Tag Archives: Los Angeles Theatre

THE BLIZZARD in Hurricane Season

8 Jul

I’ve been in rehearsals for a one-act festival since the middle of June at The Eclectic Company Theatre in North Hollywood. It’s the same company that I do the 24 Hour Theatre with on New Year’s Eve. Every summer they do a one-act festival called Hurricane Season and this year is the 10th Anniversary and my second time participating in the festival. Two years ago I was in play called “Out Of Order” and played an angel who was more goth than white robes (see picture below). It was a lot of fun and am so excited to be in the festival again. This year they are doing something a little different, instead of each block of plays performing one weekend, each block will perform two weekends which we are all super excited about! There are three plays in each block and three blocks of plays. So if everyone can do math that makes nine plays over six weeks. (Still with me?) Plus at the end there will be a fun awards ceremony that is voted on by audience members throughout the festival. (So you should come and vote for my play! hehehe!)

"Out Of Order" Hurricane Season 2011. Margaret Flynn, Darrell Phillips and me.

“Out Of Order” Hurricane Season 2011. Margaret Flynn, Darrell Phillips and me.

I’m doing “The Blizzard” by Chip Bolcik, directed by Rebecca Hayes. It’s a two person comedy about a couple, Jill and Charlie, who get into quite the argument about the future of their relationship while on an adventure vacation to the North Pole. I play Jill (obviously) and Christopher Poehls plays Charlie. We’ve been having a lot of fun trying to pitch our tent, working a camping stove and discovering how hot it gets when bundled in lots of snow clothes under a bunch of stage lights. We think we’ll lose some weight because of all the sweating we’ll be doing, lol.

The line-up of plays for Hurricane Season 2013

The line-up of plays for Hurricane Season 2013

It’s fun doing a one-act festival. You meet a lot of people, see a lot of different plays, and it’s kind of nice doing a play without a huge time commitment. And in the summer it’s just perfect. These festivals also give playwrights a chance to have their new work done. There’s a little bit of everything: drama, comedy, black comedy, farce-we have it all and if you’re in Los Angeles, I hope you can join us (and vote for us! lol)! My weekend is July 12-21, Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm. Tickets are only $15 and can be bought here. Until next time!

Producing The Young Playwrights Festival

18 Jun

If you recall I have been producing “Peter Pan: The Boy Who Hated Mothers” at The Blank Theatre this spring. Well I’m also producing another show there, the 21st Annual Young Playwrights Festival. This festival is one of my favorite parts of the year since I started working with The Blank. My first year I was a box office volunteer, the next two years I had the privilege of acting in the festival, and this year I have the honor of producing it. My co-producer of the festival was Jason Weiss, whom I’ve been working with at The Blank in the Living Room Series and on mainstage shows.

"Downsizing" by Nick Mecikalski with cast Virginia Williams and Larry Bates and our Artistic Producer Noah Wyle

YPF 2013: “Downsizing” by Nick Mecikalski with cast Virginia Williams and Larry Bates and our Artistic Producer Noah Wyle

The festival is in its 21st year of producing theatre written by playwrights 19 and younger. There will have been 248 plays produced at the end of this year’s festival. It runs for four weeks and each weekend is a set of three plays with playwrights coming in from all over the country to see their work performed on a Hollywood stage with professional actors and a professional director. They are also given a writing mentor, a professional writer that helps them shape their plays, if needed, and does what any good mentor does, gives them advice on writing, school and life in general. Mentors have included David Rambo (Revolution, CSI), Dave Holstein (Weeds), and Irene Mecchi (The Lion King (the musical and the movie), Brave). Directors have included Barbara Bain (Mission: Impossible the tv show), April Webster (casting director of Star Trek, Lost, Fringe), and Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, Beaches). Actors are too numerous to list but include Noah Wyle, Octavia Spencer, Josh Radnor, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Debra Messing, Chris Pine, Ed Asner and Molly Shannon to name a few.

YPF 2011 "Living By Numbers" by Lucy Portman. L-R: Justin Tinucci, Me, James Kerwin (director), Lucy Portman (writer), Katie Lowes, Chris Hampton

YPF 2011 “Living By Numbers” by Lucy Portman. L-R: Justin Tinucci, Me, James Kerwin (director), Lucy Portman (writer), Katie Lowes, Chris Hampton

Steven Weber and Virginia Madsen performing a piece from one of Stephen Karam's winning plays.

Steven Weber and Virginia Madsen performing a piece from one of Stephen Karam’s winning plays.

