Saturday, November 21, 2020

Memorable moments


A friend posted on Facebook, “What is something you've done that you're pretty confident you're the only person on my friends list to have ever done?” The responses flooded in with many amazing things such as:

“I once told Steven Spielberg, to his face, that I didn’t like ET as a kid.”

“Tara Reid once threw a LIT cigarette at me.”

“I waited on Adam Arkin.”

“Shook hands with Pope John Paul II.”

“Attended a callback for Cirque du Soleil as a ventriloquist.”

And “Dressed up as an electric fence for Halloween. (Wrapped myself in silver ribbon and carried a stun gun).”

I posted that I once hugged Tipper Gore and ate dinner in the same restaurant and at the same time as the Chicago Bulls—at least a group of their players including Scotty Pippin and Luc Longley. I’ll elaborate on that and at least one other memorable moment.

When I was in junior high school, I was voted Homecoming King. It was clearly a sympathy vote because I had been injured playing football and was confined to a wheelchair. But at halftime of the game against our rival, Laurel, I was pushed out to the center of the field in a wheelchair—fifty yard line, pushed by my identical twin brother who was in uniform (he was on the team) and accompanied by my queen, Kay Beard, with whom almost every boy in the school had a mad crush. Including me. After we were crowned, Kay leaned over and kissed me. Oh boy!

Three years later, another homecoming game against the same rival, but this time in high school. I was not Homecoming King, nor was I on the team. My knee injury never healed sufficiently for me to play again. But my twin brother was on the team. He was the smallest boy on the team. Laughably small for football. Probably the smallest boy ever to play for the Hattiesburg High Tigers. Normally he was a backup running back, but in this game, for reasons I can’t recall, he was put in as a defensive back forced to cover, at five-foot-three, a six-foot-tall wide receiver. And late in the fourth quarter he made a miraculous leap to intercept a pass and run it back sixty yards for the winning touchdown. It was my moment of glory as well as his, because back then my twin and I thought and acted and felt as one person.

Fast forward to 1996. We were at a PFLAG gathering in Seattle on the same night that the World Champion Chicago Bulls were playing the Seattle Sonics. After our meeting and after the game we went to a hotel restaurant for a late dinner. The Bulls’ team bus pulled up as we were parking, and the players unloaded and went into the hotel. I remember seeing Luc Longley, center, seven-feet tall, duck to go through the door. A group of the players came into the restaurant while we were eating. The great Michael Jordan was not with them. The restaurant was full, and they had to wait for a table. I overheard Scotty Pippin say to one of his teammates, “If Michael was with us we wouldn’t have to wait.”

I’ll bet he was right.

Four years later we went to Washington D.C. for a PFLAG conference and the Millennium March on Washington, a march for LGBTQ rights. Naturally, we didn’t know anyone else on the airplane except for one other person from Olympia. When the airplane got to D.C. and the pilot announced we were preparing to land, he said, “If you’re going to the Millennium March, have a great time,” and the entire plane erupted in cheers. Everyone on the plane was going to the march, and suddenly it was as if we were all old friends. And in the city it was as if all the people in D.C. were old friends. I had never in my life seen so many rainbow flags.

I can’t remember the exact sequence of events, but there was a dinner and a keynote speaker, and entertainment by our friend Steve Schalchlin, who sang for the first time in front of an audience “Gabi’s Song,” a song he wrote about our son Bill who committed suicide after a gay bashing. It was such a wonderfully sad moment, and Gabi and I were smothered with support.
I can’t remember if this came before or after the dinner and Steve’s performance. There was a keynote speech by Tipper Gore, Second Lady of the United States, and after her speech there was a receiving line. Tipper stood behind a rope guarded by Secret Servicemen. One of the Secret Servicemen said “Do not touch the Second Lady. Do not try to shake her hand.”
The line filed past her, and everyone in their turn said hello and thank you, and Gabi whispered to me, “When it’s our turn, I’m going to tell her about Bill.” And she did. And when she did Tipper Gore reached across the line and gave each of us a big hug. You know, I knew hardly anything about her except she was married to the vice president and had headed up some silly campaign against profanity in music. But that moment—Wow! I felt like I imagine that person who said they shook the pope’s hand must have felt.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Tacoma Musical Playhouse’s filmed production of Assisted Living; The Musical


Cast of Assisted Living from left: Lissa Valentine, Frank Kohel, Sharry O'Hare, Micheal O'Hara

Assisted Living: The Musical
is a comedic romp through an assisted living home where, as director Jon Douglas Rake puts it, “70-something is the new 20-something, only with looser skin.”

