JOAN OF ART: Never Is Now - A Powerful Play, A Must See Film About A True Legend and a Night of Magic

What makes a play memorable? For me it's one that moves me emotionally and one that makes me think. NEVER IS NOW is just such a play. There are some events in history that are very hard to visit, but at the same time, it's so important that we do just that, which brings me to this world premiere directed by Tony Abatemarco and Celia Mandela Rivera playing at the Skylight Theatre. I've seen numerous productions put on by this theatre company and have never been disappointed. They do excellent work and this production is no exception.

The play asks the question...What happens when people from diverse backgrounds experience the first hand accounts of ten survivors who were labeled 'undesirable' and thrust into Hitler's systematic genocide.?

Award winning playwright/producer Wendy Kout disturbingly links then and now so we may understand what breaks us apart and embrace what bonds us together. NEVER IS NOW according to Wendy is just the beginning of the conversation.

This is a theatre experience that you will be thinking about long after the curtain falls. I know I was. You can see this play Fridays at 8:30pm, Saturdays at 4pm & 8:30pm and Sundays at 2pm through October 27th.

Skylight Theatre is located at 1816 1/2 N Vermont Ave in East Hollywood, 90027. To purchase tickets go to SkylightTheatre.org or call 213-761-7061.

When I was a little girl my grandmother told me that her favorite singer was a woman named Judy Garland. After watching her films over the years, she became one of my favorite singers as well.

On Friday, September 27th, the film JUDY starring the brilliant Renee Zellweger opens and having seen it, I predict she will win the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress. She absolutely nails the part. Not only is her portrayal of one of the world's greatest entertainers right on point, when Renee sings, she sounds just like Judy capturing Garland's emotional intensity.

JUDY takes place during the winter of 1968 when the singer arrived in London to perform a five week sold out run at The Talk of the Town. As she prepares for each show, we journey into her past and get to understand why the singer was so tormented and had to resort to drugs and alcohol to ease her pain.

The film features some of Judy's best known songs, celebrates her voice and shows the audience why she had such a desperate need for love and constant reassurance. Don't miss it!

Next to seeing great plays and films I love watching magic shows and that's exactly what I'll be doing this Saturday night. Ivan Amodei, one of my favorite magicians, will be performing at Janet & Ray Scherr Forum Theatre located at 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd in Thousand Oaks. Ivan is considered to be one of today's most gifted illusionists.

His show is entitled Secrets & Illusions and having seen it twice before, I promise you, it's one you won't forget.

Ivan could easily settle for just amazing people, but he does so much more. Whether it's his world class sleight of hand, fantastic storytelling or mind-blowing mentalism, every 'trick' embodies a powerful truth about empowerment and hope. He has won six People's Choice Awards for Best Entertainer and his long running show Intimate Illusions was a Top Pick by the Los Angeles Times.

If you love magic as much as I do, than Ivan Amodei is the magician to see. For tickets or more information go to IvanaModei.com, CivicArtsPlaza.com or call the Civic Arts Plaza box office at 805-449-2787.

Whatever you choose to do this weekend, make it a fun one.


JOAN OF ART - A Cinematic Masterpiece starring Brad Pitt, A Swinging Good Time, and Surviving the Darkest Time in History

AD ASTRA is a film set in the near future about one man's physical as well as psychological journey into space. The film is, in one word...brilliant.

It stars Brad Pitt who gives one of his best performances of his career as Astronaut Major Roy McBride who is sent on a deeply classified mission to investigate a rash of solar surges coming from Neptune that threatens the existence of Earth's survival. Roy's father Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones) who has been presumed dead for years is being blamed for the occurrence.

Clifford McBride a renowned astronaut was sent to Neptune 29 years ago to search for intelligent life, but he never returned. Now U.S. intelligence believes that Clifford is alive and responsible for the calamities that are taken place on our planet.

As Roy travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet, his journey will uncover secrets that challenge the nature of human existence and our own place in the cosmos.

The film co-written by James Gray and Ethan Gross has stunning visuals, great special effects, but in the end, it's all about Brad Pitt.

Brad is in every scene and he is absolutely mesmerizing. This is a sci-fi film like no other. There are no aliens...just a man exploring outer space and most importantly his own inner world. Come Oscar time, Brad is definitely going to get a nod for his fine work.

AD ASTRA which is a popular Latin phrase meaning 'to the stars' opens in theaters nationwide on Friday September 20th. Do not miss it!

