Category Archives: Poetry

Independent Shakespeare Rocks Romeo and Juliet at Griffith Park

Erika Soto and Nikhil Pai in ISC's Romeo and Juliet

Erika Soto and Nikhil Pai in ISC’s Romeo and Juliet

@IndyShakes returns to Griffith Park this Summer with Shakespeare’s most famous play about teenage folly as it’s season opener.

The emotional knee-jerk characteristics of tween/teens are thoroughly captured in this production by a not yet 13, overly cutesy Juliet and a capricious Romeo falling in and out of infatuation with Rosalind and then soundly in love with the girl of his dreams.

It’s a solidly modern theme that never loses its resonance or it’s impact especially with younger people today driving culture into a very adult landscape, drowning out the motif of children being babies, in its wake.  That’s not exactly the case here, but the power of extreme youthful passion craving experience in its fullest value is never more displayed so well as in Romeo and Juliet.

Once past the somewhat manufactured physicality of actress Erika Soto’s (Juliet) naivety, who displays a more adult change-up in the second act, there really is a quite brilliantly executed performance.  Ms.  Soto captures on one hand an exuberant, refreshingly high-spirited pre-teen and on the other, a singularly desperate, very young girl trapped in a situation with no options, no empathy from her parents, and no social recourse whatsoever.  Suicide is a clear choice.  For Juliet, it is the one way she knows how to absolutely decide her own fate.

Independent Shakespeare has taken pains to master a raucous Romeo and Juliet focusing much more into the quicksilver aspect of the teenage love story and the bawdiness of Shakespeare’s original writing.  Everything about the presentation is pointedly interactive, jolly, “loose,” laying so much less heavily on Shakespeare’s age-old theme of parental control, but nevertheless making the heady and lightening speed ending absolutely potent.

In fact, it is noticeable that some of the darkest aspects of this play – the death of Mercutio, the fatal duel with Tybalt, the severity of the consequences of Romeo and Juliet’s secret marriage – are almost skipped in favor of  what seems like a “never-ending party.” Here we have a thoroughly libertine Mercutio powerfully executed by Andre Martin and a surprisingly un-frumpy, street-wise, quick-thinking nurse played by Bernadette Sullivan almost entirely coopting focus.  Actor Nikhil Pai is a perfectly appealing Romeo who matches Juliet.  And there is truly an immersive quality about this production.

In the end though, the message for Juliet remains the same: that Love is most definitely NOT unconditional.  She has “lain with her sworn enemy”.  There will be no forgiveness for the truth and no way out of a life she can no longer accept through the “forced” new open eyes of an adult.  In Romeo’s case, death is as definitive a choice, and that of a young boy so immersed in the conviction of love without reason.  He really believes his life is over when he hears of Juliet’s untimely demise.  Romeo and Juliet’s only real support system is Friar Lawrence who (even though only) by accident, fails the couple, when it counts.

The violence of Romeo and Juliet’s actions is not shocking at all.  Their course has been set for them, mostly by the haste and bullying with which Juliet’s parents arrange her “womanhood”.  They are well-meaning but typically narcissistic adults more concerned about appearance and legacy than their child’s “actual” happiness.  Sound modern?  It should.  It’s a behavior still happening in every culture ore’ the world difficult to render it excusable for the “times,” be it cross-racial divides, religious and cultural differences that don’t assimilate, buying and selling child brides…and grooms, keeping kids on lock down for more than safety reasons, the gamut is endless – just watch the news.  And that is what makes this story ultimately so tragic.  We may have moved the needle in the direction of facilitating awesome human beings rather than ordering our children into a kind of submissive adulthood.  But plenty over centuries hasn’t really changed.

Independent Shakespeare’s production of Romeo and Juliet under the direction of Melissa Chalsma is an overwhelming success with it’s completely fresh interactive presentation.  Here we have absolute beauty, intelligent comedy and painful tragedy unequivocally balanced.  

One of the most gorgeous and seriously fun aspects of this production is the original fairytale-punk, rock score designed and performed by David Melville & Ashley Nguyen with William Elsman & Jack Lancaster.  Undeniably the highlight of the evening.

Highly recommended.  It’s a bit bawdy at times for young children, but no one was complaining.

The Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival
Friday through Sunday until July 26th
at The Old Zoo in Griffith Park

7:00pm

For more information, call (818) 508-1754

or visit www.iscla.org

Photo credit: Grettel Cortes

The World Domination of Richard III at Eclectic Company

 The villains get the best lines

Richard III

One of the most coveted roles in Shakespearean literature, Shakespeare’s history play recounts how Richard ascended to the throne and consolidated his power largely by accomplishing the murder of his perceived political adversaries, including members of his own family, in a story that resonates as surprisingly modern.  Fast, vicious and murderous, Richard III revels in Shakespeare’s gleeful poetry, hurtling along with Richard on his psychotic vision of world domination.

Directed by Natasha Troop, Eclectic Company’s Richard III is this season’s play to watch. Described as an “intimate encounter with Shakespeare’s most popular and cunning anti-hero, Richard of Gloucester,” the design elements of the current production are a mash-up of the futuristic and 1930s-era retro, highlighting both the elegance of life at court and the coldness of the Plantagenet feud.

It is both silky and seductive, ferocious and brutal, charming and repelling.

The cast includes Jon Mullich as Richard, also featuring Ovation award nominee Jesse Merlin (Re-Animator: The Musical) as Buckingham, and Christian Chan, Alon Dina, Melody Doyle, Carissa Gipprich, Rachel Kanouse, Jessicah Neufeld, David Pinion, Tim Polzin, Glenn Simon, Janie Steele, Randi Tahara, Gary Tremble, Eliot Troop, Micah Watterson and Nathan Werner.

Costume Designer: Wendell C. Carmichael   
Fight choreography: Christian Chan

Eclectic Company

The Eclectic Company Theatre
5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd. 
Valley Village, CA 91607 

(between Chandler and Magnolia)

WHEN: July 24- August 30, 2015. Fri. & Sat. at 8:00, Sun. at 2:00.

ADMISSION: $18.

RESERVATIONS: (818) 508-3003.

ONLINE TICKETING: www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org

Crazy Underneath The Trees

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Spontaneity is decidedly part of Moon Mile Run’s philosophy; if they hear about something that needs a bit of nurturing—even if it’s a last-minute Open Rehearsal to support a piece—they just might consider getting involved.
 
And they did!
How could they ignore the work of two paragons of Los Angeles’ theater history: Darrell Larson and Rob Sullivan? These two were doing “edgy and raw” theater in the Seventies, before those terms were used to describe theater.
 
Larson describes the piece, Crazy Underneath The Trees: “…not a play, not a poem, perhaps a prayer, definitely a confession, possibly an argument, seduction or negotiation? All of the above, actually, and with percussion. The latter is supplied by the inimitable MIKE TEMPO, of BONEDADDYS fame, with special guest, PAUL LACQUES on guitar.”
 
So join Moon Mile Run in Silver Lake for a COMPLIMENTARY EVENT on Monday, May 11, at 9:30 PM. Spirit Studio (3711 Evans Street, off Hyperion, 90027). Reservation are not required.
Mark Bringelson                 Michael Kearns                       Ryland Shelton
 

The Carrie Hamilton at The Pasadena Playhouse Celebrates Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz in Properties of Silence

 by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
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Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.   ~Buddha

For its commemorative 25th anniversary “Properties of Silence”, produced by About…Productions in residence at The Carrie Hamilton Theatre at The Pasadena Playhouse is currently being paired in revival with a Convergence of Women’s Voices Salon Series of poetry readings, special performances, panels and discussions. 

Written by Theresa Chavez, Rose Portillo and Alan Pulner and directed by Chavez, this short play melds two seemingly separate yet parallel stories together which ultimately discuss the struggle for self-expression.

It is a simply breathtaking piece! 

The third part of a trilogy that deals with the inner voice as a possible source of personal spiritual and political truth, the play takes place in a multi-layered dreamscape highlighting not just its gorgeous, inspired presentation, but the very real importance of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a nun of  New Spain (Mexico) who in the 17th century was an acclaimed, self-taught playwright, poetess, scientist and philosopher. 

