“And the seasons they go round and round….”

This is the first week of classes, and my Freshman Seminar “Theatre Scene” is all the way across the campus from my office in the Scene Dock Theatre. It’s a joy, walking across the campus, in my brightly colored silk blouse, taking my steps to share knowledge and passion for my topic with my inquisitive students. Today, I plugged in my earplugs and let my music boost me across campus. Truly great songwriters tell stories and it’s been so long since I heard music through an optimistic filter. There’s something stunning about listening to the lyrics that I know by heart, but instead of from my single just-north-of-twenty-year old self, listening from the other side, single and just-south-of-sixty.

The USC School of Dramatic Arts 2019 Move in Day event on August 22, 2019, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging)

I don’t know when exactly it was that I reached out to Karla Bonoff recently, but I am relishing the reconnection. Full disclosure, I don’t know Karla Bonoff, but I’ve got her as my current station on Pandora. No, thank you for thinking so, but it’s the free Pandora, the one with the irritating ads. “….spa inspired bathtub….” Yeah, yeah.

Baby Don’t Go (Karla Bonoff)

Taking all I’ve got and now you’re leaving….

Karla Bonoff

Been to Canaan and I won’t rest until I go back again.

Carole King

After work today, I jumped in my car to pick up a brown tiger’s eye bead necklace from the repair place over on Sunset. I’m in that sort of mood these days. Clearing off desks, putting TVs up on the wall to free up table space for my puzzles. My TV now hangs out on an arm that tilts it towards the kitchen so I can watch while I cook. I know I sound like I’m well on my way to being a cat lady. But what you may not know is that I’ve been there, done that. With five cats at one time. So I swear I don’t have a cat. I don’t need a cat. I don’t want a cat. I am doing what I want right now. Planning the next phase of my life. Consulting with professionals. Asking embarrassing and probing questions of myself and only myself. A bit of good old navel gazing, I think we used to call it.

Anyway, today in the car as I toodled up Vermont Avenue, I belted along listened to some of my old faves:
Both Sides Now (Joni Mitchell)

…Moons and Junes and ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way

But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really…

The copyright police will come after me, but I just wanted to drive home the point that we’ve come a long way since our feckless twenties. Life looks quite different from this angle. But the music is still so great. Joni Mitchell was 25 when she wrote that song in 1968.

If you are of the vintage when Karla Bonoff’s, Jackson Browne’s, James Taylor’s, Linda Rondstadt’s, Joni Mitchell’s, Carly Simon’s and The Eagles’ songs spoke loudly to you, do yourself a favor – give another listen.

My listening tonight:

  • Blackbird (Sarah McLachlin)
  • Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)
  • After The Thrill is Gone (Eagles)
  • Carry Me Home (Karla Bonoff)
  • When Will I Be Loved (Linda Rondstadt)
  • Rock Me on the Water (Jackson Browne)
  • Angel (Sarah McLachlin)
  • Blue Bayou (Linda Rondstadt)

After I shared this post, my colleague Luis Alfaro guided me to this astonishing rendition of Both Sides Now. Thank you, Luis!

New Year’s Eve Personal AMR

Right when I think I won’t be able to extract myself from the couch to return to work on January 4th, it occurs to me that I need to do that annual self-evaluation called an Annual Merit Review. This is what faculty members do to justify the salaries they are paid for the prior year and to make a case for their continued employment in the coming year.

There’s nothing wrong with justifying your job. If you do it really well, you get to keep it, and believe me, I know how blessed an event that is. Just FYI, I’ve started that document. This is a list of ten less formal but more personal events from 2015, some of which I blogged about this year. If you want to visit the blogs, the links are included below.

In 2015, I:

  1. returned to the professional theatre for the first time in 10 years, to stage manage. I wasn’t sure that I ever wanted to do it again, but when the right project comes along with the right timing, anything is possible and the experience was amazing. Gospel at Colonus first DaysGospel at Colonus week 2,Gospel at Colonus – Music and MovementGospel at Colonus Tech Week,Gospel at Colonus Opening NightGospel at Colonus – 6 Degrees of Wren T. BrownGospel at Colonus Messy HumansGospel at Colonus – ClosingGospel at Colonus Family Reunion,Gospel Remount
  2. watched our son really grow into adulthood, become a hockey coach and put down roots with a wonderful fiancee and their new baby. Drone Parenting

  3. in the happiest event of the year, added a title to my name: Nana Els. You can see above the beautiful baby who gave me that title just before Christmas. I wear it with a pride beyond what I ever believed was possible. May the force be with you.
  4. oversaw the remodel of a bathroom and a kitchen, as well as the living and dining room repaint and recarpet.Emergency Kitchen Remodel Remodeling,First week Remodeling bath,Pictures of completed remodel
  5. Spent three brief vacations in Lake Tahoe. Three vacations? Unheard of! I’d advocate buying a vacation home there, but I know the minute we did that, our reason for visiting would move.  That’s one reason. The other is below.

