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Theater and Dance

19 Apr 2015
As a child, my older sister was scared to death of the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. My sister would flee the room in terror when the old green hag appeared onscreen. Sis is not alone: The witch, and her alter ego, the bicycle-riding, dog-hating Almira Gulch, have been feared and reviled by scores of little ones for years. But what if Miss Gulch had a softer, more vulnerable side? The Desert Ensemble Theatre Company explores that possibility in its latest production, Miss Gulch Returns, a one-man show featuring local cabaret performer Jerome Elliott in a delightful performance. The show, written by New York singer/pianist Fred Barton, became a hit 20 years ago, and holds up well. The premise is that Miss Gulch feels disrespected after her big musical number was cut from The Wizard of Oz movie, so she hits the cabaret circuit in…
18 Apr 2015
Like the little dog, you’re going to laugh—and you’ll love it. The Desert Rose Playhouse’s new comedy, The Little Dog Laughed, was written by Douglas Carter Beane. He’s not a household name, but perhaps he should be: He’s the genius who crafted the amazing screenplay for To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, in which the late Patrick Swayze rose to new heights of acting skill, playing virtually his entire role in drag and turning in one of the most amazing and finely tuned performances ever. So you already know you’re in for a comedic experience that combines wit with situational comedy and a cast of unusual characters. This four-person play, perfectly cast and deftly directed by Jim Strait, deals with Hollywood’s legendary but real craziness—though it’s mostly set in New York. The lights come up on a surprisingly bare stage: a rainbow-hued curtain, one chair, two doors and…
18 Apr 2015
There’s an old Japanese proverb, “Deru kugi wa utareru.” It basically means: “The nail that sticks up is the one that gets hit.” It represents Japan’s conformist tendencies, and the long-held belief that an individual should never rock the boat. It’s also the underlying theme of the Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre’s season-ending production, Hold These Truths, written by Jeanne Sakata and starring Blake Kushi. Originally staged in 2007 as Dawn’s Light: The Journey of Gordon Hirabayashi, it chronicles the true story of Hirabayashi, a second-generation Japanese American who had the guts to rock the boat by resisting the legally mandated internment of Japanese citizens during World War II. The oldest son of a truck driver, Gordon learns about discrimination early on. As a young boy, after he tries to come to the aid of an injured dog in the street, a white man screams at him and his mother: “Get…
02 Apr 2015
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August: Osage County—From Palm Canyon Theatre The Weston family members are all intelligent, sensitive creatures who have the uncanny ability to make each other miserable. When the patriarch mysteriously vanishes, the Weston clan gathers to simultaneously support and attack one another; at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, April 3 and 4; and 2 p.m., Sunday, April 5. $28. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org. Buyer and Cellar—From Coyote Stageworks Emerson Collins (Sordid Lives) stars in the comedy Buyer and Cellar, which focuses on the price of fame, at 7:30 p.m., Thursday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, through Sunday, April 5. $45 to $60. At the Helene Galen Performing Arts Center, 31001 Rattler Road, Rancho Mirage. 760-318-0024; www.coyotestageworks.org. Diva Dish! The Second Helping—From Desert Rose Playhouse Luke Yankee stars in this one-man show featuring anecdotes about various celebrities, at 8 p.m., Saturday, April 4;…
28 Mar 2015
Chuck Yates and his Coyote Stageworks are back! They have a great new show, Buyer and Cellar, with a spectacular new script, in a gorgeous new venue—the theater at the Helene Galen Performing Arts Center. Coyote Stageworks completely dominated the win list in last season’s Desert Theatre League awards, leaving all the rest of us coughing in his dust. When Coyote Stageworks suddenly found itself homeless at the end of last season, it made for a surreal contrast. Thank goodness Yates landed on his feet. Jonathan Tolins is the author of Buyer and Cellar, which was named “Best Unique Theatrical Experience” by the Off-Broadway Alliance. However, this information did not prepare me for the surprise of this play. None of the publicity gave away what we were about to see, either. Chuck Yates mentioned to me that although Tolins’ play is now running in New York, and will open soon…
24 Mar 2015
It all started because Michael Shaw and Dezart Performs co-founder Daniela Ryan wanted to bring more new live theater to the Coachella Valley. In those first days of what would become the Play Reading Festival, performances were held in a small art gallery. Shaw and Ryan would solicit new scripts from friends and colleagues, and once a month, they would choose one play, cast it, find a director, and present a staged reading—charging just $5 a head. So attendees remained invested in the whole process, each audience member was given ballots to grade each play. After seven months, Dezart tallied up the grades, and the play receiving the highest score was produced as the company’s first show the following season. Fast-forward to today, and the procedure for the Seventh Annual Play Reading Festival, which takes place April 3-11, is much more formalized: Every fall, Dezart puts out a national call…