Join us as we talk with different Los Angeles theatre professionals to talk about where they are @ This Stage in their lives and careers and how they got there.
Join us as we talk with different Los Angeles theatre professionals to talk about where they are @ This Stage in their lives and careers and how they got there.
1 - Jer Adrianne Lelliott, Founding Artistic Director of Coeurage Theatre Company
Join us as we talk with different Los Angeles theatre professionals to talk about where they are @ This Stage in their lives and careers and how they got there. Hosted by @ This Stage Contributor Julia Stier. @ This Stage is a program of LA STAGE Alliance.
Making Room for Daddy
Nobody Walks Like My Daddy: A jazz song in syncopated counterpoint came about as a result of the birth of my youngest son in my 57th year on the planet.Â After four marriages over the course of 36 years, I finally got the opportunity to raise one of my children.Â I have always been in my children’s lives, but until my youngest son’s birth I never had the good fortune to live in the same city with them.Â The mothers of my children didn’t only get weary of me as a struggling artist/husband, they also grew weary of the ZIP code where I chose to pursue my craft. So they moved and took the children with them.
There could be no weekend visits or sleepovers because the places that they called home were Ohio and Georgi. Sometimes it was a struggle for me to journey beyond the city limits of Washington, D.C.Â So my contact with my children became a series of visits for a couple of weeks at a time, once or twice a year and regular weekly phone calls.Â I could not have afforded the visits if not for the kindness of my mothers-in-law, who offered me shelter to defray the cost of a two-week hotel stay.Â I wanted so badly to be with my children, but the erosion of my marriages over time made reconciliation impossible. But I continued to make the trips even without hope of us becoming a family again.
In 1978, I moved from Washington, DC to take on the challenges of New York City.Â A number of my friends in the industry had ventured into the daily kaleidoscopic blender of Manhattan and succeeded, but my experience would be one of more struggling. So I opted out of the theater community and focused my attention on developing an audience in radio.Â I just got tired of going to auditions and being called back as many as three times, then losing out to Ted Ross in the dance auditions.Â I was so panic-stricken by dance auditions that every time someone said “5, 6, 7, 8,” it took all the strength I could muster not to run screaming from the room.Â And through it all I continued to try to bring my children from three marriages together without success; I just wanted to see them all in one place together.
Then my oldest son, Guy, came to visit me in New York during his summer break from Morehouse College in Atlanta, and his younger brother, Alex, whom he had never met, convinced his mother that she should let him join us. I delighted in their company for five weeks.Â It was the most joy that I had experienced as a father in my life.Â I interviewed them on my radio show and introduced them to most of the people in my life, and I had an enormous party at the end of their visit.Â The following year they returned and we picked up where we left off.Â Â We were so hungry for information about one another that we spent most of the time during their visit talking about everything under the sun.Â Then they were gone again, and this time I descended into a very dark place.Â I missed them.Â I wanted it all even though I knew it was impossible.
The opportunity to work as a writer in the industry came when a good friend, Stu Silver, invited me to come to Los Angeles and work as a writer trainee on his short-lived sitcom Good Grief.Â During the 13-week run of the show, Stu gave me invaluable information about writing for screen and television and we even wrote a screenplay together.Â It was during this time that I met my current wife Terry, After an eight-year courtship we married, and I was blessed (but surprised) with the opportunity to raise my son, be there for him every day.Â It was such an enormously wonderful experience that I became a stay-at-home dad for the first three years of his life; the journey continues.Â His birth has brought all of us closer together, but my dream of having them all come together was buried with the death of my oldest daughter Ramona in November o
Pasadena’s 16-Day Turn on its AxS
For the sixth time since 1999, arts and scientific institutions converge in and near Pasadena for the AxS (ak-sis) Festival, more than a fortnight of exhibitions, performances, public art and lectures. Most of the events are free to the public.
The nonprofit Pasadena Arts Council (PAC), led by executive director Terry LeMoncheck, oversees the venture. “We talk so often about the connections between art and science in Pasadena,” says LeMoncheck. “We have such great research institutes in Caltech, JPL, the Planetary Society and Carnegie Observatories. And it’s been our observation that the more artists and scientists talk with each other, the more their vocabularies are enhanced.”
