Coming Up Roses: Meet the Director

Posted: November 4th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

efrain-rose-tree-image

Have you heard the news? L’Enfant Terrible’s Angela Berliner has written an original fairy tale called The Rose Tree. The screenplay has won a few awards and the theatrical stage play will be presented as a workshop production.

What is a workshop production? Well, it isn’t quite a world premiere but it is a few steps beyond a staged reading. Actors are up on their feet performing with a simple set, costumes, and props.

For the who, what, when, where, you can click here. Or, if you can refrain from clicking the link you can keep on reading to meet the director, Efrain.

Efrain Schunior is directing this exciting new work. Efrain met Angela when they were grad students at UCLA. He directed her Adults Only play Mosquito Bites (which starred Yancy Holmes who you will soon see as John Strong in The Rose Tree). Since receiving his MFA Efrain has directed theater, music videos, and short films around Los Angeles. He is also the writer/director of the cult telenovela spoof Stallions de Amor, which is premiering its 2nd season soon.

When did you start directing?
I definitely recall forcing others to be in my choreographed musical numbers based on hit songs from the 50’s. That was before I was even 10.

What bedtime story or fairy tale has stuck with you the most from childhood?
In the Mexican culture they tell of La Llorona, a sort of boogey woman in a white veil who is always crying and searching for her children.

Name three qualities of creative people.
If we are talking creativity then I think passion, talent and drive is the winning cocktail. If we are talking success then I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) that kindness to yourself and others means so much.

Do you approach directing theater for all ages differently than Adult’s Only theater?
Younger audiences haven’t usually developed that dishonest sit-and-smile mentality that I loathe. If they’re bored you know it and you as a storyteller have to work harder to engage them. It’s a great challenge and so rewarding when you’re successful!

Why The Rose Tree?

I have two beautiful nieces that have changed my life for the better and I really connected with the idea that the Rose Tree is home to lost little girls from all over the world. There’s a sense in this play that there’s a safe place for everyone no matter who you are or where you come from, you just have to find it. I also love stories about non traditional found families and I love on-stage magic.

If you were a music box, what song would you play?
I would play Satie’s Gnossienne #1. It is absolutely the most beautiful piece of music I’ve ever heard and can make me feel such complete joy or pain depending on the day.

efrain-child-rose-tree-image

The portrait of an artist as a young boy


A Stroll Down Memory Lane

Posted: January 28th, 2013 | No Comments »

Jessica Hanna as Tamoraclown and Michael Dunn as Titus with a Hammer

Look out for some new updates on this blog because we’re back. Click here to subscribe and keep up with the latest news. It is about time we got around to publish this article which recaps everything we did during the Fun Family Festival of Tragedy two summers ago. Remember what a fun time that was?

This feature article by Julio Marteniez was originally posted at LA STAGE Times

July 13, 2011

So it seems these two MFA grads from UCLA and a transplant from Franklin, Massachusetts become acquainted at the Actors’ Gang and decide to put on a play, actually four plays. Along the way, they also decide to pay their actors under an agreement with Actors’ Equity Association (AEA).

Subsequently, executive producer Seth Compton, artistic producer Justin Zsebe and creative director Angela Berliner form a theater company, L’Enfant Terrible, move into the 99-seat Bootleg Theater near downtown LA to produce Fun Family Festival of Tragedy, a series of four “all ages” adaptations of Shakespearean plays. The plays, which are 30 to 40 minutes each, are running in repertory, Saturdays and Sundays, noon and 2 pm at Bootleg through July 31, all operating with an AEA contract.

“We perform all four plays every weekend,” says Compton, originally from Franklin, who has trained with Teatr Piesn Kozla in Poland. “They are all written by Angela, who also came up with the name of the company. Justin directs while I produce. Two of the plays, Titus the Clownicus and King O’ Leary, were originally produced at Actors’ Gang as part of their Summer Family Theater Program. Hamlet, Prince of Puddles was presented in April 2010 at Bootleg, which has become our fiscal partner. Our final play, Macbeth and the Monster!, is having its premiere at the festival, which began June 4.

