Theater

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A Tour of the Hollywood Pantages Theater 

If you are an avid reader of my blog (hi Mom!) then you already know this about me, but if not, I’ll fill you in on a not-so-well-kept-because-it’s-totally-not-a-secret secret: I sometimes still long for a career in the theater. I have had a love affair with theater, musicals especially, since I was six years old and saw Phantom of the Opera for the first time (note: not a show I would recommend for most kid’s first musical theater experience, but clearly it worked for me). I spent most of my high school and college years working in the theater, and though I learned early on that I wasn’t really willing to make the sacrifices necessary for a career in theater (I like a steady paycheck and health benefits and all that…neither of which I have right now…) there has never been a time in my adult life when theater wasn’t a part of it. A few years ago I started to take advantage of the flexible season ticket packages and deals and sales offered by the Pantages theater in Hollywood, and two years ago I became a full fledged season ticket holder (necessary for this season in particular because Hamilton) and it is honestly one of the best things I have done for myself. Not only does it usually save me money over buying individual tickets to the shows I want to see, but the Pantages occasionally offers some cool perks for season ticket holders, like meet ups and backstage tours. Also, it forces Matt and me to go on a date every once in a while, which is all kinds of good.

A few months ago season ticket holders were invited to an open house and backstage tour, and while it wasn’t my first time going onstage and backstage at the theater, it was one of the cooler times since season ticket holders kind of had free rein and were able to wander wherever our hearts desired (except the orchestra pit, which was up at the time). Whether you are a theater lover or not, the Pantages is an awesome place to visit because it is full of Hollywood history. The theater began as a vaudeville house, opening its doors for the first time in 1930. It was the home of the Oscars for ten years before taking on many different lives as a movie theater and a live performance venue. In 2000, the Panatages underwent a huge multi-million dollar renovation and it has since been home to some of LA’s most successful productions including The Lion King, Wicked, and Book of Mormon. In August, the Panatges will welcome the first national tour of Hamilton for a limited run. It’s definitely my favorite LA theater and definitely a place everyone should visit.

Enough history, on to the fun stuff! Here are some of my favorite architectural details at the Pantages:

This is the front entrance of the theater…

This is inside the waiting area of the ladies room. I am obsessed with this bathroom…

This is the ceiling inside the main theater, which is absolutely breathtaking…

Inside the incredible lobby. If you are visiting for the first time, make sure you arrive early so you can spend some time looking around the inside of the theater!

This is a framed medicine cabinet that is hanging in one of the backstage dressing rooms. It’s tradition for touring actors to sign the medicine cabinet while they are performing at the Pantages. The most notable names on here are Megan Hilty (from the tour of Wicked) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (of Hamilton fame, signed when he was touring with In the Heights).

This area is in one of the backstage corners and it lists all the productions of the theater’s longtime technical director. As you can see, the Pantages has been home to some pretty stellar productions.

I recently renewed my season tickets at the Pantages for next year, and I am so excited to see what the new season has in store for us. I am particularly excited about Waitress and Aladdin (not so excited about Love Never Dies, but you get what you get). I hope I have the opportunity to remain a season ticket holder for many years to come. I always leave the theater feeling inspired and ready to create. Are you a musical theater fan? What is your favorite show?

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Newsies_(musical)_poster

Hey Millenials, Newsies Should Be Our New Anthem

All right, so full disclosure here, folks. I am, technically speaking, a millenial. I’m sure not many would identify me as one, and given the yucky (and somewhat misplaced) stereotypes about the generation, I rarely identify myself as one. But the fact of the matter is that I am, in fact, a millenial. No, I don’t live on my mom’s couch. I didn’t get a whole bunch of participation trophies. And I certainly would never define myself as entitled. And as with many stereotypes, those traits don’t apply to the majority of millenials out there.

But enough of my millenial soapbox rant. And on to my other soapbox rant. If you follow me on social media, or are an avid reader of this blog (hey, thanks!) then you already know my standing on our current political situation. I did not vote for Trump, I think his policies are disgusting, and I have had a really hard time dealing with the people in my life who are Trump supporters. I have been in a serious funk when it comes to the state of the world since November, and it seems like every day there is something new to be depressed about.