Working together, she adds, allows artists and scientists “a greater ability to tackle the problems of tomorrow that we’re creating today.”
The year’s theme is Fire and Water, kicking off with a staged reading of Carson Kreitzer’s The Love Songs of J. Robert Oppenheimer at Caltech’s Hameetman Auditorium in the Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics — the architecturally nonlinear building on California Boulevard.
“This is Bobby’s internal struggle of the atomic bomb,” explains LeMoncheck. “And the thing that makes this year’s festival particularly exciting is that we have significant money from the James Irvine Foundation, the [Ralph M.] Parsons Foundation and the NEA [National Endowment for the Arts] to commission new works just for the festival.”
One of the new commissioned works is Rain After Ash, written and directed by Corey Madden, the former associate artistic director of the Mark Taper Forum and founding artistic director of L’Atelier Arts.
“This is the result of a two-year obsession of mine,” Madden says. “I woke up in the middle of the night and turned on the computer, started surfing, and found on the early edition of the New York Times a story called Missing Poet.”
The poet was Craig Arnold who disappeared while hiking along a volcano’s rim in Japan, following in the footsteps of the 17th century Haiku poet Matsuo Basho. “It just got under my skin. I started to follow whether or not he’d been found. I discovered a Facebook page called Find Craig Arnold. So over the next two weeks there were thousands of posts from people talking about Craig and his life and his poetry.”
The posts struck Madden as an amazing phenomenon. “All these people I didn’t know who were connected through the internet. It seemed like a weird limbo to me and it took me on a journey. I read a blog of his called the Volcano Pilgrim which he wrote in the two and a half months before he disappeared. In my mind they were filled with prophesy about his fate.”
She also read a poem of his called Hymn to Persephone. “I found it connected back to my writing, a poem I’d written about the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice and the way Persephone, the little girl who’s abducted by Hades and kept by him in the underworld, plays in that story.”
Persephone takes pity on a poet and lets him have a chance to go back. “Craig had written about his own loss of love. In this poem he visits the underworld and here, two years later, he actually falls off the edge of a volcano and never comes back.”
Madden was obsessed. “I realized there was another person in the story I hadn’t recognized. I suppose in some ways it was myself, but the person who showed up was Demeter, the figure in Greek mythology who makes the world infertile and holds out on the gods until she can either have her daughter returned to her or come to terms with that...
“˜Black Dahlia’ Murder Examined in The Chanteuse and the Devil’s Muse
“The LAPD knew that this guy was a slippery customer. Whoever came in as new police commissioner wouldn’t want the first big crime that they had to solve to be botched. Rather than risk that, they let him go. Plus, there was the vested interest from his influential pals that he was untouchable. He knew all their names and numbers.”
Artist David J is speaking about a character in his musical play The Chanteuse and the Devil’s Muse, a combination of drama, song, visual projection, fine art and dance, in which he explores a chilling theory regarding the identity of a cold case killer.
One of LA’s most notorious, gruesome and unsolved crimes occurred early in 1947, when the disfigured remains of a young woman named Elizabeth Short were found in a vacant inner city lot, in Leimert Park. The 22-year-old wanna-be actress had been sexually assaulted, tortured, viciously mutilated and ““ most shockingly ““ severed in two.
She was dubbed “The Black Dahlia” by the sensation-hungry press because of her fair skin, wavy jet-black hair and preference for mysterious black attire. The moniker was also a dark twist on the title of a Raymond Chandler scripted murder mystery, The Blue Dahlia, which had just been released in cinemas.
Like London’s turn-of-the-century Ripper killings, this grisly and incomprehensible murder created a frenzy of speculation and morbid fascination. Interest in the murder was re-ignited in 1987 by James Ellroy’s crime novel, which is a fictional account inspired by those actual events. Brian De Palma also filmed a studio picture in 2006, based on the cold case and Ellroy’s novel.
Now we have David J’s theatrical take, which adds a further degree of fictional separation blended with recently unearthed information from the real-life cold case. David J’s play with live music examines the legend of this murder mystery and creates a kaleidoscope of passion and dark obsession.