    IMG_5566 2
    Digging out of the snow.


  6. witnessed the joy on my husband’s face when he was offered an acting job in the waning hours of the year. (more to come on that in a future blog).
  7. sent out some Christmas cards after vowing in prior years that it was too much work. The secret? Go to Vroman’s now and buy the cards on sale;stash them in the closet. Hopefully by November of the 2016, I will still like them, and there will still be a federal postal service to deliver them.
  8. got a tattoo, my first. Also, probably my last.  The Gift
  9. lost some dear friends and relatives. It never gets easier to lose loved ones, but death is a strong reminder/incentive to keep living to your fullest potential.
  10. reorganized my closets and financial accounts to bring me more joy. And a retirement. The two are not related, but both bring me joy.

    Bags of clothing I cleaned out.

    I hope your year was equally eventful and overall positive. Let’s raise a glass to the untapped potential of 2016!

Gospel at Colonus – Poolside Family Reunion

My go-to pic for all pool party invites.

We hosted a glorious reunion of our Colonus Family yesterday. The colleagues whom I met only about two months ago have become family. That can be one of the powerful aftereffects of a theatrical venture. In certain productions, the chemistry of a company becomes larger than the vessel that holds it, and spills over, flooding your lives with the epsom-salted-soothing water of a warm bath. Or in this case, of a warm pool, as the twenty-plus guests gathered to celebrate the upcoming remount of the show in the Rec room at our condo in downtown LA. There were conspicuous absences, of course, as several cast members live back east or across the country and were not able to attend. Others, still, had work, or family engagements, or reunions planned after the flurry of the show this summer and were otherwise engaged.

Yesterday was a tough and emotional day for Jimmie and me, as one of Jimmie’s nephews passed away suddenly after a brief but impactful series of medical episodes. In the scrum of the party organization in the morning, I glanced at FB, seeing a picture of Jamie on his brother Doke’s FB page, and the dreaded words, rest in peace. Though he had lived with AIDS for over 30 years, managing his health well, his departure was a blow. His twin, Martha, herself recently widowed, had sat with Jamie every day for the past five days, in ICU, as the medical team worked nobly to stave off the inevitable. Nothing prepares you for the loss of a family member.

Death crept elsewhere around our Colonus family reunion yesterday. Jackie Gouche´ arrived, on her lips a story of the sudden passing that morning of her next door neighbor, a 56-year-old man. I am ever alert to the potential for loss. You can call me Maude Lynn;  I guarantee I will use that as my nom de plume in the future.  My hyper awareness of loss is genetic, as well as due to the large age gap between myself and my husband. The picture I select for our invites each time we host a pool party is of a woman who closely resembles my dearly departed stepmother. Her kind, limpid blue eyes, combined with the silly plastic spangled swim cap reminds me of dear Joan, and her strong impact on me as a teen and later, as a young mother. Each loss stings as a reminder of losses to come. This hopeless extra sensory perception to loss causes me sometimes to go overboard planning parties where I can more easily embrace our family and the non-blood-related families we build around us via the theatre.

I feel an urgency to make the most of each day; so, on a day when our apartment looked like a war zone due to the bathroom remodel in progress, I gathered up the necessary tools to make the Condo’s lovely rec room adequate to host a party and pushed my cart down to the 2nd floor pool level.

By 1:00pm, I was ready, plastic red and white checked table-cloth rolled out over the rec room’s tables, all the available chairs pushed up next to the long 15′ table area, buffets set up near by, and a station of cold drinks ready by the door to the outside, where 95 degree temps eagerly mashed their sweaty fingers up against glass protecting the cool, air-conditioned room. It was sunny and the grill was heating. I swooned a bit from the combination of grill and natural heat as I flipped the first burgers.

The inevitable fear of party failure loomed. Tough questions rolled through my brain:

What if no one comes? What if no one eats? What if no one has a good time? What if there is nothing to talk about? Did I make enough food? Will anyone swim? Will the lack of parking deter them from coming?

