Bleeding Through

a kate west review
written & directed by Theresa Chavez & Rose Portillo
from the novella by Norman Klein
at Shakespeare Festival/LA
1238 W. 1st Street, Los Angeles, Ca 90026
contact OR (800) 595-4849(4TIX)
running October 23 - November 22, 2009

"Bleeding Through" is a nostaglic oldies Angelino noir piece that, in spite of the retro cool set pieces and costumes (thanks to Akeime Mitterlehner and Pamela Shaw), just doesn't hold interest. It is very busy though. Co-Writer/Directors Theresa Chavez and Rose Portillo work up some uniquely intricate staging by having the actors appear in scenes behind the audience and to the sides, as well as on the main stage. Add the orchestra up there too, and an awful lot is going on all at once.

David Fruechting heartily narrates this story of intrigue and murder, but by the time he's through, no one cares anymore. The play is long and involved and a bit self-important, although there is some solid acting. Lynn Milgrim and Elizabeth Rainey trade off playing older and younger versions of each other, which is an interesting device and they are both quite good. Not all of the acting is spot on, however, particularly Ed Ramolete's rather plodding Ezra, neighbor to Molly and mostly meant to spur on her old stories. The rest of the cast (James Terry, Brian Joseph and Pete Pano) is fine.

Also, for some reason, Molly's past life and past lovers appear on the screen behind the actors in a black-and-white film, where she's inexplicitly portrayed by yet another actress (Kikey Castillo). Someone gets killed, men appear in raincoats in dark parks, Molly can't decide between two men and the narrator soaks it all in. Suffice to say, the film noir takes just don't all fit together. Meanwhile, the audience members may get whiplash turning around every five minutes to follow all the action.

None of these devices have particular motivation in connection with the actual plot and while it is all interesting to look at, and delightful to touch (during intermission you will get a chance to go on stage and see and touch some of the fabulous props), it does not add much to the story. Unfortunate, since Angelenos need more good, solid and classic pieces of historical tales. More of the story would be revealed here were certain viewers able to stay awake for the whole thing. Apologies.
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U2 Live at the Rose Bowl

a kate west live event watch
Sunday, October 25, 2009

In these tough economic times, who goes to concerts anymore? Plenty of people, based on ticket sales. Well, but you can't and you hate that. But wait, there is a solution, especially for U2 fans. The famous Irishmen are appearing tonight at the Rose Bowl and YOU can watch them in the comfort of your own armchair with beer fridge armrests. Go to YOUTUBE at 8:30 p.m. and catch the legendary musicians in action. And don't drive to Pasadena - talk about serious traffic jams.

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Find Peace, Michael.

a kate west commemoration

The Memorial and Film
Jackson's televised memorial took place at the Staples Center (where he rehearsed much of his concert tour) on July 7, 2009. We all remember the tearful Jackson family and especially his heartbroken children. Anything else that happened that day was hopelessly overpowered by the enormity of this cultural icon. And as we all know, the film "This Is It", documenting his heartrending work, was released to the public on screens in October 2009, months after Jackson's death in June 25.

Despite any misgivings you may have over his bizarrely controversial personal life, the movie is worth a look. A consummate professional, Michael Jackson had been performing on stage almost his entire life. Granted, the intense scrutiny of the public eye and troubled family life turned him into a freak show at times, but on stage, in the true spotlight, he shone. As depicted in the film, he worked tirelessly with musicians and crew, always appreciative and humble, gently adjusting errors in order to reach the pinnacle of pop perfectionism he was accustomed to. He knew what he wanted and he got it, and you had to agree with him, because no one knew better. To dismiss him as a pop culture phenomenon is a disservice. No it's not deep intellectual pursuit, but his work was still hard - genius simply means being uniquely, impressively the best. Can't argue with that.

The DVD extras come with sincere testimonials and behind-the-scenes looks at auditions, costumes, sets, etc. The show would have had the latest 3D magic and larger-than-life puppets and pyrotechnics, but beyond all that, Jackson's mere presence, emotion and passion would have kept audiences enthralled just as he was. It would have been a great concert. I challenge you to watch the footage unmoved.

L-O-V-E. Peace, Michael.

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Where The Wild Things Are

a kate west review dedicated to and inspired by
Sam Bronson Page

book by Maurice Sendak
film by Spike Jonze

Max is angry. Wild. He is wildly angry, in fact. A fierce, raging little boy, Max is sadly misunderstood and runs away from home right into a fantastical world of fierce, raging monsters. Anyone familiar with Maurice Sendak's children's book "Where The Wild Things Are" knows that's pretty much it, plot-wise. First published in 1963, the book was dark and controversial and eventually turned into a world renowned classic (and winner of the Caldecott Medal). Parents worried that it promoted misbehavior, but most people knew it encouraged imaginative dreaming, a key developmental step in child-rearing. Besides, Max comes home peacefully in the end.

Now independent filmmaker Spike Jonze (Sofia Coppola's ex) has added his creative ravings to the beloved story. His deeply personal relation to the rebel boy is obvious. Fleshing out the bare bones story with Dave Eggers, he shows us an in-depth look at the famous monsters, giving them unique names, history, personalty disorders and every emotion found in the heart of a child. And his depiction of childish rage and perplexity is spot-on. A fascinating mix of live action, suitmation, animatronics and CGI, the film is dark and sad, and rather long, but does offer special illumination into the mind of a small intense boy.