Tall and lanky, his short hair dyed corn-yellow blond, the 54-year-old musician emanates a slightly mysterious vibe in person, thanks to his serious and penetrating gaze. David J. Haskins (born April 24, 1957 in Northampton, England), better known as David J, is a British alternative rock musician. He was the bassist and shared songwriting and vocal duties for the rock band Bauhaus (formed in 1978) and later Love and Rockets (formed in 1985). With the group’s dark and gloomy sound and image, Bauhaus is often considered the first gothic rock group.
A prolific artist of many disciplines — composer, musician, singer, playwright, screenwriter and fine artist — David J has a new album being released mid-October called Not Long For This World, as well as his play hitting the stage this month.
David J says the new album and his play are completely separate entities, but he allows a connection. “There is a resonance, in that it’s an album about mortality. On the album I do a Tom Waits cover, called “Dead and Lovely,”Â which could be the story of Elizabeth Short. I toyed with the idea of maybe including it in the play but decided against it.”
Click here to listen to David J’s “The Temple of the Id” soon to be made available as a limited edition vinyl.
With his previous theatrical work Silver for Gold (The Odyssey of Edie Sedgwick), David J brought the story of Warhol muse Edie Sedgwick to the Los Angeles stage to critical acclaim, enjoying a brief run at the Met Theatre in 2008.
Origins of The Chanteuse and the Devil’s Muse.
Interspersing scenes of a police interrogation, David J’s newer multi-media and multi-discipline play features some instrumental music as well as a song cycle that is poetically and thematically re...
Christa Jackson and Sally Struthers Revisit Always”¦ Patsy Cline
Longtime friends and frequent co-stars Christa Jackson and Sally Struthers are again performing their hit show about two gal pals from an earlier era, Always”¦ Patsy Cline. Ted Swindley’s two-handed musical show will play for three weekends only, at Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton.
Always”¦ Patsy Cline is more than a tribute to the legendary country singer, who died at the age of 30 in a tragic plane crash in 1963. With Jackson taking on the role of Patsy Cline, the one-act show focuses on Cline’s real friendship with a fan from Houston named Louise Seger (Struthers), who befriended the star in a Texas honky-tonk bar in 1961 and maintained a close friendship and ongoing correspondence with Cline until her death.
The musical play presents 27 songs. Jackson performs many of Cline’s unforgettable hits such as “Crazy,” “I Fall to Pieces,” “Sweet Dreams” and “Walking After Midnight.” The show’s title was inspired by Cline’s letters to Seger, which were consistently signed “Love always”¦ Patsy Cline.”
Now 41, Jackson began interpreting Cline’s life story when she was the same age as Cline at her death. Jackson is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, where she graduated from Northside School of the Arts. While there, she performed as one of the “Coke Is It Kids.” She has toured as a backup singer for Roger Daltrey, Ty Herndon and Erasure, and her theater credits include performing in Grease on Broadway and in national tours, along with Struthers, as well as appearing on Broadway in Smokey Joe’s Café. Regional credits include playing the lead role of Eva in Evita for Heartstrings Regional Theatre; Steel Magnolias (Truvy); Ring of Fire: The Johnny Cash Musical; Joseph (Narrator); Annie Get Your Gun (Annie); Seussical (Gertrude); Anything Goes (Erma) and other shows.
Becoming Patsy Cline.
It’s hard to imagine that this pretty, slim woman with blue eyes and corkscrew curly blonde hair can pass as the dark haired, unpretentious country and western singer. It takes more than period costumes, wigs and makeup
“I don’t impersonate Patsy,” Jackson smilingly assures me when we sit down for a chat before rehearsals. “It’s a total, physical transformation. I change the way my mouth is, I change my posture, the way I walk. Everything changes. As soon as I put that wig on, I say a prayer to her every night and I walk out there.” The actress says she simply tries to embody Patsy and give the impression of the kind of person she was.
“It’s a metamorphosis for me,” Jackson adds. “I put the black wig cap on and paint in the dark eyebrows. I do the makeup exactly the way she did, add red lips ““ which is so not me! I start when I’m putting on the wigs and the clothes and stockings ““ I have to add boobs because I have none,” she laughs. “Also Patsy had a slight under bite.”
