In light of our current circumstances, I feel the need to make some drastic changes.
But first, I want to apologize to our African-American community for all that we, the white race, have done to you, your family, and your ancestors that has caused so much pain, terror, and suffering! And I want to thank you, your family, and your ancestors for building this country! I want to thank all the African-American workers, wet nurses, farmers, nannies, factory workers, scholars, artists, musicians, physicians, scientists, architects, and every African-American in between who has served and on whose back America was built!
Second, in light of the current Black Lives Matter movement, the injustices that are happening towards innocent people, and the fascist government, I’ve decided that it’s time to focus on my family, raising compassionate children who will work towards a better world, creating our own art, and making a path toward our own future to change the world.
Finally, after spending the last three and half years engaging 28 writers and 49 critics, promoting 3,330 shows, and working to support the theatre community, I’m saying goodbye to Better Lemons.
In these times and in these circumstances, silence and inaction is completely unacceptable. I am going to shift my voice, my actions, and my focus to working to make the world a better place, now.
To the people I have worked with along the way, I appreciate all that you have done and are doing to support the local arts and entertainment community.
The world has forever changed. There is no doubt about that. The world changes all the time. The world of entertainment changes all the time. The most successful artists have been the ones who have been able to consistently adapt to those changes, adjust their approach, redirect their strategy, and provide the new required content.
So much has been written about the necessity of approaching your career as the business it must be in order to succeed. Look around you right now. Take notice of the businesses that are successfully adapting to change, adjusting their approach, redirecting their strategies, and providing the new required content. Learn from them so that you will be ready to hit the ground running when auditions open up again.
Auditions will open again. If you don’t believe that, then you should turn your focus right now to locating work in the least expensive, most attractive suburban community you can find.
If you do believe auditions will open up again, then you better get ready for your new world.
None of us can know exactly yet what the new world is going to look like. History tells us that entertainment will still be a commodity, no matter what the planet throws at us.
Auditions will open again and once they do, it will mean work for every artist in every field of this craft – unless they’re not ready. You are your commodity.
Here are some things you should be doing right now to get ready.
First, get healthy.
That’s actually the easiest one. We all know the hours can get crazy when we’re working on a project, especially if we are also working another job. That schedule presents far too many excuses for eating random crap at random times and washing it down with cocktails at whatever is open and still serving both.
Get healthy. Learn to prepare healthy food for yourself. It is a life skill that will serve you throughout your life and future career in anything. Make a commitment to yourself to treat your commodity better. Prepare your product for the showroom floor.
After you get healthy, get in shape.
If you’re in front of the audience, you need to realize it’s an aesthetic art. Look the part. If your roles are the “I’ve been sitting on my sofa eating my own homemade baked goods during quarantine” look, then rage on! Undoubtedly, the way that art mimics life, there will someday soon be auditions for those roles. Go for it.
If the audition you want is a “dashing leading role,” you had better get ready for your new world. The most beautiful aspect of this truth is in the also strong truth that most people will not take this simple advice, thus only enhancing the advantage of those who will.
Those who use this time to perfect their look for the roles they wish to have, will have far greater success than ever before in obtaining auditions for those roles when auditions open again. It just stands to reason. A lot of the business is about beating the odds.
Next, get educated.
The internet is an incredible thing. You can pretty much learn at least something about just about anything. Learn how to stitch a tear in a costume. It’s a very valuable skill that may save your own bum from being exposed some day. Learn how a camera operates so that you know better how to operate in front of a camera. Wow. Learn more about the details of how certain microphones work so you will know how to use them better. Learn how to use power tools so you can help build a set some day. Or maybe not.
There are so many things about our craft you don’t know that you could use this time to at least dabble into right now. Learn to edit your own reel. Woah, what?
Read scripts. Stop scrolling through everyone’s clever memes and photos of their homemade baked goods, and read some scripts. Read all types of scripts: plays, teleplays, radio plays, screenplays. Find a better understanding of the use of direction in the script. Discover roles or types of roles you want to play. Read them out loud to keep your face, tongue, lips, voice, and diaphragm from atrophy. Use your tools, or you will be rusty when your opportunity comes. Get on your feet and read some scripts!
Learn an entire new set of monologues to use for the new world of new auditions you are preparing for. Throw out that old piece your college theatre professor helped you perfect in your old world and learn a new piece. You’re a new artist preparing for your new world. This is a perfect time to refresh and renew your vigor for pursuing your craft by exploring new monologues to perfect.
Sharpen your skills and hone your edge. Remember what it was that made you want to pursue this craft as a career. Remember what inspired you to throw yourself into it. This is a time that has been thrust upon you. You get to decide how to use it. Or not.
Auditions will open up.
Get ready. Get healthy. Get in shape. Get educated. Read scripts. Learn new monologues. Remember why you’re here, and throw yourself into it.
When not practicing government-mandated social distancing, actors tend to be some of the most social people you can find, both on and off the job. From standing in line to audition at a cattle-call, to table reads, to rehearsal processes, the entire world of creating theater or cinematic art requires actors to be “social.” Add to the mix the after-rehearsal bar gatherings, wrap parties, opening night or premiere galas, and closing cast parties, and you find that social distancing is impossible for working actors.
Sometimes black box theater and indie film projects call on actors to quite literally be on top of each other in confined spaces that have been converted into makeshift dressing rooms, green rooms, and performance locations. Factor in love scenes and the social connectivity goes through the roof!
There is still no telling how the COVID-19 lockdown will forever change the dynamic of artists creating their art in limited spaces with limited resources. Perhaps when the threat has ended, it will be business as usual for small storefront theaters and backroom indie film projects. Perhaps new mandates will require an end to the type of close-quarters we have all worked in from time to time. Only time will tell.
In practicing our craft, we find ourselves connected to so many other artists in so many ways: physically, mentally, emotionally, even spiritually at times. It will be interesting to see how much more cognizant we will be of the physical connections we have with each other in the Post Covid Age.
When actor life resumes, perhaps stage managers will have to be more tolerant of actors missing rehearsal due to illness. They will certainly be adding massive amounts of hand sanitizer to their first aid kits and more hygiene talk in their backstage etiquette speeches. Dressing room divas may find new justification for demanding their own mirror space now. Love scenes may have to forever be cut from all scripts, and shared props eliminated during virus season. Let’s not even talk about rented and borrowed costume items. Wigs? Yuck!