After exploring the depths of our galaxy I think it would be fun to get up and dance and by dance I mean 'swing' to the sounds of the best big band group around today, BIG BAD VOODOO DADDY.

In case you're unfamiliar with the group, they are a contemporary swing revival band from Southern California that in 2018 marked their 25th anniversary. Since its formation in the early nineties in Ventura, the band has toured virtually nonstop, performing on average, over 150 shows a year with record sales of over two million to date.

Their notable singles include 'Go Daddy-O', 'You & Me & the Bottle Makes 3 Tonight' and 'Mr. Pinstripe Suit.' I've seen them numerous times and can't wait to see them this Saturday evening, September 21st at The Canyon Club.

Doors open at 6pm and they go on at 9pm. The Canyon Club is located at 28912 Roadside Drive, Agoura Hills CA 91301. For tickets or more information call 818-879-5016 or go to WhereMusicMeetsTheSoul.com.

Two weeks ago I saw a beautiful, sad, fascinating play entitled THE CHINESE LADY which actually was a fascinating history lesson. The play is at the Greenway Court Theatre located at 544 North Fairfax Avenue in LA and one that I highly recommend.

Inspired by the true story of America's first female Chinese immigrant, THE CHINESE LADY is a dark, poetic, yet whimsical portrait of America through the eyes of a young Chinese woman, Afong Moy (the excellent Amy Shu).

Afong is just 14 years old when she's brought to the United States from Canton in 1834. She is put on display for the American public as 'The Chinese Lady.' For the next half century she performs for curious museum goers showing them how she eats, what she wears and the highlight of the event, how she walks with bound feet.

As the decades wear on, her celebrated sideshow comes to define and challenge her very sense of identity. Sharing the stage with Amy is Trieu Tran, a powerful actor who plays The Chinese Lady's translator. This is definitely 'a must see play.'

For tickets and show times please go to GreenwayCourtTheatre.org.

Now there's another great music event going on this weekend and it's happening at the Shrine Auditorium. Lenny Kravitz, a four time GRAMMY award-winning singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist elevates the union of rock 'n roll, funk, blues and soul he patented in 1989 and will be performing for one night only on Saturday, September 21st.

He is all about raising vibration. In his own words, Lenny feels that 'we need to reach higher.' 'We need to be more thoughtful, spiritual, loving and open. He says 'we need to stop thinking of borders, boxes and imaginary forms of separation.' 'We're all on planet Earth together and we must do better.' After reading these words, I can promise you that this will be one amazing concert.

The Shrine is located at 665 West Jefferson Blvd in LA. To buy tickets or for more information call 213-748-5116 or go to ShrineAuditorium.com.


STAGES OF DOUBT: AN ANALYSIS OF THE KENNEDY ASSASSINATION IN AMERICAN THEATRE – PART 5

To read Part 1 of this series, please click here.

To read Part 2 of this series, please click here.

To read Part 3 of this series, please click here.

To read Part 4 of this series, please click here.

Chicago's Assassination Theater began in 2015 with a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign providing the world with one more reason to rue the internet. Playwright Hillel Levin rehashes a similar stew of the half-baked theories that Oliver Stone served up in JFK, but Levin incorporates information supplied by James Files. Presently serving a fifty year sentence for the murder of two police officers, Files has been claiming since 1994 that he was hired by the mob to kill Kennedy. He maintains that Oswald was brought into the conspiracy to be the fall guy, and that Jack Ruby was the hit man assigned to kill Oswald to keep him “quiet.” That Levin discounts the findings of the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassination each of which dismissed any mob connection to JFK's killing but accepts the word of a convicted killer is somewhat mind numbing. Files' story itself falls apart almost immediately. For example, he claims Oswald drove him around Dallas for five days prior to the assassination. As Oswald clocked in at work each of those days at the Book Depository and was observed by his supervisor and co-workers we must assume either Files is lying or the entire Texas School Book Depository staff is part of the conspiracy. Then there is the question of why the mob silenced Oswald to keep their involvement secret but have let Files “rat” them out for the last 24 years. Levin's Assassination Theater is two hours of preposterous claims, the most preposterous of which is that the mob not only arranged the killings of JFK and Bobby Kennedy but was behind Giuseppe Zangara's 1933 assassination attempt on Franklin Roosevelt. I'm surprised Levin didn't reveal the mob had a hand in rubbing out Julius Caesar.

