Oscars: Academy Invites Under Qualified Applicants

June 28, 2017

The Hollywood Reporter’s “awards columnist,” Scott Feinberg, slammed the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today for trying to fix the Academy’s implied diversity problems by inviting candidates who don’t have the credentials to belong.

Feinberg claims that the Academy’s current course is akin to putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.

Read his article HERE

 

Mark Ballas To Reprise His Acclaimed Broadway Performance In L.A. Production of “Jersey Boys”

March 31, 2017

Casting has been announced for the Los Angeles engagement of the Tony, Grammy and Olivier Award-winning hit musical “Jersey Boys,” the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, previewing May 16 and 17, opening May 18 and continuing through June 24, 2017, at Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre.

Mark Ballas

Mark Ballas will reprise his hit Broadway performance as Frankie Valli for the Los Angeles engagement of the tour. Ballas, known for his Emmy nominated work on “Dancing with the Stars,” made his Broadway debut in the role last fall (October 18, 2016 – January 15, 2017).

Critically acclaimed ‘Frankie veterans’ Aaron De Jesus and Miguel Jarquin-Moreland will play Frankie Valli at certain performances during the week. The cast of “Jersey Boys” will also feature Matthew Dailey (Tommy DeVito), Keith Hines (Nick Massi) and Cory Jeacoma (Bob Gaudio) as The Four Seasons, with Barry Anderson and Thomas Fiscella.

Directed by two-time Tony Award-winner Des McAnuff, “Jersey Boys” is written by Academy Award-winner Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music by Bob Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Crewe and choreography by Sergio Trujillo.

“Jersey Boys” is the behind-the-music story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. They were just four guys from Jersey, until they sang their very first note. They had a sound nobody had ever heard – and the radio just couldn’t get enough of it. But while their harmonies were perfect on stage, off stage it was a very different story – a story that has made them an international sensation all over again. The show features all their hits including “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Oh What A Night,” “Walk Like A Man,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and “Working My Way Back To You.”

 

It’s All In The Family With Michael and Stephanie Katherine Grant

September 20, 2016

To be successful in Hollywood, you need a team around you. A powerful team. Young actors,  Michael and Stephanie Katherine Grant, who hail from Tennessee  and have been in Hollywood making the rounds since 2010 are more than a team. They’re family.

But the siblings who have made an impact with appearances on shows such as “The Secret Life of The American Teenager” and “The Goldbergs” were not content to just be in front of the camera. They have recently branched out into writing, producing and directing.michael grant

Now you may think there’s nothing impressive about that in a town full of multi-hyphenates, but consider the fact that Michael is only 21 and Stephanie Katherine a mere 16.

The dynamic duo recently completed their first production called, “Dominion,” an impressive, well acted, well directed short film that is sure to get traction for it’s talented young creators.

An abstract story that deal with different layers of consciousness, the film has the look of a well funded feature, even though it was made with money Michael and Stephanie raised on their own. The pair found and hired the best film crew available and the results here speak for themselves.

In a male oriented world it took the film crew stephanie katherine granta minute to realize that teenaged Stephanie Katherine was a capable filmmaker worthy of  helming the project.

“At first people were directing their questions to me and kind of ignoring my sister” says Michael, “but eventually they got the message that Stephanie Katherine was an equal contributor and co-director, in fact she was the one who came up with the story in the first place. Soon she was running the set like a pro.”

Not bad for a sixteen year old.

Beyond co-writing and co-directing, Michael also scored the project, (he happens to be a classically trained pianist) while Stephanie Katherine edited.

“Dominion” is now making the festival rounds. First up is the Calgary International Film Festival which kicks off on September 20, 2016. The film will screen there on September 24th, at TELUS Spark, located at 220 George Drive, NE, Calgary, Canada.

Dominion CJFF Still 3

So what’s next for the Grant kids?

“More writing and directing is definitely in the cards,” says Stephanie Katherine. They are turning “Dominion” into a feature film script and also developing others projects.

If you get the chance to meet this talented and ambitious brother and sister team, you’ll see that no is not an option here. Film domination is their ultimate ambition and from the look of their first project, they seem bound to succeed.

BAFTA Award Winner, “Marty Goes To Hollywood” to Premier at Marina Del Rey Film Festival

August 7, 2016

MARTY GOES TO HOLLWOOD is a documentary about a Scottish actor, Marty Docherty, who landed a role as Tom Hank’s brother in the feature film, ‘Cloud Atlas.” Unable to afford a trip to the Hollywood premier, his friends team up to help him raise the money and decide to make a documentary about the process. Arriving in California days before the screening, the lads learn that Warner Bros. will not allow Marty to walk the red carpet. In the face of adversity they set out to defy the big studio and crash the premier, finding tremendous support and forging a life-long friendship in the process.

The film will screen at the 2016 Marina Del Rey Film Festival on August 13 at 3pm.

Hollywood Revealed: Hi, Marty.

Marty Docherty: Hello.

HR: I guess we should go back to the beginning. How did you land the role in “Cloud Atlas?”

