Photo of the Week

Half Dome at Sunset © Bob Corn-Revere

“Half Dome at Sunset” © Bob Corn-Revere

Of Note

The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center recently completed its second excavation of artifacts from the movie set of Cecil B. DeMille’s 1923 silent film classic The Ten Commandments.  Santa Maria Sun 

Coastal-Dunes-bannerThe California Writers Club, a statewide organization welcoming writers of all genres, is establishing a new Central Coast chapter. Coastal Dunes CWC will hold its first meeting on Saturday, November 8, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., in the community room of the Nipomo Library.

The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. has a new director and Deborah Rutter is suggesting that changes are on the horizon for one of the country’s premier arts venues, including raising the profile of living composers and artists, exploring a new format for the center’s free venue and nurturing its affiliate symphony and opera programs. Washington Post

gary-schmidtAward-winning Young Adult author Gary D. Schmidt is speaking in San Luis Obispo on Thursday, October 23. Schmidt, author of The Wednesday Wars, Okay for Now, and Straw into Gold, will be at the Alex Madonna Expo Center from 6:30 to 8 p.m. for a presentation and book signing.  The event, sponsored by the San Luis Obispo Classical Academy, is free and open to the public (and includes Madonna Inn cake!).

Break out the tater tots! Hard to believe it’s been ten years since the release of the comedy cult classic Napoleon Dynamite, the small indie film that went on to gross $44 million. Go behind the scenes in this special oral history about how the film came to be made. Rolling Stone

paderewskiTickets are now on sale for the annual Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles, November 5-9. This year’s schedule features concerts, exhibits, film screenings, and special events honoring Paso Robles’ most famous resident, composer and pianist Ignacy Jan Paderewski.

It is a long article, but well worth the read as Alex Ross makes the argument that Beethoven changed classical music forever—but not necessarily for the best.  The New Yorker 

TeriBayusTeri Bayus of Arroyo Grande is the new director of the Central Coast Writers Conference at Cuesta College. Bayus, the food and movie columnist for Tolosa Press, replaces Judy Salamacha who stepped down after five years. The 31st annual conference happens next September.

The Santa Barbara Bowl continues to go green for its concerts. Latest trend: reusable cups. For just $10 ($15 with beer), concertgoers can purchase a Klean Kanteen–made, Santa Barbara Bowl–branded stainless steel pint glass for all their beer, wine, and soda-guzzling needs. Go back for a refill, you’ll receive $1 off your beverage purchase.  Santa Barbara Independent

frostnixonSLO Little Theatre‘s innovative staged reading series, Ubu’s Other Shoe, presents Frost/Nixon, “the interview that sealed a president’s legacy,” for two nights only October 21 and 22. Written by Peter Morgan, the play features Seth Blackburn as Nixon and Toby Tropper (also appearing as Picasso in SLO Little Theatre’s current mainstage production) as Frost. The Tuesday evening performance features a talk-back with the cast and director David Norum.

Asked & Answered

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Maddy Sinclair, Writer and Performer

“For me, comedy is not just ‘tragedy plus time’ – I think there is another part to that equation: tragedy plus time minus the victim mentality.”

 MaddySinclair

October 14, 2014 (San Luis Obispo, CA) — Humorist and Central Coast resident Maddy Sinclair has written a one-woman show, Why Am I Telling You This?, debuting at San Luis Obispo Little Theatre this October with help from director Jill Turnbow. The first in a Little Theatre series of After Hours “specials,” the production stems directly from No Shame Theatre, the free late-night anything-goes showcase for original material that Maddy has helped make famous throughout the Central Coast theatre scene. Maddy describes Why Am I Telling You This? as her “outrageous slant on how to be yourself in a world that expects you to be someone else.” She notes that the production (and possibly this interview) includes strong language and is intended for mature audiences.

David Congalton: When did you first realize you were funny?

Maddy Sinclair: Everyone in my family is funny. I was the youngest of four kids, so I grew up thinking I was loud and annoying but not funny. My eldest sister and brother were so funny I just thought funny was their thing and being pained by the world was my thing. Recently, an old friend from childhood found me on Facebook. When she heard I was doing stand up she said. “Oh! But you were such a serious child!” I don’t know if that is the whole picture, but I certainly didn’t make anyone laugh. Not on purpose, anyway. However, I did possess some of the elements that make a good comedian; I was always staring at people (good observer), I was rebellious at school (free thinker), and I couldn’t sit still or use my inside voice (energetic performer). I started writing in my mid-thirties. At first I wrote tragic memoirs about my past in which I felt sorry for myself but I got sick of that pretty quickly and that’s when my comic voice emerged. Once I was done with the voice of the victim, there seemed to be only one place to go: humor. For me, comedy is not just “tragedy plus time” – I think there is another part to that equation: tragedy plus time minus the victim mentality. Once I started to write humor, I began to like myself more. I could sit in a room alone with a notepad and make myself laugh. Growing up, I had always hated time alone, just me and my negative thoughts about myself, but as I writer I craved it. Although when I write I never feel alone. I feel I am tapping into something much bigger than me.

