Spotlight Series: Meet Composer, Conductor, Lyricist, and Producer Christopher Raymond


This Spotlight focuses on composer, conductor, lyricist, and producer Christopher Raymond who has won an NAACP, Stage Raw, and Broadway World Awards for his work in theatre. Chris has also music directed several Los Angeles area awards shows as well as 14 productions with DOMA Theatre Company in Hollywood, among many others. And in December 2018, he became Music Director for Valley Outreach Synagogue in Calabasas where Passover and Shabbat services are being LiveStreamed from home.


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

Christopher Raymond (Chris): I started my career at the age of 15 by playing in the band for Jason Robert Brown's 13 The Musical at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, Mark Taper Forum and on Broadway.

(SB): I saw 13 The Musical at both the Kirk Douglas Theatre and the Mark Taper Forum and really loved the energy in the show. And all the teenage emotions bursting at the seams reminded me of many challenging days I experienced as a middle and high school teacher.

(Chris): I then went on to study music at CalArts, and am now a composer, lyricist and music director, and have won an NAACP, Stage Raw, and Broadway World Award for my work in theatre.

I co-wrote the theme song for the show, Troy (which opened at the 80,000-seat Beijing National Stadium in July, 2017), and music directed and orchestrated the Ovation Awards twice (at The Ahmanson Theatre and at the Theatre at Ace Hotel). I also music directed / arranged the LA Drama Critics Circle Awards twice.

I music directed, conducted and played piano for 14 productions with DOMA Theatre Company in Hollywood, including prominent revivals of Avenue Q, American Idiot, and Dreamgirls (which was awarded "Best Musical" by the LA Drama Critics Circle Awards and the LA Times Awards.)

I recently wrote the book, music and lyrics for Scarlet Letter: The Musical, which had a workshop production at Greenway Court Theatre. A highlights reel for the musical is available on YouTube here:

In December 2018, I became Music Director for Valley Outreach Synagogue in Calabasas. Working with Rabbi Ron Li-Paz, Cantor Michael Li-Paz, Chaplain Jennifer Eaves Nye and the rest of the VOS team is a continually inspiring experience.

(SB): How has COVID-19 affected your work at your Synagogue?

(Chris): The quarantine orders began in Los Angeles shortly before Passover. Due to this, we at VOS held two virtual Seders on our website. The Rabbi, Cantor, Chaplain, and myself LiveStreamed our Seders from our respective homes as our congregation joined us from their homes. It was a beautiful way to create joy and unity during a challenging time for the world.

We are currently LiveStreaming our Shabbat Services on Friday nights and all of our classes are being held online. We are grateful to live in a time when technology allows us to continue functioning and providing help as a Synagogue while our leadership and membership remain safely isolated at home.

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

(Chris): I have been recording / composing music in my home studio and I have also been making musical videos for Valley Outreach Synagogue's website. I have also had an opportunity to watch and support many friends' musical and arts-related projects online, which has been a joy.

(SB): 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?

(Chris): As a community, we are all going through uncharted waters, but I believe that at the end of the day we will be stronger and hopefully a bit wiser from the lessons we've learned during this pandemic. May we all stay safe and do our best to keep up our spirits/morale by continuing to learn, grow and create / appreciate art.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Michael Mullen, An Award-Winning Costume Designer and Actor


This Spotlight focuses on Michael Mullen, an award-winning and always busy costume designer, writer and actor who often steps onstage in a variety of roles, both male and female.


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

Michael Mullen (MM): I’m a costume designer, actor, and writer who lives in Hollywood with my dog Choo Choo. I’ve worked in the L.A. theatre scene for many years now, and have received several awards and nominations for my work both onstage and off from such organizations as Ovation, L.A. Drama Critics Circle, L.A. Weekly, N.A.A.C.P., Scenie, Stage Raw, Robby, Broadway World, Ticket Holder, Eddon, and Desert Theatre League. I hope to keep working and doing what I love for many years to come, and I’m very happy to be a part of L.A.’s wonderful theatre community.

(SB): I know you are always busy costuming shows around town, so what production(s) were you involved with when word went out that those shows had to be closed or postponed?  

(MM): I was involved with a few shows when this whole Coronavirus pandemic started directly affecting theatre.  I costume designed Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party at Morgan-Wixson Theatre (directed by my good friend Kristin Towers-Rowles) which was slated to open March 14th. I was at the theatre for final dress rehearsal on March 12th and the show was in great shape and ready for an audience. After the performance was over, Michael Heimos, the President of Morgan-Wixson’s board, came onto the stage to address the audience, cast, and crew to announce the run of the show was being postponed until later when it would be deemed safe to do theatre again. Everyone involved with the show was very sad over this news, but we all knew that this was the necessary and safe decision to make.

That night, the cast and crew stayed in the theatre and had an impromptu pizza Karaoke party to console each other that went on until the wee hours of the morning. Kristin (our director) organized a nice dinner for all the cast and crew at a restaurant called The Upper West for Friday, March 13th - which would’ve been our first and only preview performance. It was a lovely night of yummy food, drinks, and bonding. And now everything is on hold.

Michael Mullen in “The Importance of Being Earnest” at Crown City Theatre

Across town, I had a production of Romeo and Juliet (directed by Dana Martin) and All’s Well That End’s Well (directed by Nike Doukas) at a school called Art of Acting that had both just opened on March 11th. These two productions (which I costume designed) were both great, but unfortunately had to close early due to the Coronavirus situation as well. Everyone involved was sad of course, but understood why that decision had to be made.

That same weekend, I had In My Mind’s Eye (which I costume designed) close at Group Rep Theatre, but the production was scheduled to close that particular weekend anyway as it had come to the end of its scheduled run. The show was directed by Bruce Kimmel and written by Group Rep’s Artistic Director, Doug Haverty. It was sad to see the show end, but at least it was able to complete its full run before everything started shutting down.

(SB): You mentioned about the way in which The Wild Party cast and crew found out about the postponement. But what about the other productions at Art of Acting?

Michael Mullen in “The Legend of Georgia McBride” at Secret Rose. Photo credit: Chris Greenwell

(MM): As I recall, the cast of the two shows at Art of Acting were notified by email from the School Director, Johnny Yoder. I personally learned that the Art of Acting shows were closing early when I went to the school on March 12th during the afternoon to deal with some costume repairs for both productions. It was sad to receive all of this news about all three shows which I had costumed that were opening in mid-March. My heart broke, especially for all of the actors.

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

(MM): The plan for The Wild Party is for it to open and have a run later this year when it is safe to do so. Everyone involved is very happy about that and I think audiences will love the show since it’s fun, sexy, and very entertaining.  It’s weird to think that the set, props, costumes, wigs, and lights are all just sitting there in the theatre like a ghost light waiting to be used, but they will all get their glory and chance to shine eventually!

Romeo And Juliet and All’s Well That Ends Well at Art of Acting are sadly done for good. They were truly deserving of much longer runs.

