TV & MOVIES: STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

     The motion picture (“movie”) industry and the TV business were at one time separate elements. Movies were those visual productions that were intended to be experienced as bigger, louder, and grander that what one would normally seen on a 21” (or less) sized screen. Television shows were much scaled down both in content and scope. The entertainment shows (a good majority of what one would view) were filled with lots of head shots of people talking. The action depicted was based upon the dialogue. There may be a fight scene pictured, or perhaps a few bodies falling from high places (around 100’ or less), but didn’t hold the same impact as movies would create. In features shown in a movie theater–a place where one would have to pay admission to gain access to viewing the flick, the dialogue would be there but delivered in a different fashion. There would be more of it, dictated in a faster pace, and perhaps be spoken in more of a harsh and perhaps racy method. What was stated on the soundtrack may be of questionable stance, perhaps using various form of cuss words–the same kind of words one couldn’t say on regular TV! (And the term “regular TV” meant any form of video that was obtain free and through an over the air signal, in comparing to “pay TV”, where most of the programming made available were those same feature films once exhibited in a movie house!)
     People would go to the movies and the theaters that showed ’em for many reasons. It was a place to become entertained while getting away from one’s home–mostly to avoid “cabin fever”–the feeling where one savors while being enclosed within the place they spend a lot of their time-home. Also, going to the movies would have folks see images that were bigger in screen size and content. (Special effects, elaborate sets and costumes, dramatic music scores, and big name performers doing their thing.) And in the case of movie theaters, it allowed the viewer to see a place that may be elaborate in size and by design. Many moving picture houses sported their facades with bright neon in various colors along with a set of lights that “raced”, making the guise quote attractive. It displayed the movie posters along the outer lobby area that gave an idea of what was playing inside the joint. Most movie posters were colorful single sheets of paper roughly around 27″ X 40″, while a few of these posters were a lot bigger depending on the scope of the movie and the theater that would show them. Ditto by exhibiting what was called “lobby cards”-pictures of scenes from the movie, giving another idea of what the film looked like in terms of seeing photos.
     And of course, there were the concession stand inside of the lobby area, be it a simple stand or one that was over the top. Although popcorn was (and still is) the industry standard when it comes to snacking while seeing a feature on the big screen, there were the boxes of candy made available in a special sized package that were created specifically for movie theaters, as well as soda pop dispensed by the cup.  Sure, what was sold was a bit pricey for what it was, but going to the movies without the popcorn and all wasn’t the same. After all, if a man was taking a woman out on a date (and going to the movies was one of the most common activities for dating), it would spark the romance factor by getting a tub of corn and sharing it while seeing the latest from Hollywood, USA–unless it was an “art” featured that was subtitled!
     Beginning in the late 1970’’s, watching a television program and watching a feature film started to merge. When the first line of prerecorded videotapes of theatrical movies made it appearance at the end of the 70’s, it offered for the first time, a chance to watch a movie on one’s TV set as it was created, uncut and uncensored. For communities where cable television became available, one can take a subscription to a special channel where for a few additional dollars per month, one can see uncut and uninterrupted movies along with a few additional shows thrown in the schedule mix as filler. Such channels as Home Box Office, Showtime, Z Channel, and so on, would provide this kind of viewing. Getting a video cassette recorder (VCR) not only gave the opportunity to record movies off the air from local stations, but presented a chance to to rent prerecorded titles on videotape, usually renting them overnight from a local electronic dealer or a dedicated tape rental place. The retail price to purchaser a videotape at the time was as high as $100.00, so renting a tape (around $2.50 for a 24 hour period) was more practical and economical. The only difference was the fact that those movies one would see on videotape and/or on pay TV would be of the same visual and audible quality that one’s TV set could put out verses what a movie theater could do-project bigger images and louder sound in a more grand scale. Hearing a lush music score in a theater that was equipped with a decent sound system (even stereo) could not compare with a small speaker that was about one two inches in diameter, was in mono, and gave off a rather thin and tinny sound to it. Generally speaking, the movie watching experience at home was just passable, but noting could compare it to what a real theater could present.