MD: I auditioned for the part of ‘Eddie Hoggins’ in Glasgow. I thought I was maybe at the wrong audition as all the guys there were much older than me and much bigger (though that isn’t hard as I stand 5 feet 7 inches).Image I was off book for the casting and I thought it went really well. Two weeks later my agent called to say that they loved my tape and that Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski’s wanted to see me in London for a recall. I was pretty nervous but my thoughts were just keep doing what you’ve already done and you have a chance. The recall went very well and the part of Eddie Hoggins was mine. One week later it was confirmed that I was in a huge movie when they called to say that my costume fitting would be in Berlin!

HR: How was the idea for the documentary conceived?

MD: It came about when I returned back to Glasgow from filming. I met my very good friend, Ian Bustard for a pint at our favorite pub of the time, The Griffin Bar. Ian was asking me how the shoot had gone and I was regailing him with tales of Andy and Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, Jim Broadbent and Hugo Weaving. It had been such an amazing time for me as “Cloud Atlas” was my first feature film and my first experience marty-docherty-488390471of something so large. Ian thought I was buzzing with the excitement of it all. He then said that I must go to the premiere in L.A. I of course said I’d love to go (and was sure I’d be invited) but there was no way I could afford it. He then said ‘why don’t we make a documentary about you raising the money to go?’ I thought that was a great idea, so Ian called Martyn Robertson, a friend, producer and film maker with his own company, Urbancroft Films. Martyn said it was the best idea he’d heard in seven years. So the concept of Marty Goes to Hollywood was born.

HR: What were your initial thoughts about actually going to Hollywood?

MD: It was a combination of nervousness and excitement. Having never been to the USA I was unsure of what to expect. I wanted to make sure that I make the best of any opportunities that came my way. Before we went we had no idea of what was going to happen so the feelings were more of excitement, of opportunity and possibility. The one thing I did know of L.A. was that there was a business there and thus opportunity. That’s the thing about being an actor… you just never know.

HR: Were you surprised when your home town got behind your plans to go to the premier?

MD: Yes, I was quite surprised at the support we got in Glasgow. The nature of people here is that of community, of wanting to help people if they can, of wanting to see one of they’re own doing well. I’m sure some people thought Radio‘who cares. It’s just some actor who wants to go to Hollywood.’  However the story started to get arms and legs and all of a sudden we were on the radio and in newspapers. Even the Lord Provost of Glasgow got involved, and we got good luck messages from Alex Salmond, Scotland first minister and the leader of the Scottish Labor Party. Glasgow is full of generous people and the bottom line is I wouldn’t have made it to Hollywood without them. Glasgow is by far the best city in the World – apart from L.A.

HR: How were you received by the British community once you arrived in L.A.?

MD: The reception we got from Brits in  L.A. was amazing. They seemed to take our story to heart and backed us all the way. We had been invited to meet them for breakfast at Cecconis, an amazing restaurant, on the Saturday morning and Tuesday morning. Craig Young and Eileen Lee, who run Brits in L.A. couldn’t do enough for us. Craig contacted his manager and arranged a meeting for me. By the time Tuesday  came round we needed help more than ever and I was absolutely bowled over with the support. Again, like so many people on this project, they helped when they didn’t need to. The best parts of human nature Melrosenever ceases to amaze me.

HR: What was the biggest misconception you had about L.A?

MD: I guess I thought it would be smaller and was amazed at the scale of the city. I also thought everyone would be a hippy, doing hot yoga, but when I got there I loved it! What’s not to like? I thought it was a very healthy city full of very beautiful people. Our days were pretty busy it was hard to appreciate certain things. I was impressed by the Roosevelt hotel! What a place!

HR: Are you surprised at all the positive reaction “Marty Goes to Hollywood” has received?

MD: Very surprised. First off I was amazed at the finished product and the great job Ian, Martyn, Chris Kinghorn, the cameraman, Thom Clark, the editor and Scott Twynholm, our music composer did. It must have been hard for those guys finding the best 53 minutes out of over 100 hours of footage.

The bottom line is that people liked our story and what we were trying to accomplish. Nothing we did was set up. That gave an honesty to us and our journey that peopleImage 3 responded to. Our story also became a bit of ‘David vs Goliath,’ and who doesn’t want to root for the underdog? The support and goodwill that came our way seemed to shine through in the film and all the people I met from the business, actors, producers in the main, loved it and loved it for different reasons. The film covers a lot of topics about being an actor and life in general and if anything it’s a film about friendship. I think that’s why people have been so positive about it. This film has been an amazing journey. Memories and friendships forged forever. The most incredible part of an 18 year acting career .

HR: Did you ever dream the the documentary would air on the BBC?

MD: I never really thought the BBC would be interested in our film. I’m not sure they would have had we not been nominated for a Scottish BAFTA New Talent Award, then subsequently winning it. I saw three or four rough cuts of the movie before I actually saw the finished version. Each time it improved as is normal with the grading process, the music etc . The final cut is an excellent film, worthy of a BAFTA nomination, if I do say so myself. Still to get in on the BBC at Christmas was just the icing on the cake. The BAFTA and the TV screening was a testament and a small reward to all those who had contributed their expertise for very little money. bafta4It was also a chance to bring the movie to a wider audience. All of which made me feel very proud and much taller than I actually am. My family and friends were particularly delighted as they had heard so much but hadn’t seen anything. In the week leading up to the TV screening the BBC advertised it about 10 times a day and we couldn’t believe it. A chat in a pub 3 years earlier had led to this?! If someone had said that to me 2 years earlier , I would have said they were a candidate for a lunatic asylum.

