Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Not-so-Raging Waters

July 3rd, 2015

“Somebody” had the notion to come to Raging Waters today, and now that somebody, unable even to find an open picnic table at which to lunch, is sitting atop a fake dock piling writing this post while awaiting his daughter’s return from a food line that would dwarf that found in a refugee camp.

Yes, it’s crowded.

Everyone and everyone is here. Even Thomas Pynchon, probably.

You’ll see this coming

June 28th, 2015

Earlier tonight, I saw a posting from a Facebook “friend” bemoaning that she’d been ripped off. In this extremely long post, she complained that she’d taken a chance on someone and given him a two-and-a-half hour “reading” after he paid her via PayPal, rather than through her own website, and that now PayPal had advised her the payment wouldn’t go through.

Yes, you guessed it, she offers her services as a psychic.

In this post, she went on about how she had had labored over that two-and-a-half-hour reading, how she had believed this person was of good character, and she trusted him, and how hurt and abused and taken-advantage-of she felt for trusting him.

To which I replied (and, of course, you saw it coming):  ”But… didn’t you see this coming, as a psychic?”

Then she did something I never foresaw:  She “liked” my reply. Which was… baffling.

I just checked now and it’s all deleted. Her post, plus my comment. I guess she hadn’t foreseen how it might affect her business.

Fringe fever

June 27th, 2015

The Hollywood Fringe Festival of short-run alternative theatre has been running the past two weeks, and last night and tonight I’ve finally had a chance to see some shows.

Last night, my wife and I and two of our friends went to see “Stupid Songs” at the Lounge. The show, a revue of original, funny, filthy songs with choreography, was conceived by my friend Keri Safran (who was in my play “About the Deep Woods Killer” five or six or seven years ago here in L.A.). The thing was howlingly funny — and will be back later this summer. I’m highly recommending it. Watch their website for dates and times.

And then tonight, I saw “Out my Window,” written by and starring Ernest Kearney. I’ve been following Ernest’s work for 20 years  (producing his play “Meat Market” at Moving Arts in 1996, and seeing several of his shows since then). “Out my Window” concerns Ernest’s adventures in the late 1980′s as a manager of a street-level storage facility in Hollywood. Confronted with a desk facing a large plate-glass window looking out on Hollywood Boulevard, as well as eight hours of tedium per day, he decided to photograph the happenings and passersby in front of that window, resulting in 9,038 photos of the bizarre, the funny and the tragic. That his one-man show is outfitted with Ernest’s endearing oddball delivery and trenchant wit was not a surprise. The depth of his observations about individuals suffering the human condition reminded me of what a remarkable observer he is. No, the welcome surprise was in how deeply humane and touching the show is, as Ernest weaves a tale about drifters and street people, many of whom he got to know personally as his daily photograph-taking sparked relationships. A kind-hearted psychotic winds up dead, a brilliant and educated hooker’s murder goes uninvestigated by the police, a hobo borrows five bucks and then resurfaces, a lady with a moviegoing sombrero-wearing dog becomes a friend, and Ernest meets the love of his life, with the flotsam and jetsam of Hollywood Boulevard serving as witnesses at his wedding. It’s a remarkable show that reminds us that beneath the media machine of marketing fear — for and of the people we don’t know — lies a web of human connection and kinship. I was very glad to be there, seeing this show.

Afterward, Ernest let me know that he’d seen 54 (54!) of the shows in the Fringe. (And of those 54, he said only four weren’t good.) I’m glad I got to see these two — but I wish I’d seen a lot more. The Fringe ends tomorrow. Let’s hope the better shows get extended, so I can still catch some more of them. And let’s hope that Ernest’s is one of them.

(To see some of Ernest’s photos from the show, click here.)


The underlying case

June 27th, 2015

As of yesterday, my brother’s marriage is legal in all 50 states.

Just like my other brother’s marriage.

Before yesterday, my one brother’s marriage wasn’t legal everywhere, while the other brother’s was. Which means that they were being treated differently.

That’s what we call discrimination.

I’m just glad that five members of the Supreme Court saw it that way too.


No news

June 18th, 2015

Every time the Wall Street Journal opines about the incompetence of government, and how they would fix it, I get a chuckle. That’s because, two days out of six, the Wall Street Journal can’t seem to deliver my newspaper, which would seem to be a) directly related to their core business, and b) a lot simpler than, say, providing security and health care and disaster relief and postal services and on and on to more than 320 million people.

I’ve been fighting this fight with the WSJ for about two years now. All I want is my newspaper. Largely so I can learn things, partly so that I can partake in viewpoints that differ from mine, and somewhat so I can seethe. In many ways, it’s a fine newspaper, stuffed with content every day as newspapers once were. On the weekends, the arts coverage is thrilling. But I’m old-fashioned in this way:  If I’m paying for a newspaper’s arrival six times a week, I actually expect to get it six times a week. Not five. Or four.

