30 October 2008

The Tolucan Times Review

(l to r) Sylvia Anderson as "Lottie", Alana Dietze as "Wilma, and Pamela Moore as "Helen." Photo by Chris Cortez.

Another good review, this time from a paper much more local to North Hollywood, where the play is being produced (Toluca Lake is a bordering township.)

Mallory reviewed the play at face value, rather than projecting any preconceived notions or outside baggage onto it, and for that I am thankful. I would disagree with her point about "too many subplots." You can count the subplots on one hand, they all resolve, and the play is an hour and forty-five minutes long. For a play as fast-paced as "Pin-Up Girls" anything less would make the show seem simplistic. There's a wonderful weaving of these subplots into the main plot towards the end of Act II that makes any perceived chaos worth the trouble to keep up.

The misidentification of one of the romantic leads is a bit disappointing. Lauren Burns turns in a wonderfully layered and understated performance as Tillie; she really sucker-punches you with the reality of her character's story late in Act II. (I've been intimately involved in this project forever, and have seen the show more times than I care to recall right now. Sunday night, her final scene brought tears to my eyes.) But it is indeed Sarah Cook, as the pining pilot Ruby who "nurses a true love for Scotty."
"Pin-Up Girls" Takes Off On Love

by Mary Mallory

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.

The play focuses on the daily struggles of the members of a burlesque troupe struggling through romance, sexual identity, and work issues. Helen (Pamela Moore), is in a relationship with Scotty (Seth Caskey) who is away overseas during World War II, realizes that she wants excitement and not steadiness in romantic relationships. Her troupe mate Tillie (Lauren Burns), contrary to Helen, nurses a true love for Scotty.

Writer/Director Andrew Moore keeps the action moving and realistically brings to life the irritations and closeness of any performing troupe, but it occasionally seems disjointed with too many subplots going on and one character that seems to have escaped from a Saturday Night Live skit.

Acting is uniformly excellent, with outstanding work by Moore, Caskey, and Burns. Moore goes full throttle as the hard charging yet emotional Helen. Caskey touchingly underplays the wounded vet Scotty, positive and steady through turmoil. Burns brings sweetness and vulnerability to the warmhearted, loving Tillie.

Starlet Jacobs' set design is a wonder to behold, a cluttered, busy dressing room. Christine Guilmette's gorgeous costumes and hair wonderfully capture the 1940s.
Bringing to life the dramatic and hilarious goings-on backstage to comment on how values impact the choices we make, "Pin-Up Girls" provides an entertaining look at the big changes brought on by World War II.

"Pin-Up Girls" plays Fridays through Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 7 PM through November 23 at the Avery Schreiber Theatre in North Hollywood. Tickets are $20. Saturday's performances feature a bonus show "The High Jinks Burlesque" at 10:30 PM that costs $10. Both shows cost $25.

29 October 2008

Looking Ahead ...

Our Artistic Director, Phillip Kelly anounced our mainstage season for 2009. Included in the exciting line-up is my play Sonny. This is a play I wrote a couple of years ago, concerning an animator, her voice-over artist boyfriend, and his parents. It deals with the lasting impact the people closest to us can have on our psyches, and by extension our behavior. Very nature vs. nurture stuff.

I am resisting the urge to direct Sonny. I'd like someone else to take the reigns, so I can sit back and concentrate on rewrites. (I learned a huge lesson with Pin-Up Girls: if I'm going to write and direct, I need someone to track my script changes for me. Putting together a final 'production draft' is going to be a nightmare. I have notes scribbled in different shades of ink on my script, notes scribbled on legal pads and scratch paper, and line changes I didn't bother noting at all.)

I hope to have a draft ready for reading soon. And I'm going to do something way different this time: I'm going to make the script widely available to anyone interested in reading it. For Pin-Up Girls, we didn't have a draft available for the actors to read before auditioning. Well, I'm not repeating that mistake with Sonny!

27 October 2008

LA Weekly Review is up:

(l to r) Lauren Burns as "Tillie" and Sarah Cook as "Ruby." Photo by Chris Cortez.

The reviewer seems to have had a good time, but largely missed the point.

For instance, Helen's definition of idependance is not "the right to leave her guy dangling emotionally." Scotty places a demand on Helen, that she continue to be the girl who wrote to him, "Suddenly this big city seems so very daunting and sinister. I wish I could have you here to guide my way." She tries to accommodate this wish, to the detriment of her own freedom, and the whole thing blows up in her face.