There is a selection committee of 21 industry professionals (actors, writers, directors, etc) that read every single play that is submitted. They narrow down the initial submissions to between 40 and 50 semifinalists and discuss each one to make sure everyone who has something to say about the play gets to give their opinion. And in the words of Daniel Henning, “The charge I give the committee is to vote for the ones that your heart tells you to.” One thing I love about YPF is that there is no single winner, there are twelve. It’s not about best comedy or drama, or who’s the best in different age categories, it’s about finding twelve amazing plays written by playwrights 19 and younger from all across the country.

Ed Asner performed at the 20th Anniversary Gala

Ed Asner performed at the 20th Anniversary Gala

We also have a team of apprentices who serve as the stage management team. They are (typically) students with an interest in theatre, usually stage management, but our apprentices have been actors, dancers and even military veterans. We look for a team of apprentices who are excited to be a part of the festival and have an interest in learning. They are unpaid but can receive school credit if their school approves. What they learn in the six weeks they’re with us is equal to a full year of stage management courses. They get to work on multiple shows and are presented with all sorts of problems that small theatre can present. We have a fabulous production stage manager, Cathrin Winsor-Farrar, who oversees all the apprentices and the tech side of the festival. This is her second year with  us and I was so excited to learn she was coming back.

Coordinating everything for twelve plays on a shoestring budget is quite the challenge. With each show getting $50 (for everything-props, sets, costumes), we sometimes have to get very creative. One year one of the plays was set in the future and needed a helmet that was supposed to be part of a torture device. So one of the apprentices got very creative and used items he found in the office and in his own home and came up with a great prop. And with so many people working together on a short time frame (each play has two weeks of rehearsals) we all work together to find solutions. Each play has its own challenges which is what I love. It keeps you on your toes!

Last year I took a couple of the playwrights to the Getty Center.

Last year I took a couple of the playwrights to the Getty Center.

YPF is an event that brings out the best of Hollywood. We come together to support the next generation of playwrights and writers. Many of our playwrights are still writing, whether it’s plays, films, tv or even novels. Stephen Karam was a three-time winner and last year received numerous awards for his play “Sons of the Prophet”, including being a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. Austin Winsberg was the youngest show runner at ABC with his TV show “Jake In Progress”. He’ll be opening his first musical on Broadway this summer, “First Date”. One of my newest friends, Laura Bousman, is now a film producer. Regardless of what they’re doing now they have all said that YPF changed their life and made them who they are today. It is a true honor to be a part of YPF, and producing it this year has been extra special.

At the 20th Anniversary Gala

At the 20th Anniversary Gala

I know it’s already half over, but there are still two weeks left of the festival for you to enjoy. That’s six more plays by playwrights 19 and under. This year we welcomed back our youngest winner ever, Spencer Emerson Opal-Levine, who at the age of 9 (yes, 9!) won last year with his play “Coffee Talk” (which I got to act in as the coffee bean who wanted to be a latte!), and we also welcomed back two winners for a third and final time. One of them, Nicole Acton, will have another play she submitted work shopped in our Living Room Series in December 2013. Every year we are absolutely amazed by the plays that are submitted, wondering how these words and ideas can come from such young minds, and yet every year we find 12 plays that are absolutely amazing and move us to tears, laughter and questioning the world. It might sound cheesy, but this festival gives me hope that the arts are still important in America and that they will continue for generations to come.

The cast of "Coffee Talk" with our playwright Spencer

The cast of “Coffee Talk” with our playwright Spencer

So check out The Blank Theatre’s Young Playwrights Festival if you’re in Los Angeles this month, or just support The Blank so we can continue producing this amazing festival for years to come! You have to see it to believe it!

TO CARRY THE CHILD In The Hollywood Fringe Festival

21 May

Back in February I received an email from a playwright friend of mine, Jon Courie, asking if I’d be interested in doing one of his plays in HFF2013_logo_datesthis year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival. It was a play that I had done a reading of the first 30 pages of the previous fall and had really liked so I quickly said yes! I had also been itching to be a part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival since it had started a few years ago so I was extra excited! I’d be playing the role of Sissy, the youngest daughter of the family. It’s a compelling family drama about the transformative power of forgiveness. Filled with both heartbreak and humor, To Carry the Child tells the story of Ashley, a struggling young artist in a battle for her life, who leaves behind a fractured relationship in New York for the comfort of family and home, only to find broken picket fences along the way.

We started rehearsing in March (remember Pi Day?), just once a week doing a lot of table work. The staging would be kept simple so that we could focus on the dialogue. It’s a simple play in that respect, all the power of the play comes from the dialogue and the characters so we put a lot of energy into that side of the rehearsals. We started blocking it out at the beginning of May and have been working hard to be ready for our first performance on June 13th.

