be A Dream" and the cast at International City Theatre

SH-BOOM! Meet fledgling doo-wop singing group the Crooning Crabcakes as they prepare to enter the Big Whopper Radio contest and realize their dreams of making it to the big time.* Enjoy this interview with Roger Bean writer and creator of “Life Could Be A Dream” at International City Theatre, running until Mar 10th. 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

STAGES OF DOUBT: AN ANALYSIS OF THE KENNEDY ASSASSINATION IN AMERICAN THEATRE – PART 5

To read Part 1 of this series, please click here.

To read Part 2 of this series, please click here.

To read Part 3 of this series, please click here.

To read Part 4 of this series, please click here.

Chicago's Assassination Theater began in 2015 with a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign providing the world with one more reason to rue the internet. Playwright Hillel Levin rehashes a similar stew of the half-baked theories that Oliver Stone served up in JFK, but Levin incorporates information supplied by James Files. Presently serving a fifty year sentence for the murder of two police officers, Files has been claiming since 1994 that he was hired by the mob to kill Kennedy. He maintains that Oswald was brought into the conspiracy to be the fall guy, and that Jack Ruby was the hit man assigned to kill Oswald to keep him “quiet.” That Levin discounts the findings of the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassination each of which dismissed any mob connection to JFK's killing but accepts the word of a convicted killer is somewhat mind numbing. Files' story itself falls apart almost immediately. For example, he claims Oswald drove him around Dallas for five days prior to the assassination. As Oswald clocked in at work each of those days at the Book Depository and was observed by his supervisor and co-workers we must assume either Files is lying or the entire Texas School Book Depository staff is part of the conspiracy. Then there is the question of why the mob silenced Oswald to keep their involvement secret but have let Files “rat” them out for the last 24 years. Levin's Assassination Theater is two hours of preposterous claims, the most preposterous of which is that the mob not only arranged the killings of JFK and Bobby Kennedy but was behind Giuseppe Zangara's 1933 assassination attempt on Franklin Roosevelt. I'm surprised Levin didn't reveal the mob had a hand in rubbing out Julius Caesar.

Another advocate of the mob theory is Playwright William Mastrosimone. Mastrosimone who wrote the 1992 CBS miniseries Sinatra, contends that during their meetings, Frank Sinatra spilled the beans to him about the mob's involvement. In 2013 Mastrosimone shared what he'd learned from ‘Ol Blue Eyes in Ride the Tiger. Notice was not paid.

Playwright Daniel Henning's 2016 work, The Tragedy of JFK (as told by Wm. Shakespeare) is another of the better crafted plays concerning the assassination, even if one that still lacks in historical verity. Henning, founder director of Los Angeles' The Blank Theatre, like Garson's MacBird! harkens back to Shakespeare for his play's binding concept, but unlike Garson, chose to endow his offering with the gravitas of Greek drama.

Selecting Shakespeare's Julius Caesar for his template, Henning skillfully overlaid the events of March 15, 44 B.C.E. with those of November 22, 1963. RFK is Mark Antony with a Boston twang, and JFK walks in the shadow of the doomed Gaius Julius Caesar.

Henning hems closer to Shakespeare's characterization of Brutus in depicting Johnson as a reluctant conspirator drawn into the murderous plot by a Machiavellian J. Edgar Hoover.

Nor does the playwright shy away from employing large sections of Shakespeare's verse intact and reframing some of the best known lines to fit his needs, going as far as to have the dying JFK lament, “Et tu, Lyndon?”

While Henning is a talented playwright which explains the strength of his piece, he is also widely regarded as an “expert on the JFK assassination” a distinction given him by those who apparently aren't.

Henning is very well versed in the Mythos of the assassination, he may even be an expert on that subject, but having a great treasury of rumors, second hand reports and misconceptions on an event is a far cry from having an expertise of the actual history.

