Monday, November 21, 2016

Saying goodbye to GOING GOING GONE

Dennis Pearson, me, David Babich, Troy Metcalf, Annie Abrams, Emyli Gudmundson
This is a love letter to anyone who worked on my play. Or came to see my play (especially yesterday in the rain). 

After extending for two weeks, GOING GOING GONE ended its current run yesterday. It was a truly remarkable experience. We were getting SRO crowds almost every performance. And the only reason that we’re closing, if I’m being honest, is that the new Equity mandate goes into effect on December 14th and suddenly even a hit Equity-waiver show makes no sense financially. (That whole situation is a travesty and may kill small theatre in Los Angeles, but that’s for another post.)

Hopefully I can find more homes for the play, and if possible, I will try to use as many people from this current production as I can get.    After the final performance we had a little wrap party complete with a cake that misspelled GOING GOING GONE. 
There are enough horror stories about the theatre for me to appreciate that I had a charmed experience with GGG. No one had a meltdown, no one was injured in a Spiderman flying apparatus mishap, no one had to be replaced last second because they came down with scurvy or were deported.

Oh yes, we had our little bumps in the road. All live shows do. The night of our first preview the air conditioning went out. Several laughs suffered by people having heat strokes.

The play’s theme is our need to be remembered. At one point I have a discussion on being remembered for something other than your major accomplishment. My example was Arnold Palmer. World-class golfer but will best be remembered for the drink. I had two pages of great Arnold Palmer jokes. On the Sunday night of our tech rehearsal (only days away from opening), Mr. Palmer passed away. I suddenly had to scramble and write a whole new scene. I want to thank George Foreman for staying alive these last few months.

We had one very cool stunt where a foul ball destroyed one of the reporter’s laptop computers. A Rube Goldberg-like contraption was erected so the ball would be released on cue. Happy to say “most” of the time it worked. There were a couple of other minor technical glitches along the way, but hey, live is live.

Basically, everything went swimmingly. Our reviews, for the most part, were raves. There’s one critic who just hates everything I do, but who doesn’t have one of those? At least she’s not a relative.

I walked you through the rehearsal process with a series of posts on this blog so I won’t go into that again. But the hard work paid off. By the third week the actors really locked into their characters and settled into a nice groove. Most of the time they’re all on stage at once. The audience obviously focuses on whoever is talking, but I recently decided to watch the actors who weren’t talking. They were totally into the moment, reacting to what was being said, following the action of the field, doing their work-related tasks. I was as impressed with that as their performances.

I’m always fascinated by a live audience's reaction. Depending on the night, they could be raucous, somewhat subdued, or a mixture of the two. And lines that get big laughs one night get nothing the next while others that didn’t work the previous night go through the roof night two. On some nights certain straight lines get huge laughs. Don’t know why but I’ll take it.

Friday night audiences tended to be less boisterous. I think that’s because it’s the end of the week and they were tired. Saturday nights were usually the best, and Sunday matinees were a wild card. I had the best and worst audiences during Sunday matinees.

For one audience we had a nine-year-old and an eleven-year-old in the first row. Not sure they got all the jokes. I hope they didn’t get all the jokes. We also had some industry folks come and with luck that could mean some work for the actors. I think a couple have already gotten auditions based on casting people or producers seeing them in this play.

I asked the actors how they felt about the play closing. After months of rehearsal and memorization and really growing into their roles, what is it like when a show is over and you no longer get to play that character? Troy Metcalf said there had been shows he absolutely loathed. He hated everything about them. And yet, when they were over he said he was always “Mildly depressed.” So for shows like ours, he said the next few weeks would really be tough. The other actors agreed. Next weekend, when they don’t have our theatre to go to they said they’d really feel it.

Meanwhile, they started striking the set five minutes after the audience left.   Theatre is the ultimate pop up store.  

For me, it’s time to go to work to try to find it another home.

I am completely indebted to my amazing cast – Annie Abrams, Troy Metcalf, David Babich, and Dennis Pearson, along with our voice-over cast of Howard Hoffman, Harry S. Murphy, and Darlene Koldenhoven. My director, Andy Barnicle has now done two plays for me and I hope does every one I write in the future. I’ve said it before, I’m a director and I’d rather have him. Producer Racquel Lehrman put together a terrific team, stage manager Emyli Gudmundson somehow kept everything together, and Lucy Pollak sure got the word out. As all these strangers would fill the theatre every night I kept wondering, “How did these people even know about this?” And a special thanks to playwright extraordinaire, Wendy Graf, for being my LA Theatre Scene guru.

It’s very hard to say goodbye to dedicated, talented, lovely people you got to know and became very close to over a four month period. Hopefully, we can all stay in touch and even better, work together again on another production of GOING GOING GONE.

