Life of Pi

Life of Pi

by Yann Martel
a kate west favorite

A profoundly moving novel, "Life of Pi" will touch you like no other. Piscine Molitor Patel (PI, as in 3.14), loves his childhood in India. Not only does his father run a zoo, which is glorious, but he also has wise tutors and a loving family to help him become a man. He learns everything there is to know about animals, from an emotional and clinical perspective. No anthropomizing here. All of these experiences in imagination help him greatly when he needs them the most. It is also a novel that explores all aspects of humanity and delves into the nature of religion. And Pi studies them all.

The most amazing adventure of his life begins during the family migration to Canada (complete with menagerie). Pi ends up lost at sea. It is there where he can truly test his worth, in the most surreal, beautiful and savage way possible. The poetic prose is as lyric as the Pacific Ocean itself and Pi only has the words inside his own head to cling to. It would not be fair to describe the journey, or the aftermath, or any of the various conclusions you might come to as a reader. In spite of over three hundred pages of philosophizing, we still do not quite know what is real in the end. Better to read it for yourself and give Pi the ending you think he deserves.

First publised in 2001 and winner of the Man Booker Prize, "Life of Pi" is an unforgettable experience and you will reflect on it for months afterwards. Don't think about the fact that someone now wants to make a movie out of it. Enjoy the original.

On Amazon:
Life of Pi Read more!

An Inconvenient Truth

An Inconvenient Truth
a kate west reflection

If you haven't seen former Vice President Al Gore's movie by now, God help you when you're baking in the record-breaking heat each summer and freezing in unprecedented colder and colder winters. Our dependency on domestic and foreign oil will be our undoing as America consistently fails to be the environmental leader we know we should be. Other nations have adopted "green" standards and as the wealthiest superpower, we should have done so as well, a long time ago. Solar and wind power are only two options. More hybrid cars, more fuel alternatives - these are all no-brainers! To have to fight against corporate lobbyists who deny their countrymen the freedom to help the planet is criminal. Yes, global warming is real. The rest of the world is already well aware of it.

The movie is in documentary style, with charts and graphs and lectures by Al Gore and a team of scientists and it's all fascinating. And important. Hopefully, most of us already know most of this already - melting glaciers, disappearing species, more droughts, fires, heat waves, hurricanes and all kinds of other natural disasters coming our way. It's not too late to help the next generation though. Start today.

For more info, catch "The Green" on the Sundance Channel ( and "Planet Earth" on the Discovery Channel (

Listen to Al Gore - this time he really knows what he's talking about. You know that this, along with universal health care, will be the main political issues next election, right?

Directed by

Davis Guggenheim

Produced by
Lawrence Bender .... producer
Scott Z. Burns .... producer
Lesley Chilcott .... co-producer
Lesley Chilcott .... line producer
Davis Guggenheim .... executive producer
Jeffrey D. Ivers .... executive producer (as Jeff Ivers)
Laurie Lennard .... producer (as Laurie David)
Jeff Skoll .... executive producer
Ricky Strauss .... executive producer
Diane Weyermann .... executive producer Read more!

The Rockettes

Radio City Christmas Spectacular
starring The Rockettes
a kate west review
directed & choreographed by
Linda Haberman
musical director Mark Hummel
at Radio City Music Hall
1260 6th Avenue, New York, NY 10020

running Holidays November 2006 - January 2007
contact (212) 247-4777; OR

Looking for Americana holiday cheez at its best? Look no further than New York's own Radio City Music Hall, home of the legendary Rockettes, always sure to tap dance their little hearts out to sold out audiences.

Charles Edward Hall is Santa Claus and host spectacular. He narrates the basic Christmas story of bringing holiday cheer from the North Pole to New York City. Along the way, the girls perform their famous precision dances, jumping in and out of costume changes. You'll see a 3D projection of Santa's Sleigh, dancing bears in "The Nutcracker" scene, wooden soldiers (with the Rockettes falling on each other domino-style), multiple dancing Santas, real ice-skating and a reverent Nativity scene. Frank Krenz provides charming costuming while Scenic Designer Dawn Robyn Petrlik almost steals the show with revolving platforms, a pop-up ice skating rink and fast set changes.

It's a spectacular show, but fair warning – it's corny too. The show hasn't changed much since it's inception decades ago and it's even more popular today, as evidenced by the tedious long lines you'll have to stand in just to get into the lobby. It's something to see once in your life or to bring your out-of-town relatives, but you probably won't need to see it twice. The girls are great and Musical Director Mark Hummel keeps the tunes hopping with fine choreography by Linda Haberman, but again, you really have to be in the mood for old-fashioned holiday ideals, including a very traditional Christian look at December 25th. But there are real camels, donkeys and sheep, plus beautiful lighting by David Agress.

Thankfully, it is short, and your kids will definitely dig it. So if you're in need of commercial holiday immersion, go to it. And don't forget to try out those 3D glasses in your program. And of course, any aspiring little dancers will get a kick out of it. And maybe someone will even ask you, as they say in the popular local television commercial, "First show?" Read more!

Edward Scissorhands

Edward Scissorhands
a kate west review
directed & choreographed by Matthew Bourne
original story by Tim Burton
music & arrangements by Terry Davies
original themes by Danny Elfman
at the Ahmanson Theatre, 135 North Grand Ave, Los Angeles 90012
running December 2006; contact (213) 628-2772 / CenterTheatreGroup.Org

Brooding Goth man-child Tim Burton (with writer Caroline Thompson) created the cult film Edward Scissorhands, forever memorable for its childlike magical wonder. The decision to transition from screen to stage could only work with someone as in tune with childhood beauty and fantasy. Matthew Bourne, cult leader in his own right (from such innovative takes on “Swan Lake” and “The Nutcracker”), is the perfect choice. Both artists identify with the societal problems of being brilliant but different and their creative ingenuity match nicely.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Edward Scissorhands (Richard Winsor) is a boy with scissors for hands, created by an inventor as a companion in his old age. When his mentor dies, he is forced to fend for himself and discovers a retro-1950’s suburban heaven outside his dark castle.

Initially fearful of each other, Edward and the neighbors learn to co-exist, in no small part due to the acceptance of one of the prominent families, the Boggs. As an added bonus, Edward falls for their teenage daughter Kim (Kerry Biggin), and eventually wins her over. Meanwhile, Edward becomes the popular local hair stylist, at last finding one use for his talented scissorhands. His fearful nightmare appearance hides a fragile and vulnerable heart and it is this juxtaposition that makes the story so interesting. Kim’s boyfriend Jim (Adam Gabraith) is one of the people who misunderstands him, ultimately causing a series of disastrous events.

