“Arrow” Star Paul Blackthorne and Composer Orpheo McCord To Swim With Sharks For “Ocean Conservancy”

Los Angeles: September 25, 2017

Paul Blackthorne, who stars as Captain Quentin Lance in the hit television series “Arrow” (CW Television Network), and Orpheo McCord, composer/musician for the Grammy award winning group Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (“Home”), will take the plunge into shark infested waters for Golden Gate Sharkfest® Swim on September 30 to raise money and awareness for “Ocean Conservancy” www.oceanconservancy.org.

L-R Paul Blackthorne and Orpheo McCord

Blackthorne and McCord, along with Australian photographer Mister Basquali (co-star and co-producer of Blackthorne’s travel documentary “This American Journey”) and other brave souls, will be swimming 1.6 miles from the south side of the Golden Gate Bridge to the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge, known for sharks and deep, cold waters.

A 45-year-old nonprofit environmental advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., Ocean Conservancy is one of the few organizations that helps protect wildlife in the ocean with science-based solutions.

In the last few years Blackthorne has raised money and awareness for a variety of worthy causes including “Air Shepherd” (anti-poaching drones) and “Save the Rhino International” with his “Poach eggs Not Elephants” and “Keep Rhinos Horny” T-shirt campaigns.  Last year Blackthorne travelled to Vietnam with “Save the Rhino” and made a film about the experience, raising money and awareness for the anti-poaching cause (90% of Rhino horn ends up there).

It all began with a call from Basquali who invited Blackthorne to participate in the Golden Gate Sharkfest® Swim. “I’m terrified of sharks and deep ocean waters.  Always have been, always will be, so naturally I initially refused, “Blackthorne comments.  “But after confronting with my initial fears, I agreed to participate as I felt I could be helpful in raising awareness for shark preservation and ocean wildlife protection, which is an important cause.”

The launch of Blackthorne and McCord’s #NoFinToFear T-shirt campaign is key to encouraging others to also become a voice for the ocean by buying at T-shirt in support of their friends at “Ocean Conservancy”.  100% of the proceeds from the sale of this collection go to support Ocean Conservancy.

To purchase go to: https://represent.com/paulblackthorne

About Ocean Conservancy

For 45 years Ocean Conservancy has been working to protect the oceans from some of the greatest global challenges.  They have made incredible progress to safeguard America’s fisheries, combat ocean acidification and restore the Gulf of Mexico with the best available science. The have spearheaded efforts to designate and strengthen marine sanctuaries, protected sea turtle habitats and grown the largest marine volunteer effort in the world through their International Coastal Cleanup.

Their vision for the ocean is a clean, healthy and thriving ecosystem for wildlife and communities that depend on it.

Ocean Conservancy is working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together with their partners, they create science-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit www.oceanconservancy.org.

photo.l.a. Celebrates 26th Season at Historic LA Mart Building Downtown

Los Angeles, CA – January 5, 2017

The international photographic art exposition, photo l.a. will take place at The Reef, located in the historic LA Mart building in Downtown Los Angeles, January 12-15, 2017. The 2017 photo l.a. exhibition will launch with the annual Opening Benefit Gala on Thursday, January 12, from 7-10 p.m., honoring the luminous and pioneering career of Weston Naef, founding curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum and author of numerous books on the history and art of photography.

Norman Seeff Photos
John Belushi, 1981, Los Angeles, 16 x 20, Vintage silver gelatin JPEG

For 26 years, photo l.a.—the longest-running art fair in Los Angeles—has engaged the global arts community, bringing together more than 10,000 attendees each year from ardent enthusiasts to serious collectors. What started in 1991 as a casual meet-up for artists, galleries and collectors organized by art dealer Stephen Cohen of Stephen Cohen Gallery, has transformed into an unparalleled global showcase of photographic art, which ranges from 19th-century masterpieces to contemporary, cutting-edge photography-based work.

This year’s exposition aligns with Month of Photography Los Angeles (MOPLA), which has moved from April to January to reflect the fair’s importance in making the city of Los Angeles an international photography destination. photo l.a. 2017 has teamed up with the Lucie Foundation to present 11 days of featured photographic programming, called Converge. For the first four days of this initiative, photo l.a. 2017 will offer dozens of programs, lectures and seminars including an activation with skateboarding legend Arto Sarri and panel discussions on subjects such as Snapchat as a form of photographic art and the synergies between fashion and photography.