L to R: Ricky Nelson, Els, Jackie Gouche, Andi Chapman, William Allen Young. This photo almost didn’t happen but we convinced each other it was a good idea.

One thing I should have been certain of is that there would be plenty of talk and laughter and frivolity.
At more than one point in the afternoon, the decibel level in the room exceeded the legal limit for condo rec rooms, but thankfully, the doors were closed up against the heat, and we just reveled in the sonorous ricochet of laughter.

As at all family reunions, topics of health came up. We bemoaned this family’s shared acute asthma, comparing treatments and the high cost of inhalers, and hopeful appraisal that we could still take up scuba diving in spite of the affliction. We talked about the value of the epsom salt soak, either lavender-scented, or plain.  We took turns reveling in the achievements of our children, the raucous chatter and laughter silenced for a few minutes to listen to the extraordinary vocals of Jackie’s son, featured on Tyrese’s latest and last album, Black Rose. We laughed about the Hollywood phenomenon of being in a TV Series; how a mundane drive across town could suddenly be punctuated by seeing your own face on the side of an adjacent bus, or on a nearby billboard. Surreal. Enjoy it while you can!

Did you get a selfie?

I have a selfie stick.

You do not!

I do, just not with me.

We shared Face Time with Muff, who had recently moved to Florida; we visited briefly, me sitting on the edge of the pool, feet dangling, as Angie held the phone up to my face and I struggled to see Muff through the sunny reflection of Angie’s phone. Then Angie swept her away to visit with some of the others.

It felt good to laugh, to listen, to relish the memories of the brief time that we have known each other as a group. People came and left during the afternoon as their schedules allowed. IMG_4849We had a brief visit from the Colonus Pater Familias, Wren T. Brown, his beautiful wife, Anne Hailey Brown, and their son Brandon, who had performed in the last weekend of the show as one of the Henchmen. It is because of Wren and Gayle Hooks that we exist as a family now. This two month-long hiatus, broken up by our Colonus Poolside bash allowed us to remember what bonded us. Ricky regaled us with a story about being recognized recently by several large groups of women.

Do I know you from church?

No! We saw you in the play!

How did you recognize me?

We recognized you from your hair!


I watched affectionately, as my hostessing duties took me away from the table, and Dominique invited Jimmie closer in to the table to talk. And, at the end of the afternoon, when I realized there was another party booked in the room, I felt terrible to have to tell people it was time for us to wrap it up.

Everyone scurried to make plates of food for people to take away and to help with the clean up. Nina’s yummy baked beans! I quickly snagged some of Lantrez’ beautiful enchiladas, and I am glad I did! I missed Deante’s mac and cheese, which, I was told, was very cheesy! Oh well, next time.

With classes starting, and the beginning of the fall semester, along with the remount of Colonus for three brief weeks, I am not sure how to get another party pulled together. That’s okay. We will see each other soon!

Next weekend, Jimmie and I will see our blood family, for Jamie’s memorial. In this business of life and death, it’s about making opportunities to be together, about embracing and laughing and eating.  COLONUS ART

This is the last week for early bird tickets. Tickets $25-35 are on sale only through August 21st. Get yours now! http://www.ebonyrep.org/

First Days – Bathroom Remodel

Demo began last week on the guest bath renovation project.

IMG_4769Our wonderful contractor arrived by 8:30 on Wednesday, the appointed day, and by the time I left for work, the two plates of glass that had clattered for years to represent a shower door had been escorted out the front door of the apartment. By the time I got home Wednesday, the bathroom was gutted. No more coffin bathtub, no more medicine cabinet.


I feel terrible that my big brother, Don, just visited us a few weeks ago, his first visit to our downtown LA home. We will encourage him to return once this process is over.

Remodeling is an act of reclamation, an opportunity to make the world (or in this case, just a 10′ x 10′ part of it) a little better. It’s about choosing beautiful materials and nestling them up next to each other so that they complement each other in a harmonious whole. It is about that aha moment when you are digging through a closet and you rediscover a beautiful water-color that you had archived in recent years but which now sings the song of the room you are re-doing.  It is about the efficacy of the online ordering process at Home Despot, which means you don’t have to go to the store at all. It is the voilà at the end which makes you feel tremendously accomplished.

The other part I love of about remodeling is when things go wrong. I am pretty sure my contractor doesn’t read my blog so I’m safe in talking about this, but for me, in life, as in the theatre, as in remodeling, the challenges are what make us stronger/better/experienced.

