Saturday, May 25, 2024

Isaac Edwards Is In Love "With You"

The seven-year itch, the idea that happiness in relationships declines and divorce rates spike after seven years, certainly does not apply to R&B/jazz saxophonist Isaac Edwards’s marriage. Having recently celebrated his eighth wedding anniversary, Edwards teamed with multiple Grammy-nominated hitmaker Darren Rahn (Dave Koz, Blake Aaron, Tim Bowman, Nick Colionne) to write “With You,” a jubilant, high-energy single released last Friday (May 17) that he penned as a bright bouquet to honor his wife, Laura. Edwards produced the Songs in My Pocket Music release that began collecting playlist adds on Monday (May 20).

“With You” finds Edwards in the company of frequent collaborator Jacob Webb, bassist and a Billboard chart-topper in his own right. Playing over the sturdy funk groove constructed by Webb and drummer Kevin Marsh, Jordan Love adds guitar to embellish the ebullient melodies created by Edwards’s saxophone, keyboards, and synths.

With a full and grateful heart, Edwards composed “With You” to capture his feelings for his partner.

“Life with Laura is very upbeat and magical. When I think of her, the phrase that keeps coming to me is that ‘she literally makes everything better,’ which is totally true. Laura lights up the room when she enters, and she's filled my life with so much joy, hope, and happiness,” said Edwards who resides in Southern California with Laura and their two children.

One of Edwards’s previous singles, “On The Town,” hit the Billboard chart. He’s released four albums, including a gospel-jazz outing titled “Here,” which garnered a Shai Award nomination, the Canadian equivalent to a Dove Award. The saxman studied under the tutelage of six-time Grammy-nominated saxophonist Eric Marienthal and three-time Grammy-nominated sax player Jeff Clayton. His formal training came from earning a bachelor’s degree in music performance (saxophone) and a master’s degree in jazz studies. An overachiever by nature, Edwards also received a law degree from Pepperdine University.

Crafting musical collages from jazz, R&B, funk and gospel, Edwards has performed or recorded with Grammy-winning saxophonist Kirk Whalum, guitarist Adam Hawley, soul/funk band DW3, bassists Darryl Williams and Malcolm-Jamal Warner, and ten-time Grammy-winning vocalist Joel Kibble of Take 6. 

Catch Edwards perform “With You” live at the Monserate Winery in Fallbrook, CA on June 23.

Edwards’ “With You” is now available on Spotify, Apple Music, or iTunes by visiting https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/isaacedwards/with-you.

For more information, visit https://isaacedwardsmusic.com.


 

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles To Renovate Its Headquarters

 


The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles (“SCLA”) has acquired $15 million to renovate SCLA’s Headquarters. Amanda Susskind, Managing Director, joins the leadership of SCLA with Founder and Artistic Director Ben Donenberg and Chair William H. Ahmanson to help oversee this renovation.

The new $15 million Renovation of the SCLA Headquarters will serve as a:

*State-of-the-art 299-seat live performing arts and community center

*22,000 sq ft. multi-media rental studio supporting broadcast, streaming, recording, and traditional sound stage activity

*LA Signature facility at the western Gateway to Downtown LA’s Cultural Corridor

*Cultural community center dedicated to world-class theatrical productions, high-quality arts enrichment for students and teachers, work-readiness training for youth, and on-the-job training / transitional employment for Veterans and chronically unemployed.

SCLA Founder and Artistic Director Ben Donenberg said, “Renovating our 22,000 square foot warehouse to support live multi-media performance, as well as building out the functionalities demanded by high tech media production, will enable us to create great art that meets the moment and support other non-profit arts organizations and commercial for-profit entertainment industry enterprises to do the same.”

The newly renovated studio will also support the expansion of a wide range of SCLA’s White House-awarded youth employment programs and transitional arts employment on-the-job training experiences targeting the Los Angeles community’s most severely unemployed populations.  

The world-renowned architect of the project is Zoltan E. Pali, FAIA, Design Principal of SPF: architects. His work is distinguished by over 100 national and regional design awards, including an American Architecture Award in 2014 for the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills and an AIALA Presidential Award for leading the executive architecture team on the $280-million renovation and expansion of the Getty Villa Museum.

"As an architect deeply committed to the power of the arts to transform communities, I am excited to lead the renovation efforts for the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles," said Zoltan E. Pali, FAIA, Founder and Design Principal. "Our vision for SCLA is not just about revitalizing a space, but about enabling SCLA to build upon their legacy of artistic expression and community engagement. We celebrate this groundbreaking and look forward to the building’s unveiling as a cultural beacon for the LA community and beyond."     