HR: Where did you watch it and what was that like?

MD: We went back to the Griffin bar were it had all began. Friends and family joined us. There were around 60 people there. What a buzz ! It was also a bit surreal as the TV announcer said ‘ Now on BBC2 , one man has a dream in ‘Marty Goes To Hollywood’. I thought, that’s me!!! It was like it wasn’t really happening. I looked around at a lot of those people who helped in some way and I was more interested in their reactions. People were laughing. Some were crying. I had a small moment to myself to reflect and thought how brilliant it was that we had a dream, we achieved it, we won a BAFTA 12434706_1843664495779074_1770093464_nand now we were on the BBC. I felt humbled by it all. Dreams really can come true.

HR: You’re probably more of a celebrity now for being in the documentary than for being in “Cloud Atlas.”

MD: That’s possible ! On the night of the screening I got in a taxi to go home. As I climbed in the taxi driver said, ‘Hi Marty how you’? I’d never met the man before in my life! He then said, ‘You were on the telly tonight, eh?’ Incredulously I said ‘Eh , that’s right aye ‘. I’d been on a radio program two weeks before to promote the documentary. The driver then said, ‘I really enjoyed you on the radio a couple of weeks ago’. I was pretty stunned. I guess taxi drivers know everything in Glasgow. My profile has definitely been raised by the documentary. A lot of times people pass me in street and say, ‘Awrite Marty’ (awrite is Glasgow slang for all right ). Other times people in a bar or a cafe will say, ‘ I know you. Where have we met before?’ The truth is we’ve never met but people recognize your face and think they know you. I quite enjoy it. Glasgow people are not backward at coming forward. They won’t be shy at telling you they know you. Certainly for a few months I’ve basked in the glory of my new found minor celebrity status.

HR: What are you working on now?

MD: Right now I’m doing a short film, a modern dayMGTH BAFTA FLYER (Hollywood) adaptation of Tam O ‘ Shanter, a very famous poem by Rabbie Burns with a visual arts company. I had my first day green screen filming last week. I’m very excited about it as they have a distributor in place on the strength of their  previous work. I’ve just finished playing a lawyer in 6 episodes of “River City,” the Scottish soap opera. I’m about to play a part in “Outlander” and I’m currently writing a one man show with the resident writer at the Citizens Theatre which we plan to put on in the Autumn. Exciting times!

HR: Any plans to come back to Hollywood?

MD: At the moment no. Not because I don’t want to. I would have loved to stayed on but the price of getting a work Visa there was just a bit much. However I would love to come back. I can see myself running down to muscle beach at 7am, going over my casting for that day in glorious sunshine. That’s in my dream of course, but as we’ve already proved, dreams really can come true.

HR: Thanks for chatting with us, Marty, and congratulations on all your success.

MD: Thank you.

MARTY GOES TO HOLLYWOOD screens at:

The Marina Del Rey Film Festival
3pm August 13, 2016

Cinemark 18XD
Howard Hughes Promenade
6081 Center Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90045
MAP

Link to the movie trailer: https://vimeo.com/149141219
Buy tickets: HERE

 

 

 

 

Rogue Machine Presents Plays New To Los Angeles

NOW IN THEIR NEW SPACE AT THE MET

John Perrin Flynn is well aware that, beyond satisfying our need to be entertained, finding new writing talent and plays are an essential part of creating our historical footprint, one that defines current culture. Flynn is the Founding Artistic Director of Rogue Machine, one of the top theatre companies in Los Angeles.

John Perrin Flynn

John Perrin Flynn

What is important to us now, and who are we today? Answering those questions, in part, can come from experiencing current entertainment whether it comes from books, television programming, films, or theatre. Flynn thinks Los Angeles is rich with talent that identifies how we are thinking, evolving, or failing, and he wants what you see on stage at Rogue Machine to reflect that. For the audience to ask questions. Winning “Best Production” for three Seasons (Ovation and Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards), Rogue Machine is known for the unique plays they present and the high quality of their productions, some of which continue on to great success in regional theaters across the country and in New York.

This year brings more success to the company, and their season has barely begun. We asked John Perrin Flynn some questions about the company and how these wonderful productions come about.

HR: You have established a 2 for 2 winning record this season for producing the plays “Pocatello” and “Honky,” having just opened. What makes you chose to produce a particular work? What was it about “Honky” that got your attention?

Flynn: Theatre is a public service. Theatre can’t support itself. So, I think there is an implicit agreement between a theatre and the community that supports it. Our responsibility as artists is to show ourselves as we are – not to judge but to question. I look for plays that tackle subjects important to who we are now, to how we live now. I think plays should be entertaining but also challenging. We could no longer afford to stay on Pico Boulevard because the owner of the building kept raising our rent. We were lucky in that Paul Koslo, who runs the Met, had a vacancy and reached out to me when he heard that we were in trouble. It’s a wonderful theatre. When I knew for certain that we were moving I sat in The Met theatre by myself and thought about the move and about how important our first production there would be. I had already read Sam Hunter’s “Pocatello” and was intending to produce it in 2017. I had a sense that it would fit the theatre very well and that we could cast it with a number of well-known Rogue Machine actors. I thought our production of “Pocatello” would speak to who we are and what we do, so that would be a great way to kick off Rogue Machine in a new location.