As usual, director/choregrapher Bourne uses no dialogue, relying instead on the emotion of the music and the passion of the dancers. The ensemble is strong, especially the two leads, Richard Winsor and Kerry Biggin, and their supporting cast delves delightfully into Bourne’s amazing choreography. Lez Brotherston’s set and costumes are a visual feast, with vibrant colors and fantastical shapes of hedges and landscaped manicured houses. Bourne’s trademark humor shows in many ways; for instance, in one scene the dancers walk in and out of tiny set houses. Terry Davies (“A Play Without Words”) maintains the musical integrity of Danny Elfman’s film score, while adding his own appropriate jazzy style. Also, Howard Harrison’s lighting sets the mood evenly between dark and light and in the end we even get snow.

Tim Burton’s essential cinematic story remains the same, from the old woman “narrator” to the man-eating husband stealer. Not only is it a modern fairy tale, but also a microcosm of social stereotypes. Edward, with his awkward appendages, is the least able to physically touch anyone but the most able to reach people with his heart. The rest of the townspeople don’t seem to learn this in the end with the exception of a few - so like life. Edward retires to his empty castle, leaving the others to wonder about him from time to time. Kim, of course, is profoundly changed, and becomes his guardian angel in the end.

The film and the play may be of different styles, but are alike in their touching tale of humanity. And both hold the essential appeal of a storybook romance. Plus Bourne's "Edward Scissorhands" is a great holiday event and appeals to all audiences, drawing a younger, newer crowd to Los Angeles theater, which is never a bad thing.

Burton's Original Movie:
Edward Scissorhands (Widescreen Anniversary Edition)

Read more!

Friendly Skies?

a kate west reflection

I'm sure everyone else agrees and that this issue has been talked about to death, but can I just say again that flying really sucks? Less and less leg room, more and more delays, longer and longer security lines and rude and harried staff. Talk about lousy customer service. They overbook to make money and then they lose your luggage? Is anyone old enough to remember when flying was a grand experience and people dressed up to make the journey, just like on a long ocean voyage? Those days are gone and no romantic travel is left, except maybe railway and that's just another commuter line. How did we let this happen? No business regulation? Airlines know we have to fly so they can pretty much treat us any way they want. Seems like we're pretty much trapped.

Although Virgin Atlantic now offers more space, plus a way to IM the cute guy in Row D. At least that way, you're distracted from everything else that's such a pain. Seems the coolest way to go. If you have to go at all, I suppose.

Still beyond frustrated? Go here: Read more!

Liz Martinez Nelson - Artist

Liz Martinez Nelson
a kate west recommendation

Liz Martinez Nelson is an up and coming fresh new voice in art hip. Her debut December show in San Diego featured some of her most interesting and best work, including "Pink Dress", a stunning portrait of a reclining woman, in vibrant pinks, blues and yellow-orange. Using acrylic and mixed media, her pieces are young and captivating. Deceptively simple, they draw you into their hidden emotional undercurrents.

(Pink Dress)

Art Show and Sale
Fri Dec 8th 6-10pm
5000 N Harbor Dr
San Diego, CA

(King Kitty) Read more!

Advice for Actors from Backstage West

Looking Good on Paper

A sound resume can make a difference

by Andrew Salomon

Oct 25, 2006

So much of what contributes to actors' success lies beyond their grasp: current tastes and trends, an agent's diligence, a casting director's mood. Advice from industry insiders is essentially thus: Concentrate on what you can control and leave the rest alone. Even if actors pay attention to that bromide, however, they'll hear it so often they'll begin to tune it out.

So let's talk about what you can control, what you can literally touch and shape -- that 8-by-10 piece of paper that sums up who you are: the resume. According to agents, casting directors, directors, and educators -- in other words, the people who sift through hundreds of headshots a week -- a resume should function just as an actor should at an audition: clearly, honestly, and with an absence of fuss. "Don't obsess too much about it," Natalie Skelton, the school administrator for the Groundlings, a Los Angeles-based improv company, wrote in an email. "We just need to know a little bit about your background and a picture to remember you by, since we audition hundreds and hundreds of students." This is not to say a resume shouldn't command an actor's time and attention. It must, because, in addition to your self and your headshot, it's one of the few things that tells the industry exactly who you are.

"I do look at credits," writes Stewart Schulman, who has directed many plays in New York, L.A., and regionally. "If one or two things 'pop' to separate them from most of the other talent that you're looking at or auditioning, or in some way legitimizes them in your mind, then that may give them the shot for the audition or actually give them the part."

The Lies That Bind

Nevertheless, other than clearly presenting the details of their career -- work, training, union affiliations, and representation -- there isn't much that actors can put on a resume that will elevate them above the pile. Above all, actors should never lie, even though they do it "all the time," according to Skelton.

"Students have claimed to be Groundlings company members when they weren't," she writes. "The only way to become a Groundling is to go through all the levels of the Groundlings School and then get voted into the company from the Sunday Company by current company members. So many people say they are Groundlings when they have only taken one or two classes here.… Remember, we have a lot of real former Groundlings out there in the industry, so you might find yourself lying to a prominent casting director one day."

Joan Lynn, of Joan Lynn Casting in New York, once auditioned an actor who listed on his resume a certain play with a prominent New York company. Lynn knew he hadn't done the work, because she had cast that play herself.


"If an actor lies," Lynn says, "I will never see that person again. Ever. And it's a small world out there. Word gets around; people talk." Another thing that irritates her is when actors "write that they're 'SAG eligible,' " referring to the Screen Actors Guild. "Well, anybody can be eligible. Don't write that until you're officially in SAG or AFTRA or Equity.... I love actors. I really do. But it's upsetting when people fib."

An Obsession

Back Stage sent queries to actors around the country to get their perspectives on the resume-writing process. The consensus seems to be that actors do, in fact, obsess about this. When asked, "How much time and thought have you put into writing your resume?," most answers reflected equal parts diligence and anguish: "Tons." "Constantly." "About 15 hours, give or take, a day." "Three years." "Years."

Mandi Bedbury of New York wrote, "Hours!!! Days!!! Years!!! The thing that frustrates me, however, is that as much as you want to make it your own, there is still a 'cookie cutter' layout that you have to use to make the casting directors' lives easier."

Indeed. CDs, agents, directors, and other gatekeepers simply want an actor's resume to get to the point. At the top should be the vital statistics: name, height, weight, hair and eye color, vocal range, phone number (only one), and email address. Never list your Social Security number, Lynn says: "People only need that after you've booked a job."