What went wrong this week on the remodel? Plenty. I had used the handy ordering tool at Home Despot, ordered the tub, the fixtures for the tub, and the vanity. What more do I need? Well, my agreeable contractor Melvin  informed me, the stem valve for the behind the wall part of the tub, as well as the drain mechanism.

That doesn’t automatically come with the tub?

When I ordered the parts, I knew the size of the tub, and not being a plumber, didn’t know that those other parts weren’t just off the shelf parts at Home Despot. The fixtures were so reasonable – $129.00 for heavy-duty chrome shower head, shower controls and tub faucet. That was until I had to spend $258.00 for the valve to be express-shipped. Crap. And the drain, similarly had to be sent express so as not to stall the project. The drain stem arrived on Friday, allowing the work that needed to be done to get finished before the weekend. The medicine cabinet, towel bars and robe hooks arrived on Friday and are sitting quietly awaiting their turns to enter the space.

The space is looking pretty horrific now. You know that time during the load-in in the theatre when there are tools piled around the backstage area, after the carpenters have finished for the day? That’s the way our guest bathroom looks now. Come to think of it, it is probably the familiarity of chaos that I also love about remodeling. IMG_4787

I remember my first remodeling project – again, a bathroom in our first house in North Hollywood. It was a one bedroom home, and Jimmie was back east filming his TV show, “The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd.” We were not parents yet, and I decided I would tackle the remodel project with a friend from the theatre where I was working prior to Jimmie’s return home. Late at night as I was about to go to bed, I could choose to A) creep out into the back yard to squat in the sandy soil like a feral cat, or B) get into my clothes and drive to Denny’s at the corner of Burbank and Vineland to use the bathroom there. I did both over the week or so that the toilet was out of commission. Nope, not my proudest moment, and trust me, it is much more convenient to remodel one of two bathrooms than one of one.

What else went wrong? The tile company called to say that two of the four types of tiles I had ordered were on back order until the end of August.  I called and discovered that the floor tiles were all right, just the subway tiles were not available. A quick trip to the tile store the next morning gave me the opportunity to pick almost identical tiles to the ones I had chosen before. They are 1/2 inch narrower, but almost the same color as the original ones.

Today, the tile arrived. Yesterday, the tub and vanity arrived. There is now so much in the bathroom that you can’t even get into the room. They installed the tub today, and tomorrow will begin tiling. Lighting fixture arrived today. It’s a stretch to believe this is going to turn out all right. Sort of like every creative endeavor.

Boxes of tile sitting on top of the box holding the Vanity. Word is we’ll be done by this weekend. I’m skeptical now.



It must be Summer – Remodeling Project

The indulgent smile of one well schooled in the long arc of his wife’s expensive hobby – remodeling.

Those who know me well know that there are few things that make me happier than the occasional expenditure of time, energy and resources in the pursuit of a re-beautified space. Renovating has always been a creative outlet, and one which provides me great serenity (in the end). There are a lot of ways to relax on your summer vacation. Some people go to Nevada and gamble. Yes, I recently went to Nevada and gambled away $40.00 in the ‘reverse ATM’ as our son calls it. But I didn’t enjoy it, nor do I make a habit of it.

Yes, perhaps I was spending too much time at work from the looks of this photo.

Even Martha Stewart accessories and new towels didn’t make the bathroom look better.

My vice is far more expensive. It begins with a simmering dissatisfaction, percolates through online research and virtual selection of materials way beyond my means, and ultimately concludes with a beautiful new and more or less affordable room. I have spent months creating a board on Pinterest about our 2nd bathroom, which now sports 1′ white 80s ceramic tiles, a dingy wooden cabinet with a cigarette-scarred 80’s swirled plastic sink surround, massive mirrors and a medicine cabinet that refuses to close. It swings open to reveal rusty shelves and random shaving accoutrements, and taped inside, a goofy picture of the three of us backstage at the Canon Theatre during the run of The Vagina Monologues, from late 2001. Centered over the huge mirror more suited to a dance studio than a guest bathroom for the over-50 set, is a wounded four lamp fixture, one of the lamps permanently dark due to someone’s (sheepish looking writer) overzealous winding of the light bulb. It’s shade is a beacon in the world, bleating, “Failure!” every time I use the bathroom. You can be sure that a smaller mirror features large in our renovation plans, as well as a smaller light fixture which will be centered over the new modest mirror.

