Spotlight Series: Meet Fringe Management Co-Founder Mike Blaha


This Spotlight focuses on Mike Blaha, Co-Founder of Fringe Management, a company that has produced an incredible assortment of shows for both the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Hollywood Fringe Festival. Listen in as he shares his insights on how the Coronavirus pandemic has affected both this year, especially since the initial shutdown occurred just as the Edinburgh event had begun.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Mike Blaha (Mike): I did a little bit of acting in high school, but never really thought about producing.  Then a friend of mine asked me to be his associate Artistic Director at a small, long-defunct theatre in the Valley in the late 80s and I caught the producing bug.

Since beginning in 1989, I’ve produced or co-produced over 100 shows in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Hong Kong, London and especially at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where our company Fringe Management,  LLC (co-founded with my Edinburgh based partner, actor-director Nigel Miles Thomas) has presented approximately 70 productions since 2001.  I have also produced 18 shows at the Hollywood Fringe Festival since 2012.

I was also one of the co-founders of Sci-Fest, a festival of one act science fiction plays that ran from 2014-2016 and have served on the Board of New Musicals, Inc. for most of the last 20 years (as President from 2015-2019).

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out it needed to immediately be either postponed or cancelled?

(Mike): I was producing, along with Joel Shapiro of the Electric Lodge in Venice, the Edinburgh Fringe sensation “Hitler’s Tasters,” a brilliant dark comedy by Michelle Kholos Brooks.  We were originally scheduled to run March 12-30, 2020.  We had previews Thursday and Friday, March 12 and 13, 2020, opened on Saturday, March 14, 2020 and had to close on Sunday, March 15, 2020.

(SB): Here is “Hitler’s Tasters” promo reel on You Tube. How did you communicate the shutdown to the cast and crew?

(Mike): We communicated the heartbreaking reality of the shutdown in person with the cast and crew after the performance on Saturday night.

(SB): Are plans in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent? 

(Mike): Fortunately, we made an archival recording on opening night and we were able to negotiate an agreement with Equity to stream that recording for a two-week period, May 8-21, 2020, so audience members who bought a ticket to the live performance, and some new audience members, were able to watch that recording during that window. It is possible that there may be a remount of the play at the Electric Lodge, but it’s tricky because the cast members, who were the actors in the Edinburgh Fringe production, are all from New York.

(SB): What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?  

(Mike): I had five shows lined up for the 2020 Hollywood Fringe Festival, including three shows from the UK (The Nights, The Tanner and West), a local sketch comedy show Gold Baby and the 7th annual “Combined Artform’s Pick of the Fringe”.  With the Hollywood Fringe now cancelled this year, except for online shows, I have lost most if not all of the planned productions, although they may return for 2021.

We were also producing 7 shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August, which has been cancelled altogether including Activities of Daily Living, Bard Overboard, Elton John: Rocketman, Elvis: He’s Back, Hiding Anne Frank, Once Upon A Time in Hollywoodland, and Two Girls: One Mic.  Fortunately, it looks like most if not all of the shows want to perform at the 2021 edition.

(SB): I saw Joanna Lipari in her one-woman show Activities for Daily Living at the Sierra Madre Playhouse and believe everyone needs to experience her incredible and very personal observations about life and love in that show. So I certainly hope she will be able to take the show to Edinburgh in 2021. (Here’s the link to my review on Broadway World.)

So now that everything is on hold, how are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Mike): Well, I’m reading my daily reports from Broadway World, of course, following updates from various theatre companies, as well friends’, colleagues’, and various theatre forums on social media (and occasionally posting myself), and trying to keep up with the amazing explosion of content by artists of every stripe on YouTube, Facebook, Patreon, Twitter . . . the list goes on.  I’m in touch with all of the artists involved with the delayed and cancelled productions referenced above, and working with a couple of them on developing new projects.

(SB): Are there any thoughts would you like to share with L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Mike): Some people think the pandemic will move live theatre online permanently; some people think live theater will return eventually unchanged. I fall somewhere in the middle. I think there may be a hybrid model that combines live theatre with more digital innovation, both with respect to the design and production of live theater, but also respect to the supplemental, possibly complementary exploitation of those live productions.  One thing I am certain of, having witnessed the resilience and creativity of our community over these past few weeks, is that the L.A. Theatre scene will adapt and thrive in whatever becomes the “new normal.”

