Since his “Swansong,” André de Vanny is keeping Conor McDermottroe’s Award Winning Story in the Hollywood Spotlight

Selected for the Munich, Montreal and Camerimage film festivals, Swansong won best drama at the Galway Film Fleadh and was nominated for six ITFAs in 2011. The film was adapted from Conor McDermottroe’s one-man theatre play Swansong which won raves worldwide and was translated into German and Swedish. Swansong makes its West Coast Premiere in Los Angeles on September 8, 2018, at the Skylight Theatre, produced in tandem with the Australian Theatre Company and directed by Greg Carroll.

This is theatre that doesn’t settle for easy answers. A gritty monodrama, it tells the story of Austin “Occi” Byrne, abused and isolated, violent and vulnerable, and searching for redemption.

Award winning Australian actor André de Vanny plays Occi. He began his career with the leading role in the international hit series Wicked Science 1 and 2 and it just keep getting better from there. André has since appeared in many Australian feature films including the upcoming The Combination 2, Hating Alison Ashley, Under a Red Moon, Nice Shootin’ Cowboy. Recently, he was given a nod for Best Actor at the Green Room Awards, acknowledging his work in Glory Dazed for Red Stitch Theatre Company.

Andre’s performance in Swansong has achieved widespread critical acclaim and the show has returned twice to sell out seasons at Sydney’s The Old Fitz Theatre as well as Melbourne’s Metanoia Theatre, and most recently a sell out season at Theatre Works in Melbourne.

This performance is quite a workout, emotionally and physically, even for a young actor. We asked if he’d let us in on where he gets that kind of stamina as an actor:

HR: How do you prepare for a role like this?

André: There are many highs and lows in the play that follow one after the other, often in quick succession. Once the show has begun I just have to let go and allow it to flow in its own unique way. But this takes rigorous physical, vocal and mental preparation. It’s the old story where, achieving spontaneity and freedom in the moment requires extreme discipline and thorough preparation.

HR: Is it more difficult to bring Occi to life without props and a set?

André de Vanny: This is a performance driven piece, a pure story telling experience. Without set, sound or props you have the freedom to create any world you want at anytime. It feels very natural and allows for a more direct and intimate relationship with the audience.

HR: Despite the adversity and challenges for this character he seems to hang tough. Do you see the POV of the playwright as endowing this character with a positive outlook?

André de Vanny: Occi is an eternal optimist. We all know people who have hope even in the face of the most dire situations. It’s inspiring and endearing. I hope people will take that away from the experience of seeing this show.

HR: You’re from Melbourne, but the play takes place Ireland, during the 70/80s. Do you feel it’s still relevant in this time, and in Los Angeles?

André de Vanny: Prejudice and mental illness are unfortunately still prevalent in society today. This play speaks to those issues here and now. It honors those people who slip through the cracks, those who are outcast and forgotten. Having a child out of wedlock is no longer the shameful sin it once was but the bullying and persecution that Occi endures as a result of this, is something many can relate to. It’s a timeless story that is as relevant today as ever, and in almost every city in the world.

HR: You’re returning to the role for the 3rd time, but for the first time in Los Angeles. What’s that like?

André de Vanny: It’s like visiting an old friend. Occi has remained close to my heart and mind. It’s like you just pick up where you left off. However, each time has felt new and special and has grown a bit. As will this run in Los Angeles at the Skylight Theatre.

Swansong opens at 8:30pm on Saturday, September 8th and continues Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30pm; 2:00pm on Sundays; and 8:00pm on Mondays through October 7, 2018. Skylight Theatre is located at 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave, LA, 90027. Tickets are $15 – $30. Reservations: (866) 811-4111, atctix.org

or http://SkylightTix.com

 

Stories of Truth for a World in Denial

A lifetime of family memories and five years of rewrites has garnered Leslie Ayvazian’s “100 Aprils” a spot in Rogue Machine’s 2018 season. The run has been extended twice and the schedule encourages audiences to stay after matinee performances on Sundays, for talkbacks with special guests.

The play packs a sobering punch while shedding light on a subject that has been swept under the carpet for over a century, the Armenian genocide. Strong writing and heartfelt performances make this a production worth seeing.

Described as a darkly comic look at the generational consequences, when history is denied, it travels a fine line between reality and hallucination. John Saypian is somewhat of a modern-day Don Quixote. He and his wife are second generation Armenians whose parents escaped the genocide. John believes that a tormentor is pursuing him, and as his health begins to fail him so does his mind. But, not his memories of the atrocities that he witnessed as a child, along with his family.