Max (Max Records) rages that his sister Claire (Pepita Emmerichs) ignores him and that his mother (Catherine Keener) is finding love again (Mark Ruffalo). Lashing out against the unpleasantness found in life, he bites his mother and runs away into the night. In the book, he is sent to his room without supper and finds himself whisked off to a magical land in a boat. Here, Max runs down the dark streets of his neighborhood until he stumbles across a boat. The mysterious sea brings him straight to a craggy forest full of enormously cranky monsters.

Somehow he convinces them he is a king and they decide not to eat him, since they'd probably be better off with a little more royalty in their lives anyway. Carroll (James Gandolfini) is the first to befriend him, admiring their common interest in mischievous destruction and the others soon fall into line. Some are less trusting than others, most notably Judith (Catherine O'Hara), but Max is able to control them up to a point and they all find joy in playing rough and sleeping in big piles. Lauren Ambrose as KW is an especially sweet and gentle giant who helps to guide Max back down the road from anger to love. And once Max realizes that the monster world is no more free from strife than his old one, he knows it's time to move on.

Obvious great care was taken to style the non-humans into the likeness of the literary characters. They all look exactly like Sendak's delightful illustrations and Max, in his warrior wolf suit, could also be taken right out of the book's pages. Jonze created a bit of a back story to hint at the reason for Max's unhappiness. Nothing disturbing - more like normal modern life kid anxiety. Max is of an age where he will have to learn to deal with his emotions. He has a loving mother, who feeds and clothes him, but it isn't enough for him at first, until he is able to look outside himself and discover that yes, it is more than enough. He is finally ready to start growing up.

The main problem with the film itself though, is its overall melancholy tone. It is admirable to have such a rich look at the monster's lives, and oftentimes quite amusing, but overall they live a joyless existence, until Max brings some brief life back to their souls. The voice actors are all great (Forest Whitaker, Chris Cooper, Paul Dano, Gandolfini, etc.) and the cinematic technology and wonderful costumes allow for amazingly expressive faces, but all that does not always overcome the general weepy mood. Max does go to a pretty dark place for a while, illustrated by the interaction with the monsters, and he does survive stronger and happier than ever, but parents should be aware of the blackness at the core, and some very disturbing images to boot. Then again, no one ever said the book was a happy one either.

Still, it is a remarkable artistic achievement and definitely worth catching on the big screen. The anticipatory build up in the trailer depicts the incredible cinematography and visionary sets pretty well, but just so you know, Arcade Fire's fun "Wake Up" song is not featured in the actual movie. See it for the rebellious child in each of us. Questioning authority is not always a bad thing and sometimes it will lead you to understanding the world a little better in the end. For Max, after all that storming and raving, he was able to come back home "... where he found his supper still waiting for him and it was still hot."


Directed by Spike Jonze

Spike Jonze
Dave Eggers


Max Records
Catherine Keener
Mark Ruffalo
Pepita Emmerichs
Paul Mouzakis

Voices of:
Lauren Ambrose
Chris Cooper
James Gandolfini
Catherine O'Hara
Forest Whitaker
Paul Dano
Michael Berry Jr.
(The Bull)
Music by Karen O
Carter Burwell
Cinematography Lance Acord
Editing by Eric Zumbrunnen

The Book:
Where the Wild Things Are

Bringing It To The Stage:
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Behind Every Beautiful Eye

Behind Every Beautiful Eye
Detrás De Cada Ojo Hermoso
a kate west recommendation

If you're wondering how to reach inner city youth, introduce them to themselves. Encourage them to read and to write down what they feel. The students of the Los Angeles School of Global Studies (class of 2012) have done just that by completing another inspirational writing project. One hundred high schoolers from downtown LA wrote essays, poems and bios in both English and Spanish about their personal lives and emotions and set it all down in a book for the world to see. Laura Cometa is the teacher responsible for once again collecting teenager's stories into a literary bilingual anthology in a continuing and very successful writing project. And quite a program it is - these stories are in turn, amusing, heartrending, poignant and very real.

And it's a win-win situation. The children had a chance recently to present their work at the Latino Book Festival and proudly read excerpts. At the Q&A, the students admitted the project had changed their lives, empowered their self-esteem and even improved family dynamics. They got a kick out of staying to sign books for enchanted fans too. Not only that, but Filmmaker Tracy Mazuer is documenting it all on film so her camera crew follows the kids around, giving the whole experience that Angeleno real-world feeling we've all come to know and love.

So there you have it. The best way to spread the word is by telling a friend, so please support this project. And encourage your kids to write!

Buy The Book Here:

Latino Book Festival Info:

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Ray Bradbury's The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit

a kate west review
at 1000 Fremont Ave
South Pasadena, CA 91030-3225
(626) 441-5977
for tix contact: 323-960-4551

Ray Bradbury loves Los Angeles. In fact, he spent much of his twenties downtown, living in a Latino district and writing down every conversation he overheard. In 1957, fascinated by this East Los Angeles culture, the celebrated Pulitzer Prize winning author wrote a short story for the Saturday Evening Post and later turned it into a play in 1972. Best known as "The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit", the charming story has had many manifestations, including a musical and then a film starring Esai Morales, Edward James Olmos and Joe Montegna in 1998. The Fremont Centre Theatre in Pasadena now brings back an encore run of "Ice Cream Suit", with Bradbury's blessings (in attendance opening night when he recounted a bit of the history behind the piece).