However, with any crappy situation there comes a silver lining. This election and the resulting policies we have seen coming out of the White House so far seem to have sparked a fire in the young people of America. I know that I, along with many of my friends and peers, have become much more vocal politically in the past few months than I ever even imagined myself to be. From what I am seeing in my community, young people–many much younger than I am–are finding (and more importantly) using their voices and it has been inspiring to see.

 

Enter Newsies, because there are few situations in my life that I can’t directly relate to a Broadway musical. I saw the Broadway tour of Newsies when it came to LA and basically loved it. I also loved the movie it was based on (which many mills are too young to remember/appreciate). Earlier this month, Fathom Events released a filmed version of the musical in theaters, starring several members of the original cast. I saw it twice, and was even more blown away by this presentation than I was seeing the show in person. First, the OG cast members are outstanding. Jeremy Jordan is a gift from the heavens and his voice is so ridiculous it gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. “Santa Fe” was always my least favorite song in the movie, but his version of it will knock your socks off. Add to that the fact that the Tony Award winning choreography is performed absolutely brilliantly by some of the best dancers I have ever seen, and it’s no surprise I fell in love with the show.

In addition to the draw of crazy talented boys dancing and singing beautifully, Newsies has a message that is so relevant for our generation today. The movie and musical are both based on a true story of a group of kids in 1899 who went on strike to protest the price increase of newspapers–lowering their already meager profits to non-livable wages. Here was a group of kids–most of them poor, many of them orphans and/or homeless–and they made a difference by standing up for their rights and taking on a fight with some of the wealthiest men in the country. And they won. The story is an amazing example of what can happen when a group of people–even (especially) young people–come together and stand as one.

I walked out of the theater both times that I saw the film version of the musical totally inspired and hopeful. It might seem like we are in a place where a lot of us don’t have a voice and aren’t being protected by our government, but we do have the power to make changes. Allowing our voices and our concerns to be heard is not going to go unnoticed, because whether the politicians want to acknowledge it or not, young people (millenials on down) have a large percentage of the votes, and I don’t doubt that 2020 is going to be the largest turnout of young voters in history. And we can make a difference and we can make a change. Over the next four years, we can make our voices heard at protests and town hall meetings, by calling and writing our reps and by showing up to vote in local and state elections. All of these are important actions for our generation to take.

There is one more showing in theaters of Newsies, and it is happening this Saturday, March 4. I encourage everyone, young and old, to make the trip to see it. Not only is it an entertaining production, but it will hopefully leave you feeling inspired to seize the day.

Here is just one of the totally fitting for today/inspirational quotes from the show: “Now is the time to seize the day/Stare down the odds and seize the day/Once we’ve begun, if we stand as one/Some day becomes somehow”.

Keep in mind, fellow mills, our voice is important, and what we have to say matters. And what we can do can make a difference. So turn up and turn out!

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shakespeare in the park

Tips for LA’s Shakespeare in the Park

As a (former) theater teacher and long time Shakespeare lover, I always look forward to the Independent Shakespeare Company’s summer Shakespeare in the Park series. Last year the ISC produced one of my all-time favorite versions of Romeo and Juliet, which is saying a lot because it one of my favorites, and the one I have worked on the most. But they did such a brilliant job, I loved everything about it. So I was super pumped for this year to see what they had in store for us. But I was less than thrilled when I saw the two shows on the docket were two of my least favorite: Richard III and The Tempest. No real offense to The Tempest, it’s just not my fave, and I spent four months of our spring semester working with a group of junior high kids on a scene from The Tempest that needed to be both funny and age appropriate (which is like not a real thing since the real comedy comes from the characters who are wasted the entire show). But I digress (shocker). Anyway. Being so recently scarred by The Tempest, I decided to go see Richard III, and I dragged Matt along with me.




