Category Archives: Art

The Practical Theatre Company: Scenes from the Early Days on Howard Street

PTC 10

The front window of 703 Howard Street, painted by John Goodrich. Winter of 1980-81.

sc0000c1b2Practical Theatre member Reid Branson (AKA “Reedo”) sent me this cool stash of photos from the very first days and months on Howard Street in the winter of 1980-81 — when the 42-seat John Lennon Auditorium was under construction. Reid took the photos and his wife, Kathy Hahn, made the photochemical magic happen in the darkroom. That’s Reid in the photo above left — in character as Reedo Branson, the PTC’s street theatre candidate for President in 1980. Since we hadn’t built the theatre yet, all of us kids had to play in the street. (It’s the only photo in this post that I took.)

And now, here are the rare early JLA photos from Reid and Kathy…

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(L to R) Brad Hall, the author & Rush Pearson — with evidence of theatre construction and band rehearsal in the background. We got a lot of use out of 703 Howard Street even before the John Lennon Auditorium was finished.

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Rush Pearson (Left) and a guitar player whose name I don’t recall. (Sorry, sir!)  The stage has yet to be built — but there’s a stack of plywood against the wall. The Chicago Theatre Festival banner came by way of Rush, who had been a member of the Festival’s street theatre company.

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Looking toward Howard St., the author is in silhouette — and the seating framework is just starting to take shape. We did all the construction work ourselves, guided by the theatre’s designer, the late, great Louis DiCrescenzo. Work proceeded slowly for two reasons: none of us were great carpenters & we had to raise money in fits and starts to buy lumber and materials.

PTC 13

Another angle on the construction of the 42-seat auditorium. The author can be seen in the background wearing headphones (yes, they had them back then) — and you’ll note some sort of play-pen or crib on the floor in front of me. So, what’s in that crib?

PTC 6

It’s my infant daughter, Maura. She was born in July of 1980 (the same month that the storefront at 703 Howard Street was leased and dedicated) so she’s around 6 or 7 months at the time this photo was taken in the lobby of the unfinished JLA. Lucky for me, Maura was a patient, good-natured baby who seemed to thrive amid the creative chaos of those early PTC days.

PTC 2

Taped to the wall is the poster for “Thrills & Glory”, designed by cast member Gary Kroeger. “Thrills & Glory” (which also starred Reid Branson, Rush Pearson and yours truly) was the first show to be performed in the completed John Lennon Auditorium. We had to work like demons to get the theatre ready for the show’s opening on March 21, 1981. We never lacked for confidence.

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It looks as though the theatre seats (donated by nearby Wisdom Bridge Theatre and its director, Bob Falls) have been installed – though the stage and “the monolith” have yet to take shape. That looks like PTC member Al Leinonen at right. The little ceramic chap to his left, wrapped in odd garments is our mascot, Sri Abdul Aziz, whose unblinking eyes watched over the theatre.

PTC 11

Another angle on Al, looking toward the house and those 42 magical seats. Behind Al, Sri Abdul Aziz gazes at the auditorium in wonder. Atop Sri’s head is the hat I wore as Infra-Death in the 1980 Mee-Ow Show. I hope that Al isn’t holding an umbrella because the roof is leaking…

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PTC member Herb Metzler naps in the foreground, as Brad, the author and Rush work out a tune in the lobby of the theatre. It doesn’t appear as though the box office as been built yet. But, heck, we’re writing a show — and there will eventually be a finished theatre to perform it in!

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This appears to be a gathering of Sturdy Beggars, including (L to R) Rush, Jamie Baron, Danny Deuel, Herb, Jeff Semmerling (?), the author and Brad. Perhaps it’s an early “Thrills & Glory” preview, maybe a break in construction work — or just another opportunity to party.

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Casey Fox, Brad and Gary Kroeger — most likely at a “Thrills & Glory” rehearsal. Casey shot short comedy films for the show, Brad did his best to provide some direction — and Gary (the lone beardless cast member) played all the female roles. Ours was a very Elizabethan approach. Not.

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Portrait of the author as a young theatre builder. I loved that storefront. Still do.

