REDBOX AND CHILL or MAKING IT A BLOCKBUSTER MOMENT

Now that summer is “officially” over with (for many, it ended on the Labor Day weekend), it’s the time to slowly move one’s external activities from the great outdoors to the inner confines of the homestead, where many of these same folks are attempting to get away from the chill in the air that this season provides. In southern California, it still feels like summertime. But for a good part of the nation, the leaves are already changing their colors and that for noted chill is in the air
One of the most popular of indoor activities around is spending more time with one’s television machine, that device that was once noted as a box full or elections that holds a glass screen on its front. Nowadays, it’s a flat picture frame-looking thing that does the same functions of that electronic “idiot box” of old. This time, the picture is sharper, its sound quality more booming, and is much smarter than ever before. Granted, it can’t do your accounting or anything like that, but is dose have the ability of being connected to the internet where one can receive its programming from a ‘net connection thanks to a process called streaming. It resembles a connection via a coax cable or even a TV antenna–a device that’s been around since TV began some seventy or so years ago. However, it’s not coming from a source from a local broadcaster or a cable TV company. It’s coming from a “cloud” based from somewhere in the world!
Of course, watching TV isn’t just limited to a coax cable or an ethernet connection. Many folks have devices that can play back programming found on a DVD disk, or even using media from back in the day-videotapes and laserdiscs! This is where people have collections of programming embedded on these media sources where one can play back (and re-playback) the programming that’s captured on them. The programming itself varies, but for the most part, people watch feature length programs that can be called “movies” that were originally created for showing to a paying public theatrical type setting.
Home video, the method where one can watch content on a videotape/laserdisc/DVD has been around since the late 1970’s. It took off in the 1980’s, and continued well into the 2000’s. In the early days, prerecorded videotapes were rather pricey to buy. A commercial version of, let’s say, The King and I, would cost one something like $80.00!, or actually, $79.95 MSRP! Unless one wanted to own the tape for their own for whatever reason, one can pay that amount and maintain a vast collection.
Then came video rentals where one can borrow the tape for a short time (24 hours usually) at a video rental store. During it’s peak in the 1980’s and 1990’s, there here hundreds of these outlets found in neighborhoods across the land. Many were “mom and pop” outlets that were small storefronts that offered a few hundred of titles-mostly the “hits”, although some were speciality places that catered to a niche audience such as those that wanted “art” films and the like. Others were bigger outlets, big enough to be supermarket size, stocking toward thousands of titles in many genres and formats. These bigger outlets were mostly of the franchise quality, where these companies would maintain stores found in most of the nation.
Out of these franchise outlets, perhaps the biggest one of them all was Blockbuster Video, usually found in those same neighborhoods that the mom and pops once catered to. Sadly, many of those smaller outlets were put out of business thanks to the arrival of the “big box” store. Blockbuster would have many of their titles (again, emphasizing movies) on display on rowed shelves that slightly resembled a supermarket-type arrangement where one can see what’s available to rent for the day, or in most cases, for the night! The videotapes that would be the media of choice morphed to DVDs where its physical size was a lot smaller and the picture and sound quality was a whole lot better! This process to view content made its merry way once the millennium came into view.
Then came a company called Netflix where from a monthly subscription fee, one can rent DVDs through mail order, allowing the subscriber to rent as many DVDs as they could, providing that they had the time and gumption to so such in a given month. Redbox, a company that maintained vending machines usually found in supermarkets and the front foyer of a box box retailer (Walmart, etc.) offered the same service. This time, one can rent a disk through its vending machine one disk at a time. Instead of inserting coins into these machines, one would swipe a credit card to pay the overnight rental fee, currently standing at $1.25 per disk per rental period.
Netflix did one better to the DVD rental scheme. It provided offering the same content, later adding original TV-type series, through internet streaming. This method resembled over the air broadcast and cable TV services, but it was neither! And unlike the cable and broadcast sources where one had to watch whatever programming they provided when they scheduled, Netflix allowed one to watch content whenever they wanted! No day and time allowances were necessary. You saw whatever whenever, down to something called “binge” watching where one can see an entire TV and/or movie series in one single sitting viewing titles back to back! This form of viewership became something from a hyperactive obsession to a royal badge of honor–so to speak! Many folks were nearly bragging that they were able to see an entire run of The Walking Dead or even The Simpsons for days and even weeks on end!
In today’s media landscape, Netflix has company, and lots of it! The current players of video streaming is Hulu, Amazon, Pandora, and a host of others that function like the TV networks of old. As with Netflix, there is no time schedule to deal with, and there are no commercials too–providing one subscribes to the pay version of the service (Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, etc.) where advertising is minimal or non existent.
