Playwright and composer – creator of the musical Group

Posts tagged “adam emperor southard

A reasonable response to the Boston Marathon bombing

Whatever your thoughts on gun control, it is a reasonable reaction to the Sandy Hook tragedy to assess our accessibility to military level weapons and ammunition. I could go on at length how the Gabby Giffords shooter was only stopped when he paused to reload (story) or how children escaped Sandy Hook when the shooter had to reload (story), so the capacity of cartridges should be evaluated, but that would not have stopped the Boston Marathon explosions.

The bombs used in Boston were probably made in a home not so different than yours or mine. They were placed in backpacks. They were surrounded by metal pieces that would later get lodged in the flesh of families cheering on their loved ones. What is the reasonable reaction to that?

As a resident of Los Angeles, I can tell you first hand that backpacks are searched at places such as Disneyland and the Staples Center. I always naively assumed this was to check for knifes, or maybe guns. It now occurs to me that this simple search could prevent bombings as well. This type of search is not feasible at large, outdoor events like the Boston Marathon. So, if we can’t prevent individuals from making bombs and leaving them in public areas, what can we do?

When “news” broke that an international (read: middle eastern) man was arrested, it felt forced and false, a knee-jerk reaction that gives us an enemy we Americans are comfortable with. Didn’t we have a similar reaction to the Oklahoma City bombings, only to find out it was the work of a United States Citizen with ties to a right-wing paramilitary organization?

We don’t know who caused the Boston bombing, yet, so I am left with many questions. Did friends, family or mental health professionals fail the person responsible for the bombing? Did he or she fall through the cracks? Was this heinous act caused by someone who was pushed over the edge by words of hate?

I do not personally have the power to change our gun laws or to search for bombs at large gatherings. I do, however, have control over what I put out into the universe. I believe that words matter. I believe that everything we say and do can affect others. I believe it is possible for someone who is filled with anger and fear to get motivated by the words of a stranger to commit a terrible crime.

We know that The Turner Diaries and its depiction of an overthrow of the U.S. Government inspired the Oklahoma City bomber (story). We know that the killer of the physician George Tiller had a network of supporters who encouraged his actions and applauded his violent act (story).

What I’m trying to say is that you never know who is reading or hearing the hatred you put out into the world. You want a reasonable response to the tragedy in Boston?

LEAN TOWARDS EMPATHY. LEAN TOWARDS LOVE.

Everything else can only cause pain. Do not accept it when you hear politicians preaching hatred. There are thousands of people who believe that President Obama is the actual, literal devil. There are pundits who will tell you that the world is going to end when the wrong person is elected. What is the reasonable reaction to that form of rhetoric if you struggling with mental health issues? What do you do when you are told to exercise your second amendment rights before it is too late?

Leaders and dangerous organizations have the right to say whatever they want, but they need to know how dangerous their rhetoric is. Choose where you get your news from carefully and don’t support those who may encourage people on the edge to act out in violence.

LEAN TOWARDS EMPATHY. LEAN TOWARDS LOVE.

 

 


Where I’ve Been

Where has the time gone? It is so easy to get caught up in whatever shiny thing is in front of me, that I neglect things… like my blog… like my playwriting.

The reading of my latest drama, “I’ll Be Waiting” was great. The feedback was excellent and incredibly useful. I even changed the ending after considering the questions that some of the audience had at the end of the show. I love ambiguity, but some things were not clear enough. Sadly, I have not thought about writing that much since then. What I need to do is finish tweaking the new play and start submitting it. Maybe writing that here will get me moving.

The photography is going well. I am really focusing in on just specializing on headshots. I took this new profile pic of myself today:

1-29-13

1-29-13

 

What else, what else… OH! I’ve been doing a TON of songwriting lately. I have written the theme song for two different, great webseries. More information to come on those soon. Also, I wrote a plug theme for my favorite comedy podcast, Comedy Bang Bang. They played on their first ever videotapped podcast and broadcast on youtube. So, I was the first plug song composer to get to see the comedians dance / react to my music. It was pretty great. Pretty freaking great. You can view and hear my song at the 57 minute mark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=tpBLYhbljFI#t=3443s

It is by far the oddest song I’ve ever written since normally I stick to musicals and singer/songwriter stuff. Doing an R&B song in falsetto surprised even myself, which is why I think it worked.

Anyhow, I apologize for not having more to say. I just wanted my placeholder to be something more recent. If anything exciting happens, I’ll let you know :)


The 50 Greatest Christmas Songs

This list contains no synths, drum machines or auto-tuned vocals (my apologies to Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber). These are my favorite versions of the best 50 Christmas songs. Feel free to comment below regarding the songs I egregiously missed, as I’m sure there are many.