Burl Moseley and Bruce Nozick

Burl Moseley and Bruce Nozick

Greg Kalleres’s “Honky” was on the bill for 2016. Our literary manager, Tim Cummings, had found it in an obscure anthology of plays. He loved it and sent it on to me – I also loved it. “Honky” is a very funny play but it also makes you think, and it makes you feel just a tad uncomfortable. I asked Gregg Daniel to direct a reading – he fell in love with the play as well. After that, our main challenge was scheduling.

HR: What’s coming up for the rest of the year? Why did you decide to participate in the Hollywood Fringe Festival?

Flynn: We had originally wanted to do a season of plays that examine the question of race in America, but when we had to move we had to scuttle some of our plans because the move threw off our entire schedule. We have two great pieces that we will do sometime in the near future that both have directors attached. The first is a piece called “Dutch Masters” by Greg Keller, which in some ways is a follow-up piece to “Dutchman.” Guillermo Cienfuegos, who directed Pinter’s “The Homecoming” and a glorious “Henry IV” for Pacific Resident Theatre is attached to direct. The other is a play from England called “Hang” by Debbie Tucker Green. It was done at the Royal Court and I think that we may stage the American premiere. Elina de Santos, who is our co-artistic director, will be directing it.

We decided to participate in the Hollywood Fringe Festival because The Met is a Fringe venue and because I was impressed last year with how much of an event the Fringe has become. There’s great energy there and we wanted to be a part of it.

Tasha Ames and James Liebman

Tasha Ames and James Liebman

HR: Can you talk about the two plays that you have in Fringe, and why those plays?

FLYNN: “Smoke” by Kim Davies is not for the fainthearted. If we were still on Pico Boulevard we would’ve produced it as a late-night show. It seems like the perfect fit for Fringe. It’s funny, dark – very dark – and rude, in a sophisticated way. It’s a tour de force for the actors and the director and we have assembled a great team. Lisa James is directing and Patrick Stafford, who was in last year’s production of “Cock” (winning the Lead Performer award from LADCC), stars along with Emily James (no relation). Emily was just seen in “Stage Kiss” at The Geffen. “Bull” is Mike Bartlett’s follow-up to “Cock.” It’s not the same people or the same story but it’s the same technique – a play performed without props or specific set – and every bit as much of a fight. Jen Pollono is directing the fabulous cast – including Kevin Daniels (One Night in Miami…), Josh Bitton (Dirty Filthy Love Story and Lost Girls), Lesley Fera, and Alex Whittington.

HR: Rogue Machine presents plays that are new to Los Angeles. Why is that an important part of your company’s mission?

FLYNN: Again, this has to do with how we see what a theatre should be in a community. There are many wonderful classics but they get done all too often. There are some wonderful plays that are new that were not getting done in Los Angeles and we wanted to bring them here – we thought it was important that LA Theatre goers were exposed to these plays and playwrights. We also do world premieres. Some of the very best actors in the world live here and are passionate about their art. They perform as volunteers in the 99 seat theatre community because they want to make art. There are wonderful directors and amazing designers here as well. This is simply just a great place for playwrights to work.

This community has become a laboratory, a generator. We can afford to take the risks that larger theaters cannot, and we have been very successful. Two of John Pollono’s plays, “Small Engine Repair” and “Lost Girls” have had subsequent productions Off-Broadway in New York. “One Night in Miami… by Kemp Powers, has had two major American regional theatre productions and will be opening at the Donmar Warehouse in London in October. Henry Murray’s “Treefall” has been produced six times since its world premiere here in 2010.

Matthew Hancock

Matthew Hancock

HR: Do you have a development program that allows writers to grow their new work within your company?

FLYNN: Yes. We have a number of ways that we work with writers.  Part of our mission is to help writers whether we are particularly interested in producing that particular play or not. This gets tricky; it’s a judgment call. We have to like the writer well enough or the writer has to be or have been associated with us.

Our most successful work with writers comes from intensive workshops with full casts. These are often, but not always, shows we may produce. We sit around a table reading and discussing. The playwright gets to work with truly exceptional actors and discuss the play with them. She/he writes and re-writes until we reach a point where the work has progressed as much as this process can offer and then we’ll do a public reading.

HR: How’s your outlook on theater in Los Angeles?

FLYNN: The productions I see in the small venues here in town are often staggeringly good. There’s a lot of world-class work being done here. There are five or six theaters whose work is consistently extraordinary. There are problems. A lot of Los Angeles is not aware of how great some of the theatre here is. There are people who live here who love theatre and don’t know that there’s great theatre happening here. Intimate theatre is intimate. It is like no other theatre experience you will ever have. You sit sometimes as close as 3 feet away from some of the best actors in the world. It’s immersive, sometimes unsettling and often thrilling. There is a couple that comes to Rogue Machine who fly in from Florida to go to theatre here. They see plays at 5 or 6 intimate theatres when they are here. They used to go to New York but it’s cheaper here and they say it’s better. We need to work together to get the word out. Theatre this good deserves an audience.

