We received a number of e-mails over the previous week that spoke upon one single subject. One that stand out is from “Elaine” that jotted down a few notes:
…Will you be commenting upon the death of Robin Williams from the last week?
I would like you to tell us you’re (sic) opinions..”
For starters, it was very sad and tragic to hear upon this talented man’s death. He was one of only a handful of performers that has emerged over recent years that used fast paced humor that was in kin to a live action cartoon. Most of his comedy was based upon rapid fire gags and actions. He was reminiscent to such performers as Danny Kaye, who could stand grand while sporting a rather impish and child like manner.
What make this episode quite different over the many celebrity based deaths was the fact that he didn’t pass on due to natural causes (heart attack, etc.) accident (auto wreck, et. al) or even homicide! (Being shot at!) His life ended through his own power due to one illness that has been known through the ages but rarely spoken about. Unlike Cancer or even AIDS where big time campaigns have been expressed over its existence, prevention, and possible cure, this form of illness isn’t physical, but emotional. It’s the oft misunderstood feeling of an inner sadness called depression.
If one uses their favorite search engine and types “depression”, one will find an endless list detailing just what it is, how it might occur, and what one can do about it. If one types up another word “suicide”, one will find yet another endless list of similar facts and figures. Depression and suicide fall as strange bedfellows as the two elements hold a connection to one another.
As much as I would like to, I don’t have any personal Robin Williams stories to tell here as I never had the opportunity to meet the man. I, along with countless others, first became aware of him through his appearance on a semi forgotten episode of Happy Days. Although at the time I lost interest in this series (if might have had to do with the oft spoken “jump the shark” attempt to save the show), I though he was funny and wacky, but passed him as another up and coming comic that would go as fast as he came. (Too many rising comedians were always billed as “The next _________”, but would never come even close to being the next fill-in-the-blank!) I did see his name appearing in a few features, but as with other TV stars that were billed as leads in movies because of their TV fame, I didn’t think he would last. But he did for the next thirty five plus years.
What I will write is something that is related to all of this, but not in any pleasant mode. In 2013, I encountered two deaths in my extended family. The first death I did express my feelings about. (See Vol. 18-No. 4 for details) The second misfortune occurred about six week later, but I kept quiet over this death. Unlike the first one that was due to natural causes, the second one was something that was far different than the first.
Another in-law on mine, Youssef Bassipour, was married to one of the many siblings that my source’s family was part of, the former Claire McCarthy-the youngest of nine kids. (My spouse Mary was second to last in line, making Claire the “baby” of the family.) Youssef and Claire met back in late 1984, and by March of ‘85, they married. They had two boys, and ran a rather successful clothing line called Krush Clothing, best described as radical ware. (Part grunge, part xtream, and catered to the urban male youth market.) The business did quite well pulling in a near seven figure income.
Then the “great recession” hit, and the business hit a standstill. The company, in order to survive itself, was sold off but as a rate far below what it was worth during its peak. Claire was able to find another job in a business not related to the clothing industry. Youseff, however, wasn’t so fortunate. He made attempts to find another job, going through his channels. However, this was when such industries were suffering from economic times. Companies were interested in him, but never took much action for consideration.
To make a long story short, Claire found Youseff hours after he made his attempt in the same fashion as Robin Williams did. Youssef was 53.
Although it’s been some eighteen months after this occurrence, this is the first time that I’ve ever expressed this story in a public arena. So what has happened does affect yours truly, as well as the countless others that might have encountered such a fate within their domain. Again, it’s something one doesn’t speak about in polite company or any other company for that matter, but it’s just another small part of the domestic times people dwell in.
Not to keep this article as a total downer, Henny Youngman had a one liner he would say about taking one’s own life. “I once considered suicide, but I realized that there was no future in it”. Again, this is not meant to take light on the two topics expressed in this article. But unlike other subjects that were once considered as taboo, the only way to face a fear is to get close to it was humanly possible. That’s was I did, and I’m still here!
NEWS AND REVIEWS
Currently performing at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks is the world premier of WITHOUT ANNETTE, a comedy featuring an ensemble of performers that meet at a weekly improv class that take on personalities of their own.
The setting is Sam’s improv workshop class, located somewhere within a “TMZ” of Hollywood, lead by Sam Wasserman. Sam was a one time player in a sitcom that aired a few decades back. Today, he’s reduced to holding weekly classes just to keep his career active. The class itself consists of an eclectic collection of students, some working within the biz, while others are hoping to hone in their performing talents, hidden or otherwise. From the ex football player, to the motherly mature woman, the pair of BFF roommates, the writer desiring to sell his script, the colorful gay man, the young and rather shy kid, the stand up comic looking for material to “borrow”, and others that act not so much as a class, but as an extended family while they bicker with one another, besides sharing a number of personal arenas along with a few scenes both on stage and off, and to realize that they are not a bunch of students managing a gain to one’s self abilities, but to work well as a team of players that can perform on their feet without any means of support, akin to trapeze artists in their own circus.