©Grey Villet
Richard and Mildred Loving on their couch, King and Queen County, Virginia, 1965

Among the many other highlights of this year’s photo l.a. are two curated installations by Monroe Gallery of Photography. The first showcases LIFE magazine photographer Grey Villet’s intimate images of interracial couple Richard and Mildred Loving, whose marriage in segregated Virginia in the 1960s is chronicled in Jeff Nichols’ newly-released feature film, Loving. The other, Tony Vaccaro: War, Peace, Beauty, exhibits work of the Pulitzer-Prize winning war photographer, exploring combat photography and its impact on public perception of war on the home front. Vaccaro’s fascinating life story is also the subject of a recent and well-received documentary.

“Our mission is to continue engaging and supporting the international community, which shares our passion for photography, while cultivating new audiences through distinctive programming across creative disciplines,” says photo l.a. director Claudia James Bartlett. “We are proud to now have over 80 exhibitors, who foster an ongoing dialogue about the changing landscape of photography and its important role in the art world at large.”

©Tony Vaccaro
Georgia O’Keeffe, Taos Pueblo, NM, 1960

The work of award-winning Canadian-born artist Penelope Umbrico will also be featured in a contemporary installation that combines photographic prints with various elements—repurposed plexiglass sourced from recycling centers, frame shops or the streets of Los Angeles; plastic lenses from deconstructed LCD screens and televisions; house paint, cardboard boxes. By presenting these abstract by-products as formal compositions, the artist presents a new twist on technology with their own visionary aesthetic evocative of abstract Modernism.

Tickets for the Opening Gala on Thursday, January 12, from 7-10 p.m. are $80 in advance or $100 at the door. Proceeds benefit the Lucie Foundation and John Wayne Cancer Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing courage, strength and grit to the fight against cancer. Funding novel and innovative programs that improve cancer patients’ outcomes, the cause saves lives through pioneering research, education, awareness and support.

General admission to photo l.a. is $20 in advance; $25 at the door. A three-day pass is available for $30 online or $40 at the door. Seniors and students receive a $5 discount. Programs are ticketed separately. A limited number of all-access passes, which include admission to the Opening Gala, the three-day photo l.a. exposition and all of its programs are available for advance purchase at $450. The exposition is open on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m.-6 a.m. Tickets can be purchased online at: www.photola.com.

The 2017 photo l.a. exposition, Gala and programs will take place on the second floor of The Reef, located in the historic LA Mart building at 1933 S. Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. The Reef Mart offers affordable onsite parking and is also accessible by Metro.

For more information, visit: www.photola.com.

For the complete list of programming, visit www.photola.com/programs.php

Follow photo l.a.: #photola

All Photographs Courtesy of Monroe Gallery of Photography

2017 Golden Globe Nominations Announced

Hollywood, CA: December 13, 2016

The 2017 Golden Globe nominations were announced yesterday in Beverly Hills.

Actor Don Cheadle, Laura Dern, and Anna Kendrick were joined by the Miss Golden Globe trio — Sophia, Sistine, and Scarlet Stallone as well as Hollywood Foreign Press Association President Lorenzo Soria, and Barry Adelman in revealing the nominees.

The Golden Globes are presented by the HFPA, which consists of journalists who cover American film and television for international outlets. The membership requirements however are not tough. Members are only required to publish four articles per year in almost any publication, meaning that many of the members are not full-time journalists who work for big-name outlets. In fact it has been said that legitimate journalists from major international publications are often denied HFPA membership.

It would seem it’s who you know, not what you know.

Many in Hollywoodlala-land consider the Golden Globes a second-class trophy compared to the Oscars and the Emmys, so why does Hollywood continue to support the ceremony? Because the public doesn’t know the difference and the telecast is a fun, alcohol fueled party with great gift bags for nominees and presenters.

And… as the old saying goes, any publicity is good publicity.

This year the nominations seem to be on track with what’s popular in the mainstream. La La Land, the fresh musical starring,Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone leads with seven.

