24 November 2008

Narcissistic Only Because I Look So Damn Good

One thing I'll miss for sure is this tux jacket. HOT!

I hosted The High Jinks Burlesque, a 1940s-style after show no Saturday nights. I brought the ukulele into the show the second weekend, performing a "chanson et ballet" with Mr. Buddy (comedy savant Phillip Kelly). I played and sang "Tonight You Belong to Me" as Mr. Buddy danced around. After the third verse, I threw it to Mr. Buddy who played a slide whistle and bicycle horn solo.

The third weekend, I began opening with "Blue Skies" with a "bilabial fricitation" solo halfway through.

The fourth weekend, I somehow managed to convince Mr. Buddy to sing "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie," which became quite a performance piece.

He and I will be hosting the Monday Night Tease on the 29th of December. Who knows what shenanigans we'll have worked out at the last minute!

Hmm. I need to buy a satin and velvet tux jacket.
Final Bow


I haven't slowed down long enough to really let it sink in. As soon as the audience cleared, we began the strike (at around 9:30) and were out of there by 11:45. That's a phenomenally short strike. And easily the last 30 minutes or so were spent taking stuff out to the car. I had forgotten how much stuff Pamela and I brought into the space for this play.

Got home, unwound a bit, crashed. In the morning peeled myself out of bed and went to work. Rode my bicycle to work. Oh yeah -- I picked up a used bicycle last week. I'm working close to home now, and have the option. I haven't spent so much time on a bicycle since before I started shaving, so I'm super exhausted this morning.

There have been many moments over the course of this production when I took the time to mindfully observe my surroundings; to try and comprehend the chain of events and great fortune that brought me to the Avery Schreiber with a perfect cast, a fun script, and such wonderful houses night after night. I have a record of one such moment in my e-mail inbox, a text message I sent myself at 12:58 am this past Saturday morning. Into my second or third drink at the Red Lion Tavern in Silverlake, surrounded by my favorite people, I was moved to text myself: "i am full to bursting."

Every weekend of this show involved some sort of get-together. We didn't have a "wrap party" per se, but rather a series of celebrations, culminating in a pot luck dinner between the matinee and evening performance yesterday. (As a side note, may I say that the spread of yum yums was a near-perfect metaphor for my cast: Everything offered was desirable and delicious with nary a dud.) At the pot-luck I gave my usual "aw shucks, thanks a lot" speech. (For someone who enjoys the sound of his own voice so much, you'd think I'd be better at giving speeches.) The highlight was Jovial Kemp's heartfelt thank-you to cast and crew. I think he was full to bursting, too.

My cast played to an almost sold-out house for their last show. I believe we were technically sold-out, but we had a couple of no-shows. Irregardless, for a Sunday night the number we had was extraordinary. I had my weepy moments throughout the show. Strangely, the worst moment was not in the last show at all, but the Saturday night show. It hit me in the first few minutes that this was all going to end, resulting in an embarrassing display thankfully unseen by my actors (I was sitting on the front row).

The show ended, the audience congratulated and mingled with my actors. The strike began. An attempt was made to ruin what was otherwise a triumphant evening for myself, my cast, my crew and my company. She failed. 'Nuff said.

It is the nature of theatre that eventually, a show ends. Unlike literature, where the physical book lingers on, gathering dust and silverfish on a bookshelf; or film, where one can still pop in the DVD or stream it online long after the last residual checks have been written; there is precious little left over after the run of a play. And in this drawback I note a strength: A play never grows old, never grows dusty. It remains, a moment in time remembered. The faces, the sounds, the emotions we felt continue on, a part of us. It has a vibrancy that never fades.

Thirty, forty, fifty years from now, I'm going to be that guy backstage telling enraptured young actors all about the time I directed a play set backstage at a burlesque club in 1940s San Francisco. About how Bryan broke the set the first night, and the fleeting look on Jovial's face the one time his music didn't play. About the unearthly squeal Alana let out when Jovial poked her, and the scream of frustration Sylvia let out when her onstage partner "quit" the show. About silence in the house when Seth and Pamela ended their onstage relationship. The look of crushing defeat on Sarah's face every time Seth said "thank you." How Burnsy took a few lines about the death of her character's husband and made me cry almost every night. The applause after April stopped the show and topped Sophie Tucker. The nuances of Judith's work, how she always found something new to tweak and never failed to make me laugh. Jumping up and down on the sidelines as Foxy finally showed her pasties at the last after show.

