2020 Sherwood Award now accepting applications!

Center Theatre Group's $10,000 Dorothy and Richard E. Sherwood Award for theatre artists is given annually to nurture innovative and adventurous theatre artists working in Los Angeles. Two additional finalists will each receive a $1,000 honorarium.

The Sherwood Award nurtures selected artists and invites them to engage in a professional relationship with Center Theatre Group. Competitive candidates demonstrate leadership qualities, push existing boundaries, and are dedicated to improving the future of their respective artistic fields. Artists are not limited by title, role, or genre, but they must have a relationship to contemporary performance rooted in theatre.

The deadline for the initial application consisting of an artist's statement and resume is June 10, 2019 at 11:59 PM.

Apply here!

After the first round, select candidates will be invited to submit full applications. Full applications, along with letters of recommendation and work sample material will be due no later than July 19, 2019 at 11:59 PM. The winner will be announced at the LA STAGE Alliance Ovation Awards.

The application and more information about the Sherwood Award can be found here.

If you have any additional questions about the Sherwood Award, please contact [email protected]

The Winners at the 50th Annual 'LA Drama Critics Circle' Awards Ceremony Held at the Pasadena Playhouse

The 50th Annual LA Drama Critics Circle Awards at the Pasadena Playhouse, Monday, April 8, 2019. (Photo by Better Lemons)

The LA Drama Critics Circle (LADCC) held their 50th Annual Awards ceremony at the landmark Pasadena Playhouse where Better Lemons was in attendance to live tweet the evening's festivities and entertainment, Monday, April 8, 2019.

Wenzel Jones presided over the festivities, and Christopher Raymond served as music director with musical performances by Kristin Towers Rowles, Constance Jewell Lopez, and Zachary Ford.

There were four recipients of the 2018 Production award: Cambodian Rock Band (South Coast Repertory), Come From Away (Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre), Cry It Out (Echo Theater Company), and Sell/Buy/Date (Geffen Playhouse / Los Angeles LGBT Center).

Better Lemons' Chief Operating Officer Stephen Box (Left,) Publisher Enci Box, and Playwright & Screenwriter Steven Vlasak at the 50th Annual LA Drama Critics Circle Awards at the Pasadena Playhouse, Monday, April 8, 2019.

The Antaeus Theatre Company received the most awards, with three of its productions winning a combined seven trophies. Celebration Theatre's Cabaret took home six awards, the most awards for a single production, including one for Revival. Tom Hanks received a lead actor award for his performance as Falstaff in The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles production of Henry IV in a competitive category. 17 awards were presented in other categories with 17 productions taking home the honors.

In its inaugural this year, the Theater Angel award was presented to Yvonne Bell in recognition of her "long career devoted to fostering theater in Los Angeles ... [and] successful fundraising campaigns" to help open several cultural institutions, such as The Museum of Contemporary Art and the California Science Center.

Eight previously announced special awards were presented, including the Margaret Harford Award for sustained excellence in theater to Sacred Fools Theater Company and the Ted Schmitt Award for the world premiere of an outstanding new play to Lauren Yee for Cambodian Rock Band.

The LADCC was established in 1969  “to foster and reward merit in the American Theater and encourage theater in Los Angeles,” the LADCC site quotes from an announcement in the L.A. Times of that year.

Here is the list of award recipients as announced during Better Lemons' live coverage on Twitter:

Featured photo by Enci Box - Theatre patrons in the courtyard of the Pasadena Playhouse for the 50th Annual LA Drama Critics Circle Awards, Pasadena, California, Monday, April 8, 2019. Enci Box contributed to this story and photos.

LA STAGE: A Royal Dilemma and Lots of (Crazy) Comedy Tonite!

Quote of the week: "Trump said that Latinos are rapists and criminals.  So when I meet him, I plan to rob him and fuck him." - George Lopez

I saw something last night at a performance of Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre that I'd never seen before in my 21 years in Los Angeles.   In the middle of the First Act, after the killer musical number, "A Musical," the crowd went wild - wild - and clapped wildly for a full five minutes, then a man spontaneously stood up and gave the show a standing ovation!  A mid-Act Standing-O!  Unheard of!

Anyway, the point is that actors on LA stages are crushing it this holiday season!  Crushing it!  And it's not too late to get in on the fun.

Caitlyn Conin, Kendra Chell and Dylan Jones. Photo by Justin Szebe

Before I get to it, though, I want to wish Theatre Movement Bazaar a great week in Beijing, China!  A full  house at the Bootleg were fortunate enough to catch their parting performance of TRACK 3, their brilliant interpretation of Chekhov's Three Sisters.  Better, funnier, fuller, more precise than I recall from the time I saw it before.  Why not run it here again for a few weeks?  If the audience at the Bootleg was any indication, there is a lot more happiness to be had with this show about the search for happiness.

