THE NEW NORMAL

This seems to be one of the so-called “buzz phrases” that’s been kicking around within the last few years. According to the Oxford Dictionary, this term means “a previously unfamiliar or atypical situation that has become standard, usual, or expected.”
This phrase came from the rise of “The Great Recession” where everything from spending habits, general employment, and anything else that took a hard beating didn’t necessary recover even through the so-called economic “recession” supposedly ended a few years back! What is general refers to is the fact that what was once standard isn’t anymore, and what changed will be that way for quite a while, if not for good!
For example, being frugal with one’s money is now a “new normal” than just a temporary state of being. According to a recent poll conducted by The Gallup Organization, nearly three fourths (73%) stated that they are either spending the same amount of money or just spending less. 31% of those spending less is their “new normal” method of handling their cash flow. This states that those penny pinching folks will keep this method up for good rather than just for the moment.
There are a lot of reasons outside to economic concerns about keeping a new normal as part of a way of life. This also means a new acceptance in a lifestyle. A sitcom with the same phrase (The New Normal) that premiered at the start of the 2012-13 TV season on NBC emphasized upon the antics of a gay male couple seeking a baby. In a post modern world, a single sex “married” couple is a small yet existent part of the domestic landscape compared to twenty years ago where such a couple would be rather small in number, if existent at all. (For the record, NBC announced that this new sitcom that was expected to blaze a few trails so-to-speak, has been canceled!)
Changing one’s way of acting upon a moment or situation isn’t really new or unique. The self help craze that began in the 1970’s, taking off in the 80’s, and continued through the 90’s and well into the new millennium, noted from time to time about “inventing yourself”. It’s about changing with the times; not necessarily the domestic time, but the “times” one lives through based upon personal circumstances. Growing up emotionally fits into this reinvention. However, many folks don’t take growing up it stride, still acting the way they were in their teen years, even though they can be way past thirty! By the time one reaches forty (i.e. “middle age”), then acting the same way as a youth doesn’t cut it anymore and thus, going through the process through domestic life becomes something as a new normal.
Is one uses their favorite search engine typing in “the new normal”, one will receive a whole lot of answers to those three little words. Some will reflect upon what this article speaks about, and a few more choices flag down other unrelated matters. No matter what one may find, there is more than enough to ponder upon.
So as times get better, worse, or just stay the same, there will always be a normal, or a newer one to take its place. However, by the moment where things and events finally fall into its own set place, sure enough, something else is going to turn things about! This moment should not necessarily be labeled as a new normal. Then again, what is normal anyway? Perhaps that’s a topic for another issue as it’s normal enough to quit while one is ahead! And we can’t get farther ahead than that!
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NEWS AND REVIEWS
Norm Foster’s OPENING NIGHT, a comedy about the titled time period where a community theater presents a stage presentation of an grand production where the backstage antics holds most of its drama, concludes Theatre 40’s 2012-13 season and makes its west coast premier.
The setting is the Piggery Theatre located in a small town in Quebec. It’s opening night for the drama “Whisper on the Wind”, a play about an aging farmer and his daughter down on the farm–where else? Among its theater gores there for the opening are Jack and Ruth Tisdale (John Combs and Gail Johnson). This couple is taking advantage of attending this play just because they received their tickets for free. Ruth works at the city offices, and the tickets were reserved for the Mayor, but he couldn’t make it so Jack and Ruth are attending in his place. But it also happens to be this couple’s silver anniversary, so Ruth is also taking advantage of the event as a special night on the town. Meanwhile, another pair are in attendance: Richard Hyde-Finch and his “lady friend” Cilla Fraser (Martin Thompson and Meranda Walden). This couple is there for another reason that Jack and Ruth. Richard is the director, and Cilla is present for moral support even though her interest at the moment is to start a family life. Meanwhile, there’s Michael Craig (Richard Hoyt Miller), a classic style thespian who auditioned for the play but wasn’t chosen, but earned his “fame” for appearing in a TV spot for a retail hardware store appearing as a socket wrench! Adding to the cast within the mix is Tom Delaney (Eric Keitel) a young actor seeking his big break whose real job is serving snacks and drinks in the theater’s VIP lounge–a place that doesn’t have many VIPs in attendance! So what will become of this drama and its many players and theater gores within? There may be more than just legs broken on this night than any other night!
This play written by Norm Foster, well known in his native Canada for his comedies, musicals, and occasional dramatic pieces, creates a witty play about (what else?), the theater-both on stage and off. It’s also a play-within-a-play where the stage work depicted about farming performs as a third rate Tennessee Williams vehicle, except it takes place on a farm! As to the performers in Theatre 40’s production, each one of the actors handle their roles that’s more comical than anything else. John Combs as Jack is a guy that feels out of place at this show, and is more interested in catching the ball game on radio or TV than sitting in a theater seat. Gail Johnson as Ruth is a gentle and humble lady who even after 25 years of married life, finds that the passage of time is just passing her away. Richard Hoyt Miller as Michael Craig is an old-school master of the stage that would rather perform in better roles. Martin Thompson as Richard Hyde-Finch is a director that can’t direct farm theme stage epics! And Meranda Walden as Richard’s sort-of spouse Cilla wants to get a family going, in spite of what her “husband” may desire!
Bruce Grey, the real director of this show, bears a celebrated stint in keeping up the pace with the players. There isn’t any physical antics seen per se, so the comical wit really plays a meaty part here; There are no hams in any of the bunch–or any puns intended either! And outside of the six players noted, two others, Ilona Kulinska as Libby and David Hunt Stafford as Clayton, appear as the pair of actors appearing in “Whisper on the Wind”. In other words, these actors play actors!
As to some of the background notes, Jeff G. Rack’s set design of the VIP lounge and the Piggery Theater itself shows off a simple setting while the “Whisper on the Wind”s backdrop depicts a storybook style look of a farm, complete with cartoon drawings of farm animals, barns, and a cornfield drawn not to scale. (Intentional one assumes!)
OPENING NIGHT is a better play in terms of comedy and “plot twists” than the play-of-the-play. (Of course, there are many other stage shows out there where theater life is depicted, but Opening Night is the one that matters for now!) As well expected, everyone in Theatre 40’s show will indeed “break their legs” (not literary) as this play is very funny and just as enjoyable. As the tired cliché may state, for every burned out light found on a Broadway theater marquee, there’s a broken heart attached. Since this show is far from Broadway, no burned out bulbs (or broken hearts) will ever get in the way! Just give this stage showcase a rounding applause!!