The second biggest impediment to my serial remodeling fever is lack of time. Life and work get in the way. That, and the fact that with this project, we will ostensibly have finished all the necessary work in the apartment. So I was a bit nostalgic, when we went to the Cosmos Flooring store today to select the tile for our last remodeling project. We had plans to meet Melvin, our contractor there, and the store opened at 10:00AM. We arrived at 9:50 and the door was open, so we went inside, greeted enthusiastically by a white toy poodle and a mahogany colored pug, both of whom threatened to trip Jimmie. We went in and while we waited for Melvin, Tim, one of the sales people, helped us to look around.

This wood-like porcelain tile is a beachy grayish blue shot through with veins of gold.

My Pinterest board had a lot of white tile, carera tile, rustic cabinets and polished chrome fixtures. The issue with this second bathroom is that the floor butts up against the cork tiles of the entryway. I was interested in whites, grays, and blues in color, but was very aware that the gold of the cork would be challenging to match.

The first tile I saw was the one we ultimately went with. (I’m telling you, I think I have a gift). The things they do with tile these days! This is a porcelain tile, which is designed to look and almost feel like wood planking. It is fantastic. I looked a little silly removing my sandals and “walking” up the board. There was another similar sample on the floor and I padded appreciatively over that.  TMarthaStewartVanityhe blue matches the Martha Stewart “Sharkey Gray” vanity that I chose at Home Depot. Don’t judge me. She did her time.

The wooden baseboards in the current bathroom design were swollen when the last denizen of our apartment moved out and some of her friends yanked out the washing machine, hitting the overhead sprinkler and flooding the floor with 8-24 gallons per minute, leaving the baseboards misshapen in spite of subsequent paint. So we will use the 4″ by 40″ tiles above to create a tile baseboard to replace the existing one.

Next, Tim guided us to a board with  8″x 2.5″” subway tiles in glossy white, and similar tiles in ash blue, a band of which we will use in the tub/shower enclosure. I think it was about this time that I took that photo of Jimmie, sitting patiently, watching me mull over the proper grout color and spacing. By now, Melvin had joined us, and we were ready to write up the order with Tim. Best to sit down in moments like this; it is predictably shocking when you hear the numbers. IMG_4749 IMG_4748

So, we start next Wednesday with demolition phase. Don’t plan on visiting us next weekend; you would be sorely disappointed with the accommodations.

One of the main reasons for the remodel besides the previously mentioned condition of the bathroom, is the fact that the original tub is the least comfortable tub ever constructed. Sitting in the tub is a little like sitting in a coffin. It is 5′ long and is almost square where the sides meet the bottom of the tub. In the last 7 years I have taken about 10 baths total. I know that that is laudable given the current drought conditions in California, and in fact, as we began serious discussions about the renovation, we talked about whether it was environmentally greedy to include a tub. I remember saying to Jimmie,

But what about the grand babies? We have to have a tub for them.

This was, by the way, way before there was an actual grand baby in our thoughts, or even in our son’s thoughts. So, good thing that we were decided to include a deep soaking tub for me (and the grand babies).

To be continued…

Moving, Commencement and Disney Day

It’s been a busy time at the School of Dramatic Arts this week. Amidst finals, portfolio reviews and the packing of our offices in the beloved CWT building (doomed to demolition next week),  may we have a moment of silence, please.

Our current office in the Childs Way Two building.

Our soon to be renovated office.

And next, a moment of anticipation; do you feel the little frisson of expectation in the space which is to be our new office? Imagine, if you will, from the before photo at right, the sheer beauty of that second tier of lights, carpet on the floor, fresh paint on the walls; we will even have a blue accent wall  behind our desks. It really is exciting. You know me, any excuse to renovate.

Our colleagues from CWT will be scattering to various buildings on and just off campus. The upstairs hallway in the building has been cluttered with the tidy boxes holding all our belongings, the stray student or two wandering by to say hi to their professors, their chatter obliterated by the sound of packing tape screeching off its roll, the professors wild-eyed with the upheaval. (Not really wild-eyed; we are far to used to the itinerant lifestyle to be thrown by a little thing like having our offices moved.)

Chairs awaiting Thornton School of Music Commencement.

