My mini-review on No Proscenium Podcast

Right before I relocated to Florida, Noah Nelson deputized me to check out the immersive theatre scene in Orlando for his newsletter/podcast/medium publication No Proscenium.

I started by seeing The Republic, an ambitious and popular immersive experience. Although I saw it during its last weekend, their website says it will return in 2016.

When they do, I hope they’ll take some of my experience into account. Hear a bit of it at this No Proscenium podcast, and read the full review on medium.

The Republic: Turn the Page, Dead End

I Hope He Recalls the Hotels

We were in line to see the Pompeii exhibit at the Natural History Museum and our son was six months old. A gentleman there (presumably with his grandkids) pointed to Lil’ Pirate Dude and said pointedly:

“He won’t remember it.”

My husband recovered much faster than I did from the rage and tactfully answered, “Maybe not details, but it sure will make an impression.”

Cut to fifteen minutes later and at each display, our son screeches in delight (also blew some raspberries, but I think he was just in that phase).

We have always lived life with LPD (Lil’ Pirate Dude) under the belief that he comprehends his surroundings. He, in turn, surprises us daily with what he understands (now seventeen months old).

So when we knew we may pack up the only life he’s ever known and move from Los Angeles to Orlando for a new job, we involved him in the process the whole way. I bought three books on moving (one with stickers!) and posted a huge countdown calendar on the wall. If we’re being totally honest here, the countdown calendar was as much for his parents as LPD. I knew we could prepare him pretty well for the packing, and the moving truck, and the big emotions he would witness from his parents. Those topics are well covered in children’s books. He got really good atwaving goodbye through all the parties and personal lunches. Just like the times we’d drop his father at the airport for business trips, LPD sometimes got serious but seemed to understand it was just a change. Not necessarily good or bad, just a change.

There is one aspect of our move, however, that is not covered in any book: the four of us would spend about two months living in a hotel: two very stressed out, homesick adults, one toddler and one fourteen year old, grumpy dog (Did I mention our dog had been diagnosed with cancer the week before we left?).

I debated adding those pages between The Berenstain Bears packing up their moving truck and arriving in the big tree house in Bear Country, but never got around to it. In hindsight, I wish I had done it; again, more for me and my husband than our son’s benefit.

Well, our first hotel (yes, I said first. We are currently in our second) was pretty lackluster.** It was clean enough and the employees were super nice. It was cheap and close to my husband’s job, and let me just say again: it was cheap. I was so concerned about our dog when I booked it that I didn’t realize we had two twin beds and no room for a pack N play. To keep our son from falling off the bed, I co slept. (To put this in perspective, before we left LA, he was sleeping by himself 9pm-5 or 6am in his crib and then co-sleeping until 7 or 8am. I called it “snoozing” him to get a tad more sleep.) But in that scenario, we all shared the bed as a family. In the hotel, my poor husband slept alone. And as much as I love co-sleeping, I had begun to really enjoy those few hours when my body was my own again.

Also, for someone who just moved his family cross country so he could pursue a job opportunity, I do believe my husband could have used more warmth overnight. Not to mention that time to reconnect as a married couple is pretty vital. [Hey Mom and Dad, skip this next sentence] We found time to just be with each other, even if we had to be quiet about it. But it was less the sex we needed and more of the togetherness. We met in Los Angeles. We had almost fifteen years of friendships and had stumbled into being parents there. Just as every night before we left, we had to ask ourselves “Are we really moving to Florida?” to ensure we were both in this together, keeping that connection and dedication during that dreary first month would have helped.

Not sharing a bed aside, the main problem is we just had no room. Even downstairs, there was barely a lobby and one elevator. There were two burners that sort of worked and one table for both eating (reminder: toddler) and working out the details of our new life.

My husband and I had our own coping mechanisms: coffee in the morning and wine in the evenings. Of course, it took us weeks before we bought actual wine cups.

Oh yeah, and my son was still recovering from pneumonia (almost couldn’t fly here on schedule) and both my husband and I had bad coughs while our lungs got used to the new air.*

Every day, LPD and I drove Dan to work, walked our dog, ate breakfast and got the hell out of that hotel because otherwise our dog would just growl at us all day. There was literally no place in the room we could go where we wouldn’t be in her way. Some days we found playgrounds that allowed dogs and that made it better. As great a companion as Sadie had been, she’s just old. She’s in pain, and she needs space. Staying in a hotel room just gets boring for a dog.

