Now Registered on the Better Lemons Calendar – February 3 - 10, 2019

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

Two Trains Running at Matrix

The team behind last year's acclaimed Ovation, LADCC, and Stage Raw award-nominated production of August Wilson's “King Hedley II” returns to the Matrix with another installment of the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright's “American Century Cycle” the playwright's decade-by-decade exploration of the black experience in 20th century America. It's 1969 in Pittsburgh's Hill District, where the regulars of Memphis Lee's restaurant struggle to cope with the turbulence of a world that is rapidly changing around them.

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USC School of Dramatic Arts presents: CHILDREN OF THE SUN

Maxim Gorky's darkly comic play is set in Russia on the eve of the revolution. The country's new middle class flounders about, philosophizing and flirting, blind to their impending annihilation. Protasov wants only to immerse himself in his experiments and is oblivious to the advances of the half-crazed widow and his best friend's pursuit of his wife, let alone the cholera epidemic and the starving mob.

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USC School of Dramatic Arts presents: GNIT

Meet Peter Gnit, a recklessly aspiring, self-deluded anti-hero. This twisted adaption of Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt is a rollicking and cautionary tale that challenges what we think we know about this classic character. At this unique moment in U.S. history, the questions and problems raised are alive with relevance.

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USC School of Dramatic Arts presents: SWIMMERS

Coyotes evading police. Billboards predicting the end of the world. It's been a strange day at the office, and it's only 9 a.m. Moving floor by floor from the basement to the roof, scenes between employees in a corporate office explore the angst-ridden relationships between those that people often take most advantage of: their coworkers.

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USC School of Dramatic Arts presents: THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA

Young Proteus only has eyes for his hometown sweetheart, Julia. But one look at the beautiful Silvia on a trip to Milan changes everything. Now he's smitten with his best friend's lover and his sweetheart has no intention of going away quietly. Events spin out of control as romantic rivals face off in this wild comic tale.

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USC School of Dramatic Arts presents: HOLY GHOSTS

Coleman Shedman arrives at the rural meeting house of a southern Pentecostal sect with a lawyer in tow, seeking to retrieve his runaway wife (and the possessions she has taken with her). But his wife, Nancy, is unwilling to forsake the love and protection of her new “husband,” the Reverend Obediah Buckhorn, and return to the brutal, hard-drinking Coleman. Rich with atmosphere and the feel of Southern rural life, the play blends humor and poignancy as it probes into the circumstances and stories of the various cult members.

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USC School of Dramatic Arts presents: THE BUSYBODY

First performed in 1709, this brilliantly witty and fast-paced comedy follows the characters Miranda and Isabinda as they attempt to arrange marriages to the men they love. Meanwhile, the hapless “busy body” Marplot tries to help his friends, but his valiant efforts only succeed in leading them closer towards disaster.

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USC School of Dramatic Arts presents: SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE

Inspired by the painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's stunning musical masterpiece, merges past and present into beautiful, poignant truths about life, love and the creation of art. One of the most acclaimed musicals of our time, this moving study of the enigmatic painter, Georges Seurat, won a Pulitzer Prize and was nominated for an astounding 10 Tony Awards, including best musical.

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USC School of Dramatic Arts presents: ROUGH MAGIC

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's action-adventure-fantasy conjures a mythical, magical meta-universe in which evil sorcerer Prospero steps out of the pages of Shakespeare's The Tempest and threatens death and destruction in modern-day Manhattan. To combat this supernatural foe, a quartet of unlikely heroes (including a dramaturg with magical powers) will emerge from the ashes to save the city and its citizens from complete and utter destruction.

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USC School of Dramatic Arts presents: QUEEN MARGARET

Margaret of Anjou becomes the central character of her own story in this edit of William Shakespeare's first tetralogy of history plays (Henry VI, Parts 1 -3; and Richard III). Intrigue, betrayal, romance and revenge play out as Margaret evolves from daughter to bride to queen to avenging warrior and grieving widow. Our BFA sophomores tell her tale of resilience, resolve and charisma.

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James and the Giant Peach

Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach features a wickedly tuneful score by the Tony & Academy Award-winning team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Dear Evan Hansen, La La Land, The Greatest Showman)and a curiously quirky book by Timothy Allen McDonald...When James is sent by his conniving aunts to chop down their old fruit tree, he discovers a magic potion that results in a tremendous peach and launches a journey of enormous proportions.

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Ada and the Engine

As the British Industrial Revolution dawns, young Ada Byron Lovelace (daughter of the flamboyant and notorious Lord Byron) sees the boundless creative potential in the “analytic engines” of her friend and soul-mate, Charles Babbage, inventor of the first mechanical computer. Ada envisions a whole new world where art and information converge – a world she might not live to see. A music-laced story of love, friendship, and the edgiest dreams of the future. Jane Austen meets Steve Jobs in this poignant pre-tech romance heralding the computer age.

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Man Of God

A hidden discovery in a hotel bathroom changes the lives of four Korean American Christian girls on a mission trip to Thailand. Samantha is hurt that someone she trusted could betray her. Jen is worried about how this might affect her college applications. Kyung-Hwa thinks everyone should adjust their expectations. Mimi's out for blood. Amid the neon lights and go-go bars in Bangkok, the girls plot revenge in this funny, feminist thriller.

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Venus in Fur

Thomas Novachek is a playwright/director looking for the perfect actress to play the lead in his adaptation of Leopold Sacher Mashoch's novella, Venus in Furs. He hasn't had much luck and is ready to call it a day when a very late arrival bursts into the room in a wave of chaos. This actress appears to be the worst of a bad lot. Despite his protestations, she manages to cajole him into letting her read and from that point on the night veers into titillating and uncharted territory where Thomas' biases and desires are laid bare. Venus in Fur is about human relationships, gender power dynamics and the matrix of stereotypes and assumptions that root seeming subversions. Its dark comedy and sexually charged scenarios provide fertile soil for exploration of subconscious and culturally mired desires, motivations, and expectations.

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Othello

The Bard's most intimate of family tragedies about the terrible force of love and the breakdown of a man who has everything—power, position, and passion—only to find his world decimated through intense mind games with his ensign. Prescient in its searing social commentary of prejudice, betrayal, and thwarted ambition, Shakespeare's thunderous drama examines who we trust and the price we pay for choosing wrong.

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The Twins of GillyGate

We find our twins on the eve of their 18th birthday in the kingdom of GillyGate. One is set to take the throne while the other sits in her tower with only a dragon to keep her company. Unbeknownst to both, a prophecy is about to unfold much to the dismay of their uncle, Lord Grimbert, who will do anything to stop a woman from taking the throne with the help of his trusty talking high horse. A musical tale woven together by a misfit traveling ensemble, this show will take you back to the Ren Faire. Full of bawdy, drunken fun mixed with some good ol' audience interaction, this show is fun for your whole family!…well maybe not your kids.

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The Chekhov Comedies

See Chekhov as you have never seen him before! Combine 5 short comedies, 25 characters, and 4 female actors, and you get 1 night of hilarity!

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Little Shop of Horror

For the misfits of Skid Row, life is full of broken dreams and dead ends. Seymour Krelborn is a meek and dejected assistant at a floral shop who happens upon a strange plant, which he affectionately names “Audrey II” after his crush at the shop. Little does he know that this strange and unusual plant will develop a soulful R&B voice, a potty mouth, and an unquenchable thirst for human blood. As Audrey II grows bigger and meaner, the carnivorous plant promises limitless fame and fortune to Seymour, as long as he continues providing a fresh supply of blood ... Featuring an electrifying early 1960s-style score from Alan Menken and book and lyrics by Howard Ashman.

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Canyon

In a backyard deep within a canyon during Labor Day weekend 2016 — before everything in America changed — we meet a newlywed couple and a Mexican father and son as they all try their best to find a better view. IAMA Theatre Company partners with the Latino Theater Company to present an immersive staging of this driving new play that takes a look at what happens when two families are rocked by an unpredictable accident that changes their lives forever. A look at gender, citizenship, and the costs of trying to live a conventional American life

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Too Much Sun

The West Coast premiere of the acclaimed off-Broadway hit by Nicky Silver (Broadway's The Lyons). Celebrated actress Audrey Langham reaches her breaking point while rehearsing Medea in Chicago — walking off the stage, out of the production and into her married daughter's summer house in Cape Cod, where her unexpected and unwelcome arrival sets off a chain of events alternately hilarious and harrowing.

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Phalaris's Bull: Solving the Riddle of the Great Big World

Harvard-educated molecular biologist, visual artist and provocative visionary philosopher, Steven Friedman has the answers to life's big questions. Using personal narrative, poetry, art, and science, he delivers a spell-binding performance reflecting his prismatic, transformative and deeply consoling vision of the world. Friedman offers a solution to the worlds pain based not on belief or faith but on logical rigor a philosophy starting from Kierkegaards story of an ancient torture device, Phalariss bull, that turns the terrible sounds of pain into music. To create is to enter Phalariss bull, and our pain becomes beauty.

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REAL WOMAN Blanca Araceli HAS Voice & Moves

REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES will open the second season of the recently re-christened Garry Marshall Theatre on October 10, 2018. We had the chance to chat with the busy Blanca Araceli, one of the five in the all-female ensemble of REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Blanca.

What forces of nature brought your talents to REAL WOMEN?

I met Josefina López in 2010 when I went to see a show at CASA 0101, and started teaching dance in her theater. She invited me to audition for a couple of her plays. Later she mentioned that auditions were going to be at the Pasadena Playhouse for REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES, and I got the part of Carmen. I immediately fell in love with the play.

What works of Josefina are you familiar with, either on stage or in film?

I had the opportunity to work on her play A CAT NAMED MERCY and REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES a couple of times, among others; and I took several of her workshops.

Would you describe your character that you play in REAL WOMEN?

Just as any Latina mother that comes from their country with the dream to find a better live for their families. She has strong values, tradition and, at the same time, feels she's the pillar of the family. Works hard to keep things going, and just like any other mother, tends to be a bit dramatic or manipulative when it's convenient. Extremely funny, open minded in many ways and loves chisme (gossip)!