This experience is forever a part of me. I am a far richer person for having it. And my cast and crew have my undying gratitude and devotion.

(Especially that "red-haired pain in my ass" for whom I wrote the show. I don't know if I've mentioned it, but I'm absolutely crazy for her.)

21 November 2008

Right Where I Want to Be

As we enter the final weekend, I would like to take a moment and reflect on what we (meaning Theatre Unleashed, and my cast and crew) have accomplished.

Five months ago, I sat down in front of my laptop and cranked out a first draft. Two and a half months ago, we began rehearsals. A month ago, we opened. In less than half a year, an original work has grown from one guy sitting in front of a computer to an organism composed of dozens of people, each one contributing to telling the same story.

The amount of hard work, sacrifice, dedication and commitment that has gone into this thing has tremendous value, and it is an investment that has paid off in spades. Reviews in major publications, sold-out performances, offers of further work -- but most important, delighted audiences.

No production is without its drama. What is incredible to me is that this show has had only one source of "drama," and she has thankfully kept her nonsense on the margins. The rest have comported themselves with the utmost professionalism and esprit de corps. I would work with any one of them again, and look forward to it.

I hope it isn't too narcissistic of me to say this, but I am pleased to find myself doing what I want to do in life, and succeeding at it. I feel blessed. I feel enriched by the experience. The success of Pin-Up Girls has stoked up the fire in my belly, and I can't wait to do this all again!

13 November 2008

"Playwright-director Andrew Moore's fondness for backstage high jinks is apparent, and he nails the language of those who inhabit a 1942 San Francisco burlesque-house dressing room."

Backstage West Review is Up!

It is fascinating to me what different things different critics pick on. It really opens up a window on the reviewer. By comparison, consistently given notes are most likely legitimate areas of concern. So far, there has been one consistent message in these reviews: The work needs a little pruning. This is not news to me. I watch the show every night.

This is a much better review than my last Backstage West review, so all in all I'm feeling pretty good. I have another good blurb from another major publication. The last time I saw my name in print in the theatre review of this "actor's weekly" I was excoriated, as was my cast.

I am a bit pissed that he blew the only "twist" in the script (see paragraph two, below), but it was inevitable that one of these critics would do so. Spoilers are too hard to resist.
Pin-Up Girls
November 13, 2008
Reviewed by Brad Schreiber

Playwright-director Andrew Moore's fondness for backstage high jinks is apparent, and he nails the language of those who inhabit a 1942 San Francisco burlesque-house dressing room. But the work suffers dizzying bumps and grinds when he tries to meld melodrama with goofy, no-holds-barred slapstick, tossing in a few poorly sung songs for not-so-good measure.

Dancer Helen (Pamela Moore) is not pining for Scotty (Seth Caskey), who before going off to war promised to make an honest woman of her. Fat chance. Helen has gone with so many guys, she needs to take penicillin; her best friend and fellow performer, Ruby (an impressive Sarah Cook), is the one who wants Scotty, when he returns from the front with a missing limb. The most pointed and effective humor comes from Helen, who readily has a tart riposte, as when she complains she was "raised by saints who wouldn't let me drink." And Pamela Moore has the most dimensional character and makes the most of it, with a touching ambivalence about giving up her freedom for a life of domesticity she clearly does not want.

Moore, the playwright-director, however, should have opted for less. The piece runs far too long for its cloistered setting, and his knockabout bits of humor are far too over-the-top. Brian Gaston as Bottles, an ultra-geeky and nearsighted stagehand secretly in love with a dancer, chews the scenery when he is not purposely bumping into it. Judith Goldstein plays Agnes, a butch, socially concerned moral crusader who demands impeccable behavior on the part of the dancers and looks as though she is about to spontaneously combust at any moment. Moore undercuts the touching moments between Helen and Ruby with these characters and their unbridled depictions.