An interesting aspect to the hotel life is meeting other guests. The breakfast they offered was minimal, but LPD liked seeing all the people. So we brought avocado, eggs and other healthy food downstairs to eat. I looked at LPD as he stared in fascination at other hotel guests. He was fascinated with the languages he heard around us. He tried to get the kids his age to play with him. He mostly just charmed the parents whose kids were older.

I looked at him as he wiped the table the way he’d seen me do a million times, wiping away the avocado from his face, then smiling at me. I wondered how much of this experience he would remember, and if not detailed then how much of an impression it would make on him. What kindof impression would it make on him?

I surprised myself with my lack of fear over the possible answer. He treats everything as an adventure, and even in the weeks to come when we’d find harder times, our little boy thrived. He played with his trucks and he played hide and seek and he asked to take baths and he watched his father somehow cook a tasty, healthy meal for us in the kitchenette that was smaller than a shower. If LPD wanted quiet time, he pointed to the chair by the window and sat there, staring in silence sometimes, gabbing to us about the trucks parked there overnight, watching the wind rustle through the trees and noticing the signs of an impending thunderstorm. You get a lot of practice at recognizing thunderstorms in Florida summers.

While living in a hotel (still) stresses out me and my husband, LPD takes it all in stride. He loved all the houses we visited while hunting for one to buy, but never seemed weirded out when we returned to a pretty dismal, yet adequate place to sleep.

Behold the magic of the box.

More than anything else, he saw me and his Dad hold on to our family and count on each other for support to get through this time. It didn’t take a brain surgeon to feel how unhappy we were with our living situation. The only indication LPD made that he needed more space or privacy was when he claimed an empty diapers box as the place he would put “his things.” One evening, he simply packed all of his toys, shoes, anything loose into this box and it became his place. Sometimes he would turn it over and just have a toddler sized chair in which to sit. We got two more boxes eventually and they became building blocks. You never saw a happier kid than LPD with his boxes. We packed up the whole room and moved to a nicer hotel for the second (hopefully last) month of temporary living and he made sure his boxes safely made the trip.

He also learned how to use an elevator (counting on his fingers up to two) and began actually peeing in his potty (we had introduced the idea because he was interested but never pushed him into “training”). His imaginative play skyrocketed. Hide and seek among bushes outside the hotel became the funniest thing on earth. We learned that at one of the many Splash Pads (an extravagance coming from drought-stricken Los Angeles), kids would play with you if you had a ball and/or a bucket. So we brought both. He saw people playing basketball and guess what? He loves it. When we needed to run errands and check our mail, he was perfectly happy exploring the mall near our PO Box, eating breakfast at the tables outside the Publix market, watching this new world begin their morning.

None of this comes as any surprise to those who know LPD. The part that surprises me, and in ways we can’t even fathom yet, is the emotional maturity he’s gained in these six weeks. He knows when his Dad needs an extra hug. He knows that I’m there most of the time he’s awake and so he’s free to explore within my sight and socialize or take his own quiet time to sit in the grass. He understands that Dad goes to work; so he wakes up, then marches directly to his father (even when that is the shower) so he can spend all the precious time possible with him. He makes sure that his Dad has his wallet and work id and glasses before he leaves the room.

Even on the hardest days, either emotionally hard or because he and I are only running errands to finally close on this damn house, LPD laughs even louder. He sees the adventure, brings the joy and appreciates all the love we have for one another. He thrills in pointing out new lighting fixtures, tall domes and ceiling fans. He hears me and Dan get on each other’s nerves faster than usual, then talk it out or drop it because we know it’s the stress, not each other. He sees our spontaneous embraces and giggles before running into our legs, making himself a welcome part of our hug. When he’s frustrated or angry, he tries his best to communicate and we try our hardest to listen, to interpret sounds that haven’t quite made it to words yet. Hell, sometimes that’s better than how me and Dan communicate.