Some basics about ISC and some tips for having an awesome experience:

  1. The shows are staged at the Old LA Zoo in Griffith Park, which is one of the coolest outdoor locations for a show ever. When you get to the park, follow the signs that lead you to the site.
  2. Be aware that you have to walk through the dirt to get to the performance. Real shoes are recommended.
  3. It gets chilly when the sun goes down, so bring a sweatshirt.
  4. Also bring a picnic. Also bring wine (though this is not technically allowed, everyone does it).
  5. If you are going to bring chairs, bring low ones. Don’t be that guy with the huge chairs blocking everyone else’s view.
  6. Get there early. These productions are becoming more popular every year so it is getting harder and harder to get good seats. Plus, there are several nights in the series where there are pre-show performances and activities.
  7. Bring some cash. The show itself is free, but definitely bring some cash for donations and/or concessions. They do take cards, but cash is a little easier to work with.
  8. With any Shakespeare play, make sure you read a summary before you go. Even when I am going to see a play I know well, I still read a summary to refresh my memory and make sure I can understand what is actually happening during the production.

shakespeare in the park

Some quick background on Richard III: Richard III is a history play, which means it is based on real people and actual events from British history. Richard is the youngest of three brothers, his eldest brother Edward being the King of England. Richard decides to subtly usurp the throne (at least it is subtle in the beginning) by first killing his middle brother George. Then he blames Edward for killing George, which combined with Edward’s already frail health, kills him (Edward). Richard then becomes the regent for Edward’s young son and pretty much becomes the king for all intents and purposes. That’s not enough though. He begins to pick off the young king’s supporters one by one, including his mother’s brothers and plenty of dukes and lords. Finally, Richard has both of his brother’s sons locked in the Tower of London and kills them both. Richard then takes the crown and sets his sights on marrying his niece Elizabeth, having already disposed of his first wife. Elizabeth’s mother (also Elizabeth) instead conspires with Richmond, who gathers his forces and battles Richard for the crown (this is where the famous “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse” line comes from). Richmond is victorious, becomes Henry VII and marries the young Elizabeth. That’s it in a nutshell.

shakespeare in the park

For my part, I really enjoy the story of Richard III because I love British history. I have read pretty much all of Phillipa Gregory’s novels (author of The Other Boleyn Girl) and she has done a whole series about the War of the Roses (of which Richard III is the culmination). So I like the story, which is probably more than most people can say. Three years ago I saw a production of Richard III on Broadway, starring Tony Award winner Mark Rylance and a company of actors from England, most of whom had worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company before. And I hated it. I fell asleep. I have never fallen asleep during a show before (I was pregnant, but I think I would have anyway). My main problem with the production was the choice to make Richard a comedian. Yes, there are lines in the play that can be delivered in a way that makes Richard seem funny, but he’s not funny. His entire life is devoted to getting the crown by any means necessary. I mean, he kills two young boys, his own nephews, and shows no remorse for his actions. This is not a nice guy, and certainly not someone who should be the comedic relief in a show.

shakespeare in the park

I was hoping for something super evil with the ISC’s production of Richard III, but I felt they took the same direction as the Broadway production (which I would think would be a compliment). So it must be me! I want to see an evil Richard, I want to hate his guts, not be indifferent to him. I get the direction–as Matt told me, this is not a play designed to appeal only to people like me, who know and understand Shakespeare. It is a production designed for the masses, and hence needs to have some popular appeal. Because of that, I do understand the choice. It’s just not my favorite choice. I will say that the women in the show were spectacular. And this play and this production are a great representation of a sometimes debated theory: Shakespeare wrote some kick ass parts for women. They were the highlight for me, especially Margaret (whose family is killed by Edward on his way to the throne) and Anne (Richard’s wife who he ends up having killed, oh and he also killed her first husband).

Bottom line: I will continue to see and support ISC shows because I truly believe in their mission of bringing free Shakespeare to the public of LA. Even though Richard III was not my favorite production, I will continue to look forward to their future productions. I would 100% recommend seeing any ISC production if you are in the LA area and at all a Shakespeare fan.