     Fast forward about thirty plus years to the present era. In today’s domestic landscape, many people have within their homes a video screen that’s around 40” in size or more, depending on the room the screen can accommodate in the area that it’s placed. The sound is just a good, if not better, in what a standard movie theater could offer. And the best part of the home theater experience was the fact that it’s more affordable than ever to obtain and maintain for what it was. For as little as $1000.00, one could create a mini movie house in one’s living room/den/family room/bedroom where movies by endless title count can be viewed either through a DVD disk, a computer file, or perhaps a streaming source obtained through an internet connection.
     Of course, people still trek to movie houses to see feature films for the same reasons those same visitors did for generations; To get out of the house and for dating purposes.
And the concession stands offer more than popcorn and boxes of Jujubes. From comfort foods such as hot dogs and nacho chips bathed in “cheese” goo, to gourmet style dishes and even beer and wine by the glass–depending on local liquor rulings, going out to see a flick outside of one’s domain is more of a special event rather than just to be entertained on a Saturday night–or any other time of day or day of the week! There is also the emotional appeal in seeing a film with a group of strangers that laugh, cry, yell, or react to what’s depicted on the bigger screen. Then again, there are the annoying and uncalled for distractions! (Talking out loud during the film, speaking and/or texting someone on a smartphone device, etc.)
     In spite of all of these observations, the blur between these two mediums have been muffed more than ever. However, it will always be noted that movies and television programming will only be as good as the content itself. Perhaps Fred Allen was right when he was quoted to state that television is called a medium because it’s rarely well done! Leave it to a comedian whose best known presence was on radio thanks to his dry wit personality, something that is more an audible element than a visual one. Besides, he wasn’t the most photogenic person either, sporting a stone face a la Buster Keaton. But  being good looking on TV didn’t become in vogue until much later, and that’s yet for another article!
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NEWS AND REVIEWS
     Performing at the Group Rep Theatre in North Hollywood is Clifford Odets’ AWAKE AND SING, a melodrama about a middle class Jewish family living in the Bronx, New York, who deals with the times they face living under the same humble household.
     The action takes place within a year’s time in the middle 1930’s at the home of the Burger family, consisting of Bessie (Michele Bernath) the perverse mother who is the administer to the homestead, her father Jacob (Stan Mazin), a retired barber by trade that holds anarchist leanings, her spouse Myron (Patrick Burke), adult daughter Hennie (Christine Joelle), and younger son Ralph (Troy Whitaker). Adding to the mix is Uncle Morty (Robert Gallo) whose been a success in business in spite of the current hard times, family friend and boarder Moe Axelrod (Daniel Kaemon) who had seen action during the Great War and suffered an injury where he limps upon one leg, and Sam Feinschreiber (Marcos Cohen) a recent immigrant still learning about the American ways of life. Bessie has worked hard for the family and wishes to see the same success she has had for her two children, both latching on to leaving the household to settle on their own. Situations arises when Hennie is discovered to be a “girl in trouble”, and Ralph wishes to marry a woman that was raised by other members of her family and is just making ends meet. Jacob is an forthright leftist who believes the family should rise up to take action against the current economic and political circumstances which sets them back. These among other factors brings this family through their promising times, as well as their somber and tragic–part of the eight million souls that make up part of the county’s biggest metropolis.
     This play speaks about some of the concerns that middle class Americans were going through during the era it speaks of. Unlike many other period dramas that take place in one time while written years (sometimes decades) after the fact, this particular play was created during the period, making some of the anxieties it was addressing part of the current domestic landscape, such as how the family were attempting to get by during present economic times, as well as some of the issues occurring outside of the country. (Political uprisings in Europe, specifically within the Germanic nations.) The pacing and dialogue are within the same vogue as a period moving picture (movie) drama as well, making this play a “talky”. As to this stage piece at the Group Rep, the entire cast of players fit into their roles very precise, appealing to be “average” for the decade it speaks of (1930’s) rather than a “Hollywood glamor” look to it all from its look to its status. Kim DeShazo provides the costuming (suits of the elder men, “snazzy” outfits from the younger, and long dresses for the women folk), with Chris Winfield providing the set dressing and design, creating a simple and comfortable apartment setting that was rather common to see inside of dwelling, even if that home was contained within a dreary walkup. Larry Eisenberg directs these cast of players that make this rather lengthily three act play idea to see.