The well deserved acclaim for the Matt Damon produced, Manchester By The Sea with powerful performances from Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges is also growing and both these films will surely get Oscar nods.

Lion is another heart-tugging film that is gathering traction and is worthy of it’s nomination. The HFPA got these right.

The somewhat overrated Arrival is a surprise on the list, butManchesterbytheSea_Trailer we are happy to see Annett Bening recognized for her honest and believable work in 20th Century Women.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon’s fine work in Nocturnal Animals was overlooked by the HFPA but hopefully the SAG and Academy Awards will rectify that.

There are rumblings that Fences did not get a best picture nod. While the performances in the film are exceptional, it feels much like an over the top play that is more suited to the stage, the medium for which it was conceived.

Sully, a basically well made TV movie was left out of the mix, leaving Tom Hanks and Clint Eastwood batting zero for the time being. Truthfully, there are many other deserving potential nominees who join Hanks and Eastwood on the sidelines.

In the foreign kills-on-wheels-posterfilm category, the strong Hungarian film, Kills On Wheels was sadly bypassed, perhaps because Son of Saul, also from Hungary, swept last year. This is a unfortunate because Kills On Wheels is a well made, action-packed film with heart and deserves to be seen.

Here’s a full list of nominees for the Golden Globes.

Winners will be announced in a live telecast on January 8, 2017, starting at 5pm PST.

 

 

Best motion picture, drama:
Hell or High Water
Hacksaw Ridge
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

Best motion picture, musical or comedy:

20th Century Women
Deadpool
Florence Foster Jenkins
La La Land
Sing Street

Best TV series, drama:

Netflix‘s The Crown
HBO’s Game of Thrones
Netflix’s Stranger Things
NBC’s This Is Us
HBO’s Westworld

Best TV series, comedy:

FX’s Atlanta
ABC’s Black-ish
Amazon‘s Mozart in the Jungle
Amazon’s Transparent
HBO’s Veep

Best TV movie or limited series:
ABC’s American Crime
Starz’s The Dress
AMC‘s The Night Manager
HBO’s The Night Of
FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

Best actor in a motion picture, drama:

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Joel Edgerton, Loving
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

Best actress in a motion picture, drama:
Amy Adams, Arrival
Jessica Chastain, Miss Sloane
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie

Best actor in a motion picture, musical or comedy:

Colin Farrell, The Lobster
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins
Jonah Hill, War Dogs
Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool

Best actress in a motion picture, musical or comedy:

Annette Bening, 20th Century Women
Lily Collins, Rules Don’t Apply
Hailee Steinfeld, The Edge of Seventeen
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Best supporting actor in a motion picture:
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Simon Helberg, Florence Foster Jenkins
Dev Patel, Lion
Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nocturnal Animals

Best supporting actress in a motion picture:

Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Skylight Theatre Company’s Board of Directors present “Salute 2016”

Los Angeles, Ca – SHARON LAWRENCE (Rizzoli & Isles) and BARRETT FOA (NCIS: Los Angeles) lead the list of celebrities who join event hosts FRENCH STEWART (3rd Rock from the Sun, Mom) & VANESSA CLAIRE STEWARD (Louis & Keely Live at the Sahara) as Skylight Theatre’s Board of Directors celebrates the artistic achievements of GARY GROSSMAN and the Skylight Theatre Company for this year’s annual Skylight French & Vanessa names from internetSalute being held December 4th at the Colony Theatre in Burbank.

Over the past three decades, from Camelot Artists Productions to Katselas Theatre Company and in 2013 becoming Skylight Theatre Company, the one constant thread has been Gary Grossman. First as a producer and eventually becoming its Artistic Director in 2008, Skylight and Gary have become synonymous with nurturing artists, producing live theatre in Los Angeles and developing new work.

Over 2500 different artists have graced Skylight’s stages including 204 Los Angeles based writers. Skylight and Grossman have helped to craft, develop, workshop and mount a large body of original works, generating 166 readings, 157 workshops, and 69 world premiere productions.