Does this character remind you of anyone you know in your personal life?

My mom, my aunties, and many moms that I know, especially Latinas.

You've done over forty plays. You said you played Carmen before?

Yes, I played Carmen before at the Pasadena Playhouse in 2015. In 2016, we did a series of readings for schools, in which I played the same role.

What shows have you seen at the Garry Marshall Theatre (formerly the Falcon)?

This is my first time at this theater acting or as an audience.

You were the voice of Emcee in the Oscar-winning Coco. I know voice work sometimes is recorded without everyone involved in the particular scene. Did you record Emcee by yourself or with some of the performers you introduced?

I recorded the voice first. Then they showed me the final image of the character. I was told that it got the shape based on my voice. I recorded along with the directors and the producer.

How long after you did your recordings, did you actually get to experience the finished Coco on the big screen?

I recorded in January of 2017, and got invited to the premiere on November 8 at El Capitan Theater.

I couldn't believe I was crying watching a cartoon. What was your initial reaction to Coco?

I was so happy and honored to be able to share with the world our great tradition, folklore and culture. Mexico is the real winner in this movie.

You've been the director and choreographer for Tierra Blanca Dance Company since 1996. What changes have you noticed in the Los Angeles dance and theatre community in the twenty-something years since you started?

In 1996, there were few Mexican dance companies. I was not aware of all the great diversity that there was in L.A. But, now with all the media, a lot of different Mexican Folk companies were formed, and we get to know other cultures through their folk dance companies. People are more aware of the different cultures. This helps people to understand where other people come from and, therefore, more barriers are down once you get to see and understand a country with a dance.

You're the choreographer for the short Jalisco. When did you start learning your traditional folklorico dancing?

When I was 17 years old, at the Instituto Cultural Cabañas in Guadalajara. I belonged to the Ballet Folkorico de las Americas.

Did you want to be a dancer or an actor when you were growing up? Or both?

I wanted to be a lawyer, but I started dancing. Dancing took me to acting.

Any plans to revive your one-woman show that you played at the Bohemian Café?

Yes, actually I am writing and working on my first one-woman show in English. Hopefully in 2019, I will have it ready.

And what's next for you, Blanca Araceli?

In theater, I just finished doing the Short and Sweet festival on September 28, 29 and 30. Then comes Pastorela El Ermitaño in December 2018, and TOO MANY TAMALES also in December 2018. As choreographer, I am working with The Rogue Company in their current play. SEñOR PLUMMER'S FINAL FIESTA, still running with several shows with my dance company to celebrate dia de muertos (October and November). And, finally, I got booked in the role of Carmen for a production that will take place in Texas in the spring of 2019.

Thank you again for your time, Blanca!

For ticket availability and show schedule through November 18, 2018; log onto GarryMarshallTheatre.org


Writer/Actor Matthew Scott Montgomery Mashing Up Disney Millennials With Seasoned L.A. Theatre-Goers

Expanded and polished, Matthew Scott Montgomery's multi-award-winning DEAD BOYS begins at the Celebration Theatre July 1, 2018. Matthew's one-act on two millennials trapped alone in their old high school basement morphed into a full-length dark, but comedic piece. Matthew most amiably agreed to answer my probing inquiries.

Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Matthew!

How did you originally come up with the premise of DEAD BOYS? You weren't in a trapped situation somewhere before, were you?

Well, it started because I love two-person shows! I got addicted to the idea of working on one after acting in a workshop of a two-person play called COROMANDEL, by Nick Johnson with EST LA. It seems like the purest form of acting to me - just two people for 80 minutes. There's no hiding! So I definitely set out to write a two-hander, and knew I wanted to tackle race and sexuality, and the first draft happened very quickly. I basically took a long weekend marinating with these two characters in mind and I just went with where they were taking me. And the "trapped" aspect and the bit-of-horror element that came along with it kind of happened organically. My personality is really upbeat and find myself doing comedy a lot, but underneath, I'm actually more drawn to dark side of things - and I love a good twist. One person who saw DEAD BOYS last summer called it a millennial Brokeback Mountain meets Moonlight meets 10 Cloverfield Lane, and that feels really apt!

Your 2017 production of DEAD BOYS won a number of awards. Can you give us a run-down of your various initial reactions to being notified of your honors (City of West Hollywood: One City One Pride Scholarship Award-winner, Best of Fringe, Encore! Producers Award, and a Diversity in American Theater Award finalist)?

The scholarship grant I got as part of WeHo's One City One Pride was TOTALLY unexpected and really exciting. That was also awarded before we opened, it was just based off of the script, so I thought, "Maybe I'm onto something here!" It definitely helped build anticipation to give us that boost of buzz before we had our first performance and I felt like I had a lot to prove to live up to that scholarship. At the same time, I didn't think ahead too much, mostly just focused on putting on the best show we could each performance at a time, so the fact that we got extended so many times thanks to the Encore! Award was a thrill. To be recognized by Fringe specifically felt very COOL, like I was at the cool table, and to be a finalist for Diversity in American Theatre was really special too. DEAD BOYS poses some tough questions and is really frank in the character's points-of-view, but it's actually a celebration of diversity; I'm really glad it was and is continuing to be seen as that.

This isn't your first dance at Celebration. You acted in revolver in 2013 at their former location on Santa Monica Blvd. Was revolver your first collaboration with Celebration?

revolver was my first time ACTING with them. DEAD BOYS is my first time co-producing with them and my first time on the Lex stage! I feel like I'm in great company with a lot of the actors and shows. I'm such a big fan of that have come before me. I love the whole team at Celebration and revolver was a lot of fun. When I did DEAD BOYS as part of Fringe, multiple people commented that it seemed like a good fit for Celebration, and I agreed. And I had been talking with Todd Milliner, who has worked on several shows there, for a few years about potentially working on something together. He and the literary director Nate Frizzell and one of our producers Tom DeTrinis have always been champions of my work and they're great friends; they came to see it last year, we stayed in touch about it and the timing worked out great. Tom and Jay Marcus, our other producer, are incredible and have been really enthusiastic about it.

Tell us what factors led you to exercise your creative chops at the Celebration.

I couldn't be happier that DEAD BOYS' first official home is at a place that is known for being a beacon in Los Angeles LGBT entertainment. The show has definitely evolved since last year - it was a one act then and now it's a full-length. I had invaluable help working on it in The Living Room Series at The Blank Theatre; Beth Bigler and the whole team over there really brought DEAD BOYS to life (pun intended). I consider both theaters homes of mine, but it was important to me to embrace the queer aspects of the story as much as possible, so Celebration was a perfect fit. Celebration is such a great name for the company because it's exactly that - celebrating all things LGBT. They do such respected and important work and are always telling colorful stories; I'm really honored to be co-producing with them.

When did you become a company member of Celebration?

2013 when I did revolver. I was hooked!

How do you address Celebration's four Michaels (Kricfalusi, Matthews, O'Hara, Shepperd) when they're in the same room? Nicknames? Last names? Michael #1, #2, #3, #4?

Ha, ha! GREAT question! Michael Kricfalusi is "Kric." Michael Matthews is "Michael Matthews." I'm not sure why this is, but for me; it's always the full name! Michael O'Hara is "O'Hara." And Michael Shepperd is "Shep." Please don't ask me to pick a favorite!

Did you grow up wanting to be an actor or a writer? Or both?

I've always wanted to be an actor, even if at the time I didn't know how to articulate that. Like the character Levi in DEAD BOYS, I didn't grow up in an environment with a lot of obvious outlets to act, so if you kind of trace back and look, that's what I was always trying to do. Writing came hand-in-hand with that a lot because I wanted to perform, but didn't know how to get started. So I'd write stuff for myself. One time in school, I wrote a musical for me and friends to do just in a classroom - guerrilla style - like we met there at 4PM and kind of just did it for ourselves. After working on TV for a few years, I was so surprised how many of my co-stars didn't do theater or know much about it, and I was like, "That's it! I'm taking you to a play so you can see what it's all about!" And they weren't always enthusiastic about that - but if I was in and/or wrote something, they were more prone to see it. So honestly, that's kind of what I did. So writing has always come from the immediacy of wanting to act.

Who were your writing idols growing up?

I'm a huge fan of Kevin Williamson and Joss Whedon. And R.L. Stine.

Would you say you have two distinctly different groups of fans - those of your Disney Channel shows and those of your Celebration and Del Shores work?

Ha, ha, I definitely think that's true. Doing YELLOW with Del was my big break really. That got me recognized by Disney Channel. I started working on the channel while the show was still running. Then, literally the day after it closed, I was full time working for Mickey Mouse for a couple years. It was a strange transition. I had a lot of grown, mostly gay men recognizing me around town for my theater work, and then overnight, it became mostly teenage girls recognizing me for the TV work.

Have the two groups ever mash-up?

Sometimes! Theater helps them mash-up actually. It's always really fun and means so much to me when fans of my work on Disney or people who follow my social media come to see me onstage. For some, DEAD BOYS was their first play they had ever seen. There were adults from the traditional theater world and young adults who know me from TV or Instagram/YouTube who travelled to see the show last summer and were there in the audience together. And I think they both identified with it in different ways, both equally rewarding. Because DEAD BOYS deals with the emotional fall-out of high school, I think millennial audiences can identify with it because of the freshness of that experience. Older audiences can appreciate the things that have never really changed about school and being haunted by it. There's something so volatile and intense, and sometimes sexy, and sometimes heartbreaking about high school that stays with everyone, I think.

Describe the evening at the LADCC ceremony in 2010 you won Best Actor for your role in Del Shores' YELLOW.

That was pretty surreal, one of the best nights of my life probably. I actually on set that day, and I wasn't sure I was going to make it on time to the ceremony. We were filming a scene where I got ketchup sprayed in my hair. I raced to take a shower in my dressing room as soon as we wrapped and barely made it on time. YELLOW was the most rewarding job. Del and the whole cast was really a family, so that night was a blur of pure love. I brought the award with me to work the next day to show a friend, and it was at our table read and our show runner asked me, "What was it that?" And I did a little show-and-tell. That felt cool. I was like "See! This was that thing I kept talking about!"

