Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Touch of Halloween. . .

Here's just a touch of Halloween at our house. Donna, as usual, had decorated well and the approach looked something like this prior to lighting candles and just before dusk.

But she was fair to those who approached and gave them ample warning.

Why a warning? Well, some are not prepared when they come upon a random leg cradling a witch's head.

But come they did. And Donna got her reward from proffering treats to many like the few seen here.

And every one of the young revelers remembered to say thank you. After all, they only wanted the treats, not the tricks!

So, it's time to move on to November.

Rehearsing on the Stage. . .

Finally, we are able to use the CSUDH University Theatre stage for rehearsals of The Little College on a Hill. It was a whole different feeling being in the performance space with an unfinished piece of the set to work with. I'm not sure the following photos fully convey the difference from an actor's perspective. They are both taken of the same scene near the beginning of the play. The first is in a recital hall on the campus last Sunday and the second one was on the theatre's stage last night.

L to R: Keven (Jerron Mitchell), Eli (James Knudsen), Correy (Ingrid Interiano) and Peter (Dan Weinell)

Same characters rearranged, L to R: Keven, Correy, Peter, Eli

It's hard to believe that we open in 9 days; there is so much to do. One scene rehearsal on Thursday, a full run-through on Friday, Tech Rehearsal on Sunday and then 4 nights of full dress rehearsals leading up to our opening on the 9th. The flyer for the play is posted here. It's going to be an interesting experience since I have lived through a lot of what the play is based upon, to the degree it is based on what really happened in the birth and early history of California State University, Dominguez Hills.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Resisting the Anti-Humanity

A little over a month ago I mentioned that I was reading John Hersey's The Wall. Written in the form of a journal, it reveals the day-to-day events leading to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. It was not a quick read; I finished about a week ago. But it certainly is a thought provoking one.

It seems strange to be talking about a book which was published in 1950 when I was 12 years old. And at times I felt a bit guilty that I had not read it many years ago for its insights into the human condition. The scribe, one Noach Levinson, reveals to us both the best and the worst in human behavior; not only in the oppressors but also in the lives of the oppressed. This was not a spellbinder that one does not put down until reaching the end. I could only read a few entries at a time before I had to stop to think and digest what had just been revealed.

I offer one lengthy passage, hopefully not too long, that I felt was particularly moving. The scribe is writing about the events of November 4, 1942:

"Until recently I have persuaded myself that by one means or another. . .I could survive until the end of the war and a change in our affairs. About a week ago I surrendered that persuasion. I am now convinced that we are all to die. All, that is, but the barest handful – like those miraculous few who, when a ship has foundered far at sea, sometimes survive through a prodigy of endurance. . . . Naturally I shall continue to use every means I can find to delay my fate as long and ingeniously as possible, in the hope, at a maximum, that I may find myself among the handful on the ultimate raft, but principally, now, in the hope that I may contribute my share, no matter how trifling, to the defeat of the Anti-Humanity." (The Wall, p.425)

And that was how Levinson tells us that he has actively joined the resistance. And his predictions are true; only a very few of the residents of the Warsaw Ghetto ultimately survive. They are truly heroic yet they are also very lucky.

Some 57 years after The Wall was published, it still provides important lessons for us in the "modern" world for we see that there are still those among us who are just as oppressive as the perpetrators of the holocaust. Just as we say that we must never forget those who were slaughtered, we also must remember those who survived and reminded us of the depths to which man does sink. And we must look around us and see what we can contribute to both an awareness of and strategies to end genocide. What can we do to defeat the Anti-Humanity? If you have not read Hersey's book, you should. It is still in print and available.


And now I move on, back to a murder mystery. I have begun Tess Gerritsen's The Mephisto Club.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Shameless Promotion. . .

Below is the flyer for A Little College on a Hill in which I appear as President Leo Cain. We open 2 weeks from tonight. (gulp!)

You may have to click on the poster to get an image which you can actually read.

What a Difference 23 Years Make. . .

Donna's cousin Marlene, who lives in Florida, had been going through her family's photos. She sent us a handful she thought we might want. One of those was a portrait of Donna, me and our kids taken in September, 1984.

For the record, Alicia was 3 years old and Seth 18 months at the time. I had thought of adding a nonexistent current picture to this; you know, sort of a then and now. But I decided that then was far more appealing, at least as far as The Ancient One looks now.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Good Photo Now and Then. . .