If you want to listen to the first 30 songs of this playlist, here they are on Spotify: http://t.co/NUco4TTb

  1. The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole: If God doesn’t sound like Nat, I’m going to be sorely disappointed. His buttery, soulful voice rests gently on a bed of strings and jazz guitar. It’s perfection. (Alternative version: Mel Torme wrote this classic and his live version on the Traditional Christmas Classics album is a tour de force of loveliness)
  2. White Christmas – Bing Crosby: I prefer the slightly less racist version from the White Christmas movie than the one from Holiday Inn. The strings and choir take turns backing up Bing’s deep, deep, deep tone. Besides, there is a brief whistle solo. How great is that?
  3. Merry Christmas Darling – Carpenters: This song has AMAZING harmonies, a gorgeous performance by Karen and the word Christmasing used as a verb. Sidebar: Every time I hear this song while in Los Angeles it makes me wish I was with my family in Michigan. Sidebar2: It has an 11 second saxophone solo. Any longer and it would be that song with a lame saxophone solo.
  4. This Christmas – Donny Hathaway: Donny co-wrote this classic. Do not accept alternative versions. Chris Brown’s version is the version that pops up first when you search for this song. Fix this, America.
  5. Skating – Vince Guaraldi Trio: No one made jazz music as accessible as Vince. The change that happens in this song at the one minute mark is extraordinary. How can you hear this and NOT think of skating?
  6. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow – Frank Sinatra: 1:38, Frank says, “but that fire is mmmmmmmmm delightful.” (Alternative version: If it wasn’t for the “mmmmmmm delightful,” I was going to choose Harry Connick Jr’s version)
  7. Baby It’s Cold Outside – Johnny Mercer, Margaret Whiting: It’s difficult to get the right chemistry for this song. It has to be sexy, but subtle. James Taylor is too sweet and Dean Martin is trying too hard to liquor her up. This classic version is tonally perfect.
  8. Sugar Rum Cherry (Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy) – Duke Ellington: If you saw the Nutcracker a million times but haven’t heard Duke Ellington’s versions, do yourself a favor and do it, like now. You will instantly feel cooler. They are all great.
  9. Christmas Scat – Muppet Christmas Carol: It’s only 23 seconds long, but it is perfect. Try to picture Robin on Kermit’s shoulder and NOT smile.
  10. Carol of the Bells – George Winston: I LOVE this song and George’s piano version is freakin’ gorgeous. For some reason I imagine myself eating waffles while listening to it. You’ll have to ask my mom why that is. (Alternative versions: Pentatonix has a really cool acapella version and the Piano Guys has a great string version.
  11. Happy Christmas (War Is Over) – John & Yoko: Imagine a world where this song will no longer be relevant. (This would be higher if it weren’t for Yoko’s backup vocals – I don’t think she broke up the Beatles or anything, she just can’t sing)
  12. Dona Nobis Pacem – Richard Stolzman: If you don’t know this GORGEOUS song, check it out. It is beautiful and peaceful and has a 100% chance of calming you down at all times. (The translation means “Give Us Peace”)
  13. (It Must’ve Been Ol’) Santa Claus – Harry Connick Jr: This may be the most fun song on this list. You just want to hang out with this band.
  14. Christmas Time Is Here – Vince Guaraldi Trio: I prefer the instrumental version, but it’s great with vocal too. Vince is simply integral to all of my holidays.
  15. All I Want For Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey: This is probably the best modern Christmas song. This song explodes with energy and Mariah is at her best. (Alternative Version: Michael Buble’ has a nice version, but it doesn’t match Mariah’s energy)
  16. That Was the Worst Christmas Ever! – Sufjan Stevens: This is the only song on the list that I listen to year round. It’s so beautiful and sad.
  17. All That I Want – The Weepies: I lied in #16, I listen to this song year-round too. This is right up my alley.
  18. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen / We Three Kings – Barenaked Ladies & Sarah McLachlan: Both of these songs can be slow. Combining them and picking up the tempo was a brilliant choice. This song is fun and the harmonies are kind of brilliant. (Alternative versions: For an instrumental We Three Kings, look upSteven Sharp Nelson. I also recommend Harry Connick Jr’s ragtime version of We Three Kings)
  19.  Sleigh Ride – Ella Fitzgerald: I love the instrumental version of this song (particularly the Boston Pops classic), but if you are looking for vocals, go with Ella. Always. As a rule. (Alternative version: The She & Him version is pretty fun, but it is a little too rockabilly for my taste)
  20. Jingle Bells – Michael Buble’ featuring The Puppini Sisters: He was born in the wrong time period. Such a classic voice. This is an upbeat, big band version that has the Puppini Sisters sounding like they are from a 1920’s radio show. (Alternative version: I really like Barbara Steisand’s double time Jingle Bells too)
  21. Christmas Waltz – Carpenters: Again, Karen Carpenter’s voice is all sorts of Christmas and the arrangement is amazing. Plus, not many songs talk about the meter: “And this song of mine, in ¾ time…” I think I’m going to start all of my songs this way in the future. “Coming to you in 4/4, as I march you out the door.” (Alternative version: Nancy Wilson has a lovely take on it)
  22. It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas – Johnny Mathis: This would be higher but I hate his A Marshmallow World so much it taints all of his music for me.