I have wondered if my newspaper is getting stolen now and then. I don’t think so — who else wants to read newspapers, let alone in print, these days? Statistically no one. But even if it were getting stolen, the situation would be easily corrected by throwing the bagged newspaper past the locked gate that fronts my office. I have reminded “customer (dis)service)” of this many times. In fact, I’ve been emailing and calling and live-chatting with “customer service” for months. (And, yes, I’ve emailed higher-ups.) As someone who is a partner in a marketing agency, I have an understanding of how the WSJ is monetizing my readership, and it’s not primarily through my subscription fee; I’m a desirable demographic for many of their advertisers. You’d think they’d want to keep me. But they don’t seem to care, and they are immune to input — which are, by the way, precisely the complaints they make about others, most notably the federal government.

On Saturday, my newspaper again didn’t arrive. I live-chatted with someone in “customer service” and said that the next time my newspaper didn’t arrive, I  would be canceling. She apologized profusely, extended my subscription by two weeks, and told me she’d alerted people higher-up, as well as the local delivery office. (This is the same thing they say every time.) Yesterday, the paper didn’t arrive, so I went online to cancel. Whereupon I learned that you can’t cancel online — you have to call them to cancel. This smelled to me like a retention effort, but I was thrilled to speak with a live person to voice my displeasure again. I reiterated that I don’t have any complaint with the WSJ — except its support of jingoistic invasions of countries that don’t attack us, and, well, more than half of its editorial positions, but that goes with the territory — and that truly I just want to get what I’m paying for. But that now, as promised, I was canceling. She heard me out, heard that there was no turning me around, so she canceled my subscription and said I would be getting a refund. So:  great. Canceled. Now I’m not getting what I did want but wasn’t getting. No more subscription.

Then, this morning, just now, they delivered today’s paper to my doorstep.

Now I’m waiting to see how much longer they’ll be delivering it without charging me.

Is this any way to run a newspaper? (Or a government?)

Look closely and you can see his gills

June 8th, 2015

My friend Doug Hackney sent this clipping to me with this note:  ”Someday, someone, somewhere will care again about English.”  I’m not so sure.


It’s sad how low he’s shrunk

June 4th, 2015

Oh, Godzilla. I remember when you were the terror of tiny town. Now, at age 61, you’ve stooped to their level — about 5’6″. Where once you were the destroyer, now you’re a goodwill ambassador, a welcome face at parades and a speaker at Chamber luncheons.

I’m happy for you. But I enjoyed your younger, fire-breathing self.

I guess this is what happens to all of us in middle age.

My last week in theatre

June 3rd, 2015

American Theatre covers some of what about 70 of us were up to last week at the Great Plains Theatre Conference in Omaha, NE, with a mention of the short play I wrote for the Fringe night at the conference. (Thanks for the namecheck, Beaufield Berry.)

I’ve been a guest artist to this conference since 2008. Sure hope they keep booking me.

Today’s (amazing / odd) video

June 3rd, 2015

Wish I’d seen this! Further proof that sometimes the best theatre is done outside of a theatre.




May 31st, 2015

I got home today from my fourth trip with air travel in seven weeks. Between April and today, I’ve been to Nashville, Napa, San Francisco, and Omaha, NE. There are people who fly every single week. I don’t envy them. I was supposed to have continued on to Philadelphia and then southern New Jersey today, which would have added another seven days to what was already a nine-day trip, but a week ago I rerouted all that to come back here to Los Angeles. I just needed to be back here for a while.

Today I have to note again that every TSA system in the U.S. seems to operate by rules of its own making. This morning at 5 a.m. (Omaha time) when I was sitting on my overstuffed carry-on suitcase to zip it shut and wait downstairs for the cab, I had a psychic forecast that TSA would make me open said suitcase up for no good reason. How did I know? Because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get it closed again. (One returns from the Great Plains Theatre Conference with more than one takes. Including three pounds around my waistline, courtesy of nine days of culinary-school catering.) When they ran my bag through the scanner twice, I knew I was in for it. They pointed at an x-ray revealing what they were calling a series of little spikes (or, in our world, brass collar stays). So I said, “Those are brass collar stays.” Dumbfounded looks back from the woman heading the investigation. “You know,” I went on, “the things you put into men’s shirt collars. To hold them firm.” Not good enough. So they opened the suitcase and asked me to speculate on precisely where in the suitcase they were (even though we were actively looking at them in the x-ray), while they prowled around in my bag because I wasn’t allowed to touch anything inside it. Finally, with two of them digging everything out, they lifted them out almost with a cry of eureka. Holding them aloft, the TSA woman said, “Oh! These are the things my husband puts into his collar!” “Yes,” I said, “they are… brass… collar… stays.” Her response, delivered reproachfully:  “His are plastic.”

So now I’m back, and can fully unpack. I’m not going anywhere (so far!) until July 8th for Comic-Con in San Diego. I ran to the supermarket a few hours ago and stocked up. The culinary academy in Omaha does a great job, but I’m looking forward to eating at home for a while.