Sor Juana focused on highlighting and revering the beauty and necessity of earthly things, people, sciences and ideas as the real blessing of God rather than falling in line strictly behind Church dogma which was suffocating and unenlightening especially for women who were brutally repressed.  She became known in her lifetime as “The Tenth Muse” and the “Phoenix of the Americas”. During her life, she also acquired what is considered to be the largest collection of scientific and musical instruments in the Americas and possessed a substantial library.  Before being silenced by the Church, she was commissioned by the vice-regal court of New Spain, residing in Mexico City, to write verse and plays, a number of which were published in Europe.  

Sor Juana was silenced by the Church for being a woman but really, for being a woman of extraordinary intelligence and reason, attributes  that were forbidden by the Church itself for women to possess.  Sor Juana wrote during a time when the subjegation of women was absolute. Intelligence shown by any woman was considered and dealt with as a disobedience and even though she was completely devoted to her faith, much of Sor Juana’s writings are said to have been destroyed as part of her penance wherein she writes (or was told to write), I, the worst of all women...

Nevertheless, a few of her works managed to live on creating a legacy that could not be denied. Even the facts surrounding whether or not she actually signed the penance papers or that she completely conformed to her silence remain loosely in debate. She is considered the first feminist writer and a Latin American treasure.  Properties of Silence is inspired by her most significant poem, “Primero Sueño” (“First Dream”). 

Properties of Silence is as brilliant as Sor Juana’s works themselves.  It is hands down one of the most evocative, intelligent, accessible writings imbued with considerable simplicity and empathy for all women, for all, period, feminist or not. 

Set in Phoenix, Arizona and told all in poetic line and imaginary dream where the players cross time and space to meet, exchange ideas and confess their fears, the piece shifts lightly from past to present through metaphor and reality until both become one.  Barbara (Elizabeth Rainey) and Tom (Kevin Sifuentes) come to grips with their troubled marriage.  Sor Juana (portrayed by Rose Portillo) confronts her own imminent silence by the Catholic Church who is forcing her to silence her pen and her scientific inquiries.

Properties of Silence and the “Post-Silence” Salon Series runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m until March 29, with one weekday matinee on Wednesday, March 25 at 2 p.m. (dark Sunday, March 22). Four preview performances take place on Saturday, Feb. 21 at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 22 at 3 p.m.; Thursday, Feb. 26 at 8 p.m.; and Friday, Feb. 27 at 8 p.m. 

Post-Silence Salon Series remaining highlghts.

Red Hen Press will present poets Nicelle Davis, Laurel Ann Bogen and Amy Uyematsu on March 12 and Gail Wronsky and Alicia Portnoy on March 20.

Scholar Barbara Fuchs, PhD on March 14; and writer/performer/activist Karen Anzoategui on March 21.

Mujeres de Maiz will present poets Iris de Anda, Felicia Montes, Rebecca Gonzales and Xitlalic Gujosa Osuna on March 15, and poets/writers Las Lunas Locas on March 26.

Starring Elizabeth Rainey, Kevin Sifuentes and Rose Portillo

Written by Theresa Chavez, Rose Portillo and Alan Pulner

Directed by Theresa Chavez

Original compositions by Julie Adler

Projections by Janice Tanaka

Set design iby Akeime Mitterlehner

Costume design is by Marcy Froehlich

Lighting Design iby Pablo Santiago

Choreography by Sarah Leddy

Original prints created by artists from the first Maestra Atelier at Self Help Graphics & Art in tribute to Sor Juana will be displayed in The Carrie Hamilton Theatre lobby.

Now Playing through March 29

at The Carrie Hamilton Theatre at The Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena CA 91101

POS_graphic-medWednesday at 2 p.m.: March 25 ONLY

Thursdays at 8 p.m.: March 12, 19, 26

Fridays at 8 p.m.: March 13, 20, 27

Saturdays at 8 p.m.: March 14, 21, 28

Sundays at 3 p.m.: March 15, 29 (dark March 22)

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Reservations and Information:

(626) 396-0920 or www.aboutpd.org

ADMISSION:

General admission: $30

Students with valid ID: $15

Record Number of California Counties To Participate This Year in “Poetry Out Loud”

Poetry Out LoudThis year, 40 thousand students, a record number, will  be represented in the Captiol for the California Poetry Out Loud state finals slated to take place on March 23rd and 24th in Sacramento, CA.