  23. Winter Wonderland – Peggy Lee: This is a great version of the only song I know of that asks you to conspire by the fire.
  24. Twelve Days of Christmas – John Denver w/ the Muppets: This repetitive song is almost unlistenable unless you are singing along, UNLESS you have the Muppets singing it. This version still makes me laugh and I’ve heard it more than you. Trust me.
  25. I Saw Three Ships – Sting: This version is a bit of a song cycle with great percussion and flutes. It sounds nothing like any other Sting songs I can think of. The bass that kicks in at 1:20 is perfection.
  26. Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt: Yes, Madonna does a great job covering this song, but she is just doing an impression of the AMAZING Eartha Kitt.
  27. The Holly and the Ivy – Mannheim Steamroller: I’m hesitant to include work by Steamroller because they often relied on synthesizers that date their music terribly. This, however, is really pretty.
  28. I Pray on Christmas – Harry Connick Jr: Try to not sing along. Just try.
  29. Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer – Billy May w/ Alvin Stoller: A mambo version of Rudolph with a crazy screaming guy? Yes, please.
  30. Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town – Bruce Springsteen: This would be pretty rough as a studio track, but LIVE, it truly lives. Hearing the band crack each other up is a real joy. (Alternative version: Jackson 5: because it’s great)
  31. Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives: I really struggled between this classic version and Michael Buble’s updated version. They are both great.
  32. The Christmas Blues – Dean Martin: A lovely melody that fits Martin’s vibrato perfectly. Listen to how he sings “Jan-u-a-ry”
  33. Auld Lang Syne – James Taylor: This is an amazingly beautiful version of this song. The piano and guitar work perfectly together with James, who sounds as brilliant as ever.
  34. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear – Josh Groban: Look, you aren’t going to find a better voice than Josh Groban. His musical choices, however, are often a little too “soft music” station for me. This version, however, is pretty unique. The simple chord changes he has made makes the song feel free.
  35. Christmas Time All Over the World – Sammy Davis Jr: A lovely message that works because of Sammy’s amazing vocals.
  36. I Was Thinking I Could Clean Up For Christmas – Aimee Mann: This isn’t a very traditional Christmas song, but it is a traditional sounding Aimee Mann song, which is all right with me. Sidebar: This song contains the only swear word on this entire list.
  37. Angels We Have Heard On High – Sufjan Stevens: In the hands of most artists, this song is kind of boring. Sufjan’s version is a lovely surprise. (Alternative version: Sixpence None the Richer have a pretty great take on the song as well)
  38. Christmas Is Coming – Vince Guaraldi Trio: Sorry, he had to be on here three times. I love this song. If you don’t clap twice along with the snare rim shot (at 0:47 and :50), you aren’t living.
  39. Joy To The World – Nat King Cole: Tried to find a better version for the sake  of variety. Could not.
  40. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Mel Torme: It starts with just his voice and then the strings emerge ascending and descending following his lead. It’s stunning. (Alternative version: James Taylor’s is perfect as well)
  41. I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Bing Crosby: Listen to the Spanish guitar gently plucking over the strings. It’s impossible to sing this song without copying Bing’s way of singing “If only in my-Y-y dreams” (Alternative version: Nickel Creek has a truly unique version of it that is great).
  42. Silver Bells – Stevie Wonder: He makes this song kind of cool. He makes everything cooler.
  43. Riu Riu Chiu – The Monkees: It’s kind of wrong to have a Spanish song on this list as sung by The Monkees, but the harmony is really good.
  44. The First Noel – Trans-Siberian Orchestra: I don’t find the electric guitar that the Trans-Siberian Orchestra typically uses as being very timeless. This song, however, is just a perfect acoustic guitar.
  45. Some Children See Him – James Taylor: This rarely covered song is really pretty. I simply love the melody and it fits Taylor’s voice so, so well.
  46. Christmas Lights – Coldplay: This kind of sounds like every Coldplay song, but that’s okay. It’s still good. All their stuff is pretty good. Admit it.
  47. O Holy Night – Pentatonix: This song is pretty but it can be kind of boring. I particularly like the harmonies in this version and I love hearing Kirstie Maldonado take the lead on this one. The four men in the group tend to dominate.
  48. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus – Jackson 5: He watched long enough to see him go from kissing to tickling? Stop peeping Michael.
  49. Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis – Tom Waits: I love this song but I only feel comfortable putting it on a Christmas list near the bottom. You know… because Hooker is in the title and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. (Alternative version: Neko Case does an AWESOME version of this song)
  50. Little Drummer Boy / Peace On Earth – Bing Crosby & David Bowie: I kind of hate Little Drummer Boy, which is why it’s so low on my list, but the Peace On Earth counter part really works for me. Sidebar: if you haven’t seen Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly sing this, click here. (Alternative version: I’m shocked how much I like Josh Groban’s version. He tries something new with it that certainly makes Little Drummer Boy more interesting than it deserves.)

