A message from a friend of the Towers:

Dear friends,

The fiscal crisis in the government of the City of Los Angeles has led its Department of Cultural Affairs to ignore its fundamental mission.  It is directing its available funds away from its community arts centers, ending years of educational classes and programming vital to the communities it serves.  Most of the arts centers will be forced to shut down.  Those remaining open will not be able to maintain their arts classes.

As of Friday, March 26, the employment of the educational coordinator of the Watts Towers Arts Center will be terminated.  Eight on-going educational programs that serve over 6,000 individuals—many of whom are at-risk youth—will be forced to close down.  This will effectively dismantle the functioning of a community cultural gathering place and a vital host to the world renowned Watts Towers .

The local City Council representative has cynically called for the privatization of the Watts Towers Arts Center while she is actively working with the Wasserman Media Group and the Tony Hawk Foundation to develop funding for a Skateboard Park to be built immediately adjacent to the Watts Towers themselves.  This construction would deprive visitors of a full view of Rodia’s monumental work of architectural sculpture and destroy the aesthetic ambience of a National Historical Landmark.  This is like building a skateboard park on the steps below the Lincoln Memorial or at the entrance of the Statue of Liberty .  Requests for this Skateboard Park to be placed farther away from the Watts Towers have been ignored.

Please help us save the Watts Towers , the Watts Towers Arts Center and the arts of Los Angeles .

WRITE and CALL these public officials in support of the continuing integrity of the Watts Towers and its Arts Center :

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

Los Angeles City Hall

200 N. Spring Street, Rm 303

Los Angeles , CA 90012

(213) 978-0600


Councilwoman Janice Hahn, District 15

Los Angeles City Hall

200 N. Spring Street, Rm 435

Los Angeles , CA 90012



Olga Garay, General Manager

Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA)

City of Los Angeles

201 N. Figueroa Street, Ste 1400

Los Angeles , CA 90012

(213) 202-5500


ALSO please click onto this site to sign a petition in support of the Watts Towers Arts Center :


AND click on to this site to help support all of the affected Cultural Affairs arts sites:


Dear Readers,

I am in the process of submitting stories to online and print magazines. I have enjoyed blogging tremendously and will continue supporting all the terrific Los Angeles artists and activits I’ve been writing about on LA Taco and on The Smiling Spider as often as I can.

I will post links to my new stories as they get published. My first one “How Can We Talk About Transformational Change Without Losing Hope?” was featured today on http://www.alternet.org.

Hope you will enjoy it.

Thank you.


under the artistic direction of Philip W. Chung & Chil Kong
proudly presents our final production

The World Premiere of


A new comedy for anyone who’s ever felt like they were born on the wrong planet…

Written by Philip W. Chung
Directed by Jeff Liu
Produced by Stephanie Chang, Michael Chih Ming Hornbuckle & Peter J. Wong

Starring: Feodor Chin, Elizabeth Ho, Elaine Kao, Jully Lee, Rachel Morihiro, Hanson Tse, Kelvin Han Yee, Junko Goda, Dan Jyung, Christopher Takemoto-Gentile and Tina Tong.

Inspired by classic screwball comedies, GRACE KIM & THE SPIDERS FROM MARS tells the story of Grace, a young Korean American woman, who has withdrawn from the world after the death of her mother ten years ago. But Grace’s life is thrown upside down when she meets her sister’s fiancé and falls in love with him. This play was written to be Lodestone’s last show of its tenth and final “Beginnings and Endings” season and will be permanently retired after this run.

November 14-December 20, 2009
Thursday-Saturday 8pm, Sunday 2pm (NO SHOW THANKSGIVING, NOV. 26)

ALL THURS. SHOWS: 2-for-1 general admission tickets if you say the codeword “Ziggy Stardust” at box office

$12 general admission (Special Low 1999 Ticket Price)
$10 (groups of 10+)
$25 Opening Night Gala (Nov. 14)–S
All Sunday matinees (except Dec. 20) are pay-what-you-can ($1 minimum)

GTC Burbank
1111-B W. Olive Ave.
Burbank, CA 91506

The theatre is in George Izay Park between S. Victory Bl. and N. Griffith Park Bl. Park near the jet plane at 1111 W. Olive and walk past the Olive Recreation Center. The theatre is behind the rec center; the entrance faces the softball fields.

