Most public schools, from primary school to college level, has ended its tractional school season for this year sometime between early-middle May to middle June. The summer session runs until late August-early September. (Some districts use the Labor Day weekend as its starting point.) Concentrating of schools from high school and below, many parents of kids find that their “kiddos” are taking advantage of the summer season doing the same activities as before, from participating in sporting leagues and events to various lessons of vast size and nature. In other words, these kids take upon an overloaded schedule, except that there isn’t any homework involved–so to speak!
When it came to “back to school”, the first signs that would pop up would be ads from department stores, usually appearing in late July-early August, some four weeks until the traditional start dates. Parents would see such a sign to remind them tits time to gear up those kids with school supplies (pencils, notebooks, etc.) as well as decent looking outfits aka “school clothes”. The buying would not take place until a week before the first day of school would arrive. (Sometimes the buying wouldn’t begin until the day before the first day of school!) In short, all of this hunting and gathering to bring their kids to the next platform of education from the previous year would have then all ready by the time the ol’ school bell would ring for the first time in weeks!
In today’s post modern domestic world where gobs of information and (un)necessary details on anything and everything are available at one’s fingertips (literally), the back to school season has already begun as early as July 1st. Because retailers are pulling all stops to have folks flock into their halls of sales and offers at nearly all costs, many of these stores (both physical and on-line) are toting just about anything and everything to have their kids ready, willing, and able to get their schooling a going, from having the latest and perhaps greatest in backpacks, electronic gadgets, and other assorted supplies that assist them in getting smarter. (Even in these post modern days, kids will still use pencils and notebooks, so not everything isn’t necessarily just over-the-top devices!!)
The main culprits behind this back to school antics just as the blown fireworks stop smoldering are the two biggest forces of retailing; Walmart and Target. These places were long the “get-go” joints to shop for back to school as those two were for the most part, a one-stop place. For those that seek specialty items, clothing outfitters are already doing their part. And even Apple, the source that has all of the neat gadgets, have plastered on their retail outlets windows, plenty of reminders of not forgetting to pack an iPad, iPhone, iPod, and any other “i” device inside of a backpack once the bell rings and the homeroom teacher(s) do their welcome back speeches!
For this writer, those back to school sales became a warning sign, informing me that this was the start of the “beginning of the end”, where summertime, the season that appears to never go away, will one day close its doors right in my face telling me that the fun and frolics have come to its demise. It’s the time to service a nine month sentence where the school is the prison, the principal is the warden, the teachers are the guards, and my fellow classmates are my fellow inmates, all in for the same crime of not being an adult! I would have to do my time while keeping close watch on the calendar while counting the months, weeks, days and hours until we are all set free come June to do nearly whatever we felt like–only to see that those back to school sales would creep up behind us only to bite each one where it counts!
Even those back to school ads would make its mark in late July (from Montgomery Wards interestingly enough), I would kind of ignore those ads in the Sunday paper or seen occasionally on TV. Through the month of August, I would continue my fooling around, not overly worried that my foolin’ would eventually come to its end. It would not be until the last week of August where I would realize that this time started its “beginning of the end” period. So from the start of that week right into the Labor Day weekend, I would make a feeble attempt to cram in as much adventure that I could get away with, finding out what stuff I never got around to do, only to start on this unfinished business to the moment when Jerry Lewis would appear on TV asking viewers to help his kids out!
However, in spite of this back to school nonsense, parents and/or its equivalents, will still hustle their kids to get ‘em ready for the next lever of education. This ritual doesn’t necessarily apply to kids in a year round school system or those that are home schooled. But that doesn’t necessarily hold real interest to retailers. That’s another issue as that stands!