Also, list your union affiliations and the name of your agent and/or manager, but only if you have a signed contract with them, she says: "Don't say you're represented by an agency if you're only freelancing for them. I've called up agents and mentioned actors' names and they'd say, 'Who?' Not only does it make you look bad, it makes me look bad, and that makes me angry."

After the vital statistics, there is a generally accepted order in which actors' work should appear, Lynn says: theatre, film/television, commercials, education/training, and special skills.

"I was lucky to have found a great format early on and have stuck with it," writes New York actor Suzanne Du Charme, whose resume hews closely to what Lynn suggests. "In fact, when Phil Rosenthal [the creator of Everybody Loves Raymond] was starting out, he was trying to be an actor.… I worked with his mom. One day, Phil came into the office and asked me for help putting together his resume, since he liked the format of mine so much. I actually typed his first resume for him."

'Husband, Father, Psycho'

One issue for many actors is how to specifically define the work they've done. With so many plays and independent films out there that no one has heard of, let alone seen, much of what an actor lists on a resume can seem irrelevant. But actors should indicate whether the role was a lead or a featured part. (Don't, Skelton says, list your work as an extra.)

Russell Hess, an actor in Sarasota, Fla., received a tip from a casting director that takes it one step further: Describe each of your roles. For instance, Hess worked in an independent film, Hymns of You, that was made by Sail Forth Productions. He played the character Harrison Morgan. In addition to the word "lead," he put "lonely, frustrated husband." For another movie, Unearthed, Hess played Frank Bruer, "overzealous detective." Other types he has played include "husband, father, psycho," "hitman/heroin dealer," and "aimlessly wandering young man."

"If you do an indie film and nobody's ever heard of it," Hess writes, "then how will they know what type of role you played as Henry from Who Stole My Toenail Clippings? Now, if you have that same line, same title, and you put 'Henry -- homosexual, lumberjack, heroin dealer,' that says something, or better yet, it poses questions."

Does It Really Matter?

As for how seriously the actors think members of the industry consider their resumes when giving out auditions or jobs, the reactions were mixed.

"So many projects…need to be booked so quickly that casting directors just need to cull out actors who don't fit the breakdowns," Du Charme writes. "But at theatre auditions, for example, they always look at the resume. Well, almost always."

"When I get a resume for a project I'm developing, I read the resume, but I've heard others don't even turn the headshot over," writes Hess, who is also a producer and writer. "For my purposes, I like to read the resumes so I can see what they've done.… If you know what to look for, you can tell if you think they'll be good on set."

Has their resume ever made a difference in getting them a job or an audition? "I don't think so," writes John Joseph Gomes of Rhode Island. "I've heard more from directors and casting directors about being called in for an audition because of my 'unique' look. Whatever that means."

But for Du Charme, that piece of paper has turned the key "quite a few times." "Once I was auditioning for a Shakespeare company, and the director read my resume right then and there. She said, 'Oh, I see you've worked with so-and-so. I've also worked with him.' We got to talking, and I got the part." Schulman maintains that resumes can and do influence his choices as a director. "If you're in callbacks, or post-callbacks and deciding on your final cast, you do often refer to the resume to see if there is past work experience that supports your desire to hire them," he writes. "And then you really have to think: 'Even though they gave a great initial audition and callback audition, will they have the chops to pull off what's required in this piece?' Casting is vitally important and the decisions are usually tough. Resumes can make a difference."

'An Interesting Little Glimpse'

At the bottom of most actors' resumes is the heading "Special Skills," which can be anything -- a dialect, juggling, riding a unicycle, or sometimes a combination of the three. The actors surveyed offered a vast array of special skills, either those they possess or have seen listed on other resumes. They include: The ability to put a leg behind one's head, the ability to raise one eyebrow, ambidextrous, "dead-on" Bart Simpson imitation, baton twirling, beekeeping, belly dancing, a brown belt in Shuri-ryu karate, camping, contact juggling, crying on cue, ear wiggling, Elizabethan verse, fire breathing, flag spinning, fly fishing, go-go dancing, great with kids, lisping, miming musical instruments, rapid shoelace tying, rock 'n' roll roller-skating, stuttering, touching one's nose with one's tongue, tying a cherry stem with one's tongue, throwing a spiral (football), yodeling.

As for special skills these actors don't possess but wish they did, they mentioned acrobatics, fluency in sign language, fluency in any language, the eyebrow wave, horseback riding, playing a musical instrument, singing well (the most common wish), tightrope walking, and yodeling. "That area does show personality to some extent," Schulman writes. "And you never know what skills they have that you might need in the project you're casting."

Bedbury adds, "I've heard of people getting the job because they have 'good with guns' on their resume.… It's an interesting little glimpse into your life that helps determine if you get the audition." For others, special skills aren't such a big deal. "Initially I put a lot of thought into this part," writes the ambidextrous, sky-diving, jet-skiing, rope-swinging, typing, lisping, stuttering Hess, who lists 26 special skills. (Actually, it's a lot more than that if you count his "over 40 specific" vocal impersonations.) "But after so many years of doing this, I don't think most people even get that far down." Lynn, the casting director, says the important thing for special skills "is that you have to deliver on what you promise." And that's true for anything you put on a resume.

Skelton, from the Groundlings, wants to make sure actors understand one thing when it comes to their resumes. She feels so strongly about it, she wrote it in italicized, boldfaced capital letters and punctuated it with four exclamation points: "Please staple your headshot and resume together at home. Otherwise, you come across as very unprepared. Drives us nuts."
Read more!

David Blaine Street Magic

a kate west favorite

David Blaine appears to trick two unsuspecting bystanders by seemingly knowing more about them than they know themselves. On closer look, we realize it's a parody, and a damn good one, thanks to Groundlings company members Mitch Silpa, Mikey Day (MTV's "Wild-n'Out") and Michael Naughton. It's worth several viewings and will only be funnier each time. And since a picture is worth a thousand words ... enjoy!

Written by
Mikey Day and Michael Naughton

Mitch Silpa as David Blaine
Mikey Day and Michael Naughton as Victims (a.k.a. Idiots) Read more!

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

The 25th Annual Putnam
County Spelling Bee
a kate west review
music & lyrics by William Finn
book by Rachel Sheinkin
conceived by Rebecca Feldman
directed by James Lapine
Post Street Theatre, 450 Post Street, 2nd floor, San Francisco, CA 94102
contact (415) 771-6900 or
San Francisco tour from February through September 2006

The late, great playwright Wendy Wasserstein once saw a delightful little show about spelling called C-R-E-P-U-S-C-L-E, improvised by the New York Lower East Side comedy troupe known as The Farm. She convinced friend William Finn (award-winning “Falsettos” composer) that it would make a perfect musical and so it did. With Finn’s music and lyrics (book by Rachel Sheinkin), the show ended up on Broadway, evolving into the new musical, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”. It also won two Tony awards and the hearts of theatergoers everywhere.