I am a firm believer in random numbers when it comes to taking good pictures. I figure that if I take a sufficient number of pictures, I will get a really good one or two every now and then. The more pictures I take, the more good ones I get. For example, I have passed through a small "pocket park" on my nearly daily walks through the neighborhood over the past 10 years. I have always enjoyed the way the large rocks there are distributed beneath the canopy of trees. The other morning as I was heading out to try to capture visual images of the Malibu fire from afar, I snapped the picture below. I guess I could have touched it up a bit, made it a bit brighter, but I like what the camera revealed to me.

This was the only picture I took that morning that I really liked. Maybe I will start offering up more examples in the future as I take more pictures and find those occasional good ones.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Fires Still Burn. . .

I wasn't going to write more about the fires here in southern California than I did yesterday. But, while the fires do not threaten our community, it turns out that family and friends are affected.

When I went outside this morning for my morning walk, the odor was much stronger than yesterday. I ventured to a spot in Palos Verdes Estates, about a 20 minute walk from home, where I thought I might be able to get some pictures of the Malibu fires across Santa Monica Bay. I offer 2 shots which, while not nearly as dramatic as we have seen on TV, give a sense of something amiss at a distance.

The first offers a view that shows part of the peninsula below me. I was standing in sunlight and out across the water you can see the land (which would be clearly visible when Santa Ana winds are blowing) as a shadow rising from the water with 3 layers above it representing smoke, haze and sky.

For the 2nd, I zoomed the camera in on the land around Malibu. By zooming in, you simply see land encased in smoke and haze as a result of the fires. The picture was taken at 11:30 a.m.; it looks more like dusk.

As to the family ties, after I wrote yesterday we learned that cousins in Ranch Bernardo, were among the 250,000+ (that is not a typo) who had been evacuated. While we are certain that they are okay, we don't yet know if their homes fell victim to the flames. Then, late this afternoon it was reported that Rancho San Diego, where my in-laws live in an assisted-living community, might be evacuated. WE were able to find out that chartered buses were on call to take them to Qualcomm Stadium if it was necessary. They were preparing a few things to take with them if they had to leave. Then, just before I started writing this we heard that it was not likely that they would have to be evacuate and, ironically, a community college near them was being added as a site to which evacuees could go for support.

This is not the first time that fires have claimed lives and property in southern California and it won't be the last. It may be the worst conflagration in the nearly 26 years I have lived here followed closely by the fires 4 years ago. When there has been as little rain as we have had in the past 18 months, you know there will be fires but people are never really prepared for the reality. Yes, we are lucky to not be physically affected this time, but I feel like I am on a bit of an emotional roller coaster with my thoughts of the hundreds of thousands of people, related or not, whose lives have taken such an unexpected turn as a result of the fires.

It appears also that the winds are beginning to slacken. Hopefully, they will turn on shore and bring moisture (humidity has been in the 5-10% range) so that the firefighters can begin to gain the upper hand. Without their heroic work, it would be even worse than it is.

Monday, October 22, 2007

You Can Smell it From Afar. . .

We are lucky today. We live about 30 miles from the nearest fire that is devastating parts of southern California. On my morning walk, in our area of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, I do get a view across Santa Monica Bay toward Malibu. And the smoke is visible. This morning as I came out of the house I could smell the smoke; it is unmistakable. My thoughts are with those who are in the midst of the flames and smoke, those whose lives and homes are threatened.

The closest I have been to feeling what it is like to be in the midst of one of these fires came 3 years ago when so much of San Diego County burned. We had driven down on a Sunday morning and saw a lot of smoke and a small fire alongside the highway at Camp Pendleton. In the Carlsbad and Del Mar areas we faced heavy smoke along Interstate 805. At my in-laws home, many miles from the fires, there was a layer of ash on the cars. When I left to return to Los Angeles that afternoon, I had to detour from my normal route. The 805 had been closed because of zero visibility. I was redirected to Interstate 5 and headed north with traffic barely crawling along all the way to Oceanside where it finally cleared up. My normal 2 hour drive lasted well over 4 hours.