Works developed under Skylight’s auspices have gone on to garner awards and accolades for their playwrights, around the world. Sigrid Gilmer, a member of Skylight’s resident writers’ PlayLAb received the coveted 2014 USA Artists Ford Fellowship and PinkLemaireCraginColemanJames_edited-1$50,000, while Nathan Allan Davis’ play “Dontrell, Who Kissed The Sea” received the prestigious Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association 2015 New Play Citation. The Humanitas PlayLA workshop, launched in 2015 with support from the Center Theatre Group, has selected Skylight resident writers to fill five out of the ten available positions from over 200 candidate submissions. Louisa Hill, another of Skylight’s resident writers, won Third Place in the inaugural year of the associated Humanitas PlayLA Playwriting Prize.

Through Grossman’s leadership, Skylight’s plays have made their way across the United States to New York, Chicago, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Denver, and San Francisco, while internationally they have been performed in Paris and Edinburgh, with additional productions scheduled for Australia, Canada and Greece.

Skylight has been a community leader, providing artistic opportunities for at-riskTM_2A022 teens and helping to feed the hungry. In the last three years, 1250 teens in Los Angeles detention centers and high schools have experienced Lyric Project writing workshops. Supported through partnerships with ASCAP Foundation, the City of Los Angeles, and Boeing’s Employee Community Fund, 45 of the young lyricists have been mentored and teamed with professional songwriters to create new songs that are performed in a unique and fully realized musical event for the stage. Since 2012, Skylight artists have been putting Art Into Action, donating their time and talent to help feed LA’s hungry on Thanksgiving Day; since the program began over 1200 hungry people have been fed in the Downtown and MacArthur Park areas.

Gary Grossman’s unselfish efforts for the Los Angeles theatre community were recognized at the 2016 Stage Raw Theatre Awards with a Lifetime Achievement Award. He continues to be an adSandersAnassiCASTvocate for the Los Angeles theatre community leading interactions with Actors Equity Association and LA Theatre Producers for a workable agreement between the actors union and Los Angeles producers.

Eileen Barnett, Gigi Bermingham, Dale Kristien, Marcelo Tubert, and Denise Woods, will be performing along with additional surprise guests. Directed by David Galligan, Choreography by Lee Martino, Musical Direction by Michael Sobi, and hosted by French Stewart & Vanessa Claire Stewart.

David Galligan has directed all the S.T.A.G.E benefit shows in LA since 1984 and began directing for Grossman and Skylight back in 1985 with a celebrated production of Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti.

French Stewart is perhaps best known for his roles in the television series Mom and 3rd Rock From the Sun. He is a member of Sacred Fools Theater Company, playing the title role in their 2012 hit production of “Stoneface: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Buster Keaton” which moved to the Pasadena Playhouse.PRISON BOXING Leah Joki Group-102

Vanessa Claire Stewart is recognized as a quadruple threat – singer, actress, director and writer. She is most often recognized for her performance as Keely Smith in Louis and Keely Live at the Sahara (Los Angeles, Chicago) that she co-wrote with Taylor Hackford and Jake Broder, but she has also opened the Newport Jazz Festival as a vocalist, and penned and then directed the wildly successful “Stoneface: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Buster Keaton,” which starred her husband French Stewart.

SALUTE kicks off at 6pm with a VIP dinner and 7:30pm for the stage show on Sunday, December 4, 2016. The Colony Theatre is located at 555 N. 3rd Street, Burbank CA. 91502. Tickets range from $150 – $425. Proceeds benefit Skylight’s Artistic Development Programs. Dinner reservations and show only tickets can be purchased online at http://skylighttix.com with more information at 213-761-7061. All performers are subject to availability.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ktcla and Twitter: @SkylightThtr

Glass House Distribution – Generating Buzz at the American Film Market

November 2, 2016

GLASS HOUSE DISTRIBUTION, a new sales company has been generating buzz at the 2016 AMERICAN FILM MARKET for one important reason. They deliver to both filmmakers and buyers exactly what they advertise. A straight-forward approach, transparency, fairness, and hard work on the films they are selling.

The companyIMG_3374 was created as a partnership between well known indie film producer/actor/writer (and author of the book BANKROLL, the gold standard book on film financing), TOM MALLOY, and BRYAN GLASS, a wall street broker-dealer with a keen eye and a strong interest in films.