CLOSING THIS WEEKEND:  KING CHARLES III by Mike Bartlett, Directed by Michael Michetti

Jim Abele as King Charles III. Photo: Jenny Graham.

I have to start with this caveat, that whatever the opposite of a Royal Family watcher is, that's what I am.   I know who Kate is, but the name of her kids? Have no clue.  Prince Harry and the Markle sparkle?  No thanks, I'll pass. So I'm not the ideal audience for this "future history play" about what could happen after Queen Elizabeth dies and Prince Charles finally becomes king.  Now I do know who the Prince of Wales is, and he's always seemed to me like a comedic figure with his rubber face and big ears.  But not here.  As played with great earnestness and dignity by Jim Abele, Charles is a learned man, deeply versed in the ways of monarchy, who intends to make the most of the royal position that he has waited so long to assume.  I must admit that the First Act seemed overly long and self-serious to me, but most of that paid off in the Second Act, which succeeded in making King Charles III into a memorably tragic figure.  Given all the current hubbub about another Royal Wedding (yawn) and the fact that this 16-actor play needs to be done on a majestic level, you'd better rush down to the Pasadena Playhouse this weekend if you have any hopes of catching this play.  Michael Michetti directed with great assurance, and Abele and Laura Gardner (as wife Camilla Bowles) stand out.

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, Book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim - Directed by Joseph Leo Bwarie 

Nicole Kaplan, Michael Thomas Grant and Paul C. Vogt

This musical, based on the plays of the Roman satiric playwright Plautus, premiered in 1962.  It has the distinction of being the first musical to feature both music and lyrics by musical theater god Stephen Sondheim, along with a book co-written by Larry Gelbart, a comedy genius.  With such an illustrious heritage, I suppose it's no surprise that this is a rollicking laugh machine, featuring three wonderful Sondheim songs that have been imitated in hundreds of lesser musicals: "Comedy Tonite," "Lovely" and "Everybody Ought To Have A Maid."  This production, directed by Joseph Leo Bwarie, co-artistic director of the Garry Marshall Theatre, is highly entertaining, using a nicely-spacious Roman Square set that is beautifully-lit by Francois-Pierre Couture.  The show was well ahead of its time in the tongue-in-cheek way it plays to the audience, and Paul C. Vogt leads an agile and talented cast in bringing this farcical concoction to vivid life.  (Joey McIntyre replaces Vogt until Dec. 10, when Vogt returns to the show.)

SPAMILTON: An American Parody, Created, Written and Directed by Gerald Alessandrini, at the Kirk Douglas

Zakiya Young, Wilkie Ferguson III, William Cooper Howell, John Deveraux and Dedrick A. Bonner

Like everything connected to the phenomenon of Hamilton, this parody is selling out the Kirk Douglas Theatre like no other production before it.  While Spamilton is funny and barbed, it does not re-invent the parody form the way that Hamilton has apparently done with the musical.  (That's right, I haven't been able to get a ticket either.)  As long as it sticks to spoofing Lin-Manuel Miranda, his show and its now-famous performers like Daveed Diggs and Leslie Odom Jr, this evening is on solid comedic ground.  When it strays into parodies of other current Broadway shows, the energy level definitely takes a dip.  But the performers are absolutely first-rate, especially John Deveraux and Zakiya Young (whether she's spoofing Renee Elise Goldsberry, Audra McDonald or J-Lo).  The choreography by Gerry McIntyre is straight-up brilliant, with some of the wittiest and most unexpected comedy movements I've seen.  I have to commend CTG also for the post-show Broadway karaoke in the theatre lobby, which is a wonderful idea, and really carried over the fun from the show.  It was inspiring to hear all the talented young performers belting out not only the score of Hamilton, but of many other Broadway shows.  But like I said, good luck getting tickets.

SOMETHING ROTTEN!, Conceived by Karey Kirkpatrick & Wayne Kirkpatrick, Book by Karey Kirkpatrick & John O'Farrell, Music and Lyrics by Wayne Kirkpatrick & Karey Kirkpatrick. Directed/Choreographed by Casey Nicholaw

Blake Hammond and Rob McClure

Hopefully it was clear in my opening paragraph to this article that I think Something Rotten! is anything but rotten. The truth is, I didn't see the Broadway production, and I'd heard so many mixed and unenthusiastic things about it that I set my expectations fairly low.  And, my word, I was simply blown away by the inventiveness and exhilirating lunacy of this musical!  Yes, it owes a large debt to Mel Brooks - not just The Producers, but also the musical number at the end of Blazing Saddles, where the characters from the movie all go spilling into each other on a Hollywood soundstage.  But this show has its own brand of historical and parodic zaniness, it does a masterful job of keeping a sense of real stakes while continuing to move the story and characters forward.  To my mind, every element of this production is brilliant, top-tier, and yet they all come together to form something that is greater than the sum of its wonderful parts.  This is so rarely achieved, and I am in awe of the many talents at work at such a high level here.  The cast is all strong, but Blake Hammond as the soothsayer and Scott Cote as a Puritan leader are simply off the charts in their musical comedy mojo.  This show is around for the entire month of December - you owe it to yourself not to miss this. It left me feeling positively giddy.



