CVIndependent

Sat01202018

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Dwight Hendricks

A chicken and an egg are in bed next to each other; both are smoking cigarettes. The egg turns to the chicken and says, “So, we now know the answer to that question.”

I have tons of these. But if you would prefer comedy that’s actually, well, funny, consider the Out for Laughs comedy series, coming to the Camelot Theatres each Thursday in February.

Shann Carr, a self-appointed “gay man’s lesbian” (and, full disclosure, a friend of the Independent), is co-producing the series. Each show will have a headliner, multiple entertainers and a different beneficiary.

“I have been doing a series of shows for over 30 years called ‘Out for Laughs,’” Carr told me during our recent chat. “Sometimes I do videos or film; this year in Palm Springs, I am doing a short run of live shows. Every week, there will be at least four acts. Most times, it’s three comedians and a magician. (Co-producer) Max Mitchell and I will host, and the magician (McHugh and Co.) will come and help with the transitions.”

Palm Springs is an easy place to hold these LGBT-themed shows, since Carr has lived in the city for 20 years. How did she wind up living in Palm Springs?

“I have been an out comedian since I was 19,” she said. “Palm Springs was that place in a gay bubble and has that resort mentality. And where else could a lesbian like me afford a house with a pool? It’s a great place! My house is making (me) money, and even (my) dog is doing commercials. Everyone is working!”

Carr said it was important to her for the series of shows to give back to the community.

“Pretty much everything I do, I give something to charity. It’s just a part of how I am made,” she said. “I have worked with these charities in some way, and I just try to spread the support around. … As a gay comic, I do not experience great amounts of wealth, but (the series) does my heart good. Fifteen percent of each ticket will go to the selected charity for the night.”

As for those headliners and charities:

• On Feb. 1, the headliner is groundbreaking trans comedian Ian Harvie; his show will benefit the Transgender Community Coalition. He has opened for Margaret Cho, has a one-hour special called May the Best Cock Win and has been on the award-winning show Transparent.

• Feb. 8 brings Alec Mapa; his show is benefiting Sanctuary Palm Springs. Called “hilarious” by Ellen Degeneres, Mapa recently was featured in his own Showtime special, focusing on the adoption travails that he and his husband have endured. Mapa gets around: He’s been part of RuPaul’s Drag Race, A Very Sordid Wedding and all sorts of other movies and television shows, including two Logo specials.

• Erin Foley will perform on the day after Valentine’s Day, Feb. 15; her show will benefit the Joy Silver campaign for the District 28 State Senate seat. Foley has been on Conan and her own Comedy Central special; she hosts the podcast Sports Without Balls, which has helped make her one of the most sought-after women in comedy.

• Concluding the series on Feb. 22 will be Jimmy James; his show benefits the LGBT Community Center of the Desert. He is an award-winning vocal impressionist with an amazing voice. He does Judy, Cher, Adele, Barbra, Elvis and so many others. He even does a duet … but it’s just him, doing two voices.

“It always freaks people out when I do it,” James told me during a recent phone interview. “Cher is one of my favorites; she changes the molecular structure of the room.”

James has a long history of performing in Palm Springs, he said.

“There are other places you can go that have so many tribute artists, impersonators and performers that I just don’t feel special,” he said. “I used to come to (Arenas Road bar) Streetbar on the last Tuesdays of the month to practice and see what worked and what didn’t. There was no judgment for me. It gave me the chance to develop so many things like Lana Del Rey and Adele. There’s a lot of vetting I have to do for each show. I love new artists and their music, but I work out of the Great American Songbook, too.

“This February will mark 35 years of performing. I started when I was 2,” James continued with a chuckle. “I have learned what my audiences want. … There is even an audience who doesn’t know I do this; they know me for my hit (song) ‘Fashionista,’ which is being played all the time, everywhere.”

The Out for Laughs comedy series takes place every Thursday in February at 7 p.m. at the Camelot Theatres, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets for each show are $25 in advance, or $30 at the door. For tickets or more information, visit out4laughs.eventbrite.com.

If you resolved to support small businesses, local art and local newspapers in the new year—and you most definitely should have—you can help fulfill those first two resolutions by attending the annual Southwest Arts Festival, coming to the Empire Polo Club Jan. 25-28.