The cast includes Frank Kohel, Sharry O’Hare, Micheal O’Hara and Lissa Valentine. O'Hara and Kohel have appeared opposite one another in three shows in the past five years, including The Story of My Life at Olympia Little Theatre, Hairspray at Auburn Community Players and Man of La Mancha at 2nd Story Rep-Redmond. Valentine played Sherlock Holmes’ mother in Tacoma Little Theatre’s Holmes for the Holidays. O’Hare is practically a South Sound theater institution all on her own, having appeared often in many area theaters over the years, many times playing opposite her husband, O’Hara—don’t you just love the pairing of the names, and is the “chemistry” between these two any wonder? Recently she was seen in Forbidden Broadway at Lakewood Playhouse, The Full Monty at TMP and Calendar Girls at TLT. 

Music, lyrics and book were written by Rick Compton and Betsy Bennet, set by Bruce Haasl, costumes by Julles Mills, and filming and editing by Dennis Kurtz.

Assisted Living is a vaudeville-style show of silly skits, bad jokes, and silly songs—many of which are parodies of pop music and showtunes, all set in the Pelican Roost retirement home, and all poking fun at senior citizens.

O’Hara falls to the floor from his motorized cart and sings “Help, I’ve fallen for you and I can’t get up.”

Valentine sings a song about her ageing body with the refrain “saggy, saggy, sagging.”

Pushing a food cart, Kohel sings “Sunday night is steak night and my teeth have gone away.”

O’Hare sings a sweet and sad lament about internet acronyms and online dating and a sweetheart who writes BYB (be right back) but never comes back.

In a wild and crazy windup to the evening’s entertainment, the duo of O’Hare and O’Hara perform a tribute to Viagra as a medley of pop songs such as “Up, up and away with his beautiful blue pills” and “Viagra, I just took a pill called Viagra” (you know the tunes).

O’Hare writes about the rehearsals, staging and filming process:

When Jon brought us all together via Zoom, he let us know that this was going to be a collaborative effort and that we would do some rehearsals (via) Zoom and then a few times in person for marking our staging. He sent the music we would be using over the computer and guided us through our characters, truly allowing us generous liberties in creating them. We had three Zoom rehearsals; each of us had individual rehearsals at the theatre, and then we all met to put the opening and closing on stage. In addition to the normal concerns when directing, Jon now had to ensure that we were all social distanced and masked until we actually sang. None of us faced each other in the foursome during the numbers. We all decided the final week that we wanted in-person rehearsals and kept to the protocols in place. That final week was such a treat—got to see all the other skits and songs in the show.

“The filming was a new experience for all of us. It took a little over six hours. Some of the numbers went quickly and in one take. The most difficult solo I had went so well to my surprise. But I attribute that I had my personal conductor, Jeffrey Strvrtecky down at the edge of the stage guiding me through with the tricky rhythms. Micheal and I had a very challenging duet that we performed to perfection the first time and we all cheered at how well it went only to discover that the sound wasn't on! It was a struggle to get back on track, but with the magic of film they can splice our best work and piece it all together. Dennis Kurtz, who is a phenomenal photographer, did the tapings. Again, so strange to be distanced and masked throughout, except when we were actually performing. When we were finished, we all cheered and gave ourselves and the crew, Jon and Jeff, jubilant applause. It had been a long day, but one that lifted us from the troubles outside and brought us back on stage with a set, lights, props, costumes, makeup, and each other. Because, after all, isn't that what theatre does for us—both the performer and the audience regardless of what is going on in reality?”


ASSISTED LIVING: THE MUSICAL plays virtually filmed from the Tacoma Musical Playhouse stage. 


