Oscar Wilde was a glorious comet across the literary night sky of Victorian England. His parents were Anglo-Irish, but his mother wrote fiercely pro - Irish poetry ("The Famine Year") He was highly-educated and moved easily, wittily and flamboyantly through London society. He was a champion of the "Aesthetic Movement", a reaction to the Utilitarianism of the Industrial Age, and best summarized in the motto "Art for Art's Sake." Beauty is its own reason for being, and needs not be tied to moral or socio-political themes.
After "Lady Windermere's Fan" and "A Woman of No Importance", Wilde hit his comedic stride with "The Importance of Being Earnest". Unfortunately his triumph coincided with a scandal that took London by storm - the accusation by Lord Douglas, the Marquess of Queensbury, of Wilde's alleged seduction of Douglas' twenty one year old son.
The opening night audience of "Earnest" in 1895 was a "who's who" of the upper class and literati, yet, unfortunately, it marked the zenith of his illustrious rise. Although Lord Douglas, who threatened to assault the playwright with rotten vegetables, was turned away, the scandal grew over the following weeks. Society was embarrassed. Wilde's best play would close after 86 performances; he would be dragged through a humiliating trial for his homosexuality, sent to prison ("The Ballad of Reading Gaol"), and die penniless in Paris within five years, at the age of 46. He is buried at Pere Lachaise.
There are many ways to explore Earnest. Beneath the razor wit, a "piece a clef" about secret relationships and double lives. An attack on the excesses of gentility. A full out expose of prevailing thought on fashion, marriage and aristocracy.
"The Importance of Being Earnest" is the work of an Irish rebel, a verbal swashbuckler battling Church, Society, Fashion, Elitism and Morality with the best de Bergerac panache. Join us. Reservations strongly suggested. - LD
A PNT Readers' Theater presentation
When we were growing up in Philadelphia in the 1950s there was a very popular TV show, "Mama", that we never missed. Perhaps because our own mother had died and we instinctively reached out for any story about a family. It was also funny and we identified with the kids.
It took place in San Francisco around 1910. The Hansons were simple, honest, hard working, people, who had to count pennies. "Yes, we can send Nels to high school!" It was based on a book, "Mama's Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes, and had been a very popular Broadway play by Van Druten and an Oscar nominated film starring Irene Dunne.
But the link with today is its portrayal of every mother's innate dedication to guiding and sustaining her family, no matter the cost. Papa's problems, her children's problems, were her problems. And even her respect for law and order and society's rules could give way to a higher law - the right thing for her family. Children are taught self worth as well as obedience. Sitting at a table reading "Treasure Island" with the family can keep a boy off the streets. A too expensive graduation present can teach about selfishness. That grumbling uncle everyone fears can become a friend indeed.
In America we are all immigrants. We all came from somewhere else, even from across the Alaska peninsula. We came because we had to, or wanted to find a new home. All we ask is to be allowed to work, to raise our families, to enjoy life, to worship our God, or not. Our ancestors' families invariably suffered greatly and sacrificed much to set us on our path. And the mothers led those families, no matter what the papas might say. Happy Mothers' Day, for we all had mothers.
What the heck is going on at Parson’s Nose? Well, a great deal, actually, and it’s all good! You all know that we finally found our home, after sixteen gypsy years on the road, setting up and taking down for each performance, whether at Pasadena Playhouse, Lineage Dance, Pacific Asia, The Geffen, Interact, Fremont Center, Jameson Brown Coffee, or 130 LAUSD and PUSD schools. We searched for over a year, led by tireless real estate agent Matt Quintero and developer Mike Bollenbacher (Lincoln Restaurant) who’ve been invaluable. The PNT Board had their ears out, and now, thanks to some nifty sleuthing by Gale Schaper Gordon, board chair Barry Gordon's wife, we have a beautifully charming, intimate space, all ours, at 95 N. Marengo Avenue (enter on Holly), in the ivy-covered brick chapel of an old mortuary, two blocks from City Hall and the Memorial Park Metro station in Pasadena. “It’s beautiful!” and it even has a bar and a ghost.