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Things Are 'Topsy Turvy' At Actors' Gang

Fazeelat Aslam, Molly Kirschenbaum, Mary Eileen O'Donnell, Jimmy Berry,
Charlotte Hacke, Adam J. Jefferis, Adele Robbins, Mariana Jaccazio,
and J. Claude Deering in TOPSY TURVY - Photo by Ashley Randall

By Darlene Donloe

During the shutdown caused by the COVID pandemic in 2020, Tim Robbins had plenty of time to think and reflect.

Once theaters also fell victim to the scourge that was COVID, Robbins, the artistic director of The Actors’ Gang Theater in Culver City, took the forced, yet personally unwanted downtime to write about what the world, the nation, the state, the city, and his village were going through as a consequence.

The result is his latest show, ‘Topsy Turvy (A Musical Greek Vaudeville),’ presented by and currently enjoying its 2024 world premiere at The Actors’ Gang Theater in Culver City through June 8.

Robbins wrote and directed 'Topsy Turvy,' set in a humorous and comedic hybrid world of classical Greek theater and a raucous vaudeville show.

The show’s theme parallels the events realized during the pandemic and addresses the many moral, societal, governmental, medical, uncomfortable, foundational, community-based, and unbelievable issues that ensued and affected millions in various ways.

Robbins is one of the first playwrights to respond to the distress of the last four years.  He began writing 'Topsy Turvy' as a response to the seeming disintegration of the community and the widening chasms between all of us that were exacerbated by the lack of human contact during the lockdown. 

Robbins said, “A play can inspire laughter, bring us songs that touch the heart, raise difficult questions and dichotomies, remind us of our shared humanity, and perhaps if we do our job well, heal some divides.  And it has the potential to unite us.”

Robbins’ dialogue reads intimate - like it comes from his years of personal reflection surrounding the dreaded COVID.

“We are living in an aftermath of disorder and disarray,” said Robbins. “Theater is here precisely for these times. It has the potential to unite us. It can inspire laughter, bring us songs that touch the heart, raise difficult questions and dichotomies, remind us of our shared humanity, and perhaps if we do our job well, heal some divides."

During the shutdown, The Actors’ Gang kept all of its employees on salary and health insurance. The Gang adapted its outreach programs in schools and prisons to a virtual format and continued workshops with its actors online.

Robbins said, “But what was missing was what theater reliably provides: a place of gathering and community. The Gang could not meet in their shared space, their theater. For some, there was something tragic and wrong about the theater being closed, something ominous and unsettling about gathering places all around the world being shuttered. And when theaters were allowed to reopen there was something that didn’t feel right about only opening for some audience members and excluding others.”

The show opens with the sweet sounds of a Greek Chorus of mortals, who unbeknownst to them, are about to have their worlds turned ‘Topsy Turvy’ by the sudden appearance of a mysterious illness.

The Chorus of 10, clad in muted colors, get a visit from a harbinger who informs them that staying together could cause them harm and even kill them.

Half of the Chorus believes the harbinger and thinks the group should heed the warning. The other half would prefer to go on living their lives and singing their songs.

Seeking the help of something or someone more powerful than themselves, the Chorus, invokes the Gods, seeking divine intervention to help mend their divisiveness and restore their ability to sing together.

Occasionally the group receives visits from a Vegas-inspired Bacchus and Cupid, an Aztec goddess Coatlique, the biblical character Onan, and Dionysus and Aphrodite. 

The fun begins when mixed in with the Gods, come the magicians, hypnotists, an acrobatic monkey, and the master of ceremonies, the Great Distracto.

Robbins' direction doesn’t move the chorus around the stage. Instead, they sit on squares – distanced from each other – often looking into a glowing sphere that can double for a computer screen.

The one-hour and 40-minute length of the show plays longer due to prolonged soliloquies/monologues.

The entry of sideshow characters breaks up the wordy talking heads, proving to be a welcomed pause.

The pleasant music plays a key role in 'Topsy Turvy' with six original songs written by Robbins, brought to life by a small orchestra of musicians and the choral harmonies of 15 actors.

(l-r) Luis Quintana and Chas Harvey


Exceptional performances from Robbins’ assembled ensemble. Luis Quintana and Chas Harvey are hilarious standouts.

