A few weeks back, I was asked by the New York staff of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, a separate yet related group of The Television Academy (formally knows as the Television Academy of Arts & Sciences) to be a judge for their annual Daytime Emmy Awards that will take place later this year. Since I am a member of the Set Decorator/Art Directors peer group, I was requested to view a selection of clips from a number of programs that air on daytime TV, either on a media network or through syndication. The clips of each entry, made available through a secured NATAS web site, consisted of a selection of short segments from each episode that aired during the previous year. There was a brief outline of each show noting some of the progressions made from the show’s run during the previous season. What I was suppose to look for is how the program’s set and artistic values made the series just what it is, and how it creates the overall mood and scope to the program.
As with daytime television, the shows selected for an Emmy (about twenty five titles to choose from) are either shows that are created for kids ranging from preschool to high school/young adult, or aimed toward women, although its specific demographic is what used to be known as “housewife” or something that can resemble that occupation. (The closest to what use to be labeled a “housewife” in today’s post modern society is now known as the “Stay At Home Mom” a.k.a. SAHM.)
Anyway, my assignment, since I already took it, was to view the clips of the chosen shows (around 18 to 20 minutes each), and to judge the program based upon how the set(s) were created and what makes their appearance express the program for its appeal. It didn’t matter upon its content, its performances, how the show was interesting/exciting/comical/boring/obnoxious or anything like that! Those figures were to be judged by other folks as I was supposed to pay attention to its backdrops and how pretty they looked!
So during the last week of voting, the week where Easter and Passover clashed (and also the week of the traditional Spring Break where one could head on over to Daytona Beach Florida and whoop it up), I looked at the near twenty five clips and segments of these daytime television programs, most of them for either the first time or first time in generations.
Because I judged the sets, I won’t comment on how the art direction was staged since I want to make it fair to those who did a slam bang job of making the show look neat and pretty, and to the others that made the program as a “meh”! However, I can comment about everything else since I had no part in its judging. I will state that all titles judged that were up for an Emmy for best Set Decoration and Art Direction normally air between the hours of 6:00 AM through 6:00 PM local time. Even though that this time slot can run any day of the week, most of the programs eligible tend to air Monday through Friday.
A bit of a disclaimer here. I normally don’t watch television, not so much daytime TV, but any form of television! As to the time slot in question, I weaned myself off of daytime TV in the middle 1980’s when time and tide didn’t allow me to tune in during those daylight hours. However, a decade or two beforehand, I was affixed to what aired during the day, mostly tuning in during the summer months or when school was not in session, usually around Christmas and Easter break, a single Monday holiday, or when I was under the weather. (Being sick from school wasn’t as common for me as I though it would be, thanks to modern medicine I suppose!)
Getting back to reality here, I began my assigned viewing looking at clips from two shows I did tune in to back when I was a heavy daytime TV viewer and are still on the air today; Sesame Street, and The Price Is Right.
Sesame Street, or “SS”, was a fixture of PBS when that “network” was newly named The Public Broadcasting Service removing itself from its old title, National Educational Television back in the fall of 1969. Although Jim Henson and his cast of characters, The Muppets, have been occasionally seen on TV throughout the 1960’s, SS was what made him and his team real stars! The Price Is Right (TPIR) was one of three games show that CBS premiered on Labor Day, 1972, after taking a five year game show leave of absence. Over its many years, it gave away countless prizes just so folks can win ‘em by playing a game while guessing its suggested manufacture retail price.
I enjoyed these two shows for two different reasons. On TPIR, Bob Barker’s on screen personality was pleasant. The contestants ranged from charming to rather dull, and for the record, they usually wore semi formal outfits. The women were dressed in nice cocktail party style pants and tops, sometime in bright 1970’s era colors and patterns, while the men wore jackets and ties, although many of them wore clothing that would be considered as “business casual”. Today, most folks don garish clothing from t-shirts that state they are part of some kind of group, to other clothing that look like they came from a thrift store! (Because they did??) They also appear to be more overbearing and rather annoying as their counterparts behaved some forty years before. And Bob Barker, now long retired, has been replaced by comic Drew Carey, who in my opinion, doesn’t have that same appeal and charm as Bob did back in the day. And the staff announcer George Gray no longer gives a quick spiel on any of the brand name products offered, the same way as the late Johnny Olson and Rob Roddy did. Even though the description of prizes were quickie commercials for the product, it didn’t seem to concern me hearing about how easy it was to cook Rice-A-Roni (“The San Francisco Treat”), or what features were available as standard equipment in a 1974 Chevy Malibu. (After all, they could be yours if the price is right!)
