Posted: February 26th, 2013
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There is an amazing family friendly play you should know about: Walking the Tightrope at the 24th Street Theatre. It stars Paige White (whom we interviewed last week) and is directed by Debbie Devine.
Debbie and her husband (and producing partner) Jay McAdams were two of LA Weekly’s People of 2012 and together they run the 24th Street Theatre. She has been an Arts Education leader for 15 years and dedicated to sophisticated work for families. She is the director of the LA Philharmonic’s “orchestral theater” and Hollywood Bowl’s Summer Sounds and the Chair of Theater at the Colburn School. The plays at 24th Street Theater are often in Spanish with English subtitles and tour across the country, to Mexico, and through South America. Describing her work Debbie proclaims that “A single 30 year old man should be just as moved and engaged as a 4 year old girl.” We couldn’t agree more.
Do you have a quarter? If you live near the 24th Street theater you will get a penny in change when you go to the box office. Because tickets are 24 cents for neighbors! The LA Times says: “Delicately poised between children’s fable and adult reverie at once, only to become another transcendent thing altogether, Walking the Tightrope at 24th Street Theatre delivers the evocative, cathartic goods.”
So check it out! In the meantime we asked Debbie some questions that none of the other newspapers in town have asked. Enjoy our fifth installment of L’Interview in which we introduce you to another amazing artists.
Do you have a favorite childhood story?
Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique It meant I had to grow up and be a warrior.
Do you have a favorite letter or word?
Cool. Our after school program is called After ‘Cool because it’s just that cool.
Did you have any nicknames when you were a kid?
What’s your favorite piece of music of all time?
Name three characteristics of every creative person you’ve met.
Crazy, heart broken, indefatigable and contrary
Popsicle, creamsicle, or fudgesicle?
What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else? What’s your secret?
Napping. I’m tired.
Did you have a fort, a tree house, or a secret hiding place where you would go to when you were upset or wanted to hide?
Two chairs and a sheet.
What is the most rewarding creative project you have ever worked on and why?
Building 24th Street Theatre. Because we can both touch our local community and touch our international community while touring. Around the world we have so much in common.
Walking the Tightrope is playing at the 24th Street Theatre on Saturdays at 2 and 7:30 through March 30. The performance is in English. Click the banner below for more information! Don’t miss it!
Posted: February 20th, 2013
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Meet Paige White, a rising star of Los Angeles’ theater scene. Paige will be gracing our boards as the voice of Sara in tomorrow’s benefit reading of The Rose Tree. Join us for this wonderful event and help bring a family together. You can also see her in the fantastic family friendly production of Walking the Tightrope at the 24th Street Theater.
When did you start performing?
I did a recitation of Shel Silverstein poetry in first grade. People laughed and I was hooked. My mom was really sick through all of my childhood and I loved the escape it provided.
What bedtime story do you remember best?
Little Pilgrim’s Progress (big Christian family)
Name three qualities of creative people.
Paige appeared in the critically acclaimed War Cycle at Los Angeles Theater Ensemble.
Inquisitive, hungry, (24 hours later she adds…) and forgetful?
Do you approach playing children characters differently than playing adults?
Kids are emotional live wires. They haven’t developed their cloaking devices. They feel fully. They react first and process intellectually later. This is not to diminish their intellect. They are more comfortable in living in the not knowing, in the discovery. Because they are still discovering their world and who they are. Adults can get trapped in thinking they know more than they do.
Favorite cereal growing up?
Fruity Pebbles… but I wasn’t allowed to have it. I just longed for it.
If you were making a music box what song would it play?
Sound of Music – best movie ever.
Come hear Page at our reading of The Rose Tree this Thursday, February 21 and then you should run, not walk, to see her in Walking The Tightrope at 24th Street Theater.
Posted: January 29th, 2013
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Save the date: Thursday, February 21
Our very awesome friends, Scott and Christina Harris adopted a baby girl last year. Her name is Rosie. They are one cool family.
This spring they have the rare opportunity to adopt Rosie’s biological sister. The news came as a total surprise for them. For the first addition to their family they were financially prepared for all of the outrageous adoption costs. But this time they need some extra help. Here’s where L’Enfant Terrible comes in.
Angela has written a new play and the Bootleg is going to host a staged reading benefit event to help raise some money.
The Rose Tree is set in San Francisco, 1905. Twelve-year-old Sara has been living at Mother Mayi’s Boarding School for Girls of Quality. She hasn’t seen or heard from her father in a long time. Fearful that he might be in some trouble, Sara escapes from the boarding house and finds her way to a magical place called the Rose Tree. There she meets a group of lost girls who are each looking for their own homes and families. It’s Never Never Land, Villa Villekulla, and Sherwood Forest all rolled into one timeless place.
Won’t you come join us, Thursday, February 21?