Theatre is dependent upon charitable donations. Most of the unearned income that keeps theaters alive comes from private donors, and even the larger theaters get most of their support from private donors. Right now there is not a great deal of awareness in the giving community that these theaters exist, that they’re doing great work, and that they are generating new work that is going all over the world. Rogue Machine and its colleagues are struggling to survive. Hopefully the continued great work everyone is doing will help, but great work alone is not enough – we must find a way for us all to work together to create a greater community awareness of the treasure that we have here in Los Angeles, the gem that intimate theatre can be.

Currently, Rogue Machine’s production of “Honky,” by Greg Kalleres, is receiving rave reviews at The Met, and a Critics’ Pick from the LA Times.

The cast includes Tasha Ames, Ron Bottitta, Matthew Hancock, Christian Henley, James Liebman, Burl Moseley, Bruce Nozick, and Inger Tudor, with Rebecca Larsen as an alternate.

HONKY runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30pm, Sundays at 3pm through June 12, 2016. ROGUE MACHINE is located at The Met, 1089 N Oxford Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90029. Tickets are $34.99. Reservations: 855-585-5185 or at www.roguemachinetheatre.com

 

 

Is Hollywood More Vulnerable to “The End Times?”

April 3, 2016

It’s subtle at first, innocent, even rational. Guidance, during a difficult time, we all need it. Maybe there is a promise of salvation, or just something to hang onto that will get us to a better place. Or unstick us in our careers.

Ever wonder if you could be taken in by a cult?  When we see stories like HBO’s “Going Clear,” with recognizable stars joining Scientology, or hear about Jim Jones and the murder-suicide in his Peoples Temple where over 900 followers perished, most of them by downing cyanide-laced Kool-Aid, we instantly think, ‘no way, not me.’  But there is a window into all of our minds and souls.  It’s called faith; a vulnerable place with just enough space between you and the divine for the manipulative to slither in.

THE END TIMES draws from the true experience of Jesse Mu-en Shao, playwright and former member of group that still practices today. In this world premiere play, he calls the group, The Lord’s Restoration; a cult that he says was founded in Los Angeles with controversy somewhat similar to groups like Scientology and Berg’s Kabbalah Center. Shao slips us in a side door of this religious group to witness the spiritual intoxication of his main character Tim; born and raised within this religious community,

 Jesse Mu-En Shao

Jesse Mu-En Shao

and a devout follower of Witness Lee’s ministry. When his best friend is cast out of the church for ‘living in his mind,’ Tim’s life slowly unravels as he begins to question the foundations of his faith.

Tim’s manipulation seems so obvious at first but the subtle and insidious influences from the leaders and caring followers within, make it quite plausible that rational and intelligent people could be easily ushered into a mindless loop of spiritual addiction to the church. As an ex-Jonestown member recalls, “vulnerable people feeling disenfranchised, for whatever reason, find comfort within these communities,” and as long as they conform there will be rewards. Try to get free; and there will be consequences. Stay with them; and you are instructed to avoid your own thoughts. It’s a rabbit hole that takes your free will and from there, truth fades.

On the outside, many of these groups seem to be an easily recognizable con. But, witnessing the inner workings through The End Times might make you question just how easily you, or someone you know, could slip down that rabbit hole too. Playwright Jesse Shao shares his perspective on it:

This cultish theme seems ripe for Hollywood, with controversial groups here like Scientology and Kabbalah. Was that a consideration when planning to have the world premiere of “The End Times” open in Los Angeles? 

Given that Scientology and Kabbalah exist here, it’s certainly appropriate, but not intended. However, it is a bit ironic considering that the introduction of this religious group in the United States began here in Los Angeles. Skylight Theatre produced last year’s hit “Disconnection” written by ex-Scientologist Alan Barton, so it’s clear that they have an interest in raising these questions about cults and audiences are eager to hear these stories. Disconnection had an extended run, and played to full houses.

What did you want to say with this piece?

Jesse: The journey to identify and to leave a cult is already filled with trial, to stay away and grow into your own life is another. The process of this play has allowed me to adequately define

 Christian T. Chan and Mariah Robinson

Christian T. Chan and Mariah Robinson

my own experience with this religious group, I call it the Lord’s Restoration for the play, which I grew up in. It is a cult. Being able to say that has been critical to my own healing. I hope this piece speaks to others who have been raised in religious extremism, so perhaps they can use the play as a tool to better define their own experiences.

Why is it important to produce this play now? 

Jesse: The story needs to be told. Since I was in high school I don’t recall a public voice that has spoken out against this group, that wasn’t silenced by them. In the last few years they’ve patched up their image, and indicated that previous statements contesting their practices had been recanted. The public voice that seeks to expose, must come back. Practitioners of any faith deserve the truth. Those who tried to reform the movement from the inside, and were isolated and pushed out for trying to reveal truth, need vindication.

Jon Lawrence Rivera (Director): It’s important to give some insight into the worlds that we are unfamiliar with. I was drawn to it because it’s a play about people that scare me. About a system that scares me.

What’s your relationship with the two producing partners, Skylight Theatre Company and Playwright’s Arena?

Jesse: I knew the Artistic Director of Playwright’s Arena, Jon Rivera, from USC as he directed many shows for playwrights in the MFA program. It wasn’t until he came to see my thesis reading for, The End Times that we really began to communicate. After the Hothouse Reading with Pasadena Playhouse, Jon expressed interest in directing it. He plugged me into Skylight and the rest is an ongoing journey of discovery.