Five Hispanic men invest together in a beautiful suit, as pure and white as vanilla ice cream. Since none of them can afford it on their own, they all pool their money and vow to share it, each of them getting a brief moment of glory wearing the suit. Gomez (Rudy Rodriguez), the brains of the outfit, so to speak, collects the money from his friends. Each suit wearer has a designated time to strut out on the town and become a ladies magnet or a chance to briefly live out whatever realization of his personal dream fantasy he might envision.

Of course, not everyone can be trusted to take immaculate care of clothes, as evidenced by the vagrant Vamenos (Daniel V. Graulau), who is constantly tripping over things and making a mess. Villanazul (Joaquin Garay III), Martinez (Eddie Ruiz) and Dominguez (Adrian Elizondo) round out the rest of the wild bunch who cherish their time of magic. In a relatively short time (and with no intermission), we see each person's desires fulfilled, including the aftermath of Vamenos' thoughtless outing.

Bradbury's lovely dialogue is purposely poetic and lyrical, adding dimension to the rather supernatural allure of the suit. The actors struggle a little bit in finding a natural rhythm, but each character is earnestly likeable. One moment includes literally spotlighting the suit, technically and musically (a nice touch). The final bar scene is amusing as well (but fair warning: strobe lights are lengthily utilized). It is easy to see how the story could be transformed into a musical, as the lines are made to be joyously sung. The late John Edw. Blakenchip designed the fun stylistic set with graffiti-inspired murals, adding to the theme of beauty. Director Alan Neal Hubbs could have emphasized more of the sing-song out-of-reality feel (akin to Dylan Thomas' "Under Milkwood"), but the play is still entertaining and a big hit with the weekend audience.

One puzzling moment occurs when Gomez (Rudy Rodriguez) explains that he hand-picked each man for similar size and build but the actors clearly don't match, so one wonders if it is part of the inexplicable magic of the show, or just an inconvenience in casting. In addition, the actors are all fine, but might want to watch their pacing, as we need to soak in the important flow of words (particularly Garay as political intellectual Villanazul, who is funny, but just needs to slow down a tad). Graulau is the real comic relief as the bumbling Vamenos and does well, as does Elizondo as the sauve Dominguez. Verona Mansongsong is very pretty as Celia Obregon, the ideal love of Martinez (the young Eddie Ruiz), and some of the other random characters are weaker than others.

Overall, the actors need to be careful to continue balancing the stylistic acting with the grounded humanity of their characters and will probably get the hang of it in future performances. Again, the cast completely won over the crowd and the production is absolutely worth seeing, if for the auditory pleasure alone. On this particular evening, the real magic happened when Bradbury stayed to sign every book and program brought to his lap. Very gracious and in love with life, he is a real delight to listen to and to hear his wonderful words brought to life. So kudos to Fremont Center Theatre for indulging the Sci-Fi Master. If only it were as easy as donning a magical suit to find a magical life. And if anyone can make that happen, Mr. Bradbury can. Viva.

See the Film:
The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit Read more!

South Pasadena Transit Authority

a kate west recommendation

What do Entertainment Industry types do to blow off steam? Form a band, of course (and maybe one of them did Production Design on "Angel" and "Dollhouse", my geekdom). Read on from

1st Annual School-Aid Benefit

On Saturday, September 19 at 8 PM, get ready to sing, dance and "bah bah bah BAH" along as our own local Chicago cover band, South Pasadena Transit Authority, plays a benefit concert in the parking lot of the South Pasadena Music Center with proceeds going to SPEF.

By day... they're South Pasadenans like you and me: a film production designer, two writers, an Emmy-winning set decorator (okay South Pasadenans with more Emmys than you and me), a principal, two art directors, a school counselor, a physics teacher and a film location manager. By night, they're horn-blowin', guitar playin', harmony singin' hipsters who aren't ready to put their instruments or passion for music aside just yet.

Opening for SPTA will be Cold Feet, a band of local youngsters from Walter Zooi's South Pasadena Music Center and Conservatory's School of Rock program.

So come on out, bring your neighbors and enjoy a sensational night of music as local musicians rock it for a great cause.

South Pasadena Transit Authority is: Ellen Totleben - Lead Vocals, Nadia Hillman - Back-up Vocals & Percussion, Peter Knight - Guitars, David Ford - Bass Guitar & vocals, Stuart Blatt - Drums & Vocals, Tomas Gaspar - Flute & Saxophones, Kendall Bennett - Trumpet, Paul Kikuchi - Trumpet, Scott Barton - Trombone and Timothy Hillman - Keyboards, guitar & vocals.

What: 1st Annual SCHOOL-AID Benefit Concert
Where: Parking lot of SP Music Center, 1509 Mission Street
Who: South Pasadena Transit Authority & Cold Feet.
How Much: $5.00 SPEF donation at the gate.

More Info:

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Will Power

a kate west review

Shakespeare Festival/LA

Will Power to Youth
A Midsummer Night's Dream

at 1238 W. First Street, Los Angeles 90026
running August 26 - 29
Contact (213) 481-2273

It is very nice to know that amidst governmental cutbacks and arts funding setbacks, there is still a place that brings youth together in the spirit of Shakespearean teamwork. Shakespeare Festival/LA's wonderful program Will Power to Youth presents "A Midsummer Night's Dream" downtown, not blocks away from the mighty Disney Hall and Music Center. They may not have the budget of those bigger theaters, but boy do they have heart.