Multi-awarding winner and star Broadway Director James Lapine honors San Francisco audiences by bringing his accomplished style to California. Together with Choreographer Dan Knechtges, they recreate this charming Broadway sensation for the Bay Area. Currently playing at the cozy Post Street Theatre, the “Bee” incorporates all of the magic simplicity that made it a crowd favorite back east. To begin with, Set Designer Beowulf Boritt’s set is just as beautifully evocative of your classic high school gymnasium, with bright bleachers and basketball hoops and Costumer Jennifer Caprio’s high school outfits still perfectly capture different adolescent personalities.

Then there’s the San Francisco cast. The six main spelling bee contestants comprise a wonderful ensemble, winsomely giving vibrant life to the delicious choreography and direction. Chip Tolentino (the energetic Aaron J. Albano) is a former Bee champ, returning to the competition as bright-eyed as ever. Leaf Coneybear (Stanley Bahorek) is the out-of-sorts bumbling spastic child, Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre (the intense Sara Inbar) is the feisty political activist with two fathers and Marcy Park (Greta Lee) is the stereotypical Asian over-achiever. And Olive Ostrovsky (sweet Jenni Barber) and William Barfee (the hilarious Jared Gertner) are two opposite extremes, who as finalists wage the inner battle over competition versus friendship. Rounding out the cast is Rona Lisa Peretti (the sublime Betsy Wolfe) former child-champion, now running the Bee, Vice Principal Douglas Panch (the highly likeable Jim Cashman), a last minute replacement to the Bee and “Comfort Counselor” Mitch Mahoney (understudy Evan D’Angeles in this performance) doing his community service at the Bee. It’s quite clear that everyone is having the time of his/her life on stage.

The audience gets to have fun too. Four lucky chosen (don’t worry it’s all volunteer) get to come up on stage and relive their spelling bee days. The actors playfully torture them a little and one by one they are all eliminated from the competition. Great fun. The one-liners and witty comebacks fly back and forth in between musical numbers and of course intense spelling.

Some musical highlights include Olive’s (Jenni Barber) plaintive “The I Love You Song” beautifully sung to her absent parents who are missing her moment of glory, William’s (Jared Gertner) amusing “Magic Foot” which explains how he spells with a possessed foot, Marcy’s (Greta Lee) rebellious “I Speak Six Languages” and many reprisals. “Goodbye” is sung to each losing contestant, for instance and Rona Lisa Peretti (Betsy Wolfe) keeps bringing up her “Favorite Moment of the Bee” every time something reminds her of what she loves about spelling and competition. The music is memorable and the talent perfectly in tune with the show.

All of the actors are wonderful but one special standout is Stanley Bahorek as Leaf Coneybear, who perfectly captures the awkward spacey teenager as well as skillfully jumping back and forth from different adult roles. He’s amazing. Each character represents a different adolescent archetype and you are sure to recognize yourself in one of them. The poignant scenes are subtly emotional and the bigger numbers seemingly spontaneous. Rather than give away who actually wins, it is best to enjoy the ride and let these consummate professionals dazzle and entertain. You will be guaranteed to be quoting lines from the show for days afterward.

Hear the score now!
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (2005 Original Broadway Cast) Read more!

TALK BACK with Backstage West

Show Me the Way to ‘SNL’

by Natalie Skelton

“How do I get on Saturday Night Live?”

As School Administrator of the Groundlings Theatre, that’s the question I hear most often from the 2,000 to 3,000 students who come through our doors every year. Some of them inevitably want to know the fastest way of advancing through the classes or the easiest way to get on SNL. My first inclination is to say, “Call NBC”. But I heroically restrain myself and gently explain that it’s a more complicated process than they think.

It’s true that many Groundlings alumni have made big names for themselves on SNL and other shows: Phil Hartman, (Conan O’Brien), Lisa Kudrow, Julia Sweeney and Paul Reubens, to name a few. But these are the absolute wrong questions to ask. In general, the students who do well at the Groundlings School truly understand the process. They take their time, making sure they’ve got the basics down, before moving on to the next level.

It shouldn’t be just about becoming a star or Groundlings Company member. It should be more akin to that old Zen-Master philosophy: Don’t focus on the target, but instead enjoy the journey. Sure it’s great to achieve fame and fortune, but that success is pretty meaningless if you lack a solid foundation, and even if you work hard and bone up on the basics, you are not assured wild success. Show business ain’t that kind of business.

Then why bother with the time-consuming trek at all, since it takes about four years to complete the entire program? Because basic improv drills, or for that matter any type of basic acting exercises, can help you learn the discipline necessary to turn you into a professional, whether or not you end up making tons of money or a big name for yourself. Everything starts at the raw beginning. A concert violinist or opera singer always begins with rudimentary scales and practices several hours a day for several years. They do it not only because they enjoy it but also because they need to do it, and they don’t worry about the final performance – that comes later. That’s why every Groundlings Company member has to complete every level of our school: Basic, Intermediate, Writing Lab, Advanced and Sunday Company.

Studying the craft also helps actors get out of their own “headspace” so they can connect with the audience in a real way and open themselves up to working with fellow actors as a team. Remember when you learned how to share in Kindergarten? It’s still useful. You need to learn to trust yourself, your scene partners, your instructors, and the process of education. As one of my senior instructors puts it, you need to “get out of your own way”. You can only do that if you take the time to learn the trade.

That’s a good way to approach life in general. In my experience, learning something intimidating opens up many possibilities. Even non-actors – doctors, lawyers, therapists and even policemen – have told me that improv classes helped them in their daily lives. It doesn’t have to be improv – or improv at the Groundlings. Trying something new and making the effort to excel at it can change your brain, whether or not it’s rock climbing, a new language, or sailing.

Whatever do you do, help yourself lead an enriched life and embrace the process. Forget what you think you’re entitled to. Don’t focus so much on the end result; watch the road right under your feet. And enjoy!

Natalie Skelton is the School Administrator at the Groundlings Theatre. For more information on its program, call (323) 934-4747 x21 or visit

September 28, 2006


Read more!