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LeBron James Comes to Los Angeles: It’s Good vs. Evil.

Those who follow this blog know that I’m a Cleveland, Ohio boy, born and raised – and a LeBron James fan. Just as I was a Jim Brown fan in my boyhood days. What else can you possibly be when the greatest player in a particular pro sport plays for YOUR hometown team?

But unlike many in Northeast Ohio, I continued to be a LeBron fan even after he left town to pursue championship rings in Miami.

Then, like everyone in Cleveland, I rejoiced in King James’ homecoming – and the fact that he took the Cavaliers to four NBA finals appearances in a row. And, oh yeah, the glorious moment when he brought Cleveland it’s first pro sports championship since Jim Brown led the Browns to the NFL title in 1964.

So, when LeBron decided to take his talents to Los Angeles this summer, I did not waiver in my fandom.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I’ve lived in Los Angeles since 1990 – but that’s not the reason I’m still a loyal fan of The King.

charlie-hall-nathan-taphorn-0310In fact, the reasons that I approve of LeBron’s move to Los Angeles have been best expressed by the passionate words of a native of L.A., the son of a great friend of mine – and a wise young man who plays varsity basketball for my alma mater, Northwestern University.

Charlie Hall says it better than I could myself. (In bold italics below)

I am a LeBron James fan. I am a Cleveland Cavaliers fan. Despite being from Los Angeles, I have NEVER been a Los Angeles Lakers fan. That being said, this is bigger than me. There is a larger mission here. That mission is simple: restore good in the universe.

ct-northwestern-charlie-hall-tino-malnati-20170317In other words: Beat the Golden State Warriors. The 73-9, adding Kevin Durant, dancing, gaslighting, EVIL Golden State Warriors.

Perhaps shooting threes is more efficient than a hard drive into a contact layup. It’s worth more points and it takes less energy. I get it.

However, jacking up a three point shot from damn near half court and shimmying your way to your bench to high five Kevin Durant? That lacks heart. That lacks integrity. That lacks ANY of the qualities that are consistent with why we love basketball. The grit. The strength in the face of adversity. It’s all gone.

If we’re being honest with ourselves, the Warriors are going to win. Again and again. Forever. Or until a core member leaves or gets injured.

ts_lbj18Now, there is ONE other factor that can derail the Warriors. His name is Lebron James. The philanthropist, family man, forceful inside presence. The man that brought a championship to the city of Cleveland. The GOOD GUY.

He needs guys around him and didn’t have that in Cleveland. Let’s get one thing straight, he doesn’t have it in Los Angeles either. However, he CAN attract the talent. The talent needed to dethrone evil. Horrible, horrible evil. 

A part of me wishes LeBron stayed. The little kid from Akron, bringing championships to his hometown, with little to no help? It’s picturesque. It’s gorgeous.

But he’s 33 years old. His time is running out. The chances of him bringing more rings to Cleveland were zero. ZERO.

I’m not sure how much time we have left with this legend, the greatest ambassador the league has ever had — this role model for so many. But I do know one thing: His work isn’t done. We need him to give us one more unforgettable moment. One more.

That moment could’ve happened in Philly, Houston, Boston, San Antonio, anywhere. But now it has to happen in Los Angeles.

Draymond+Green+Golden+State+Warriors+v+Cleveland+GXzIHuIEVQklSo please Mr. James. Whatever you have left. Use it to dunk on Stephen Curry. Use it to defend Kevin Durant. Get Draymond a tech. Do what you have to do. But let’s be clear: You HAVE to do it. There is no other option.

Forever a Cavs fan.

Forever a LeBron fan.

And for the sake of all things good: A newfound Los Angeles Lakers fan. 

Charlie Hall

 

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Amid “Roseanne” Fallout, USA Cancels “Trump”

USA FINALLY SAYS, “YOU’RE FIRED!”