Any plans for taking DEAD BOYS on the road, or to another city?

You know I was just talking about that with Del Shores the other day. He thinks Palm Springs could be a good fit! I'm also a big fan of Diversionary Theatre in San Diego. I love Los Angeles and the theater scene here - when stuff is good here, it's REALLY good - and so I'm proud to be a part of the scene here for the time being. But I do want to share it with a lot of people, and I do have followers online who live all over. Any excuse to perform it anywhere, or to have it performed anywhere, is a gonna be a good excuse for me!

Can you share what your next script will be dealing with?

I have a couple ideas, and they're equal parts sexy and spooky. There may be a ghost involved... I told you I'm drawn towards dark side of stuff!

What reactions would you like the Celebration audiences to leave with after the curtain call of DEAD BOYS?

There's a part of the show that's in Spanish, and even though a good portion of the audiences may not speak the language, I think they'll "get" what's being said. Also, even though I mentioned the darkness in it and the logline is fairly dramatic, it's also a really funny show. Tragedy and comedy can be so close to each other. So I hope they laugh with, and fall in love with the characters like I have - they're both complicated and imperfect, and the show is a lot of fun. When we did it at Fringe, I was blown away by how different types of people identified with it in different ways. I had a friend who is a straight white woman that was very moved by it. I have a younger friend who is biracial and bisexual and she was very moved by it. And we've had a lot of return audience members who've brought friends. That has been a gift that's kept on giving.

Thank you again, Matthew! I look forward to seeing your BOYS.

No, thank YOU! Insert a "dead" pun here that's in REALLY good taste! I'll knock 'em dead? I don't know!

For DEAD BOYS ticket availability and schedule through July 31, 2018; log onto CelebrationTheatre.com


Playwright Henry Ong Sharpens his BLADE, Always Aiming to Pay It Forward

An Angeleno for decades now, the internationally-produced playwright Henry Ong always manages to find his way back to his home base in Los Angeles (FABRIC at Pasadena Playhouse, SWEET KARMA at The Grove Theatre, to name a few of his works). The prolific writer's latest world premiere THE BLADE OF JEALOUSY will open June 24, 2018 at the Whitefire Theatre. We managed to find a few spare moments of Henry's time to pick his creative brain on L.A. theatre and always giving back.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview with me, Henry!

The original draft of THE BLADE OF JEALOUSY came from your involvement with Jon Lawrence Rivera and Golden Tongues. Can you elaborate on this 2015 association?

I was invited and commissioned to participate in Golden Tongues, which is a joint project by Playwrights' Arena (Jon's the Artistic Director) and UCLA's William Andrews Clark Memorial Library. The purpose of the project is to draw attention to the vastly untapped treasures of the Golden Age of Spanish theater. Playwrights were asked to pick a play and re-interpret it in a contemporary setting. I picked Tirso de Molina's LE CELOSA DE SI MISMA (JEALOUS OF HERSELF) and modernized it against the backdrop of Los Angeles.

What inspired you to adapt Tirso de Molina's LE CELOSA DE SI MISMA (JEALOUS OF HERSELF) into THE BLADE OF JEALOUSY?

After poring through a catalogue containing hundreds of untapped plays, I was immediately struck by the vibrancy of the story and the madcap quality of JEALOUS OF HERSELF. Tirso de Molina is himself an interesting character. He was not only a Catholic friar; he was also a successful playwright writing under a pseudonym. The story of a woman who became jealous of herself was simply too delicious to ignore! For me, it also raises questions about society's obsession with beauty and its implications. Apparently, it was no different during 17th century Spain.

What did you learn from your one-nighter at the Odyssey Theatre in August 2016? Any particular audience reaction take you by surprise?

The reading at the Odyssey was magical. We had a sold-out house. And a “red carpet” event, for crying out loud! We, playwrights, never know how our work will be received until it is staged, but the reading was a good gauge that perhaps we were ready for a mass audience. Generally, I had very positive feedback. I don't remember anyone expressing anything negative. There was a lot of laughter throughout the show, and I don't think they were just being polite.

Are there a lot of tweaks from that 2016 reading to this world premiere at Whitefire?

I have done several edits to trim the “fat.” As we rehearse, we are delving into the deeper issues. Hopefully, the comedy goes deeper than just mistaken identity—that deep down, there is also human connection and love. There's a fine balance between being in your face and being subtle. That's what I'm working on at the moment. In the back of my mind, I wonder whether it will work when you have actors try different things. With different casts, the coloring of the play changes somewhat as well.

Any of the actors from your 2016 show back for this Whitefire production?

Unfortunately, the actors were unavailable for this production (e.g. one is moving out of town, another is in India at the moment, etc.) There is also the situation which does not allow us to use Equity actors. So, we have a brand new cast.

How did you come up with the name of your production company - Blue Apple Productions?

Actually this particular production is co-produced by Whitefire Theatre and Artists Against Oppression (AAO), a non-profit organization whose primary mission is to encourage artistic projects in the community that have a charitable bent. We have an arrangement with Thai Community Development Center to honor its Executive Director, Chancee Martorell who supported a number of my artistic endeavors like FABRIC and THE BOONSOM PALAT STORY. There will be at a special event prior to opening for this event, and it will raise monies for Thai CDC as well.

Blue Apple is the literal translation of the name, “Jiang Qing.” She was Chairman Mao Zedong's wife and widow. My first play, Madame Mao's Memories, is based on her life. Because that play defined me as a playwright, I have fond memories of it. Hence, I thought using her adopted name would be an interesting one for my production company.

How does one become a 16-time recipient of Department of Cultural Affairs Artist-in-Residence grants?

By applying for grants with the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. I was lucky. I submitted 16 project ideas, all of which were funded. My main proposal was to conduct oral history projects in various underserved or minority communities; it's a way of giving back to the community. I learned that regular people, not just artists, are hungry to tell their stories. It's more about the participants than it is about me, but in the process, I learn about the various communities as well. I've done oral history projects in the Filipino, Chinese, Korean, Thai communities, as well as partnered with Marlton School, Los Angeles' only day school for the deaf and hearing impaired students, to stage several plays for youth. The school had hitherto not done any Asian plays, and there's such a wealth of Asian folktales, so it was a very happy partnership for several years.

Was your six-hour DREAM OF THE RED CHAMBER at WHY DREAM IN INGLEWOOD? part of this grant award?

No, DREAM OF THE RED CHAMBER resulted from an IGAPP (Inglewood Growing Artists Performed Projects) initiative awarded by the City of Inglewood. It gave me the opportunity to revisit my six-hour adaptation of the Chinese classic novel, Dream of the Red Chamber, a story I grew up with. What a treat to be able to use the beautiful Inglewood Amphitheater and park, as well as its Agee Playhouse theater as the setting to tell this epic tale! We had 13 actors taking on some 70 roles, performing all over the park, over an entire day, with breaks in between, of course. Additionally, we did half the play on one day, and the other half on another. We were also able to use some members of the audience as “actors” for bit lines, which they seemed to enjoy.

How involved are you with your scripts once they get produced past their premieres? Do you partake in any creative decisions? Do you watch rehearsals and give notes?

I do. I try and attend every rehearsal and I like getting various viewpoints, especially from the director. I don't always agree, but I appreciate that everyone wants to do the best for the play. Ultimately, as the playwright, I have final say on whether or not to include suggested changes. And, yes, I do give notes, but always through the director.

Once your plays are published, how flexible are you with any script changes?

I feel that no play is set in stone although, after publication, unless I'm actively involved, any production will have to deal with the published version rather than alter the script.

Did you have any creatives you looked up to in your formative years?

I wasn't originally trained to be a playwright. As with many Asian families, my parents wanted me to be a doctor. So I had to “prove” to them that I had no aptitude for medicine. By which time, I'd graduated with a science degree. I hated my years having to study disciplines I had no interest in, so when I graduated, I decided I would follow my own path. Not knowing what that would be, except that I wanted to write, I became a journalist for a while. I took a UCLA playwriting class, and that was enough for me to decide that that was what I wanted to do. There was a lot of catching up to do, so I immersed myself in reading plays, seeing them when I could. My favorite playwrights were Tennessee Williams and William Inge (the gay ones!). I also looked at Asian playwrights, such as David Henry Hwang and Philip Kan Gotanda. I'm glad to see there are a number of Asian playwrights now making their mark on the national stage.

How has the Los Angeles theatre community changed in all the years you've been active in it?

My goodness, there's so much theater in Los Angeles. It took me a while to navigate through all the theaters, and I'm still discovering. I like the fact that many productions companies just do it! I even appreciate "bad" theater. No one produces a show to be bad. So there's something to be said for the effort, and there's always something to learn from any production. Plays are also getting shorter. Gone are the three-acts (well, mostly gone!). Today, more and more plays are one-acts, but not any less substantial. The Equity situation certainly is a game-changer. There are so many actors I would love to have worked with on THE BLADE OF JEALOUSY, but we can't. While we appreciate that actors need to get paid, by the same token, they need to constantly exercise their creative muscle. Unless they belong to a membership company, many actors are barred from productions that cannot afford to pay actors more than a minimal wage. Hey, being in a show beats taking acting classes (for which actors pay!).

What emotions would you like Whitefire audiences to leave with after THE BLADE OF JEALOUSY's curtain call?

For this play, I want people to have fun, and at the same time think about the underlying idea of self-esteem and how that's linked to our concept of beauty. I think this play touches on that—excuse the pun—beautifully! I would love it if people can see in the characters, glimpses of themselves. In many of my plays, I would love it if audiences are moved by the message and cry. In this, I hope they are moved to laugh. I remember someone telling me, God loves laughter. I want to my audience to laugh. Pure and simple.

What's in the immediate future for Henry Ong?

I go with the flow. I never know where my next inspiration will come. For instance, last year, I was asked if I would write a play about sexual abuse by Thai Community Development Center (CDC). It was the last thing I wanted to do, but I was game. So we did a movement piece (I asked my friend Donna Eshelman to choreograph) called THE BOONSOM PALAT STORY (title may change), and we presented it at a Thai CDC event. My friend who is opening a Thai restaurant later this year has indicated that I'm welcome to stage it in her restaurant anytime I would like.