The Black Rider

The Black Rider: the casting of the magic bullets - a musical fable
a kate west review
directed by Robert Wilson
music & lyrics by Tom Waits; text by William S. Burroughs
at the Ahmanson Theatre, 135 North Grand Ave, Los Angeles 90012
running April - June 2006; contact (213) 628-2772 / CenterTheatreGroup.Org

Based on Carl Maria von Weber's opera "Der Freischütz" ("The Free-Shooter"), which is in turn based on a German fable, "The Black Rider" originally premiered in Hamburg, Germany in 1991 in German and in London 2004 in English to great success. The Ahmanson Theatre now presents the latest reincarnation of this classic devilish tale about selling a soul for a heavy price - right here in Los Angeles.

The combination of the above dark elements with the modern talents of musician Tom Waits and noted writer William S. Burroughs should get you an amazingly innovate and original production. It's different all right. For starters, you really (really) need to be in the mood for extreme expressionism - the kind of heavy German presentational style that ran rampant in the early 1920's (picture exaggerated gestures and elongated facial expressions).

Wilhelm (Matt McGrath) is the Clerk in love with Kätchen (Mary Margaret O'Hara), daughter of Bertram the Forester (Dean Robinson) and Anne (Joan Mankin). All the characters are initially introduced by the devil himself, Pegleg (Vance Avery) while they emerge in procession from what looks like a floating coffin or a magician's box, judging from the big top references in the song lyrics. This circus-like presentational formation prepares the audience for the stylistic acting to come, which may quickly become rather tedious for some audience members. The gist of the story is that Wilhelm is not good enough for Kätchen until the devil gives him a rifle with magic bullets enabling him to hit every thing he aims at. Wanting too badly to win over his future-father-in-law and to live happily ever after, he starts to get greedy and gets more bullets. Unfortunately, the devil is always owed his due and the final bullet ricochets wildly and instead of hitting a white dove, hits Wilhelm's all-in-white bride.

The symbolism and artistry leading up to this event is rather interesting - white brides cooing and cawing like white doves with various ominous death images, but there are also some annoyingly unexplained moments as well. For instance, in the first scene, we see an enormous table and two chairs which become progressively smaller until they are miniature toys in the final scene. Wilhelm playing scenes with his pants down around his ankles, while perhaps foreshadowing his eventual madness, is still an irritating image. Luckily, Tom Waits' music is fascinating, especially the theme song "The Black Rider" and "That's the Way," which is essentially akin to beat poetry ("That's the way the stomach rumbles, that's the way the bee rumbles, that's the way the needle pricks, that's the way the glue sticks …"). His is a perfect pairing with author William S. Burroughs to evoke modern angst. An important historical note here is that Burroughs literally did accidentally kill his real-life wife when playing William Tell (the one who shot apples off of people's heads) to her trusting figure of a target and thus is well familiar with the descent into madness and violent confusion.

The actors are all strong, especially Matt McGrath as the doomed clerk (his growling "Lucky Day" is a highlight) and Vance Avery as the devil himself, Pegleg. John Vickery helps create a brooding atmosphere, as Wilhelm's Old Uncle and the Duke, stuck frozen in an other-worldly-type painting overlooking the living, and Nigel Richards' intensity at different points in the play is reminiscent of extreme modern art as his face contorts into silent screams and sharp angles.

Director Robert Wilson (also responsible for the yawning heights of the set) makes a clear statement of absurdism by having his actors stay true to the expressionist style. Too much of that may be hard to take, as evidenced by several people leaving the theater before even waiting for intermission. But the people who stuck it out gave the show a fierce round of applause. So it's a love-it or hate-it response with this piece, depending on the viewer, just like modern art. If you stay open to it, you will be rewarded with exotic imagery in a dangerous carnival world. As in life, it's all about your perspective and it's all subjective.

More Tom Waits:
Mule Variations Read more!

Local Heroes

Local Heroes:
sketch and improv of heroic proportions
a kate west review

directed by Mitch Silpa
at the Westside Eclectic Theatre
1323-a 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica, CA
(in the alley between 3rd and 4th, south of Arizona)
contact (310) 451-0850 or ( Thursdays and Fridays
April through May, 2006; tix $8

Find yourself on the west side after dinner in search of entertainment? Instead of cramming into a crowded movie theater where someone will kick your chair and munch popcorn, head down to Westside Eclectic and catch some improv. You'll get much more bang out of your buck. They do several shows there, the latest being "Local Heroes". The cast members are all Groundlings-trained (for info on that crazy-famous comedic troupe check out and Director Mitch Silpa is an actual Groundling. That means they know their funny.

Dorien Davies, Alex Enriquez, Samantha Klein, Travis Nelson, Avi Rothman and Kenny Stevenson all write their own material and have a great time performing it on the trendy stage of the Westside Eclectic. It's obvious that they love what they do and are all strong actors, especially Kenny Stevenson. Some highlights include Dorien Davies and Samantha Klein singing "Spolish Green" as pure-as-snow twins in a deliciously wicked spoof on Christian singers. Avi Rothman's and Dorien Davis' spoof on Latina pop-singer "Shakira" is hilarious as well. Avi Rothman's versatility really shines in "N'Amaste" and "Pillow", as a mystical yoga instructor and irritating airline passenger, respectively.

When the actors give 200% it really works. Some of the scenes are not as strong as others, but in general it's a very crowd-pleasing show. "Classically Trained" (Alex Enriquez, Avi Rothman and Kenny Stevenson) - a sketch about a classically trained prima donna commercial voice over actor could be stronger, for instance. "Captain Amazing" (Kenny Stevenson and Travis Nelson) is a cute idea, with computer geeks transforming into superheroes trying and failing to fix the office copier, as is "Brian Hodel" with Samantha Klein and Dorien Davies playing giggling 1980's teenagers and Kenny Stevenson's reverse strip tease in "Girl" (with Samantha Klein). "Love Hatchet" (Travis Nelson and Samantha Klein) about a trailer park screaming love nest and "Sexy Itchy" (Alex Enriquez and Samantha Klein) is alight but a lot of these scenes get a bit lost; one of the problems being that the space itself is not really conducive to comedy sketch. It's a fun space but not contained enough for the type of thing they are trying to do here. Still, it's a rockin' good time, judging from the audience's hoots and hollers alone.