Of course, this has been a very difficult time for all of us.  One of the things that has kept me sane in spite of all the postponements and cancellations and missed openings is the knowledge that theatre has been around for a couple of thousand years and ain’t going anywhere.  It may be very different or not that different at all; but in a few weeks or months we will all be sitting in a dark black box once again in thrall to the magic of live theatre!


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



COVID-19 Theater Series: Rogue Machine's Journey Beyond Adversity - An Interview with John Perrin Flynn


Leading one of L.A.’s most prestigious theatre companies for twelve years, John Perrin Flynn has nurtured Rogue Machine from the seed of an idea into a group of over 300 artists with an impressive array of accolades and awards. Most recently, he helmed two epic productions, the American premiere of Tom Morton-Smith’s Oppenheimer and the west coast premiere of Mike Bartlett’s Earthquakes in London. John received the LA Weekly “Career Achievement Award,” just one of over one hundred awards during his tenure with the company. He was the executive producer and director of Lifetime’s award-winning series Strong Medicine and has produced two other series and 14 television movies or miniseries, including the Emmy nominated Burden of Proof. John took time from his busy schedule to interview in April 2020.


When did Rogue Machine First Begin? Were you involved from the start? Who/what/where was it founded?

John Perrin Flynn:  Our inaugural production was in 2008. The prior year, I had happened to read a new play by a young playwright who was looking for a director. The play was called Lost and Found and the playwright was John Pollono. As soon as I read it, I knew that I had to direct it. We ran it at the Lounge Theatre. Later that year, I directed the West Coast premiere of Craig Lucas's Small Tragedy at the Odyssey Theatre. Afterwards, I was invited to pitch plays at a couple of local venues. By then, John Pollono was working on another new play. I had also begun to work with Henry Murray, developing his Tree Fall; and I quickly learned that none of the companies that I was approaching were interested in producing new work.

Cast of "Pocatello" - Photo by John Perrin Flynn

I brought together three disparate groups: theater friends I had made during my time as a television producer; theater friends I had made doing the two plays I had recently directed; and theater friends from the time I was artistic director of Theater Exchange in North Hollywood. We all felt that there were already too many theaters in Los Angeles. At the same time, there seemed to be a need for one which would produce new work and the edgier kind of new work which was then coming out of Chicago, New York, and London. In early 2008, the opportunity to share the Theatre/Theater space on Pico Boulevard opened up and we decided to take the leap.

Ron Bottitta and Tucker Smallwood in "The Sunset Limited" - Photo by John Perrin Flynn

How about a brief timeline of changes at they occurred?

JPF:  We began running our monthly salon “Rant and Rave,” which has continued to be one of our most popular programs. We converted a classroom at the space into a second smaller stage. Our programming for that stage brought us a great deal of attention. We opened Cormac McCarthy's The Sunset Limited with Tucker Smallwood and Ron Bottitta. Stephanie Kerley Schwartz designed the small one-room urban apartment set that worked brilliantly. The show became an LA Times Critics’ Choice and ran for five months. We modified that set and opened John Pollono’s third play as a late-night show. It was Small Engine Repair, which ran for six months until we had to move it to open Joel Drake Johnson's Four Places, for which we received our first Ovation Award for Best Production.

Small Engine Repair swept the Los Angeles Award season, winning best production and many other awards. Our fifth season brought us the long-running hit Dirty Filthy Love Story by Rob Mersola and our first collaborations with playwrights Samuel Hunter and Enda Walsh. The sixth season brought us Pollono’s Lost Girls and Kemp Powers’ One Night in Miami, which became our largest box office hit ever. It ended up having multiple productions around the world, including at the Donmar Warehouse in England. We closed that season with Christopher Shinn’s Dying City, which won us our second Ovation award for best production. The eighth season was an abbreviated season because rent increases forced us out - but not before we did our second Sam Hunter play, A Permanent Image. We moved to The Met Theatre in our ninth season and opened with a strong season of multi-award nominated productions, including Hunter’s Pocatello, and Greg Keller’s Honky and Dutch Masters.

Shari Gardner Desean, Kevin Terry, and Jelani Blunt in "Les Blancs" - Photo by John Perrin Flynn

Our tenth season featured the first ever professional production of Lorraine Hansberry’s Les Blancs in Los Angeles, as well as a collaboration with the Getty Villa of a modern-day refugee version of Aeschylus’ The Suppliant Women.

We were forced to move once again during our twelfth season, but not before we produced the American premiere of Dionna Michelle Daniel’s American Saga: Gunshot Medley Part I. We moved to the Electric Lodge in Venice and in the fall, where we opened Tom Morton-Smith’s Oppenheimer and Joe Gifford's Finks. We closed our latest season with the world premiere productions of Disposable Necessities by Neil McGowan (an LA Times Critics’ Choice) and Mike Bartlett’s Earthquakes in London.