Come see what magic Angela has cooked up. Justin will be there too, directing as usual. You might remember a few other faces from the Fun Family Festival of Tragedy. There will be a fabulous silent auction including Coach purses, breathtaking artwork, memorabilia, gift baskets, and more. And there will be complimentary savory and dessert tables. Aaaannnnnd you will be helping Rosie’s sister find her way to her new home to join Scott and Christina as they build their family. There is a $20 suggested donation at the door. You can RSVP for this event by emailing BabyHarrisBenefit@gmail.com or calling 626.325.3018. The reading is suggested for ages 10 and up.
If you can’t make it to the event and would like to donate you can click here.
We hope to see you there! Ahem… at the Bootleg on Thursday, February 21, 7PM
Posted: January 28th, 2013
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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
Posted: July 27th, 2011
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Here it is. The grand finale of the Fun Family Festival of Tragedy. It’s your last chance to come see any of the shows you may have missed. Some have said “O, I saw those shows years ago when you did them in the park.” That’s like saying “I’ve had chocolate cake, I don’t need to taste it ever again.” We stole our grandmother’s secret recipe, hired the best bakers, used only the highest quality ingredients, and want to share it with you this weekend. So come on down to the Bootleg for you’re last chance to taste the magic.
Saturday’s Penultimate Performances
Sunday’s Shakespearean Grand Slam Starting at 10 o’clock
Posted: July 19th, 2011
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This story by Tony Frankel was originally posted at Stage and Cinema.
It simply cannot be avoided: with Fun Family Festival of Tragedy, L’Enfant Terrible, a startlingly brilliant new theatre company, is poised and ready to take over the theatre world. Founded by director Justin Zsebe, writer Angela Berliner and producer Seth Compton, this group is dedicated to the art of storytelling. On the surface, their four shows playing in repertory at the Bootleg are merely dazzling in design, festooned in frivolity, oozing with invention, and percolating with the most passionate performers in town. But, really, the goal here is compelling and unforgettable storytelling as a way to bring families and communities that much closer together. Just look at the expressions of the truly delighted adults and the children who cackle with laughter as Hamlet, Titus, Macbeth and King Lear grapple with family complications while teaching us important morals – each play does that in well under an hour. Every clown that played the Hollywood Fringe this year would do well to take a tip from L’Enfant: no matter your mastery of commedia technique, it is the way that stories are told which will win your audiences over and inspire the next generation of performing artists.
Hamlet, Prince of Puddles, already reviewed on Stage and Cinema, continues to delight as the very, very sad Hamlet (Brian Kimmet) comes to grips with a family that is falling apart. This play taught me to keep my anger in check.
Titus the Clownicus (Michael Dunn) is the boss of the Red Nose Army. But conquering the Green Noses in the Clown Wars wasn’t enough for him – no, he has to rub their noses in it, causing the demise of his children Titus Jr. (Josh Zeller) and Laughinia (Laura Castle). I couldn’t imagine how Ms. Berliner was going to handle the daughter’s vivisected tongue: a little peanut butter stuck in her mouth and speaking in Spanish renders her unintelligible to her family. The duplicitous leader of the Green Noses, Queen Tamoraclown (Jessica Hanna), weds the emperor Sillyninus (Brian Allman), even as she seeks revenge with the super-shoe-sized support of her sons, Cheeron (Robert Adler) and Dummytrius (Natasha Midgley), as well as her lover, Aaron the Bore (RJ Jones). How gloriously thrilling was it to see a slo-mo pie fight in lieu of mass murder? The costume design of Ann Closs-Farley seems to have more colors than a box of 64 crayons, and I really, really, really wish she were my friend so we could shop together. Her inventive designs simply make me happy. This play taught me to not be mean to somebody just ‘cause they’re mean to me.
Old King O’Leary (Robert Williams) is ready to divide his western Boomtown among his three daughters. All they have to do is say, “I love ya, Pa!” But young Cordelia-Mae (Angela Berliner) is banished when she cannot declare but a “peep.” She assumes the role of Mad Tom, which helps her conspire against her wicked sisters, who have taken over Boomtown, overworking the miners and being generally bad. Literally waiting in the wings is the cutest Buffalo of all time – every time Josh Zeller let out a “Ma-a-a-a-a,” the audience was ready to jump up on stage and embrace him.
What made L’Enfant’s Hamlet and Titus so wonderful was the incorporation of the tragedy with the comedy – with Lear, they went for a happy ending, which I’m not sure was necessary. Still, the design of King O’Leary is an eye-popping delight: set designer François-Pierre Couture has outdone himself with this mining town. But, really, Brian Kimmet (who plays Bastino, the sisters’ Spanish-style love interest): what the hell, man? Do you have to be so gol’ darned talented? Stop being so supremely off-the-chart watchable! You know, I’ve got a lot of amazing things to look at on that stage. Give a critic a break, wouldja? Oh, yeah, this play taught me that love is as love does. (Seriously, Kimmet, knock it off before you win an award or something.)
Macbeth and the Monster, the newest of the four, was the least successful in that the story of the Scottish tragedy was largely overlooked so that a scary bedtime story could be told to a naughty boy. Still, this outing outshines many theatrical endeavors, even as it seems better suited to the younger set than to adults. This play taught me to clean my room. (Here’s an idea: see all four shows and decide for yourself!)