With our faculty and staff moving day looming on Monday, the students are also beginning to load their belongings into the large rolling bins. The party vendors have rolled onto campus and have set up literally thousands of commencement chairs. They undulate across the green lawns, expectantly awaiting to seat proud family members who will travel to campus on Friday to cheer on their children during their commencement ceremonies. There is forecasted rain for Friday, an 80% chance that we will get the long needed rain that we’ve been fantasizing all through the ridiculously unseasonal warm winter. Now that we want to wear our summer dresses and attend commencement, it’s due to pour. Perfect.

Current stage management students listen to Melissa Trupp, ’10

This week, we had an entertaining visit by one of our alums, Melissa Trupp, who graduated five years ago from our BFA Stage Management program. She shared her early career trajectory with a group of our current Stage Management students.

IMG_4076 2
Melissa Trupp, BFA SM ’10 has become a leader through her work with the Disney organizations.

She spent an hour and a half with the stage management students, regaling them about her work both at Disneyland, and on the Disney Cruise ships which she has called home for the past two years.  It was fascinating to hear about the complexity of the shows, and the logistics of the day to day life aboard the ships. The students and I were rapt. I couldn’t resist asking her if it was “the Love Boat.” My students laughed, but I know they all wanted to ask but didn’t have the courage. If I have tried to teach them one thing, it’s that there are no stupid questions; I model that every time I get the chance.

SDA students and staff prepare for the procession of graduates.

She let us peek at her calling script (sorry, Melissa, there’s probably a disclosure agreement I’ve just blown, endangering  your job). I promise that no one had their cameras out except me, and just to take these pictures of our meeting.

Then, today we had our Commencement rehearsal at the Bing. Of course, the School of Dramatic Arts would have a tech rehearsal prior to its Commencement. Blocking, cueing, lighting and sound, and understudies. I stand in for the Dean and use the exercise to bid each of the students farewell.  Trust me, our rehearsal bears little resemblance to the final show, an energy-filled celebration with a cheering audience. But we rehearse it just so we get it perfect. This year I felt like we were graduating the freshman class. As I mock-handed them their diplomas, I said more than once, I’m afraid:

Wait. Didn’t you just get here last fall?

No, Els, I’ve been here four years.

How the heck did that happen?

Wrapped chairs awaiting their party tomorrow on the PED lawn.

Slogging through the rain to get there, I took this picture of someone’s post-Commencement party zone, looking more like a country graveyard, graves pinwheeling across the PED lawn. Outside right now there is lightning and thunder. I can hear the tread of the cars through the wet streets below.  Hopefully it will finish by morning and we will have a glistening green Disney dream campus with which to greet our students’ parents. Bon voyage to another fine class of theatrical practitioners! We wish you well and urge you to come back to share your experiences with the students you’ve left behind.

Active Learning – 5 of this week’s lessons

A couple of noteworthy learning events happened this week.

1) I learned from an NPR post I saw on FB that using Times Roman font on my resume/CV was the equivalent of showing up to an interview in sweatpants. I imagined, as I quickly remodeled my CV in sleek, no-nonsense Helvetica that I was, in a sense, remodeling myself, from dowdy mid-fifties professor, to hipster siren of stage management. I want to remind you  that digital heckling or jeering is not appreciated.

2) After bemoaning (thankfully to myself only) the loss of my second water bottle, I learned that there was some value to cleaning one’s desk. Before you begin marveling at how high the crap on my desk would have to be to hide a 12″ high water bottle, I want to assure you that it was not height, but location. The bottle was sitting just out of my peripheral vision on the desk. As I turned back to check I hadn’t forgotten anything last night as I left my office, there it was, standing like a little soldier in the corner.

TechTimeQuizShow3) I learned that it is still possible to raise the roof at 8:00AM in the morning in THTR 130. We had our final class yesterday and after 1 hour and 20 minutes of “Tech Time”, our quiz show format , the students were laughing and shouting out the answers so loud that I thought the University might send the classroom propriety patrol around to GFS 106. We had already been rescued by the IT Squad at the start of the class when my PowerPoint stubbornly went to a black screen every time I hit the play button.

4) I learned that, as a digital immigrant, it is good to have powerfully fluent friends in this technological age. My colleague, Phil Allen and the IT person who’s trying-to-be-helpful voice was coming from the grate in the wall (I guess most people would call it a panel, but in this case, it was grating, because my computer was on the podium 10 feet away, and with the arrival of the streaming masses, the technician could no longer hear my woeful cries from the podium), they solved the problem by saving the document as a PDF and completely circumventing the PowerPoint issue. Brilliant, right?  Phil provided both the calm assuredness of someone well-versed in mirror imaging (no, that isn’t a criticism), and someone who is extremely adept at problem solving.