Now that you’re in rehearsals, can you share your experience on the advantages, and disadvantages, of working on a new play as it unfolds with the director, and the cast every day?

Jesse: I think that there are only advantages, I’ve yet to find any disadvantages. Previously, I spent a year writing The End Times and another year developing it with a different group of wonderful artists, this experience works as an advantage to the production. Those who helped me develop the play in it’s early stages, Nancy Keystone, Wyatt Fenner, James Ryan, Christopher Rivas,

Matt Pascua and Christian T. Chan

Matt Pascua and Christian T. Chan

Virginia Vale and Timothy Jo – they helped me get the world that I was trying to build off the ground. This built a life into the play. They became very close to the text, and we developed something that became unique to our collaboration. Bringing in a new set of eyes to that picture and being with them day to day really lets me understand what parts of that collaboration hold up on the writing end of the spectrum.  I can only say that with each rehearsal I grow more excited with what comes out of the room.

From Jon Lawrence Rivera (Director): Playwrights’ Arena and Skylight Theatre Company only do new works. So the process is the same for all work. Both companies are committed to helping the playwright tell their stories in the most theatrical and clear way possible.

Has your own belief system wavered, or grown stronger, through the process of developing this play? 

Jesse: I’ve gained more courage. The inevitability of it being performed means that I can no longer be timid about the implications of what that means. This play and what I’m talking about is now in the public eye, it’s something the Lord’s Restoration could hear about. Honestly, that terrifies me, but excites me at the same time. I have to stand by my work and my beliefs.

From Jon Lawrence Rivera (Director): It reinforced my belief that there is something wrong with any structured religion.

Does it matter if your audiences are devoutly religious or atheists? Do you have any hopes about what the audience experience might be? 

From Jon Lawrence Rivera (Director): It’s a play for everybody. It’s like watching a political play. Everyone comes to it with his or her own bias. Hopefully they come out of it with a slightly better understanding of what a young person goes through when they start questioning their beliefs.

Jesse: I used to hope for atheists because I wanted to see if they could relate and understand the world that I had portrayed. But, as I began to hear the responses from audience members who came from devout religious experiences, I was really intrigued by the parallels and connections we shared. I think more than anything, I hope to have plenty of audience members who have shared a similar experience, and hopefully they find some comfort from the work.

As far as the audience experience from the show? I hope they understand the love and comfort that is within some of the communities like this. It’s an important reason why people stay and why the rigidity and suffocation from that culture is overlooked.

The End Times opens on Saturday, April 16th and runs at 8:30pm Fridays and Saturdays, 3:00pm on Sundays through May 15, 2016. Skylight Theatre is located at 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave, LA, 90027. Tickets are $15 – $34. Reservations: 213-761-7061 or online at http://skylighttix.com

 

 

Members of Actors’ Equity File Lawsuit Against Their Union

LOS ANGELES (Oct. 17, 2015) — Actors and other members of the Los Angeles theatrical community filed a lawsuit today against Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers. The lawsuit challenges the Union’s decision to eliminate its 25-year-old waiver of jurisdiction over small 99-seat theaters, a program popularly known as Equity Waiver. Plaintiffs claim that the Union’s decision to end Equity Waiver will unfairly destroy small theater in Los Angeles and deprive thousands of actors of opportunities to collaborate on creative theatrical projects.

The lawsuit was filed in the Los Angeles federal court. The plaintiffs are Los Angeles-based members of Equity, together with other theatrical artists and theater operators who had entered into a litigation Settlement Agreement with the Union in 1989 that established a system for regulating future changes to the Equity Waiver program.

The lawsuit allegesEquityLogo.jpg.644x600_q100 that the stage actors’ union violated this Settlement Agreement by improperly interfering with the democratic and due process procedures established in the Agreement to prevent any unilateral Union decision to eliminate the world of intimate theater. The lawsuit complains that Equity’s new rules, including a prohibition on volunteer acting at small theaters and a new wage compensation obligation on these theaters, will force theaters to close, reduce their production runs, or to hire non-union volunteer actors in place of Union actors.

The plaintiffs announced that they would not serve the Complaint on the Union immediately, in the hope that the Union would respond to their request to meet and confer about a mutually acceptable resolution of the small theater controversy.

“Although we have now filed the complaint, we have not yet served it on the Union,” stated Steven Kaplan, lead attorney for the plaintiffs. “We have asked the Union to take this opportunity to avoid the time, expense and acrimony of litigation, and sit down with its members to discuss a mutually advantageous resolution.”

Michael A Sheppard

Michael A Sheppard

Gary Grossman, a member of Equity and one of the plaintiffs in the 1989 litigation, stated that “This lawsuit became necessary because Equity refused to comply with the preliminary procedural protections built into our 1989 Settlement Agreement. These procedural protections were designed to ensure that, before substantial changes were made to the 99-Seat Theater Plan, meaningful discussions would take place within the small theater community.”

Actor Michael A. Shepperd, also a plaintiff, said, “Our members voted to reject the Union’s actions by a 2-1 margin in one of the largest election turnouts in the organization’s history. We are terribly disappointed that our Union rejected the principle of democracy on which it was founded, and foisted on Union members new rules that will harm all actors in the long run.”