Director Mitch Silpa does a great job of pacing the scenes and inspiring energy in the actors and host Amir Talai is likeable when heading the improv sets. Every actor is appealing - just be careful not to sit near the aisles if you don't want a run-in with sexually exuberant Russians in "To Russia with Love" (Dorien Davies and Kenny Stevenson). It's shorter than a full length movie so you'll still have time to enjoy all the diversity in the night life of Santa Monica. Read more!


a kate west review
book, music & lyrics by Jim Jacobs & Warren Casey
directed & choreographed by Roger Castellano
at the Fullerton Civic Light Opera, Plummer Auditorium, 201 E. Chapman, Fullerton, CA
contact (714) 873-1732 or (714) 526-3832 or
(Box office address: 218 W. Commonwealth Avenue, Fullerton, CA 92832)
running through May 2006; tickets $25 to $49 (group rates available)

Most of us are familiar with the cult 1978 film "Grease" starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John. What you may not know, however, is that it was a Broadway musical before that and slowly gained immense popularity until fans were clamoring for more. In it's 34th season entertaining the O.C., the Fullerton Civic Light Opera now presents the old-fashioned version just in time for some cool fun these hot summer months.

For those of you who missed the whole "Grease" phenomenon, the story revolves around rambunctious 1950's teenagers at Rydell High School. Danny Zuko (Brian Brigham) and Sandy Dumbrowski (Michelle London) meet over the summer and fall in puppy love and then unexpectedly find themselves attending the same high school in the fall. The trouble is, Danny belongs to the infamous Burger Palace Boys and is not too cool about displaying affection for straight-laced innocent Sandy. Of course, they reconcile by the end and everyone's happy. That's the basic plot, with a lot of rock and roll (and a few small sub plots) in between.

Director/Choreographer Roger Castellano creates a lot of groovy moves for the excellent cast and regales the audience with classic rockin' good tunes. Highlights include Frenchy (the bubbly Lola Ward) being serenaded by the delectably goofy John Schoenherz as Teen Angel counseling her in career ambitions in "Beauty School Dropout", two renditions of "We Go Together" by the entire cast and everyone's favorite - "Summer Nights" - with the whole cast recounting the summer tale of Danny and Sandy. The majority of the cast is great, especially Bets Malone as the tough-talking Rizzo and head of the Pink Ladies ("Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" and "There are Worse Things I Could Do"), Lowe Taylor as Marty the vamp ("Freddy, My Love") and Roger (Danny Stiles) and Jan (Colette Peters) literally mooning over each other in "Mooning".

Brian Brigham is a nice, strong, handsome Danny, matching the rest of the Burger Palace Boys and all of the Pink Ladies are delightful. The one notable exception is Michelle London who is unfortunately a vanilla, uncharismatic Sandy and whose voice is much too operatic for a rock and roll musical. ("Summer Nights", "It's Raining on Prom Night", "All Choked Up", etc.) Sadly, she doesn't really fit so it's hard to root for her. Everyone else is a lot of fun, including Jeff Weeks as smarmy Vince Fontaine who oversees the climatic dance concert, where the hard core dancing really begins ("Born to Hand Jive").

The other few problems have to do with the set. Scenic Designer Dwight Richard Odle may have wanted to convey an adolescent atmosphere with brightly colored cardboard sets, but for a professional theater, it doesn't quite match the rest of the production values. To be fair, they are housed in an actual high school, so that may have been the intention after all. What should be a highlight number, "Greased Lightning," (the Burger Palace Boys crooning over a hot set of wheels), is disappointing, especially in the odd dressing the car. It should have an earlier reveal, as should the neon sign of "Grease", but both end up in a spectacular curtain call; we really should have been enjoying these electrifying sights all along. Odle's costume designs are a lot more on target, fitting the period perfectly.

The live band is great, (kudos to Musical Director Todd Helm), as are all the dance numbers and the whole dance concert scene, although it is a bit odd to have the band way up on such a high platform. It's too bad that platform isn't moveable. As it is a permanent fixture, it dominates every scene, in spite of Donna Ruzika's lighting design. Also, Sound Designer A.J. Gonzalez needs to look into the mechanical problems of the microphone since the actors kept going in and out all night.

In spite of these minor glitches, it's an awfully fun show and the irrepressible cast totally wins us over. So it's definitely worth a look, especially if you live nearby in Orange County. (Note to Angelinos: it's a bit of a long drive, so bring your I-pods or books-on-tape!) There's even a sample study guide in the program by Carol Philip (Anaheim School District teacher) translating "Grease" slang into proper English - now, how fun is that? Read more!

String of Pearls

String of Pearls (west coast premiere)
a kate west review
by Michele Lowe; directed by Stephen Sachs
at the Road Theatre Company, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood 91601
running January - March 2006 ; contact (866) 811-411 or
extended in Santa Barbara: Center Stage Theater, 751 Paseo Nuevo, S.B.
running April - May 2006; contact (805) 963-7282; tix $25

"String of Pearls" is a poetic ensemble piece of female vignettes strung together like pearls on a necklace requiring a strong ensemble and four strong main actors.
Jacqueline Schultz, Donne McRae (understudying this particular performance), Stephanie Stearns and Alicia Wollerton all handle this quite well. Each of them plays a multitude of characters, ranging from (among others) an aging matriarch and a plus-size lesbian to a career woman and an immigrant cleaning woman. The characters all have universal appeal but demand that the audience pay strict attention when the women jump from character to character; it is a bit tricky to follow the quickly changing story lines.

Similar to the film "The Red Violin," essentially a strand of exquisite pearls passes from woman to woman, seemingly ending where it started, with the matriarch (Donne McRae). On its journey, it bestows pleasure on almost every kind of woman imaginable (in this case twenty-seven total). Whether the necklace is symbolically the same or the actual physical same necklace is subject to audience interpretation, although the implied connection between the story beads strongly suggests the latter.

Michele Lowe's original dialogue is lovely and often poignant. While some stories are not as interesting as others, the overall effect is crowd-pleasing. Also, some are more strongly connected than others and again, require a certain amount of concentration. There are no earth-shattering revelations here, but merely quiet stories about women with varying intensity. What really makes the show is the ensemble. The women work together very well and showcase their talent admirably. Director Stephen Sachs creates a nice flow between the vignettes and the actors keep up the transitions from humor to anger and sorrow just fine, in between the anecdotal.

At times reminiscent of the female strength in the film "The Joy Luck Club," this is a nice ensemble piece in general, though the story lines could be clearer. All in all, it makes for a good evening out and as the production moves to Santa Barbara in the next two months, it might make a pretty good Mother's Day jaunt too. Read more!


a kate west review
book, music & lyrics by John Stothers; directed by Nick DeGruccio
at the Ricardo Montalbán Theatre, 1615 Vine Street, Hollywood 90028
contact (800)595-4849 or; runs March-April 2006

Combine the retro-apocalyptic look of the films "Mad Max" and "Waterworld" with a modern rock musical and you get "Pilgrim", currently debuting as a world premiere at the Ricardo Montalbán Theatre in Hollywood. The main emphasis is in spectacle with an enormous revolving platform set, a full orchestra and chorus of singers and the odd and end acrobat. Less clear is the actual story line.