Rachel Sorsa, Robertson Dean, John Perrin Flynn and Leslie Ayvazian

To better understand where the subtleties and depth of writing like this is conceived, we asked playwright Leslie Ayvazian to talk about the journey of creating it.

HR: When did you begin, and what inspired you, to write 100 Aprils?

Leslie: I began the project about five years ago. Initially, I wanted to write a play to honor, and to coincide with, the 100-year commemoration of the Armenian genocide. Some excerpts of my play were included by CTG for their event “Staging the Unstageable” at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in 2015 but this is the true world premiere of the full piece at Rogue Machine.

Growing up in an Armenian family gave me endless resources for writing about this subject. I write what I know. My father was born in Turkey and escaped to NYC. Much of what I know of the genocide is what I’ve learned from my grandmother and my father’s stories, and even from his silences. Some things were too horrific to fully articulate.

Rachel Sorsa and Janet Song

I’m inspired to write about what I am pursuing, and I write what I want to know. For me I want to know why the world has not accepted the history of the Armenians when there is so much proof and so much evidence and yet there is this persistent denial.

HR: Is that what you hope audiences will become more aware of when they see the play?

Leslie: I just hope that audiences will find a reason that it’s relative, and that they are glad that they had the experience of seeing it. I don’t write plays to teach people anything. I write things that are true for me and I hope they’re true for others. I was looking forward to having the play open at Rogue Machine in Los Angeles because it’s a great company, and there is a large community of Armenians in the city. This community was profoundly supportive of my play, Nine Armenians, when Gordon Davidson directed it at the Mark Taper Forum years ago. Gordon believed this story must be told. And it doesn’t matter if it’s been 100 years or 1000 years, people must know the truth. They need to know how the genocide influences our lives, and generations to come. We will keep telling the story so it’s not forgotten, 1.5 million people cannot be brutally slaughtered and it still doesn’t show up in any history books, and certainly not in America.

It’s just a matter of trying to set the world right in truth.

Leslie Ayvazian and John Perrin Flynn

HR: How did you decide on the style of the play? You have described it as absurdist, correct?

Leslie: It comes from an absurdist world, with a sense of humor about the ways that we cope and learn to survive. Any history of family members is a surreal world. Although this piece lives partially in hallucination and partially in dreams that cannot be silenced, the characters are always reaching for what is real.

This style emerged from the experience of denial, and how it affects people who live in a world that has little connection to the truth of history. I remember how my grandmother would talk, and sometimes she would just drift off looking out the window with the pain of those memories. As a physician, my father carried this sorrow throughout his life. Most people from Armenian families have a version of this story. I’m not a person who paints pictures that are set in elaborately designed living rooms. I don’t write plays like that.

100 Aprils has extended twice to run Saturdays and Mondays at 8:30pm, Sundays at 3:00pm through July 23, 2018. Rogue Machine is located in The Met, 1089 N Oxford Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90029. Tickets are $40. Reservations: 855-585-5185 or at www.roguemachinetheatre.com

A Poignant “Mexican Day” at the Rogue Machine

Review by: Peter Foldy

From 1902 to 1951, Bimini Baths was the premiere hot springs resort in Los Angeles. It served everyone from movie stars to maids. Admission was just 25 cents, but only if you were white. At the end of each month, before the filthy water was about to be drained,  the Bimini allowed people of color to use the facilities. They called it Mexican Day.

Playwright, Tom Jacobson has created a trilogy, (Plunge, Tar, and Mexican Day) based on true events.  Although some elements are fictionalized, three of the characters in the trilogy are real people strongly represented in the historical record. Jacobson used the actual writing of Hisaye Yamamoto, Bayard Rustin and Everett Maxell as inspiration for those characters, some of whom appear in more than just one production of  his trilogy.

Jully Lee and Donathan Walters in “Mexican Day”

Mexican Day takes place in 1948.  Civil rights activist, Bayard Rustin (Donathan Walters) has come to Los Angeles from New York to de-segregate the Bimini Baths. An openly gay man at a time when it was dangerous to be open about one’s sexuality, Rustin approaches a Japanese American newspaper reporter, Hisaye Yamamoto (Jully Lee) to help his cause. Yamamoto knows all about segregation, having spent part of World War II in an internment camp.