I've had several people approach me about writing projects, but I'm considering them one at a time. What I know is, I would love to go beyond just writing plays. I would love to collaborate. I would love to incorporate movement, music, and stage plays in non-traditional spaces. Come to think of it, I've done some of these already! But more. I have several projects in the works, but we'll see if they come to fruition. Some are big, some are simple to execute, but always these projects have to excite me. We'll see. Or I may just not do anything. I remember several years ago, I said I would not write anymore. And I was immediately happy. Then, the next day, I put pen to paper. On the blank page.

Thank you again, Henry! I look forward to seeing your BLADE in action.

For ticket availability through August 26, 2018; log onto TheBladeofJealousy.brownpapertickets.com


"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.
 


FREE WORKSHOP - FILL THE HOUSE - BETTER LEMONS POWER TOOLS

Have you ever wished you could squeeze our brains so you could ask questions about how to make the most out of our website?
Here is a FREE workshop where you will be able to do just that!
DATE AND TIME
Sat, May 19, 2018
10am - 12 noon
LOCATION
Theatre West
3333 Cahuenga Boulevard West
Los Angeles, CA 90068
DESCRIPTION

  • Do you register your shows on Better Lemons?
  • Do you use the playbill insert to encourage audience reviews?
  • Do you use your sweet ratings to further promote your shows?
  • Do you review shows that you've seen on Better Lemons?
  • Do you use the resources page of the Better Lemons website?
  • Introduction to new website features
  • and more

Come to this free workshop to learn all there is to know about Better Lemons and bring your friends and family! Film, Theatre, and Event Producers, Publicists, Reviewers, Performers, and everyone else who goes to live theater, film festivals, art events, etc. will benefit from this workshop!
Join us! It's FREE!


Angel Kay Sedia's Always On Chico's Case

The infamous Chico's Angels will be opening their latest edition of their riotous, outrageous, hilarious, long-running (15 years!) series of Charlie's Angels drag homage - CHICO'S ANGELS 2: LOVE BOAT CHICAS on March 28, 2018. The self-proclaimed leader of these too, too funny Angels, Kay Sedia, managed to spare us some seconds of her most precious time between her many costume fittings, wig stylings and Tupperware functions. We even finagled a few moments from Kay's alter ego, CHICO'S ANGELS co-creator Oscar Quintero.

Mucho gracias for doing this interview, Kay Sedia!

You have worn many a bright colored dress and a huge wig in all your performances in CHICO'S ANGELS since 2003. Do you have your own personal Versace? Or do you sew your frocks yourself?

No, I have my own Versage. Her name is Carol, and chee has a quinceañera shop on Western. Please don't be jealous or try to approach her because chee is exclusive to me.

Just how many wigs is 15 years worth?

Worth one million dollars, if I had put a number to it. But I say I have about 35 wigs.

How much time needs to pass before you become emotionally unattached to them that you can throw them out?

10 minutes.

With all the shellacking, er, hair spray, how long does a set to your raven locks keep? A week? A Show? The run???

Just depends how active the cho is. Some have last for five minutes, and there are some that last for ten years. It just depends on the amount of work I'm willing to do for the cho. A few of them last ten minutes, but most of them hold their curls for ten years because I'm lazy.

You were born in 1999, out of pageantry necessity. Were you a product of immaculate conception? Or did you have 'help' in your creation?
No one can say they do anything alone, specially in the world of drag. Ju always need jur mentors. I had some help from some very fancy gay peoples in Hollywood - mainly Glen Allen, James Gray and a bunch of other queens.

Which would you pick as your moonlighting job - being a Chico's Angel? Or a top-selling Tupperware Queen?
Well, I tell ju! Tupperware is my yob, I enjoy it. CHICO'S ANGELS is my pasión. So ju decide! They both pay the bills. One just stores my food better.

Can I speak to your alter ego Oscar for a few moments? You can interrupt, er, join in, when you get the urge, OK, Kay? 

Si!

Oscar, did any particular person inspire your creation of Kay Sedia?
She is inspired by many women in my family. My mother, my aunts, and my sisters. Kay is a combination of them with the majority inspired by my mother. My mother was the most self-centered woman you've ever met. She was the life of the party and a bit clueless about how self-absorbed she was. But you loved her anyway.

What cosmic forces brought you and Kurt Koehler together to create CHICO'S ANGELS, aside from the wonderful Mr. Dan?

We were sitting next to each other and we were on our way to see the Plush Life. We met through the same circle of people. We didn't know each other that well and he told me about a project he was working that was called "Super Fag." I told him I had done this alter ego/superhero Kay Sedia, which was called "Taco Chick." My friend Glen was also sitting with us and mention it was similar to "Electric Women & Dina Girl" — yet like "Taco Chick & Salsa Girl." We all started laughing. Later, Kurt cast me in this film and that is when we started talking about CHICO'S ANGELS. Cut to about a year later, Kurt called to ask if he could direct CHICO'S ANGELS and I said he could direct it if he would help write it. AND... that's when the world of CHICO'S ANGELS began.

Okay, Kay, back to you... Describe your relaxation attire? Heels, si or no?
My cha-cha pumps are everything to me. They can help me climb walls and they can make me look sexy when I'm laying on the bed. Cha-Cha pumps are everything.

Do you prefer performing live on the Cavern Club Theater stage or shooting video on location?
I feed off the audience. I feed off their energy. I feed off their nachos if they have them on their table! There is nothing like a live audience for me. 

Which of your past CHICO'S ANGELS cases was your favorite?

We now have done five cases on stage and I would say my favorite would be a combo between the one where we are high school hookers, and when we go on the Love Boat. I just love the Love Boat one because of all disco music. I guess ju could say they're my twins. I love them both equally.

Tell us what you like most about Frieda Laye?

Chee's slutty and chee doesn't apologize. I aspire to be like Frieda because ju know, I'm a hopeless romantic and I have to fall in love. Frieda can spread them open, give it away and then walk away to the next guy - I wish I could be like that. Chee's my spirit animal.

Is there any quality you admire most about Chita Parol?

There's very little I admire about Chita Parol. Chee's so mean and so jealous of all my sexiness on a daily basis. But if I have to admire something of her - I admire her jealousy of me.

You've had Charo in your show, si?

Ches.

Tell us about your experience with Senorita Charo.

Speaking about spirit animals, chee is definitely my spirit animal. What I find so espiring about Charo is that chee carved out a little niche for herself in this crazy entertainment business that is predominantly Anglo. Charo is a classically trained guitarist, but even chee says "Cuchi-Cuchi!" took her to the bank. That's what I admire. I'm funny, I'm sexy, and I'm gonna let it take me to the bank, too.

What celebrity would you like the Angels to solve a case for?
Jaclyn Smith… That angel hasn't come to the cho.

Where do you find your CHICO'S ANGELS Hotties? Do you have a lengthy audition process?
Ches! We have a farm in Hollywood that's called "Chico's Estates!" That is where we groom them. We teach them how to learn lines, flex, and workout. Our one main acting technique for the Hotties is how to take their shirts off. It's a hard class, not many can do it. Frieda has to cho them how using her teeth, but it gets dangerous for her, chee swallows -- too many buttons! Chico usually tries to get the young actors as soon as they arrive here to LA. I can't tell ju how many have fallen in love with me. It's so sad, but I understand, my beauty is a curse. 

Do you know what your boss Chico is planning for you in the near future?

Chico's next assignment for us has us doing our variety cho. Later in the year, we will be back to celebrating our 15th anniversary on the stage with our original episode. There have been rumors that we might be moving to a “bigger” theater. Gil, there is a lot of good stuff coming up, and we definitely want to make our CHICO'S ANGELS feature film this year. Chico better make it happen soon, because I'm getting bored.

With LOVE BOAT CHICAS returning to the Cavern Club Theater at the Casita Del Compo beginning March 28, are you expecting your Angels aficionados to relive their LOVE BOAT experience and shout out your lines with you?
Thees is a scripted cho and does not include audience participation people! There is NO shouting out, unless ju're yelling, "Kay, ju are so SEX-EEEE!" By the way, I know that, so keep it that to jurself. (Kay is blushing)

And on a closing note, please share with your fans how you stay the "Pretty One" of the Angels? What's your diet and beauty secrets?

My diet consists of a lot of chips & salsa. I also do a guacamole mask which then I eat with the chips - it's almost like a two-for-one facial. Honestly, I try to do as little as possible in the arena of exercise. It's too much work, and I don't like it, and it hurts. Sexy is as sexy is. I can't help it.

Mucho, mucho gracias, Senorita Sedia! I look forward to laughing out loud at you and your fellow Angels. Hmm, I mean laughing with you and your fellow Angels, while oogling your latest CHICO'S ANGELS Hottie.