DC: What’s been the most enjoyable aspect of creating this show?

MS: I love my solitude and it’s vital that I get it to write, but putting this show together has been a fun collaboration with comedy goddess Jill Turnbow. When offered the slot for my show, I specifically requested her as a director. If anyone knows what’s funny, Jill does. She’s well-known in these parts as a mesmerizing performer and accomplished director but she was also a very successful stand-up comedian, headlining all over the U.S., and she’s written her own highly acclaimed one-woman show, Between Iraq and a Hard Place, which will be part of the After Hours season as well. I’m usually working in isolation so it’s been a blast working as a team. Plus she lets me know when I use a word that will throw an American audience.

DC: Do you find it difficult to write for an American audience?

MS: It would be easier to write for a British audience. I have to change many of my words just to be understood here and find an American equivalent even when there isn’t one. And it’s baffling to me how Americans are so sensitive about “bad language.” Comedians in Britain have more freedoms, even on television. We joke back home that Americans are afraid of words but not guns. In England we use those four letter words for emphasis to express joy as much as frustration. But England is also a more secular society. I never met anyone who feared they were actually going to hell until I moved to the U.S. I love the fact that this show is uncensored. It’s for mature audiences, due to adult language and some sexually explicit material. Mind you, there is a huge chunk of my show where I don’t swear at all, in English anyway. But I swear a lot in Swiss-German. You’ll have to get a ticket to see why.

DC: What inspired you to write the show?

MS: Growing up in our culture, to some degree, we all lose aspects of ourselves in order to gain approval, keep the peace or just get by. I know I had to de-program before I could dare to be fully myself again. The show is inspired by that process. I examine how to be yourself despite couple bonding, and how to be yourself in the family, in the bedroom, and beyond. There’s no shortage of laughs in the show but underlying the hilarity is the belief that much of the depression we see today is the result of people living their lives to please others, not being themselves nor doing what brings them joy. If we can laugh about it, we’re taking a step in a more authentic direction.

DC: You’ve been writing for more than 12 years, but you’re relatively new to performance. What made you get up on stage?

MS: I’ve been performing five-minute pieces at No Shame Theatre for a couple of years now. Prior to getting on the stage at No Shame, I had only read my stories at literary events, standing at a podium with a microphone, hiding behind my paper. Or seen my plays performed by actors – that was safe for me, sitting at the back of a darkened theatre. When I was younger, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to get up on stage. But when I first started at No Shame, I was 48 and much more comfortable with myself. And No Shame is irresistible. The audience is so supportive and mostly made up of other performers. If you try something and it doesn’t work out, there’s “no shame.” I have never felt so free to be myself, take risks and explore fully who I am and what I want to say as I feel at No Shame Theatre. Why Am I Telling You This? is the evolution of my explorations at No Shame. In that sense, it’s a first for Little Theatre; a show that began at No Shame and I’m so bloody chuffed that they offered me the opportunity. It took a lot of balls and vision on the part of the artistic director, Kevin Harris, to create the After Hours program and to open it with my show.

DC: Who makes you laugh?

MS: The first person who cracked me up so much I nearly wet myself was my eldest sister Yvonne. When she was 12 or so, she would entertain us at dinner. She claimed she was a “Ceylonian” princess that my family had adopted. The word is “Ceylonese” but come on – she was 12! She would speak in a strange accent and start her fake Ceylonese dance at the radiator, then work her way to us. As we laughed, she’d say, “You mock my country!” with such indignation I almost believed she was adopted, even though she looked just like me. When people say to me “Women aren’t funny” I think they must have been born with their head up their arse. My own taste in comedy, regardless of gender, is for comedians who have a point or can tell a good story and I find there is a never-ending supply of them in the U.K. I’m not so familiar with the U.S. comedy scene, but I admire Maria Bamford and of course, Louis CK. Laughter is very healing, so there is a place for people who are just trying to make us laugh, but I like people who make me laugh and think.