Following ABC’s swift decision to cancel its hit series “Roseanne” in the wake of a firestorm over racist Tweets by the show’s star, Roseanne Barr – USA moved quickly to stop production on “Trump”, the absurdist political tragi-comedy which launched to mixed reviews in the Fall of 2016.

roseanne-2018-tv-show-cast-episodes-wikiUnlike “Roseanne” — which drew 18.2 million viewers for its debut in March 2018 and established itself as ABC’s highest-rated and most watched new series of the 2017-18 season – “Trump” had suffered from historically poor ratings from the outset.

GettyImages-491877616.0.0Savaged by the critics, “Trump” relied on relatively strong numbers among its core demographics: poorly educated whites (ages 50-105), white evangelicals (ages 45-Rapture) and racists and xenophobes of all ages.

“Roseanne” was a re-boot of Ms. Barr’s popular blue-collar family sitcom, which ran from 1988 to 1997. “Trump” was the unlikely spinoff of “The Apprentice”, the NBC reality competition series in which Donald Trump played a business mogul who knew how to run a successful organization.

2-200Trump became famous for whittling down the contestants by firing one of them at the end of every episode. “You’re fired” became its host’s trademark line.

Now, ironically, “Tump” has been fired by USA.

Unlike the format of “The Apprentice”, which required its host to project an image of an executive endowed with high business acumen, core competency, wisdom and intelligence, “Trump” turned that model on its head. In “Trump”, Donald Trump’s petty, vulgar and narcissistic “President Trump” character lurched from one chaotic episode after another, displaying none of the admirable executive qualities he’d shown in NBC’s long-running reality series.

gettyimages-617806568Though Trump still fired one or more employees at the end of every episode, the “Trump” series format was confused and convoluted — made even more so by a drawn-out subplot in which Trump was investigated for various sinister activities ranging from money laundering and paying hush-money to porn stars and Playboy bunnies to conspiring with Russian agents to steal the 2016 election. Though these plot twists made headlines, they failed to lift his sagging ratings beyond his core demo of greedy sociopaths, hypocritical self-styled Evangelicals and angry, aggrieved white people.

Trumpy 2In a statement announcing the cancellation, USA noted that “’Trump’ was never a ratings winner, but we hoped that it would improve over time and widen its appeal to a larger, more inclusive audience. It failed to do so.” Left unspoken but resoundingly clear in USA’s statement was the fact that “Trump” attracted a negligible audience among blacks, Latinos, and other minorities – nor was it a hit with large majorities of women, educated whites and religious people with a moral conscience.

trump-cabinet-insiders-outsiders-millionaires-1480717606838-facebookJumbo-v2USA’s statement went on to say that, “Over its less than two-year run, “Trump” presented an increasingly skeptical public with a revolving cast of ever more bizarre characters and outrageous plot lines that defied credulity and provoked confusion and disgust among the wider audience we had hoped the series might someday attract.”

USA insiders say that the final nail in the “Trump” coffin may have been driven in by its titular star’s recent Tweet wishing Americans a “Happy Memorial Day!”

Said one USA executive who spoke on background, “That ham-handed, insulting Tweet represents the kind of lousy writing, poor editorial judgment, low character, and hostility toward American norms of decency, dignity and honesty that ultimately doomed “Trump”.

For some inexplicable reason, USA plans to run the remaining episodes of “Trump” until the mid-term elections in November 2018.

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Eva B in Concert at UCLA!

Dinkinesh-V2-WEBMy daughter Eva B. Ross will play a free concert at UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall on Thursday, May 3 at 8:00 PM.

TMIJ_LogoOpening for Eva on this impressive, eclectic bill are the acclaimed Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Ensemble and Superdevoiche, the UCLA Balkan Women’s Choir. All that great music – and it’s free!

Seating is limited. So RSVP here. RSVPs are priority up until 15 minutes before the show. Standby is on a first come, first seated basis. Early arrival is recommended.bulgaria2010bittel2

From the UCLA School of Music website:

“Song of Ourselves,” the Herb Alpert School of Music’s all-day musical celebration of diversity, concludes with a concert featuring Eva B. Ross, winner of the 2017 UCLA Spring Sing. We’re calling the concert “Dinkinesh,” which roughly translates to “You are marvelous.” (and you are!)

a8544b4dcb2f8d37ff0b1aa261f20d12Ross is an up-and-coming singer-songwriter who grew up in Los Angeles performing in her family’s garage band. As a freshman at UCLA, she formed her band, Eva B. Ross Foundation, and independently set out on a European tour in the summer of 2014.