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

(MM): I was costume designing several other productions that were supposed to open over the next few months, but unfortunately all have been cancelled and/or postponed until later (yet to be decided) dates when it is safe to do theatre again. Among these projects are A Little Night Music with Knot Free Productions, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner with Ruskin Group, Imogene at Parson’s Nose, Art Of Acting’s productions of Distracted, Our Lady Of 121st Street, and Landscape Of The Body, and Love’s Labour’s Lost with Shakespeare By The Sea, as well as a few Hollywood Fringe shows. It has been announced that The Hollywood Fringe Festival (which was scheduled to happen in June 2020) is tentatively postponed until the month of October this fall. My 19-week-long costume design class at A Place Called Home has also been cancelled due to the building closing down until further notice.

(SB): That was quite a packed schedule!  I don’t know how you manage to work on so many shows at the same time and do them all so well. So for now, how are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

Michael Mullen and Choo Choo

(MM): I’m teaching acting/improv classes for kids on Zoom now, reading plays, following the news, Facebooking, talking with family and friends on the phone, watching a lot of T.V. and film, hanging out with my dog Choo Choo, and eating A LOT! And since the Hollywood Fringe Festival is now postponed until the fall, I’ve decided to try and write a play or at least find one to produce and act in myself. I mean, why not, right?! And masks! I should be making masks for people to wear! Bedazzled themed masks would be fun, huh?

(SB): Absolutely!

(MM): It’s tough to be alone and not see people because I’m a social person, but I’ll be okay. We’ll all get through this tough time, and I can’t wait to hug everyone when this Coronavirus nightmare is over.

I just want to remind all my fellow theatre folk that we are all in this together and that we will all be making theatre again when it is safe to do so. In the meantime, it’s important for all of us to stay healthy and safe, practice social distancing, get plenty of rest, and wash our damn hands!  It’s also important for us all to connect with each other and reach out if we get lonely. I’m here for anyone who wants to talk.  And I guess people are starting to do play readings on Zoom! I think that’s great! I encourage doing that for sure! Zoom Zoom, baby!

What I’m looking forward to the most, after this Coronavirus nightmare is over, is the resurgence of theatre across the world and especially here in Los Angeles. Theatre makes the world a better place. ❤️ Much love, everyone.

(SB) I am on the same page with you and can’t wait to get back to reviewing shows. #TheatreInspires


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



THE BETTER LEMONS "ENLIGHTENMENT" CRITIC AWARD FOR 2019 GOES TO...

DEBORAH KLUGMAN - Stage Raw

The "Enlightenment" Award goes to the critic who does the most to inform and educate.

Congratulations to Deborah from all of us!

Deborah Klugman has been writing for alternative media in Los Angeles since 1987 when she began writing theater reviews for the LA Reader. She was a theater critic for the LA  Weekly from 1995 through 2013. She has also reviewed film, books, and food for various publications, along with articles on social and political issues. She joined the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle in 2013. She also posts for ArtsBeatLA.com

To view all of Deborah's review excerpts, visit her Better Lemons page HERE.

To view all the Registered Critics on Better Lemons who post their own review excerpts and give each show a LemonMeter rating, go to Better-Lemons.com/Registered-Critics.

All Registered Critics write theater and art reviews for their own publications and then rate registered shows on our website and add their LemonMeter rating. Please contact them through their own website to congratulate them and to get them to review your production.

Tomorrow we will announce the last winner for 2019, which will be the "Critic of the Year" Award.

THE BETTER LEMONS "FOMENTER OF REVOLUTION" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Ed Rampell from Hollywood Progressive.

THE BETTER LEMONS "NAME DROPPER" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Jill Weinlein from Onstage Blog.

THE BETTER LEMONS "SAY WHAT" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Lorenzo Marchessi from The Geek Authority.

THE BETTER LEMONS "SILVER TONGUE" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Vanessa Cate from Stage Raw.

THE BETTER LEMONS "DIRECTOR" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Ernest Kearney from TheTVolution.

THE BETTER LEMONS "UP LATE" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Eric Gordon from People's World.

THE BETTER LEMONS "THEATRE HOUND" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Shari Barrett from Broadway World.

THE BETTER LEMONS "I LOVE LA" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Paul Myrvold from Paul Myrvold Theatre Notes.


THE BETTER LEMONS "SILVER TONGUE" CRITIC AWARD FOR 2019 GOES TO...

VANESSA CATE - Stage Raw

The "Silver Tongue" Award goes to the most persuasive critic, capable of enticing anyone into a theatre seat.

Congratulations to Vanessa from all of us!

Vanessa Cate is the Assigning Editor for Stage Raw and former Editor-in-Chief for @thisstage.la. Vanessa is a performance artist, writer, and jack of all trades, and they can be found on stage, in strange audiences, and in interesting situations. Vanessa Cate’s passion for theatre and reverence for fantasy blinds them to how to best live a normal life. Apart from their work with Stage Raw since its inception, Vanessa is the Founder and Artistic Director of the feminist performance-coven known as TheatreWitch, as well as the fantasy dance group Cabaret le Fey. Vanessa performs, writes, directs, and generally creates however and whenever they can.

To view all of Vanessa's review excerpts, visit their Better Lemons page HERE.

To view all the Registered Critics on Better Lemons who post their own review excerpts and give each show a LemonMeter rating, go to Better-Lemons.com/Registered-Critics.

All Registered Critics write theater and art reviews for their own publications and then rate registered shows on our website and add their LemonMeter rating. Please contact them through their own website to congratulate them and to get them to review your production.

Tomorrow we will announce the winner of the "Director" Award - the most persuasive critic, capable of enticing anyone into a theatre seat.

THE BETTER LEMONS "FOMENTER OF REVOLUTION" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Ed Rampell from Hollywood Progressive.

THE BETTER LEMONS "NAME DROPPER" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Jill Weinlein from Onstage Blog.

THE BETTER LEMONS "SAY WHAT" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Lorenzo Marchessi from The Geek Authority.


Now Registered on the Better Lemons Calendar – August 19 - 25, 2019

Theatrical shows and Festivals NOW registered on the Better Lemons calendar!
For more shows visit our Calendar. For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page.

Grumpy Old Men The Musical

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Stage Raw + Play La Theatre Festival Weekend

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Puffs

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King Lear

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Fool For Love

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Ask A Black Woman

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The Trouble Is, You Think You Have Time

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Tales From The Powder Room

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Little Women

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Dial M For Murder

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Give Up The Ghost

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The Pasadena Playhouse To Host This Year's Drama Critics Circle Awards

The Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle (LADCC) has begun the celebration of its 50th anniversary by announcing its nominations for the year 2018 (Dec. 1, 2017 – Nov. 30, 2018). The Awards will take place on Monday, April 8, 2019, at the historic Pasadena Playhouse, in Pasadena's Playhouse District.

