Thursday, May 31, 2007

Habimah. . .the first Tech Rehearsal

In a post last Sunday, I mentioned the upcoming Habimah production at our synagogue. Tonight, as I mentioned then, was the first dress/tech rehearsal and it was a little rough as expected. But I can't resist sharing this picture:

In the script, this is Moses set down in New York in modern times. The beard makes him look more like Santa Claus; at least that's what some of the younger children thought. And the hair and beard are scheduled to be changed before opening night.

But look again. . .closely. Could it be? Is that really The Ancient One, Blessed be He? Maybe his kids knew what they were talking about when they gave him that title. More on the production after Sunday's first performance.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

“Mad Men” – a new TV series. . .

Today I worked as an extra on a new TV series which will appear on AMC starting June 4. As usual, when doing background work, I have no idea when this episode will air. The series is about some MADison Avenue advertising executives in 1959-60. The particular scene shot today in which I might be seen, was set in a New York "Tea Room" in 1959. I was simply a patron.

One of the things that I always marvel at is the detail productions take in dressing the extras. Since the stories take place nearly 50 years ago, we were not asked to wear our own clothing. Last week, I went to a costume warehouse in North Hollywood. As it turned out, they could not fit my body and simply took measurements. However, they did give me a haircut; one that was shorter than any I have had in a very long time. And, they are paying me for that haircut although the AD who was handling the paperwork wasn't sure how much the "hair bump" would be. I'll find out when the check arrived. When I arrived at LA Center Studios today, they did have 2 suits for me. The one that had a jacket that fit had pants that were about 4 inches too large in the waist. It's amazing what a good costumer can do with a pair of suspenders and a few tucks and folds here and there. Once garbed, we had to go for make-up and a hair check. Much to my chagrin, more was trimmed on the sides and both gel and hairspray was used to give me a 1959 look. The final product is pictured below:

I'm not sure where the "funny tooth" look came from but a colleague did snap the picture for me on my cell phone. Oh well, I was supposed to look "period," not handsome and appealing. Actually, the work on my hair brought back some long buried memories. In the mid-'50s, I would slather my hair with Wild Root Cream Oil (hear one of their old commercials here). The true test of whether you used enough was to run a comb through your hair. If it came away with a layer of white oil, you were okay. And, Wild Root really was much better than Brylcreme. There were other hair memories too. During the '50s I had a number of hair "styles." There was the DA, the DT, the New Yorker. (I'll let readers guess if they want too and perhaps reveal the correct answers in response to a comment.)

Other thoughts from that time, especially 1960. I was active in local Democratic Party politics. My oldest brother, Jerry had run (and lost) a state legislative race but ended up as head of the Criminal Division of the Michigan Attorney General's Office. The summer of 1960 I was a field organizer for Dick VanderVeen, from Grand Rapids, who ended up losing the Democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor. Later he ended up in Congress, winning the seat Gerald Ford vacated when he became Vice-President. During the presidential primary season that year, I attended rallies and lined up to shake the hands of John Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey and Estes Kefauver. My Congressman in 1960, representing the 15th District of Michigan, was a young man named John Dingell. He's still in the House of Representatives. My father used to tell people that he was a Republican although it was hard to tell when he ever voted for a republican candidate. Dingell, who knew dad, commented to me one day at a campaign meeting, "For a guy who claims to be a Republican, I wish we had more people like Bill Cohen in the Democratic Party." Then, a couple of years later, after the decennial redistricting, Dingell's chief legislative aide ran and was elected from the neighboring district. John Conyers also is still a member of Congress.

It sure is strange what memories can be dredged up just by working one day as an extra on a new TV series.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Those urinals are back. . .now in Redondo Beach

I previously made 2 posts (here and here) about some new urinals in Culver City that save 40,000 gallons each per year. I marveled at that number and had at least one comment that questioned the amount of the savings. This morning I opened the Daily Breeze, a newspaper published in Torrance that serves LA's South Bay Region. There on page 3, I found the article pictured below:

It seems that Redondo Beach also has discovered these urinals and, for those that notice such things, the photos are virtually the same as the ones I took at The Veterans' Memorial Building in Culver City. You can find the full text of the story here. It supports my previous comments about the 40,000 gallons per urinal annual water savings (if you can believe what you read in the newspaper). I rest my case!

And now I will try to resist any further urinal posts. . .but that's not a promise. Who knows, this may the start of something big that is effective in addressing a major environmental issue.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Oh what a theatrical week. . .

This is one of those weeks when all sort of theatrical activity dominates my life. The 7th weekend of King Kalimari is over and the final performances will be next weekend. Tuesday night is the first rehearsal for Culver City Public Theatre's summer production of Much Ado About Nothing, which marks my first experience performing Shakespeare. Thursday night is the tech rehearsal for Prophets Need Not Apply, the latest Habimah production at Congregation Ner Tamid in Rancho Palos Verdes, directed by Morgan Land (pictured below giving notes during a recent rehearsal).