Several teams of young teens and adult mentors collaborated on a 1970's version of "Dream" which entertains while tugging at the heartstrings and ultimately reiterates the importance of encouraging youth in the arts. Not only did they all memorize Shakespeare, but they also added some retro rock 'n roll and a few unique modern touches. In eloquent monologues, they talk about what their own dreams could be, what they might give an orphan child to survive reality's harshness and what they want from their future. All this pathos runs under two hours and as an added bonus, we get to watch some delightfully funky dance numbers.

The actual story begins with two pairs of lovers who find happiness despite all the obstacles they face. Lysander (Cesar Vargas) and Hermia (Natalie Sosa) love each other, but Hermia's father Egeus (Marco Castaneda) and the royal powers will not allow them to marry. Instead, Hermia is supposed to marry Demetrius (Manuel Mora) but Helena (Michelle Parra) is the one who truly loves him. They all run off into the enchanted forest where they run into fairies and magic. Oberon (Chris Mendoza) and Titania (Alex Geronilla) live there as the Fairy King and Queen and do their best to wreak mischief on their mortal visitors. Lastly are the Players, or Mechanicals, a group of laborers grimly determined to present the tragic tale of Pyramus and Thisby (inspiration for "Romeo and Juliet" no doubt) at the Duke Theseus' (Joseph Patino) wedding to Hippolyta (Claudia Diaz). While in rehearsal, they end up in the enchanted forest as well.

The talent varies, as some of the kids are setting foot onstage for the very first time. With that in mind however, and considering everyone's varied background, plus the fact that this may very well be their first exposure to the arts, it is a very impressive end result indeed. Some standouts include John Geronilla as the energetic fairy spirit Puck and Jorge Martinez as Philostrate, the Master of Revels.
And Jordan Vasconez and Alex Gonzales can't help but have the time of their lives reenacting the sillier version of Pryamus and Thisby. Every single actor and dancer is one hundred percent committed however, and it is more than obvious they are all having unbelievable fun up there. Morgan Williams and Kimiko Broder helped the cast choreograph some fun routines, including magically swirling parasols and hip moves worthy of any popular reality t.v. show.

Director Elizabeth Rainey is to be commended for piecing together so many different ideas, to the delighted surprise of all the parents in the audience. All the staff worked incredibly hard
(see complete production list below) and deserves accolades for such a fun show. The sincerity and earnestness emanating from this project is quite touching and we should all implore the Theater Gods to keep bringing back interested children and help guide them to exciting creative futures.

Elizabeth Rainey

Founding Artistic Director

Ben Donenberg

Director of Youth & Education
& Associate Artistic Director

Chris Anthony

Jeremy Ancalade, Director of Operations
Regina Cabrera, Director of Communications
Sam Greenstone, Director of Advancement
Marina Oliva, Youth & Education Associate
Ivan Robles, Facility Manager
Marcela Robles, Youth Coordinator
Ana Valdez, Development Administrator


Hippolyta (Costume Team)

Claudia Diaz

Theseus (Writing Team)

Joseph Patino

Philostrate (Sound Team)

Jorge Martinez

Egeus (Writing Team)

Marco Castaneda

Lysander (Acting Team)

Cesar Vargas


Manuel Mora

Herma (Scenic Team)

Natalie Sosa

Helena (Writing Team)

Michelle Parra

Peter Quince (Sound Team)

Shaun Reoliquio

Snug (Sound Team)

Min Song

Nick Bottom (Acting Team)

Jordan Vasconez

Frances Flute (Costume Team)

Alex Gonzales

Tom Snout (Scenic Team)

Ricardo Arenas

Robin Starveling (Movement Team)

Jason Mendoza

Oberon (Acting Team)

Chris Mendoza

Titania (Movement Team)

Alex Geronilla

Mustardseed (Costume Team)

Juan Castillo

Puck (Acting Team)

John Geronilla

Peasblossom (Scenic Team)

Magdalena Rafael

Teardrop (Writing Team)

Kevin Cruz

Moth (Movement Team)

Kevin Castillo

Thistle (Sound Team)

Allan Mancia

Starlight (Costume Team)

Gema Gomez

Firefly (Sound Team)

Luis Mateo

Movement Team

Cleavon Tatum



Kimiko Broder

Facilitation Director

Rani DeLeon

Costume Mentor

Hanalani Lee

Lighting Designer

Jose Lopez

Scenic Mentor

Akeime Metterlehner


Judeth Oden Choi

Stage Manager, Graphic Designer

Marina Oliva

Music Mentor, Facilitator

Ivan Robles

Youth Coordinator

Marcela Robles

Acting Mentor, Facilitator

Jon Royal

Movement Mentor

Morgan Williams

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John Hughes

a kate west reflection

This man was my whole high school experience. I was an MTV 80's teen and reveled in all the pop culture America could give me. Finally, someone understood the teen point of view and spoke our dialogue. In our time. From Ferris Bueller's rebellious independence to all the Breakfast Club angst, Hughes gave us what we wanted and needed and made us feel normal in our brand new 80's world. We'll never forget you.

"Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. "

The Classics:

The Breakfast Club Ferris Bueller's Day Off Bueller...Bueller... Edition (Special Collector's Edition) Home Alone Some Kind of Wonderful (Special Collector's Edition) Pretty in Pink (Everything's Duckie Edition) Uncle Buck Planes, Trains and Automobiles Weird Science (High School Reunion Collection) Read more!