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pantages

Hollywood Pantages Theatre 2016-17 Season Overview

One of my greatest goals in life was always to be “rich” enough to afford season tickets to the Hollywood Pantages. I have been seeing shows at the Pantages since I was a little kid, and I have had a love affair with the theater ever since. For the past three years, I have been lucky enough to be a season ticket holder (though let’s be clear, it has nothing to do with being rich!). My mom and I have been able to find some good holiday deals and we have found a way to make it work. For the upcoming season, there are no deals (and there won’t be, you’ll see why in a minute), but when I purchased my season tickets for the 2016-17 season, I was able to set up a payment plan so that I didn’t have to pay for them all at once. To be honest, they were out of my budget and probably an unnecessary expense, especially given the fact that I no longer have steady income, but I just had to do it. One, because there is a truly awesome line up of shows coming to the Pantages, and two, because one of those shows is Hamilton.




If you have been living under a rock, Hamilton is the Broadway musical that has literally taken the world by storm. So far the show has won the Pulitzer, a Grammy and 11 Tonys. I was so so so lucky enough to see the show on Broadway in New York in January and I am not exaggerating when I say it was a life-changing moment (I mean, six months after seeing it, I am now self-employed and free from a job that made me miserable). Whether you are a fan of theater or not, this is a show that everyone should see. And yes, the music and the story are both fantastic, but the staging and the choreography are what really blew me away. I cannot say enough good things about Hamilton, and if you live in LA and you want to see the show, the best way to do that is by becoming a season ticket holder. Individual tickets are going to be hard to get, and once ticket brokers get a hold of them, prices are going to skyrocket. Plus, in addition to Hamilton, you are going to get some other really great shows as well, and here are my unsolicited thoughts on all of them:

Hedwig and the Angry Inch: The movie Hedwig and the Angry Inch was something of a cult favorite when I was in college, the kind of movie that had Rocky Horror style live performances where people dressed up and did crazy things along with the film. I was a fan of it when it came out, but Matt is the one who is really excited for this one as he was a bigger fan of the movie than I was. Darren Criss is going to be headlining this one (the role was originated by NPH…and if you don’t know who that is, you should just leave now) and I am hoping he redeems himself from his so-so performance at The Little Mermaid Live in Concert.

The King and I: I’m a sucker for a classic musical, and while this one was never one of my favorite musical movies as a kid, you really can’t go wrong with Rodgers and Hammerstein. Plus, that dress yo.

Finding Neverland: Sad that I didn’t get to see Matthew Morrison in this role, but I am super excited to see how the backstory of Peter Pan comes together in a musical. I actually have never seen the movie it is based off of, and I think I will hold off until after I see the show. I’m really looking forward to the sets and costumes for this one.

An American in Paris: This one is going to be all about the dancing for me. I was actually surprised when Matt told me he was excited for this one since it seemed like one of the more girly shows in the season, but apparently from a musician’s point of view, this is a pretty stellar show, so it should be a fun one.

The Bodyguard: This is the one eh spot in the season for me. Honestly, I’ll probably sell our tickets to this one.

The Book of Mormon: Aside from Hamilton, this is the only show I’ve seen before, so if we are super broke, we might sell these tickets too, but I hope we don’t have to. I loved Book of Mormon the first time I saw it, and I would love to see it again. Not just because it is hilarious (which it is), but because the music and the choreography is so fun. It really is an incredibly clever and well done show.

Hamilton: I’ll say it again, this show is life-changing. I would not be surprised if individual tickets for this show were selling in the $500 per ticket range, so really, it makes sense to just get the season ticket package. I CANNOT wait to see this show again, and I am really excited for Matt to see it for the first time. We have our fingers crossed that Lin-Manual Miranda (the writer/creator/star) is going to do some of the performances here in LA, but even without him, the show is going to be stellar. If you take nothing else away from me and this blog, let it be this: Hamilton is amazing and you need to see it.

I still have one more show to see in the current season at the Pantages, but I am already so excited for the next one. So much good theater to see, plus a really wide range of shows. According to the Pantages website, season ticket packages are limited and going quickly, so if you think you are interested, I would get yours now! Maybe I’ll run into you at the theater!


