When is an Interview not an Interview?

Being a writer for a local newspaper, I am often assigned interviews promoting a current play or an event of local interest. Phone interviews are typical. Circumstances occasionally require that we meet in person. This is not usually a problem.

I was assigned to interview a man who works in Public Relations. He had several items he was promoting. And being a personable fellow (did I mention he works in Public Relations) he preferred to speak face to face. We set a time to meet at a coffee shop easily accessible to both of us.

I followed his directions and arrived at the wrong place a few minutes early. My actual destination was about two blocks away. I got there on time, parked and went in.

I entered the nearly empty restaurant and looked around.  A man at the counter caught my eye and nodded to me. He stood and got off his cell phone. I introduced myself while shaking his hand.  He suggested we adjourn to a table at the rear of the restaurant where we could talk undisturbed by other customers. A waiter took our orders for a light lunch.

It was going to be a lengthy and detailed interview and I wanted to make sure I got all my facts straight. I wanted to get some good quotes that always liven up the text. I put my legal pad on the table and prepared to write. Curiously, he asked why I had brought a pad.

I reminded him of our scheduled interview and that I wanted to maintain absolute accuracy. It was odd he didn’t remember which paper I worked for.

Respecting his valuable time, I bypassed the small talk and got straight to the interview. I asked how he got his start and he settled into a rambling account of his youth. He went into some detail about how his father belonged to the culinary union. “That’s very interesting,” I observed, “but how, from there did you get into Public Relations?”

He scoffed. “I don’t do public relations.”

What? “I’m sorry, but I think there may have been a mix up.  I’m supposed to be interviewing a PR guy. Are you ___________?”

“No, I own this restaurant. My name is Biff.”

I called my contact. He apologized and said he was about ten minutes away. He tried to call but was in the canyon and had no reception. I assured him I would wait. There was nothing else to do but finish my lunch and continue my conversation with Biff. He told me how he was the namesake for a character in a Micheal J. Fox movie from the ‘80s.

We were about finished when Biff signaled to someone. I turned to see my guy had just entered and was walking our way. I offered my hand to shake, but he walked by me to shake hands with Biff. They began talking like old friends.

What was happening? Wasn’t this my interview subject? Did these guys know each other? Then Biff said something and the new guy turned toward me. We shook hands. He explained that since Biff signaled to him, he thought Biff was me.

We adjourned to another table and started the interview. But, apparently feeling like we were all old friends now, Biff kept interjecting his observations on whatever he thought we were discussing. I finally thanked Biff for his charming conversation and let him know it was not an open forum.

To no one’s surprise, all the delays and confusion kept us from getting to the meat of the interview. We rescheduled the interview for another day.

By phone.

Two shipwrecked strangers: Actress Renée Marino on ‘Danny and the Deep Blue Sea’

by John K. Adams

You may doubt mere words could draw blood. But you haven’t seen John Patrick Shanley’s Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, extended through April 15th at Theater 68. It is as if Shanley writes in some secret language which penetrates our emotional core and reconnects us to that true life within us.

Brought to us by Panic! Productions, starring J. Bailey Burcham as Danny and Renée Marino as Roberta, Danny is a perfect storm of stellar writing and spectacular acting.

Since Burcham brought it to Marino over a year ago it has been their dream project. Some of Marino’s passionate comments on the play follow.

According to Marino, Burcham has her complete trust. “It is such a blessing to have a scene partner who helps lift the material as high as possible.” Trust is what you need when venturing onto an emotional tightrope like Danny.

Marino shares, “This play is the epitome of pushing my boundaries and taking the chance to reveal my heart and soul and life’s blood on the stage every night. To make the audience forget they are watching a play.”

“These stories need to be told. Bailey and I are so blessed to be able to explore these emotional depths and share them with audiences. It is really something to hear gasps from the audience.” Marino continues, “It means so much to work with material that isn’t just entertainment, but an opportunity to deeply move people.”

Marino sums up, “Shanley’s writing is so brilliant. The story is so layered, every time I review the script I find new moments to reveal.”

It is as if Shanley writes in some secret language which penetrates our emotional core and reconnects us to that true life within us.

