Justin-Sayre-Photo-Credit-Matthew-Dean-Stewart

Dedicated to Camp: A Conversation with Justin Sayre about Ravenswood Manor and Much More

Writer, producer, performer Justin Sayre's episodic camp extravaganza Ravenswood Manor closes this coming weekend after a very successful run at Celebration Theatre. Between episode rehearsals, I buzzed with Justin to spill some tea on the show, it's origins, the production process, and more. Catch the last week of Ravenswood because they are ending with a BANG, honey!

For tickets, go to CelebrationTheatre.com/ravenswood

Roger Q. Mason (RQM): Justin, you are a riot! What you've done beautifully is successfully shown audiences the breadth and depth of authentic camp (in the best way). Tell me about the origins of Ravenswood Manor.

Justin Sayre (JS): I wanted to write a long-form play for a while, and I was  searching for something Camp. I'm very dedicated to Camp. I think it's the cornerstone of Queer art, and I really thought it was time to take the leap. For a long time, my best friend, whom I've pitched every project I've ever written, had always told me of my similarity in thought and practice to Charles Ludlam. It took me a little while to catch up. I thought doing something episodically would be helpful since I had been writing for Television for a couple of years. I loved Dark Shadows, and thought a gothic setting would be perfect for Camp. Then the ideas just started flowing. I did a first reading of the first six episodes at Joe's Pub at the Public Theatre with an incredible cast that included Jeff Hiller, Nathan Lee Graham, Jenn Harris and many more. It was so fun, I just wanted to keep doing it. Now I've had another chance. I'm already looking forward to the next.

(RQM): You are writer, performer, and producer on this project. As a fellow multi-disciplinary artist, I'd love to learn more about your process from page to stage.

(JS): Well, that's very broad! I started as an actor, so I have to see it. I don't write a lot of stage directions in my plays unless the lines need it to make sense. I like to find rhythms and space in the room. The stuff I know and want, I write in. But I love problem-solving. So much of my creation is about problem-solving. I also like using the theatre for what it is. You can't do CGI or crazy special effects in the theatre, or at least it's very hard to do them well. I like to create theatre magic, which is more about imagination and human stagecraft. I like making things in front of people and making the audience an active participant in the process of making the show, even if it's just imagining the scenery. I like the collaboration of making in the room. So I always want to work with the best. That's why the actors I strive for are always so brilliant. I don't like to micromanage. I like to facilitate flight.

(RQM): Serialized theatre is an exciting and rigorous beast. It relies on the magic of a killer script, fantastic, adventuresome actors, and grounded, inspired directors. What's it been like building this piece in the room with your team? On the afternoon I saw the show, you were readying for rehearsal of the next episode right after taking well-deserved bows from the work just presented.

(JS): I should say, that we go in with the script, and I would say 98% is on the page. I am a firm believer in doing my work. But I've also been trained not to be precious about a joke. If one doesn't work, we'll find another. What I'm always first listening for is, does the story track and does it all make good dramatic sense. I would be disingenuous to say that the show lives all on the page. I'm working with some of the most brilliant and insightful comedic actors in the country, to not let them form a joke to themselves or to add a little aside, that comes from their character, would be folly. But we all begin with the page, and then it's play. We've often said backstage that we're working so terribly hard, a new play each week for 6 weeks, but we're all so happy doing it. We all have our bits, we all have our weeks to shine and we all generally and genuinely like each other. It's a brilliant process.

Angela Cristantello as Claire the witch and Leslie-Ann Huff as Debbie the witch in Ravenswood Manor

Angela Cristantello as Claire the witch and Leslie-Ann Huff as Debbie the witch in Ravenswood Manor. Photo by Bryan Carpender.

(RQM): This show feels very much like work I've seen in New York. I love that it is happening and being received well here in LA. How do we continue challenging and engaging our Angeleno theatre audiences?

(JS): I think there is great theatre going on out here, and I think LA is only ready for more. Ravenswood feels like New York because I still feel like I'm in New York and come out of that sensibility. I think the thing that needs to happen in LA, is that we all, artists and audiences, need to create a culture of going to the theatre. Of making things the MUST SEE event in LA. We need to make the reality of the theatre here a bigger deal, simply because there's already great work going on.

(RQM): After the final episode of Ravenwood, what's next for you?

(JS): I am working on a few TV projects, but I am headed out of LA for a bit to go and work on my newest book. My show The GAyBC's has been turned into a book that will be released by Chronicle Books in 2020. I'm also going to New York next week to do a show at Joe's Pub and celebrate my 10 years in Cabaret. After that, two new plays this year and the second season of Ravenswood Manor. You know a few things, just to keep me off the street.