Another advocate of the mob theory is Playwright William Mastrosimone. Mastrosimone who wrote the 1992 CBS miniseries Sinatra, contends that during their meetings, Frank Sinatra spilled the beans to him about the mob's involvement. In 2013 Mastrosimone shared what he'd learned from ‘Ol Blue Eyes in Ride the Tiger. Notice was not paid.

Playwright Daniel Henning's 2016 work, The Tragedy of JFK (as told by Wm. Shakespeare) is another of the better crafted plays concerning the assassination, even if one that still lacks in historical verity. Henning, founder director of Los Angeles' The Blank Theatre, like Garson's MacBird! harkens back to Shakespeare for his play's binding concept, but unlike Garson, chose to endow his offering with the gravitas of Greek drama.

Selecting Shakespeare's Julius Caesar for his template, Henning skillfully overlaid the events of March 15, 44 B.C.E. with those of November 22, 1963. RFK is Mark Antony with a Boston twang, and JFK walks in the shadow of the doomed Gaius Julius Caesar.

Henning hems closer to Shakespeare's characterization of Brutus in depicting Johnson as a reluctant conspirator drawn into the murderous plot by a Machiavellian J. Edgar Hoover.

Nor does the playwright shy away from employing large sections of Shakespeare's verse intact and reframing some of the best known lines to fit his needs, going as far as to have the dying JFK lament, “Et tu, Lyndon?”

While Henning is a talented playwright which explains the strength of his piece, he is also widely regarded as an “expert on the JFK assassination” a distinction given him by those who apparently aren't.

Henning is very well versed in the Mythos of the assassination, he may even be an expert on that subject, but having a great treasury of rumors, second hand reports and misconceptions on an event is a far cry from having an expertise of the actual history.

For Example, Henning opens his piece with a presentation of the “Dramatis Personae” as each of the characters converges on stage, into a kind of Greek Chorus-chorus line, and identifies themselves with a snippet of background information.

It's here, at the very beginning, where Henning's errors and oversights begin. He has John Connelly, the Governor of Texas who was wounded while riding in the same limo as Kennedy, state that he is “convinced beyond any doubt that I was not struck by the first bullet.”

In this seeming dismissal of the so-called “magic bullet theory” put forth by the Warren Commission Henning is cherry picking his history.

Disgusted at being used by those bellowing a conspiracy brought down Kennedy, Connelly went before the press in 1966 to put his views on the public record. “I am convinced,” he stated, “beyond any doubt that I was not struck by the first bullet, but just because I disagree with the Warren Commission on this one finding does not mean I disagree with their over-all findings.”

Connelly never questioned the Commission's conclusion that Oswald acted alone, he simply maintained that he fired four shots, not just three.

Henning has Lady Bird describing herself as coming from a wealthy family who owned newspapers and radio stations. This statement is half true. She did come from wealth, but her father Thomas Jefferson Taylor made his fortune from land investments and retail merchandising. There were no newspapers or radio stations.

It was Lyndon Johnson, in 1943 while still just a congressman, who bought his first radio station, KTBC, and did so under Ladybird's name. Johnson would acquire many more radios and TV stations, making him arguably the richest man ever to occupy the White House but every sale was under Ladybird's name.

This is a stunning error for Henning to have made, in that he claims to have written his play after being inspired by Robert Caro's monumental 3 volume biography of LBJ in which Johnson's acquisition of his media empire is well covered.

Henning filmed his play in 2017 using many of the same actors from its L.A. premiere including Time Winters as LBJ/Brutus and Tony Abatemarco as Hoover/Cassius each of whom gave excellent performances on stage. The combination of a fine cast and Henning's well crafted, if factually flawed script, is reason enough to look forward to the film finding distribution.

…the final post of this series


Audio Interview: The cast of “Sugar Plum Fairy” at Skylight Theatre

Sugar Plum Fairy is a thoroughly original story about a 12 year-old girl who dreams of dancing the lead in The Nutcracker with a cast of characters you won't forget!
Enjoy an offbeat holiday treat that Adults and Kids love! Join in if you like, (think G-rated “Rocky Horror” fun) and don't forget to wear your ugly holiday sweater, tutu or silly Hanukah hat. It's 75 minutes of madcap merriment that will send you home smiling!*
Enjoy this interview with the cast of “Sugar Plum Fairy” at Skylight Theatre, running until Dec 23rd. You can listen to this interview while commuting, while waiting in line at the grocery store or at an audition, backstage and even front of the stage. For tickets and more info Click here.

*taken from the website