"The duty of comedy is to correct men by amusing them." - JBP
"Les Femmes Savantes" was written and performed by Jean Baptiste Poquelin (Moliere) in 1672, just a year before his death. It borrows several elements from his infamous "Tartuffe". The "salons" of Louis XIV's court, hosted by ladies of the nobility, had become more powerful, partially because with 5000 nobles at Versailles there had to be some way of establishing a pecking order. Louis himself had created an Academy of the best minds. He also established an elaborate system of etiquette and fashion to keep the nobility's competitive nature - and their wealth - occupied. His initial transfer of the capital from the Louvre to Versailles, twelve miles outside of Paris was to isolate those who had endangered both his and his mother's lives in their rebellion - the Fronde - in the days of his young regency. The salons were an extension of his demand for civility, refinement, and control.
In "Ladies", Moliere once again explores Obsession and its interference with Nature. (It's interesting how often comedy, while celebrating eccentricity, can appear remarkably conservative in it support of the status quo.) Nature has often, of course, been portrayed as the ideal - Aquinas' "middle way"; Hamlet's "hold the mirror up to Nature"; Hippocrates' "first, do no harm". In Moliere obsession at first appears comical, even silly, but there is always an underlying current of danger - what might appear harmless can lead to chaos for innocent bystanders. In "The Imaginary Invalid" and "The Flying Doctor" Moliere isn't against doctors but quackery. In "The Too Learned Ladies" he isn't against women or honest intellectual exploration but the fake science and pretension of Cosmology, Alchemy, and Egyptology. Philaminte's salon is not intended to further knowledge but to serve as a platform for her power. "We will decide what words can be used! We will define humor!" And her acute desire for stature almost destroys the happiness of her daughter, Henriette.
Moliere knows where his bread is buttered. He takes a moment in each of his plays to reflect on the wisdom of Louis XIV and his court. In doing so he may, at first glance, appear sycophantic, but I think he and Louis also agreed that aristocratic pomposity had to be kept in check, and that the people sometimes needed the firm protective hand that only an all-seeing monarch could provide. "The Too Learned Ladies" is a reflection on the rewards of tolerance and love.
Join us for our first production in our new home! The Parson's Nose Abbey!
“He must have lied a little. I mean, you can’t speak without some lying.”
In 1835 the Ukrainian short story writer Nikolai Gogol wrote his friend, Alexander Pushkin, requesting a theme for a new comedy. Pushkin sent his notes from an incident in which he was once mistaken for a government inspector, wooed by a mayor and flirted with by the mayor’s wife and daughter. Gogol expanded the notes into “The Government Inspector”, a scathingly comic indictment of corruption and greed in a small Russian town. It couldn’t be more timely.
The Mayor of Kraszny calls his cohorts together and announces an inspector has been sent to investigate the district. They then find out he’s already there, and has been there, snooping around, for two weeks. The “inspector”, of course, is a penniless clerk named Khlestokov who is only too happy to enjoy the town’s overly - gracious welcome.
"Inspector"'s characters are fun to work with as an adaptor, especially because, as Gogol’s commentators expressed, “Not one of them is worthy of sympathy.” When the play was refused a production by the censors Tsar Nicholas himself stepped in and demanded to see it, assuring its success. Afterward, the imperial leader was heard to comment, “He goes after everybody! Especially me!”
PNT presents “Government Inspector” as a “dark” comedy. It’s not farce, Feydeau or Neil Simon. We see it as having very real motivations and play it that way. Our designers use a relatively neutral palate, with Jen Orsini using blacks, greys and blues in her delightful, Braqueish, pop-up backdrop, and Marly Hall using reds only in the occasional babushka or sash in her costumes. We’re trying to add depth to the nightmare, and let the comedy take care of itself. We ask the audience to keep up with our fast-paced story, pausing only, perhaps, to ask, “Did he just say that!?” With Gogol's answer, "Yes."
Come join us. Tell us what you think. A discussion of corruption should be especially invigorating in the times in which we live.
"ANNCR: Once again, we bring you “The Romance of Helen Trent”, who sets out to prove for herself what so many women long to prove - that because a woman is 35 or more, romance in life need not be over - that romance can live in life at 35 and after."
In keeping with our mission to introduce classic works - mostly comedy - in an intimate, understandable, cabaret style, we take great pleasure in presenting classic works of Old Time Radio. Radio was a medium that relied on "the word" and the imagination, on the ability to listen and let the mind take flight. And that's what theater does. We can't show you a better Planet Mongo than the one you can imagine. So throughout the year, while we're rehearsing shows or between shows, we'll delve into our bag of "Readers' Theater" projects that can be mounted quickly, informally, yet well, and allow our accomplished professional company to dazzle you with their talents. No set or costumes, just great entertainment. Please join us in our first outing in our new space - The Parson's Nose Abbey Theater in Pasadena.
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!
By Lance Davis