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


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Personal census

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

On Friday night, I went to see the revival of “Bent” at the Mark Taper Forum with a friend, and was inspired on the way home to send out more of my plays, particularly the older ones. So today I spent a couple of hours reviewing all the plays I’ve written.

I found several that I’d completely forgotten about, including “Second Ice Age,” an unfinished full-length that, in retrospect, I now remember writing. I read it and found that it was not only pretty good (so far), it should be easy to finish, because in addition to the pages written, I’ve got a scene breakdown. So why didn’t I finish it? And would I be able to finish it now? I’m not the same person I was in January of 2008 — but have I changed so much that I won’t be able to recapture the rhythm and style and concerns of this particular play?

I found other unfinished plays in various stages of completion. Some of them have titles that make me want to finish them: “I, Teratoma” (a full-length that’s about two-thirds complete); “Ripped-Up Dog-Face Guy” (with a helpful note that it was inspired by a book my then-eight-year-old son was reading); and “Crotch Rot,” to name just a few.

I also found plays that have been staged that I’d forgotten about. And it was a pleasant surprise to come across my very first plays — “Guest for Dinner” and “Uncle Hem,” both written when I was an undergraduate.

All tolled, I’ve got 54 plays. Twenty-eight of them have been fully produced or workshopped in Los Angeles, New York, Boston, London, Arkansas, Ohio, and other places. I wish I’d kept better records; at this point, I have no idea where “Cloned Cat” was produced (I think it was northern New Jersey; maybe Hoboken), let alone “Man and Woman Set Their Sights” (I’m pretty sure Boston).

Of these 54, I’ve got no fewer than 23 marked for completion or revision. As I said, some of them seem like they’d be quick to finish or fix. Maybe I should start doing that.

Fringe fever

Saturday, 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.)

 

My last week in theatre

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

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

 

 

Sunday

Sunday, 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.

A birthday celebration

Saturday, May 16th, 2015

 

Today is my friend Tom Boyle’s birthday. He would have been 59.

Tom died on April 12th after a hard-fought year-long battle with cancer. He was a tough guy, stubborn and strong, and I know how much he wanted to be here. I’m sorry he isn’t. But today I’m celebrating that he ever was here, and that I got to know him. I’m grateful.

Tom and I were friends for about 25 years. I can’t quite remember whether I met him before or during the buildout of Moving Arts’ first theatre space, in 1992, but I think before. I was sure that if we just rented out this tiny space and spread the word that we were building a theatre, people would come help, and Tom alone proved that to be true. Good thing, too, because while I had some carpentry skills inherited from my family, I had zero knowledge of electrical. But Tom brought his writing partner, Rodger Gibson, who knew about wiring, and soon we were pulling wire and hand-building a lighting panel for clamp-lamp stage instruments and installing ceiling fans and flourescent lighting fixtures, along with everything else necessary to build what was (and is) probably the smallest theatre in town, still proudly functioning 23 years later. Without Tom, and Rodger, and Marcy our head carpenter, and everyone else who came to build out the space, we would have been nowhere. At some point, Tom told me that if you’re ever going to be stuck on an island, you want theatre people with you, because they can do anything: as resourceful people used to no budget, they’re trained to make a lot from very little. He lived that example. Where Tom learned to do half the things he could do, I don’t know, but over the years, I grew to assume that he could do anything.

Just seven years later, Tom and I were building another, additional, theatre, when we took over an abandoned space on the fifth floor of the Los Angeles Theatre Center and turned it into a black-box theatre. I had trouble getting some actual company members to come down and pitch in, as was a requirement of their membership in the acting company, but Tom, who wasn’t a regular in the acting company? He came. Of course. In recent years, here’s part of what I was planning on for retirement: I thought Tom and I would build a third theatre, and do more shows together. With our more-lucrative work safely behind us, we would be free to return to the fun.

In the same timeframe as he was helping to build our first theatre, Tom was also in rehearsal for our first production, a play of mine called “Then What?” that was produced as half of two one-acts of mine put together, “Now This…Then What?” So, imagine: Working a day job, building a theatre some nights, and rehearsing or learning your lines the other night. That level of effort alone tells you a lot about Tom. In “Then What?” Tom played a ranting pedantic out on a ledge protesting all the injustices of modern civilization, including our overbearing celebrity culture, to great comic effect. A seeming suicide, he really wanted to be heard. Tom found every laugh in the script and brought more on his own. The show played to packed houses (all 36 seats) and got extended, then got extended again. It was just a terrifically fun play, with Tom being a huge part of that.