Richard Curtner is one of the local artists who will be featured at the Southwest Arts Festival. How does he describe what he does?

“I call it word-collage art,” he said. “It’s collages created by using hundreds of cutouts of written texts, which form a visual image that can be read and seen.”

He uses donated magazines in his work.

“I am not creating any papers; I use what I find—whatever text and colors to make up the images,” Curtner said. “People have given me magazines for years. Many people would rather give them to me to make a piece out of them than have them end up in a landfill. I am happy to be able to give them another life. My wife keeps telling me, ‘No more.’”

How does Curtner know what to look for as he’s flipping through a donated magazine? “I have been doing this medium for over 18 years,” he explained. “When I look at a magazine, I see things very differently than other people see.”

Curtner came from an artistic family; his mother and grandmother painted, and he started out using oils.

“I really wanted something that was unique, something that was different,” he said. “I always liked the literary arts. That was my way to combine the two together. … I realized that no one at the shows and galleries had been doing anything quite like this.”

I asked how Curtner keeps his art fresh. “I usually just work on one piece at a time,” he said. “I start with an idea or theme, and then I search for the materials. I am constantly looking for colors and words, and then I file them away. It’s my palette. I have a filing system I use to keep organized.

“Lately, I am doing more cityscapes. It gives me an excuse to travel and visit other cities to take photos.”

Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Curtner and his wife moved to the Coachella Valley 15 years ago due to the better affordability.

“The weather is perfect during the winters, and I try to do as many shows during the summers as I can,” he said. “The valley shows are during the time of year when the weather is awesome. I personally like the fact I can be at home at night with my wife and two children. I can take the family out to the show, and sometimes I can have my son help me set up before the show.”

Curtner said he’s a big fan of the Southwest Arts Festival.

“Southwest is one the top shows in the country,” he said. “I have been involved with this festival for 12 years consecutively now. I started to go to it as a patron. I really liked the variety of all the different kinds of artwork. I have consistently done well there every year—in fact, I have done better and better each year. I have my collectors who come to this show, because they know I will be there. I wouldn’t be able to keep coming on back if I didn’t get the support, and that’s a big deal.

“The best way to see art is to see it in person. You have to go to a show to really see it. It’s never the same if you see it online as when you see it in person. In person, you can see the text and work that goes into creating it. It takes 40 to 50 hours to assemble a piece, and that doesn’t include the searching time—and that just doesn’t translate to (looking at my works on) the computer.”

The 32nd Annual Southwest Arts Festival takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 25, through Sunday, Jan. 28, at the Empire Polo Club, 81800 Avenue 51, in Indio. Admission for all four days is $15; children 5 and younger are admitted for free. For tickets or more information, visit www.discoverindio.com/southwest-arts-festival.

(Editor’s note: This show has been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances, according to Phillip Moore.)

What is the perfect holiday gift for the person who has everything? How about tickets to a festive holiday show—perhaps Phillip and Jason’s Super Duper Fabulous Palm Springs Christmas Extravaganza at Copa Nightclub?

The show and fundraiser, featuring songs, stories and laughs from local musicians Phillip Moore and Jason Weber, will include holiday classics—as well as some new takes on those classics.

“I always love ‘O Holy Night,’” said Moore when we sat down over coffee to discuss this new show. “I think whenever it’s sung, it just oozes peace and hope. We are trying to make everyone feel loved and accepted by crossing all cultural and racial boundaries, so we can all celebrate what the season is about—love!”

Moore said the “homo for the holidays” show (his words) will touch on some of the serious issues that he and Weber have endured in their lives.

“Jason and I grew up as pastors’ kids in Baptist homes, and both of us went through reparative-therapy ‘gay camp’ at about the same age,” Moore said. “We both like older men, and we both are musicians. So, I think for us, Christmas being gay still has an element of softness and love, but we also both like to be a little edgy and have fun. … It’s about gay life during the holidays, and will reflect the focus of our fundraiser for December, which is Sanctuary Palm Springs, a foster home for LGBT youth.”

Many of us have fond memories of Christmas … and many of us don’t.