If you’re smirking about the wigs line, that proves our artistic connections will not change. Our mutual love, appreciation, frustration, and anxieties about our art will remain the same. Our ability to create new and lasting bonds with our fellow artists will remain with us. I have connected with most of my closest friends in life through my craft. Some of those people I may never work with again, but they will always be treasured colleagues and lifelong friends.
The personal connections we make as artists sharing our art run the gamut of human relations. Mentors, friendships, family-like bonds, lovers, soulmates, and even sometimes enemies can be developed through working on a project together. In my lifetime, I have witnessed no fewer than 10 marriages result from relationships developed during the artistic process, and a few divorces as well. On at least one occasion, a divorce of two people led to a second marriage for one of them.
Then there are those awkward connections; the ones we sometimes don’t know how to break. Thanks to social media groups, we all have a string of project groups we are connected to down the sideline of our pages. If your list is anything like mine, some of those groups date back years. Forming a group page can be very helpful during the project to share information, contacts, schedules, etc. Yet, once the projects are over, there the groups awkwardly accumulate down the side of your page.
Sometimes a project is so fun or so successful, or so full of great people, the members of the group talk about the group continuing forever, reviving the show, working together again, or having regular get-togethers that almost never happen. Instead, every once in a while, someone from a past group will post something about the new project they are currently working on as a promotional effort which leads to additional awkward moments for everyone still connected to group. Do you ignore them? Do you respond and reopen that can of worms? Are you suddenly reminded to leave the group, but then hesitate because you don’t want the person to know you left the group right after they posted out of the blue after three years?
Nearly 150 productions into my career, I’ve found it’s best to cut ties where there are no true ties, and not be false about being further connected where you truly are not. There will be other “best cast ever” experiences in your life. There will be plenty of groups to add to the sideline of your page. The true lifelong relationships will continue to exist without the aid of the group, the stage manager on the project, or the director who brought you all together. You will still have your fondest memories of the project and the best people involved.
While you’re shut up inside during this historically unprecedented time of isolation, practice a little social media distancing and clean up your groups list. Reach out to any artists you worked with before whom you truly miss, and then archive that group or drop yourself out of it to make room for new groups, new experiences, and new connections to come in the Post Covid-19 Age.
5-Star Theatricals (formerly Cabrillo Music Theatre) is an Ovation Award-winning resident musical theatre production company of the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, and a non-profit theatre organization, producing live performing arts experiences and musical theatre productions for over three decades to the Ventura and Los Angeles Counties and the surrounding area patrons.
“We are so grateful to Patrick for the time he spent as Artistic Director of our company,” said Executive Director Cindy Murray in a statement. “His talent and expertise continued the excellence that our subscribers and audiences expect from our productions. He will be greatly missed and we wish him nothing but the best as he moves forward on his artistic journey.”
As an actor, on Broadway Cassidy performed as Frederic in “The Pirates Of Penzance” opposite Kevin Kline in 1982, played Jeff Barry in the Tony-nominated “Leader Of The Pack,” and the Balladeer in Stephen Sondheim’s “Assassins.”
A theatrical director and producer as well, Cassidy is the son of Oscar-winning Shirley Jones and the late Jack Cassidy, and his past directing credits include “The Music Man” at the Kennedy Center, “Oklahoma!” at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, “Jesus Christ Superstar” at Western Michigan University, and “Showstoppers” at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas as resident director, to name a few.
“I have nothing but respect and admiration for the board and staff and everyone at 5-Star Theatricals,” said Cassidy in the statement. “This experience has been a gift that I will never forget, and [I] am so grateful to have had the opportunity to serve my community and my Los Angeles theatrical family in this role.”
According to Tennessee publication, the Williamson Source, Cassidy, as Artistic Director, will be joining Studio Tenn, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in Franklin, Tennessee.
I’ve never been big on social theatre. Not that I don’t think that theatre can and sometimes should make people think, but I’m a classicist who believes in subtlety. No one ever changed their mind about much of anything by being hit over the head, or force fed with a message. The best way to affect social change through performance is doing a show containing those “ah-ha” moments that strike audience members on their drive home from the theater. The classic masters were – well – masters at this.
Aristophanes sent a message of peace to his fellow Athenians, while highlighting the power of the feminine force through humorous metaphor with his “Lysistrata” without losing its entertainment value by drilling home his message to the populace.
Shakespeare was able to make his point about anti-Semitism by giving Shylock his famous speech, wrapped inside a mostly comic play he knew would appeal to his audience. In fact he almost pandered to their views, and then sort of snuck his message in under the radar. He does this equally well in tragic terms with “Othello,” adding another layer of subtlety by making “the savage Moor” the most eloquent and intelligent speaker in the play, perhaps the entire canon.
Sophocles used a dressing of anti-tyranny for his fellow democratic Athenians to sneak in his messages regarding loyalty to a higher power and the bonds of family over government and society when he wrote “Antigone.” Jean Anouilh used the classic Greek tragedy 2,385 years later to sneak those messages past the Nazi regime in occupied France.
Moliere used his comedies to take stabs at hypocrites of all sorts, and though he was regularly condemned by the religious, political, and medical profession leaders of his time because his attacks hit them too close to home, he was popular with the public who consumed his works with fervor. He wrote 31 of the 85 plays performed at the theatre in the Palais-Royal in Paris over a 14 year period. In today’s modern French, a tartuffe is a hypocrite, and a harpagon is a greedy miser – names of two of Moliere’s most famous characters that have now become part of the French lexicon. How’s that for making an impact?
Too many of today’s playwrights lack the creative subtlety to send their social message to an unsuspecting audience. Instead they write directly to the audience they already have. They preach to the choir. This does not affect any social change. It convinces no one of anything. It merely creates an echo chamber of like-minded people congratulating themselves and each other for sharing the same view – often a tunnel vision view. There is nothing clever about that, and thus not very interesting. It may have some entertainment value, but it isn’t opening new minds to new points of view. If anything, it only pushes potential new audiences away. In essence, a hammer head message accomplishes the exact opposite of what social theatre should be aimed at doing – opening the message to new minds through subtlety.