“Danny and the Deep Blue Sea” is staged on extended run through April 15th, with three performances the weekend of April 7th and two on the closing weekend, at Theatre 68 located at 5112 Lankershim Blvd. in NoHo. Tickets for both shows are on sale at Plys411.com/danny.

Note: This interview originally appeared in the Tolucan Times on March 6, 2017.

Pet Orphans of Southern California Grand Reopening in Van Nuys

Animal lovers continue 40+ year commitment to ‘Rescue, Rehabilitate and Re-home’

By John K. Adams

If you have a pet or want a rescue pet, you should know Pet Orphans of Southern California is celebrating the Grand Reopening of their full service, affordable Van Nuys veterinary clinic on Sunday, March 12th, from noon to 4pm.

Come meet Dr. Melissa Roth and the staff and tour the spacious facility. Schedule a future appointment for veterinary care, grooming and a professionally photographed pet portrait. Or plan to fall in love with a special rescue pet in need of a loving, forever home.

Pet Orphans wants everyone to know their full service veterinary clinic and adoption service will be open to the public on Tuesday, March 21st. Pet Orphans is open seven days, from noon to 4pm Monday-Friday and noon to 5pm Saturday and Sunday.

Clients are encouraged to call for the clinic’s hours to schedule an appointment, as it is not a walk-in service. The clinic is closed on Fridays and Saturdays.

Dr. Roth, new to the organization, describes veterinarians as “Type A people pleasers, helpful in ensuring quality of life for animal family members.” She adds, “Vets are a little like the family doctor of yore – true generalists. While physicians treat humans and generally specialize, veterinarians have to be knowledgeable regarding multiple species including dogs, cats, lizards, farm animals, etc… If the apocalypse comes, grab a vet. They have broad knowledge.”

Director of Operations LaTanya Montgomery coordinates with rescue organizations throughout Southern California. Their primary goal is to “rescue, rehabilitate and re-home” every animal they receive. Trainers are available by referral to assist adopting owners to manage behavioral challenges with their new pets.

Adoption Coordinator Danica Reslock stated that they look at several factors when successfully matching a rescue pet with prospective owners. “It’s all about good fit, behavior, size and activity level,” she said. “When we are busy, we place as many as 10 pets per week.”

You can adopt your rescue dog or cat with a minimum donation that helps to offset the cost of spay/neutering, vaccinations, a microchip and grooming. Every rescue cat or dog is examined for health prior to exposure to the general population.

Groomer Penny Chong stays busy tending her furry clients. Her calm control helps relax the dogs and cats in an unfamiliar environment.

Pet Orphans survives solely on donations and receives no government support.

Appointments are preferred. Walk-ins will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Veterinary services include dental care. Pet health insurance is recommended and can be obtained privately.

Human-only refreshments will be available at the March 12th meet and greet. Please leave your pets at home.

Appointments for services booked on March 12th will be discounted 10 percent. Raffle tickets will be sold and a silent auction is planned.

Since 1973, Pet Orphans of Southern California is located at 7720 Gloria Ave. in Van Nuys. Visit PetOrphans.org or call (818) 901-0190.

Note: This story appeared originally in the Tolucan Times, March 2, 2017.

Hits and Misses from the Past Year

It has been a very busy January and I have not produced much new writing this month.

However, the last year was an opportunity to write my blog, re-publish some items from my output at the Tolucan Times, and also, in a burst of creativity, to write a series of eight short plays. One of these received “semi-finalist” status in a short play competition.

Some of my blog posts did not get the attention I thought they deserved so to reprise 2016, I offer a collection of links for those of you who might enjoy a play review, a commentary, or a few memories from my past in no particular order:













The2Tails helps you celebrate your inner mermaid!

Imagine the look of sheer joy and dreams fulfilled on the face of your child when she opens her holiday gift to find a genuine swimmable mermaid tail from The2Tails. How can you miss that?

The2Tails founder, Ely Pouget, describes herself as a person who’s “good at what I’m passionate about and kinda bad at what I’m not. So it’s the passion I have for kids and the art of our tails that’s a big part of what’s made our business a success.”

The2Tails was born after Pouget and her twin daughters combined a pair of sweatpants with a cut-up yoga mat back in 2007.