“The toys I remember: One year, I got the (Six Million Dollar) Man! Now, looking back, I know I had a crush on Lee Majors,” Moore said. “The other (toy) was the wind-up Evel Knievel.”

Of course, holiday memories go well beyond presents.

“One special Christmas back in the ’80s that I remember was the year my mom was diagnosed with cancer during the holidays, and I didn’t know if she would be able to come home for Christmas,” Moore said. “But she was released on Christmas Eve! It really was a great gift for this 12-year-old. My mom was the center of my life.”

Moore is an amazing singer who has performed all over the valley and beyond. He is classically trained, with a background in blues and gospel. He grew up in the South, the son of a Baptist pastor, so it’s no surprise that he studied pastoral ministry and music.

“My goal was to be a Christian recording artist,” he said.

However, the fact that he was gay meant that was not to be. After looking for guidance, he was kicked out of the church. He also endured several years of so-called reparative therapy, which, in a way, paradoxically wound up helping him.

“It actually led me to who I really was,” Moore said. “Their motto, ‘The Truth Will Set You Free,’ opened up my life, and it really did set me free. I have wanted to sing my whole life, since I was 2 years old. My sister would sit at the piano and tell me, ‘Could you not sing so loud?’ This is my voice!”

I asked him how he selected the songs for the show. After thinking for a moment, he responded: “‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas,’ well, is one that I love, because I don’t feel comfortable going home to the South, because of who I am—a man who happens to be gay.” Moore added that the show will encompass love, acceptance and laughter.

Phillip and Jason’s Super Duper Fabulous Palm Springs Christmas Extravaganza tales place at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 15, at the Copa Nightclub, 244 E. Amado Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $30. For tickets or more information, visit phillipandjasonchristmasshow.brownpapertickets.com.

One of them is a small-town pageant winner, circa 1981, who now peddles gay travel on TV. One of them has an obsession with Celestial Seasonings’ Tension Tamer tea. One of them knows all about Sordid Lives. And one of them has become an Internet sensation thanks to his melding of politics and show tunes.

What do they all have in common? They’re the four performers in Logo founder Matt Farber’s Outlandish series, coming to the Camelot Theatres on four consecutive Saturdays, starting Oct. 28 with Sordid Lives creator Del Shores. He’ll be followed by drag star Miss Richfield 1981 on Nov. 4; and drag storyteller Miss Coco Peru on Nov. 11. And on Nov. 18 … the good news is political satirist and show-tune expert Randy Rainbow will be here; the bad news is the show is sold out—as is a second show added on Sunday, Nov. 19. (A small number of series passes, which include Randy Rainbow’s Sunday show, were still available as of this writing.)

I recently had the pleasure of talking to Miss Coco Peru (aka Clinton Leupp) about her upcoming show. One of our discussion topics: Barbra and Liza, and how they are gay-icon stereotypes. Barbra has that nose, and Liza has those big eyes … and that hair! They own those attributes and never apologize for them; Barbra’s album covers even show her profile!

Peru also knows something about a big nose, big hair and big eyes, and she is becoming a gay icon herself. The star of stage, screen, television and the occasional kids’ parties writes all of her own one-woman shows. Her Bronx accent gives away the fact that she started her career on the East Coast—but she has now lived in California for the last 18 years.

She is no stranger to performing in the Coachella Valley; the tea-obsessed Peru has even performed at … several recovery facilities?

“Working with people in recovery—they can go there with Coco,” she said. “I joke that we’re all so fucked up, and they really get it. They want to poke fun of themselves. When you hit rock bottom, and the only way is up, Coco really connects with that for them.”

Her new show is Miss Coco Peru: The Taming of the Tension, and it covers “different themes, including difference between the being present and showing up,” Peru told me. “I take months to write a show so that when people leave my theater, they are rejuvenated and happy. Well, for at least six minutes, before the shit hits the fan again after they leave. That’s just the world we live in now.”

What’s her creative process for creating a show like this? “I usually start with over 100 pages, and then I start to edit them down. I end up with between 20 and 30 pages, including songs which are sung live,” Peru said. “For me, it’s group therapy, and now it’s my turn to talk. Most people will go through a full range of emotions in the hour and 15 minutes of the show.”