Much of today’s social theatre is a result of social theatre, in that a group of like-minded friends get together and say: “let’s put on a play!” The play is their social outlet, not unlike a bowling league or softball team. Rehearsals become a place to hang out with friends, and performances become not much more than a precursor to socializing at a local bar or house party. The audience is composed of friends and family members like the backyard productions we used to put on for our parents as kids. Any social message contained in the material actually takes a back seat to the true intent of the gathering: maintaining a social calendar for the participants. It’s a “play” date for grown-ups.
All of that is fine indeed. As I mentioned, some people join bowling leagues, others join softball teams. Some people form book clubs, knitting circles, and model airplane societies. We are social animals, and we like to surround ourselves with like-minded people who share our same interests. The difference is in the professed intent. I’ve never heard of a knitting circle with a “mission” to affect social change through the scarves and beanies they create.
On occasion, the casual hobbyist can turn their past time into some extra dollars. I know several people who place their creations on Etsy, E-bay, or other sites to make a little money by sharing their artistic hobby with others. Unlike actors, very few of these people profess to be aspiring to a career in their chosen social outlet or hobby. People who knit just aren’t that pretentious. Either that, or they have a keener sense of their own realities.
If you are an actor, it is time to examine your reality. Is your social theatre truly reaching the unenlightened masses? Is your social theatre just social theatre, filling your nights and weekends with play dates – or are you truly working toward that career by doing projects that either increase your aptitude, strengthen your skills, advance your professional network, or get you seen by a greater audience?
Have fun. It’s called a play for a reason. But if you’re just playing around with friends, then call it what it is, and build a career doing something else. No subtlety here.
So many of us in this industry wear a lot of hats. Most of us have multiple descriptors after our names in our email signatures, social media bios, and website home page descriptions. “Steven Sabel, producer, director, designer, actor, writer, podcaster, and publicist.” Sheesh! Pick one already!
The truth is, many of us wear many hats in order to keep our options open and appear more desirable to potential employers. We say, “I can do that too!” with each of our descriptors. We are all trying to make it in the industry, and many of us do not really care which of our many talents gets us in the door: actor, singer, dancer, writer, director, stage manager, whatever it takes. The other side of that is we have to make a living. Many of us wear multiple hats because that is the only way we can pay the bills – picking up whatever gigs we can to add to the proverbial piggy bank however we are able.
There is also a risk to this. If your focus is spread too thin, you cannot apply yourself and talents fully to succeeding at any one thing. You’re an actor. You want to make big block buster movies someday. But you’re also a comedian. You love improv, you take your improv classes, you work on your stand-up routine, because you want to be on a popular sitcom someday. You’re also a writer. You love sketch comedy, and you write your own comic material because you want to be on “Saturday Night Live” someday. You’re also a burlesque dancer. You take your pole dancing classes, perfect your music choices, rehearse your routines, and spend your late nights titillating people into humorous desire. You’re busy! You’re doing all you can to make it. You’re wearing every hat you can think of – including that restaurant server hat you have to wear 20 hours a week to add to that piggy bank.
Here are the hats you are not wearing: business manager, publicist, webmaster, social media marketer, and overall executive director of your potential career. If you aren’t spending that 20 hours per week on these facets of your success, the only thing you will succeed at is being a good hat rack for your many choices of head wear.
As a producing artistic director, I know this far too well. My fellow producers, producing artistic directors, executive directors, managing artistic directors, artistic managing producer directors, and the like, will raise their voices in a silent cheer here as I write this self-aggrandizing truth: Nobody wears more hats than we do. While you are studying your lines, we are studying the bottom line, serving as accountants to our respective theatre organizations. While you are at improv class, we are improvising with available materials to design a set that will work for the show. While you are writing your sketch comedy, we are writing press releases to send to media outlets. While you are rehearsing your next dance routine, we are dancing around questions of financial viability, potential liability, and actors’ reliability.
In addition to being an artistic leader, the producer/director must also often times just be a boss. On our minds at any given time are not just the artistic aspects of the project we are working on, but the business semantics of every decision involved. Our brains are constantly crowded with issues of finances, venue constraints, insurance policies, website updates, social media content, publicity, ticket sales, missing props, washing costumes, developing patrons, juggling schedules, coordinating designers, and a plethora of other responsibilities, including selecting the next project to do it all, all over again.
The producer/director/actor is an absolute crazy person. If you still have your wits about you, adding the actor hat to the mix will definitely drive you over the edge of sanity. It is also a risk that wearing the actor hat on top of the multitudinous head wear of the producer/director will foster a deep seeded resentment toward those who only have to learn their lines, show up to rehearsal, and “play” their parts. Producer/director/actor types would welcome the luxury of delving into their creative process as only an actor, without the weighty heaviness of their positions of leadership. Most of us can’t even remember what it is like to be at a rehearsal with only one task ahead of us – act your part.
Producing/directing isn’t for everyone. I have tremendous respect for those who have tried it and walked away (in some cases run away…screaming), and never looked back at the prospect of ever doing it again. I secretly chuckle at those who say they want to try it – many of them with what business leaders call the “field of dreams” model in their minds, or what marketers refer to (ironically) as the “black box” of their consumerism – but I always encourage them to go forward with their plans. One more producer/director, no matter how short-lived, is one more person who understands how difficult it is to do the job, let alone to do it successfully.
Nonetheless, each and every artist must learn to wear some of these hats concurrently for the advancement of their own careers. I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again: You have to do the work to get the work! If you find that you just cannot juggle your actor/comedian/writer/burlesque interests while also fulfilling the aspects of business manager and promoter for all four pursuits, then you have to pick and choose which hats you can successfully wear.
The truth of the matter is that most people just don’t have heads large enough to wear that many hats. A recent stint on stage in a production of “Henry IV,” served as a great reminder to me that even my head is a poor hat rack for too many chapeaus, and I suffered to find the level of concentration I needed to focus on the hat (crown) worn by my character. It was profoundly frustrating. Thankfully I had a director for the project who understood my plight, and did his best to take some of my hats off of my head so I could play my part.
Even still, you learn you can put the hats on. It is difficult to take them off when you want to. You can’t help but worry about how actors are handling their props, keeping actors from eating in costume, making sure ticket sales are up to par, facilitating house management, negotiating details with the venue, promoting the show, and a myriad of other producer duties that just don’t go away because you got the itch to get back on stage and want to be just an actor for a while. It’s tough.