For Example, Henning opens his piece with a presentation of the “Dramatis Personae” as each of the characters converges on stage, into a kind of Greek Chorus-chorus line, and identifies themselves with a snippet of background information.

It's here, at the very beginning, where Henning's errors and oversights begin. He has John Connelly, the Governor of Texas who was wounded while riding in the same limo as Kennedy, state that he is “convinced beyond any doubt that I was not struck by the first bullet.”

In this seeming dismissal of the so-called “magic bullet theory” put forth by the Warren Commission Henning is cherry picking his history.

Disgusted at being used by those bellowing a conspiracy brought down Kennedy, Connelly went before the press in 1966 to put his views on the public record. “I am convinced,” he stated, “beyond any doubt that I was not struck by the first bullet, but just because I disagree with the Warren Commission on this one finding does not mean I disagree with their over-all findings.”

Connelly never questioned the Commission's conclusion that Oswald acted alone, he simply maintained that he fired four shots, not just three.

Henning has Lady Bird describing herself as coming from a wealthy family who owned newspapers and radio stations. This statement is half true. She did come from wealth, but her father Thomas Jefferson Taylor made his fortune from land investments and retail merchandising. There were no newspapers or radio stations.

It was Lyndon Johnson, in 1943 while still just a congressman, who bought his first radio station, KTBC, and did so under Ladybird's name. Johnson would acquire many more radios and TV stations, making him arguably the richest man ever to occupy the White House but every sale was under Ladybird's name.

This is a stunning error for Henning to have made, in that he claims to have written his play after being inspired by Robert Caro's monumental 3 volume biography of LBJ in which Johnson's acquisition of his media empire is well covered.

Henning filmed his play in 2017 using many of the same actors from its L.A. premiere including Time Winters as LBJ/Brutus and Tony Abatemarco as Hoover/Cassius each of whom gave excellent performances on stage. The combination of a fine cast and Henning's well crafted, if factually flawed script, is reason enough to look forward to the film finding distribution.

…the final post of this series


STAGES OF DOUBT: AN ANALYSIS OF THE KENNEDY ASSASSINATION IN AMERICAN THEATRE – PART 4

To read Part 1 of this series, please click here.

To read Part 2 of this series, please click here.

To read Part 3 of this series, please click here.

One of the wilder interpretation of the history of the assassination must surely be The Life and Times of Lee Harvey Oswald Or, The Most Unnatural Murder and Dastardly Assassination of John F. Kennedy by that Bloodthirsty Villain Lee Harvey Oswald (or someone else), as represented by our best hand-carved Marionettes and life-like Mannequins of Choicest Linden Wood.

Conceived, written and directed by Vít Horejš and performed by the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre, this 2017 production at La MaMa Experimental Theater was part Howdy-Doody Show part Greek Tragedy with nine puppeteer-performers, a chorus of a dozen demonic ventriloquist dummies and a cast of over 50 Marionettes.

The whimsy one normally expects from puppetry was apparent in portraying the John Kennedy puppet a knight in shining armor, Jackie as a royal princess, and Joe Kennedy a King. Lyndon Johnson was depicted as a cook, John Connelly in cowboy regalia and Castro as a boasting spirit with an insanely long beard.

Oswald was more recognizable, garbed as seen in the infamous photo taken in the backyard of their home on Neely Street by Marina, with Oswald holding the rifle that would kill Kennedy and the pistol that was used to kill Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit some 45 minutes after the assassination.

The work touched on numerous conspiracy theories but committed to none of them, nor did it limit itself to the events at Dallas, but explored the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Rev. Martin Luther King as well.

The focus of the production seemed to be that as the characters on stage were manipulated by the puppeteers so destiny moved the historical figures towards their historical fates.

A assortment of musical productions have endeavored to capture the essence and consequences of the assassination. In 1983 Leslie Bricusse and Allan J. Friedman opened One Shining Moment: A musical Celebration of John F. Kennedy. Destined to be reworked often up through 2012 the multi-media production used actual footage to display the Kennedys world from the start of his presidential bid until November of '63.