Although the Pasadena Playhouse will be hosting the LADCC Awards for the very first time, returning once again is onstage host Wenzel Jones of IMRU, the LGBTQI Radio News Magazine on KPFK 90.7, as well as local composer-conductor Christopher Raymond as musical director for his second consecutive year. The entire production will be in the hands of stage manager Heatherlynn Gonzalez, veteran of more than a decade's worth of LADCC service.

One or more plaques will be presented in each of 18 categories and seven special awards will also be presented. Topping the nominations, the Antaeus Theatre Company has a total of 12 in various categories, including for the McCulloh Award for Revival (plays written between 1920 and 1993) for their productions of both "The Hothouse" and "The Little Foxes."A Noise Within has 10 nominations, including for Production for "A Picture of Dorian Gray." The Center Theatre Group has a total of nine nominations, including for Production of "Come From Away." Both the South Coast Repertory and East WestPlayers have seven nominations each. And the Celebration Theatre and the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, each with seven and six nominations, respectively, are uniquely both up for the McCulloh Award for Revival for their individual productions of "Cabaret."

Sergio Trujillo, is nominated for Choreography for both "Ain't Too Proud," Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre and "On Your Feet," Hollywood Pantages Theatre. Allison Dillard, is nominated for her work in Costume Design for both "Bliss, Or Emily Post Is Dead," Moving Arts and "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," Celebration Theatre. Set Designer John Iacovelli, a winner of multiple LADCC awards for Scene Design, is nominated for "The Little Foxes", Antaeus Theatre Company.

The LADCC special award recipients are as follows:

  • The Polly Warfield Award for an excellent season in a small to mid-size theatre will be awarded to Echo Theater Company.
  • The Ted Schmitt Award for the world premiere of an outstanding new play goes to Lauren Yee for Cambodian Rock Band, originally produced by South Coast Repertory.
  • The Kinetic Lighting Award for distinguished achievement in theatrical design goes to sound designer Robert Oriol.
  • The Milton Katselas Award for distinguished achievement in direction goes to Cameron Watson.
  • The Gordon Davidson Award for distinguished contribution to the Los Angeles theatrical community will be presented to Native Voices at the Autry.

More of the complete list of nominees for the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards for theatrical excellence in 2018 is here.

The Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle was founded in 1969. It is dedicated to excellence in theatrical criticism, and to the encouragement and improvement of theatre in Greater Los Angeles.

The Pasadena Playhouse is at 39 S El Molino Ave, in Pasadena. Standard general admission tickets (a small service fee applies) are $40 and are now available. All purchased tickets will be held at Will Call and tickets are also available at the door. The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a pre-show reception in the courtyard. The show will commence at 7:30 p.m. and nominees will receive instructions via email regarding how to claim complimentary tickets.

For all other inquiries, email: [email protected].


L.A.Drama Critics Circle to Celebrate Its 50th Annual Awards Show in 2019

2019 will bring Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle (LADCC) into its 50th year with a new season of Los Angeles theatre, and with it a new Board.
The 2019 Circle's board now includes President Terry Morgan of Stage Raw and Talkin Broadway, Vice President Jonas Schwartz of TheaterMania and ArtsInLA, Treasurer Hoyt Hilsman of The Huffington Post, Co-Secretaries Erin Conley of On Stage & Screen and Jenny Lower of Stage Raw, and Web Content Editor Ellen Dostal of BroadwayWorld Los Angeles and Musicals In LA.
The LADCC will celebrate its 50th Annual Awards Show in 2019 to honor excellence in Los Angeles theater, with nominees, venue, and date of the ceremony to be announced soon.
Founded in 1969, The LADCC currently includes 20 critics who cover productions across Greater Los Angeles and the awards show it typically in the latter part of January.
The LADCC and greater theatre community are still feeling the recent loss of member and longtime theater and arts critic, Shirle Gottlieb, in 2018. Gottlieb was a member of the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle "since 1999," according to the site.
Stay tuned for more announcements the LADCC 50th Annual Awards Show in 2019 here and on Better Lemons Twitter and Instagram social media @betterlemons, as well as LA Drama Critics @LADramaCC.


"MEET THE CRITICS II" Panel Podcast

On Saturday, October 27, Better Lemons and Theatre West hosted “Meet the Critics II” featuring several of LA's premier critics for a panel discussion of theatre criticism.

The following critics attended:
Vanessa Cate from Stage Raw
Vanessa Cate is the Assigning Editor for Stage Raw and the Editor-in-Chief for @thisstage.la. Vanessa is a performance artist, writer, and jack of all trades, and can be found on stage, in strange audiences, and in interesting situations.
Ellen Dostal from Musicals in LA
Ellen Dostal writes for BroadwayWorld and Musicals in LA. She is also a Senior Editor and longtime writer for BroadwayWorld Los Angeles. She has covered the performing arts community, jazz, and classical music for KJazz 88.1 FM and K-Mozart 1260 AM. She holds a Bachelor of Music from the University of Northern Iowa. She is also the LA Show writer for TheThreeTomatoes.com (The Insider's Guide for women who aren't kids). Ellen joined the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle in 2017.
Ernest Kearney from The TVolution.com
Ernest Kearney is an award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note and has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for, among others, The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist three times in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His play Peddle was selected by the Midwest Theatre Network as one of the best plays of 1997. His most recent work ‘The Salt Prince' was awarded honors from the Nathan Miller History Play Contest as well as the Fremont Center Theatre Play Contest. A passionate theatre and history buff, Mr. Kearney's reviews can be found on WorkingAuthor.com and TheTVolution.com.
David MacDowell Blue from Night Tinted Glasses
David MacDowell Blue has been reviewing Los Angeles theatre via his blog “Night Tinted Glasses” since 2012. He has a degree in Theatre Arts and graduated from New York's National Shakespeare Conservatory. At different times, he has acted, directed, written plays and designed things from sets to lights to costumes. Born in San Francisco, he ended up raised in Florida (where he lived through twelve–yes TWELVE–hurricanes) then eventually landed in Los Angeles.
Tracey Paleo from Gia on the Move
Tracey Paleo is founder of Gia On The Move. Gia On The Move was established in 2009 as an arts & culture dialog site attracting influencer readers in a variety of industries. In addition to Gia On The Move, Tracey Paleo is the former Associate Editor of FootLights and has been a contributor to Discover Hollywood, FootLights, Tolucan Times, Extra Virgin: Under the Tuscan Gun, among other publications. In 2015, Tracey also spearheaded the groundbreaking 1st Stage Raw Los Angeles Theatre Awards live broadcast and Twitter Campaign, which trended regionally to an audience of over one million views alongside Drake, Madonna and The Avengers movie. Tracey was also a panelist on the 1st Stage Raw ‘Visualizing The Invisible' Performing Arts Coverage Symposia.
Rob Stevens from Haines His Way
Rob Stevens began reviewing in 1973 for the monthly community theatre magazine Showcase, covering the professional theatres in Los Angeles. He served as editor/co-publisher of It's Showtime in 1996-98. He has also been a reviewer/interviewer for Dimension, Data-Boy Magazine, The Civic Star, Frontiers, Frontiers After Dark, Drama-Logue, Backstage West, L.A. Reader, Santa Barbara Independent and a few others. In 1988 he began writing the column West Coast Stages in the national publication Backstage. In recent years he has written for the websites ShowMag.com, TheatreMania.com, and StageHappenings.com. He is the founder of The Robby Awards which began as a listing in Showcase magazine in 1975 and has since grown into an annual awards show. The 30th Robby Awards were presented in February, 2016. He is a member of the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle.
You can also view this panel on Vimeo, created and edited by Kenny Johnston from MediaDelux:


Better-Lemons Meet The Critics II from MediaDelux on Vimeo.