‘Topsy Turvy,’ written directed and composed by Tim Robbins, stars Fazeelat Aslam (Constance), J. Claude Deering (Persnickety), Willia Fossum (Distracto, Ima Emrite, Doctor, Gaia), Stephanie Galindo (Coatique, Distracto), Scott Harris (Bacchus, Onan, Dionysus), Charlotte Hacke (Thalia), Chas Harvey (Distracto), Ayinde Howell (Igneus), Mariana Jaccazio (Iris), Adam J. Jefferis (Cletus), Molly Kirschenbaum (Valiance), Mary Eileen O’Donnell (Olive), Luis Quintana (Harbinger, Distracto Cupid, Juan Diego, Chaos, Dr. Cracker Jack), Adele Robbins (Amaryllis), Tip Scarry (Prior), Megan Stogner (Distracto, Mungo, Ouranos), Guebri Van Over (Aphrodite, Priest), Melina Fink (understudy), Maga Shukar (understudy) and Jimmy Berry (understudy).

Musicians include Dave Robbins (guitar and percussion), Mikala Schmitz (cello), Danica Pinner (cello), Megan Stogner (melodica), Willa Fossum (piano) and Guebri Van Over (flute).

'Topsy Turvy' will premiere internationally at the Sibiu International Theatre Festival in Sibiu, Romania, launching this summer's 31st festival on June 21 and 22, 2024.

The Actors’ Gang Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City, 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday (Thursdays are pay-what-you-can at the door), 2 pm. Sunday, May 26 and June 2, $28-$38, boxoffice@theactorsgang.com, 310 838-4264.

Pay-What-You-Can performances are on Thursday evenings, and tickets are available at the door. A post-show discussion with Tim Robbins, and with creators of the play, take place after performances on Friday, May 24, 31, and June 7.

On the DONLOE SCALE, D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likable), O (oh, yeah), and E (excellent), ‘Topsy Turvy’ gets an O (oh, yeah).


Friday, May 10, 2024

Arthur Thompson's Latest Single Is 'Oasis'

An “Oasis” of joy: R&B-Jazz vocalist-drummer Arthur Thompson releases a spirited version of Roberta Flack’s No. 1 hit

R&B-jazz vocalist-drummer Arthur Thompson wants to have an impact – in and out of music. Launching his solo recording career a year ago after decades of playing drums for contemporary jazz A-listers, he’s releasing recordings with a purpose. His just-released third single, “Oasis,” is an uplifting, energizing, and assuring affirmation of love. Thompson produced his version of the song that was a number-one hit for Roberta Flack.  

Thompson’s previous release was “We Can BEAT Cancer,” which features 9-time Grammy-nominated saxophonist Dave Koz and soul-jazz vocalist Erin Stevenson. The benefit single and video that dropped last October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month raised money for cancer research and spent four months on the national singles chart. Thompson debuted early last year with the soulful “Smile” featuring hitmaker Mindi Abair with whom he regularly tours. The two singles earned Thompson the Breakout Artist of the Year honors from BEATS Magazine.

On the heels of the success of his first two singles which were his original songs, Thompson elected to reimagine the Marcus Miller-Mark Stephens song recorded by Flack in 1988. Vibrantly cheerful and invigorating, the foundation of his version of “Oasis” is a staccato drum groove augmented by his crafty percussion beats. The sunny harmonies and luminous melodies are animated by Jon Gilutin’s keyboards, guitarist David John, and bassist Coretz Johnson. Deftly deployed layers of punchy horns from The Monkey Fist Horns fill up the track, adding jubilation and celebration. Melody Dunlap’s warm and glowing backing vocal provides the perfect support to Thompson’s charismatic tenor lead.

“‘Oasis’ transports you to a place where you feel safe, encouraged, and loved. It describes a longing for that special someone, a feeling of complete peace when you are apart because of the confidence you have in knowing that they will return to you. I decided to record this particular song because I really enjoy Roberta Flack’s sultry and soulful voice. When she sings a lyric, she makes you feel,” said Thompson, who was also drawn to the track because of the original version’s African beats.

“I always thought ‘Oasis’ was a beautiful song, and it has African undertones with the rhythms and drums. If you listen closely, you will hear that influence with my African Djembe, Dundun, Kenkeni, and Sangdon drums.”

The Nashville-based Thompson recorded “Oasis” in his hometown, Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he was joined in the studio by some of the musicians with whom he grew up playing, including his friend Gilutin. As special as that experience was for Thompson, he said that shooting the “Oasis” video with his son was even more meaningful.  

“Watching Arthur Jr. grow in his craft of videography and direction made me feel so proud as a parent to see his love for the arts come to fruition. I never thought that we would work together and have that opportunity,” beamed Thompson.