There are few things in life as scary as massive fire. I felt the fear just driving through heavy smoke. I was reminded of that fear when I smelled the smoke this morning and I pray that the winds die down and no more lives and property are lost. And my thoughts are also with the heroes out there on the line fighting the fires.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Peacock of the Day. . .

Ah yes, the fellow pictured below strolled along near me on my daily walk this morning. I think he has been here before and is becoming a regular on our block.

Thanks for the company, proud bird!

Friday, October 19, 2007

We Stumbled Just a Bit. . .

Tonight's "stumble through," the 1st off-book rehearsal of The Little College on a Hill, went much better than I thought it would. All of us stumbled a bit but we got through it relatively quickly. Tonight also marked the half-way point in rehearsals; we open 3 weeks from tonight. Below is a picture of director Bill DeLuca taking notes during the rehearsal.

For those who might be interested, The Little College on a Hill is a production of the Theatre Department of California State University, Dominguez Hills (in Carson, CA) and the Dominguez Bridge Project. Performances are in the University Theatre November 9, 10, 16 and 17 @ 8:00 p.m. and November 18 @ 2:00 p.m. I'll add ticket information in a later post along with more rehearsal pictures.

Now to get off-book without the stumble.

Jury Duty. . .Perhaps

I am scheduled for jury duty next week. That doesn't mean that I will actually have to serve, only that I am available if needed. The first time I was called after moving to California many years ago, I had to be in the jury room every morning. Eventually I was on a jury and the trial lasted 9 days. Under the current system in Los Angeles County, I call in every evening, starting with the weekend, for a week. If my group is called, I go to the courthouse the following day and I am available for service for just that one day. If selected for a jury, I am there for the duration of the trial; if not, I have fulfilled my legal obligation that day.

As I mentioned earlier, I did serve on a jury in a criminal trial one time. And, after that experience, I firmly believe that everybody ought to experience the role of a jury member at least once in a lifetime. It really is an awesome responsibility. You have the freedom of another person in your hands. You don't want to make a mistake and send an innocent person to jail. And, contrary to the easy opinions we form when watching TV news, court, and/or tabloid shows, the weighing of evidence is a serious matter. I know that my view of the justice system and criminal trial procedures was deeply affected by serving on a jury. In my particular case, we acquitted the defendant because there were just too many missing pieces in the evidence which did not come close to being "without a reasonable doubt." People who criticize jury decisions generally have never sat in a jury box and passed judgment on another human being.

ADDENDUM ADDED OCTOBER 29: As instructed, I called in to the automated system every evening last week. And I got the same message each time; I did not have to report on the following day. This time around I fulfilled my obligation on the telephone, not at the courthouse. But if everything remains as it has in the past, I will be called again in about 18 months.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Preparing for a Stumble Through

Friday evening will be the first off-book rehearsal for The Little College on the Hill. It is what Director Bill DeLuca refers to as a "stumble through." It is the first time in the rehearsal process that the actors do not have scripts in their hands. And the most often heard word of the evening will be cast members calling out "line" so that the Stage Manager, script-in-hand, can feed them the words they have forgotten to get them back on track.

It will be an uncomfortable rehearsal. There's no more lost feeling than not knowing your lines. But, no matter how well you think you know them, as long as the script is in your hand, you are constantly glancing at it to make sure you have the lines right. The only way to get off-book is, well, getting off-book and stumbling through.

So, it's crunch time. I am about 60% ready for Friday night. When the rehearsal starts that evening, I would like to be perfect but will settle for 95% as we stumble through the script. Okay, back to work on my lines while I'm waiting for my car to emerge from service (check-up, oil change and, I suspect, front brakes).

Monday, October 15, 2007

There’s No Business Like. . .

Last Thursday I wrote about my first 2 days on locatiom for the film Play the Game where I was the stand-in for Andy Griffith. I worked again on Friday and fully expected to be back on the set for at least 3 days this week when they would be filming additional scenes with Griffith at different locations. Then, I heard on Saturday that there was a "shake up" in the production and, among other things, they decided to drop the extras casting agency through which I was booked. The agency was not sure if that would affect my booking, thinking, as I did, that there was some benefit to maintaining the same person in the stand-in role.

Well, it wasn't until about 7:00 p.m. last night, after I had sent e-mails and left phone messages, that I learned that a new extras agency had been retained and that they had already booked a new stand-in. Fortunately, I've been around the business long enough to know that you never have the job until it is confirmed and you are on the set working.