Coco Peru has received rave reviews from audiences, and from her good friend Lily Tomlin, whose character Ernestine served as an inspiration. Tomlin even called Peru “one of the last great storytellers”—and indeed, she is.

We talked about the trials involved with growing up gay.

“I had to find my voice—and this was it,” she said. “I talk about how everyone made fun of me, saying I was a girl. I just got to a point where I thought, ‘I am going to show you just how big of a girl I can be.’ So, like the nose, I own just how big of a girl I am! When I accepted who I am, it just felt like I became balanced.”

Peru said she aims to be a positive voice. “I can be bitchy and angry, but my show runs the full gamut of emotions, from being very funny to people getting very emotional during my show. The point is leaving the audience feeling great and leaving the show with a real positive feeling.

“I don’t pick on anyone in the audience; I am way too self-absorbed.”

Peru said her show points out how we’re all connected.

“In today’s world, there is such a disconnect of people. I discuss the ideas we’re all thinking, but I vocalize them,” she said. “We are constantly bombarded with news and information. It’s crazy. There are too many things to try to focus on, then when something happens in our community, it’s easy for (those things) to just slide on by. I also talk about (playwright and female impersonator) Charles Busch and how much he was an inspiration to me. He showed me that you can do theater with a female character and be fabulous.”

The Outlandish series takes place at 8 p.m., Saturday, from Oct. 28 through Nov. 18, at the Camelot Theatres, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets to individual shows are $30 to $60 (although both Randy Rainbow shows are sold out); series passes start at $100. For tickets or more information, visit www.outlandishps.com.

A lot of historical quirks went into making Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley the tourism mecca that it is today.

In the big-studio era of Hollywood, actors were contractually required to stay within two hours or 100 or so miles of the studio … which helped make this a haven for stars who wanted to get away. On the less-glamorous side, a tuberculosis sanatorium once attracted people here, thanks to the 350 days of sun and dryness our weather offers.

These quirks also helped, directly and indirectly, lead to the construction of a lot of midcentury-modern buildings—and these pieces of architecture will be the stars of Modernism Week’s Fall Preview, taking place Oct. 19-22.

The list of talented architects who worked in the desert includes William F. Cody, Albert Frey, Richard Neutra, John Lautner, Donald Wexler and so many others. These men were responsible for the layout of areas like the Twin Palms neighborhood. (Why did they name it that? Because each home had two palm trees in front of it.) Of course, the midcentury aesthetic went well beyond homes; these ideals were used in schools, civic buildings, religious buildings, hotels, cultural centers and commercial designs, too.

Why is Palm Springs today such a haven for this architecture—so much so that the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Palm Springs to its 2006 list of America’s Distinctive Destinations? This was a question I asked Charles Phoenix, a performer, tour guide and long-time supporter/fan of all things midcentury; he will have a hand in a variety of Modernism Week Fall Preview events.

“It’s really the people here,” Phoenix said. “Palm Springs is the ultimate place to celebrate midcentury style and design. Palm Springs is a mecca of midcentury style, and it’s where all the kingpins and fans gather each October and February (during Modernism Week proper).”

So how did this happen here? “Being in the desert, I think they were allowed to be a little more experimental and break the rules,” Phoenix said. “The minimalistic style appeals to the residents here, so they didn’t have to spend so much on the details. Remember, most of these homes were second homes.”

Since the 1920s, visionary modern architects have been designing sleek, modern homes that embrace the desert environment. The modernistic use of glass, clean lines and natural/resourced goods helped create an indoor-outdoor living style that many people love. However, midcentury architecture has not always been so beloved.

“During the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, this style fell out of favor; people thought of it just not being in style. Architects during that time thought that midcentury was yuck!” Phoenix said. “Fortunately, there are some people out there who realized that Palm Springs was a diamond in the rough at that time. During the 1990s, a group of people highlighted a couple of properties and a couple of neighborhoods and started to bring in people from all over the United States for architectural tours. Then it just started to snowball. Palm Springs is still being revitalized and recognized as the center of the universe of midcentury modern, and it’s where the lovers of this form gather.”