So to all of those out there who are juggling their millinery, especially my fellow producer/director/actor friends: My hat’s off to you! To the rest: time to choose the correct tam o’shanter for your noggin…
Here it is, as promised. The auditions version of some of the strangest, most outlandish, and downright horrible things I have seen. In preface, after producing and/or directing 138 productions, I have watched thousands of auditions. Some simple math puts it at around 10,000 monologues I have witnessed. Many of them were well prepared, well delivered, and led to many great casting choices. Many did not. O, the things that I have seen…
As I wrote at the end of last month’s column, I think I’ll lead with the guy with the banana. There I was conducting auditions in the theatre of a favorite colleague of mine, watching slates and monologues, taking notes, and shuffling head shots. A young actor came into the room looking disheveled, in a 90s grunge sort of way, with his hair in his face, and his hands in his pockets. He slated. I honestly don’t remember his name. He told us what his monologue was from – a film script, if I recall – and he began. Midway through, he reaches into his pocket, pulls out a banana, takes a giant bite, peel and all, and tosses the rest on floor. My colleague, who has a very strict rule about food in his theatre, almost leaped from his chair. The kid finished his monologue, picked up his banana, and left. That’s when my colleague turned to me and said: “What the (*#@$) was that?”
It’s bananas to bring props into an audition!
Needless to say: Don’t bring props to an audition. In fact it is best to choose audition monologues that have no need for props. It is just never effective to “pretend” to be on the phone, or to “need” to look through your purse during a monologue. It isn’t it a comedy sketch. It’s an audition monologue. Don’t make it about the props. Make it about you and your talent delivering the text with emotional truth, not faking it with a prop. Besides, don’t forget props hate people. You don’t want to bring a potential adversary into the audition room with you.
The only prop I have ever seen used effectively in an audition is a simple piece of paper or a book. The best use of a piece of paper I have seen has been as a “note” for Julia’s monologue from “Two Gentlemen of Verona.” That piece can be a very effective piece for auditioning for a classical comedic role, if it is executed well. That requires plenty of rehearsal with plenty of pieces of paper, and even then, you are taking a risk that the prop won’t cooperate the way you want it to in the audition room.
Worse than props, are costumes. Yes, I’ve seen plenty of costumed auditions. I have had actors called from the lobby to the audition room who had to scramble in from the restroom because they were changing into their costume. From period clothing to Halloween attire, each and every time an actor comes into audition wearing a costume, it makes me think of that famous story about Sean Young and Cat Woman. Epic. Legendary. Infamous. Don’t do it. I really don’t need to see you in tights to learn whether or not you can deliver effective classical text in character.
Here’s a piece of paper you definitely don’t want to walk into the audition room with in your hands: the text of your monologue. If you don’t have it memorized, stop wasting everyone’s time. It’s not a side you have just been handed. It’s supposed to be your well-chosen, properly thought out, fully rehearsed, and peer reviewed best foot forward work. If you can’t come into the audition room off book, then don’t come into the audition room at all.
It saddens me to recollect how many times I have watched an actor walk into the room with their monologue on a sheet of paper in their hands, but this one takes the cake. Once I had an actress come into the audition room with several sheets of paper stapled together. There were visible pencil scribblings and highlight markings on the pages, and it was evident that it was some pages of a script. After the actress slated, and I asked her what she was going to perform, she handed me script, and asked if I would read in the other characters for her to perform the scene she had prepared for the audition.
“I don’t know any monologues,” she told me. “But I know this scene from a play I was in at my college. It’s on my resume.” And so it was, but I wasn’t about to become her scene partner for the evening. Unbelievable.
Here’s a good hint: Look like your head shot. I can’t tell you how many double takes and triple takes I have had in an audition room while holding a head shot in my hands, but looking at someone completely different standing in front of me. Don’t be the cause of double takes. Come in looking as close to the head shot you submitted as you possibly can. Once we had a trans-gendered person submit a very male head shot, but then arrived to the audition in very female appearance. The actor told us they could “change back” if necessary for the role. Now that’s an extreme example, but if your head shot shows you with blonde hair, and you decided last week you wanted to become a brunette for a while; well then you better get new head shots.
As I have admitted in this column before, my head shot is way outdated, and I am way over due for a new one, except that I so hardly ever use my head shot, that I just haven’t made it a priority. I don’t have time to audition for other people’s projects. I’m a producing artistic director. I barely have time to get on stage at all, and when I do, I pay for it dearly. But that’s another column for another day.
Clothing. O, boy, the clothing. I’ve seen three-piece suits, pant suits, and zoot suits. I’ve seen shorts, shorter shorts, and “Dear Lord, what were you thinking” shorts. There have been jumpers, rompers, and overalls; baggy pants, skinny jeans, and jeans of every color. I have seen dresses, gowns, and skirts of every length, as well as shirts, blouses, tops, and sweaters of every sort. I once had an actress come in wearing a bikini top, and I’ve seen muscle shirts galore. Please just remember this great word of advice we were all taught by early acting teachers and coaches: dress like it is an important job interview. Great practice, but with this caveat: make sure you are comfortable, and make sure you can make proper physical choices in what you are wearing. I’ve seen more than one breast flop out of a top during a vigorous call back.
Take off your coat or jacket, no matter how cold it is in the audition room. I have seen so many auditions destroyed by a heavy coat or constricting jacket. On occasion I have stopped actors to ask them to remove theirs coats and start their monologue over again. I want to see you physicality as an actor. It’s called “acting,’ and it is 90 percent what you do. Only 10 percent what you say. But you can’t effectively say anything, if you can’t do what you need to do as an actor. And you can’t do that underneath a heavy coat, unless you are in the cast of “Almost Maine,” or something like it.
As more and more casting directors turn to video submissions for their first round of auditions, the landscape for audition monologues will continue to change. Just as you should have at least four worthy monologues prepared and available to you at any given time (comedic contemporary, dramatic contemporary, comedic classical, dramatic classical), it is a good idea to line up a good camera with a good operator, book some time, and have all four of your monologues recorded to video files you can easily share or upload for any audition. Don’t wait until it is asked for, and then you have to scramble to find a friend through social media posts to help you with your “self-tape” by holding your smart phone for you while you recite your monologue. Plan ahead. Select the proper back drop, the proper lighting, the proper clothing. Clean yourself up. Prepare for the shoot date. Do a practice run, and look at the footage. Make corrections. Do a final cut, and have them all in digital files on the desktop of your computer, ready and waiting to land you that call-back.