Carved in Stone

[Jesse Merlin, Levi Damione, Leon Acord, Kevin Remington, Curt Bonnem]

a kate west review

by Jeffrey Hartgraves
directed by John Pabros Clark
at Theatre Asylum
6320 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90038

Fridays and Saturdays @8:00 PM
running Jun 19 - Sep 05
contact 310-473-LIVE (5483) or

Remember the question, "who would you most like to have dinner with, living or dead?" How about Truman Capote, Quentin Crisp, Oscar Wilde and Tennessee Williams? Or maybe even William Shakespeare? Playwright Jeffrey Hartgraves expands on that idea with a visit to the after life in "Carved in Stone".

Gryphon Tott (Levi Damione), an aspiring writer, dies suddenly in a train station and immediately finds himself in every reader's dream situation - being able to talk to his favorite authors, all of whom happen to be dead. Oh, and gay. In a common sitting room, and in denial about a few things, in death as in life, Tott eventually admits the truth about himself, to the surprise of all. Director John Pabros Clark (who also designed the cozy set) presents an amusing and witty look at Hartgraves version of what might happen if all these literary giants had a chance to mingle and pry into their lives. And make fun of each other mercilessly.

Kevin Remington is amazing as Capote, as he not only captures the voice and mannerisms perfectly, but makes it his own, with natural-sounding rapid-fire dialogue, as if there were no script at all. Curt Bonnem is a very sexy Williams, Jesse Merlin is a rumbling baritone and quite delightfully dry Wilde and Leon Acord plays Crisp with proper demure affection. Most definitely portrayed by strong actors, the rapport amongst these characters plays beautifully real and each one of them has something fascinating to impart. One could listen to these four wonderful performers for days.

Levi Damione, as the new author Tott, is a bit weaker, however, not having a famous personality to impart, but his presence does give something for the others to focus on. In addition, Alex Egan and Amanda Abel come in and out of the stage, as various characters, from Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas, to Frank Nelson and Judy Garland, and with a special Shakespearean appearance (Egan). They are fine as some added comic relief, but it is rather confusing to have some seemingly arbitrary famous non-literary characters pop in from time to time, although gay icons are frequently mentioned. More perplexing though, for some reason they are not allowed to interact with the main players. You do get some good musical numbers however, and maybe that is enough to entertain.

Overall, it is great fun to watch the drama unfold, as Tott tries to figure out why he is the one selected for this divine privilege. It's not Shakespeare, so to speak, but it is a play about love of literature and it is obvious the playwright had great respect for these legends. As do we. This particular evening had a few barely noticeable technical glitches, which hardly seems to matter in the big scheme of it all, as the show has been extended through the fall. So brush up on your classics and come get some insight into genius for a while. Have a shot of bourbon afterwards.
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Vox Aurea

a kate west recommendation

Finland's latest export comes in the form of an extraordinary Children's Choir known as Vox Aurea (a.k.a. The Golden Voice, in Latin). The kids (ages 11-18) come from Jyväskylä, Finland and travel the world bringing awed audiences the gift of music. With choreographed movement, they showcase folk and modern pieces, all perfectly rehearsed. Founded by Torsten Lindfors in 1968, the touring company includes world famous composer and conductor Pekka Kostiainen and Sanna Salminen. They hit San Francisco and Los Angeles this summer and have performed all over.

Scaling the music staff from top to bottom, the children's remarkable range dazzles and delights. You may not understand all the words (although some pieces are in English), but you will most decidedly understand the emotions, as they act out little dramas, set to original and traditional songs. Chirping and clicking, they mimic atmospheric sounds, becoming wind or train whistles or whatever the piece may require and they are obviously having the time of their lives as they grin joyfully and sing their little hearts out. Bowing their heads during solemn lulls, they will invoke Rockette precision the very next moment. And as an added bonus, the costumes are beautiful, colorful and fitting.

Kudos to the parents for providing this great opportunity to cross culture. Look them up and see if you can become a lucky host family and get to know Finland like no one else. You can regale your neighbors with fun Finnish facts. Well worth catching their act and here's how:

Performing at:
International Choral Exchange
with Los Angeles Children's Chorus
at Pasadena Presbyterian Church
July 21, 2009 @7pm
585 E Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91101-2036
(626) 793-2191

Tour Dates
July 9 - 23, 2009

Or Catch them on YouTube
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Shakespeare Unscripted

(Brian Lohmann and Tracy Burns)

a kate west review

directed by Brian Lohmann & Dan O’Connor
at Theatre of Arts, 1625 Las Palmas, Hollywood 90028
contact (323) 401-6162 or
running June 26 – August 1, 2009

“Shakespeare Unscripted” is the latest improvisational feat by Impro Theatre, the same company that brought you "Jane Austen Unscripted". Consisting of an ensemble of professionals improvisers, the company presents impromptou Shakespearean-style scenes for your viewing pleasure. Taking a suggestion from the audience, they create an entire play, complete with murder, intrigue and worthy puns.

Stand-outs this particular evening included the outstandingly talented co-directors, Dan O'Connor and Brian Lohmann. The hilarious duo Michele Spears and Tracy Burns gave them a run for their money as well. Harkening back to previous insights and delighting in pointing out inconsistencies, the cast has a lot of fun improvising and are, for the most part, up to the challenging language. Some members are stronger than others, but overall, it proves an entertaining evening.