DC: Will your family from the U.K. be coming to see the show?

MS: No, which is probably a good thing as some of them are in it. I use specific anecdotes about them to illustrate certain universal points. To an audience of strangers it’s comedy, but to the family, it’s something more personal. They will see things through their own filters. My mum is my favorite comic character to recreate on stage. My parents might love the show, only like bits of it or be mortified by it. I’d like to think they’d love it, but you never know. So even though I miss my family and love spending time with them, I’m actually happy they are thousands of miles away for the duration of this show. I don’t write comedy for the family.

DC: What has been the most challenging part of the process?

MS: There is such a huge difference between getting on stage for five minutes and making people laugh and sustaining that for an hour. Many comedians don’t attempt this feat until they’ve been on the road for years honing their act. I couldn’t have pulled it together without Jill Turnbow’s direction and the Little Theatre believing in me. That means a lot to me. I’m not a trained actor. I can’t say anything with conviction if I don’t believe it. So I had to make sure I could stand by every word in this show and still make it funny. That makes it hard to go for the easy laughs, although I admit I let a few slip in. Observational comedy is based on the general. If it’s not general enough, we won’t recognize it as even a partial truth and we won’t laugh. But I don’t want to make generalizations that are not socially responsible. I don’t want to reinforce a stereotype that I feel is unhelpful. Words have power. I’ve been changing the script in small ways right up to the final week. That makes memorization more difficult. At heart I’m a writer; I keep seeing another idea blooming at the end of my pen.

Review

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Picasso at the Lapin Agile: An Entertaining Party

By Charlotte Alexander

October 11, 2014 (San Luis Obispo, CA) – So . . . all the hype surrounding Steve Martin’s featherlight Picasso at the Lapin Agile proclaims the play to be about Pablo Picasso and art, Albert Einstein and science, pop culture and “big” ideas.

But here’s the thing: Martin’s pastiche of bon mots, one-liners and really strange meet-ups featuring historical figures and “regular” guys and gals is, in reality, a one-note paean to the century just past. Yes, the 20th century – which is past. Almost as passé to us nowadays as the modest bar in 1904 Paris in which the play is set.

The 20th century – or rather the dawning of the “new” century now past – is referenced so often in this play that it feels like a third character that all the other characters in the play are waiting for. Einstein, played as wonderfully quirky but still a good sport by Cameron Rose, even comments after seeing one of Picasso’s drawings that “the 20th century can start now.”

CastWhich brings up a question: does a play set at the beginning of the 20th century have anything to say about the arts, culture, science and “big” ideas of this century? If it does (and I’m not so sure it does), it’s only because its characters – famous or undistinguished – reach out to audience members and spark a bit of wonder, or laughter, or curiosity, or a sense of familiarity that reminds us that even 21st century “big” ideas and questions didn’t spring wholly-formed from thin air in the last 14 years.

It turns out, happily, that the characters – and the uniformly skillful actors who portray them – are reason enough to see San Luis Obispo Little Theatre’s current production of Picasso.

First up is Freddy (the affable and endearing Bobby Kendrick) who as proprietor of the Lapin Agile makes it his business to make everyone, including the audience, feel at home in the bar. Once he has opened the place up for business, appropriately at the very beginning of the play, he welcomes the other characters into the action.

Along comes Gaston, played by the always-likable Tom Ammon in fine form. He and Freddy and Freddy’s girlfriend Germaine (a zippy Megan C.C. Walker) later fill the spots between Picasso-Einstein verbal skirmishes with some apt questions and observations of their own. Lest anyone think Picasso (a pitch-perfect Toby Tropper), Einstein and the play itself are all talk, however, note that one of the pair’s most interesting duels involves pencils drawn and brandished like swords.

Sagot-LarryKamlIn fact, this is a surprisingly physical production, in part due to the ability of these actors to interpret the script not just through their mouths, but through their entire bodies. Larry Kaml as Picasso’s art dealer and Jamie Foster as a hapless inventor whose reputation will never live up to his own expectations are perfect examples of director Suzy Newman giving each member of her talented cast the room to fully inhabit their characters and their environment.

Alicia Klein, expertly handling more than one role, and Arash Shahabi as a mysterious visitor complete with glitter from the 20th century future, round out this gathering of interesting people.

Picasso at the SLO Little Theatre is a well-delivered toast to the 20th century. It is a playful, energetic party with some very entertaining guests.