Blog #7: Dedication

Howdy folks!

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This week has been crazy busy as we prepare for the opening of Broadway Bound tonight. I was fortunate enough to watch a preview on Wednesday night and I have gotta say that from a totally unbiased opinion, the show is fantastic. Even my Grandpa, who has seen numerous Broadway shows and theatre over the years, admitted that it was one of the best plays he has ever seen. While watching the performance, I noted the extreme dedication and commitment that all great productions possess. For example: the amount of work that the designers and carpenters put into building the aesthetics of the play clearly shows – it is gorgeous. The actors brought the energy hard from the second they popped onto the stage. The assistant directors put in countless hours, just for a chance to be a part of all this. I know that I’m forgetting some people but let’s face it – everyone who works in theatre is highly underpaid, but we are doing this for the pure love and magic that we all crave to see in a good performance.

So onto what I’ve done this week… I helped coordinate promo videos in the form of ‘meet the cast’ videos, which were published via social media and YouTube. Ran the box office by myself part of the time, which was completely frustrating at times, but in the end made me realize I could handle the onslaught of unique patron requests and accommodations. I have a newfound respect for every person who works in any role in this industry. It takes a special breed to get these various task accomplished, and I’m very lucky to be surrounded by people here that want to make that magic happen. Until next week!

Blog #6: Eclectic

Welcome back folks, to my blog episode 6 out of 10!

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I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to chat with Ron Sossi, The Odyssey Theatre’s Artistic Director. My first question for him- “How have you managed to keep a small theatre company running for forty-five years?” I was delighted to listen to stories that ranged from the inception of the Odyssey to present day. Two things really stuck with me. The first: Eclecticism. Ron has made a point to keep audiences on its toes by exploring a wide range of shows and genres. A guest will never know what to expect – an escapist musical one month and the next, an expressionistic Polish play. It’s quite a risk to have such variety in a season. Being on the forefront of theatre requires bold, edgy choices, so naturally there is sometimes no telling whether a show will be a success, or flop miserably. As Ron stated, some audiences really appreciate the randomness, while others would rather have consistency. That… is what sets the Odyssey apart, and is part of its charm as well. I greatly respect the choice to always be changing, growing and ultimately, eclectic.

The second thing that I found interesting was the choice to ditch the format of a member dues-paying company, which is popular in Los Angeles. By keeping The Odyssey private and season play selections curated completely from within, the quality of work completely rests on the staff. Ron Sossi & Beth Hogan have made a commitment to make sure actors are well-rehearsed, sets have been fully fleshed out and directors/designers/actors are at the top of their game. I also received a plethora of good advice and information from Ron during our conversation, which I am extremely grateful for. The passion that this company has really shows and I am lucky to be a part of it; even if it is for a short ten-week stint. Until next time! Be creative!

Blog #5: Time

Week #5/10: The halfway mark!

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I remember my Grandpa explaining to me when I was a youngster about the way that time moves. He wasn’t trying to educate me in the ways of horology or any kind of Stephen Hawkins theories. No, the concept wasn’t that grandiose; especially for a ten year old. That might make a funny YouTube video though (kids reacting to quantum physics facts). Anyways, my gramps simply stated that the farther my life moves forward, the faster time will go. A month will feel like a week. A year will turn into a month. I took in the information, but never fully understood what it meant until years later. My point in all this? Well, normally I would say that this past month has been flying by and I can’t believe that we’re here already, etc. But for some reason, it doesn’t feel that way. Maybe I can attribute that to the amount of projects, shows, group meetings and events that I have been bombarded with, or it could be that I’ve been actively trying to take away a bit of wisdom from every single thing I’ve done here. So even though it has been a short time, it just doesn’t feel that way. It could be the same effect that school has. Anyways, I don’t have time to blab about this anymore. There are hundreds of envelopes that need to be stuffed, twitter posts that need to be tweeted and well, plenty of things to do. Let me quickly recap the last week:

I was able to help out with the set for Broadway Bound a bit more. It’s really looking good and I am excited for our theatregoers to come and see it. The interns from LACC in my area had two events: touring The Broad Stage and having a chat with some of the staff that makes that place tick. We also went to a performance at The Annenberg Beach House… It was a show by Four Clowns entitled “Jonah”. It was entertaining, featured dedicated performers and offered a satirical, contemporary look on the parable. I also saw “The Mother Ship” @ Sacred Fools – clever & funny. “We Will Rock You” @ The Ahmanson… no comment. “Paternus” @ Rogue Machine – a “chilling” tale :). Also went to a friend’s outdoor performance of “Cabaret” which was charming. It has been a busy week. Until next time & have a great week!

Ben’s Odyssey #3: Art

Another week and another blog post from yours truly, Benjamin Schwartz, the intern this summer for The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble. This time I decided to take a picture in front of our past production, “Ivanov” by Anton Chekov. The play was written on a commission to Chekov as he was asked to write a comedy. Instead, came this four act drama. LOL

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This past week has been busy. It has ranged from keeping up on the social media sites, marketing strategies, filming and editing a video tour of the theatre to breaking down a bunch of wood from a previous production. This Saturday I am excited to help build the set for our next show, Broadway Bound. It is hard to believe that I am almost already done with my third week. The days go by so fast and I am making sure to soak in every bit of information that I can.

I haven’t been able to go see any theatre this week, and I think I’m starting to have some withdrawls from the lack of live performance. But yesterday, all of the LA County Arts interns attended a seminar/networking/museum visit to MOLAA in Long Beach. My favorite part of the day (other than incessantly re-filling my cup of coffee) was visiting the museum and exploring the fantastic art exhibits that they are currently hosting. If you haven’t visited the Museum Of Latin American Art, I would highly recommend it. I really enjoyed the work and style of Roberto Fabelo’s art. He would often rip out pages from books and then furiously draw with a pen over the literature. Sometimes text would be exposed and other works were completely drawn over. The creatures that he created were dark, unique and sometimes grotesque, but engaging at the same time. Here’s a link to the exhibit via the MOLAA website:

http://www.molaa.com/Art/Exhibitions/Fabelos-Anatomy.aspx

I was surprised to find out that many of the 120ish interns that were hired this summer did not come from a theatre or arts background. It was a melting pot of majors ranging from Anthropology, Economics, Marketing, Business, etc. I am all about educating on the importance of the arts and bringing in groups that would not normally have the opportunity, so it was good to see an organization like the LA County Arts Commission fulfilling this vision and mission. I am blessed to be given the chance to help here at The Odyssey and a program like this really also helps with the chances of finding a job after college.

Ben’s Odyssey #2: Another Awesome Rant

This is my second week of my internship here at The Odyssey Theatre so it is only appropriate to follow up on my rant from last week. Here I am taking a photograph of myself (I refuse to use the “S” word) by a poster for The Lonesome West, which was written by my all-time favorite playwright, Martin Mcdonagh.

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My time here over the past week has been well spent, interacting with patrons at the box office and hopefully sending out some laughs through by taking over the Facebook and Twitter account. I have also had the opportunity to sit in on a production meeting for our upcoming show, Broadway Bound, as well as the weekly staff meeting that is held. During these meetings I am realizing all of the components that make up a theatre company and all the variables that go into becoming successful. By the way… Really excited for Broadway Bound. Jason Alexander (you probably know him as George Costanza from Seinfeld) is directing the show. He was in the original broadway cast and I can only imagine the insight and authenticity that he will bring to the production.

When I first started interacting with the LA Theatre community on social media sites I thought it would be a bit more ruthless and cutthroat. What I discovered was a blossoming town full of artists that truly seem to be looking out for another. I go and see theatre on a weekly basis. Side note: I decided to treat myself to a double feature on Sunday, seeing Penelope at Rogue Machine Theatre and The Country House at The Geffen. Both were excellent shows and while I am not going to review the two shows I will say that I was struck with an idea, a thought while theatre hopping. We all know that the current state of funding for the Arts in general has been suffering and I am seriously disappointed by the amount of viewers under the age of 30 who attend theatre.