5) I learned that while change is scary, transitions in life are meant to allow us to grow. The building that my office has been in for the past 9 years, I think, is going to be razed to make room for a beautiful new Science building. All 20 plus of us are being relocated to various venues around campus. Rather than looking at the move with fear  and dread (I’ve already passed through those portals), I am viewing it as an opportunity to clean my desk. (See 2 above).

So, as I always tell myself, and my students, it is never too late to learn something. You can teach an old dog new tricks and my students do so every day.

Why Limit Digital Doubles to Actors? Send in the Clones!

Cloned SheepDid you see this article in the Los Angeles Times the other day?

Los Angeles Times, On Location “At CounterPunch Studios, actors’ digital doubles come to life”

I’m thinking that as we head into the tech season, now would be the right time for the School of Dramatic Arts to fork out some dough to create digital clones of a few key production staff.

When I read Richard Verrier’s fascinating article about CounterPunch Studio’s work,  I didn’t worry about job security or the redundancy of the actor.

I didn’t worry that athletes who have had their likenesses used in many gaming platforms would now  be captured and exploited for years ahead. Hey, after all, they had a huge victory back in May of this year.

College football and basketball players have finalized a $40 million settlement with a video game manufacturer and the NCAA’s licensing arm for improperly using the likenesses of athletes, leaving the NCAA alone to defend itself in the upcoming Ed O’Bannon antitrust trial.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs filed the settlement agreement with a federal court in Oakland, California, on Friday night in an action that could deliver up to $4,000 to as many as 100,000 current and former athletes who appeared in EA Sports basketball and football video games since 2003.

Tom Farrey, ESPN.com

No, ever the production manager, my concern was that we’re already a little behind. We should have started back in June or July, since the turn around time is 6-8 weeks just for the head. I was busy thinking; can we train the digital clone to drive to Spudnuts on Saturday mornings to buy six dozen donuts for tech?  Or would the donuts have to be digital as well? Hmmm. That would probably be healthier for all of us.

Could I seat this helpful extra production manager in the back of the theatre in the dark to mind the second of the two shows in tech this weekend? How reliable would the notes be that Extra Els would come up with at the end of the night? I guess it depends on how well they have gone in and “built the character inside the head.” 

Imagine being able to clone our extraordinary Technical Director! And Theatre Managers and Costume Shop Manager? The mind boggles.

For a mere $200,000, you could drop the salaries, benefits and health care costs for one of us. Granted that is just a skosh more than we are paid annually. Exaggerated eye roll -“Can we have you do that again in the other direction, please? Three. Two One. FLASH! Once more now, with wider eyes and a worried look on your face. Els, have you been getting Botox injections? You were much more expressive  last week!”

“Who needs Botox! You can make me look younger like you did the Bollywood actors!”

Because lately, things have been a little hectic. Lots of irons in the fire. You know what I’m talking about. Too many tasks, too little time. It’s time to delegate. Send in the Clones!

What Progress looks like

Maybe we should think about this Alaskan Glacier being right outside the PED Building. Surely that would help cool us down!

All day yesterday and today, we received reports of heat extremes from points within our school. Too hot in PED 204- no air in PED 114. Faculty across the spectrum of the theatre disciplines bemoaned catatonic students unable to concentrate on design concepts or acting beats, textual analysis, or rehearsal of their plays. Temperatures reached over 91 in the costume shop. The  fire alarm there went off due to the heat. How can we help? Our hands are tied. We can’t add air conditioning units because the building, built in 1928, cannot support the extra  electrical needs of air conditioners. The entire second floor is supported by two 20 amp circuits.

I just heard on the news that LAUSD has similar woes, with the cost of providing air conditioning to all the schools estimated at 20-25 million dollars.

Hey, write us a check for 30 million and I can promise you a school at USC with your name on it. Or at least a building. We could sure use one of those.

IMG_2775Yesterday, I attended the groundbreaking for the largest new development in the history of South LA, aka the USC Village. Under the gauzy white open sided tent, tan carpet separated the well-heeled feet of USC Administrators, Los Angeles pols and other interested onlookers from the compacted soil of the recently razed University Village. Gone was the Superior Market, the Wendy’s, the laundromat, Radio Shack, the food court, and our little theatre, the USC University Village Theatre, where countless students learned how to Act on Camera with Professor Joe Hacker, or learned how to produce an Independent Student Project.