Show Times 

Friday, November 20 | 7:00 PM 

Saturday, November 21 | 2:00 PM 

Sunday, November 22 | 2:00 PM 

Ticket Prices

General Ticket Price $27.00 


Run Time

1 hour 15 minutes




Tickets are on sale and can be purchased online at only. 


Sunday, November 8, 2020

Theatre Magic (And Other Things We Need)


Reviewed by Alec Clayton


LaNita Hudson Walters, Sharon Armstrong

Andrea Benson

Theatre Magic (And Other Things We Need)
at Centerstage is a group of eight one-acts written by eight different playwrights, with four different directors (Trista Duval, Angela Bayler, Alyson Soma and Tori Dewar) and performed over a period of about an hour and a half by a hard-working and talented ensemble cast comprised of Sharon Armstrong, Andrea Benson, Cassie Fastabend, Jacob Tice, Tom Livingston, Tim Takechi, and LaNita Hudson Walters.

Centerstage Artistic Director Trista Duval said, “The stories depicted in this evening of scenes cover a range of eras, life experiences, locations, and emotions. I think they say something a little different to everyone, depending on where you are mentally and emotionally in this moment. It is my sincere hope that you experience moments of joy and fun during these performances, and that you experience moments where you feel understood and seen in your darker and tougher times.”

Some of the scenes are funny, some touching, and most involve a big of magic realism. And, as is to be expected with different writers and directors, the quality varies.

The first scene, “Our Ten,” by Mark Harvey Levine, is one of the weaker of the eight—or maybe I was caught off balance because I wasn’t expecting the magic element. It seemed to start out as a radio broadcast with the cast performing as DJs, announcers, and a call-in listener. And then it switches to a live scene of events taking place on a freeway: a woman giving birth and a person threatening suicide by jumping off an overpass; and all the people who were in the radio station moments before are witnesses to what happens on the freeway. It is inventive and, to me, a sometimes hard-to-understand story.

“You Can Thank Me Later” by Ruben Carbajal features Takechi as a man flying over a city and into restricted air space over an airport in a lawn chair lifted into the air by 45 weather balloons, and Livingston as a man on a phone trying to talk him down. This one is hilarious and thought provoking.

“Poof,” written by Lynn Nottage, is one of the most brilliant and entertaining scenes of the evening, and also one that comments importantly on domestic violence. In this scene, Loureen (Armstrong) accidentally kills her abusive husband in a magical way which I will not give away here. (Or she thinks she has killed him.) And she calls her neighbor Florence (Walters) to help her figure out what to do next.

In “Ghost Story,” written by Rachel Luann Strayer, Natalie (Fastabend) obsessively reads a ghost story on Christmas Eve while her husband, Doug (Tice) tries to get her to help him trim the Christmas tree. It is realistic with a bit of nostalgia, and beautifully acted by Tice and Fastabend.

“Spam Symphony” by Alex Broun is a surrealistic modern dance or poem with the entire cast performing as spam emails sent to Takechi.

In “Ghost of a Character,” written by Mranalini Kamath, Tice as Sir Conan Doyle talks to Sherlock Holmes (Livingston) about an actual case involving a racist murder. In the process of solving the murder, Doyle and his most famous character reveal much about the minds of writers—of this writer in particular. At one point in the story Holmes says to his creator, “Why do you not leave me alone?” which might be the central question about the relationship of any writer to his or her characters.

Finally, one of the deepest stories of the bunch, is “Real Art,” written by Louise Wigglesworth. In it, a woman named Loretta (Andrea Benson) wants to buy a piece of “real art” by Abby (Fastabend), but Abby doesn’t want to sell it because it’s her first and only “Best in Show.” Somewhat like the writer-character exchange in “Ghost of a Character,” this one becomes a philosophical discussion on art between the artist and her patron. Stellar acting by Fastabend and Benson.

Theatre Magic (And Other Things We Need) was filmed at Dukesbay Theatre and can be watched online. Virtual tickets give access to the show for 24 hours, anytime from now to Nov. 15.

Go to to buy your tickets for the date and time you want to “go to” a performance. After purchasing your ticket, you will receive a separate email 24 hours later with a link to your scheduled stream.


For more information, call (253) 661-1444 or email