Monday, August 29, 2011

DRAMA WEST FEST: Play Readings by the Seat of Their Pants!


Good news for Silverlake locals and fans of new theatre. In a funky little community meeting room at the Edendale Library at Sunset and Alvarado, theatre by the seat of its pants is burgeoning.

Every other month Catherine Stanley, producer and Hettie Lynne Hurtes, casting director, present a handful of very short plays in staged readings. This kind of theatre is vital to the community as it gives playwrights, actors and directors an opportunity to toss ideas into the air just to hear them on their feet. Or to see if they might fly?

Playing to a packed house (over fifty in attendance) Saturday’s performances included six clever pieces that showcased six playwrights and a healthy company of players and directors. Also included was a well written and produced short film, "Misusing Irony."

Play readings were climaxed by Mary Steelsmith’s “The Miraculous Day Quartet,” a chilling recounting of four diverse characters all somehow not where they should have been on September 11th 2001. Presented in a somewhat Beckettian manner conducted by a maestro with a baton, director Susan Stangl brought the piece in nicely.

Steelsmith has been writing plays for over thirty years and it was a pleasure to see her and remembering her one act, “WACs in Khaki” which we produced at The Company Theatre in 1981!

Playwrights, directors and actors are solicited for the Drama West Fest at the Edendale. Pieces should be no longer than ten minutes and may be presented as a staged reading. This is truly theatre by the seat of its pants.

Next readings will be presented around the last Saturday in October.

For more information producer Catherine Staley may be reached at

Friday, August 26, 2011

Virtual Realty Comes to the Stage

“You are Dead. You are Here.” is a theatre piece in progress written by playwright Christine Evans collaborating with University of North Carolina director Joseph Megel. Story turns on actual therapy currently being developed along with a program called Virtual Iraq that literally takes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder patients back to the scene of the crime: war torn Iraq, to help them confront the issues brought on by the tragedy of being in war.

Presented at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, a beautiful complex in Playa Vista, Evans’ play will eventually be mounted using Virtual Reality programs currently in development at the ICT. Today’s reading featured Media design by Jared Mezzochi which incorporated projections including Skype images as well as use of the current Virtual Iraq program.

Essentially, a trained psychologist sits with a young African American soldier who has reluctantly agreed to “give a shot” at what he expects to be a virtual reality game. The depths to which the therapist and the client must delve unfold readily with examples of the new technology being used with actual patients who are suffering from PTSD. As in any good story an additional element is brought in to add to the mystery of the play. Apologies to the excellent actors whose names I neglected to take down.

It was noted that not everyone thinks that having PTSD patients wading back into their traumatic situations via Virtual Iraq is a good idea. The results in the real world remain to be tallied.

The evolving use of New Media in theatre is on the cutting edge thanks to the collaboration with USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies.

Thanks to Joseph Megel, Christine Evans and Jared Mezzochi and their cast of three who are opening not only these new techniques to the stage, but helping to defuse the stigma of seeking treatment for trauma experienced by the fighting men and women of the United States.

Please check the attached video for the results of the work in a reading at UNC in May, 2011.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Free Theatah!

For those of you who listen to KPCC, Hettie Lynne Hurtes and friends produce readings of original One Act Plays at the Edendale Library (Alvarado and Sunset) this Saturday, August 27, 2011 at 2PM. Free Parking behind the library.

Location: Edendale Library Sunset at Alvalrado
Time: ‎2:00PM Saturday, August 27th

Friday, August 5, 2011


Guest Reviewer Zach Siefert-Ponce is nineteen and will attend his first year of college in September. His passion for writing and interest in Theatre prompted me to invite him to see this show and write his own review. As a recent scholar of Melville, his insights are succinct and relevant.

A Whale of a Tale: Moby Dick Rehearsed at the Lyric Theatre in Hollywood

To those of us who are fond of brilliance, it may seem as though only too much can be said about Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, and the genius of Orson Welles tends to speak for itself. Director Aliah Whitmore skillfully blends the artistry of both in Orson Welles’s
Moby Dick Rehearsed, now presented by the Whitmore Eclectic at the Lyric Theatre. This play recounts the plot of Herman Melville’s novel as experienced by an intense young enthusiast, The Young Actor/Ishmael—vigorously played by Dustin Seavey—who insists that parts of this book were meant to be spoken; James Whitmore Jr.’s performance of Father Mapple’s Sermon in the following scene assures us that this is true as the words of Melville swallow the audience whole and the voice that speaks them rains fire and brimstone.

However interesting the play, this production of Moby Dick Rehearsed is not for the lazy audience member. From the beginning the audience is made to understand that more is required of them than usual: the actors bring the characters to life, but it is left to the imagination of the audience to provide the sea and the whale. This is not difficult with the strength of Ishmael’s narrative voice; Seavey’s intensity cuts through the audience’s concentration, as does that of James Whitmore Jr. and Richard Cox.

However, the monologues of the three major speaking roles were written with such strict poetics and attention to detail that any slight mistake stings the ear. Every stammer feels like a stumble and every missed rest like a record skipping. Mistakes were minimal, but noticeable; overall, they are forgivable.