Director Justin Zsebe does double duty in the back of the house; he is a one-man percussion band. My only concern is that he may be so busy helping the show that he has yet to notice how some music cues need working and some of his actors can vocally get lost within the cacophony of clowning around. We want to hear every juicy word of Berliner’s fabulously inventive scripts.
Enough praise. Get down to the Bootleg and support this company. The real tragedy would be just one empty seat at their performances.
To read the whole story click here or go to StageandCinema.com.
Posted: July 13th, 2011
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This story by Laura Clark was originally posted at LA Story.
You know you’re going to be in for a lively — and creative — treat when actors on stage start mixing Shakespeare with Kanye West.
That’s exactly what happened at L’Enfant Terrible’s performance of “King O’Leary” at the Bootleg Theater on Sunday. Part of the Fun Family Festival of Tragedy,
“King O’Leary” is one of four re-imagined plays based on Shakespearean tragedies, in this case, “King Lear.” This local theater troupe has turned the Bard on his head — which, I’m betting he would have loved — and offers a funny, family-friendly take on some of Will’s saddest tales.
And, you know what? It works!
Set in an Old West burg called Boomtown, which has thrived on gold mining, “King O’Leary” tells the story of an aging king (played by Robert Williams) who wants to divide his land among his three daughters. But first, he wants to hear just how much each one loves him.
His eldest daughters (Laura Castle, Brian Allman) — the equivalent of Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters — are eager to shower him with praise so they can get their hands on the gold. The youngest, cleverly named Cordelia-Mae (Angela Berliner), is too tongue-tied and can only utter “peep.”
Because of that, she’s banished to the outskirts of town, where there is only grass and …. buffalo! Insert a fun character here (Josh Zeller, above left) who utters noises that make him sound like a cousin of Chewbacca. (He was a definite CC fave. We cracked up every time he, uh, spoke.)
Angela Berliner and CC after the show.
Written by Berliner, who also plays Cordelia-Mae, “King O’Leary” is clever, funny, interactive and offers up colorful characters who get lots of laughs from the audience — particularly a gentleman from Mexico (Eddie Bastino, played by Brian Kimmet), who’s willing to marry any of the sisters for a stake in the fortune.
What’s great for kids — and parents — is that all ends well in this hour-long show, unlike the original “King Lear.” And anyone who can work Kanye’s “Gold Digger” into a re-thought Shakespearean play about a mining community gets two thumbs up from me.
For more information about the festival, which is offering four plays in repertory through July 31, click here. L’Enfant Terrible also gives audiences an inside peek at what goes on behind the scenes.
To read the whole story click here or go to losangelesstory.blogspot.com.
Posted: July 2nd, 2011
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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?
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.
Posted: July 2nd, 2011
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He loved his king he loved his queen
At many of his shows they could be seen
Cheering and boo-ing and having fun times
And rolling their eyes at the obvious end rhymes.
Fast forward four hundred years or so,
Are you looking for a place for friends and family to go?
We’ve taken Shakespeare’s plays and made them outrageous
For young, and old, and well… All Ages!
Do you want to stay cool and celebrate Fourth?
Then buy a pass to see all our shows henceforth.
Where you ask?! Shakespearean plays + AC ?!?!
Why it’s at the Fun Family Festival of Tragedy.
It’s happening at the Bootleg Theater (as always)
At noon and two on Saturdays and Sundays.
Posted: June 30th, 2011
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This review by Deborah Klugman was originally posted at LA Weekly.
Creating theater that can delight both preschoolers and seniors — and everyone in between — is tough to do, but this talented ensemble of artists manages just that with enormously funny Shakespeare parody Titus the Clownicus. One of four such under-an-hour pieces written by Angela Berliner, it’s a toss of character, theme and plot elements from Shakespeare’s second-tier gore fest Titus Andronicus, with song and dance, puppetry, soap bubbles, fabulously colorful costumes (by Ann Closs Farley) and imaginative props. Served up with sophistication and panache under Justin Zsebe’s direction, with a set designed by Francois-Pierre Couture, this suitable-for-children scenario begins when General Titus (Michael Dunn) of the Red Nose clowns defeats the Green Nose faction and captures their Queen Tamora (Jessica Hanna), a smoldering backstabber who charms the king Sillyninus (Brian Allman), then instigates dastardly plots against Titus and his family. Though Berliner transmutes the horrors of the original — Tamora’s sons attack Titus’ daughter Laughinia (Laura Castle) with gooey peanut butter — her burlesque preserves the moral of the story, that lust for power begets evil. (Also, unlike the original, the play ends on an up note.) The show plays in rep with the equally original Hamlet, Prince of Puddles (“Frailty, thy name is Mommie,” declares a weepy Hamlet, played by Brian Kimmet); King O’Leary, set in the Old West; and Macbeth and the Monster, in which Shakespeare’s tragedy about a Scottish king becomes a scary bedtime story spun out by a single mom (Berliner). Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Sat.-Sun., noon and 2 p.m.; call for schedule; thru July 31. lenfantterrible.org. (Deborah Klugman)
To read the whole review click here or go to LAWeekly.com