By September, we will hopefully be living in this really cute house we found. LPD will have his own playroom, I’ll have a writing office and Dan will have a spacious kitchen. We will make a house into a home and continue our adventures as weird ass free range West Coast parents in the Southern United States. We’ll save to make the most of Dan’s international business trips, turning some into family adventures. We’ll work on having a second little pirate.

Many difficulties during this hotel life will be distant memories and some may carry into the transition. Whatever impression it’s made on LPD, it will be part of him. After these first few weeks, I believe it has made him even more resilient and empathetic. I believe the bond of our little family, even when our grumpy dog is grumping, sticks with him and makes him more secure in the knowledge that we are here for one another. We trust each other and we are building a life together.

And this life requires us all to be strong when we feel strong, and be willing to admit to one another when we feel sad and, more importantly, when we need help. It requires us to embrace the positive as we acknowledge the negative.

So I really do hope he remembers the hotel life. I know it has made an impression on him; by virtue of his own good nature, he has made it a positive experience.

— — — —

**I want to acknowledge the fact that compared to this story about a five year-old experiencing life in a budget motel, these are very first world problems.

* When I moved from NYC to LA, everyone warned me that I’d cough for two weeks as I got used to the air. Well, the same warning applies to Florida.

Artists Watch List: Jaeger Christian

I saw this phrase a lot: “Part of what I love about Fringe…..” and one of the parts is watching how artists develop over the years. I like to follow different creators in between Fringe as well, but many only produce for Fringe.

Jaeger Christian is the biggest winner in this category. I was so excited by the idea of his 2014 piece (a new musical about PTSD) that seeing it was very disappointing. He needed a co-writer, a dramaturg, a director…..but something about his heart, his sincerity in the pre-show speech made me pause. It went beyond someone who believes in his work. It didn’t, however, save the show.

So this year I noticed he has two solo shows, The Board and The Backpack. I only saw that The Board existed because it happened to fit into my schedule one night. He went from a new musical to two monologues, still related to the service. I felt that he got the right feedback last year or instinctively knew to return to basics, especially for a Fringe Festival. Focus on the story. He clearly has a lot to say (without being didactic) on the military and I appreciate how he chose to express it this year.

With The Board, he says if you’re into TV shows like “Law & Order,” “Homeland” and “The Shield,” then you’ll like this play. I only know the first one, but he seems right on the money. Sarah Hollis tells the audience her story, who act as her jury. Clearly she’s in trouble for something, but all the whys and wherefores and intricacies aren’t untangled until near the end. Even then, her fate isn’t revealed.

I personally would have preferred it without the marriage story, but it did play into the plot. Overall, the story was completely compelling and I listened to every single word she said on that stage.

The main point here is that if I hadn’t seen the artist at his pre-show speech for last year’s musical, felt something tug at me through his personality and choice of material, then seen that his latest offering fit into my schedule, I wouldn’t have given him another chance. And all those things couldn’t have happened in another space except a Fringe Festival.

Jaeger Christian is now on my Artists Watch List.

I gave this show a #SeeItLA rating. Find more shows on SeeItorSkipItLA.com .

#SeeItorSkipItLA at Hollywood Fringe

See It or Skip It LA is a way to introduce you to the Hollywood Fringe Festival (and other cool art around LA).

Want suggestions for shows to see? Check lists below and listen to podcasts for details.

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#ChanceItLA – our Picks for Hollywood Fringe Festival 2015

#SeeItorSkipItLA
Coverage of 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival
Hosted by Cindy Marie Jenkins ( @cindymariej ) as part of @SeeItorSkipItLA

More info at http://www.seeitorskiptitla.com &
http://cindymariejenkins.com/see-it-or-skip-it-la/

Correspondent Guests:
Sara Fenton (@Fentonova)
Lemuel H. Thornton III (@Lemwerks)
Madeline Rosenstein (@mfrosens)

Shows to #ChanceItLA (click on title for websites):

ALL AGREE:

Four Clowns Presents The Halfwits’ Last Hurrah

LEM

*Jason and Medea

*Getting to Know You

*Hamlet Mobile

 

SARA

*Tiananmen Annie

*The Three Musketeerers: Clowns with Swords

*Skanky Me from Kankakee

MADELINE

*The Blacks a Clown Show (Cindy note: in their Fringe profile page, they claim to be “remounting America’s longest running off-Broadway play”. I think they mean “revive,” not “remount,” as the original off-Broadway production opened in 1961 and this company didn’t produce it. This may have no bearing on their ability to produce a fine piece of art, but a mistake like that does make me hesitate and I personally won’t be prioritizing it. I saw this on their page after we recorded the podcast.)