And why did I watch SS since I was a bit too old for the show? I found The Muppets appealing, and as the critics did state, it was unlike no other program made for kids that was on the air at the time. Even Captain Kangaroo couldn’t compare, although The Captain did featured Tom Terrific and Lariat Sam cartoons! (It also had the Captain hawk Wonder Bread and Schwinn bicycles, but that’s another story as that stands!)
So I looked at a SS created for a generation of kids that were born in an overly wired world, as well as a TPIR where anyone can now compare prices on their smart phones, if not wearing tacky clothing! The TPIR clip judged was the Halloween episode, perhaps the best dressed episode of the year, as well as for the Christmas episode, also included within the bunch. Drew donned a vampire outfit while mugging for the camera, while announcer George Gray had his head “float” above his announcers podium, something that was rarely seen on camera. (The floating head effect was created by having George wear a green outfit that was chromakeyed out!) And there were plenty of props set around the stage that consisted of jack-o-lanterns, tombstones, cobwebs, and the usual Halloween details. The Christmas episode clip was also appealing, but not in the same way that All Hallow’s Eve was set. Again, it was a gimmick and a fun one at that!
SS was to me, a very far cry to what I was used to seeing. All of the Muppets were there (or its descendants) teaching those kids in these times the basic things they would use within their future lives. The clip presented was a James Bond spoof where Cookie Monster (as agent “Double Stuffed Seven”) was to retrieved a crown made of cookies stolen by “Lady Finger” who was going to dunk the crown in a large glass of milk. (The lesson taught was to listen, remember, and to follow directions!) The second segment took place on the title street (a sound stage really), where a “Latino Festival” was taking place. Of course, diversity was on stake here, something that was referred to since the show’s second season when it integrated Spanish words, although the cultural aspect was more related to Puerto Rico that Mexico and points south. The third skit, another movie-type take off, consisted of a special committee of sheep out for the big bad wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing! There were other clips as well, but the program’s overall look was much slicker than it was forty plus years ago, and its humor is pleasant, although its targeted demographic will miss on a lot of it! And the special effects are terrific! Back in the days where yours truly used to tune it, the EFX seen was very little to none, outside of letters and numbers superimposed on the screen generated by a basic character generator!
There are more shows and clips to ponder upon, but those titles and commentary of such will be addressed in the next issue of ALOL! See you then!
NEWS AND REVIEWS
Actors Co-op winds down their 2013-14 season with the musical production of 110 IN THE SHADE, a tale about a woman that discovers herself through the guidance of a mystical man that offers a promise to save a rural farming community from the perils of a killer drought.
The setting is the 1930’s. The dust bowl is causing havoc through the nation’s southwestern corridor. The land and crops are parched, and there hasn’t been a decent rainfall for weeks. Rancher H.C. Curry (Tim Hodgin) is attempting to keep a herd of cattle alive, nearly depleted from the dry spell and heat. He runs his ranch with his two sons Jimmy (David Crain) and Noah (Jason Peter Kennedy), as well as with daughter Lizzy (Treva Tegmeier). Although her father and her pair of siblings have to deal with the dehydrated ranch, Lizzy has her own concerns. She has never married and is not keeping a legacy for her family, thus becoming an “old maid”! Although the Curry menfolk have attempted to interest the local sheriff File (Michael Downing) in Lizzy, he is too busy and concerned in finding the whereabouts of a traveling con man that’s been sighted in the area. Then a young stud of a man mysteriously arrives in town. Calling himself Bill Starbuck (Skylar Adams), he says that he is a rainmaker, and can bring rain to the community for a price. HC pays Starbuck his desired fee for rain. But his charm and personality brings Lizzy to realize that she may find just what she is looking for in her own life. Will Starbuck bring rain to the community as promised? Will Lizzy find the love she is seeking? And is this rainmaker the con man that Sheriff File is on the hunt for?
This musical by Harvey Schmidt (score) and Tom Jones (lyrics) is based on N. Richard Nash’s stage play The Rainmaker (who also provided the musical’s “book”) that carries the same premise. In this production as presented by Actors Co-op, the leading cast of performers present this showpiece as an impressive production sans the over staging. The sets as designed by Stephen Gifford are rather simple, consisting of a few stage pieces that suggest a ranch with wide open spaces. These wide open spaces serves as the stage where all the action takes place. Although each main player, notably Tim Hodgin as the elder Curry, with David Crain and Jason Peter Kennedy as his sons perform very utmost, the real stars here are Treva Tegtmeier as Lizzy, and Skylar Admas as Starbuck. They are the two that carry this stage piece to its height, with Lizzy as the humble one and Starbuck as the person with the magnetism and charisma a roving man can offer. Richard Israel’s stage direction along with Julie Hall’s choreography adds to the entire allure as experienced within this presentation.
In addition to the noted lead performers, it boasts a large ensemble cast that features as listed in their order of appearance, Alex Denny, Nicholas Acciani, Courtney Potter, Julie Hall, Rory Patterson, Emily Armstrong, Colby Salmon, Mark Ostrander, and Rachel Hirshee.