Karen Kondazian

Karen Kondazian

Actress Karen Kondazian, another plaintiff, explained that “the majority of Los Angeles artists who work in small theaters want Equity to put a moratorium on these new plans in order for local members’ voices to be adequately and fairly heard, and for the Union to work together with a task force of local theater artists to develop a comprehensive plan that will adequately address the needs of the Los Angeles theater community. But our leadership turned a deaf ear to our concerns.”

Actor French Stewart, another plaintiff, lamented that “we would hate to see either the death of intimate theater or the world of small theater go non-union. Equity’s decision was short-sighted and likely will contribute to an erosion of unionized acting in Los Angeles.”

Plaintiffs are represented by the Law Offices of Steven J. Kaplan and Martha Doty of Alston & Bird.

Celebrity Verdict – Twenty Years Later

An Interview with David McMillan, writer of WATCHING O.J. – a World Premiere at Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA – Opening October 3rd.

A double murder case, it unfolded like a Hollywood movie. It was October 3, 1995. Everybody remembers where they were on that day, when the verdict was announced. In the wide cross-section of L.A.’s diverse population, tensions ran high as people awaited, and watched.

Twenty years to the day, David McMillan’s new play returns to the scene with a passionate, multi-racial perspective on that crucial moment. As the play’s characters patronize their local cleaners and neighboring businesses, a volatile discussion about race and social class bubbles to the surface, one that is more relevant now than ever.

Playwright, David McMillan

Playwright, David McMillan

David McMillan is a Los Angeles playwright, screenwriter, and filmmaker. His writing credits include Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow,” the upcoming Fox show “Lucifer,” and a new pilot that he’s developing with producer Will Packer for NBC. David has received several awards for his work, including USC’s top prize for screenwriting.  Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA presents the World Premiere of “Watching O.J.” which is opening exactly 20 years to the day of the criminal trial verdict.

Hollywood Revealed: Why did the O.J. Simpson double murder trial have such a lasting impression on you?

David: As black teenager, growing up in Inglewood, I was fascinated by how people were watching the trial, through their own distinct racial, cultural, and historical lens. It wasn’t so much the events as it was everybody’s perception of the events. Even now, “the facts” of the case are often beside the point — what’s illuminating is how we look at those facts.

 Kareem Ferguson (as Jamal) and Robert Gossett (as Oz)

Kareem Ferguson (as Jamal) and Robert Gossett (as Oz)

Hollywood Revealed: Is your new play fictional or sort of a recap of your experience at the time?

David: The locale and characters are fictional, however they’re very much based on people I know, and some of my own experiences. I vividly remember the trial, the emotions it stirred, the conversations it provoked. So while it’s not “autobiographical,” the play is very much a creative snapshot of my memories of that time. That said, people who know me will say that they can see a few of my family members in some of the characters (glimpses of my mom and dad in particular). I won’t try to deny it — some influences you just can’t escape.

Hollywood Revealed: Will you talk about the process of getting this play started, and if it is a common way that you work.

Angela Bullock (as Cordia) and Lisa Renee Pitts (as Kim)

Angela Bullock (as Cordia) and Lisa Renee Pitts (as Kim)

David: Honestly, every project starts out differently. Sometimes it’s a character, sometime it’s a situation/set-up, and sometimes it’s an idea. For “Watching O.J.” it was really the idea that first inspired me. I liked the idea of using the O.J. trial as a dramatic backdrop/catalyst for exploring racial tensions in America. I didn’t have any of the characters at that point — I discovered those later (or maybe I should say, they discovered me). It’s a messy process — and to be honest, I wish it were less messy. I wish I could just come up with a premise, outline it from beginning to end, write it, and then voila — the play is finished. But I’ve come to learn that creativity, and writing a play in particular, is a lot more complicated than that. You write, you re-write, you get feedback, you re-think, and then you write and write and re-write some more. And eventually, if you’re lucky, the world gets to see it.

Hollywood Revealed: Exactly 20 years from the announcement of the criminal trial verdict, your play opens. Was that the plan from the start?

David: Wish I could say yes, but it’s really more like a confluence of happy accidents. The script was ready, and we were able to assemble an extraordinary cast that was available, and Keith Szarabajka, the director, was between television projects. So it worked out great, beyond what anyone could have hoped for.

Lisa Renee Pitts (as Kim), Angela Bullock (as Cordia), Tony Pasqualini (as Harold), and Kelly Wolf (as Sheila)

Lisa Renee Pitts (as Kim), Angela Bullock (as Cordia), Tony Pasqualini (as Harold), and Kelly Wolf (as Sheila)

Watching O.J. opens on Saturday, October 3rd and runs at 8pm Fridays and Saturdays, 2pm Sundays, through November 8, 2015. Post show talk backs are scheduled throughout the run with special guests. Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA is located in the Atwater Village Theatre complex 3269 Casitas Ave. LA, CA 90039. Tickets: $19.95 at 818-858-0440 or watchingoj.brownpapertickets.com  

The cast includes Lisa Renee Pitts (Straight Outta Compton – as Dre’s mom), Robert Gossett (Broadway Fences, A Raisin in the Sun, and The Last Minstrel Show. Currently in the TNT’s Major Crimes as Chief Taylor reprising the role he created in The Closer), Angela Bullock, Kareem Ferguson, Robert Gossett, Tony Pasqualini, Tarah Pollock, Eve Sigall, Roy Vongtama, and Kelly Wolf.