Nine years later, using only eco-friendly materials, shimmery, resilient fabric and exquisite American craftsmanship, The2Tails offers the best mono-fin on the market—guaranteed. As she says, “If it breaks, we replace it. Period.”

Imagine undulating through the water just like a real mermaid. Mermaids are so cool!

Any swimmer can use these comfortable tails for a truly magical swimming experience. Designed to be neutrally buoyant, they do not sink or drag the swimmer down.

And the tails are safe. They’re as easily doffed as a wet bikini bottom.

Pouget sees mermaid tails as so much more than a novelty pool toy. She says, “When we started, I didn’t know the tails would help transform people’s lives. As my daughters used these tails, I watched them become inspired, resilient, independent and imaginative.  They have become  strong young women and storytellers. These tails are tools for growth.”

Twins Sofia and Natasha Garreton, along with their friend Marlena Lerner, starred in their own YouTube video series and later the award-winning feature film directed by their father, Andres Garreton, trending on Netflix: The3Tails: A Mermaid Adventure.  Today, at just 17 years old, they’ve started Lumahai Swimwear to design their sporty swimwear line

Each exclusive swimmable  mermaid tail is based on the fanciful paintings of Ely’s step-daughter, Catalina Garreton, which are then transferred to a four-way stretch, heavyweight fabric.

In 2014, Pouget received a request for a prosthetic mermaid tail for a 7-year-old amputee who wanted to swim. No one had ever tried to do that. She jumped at the chance.

Pouget founded The Mermaid Foundation with her daughters and husband, Andres Garreton. It is dedicated to providing real, swimmable mermaid tails and accessories for amputees and the differently-abled. Now they too can enjoy the fun, freedom and magic of swimming as mermaids.

One foundation client told Pouget, “If they are going to stare at me when I get into the water, I want them to stare for a reason.”

If you have a mermaid in your life, check out The2Tails mermaid shop in Burbank for all things mermaid. Sizes range from child to adult. Mermen and merboys are welcome too!

Dreams do come true, and this may just be the perfect gift for the holidays!

The2Tails and Lumahai Swimwear store are located at 3410 W. Burbank Blvd., in Burbank.

Mention “The Tolucan Times” to get your mystery gift from The2Tails.

Also visit The2Tails.com or call (323) 84-TAILS/(323) 848-2457.

They will be open Saturdays during the holiday season, so check the website for special hours.

Also visit LumahaiSwimwear.com and Instagram: @lumahaiswimwear.

The Mermaid Foundation can be found at MermaidFoundationInc.org.

Note: this article was published originally in the Tolucan Times on 11/23/2016.

The Dana Drug Store accepts major health insurance plans

There is no time. It’s your lunch break. How do you get your prescription filled, select a beautiful birthday gift for your wife, get a toy for your kid and find the perfect holiday card for Mom?

Go to The Dana Drug Store in Burbank. They have it all.

The Dana Drug Store is simply the best pharmacy (and all around boutique) to be found. Burbank citizens voted it “The Best Pharmacy in Burbank” for 10 consecutive years.

A family business since 1962, The Dana Drug Store accepts all major health insurance, including Medi-Cal and Medicare. Their certified pharmacist can prescribe emergency contraception for you, saving you a trip to the doctor. They administer flu shots and specialize in asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular management.

Ash Zaky, pharmacist and owner, wants the public to know “prescriptions are not cheaper at chain drug stores. At The Dana Drug Store, everyone pays the same co-pay for prescriptions as anywhere else.”

Prescriptions cost what they cost. Competition keeps prices down. The difference is more personal customer service at The Dana Drug Store. “We under promise and over deliver,” says Zaky. They also provide free delivery within a five-mile radius of the store.

Lois Zaky, Ash’s wife and partner, is the buyer for the store. He shares: “Lois scours the country for unique gift items that cannot be found anywhere else in Los Angeles.”

It staggers the imagination how varied that gift selection is. The Dana Drug Store carries unique gifts for all tastes and budgets. They have something for anyone on your list—women, men and children, from plush stuffed animals to Waterford Crystal. Their cosmetic boutique carries Estee Lauder, Clinique and Borghese lines. They carry Sonoma Lavender products.

