Spotlight Series: Meet Ashley Griffin, an L.A. Actor Who Moved to NYC to Follow Her Theatre Dreams


This Spotlight focuses on Ashley Griffin, an actor in Los Angeles since the age of five who moved to New York City to follow her theatre dreams - and is now both writing and acting in shows.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background, beginning in Los Angeles which led you to decide to move to NYC?

Ashley Griffin (Ashley): I'm a 5th generation Californian (possibly 6th), but I'm the first actor/dramatist in my family. I grew up at the wonderful rep company, The Santa Monica Playhouse, and made my theatrical debut when I was 5. I worked professionally as a child actor in theater, film and TV and attended the Hamilton Academy of Music Performing Arts High School. I adore Los Angeles theatre, but was always a bit frustrated because it's much more challenging to do theatre in LA than in NYC since there aren't as many theatrical productions in LA and Broadway and touring shows rarely audition here.

Ashley Griffin playing Denise off-Broadway in the revival of "Dubarry Was a Lady," directed by Evan Peters

It’s my experience that the culture is much more TV/Film focused here which was never my true performing interest. But I did appear quite a bit in productions at the Will Geer Theaticum Botanicum (making my Shakespeare debut when I was still a young child), as well as at Royce Hall, The Santa Monica Playhouse, the Morgan-Wixson Theater, and in touring productions, including taking the wonderful show Mary-Mary to the UK where I played Mary-Mary in London, Warwick and Stratford-Upon-Avon.

But at the end of the day, it always felt like if you wanted to do Film/TV you needed to be in LA, and if you wanted to do theatre, you needed to be in NYC. After doing a good amount of Film/TV, I realized my heart was always still within the theater. So, I went to college at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and stayed in the city after graduating, but I'm occasionally still doing work in LA when the right opportunity presents itself.

(SB):  What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the show?

(Ashley): I'm a Broadway person, and I was literally on my way to a show when I was told Broadway was being shut down. In addition, I had just finished directing The Middleman at the Hudson Theater where we were fortunate to be able to complete our run, and was in meetings about productions I had coming down the pipeline which have obviously been postponed. We're still trying to figure out next steps for three shows of mine in the wake of the shutdown.

Ashley Griffin playing the lead role of Arcadia in "Trial" off-Broadway, directed by Lori Petty. Photo by Micah Joe

(SB):  How was the shutdown communicated with the cast and production team?

(Ashley): By the time we received an email about the closure, most of us had already seen it on the news.

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

(Ashley): It depends. Some are being shut down permanently, some are figuring out how to reschedule, and some are in limbo. A lot will depend on when the shutdown actually ends, which is basically out of our hands.

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

(Ashley): I have three specific shows that have been directly affected, but since none of them have been officially announced yet, I can’t really say anything specific about them. I can say one is meant to go up this fall.

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

Ashley Griffin playing the lead role of Astrid in development with "Snow" off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons. Photo by Micah Joel

(Ashley): I'm fortunate that I'm a writer, so I'm working to get as much writing done as I can. I'm in talks to be a part of some virtual readings of projects, and my collaborators and I are meeting online to work and make future plans. I run a podcast for the Onstage Network and I've been doing episodes of that.

I am also taking some dance classes online whenever I can, and really enjoy Kathryn Morgan’s wonderful classes on YouTube. I also love Claudia Dean, anything from the Royal Ballet, and Westside Academy of Dance where I grew up studying - special shout out to Celeste Amos, Chason Greenwood, and Johnny Chong's classes - and I'm very excited to stream Ashley Shaw's class from Matthew Bourne's New Adventures Company.

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the LA Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Ashley): I think this is a great opportunity to showcase work online and bring it to the attention of people outside our normal communities. I think this could be a great time for LA theatre to be seen and appreciated by audiences all over the country, and hopefully when we're all back, the online experience can be a doorway to better supporting live theatre in the Los Angeles area.

If anyone's interested in virtual Arts classes in acting / writing / directing / Shakespeare / business of theatre, I'd love to offer my services. You can reach me on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, my podcast on Onstage Network, and of course through my website.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Kelly Brighton, an Actor, Singer, Composer/Lyricist, Producer/Arranger and Writer


This Spotlight focuses on Kelly Brighton, an Actor, Singer, Composer/Lyricist, Producer/Arranger and Writer who has appeared in theatrical productions his entire life. As a member of DOMA Theatre, Kelly has received accolades for his roles in several company productions. He is also preparing to take a new musical he has written to the stage, and as a Recording Artist works with some of the finest producers and recording engineers in Hollywood.  So what’s this always-busy guy up to while quarantined at home?  But first, Kelly shares a bit about his theatrical background.


