Category Archives: rock & roll

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…

PTC 17

(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.

PTC 15

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.

PTC 12

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.

PTC 9

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…

PTC 7

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!

PTC 8

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.

PTC 1

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.

PTC 3

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

12 Comments

Filed under Art, Beauty, History, Improvisation, rock & roll, Uncategorized

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…

 

 

10 Comments

Filed under Art, Beauty, History, Music, Politics, rock & roll, Uncategorized

My PyeongChang Diary (Part 7)

Those who know me know that I like meat. I’m an unrepentant carnivore.

26So, naturally, I have spent much of the scant recreational time I have during the Olympic Games in search of the best Korean barbeque available in the PyeongChang area.

Living in Los Angeles, I’m acquainted with the tradition of Korean barbeque – but I figured that, being in the motherland, I could treat myself to the very best. My first two attempts at local Korean BBQ dining were good – but neither was a meat-eater’s home run.

1aAnd then, last night, I found — and enjoyed — Korean BBQ heaven.

Our cameraman Corey found the place. It was a 20-minute cab ride from our Phoenix Park hotel – but we were hungry for adventure (and barbequed beef) so we were down for the excursion.

What follows is a pictorial progression through a beef lover’s Korean BBQ pilgrimage. Vegan’s need not apply…

2a

This is the downstairs dining area. You’ll note that there are only Koreans here at this point in the evening. That is absolutely a good sign. We’ve come to the right place.

5This night was Korean Lunar New Year. And the South Koreans were enjoying one of their biggest annual holidays. (See Vietnam’s Tet.) Does the Tet Offensive ring a bell?

We didn’t realize it when we set out, but the restaurant would get very, very busy — and we would have to wait a while to be seated, unlike these folks who shared a special Asian room, with no chairs.

(No shoes, please.)

After dinner, we’d be unable to get a cab ride home because of the busy holiday, but that’s another matter.

The whole evening took 5 hours. But, all in all, it was well worth it!

2

The first step in traditional Korean Barbecue is to visit the butcher and buy your cuts of meat.

8

This woman knows her meat. She explained that the steer we’d be eating was raised organically, with no hormones, grass fed — and A #1. She was not bullshitting.

We bought our beef BEFORE we cooked it. That’s the way it goes. You buy your meat first, then you get seated — and your drinks and everything else are billed later. Meat is Job #1.

With cameraman Corey in the lead, we hauled out cuts of beef to the upstairs dining room after a 20-minute wait. We were famished — but we anticipated beefy, tasty, spicy joy in our near future.

11

The upstairs dining room. It’s getting busy. The meat is about to get cooking…

12

Unlike our cold, steel and glass hotel in Phoenix Park, this Korean BBQ place features warm wood and delightful crystal chandeliers — which we would later learn are from the United States!

13

Seated across the table from me are my AP, Agatha, and my EP, David. We’re all hungry.

15

First come the condiments: onions, garlic, chili paste, peppers, sea salt & other culinary joys.

16

Next, they fire up the tabletop grill. The main meat-lovers event is about to go down…

24a

As the meat grills, you combine ingredients into your bowl — in my case, chili paste, peppers, onions and garlic — so you can plunge your beef bits deep into this spicy heaven.

Next, Corey pulls down the exhaust fan. Otherwise, we’ll all be asphyxiated….

17

Our waiter provides some assistance. Everyone is helpful. They all want us to have a great time.

20

As our first beef course sears on the grill, our crew poses for a pre-meal photo. We’ve all been working hard — and we’re eager for a great meal. Luckily, David & Corey are Korean BBQ experts.

Corey took over as grillmaster. For those of you who know me from Greek Easter — you can appreciate how much I respect Corey’s Korean BBQ chops!

23

Each cut of beef was better than the next — and the last course was the best of all…

Corey was far too modest. His grilling of that last fabulous cut of beef was superb. But our meal was not yet complete. Corey had another great idea…

28

At Corey’s suggestion we ordered this. Somehow, all of this tasty goodness boiled down into an incredible, sweet beef and veggie soup.

27

And finally, here’s our host. Jean went to college and spent a lot of time in Los Angeles (as have a lot of educated South Koreans we’re met). She returned to South Korea a year ago  and started running this restaurant — recognized on Trip Advisor as the best in PyeongChang.

I’m awarding her an Winter Olympic Gold Medal for the Best Korean BBQ.

All hail, Jean!

9 Comments

Filed under Adventure, Random Commentary, rock & roll, Travel, Truth

Just Two Months until the Big New Year’s Party Bubbles Up!

Poster 2017 NYE #6Tickets are now on sale for The Practical Theatre Company and Studio5’s holiday comedy and music revue, Mr. Olsen’s Champagne Celebration.

Last year’s show was sold out — so, don’t delay, comedy lovers! Reserve your seats now for an evening of grown-up comedy, adult beverages, live music, dynamite dancers, the bubbly — and a bubble machine.

Join us as we ring in the New Year once again at Studio5 in Evanston, Illinois just north of Chicago.