I was able to record a performance so I have that along with the memories and poster (which is too large to hang anywhere). On to the next production, wherever that may be. If you have a theater, call me.


Carol said...

Village Players has it in front of the 'reading committee' as we speak, and we're pretty confident we'll get it into the upcoming season. So you East-Coasters, stay tuned!

Congratulations on a second successful play, Ken. Now write one with a character my age so I can audition, please. :)

Dhruv said...

Great! Congratulations on the success!

The recorded performance; would you be posting anywhere? Like YouTube....

Breadbaker said...

Sounds like a magical experience. And I'm glad no one was injured by any trapezes. If someone had, it would have been a really bad omen since you didn't have any trapezes.

Now just get them to put it on here in Seattle, please.

Andrew said...

Congrats on your play.

Friday question: What are some of your favorite non-comedy movies and/or TV shows? What are your favorites in the various genres, i.e. action, mystery, sci-fi, horror, romance, western, historical, musical, etc.? And why (if you have the time and motivation)?

Another question: What "classic" movies and TV shows in your mind are greatly overrated?

kent said...

The Colony Theatre in Burbank closed recently and is now leasing it's space to visiting theatre companies. If it isn't too big, and your success suggests that it isn't, you might look into that.

By Ken Levine said...


No, I will not be posting the recording on any public platform. First of all, it's not for broadcast, and secondly, why would anyone want to go see future productions if they can just access a recording? Sorry, but it will remain a keepsake.

Dhruv said...

Ho! Ok....

I had seen a few plays on YouTube. I am not familiar with how things work in a play (here there are hardly any plays, only movies and TV).

I was under the impression that once a play is completed there would be nothing else, so no harm in uploading. Now I realise that it can be staged again...elsewhere... a play being a continuous entertainment.

Anyway, thanks for the reply.

cadavra said...

Ken, it was swell chatting with you yesterday, and again, congratulations on such a wonderful show (the line about Pedro Guerrero and stores put me away). The cast was splendid, and kudos to the fellow imitating Vin Scully--best I've heard.

Since "the waiter" interrupted as I was getting to the punch line--and BTW, next time you're making up a list of rants, save space for people who just walk up to you and blithely interrupt while you're in mid-conversation, which constantly happens to me--let me rephrase it as a Friday question: Do you think the reason the broadcast networks are almost completely overlooked by the Emmys and other awards is because the talent is trying to get some sort of revenge for the nets' micromanaging shows to the point that any life and originality have been sandblasted away?

BluePedal said...

Jaye P. Morgan bakes cakes now?

Gong Gong Gone - A 70's child goes in search of Gene Gene the Dancing Machine.

SkippyII said...


I am on the board of a non-profit Eauity theatre in the NY Metropolitan area. Please post an email address we can use to contact you about Going, Going, Gone.


By Ken Levine said...

You can reach me at



Ted said...

Congrats on your sold-out run. We loved the show - hilarious! - and the nearby street parking - incredible! Good luck with future performances - personally I think every week on CBS would be a good next stop for the show.

Unkystan said...

My family and I caught the final preview and thoroughly enjoyed it (and meeting you and your wife). I'm in New York and hope it comes here so I can enjoy it again with some local friends.

Matt said...


I was watching the season 5 M*A*S*H premiere hour long "Bug Out" last night and it occurred to me this might be one of the more expensive episodes in the series to produce. It was shot extensively on the Ranch, had LOTS of extras, many vehicles, Potter's horse, helicopter shots (not stock) and custom music cues. Most of the tents were taken apart and there were a lot of props.

Certainly the finale was expensive, but do you know how this stacks up as far as production costs?

Unknown said...

Will you do an international version of the play? Going Going GOOOOAAAALLLLL

David P said...

So, a baseball related Friday question: If you had a ballot, who would you vote for in the HoF this year?

Andy Rose said...

You should have a contest to guess what that cake says. My entry is "Gong, Cong, Cone!!!" which to be fair does include two actual English words.

Larry said...

I’ve been an avid reader of your blog for a number of years. My six degrees of separation from you was the opportunity to get to know Larry Gelbart during rehearsals of Sly Fox. I hope Going, Going, Gone continued success. Regional and community theatres need “permission” from New York City to present new plays, and I hope Going, Going, Gone convinces them otherwise.

Larry said...

I’ve been an avid reader of your blog for a number of years. My six degrees of separation from you was the opportunity to get to know Larry Gelbart during rehearsals of Sly Fox. I hope Going, Going, Gone continued success. Regional and community theatres need “permission” from New York City to present new plays, and I hope Going, Going, Gone convinces them otherwise.