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

Kelly Brighton (Kelly): I’m a Composer/Lyricist, Producer/Arranger and Writer, which keeps me very busy. I started early in Theatre when I did two shows as a kid with Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, sang with LA Opera and the UCLA Opera Workshop. Those were really fun, busy times. I’m very grateful to my parents for supporting me to do what I love to do. Thanks to my Mom and Dad, I’ve been in the Theatre my whole life. Flash forward to today. In January I performed at the 2020 LA Ovation Awards. It was an honor to perform for our LA theatre colleagues, many of whom are my friends. It’s always a grand, black tie event at the beautiful Ace Theatre in downtown Los Angeles.

I’m a member of DOMA Theatre and played the conflicted Pontius Pilate in our production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Our superb cast and show were unanimously praised by critics and audiences, so much so that we extended our sold-out run twice at The Met Theatre in Hollywood. I received a Robby Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical as Pilate from L.A. Theatre critic, Rob Stevens.

Kelly Brighton as Lord Henry Wotton in "Dorian's Descent"

I had a great time as Lord Henry Wotton in DOMA Theatre’s Dorian’s Descent, the new musical written by Christopher Raymond and Marco Gomez, based on Oscar Wilde’s Gothic novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. I led Dorian into a life of debauchery in our beautifully produced show.

One of my favorite productions was Octavio Carlin’s hilarious farce, Hollywood Party, at the Hudson Theatre. It was mad-cap romp that audiences loved in which I played Rodrigo De Altamirano and spent the entire show looking for Lilyan Tashman. Movie star shenanigans.

I’ve written the music and lyrics with my writing partner Jane Stuart and we also co-wrote the book for a new musical farce titled Kiss Me, Quick! We’ve had two hilarious table reads with my DOMA friends and we’re planning a workshop production, making it a very exciting time for us. DOMA is developing a multi-use Arts Studio with a performance space in the Arts District in DTLA which will allow for immersive experiences as we develop new musicals in association with Behind The Mask, Inc. Stay tuned!

I’m also a Recording Artist and work with some of the finest producers and recording engineers in Hollywood. My pop/soul music is available on iTunes, Spotify, and most digital platforms. I invite you to check them out at KellyBrighton.com

(SB):  What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the show?

(Kelly): In mid-March this year, I was in pre-production to direct/act in Seminar by Theresa Rebeck for the Hollywood Fringe Festival. We did a staged reading at Theatre Palisades in August 2019 which was such a success, we decided to put it up for Fringe. I was also rehearsing new material for Jim Caruso’s Cast Party at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s, and was in pre-production with my good friend, Jim West (Weird Al), to co-produce a new single I’ll be releasing. Of course, everything is on hold now. And after years of not seeing The Book of Mormon, I finally had tickets but it was cancelled. What a disappointment!

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Kelly): While at home now, as a member of SAG-AFTRA Singers, I’m a studio session singer and have a home studio, and work is being offered remotely. We download the tracks, record our vocals at home, then send them back. It works very well. I just did a fun, Zoom online “Radio Play” reading with the Quarantine Players! It was a live, Facebook event and we had a blast. More to come! I’m also using this time at home to compose and arrange, which is my full-time job at the moment. I’m thankful to be focused on the positive and in the zone of creativity. I recommend it! And I love vocal coaching and am considering using Zoom to coach online. It’s an amazing media tool which many of us are discovering for the first time.

(SB): That’s very true. I am on the Board of Kentwood Players at the Westchester Playhouse and we held our April Board meeting on Zoom, which was a really fun way to get together without having to drive to a meeting. I’d love to keep doing it that way even when the quarantine is over.

What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

Kelly Brighton and "Kiss Me, Quick!" cast

(Kelly): I ask everyone to remember that this is temporary. Focus on what you can do at home. Engage your creativity. Read those scripts you’ve been meaning to get to. Learn that monologue you’ve had on your desk for months. Bump up your self-tape submission game. Work on your website. Go through your archival photos and update your news page. Encourage your friends to do the same. Lift each other up. And if you’re hurting, reach out. It beats being pre-occupied with worry.