As these sensibilities have changed, Phoenix has found himself being pulled ever more toward midcentury design. During Modernism Week activities, you can join him on one his double-decker bus tours around town (if they have not completely sold out already), or for one of his slide presentations with actual Kodachrome slides, many of which were just given to him. Some of them appear in his newest book, Addicted to Americana, released on Oct. 3.

Modernism Week’s fall preview takes place Thursday, Oct. 19, through Sunday, Oct. 22. Ticket prices vary. For tickets, a complete schedule and other information, visit www.modernismweek.com.

The year was 2008. The economy was imploding; Coldplay’s Viva la Vida was the No. 1 album in the world; and United States voters elected a guy named Barack Obama as president.

Meanwhile, here in the Coachella Valley, the Palm Springs Cultural Center held the first Cinema Diverse, the valley’s LGBT film festival.

The 10th anniversary edition of the festival takes place Sept. 21-24.

Michael Green is the festival director and the executive director of the Cultural Center. He talked about the process he goes through to select films for the festival.

“I work with all the independent film distributors who specialize in LGBT films, as well as others,” he said. “I pretty much screen films year-around. Films also come in to us from directors, many we have worked with before. We don’t show anything that is out commercially.”

Palm Springs’ proximity to Hollywood is a boon to Cinema Diverse.

“It’s wonderful,” Green said. “The beauty of being so close is (many of) the filmmakers come out to the festival. We have been so fortunate the past few years, where we have up to 80 percent representation … by someone involved in the film itself.”

This is the 10th Cinema Diverse—and Green has made big plans to celebrate the milestone. The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin is going to be the opening-night movie on Thursday, Sept. 21, and Tales of the City scribe Armistead Maupin himself will be in attendance. Copies of his new memoir will also be available, before the official release date in October.

“Luckily, Armistead loves Palm Springs, and his schedule worked out so he can come here to be a part of the festival,” Green said. “We are working with (Palm Springs store) Just Fabulous to help out, where people can purchase his new book and have it signed.”

Beyond opening night, Cinema Diverse will have many highlights, Green said.

“We are going to have a couple of special 10th anniversary screenings from Here Media,” he said. “Sheltered is one of the first movies produced by Here Media 10 years ago. This is only available in this festival—no others. Here Media is one the festival’s sponsors, so we are hoping to have not just the director, but the cast, too, on Saturday (Sept. 23).

“We are also going to be having a documentary called Laughing Matters … The Men,” featuring various gay comedians—which was filmed at Palm Springs Pride. “Not only is this a 10th anniversary screening, but the director, Andrea Meyerson, has a new short named One Way Street, which will also be screening at the festival. We love to do a lot of shorts at Cinema Diverse.”

The festival is also expanding to a second weekend, sort of: While Cinema Diverse will take place at the Camelot Theatres in Palm Springs, the Mary Pickford Theatre in Cathedral City will host the Best of Fest on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 29 and 30.

“Last year, we expanded what we were doing (by hosting films at the Desert Cinema, the former IMAX theater) in Cathedral City,” Green said. “This year, Cathedral City asked us to return. We asked the Mary Pickford, and they were very interested. We also decided this year to move this part of the festival to the week after, so it wouldn’t pull away from the festival consistency. The Best of Fest will show the best films and help accommodate film-goers who may have missed the first showings during the festival.”

Cinema Diverse includes every genre of LGBT-related films one can imagine. However, Green admitted a fondness for the festival’s slate of documentaries.

“This year, we have most of our documentaries focusing on the LGBTQ communities in various places around the world,” Green said. “Films from Iraq, Iran, Russia or South Africa work as a reminder that we are so fortunate to live in our bubble of Palm Springs. It’s a reminder how dangerous the rest of the world is, and how there is still so much work to be done to make the world a safe place.”

Cinema Diverse takes place Thursday, Sept. 21, through Sunday, Sept. 24, at the Camelot Theatres, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. The Best of Fest takes place Friday and Saturday, Sept. 29 and 30, at the Mary Pickford Theatre, 36850 Pickfair St., in Cathedral City. Pass prices vary; individual screenings are $13.25. For more information, visit cinemadiverse.org.