In 1997 Dublin, Ireland saw the opening of JFK: A Musical Drama, music by Will Holt, with book and lyrics by Holt and Tom Sawyer. The hope was to take the show to the Great White Way, which was not an impossibility as in 1970. Holt and Gary William Friedman were the talents behind the hit show The Me Nobody Knows, one of the first rock musicals to reach Broadway.

The show opened with the widowed Jackie informing the audience that she intended to tell them the story of her husband, before the historians "get it wrong."

The musical concerned itself with the struggle of the three Kennedy sons – Joe, John and Bobby to live up to their father's ambitions for them. Later their struggle would be to break free of those ambitions. The play hints that John's fate was sealed by his decision to withdraw from Vietnam, a favorite myth put forth by the conspiracymongers.

What the CT community point to in substantiating their claim that Kennedy was ready to pull the US forces out of Vietnam is an interview with Walter Cronkite on September 2, 1963 in which Kennedy made the following statement:

“I don't think that unless a greater effort is made by the Government [of South Vietnam] to win popular support that the war can be won out there. In the final analysis, it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it.”

You'll find this quote in scores of pro-conspiracy books and hear it in the film JFK, but you are never given the complete quote, Kennedy goes on to say:

‘But I don't agree with those who say we should withdraw. That would be a great mistake. I know people don't like Americans to be engaged in this kind of an effort. Forty-seven Americans have been killed in combat with the enemy, but this is a very important struggle even though it is far away.”

Would Kennedy have pulled us out of Viet Nam if he had lived is impossible to say, but prior to his assassination there was no indication on his part that he intended to do so.

JFK: A Musical Drama offered an array of historical characters on stage other than the Kennedy clan; Bull Connor, Medger Evers, LBJ, Fidel Castro, Nixon and others. After a good deal of reworking it crossed the pond to Broadway in 1998. Critics found it so scant on dialogue many regarded it more of a operetta than a musical. The show did not find favor and soon closed, inspiring one Irish wag to quip "Can you remember where you were when they shut JFK?"

But the most distinctive as well as the most insightful musical involving the assassination must go to Stephen Sondheim's Assassins with book by John Weidman. This 1990 show was concerned not with just the story of JFK, but with the phenomenon of political violence in this country. To that end it presented the history of the men and women who assassinated a U.S. President or made the attempt. Some like John Wilkes Booth are well known to most Americans others like Charles Guiteau, Leon Czolgosz, Giuseppe Zangara and Samuel Byck are not.

The final scene takes place on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository where a hesitant and undecided Lee Harvey Oswald is confronted by the ghost of Booth and other assassins who entice him slowly to the window and convince him that pulling the trigger on his Mannlicher-Carcano is the answer to all his pain.

Photo: The cast of "The Magic Bullet Theory." Credit: Amani/Wood Photograph

L.A.'s Sacred Fools Theater offered a “Dr. Strangelove” redo on the events in their 2012 black comedy The Magic Bullet Theory by Terry Tocantins and Alex Zola. This misconceived mixture of political murder and merry mayhem began with Charlie Harrelson appearing before the Warren Commission with the truth about the assassination of JFK. The father of actor Woody Harrelson, Charlie Harrelson killed US District Judge Jon H. Wood. During a six hour standoff with Texas police prior to his arrest the coked out Harrelson threatened suicide and claimed to have murdered JFK. He admitted later that the statement was made in "an effort to elongate my life." Nevertheless he became a favorite suspect for the CT community. Tocantins and Zola took a Monty Python approach to the overabundance of conspiracy theories, presenting bumbling glassy knoll shooters, a dim-witted Oswald and clichéd Mafia hit men who all but sweated ragu sauce. The punch line of this show was that JFK's shooting wasn't so much the result of a conspiracy as a boo-boo.