There is nothing like the magic of live Theatre. It transports us, teaches us, moves us, riles us. That’s what keeps us in love with it. I know what it takes to put up a show and sustain a run, and when I’m an audience member, I’m pulling for everyone on stage to knock it out of the park! Always remember so much of what we do as actors happens backstage. I like that graphic that shows top 10% of an iceberg – what the audience sees - and the 90% below water is what we do in rehearsal. Truth!

(SB) That’s for sure! It’s the reason I appear in a play or musical every five years or so, just so that I remember all the work that goes into bringing a production to the stage when I am in the audience reviewing a show.

(Kelly): I love our community and it means a great deal to me. Some of my dearest friends are those I’ve done shows with here. You’re in the pressure cooker of production, and you bond quickly because you count on each other to bring it every rehearsal and performance. The shows go up with a bang, you have your run, and inevitably you say good-bye to your cast mates and production crew. Post-show blues are a real thing. Right?!

And so we take our friendships with us and support each other. Texts, phone calls, and lunches. None of us are doing this alone since the very nature of theatre is collaboration. How nice is it that we can continue to help each other along the way.

When we’re up and running, please go see a show! Continue to support your fellow actors and theatre companies. Get back out there and audition. We can do this!


Kelly is repped by The Movement Talent Agency

Visit Kelly at his YouTube Channel, listen to him on iTunes or on Spotify and connect with him on Facebook or on Instagram.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Best Theatre of the Year - Looking Back At L.A.’s 2019

I give to you my personal list of the best theatre Los Angeles offered in 2019, with a few swipes at the less of the best….

First off, the production of August Wilson’s Jitney at the Mark Taper Forum. Wilson’s works share a distinction with those of Shakespeare, in that when the plays of either are fortunate enough to be housed in a production of true artistry one finds theatre nirvana, which is what director Ruben Santiago-Hudson and cast provided L.A. audiences with.

The cast —Steven Antony JonesFrancois BattisteAmari CheatomNija OkoroRay Anthony ThomasHarvy BlanksKeith Randolph SmithBrian D. Coats, and Anthony Chisholm returning to the role which earned him a Drama Desk Award and Obie in 2000’s off-Broadway production— performed as keys on a perfectly tuned piano, with  Santiago-Hudson assuring not one false note was sounded.

Contributing to this perfect harmony were David Gallo’s set, Jane Cox’s deft light design and Toni-Leslie James’ superlatively unobtrusive costumes.


In six short years the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts has won L.A.’s appreciation for the work produced and Artistic Director Paul Crewes its respect for his guidance.

This year that appreciation and respect were given further validation: The Old Man and the Old Moon by the PigPen Theatre Company, was an intoxicating entwining of old world folklore, Arabian night tales and the poetic arts of a Celtic seanchaís resulting in an evening of wondrous magic which is the essence of theatre.


Some twenty-five years ago at the old Tiffany Theatre on Sunset Boulevard, the marvelous Hershey Felder presented his first solo show based on the life of a great composer.  Having previously brought Chopin and Beethoven to the Wallis, this year Felder returned again— and again was…well, marvelous.

Hershey Felder: A Paris Love Story, are the reminiscences of his first youthful journey to Paris which are placed as a palimpsest in homage to his favorite composer Achille-Claude Debussy.  Directed by Trevor Hay it was perhaps the most enchanting show of the season.


We have the Wallis to thank for Renée Taylor’s one-woman show, My Life on a Diet Best known to movie lovers as Eva Braun in Mel Brooks’ The Producers (1968) and to TV viewers as Fran Drescher’s mother on the CBS sitcom The Nanny, Taylor, with her late husband Joseph Bologna, co-wrote the Oscar nominated Lovers and Other Strangers as well as two additional screenplays and 21 more plays.

It was a privilege and a joy to be in the company of the 86 year old Taylor who is a juggernaut of talent as well as a living history of both Broadway and Hollywood, and, personally, I wanted her show to go on longer than its 90 minutes.

Like a week longer.  Maybe two.


The Wallis also deserves thanks for bringing back talented David Mynne, whose one-man presentation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations was one of last year’s high-water mark.

A Christmas Carol, this year’s Dickens offering, was less satisfying but Mynne’s performance was nevertheless amazing to watch.


The Fountain Theatre, which I regard as one of the jewels in the crown of the L.A. theatre community offered little this year that drew my interest and what did, I’m afraid, I was less than thrilled by.

Idris Goodwin’s play Hype Man, though not without merit, I found weak and I thought the cast, Clarissa ThibeauxChad Addison and Matthew Hancock and director Deena Selenow, brought more to the play than the play brought to the stage.