In Memoriam: Henry Ong

In Memoriam: Henry Ong

Award-winning Los Angeles Playwright and 16-time recipient of Artist-in-Residence grants from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.
October 3, 2018 Silver Lake, CA - Henry Ong, a fixture of the Los Angeles theatre community for more than 35 years, died Saturday, September 29th after a long battle with cancer. Ong was the quintessential Los Angeles playwright: a first-generation Asian-American, he was interested in the exploring the immigrant experience, and conducted writing/oral history workshops in many LA communities as diverse as the city itself.
Ong grew up in Singapore and later attended graduate school in the U.S., graduating with a master's degree in journalism. Post-graduation, he moved to Los Angeles, where he began to pursue his career as a playwright. He was a member of Interact Theatre Company and Company of Angels. In 2014 he was awarded the Lee Melville Award from Playwrights Arena for outstanding contribution to theatre in Los Angeles.
An internationally-produced playwright, Ong's works span an eclectic mix, from plays inspired by true events to biographical drama and adaptations of classic novels. Credits include: Madame Mao's Memories, Sweet Karma, Fabric, The Legend of the White Snake, and People Like Me, which won him a Drama-Logue Award for Excellence in Writing in 1998. A number of his plays have been produced nationally, including New York and San Diego (at the Old Globe Theatre); as well as internationally in London, Edinburgh and Singapore. Other works include: The Masseur, Ascent, and theatrical adaptations of the Anthony Trollope novels Rachel Ray, and Nina Balatka, all in various stages of development.
Ong was a 16-time recipient of Artist-in-Residence grants from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. He collaborated with Marlton School, Los Angeles' only day school for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, on staging a series of Asian folktales for youth. In addition, he was one of the founding members of the non-profit Artists Against Oppression (AAO), whose primary mission is to create and support artistic endeavors that elevate the lives of oppressed or disenfranchised communities.
In 2017, Ong fulfilled a life-long dream to have his six-hour adaptation of the Chinese classic, Dream of the Red Chamber staged, co-directing the play at the Edward Vincent Jr Park in Inglewood. In June his play, The Blade of Jealousy, an adaptation of the Spanish Renaissance Playwright Tirso de Molina's La Celosa De Sí Misma, had its world premiere at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks.
As a champion of LA theatre, Ong was an avid theatre-goer, attending 150 performances annually. He served for many seasons as an active voter for The Ovation Awards, the Southern California award for excellence in theatre.
Dubbed “the shyest man in theatre” by theatre website Stage Raw, Henry famously avoided the spotlight and cameras unless he was on the other side of the lens. Everyone in the theatre was “a famous person” in his world. No audience member or performer escaped his attention. Ong felt, he said in a 2016 Stage Raw interview, that “everybody deserves to be seen, and wants to be seen.”
Henry is survived by his husband Matthew Black, mother Geok Lian Yan, and sisters Noi Giddings and Stella Ong.


Stage Raw Announces 2018 Theater Awards Recipients

Stage Raw Theater Awards celebrate excellence on the Los Angeles stages in venues of 99-seats or under. This fourth annual edition included productions that opened between January 1, 2017 and May 31, 2018. Stage Raw is a community funded professional journalism website that was created in response to the decline of arts coverage in local mainstream and alternative media.
The Awards ceremony was held Monday night, August 20, at Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles, hosted by Coeurage Theatre Company, and co-directed by Jer Adrianne Lelliott, Thaddeus Shafer and Lauren Ludwig.
FIGHT CHOREOGRAPHY
Bjørn Johnson, Red Speedo, Road Theatre Company
VIDEO/PROJECTION DESIGN
J-Walt Adamcyk and Hannah Beavers, Paradise Lost:Reclaiming Destiny, Not Man Apart at Greenway Court Theatre
SOUND DESIGN
Jeff Gardner, Native Son, Antaeus Theatre Company
LIGHTING DESIGN
John Bass, Paradise Lost:Reclaiming Destiny, Not Man Apart at Greenway Court Theatre
COSTUME DESIGN
Wendell C. Carmichael, Les Blancs, Rogue Machine Theatre
ORIGINAL MUSIC
Jeff Gardner, Les Blancs, Rogue Machine Theatre
CHOREOGRAPHY
Anne-Marie Talmadge, Alina Bolshakova, Leslie Charles Roy Jr., and the NMA Ensemble, Paradise Lost:Reclaiming Destiny, Not Man Apart at Greenway Court Theatre
MUSICAL DIRECTION
Dylan Price, 33 Variations, Actors Co-op
SET DESIGN
Joel Daavid, Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play, Sacred Fools Theater
SOLO PERFORMANCE
Bryonn Bain, Lyrics From Lockdown, The Actors' Gang
TWO PERSON PERFORMANCE
Alex Hernandez & Tonya Pinkins, Time Alone, Belle Reve Theatre Company
SUPPORTING MALE PERFORMANCE
Harry Groener, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Antaeus Theatre Company
MALE COMEDY PERFORMANCE
Josh Clark, The Hothouse, Antaeus Theatre Company
LEADING MALE PERFORMANCE
Desean Kevin Terry, Les Blancs, Rogue Machine Theatre
SUPPORTING FEMALE PERFORMANCE
Dawn Didawick, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Antaeus Theatre Company
FEMALE COMEDY PERFORMANCE
Anna Lamadrid, Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Boops, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
LEADING FEMALE PERFORMANCE (TIE)
Nan McNamara, 33 Variations, Actors Co-op
ADAPTATION
Nambi E. Kelley, Native Son, Antaeus Theatre Company
PLAYWRITING
Alessandro Camon, Time Alone, Belle Reve Theatre Company
PRODUCTION DESIGN
Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play, Sacred Fools Theater
COMEDY ENSEMBLE
El Niño, Rogue Machine Theatre
ENSEMBLE
Les Blancs, Rogue Machine Theatre
COMEDY DIRECTION
Felix Solís, The Giant Void In My Soul, Ammunition Theatre Company
DIRECTION
Michael Michetti, A Streetcar Named Desire, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
MUSICAL OF THE YEAR
Pacific Overtures, Chromolume Theatre
REVIVAL OF THE YEAR
Les Blancs, Rogue Machine Theatre
PRODUCTION OF THE YEAR
Rotterdam, The Skylight Theatre
QUEEN OF THE ANGELS
Dolores Chavez
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT
Norman Lloyd
To view the list of nominees, go to Better-Lemons.com/featured/stage-raw-announces-its-2018-theater-awards-nominees