This is a company worth watching and learning from (they offer classes too). If Shakespeare isn't your thing, you might want to check out the even more impressive Jane Austen version, or even "Sondheim Unscripted".

Impro Theatre is: Tracy Burns, Brian Jones, Stephen Kearin, Brian Lohmann, Nick Massouh, Jo McGinley, Dan O'Connor, Paul Rogan, Michele Spears, Floyd Van Buskirk with guest artists Lauren Lewis, Jennifer Riege and Mollie Taxe. Read more!

Scarecrow Video - a Seattle Experience

a kate west recommendation

Having recently visited Seattle for the first time, I was struck by how right so many of my friends were. This was a perfect city for me - laid-back, liberal, intellectual, but not snobbish, and environmentally savvy. Everyone was friendly, with no agenda. Coming from Los Angeles, you can imagine my relief not to hear an itemized list of someone's resume every time I merely said hello. The air was clear, the weather gorgeous (though I was warned time and time again how utterly atypical this was and not to get used to that bright sun) and little wisps of cotton blew across every road, like leftover pixie dust. Truly magical. Too good to be true, right?

I did all the must-sees like Pike Place and the Space Needle. Even visited the architecturally innovative newish Library. Saw surrounding little versions of Pleasantville like Kirkland, Bellevue and Ballard. All worthy tourist photo opps, to be sure. But my favorite spot in Seattle has to be Scarecrow Video.

The staff here lives, breathes and eats cinema, pretty much. The store has the most extensive film collection I've ever seen and puts Hollywood Boulevard to shame. Every recommendation is dead-on and they expect you to know your film history as well, since most movies are categorized by director. Who needs Netflix when you can walk in to the very real and present warm atmosphere of your fellow cinephiles? It'll take you years to learn everything about the place, so start by chatting up the staff - most of whom are here for the long haul. Then come back to La-la Land and tell 'em what they're missing.

If you're going, here are the jots of noteworthy interest:

We’re located in the University District of Seattle at 5030 Roosevelt Way NE (206.524.8554).

A quick exit off of I-5 and an easy walk from the University of Washington.

For directions to the store or how long it will take you to walk here from Boston, click here.

For some of our legendary history click here. Questions? They might be answered here.

Oh and don't forget to visit the original Rudy's at


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Star Trek

a kate west reflection 

A Sci-Fi nerd for as long as I can remember, "Star Trek" has to be my first love and Spock my first crush. Cold, emotionally unavailable intellectuals ... ah, that's what I'm doing wrong. Anyway, enough about me, let's Trek talk. 

I admit I was skeptical about the new movie, and purists will still take issue with some of the creative liberties of the story lines. Written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, this adaptation of way-too-little-of Starfleet history does nonetheless manage to remain essentially true to Gene Roddenberry's original characters, believe it or not. Just keep thinking alternate-universe time lines. 

Directed by J.J. Abrams ("Lost"), the new "Star Trek" brings together old crewmembers Spock (Zachary Quinto of "Heroes" fame), Dr. "Bones" McCoy (Karl Urban), Chekov (Anton Yelchin), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Scotty (Simon Pegg) and Sulu (John Cho) in a whole new old adventure. Also, Eric Bana co-stars as the villain Nero and Leonard Nimoy himself appears as an older version of Spock (that will be explained when you see it). Confused yet? 

Suffice to say, there is some rewritten history, but not enough to really mess with the essence of the classic Enterprise gang we have come to know and love. We get to see Kirk, Spock and crew back when they first enroll in the Academy and then go on their first mission. It's nice to speculate on how they all met and what their first impressions of each other were. Urban's McCoy is especially good, as he channels DeForest Kelley to a T

Again, some of the back story is a tad different, due to messing with time travel, but you will recognize everyone. Simon Pegg is an excellent Scottish Engineer and Quinto is a perfect Spock. By the time Chris Pine dons the yellow shirt of command, he is a young Shatner incarnate. Yelchin's Chekov is a little overdone (but so was Walter Koenig). Zoe Saldana is fine as Uhura and John Cho handles Sulu alright, for what little screen time he has. There's even a brief and unrecognizable appearance from Winona Ryder as Spock's Mother. And Michael Giacchino's original score contributes to the excitement and hipness that is the new Abrams film and is overall a fun ride. 

I don't know whether or not the new "Star Trek" will stand the test of time as it is someone's personal version of a beloved franchise. And while it is action-packed and so very cool, it doesn't cover the core attraction - mainly the ideal universe the original creators envisioned. "Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five year mission - To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no (one) has gone before." 

And let's not forget the Prime Directive, an important Starfleet law of noninterference with other civilizations, much like the creed our contemporary wildlife photographers and filmmakers adhere to. I loved "Star Trek" for the comradery and the messages of morality in the story lines. And for the idealism of building an organization that brought together different races (and species) in one common mission. "Star Trek" inspired us to invent cell phones and to have interracial crew members and even female captains. This vision of our future helped NASA work on our present. 

And is there another 1960's forward-thinking television show that spawned so many equally idealistic spin-offs? "Next Generation", "Deep Space Nine", "Voyager", "Enterprise" - each of these shows tried something different, while keeping to the main point - promoting peace and unity whenever and wherever possible in this vast universe of ours. If there is a sequel (and based on audience response, I don't see why there would not be), I'd like to see the characters go a little deeper into that part of our space which inspires us to improve on our own humanity. 