Zenobio (Jonathan Medina), the polite but hard-nosed Mexican gatekeeper at the Bimini, has little choice but to enforce the racist policies established by his employers. Despite their best efforts, Rustin and Yamamoto are repeatedly refused admission. They stage several sit-in protests, but the Zenobio can’t or won’t budge.

Jully Lee and Jonathan Medina

The pair soon recruit an art historian turned screenwriter, Everett Maxwell (Darrell Larson) to help them defy the ban. They don’t at first realize that Maxwell may not have been the most appropriate choice for this mission. He has been denied entry to the baths for decades due to his past misdeads which saw him spend time in prison. Both he and his soon to be revealed victim have left both men scarred for life.

At times the narrative drifts off course, especially when all four actors reappear in  other, less significant roles, the through-story of Mexican Day ultimately locks on to it’s intended message and brings us to a powerful and moving conclusion.

Donathan Walters and Darrell Larson

The actors here are all supurb. Donathan Walters leads the charge with his unstopable energy, driving the narrative. Jonathan Medina allows us to feel Zenobio’s conflict without over playing the character’s pain. Jully Lee is fresh and lively as Yamamoto, while Darrell Larson convincingly portrays a damaged soul with little hope of redemption.

Great performances, strong direction by Jeff Liu and an impressive set design by John Iacovelli make Mexican Day a play to see. It is not only poignant but also relevant to our current political and racial climate.

Where:
ROGUE MACHINE (in The Met Theatre)
1089 N Oxford Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90029
(Street parking or lot at Medical Center east of the freeway, at 5300 Santa Monica Blvd. $6)

When:
Schedule: 8pm on Fridays and Sundays, 4pm on Saturdays
(no performance on Saturday, July 14th).

Extended through: July 22, 2018

How Much: $40

For reservations call 855-585-5185 or www.roguemachinetheatre.com

Closing: July 15, 2018

Tracie Lockwood Shines in “Hostage” at the Skylight Theatre

If you keep a list of rock solid A-list stage actresses in Hollywood, then you’re already familiar with the name Tracie Lockwood. Winner of a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Featured Performance (A Permanent Image at Rogue Machine), Tracie also garnered two nominations for Supporting Actress from the Los Angeles Stage Alliance Ovation Awards and from Stage Raw, as well as six other ensemble awards for productions she has appeared in Los Angeles.

Currently, Tracie is on stage at the Skylight Theatre in a new play called Hostage by Michelle Kholos Brooks. One of the most compelling, heart rendering productions currently showing in L.A., Hostage is based on a little known but true story the story took place during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. A rogue mother from Wisconsin travels to Iran to save her son who has been taken prisoner by the Iranian revolutionaries. It is a highly personal take on the incident and uncovers an unexpected connection between two disparate cultures. At a time when the U.S. State Department was unable to help the hostages during the 444 day stand off, the human spirit proved bigger than politics.

Tracie is dynamic as “Barbara Timm,” the mother who makes the trip against all odds, and L.A. audiences are once again taking notice of her strength as an actress. The Los Angeles Times noted “Lockwood’s deceptively unassuming performance is a beacon of authenticity that lights the stage…emotionally shattering.”

Zachary Grant and Tracie Lockwood

We were able to sit down with her between shows to find out more about her role and the play:

HR: Why did you want to take on this role?

Tracie: Because it spoke to me on a cellular level. I am a mother myself; the story is very compelling for two major reasons. First, the idea that this is based on a true story…that Barbara, the character I play, actually did this crazy thing despite her governments objections. She gets on a plane and flies to a hostile country to ask her sons captors to release him, that’s just a beautiful crystallization of what it means to be a mother and what lengths you are willing to go to for your children.

Second, because, especially as a mom, at this point in our political climate it seemed very important to me to tell stories that reflect our common humanity and fragility. At its core, this story asks us to stop demonizing each other as merely reflections of our politics, governments or belief systems and asks us to look at one another as humans with different but equally relevant worldviews.

Cast of “Hostage”

HR: What was the most difficult part about preparing for this role?

Tracie: Honestly, this show was a not difficult. The cast is wonderful, Michelle the writer, and Elina de Santos, the director (who are both mother’s themselves) are incredible and collaborative artists who encouraged us to really play and explore and to keep the central story of a mothers love front and center in our minds, so I got a lot for free.