Of course, there was no performance of the Forever Flamenco series that I was not enraptured by.  These monthly Juergas of dancers and singers, overseen by Deborah Culver at the Fountain since 1990, I have often heralded as one of the best kept secrets in L.A. and one of its hottest tickets.


The Long Beach International City Theatre’s production of Arthur Miller’s The Price was a show one should regret if missed.

David Nevell as a man who sees in the wreckage of his father’s life the failure of his own, and Elyse Mirto as the wife who sees her husband’s true worth but is unable to make him believe it, were each outstanding.

In the most Biblical referenced of Miller’s plays, Bo Foxworth’s layered performance as the prodigal son allowed the audience to see that the chains forged by his choices were as heavy as those of his brother.

As the secondhand furniture dealer Mister Solomon, which is the heartbeat of the play, Tony Abatemarco fluctuated adroitly between the Old Testament’s wise Solomon and Faust’s wheeling-dealing Mephistopheles.

I find director John Henry Davis to be rather hit or miss, but with The Price he undeniably knocked one out of the stadium.

DoubleDouble playwright Guy Zimmerman and director Juli Crockett, by a fusion of the 1944 noir classic Double Indemnity with Shakespeare’s Scottish play, successfully brought another artistic chimera to the stage.

Zimmerman and Crockett juggled snippets of dialogue and hints of shared motifs, transforming a trio of Barbara Stanwyck doppelgangers  (Henita TeloJenny Greer and Isabella Boose) into a Greek Chorus to warn  Saughn Buchholz as Walter-Walter of the fate awaiting his Oedipus MacMurray.

From concept to execution, this production had the luster that craft and intelligence brings; sharing in the credit for this are scenic designer Melissa Ficociello and Michael Feldman’s ballads.


Bill Irwin’s On Beckett was perhaps more lecture than show, but what a subject to lecture on and what a lecturer to hear.  Having been a fan of Bill Irwin since his Old Hats and Fool Moon days, what I found so extraordinary in his discourse/performance/dissertation/sermon on the works of the great Irish playwright on the stage at Kirk Douglas Theatre, was Irwin’s ability to delve into those “linguistic non-spaces” Beckett supplies, and weave relevance into those silences found there.


Playwright Lauren Gunderson is the current “flavor of the month” from the New York theatre scene.  I find most of her works “vanilla” at best.  But there are a couple of her plays which, while not on the level of “Chocolate Therapy,” come close to “Chunky Monkey” status.

Ada and the Engine is one.  It tells the story of the rakish Lord Byron’s daughter, Ada, and her contribution to the development of Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, precursor to the modern computer.  In their staging, Theatre Unleashed emphasized the play’s strengths while cloaking its weaknesses, resulting in a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging production.

As the two dominant men in Ada’s life —William King-Noel, later Lord Lovelace and the driven Charles Babbage— Gregory Crafts and Alex Knox gave faultless performances.  But it was Jessie Sherman in the titular role that captured the audience and herded them on the pathway from the joys of dreams to the price paid for them.

Director Heidi Powers enriched the production by her employment of Denise Barrett’s costumes and use of Kevin Hilton’s animation which shattered the black box’s confines by expanding the vista of ideas.

Less successful, but certainly more frenzied was the Theatre Unleashed production of Never Ever Land by playwright Rider Strong, centering on the allegations against Michael Jackson’s involvement with underaged boys.  Director Michael A. Shepperd applied cunning and skill but was only moderately successful in masking the play’s faults.  On the other hand, Josh Randall as the “abused” lad’s manipulating father and Leif Gantvoort as the unctuous news commentator after a story turned in exceptional performances.


As a former puppeteer, I admit I was a sucker for Les Miz And Friends! A Puppet Parody and my hearty guffaws filled the Hudson Theatre on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Nathan Makaryk and Geneviève Flati co-directed their “re-envisioning” of Les Misérables, the much beloved musical based on Victor Hugo’s much renowned classic.  The crushing poverty, sexual exploitation, brutal police and civil bloodshed are still there, they just added a ton of puppets and screwed with the songs.

Performer-puppeteers Kelly RogersKevin GarciaGabrielle JacksonJaycob HunterHailey Tweter and Carter Michael kept the laughter coming, as did Christopher Robert Smith as Javert.