Stage Raw Announces its 2018 Theater Awards Nominees

The 2018 Stage Raw Theater Awards celebrate excellence on the Los Angeles stages in venues of 99-seats or under. This fourth annual edition includes productions that opened between January 1, 2017 and May 31, 2018.
Stage Raw is a community funded professional journalism website that was created in response to the decline of arts coverage in local mainstream and alternative media.
A catered nominees reception and Stage Raw fundraiser party is being held at the The Skylight Theatre in Los Feliz, on Tuesday, July 24, 7 – 10 p.m. Tickets are $100 (which includes complimentary admission to the Theater Awards ceremony), in support of Stage Raw. All nominees are invited as complimentary guests of Stage Raw.
(Nominees include everybody whose name appears on the list below; all actors and understudies named in the program for all ensemble categories; all actors, understudies, directors, playwrights, stage managers, choreographers, designers and producers in the categories of Best Revival, Best Musical and Best Production; and in the category of Production Design: all producers, directors, and designers.)
The evening will include live music and performances by Burglars of Hamm; Cheray O'Neal; Padua Playwrights; and Kristina Wong.
At the nominees reception, there will also be a silent auction of drawings created for this event by Alan Mandell, Ken Sawyer, French Stewart, Vanessa Stewart, Richard Fancy, Jon Mullich, Jon Lawrence Rivera, Stephen Sachs, Simon Levy, Gary Grossman, Kristina Wong, Michael A. Shepperd, Ken Werther, David Elzer, Jaime Robledo, Leo Marks, Nike Doukas, Tom Jacobson, Kirsten Vansgness, David Melville, Jessica Hanna, Steven Stanley, Philip Littell, Mark Seldis, Katharine Noone, Tony Abatemarco, Ann Closs-Farley, Herbert Siguenza, Jules Aaron, and more.
The Awards ceremony is slated for Monday night, August 20, at Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles, hosted by Coeurage Theatre Company, directed by Jer Adrianne Lelliott, and celebrating the theme of “community.” Tickets are $30.
Tickets for both events can be found at Eventbrite.com/e/stage-raw-theater-awards-tickets-46961390784#tickets, or visit StageRaw.com and press the “2018 Theater Awards” tab.
The 2018 Nominees are:
FIGHT CHOREOGRAPHY
Guillermo Cienfuegos, Rhinoceros, Pacific Resident Theater
Bjørn Johnson, King Hedley II, The Matrix Theatre
Bjørn Johnson, Red Speedo, Road Theatre Company
Bjørn Johnson, Stupid Kid, Road Theatre Company
Edgar Landa, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, After Hours Theatre Company
Doug Oliphant, Br'er Cotton, Zephyr Theatre
Jones (Welsh) Talmadge, Paradise Lost: Reclaiming Destiny, Greenway Court Theatre
VIDEO/PROJECTION DESIGN
Omolara Abode, Lyrics From Lockdown, The Actors' Gang
Nicholas Acciani, 33 Variations, Actors Co-op
J. Walt Adamcyk and Hannah Beavers, Paradise Lost: Reclaiming Destiny, Greenway Court Theatre
Benjamin Durham, This Land, Company of Angels
Corwin Evans, The Art Couple, Sacred Fools Theater Company
Hana Sooyeon Kim, Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Boops, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
Hana Sooyeon Kim, With Love and a Major Organ, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
Yee Eun Nam, Br'er Cotton, Zephyr Theatre
Tom Ontiveros, The House in Scarsdale: A Memoir for the Stage, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
SOUND DESIGN
Joseph V. Calarco, The Secret in the Wings, Coeurage Theatre Company
Jeff Gardner, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Antaeus Theatre Company
Jeff Gardner, The Hothouse, Antaeus Theatre Company
Jeff Gardner, Les Blancs, Rogue Machine Theatre
Jeff Gardner, Native Son, Antaeus Theatre Company
Christopher Moscatiello, The Devil's Wife, The Skylight Theatre
Christopher Moscatiello, Rhinoceros, Pacific Resident Theater
John Nobori, With Love and a Major Organ, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
Robert A. Ramirez, Master Class, The Garry Marshall Theatre
John Zalewski, I Carry Your Heart, Bootleg Theatre
LIGHTING DESIGN
Brandon Baruch, The Secret in the Wings, Coeurage Theatre Company
John E.D. Bass, Paradise Lost: Reclaiming Destiny, Greenway Court Theatre
Elizabeth Harper, The House In Scarsdale: A Memoir for the Stage, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
Elizabeth Harper and Rose Malone, With Love and a Major Organ, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
Matt Richter, I'm Not A Comedian... I'm Lenny Bruce, Theatre 68
Pablo Santiago-Brandwein, Time Alone, Belle Reve Theatre Company
Andrew Schmedake, 33 Variations, Actors Co-op
Andrew Schmedake, Native Son, Antaeus Theatre Company
Andrew Schmedake, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, After Hours Theatre Company
COSTUME DESIGN
Wendell C. Carmichael, Les Blancs, Rogue Machine Theatre
Allison Dillard, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Celebration Theatre
Christine Cover Ferro, Rhinoceros, Pacific Resident Theater
Ashphord Jackoway, Paradise Lost: Reclaiming Destiny, Greenway Court Theatre
Terri A. Lewis, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Antaeus Theatre Company
Linda Muggeridge, Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play, Sacred Fools Theater
Michael Mullen, Fixed, Echo Theater Company
Lena Sands, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, After Hours Theatre Company
ORIGINAL MUSIC
Jeff Gardner, Les Blancs, Rogue Machine Theatre
Kangaroo Rat (Tim Desrosiers and Anna Bell), Rhinoceros, Pacific Resident Theater
Bernie Sirelson, Alysia Michelle James, and Elisa Rosin, Paradise Lost: Reclaiming Destiny, Greenway Court Theatre
Surrija, The Secret in the Wings, Coeurage Theatre Company
CHOREOGRAPHY
Joel Daavid, Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play, Sacred Fools Theater
Joyce Guy, Les Blancs, Rogue Machine Theatre
Carolyn Katz, Daedalus' Daughter, Bootleg Theater
Michael Marchak, Pacific Overtures, Chromolume Theatre
Jen Oundjian, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, After Hours Theatre Company
Roman Pantoja, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Celebration Theatre
Anne-Marie Talmadge, Alina Bolshakova, Leslie Charles Roy Jr., and the NMA Ensemble, Paradise Lost: Reclaiming Destiny, Greenway Court Theatre
MUSICAL DIRECTION
Jake Anthony, The View Upstairs, Celebration Theatre
Gina Belafonte, Lyrics From Lockdown, The Actors' Gang
Jennifer Lin, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Celebration Theatre
Dylan Price, 33 Variations, Actors Co-op
Lyndon Pugeda, Honky Tonk Laundry, Hudson Mainstage Theatre
Dimitri Toscas, Master Class, The Gary Marshall Theatre
SET DESIGN
Nicholas Acciani, 33 Variations, Actors Co-op
Joel Daavid, Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play, Sacred Fools Theater
Justin Huen, This Land, Company of Angels
John Iacovelli, Bled For The Household Truth, Rogue Machine Theatre
John Iacovelli, El Niño, Rogue Machine Theatre
John Iacovelli, King Hedley II, The Matrix Theatre
David Mauer, Rhinoceros, Pacific Resident Theater
Jeff McLaughlin, Stupid Kid, Road Theatre Company
Stephanie Kerley Schwartz, Les Blancs, Rogue Machine Theatre
Victoria Tam, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, After Hours Theatre Company
SOLO PERFORMANCE
Giovanni Adams, Love Is A Dirty Word, VS Theatre
Alex Alpharaoh, WET: A DACAmented Journey, Ensemble Studio Theatre L.A.
Bryonn Bain, Lyrics From Lockdown, The Actors' Gang
Keight Leighn, (A)partment 8, The ABC Project
Ronnie Marmo, I'm Not a Comedian, I'm Lenny Bruce, Theatre 68
Tina Preston, Don't You Ever Call My Anything But Mother, Open Fist Theatre Company
TWO PERSON PERFORMANCE
Martin Rayner & Martyn Stanbridge, Freud's Last Session, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble
Misty Cotton & Bets Malone, Honky Tonk Laundry, Hudson Mainstage Theatre
Tim Cummings & Brian Henderson, The House In Scarsdale: A Memoir for the Stage, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
Gary Patent & Dan Via, Plunge, Son of Semele Theater