To Carry the Child Ad (640x480)

This process has been different from other plays, mostly because it’s not a theatre company putting up a play, but the idea of the playwright to mount the production in the Fringe Festival. So we won’t even get into the theater until June and for now we’re rehearsing in a house. This also means that the producer (aka, our playwright Jon) is using his own money to put the production up. When we asked about the costs of everything we were surprised to learn it would be almost $5,000 and hopefully he’d get about half that back in ticket sales. Hopefully. Oh wow. I suggested we do an Indie GoGo campaign like other fringe shows do to help cover the costs. I agreed to set it all up and the rest of the cast liked the idea and we all wanted to help get the word out and make sure Jon doesn’t go broke.

Amanda Phillips as ASHLEY

Amanda Phillips as ASHLEY

Sarah Allyn Bauer (moi) as SISSY and DIANE

Sarah Allyn Bauer (moi) as SISSY and DIANE

Barbara Keegan as matriarch LIBBY

Barbara Keegan as matriarch LIBBY

Robin Nuyen as patriarch BO

Robin Nuyen as patriarch BO

Our fabulous playwright and director Jon Courie

Our fabulous playwright and director Jon Courie

So now I’m asking you, my loyal followers, to help support this great piece of theatre. You can support in one of two ways. If you’re here in Los Angeles, buy a ticket (they’re only $10!) and come see me perform in June! If you’re unable to buy a ticket please consider donating to the cause. Things we have to pay for include the theatre rental ($2,600!!!), insurance ($650!), sets, costumes, props, publicity and more. We have set a deadline of June 7th to raise our funds. We’re not out to make money, we just want to make sure Jon doesn’t go broke. You can donate as little as $15 and get a shout out in our program. Small theatre (anywhere) runs on donations, as ticket sales rarely cover more than half the budget. I hope you’ll join me in helping to produce this great piece of theatre.

Follow the show on Facebook and on Twitter to get fun updates too!

TRAINSPOTTING-Learning To Be Scottish

8 Apr

Back in January a friend of mine, Jonathan Roumie, posted on his Facebook page that the play he was working on, “Trainspotting” (yes, as in the cult film “Trainspotting” directed by Danny Boyle and starring Ewan McGregor, but the play is closer to the book by Irvine Welsh), was looking for a replacement actress for the role of Diane. It warned about vulgarity, nudity and the use of Scottish accents. You know what scared me the most? The Scottish accent. I had never done that accent before and it’s a difficult one. I was fine with the language, the content and could even come to terms with the nudity. But I knew I would have to learn a difficult accent and that’s what scared me the most. But I auditioned anyway. I had about 36 hours to prepare and, after going back and forth for the first 24 hours, I chose not to focus on the accent and instead I focused on the character of Diane and the words on the page. I auditioned with the lead, Justin Zachary, and for the director Roger Mathey and one of the other actors/producers David Agranov. My plan of attack worked, Roger liked the choices I made and he asked me to come back in a few days after working on the accent. I called up Jonathan (who had posted about the audition) and asked if he could help me with the accent. We met and worked through the scenes. I wrote out words phonetically and repeated them so many times they stopped sounding like words. For the next few days I repeated everything I learned in every spare moment of the day-in the car, as I fell asleep, in the shower. That Sunday I went to my callback and on Tuesday Roger called to offer me the role to double as Diane and I said yes (duh!).

trainspotting poster

We have two casts: one for Fridays and Saturdays and the second one for Sundays. A few cast members go up all weekend and some switch roles between the two casts, except for Justin (who rocks the entire weekend as Mark Renton). It is a true ensemble cast though, and we all work together, cover each other and make each other laugh and smile. Even though I and Katy Townsend (the other Diane)

Michael Lutheran as Skag Merchant

Michael Lutheran as Skag Merchant

came into the cast late, we were welcomed with open arms and a good bevvy. It’s definitely one of the most supportive casts I’ve ever been a part of. They are all amazing actors and amazing people and they’re all getting a shout out! In alphabetical order: Katie Aquino, whom I double with as well to play various characters-Gail Houston and Sister In Law Sharon among them, Sam Bangs who takes a beating and then fights back, Martin Berishaj who doubles as Sick Boy, AJ Jones the other Tommy, Elizabeth Knowelden as fabulous Lizzie Macintosh who is Tommy’s downfall, Libby Letlow (also from the original cast) and doubles as Allison on Sundays with me, Michael Lutheran who plays my dad and a very fat

Jonathan Roumie as Simon "Sick Boy" Williamson

Jonathan Roumie as Simon “Sick Boy” Williamson

Workie, Francesca Manzi who plays my mum and a kick-arse Wifie, Travis McHenry a man of many hairstyles and unfortunately gets splattered with some shite at the beginning, Martin Riddell our Mother Superior on Fridays and Saturdays and the bastard Franco on Sundays, Matthew Tully another member of the original cast and plays the bastard Franco, Karl Wade who dons various outfits throughout including a guy at the bar I get to dismiss and also part of the cast 10 years ago, Alison Walter as the druggie Alison, and finally Ben Wilson the man who thought it would be brilliant for Diane’s dad to come out in his skivvies-he was right. And I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to our FABULOUS stage manager Danielle Korman and her assistant stage manager who keeps us on time backstage, Joshua Hensley.