The production was packed with silly puns and dopey jokes, but what came as a total surprise, at least to me, was the quality of the cast’s musical chops.  Some credit for this must go to “musical accompaniment, Orchestrator and Arranger” David Norris.  Here’s hoping Makaryk and Flati set their satirical sights on another classic of the musical theatre.


I did manage to see Rogue Machine’s Disposable Necessities in their new space in Santa Monica.  Playwright Neil McGowan has conceived a clever work akin to an old “slam-door” comedy where an actor would rush out as one character to re-enter as another seconds later.  But, McGowan does away with the “doors” by setting his work in a protean near future when bodies are changed with wardrobe like ease.  The device supplies the show with laughs, but also with difficulties.  Claire Blackwelder isn’t up to the demands of conveying the persona of an elderly chauvinistic lecher dwelling in young lady with a body worthy of Vargas’ watercolors.  Nor does Jefferson Reid have the acting apparatus to conjure the reality of a spoiled white boy deposited into the body a black urban teen; the rest of the cast, Billy FlynnDarrett Sanders and the always superb Ann Noble, having the benefit of experience turn in stellar performances.

We look forward to what Rogue Machine and Artistic Director John Perrin Flynn have in store for us in 2020.


The Judas Kiss by British playwright David Hare travels the oft-treaded ground of Oscar Wilde’s disgrace following the infamous trial for libel he foolishly instigated against the father of his young lover Boise.

Director Michael Michetti’s production at The Boston Court was lushly mounted with sets by designer Se Hyun OhDianne K. Graebner’s costumes, and lighting design by David Hernandez, but all the lushness could not conceal the piece’s anemia of dramatic tension.
Some atonement was found in the performances of Darius De La Cruz as Robbie Rose, Wilde’s most stouthearted friend and that of Colin Bates as the self-centered Boise.
But it was the sincerity and depth of humanity which Rob Nagle brought to the role of Wilde that served as the most memorable feature of a rather forgettable show.


The Hollywood Fringe Festival held every June along the strip of Santa Monica Blvd running from Highland Avenue to Vine Street should be a seasonal Mecca for the creative souls of this city and those with any reverence towards the arts.  HFF 2019 boasted a total of 405 individual productions and sold over 67,000 tickets.

Here were the standouts for me:
Mil Grus, featured the absurdly inspired clowning of Helene UdyGrayson MorrisJeremy SappJenson Lavellee and Isaac Kessler under Dean Evans’ direction and took TVO’s “Best of the Fringe.”   The show, along with its five misshapen blobs of bizarre silliness, just opened in New York.

Theatre Unleashed made their presence felt at the Fringe with Tattered Capes by Gregory Crafts, an intelligent and clever account of the marital woes that befall two caped crusaders.  With outstanding performances from Chris ClabaughTravis Joe Dixon and Joanna MercedesCrafts’ play celebrated the superheroes of our childhood while reverberating with deeper questions regarding the secret identities we use in concealing our true selves from those we love.

Designer Denise Barrett provided the super costumes and Corey Lynn Howe’s direction was more powerful than a locomotive.

With Son of A Bitch, Director Billy Ray Brewton fashioned an American Morality play about, to quote my fellow critic David Narine, “Lee Atwater’s  – Republican-Strategist-Liar-Driven-Liar-Brilliant-Liar- Son of a Bitch – rise to power.”

Featuring solid performances by Dennis Gersten as George H.W. Bush, Luke Forbes as “W” and David McElwee as Atwater, playwright, Lucy Gillespie’s work was a much-needed history lesson.

Another political offering at the Fringe was The Mayor’s Debate of Tranquility, Nebraskaa silly and sinister parable on the American electorate.

A local news broadcaster, Emily Dorsett, hosts a mayoral debate in the American heartland.  The candidates include the gay uber-liberal lesbian (Kate Hellen) a Tea-Partier (Lucie Beeby) and the slimy incumbent (Jim Hanna who also penned the script).

The debate goes from glad-handing to backstabbing with gleeful alacrity and the laughs roar out.  But beneath the chortles, Hanna and his cast slip a grim warning; that in this nation today, the “amber waves of grain” are closer to Rod Sterling’s “cornfield.”

Butcher Holler Here We Come written by Casey Wimpee was perhaps the Festival’s most successful immersive piece.  The audience is confined in a room dark as pitch, sharing in the fate of five miners trapped beneath the earth.  Under the astute direction of Leah Bonvissuto, the voices of the unseen miners, Michael MasonIsaac ByrneAdam BelvoMorrison Keddie and Adam Willson, spin about the audience, webbing them in desperation.