Center Theatre Group's 2018 Richard E. Sherwood Award Application deadline has been extended!

Center Theatre Group annually awards $10,000 to one innovative and adventurous Los Angeles-based theatre artist. A grace period has been extended to all applications that have been started by June 5. All submissions and materials (including the letter of recommendation) for Center Theatre Group's Sherwood Award must be received by Friday June 9, 2017 at 11:59 pm.
The application, eligibility guidelines, and information for the 2018 Sherwood Award are now available at CenterTheatreGroup.org/Sherwood.
Since 1996, nineteen artists have received the $10,000 Sherwood Award, which was established in memory of Richard E. Sherwood as an endowed fund to support innovative, adventurous theatre artists working in Los Angeles.
This past January, lighting designer, Pablo Santiago, was presented with the 2017 Sherwood Award at the annual Ovation Awards ceremony, which recognizes excellence in theatrical performance, production and design in the Greater Los Angeles Area and are produced by LA STAGE Alliance.
Three finalists are announced prior to the Ovation Awards and all three Finalists are celebrated leading up to the Award Announcement, allowing each Finalist more involvement with Center Theatre Group's initiatives. An honorarium of $2,000 is awarded to each of the two remaining finalists. Please note that artists can only be eligible for the Finalist Honorarium for two consecutive years, after which they must wait one calendar year before reapplying.
The application and more information about the Sherwood Award can be found here.
If you have any questions, please feel free to email [email protected].

AEA President Kate Shindle is Starring in Fun Home at CTG and Pro99 Folks Are Not Happy About It

The Tony Award Winning Musical Fun Home is currently playing at the Ahmanson and is currently has a 100% Sweet rating on the LemonMeter.
The production stars current Actor's Equity president Kate Shindle who recently did an interview with the LA Times. It's a good interview highlighting Shindle's Miss America experience and the activism she's done for HIV/AIDS. But you can't interview the president of AEA without mentioning the very contentious 99 Seat Plan battle. To refresh your memory, AEA has dismantled the 99 Seat Agreement which allowed theatres with 99 seats or less to use AEA actors for a small stipend. Now companies need to pay actors minimum wage, which when you're already working on a tiny budget is simply not possible. Many companies have already gone non-union. Which means less opportunities for LA AEA actors.
Here's what the interview has about the 99 Seat debate:

Although Shindle realizes she's speaking from a privileged perch inside one of the city's largest, most esteemed and well-funded theaters, she has fond memories of doing a 99-seat show at the Blank Theatre in Hollywood in 2002 while she was in town for pilot season.

“That show saved my sanity,” she says. “I believe small theater reminds people that they are, in fact, actors, even if they're not getting TV auditions at that particular moment. It gives them a chance to do what they love.”

On the other hand, for a union, the idea that actors should not aspire to a living wage is a bitter pill to swallow, she says. The compromise Equity made, Shindle adds, was to create membership rules that effectively provide wage requirement exemptions for more than 70% of the regularly producing 99-seat theaters in the county.

To these companies, many of which worry that the exemption could be rescinded at any moment, Shindle would like to say: “If anyone even brings up starting to move the membership companies out of that waiver before the end of my first term [in 2018], and if I'm re-elected, before the end of my second term, I'm going to smack them in the head. We have to let this settle … and we have to be sensitive to the fact that we're all artists.”

This interview has been floating around on Facebook with numerous LA based theatre makers not exactly thrilled that Shindle is here and has taken a job away from an LA actor. Considering Shindle and AEA have said that the new rules will allow for more midsize theatres to flourish (I imagine pigs will fly first) and that it will give its members more remunerative work (so far it's giving them less work as companies go non-union) it seems rather trite for Shindle to say "she did a 99 seat show here once." And that if anyone tries to touch the membership rule (which many companies have been denied) that she'll "smack them" seems a rather empty threat. 

A Love Letter To Gordon Davidson

Last Monday night was a Memorial for Gordon Davidson. If you don't know who Gordon is or was-the chances are you didn't grow up in Los Angeles. Gordon Davidson was the founding Artistic Director for the Center Theatre Group for over 40 years. He is the person who made Los Angeles a destination for theatre.

I attended on Monday night not because I knew Gordon personally. But because I wanted to say Thank You.