Rounding out the list is the talented personnel. Bryan Blaskie’s musical direction adds a little tinge of jazz to the music score, although it doesn’t necessarily sound “jazzy”. He conducts the musical combo that consists of Bryan on piano, Brian Cannady on percussion, Xander Lott on bass, Brian Morales on clarinet/flute, and Kevin Rose on guitar/banjo. Evan Duffy serves as guest conductor and performs on piano. Their tuneful sounds adds to the lure of this musical work that holds up within the intimate theater space housed within the campus of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. Its staging is tight and compact, bringing the show to its audience as flourishing and up close.
110 IN THE SHADE is one of those few stage musicals that don’t seem to be revived as often as they should. This notion would make this moment an ideal opportunity to experience the Actors Co-Op’s product within a neighborly setting as the Crossley Theatre space provides.
110 IN THE SHADE, presented by Actors Co-op, performs at the Crossley Theatre located on the campus of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, 1760 North Gower Street (South of Franklin Avenue and north of Hollywood Blvd.), Hollywood, until June 15th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, Sunday matinees at 2:30 PM, with additional Saturday afternoon performances at 2:30 PM on May 17th and June 14th. For ticket reservations and for more information, call (323) 462-8460, or via online at http://www.ActorsCo-op.org
Continuing its run at the Acting Artists Theatre in West Hollywood is Percy Granger’s VIVIEN, a tale of an uneasy bonding between an adult son and his elderly father after being separated for nearly forty years.
Paul Howard (Illia Volok) is an up and coming theater director based in New York. He recently took a position to direct a regional production of The Seagull in Seattle. But what brings him to the northwest was to see his father Vivien (Craig Braun) who was committed long before to a psychiatric hospital where he has lived for four decades. When Paul arrives, he finds his father to be very old yet holds a glimpse of sense within. Vivien doesn’t recognize his son at first, believing that he isn’t the young Paul that he once knew. Paul got the notion that his dad asked a nurse that is stationed within his ward, Mrs. Tendesco (Tracey Silver) for his son to visit. But it was the nurse that brought the name of Paul to him. Vivian and Paul finally obtain their time together, even if that time is very short and is just as bittersweet.
This one act play by playwright Percy Granger unfolds a saga of a family long torn apart through undisclosed causes, and a final attempt to mend it all back, even if that mending is an equivalent to placing a simple bandage over a massive stab wound. Although this play has a cast of three, it is Illia Volok and Craig Braun as elder father and young(er) son that make this production just what it is: A very edgy and almost satisfying father and son relationship gathering that stands within a first time/last time frame of mind. Craig Braun as Vivien is old (perhaps looking and acting older that he really is) and only knows of a life closely guarded as well as constantly medicated. Liiia Volok plays an adult child who is moving up to the world of theater, possibly Hollywood, whose home life may not hold that same share of success. The two fight, they smile, and wonder what’s going to occur next. Tracey Silver, who appears as Nurse Tendesco, directs this play as a simple story in a complex package.
As to the look of this production, it’s just as simple and basic as one can get. Lupe Nevarez’ set consists of a few furnishings. It exists that way to present a virtual set and reality, the same notion that would otherwise extend the family ties between “dad and kid”.
This writer won’t state if VIVIEN holds a happy ending or a somber conclusion. However, this same writer will note that this play does pack a subtle impact. It also presents a bit of advice to those that may have a family member within their reach, either to keep the ties that bind or to let it all go. But this isn’t family therapy here, just a few memos of a play that shows domestic importance.
VIVIEN, presented by CABIV Productions, and performs at the Acting Artists Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, until May 25th. Showtimes are Saturdays and Sundays ay 3:00 and 8:00 PM. For tickets and information, call (323) 960-7770, or online at http://www.Plays411.com/Vivien
TIFFI’S FRIENDS SAY…
(As posted on her Facebook “wall”)
Question for the health gurus: If this kidney stone was a calcium stone, does that mean the smoothies I make from foods high in oxalate (my spinach, kale, rhubarb, wheat bran, etc.) are somehow contributing??? ‘Cause that would be like, really uncool.
Aali has her first ever job interview on Monday!
Bill West is amazing! He redid our downstairs bathroom on a shoestring budget and made it look fantastic! I am beyond blessed.
Mike Sevi, you would have been proud of your ‘nieces’. Three of them were in the back seat ‘debating’ something. I yelled back, “Stop”. And Kelsey immediately said, “Hammer time”. Our 80s legacy lives on….
Am I the only crazy lady who organizes her grocery cart by cans, boxes, cold stuff, and non-food?
It’s so hot
As of May 12th, Tiffi has 2,031 Facebook “friends” and counting!
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