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NYC Trip Report Day 4

Our final day in the Big Apple (check out part one and part two of the trip report!) was probably the most uneventful in terms of the touristy stuff, but it was one of my favorite days I have ever spent in the city. When I travel, I like to hang like a local, and that doesn’t typically happen when you are on a tour with students, but we got a small taste of local NYC life on our final day and I loved every minute of it.

We started the day with a walk through Washington Square Park and the West Village. I decided if I ever move to New York, I’m going to have to live in the Village, which means I am going to have to be a millionaire. Gonna need to work on that one.

The park has a really stunning view of the new World Trade Center building. We had seen it before on our water taxi tour, but I almost liked this view better.
After the Village, we went and indulged our inner nerds. First, we stopped at Forbidden Planet, which is every comic book lover’s dream. I am not a comic book lover, but I have enough nerd in me and I was able to walk away with some cool Harry Potter swag and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle travel mug for the hubs.
And then….we went to one of my new favorite places on the entire planet: Strand Bookshop. Holy moly you guys. Words cannot express how much I loved this store and I only had time to explore one floor (I think there are four all together). Outside on the sidewalk is a huge array of used books, most of them for $2.00. I found some fun new reads for me, plus an awesome out of print photography book about Hollywood stars at home in the 1950’s for my mom (she loves that stuff since she grew up in Hollywood around then). In addition to literally thousands of amazing books, Strand also carries so much book nerd goodness I had trouble controlling myself. Bags, mugs, notecards…it’s pure luck I made it out of there without spending my entire life’s savings.
Lucky for me, the students I was with are just as into books as I am (one of those things that makes my teacher heart sing) and we spent a good portion of our afternoon in the hotel reading our new purchases. I did manage to drag my lazy butt up for long enough to go check out the Star Wars Costume Exhibit at the Discovery Center in Times Square. Super cool, you should go check it out!
For dinner that night we went to Junior’s and I had my tenth grilled cheese of the week, but also a delicious vanilla milkshake (gotta get that calcium in).
Then we headed out for our final show of the trip, Aladdin. I have so many fond memories associated with Aladdin and I loved every minute of seeing it on Broadway. I’m looking forward to the upcoming tour!
And then it was back to the hotel to get some sleep so we could be up and ready for our plane ride home. This trip was the first time I had been away from Squirt for more than two days, and that was the hardest part about it. I missed my little man (and my husband, of course) so much more than I had anticipated. But overall, it was an amazing trip, one of my favorites and I am so looking forward to the day when I get to share one of my favorite cities with the kiddo!
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NYC Trip Report Day 3

Hello friends and welcome to Day Three of my recent trip to the Big Apple (you can catch Day One and Two here). So our first full day in New York was basically the best day of the theater in the history of the world and it was going to take a lot to top that. Theater wise, nothing could compete with seeing Hamilton and Fun Home on the same day, but Day Three was pretty awesome in terms of touristy stuff.

We started the day visiting the New York Public Library, home of Carrie Bradshaw’s failed wedding and surprisingly few books. Turns out the real library is across the street in a not nearly as gorgeous building and this building is mainly used for research and touring (and fancy weddings, apparently). It was very cool to see the building and tour some of the inside, but my favorite part was the gift shop. I didn’t know one could spend $100 in a library, isn’t that shizz supposed to be free? Anyway, I scored some really cool book nerd swag that I love, so that was definitely awesome.