The dog days of August are here, so it’s a great time to get the heck out of the valley—and while doing so, you can enjoy some cool mountain air and take in some great music.

Idyllwild Arts’ annual Jazz in the Pines festival takes place Friday, Aug. 11, through Sunday, Aug. 13. John Newman, the event chair and director of business operations for Idyllwild Arts, filled me in on the event’s history.

“This is the 24th annual Jazz in the Pines Festival,” he said. “It was started by the legendary Marshall Hawkins, along with Lin Carlson and Barbara Wood. They created the festival for three reasons: to preserve the heritage of jazz music in America, to provide a venue for friends and colleagues, and most importantly, to provide scholarship money for students to attend the Idyllwild (Arts) Academy.”

How did a town of less than 4,000 people end up with not only a festival, but the Idyllwild Arts Academy?

“The program was started in 1946 as a summer program by Max and Bee Krone. Max was the dean of Music at USC,” Newman said. “The goal was to create a place where people of all backgrounds could come together and, through the universal language of arts and music, inspire and create together. Then maybe they would stop killing each other.”

The summer programs are designed to be open to everyone, of all talents and ages. Later, Idyllwild Arts founded the Idyllwild Arts Academy high school.

“This is a global commitment,” he said about the academy. “Of 310 students who attend … these are independent young people who travel from around the world to come to a small town on top of a mountain in the southern part of California. These kids are so dedicated to their craft, they don’t even care that there is no cellular reception there.”

All of the festival’s proceeds go to Idyllwild Arts, and the festival offers three stages with simultaneous performances. The main stage will offer more traditional jazz, including a performance by Evan Christopher’s Clarinet Road. Evan is a world-renowned clarinetist from New Orleans—who was part of the high school’s first graduating class in 1987.

Also appearing on the main stage is Frisson, a new eight-piece jazz band featuring recent graduates from Oberlin College and Conservatory in Ohio. The band released its first album this year.

“We’re proud of our find of new talent,” Newman said. “They are so talented; I would describe them as more of a contemporary jazz band.”

The French Quarter stage will present R&B, blues and rock ’n’ roll; expect more of a party scene, where people are up and dancing.

The third venue is Stephens Hall, which Newman described as “an intimate recital hall which will offer more ballads and avant-garde.” He talked about one of the Stephens Hall performers, a resident chamber group called the Definiens.

“I mention them not only to highlight the talent of our faculty, but they represent more of the diversity of music styles,” Newman said. “They are a chamber group doing jazz standards, but as a classical chamber group.”

On Saturday, a fourth venue will join the festival: The state-of-the-art Lowman Concert Hall, just completed in the spring. VIP package-holders can enjoy Seahawk MOJO (Modern Jazz Orchestra). This is the group headed by Marshall Hawkins, founder of the Idyllwild Arts Academy’s Jazz Program. The 30-piece orchestra will be playing jazz standards.

“These different venues are for those who feel that they are not jazz aficionados, per se,” Newman said. “They offer different styles of jazz.”

The party starts Friday, Aug. 11, with the special Patrons Dinner and Dance in the French Quarter on the main campus. Throughout the fest, artisans will sell handcrafted items in the festival market.

Idyllwild Arts’ Jazz in the Pines takes place Friday, Aug. 11, through Sunday, Aug. 13, at 52500 Temecula Road, in Idyllwild, a 55-mile drive from the Coachella Valley. Tickets are $85 for Saturday or Sunday admission; $150 for a two-day pass; or $350 for the Patrons VIP Package, which includes the Friday and Saturday evening events. For tickets or more information, call 951-468-7210, or visit www.jazzinthepines.com.

E=MC2.

Can one famous formula-turned-phrase make a man? What does that recognizable formula say about the character of the person who created it?

The one-woman play The Life and Times of A. Einstein, coming to the Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre Friday through Sunday, July 21-23, explores these questions. Directed by Paul Gersen and starring playwright/actress Kres Mersky, the off-beat fictional comedy centers on Ellen Shoenhammer, the secretary to Prof. Einstein—although she is far more than just his secretary.