For ticket availability and show schedule through April 8, 2018; log onto ChicosAngels.com


Jim Beaver Waxes Poetic on Theatre West & His Path Leading to THE NIGHT FORLORN

Many will recognize Jim Beaver as Whitney Ellsworth in the 2004-2006 hit TV series Deadwood, and now currently on your television screens as Bobby Singer in Supernatural. Jim will be appearing sans TV screen and on stage at his theatre home base Theatre West in THE NIGHT FORLORN opening March 16, 2018. An consistently busy actor/writer/film historian, Jim made some time to answer a few of my inquisitive inquiries on his long and rewarding history with Theatre West.
Thank you Jim for agreeing to this interview.
You have a 30-years-plus working relationship with Theatre West. How did that initially come about?
In 1984, actress Karen Kondazian brought my play VERDIGRIS to Theatre West's artistic director Clyde Ventura, and together they produced its world premiere in 1985. I've been a part of Theatre West ever since.
So, did Steve Nevil and THE NIGHT FORLORN come to Theatre West? Or did Theatre West seek this project out?
Steve is, like me, a longtime member of the company, and THE NIGHT FORLORN was developed in our writers workshop. In recent years, there's been a competition among members for scripts to put up in full productions, and THE NIGHT FORLORN is the most recent selection in that competition. So although there are elements of truth in both questions, the real truth is that the play grew directly from Steve in his already-existing membership in the company.
Have you worked with any of THE NIGHT FORLORN talents before? Are some members of Theatre West?
Everyone associated with the production is a member of Theatre West. J. Downing is friend of many years, a magnificent actor whom, although we've been in some of the same movies, I've never worked with directly. I appeared briefly in actress Leslie Caveny's play IMPACT THIS! a few years ago, and got to rough her up as my sister in Fionnula Flanagan's production of Brian Friel's THE FREEDOM OF THE CITY a few years before that. My director, Arden Teresa Lewis, and I appeared together in GOOD in the ‘90s, and she produced the 30th anniversary revival of my play VERDIGRIS in 2015. But my longest association in this play is with Tom Allard, who plays Chris. We go back to a production of KING LEAR in college together in 1972. He's my closest friend, and we've worked together on many projects. He directed me at Theatre West in Ken Jenkins's CHUG and in my own plays SIDEKICK and SEMPER FI. He also shot me with a gun the size of his leg on an episode of Reasonable Doubts.
How would you compare the character that you play in THE NIGHT FORLORN with VERDIGRIS' Jockey Fielding, Shelby Parlow on Justified, or Bobby Singer on Supernatural? Do you think any of these four would get together for a drink at a neighborhood saloon?
Perce, my character in THE NIGHT FORLORN, is of a type with those other characters, in that he's rural, folksy, prickly, gruff but lovable, and doesn't mind a drink. And yeah, he'd get together with those other guys at a bar. But five'll get you ten, he'd end up stuck with the tab.
How does a son of a Texan preacher get interested film history?
Same way the son of anybody does, I guess — watching a ton of movies growing up. I got hooked in my teens on John Wayne movies, and then on the movies of some of the people who were in John Wayne movies, and then on the movies of some of the people who were in THEIR movies, and pretty soon, I realized that I loved everything about movies. I began collecting information on movies and the people who made them, and eventually came to feel I was particularly good at researching this kind of history. I loved it, and while I got sort of sidetracked MAKING movies, I still love digging into the history of the art form and writing about the people who left their marks on that history.
What sparked your interest in researching John Garfield and television's original Superman George Reeves, amongst your many other subjects?
I've collected books on actors since my teens, and in college, under the false impression that there was a lot of money lying around for people who wrote books about movies, I thought I'd give one a shot. I made a list of actors I admired on whom there weren't any books, and Garfield stood out for a lot of reasons, not least of which was that he didn't make that many movies and I thought (again erroneously) that it would be a quick job and a quick buck. Neither turned out to be true. Later, as a film critic and feature writer for Films in Review magazine, I was assigned an article on George Reeves, which piqued my interest and led to a decades-long job of researching a book on his life and untimely death. In his case, I was particularly interested in writing about someone who became very famous without the concomitant power that often comes with stardom, someone who got what he wanted without it being particularly satisfying at all.
Any fond memories of times you spent with Theatre West founder, the late Betty Garrett?
Betty Garrett, who was among the first people involved in what became Theatre West, was simply one of the finest people I have ever known. Her professionalism, unmatched, was combined with a glowing, generous, perpetually optimistic personality. I loved her dearly. She was the first person to play the lead in my play VERDIGRIS, in a staged reading prior to its original production (when the part was taken over by the amazing Anne Haney), and she was a wise and giving mentor not just to me, but to everyone she encountered in our company and, I'm sure, elsewhere. Her son Andrew Parks originated the other leading role in VERDIGRIS and remains one of my inner circle of deepest friendships. Betty was also very helpful to me in researching my book on George Reeves, as she knew many of the people who were part of his story. I miss her intensely.
You have used Kickstarter for your 2015 production of VERDIGRIS and GoFundME is linked on the Theatre West website. Any helpful tips for using either one of these money-raising websites?
The biggest lesson I learned from my crowdfunding experiences was to get the assistance of someone who is well-versed in the process. Anyone can start a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign. It takes knowledge and insight and wisdom, as well as IMMENSE energy and determination, to actually succeed in one. We used the services of one of my former Deadwood colleagues, actress Leah Cevoli, who has made a companion career for herself as a consultant on crowdfunding. Without her guidance, I absolutely doubt our campaigns would have been successful.
 You published your memoir Life's That Way in April 2009. Are you working on a Part 2?
Life's That Way was a memoir of a particular and difficult year of my life, and it came into being as a real-time outlet for the feelings I had at the time the events were happening. Thus it had a particular urgency and impetus. I'm frequently asked about another volume of autobiography, and I very much like the idea, as one thing I discovered while writing Life's That Way is that I'm not too bad at telling stories from life and making some sense of them. But I don't have the same urgency pushing me toward such a project. I'd love to write another volume, but with career, a teen-aged daughter, and the Reeves book and a novel currently in progress, I'm having trouble setting aside the time for such a book. I want to. If I can stick around long enough, I think it will happen.
What would you say was your oddest odd job before making your living writing and acting - being a Frito-Lay corn chip dough mixer, a film cleaner at a 16mm film rental firm, or a amusement park stuntman at Oklahoma City's Frontier City?
The jobs you mention were perhaps a little unusual, but not terribly odd, at least in my estimation. Probably the wackiest was a job I had working for a paraplegic woman while I was in college. She was completely physically helpless, yet she ran her house and the lives of everyone who set foot in it like a field marshal. It was an absolutely crazy, remarkable experience for me, and it became the basis of my play VERDIGRIS.
Which do you prefer - seeing your written work performed onstage? Or you yourself performing on stage?
That's a tough question. I very much treasure (most of) the times I've seen my own work performed. There is no feeling on earth like seeing one's own words enlivened and invigorated in performance. At the same time, nothing gives me greater public pleasure than acting. Writing has often been an excuse to get myself into situations where people might decide to let me act. Fortunately, a lot of what I've written has been material I could play myself. VERDIGRIS has a role I long wanted to do, but I grew too old to play it. But in the recent revival, I was able to play an older role I'd never given much thought to, and it was a joy. I don't always write for myself, but sometimes I've been able to play writer AND actor on the same production, and that really can't be beat.
What playwrights did you grow up admiring and want to emulate?
My playwriting gods are William Shakespeare, Eugene O'Neill, and Tennessee Williams. If my work resembles any of theirs in any fashion, it's probably Williams. VERDIGRIS was very much influenced by THE GLASS MENAGERIE. But I don't think I really write much like any of them. Who does? But they are the ones who shaped my ideas of the theatre, of what a play could do, of the power and insight possible on the stage. As a playwright, they are with me every day when I write. My one regret as an actor is that I've never had a chance to do O'Neill. I want a Larry Slade or a James Tyrone Sr. before I shuffle off this mortal coil!
Any immediate projects coming up for Jim Beaver you can share?
THE NIGHT FORLORN, of course, takes up much of my time through April 22. I'm busy in film and television, with my ongoing parts on Netflix's The Ranch and the CW's loooooooong-running hit Supernatural. I'm hoping for a play in New York before long. That's about it. Ask me again tomorrow. The phone keeps ringing. I'm a lucky boy.
Thank you again, Jim. I look forward to seeing you in THE NIGHT FORLORN.
For ticket availability and show schedule through April 22, 2018; log onto www.theatrewest.org


Jeff Campanella Getting Familiar With Garry Marshall, Maria Callas & Neil Simon

Jeff Campanella already has earned the distinction of being the only actor to be part of both the recently re-named Garry Marshall Theatre's inaugural season's first and second productions. Jeff goes from 'stage managing' Maria Callas in MASTER CLASS to being a vital contributor in Neil Simon's homage to his beginnings as part of a classic television comedy writing team in LAUGHTER ON THE 23rd FLOOR. Jeff took the time to give us a little insight to his involvement with MASTER CLASS and now LAUGHTER, which begins previews March 21, opening March 23.
Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Jeff!
LAUGHTER ON THE 23rd FLOOR is your second show at the Garry Marshall. Do you have a history with the Falcon Theatre? Or was MASTER CLASS your first Garry Marshall/Falcon project?
MASTER CLASS was my first audition and production at the Falcon/GMT, and could not have been a better experience. Our director, Dimitri Toscas, is truly one of the kindest people I know, and I'm so happy for him that the show got such wonderful reviews.
Did you ever have the opportunity to interact with the late, great Garry Marshall?
No, I wish. I'm a great admirer of his work. Laverne and Shirley is my favorite Garry creation. I love hearing stories about him. He will be remembered not just for his numerous films and TV shows, but now for his beautiful theatre.
I saw you as the "Julliard Stagehand" in MASTER CLASS with the incredible Carolyn Hennesy as Maria Callas. You were most fun in your various entrances and exits interacting with Diva Callas. How would you compare your Stagehand character with the writer you play in LAUGHTER? And, which writer are you playing in LAUGHTER?
I'm playing Ira Stone, a hypochondriac who always shows up late with some new ailment. The characters are similar in that they are the outcasts of their particular worlds. Both oddballs, but in very different styles.
In your research process of getting familiar with your LAUGHTER character, did you watch some of the classic comedians that these characters were originally based on?
My character is based on Mel Brooks, or at least the Mel Brooks off-camera that Neil Simon worked with. Spaceballs was my first favorite comedy. I already watched it a dozen times before I was seven years old. I knew nothing about The Saturday Night Review or Sid Caesar, which our 'The Max Prince Show' is an allusion to, but in terms of that time period, I'm a big Jackie Gleason fan. My family loves The Honeymooners.
Have you, by chance, ever seen other theatrical productions of LAUGHTER or the 2001 television version with Nathan Lane?
No, I haven't. It's tough when you watch other performances not to at least subconsciously copy them. So, if given the choice, I'd rather not watch a performance of the character I'm going to play. I've seen Nathan Lane on Broadway in WAITING FOR GODOT, and my favorite of his films is Birdcage.
Any other Neil Simon project you've love to be involved in?
I really like THE ODD COUPLE and THE SUNSHINE BOYS, and the good news is these roles will be waiting for me in fifty years!
You have worked with a number of divas (and, I mean 'diva' in the most positive sense!) - the aforementioned Mz. Hennesy, Susan Lucci (Devious Maids), Pauley Paurette (NCIS), Mary McDonnell (Major Crimes), Jeremy Irons (An Actor Prepares). What other 'diva' would be on your wish list to work with?
Ooh, probably Maya Rudolph. She's hilarious!
Tell us some fun incidents you experienced during MASTER CLASS? (practical jokes, gag opening night gifts, spilled pitchers of water, pratfalls)
I would always find new ways to scare Maegan McConnell around the theatre. Also, before each show I would pretend to be a real stagehand and give the 20-10-and-places call to the ladies' dressing room. I'd find a new way to screw it up each time. But my favorite gag was Joseph Bwarie, the artistic director, would follow me around backstage as if he was my assistant. The Stagehand's stagehand.
Being raised in Atlanta, Georgia, does your accent reappear easily when you're around other Georgia folks? Was it easy or difficult to 'lose' your Georgia inflections?
Well, my dad's side is from Brooklyn, so I'm definitely drawing from him more than my mom's side for this role. I've never really had a southern accent, unless I'm being really polite.
What is your affinity to F. Scott Fitzgerald? I believe you dogs' names are Zelda and Fitzgerald?
You're good! I think the third dog will have to be named Gatsby!
What 1950's topic of Neil Simon's writers' room would you think will resonate (and possibly seem too relevant to our present times) with the Garry Marshall Theatre audiences.
Carol's monologue about wanting to not just be seen as a child-bearing woman, but also to be taken seriously as a writer definitely resonates today. Also, the government's desire to silence those who disagree with the status quo has always been relevant in our country. But, all in all, this is a comedy, aimed more at making one laugh than think. So bring your laugh. Or your fake laugh. I'll take either one!
Thank you again for doing this, Jeff. I look forward to experiencing your comedy chops in LAUGHTER.
For ticket availability and show schedule through April 22, 2018, log onto GarryMarshallTheatre.org


