Tuesday, April 12, 2016

When you have a show out of town

Back from Philadelphia where my play, A OR B? is currently running at the neighboring Hatboro Village Theatre.  A OR B? was originally presented at the Falcon Theatre in Los Angeles, but this was my first time seeing it with a different production in a different time zone.

So naturally I came down with a horrendous cold three days before the trip. I took massive doses of Vitamin C, C, Zinc, Airborne, and Oxcydilliccylieallan in preparation. The cold raged on but my astigmatism improved. For the flight I took a Zyrtec-D, which normally turns me into a human raisin. Not in a pressurized cabin it seems. From coast-to-coast my head felt like the final hour of DAS BOOT.

Mrs. L. and I arrived Thursday night and hopped a gypsy cab driven by Ali G.   I always enjoy visiting Philadelphia.  It's the home of Benjamin Franklin, Chubby Checker, and the Wing Bowl.

Stayed downtown at the Loew’s. Very nice hotel. Our room was on the 32nd foot with a spectacular view of the Amamark building. For many years no building in Philadelphia was allowed to be taller than William Penn’s hat. There is a statue of the P-Man atop City Hall. Our founding fathers didn’t want any of those glass monstrosity skyscrapers. But somebody must’ve paid off somebody else so now there’s a skyline. (City Hall is now the 16th tallest building in the city.)

Note: There’s also a statue of Sylvester Stallone, but even if he was wearing a hat it would mean that no building could be higher than 5’ 1”.

Friday was the Villanova parade. Over 60,000 converged on downtown to celebrate this year’s NCAA Men’s Collegiate Basketball Champs. More importantly, they are the only real winning team in Philadelphia. I saw a few people donned in Flyers, Eagles, and Phillies gear, but you’d have a better chance seeing someone in Bhutan wearing a ‘76ers jersey than you would in Philadelphia.

The Barnes Collection is the current thing to see. Dr. Barnes was a chemist who made a fortune inventing an anti-gonorrhea drug and used the money to amass a huge and impressive art collection along with vintage household items like locks and cookie cutters. They were all arranged very specifically in his house. When he died in 1951 he specified in his will that nothing in his house was ever to be touched in perpetuity. But like William Penn’s hat, that changed and the collection is now downtown. However, everything is set up exactly to-the-letter the way it was in his house. Who knew he had a gift shop in his house?

The weather was cold and cloudy on Friday. Swung by the Reading Terminal Market for lunch. This is a giant indoor market and food court featuring cheesesteaks, soft pretzels, Amish and soul food. Vendors included little Dutch girls and angry gangstas. I hear DiNic’s pulled pork sandwiches are great but never found them. It was a little like Calcutta in there. Long lines were everywhere, but one stretched almost to Scranton. It was for Beiler’s Donuts. You’d think the jelly donuts were filled with iPhones. I held off since I had a plane to catch in two days, and locals contend that Federal Donuts are even better.

Took the SEPTA train out to Hatboro. We weren’t even settled in our seats when two imposing cops entered and dragged some stoner out of the car. Along the route we stopped at Temple University, where Bill Cosby got his Bachelor’s Degree even though he never finished his course load. It was bestowed on him because of “life experience.”  We can only hope the courts bestow on him a "life sentence." 

We of course bought senior tickets and the conductor actually checked our ID's. Wow. That's like Cher still being carded at a liquor store. 

Hatboro was the very definition of charm – meaning more antique stores than CVS’s. The Hatboro Village Theatre has been producing shows for 65 years (back when Cher really was being carded).  The theatre has been refurbished and is gorgeous. Plush comfortable seats, great sight lines,  and free coffee. (I’m told the free coffee was offered for all shows; not just mine to keep people awake.)

The performances of A OR B? were SENSATIONAL. The cast of Jen Newby & Ernie Albanesius crushed it, and top-to-bottom, from Gina Lutz’s direction, to the lighting, wardrobe, sound, person who brewed the coffee—everything, it was a first-class production. Lots and lots of laughs. It was odd for me to see a different version of my play, but I couldn’t be happier with the results. A OR B? runs one more weekend so if you’re in the area (i.e. anywhere on the east coast or Canada), swing by.