Alan Stillson’s THANK YOU, MINERVA, a musical tale that pays tribute to some of the songs that made America great with a little help from the Roman gods, makes its world premier at The Secret Rose Theatre in North Hollywood.
Looking above from their heavenly royal court sits the first family of all the Roman gods; Jupiter (John McCool Bowers), his spouse Juno (Julia Shear Kushner), and their daughter Minerva (Rachel Berman). This family that’s been around for centuries, has seen the stark rise and utter fall of their Roman empire. As the world evolved, they look upon the mortals of the earth within their own national empires. Some of these cultures fail, while others succeed. One of these bodies, calling itself “The United States of America” has its up and downs, but shows itself with many of its people that gave goodness through music by way of its songwriters. Since Jupiter knows that American hove their celebratory holidays and the songs connected with them, he has his sole child to play inspirational goddess (as she is the goddess of muses), to give some enlightenment to those that pen the words of these future songs appearing in a dream. These songwriters are awoken from their sleep while she gives them a little help in getting the phrases going, only to leave them alone so they can get the job finished! Although they can’t recall her visit, their songs make an impact to the nation and world, from their inspirational meanings by way of celebration as well as speaking of hope, affection, and even with a bit of caution! Of course, the songs that Minerva inspire to write are done through her anonymous means. That is why Roman gods and goddesses exist–to give a little comfort to a world body that may be a bit down and out, but always comes out for the better!
This musical play is very unique in many ways. For starters, its a play that takes a bit of Roman mythology, adds a bit of American culture from the 19th and 20th centuries, and shows how one body of people from all walks of lifestyles and cultures are connected through music. It’s also very informative, giving a bit of history of what the nation (and world) was going through, and how these songwriters, mostly known for the songs they created while their names got lost through the annals of time, made their unique imprint. The songs and song lyricists range from styles as semi classical, tin pan alley, ballads, and a hint of rock ‘n roll! In short, all of these tunes are part of The Great American Songbook. Alan Stillson, who wrote the book as well as additional musical pieces (used as “bridges” where Jupiter tells his daughter to do her muse stuff), creates a stage work that is one part “American Top-40” (the stories behind the hits), second part “Name That Tune” (a fun way to guess the ditty without looking at the theater program to pre discover what songs are being focused upon before the lyrics that Minerva “helps” to writer with gives away the hints), and final part musical stage review! The cast of six players are great with their performances. John McCool Bowers as Jupiter dons a white robe, carries a staff, and sports a white beard and laurel as a crown. Julia Shear Kushner as Juno is the loving spouse to her man, perhaps playing his muse! And the goddess Minerva as performed by Rachel Berman is the shining bean of loveliness. She’s there to assist her mostly male clientele, although some would like to join her to bed. (Note: She’s not that kind of a gal!!) Three other cast members appear: Jonathan Byram, Rachel Howe, and Jackson Smith, playing the lyricists as well as the cabaret singers that vocalize the final product as sung under the transcribed musical score directed by Bonnie Janofsky. Allissa-Nicole Koblentz choreographs and directs this show that will uplift its audience.
Naturally, this reviewer could note what songs are being reviewed, as well as the people behind those tunes. But instead of spoiling the enthusiasm, one would have to experience this production in person. As stated, the song genres will range wildly, and might even have those same audience patrons hum the tunes while leaving the theater space!
It isn’t often that a show can teach you a few things about American pop culture that makes it fun with a bit of wit thrown it. But the title says it all! So if you are a song lyric writer, and while in slumber you are paid a call from a shining Roman goddess, just say THANK YOU, MINERVA, write that musical number, and watch it change the world–if not bring a tear of joy or sorrow in one’s eye! That’s is what makes America great!!