...to be continued


Now Registered on the Better Lemons Calendar – February 18 - 24, 2019

Theatrical shows and Rooftop Movies registered on the Better Lemons calendar!
For more shows visit our Calendar.
For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page.

MOVES at The Montalbán

“Break the Floor Productions in partnership with The Montalbán in Hollywood present MOVES at The Montalbán, a festival that offers audiences the chance to see the latest emerging talent in the world of choreography and dance. Over the course of the inaugural festival's three-day engagement, the inside of the historic theatre will host engaging live dance performances while dance classes will abound on The Montalbán's rooftop deck. All styles of dance will be seen and taught over the weekend with pre- and post-show entertainment as well. ”

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Visit their Better Lemons Registered Calendar Page for ticket and show information.

Les Miz And Friends! A Puppet Parody

“A very human production of “Les Miserables” comes to a halt when the lead actor of Jean ValJean goes missing. In his place, a friendly puppet offers to play the role—though he's never seen the show.
Both a loving homage and a brutal deconstruction of the classic Broadway musical, LES MIZ AND FRIENDS! follows a revolution of its very own—as the puppets attack all the show's shortcomings and decide to transform it into something better.
Full of audience interaction, improvisation, foul language, parody and original music, LES MIZ AND FRIENDS! will delight Les Miserables lovers and haters alike.”

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FREE Staged Reading of Intimate Apparel

“Staged reading of the play. Written by Lynn Nottage. Directed by Michael T. Kachingwe. In 1905 New York, Esther, a Black seamstress, lives in a boarding house for women, and sews intimate apparel for clients who range from wealthy white patrons to prostitutes. One by one, the other denizens of the boarding house marry and move away, but Esther remains, lonely and longing for a husband and a future. Her plan is to find the right man and use the money she's saved to open a beauty parlor where black women will be treated as royally as the white women for whom she sews.”

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POP Presents The Magic Flute

“POP returns to the comfortable 350 seat El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood with another crazy spin on a Mozart classic. Unlike any Magic Flute you've ever seen, this one is going to be “super”. Papageno, Tamino, and the gang are transported to the land of 90s video games with a new English libretto by Josh Shaw and Scott Levin. With two Sunday matinees and a kid friendly setting, this a perfect opera to bring the entire family to see.”

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POP Presents Madama Butterfly

“So what if… what if a brash American naval officer and a young Japanese girl met and fell in love? How would they communicate? (Certainly not in Italian!) In POP's most ambitous production to date, Artistic Director Josh Shaw's long-time dream of a bilingual Madama Butterfly comes to life at The Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo. With a new libretto by Josh Shaw and Eiki Isomura, all Japanese roles will be sung in Japanese (by Japanese-American artists) and all American roles will be sung in English. This is a co-production with Opera in the Heights (Houston). This production is sponsored in part by an Innovations Grant from Opera America.”

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Telenovela

“Force of Nature is proud to present the return of the hilarious hit comedy “Telenovela.” The story follows the bitter and melodramatic rivalry between the Lajarra and Azucar families, Mexico's biggest wine and tequila makers, and their fight for power. Passion, revenge, betrayal, grapes and tequila are all in a day's work. “Telenovela” is a colorful, high-octane comedy that affectionately honors the famous melodramatic “novelas” of Spanish TV that will keep you laughing from beginning to end.”

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Rooftop Movies at the The Montalbán

“The Montalbán's rooftop oasis – outfitted with a bar, concession stand and full kitchen – provides an open-air movie theatre experience complete with a large projection screen, state-of-the-art projector, noise-cancelling headphones, fresh-popped popcorn and even blankets for a chilly night...The Montalbán's staff curates films from all eras including Hollywood classics, cult favorites, select current releases, premieres and special presentations with cast and crew when possible. Doors open at 6:00pm...DRINK beer, wine, mixed drinks and the ever-popular hand-crafted Ramos Sangria; DINE Umami Burger…continues as the venue's rooftop culinary partner (serving Impossible Burgers); PLAY a game of giant Jenga or ham-it-up in the selfie-friendly Simple Booth area; or CHILL in a relaxing beach chair or loveseat while listening to a hand-selected musical soundtrack (over the speakers or in your headphones) until the movie begins.”

