Arts In LA

by Julio Martinez, April 10


LA County Arts Commission has set its lineup for Ford Theatre’s 2014 summer season, running May 12 through Sept. 13, including a sprinkling of theater fare, highlighted by the LA premiere of John Adams’s I was looking at the ceiling and then I saw the sky, performed by Long Beach Opera (Aug. 23), under the auspices of The Zev Yaroslavsky Signature Series.

   Chris Isaacson Presents makes its Ford debut with two evenings of Broadway—Night After the Tonys with Linda Eder (pictured) (June 9) and Broadway Under the Stars (Aug. 16). Ford’s summer lineup also includes Flypoet Under the Stars, an evening of spoken word, music, and comedy (July 12); and Fountain Theatre’s annual Forever Flamenco at the Ford (Aug. 9).


Quentin Tarantino (pictured) hosts a staged reading of his new screenplay, The Hateful Eight—focusing “on a stagecoach disaster and the bounty hunters, Confederate soldiers, and other figures affected by it”—April 8 at Theatre at the Ace Hotel in downtown LA. The cast is TBA.

   Fremont Centre Theatre in South Pasadena hosts the premiere of Cold Tangerines: The Play—focusing on an author’s struggle to unite the different facets of herself as she works on her craft—adapted for the stage by Lynn Downey Braswell, based on the book by Shauna Niequist, helmed by Karissa McKinney, opening May 30.

   Fringe Theatre Company debuts Digby’s New Wife—the tale of a newlywed young man and how his crazy friends just might his sabotage his marriage—scripted by Paul Storiale and improv troupe Comedy Bandits, helmed by Stacy Ann Raposa, opening April 12.


The delayed revival of Richard Alfieri’s Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks—originally produced at Geffen Playhouse in 2001 with Uta Hagen and David Hyde Pierce—now starring film star Leslie Caron (pictured) and David Engel, will close Laguna Playhouse’s 2013–14 season, helmed by Michael Arabian, choreographed by Donna McKechnie, opening  May 3.

   Tap-dancing legend Maurice Hines offers a history of American tap, paying tribute to his late brother Gregory and the singers who inspired him during his seven-decade career, helmed by Jeff Calhoun, opening May 9 at The Wallis in Beverly Hills. A co-production with Alliance Theatre, Cleveland Play House, and Arena Stage, the production also features tap-dancing duo John and Leo Manzari, backed by the all-female DIVA Jazz orchestra.

   Silent Witnesses features writer-performer Stephanie Satie (pictured) giving voice to four extraordinary women, based on interviews and conversations with child survivors of the Holocaust, helmed by Anita Kanzadian, May 10 only, a guest production at Odyssey Theatre in West LA.

   Pasadena Playhouse showcases its newly redesigned Carrie Hamilton Theatre—converted from a proscenium theater to a black box—presenting two one-person shows in repertory. Amy G’s Entershamement and Joe Orrach’s In My Corner open May 16.
Entershamement, helmed by John-Stuart Fauquet, featuring the music of rock band Gag Reflex, performed in last summer’s Playhouse Cirque-A-Palooza. In My Corner, scripted by Lizbeth Hasse, helmed by Jeremiah Chechik, played at Odyssey Theatre in October 2013.


The Illyrian Players cast of How I Learned to Drive

“With all the more-current scandals that have happened in schools, in the Catholic Church, and even with celebrities, I think this play that deals with improper physical contact between an adult and a child is probably not as shocking as it was when it premiered in 1997; but I think it is still just as controversial and just as relevant, in fact maybe more so today. The construct of the play is meant to keep the audience a bit off balance, not knowing exactly how to deal with this relationship of L’il Bit and her Uncle Peck, that occurs over a seven-year period, beginning when the girl is 11. The play moves in reverse gear but is not chronological. As recalled by Li’l Bit when she is 32, there is the situation of her at age 17, parking off a dark lane with a married man on a warm summer night. She describes this scene and you think you know how to think about it, how to judge this man. Then she backs up to a different scene (chronologically) and gives you a little more information, which changes how you feel about the relationship, how you feel about Peck. This makes the audience member’s shifting levels of discomfort create an energy that almost becomes another character in the play.”

Illyrian Players founder–artistic director Carly D. Weckstein helms a revival of Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive, performing through April 13 at The Lab at Theatre Asylum in Hollywood.


In 1987, I am working as a feature writer for Drama-Logue magazine and assigned to interview Mickey Rooney for a cover story, two weeks before the touring company of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is scheduled to open at Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. I open our chat by telling him I had grown up in downtown LA and had great memories of seeing his father, Joe Yule, perform as a baggy-pants comic at the Burbank Burlesque on Main Street back in the 1940s. Rooney just stares at me. After an awkward couple of beats of silence, I shift into discussing his current tour of Forum. I barely ask my first question when he blurts out, “You know, after we sing the opener, ‘Comedy Tonight,’ there is not one laugh in that show. The only comedy in Forum is what the cast brings to it. And that’s my job. I make people laugh. That’s all I care about. And the critics can go to hell. What else you wanna talk about?”