“Poetry Out Loud engages thousands of California’s high school students, helping them to build self-confidence, master the art of public speaking, and learn to love the written word,” said Craig Watson, Director of the California Arts Council. “This year, we’re proud to partner with thirty-five counties across California, making this our largest Poetry Out Loud State Final to date.”

In  outstanding participation, high school students analyzed, memorized and recited their poems in California. Only a few dozen, however, will stand on the state Senate floor for the competition finals.

Nationwide, Poetry Out Loud has grown every year. More than 365,000 students participated in 2013. And California features the largest, most exciting competition of all! Join theFacebook group to follow all the action.

Judges include California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera,  Filmmaker Christopher Coppola, and Poet and Arts Leader Frances Phillips

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The California Poetry Out Loud competition takes place on Sunday, March 23 (Round 1) and Monday, March 24 (Round 2 and Round 3). The events on Monday will take place in the state Senate Chamber and be recorded by the multi-media staff in the Senate and televised and/or webcast live on the California Channel (http://www.calchannel.com).

The Arts Council’s 2014 California Poetry Out Loud state finals are sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Hewlett Foundation and are expected to be standing-room only, based on the excitement generated statewide and attendance in previous years.

Participating Counties

Finalists from the following counties are expected to compete in the state Capitol: Alameda, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Humboldt, Inyo, Kings, Lake, Lassen, Los Angeles, Madera, Marin, Mendocino, Modoc, Mono, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Placer, Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tuolumne, Ventura, Yolo, and Yuba. (Other counties participated in the program but do not have a county winner to send to the finals.)

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About Poetry Out Loud

The Poetry Out Loud State Finals is California’s culminating competition between county winners who have shown their merit in the classroom, school, district, and county (a pyramid competition structure similar to the spelling bee). The California Poetry Out Loud champion will win $200 from the NEA and go on to compete in Washington, DC in April, with the winner’s school receiving $500 for poetry books. The California runner-up receives $100 from the NEA, with his or her school receiving $200 for books. At stake for the national finals is approximately $50,000 in scholarships and related winnings.

Public Attendance

As space will be limited, members of the public interested in attending the competition should contact Poetry Out Loud coordinator Kristin Margolis at kmargolis@arts.ca.gov. More general information, including a list of poems the students may choose to recite, can be found at www.arts.ca.gov/poetryoutloud/.

About the Judges

Christopher Coppola is the Director of the Film Department at the San Francisco Art Institute and a member of the California Arts Council. As President of Christopher R. Coppola Enterprises, Christopher Coppola has been a champion of, and leader in, digital media for over a decade. Since 1987 he has directed eight feature films and numerous television shows as well as developing and producing content for alternative distribution and interactive platforms. He is a member of the prolific Coppola family.  Coppola is deeply committed to education. His educational initiatives include helping to build a High Definition Research Laboratory at the San Francisco Art Institute, Coppola’s alma mater. The state-of-the-art lab provides equipment for shooting, editing and viewing, enabling students and visiting artists to discover new, artistic uses for high definition technology.

Juan Felipe Herrera was appointed California Poet Laureate by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. on March 21, 2012. Mr. Herrera is the author of twenty-nine books in various genres including children’s books, young adult novels, stories and poetry, and currently serves as serves as Professor of poetry in the Department of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside. He was a professor and chair of Chicano and Latin American Studies at California State University, Fresno, from 1990 to 2004. Herrera’s work has received wide critical acclaim including numerous national and international awards.

Frances Phillips is program director for arts and the Creative Work Fund at the Walter and Elise Haas Fund in San Francisco. Prior to her foundation work, Phillips was executive director of Intersection for the Arts (1986-94)-San Francisco’s oldest alternative arts space-and director and assistant director of the Poetry Center and American Poetry Archives at San SACRAMENTO – Francisco State University (1980-86). She teaches Creative Writing and Grantwriting at San Francisco State University. Phillips is the author of three small press books of poetry from Kelsey Street Press and Hanging Loose Press. She served as a reviewer and poetry review editor for The Hungry Mind Review and also has published book reviews in Montemora, Poetry Flash, The San Jose Mercury News, The Washington Post, and other publications. With Stan Hutton, she co-authored The Nonprofit Kit for Dummies (fourth edition published in November 2013). Last year, she interviewed Margaret Atwood and Jamaica Kincaid on stage for City Arts & Lectures of San Francisco.