The character is loosely based on Einstein’s real secretary, Helen Dukas, whose duties included chauffeur, bodyguard and media liaison. She worked to keep his public image clear of scandal. She kept track of his dalliances and hid all of this damaging information protect his family. She was also the manager of all his business affairs—not a small feat, especially when dealing with a busy “genius.” After her death in the 1980s, much of her correspondence was uncovered—and that’s when so much was discovered about Einstein’s illicit affairs.

Mersky told me that The Life and Times of A. Einstein is a slice-of-life play, taking place on the great physicist’s birthday. He is supposed to be holding a press conference—but he is somehow unavoidably detained, so Ellen has to stand in for him.

“Einstein was a celebrity then,” Mersky said. “People hid in the bushes to get photos of him—like modern-day paparazzi.”

The play covers Ellen’s long association with the Einstein family, including how she came to meet the great man. Most importantly, she talks about his extraordinary research that changed our perception of the universe. Ellen also perfected the art of answering and evading questions—often better than the talking heads on today’s TV news.

“I always wanted to do a play about Einstein because of what he stood for,” Mersky said. “He was a complicated, great man who whose ethos and belief in the imagination helped shape science.”

How did the play finally come about? “It’s actually a play I have been working on for 15 to 20 years. I loosely based Ellen on the real secretary,” Mersky said.

I asked Mersky why Einstein remains such a popular figure today. “He is the world’s most famous refugee,” she said. “He is also known for all his humanitarian work. In 1933, he helped create the International Rescue Committee that, even to this day, is active. He will always be relevant.”

Mersky said she enjoyed creating a character who is strong yet funny. That description could apply to Mersky as well; she’s a Los Angeles-based actress who has enjoyed visiting the valley over the years. Her acting credits include Revenge of the Nerds and the Charlie’s Angels TV series. She even appeared on the legendary yet short-lived The Richard Pryor Show.

The Life and Times of A. Einstein is just one of CV Rep’s varied summer offerings, which include other one-person plays—including The Year of Magical Thinking, starring Linda Purl and based on Joan Didion’s riveting memoir; that takes place Aug. 11-13.

CV Rep is also hosting various musical performances. One Tuesday per month, “Jazz at the Rep” will spotlight various talented musicians. If jazz is not your thing, CV Rep’s summer offerings also include a Cabaret Series and a Classical Music Series.

The Life and Times of A. Einstein takes place at 7 p.m., Friday, July 21 and 22; and 2 p.m., Sunday, July 23, at the Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre, at 69930 Highway 111, Suite 116, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $30. For tickets, more information and a complete schedule of summer offerings, call 760-296-2966, or visit cvrep.org.

The month of June brings the Palm Springs International ShortFest—the largest short-film festival on the continent.

This leads to a common question: “What makes a film a short?” The answer: No, it has nothing to do with the height of the director. Instead, a “short film” is any motion picture not long enough to be considered a “feature film.” The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences defines a short film as “an original motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less, including all credits.” Sometimes, the synopsis may seem longer than the actual movie.

Lili Rodriguez is the festival director of the Palm Springs International ShortFest. Festival organizers receive more than 4,200 submissions for about 325 slots, organized into 90-minute themed screenings—and the nature of the films submitted often reflects the social and political issues of our time.

“This year, we’ve seen a lot of films about race relations in the United States, as well as about migration,” said Rodriguez.

So, how does a film make it into the festival?

“Films go through a selection process that includes a screening committee of around 20 people and four programmers,” Rodriguez explained via email. “Programmers select the final films that will play, and our goal is to have a balanced program that includes talent from all over the world and films with different perspectives and across many genres.”

Short films, like feature films, come in a variety of genres, including documentaries, fiction films and animated films. Many directors have honed their skills using the short format; Wes Anderson, Sam Raimi and Neill Blomkamp are just a few who did. The films are sometimes shown at the theater before a feature—usually the case with Pixar films, for example—or via avenues like AdultSwim.

I asked Rodriguez what she felt the festival’s goal is. “ShortFest is a platform meant to discover and nurture talent,” she said. “Our goal is to provide emerging and established filmmakers a space where they can learn and network—a space where short form is king.”