Maybe the only danger is getting too comfortable in the repetition of doing it over and over and allowing yourself to forget for even a moment how truly shocking, harrowing, and brave the whole thing really was. I think about how quickly your comfortable situation can change, and then I am able to click right into Barb’s story.

HR: How does your experience differ at the Skylight Theatre, from other L.A. theaters?

Tracie: Somehow, at the Skylight, I always seem to get cast as a Republican. I’ve done two world premieres there, the other being Church and State by Jason Odell Williams. In both plays my characters, though wildly different, could be summed up as Republican women who start out with very conventional, conservative worldviews. They are challenged by an extraordinary event and as a result, they change slightly which in turn also challenges what are often very liberal audiences, stereotypical views on Republican women.

Cast of “Hostage”

HR: How have audiences been reacting to this play?

Tracie: Very positive. It has not been uncommon for people to contact me days after seeing the show. Many say that they are still thinking about it, processing it and being impacted by it. It’s a quick ride but such a roller coaster, and it really doesn’t give you a break emotionally once it starts. Because of the three quarter staging and the way that the two timelines weave in and out of each other, the audience is kind of in the hostage room(s). During some performances it has been so quiet in the house that you can hear a pin drop and the audience is just holding their breath waiting to see what happens and other nights the audience takes every opportunity to laugh. Michelle Kholos Brooks has very cleverly included some really funny moments to act as pressure valves that release a little tension. But, as we get to the end we can usually always hear a fair amount of sniffling in the house. We’re really proud of this production. It’s a compelling story, at a compelling time.

HR: Thanks for talking with us, Tracie.

Tracie: Thank you.

Satiar Pourvasei, Zachary Grant, Tracie Lockwood and Vaneh Assadourian

Skylight continues with their post Sunday matinee series, “Beyond Conversation,” free to audiences who attend the performance. The discussion panels allow audiences to gain deeper insights into the contemporary themes of the play. A full list of guest speakers, dates and topics will be posted on Skylight’s website http://www.skylighttheatre.org

HOSTAGE runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30pm; 2:00pm on Sundays; and 8:00pm on Mondays through June 24, 2018.

The cast includes Vaneh Assadourian (Tehran Mary), Jack Clinton (Kenny), Zachary Grant (Kevin), Christopher Hoffman (Richard), Tracie Lockwood (as Barbara), and Satair Pouvasei (Ebrahim)

Skylight Theatre is located at 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave, LA, 90027.

Tickets are $15 – $39.99. Reservations: 213-761-7061 or 866-811-4111. Online at http://SkylightTix.com

 

 

 

Bernardo Cubría Reveals the Genesis of “The Giant Void In My Soul” at The Pico in West L.A.

May 14, 2016

Ammunition Theatre Company is a fairly new, and young, artistic group in Los Angeles, known for their diversity and passion for activism. They foster young playwrights, and champion works that are crafted with inclusivity in mind.

Currently, they are presenting the world premiere of Bernardo Cubría’s latest work, The Giant Void In My Soul at The Pico (formerly Pico Playhouse). This play reaches across social, political, and cultural divides during a crisp 90-minute performance with characters, written as clowns, in a Commedia dell’ arte style. Taking on big big questions and goals in life, it still manages to mine the humor and relatable ironies that we all face when of searching for meaning in life.

Bernardo Cubría

The Giant Void In My Soul is insightful, spot on with excellent performances. We sat down with playwright Bernardo Cubría who gave us a look at how it all came about:

HR: What Was The Genesis Of This Play For You?

Bernardo: Last year, I was sitting at home one day feeling quite depressed and I recognized the absurdity yet universality of this emptiness I was feeling. Here I was -privileged enough to pursue my passion and make a living, married to an amazing partner, living in a great place with great friends, family, etc. Yet something felt off. It dawned on me – maybe we just all have a giant void in our souls? Influenced by the silence in Waiting For Godot and the friendship in Don Quijote, I banged out a first draft two days later on a flight to New York. And, surprise! The “void” is STILL NOT FILLED!

HR: How Long Did It Take For You To Write This Play?

Bernardo: About 8 months of writing on and off. But for me, these things are never done. I sit in the audience every night and think of changes I still may make for the next run. My dream is that the play keeps getting done in different venues for many years, and I that I can continue to tweak things in each of the iterations. Once, when I was acting in a production of Burn This, Lanford Wilson gave me a line change the night before opening. I thought to myself, ‘this play is an iconic masterpiece, why are you changing things?!’ Lanford said the play wasn’t finished. I get it now.