RSVP: (323) 993-7245 or go to http://www.lodestonetheatre.org for more info.


Chil Kong and Philip W. Chung.

More than a few months ago I had the pleasure to sit with two of the co-founders of Lodestone Theatre Ensemble and breathe in the trademark passion that has fueled the company’s 10-year body of work. Researching their production history (I only discovered them in 2006) triggered a genuine sense of loss for the plays I had missed and the realization that 2009 is it! Their last play, GRACE KIM & THE SPIDERS FROM MARS opened November 14th (see separate post) and will be running through December 20th. Suffice to say this is your last chance to be touched by the courageous and fiery duo who lost their funding after their first play all because of a bare bottom.

SS: Let’s go back to the beginning. After the L.A. riots, veteran actor Soon-Tek Oh urges the new generation of Asian American playwrights to tell their own stories to counteract the media’s tendency to portray Asian Americans as immigrant store owners who fall victim to violence.

Chil Kong: Yes. Soon-Tek Oh mobilized us. But it was more about the energy between Phil, Tim Lounibos, Bokyun Chun and I. We were passionate about our vision of the future of Asian American theater and we each had our own ideas about how we wanted to see a theater function in Los Angeles and we talked and talked and talked about it for four months. A lot of it had to do with timing for us; we were at the right place at the right time. We started forming when East West Players was moving from their small black box to their big theater so there was a gap. We filled that vacuum. We’ve been very lucky. From that Lodestone was born.

SS: What is the meaning of the word Lodestone?

Chil Kong: We had so many names. Tim Lounibos did some research and he found out about those magnetic compasses which Chinese explorers used to guide them.

SS: What did you set up to explore?

Philip W. Chung: Up until that point and to a certain degree now a lot of Asian American theater revolves around certain themes, certain subjects; it has to address the Asian American experience. Are we doing plays by South Asians? Are we doing plays by Vietnamese? They have to be inclusive. Because those theaters already existed, we didn’t feel we needed to do that. It gave us a chance to not be confined by those kinds of criteria. If we wanted to do a new play by a White writer then we could do it and we have. If we wanted to do Tennessee Williams, we could. That was the only philosophy and it hasn’t really evolved.

Season 4: 2002-2003

SS: Lodestone, like many small theater companies in LA, has not-for-profit status. Does it influence the choices you make? Do you have to do plays that are community oriented to get grants?

Chil Kong: Yes and No. Yes for certain things we will definitely go after those grants. No because we never wanted to pick the material that we wanted to do based on financial consideration. We didn’t want our choices based on “now we have to get this grant so we have to do a play about this issue.” We always had to stay at a certain level but that’s fine because it gave us creative control.

SS: What do you mean by “a certain level”?

Philip W. Chung: The smaller you are the lower your budget, the more creative control you have. The idea is to work from that model, which represents a lot of theaters in LA, where you don’t have to be depending on those grants. We have picked materials where we thought no one was going to come and see this. But it was ok because artistically it was something we wanted to do and that was more important. If it’s artistically sound, that’s the first criteria.

Chil Kong: It is very dangerous for a company to let their choices be directed by grants, it’s a wag the dog contest. Now, instead of your artistic vision driving your company, it is a commitment to different funders. Now it’s propaganda, now you’re doing things for money. Ultimately the good artistic material will have an audience. After 10 years we’ve been accustomed to that.

Philip W. Chung: We lost most of our funders after our second play LAUGHTER, JOY & LONELINESS & SEX & SEX & SEX & SEX, which I wrote. The subject matter turned them off.

Chil Kong: At the end of the run, I spent a week on the phone with two of our biggest funders screaming at me about betraying them. They were upset because there was a man’s naked butt on stage. I remember being very frustrated and yet laughing. The worst times are also the best times. That experience told us we were doing the right thing.

Philip W. Chung: The play actually ended up doing very well with our audience.