Or you can just walk into the audition room with a banana….
The group won the Billboard Music Award for Hot 100 Single of the Year for ‘Hold On‘ and in addition was nominated for four Grammy Awards and two American Music Awards.
Other hits include ‘Release Me,’ ‘You’re in Love,’ ‘Impulsive’ and The Dream is Still Alive.’ Most recently the trio appeared in the hit comedy movie BRIDESMAIDS and also released the album DEDICATED, featuring cover versions of songs by The Beach Boys and The Mamas and Papas.
What makes this show even more exciting is the opening act Eileen Carey. She celebrates her recent hit single, ‘Anything That Reminds Me of You,’ which this February swept the #1 spot in the New Music Weekly charts, including Country, AC/Hot AC and the Top 40 charts. Eileen is an amazing singer, songwriter. She has all of her bases covered and now her new single ‘Meet Me Halfway‘, is climbing up the music charts.
The Rose is located at 245 East Green Street, Pasadena CA. To purchase tickets and for more information go to WhereMusicMeetsTheSoul.com or call 1-888-645-5006.
Now if pop music isn’t your thing, this Friday, June 7th Ron Howard’s new documentary entitled PAVAROTTI is opening in select theatres.
Luciano Pavarotti was an Italian operatic tenor who also crossed over into popular music, eventually becoming one of the most commercially successful tenors of all time. He made numerous recordings of complete operas and individual arias, gaining worldwide fame for the quality of his tone and eventually established himself as one of the finest tenors of the 20th century.
To hear him sing the aria NESSUN DORMA, one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written, is alone worth the price of admission.
Adding to the great music happening this weekend is the PLAYBOY JAZZ FESTIVAL at the Hollywood Bowl on June 8th and 9th. This year the performers are as great as ever.
This is such a beautiful outdoor venue to experience music. For more information and to purchase tickets go to HollywoodBowl.com. The Bowl is located at 2301 North Highland Avenue in Hollywood.
Lastly but definitely one of the most important events happening this weekend is the LA PRIDE FESTIVAL on June 8th and 9th.
It will be at the West Hollywood Park put on by Christopher Street West Association, a 501 non-profit who organized the world’s first permitted parade advocating for gay rights on June 28, 1970 as a response to and in commemoration of the Stonewall Rebellion on Christopher Street in New York City, the year prior.
Since then they have built a rich history as an active voice for the LGBTQ+ community across the Great Los Angeles metropolitan area and today they continue to produce the LA PRIDE PARADE AND FESTIVAL every June in the City of West Hollywood.
Last month I briefly mentioned some of the outlandish experiences I have had as a producer/director and actor. As I consistently hold true, I never say I have seen it all, because that is the best way to have the theatre Fates send you something new and beyond belief. However, my column last month left readers asking for some specific awkward events of craziness, ridiculous bouts of ego, stunning unprofessional behavior, and unheard of incidents hard to believe, but nonetheless true.
I hesitate to refer to the following tales as “my favorites,’ for some of them still make me shudder to retell. Some have become nothing more than humorous anecdotes – as time has a way of turning dramatic incidents into comedic episodes, especially in our industry. I will start by stating that all names have been redacted, and some details left out in order to protect the guilty.
My tales begin with triplets. Many moons ago, I was directing a production of “Much Ado About Nothing.” The actress cast as the lead, Beatrice, told us she was shooting a commercial in a European country for the first week of the 8-week rehearsal process. We worked around her until she returned. Three weeks before opening, she came to ask that all of her blocking be changed and her costumes altered to adjust for her pregnancy with triplets. It turned out that she hadn’t actually been shooting a commercial, but was instead at a fertility clinic the week she was gone. She told us she accepted the role knowing she was going to be inseminated that week. In case the pregnancy didn’t take, she said, she would have the role of Beatrice to work on to ease her disappointment. Despite the very high-risk nature of her now revealed triple pregnancy, and doctor’s orders to stick to strict bed rest to insure the success of all three children, this actress insisted she wanted to continue in the role. Huge risk. Giant liability. Complete insanity. I replaced her.
“Postmortem,” by Ken Ludwig, is a favorite play of mine. I have done the show several times, but the first time was decades ago when I was playing the role of Bobby. Throughout the rehearsal process, we had some troubles with our leading man. Nobody was quite sure what was going on with him – hot and cold from night to night with regards to lines and blocking. On the final Friday performance of a four weekend run, I arrived to the theatre to be taken aside by the director who informed me that she thought the leading man “might have been drinking.”
He was plastered! He could barely speak coherently. He was staggering around backstage, and hugging everyone. A call to the president of the theatre organization resulted in a “show must go on” response. The stage manager brewed some strong coffee, and somebody had a box of See’s Candy that they started force-feeding him to get his blood sugar up. It was a disaster. He missed his first entrance, leaving us stuck on stage to adlib. When his lines did come out, they were barely understandable. A special intermission had to be called after the first scene. He started getting angry. He accused us all of sabotaging his performance, before we realized that in his drunken mind, he was doing and saying everything perfectly…. I laugh about it now, but it was a nightmare when it happened.
Alcohol has been a culprit in a few instances in my book of tales. Once I had two actresses leave the theatre in the middle of the performance to go to the bar next door to tie one on together. They came back tipsy and sloppy, and then caused another actor to miss his entrance due to their distracting antics back stage. It is never a good idea to leave the theater in the middle of a performance, even if your scenes are all completed or your character is dead. “I’ll come back in time for curtain call” can be famous last words. I once had an actor find himself locked out of the building. He had to wave through the door to catch the attention of actors on the stage to send someone around to unlock the door for him.
Then there was that time an actress actually left mid-performance to finish a phone call that had made her nearly an hour late to call time in the first place. Apparently a guy who knew a guy who worked with a guy who knew a guy who once saw Steven Spielberg in a crowded room wanted to introduce her to the guy who knew this guy. She directly told her fellow actors they would have to take over her lines in the further scenes of the play, and out the door she went to take advantage of this “tremendous opportunity.” No word on her upcoming roles in any Spielberg films….