Good Songs Omitted:

Blue Christmas – Elvis: I think his vocals are great, but the repetitive backup vocals just kill me.

Feliz Navidad – Jose Feliciano: I have no excuse for this not being on the list. It’s a classic.

Fairytale of New York (particularly the version by Gianni and Sarah): I couldn’t get over one particular word in the middle.

Frosty the Snowman – Mike Jones: This is a really great piano version. It should have been on here.

The Chipmunk Song – Alvin And The Chipmunks: I actually like this song, but the chipmunk voices make it not quite worthy of the top 50 list.

Terrible Songs Omitted:

Do They Know It’s Christmas – Band Aid:  If this song wasn’t for charity, I would tell you how I really feel about it..

Marshmallow World – Johnny Mathis: This song angers me.

Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney: As catchy as the melody is, those synths are devastating

Mistletoe – Justin Bieber: Has he ever sounded as white as he does in this song?

You can follow me on Twitter @AESPiano or check out my photography at www.BestLAHeadshots.com


I’ll Be Waiting

No one wanted Crissy dead, but everyone had a motive. I’ll Be Waiting is a mystery drama that is centered around the disappearance of a young woman. This piece has a long history for me and I’m excited to finally put it out into the world.

Shortly after moving to Los Angeles in 2001, I wrote a play titled The Belt. It was a fast paced and complicated mystery drama that jumped back and forth through time as it revealed what happened to a young woman who was missing.

My friends and I wanted a project so we began filming it. Now, this is before everyone and their mother could shoot in HD with their phone, so it was a pretty big project for how little money we had. After a week of shooting, we began watching the footage to find that the sound was so bad, that it was unusable. I scrapped the project, put away the script and forgot about it. I even poached the song that I had been writing as it’s theme and converted it into the closing number of act one of Group titled “Inner Workings.” You can listen to that here: http://soundcloud.com/adam-emperor-southard

After Group wrapped in 2011, I began to work on a number of different project to see what would hit when I stumbled back onto Belt. I am a very different writer than I was ten years ago, but I absolutely loved the bones of it. It had potential. So I digitally dusted it off and got to work. I cut, I edited, I rearranged, I renamed it.

Then I sent it to The Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble to see if they wanted to put I’ll Be Waiting in their Scriptyard Series as they did Group a couple years back. Much to my surprise, they wanted to play with it and we got to work. Between the first and second rehearsal I cut the play down another 14 pages. The notes I received from my actors and brilliant director were absolutely crucial to my editing process. It was now a streamlined mystery that clipped along.

We had a reading at the Kirk Douglas Theatre rehearsal space on October 1st and the reactions from the audience was absolutely fascinating. The play went over well, but there were a number of details that I could tell went unnoticed. I used that reading to inspire significant changes to the end and now here I am; excited to share my new work with whoever is interested in producing a new play.

It is an ensemble piece with seven characters. The set, props and costuming is simple, but you are going to want a clever lighting designer to make the blending of scenes work. If you are interested in reading I’ll Be Waiting, shoot me an email at AESPiano@gmail.com. I look forward to discussing my work with you.