"Mean Girls" screening @ Rooftop Movies at The Montalbán

Anti-bullying cult classic, written by Tina Fey. “Cady Heron [Lindsay Lohan] is a hit with The Plastics, the A-list girl clique at her new school, until she makes the mistake of falling for Aaron Samuels, the ex-boyfriend of alpha Plastic Regina George [Rachel McAdams].” - IMDb

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"Grease" screening @ Rooftop Movies at The Montalbán

Because “Grease Is The Word.”

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"La La Land" screening @ Rooftop Movies at The Montalbán

A multi-Academy Award winning film and contemporary musical. “While navigating their careers in Los Angeles, a pianist and an actress fall in love while attempting to reconcile their aspirations for the future.” - IMDb

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"Dirty Dancing" screening @ Rooftop Movies at The Montalbán

Because “Nobody Puts Baby In A Corner.”
“Spending the summer at a Catskills resort with her family, Frances "Baby" Houseman [Jennifer Grey] falls in love with the camp's dance instructor, Johnny Castle [Patrick Swayze.] - IMDb

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Maple and Vine

“Katha and Ryu have become allergic to their 21st century lives. After they meet a charismatic man from a community of 1950's re-enactors, they forsake cell phones and sushi for cigarettes and Tupperware parties. In this compulsively authentic world, Katha and Ryu are surprised by what their new neighbors – and they themselves – are willing to sacrifice for happiness.”

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Suprema

“It's 1940, and celebrated psychologist William Moulton Marston has decided that he wants to create a comic book heroine who stands for valor and love in a world dominated by men and war. Over the course of a single evening, Marston, his wife Elizabeth, and their lover Olive must convince DC Comics executive Max Gaines of the value of such a heroine while downplaying their own unorthodox lifestyle.”

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The Glass Menagerie

“An innocuous visit from a potential suitor unsettles the sheltered Wingfield family. Matriarch Amanda fiercely protects her adult children from the harshness of others, but doesn't realize that her own eccentricities are the biggest threat to their psychological survival. Brimming with poetic language and indelible characters, this play about the enduring but limiting nature of love and family made Tennessee Williams a household name.”

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The Women of Shakespeare

“Back by popular demand, Warriors for Peace Theatre presents another night of The Women of Shakespeare. Come and take a journey through the world of Shakespeare through the eyes of glorious women. This is an opportunity for some of LA's most exciting actresses to delve into the most compelling characters in William Shakespeare's litany of work. Under the direction of Susan Angelo, one of the foremost Shakespeare instructors and directors in the Los Angeles area...Following the performance there will be a programmed talk back with director, Susan Angelo, WFP Theatre executive director, Christopher Loverro, and the stars of Women of Shakespeare. In keeping with WFP mission, the talk back serves as an opportunity to dialogue with the actors and creative team, who are comprised of military veterans and civilians, about the healing effects of art.”

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MATRIARCH

“The Roots and Wings Project Founder/Creative Director Jesse Bliss presents MATRIARCH an unorthodox and intersectional theatrical exploration of the roles women play in a patriarchal society and the urgent need to transform the dynamic. Made possible by a grant from the California Arts Council Cultural Pathways.”

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Ashton's Audio Interview: The cast of “Hir” at the Odyssey Theatre

Hilarious and terrifying, Hir is a dysfunctional family dramedy for a new era: a highly intelligent, heartfelt and deeply, darkly humorous portrayal of a family in crisis, in which domestic abuse, the trauma of war and the acceptance of gender neutrality are illustrated in a nearly absurd, emotionally gripping, intensely real dynamic.* Enjoy this interview with the cast of “Hir” at the Odyssey Theatre, playing through Mar 17th. 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