So Tom was in our first show. He was also in our second show, a co-production with a troupe he had just formed. Tom was also a writer. And a director. The troupe he put together, Smugly Absurd, did live “non-radio radio shows,” in which they performed multiple roles in original comedies in the fashion of old-time radio comedy, complete with live sound-effects creation, right there on the Moving Arts stage, starting at 10 or 10:30 at night. They’d wheel in what looked like enough sound equipment for The Who, roll out a carpet, and set up all manner of speakers and cables and percussion pieces and sound instruments in record time. Sometimes we’d have a full house; sometimes we’d have six or 10 people. Tom wrote the scripts with two of the other performers, Roberta (who later became his wife) and Gene, and then directed the action. Sometimes the troupe was doing its own version of classic fairy tales; sometimes they were following the “real-life” adventures of the entity known as Death; sometimes they were spoofing classic Hollywood melodrama. Every show was a treat. You just had to admire the craftsmanship — writing, directing, playing multiple roles, generating live sound effects — and the care.

Over the years, Tom was in many, many more Moving Arts shows and also staged readings and workshop productions. Whenever I needed someone reliable, professional, easy to work with, and funny — in other words, almost all the time — I would see if Tom was available. When I directed a workshop production of a play called “Big Bear and the Other” and I knew it had to be funnier, I called in Tom. It worked: He was funny, and the show got funnier with him. I also directed Tom in his last stage performance, a remount of our friend Trey Nichols’ stage adaptation, “Murphy’s Xmas.” Tom was, of course, great to work with, and I now cherish the memory of his playing an old, ill, dying man giving a younger man advice.

If he wasn’t shackled to comedy, it was still what he was known for in our circle. Tom had a Wallace-Shawn-in-”The-Princess-Bride” quality — a comic exasperation that always worked to his benefit. In fact, I saw Tom mistaken many times for Wallace Shawn — in his earlier years he looked somewhat like him, and he sounded very much like him. He’d protest that no, he wasn’t that “Inconceivable!” guy, and other person would insist, and Tom would deny and deny and deny, and then finally say, “o-KAY” and give up.

As longtime friends, we spent a lot of time socializing together. Of course we went out for drinks after our shows. We also played a lot of games. Poker, naturally, but also the board game Civilization, or Oxford Dilemma, or, more recently, Cards Against Humanity or something else. He would come for our Halloween parties, our New Year’s Eve parties, our backyard cookouts, and every other occasion when we’d have people over. We had a cookout last week and I have to say, part of me kept looking around for Tom; it just felt like he should have been there.

In March of last year, I was just back from a business trip to San Francisco and was lying on my downstairs couch when my cellphone rang. It was Tom. He was calling to tell me he had cancer. As he talked to me about it, I felt myself sinking into the couch. Finally, I struggled off the couch and moved my end of the conversation outside. He sounded strong and determined to fight — of course! This was a man who, about 20 years ago, got mugged in Silver Lake by three guys and so furiously fought back that they ran away. Again: strong, and determined. For the next year, he fought his fight, against increasing odds. I spent as much time as I could with him because I was already aware how much I’d miss him. I would shuttle him from the hospital back to his home after a treatment or a blood transfusion. I took him out to dinner at Taylor’s Steakhouse in downtown, during which he disappeared into the men’s room for a long, long time. Getting sick, I believe, although he returned determined to appear well and making an effort to eat a little more from his plate. And I put together a group of us and we went out to the movies every month or so and saw a lot of great films, “Locke” and “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” among them.

As he grew weaker and weaker, there were more incidents. After seeing “Chef” at the Arclight in Hollywood, he collapsed, pulling the standing table over with him and smacking his balding skull full-force with a sickening sound on the polished cement. My first thought was, “Well, now Tom’s dead. When we pick him up, there will be a pool of blood there.” But there wasn’t, and he insisted that he was fine. Then he did it again, so we called an ambulance. While waiting for the ambulance, he kept saying he was fine, and to his credit, he did seem better, but we were insistent, and the EMTs arrived and strapped him to a gurney and trundled him off to the hospital, where tests revealed that he’d been dehydrated, due to his treatments. He was back out the next morning.

