The previous weekend from when this edition was first “published” (note: we are no longer a print news source, thus the reason why the word published is in quotes), was the Labor Day weekend, a holiday where its focus is on, well…labor! This is the day where those involved in some kind of occupation is saluted. Granted, not every kind of work is recognized, but at least there is a holiday for something not really noted for its cause. Many know of this day as the end of the summer season, the time where kids (and adults) go back to school–or at least “to school”, and it was the time where one would drop a dime or two for Jerry’s kids!

But the focus here is labor, work, occupation, or doing something for pay or even a lack thereof. Many folks in this domestic society do something for exchange for something that holds monetary value. The job can be anything from a person that rakes leaves, answer phones, serves up coffee drinks, to something high power such as being a CEO of some big-deal Fortune 500 corporation that nearly everyone has ever heard of!

A lot of people work in different settings and environments as well. For many years, a working person would start the work week (a Monday mostly) rising early, getting themselves gussied up, grabbing a quick breakfast of a bagel, a granola-base or some kind of candy-esque food bar, a cup of coffee (and possibly a combination of all three), and drive themselves to their work enveriment. They also may take the bus or train (subway and/or commuter train), and head over toward a downtown-type region to spend the next eight or so hours toiling away at a desktop, at a machine, or dealing with some kind of group of people in order to flesh out their skills and assignments for that duration of a day–usually between the hours of 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Then they would get into their transportation vehicles, only to head back home to take care of their personal business. This went on for five days a week up to that Friday. Then the weekend would arrive for those folks to do their own things around the house and/or around the neighborhood.

In this day and age, the old standard Monday-through-Friday-Nine AM-to-Five PM workday and week is still around, but not as profound as it used to be. Many folks work at home for longer hours and perhaps for more days. People work on the weekends as they would during the week. And thanks to what’s been referred to as the “gig economy”, people take upon various assessments coming in from various sources on a non-linear basis. They may be on a project that lasts for weeks at a time, or they may have an assignment that’s only for that afternoon. Others will even encounter a dry spell where no work will come in for days, weeks, months, or at all! And some will face chronic unemployment where no matter how skilled they are (or what their resume and/or Linkenin profile may state), they can’t find any company or source that would be convinced that they can do the work as projected and prescribed. There are many reasons behind this absence of work, from lack of specific skills the company expects from all applicants, (even if the skills they expect from those that apply even exists), to those that are too old in age for the company’s liking. Yep, it’s illegal to sort by age, yet it’s hard to prove!

But are people that do hold some kind of job are pleased in what they earn? The folks at Gallup, the company that takes opinions to find out the real truth in things, recently conducted a poll asking how satisfied people were with what they perceived as their jobs, from how engaged in what they do, to what they received as earnings.

Two separate polls were conducted with these inquiries. The first poll that deals with pay scales, stated that four out of ten workers in the USA feel that they are underpaid in what they do. This is the same rate that underpaid workers stated when Gallup last asked that question some eight years before, around the time when the “great recession” was going at full tilt, a period when anyone that was employed by anyone was glad to have any form of a salaried job.

And though this four out of ten feel they should be receiving more pay, half of those replied (50%) admitted they were paid a proper wage scale! A lowly 5% stated they were getting too much salary in what they did, although the poll didn’t indicate in what type or work they did that paid more money than it should!

At the same time, some 34% of those polled stated they were engaged in their work. This is another term that they love their jobs and look forward in being involved in something their desire to do while getting paid in the process. This 34% is the highest number that Gallup collected from those employed since they started to ask this question around the turn of the 21st century, even tying the highest number of engaged workers as reported in March of 2016.

And if job hopping is the key here, some 65% noted that this current time is the best time to find a high quality job, compared to the 10% that noted this in August of 2010 when the recession was still hanging around.

If the notion that money may by happiness, those that feel they are underpaid aren’t necessarily unpleased in their work. 85% admitted in the poll that they are pleased in their work, even if they felt that have more value in what they do. Those who understand they are paid the right amount are more likely to be satisfied with what they earn (98%) and with what they do for a job (97%).