Director Jules Aaron Waxes Poetic on TWO FISTED LOVE & His Love of Los Angeles Theatre

A frequently credited directorial name in the Los Angeles Theatre community, Jules Aaron graciously stepped in at the eleventh hour to direct TWO FISTED LOVE, already in previews opening February 10, 2018 at the Odyssey Theatre. We got the chance to chat with Jules on his backstory with David Sessions' TWO FISTED LOVE and his long relationship with the Los Angeles theatre community.
Thank you, Jules, for taking the time for this interview!
What cosmic forces propelled you to step in to direct TWO FISTED LOVE?
I've known David's play for two years. I worked dramaturgically on it with him. I originally was set to direct it, but a New York project got in the way. So, when David asked me to come aboard about ten days before opening, I took a look at the wonderful cast, remembered why I love the play, and was on board. I was both scared and excited about doing a play I thought was beautifully written, and though it's set in 2008, it's unfortunately very important in the current political maelstrom.
TWO FISTED LOVE is a director's dream because of the combination of comedy of manners, fantasy and very dark drama. They comprise the unique world of the play. Hopefully, the personal and political fall from grace in 2008 has resonance in the horrific fall from grace that permeates the White House today.
Was CLOUD 9 the first play you directed (South Coast Rep in 1986) in the Los Angeles area?
I had directed at least twenty shows in N.Y. and L.A., but SHE ALSO DANCES at South Coast was my first Equity show. CLOUD 9 at SCR came later.
What brought you to Los Angeles from New York?
Since I have a Ph.D. at NYU in theatre and dramaturgy, I've not surprisingly worked on at least 80 premieres over the years, starting in N.Y. in my twenties with plays by Genet and Ionesco and new one-act plays by John Guare, Lanford Wilson and Leonard Melfi. I came out here to head the MFA Directing program at CalArts. In L.A., I did new shows at the Cast, Circle at the Cast, Smitty's, LATC., etc.

What major changes in the Los Angeles Theatre community have you seen from back in the mid-1980s to present day?
I was proud being a part of a great L.A. community which developed new directors, new designers, new tech people and NEW PLAYWRIGHTS. It was better than N.Y. I believe Equity has single-handedly done their best too emasculate the creative flow of what made L.A. a great theatre town. No one else in L.A. wanted this. (Why have their members vote?!) Future artists will suffer through their stupidity.
You've directed shows in cities between the two coasts, right?
As far as working all around the country, I've been in pretty extraordinary companies, many who did great new work: the Public theatre in New York, the Humana festival at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Utah Shakespeare Festival. But there was a spirit of adventure in the 200 small theaters that was exhilarating. I will miss it.
There's an old adage "Those who don't act, teach." This definitely doesn't apply to you as you do both prolifically. Can you delineate the satisfaction you get from teaching as separate and distinct from your high from directing?
I teach now at American Academy of Dramatic Art, which gets some very gifted students. My directing there has a special adrenaline from dealing with young students. It only informs on my professional work. In the past few tears I decided not to commute, so I only work in local theaters on plays I really care about.

Would you concur that teaching and directing are both methods of promoting better communications?
By "better communication," I think you mean reaching out in a live situation that changes night-to-night to tell better stories.
As a director of more than 250 stage and television productions, you have been part of many, many auditions. What's your advice to an auditioning neophyte in a first audition?
Auditions are like doing stand-up. It's scary. You better have a great picture to get you in. Look right for the audition as part of your prep. Make friends with the assistant casting director. Make strong choices and be ready for adjustments. Your audition starts as you enter the room, and ends when you close the door. PREPARE. It's not about you. It's about what actors the director feels will make the play work.

You're directed big names and unknowns. Any 'unknown's you're directed that eventually became big names?
I directed Don Cheadle at CalArts (in STRIDER) and Julianne Moore at ATL (in THE BUG). They haven't done badly.
What's the most unexpected audience reaction to one of your directed plays that you has ever received?
Every audience reaction is unexpected because every night is different.

What post-show reactions from the Odyssey audience would please you the most from seeing TWO FISTED LOVE?

I hope the audience is startled by the play's turns, that they care about people who can be very dark, and that they learn something about how we live our lives under adversity. Something I think we can relate to in 2018
Thank you again, Jules! I look forward to seeing your latest directorial creation.
For ticket availability and show schedule through March 11, 2018, log onto OdysseyTheatre.com


PRISCILLA's Jessica Hanna Making Outsized Theatre Magic Within Intimate L.A. Parameters

The Celebration Theatre will be presenting the Los Angeles intimate theatre premiere of PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT - THE MUSICAL as their second show of their 2017-2018 season, beginning February 10, 2018. We had the opportunity to chat with a die-hard, creative contributor to the Los Angeles Theatre community, Jessica Hanna, who just happens to be directing this huge extravaganza in the tiny, but always efficient Lex Theatre.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Jessica!

You have worked with a number of Los Angeles theatres, especially Bootleg Theatre which you co-founded. What magnetic forces drew you to The Celebration and PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT - THE MUSICAL?

I've been a fan of Celebration Theatre for some time, but hadn't had the chance to work with them. So when Michael Shepperd asked me to direct PRISCILLA... well, it's PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT - THE MUSICAL at Celebration Theatre, how would that not be a fantastic project? I was honored they brought me on and I'm having a fantastic time making it. PRISCILLA is about transformation. All of the characters, even the bus, go through some sort of transformation on the outside and in. We are living in a time of transformation, which isn't easy, but it can be glorious. And in this case, sparkly. The stage version is lavish with a very large cast and, well, the titular character is a bus, so the puzzle of how to make this epic journey story in an intimate theater also excited me. Working within parameters seems to be something I thrive on. We have to find ways to tell the story that work on the scale of the space without losing the surprise and delight built in to the show. We have a great team of collaborators in the room and I'm very excited about what we've found so far and can't wait to see what we have on February 16.

I scored an early screener of the 1994 film, and I must have watched it with friends at least twenty times within the first three months I had it. Were you first familiar with the film? Or the stage musical that began in 2006?

I never saw the stage version, but the movie was striking when it came out. The images and story were fierce and groundbreaking. It helped to create change in Western culture's perception and feelings about gender. Plus, it had amazing costumes, super fun music, and at the time, was a window into another country and culture that I didn't know much about and found totally exciting.

As a multi-creative, did you want to just sink your teeth into PRISCILLA then? Which creative aspect of PRISCILLA did you want to tackle? Or did you simply enjoy it as a 'civilian'?

Well, when I saw it, I was a just a child (ahem). So it never occurred to me that it would be something I could work on. When I heard it was a musical, all I could think was, it has to be a giant show because it has to have a bus in it, right? How do they do that? A lot of the theater work I've made or been part of making, has a flare or spectacle aspect involved. So the challenge of making a giant show in an intimate setting means figuring out how theater magic can create spectacle in a small space. My theater tastes run the gamut from simple and small to giant costume shows. This one lands more on the giant costume side. Yet, at its heart is a simple story of being true to yourself, facing your fears, and finding support and acceptance with friends and family.

The movie is iconic for many artistic reasons, but also, because it was groundbreaking. We wouldn't have RuPaul's Drag Race today without it. PRISCILLA is set in the 90s and we are working hard to pay homage, but not make it a copy or a dated period piece. We're reflecting where we are now within a period piece. For instance, the three Queens (Tick, Bernadette and Adam) all represent different eras of drag to me. Bernadette is the earlier Les Girls style - more in the style of burlesque. Tick is the late 70s/80s avant-garde drag of early RuPaul, and Adam is closer to us now as gender becomes more fluid. I think, or I hope, by following these ideas, we'll end up with a very relevant show that reminds us where we came from and encourages us to keep progressing forward.

Any particular moments really register with/touched you?

Tick's relationship with his son or his finding a relationship with his son always moved me. Remember this was 27 years ago, so the idea that a gay drag queen would or could be married and have a child was still very taboo. To watch Tick fear that his son would reject him, and then see that who he is, is exactly who his son wants and needs, was deeply moving. And, of course, watching Bernadette kick ass against bigots was fantastic to watch. Still is.

The movie itself was such a convergence of magical talents - songs, costumes, performances, sweeping fabric atop a giant high heel atop a pink bus, ping pong balls. What can the Celebration Theatre audiences expect to see in their tiny, but so-efficiently-used space?