Spencer Green’s twisted take on the anthropomorphic beast fables of Aesop, The Scorpion and the Frog, was riotously engaging.  Showcasing the talents of Matthew LeavittChristine Sage and Alex Parker it was hands down one of the Fringe’s most thoroughly enjoyable offerings.

Public Domain the Musicalwhile not perfect, had highpoints that would make your nose bleed. Sam Pasternack (who wrote the book, composed the music, supplied the lyrics and directed) gathered some first-rate performers for this musical ragging of the Disney Corporation’s propensity to squeeze profits from any character in the public domain.  Pasternack uses those public domain icons that Disney overlooked: Oedipus (Max Mahle), The Monkey Paw (Max Ash), Rosie the Riveter (Codi Coates) and…er, Potato Mussolini (Ben Cassil).  Let it be known, costume designer Ember Everett, rose to the occasion.  One of my favorite numbers was Oedipus’ song, “The Way to Become a Hero (is to be at the right place at the right time.)  Were there flaws in the production?  Of course, but it also had a Potato Mussolini!

Solo shows are the stock in trade for any Fringe and HFF 2019 had some extraordinary ones, with the TVO’s “Best Solo Show (Female) going to Raised By Wolves, a cautionary tale about life among alpha-males and evil step-mothers, written and performed by Marla Black.

TVO’s “Best Solo Show (Male) went to Monica Bauer’s Made For Each Other, an astonishingly tender tale staring John Fico as a man who learns that even those in their flabby fifties are deserving of love.

Cathy Schenkelberg arrived at the Fringe with a double whammy for Scientology; first there was Squeeze My Cans, her harrowing one-woman show about the 20 plus years she spent in the cult of L. Ron Hubbard.

Then there was that show’s musical clone Squeeze My Cabaret, in which Schenkelberg related the same tale but showed that she has a pair of pipes on her that could knock the smug superciliousness off Tom Cruise’s puss at twenty yards.

In HFF 2018 Yokko brought her New York based company Ren Gyo Soh with a Japanese Butoh re-fitting of Euripides, Butoh Medea.  This year Yokko turned her efforts on Shakespeare with Hide Your Fires: Butoh Lady Macbeth adapted by Sean Michael Welch and directed by Brian Rhinehart.  Both shows were equally entrancing.

Two excellent productions which deserved greater exposure were Clark Wade-A Jazzy Tragedy, written and performed by Esquizito, AKA EP Perez which drew on memories of New Orleans’ Golden Age;

 And

Stephen Lang’s Beyond Glory based on the recollections of Medal of Honor winners for which Steve Scott took TVO’s “Best Actor” award.

From Ireland came Drought, poetess-songsmith-performer Kate Radford’s haunting indictment of the toxicity of sexual abuse, which TVO acknowledged as the “Best International Show.”

Her true-life tale of a model being afflicted with alopecia was shared by Jannica Olin in (IM)Perfekt. Olin managed to inspire her audiences and at the same time convulse them with laughter.

With Black Boxing, playwright Matt Ritchey held a funhouse mirror to the very concept of solo shows.  Directed by Matthew Martin this raucously funny gem chronicled every pitfall solo shows face.  Fittingly, this send-up of a one-man show featured performances by Ritchey and Jim Niedzialkowski.

Finally, I’ll close with one of the most satisfying shows in HFF 2019, Temple Tantrum, written and performed by Nicole Steinwedell. Raised in a right-wing Christian cult, Steinwedell broke free and plunged into a world diametrically different – Hollywood.  Steinwedell told her tale with the slashes of vibrancy one expects on a Jackson Pollack canvas.

Steinwedell’s dynamism, like the dissonance of a “perfect storm,” may have dissipated into an ineffable silence, but for director Kimleigh Smith who ably applied orchestration to the tempest, assuring awareness of the work’s import and clarity, for which she took TVO’s “Best Director” honors.

Of course the Fringe had disappointments: Olivia Wilde Does Not Survive the Apocalypse, Princess Magic’s Trash Time Revue, and Lincoln 2020.  But these were in a minority.

And the larger L.A. theatre scene had its pratfalls too:

Between Riverside and Crazy, (It won a Pulitzer Prize for drama, just like Enter Madame and Men in White!), Scraps (whose playwright the program told us “never learned to properly write a play.” I buy that.) and The Play That Goes Wrong (which I’m sure would have been much funnier if I hadn’t seen it.)