James Eckhouse & Graham Sibley, Redline, IAMA Theatre Company
Alex Hernandez & Tonya Pinkins, Time Alone, Belle Reve Theatre Company
SUPPORTING MALE PERFORMANCE
Noel Arthur, Native Son, Antaeus Theatre Company
Ryan Brophy, Rotterdam, The Skylight Theatre
Eduardo Fernandez-Baumann, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, After Hours Theatre Company
Harry Groener, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Antaeus Theatre Company
Rob Nagle, Stupid Kid, Road Theatre Company
Jeris Poindexter, Runaway Home, The Fountain Theatre
Gabriel Romero, The Madres, The Skylight Theatre
Montae Russell, King Hedley II, The Matrix Theatre
Desean Kevin Terry, A Streetcar Named Desire, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
Adolphus Ward, King Hedley II, The Matrix Theatre
MALE COMEDY PERFORMANCE
Josh Clark, The Hothouse, Antaeus Theatre Company
Drew Droege, Die, Mommie, Die!, Celebration Theatre
Alex Elliott-Funk, Supper, Theatre of NOTE
Alex Fernandez, Rhinoceros, Pacific Resident Theater
Leo Marks, The Hothouse, Antaeus Theatre Company
Roman Pantoja, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Celebration Theatre
Darrett Sanders, Supper, Theatre of NOTE
Joel Scher, Supper, Theatre of NOTE
LEADING MALE PERFORMANCE
Daniel Bess, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Antaeus Theatre Company
Benjamin Burdick, Bled For The Household Truth, Rogue Machine Theatre
Joe Hart, Stupid Kid, Road Theatre Company
Bruce Ladd, 33 Variations, Actors Co-op
Ben Martin, Walking To Buchenwald, Open Fist Theatre
Esau Pritchett, King Hedley II, The Matrix Theatre
Graham Sibley, Redline, IAMA Theatre Company
Adam Silver, Exit Strategy, The Los Angeles LGBT Center's Davidson/Valentini Theatre
Desean Kevin Terry, Les Blancs, Rogue Machine Theatre
SUPPORTING FEMALE PERFORMANCE
Dawn Didawick, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Antaeus Theatre Company
Emily Goss, Forever Bound, Atwater Village Theatre
Ella Joyce, King Hedley II, The Matrix Theatre
Ciera Payton, King Hedley II, The Matrix Theatre
Maya Lynne Robinson, Runaway Home, The Fountain Theatre
Maya Lynne Robinson, A Streetcar Named Desire, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
Michaela Slezak,Lord of the Underworld's Home for Unwed Mothers, The Skylight Theatre
Cheryl Umaña, This Land, Company of Angels
Karen Malina White, Runaway Home, The Fountain Theatre
Christine Woods, Cult of Love, IAMA Theatre Company
FEMALE COMEDY PERFORMANCE
Anna Lamadrid, Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Boops, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
Debra Jo Rupp, The Cake, Echo Theater Company
Paige Lindsey White, With Love and a Major Organ, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
LEADING FEMALE PERFORMANCE
Corryn Cummins, Lord of the Underworld's Home for Unwed Mothers, The Skylight Theatre
Carolyn Hennesy, Master Class, The Garry Marshall Theatre
Margarita Lamas, The Madres, The Skylight Theatre
Nan McNamara,33 Variations, Actors Co-op
Jaimi Paige, A Streetcar Named Desire, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
Ashley Romans, Rotterdam, The Skylight Theatre
Camille Spirlin, Runaway Home, The Fountain Theatre
Heidi Sulzman, Bugaboo and The Silent One, The Lounge Theatre
Miranda Wynne, Rotterdam, The Skylight Theatre
ADAPTATION
Nambi E. Kelley, Native Son, Antaeus Theatre Company
Jones (Welsh) Talmadge, Paradise Lost: Reclaiming Destiny, Greenway Court Theatre
Mary Zimmerman, The Secret in the Wings, Coeurage Theatre Company
PLAYWRITING
Giovanni Adams, Love Is A Dirty Word, VS. Theatre
Alex Alpharaoh, WET: A DACAmented Journey, Ensemble Studio Theatre L.A.
Bekah Brunstetter, The Cake, Echo Theater Company
Alessandro Camon, Time Alone, Belle Reve Theatre Company
Bernardo Cubría, The Giant Void In My Soul, Ammunition Theatre Company
Leslye Headland, Cult of Love, IAMA Theatre Company
Jeremy J. Kamps, Runaway Home, The Fountain Theatre
Dan O'Brien, The House in Scarsdale: A Memoir for the Stage, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
Evangeline Ordaz, This Land, Company of Angels
Marja-Lewis Ryan, Bugaboo and the Silent One, The Lounge Theatre
PRODUCTION DESIGN
Caught, Think Tank Gallery
Daedalus' Daughter, Bootleg Theater
King Hedley II, The Matrix Theatre
Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play, Sacred Fools Theater
Native Son, Antaeus Theatre Company
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, After Hours Theatre Company
Paradise Lost: Reclaiming Destiny, Greenway Court Theatre
A Streetcar Named Desire, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
This Land, Company of Angels
Time Alone, Belle Reve Theatre Company
With Love and a Major Organ, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
COMEDY ENSEMBLE
Bad Jews, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble
The Cake, Echo Theater Company
Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Boops, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
El Niño, Rogue Machine Theatre
The Giant Void In My Soul, Ammunition Theatre Company
The Hothouse, Antaeus Theatre Company
Rhinoceros, Pacific Resident Theater
Supper, Theatre of NOTE
With Love and a Major Organ, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
ENSEMBLE
33 Variations, Actors Co-op
Exit Strategy, The Los Angeles LGBT Center's Davidson/Valentini Theatre
King Hedley II, The Matrix Theatre
Les Blancs, Rogue Machine Theatre
Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play, Sacred Fools Theater
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, After Hours Theatre Company
Pacific Overtures, Chromolume Theatre
Paradise Lost: Reclaiming Destiny, Greenway Court Theatre
Runaway Home, The Fountain Theatre
The Secret in the Wings, Coeurage Theatre Company
COMEDY DIRECTION
Lindsay Allbaugh, Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Boops, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
Jennifer Chambers, The Cake, Echo Theater Company
Guillermo Cienfuegos, Rhinoceros, Pacific Resident Theater
Lisa James, El Niño, Rogue Machine Theatre
Jessica Kubzansky, With Love and a Major Organ, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
Dana Resnick, Bad Jews, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble
Felix Solís, The Giant Void In My Soul, Ammunition Theatre Company
DIRECTION
Andi Chapman, Native Son, Antaeus Theatre Company
Gregg T. Daniel, Les Blancs, Rogue Machine Theatre
Ed Sylvanus Iskandar, Caught, Think Tank Gallery
Carol Katz, Daedalus' Daughter, Bootleg Theater
Thomas James O'Leary, 33 Variations, Actors Co-op
Robert Mandel, Freud's Last Session, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble
Michael Michetti, A Streetcar Named Desire, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
Jonathan Muñoz-Proulx, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, After Hours Theatre Company
Jaime Robledo, Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play, Sacred Fools Theater
Michael A. Shepperd,Rotterdam, The Skylight Theatre
Annie Tippe, Cult of Love, IAMA Theatre Company
MUSICAL OF THE YEAR
Dessa Rose, Chromolume Theatre
Pacific Overtures, Chromolume Theatre
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Celebration Theatre
REVIVAL OF THE YEAR
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Antaeus Theatre Company
King Hedley II, The Matrix Theatre
Les Blancs, Rogue Machine Theatre
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, After Hours Theatre Company
Rhinoceros, Pacific Resident Theater
A Streetcar Named Desire, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
PRODUCTION OF THE YEAR
Caught, Think Tank Gallery
The House in Scarsdale: A Memoir for the Stage, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play, Sacred Fools Theater
Native Son, Antaeus Theatre Company
Rotterdam, The Skylight Theatre
Runaway Home, The Fountain Theatre
The Secret in the Wings, Coeurage Theatre Company
This Land, Company of Angels
Time Alone, Belle Reve Theatre Company
QUEEN OF THE ANGELS
Dolores Chavez
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT
Norman Lloyd