Mr. Olsen’s Champagne Celebration is a musical comedy revue lovingly and hilariously styled after The Lawrence Welk Show, filled with laughter, satire and song — featuring veteran improvisational comedy writer-performers Victoria Zielinski, Paul Barrosse and Dana Olsen.

CastJoining the cast are the PTC’s musical director, Steve Rashid, songbird Eva B. Ross, cabaret chanteuse Shelly Goldstein, stand-up comedienne Emilia Barrosse, Giggle Break’s own Daniel Rashid and percussionist Robert Rashid.

The music will be better than ever — and that’s saying a lot! Steve Rashid leads the Studio5 All-Star Band, including Rockin’ Ronny Crawford on drums, Don Stille on accordion, bassist Joe Policastro and Don Stiernberg on every stringed instrument a man can play.

All this — and The Mr. Olsen Dancers!

There are just three shows in this limited engagement: Friday December 29, Saturday December 30 and Sunday December 31. Tickets are on sale now here!

https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3105065

The New Year’s Eve show will be followed by a rocking, swinging party! Enjoy live music and dancing, as we invite you all to toast the New Year with the cast! (And enjoy tasty food, too!)

Studio5 is Evanston’s hippest, most intimate performing arts venue, with comfortable seats, great sight lines, state of the art sound and lights, and lots of free parking.

There will be a cash bar for all three shows. Doors open for cocktails at 7:30.

See you there!

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Comedy, Improvisation, Music, rock & roll, Uncategorized

Eva B. Ross @ The Hotel Café

My sweet-singing, songwriting daughter, Eva B. Ross, will be playing a set of her newest and grooviest tunes at The Hotel Café on November 4th at 10:00 pm. Doors open at 9:30 PM.

Vic and I will be waiting at the bar to toast your entrance.

Eva has been woodshedding this summer, crafting a brand new batch of songs – and she’ll be presenting many of them at this gig, backed by her stalwart lead guitarist David Miller and keyboardist Grant Milliken, both fellow UCLA grads and musical prodigies.

Eva is appearing at the Hotel Café to help celebrate the birthday of another UCLA musical friend, Ryan Nealon – whose band will take the stage after Eva at 11:00 pm.

Ryan is a kick-ass R & B singer – and this will be a party that kicks off the holiday 2017 season with a solid dose of dance-inducing soul.

Tickets are on sale here.

Only fans of good music that are 21-years old and more will be admitted. Pre-sales close on November 4th at 6:00 PM.

unnamed-2When you purchase your tickets – please indicate the artist you’d like to support. (That would be Eva.)

The Hotel Café is located at 1623 Cahuenga Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028 United States

In this crazy year filled with nasty weather, insane politics and the passings of Glen Campbell and Tom Petty — it’s a good time to enjoy some wonderful songs played and sung very, very well.

1 Comment

Filed under Art, Beauty, Music, rock & roll, Uncategorized

Ms. Maura’s Octoberfest!

As many of you already know, my daughter Maura is a singer of great soulful, bluesy and funky power. She’s been gigging throughout the year with Vaud & The Villains – but she’s back for the spooky holidays with her own band: Ms. Maura & The Misters.

unnamedOn Saturday, October 28th, Mr. Maura & The Misters will kick off the pre-Halloween weekend with an exclusive costume party at quirky Kulak’s Woodshed in North Hollywood.

Ms. Maura suggests that you get your dance on at this all-ages shindig — featuring the sweet sounds of Karlina Covington and the rockin’ rhythms of Ms. Maura and her very groovy band.

8:00 PM – Karlina Covington
9:00 PM – Ms. Maura & The Misters

Space at Kulak’s is limited, so get your tickets today at: https://swingingshindigs.yapsody.com/event/index/158021/masquerade-madness

Ms. Maura would also like you to know that Kulak’s is a booze-free listening room. But there are plenty of nearby establishments where you can get a drink or two before and/or after the show.

See you all there!

2 Comments

Filed under Art, Beauty, Music, rock & roll, Uncategorized

Big Holiday Fun in Chicago (Evanston) is just 3 Months Away…

Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 11.32.49 PMDocument3 jpegAnyone who attended last year’s sold-out production of “Mr. Olsen’s Holiday Party”, produced by The Practical Theatre Company at Studio5 in Evanston, won’t want to miss “Mr. Olsen’s Champagne Celebration”.

VPD New 2“Mr. Olsen’s Champagne Celebration” is a brand new show – with lots of new songs, sketches, and some classic PTC material that hasn’t been seen in Chicago for years. Plus, the band is bigger and better than ever!

Those folks who weren’t able to get a ticket for last year’s show will be happy to know that, this year, there are three performances rather than two. Tickets will go on sale soon. Watch this space.

2017 has been a crazy year. Damn crazy.

“Mr. Olsen’s Champagne Celebration” is the best way to kiss 2017 goodbye!

 

1 Comment

Filed under Art, Comedy, Improvisation, Music, rock & roll