The first Habimah performance will be next Sunday evening (preceded that day by another tech rehearsal and a run-through). In between all of this, on Wednesday I will be working as an extra on a new TV series, Mad Men. All in all a very busy week. By next Sunday night, I expect to be totally exhausted but feeling buoyant by the varied acting experiences as we transition from May to June.

Later I will be writing more about the Habimah program and the incredible impact it has had on the children of Congregation Ner Tamid. It is a program that has bolstered my view that theater is one of the best builders of self-esteem. And, by including a number of adults in the cast with 40+ young people, it has also proved to be an incredible cross-generational experience. I'll also be writing more about my foray into Shakespeare and the experience of becoming Dogberry, who Director Ken MacFarlane describes as "one of the great comic characters" in the Bard's works. I am both excited and honored to be cast in this production. Below is a photo of Ken, taken backstage at CCPT when we were performing in Ibsen's Enemy of the People in the summer of 2004.

And now to get some rest on this Memorial Day weekend as the summer theater season is about to get underway.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Printer Solution. . .revisited

Back in February, I talked about having to switch printers with Donna because Lexmark had not updated their printer drivers to be compatible with the new Vista operating system on her new computer. At last the new drivers are in place and now we are both happy; Donna with her Lexmark, me with my Epson. Amazing how our dispositions improve when technology catches up to the reality in our lives.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Summer’s Coming on . . .for CCPT

Culver City Public Theatre (CCPT) has just completed casting for its 2007 summer season in Paul Carlson Park at Braddock and Motor in Culver City. Over the 6-weekend season there will be 3 plays. The Popcorn Childrens' Theatre will present King Midas (stage adaptation written by Heidi Dotson) every weekend. It will be followed the first 3 weekends (July 14-29) by the main stage production of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. The final 3 weekends (August 4-19), the mainstage production will be Neil Simon's The Good Doctor. Details of the 2007 offerings can be found here. Admission is free; you just have to bring your choice of blanket or chair and a picnic lunch if you are so inclined. This will be the 21st summer season of theater in Carlson Park; the 9th under CCPT auspices.

And, oh yes, I am not about to finish this without mentioning my roles for the summer. I have been cast as Dogberry in Much Ado and as the title character in King Midas. Needless to say, I am excited! This will be my first time performing Shakespeare, and I get to portray a great comic character at that. And I love doing the children's plays; this will be my 3rd season doing that.

Below are a couple of shots from the 2006 season:

1) A scene from The Poet Who Wouldn't be King

2) From The Madwoman of Chaillot

In later posts, I will talk more about CCPT! Stay tuned.

Friday, May 18, 2007

A Little Late for Mothers’ Day

In helping Donna finish going through some of Alicia's things that are still in her old room (my current office), we came across the below photo of my mother, Martha Cohen Max, holding baby Alicia in late 1981.

Looking at the picture brought back many memories of my mother, just a couple of which I will share here. She ultimately had 24 grandchildren and agreed with me one day that the ideal number of grandchildren was "one more than she already had." As you might guess from the photo, my mother was a lady and it wasn't until she married Abe, Donna's grandfather (that's another story for another time) when she was 68 years old that she was actually seen leaving the house not wearing gloves.

Mom moved to Los Angeles when she and Abe got married. I remember when I moved out here several years later (bringing Donna back home), I was complaining about the gloomy spring weather which was never depicted in film or TV. My mother responded wisely, "The sun shines every day in southern California. You just have to wait longer for it on some days." I thought about that comment while doing my daily workout on this cold and gloomy morning.

I still miss you Mom!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

7 Things You May Not Know About Me

It's a learning process. I got "tagged" by a meme, a new term to my ancient ears. It came from #1 son over at BillyBlog after he was tagged and said that he was "morally blogbligated (new word) to play along." After exchanging several e-mails (many laced with expletives) with him, I decided to try to also play along. However, while I could list almost any 7 things that almost everybody does not know about me, it is hard to find many that either no one knows or that I am willing to share publicly. I can think of several things that are, and have been, left unmentioned for many years. They won't be posted here and now either. There are just some things in each of our lives that are best left unmentioned. So – here I go (knowing that 1 or 2 folks may know about some of these things):

1. The moment when I realized how fragile our existence is. I was in my early 20s and got very drunk one night. I was angry about something as I was driving home at a very excessive speed. Driving on a residential street, I blew through at stop sign at an intersection with a major thoroughfare and never saw the other car until we missed hitting each other by inches. I must say that I realized how lucky I had been and have never driven drunk since then.