THANK YOU, MINERVA, presented by Stillsonworks, performs at The Secret Rose Theatre, 11246 Magnolia Blvd. (off Lankershim Blvd.) North Hollywood, until August 18th. Show times are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 PM. For tickets and more information, call (818) 884-4284, or online at
The SkyPilot Theatre Company presents the world premier of THE ISLAND, a musical re-imagining of Willie Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, bringing the same thrills and chills to a post modern audience with as much twists and turns embedded, performing at North Hollywood’s T.U. Studios.
The setting is a mysterious yet near invisible island just called “The Island”. Here, the sorceress Prospera (Lindsey Mixon), and her young daughter Miranda (Ali Perkins) have been trapped on this isolated location for a decade and a half when Miranda was just a young child (She’s now fifteen and beginning to show her sassiness!) The two were banished here when her mother, a one time decreed queen, was over swayed away from the ruling throne, They are virtual prisoners set away from any form of civilization; the only soles with them is Ariel (Ashley Fuller) a lively sprite, and Caliban (Jason Kobielus), who as a “country boy”, is a true native to the isle. All change when a small passing plane crashes on the edge of this place in the middle of nowhere. The survivors consists of current queen Alansa (Chaterine Cox) and Antonio, (JR Esposito) Prospera’s brother, Ferdinand (Jason Kobielus) prince and heir to the throne, and Trinculo (Brett A. Newton, alternating with Mark Ostrander), a silent type who is really a entertainer to the royal count. These are the ones that may stand a chance to get Prospera and Miranda off the island while the two seek their revenge over events that occurred years before. It’s all about a microcosm of souls crossing between political and emotional lines, fall from the world they knew and possibly knew of!
There are many flavors and blends set upon the unique musical. It holds lots of spice from The Bard’s work (a later entry to this playwright’s repertoire of stage pieces created some 400 years before), with plenty of savory from the TV series Lost. This adds to the notion that this is also a musical featuring songs penned by Jonathan Price (music, along with book), and Chana Wise on the lyrics. The tunes, ranging from slow ballads, contemporary numbers, with a nice does of classic show tunes and even stark hip-hop, makes this retelling of an olde narrative a fascination to experience. The cast of eight are as absolute to their roles, giving the near perfect alloy between series drama and amusing comedy. (Witty comedy, rather than the tired sitcom variety!) Price, in addition to his musical score and book (that is, script), orchestrates the transcribed musical direction that delivers the intimate staging interpreted into an existence that is far suited for a larger stage. Interestingly enough, the small setting is in fact quite ideal as this big notion fits altogether in a real neat package.
In addition to what is seen via acting technique and heard in terms of song scores, Tifanie McQueen’s set design of the island (only a few rock-type formations as the whole water laden community), and Samantha Carro’s costuming brings the forces up in a musical production that holds onto something classic in nature, and pushes it for a savvy post modern audience.
Directed by Jeanette Farr, THE ISLAND is a production that stands on its own. In case one didn’t “brush up their Shakespeare”, fear not as this entire saga brings new meaning to a stage piece that fuses political power and struggle with magic and sorcery set to a harmonic soundtrack. It’s been stated many times before that one can’t teach an old dog new tricks. On the contrary, it’s quite possible to add a few shines into the repertory as one can still get off on getting off an island! (No TV program requited!)

THE ISLAND, presented by The SkyPilot Theatre Company, and performs at the T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo Street (off Lansershim), North Hollywood, until August 18th. Showtimes are Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday evenings at 7:00 PM. For ticket reservations and for more information, call (800) 838-3006, or via online at
(As posted on her Facebook “wall”)
Out in the yard earlier, I kept hearing this odd sound. It was constant but irregular, and very familiar-sounding. I finally located the source – my neighbor sitting up on his balcony hard at work. He was typing – on an actual typewriter!

Cecil and I need a week-long getaway – no distractions, quiet and peaceful, where he can read and study and I can write, and where the only thing else there is to do is sleep, eat, and look at the views. Sounds like H-e-a-v-e-n to me right now.

Happy 5th birthday to my sweet mini-me, my Little Miss, my bunny-pop, my pumpkin-patch…the Rory to my Lorelai! You just get better with each passing minute.

Homemade vegetable soup for dinner. Thanks to my parents for.putting in the work to make it. It’s yummy!! 🙂

Why does my Internet explorer stop working????
As of July 15th, Tiffi has 1,733 Facebook “friends” and counting!

is a presentation of Linear Cycle Productions

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All rights reserved. The views and opinions are those of the writers, and not necessarily of the staff and management. ‘Nuff said!


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