     OPENING NIGHT, presented by Theatre 40 of Beverly Hills, and performs at the Reuben Cordova Theatre located on the campus of Beverly Hills High School, 241 South Moreno Drive (off Santa Monica Blvd.) Beverly Hills, until June 16th. Showtimes are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM. For reservations and information, call (310) 364-0535, or online at http://www.Theatre40.org.
     Visit the official website of playwright Norm Foster at http://www.NormFoster.com
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Sam Shepard’s modern classic FOOL FOR LOVE, a drama about a man still bound to his ex-lover, the second man who returns to his same ex-lover, and the sprit that appears to watch over them, performs at North Hollywood’s T.U. Studios.
Taking place is a seedy motel room located in the middle of nowhere at the edge of the Mojave Desert is May and Eddie. (Lauren Plaxco and Chad Doreck). Eddie, a rodeo rider and stuntman, is on the verge of breaking off with his lover May. He’s taking off to parts unknown, but still seems to hang around with her, even through she’s nearly on the emotional edge of disaster. She is accusing him of having some fling that might be imagery with some “Countess” driving around in a big-deal Mercedes! Eddie has other business to take care of, willing to pack his goods in his pickup truck hitched to a horse trailer parked outside the motel room to hit the road. As they fight and bicker over past lives and current states of unraveled emotion, in walks Martin. (Bill Stevenson, alternatively played by Zack Kilian). Another one of her ex-lovers, she’s ready to go off on a “date” with him to the movies, although the “movies” are nowhere to be found in the desert. Overlooking though this scene is The Old Man (Robert May), an old cowpuncher that serves as some kind of angel that isn’t of the guardian type. It’s a form of a twisted love story that has no romance but plenty of passion that isn’t the romantic type.
This play, perhaps playwright Sam Shepard’s greatest hit, is very intense, compact, and is jammed packed with raw tequila soaked temper. The stage setting seen within this production as designed by Jeffrey Casciano, holds a sparse and dreary look and feel to it all, the same method as the characters portrayed. Chad Doreck as Eddie, although dressed up in western duds, isn’t the macho man that one would find in Marlboro ads, but still can handle a lasso. Lauren Plaxco as May is ideal for a gal that’s on the verge of having one big “PMS” attack fueled by cheap love and cheaper booze. Martin, as played by Bill Stevenson, is almost the “good guy”; meek and golden looking, but doesn’t wear a white hat, so that’s why he’s almost the good guy! And rounding out the trio is Robert May as The Old Man, who sits off on the side of the room in an old rocker watching the action, not too far off from a bottle of Jim Beam and Jose Cuervo–his only “friends” to have on hand just in case. Gloria Gifford directs this one act play into a piece that is just as tight as a floozy’s you-know-what!
Some plays are best with they are performed in smaller quarters. The T.U. Studios theater is such a small space where this kind of drama works quite well. And FOOL FOR LOVES is the perfect place to see such a drama. It’s feels like an classic county tune heard on a broken down jukebox found in a stinky dive honky-tonk joint. It doesn’t get any better than that!