Another locked door in a nontraditional venue once caused one of my actors to have to run around the entire building to the other side to make his entrance. He came on anxious and out of breath, and it was beautiful to see how realistic the response was from the other actors when he arrived in this condition from the wrong side of the stage. It reminds me of that episode of “Slings and Arrows.”
I once had an actor wear a baseball cap onto the stage during the final dress rehearsal of a classical production at an outdoor venue, because he “was cold” and couldn’t find the actual hat he had been given to wear by the costume team. Another time, an actor misplaced his boots, and wore his tennis shoes on stage for an actual performance.
I’ve seen costume failures galore. Falling dresses and skirts, flying wigs, blown out boot heels, split trousers (it’s happened twice to me on stage), uncooperative coats, capes, and cloaks – the list is long. Yet my favorite costume fail of all time is from a production of “Romeo and Juliet,” when the two leads found their costumes literally linked together after the final kiss of the balcony scene. Parting was no sweet sorrow. They couldn’t part at all – completely unable to pull themselves apart when his doublet clasp hooked on the laces of her bodice, it seemed to take forever for them to get unhinged. We all came unhinged watching it unfold before us! Hysterical.
From costumes to props. This leads to another classic Sabelism: Props Hate People!
I’ve worked with some props: A full size guillotine for a production of “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” real cars and motorcycles driven onto the stage for various productions, swords and weapons of a wide variety, food of many types, and a giant life-sized trolley for “Meet Me In St. Louis.” Rubber tires were a bad idea. They became a terrible idea when one burst on the stage directly in front of a floor mic, that was a giant boom, and then trolley had to be dragged off the stage by the cast and crew.
I’ve had blood effects spray the crowd when we didn’t want them to. I’ve had black powder flash pots smoke and smolder, and clear the entire audience in coughing fits. I’ve had guns that wouldn’t fire, and swords broken at the hilt. There have been doors that refused to open, doors that wouldn’t stay shut, pictures that have fallen off of walls, and walls that have fallen down. Once I had two actors get so into a combat sequence, one of them literally put a hole in the back wall of the theater with his rump.
Through 128 productions and more than 25 years as a producer/director, I have worked with more than 2,000 actors – technically a small sampling, when you consider you can throw a baseball in this town and easily hit 2,000 actors in one shot. This is why I know I have yet to see it all, but I sure have seen a lot. This is just a scratch on the surface of the tales of what I have seen. Stay tuned for next month’s column: “To See What I have Seen: The Auditions.” I think I’ll lead with the guy with the banana…..
I’ve been looking forward to this event since I attended their picnic last year.
As the Los Angeles area’s premier wildlife medical care and rehabilitation facility, California Wildlife Center strives to ensure that each animal in their care receives the highest level of help to allow them to return to their wild state. Since 1998, CWC has experienced a steady increase in animal patients, caring for more than 44,000 wild animals, many whose injuries were caused by the impacts of their urbanized environments.
A long term goal of the center is to promote protection of wild habitats and the environment through education, training and partnerships with the communities it serves. Many people have questions and misconceptions about how to help wildlife, which can create unintended consequences to the wildlife they admire. Some conflicts with wildlife occur when raccoons empty trash cans, deer raid gardens and birds nest in chimneys.
Coexistence begins with the understanding of how to share our communities with wild animals. In order to do this, the California Wildlife Center educates individuals about the animals in their environment and provide solutions to existing problems, such as helping a neighborhood discourage a prowling coyote.
When people learn about the hardships animals face each day, they are more willing to take a proactive approach toward protecting the natural environment and the habitats of our wild neighbors. At CWC, they educate communities, and in doing so, they challenge homeowners, teachers, students and businesses to continue learning about their environment and enriching the lands in which we all live and play. What could be better?
On Saturday, May 4, 2019 the CWC will be putting on their second annual Feathers, Flippers and Fur Picnic starting at 2:00 pm and running until 5pm at King Gillette Ranch located at the corner of Mulholland and Las Virgenes in Calabasas.
You will get to experience the wonders of wildlife while feasting on Gourmet Vegetarian Cuisine from your favorite local eateries as well as wine tasting from local wineries.
There will be live music by Wild Ride and a performance by Jimmy H. a comedy magician. Your kiddies can get their face painted while you are doing a guided meditation led by Draza Jansky. Also you can participate in a Silent Auction which will offer amazing packages for the whole family, plus many more fun activities.
Tickets are $75.00 for adults, $25.00 for children ages 3-16 and children ages two and under are free. Tickets include food, wine and all activities. All the proceeds go to this incredible organization. To purchase tickets and to learn more about the event, sponsorship opportunities visit CAWildlife.org.
Now before I spend the day basking in the sun with all these wonderful animals and animal lovers, the night before, Friday May 3rd, I’ll be downtown at the BUILD BRIDGES, PAINT WALLS show at the Rendon Gallery, which is partnering with the UCLA Department of Spanish and Portuguese, to present this amazing exhibit.
This is a multimedia exhibition featuring murals, graphic art and photography celebrating latinidad and the international cultural exchanges that make Los Angeles great.
The show starts at 7pm and runs until 10pm. The Rendon Gallery is located at 2055 East 7th Street, Los Angeles.
The event is put on by Cartwheel Art who focus on immersive experiences, designing community driven and diverse programming such as guided group tours, art activated events and curated exhibitions.
For more information and to purchase tickets go to CartwheelArt.com. I’ve been to many Cartwheel Art events and everyone has been unique and simply put, fantastic.
I love theatre and last week I got to see an extremely funny and touching play entitled BOXING LESSONS which is playing at The New American Theatre located at 1312 North Wilton Place in Hollywood.
When a famous writer dies under mysterious circumstances, family and friends gather in his cabin on a remote island in Puget Sound to box up his belongings. In the process, they come to realize just how much they love, despise and need one another.
This is a world premiere dark comedy written by award winning playwright John Bunzel and perfectly directed by Jack Stehlin. This definitely falls into my ‘must see’ category. The cast is great and you will laugh big time. I even teared up which always makes me happy. There’s tons of wild plot twists and revelations.
The play opened on April 26th and run through June 2nd. Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and some Sundays at 3pm. To purchase tickets and for more information go to NewAmericanTheatre.com or call 310-424-2980.