Body & Soul

Lately, my focus has not been on playwriting as much as photography. That is why there are many more updates over at www.AdamEmperorSouthardPhotography.com than there are here. 

For example, I recently began a new photo series titled “Body & Soul.” Participants must come up with a quote or image that is important to them. Then, my artist friend Melissa would create body art with Henna before I capture their essence on film*

*film is not a real thing

Here are the first photos of this new and fun series:

http://www.adamemperorsouthardphotography.com/galleries/body-soul/

Let me know what you think or if you want to be a part of it :)

 

Adam


Link

Where’s the Hoodie?

It occurs to me that I write plays and musicals that will likely result in a costumer placing a young actor in a hoodie. I prefer works that are stripped down and realistic. Which, of course, means that I take costumers and designers for granted way too often. Actors could show up in their own clothes for all I care.

This pathetic lack of caring or understanding for all things fashion related was blown to pieces this past week. I was asked to photograph an event for Frontiers Magazine at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. ILL Teatro alla Moda (Theatre in Fashion) is an amazing exhibit in Beverly Hills featuring some of the most incredible fashion pieces ever designed for Theatre and Opera. Works by Capucci, Versace, Missoni and Ferretti were stunning and amazingly intricate in person. Will I ever write a piece that requires this level of design? No, probably not. But I sure as hell appreciate those who take the time to truly create something original, unique and detailed. I’ve included a couple of photos below. To see more from this great event, you can visit this page: Frontiers Event

To view more of my photography, you can check out my event photos, headshots, portraits and more here: Adam Emperor Southard Photography


My Next Musical

The process to begin writing my next musical has begun.

I have recorded a video of myself singing the second song from it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pnui_AKn41w&feature=youtu.be

Let me know what you think. I have much bigger plans for filming my next show as I write it, but that information is too early in the development process to share at the moment.

Stay tuned and let me know if you are interested in being a part of my next work.

- Adam


My 2011 Ovation Experience

1 year ago today we had just begun rehearsals for six workshop performances of my first musical Group. Fast forward a year and the words “Group: A Musical – The Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble” is projected on the big screen at the historic Orpheum Theater at the 2011 Ovation Awards. It’s been a pretty great year.

As previously posted, http://adamemperorsouthard.com/2011/09/20/isaac-wades-portrayal-of-dr-allen-recognized-by-la-stage-alliance/, Isaac Wade (who I wrote the role of Dr. Allen for) was nominated for “featured actor in a musical.”

Isaac and I met up with our LATE friends at a downtown diner before the big show. I’ve got to tell you, those folks clean up REAL nice. (I’ll make sure to post one of the red carpet photos once they go up). Atfter commenting on how all of the “Gospel According to First Squad” cast had begun growing out their hair since the show wrapped, we hoofed it to the Orpheum.

After our red carpet shots (in which we forced the photographer to take one of as many of us as we could wrangle) we mingled in the gorgeous lobby hugging everyone we knew.

The theatre was stunning and the energy was palpable. We cheered like we were at a high school football game every time there was mention of any of our friends. Our faces hurt from smiling and our voices were raspy from hooting.

While we went home physically empty handed, I would say the whole experience was satisfyingly fulfilling. Just being invited to the party was such an incredible honor.

Hell, I’m still honored that such an esteemed theatre company gave me a shot in the first place, that anyone wanted to see my work and that it was well received. I feel inspired, invigorated and ready to continue edits and rewrites of my next shows.

I link to all of the deserving winners: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2011/11/ovation-awards-la-stage-alliance-.html

Adam Emperor Southard – creator of the musical Group.


I was on La La Land

I recently had the privilege to be on La La Land, a multi media radio show that was simultaneously on time warner cable and U-stream. There are a few clips that I’m in, but this one in particular includes me playing a couple of songs: Welcome, Hello from Group and  a song from my next musical :) I hope you enjoy it:

La La Land with Bret and Nett, Segment #6 – October, 15 2011 – Adam Emporer Southard, Compser/Photog


Studio Photos

My recent experiments in studio photography and dramatic lighting

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Night Sky

I almost exclusively photograph people. So, whenever I capture a cityscape, landscape or skyline I like to share:

Los Angeles 9-30-11

9-30-11

Isaac Wade’s Portrayal of Dr. Allen Recognized by LA Stage Alliance

Isaac Wade - as Dr. Allen

Last night it was announced that Isaac Wade has been honored with a “Featured Actor In A Musical” Ovation award nomination for his portrayal of Dr. Allen in Group. It’s hard to put into words just what a big deal that is and just how proud I am… but I’ll try.