Photos by:Hope Burleigh

‘Pro99’ Actors’ Equity Members Send Open Letter to AEA President Kate Shindle

LOS ANGELES (Aug. 27, 2015)

Members of the “Pro99” movement of Actors’ Equity Association have issued an open letter to AEA’s newly elected president, Kate Shindle, in response to her victory and to her inaugural address as president of the national union for actors and stage managers.

The open letter is signed by over 400 Equity members (listed below), including such notable names as Ed Asner, Francis Fisher, Sally Kirkland and Alfred Molina.

AEA President Kate Shindle

AEA President Kate Shindle

The “Pro99” movement formed in late 2014 in opposition to AEA’s rollout of a new plan that will effectively force “intimate theaters” in Los Angeles to pay Equity actors minimum wage, go “non-union” or even close – despite an overwhelming vote against the plan by 66% of the Los Angeles membership on an advisory referendum. “Pro99” members around the nation, who take their name from the current AEA “99 Seat Plan” that allows members to volunteer in smaller venues, oppose AEA’s new promulgated plan. They are requesting that Equity leadership put a moratorium on the plan until local members’ voices can be heard, and that the union work with its members to develop an alternative plan that will more realistically address the needs of the Los Angeles theater community.

The Letter reads:

Dear President Shindle,

We, the undersigned members of AEA who support the Pro99 movement, both in the L.A. area and around the nation, congratulate you on your win, and wish you a successful term as President of our beloved union. We were satisfied that our passionate campaigning helped to elect you, and appreciated that during your campaign you came to Los Angeles to meet with us and express your interest in the 99- Seat debacle that has galvanized our Los Angeles Theatre Community.

In your “Inaugural Column” in the July/August 2015 edition of Equity News you wrote: “Everyone has a different definition of what’s cool; to me, the coolest thing Equity can do is to encourage its members to be passionate, vocal activists and ambassadors. Because that will not only make our industry more successful, it will also make our union stronger.”

We couldn’t agree more. We are also encouraged and grateful that you mention our cause in your column, especially since we do not feel we have always been fairly represented in Equity News and emails — that is, when we’ve been represented at all. Thank you for your willingness to both meet with us and publicly discuss what absolutely continues to be a crisis in our union. As you noted, we do have much to celebrate about intimate theatre in L.A. — almost thirty years of rich and creative work under the guidelines endorsed by our own union.

However, we’re concerned about your mention of a recent Fringe Festival production that was produced under the proposed “New 99-Seat Theatre Agreement.” Though you present it as something to perhaps celebrate, we wish to be clear that that Agreement is precisely what an overwhelming majority of local AEA members voted against in the advisory referendum (66%: a landslide). As you can imagine, LA members don’t consider this an event to celebrate. We think it is, in fact, the problem, and not the solution. Worse, we think the way the new agreement was promulgated by the union is even more problematic for the democratic process. We have found the actions and messaging of the leadership of our union troubling, and the fact that the leadership ignored the will of its own membership is deeply disturbing. Worst of all, we firmly believe this new plan will effectively destroy our vibrant theatrical community.

We love our union. We have, from the beginning, offered to work with Council and staff to find a solution that will not only address our concerns, but also make our union stronger and respectful of local members’ needs. We welcome turning a new page with your support and willingness to listen to us articulate the realities of our community in order to resolve this crisis.

In solidarity,
Members of AEA
#PRO99 movement

Photo by:Joe Marzullo

Actors Go Rogue For 2015 Nude Calender

Los Angeles, CA:  January 6, 2015

Trust the Rogue Machine Theatre in Los Angeles, producers of edgy, provocative plays such as Mike Bartlett’s award winning, “Cock” and the world premier of L.R. Gordon’s “Uploaded”Image 2 to come up with a sexy way to raise money for their up-coming 2015 season.   They’ve gone rogue and have just released a new calender featuring nude photos of cast members from Rogue Machine’s various productions.  And it isn’t just cheese and beefcake.  Testing the notion that brains and brawn sells, the Bard Laid Bare Calendar features notable death and battle scenes from Shakespeare’s greatest plays as portrayed by associates of this innovative theater company.

It seems most of the actors had no qualms about stripping for the camera.

“I’m not a huge fan of taking my clothes off for strangers. In fact, this is a first,” stated Justin Okin who portrays Brutus from Julius Caesar.  “I did this because Rogue Machine has shown me time and time

again that diving off the edgeImage 1 without knowing what is on the other side is truly the most ambitious and rewarding way to tell stories.”

And Burt Grinstead who recreated Hamlet for the photo shoot say he agreed to get naked because, in his words, “what better way to make it in Hollywood than to show a little skin.”

No doubt Grinstead isn’t the first to come up with that concept.

Proceeds from the sale of the calendar will go to support the Rogue Machine Theatre, primarily to purchase new light and sound equipment.

Participants of "The Bard Laid Bare" Calendar from Rogue Machine

Participants of “The Bard Laid Bare” Calendar from Rogue Machine

Considering the fine quality of Rogue Machine’s productions the selling price of $20.00 is more than a worthwhile investment.

You can order your copy of the Bard Laid Bare Calendar HERE or pick one up at the theater which is located at: 5041 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90019

Calendar Photos by: Jeff Lorch