Sunday, July 21, 2019

Legends, Movement and Memories / LA Womens Theatre Festival

Hosted by Ms Marla Gibbs and Ms Florence LaRue, L.A.WOMEN’S THEATRE FESTIVAL presented an evening of entertainment diversity to bring attention to the good works of women in theatre.  An air of casual serendipity prevailed as raffle tickets were sold and a display of crafts greeted the audience at The Greenway Court tonight.  
Full disclosure.  This is not the type theatre that onstagelosangeles usually reviews.  An invitation came in from LA PR guy Phil Sokoloff that mentioned the dancer/performer Juli Kim.  

Juli is from a Korean background.  I have recently purchased a zither that looked like one that Korean musicians were playing on Youtube. So.. I contacted Juli to see if she could help me get information about my new Korean zither: a gayaguem.  Are you with me so far?
Juli connected me with Korean masters of the gayaguem who told me that the zither I have is NOT a gayaguem!  But, Juli was so nice in our email exchange that I wanted to see her performance and meet her in person. 
Tonight's program was hosted by two legends in the world of entertainment: Ms Florence LaRue, formerly of The Fifth Dimension, who opened the show with singing that raised the roof. Ms Marla Gibbs, best known for The Jeffersons and her own series, 227 bantered with marginally written information that both ladies were seeing for the first time.  Introductions were totally charming as they credited LAWTF for the good work the organization does. Our patient audience took it all in with good humor.

Following Florence LaRue's opening number, my connection, Juli Kim, presented a beautiful  Korean dance  accompanied by her son on cello and daughter on piano. 
The grace and fluidity of her dance was beautifully  engaging.
Scene changes by stage manager Ms Brandi Johnson and her crew were somewhat tentative, but the entire time, the audience was totally engaged.  
Amy Milano's "Dancing With Crazies" began with an energetic dance routine that led to a somewhat labored one woman presentation that chronicled events in her life evolving into a tap dance routine! 
We skipped momentarily the scheduled intermission with an additional song by gorgeous Florence LaRue who, after being a part of the Fifth Dimension so long ago showed that she has only improved with age.. 
Then..  intermission and the hawking of more raffle tickets! Florence predicted that she'd win something! AND.. she did!  Hmmmmm....
After intermission we were treated to an amazing display of rhythm with Juli Kim and a five drum dance.   Ms Kim exhibited the elegant calm of her introductory dance enhanced by acrobatic percussion using five decorated frame drums that came to life with her expert drumming. 
The beauty of this evening's diversity was the professional presentations seasoned with our beautiful hostesses weathering through the required dialogue.  I was fortunate to reconnect with actress Dagmar Stansova whose "Loose Underware" show I reviewed recently as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival.  Her shared insights as the program progressed pointed up the spontaneous quality of the evening.   
With an onstage musical trio: Rahan Coleman: keyboard, Michael Saucier: bass and Quentin Denard on drums,  Ms Freda Payne paid tribute to her childhood idol, Ella Fitzgerald. Ms Payne presented Fitzgerald's personal history with familiar tunes with some scat mixed in.  
Such diverse entertainment was well received with my personal surprises brought by Ms Kim.  This was a one time only event, but should opportunities to see Ms Kim perform, her bringing the Korean culture to the western stage is truly impressive. 
I've learned that the zither that I have come into is probably NOT Korean, so if anyone knows anything about a Chinese zheng or guzheng, please contact me. 
This zither has sixteen strings, with friction pegs and sixteen triangular bridges that the strings are strung on, any information shall be appreciated. I need more bridges! 
Thanks to producer / LAWTF co-founder Adilah Barnes for a most unique evening of theatre. For more information about the workshops and activities of LAWTF go to and support these dedicated artists. 
Michael Sheehan

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