You know how actors love receiving SAG award nominations not only because we are all narcissistic award hoarders who constantly crave attention and recognition, but also because the SAG awards are voted on by fellow actors. Well, the Ovation Awards are voted on by the Los Angeles theatre community. It consists of the movers and shakers of LA theatre: theatregoers, producers, directors, actors, designers, playwrights…

Ovation voters are required to see and vote on tons of shows throughout the year. Now, anyone who has experience putting up a show in LA knows that it can be extremely difficult to get enough Ovation voters to see your show and even more difficult for the ones that see it to rate it high enough for recognition. Just about all of the Ovation voters who honored us by seeing Group saw an early preview version of it… but I’ll get to that later.

Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble

The back-story on Isaac & “Dr. Allen”

Isaac and I had been performing together in radio plays for a few months but had never done a musical. I had just begun thinking about and reworking an idea my brother (Scott D. Southard) and I had years prior about group therapy when I hard Isaac sing. The role of Dr. Allen, which I had thought I was writing for myself, immediately became a role I wanted him to play. From then on, Isaac was the Dr. Allen in my head. It isn’t based on him at all, but it is tailor made for his remarkable ability and numerous gifts.

Isaac got my play and music into the hands of Tom Burmester and Danika Sudik of the Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble. They honored me with the chance to perform the show as a script reading with music in front of their company members and anyone else I wanted to invite. Isaac played Dr. Allen, many of my closest actor friends and family performed the other roles and Josh Allan Dykstra and I played all the instruments.

Isaac during the first ever stage reading of Group

One of the first things Tom asked me afterwards was exactly WHO I wanted the show to be about. It was, and continues to be, an ensemble piece but Tom wanted me to focus on one driving story. This inspired me to first add monologues by Dr. Allen that would weave the play together and then add Dr. Allen’s back story which is the heart of the show.

The Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble honored Josh and I by giving us six workshop performances. We brought in the great Richard Tatum to direct it and began casting. Now, we did not precast any of the roles, so I was a little nervous that Richard might want someone else to play the role I created for Isaac. Thank God he saw in him what I did and the call back was for all of the other roles.

During the rehearsal process, Tom & Danika offered us the opportunity to turn the workshop performances into previews and to officially open in January. Despite the fact that I was still making extensive rewrites on a weekly basis and the show was still evolving, we decided to invite every Ovation voter and reviewer we knew to one of our early previews.

The Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble

It should be noted that I’m proud of our previews and the positive responses we received. It needs to be said, however, that I did 18 pages of rewrites between the previews and our opening and ALL of our critical acclaim and surprising recognition was based on that early version. Now that I know we were on the Ovation map, so to speak, I feel like an idiot for sharing the preview version.

Of course the LA Stage Alliance didn’t recognize us for book or music, the shows that were nominated were amazing and our show was supposed to just be a workshop! I’m not saying that we would have received more recognition had we only invited critics and Ovation voters to see the actual run of the show, I’m just trying to point out how pleasantly surprised and floored I am by the recognition. Then again, something that didn’t change from those early performances was Isaac’s brilliant portrayal of Dr. Allen.

He was freaking amazing during our staged reading, killed it during the previews, nailed it during the run and took it to a whole other level when we did encore performances in the Hollywood Fringe Festival. (I did another ten pages of rewrites for those performances).

As the show continues to grow and change, one thing remains: I will always hear and see Isaac Wade playing the lead. I could not be more pleased that he has been recognized for his remarkable performance.

Here is the complete list of Ovation nominees including the five other nominations for the Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble’s Gospel According to First Squad (including nominations for the producers of Group, Tom & Danika): http://www.lastagealliance.com/ovation_nominees.htm

 

 


Notes on Group… sort of

Obviously I can’t write notes on my own show, but I CAN talk about our opening night in the Fringe Festival.

Last night Group (http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/452) opened at the Stella Alder and it was a riot! The audience was laughing early and often and our actors fed off it beautifully. I can’t wait to do it again tonight and Saturday.

Notes on the space: First off, it should be noted that the Stella Adler is a bit of a maze. We are in the Irene Gilbert space. I will make sure to put up more signs tonight and Saturday :)

One of the many things I love about Fringe is the madness of it all. Performing in a space that the actors are not familiar with is such a crazy challenge, and yet, I find it so exhilarating. The only time our actors have seen this space was in one tech rehearsal two weeks ago. That being said, they were up to the task. We have found, however, that the beautiful space is a bit of a sound suck (not a technical term) so if you are hard of hearing, I recommend sitting front and center.