“The idea of the four-play weekend came to us after producing Hamlet, Prince of Puddles last year. We decided it was time to raise the bar and create a chance for audiences to form a deeper connection with our work by coming back each weekend and seeing something different. We’re using this old festival model to develop new audiences. Most of our audience members are subscribers that have purchased festival passes — again, an old repertory tool working like new for us.”

This ambitious trio understands performing in a house with fewer than 100 seats such as Bootleg (formerly the Evidence Room) does not require a formal Equity contract, but it has always been part of the master plan. “It was a goal of ours right from the beginning that we wanted to pay people what they are worth even though it is a struggle for us as a business,” says Berliner. “We were originally projecting this would happen a few years from now; but after a highly successful fundraising campaign and the cooperation of the Bootleg, we are delighted we are able to make it happen now. Disciplining ourselves to do it has been good for us. It has forced us to grow up as a company a little faster than we expected.”

“When we did our first production on our own I had never done a budget for anything before,” Compton admits. “We just sort of dealt with things as they came up. Well, to do the festival, we developed a detailed pre-production budget. We researched what people needed to be paid under an Equity contract, what the accompanying fees would be, what things cost. And then we started fund-raising to meet that budget. We leaned on friends, did fund-raising events, did what we needed to do to raise the money.

“Of course we want them to succeed,” laughs Maria Somma, who is AEA’s spokesperson to the media, based in New York. “The company came to  Equity and presented its situation and we discussed it. We got to the idea of LOA per performance referencing a HAT agreement because of the uniqueness of their project. Letters of Agreement are always a situation when the production does not easily slot into something. This production is geared for young audiences, four different shows, a minimum of eight performances per show, with a total of 34, two a day and the shows are only 30 to 40 minutes long. We look at the whole big picture. AEA came to the conclusion that this particular contractual arrangement works well.

Watching a performance of Hamlet, Prince of Puddles, this writer notes the five-member performance ensemble’s fluid incorporation of Shakespearean dialogue, commedia dell’artetechniques, melodrama, contemporary farce, and out-and-out clowning, all while moving the Bard’s basic plot ever forward, all in 40 minutes. “For me as a director, I am interested in working in styles that I feel are compelling,” says Zsebe, who earned his MFA from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and TV. “We are infusing them within the Festival.

“I have always been interested in vaudeville. Before I came to LA I trained with the Shanghai Experimental Theater. We did Beijing opera stuff, which is almost a precursor to the commedia style of work, featuring scored and rhythmic cuing, playing with archetypical characters. When the three of us met at Actors’ Gang, we kind of came together and started honing our language, taking it in the direction that we wanted to pursue. We decided to form our partnership, keep working and progressing the language and changing it around. It has been an ongoing progression of multiple training forms and aspects that we now call the framework — how we frame action and performance so that things are stylized in a way so all ages can understand and have access to the stories that we’re telling.” Zsebe not only directs the shows, he also serves as an off-stage percussionist, accenting, punctuating and underscoring the action throughout.

Both Compton and Zsebe are quick to affirm Berliner is the creative fountainhead of L’Enfant Terrible. Compton recalls, “When we originally started talking about the work, we felt children’s theater was going to be a part of our process. But when we couldn’t decide what kind of adult plays to produce, we decided to concentrate on Angela’s plays and perform them for all ages.”Having earned her UCLA MFA in playwriting, Berliner is currently working on a TV pilot and a screenplay, all the while developing new works for L’Enfant. She also acts in three of the current shows. “I wanted to be an actor since I was child as well as a lot of lofty things like being a doctor or a vet, but I always wrote. It wasn’t until I was 19 that I wrote my first play. I had my first professional production just a few years later. Right now I mostly write. As the creative director of the company, I want the future development of the company to be driven by the work we are doing.