HR: Had You Considered Writing This Play With Traditional Characters Instead Of Clowns?

Bernardo: Not really. Sadly for my wallet, I see the world in terms of clowns. I love clowning because it gets to the essence of what humans are. Forget race, gender, class, etc., let’s talk about what makes humans human, and what makes this whole human experience hilarious. Also, I wanted to write a script where any actor of any race or gender could play the roles. So it kind of has to be clowns. I promise they are not scary!

HR: Can You Share Something About Your Background That Influenced You To Become The Artist That You Are Today?

My grandmother was a poet in Mexico. And I grew up in awe of her, always longing to follow in her footsteps. She was so creative. She would speak casually and it always sounded like poetry and wisdom. My favorite line in this play is something she used to say. In an effort to post no spoilers I will say it’s about how life is a theatre. She was magical. I like to think that she would have liked this play.

Directed by Felix Solis and produced by Julie Bersani and J. Michael Feldman, this cast includes Karla Mosley, Kim Hamilton, Claudia Doumit, and Lisa Fernandez in roles written for any gender or ethnicity.

The Giant Void in My Soul, by Bernardo Cubría, runs on Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 7pm through June 3, 2018 (understudy performance on May 27th). The Pico is located at 10508 W. Pico Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90064. Tickets are $25 online https://thegiantvoid.eventbee.com, or $30 at the door. Website: http://ammunitiontheatre.com

Bad Jews: The Battle for the Chai

Play Review by: Peter Foldy

Three young cousins and a significant other spend the night together in a small apartment after the funeral of their beloved grandfather, a holocaust survivor they all call “Poppy” in Joshua Harmon’s BAD JEWS, currently playing at the Oddysey Theatre in West L.A.

Daphna (Jeanette Deutsch), is an observant “good Jew” who cannot wait to marry her Israeli boyfriend and move to Israel to further her Jewish education. Her cousin, Liam, (Noah James) an avowed secularist and a self-described “Bad Jew” is a graduate student who studies Japanese culture. Liam loaths Daphna. Finds her tedious, arrogant and toxic. He doesn’t buy into her rabbinical posturing and pious grandiosity. Daphna is jealous of Liam’s family money. She judges him to be a self-loathing Jew who is willing to give equal creadance to every culture, every race and religion, except his own.

Noah James, Lila Hood and Jeanette Deutsch in “Bad Jews”

Adding fuel to the volatile mashup is the fact that Liam has just returned after a ski trip with his blond, non Jewish girlfriend, the sweet but ditzy Melody (Lila Hood). Liam had dropped his phone from a chairlift, missing Poppy’s funeral, barely making it back for the Shiva, a traditional gathering of family and friends.

Before long the evening implodes into a free for all. Everyone fights like savages. Liam’s mild mannered brother, Jonah (Austin Rogers) tries to keep the peace but the insults soon escalate to physical violence.

Lila Hood, Jeanette Deutsch in “Bad Jews”

The prize they are fighting for is a Chai, a necklace that Poppy had hidden under his tongue during the Holocaust and later used as a ring of sorts to propose to his wife. Now that he is gone, both Liam and Daphna feel they deserve the heirloom. Liam wants to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and use it to propose to Melody, a woman he says he truly loves.

Daphna is of course mortified. The Chai is a beloved and valued symbol of Judaism, not to mention a cherished memory of their late grandfather. The fact that a Shiksa should wear it around her neck almost makes her physically ill.

The writing in “Bad Jews” is brilliant. It’s as poignant as it is hillarious. It’s clear to see why this play has been performed all over the world since it’s New York premier in 2012. The story works on many levels. On the one hand it’s an examination of family that resonates, regardless of your beliefs or your religion. On the other it’s a timely examination of modern Jewish beliefs and attitudes; of what it means to be a Jew in an age where young people are far more open and accepting of other cultures than in years gone by.

Lila Hood, Austin Rogers, Jeanette Deutsch and Noah James fight it out in “Bad Jews”

Performances here are exceptional. Noah James hits a slam dunk as Liam. His character is filled with rage while overflowing with love. It’s a moving moment when he states that his girlfriend, Melody, is a song. Those simple words, delivered from the heart, validates Liam’s point of view and wins us over.