They're going to get all that and, oh, so much more. The space is going to be packed with joy. And sparkles. And heart. I hope that audiences will be jumping in their seats, overcome with the creativity on the stage, fighting the urge to sing along, and in the next moment find themselves moved by the beautiful relationships and the friendship and acceptance the Queens find. Celebration always makes the most of their space and this show will carry on that tradition. We have a spectacular team of theater magic makers and they are employing all their tools. I hope that there will be a lot of surprise at what we have created.

Aside from the aforementioned tiny space of the Celebration, what challenges did you have to deal with and overcome in mounting PRISCILLA there?

Working within parameters causes creative choices that would never have been thought of if the space were giant and the budget unlimited. We must be creative in order to figure out how to tell the story the way we want within the parameters. There have been challenges in figuring out how to scale the cast size down to something workable for the space. How to then schedule rehearsals with a large cast of working actors is also a bit of a dance, always is. I love ensemble theater work and I strive to make space for the ensemble to find each other, which is difficult when you have a very limited rehearsal time and a LOT of material to learn quickly. But we were able to take a little time to do some ensemble work that really helped the group gel and grew their excitement about working with each other. And when working in a small space, cultivating excitement and awareness of each other makes a huge difference in focus that permeates the stage and effects the audience in beautiful ways.

Have you worked with any of this cast and crew before?

I've worked with a few of these artists, but most are new to me, which I love. I'm always excited to meet talented strangers! Los Angeles is teeming with amazing artists. I feel privileged to have opportunities to get to know and work with more of them.

I've never directed Tad Coughenour (Bernadette), but he has been in a couple shows I've produced. And I've been a fan of Gina Torrecilla (Marion) and her work at Celebration, so that's been a treat to work with her. Becca Kessin sound designed a show I produced at Bootleg years ago, but we hadn't found another project to work on until this. And Brandon Baruch, the lighting designer, and I have a long and fructiferous history of collaboration and we're having a ball on this one.

You have contributed to the theatre community using many of your various talents. Which gives you the most satisfaction - hearing the audience direct responses to your own performance onstage? Or sitting in the back of the house listening to the audience respond to the combination extension of your talents?

Sitting at the back of the house - or if a space has a vom, I love to watch & listen from a vom.

Wait, Jessica! Sorry to interrupt your train of thought, but what's a 'vom'?

The 'vom' is an entrance or aisle into a theater - comes from Ancient Rome, I think, when that aisle or hall out of the theater led to the vomitorium. You can stand in the vom and not be seen by the audience.

My new word of the week - 'vom.' Can't wait to use it. "I was standing in the vom on my way to the vomitorium and..." I digress, back to you, Lovely Lady.

I actually have a hard time sitting in an audience during a show I've directed. The energy I get from bearing witness to an audience's reactions to my collaborators performances and ideas is moving. Literally. I love hearing/feeling an audience say, "Yes!" and take the ride with the company. That's the exciting part when I'm onstage or off. Nothing like an audience saying, "Yes! I'm in. What happens next?!"

Since co-founding Bootleg Theatre in 2006, what growth have you noticed in the Los Angeles theatre scene?

You got another few pages of space? The growth has been astounding really. In the artists and the levels and variations of storytelling. L.A. is vast, and there is space for all different kinds of theater artists and their interests. And, one could argue, more importantly the audiences have grown. There is an interest in live performance in the city that feels different. Maybe it's because of the times we live in, and the technology that isolates us; but more and more I see ALL kinds of people out seeing art. Wanting to have a group experience that illuminates their humanity. Audiences all walks of life with different interests. Angelenos are craving experience. We are adventurous by nature, that's how many of us ended up here in the first place. We followed our interest, our dreams. Dared ourselves. And you can see it in the cultural landscape of the town. So much new work being incubated. Retelling of old stories in fantastic ways. Artists seem to feel a safety here to express, to attempt their wildest dreams. We encourage each other to reach because that's why we're here too. I'm gonna really start waxing poetic here soon. I can talk about theater and art for hours. It's my favorite subject.

One more thing on this topic, there has been an energizing in the L.A. theater community in the last few years, as many of us were forced to more clearly define what our theater scene has been, what it is and what we want it to become. It is a difficult and sometimes infuriating process, but it has caused conversation, collaboration and creative solutions. And I hear more pride in what we create and how we create it than ever before. It's an exciting time to be an artist anywhere, but especially in Los Angeles.

As one who's been in and around the Los Angeles theatre community, what do you see as its status in the next five years?

I think it will continue to grow. The theater that's made here will be exported more with tours of L.A.- based productions and scripts developed here in L.A. being picked up by regional theaters. Busting the myth that L.A. isn't a theater town. New plays will continue to be developed here, as I don't see the small screen giving up on all the amazing playwrights they're hiring lately. And those playwrights are based here and want to make plays. And the plays they are writing and will write will reflect the diversity of L.A., and make them more accessible in more places outside of L.A. National New Play Network rolling premieres will become more prevalent. What's really going to be key, I think, to the continued growth of the L.A. theater community is support, not just financial (though that's always welcome), from the city and state. I would love to see the city put more effort into promoting the theater and live performance scene as an asset, a glorious facet of an exciting city. Finding ways to get more young people interested in theater and art early. Helping artists make spaces that encourage collaboration and conversation that will energize all Angelenos.

Next ten years?

Ten years from now, L.A. will all be gearing up for the Arts Festival that I hope will be happening in tandem with the Olympics that summer. The city will find exciting ways to highlight and celebrate local artists, as well as, bring in some international artists, hopefully from Latin and South America. And by that time, I hope we have at least two new midsize theaters that will be supporting the growth of shows year-round by local artists. The larger houses will be casting and hiring a majority of local artists. Work will highlight diversity and give voice to those without equality more and more, because that's what audiences want to see. And since we're dreaming about the future, the city will have at least ten well-appointed spaces around town that they rent for theater and live performance for $1 a year.

What do you see for Jessica Hanna in the next five, next ten years?

Lots and lots of theater making. Continuing to allow my interest to dictate what I work on. I have a couple stories I'd like to tell in the television format as well. I will be touring theater pieces that I've directed, outside of L.A. and outside of the country. Being hired to direct outside of L.A. Working with artists all over the world, yet always being based in L.A., 'cause I mean, the weather's pretty damn amazing. And as stated above, I love this L.A. scene. I will have created an incubator space for artists of all mediums to collaborate, develop and present their work - including my own. And I will be a part of whatever arts component is happening with the Olympics. Working to highlight local artists and raising the profile of Los Angeles theater.

Thank you again, Jessica! I do so look forward to reliving my Australian road trip on the pink bus through your eyes!

You're so welcome, Gil!

To check ticket availability for Celebration Theatre's PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT - THE MUSICAL running through March 25, 2018; log onto CelebrationTheatre.com


PIRATE King Shawn Pfautsch On Making It His Duty to Crack You Up

A most imaginative, re-imagined take of Gilbert and Sullivan's classic PIRATES OF PENZANCE will begin January 23, 2018 at the Pasadena Playhouse. We had the chance to chat with Shawn Pfautsch, one of the members of the Chicago theatre ensemble The Hypocrites, who will be performing in the role of Pirate King, in The Hypocrites' wacky beach party version of the Major General and his zany crew's exploits.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Shawn.

How's rehearsals going for the Pasadena Playhouse production?

Rehearsals are going great - six hours a day of making a fun play with friends, old and new. We've put our PIRATES OF PENZANCE up almost a dozen times and those of us who have been with it all these years still have fun playing this music and cracking each other up. 

Is this your first time working/attending the Pasadena Playhouse?

This is my first time at the Pasadena Playhouse. Not only are we excited to visit a new theatre and a new audience, but it's currently 24 degrees and snowing here in Chicago, so we'll be extra happy to see you all.

How would you describe The Hypocrites' version of PIRATES OF PENZANCE (vs. the original Gilbert & Sullivan edition)?

It's really hard to describe in words! When I try to explain the show to friends who still haven't seen it, I mention that it's promenade style (you can/should share the stage with us), that we re-orchestrated the show for ten actors who play instruments (guitar, ukulele, mandolin, banjo, clarinet, accordion), and that there's a bar on stage. And, that 300 shows later, even I still enjoy watching the show every night. Someone in Boston once remarked that Gilbert would have loved it, and Sullivan would have hated it, and I think that pretty much sums it up for G&S traditionalists! It's silly and fun and a little bit different every night and I love it.

Have you experienced the more traditional production of PIRATES OF PENZANCE before?

I've never seen a traditional stage version of PIRATES (I have seen the Kevin Kline/Linda Ronstadt version on video, years ago), but... my grandparents were both classical singers and musicians. They brought me to many operas after I started taking voice lessons in my early teens. I was never a huge fan of the story-telling style of classical opera. My grandparents and I would get into debates about what I saw as staid staging, un-involved acting and interminable, self-congratulatory curtain calls.

But, then I saw a production of THE MIKADO at Ohio Light Opera in the late 90's. I remember thinking, “Oh, this is fun!” It was a very traditional version, but it was still silly and charming and the performers were clearly having fun. It reminded me of the Victor Borge and PDQ Bach send-ups of serious music that my family also enjoyed.

When Sean Graney asked me to be in PIRATES; I thought of that production and Sean's distinctive aesthetics; and didn't have to think too hard about saying yes.

You're playing the Pirate King in this Pasadena Playhouse production. You're been an Ensemble Member and the understudy for Major General in earlier Hypocrites' PIRATES, so you must know this show inside and out.

And I just got through playing Frederic in New York!

As one who's inhabited different roles in PIRATES, is it advantageous to you to take all you've known about the show and just re-work everything for your new character? Or do you need to throw everything out and start from scratch from a new perspective?

My directing professor in college liked to remind us of the old quote “good artists borrow, great artists steal.” So, with that in mind, I've the immense fortune of getting to steal from some really talented performers while also being given a lot of leeway from Sean to make each role my own. I do like to imagine, though, that each character has a key element that unlocks them. For the Pirate King, it's definitely the cigarette holder, which Rob McLean (who originated the role) and I like to refer to as “the character.”