It is only when Helen is honest and truthful with Scotty that the situation resolves for both of them. If there is any cruelty on Helen's part, it is self-inflicted. Freedom is not a "get out of jail free" card; there are consequences to calling your own tune. In the end, Helen, Ruby and Scotty make the personal sacrifices necessary to win their freedom.

I'm sure he didn't mean it as such, but I take "cutesy" and "sometimes romantic" as compliments. They say the same things about Capra and Hawks, and that's what I was going for. It's a helluva lot better than "heavy-handed" and "depressing" at any rate.

NEW REVIEW PIN-UP GIRLS Set designer Starlet Jacobs sets the stage with '40s memorabilia -- racks of vintage costumes adorn the playing area and a model of a USAF bomber hangs suspended from the proscenium arch. With waves of overlapping dialogue punctuated with sporadic moments of farce, playwright-director Andrew Moore varyingly hits his mark of hyper-realism in his depiction of burlesque performers in the midst of WWII. Though the locale isn't specified in the program, snippets of dialogue suggest a West Coast setting. While the burlesque act mostly remains off-stage, what we see are the backstage comings and goings of the proprietress (April Adams); the dancers (Sylvia Anderson, Lauren Burns, Sarah Cook, Alana Dietze, Pamela Moore and Lauren Mutascio); the pianist (Jovial Kemp), who taps on a non-functioning spinet to recorded piano sounds; and a cartoon of a self-appointed guardian of decency (Judith Goldstein), who's like a Salvation Army officer out of Guys & Dolls. Moore's story spins on the homecoming of wounded Marine, Scotty (Seth Caskey), to his unfaithful STD-infected heartthrob, Helen (Moore, in a robust and sassy performance). Helen defines her independence as the right to leave her guy dangling emotionally, while dancer Ruby (Cook, in a gentle portrayal brimming with hidden desires) eventually makes her move on her colleague's man, while accepting a post with the WASP corps. It's unclear how the two women catfighting over a guy is an examination of women's freedom, however demurely their fighting may be. That idea is best captured by Helen's insistence of being her own person while stringing along her wounded suitor: Is this cruelty part of a burgeoning women's movement, or a subtle condemnation of it? There's also a subplot of the puppy love between a semi-blind youth (Bryan Gaston) and a teen apprentice (Mustascio), who replaces Ruby when the older dancer enlists in the military. The principals offer lovely performances, but this new play is a sometimes cutesy, sometimes romantic construction. Its larger insight into who we are, and where we've come from, has yet to be chiseled. Avery Shreiber Theatre, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 23. (818) 849-4039. A Theatre Unleashed production. (Steven Leigh Morris)
You can find the review in context here.

21 October 2008

Pin-Up Girls
third prelude video!

video written and directed by Gregory Crafts

The play opens this Friday in North Hollywood. See our website for further information, or visit Brown Paper Tickets to purchase your tickets online!

bonus: behind the scenes photo of our set!

We completed our load in yesterday. The set design is by Starlet Jacobs. This is a tightly framed picture of one of the make-up counters backstage at the High Jinks Burlesque! If you look at the vanity mirror to the left, you'll see the "$17.00" price on the mirror. Needless to say, that will be scrubbed off before opening night.

Today our lighting designer, Johnny Ryman is overseeing the hang and focus. We'll have a full run of the play tonight at our rehearsal hall downtown, and into two dress rehearsals tomorrow night! It's crunch time, and I'm excited to see things coming together.

19 October 2008

Stuff I See

The advent of the camera phone means that I can snap pictures whenever something interesting catches my eye, or to document an occurrence that I may want to share later. This is assuming I have bothered to charge the damn thing.

This is an oldie, but one I wanted to blog. When Pamela and I went to see John Mayer play in Irvine this year, we were pleased as punch to take in the barefoot bohemian himself, Brett Dennen. If you haven't heard his music, go to his MySpace page right now and check him out. Better yet, just buy his cd.

Above is an autographed copy of "So Much More", a cd we already own. I bought a second copy just to get his autograph. As I walked back to my seat, it occurred to me that the purpose of autographs is to cement a moment in time: I met Brett Dennen. Here is the proof. And suddenly I understand the magic that collection holds for autograph enthusiasts.

A couple of days ago, Pamela and I swung by the home of Chris Guilmet, the costume designer for Pin-Up Girls. I spotted this list on the floor, and thought it would make a fun "behind the scenes" photograph. I am fascinated by process, and the ways in which people set out to accomplish their goals.