In spite of all of this video streaming, people still have a preference of viewing their programming from physical media (DVDs), although it’s not as aggressive as it used to be. According to a report filed by the consumer marketing researcher GfK, almost half of those polled (46%) have rented and/or purchased digital copies of individual movies or TV programs. Two-thirds of those in the poll, based on interviews with 1,006 consumers combining internet-based interviewing with probability-based sampling, stated that the availability of an subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service was a prime reason not to purchase digital copies of individual titles. And of those that purchased DVDs/Blu-ray discs that included access to a digital-only version of the video, two-thirds of these same buyers never activated the digital content. The reason for this noted that consumers they were just not interested or had no need to get access. This result is a far cry from the days where as much as 86% of consumers rented DVDs in a given period.
In spite of this change, Netflix still offers their classic DVD subscription via mail rental, and Redbox still has their vending machines found in supermarket and big box store foyers for those that just wish to view content on occasion one title at a time. But in these days of smaller-faster-cheaper, these sources may find their way moving out within the same method as the 12” laserdiscs and the ever loving VHS videotapes. (Beta too, if one really goes back!) But whatever the case and whatever the method, folks will still plop themselves in front of their TV-eske devices to take part of that moving imagery they feel they must view and absorb. Of course, thanks to football season (college and pro), some of these folks will continue to take a peek at over the air and cable TV! They will just make it a Blockbuster night and day and night!
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NEWS AND REVIEWS
Continuing its run at The Eclectic Company Theatre is the world premier of THE CIVIL WAR REMEMBERED, a theatre piece written and directed by Maureen Lucy O’Connell that tells the tale of The Civil War as told through the spouse of the 16th president of the US, as well as others that became part of the battle called The War Between The States.
Marby Steward (alternating with Jennie Floyd) portrays Marry Todd Lincoln, a woman from Kentucky who eventually became the wife of Abraham Lincoln (David Pinion), a young prairie rail splitter turned lawyer who would become the leader of a nation fallen as a house divided. Told through short vignettes expressed in a linear fashion, those that were present in the war as well as those effected from its aftermath proclaim their episodes through actual letters and documents, as well as a number of spurious based sagas that give the feeling of the war that was fought for the good of the nation, depending upon what side one stood. Outside of the war itself, Mary also reviles upon her personal “first family” life that mixes a blend of joy and sorrow. It gives a strong impression that Mary is just as robust as her husband as followed right up to his abrupt term in office.
This is a theatre production that doesn’t keep a plot in the traditional sense. It is presented though a selection of short installments that are all tied through an informative aspect of the conflict that occurred through Lincoln’s presidential term. A number of characters appear, some historical while others become the common man (and woman) that were for their nation, in spite of the fact that one time neighbors became enemies of the state. Added to its creativity and accuracy of the middle 19th century is a selection of folk ballads that were popular of its era as sung by its cast members. The presentation of these ballads of old doesn’t make this show a musical per se as they are expressed acapella. Playwright Maureen Lucy O’Connell and David Pinion collaborated on the musical selection showcased, from vocal arrangements to the tunes that told about the war with the feeling of jubilation knowing that Johnny would indeed come marching home! With its music are the visuals displayed that enhance the stories told and sung as projected on the rear of the stage. Period photographs, etchings, with letters and manuscripts written by those that were in battle and those affected from its aftereffects are displayed among its set consisting of a blacked chairs and blocks as designed by the director/playwright. This example of a minimalist stage setting allows the performers that don period costumes as designed by Tsebahat Fiseha to tell about a war in both a passionate mode, along with some hellish story approaches appended for balance.
The cast that appear in this presentation include (listed in their alphabetical order), Erin Cote, Richard Harris, JC Henning, Gerard Marzilli, Julianna Pirillo, Roger K. Weiss, Nate Werner, and Zack Zoda.
THE CIVIL WAR REMEMBERED is a very information, entertaining, and tight one act presentation. It recalls a domestic conflict that divided a nation that has never been seen beforehand, and as never been experienced since. It was a time where its citizens worked hard and fought harder, while holding a sense of both triumph and tribulation. It’s been some 150 plus years since the war first made its mark and to have its conclusion, but its sprit through its rallies and resurgence still live on.

THE CIVIL WAR REMEMBERED, presented by and performs at the Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd, Valley Village (Los Angeles proper), until October 16th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM. For ticket information and reservations, contact through Spooniad2014@gmail.com, via http://www.CivilWarRemembered.com, or through its presence on Facebook at http://www/facebook.com/TheCivilWarRemembered
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The Morgan-Wixson Theatre of Santa Monica opens their 2016-17 season of plays and musicals with PETER AND THE STAR CATHER, a play with music by Rick Elice that tells the tale of a young man yet to grow up, and his encounters with pirates, a mysterious island, and his quest to grab hold of a desired star set for Neverland.