Tinker (Tom Korbee) and Anna (Jessica Rush) are the two young romantic leads who find each other in a dark world of oppression. Their world is hidden behind a great wall and run by the evil leather-clad Metsys (Jeffrey Stackhouse). The upper class Anna forces the lower class Tinker to marry her in order to escape her father Verhulst (Jim Blanchette) and Metsys. They hate each other at first sight, which of course means they later fall in love. Ten Bosch (Eric Anderson) is the sidekick who initially helps them but later betrays everyone. Hieronymus (Robert Patteri) is the mysterious narrator that Tinker encounters in prison, who leads him through a dream world and ultimately to freedom, where the Tinker becomes the Pilgrim and sheltered Anna becomes a heroine.

The characters exist in an unnamed place and time amidst a chorus of medieval-looking peasants hawking candles, ale and other wares. The dream sequences consist of billowing fog, choreographed sword fights (dangerously close to the front row) and amazing acrobats who leap and twist and even walk on stilts. Costume Designer Sharell Martin creates wonderfully creative period pieces for the townspeople, while the oppressors wear leather and feathers, creating a futuristic dark look. Set Designer Tom Buderwitz provides an amazing set, with high platforms and a revolving base. Lighting Designer Steven Young and Sound Designer Drew Dalzell create fantastic special effects, adding to the general wonderment. Musical Director Jason Nyberg and Choreographer Jose Walsh work together well in combination with Director Nick Degruccio to create a truly full-blown show of sensation and spectacle.

Unfortunately, John Stothers storyline leaves much to be desired.
Tinker/Pilgrim sends out his dreams to the townspeople via Ten Bosch (also the Printer) while incarcerated, hoping to inspire them to revolt and leave their confining world. He then escapes and in a climatic semi-tragic end, leads his people to the Promised Land, whatever that may look like. The problem is that the universality of such a timeless/nameless place leaves the audience a bit remote. The two leads, Tom Korbee and Jessica Rush, are fine, but rather vanilla, in contrast to the rest of the rugged cast. Also, some characters seem entirely unnecessary such as Verhulst (Jim Blanchette). Robert Patteri as Hieronymus and Eric Anderson as Ten Bosch are both fantastic and mesmerizing and the ensemble as a whole is quite good.

The musical numbers are a little long though, as is the whole show. In the end, however, the confusion and tediousness of the story and music are saved by the magnificent production values. Sounds like your typical Hollywood blockbuster. Read more!


The Year of Yes
by Maria Dahvana Headley

a kate west favorite

Maria Dahvana Headley wrote "The Year of Yes" after literally living entirely for the moment for exactly one year. Because she no longer trusted her judgement in dating and her taste in men, she decided on a experiment. She would say yes to every single person who asked her out. This resulted in some bizarre entanglements, but she was willing to be open to the universe which also makes for a highly entertaining book. It's not something everyone can do, of course, but it's fun to read about someone else going through such trials and tribulations. The end result is that she finds her true love, someone she would not have considered normally and someone she now had access to due to her year of affirmation. Good to know.

It would be nice to be able to just wait and see what the universe has in store, but not all of us gets asked out as much. Headley's approach is seemingly proactive in more of a passive way, which is fine for her. That being said, you will love this book if you are at all in the mood for cheering on risk-takers, something we should all probably exercise. Since it's a memoir, her amusing anecdotes are all about her own experiences from her own perspective, which is as it should be. Be happy that it worked out for her.

Just Say Yes to:
The Year of Yes Read more!

The Break Up Notebook

The Break Up Notebook: The Lesbian Musical
a kate west review
written by Patricia Cotter; music/lyrics by Lori Scarlett
directed by Sue Hamilton
at the Hudson Backstage, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A. 90038
contact (323) 960-5563 or
running Friday and Saturday nights through February 2006 – EXTENDED!

The Hudson Backstage presents “The Break Up Notebook: The Lesbian Musical” which tells us that lesbians have the same relationship frustrations as the rest of us do. Who knew? Patricia Cotter wrote the original crowd-pleasing script of “The Break Up Notebook” back in 2002 (which was also nominated for a GLAAD award) and then turned it into a musical. While the first incarnation definitely had its charm, the new version works even better as a musical.

Helen (Heidi Godt) was just dumped by the love of her life and is slowly picking up the pieces, with the help of her well meaning but interfering friends. She makes all the classic mistakes we all do: she calls her ex, repeatedly hanging up, spies on her, asks all her friends about her, moans “why doesn’t she love me anymore?” and generally drives everybody nuts. To snap her out of her self-indulgence, her weary friends set her up on a series of disastrous dates. She finally meets someone she is excited about, but despite her friends’ warnings, goes way overboard, making her new love her whole world and refusing to see her faults. Thankfully, she achieves enough growth that she realizes she is better off alone than begging for scraps at the pathetic mercy of a selfish someone else.

Throughout this well-toned, well-timed production, Lori Scarlett (composer of the wildly popular “Sneaux!” local musical) accompanies Patricia Cotter’s witty dialogue with equally beguiling music and lyrics. One of the funniest moments in the show comes during one of Heidi’s many tedious dates, when the cast sings “It Takes A Nail”, mimicking embarrassing small talk (“Ex-girlfriend, la la la …”). “The Polynesian Dance” seems a bit overkill, although a sure-fire hit with the audience every time. In general though, the musical numbers are snappy, fun and clever. Director Sue Hamilton contributes greatly to the professional atmosphere, including smooth scene transitions and overall staging.

Heidi Godt as Helen is the perfect self-deprecating but still likeable protagonist and Patrick Bristow, is the perfect gay best friend Bob, playing silly and poignant at the exact right levels. Whitney Allen as Frances, the new love, was not a strong singer on opening night, but the rest of the cast is fine, including friends Monica and Joanie (Melody Butiu and Jacqueline Maloney) who are great fun as the couple about to go through a commitment ceremony. The whole show is delightfully entertaining and the truths are universal for everyone, straight and gay alike. Patricia Cotter could have given us a happy ending, but she doesn’t go for that cliché, giving us an open ended closing, so to speak, yet still managing to fill us with optimism. We applaud the heroine’s new found-confidence and we root for her (and our own) future success.

For further information, check out Read more!

Do You Fear What I Fear?