   Since we were done with Forum, I decide to ask him about working with legendary Max Reinhardt in the 1934 Hollywood Bowl production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, featuring 13-year-old Rooney as Puck and the stage debut of 18-year-old Olivia de Haviland as Hermia. Rooney smiles for the first time and offers, “Max’s stage version at the Bowl was sheer magic, but the movie version [which also featured Rooney and the film debut of de Haviland] that Warner Bros. put out a year later was a piece of crap. Warner replaced Max’s experienced classical stage actors with studio contract players who didn’t know The Bard from a turd.”

   Rooney now turns his attention to me. “So you liked my dad. If you wanted to see my dad’s routines again, you should have caught Sugar Babies on Broadway [1979]. Ann [Miller] and I did ’em all. I am my father and my father is me. Nice talking to ya.” Mickey Rooney dies April 6 at age 93.

Julio Martinez hosts Arts in Review—celebrating the best in live theater and cabaret in Greater Los Angeles—on Fridays, 2–2:30pm, on KPFK (90.7FM).
Meet the Artist

All’s Wells for The Secret City

Chris Wells returns to town, his very spirited services in tow.

by Travis Michael Holder 

Beloved and much-admired ex-Angeleno actor Chris Wells took flight to the Big Apple a decade ago to further his acting career. In 2007, he officially called it quits and gave up his dream to stand on a New York stage and accept an award for his efforts. Instead, he founded The Secret City, a secular church-like meeting place where artists could join together to worship art and celebrate their talent, no matter what that talent may be. In a wild twist of fate, in 2010 Wells found himself rushing to the stage at the Obie Awards ceremony to accept a special Obie for Service to the Creative Community. The irony is not lost on Wells—nor to any of the legion West Coast Secret City revelers gathered March 16 at Bootleg Theater for the third of the now ongoing Secret City “services” packing the place once every three months.
   The theme Sunday at Bootleg was Passion and, without a doubt, there was enough passion in the room to start a mass orgy, even including a passion fruit love potion created by Mike Anderson, handed out in little plastic cups so everyone assembled could toast one another and themselves.

The New York Times called The Secret City “sort of a salon, sort of a church” and noted that, since its inception seven years ago, it has “grown into a half-irreverent, half-earnest blend of revival meeting and group meditation session.” Wells, however, was advised not to refer to the event as a church, even though it’s obviously patterned after one, if he wanted to be eligible for grants and public aid.
   Still, there’s a cultural calendar to read, a benediction in which congregants are asked to intone, “And so it is,” after each declaration, the passing of a collection plate, and even a choir called Secret City Singers, most members of which would be familiar faces to Bootleg/Evidence Room aficionados. All are welcome additions to the event, although the musical director might next time gently advise one particularly enthusiastic choir member to move a lot farther away from the microphones where her obvious passion can remain but her flat notes could be buried.

The offerings Sunday were wildly eclectic and without guidelines, beginning at 11:30am with a knockout musical riff by guitarist Jeremy Bass and his Secret City Band. Included was a striking Argentine tango from Moti Buchboot and Ayona Weaver; a question-and-answer session with featured painter Paul August Bruins Slot, whose oils of sphinxes dominated the room; an amazing turn from singer-guitarist Kera Armendariz from Kera and the Lesbians, joined by trumpeter Brandon Burns for her bone-chilling “Gypsy Song”; and a reading of the gossamer “Found Poem on Passion” by Wendy C. Ortiz.
   A heartfelt recitation adapted from Rachel Carson was brought to life by the Right Reverend Wells, which began with, “Those who dwell among the mysteries of the earth shall never grow weary of life,” and ending with reminding us that the “clearer we see the wonders of the earth, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” Wouldn’t that be nice? Talk about preaching to the choir.
   What a treat to have sorely-missed Wells and his Secret City back in LA for quarterly gatherings to inspire us, rock us all out, and prompt us to remember that, despite the struggle of generating and maintaining a life in any creative field, “Art is what artists do for the world.” As he reminded us from Bootleg’s stage, “We remind the world what it is.”

The Secret City will return to Bootleg June 22, when the theme will be “Adventure”—something, my friends, that would purdy much be guaranteed.
March 17, 2014


The following have generously supported
Fitzmaurice Voicework
with Lisa Pelikan
dany margolies
Fountain Theatre
My Name Is Asher Lev
Feb. 22 through May 18


   * Theater reviews of Henry V (at PRT), Romeo & Juliet, Everything You Touch, S'Wonderful, Taste, White Marriage

   * New theater listings

   * Film review of Only Lovers Left Alive


   * Theater reviews of Paul Robeson, Ruth Draper's Monologues, A Delicate Balance, Porgy & Bess, and more

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