But these were in a minority as well.

The demands of theatre are arduous, and despite good intentions, dedicated labor and inspired concept, we often fail or falter through our own faults or fate’s callous insensitivity.  This is when we should recall the words of Robert Ingersoll:

“…when men and women belong to a profession
that can count Shakespeare in its number,
they should feel nothing but pride.” ¹

And so I say to all my good friends, to all the stagehands, house managers, dancers, marketing directors, composers, ushers, wardrobe supervisors, directors, set designers, choreographers, carpenters, light board operators, set dressers, producers, sound designers, singers, dramaturges, dialogue coaches, box office agents, fight choreographers, company managers, janitors, make-up artists, musicians, spotlight operators, set builders, technical directors, videographers, dressers, prop masters, parking attendants, playwrights, actors, stage managers, wig makers, publicists, scene painters, critics and most importantly to all who make up our theater, let us join together in 2020 and do what we do best – make magic!

From all of us at theTVolution.com we hope 2020 brings you good fortune, good health and of course, great theatre.


JOAN OF ART: An Old Fashion Musical, Puppets, Whales and Books (yes they still exist)

The 1952 MGM song and dance classic that immortalized Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds is considered by everyone one of cinema's greatest. A true classic. Adapted for the stage in 1985 by the film's legendary creators Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Singing in the Rain comes to The Soraya thanks to a lavish new production by McCoy Rigby Entertainment before it moves to the La Mirada Theatre.

This will be one antic-laden spectacle as Hollywood history is made when silent film transform into talkies.

The show is choreographed by Spencer Liff who has earned two Emmy Nominations for Outstanding Choreography for his work on the hit Fox TV show So You Think You Can Dance. As always McCoy Rigby entertainment casts their show with the top notch people many who have performed on Broadway. I'm seeing it Saturday night and can't wait.

The show runs at the Soraya on April 12th at 8pm, Saturday April 13 at 3pm & 8pm and Sunday April 14th at 3pm. To purchase tickets or for more information go to TheSoraya.org or call 818-677-3000.

Now I for one love to read...Not on a Kindle and not on my iPad, but books. I love to read books so I was so happy to hear that this weekend The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books has returned. Since 1996, this event has become a world renowned experience gathering writers, poets, artists, filmmakers, musicians and emerging storytellers like no other. There will also be signing areas where various authors will sign for about an hour.

 

Today over 150,000 people attend, making it the largest festival of its kind in the United States. How cool is that?

The Festival of Books runs Saturday, April 13, 2019 from 10am-6pm and Sunday April 14th from 10am -5pm. On Friday at 7m there is a Book Prize Ceremony at Bovard Auditorium, USC Campus.

General Admission to the Festival and Newstory is free. There are certain additional special presentations and conversations which even though free, there is a service fee charged.

The event takes place on the University of Southern California campus located near the historic Exposition Park.

For more information visit Events.LATimes.com/FestivalOfBooks

I don't know about how you all feel about puppets, but I just love them. I also love the musical Les Miz so I happy to report that LES MIZ and FRIENDS!: A PUPPET PARODY will be at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood every Friday and Saturday until May 11th.

A human production of the Broadway classic 'Les Miserables' is overturned by a bunch of foul mouth puppets who throw a revolution of their own. Both a loving tribute and a brutal deconstruction of the beloved musical, 'Les Miz and Friends!' will delight the show's lovers and haters alike.

Full of irreverent humor, parody and original music, improvisation and no-holds-barred attacks on musical theatre this production is definitely not for kids.

The Hudson Theatre is located at 6539 Santa Monica Blvd. Los Angeles. To purchase tickets go to LesMizAndFriends.com.

And now for something completly different. One of the most majestic creatures in the ocean is here in Calfornia and you have an excellent chance of seeing it. I'm talking about WHALES...

One of the most amazing sights in nature is that of majestic whales swimming and playing on the ocean's surface leaping out of the water and slapping their mighty tales. On this 2.5 hour cruise of the shores of Newport Beach you may see giant blue whales during the summer and fall months or the annual grey whale migration that brings tens of thousands of grey whales along the coast during the winter and spring months. Huge pods of several species of dolphin are very common, as are the resident sea lions.

You might also get glimpses of killer whales, sharks and many other marine creatures. This is an event for anyone that loves these sea creatures. I know I do and can't wait to go on Sunday.

For information go to NewportWhales.com. The cruises go on through September 30, 2019.