J.J. Abrams may not be the biggest ST fan, but surely he can understand the appeal. "Live Long and Prosper". 


More Star Trek: 

Action Chick Flick Link: Old Star Trek (start collecting now): Star Trek: The Original Series - Season 1 [Blu-ray]
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Nostalgia and Dreams

a kate west review
world premiere presented by
White Buffalo Theatre Company
written by Brett Holland
directed by Kerrie Keane
at the Deaf West Theatre
5112 Lankershim Blvd.,
North Hollywood 91601
running April 17 to May 24

or (818) 569-3037

"Nostalgia and Dreams" is a brand new play by Brett Holland, company member of the eclectic White Buffalo Theatre Company in North Hollywood. An apartment building full of tenants showcases lives turned upside down at the same time a local Cathedral is scheduled for demolition. The obvious references to a crisis in faith are interspersed with seemingly dark secrets. Unfortunately, despite committed performances, it doesn't quite come together.

One young couple battles with what appears to be a marriage-ending secret. Another mother-daughter pair wrestles with possible anorexia. One tenant whines about being gay and another neighbor talks to someone dead. In an effort to create universal conflict, Playwright Brett Holland makes the characters interact from time to time, but ultimately they have no real affect on one another.

Director Kerrie Keane weaves the story lines together, but not everything fits. For instance two "suits" (Danny Junod and Jessica Wright) slip down the theater aisles when the lights dim in between scenes. Their corporate presence seems to indicate societal and business pressures on the protagonists, often egging them on into deeper insecurities. They howl and gyrate, taunting everyone, but could just as easily been eliminated as they do not add much to the general plot.

Speaking of plots, the script follows quite a perplexing few. Paul (Playwright Brett Holland) is a young man tortured by his homosexuality. He is shadowed by a young boy (Chris Haehnel) who appears to be a symbol for something. His inner child? His past? His future? It is never explained. We never find out why Paul is so unhappy with his lifestyle or his relationship to a stressed-out new mother (Regina Peluso). Standout Sydney Park is radiant as Rebecca, the young girl with a God fixation who wants to be much too thin. Her mother (Angelina Leaf) is in denial until finally snapping in a rather awkward force-feeding scene, after neighbor Paul attempts a half-hearted intervention. Tommy (Carlo Serna) and Amy (Marguerite Moreau) are a young couple with communication problems. Their relationship is a bit grating and cutesy. And after all the build up with a seemingly dark secret, their resolution is a bit watered down. Lynne Conner is a spiritual old woman who talks to herself, or maybe someone from her past or from the graveyard. That is never explained either. Marguerite Moreau and Sydney Park (keep an eye on her so you can say you-knew-her-when) give the strongest performances, in spite of the rather weak dialogue. Nothing connects in a truly genuine way.

Life, death, love and spirituality are all touched on but never given deep illumination. The play would do much better as a one act, in a shorter format, with some brief glimpses into life vignettes. That way, each character could have snippets of conversations and the poetic intent would work much better, rather than leading us down character paths, only to find ourselves asking why? Granted, the intention is sincere, but the overall writing needs tidying up as the messages are rather obvious. There is a lot of yearning and some inexplicable monologues in the mix as well. Also, the attempt at absurdism does not quite make it. To go in that direction, one would need to go to the other extreme and make a longer play, with more fleshed out fantastical characters.

As it is, the play now stands in between two genres and does not reach its true potential. We never specifically find out what the nostalgia and dreams are all about either. Too bad. The White Buffalo Theatre Company certainly has heart however and seems to be doing well for itself. So there's that. Read more!

Paper Heart

a kate west review
directed by Nicholas Jasenovec
written by Charlyne Yi and Nicholas Jasenovec

Winner of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, "Paper Heart" is a documentary (of sorts) about love. Charlyne Yi (experienced stand up comedian) does not believe in such fantasies. Or so she claims. But she wants to find out more, so she journeys across America, interviewing folks about their different definitions of l'amour. And naturally everyone has a different answer for her.

The movie blends reality and fantasy (such as actor Jake Johnson playing Director Nicholas Jasenovec, who actually exists and is actually the director) and while this may be confusing to some, it does give the film a definite sweet charm and appeal. Yi is the wide-eyed non-believer, quizzing everyone from children in a playground to hard core Harley Davidson bikers. The interviews are candid and touching and while they don't necessarily offer real insight into true love, they are hopeful stories of that amazing thing that happens when you finally meet just the right person in just the right way. And even more delightful, much of the lovers' stories are acted out by paper puppets, with half-finished backgrounds, adding to the theme of childlike wonder.

In the course of the film, Yi eventually meets Michael Cera ("Arrested Development", "Juno", "Superbad") and in spite of her many protests, ends up liking him after all. Their courtship is played out under the camera's scrutiny, part scripted, part real, as the two really fall for each other. There are a lot of cute moments as the couple attempts to elude the cameras and later try to make their love work in spite of the intrusion. Cera is his usual subtle, quirky self, delivering lines in that uniquely funny style of his and his youthfulness is the perfect match for Yi's immaturity. It's a simple story about a personal quest for love and who among us can't relate to that? It's the perfect length too. Any longer and one might become impatient with Yi's childishness. But in the end, her naivety leads her to a pure love.