Thompson, who is at sea this week performing aboard the Dave Koz & Friends all-star cruise, is a mission-based musician. This fall, he’ll be releasing another new single in conjunction with the launch of a mental health awareness nonprofit called Where Are You Now. Thompson created the Music & Math program designed to aid at-risk youth. The curriculum that has been taught in Oklahoma, Texas and California relates basic mathematical concepts with musical notes and scales, incorporating repetitive auditory memorization skills. Thompson co-founded and served for ten years as the director of the Promises for Families Foundation, which provided summer camps and school programs for children and youth who have an incarcerated parent. He continues to teach his Drums Speak school program across the country, offering music and education to children.

“For me, my music career really just gives me a platform to serve and make a difference in the community and to empower kids by providing them with education and tools to grow in the arts. That’s really what’s behind me stepping out from behind the drum kit after all these years. The more success that my records have, the more people I will be able to impact.”

LA New Play Project Announces 4th Year of Funding


Calling all small-to-midsize Los Angeles theatre makers! Applications are being accepted now. Deadline: June 1, 2024: https://lanpp.org/grant-guidelines-and-application/

LA NEW PLAY PROJECT’s (LANPP) two-tiered grant program offers $20,000 grants to playwrights for new, unproduced plays, with an additional $20,000 to producers to help support the play’s world premiere production. The funding is intended to award excellence in playwriting, encourage the production of new and untried plays on the smaller stages of Los Angeles, and help stabilize theatrical productions that originate here but may resonate beyond Los Angeles County's borders.

Producers in partnership with playwrights are invited to submit new scripts under consideration for production. A distinguished peer panel selects one to three projects for the award.

Past Awardees (Photo by Todd Cheney): LANPP Recipients at UCLA Reception


HAPPY FALL: A Queer Stunt Spectacular by Lisa Sanaye Dring

Produced by Rogue Artists Ensemble

 

Four Women in Red by Laura Annawyn Shamas

Produced by Victory Theater Center

2022


Two Stop by David Johann Kim

Produced by EST/LA 

 

Pang Spa by David Johann Kim

Produced by Chalk Repertory Theatre

 

Unrivaled by Rosie Narasaki

Produced in collaboration by Playwrights Arena and Boston Court Pasadena 

 

She by Marlow Wyatt

Produced by Antaeus Theatre Company 

2021


Both And…A Play About Laughing While Black, By Carolyn Ratteray

Produced by Boston Court Pasadena

 

Revenge Porn Carla Ching

Produced by Ammunition Theatre

 

The Hands That Could and Josh Wilder

Produced by Watts Village Theater Company

 

The Los Angeles New Play Project grant is the brainchild of producers Paula Holt and Nathan Birnbaum.

More information on grant guidelines for submissions: http://lanpp.org/grant-guidelines-and-application/

LA New Play Project: http://lanpp.org/


CURRENTLY ON STAGE:

See 2022 Awardee Two Stop and Pang Spa 

by David Johann Kim

 

Currently running in conjunction with 

EST/LA and Chalk Repertory Theatre 

Two Stop by David Johann Kim

May 2-June 9, 2024

 

Pang Spa by David Johann Kim

May 16-June 9, 2024


Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Helder Guimarães Presents 'The Hope Theory' at Geffen

  

Helder Guimarães

By Darlene Donloe

Helder Guimarães is a master magician and a master storyteller who weaves them together to present a wonderous night of theater called, The Hope Theory.

The world premiere production, directed by EGOT award-winning director/producer Frank Marshall (Indiana Jones, Jason Bourne, Jurassic World) and written and performed by Guimarães, is currently playing in the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood through June 30, 2024. 

The show, from Guimarães and Marshall, the creators of Invisible Tango, The Present, and The Future, The Hope Theory spins a tale about Guimarães who arrived in America at age 29. 

When he got to the States, he was wide-eyed and full of ideas and soon discovered a fascinating puzzle of cultural and professional challenges to solve while he tried to build a home. 

The Hope Theory offers a unique perspective on America through the eyes of an optimistic outsider.

According to hope theory (and many other schools of thought), at some point in human evolution, we developed the ability to conceptualize time in terms of past, present, and future (psychologist C. R. Snyder, 2002).  As a result, humans can organize their behaviors to bring about desired future conditions (i.e., goals).

A Portuguese-born performer, Guimarães has a unique approach to sleight of hand magic and storytelling that holds an audience spellbound.

A master of illusions, Guimarães starts his show by standing center stage in what looks like a slightly disheveled, newly moved-in apartment.

As he starts to put things in their place, he takes the audience on a journey through his life. It’s a ride that takes him from being a 29-year-old immigrant when he arrives in America, to ultimately becoming a U.S. citizen. 

Two people prominently factor into his tale – one is a so-called friend named Jason, and the other is his girlfriend, who would follow him to America. 