Costume designer Christine Guilmette gets high marks for her varied and smartly designed period clothing, and Starlet Jacobs cleverly blends the chaos of a dressing room with symbolic imagery of the '40s on the set. Symbolic of Andrew Moore's search for a cohesive play within this work, he bypasses a natural bittersweet ending for more onstage chicanery.

Presented by Theatre Unleashed at the Avery Schreiber Theatre, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. Oct. 24.-Nov. 23. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. (818) 849-4039 or http://www.theatreunleashed.com/.

I'll take it!

(He doesn't wonder that perhaps the high jinks on stage serve any useful dramatic purpose in opposition to the love story. Hmmm. Maybe he should come back and watch the show again.)

Here's the review in context.

I just want to say a few things about my cast. I have been fortune to work with incredible artists, malleable to my every creative whim, willing to try things and put themselves out there; to really take risks. It takes guts to commit fully to the whims of a madman (I'm the madman in this scenario.) I'm proud of my cast, and I wouldn't ask them to do anything differently. There may be a bit of scenary chewing and presentational flair in my play. It's a personal taste thing, really. I enjoy a bit "over-the-top" in my theatre-going. I stand firmly behind these decisions, and point to positive audience response in support of the efficacy of same.

I could also point to critical consternation in support of these decisions.

10 November 2008

Kevin Smith Flips the MPAA the Bird

The new poster for Zack and Miri Make a Porno, the new movie by Kevin Smith:

Dude has had a helluva time getting this movie past the MPAA (Mom: That's the Motion Picture Association of America, the folks who rate movies). It was rated NC-17 the first couple of times he brought it to them. He had to cut some stuff out. Then they banned his first round of posters. Then they smacked his wrist for posting off-color internet trailers. And now he issues the above.

See that little bunny in the sunglasses? He may look familiar. Just to refresh your memory, take a look at the following image from a poster the MPAA used to have place at movie theaters throughout the country:

It's the NC-17 bunny. I do believe Kevin Smith just told the MPAA to go BLEEP themselves!

09 November 2008


The run of Pin-Up Girls is now officially half-over. Last night was our biggest night yet; we were oversold by two seats! We actually had to bring in folding chairs. The after show ("The High Jinks Burlesque") was nearly sold out. I think we had one or two empty seats.

So here's the deal: If you want to see this show, MAKE YOUR RESERVATIONS NOW! The last weeks of any show's run are always the busiest. You can buy tickets through Goldstar, Brown Paper Tickets, or just call our ticket hotline and reserve your seats to pay in cash on the day of the show.

We will not extend the run! The Avery Schreiber is booked up after our run ends. Sunday, the 23rd of November, we're pulling down the walls of the High Jinks and putting the costumes in storage. But today the play is alive, and we welcome you in to our house!

www.theatreunleashed.com is your source for ticket details, times, etc. Our ticket hotline is (818) 849-4039.

“The principles offer lovely performances.”
Steven Leigh Morris – LA Weekly, October 2008

“An intriguing tale of what love means to people and how they show it, Theatre Unleashed’s production of Pin-Up Girls features fine acting and production work.”
Mary Mallory – The Tolucan Times, October 2008

“Acting is uniformly excellent…”
Mary Mallory – The Tolucan Times, October 2008

"[A] poignant reflection on relationships pulled apart by time and circumstance ..."
Philip Brandes – The Los Angeles Times, November 2008

"Moore's nostalgic affection for the tough-talking gals of the 1940s is obvious. With so many men shipped off to fight overseas, the six well-delineated strippers of San Francisco's Hi Jinks club have no one but themselves to rely on."
Philip Brandes – The Los Angeles Times, November 2008

06 November 2008

"... a poignant reflection on relationships pulled apart by time and circumstance ..."


This is the second review I've received in the Los Angeles Times, and the second time I felt the reviewer got what I was doing. This is the fairest, most clear-headed review so far. It's not entirely congratulatory, nor should it be. The reviewer does an outstanding job of pointing out what actually needs work, rather than offering up a smug "I didn't like it" in purple prose.