So most importantly whatever you choose to do this weekend, make it a fun one.


JOAN OF ART: Three Different Kinds of Theatre and A Celebration of Beer - What Could Be Better?

Last weekend I saw a powerful, emotionally moving, beautifully acted one woman show entitled The Meatball Chronicles and I highly recommend it. If you do only one thing this weekend, run over to the he Hudson Theatre in Hollywood and get your tickets for this excellent must see production.

This is actress Debrianna Mansini's story and one you won't forget. Mansini is a brilliant storyteller and she takes us on a journey of her life and asks the question, 'What happens when from the day your are born you are made to feel invisible by your mother, who just happens to be a narcissist.'

The Meatball Chronicles which first played last year at the Fringe Festival follows Debrianna's journey through humorous and sometimes heart wrenching meals that align with stories of her childhood, her relationships with men and in particular her complicated relationship to her mother.

Mansini crafts the piece in a way that transcends her own story into universal themes that anyone who has a family can love and understand. As she kneads the dough and thickens the sauce through each Italian recipe, the stories associated with those recipes reveal the complex ways that families cope, laugh, grieve and show their love through food.

To purchase tickets go to OnStage411.com/meatball. The show plays Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm. The Hudson Theatre is located at 6539 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood. The play closes on April 14, 2019.

On Friday I'll be going to another kind of theatre and one I'm a huge fan of...SLAM POETRY which will be playing at Greenway Court Theatre, 544 North Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles from April 5th - April 27th. This is the 3rd Annual LA Get Down Festival celebrating hip-hop and the spoken word.

Da Poetry Lounge Co-Founder Shihan Van Clief serves as the Festival's Artistic Director. The festival features: Atlanta based Poetry vs. Hip-Hop; invitational team and Indie slams from all over the country from youths to adults. If you're a fan of this medium then this is an event you do not want to miss. Also April just happens to be National Poetry Month.

Spoken word expands all ages and cultures. Besides watching the various shows there will be a diverse schedule of talent leading various poetry workshops availabe for you to take. You've never experienced poetry like you will at the LA GET DOWN FESTIVAL

To purchase tickets go to boxoffice@greenwayartsalliance.org. or call 323-655-7679.

Come Saturday evening I'm headed downtown to see BIRDLAND BLUE a play with music that takes us back in time. The year is 1959. The place is Broadway and 52nd Street in New York City, the nightblub is the world famous BIRDLAND which was the legendary center of the jazz world, where the glitterati of Broadway, Hollywood and the sports world regularly filled its 500 seats.

In August of 1959 the biggest star in jazz was Miles Davis who earlier that year recorded KIND OF BLUE, regarded then and now as the most innovative and best jazz album of all time.

BIRDLAND BLUE is a behind the scenes look at Miles on one evening. He flirts with a beautiful reporter for a jazz magazine. He copes with division within his rank as two of his musicians Julius Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane are on the verge of leaving the Sextet to start their own groups. He also deals with substance abuse problems, his own and that of one of his musicians.

The play is put on by the Robey Theatre Company and promises to be a very memorable one.

To purchase tickets go to TheLATC.org or call 866-811-4111. The play runs through Sunday May 12. Showtimes are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3:00 pm except Sundays April 21 and May 12 when the showtime will be 7pm.

So in between experiencing alll this culture you might get thirsty so luckily on Saturday April 6th from 12-8pm at Los Angeles Center Studios located at 450 South Bixel Street, the11th annual LA BEER FESTIVAL is taking place.

The event will feature dozens of international and domestic beers, over a dozen food trucks as well as live entertainment. Your general admission ticket ($45) includes unlimited beer tastings with food sold separately.

If you buy a Connoisseur's Ticket ($85) you get air conditioned bathrooms (that alone is worth the extra money) a taco bar, an indoor/outdoor event deck overlooking the event featuring limited beers/one-offs that are not available with general admission.

I went last year and it was a blast. For more information visit LABeerFest.la.

Whatever you do this weekend folks, have a great one.


Ashton's Audio Interview: The cast of “My Big Gay Italian Wedding” at Hudson Theatre

Off-Broadway Smash Hit “My Big Gay Italian Wedding” by Anthony Wilkinson, satirizes the controversies surrounding same-sex marriage as well as gay and Italian stereotypes.* Enjoy this interview with the cast of “My Big Gay Italian Wedding” at Hudson Theatre, playing through Mar 31st. 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