The audience last night was made of AMAZING! They bought in right away, laughed at all the right spots, and (quasi-spoiler alert) were reaching for kleenex by the end. As the playwright of Group I really can’t express how moved I am by a new audience that is touched by our story. I don’t create work for myself. I create theatre to foster a shared experience. I want my audiences to leave having something to talk about, something to remember, something to chat about over pie afterwards… The immediate standing ovation (not started by my wife surprisingly enough) was a delightful and unexpected treat. I could not have asked for a kinder, more attentive audience.

Have I mentioned how much I love the Hollywood Fringe Festival?! I am so proud of being a part of this unbelievable experience.

We have two more performances left. Tonight June 24 and tomorrow June 25. If you are a fellow fringer or you saw the first run of Group, email me at aespiano@gmail.com and I can send you a discount code.

Here is the official page to buy tickets to Group. I really do hope you get a chance to see it. http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/452


Notes on Girl Band in the Men’s Room

Girl Band in the Men’s Room is an hour long exploration into the diverse personalities that make up a band on the verge of success.

I loved the tight and clever writing and the fantastic character work all of the actors clearly put in. The acting and directing were stellar and the audience ate up every moment of it.

On a personal note, I wish I had sat nearer the stage as the Fringe Annex has plenty of visibility issues and I couldn’t see any of the lovely business involving a bass guitar and its strings. That being said, I really enjoyed this funny, smart and moving new work.

There is only two performances left, so you better get your tickets soon. The show I saw was sold out and I’m sure the next two will be as well.

Remaining Shows June 24 6:30pm and June  25 9:30pm / Fringe Annex

http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/project/view/429

Moving forward:

Group officially opens tomorrow (Thursday 23rd) and runs for three days straight at the Stella Adler at 8pm each night.

http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/452

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Notes on The Trouble With Words

(These thoughts are based on the 1 hour abridged version at Fringe Central and not the full length version at Actors Circle)

Holy Shit, this show is great. As long as Coeurage Theatre Company continues to market this as “pay what you want” this will continue to be the best deal in town. It’s downright gorgeous.

The Trouble With Words is a song cycle based around the concept of words – not finding the right words, saying the wrong words, last words, first words…

If you go to see musicals for a story, this may not be the show for you, BUT if you go to hear amazingly beautiful new songs performed professionally by a solid six-piece band and sung by gifted performers YOU NEED TO SEE THIS SHOW.

I’m excited to hear that Trouble will have an extended run at Actors Circle beyond Fringe so that I can take my wife and everyone I’ve ever met. I’m serious. The music is that good.

You know I liked a show when I’m recommending you see it when two of the performances are at the same time as my show J

The Trouble With Words has 3 performances left: Thursday 23rd – 6pm (Fringe Central), Friday 24th – 9pm (Actors Circle), Saturday 25th – 9pm (Actors Circle)

Moving Forward:

Tonight is the final dress rehearsal for Group at LATE’s homebase – the Powerhouse Theatre. We are allowing the gifted cast of The Naked Army come see our dress rehearsal since they have performances during our three day run. THEN tomorrow Brooke, Caroline and I are participating in the Fringe Cabaret in the main tent. We will be on stage from 9:30pm – 9:40pm. THEN we open on Thursday at the Stella Adler!

 


Notes on Super Sidekick

Adorable. This show is freakin adorable. I wish my son were a little older so that I could have taken him along for the ride.

The performances are heartfelt and just the right amount of over-the-top. The songs are fun and performed with vigor. The story telling is clever and funny. Most importantly, the kids in the audience had a great time (and so did the adults, lets face it).

If you want to just smile like a kid again, or better yet, you have a kid, go see this show.

There are only two more performances of this show left, Saturday the 25th and Sunday the 26th, both at 1pm at the Actors Circle. http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/346

Moving Forward:

Tonight I’m seeing The Trouble With Words (with three friends no less) and then it’s back in Group mode for me with our official Dress Rehearsal tomorrow. I’m getting more and more excited for you all to see my show. Fringe rocks. Enough said.


Notes on Of People and Not Things

A couple breaks up and at least for one of them it felt like the end of the world, that is to say, until it was. This brilliantly written piece is essentially two epic monologues performed truthfully first by the man crushed from the breakup and then from the woman trying to sort through all that she has lost and all that she doesn’t miss.

This show is surprising well crafted and thought out. Each moment in the first monologue connects to something in the next and we see how subtle differences in experience can change everything.