Customers browse the store while waiting for their prescription to be filled and find treasures they weren’t even looking for: travel accessories, hair care, children’s toys, decorative candles, seasonal décor, bath and body care, pictures and picture frames.

They also have a complete line of perfume and colognes for women and men.

If you don’t expect to discover fine jewelry by Crislu in a neighborhood pharmacy, you haven’t been to The Dana Drug Store. By the way, Crislu stands behind all their jewelry with a lifetime warranty.

The Dana Drug Store’s extensive line of greeting cards will thrill you. They have something for every occasion, from heartfelt to hilarious.

Zaky continues, “Lois and I believe strongly in identifying every customer’s needs and exceeding that customer’s expectations, while satisfying those needs.”

And if you do go to The Dana Drug Store on your lunch break, don’t worry. They have protein bars too.

 The Dana Drug Store is located at 317 N Pass Ave. in Burbank. Visit TheDanaDrugStore.com or call (818) 562-1177.

‘The Maids’ peels the onion at A Noise Within

Review by John K. Adams

What if, through an accident of birth, you were assigned a role that you could neither change nor escape? For example, you awaken daily to appear in an ugly “reality show.” You choke on unglamorous lines, but quitting is unthinkable.

Jean Genet’s The Maids, written in post-WWII France, depicts such a scenario, without the cameras, but with the characters submitting to all the expectations imposed by society’s educational, political and other power structures. It ain’t pretty. But it may feel eerily familiar to some.

The play exposes the characters’ roles in life. Two sisters shift their identities from maid to Madame to director and to audience as they playact through their lives and pretend they can control outcomes. With ever shifting roles, does a core identity exist? Where?

Are you the “other?” Or am I?

The Madame calls the maids her family. But the power difference is brutal, as generously granted gifts may be capriciously snatched away moments later.

Director Stephanie Shroyer says, “This play questions the idea of ownership and examines the very fickle nature of how power is decided.”

Who assigns the roles we play in life? What thoughtless act set our course, long before we knew the stakes? And once that die is cast, can it be miraculously snatched back?

Exploding expectations, Genet rejected all the roles assigned to him, from thief to saint. His art demands that we be wary of unconsciously accepting imposed roles.

Director Shroyer states, “The artist must work at that point between audience acceptance and rejection so as to generate the necessity for a conversation.”

The Maids will get you talking.

“The Maids” is staged at A Noise Within, located at 3352 E. Foothill Blvd. in Pasadena, through November 6. Contact A Noise Within via phone at (626) 356-3100 or online at ANoiseWithin.org.

Note: This review appeared originally in the Tolucan Times, OCTOBER 13, 2016.

‘The Civil War Remembered’ and relived at Eclectic Company Theatre


By John K. Adams

It has been said that we are not in history, but that history is in us. History exists in the hearts and memories of the living and those who lived and who passed their stories down to us. History lives and breathes and bleeds because we do. The Civil War Remembered, at the Eclectic Company Theatre, is a play written and produced in that spirit.

This play is no drowsy history lesson. It is made for those who love our history and are curious about what makes us tick as a people and as a country.The living souls who experienced that war, on either side, tell their stories through a surviving letter or a family account that keeps their memory alive.

The Civil War Remembered explores the ideas that divided our country; divided families to the point of death; tore lovers apart; broke people; made others rich – and made us, with all our flaws, who we are today.

Writer/director Maureen Lucy O’Connell makes a living history from the letters and newspaper stories of the day and presents an intimate portrayal of people of the day, with living actors to make it real. Imagine history more real than what you see on twitter or Facebook today.

Meet the black journalist, Thomas Morris Chester, who investigates and tells what he found.

Then, the saga of a farewell letter, sent to a dying officer’s betrothed, but tragically never delivered.

Learn of Ellen Bond, a house servant recruited by a Union spy, Elizabeth Van Lew, to observe and pass information to support the Union cause.

And of course, there’s Mary Todd Lincoln—wife, mother and one who struggled with many demons besides being the wife and very visible first lady for President Abraham Lincoln. Her memories of the war, loss and the strife within her household bring many difficult realities to life. See the young woman disguised as a drummer boy, so she could follow her lover into battle, and never part.