The Smiling Spider will be taking a break for the rest of the summer but I wanted to leave you with a few shows worth seeing. First, the 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors are taking over the city with their new sketch comedy “Bow Down to your Asian Masters”:

July 31th-August 23th. Thurs., Fri., Sat., & Sun. @ 8pm, 4 WEEK LIMITED ENGAGEMENT! (July 30th PREVIEW $5) @ THE COMPLEX (Dorie Theater) , 6476 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90038, (East of Highland Ave.) Reservations: 818-754-4500 (vm) or purchase tickets online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/70969 . Information: email 18mmw.mail@gmail.com or go to http://www.18mmw.com.


At CASA 0101, you can enjoy the latest episode of EL VERDE, the super hero on an everlasting quest to discover what his super power is… August 7th-30th. For more information go to http://www.casa0101.org.

closerthan ever

LODESTONE THEATRE ENSEMBLE, under the artistic direction of Philip W. Chung & Chil Kong, proudly presents CLOSER THAN EVER, a musical revue in two acts with words by Richard Maltby, Jr. and music by David Shire. Directed by Chil Kong. Music Direction by Akira Nakano. Starring: Sharline Liu, DT Matias, Blythe Matsui, Paul Na kauchi, Erin Quill, EJ Arriola, Jully Lee, Jiehae Park, & Miley Yamamoto.

An all Asian American revival of CLOSER THAN EVER, the classic 1989 musical revue which won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical and was nominated for multiple Drama Desk Awards. CLOSER THAN EVER features self-contained songs which deal with such diverse topics as aging, mid-life crisis, second marriages and unrequited love. This is the second mainstage production of Lodestone’s tenth and final “Beginnings and Endings” season.

Thursday-Saturday 8pm, Sunday 2pm. ALL THURS. SHOWS: 2-for-1 general admission tickets if you say the codeword “Doors” at box office. NOTE: Thurs., August 13 performance is SOLD-OUT. To RSVP: (323) 993-7245. For more more information, go to: http://www.lodestonetheatre.org.

ernie http://www.backstage.com

I would also like to acknowledge R. Ernie Silva whose solo show, Heavy Like the Weight of  A Flame, has been extended at  the Odyssey Theatre through September 5th. R. Ernie Silva prances about the stage with uncommon grace and power in this autobiographical journey written by Silva and novelist James Gabriel. The show is deftly choreographed and directed by Mary Joan Negro with special mention to Bosco Flanagan whose lighting design subtly evokes the dark places visited by Silva and reflected off of his unsually expressive face.

The following review was found on http://theguide.latimes.com: “Watching R. Ernie Silva in his autobiographical ‘Heavy Like the Weight of a Flame” is like listening to exquisite poetry, music both classical and jazz all wrapped in the true life experience of the urban jungles of New York. His movement, lovely guitar riffs and impersonations of the players in his life story add to a profoundly satisfying evening of performance art. This is special theater, well worth going to.” By mypetard.

Like El Verde, I hope Ernie Silva will treat us to more episodes of his identity quest. Click here for more information.


Jolted in the night, San Francisco’s East Bay residents attempted to shield themselves from shattering windows as the sky blazed.  320 people were killed, 400 more were injured, and everything within a one mile radius was destroyed in a flash.  50 survivors were imprisoned for mutiny.  If you have not heard about the worst home front military disaster in our history, you will now know why.  If you had already known about it, you will find out that there is still much more to the story. The worst home front military disaster in US history has been one of our best kept secrets, until now.

After 6 decades (July 17, 2009 marks the 65th anniversary of the tragedy), the story known as the MUTINY AT PORT CHICAGO is finally brought to the stage in this WORLD PREMIERE production at Ruskin Group Theatre July 10-August 15, 2009.

Ruskin Group Theatre has been making an impact on the Los Angeles theatrical scene with an eclectic mix of thought provoking plays and programs.  Their ‘Fostering Imagination’ program sponsors foster kids in theatre & film classes that produce several original shows each year.  The CAFÉ PLAYS, created by RGT are produced monthly and are the culmination of writers, actors, and directors who meet at 9am, where they are given a theme.  They then write, produce, and perform a show by 7pm the same day.  Recently celebrating their 5th anniversary, RGT supporters Ed Asner, Dylan McDermott, Chris Malkey, Olivia d’Abo, and other industry celebrities joined to produce the Best of Café Plays (both shows sold out within hours).  Anthony Hopkins and Anthony Franciosa were some of the Ruskin School of Theatre’s first teachers.