"Meet the Critics" Panel Podcast

On Saturday, June 2, Better Lemons and Theatre West hosted “Meet the Critics!” featuring several of LA's premier critics for a panel discussion of theatre criticism.

The following critics attended:

Shari Barrett from Broadway World
Shari Barrett, a Los Angeles native, has been active in the theater world since the age of six - acting, singing, and dancing her way across the boards all over town. Shari now dedicates her time and focuses her skills as a theater reviewer, entertainment columnist, and publicist to ""get the word out"" about theaters of all sizes throughout the Los Angeles area.
Dale Reynolds from Edge Media Network
Dale Reynolds, a SoCal native, has been a critic for theatre, film and DVD since 1970, for a wide variety of outlets in NYC and L.A., including StageAndCinema.com, StageHappenings.com, EDGELosAngeles.com, and for Frontiers Magazine for many years, in addition to being West Coast Editor of A&U Magazine for four years.
Monique LeBleu from Los Angeles Beat
Monique A. LeBleu is a reviewer, writer, photographer, videographer, shameless foodie and wineaux. She has won multi JACC Journalism awards for her feature writing, critical journalism, and social media statewide competitions.
Patrick Chavis from LA Theatre Bites
Patrick Chavis is the creator, designer, podcast writer, and head editor of LA Theatre Bites. Because of the massive size of the Los Angeles area and its theatre presence, Patrick decided his reviews should take the form of podcasts en lieu of more traditionally written articles. He is also one of the creators of the Orange County based theatre review site, the Orange Curtain Review.
Bill Raden from LA Weekly
Since Bill wrote his first review for LA Weekly over 30 years ago, he has covered theater on both coasts, won multiple awards for his political journalism, and today continues to focus on Los Angeles' experimental and intimate stage scenes for LA Weekly as well as for the online stage journal, Stage Raw.
Leigh Kennicott from ShowMag
Leigh Kennicott has an extensive background in theatre, film and television and a Ph.D. degree in Theatre, awarded in 2002. A writer, director and actor, Leigh Kennicott began theatrical reviewing at Backstage, followed by Pasadena Weekly and Stage Happenings blog before joining showmag.com in 2018.
Katie Buenneke from Stage Raw
Katie has been a theater critic for over a decade, and has been reviewing Los Angeles theater for 7 years. She ran Neon Tommy's theater section for three years before freelancing for LA Weekly for another three years. She joined the LA Drama Critics Circle in 2015, and she's currently a regular contributor to Stage Raw. She earned her BA in theater and MFA in film producing from USC.
Jordan Riefe from The Hollywood Reporter
Currently serves as West Coast theatre critic for The Hollywood Reporter, while also covering art and culture for The Guardian, Cultured Magazine, and KCET Artbound. Cover theater for OC Register/Coast Magazine in Orange County and theatre and film for LA Weekly. Assigned beat for THR focuses on touring productions of Broadway shows.
Ernest Kearney from The TVolution
He is presently the cultural critic for The TVolution.com.
Michael Van Duzer from This Stage LA
Michael Van Duzer has reviewed opera performances, both locally and nationally, for over 30 years in a variety of print and online media outlets. After leaving his job in 2014, he was finally able to add theatre to his reviewing schedule.
Ryan M Luevano from Tin Pan LA
Ryan Luévano is a professor of music at Woodbury University and Santa Ana College. During the summers he is a regular teaching artist at A Noise Within Theatre Company in Pasadena. When he's not making music he pens as a theater critic for his blog Tin Pan L.A. where you can read all about the L.A. theater scene.
 


The 2017 STAGE RAW AWARDS: Smiling through the Sh*t-Storm

LA Stage Alliance Executive Director Steven Leigh Morris - photos by S.L. Fife

This past Monday evening, STAGE RAW held its Third Annual Awards ceremony at the Los Angeles Theatre Center in Downtown LA.   There were many memorable moments (of course) , but the one that stays with me involved the actress Kate Morgan Chadwick, who received the award for "Leading Female Performance" for her work in the Echo Theatre production of Bed by Sheila Callaghan.