He talks about his country and America’s respective traditions. One in particular is how the Portuguese stand on furniture when the clock is about to strike midnight on New Year’s Eve.  He did it at a party filled with Americans – and received the side-eye. 

He speaks of betrayal by a man he thought was his friend – but who, it turns out – wasn’t.

Guimarães arrived in America wide-eyed and full of ideas – some of which were quickly dashed due to a fascinating mix of cultural and professional challenges that awaited him. Alone in America with his girlfriend, Guimarães soon found that he must understand and deal with all of those challenges while trying to build a home in a new country. 

Written and performed by master illusionist and storyteller Helder Guimaraes and directed/produced by award-winning Frank Marshall – co-creators of “Invisible Tango,” “The Present,” and “The Future” – THE HOPE THEORY made its world premiere in 2024. 

He has earned titles like the World Champion of Magic, Parlor Magician of the Year, Allan Slaight’s Sharing Wonder recipient, and Ascanio Prize winner. 

Helder Guimarães

Guimarães’ unique approach to sleight-of-hand magic and storytelling was featured in his previous creations Nothing to Hide, Borrowed Time, and Verso. 

Using his knowledge of deception, Guimarães regularly consults for entities like NBC, Disney, and Warner. As an example, he trained Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett for Ocean’s 8. 

This play offers a unique perspective on America through the eyes of an optimistic outsider. 

Guimaraes sets just the right tone in his presentation. It’s part like he’s giving a lecture, and part having a conversation with a friend. In between, he amazes the audience with his magical mysteries – leaving everyone shaking their heads. 

It’s a wonderful night of theater that can’t be missed! 

It’s blasphemous to call what Guimaraes does as “tricks.”  His illusions are astonishing. Throughout the night there were whispers of “How did he do that?” especially from some of the audience members who were recruited to be part of the illusion. What he does on stage goes beyond Abracadabra and Presto Chango. It truly is magic. 

How’d he do that? 

THE HOPE THEORY, The Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024, 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays, through June 30, 2024. Spanish language performances are scheduled at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, May 8; at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 19; and at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 7, 2024. Tickets are $30-$129. For information and reservations, call 310-208-2028 or go online.

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likable), O (oh, yeah), and E (excellent), The Hope Theory gets an E (excellent).

 

 


Thursday, March 14, 2024

Cafe Mocha Network Presents 'Women Creating A Legacy' at the 14th Annual Salute HER Awards

 


(Harlem, NY – March 14, 2024) — In its 14th celebratory year, the nationally syndicated Café Mocha radio show’s Salute HER Awards shined a light on Black women who have made history and have excelled beyond odds in honor of Women’s History Month.  The sold-out event occurred at the historic Alhambra Ballroom in Harlem, NY on Thursday, March 7. Hosted by Café Mocha co-hosts Angelique Perrin and hip-hop icon Yo-Yo with pop culture icon Jawn Murray, the evening was treated to an exceptional musical performance by Grammy-Award-winning duo Louis York.


The esteemed group of seven honorees includes: Ann Tripp, news icon and news director at WBLS-FM and the nationally syndicated Steve Harvey Morning Show, who was the recipient of the Broadcast Legacy Award; DeDe McGuire, national media personality, philanthropist, and host of the nationally-syndicated “DeDe In The Morning Show”, was the recipient of the Media Innovator Award; Melba Moore, Legendary singer, and award-winning actress, was the recipient of the Legend Award; Flo Anthony, famed celebrity journalist, was the recipient of the Media Legend Award; Alicia Reece, Hamilton County Commission President and founder of the Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame, was the recipient of the Creating the Legacy Award; Jotaka Eaddy, widely-respected social impact activist, was the recipient of the Champion for Change Award; Melba Wilson, well-known Harlem restauranteur and founder of Melba’s, was the recipient of the Business Legacy Award.


The opening prayer was led by Cheryl Polote-Williamson, 2019 Salute Her Award honoree and CEO of Cheryl Polote Williamson, LLC. Each honoree gave acceptance speeches. 


There were various notables in the room such as the former legendary NAACP National President and current President of the NAACP New York State chapter. Hazel Nell Dukes, 91, was given flowers as several honorees expressed their gratitude for her long-time commitment, to fighting for equality and combating injustice.


“The purpose of the Salute HER Awards is to bring together women to collaborate and inspire one another by the journey of our honorees. The evening was already so memorable but having Hazel Dukes present made it historic” said Sheila Eldridge, CEO & founder of Miles Ahead Entertainment & Broadcasting.


The Salute HER Awards supports the Mocha Cares Foundation whose mission is to provide shelter families with transitional housing support to support visit www.mochacaresfoundation.org.