Good Morning…What does the bee say?

BeesTHE BEE – by Emily Dickinson
(1830-1886)

Like trains of cars on tracks of plush
I hear the level bee:
A jar across the flowers goes,
Their velvet masonry

Withstands until the sweet assault
Their chivalry consumes,
While he, victorious, tilts away
To vanquish other blooms.

His feet are shod with gauze,
His helmet is of gold;
His breast, a single onyx
With chrysoprase, inlaid.

His labor is a chant,
His idleness a tune;
Oh, for a bee’s experience
Of clovers and of noon!

Let Them Eat Meat – A Solo Performance by Antonio Sacre Storyteller Extraordinaire

Let Them Eat Meat, theater, comedy, greek myth, childhood obesityby Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

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Antonio Sacre is a brilliant, seamless storyteller.

I first experienced his work back in 2011 at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in The Next Best Thing, noting his “touch of the poet,” as an ode to his Bostonian, Irish-American background, which I am well familiar with, being a former native myself.

I’ve been enthralled from the beginning.  In so many ways, where the Irish side of him is concerned, I know him utterly. I mean, seriously, every time he opens his mouth to do a caricature of one of his uncles or his mom, it’s like listening to my cousin Lynn, daughter of a fists of lightening, tough, Irish cop.  And I often feel more like an insider rather than just a viewer when experiencing the hilarity of a family that uses the word “fuck” as a reverential adjective as opposed to a curse word. It really is pretty funny.  I “get it.”

Of course, there’s the Cuban side.  As Antonio likes to spin it, “everything sounds better in Spanish,”  and the great benefit of his ability to orate bilingually, lends immediacy to the audience who is therefore able to culturally grasp his alter ethnicity which is very different, and yet, so much the same.

At the essence of all of Sacre’s stories is love of family. The juxtaposition of harsh to soft dialects, all the Latin bravado, the Bostonian staccato and the sheer variety of lively personalities within his own family, creates such a robust experience, one can only say, “Wow! What a life!”

This new tale, revamped from an outstanding 2012 debut in New York City, is not very different than anything I’ve seen and heard him do so far.  An intertwine of inconceivable personal history meshed with impersonations of family members, a little bit of hyphenated action and the key element of a myth to wrap inside or around his story.

This time however, it was most definitely, rougher. Let Them Eat Meat  is a serious exposition of Sacre’s relationship with his younger brother, Harry, a remarkably vivacious, smart, kid without borders, whose self-love, determination and penchant for getting into trouble, take him to a comical/tragical edge and back.

Beginning with being kicked out of multiple grade schools, Henry asks to live with his Cuban grandmother in Miami and makes an early rise to success at age 17 as a strip club bartender with a reputation for being the most likable, jokester of a boy who can charm anyone.  But as his success graduates to being a high rolling bookie, he is eventually indicted by the Feds as a key player in one of Miami’s most infamous drug cartels.

It is a Daedalus and Icarus themed account played out for audiences as if it is completely and practicably normal.  Only, in the most unbelievable triumph, Henry, unlike Icarus, does not sink to his death from flying too high, but in Antonio’s words, “learns to swim.”

In this story Antonio focuses into his Cuban ethnicity really taking time to describe ethics, the sweetnesses, the disappointments and the realities that clearly shaped him and his brothers after their parents bitterly divorced during his youth.

It’s not a simple “heartwarming” story.  It is fierce love realized through, exasperation, mild brotherly jealousy, comforts, jokes, profiles and music that  most audiences will assume to be highly improbable, but for Sacre’s natural authenticity.

Let Them East Meat, is an aboundingly honest Sacre, extracting the profound meaning of brotherly relationships for himself and the audience while finding perspective with one of the most important persons in his life.

Delicious.

Sunday, June 30th was supposed to be the last performance, but an announcement was made that the show would be extended for another two weeks.  Check the website for more information:

http://www.thesolocollective.com
@solocollective5