Written and directed by: Paul Leaf. Produced by: Mike Myers and Dana Lynn Bennett

Ruskin Group Theatre, 3000 Airport Road, Santa Monica, CA 90405. Tickets (310) 397-3244.  Running: Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm. Sundays at 2 pm. Closing performance: Saturday, August 15, 2009. All Seats are $20 ($15.00 for students, seniors, and guild members.)

With J. Teddy Garces, Maury Sterling, Josh Drennen, Cris DAnnunzio, Durant Fowler, Eric Bivens Bush.

For more information on the mutiny itself, go to http://www.portchicagomutiny.com.


J. Teddy Garces as Ed.

Stop_Kiss PC front Small

The consequences of love can be horrifying, yet miraculously tender.  Callie meets Sara and an astonishing chain of events is set into motion.  This story pays homage to life’s abrupt and unexpected transformations…to romance, and to the search for personal identity.

STOP KISS will run Friday, July 10 and then every Thursday-Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 7pm through July 26th.  Afterwards, August 2nd & 3rd and continuing Fridays & Mondays at 8pm and Sundays at 7pm in rep with TREEFALL thru August 23, 2009.  Check dates on website or call (323) 930-0747.  ROGUE MACHINE in Theatre Theater is located at 5041 Pico Blvd., LA, CA 90019. Tickets are $25 and may be purchased by calling (323) 960-7774 or at http://www.roguemachinetheatre.com.

ROGUE MACHINE draws upon the diverse and extensive experience of its collective while creating high-quality productions by contemporary playwrights who specifically address our culture and time.  The ROGUE MACHINE mission includes building a theatre of ideas and nurturing the development of plays from contemporary writers while manifesting current culture, and consciousness.  ROGUE MACHINE projects will exhibit a strong emphasis on presenting new plays or plays new to Los Angeles.

Written by Diana Son. Directed by Elina de Santos. With Deborah Puette, Kristina Harrison, Inger Tudor, Joerge Watson and Christian Anderson.


The calendar on the Venice Beach Drum Circle website hasn’t been updated since 2007 but I believe dancers and performers gather every Sunday. I walked along Venice Beach yesterday late afternoon and at 6:30pm the drum circle was well under way.

The web site is still a great place to get information about the history of the Drum Circle and the many controversies surrounding it since the year 2000 when the site was created, including the Boardwalk Lottery, which sadly resulted in the exodus of true artists selling their work and the arrival of junk arts and crafts. I hadn’t been to Venice Beach in a long time and was truly saddened by the mediocrity of the art and jewelry on display.

According to DrumsOnTheWeb.com, which lists Drum Circles in the US and around the world, the Venice Beach drum circle dates back to the 1960’s.


sculpture (2)


sculpture (3)


I visited MOLAA a few weeks ago  and highly recommend this museum which offers, among others, poetry, films, cooking classes and is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary of Murals Under the Stars starting on July 18th. I might just have to go back on that day just so I can taste the Mango Cheesecake offered by Viva Cafe. I had their arroz con leche on the outdoor patio and I can still taste the generous offering of sticky sweet rice and cinammon.

Their current exhibit: “Of Rage and Redemption: The Art of Oswaldo Guayasamin” runs through August 16th.

The pictures on this post are only a small sample of the eclectic art gracing the Robert Gumbiner Sculpture and Events Garden.


Oswaldo Guayasamin’s El Grito II, The Cry II, 1983, Oil on canvas.

In the HBO movie “John Adams”, John Adams asks Thomas Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence. “Why me?” asks Jefferson.  “I have a great opinion of the elegance of your pen,” is John Adams’ third reason.

Benjamin Franklin (Tom Wilkinson) and John Adams (Paul Giamatti) review Jefferson’s draft.  Benjamin Franklin to Jefferson: “You lay the evils of slavery at the feet of the King but you say nothing of slavery itself sir.”