The timeless passages and monologues of Moby Dick are brought to life with authenticity and all of the Gothic Realism that is signature to the style of Herman Melville. The play stays true to the words of Melville which are delivered with an intensity that transcends volume. The major speaking roles are those of James Whitmore Jr. as Captain Ahab, Dustin Seavey as Ishmael, and Richard Cox as Starbuck, all of whom capture the very essence of their characters. The remainder of the cast embodies the entire crew, whether on or off stage, with a mix of general whale ship sounds and caricatured representations—most notably Flask’s feistiness, which is embodied by Andrew Patton’s mustache, and Kate McManus’s portrayal of Pip, whose tone of voice seems to always be saying “remember, I’m a little black boy.”

At times, due to the proportions of the stage, all of the actors are crossing each other’s paths at once, weaving in and out of each other’s way. The stage becomes so busy with movement that the audience is not certain who or what to watch. Director Aliah Whitmore capitalizes on this organized confusion and the audience finds that their eyes are beginning to follow their ears; people with stiff necks should consider waiting for their pain to subside before making their visit to see this play as it will be showing through August 28th.

The grim authenticity of Melville’s work is palpable with the first glimpse of the stage. The stage itself has limitations in its depth as well as its lighting, but to master one’s limitations is to create one’s own style. It is obvious from the first scene that a harmony of relationship exists between the director and the building itself. What the stage lacks in depth it more than makes up for in width which may prove to be a hindrance to most other directors who do not possess the personal understanding of a stage that Aliah Whitmore has with her own.
Complete with lofty speeches and talented directing, the tableaus of frozen faces make this production priceless, let alone worth twenty dollars; this production of Moby Dick Rehearsed is a fun time for any active imagination.

Moby Dick Rehearsed by Orson Welles
Directed by Aliah Whitmore
The Whitmore Eclectic
The Lyric Theater
520 N. La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, Ca 90036
Tickets and Information
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8PM
Sundays at 3PM
Closes August 28th
Tickets $20

Monday, August 1, 2011


Top, left to right: Kate McManus, Andrew Patton, Dustin Seavey, Richard Cox, Steve Madar, Michael Welch; Center: James Whitmore Jr.; Bottom: Andre Verderame (l.), Rob Fabiani. Photo by Fabiani

MOBY DICK: REHEARSED at The Lyric in Hollywood.

Orson Welles, born almost a hundred years after the birth of Herman Melville, shared some of Melville’s adventurous spirit that was evident also at an early age. Melville, born in 1819, was just 22 when he signed on a whaling ship and found himself round the Horn in the Galapagos Islands. Experiencing the sea and the hard work of whale hunting likely led to his magnificent 1851 tome, Moby Dick, known to most of us through director John Huston with Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab in the epic 1956 film. Welles has long since been recognized as a genius with his work with the Mercury Theatre and Citizen Kane. His dedication to art and new ideas blossoms these fifty some years later in Whitmore Eclectic’s production of Moby Dick: Rehearsed now playing at the Lyric.

As the audience settles, we observe various members of the cast on the periphery of the stage and learn from the Stage Manager (Director Aliah Whitmore, third generation of the acclaimed acting family) and her silent assistant Andre Verderme, that a rehearsal of the show is about to begin. They are visible off right with live music and sound effects through out, reminding us that this is, after all, a theatrical... circa late eighteen hundreds. Jacob Whitmore’s set and Grant Dun’s lights are purposely simple representations, allowing the audience to make up the difference, helping to create the reality of the tale as the actors take on multiple roles depicting the well known story. Well done costumes are not credited.

As The Young Actor, Dustin Seavey, evolves into Ishmael, who has survived alone to tell the story. Eclectic founder James Whitmore (The Governor, Father Mapple, Ahab), bursts upon the stage with all the charisma that one must have.. as Welles indeed possessed.. to command the scene, first spouting lines from King Lear as Welles himself must have read them. We learn that budget is an issue. Thus, the rigging of the Pequod is very basic with marginal props and lighting to depict the journey into the Atlantic and on to warmer waters to seek out and destroy the Leviathan who has claimed Captain Ahab’s leg. In the actors’ speeches we hear the voice of the playwright. As the actual rehearsal begins, the voice of Melville is brought to life.

The introduction of the players is telling. There is a professional pecking order in the company. Tim deZarn literally steals the scene as The Old Pro, purposely chewing the scenery from time to time. As the characters in the rehearsal come to life, the egos of the actors whom we’ve met are left behind. Also notable is Richard Cox as Starbuck, the attempted conscience of Ahab whose pleadings to abandon the vengeful hunt go unheeded.

Director Aliah Whitmore has whipped her crew into an ensemble who function as a well-tuned machine. Their physical dedication to the show is outstanding. Benches for whaling boats and rag tag suggestions of the Pequod work well.

Cross casting of talented Kate McManus as the Black Cabin Boy, Pip is a challenge. She mentions that there are no parts for women in the play, so she is cast as Pip. Her rendition works beautifully. In fact each of the ensemble members, Steve Madar, Robert Fabiani, Andrew Patton, Michael G. Welch in multiple roles are well defined as individuals.

Why the design did not include actual sails that may have been unfurled from time to time was a mystery to me as the crew hove to with ropes and pulleys as the Pequod found, at last, the White Whale. The strenuous business of the encounter is dramatic and exhausting.

Whitmore’s ensemble is a hearty and dedicated crew. The show deserves an audience.


Presented by Whitmore Eclectic

Lyric Theatre

520 N. La Brea

Hollywood, CA 90036

Thursday through Saturday at 8PM

Sundays at 3PM

Closes August 28, 2011

Reservations 818 826 3609


$20 Top