Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Blatant Self-Promotion (1)

Several weeks ago I participated in a commercial shoot for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. The ad started airing on TV in California as legislative hearings on the Indian Gaming Compact began in the state legislature. Below is the commercial. I'm willing to bet that you can spot the Ancient One.

Ah, the actor's life!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Peacock on the Roof

Heard a loud crying sound outside the house the other day. In our neighborhood, we assumed it was a peacock. Ran outside and spotted the critter pictured below on the neighbor's roof. Enjoy!

Friday, April 20, 2007

I Just Couldn’t Resist. . . .

The photo below (with the writing "4 Stages of Life") was on display this morning at the cardiac rehabilitation center (my health club) where I work out 3 times a week.

I just couldn't resist posting it. . .even if it seems all too true at times.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Wonderfully Wicked. . .

Thanks to Tony Kalatzsis (a long-time friend of Seth's), we had tickets for last nights performance of Wicked at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. Donna agreed to drive and we left early enough to get there and park in time for a wonderful, leisurely dinner at the Hollywood and Vine restaurant at (duh!) the corner of Hollywood and Vine.

The performance was spectacular. To start with the Pantages is a magnificent, albeit huge, facility. The set was one of those for which a written description simply is not sufficient. And, as Donna commented afterwards, special effects done live on stage in real time are far more impressive than what we see on TV and in film where the editors have free rein.

And the music, singing and acting also were outstanding. It's probably not fair to single out any cast members from an incredible ensemble but my favorites were Eden Espinosa as Elphaba and Carol Kane as Madame Morrible.

As an actor of minor note, I had a number of very personal reactions. First, was the awe of watching a performance on a massive stage in a massive house (2,703 seats). Simply the thought of working in a space like the Pantages is a bit intimidating to me (especially since I am currently performing in a 48-seat venue). Second, I am super-aware of set, lighting and sound. What can I say? All were awesome and certainly contributed to the heightened quality of the acting and singing. Finally, while all the members of the ensemble were outstanding in voice and afoot, they were not all lean, athletic appearing bodies. They looked like a cross-section of a population and that alone made the staging more effective.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Another Opening, Another Show. . . . .

King Kalimari, The Musical opened to sold-out audiences this weekend at the Avery Schreiber Theatre in North Hollywood. It was very special, as only a world premiere can be. I am fortunate to be The Narrator in this wonderful, wacky creation of Derek Taylor Kent. He is the front-and-center guy in the cast photo below. The Ancient One, for those who might not know, is the white-haired dude on the left.

The show will continue on Friday and Saturday nights through June 2. For more information and ticket information, you can go to Additional reflections may be added as the 8 week run continues.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Memories of Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)

Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday. A fitting tribute can be found over at BillyBlog. Vonnegut's writing is something Bill and I shared over the years although my memories go back to a time before #1 son's birth.

My first teaching position out of graduate school was in the Graduate School of Public Affairs at SUNY, Albany (1965-1972). Somewhere in there, Kurt Vonnegut was the Commencement Speaker. (The fact that his brother Bernard was a faculty member in Atmospheric Sciences might have been related to Kurt accepting the invitation but I don't know that for a fact.)

That was the absolutely best Commencement Address I ever heard. It was the first one that ever made sense to me (please don't test my memory by asking for details) and it was pure Vonnegut. He spoke exactly like he wrote. I chuckled as I heard disdainful comments from some of my older colleagues (I was not yet 30) and watched the puzzled expressions on the faces of many parents. But the students seemed to join me in the pleasure of finally hearing a literate and literary commencement address that did not reek of all the usual clich├ęs. It must have been wonderful. I still remember that day!

One other memory I have that is related to Vonnegut was the release of the movie Slaughterhouse-Five (my personal favorite of his novels) in 1972. I had just moved to Springfield, IL where I taught at Sangamon State University (now the University of Illinois at Springfield). The film opened and I went to see it expecting to be disappointed. (I rarely go to see movies based on books I have previously read. . .but this was Vonnegut.) To my absolute delight, the film was both true to the written word and overpowering. I was so moved by it that I decided to see it a 2nd time 3 days later. . .but it was no longer being shown. I guess that was the cultural state of Springfield at that time; a truly meaningful movie only ran for 4 days at the local film emporium.