Struthers interjects, “This is the biggest thing she does ““ she slides her jaw out when she sings and that makes her sound like Patsy. But she gives herself TMJ (inflammation of the temporomandibular joint). She had terrible pains one summer.”
Jackson remembers her concern that she was suffering from a brain aneurysm. “So every night after the show I’m applying heat packs and taking Advil. Every night.”
Plus there are numerous costume changes. “It’s almost like when I was doing Evita,” recalls Jackson. “I sing a song or two then do a costume change. I think there are 20 changes, and the quickest one is just before the encore. I have a great dresser.”
(Click here to listen to Christa sing “Walking After Midnight” in rehearsal.)
Christa and Sally.
The Dangerous Beauty Diaries Part I: From Academia to Hollywood
Mounting a new musical work is a long and often arduous process requiring an unflagging commitment on the part of its creators. LA STAGE Times was given permission to witness the process Dangerous Beauty underwent in the final months leading up to its world premiere opening at the Pasadena Playhouse on February 13, 2011. This is the first in a three-part series of articles prepared via interviews with producers, the creative team and cast, as well as onsite reporting that began with the first group sales presentation in October 2010.
January 2011. It’s been a balmy 76 degrees in Pasadena, the kind of weather Tournament of Roses Parade promoters have touted since the Valley Hunt Club dreamed up the now iconic event in 1890 to sell their snowbound East Coast brethren on wintering in the “Mediterranean of the West.” The moniker is particularly prophetic as competing sets of street light banners currently line the city’s Arroyo Parkway promoting two shows set in Renaissance Italy: “Beauty & Power” at The Huntington and the world premiere ofÂ Dangerous Beauty at the Pasadena Playhouse.
While the Huntington exhibition deals with bronze sculptures, its title neatly encapsulates the dueling themes running beneath the playhouse’sÂ musical depiction of the famous 16thÂ century Venetian courtesan/poet Veronica Franco. TheÂ February 13 opening of Dangerous Beauty officially signifies the rebirth of the recently bankrupt Pasadena Playhouse as a producing entity.
Written by Jeannine Dominy, with lyrics by Amanda McBroom, music by Michele Brourman and directed by Tony Award nominee Sheryl Kaller (Next Fall), it stars Jenny Powers (Grease) as Franco. Other principalÂ cast members are James Snyder (Crybaby) as Marco, Bryce Ryness (Hair) as Maffio, Laila Robins (Heartbreak House) as Paola, Michael Rupert (Sweet Charity) as Domenico, Megan McGinnis (Daddy Long Legs) as Beatrice, John Antony (Passion) as Pietro and Morgan Weed (Next to Normal) as Giulia.
Franco’s rise and fall withinÂ Venice’s literary salon society was, until recently, an obscure historical footnote. Â She reigned as both a star attraction and anÂ acclaimed confidante to the floating city’s most powerful men. ButÂ war with the Turks, bubonic plaque and the Inquisition conspired to strip her of both position and property.
The 1992 publication of Margaret F. Rosenthal’s award-winning scholarly biography The Honest Courtesan ignited a modern-day fascination with her story, which led to a 1998 film entitled Dangerous Beauty, written by Dominy and starring Catherine McCormack, Jacqueline Bisset, Rufus Sewell, Oliver Platt and Fred Ward. Though not considered a commercial box office success, the movie developed a cult following in the ensuing years especially among young college-age women such as future DB producer and Tony nominee Tara Smith (Xanadu, You’re Welcome America: A Final Night With George W. Bush, The Seagull).
Lyricist/singer/songwriter McBroom (Golden Globe winner for “The Rose”) caught the film during its initial release and instantly saw its potential as a musical in the genre of Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables. She asked singer/songwriter and longtime collaborator Michele Brourman (“My Favorite Year”) to confirm her judgment. After viewing the once fiercely feminist tale now squeezed into a sumptuous studio-sanctioned love story, Brourman agreed.
Three years later McBroom brought the project to veteran Los Angeles (Canon Theatre, Reprise Theatre Company) and New York producer Susan Dietz (three time Tony winner Fela!, The Little Dog Laughed, Topdog/Underdog). The two were longtime friends who had worked together doing Jacques...