Featured photo: Justin-Sayre - Photo by Matthew Dean Stewart


JOAN OF ART: A Brilliant Improve Troupe, a Portrait of an Iconic Actor's Son, and Some Delicious Food

The much loved Troubadour Theatre Company is kicking of its 25th season with a new Shakespeare Jukebox Parody Mashup and as always they will kill it.

The troupe is again turning a Shakespearean tragedy into a musical comedy this time by mashing up the story of Julius with the music of the rock band WEEZER.

If you hear the word 'Shakespeare' and you think you need a degree to decipher it... not here, you don't. This show is what I'd call pop culture. You can expect a little 'Game of Thrones' and even a commercial tag line for fun. Joining the Troubies for the first time is an actor with a resume with about fifty years of credits...Andy Robinson who will be playing Julius Caesar.

The Troubies have…and are warning you to “Beware the Ides of March in May!” The terrible tidings and twisted tale of corruption, betrayal, and the quest for absolute power –no, not Washington DC – it's Rome circa 44 B.C., with Shakespeare's story of Caesar mashed up with the funk-rock riffs of the resurgent and ubiquitous band, Weezer. This hard-driving, heart pounding, adrenaline rush of a show will feature the Troubies in all their classical glory – speaking the speech and strumming the power chords. Part circus, part improv comedy show, part rock concert – with a live band that complements and compels the Troubie cast as they wind their way through the dark and dangerous world of Julius Weezer!

This show is like nothing you have ever seen so DO NOT MISS IT. JULIUS WEEZER is playing at the El Portal Theatre located in 5268 Lankershim Blvd. North Hollywood CA 91601. To purchase tickets or to learn more about this fantastic show go to ELPortalTheaeatre.com or call 866-811-4111.

The show runs from May 11th at 8pm through June 30th 2019.

And now for some delicious food. Laughter always gives me an appetite.

On Saturday May 11th 1-4 pm is the LOS ANGELES TIMES FOOD BOWL.

The event will be held at the Grand Park at 200 North Grand Avenue, Los Angeles CA.

You will be able to experience LA's Best Burgers at this outdoor celebration of LA's diverse dining scene held over five nights at Grand Park in Downtown Los Angeles.

Each night will feature dozens of restaurants with art installations throughout the park and DJs playing music. Admission to Night Market is free.

The event will be hosted by L.A. Times Food Writer Jenn Harris and Lawrence Longo. Participants will be... HiHo Cheeseburger, Banh Oui, Everson Royce Bar, Hank's, Bowery, Love Hour, NoMad, Mel's Drive In and Belcampo Meat Co.

The Los Angeles Times Food Bowl is an annual, month long destival celebrating the city's dynamic food scene. Spanning the entire month of May, Food Bowl features many of the chefs and retaurants that have helped put Los Angeles on the map as a premier dining destination alongside world renowned chefs in rare local appearnaces at hundreds of extraordinary events.

For more information go to LAFoodBowl.com and connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @LAFoodBowl (#LAFoodBowl #31DaysofFood).

Lastly on Sunday I will be at the Santa Monica Playhouse located at 1211 4th Street, Santa Monica CA to see an extraordinary show abou the son of an extraordinary actor. The show is entitled WILD SON; THE TESTIMONY OF CHRISTIAN BRANDO. His father of course was the late great Marlon Brando...one of our greatest to be accurate.

I attended a dress rehearsal and this is a show you will definitely want to see more then once. It's so powerful and Jesse's performance stays with you a very long time. There were so many moments on stage I thought it was Christian on stage.

Written by Champ Clark the show run on Sundays at 5:30pm through May 26th. Set under the white hot glare of Hollywood and Celebrity, Wild Son: The Testimony of Christian Brando tells the story of Marlon Brando's troubled, headline making son...in his own words.

The play features John Mese as Christian Brondo and his performance is pitch perfect. This 59 minute one-act is based on personal intervies conducted by Clark. The story is filled with the likes of Jack Nicholson, Michael Jackson, Johnny Depp, Sean Penn, Anjelica Huston, Robert Blake and others. Most importantly it is the story of father and son.

According to writer Champ Clark, 'John Meese is absolutely mesmerizing. 'Damaged, volatile, darkly handsome, dangerous and dead at 49 and one of the sweetest lost souls I'd every met.' 'This was the Christian Brando I knew and the one that we bring back to life on stage in this show.'

The play has Christian Brando's words and it is his Hollywood story, about the kidnapping, the murder and the explosive relationship with his father.

Wild Son: The Testimony of Christian Brando runs at 5:30pm on May 12, 19 and 26, 2019. Tickets are $20 at WildSon.brownpapertickets.com. For more information call 1-800-838-3006.