Speaking of behind the scenes, here's a sneak look at Pamela's new burlesque number, that she's premiering tomorrow night. Can you guess what she may have in store? I bet my mom can. (Hi mom!)

Finally -- Sharpie has started making pens. This may very well be the ink pen that gets me cartooning again. We'll see!
Pin-Up Girls
second prelude video!

written by Jacob Smith and directed by Phillip Kelly

Here's the show information:

Visit our website for more information, or buy tickets online!

18 October 2008

Pin-Up Girls
prelude video!

video written by Jacob Smith and directed by Pamela Moore.

There are a couple more of these coming. The idea behind doing our video promotion in this way is to extend the story beyond the confines of the theatrical, thus creating a truly multi-media experience for our audience. Also, I like the idea of other company members tackling the material in their own way (just wait until you see what wunderkind Sebastian Kadlecik has in store!)

13 October 2008

Very kind words from Theatre Unleashed's Artistic Director, Phil Kelly:
"What makes this original production so thrilling is that it captures the
passion and character intricacy of screwball comedies from the likes of Capra
and Hawkes, while allowing themes to be dealt with in a timely way for a current
audience," said Artistic Director Phillip Kelly. "This story could be told in 20
years and still be relevant."

This is from the press release for Pin-Up Girls. I hadn't seen this quote before, and I am flattered.
I've been Blogged!

The Felties, etc. at Blogged

Not a bad rating, either!

Top of the world, Ma!

12 October 2008

I need to spend more time with my mando:

Pin-Up Girls: The Second Photo Shoot
Behind the Scenes

You can't do a play called Pin-Up Girls and not make pin-up cards of your cast!

So last Saturday, the ladies convened at the home of our costume designer Christine Guilmette for a day-long photo shoot with Chris Beyond.

And I was there, camera in hand, to give you a sneak peek!

Let's start in the dressing room, shall we?

Chris G. had a couple of racks worth of costumes waiting for the talent. But that's not all she had waiting ...

Muffins. The breakfast of champions. This is Pamela's chocolate chip muffin. I had a blueberry. Chris G. had coffee, bagels, croissants ... it was quite a spread!

Our hair and make-up artists showed up right on time, and got to work. First in the chair was Pamela.

Our photographer, Chris Beyond showed up next, bearing fliers for his next burlesque show (Peepshow Menagerie, which he co-produces with Scarlett Letter, at Bordello on November 2nd!) and a gift of "After Shakespeare Mints." (We have just closed The Tempest, after all.)

Time to get the wrinkles out of our backdrops! Chris G. converted her sewing room into a photo studio for us. It worked like a charm!

The whole gang of us, costumer, photographer, talent -- all of us -- brought in props for the shoot.

Ah, good. Pammy is in costume. Time for some picture taking!

Meanwhile, the writer and director of the show has discovered a "strumstick." Hold it like a guitar, play it like an Appalachian dulcimer, sounds like a banjo!

So there's your super-secret glimpse behind the scenes at the big Pin-Up Girls photoshoot!

Just wait until you see the pictures ...

10 October 2008

Fantastic rehearsal tonight. The play is exactly where it needs to be. And it keeps getting better.

Tonight was a night of turning points.

And a breakthrough. A huge breakthrough.

I love my cast. And I am doing the kind of work I've always wanted to do.

Opening night is two weeks away!

09 October 2008

Things I See ...

You know, I really hate Uggs. I cannot fathom a circumstance under which they would look attractive on a woman's feet. Honestly. Ladies, they may feel like a warm hug for your tootsies but they look like mukluks. And whoever first started the miniskirt/Ugg look should be shot. Taken out to an empty field and shot.

Crocs likewise draw my ire. I never imagined I'd see in my lifetime a look worse than Birkenstocks with white socks. Boy, was I wrong! An obnoxious texture and assortment of colors, coupled with holes and a strap thingy (does it go around your heel?) -- what's not to hate? Plastic clog sandals. I mean, c'mon!

And then I see this:

The perfect combination of suck. What do we call these bastards of footwear? Crogs or Ucks? Folks, this is proof positive that to wrongs do NOT make a right.

(For the record, I'm leaning towards wedges. Classic, simple, and just enough heel to lengthen the leg. But I must admit a newfound appreciation for spectator pumps.)

You can tell that Halloween is drawing close when you start seeing this around town:

Oh yes, the old "appendage sticking out of the trunk" gag. Halloween is the perfect time of year to be a mobster. Imagine being able to carry around dead bodies in your trunk with impunity ... even going so far as to let an arm or leg hang out!