Over the past few months, how has COVID-19 impacted your theater?

JPF:  We were fortunate that we had closed the twelfth season in early March. At that time, we weren’t sure if we would open again until July. Now we have no idea when theaters will be allowed to reopen and we don’t know what the final damage to the economy will be. Fundraising may be more difficult. We understand our existence is imperiled; but all of us, Rogue Machine’s Board and staff, are determined to survive. There is a proverb that “Adversity creates opportunity.” Many theaters are attempting to build an online audience during this period of isolation. We will be offering some programming as well.

Corey Dorris and Josh Zuckerman in "Dutch Masters" - Photo by John Perrin Flynn

Are you doing anything right now to keep your live theater going? Are you streaming shows? Having virtual meetings? Are you planning for your next show when you reopen?

JPF:  We have most of our next season in place. We will open with a world premiere production of Justin Tanner’s Little Theatre, directed by Lisa James and starring Jennie O’Hara. We are also planning to produce the American premiere of Timothy Daly’s Man in the Attic, with French and Vanessa Stewart and Rob Nagle.

I am participating in weekly meetings with LA area artistic directors to see what we can do collectively, now and in the future, when theaters reopen.

John Pollono, Jon Bernthal, Josh Helman, and Michael Redfield in "Small Engine Repair" - Photo by John Perrin Flynn

What do you think will be the impact of COVID-19 on live theater in general in Los Angeles? Do you forsee any permanent changes?

JPF:  I suspect that some organizations will not be able to survive this shutdown, particularly if they have leases and rent to pay. I think it might be a long time before things return to a semblance of how they were. Some people that were key to how intimate theatre operated may be forced to take up other careers.

What do you need right now to keep going forward? What would you like from the theater public?

JPF:  Funding. I am concerned about our employees. We have applied for the SBA paycheck protection loan, but the funding ran out before we were approved. If more funding is forthcoming, we will be able to offer some employment to the staff, all of whom have been laid off. I want our theater public to stay safe and come out of this healthy, and hungry for the common bonds that live theater encourages.

Joshua Bitton, Burl Moseley, and Jennifer Pollono in "Dirty Filthy Love Story" - Photo by John Perrin Flynn

What are some of your future plans?

JPF:  We plan to do some online programming, which includes a joint project called “Common Ground” with The Road Theatre. We may also stream some live readings and something with “Rant and Rave.” In addition to the plays that I mentioned, we are hoping to do another Samuel D. Hunter play; and we are reading a number of new plays during this forced hiatus.


This article first appeared in Splash Worldwide.



Now Registered on the Better Lemons Calendar – February 17 - 24, 2020


Musicals, Comedy, Cabaret, Variety shows, and more now registered on the Better Lemons calendar!

For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page.


Law & Order: The Musical!

Share on social media.

Love in Bloom

Share on social media.

Dead Man's Cell Phone

Share on social media.

Twisted Broadway

Share on social media.

Improv Night

Share on social media.

Edith Presents

Share on social media.

Seussical

Share on social media.

Studio: Spring 2020

Share on social media.

Dahlak Brathwaite: Try/Step/Trip

Share on social media.

James Rushford: Prey Calling / Daniel Corral: Concerto for Having Fun with Elvis on Stage

Share on social media.

Tales of Modern Motherhood Part 2

Share on social media.

Murder Mafia

Share on social media.

Hitler's Tasters

Share on social media.

Alice in Wonderland

Share on social media.

Worst-Case Scenario

Share on social media.

A Winter's Tale

Share on social media.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Share on social media.

Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Share on social media.

Effing Robots: How I Taught the A.I. to Stop Worrying and Love Humans

Share on social media.

Mama Mama Can't You See

Share on social media.

The Bogeyman Within

Share on social media.

Measure for Measure

Share on social media.


Ashton's Audio Interview: The cast of “Gunshot Medley: Part I” at The Electric Lodge

A lyrical and mystical play with live music, about the struggle against systemic racism. Set in a haunted North Carolina graveyard this intricately crafted work brings past and present together in a soulful tale of lives destroyed by deep-seated tensions and conflicts that have marred America's history from antebellum south to the present day.*

Enjoy this interview with the cast of “Gunshot Medley: Part I” at The Electric Lodge, playing through Aug 11th. 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


Now Registered on the Better Lemons Calendar – March 25 - 31, 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.