     And in addition to the above noted cast, Amanda the dog plays the family pet Tootsie as a non speaking role.
     AWAKE AND SING is a play that doesn’t make the rounds as often as it used to, but  is still worth a look. It may lean toward the “left” a bit, but again, those times were rather challenging, both in the USA and over in the place where the “old countries” existed. Then again, maybe those times didn’t really change except in name and scope. But families do bond to exist, and that is what this stage work is really all about.

     AWAKE AND SING, presented by The Group Rep and performs at The Lonnie Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, until October 27th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 PM. For reservations or for more information, call (818) 763-5990, or visit on line at http://www.TheGroupRep.com
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     The Pasadena Playhouse opens their 2013-14 season of plays and musicals with SMOKEY JOE’S CAFE-THE SONGS OF LEIBER AND STROLLER, a musical review featuring the tunes written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stroller-the first team of songwriters geared toward the new fangled genre of music called “Rock ‘n Roll”.
     This musical showpiece consists of ten singer and dancers (LaVance Colley, Kyra Little Da Costa, Thomas Hobson, Stu James, Adrianna Rose Lyons, Monique L. Midgette, Robert Neary, Michael A. Shepperd, Carly Thomas Smith, and Thomas Hobson), as they perform many of the harmonies created by Misters L. and S, either as a team or as a contributor with another writer. The cast, decked out in various forms of dress from suits for the men to gowns and “diva” ware for the ladies while performing in front of backdrops reminiscent to a 1960s/70s era TV variety program, perform many of the classic numbers  that made rock and roll just what it is; songs that speak of youthful life as well as the jiving sounds incorporating rhythm and blues. Some tunes, from Jailhouse Rock, Poison Ivy, There Goes My Baby, the titled number along with countless others, are rather known. Others such as DW Washburn, Neighborhood, Pearl’s A Singer, etc., may not be as famous, but still captures the sprit and soul of a musical format that wasn’t support to last! (Or that’s how R ‘n R was depicted back in its day!) During the first act, the live musical band under the direction of Abdul Hamid Royal performs hidden backstage, although their presence is finally seen in act two. While the cast sings the songs and dance their pieces under Jeffrey Polk’s choreography and stage direction, the band jives on while the entire ensemble celebrate the ditties that have lived on for over fifty years–and counting!
     The only minor flaw to this showcase is the fact that the stage setting at this grand playhouse is rather large in size and scope, making the performers appear rather small. But this is a musical, and the vocals and dance numbers make up for the entire size difference.
     SMOKEY JOE’S CAFE was one of the first of many jukebox musicals that has hit the theater scene within the last twenty or so years liking songs that hold a common thread. Even though there is no story line per se, this production is still entertaining. For fans of rock and roll, early rhythm and blues, or those that enjoy an upbeat lively musical showcase, look no further than this production. It’s been stated that they don’t make music like this as they used to. Perhaps those making the statement may be right. Nevertheless, it’s one that will keep your sprits up, even if you ain’t nuttin’ but a houn’ dawg!

     SMOKEY JOE’S CAFE-THE SONGS OF LEIBER AND STROLLER, presented by and performs at The Pasadena Playhouse, 39 South El Molino Avenue (off Colorado Blvd.), Pasadena, until October 13th. Showtimes are Tuesday through Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sunday evenings at 7:00 PM, with matinees Saturday at 4:00 PM, and Sunday at 2:00 PM. For for information and to order tickets, visit  online at http://www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org
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     Samuel Beckett’s modern classic, WAITING FOR GODOT, a play that has a pair of souls awaiting for a third while encountering a new dimension of what is and isn’t life, performs at the Stella Adler Lab Theatre in Hollywood.
     Chris Petrovski is Estragon and Blake Lewis is Vladimar. Set within a surreal universal setting barren upon all elements with the exception of a flat bare rock and an even barren large twig of a tree, they await for a being, either in body or sprit, with the moniker of Godot. As they wait, they speak about various forms of thoughts with themes expressing philosophical, spiritual, humor, the beginning of a life to the planed end of it. While they canvass and banter, in enters a pair of other beings–Pozzo (Matt Magnusson), and Lucky (Alec Whaite). Pozzo plays master to Lucky. Lucky is either an assistant, a slave, or a humanized pet. Neither one of these living matters is the person or sprit in question that’s awaited. Pozzo details the notion of the reasons why these two are there–or not. And there is The Boy (Bosque Doumit), that may be a man child or as a humanized message. Among the strange and absurd elements that take place, the wait for Godot still takes its mark. Perhaps Godot has already arrived..?