Jeanette Deutsch is force to be reckoned with. She plays Daphna’s strenghts and weaknesses even-handedly, and by the show’s conclusion you feel sympathy for this strong willed young woman who is also just following her heart. Deutsch gives a memorable performance.

Lila Hood is a perfect Melody. She is the peacekeeper here, trying to stop tempers from coming to a boil. Hood makes us accept Melody’s shortcomings in the intelectual department and brings a certain kindness as well as a and a much needed balance to this explosive storyline.

Austin Rogers is the quiet one as Liam’s brother, Jonah. While he doesn’t have a lot to do, his final reveal is touching and unexpected.

Director, Dana Resnick keeps the dialogue-heavy piece moving at a clip. The play runs 95 minutes but flies by, while never losing your interest. With such a short running time I was stunned to hear so many cell phones ringing during the performance, despite the pre-show announcement asking people to silence their devices. The annoyance even managed to stop the show for a moment till the offending phone was shut off. If that’s not enough, there was also a whispered conversation going on behind me that drove me crazy.

Despite some bad audience members, “Bad Jews” is a powerful, impressive play that will stay with you long after the curtain comes down. I’m already looking forward to revisiting it again before it closes in June.

When: Performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. from through June 17.

On Sunday, April 22 only, the performance will be at 5 p.m. with no 2 p.m. matinee.

Additional weeknight performances are scheduled on Wednesday, May 9; Thursday, May 17; Wednesday, May 30; and Thursday, June 14, all at 8 p.m.

Talkbacks with the cast follow the performances on Wednesday, May 9; Friday, May 18; and Sunday, May 27.

Tickets: From $30 to $35;

There are three “Tix for $10” performances on Friday, April 27; Wednesday, May 30; and Thursday, June 14.

The third Friday of every month is wine night at the Odyssey: enjoy complimentary wine and snacks and mingle with the cast after the show.

The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, 90025. For reservations and information, call (310) 477-2055 or go to www.OdysseyTheatre.com

Photos by: Enci Box

 

 

 

Jake Busey Stars in Jonny Walls Directed Feature, “Bluegrass Spirits”

Hollywood, CA: April 26, 2018

Writer/Director/Producer, JONNY WALLS and Producer AARON CHAMPION have announced the completion of the independent feature film, BLUEGRASS SPIRITS.

The Comedy/Drama stars JAKE BUSEY (Starship Troopers, The Predator, Stranger Things) as a recovering alcoholic who owns a failing bourbon distillery. When he meets a ghost-hunter, their conflicting views on belief and disbelief come to a head. Busey’s character allows the ghost-hunter to run a guided ghost-tour of the distillery, which is said to be haunted, in exchange for a portion of the profits.

Through a series of ghost hunts around the Bluegrass, which are equal parts hilarious and emotional, the two confront their personal “ghosts” and each have to deal with them in their own way.

Bluegrass Spirits is Walls and Champion’s second feature film collaboration after working on Cineline Production’s 2015 comedy feature Couch Survivor. That film is currently in worldwide distribution with Glass House Distribution.

Walls also wrote and directed the buddy/road trip comedy All About the Afterglow, making Bluegrass Spirits his third feature.

Joining Walls again as Director of Photography is another Couch Survivor alumnus, MARK FARNEY.

Other cast members include ROGELIO DOUGLAS JR. (Orange is the New Black, Straight Outta Compton), NELLIE BARNETT, and BRIANNE CORDARO.

Bluegrass Spirits was shot entirely in and around Lexington, Kentucky, with a large portion of the film shot at Hartfield and Co., a craft bourbon distillery in Paris, Kentucky.

Distribution details and a release date will be announced shortly.

Photo by: Dana Patrick

A Fight Well Fought at “The Alamo” Now Running at Ruskin Group Theatre

by Peter Foldy

Ruskin Group Theatre continues to celebrate the essence of arts and humanity with the world premiere of THE ALAMO by Ian McRae. This is their second decade of bringing Los Angeles audiences unique staging’s of live entertainment.

The Ruskin Goup Theatre, located at the Santa Monica airport, is an intimate space with approximately 55 seats, where you can see some of the best actors in the business. Bobby Costanzo who plays Joey, an ex-cop who also narrates some background history, and Tim True who plays Munce, the long time owner of the neighborhood bar, are two actors in an ensemble of nine that keep the action lively in this play, beautifully directed by Kent Thompson.