My generation is kept hostage to the alluring lights of movies and television, often shelling out $12-15 dollars for a single ticket. Now, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with the cinema. Quite the opposite. I religiously follow the films of Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson, Tarantino, Charlie Kaufmann, etc. But I have stopped going to the movie theatres completely. I don’t care about 3-D movies, constant quick shots, fancy editing and to be honest I’d rather watch it in the comfort of my home on Netflix via my Playstation. Why waste the money on seeing something that is literally…permanently captured on film when I could go and watch a once-in-a-lifetime performance at a local theatre. Now of course, this is solely my opinion and I’m not expecting everyone or even anyone to agree with me.

To wrap up this entry, I propose that we try to reveal theatre to younger audiences and educate them on the importance of being able to sit in a room for over an hour without dragging their fingers across the glass of their smartphone. I feel as though the art of conversation is dying. Maybe, just maybe, with the right amount of push, we can flip around this whole industry in order to grow and expand the minds of those around us. Just a thought. Feel free to disagree. Talk about it. Because ultimately, art gets people talking, whether it is good or bad. And we need more of that. Until next week.

Ben’s Odyssey #1

Hi there! My name is Benjamin Schwartz, The Odyssey Theatre 2014 summer intern!

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I am a senior at Cal State Northridge, have been involved in theatre for the better part of my life and have a passion for writing plays. Every summer, The Los Angeles County Arts Commission provides funds to many theatres in LA so that they can hire an intern for a ten-week period. These jobs are invaluable to students, providing true experience in the field we are looking to start a career in. As for myself, I feel truly blessed to have been chosen among many qualified candidates to work at The Odyssey, which was my first choice among the companies I submitted to. The Odyssey theatre truly blends the experience of a small Los Angeles theatre with a level of professionalism that any company should strive for.

My goal in this blog is to provide entertainment through multimedia and links to interesting articles including but not limited to The Odyssey and Los Angeles theatre. I find that whenever I tell people about my interest in theatre the most common question I am immediately asked is, “So when are you moving to New York?” This tells me that there is still a stigma that the best theatre is supposedly still in New York. Newsflash: this is not the case. Heck, most people don’t even understand the difference between Broadway and Off-Broadway (It has to do with the number of seats in the venue). As an avid attender of plays and musicals in Los Angeles, I can say that we have great productions that start here in LA and end up going to New York, plays that tend to take more risks and also hold a discerning, intelligent audience.

With all this being said, I am truly excited to be working for The Odyssey Theatre this summer whenever and wherever I can. I hope to gain a solid understanding of the inner-workings of a successful 99-seat theatre along with the fun and hardships that go along with it. As I write this blog, rehearsals for our next production, Broadway Bound, are underway. At the helm of the production is Jason Alexander directing, who was in the Original Broadway Cast. This Pulitzer-nominated play by Neil Simon is a show that any fan of theatre will not want to miss.

Bella’s Blog #4

Our high school intern, Bella, left us at the end of 2013. Read her final blog post here:

Dear Odyssey Theatre,

I remember coming in for my interview being absolutely terrified. I was afraid the environment would be intense and competitive, but found it to be completely warm and welcoming. Every single staff member who I talked to was nothing but nice and helpful to me, and I am so grateful. I can’t picture my Wednesday afternoons without your company. I cannot thank you enough for the experience you have given me the past three months. I have learned so much from you all and I feel so happy to have contributed to your art-making, even if it was just a little bit. I will remember my time at the Odyssey for the rest of my life, and I promise I will be back one day in some way. Whether it be in production, as an actor, or even as an audience member, I will be back at the Odyssey Theatre someday.