During rehearsal, Tommy and Mark before Tommy tries heroin

During rehearsal, Tommy (David Agranov) and Mark (Justin Zachary) before Tommy tries heroin

Karl Wade and Francesca Manzi post splatter

Karl Wade (Mr. Houston) and Francesca Manzi (Mrs. Houston) post splatter

Travis McHenry and Ben Wilson at the Opening Night Party

Travis McHenry and Ben Wilson at the Opening Night Party

Our set!

Our set!

Backstage with Katie Aquino and Elizabeth Knowelden.

Backstage with Katie Aquino and Elizabeth Knowelden.

Ben Wilson and Michael Lutheran as Diane's Dad.

Ben Wilson and Michael Lutheran as Diane’s Dad.

Lassie On The Bus (Katie Aquino), Old Lady on the Bus (Francesca Manzi) and Lizzie Macintosh (Elizabeth Knowelden) getting their sexy on backstage.

Lassie On The Bus (Katie Aquino), Old Lady on the Bus (Francesca Manzi) and Lizzie Macintosh (Elizabeth Knowelden) getting their sexy on backstage.

We had a fantastic opening night, remember the cookies I made? And the show has been getting great reviews and we received word that we were extending to June 2nd only a couple weeks after we opened! It’s a gritty play that holds nothing back. The play doesn’t apologize for the material either. It shows the real truth of drug addicts, and while some can escape it, not all do. We don’t sugar coat any of it so be prepared if you come out to see us, we are in your face and show you the ups and the downs, but everyone who comes to see it have all said how amazing the play is. If you’re in the Los Angeles area I hope you can come out (leave the kiddies at home though, lol). We perform at The Elephant Theatre in the heart of Hollywood and you can buy tickets here. I’m having a blast with my cast, and yes, even my Scottish accent.

In my club dress

In my club dress

In my school girl outfit

In my school girl outfit

Being A Producer

2 Apr

Oh wow. I finally got my real dose of what it means to be a producer, and boy has it been somewhat of a whirlwind. Last month The Blank Theatre’s Producing Director, Matt Graber, left for a bigger and better job at The Arizona Theatre Company, Director of Marketing. While we were all very excited for him, it meant we were losing our Producing Director right as we were beginning rehearsals of our final mainstage, “Peter Pan: The Boy Who Hated Mothers”, and as we were beginning the selection process of our Young Playwrights Festival. The powers that be decided that rather than go through the hiring process  and bring someone new on, they asked if I would be willing to take on more responsibility and become a Producer. I would have producing partners for each production which I was super excited about (and made me believe that my sanity would stay intact, lol).

Peter Pan marquee

Producing theatre, more specifically producing non-profit theatre, is a very hands on job. Producers are usually pretty involved in all aspects of the show. Set designer needs help building the set? I grab a power drill. A prop needs to be picked up in a large car? I take my SUV to said location. Sink at the theatre is clogged? I reach my hand into the murky water and pull out unknown gunk. (Don’t worry, no pictures of that! LOL!) Oh yes, the life of a producer is glamorous.

Laying the foundation for the deck.

Laying the foundation for the deck.

Some of the set dressing. It was distressing to distress babies.

Some of the set dressing. It was distressing to distress babies.

It’s my job to make sure all components of the show come together and that designers and actors are all happy and have what they need to get the show opened. Sometimes I have to be the bad cop, but mostly I get to be the good cop and work with everyone to put on a great show. It’s been an exciting and stressful month (wow, can’t believe it’s been a month!), but when the first audience sees this play on April 20th I know it will all have been worth it.

Click for a sneak peak into rehearsals!

Click for a sneak peek into rehearsals!

If you’re in the Los Angeles area, or just need an excuse to come to Los Angeles, I highly recommend coming to see “Peter Pan: The Boy Who Hated Mothers” by Michael Lluberes and directed by the Ovation Winning Michael Matthews. (Tickets can be found here.) It’s a brilliant show and so beautiful to watch. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you might even cringe when you see Hook, but you will leave the theatre moved and wanting more. Great small theatre does exist, and it’s on the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and Wilcox Ave in Hollywood, CA.

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