2. I co-chaired my high school senior prom. My date was someone I had an enormous crush on. She was absolutely stunning and I was hoping the relationship would continue to develop. As it happened, having to deal with many of the details of the event, I didn't pay as much attention to her as I should have. As the event ended, I remember telling her about 2 post-prom parties to which we were invited. She begged off, saying she was not feeling well and asking me to take her straight home. Something didn't seem right to me so after dropping her off, I drove slowly around the block. As I approached her house from the opposite direction, there she was leaving with some other guy who had been at the prom with a classmate of mine. This was one of the more humiliating experiences of my life.

3. My first crush on a girl was when I was 10 years old. Her initials PH. I never told anyone; they would have kidded me unmercifully.

4. I remember clearly my first digital rectal examination. (For the unknowing, a "digit" in this sense is a finger.) The doctor was and still is a friend of mine. When he withdrew his somewhat pudgy finger and peeled me off the ceiling, he asked me if we were still friends. In one of those rare moments of clarity, no matter how discomforting it was, I blurted out, "More than ever Larry!" [As I said, we're still friends although I have no idea if he remembers my remark.]

5. Whenever I am asked why I became an actor, my usual response is, "Some people play golf, some go fishing. I get up on stage." But that's not a reason. When I came off the stage after my first performance at the age of 56, I was hooked. It was the most unbelievable high I ever felt. And it served as an incredible release from the stress of my job where I faced ongoing deadlines that could not be missed. Why do I continue to act? It's simple: I am having an incredible amount of fun!

6. When I was 21, I decided to move out of my parents' house and into an apartment adjacent to the Wayne State University campus with 2 friends. My father was not happy and blared out at me in his most blustery voice, "You're just moving because you want a place to take girls to?" In the best response I ever made to him, I quickly answered, "I hadn't thought about that Dad, but what a great idea! Thanks!" He blustered a bit more before breaking into loud laughter.

7. My family and some friends know, but most people do knot realize that I wear hearing aids. I include that here because I needed a 7th item and because a couple of months ago a friend noticed them and asked how long I had been wearing them. He seemed surprised when I told him 2 years. However, I never wear them on stage; something I learned from my older sister who is still acting in community theatre in the Detroit area who found that when she got on stage wearing her hearing aids, she had difficulty projecting her voice because she sounded so loud to herself. And she was right. When I first got the devices, I asked the audiologist whether he thought I would have difficulty hearing cues if I did not use them when performing. He answered no and explained that since I would be listening for cues, my mind would fill in the blanks my ears missed. He's right. AND. . .maybe this should be 7b. – When performing without my glasses, I see absolutely clearly. I have no explanation. Life is blurry without my trifocal lenses except when I am on stage. Hmm. . .maybe if I pretended that I was always acting, I wouldn't need them anymore.

Well, that's my seven, dedicated to BillyBlog who foisted this exercise on me. I must admit that it did help me dredge up some long forgotten memories. Now, I have to decide if I am going to meme anyone else.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Culver City Urinals Revisited

Back on March 10, I wrote about some wonderful water-saving urinals in Culver City's Veterans Memorial Building. At that time, I did not have pictures. Well, I was back at the Vet yesterday and revisited the men's room with my camera to provide a more complete picture of what I saw.

And below is a not-very-good photo of the sign above the urinals that carries the claim that each urinal saves 40,000 gallons of water per year.

As I said in March, this one, large restroom claims to be saving 400,000 gallons of water. I'll look for more such facilities and possibly update the cumulative water savings. And I would like to hear from others who have seen these "green" urinals.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Ramblings. . .

I haven't had a chance to post much lately; very busy. But 2 events I participated in this past week bear mentioning.

Last Saturday (May 5), I attended the annual Family Pride Conference co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center's (LAGLC) Family Services Program (FSP) and the Pop Luck Club. This day-long event generally draws about 200 LGBT parents and their children to a series of workshops about issues they face within their families and the broader community. It also includes a Resource Fair populated by exhibitors who run the gamut of community interests, including: bookstores, faith-based organizations, law firms, surrogacy facilitators, banks, campus based resources, etc., etc. I attend the Conference as the evaluator for the FSP's grant from the Los Angeles County First 5 Commission to provide programming and support to children ages 0-5 and their families.

It is a loud, beautiful, joyous event where families can be totally open and comfortable without being judged harshly by those around them. It is one of many events sponsored by the FSP. Others include the monthly Family Days (usually held in a park), Parent Support Groups dealing with selected issues faced by LGBT parents and facilitated by experts, Parenting Classes offering support and service to LGBT parents as they raise their families, Baby Bonanza sessions (which most of us were raised calling Mommy-and-Me) that includes both moms and dads with their infant children, and various other celebrations throughout the year (including a semi-annual weekend length Rainbow Family Camp.) I truly have been blessed with the opportunity, for the past 4 years, to view and assess FSP's programs. In addition to their biological children, the LGBT has provided nurturing, loving family environment to many adopted children who otherwise would be forgotten and unwanted.