Gordon -- You created my introduction to theatre. You fostered the love of theatre and it's necessity in community.  You created a Golden Era of theatre and made it accessible to everyone.  Thank you. I owe you something good.

When I was a kid, my very first show was at the Music Center. Going to the Theatre was an event -- I dressed up in my best dress with white knee socks and black patent leather Mary Jane's and we drove downtown and when we came up those escalators, there was magnificence.  Architecture, people in tuxedos, lights and fountains.  It was the swankiest place in the world.  When the lights went down and the silence fell over the audience -- it was reverence and an excitement I'd never experienced, all in one moment.  From the second the curtain went up and the lights hit the stage, I was mesmerized.  Magic!  I was instantly hooked.

Theatre is a pure art form because anything can happen in a theatre.  There is no separation from those creating the art and those receiving the art and that connection, that touchable connection, is sacred.  That connection is what binds us together as community, as society, as living beings.  But also, it makes us aware that we are bound together.  That connection is what makes it art because until that connection occurs -- it isn't art.  It is intention in a vacuum.

Gordon understood this relationship. He was one of the few artistic directors in the nation that focused on producing new works. He created a relationship with our Los Angeles neighborhoods and commissioned them to give us their voices. He worked with schools and made scholarships available for entire seasons at CTG. Access to theater for everyone. If you grew up in Los Angeles, Gordon was an icon. Sometimes when I would go to the theater, I would see him with his white hair talking to the subscribers.  I'd think to myself, maybe one day I will have the chance to show him what I've got. Maybe he will shine his silver light on me.

There is a responsibility that is fostered in theatre.  It is a mission handed down from one artist to the next.  If that magic has touched you -- you must pass it on to another.  There are certain rules that make magic possible.  If you have been a part of the work that has created magic, you must share the rules with another artist.  It is a natural mentor/disciple relationship that is fostered in theatre.  Those who live within the natural order of theatre lead by example.  Those who are new are expected to watch and learn and if you want to come out and play -- you follow suit. It was like that for me.  It was an honor to be invited to be an apprentice at Zoo District.  Through that apprenticeship, I was taught how to respect the medium and how to preserve it.

Responsibility for that simple mission was accepted on that first day I went to the Music Center.  If you want to be part of the magic-you will do whatever it takes to speak such sacred truths.

At Gordon's Memorial Monday night -- a traditionally dark night for theatre -- it seemed fitting that it was on the Ahmanson stage amongst the Amelie set. It was filled with theatre royalty -- people who had worked with Gordon over all those years and all those projects. It was said by more than one person that Gordon's belief in the power of theatre was mythic. That the sacred words spoken would remain housed in those temples. When they had to renovate the Mark Taper, he was almost superstitious around the idea that some of those words might escape in the process thus being lost to the world forever. Because theatre is an ephemeral thing. You were either there to witness what happened on that stage or you weren't. Either way it can't be recreated.

Zoot Suit will be returning to the Ahmanson next month. A very fitting celebration to Gordon's memory.   When it premiered at the Mark Taper Forum in April, 1978, it was the first professionally produced Chicano play. Gordon ushered that project all the way to New York and it became the first Chicano play on Broadway. This was Gordon's mission. To share the underbelly of our communities, our humanity -- what links us all together. Los Angeles has plenty of its own stories to tell. You needn't go far to find a universal tale.

It was said and felt that the best way that we can honor the memory of Gordon, especially in the political times we live in is to lead with "the same noble intention and unswerving commitment."

And as Gordon was known to say:

“Leave the door open for possibility.”

This is the legacy fulfilled by Gordon Davidson.  That of a true artist.


Gordon Davidson Memorial on Monday, January 9th

Gordon Davidson's Memorial is set for Monday, January 9, 2017 AT 7:30PM at the Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Gordon Davidson, Center Theatre Group's Founding Artistic Director, who passed away on October 2, 2016, was one of America's most renowned and beloved artistic visionaries. He led Center Theatre Group for 38 years, shaping the company into one of the most creative and important theatres in the world. Under his leadership, the Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, and Kirk Douglas Theatre was the birthplace of many of the most acclaimed dramatic works of the second half of the Twentieth Century and a launching pad for the careers of dozens of playwrights, actors, directors, designers, and theatre administrators.
Gordon's passionate dramatic, social, and political convictions forever altered and expanded the theatrical landscape in Los Angeles and the place of theatre in American culture. He was and will remain one of the American theatre's greatest leaders. I was proud to call him a mentor, friend, and colleague.
Center Theatre Group will hold a celebration in honor of Gordon Davidson, on Monday, January 9, 2017, beginning at 7:30pm at the Ahmanson Theatre. The theatre will open at 7pm. The celebration is a non-ticketed, open event. ASL and audio description will be provided.
Additional details can be found on the CTG website.