“This doesn’t mean we won’t branch out into other forms later,” Zsebe adds. “Over the next few years, our steps are to keep it accessible to all ages as much as possible. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be tackling things in a sophisticated way or taking on more adult themes. As we progress, as our vocabulary and our aesthetic develops and our audiences grow with us, we hope to expand into other types of pieces. Of course, to do this, we need first-rate talent. We’ve been fortunate with the level of actors we’ve been working with, who understand their role in the story. If something happens, which often does with young audiences, they are grounded enough and quick enough to take it, accept it and incorporate it into the flow of the work and move on.”

When this writer feels he has recorded enough to fill out a feature article, Compton’s eyes widen and he elucidates, “Oh my God, we haven’t talked about the Bootleg’s partnership with us. The Bootleg is our benefactor, provided this space for us and is fiscally involved in making this relationship with AEA work.”

The revenue from Fun Family Festival of Tragedy is funneled through Bootleg’s not-for-profit status. The motivation for this action is revealed in the festival program. Bootleg artistic director Alicia Hoge-Adams states, “Bootleg’s relationship with L’Enfant Terrible is a passionate one, born from a shared desire to develop an educational model that celebrates entertaining, subversive, cutting-edge theater.”

Compton sums up L’Enfant Terrible’s journey into the future. “There is a rich history of companies that have had organic growth. There is a relatively young theater called the Playground Theater in Miami, Florida. We met their director at the recent TCG Conference and she raised the point that sums up what we’ve always been saying — the idea of separating entertainment as being for adults or for kids, keeping them separate, is not going to help us build these young audiences into the adult audiences of the future.”

Compton also has more practical and immediate concerns. “The last scheduled performance on July 31 will be a marathon day, a grand slam of all the plays. The future is up for grabs. This festival is fully funded by fans. We haven’t gotten any foundation or corporate support. Some very generous people who believe in us made this happen. We believe the community needs us. We think the schools need us. We would love to tour the LA city schools. Taking these tragic stories and turning them into comedies is uplifting. It also teaches kids how to make decisions that are not hurtful to one another. We are willing to play by all the rules. So, let’s see what happens.”

**Production photography by Justin and Kimberly Zsebe

To read the whole article click here or go to lastagetimes.com


Aaron the Bore: Then and Now

Posted: July 2nd, 2011 | No Comments »

Aaron the Bore 2007 and 2011

Meet RJ Jones, the man with “no nose… not a clown… not funny.” That is, when he’s playing Aaron the Bore in Titus the Clownicus. You can also see him as a Miner in King O’Leary – all part of the Fun Family Festival of Tragedy. He is reprising his role of Aaron from the original production of Titus the Clownicus at the Actors Gang in 2007.

What’s behind your best work?
Bravery. I can do my best when I allow myself to approach my work fearlessly. It doesn’t always happen. But, I’m always trying to be fearless.

What would you put in a time capsule if you were to open it 50 years from now on 2061?
5 gallons of gas. I bet it’d be worth a fortune!

What’s your favorite word or letter?
R closely followed by J

What’s your favorite music of all time?
“Whip it” by Devo

What is it like to play the same role in two different productions?
I hope I’m constantly growing in my craft. I feel I have something more to bring than what I had to give 4 years ago. I think the story is better understood by the cast as a whole and by me in particular. So, the story telling is better.

Name three characteristics of every creative person you’ve met.
Fearless. Inquisitive. Hopeful.

Popsicle, Fugicle, or Creamsicle?
Icicle

RJ is a Chicago actor living in Los Angeles. He has performed on both regional and international stages and is happy he now gets to “bring it” to L’Enfant Terrible. The Fun Family Festival of Tragedy runs through July 31.