So what’s the reason for this underpayment. Slow growth in salary levels can be the cause. In recent years, annual growth has come in around 2-3% per year. Before the recession hit, that growth came around 4% per year. Also, the rising costs in benefits, a lack of workers with the skills needed for better paying jobs, and the fall of labor union power played a role. Whatever the case, if one wanted to find some other job that was much better, one can possibly find something else some other place.

Of course, the above facts do not necessarily reflect upon everyone who has the ability to work. Thanks to the internet, many people has found work created by and for themselves, from doing work as an independent contractor, selling goods online via Esty, Craigslist, and the grandaddy of ‘em all, eBay, as well as other matters and sources that break far beyond the “9-to-5” routine, even though that routine isn’t as vast as it once was.

The notion of underpaid for work is far from new. Many sitcoms of yore airing on public media that featured a character or characters that were of the “blue collar” variety usually spoke of salary or the lack thereof, from Chester A. Riley to Ralph Kramden to Archie Bunker to Dan Conner. They may not have been the best well-off folks on their block, but they always had been on the brink of possibly getting a bigger paycheck. (To compare this fact, in a 1955 episode of The Honeymooners, Ralph Kramden stated that he was earning $63.00 per week. In 2018 dollars, that comes to around $592.40, not counting deductions for taxes, union dues, and perhaps entering into the payroll savings plan to invest of US Savings Bonds!!)

So even though that 40% stated they are earning less than they should, the majority noted they are getting the right amount. Only time and tide will predict of those “making that paper” will get more into their pockets for the blood, sweat, and tears they put out each week. It’s only a paycheck away!

The Whitefire Theater in Sherman Oaks hosts the world premier of MARTIANS-AN EVENING WITH RAY BRADBURY, the self titled show that features Ray spinning out of this world tales that involve The Red Planet, along with the perils and truths that lies beneath.

Charles Mount portrays Ray. He begins to speak towards his audience about Mars, perhaps the real destination that lies within the final frontier of space. With his workspace nearby, he gives the brief backstory of his fascination of a supernatural sphere that is just as real as humans would allow. The show intertwines itself with a quartet of short stories that deal with Mars. It opens with Albert Beck and Leonard Craig (Paul Gunning and Joe Seely) part of a Mars expedition team that seeks for the Blue Bottle of Mars that hides a mysterious content. (Is it bourbon inside, or is it something else?) There is a young couple, Bob and Carrie Prentis (Michael Pert and Melissa Lugo), other members of the same expedition that attempts to make their settlement as to a garden from the planet to where they came from-Earth. This phases to a place of worship on Earth where a man of the cloth, Father Niven (Eric Keitel) shapes an alien from this planet into the form of Christ. This leads back to the Red Planet where Emil Barton (Don Moss), the last surviving team member of a martian exhibition, only has electronic transcriptions of his younger self to keep him company. Can he live with his own being as a spy young man, or will he go insane with his own likeness? These, and perhaps other thoughts and theories comes from the mind of Ray, because he has seen it all!

This play, conceived and adapted by Charles Mount and Jeff G. Rack, takes its premise from four short tales written by Ray Bradbury: The Strawberry Window, The Blue Bottle, The Messiah, and Night Call, Collect. Each one of these tales are blended into a showcase that feature the character Ray as performed by Charles Mount, narrating there mini epics in the same tradition that Rod Serling introduced each saga on the TV series The Twilight Zone. Although Ray created each episode, he never gets in its way. This form of presentation makes this theatre piece an almost-yet-but-not-quite one man show. The ensemble cast that appear that also include Tor Brown, John T. Cogan, Richard Mooney, and Robert Paterno, illustrate the tales that Ray spins out, always keeping with its loop, but knowing when to step back to let his performing team, as well as his imagination, run wild.

Along with the ensemble cast, there is a lot of visuals seen within its stage set worth its noting, from Jeff Rack’s production set design and stage direction, to Gabriel Griego’s visual projection design depicting still and moving images of Mars, Earthly hallowed spaces and its surroundings, along with an original musical score composed by Joseph “Sloe” Slawinski. These, among many other elements too numerous to mention in this review, all make up the worlds that Ray created, foretold, and reshaped for all of its fans now and fans of tomorrow to be taken by.