Sincerely,

Bella Grace Harris
Wildwood School – Class of 2015

Bella’s Blog #3

Dearest Odyssey Theatre Attendees,

How would you like to picture a seventeen year old in a staff meeting? Before last week, I couldn’t fathom myself being in a staff meeting. And yet, my Wednesday was concluded sitting in Ron Sossi’s office listening to adults talk about budgets and casting and names I’d never heard before. This was my first real taste at what it was like to run a theater and have a real job. Looking around the office during the meeting, I came to notice the passion each employee had for the accessibility of art. Everyone had different jobs, but they were all working toward a common purpose: getting people to experience theatre. It made me realize that whether you’re an actor, a producer, or a stage hand, there is always the ultimate common goal of the show. This common goal inspires me every day and fuels my passion for theatre. So I have to wonder, is it really a stereotypical, boring staff meeting if you’re making art in the end? Just some seventeen year old thoughts on “real jobs” and the theatre.

Sincerely,

Bella Grace Harris
Wildwood School – Class of 2015

Bella’s Blog #2

I’m back, Odyssey Theatre attendees! After a one week hiatus to participate in my school’s production of Romeo and Juliet as a part of the outdoor Shakespeare in the Park(ing lot) festival, I’m back at my internship. I must say that I am going to miss this internship greatly after the holidays, but I have a few weeks left to work so I’m not going to think about that right now. Today I’ve been working on finding interesting things about the Odyssey’s new production of Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play targeted to people in my age group. I’ve become engrossed in this project, as I have just studied the Cold War and am now studying 70s counter-culture.

For those of you who don’t know, Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play is a trilogy of one-acts, each depicting a production of a “Passion Play” in different eras. Part 1 takes place in Elizabethan England, Part 2 is in Nazi Germany, and Part 3 is in Reagan era America. I am particularly moved by Ruhl’s production notes on her website, particularly the phrase “But what is the difference in acting as a performance and acting as moral action?” All the leaders in Sarah Rhul’s Passion Play were actors of a sort, playing the role given to them by the public. It’s interesting how this is a common theme among leaders from Elizabethan times up until today. A political leader can influence one to act in a certain way, while an actor can influence one to feel in a certain way. When these roles are combined in the cases of the characters in the play, the lines between moral action and performance are blurred. It’s fascinating to watch and I can’t wait for everyone to see how it plays out in the theatre!

Bella Grace Harris
Wildwood School – Class of 2015

Bella’s Blog #1

This fall, we’ve had the pleasure of welcoming a high school student intern from Wildwood School in West LA. She will be documenting her journey here at the Odyssey in a series of blogs. Check out her first entry below!

Hello Odyssey Theatre attendees! My name is Bella Grace Harris and I have been interning in the Odyssey production office since September. I am seventeen years old and a junior at Wildwood School. My school gives the amazing opportunity during junior year to do an internship once a week over the course of a semester. I was given a multitude of choices throughout all parts of the entertainment industry, but my top choice was the Odyssey Theatre because of my passion for theatre.

I have been an actress since before I can remember. Theatre is my passion and my savior and I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. Being a well informed performer, I know that actors are not the only thing that go into a production. Each person, from the usher to the director, provides a specific, necessary artistic component to the final piece. I have not had a lot of exposure to the production side of theatre and thought that interning at the Odyssey would satisfy my curiosity.

Towards the beginning of my internship, I was thrown right into the costume department. I sewed clasps and buttons on costumes of the all-female production of “Hamlet” which had fallen off. Then, I did all the classic intern tasks. I copied receipts, organized file cabinets, shredded papers, made stage manager copies, and learned about the Equity requirements to put on a production. Then a few weeks ago, I was asked to organize the costume trailer. Now this is no small task. I knew that at this point I was in the thick of things. From copying to costumes, I felt like I was a part of everything possible, until this week when I started helping out in the marketing department.

Now I am in the thick of things, helping with outreach for the Odyssey’s production of “Creditors” by August Strindberg, and I am learning so much. I find myself looking forward to Wednesdays, when I know I’ll be able to learn something new about the world I love. Who knows? Perhaps I’ll go into marketing, or production, or even directing! But for, now I am an actress/intern at the Odyssey Theatre and this is just the beginning for me.

Bella Grace Harris
Wildwood School – Class of 2015