Songs of the day are sung as they were then, a cappella, and with full hearts and joy.

Producer Siobhan Gilreath hopes The Civil War Remembered will reach students of all ages and inform us about what that war means today. She hopes to offer an alternative to standard fare with an actual live performance in a neighborhood theater that the whole family can share and relive together.

This is a play of flesh and blood and ideas celebrating what makes our country great.

“The Civil War Remembered” is staged through October 16th at the Eclectic Company Theatre located at 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd. in Valley Village. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm. Ample free parking is available. For more information email spooniad2014@gmail.com or call (818) 643-1662.

Note: This interview appeared in the Tolucan Times on September 22, 2016.

On the Bookshelf Author Tamara Jacobs helps plan your success with ‘Your Ultimate Success Plan’

By John K. Adams

CEOs don’t stumble into their jobs. Success is a planned event. Successful people (CEO or not) make their destiny by choosing consciously.

Best-selling author and executive coach, Tamara Jacobs says, “People want to be recognized, rewarded or promoted.” What stops them?

People are seeking insight, but not everyone can afford a private Jacobs executive coaching session. Fortunately, her new book, Your Ultimate Success Plan: Stop Holding Yourself Back and Get Recognized, Rewarded and Promoted will provide you with the system to generate your own plan.

Jacobs says executives learn to say “no” to protect their power. “Saying ‘no’ buys them time. Saying ‘no’ is safe.” Saying ‘no’ is a powerful stance.

However, if you are powerless and saying “no” then you are probably saying it to yourself. Where does repeatedly telling yourself “no’’ lead? No-where.

“The most important ‘no’ we must overcome is the one in our heads,” says Jacobs. “This book is aimed at anyone who wants to get past that ‘no.’”

Your Ultimate Success Plan effectively teaches you to plan your success through a series of interactive exercises. By the end of this process, you possess your personally tailored success plan… in your own words. “You write your own book while reading mine,” says Jacobs. Sounds like a plan.

“One definition of leadership is to be more open to ‘yes’ and less afraid of ‘no,’” says Jacobs. “Success starts with our telling ourselves ‘yes.’ By being more open to ‘yes,’ people can know their worth, become fearless and more able to make choices. By saying ‘yes,’ we give ourselves permission to fail, to start again and challenge the status quo.”

Jacobs’ executive client list reads like the members of the Fortune 500: Bayer, Merrill-Lynch, Revlon and many more.

“Your Ultimate Success Plan: Stop Holding Yourself Back and Get Recognized, Rewarded and Promoted” is available on TamaraJacobs.com, Amazon.com and anywhere books are sold.

This interview originally appeared in the Tolucan Times on 5/16/16.

‘Leather Apron Club’ writer/director Charlie Mount questions his audience

By John K. Adams

“He who sacrifices freedom for security, deserves neither.” – Benjamin Franklin

Political thriller, The Leather Apron Club, written and directed by Charlie Mount, premieres at Theatre West April 22nd.

The title alludes to the club started by Franklin, so that “middling men,” those who really run things, could establish a civil society: fire departments, libraries, etc.

Mount’s play asks us to imagine a shadow government of “the smarter people,” the unseen hands pulling strings beyond citizen purview, yet controlling our lives.

According to Mount, “The play is about you, as an American. How much do you want to know about American democracy? Do you want a democracy or a king? The play asks what you will do when you walk out of the theater,” a timely election-year question.

Mount wrote The Leather Apron Club through his association with Writers in Residence, Theater West’s writer’s unit. His previous plays include Against the Wall and Trumpets and Table-Tipping. Mount expects a lot. He believes writers “should treat the audience as if they are the smartest people in the world. Always play up.”

Mount’s directing credits include Acting: The First Six Lessons, Gaslight and The Fantasticks, among others.

The world premiere of “The Leather Apron Club” is staged April 22nd-May 15th at Theatre West located at 3333 Cahuenga Blvd West in Los Angeles. Show times are Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm. Free parking is available in a lot across the street. For tickets and information call (323) 851-7977 or visit TheatreWest.org.

This piece appeared originally in the Tolucan Times on Aprill 22nd, 2016.

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