AMERICA’S BASEMENT

There is a website called Quora.com, were folks can ask questions on various topics, and perhaps somebody out in cyberspace land will take the time to answer that question. The form of questions vary and deal with topics ranging from cooking (“What’s the best way to boil noodles?”) to history (“Did the James Gang attempt to rob a back in the wild west only to come out empty handed”?) to true crime. (What was the most difficult murder case that was ever solved”?)

One post that covers none of the above topics was Why is Florida called “America’s Basement?”. That is a phrase that this writer never heard of, but many of Quora’s readers and subscribers have. And one reader even went through the notion to present a rather complete answer as posted below: 

…Two things happen in basements. Either you store stuff you aren’t particularly interested in keeping up with your nicer things, or it’s where you go to have the type of fun you don’t have in certain company.

Both are very relatable to Florida. Between old people and their less than stellar offspring, Florida has become a hot spot for our cast offs. The existence of adult only subdivisions and trailer parks has created an ideal place for sex offenders to reside as well. There are very few places that are far enough away from schools or playgrounds for these people to go. Florida has an abundance of opportunities to live in relative peace.

Florida has Disney, beaches and a wide variety of opportunities for recreation. I can remember my friends basement up north. It was the home to the “rumpus room.” We would watch videos, mostly Disney. His dad had an awesome model railroad down there.

Florida is also strip club central. Las Vegas is a virtual Puritan colony compared to Tampa. I would wager that there are more strippers in Florida than people in Las Vegas. When we got older, my friend’s basement went from home of innocent good times to a den of iniquity. We watched dirty movies (his dad also had a prodigious collection stashed among the hills of of his tiny railroad kingdom.) We brought girls down there in hopes that they were of low moral turpitude. We rarely got past second base, but beggars can’t be choosers.

If you’ve ever watched That 70s Show, know that the basement was where the friends explored the philosophy of life, assisted by the devil’s spinach. Guess where the point of entry for a great deal of our drugs is? If you said Florida, you’d be right. Getting high in the basement is synonymous with adolescence and early adulthood.

So there you go, the Sunshine state, more like your basement than your actual basement.

Side Note: Basements have always been a novelty to me. I grew up Florida near the coast. Not a lot of people have them in Florida, and out near the coast they’re nearly non-existent. Those who had them either had the kind that were built into a hill (also far and few between) or eventually owned an indoor swimming pool come the next hurricane. So the idea that Florida is America’s basement holds a certain level of irony…

So there you have it!  However, if you the readers wish to comment upon the post, let us know by sending us an email message. (Contact details are posted and the end of this newsletter). We’ll compile the replies we receive and post it in a future issue. 

“See” you in the “basement”!

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Theatre 40 of Beverly Hills presents its fourth play of their 2022-23 season with Katie Forgette’s INCIDENT AT OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP, a comical “memoire” of the life and times of an almost middle working class Irish Catholic family, and their feeble attempt to live their lives in the most progressive way they can while living under an invisible drape of guilt.

The year is 1973, the moment of so-called change in domestic society. The place is the O’Shey residence located somewhere in the middle of America, or perhaps in the northeast section of the country, or somewhere in between the two. Ivy Khan plays Linda O’Shey, the narrator of this story. She’s a nineteen year old child of an adult age. She lives with her mother Josephine a.k.a. “Jo” (Allison Blanchard), who does everything in this homestead from cooking, cleaning, paying the bills, and keeping the household in a method of order. She’s married to her husband Mike (Patrick Skelton) the real breadwinner of the house who works twelve hour days seven days a week as the provider he’s expected to be. (Both Jo and Mike grew up during the Great Depression where everything was saved and used up no matter what it was!) Along with the immediate family is Jo’s sister Theresa a.k.a. “Terri” (Milda Dacys) who is a bit more progressive than her sibling, but not by much. Living upstairs as a permanent invalid is Mike’s mother (and Linda’s grandmother) Grandmother O’Shea (Theresa O’Shea) who’s never seen but is heard when she wants help and assistance in just about everything. And Linda has her kid sister Becky (Danika Hughey) who’s current hobby is playing with her dolls (at age thirteen) and has an obsession with old movies she watches on TV’s Late Late Show. Her favorite is old Humphrey Bogart pictures that’s mostly in the film noir category. Linda tells the audience on how they live their lives that are far removed from the early 21st century where what went on was limited to their home, the neighborhood, and their local Catholic church they belonged to as social media was yet to be invented. The situations Linda tells about are mini family tragedies, ranging from her mother asking Linda to explain to Becky the details on “the birds and the bees” including the story of menstruation and how to make babies. Linda even gets into trouble when Becky as “Sam Spade” uses a hidden tape recorder to record Linda’s sex tape lessons, only to “accidentally” play the recordings to Father Lovett, the priest at church. One element leads to another where this family becomes dysfunctional, long before such dysfunctional families became trendy, if not used as a status symbol in later post-modern life!