MARTIANS-AN EVENING WITH RAY BRADBURY is a loving tribute to a writer that created tales to astonish, to amaze, to thrill, to live and love, as well as to take warning and heed. Ray himself was one of a kind who kept on creating. A stroke that changed the way he verbal communicated, and limiting himself to being confined to a wheelchair did not stop him as he continued to create these tales until he passed in 2012. This show is proof that he knows the future, because he’s been there!

MARTIANS-AN EVENING WITH RAY BRADBURY, presented by Arcane Theatreworks and the Whitefire Theatre, performs at The Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd. (at Sunnyslope), Sherman Oaks, until November 2nd. Showtimes are Friday nights at 8:00 PM. Special Saturday performance takes place on November 10th at 8:00 PM. For ticket reservations or for more information, call (800) 838-3006, or online at http://www.WhitefireTheatre.com
The Sierre Madre Playhouse presents D.L. Coburn’s THE GIN GAME, a melodrama about two people living in a senior community home that bonds and conflicts with one another over games of gin.

Alan Blumenfeld and Katherine James are featured as Weller Martin and Fonsia Dorsey, a pair of senior citizens that are living off their sunset years in a well worn yet comfortable home for the aged. Weller was a one time business owner that had his success when he was at his prime. Failing health confined him to this community walking with a cane and keeping busy with a card game to set his mind and spirit amused. Forsia’s family had placed her there with the notion of perhaps keeping her there for good. Weller invites this new member of the home for a friendly card game of gin, where she catches on with the game’s strategy. Weller’s first impressed over her playing, only to take her luck into a new meaning. But it’s far beyond of two aged souls in just binding their time over cards. The pair realizes that their states of being are not coming to its end, but are to open another chapter into their long and listed lives.

This play written by D. L. Coburn was the first of many other plays created by this playwright winning the Pulitzer Prize for this work. The play was first created during an era when being aged could mean spending their final years socked away in a “senior home”, usually arranged by their adult children that tend to know what’s best for their folks–or so it seemed. The play itself has all of the charm and grace that depict the pair of characters as friendly and warn, yet appear to hide their sadness fully conscious that they have lived out their lives, and awaiting for their time to eventually die. Alan Blumenfeld as Weller shows off his feistiness, enough to cuss in front of a lady without batting an eye. Katherine James as Fonsia Dorsey is a somewhat timid person who is aware that her family didn’t give her the respect that she would have preferred. However, she does open up to her new found friend, in spite of his senior-level aggressiveness. In short, they become as a pair of folks that may be up in their years, but still retains to their hearts of gold.

What makes this show very appearing that it contains a bit of everything sans the overabundance that comes with a one-size-fits-all attitude. It’s amusing, it’s witty, it’s sober, and even holds just a hint of romance. Christian Lebano directs this show that is tight with emotion, and is loose with its charm and personality.

Special note goes towards Tesshi Nakagawa’s set design of the “day room” of the senior home, a place where one can sit, read magazines, play board games, as well as a friendly game of cards, a place where it could be your grandfather’s (or grandmother’s) senior home for the aged. Elizabeth Nankin designs the costuming where the two characters don clothing that is suitable for “old folks” and not much else. Cate Caplin provides the choreography that shows the dancing ability of Weller and Fonsia, still keeping in pace to their dancing moves.

It’s been a little over forty years since THE GIN GAME was first staged at a “storefront” theater in Hollywood now long closed. Since then, it’s played on Broadway, with two separate revivals appearing on The Great White Way. Back then, being “old” was just that–being old and gray, showing a sign that the end of a life was near, if it hasn’t already arrived! In today’s landscape, notations as “70 is the new 50” has been the norm of late as grandparents are becoming as hip as their grandkids, communicating through social media and other high tech aspects. Thus, this play didn’t age at all. In fact, it got better with time! Experiencing this production at the intimate The Sierre Madre Playhouse just adds to its endearing allure.

THE GIN GAME, presented by and performed at The Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 West Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, until October 6th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Saturday/Sunday matinees at 2:30 PM.
For ticket reservations, call (626) 355-4318, or via online at http://www.SierraMadrePlayhouse.org
is a presentation of Linear Cycle Productions

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ACCESSIBLY LIVE OFF-LINE (C) 2018 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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