And I did see the positive side of the situation: Now I can get caught up on my sleep. This week I won't be leaving home before sunrise and returning after dark. And all-in-all, I had a great time last week. I got to meet and talk with the likes of Griffith, Doris Roberts and Liz Sheridan. I have no illusion that they will even remember who I am but it sure was fun working on the same set with them.

Now I move on to find the next gig. There's no business like. . . .

Love Those Antique Cars. . .

We were on an outing with friends on Saturday to the Point Vicente Interpretive Center, a major whale watching site, and the neighboring Point Vicente Lighthouse. For some unknown reason, I did not take any pictures at either location and the links above will have to suffice.

However, while walking to the lighthouse we came upon a gathering of members of a local Model-T club and I did snap the following photos:

What can I say? I have loved the early cars ever since my youth in the Motor City. One of my brothers and his friends even owned a Model-T which they painted chartreuse and named Feetlebaum, taken from the hapless race horse in the song by that name recorded by Spike Jones and the City Slickers in 1947.

To paraphrase an old adage, you can take the boy out of Detroit but you can't take Detroit out of the boy.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


The 2500th visit to The Ancient One was recorded at 5:24 p.m. PDT this afternoon. The visitor clicked in from at 8:24 p.m. EDT. I'm not sure how del.icio operates but Oxypoet to whom that site appears to belong is none other than my oldest son Bill who has often been referred to in my comments as BillyBlog.

If that was you Bill, you have the honor (?) of being the one who gave me the final click to reach just another little milestone.

I must admit I did not think I would have this many visitors in the 1st 8 months of my blogging "career." Thank you.

Now to move on.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Script #6

The sixth script for The Little College on a Hill , this one labeled "final, revised," arrived via e-mail yesterday. After a quick perusal, it looks like this one has significant changes, some of which affect my character.

Is this the end of the revisions? I don't know. But it really is interesting to watch the script evolve into something far stronger than it was in the first version I saw.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Standing in for a Star . . .

I haven't been around much to write this week because I was booked to be the stand-in for Andy Griffith on a new movie, Play the Game, written and directed by Marc Fienberg. Yesterday and today, I was on location at the Calamigos Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Today's shoot was particularly exciting because it seemed like a good piece of American television history was on the set. In addition to Andy Griffith, there were Liz Sheridan, Doris Roberts, Rance Howard and several other name actors. While standing in for Griffith, I was lucky enough to be in a scene with Liz Sheridan who, according to script, is bumped by Paul Campbell resulting in a full cup of water hitting The Ancient One. To make sure that they got just the right shot, they did 5 takes of the scene. Although I will never actually be seen on the screen, I was soaking wet by the time we finished. Later in the afternoon, Ms. Sheridan kindly posed for a picture with me and gave me permission to post it here.

Well, I better post this and get to bed. I am due back on the set at 7:00 a.m. and it is a drive of nearly 60 miles. And I likely will be working several more days on this film shoot over the next couple of weeks.

By the way, I know I don't look like Andy Griffith. But, in the great wisdom of the film industry, I was selected for this job because examination of my headshot and resume indicates that my hair is the appropriate shade of white and my body size is similar enough that the crew can get the lighting and focus right when I am standing in for the star. Getting repeatedly soaked by Liz Sheridan was simply a bonus that cooled me down under the heat of the lights.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Script # ??

While performing in a newly written play is exciting, the rehearsal process can be a bit unsettling. We had the first read through of The Little College on a Hill on Sunday, September 30. I had received a copy of the script a few days earlier. At that rehearsal, I received some revised pages which expanded my role. A couple of days later I received a "revised" script which eliminated the new section although there were several changes and revisions. On October 5, I received the "Final Draft" of the script which now had a prologue in which my character does all the talking. And today, in my e-mail, I received yet one more "final draft."