I thoroughly enjoyed this moving piece. Of People and Not Things is clever, tight, moving and much funnier than the term “post-apocalypse” may imply. There are only three more performances and the show is only 70 minutes long so make sure you fit it into your Fringe schedule. I’m glad I did.

Remaining performances: June 18 (10:15pm), 19 (8:30pm) & 20 (8:15pm) all at the Complex. http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/445

Moving forward:

Tonight I’m going to be performing new and never before heard versions of songs from Group (some cut from Group) at Fringe Central with two of my actresses. We will be on the stage in the tent from 9pm – 915pm tonight. We will be back up there Tuesday 9:30pm – 9:40pm as well.

Monday is our full dress rehearsal and then we open on Thursday!!! I can’t wait for you all to see Group. Here is a link to where you can buy tickets to see our musical: http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/452


Notes on Last Five Years

Full Disclosure: Last Five Years is one of my favorite musicals of all time. The music is beautifully written and the concept is brilliant.

Bright Eyes Production’s Last Five Years does Jason Robert Browns moving masterpiece justice. The vocal performances of Ashley Cuellar and Rory Alexander are spot on and the live band is solid. These are important points as this show lives and dies on the quality of the performers. I turned to my wife during the second song and said, “We lucked out!” Ashley and Rory are wonderful.

It is a full-length one-act play consisting of almost nothing but music. It tells the five-year tale of two young lovers. We watch Jamie as he moves forward chronologically from when he first met his Shiksa Goddess till five years later. Meanwhile, Cathy’s timeline is the exact opposite moving from someone in pain to someone experiencing new found love.

If I have any qualms with this highly successful production it is with the often distracting and unnecessary projections and the unflattering wardrobe choices. These minor issues do little to deter me from recommending this powerful, moving, hilarious and brilliant production of one of the greatest modern musicals. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Moving Forward:

Seeing a show like Last Five Years simply makes me want to gather up my actors and start singing songs from Group. Tomorrow I have a rehearsal with two of my actors who are going to sing with me on the Fringe Cabaret stage this coming Saturday and the following Tuesday. I’m still considering how many shows I’ll be able to see before my next schedule fringe show, which is a double header of Super Sidekick and Trouble with Words both on Sunday June 19th.


Notes on Voices From Chernobyl Jr

The task of writing a show for children about the Chernobyl tragedy must be daunting but you wouldn’t know it from this lovely production. Cindy Marie Jenkins’ deft writing bridges the gap between an educational presentation and an interactive children’s show that is as funny as it is serious.

The particular preview that I had the pleasure to see had an adoring adult audience, but Voices From Chernobyl Jr is tailor made for children eight years and up. I highly recommend this show for parents and children alike. It is equal parts entertaining and important.

Voices From Chernobyl Jr has four remaining performances at Fringe Central at 1pm June 18, 19, 25 & 26.

Moving Forward:

We had an amazing rehearsal of Group last night. My anticipation for it to be June 23rd already is getting a little ridiculous. Speaking of anticipation, I’m bringing a pack of people to see Last Five Years tonight. Cannot wait.


Notes on Spring Awakening

Have you ever seen a production where the positive energy and passion of the cast made it impossible not to enjoy their performance? Lonesome No More’s production of Spring Awakening has energy and passion in spades.

Spring Awakening is a coming of age story featuring the tragic results of negligent parenting during puberty. This tragedy is surprisingly funny under the skilled direction of Dana Murphy and Patrick Riley. I’m not sure which director was responsible for the bulk of the staging for this production, but whoever first decided to use every inch of that space should be commended. It was brilliant.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the many young and promising actors who give powerful and honest performances throughout. I was particularly impressed with leads Patrick Riley and Jennifer Allcott whose truthful portrayal of two youths mystified by love are a must-see.

Spring Awakening – Complex Theatres – Friday June 17 & 24 at 10:30pm / Sunday June 19 & 26 at 2:00pm Tickets are $10. More information on their show can be found here:  http://lonesomenomoretheatre.blogspot.com/

Moving Forward:

I regrettably won’t be able to see any shows tonight (June 10) as we have a rehearsal for Group all night. It’s one of only two more rehearsals we have (excluding tech and dress) before we open on June 23rd!

I cannot wait until this weekend. I’m seeing Voices from Chornobyl Jr & Last Five Years on Saturday!


More Rehearsal Photos

For tickets to see group: http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/452

Here are some photos from our weekend rehearsal at the Powerhouse Theatre. (The amazing paint job was done by our very own Brooke for an amazing retelling of Lysistrada called “The Naked Army”)


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