Do You Fear What I Fear?
a kate west review
written and performed by David Jahn
directed by Ian and Robert Tucker
at the Elephant Asylum Theatre
6322 Santa Monica Blvd. L.A. 90038
running Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays;
January 6 – February 12, 2006
contact (323) 960-4412 or; tix $18

David Jahn, alum of the famous Groundling troupe (, pulls off the amazing feat of gaining the audience’s sympathy even as they feel slightly uncomfortable in his riveting one-man show “Do You Fear What I Fear?” Originally premiering at the Groundlings Theatre, as part of a 30th anniversary celebration, the show now performs at the Elephant Asylum, not too far from its first location.

As in similar shows, Jahn bears his soul, confronting childhood fears while entertaining us at the same time. And he does such a marvelous job at it too. We watch him cope with his angst in many engaging ways: by always counting in “fours” as a child (which he constantly refers to throughout the show), by burying himself inside a prison of fear, escaping into the world of theater and finally learning how to be an adult in Los Angeles and in life.

During all this insight, Jahn is accompanied on keyboard piano as he bursts into song and dance at key points in the story. This contributes wonderfully to his character since his background actually is musical theater, another aspect he refers to in comic detail. Musical Director Cindy Warren sets this all up very well.

In one hour, Jahn deals with family, relationships and his homosexuality in a funny, wistful, endearing, enjoyable as well as mature way. He conquers his fear bravely (by mounting a public play, first of all), causing us to wonder what we are all so afraid of. Why can’t we approach a stranger at a party - what’s the worst that can happen? It’s nice to know we don’t suffer alone. For a one-act he covers a remarkable bit of ground. His show seems a little like a preview to a bigger revelation and it would be nice to see a longer version in the future. Hopefully, he will come up with a part two which would certainly be as well attended. As it is, it is definitely a show worth watching and one which will stay with you for a very long time. Read more!

700 Sundays

700 Sundays
a kate west review
starring Billy Crystal
directed by Des McAnuff
additional content by Alan Zweibel
producers Janice Crystal, Larry Magid
at the Wilshire Theater
8440 Wilshire Blvd, LA 90211
running Jan 6 - February 18,2006
contact or Face Productions

When Comedian Billy Crystal was only fifteen, his father Jack unexpectedly died of a heart attack in 1963. Young Billy was devastated and angry. He finally came to a kind of resolution by pooling his memories into a one-man show called "700 Sundays", referring to the total number of Sundays he actually spent with his dad. Originally on Broadway, Tony Award winner Des McAnuff ("Big River", "Tommy") directs Crystal's opus once again, here in Los Angeles.

We learn many fascinating thing about Crystal's life, including his famous love of baseball and his surprising family involvement in jazz history. Crystal has often mentioned the beauty of baseball in interviews, his first glimpse of the green, green field so different from the picture in black and white television, as well as his experience directing a warm and loving tribute to his idols, Yankee greats Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris (HBO's seamless "61"). Ken Burns even captured Crystal's baseball stories on film in his "Baseball" PBS series. And doesn't Crystal don a New York Mets baseball hat in "City Slickers"?

More interesting still is that Crystal's family owned the Commodore Record Label and had their own store in Manhattan for a while, meaning Billy grew up with jazz greats like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. In fact, Uncle Milt Gabler was the only man brave enough to record Holiday's controversial "Strange Fruit", a mournful jazz ballad reflecting on the unfortunate still prevalent lynchings in the south at the time. An unusual childhood indeed.

Crystal spends much of the show impersonating relatives such as an eccentric aunt ruminating on lesbianism, pointing out the real deal in 8 millimeter home movies and making typical crude one-liners. For the most part, it is a heartfelt love note to his quiet and unassuming father, and, as many one-person shows seem to be, a therapeutic catharsis for the mourner. Jack worked hard for his family and always reserved Sundays to spend with them, no matter what, taking Billy to baseball games and hosting the odd and end jazz legend. We learn a lot about his family along the way and understand how Crystal got into comedy in the first place, so much of it holds audience interest, but the show does run too long.

Scenic Designer David F. Weiner creates a cozy set with a screen door porch, replicating Crystal's Cape Cod cottage, (actually in Long Beach New York), helped out by Lighting Designer David Lee Cuthbert, Projectionist Michael Clark and Sound Designer Steve Canyon Kennedy. Director Des McAnuff creates an interesting stage picture, but Crystal is obviously the focus here and the main creative hand. As when hosting the Oscars, Billy Crystal is funny at first, but grows a little tedious after a while. If you are a Crystal fan, by all means, don't miss the show; otherwise, you may just want to borrow his book in order to cull the meatier bits of the family history, which really are quite absorbing.

Billy's Book:
700 Sundays Read more!

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader
a kate west reflection

He ran for President four times, as a Democrat in 1992 and then in 1996 and famously in 2000 for the Green Party and also in 2004 for the Reform Party. That is what Ralph Nader is most remembered for, currently, although his real life's work is in protecting consumers and fighting tirelessly for your civil rights. Born in 1934, this attorney (a graduate from Princeton University and Harvard Law) and civil rights activist led many to take on evil corporate power, earning them the name "Nader's Raiders". He's the one responsible for our seat belts, air bags and free tickets when the airline bumps you, to name but a few of the thousands of positive reforms he's accomplished. We need men like him to remain stubborn and tenacious, even when we don't want to hear it anymore.

A hit at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, the documentary "An Unreasonable Man" features all aspects of Ralph, to the point of illuminating, (for those of us who don't already know), the sordid details of the 1966 smear campaign by General Motors in an attempt to discredit him. The dangerous idealist Nader started a slew of activist organizations, including helping to found the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and has worked his entire life to save us from corporate greed.

Why then, is he ridiculed and even reviled today? For campaigning in 2004 against Al Gore and George W. Bush, supposedly taking away votes from Gore, helping Bush gain the election. Completey absurd allegations. Gore fought briefly and half-heartedly for a recount when everyone knew the Florida votes were invalid, so he lost that election all on his own. Besides, it's still a free country, and everyone should be entitled to run for President if he/she is able and it's high time the two-party monopoly system was challenged anyway. There are bound to be more than two points of view in this country. So why not try Nader's? He's always looking out for ours. He's still a hero in my book.

Directed by Henriette Mantel
Steve Skrovan
Produced by Kevin O'Donnell
Starring Ralph Nader
Pat Buchanan
Howard Zinn
Cinematography Mark Raker
Editing by Beth Gallagher
Alexis Provost
Distributed by IFC Films
Release date(s) Flag of the United States January 24, 2006 (Sundance Film Festival)
January 31, 2007 &

Read More:
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