Jumping ahead to yesterday (May 11), I participated in the 7th Annual Homeless Awareness Symposium co-sponsored by the Compton Unified School District (CUSD) and the Office of Community Service Learning at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH). I take great pride in being able to say that I have been there since the beginning working with Bettye Randle who for many years headed up the CUSD Health and Homeless Programs. I have worked with Bettye for over 10 years. It began with assisting her and CUSD in preparing their applications for McKinney-Vento Homeless Education funding, serving as an evaluator for the grants, and participating in the Partners for Survival Collaborative which Bettye organized to bring together all the stakeholders providing services to the homeless in Compton. Coincidentally, both Bettye and I retired last year and were able to enjoy yesterday's symposium without the stress of worrying about the administrative details.

Yesterday's conference was on The Pursuit of Self-Sufficiency: Helping Students and Families Make Effective Transitions. It reflected the evolution of programs for the homeless from those of several years ago that simply tried to feed, clothe and house them to the present emphasis on self-help, getting back on their feet, and transitioning to successful lives. Contrary to the views to too many outspoken critics, most homeless people are in a stage of transition. They are generally homeless for reasons beyond their control and desperately want to get their lives back in order and contribute to society. Every year at these conferences, we hear from "survivors," those who have persevered, elevated themselves from homelessness, and are now both successful and contributors to their communities. The emphasis on transitions also has broadened the discussion to issues of foster care and how to prepare young people within that system for "emancipation" when they reach their 18th birthday. Obviously, many grave problems still exist. But it is great to hear that progress truly is being made.

So those are my ramblings for this morning. In the rest of my life, performances of King Kalimaricontinue at the Avery Schreiber Theatre in North Hollywood, rehearsals forProphets Need Not Apply continue at Congregation Ner Tamid as we move toward our June 3 & 10 performance dates, and I have a callback audition on Monday for a "pro-environment"commercial in which I would portray a grandfather. (That sure seems natural to me.) I will be back soon.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Luck of the Cohanim (continued)

Oxypoet, aka BillyBlog, the first-born son of The Ancient One, notes in a comment that there are other instances of The Luck of the Cohanim. The most notable being the "ability" to find good parking places when faced with crowded venues. For my entire driving life, someone always seems to be pulling out of the space directly in front of the destination as I approach. In truth, many, if not most, times this doesn't happen. But it does occur often enough to have made a deep impression in the minds of my offspring.

Actually the most significant manifestation of the luck factor was the ability (in his early years) of younger son Seth to find money. Two specific events remain in my memory, both from his adolescence. The first was at a local street fair when Seth, eyes on the ground, told us he had just found a quarter. Being a typical father, I responded, "Why don't you find larger sums?" A few moments later, he called, "You mean like this?" as he reached down and plucked a wayward $5 bill from the ground. The second occurred on the way to Oxypoet's wedding. Bill and Melanie had arranged for guests to be delivered to the wedding site on a double-decker bus. As the bus pulled to a stop in the synagogue parking lot, Seth raced down from the upper level, pushed his way off the bus ahead of everyone else, dashed across the parking lot, and plucked a piece of green paper from the ground. It turned out to be a $20 bill he had spied from the bus as it drove through the parking lot. I truly hope that this "talent" stays with Seth throughout his life.

Thanks Bill for helping me retrieve some forgotten memories!

Friday, May 4, 2007

The Luck of the Cohanim

A couple of days ago as I prepared for my workout at the Torrance Memorial Medical Center's (TMMC) Delpit Cardiac Rehabilitation Center (now, that's a mouthful), I took off my wedding band and put it my pocket. I do this because my hands sometimes swell up when I'm exercising. When I finished, I exited the building and took my keys out of my pocket. I thought I heard a sound like metal hitting pavement, stopped and looked around, saw nothing of note and continued on. Later at home, I was emptying my pockets and the wedding band was nowhere to be seen. I searched everywhere and it was well into the evening before I remembered hearing that metallic clink earlier.

The next morning, I called the TMMC Lost & Found Department. A trying-to-be-pleasant woman not only told me that the ring was not turned in but likely would not be because small items like that simply get swept up in the trash and are never seen again. You can imagine how much she cheered me up. Reaching a mild panic, I drove to TMMC and started searching the ground in the area where I took my keys out of my pocket. Nothing! I went over the area a 2nd & 3rd time. Still nothing! I decided to do a 4th and final sweep of the area and as my eyes moved past a street light standard, a glint caught my eye. There leaning against the base of the pole was my wedding band. The sigh of relief that emanated from me was clearly audible to passersby and they must have wondered just what I was grinning about.

Now that is what I call The Luck of the Cohanim. Now if it only continues in other aspects of my existence. . .