Bobby Costanzo, Tim True, Jack Merrill and John Lacy in “The Alamo”

The play takes place in the blue-collar Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn where a rundown neighborhood institution called The Alamo; the last great American bar, is struggling to survive. With an aging clientele, the place is fighting to keeps it’s doors open and the only hope seems to be the arrival of artist/musician/millennials who are moving into the neighborhood and wanting to adopt the bar as an entertainment hangout. The regulars don’t want to surrender their bar, much less their neighborhood, without a fight which presents a humorous and dramatic portrait of working class natives who always seem to find themselves on the front lines of change in America.

Actors Bobby Costanzo (Joey) and Tim True (Munce) talk about their rewarding experience with the project:

HR: What was it about Ian McRae’s play that made you want to be involved with this production?

BC: I thought that Ian’s play was poignant, funny and had a kind of Eugene O’Neill realism as in THE ICEMAN COMETH. I loved the idea personally of being a narrator working the audience (my secret nightclub persona)and then stepping into the action of the play.

 TT: I met the director, Kent Thompson, at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. When I heard he was in LA to direct a new play, “The Alamo,” I wanted to audition. While reading the script I was drawn in by the rich tapestry of characters. It reminded me of some of the folks at my local watering hole in Astoria Queens where I lived for awhile after grad school.

HR: Had you worked together previously, or done a play at the Ruskin Theatre?

BC: I had not worked with any of the cast before but I’m very impressed with everybody’s talent and professionalism.

 TT: Never. This is my first show at Ruskin and with everyone in the cast. I moved here from Portland Oregon, where I was pretty much full time in theatre. I co-founded a company there, Third Rail, that’s been around since 2005. When I came to Los Angeles I stopped doing theatre so that I could focus on the TV/Film thing, but once I was able to gain some momentum on that side I felt that I could do both.

I love working with everyone in the cast, they are really wonderful, and particularly Eileen Galindo, who plays my wife Carmen, and Kelsey Griswold and Julia Arian, who alternate in the role of Michaela – my Goddaughter. I have 2 key scenes with those characters and we’ve gotten close during the run.

HR: Were there surprises or unexpected character discoveries during the rehearsal process?

BC: As in all good writing you get to discover that nobody is overtly evil or malicious but usually has their own sort of “Rashomon” way of looking at things, coming from their own perspective, which is either reinforced or changed by their interactions with others. I feel that “Joey” (my character in the play) sees that, after his scene with Carmen, he knows he’s been selfish and demanding of her and not appreciated her emotional and physical pain.

TT: Oh lord, I guess so. Munce is a guy, who will tell you he doesn’t have many regrets, but the fella really lives there – in the past.

HR: You both have impressive film and TV credits, and you keep coming back to the theatre. What is it that you love most about working on stage?

BC: The immediacy and challenge of “getting it up,” so to speak, and discovering the way that each audience changes inflections and deliveries of moments within the play. It is truly the actors’ medium.

TT: Theatre was my career from the moment I decided that I wanted to act, which incidentally was as a freshman in high school getting a big hug from one of the senior girls after a curtain call. I trained in the classics, performing Shakespeare for about 10 years. I really love the use of language and how aural a play is. It’s the words and phrases, sure. But I also love finding a character’s rhythm, and where he places the sound – where, in his mouth, and where, in his body he resonates from.

HR: What other projects are coming up for you after this show closes?

BC: I’ll be playing “Uncle Bud in a new comedy called Champions debuting on NBC.

TT: I’m forming a theatre company, called Door Number 3. We will present Martin McDonagh’s “The Lonesome West” at the Odyssey Theatre this fall. I’m recurring in an upcoming Netflix series…but I can’t say more without pissing off the producers and endangering my family and everyone I care about.

The Alamo runs on Fridays and Saturday at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm through May 12, 2018. Ruskin Group Theatre is located at 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405. Tickets are $27 – $30 and can be purchased in advance by calling (310) 397-3244 or online at www.ruskingrouptheatre.com . Free parking available on site.