Not That Jewish

“EMMY Award winner Monica Piper Returns to The Braid From Her Off-Broadway Triumph
Monica Piper performers her hit Comedy 'Not That Jewish,' (Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle award nomination “Best Solo Performance”) for a limited run, at The Braid where it was originally developed and ran for almost a year. On stage with the passion that has navigated her career to an Emmy Award win, Golden Globe nomination, American Comedy Award nomination as one of the Top Five female comedians in the country, and secured her as one of Showtime Network's “Comedy All Stars,” Monica Piper brings her authentic humor and autobiographical journey to audiences in Los Angeles.”

Share on social media.

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

Hot Flashin' - A Feel Better Musical Comedy

“'Hot Flashin' is a 'Feel Good Musical Comedy' that tells the story of a group of five women in their 'middle to later years, who have seen it all!' These female characters have grown children and limited incomes, and are working through the challenges of life in the midst of rising living costs. Somehow they each have the ability to find humor in the stressful moments they confront by their unique life situations...The show offers plenty of physical comedy, funny repartee, and hysterical songs, with titles such as 'Hot Flashes,' 'Dump that Chump,' 'My Feet Hurt' and 'Boob Operation,” among them. After the audience gets to know the plights and challenges of each of the five women, the play ends with the women becoming an official singing group. During the course of the play, the audience learns that the women's performances have been streamed live over the Internet, and they've become a smash.”

Share on social media.

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

Diana of Dobson's

“A rare revival of Cicely Hamilton's romantic comedy, an unexpected hit of the 1908 London season. When poorly paid worker Diana inherits enough money to free her from a lifetime of drudgery, she impulsively decides to spend it all on a madcap, month-long taste of the high-life. But what she learns about love, money and society is as timely in 2019 as it was at the turn of the 20th century.”

Share on social media.

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

Macbeth

“This new take on the classic story of the rise of the King of Scotland examines the sacrifices and consequences women face in their quest for power and recognition, as inspired by the Norse tradition against the backdrop of the Viking invasion. “On these Captains, who had the bodies of women, nature bestowed the souls of men.” – Saxo Grammaticus ”

Share on social media.

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

The Lost Virginity Tour

“Funny, profound, and provocative, this adventurous road trip through memories conjures up the choices we make that shape our lives forever – and the friendships that hold us up when we can't walk on our own. The Lost Virginity Tour is a comedy about four women recalling their first time, mining the importance of female issues, and the progress made in the past few decades.”

Share on social media.

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

Henry V

“Shakespeare's most patriotic and inspiring play tells of a young King Henry V who seeks to unite his beloved England. After laying claim to French lands and being ridiculed, Henry marches off to war. Although sorely outnumbered, Henry rallies his troops and achieves a decisive victory in the famous Battle of Agincourt.
For audiences seeking quality, family entertainment, Shakespeare by the Sea's free performances can't be beat. Pack a picnic, a blanket and beach chair, gather loved ones, and settle in under the stars for a night of classic entertainment. The tales are timeless, the admission ticketless, and the experience priceless.”

Share on social media.

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

Bar Mitzvah Boy

“A classic romp of mistaken identity! Two young visitors arrive in the city unaware that their long-lost twins already live there. Over the course of a single day, everything that can go wrong does go wrong: a marriage at breaking point, a missing gold chain, an unpaid debt, and a dubious arrest.
For audiences seeking quality, family entertainment, Shakespeare by the Sea's free performances can't be beat. Pack a picnic, a blanket and beach chair, gather loved ones, and settle in under the stars for a night of classic entertainment. The tales are timeless, the admission ticketless, and the experience priceless.”

Share on social media.

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

At The Table

“Six friends head out of the city on their annual weekend retreat. With no social media, no cell phones, no internet allowed at all, this leaves them with one thing to do… look up from their screens and talk to each other. When the liquor starts flowing and the tongues loosen, no conversation is uneventful and no topic is off-limits. In these polarizing times, what does it mean to come to the table and at what cost? Will it bring us together or reveal how far apart we really are?”

Share on social media.

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

Black Super Hero Magic Mama

“Six friends head out of the city on their annual weekend retreat. With no social media, no cell phones, no internet allowed at all, this leaves them with one thing to do… look up from their screens and talk to each other. When the liquor starts flowing and the tongues loosen, no conversation is uneventful and no topic is off-limits. In these polarizing times, what does it mean to come to the table and at what cost? Will it bring us together or reveal how far apart we really are? ”

Share on social media.