After the library we walked to the Empire State Building. We didn’t have time to go up to the top, which was good because I wouldn’t have wanted to anyway, but we did snap some pics outside. Side note: you have to walk a good two blocks away from the building itself in order to be able to get a good pic.
Then we headed to the Museum of Modern Art, which I was iffy about because I feel like most modern art is weird. And a lot of it was. There was definitely one whole display that was a stool under a shovel that was hanging from the ceiling. Probably worth millions of dollars. Whatevs. We did get to see The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh which was pretty cool.
Then we went for a tour of Lincoln Center, which I truly only enjoyed because our tour guide talked about the end scene from Center Stage being filmed there (though we weren’t allowed to take any pictures inside, which was lame). It was cool, but I really wanted to go backstage and apparently that ain’t happenin’.
On our way back to our hotel I had to stop for my obligatory Dunkin’ coffee with cream and sugar and then take this awesome tourist pic in Times Square. I have to say, I am a little less into Dunkin’ now that it is available here in Cali (though there is not one actually in LA proper, which I find annoying), but it was delicious nonetheless and I needed the pick me up because we had walked like twelve miles during the day and we still had an evening show to go to.
That night we went to see Something Rotten, which was hilarious and amazing and had we not seen Hamilton, probably would have been my favorite show (if you haven’t figured it out yet, I am really freaking into Hamilton). I am a huge Shakespeare fan and a musical theater nerd so I loved trying to figure out all of the references. We got to do a talk back with some of the cast members after which is always fun. I learned that the good tappers actually wear mics on their feet to pick up the sounds from the taps, super cool. I do have to say that Christian Borle (love him on Smash) and Brian d’Arcy James (love him a little less on Smash) did not come out for the talk, which was a bummer. Even if you come out for five seconds and wave, I feel like you gotta put in an appearance when you have a group of students there to talk to you. Uncool.
But loved the show, loved the library, and had a fun day three in NYC!


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NYC Trip Report Days 1 and 2

Hello friends!  Well, I am slowly getting used to my new blogging platform. I think I finally fixed the issue of old links not redirecting, so hopefully you have been able to find what you are looking for. I am still working on some picture formatting issues, so images might look a little wonky still, but please bear with me!

I spent the first week of the new year visiting one of my favorite cities: New York. Given my background in theater, NYC is somewhere I have often thought I might end up living (though after now having been there twice in the winter, I think I will stay in the California sunshine).  Living there does not seem to be in the cards for me, but I am happy to visit as often as I can! This most recent trip was through the school where I teach theater part time, and I went with a small group of students plus some chaperones. Our goal was to see as much theater and as many cool sights as possible and we definitely accomplished that!  Here’s the report from our first couple of days:

We left LAX early in the morning, and it was cold and rainy in Los Angeles and sunny and nice in New York! How often does that happen?

Our first stop in NYC, was Top of the Rock, which is the rooftop levels of the 30 Rock building, which happens to be right across the street from Radio City Music Hall.
Top of the Rock is an amazing place to see the city, especially at night. It is a nice welcome to NYC!
After Top of the Rock, it was California dinner time, so we headed out for some local pizza. It was alright, but certainly not the best pizza I have ever had. Definitely had better in Brooklyn (sorry Manhattanites).
On our second day, we went out on a water taxi tour, which is one of my favorite things to do as you have great views of all the major landmarks of the city. We saw the new World Trade Center building…
The main attraction of the water taxi tour is the Statue of Liberty. I have never gone out to the Statue itself, but I have heard the view from the water is much better since you can actually see the entire statue.
After our water tour, we headed to lunch at Schnippers, where I had my first of like twelve grilled cheese sandwiches throughout our trip. I don’t know why, but everywhere we went, I was craving grilled cheese. It was decent food for being quick and easy.
We were able to see two shows on our first full day in the city, a matinee and an evening performance. It was almost unfortunate that we saw Hamilton first because it made the rest of the shows (which were all great) seem not so amazing. To put it simply, Hamilton is the best show I have ever seen. And I have seen a lot (and worked on a lot). Seriously, it is absolute perfection and I am SO EXCITED that it is coming to Los Angeles in 2017. I cannot wait. If you have the chance to see the original cast, it is so worth it. Buy those $400 tickets, you won’t regret it!
Our evening show was Fun Home, which was also amazing. We scored front row seats at the TKTS booth, which was amazing, especially for a show in the round. The performances were so stellar, and Fun Home is truly a beautiful show. Basically our first day in New York was the most perfect day of theater ever. How often do you get to see two Tony Award Best Musicals (okay, Hamilton hasn’t officially won yet, but it’s pretty much a given) in one day?
Because we got out of our show pretty early, we decided to hit up the M&M World store, which was right across the street from our hotel (the Crowne Plaza in Times Square). I particularly enjoyed the Star Wars display, of course.
After that we called it a night and headed back to our hotel for some much needed rest. It was a perfect day in New York, and one that I am not sure will be replicated ever again!


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