The cast includes Bobby Costanzo (Joey), Eileen Galindo (Carmen), Nancy Georgini (Claudine), Milica Govich (Mary), Julia Arian (Micaela/Alternate), Kelsey Griswold (Micaela /Alternate), John Lacy (Dominic), Jack Merrill (Tick), and Tim True (Munce)

Running time: 1 hour and 55 minutes with one 15-minute intermission

Production Photos by Ed Krieger

 

 

John Simmons “A Life in Black and White” Exhibit Opens at the Perfect Exposure Gallery

Los Angeles, April 11, 2018

Black and White is beautiful. Photographer, John Simmons proves that with his new exhibit “A Life In Black and White,” opening on April 12, 2018 at the Perfect Exposure Gallery in Los Angeles.

A familiar figure on film and TV sets, Simmons is a well-known cinematographer with 2 Emmy Awards under his belt. Though he has been around since the early sixties, he has kept his many powerful still images under wraps.

In “A Life In Black and White,” Simmons pays tribute to ordinary people living ordinary lives–living in anonymity, till they are immortalized through this photographer’s inquisitive yet unobtrusive lens. Simmons manages to capture insignificant moments that on closer examination have so much to say.

Photographers “can’t help but put a frame around the world we see,” Simmons explains. “We are continually composing and all my pictures tell a story. Each one has its own spirit and soul. I have an affinity for people and whatever they share with me the moment I press the shutter becomes a testament to their lives.”

This rare glimpse in the monochrome world of John Simmons opens with a reception on April 12, 2018 and runs through May 25, 2018, at The Perfect Exposure Gallery, 1125 Crenshaw Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90019.

There is no charge for admission.

www.ThePerfectExposureStudio.com

 

Skylight Theatre Company’s “Rotterdam” Receives The Most Awards for Intimate Theatre, Including Best Production From Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle

LOS ANGELES, CA (March 20, 2018) – Skylight Theatre Company, Hartshorn – Hooks, along with producers Gary Grossman, Tony Abatemarco and Andrew Carlberg, garnered 3 awards from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, including the award for Best Production. There were two winners of the 2017 Production award, the other award going to Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages.

Jon Brittain received the Writing award for Rotterdam and actress Ashley Romans took home the award for Lead Performance for the role of Fiona/Adrian in Skylight Theatre’s production of Rotterdam.

Directed by Michael A. Shepperd and nominated for the Ensemble Performance award, the Rotterdam cast included Miranda Wynne, nominated for Lead Performance, Ryan Brophy, Audrey Cain, and Ashley Romans.

Presented by Skylight Theatre Company & Hartshorn – Hook Productions, Rotterdam was produced by Gary Grossman, Tony Abatemarco, and Andrew Carlberg in Association with Providence Entertainment, Ltd., with Josh Gershick as Associate Producer and Dramaturg, Jonathan Muñoz-Proulx, Christopher Aguilar, and Shaina Rosenthal as Associate Producers.

Rotterdam’s creative team included Jeff McLaughlin (Set and Lighting Design), Christopher Moscatiello (Sound Design), Naila Aladdin Sanders (Costume Design), Michael O’Hara (Props), Shen Heckel (Assistant Director), Garret Crouch (Stage Manager), Tuffet Schmelzle (Dialect Coach), Raul Clayton Staggs (Casting Director), and opened November 11, 2017 with an extended run through January 28, 2018.

Skylight Theatre Company discovers, develops and produces new, exhilarating works that expand mainstream theatre while nurturing and educating the people who create them. A recipient of the Steinberg National Theatre Critics Citation (Dontrell, Who Kissed The Sea – Nathan Alan Davis), Skylight’s resident PlayLAb writers have been recognized with productions nationwide, a national 2014 USA Ford Fellowship in Theater and Performance (Sigrid Gilmer), and locally as a winner in the 2015 Humanitas/CTG Playwriting Prize  (Louisa Hill – Lord of the Underworld’s Home for Unwed Mothers). Skylight won 4 Ovation Awards in 2014 for The Wrong Man and Pray To Ball (the most of any intimate theatre in LA). LA Weekly included the Skylight’s productions of Years To The Day, Open House and Sexsting on their Top Ten list of plays for 2013. Their first year as a company dedicated to developing new plays, 2011, found Skylight’s production of Hermetically Sealed on the LA Times annual list of Top Ten Plays, while Mad Women moved from Los Angeles to La MaMa in New York. Since then, plays developed by Skylight have been performed Off-Broadway and in other New York theaters, Chicago, Washington D.C., Oregon, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Kansas City, and internationally in Scotland and France. For more information, script submission policy and production history go to http://skylighttheatre.org

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