But most importantly, whatever you choose to do this weekend, make it a fun one people.
Sherman Wayne is a lifelong participant in nearly every aspect of the production and performance of live theater, from stage management, to directing, set building, and teaching. Most famously, he was the stage manager of The Fantastiks on Broadway for five years. Wayne is 83 years old and he shows no signs of slowing down.
Currently, he is all-hands-in-all-pots at Theatre Palisades production of CLYBOURNE PARK, having built the set, wrangled volunteers to help change it at intermission (five people are needed to transform the entire set from the 1950s to the 2000s at intermission for each performance), co-producing the show (with Martha Hunter), AND stepping in as director when Tony Torrisi fell ill with pneumonia and was hospitalized, also while two actors had to be replaced — just two weeks before opening night!
“The other day I came here at 10 o’clock in the morning because my lighting man is here and I want to talk to him about lighting.” he says as he describes a typical day during rehearsals. “And I left here at 11 o’clock at night after rehearsal, which means I got stuff out of the refrigerator, cooked up something in the microwave.”
“I’m very lucky. Knock on wood!” he adds. “I’ve had my problems (with my health), but I’ve been able to overcome them. I moved from Torrance to the Palisades, so I didn’t have to take the 405. I live about a half a block down the street from the theater now. I walk here which makes it much easier. I’m the kind of guy that says if you do it, you do it. I said I would build the set. And I told Tony I would cover for him. So that’s what I did.”
When asked about the challenge of the set change in the script, Wayne says: “The way the play is written, the set is a very nice house in the Chicago suburbs in 1959. It gets abandoned, and 50 years later, a couple is trying to buy it, but it’s gone to heck! And so, during the intermission, we have to change a nice set to one that’s been basically destroyed by squatters or graffiti or whatever. And it’s a big job because the author really wants a major change — so both houses are characters in the show!”
When Wayne came to Theatre Palisades, he was looking to direct, but when he was not chosen for that particular play, he offered to build sets instead. Over time, he has built nearly all of the sets, roughly 45 sets in 15 years, and has directed many shows.
“You don’t just don’t direct, you are a shrink.” he adds when asked about directing. “You have to handle the people and help them and encourage them. You need to be a people person!”
Wayne will also direct the next production at Theatre Palisades, LEND ME A TENOR.
Wayne came to Theatre Palisades after a long career that started in high school, where he directed a drama production and he also put on variety shows at his local church. Wayne attended college at San Jose State University, where he majored in Drama and worked as a stage manager during his four years. He also acquired a teaching certificate to ensure he “would always be able to pay the bills.”
“When I got to San Jose State, I auditioned for a show.” he recalls. “I did not get it, but the director who was very pragmatic — he just was marvelous — and he wanted to know if I wanted to be a stage manager. I thought, ‘What the heck is that?’ But, I did. And from then on, I became the major stage manager at San Jose State University for my four years at college. After graduation, a local director and I then opened a theatre in Sausalito where we presented musicals and plays. Unfortunately San Jose State did not have a management class in theatre, so I didn’t know anything. I knew nothing! So, we failed. And then I was broke, living on the Sausalito side of San Francisco. One day, I was in a park and there was a newspaper on a bench, and in there was a help wanted ad for a drama teacher in San Francisco.”
Wayne spent a year teaching drama, but then decided to move to New York, to “see if he could compete with the ‘big boys,’” stopping along the way in Fitchburg, Massachusetts to take stage director jobs in summer stock productions, and where he also began work in set design. Once in New York, Wayne worked in several off Broadway productions and soon, nearly by luck, he was hired as stage manager for The Fantasticks, a dream gig that lasted five years.
“When I moved to New York, I worked very hard and got several jobs as a stage manager Off-Broadway. Another student and I formed a company to supply Off-Broadway producers with technical help. We would supply everything they needed, from directors through lighting people and all that stuff! So I was running around doing stage managing and running this company. Then I was in my attorney’s office one day, and the attorney was being told that the general manager of The Fantasticks was being fired. And fortunately the attorney said, ‘hey, I’ve got a great guy, he’s sitting in the lobby.’ So I interviewed and got the job.”
Wayne also stage-managed several other shows on and off Broadway. Eventually he decided to move to the West Coast, where he then worked in several “round houses” such as in Anaheim, where the 3,000-seat venues usually had an audience for musicals. Next, he got a job teaching high school, a role he enjoyed for the next 25 years.
When Wayne retired from teaching, he still wanted to keep his hand in theater, which led him to Theatre Palisades.
And so, with Wayne’s considerable contributions, Pulitzer-Prize-winning play CLYBOURNE PARK opened at Theatre Palisades on Friday April 5th for a five week run, every Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. through May 5th. (Box Office: 310-454-1970)
The play features a complete scene change between acts, as the script tells the story of a neighborhood undergoing demographic change twice, first in the early 50’s and then again 50 years later. Like a character aging in the play, the complete set change demonstrates the effects of the decades that lead to the deterioration of the home.
Set building is hard, physical, and demanding work. However, Wayne notes, “Fortunately, we never hammer and nail anymore. We just put screws in, so that the wood won’t split. One of my things here is, of course I reuse stuff. I’ve got a whole storage area which is packed full. I get a lot of static about storing all of that stuff, but I can save hundreds of dollars per show by pulling out or planning with something that I have. For this show, I’m using the same staircase that I used in the last show. We don’t tear sets apart, we just try and store them because I can use them again!”
In 1963, Theatre Palisades was founded by three television writers; Ken Rosen, Sheldon Stark, and Jacquie Chester. By 1967, Theatre Palisades had become a community theatre. From 1967 through 1975, the theatre produced shows in various venues including Palisades Park and Rustic Canyon Park as well as a few touring productions around Southern California.
In 1975, Kate Ahrens of the Pacific Palisades Historical Society brought an offer from Lelah and J. Townley Pierson to Theatre Palisades to donate land to build a theatre. Lelah, along with her husband, Townley, donated the property on which the theatre now stands. In November, 1988, just in time for the 25th anniversary of the group, Theatre Palisades opened the new 125 seat theatre, which was named Pierson Playhouse, in honor of Lelah and J. Townley Pierson who had not only generously donated the property but also contributed extensively to the Building Fund. The current busy schedule of Theatre Palisades includes five major productions per year, with a run of 18 performances per production. TPYouth produces two shows a year by children for a total of 13 performances a year. The theater also offers chamber music concerts, special shows and membership meetings. Theatre Palisades hosts many Palisades Historical Society presentations throughout the year.