The last time he came to my house, two months before he died, Tom’s hair was gone, his skin was the wrong color, and his voice was a whisper. Our 89-year-old friend Ken said to me in an aside, “Tom doesn’t look so good.” Anyone could see that. But he and Roberta stayed for hours and we played a lot of games, with a lot of laughs. (Nothing beats hearing a mild-mannered 89-year-old former CIA agent read filthy, filthy “Cards Against Humanity” responses aloud in his thick Boston accent, while your dying friend laughs uproariously.)

Two weeks before he died, Tom was back in the hospital. Somewhat reluctantly, I went to visit him. Reluctantly not because I didn’t want to see him — I did! — but, as I wrote about here, because I had never before visited a friend in the hospital. But once we started sharing stories, the time sailed by. When his dinner arrived, it sat there like a hubcap, cold and untouched by the side of the road, but as Tom started recounting various theatre stories (performing, one last time, his impression of a sled dog from his role in the stage adaptation of “Call of the Wild”; sharing the story of the director who told us, “Okay, okay, that’s good. Now all we have to do is make it funny.” And on and on), and I started laughing, he came alive. His voice gained strength, his color returned, and he popped the lid off his dinner and started picking at it, before finally taking a knife and fork and digging into it. He was back on stage, and I was the grateful audience. At one point, I looked up and I was startled to see that visiting hours were over. Time to ring down the curtain. So I bid farewell. My parting words to him were these: “I’ve got to tell you, Tom, you seem good. So if you want to fight, you should fight.” I knew he would fight — I had never known him not to — but I thought he needed to hear it. I knew he wanted to be here. He did fight. But he was going to anyway.

I was certain at the time that it would be the last time I’d see him, and I was right. It seemed a good way to end. I saw the closing performance.

On the morning of his death, after the phone call I had with his brother-in-law Vic, who is also my friend, I took my family to the Renaissance Faire. It seemed fitting; Tom loved the Renaissance Faire. He loved the swordplay and the costumes and the customs. I thought about him all day, of course, but it didn’t feel like he was gone. It still doesn’t. When I took him out for that steak dinner, I kept a pledge I’d made long ago, when my father was dying, to ask people when the time seemed right what they thought about death, and what happened after. Here’s what I can share happily among those of us who loved Tom: No, Tom didn’t have religion — but he had science. He told me that he believed in quantum physics, which has it that time is constant and ever-branching, and that therefore each of us is always splintering off into new versions of ourselves created by different paths taken, and that each of those is always here because time is flat. If this is true, then Tom is still here, and perhaps many Toms, and among those many Toms, one of them right now is building that third theatre with me.

I wonder what we’re rehearsing.

The weekend of dance

Monday, May 4th, 2015

I didn’t know anything about dance, until 10 years ago. And then I learned just enough to love it.

I have Michelle Mierz and Kate Hutter to thank for that.

Michelle and Kate were my students in a business-of-theatre class I taught at USC for a few years. Michelle was a business major and dancer, and Kate was a dance major and choreographer. In 2003, the third year I taught that class, they decided to team up for the assignment to create a theatre organization or production on paper. They came up with the L.A. Contemporary Dance Company — and then decided to launch it in real life. Just doing it for the grade wasn’t good enough. (For the best students, it never is.)

On Saturday night, I attended the 10th anniversary of their launch, in an event at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. (You can see a sample of their earlier work above.)

It was an incredibly rewarding and inspiring evening, with hundreds of wildly supportive people in attendance. Kate was kind enough to recognize me from the stage (as though I had anything to do with their success, apart from, well, making the classroom assignment).

Kate’s choreography was smart, evocative, mysterious, and very physical, as always. She’s obviously good at moving people around the stage in exciting ways. She’s also good at pairing movement and music. In 2004 (I think), I was directing a play called “Big Bear and the Other,” at the same Los Angeles Theatre Center where Kate and Michelle had their event the other night. The play, a dark comedy of sorts, concerned a group of previously forlorn men who had now formed a cult of bear worship; at one point, I wanted a dream fantasia where they would be swept up into cosmic connectedness. Kate whipped that up for me, teaching a group of middle-aged men how to roll and dance and look, well, beautiful and graceful while doing so, all in one night. Her work in that evening far surpassed anything I brought to that production. I remember being incredibly proud of her, grateful for my access to her, and somewhat envious of that much talent.