*5 Sirens Beware of Rocks

*The Devil You Say

*HollywoodFringe.org/free

 

Cindy

*The Voyage of Odysseus

*The Snail

*Romeo & Juliet: An ASL Love Story

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Why Water Falls

50 Shades of Shrew

Marry me a Little (Cindy note – Probably only interesting for Sondheim lovers)

It’s the Prom 

Two Girls, One Bard 

8:03 

Wombat Man

Danny and the Deep Blue Sea

Timeheart by Robot Teammate & Accidental Party

Alien vs Musical

Catherine: Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey in Today’s LA 


Other Correspondents:
Kat Michels (@fictionoftruth)
Courtney Ann Buchan (@CourtneyABuchan)

Sponsored by Theatre Asylum (@TheatreAsylum)

Shakespeare Adaptations – a Pirate Podcast

I noticed quite a few new Shakespeare adaptations that went far beyond the typical change of setting. After

Their pose is way more refined than their conversation.

Their pose is way more refined than their conversation.

seeing even more pop up in this year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival, I invited some artists to discuss the hows, whys and challenges of adapting The Bard.

 

Shakespeare Adaptations on Stage & Screen

Hosted by Cindy Marie Jenkins

A Pirate Podcast (down and dirty) as part of @SeeItorSkipItLA

 

Guests:

“The Hamlet Project’ by Loose Canon Collective LA

Randolph Thompson & Paul Culuo

 

“Titus and Dronicus” by Better Than Shakespeare

Megan Kelly & Madhuri Shekar

 

“Two Girls, One Bard” by The Illyrian Players

Carly Weckstein

 

Sponsored by Theatre Asylum

Produced by Lemuel H. Thornton III

 

Writers from Wonder Con 2015

I had a very limited budget for WonderCon this year (as in, gas and food), and in a way, that caused me to spend more time looking at the art and not just at stuff to buy.

Here is part 1 of my WonderCon adventures: the writers who I want to read soon (* designates for children as well).

If I found them on Twitter, I added to a List: Artists I Really Dig

Each title links to their main website.

 

Llyn Hunter’s Place (Bobcat Publishing)

*specifically for A Little Book of Monsters and A Little Book of Magical Beings

 

IMG_20150405_115755

I liked the artist so much, that I took a photo of her postcard to ensure I didn’t lose it.

M.F.K Comic by* Nilah Magruder

In the country of Rojardin, super-powered psychics are given a choice:

  • Use their powers to serve the government,
  • Become lawless rogues, or
  • Renounce their abilities and live as normal citizens.

Abbie is trying to do the latter, she’s not exactly subtle.

 

*Under the Cottonwood Tree: El Susto de la Curandera

A New Mexican folktale graphic novel

 

Knightingail a fantasy-adventure comic book

 

*Monster Elementary

an all ages, comedy adventure graphic novel

When the FBI closes Desmodus, Lukos, Francesca, Rags and Gilda’s monsters-only school, they are forced by their parents to attend a public school to continue their education.  Now, they must try to fool their classmates and faculty all while navigating the horrors of growing up!

 

Sombulus by C. Major

humorous fantasy adventure in the spirit of Discworld and style of a shounen manga

Sombulus banner

 

*Little Vampires by Rebecca Hicks

Adorable webcomic

Zombie Ranch by Dawn Wolf & Clint Wolf

A Tale of a Weird New West; webcomic that updates every Wednesday

Dream Walker by Jenni Gregory

IMG_20150405_114539

They ran out of cards by Sunday, so I only got a photo: Karen Brinson is a dreamwalker, moving effortlessly through the dreamscapes of family, friends, and even total strangers. No secret is safe, no subconscious thought can be hidden from her. (Click photo for link)