In 2015, she released her first independent single “Nick’s House” and in 2017, she won UCLA’s Spring Sing at Pauley Pavilion with her original composition, “Chicago.” She is currently working on her debut EP, which will be co-produced by Grammy-winning producer Justin Niebank and Emmy-winning producer, Steve Rashid.

Schoenberg Hall is located at Charles E Young Drive East 445, Los Angeles, California. Parking for Schoenberg Hall is in UCLA Parking Structure 2. Find maps and parking rates here.

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The Times They Are A Changin’…

Scenes from the March For Our Lives in Los Angeles, to the tune of Bob Dylan’s classic protest song: as relevant today as it was when it was released on January 13, 1964.

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown…IMG_6418And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone…IMG_6419
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.IMG_6423Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again…IMG_6425
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin…IMG_6428
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.IMG_6429Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall…IMG_6430
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
For the battle outside ragin’…IMG_6434
Will soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.IMG_6438Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand…IMG_6439
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command….

Your old road is
Rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.IMG_6443The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slowest one now
Will later be fast…IMG_6446
As the present now
Will later be past…IMG_6447
The order is
Rapidly fadin’…IMG_6451
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.IMG_6453

 

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A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall…

R-2057737-1261406197.jpegWe modern, sophisticated, educated folk tend to dismiss the idea of prophets: people who can see the future and comment on what’s coming.

But give a listen to this song by Bob Dylan – who was just 22-years old when “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” was released on May 27, 1963 — on the album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.

Freewheelin’? Not on this song.

Bob Dylan may well be the greatest poet writing in the English language since Shakespeare. Listen to his song – and read the lyrics. I will say no more.

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son
And where have you been, my darling young one
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son
And what did you see, my darling young one
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder that roared out a warnin’
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded with hatred
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

And what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
And what’ll you do now, my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
And the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

Recall these lines – and think about them. This was a young man, barely an adult in the early 1960’s, and he saw – and sang about – these images…

I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans

I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children

Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’

Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’

I met a white man who walked a black dog

I met a young woman whose body was burning

Where the people are many and their hands are all empty

Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters

Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison

Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten

Where black is the color, where none is the number

How could such a young man see the future (and his present) so clearly?

Now, tell me there’s no such thing as prophecy…

 

 

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Parkland, Revolution & Gun Control

2a-678x381Okay, so I’m confused. Let’s review…

The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads…

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”2ndAmendment

As a student of English, I appreciate the specificity of the language – and the importance of punctuation. You can’t separate a parenthetical clause from the body of a sentence and reinterpret the meaning of the sentence to suit your ideology.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

gun_lawsThe Framers — our esteemed Founding Fathers – were clearly concerned (fresh from a Revolutionary War against Britain) that we have a well-drilled local militia ready to take the field and battle against foreign aggressors. Citizen soldiers (the famous Minutemen) were therefore, armed, drilled, and prepared to face foreign armies.

But foreign invasion is simply NOT a concern today. (Unless it’s a Russian-style cyber invasion.)

banner.revSo, why do we Americans allow civilians to own military-style semi-automatic weapons? (Automatic — if you factor in bump-stocks.) Are the NRA-loving folks armed with such high-powered weapons members of a “well regulated Militia?”

I think NOT.

2nd-amendment-gun-rifle-right-to-bear-arms-pro-gun-t-shirtsSo, given that Our Founders were Englishmen (or, at least, descendants of English speakers) versed in the King’s English, they could not have envisioned the situation we confront today: untold thousands of high-powered weapons in the hands of paranoid people who aren’t members of a “well regulated Militia.”

Sorry, Wayne LaPierre, I call your bullshit. And so do the student survivors of the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Like Australia – and all the other civilized countries in the world, we cannot accept mass shootings in our schools — or Country Music concerts — or anywhere else.color-Sec-amend-NRA

It’s time for effective gun control!

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