If you see this around your hometown, snap a picture and drop me a line. If I get any response on this, I'll start a photo pool, and we'll collect these pictures from around the world!

Lastly, we did a Pin-Up Girls photoshoot on Saturday. The idea is to have pin-up cards available for our audience. The ever amazing Chris Beyond took the pictures, and I thought I'd share one with you:

This is for my cast. Aloha.

02 October 2008


I get these little e-mails from SiteMeter telling me how many people visited this blog each week. Sometimes I'm surprised by the traffic, and I'll check my SiteMeter account to see who has been referring people to me.

This past week, I got a referral from Puppets and Stuff, an online puppet community. And this has made my day.

Sometime ago I posted a tutorial on how to make tennis ball rod puppets. Andrew of PuppetBuilding.com added the tutorial to his ever growing database of how-tos, and passed the word along to untold numbers of people online, including the denizens of Puppets and Stuff. From there a Belgium school teacher by the name of Johian found the tutorial:
"Great, I have made one to use in the classroom, now my children in the class also want to make one during the lessons of crafts... think I will have to do a lot of cutting... they are 6 years old.

"But I will do it."
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the completed tennis ball puppets made by Johian's kids:

I love how they did the hair!

This is what the internet is all about: Some weirdo in Los Angeles has an idea, he shares it with another weirdo in Canada, and before you know it, the idea has spread to school kids in Belgium! Folks, this is a great time to be a weirdo.

You can visit Johian's school online here!

01 October 2008

Pin-Up Girls

So I may have mentioned I'm directing this play I wrote. It's called Pin-Up Girls, and it's about life backstage at a burlesque club in 1940s San Fransisco. It's a romantic comedy in the vein of Frank Capra or Howard Hawks; a fast-paced jaunt that tickles your funny bone and tugs at your heart strings.

Here's the postcard:

This has been the best production experience of my life. First, I'm very happy with the script. I know, I'm tooting my own horn, but who cares? I'm usually very self-critical, even when I'm putting on my 'P.T. Barnum' front and declaring from the rooftops how wonderful everything is. I feel that I have outdone myself with this one, and I've raised my own personal bar.

Second, Theatre Unleashed is unparalleled in my experience. The camaraderie and support is family-like! The never ending generosity of my fellows astounds me.

Third, I have designers. Understand, it has felt like the "Andrew Moore Show" the last couple of times at bat. I was very fortunate to work with lighting designer Connie-Lynn Villani on my last couple of shows. But for the most part I've missed the vital interplay of collaboration with honest to God designers. I have that on this show. I have a whole freaking team! And they're all just wonderful artists and people.

Fourth, my cast could not be any better. Pamela blogged about this on Mad Theatrics, and everything she says is true and then some. In my last play, there were a few actors I cast who I considered each one an "ace in the hole." I didn't have to worry about them. I could literally give them their blocking and step away, and they'd turn in excellent performances. In Pin-Up Girls, my entire cast is made up of aces. And they're all so dedicated to the show! It's just incredible to me.

Finally, the stars must have aligned when I met Pamela. She has taken on the role of producer for this show, in addition to her duties as actress, sounding board, and my own personal editor. When I say I'm the luckiest man on earth, it's not just the burlesque dancing or the fact that she's smoking hot; it's stuff like her producing my play. Working with me on it, all the sacrifices she's willing to make, her partnership.

(I say "finally" but there is more I could go on about. The managment at the Avery Schreiber, our theatre for this production is so wonderful. Very giving for people who are just there to take our money and unlock the doors for us. I am pleased beyond words by their hospitality. Linda Fulton is a gem. An absolute gem. Chris Beyond, burlesque photographer extraordinaire, took our postcard pic for us. He's also working with us this weekend on pin-up photos of the cast. He's a terrific guy, and I am honored that he is willing to work with us. I could go on and on!)

We have videos in the works, little preludes to introduce a few of the characters and set the stage for our play. I'll be posting those EVERYWHERE when they are available.

I'm going to end off now by telling you about one of the props I bought for this show, for the astonishingly low price of just under $30:

It's a beautiful, vintage silver trumpet from eBay. It sounds clear as a bell, and the valves are free, and I still can't play it worth a crap. (For those of you who aren't my Mom, I was a lousy trumpet player in the high school marching band my sophomore year.) But hey ... after my play closes, I'll have plenty of time to get back up on that horse.

That's all I have right now. I'm PUMPED about this play, and I am not taking this experience for granted. I am a fortunate guy, to be surrounded by such amazing people!