Saturday morning it snowed. In April. No wonder Dick Clark and Chase Utley moved out of this town. Being from California I do not have “winter garb.” Not being used to cold weather (and being a princess) I wore six layers, a ski sweater, and jacket. People are walking around in windbreakers. I looked like Ralphie in THE CHRISTMAS STORY.  Plus, I still had my cold. By then I was taking Extra Strength Flintstones Sudafed.

We took the train to Gwynedd Valley on Saturday to see some dear friends before the show. (Gwynedd needs two D’s?) Philadelphia has some great street names including Shackamaxon Street, Passyunk Avenue, Axe Factory Road, Tackawanna Street, Skidoo Street, Dunks Ferry Road, Moyamensing Avenue, Narcissus Road, and my personal favorite – Mario Lanza Boulevard.

On Saturday night after A OR B? I did a Q&A.  I knew I wasn't in Los Angeles.  Not one person asked how they could get an agent or if I could read their spec DR. KEN. 

It’s always sunny in Philadelphia… on the day we leave. My thanks to Carol Leister and everyone at the Hatboro Village Theatre. I’m that much closer to Broadway! I figure, all I need is a venue on 42nd St., snow in June, and bronchitis and I’m in!


andy215 said...

Hey I'm a Philly girl! Reading Terminal is truly a gem :-)

andy215 said...

oh and Beiler’s Donuts is wayyyyyyy better than Federal Donuts, however, Federal does have amazing wings! Wings and Donuts we Philadelphians like to eat.

Carol said...

There's a sport's legend, too, about the buildings being higher than William Penn's hat. The story goes that the Phillies stopped winning once the skyscrapers came into being, and in 2008 someone put a figurine of William Penn atop the biggest building (Liberty Place I think, but I can't remember) and that year, they won the World Series.

Hasn't done them much good SINCE, but there you go.

Everyone at Village Player's really enjoyed your visit! Sorry about the cold. And the snow.

VP81955 said...

For those ex-Philadelphians, the Loew's is the one-time PSFS building on Market Street, a Streamline architectural gem from 1932. At the time, the town was celebrating three straight pennants from Connie Mack's Athletics, not knowing that all subsequent World Series in town would be hosted by the then-as-now woebegone Phillies.

BTW, Ken, the term is "Center City," not "downtown." I suppose if you had ever worked with Harry Kalas and Rich Ashburn, natives of Illinois and Nebraska respectively, they would have told you. (Playing hooky today for Vin's final Chavez Ravine home opener?)

Congratulations, and for those folks back east, go see "A or B?" It's a charming play.

Matt said...

I wonder if you can go into some of the changes the production cast in Philly made and which ones worked best. Are there any you would keep if you staged another production.

AltSung said...

Ken, it was so great to see your play and to meet you! The actors were phenomenal, especially considering that they had to content with so much laughter -- I had a feeling they'd never done a play where they needed to be cognizant of the crowd to that degree, having to delay the delivery of so many of their lines due to them being drowned out by our guffaws. :)

Here are a couple of shots of the Q&A:



Thank you again for coming out all the way from LA to the little town of Hatboro. I still can't believe we were in the same room with a guy who wrote for MASH and Cheers and Frasier and The Simpsons and Wings and Almost Perfect and Becker...!

Unkystan said...

Any chance for an off-Broadway run in New York?

Tom Asher said...

Glad you enjoyed your time in our area!

Quaker Oat said...

Zicam - it's magical. After the first day, you won't even know you have a cold. Not cuz you're stoned (tho you may well be), but the zinc formula is just that good. At least it is for me.

Nice travel piece, I enjoy your trips!

Igor said...

Why did you take the train everywhere? (That is, What inspired you?; not, Why the hell did you take the train?)

The history of the commuter train lines in/around Philly (Reading and Pennsylvania, but now all SEPTA) is colorful (if you're into that sort of thing), and if you grew up around there then taking the train is normal. And it is quite practical for the places you went. Just, it seems surprising that two people from LA would use that option.

MikeK.Pa. said...

Sorry that you weren't feeling well during your stay here. Bad enough when you have to tolerate your family when ill, much less a room full of strangers. Enjoyed the Q&A. I kick myself for not asking you to talk about some of your series pitch experiences in recent years. You certainly alluded to them in "A or B?"