So, I have now seen 5 successive versions of the script. How many more changes will there be? Yes, doing a new play is an adventure as the writers and director see what will and what won't work on stage. And, while a bit unsettling and confusing at times, it is a wonderful journey preparing for and acting in a "world premiere." That too is part of the joy of doing live theatre!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Final Wrap

Although the 2007 performance season for Culver City Public Theatre (CCPT) ended in mid-August, today was the day that company members went through the storage area in Carlson Park, disposed of what we no longer need, reloaded everything into the space and covered it with a tarp for the winter (to protect against inclement weather that does occasionally appear in southern California). Below are a few photos that include the members who were present:

The storage space with Laura Boccaletti (sorry about the rear view Laura)

Heidi Dotson deciding what should go where

Dean Edward and Alicia Cohen discussing what to load next

Steve Lekowicz getting ready to put on the covering tarp

No pictures of The Ancient One. Someone had to point the camera. Well, that's the final wrap for the 2007 season. The company members meet next week to start the process of planning for 2008.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

October Memories. . .

When I think of October, I think of my parent's birthdays. My father was born ion Mt. Forest, Michigan on October 12, 1897. I am not sure when his family moved to Detroit although I believe they first lived in the Del Ray section of the city before moving to Hamtramck where they had a house on Andrus Street. I guess I remember this because my father's law office was on Joseph Campau and Andrus above the Rainbow Confectionary which, when I was young, was owned by Meyer Morritz, my maternal grandfather. My father was still practicing law from that office when he died December 16, 1964.

My mother was born Martha Morritz on October 3, 1904 in New York City. I am not sure when her family moved to Detroit, or where they lived in the city, although I somewhere have part of a 2nd grade report card from a grade school in New York. The below picture was taken, I think, around 1920-21 by a photographer on Mack Avenue in Detroit.

Both of my parents graduated from Detroit Central High School, my father in 1915 and mother in 1922. That later became significant because I completed the 2nd generation of my family to attend and graduate from Central. My mother studied piano at, I believe, the Detroit Conservatory of Music. While my father did not have an undergraduate college education, he did graduate from the Detroit College of Law where he studied while working as a draftsman in the automobile industry.

Below is my parents' wedding picture. While I am not positive, I believe they were married on June 22, 1924.

Several years after my father died, my mother married Abe Max, a widower who had met his first wife, Sadie Rycus, at my parents wedding. That's when mom moved to Los Angeles where Abe had lived since about 1950. Abe was a close friend of my dad and, I believe, he was one day older. Sadie was a friend of mom and was a bridesmaid at my parents wedding. Abe died at the end of July, 1980 and Mom died here in L.A. on January 17, 1984 [There is also a longer story here that involves my wedding on January 1, 1981 to Abe's oldest granddaughter. Perhaps I will write about that at a later date.]

While I often think about my parents, October is when the memories are strongest. And they are good strong memories that have served me well as I have aged. They serve to remind me of my strong heritage and I delight when I see some of my parents' best traits in my own children. My only regret is that I know little about my grandparents' family histories before they came to this country from Byelorussia and Lithuania in the early 1890s.

Playing Doctor for a Day

Yesterday was a very long day. . .and a lot of fun. I worked as an extra on the first episode of the 2nd season of DIRT which appears on the FX network. The program stars actress Courteney Cox (formerly of Friends fame).

We were on location in Pasadena at what was once a hospital. Thanks to Seth, a new acting friend, below is a photo of The Ancient One trying to look like a doctor on the set during a break in the shooting.

I also met a number of "on-the-set" friends with whom I have worked over the past year or two. For the day, we were a mixture of doctors, nurses, paramedics, policemen, patients, hospital employees, security guards and even a priest (who, alas, was never used due to apparent script changes). There were 40+ of us who arrived for the 8:30 a.m. call and they started releasing people at about noon. At the end of the day (evening), there were just 3 of us left and we were officially wrapped and 9:42 p.m.

Most of my "work" for the day involved walking up and down a hallway outside a hospital room (with a large window to the hall) while the action went on inside the room. I always marvel at how many camera angles are used for each scene and it can (and was) a long, tedious process. But it was great to be on a set again. And it isn't often that I get to be a doctor for the day (but at far lower pay).

Monday, October 1, 2007

Another Visit. . .

I am not sure why I am so fascinated by peacocks; I just am. I spotted another one today approaching our front door. By the time I got the camera out, he had turned but I was able to get the following picture as he headed around the front of my car.

Actually, I am not positive it is a "he." The tail feathers are lacking color but I believe that this is a young bird and they may not have developed yet. I guess I was just reacting to the bright coloring of the head and neck.

Anyway - I did enjoy another visit even if it was only for a minute or two at most.