Dear Marie, the newest episode in award-winning playwright/director Sharon Yablon’s A Garden of Terrible Blooms “short plays of the weird and surreal set in Los Angeles” podcast series, is set to launch on Valentine’s Day. To date, ten episodes are available for listening at www.terribleblooms.net.
A passion project born of Yablon’s love of surrealism, noir and the darker side of Los Angeles, A Garden of Terrible Blooms offers a dreamlike tour led by characters through a city that is vanishing, even as they move through it. Each play is set in a different part of L.A., or in nearby places where locals go to escape the city but find themselves still haunted by it. Yablon’s characters wander through alleys, siren-soaked Hollywood nights, coyote outskirts and the desert, each looking for a glimmer of connection and often redemption. Time is blurred. The feeling of history is all around. What better place to explore these themes than in Los Angeles, a city of vastness where age can appear to be halted, seasons barely change, people reinvent themselves, and no one is who they seem?
Each play is heavily influenced by music, containing original songs by a variety of local musicians from Los Angeles. Unlike other audio theater, the music is not just transitional, but functions as an additional character.
“I see these plays as collaborations with artists of different disciplines, something that has always been very special to me,” Yablon explains. “Music is a large part of my creative process.”
The diverse and impressive list of musicians who have contributed original material include piano player and composer Don Preston, an original member of Frank Zappa’s The Mothers of Invention; rock musician David Haerle; electronic and avant-garde composer Randy Greif; classical composer Elliott Goldkind; swing musician Atom Smith; and up-and-coming musician Jack Littman, to name just a few.
Similarly, the Terrible Blooms website is a collaboration, featuring original photographs taken around Los Angeles and the whimsical, fairytale-like paintings of Cassie Taggart.
A Los Angeles native, Yablon has been writing stories inspired by and set in L.A. for her entire career.
“I’ve always been fascinated by L.A.’s history,” she says. “I love how an old building reminds one of noir, or how a corner might be famous because one of L.A.’s iconic serial killers left their imprint there. Underneath the city’s veneer of sunshine, the physical beauty of its residents and the promise of fame, there is a rot. These plays aren’t about the stereotypical people in L.A. — they are about the unnoticed, ordinary and forgotten, and sometimes about the dead. The plays pair together momentary, unlikely connections between characters, which is something I’m especially interested in — the mystery and magic of connection between people, and its fleetingness.”
In the upcoming Dear Marie, Hank Bunker and Shawna Casey play two people who live in the same neighborhood but have never spoken. Finding themselves haunted by lost loves in a city of sunshine on Valentine's Day, they seek winter and solace on an empty beach.
Earlier episodes include:
The Last Transmission, set in the skies and Griffith Park, in which a police helicopter pilot, haunted by the carnage below, veers off course, unsure of what he will find. With John Nielsen, Anna Khaja and Gregory Littman.
Inspired by the 1980s serial murders, The Grim Sleeper stars Keith Szarabajka and Gbeke Fawehinmi as a drifter and a lost girl trying to uncover their dark pasts in a downtown Los Angeles alley.
Inspired by the San Diego McDonald’s massacre, Mrs. Huberty stars Max Faugno as a true crime fan who seeks out the wife of a mass murderer (Jennifer Lee Weaver), hoping to learn more about the killings.
Two middle-aged singles (Soren Narnia and Kim Debus) try to connect in a Hollywood bar before it closes in 1:58 AM.
A Night With Gig Young, inspired by true events, features Gregory Littman, Dig Wayne and Lisa Denke, who take us back to the Hollywood of yore. At the end of his career, actor Gig Young is invited to speak to a group of fans but is instead led on a journey through the dark side of his life by a heckler.
In Around and Around, a man encounters a mysterious traveler while lost in an abandoned bus station near Olvera Street. With Darrett Sanders and Michael Bonnabel.
Nothing Good Happens After Midnight, inspired by the Hillside Strangler murders of the late ’70s, is set in Echo Park. On a walk through the hills, the discovery of a voodoo doll alters the plans of a couple (Adrian Alejandro Cruz and Jacqueline Wright).
Ryan Cutrona plays a man plagued by insomnia who isn’t sure he is alone on his Beverly Hills estate in No Casanova.
Ice Machine introduces us to two strangers (Michael Shamus Wiles and Jesse Fair) whose paths cross at a Route 66-era motel in the California desert, sparking memories.
Finally, in A German Christmas, a young German man far from home (Kiff Scholl) finds himself spending Christmas Eve in Rancho Park with an older woman (Lisa Denke) whose husband has left her.
All episodes of A Garden of Terrible Blooms are available to hear or download for free at www.terribleblooms.net, or wherever you get your podcasts.
We are just passing through…