Reminds me of the story about Fred Zinnemann's alleged meeting with a young studio exec, who asked him to list what he had done in his career (you mean other than his four directing Oscars?), and the great director supposedly replied, "You first." Zinnemman denied the story and said it was about and told by Billy Wilder. Regardless, it captures the ridiculousness of the situation perfectly. Maybe you can share some of your stories (without incriminating the guilty) in a future post.

"The Barnes Collection is the current thing to see. Who knew he had a gift shop in his house?"
I saw the collection at his home before it was moved after a series of lawsuits breaking his will. And there was a small gift shop. (Where do you think they sold the gonorrhea meds?)

"Stayed downtown at the Loew’s. Very nice hotel. Our room was on the 32nd foot with a spectacular view of the Aramark building."
I've been on the same floor and had the same view. You forgot to mention the added bonus of the spectacular view of Camden.

"More importantly, they are the only real winning team in Philadelphia."
Ouch. The Flyers did finish 14 games over .500. Their owner died yesterday and they are motivated to try to finally win a third Cup in his memory. They are probably two years away from being a true Cup contender but, like the Phillies, they're on the right track in the rebuilding stages.

Finally, I grew up about six blocks from Dunks Ferry Rd. It runs right by a potters field that was adjacent to some of the baseball fields I played on as a kid. Link below talks about it (the cemetary, not the baseball).


Rock Golf said...

Ken: Your Russian poem from Cheers got posted at Dallas airport last Christmas by a guy who puts up really odd quotes with boarding time info.

Here's your poem http://i.imgur.com/BBRPkYu.jpg

And here's the whole thread (pretty funny) http://imgur.com/gallery/PCybV

Roger R. said...

Did Dr. Barnes' gift shop sell The Clapper?
I'm sorry...I'll be going now.

Roy DeRousse said...

I'm glad that you had a good trip. I enjoyed the play very much. The writing was great, the performance was great, and there were a lot of laughs. I am glad that I had an opportunity to see it.performed.

The Q&A after the show was both interesting and entertaining. Thanks for signing "The Me Generation by Me" for me afterwards. I got a kick out of the inscription.

Best wishes for future productions of "A or B!"

Dan Reese said...

I thought the play was great and I was thrilled to get to meet you. I hope you'll let us know when the game show you're hosting will premiere. :)

Cap'n Bob said...

I'm sorry you had to have a cold during this otherwise happy experience.

I'd love to live at 23 Skidoo Street.

Barry Traylor said...

Sorry you had a cold during your visit to Philly. I live about 65 miles west of Philly in Amish country. I looked on the bright side during the snow as my wife wanted me to mow the grass and I had a good excuse not to do it.

gottacook said...

Igor: Did you expect Ken and his wife to drive north to Hatboro, all the way up Broad Street and Old York Road, and then back again, twice? That can be frightful even for natives. (I lived in center city 1978-82 and still drive on Broad Street every few years or so; Broad & Olney was my parents' hangout in the early 1950s.) The commuter train was a wise choice for someone staying at a hotel across the street from Reading Terminal.

Sorry I couldn't attend - but I'm sure there will be other productions.

Eileen said...

I am glad that you enjoyed your stay in Philly. Sorry about your cold....and the snow Saturday morning...We were just as surprised....You don't get any snow in LA so a little snow is pretty nice....Enjoy reading your blog every day!

Steve Mc said...

Ken, it was great to see you again. In my mind, I choose to believe that baby carrots are now a writers room staple. The play was wonderful, we had a great time. Your readers will be glad to know that Natalie Wood even gets a reference in the show. Thanks for taking some time with me before the show and for continuing to be an inspiration. Steve McLean

chuckcd said...

Actually you probably looked like Ralphie's younger brother...

Igor said...

@ gottacook - A cab? Car service? Uber?

Anyway, if I drove I'd never go all Broad St. Maybe Schuylkill Expressway to Roosevelt Expy, and then Broad to York Rd. But with GPS, the scenic route would be past the Art Museum to one of the river drives to Wissahickon/Lincoln Drive, then cut through to Washington Lane, and that until it meets up with York Rd.

That said, I think the train is great and that's what I'd have done. But for someone from car-centric LA doing that, I was surprised.