(An aside: my friend Tom Boyle, whom I wrote about here and here was in the cast of that production. He was effortlessly funny and filled with good ideas. My foremost talent as a director is just to get other talented people together.)

Before and after the performance on Saturday night, I got to speak with Michelle, who now lives in Seattle and works for Amazon. Michelle was the first hire at my nascent consulting company, CounterIntuity, in 2004. (The company was later re-launched as the marketing company Counterintuity, LLC, with no capital “I” in the middle.) Again, what you see here is my talent for identifying talented people: Michelle is whip-smart, something I spotted in about the first four seconds when she was my student. I was damn lucky she came to work for me; in some ways her early imprint on the company is still there. (As are some of the clients.) She was also directly responsible for landing one of our first clients, Dance Camera West, and thereby leading us into what I’ve called “The Year of Dance,” when we did no fewer than six dance projects with six different dance-related businesses: a dance company; a touring program (which we toured with a little); a dance agency; an online dance resource; a dance film festival; and a sixth one I can’t recall offhand.

All of that dance activity in one year left me with a deep appreciation for an art form I’d known nothing about. I’ve been a writer my entire life, and a bit of a musician here and there, and added stage directing (and then video directing) later on. But dance? The deep appreciation I’ve gained is due to Michelle. I thank her for that.

In the spirit of all things circling around, let me also say that the night before, Friday night, was an evening of shorts presented by that dance film festival, Dance Camera West. Dance Camera West is a “dance media festival” that screens the best in dance films from around the globe; these are astonishingly creative films. Here’s the trailer for this year’s festival.

Dance Camera West Film Festival 2015 (Trailer) from Parker Laramie on Vimeo.

This was the eleventh year in a row that my company has been associated with the festival, a connection I’m proud of. Three of us from Counterintuity, plus guests, attended the evening in a beautiful old movie palace in downtown Los Angeles — and today, one of my staff came in to my office to share just how much joy and passion those films had reawakened in him. Precisely right. For me, a person who works mostly with words, to enter a world created by the movement of the body, is to thrill to the excitement of an exotic environment.

I was Michelle and Kate’s professor. But whatever I taught them, I know I learned more.

Hospitality

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

Last night, I went to visit a friend in the hospital. I didn’t know what to expect, not just about my friend’s condition, but also about visiting a friend in the hospital, because I’d never done that before. Never before have I had a friend in the hospital.

Realizing this on the way over also made me realize how right my wife was when she said recently that I’ve been sheltered from death. Absolutely right, is how right she’s been. As a medical professional, she’s been working alongside it for 30 years. Me? No. My father died, but that was 23 years ago. And a couple of friends have died recently, but I had lost touch with them years earlier. I’ve known a few suicides, but here’s how those have worked: you find out later that they’ve killed themselves. Sometimes, yes, only just shortly after you’ve seen them, but you’re not there for it. At least, I haven’t been. So in the overall tally of death and disease, I and my immediate circle have been extraordinarily lucky.

So far.

This is all by way of saying that, honestly, I was dreading the visit. I didn’t want to go. Oh, I was going, there was no doubt about it; when your good friend of almost 25 years is in the hospital, of course you’re going to go. No, you don’t want to — but you also don’t want to live with regret if you don’t. We had had dinner plans set for Sunday, but he texted me on Friday morning, asking me to call him. When I did, he told me he’d been hospitalized the night before. He was doing much better, he said, and fully expected to be discharged on Sunday night, but dinner was off.

I told him I’d visit.

Hours later when I meekly stuck my head around his hospital room door, I wasn’t surprised by how he looked. He’d been to my house just a few weeks before. So I’d seen the weight loss, and the hair loss, and the other signs of his epic struggle this past year. I sat in the visitor’s chair, a leatherette chair oddly immobilized despite castors that should have enabled it to be rolled into line of site, where my friend wouldn’t have to crane his neck to see me. No matter how I pushed or tugged or swung it, it wouldn’t arc into viewing position, so finally I just shoved it across the floor, scraping the tile. I didn’t care about the floor; I just didn’t want my hospitalized but valiant friend to have to crane his neck. In this way, at 6:30, we started our visit, the visit I needed to make, but didn’t know how to conduct.