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

The Niceties

“In this “barnburner of a play” (The Washington Post), two extraordinary women square off in a high-stakes academic debate over race, reputation and who gets the final word on how American history is written. When university professor Janine and her brilliant student Zoe don't see eye to eye, their routine office hours discussion unexpectedly careens off course—and threatens to derail their careers, lives and the status quo.”

Share on social media.

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

Booger Red

“A solo performance written and performed by Jim Loucks
Booger Red survives a rough childhood to become a renowned Hellfire and Brimstone Southern Baptist preacher. How can Preacher's Kid Jimmy find a way out from under Booger Red's larger-than-life shadow as he grows up and finds his own voice? If you've had a dream or a daddy, Loucks' new solo performance is for you.”

Share on social media.

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

All My Sons

“Winner of multiple Tony Awards and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best New Play, this electrifying family drama ALL MY SONS, by Arthur Miller, remains as timely as it is timeless. A gripping American classic reveals the lethal consequences of deceit and greed. In the aftermath of WWII, Joe Keller and his family struggle to stay intact while planning for their future as a long-hidden secret begins to tear them apart—forcing a reckoning with truth, guilt, and repentance.”

Share on social media.

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

HAIRSPRAY The Broadway Musical

“The dance, music, theatre and visual arts academies of Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts aka: Grand Arts, present the musical Broadway production of HAIRSPRAY. This is a tremendous effort that provides opportunities for students on stage and behind the scenes to experience a full scale production that brings industry professionals to campus to donate time to ensure the audience has a complete Broadway experience.”

Share on social media.

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

Rooftop Movies at The Montalbán

“The regular season of Rooftop Movies at The Montalbán opens on Tuesday, April 2 and will run through Thursday, October 31, 2019. The venue will also host pop-up screenings during holidays and for special events between November and the first quarter of 2020...Doors open at 6:00pm and films start screening 10 minutes after sunset. Food service starts when doors open. Prices run $18 for general seating or $50 to reserve one of the limited loveseats. Loveseat guests also receive a Prosecco toast and unlimited popcorn throughout the night. The rooftop screening experience is meant to foster a date-night atmosphere so most nights are meant for guests who are 18-years of age or older.
Please be advised that access to the 4th floor roof is via an outside staircase ONLY. There is no ADA-compliant access (yet) since this 90+ year old theater does not have an elevator at this time.

Doors open at 6:00 pm, which allows attendees to DRINK an exclusive hand-crafted Ramos Sangria (or beer, wine, mix drinks); DINE thanks to Umami Burger who continues as the venue's rooftop culinary partner (serving Impossible Burgers much to the delight of many vegetarians); SNACK on freshly baked cookies by Duidough Cookie Lab; PLAY a game of giant Jenga or ham-it-up in the selfie-friendly Simple Booth area; or CHILL in a relaxing Adirondack chair or loveseat while listening to a hand-selected musical soundtrack through the KV2 Audio system and Sound Off™ 3-channel/stereo wireless noise-cancelling headphones until the movie begins just after sunset.”

Rooftop Movies at The Montalbán - Cinema Paradiso

“A filmmaker recalls his childhood when falling in love with the pictures at the cinema of his home village and forms a deep friendship with the cinema's projectionist.”

Share on social media.

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

Rooftop Movies at The Montalbán - Some Like It Hot

“When two male musicians witness a mob hit, they flee the state in an all-female band disguised as women, but further complications set in.”

Share on social media.

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

Rooftop Movies at The Montalbán - Gladiator

“A former Roman General sets out to exact vengeance against the corrupt emperor who murdered his family and sent him into slavery.”

Share on social media.

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

Rooftop Movies at The Montalbán - The Greatest Showman

“Celebrates the birth of show business and tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.”

Share on social media.

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

Rooftop Movies at The Montalbán - A Star is Born

“A musician helps a young singer find fame as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral.”

Share on social media.

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

?


Ashton's Audio Interview: French Stewart - Harry Solomon on the 1990s sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun stars in "FINKS" at the Electric Lodge

On the verge of TV stardom, a comic meets an actress/activist, their romance blossoms—as does their risk of being blacklisted for their political activities. The House Un-American Activities Committee, tasked with exposing communist subversion, conducted hearings which lead to more than 300 directors, actors, radios personalities, and screenwriters to be boycotted by studios. Friends were turned against friends, and family. Most who were named never recovered their careers. Those who willingly testify—naming others to the committee—will be branded as "finks."*
Enjoy this interview with the cast of “FINKS” at the Electric Lodge, running until Dec 30th. 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