We closed our lease on the space in October, and since then we’ve been putting it in compliance with city regulations, soon to be completed, and also painting and moving and soundproofing, and still managing to put workshops and readings together to let those on our eblast list get a preview glimpse. We haven't been able to advertise of course until we've been declared official by the city.
We kicked off in November with a couple of community and board get-togethers, then our annual readings of “A Christmas Carol”, then in January kicked off our New Play Reading Series with Hoyt Hilsman’s very timely “America the Beautiful”, then in February a performance by moi of the medieval morality play “Everyman”, then in March “An Irish Celebration” of poetry, music and humor, and then kicked off our PNT Radio Theater Series with “The Lone Ranger”, “Flash Gordon” and “Dragnet”. We’ve also continued our Readers’ Theater Workshops with Pasadena Village and Villa Gardens, and even helped out a bit with Marissa Quiroz’s Pasadena High Drama Group.
What we haven’t been able to do, unfortunatley, without city approval is our full public production “Clearly Shakespeare: Twelfth Night”, which we’ve regrettably postponed until September. After much deliberation we decided we want to have the space finished, dressing rooms fitted out and lights up, ready for a paying audience.
The good news is that we're planning lots of “workshop” events to keep us busy and you entertained, including Greg White’s delightful “Mark Twain and Friends: A River Journey”, PNT Radio “Dracula”, “Alice in Wonderland” and another “Flash Gordon” for starters. We’ll have a Broadway singalong night and several other exotic events. I’m working now on several Dickens projects as well as plays by Gogol and Moliere piece that are all ready to go.
The idea is to have something going all the time while we bring The Abbey up to snuff and ready for full production. We want PNT to become a fun, smart, informal and constant pin in your event calendar. We thank you for your patience, your loyalty, and your support. This is a big step forward for all of us. – Lance Davis
"The winter seems so cold and dark this year, Mother." "Is it because you are waiting for the Festival of the Light?"
That was the opening line of "The Festival of the Light" as performed by my sisters Terry and Timmy and I and our friend Garland in the basement theater of Garland's carriage house in Media, PA when we were in our preteens. We never really got a production on because we lost interest, probably about the time we found out lebkuchen cakes didn't have any chocolate in them, but it sums up the"waiting" we're doing over at Parson's Nose.
The board decided last Fall that we could go ahead and find our own home for PNP, aided greatly by the incentive of a $100K Challenge Grant from one of our most gracious donors, who asks to remain anonymous. Don't get me wrong, we've loved being partners with the ladies of Lineage Dance, but after 16 years the gypsies deserve a home. So we've been fundraising successfully - you could put us over the top - and looking at every possible venue in Pasadena for about a year.
And now we think we have one that would be superb. All we have to do is wait and pray. In commercial real estate this is the default posture, apparently. Things take sooooo long to materialize, and then disappear because the old man who owns the space doesn't want to clean the 45 years of motor oil out of the concrete, or the kids want to lease because Grandpa is 90 and almost electrocuted everyone in the shop last week , but he doesn't want to retire.
So we have found - fingers crossed - a space. It's in Old Pasadena. There is parking nearby. It has great charm and a coffee bar and we can supply the rest. It's a place where we can build sets that don't have to be taken down, and have sound and lights we can practice with whenever we want, and where we can rehearse, and sing, and have radio nights, and readers theater nights and classic theater nights, and lectures, if they're fun, and maybe watch "The Hollow Crown".
But we have to pass through the rooms of bronze and silver and gold, and they're guarded by dogs with saucer eyes. So until we guess the right passwords we wait. We wait in hope and faith, and with full hearts of thanks to all of you.