Christopher Tiernan is a lad who at first doesn’t have a name. He doesn’t have a home or friends to catch upon either. However, he holds a passion to never grow up! Taking place within the British Empire during the reign of Queen Victoria, Peter, the name he will acquire, becomes shipped along with some fellow orphans to a vast island far off the coast of the British isles. While on board, he meets Molly Asher (Annie Claire Hudson), a robust young woman who believe she she can do anything as equal to a man’s job! She, too, is a starcatcher as Peter is. On board the ship is a trunk that holds a cargo of starstuff, a form of matter that is so powerful, it must never fall prey to evil doers. But there are pirates at bay aboard a vessel lead by Black Stache (Aric Martin), whose band of ruffians takes heed to this treasure for their own! Peter and Molly make their stands as they fight their causes between good and evil, adding to all of the passions of adventure, along with adding a robust ensemble of colorful characters that builds on toward the fantasy of never growing up!
This play with music, called such because there are only a handful of musical numbers presented (with score by Wayne Barker) that wouldn’t allow this showcase to labeled as a full fledged musical, serves as a prequel to the beloved tale of Peter Pan. Using J. M. Barrie’s original tale, along with Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s adaptations of novels that extend the Peter Pan universe, this stage production is a whimsical view to the aura of Neverland, along with the adventures one would expect in such a saga. There are sword fights, shipwrecks, mermaids, and witty humor ejected throughout. Although there are dozens of characters that appear within the story, a selection of the ensemble cast perform in multiple roles, donning eccentric over-the-top costuming as designed by Kristie Mattsson & Lauren Blaire. Although the story itself occurs in late 19th century England, the set design by Christopher Daroca is a busy collection of pieces that could resemble haphazard scrap, but is far removed from that particular sense. Such a setting as depicted on stage only enhances the fantasy that plays throughout this program, having its cast with their outfits suggest that everyone is felling their scenic attitudes on not wanting to grow up while latching on to their maturity-type beings. This latching on isn’t held as tightly as expected, although its far from existing as immature!
As to this Morgan-Wixson Theatre production, Christopher Tiernan as the lead character Peter performs his task of the forever boy in a pleasant stance. Annie Claire Hudson as Molly as the only female cast member works just as well with Peter and his company.  Although her character believes that a female can do anything her male counterparts can partake, she stands out on her own rather than just being another one of the boys! And Aric Martic as Black Stache is the ideal pirate. He isn’t as evil as he resembles, making his plot as family friendly although he still remains a pirate!
Lauren Blaire directs as well as choreographs the cast and they show off their theater stuff, making the world of adventure on the high seas as appealing in today’s post-modern world as it was back in the day! Daniel Koh provides the musical direction performing the scant number of songs presented in addition to providing the underscore on the keyboards on stage just off stage left. He is meant to be heard, but not necessarily seen.
The rest of the ensemble cast that appear are Jacob Nye as Prentiss, a fellow orphan, Chandler David as Ted, another orphan, Jordan Segal as Smee, the Black Stache’s first mate, Michael Heimos as Lord Asher, Molly’s father, Tristan Griffin as Mrs. Betty Bumbrake, Molly’s nanny, Ian Scott Mitchell as Alf, a sailer on the schooner Neverland, along with Jonathan Beran, Spencer Johnson, and Daniel Koh in multiple roles.
PETER AND THE STARCATCHER is a fantasy that is delightful, imaginative, and is an overall delight to view. Granted, it may be a bit intense for younger kids, so a bit of being “grown up” is required to attend! As legions go, the epic of Peter Pan will never fade away. Just as long as a boy, girl, or otherwise, seeks the prime aspiration to remain a forever child, but old enough to vote come this November! Just as long as that “old enough” is emotional rather than just physical. But that’s another story as that stands!

PETER AND THE STARCATCHER, presented by the Morgan-Wixson Theatre Guild, and performs at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, until October 9th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 PM. A special talk back session where the cast and crew discuss their performing as well as taking questions from the audience, occurs after the performances held on Friday, September 23rd, and Sunday, October 2nd
     For more information as well as ticket reservations, call (310) 828-7519 or via online at http://www.Morgan-Wixson.org.
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In the previous week’s issue (Vol. 21-No. 37) of the review for One Woman Gone Wrong, the name of the director of that show is Maria Burton.
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ACCESSIBLY LIVE OFF-LINE (C) 2016 Linear Cycle Productions.
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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