He's right about the subplots. I was going for something more than a mere love triangle, and I do feel that I weave things together nicely in the end. But as I've mentioned before (on Mad Theatrics, if not here) I'm struggling to maintain a certain economy of writing, and it's a struggle that I haven't fully won. To be soberly honest, there are still cuts to be made, and they reside exclusively with the subplots.

I have learn much about this show, watching it every night since it opened. There is definitely another draft in me. But please forgive me for being elated about this review; as a writer, I have a blurb. A blurb! From the Times!

(The Times reviewer also caught the line of dialogue early in the play that firmly sets the location as San Francisco, a minor point that escaped the LA Weekly reviewer. I do so appreciate it when critics reviewing my work bother to listen to what the actors are saying.)
Romance on the home front

Amid the backstage antics of the World War II-era burlesque hall depicted in writer-director Andrew Moore's "Pin-Up Girls," there's a tight little tenderhearted romance percolating somewhere. But coaxing it from this new play's ambitious but often muddled initial outing at NoHo's Avery Schreiber Theatre will take some doing.

Moore's nostalgic affection for the tough-talking gals of the 1940s is obvious. With so many men shipped off to fight overseas, the six well-delineated strippers of San Francisco's Hi Jinks club have no one but themselves to rely on. As Helen, the most fiercely independent of the bunch, Pamela Moore parlays experience in both theater and burlesque choreography into a thoroughly convincing portrait of hardhearted survival. Having recently contracted a venereal disease, Helen finds her past innocence colliding with her jaded present when her onetime lover, a disabled vet named Scotty (Seth Caskey), unexpectedly returns from the war, bent on rekindling their romance.

Their awkward reunion is a poignant reflection on relationships pulled apart by time and circumstance, further complicated by the fact that Helen's roommate and fellow dancer, Ruby (Sarah Cook), has long carried a secret torch for Scotty.

These sympathetic lead performances notwithstanding, the triangle at the core of the piece is overrun by too many subplots involving the other eight characters, some of which lapse into caricature.

The antique prop-laden set by Starlet Jacobs and Christine Guilmette's eye-catching costumes add a period feel, though it clashes with occasional anachronistic dialogue that begs for careful scrubbing.

-- Philip Brandes "Pin-Up Girls," Avery Schreiber Theatre, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Nov. 23. $20. (818) 849-4039. Running time: 2 hours.
Click here to see the review on the LA Times website.

02 November 2008

Stuff I See

I ride public transportation quite a bit. Los Angeles is a big city, and Pamela and I have only one car. It is inevitable that we are off in different directions on occasion. I try to make the most of if, and here's where my camera phone comes in handy.

Perhaps my favorite photographer of all time is a fellow nicknamed Weegee. He was a crime photographer initially, but become world famous as a "human interest" photographer. He would stroll around Los Angeles, and later New York, taking pictures of people just being human beings. They're beautiful pictures in their simplicity. Here's an example of what I'm talking about:

This is a backstage picture at a New York burlesque house, and part of my visual research for Pin-Up Girls. The title of the picture is "g-strings" and you can see a clothesline full of the barely-there undergarments at the top of the frame. It's not pretty or classically framed, but it's a very real picture. Even his more "staged" photographs feel like the sort of photographs one may take of a family member: "Hey Jim, put on this hat and make a stupid face" kind of pictures.

I'm no Weegee, but I am inspired by him:

It astonishes me how many people sleep on the bus. I'd be petrified of missing my stop!

This guy was a hoot. Whatever he was writing, he was having a good time doing it! He'd get real serious, write, and start laughing. In an age when we entertain ourselves with iPods and such, it's great to see a guy deriving so much joy from a steno pad and pen.

I will send random pix messages to Pamela, stuff I see, like this picture. I titled it "Evolution of a Haircut."

The downside of public transportation is the amount of walking sometimes involved. I had a meeting in Culver City this past week, and after took a short "stroll" up to Venice Boulevard to catch a bus home. (I thought Venice was much closer than it was.) On of the perks of public transportation is all that walking and waiting for buses to show up puts you squarely on the ground, taking it slow enough to take in your environment. When I hit Venice, I discovered this place, an oddball museum that I've been meaning to visit since I first learned of it a few years ago. It's the Museum of Jurassic Technology, which appears to have little to do with the Jurassic age or Technology.