   FOOL FOR LOVE, presented by Jamaica Moon Productions and The GGC Players, performs at the T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo Street (at Lankershim), North Hollywood, until June 23rd. Showtimes are Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday evenings at 7:30 PM. For reservations and for more information, call (310) 366-5505, or via online at http://www.tix.com
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As this issue was being “put to bed”, we have learned about the recent death of singer/songwriter/musician Alan O’Day who lost his battle to cancer on May 17th. He was 72.
Alan wrote a number of songs making the top-40 charts in the 1970’s. (”Rock and Roll Heaven”, for the Righteous Brothers, “Train of Thought”, recorded by Cher, “The Drum” for Bobby Sherman and “Angie Baby” for Helen Reddy). Alan’s biggest (and perhaps only) hit was “Undercover Angel”, that had its share of radio airplay in June of 1977.
This writer was a good friend of this talented man, seeing him perform with a number of musicians in an annual single day Christmas concert that “toured” to a number of assisted living homes located in the Cagonga Park/Woodland Hills area every first Sunday of December.
As of this writing, services are pending.
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TIFFI’S FRIENDS SAY...
(As posted on her Facebook “wall”)
Or, “Don’t think this is the last Ways & Means Committee Hearing regarding IRS broohah.” Think I’ll grab a $9.50 sack of Kerasotes popcorn and wash it down with a $5.50 Coke (extra small, please).
-Julie

Note to self: When cooking asparagus always use enough extra water so it won’t boil dry when you get involved with email and the net. Or, don’t forget you’re cooking in the first place, which is better for the pots and pans. And, yes, I ate it. Most of it, anyway. I’d picked it in the yard and didn’t want to waste it. Besides, eating it was a form of penance. I burned it. I ate it. End of adventure. I’m going back to my writing next week so I’d better plan on cooking something easier. Or maybe quicker!
-Valerie

Hubby and I are all curled up downstairs, watching the pilot episode of one of THE best TV show dramas in existence. Clear eyes, full hearts….
-Katie

Looking out my window…snowflakes. Really. lol
-Melissa

Forgiveness should be a food group listed under moral fiber.
-Deborah

I’m officially a Licensed Professional Counselor! Ready to serve.
-Cristine

I also thought ER was for emergencies!!!
-Tracy
As of May 20th, Tiffi has 1,738 Facebook “friends” and counting!
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WRITE TO US!!

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