At some point in his youth, Bill became a fan of Vonnegut's. I remember having discussions with him about some of the books. He even gave me new Vonnegut books as birthday and other such gifts. (I still remember him sending me my copy of Breakfast of Champions.) For us, sharing our reactions to Vonnegut's writing became part of a wonderfully strong father-son link.

I believe that I read all of Vonnegut's novels. They remain with me. And, in addition to the messages he provided in his writing, I thank him for contributing to the incredibly strong relationship I have with my oldest son.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

A day with friends at the Griffith Observatory

Great day today with Havurah friends at the Griffith Observatory. As you can see (below), we all posed with Albert Einstein.

The planetarium show was outstanding and the film in the Nimoy Theatre on the construction of the building was fascinating as were most of the exhibits. And we actually enjoyed the cafeteria food. After the group photo (above) I took the opportunity to get a few pointers from old Al for myself.

Visiting the Observatory is a must for visitors to Los Angeles (as well as for those of us who live in the area). The only downside today was the shuttle bus ride back to the parking lot by the L.A. Zoo. The streets of Los Feliz were clogged and the usual 10 minute ride took a full hour. Griffith Park was simply inundated with Easter outings in spite of the gloomy weather.

Friday, April 6, 2007

I love living in L.A. but. . .

I really do love living in the Los Angeles area. But there are times that make me wonder. Yesterday, for instance. I was on my way to a rehearsal of King Kalimari at the Avery Schreiber Theatre in North Hollywood. It is about 40 miles from where I live. Mapquest tells me it should take 48 minutes. I figure it is a rush hour drive so I allow myself 1½ hours.

Well, I do expect the 405 to be slow but not when there are no accidents in the direction I'm heading. As it happened, there was an accident on the opposite side of the 405 and everyone had to slow to try to see how bad it was. The drive ended up taking 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Coming home after rehearsal was fine; I made it in 45 minutes. Ah yes – that's just part of living in L.A.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Annual Passover Seder. . .

Last night was our annual Passover Seder. It was average size this year with 27 people joining us. It wasn’t close to the record 54 of 2 years ago. (That is not likely to happen.) It was the usual eclectic mix of people; neighbors, friends from many of our worlds, Alicia and Seth’s friends, Bill's old college friends who have been joining us since the late 1980's, even a Methodist minister who has now been with us on the first night of Passover for 4 years. I believe this year a majority of the participants were actually Jewish. Often that is not the case. The ecumenical nature of our seder helps make it very special. After all, freedom is a universal value that crosses all religions, races and ethnicities.

Large seders were a tradition in Donna’s family. Each year now as we remove furniture from our living room to free up space for additional tables and chairs, I think back to the seders at the Brenners when I first got to know them in the early 1980s. The one difference is that their seders were mostly family members, often distant cousins who happened to be in town and no one had seen in decades. Ours, outside of immediate family, are attended mostly by friends, acquaintances and colleagues.

The seder service and discussion were relatively short, as is usually the case. Alicia introduced some new elements as she often does. The food was incredible; Donna’s chicken soup with matzoh balls was the best in memory.

There was just one problem; that also seemed like a family tradition. The kitchen sink backed up. It only seems to happen when there are numerous guests present enjoying a multi-course meal. So dishes were washed in the bathroom sink and it did little to dampen the joyous spirit.

None of these seders would occur if not for Donna’s incredible work for weeks before the event. My role generally has been to help move and setup furniture and my natural propensity to complain about the grocery bills. It seems that every year after the guests are gone, we claim that this is the last year of such a massive effort. But then the next year rolls around and planning, invitations, food prepartion, and furniture moving begain once again.

I’m sure this is what Tevye meant by TRADITION!