No, the big surprise was not his illness, or the depredations it visited upon him, or any of the accoutrements of a hospital room. The big surprise, the thing I was utterly unprepared for, was what a great time we had. Ninety minutes sailed by, and before I saw it coming, visiting time was over.

What did we talk about? We talked a lot about theatre. We’ve built two theaters together, and I hope to do a third some day with him. We talked about our theatre experiences, and what incredible and practical training for life that a life in the theatre can provide. Because the basic tenet is that the show will go on, and go on at the time scheduled, theatre people are prepared for anything. We know that something will go wrong — it always does, whether it’s a missed cue or a missing prop or a missing actor — and so, we’re always prepared to adapt. That mindset of preparation and adaptability makes one powerful. We also talked about our childhoods, with each of us always the smartest one in class and all the difficulties that come with that. He said he was always trying to pull them up this level; I laughed hard at that. He also, from his sickbed, re-enacted his response hunching back to his room after one of the more painful admission treatments he’d received: “Ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow.” That was uproariously funny. Shortly after I arrived, so did his dinner, but he left it there on his tray, untouched. But as he shared one hilarious story after another, and I kept laughing, bit by bit his color returned, his voice grew stronger, and then he started eating.

Like every true performer, he came alive for the audience.

I was sorry to see 8 o’clock arrive. But ninety minutes is typical for a one-man show, so it seemed a good time to leave. I didn’t want to wear him out.

“About Sunday, you’ll let me know if things change?” I asked.

He didn’t understand. He thought I was wondering if maybe we could still do dinner that day, which I knew was off.

“No,” I said. I wanted a return engagement. “If they wind up keeping you, I’ll come back. I’d like to come back.”

Young playwrights get early break

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Three years ago, my then-13-year-old daughter had her first play read by professional actors. (Here’s that story again.)

Recently on The Tonight Show, three even younger kids got the same experience. These plays are hilarious, and prove yet again that playwriting can’t really be all that hard. What I said three years ago holds true: Oh, for a world so lacking in subtext.

The price of theatre

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

On Friday, a friend and I went to see the Arthur Miller play “The Price” downtown at the Taper. I am not by nature an Arthur Miller fan; I’d rather be burned at the stake than ever again sit through the screaming girls in “The Crucible,” and to me the dramatic problems presented in “Death of a Salesman” would be easily solved if only Willy Loman would get a job he’s better suited for. But “The Price” turned out to be a completely engaging, unexpected and well-written evaluation of the price paid for certain life decisions by two brothers fighting (or not) over what’s left behind after their father’s death. Moreover, it’s anchored by four very fine performances, especially that of 87-year-old Alan Mandell, stealing the show as a comically sly appraiser wheedling a storehouse of old furniture out of Sam Robards’ grasp in exchange for peanuts. Mandell delivers every laugh possible while bringing to life a performance that’s completely plausible and true. That he can do this at age 87 is argument itself against term limits for stage actors.

Afterward, my friend and I went for a drink and shared another sort of price: While it’s often reported how expensive it is to attend the theatre, there’s the even greater very real financial cost paid by those devoted to making theatre. The backdrop for this discussion was our own experiences (I have no doubt I’m out hundreds of thousands of dollars) as well as the ugly rumblings from Actors Equity that it may end the 99-seat plan that allows union actors to perform on LA’s small stages. Moving actors in sub-100-seat houses from token payments of $10 or $20 a performance into minimum wage won’t help them make a living; instead, it’ll shutter our small theatres and sideline thousands of actors. (But then, if you’re the union and you subsist on dues and shares of revenues, and your revenue resulting from these theatres is almost nil, why should you care?) The actors have been subsidizing small theatre, for sure — but so have been the playwrights and the directors and the board ops and everyone else involved. And God knows the producers — and I’ve been one — have spent both opportunity costs and actual hard cash on keeping small theatre alive, because it means so much to us.

Scheduling and life circumstances had cost my friend and me more than a year and a half since we’d last seen each other. I just confirmed this in my calendar. The last time we’d gone out together had been in August of 2013 to see a Woody Allen movie. Judging by the terrific time we had together on Friday night, that’s far too long. I also note that in 2011 we saw a movie called “The Debt.” I couldn’t remember anything about this movie, so I just looked it up. Now it comes back to me. It’s a thriller about old friends who shared an adventure in the past, but who question the choices they made, much as the characters in “The Price” do. And much as we all do.