Death. The inevitability no one wants to meet, but in the backs of our minds is always there. When and where, no one knows. But we get an occasional glimpse at "the other side". Dickens, in his Christmas Carol, gives us yet another warning - if the major religions haven't sunk in - that it's not so much a matter of what happens after, but what happens now. As the anonymous author of Everyman tells us from the 15th Century, we have no control over the hereafter, but we can know what it is to be fully present here, and that has much to do with love of all mankind, friendship, respect, helping others, enjoying the bonbons we're lucky enough to receive, and saying thank you as anything else. Marley seems beyond saving, but perhaps his visit to Scrooge will allow him "to get his wings" as Frank Capra would have it. By turning one life in the right direction he might make so many other lives happier, and that ripple will spread as wide as moonlight on a snowy London town. It falls on everyone. Take a moment every day to touch someone, praise someone, encourage someone. It takes nothing, like Fezziwig's party, yet it means everything. Note to self: don't just say it; do it.
The mischievous, Irish genius George Bernard Shaw couldn’t occupy all of the soapboxes at London’s Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner at the same time – so he wrote plays. Each of his characters articulates one of his views, and his plays give them a forum. And as a wily playwright who knows the limitations of prolonged dialogue, Shaw often delightfully interrupts Act 2 with a captured burglar or a downed aviatrix.
Shaw’s source for “Androcles and the Lion” was Aesop’s famous tale of a Greek tailor who helps a lion, who later remembers the kindness and spares the tailor’s life. In Shaw’s version the tailor is a newborn Christian who is sentenced to “death by lion” in Caesar’s Coliseum. The ploy allows GB to poke his spoon into the stew of faith, religion, martyrdom, loyalty, kindness and patriotism, and give it a quick stir, allowing Realists and Idealists to bubble together.
Shaw sets his play in Rome. But I believe that, as in Shakespeare’s mind, Rome is London. The theme of “empire” and its demands are thinly veiled. And I’ve take the extra step of framing our Parson’s Nose production in the play’s 1912 era, with a British music hall, comic atmosphere – “The Boy in the Gallery”, “I’ve Got a Loverly Bunch of Coconuts” and “Don’t Go in the Lion’s Cage Tonight, Mother”. As they say, and Shaw knew, “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down!” We hope you enjoy our effort, and thank you for being the other half of our live Parson’s Nose experience.
Join us! Six delightful comedies you should know!
In our convivial, professional, 90 minute, broad-stroke style!
September: Our 2015 Fundraiser “A Taste of Shakespeare” at the home of Dr. Mario and Therese Molina, was a huge, fun success. Thanks to all who came and who helped make it possible, especially Mary Chalon, Kim Besen and Nora Frankovich.
October: We open our production of George Bernard Shaw’s comic fable “Androcles and the Lion”. In Lance Davis’ timely adaptation a gentle dentist is threatened by a wounded lion. Sound familiar?
December: Mr. Dickens himself would enjoy our Readers’ Theater presentation of “Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story”, in which we highlight some of his finest descriptive passages.
February: Moliere’s “School for Wives!”. Creepy Arnolphe has created the perfect wife! His own ward, the lovely Agnes, raised in ignorance in a convent! But a giddy young idiot, Horace, enters the scene, and, of course, Love conquers all!
March: A reading of “The Wind in the Willows”, Kenneth Grahame’s idyllic tale of pre-war England, Mole, Rat, Badger, and the creatures of The Riverbank.
April: We’ll close our season with a production of “As You Were: Stories for GIs in WW2” - a “knapsack book” of American stories and poems, for our service men and women, compiled by Alexander Woollcott. Twain, O Henry, Whitman, Katherine Taylor, with a few tunes thrown in.
May: SideStreet Project’s “NEA: Our Town”. Parson’s Nose will present a reading of Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize winning classic, “Our Town” in the rotunda of Pasadena City Hall, featuring local talent from Northwest Pasadena and PNP company members!
Two exciting new projects: The PNT Academy and The Senior Theater Workshop.
Plus one major announcement. Stay tuned!
Performances at Lineage Performing Arts, 89 S. Fair Oaks, Pasadena, CA 91105
Saturday Evenings at 7. Sunday Matinees at 3.
All events “Pay What You Will”, thanks to your donations! Keep ‘em comin’!
See you at the theater!
We are delighted to end our 15th season with a seldom - seen British classic from the pen of Mr. Thomas Taylor.