Fun Family Festival of Tragedy Ovation Recommended

Posted: June 15th, 2011 | No Comments »

Whoo hooo! The votes are in for Hamlet, Prince of Puddles. Ovation voters have selected it as one of the top overall productions. It is not an award. It is just a recommendation. Sort of like the GO! that LA Weekly gave us. But it comes with this very classy icon.


World Premiere Week at the Fun Family Festival of Tragedy

Posted: June 10th, 2011 | No Comments »

We did it! The Fun Family Festival of Tragedy is up and running. We have one more show to open this weekend. Don’t miss our exciting world premiere of Macbeth and the Monster this Saturday at 12 o’clock. The line-up this weekend is below…

Once Macbeth and the Monster hits the stage then our master plan will be in full effect. You can choose from four different all ages plays to see each weekend. The calender is rotating so go to our website for the Fun Family Festival schedule. See you at the Bootleg!


Fun Family Activities Aplenty

Posted: May 17th, 2011 | No Comments »

A play, a play, a play! (And another!)

Hamlet, Prince of Puddles
Titus the Clownicus
King O’Leary
and the world premiere of
Macbeth and the Monster

Fun Family Festival Tickets are on sale.

But that’s not all…

L’ET Discovery Happen at the Fun Family Festival of Tragedy

One of our long term goals is to develop a theater arts curriculum. We’re using the Fun Family Festival of Tragedy as an entry point for audiences to explore our theater style.

In addition to enjoying Shakespeare’s hilarious tragedies, you can also L’ET Discovery Happen. (Get it? L’ Enfant Terrible = L’ET )

Every Sunday in June, we’ll have a FREE theater workshop after the 12pm performance. On opening weekend we have a Theater Play Date for kids exploring movement, space, and sound. We already have 30 kids signed up! Buying tickets in advance helps us plan fun activities like this.

Another way to L’ET Discovery Happen is by joining cast and crew on a backstage tour. Every Saturday after the 2PM performance we’ll escort audiences to peek behind the curtain, experience the life of the actor, take in the view from the stage, place props in their proper place and watch us put all the toys away. So come see King O’Leary on Opening Day – Saturday June 4 at 2PM – and stick around for the FREE tour after the show.

The Fun Family Festival of Tragedy is a Fun Family Activity in LA.

See you at the Bootleg!


What is the Fun Family Festival of Tragedy?

Posted: April 29th, 2011 | No Comments »

We’re doing this thing.

The Fun Family Festival of Tragedy

What is it?

It is going to be a great family activity in Los Angeles. L’Enfant Terrible and the Bootleg theater are presenting a series of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies: King Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Titus.

But this isn’t your grandma’s children’s theater. It’s going to be one of those awesome things to do in LA for kids and adults. Let’s break it down.

It’s Fun – Funny, foolish, wackadoo, whimsical.

For the whole Family – Those people in your life you have to do things with. They can be related to you or not. This is an event to come together and bring friends along too!

All in a Festival – It is a whole series. Usually theaters will present one play at a time. We’re doing four at once in the hopes that you come to the theater again and again. You have to buy tickets for each show seperately. But if you’re seeing more than one, we recommend buying a Fun Family Festival Pass.

Tragedies?! – Yes, we know. In tragedies the characters usually die. But we frame these stories as being about families and emotions. The characters struggle and have fears and face hardships.

But don’t worry. We promise to bring it all back to the beginning- the Fun part. We guarantee they will be fun. These vibrant and outrageous plays are filled with joy and love.

Come see for yourselves.

Buy Tickets for the Fun Family Festival


Meaningful Expression of Care

Posted: February 26th, 2011 | No Comments »

L’Enfant Terrible of the Month: Fred M. Rodgers; educator, minister, songwriter and television host. Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the US. He won a Peabody Award as well as several Emmys. He was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame and one of his sweaters is in the Smithsonian.