     Many volumes of prose has been created in print and as verbal tête-à-tête since this play was first performed some sixty years before, first in French and later in English-among many other languages surpassing over time and tide. What it all means isn’t really the issue, as even the playwright never presented a forward answer. That’s only for the viewer to decipher. Within this show as seen at the Stella Adler Lab, all of the players in this piece are donned in outfits that are of a comical vagabond fashion in the method of a vaudevillian player or as a long forgotten silent movie mimic. They may appear to be funny, but there are no gags uttered, although there are slapstick movement seen about. Each performer plays out their piece that is intended with their laden dialogue. However, could Estragon and  Vladimar be a surreal version of Laurel & Hardy? Maybe or maybe not! And what is Pozzo? Is Lucky really lucky, or is it part of a cruel fate? And The Boy seen here isn’t a “boy”, but a marionette that has the character of a stiff white faced doll. And lastly, who or what is Godot? Does Godot finally arrive, or is he (assuming that Godot is of a male species) already there?
     Whatever these answers are doesn’t matter. The performances witnessed within this show are top notch, all presented within an intimate stage setting under the masterful direction of Milton Justice. If one has seen this stage piece before or experiencing for the first time, it’s indeed worth its first, second, or multiple glance. And for those that are followers of the stage, call this play a textbook example of experimental theater without the over the top weirdness! It’s a wait worth its weight in waiting! Godot has arrived!

     WAITING FOR GODOT performs at the Stella Adler Lab Theatre, located within the Stella Adler Los Angeles Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd. (2nd level, at the corner of Hollywood and Highland Avenue), Hollywood, until October 13th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday evenings at 7:00 PM. For ticket reservations , call (323) 455-3111, or via online at http://www.Plays411.com/Godot. Additional information can also be found at http://www.StellaAdler-LA.com
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TIFFI’S FRIENDS SAY…
(As posted on her Facebook “wall”)
Soooo,,, I don’t know what possessed me to go down into the basement last night.  I don’t know what possessed me to look in the fridge down there, but when I got there I realized something was missing that was by the refrigerator.  My son had problems with water backup from the drain in the basement a while back.  Hopefully that problem is fixed.  I have a lot of my stuff stored in his basement.  Anyway, we had moved some particle board from low ground to higher ground next to the fridge and you couldn’t open the door all of the way to get into the fridge.  All the boards are now gone.  They were the kind that you build those shelves with, the ones with the metal pieces that you put together and lay the boards on top of the framework.  So, I started looking for more missing stuff.  I have a dining room table down there.  When we moved from Montana we had taken the legs off the table.  Well guess what is missing.  I have a table but no legs.  He also took an electronic dart board.  All of this stuff is mine since it was in my possession when the divorce was final.  He has a key to my son’s house because the knobs were falling apart and so exhole replaced all the knobs before he moved out and they are all keyed the same.  
I recently got my washer and dryer from him.  What is missing there…the electric cord for the dryer…of course.  It’s an expensive cord and I won’t be set up with everything once I move.  The tubing from the washer that lets the water out of it when it is spinning is also missing.  Isn’t he the bomb?  
We were in court last Tuesday.  Low and behold he had asked that an officer be present and that I be wanded and my purse searched because of my violence in the marriage.  I had asked my attorney for the very same thing because I was getting a gut feeling, only he told me that without a restraining order, it wouldn’t be looked upon very favorably. Racine county has no security measures in place.  The officer was in the commissioner’s office the whole time.  Oh yea, he was found in contempt for everything that I brought up.  There was no contempt on me for what he brought up.  He pissed the commissioner off several times and she asked sweetly “do you think you are above the law?”  
Thank you for letting me vent.  We are back in court before the judge this time on October 2.
-Mary

I hate my job!
-Tammy
As of September 22nd, Tiffi has 1,782 Facebook “friends” and counting!
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