The festival also includes the ShortFest Film Market. It’s is the only short film market in the U.S., and includes more than 3,500 titles. Unfortunately, the market is not open to the public, but just to industry insiders and professionals. This is one reason why many sales people, distributors, filmmakers and others come specifically to the Palm Springs International Shortfest.

Originally, shorts were included as part of the Palm Springs International Film Festival—until organizers realized the shorts deserved a festival of their own.

“Shorts used to get programmed with feature-length films in the January festival, the Palm Springs International Film Festival, but in 1995, it broke off to be its own thing,” she explained. This is a good thing: I volunteered at the Palm Springs International Film Festival this year, and I can’t imagine where they could even try to fit in short films.

The Palm Springs International ShortFest will take place Tuesday, June 20, through Monday, June 26, at the Camelot Theatres, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets for individual screenings are $13, and six-packs of tickets are $69. For tickets or more information, call www.psfilmfest.org/2017-shortfest.

She stood in my office doorway, as palm trees from Palm Canyon Drive framed her long, dark-auburn hair. The cut of her emerald business suit clung to her curves in the all right places. The way she clutched her Kate Spade purse, I could tell something was really worrying her. Her deep hazel eyes betrayed her, showing the fear she had seen.

“What’s on your mind, doll face?” I asked as I tried to keep my eyes on her in a professional way. I have years of practice at looking at the wrong places.

With a pursing of her lips, she looked at me and said, “It’s already after 4 o’clock.” Her hands started to wring her purse tighter. “We’re going to be late for this year’s Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival.”

Well, that’s how I would imagine it would go.

The 18th annual film festival takes place May 11-14, and once again, it is hosted by writer/historian Alan K. Rode at the Camelot Theatres in Palm Springs.

“I handpick each film, hoping it’s something people will want to see,” Rode told me.

I asked him where he finds so many of these films—many of which even avid fans like me don’t know. “Warner Bros studios opened their vaults to me this year. We are presenting an extremely diverse lineup of films.”

The film festival, per usual, will feature a wide range of guests, including one on opening night—Monika Henried, the daughter of film star Paul Henried, who produced and starred in the opening-night feature: a restored print of Hollow Triumph (1948), directed by Steve Sekely and co-starring Joan Bennett. From the novel by Murray Forbes, this is a story of a casino heist gone bad, a change of identity and the troubles to which a new life can lead.

One of the jewels of the festival is Meet Danny Wilson (1952). This rarely viewed Frank Sinatra and Shelley Winters collaboration is a musical drama directed by Joseph Pevney. This is the transition film that took Sinatra from his bobby-soxer popularity to From Here to Eternity fame. Raymond Burr is also in the film as the gangster who threatens the small-time singer as he rises to the top of his profession.

For first time, the festival will be showing Split Second (1953), marking the directorial debut of Dick Powell (radio’s Richard Diamond). The film follows a group of escaped convicts and hostages hiding in a ghost town—a group that is in real danger.

Other special guests slated to participate include Richard Duryea, son of Dan Duryea, the star of Black Angel (1946). The film also stars June Vincent and Peter Lorre. Andy Robinson, a star of “neo-noir” movie Charley Varrick (1973), will be present for that film’s screening, while Sara Karloff, daughter of Boris Karloff, will attend the screening of The Body Snatcher (1945)—which, in Rode’s opinion, marks Boris’ “finest screen performance.”

The festival’s focus is not only on delighting fans of film noir; it’s meant to open new eyes, too. Rode said festival organizers have been using social media such as Facebook in an effort to entice a younger generation of fans.

“Film is not a museum piece—not a genre, style, look or feel,” Rode said. “… Now we are offering everyone the opportunity to watch in original setting and mode.”

One of the reasons the festival takes place at the Camelot is the theater still has a 35mm film projector. Festival tradition dictates that screenings are shown in that format.

“We are attempting to preserve the original movie-going experience,” Rode said.

The 18th Annual Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival takes place Thursday, May 11, through Sunday, May 14, at the Camelot Theatres, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $13 per film, or $125 for an all-access pass. For tickets or information, visit ArthurLyonsFilmNoir.org.

Page 1 of 2