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood began airing in 1968 and ran for 895 episodes. The year after it’s first broadcast, Fred M. Rogers appeared before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications. He was there to try to dissuade the Senate from significantly cutting the funding for PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. (Hmmm, sounds familiar…) During his testimony he read the lyrics to one of the songs he wrote called “What Do You Do With the Mad That You Feel.” What was the response? The chairman of the subcommittee, who was at first awkward and stand-offish, casually waived his hand and exclaimed “I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s wonderful. Looks like you just earned the twenty million dollars.”

What do you do with the mad that you feel
When you feel so mad you could bite?
When the whole wide world seems oh, so wrong…
And nothing you do seems very right?

What do you do? Do you punch a bag?
Do you pound some clay or some dough?
Do you round up friends for a game of tag?
Or see how fast you go?

It’s great to be able to stop
When you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong,
And be able to do something else instead
And think this song:

I can stop when I want to
Can stop when I wish.
I can stop, stop, stop any time.
And what a good feeling to feel like this
And know that the feeling is really mine.
Know that there’s something deep inside
That helps us become what we can.
For a girl can be someday a lady
And a boy can be someday a man.

What Do You Do with the Mad that You Feel?
By Fred M. Rogers
© 1968


The Other LA

Posted: January 20th, 2011 | No Comments »

L’E(nfant) hits up LA

Last month Justin Zsebe, director and founding member of L’Enfant Terrible, brought Louisiana a bit of the L’ET flair.  It all started last winter when he wrote and directed Unbearably Lo_ely, a mash-up of the writings of Tennessee Williams, in Lafayette, Louisiana. This winter his collaboration continued. Through an ongoing partnership with the Acadiana Center for the Arts and local theater company Acting Up in Acadiana, Justin spent a week in the other LA.

Acting workshops were held for local students ranging from third grade to high school seniors. Educators, administrators, artists, and curious members of the community were then invited to participate in professional development sessions that focused on practical and proven techniques for teaching in the arts and teaching through the arts. Amy Waguespak from Acting Up In Acadiana reports “The students LOVED working with Justin. The core thing that students and teachers walk away with is an awakening to the beauty and power of theatrical storytelling by connecting very personal emotions and responses to something bigger than them: ensemble, audience, history, and literature.” You can peep the pictures by clicking here.

Someday we hope to introduce Lafayette to L’Enfant. In the meantime we are planning our next work for Southern California’s LA.

Student responses:
“I love how you broke all of us out of our shells. I wish everyday learning could be this fun.” –Desiree

“I liked how you made everyone come out of their comfort zones. At school you don’t really get to see how people really are when they are being goofy. No one wants to get teased, so they don’t put themselves out there at all. You made that go away for a while.” –Emily

“You woke me up in a very positive way.” – Kaze

Links:
acadianacenterforthearts.org
actingupinacadiana.com


This is my favorite fun!

Posted: December 22nd, 2010 | No Comments »

L’Enfant Terrible of the Month
A very merry 3 year old conducting to the 4th movement of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. Watch the whole thing. Hat tip to Mr. Farley (and over 2 million other viewers) for turning us onto this gem of a video. Apparently the boy’s family is not extremely musical but he does take violin lessons and listens to Beethoven. No official sponsorship from Gap yet.

L’Enfant Terrible literary translates from French as the terrible child but is an expression used to describe “a child who embarrasses his elders by untimely remarks” as well as an “unusually successful person who is strikingly unorthodox, innovative, and/or avant-garde.”

Here are some of the best comments:
“Could Beethoven have imagined what kind of joy he could inspire in a 3 year old boy?”
-TheThingInItself
“This is really exciting to watch. I’m studying comp and conducting in graduate school and I have colleagues who can’t do some of this.” -TheRealmsOfGold
“Great imagination, which is communicated with the body very clear and expressive. I am inspired to move. Thank you for sharing. :-)” -konradszykonrad
“Ha! I’m hiding any trace of this video from my board of directors! (I’m trying to keep my job people!)”
-Anthony Parnther, Orange County Symphony