The Pasadena Playhouse has announced that Nancy Griffith Baxter is their new Director of Development, bringing with her more than 30 years of fundraising and wealth management experience.
Previously as Director of Gift Planning at LA Opera, legacy gift contribution revenue increased nine-fold during Baxter’s time at the organization. Prior to the LA Opera, she was also recruited by her alma mater, Colorado College, to serve as Director of Gift Planning, pulling the program out of dormancy and growing its Legacy Society significantly towards raising over $15 million during the 2015-2016 fiscal year in new future gifts.
With a master’s in Finance from Claremont Graduate University and a bachelor’s in Political Science – International Relations at Colorado College, she’s also an award-winning one-time Senior V.P. and Senior Philanthropic Investment Manager at Wells Fargo where she oversaw the investment team that brought and influenced $18 billion in charitable assets. With it, Baxter is looking forward to working with her new team at Pasadena’s landmark and official State Theater of California.
“It’s an honor to work with a dynamic leadership team at an institution with the amazing history and impact that [the] Pasadena Playhouse has had on both the local and national entertainment industry, including theater, film, and television,” said Baxter in a statement. “I look forward to working with the community to ensure the longevity of this amazing theater for another 100 years.”
In addition to coaching and building wealth teams around the US to attract and expand philanthropic business opportunities and clients, recruiting and managing investment management, and developing investment strategies for endowments, deferred gift programs, and private foundations, “a lover of the arts” Baxter also brings with her extensive and continued volunteerism in the performing arts. She has served as a board member with the Colburn School, as well as with LA Opera, Shakespeare Festival/LA (now Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles), Young & Healthy, the Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Institute, and Woman’s Educational Society of Colorado College.
In 1937, the Pasadena Playhouse was “officially recognized as the State Theater of California for its contribution and commitment to the dramatic arts”. Pasadena Playhouse recently hosted the LA Drama Critics Circle Awards where it recognized excellence in Los Angeles theatre and it continues its own tradition of excellence under Producing Artistic Director Danny Feldman.
“I am thrilled to welcome Nancy to the leadership team as we continue to take the Playhouse in a new and exciting direction,” said Feldman. “I know her wealth of energy and experience will be invaluable to us in garnering support from the Pasadena community and beyond.”
Featured Photo by Freed14, used via Creative Commons permissions, Wikipedia. The Pasadena Playhouse – State Theatre of California.
The 1952 MGM song and dance classic that immortalized Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds is considered by everyone one of cinema’s greatest. A true classic. Adapted for the stage in 1985 by the film’s legendary creators Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Singing in the Rain comes to The Soraya thanks to a lavish new production by McCoy Rigby Entertainment before it moves to the La Mirada Theatre.
This will be one antic-laden spectacle as Hollywood history is made when silent film transform into talkies.
The show is choreographed by Spencer Liff who has earned two Emmy Nominations for Outstanding Choreography for his work on the hit Fox TV show So You Think You Can Dance. As always McCoy Rigby entertainment casts their show with the top notch people many who have performed on Broadway. I’m seeing it Saturday night and can’t wait.
The show runs at the Soraya on April 12th at 8pm, Saturday April 13 at 3pm & 8pm and Sunday April 14th at 3pm. To purchase tickets or for more information go to TheSoraya.org or call 818-677-3000.
Now I for one love to read…Not on a Kindle and not on my iPad, but books. I love to read books so I was so happy to hear that this weekend The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books has returned. Since 1996, this event has become a world renowned experience gathering writers, poets, artists, filmmakers, musicians and emerging storytellers like no other. There will also be signing areas where various authors will sign for about an hour.
Today over 150,000 people attend, making it the largest festival of its kind in the United States. How cool is that?
The Festival of Books runs Saturday, April 13, 2019 from 10am-6pm and Sunday April 14th from 10am -5pm. On Friday at 7m there is a Book Prize Ceremony at Bovard Auditorium, USC Campus.
General Admission to the Festival and Newstory is free. There are certain additional special presentations and conversations which even though free, there is a service fee charged.
The event takes place on the University of Southern California campus located near the historic Exposition Park.
I don’t know about how you all feel about puppets, but I just love them. I also love the musical Les Miz so I happy to report that LES MIZ and FRIENDS!: A PUPPET PARODY will be at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood every Friday and Saturday until May 11th.
A human production of the Broadway classic ‘Les Miserables’ is overturned by a bunch of foul mouth puppets who throw a revolution of their own. Both a loving tribute and a brutal deconstruction of the beloved musical, ‘Les Miz and Friends!’ will delight the show’s lovers and haters alike.
Full of irreverent humor, parody and original music, improvisation and no-holds-barred attacks on musical theatre this production is definitely not for kids.
The Hudson Theatre is located at 6539 Santa Monica Blvd. Los Angeles. To purchase tickets go to LesMizAndFriends.com.
And now for something completly different. One of the most majestic creatures in the ocean is here in Calfornia and you have an excellent chance of seeing it. I’m talking about WHALES…
One of the most amazing sights in nature is that of majestic whales swimming and playing on the ocean’s surface leaping out of the water and slapping their mighty tales. On this 2.5 hour cruise of the shores of Newport Beach you may see giant blue whales during the summer and fall months or the annual grey whale migration that brings tens of thousands of grey whales along the coast during the winter and spring months. Huge pods of several species of dolphin are very common, as are the resident sea lions.
You might also get glimpses of killer whales, sharks and many other marine creatures. This is an event for anyone that loves these sea creatures. I know I do and can’t wait to go on Sunday.
For information go to NewportWhales.com. The cruises go on through September 30, 2019.
So most importantly whatever you choose to do this weekend, make it a fun one.
Better Lemons will close its virtual doors on June 1. Thank you for the Memories and the Love all these years! May all your Art continue to THRIVE!
Better Lemons will close its virtual doors on June 1. Thank you for the Memories and the Love all these years! May all your Art continue to THRIVE!
Better Lemons will close its virtual doors on June 1. Thank you for the Memories and the Love all these years! May all your Art continue to THRIVE!