"Paper Heart" is a sweet movie, which fulfills our childhood fantasies of romance, acts it out with paper puppets and tries to figure it all out for us. Exactly what is the difference between what looks good on paper and the reality of love? You might not find the answer to that, but you will enjoy looking. The moral of the story then has to be that one should always be open to love, because you will inevitably find it in a place you least expect. So stay positive, friends.

Watch the Trailer Here: Read more!


The World of Neil Gaiman
a kate west recommendation and a fangirl's Dream

The Sandman series is a visually stunning and esoterically entertaining view of the character of Dream (Morpheus). And his family (which includes his über trendy Goth sister Death). At times cynical, dark and biting, it can also be surprisingly light. But only once in a while. Mostly, it's a surreal fantasy world of omnipotent gods who play with human emotions. Keep in mind however, how even the mighty must fall.

The Sandman is one of the Endless Ones. There are seven fascinating members in the genealogy: Destiny, Death, Destruction, Despair, Desire and Delirium (a particular odd delight). Each of them has his/her own story to tell, but Dream features prominently. Forced into exile, escaping, dying and returning, ad nauseam, are all part of his own timeline (which is never in sync with our own). Credit the vivid imagination richly unfolding in each graphic novel to creator Neil Gaiman's genius. Every one is a special treat and should be savored like a Chagall in a museum. But see for yourself. Please.

Start With This One:
The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes

The Endless Ones:

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by Stephenie Meyer
a kate west boo

One of the most popular teen novels currently is the Vampire novel "Twilight", the first of four books in the saga of the Cullen clan, a Vampire family. Yes, you read that right. It's also a popular teen film about a Vampire family. Now to figure out which version is worse. It's all been discussed in countless chat rooms, sure, but as a sci-fi/fantasy nerd girl (with a delightful dark side, if I do say so myself), I have to weigh in on all things Vampire. I knew it would pain me to delve into this phenomenon, but for the sake of integrity (much as I was tempted), I cannot criticize something I haven't seen or read. Thus the sacrifice was made and I'm all up to date, kids. So let's start with the novel.

For the record, Stephenie Meyer writes for teenagers knee-deep in hormonal hell but that doesn't mean they aren't literate and can't follow a coherent story. But I digress. Edward Cullen is a mysterious high schooler attracted to newcomer Bella Swan. She can't figure out his initial aversion to her until he gradually reveals (while she figures it out herself) that he is a vampire and her blood is so intoxicatingly scented, he could lose his mind. She, in turn, is drawn to his beauty and the two of them are swept up in adolescent infatuation, much to the disapproval of some townspeople and even family members (on both sides).

Some of the Vampire lore is well-known: they are immortal (he stopped being 17 in 1918), they drink blood, have supernatural strength and heightened senses. What we didn't know is that they are comfortable in the sunlight, but prefer to stay in darkness, since the sun brings out this glowing golden sheen, a dead giveaway (get it?), for sure. Oh and these fangless beings can choose not to feed on humans and go after Bambi instead. AND they play baseball. And Ed's a mind reader too. Maybe Meyer found some kind of reference to these various twists in some dusty old book somewhere, but I doubt it and I'm certainly not taking up valuable research time to find out (I'd miss too many "Lost" episodes). So I conclude she made that part up. And it is absurd. Why keep part of the lore and then add a few enhancements just to be interesting? Vampires are monsters and the one thing we all know is that they crave human blood, so they can't just decide not to go after it. Even Joss Whedon's "Angel" had to regain his soul in order to accomplish that. You can be creative certainly, but please stay true to the universe you create. Call them something else and then you can have them behave however you choose.

And even worse, the dialogue is flat and the characters maudlin and it just isn't a very sophisticated rendering of dark creatures. The Cullens have a family and they just accept Bella as Edward's intended? His scowling sister Rosalie isn't taken very seriously and they all bond together when outsiders swing into town, looking for trouble. If you want to know how it ends, skim the book or see the movie. Or go to the Bahamas and take all four novels for some beach reading. If you need mindlessness - and who doesn't these days?

As for the movie, Edward's great speed looks ridiculous on screen and it is hard not to chuckle at some of these overly dramatic lines such as Edward referring to the new love as between a "lion and a lamb". The acting is pretty wooden and Catherine Hardwicke's first action-type film is fairly standard. Eye candy abounds on both sides, especially yummy Robert Pattinson as the delectable Edward. But outside of being enchanted by his pretty face, I couldn't pay much attention. Bella is in danger and you know Edward will save her. There's a formal dance and lots of classroom scenes and family drama and it's "My So-Called Life" for Vampires. The dialogue is lifted out of the book, unfortunately and plays even worse on screen. If you roll your eyes reading it, imagine having to hear it.

You're welcome - I do what I can for America. But it's a hit and teen girls are dreaming of having their own Edward Cullen someday. Over Mr. Darcy? Shudder. But if you must love a creature of the night, there are so many more good Vamps out there. Try Stephen King or Richard Matheson. Then follow up with a romance novel (or even an Anne Rice, if you really must). Or just watch "Buffy the Vampire Slayer".


Better still, experience the real life Twilight Wolves, just outside LA:

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke
Produced by Mark Morgan
Greg Mooradian
Wyck Godfrey
Written by Novel:
Stephenie Meyer
Melissa Rosenberg

The Cullens: (from left) Kellan Lutz , Nikki Reed, Elizabeth Reaser, Robert Pattinson, Peter Facinelli, Ashley Greene, and Jackson Rathbone

It's out now!
Twilight (Two-Disc Special Edition)
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