Indeed, there isn’t too much of a plot caught within this production as conceived by Hope Juber & Jeff Doucette. In fact, much of what is seen on stage in one part “play”, and one part improv show, as a selection of the classroom assignments depicted have been lifted from “real” improv classes where many (too many?) wannabe comic stars are always keeping busy at while on their down time, or at least until pilot season begins to heat up! Within this show, a pair of eleven member acting teams perform on a rotating basis, meaning that each performance is slightly different as a number of the assignments are based upon suggestions by the audience. (Or as Sam the teacher call ‘em, the “auditors”!)
And who are these talented team members? The performers are, as listed in their alphabetical order, Alex Ball, Mark Beltzman, Tara Chabs should be Tara Chiabottoni, Bill Chott, Corinne Dekker, Jeff Doucette, Donna Du Bain, Christina Engelhardt, Jason Frankovitz, Kersten Halle, Angie Jarre should be Angie Jaree, Jeremy Klein, Kyle Klein, Julia Morizawa, Charlie Mount, Joelle Posey, Gary Robinson, Shea Scullin, Matthew Shane, Willem Van Der Vegt should be Willem van der Vegt, Timothy Walker, Andrew Villarreal, and Brice Williams. (See program listing for active performing talent.)
A few people, both on and off stage, have their demeanor known during all performances. John Burton’s set design consists of a large brick wall facade at the rear of the stage, suggesting either a class set in an old warehouse or former factory, or an image to one of the many comedy clubs that little the town. Laurence Juber (spouse of co-writer Hope Juber) provides the incidental music on the electric guitar. He also provides a mini concert right before the program with his selection of instrumental musical interludes. (And he does take requests!)
Directed by Jeff Doucette, WITHOUT ANNETTE is charming, witty, and shows that improv classes are entertaining in their own right. And would it be a spoiler to state that there isn’t a character named “Annette” in this show? Then again, that’s show biz!
WITHOUT ANNETTE, presented by Juber Productions & Green Door Productions, performs at the Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd. (at Sunnyslope), Sherman Oaks, until October 2nd. Showtimes are Thursday nights at 8:00 PM. (No performance on September 25th.) For ticket reservations or for more information, call (323) 960-5773, or online at http://www.Plays411.com/WithoutAnnette.
Also visit http://www.WithoutAnnette.info
The Stella Adler Lab Theatre Company, located within the Stella Adler Academy in Hollywood presents THREE SHORTS, a trio of mini one acts plays by Tim McNeil that range from comedy, drama, and a bit in between.
The lineup of these triple headers features “The Straight Bozo”, about three passengers aboard a commuter train heading toward the big city where a rather talkative man insists of keeping a conversation with his seat mates. He’s on his way to his job as well as the rest, but has a past that was long considered as a myth. Directed by Melanie Jones, with assistance direction by Alex Lemus, and features Tim McNeil, Brad Kaz, Mikki McCauley, and Jay Kim. The second entry “Purplish”, is about a woman slowly succumbing to cancer, and attempts to keeps to relate to the woman she lives with over what’s left of her life. Starring Meghan Cox and Maia Nikphiroff, and directed by Alex Aves, with assistant direction by Cesar DiBello. And the final installment, “Schism”, has a self proclaimed Pope who operates the Holy See of Kansas out of his rural midwestern farmhouse, and endeavors to take down the real Vatican in Rome with the aid of his first hand secretary. Featuring Tim McNeil and Fanny Rosen. Directed by Meghan Cox with Alex Lemus as assistant director.
This anthology of short plays is a mixed bag. “The Straight Bozo” and “Schism” are comical in nature, while “Purplish” is more dramatic. This sets the balance to this presentation. Playwright and performer Tim McNeil, playwright in residence at The Stella Adler Academy, creates a mood where comedy does rule even it’s a bit off the wall, and drama still rings true where its setting can become rather moody.
As with other short play anthologies, these type of showcase presentations can be hit or miss. This little collection is more “hit” than “miss”! It’s ideal for those that prefer their theater shows to be episodic, or for those that enjoy a variety of stage works that complete their point right away. And unlike what the title may suggest, THREE SHORTS is a complete experience at the theater that doesn’t stick to one subject for too long in the same vein as akin to what makes up the so-called spice of life.
THREE SHORTS, presented by The Stella Adler Lab Theatre Company, and performs at The Stella Adler Theatre (Gilbert Stage), 6773 Hollywood Blvd. (At Highland), Hollywood, until September 7th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday evenings at 7:00 PM. For ticket reservations or for more information, call (323) 455-3111, or via online at http://www.LabTheatre.bpt.me
TIFFI’S FRIENDS SAY…
(As posted on her Facebook “wall”)
Glad I’m not in Tennessee today, much as I love that state. There was a copperhead on my porch.
This waiting for the coals to get hot enough to grill steaks is for the birds, Kevin! Next year, we’re going out to eat. My stomach is shouting, whining, and begging to be fed! We are way past growling.
Now that I’m working from home, it’s become abundantly clear that I don’t own enough yoga pants.
Just finished the third book in the Hunger Games series. So unbelievably good… Thanks Will for not telling me the ending
Going blueberry picking!
As of August 18th, Tiffi has 2,178 Facebook “friends” and counting!
WRITE TO US!!
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