This play written by Katie Forgette could pass off as a story that could be based on the playwright’s own life and times growing up in a family stuck between remittance of the 1930’s where children were seen but not heard, the 1950’s where one must be perfect and as WASPish as possible, and the 1970’s where among other things, Women’s Lib was either a blessing, a curse, or a cruel joke depending on what or who wanted to believe in or trust! The humor falls being just a bit snarky and cocky with good nature. But its protagonist Linda sees it as that, even admitting to note as just what the hell everyone was thinking when looking at all of these episodes occurring from back in the day.

The cast of performers play their roles with these rules as suggested. Alison Blanchard as mother Jo is humble and living as the ever pleasing mother and wife, though she knew that she could have been a contender. Milda Dacys as Aunt Terri is the voice or reason, yet knows when to stay out of the way of her sister and family when necessary. Patrick Skelton plays out a number of roles from Mike the father, Father Lovett, as well as Mrs. Henkenback, a nosey neighbor that gets into the family’s life more than she should. Danika Hughey as kid sister Becky is more of a tomboy, even though she still keeps her troll tolls if not donning a 1940’s era trench coat and fedora imitating Bogie. Theresa O’Shey as Grandmother is only heard through a muffled voice, but is never seen and perhaps just as well. And Ivy Khan as Linda is the lead who knows that everything that occurred some fifty years before is a past that should stay in the past rather than another period time ready for a reboot.

With such period plays comes the period dressings. Michele Young’s costuming with  Judi Lewin’s hair, wig, and makeup design also harks toward that era that is post 1960’s with hints of hippy-era mood and flavor. And Theater 40’s residence set designer Jeff G. Rack dresses the set of the O’Shay home that looks and feels like the middle class life of the time.

Directed by Ann Hearn Tobolowsky, INCIDENT AT OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP is a stage comedy that recalls a moment where living as a Catholic family was a struggle between pushing for pain while pulling for pleasure, as well as when family members had to live under the unwritten rules that placed them to where they stand. It’s a comedy production that also has charm and heart. Call this nostalgia that did happen, or perhaps not. Then again, times do charge for its better or for its worse. But never mind the worst as this theater piece is at its best!

INCIDENT AT OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP, presented by Theatre 40 and performs at the Reuben Cordova Theatre, located within the campus of Beverly Hills High School, 241 South Moreno Drive (off little Santa Monica Blvd.) Beverly Hills, until February 19th. Showtimes are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 7:30 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 PM.   

For ticket reservations, call (310) 364-0535, or via online at http://www.Theatre40.org

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SOUTHERN GIRLS, a drama by Sheri Bailey & Dura Temple about six women living in the same small town in Alabama that grow up and mature over a thirty year period, performs at the Hudson Backstage Theater in Hollywood.

The six girls consist of Naomi Hurdle (Ash Saunders), Ruth Hurdle (Jessica Sade Ward), Katie Spokely (Dolly Granger), June-Adele Taylor (Maria Jimena Gastelum), Wanda Sue Johnson (Swisyzinna), and Charlotte Cecil Martin (Arianna Evangelia). These half dozen live within the same community in a small town in Alabama, not too far from the larger city of Montgomery. The story begins in the early 1950s where the town was divided between the white community and the “negro” section of town. Three of these girls are white, two are black, while one is a mix of both, the reason for her being lighter skinned. From their girlhood, they know where they stand in their status class. But over the years, the situation of race becomes profound as they experience it one way or another. These issues establish their friendships, while other factors strain their meaning toward each other. Over time, a few will leave their community while a the rest will remain. It’s a story that crosses the notion of what was going on in the nation as a whole, and the personal “nation” that exists as part of their own shape of being.

This play written by playwrights Sheri Bailey & Dura Temple, take a hard look of the perception between living as a white person and an African American individual as expressed by the writing team that is both of the black (Bailey) and white (Temple) race, giving their dialogue a sense of honesty and truth, from their youthful innocence to their peak of maturity. The six performers that appear in this play show that honesty as their portrayals beginning as kids to being grown up women existing in their midlives.

The stage set shows simplicity through the complex set of episodes as depicted in this production. Mylette Nora’s costuming displays the maturity that the characters go through, and Fritz Davis’ production design assists within the elements that are taking place in their town and outside places through the eras of time for their better and through their worse.

Directed by Zadia Ife, SOUTHERN GIRLS is more than a sense of American “southern living”, but an example of where there were as two methods of living in the American south. A divide that in many ways, still exist in the present era. But through all of what is told on stage, there is a presence of hope and progression to make it a reality. And as a phrase notes, there is a change that’s gonna come, and it will arrive soon.

SOUTHERN GIRLS, presented by All the Way West Productions, and performs at the Hudson Backstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., (one block west of Wilcox), Hollywood, until February 26th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday matinees at 3:00 PM. 

For online ticket orders and for more details, visit http://www.Onstage411.com/SouthernGirls

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