Now, in the relentless heat, seated on the neatly arrayed  white wooden chairs, shoulder to shoulder, fanning ourselves desperately with our programs,  we listened as speakers lauded the upcoming 650 million dollars of investment in USC and the surrounding community. My heart went out to the 10 Trojan Marching band students as they paraded past my row,  sun blazing down on their cardinal and gold polyester costumes, then watched them as they filed to the front and stood heroically for over an hour in the late morning sun.

IMG_2776Closer to home, there was some serious demolition going on to the east of my office building, the relentless beep beep beep of the backward moving backhoe,  as it pushed the fallen wreckage of the CW One building and the little church on the corner of Child’s Way and McClintock into neat piles and then into a series of trucks who carted the memories of the buildings away from the site.

Our little community, the CWT II building, received a temporary reprieve. Our given moving date  is May 15, 2015, or Commencement day. Just as the students  have to vacate their dorms by 5:00 on that day, so we will also be moved out of our offices.  We will all share the uncertainty of post graduation together, new home, new work, new work rhythms.

People don’t like change. I have always had a lot of trouble with change. When I was stage managing regularly at the Geffen Playhouse, they announced that a major renovation would happen and the Geffen operations would move to the Brentwood Theatre. Concurrently, I received an offer to stage manage a show at the Ahmanson, and happily accepted that job, relieving me of the wrench of the transition at the Geffen. I felt a little traitorous about taking the job and leaving my colleagues to deal with the move.

I don’t see the same avoidance technique working this time, however, so I watch with avid interest as the lot next door clears. I know that it is just a matter of time before the Trojan Marching Band is marching past where my office once was on its way to the next Ground breaking ceremony.

Emergency Kitchen Remodel!

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am rarely as happy as when I am having work done. Most women my age who would make that kind of statement might be referring to cosmetic surgery.  But those who know me know  that that isn’t about to happen. Not here.

For me, the cosmetic changes I thrive on are home repairs.

And so, last week, when I got the garbage disposal replaced in our condo, it was a good day.

Two days later, when I turned on the disposal and green water came up through both sinks, I felt outrage at a job poorly done. I got on the phone and, indignation simmering in my heart, I dialed the contractor and told him what had happened.

My husband and I were on our way out for the evening to the theatre; it was Saturday night, so I knew there was really no resolution in sight until Monday. This meant, of course, that the full dishwasher sat for two days, and I was unable to cook in the kitchen. Drat! We’ll have to eat out, I told him. Off we went to CPK.

On Monday morning, the contractor came out and after laying his plunger in the sink, and showing me the dripping pipe under the sink, explained to me that the pipe leading to the drain was bad and would need to be replaced.

Living in a condo and being on the 11th floor, I felt like we had just won the lottery – that the pipe hadn’t burst while the dishwasher was running and flooded our downstairs neighbors’ apartment.

And that’s when I got happy.

“Wait,” I said. “While we’re in there, what would it take to replace these 30-year-old tiles on the counter top? And the sink?” And just like that I was entering my happy renovator mode.

In our old house in Van  Nuys, I had envisioned, planned, and realized a complete remodel of the kitchen. The process took about 6 weeks, during which time we relocated the refrigerator and microwave to another room in the house and camped out. That part was brutal and horrible, but the final results were magnificent.

This time, the contractor left me the countertop samples that night, I picked the granite with a little help from my FB friends, and then shopped for backsplash tiles at Home Depot by text message with my friend Michael.

IMG_2619“Here’s what the granite looks like. Stay tuned for tile choices,” I texted him. Then, without even a response back, I proceeded to bombard him with some of the ugliest tile pictures known to man.




IMG_2626 IMG_2627Diplomatically, he texted me back “keep it simple.” I moved on to different choices, finally electing a small tan subway mosaic tile, and a pretty border IMG_2630of tan and brown tiles. This after a few more back and forths with Michael about texture, color, etc. 

Tuesday, they replaced the pipe, allowing me to run the dishwasher and restore temporary order to the kitchen.
Wednesday, they demoed the counters in the kitchen and ripped out the sink and disposal. By the time I got home at 4:30, they were just screwing down the plywood for the new counter tops.

IMG_2634Tomorrow, they will install the granite and the tile backsplash and by the time my husband and I get home from work, we should have a new kitchen. Granted this is a smaller project than the one in Van Nuys, but I’m thinking I might just have found the contractor to do the guest bath…. Happy Dance in the new kitchen!