"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)
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” –George Santayana
In The Merchant of Venice, written in 1597, the young Shakespeare again performs his magic, taking elements from Italian tales and contemporary works (Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta) and giving his own spin. His Christians are not merciful heroes, and his Shylock is not a greedy villain. His comedy does not end comfortably. Given today’s news cycle, what better play for us to explore?
We just came back from a trip to Provence, and I couldn’t help but be struck by the overwhelming and historical Christian dominance of everyday life. Whether Catholic or Protestant, it was a Christian world. Anyone else was ‘the other’ and perhaps tolerated, but also feared, and therefore tightly controlled. In the tiny town of Vaison la Romaine there is a sign pointing to ‘La Juiverie’, a narrow, isolated lane – with a huge bolted gate. Today that sign could also point to the African sector or the Asian sector, and not just in the streets, but in our minds. We Americans are no different. Arab, Jew, Gay, Female, Foreign, Intellectual – ‘the other’.
Join us to listen to this brilliant 16th Century portrayal of justice vs. mercy. In today’s darkness of world tension, a shaft of light is most welcome, isn’t it?- Lance Davis
Little Sophie's Misfortunes
Saturday. April 12 at 7 PM
Sunday, April 13 at 3 PM
Lineage Performing Arts, 89 S. Fair Oaks, 91105
Pay What You Will - Reservations, please, so we buy enough cookies
She was the daughter of a Russian military man. Reportedly, he gave the order to burn Moscow to leave nothing for the approaching Napoleon. Her family fled to a town North of Paris, she married the poor but “noble” Comte de Segur, and lived in the Chateau Nouette, half way between Paris and Beauvais.
All accounts say they had an unhappy marriage, with the Count preferring to live in Paris. They somehow managed to have eight children, however, which makes me think his trips to Paris might have only become more frequent as the years went on and the clamor increased around the estate.
It wasn’t until 1858 that the grandmother Comtesse hit her stride as a writer, creating the first of twenty books that were published over her lifetime.
Today at Parson’s Nose we investigate “Little Sophie’s Misfortunes”, cautionary tales, supposedly for children. But I found them about a year ago, and I must say I was immediately attracted to their slightly perverse “Edward Gorey” feel. Little Sophie is a headstrong little girl who has “self control” issues, refusing to make the obedient choice, and suffering disastrous consequences. Whether the good Comtesse mined experiences from her own childhood or from her eight children doesn’t matter. They are universal, classic, and worthy of being placed next to The Baltimore Catechism and Roald Dahl. I love to think of the Comtesse sitting quietly in her writing room, hearing the distant screams of children and nannies from another wing, and quilling the next adventure of her heroine.
Thank you, friends, for all your support this season. We love introducing classic theater to you as an innovative, intimate, fun theater experience and hope you’re finding them enjoyable as well. We are live theater. We need you. Please be sure to let us know how to stay in touch. - LD
I’ve never seen a production of Chekhov’s major plays that I’ve enjoyed. Granted, I haven’t seen that many. Robert Moulton’s production of “The Seagull”, the Guthrie’s “Uncle Vanya” in '69, Interact Theater’s “Cherry Orchard”, to name several. All very earnest, respectable, but I wasn’t moved to either laughter or tears. At Parson’s Nose we had a lot of fun presenting two of his farces, “The Boor” and “The Marriage Proposal”, works that are usually performed by amateur companies, considered lesser works, a perception we disproved. And that experience encouraged me to keep digging. I can’t believe that the same guy who had such a lively sense of humor in those works could produce such heavy handed soap operas as most companies present. I think the Moscow Art Theater and Stanislavski have done Anton a disservice. To me, it’s as if we played Chris Durang as serious drama.
The more I read of Chekhov’s short stories, such as “A Play” and “Anna on the Neck” and “The Teacher of Literature”, the more convinced I become that he had a wicked sense of humor underlying much of his work, and that he reveled in the incongruity of the human comedy. His plays are tragicomedies. His characters are comic because they choose their fates as surely as if they picked up a gun and shot a seagull for no reason other than to unsuccessfully release the pain of unrequited love. The key, I think, is tragicomedy. What we laugh at as character's obsessions in the first act turns into the source of pain when we see its effect in the fourth.
It’s difficult to get today’s actors to approach Chekhov in a new way. Our actors are often trained in "real" as opposed to "true". Previous productions, including the Moscow film series, have ingrained a sense of somber “Realism” to the playing, as if they’re doing a combination of “Lower Depths” and “One Life to Live”. And I don’t think the “Realism” helps. Where’s Meyerhold when you need him?
I don’t know if we’ll have enough time to find a fully realized acting style that works in time for Saturday night’s reading. It will probably take weeks of rehearsal and experimentation. But if there ever was a company that was up to the challenge of investigating this master dramatist in a new way, Parson’s Nose is the one. Do come join us and explore this splendid work.
By Lance Davis