"Our American Cousin" was one of 100 plays that Taylor wrote in a long career that began as a player with the Cambridge University drama society and continued as editor of the famous satirical magazine, Punch.
The theme of “Cousin” is a classic “fish out of water” story, the “rube” in a “cultured” land – Candide, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Alice in Wonderland - and continuing right up to today's “Downton Abbey” where the young Canadian comes to inherit the English estate and disrupt tradition, much to the shock of the Old Guard.
I feel a personal affinity to the play because of its famous historical affiliation. Our Davis family lore claims that a great – great uncle named Delaney engineered the audience train shuttle from Baltimore to Washington on the night of April 14, and was playing cards in the Ford Theater “Green Room” when the infamous Booth ran through.
And while the theater tradition maintains that Booth, an actor, knew that the loudest, shot-muffling laugh would come on the line "You sockdologizing old mantrap", I have to say I suspect the line "Better than sweet cider right out of the bung hole!" was the dialogue of infamy.
Of course it was a tragic night that will forever be marked in American history. But while taking nothing away from its importance I’d also like to give a tip of the hat to a wonderful playwright who wrote a lovely comedy that deserves to be seen.
Please join us at www.parsonsnose.com
Our American Cousin
89 South Fair Oaks Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91105
"Pay What You Will" ($20 suggested)
Running time: 75 minutes plus intermission
Saturday Evenings at 7, April 4, 11, 18
Sunday Matinees at 3, April 5, 12 and 19
“Dey tink deir cheese don’t stink! Dey tink deir cheese don’t stink!
Dey tink deir cheese smells like perfume. Dey tink deir cheese don’t stink!”
"The Pied Piper of Hamlin". One of our greatest stories. The legend of a German town that loses its children, who are led away by a mysterious “piper” to a nearby mountain that closes over them. How could that happen? Where were the parents? Who was this “piper”, this “ratcatcher”? This isn’t about the children, it’s about the adults.
We have a very funny, raucous, slapstick production for you. Two rival dysfunctional families, the Klutzes and the Butzes are so busy making money from their cheese they ignore their children. Join us for an hour of laughter, song, and maybe a tear.
“ In Kinderland, in Kinderland there’s no hunger and no need…”
"The Pied Piper of Hamlin"
Book and music by Lance Davis
Arranged by Michael Faulkner
Lineage Performing Arts Center
89 S. Fair Oaks Avenue, Pasadena CA 91105
Reservations: www.parsonsnose.com or 626-403-7667
"Pay what you will"/ Running time One hour/ Ages 8+
"Your Children are the Most precious things you have! I know!" - the Piper
Ukraine. Murietta. Baghdad... Hamlin.
When did our leaders stop strapping on their armor and riding at the front of the battle, instead of voting yea or nay in a marble hall thousands of miles away? When did our fathers and mothers decide it was perfectly reasonable for our teenagers to fly off to die for us? When did we decide that “collateral damage” was just a necessary reality? "Tsk tsk tsk."
We applaud stories of the crafty American “Minute Men” of our own "revolution” who picked off the dumbfounded British “lobsterbacks” and then slipped merrily back to the anonymity of their farms. But we scorn the diabolical tactics of guerilla “insurgents” who harass our highly sophisticated “smart” armies. Perhaps drones are the answer, saving our children at the expense of theirs. The horror of war, nightly watched from the safety of the bunker control room, or in the HD TV room where we can fast forward at will. Men come back, but they're no longer children.
The story of the children of Hameln remains a mystery. What happened 800 years ago in that little part of Eastern Europe? What deals were made? What compromises? What were their priorities and why didn’t anyone keep a record? If we don’t pay attention to history, we’ll repeat it. We’re doing it now.
At Parson's Nose we're performing what we think is a funny, outrageous, musical telling of the legend. Kids love it. Parents do too. We hope you'll come see it.
“So there you have it. It’s a good story isn’t it? The town and the rats and the children. But it’s only a story, ja?” – Gustav the Rat (LD)
By Lance Davis