“When I was approached by Bryan to start this company, I stated my goal was to not do what distribution companies had been doing to me as a filmmaker for years,” says Malloy. “Glass House has producer-friendly contracts, numbers we have to hit, or rights revert back to the filmmaker, pic5and transparent spending. The name Glass House was taken from Bryan’s surname, but it ended up serving another purpose. You can look inside and see everything that’s going on.”

The company was launched at last year’s AFM, Malloy’s eleventh consecutive market, but the first time he was an exhibitor. He brought in MICHELLE ALEXANDRIA, formerly in acquisitions for several companies, and the pair hit the ground running.

“Our approach positions Glass House to become to be the number one trusted and transparent “go-to” distribution company of choice for the independent film community,” states Bryan Glass. “If last year is any indication, 2016 will be ever strongerIMG_3388 for us.

“Glass House has recently added film producer, ROBERT DEEGE, to the company’s roster. With credits that include Soul Surfer and the Emily Dickinson biopic, A Quiet Passion, Deege’s expertise is an important asset for Glass House.

“What attracted me to Glass House is the immediate focus on well-crafted movies,” says Deege. “I’m excited to help develop the company’s reputation for quality.”

Glass House brings several high profile indies to this year’s AFM. Stand is an intense thriller that stars LUKE ALBRIGHT. Turnabout, another thriller that isIMG_3372 racking up festivals and acclaim with PETER GREENE, and the award-winning, Warren, starring ALEX BEH, JEAN SMART and JOHN HEARD, a dramedy that RogerEbert.com says “recalls the Graduate.”

With so much in play, Glass House Distribution is sure to climb the ranks of the top sales and distribution companies who are offering their films to the world market.

 

“All About The Afterglow” Announced As Next Feature for Jonny Walls and David Foy Bauer

Los Angeles: October 23, 2016

Writer/Director JONNY WALLS and Producer/Actor DAVID FOY BAUER have teamed up on an up-coming independent feature film, entitled “ALL ABOUT THE AFTERGLOW.” The film deals with two soon-to-be stepbrothers as they road trip up the California Coastline to their parent’s wedding. Along the way they encounterIndigogVideo_02.00_04_27_03.Still004 eccentric characters and various roadblocks that cause them to rethink the trip, their parent’s union as well as their own lives.

Afterglow will be Walls and Bauer’s second collaboration after working on Cineline Production’s 2015 comedy feature, “Couch Survivor.” That film has been picked up for world-wide release by Glass House Distribution.

Joining Walls again as Director of Photography will be IndigogVideo_02.00_04_52_15.Still005MARK FARNEY, another “Couch Survivor” alumni. Other cast announcements include NATHAN CHAMPION, MELISSA LAWLOR, NICCO ANNAN, SIGFRIED TIEBER and ANGIE LISTER.

“All About the Afterglow” begins shooting October 30, 2016 in Los Angeles and San Francisco, CA.

Center Theatre Group Mourns The Loss of Founding Director, Gordon Davidson

October 3, 2016

Center Theatre Group Founding Artistic Director, Gordon Davidson, passed away Sunday, October 2, 2016.

“Gordon Davidson was one of the most renowned and respected artistic directors in regional theatre, in large part because he was one of the original founders of the entire concept,” said Center Theatre Group Artistic Director, Michael Ritchie. “He led Center Theatre Group for 38 years and produced one of the broadest arrays of plays, particularly new plays, of any theatre in the country.

Gordon Davidson. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Gordon Davidson. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Without his prolific vision for Center Theatre Group 50 years ago, the theatrical landscape in Los Angeles, and the country, would be very different. He remains one of theatre’s great leaders and I was proud to call him a mentor, friend, and colleague.”

From 1967 to 2005 Gordon Davidson was the Artistic Director of Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum at the Music Center of Los Angeles. In addition to his role at the Taper, Davidson was the Producing Director of the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre for 15 years, and the Artistic Director of the inaugural season (2004-2005) at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. In addition to redefining theatre in Southern California, he was one of the founders of the regional theatre movement and had a permanent impact on theatre throughout the country and the world.

Gordon guided hundreds of productions to the Taper stage while overseeing numerous special projects sponsored by the Taper. This work and his direction of many of the Taper plays were acclaimed both in Los Angeles and New York, garnering the Taper a Tony Award for theatrical excellence in 1977.

Plans for a memorial event will be announced in the coming days.

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

 

 

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