In spite of their obvious differences, what characteristics would you say the Major General and the Pirate King have in common?

They're both very clear about what their ethics are, are outraged when other characters affront those ethics, but then go ahead and break them without a second thought. To be really on-the-nose, both of them are hilarious Hypocrites. And they both like to tell Frederic what his Duty is. In fact, can I just change my answer to Duty? It's all about Duty. Duty!

Since you've done both, which character type would you prefer tackling - the hero or the villain?

I'm confused, which character is which? In all seriousness, I do like a good villain. I can really indulge in some shmacting. Of course, with Gilbert & Sullivan heroes, I can also indulge in some schmacting. Can I change my answer to Duty?

How did you originally connect with Sean Graney and The Hypocrites? Back in 2010, right?

I moved to Chicago to start a theatre company in 2000, and one of the first companies I became a fan of was The Hypocrites. So, I've known Sean for a long time. But I didn't work with him until I vocal coached his THREEPENNY OPERA in 2008.

So how does the company distinguish addressing you and Sean? Shawn P. and Sean G.? Or something more fun and crazy?

Heh! Good question. Unless Sean is saying “Shawn,” I basically ignore my name when I hear it at the Hypocrites. Mostly, they just call me “Pfautsch.”

I have a not-so-common first name also. So, when I meet another Gil, we have to carry on 'comparing notes.' Did you and Sean do the same when first meeting? Or have you run into a lot of other Shawns/Seans?

I know a fair number of Shawns/Seans/Shauns. But, yeah, it's unusual enough that when I meet one, we “compare notes.” Strangely enough, I know a couple of Gils here in Chicago. Let me know if you want me to put you in touch with them!

Are you familiar enough with the Los Angeles theatre scene to compare it with your Chicago theatre happenings? Or the Boston theatre vibes?

When Chicago actors talk about Chicago, they say, “But we DO have lots of film and TV!”

When L.A. actors talk about L.A., they say, “But we DO have lots of theatre!”

When Boston actors talk about Boston, they say, “We pahk the cahr in Hahvahrd Yahd.”

Or something like that.

One of the things I enjoy most about traveling with this show is getting to know each city's theatre scene and I'm excited to finally really get to know L.A.'s.

So which do you prefer - basking in the live audience responses with yourself onstage acting? Or sitting in the back of the theatre hearing the audience react to your written dialogue?

Ooh another great question! I like you!

It's harder to enjoy moment-to-moment reactions to successful acting because it's like you're driving a car really fast down winding roads. If you stop to look around, you could easily fly off the pavement and explode. You have to keep focused ahead. That said, I actually find acting more healthy for my anxiety because I don't have time to sit and worry that the next line is going to land correctly like I do when sitting in the back while watching one of my plays. But, when a joke or a catharsis that I wrote lands, I do a little dance. So… comme ci, come ca.

What is the next project on Shawn Pfautsch's radar?

Well… I'm glad you asked.

My play HATFIELD & McCOY opens January 28th back in Chicago at The House Theatre. It's a pretty drastic re-write of a script first produced in 2007. It's based on the idea that the only two books on the McCoy family mantle were the Complete Works of Shakespeare and the King James Bible. These were brutally intelligent and eloquent people and something about complete investment in those two books makes their feud make so much more sense to me. And in 2018, a story of gun-violence and domestic polarization feels even more timely than it did in 2007 (when it was first produced) to comment on the Iraq war and the Bush Administration. Matt Kahler (the Major General) collaborated on the music with me. He just wrote a beautiful love song for it that we're very proud of.

So… I've been going to PIRATES rehearsals all day and HATFIELD rehearsals all night for the last few months. It's a good problem to have, although I'm sad to miss opening night of my play.

Will the Pasadena Playhouse audience be hearing your musical strumming proficiency on the ukulele, guitar or banjo; by chance?

Guitar and mandolin! You'll have to see our MIKADO to hear my mad sax skills

Thanks again for your time, Shawn! I look forward to experiencing your Pirate King exploits.

Thanks, Gil! Nice talking with you and I can't wait to do my Duty in Pasadena!

For PIRATES OF PENZANCE ticket availability and scheduling through February 18, 2018, log onto PasadenaPlayhouse.org


Director Rachel Chavkin SOUNDing On Bess Wohl, Being the Audience's Proxy & The Gift of Re-Do's

Director Rachel Chavkin has had her creative input in the various reincarnations of Bess Wohl's SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS since its inaugural production at Ars Nova in 2015. We had the opportunity to chat with Rachel just before she began rehearsals for this current (and third edition) to be presented at The Broad Stage beginning January 11, 2018.
Thank you for taking the time out for this interview, Rachel!
This is your third collaboration with Bess Wohl and her SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS. (First at Ars Nova in 2015, then at Pershing Square Signature Center's Romulus Linney Theater in 2016, and now this touring production landing at The Broad Stage.) How did you first become involved with SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS?
Bess Wohl wrote SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS as part of being a member of the Ars Nova play group and I had worked with Ars Nova very closely on NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812. Ars Nova was seeing if they could produce SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS and set Bess up with a handful of directors to talk about the show. Bess and I kind of fell for each other when we spoke and decided to work together.
You've directed all three SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS. Were there a lot of tweaks between the 2015 and the 2016 productions?
Not really. The original transfer was just about upsizing. The space got about two and a half times as big as the original, however, it was the same approach with alley seating and subtle video design.
And any more major/minor changes between this touring production and the 2016 show?
This touring production actually prompted larger changes: we've moved from an immersive seating where the audience was in the room with the participants, to a larger proscenium setting. But we've worked hard to maintain that feeling of intimacy in our touring production.
And we have been extremely fortunate with our touring cast. This play is unlike anything I've ever worked on before. It's, of course, a narrative and tells this wonderful story of these six suffering individuals at this silent retreat. But it's also like a dance score because there are almost no words. What's been remarkable is that in each of these unique productions, we have been able to find strong performers whose metabolisms are similar to the people who built the original score in that first production. But they are also their whole, unique, vivid, weird selves.

How would you describe the plot of SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS in a three-sentence pitch?
Six very lost people, who are each suffering in their own way, come to a silent meditation retreat for a sort of healing. The story unfolds as they each confront the questions: How can one be happy, and should one be happy?
Have you yourself experienced silence in a retreat?
No. Bess Wohl has done a lot of them. For me, it's my existential nightmare. It's worth noting that the play works as much for people who are skeptical of self-help and self-healing pursuits, as well as, people who are very devoted to these practices. That's the remarkable thing about Bess' writing is that she is able to gently find humor around something while also really trying to meet it earnestly at the heart of itself. I think that's why this play has been so successful; it's not just a comedy about people at a silent meditation retreat. It's also a moving story that is of the place of internal processing or suffering that makes one feel the need to pursue this kind of deep healing.
What reactions did you receive from the Ars Nova and the Romulus Linney audiences that surprised you?
In a sense, every response was a surprise because this play is unlike anything I've ever worked on before. A big part of that is that, as a director, my job is to try to be the proxy for the audience in the rehearsal room. If I'm being moved or affected by something, then I have to trust and hope the audience will feel the same. But this play confounds that in that I know what the back stories of these characters are. Once you know something about a person, you can't un-know it. Once you know (or think you know) what each character is confronting at their core, it rocks you and you never see them the same way again. Because I knew that, there were things that seemed so obvious to me, and I thought, “The audience must know it, too.” However, as I'd hear the revelations hit the audiences at different moments throughout the show, it proved how much sleuthing we do just watching people and how often we notice different things at different times because of our own histories. That is one of the reasons why the play works so well.
What similarities of directing challenges did you find between the more intimate SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS and more encompassing NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812, besides the obvious size difference of the casts?
As a director, my greatest joy is the eclecticism of my body of work - each piece of work is hopefully wholly itself. So, I have to be a different director with each piece. What most of my work shares is creating as whole and thorough of a culture as possible in a production. The cultures of SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS and COMET are quite radically different, but the desire to create a wholistic world from top to bottom, and to make sure the performers understand what that culture is to let it permeate their being on a very deep level – that's shared.
On your Broadway directing resumé, I see three shows that repeatedly pop up - SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS; NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812 and HADESTOWN. How wonderful is it that you get a second opportunity to direct a show you worked on before?

It's always nice getting a second (or third) chance at a show, because so rarely is the first time as full as it can be due to the collaborative and slow nature of theater. And SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS is an extraordinary and singular world, and I'm happy to re-enter it at any point. What's most exciting is to get to share it with that many more people. Theater artists' work is ephemeral and very local. Even on a Broadway scale, it's 1,200 people sharing a space. So, it's exciting to get this opportunity to be sharing it with so many more folks.

The original SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS design team will be also be working this production at The Broad Stage and re-staging from the original traverse to a proscenium staging. Do you have a preference (traverse vs. proscenium) in presenting this show?
Each has their own ups and downs. It's fun to get to sit three feet from someone as they're going through a profound experience. I find that exhilarating. However, directorially I love being able to make pictures and images, which you can only really do when someone is far back enough to see the whole stage. I can say there are images and moments that we discovered over the course of rehearsing this production that I think capture the story in deep ways, and I can't believe weren't in the original production.
Will you be multi-tasking projects in 2018?
I'll be working on many, many things. HADESTOWN, which I have been attached to, is going through a similar journey as SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS in that it started as an immersive show that we're now opening up into proscenium. I am directing LIGHT SHINING IN BUCKINGHAMSHIRE by Caryl Churchill at New York Theatre Workshop; it's a stunning play about the English Revolution in the mid-1600's. It's really about resistance and the pursuit of collective liberation. It's hard for me to imagine a more timely play.
I'm also directing STATUS, a new solo piece by a British performance artist named Chris Thorpe. This piece is about Brexit and why a British or UK passport can give you this feeling of immunity when traveling, and why we often think of our nationality and the color of our eyes in the same breath when really, they're very different things. It's about the waves of nationalism currently washing over our world, and how, as liberals, we might relate.
Thank you again Rachel for taking your time for this interview!
For SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS ticket availability and schedule through January 28, 2018, log onto www.thebroadstage.org