Dressed in tee shirt and jeans -- "how daringly casual," I thought -- Kate informed the audience that she was in a Whole Foods parking lot earlier that evening when the costume designer Michael Mullen convinced her to head over to LATC for the ceremony.  And now here she was giving an acceptance speech and then being led backstage by a lovely red-headed woman, just as all the other winners had been.  But suddenly Kate detached herself from her escort and began running wildly toward the audience. Then, just as suddenly, she stopped, smiled, turned around, and walked back upstage and off with her red-headed escort.

Yes! Now there's an intimate theater actor!  Easily bored, refusing to conform, alive to the comic possibilities of the moment - that's something I've really fallen in love with here, that fun, unpredictable element which I rarely found anymore in NYC theater, even downtown.  The pressure to get results is simply too oppressive to allow for that improvisatory quality which has characterized great American acting ever since Marlon Brando sank to his knees and screamed, "Stellaaaaaaa!"  That spirit of fun and pain is still alive in LA's 99-seat theaters, but it is under siege now from the actors' own union, now that it has succeeded in wiping out the waiver contract.  A theme that dominated this evening, devoted as it was to the 99-seat or under theater movement in LA.

The ceremonies started with a eulogy, as LA Stage Alliance head-honcho Steven Leigh Morris solemnly lamented the passing of "the Kid" on December 14, 2016.  (Which also happens to be the date on which the 99-seat Waiver contract expired - so draw your own conclusions.)

Then the co-hosts and presenters of the evening took the stage, the married duo of French and Vanessa Stewart.  They are the perfect hosts for an intimate theater event, as they embody that same antic spirit of fun and defiance and non-conformity that Kate Chadwick would later exhibit.  They play beautifully off each other, with French taking the role of head anarchist, lobbing verbal bombs at all the sacred cows of Hollywood and high art, while Vanessa is his sexy co-conspirator, at once appalled and delighted by his crudity, while adding her own more subtle comic riffs to the mix.  I had caught their co-hosting act once before, at the 2015 Ovation awards at the Ahmanson, but this was much better because there seemed to be fewer (if any) institutional restraints.

"2016 was a greasefire shit-show from beginning to end!" French started off.  "First the Stage Actors Union, which had always done okay by me, gets taken over by some assholes with Costco-sized egos who hold a referendum on the waiver contract, get defeated by a count of 2-1 by their own members, and then go ahead and kill our beloved 99-seat plan anyway.  Then Trump comes along and insert your own "dumb-fuck orange-menace" joke here.  And then this confederacy of dunces elects a Republican Congress and Senate, so there's no checks and balances at all on the orange idiot's stupidity and greed.  Yes, just like the founders intended, I'm sure!"

This awards show had been titled "A Wake and Sing," and there was a somber undertone to all the evening's festivities, as so many of the freedoms enjoyed under the 99-seat plan had been lost without having been replaced by any benefits.  Actors were not  making a better wage as a result of Equity's actions; instead, most producers have opted for employing non-Union actors or doing only two-character plays.  In additon, the accessible healthcare and societal stability enjoyed under President Obama has been curtailed or destroyed.  But these harsh realities only made for a more defiant (if darker) brand of humorous song-and-dance, under the supervision of director Jaime Robledo (who directed French a few years ago in Stoneface at Sacred Fools).

It began with the darkest song of all, Stephen Foster's "Hard Times (Come Again No More)," which was followed by Paul Simon's "American Tune," beautifully sung by the noticeably pregnant Claire Riflej, backed up the No Static Trio.  Then French and Vanessa let loose with an antic and irrepressible "Just a Gigolo," with French belting out the lyrics while bouncing around like a kid on a trampoline, backed up by his chanteuse wife, as well as by musicians on saxophone and trumpet.  The singing concluded with Vanessa doing a lovely version of Sondheim's "I'm Still Here," an anthem for the troopers in the audience, who had been through so much in this "shit-show" of a year.  It's hard enough to make good theater under the best of conditions, but add in all the obstacles that 2016 had piled on the intimate theater crowd, and the odds seemed overwhelming.  And yet great theater was still being made - witness LATC's Rules of Seconds, a great new play in a terrific production done in that very same space just a few weeks ago.

There were many genuinely touching moments too.  Steven Leigh Morris returned to the podium to let everyone know that longtime theater director Dan Bonnell was still in a coma but there was hope for his eventual recovery from a stroke, and that donations were needed to cover his hospital expenses. Jerry Charlson, the much-beloved publicist for intimate theaters who has been slowly recovering from a serious heart issue, was given the Queen of the Angels award.  And the husband-and-wife founders of the Victory Theatre Center, Maria Gobetti and Tom Ormeny, were given Lifetime Achievement Awards and made stirring speeches, calling theater "the greatest of the art forms," because "its raw material is the human spirit."

 

Many awards were given out, and I was glad to see the well-deserving actors, directors, designers and playwrights recognized for their remarkable work. Especially intimate theater stalwarts like Matthew Elkins, Jacqueline Wright, Rebecca Gray, Jeffrey Schoenberg, Sophie Bortolussi, Stacie Chaiken, Tony Amendola, Bo Foxworth, John Farmenesh-Bocca (who won two awards for his work on Tempest Redux for The New American Theater at the Odyssey Theatre) and Nancy Keystone, director of the production of the year, Ameryka. The shows receiving multi-awards included Ameryka (Critical Mass Performance Group), Bars and Measures ([email protected] Court), Cloud 9 (Antaeus), Dutch Masters (Rogue Machine), Blueberry Toast (Echo Theatre Company) and The Day Shall Declare It (Wilderness), whose performance space at Santa Fe and Seventh St. has been bulldozed away. Musical of the year went to the Celebration Theater for The Boy From Oz, which was accepted by the always-entertaining Michael A. Shepperd, who kept telling the audience how drunk he was, something that we had already come to realize on our own, thank you very much.

The highlight of the awards ceremony came, without a doubt, when a "most promising actor" award was bestowed upon the greatest of all intimate theater performers, Alan Mandell.   It is an unwritten rule in any evening of Los Angeles theater awards that Alan Mandell has to get one, and this time it came complete with his own troupe of Beckett dancers, who blithely and lugubriously surrounded Alan as he ascended to the stage, while French opened up the honorary Beckett umbrella.  For some reason that escaped me, Alan was bedecked with 99 cent necklaces.  He rewarded the crowd by doing a soft-shoe routine and letting us know that his 90th birthday was fast approaching.  He vowed to fulfill the "promise" that Stage Raw had seen in him, and in general he cheered everyone up.   If Alan could hop, skip and jump at almost 90, then certainly we could all get through these difficult times, right?  But then again, Alan had all that Beckett money to fall back on, accrued from his brilliant turns in Endgame and Godot and all those other money-makers.  Where could the rest of us ever hope to find such a cash cow?

To see a full list of Award Recipients, visit StageRaw.com.